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 http://www.avotaynu.com/nuwhatsnew.htm
Vol. 1, No. 11 June 25, 2000
Avotaynu Offices Closed for International Seminar
Avotaynu's offices will be closed from July 5-16. We will be attending the 20th International Seminar on Jewish
Genealogy. No e-mail will be answered during this period. Our offices will reopen Monday, July 17. The next addition
of Nu? What's New will be published on July 16.
The Next Step in Linking Family Trees
They say that some day all the software we will ever use will be on the Internet rather than in our PCs. This philosophy
has just become a reality for the genealogical community. Two months ago, a fellow named Alan Eaton came into Avotaynu's
offices to describe a genealogy project he hoped to launch shortly. The project, in our opinion, is the next step--possibly
the ultimate step--in placing family trees on the Internet. Current online databases collect family trees but make
no attempt to link them. Eaton's plan is to link all the family trees they receive to create One Great Family (OGF).
Individuals will maintain their own trees, but when a common link is found either by submitters or planned tree-matching
programs of OGF, the submitters can collaborate and reduce all the information to a single record containing all
that is known about the matched individual. If there is contrary evidence, all information can be retained by the
collaborators. The theoretical goal of OGF is to have a single family tree that includes every person who has ever
The system was announced at the recently held National Genealogical Society convention in Providence, Rhode Island.
It is still in Beta test but plans call for it to be available to all interested parties at the end of July. There
will be two services, one free and the other for a membership price of $74.95 per year (first year 50% discount).
The company has not defined the difference between the two services as of yet.
A good description of One Great Family is at their site: http://www.OneGreatFamily.com/
More Information on
Family History Library Catalog
Shortly after publishing the last edition of Nu? What's New? I received e-mail from Judy Zack who noted
that the CD-ROM version of the Family History Library Catalog is superior to the online version and, in fact, is
more like the so-called WebView version that is currently available only in the Family History Library (FHL) in
Salt Lake City.
The principal advantage of the CD/WebView version is that it has a keyword search. This search engine will locate
any occurrence of the keyword(s) in any part of the catalog. For example, the FHL has records of displaced persons
that would be difficult to locate using the Locality catalog. Using the keywords "displaced persons",
the CD search engine identified 11 items in FHL collection associated with displaced persons after World War II.
Using keywords, I was able to determine the size of various collections at the Library.
Poland Jewish 747
Ukraine Jewish 54
Romania Jewish 25
Jewish Holocaust 59
Displaced persons 11
Note that these are the number of collections. Each collection may consist of more than one microfilm or fiche.
For example, it is known that the Library has more than 2,000 microfilms of Polish-Jewish vital records in addition
to other Polish-Jewish items.
I received a number of e-mails from people noting that, as well as ordering the CD online, you can order it from
the FHL Distribution Center by calling 800-537-5971, or from outside the U.S., 801-240-1126. Cost, including shipping
in the U.S. and Canada, is $5.00.
FHL Now Has Finding Aids for Jewish Records
For the past year, Nancy Goodstein, a Mormon missionary volunteering at the Family History Library, has been working
on a project to identify all Jewish collections at the Library. Her efforts are now available in loose-leaf binders
located in the Library. She reports the binders are located on the following floors of the Library:
United States Jewish Records. The binders are organized by State and a general section for United States with an
index. (Copies on Floors 1 and 2)
Canada Jewish Records with a special section on Jewish Canadian Census records (Floors 1 and 2)
Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand Jewish Records (Floor B-2)
International Jewish Records A-L and M-Y with indexes for some of the records such as Austria, France, Europe,
Netherlands, Ukraine, Belarus. It is organized by country. There are separate binders for Germany, Poland and Hungary
with indexes. (Floor B-1)
Jewish Records by Topic (Floors 1, 2 and B-1) The topics are: Dictionaries, Emigration and Immigration, Encyclopedias,
Holocaust, Inquisition, Memorial or Yizkor Books, Military, and Names.
The binders have been updated through June 1, 2000.
MyFamily.com Acquires RootsWeb
The largest for-profit Internet-oriented genealogy company, MyFamily.com, Inc., has acquired the largest for-free
Internet-oriented genealogy company, RootsWeb. The combined operation enjoys a staggering quarter-billion page
views per month.
RootsWeb is the classical for-free genealogy site, operated in a manner comparable to JewishGen. RootsWeb supports
some 18,000 mailing lists and 12,000 Web sites. It has two e-zines, each with some 400,000 subscribers. All this
is accomplished with income primarily from contributions by users. The advantage of the acquisition to RootsWeb
is it now will have the financial backing necessary to make it grow. The acquisition will not affect how RootsWeb
operates. It will continue to use its URL http://www.rootsweb.com, and all
data at the site will continue to be free.
MyFamily.com consists of three other properties: Ancestry.com, MyFamily.com and Family History.com. The advantage
of the acquisition to this company is the additional exposure of its commercial ventures to the genealogical community.
Currently more than 600 million records and 2,500 databases are online at Ancestry.com, with over half of the data
freely accessible to all Internet users. Ancestry.com has shown its generosity to the genealogical community with
a number of cash ontributions to major organizations. It is also a partner in LivingHeirs.com, a venture that tries
to assist heirs to Holocaust assets settle their claims.
The acquisition of RootsWeb has raised some eyebrows in the genealogical community with fears that MyFamily.com
is rapidly becoming the Microsoft of genealogy.
Some Interesting Internet Sites
http://litvakai.mch.mii.lt/index.en.htm. The home page of
the Jewish community of Lithuania. Much general information about the history of the Jews of this country past
http://www.jewishwomenexhibit.org/. An excellent exhibit by the
Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest focusing on Jewish women in the upper Midwest around the turn of
the century. Very well done. Worth a look. The Home Page picture is of the Feinstein family of Zeeland, North Dakota,
around 1890. Mama is holding a guitar, son is showing off his rifle, and papa is absent, no doubt plowing the lower
_key=Mosaic&servers=2PHOTOS&guest=guest&screen=mosaic.htm. [Now a broken link]
Some 650 photographs of Florida Jewry of the past. Unfortunately the pictures can only be displayed using a search
engine. If you wish to display the entire collection, use the keywords "MOSAIC Collection." Using the
keywords "MOSAIC Collection AND Hadassah" will display pictures of the women's organization, Hadassah
(and, I suppose, pictures of any woman whose given name is Hadassah).
Vol. 1, No. 12 - July 16, 2000
Avotaynu Publishes Well-Known Book by Simon M. Dubnow
One of the great histories of the Jews of Eastern Europe is Simon Dubnow's History of the Jews in Russia and
Poland. I own a copy of the three-volume work which was published in 1915. Avotaynu, concluding it was an important
enough book for intermediate and advanced Jewish genealogists, has republished it as a single 600-page volume.
