Nu? What's New?

Nu? What's New is a bi-weekly Internet magazine published by Avotaynu providing information of interest to persons tracing their Jewish family history.

To be added or removed from the Nu? What's New? mailing list,
go on the Internet to

Vol. 1, No. 1 February 6, 2000

Avotaynu Launches Nu?, What's New?

This is the inaugural issue of Nu?, What's New?, an e-mail news service published by Avotaynu for people tracing their Jewish family history. In the few days since we have announced this publication more than 1,000 have subscribed.

Hamburg Emigration List Database

About a year ago, the Hamburg City Archives announced plans to index the Hamburg Emigration Lists. Original plans called for the initial version of the database to be on the Web by October 1999 (see story in AVOTAYNU Summer 1999 issue). The initial phase has now been rescheduled for April 2000. When done, researchers will have access to the data on five million emigrants who exited Europe via the port of Hamburg during the period 1850 1934. The goal is to add one year's worth of information every month. The entire project will take four years to complete. Information about the project can be found at

Migration from the Russian Empire

Ira Glazier of the Balch Institute has informed AVOTAYNU that he hopes to have additional volumes of Migration from the Russian Empire available by this summer. The current six volumes provide an index of Russian immigrants arriving at the Port of New York from January 1875-June 1891. The additional volumes should include all people from July 1891 to 1895.

American Jewish Historical Society Opens New York Facility

The American Jewish Historical Society has reopened its library and archives following its move from Waltham, Massachusetts to the Center for Jewish History in New York. AJHS will retain the Waltham facility which will primarily hold the Society's Boston and New England-related archival collections. Hours for both facilities is Monday to Thursday, 9:30 - 4:30 pm. For questions, inquiries or specific information on their collection, contact staff at:

2 Thornton Road 15 West 16th Street
Waltham, MA 02453 New York, NY 10011
(781) 891-8110 212-294-6160
The facilities share a common e-mail address for inquiries:

Beth Hatefutsoth Develops Virtual Museum on Internet

Beth Hatefutsoth, the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, has created a virtual exhibition on the Internet about Jewish life in Romania. The URL pays tribute to Jewish life in Romania during the last century, emphasizing different aspects of history, family and community life, religion, traditions and cultural achievements.

Sophie Caplan Awarded Order of Australia

Sophie Caplan, founding president of the Australian Jewish Genealogical Society, has been honored by the Australian government with the "Medal of the Order of Australia" for her contribution in history and genealogy. Sophie is also AVOTAYNU's Contributing Editor for Australia.

Jewish Genealogy Month

Avotaynu once again is sponsoring Jewish Genealogy Month which this year will be April 6-May 5, 2000. Caroline Guillot of the French Jewish Genealogical Society, GenAmi, has done a beautiful poster that is located at The theme this year is "The Family Tree of the Jewish People." The poster shows a family tree depicting all Jews as being descended from Abraham and Sarah. The tree trunk divides into the four main branches of the Jewish people: Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Oriental and Ethiopian. Each major branch then continues with the sub-branches of the Jewish people.

Online Registration for the Annual Conference

You can now register online for the 20th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy to be held in Salt Lake City from July 9-14. The program will feature more than 80 lectures; Breakfasts with the Experts; luncheons sponsored by Special Interest Groups; Birds-of-a-Feather meetings; and time to research at the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library, the largest genealogy library in the world. The library holds some 2,000,000 microfilm reels, 700,000 microfiche and 270,000 books.

News from Avotaynu, Inc.

Our new book "Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy" is a hit! We have sold more than 300 copies in the first month of publication. It is a low-cost easy-to-read primer to do just what the title implies, get you started in Jewish genealogy. We expect its low cost, $9.95, to make it a popular gift item for people who want to get their friends hooked on our favorite hobby. Information about it is available at

Vol. 1, No. 2 February 20, 2000

My Generations

Is there a genealogy book for Jewish children? Yes. Eighteen years ago Arthur Kurzweil published a genealogy scrapbook for Jewish children called "My Generations." It was never a great seller, probably because it was ahead of its time. The public, and certainly Hebrew schools, were not into genealogy. Recently, a Hebrew school teacher e-mailed me asking if there was a genealogy book for children. It forced me to take a second look at the book, and I have concluded it is quite good. A description appears at the publisher's Internet site at
The cost is $9.95. A teacher's guide exists for $14.95.

New Genealogical Software: DoroTree

If there are computer nerds reading this newsletter, take some advice; never develop a genealogical software program. It is a David-and-Goliath situation. You are competing against such giants as Family Tree Maker and Ultimate Family Tree. A group of Israeli Davids have decided to take on the Goliaths and have just developed a new Jewish genealogical software package called DoroTree ("dorot" means "generations" in Hebrew). There is a trial version that can be downloaded from the Internet at One unusual feature of the software is that as you key in dates in the Roman alphabet on the left side of the screen, they are converted to the Hebrew dates on the right side. It also converts given names, a mixed blessing. For Israelis, who transliterate their given names into the Roman alphabet, it saves the step of having to key in the given name twice, once in each alphabet. For those of us in the Diaspora, it can create confusion. My wife's name is Ruth, which was translated into Hebrew to the name of the biblical Ruth. But my wife's Hebrew name is Rachel Leah.

Need the E-mail Address of a Jewish Genealogist?

Do you need the e-mail address of a Jewish genealogist? Try a trick I have been using for years. Attempt to find the person in the JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF) database at This is a database of surnames and towns being researched by more than 35,000 Jewish genealogists throughout the world. Virtually all active Jewish genealogists have posted to JGFF. Just key in the surname of the person as the search word; everyone (or almost everyone) is researching their own surname. Yes, if the person's name is Cohen, or another common Jewish name, you are in trouble because you will get hundreds of hits.

Ancestors Series to Air New Programs Starting in June

Ancestors, the PBS series of TV shows about genealogy, is developing an additional thirteen 30-minute shows that will start airing in June. The initial series, which received much public attention, was devoted to demonstrating it was possible to trace your family history. This new series is devoted to instructing people already into genealogy in the techniques of genealogy. Their Web site,, has a number of useful features including:
* Resource Guides for each state of the United States
* Downloadable forms such as pedigree and family group sheets

Migration from the Russian Empire

In the last issue of Nu? What's Nu? we reported that "The current six volumes provide an index of Russian immigrants arriving at the Port of New York from January 1875-June 1891." This is not accurate; it covers all U.S. ports starting with volume 3, and Selma Neubauer of Philadelphia notes that the first volume also contains information about the ports of Baltimore and Philadelphia.

