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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 11, Number 15 | August 15, 2010

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.
ITS Publishes Annual Report
The International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany, recently issued its annual report for 2009. In that year they received 11,768 requests, an increase of more than 1,500 from the previous year.

Humanitarian requests still represent the largest group of inquiries (58%). Germany is the largest source (31%), with the United States second (10%), followed by Poland, France, Ukraine, Netherlands and Russia. Israel is eighth with about 4.5% of the inquiries. The vast majority of inquiries (56%) came from survivors or relatives of survivors/victims.

More than half the people who visit ITS’ facilities are tourists. About a quarter are researchers. Survivors and their family represented less than eight percent, making most of their inquiries by mail.

ITS employs more than 300 persons of which a third process humanitarian requests. The largest group, 136 persons, is designated as “Archives” and includes those who are working on the digitizing projects.

There are now more than 84 million images digitized which covers 85 percent of their collection. Underway is the digitization of the three million correspondence files. The process is expected to take a number of years.

They plan to publish to the Internet this year finding aids that will describe their archival holdings.

There is consensus among the commission that determines ITS policy that the international character of the institution should be maintained and that the humanitarian mandate of the tracing service in Bad Arolsen should continue to be fulfilled as long as a need exists and is voiced by former victims and their relatives.

Lots of News from the Israel Genealogical Society
The Israel Genealogical Society (IGS) is the winner of a $2,500 grant by the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies to be used in conjunction with the planned annual conference to be held in Jerusalem, Israel, in 2014.

Names Changes in Israel. IGS has indicated the first use of this money will be the preparation of a database of name changes publicized in the Yalkut Hapirsumim (Official Publications) of the Israeli government starting in 1949. As the information is extracted from each volume, it will be added to a database on the IGS website.

Name Changes British Mandate Period. For the 2004 conference, IGS made available an index of name changes during the British Mandate period (1921–1948). This database is now online at

Montefiore censuses. IGS has announced the launching of a website for the 19th Century Montefiore censuses of the Jewish population of Eretz Israel, Alexandria, Beirut and Sidon (Saida). The details recorded include personal and family particulars, occupations and cities and countries of origin. The censuses are unusually comprehensive as it is estimated that fewer than 1% of the Jewish inhabitants of Eretz Israel refused to participate because of religious scruples. Some others may not be included for personal or political reasons. In all, there are five censuses of Eretz Israel (including Beirut and Sidon), and one of Alexandria. At present, the censuses of 1839, 1840 (Alexandria) and 1855 are on line at The census of 1849 will follow in the next few months.

Other recent databases accessible at the IGSSA site are:
   1915 Census of Tel-Aviv.
   British Mandate Census 1922 for Petah Tikva and Tel-Aviv-Jaffa. This database represents about 20% of the Jewish population in Eretz Israel at that time. It is believed the reminder of the census has been lost.

Chief Statistician of Canada Resigns Over Census Debate
In what appears to be a rebuke of the Canadian government who is trying to legislate how to run an accurate census, the Chief Statistician of Canada, Munir Sheikh, has resigned. He made his resignation letter public. It states “...the question of whether a voluntary survey can become a substitute for a mandatory census. It can not...” The Canadian government also plans to eliminate what is known as the long form and replace it with one that asks limited information. They claim many Canadians felt the census was an intrusion of their personal privacy.

Meanwhile, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology met to hear testimony regarding this decision and passed a motion that the government should “immediately reinstate the mandatory nature of the long-form census,” however, it is unclear if it would apply to the 2011 census.

Much of the information I gather about record preservation and access in Canada is gotten from Gordon Watts Reports, an excellent online newsletter. Information about this controversy is clearly described in the last four issues of the newsletter. To understand the entire controversy, start reading at To read the later three issues, change “0122” in the above URL to “0123,” “0124” and “0125” respectively.

If your have interest in Canadian genealogy you should subscribe to this newsletter.

Improvements Made to the Morse Ellis Island Database Search
1. The Ellis Island Database used at the Stephen P. Morse One-Step site is located on the JewishGen server where it resides with the permission of the Ellis Island Foundation. The latter group regularly makes corrections to their database. JewishGen has recently received a fresh file, something that has not been done since 2006.

2. The results page of the Ellis Island Database Gold Form now can be sorted by any column on the results page. Simply click on the column header at the top of the page. This feature always existed on the search form itself, but most users did not know about the feature because it was low down on a very lengthy search form.

One Foot in America Shipped
All orders for One Foot in America have been shipped. Due to unexpected interest, we ran out of stock but were able to get additional copies to complete all orders. In the description of the book in the last issue of Nu? What’s New? I mentioned there was a comparable book about Hamburg as a port of emigration that apparently is out of print. Its name is “Auswandererhafen Hamburg.” Used copies can be purchased on for $34.95, an outlandish price, but can be bought on the German equivalent,, for only 3 euros (if they will ship outside Europe).

One Foot in America: The Jewish Emigrants of the Red Star Line and Eugeen Van Mieghem is about the Jewish immigrant experience leaving Europe through the port of Antwerp. The book is rich with illustrations by Van Mieghem (1875–1930) who was an artist that portrayed the emigrants as they left Antwerp. The book also includes photographs. There is a history of Antwerp and a separate section devoted to the history of the Jews of Antwerp which started with the arrival in the 16th century of Jews from Spain and Portugal. In a chapter title “Making Money Off Migration” the book describes the Red Star Line which began operation in 1873. There is a chapter titled “Life on Board.” An entire section of the book is devoted to “Jewish Migration from Russia to Antwerp, 1880–1914.” The cost of the book is only $20.00 plus shipping. You can order the book at

Places Still Available for Jewish Genealogy Trip to Salt Lake City
If you did not attend the recent International Conference on Jewish Genealogy or just conclude you need to devote more time to your family history research, consider participating in the annual Jewish Genealogy Trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

For the 18th consecutive year, veteran Jewish genealogists Gary Mokotoff and Eileen Polakoff will be offering this research trip from October 14-October 21, 2010. More than 300 Jewish genealogists from the U.S., Canada, Israel, Australia, England, Austria and Venezuela have taken advantage of this program. To date 27 people have signed up for this year’s trip, which is limited to 40 people. The deadline is August 20 to join the group.
Additional information can be found at

Lost Synagogues of The Bronx Planned
Ellen Levitt, author of The Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn, is planning books on other boroughs of New York City. Her next project is The Lost Synagogues of The Bronx. While she has excellent information about former synagogues in the Riverdale section of The Bronx, she is weak on those synagogues that existed on or near the Grand Concourse. If you are familiar with ex-shuls in that area, please write to her in care of Avotaynu identifying the name of the synagogue and exactly where it was located. Write to

The Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn describes 91 former synagogues and includes photographs of how they appear today. Many are now churches. Additional information can be found at

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