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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 18, Number 46 | December 3, 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.

Can Your Ancestry DNA Be Used by Law Enforcement?
One of the concerns expressed by people participating in DNA testing is will that information be shared with other organizations, such as law-enforcement agencies. The answer is a resounding “No!” according to spokespersons at all the major DNA testing companies. This was in response to concerns by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer who stated that a surge in the popularity of DNA heritage websites poses a potential privacy problem for thousands of unsuspecting users. He called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the sites and ensure “test kits are clear, transparent, and fair to consumers.”

In a televised interview with a law-enforcement agent, the agent said these samples may be useless anyway in court because of what is called “chain of custody.”

Senator Schumer’s additional comments and responses from DNA services can be found at Additional comments can be found at

Montefiore Censuses Indexed and Online
After a nine-year effort, the so-called Montefiore censuses of the Holy Land during the 19th century have been digitized and indexed and are online at The censuses were ordered by philanthropist, Sir Moses Montefiore (1784–1885), hence its name. They were taken in the years 1839, 1849, 1849, 1855, 1866 and 1875. They contain personal and family particulars, occupations and countries of origin of 25,535 Jewish families, together with details of 968 of their agricultural, religious, educational and welfare institutions.

In 2008, the Montefiore Endowment commissioned the Israel Genealogical Society to transcribe the censuses into a modern Hebrew font, transliterate the names, and translate the data into English. This immense labor was undertaken by teams of volunteers; and the censuses have now been published on-line for the first time, together with a search engine in Hebrew and in English to facilitate the finding of individual names and families.

Information about the history of these censuses can be found at

JGSLI Adds New Video to Collection:
What Genealogists Should Know About DNA…Without the Science Lesson!
 The Jewish Genealogy Society of Long Island has added its 34th educational video to YouTube: What Genealogists Should Know About DNA…Without the Science Lesson! The complete list of videos can be found at All videos are short. For example, this lesson is 8 minutes and 20 seconds. JGSLI was the winner of the IAJGS 2015 Outstanding Publication Award for its work in instructional videos. Thye video is at

MyHeritage Adds “Suggestive Alternatives” Feature
MyHeritage has added to their collections system a “Suggestive Alternatives” feature, which enables users to correct mistranscribed or misspelled names in historical records. My experience is that the most common cause of this error is the person who is extracting the document makes the error because the document is difficult to read. This very important feature also exists on Ancestry.

Suggested alternatives do not replace the current name in the record, but they will be added to each record. They will be included among the possible results of future searches as MyHeritage updates its index weekly.

The announcement can be found at

MyHeritage Webinars Available at No Charge
MyHeritage, through it subsidiary, Family Tree Webinars, has several useful webinars available on demand at no charge. The most recent include:
   • Jewish Family Research Challenges
   • Filling in the In-Between of the Jewish BMD
   • Google for Genealogy: Search Tricks to Tease Out Information
   • Introduction to the Use of Autosomal DNA Testing
   • Advanced Autosomal DNA Techniques used in Genetic Genealogy
   • How to Pass Your Ancestors' Legacy to Your Grandchildren
   • Discover Your Family History with MyHeritage's Unique Technologies
Links to these webinars can be found at

New at
Ancestry has added/updated 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.

Updated Collections U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s–Current
U.S., Cemetery and Funeral Home Collection, 1847–2017
 U.S., Obituary Collection, 1930–2017
North Carolina, Death Certificates, 1909–1976
Missouri, Western District Naturalization Index, 1840–1990
Lucas County, Ohio, Blade Obituary Index, 1842–2014

FindMyPast Adds New Collections
FindMyPast added several collections to their site this week, two of which are described below. The complete list can be found at

Massachusetts Deaths, 1969-2010. This collection consists of transcripts that include the decedent’s name, date of death, year and location of death. Based on searching for one individual in the database, this collection does not seem to be on Ancestry, FamilySearch or MyHeritage. Comparable information is likely to be found in the Social Security Death Index. The one individual I searched for also appears in FindAGrave.

United States Obituary Notices. This resource of more than 6 million records has been transcribed from the website. Each transcript reveals a name, birth date, death date, location, the person’s unique obituary text and a link to the original source. Strangely, there are no Mokotoffs in the FindMyPast collection, but two appear in the collection.

British Jews Requesting Citizenship in Countries Where Ancestors Once Lived
With the UK’s plan to break away from the European Union (EU) on the horizon, some British Jews are looking for ways to gain EU passports based on their ancestry. German authorities have stated that hundreds of Jews from the UK had applied for German citizenship based on their family history, and the Spanish and Portuguese (S&P) community said Sephardic Jews could do likewise with their Iberian Jewish ancestry. S&P has launched a genealogy service to help descendants of Jews who fled the Spanish Inquisition 500 years ago gain Spanish and Portuguese passports.

Additional information can be found at

Time to Think About Donations to Genealogy-Helpful Institutions
mThe end of the year is approaching, and it is time for all of us to evaluate whether we have made our annual charitable contributions to non-profit genealogical organizations from which we have benefitted. Be sure to include those institutions that helped you in your genealogical pursuits. These are the organization I have contributed to in 2017. Click on the links to make a donation.

International Institute for Jewish Genealogy
Joint Distribution Committee
Reclaim The Records
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Yad Vashem

What is on your list?

Black Friday Sale a Huge Success
Needless to say, Avotaynu was inundated with orders from people taking advantage of the significant discounts we offered on selected books. To the right is a picture of empty cartons of books sent from the warehouse. It is good to know that these works are in the hands of genealogists rather than gathering dust in the warehouse.

A message to those who purchased Dr. Alexander Beider’s books: A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian EmpireA Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Galicia and A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names. Please do not merely use these books to look up names. Read the introductory portion to gain an understanding of how Jews got their names and how variants occurred. It is fascinating and educational reading.

We are backlogged in shipping but hope to have all books shipped by the end of this week.

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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