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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 11, Number 24 | December 19, 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.
Some readers have complained the type size is too small so we have increased it with this issue. We invite readers' comments.

IIJG Proposes a Demographic and Genealogical Review of Scottish Jewry
The International Institute for Jewish Genealogy (IIJG) is proposing a demographic and genealogical survey of Scottish Jewry since its emergence two centuries ago. This study will throw demographic light on the numbers of East European immigrants who came to Scotland and where they came from. It will also examine the significant phenomenon of Jewish transmigration through Scotland to the U.S. and elsewhere, as well as the dispersal and settlement patterns of those thousands of Jews who stayed in Scotland. The genealogical part of the survey will look at the "kinship factor" between the immigrants and the family connections that gradually developed between Scotland’s Jews themselves. Since the development of Scottish Jewry's institutions is well-documented, the study will focus, among other things, on the elite groups, such as communal leadership, business dynasties, religious leadership, secular scholars and the like, who were the main driving forces behind the development of the institutional structure. Yet another focus for research would be the integration of Jews into the wider non-Jewish community, whilst seeking to maintain a separate Jewish identity.

IIJG states that the outcome of the survey would be totally unique and original, the first-ever countrywide demographical and genealogical study of a self-standing Jewish community of some importance. Readers can help make this project a success by contributing to IIJG (see the box below). To read about all the activities of IIJG, go to

Encyclopedia of the Pioneers and Builders of Israel Digitized
Touro College in New York has digitized and placed on the Internet Encyclopedia of the Pioneers and Builders of Israel. It is located at and includes a full word search engine. The Encyclopedia is a 19-volume work written in Hebrew that was compiled and published by David Tidhar (1897–1970) over the 23 years from 1947 until his death. It contains information about approximately 8,000 people.

The search engine allows searches in Hebrew or English. The English search does not translate into Hebrew but transliterates the English characters; therefore, it is only useful for proper nouns (such as names of persons or places). Displayed is an extract of the portion of the page that includes the searched word. Clicking on the page number displays an image of the page as well as its contents.

FamilySearch Redesigns Website; Temple Ordinances Now Hidden from the Public
 Alas, we old timers are the victims of progress. FamilySearch, the genealogy site of the Mormon Church, has redesigned their website focusing more on benefitting first timers than on veteran researchers. The net effect is there is a learning curve to locate and use components of their site. The Library catalog has been redesigned. I thought it was a bit easier to use.

For those who are following the Mormon/Jewish controversy about posthumous baptism, during the years I was involved in discussions with the Church, they disclosed plans to have what today is called NewFamilySearch. They stated at that time it would significantly lower the possibility that Holocaust victims would be posthumously baptized. One reason was that they would not allow submission of lists of people; names would have to be linked to parents or children.

They commented this new system would combine all existing databases. I immediately realized that this would be an excellent opportunity for them to hide the posthumous baptism of Jews, so I asked whether non-Mormons would be able to tell in the combined database that a particular entry had been subjected to temple ordinances such as posthumous baptism. (In the current environment, merely being in the International Genealogical Index means that some ordinance was planned or had occurred.) They assured me that non-Mormons would be able to tell. At a subsequent meeting the topic of NewFamilySearch was discussed, and again I asked whether non-Mormons would be able to tell if their relatives were subject to Mormon rituals. Once again they assured me that entries would be flagged to show some ordinance was performed.

Needless to say, it is not possible for a non-Mormon to tell if a person listed in the NewFamilySearch database was involved in Mormon rituals. That aspect of FamilySearch is now password protected and is as secure as any system where one million people have password access to the database.

2011 Conference Now Has a Blog
The committee of the annual International Conference on Jewish Genealogy has established a blog at Evolving information about the conference will be posted to the blog. The event is hosted by the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington and will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C., from August 14–19, 2011. The conference website is

France Receives Copy of ITS Digital Files
The French National Archives (Archives Nationales) is the sixth repository to receive the collection of the International Tracing Service. The data consists of six terabytes of documentary holdings about Nazi persecution, forced labor and post-war emigration. Still not digitized are the three million files of correspondence between survivors or family members and the authorities. This project, ITS states, will still take some years to complete.

Only countries that are part of the 11-member committee that determines ITS policy can receive copies of the data. Those that now have the files are Belgium, France, Israel, Luxemburg, Poland and the U.S. The remaining countries are Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands and Great Britain.