What's Nu: 20th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy

Three distinguished scholars will head the list of European speakers at the conference. Alexander Beider of Paris, who is considered the leading authority of Eastern European Jewish names, will lecture on Ashkenazic Jewish Given Names--the subject of his recently completed doctoral theses. Vladislov Soshnikov of Moscow, a Russian archivist and historian, will lecture on the history of the 19th-century czarist decrees that affected Jews. Angelika Ellmann-Krueger of Berlin, will discuss the database she is compiling on German-Jewish family history research. To date, she has identified 22,500 such works and has identified some 9,000 individual names and 4,000 localities.

What's Nu: Avotaynu

There is a new release of AVOTAYNU on CD-ROM. It contains all articles Avotaynu has published from its first issue in 1985 to the last issue of 1999. There are more than 2.3 million words, some 2,500 pages all accessible with a full-word search engine. Key in a town name, a surname, or a topic and the search engine will identify every article that contains the keyword(s). You can then print out the article. Cost is $99.95 + shipping with purchasers of the 1996 version of the CD-ROM getting a deep upgrade discount. More information can be found at

And In Conclusion: A Dialogue Between Nazis

We all read about history; it is rare that we get a chance to vicariously participate in it. Shortly after
Kristallnacht, the Nazi elite met with a representative of the German insurance industry to decide what to do about all the insurance claims made by German Jews for compensation
done by the rioters during Kristallnacht. Attending the meeting were Goering, Goebels, Heydrich and others. A transcript of the meeting survived World War II. Avotaynu was made aware of it while working on its project to help heirs receive compensation for assets seized during the Holocaust (see

It is a chilling conversation between members of the Nazi elite that showed how they planned to exclude Jews from their assets and even their rights as citizens of Germany. Avotaynu has reproduced the transcript at

Vol. 1, No. 3 March 5, 2000

The Genealogy Work Station of the Future

We are all well aware of the impact the Internet revolution has had on genealogical research. The ability to communicate rapidly with people worldwide and the creation of online databases that give access to information from your PC at home are just two of its benefits. The next revolution is just around the corner--Internet access to digitized documents. They say that all the United States censuses--from 1790 to 1920--are in the process of being digitized and are expected to be on the Internet by the end of the year (access undoubtedly for a fee). From your home you will be able to research these documents--documents, not extractions or indexes. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Not only will there
be access to more and more documents, but the manner in which you operate at a research facility is going to change. The genealogy work station of the future will consist of a monitor, mouse, keyboard, compact microfilm reader and printer. You will search the facility's catalog and display the results on the monitor. If the record group is on the Internet, a click of a button located on the monitor will cause the document to be retrieved from the Internet and displayed on the monitor. If you want a copy of the document, there will be two options. Click the Print button and the image on the monitor is printed. Click the Save button and the image is saved on a disk you brought with you to take home (most likely a writable CD. If the document is part of a local digitized collection, it will be transparent to you. A click of the mouse will bring up the document on the monitor from the in-house computer. If the document is on still being preserved the old-fashioned way--on microfilm--you will retrieve the microfilm from a cabinet, place it in the reader and the image will be displayed on the monitor, not on a microfilm table. Again, click the Print button and the microfilm image on the monitor is printed. Click the save button and the image is saved on a writable CD. Is this all a futuristic dream? No. Some institutions are anticipating the digitizing revolution and are budgeting this type of environment for initial installation in the
next 2-3 years.

Is It Necessary to Order Films Ahead of Time When
Planning a Visit to the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library

The annual international conference on Jewish genealogy will be held in Salt Lake City this year (July 9-14), and it has brought up the question of whether microfilms must be ordered in advance before planning a research trip to Salt Lake City. The answer is: unlikely. The Family History Department has more than 2.4 million microfilm rolls in its collection, but the open stacks of the Family History Library can only accommodate 1.4 million films. What if you arrive in Salt Lake City and those precious vital records of your shtetl, which you knew had been filmed by the Library, are not there? The answer is don't fret. The Library has developed a system that virtually guarantees that the film will be made available to you within hours and at worst the next day. This is because the Library system has developed an intermediate storage location, called the Distribution Center. There they keep duplicate copies of the master films located in the nuclear-bomb-proof vault at Iron Mountain. If your film is not in the Library, you go to the attendant area on any floor. They will check the computer system to determine if a duplicate is at the Distribution Center. If it is there, and invariably it is, they order the film and it is at the Library within three hours--they make deliveries every three hours. If there is no copy at the Distribution Center--for example, all copies have been loaned to Family History Centers--tell the attendant you want to make a Rush order and another duplicate will be made from the master copy and will be delivered to the Library in less than 24 hours. A complete description of how the system works and which collections are part of the permanent collection at the Library will appear in the Spring issue of Avotaynu.

Alexander Beider to Author a Book on Ashkenazic Given Names

Anyone aware of the accomplishments of Alexander Beider knows he is a remarkable person. At the age of 26, after five years of research on his part, Avotaynu published his landmark "A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire" which established him as the world's leading authority on Eastern European Jewish surnames. Beider, a Russian-born computer analyst living in Paris, holds a PhD in applied mathematics. He has just completed his second PhD at the Sorbonne. This was in the Department of Religious Studies, and his thesis was on Ashkenazic given names. Avotaynu will be publishing his doctoral thesis as well as a dictionary of Ashkenazic given names that he is compiling. It will be part of Beider's next (fourth) book tentatively titled, "A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names." For those not familiar with Beider's works, we have created a special web page at

The Death of a Legend

On New Year's Day, Jeshajahu Weinberg died at the age of 81. His passing barely made a ripple in the Jewish community. I even had trouble locating information about him on the Internet using a popular search engine; there were only 80 hits. Yet "Shaike" Weinberg was one of the most influential men of the 20th century in his area of expertise. Officially, he is described as the Founding Director-General of Beth Hatefutsoth and the Founding Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum--two institutions that have become important to Jewish genealogy. To those who knew him, he was considered the person who developed the content of those two very important institutions. The next time you go to either place, as you look around at the exhibits, be aware that it was Shaike Weinberg who created the overall appearance of the displays.

