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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 10, Number 22 | November 1, 2009

This edition is going to 8,515 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.
Another Google Translate Feature
In the August 19, 2009, edition of Nu? What’s New? I extolled the merits of the Google translate feature. This past week I discovered another useful aspect of that site. Go to http://translate.google.com and click the Translated Search tab at the top of the page. Google allows searching for websites in one particular language based on a search parameter in your native language. For example, if searching for the English language word “genealogy” and requesting Lithuanian-language sites, Google will present all sites with the Lithuanian word “genealogiją.”

This function was useful to find websites that mentioned members of my family. Searching for “Mokotoff” and requesting Spanish-language sites provided information about the Argentinean/Spanish branch of the family. Getting information about the Israeli Mokotoffs is a bit trickier. Searching for “Mokotoff” at Hebrew-language sites only provides those that have “Mokotoff” in the Roman alphabet. It is necessary to search for the Hebrew alphabet equivalent of “Mokotov” (מוקוטוב) to get results. Use the Steve Morse utility at http://stevemorse.org/hebrew/eng2heb.html to translate from the Roman alphabet to Hebrew.

An advantage of using the Translated Search function is that the results are displayed in two columns. The first column shows the results in your native language, and the second column shows the results as they appear at the website.

One Google function that does not work with Translated Search is the “Not” function. Placing a minus sign (-) before a word does not exclude sites with that word. For example, I found that the Spanish-language Mokotoff sites had many Facebook results. Trying to exclude them by searching for “Mokotoff –Facebook” gave results only with the word “Facebook” rather than excluding sites with “Facebook.”


Arthur Kurzweil To Be “Genealogist in Residence” at Annual Conference
Arthur Kurzweil, author of the pioneering book on getting started in Jewish genealogy, From Generation to Generation, has been designated “Genealogist in Residence” for the 30th annual International Conference on Jewish Genealogy to be held in July 2010 in Los Angeles. Kurzweil will give two hands-on workshops, “Climbing Your Jewish Family Tree” and “Holocaust Research: How and Why to Locate Information about What Happened to Your Family during the Holocaust.” He is an amateur magician and will perform his show “Searching for God in a Magic Shop.” Kurzweil will also be available for “kibitzing, kvetching and commentary on the fly.”

You can sign up for the conference newsletter at http://www.jgsla2010.com/about/sign-up-for-the-announcements-newsletter/. There is also a conference blog at http://www.jgsla2010.com/blog/2009/10/conference-firsts-from-iajgs-2010-conference-central/.


TV Program “Who Do You Think You Are?”
For those American readers who would like a preview of the much-touted British TV program about family history, “Who Do You Think You Are,” you can view an episode of the Australian version at http://www.sbs.com.au/shows/whodoyouthinkyouare/episodes/detail/episode/1662/play/auto/. In it, Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn travels to various sites of his ancestry in the quest to determine if the family legend is true that he is related to the Jewish scholar Moses Mendelssohn and his grandson, composer Felix. There is an Avotaynu slant to his story because Ben determines his family is from Schneidemühl, Prussia, (now Piła, Poland) and is not related to the distinguished Mendelssohn family. The source Ben’s researcher uses to take his family back to the time his ancestor acquired the surname Mendelssohn, is Peter Cullman’s History of the Jews of Schneidemühl: 1641 to the Holocaust, published by Avotaynu in 2008. In viewing the credits at the end of the program, I also noted that Lionel Sharpe, OAM, of the Australian Jewish Genealogical Society was a consultant on the project.

The latest reports of plans to bring “Who Do you Think You Are” to the United States indicate it will appear in January 2010.


Jews of Stropkov Back In Print
Between Galicia and Hungary: The Jews of Stropkov is back in print. Sufficient interest plus print-on-demand technology made it practical to reprint the book. Written by Melody Amsel-Arieli, an American-born Israeli genealogist, it is a yizkor (memorial) book about the Jews of Stropkov, Slovak Republic. Many Jewish genealogists have memorialized members of their family murdered in the Holocaust. Melody went a step further and not only memorialized the Amsels of Stropkov, but all the Jews of Stropkov. The book has some unusual features for a yizkor book. It is written in two languages: Hebrew and English, each a mirror of the other. It does not have a necrology—a list of those who were murdered. Instead, it lists all the Jews of Stropkov (and neighboring communities), identifying the survivors in bold face. The list of Holocaust victims goes on for 64 pages, occasionally interrupted by an entry in bold face to identify a survivor. Of the more than 2,000 Stropkovers identified, only 162 survived the Holocaust. The narrative is a history of the Jews of Stropkov, from their first presence in about 1640 to 1945. Particular emphasis is on life just before the Holocaust and events during the Holocaust. Amsel personalizes the times by not merely describing life during these periods but by naming Jewish citizens of the town. Clearly she interviewed many of the survivors and described activity as it happened to specific individuals. A center section has more than 100 pictures of the Jews of Stropkov. Heavy emphasis is on life before the Holocaust but also included are pictures from the archives of Yad Vashem taken by a Christian photographer during the deportations. The book costs $39.00 plus shipping. Additional information—including the Table of Contents, the beautifully designed covers (English and Hebrew), and pictures of the Jews of Stropkov—can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/stropkov.htm.


