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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 18, Number 17 | April 30, 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.

Harvey M. Krueger z"l
There are a number of persons who have made a significant impact on Jewish genealogy yet remain in the background, seeking no public acknowledgement, but continue to do things to benefit family history research. Such a person was Harvey Krueger, who died Sunday, April 23, at the age of 88. He did not acquire any record groups. He did not index any databases. He did not lead any Special Interest Groups. Harvey was a Wall Street financier who expressed interest in his two loves—genealogy and Israel—through philanthropy.

It is not unreasonable that in the early years of JewishGen, Harvey contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep JewishGen financially sound. Warren Blatt, managing director of JewishGen, noted “Harvey spread his charitable contributions throughout the Jewish genealogical world—JRI-Poland, LitvakSIG, Gesher Galicia, many individual IAJGS Conferences, the Hebrew College Boston genealogy program, and others.”

Harvey’s financial support of Jewish genealogy extended to the International Association of Jewish Genealogy. IAJGS president Marlis Humphrey stated, “Without Harvey’s support and vision, it is likely that the LIVE! streaming of our conference sessions would not have become a reality. He took the risk to underwrite the Internet support of LIVE! during its inaugural year. Since that time, LIVE! has not only provided Jewish genealogy education to those who could not travel to the conference, but also allowed us to build a Lecture Library for societies to use to augment their programs and events - a gift that continues to give.”

His support of Israel was well known to the public. Neville Lamdan, founder of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy and former Israel ambassador to the Vatican stated, “Harvey was the first major Wall Street player to truly believe in Israel as an investment opportunity, and the exceptional prominence of Israeli companies on Wall Street all relates back to his efforts. Very few people have contributed as much to the ‘start-up nation’ and to Israel’s place in the global economy as Harvey has.”

Most of all, he was a nice guy. He would call me up from time to time to chat about what was happening in organized Jewish genealogy.

May his memory be for a blessing,

The history of his financial efforts on behalf of Israel can be found at His New York Times Death Notice is at

New Book by Dr. Alexander Beider:
A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Mediterranean Region,
Volume 1: Maghreb, Gibraltar and Malta

If I had to list the five persons I have met in my life that were the most interesting, Alexander Beider would certainly be included—probably number two. (Number one, Benjamin Meed, was eulogized in a previous edition of Nu? What’s New?.) Avotaynu published Dr. Beider’s first book, A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire in 1991 when he was just 27 years old. Since then he has written A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland (out of print), A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Galicia, Jewish Surnames from Prague (out of print) and A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names. The latter was his doctoral thesis (second doctorate) from the Department of History at the Sorbonne in Paris. He has established himself as the world’s leading authority on Jewish names from Eastern Europe.

The study of names is not his only passion. Some years ago, he began studying the origins of Yiddish, which led to his book Origins of Yiddish Dialects published by Oxford University Press in 2015. In summarizing the contents of the book, the publisher said “It furthers scholarly debate on the origins of Yiddish” and “brings together extensive empirical data to support controversial hypotheses.” This is a polite way of saying that Dr. Beider demonstrates where his predecessors were wrong about the origins of Yiddish, including Dr. Beider’s idol, the great Yiddish scholar, Max Weinreich.

A few years ago, I asked Dr. Beider whether he was going to tackle creating a dictionary of Sephardic surnames. At that time, he said “no,” because it would require that he learn medieval Arabic. It appears he has changed his mind. Avotaynu has just published Dr. Beider’s first book on Sephardic surnames. Its title is A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Mediterranean Region – Volume 1 – Maghreb, Malta and Gibraltar, Yes, it does include Arabic where it is necessary to support the etymology of certain surnames.

Why “Mediterranean Region” rather than “Sephardic.” Because Dr. Beider has the preciseness of a person who got his first doctorate in Applied Mathematics. He notes that the surnames of the region include names based on Arabic, Judeo-Arabic, Berber, Hebrew, Aramaic, Spanish, Judeo-Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and French. There are also Ashkenazic surnames in the region.

The book identifies nearly 2,000 independent root surnames from which more than 10,000 variant surnames are derived.

A typical entry contains three sections: Main, Origin and Variants
.  • The Main section identifies the surname and spelling variants (in both Latin and Hebrew characters), where in the region it was used, earliest references, and bibliographic source of the information. There are nearly 300 sources from which Dr. Beider draws his conclusions
 . • The Origin section includes an identification of bearers of the name as having a single common ancestor (monogenetic) or multiple independent ancestors (polygenetic). This is followed by the etymology—the linguistic origin of the name
 . • Finally, the Variant section shows the main variants of the name that exist in the region. The introductory portion describes the history of surnames in North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya), Gibraltar, and Malta making particular focus on the Jewish migrations to these regions from other Mediterranean countries as well as migrations internal to the area covered. By the comprehensiveness of the sample of surnames collected and the rigor of their linguistic and historical analysis (like that found in previous works by Dr. Beider), this study dwarfs all previous publications dealing with the Jewish surnames from Maghreb.