I first met Shaike at the offices of the Museum of Jewish Heritage many years ago when that institution was still just a collection of architect's drawings. (He even was asked to influence the content of that New York institution.) I was asking his advice about a new database that I had developed--the Jewish Genealogical People Finder, a predecessor for what today is the Family Tree of the Jewish People (FTJP). My question was how to motivate genealogists to contribute their family trees. Shaike responded that project such as FTJP had to reach a "critical mass"--a point after it would become self-sustaining. He advised me to get enough people to contribute to the project until it reached that point. He
was right. We can see it today in such self-sustaining projects as the JewishGen Family Finder, JRI-Poland Project and the Family Tree of the Jewish People.

Shaike Weinberg's legacy was two great institutions, Beth Hatefutsoth and the United States Holocaust Memorial Institution; as well as the hundreds of other projects he influenced.

Vol. 1, No. 4 March 19, 2000

"Nu? What's New?" Adds Archives

We have added an archives of back issues of this e-zine at This was done at the suggestion of Myra Gormley, a leading genealogy e-zine author/editor, who writes the daily "Dear Myrtle" column located at its own site [See correction in Vol. 1 No. 5.]

Hamburg Emigration Index Goes Live

The official announcement stated that on Sunday, March 19, Hamburg's Second (Deputy) Mayor, Christa Saga, initiated the first search at the Polish Museum of America in Chicago of the Internet version of the Hamburg Emigration Index. Two days earlier, on Friday, March 17, a posting to JewishGen indicated Jewish genealogists had already initiated searches and the system was already live and available for use. Only the years 1890-1893 are covered in this initial batch. Eventually, researchers will have access to data on five million emigrants who exited Europe via the port of Hamburg during the period 1850þ1934. The goal is to add one year's worth of information every month. The entire project will take four years to complete. The URL for the project is

The system is already having growing pains. A warning on the initial page states that interest in the index is so great that their server cannot support the enormous volume of inquiries, and there may be difficulties accessing the site. I tried to access it in the evening (New York time) and had difficulties. Trying the following morning at 7:00 a.m., when the rest of the United States was sleeping, gave me access with no problems. BR> The system has a number of design flaws--not uncommon with new computer systems. The initial page states you can "search for passengers" or "search for passengers from the same village." It is not obvious where to click to initiate a search. Only after experimenting do you realize that the graphics above the "search" statements are actually clickable icons.

When you "search for passengers," you have the option to include wildcard characters, but there is no soundex capability. How to use wildcards is explained clearly at the site. If your surname has many spelling variants, you must judiciously select wildcard options or make multiple searches. Leaving the First Name field blank will cause a search for all occurrences of a surname.

Once a search is initiated in "search for passengers" mode, the system displays for each hit the family name, first name, state (country) of residence, year of birth (computed from the person's age at time of emigration), destination, whether travelling with other family members and whether the ship was direct or indirect. To get additional information, a strange process must be done. You click on the person's surname, which displays a form that would show great detail about the individual, except that all fields are blank. Clicking on the Forward button displays the detailed information about the individual. This may be a bug in the system.

The "search for passengers from the same village" operates peculiarly. You do not key in the town of interest but must key in a surname. Then displayed is the identical information as the "search for passengers" mode plus an additional field: From Same Village. If you then click on a town name from this column, it will display all persons from that town. The implication of this method is that you must guess the surname of some townsman in order to get a list of all person emigrating from that specific town. I tried a common surname: Miller. The system displayed only the first ten names; click the Next button to get additional names--a tedious, time-consuming process. Using this method, you continue in the hope that some person named Miller came from the town of interest. Searching by village emonstrated another challenge in using the system. The city of Bialystok (Poland) was also spelled Bialistok--the way it appeared in the original emigration list. You must tackle spelling variants of town names.

It would appear that, as the system is currently designed, you should never use the "search for passengers" mode. The "search for passengers from the same village" mode is identical in design and gives you the one additional field; the town of origin of the emigrant.

Design problems and system overload are not unusual with new Internet systems. With user feedback, you can expect many of these problems to be solved as the system matures.

Genealogy and the Internet

The enormous impact the Internet has had on genealogical research has been demonstrated by the Nielsen Netrating service who claims, combined with its other properties ( and, ranks in the top 20 most visited sites on the Internet with some 190 million hits per month! It does not mean that lots of people using the Internet are doing genealogy. It does mean lots of genealogists are using the Internet for their research. Plans to Reconstruct the 1890 U.S. Census

A gaping hole in Jewish genealogical research is the absence of the 1890 census of the United States. A fire in 1921, in the building where the records were stored, destroyed almost all of the census. Researchers whose ancestors immigrated to the U.S. in the early years of the great wave of Eastern European Jewish immigration must start their census research with the 1900 census. has announced plans to "reconstruct" the census from substitute sources. More than 20 million records have been identified for inclusion in the database. They encompass the fragments of the original 1890 census that survived the fire, state censuses of that period, voter registration records, city and county directories, and others.

No anticipated completion date has been announced.

What's Nu? with the Annual Conference on Jewish Genealogy

The complete program of the 20th International Seminar on Jewish Genealogy is now on the Internet [now a broken link]. In addition to showing the program hour-by-hour, day-by-day, there is a page that identifies the lectures by interest area. Interest areas include Belarus, Computers and Technology, Czech Republic, Family History Library, Galicia, General, Germany, Holocaust, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Methodology, Moldova, Of Interest to Us All, Other Lands, Poland, Rabbinic Genealogy, Romania, Slovakia, Social Events, United States, Ukraine, and Videos. It demonstrates that this is a balanced program with something for everyone.

Vol. 1, No. 5 April 2, 2000

Avotaynu to Sell JPGs of Jewish Life in Eastern Europe

Postcards of your ancestral town from the turn of the 20th century can be a wonderful addition to the photographic portion of your family history, but they are rare items and consequently very expensive. Typical prices are $20-50 each, with some costing hundreds of dollars.