Dubnow was considered one of the greatest Jewish historians of the 20th century, and History of the Jews in
Russia and Poland was one of his most important works. It details the history of the Jews of Eastern Europe
from their earliest presence in Greek times to about 1910. Discussed are the Khazars, the Crusades, the rise or
Polish Jewry under the early kings of Poland, the Cossack rebellion of 1648, the rise of Hasidism, the false Messiahs,
the creation of the Pale of Settlement, Jewish life under the laws created by the czars, and the pogroms.
The Table of Contents can be viewed at http://www.avotaynu.com/dubnow.htm.
Cost is $69.50 plus shipping and the book can be ordered online at the site.
20th International Seminar on Jewish Genealogy
The 20th International Seminar on Jewish Genealogy held in Salt Lake City from July 9-14 is now history. More than
600 people attended the conference. The best of the more than 70 lectures will appear in future issues of AVOTAYNU.
You can subscribe to AVOTAYNU at http://www.avotaynu.com/journal.htm.
One of the more fascinating lectures was by Dr. Michael Hammer of the University of Arizona on how he has used
DNA testing to confirm or deny theories about the history of the Jews. Among his conclusions are:
* Jews have the same genetic makeup as other Semitic groups, debunking the theory that modern-day Jews are not
descended from biblical Jews.
* Jews are not descended from the Khazars.
* Ethiopian Jews are likely descended from Africans that converted to Judaism not from biblical Jews.
* Confirmation that the Lemba tribe of South Africa is a blend of Africans and Jews.
DNA testing will become a regular part of genealogical documentation where records cannot be found to prove kinship.
(See Vol. 1, No. 9 of Nu? What's New? for more about DNA application to genealogy.)
JewishGen and Yad Vashem Agree to Develop Databases
In yet another instance of Jewish genealogy partnering with major institutions to develop databases of mutual interest,
JewishGen has signed an agreement with Yad Vashem to develop databases of Holocaust victims and survivors. These
databases will be created by JewishGen volunteers from data that exists at Yad Vashem. The results will be placed
on the JewishGen and Yad Vashem Internet sites.
Yad Vashem has more than 10,000 lists of names of individuals caught up the Holocaust representing tens of millions
of entries. Examples are:
* Inquiries from people trying to locate relatives - 650,000 names
* Deportation lists from Slovakia - 23,000 names
* Surviving Jews in Yugoslavia - 9,500 names
* Inhabitants of Brest - 6,500 names
Building Your Own Family Web Site Can Be Easy
More and more genealogists are using the Internet to publish their family histories. One site that offers genealogists
a full-function capability is MyFamily.com...and it is free.
At MyFamily.com you can have an online family album that displays all the photos you have scanned, an online family
tree (import it from your genealogical database using GEDCOM), an e-mail mailing list for the family, an address
book to keep track of all family members, and even a Chat facility.
It is valuable that the family trees are a database rather than HTML code. This means that Internet search engines
cannot index the family trees, contributing to the privacy of the people identified. It is easy to set up too.
Link to their site at [broken link]. This service no longer offered for free.
Large-sized Family Tree Charts
An important part of a family reunion is the display of the family tree. Genealogical software programs provide
an awkward presentation because of the limitation of standard-sized paper. The tree is produced as a long strip
of paper with the pages held together by tape. There is a solution. A number of companies will produce from GEDCOM
files over-sized family tree charts for a nominal cost.
Genealogy Print, at [broken link. The company may no longer be in business] can create a family tree of up to 3'x15'
for only $80. Smaller sizes have lower costs. Limitations are that there can be no more than 150 people in a given
generation and no more than 15 generations. Misbach Enterprises at http://misbach.org
can produces pedigree, fan and descendant charts to a maximum size of 3'x4' for $30. They do not indicate the maximum
number of people that can appear on the chart.
Family History Library Forms Useful to Jewish Genealogists
The LDS (Mormon) Family History Library has for years printed aids to genealogical research not well known except
to those who have gone to Salt Lake City to do research. They are now available free on the Internet. Go to http://www.familysearch.org/sg and click the button that says "How-To
Guides." It will display a brief description of each guide. Click a guide of interest and the full text is
displayed and can be printed.
Letter-writing guides for Czech, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Slovak, and Spanish.
Genealogical word lists for Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Latin, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese,
Spanish, and Swedish.
Research outlines for every state of the United States, every province of Canada, Australia, Canada, Denmark, England,
Finland , France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latin America, Norway, Philippines, Scotland, and Sweden.
Other topics include Tracing Your Immigrant Ancestor and Hamburg Emigration Lists.
Vol. 1, No. 13 - July 30, 2000
U.S. Census Records (1790-1920) To Be Available on Internet
The era of online access to primary records will begin in October when Heritage Quest makes available on the Internet
all records of the U.S. censuses from 1790-1920, some 12,500 rolls of microfilm--10 million pages of records. Researchers
will then be able to search the actual census records from the comfort of their homes. An important feature of
the online documents is that the images have been enhanced to improve their readability. A "sticky note"
feature will allow users to post additional information with each record, including items such as research notes
and known errors in the record.
The Internet site iis http://www.genealogydatabase.com. Fees for
using the site have not been announced. [This project was subsequently cancelled.]
The trend to make original records available online will be growing in the next few years. Ancestry.com states
they, too, will have images of records on the Internet shortly, specifically American Civil War pension records
and, in competition with Heritage Quest, all the U.S. censuses noted above. Information can be found at http://www.ancestry.com/
Historical Maps on the Internet
While surfing the Internet looking for historical maps of Europe to be used in forthcoming books by Avotaynu, I
came across two interesting sites. The University of Texas has one of the most complete collections of historical
maps on the Internet at http://www.lib.utexas.edu/Libs/PCL/Map_collection/Map_collection.html.
We first identified this site in the Winter 1996 issue of Avotaynu. There are hundreds of maps as well as links
to other sites that have maps. You could spend hours looking at the various maps.
Another interesting site is Centennia Historical Atlas, a CD-ROM that depicts an animated map of Europe and the
Middle East from the 11th century to the present. Pick any year during the 1000-year period, and the software will
show you a map of the area for that year. There is a downloadable demonstration version that shows Europe from
1792 to 1819. The Internet address is http://www.clockwk.com.
Conference Syllabus For Sale
Avotaynu has bought the remaining copies of Jewish Genealogy Yearbook 2000. They can be purchased for $31
plus shipping. There are only about 70 copies left.
The book features:
* Summaries of most of the lectures given at the seminar
* 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
* 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.
* Contact and activity information on more than 100 JGSs and SIGs, Avotaynu, JewishGen, IAJGS, and the Douglas
Goldman Jewish Genealogy Center at Beth Hatefutsoth.
Also available, for $6.00 plus shipping, is Making the Most of Your Research Trip to Salt Lake City, a 36-page
booklet that includes the "Family History User Guide" noted above plus additional pages about getting
around in Salt Lake City including restaurants, sightseeing, tips on planning your research trip, etc.
