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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 15, Number 35 | September 14, 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
Geni Spawns New Relationship Definition
I recently received an e-mail from Arthur Kurzweil informing me that according to Geni I was his third cousin once removed's husband's great aunt's husband's niece's husband's first cousin once removed's husband's first cousin once removed. It got me to thinking there ought to be a term for describing these non-relatives; we have one for blood relatives. The children of my first cousin are my first cousins once removed. Their children are my first cousins twice removed.

Why shouldn’t there be a term for the relationship of relatives by marriage? Actually there is a word for it: affine (pronounced a-fahyn). Why don’t we start using it for these Geni-like relationships. If you count up the number of occurrences of “husband’s” or “wife’s” in the above described relationship (four), it could be stated that Arthur is my affine four times removed. Perhaps because it would immediately beg the question “what does ‘affine’ mean,” it might be simpler to say he is my relative by marriage four times removed.

Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research Created
A group of American professional genealogists have formed the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research (VIGR). A spokesperson stated that the Institute “will offer courses on a wide variety of genealogical subjects, providing ‘vigorous’ year-round education for the genealogical community using a virtual platform.” Each institute course consists of:
   • six hours of instruction by a nationally recognized expert
   • extensive syllabus material
   • practical exercises

Courses will be presented in the form of four 90-minute lectures, two each on consecutive Saturday mornings. All paid registrants will receive a complimentary course recording, if the event a lecture is missed. Class sizes are limited to 100 registrants per course.

This type of educational institute typically provides little for persons researching their Jewish family history, but instead focuses on pre-1880 American research needs. However, some courses can benefit anyone. They include topics such as genealogical writing, advanced methodology and DNA testing and analysis. Examples of specific courses are “Writing Logical Proof Arguments,” “Family Photographs: Identifying, Preserving, and Sharing Your Visual Heritage” and “(Finally!) Understanding Autosomal DNA.”

Registration for each course will cost $69.99 and includes digital video recordings of all four lectures, available within two weeks of the close of each course. For more information on the Institute and to register for upcoming courses, visit and subscribe to the mailing list for updates on future courses.

FamilySearch Additions for the Week
A list of recent additions to FamilySearch, 3.8 million indexed records and images, can be found at This site provides direct links to the individual collections. They include records from Brazil, Columbia, England, India and the U.S. states of Indiana, Kentucky, Montana, Ohio and Oregon. Also included is an additional 463,000 records from

Various entries might be of value to Jewish genealogical research, especially those from Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.

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.

Report Concludes All Ashkenazic Jews Descended from Just 350 People
A recent study concludes that Ashkenazic Jews are descended from approximately 350 people who lived only 600–800 years ago. The study was published recently in the journal Nature Communications by a team headed by Columbia University’s Shai Carmi. Carmi is a post-doctoral scientist in the university’s Department of Computer Science.

Researchers analyzed genomes of 128 Ashkenazi Jews and compared them to those of non-Jewish Europeans in order to determine which genetic markers are unique to the Ashkenazim. They found that the Ashkenazim’s genetic similarities were so acute that one of the study’s researchers commented that, among Ashkenazi Jews, “everyone is a 30th cousin.”

The study indicates European Jews were people from the Levant and local Europeans. The results challenge the theory that Ashkenazic Jews are descended from an Asian tribe called the Khazars who allegedly converted to Judaism more than 10 centuries ago. The Khazarian theory has been used to state that Jews have no rights to Israel as a homeland, because they are not descended from Middle Eastern people. Some years ago, at the annual conference on Jewish genealogy, Dr. Michael Hammer showed a graph mapping various cultures which demonstrated that modern day Jews are descended from Semites, and, interestingly, were closest kin to the Palestinians.

A version of the report can be found at are-30th-cousins.html.

British Military Records Now Available in CD Format has now launched the ability to purchase the majority of its collections in CD form. They include such items as The Jewry Book of Honour, Soldiers Who Died in the Great War and many Army, Air Force and Navy lists with millions of records. After purchasing a CD collection, you simply install the data on your PC and use the company’s GUI (Graphic User Interface) to search through the records. The British Jewry Book of Honour was published in 1922 in London to permanently record and honor the contribution made by the 50,000 Jews who served in the British and colonial forces during World War I.

The price for the CDs is rather steep. The British Jewry Book of Honour costs £98.45 (about $160). It might be more appropriate for an institution such as a library or genealogical society to purchase a collection. A complete list can be found at

Force-War-Records also offers the service of searching for individual records online. They claim to have a total of 6 million British military records which include 1.9 million WWI and 1.3 million WWII records. Cost is as low as £8.95 for a one-month subscription.

Bosnian Historical Archives To Be Digitized
A group of Balkan experts have launched a high-tech project to digitize Bosnia's historical archives which were partly destroyed during its three wars last century and are still under threat from neglect and a lack of funding. Many of the National Library's records and manuscripts were destroyed in the Bosnian Serb siege of Sarajevo during the 1992–95 war, which razed the landmark Town Hall that housed the library.

The group is using equipment borrowed from FamilySearch and has begun helping to digitize the archives of the National Library, the Historical Museum and Sarajevo's oldest newspaper, Oslobodjenje.

A full report can be found at idUSKBN0GK1BU20140820.

IIJG Announces New Research Grants
The International Institute for Jewish Genealogy has awarded funding of two of the eleven projects submitted in its annual call for research proposals.

The first grant is to Dr. Sara Yanovsky of Modiin, Israel, for a study of "Social Networks, Demography, and Identity: A Prosopographic Study of Vienna’s Jewish Upper Class 1800–1938." Yanovsky is aiming to gain a better overview and understanding of social patterns, particularly related to the self understanding of the Viennese Jewish upper class throughout the decades and centuries.

The second award is to Dr. Ricardo Muñoz Solla of Salamanca, Spain, for a study of "Hispano-Jewish Onomastics in The Middle Ages. Jewish Population Records From 15th Century Castile." This project aims to provide a scholarly approach on medieval Jewish anthroponomy through the socio-historical and onomastic analysis of a significant selection of Jewish population records (padrones) from the second half of the 15th century in different Castilian villages.

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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