Those genealogists researching Bialystok, Poland, and its environs are familiar with Tomasz Wisniewski, a resident of the city who has been hired by many to do research in the Bialystok archives and also as a tour guide for the area. Tomasz ("Tomy") is also the author of two books about Jewish life in the Bialystok area: "Synagogues and Jewish Communities in the Bialystok Region," published in 1992; and, more recently, "Jewish Bialystok and Surroundings in Eastern Poland," which is sold by Avotaynu (

Tomy has accumulated almost 1,000 postcards and pictures of Jewish life in what was interwar Poland and today encompasses eastern Poland, western Belarus and Ukraine and portions of Lithuania. Avotaynu has convinced Tomy to sell JPG images of these cards, and they are now available for sale at There are some 100 towns represented in the pictures. Many of the pictures are of synagogues since destroyed in the Holocaust, street scenes, and panoramic views.

The cost of each JPG is only $2.50 (minimum purchase $10.00). These pictures are a perfect way to dress up your family web site. They can also be printed in color for inclusion in a published family history or to have in your files as pictures of a time that once was.

Release of Canadian Censuses in Doubt

Canada has allowed access to its census records 92 years after collection of the data. The 1901 census was released in 1993. Release of the 1911 census would be due in 2003; but release has hit a snag. In 1911, and in all subsequent censuses, the Canadian government of the time assured its citizens that the information they provided would be kept confidential. There was no time limit on the confidentiality and some have interpreted this to mean in perpetuity.

Because such data is considered essential for historians, researchers and genealogists to shed light on personal and community histories of Canada, the Canadian government last November formed an Expert Panel to examine the issue. This panel is to report to the Minister Responsible for Statistics Canada by May 31, 2000. Options being considered are amending the "Statistics Act" to allow records, starting with the 2001 census, to be publicly available after 92 years. This would mean the census of 1911-1991 would be confidential forever. Another option is to retroactively change the provisions of the Act to make all censuses in the public domain eventually.

Information about this controversy can be found at

Jewish Vital Statistic Registers for Czechoslovakia

Felix Gundacher, a professional genealogist living in Vienna, has published two books of Czech Jewish vital records registers; one for Bohemia and one for Moravia. The Bohemia book costs ATS280 (about $21.00) and the just- published Moravia book costs ATS200 (about $15.00). Each entry in the book shows the town and time span. Roman Catholic register entries are listed when they include Jewish records. Additional information can be found at Gundacher's e-mail address is .

A number of years ago, Avotaynu published in microfiche form a list of Jewish vital statistic records in the Slovakian archives. Information about this collection can be found at

What's Nu? 20th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy

For those planning to attend the 20th International Seminar on Jewish Genealogy in Salt Lake City, the meeting times for Special Interest Group (SIG) meetings has been established. All groups meet on Sunday, July 9. A complete schedule can be found at [now a broken link]..

A reminder to those planning to attend the seminar but have not registered, the deadline for the early registration discount is April 30. It is possible to register online at [now a broken link].


The last issue of "Nu? What's New?" stated that Myra Gormley was the author of the e-zine "Dear Myrtle." The author actually is Pat Richey. Myra coauthors (with Julie Case) "Missing Links" and "RootsWeb Review," both part of the RootsWeb environment.

Vol. 1, No. 6 April 16, 2000

Australian Census to Be In Public Domain

In the last issue of "Nu? What's New?," I reported the problem Canadian historians and genealogists were having trying to place national censuses, retroactive to the 1911 census, in the public domain after 92 years. A few days after publishing the information, Avotaynu received a fax from Nick Vine Hall of Australia explaining the policy for census data in his country. In the past, the Australian government had a simple policy. Census records were destroyed after they were of no use to the government.

Nick, along with a number of genealogists and historians, successfully lobbied to have enacted "Census Information Amendment Bill 2000" which passed on April 3. This bill provides for release of the 2001 census and all future censuses after 99 years. More than 96 federal politicians helped lobby the government for this policy change, led by Stephen Mutch, MP, a champion of genealogical causes in Parliament. In announcing the passing of the law, the Australian Minister of Financial Services and Planning stated, "We'd like to provide for future generations of Australia with a snapshot of Australia at the turn of the millennium and at the beginning of the new century. The census will give the very best information to historians and genealogists who would like to have some feel of how their grandparents and great-grandparents lived at the turn of the century."

Some census and population musters of regions of Australia that have survived can be found at [now a broken link].

This is further proof that genealogists and historians can help set government policy and law by making their voices heard. About 18 months ago, there were rumors in the United States that the Archivist of the United States, John Carlin, was planning to reorganize and consolidate the regional archives system. Carlin travelled to various cities and listened to genealogists and historians talk about the value of the regional archives system. If there were any plans to change the system, Carlin changed his mind. Now funds will be used primarily to improve the existing facilities.

A Good Source for Yizkor Books

Yizkor books (Holocaust memorial books) are very rare and their prices reflect this fact. Prices are typically $75-200 -- if you can find one for your ancestral town. There is a source I have been using for a number of years that has reasonable prices for these books and other Holocaust-related books: Chaim Dzialowski of Jerusalem. This company's prices for yizkor books range from $40-75. I compared their prices to those of a New York-based book dealer. The Biala Podlaska yizkor book cost $100 from the New York dealer; Dzialowski wanted $40. Dombrowa Gornicza: New York $135, Dzialowski, $60.

They also sell copies of the Pinkas HaKehillot (Encyclopedia of Towns) series at very reasonable prices. Some years ago, I was fortunate to buy from them the extremely rare "Romania--Volume 1" of this series.

The company's address is POB 6413, 91063 Jerusalem, Israel. Their fax number is 972 2 538 2878. That's it. No Web site, no e-mail address. Oh yes, their catalog is in Hebrew. Some years ago I convinced them to put the town names of yizkor books in the Roman alphabet.

Internet Resource for Argentinean Jewish Genealogy

Most Jewish genealogists, as their research encompasses collateral relatives, find that they have family in Argentina. The Jewish Genealogical Society of Argentina, Asociason de Genealogia Judia de Argentina, has developed an InfoFile that gives resources for Argentinean Jewish research. It is located at Promotes Jewish Genealogy Month

April 6 - May 5 is Avotaynu-sponsored Jewish Genealogy Month. During this period, many Jewish Genealogical Societies are making a concerted effort to bring the merits of family history research to the Jewish community through lectures and special events. is helping us promote this time period by having a link on their Home Page to That page promotes the 20th International Seminar on Jewish Genealogy, a number of Web resources for Jewish genealogy and family history, and Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day).

