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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 12, Number 19 | May 8, 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.
Happy Mother’s Day!

Wildcard Searches
Wildcard searches are an important part of using databases for family history research. There are two standard symbols in wildcard searches. Placing the symbol “?” in place of a character of the item being searched will be interpreted as any character in that position. Placing an asterisk in the item being searched will be interpreted as any number of characters in that position.

The most common misspelling of “Mokotoff” is that one or more of the letters “o” are misinterpreted and replaced by a different vowel. Searching for M?k?t?ff will produce results that have any character in place of any of the o’s. Searching the 1910 census on uncovered my great-uncle Joe Mokatoff, his brother Charles Mokitoff and their other brother Dave Mokotaff. In the index of the 1910 census they are listed as Charles Makitoff and Dave Mokotoff (Mokstoff in the 1920 census). Joe is nowhere to be found.

The asterisk function is valuable in Mokotoff research because there are many valid spelling variants of the surname. Searching for Mokoto* on results in numerous Mokotoffs but also Moses Mokotowicz in Canadian Border Crossings and my great-aunt Taube Mokotoff who entered Ellis Island with the correct Polish spelling of our surname: Mokotow.

Not every search engine that accepts wildcards allows for the complete spectrum of possibilities.

Last year, updated its wildcard capability. Previously, the first three characters had to be actual letters and then either an * or a ?. Now you can place a wildcard first, as long as the last character is an actual letter. Names still must contain at least three non-wildcard characters, possibly because a lesser restriction is virtually guaranteed to produce too many results.

FamilySearch’s only requirement is that there be at least three characters in the search field. A search for *o*o*o produced 7,400,663 results.

JewishGen focuses primarily on using the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System and Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching to handle misspellings and spelling variants, but it does allow wildcard searching. Two variants are given names. “Starts with” is equivalent to XXX*. “Contains” is equivalent to *XXX*. Experimenting with the JewishGen Family Finder demonstrated that using the “Is Exactly” option, searching for “Mokot?w” produced “Mokotow” results. You will probably find that capability and results may vary with different JewishGen databases, so stick to the options provided and avoid ?/* wildcard searches. Holocaust Records Free for May has an extensive collection of Holocaust-related records at its site. These were acquired from the U.S. National Archives. Access to these records is at no charge for the month of May. Records include:
   • Concentration camp registers and documents from Dachau, Mauthausen and Flossenburg.
   • The Ardelia Hall Collection of records relating to the Nazi looting of Jewish possessions, including looted art.
   • Captured German records including deportation and death lists from concentration camps. • Nuremberg War Crimes Trial proceedings.

There is no place to search the Holocaust collection only. Use the general search and if there are positive results it is displayed with the word “Free” next to it.

Jewish Telegraph Agency Archives Now Operational
As noted in the April 17 edition of “Nu? What’s New?” the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) was planning to place its archives online. It is now operational at JTA is an international news service that produces articles of interest to Jewish people. It estimates they have produced more than a quarter million articles since its inception in 1923. Their coverage of Holocaust-era events is extensive. The search engine does not appear to have wildcard ability.

Cincinnati Birth and Death Index
It was reported on JewishGen that the University of Cincinnati Archives and
Rare Books Library is digitizing and indexing the birth and death records for Cincinnati, Ohio, from 1865 to 1912. To date they have placed online an index of names from the letter "A" through "Fill." It is located at An article about the project can be found at
Very attractive genealogical family tree charts are available from Generation Maps at Their prices are by size of chart and paper used, not the complexity of its contents. On the home page, click one of the seven thumbnails to view the wide variety of presentations.

Remarkable Offer! Jewish Personal Names for only $9.50 for Just Three Days
Our offer to sell Where Once We Walked at a substantial discount in February was so successful—we sold nearly 200 copies—that we scoured our inventory to see if there was any other book that we are overstocked.

Jewish Personal Names was a predecessor to Avotaynu’s series of dictionaries of Jewish surnames and given names. It was written by Rabbi Shmuel Gorr z”l. We still have 170 books in inventory. For the first 170 persons that order the book, we will sell it for only $9.50 plus shipping and handling. The sale will last only three days, until 11:59 (23:59) on Tuesday, May 3.

The book shows the roots of more than 1,200 Jewish personal names. It shows all Yiddish/Hebrew variants of a root name with English transliteration. Hebrew variants show the exact spelling including vowels. Footnotes explain how these variants were derived. An index of all variants allows you to easily locate the name in the body of book. Also presented are family names originating from personal names.

A list of all the given names in the book can be found at A sample page is at

Order it now at When checking out, use the Coupon Code: GORR to get the discount. The offer ends Tuesday.

FamilySearch Additions for the Week
 Below are the only additions of images and/or indexes to FamilySearch that I have concluded may be of interest to Jewish genealogists. The complete list can be found at

Images only
   Chile, Concepcion, Civil Registration, 1885–1903
   El Salvador, Civil Registration Records, 1867–1910
   Switzerland, Basel City, Local Citizenship Requests, 1348–1798
   U.S., Maryland, Register of Wills Books, 1792–1983
   U.S., Mississippi, Tippah County Records, 1836–1923
   U.S., Ohio, Cuyahoga County Probate Files, 1813–1900
   U.S., Ohio, Stark County Court Records, 1809–1917

Indexes and Images
   Brazil Civil Registration, 1870–2009

Have You Used ITS in the Past Year?
Avotaynu is interested in hearing from people who have used the International Tracing Service in the past year. We would like you to describe the quality of service provided. Include the amount of time it took for them to produce results (including a response of no results). Was the information you initially provided acceptable for their needs or did it require additional information? If a second request was needed, what was missing from the first request? If you used them and were happy with their service, please respond. People have a habit of responding to these types of inquiries only if they have a complaint. Send responses to

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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