Nu? What's New?
The E-zine of Jewish Genealogy From Avotaynu

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 10, Number 10 | May 31, 2009

Every government puts value on preserving its history. That is why we have national archives. Genealogy preserves history; the history of a family. It cannot be done without access to records, just as historians cannot preserve a nation's history without access to records. It is a greater good than the right to privacy. It is a greater good than the risk of identity theft.

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Debate on Future of the International Tracing Service Is Underway
During its two-day annual meeting, the International Commission for the International Tracing Service (ITS) dealt with the question of the future organizational structure and administration of the ITS. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which manages the institution, indicated it wants to withdraw from running the archives now that ITS will have an increased focus on research http://www.avotaynu.com/nu/v10N09.htmrather than humanitarian efforts. See Nu? What’s New? Volume 9, Number 14, June 1, 2008.

One gets a feel for how painfully slow the Commission operates when reading the official news release located at http://www.its-arolsen.org/en/press/index.html?expand=2514&cHash=d89ea8fe93. In response to the ICRC request that they want out, the only conclusion at the meeting is that something should be done about the problem. The commission only meets annually in May.

More significantly, ITS handed over additional digitized copies of documents to Yad Vashem, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Institute of National Remembrance in Warsaw. These are the only institutions of the 11-member countries that have requested a copy of the ITS records. The new material includes documents from German camps for displaced persons consisting of 180,000 so-called CM1 questionnaires (care and maintenance). They provide information on the fate of those who were rescued from concentration camps, on forced labor and, in some cases, on war captivity.

ITS also handed over copies of lists of Holocaust survivors, which are referred to as F18 lists (ITS classification). These lists were compiled after WWII mostly by Jewish organizations from different countries. The 55,000 documents helped the Tracing Service clarify individual fates and reunite families.


Aufbau Indexing Project Has 47,600 Records Online
The Aufbau Indexing Project plans to index announcements of all births, engagements, marriages, deaths and other special occasions that appeared in the pages of Aufbau between 1934 and 2004. Aufbau is a German-language Jewish newspaper founded in New York in 1934, and since 2004 it is published in Zurich. The data online can be found at http://www.calzareth.com/aufbau/search.html. When completed, the project expects to have more than 150,000 announcements in the database. Volunteers are sought to help complete the project. Send e-mail to aufbauindexingproject@gmail.com if interested.


Australian Cemetery Burials Now Online
The Rookwood Jewish cemetery, located in a suburb of Sydney, Australia, now has its burials online at http://www.rookwoodjewishcemetery.com.au/page/search-for-a-grave. Information provided includes name, age, date of burial, Hebrew name and location of grave. Rookwood Cemetery is a multi-cultural cemetery with a Jewish section. The whole cemetery has more than one million burials.


St. Petersburg's Preobrazhenskiy Jewish Cemetery Now Online
Information about 75,000 persons buried in the Preobrazhenskiy Jewish cemetery in St. Petersburg, Russia, is now online. The site, located at http://www.Jekl.ru, provides name, birth and death information and a picture of the grave site. It is completely in Russian. Use the Google translator at http://translate.google.com, which does a good job of converting Russian to your native language. In addition, if you are unfamiliar with the Cyrillic alphabet, use the English to Russian alphabet converter at http://stevemorse.org. Searches must be done using the Cyrillic alphabet

Looking at the pictures shows the deplorable condition of the older graves at the cemetery. I searched using the surname Pevsner, the surname of the chief rabbi of St. Petersburg. Almost every grave more than 50 years old was overgrown with underbrush and trees. The cemetery plans to establish a program where people can pay for the maintenance of a particular grave.


Second Source for Auschwitz Deaths
For a number of years, the museum at Auschwitz has had a searchable list of 69,000 Auschwitz deaths at http://en.auschwitz.org.pl. Most of the records were destroyed by the Germans shortly before the Russian army occupied the camp. The list is of those recorded deaths that survived. A posting to the JewishGen Discussion Group notes there is a second site that has the information. It is located at http://houston.indymedia.org/news/2007/03/56657.php. The Auschwitz Museum site has a conventional search engine that is used to locate a person. The alternate site downloads all the records by initial letter of the surname. The advantage of the second site is that it gives the researcher the opportunity to locate a person by alternate spellings or misspellings of the name. The site, however, takes much more time to download, because it supplies all the records for a given letter of the alphabet.