Reminder: 20th International Seminar on Jewish Genealogy

April 30 is the deadline for early registration for the 20th International Seminar on Jewish Genealogy. Registration fees are $30 higher after that date. Early registrants will receive the 40-page book "Planning Your Research Trip to Salt Lake City" in late May. Late registrants will receive it at the conference.

Vol. 1, No. 7 April 30, 2000

Language Translation Sites on the Internet

Jewish genealogy is international in character. Most Jewish genealogists live in countries to which their ancestors immigrated less than 120 years ago; therefore, a knowledge of the languages of the Old Country is an important skill. When it comes to translating data on the Internet, there are a number of services that will do it for free.

Edward Rosenbaum of the Belarus SIG made me aware of a site, called Aport, that translates Russian into English. It is located at [now a broken link]. What is fascinating about this site is that you do not give it text to translate. Instead, you point to a URL that has the Russian text. Not only will it translate the information at the URL, but as you link to other sites, it automatically translates them, too. As an example, if you want to determine the holdings of the National Archives of Belarus, go to but it is in Russian.

Go to the Aport site noted above and specify the address of the Belarus National Archives. You can browse the entire site and the software will translate every page to which you link. If it was not for the buttons and other graphics that remain in the Cyrillic alphabet, you would think the site was in English.

The quality of the translation seems high. Here is the text on the Belarussian Archives Home Page.

"In archives of Byelorussia you may find the information on a history, material and spiritual culture of Byelorussian people, rich data on genealogy. For storage of these documents in the country the network of the state archive establishments which heads the State committee on archives and office-work of Byelorussia is created. In the country 6 republican, 6 regional, 16 zone archives and 3 regional archives of public associations operate."

Another site, Alta Vista has the ability to translate a number of languages to/from English including German, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. Located at, it uses the Systran software package. The quality of translation is poor; it likely uses word for word translation, sometimes with humorous results. It took the surname Rosenberg and translated it to "rose mountain" They claim to be able to translate Russian to English. I had great difficulty getting the process to work and when it did, the results were a string of question marks! Apparently they do not have a compatible character set.

DNA and Genealogy

A good deal of publicity has been given recently to the Lemba tribe of South Africa whose members claim Jewish ancestry. It has been proven through DNA testing that they indeed have Jewish ancestry. Not only do they have "Jewish genes" but DNA tests proved the subset of their culture, who claim to be of the priestly class, do have the Cohanic Y-chromosome genes. Anthropological research has demonstrated they are likely descended from Yemenite Jews who plied the African east coast trade routes more than 1,000 years ago. Additional information about the Lemba tribe can be found at [now a broken link].

Dr. Michael Hammer of the University of Arizona, who has been active in doing DNA testing of the Lemba people, is one of the speakers at the 20th International Seminar on Jewish Genealogy to be held in Salt Lake City this year. He has also written an article in the Spring issue of AVOTAYNU (now at the printers) about his research project on Jewish genetic demography. He hopes the study will lead to an understanding of the distribution of Eastern European Jewish matrilineal and patrilineal genetic markers.

More on DNA and Genealogy

The brick wall for most African American genealogists is determining where their slave ancestors came from in Africa. DNA may help solve this puzzle. A group of scientists are taking DNA samples from people living on the west coast of Africa. They want to offer African Americans DNA testing that will match their DNA against those of the Africans in the hope that it will demonstrate from where the Americans' ancestors came.

Improving the Quality of Old Photographs

More and more genealogists are creating family history Web sites where the entire family can share the experience of the family's history. An important part of these sites are old family photos. Unfortunately many of them are cracked, discolored and/or faded. Graphics software often can correct these problems. I use Paint Shop Pro (, an inexpensive graphics editor, to perform the task. There are many others.

These editors allow you to remove cracks from pictures, as demonstrated at which shows a picture of the brothers Abe and Manny Tartasky at Abe's wedding in 1926. They can also color correct old photos as shown in the 1930s picture of Freida Nasovich Tartasky at

You don't have to be an artist to use these editors. With a little bit of practice, you can acquire the skill. Their technique for correcting damaged portions of a photo is to allow you to copy good portions of the photo onto the damaged portions. One of my favorite experiments with using the graphics editor was when I removed the pearls from the neck of my daughter in her wedding picture:

What's Nu with the Annual Conference

Planning to bring family to Salt Lake City in July to the 20th International Seminar on Jewish Genealogy? There are a number of day tours available for family members who want to see the sites in Salt Lake City and environs.

Vol. 1, No. 8 May 14, 2000

Lithuanian Jewish Records To Be Available at LDS (Mormon)
Family History Library for International Conference

Avotaynu co-owners, Gary Mokotoff and Sallyann Amdur Sack, are often privy to advanced information that we must withhold until it can be officially released. We have known for more than nine months that the Acquisitions Department of the LDS (Mormon) Family History Department has been working diligently to try to expedite filming and cataloging of Jewish records located at the Lithuanian State Archives in Vilnius so that they could be available in Salt Lake City in time for the 20th International Seminar on Jewish Genealogy.

We can now say that the Library has received and catalogued all of the Jewish vital records from opis 1 of Fond 728 located in the Historical Archive in Vilnius and they will be available for conference attendees. Portions of opis 2 may also be available.

