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.

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Vol. 5, No. 15 - August 29, 2004

Did Mr. Roth Have Red Hair?

One of the legends of Jewish surname acquisition in Eastern Europe at the beginning of the 19th century was that those men who acquired surnames that are colors may have received them as a result of some physical characteristic. Mr. Roth (red) may have had red hair. Mr. Weiss (white) was of fair complexion, and Mr. Schwartz (black) of dark complexion.

I am currently reading the introductory portion of Alexander Beider's new book, "A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Galicia," which Avotaynu will publish in a few months. Beider comments that these names were more likely artificial surnames having no relation to the bearers. He suggests this hypothesis because he observed that in regions where the above surnames appear, there are similar names derived from colors that could have no relation to the bearer. For example, in areas where Roth, Weiss and Schwartz appear, there also exists the surnames Grün (green) and Blau (blue). It is more likely that the official who was assigning names in Galicia arbitrarily gave names of colors to individuals.

Similarly, it has been suggested that compound Jewish surnames starting with Gold, Silber (silver), Perl (pearl) and Rubin (ruby) are occupational names. Beider observes that while it may be true for names whose entire meaning is occupational--Goldschmidt (goldsmith), Silberschmidt (silversmith) Perlhändler (dealer in pearls)--it was unlikely for true compound names like Goldblum, Silberstein and Perlberg. One reason Beider gives is that the widespread use of these surnames is far greater than the likely number of persons having the occupations in question. There weren't enough jewelers to cover all families that acquired these surnames!

Many Jewish compound surnames are identical to place names in German-speaking countries. Names like Goldenstein, Hirschberg, Langenau, Rosenau, Rothenbaum and Weinberg. Most of these towns are located in Austria and Bohemia. Generally, these surnames are not derived from these towns, but are usually artificial. One reason, Beider states, is because there is a lack of correlation between the areas where these surnames were adopted and those where the places are located. For example, the towns of Goldberg and Grünberg were both situated in Silesia. As a result, for Silesian-Jewish bearers of these names, the derivation from these place names could be valid. These surnames were, however, also adopted by numerous independent families in various parts of Galicia, Congress Poland and the Russian Pale of Settlement (Ukraine, Belorussia and Lithuania). In those locations it is improbable that their names were derived from distantly located towns. It is equally improbable there was a mass migration of Silesian Jews to these other areas. The second argument against the derivation of the surnames from town names is the existence in these same regions of many of compound surnames for which there is no corresponding place name. For example, along with the surnames Goldberg and Goldstein (both place names), one finds Goldbaum and Goldenzweig; in the area where the Jewish surnames Rosenberg and Rosenthal (both place names) appear are such surnames as Rosenstrauch and Rosenstrauss.

All this is described in much greater detail in the 100-page introductory portion of "A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Galicia." The book is far enough along in the editing process that it appears it will be about 620 pages and contains some 25,000 surnames.

Two New Functions at Stephen P. Morse Site

Stephen P. Morse has add two new functions at his site located at

You can now browse the New York ships' manifests from the pre-Ellis Island days, specifically pre-Castle Garden 1851-55; Castle Garden 1856-1889; and the Barge Office (1890-91). The images are located at; therefore, a paid subscription is required to access them. There is also an index to passengers at the site. The Morse feature is especially valuable if an immigrant cannot be found in the index but it is known on which ship the immigrant came.

Morse has also provided a means to find street-name changes for 66 U.S. cities. This is useful when doing census searches by address and the street that your ancestor lived on has had its name changed. For cities for which such tables already exist, the site gives a link to those websites. For other cities Morse created tables of name changes.

Yizkor Book Reproductions from National Yiddish Book Center

The National Yiddish Book Center has now made hundreds of yizkor (Holocaust memorial) books available for purchase. They are digital reproductions of the original books. The list can be viewed at Each cost $90 for members and $120 to non-members. Membership is only $36 per year.

The New York Public Library announced plans last Spring to put digitized images of its complete collection of yizkor books--more than 700 books--on the Internet. At that time they placed 9 of these books representing 12 towns at their site. To date, no additional yizkor books have been added. The portal to this collection is at

Clearance Sale

A valuable book in Jewish genealogical research is "Russian-Jewish Given Names: Their Origins and Variants" which Avotaynu published in 1998. It is based primarily on a book published in Russia in 1911 by Iser Kulisher. In czarist Russia, government officials had difficulty keeping track of Jews because they were unfamiliar with the variants of Jewish given names. They did not necessarily know that Mordka was a variant of Mordechai. This sometimes had disastrous consequences to the Jews themselves. Tracking down draft evaders, a Russian official would be looking for a Mordechai Schechter who was listed on a birth register as being born 18 years previously. When the family claimed the child died at age seven and produced a death certificate for a Mordka Schechter, the official was more inclined to believe the family was hiding the son and would institute criminal penalties against the family.

