Gary Mokotoff, Editor
Volume 13, Number 10 | March 3, 2012
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.
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Mormon/Jewish Controversy: The Problem That Might Finally Go Away
At Last! The Mormon Church Is Acting Forcefully
With more and more worldwide attention focusing on the posthumous baptism of famous people (the latest, Daniel Pearl) and Holocaust victims (Anne Frank for the tenth time), the Presidency of the Mormon Church has issued a letter to be posted on bulletin boards and read during the regular Sunday service (today) that Mormons must limit baptisms to relatives. Part of the letter includes the statements (emphasis added by me):
“Without exception, Church members must not submit for proxy temple ordinances any names from unauthorized groups, such as celebrities and Jewish Holocaust victims. If members do so, they may forfeit their new family-search privileges. Other corrective action may also be taken." The letter is signed by the three members of the Church’s First Presidency: President Thomas S. Monson, Henry B. Eyring and Deiter F. Uchtdorf. The complete letter can be found at http://tinyurl.com/7tdvnj8.
An expansion of the Church’s position to its membership can be found at http://tinyurl.com/7xd9fca. Excerpted from the article are the following statements:
"It is distressing when an individual willfully violates the Church's policy and something that should be understood to be an offering based on love and respect becomes a source of contention."
“…in order to help members of the Church understand the conditions of use, the Church will make them more prominent.”
"We are going to see a season of education. We will remind ourselves again of rights and responsibilities and keys and privileges and whose work this is and how it should be done and who directs the work. If we just remember that, I think we are going to be fine....We can make the system better for everyone."
The Simon Wiesenthal Center responded positively to the announcement at http://tinyurl.com/7hx8l2b as did the Anti-Defamation League at http://tinyurl.com/77zcl7q.
Joint Distribution Committee Archives now Online
An index to the holdings of the American Joint Distribution Committee archives is now online at http://archives.jdc.org/. An exciting aspect is that it often includes the source document. The “Joint” is an international relief and rescue organization established in 1914 that focuses on Jews who are in trouble. Its archives contain more than 500,000 names and 100,000 photographs.
Typical are the records I found for the Mokotow family. Two are from the World War I era where a brother and sister living in the United States were sending money to their father in Warsaw. A second group of records identify the immigration of Mokotow Holocaust survivors from Europe to Australia.
The search engine supports wild card searches including “?” to mean any single character and “*” which means any number of characters. The Advanced Search has a fuzzy search feature. Using the fuzzy search feature and searching for “Mokotow” resulted in a record for a man who was born in “Molotow.” There appears to be no optional phonetic search ability although a search for “Tartacki” resulted in locating a man named “Tartazki.”
World Memory Project Reaches One Million Records
The World Memory Project, a joint venture between the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Ancestry.com, now has more than one million records online. The project provides an index to individuals named in the museum’s collection of Holocaust-related records—from children in Germany to Jewish prisoners at camps in Poland, the Czech Republic, Russia, and Ukraine. This information is searchable at the Ancestry.com site, http://tinyurl.com/7dkyw4l, at no charge. USHMM reports that 2,400 contributors donated 28,000 hours to help them build the index. The project is ongoing. Information about volunteering can be found at http://www.ancestry.com/wmp.
Jewish Heritage Europe Website
Ruth Ellen Gruber, a writer and longtime researcher on Jewish heritage issues, has established a “Jewish Heritage Europe” website that “will serve as an online clearinghouse for resources, news and information on Jewish monuments and heritage sites all over Europe.” It is located at http://www.jewish-heritage-europe.eu
The site organizes information in individual sections for 48 European countries—from Portugal to Turkey; from Norway to Greece. Major sections for each country include Communal Contacts; Heritage & Heritage Sites; Museums, Memorials & Cultural Institutions; News; Publications & Sources; and Tourism & Genealogy.
The site is still in its infancy with little to no information about a number of countries.
JHE’s primary focus is Jewish-built heritage: synagogues, cemeteries, mikvaot, Jewish quarters and other physical traces that attest to a Jewish presence on the continent stretching back to Antiquity. It also includes material on Jewish museums and other cultural institutions.
