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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 12, Number 15 | April 17, 2011
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.
A Sweet Pesach to All

Back Issues of Jewish Telegraph Agency To Be Online
Back issues of the Jewish Telegraph Agency’s “Jewish News Archive”—nearly 90 years of articles—will be online on May 3 with a search engine. There will be no cost to users. JTA estimates they have produced more than a quarter million articles since its inception in 1923. The exact URL is not yet provided. The JTA’s website is at

JTA describes itself as “the definitive, trusted global source of breaking news, investigative reporting, in-depth analysis, opinion and features on current events and issues of interest to the Jewish people. With correspondents in New York, Washington, Jerusalem, Moscow and dozens of other cities around the globe, JTA is able to provide in-depth coverage of political, economic and social developments affecting Jews in North and South America, Israel, Europe, Africa and Australia.”

Latest Blood & Frogs Functions
Philip Trauring’s site,, (B&F) has many genealogy-oriented functions. The site is worth browsing. As to the name of the site, it is a reference to the first two plagues in the Exodus story in the Bible. As to what that has to do with genealogy, Trauring never explains.

Search engine. B&F has a search engine that he states is designed to allow you to do a focused search on genealogy, only returning results from sites that are relevant to genealogy. Click the “Search” tab on the home page to use the function. The search engine is not Trauring’s creation. Instead he uses the Google custom search capability.

In the March 20 issue of Nu? What’s New? I noted a new site,, that claims it too has a custom search engine that only uses genealogy sites. The Mocavo site uses exclusively genealogy sites because the implementers provided the websites that were to be indexed. At present, the site does not index

The Trauring site uses some Google algorithm to select only sites that the Google search engine concludes are genealogically relevant. It is less accurate. For example, searching for the town of Warka at the Trauring site, the second hit is a reference to a page at the site that says “'Warka' is the crisp, paper-thin pastry from North Africa that is used to make the famous Tunisian 'briks'.”

The situation is comparable to comparing the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System with the Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching System. The B&F site, like the D-M Soundex System, casts too wide a net in producing results. It creates false positives. Mocavo and Beider-Morse cast too narrow a net, which creates false negatives.

U.S. naturalizations. B&F provides a list of all the naturalization record holdings that can be ordered online from the U.S. National Archives. Trauring notes that his site is a time saver, because when you use the National Archives online ordering system, only half-way through your order you find out if the records exist. The information is provided by state showing the years available. The site is at

Jewish gravestone symbols. Graphic symbols on Jewish gravestones often provide information about the deceased. For example, the image of a pitcher indicates the person was a Levite. B&W provides photographs of 18 such symbols and an explanation of their meaning. It is located at This list is not as complete as two books that Avotaynu sells about cemetery research. Field Guide to Jewish Cemeteries focuses on understanding the ways of Jewish cemeteries and how to interpret the Hebrew inscriptions on tombstones. Additional information, including the Table of Contents, can be found at Practical Guide to Jewish Cemeteries covers most of the information in the Field Guide but adds such chapters as the history and location of famous Jewish cemeteries and Nazi camps; burial sites and biographies of 260 famous Jews; tombstone photography, rubbing and preservation; and many other chapters. Additional information, including the book’s Table of Contents and a review of the book, can be found at

More Forms for Genealogy
Anne Pratt Slatin notes there is a site that has 15 genealogy forms that could be valuable to people, even if they use family history software. It is located at There are forms associated with research such as an Analysis Sheet, Research Checklist, Research Journal and Correspondence Log. For those who cannot figure out what makes a person your second cousin twice removed, there is a Relationship Chart.

Conference Program Now Online
The planners of the 31st International Conference on Jewish Genealogy have posted a preliminary schedule of the program at their website: A typical day includes as many as 8 concurrent lectures/meetings. The program starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 10 p.m. As a demonstration of how computers have greatly affected family history research, the program includes 11 PC and 7 Mac workshops. A keynote speaker for the Sunday evening session has not yet been announced.

Sign of the times. There is a question in the registration process that has never appeared on a previous form: What is your DNA haplogroup?

Deadline Reminder: April 30 is the deadline to receive the early registration discount rate of $275 per person ($175 for a companion). On May 1, the fee goes up to $310 ($210 for a companion).