Kahlile Mehr, Family History Library collections acquisitions specialist for the territory of the former Soviet Union, is producing a locality index for the collection. Most of the items are listed in "Jewish Vital Records, Revision Lists and Other Jewish Holdings in the Lithuanian Archives" (Avotaynu, 1996), by Harold Rhode and Sallyann Amdur Sack, but Mehr notes that since publication of the book, the archives has found additional records that are not listed. The portion of the book that shows which records are represented by this collection is displayed at

The towns include Alytus, Bagaslavis, Birzai, Butrimonys, Cekiske, Ciobiskis, Daugai, Gelvonai, Grinkiskis, Jonava, Joniskelis, Knyszyn (Poland), Krakiai, Linkuva, Merkine, Mikailiski, Moletai, Musninkai, Naujadvaris, Naujamiest, Nemencine, Nemunaitis, Orlya (Belarus), Paberze, Pakruojis, Pasvalys, Plunge, Prienai, Pumpenai, Punia, Pusalotas, Radun (Belarus), Ramygala, Raseiniai, Rumsiskes, Sakiai, Seredzius, Shchuchin (Belarus), Sirvintos, Stakliskes, Suvainiski, Vabalninkas, Valkininkas, Varena, Veliuona, Vilijampole, Vilkija, Vilnius, Zapyskis, Zaskevichi, Zeimelis, and Ziezmariai.

"Fond" and "opis" are archival designations of the record storage system that enable an archivist to retrieve records. A "fond" is a record group, and an "opis" is an inventory of a subset of records within a specific fond. Fond 728 consists of four opis and includes vital records from many parts of Lithuania. It even includes records for some places that are now in the northeastern part of Belarus.

"Jewish Roots in Ukraine and Moldova"
Wins Reference Book Awards

Miriam Weiner's book, "Jewish Roots in Ukraine and Moldova" has won the "Best Reference Book Award-1999" of the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL). It also was a finalist in the National Book Awards presented by the Jewish Book Council in the Reference Book category. This is the third book in nine years written by/for genealogists to win the AJL Reference Book Award. The two previous books were "Where Once We Walked" (1991) and "A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland" (1996), both published by Avotaynu.

"Jewish Roots in Ukraine and Moldova" was presented to attendees at a reception given last week for the prime minster of Ukraine, Victor A. Yuschenko, in Washington. The prime minister thanked Ms. Weiner for publishing the work which depicts Jewish life as it existed before the Holocaust and as it exists today. It also includes the most complete inventory to date of the Ukrainian archival holdings of Jewish records.

Information about the book can be found at

Jewish Genealogy Yearbook 2000

For the past three years, Hal Bookbinder, vice-president of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) and a past president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles has been adding a supplement to the syllabus prepared for the annual conference on Jewish Genealogy. What started out as an addendum providing information about various Jewish genealogical organizations has grown in value to the point that IAJGS has renamed this year's version the "Jewish Genealogy Yearbook-2000." It hopes to continue the tradition and publish annual yearbooks.

The jewel of this year's Yearbook is a bibliography of "North American Jewish Community Books," some 600 books on the Jewish people and Jewish history of 49 American states, 12 Canadian provinces and territories, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America.

Another portion of the book includes a 1-4-page summary of each lecture being given at this year's conference. In a way, this too represents the year in review for Jewish genealogy because the lecture topics reflect what today is of interest to researchers.

Other portions of the Yearbook are specific to the fact that the conference is being held in Salt Lake City. There is a "Family History User Guide" that is a 20-page description of the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library facilities, recommendations for its effective use, and highlights of the collection available for research. This would be useful to anyone planning a trip to Salt Lake City to do research at the Family History Library. The "Jewish Utah" section includes a history of the 150-year-long Jewish presence in Utah. This includes a list of prominent Utah Jews from Simon Bamberger (governor of Utah nearly 100 years ago) to comedienne Roseanne [Barr]; information about Jewish institutions, synagogues and cemeteries; and some research resources in addition to the Family History Library.

As was true of previous versions, the Yearbook also includes contact and activity information on over 100 JGSs and SIGs, Avotaynu, JewishGen, IAJGS, and the Douglas Goldman Jewish Genealogy Center at Beth Hatefutsoth.

The Yearbook is part of the registration fee for the conference. Additional copies can be prepaid and picked up at the conference for $25 or purchased by mail for $35. Persons who order by June 1 will be assured of a copy; thereafter, only while supplies last. To order the book, go to [now a broken link]

Spring Issue of Avotaynu

The Spring issue of Avotaynu will be in the mail later this week. Much of the issue is oriented toward information of use to people who are going to the 20th International Seminar on Jewish Genealogy or plan to use the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library in the near future. There are also a number of articles about plans by Yad Vashem to make databases available about Holocaust victims and survivors.

Among the other articles is a fascinating one by Ron Arons of California titled "Using CD-ROM Databases and the Internet to Research England from Afar." It demonstrates the power of the Internet in genealogy. Arons, who lives in California, identifies 61 Internet sites he used to help research his English ancestors. It is presented at

A complete list of articles that appears in the Spring issue is below. If you do not currently subscribe to Avotaynu and wish to, you can order online at

Articles in the Spring Issue of Avotaynu

1. Yad Vashem Opens Multimillion Name Database
2. Yad Vashem Opens Combined Library and Archive Building
3. Something for Everyone Is Content of Lectures at Salt Lake City Conference
4. Should You Order Films in Advance for Your Trip to the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library?
5. Remembering the Names
6. Name Search Database at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
7. Genetic Analysis of Jewish Origins
8. Russia's Economic Crisis and Its Effect on Archives and Genealogists
9. Some Lithuanian Discoveries
10. Residents' Lists and the Russian Military Draft
11. Special Features of 20th-Century Resources for Genealogical Research in Russia
12. Using CD-ROM Databases and the Internet to Research England from Afar
13. Common Hebrew Abbreviations on Tombstones
14. More About Reading Jewish Tombstones
15. Shanghai and Tsingtao Municipal Records in the U.S. National Archives
16. Genealogy: The Great Paper Chase
17. Jewish Salt Lake City of the Past
18. A Look at the Lighter Side of Genealogy: Theory of Salt Lake City Genealogical Economics
19. Some Unusual Jewish Records in the Family History Library
20. Sophie Caplan Honored by Australian Government
21. New Yizkor Books at Yad Vashem
22. Hungarian Records in the Israel Galilee

Additional JPEGs of Eastern Europe Planned

Avotaynu has just received additional JPEGs (computer scanned images) of Eastern European Jewish life in the early 20th century from Tomasz Wisniewski of Bialystok, Poland. The new images, close to 500, are primarily of Lithuania and Poland. We hope to have the Lithuanian images available in time for the next edition of "Nu? What's New?". Those already on the Internet, primarily of Belarus and Ukraine, can be seen at

Vol. 1, May 28, 2000
"Nu? What's New?" Tops 3,000 Subscribers

With this issue, Nu? What s New? now has more than 3,000 subscribers in some 27 countries. All indications we have received from subscribers are that we are providing a valuable service to the Jewish genealogical community with unique and interesting news.