[This offer is no longer available]
JewishGen Continues to Grow
Susan King, president of JewishGen, Inc., reported to people attending the 20th International Seminar on Jewish
Genealogy the following current statistics about the Internet "Home of Jewish Genealogy":
3 million hits per month
1 million page views per month
7,300 users sessions per day
400,000 searches of the 67 databases
18 minutes is the average time of a visit
1,000 trees in the Family Tree of the Jewish People 1.5 million people in the Family Tree of the Jewish People
36,000 researchers in the JewishGen Family Finder
1,169 towns of ancestry have Web sites on ShtetlLinks
1,619 financial contributors to JewishGen
All of these numbers are impressive except the last. Despite the fact that it is obvious that thousands of people
use JewishGen regularly, its growth is being hampered because of the financial constraints of not enough contributors.
If you use JewishGen more than four times a month or subscribe to one of the Discussion Groups under its umbrella,
and you have not contributed money to make JewishGen grow, consider making a $25 contribution. It is easy to do
by credit card at
There are now more than 3,600 readers of Nu? What's New? If just 400 readers contributed $25 each, it would
give JewishGen $10,000 to expand their services to the Jewish genealogical community.
Annual Jewish Genealogy Trip to Salt Lake City
For the eighth consecutive year, veteran professional genealogist, Eileen Polakoff, and I will be offering a research
trip to the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library in Salt Lake City from October 26-November 2, 2000. To date, more
than 250 Jewish genealogists from the U.S., Canada and Europe have taken advantage of this program.
The program offers genealogists the opportunity to spend an entire week of research at the Library under the guidance
and assistance of professional genealogists who have made more than two dozen trips to Salt Lake City. It includes
a specially arranged three-hour class on day of arrival introducing the participants to the facilities and resources
of the Family History Library, a mid-week informal group discussion of progress and problem-solving,and access
to trip leaders from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Library for on-site assistance and personal consultations. For
those new to genealogy, a beginners workshop on the first morning of the trip introduces them to the wonderful
world of Hamburg immigration lists, U.S. passenger arrival lists, naturalization records and census records. Additional
information is available at http://www.avotaynu.com/slctrip.htm.
Jan Karsky Dies
Jan Karsky, the man who tried to stop the Holocaust, died on July 13 in Washington at the age of 86. Karsky was
a courier for the Polish underground during World War II and personally witnessed the Holocaust when he was smuggled
into the Warsaw ghetto and then into the town of Izbica Lubelska. He tried to get an interview with Winston Churchill
but instead met with British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden. He could not convince Eden of the seriousness of the
events in Poland. Karski then received an audience with U.S. president Franklin Delano Roosevelt but could not
convince him either of the implications of the mass slaughter of Jews. A documentary about Karski's Holocaust exploits
appears on television from time to time.
Karski came to the United States after World War II; at the time of his death he was a professor at Georgetown
University in Washington where he received a PhD in 1952. He received numerous awards for his efforts and was declared
a "Righteous Gentile Among the Nations" by Yad Vashem.
I met Karski in New York in 1997 when he was promoting his biography Karski: How One Man Tried to Stop the Holocaust.
He always impressed me as a man who wore a permanently pained look on his face as if he felt the entire burden
of the Holocaust was on his shoulders because of his inability to convince either the British or U.S. governments
to stop the systematic murder of Jews.
Inventory of Lithuania Vital Records at Avotaynu Site
The LDS (Mormon) Family History Library has recently acquired Jewish vital records for 67 towns in Lithuania. A
complete inventory of the acquisition can be found at the Avotaynu site http://www.avotaynu.com/lithuanialist.htm.
Passenger Arrival Records for Canada
Did your ancestors come to North America through Canadian ports? The passenger arrival records are available at
the National Archives of Canada. Unfortunately, with the exception of the period 1925-1935, all are unindexed;
therefore, you must know the exact date of arrival. A complete description of the collection can be found at http://www.archives.ca/02/02020204_e.html
The 1925-1935 index is located at http://www.archives.ca/02/02011802_e.html
Polish State Archives Liberalizes Their Access Policy
As of 3 July 2000, it is no longer necessary to get permission from the State Archives in Warsaw to visit a regional
archives. The new policy is outlined at [broken link] .
21st International Seminar on Jewish Genealogy Internet Site
The 21st International Seminar on Jewish Genealogy, scheduled to be held July 8-13, 2001 in London, has established
an Internet site at [broken link]. Currently there is limited information, but their attractive conference logo,
which integrates the Jewish star with an image of Tower Bridge, is a good start.
Vol. 1, No. 14 - August 13, 2000
The Origins of Eastern European Jewry
The Summer issue of AVOTAYNU will go to the printer early this week, delayed by Avotaynu's participation in the
20th International Seminar on Jewish Genealogy. To me, the most fascinating article in this issue is the one by
Alexander Beider titled "The Influence of Migrants from Czech Lands on Jewish Communities in Central and Eastern
Europe." In the article Beider demonstrates that the earliest Jews of eastern Germany and Poland were not
German Jews (from the Rhineland) but Slavic Jews from Bohemia and Moravia.
Beider analyzed the given names (Jews did not have hereditary surnames at that time) of the first Jews to populate
the eastern part of today's Germany in the 11th-13th centuries. He first rejected all Biblical given names (an
Abraham could come from anywhere) and then discovered these Jews had Slavic, not Germanic, given names. Similarly,
the earliest Jews of Poland and Silesia also had Slavic given names.
Now that this discovery is at hand, Beider's conclusions are understandable. For the Rhineland Jews to have been
the progenitors of eastern German and Polish Jews, a map of Europe shows they would have had to travel over mountain
ranges to reach eastern lands. All the Bohemian/Moravian Jews had to do was to travel down the Elbe River, which,
Beider contends, is what they did.
Then how did all of Central and Eastern Europe come under the influence of the Rhineland Jews who brought their
vernacular language, Yiddish, with them? Beider has an explanation for this too, by analyzing the given names unique
to Rhineland Jews. They first travelled up the Rhine River into Baden/Wuerttemberg, then, in the 12th-14th centuries
moved east to Bavaria, Bohemia and Moravia, and then north and northeast to eastern Germany and Poland. But this
occurred well after the Slavic Jews had migrated into these areas.
The whole concept is described in an eight-page article in the Summer issue of AVOTAYNU and in greater detail in
Chapter 5 of his book which was originally going to be titled A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names. In
light of Beider's discovery and the fact a significant portion of the book discusses this early period in European
Jewish history, it has been tentatively renamed Ashkenazic Jews: Their Names and Their History. It will
be published in the first half of 2001. Includes will be a dictionary of Ashkenazic given names.
Hamburg Emigration Index Grows
Avotaynu has been informed that by the end of August the Hamburg City Archives plans to include data for the year
1894 at its online index of passengers who emigrated from the port of Hamburg. The database has grown to some 450,000
emigrants. The URL is http://www.hamburg.de/fhh/behoerden/staatsarchiv/link_to_your_roots/english/index.htm.
