Gary Mokotoff, Editor
Volume 19, Number 14 | April 8, 2018
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 http://www.avotaynu.com/nu.htm
Underlined words are links to sites with additional information.
Lithuania Bill Would Ban Material That “Distorts Historical Facts”
First it was the Polish government, now the Lithuanian government wants to create a law that would ban selling material that “distorts historical facts” about the nation. The bill is motivated by a book published in 2016 that addresses the collaboration of the Lithuanian government and people in the murder of Jews.
If the law is passed, a book published by Avotaynu would be banned from Lithuania. Jews of the Kaišiadorys Region of Lithuania tells the history of the Jews of the region from its earliest days, but with emphasis on the early 20th century and Holocaust periods. It is evident from the book—which is properly sourced-footnoted—that Lithuanian Christians participated in the murder of Lithuanian Jews. The book ends with tales of Christians who rescued Jews. The last biography is about a man who was known by local Lithuanians to have helped Jews. As the book states, “On July 10, 1945, he went into the forest and never returned.”
Additional information about the pending law can be found at https://tinyurl.com/LithuanianLaw.
New Book: On Oldness: How to Successfully Navigate Old Age
Avotaynu has just published its 80th book. Interestingly, it is not about genealogy but instead a subject of interest to many of our readers: growing old.
Sallyann Amdur Sack, Avotaynu co-owner and a clinical psychologist, has written a wonderfully useful book, On Oldness: How to Successfully Navigate Old Age, based on first-hand experiences in growing older. Now an octogenarian, she offers a simple guide to effectively managing the challenges specific to old age. She argues that with attention and planning—plus a significant dose of health and good luck—old age can be a delightful, rewarding and pleasurable final stage of life. She challenges the assumption that the progress of life is one long, slow stage to oblivion.
Topics covered are:
• What Exactly Is Old Age?
• Money Health Issues
• Where Should We Live?
• How Will We Spend Our Time?
• Emotional Challenges
• The Brain and Some Cognitive Concerns
• Confronting Death
The book concludes with an Appendix that is a check-off list of more than 250 questions to ask yourself, or the facility to which you are planning to relocate, to insure you are making an informed decision.
Cost is only $19.00 plus shipping. Additional information, including a complete Table of Contents, can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/On-Oldness.html.
"Long Lost Family" New Season Starts Today
“Long Lost Family,” the television show that presents cases of individuals looking to be reunited with long-lost biological family members, will start its third season today, April 8, 2018, on The Learning Channel (TLC). The series is cosponsored by Ancestry.com and the resources of Ancestry play heavily in the two hosts’ search to find birth families for the individuals being helped.
If I have any complaint about the show, it is that it trivializes family history research. Each episode starts with a person looking for family; either a mother looking for a child given up for adoption or an adoptee looking for birth family. As the search is presented, all the host does is go on Ancestry.com or have the person take an AncestryDNA test and instantly the missing person is found. The show ends with the usual list of credits for persons who helped produced the show. It invariably credits about five professional genealogists who helped in the search.
Despite this criticism, “Long Lost Family” is my favorite genealogy-oriented television program. I guess I like tear jerkers. The most emotional cases to me are those where a woman gave birth to a child while a teenager, gave the child up for adoption, and some years later married the birth father and built their own family. Consequently, the child being searched for is a full-blooded member of their family.
Check your local television listings for the time that TLC will broadcast the program.
UK National Archives Experimenting with Handwritten Text Recognition Software
Optical character recognition (OCR) technology has been a boon to genealogists because it allows organizations to scan and recognize printed words in such historical documents as newspapers and directories. But OCR does not work on handwritten documents. The UK National Archives is now experimenting with a new platform they claim offers, for the first time, the potential to use computers to read handwritten documents.
The pilot project is using handwritten wills as the documents. Specifically, they are using clerks’ copies of wills, because the handwriting style is very uniform. They are legal documents and, therefore, have structured language patterns.
Additional information about the project can be found at https://tinyurl.com/UKNAHandwriting.
FamilySearch Adds More Than 9 Million Records This Week
A list of recent additions to FamilySearch, more than 9 million indexed records and images, can be found at https://tinyurl.com/FamilySearch040218. This site provides direct links to the individual collections. Those identified with a dagger (†) are Christian-only records.
Nearly 8 million of the records are a new index to Dordogne, France, Church and Civil Registration, (1540–1896). Other records are from Austria(†), Czech Republic(†), Luxembourg, Montana, Pennsylvania and Sweden(†).
Most notable for persons with Jewish family history are additions to the index of Pennsylvania, Eastern District Petitions for Naturalization, (1795–1931)
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.
FindAGrave. Both FamilySearch and Ancestry.com have updated their collection supplied by FindAGrave.com. The database now contains 166 million records.
FindMyPast Additions for Week
Two additions to FindMyPast this week of possible interest to researchers with Jewish ancestry are:
• England & Wales, Electoral Registers 1920. More than 6.7 million records.
• Canadian Headstones Index. More than 1.8 million records created by a project of the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS). Instead of searching FindMyPast, use the website created by OGS, https://canadianheadstones.com/search, to retrieve images of the headstones. The site may not have much Jewish content. Only 76 persons named Cohen are in the database.
U.S. National Archives Creates “Catalog Guide for Genealogists and Family Historians”
The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has a website oriented toward the needs of genealogists and family historians. It focuses on how to use its online catalog. The website is located at https://www.archives.gov/research/genealogy/catalog-guide. The catalog is a work in progress and currently contains descriptions for 95% of their records.
Search the catalog using an individual’s name or just a surname. In many cases, the information provided is a link to the document itself. This includes the Index to Petitions for Naturalization and Petitions for Naturalization. For Alien Case Files, it provides enough identifying information to order the file from NARA.
Another digitized collection is Concentration Camp Dachau Entry Registers. The collection was indexed by Fold3. Search for a specific individual. The result brings you only to the register book for the date of admission. You must then browse the register to find the person of interest.
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