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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 15, Number 44 | November 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

FamilySearch Has No Free Offers
I have sympathy for FamilySearch. This premier non-profit genealogy site is being left out of the newspaper headlines because it never has free offers—all its data is free. The for-profit genealogy giants such as Ancestry, MyHeritage and FindMyPast tie free offers to regular holidays (free access to marriage records on Valentine’s Day, free access to military records on Armistice (Veterans) Day, etc.).

A friend suggested a possible (tongue-in-cheek) solution for FamilySearch’s dilemma. If for-profits can provide free access to portions of its collection on specific holidays, why couldn’t FamilySearch announce at the time of certain holidays that they will charge for access to portions of their collection, donating proceeds to charity? Paying for marriage records on Valentine’s Day could create a donation to fighting the Ebola epidemic in Africa. Charging for Jewish records on the eight days of Chanukah could mean a donation to Yad Vashem or the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Military records on Memorial Day would produce income for the Wounded Warrior Project.

New Military Record Collections at Family Search
In an attempt to say “me too,” Family Search issued a news release just prior to Veteran’s Day announcing the addition of three World War I collections containing information on millions of American and British citizens who registered and served for military service between 1914 and 1920. These resources include United States World War I Draft Registration Cards 1917–1918; United Kingdom WWI Service Records 1914–1920; and United Kingdom WWI Women's Army Auxiliary Corps Records 1917–1920. These collections combined add more than 43,000,000 images to FamilySearch’s growing military databases. The announcement as well as links to the new collection can be found at

FamilySearch Is 120 Years Old
In 1894, the Genealogical Society of Utah was formed under the direction of Wilford Woodruff, then President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to assist members of the faith to seek out their ancestors and preserve their family trees for future generations. Today, the vast collection of historical records and other family history preserving and sharing services are available free to anyone at, in 4,745 family history centers, and the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

In 1963, the Society completed the Granite Mountain Records Vault in Salt Lake City. This climate-controlled vault provides the perfect conditions for long-term storage of the microfilmed records and is still used today to protect over 2.4 million rolls of film from over 120 countries and principalities against the effects of time and nature. Today, FamilySearch uses proprietary digital cameras to preserve the world’s records and publish them online more quickly. It operates 285 camera teams daily in 45 countries, and publishes about 100 million new images of historic records online each year—most of which have never seen the light of the Internet. FamilySearch is also digitally converting its massive, historic microfilm collection, making most of it accessible for online viewing any time of day.

In 1984 the society pioneered one of the first desktop genealogy management software programs on the market (Personal Ancestral File) and is credited with developing GEDCOM (GEnealogy Data COMmunication), a software code that helped launch the genealogy technology industry and enabled users to save and share genealogical data.

Their statistics are staggering:
   • Searchable Names in Historical Records: 5.47 billion
   • Digital images of historic documents published online: 1.03 billion
   • Indexed records published per year 461.5 million
   • Number of searchable historic record collections online: 1,841
   • Number of digital books: 177,581
   • Number of family history centers 4,835
   • Number of digital cameras in operation 275
   • Visits per day to Family 267,897
   • Pages viewed per day: 7.2 Million
   • Online indexing volunteers: 734,258
   • Registered users: 6.4 Million
   • Total Family Tree contributors: 23.1 Million
   • Photos uploaded: 4.9 Million
   • Stories uploaded: 389,193
   • Records in the Family Tree: 1.1 Billion

The complete announcement is at

FamilySearch Additions for the Week
A list of recent additions to FamilySearch, 3.7 million indexed records and images, can be found at This site provides direct links to the individual collections. They include records from Australia, Canada, Isle of Man, South Africa and the U.S. states of California, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Washington. It includes an additional 400,000 indexed records from the BillionGraves Index collection.

Glancing through the list, the only item that clearly is of value to persons researching their Jewish family roots is “Ohio, Northern District, Eastern Division, Naturalization Index, 1855–1967,” which includes the city of Cleveland.

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. Offering Free Access to WWII Records Through November 30, a site that focuses primarily on providing online U.S. military records, is offering free access to its World War II collection through November 30. The offer is described at

Bennett Greenspan: “75 Percent of Jews Trace Ancestry to Middle East”
Bennett Greenspan, president of Family Tree DNA, is featured in an article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz where he states that 75 percent of Jews trace their ancestry to the Middle East. Greenspan says, “We’re not interlopers who came here from Eastern Europe, and we’re not Serbs or Kazars. You can use whatever polemic you want to discredit the Jews or discredit the nation, but saying that we weren’t here is a lie.”

You can read the complete article at news/.premium-1.626156#. Registration is required.

France Adds Online Soldier Registrations
An index to more than 9 million records of soldier registrations can be searched at There is sort of an English version of the site. When going to the above link, you will find a choice of English or Spanish in the upper right corner. Clicking on the option produces the results for Emilien Frenoy. Just place your search request in the boxes provided. In reality, only the search box is in English. The rest of the page, including search results, is in French.

