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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 10, Number 13 | July 10, 2009

This edition is going to 8,563 subscribers

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.
Commentary About Identity Theft and Homeland Security
More and more U.S. government offices holding records of value to family history research are using the pretext of identity theft and homeland security as an excuse to prevent family historians from accessing records of their ancestors.

Recently a professional genealogist went to the New York City Department of Health with a court order requesting the birth record of a deceased person. She was denied a copy of the record because she did not know the given names of the decedent’s parents. The purpose of the court order was to determine the names of the decedent’s parents.

Dick Eastman, who writes a daily e-zine on genealogy, addressed the subject in one of his editions. It can be read at

Latvian Jewish Records Now Online
The State Archives of Latvia is placing digitized images of Jewish vital records at their genealogy website. They include the towns of Aizputes, Bauskas, Daugavpils, Glazmankas, Grīvas, Grobiņas, Ilūkstes, Jaunjelgavas, Jēkabpils, Jelgavas, Kuldīgas, Liepājas, Ludzas, Maltas, Piltenes, Rēzeknes, Ribinišku, Rīgas, Sabiles, Saldus, Sasmakas, Skaistkalnes, Subates, Tukuma, Varakļānu, Ventspils, Viļakas and Višķu.

To use the site requires that a user first register. Go to the home page at and click Register in the upper right corner. Once registered, a shortcut directly to the Jewish (Rabināti) records is Click on the town of interest and a list by year and record type is displayed. Records are identified by type: dzimušie (birth), laulātie (marriage), mirušie (death), šķirtie (divorce). Select an appropriate year/type which will then display a cover page for the record group. Browse the digitized images by clicking the arrows in the upper right corner. There is a facility to zoom in on an image.

The project currently has more than 3.8 million images online of vital records of all faiths. Plans call for digitizing revision lists (censuses) of 18th–19th centuries (1782–1858), and those portions of the All-Russia census on 1897 that survived.

There was no indication from the archives that they were concerned that placing these records online would lead to identity theft or be a threat to homeland security.

Estonian Records Online
The State Archives of Latvia referred to a project of the Estonian State Archives to place digitized images online. It does not include Jewish vital records but does appear to include revision lists, 1782–1858. The site is at

Report from the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy
In his quarterly report, Neville Lamdan, managing director of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy, reported that a major university in the U.S. has expressed interest in offering a B.A. course on Jewish genealogy in the 2010–11 academic year. The Institute's Teaching Committee is presently engaged in developing academic guidelines for the course. Lamdan did not indicate which university expressed interest.

IIJG will be sponsoring a panel at the forthcoming triennial World Congress of Jewish Studies (Jerusalem, August 2009). Lamdan stated that this is a precedent-setting event and is part of the Institute's efforts to have Jewish genealogy accepted as a recognized sub-branch of Jewish Studies.

An annotated inventory of the genealogical studies into some 400 Ashkenazic families done by the late Dr. Paul Jacobi during his lifetime has been developed.

New projects being undertaken by the Institute are:
  • Indexing of the genealogical materials of the late Rabbi Shmuel Gorr.
  • An Expert Working Group has embarked on a project to create a Glossary of Genealogical Terms in Hebrew.
  • Arthur Kurzweil, a pioneering Jewish genealogist and a member of the IIJG Advisory Board, has agreed to head a Working Group on Ethics in Jewish Genealogy.
  • A final report has been posted on the "Integrating Genealogical Datasets" project, in which the technological breakthrough achieved by Prof. Daniel Wagner of the Weizmann Institute and his two Polish collaborators is described. The report can be accessed at
  • Mid-term reports have been posted on the work being done by Dr. Federica Francesconi on early-modern archives in Ancona and Modena, Italy, and by Maria Jose Camps Surribas on medieval archives in Cervera and Barcelona, Spain. The Francesconi report can be found at and the Surribas report is at

A list of all projects can be found at

Deadline for AVOTAYNU on CD-ROM Extended to July 21
Avotaynu’s offices are closed until July 20. People wishing to take advantage of our discount offer for the new version of “AVOTAYNU on CDROM” cannot call the office to place an order, therefore, we are extending the deadline until Tuesday, July 21.

All orders for CDs placed on or before July 9 have been shipped.

