Gary Mokotoff, Editor
Volume 16, Number 5 | February 1, 2015
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 http://www.avotaynu.com/nu.htm
Recent Additions to FamilySearch: 37.9 Million Indexed Records and Images
FamilySearch did not have their usual announcement of new indexes and images for more than a month because they were moving these announcements to their blog. Hence the usually large number of additions.
A list of recent additions to FamilySearch can be found at http://tinyurl.com/FamilySearch013015. This site provides direct links to the individual collections. They include records from Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Guatemala, Indonesia, Italy, South Africa, and the U.S. states of California, Delaware, Hawaii and Minnesota.
Most notable is the addition of 24,405,544 indexes and 1,244,622 images of obituaries from GenealogyBank.com. Also noteworthy are additions to their images of Belgian civil registrations.
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.
Map of the World Shows Scope of Google Street Views
Those readers who have used the Google Map feature at http://maps.google.com notice that, in many cases, the information provided includes a street view of the address sought. Google has gone around the world to photograph the streets of many countries. When a street view is available, you can travel up and down the street and even turn corners if the new street was also photographed. I have used the feature to “visit” some of my ancestral towns. (See Nu? What’s New? August 17, 2014, “Google Has Photographs and Street Views of European Towns”)
Now Google has published a map of the world showing the areas where this Street View feature exists. The map is located at https://support.google.com/maps/answer/68384?hl=en.
Watching Television Programs Broadcast from Other Countries
From time to time, I have an interest in watching programs available through the Internet that come from other countries, only to find a program is blocked because it is meant to be exclusive to the country transmitting the program. Dick Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter notes there is a way around this if you live in any of the following countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, U.S. and U.K.
Eastman subscribes to a service that costs only $39.95 per year. It gives him access to programs in any of the named countries, from any of the named countries. The process is known as a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that enables a computer or other network-enabled device to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if it were directly connected to the private network. This means, for example, if you are located in Israel and want to watch a program emanating from the U.S., but it is blocked, a VPN will get around the problem. Instead of connecting directly to the program of interest, you connect to the VPN which has a server in the reached-for country and it makes the program think it is sending its information to a local computer.
Eastman’s explanation of how it works and its benefits and disadvantages can be found at
http://privacyblog.com/2015/01/24/how-to-set-up-a-vpn-and-why-its-a-good-idea-to-use-one/. The service Eastman uses is located at http://www.privateinternetaccess.com.
Making Inquiries to Argentina
Some say that every Jew has a relative in Israel. This may also be true of Argentina. The Argentine Association for Jewish Genealogy (AGJA) states they have a database of more than 230,000 Jews that live or lived at Argentina. It also includes some data for deceased people in other South American countries. Unfortunately, the database is not online.
Rolando Gail, AGJA secretary, has stated that volunteers in his organization are willing to search this database at no charge. Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, preferably in Spanish. Inquiries should be brief, requesting a lookup of a surname or name. The society’s website is at http://www.agja.org.ar.
Canadians Want Long-Form Census Back
Jan Meisels Allen, Chairperson of the IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee, reports that an act to amend the Canadian Statistics Act that would reinstate the mandatory long-form census will be before the House of Commons at a second reading on Thursday, January 29. The bill’s language states the long-form census is to comply with the length and scope of previous censuses and specifically mentions the 1971 census and the every five-year census from 1981–2006.
Census information is of great value to historians, including family historians, because they provide specific information about members of a household including name, age, relationship, occupation and data of particular interest at the time of the census. For example, the U.S. 1940 census asked many economic questions because the country was in the midst of the Great Depression. Other countries have contemplated reducing census taking either by sampling or fewer questions, claiming a full census has become cost prohibitive. This includes the U.K. and U.S.
Eleven Canadian organizations are calling on the Canadian government to pass a bill to reinstate the mandatory long-form census. None of them are genealogy organizations. Read about the coalition at http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1478633/coalition-of- organizations-call-for-the-reinstatement-of-long-form-census. It includes information for Canadian citizens to participate in a write-in campaign.