Consequently, Kulisher, himself a government official, published a list of Jewish given names and their variants. Boris Feldblyum of Maryland translated Kulisher's book, added additional material, and Avotaynu published the result under the name "Russian-Jewish Given Names." The book contains 6,000 given names.

Unfortunately we printed too many copies which are now sittiing in our warehouse. The book has retailed for $35.00. To get reduce the number of copies, we are now offering the book for only $12 plus shipping. This is a limited time offer; limited because we may run out of stock if enough people take advantage of this drastic reduction in price. Limited in that we may just liquidate the remaining copies to make room for newer Avotaynu offers.

Take advantage of this unusual price reduction now! You can order the book online at Or call our offices from the U.S. or Canada at 1-800-AVOTAYNU (286-8296). There is a Table of Contents at the site. Order now!!

Boy, Have They Got Our Number

In the "Missionary Training Manual: For Use in the Jewish Proselyting Program," the Mormon Church offers missionaries a glossary of 127 terms used by Jews to make the missionaries "more at ease among Jewish people." A full 18% of the terms are associated with food (23 entries)!

They are bagel, blintzes, borscht, challah, chicken schmaltz, gefilte fish, hallah, hamentaschen, haroseth, kasha, kashrut, kishka, knaydel, kreplach, kugel, latke, lox, matzo, matza farfel, nosher, parve, schmatz and trayf.

Almost a full page of the 30-page manual is used to describe the elements of the Passover holiday. After a brief introduction, there are nine paragraphs devoted to Passover foods.

Speaking of Food

No article is any edition of "Nu? What's New?" evoked as much response as my recounting of a trip to Sammy's Romanian Restaurant in the last issue of this e-zine. I received responses from readers about their personal experiences at Sammy's, their late mother's gefilte fish, egg creams and other nostalgia. One person even recounted working for the "Jewish Daily Forward" in his youth:

"Ah yes, the `Forward.' In my youth, I was the reporter for the Brooklyn Dodgers for the Forvitz. Of course, the Forvitz had no sports column, but their press pass kept me off the streets and in Ebbetts Field which, in those days, was sacred land. No, I never submitted an article, nor was I expected to."

FGS Conference in Austin, Texas

The annual Federation of Genealogical Societies conference will be held September 8-11 in Austin, Texas. Avotaynu will be exhibiting there and I will be lecturing, attending two Board of Directors meetings, and networking. If you live in the area, it might be worthwhile to attend for at least a day to visit the vendor exhibit area, attend lectures and network with the more than 1,000 genealogists who will attend the conference.

Vol. 5, No. 16 - September 12, 2004

Yad Vashem Plans to Launch Its Names Database on November 22

Yaacov Lozowick, archivist of Yad Vashem, has indicated the date for launching the public access to their Central Database of Holocaust Victims' Names will be November 22. Israeli prime minster Ariel Sharon is expected to participate in the event.

The database consists of an index to some four million digitized records that includes:

Austria (Dow)
Berlin (Gedenkbuch)
France (Klarsfeld deportation lists: 70,000 Jews deported from France primarily to Auschwitz)
Germany (Gedenkbuch: 128,000 German Jews murdered in the Holocaust)
Hungary (Nevek series of name lists)
Lodz Ghetto (Censuses of the ghetto)
Luxembourg (All victims)
Mauthausen (Jewish inmates)
Megilot - Memorial Lists (Small lists)
Netherlands (Oorlogsslachtoffers)
Pages Of Testimony Collection (3 million victims)
Slovakia (Deportations in 1942)
Theresienstadt Camp - Bohemia/Moravia
Thessaloniki (Deportations)
Yugoslavia (State register)

See Nu? What's New? Vol. 4, No. 13 - July 27, 2003 at for additional information about how the site will operate.

Ellis Island Site Adds New Search Functionality

It an attempt to improve their lacking search engine, the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation (SLEIF) has added some new features. The site is located at The site still does not come close to the capability that exists at the Stephen P. Morse site at You can now search:
first name starts with (used to be initial or entire first name only) or contains
ship name starts with (used to be exact match only) or contains
town name starts with (used to be exact match only) or contains

They also added an ability to search by year of birth and a range of years. However, according to Morse, "they don't have it working properly, and if you use it you get no results."

