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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 16, Number 31 | August 9, 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
Underlined words are links to sites with additional information.

Site Identifies More Than 5,000 Facebook Sites That Focus On Genealogy
Katherine R. Willson of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has undertaken the monumental task of identifying more than 5,000 Facebook sites that focus on genealogy. The Jewish section has 25 entries.

The number of Facebook sites devoted to Jewish genealogy is even greater because the list does not cross-reference a number of items. For example, not included in the Jewish portion is “Jewish Memory, History & Genealogy in Moldova” which is found only in the Moldova section, and “Dutch Jewish Genealogy” found only in the Netherlands section. It would be wise to first examine the Jewish list and then use your browser’s search engine to locate any item on the list that has the word “Jewish” or “Jews” in its name. This also applies to place names. Toronto Facebook sites appear in numerous sections.

Browse the Table of Contents to understand the scope and organization of the list. The database is located at genealogy-on-facebook-list-aug-2015.pdf.

“Right To Be Forgotten” May Be Spreading
If you are interested in following the battle over the European Union’s “Right To Be Forgotten” ruling, the New York Times has published a comprehensive article about the subject describing the position of the rule’s advocates as well as opponents. It is at Another lengthy discussion can be found at Thanks to Jan Meisels Allen, Chairperson of the IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee, for monitoring this issue.

FamilySearch Additions for the Week
A list of recent additions to FamilySearch can be found at the Eastman Online Genealogy Newsletter: new-familysearch-collections-week-of-27-july-2015/. This site provides direct links to the individual collections. They include records from Denmark, Japan, Peru, Philippines, Zimbabwe and the U.S. states of Alabama and Utah.

Zimbabwe was called Rhodesia when it was a British colony and many Jews migrated there. The FamilySearch addition is an index to death notices from 1904–1976. Displayed is the actual death record.

NARA and Plan To Renew Their Partnership Agreement
For seven years the U.S National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) and have operated under an agreement where and its subsidiary Fold3 can scan documents at the Archives and have exclusive use to these images for five years. Ancestry is permitted to charge for access to the documents. After five years, NARA can use the images in any way it cares to, including making them available to the public at no charge.

The two organizations are now renewing the agreement with some changes that benefit the genealogical community.
   • The five-year embargo previously started when placed the images online at their site. Now the clock will start running when they complete the scanning process. Apparently it can take up to two years for Ancestry to place the images online, so the clock will start earlier.
   • The updated agreement encourages Ancestry to post segments of large collections immediately rather than waiting for the entire collection to be completed.
   • The new agreement outlines NARA’s commitment to protecting Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and more specifically spells out Ancestry’s responsibilities if PII is identified.

You can read the 14-page agreement at ancestry-agreement-draft.pdf.

Didn’t Attend Conference? Try IAJGS On Demand 2015”
Couldn’t attend the annual conference? Sixty-one of the best programs from the 35th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy held in Jerusalem, July 6–10, have been placed on the Internet for streaming onto your computer, tablet, or smartphone. This service is being presented in cooperation with FamilySearch who provided funding and technical assistance. Subscribers to the service will have access to the lectures through October 10, 2015. Resource handouts are available for download. For additional information, including how to register, go to the conference website at and follow the "On Demand” tab. The complete lecture schedule can be viewed at that tab.

A sample of lectures includes:
   • Privacy Issues With Online Trees
   • Death Certificates, Obits, Headstones and Probate Records - What Our Ancestors Have Been Dying To Tell Us
   • How To Design and Construct a Family History Book Entirely by Yourself
   • Seven Unique Technologies for Genealogy Discoveries
   • The Central Database of Shoah Victims` Names – Plans for the Future
   • Road Map to Israeli Archives - Researching in Israel

Kaunas City Government Agrees to Maintain Jewish Cemetery
Lithuanian governments at all levels have been severely criticized by some Jewish organizations for refusing to recognize government complicity in the murder of Lithuanian Jews during the Holocaust period. Now the Kaunas City Municipality has agreed to maintain a Jewish cemetery in its city at the request of Maceva, the organization involved in maintaining and documenting the remaining Jewish cemeteries in Lithuania. The city plans to tend to the cemetery in several stages and has allocated €8,000 for the inventory and identification of graves. Additional information is at It includes a number of photographs of the current condition of the cemetery.

Maceva has its own site at Its home page includes a map of Lithuania showing the location of all known Jewish cemeteries.

Maceva Matching Grant Program. An anonymous donor has offered a matching grant up to $5,000 for the Maceva Cemetery Project. All donations to Maceva made between August 4 and August 31 are eligible to be included in this offer. Whether you are a Litvak or not, if you consider Jewish cemetery preservation in Eastern Europe a worthwhile project, contribute to the matching grant program. Go to to make a donation. Select "Maceva Cemetery Project" as the Special Project.

A First? Facebook Webinar Planned by Bessarabian SIG
The Bessarabian Special Interest Group will hold an interactive question/answer session at their Facebook site on August 10 at 6–7pm ET. This is the first time I have heard of using Facebook for an interactive seminar. Yefim Kogan, Bessarabia SIG Coordinator, will answer questions that have been posted prior to and during the session. All questions should be related to the group's focus area: Bessarabia/Moldova and Transnistria. The SIGs Facebook site is at

Who Do You Think You Are? UK Announces New Series
Who Do You Think You Are? UK has announced its new series for the next three months. Celebrities include Frances de la Tour, Frank Gardner, Mark Gatiss, Jerry Hall, Paul Hollywood, Derek Jacobi, Gareth Malone, Anita Rani, Anne Reid and Jane Seymour.

Additional information, including dates, can be found at

“New” Database: Name Changes in the Palestine Gazette
The Israel Genealogy Research Association is adding more databases to their site at One of them, “Name Changes in the Palestine Gazette,” is a list of more than 28,000 persons, mostly Jews, who legally changed their names while living in Palestine during the British Mandate period from 1921–1948. This database has an interesting history.

I am known for creating some of the earliest—pre-Internet—databases for Jewish genealogy including today’s JewishGen Family Finder and the Family Tree of the Jewish People. A lesser known one is titled “Name Changes in the Palestine Gazette.” This minor database has significance today because it was the genesis of the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System.

The story: At the Jerusalem conference held in 1984, I met the late Rabbi Shmuel Gorr, who was one of the first professional Jewish genealogists. He wrote to me a few months later, knowing I was in the computer services business, stating he wanted to create a database of Jews who legally changed their name during the British Mandate period. These names were published in the official publication called the “Palestine Gazette.” He would send me photocopies of the pages from the “Gazette” and I would computerize the list organizing them by original name and new name. This database was valuable to genealogy because many people knew they had relatives who made aliyah (immigration) during the 1920s and 1930s and changed their name but they did not know the new name.

The list was compiled, placed on microfiche, and distributed to all Jewish Genealogical Societies.

The project was the genesis of the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System. At that time, I observed that the European names being changed had many spelling variants. Being familiar with the American Soundex System developed by Robert Russell in 1918, I applied this system to the European names and found it did not work. One significant problem was that those names spelled interchangeably with the letter w or v, for example, the names Moskowitz and Moskovitz, did not have the same soundex code. So I developed by own soundex system and applied it to the Palestine Gazette names. This modification to the U.S. soundex system was published in the first issue of AVOTAYNU, in an article titled "Proposal for a Jewish Soundex Code." Randy Daitch read the article and made significant improvements to what I had developed. The joint effort became known as the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System which today is used by JewishGen; the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) for retrieving case histories; and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. It can be used to search the Ellis Island database of 24 million immigrants at the Stephen P. Morse One Step site.

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