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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 17, Number 33 | August 21, 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.

FindAGrave Has Auschwitz Prisoner Records
FindAGrave now includes Auschwitz prisoner records. The source appears to be the online archives for Auschwitz at auschwitz-prisoners. Since FindAGrave shares its data with FamilySearch, these records also appear on FamilySearch. A quick search for Mokotow family records demonstrates they also have Dachau records. These erroneously include survivors. A few years ago, FindAGrave included all persons deported to Auschwitz from France as found in the book Memorial to the Jews Departed from France. It erroneously stated they died in Paris and the list included survivors. Apparently these names have been removed. The FindAGrave search page is at

“The 12 Important Genealogy Dos and Don’ts You Need to Know”
Family History Daily has published an article about “The 12 Important Genealogy Dos and Don’ts You Need to Know.” Some of the points may be obvious to a veteran genealogist, but it is useful to spend a minute or two going through these items to confirm you are on target with your research. The article appears at and-how-to/12-dos-donts-genealogy-research.

FamilySearch Adds 15 Million Records This Week
A list of recent additions to FamilySearch, 15 million indexed records and images, can be found at This site provides direct links to the individual collections. They include records from Czech Republic, England, Norway, Peru, Portugal and the U.S. states of Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey and New Hampshire.

There are a number of collections of interest to persons researching their Jewish ancestry. Check the complete list. A strange collection of indexes, consisting of nearly 5.5M records, is titled “New York Book Indexes to Passenger Lists 1906–1942.” It is described as “Images of books of indexes to passenger manifests for the port of New York.” There is no description of what is in each index entry. What is strange is that FamilySearch already has indexed the actual ship manifests. Why would they index a book of indexes?

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.

Joint Distribution Committee Archives Adds
Polish/Soviet Families Assisted in Years 1969–1975

The Joint Distribution Committee Archives has added to its online Names Index information regarding more than 3,000 Polish and Soviet Jewish families assisted by JDC in Vienna and Rome in the years 1969–1975. The Names Index, at, now contains information about more than 500,000 names. The announcement is at articles/ genealogical-resource-for-soviet-jewish-families.html.

JewishGen Once Again Offering Course on “Brick Wall or Dead End?”
JewishGen will once again offer their popular class, “Brick Wall or Dead End?,” starting September 9. The course will permit students to review and analyze their data with an instructor. It is a one-on-one mentoring in an educational forum setting that is open 24/7.

An application is required. See “Requirements & Course Details” at

Article About Stanley Diamond at Harvard Business School Website
The Harvard University Business School has published an article about one of its alumni, Stanley Diamond, and his efforts with Jewish Records Indexing-Poland (JRI-Poland). You can read it at

A reader of the article posted the following message to the site:
“I am the North Carolina woman whose life Stanley Diamond changed. With the records on JRI-Poland, I was able to reconstruct a fractured family tree. I never thought that I would be able to find my ancestors as my mother had told me that she was the sole survivor of the Holocaust out of 100s of family members. Not only was I able to find out information about my grandparents and great-grandparents and even generations before thanks to the records on JRI-Poland, I was able to put the pieces together enough that when I found additional records at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, I discovered surviving family members in Sweden, Canada and Israel. A researcher who Stanley recommended took me on an incredible adventure to see my ancestors' villages, too. Thank you, Stanley! Thank you, JRI-Poland!”

Simon Wiesenthal Back in Mormon Records
I do not know what motivates individual Mormons to place names of famous people into FamilySearch databases (other than for posthumous baptism). Someone placed his/her family tree information in the FamilySearch Pedigree Resource File in 2011 and included at that time the names of Simon Wiesenthal and Herman Goering! FamilySearch does not permit individual names in the Pedigree Resource File but will allow a tree as small as two generations. So the person abided by the rule by including the parents of Wiesenthal and Goering. The Pedigree Resource File is a collection of user submitted genealogies. It shows individuals’ names; family relationships; and dates and places of birth, marriage, and death. It is not a Mormon religious database. You can see the entries for Wiesenthal and Goering respectively at and

Avotaynu Summer Issue Is in the Mail
The Summer issue of AVOTAYNU is in the mail. In the past, I have summarized here the contents of each issue, but the fact is that AVOTAYNU editor Sallyann Amdur Sack-Pikus provides a summary for readers in every issue in her “As I See It” column. It invariably includes some commentary about key articles. It is reproduced below. It is lengthy, but worth reading. You can subscribe to AVOTAYNU at You can download the Table of Contents at

As I See It
Thirty-two years ago, after publication of our first issue of AVOTAYNU, we received a letter from a California woman named Anne Cardoza. She told us that she was a descendant of conversos from Spain, that while outwardly behaving as Catholics, her family had always married cousins and continued secretly to live as Jews. She had documents showing her maternal lineage back to Spain. Now she wanted to “come out of the shadows” and rejoin the Orthodox Sephardic rite. What should she do? We consulted Rabbi Marc Angel, chief Sephardi rabbi of the United States. His answer? If she could prove her heritage, she didn’t need to do anything. As far as he was concerned, she was already Jewish—though he would like her to go to the mikva (ritual bath).
The forced conversion of Portuguese and Spanish Jews at the end of the 15th century ranks second only to the Holocaust in loss of members of the Jewish People. Remarkably, now, after more than 500 years, many descendants of the anousim (Hebrew for “forced ones”) are trying to reclaim their heritage.

