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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 17, Number 51 | December 25, 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.

Happy Chanukah to All!!
Merry Christmas!!

Site Has State-by-State Listing of Free Vital Records Indexes Online has a site with links to online U.S. vital records by state that are available at no charge. It is located at A few fee-based sites are also listed.

MyHeritage Adds New York City Marriages Collection from Reclaim the Records
MyHeritage has added an index to 3 million New York City marriages from 1950–1995. The source, Reclaim the Records (RTR), acquired the index from the New York City Clerk’s office by virtue of the New York State Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). RTR has placed the index online at where it can be searched at no charge. The MyHeritage site for the database is at new-york-city-marriages-1950-1995. Subscribers to MyHeritage who have their family trees online can anticipate that shortly the company will use its Record Matching function to alert subscribers to matches between this new collection and their family trees.

The announcement can be found at now-online-new-york-city-marriages-1950-1995.

Miriam Weiner Donates Eastern European Telephone Directory Collection
to Library of Congress

Veteran Jewish genealogist Miriam Weiner has donated 95 telephone books for towns in Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine and Poland to the Library of Congress. In accepting the donation, a spokesperson for the Library stated, “The Library’s holdings of telephone directories from these four countries have many gaps and cover primarily the largest cities. Your collection fills numerous gaps and includes many small towns and villages that were not represented in the Library’s collections. We now believe that we have the largest collection of telephone directories for these countries to be found outside of the four countries themselves.” The Library plans to digitized the volumes, and scanning them might be a future possibility.

Weiner is one of the pioneers of contemporary Jewish genealogy. Possibly her greatest accomplishment was creation of an inventory of the Jewish record holdings in the archives of Belarus, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland and Ukraine. This was accomplished by numerous visits to the archives in these countries and cajoling the head archivists to create a list of their Jewish records. The results exist today at the Miriam Weiner Routes to Roots Foundation website at The search engine is at For each town, there is a description of what record types exist and where they are located. This site has many other features of interest to Jewish genealogists with roots in Eastern Europe. It is worthwhile devoting some time to browsing the site. Weiner was recipient of Lifetime Achievement Award from International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies in 2003. She is the author of Jewish Roots in Poland and Jewish Roots in Ukraine and Moldova.

FamilySearch Adds More than 4 Million Records This Week
A list of recent additions to FamilySearch, more than 4 million indexed records and images, can be found at This site provides direct links to the individual collections. They include records from Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, England, France, Peru and South Africa. No new U.S. records were added other than 1.2 million index records from The actual obituary is available for a fee from, but the FamilySearch abstraction is rather rigorous.

Of possible interest to persons researching their Jewish family history is South Africa Transvaal Probate Records from the Master of the Supreme Court 1869–1958.

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.

St. Louis Genealogical Society Completes Cemetery Project
The St. Louis Genealogical Society has completed a 16-year project to transcribe and index every burial in every cemetery in St. Louis city and county. In total, some 444 cemeteries are included. These records cover some 1.5 million internments. Access to this collection is at cemeteries-list. Most cemetery data is available to society members only, but the Jewish cemeteries do not require membership courtesy of the Jewish Genealogical Society which merged into the St. Louis Genealogical Society some years ago. These cemeteries are identified with “JGS” as part of the name of the cemetery.

The announcement can be found at

Digitizing Prague Old Jewish Cemetery Nearing Completion
Jewish Heritage Europe (JHE) reports that the 13-year-old project to digitize the gravestones of the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague is near completion. However, it could still be several years before creating the database is complete. JHE notes that the cemetery is one of the best-known Jewish heritage sites in Europe, where probably tens of thousands of people are buried under a dense thicket of more than 13,000 grave markers.

Prominent personalities buried there include Rabbi Judah ben Bezalel Löw (c. 1525–1609), a scholar and educator known as the Maharal, and Mordechai Maisel (1528–1601), who sponsored numerous Jewish organizations, activities, and construction projects. The cemetery, whose oldest legible gravestone dates from 1439, was closed for use in 1787.
Additional information can be found at

Last Chance for Discount to Practical Guide to Jewish Cemeteries
December 26 is the deadline for ordering Avotaynu’s Practical Guide to Jewish Cemeteries for only $22.00 plus shipping. Retail price is $39.00.

The first chapter of this 256-page book, “A Brief History of Jewish Burial,” describes many of the customs associated with the ritual of burial. Chapter Two focuses on what genealogists want for their research: “How to Read a Jewish Gravestone.” Then the book gets interesting. Chapter Three deals with more than 25 different symbols that appear on tombstones. Other chapters that make the book interesting reading are devoted to:
   • The burial location of more than 100 famous Jews with biographies of the individuals
   • A chapter on preserving cemeteries
   • A description of famous Jewish cemeteries and the location of major Nazi concentration camps
   • A set of “Frequently Asked Questions” on such matters as Jewish cemetery architecture, prohibitions, burial organizations and much more • There is also an 820-year Hebrew year to secular year calendar converter (years 1200–2020). Additional information, including the complete Table of Contents, a sample chapter and ordering information can be found at

Who Says Yiddish Is a Dead Language?
The first English-Yiddish dictionary in more than 50 years has just been published by Indiana University Press. Titled Comprehensive English-Yiddish Dictionary it includes 21st century words such as blitspost (email) and klug-mobilke (smartphone). Further information can be found at

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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