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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 17, Number 18 | May 8, 2016

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.

Government of Canada Improves Access to Information
Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter notes that the president of the Treasury Board of Canada announced an “Interim Directive on the Administration of the Access to Information Act” that includes commitments to make government more open and transparent. Eastman notes that the Directive sends a strong message across federal institutions that government information belongs to the people it serves and should be open by default.

The Directive emphasizes that government information should be available to the public, except in very limited and specific situations when it must be protected for reasons such as privacy, confidentiality, and security.

You can read the Eastman column at improves-access-to-information/

Annual Conference to Include Play
This summer’s 36th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy will feature something never done at previous conferences: a play performed by a local theater company. The Seattle Jewish Theater Company (SJTC) will perform From Door to Door the evening of August 9 in the Grand Ballroom of the Seattle Sheraton Hotel. The play takes its title from the Hebrew words “l’dor v’dor,” which mean “from generation to generation.” This bittersweet comedy follows the lives of three generations of a family of Jewish women, from impoverished immigrant to successful American.

During the conference, SJTC will also present “Jewish History Live” in which actors will portray Jewish immigrants who came to Seattle from areas as disparate as Turkey, Rhodes, and Russia in the early 1900s, and Germany and Czechoslovakia in the 1930s. They will engage conference attendees in conversation, tell their personal stories and share their dreams as new immigrants to America.

This summer’s IAJGS conference will also feature a Jewish Film Festival put together by Jewish film scholar and teacher of cinema Eric Goldman. Other highlights include the opening night keynote address by Dr. Devin Naar, chair of the University of Washington Sephardic Studies Program, and a resource room accessing a vast array of databases. As at recent conferences, remote streaming of selected programs will be available through LIVE!

Information about the conference including the planned program, conference and hotel reservations can be found at For more information about Seattle Jewish Theater Company, visit

Conference Family Finder to Launch Soon. Another feature of the conference that has existed for many years is the Conference Family Finder. Patterned after the JewishGen FamilyFinder, it lists ancestral towns and surnames being researched by conference attendees. This year the Family Finder will be online for all registrants to search before the conference. This will allow registrants to connect with others of similar interests. Registrants must log in first to use the feature.

Modern Technologies Used to Identify Jewish Burial Sites and Death Camps
Ruth Ellen Gruber’s website, Jewish Heritage Europe at, frequently has articles about restoration of Jewish synagogues and cemeteries in Central and Eastern Europe. In a recent article, she notes that such modern methods as low-altitude weather-balloon photography, ground-penetrating radar, the Global Positioning System (GPS), and a remote-sensing method called lidar are important new tools in research on Jewish (and other) burial places, including cemeteries as well as death camps and other Holocaust sites. These technologies can help pinpoint grave sites and buried tombstones, establish cemetery boundaries, reveal destroyed walls and buildings; and also bring to light artifacts and other material. Such work has been done at the death camps Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka. One major reason non-evasive techniques are used is because of the religious belief that burial sites should be undisturbed.

You can read her column at

Spring Issue of AVOTAYNU
The Spring issue of AVOTAYNU will go to the printer this week. The lead article is by Gilad Japhet, founder and CEO of MyHeritage. In the article he explains eight unique technologies available at MyHeritage to assist researchers in finding information about their family. The second article is about a subject of interest to many family historians: how to get young people interested in their family heritage. This article describes how the author taught Jewish genealogy to 11th and 12th graders.

Some of the other articles include two on DNA, searching for Ashkenazic names in reference books, using the online Wayback Machine and a guide to indirect evidence. All told, there are 17 articles plus the usual columns: From Our Contributing Editors, U.S. Update, Ask the Experts, Ask Dr. Beider About Names and book reviews. The complete Table of Contents can be found at You can subscribe to AVOTAYNU at

New Book: German Census Records 1816–1916
A new book, German Census Records, 1816–1916: The When, Where, and How of a Valuable Genealogical Resource, has been written by Roger Minert PhD, AG. The author lived in Europe for six months to investigate what he claims is a little-known resource. In the book, researchers can learn where and when German census records were compiled, as well as why and how. The author also describes state by state the content of census records and explains how surviving census documents can be located. The book is organized primarily by region of Germany.

Family Roots Publishing is offering a 15% discount as a pre-publication sale price through June 15. The book is selling for $29.71 plus shipping during the sale period. The volume itself will be shipped between June 15 and 20, with the orders received first, shipping first.

