Gary Mokotoff, Editor
Volume 15, Number 11 | March 16, 2014
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
Is Genealogy Doomed Pastime?
Is genealogy a doomed pastime? Two factors are contributing to this possibility—interestingly, diametrically opposite to each other.
First, access to records is becoming more and more difficult. Some of the rules are ridiculous. Yes, the state of Oklahoma has created a law that you can only access a death record if you are the decedent. Actually, the law states you cannot access any vital record unless you are the person itself on the record, be it a birth, marriage or death record. Recent decrees in Belgium state you cannot access any vital record for the first 120 years after the record was created. Thereafter, you need the permission of a direct descendant of the person whose record you seek. If that is not possible, you must get permission from the commune (district) where the record was created. You must inform the commune why there is a need to know the information on the document. If the reason is family history, you are at the mercy of the officials of the commune as to whether they will give you access.
Secondly, access to records is becoming too easy. Part of the joy of genealogy is the thrill of discovery, and searching for records is part of the pleasure. With billions of records becoming available online, the joy of discovery may be satisfied in five minutes rather than five weeks. It took me 20 years to find the death record of my great-great-great-grandfather, the man who chose Mokotow as the family’s hereditary surname. It was found because the organization Jewish Records Indexing-Poland indexed the death records of Warsaw. With more and more people involved, the likelihood is higher that some second or third cousin has already done your research. Isn’t that one of the goals of genealogy? To post all trees to the Internet to eliminate the need for duplicate research. There is always the danger that a government will declare that family trees contain private information and must be removed from Internet sites that provide this information. Consider the legislation by the European Union stating that a person has the right to be forgotten (see below).
It is time that the genealogy community formed Political Action Groups. Politicians must recognize that a large number of their constituents are people interesting in determining their family history, and a vote against access to genealogy records may jeopardize their being reelected. Public hearings on access to the Death Master File (Social Security Death Index) excluded the opinion of genealogists. Many of the laws that prevent access to information are justified by false claims such as record access leads to identity theft.
The second concern may merely cause a shift in what we consider to be the joy of genealogy. The joy of discovering records may be replaced by the joy of discovering relatives previously unknown. Finding documents of your ancestors may be replaced by verifying the accuracy of someone else’s research. Genealogy will survive, but what satisfaction is derived by the researcher may shift.
TV Program: The Story of the Jews
The Story of the Jews, a five-part look at 3000 years of Jewish history and the impact the Jews have made on the world, will be presented by the American Television Public Broadcasting System (PBS) on March 25 (parts 1–2) and April 1 (parts 3– 5). Details about the series are at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/story-jews/about/about-the-series/.
Ancestry Allowing Free Access to Its Irish Record Collection
In recognition of St. Patrick’s Day, Ancestry.com is allowing free access to its Irish record collection through March 17, the date of the holiday. The collection is located at http://www.ancestry.com/cs/Satellite/us/irish. It includes Irish birth, marriage, death and baptism records as well as the 1901 and 1911 censuses of Ireland. There are other components to the collection. Searching the site demonstrates there are 169 persons named “Levy” in the Civil Registration Births Index of Ireland, 1864–1958.
MyHeritage Says “Me Too” to Irish Record Collections
Until the end of St. Patrick’s Day, MyHeritage is providing free access to more than 600,000 records of immigrants who arrived in the Port of New York (1846–1851) the period when there was a great influx of immigrants from Ireland due to the Irish Potato Famine. The database is at http://tinyurl.com/MHIrishImmigrants.
Eighty MyHeritage Employees Digitize 51,000 In One Day
In a “we practice what we preach” move, MyHeritage demonstrated how easy it is to capture gravestone photos by having 80 of its employees photograph the 51,000 gravestones at the Segula Cemetery in Petah Tikva, Israel. Each photo was uploaded within seconds to BillionGraves.com—a MyHeritage partner—along with metadata that included the precise latitude and longitude where the photograph was taken. The immediate uploading of cell phone pictures is an option in the BillionGraves app for both iPhone and Android devices. The photographer also may add a text description while still standing in front of the tombstone or add the information later if desired. A description of the event is at the MyHeritage site at http://tinyurl.com/MHCemeteryPhotos.
