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.
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. 20 - November 5, 2000
We genealogists focus primarily on vital records and censuses to
identify our ancestors, but another little used source may identify our
European ancestors where vital records and censuses fail: population
registers. In many of the countries of our ancestors, governments kept
track of their people in "books of residence." In the Austro-Hungarian
Empire, they were called Meldezettel; in Poland
they were known as Ksiþgi Ludnoþci.
These books of residence are described in great detail in three
articles in the Fall issue of AVOTAYNU which will be in the mail this
week. As noted in one article in the issue, "the permanent place of
residence is the place where a particular person belongs, where he
considers himself as residing even if living in a different locality.
The concept is similar to the modern concept of nationality,
citizenship in a particular country no matter where one is living."
Polish books of residence include for each person: name, names of
parents, date and place of birth, marital status, official place of
residence, means of support, religion, social status and previous
residence. Austrian records include: given and family names, current
address, position or occupation, place and country of birth, age,
religion, single or married or widowed, names and ages of spouse and
How to use these registers and how to access them are described in the
More Articles in the Fall Issue
Jewish genealogical research in Florida, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine
are some of the other topics covered in the Fall issue of AVOTAYNU.
Titles of yet other articles include: Report on Brilling Collection in
Frankfurt; The Russian National Census of 1897; Can Jewish Genealogists
Successfully Research 18th-Century Poland?; Some Belarus Records in
Vilnius Archives; New Ukrainian Jewish Records at the Family History
Library; Selected Translation of Name Lists and Revisions from the
Dnepropetrovsk Archives; History Book Illuminates Jewish Life in
Poland; Tips on Translating Entries from Slownik Geograficzny; New
Resources at the Diaspora Research Institute; Major London Record
Offices for 2001 Conference; Yes, Lobby for Open Access to
Archives--But Why Not in the U.S. Too?; Project Brings Genealogy into
the Jewish Schools of Toronto; Holocaust-era Asset Registers as a
Source of Genealogical Information; Braude Beginnings.
If you are not an AVOTAYNU subscriber, you can subscribe online at http://www.avotaynu.com/journal.htm.
There is a special 6-issue offer that includes the Fall and Winter
issues of 2000 and all issues for 2001.
More URLs for State Archives
Subscribers have made me aware of other Internet sites for State
archives that were reported in the last issue.
Not an official site but it has much information about the Ukrainian
French National Archives: http://www.genenord.tm.fr/gnarc/gnarci.htm.
Ships of Our Ancestors
There is a website that gives detailed descriptions of many ships that
carried our ancestors from Europe located at http://www.fortunecity.com/littleitaly/amalfi/13/ships.htm
(Reported on the JRI-Poland Discussion Group by Milton Goldsamt)
Ancestry.com Adds 1920 Census
Data to the Internet
Ancestry.com has posted images of the 1920 U.S. Federal Census for
parts of Alabama, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas. It is located at http://www.ancestry.com/search/io/main.htm.
The New York portion does not include New York City except for Richmond
county (Staten Island). As provided, the data is useless because it
does not include an index -- you have to know the enumeration district
and page number in order to find a specific family. Ancestry is
creating a head-of-household index to the 1920 census that will be
posted state-by-state as it becomes available over the next few months.
At that point the 1920 census data will become a valuable database.
This census is often the starting point for locating ancestors because
it includes the year of immigration and year of naturalization. Year of
immigration plus age can be a valuable aid in finding the ancestor in
the index to passenger arrivals at Ellis Island. Year of naturalization
can help locate naturalization records.
Register Online for the London
It is now possible to register online for the 21st International
Conference on Jewish Genealogy which will be held at the
Intercontinental Hotel in London from 8-13 July 2001. The conference
Internet site is at http://www.jewishgen.org/london2001/.
The registration fee is œ200 (about $300) with a family rate
of œ360 (about $540). Room rates at the hotel are
œ140 per night ($210) plus VAT of 17.5% which co-chair Saul
Isroff says foreigners can recover "for business purposes. The hotel
can provide a form." The conference site identifies more than 170
lectures planned. JewishGen's ShtetlShleppers will provide tours of
Jewish genealogical interest to Eastern and other parts of Europe.
Discounted airfares to London are available at the conference Internet
site. Isroff noted that the unusually high registration fee was
necessary because in England hotels do not provide free conference
rooms in exchange for attendees staying at the hotel.