FamilySearch Indexing Project to Top 325 Million Names
It is expected that by the end of 2009, FamilySearch’s more than 100,000 volunteers will have indexed in excess of 325 million names during the past three years. By comparison, in 2006, a few thousand volunteers indexed only 11 million names. At that rate, Paul Nauta, FamilySearch public affairs manager, expects that 500 million names will be transcribed by the end of 2010. FamilySearch is the genealogy arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints (Mormons).

The efforts of FamilySearch demonstrate the great importance of volunteering to help index databases for Jewish genealogy. JewishGen has numerous indexing projects in progress. For a list of databases currently at the JewishGen site, go to http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/. Most are works-in-progress. Help grow these databases by volunteering.


“Holocaust by Bullets” Resource Center Opens in Paris
Yahad-In Unum, the association chaired by Father Patrick Desbois, and the Sorbonne University have opened a new Resource Center in Paris dedicated to advancing the research on Nazi mass executions of Jews and Roma/Gypsies in Eastern Europe during World War II, sometimes referred to as “The Holocaust by Bullets.” Father DesBois was the keynote speaker at the annual Jewish genealogy conference held in Philadelphia last August. The Resource Center will provide researchers access to Yahad-In Unum’s investigations, including video testimony collected in the field, books about the Holocaust in Eastern Europe written in different languages and archival material, including that provided by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The video stored at the Resource Center will include more than 1,100 testimonials of those who witnessed the killings in the Ukraine and Belarus. The collection will be accessible both at the Paris-based Resource Center and at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Additional information can be found at http://www.holocaustbybullets.com/en/about-yahad-in-unum/%E2%80%9C holocaust-by-bullets%E2%80%9D-resource-center-opens-in-paris/.


Belgium Has ITS Documents
The National Archives of Belgium (Archives Générales du Royaume) in Brussels has become the fifth facility to receive digital copies of the records and index of the International Tracing Service located in Bad Arolsen, Germany. Previously, Israel, Luxembourg, Poland and the United States obtained copies. In accordance with the resolution by the International Commission responsible for overseeing the work of ITS, all eleven member countries—but no other countries—are entitled to digital copies of the documents archived in Bad Arolsen. Other countries are France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, and Great Britain.


Jennie Lebel Dies
Jennie Lebel, a historian who specialized in the history of the Jews of the former Yugoslavia, died in Israel on October 20. Avotaynu published English-language translations of two of her books: Tide & Wreck: History of the Jews of Vardar Macedonia and Until the 'Final Solution': The Jews of Belgrade 1521-1942. Avotaynu published these books not because we expected them to be “best sellers” but because we felt they were important enough that they should have the widest distribution possible. In 2010, we will be publishing another book in that category: History of the Jews of the Kaisiadorys Region, a translation of a book published in Lithuanian.


Trip to the Candy Store
I just returned from my annual trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, the place I affectionately call the “candy store” because of all the genealogical goodies that are in the Library. This year, researchers in the group came from Australia, Canada, United States and Venezuela. The most significant discovery was by a regular on these trips, Ignacio Sternberg of Caracas, who found his parents’ marriage record in the Jewish records of Chernowitz (now Chernevtsy, Ukraine).

For those readers familiar with the Library, they have replaced their microfilm printers with a computer network based system that uses scanners. Images can now be saved directly to a flash drive or printed. Copying to a flash drive is free and printed copies of the documents cost only five cents (10 cents for 11x14 copies). Previously they cost 23 cents. A 2GB flash drive can be purchased at the Library for only $9.00. The network system also supports printing from the Internet be it genealogically relevant material, e-mail or boarding passes.

David Lebovitz of Chicago, another veteran of the annual trips made by Eileen Polakoff and me each October, shared with the attendees the advantages of keyword searches using Ancestry.com. Some of the data fields provided by Ancestry results are not part of the search parameters. Using the keyword option causes any data field for the keyword. Lebovitz used it to search the U.S. Immigration Collection to locate any immigrant from one of his ancestral towns. I used the keyword feature to search for Mokotoffs in collections where the principal person was not a Mokotoff. For example, in the Obituary Collection I found Mokotoffs related to decedents not named Mokotoff.

The Library subscribes to the library version of Ancestry.com, Footnote.com, Godfrey Library, FindMyPast.com and other fee-for-service Internet sites. I took advantage of the Footnote.com site to copy naturalization records for a number of people in my family history. Rather than print them, I copied them to a flash drive (and backed up the data on the laptop I brought along). For someone who claims his “genealogy is done,” I came home with 37 documents, mostly from Footnote.com.

Next year’s trip will be from October 14–21, 2010. Eileen Polakoff and I act as consultants, lecturers and social event planners. Additional information about the trip can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/slctrip.htm.


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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