Library and Archives Canada Adds New Directories
Library and Archives Canada has added 152 new directories to their online Canadian Directories collection at http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/directories-collection/Pages/search.aspx. They
are for the Ontario cities of Hamilton (1853–1895), Kingston (1865–1906) and London (1875–1899) and for the counties of Southwestern Ontario (1864–1900). The announcement is at http://thediscoverblog.com/2015/01/29/canadian-directories-online.
FindMyPast Adds Kindertransport Records
For the nine months prior to the outbreak of the World War II, the United Kingdom rescued nearly 10,000 predominantly Jewish children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland. The children were placed in British foster homes and schools. This action became known as the Kindertransport (German for “children transport”).
FindMyPast has placed online a collection of digitized government documents relating to the Kindertransport operation, dating from 1939 to 1945, held by the UK National Archives. The company states that this is not a complete list of all the children in the operation, but does not disclose how many names are in the database. I know of only one brother/sister that were part of the Kindertransport program and their names are not in the FindMyPast database.
Each record includes an image and a transcript. The image is a digitized copy of the original record from the National Archives. The transcript is an extraction of the information for the individual from the original document. FindMyPast is a fee-for-service company. You can search the index to locate names, but the image and transcript is by subscription only. The database is located at http://search.findmypast.com/search-world-Records/kindertransport?.
Register Now for Conference and Possibly Win Two Free Nights at Hotel
As an inducement to being an early, early registrant for the 2015 IAJGS Conference, those who register by February 14 will be eligible for a drawing to be held on February 15. Winners will receive two free nights at the Jerusalem Ramada Hotel during the conference period. There are additional prizes.
Regular early registration ends on April 14. People who register by then will receive a discount on registration. Information about the conference is at http://iajgs2015.org/. The full program should be online by late February / early March.
All JDC Records from Post-World War II Period Digitized
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has completed it project to place online all of its post-Holocaust era collections, 1945–1954. This is in addition to many records online from earlier periods.
To search by name, use the Advanced Search facility located at http://tinyurl.com/JDCAdvancedName. It allows a number of search options including Literal, Exact, Begins With, Phonetic, Fuzzy and Synonyms. The Phonetic option appears to be similar, if not identical to the American Soundex rules. Consequently, names like Moskowitz and Moskovitz do not produce the same result. Fuzzy allows for such considerations as transposition of letters within the name. A Synonym option is only as good as the synonym table. A woman named Rywka could not be found using the Synonym option searching for Ryvka or Rebecca.
It is also possible to search their Photo or Text collection by changing the Names Search pulldown menu to one of the two other options.
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian assistance organization. Founded in 1914, today it works in more than 70 countries to alleviate hunger and hardship, rescue Jews in danger, create lasting connections to Jewish life, and provide immediate relief and long-term development support for victims of natural and man-made disasters. Their home page is http://jdc.org. The news announcement is at http://archives.jdc.org/about-us/news.html.
IIJG announces Research Prize in Memory of Mathilde Tagger z"l
The International Institute for Jewish Genealogy and Paul Jacobi Center (IIJG) has announced a $5,000 research prize in the name of the late Mathilde Tagger.
Mathilde Tagger was an internationally-recognized exponent of Sephardic genealogy, whose many pioneering contributions helped advance the field significantly. She was a Founding Member of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy in 2005 and did service as its Honorary Secretary from 2006 to 2012. The prize is being offered as a tribute to her selfless dedication to the cause of academic Jewish genealogy, which is at the heart of IIJG’s Mission.
The prize will be awarded for original research, conducted recently and not yet published, that either broadens the horizons of Jewish genealogy or creates an innovative tool or technology designed to assist Jewish family historians in their endeavors. Work submitted will be judged by an international panel of experts drawn from IIJG’s Academic Committee.
The terms of the competition will be published shortly and the prize will be presented at a public ceremony later this year.
AncestryDNA Testing Kits Now Available in UK and Ireland
AncestryDNA is now available to purchase in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Cost is £99 plus shipping. The announcement as well as ordering information can be found at http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/01/29/ ancestrydna-now-available-in-the-united-kingdom-and-ireland.