SSDI: A Solution
Clearly use of the Social Security Death Index for identity theft must be stopped, but the solution need not be eliminating the SSDI from public view. When there is a leak in a dike, the solution is to repair the leak, not drain the lake. There are a number of solutions. The simplest is to not post to the SSDI for some short period of time, like a year or two. This would satisfy most genealogists but may not satisfy other users who use it as proof of death. The proper solution should be determined by a group of interested parties; a solution that solves the identity theft problem without impeding those who have a need for the index.
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Discount Offers by Commercial Genealogy Companies
Fold3 is offering a 25% discount on annual membership in honor of Women’s History Month. The offer is at http://go.fold3.com/join/?p=wh&xid=1356.
I manage twelve different DNA samples at FamilyTreeDNA looking for other people who might be related to these individuals. For the first time in more than eight years of monitoring matches, I got an exact 37-marker match to one of my samples. I considered it unusual because within the Mokotow family tree, the DNA test for my most distant living relative—a fourth cousin twice removed—there is a difference of two markers between him and me.
Contacting the submitter of the exact match, the person stated the family came from the region of Bukowina. She could not locate the exact ancestral town because of the difficulty in reading the handwriting on the Ellis Island ship’s manifest, despite the fact it was written three times (place of residence, address of nearest relative whence alien came, place of birth). Examining the three examples for the immigrant, it was not obvious from the handwriting what was the spelling of the town.
Technique #1: Find the word written elsewhere on the document. Because the immigrant was an 18-year old single woman travelling without relatives, I suspected she came with at least one friend. Two lines above her entry on the ship’s list was a 26-year-old single woman from the same town written in more legible handwriting (first illustration at the right).
Technique #2: Find a different word on the page that includes the same letter combination: It appears the town name starts with “St.” This was confirmed by locating another place on the page with a name starting with “St.” The second illustration shows how the writer wrote the given name “Stanislawa.”
Technique #3: Find a different document that has the same word: Another technique for deciphering handwriting is to look at another ship’s manifest that has relatives of the immigrant with the town name written in a different handwriting. In this particular case, it was unnecessary to decipher a second handwriting because the manifest of a sister was typed. It showed the name of the town, as provided (probably phonetically) as “Stafchan.” This helped determine the next two letters in the handwritten town name: “aw.” The letter “f” and “v” are phonetically similar and “v” and “w” are interchangeable. It also demonstrated the last letter was “n.” So we now knew the town name, as written, was Staw??an.
The last pieces of the puzzle were the remaining two letters. Using Technique #1 (Find a different word on the page that includes the same letter) solved that mystery. Elsewhere on the page was the town name “Berezowka.” This demonstrated the letter with the descender was “z.” This left one remaining letter which I assumed was an “e”
So it appears the name of the town was Stawezan.
Going the JewishGen Communities Database at http://www.jewishgen.org/Communities/Search.asp, a search for the town using a Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex search produced only one result; the town of Stawiszyn in Poland. But the Ellis Island record indicated the town was in Bukowina. The JewishGen Communities Database only contains towns where there were known Jewish communities—6,000 in all. Perhaps the family came from a town with few Jews.
Instead the JewishGen Gazetteer was used at http://www.jewishgen.org/Communities/LocTown.asp. It contains every town in Central and Eastern Europe. A search using the Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching System, the default technique for this database, produced no results. It is known that the B-M system can produce false negatives, that is, not recognize words that are phonetically similar, so the search was switched to the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System (whose fault is that it can produce false positives; results that are clearly not phonetically similar). This produced 27 matches.
Only one was in the former region of Bukowina: Stavchany, located at 48°31' N 25°40' E. Going back to the ship’s manifest it now became apparent that the name of the town was written as Stawczan not Stawezan.
This was exciting news. The family whose name I was tracking came from Snyatyn, now in Ukraine. Stavchany, now in Ukraine, is only about 20 miles from Snyatyn. So the two families are clearly related even though they have different surnames: Auerbach and Haendel. The most distant Haendel ancestor was Ire Haendel. There is an Irving Auerbach on the other family tree. We are now trying to locate Irving’s grave which, hopefully, will contain his Hebrew name, which, if it is Ire, will further confirm the close relationship between the two families.
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