Ships of Our Ancestors

Pictures of the passenger ships on which our ancestors traveled from the Old Country can be an interesting addition to the graphics section of your family history files. There is a company, KinShips, that sells pictures of these passenger ships through the Internet. They are not photographs but the advertising art created by the shipping lines to promote their service. Their collection appears to be quite extensive encompassing most of the major shipping lines. Their URL is

Prove Kinship the New-Fashioned Way

How do you prove two living persons are related? Answer: Find records of their common ancestors. What if the records no longer exist or never existed? Try the new approach to kinship research: DNA testing. A company in Houston, calling itself "Family Tree DNA - Genealogy by Genetics Ltd" is offering a service where they will take DNA samples from individuals and evaluate the Y chromosome (common male ancestor) and MtDNA (common female ancestor).

Once the test is complete they will match the results against their Surname Databases Library, a collection of all previous testing they have done where they received permission to keep the results. Additional information is available at their site:

If you order the DNA kit through JewishGen, Genealogy by Genetics will make a contribution to JewishGen. Additiona information is available at

Don't think this is some obscure application in genealogical research. I have such a problem in the Mokotow genealogy. I have never been able to prove through records that the Mokotows and the Mokotowskis and related although family legend says it is so. DNA testing would answer the question.

Online Hamburg Emigration Lists

The Hamburg City Archives reports there are now 300,000 records in their database covering the years 1890-1893. They expect to complete these years shortly and will start indexing the records for the year 1894. Their website is

Ordering Films Before Going to the Family History Library

The question always arises "How can I be sure my films will be available when I get to Salt Lake City to do research at the Family History Library. Should I just order every film I need in advance?" Nicki Russler of Knoxville, Tennessee, has pointed out, and I confirmed with an official at the Library, that the Locality Catalog located at has an indication of the status of any microfilm. Above every microfilm number is a designation "FHL" or "VAULT." Those identified "FHL" are part of the permanent collection of the Library; those identified "VAULT" must be ordered from the Distribution Center. Example: The notation "VAULT US/CAN Film" means the microfilm is part of the U.S./Canadian collection and is not part of the permanent collection in the Library and must be ordered.

Computer Images of Jewish Life in Vilnius

We had hoped to offer pictures of Jewish life in Lithuania by this issue of "Nu? What's New?" but the time required to process the nearly 300 images was too great. We did manage to post to our web site 50 pictures of life in Vilnius (Vilna), the capital of Lithuania. Even if you do not have interest in Jewish life in that city, it is worth looking at the pictures, especially those identified as "People" for a glimpse of a life that is no longer. We have already posted more than 300 pictures, primarily of towns in Belarus and Ukraine. They all can be seen at

In Belarus: Baranovichi (Baranowicze), Brest (Brzesc), David Gorodok (Dawidgrodek), Derechin (Dereczyn), Druya (Druja), Gomel, Grodno, Ivanovo (Iwanowo), Kletsk (Kleck), Kobrin (Kobryn), Kozhan, Gorodok (Kozangrodek), Lida, Luninets (Luninec), Lunna (Lunna Wola), Minsk, Mir, Narovlya (Narowla), Nesvizh (Nieswiez), Novogrudok (Nowogrudok), Orsha (Orsza), Oshmyany (Oszmiana), Ostryna (Ostrina), Ozery (Jeziory), Piaski, Pinsk (19 pictures), Pruzhany (Pruzana), Radun, Ross (Ros), Selets (Sielec), Slonim (14 pictures), Sopotskin (Sopockine), Stobtsy (Stolpce), Vitebsk (Witebsk), Volkovysk (Wolkowysk), Volpa (Wolpa), Zaslavl (Zaslaw), Zdzieciol, Zelwa

At present, only a few Polish towns. Many more are planned. Jasienica Rosielna, Kosow, Lacki, Narol

In Ukraine: Belz, Brody, Brzozdowce (Brody area), Chortkov (Czortkow), Dabrowice, Drogobych (Drohobycz), Dubno, Gvozdets (Gwozdziec), Galich (Halicz), Gorokhov (Horochow), Gorodok (Grodek Jagiellonski), Grodek Podolski (Kamenetz Podolskiy region), Gusyatin (Husiatyn), Ivano Frankivsk (Stanislawow), Ivanovka (Janow Trembowla) Jablonka, Karluv (Karlow), Khirov (Chyrow), Khodorow (Chodorow), Klevan (Klewan), Kolomyya (Kolomea), Kovel (Kowel), Kremenets, Kuty, Lutsk (Luck), Lviv (Lwow), Lyumboml (Luboml), Matsiov (Maciejow), Mikhaylovka (Michalpol), Mikulichin (Mikuliczyn), Minkovtsy (Minkowce), Monastyriska (Monasterzysk), Mostiska (Mosciska), Nesterov (Zolkiew), Novvy Yarychev (Jaryczow), Obertin (Obertyn), Olyka, Ostrog, Pavlovka (Poryck), Pechenizhin (Peczenizynie), Peremyshlyany (Przmyslany), Podgaytsy (Podhajce), Pomortsy (Jazlowiec), Rava, Russkaya (Rawa-Ruska), Rogatin (Rohatyn), Rovno (Rowno), Rozdol, Sadgura (Sadagora), Sambor, Satanov (Satanow), Sokal, Skala, Podolskaya (Skala), Shargorod (Szarogrod), Shepetovka (Szepietowka), Shchurovichi (Szczurowice), Skalat, Skelivka (Felsztein), Skole, Smotrich (Smotrycz), Sokal, Stryy (Stryj), Terebovlya (Trembowla), Ternopol (Tarnopol, Tlumach (Tlumacz), Velikiye Mosty (Mosty-Wielkie), Vladimir Volynskiy (Wlodzimeirz Wolynski), Voynilov (Wojnilow), Yarmolnitsy (Jarmolince), Yavorov (Jaworow), Zaleshchiki (Zaleszczyski), Zamek, Zhidachiv (Zydaczow), Zolochev (Zolochow),

Vol. 1, No. 10 June 10, 2000

Family History Library Catalog on CD-ROM

If you have used the online version of the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library Catalog at and found it valuable, you will want the CD-ROM version whose presentation is identical to the Internet version. No need to wait for downloads. With the speed of your CD-ROM drive, you can browse the Locality Catalog. The cost is only $5.00 and shipping is free in the U.S. and Canada. It is a snapshot of the catalog as of March 2000. It is difficult to find how to order it on the Internet. The simplest path is to go to, click "Family History Resources" located on the left part of the screen. Then on the following page, click the "Search" tab in the upper right corner and search for "Library Catalog on CD." After adding the item to the shopping cart, click the "Shopping Cart" tab to close out the order. As a new customer, you must "Register."