  1. If you are the owner of a previous edition of AVOTAYNU on CD-ROM, you can upgrade to the new edition for only $29.95 plus shipping. After July 21, the price will be $39.95. There is no need to mail in your previous edition of the CD. We have your name on file if you ordered through the Internet or by mail. That will be sufficient proof of previous purchase. If we do not have your name on file, we will ask you to return the previous CD as proof of purchase.
  2. If you are not an owner of a previous edition, you can purchase the CD for $99.95 plus shipping by July 21. Avotaynu will give you a one-year subscription to our journal AVOTAYNU, free of charge. If you already subscribe to AVOTAYNU, we will extend your subscription by a year. That is a $38.00 value at no cost to you.

The CD contains articles that have appeared in AVOTAYNU from its inception in 1985 through 2008, 93 issues, some 5,700 pages, 4 million words. It is available for Windows only, now including Vista. Using a searching tool, which includes full-word indexing, every word of every back issue of AVOTAYNU is accessible. If in all the articles there is only one mention of a town or a surname, the search engine will find it. By specifying key words or combinations of key words, the CD-ROM version will locate the article that meets the criteria of the keywords search.

The new version has the option of placing the entire database (about 500MB) onto the hard drive. This feature was not available in previous editions. Orders can be placed online at

Prague Conscription (Residence) Records Up to the Letter “O”
The Prague National Archive project to index their conscription records collection (1850–1914) now has 1.1 million entries. Conscription records are residence permits issued at the Prague police headquarters for the Prague region. The names are being indexed alphabetically and now include names that start with the letter “O.”

The entries include the name of the head of household, followed by the name of wife, children and other relatives with whom the family shared the residence, date of registration with the police, number of the house, and job of the head of household. It may include year and place of birth, religion and, in case of a married woman, her maiden name. The sheet may also contain entries concerning marriages and deaths.

The records are located at

List of People Expelled from the University of Vienna in 1938
It was reported on JewishGen that the University of Vienna has published a database of 2,700 persons, mostly Jews, who were discharged or expelled in 1938. Among these persons are professors, students and employees of the university. This database is available at

Converting Ahnentafel Numbers to Natural Language
I never have liked Ahnentafel numbers. To state that a certain woman has an Ahnentafel number of 123 says nothing of her relationship to the person whose pedigree is displayed. The Internet has made it easier to understand the relationship, and it is even possible to convert an Ahnentfel number to script using a word processor such as Microsoft Word.

First convert the Ahnentafel number to its binary equivalent. There are many decimal to binary converters on the Internet. One site is If the number is “123" the result of the conversion is “1111011.” Drop the leftmost digit (always a “1") and replace each 0 with “father’s “and each “1" with “mother’s.”

Consequently the woman whose Ahnentafel number is 123 is the person’s mother’s, mother’s, mother’s, father’s, mother’s mother. Use any word processor’s Find/Replace feature to generate the text.

Lost Wooden Synagogues of Eastern Europe Now on CD
Among the many tragedies of the Holocaust was the fact that the wooden synagogues of Eastern Europe—some 1,000 structures—were systematically burned to the ground by the Germans as they conquered territories and murdered or deported the Jewish population. A few of these magnificent structures survived and a group has documented them, as well as the history of these synagogues in a recording titled Lost Wooden Synagogues of Eastern Europe. Originally available only on video tape, it is now available on CD.

The video includes photos of many of the famous wooden synagogues of the past and file footage of Jewish life before the Holocaust (some of which I had not seen before). It also documents a trip to Lithuania to film the few (abandoned) remaining wooden synagogues there. In additional to being an interesting video to be included in a home video library, it is worth showing to genealogical and general Jewish interest groups. (The producers permit royalty-free group viewing for educational but not fund raising purposes.) Run time is 48 minutes. The narrator is Theodore Bikel. Ordering the CD or VCR can be done at Cost is $25 plus shipping.

The Generations Network Changes Its Name
The Generations Network, formerly called, formerly called, has changed its name again. It is now called A representative of the public indicated it would not make a difference since everyone has been calling the organization all along.

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 and read about these developments, as well as  ongoing and proposed projects.

Make your tax-deductible contribution by credit card or PayPal at 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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