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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 15, Number 45 | November 23, 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
Dick Eastman: “How I Ditched My Laptop for a Tablet Computer”
If you find yourself juggling between your desktop, laptop and/or tablet, Dick Eastman has written a must-read 3,200-word article on how he has abandoned his laptop and found he can do all necessary functions successfully on his tablet. I sense that his desktop, which he still has, is used rarely and is primarily for backup.

Eastman works in an environment where he is frequently on the road attending conferences, giving lectures and interviewing people. He must be in constant communication with people, have the ability to write his daily column on genealogy and perform other computer-related functions. His article goes through every aspect of a computer’s use and explains how he made his tablet work for him: Internet access, word processing, spreadsheets, presentation software, e-mail, file storage, keyboard, backing up files, as well as the functions usually associated with tablets such as e-books, music recordings, notes, calendars, contact lists.

Eastman comments that “the major benefit of my iPad lifestyle is mobility. I can literally pick up my iPad and go anywhere to get work done. Carrying the iPad, the charger, and a ZipLock bag with all the extras is smaller and lighter than carrying a laptop and its required charger and other accessories. That helps me travel the world with only a carry-on bag.”

Eastman’s column is only available to his paid (Plus Edition) subscribers. There are two options: 3-month subscription ($5.95 for 91 days) or $19.95 annually. The cost is worth it just for this one article. It is likely you will pick up something valuable to your genealogical research from his daily postings. You can subscribe to the Plus Edition at

Dick Eastman Initiates Privacy Blog
Concerned about invasion of your privacy and security-related matters? Dick Eastman has started a Privacy blog at The blog will contain suggestions about how you can improve your privacy and keep your security, both online and off.

He already has posted a number of articles some of which are:
   • Facecrooks finds the crooks on Facebook
   • An anti-spying program for activists and others
   • Whatsapp enables end-to-end encryption for hundreds of millions of users

Ancestry Uses New Matching Rules
AncestryDNA, a division of, claims they have made significant improvements to assist their clients in finding possible relatives. They state that their new methods make it almost 70 times more likely to find distant relatives. Furthermore there will be a significant reduction in false positives. Some people who matched previously will no longer be on a client’s list. What they describe as “pile-ups” occur when hundreds and sometimes thousands of people share the same genetic code. This tends to happen when people share an ethnicity or traits, but not a recent common ancestor. These kinds of matches won’t appear in AncestryDNA’s results anymore, they noted.

AncestryDNA says that not only are they using sophisticated mathematical models to identify DNA matches, they are also one of the few autosomal DNA tests to apply a technology called “phasing” in order to better identify the strands of DNA you inherited from each of your parents. While this can’t necessarily separate matches by which side of the family they come from, it does improve the ability to find possible relatives who share DNA by keeping the strands of DNA you inherited from each of your parents intact.

I participated in a pre-announcement conference call by Ancestry. They indicated that they have posted to the Internet an 11-page document that shows how they evaluate DNA samples. Unfortunately, it is only available to DNA customers. I suggested that they make it publicly available so DNA nerds could evaluate what AncestryDNA has done.

The full announcement is at

FamilySearch Discontinuing Photo Duplication Service
As of December 5, FamilySearch is discontinuing their offer to have volunteers at the Family History Library make copies of individual records identified by using their online index to various collections. Their rationale is that as more microfilm and books are digitized and added to, and more links are made available to partner sites that already have this information digitized, the need for photo duplication is decreasing. If the film or book you are seeking is not digitized yet, and is available on microfiche or microfilm, it can usually be ordered and sent to a local Family History Center where you can view the resource.

Additional information, including how to place an order before the deadline, can be found at

New Record Groups from Ancestry, FindMyPast, Family Search
Ancestry has added to their collection Sing Sing (New York) prison registers from 1865 to 1939. Sing Sing opened in 1826 as a maximum security prison. It was notorious for imposing absolute silence on the prisoners, a system that was enforced by brutal punishments. Sing Sing prison is still in operation today, but it is known as the Ossining Correctional Facility. Ancestry subscribers can access the collection at

FindMyPast now includes District of Columbia Births and Baptisms 1830–1955. Subscribers can find the collection at and-baptisms-1830-1955?. This database is available at at no cost.

FamilySearch has created an image collection of United Kingdom World War I Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps records that span the years from 1917—1920. This collection consists of about 265,000 records. Records are organized by last name. These images come from the National Archives. No charge for access at

Using California Birth and Death Indexes
Alex Friedlander notes that FamilySearch has added a collection of California county death and birth records at These include actual images of the records, although not indexed by FamilySearch. Not every county is included; San Francisco is not nor are some other counties that have minimal collections, but Los Angeles County and City are included and the death records go to the early 1960s.

Friedlander notes there is a workaround for the lack of indexing by FamilySearch for the death records. First go to a site like Ancestry that has the California death index to find the name and year of death. Then browse the new FamilySearch collection and find the index books at the bottom (at least for Los Angeles city, these run to the late 1950s). Open the book for the appropriate year and find the alphabetic and date range that includes the record sought. Zero in on the index listing for the record which in turn will provide the record number. Then go to the actual records books and scroll to that number where you will see the death certificate.

WikiTree Adds New DNA Matching Functionality has announced two new features for genealogists who have taken DNA tests through 23andMe, AncestryDNA, and FTDNA Family Finder. They claim their Relationship Finder is a great tool for identifying the ancestors that two or more people share in common and filtering out false matches.

WikiTree has been in existence sine 2008. Their website claims 8,587,956 people have been contributed by 224,298 genealogists worldwide. Searching for persons named Levy, there were 872 matches.

The announcement can be found at finding-relationships-with-dna-matches-easier/.

Massachusetts Images of WWI Soldiers
The State Library of Massachusetts has digitized 8,447 images of World War I soldiers primarily from that state. Many of the images are of individual soldiers and contain biographical information. The collection was donated to the state library in 1935 by the Boston Globe newspaper. The collection can be searched at

Who Says Writing Our Congressman Doesn’t Work?
UK Probate Service Launches Online Probate Search Facility
In the past, I have been successful in getting a U.S. government agency to speed up the process of getting information to me by writing my Congressman and having him/her intervene on my behalf. Interestingly, I have found that writing to a U.S. Senator is less likely to achieve results.

It doesn’t just apply to the United States. British citizen David Lewin wrote to his MP (Member of Parliament) about getting copies of wills and grants of probate, and he got a response from the agency that his suggestions to improve service coincided with plans to give public access to these records.

On September 30, the UK Probate Service launched an online probate search facility. Customers can now access probate records from 1996 to the present day and for a fee of £10 order a copy of the grant. This will be provided within 10 days. When an order is placed, the customer will receive notification by e-mail that the order has been received, and when the document is available for download a further e-mail will be sent. Payments can be made by debit or credit card.

The service is now working to provide all 41 million of its records dating back to 1858 online and further announcements on the date for release are due soon. Information can be found at

Maramaros Project Was Hungarian SIG, Not Romanian SIG
In the last issue of Nu? What’s New it was reported that the Romanian Special Interest Group (SIG) of JewishGen had placed on the JewishGen site 54,525 records for Maramaros County. It actually is a project of the Hungarian SIG of JewishGen, and can be searched at

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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