Featured Book: Sourcebook for
Jewish Genealogies and Family Histories
Your genealogy may be done already...or, at least, part of it. Avotaynu
published a number of years ago Sourcebook for Jewish
Genealogies and Family Histories. It lists some 20,000
compiled genealogies for more than 10,000 different surnames. Some have
been published in books, others are in manuscript form in archives
throughout the world. A complete list of surnames described in the book
is at http://www.avotaynu.com/sourcebook.htm
Avotaynu Fall/Winter Catalog Now
Our Fall/Winter catalog of some 75 books of interest to Jewish
genealogists is now available. AVOTAYNU subscribers will receive it
with the Fall issue of the journal which will be mailed out this coming
week. People who have requested to be added to our mailing list within
the past year plus those who have made purchases within the past two
years will automatically receive a copy too.
As a Chanukah present, to AVOTAYNU subscribers only, we are offering a
10% discount on anything in the catalog. The offer expires Erev
Chanukah, December 21, 2000. If you order through our Internet site,
place a note in the Comments box that you are an Avotaynu subscriber
and we will take the 10% off (we'll look up your name anyway).
Laugh of the Week
Miriam Weiner and I trade unusual inquiries we receive, but it will be
difficult to top this one that was submitted to the editor of Ancestry
Daily News: "I pay into Social Security. Why can't I find myself in the
Social Security Death Index?"
Vol. 1, No. 21 - November 19, 2000
Adding Databases to the Internet
We genealogists have been living the life of luxury due to the wealth
of free genealogical databases on the Internet. Some are free because
many of us have volunteered our time to extract and computerize the
information. (The Jewish Records Indexing - Poland project now has
extracted more than 800,000 records for 150 Polish towns.) Other
databases are free because the cost to develop the databases and place
them on the Internet is relatively low.
We are now seeing a number of valuable databases being made available
for a fee because the cost to implement them is substantial or,
frankly, because they are being made available by commercial
enterprises that hope to make a profit from their sale.
There is pressure to start charging for databases that were planned to
be available free. Many organizations are finding it much harder and
much more expensive to get databases online than originally planned.
Project deadlines are being missed. Non-profit implementers are now
asking for donations to support the cost of maintaining the databases.
Here is a recap of the status of some important databases.
Ellis Island Passenger Lists http://www.ellisisland.org/history.html
Plans call for extracting all passenger arrivals at the Port of New
York (Ellis Island) from 1892-1924. The project was started as a LDS
(Mormon) Family History Department project some years ago with
thousands of volunteers extracting the information. The decision makers
in Utah elected to turn over their efforts to the Statue of
Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation who will complete the project and make
it available in Spring 2001, at Ellis Island only, as "The American
Family Immigration History Center." Plans call for placing it on the
Internet thereafter but no commitment has been made regarding a date.
There will be a fee for using the database at Ellis Island; therefore,
it can be assumed there will be a fee to use it on the Internet.
Hamburg Emigration Lists. http://www.linktoyourroots.hamburg.de/index/1,2709,JGdlbz0zJG9rPTE5MTA1JHVrPSQ_,00.html.
Launched in November 1999 on the Internet with emigration records
extracted for the years 1890-1893, this venture had the ambitious plan
to add a year a month. No additional years have been added since, but
there have been more records added for the original time period. The
initial offering was to make data available free, now they are asking
for voluntary contributions to the project. There has been no
commitment as to when additional years will be added.
1920 U.S. Census
Two commercial ventures are competing for patron dollars: Ancestry.com
and Genealogydatabase.com at http://www.genealogydatabase.com/.
Ancestry.com has already placed selected portions of the census online
without an index -- a head-of-household index planned for the future.
Genealogydatabase.com is still claiming they will have all censuses
(1790-1920) online by the end of this year. To tweak Ancestry.com's
nose, this group states on their Home Page that "other sites may offer
parts of the census, but no one else has it all." They state there is
over 3.5 terabytes (trillion bytes) of "highest-quality information."
Cost for the Ancestry.com service is $59.95 per year ($39.95 if you are
already an Ancestry.com subscriber which also costs $59.95 per year).
The other service has refused to pre-announce their prices.
Pages of Testimony
This database, which identifies more than 3 million Jews murdered in
the Holocaust, was computerized when a grant was given to Yad Vashem in
Jerusalem, the owner of the collection. Each Page of Testimony gives
the individual's name, year of birth, names of mother and father, name
of spouse (often including maiden name of women), circumstances of
death, name/address of the submitter, and other information. When you
order a copy of the document, you now receive a computerized version.
