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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 18, Number 15 | April 9, 2017

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.

Chag Pesach Sameach (Happy Passover Holiday)
A sweet Passover for all.

Great Interest in DNA Testing Evident from Number of Sessions at Orlando Conference
With more than two dozen lectures, workshops and mentoring sessions on all aspects of DNA research being presented at the Orlando conference this year, it is clear that the subject is the new hot button in family history research.

Representatives of DNA test providers such as FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage and Ancestry will describe how to understand their results at a Sunday EXPO! and again throughout the week at their booths in the conference Exhibit Hall.

In addition, seasoned DNA project managers will lead participants in a four-part series that lasts all week.
   • DNA 101: Solving Research Problems with DNA Testing will describe how to set testing goals and how to navigate the testing and analysis processes.
   • DNA 201: The Next Steps will involve nine veteran DNA testing experts who will work collaboratively with participants to assess the status of their research and discuss strategies for moving forward.
   • DNA 301: What Y-DNA Lineages Can Tell Us About Jewish History and Migration will focus on “Next Generation Sequencing” (NGS) products like FTDNA’s Big Y and others. The panel of “citizen scientists” will describe how they have begun mapping genetic trees that are far more accurate than ever before.
   • DNA 401: The Key to Successful DNA Projects will feature a panel of DNA project administrators who will describe how to organize geographic, surname, and haplogroup subclade projects
DNA computer workshops will focus on tools such as GEDMatch, Lazarus, and McKee that are used by genealogists to parse autosomal and Y chromosome results. Family genealogists will hold workshops on their DNA success stories in Ashkenazic, Sephardic and rabbinic family history. Register early for workshops. They usually fill up quickly.

Ostrer/Beider Lecture. The one event at the conference that might make international headlines is the Monday evening lecture by Jewish DNA pioneer Dr. Harry Ostrer and linguist/onomastician Dr. Alexander Beider who will speak on “Setting the Record Straight: DNA and Yiddish as Evidence for the Origins of Ashkenazi Jews.” It will debunk the fringe theories about the origins of Ashkenazic Jews such as they are all descended from the Khazars or have their origins in Turkey.

At Thursday evening’s banquet, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, host of PBS’ “Finding Your Roots” will speak on “Genetics and Genealogy in America.” On Thursday afternoon, Karen Grinzaid from Emory University will address Jewish genetic diseases and options for affordable and accessible genetic screening for Jewish families. Adam Brown, co-chair of this year’s IAJGS conference is also the Managing Editor of AvotaynuOnline and the Administrator of the 5,000 participant AvotaynuDNA Project. Brown will provide an update on the project’s Sephardi DNA initiative that is entering its second year of testing Sephardi men all over the world in collaboration with genetic genealogy pioneer Dr. Karl Skorecki of the Technion.

The 37th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy will be held July 23–28 at the Walt Disney Swan Resort in Orlando, Florida. Register early. Book a hotel room at special conference rates while there are rooms available. Sign up for workshops now. The conference website is at In addition to registration and hotel information, it includes the complete program plus biographies of the lecturers.

It is an indoor conference, so the summer heat will not be a factor. The 1983 conference was held in Los Angeles. The outside temperature rose to 114˚F (46˚C). It was a successful conference.

I Have Native American Blood in My Veins
FamilyTreeDNA has improved the accuracy of their autosomal DNA test called Family Finder. If my new results are typical, it is a significant improvement. Previously, Family Finder results showed I was 92 percent Ashkenazic, 4 percent Italy/Greece, 1 percent Great Britain, 1 percent Middle East, 1 percent Caucuses and 1 percent South Asia.

The new results make more sense. Now I am 93 percent Ashkenazic, 4 percent Sephardic, 3 percent Southeast Europe (Italy/Greece/Western Balkans). That adds up to 100 percent, but there was an additional entry. The test results state that I have a trace of South American (Native American) ancestry.

GEDmatch Will Match Your DNA Results Against Others
In the last issue of Nu? What’s New? I stated that it was necessary to be tested by all DNA testing services to determine if you have a match with other individuals. Several NWN subscribers noted this is unnecessary if you use GEDmatch, which will compare your results against those using other services. Information on how to use GEDmatch is located at

“Simple Steps to Preserving Your Precious Family Memories”
The FamilySearch blog includes an article titled “Simple Steps to Preserving Your Precious Family Memories.” It has six subsections which describe how to preserve photos, letters and documents, electronic information, audio/visual material, books and artifacts. The article can be found at

ESJF to Begin Survey of Jewish Cemeteries in Bucovina
Jewish Heritage Europe reports that the European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative (ESJF) plans a “vast research and monitoring project” of Jewish cemeteries across the historic Bucovina region, which today straddles Chernivtsi oblast in southern Ukraine as well as parts of northern Moldova and northern Romania.

ESJF teams will shortly spread out across the region, surveying the Jewish cemeteries there and monitoring their current state. The project involves the cooperation of the regional and local governments and is based in the city of Chernivtsi—historically, a major Jewish center.

Surveys of Jewish cemeteries (and other heritage sites) were carried out in Romania and Ukraine by the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad in the 1990s.
Additional information about the project can be found at

IAJGS Announces New Members of Its Board of Directors
Avraham Groll has joined the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) Board of Directors as Secretary. Groll was appointed by the IAJGS Board to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Mark Nicholls. He will serve out the remainder of the term until elections at the 2017 IAJGS Annual Meeting this summer. Groll is well known in the Jewish genealogical community in his role as Senior Director of Business Operations for JewishGen.

Groll joins the new board members elected August 10th at the IAJGS 2016 Seattle Conference. Jane Berenbeim and Binyamin (Binny) Lewis were newly elected to two-year terms, joining re-elected board members Nolan Altman, Quinton Atkinson, Daniel Horowitz, and Shipley Munson.

Berenbeim is an independent development consultant, who brings to the Board more than 30 years of experience in non-profit fundraising and management. Binny Lewis is the newest and youngest member of the IAJGS Board of Directors. His passion for discovering his family history has taken him on a journey and, in turn, is taking the genealogy world by storm. Over the past three years, he founded and led the first JGS on a college campus, the Family Discovery Society at Yeshiva University.

Biographies of all Board members can be found at

Have You Registered to Receive Notices from Avotaynu Online?

Have you subscribed to Avotaynu’s latest venture: Avotaynu Online? We have created a special sign-on site at By registering, you will receive a weekly notice of items added to the site.

By virtue of its focus on the in-depth reporting of specific subjects, Avotaynu Online will be entirely distinct from the existing print journal, AVOTAYNU, which for over three decades has covered the broad spectrum of Jewish family history research, and from the weekly Nu? What’s New?, which reports breaking stories in the world of genealogy.

 Avotaynu Online is free of charge. 

Nu? What's New? is published weekly by Avotaynu, Inc.
Copyright 2017, Avotaynu, Inc. All rights reserved

To change an e-mail address, send a request to

To subscribe to AVOTAYNU, The International Review of Jewish Genealogy, go to

To order books from our catalog, go to

To contact us by postal mail, write: Avotaynu, Inc.; 
794 Edgewood Ave.; New Haven, CT 06515

Telephone  (U.S.) : 475-202-6575