It currently includes the years 1891-1893.
E-zine for Polish Genealogy Started
There is now an e-zine for Polish genealogy published by PolishRoots.org. The quarterly is called GenDobry
and the editor is William F. "Fred" Hoffman who is very active in Polish-American genealogy. The first
issue can be found at http://polishroots.org/gendobry/gendobry_index.htm.
GenDobry is a play on words; "dzien dobry" is the Polish way of saying "hello." For
those of you with Polish ancestry, you may find the PolishRoots site at http://polishroots.org
of general interest. It is a very well-organized site with sub-topics such as Geography, History, Immigration/Ships,
Databases and others. Many of these pages have applicability to Jewish genealogy.
Jewish Burial Registry Started at JewishGen Site
JewishGen and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) have joined forces to create
an Online Worldwide Burial Registry (OWBR), a searchable database of Jewish burial records the world over. The
project links two databases: a database of burial records and the database of information on cemeteries worldwide
that had been an integral part of the former IAJGS Cemetery Project. The project also plans to include photos of
To help accumulate burial data, the project is initiating an "Adopt a Cemetery Plot" program to encourage
Special Interest Groups, local Jewish genealogy societies, synagogue youth groups, Jewish Federations, and other
interested parties to adopt a cemetery or a landsmanschaft plot and index its records for submission to this project.
The appearance of the database will be similar to that of the Bristol Cemeteries database at http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/bristol.htm
More JPEGs of Towns in Eastern Europe
Avotaynu has have added another 250 pictures of more than 100 towns in Poland to our collection located at http://www.avotaynu.com/postcards.
Previous images were provided for towns in Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukraine. Included are a large
number of pictures of major cities in Poland including Warsaw (22), Lublin (20), Lodz (30) and Bialystok (50).
The Polish towns are: Bialystok, Biecz, Biezun, Blazowa, Chelm, Chorzow, Czarnkow, Czestochowa, Czudec, Dabrowa
Tarnowksa, Deblin, Dzialoszyce, Elk, Frysztak, Gabin, Gdansk, Glogow, Glubczyce, Gorlice, Grodzisk, Hrubieszow,
Inowlodz, Inowroclaw, Janowiec, Jarolslaw, Jaslo, Jedrzejow, Jordanow, Kalisz, Kaluszyn, Katowice, Kazimierz Dolny,
Kielce, Kolbuszow, Kolo, Konin, Konskie,
Koronowo, Krasnik, Krasnystaw, Krzeszow, Kurow, Kutno, Lanckorona, Lancut, Lask, Leczyca, Lesko, Leszno, Lezajsk,
Lodz, Lowicz, Lubaczow, Lubartow, Lublin, Lutomiersk, Miedzyrzec Podlaski, Mielnica, Mlawa, Mszana Dolna, Myslenice,
Nasielsk, Noworadomsk, Nowy-Targ, Opatow, Opole, Ostroleka, Ostrow Wielkopolskia, Ostrowiec, Oswiecim, Otwock,
Ozorkow, Pabianice, Palestine, Parzeczew, Pilica, Pinczow, Piotrkow Trybunalski, Plock, Plonsk, Poddebice, Poznan,
Pruchnik, Przedborz, Przemysl, Przeworsk, Przysucha, Pulawy, Rabka, Radom, Rejowiec, Ropczyce, Rozan, Rozniatow,
Rozwadow, Rudnik, Rybnik, Rypin, Rzeszow, Sandomierz, Siedlce, Sieradz, Skalmierzyce Nowe, Skierniewice, Skoczow,
Sobow, Sochaczew, Sopot, Strzyzow, Szczakowa, Szydlow, Tarnobrzeg, Tarnow, Tomaszow Lubelski, Tomaszow Mazowiecki,
Turek, Wadowice, Warsaw, Warta, Wieniawa, Witkowo, Wloclawek, Wodzislaw, Wolbrom, Wroclaw, Zamosc, and Zgierz.
English Version of Belarus State Archives Inventory Now Available
It has been noted on the Belarus Discussion Group that the Belarus State Archives has added a full English translation
of their site. We previously noted this site in Vol. 1, No. 7. The catalog of vital records (no Jewish records
listed yet) and revision lists can now be viewed in their own English translation. The URL is: http://www.president.gov.by/gosarchives/eindex.htm
Genealogy Computing Magazine
Those of you who like to be in on the cutting edge of the use of computers for genealogy ought to subscribe to
Genealogy Computing magazine. This publication has been around for many years but it used to focus on computer
technology. Liz Kerstens, the new editor, has changed the publication to focus more on computer applications for
genealogy. Ancestry.com, the publisher, is
currently discounting the magazine at http://shop.myfamily.com/ancestrycatalog/shop_main.asp
by bundling it with Ancestry Magazine, both for $24.95 a year. The offer is good until August 17. Genealogy Computing
is a quarterly, Ancestry is bi-monthly.
Human Interest Stories Wanted for Winter Issue of Avotaynu
As usual, AVOTAYNU will devote its Winter issue to Jewish genealogy human interest stories. Stories may be about
any aspect of the field--one that illustrates an unusual research approach, the report of some rare find, or just
a good tale. For ideas, consult past issues. Deadline for submission is October 1, 2000. Articles may be submitted
by e-mail to <firstname.lastname@example.org>; on disk to Avotaynu,
155 North Washington Ave., Bergenfield, NJ 07621; by fax: (201) 387-2855, or by post. If sent by fax or post, please
double space. Wherever possible, illustrations should accompany the article. We cannot return manuscripts, but
illustrations will be returned if accompanied by a stamped envelope (or postal coupons).
Vol. 1, No. 15 - August 27, 2000
Bill Gates Take Note
If there is any question as to whether a competitive environment is good for the consumer, just look at events
in the commercial aspect of genealogy that have transpired in the past few years. When the genealogy software program
Ultimate Family Tree was under the control of a company called Palladium, they set their sights on surpassing Family
Tree Maker as the leading genealogical software program. During the competition, both parties were running out
of precious metals as they produced Silver, then Gold, then Platinum versions of their packages. One consequence
of the battle was that prices were driven to rock bottom. There was a time that you could get the "basic"
version of UFT for only $19.95. This basic version included the full capability of UFT but only lacked the CD databases
that now come with genealogy software. Palladium was eventually bought by the parent company of Family Tree Maker
and despite the claims that UFT would continue as a competitor of FTM, on the day of the announcement I predicted
the death of UFT. Its demise was officially announced a few months ago.
Now a new battle is to be joined. Two giants of the presence of commercial genealogy on the Internet are about
to lock horns over a valuable set of records: the U.S. censuses from 1790 to 1920. Both Ancestry.com and HeritageQuest/Sierra
(under the name Genealogydatabase.com) have simultaneously announced they will have digitized images of every record
from the U.S. Federal Census between the years 1790 and 1920 for a fee.