Portugal Says “Me Too”
Portugal is mimicking Spain by approving a new law giving dual citizenship to the descendants of the Jews expelled or forcibly converted to Christianity during the Spanish/Portuguese Inquisition period five centuries ago. The Portuguese Parliament approved the measure in 2013 (see Nu? What’s New, April 14, 2013), but it took until this month for the Council of Ministers to give approval making it law. It provides dual citizenship to the descendants of those who were murdered, fled the country, or behaved as crypto-Jews—outwardly practicing Catholicism but secretly keeping their Jewish faith. The Portuguese rights will apply to those who can demonstrate “a traditional connection” to Portuguese Sephardic Jews, such as through “family names, family language, and direct or collateral ancestry.
More information can be found at http://www.jta.org/2015/01/29/news-opinion/world/auto-draft-46.
Winter Issue of AVOTAYNU
The Winter issue of AVOTAYNU is at the printer. It is our annual ”human interest” issue where we include articles about how genealogy affected people’s lives. In addition, there are the usual articles that help its readers expand their knowledge of Jewish genealogy and Jewish history. Because of the dual purpose, there are an unusual number of articles (23) and the edition has been expanded to 76 pages from the usual 68. The Table of Contents for the issue can be viewed at http://avotaynu.com/2014WinterPage01.pdf.
Special offer. If you do not subscribe to AVOTAYNU, there is a special offer good for the next eight days. Subscribe to AVOTAYNU for 2015 and receive the Winter (2014) issue for free. The Spring 2015 issue will not be published until May. Go to http://www.avotaynu.com/journal.htm and choose one of the two Special Offers (domestic or foreign). When checking out, add the Discount Code "5for4D" if you live in the U.S. or Canada, or the Discount Code "5for4F" for those living in other countries.
At this point, I usually give a summary of the contents of the issue. But in the interests of time required to prepare for the SuperBowl, the fact is that AVOTAYNU editor, Sallyann Amdur Sack-Pikus, provides an excellent summary of the issue in her “As I See It” column that appears in each issue of the journal. It is reproduced below.
As I See It
All year long, AVOTAYNU publishes articles that aim to help with our individual research—new sources, new methods and new technologies. Now, in this end-of-year human-interest issue, we see the results of our readers’ efforts. What a wonderful array of stories they are!
A puzzled Christian genealogist once observed that we Jewish genealogists often look for living relatives, not only for traces of ancestors past. If the stories in this issue are representative, she was right. We see lots of focus among our authors on relatives in the present. Certainly, we all strive to go further and further back into the past, but maybe what we are doing might more accurately be called family history—exploring both past and present.
I n turn, that interest may reflect the two major events of Jewish history over the past 150 years—mass emigration and the Holocaust. Why do we center our interest this way? My hunch is that we seek to restore, repair and reconnect families that were split apart by these events. In addition to the human need just to know, it seems as if our needs for attachment also lead us to want to make our families whole—if not in actuality, then in a virtual, historical way.
World War II and the Holocaust set the backdrop for Howard Margol’s trips to his ancestral Lithuanian home, for Janette Silverman’s discovery of survivor relatives, for Liba Maimon’s unlikely discovery of a relative’s burial—by the Nazis—and for Deborah Long’s amazing and successful quest to know the fate of a single young cousin—in the process illuminating for us a little-known aspect of the Holocaust and Soviet Russia.
The wish to know the fate of a single relative fueled Marjorie Short’s efforts on behalf of her client, in this case, a man who unexpectedly found a half-brother. (Note that we have a long story by a woman named Long and a relatively short story by a woman named Short. What do you suppose are the statistical chances of that?) Valery Bazarov also set himself the task of locating a man’s half-brother and, in the process, illuminated another aspect of Soviet Russian history as it affected specific individuals.
Some genealogists just want to find lost members of the family, and for that Google and Ancestry.com have provided key information. In Sheila Adler’s case, Ancestry. com provided the clue that repaired the split caused by a family disagreement. The title of Randy Daitch’s tale, “Googling for Cousins,” shows how that Internet giant has become a major genealogical resource.