Additional information can be found at

Book on History of the Jews in South Africa
It was reported on the South Africa SIG Discussion Group that A History of the Jews in South Africa, from the Earliest Times to 1895, by Louis Herrman, is now available on CD. Cost is approximately $19.00. It was originally published in hard cover in 1975. Additional information can be found at

Another book, The Story of the Settlement, is now available as an e-book. The book describes the history of Grahamstown and includes a list of names of settlers. Additional information can be found at

U.S. National Archives Wants Feedback about 2010 Census
The U.S. National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) has submitted for public comment their proposed plans for the 2010 census. The report focuses heavily on the value of census information to genealogists. The proposal recommends:
   • the 2010 decennial census forms be preserved as scanned images.
   • all permanently valuable records be transferred to the legal and physical custody of NARA within ten years of the completion of the census
   • transfer of electronic records that have value for genealogical research be even more expedited. For example, the digital images of the response questionnaires should be transferred to NARA no later than August 21, 2011, and the Individual Census Record File to be transferred no later than September 30, 2013.

The complete proposal can be found at Persons who wish to comment to NARA about the proposal can do so by e-mail at or by postal mail to: NARA (NWML), 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001. The deadline is December 30, 2011. All comments will be made part of NARA’s official file on the records schedule and will be preserved as federal records.

New Online Records of the Jews of Vienna has added an index to hundreds of thousands of records of Viennese Jews to its site at, some as old as 1826. It includes indexes to birth, marriage and death records as well as other Jewish and civil records. Information provided is minimal. It contains the year of the event, register number, type of record and name(s) of person(s).

Always use the “Overall Search” option since a name of interest might appear in any of the subcategories. The search engine does a string search on each of the data fields, that is, the engine searches for any record whose field contains the consecutive letters (string) presented. For example, searching for a person whose last name was Handel and whose given name starts with “Mo,” not only produced a result for Moritz Handel, but also for Solomon Handel (“Solomon” includes the string “mo”) and Simon Shandel.

Richard Holbrooke’s Ancestry
One of America’s top diplomats, Richard Holbrooke, died this past week. During his long career, Holbrooke held such positions as U.S. Ambassador to Germany and Ambassador to the United Nations. At the time of his death he was Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Not common knowledge was that Holbrooke was born to Jewish parents who fled Europe in the late 1930s. His father, Dan Holbrooke, was born in Warsaw and Anglicized his name to Holbrooke. According to all news reports, the original Polish-Jewish name is unknown.

This prompted AVOTAYNU editor Sallyann Amdur Sack-Pikus to question whether the two of us could determine the name in the Old Country. It took us less than a half hour of effort (and 30 years each of experience) to determine the name. We both decided it was an excellent example of a methodology to solve the riddle of “My name was changed at Ellis Island,” and that an article will appear in the Winter issue of AVOTAYNU describing the resources that led to discovery of the name.

You can subscribe to AVOTAYNU at

Google Your Family Tree
If you are an active Google user, the book Google Your Family Tree is a must. The title implies that it focuses on using Google for family history research. It would be more appropriate to say the book is about using Google for any application with examples from genealogical research.

One might ask, “What is there to Google beyond learning how to use keywords?” Google Your Family Tree author Dan Lynch does use the first 28 pages to rigorously demonstrate how to select and apply keywords, but the next 296 pages teaches the reader about many of the other capabilities of Google including: Language Tools, Google Books, Google News Archives, Google Images and Videos, Google Alerts and Google Maps. At this point, we are only half done with the book. There are additional chapters on Blog Search, Google Earth, Google Notebook, Google Toolbar and Other Tips and Tricks. The book is easy reading, because it is rich with sample screens from Google. Remarkably, I can find no other book that explains how to use Google. Google Your Family Tree is a must for every household, not merely for family history research, but for every family member who uses the Internet to glean information. Ordering information can be found at

Contribute to JewishGen
‘Tis the season when Americans turn their attention to how to lower their tax obligation to the Federal government for the 2010 year. One way is to make sure that all of your tax-deductable charitable contributions have been made. Have you made a contribution yet to JewishGen? If not and you use JewishGen, make a contribution now. Even if your primary use is as a subscriber to one of the many Discussion Groups that exist on JewishGen, it costs money to maintain these applications. You can contribute to JewishGen-erosity at It is even possible to designate your gift to one of the many projects currently in the works.

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.
Nu? What's New? is published biweekly by Avotaynu, Inc.
Copyright 2010, Avotaynu, Inc. All rights reserved

To be added or removed from this mailing list, go to the Internet site To change your e-mail address, go to the same site and remove the old address and add the new address.

Back issues of
Nu? What's New? are available at

To subscribe to AVOTAYNU, The International Review of Jewish Genealogy, go to

To order books from our catalog, go to

To contact us by postal mail, write: Avotaynu, Inc.; 155 N. Washington Ave.; Bergenfield, NJ 07621