Further evidence of the weakness of the site is another feature to include Ethnicity as a limiting factor. You choose the initial character of the immigrant's ethnicity, and another pull down window requires you select the exact ethnicity. For example, when you select "J" for "Jewish", the other window gives you a choice between "Jamaican" and "Japanese." What happened to "Jewish"? Apparently SLEIF expects the public to know that Jews on the Ellis Island manifests are listed as "Hebrew." Similarly, try "H" if your ancestry is Hungarian, and you will be asked to select between Haitian, Hawaiian, Hebrew, Herzegovinian, Hindu and Hawaiian. That is because Hungarians are shown in the database as "Magyars."

There is one advantage to their improvements. Morse has already incorporated these new SLEIF features into what he calls his White form; the one that searches the entire database. Morse has had these features for three years on his Blue form; the one that is limited to searching for Jewish, I mean Hebrew, immigrants. The White form, since its inception, has had an Ethnicity search which allows you to choose the exact word as defined on the ship manifests. It is very valuable to eliminate false positives when you know the immigrant was a non-Jewish Hungarian, I mean Magyar. It will exclude all persons that do not have that ethnicity. Furthermore the Morse site allows you to select multiple ethnicities. If your ancestor came from Vilna, was he Hebrew, Polish, Russian or Lithuanian? At the SLEIF site, it will take four searches. At the Morse site, click the check box next to each ethnicity and get it done in one search.

The SLEIF site has also taken a step backwards. Previously you could select two phonetic variants from a list of 30 provided if an initial search was fruitless. Now their phonetic variant searches for only two variants. Enter Dr. Morse (and associates). His site provides both options. If you select the "sounds-like (few)" option, you get the new limited SLEIF option. If you select the "sounds-like (many)" option you get the old, search for 30 option.

The bottom line is stick with the Morse site when searching the Ellis Island database.

More Ellis Island Database Improvements

The Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation (SLEIF) has also pre-announced plans to have links at their site to the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) and Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), membership lists. Articles have appeared in both organizations magazines that the functionality is a fait accompli, but the features are not yet present at the SLEIF site.

FGS is the umbrella group of more than 550 genealogical societies throughout the U.S. and Canada. APG is an organization of more than 1,500 professional genealogists. SLEIF users will be encouraged to use the services of either of these organizations to further their research into their immigrant ancestry. For those "Nu? What's New?" readers who cannot wait for SLEIF to add the links to their site, a list of FGS members societies can be found at A list of APG members can be searched at

The Generic Dr. Morse

Visitors to the Stephen P. Morse site at should be aware that sometimes the efforts are done by a team of associates of Morse, not necessarily by Morse himself. When that occurs, he gives credit on the appropriate page. In the last issue of Nu? What's New? we noted a new feature that identifies street name changes in major U.S. cities. That work was actually done by a Morse associate, Joel Weintraub.

News from the FGS Conference

Last week I attended the annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies which was held in Austin, Texas. Here are some items of interest.

The genealogy portion of Betterway Books is now called Family Tree Books. They have published 35 books to date that cover a wide variety of topics of general interest to American genealogists. They are softcover and none have a list price of more than $30.00. A complete list can be found at I have examined only a few of the books on the list, but in every case they were of high quality. The list of authors includes many of the best professional genealogists in the U.S. The executive editor for the book series is Sharon DiBartolo Carmack, one of the best authors of genealogy books in the U.S. Do not order them from the publisher's site. Avotaynu discontinued selling these books because you can buy them at for at least a 30% discount.

A group called Archive CD Books located at is selling digital images of rare books that may be of value to genealogists. Located in the UK, their initial offerings focus on books from the UK, Canada and England. Typical are Western Australia Post Office Directory 1914, Canadian Gazetteer and Business Directory 1930 and London Post Office Directory 1934.

Very inexpensive genealogical family tree charts can be gotten from Generation Maps at They can be presented in a variety of ways and would make an excellent display at a family reunion. For those with huge family trees with members in the thousands, you can get up to 18 generations (names only) on their New Generation Map for only $24.95.