"The Lost Wooden Synagogues of Eastern Europe"

An excellent video documentary has been created about the wooden synagogues that existed in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust. Nearly all were destroyed during the Holocaust-- some 1,000 structures. The video includes photos of many of the famous wooden synagogues of the past and file footage of Jewish life before the Holocaust (some of which I have not seen before). It also documents a trip to Lithuania to film the few (abandoned) remaining wooden synagogues there. In additional to being an interesting video to be included in a home video library, it is worth showing to genealogical and general Jewish interest groups. (The producers permit royalty-free group viewing for educational but not fund raising purposes.) Run time is 48 minutes. The narrator is Theodore Bikel (of course).

The cost is $29.95 (including shipping) and is available in English, Yiddish or Hebrew. It can be purchased from the producers:
Florida Atlantic University Libraries
PO Box 3092
Boca Raton, FL 33431
Phone: (561) 297-3760

Rabbi Malcolm H. Stern Elected to the NGS Hall of Fame

Rabbi Malcolm H. Stern has been elected to the National Genealogical Society Hall of Fame. He is only the fifteenth person so honored.

Rabbi Stern was loved and admired by genealogists within the Jewish and American genealogical community. His Jewish associates dubbed him the "Grandfather of Jewish-American Genealogy" by virtue of his landmark efforts in Jewish genealogy. He was one of the founders of the first contemporary Jewish genealogical society, the Jewish Genealogical Society, Inc., located in New York. He was the author of "First American Jewish Families," which documented more than 50,000 descendants of the earliest American Jewish families (1654-1838). He was the genealogist of the American Jewish Archives, at one time a congregational rabbi, and active in the Central Conference of American Rabbis. He was a past president of the Jewish Historical Society of New York.

In American genealogy, he founded the Genealogical Coordinating Committee to bring together the various national genealogical groups so they could coordinate their efforts. He established the NARA Gift Fund as a means for genealogists to raise money to microfilm documents at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration of interest to genealogists. His genealogy-related postnomials included FASG (Fellow, American Society of Genealogists), FNYGBS (Fellow, New York Genealogical and Biographical Society) and FNGS (Fellow, National Genealogical Society).

His election to the Hall of Fame follows a number of other ways Rabbi Stern has been recognized by the genealogical community. These include:
* Renaming the NARA Gift Fund to the Malcolm H. Stern NARA Gift Fund.
* Establishment of the Malcolm H. Stern Gift Fund by the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies which contributes money to organizations that promote Jewish genealogy.
* Establishment of the Malcolm H. Stern Humanitarian Award of the Federation of Genealogical Societies.
* Establishment of the Rabbi Malcolm H. Stern annual lecture by the Jewish Genealogical Society.

His papers have been donated to the American Jewish Archives
in Cincinnati.

Family Tree of the Jewish People Reaches Milestones

The Family Tree of the Jewish People, a collection of family trees submitted by Jewish genealogists throughout the world, now has more than 1 million entries (1,293,430 as of June 7) from more than 1,000 submitters (1,061). People who have not yet participated can submit GEDCOM files at In addition to being a tool for family historians, the database has been used to successfully locate heirs to Holocaust assets.

International Conferences for the Next Four Years

The annual International Conferences on Jewish Genealogy have been determined for the next four years.
2001 July 8-13, Intercontinental Hotel, London, England
2002 July, Detroit, Michigan
2003 Washington, D.C.
2004 Jerusalem, Israel

Additional Scanned Images (JPGs) of Life in Eastern Europe

Avotaynu has added another 165 JPGs of life in Eastern Europe to its collection at They are mostly for towns in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The added towns are:

Glebokie, Golshany (Holshany), Ivye (Iwie), Smorgon (Smorgonie), Vileyka (Wilejka)

Narva, Parnu, Talinn, Tartu (Dorpat), Viljandi, Terwa

Kurland, Auce, Baldone, Bene, Candau (Kandau), Daugavpils (Dwinsk/Dvinsk), Henliet, Jelgava (Mitawa/Mitau), Kraslava (Kraslaw), Liepaja (Libawa/Libau), Riga, Skriveri, Talsi (Talsen), Tukums (Tuckum), Valka (Walk)

Lithuanian Jewish Passport, Adutiskis (Hoduciszki), Alytus (Olita), Birstonas (Birsztany), Druskininkai (Druskieniki), Eisiskes (Ejszyszki), Jurbarkas (Jurburg), Kataucizna (Wladyslawowo), Kasiadorys (Koszedary), Kaunas (Kowno), Kadainai (Kiejdany), Kelme (Kielmy), Klaipeda (Klajpeda/Memel), Kybartai (Kybarty), Marijampole (Mariampol), Naujoji Vilnia (Wilejsk), Nemencine (Niemenczyn), Pabrade (Podbrodzie), Padubinge (Podubinka), Panevezys (Poniewicez), Preny, Radviliskis (Radziwiliszki), Raseinai (Rossienie), Rokiskis (Rakiszki), Salos (Soly), Saulenai (Szawlany), Siauliai (Szawle), Skaudvile, Sveksna (Swekszna), Svencionys (Swieciany), Taurage (Taurogi), Trakai (Troki), Ukmerge (Wilkomierz), Valkininkas (Olkieniki), Veliuona (Veliona), Velykiai (Wilejka), Vilkaviskis (Wylkowyszki), Vilnius (Wilno/Vilna), Virbalis (Wierzbolowo/Wirballen), Zarasai (Jeziorosy)

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