Shipping Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn
Avotaynu has shipped copies of its new book, Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn to initial purchasers. The book is a photographic essay of extant buildings that were once synagogues and now are used for other purposes. Many became churches whose facades still have Jewish symbols.
The book offers photographs, interviews and analyses on 91 of these former Jewish houses of worship. Some have been faithfully preserved while others are in disrepair. Described in the book are memories of Jews who belonged to these old congregations as well as the Christians who now fill the pews. This is supported by extensive research and stirring stories.

Author Ellen Levitt is a life-long Brooklynite who has delved into a subject dear to her. Some of the photographs featured in this book were part of her photography exhibit at the Brooklyn Historical Society, which ran from November 2006 through February 2007. She also lectured on this subject to the Society. The exhibit and lecture were the genesis for The Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn.

Additional information as well as the Table of Contents and a sample page can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/LostSynagogues.htm


All-Hungarian Database Now Has 800,000 Records
It was reported on the Hungarian Special Interest Group (SIG) Discussion Group that the All-Hungarian Database (AHD) has been updated with approximately 105,000 new vital records. The AHD, which now contains around 800,000 records, includes 180,000 birth, 45,000 death, and 25,000 marriage records. It is located at http://www.jewishgen.org/Hungary.

Included among the new records are vital records for Bezi, Budapest, Csenger, Eger, Erdotelek, Erk, Eperejes, Fuzesabony, Gyomore, Gyongyos, Hodasz, Jarmi, Kassa, Kemcse, Kisleta, Koszeg, Mateszalka, Miskolc, Moson, Sztropko, Szeged, Szobrance, and Vag Besztercze. Of these, Budapest, Gyongyos, Miskolc and Szeged are still ongoing efforts. The AHD now includes over 20,000 records from Miskolc and 60,000 records from Budapest. The Hungarian SIG is working on the records for Budapest, including those for the Budapest orthodox community, Miskolc, Anarcs, Apagy, Baja, Papa, Sopron, Szeged and Lackenbach.

The work of the Hungarian SIG is done by volunteers. Persons interested in assisting in growing the database can contact the group through their web site.

Most Special Interest Groups under the JewishGen umbrella have projects to index records of their (usually geographic) area. A complete list of regional SIGS can be found at http://www.jewishgen.org/JewishGen/sigs.htm.


JewishGen Forms Board of Governors
JewishGen has formed a Board of Governors which will focus on long-term planning of the organization. Members of the Board are:
   Honorary Chair: Harvey Krueger
   Co-chairs: Karen S. Franklin and Gary Mokotoff
   Committee Members: Stanley Diamond (Montreal), Saul Issroff (London), Phyllis Kramer (New York), Anne Feder Lee (Hawaii), Hadassah Lipsius (New York), Howard Margol (Atlanta), E. Randol Schoenberg (Los Angeles) and Walter Weiner (New York).
   Ex-Officio members are: David Marwell, Director, Museum of Jewish Heritage; Warren Blatt, JewishGen Managing Director; and Avraham Groll, JewishGenAdministrator.


FamilySearch Has Records for Numerous Southern U.S. States
FamilySearch, the genealogy arm of the Mormon Church, has announced that in the past 18 months they have added numerous digital images and indexes of records from Southern U.S. states. The records can be searched at the Record Search pilot at http://familysearch.org. Click “Search Records,” and then click “Record Search pilot”.