Additional information, including a complete Table of Contents is at

Passport Applications as a Source of Genealogical Information
There is an excellent article in Family History Daily about using passport applications as a genealogical resource. The article focuses on the years 1795–1925. If you have a family member who came to the U.S. and was naturalized before 1907, you know that the naturalization records provide little information about the immigrant’s past. If the immigrant returned to the Old Country, s/he required a passport, and these applications provide almost as must information as post-1907 Declarations of Intention and Petitions for Naturalization. These passport applications are online at no charge at FamilySearch at There are nearly 1,500 persons named Cohen in the database.

You can read the article at

FamilySearch Adds 5 Million Records This Week
A list of recent additions to FamilySearch, 4 million indexed records and images, can be found at This site provides direct links to the individual collections. They include records from Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, Italy, France, Lesotho, New Brunswick St John, New Zealand, Ontario, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Russia (church books), Ukraine (church books) and the U.S. states of Arkansas, California, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. A number of record groups might be of interest to persons with Jewish family heritage.

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.

FindMyPast Adds More Than 10 million U.S. Marriage Records
More than 10 million new records containing approximately 45 million new names have been added to FindMyPast’s collection of U.S. marriage records including substantial new additions for Indiana, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Maine. They are released in partnership with FamilySearch where some are available at no charge.

Information provided at the FindMyPast site at no charge includes name, birth and marriage year, county, state and spouse’s first name. You can view a transcription or image of the record if you are a FindMyPast paid subscriber.

Covering 360 years of marriages from 1650–2010, when complete the collection will contain at least 100 million records and more than 450 million names from 2,800 counties across America. The company states that more than 60 percent of these marriage records have never before been published online and when complete, this collection will only be found in its entirety exclusively on Findmypast.

Search the database at The announcement is at

Fold3 Offering World War II Collection through May 15 at No Charge
Fold3, an Ancestry affiliate, is offering free access to its World War II collection through May 15. This collection has a diverse array of resources spanning more than 90 million records. Contents include such items as Army registers, Navy cruise books, Navy muster rolls, casualty lists, Army enlistment records, and draft registration cards—just to name a few. Searching my family surnames discovered the collection also includes the WWII “Old Man” draft registration cards and veterans affairs death file.

The announcement is at Access the collection at

Israel Genealogy Research Association (IGRA) Adds New Databases to Its Site
The April additions to the IGRA site include the Israel 1949 “Telephone Directory-Jerusalem, Northern and Central Israel.” It includes names and telephone numbers of businesses, government offices and private individuals.

Other databases added are:
   • Medical Practitioners (1940)
   • Fifty Years of Jewish Workers in Petach Tikva (1955 list)
   • The Jakob Dynasty from Nyirbator (Bater) Hungary.

Additional information about these additions can be found at

Avotaynu Anthology of Jewish Genealogy
 All back issues of our journal AVOTAYNU from 1985–2011

    • 27 years   • 105 issues   2,900 articles  • 7,000 pages 
 Google Custom Search engine
 Download or print articles

 Cost is $35 (one-time charge).

 Additional information at

Number of articles in Anthology by topic:

Algeria 8
Argentina 21
Australia 36
Austria 17
Austro-Hungary 7**
Belarus* 26
Belgium 24
Bermuda 1
Book Reviews 289
Brazil 25
Bulgaria 5
Burma 1
Canada 94
Caribbean 9
Cuba 3

China 10

Computers 21
Conferences 52
Costa Rica 1
Croatia 3
Cyprus 1
Czech Republic 33
Denmark 2
DNA 25
East Europe– Gen’l
Egypt 11
England 125
Estonia* 5
Europe-General 25
Finland 1

France 102
Galicia 20
General 233
Germany 173
Gibraltar 1
Greece 12
Holland 83
Holocaust 177
Hungary 46
India 6
Iraq 3
Iran 5
Ireland 2
Israel 125
Italy 14 
Latvia* 26

LDS 29
Libya 1
Lithuania* 71
Methodology 84
Moldova* 5
Morocco 18
New Zealand 13
North Africa 2
Poland 118
Portugal 21
Rabbinic 57
Romania 33
Russia 46** 
Scotland 27
Sephardic 42
Serbia 2

Slovakia 1
South Africa 22
South America 1
Spain 13
Sudan 1
Sweden 5
Switzerland 27
Syria 3
Tunisia 3
Turkey 22
Ukraine* 57
United States   227
USSR 92**
Venezuela 1
Zimbabwe 1

* Also see Russia and USSR ** Also see individual countries
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