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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 17, Number 23 | June 12, 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.

For Lovers of Yiddish:
An Online Review of Alexander Beider’s The Origins of Yiddish Dialects

For those readers who love Yiddish and its colorful history, there is an excellent review of Alexander Beider’s book The Origins of Yiddish Dialects published by Oxford University Press last year. I had the privilege of proof-reading the work to improve on Beider’s English prior to his turning the manuscript over to the publisher. (He is Russian born, living in Paris, writing in English.)
It is a very technical book that only a person knowledgeable in the jargon of linguistics would understand. The value of the review of the book is that it is intelligible to the non-linguist and quite lengthy—6,000 words—a good summary of the book itself.

One of the most significant claims of Beider in the book is that Yiddish did not have the single origin proposed by the late Yiddish linguist, Max Weinreich. Weinreich’s theory states Yiddish originated in the Rhineland in the Old High German period. It then passed on down the Rhine River into Bohemia and eventually to the Eastern European countries. Beider disagrees. As described on Amazon, “Alexander Beider shows how what are commonly referred to as Eastern Yiddish and Western Yiddish have different ancestors. Specifically, he argues that the western branch is based on German dialects spoken in western Germany with some Old French influence, while the eastern branch has its origins in German dialects spoken in the modern-day Czech Republic with some Old Czech influence. The similarities between the two branches today are mainly a result of the close links between the underlying German dialects and of the close contact between speakers.”

Readers who have been doing family history research for a while are familiar with Beider’s landmark works in the origin of Jewish names published by Avotaynu. The first, A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire, was published when he was only 27 years old. At that time, he had recently immigrated to France from Russia. In Russia, he earned a doctorate in applied mathematics from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. This work was followed by A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland (now out of print), A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Galicia and finally A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names. The 300-page narrative portion of the last-named book is the doctoral thesis for his second PhD, this time in Jewish Studies from the Sorbonne.

His initial doctorate in the natural science of applied mathematics makes him unique in the social science fields of onomastics and linguistics. As the reviewer states, “Making use of his first doctorate in mathematics, Beider applies a mathematical approach to historical linguistics, reducing complex problems to manageable quantities which can then be easily compared.”

The reviewer, Alec (Leyzer) Burko, is a PhD candidate in Jewish History at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Beider, commented to me about Burko, “I was very pleased to learn that there are young scholars (at least one) interested in Yiddish that can not only appreciate what I wrote but, more important, also conduct their own original linguistic research.”

The review can be found at The book is available on Amazon at a reduced price (current least cost is $128.80).

Yahad-In Unum Now Has Profiled Online 464 Mass Execution Sites of Jews
Yahad-In Unum has uploaded 464 village profiles to their interactive map of mass execution sites located by Yahad teams at which the Nazis and their allies murdered Jews in towns and villages throughout Eastern Europe. Each site includes a link to a profile and research findings for each location. Many include eye-witness accounts to the murders. The site is located at

The map serves as a resource for researchers, historians or any interested persons to discover pre-Holocaust Jewish life and the fate of the Jews in a particular village during the Holocaust through archival information, present-day photos and witness interview clips. It is also meant to be a virtual memorial to the victims of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe. Families of victims can send us photos and information about their relatives in a particular village for Yahad to add to the map, ensuring that their memory will never be extinguished.

FamilySearch Adds 10 Million More Records
A list of recent additions to FamilySearch, 10 million indexed records and images, can be found at This site provides direct links to the individual collections. They include records from Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Hungary, Italy, Nicaragua, Peru, Philippines, South Africa and the U.S. states of California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington.

More than 4M of these new records are images of Rome, Italy, civil registrations. The list is still worthwhile browsing for person with Jewish heritage because there are a number of collections that might be of interest. (Example: Additions to the indexes of Chicago birth and deaths.)

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.

New Book: Trace Your German Roots Online
Another book on tracing your German roots has been published recently. Its fresh look at this subject and its low cost ($13.99 plus shipping) might make it a worthwhile purchase for the few additional ideas it might produce. The website includes a description as well as a Table of Contents. It is located at

Who Do You Think You Are? Renewed for New Season
Variety reports that TLC (The Learning Channel) has renewed Who Do You Think You Are? for another season. No additional information is provided by Variety or the TLC website. The television program features archivists and genealogists revealing to celebrities information about their ancestry. The article appears at

Webpage Design Volunteers Needed for the KehilaLinks Project
One of the many valuable projects on JewishGen is the KehilaLinks Project. It provides websites for hundreds of towns where there is/was a Jewish presence. These web pages contain information about the history of the Jewish community in the town and may include pictures, databases, and links to other sources. “Kehila” is the Hebrew word for “Jewish community.”

The project is looking for additional web design volunteers because there is a backlog of towns waiting for a technician to add the information created by a less-technical genealogist. People with such skills should contact JewishGen Vice President and KehilaLinks Coordinator, Susana Leistner Bloch, at Information about the project 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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