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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 17, Number 21 | May 29, 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.

New York State Death Index 1957–1966 Online
Israel Pickholz notes that New York State Department of Health has placed a death index from 1957–1966 online at, some 866,000 records. It does not include New York City. Information includes (in this order) year of death, file number, name, age, gender, exact date of death and residence code. It is essentially an Excel file. Since the file is huge, a filter function allows the user to isolate entries by various fields, such as “name.” It is possible to download the file.

Conference Hotel Completely Booked
The Seattle Sheraton Hotel has booked all of the available rooms for the IAJGS conference and has only a handful of deluxe rooms left. The price for these rooms is $239 per night for conference attendees. Normally the rate is $379. Once these rooms are booked, there will be no more room at the hotel.

The conference planners have made arrangements with the Hyatt Olive 8 hotel, about 4 blocks from the Sheraton, for a limited number of rooms at $289 per night. The Hyatt will give that rate to those who follow the link:
The website is being updated to reflect that information.

The conference site is

IIJG Extends Deadline for its 2016 “Call for Research Proposals”
The International Institute for Jewish Genealogy (IIJG) has extended the deadline for its annual “Call for Research Proposals” to June 30. Proposals should be for original research in the field of Jewish genealogy to be carried out during the academic year of 2016–17. Successful applicants will be awarded grants of up to $10,000. Proposals must meet strict standards of academic excellence and will be judged by the extent to which they broaden the horizons of Jewish genealogical research and/or create innovative tools or technologies to assist Jewish genealogists and family historians in their work. “Instructions to Applicants” are at These instructions should be followed carefully, as IIJG will only consider applications submitted in correct form. Successful applicants will be announced in September 2016.

Online British Columbia (Canada) Newspaper Records Updated
GenealogyInTime website reports that The British Colonist Canadian website at has increased their online collection of historic newspapers from Victoria, British Columbia. The collection now spans the years from 1858 to 1950 for the newspaper Times Colonist.

Correction About Genie Milgrom
The last issue of Nu? What’s New? stated that Genie Milgrom “is a Catholic born in Cuba.” Properly it should have stated that she was born Catholic in Cuba and converted to Judaism. Subsequent to the conversion, she embarked on an effort to find her Jewish heritage which resulted in her tracing her maternal ancestry back to 16th century Spain.

Ernest Michel (1923–2016) z"l
Led Negotiations with Mormon Church to Stop Posthumous Baptizing of Holocaust Victims
One of the giants of the American Holocaust survivor movement died on May 7 at the age of 92. I had the privilege of knowing him. Ernest Michel was the person who led the 10-year negotiation with the Mormon Church to have them stop posthumously baptizing Holocaust victims. My role was his advisor and I attended all the meetings in the last five years of negotiations.

It is hard to describe what type of person Michel was other than to say he was a “likeable guy.” He was “Ernie” to all his associates. Michel was executive vice president of UJA-Federation of New York for many years and was one of their active fund raisers. I once described to him his personality by saying, “Ernie, if you had to raise $10 million in a day, all you would have to do is make phone calls to ten of your largest contributors and say ‘I need $1 million from you but haven’t got time to explain why.’ Their response would be ‘Ernie, I trust you. The check is in the mail.’”

Michel took the responsibility of trying to convince the Mormon Church not to posthumously baptize Holocaust victims after I made him aware that his parents and grandmother—all of whom were murdered at Auschwitz—were among those for whom Mormon ordinances were performed. He was shocked and furious. Many years later he told me that he added to his will that he did not want to be posthumously baptized by the Church.

One of the negotiating sessions occurred in Salt Lake City in the summer time. We entered the conference room before the Mormon elders arrived. I suspected Michel was wearing a short-sleeved shirt under his jacket because of the warm weather, so I said, “Ernie, take off your jacket.” He looked at me quizzically and asked why. I said, “Because I want them to see the tattooed number on your arm.” When the elders arrived, a number of them noticed the Auschwitz tattoo. I could see the shock on their faces. One commented “I have never seen the tattoo of a Holocaust survivor before.” Michel laughed it off by commenting that he no longer realized it is there. “I consider it part of my body,” he said. An extensive description of the Mormon/Jewish controversy can be found at

Michel rarely discussed his experiences in the Holocaust with me. I had to find out by reading a memoir he wrote titled “Promises to Keep: One Man's Journey Against Incredible Odds.”

His role in Jewish-American and Holocaust affairs earned him a more than 1000-word obituary in the New York Times at

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