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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 12, Number 44 | November 12, 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.

Past issues of Nu? What's New? are archived at
Finding Former Province and District Names of Towns
A posting to the LitvakSIG Discussion Group of JewishGen has prompted me to write about a subject that I have meant to discuss for some time.  Is there a source somewhere for finding the district and province names for towns in Eastern Europe for various time frames in history? There is an excellent source: the Locality Catalog of FamilySearch. Every town for which FamilySearch has records, is cataloged under all the names that have existed for the town (at least the pre-WWI, interwar, post-WWII and contemporary name).

The direct link to the catalog is It can be accessed from the new FamilySearch home page at by scrolling to the bottom of the page and on the right clicking the link to “Use the previous version of” On the following page, click the dropdown menu “Search Records” and click the link to “Library Catalog.” On the following page, click “Place Search.”

It is possible to search for the city of Lviv, Ukraine, using any of its former names: Lemberg, Lwów, Lvov. More important, when you examine a record collection for that city, it displays all the former names of the town, including the province and district names.

As an example, search for the town of Lwów. Because Lwów was a province of inter-war Poland, it displays all towns within the province for which FamilySearch has records. As an exercise, click the first town: Barszczowice. Then click on the one topic in their collection: Church Records. Then click on either of the two record collections displayed. This now shows all the names under which Barszczowice existed, including the province and district names.
   Austria, Galizien, Barszczowice (Winniki) - Church records
   Poland, Lwów, Barszczowice (Lwów) - Church records
   Україна, Львів, Пустомити, Борщовичі - Метричні книги
   Ukraine, L′viv, Pustomyty, Borshchovychi - Church records

It shows that when Barszczowice was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire it was Barszczowice, province Galizien, district Winniki. Today it is in Ukraine, province L’viv, district Pustomyty and is transliterated from Ukrainian as Borshchovychi.

The only item missing is in which time period each name existed. But then genealogy would be a dull hobby if all the answers were easy.

New Book: The Lost Synagogues of The Bronx and Queens
Ellen Levitt has written her second photographic essay about the buildings of New York City that once housed synagogues and now are used for other purposes, primarily Christian churches (one of the ex-shuls is a mosque). Her first book, The Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn, was published by Avotaynu in 2009. Now we have published The Lost Synagogues of The Bronx and Queens. A future book will cover Manhattan.

Each of the featured former Jewish houses of worship includes a photograph of how it appears today with a narrative that explains the history of the building and, in some cases, interviews with former congregants. Many of the facades still have Jewish symbols. Some buildings have been faithfully preserved while others are in disrepair. Described in the book are memories of Jews who belonged to these old congregations as well as the Christians who now fill the pews. This is supported by extensive research and stirring stories.

Author Ellen Levitt is a life-long New Yorker who has delved into a subject dear to her. Some of the photographs that appear in the Brooklyn book were part of her photography exhibit at the Brooklyn Historical Society. She also lectured on this subject to the Society.

Additional information  including the Table of Contents, sample page and a complete list of synagogues identified in the book can be found at
The cost of either book is $26.00 plus shipping. There is a special offer to purchase both the Bronx/Queens and  Brooklyn books for only $40.00 plus shipping, a savings of $10.00.

Veterans/Remembrance/Armistice Day Sparks Free Access to Military Records
The November 11 holiday has sparked free access to military records at a number of fee-for-service sites.

The UK arm of is making available at no charge their British Military Collection until 11:59 pm GMT on November 13, 2011. It is located at They include:
  • WWI Service Records 1914–1920
  • WWI pension records 1914–1920
  • WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards 1914–1920. is offering all Canadian Military records at no charge until November 13, 2011, 11:59 pm Eastern Time. The search engine is located at where there is also a list of their military record collections. is providing access to its World War II Collection at no charge through Sunday, November 20. It is located at Included are more than 80,000 photographs. A complete list of their WWII collection is located at