In this horse race, Genealogydatabase.com is in the lead claiming they will have _all_ of the census records on
line this fall. Ancestry.com, in the common commercial technique of preannouncing a product, implies they will
have _some_ of the records available this fall with the balance to follow. Being first is not necessarily best.
It may mean that Genealogydatabase.com will have to announce the cost of the service first (currently a well-kept
secret). This will give Ancestry.com the ability to announce their service at a lower price.
This will no doubt be followed by Silver, Gold and Platinum variants of the service; probably tie-ins with other
You can preview the ability to look at actual census pages at the Ancestry.com site http://www.ancestry.com/home/celebrate/census.htm.
Try out the example of the 1900 census. With the correct Plug-In you can zoom in and out on the record and, if
the window is showing only a portion of the page, you can shift the portion of the page appearing on the screen
(called "panning"). Genealogy.com has no such sample at its web site which is located at http://www.genealogydatabase.com.
Summer 2000 Issue of AVOTAYNU
The summer issue of AVOTAYNU will be in the mail this week. The theme of the issue is records access versus privacy.
Four persons present essays on their views on this controversy. In the lead article Edward Luft of Washington,
DC, argues that access to all government records, that is, freedom of information, is necessary in a democratic
society. In the next article, Michael Swift, formerly an archivist with the National Archives of Canada, discusses
the controversy raging in Canada about access to 20th-century and future census records. Arthur Kurzweil then argues
that the needs of genealogists should not be treated as low priority by archivists and librarians. Finally, Anne
Lifshitz-Krams of France discusses the ethics of making public all family tree information.
Some of the best lectures of the recent 20th International Seminar on Jewish Genealogy are included in the issue.
Wayne Metcalf, Director of the Field Services and Support Division for the Family and Church History Department
of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, discusses the priorities of the acquisition program of the
Genealogical Society of Utah. Marian Smith, Historian for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service divulges
a proposal to improve service for genealogists at INS through a fee-for-service program. For those whose ancestry
was the Russian Empire, Vladislav Soshnikov discusses Jewish genealogical research in the Imperial Russian Empire
and Harry Boonin discuss the value of Russian Voter Registration Lists. Angelika G. Ellmann-Krueger provides a
list of resources for German name adoptions. Also included in the issue is Alexander Beider's article on the Czech
influence on the origins of Ashkenazic Jewry described in the last edition of Nu? What's New?.
If you do not receive AVOTAYNU, you can subscribe online at http://www.avotaynu.com/journal.htm.
Index to Family History Library
Jewish Records To Be Available Online
At the recent 20th International Seminar on Jewish Genealogy, the LDS (Mormon) Family History Department presented
the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies a CD containing an index to all known Jewish holdings
of the Family History Library; more than 3,000 record groups representing in excess of 10,000 microfilms, microfiche
and books. IAJGS has recently given the index to JewishGen to be posted to the JewishGen site and hopefully it
will be available to the public shortly. Look for an announcement on the JewishGen Discussion Group and Nu?
Nancy Goodstein, a volunteer worker at the Family History Library, labored for almost a year in compiling this
index. By using such key words as Jewish, Inquisition, displaced person, ghetto and others, she was able to locate
many collections unknown to most Jewish genealogists.
Sallyann Sack To Lecture at Hamburg Symposium
The head of the Hamburg State Archives has invited AVOTAYNU editor, Sallyann Amdur Sack, to lecture at a symposium
to be held in Hamburg on October 25-26. The title of the event is "European Emigration and Its Mark on Genealogical
Research." Dr. Sack is only one of two Americans asked to lecture to the group. Judith M. Giuriceo, Curator
of Exhibits & Media at Ellis Island Immigration Museum, will also lecture. Any interesting information arising
from the symposium will appear in future issues of AVOTAYNU.
Descriptions Added to Postcard Collection
For those interested in the pictures available from Avotaynu for Warsaw, Lublin, Bialystok and Lodz, descriptions
of the pictures have been added to the Avotaynu site. They can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/postcards.
The Internet site displays nearly 1,000 pictures of life in Eastern Europe of some 300 towns in Belarus, Estonia,
Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine.
British Commonwealth Forces Who Died in WWI or WWII
Did you have family member who served in British Commonwealth forces and died during World War I or World War II?
There is an online searchable database at http://www.cwgc.org.
It also includes 60,000 civilian casualties of World War II. For military personnel, it gives regiment, serial
number, date of death, next of kin, and place of commemoration (which may be the place of burial). A distant cousin
of mine, Leonard Mokotow, was killed as a civilian in a London bombing raid. The database not only included date
of death but address at time of death, where he died, and where he is buried.
Vol. 1, No. 16 - September 10, 2000
More on the Online U.S. Censuses
Ancestry.com is the first to get to the marketplace, with the 1790
census available free, but only to Ancestry.com subscribers. They have
indicated their goal is to have all U.S. Federal censuses online--from
1790 to 1920--by the end of the first quarter of 2001. Heritage Quest
still has plans to complete this feat by the end of this year. Most
significant to Jewish genealogists will be an index to the 1910 census
that was never indexed by the U.S. government except for selected
states. Ancestry.com stated they plan to have all indexes, including
1910 by the end of 2001. Ancestry.com is quoting a price of $29.95 per
year for access to the census data for persons who already subscribe to
Ancestry.com (annual cost $59.95) or $59.95 for a census-only
subscription. See http://www.ancestry.com/search/io/about/main.htm for
The Ancestry.com site is http://www.ancestry.com/search/io/main.htm.
The Heritage Quest site is http://www.genealogydatabase.com/
New Capability Added to Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System
Avotaynu has created an Advanced Search ability to the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System designed to minimize false
positives (hits that are not related to the name being searched). It has been implemented for the Consolidated
Jewish Surname Index at the Avotaynu site: http://www.avotaynu.com/csi/csi-home.html.
JewishGen is contemplating implementation of the feature for their databases.
The Advanced Search ability allows you to enclose characters of the name being searched in brackets signifying
that the letter should not be soundexed but must appear as is. For example, searching for the name Tartacki will
provide all elements of the database that have the soundex 393450 including those names that start with the letter
"D" because that letter has the same soundex code as "T." However, if you request a search
of [T]artacki, you have specified that the initial letter must be "T." This will cause the soundex search
to bypass all hits that start with the letter "D." Any number of consecutive letters may be bound in
brackets. Any number of sets of characters can be bound in brackets. Users should be reminded that attempting to
reduce the number of false positives may, in fact, eliminate true positives, so the feature should be used judiciously.
Finding Information On the Internet About Your Shtetl
In the past year I have become partial to a search engine called FAST located at http://www.ussc.alltheweb.com.
I am amazed how judicious selection of keywords invariably brings to the top of the list Internet sites that apply
to what I am looking for.
I have discovered another powerful feature of FAST that is applicable to Jewish genealogy. It is possible with
FAST to isolate Internet sites in the countries of your ancestry written in English (or limited to any language).