These conferences do not attract many Jewish genealogists which is unfortunate, because many of the lectures are about general methodology and are presented by top genealogical lecturers. The most common question asked at the Avotaynu exhibit booth was "Is the following surname Jewish"? Readers should be aware that Avotaynu has developed a Consolidated Jewish Surname Index that lists more than 500,000 surnames that were found in 34 different databases that contain mostly Jewish surnames. CJSI identifies for each surname in which databases the name was found. As noted at the site, the inclusion of a surname does not mean it is a Jewish surname for a number of reasons including intermarriage and the fact that Christians and Jews shared many surnames. The CJSI can be linked to from the Avotaynu home page at

1901 Canadian Census Being Indexed

A group of volunteers is currently indexing the 1901 Canadian census. They currently have more than 4 million entries completed. The site is located at Once you locate a person by using the surname index on that page, it is possible to display all the transcribed entries from the census page.

Australian Jewish Genealogical Society to Celebrate Its Bar Mitzvah

The Australian Jewish Genealogical Society (AJGS) will celebrate its bar mitzvah on Saturday, November 13 at the North Shore Synagogue in Lindfield. It was founded 13 years ago in Sydney. Appropriately the Torah portion for the day is "Toledot" (Generations). The "parsha" is taken from the first sentence in the Torah reading: "And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son."

AJGS is selling a CD that includes all back issues of its newsletter "The Kosher Koala," 40 issues from 1993-2003. Information about the CD, including prices, can be found at the society's site

Clearance Sale Continues

We are still offering the book Russian-Jewish Given Names: Their Origins and Variants for only $12. More than 150 people took advantage of this closeout sale which was published in the last issue of Nu? What's New? Effective October 1, the price will be raised to $19.95. Previously the book sold for $35.00.

Published in 1998, Russian-Jewish Given Names: Their Origins and Variants is based primarily on a book published in Russia in 1911 by Iser Kulisher. In czarist Russia, government officials had difficulty keeping track of Jews because they were unfamiliar with the variants of Jewish given names. They did not necessarily know that Mordka was a variant of Mordechai. This sometimes had disastrous consequences to the Jews themselves. Tracking down draft evaders, a Russian official would be looking for a Mordechai Schechter who was listed on a birth register as being born 18 years previously. When the family claimed the child died at age seven and produced a death certificate for a Mordka Schechter, the official was more inclined to believe the family was hiding the son and would institute criminal penalties against them.

Consequently, Kulisher, himself a government official, published a list of Jewish given names and their variants. Boris Feldblyum of Maryland translated Kulisher's book, added additional material, and Avotaynu published the result under the name Russian-Jewish Given Names. The book contains 6,000 given names.

The $19.95 price will remain until the final 250 copies are sold out. Take advantage of the $12.00 price now! You can order the book online at Or call our offices from the U.S. or Canada at 1-800-AVOTAYNU (286-8296). There is a Table of Contents at the site. Order now!!

Vol. 5, No. 17 - September 26, 2004

Nu? What's New? Has a New Look
With this edition of Nu? What's New we have switched from Plain Text format to HTML format. It provides a more modern look and will allow us to occasionally add illustrations to the e-zine.

Another new feature addresses the problem of subscribers not getting a specific issue due to spam filters. If an issue is sent to a subscriber and it is rejected, a separate e-mail notification will be sent to the subscriber.

Software for Placing Your Family History on the Internet
There is a creative software system to place your family history on the Internet developed by Darrin Lythgoe of Sandy, Utah. It is called The Next Generation. Information can be found at It produces very attractive web pages of your family history information in a variety of ways.

Lythgoe's own family history can be used as an illustration. Go to This is the Home Page of the family history site for Lythgoe and his wife. Search for any person with the given name "Darrin." This produces only one person, the author himself. Click on his name. This produces a Family Group Sheet for his family showing his wife and three children. It is not obvious, but no personal information, such as birth dates, is provided for living persons unless you Login, which you cannot do without a password.

Click the word "Pedigree" at the top of the Family Group Sheet and a four generation pedigree of Darrin Lythgoe is displayed. Photographs of living persons are not displayed. Touch the blue arrow below his grandfather, Leo Thomas Lythgoe, and vital information is provided about the person.

Click on the name of his grandfather, Leo Thomas Lythgoe. This brings you to the Family Group Sheet of the man. Click on the word "descendancy" at the top of that page and displayed is a chart of the man's descendants.

Click the back button on your browser to return to the Family Group Sheet. Now browse down the page to view many of the other features of the system. Note the ability to attach numerous photographs to an individual. If the photograph is of many persons, each person can be linked to the item. Note the ability to have histories and documents attached to an individual. Finally a Notes section can include biographical material.

The system provides for adding additional custom "Events." I plan to use it for e-mail addresses and possibly identify Holocaust victims and survivors.

Data fields that are not used do not appear on any display. Lythgoe is Mormon so his site shows many Mormon ordinances. Christian displays include Christening date. You can see what a Jewish genealogist has done with this system at Many other users' sites are featured at Browse them. Many have very attractive uses of the TNG system.

