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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 11, Number 7 | April 18, 2010

This edition is going to 8,695 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.
Annual Conference Program Now Online
The annual IAJGS conference program schedule is now online at In addition to the lectures, there are computer labs, film showings, research group meetings, breakfasts with experts, luncheons and midnight snack sessions. Some start as early as 8 a.m. Some end at 11:30 p.m. At times there are as many as eight concurrent sessions. Program listings preceded by “$” are fee-based events that can be purchased when registering. They are primarily programs where food is served (Breakfast with the Experts, SIG Luncheons and Midnight with the Mavens) plus computer labs.

The conference is being held at the Marriott LIVE Hotel in Los Angeles from July 11–16, 2010. Additional information can be found at The site provides information about registration, hotels, programs, speakers, films and tours. To keep up to date about conference information, subscribe to the newsletter at

Index to Latvian Vital Records
Christine Usdin of France has an ongoing project of indexing 19th-century and early 20th-century Jewish vital records of Latvia. The work to date can be found at The source of the information is the online digitized images of records located at A description of this site can be found in “Latvian Jewish Records Now Online” in the July 10, 2009, issue of Nu? What’s New? These rabbinate records are written in Russian and Hebrew. Usdin is extracting from the Russian portion, and Martha Lev-Zion of Israel is verifying the accuracy by reading the Hebrew portion.

Based on a sample of the index, the extraction is quite comprehensive including for births: date, name, names of parents (often including patronymic) and place of residence. For boys, also included is the officiant at the circumcision (mohel). For marriages: date, names of bride and groom including patronymic, ages and places of residence, names of witnesses. For deaths: date, name of deceased including patronymic, age of deceased, cause of death, place of residence. For divorces: date, names of principals including patronymic and witnesses.

Towns included to date are Dvinsk, Glazmanka/Dankere/Gostini, Griva, Jekabpils (Jakobstadt), Kudilga (Goldingen), Liepaja (Libava/Libau), Ludza, Malta(Silmala), Rezekne, Riga, Subate, Ilukste and Griva, Valdemarpils (Samaskas/Sassmacken), Varaklani, Vilaka and Vishki.

Poland Plans Database of “Victims of Repression Under German Occupation”
The Foundation for Polish-German Reconciliation has initiated an Internet site that hopes to identify every Polish citizen that was a victim of German repression from the years 1939–1945. The site is located at and can be read in five languages: English, German, Polish, Russian and Ukrainian. It currently contains about 1.9 million names. The database is searchable at

The project was initiated in 2006 by the Institute of National Remembrance and the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.

There are remarkably few Jewish names in the database despite the fact there are a number of Holocaust databases that list Polish Jews. These could have been acquired by the project. There are less than 50 persons named Szapiro (and spelling variants) in the database, yet the Yad Vashem Pages of Testimony site has more than 1,000 persons named Szapiro of Polish origin. Only one Mokotow appears from the more than 100 persons named Mokotow who were victims of repression under the German occupation.

Approximately three million Polish Christians—out of a total population of 33 million—lost their lives during World War II, mostly due to the consequences of war. Approximately three million Polish Jews—out of a total population of 3.3 million—lost their lives, mostly due to genocide.

Swiss Refugees Database
A database of more than 25,000 persons who fled to neutral Switzerland during World War II is available at The complete list is presented alphabetically. Information about each individual includes name, date of birth and nationality. The site is in French. Use Google translate to convert the descriptive information in your native language.

Books for Jewish Cemetery Research
Some years ago I was attending a gathering of my wife’s family and was discussing genealogy with the aged patriarch of the family. “Uncle Abe,” I said, “Isn’t it wonderful that Roni Liebowitz is tracing the Auerbach family history?” He thought for a moment and replied, “Yes, but she is a bit mishugah (crazy).”

“Why do you think she is mishugah?” I queried. Uncle Abe answered “Because she takes pictures of tombstones.”

We family historians know the importance of tombstones and why we take pictures of them. However, Jewish tombstones can be a challenge for the beginning genealogist or those who cannot read the Hebrew inscriptions on them. Avotaynu offers two books to assist people in this aspect of family history research; each with a different approach.

A Field Guide to Visiting a Jewish Cemetery is a basic book that focuses on how to read the inscriptions on Jewish tombstones. It proves a step by step description of the various Hebrew components of a tombstone giving a translation of the Hebrew words. It is a soft-cover book that, as its name implies, you can bring to a cemetery and use on site to do cemetery research.

 A Practical Guide to Jewish Cemeteries goes beyond the contents of the Field Guide. In addition to a comprehensive discussion of how to read the inscriptions on Jewish tombstones, it goes into greater detail about the artwork that appears on tombstones identifying and describing more than 25 symbols. There is a section describing famous Jewish cemeteries and locations of major concentration camps. Another chapter identifies the burial locations of 260 famous Jews. The final chapter focuses on how to preserve cemeteries and tombstones.

Each book satisfies a different need. The Field Guide is a lower cost ($21.00) work that focuses on reading tombstones with secondary information. The Practical Guide is a more expensive (39.00), more comprehensive book on Jewish cemeteries and burial customs.

Additional information as well as how to order A Field Guide to Visiting a Jewish Cemetery can be found at It includes a sample chapter and the Table of Contents. Additional and ordering information about A Practical Guide to Jewish Cemeteries can be found at It includes the Table of Contents, sample chapter and a review of the book that appeared in AVOTAYNU.

Compare the two and select the book that would best satisfy your needs.

Access to NewFamilySearch May Be Near
Public access to NewFamilySearch, a major revision as to how to access data at the Mormon Church genealogy Internet site may be near. You can now register to eventually use the database at Only registration is possible. Currently access is limited to members of the Church.

The new system will merge genealogical data with religious data. At various meetings with members of the Jewish community, the Church made assurances that the public would be able to tell whether religious ordinances, such as posthumous baptism, were performed on a person in the combined database.

For Mormons, the site provides explicit instructions on the procedure for submitting names for ordinances. One section states:

“Names of nonrelated persons should not be submitted, including names of celebrities or famous people, or those gathered from unapproved extraction projects, such as Jewish Holocaust victims.” The bold face and italics are theirs, not mine.

Beirut Jewish Cemetery Online
In 1948 there were 24,000 Jews living in Lebanon, mostly in Beirut.
Today there are only 30 elderly individuals living in fear and the only remaining vestiges of the Jewish community are the Magen Abraham synagogue and the Jewish cemetery of Beirut. Nagi Georges Zeidan, a Lebanese Christian, undertook the task of memorializing the Lebanese Jewish community by researching its history and creating a database of 3,184 tombstone inscriptions using both the cemetery and civil registrations. The database is now on SephardicGen at and
(French version)

Attention AVOTAYNU Subscribers
If your subscription to AVOTAYNU expired with the Winter issue, a special yellow renewal sheet was included with the mailing. There is a discount offer for renewal that expires by April 30, so be sure to renew by that date. If you are not already a subscriber, you can order the publication at

iPad Mania
Two excellent articles about the recently announced iPad can be found at and The first, by Dick Eastman, discusses hands-on use of the device. The second, by the magazine Newsweek, describes the iPad as a revolution. The magazine thought the device was so significant, it made it the cover story for its issue.

Meanwhile, Israel has banned imports of the iPad, citing concerns the device’s wireless signals could disrupt other equipment. Officials want to first certify that the iPad complies with local transmitter standards. The ban even prevents tourists from bringing one into the country. You can read about the controversy more extensively at

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