In our lead story, Catholic-born, now Orthodox Jew, Genie Milgrom describes an exciting, massive and challenging new project, sponsored by the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy (IIJG), to trace the genealogies of the anousim. This project is the largest (and perhaps most significant) effort ever undertaken by the Jewish genealogical world. As its IIJG representative, I will be deeply involved in the daunting fund-raising effort the project is going to require. (You may expect to hear more about that in the coming months.)

Just how much Jewish genealogy has come of age fairly bursts out from a perusal of this issue’s Table of Contents; many of the selections are based on presentations at annual IAJGS conferences. Not only is Genie Milgrom’s project astounding, but the range of activity and accomplishment reflected in this edition is almost breathtaking. On the cutting edge are articles about DNA testing, digital archives and the use of social media as a genealogical source. Mary Kathryn Kozy’s crystal-clear explanation of the theory behind autosomal DNA testing and its usefulness for genealogists should be invaluable for even the least scientific-minded among us.

Dani Haski has been thinking about the value of social media sites as genealogical resources, and she asks for volunteers to help her organize the data. IAJGS president Marlis Glaser Humphrey takes our devotion to social media and related technology one step further. She urges us to think about how all the memorabilia it generates will be saved for future generations.
At the other end of the “old-fashioned/high-tech” continuum is Harry Boonin’s delightful article about the value of school yearbooks. Boonin has a long history of finding obscure resources; he was the first person I know to obtain records from the former Soviet Union. Boonin reminds us of the value of the yearbook genre at the same time that the description of how he obtained his copies illustrates the role that chance plays in the genealogy enterprise.

When Gary Mokotoff and I founded AVOTAYNU, we included the word “international” in our title and promised each other that we would do everything we could to ensure that AVOTAYNU’s content reflected the fact that Jews have lived all over the world and still do. Perhaps that has never been more obvious than in this issue. The international scope of Jewish genealogy announces itself in articles about places we seldom or even never read about—Argentina; Cuba; Ireland; Aleppo, Syria; Tuscany, Italy; Bavaria, Germany; the Nikolaev region in Ukraine and school records from all of Ukraine, plus two formerly Hungarian counties today part of Slovenia.

Having traced his grandparents’ lives in Argentina, Robert Weisskirch has written a comprehensive article that includes both history (the indispensible “context” for our research) as well as a slew of potential resources. Janice Sellers knew that she had relatives in Cuba. She never gave up trying to find them, and now, in today’s more open political climate, she has succeeded. Using her methods, others with Cuban connections should be able to do the same.
Irish Jews may seem like an oxymoron to many for whom the term “Irish Catholic” seems more like one word than two. It’s hard to imagine Jews wearing the shamrock. Nevertheless, AVOTAYNU readers with Litvak heritage would do well to read Stuart Rosenblatt’s article—another “history and resources” story.

Not all the Iberian Jews converted to Catholicism at the end of the 15th century. Some immigrated to Tuscany in Italy. Nardo Bonomi Braverman tells us the history of that group and offers advice on genealogical research. Still other Se¬phardic Jews migrated to a far corner of the Ottoman Empire, where they joined the ancient and illustrious Jewish community of Aleppo, Syria. Avraham Sfadia, a descendant of Aleppan Jews, details the migration of Jews from that once-eminent community.

Two professionals from Ukraine joined the speakers’ roster at the IAJGS conference in Seattle this August. Archivist Anna Royzner details the depth and breadth of articles reflecting Jewish life in a small corner of Ukraine, the city and region of Nikolaev. Sarah Nadia Lipes, well known for her earlier conference appearances and her many AVOTAYNU articles, focuses more broadly on a specific category of archival records to teach us what may be learned from Jewish students’ university records. As usual, her report is sprinkled with fascinating stories of individual lives.
From Central Europe, we have an article by Slovenian Dejan Süč about two pre-World War I Hungarian counties. In the days when losing a war meant losing territory, the Kingdom of Hungary lost two-thirds of its territory following that conflict. Two counties—and their Jewish residents—became part of the newly created Yugoslavia and, since the 1990s, citizens of Slovenia. A newcomer to our pages, Dejan Süč shines a genealogical light on that corner of Europe.

Large numbers of Bavarian Jews immigrated to the United States in the mid-19th century. Ekkehard Hueb¬schmann thoroughly details how and why they left their homeland and includes a rich supply of resources for genealogical research.

Finally, we have included a story that covers the world. That’s what Eli Rabinowitz did from Perth, Australia, in his quest to learn more about the man for whom he was named. On the far western rim of Australia, Perth is the place where managing editor Adam Brown first landed (and attended two seders) after he returned from his annual “cruise” to Antarctica as part of a scientific research expedition. If you haven’t already done so, sign up to receive regular reports from, the newest Avotaynu Inc. venture. You will find Rabinowitz’s story there.
Sallyann Amdur Sack-Pikus

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 
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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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