Gary Mokotoff, Editor
Volume 14, Number 15 | April 14, 2013
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 http://www.avotaynu.com/nu.htm
Bernard Israelite Kouchel (1928–2013)
There are a number of people who have had a tremendous influence on the growth of Jewish genealogy, but tended to operate behind the scenes rather than in public view. Such a person was Bernard Israelite Kouchel, who died on April 9 at the age of 85.
Kouchel was active on the JewishGen Board of Directors in its early days and many of the JewishGen systems that are commonplace today were his ideas.
InfoFiles. These are information files on any topic of interest to Jewish family history research. Kouchel wrote a number of them himself—at least 20.
Viewmate. The remarkable service where you post documents in languages unfamiliar to you and volunteers translate them. In 2012, Viewmate received the “Outstanding Program or Project Award” from International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS).
JOS – JewishGen Calculator Tools which include soundex calculator, calendar conversion, annual Jewish calendar and distance/direction calculator. These utilities now are commonplace on the Internet, but Kouchel suggested the idea in the late 1990s.
His impact was so great on JewishGen that the organization declared December 2001 “Bernard Israelite Kouchel Month.” The Proclamation can be read at http://www.jewishgen.org/jewishgen/pr/KouchelProclamation.html. His name appears on no less than 80 pages on the JewishGen site.
His activities were not limited to JewishGen.
Jewish Genealogical Society of Broward County (Florida). In 1988 he founded this society in his native county.
Jewish Genealogy Month. Kouchel mentioned to me in 1999 that there should be a poster to promote Jewish genealogy. It was the origin of Jewish Genealogy Month. At that time I was on the Jewish Book Council, and they created a poster every year for Jewish Book Month. I took Bernie’s suggestion plus the Jewish Book Council’s creation and invented Jewish Genealogy Month in 1999. Avotaynu prepared posters for the next seven years. Today it is a project of the IAJGS. The poster for 2000 was also used as the front cover of Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy.
Mormon Posthumous Baptism Controversy. He was one of the first, if not the first, person to call me in 1992 when the Jewish genealogical community discovered that the Mormon Church posthumously baptized more than 100,000 Holocaust victims. I was president of IAJGS at that time. He was so adamantly opposed to the practice that throughout the years he kept track of the controversy and documented the events on JewishGen at http://www.jewishgen.org/infofiles/ldsagree.html. Bernie was the one who contacted me in 2000 to make me aware that a person named Helen Radkey had determined that the Church was not honoring their 1995 agreement to stop posthumously baptizing Holocaust victims.
WOWW. It was Bernie who first realized the abbreviation for Avotaynu’s gazetteer award-winning Where Once We Walked was “woww.” To this day, in conversation, I refer to the book by its short name: “wow.”
Bernie had a great sense of humor. He discovered in 2005 that he was erroneously listed in the Florida Death Index as having died in 1962. His comment to the public was to paraphrase Mark Twain by stating “My demise is greatly exaggerated.” His comment to me was that he hoped the Mormons would not baptize him. (See “Hey Social Security, I'm Not Dead!” at http://tinyurl.com/CNNKouchel.)
Finally, it was always a pleasure to receive an e-mail from him, even if it was a complaint. He signed all his messages with HAVEANICEDAY.
Online Guide of Murder Sites of Jews in the Former USSR
Yad Vashem has created an “Online Guide of Murder Sites of Jews in the Former USSR.” The list is provided by town within region for today’s Belarus and Ukraine. It is located at http://tinyurl.com/KillingSites. Included is place, latitude/longitude, actual murder site, event (what actually occurred). General information about the mass killings can be found at http://www.yadvashem.org/untoldstories/database/homepage.asp.
FamilySearch Planning Enhancements to Site and Services
During the next few weeks, FamilySearch will be making updates to its services primarily in the area of building collaborative family trees. Announced plans include:
• Ability to build family trees and collaborate with others on common family lines.
• Add photos and stories of ancestors and share them with family.