It is easier to read than the handwriting on the original document.
Though never a public commitment, there has been talk about having the
database on the Internet at the end of this year, which now seems
unlikely. There are instructions on how to order Pages of Testimony by
e-mail, fax or in writing at http://www.yadvashem.org.il/remembrance/hallofnames/index.html
Other Potential Databases
Most institutions are computerizing the information they have for
internal use. Have you gone to a cemetery lately? There is a good
chance that if you ask for the location of a grave, the clerk will
search a computer database for the information. What an incredible boon
it would be to family history research if the cemeteries got together
and created a massive database online that could be searched so you
could locate the grave of an ancestor.
The International Tracing Service in Arolsen, Germany, is the largest
repository of information about individuals caught up in the Holocaust.
They have computerized their index to assist them in more rapidly
processing requests for information about persons caught up in the
Holocaust. What a great help to people wanting to determine the fate of
family if this information was placed on the Internet.
Online U.S. Searchable Vital
A professional genealogist, Joe Beine of Denver, Colorado, has
developed an Internet site that includes many links to searchable U.S.
vital record indexes. It is located at http://home.att.net/~wee-monster/deathrecords.html.
Viewmate on JewishGen
Do you have a document you want translated or a photo that needs
interpreting? JewishGen has added a new feature to its site that allows
patrons to post graphics and ask for help in translation, analysis, or
identification. You can also post photos (for identification of people,
clothing, buildings, scenes, objects, artifacts, etc.) or letters,
documents, book pages, maps, etc. for analysis or translation. A
description of the process is at http://www.jewishgen.org/viewmate/purpose.html.
You can view items already posted at http://www.jewishgen.org/viewmate/toview.html.
There is a time limitation of 168 hours (7 days) for each posting.
Book About Florida's Jews
Following on the heels of Gladys Paulin's article in the Fall issue of
AVOTAYNU, she has informed us that Florida Department of Historic
Resources has published a book called the Florida Jewish
Heritage Trail. Written by JGS of Greater Orlando member
Rachel Heimovics, it gives an account of Jewish history in the state
plus Jewish places to visit. You can retrieve a form to order this book
Featured Book: History of the Jews in Poland and Russia
Understanding the environment in which our ancestors lived is important
background to genealogical research. That is why Avotaynu republished History
of the Jews in Poland and Russia by the great historian,
Simon Dubnow. It covers the history of the Jews of Eastern Europe from
Roman times to the time of the book's publication in the 1910s, with
particular emphasis on the two centuries that preceded its publication.
Additional information can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/dubnow.htm.
I read the book some years ago in the hope that I would be able to
discover 18th century sources of information about the Jews of my
ancestral country of Poland. It was by reading this history that I
discovered the 1764 census of the Jews of Poland (it did not help my
I have mixed feelings about this book. It taught me that history is not
the recording of the past but a historian's perception of what occurred
in the past. When you read the Dubnow work, you get the impression that
Jewish life in Eastern Europe was one of constant persecution by the
Christian majority. To confirm my theory about the book, some months
ago I opened it to an arbitrary page and found, as I suspected, that
the page described some horrific event in Eastern European Jewish
history. I then advanced 20-30 pages and, again, the text on the page
described yet another incident of persecution against the Jews. I
continued this process a number of times, each page confirming my
Some months after reading the Dubnow book, still being interested in
knowing more about the history of the Jews of Poland, I read Bernard D.
Weinryb's The Jews of Poland. Weinryb takes a more
middle-of-the-road position that, while it is true that there were
numerous instances where Jews were victims of persecution by the
Christian majority, they must have lived in a basically viable
environment, because in the five centuries before the Holocaust, they
flourished. That philosophy was more to my liking.
Dubnow's view was understandable when you consider it was formulated
during a period of time when there were major pogroms in czarist
Russia. These not only were devastating but reminded people of the time
of previous persecutions of Jews in the area.
I commented about both historians' perspective of history when I
reviewed in AVOTAYNU some years ago, Jews in Poland: A
Documentary History, by Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski. This book, in
my mind, completed a trilogy, because it was Pogonowski's view that
Polish Christians and Jews lived in harmony for centuries and that
Polish Christians were always helpful to their Jewish neighbors,
especially during the Holocaust period! Readers who have a copy of
AVOTAYNU on CD-ROM can find the review in the Winter 1993 issue on page
Despite my reservations about the Dubnow work, I still felt it was
worthwhile for genealogists to read and, therefore, Avotaynu
republished the work. Its Table on Contents can be viewed at http://www.avotaynu.com/dubnow.htm.