A cursory glance at other engines (Alta Vista, Lycos, Yahoo) demonstrates they do not have that capability. Go
to the FAST site and click on the "Advanced Search" link. At that site, change the Language preference
from "Any language" to "English." If you want to find Internet sites in Belarus in English,
in the Domain Filters Only Include box, type ".by" which is the Internet country code for Belarus. This
indicates you only want Internet sites in English that originate in Belarus. I used as a search word Svisloch,
a town in the westernmost part of Belarus. FAST found 29 sites in Belarus that had information in English about
Svisloch. The third entry was titled "Journey to Minsk: Svisloch." Going to that site produced five pictures
of the city. Click on any picture, and an enlarged version of the smaller image is presented. [Hmmm. Why am I telling
you this. You won't want to buy my JPG images of postcards.]
Other examples are 225 sites in Ukraine (.ua) in English that mention Zhitomir, 12 sites in Lithuania (.lt) that
mention Daugai, 130 sites in Poland (.pl) that mention Warka.
Some of the Domain codes for various countries are:
A complete list of country codes can be found at http://www.webopedia.com/quick_ref/countrycode.html.
How did I find this site? I just used the keywords "country codes domain" using FAST. At the top of the
list was this site. For the record, Yahoo also found a site, Lycos did not, Alta Vista found a site that had a
link to the list of country codes.
I tried to locate sites in Belarus in other languages; French and German specifically. There were very few.
Migration from the Russian Empire
Avotaynu has received numerous inquiries about the status of additional volumes of the work, Migration from
the Russian Empire. There will likely be no more printed volumes; there will be a CD-ROM version that will
include years not covered by the six volumes in print. Genealogy.com will produce the CD and the first version
will appear no earlier than 2001. What years will be on the initial CD has not been determined yet. Migration
from the Russian Empire
is an index of Russian immigrants to the U.S based on passenger arrival
lists. The six volumes in print cover the years 1875-June 1891. They
can be purchased from Avotaynu at http://www.avotaynu.com/catalog.htm.
Using the CD Version of the Family History Library Catalog
I use the CD version of the Family History Library Catalog extensively. For those who do not have high-speed Internet
connections, it is significantly faster than the Internet version. It also has a keyword search facility not yet
available on the Internet version. I accidentally discovered a deficiency in the overall cataloguing of the FHL
collection: not every town mentioned in the catalog is part of the index. The catalog entry for the Jewish records
of Wysokie Mazowieckie, Poland, states it includes Jewish records for the 11 neighboring towns: Bielsk, Bransk,
Lapy, Majdan, Miasto Wysokie, Ostrowo, Radzilow, Piekuty, Szepietowo Wyszonki, Wykno Nowe, and Wykno Stare. If
you do a Place Name search for these towns, they do not appear. This can be overcome by using the Keyword search
feature that will locate any occurrence of the keyword.
Bill Gates - The Sequel
In the last issue of Nu? What's New? I commented that competition among commercial genealogy ventures is
good because it lowers prices to the consumer. Shortly after the last issue was published, I received e-mail from
a subscriber who wanted to know, now that the Ultimate Family Tree genealogical software system would no longer
be supported, which system would I recommend because he was an UFT user. It reminded me of another reason why competition
is good: product improvement. For many years I had a low opinion of Family Tree Maker from the standpoint of capability.
I thought so highly of the capability of UFT that I personally endorsed the package--in fact, my endorsement appears
on the packaging of the software. When UFT became a competitive threat to Family Tree Maker, the latter package
went through a number of improvement cycles to close the gap in the area of capability. FTM incorporated many of
the unique features of UFT to make it more competitive. One particularly important improvement to FTM was the ability
to add your own customized Events. With this feature you can add Jewish-oriented data fields such as Namesake;
Religious Name; and whether a Holocaust survivor or victim. This capability always existed in UFT and it was a
significant reason why I endorsed the product. It now exists in FTM.
Vol. 1, No. 17 - September 24, 2000
Record Retention in the Information Technology Age
Imagine if the U.S. Declaration of Independence had been written in Word Perfect 3.0, saved on a 5 1/4" floppy
and e-mailed to King George of England (<email@example.com>). How would this piece of American history have
been preserved for future generations?
This is the type of problem currently being addressed by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
(NARA) as well as other national and regional archives throughout the world. No longer are all the records of historical
significance written on pieces of paper. They may, for example, be among the million pieces of e-mail generated
by the U.S. government (30 million per year from the White House alone). How do you determine which of these e-mails
are historically significant and which are historical junk? How do you preserve historically significant documents
that may have been created on equipment that is technically obsolete today--do you maintain equipment that can
read the information or do you copy it onto new technology equipment? How do you plan for preserving historical
electronic information on equipment that is state-of-the-art today and likely obsolete ten years from now?
According to L. Reynolds "Ren" Cahoon, Assistant Archivist for Human Resources and Information Services,
his organization is on top of the problem. In a speech given at the recently concluded annual conference of the
Federation of Genealogical Societies, Cahoon stated the NARA strategy is leaning toward removing documents from
obsolete media and equipment and permanently preserving it on a common state-of-the-art equipment. As technology
improves, documents can then be migrated from the now-obsolete equipment and media to the new state-of-the-art
environment. NARA is also discussing strategies with high-tech companies to automatically screen electronic documents
to identify the records worth preserving.
JewishGen Implementing Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex Improvement
It appears that JewishGen is implementing the improvement to the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System described in the
last issue of Nu? What's New?. You can use the feature in JewishGen databases but it has not yet been documented
(it worked on all databases but the Family Tree of the Jewish People). This Advanced Search feature allows for
specifying that certain characters of the name being searched must appear in the database as given, rather than
as soundexed. This is done by placing the character(s) in brackets. For example, searching for the surname [M]okotoff
means the result must start with the letter "M" and therefore excludes all results that start with the
letter "N" which has the same soundex value as "M".
For a further description of this Advanced Search feature, see http://www.avotaynu.com/csi/csi-home.html.
CJSI: Have You Used It?
AVOTAYNU editor, Sallyann Amdur Sack, spoke recently at the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington and
was surprised to find that a good number of the members were unfamiliar with Avotaynu's Consolidated Jewish Surname
Index. CJSI is a valuable starting point for Jewish genealogical research. It is a database of some 230,000 surnames,
mostly Jewish, found in 28 different databases. Its principal advantage is that it eliminates the need to search
each source individually.
The surnames are presented in soundex order which aids in grouping together spelling variants of the same name.
For each surname, it identifies in which of the 28 databases the name can be found. There is then a link to additional
information about each database.