DNA testing for genealogical purposes has come of age. No survey of contemporary Jewish genealogy is complete without a couple of such reports, and this issue has two. According to a widely held belief, autosomal DNA testing isn’t much good for Jewish genealogy because we are all so highly interrelated. Using an ingeniously simple technique, however, Mark Strauss has found a way to harness the data from autosomal testing to connect two other family branches to his. His story also has a Holocaust aspect; the cousins discovered that at least one relative widely reported to have died at Auschwitz actually had survived. The use of DNA testing proved to have an astonishing result for Lara Diamond, one that ended up saving her life. This is a cautionary tale for all our readers.
In our call for stories this year, we asked for stories about “how genealogy affected your life.” AVOTAYNU associate editor Irene Saunders Goldstein suggested that we ask for stories about how genealogy helped create marriages. Five of us responded with our love stories.
My good friend, genealogist Harold Rhode, once complained that reading all the end-of-year human-interest stories was akin to eating too much rich pastry. To keep our readers from suffering the genealogical equivalent of a “sugar high,” we also have included a few how-to and where-to items.
Nadia Lipes continues to add new names to her database of Jewish information in Ukrainian archives. This time she focuses on unusual sources for Berdichev. Polish archivist Iwona Dakiniewicz describes the treasures to be found in the personal archives of Polish nobility; Bill Gladstone tells of a new source in Canada; Linda Cantor describes Holocaust-era records of children held in the Joint Distribution Committee archives; and Marlis Humphrey reports on memorial record-gathering activities undertaken by local Jewish genealogical societies in the United States. Neil Rosenstein continues his re-evaluation of existing rabbinic genealogies, and Ephraim Dardashti writes about the meaning of Persian-Jewish family names.
In preparation for the IAJGS Jerusalem conference on Jewish genealogy, Rony Golan offers tips on how to communicate with Israeli relatives; Rose Feldman turns our attention to unusual sources of information on female Israeli relatives; and Jordan Auslander tells us about a museum in the Galilee devoted to Hungarian-speaking Jewry. Conference co-chair Garri Regev continues to keep us abreast of conference developments, one of which is an offering of cancellation insurance—and that makes me think.
Wikipedia says that the Second Intifada, with its epidemic of terror attacks on Israel, lasted from 2000 to 2005. In the summer of 2004, IAJGS and the Israel Genealogical Society (IGS) held a marvelously successful conference in Jerusalem that was attended by Jewish genealogists from all over the world. As far as I can remember, no attendee had any dangerous or frightening encounters of any sort.
A few years earlier, however, when the Intifada was just getting underway and the world was assaulted daily with images of bombings in various places in Jerusalem, some IAJGS board members seriously wondered if the conference should be moved elsewhere. Ultimately, the Israelis decided to hold the conference, even if the only attendees were Israelis—and as it turned out, loads of people came from overseas and had a wonderful time.
No one can guarantee the safety of anyone in Israel or, for that matter, anywhere in the world. In my view, attendance at the 2015 Jerusalem conference is important for several reasons. It is essential, of course, to demonstrate solidarity with our fellow Jews. (Today’s newspaper, which carries a story about how Israel is offering a home to Ukrainian Jews fleeing the fighting in that country, notes that Israel “sees itself as providing a haven for Jews worldwide if and when they need one.”)
Beyond that, it is in the best interests of all of us to attend. The annual IAJGS conferences are the highlight of the Jewish genealogy year, and for good reason. This is where contacts are made, the latest news about resources and techniques is announced and showcased, and exciting new initiatives and ideas are hatched. On top of that, Jerusalem is probably the single most rewarding place to attend a conference. As Auslander, Feldman, Golan and Regev continue to open our eyes to some of the myriad opportunities for exploring our family history in the one place in the world where it all began, let us all say, “This year in Jerusalem!”
Sallyann Amdur Sack-PikusPostscript: I have just learned that my dear friend Mathilde Tagger died yesterday. See “In Memoriam.”
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