A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Galicia to the Printer Shortly
The next major work of Alexander Beider, A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Galicia will go to the printer shortly. The manuscript has been formatted for publication, and all that remains is incorporating the photographs of 30 prominent Galitzianers into the dictionary portion of the book. The book will be 624 pages, hard cover with dust jacket. The cost is $85.00 plus shipping and handling.

The work identifies more than 35,000 surnames used by Jews in Galicia. It provides the etymology (the origin of the surname), the districts in Galicia in which the name appeared, and variants of the name. The 100-page introductory portion of the book follows Dr. Beider's scholarly style in analyzing the origin and evolution of Jewish surnames from that region. This includes a history of Jewish names in Galicia, basic etymological analysis, spelling and variation of surnames and analysis of surnames in various provinces of eastern Europe. An extensive bibliography is provided.

For subscribers to our journal AVOTAYNU only, there is a pre-publication price of only $75.00. This offer will last until October 15, 2004. Thereafter, AVOTAYNU subscribers will pay $85.00.

Additional information about the book including a Table of Contents and a complete list of the 35,000 surnames can be found at

Previous works of Dr. Beider, all published by Avotaynu include:
A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire
A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland
A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names
Ancient Ashkenazic Surnames: Jewish Surnames from Prague Information about these books can be found at

National Archives of Canada Adds Online Collections
The National Archives of Canada has added to the Internet digitized images and indexes to some of its collections. Called ArchiviaNet, the site is located at

There is a large list of the contents of the site. I browsed just a few of genealogical value including:

1901 Census of Canada. All images are online but you cannot search by surname, only geographic location. From the 1871 census (Ontario only) you can search a head-of-household index by name.

Index to Immigration records 1925-1935. The National Archives of Canada holds immigration records from 1865 to 1935. The names of immigrants arriving from overseas are recorded in passenger lists. Those arriving from or via the United States are recorded in border entry lists. A series of old nominal indexes exists for the 1925 to 1935 records and can be searched at the site.

Soldiers of the First World War (1914-1918). Over 600,000 Canadians enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) during the First World War (1914-1918). The CEF database is an index to those personnel files, which are held by the National Archives. To date, over 800,000 images of Attestation papers have been scanned and are available online.

Photographs. The National Archives of Canada has more than 22 million photographs in its collection. Using keywords, you can search their photographic archives of 400,000 items. Numerous hits were found with keywords "Jewish" and "Jews." Only 10,000 pictures are online. Others can be ordered from the Archives.

Other items include index to military court martials during World War I; Home Children–more than 100,000 children sent from England to Canada during a child emigration movement (1869-1930); index to soldiers of the South African War (1899-1902); index to persons receiving western land grants (1870-1930).

Another Stephen P. Morse Function
Steve Morse has reminded me of another function at his Internet site that was not mentioned in previous editions of Nu? What's New? He has a link to the list of "Israel's Fallen"; those men and women who have died in the defense of Israel. The Morse sight allows you to key in the name in Roman characters and converts them to Hebrew characters. You then paste the Hebrew equivalent into a search engine that links to the Israeli site. The system works similar to Morse's link to the online Israeli telephone book.

The "List of the Fallen" may include biographical information about the person added by family members or friends. For example, Michael Mokotow, a professor at Hebrew University, who was a tank commander in the Yom Kippur War and killed in action, has an extensive biography.

The Morse site is at

Postcard Images of Interwar Poland on Internet
Tomasz Wisniewski of Bialystok has placed more than 1,000 images of postcards in his vast collection on the Internet. Most date from the early part of the 20th century. The images can be seen at At the site click on one of the flags at the top of the page to get a version in your native language, which can be Belarussian, English, Esperanto, French, German, Hebrew, Lithuanian, Polish, Russian and Ukrainian. After selecting a particular language, links at the right of the screen divide the collection into western provinces, eastern provinces and national minorities. In the province sections, the list is further subdivided alphabetically by town name.

Wisniewski is a journalist/photographer who provides tours and genealogical services in the Bialystok region. Information about his services can be found at

A portion of the postcard images, many of Jewish life in Eastern Europe, can be purchased as JPEGs through Avotaynu at

Search Engine for "Nu? What's New?" Archives
We have produced more than 100 issues of "Nu? What's New? since its debut in February 2000. Since its inception, all back issues have been placed in an archives at We have just added a Goggle search engine to the archives to permit readers to locate possible back editions that contain information of value.

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