CJSI is located at http://www.avotaynu.com/csi/csi-home.html
Maps of Interwar Polish Towns
A number of people who have visited the Avotaynu site where we offer computer images (JPEGs) of postcards and pictures
of turn-o-the-century Jewish life in Eastern European towns have asked for old maps of Polish towns. We now offer
them as part of our postcard collection at http://www.avotaynu.com/postcards. There are more than 100 maps available
from towns that were part of Poland between World War I and World War II in addition to the nearly 1,000 pictures.
Featured Book: Discovering Your Jewish Roots in Galicia
Starting with this issue of Nu? What's New? we will feature one of the many books published by Avotaynu.
This issue we spotlight Finding Your Jewish Roots in Galicia: A Resource Guide by Suzan Wynne. If you are
a Galitzianer, this book is a must because it is the definitive work on Galician-Jewish genealogical research.
It provides in an organized manner what is known about Galician-Jewish resources--such resources as archival collections
of Jewish vital and other records; geographic, visual and language aides; books; documents related to the Holocaust;
and articles about travel and research in specific towns by members of Gesher Galicia, the Special Interest Group
for Jewish genealogy. The author, Suzan Wynne, is the founding president of Gesher Galicia and has been doing Galician
genealogical research for more than 20 years.
Additional information, including the Table of Contents can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/galicia.htm.
Vol. 1 No. 18 - October 10, 2000
NWN Reaches 4,000 subscribers
With this issue, Nu? What's New? is now reaching more than 4,000 subscribers.
"Virtual Old Jerusalem" CD
The events happening in Jerusalem today are very sad, but a CD I just received reminded me of the beauty of Jerusalem
and of Israel in general. This CD, called Virtual Old Jerusalem, is available free of charge from Jewishsoftware.com
at http://www.jewishsoftware.com. [This offer is no longer being made; it is now for sale.]
It is a fine example of what multi-media CDs can do. The disk includes some 75 magnificent pictures of the Old
City each with zoom in/out and 360-degree panoramic view capability. Depressing function keys causes the zooming;
clicking the mouse on the picture causes the image to rotate. The audio begins with the well-known music Jerusalem
of Gold. Other pieces include Israeli tunes and the sounds of the city, and an Arabic song plays while viewing
the al-Aqsa mosque.
The CD is poorly documented. Read the Help section before proceeding. There are 20 main sections, but each section
includes many pictures of the area described. For example the section titled "Wailing Wall" includes
five pictures each with a panoramic view. I discovered that accidentally when I clicked the picture to get a panoramic
view and instead got a different view of the Wall. The presence of an upward arrow causes the picture to change.
Other icons cause the picture to rotate.
It is remarkable how many Jewish genealogists are totally focused on Jewish genealogy Internet sites and are unaware
of other sites for genealogy. The most popular site for American genealogy is RootsWeb. It has many features comparable
to JewishGen. JewishGen has the Family Tree of the Jewish People, a database of family trees; RootsWeb has its
WorldConnect Project. JewishGen has the JewishGen Family Finder, a database of ancestral surnames and towns; RootsWeb
has RootsWeb Surname List. JewishGen has ShtetlSeeker; RootsWeb has US Town/County Database. JewishGen has mailing
lists primarily oriented toward Special Interest Groups; RootsWeb has more than 19,000 mailing lists.
RootsWeb has much information that might be useful to Jewish genealogists. Of particular interest is the International
(non-U.S.) Home Page which links to subsections by country at http://www.rootsweb.com/~websites/international.htm.
Start at this page and browse the various countries. For example, there is a set of excellent maps of pre-World
War I Hungary at http://www.rootsweb.com/~wghungar/Maps/maps.html.
Featured Book: How to Document Victims and Locate Survivors of
Every Jewish family whose roots are in Central or Eastern Europe was impacted by the Holocaust. If you believe
your family is an exception, you just haven't researched your collateral lines. I have documented more that 1,000
descendants of the first person named Mokotow, my great-great-great-grandfather, who was a merchant in the town
of Warka, Poland, which is about 30 miles (50km) south of Warsaw. Of his 1,000 descendants more than 300 were murdered
in the Holocaust; I know of less than 30 survivors. If these statistics seem appalling, the Mokotow family was
not the exception, but typical. About 91% of Polish Jewry was murdered in the Holocaust.
For many years, I have helped genealogists and the families of Holocaust victims locate documentation of the fate
of their family members who were caught up in the Holocaust. At the suggestion of friends, in 1995, I published
my knowledge of Holocaust research in book form as How to Document Victims and Locate Survivors of the Holocaust.
It describes the major sources of information such as the Pages of Testimony, International Tracing Service and
yizkor books, as well as sources unique to specific geographic localities. There is also a chapter on how to locate
survivors. Because to this day I still receive inquiries from people, a major portion of the book is available
on the Internet at http://www.avotaynu.com/Holocaust.
More JPEGs Added to Avotaynu Site
We have added more than 100 additional pictures of Jewish life in Eastern Europe to our postcard site. They include
the first pictures of Krakow plus a number of towns in northeastern Poland including Andrzejewo, Augustow, Barczewo,
Berzniki, Bialowieza, Bielsk-Podlaski, Bocki, Choroszcz, Drohiczyn, Filipowo, Goniadz, Grajewo, Jasionowka, Jedwabno,
Kleszczele, Knyszyn, Kolno, Korycin, Krasnopol, Krynki, Kuznica, Lomza, Michalowo, Mielnik, Milejczyce, Orla, Ostroleka,
Ostrow-Mazowiecka, Przerosl, Raczki, Sejny, Sidra, Siemiatycz, Sniadowo, Sokolka, Sokoly, Starosielce, Stawiski,
Suchowola, Suwalki, Szczuczyn, Tykocin, Wasilkow, Wizna, Wysoki-Mazowieckie, and Zabludow.
There has been some confusion among purchasers of the images as to what they are buying. We are offering computer-scanned
images of the scenes shown, not the postcards themselves or facsimiles. These images can be printed out using a
color printer or they can be placed on an Internet site.
The images can be viewed at http://www.avotaynu.com/postcards.
Vol. 1, No. 19 - October 22, 2000
Internet Sites for National Archives of Various Countries
Kahlile Mehr of the LDS Family History Library made me aware of an Internet site for the Ukrainian regional archives
in Dniepropetrovsk. The site is located at http://www.sadr.com.ua/page1.html.
It made me curious as to which other archives of interest to Jewish genealogists might have Internet sites. Using
my favorite search engine, FAST, at http://www.alltheweb.com/, I easily
was able to find quite a few sites. I limited the search to only sites emanating from the native country and used
such keywords as "State Archives census" or "National Archives vital records." Many have pages
devoted to Family History inquiries.
.au Australia http://www.naa.gov.au/
.by Belarus http://www.president.gov.by/gosarchives/eindex.htm
.ca Canada http://www.archives.ca/
.dk Denmark http://home13.inet.tele.dk/buch/us/archive1.htm.
This is not the site of the Danish National Archives but a link site to many archives in Denmark.