Spring Issue of AVOTAYNU
The Spring issue of AVOTAYNU will go to the printers in the next 10 days. Keeping with AVOTAYNU policy of trying to cover as broad a spectrum as possible, the titles of the 19 articles include such words as Algerian, Bohemia, conference, DNA, Egypt, France, Hungarian, landsmanshaft, Lithuania, Moravia, Poland, Silesia and Spain. Three articles are about research trips to Hungary, Lithuania and Poland. The issue is unusually heavy with articles about Bohemia and Moravia. AVOTAYNU Contributing Editor for the Czech Republic, Julius Müller, has written two articles: “Records of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia: Similarities and Differences,” and “1785 and 1793 Censuses of the Jews of Bohemia: Frequency and Categories of Surnames.” Contributing Editor for New Zealand, Clare Bruell, has written a book review for The Jews of Moravia in the Age of Emancipation that is three pages in length and is less a book review and more a history of the Jews of Moravia, and Austro-Hungary in general.

In the last (Winter) issue of AVOTAYNU there was no “Ask the Experts” column because we did not have enough interesting inquiries. The Spring issues makes up for it with three pages of problem solving by experts.

The Table of Contents for the Spring issue can be viewed at You can subscribe to AVOTAYNU at

Working with PDF Forms
In the last edition of Nu? What’s New? I questioned how to preserve data typed onto PDF forms. Tom Venetianer of São Paulo, Brazil, notes that Adobe Reader will not perform the function. You need full Adobe Acrobat. Ron Arons, author of The Jews of Sing Sing and Wanted! U.S. Criminal Records, uses Nitro PDF Reader which can be downloaded for free at I tried it and it works. You must first download and save the PDF file and then enter the data using Nitro.

FamilySearch Additions for the Week
FamilySearch is now linking entries in the Library Catalog to the online indexes and images. Ultimately, when all of their holdings are digitized, it will be possible to go to the Library Catalog, identify record groups of interest and then link directly to the online images.

Some additions to FamilySearch for this week include:
Index only:
   Nicaragua, Managua, Civil Registration, 1879–2007
   Peru, Lima Civil Registration, 1874–1930
Images only:
   U.S., Texas, Eastland County Records, 1868–1949
Index and Images:
   U.S., Arkansas County Marriages, 1837–1957
   U.S., Oklahoma County Marriages, 1891–1959

These are the only additions that I have concluded may be of interest to Jewish genealogists. The complete list can be found at

Basile Ginger
We have been informed by his family that Basile Ginger died this past December. Most readers have never heard of him. He was a quiet man who made a number of significant contributions to Jewish genealogy. A Parisian born in Romania, he was the author of Guide pratique de généalogie juive en France et à l'étranger (Practical Guide to Jewish Genealogy in France and Abroad). For this reason Avotaynu chose him to write the chapter on France in Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy. What Ginger produced became the largest chapter—24 pages—in the Guide.

Probably the most significant impact on Jewish genealogy is that it was Ginger who told Alexander Beider to write to Avotaynu in 1991 to determine if we were willing to publish his book. Beider had compiled a list of more than 50,000 Jewish surnames from the Russian Empire and had identified where in Russia the names existed; he included, for nearly every name, the origin (etymology) of the name. It became A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire. Beider went on to also produce (and Avotaynu publish) A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of PolandA Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Galicia, A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names and its abbreviated form A Handbook of Ashkenazic Given Names. These books motivated Lars Menk of Berlin to write A Dictionary of German-Jewish Surnames also published by Avotaynu.

To submit a Page of Testimony, go to Click the words “Submit Additional Names.”

Join the ranks of Yad Vashem’s worldwide network of volunteers working in one-on-one outreach efforts with Holocaust survivors and members of their generation to recover the names of Shoah victims before they are lost forever. For ideas and resources on how to launch a names recovery campaign in your area, visit Yad Vashem’s Community Outreach Guide for updated program information on the project in Israel and in Russian speaking Jewish communities around the world.

Yad Vashem has provided a 10-minute Pages of Testimony tutorial video at the site to learn how to help survivors and others from their generation to fill out Pages of Testimony. To volunteer for the project or for more information contact
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