Not free, but announced to coincide with Remembrance Day, has added to their UK military records. It includes The National Roll of the Great War 1914–1918 which has brief biographies of soldiers who survived the Great War and also information on those who supported the War, such as nurses and civilians. The complete list of the new military records added to is:
  1861 Worldwide Army Index
  Paddington Rifles 1860–1912
  Royal Fusiliers Collection 1863–1905
  Surrey Recruitment Registers 1908–1933
  Army Roll of Honour 1939–1945
  De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour
  Distinguished Conduct Medals
  National Roll of the Great War
  Royal Marine Medal Roll

More on SSDI: Maybe Not a Big Deal
Last week, I reported that the Social Security Death Index, which lists virtually every American who has died since 1962, may be hobbled by a new ruling that the index cannot use as a source death records from these states where these records are private for a number of years. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will continue to compile information from a variety of other sources including death reports from family members, funeral homes, hospitals, federal agencies, postal authorities and financial institutions.

I contacted a funeral director in New Jersey and asked him whether he reports all deaths to SSA and he said “yes,” it is a requirement in New York and New Jersey. He also indicated that most funeral directors nationwide tend to report to SSA, even in those states where it is not a requirement. It should also be noted that for any person who is collecting Social Security benefits, SSA has to be notified so the benefits can cease. As a generalization, this includes all Americans over the age of 65.

It remains to be seen as to whether the absence of state death records will seriously impact the Death Index.

JewishGen Resurrects LostNFound Desk
JewishGen has reintroduced its LostNFound desk, designed to connect a researcher with someone whose e-mail has bounced or who is not answering e-mails. The JewishGen team will try to update the bounced address.

Send a request to Include the person's name or JewishGen ID # in the subject line of the e-mail ("seeking Josef Levy" or "seeking JGID# XXXX"). JewishGen privacy policy prevents them from revealing the e-mail address of the person sought. Instead they will reveal your name and e-mail address to the person you are seeking. Hopefully they will be motivated to contact you.

1940 U.S. Census Film
A film created in 1939 that describes how the 1940 U.S. census was taken can be found on YouTube at It is of historic interest and shows how focused the census was on gathering employment information because the country was still in the Great Depression. For example, the census takers were to be very explicit as to the description of the job of an employed person. In a household of five people, it probably took a census taker 15–30 minutes to document the household because of the detailed information sought.

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 has not been posted to the site. A copy can be found at

To search indexes, use the search engine at To view images, go to the same web page and then click the appropriate “Browse by Location.” Narrow it down to the country or state and then click the appropriate record collection.

Index and Browsable Images
U.S., North Carolina, Estate Files, 1663–1917 added to existing collection.
U.S., Texas Birth Certificates, 1903–1934 added to existing collection.

Indexes Only
U.S., Indiana, Marriages, 1811–1959 added to existing collection.

Browsable Images Only
Canada, Saskatchewan Provincial Records, 1879–1987 added to existing collection.
Germany, Württemberg, Schwäbisch Hall, Probate Records, 1833–1905. New collection.
New Zealand, Probate Records, 1878–1960 added to existing collection.
Philippines, Civil Registration (National), 1945–1980 added to existing collection.
Slovakia, Church and Synagogue Books, 1592–1910 added to existing collection.
Spain, Consular Records of Emigrants, 1808–1960 added to existing collection.
U.S., California, San Mateo County Records, 1856–1967 added to existing collection.
U.S., Ohio, Stark County Coroner's Records, 1890–2002 added to existing collection.
U.S., Texas Deaths, 1977–1986 0 59,536 added to existing collection.
U.S., Texas, Bexar County, San Antonio Cemetery Records, 1893–2007. New collection.
U.S., Texas, Matagorda County, School Census Records, 1923–1946 added to existing collection.
U.S., Washington State County Naturalization Records, 1850–1982 added to existing collection.
U.S., Wisconsin, Probate Estate Files, 1848–1935 added to existing collection.
Venezuela, Civil Registration added to existing collection.

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 weekly by Avotaynu, Inc.
Copyright 2011, Avotaynu, Inc. All rights reserved

To change an e-mail address, send a request to

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

Telephone  (U.S.) : 201-387-7200