.hu Hungary http://www.natarch.hu/english/mol.htm
.il Israel http://sites.huji.ac.il/archives/ Central Archives for
the History of the Jewish People
.il Israel http://www.wzo.org.il/cza/ Central Zionist Archives
.lv Latvia: http://www.arhivi.lv/engl/en-lvas-frame.htm
.pl Poland http://ciuw.warman.net.pl/alf/archiwa/archiwa/korzystanie.eng.html
.uk Scotland http://www.nas.gov.uk/ I couldn't find the UK site rapidly, but
I am sure it is there.
I was unable to find quickly the State Archives of Argentina, Israel, Lithuania, South Africa and Ukraine.
As we examine family-held documents and pictures of our ancestors, it reminds us that they damage and fade with
time. There are many companies that sell archival supplies designed to preserve such documents. One of the leading
suppliers is Light Impressions. Their comprehensive 123-page catalog includes such items as archival-quality boxes,
adhesives, binders, cleaning materials, folders, frames, mounting boards, pencils and pens, and UV protectors.
They even have a "Family Tree Album" made of archival-quality material. Their site is http://www.lightimpressionsdirect.com.
You can request a catalog at the site.
Featured Book: A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire
In 1991, I received a letter from Paris from a man who stated he had compiled a list of more than 40,000 Jewish
surnames from czarist Russia. Included with these names, he claimed to have the district within the Empire where
they appeared, the etymology of most of the names, and the relationship between root names and their variants.
I was suspicious of this claim, because just nine months earlier I was involved with a self-proclaimed "expert"
who gave me the etymology of one of the surnames I was researching. I knew his response was incorrect so I asked
this person what was his source, and received a response that it was "just a wild guess." Consequently,
I posed the same problem to Alexander Beider, the author of the letter, and his response was "I don't know."
I concluded that any scholar who would admit to not knowing something about his area of expertise was someone with
whom I wanted to be associated. (Beider has since determined the etymology of the surname: Taratasky.)
The consequence was Avotaynu's publishing of Beider's first major work, A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from
the Russian Empire. I tell people the most valuable part of the book is not the dictionary but the 100-page
introductory portion which explains the origin and evolution of Jewish surnames in Eastern Europe. It makes fascinating
reading. It is in this book that Beider made his first contributions to Jewish onomastics with such concepts as
the fact that you cannot determine the etymology of a surname without considering its geographic context. For example,
one would think the surname Poznanski meant a person from the Polish town of Poznan. But Beider noted that if the
surname was held by a Ukrainian Jew, its origin is the town of Poznanka, Ukraine.
The book has a number of alternate functions. Remarkably, it is an
excellent source of information about Eastern European Jewish given
names. This is because virtually every given name has a surname
equivalent (know as a patronymic/metronymic surname). Do you want to
know about the origin of the given name Shepsel? Just search the
dictionary portion for the surname Shepshelevich. It tells you that it
is a variant of the surname Shabsaj whose etymology is the given name
Shabsaj [Ezra 10:15].
Information about the book, including its Table of Contents can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/beider.htm.
Avotaynu Plans Major Works in Next 12 months
A number of major books will be published by Avotaynu in the next twelve months.
Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy
For many years a number of movers and shakers in Jewish genealogy have contemplated writing the ultimate guide
to Jewish genealogy. The idea never matured because people were too busy with other commitments and no one, or
two, or even three people felt they knew enough about the full spectrum of Jewish genealogical research to write
such a book.
Avotaynu has resolved the issue with the planned publication, in the first half of 2001, of Avotaynu Guide to
Jewish Genealogy. It is being written by more than 50 experts in the various aspects of Jewish genealogy. For
example, Anthony Joseph, president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain and former president of
the British Jewish Historical Society of England, is writing the British chapter.
There are five major sections to the work. Part I, "Essentials of Jewish Genealogical Research," covers
such basic areas as organizing your work, methodology, organizations devoted to Jewish genealogy, Jewish naming
practices and shtetl geography. Part II consists of topical sections such as Holocaust research, rabbinic, Israeli
archives that contain records from all over the world, and additional sources such as cemeteries, compiled genealogies,
military records, newspapers, voter records and more. Part III is devoted to United States research (currently
the vast majority of Jewish researchers are from the U.S.). Part IV is a country-by-country analysis of genealogical
resources throughout the world. More than 50 countries are represented. In addition, this section provides further
analysis of research strategies for the pre-World War I Austro-Hungarian, Prussian, Russian and Ottoman Empires.
Finally appendices cover the alphabets associated with Jewish genealogical research, how to read Jewish tombstones,
hiring a professional genealogist and the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System. There will be a glossary, bibliographies
index and subject index.
A tentative Table of Contents, subject to change, is posted at http://www.avotaynu.com/guidetoc.htm.
Ashkenazic Jews: Their History and Their Names
As noted in Vol. 1, No. 3 of Nu? What's New?, Alexander Beider has received a doctorate from the Sorbonne
Department of History with his thesis being based on his analysis of Ashkenazic given names. We have already received
the thesis for editing into final form, and we expect Dr. Beider to give us the dictionary portion in the next
60 days. The thesis plus a dictionary of given names will be the basis of a book to be published in the second
quarter of 2001.
The thesis is absolutely fascinating reading and is typical of the scholarship that was presented in Beider's previous
works: A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire and A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from
the Kingdom of Poland.
A Dictionary of Sephardic Surnames
This past week, I met with Guilherme Faiguenboim, president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Brazil, in Avotaynu's
offices. For a number of years, Faiguenboim and two of his associates, Paulo Valadares and Anna Rosa Campagnano,
have been collecting Sephardic surnames, noting their sources and geographic location. To date, they have accumulated
some 15,000 names. Avotaynu will publish the fruits of their labor next year. Production is expected to start in
Winter 2000 with publication in the second quarter of 2001.
The authors used some 300 sources to compile the dictionary covering medieval (pre-Inquisition) times to the present.
Because of this vast collection of sources, Faiguenboim feels the dictionary is comprehensive and that the number
of surnames that might have been inadvertently omitted is less than one percent.
Where Once We Walked--Revised Edition
The award-winning gazetteer, Where Once We Walked, is out of print. A revised edition is in the works that
hopefully will be completed by the end of 2001. In the nine years since it was first published, we have accumulated
many additional sources of information about the towns where Jews lived before the Holocaust. We have also discovered
a number of name-change gazetteers that include pre-World War I names for towns in Central and Eastern Europe that
are not included in the original version. All this, plus additional town names, should make the Revised Edition
a significant improvement over the original work.
Starting Monday morning, October 23, Eileen Polakoff and I will be heading to Salt Lake City for our eighth annual
Jewish Genealogy Trip to the Family History Library. Each year we take a group, ranging in size from 25-45 persons,
for a concentrated week of research at "the candy store." This year the group consists of 31 persons
ranging from complete beginners to alumni who have been with our group for seven consecutive years. During that
period I will not be reading my e-mail. My "normal" life will resume on Friday, November 4.
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