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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 16, Number 34 | September 6, 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.

Individual Genealogist Fighting Back Against Lack of Record Access
Those readers who regularly follow Nu? What’s New? know that organized genealogy, primarily through the Records Preservation & Access Committee (RPAC), is fighting back against government agencies who are refusing access to their records, sometimes for an arbitrary and capricious reason. RPAC is no National Rifle Association. Their opposition to restrictions is balanced with the recognition of rights to privacy and other considerations, but they will fight if a government agency is acting unreasonably.

Now this matter has gotten down to the individual level. Brooke Schreier Ganz of California has filed a petition with the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York, to gain access to the New York City 1908–1929 index to marriage licenses and affidavits under the New York State Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). Ganz has roots in New York and access to these records has been refused by the New York Municipal Archives
 except to people who can travel on-site to their building in lower Manhattan or else researchers must ask (and pay) the Archives staff to do searches through the microfilm index by mail. The Archives has never allowed any outside groups to have access to the microfilms. Ganz intends to digitally scan the entire set of records and put them online for free access and searches..

Ganz also plans to do further FOIL requests for data access to other city and state archives. Her next request will likely be with the New York City Clerk’s Office for the post-1937-to-present New York City marriage index, which has never been available to the public before in any form. To manage this petition and future requests, she founded the not-for-profit advocacy group At the site, she is requesting genealogists and other interested parties to identify other government agencies where access to records is being withheld unreasonably. Fill out the form at

The complete story can be found on Avotaynu Online at public-records-access-one-genealogist-can-make-a-difference/.

Records Preservation and Access Committee
Wants Greater Access to Social Security Death Index

The genealogical community’s Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC) is fighting back regarding the limitations Congress placed on the Social Security Death Index (known as the Death Master File to Congress) last year. In the name of combating identity theft and improper payments to deceased people, Congress passed a law stating information from the Death Master File (DMF) could not be available to the public for three years after a person’s death. Now RPAC wants that ban lifted and the information be made available shortly after a person’s death—with the exception of the Social Security number.

They are requesting U.S. citizens to write their Senators to include an amendment to a bill now before Congress called the “Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act” that would lift the three-year ban with the exception of the Social Security number. They argue the principal abuse of the DMF is through the use of the Social Security number. RPAC also states that the Treasury Inspector General Tax Administration reports for 2011 and 2012 said less than two percent of all fraudulent tax refunds involved deceased persons.

The Records Preservation and Access Committee is a national committee sponsored by the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies and the National Genealogical Society. It is also supported by the Association of Professional Genealogists, Board for Certification of Genealogists, American Society of Genealogists, and the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists.

Additional information about the proposed amendment can be found at the RPAC site:

Additional Information Posted About 2016 Conference
Conference planners have given a theme to the 2016 36th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy: The Wandering Jew. This will be emphasized in a number of lecture tracks on:
   • Sephardic Experience in the United States
   • European Migration
   • Australian and South African Branches
   • Westward Ho! Jews in the Western U.S.
   • Coming Home to Israel

Additional information has been added to the website,, for the conference which is being held this coming year in Seattle, Washington, from August 7–12, 2016, at the Seattle Sheraton hotel. Under the News/Blog tab there are instructions on how to get blog posts and how to join the conference discussion group.

I have attended 32 of the past 35 annual conferences, which began in 1982. They are a major event where you can learn, network and have an enjoyable time. My wife and I are considering an Alaskan cruise after the conference. These cruises initiated from Seattle.

FamilySearch Adds Index to 1915 New Jersey State Census
FamilySearch has added and index to the 1915 New Jersey state census—some 2.7M records. Each index record shows the person’s name, census district (not exact street address), gender and date/place of birth. Also included is a list of all members of the household with links to their records. FamilySearch could not gain the rights to place the actual census images online from the state of New Jersey, but they have been microfilmed and can be viewed at any of the 4,600 Family History Centers throughout the world.

