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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 15, Number 17 | May 4, 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
About SIGs
Some of the most important components of organized Jewish genealogy are the SIGs—Special Interest Groups. Driven by the desire to find records of their ancestors, Jewish genealogists have clustered around “countries” of their ancestry to volunteer to provide information, primarily vital records. The word “countries” is in quotes because often they do not represent current boundaries. A good example is Gesher Galicia which focuses on Galicia, a region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire which ceased to exist after World War I. Galicia today is primarily southeastern Poland and northwestern Ukraine.

SIG websites often go beyond records of ancestors and include:
   • A Discussion Group where messages and announcements from individuals can be posted
   • Discussion Group archives. All prior postings to the Discussion Group.
   • List of shtetls (towns)
   • Addresses of archives in the country
   • Links to other sites that have information about the country or its Jewish presence
   • A method of contacting the SIG
   • How to help by volunteering or contributing money. The SIGs can function only through volunteer help and contributions to maintain and grow the site.

A complete list of SIGS can be found at

Litvak SIG Has Translated All Jewish Vilnius Record 1837–1915
Litvak SIG has reached a milestone in the complete translation of Vilnius vital records, 1837
1915. More recent records are under privacy restrictions. There are a total of 194,881 records including:
   • 65,952 birth records
   • 20,567 marriage records
   • 3,919 divorce records
   • 104,443 death records

Litvak SIG is located at

Warsaw Museum Resource Center To Include JRI-Poland Database
Four years ago, Jewish Records Indexing-Poland and the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw signed a cooperative agreement linking their websites. Now the two organizations have signed a new eight-year agreement on promoting research and education between the groups. The new agreement expands the relationship of the two organizations to promote research and to educate those interested in their family history and the rich and historic culture of Polish Jewry, which dates back almost 1000 years.

Under the new agreement, the Resource Center at the Museum will have special access to the JRI-Poland database and website. Museum staff will educate visitors, respond to their questions regarding the database, and provide guidance to Museum visitors on the next steps they can take in their research of family roots in Poland.

JRI-Poland will provide a Polish language interface to its website that contains a database of Jewish vital and other records from Polish archival sources for about 550 Polish towns. A special interface will provide staff and visitors to the Museum Resource Center with a variety of enhanced search capabilities including generating a map of Poland indicating the location of towns whose records include a particular surname. JRI-Poland will help train volunteers and the Museum Resource Center staff in the use of the JRI-Poland website and its resources through documentation, workshops, and access to JRI-Poland experts.

The Museum's "Virtual shtetl" portal commemorates and includes research resources for more than 1,800 Polish towns. JRI-Poland has Jewish record indices from the birth, marriage, death and census records for the Jewish families that lived in many of these same towns. By using the two websites together, researchers are able not only to obtain names, dates and sources of family records from JRI-Poland, but are also able to learn about town histories from the Museum's web pages.

The museum opened in 2013 on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto. The government of Poland and the city of Warsaw fully funded the 120 million US dollar construction, as both levels of government understand the need to preserve the memory of this important part of its country’s heritage. The permanent core exhibition, opening in October 2014, has received the generous support of the Jewish Diaspora.

Travelling to Belarus?

Yuri Dorn, coordinator of Jewish Heritage Research Group in Belarus, notes on the JewishGen Belarus Discussion Group that a tax-free system was launched in Belarus for non-residents of the country. Now guests and visitors can obtain a VAT refund on certain types of goods. System rules and a more detailed description can be found at Also, the Minsk Museum of World War II will have a new home now. Beginning July 1, the museum will re-open its door in the new building with new exhibitions. The new location of the museum is only 5 minutes away from the main synagogue on Daumana Street, and 10 minutes away from Minsk JCC. The Historical Archive in Grodno is closed for visitors until October 1, 2014. The archive is relocating to another site in Grodno.
Leland and Patty Meitzler are authors of They maintain a list by state of U.S. vital records found at The lists are:
   • U.S. Births and Christenings:
   • U. S. Marriages and Divorces:
   • U.S. Death and Probate records:

YIVO Launches Digital Archive on Jewish Life in Poland
YIVO Institute for Jewish Research has announced the launch of the YIVO Digital Archive on Jewish Life in Poland at The website provides access to thousands of digitized documents, manuscripts, photographs, artworks, films, and audio recordings relating to the rich and vibrant Jewish community in Poland before World War II. YIVO notes that the site was conceived as an educational experience and a research tool to serve a broad audience of both the general public and scholars.

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research was founded in Vilna, Poland, in 1925 and relocated to New York City in 1940 with the mission to study the thousand-year history of Jewish life in Eastern Europe and Russia in all its aspects: language, history, religion, folkways and material culture.

FamilySearch Additions for the Week
A list of recent additions to FamilySearch, 4.2 million indexed records and images, can be found at This site provides direct links to the individual collections. They include records from Belgium, Canada, England, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Philippines, South Korea and Spain and the U.S. states of Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and West Virginia.

Notable additions are nearly 1.5 million browseable index cards for New York Naturalization Index, 1792-1906. Note they are in soundex order. At present, the index does not show the starting and ending soundex codes for each microfilm reel making the collection more difficult to use. Also added is an index to nearly 1.2 million enlistments in the U.S. Army, 1798–1914. On the European front are 362,000 added images to civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths for Frankfurt, Hesse, Germany. Birth records are available for 1851–1899, marriages for 1849–1928, and deaths for 1851–1978.

Note that at the website announced collections may not be complete for the dates specified and will be added at some later date. Also note that counts shown in the announcement are the number added, not the total number available in the collection, which can be greater.

To submit a Page of Testimony, go to Click the words “Submit Pages of Testimony (online).”

Join the ranks of Yad Vashem’s worldwide network of volunteers working in one-on-one outreach efforts with Holocaust survivors and members of their generation to recover the names of Shoah victims before they are lost forever. For ideas and resources on how to launch a names recovery campaign in your area, visit Yad Vashem’s Community Outreach Guide for updated program information on the project in Israel and in Russian speaking Jewish communities around the world.

Yad Vashem has provided a 10-minute Pages of Testimony tutorial video at the site to learn how to help survivors and others from their generation to fill out Pages of Testimony. To volunteer for the project or for more information contact
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