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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 18, Number 34 | September 10, 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.

Article on How to Read Your Ethnicity Results
Autosomal DNA testing is becoming more popular because it can provide a better understanding of one’s ethnic background and also help to find close kin along mixed paternal/maternal lines. AncestryDNA has posted to its blog an article titled “More Than a Pie Chart and a Number: Reading Your Ethnicity Estimate” that gives a detailed description of how they determine ethnicity of an individual. It can be found at

Ancestry Adds New York State Death Index to Its Collections
Ancestry has just launched a collection of New York State death indexes covering 1880 to 1956. The collection includes more than 5 million names of persons who died in New York State excluding New York City, which maintains its own vital records. Additionally, records prior to 1914 are not currently available for the cities of Albany, Yonkers, and Buffalo. (Reclaim the Records has already petitioned the New York state government for a copy of the pre-1914 death index for these cities.)

The index includes the name of the deceased, date of death, location of death, and death certificate number. The announcement is at new-new-york-death-index-1880-1956/. The index can be accessed at

How to Organize Your Family History: One Expert’s View
Crista Cowan, Corporate Genealogist for, was recently interviewed about how she does her personal family history research. She provides a useful checkoff list for any family historian about some of the most basic considerations in doing research: organization, software, research logs, public access to your work, documentation and other topics. The interview can be found at

IAJGS to Establish Jewish Genealogical Societies in Additional Cities
The International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) is making a major effort to grow the number of Jewish Genealogical Societies. They have already targeted 12 cities where they have planned start-up meetings. Four of those are:
   • Albany, NY (Sep 17 and Oct 22)
   • Syracuse, NY (Oct 8)
   • Northampton, MA (Oct 23)
   • Rochester, NY (Oct 25)

Organizational meetings are also planned for the following locales, although exact dates have not been determined.
   • Charleston, SC
   • Deltona/Deland/Orange City, FL
   • Jacksonville, FL
   • Kansas City MO/KS
   • Monterey, CA
   • Pittsburgh, PA
   • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
   • Youngstown, OH

If you live near any of these cities and are interested in more information, or if you would be interested in helping to organize a new JGS in another city, contact Nolan Altman at

IAJGS currently has 75 member organizations (genealogical societies, historical institutes, research groups and museums) in 13 countries. You can see a complete listing of current members at

Now Available: Unbroken Chain – Third Edition – Volume 2
Author Neil Rosenstein has devoted the past 27 years to updating and improving his landmark work The Unbroken Chain and now is in the process of publishing its Third Edition, a multi-volume work. Volume 1 was published in March and now Volume 2 has just been published. When completed, the Third Edition will span five volumes.

A complete list of names in volumes 1 and 2 as well as their Tables of Contents can be found at

The new edition is a major improvement to the previous edition both in number of persons and quality of the work.

Second Edition (1990)                 Third Edition (2017)
Two volumes, 1,350 pages             Five volumes, 3,500 pages
20,000 names                                   42,000 names
Surname-only index                          Full name index
No illustrations                                   300 illustrations (Vol 1 alone)
1,600 footnotes                                 1,000 footnotes (Vol. 1 alone)
Up to 16 generations                        Up to 22 generations

The Unbroken Chain documents the descendants of Rabbi Meir Katzenellenbogen (MaHaRaM) of Padua (1482–1565) and Rabbi Judah Lowe (MaHaRaL) of Prague through 22 generations. Among the descendants of these two Torah giants are numerous famous persons including Martin Buber, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, Karl Marx, Moses and Felix Mendelssohn, Yehudi Menuhin, Moses Montefiore, Helena Rubinstein and Judge Judy Sheindlin. A high proportion of genealogies are those of the leading Hassidic dynasties: Levi Isaac of Berdichev, Halberstam, Horowitz, Rabinowitz, Rokeach, Shapiro, Spira, Teitelbaum, Twersky and others.

Specifications for Volume 1: 8½" x 11" 862 pp. hardcover $89.00+shipping
Specifications for Volume 2: 8½" x 11" 744 pp. hardcover $89.00+shipping

Order the book(s) at

List Shows Ukrainian Towns with Jewish Records in Polish Archives
Blood and Frogs blog has placed at its site a list of Jewish records in the Polish state archives that are for towns currently in Ukraine. Most of these towns were originally part of East Galicia. Each entry has a link to the record collection’s page in the PRADZIAD database, which is a list of all records in the Polish state archives organized by town. Further information, including the list itself, can be found at

Family Tree DNA to Donate to Hurricane Harvey Relief
Houston-based Family Tree DNA was minimally impacted by Hurricane Harvey. In response to the crisis, they are donating a portion of the proceeds from the sale of all tests (including upgrades and paid transfers) during the month of September toward Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. A banner at their home page——will display the cumulative amount raised and will be updated twice daily. To date, they will donate more than $7,000.

If you were contemplating using their service and have not yet made the commitment, the month of September would be an appropriate time to do so.

U.S. Government to Return Jewish Artifacts to Iraq
The United States will return to Iraq next year a collection of Jewish artifacts that were discovered in Baghdad in 2003 when the U.S. conquered the country. The archive contains tens of thousands of items including books, religious texts, photographs and personal documents. At present, there are virtually no Jews living in Iraq. Most fled the country due to persecution.

In 2003, shortly after U.S. forces secured Iraq, Harold Rhode, a past president of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington and then a U.S. government official, discovered Jewish artifacts, including a Torah, in the flooded basement of the Iraqi Intelligence Service in Baghdad. Rhode wrote about the find in the Summer 2003 issue of AVOTAYNU. These 2,700 books and tens of thousands of documents were severely damaged by the flooding. Rhode managed to secure a grant from the late philanthropist Harvey Krueger who heard about the project from friends and underwrote the operation. The artifacts made their way to the United States and were given to NARA for record preservation.

The current Iraqi government demands the original material be returned to their country as “national treasures.”

Additional information 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.
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