The 1915 index is located at Search for a local Family History Center at

An index to the 1885 ( and 1905 ( New Jersey state censuses are also available at FamilySearch. Adds Probate Records for All 50 States has added probate records—more than 170 million documents—to its website. They represent all 50 states, some as early as 1582(!?) and others as late as 2008. The exact year range differs by state. The year ranges may not be complete. There are no Mokotoffs in the New York State probate records, which is highly unlikely.

There is free access to these records through Monday, September 7, at

Probate records relate to a deceased person’s estate, whether or not that estate has a will. Whether the decedent left a large estate or just some personal property, there is a chance that a probate file exists in a local court that oversaw distribution of property, the guardianship of a minor, or payment of debts.

The contents of a probate file can vary from case to case, but certain details are found in most probates, most importantly, the names and residences of beneficiaries and their relationship to the decedent.

Ancestry Canada Giving Free Access to Immigration Records
Ancestry Canada is allowing free access to their immigration records through September 7. To access the database go to

List of Free Canadian Genealogy Sites
Are you doing Canadian research? Family History Daily has published a list of 10 free websites for accessing information about Canadian research. It can be found at http://familyhistorydaily. com/free-genealogy-resources/10-free-canadian-genealogy-websites.

British Newspaper Archive Now Has 11 Million Pages Online
British Newspaper Archive at claims they now have 11 million pages online, and within the next year they are on course to hit 13 million pages. The newspapers date from 1710–1955.

European Jewish Heritage Day
The annual European Day of Jewish Culture takes place today, Sunday, September 6. Events are scheduled in more than 30 countries. Jewish Heritage Europe reports that in some countries the “day” has become “days” or even a full week of events. The theme for this year’s events is “Bridges.” Many events stress aspects of dialogue and inter-religious cooperation. A list of participating countries and planned activities can be found at web/edjc/2015.

Lithuanian Jewish Tourist Guide Published
The Lithuanian Institute of Tourism Development has developed a new 36-page tourist guide titled “Let’s Explore Jewish History and Heritage in Lithuania.” It can be downloaded at

International Tracing Service Announces New Director
The International Tracing Service (ITS) has announced that Floriane Hohenberg of France will be its new director starting January 1, 2016. Ms. Hohenberg is a social scientist with extensive management experience in international organizations.

She previously served as Head of the Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Department at the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organizations for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE), an intergovernmental organization including 57 countries. During her tenure at the OSCE, she initiated and implemented educational and awareness-raising programs to address anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, anti-Roma sentiment and other forms of intolerance. Before joining the OSCE, she was the Managing Director of the Berlin Office of the French Commission for the Compensation of Victims of Spoliations resulting from the anti-Semitic legislation in force during World War II (CIVS).

Ms. Hohenberg succeeds Professor Dr. Rebecca Boehling as ITS Director. Professor Dr. Boehling will return in January 2016 to her professorship at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC).

Additional information can be found at index.html?expand=9171

ITS, located in Bad Arolsen, Germany, is one of the most important Holocaust archives in the world. It is a center for documenting Nazi persecution and liberated survivors. Former victims of Nazism and their families receive information regarding their incarceration, forced labor, and postwar Allied assistance. The archives provides the foundation for ITS research and education, which are enhanced through collaboration with other international memorials, archives and research institutions. Information on how to access their records can be found on their home page:

Yad Vashem Displays History of Nine Towns in Europe
If your family came from one of the nine towns identified below, Yad Vashem has developed web pages that describe for each town its Jewish history—including social life, organizations, etc.— the events leading up the Holocaust, and the events during the Holocaust. There are also oral testimonies of survivors. The site is located at valley/communities.asp.

The towns are:
   Chelm, Poland
   Dabrowa Gornicza, Poland
   Ioannina, Greece
   Nieswiez, Belarus
   Piotrkow Trybunalski, Poland
   Regensburg, Germany
   Siauliai, Lithuania
   Szydlowiec, Poland
   Wiesbaden, Germany

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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