Jerusalem Post Obituaries
Ancestry.com has obituaries from 1999 editions of the Jerusalem
Post at http://www.ancestry.com/search/rectype/inddbs/4501.htm.
They claim it contains nearly 11,800 records and over 41,600 names.
Recovering Insurance Policy
Most Jews who lived in Europe during the Holocaust period had insurance
policies. These assets were seized by the Nazi government and their
collaborators. Arrangements are now being made for heirs to these
assets to receive compensation.
The International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims has an
Internet site to help in the claims process. The Commission is charged
with establishing a just process that will expeditiously address the
issue of unpaid insurance policies issued to victims of the Holocaust.
The site includes links to searchable lists, Holocaust restitution and
information sites, insurance departments and agencies involved in the
claims process, and Jewish Organizations that have information
regarding this program. It is located at http://www.icheic.org.
A Reminder - 10% Discount
To those of you who subscribe to AVOTAYNU, don't forget there is a
limited-time 10% discount offer for any book, video, microfiche, map or
CD appearing in our Fall/Winter catalog that was just sent out. The
offer is good until Erev Chanukah, December 21, 2000.
Vol. 1, No. 22 - December 3, 2000
Canadians Still Fight for Access
to Post-1901 Census Records
The battle to keep the post-1901 census records from being declared
inaccessible for privacy reasons has reset to zero as a result of the
recent federal elections in Canada. It is government policy that any
outstanding bills and motions in Parliament cease to exist with a new
election. The same applies to petitions sent to the previous government.
The group of historians, archivists and genealogists opposed to the
privacy bill must now present their petitions again and are requesting
Canadians to go to http://www.globalgenealogy.com/census/petition.htm
where there are downloadable forms consisting of petitions to both the
House of Commons and the Senate for residents of Canada to sign,
available in both French and English. There is also a non-resident
petition of support for those living outside Canada who have roots in
For additional information you can write to Gordon A. Watts at
email@example.com. You can keep up to date on the status of this
controversy at http://www.globalgenealogy.com/census
INS Articles About Their Records
The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has some
interesting essays at their Internet site. One discusses the age-old
controversy of whether immigrants had their names changed at Ellis
Island, and if not, what might have been the process that caused these
name changes. This article can be viewed at http://www.ins.usdoj.gov/graphics/aboutins/history/articles/NameEssay.html
A list of other articles can be found at http://www.ins.usdoj.gov/graphics/aboutins/history/articles/
arti.html. Included are such topics as "Naturalization of
World War I Soldiers" and "Women and Naturalization, 1802-1940."
You can now purchase the book The Litvaks, written
by the eminent, contemporary historian Dov Levin, from Avotaynu. Levin,
a professor at Hebrew University, is the author of a number of books on
the Jews of Lithuania including Pinkas HaKehillot - Lita
("Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities: Lithuania) and Fighting
Back: Lithuanian Jewry's Armed Resistance to the Nazis. He is
considered to be one of the leading authorities on the history of
The Litvaks provides a history of Lithuanian
Jewry since the 13th century and includes a lexicon of Lithuanian towns
showing their Yiddish and modern spellings, statistical tables, sample
documents and photographs of Jewish life in Lithuania. An extensive
bibliography suggests further reading.
I have met Professor Levin a number of times. For a Holocaust survivor
who went through trying times during World War II, he invariably sports
a big grin and has a delightful sense of humor. During the War he was a
member of the anti-Nazi underground movement in the Kovno Ghetto and
then fought as a partisan. I recall that he volunteered to participate
in the "Breakfast with Experts" program at the International conference
on Jewish Genealogy held in Jerusalem in 1994. In the course of the
conversation, he mentioned that he was a partisan during the War. One
of the persons at the table naively said, "Oh, that must have been very
exciting." Dov looked at the person, smiled, and said, "Yes, it was
Ordering information for the book as well as the complete Table of
Contents can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/litvaks.htm
E-Book for Genealogy
The concept of purchasing an electronic book rather than a printed
version has come to the genealogy industry. Family Times Publishing is
offering it book on how to publish a family newsletter in electronic
version. For $7.00, you can download a PDF or Microsoft Word file or
for $12.00 they will mail you a printed version. Their Internet site is
[URL corrected 12/01/01]
Featured Book: Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy
Sometimes I think we genealogists are like drug dealers; we consider it
our obligation to get our friends hooked on this habit of ours. A fine,
inexpensive ($11.00 plus shipping) way to encourage people to research
their family history would be to give them a Chanukah present of a copy
of Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy. This
concise 78-page book is designed to help people get over the barrier of
believing that it can't be done for their family. It whets their
appetite by directing them to the key Jewish genealogical databases on
the Internet where they are likely to find some information about their
family. It also discusses the common problems of "my name was changed
at Ellis Island" and "I don't know where my family came from in Europe."
