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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 15, Number 33 | August 31, 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
“A Report from the Jewish Genealogists’ Summer Camp”
Many of us have read feature articles about the hobby of genealogy. All of those I have read are cursory and demonstrate that the reporter knew little about the subject. David Laskin, an author and reporter for the Jewish Forward has written a lengthy (3,000 word), excellent article for the newspaper about an outsider’s view of our passion. Titled “A Report from the Jewish Genealogists’ Summer Camp,” it is different from previous articles because Laskin did what previous reporters did not. He spent the entire week at the recently completed IAJG International Conference on Jewish Genealogy held in Salt Lake City, participating and interviewing attendees to get an understanding of this passion we call “Jewish genealogy.” He was also the keynote speaker at the conference.

By participating, Laskin recognized that genealogy is more than tracing ones ancestry. Early in the article, he states, “...Jewish genealogists train their laser-like research skills on every aspect of our people’s culture and history.”

The article is primarily interviews on many subjects of Jewish family history research with a number of conference attendees. Laskin chose to highlight the following from his interview of me.

“I was amused by Gary Mokotoff’s mention of the stereotype of the genealogist as a little old lady in tennis shoes, because the people at the conference, though many were older women and most wore some sort of tennis shoes, struck me as the most focused, curious, incisive and technologically adept people I had ever met. These folks are research wizards!”

I surmise that “little old ladies in tennis shoes” will no longer be viewed as a derogatory term.

As a result of his interview with E. Randol (Randy) Schoenberg, whom he describes as having “an obsession with Geni,” Laskin concludes that “because if there’s one thing I took away from the 34th annual IAJGS conference, it is the simple but extraordinary fact that as Jews, indeed as humans, we truly are all related.”

The article can be found at genealogists-summer-ca/?p=1.

FamilySearch Additions for the Week
A list of recent additions to FamilySearch, 7.2 million indexed records and images, can be found at This site provides direct links to the individual collections. They include records from Argentina, Germany, Jamaica, Netherlands, Sweden and the U.S. states of California, Iowa, Missouri, Montana and New York. Also added is an index to more than 2 million records for obituaries from thousands of newspapers throughout the United States whose source is

Notable items for Jewish family history research are additional index records for Mecklenburg–Schwerin, Germany, 1867 census; California county birth and death records, 1849–1994; and New York passenger lists 1820–1891
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.

Roman Vishniac Pictures of the Jews of Eastern Europe Online
The International Center of Photography (ICP) and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) have jointly announced a project to make an archive of photographs by Roman Vishniac (1897–1990) available to the public online and through a travelling exhibit. The images are located at It includes all of Vishniac's predominately never-before published nor printed 9,000–10,000 negatives. Search for ancestral towns by supplying the town name in the keyword field.

Vishniac is best known for his dramatic photographs of poor and pious Jews in cities and shtetls of Eastern Europe. He was commissioned to take these pictures by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). Some of his works were published in a book, A Vanished World, in 1983. In September 2015, ICP will publish Roman Vishniac Rediscovered, a 384-page monograph that will feature more than 400 mostly unpublished works by Vishniac.

There also will be a traveling exhibition of his works shown in Paris, Warsaw and San Francisco. The show previously occurred in Ft. Lauderdale and Amsterdam. Additional information about the exhibit can be found at

Possibly the most famous of his photographs is titled “The Only Flowers of Her Youth.” It depicts a young child sitting in her bedroom in the slums of Warsaw in 1938 with the only item of beauty being a flower painted on the wall by her father. This leads to my personal Vishniac story. Many years ago, I attended the bat mitzvah of the daughter of my wife’s first cousin. I knew the cousin was a photography buff. The family was invited to his house after the event. As I entering the living room, my eyes widened. There on the walls were a number of signed Roman Vishniac photos, including “The Only Flowers of Her Youth.” I asked him where he got these photos and he mentioned that he had met some man in New York City who was selling a bunch of his photographs and so he purchased them. A copy of
“The Only Flowers of Her Youth" was recently sold at Christie’s for $5,640.

Free Webinar: “Researching Your Jewish Ancestors”
Legacy Family Tree is offering a free webinar “Researching Your Jewish Ancestors,” on Wednesday, September 3, at 2pm Eastern time. Presenter is Jennifer Alford. Alford is a freelance writer, artist and professional genealogist specializing in research in Jewish genealogy and the Midwest. She has a website at

Legacy Family Tree regularly runs webinars on a variety of topics. Information about them, as well as webinars previously presented but still available on the Internet can be found at

Special Offers of the Week announced free access through September 1 of one billion new records from 67 countries around the world. Access, including the requirement to register, is at

The Family Tree DNA “end-of-summer” sale can be found at If you already use the service, there are discounts for upgrades. The last day of the sale is not given.

Contribute to the Success of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy
Help support a dynamic institution that in its brief existence already has been the catalyst for such benefits to Jewish genealogy as the Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching System,  Sephardic DNA and Migration project, inventorying the Paul Jacobi Collection of 400 prominent Ashkenazic lineages, the Proposed Standard for Names, Dates and Places in a Genealogical Database, and a system for Integrating Genealogical Datasets.

Visit the IIJG website at and read about these developments, as well as  ongoing and proposed projects.

Make your tax-deductible contribution by credit card or PayPal at Click the Donate link. If you prefer, mail a check to Avotaynu Foundation,  794 Edgewood Ave., New Haven, CT 06515, USA. Make the check payable to “Friends of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy.” Donations are tax deductible for U.S. taxpayers.
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