“Right To Be Forgotten” Now a Regulation of European Union
The European Union Parliament has approved a regulation that includes the controversial individual’s “right to be forgotten.” Read the press release about the regulation at http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-14-186_en.htm.
Reminder: Renewal Time for AVOTAYNU
If you received a yellow sheet with your Winter issue of AVOTAYNU, it means it is time to renew your subscription to the publication. Note that if you renew before March 31, you are entitled to participate in a drawing for a free copy of ANY book published by Avotaynu. Subscribers outside the U.S. may not yet have received their Winter issue but it should arrive shortly. We are already working on the Spring issue. If you are not a subscriber, you can become one at http://www.avotaynu.com/journal.htm.
Museum of Family History Places Guide to the United States For The Jewish Immigrant Online
The Museum of Family History has added to its site Guide to the United States for the Jewish Immigrant. The Guide is an abridged nearly literal translation of the book of the same name by John Foster Carr and was published by the Immigrant Publication Society in Yiddish in 1916.
Subjects found within the guide's table of contents include:
• The Land of the Immigrant; Entering the Country and the Law of Immigration
• Societies Helpful to the New Arrival; Where to Go for Work
• Travelling in the United States
• Learn English
• Schools and Other Educational Advantages in the United States
• There is Prosperity and Health on the Farm; Some Notes on Jews in Agriculture in the United States
• The Geography and Climate of the United States
• The State Governments
• Why You Should Become a Citizen of the United States; How to Become a Citizen of the United States; Notes About Naturalization and Citizenship
• The Laws of the United States; Study These Laws Carefully
• Important Laws about Children; Laws Protecting Labor; Other Important Laws
• Marriages, Births and Deaths
• The Importance of Caring for the Health
• Savings Banks; Sending Money; Postal Rates and Regulations; Telegrams
• The Money Used in the United States
• Names of States and Territories with Their Abbreviations, Capitals, Population and Area
• Weights and Measures Used in the United States
• Passports; Special Advice to the Immigrant
The book is available at http://www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/gus.htm.
NARA Closing Three Facilities
The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), as part of ongoing budget adjustments, announced the permanent closure of three National Archives facilities. This year, the facility in Anchorage, Alaska, will close and two facilities in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area will be consolidated to a single site. Within the next two years, two Archives’ facilities in Fort Worth, Texas, also will be consolidated to a single site. These closures and consolidations will result in estimated annual cost savings of approximately $1.3 million. The 12,000 cubic feet of archival records in Alaska will be moved to the National Archives facility in Seattle, Washington, where they will eventually be digitized so that they remain available to Alaskans through the Internet. The announcement is at http://www.archives.gov/press/press-releases/2014/nr14-41.html.
Belgrade Holocaust Victims Listed
Peter Lande of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum notes that there is a list of Jews from Belgrade murdered in the Holocaust at http://www.arhiv-beograda.org/pdf/Pomenik_net.pdf. It is in Serbian and English. The English portion starts at page 37. The site notes that out of 12,000 Belgrade Jews, only slightly more than 1,000 survived the Holocaust.
Vilnius Jewish Birth Records Translated
Peggy Mosinger Freedman, Coordinator of the Vilnius District Research Group, has announced that they have translated all the available Jewish birth records for the city of Vilnius from 1837 to 1915. Some of these records were filmed by the LDS and translated as part of the project and are in the All Lithuania Database at http://www.litvaksig.org/component/litvaksearch/. Other years were not filmed and have been translated more recently. The following years will be available to qualified donors to the Vilnius District Research Group for eighteen to twenty four months before they are added to the All Lithuania Database:
A list of surnames found in the database is located at https://vilnius.shutterfly.com/surnames.
GenTeam Adds 5,500 Nuremberg Jewish Cemetery Records
GenTeam has announced they have added 5,500 Nuremberg Jewish Cemetery records. They can be found at the organization’s site: http://www.GenTeam.at.
It Is Not Genealogy, But...
An amusing article was published by the Huffington Post titled “Seven Foods I Would Never Touch If I Wasn't Jewish.” It is at http://tinyurl.com/HPGefilteFish.
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