• View family lineage in an interactive fan chart.
An unusual feature to be added is live personal help finding ancestors and recording your family story through online chat or telephone assistance. Another useful feature is that when you add a person, its vast collection is searched to determine if records exist for the person. (This is unclear. It may only search other family trees in the system for a likely match.)
The system is accessible now, but I would consider it in pre-beta test. By clicking “Family Tree” on the home page, I was presented with a family tree consisting of only me. When I went to add my spouse it took me to the page where records for my wife would be searched. It was unclear whether its vast record collection was being searched or just other family trees. None were found. I then proceeded expecting the system to post my wife to the family tree. Instead I got a message “Unable to add spouse.” When FamilySearch announces the system is ready, I will visit the site again.
Additional information, including a video can be viewed at https://familysearch.org/whats-new/?icid=homeBannerWhatsNew-TopMbox
Ancestry.com To Allow Free Access to Marriage Records
In an e-mail, Ancestry.com has announced it will have “free access to marriage records beginning April 17.” No further information was provided.
JewishGen Yizkor Book Necrology Database Now Has More Than 320,000 Entries
In its regular monthly report, JewishGen has announced that its Yizkor Book Necrology Database now has more than 320,000 entries. It is a database of names of Holocaust victims extracted from yizkor (Holocaust memorial) books. There are more than 1,000 such books, and to date the project has extracted names from 376 books.
A new feature is informational windows. When your mouse is placed over the name of a town—in either the introduction's inventory or in the database's search results pages—a small window appears containing a full bibliographic citation of the book: original title, translated title, author(s), publisher, publication place and date, number of pages, and languages. Clicking the town name takes you to another page with further information about that yizkor book including a link to its translation on the JewishGen Yizkor Book Project's web site.
The Necrology Database can be searched at http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Yizkor. The New York Public Library has digitized 650 yizkor books. They are located at http://legacy.www.nypl.org/research/chss/jws/yizkorbookonline.cfm.
FamilySearch Additions for the Week
A slow (Easter?) week for additions to FamilySearch, both indexes and browseable images. A list can be found at https://familysearch.org/node/2102. Included are records from Canada, Czech Republic, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain and the U.S. State of Washington. Also added are more than 800,000 index records and images from the BillionGraves Index collection.
Your UK Tweets (And Other Items) To Be Preserved
Mark Nicholls, Chairman of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain, reports that the British Library is planning to collect and store everything that is published online in the UK. In addition to web pages, included are tweets, Facebook updates and blogs. It follows 10 years of planning and will also offer visitors access to material currently behind paywalls.
Starting April 6, 2013, the British Library, National Library of Scotland, National Library of Wales, Bodleian Libraries, Cambridge University Library and Trinity College Dublin gained powers to archive the entire UK web.
The announcement appears at the British Library site http://www.bl.uk/100websites/index.html. A BBC News version appears at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-22028738.
Nobel Laureate Learns the Truth About His Family Origins
Once again, Mark Nicholls is the source of a delightful story told by geneticist Paul Nurse, a Nobel Prize winner, who learned the truth about his origins. It was aired on a radio program that can be found at http://www.prx.org/pieces/93985-the-moth-radio-hour-1002. On the page click “Moth 1002 Section 1.”
Portuguese Parliament To Vote on Citizenship for Descendants of Expelled Jews
The Portuguese parliament is considering a bill to grant citizenship to the descendants of Jews who, in the 16th century, fled the country or were victims of forced conversion to Christianity. The bill is expected to pass. How someone will prove such ancestry over an estimated 20 generations was not mentioned.
An article written by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency states that in the 16th century there were about 400,000 Jews in Portugal. Today there are 1000 to 1500. The article added that popular support for the motion stems from a desire to “make amends” for a dark historical chapter in Portugal. Some also hope the law will attract investments by Jews seeking to settle in Portugal.
The article is at http://tinyurl.com/JTAPortugueseJews.
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