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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 18, Number 38 | October 8, 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.

Genetic Testing Results Now Accepted as Proof of Being a Jew
Various Jewish news agencies are reporting that the results of a specific DNA test are being accepted as proof that a person is, by Jewish law, a Jew. The ruling comes from Rabbi Yosef Carmel, who is both co-head of the Eretz Hemdah Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies and a senior rabbinical judge on the private Eretz Hemdah rabbinical court in south Jerusalem. It is expected that this ruling will help Israeli citizens from the former Soviet Union who are having difficulty proving their Jewish status due to suppression of religious activity by the former Soviet regime.

The test being used is the mitochondrial DNA test which is inherited exclusively from a person’s mother. It has been determined that fully 40 percent of all Ashkenazi Jews are descended from just four Jewish women who left the Middle East more than 1,000 years ago and settled in Europe. Immigrants who can demonstrate through mitochondrial DNA testing that they are descended from one of these four women will be considered to have proven their Jewish ancestry. The remaining 60 percent will have to use other means.

Some years ago, I assisted a woman who wanted to return to Judaism and claimed to be Jewish by Jewish law because her maternal great-grandmother was born Jewish. I could find documentation that this ancestor was Jewish and acquired the birth certificates of all women in the direct descent except for the woman’s grandmother. I provided the grandmother’s baptismal certificate, which the Beit Din (rabbinic court) accepted as a substitute for a birth certificate.

Additional information can be found at

Ancestry Canada Offers Free Access to Its Collection Through October 9
In recognition of Canada's Thanksgiving Day (October 9), is providing free access of all Canadian and immigration records through October 9. To search the featured collection, go to I tried to do a surname-only search but it demanded a given name to perform the search. Providing any given name gave the same results as a surname-only search. The immigration records appear to be only Canadian immigration records.

RootsTech 2018 Program Now Online
The program schedule for RootsTech 2018 is now online at The conference runs from Wednesday, February 28 to Saturday, March 3, 2018 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Four sessions are explicitly on Jewish genealogy:
   • Jewish Genealogy's Other Side: Sephardic Resources
   • The Nuts & Bolts of Jewish Genealogy for Beginners
   • JewishGen and the Challenges of Jewish Genealogy
   • The DNA of the Jewish People

To demonstrate how DNA-mania has taken over genealogical research, there will be 27 lectures/workshops on the subject.

Additional information about the event can be found from its home page:

Organization States It Does Jewish Genealogical Research in Argentina
I stumbled across a website that states it does Jewish genealogical research in Argentina: Their web page about Jewish research states, “We have an extensive knowledge of the history and present of the Jewish community in Argentina and we know how to trace Jewish families using specific sources (Yiddish newspapers, Jewish institutions, Jewish cemeteries, customs and traditions)…Related to the Ashkenazic families, we also have experience with the translations of the names (Yiddish into Spanish) and the changes of the surnames that occurred upon arrival in Argentina. We also use specific Soundex methods to detect variants in the spelling of the surnames.” I have no experience dealing with this organization.

U.S. National Archives to Hold Virtual Genealogy Fair on October 25
The U.S. National Archives will host its fifth virtual Genealogy Fair via webcast. Viewers can participate with the presenters and other family historians during the live event on YouTube at All session videos and handouts will be available from this web page free of charge. You can watch the sessions and download the materials at your convenience. Topics will include:
   • Taking Care of Your Family Heirlooms
   • 19th Century Ancestors in Tax Assessment Records
   • From the Cradle to the Grave: Birth, Childhood, and Death in the National Archives at St. Louis
   • A is for Archives, B is for Burn File: Accessing Burned Records at the National Archives at St. Louis
   • Locating the Relocated: Deciphering Electronic Records on Japanese Americans Interned During World War II
   • Beyond the War Relocation Administration: Finding Japanese Relocatees in Other Records

Information is at

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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.

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