Note the book title includes “Volume 1” indicating the genealogical and historical communities can anticipate benefitting even more from Dr. Beider’s genius.

The book is 728 pages, hardcover. Cost is $89.00 plus shipping. It can be ordered at The website also includes a complete list of names, a sample entry from the dictionary (the surname Abecassis) and the Table of Contents.

Dr. Beider will be making three presentations at the annual conference to be held in Orlando, Florida, this summer. He and Dr. Harry Ostrer will be giving the Monday evening keynote address on “Setting the Record Straight: The DNA and Yiddish Origins of Ashkenazi Jewry.” On Tuesday, he will provide two lectures: “Q&A on Ashkenazi Surnames with Dr. Alexandre Beider” and “Origins of Jews from North Africa.” The latter talk will discuss the findings described in this new book.

AncestryDNA Now Has More Than 4 Million Customers
Ancestry now has more than 4 million customers in their DNA database. The company reached 1M samples in 2015 and by mid-2016 surpassed 2M samples. It demonstrates the growing public interest in finding one’s heritage through DNA testing. This has been promoted, primarily by Ancestry, through advertising and news releases.

There is a new program on U.S. television called Long Last Family where adopted children are looking for their birth mother, or women are searching for a child given up for adoption. The program trivializes searching for family by giving the impression all one must do is go on to find the location of lost family, or submitting a DNA sample to AncestryDNA will provide positive results.

The U.S. program is based on a similar one of the same name that started airing in 2011 in the UK. An Australian version lasted only one year (2016).

“How to Manage Your Family's Digital Assets”
Dick Eastman, author of the daily ezine Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter, has written an article for the FamilySearch blog titled “How to Manage Your Family's Digital Assets.” He discusses various problems in preserving historical documents on digital medium, such as the problem of obsolescence of the medium. The extensive article can be found at

FamilySearch Adds More Than 5 Million Records This Week
A list of recent additions to FamilySearch, nearly 7 million indexed records and images, can be found at This site provides direct links to the individual collections. They include records from England (diocese records), Ghana, Italy, Poland (church records), South Africa, Sweden (church records) and the U.S. states of Connecticut, Maine, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

Most notable for persons with Jewish family history are the South Africa (death records) and U.S. record groups.

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 at
Ancestry has added the following record groups at their site. Note that they do not indicate how many entries have been added. Announced collections may not be complete for the dates specified and will be added at some later date.
   • Iowa, Delayed Birth Records, 1856–1940
   • Iowa, Death Records, 1920–1940
   • U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s–Current
   • Oregon, Marriage Indexes, 1906–2009
   • Washington, Birth Records, 1870–1935
   • U.S. Obituary Collection, 1930–2017
   • U.S. Cemetery and Funeral Home Collection, 1847–2017
   • Reports of Deaths of American Citizens Abroad, 1835–1974

Ukraine SIG Needs Funds to Index 41,000 Pages of Documents  
The Ukraine Special Interest Group (SIG) of JewishGen has the opportunity to acquire copies of 41,057 pages of documents from various archives in Ukraine for the purpose of translation and indexing. To do this, they must raise $8,300. To donate, go to and select “Digital Documents Acquisition and Translation Project.”

Additional information, as well as a complete list of towns to be included in the project, years covered and the types of documents can be found at ABT_newsArchive.asp?#131.

FamilySearch Now Has Selected French Census Records
The FamilySearch blog notes six new French census collections that were recently added to their collection. The departments and years are Côtes-d’Armor (1876, 1906), Hérault (1876, 1891, 1906) and Nord (1906). A link to each census can be found at

FindMyPast Offers Free Access to Vital Records and Censuses Until May 1
FindMyPast is making all their birth, marriage, death and census records accessible free of charge through May 1. This includes one billion birth, marriage and death records and 971M census records. Based on identical errors, at least a portion of these records can be found anytime at no charge on FamilySearch. Search the collections at

Attend the 37th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy
23–28 July 2017  • Walt Disney World Swan Resort  • Orlando, Florida

   • More than 250 lectures and workshops
   • SIG meetings and luncheons
    Birds of a Feather meetings
   • Gala banquet
    Access to subscription-only online databases
   • Film Festival
    Network with other genealogists
   • Consult with the experts

Registration and additional information at

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