New Site To Find People in the United States
There are a number of sites that provide at no charge certain information about Americans found in U.S. public records. My favorite is They provide the person’s primary name, alternate names, age (in most cases), locations(s) and, most importantly, the names of people associated with the individual. For a nominal fee ($1.95), they will also produce telephone numbers and street addresses. The names of people are the most important part of the results, because it invariably uniquely identifies the individual sought. For example, searching for an Abraham Cohen whose wife’s name is Sarah, will usually exclude those entries that do not include Sarah in the list of associated people.

Dick Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter notes a new site comparable to PeopleFinders at Its results are similar, but not identical, to PeopleFinders. A disadvantage of the new site is it searches in a melodramatic way that takes nearly 80 seconds to produce the results. PeopleFinders produces results in less than 10 seconds.

You can read Eastman’s analysis of the new site at of-personal-information-about-anyone/.

Hungarian-SIG Now Has 54,525 Records for Maramaros County
The Hungarian Special Interest Group (H-SIG) of JewishGen has announced that all Maramaros Jewish registers are now incorporated into JewishGen's Hungary database at Once part of Hungary, this area included the heavily Jewish city of Maramarossziget as well as scores of smaller Jewish settlements. Since the end of World War I, the southern part of this area is now in Romania and the northern part is in Ukraine.

Volunteers transcribed a total of 113 Jewish community books as well as 12 civil registers dating through late 1895. With the recent addition of 37,476 birth, marriage, and death records, there are now 54,425 Maramaros records in the database. The project was also made possible by donations from supporters.

H-SIG is now working on the civil records 1895–1906. The organization is looking for donations and volunteers.

MyHeritage Increases Presence in The Netherlands
MyHeritage has announced two partnerships and a national TV marketing initiative that will strengthen its position in The Netherlands. The partnerships are with the Dutch genealogy services Aldfaer and Coret Genealogie. Aldfaer, located at, is a non-profit genealogy site. MyHeritage will offer its Smart Matching and Record Matching technologies to bring automatic discoveries to the users of Aldfaer. Coret Genealogie, located at, includes a genealogy forum and Genealogie Online, a comprehensive online family tree publishing service. MyHeritage has partnered with its founder, Bob Coret, to help MyHeritage perfect its offerings in The Netherlands and develop new opportunities within the Dutch market. Also the matching technologies will be added to the Genealogie Online.

MyHeritage has recently launched a large-scale prime time television advertising campaign in The Netherlands. The campaign features MyHeritage users sharing their stories, passion and experiences with the service. The voice of the campaign is Dutch celebrity actor, Bram van der Vlugt. In addition to The Netherlands, MyHeritage has simultaneously launched another national TV campaign in Norway.

The complete announcement can be found at

Film: Forgotten Refugees: Jews From Arab Countries–A Documentary
Marilyn Robinson’s “Jewish Gem” genealogy blog includes a film about the Forgotten Refugees: Jews From Arab Countries. It can be viewed at her site at or on YouTube at The film records the mass exodus of one million Jews from Arab countries and explores the history and destruction of Middle Eastern Jewish communities, some of which had existed for over 2,500 years.”

Earwitness to History: WWII U.S. Marine Corps Combat Recordings
We think of history as being made up of documents, photographs and film. The U.S. Library of Congress has noted it has an audio collection that includes “earwitnesses to history” through a series of recordings of U.S. Marines in combat situations—as the event is happening. They have online the earwitness recording of the battle for the Marshall Islands in the Pacific, February 1–2, 1944. It can be heard at the-marine-corps-combat-recordings/.

Fall Issue of AVOTAYNU
The Fall issue of AVOTAYNU has gone to the printer. The lead article is “An Outsider Looks at The Jewish Genealogical Phenomenon” which is an interview AVOTAYNU editor Sallyann Amdur Sack-Pikus conducted with a woman whose doctoral dissertation was an analysis of contemporary Jewish genealogy. The Summer issue article by Marlis Humphrey about “Latest Trends in Publishing for Genealogists” spawned two articles in the Fall issue about publishing a family history. There is an excellent article about “Emerging and Disappearing Sephardic and Mizrachi Diasporas” that covers more than 10 countries there where is/was a Sephardic/Mizrachi presence. There is also an article about connecting to a rabbinical lineage through Y-DNA.

All told, there are 13 articles, three book reviews, plus the usual information columns: From Our Contributing Editors, U.S. Update, Ask the Experts and From Our Mailbox. The front page (Table of Contents) can be found at You can subscribe to AVOTAYNU at

Just a reminder that December 2 is the deadline for submitting information for unique aspects of the annual Winter issue of AVOTAYNU. Send items to
   • Human interest stories. Articles about how genealogy affected your life or the lives of others
   • Family books in print. If you published a family history this past year, we will list it in a special section. Include author; title of book; years covered; brief description, including family names researched; libraries in which book has been deposited; price and ordering information.
   • Love stories. Did you meet your spouse or significant other through genealogy? Tell us about it. We are planning a special article about such matchups.

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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