Gary Mokotoff, EditorVolume 13, Number 11 | March 11, 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 Won’t Go Away
Church Moves to Stop Helen Radkey
The Mormon Church has found a very simple way to solve the problem of the Mormon/Jewish controversy: Stop Helen Radkey. The Church has built a front-end system that observes how every user logging onto their religious database searches for names. According to reports, if they look for a famous person or possible Holocaust victim, they are immediately locked out and have to explain to a Church official why they were performing such acts.
The Church's excuse is that it will this prevent submissions of Holocaust victims or famous people such as Daniel Pearl. Let’s look at some of the most recent posthumous baptisms as examples. Daniel Pearl no doubt cleared the Mormon Church screen because he was not on the list of famous people. What is the definition of a famous person? It is impossible to define. The submission of Elie Wiesel’s father got past the Church’s screen probably because the place of death was spelled “Buckenwald” rather than “Buchenwald.”
Consider the activities of Helen Radkey. She found Holocaust victims by searching for persons already posthumously baptized who died between 1940 and 1945 whose place of death was “Buchenwald” or “Auschwitz.’ That kind of search undoubtedly would cause the system to immediately lock her out.
The Mormon Church thinks they have found a way to stop Helen Radkey. Ten years ago, their religious database, then called the International Genealogical Index, was accessible to the public. Now it is a secret database that can be used only by password. Helen Radkey has found ways of getting around the Church's barriers in the past. She is a resourceful woman. I am sure she will find ways in the future.
The best, balanced description of the current controversy was written by Jessica Ravitz of CNN. Her article is at http://tinyurl.com/7yuzqo8.
Billiongraves.com Continues To Grow – Adds Features
When Billiongraves.com started up less than a year ago, I noted in the May 29, 2011, edition of Nu? What’s New? there wasn’t a single person named “Cohen” in the database (my standard for determining how much Jewish content there is). In the November 6, 2011, issue, the number of Cohens had grown to 72. Now, still less than a year since its creation, there are 348 Cohen gravestones. The site now includes gravestones from Jewish cemeteries in Florida, Iowa, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The organization has also added some fee-based services. For example, for $9.99/year, subscribers can submit 30 names and be notified when new records matching the search criteria are added. Alternately you can get one record watch for each 500 gravestones you submit.
Billiongraves.com encourages people to download its iPhone app and start clicking away at gravestones in cemeteries. The images are then uploaded to their site where anyone can volunteer to transcribe the name of the deceased into their database.
There appears to be an interesting trend in the Hebrew inscription on a Jewish tombstone. Historically, the inscription includes the deceased’s name and the name of his/her father. In examining a number of tombstones, the inscriptions for some 21st century deaths include the name of the mother as well (Example, Jacob son of Abraham and Rachel Leah). Sadly, it is equally true that many recent tombstones have no Hebrew inscription at all.
The Future of Microsoft Windows
Dick Eastman, who writes a daily online genealogy newsletter, recently philosophized about the future of Windows and how it is being impacted by tablets and smartphones. In an article titled “The End of Windows?” he suggests that “the future of computing appears to be in handheld devices: smartphones, iPhones, Android phones, tablets, Blackberry devices, and similar tiny mobile computers.” Later in the article he states “Who needs that behemoth computer on your desk?...For more than two months I haven't connected once to the Internet via any form of hard-wired connections.” Genealogy is so Internet and computer based, it is worth reading at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2012/03/the-end-of-windows.html.
Barbara Walters’ Roots To Be on TV Program
The ancestry of broadcast journalist and TV personality Barbara Walters will be featured on the television program "Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates." The program will be aired on the Public Broadcast System network April 1 at 8pm Eastern time. According to Wikipedia, Walters’ paternal grandfather, Isaac Abrahams, was from Lodz, Poland. The announcement was made by Jim Yarin of Massachusetts who stated he did the research into Walters’ ancestry for the program.
FamilySearch Additions for the Week
Includes California Birth Index 1905–1995 24.5 million Entries
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 https://www.familysearch.org/node/1603. This site provides links directly to the collection described.
Czech Republic, Censuses, 1843–1921 New image collection.
Hungary, Civil Registration, 1895–1980 New image collection.
New Zealand, Probate Records, 1878–1960 New image collection.
Saskatchewan Provincial Records, 1879–1987 New image collection.
Saskatchewan, Judicial District Court Records, 1891–1954 New image collection.
U.S., California, Birth Index, 1905–1995 New index collection 24,596,236 records).
U.S., California, San Mateo County Records, 1856–1967 New image collection.
U.S., Illinois, Probate Records, 1819–1970 New image collection.
U.S., North Carolina, Estate Files, 1663–1964 Added index and image records to existing collection.
U.S., Massachusetts, State Vital Records, 1841–1920 New image collection.
U.S., New York, Orange County Probate Records, 1787–1938 New image collection.
U.S., New York, Queens County Probate Records, 1899–1921 New image collection.
Montefiore Censuses of Eretz Israel Now Online
The 1866 Montefiore census of Eretz Israel’s Jewish population is now online together with the three precedent censuses of 1839, 1849 and 1855. In addition there is a small census for Alexandria (Egypt) for 1840. They are located at http://www.montefioreendowment.org.uk/census/.
Results are in English or Hebrew. Searches can be made by Exact, Starts With, Ends With or Contains. As a possible indication of how few Eastern European Jews were in Eretz Israel at these times, the total number of persons enumerated whose last name ends in –ski is one and ending in –witz is five.
At present there are 17,291 families and a total of 39,751 individuals. Plans call for adding the last census of 1875.
1940 New York City Directories To Be Online
The New York Public Library is digitizing the 1940 New York City telephone directories, according to IAJGS Vice President Jan Meisels Allen. They plan to make them available on their website when the 1940 U.S. census is released: April 2, 2012. This may be of benefit in determining the address where a person lived. On the down side, I read somewhere—and cannot find it again—that 30% of households in New York did not have telephones in 1940. The Library's site is at http://www.nypl.org/.
“10 Census Questions That Lead to More Answers”
Ancestry.com has created a thought provoking paper titled “10 Census Questions That Lead to More Answers.” It will take about three minutes to read through the ten census questions, and Ancestry’s suggestions where the census answers might lead to other documents that might provide additional information about the person. It can be found at
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