Among the records are:
  • Alabama Deaths 1908–1974 (Index only)
  • Arkansas County Marriages: 1837–1957
  • Florida Deaths 1877–1939 (Index only)
  • Florida State Censuses: 1855, 1935, 1945 (Images only)
  • Georgia Deaths 1914–1927
  • North Carolina Deaths 1906–1930
  • North Carolina, Davidson County Marriages and Deaths, 1867–1984 (Images only)
  • South Carolina Deaths 1915–1943
  • South Carolina Deaths 1944–1955 (Index only)
  • Texas Deaths 1964–1998 (Index only)
  • Texas Deaths 1890–1976
  • West Virginia Births 1853–1990 (Index only)
  • West Virginia Marriages 1853–1970 (Index only)
  • West Virginia Deaths 1853–1970 (Index only)


Planning Worksheet Available for Philadelphia Conference
The planners of the 29th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy have developed a planning worksheet showing the complete schedule of the conference program. It is located at http://www.philly2009.org/pdf/Program.pdf. They have also added a “Where to Eat” link on the home page. The conference will extend from Sunday, August 2 through Friday, August 7. Typical schedules show the conference day beginning at 7 a.m. with Breakfast with the Experts and the program concluding at 9:30 p.m. Sandwiched in between are more than a hundred lectures, luncheons by Special Interests Groups (SIGs) and workshops. There are typically three concurrent lectures providing attendees a choice of topics. Most of the lectures are recorded and will be available on CD.

The conference is being held at the Sheraton Philadelphia City Center Hotel. Keynote speaker at the opening session Sunday evening is Father Patrick Desbois, the Roman Catholic priest who is best known for his work in searching for and uncovering mass graves of Jews in Ukraine. His speech will be, "The Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest's Journey to Uncover the Truth Behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews."

The conference is considered the premier event of the year for Jewish genealogy. Additional information about the conference can be found at http://www.philly2009.org


Company Claims To Give Origin of Surnames
It has been a good number of years since the headlines were filled with companies that claim they can provide the origin and coat of arms for any surname. They were exposed by the professional genealogical community and eventually shut down. A few months ago I heard an advertisement on television for yet another company, Family-Crest.com, making a similar offer. They also claimed some tie-in with the Ellis Island Commission. So I paid the small amount of money they asked for ($9.95) and submitted the Mokotoff name from Poland. This inquiry would be a challenge, because Mokotoff is a uniquely Jewish surname, its origin is the village of Mokotów which today is the southern section of Warsaw. I did not hear from them for some time and initially concluded it was a scam where they took your money and you never heard from them.

Just last week, I received the results. What I received was a template description interspersed with custom comments about the surname Mokotoff. Here is the custom material they supplied:

“The following is an actual excerpt from our records for the name Mokotoff – Habitation names are those family names which are derived from either the location of a place of residence of the initial bearer or from the name of the town or village from whence he hailed…In this particular instance, the Polish family name Mokotoff originated form the old Polish word ‘mokwa’ denoting a ‘damp or wet place.’ Thus, the initial bearer of the surname Mokotoff would have been one whose residence lay on or near a place of wetland or swamp…In the case of the family name Mokotoff, the earliest recorded date uncovered by our researchers is 1464.”

They got it right that Mokotoff is a toponymic surname, that is it is derived from a place name. They properly tied my spelling—Mokotoff—to the correct Polish spelling of Mokotów to come to this conclusion. As to the origin of the name being the Polish word “mokwa,” that is new to me although plausible. The accepted origin of the name, which I have seen in a number of books is the French words mon coteau (my hill) and is so described in Wikipedia. As to the family name being used as early as 1464, this is certainly not true, but the village of Mokotów does originate in that time period.

The evidence is that they did legitimate research although they may have come to some wrong conclusions.

Contribute to the Success of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy
Help support a dynamic institution that in its brief existence already has been the catalyst for such benefits to Jewish genealogy as the Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching System,  Sephardic DNA and Migration project, inventorying the Paul Jacobi Collection of 400 prominent Ashkenazic lineages, the Proposed Standard for Names, Dates and Places in a Genealogical Database, and a system for Integrating Genealogical Datasets.

Visit the IIJG website at http://iijg.org and read about these developments, as well as  ongoing and proposed projects.

Make your tax-deductible contribution by credit card or PayPal at http://iijg.org. Click the Donate link. If you prefer, mail it to the Friends of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy, 155 N. Washington Ave., Bergenfield, NJ 07621. Make the check payable to “Friends of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy.” Donations are tax deductible for U.S. taxpayers.

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