Ordering information can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/gettingstartedbook.htm
FAQ on Hasidism
It has nothing to do with genealogy, but I stumbled onto a delightful
Internet site called þFAQ on Hasidism written by Rabbi
Yonassan Gershom of Sandstone, Minnesota. (Nope. Not every Hasid lives
in Brooklyn.) As described on its Home Page it is þnot
intended to be an in-depth explanation of Hasidic philosophy but rather
is a set of basic Judaism 101-level questions written in a way that is
understandable to the average non-Hasidic reader.þ Actually
it is written in a charming style and is worth looking at, if for no
other reason than to see the Kilroy-like image of a Hassid that graces
this Internet site.
One section should be of interest to Nu? readers
who are unfamiliar with or have stereotypical views of Hasidism. It
covers some common questions (and misunderstandings) about Hasidic
garb, customs, mannerisms, roles of men and women, etc. There are
answers to such questions as "Why don't Hasidic men shake hands with
women?" I have heard that Hasidic women shave their heads on their
wedding night? Is this true? If so, why ?" and yes, it even addresses
the common myth, "Do Hasidim really have sex through a hole in a sheet?"
Many more serious questions are answered in a congenial manner from the
most basic question, "What is a Hasidic (Chassidic) Jew?" to "Do
Hasidim believe that non-Hasidic Jews are still Jews?"
All this can be viewed at http://pinenet.com/~rooster/hasid1.html
Vol. 1, No. 23 - December 17, 2000
Library of Congress
Experiments with Scanned Images for Interlibrary Loans
Interlibrary loan is a valuable tool for persons wanting copies of
books that are not available at their local libraries. I once used this
facility at the library in my shtetl of Northvale, New Jersey, to get a
copy of The Jews of the Canary Islands which was
loaned from the Fordham University library. The book had not been taken
out of the library in 40 years!!
An excellent source for rare books is the U.S. Library of Congress, but
the institution will not loan books that are in poor physical condition
because of the risk of further damage. A new service is being tested to
overcome this problem. These fragile documents are being scanned and
offered to interlibrary loan patrons on the Internet. The service can
be viewed at http://www.loc.gov/rr/loan/digitaldocs.html.
That is the good news. The bad news is that, in this era of 56KB
modems, downloading of these files can be very time consuming. A
32-page pamphlet was more than 11MB in size with an anticipated
download time in excess of an hour. With the era of higher speed,
access dawning interlibrary loan via the Internet is going to become
practical in the near future.
Jewish Records at FHL on CD-ROM
In the next 30-60 days, IAJGS should announce the availability on
CD-ROM of a database of the Jewish holdings of the LDS (Mormon) Family
History Library. Price for the CD has not yet been determined. I
participated in the beta test and found it to be a very effective tool
to locate books or microfilms that I heretofore did not realize was
part of the Library's collection. The database is organized by
geographic region so you can easily browse the holdings by U.S. state,
Canadian province or country. The database uses the identical search
engine as AVOTAYNU on CD-ROM. There are more than
3,000 record groups representing in excess of 10,000 microfilms,
microfiche and books. Plans call for an Internet version too.
New York Police Census
Ancestry.com is in the process of putting the 1890 New York City police
census on the Internet. This is a valuable resource because the 1890
federal census was destroyed in a fire. Only about 88% of the census
books have survived; no doubt the one with your ancestors was one of
the destroyed books. To date Ancestry has placed 26 books on the
Internet at http://www.ancestry.com/search/rectype/inddbs/3519.htm
Information provided includes each resident's name, gender, and age.
The book and page number from the original is also given with each
entry. You can get a copy of the original census record through
microfilm at a Family History Center.
Featured Book: To Our Children's Children
Last week's bimonthly meeting of the New York chapter of the
Association of Professional Genealogists included members of the
Association of Personal Historians who discussed the role of their
organization. I never realized there was a profession called "personal
historian" let alone an Association. They have an Internet site at http://www.personalhistorians.org.
It is worth visiting because their site includes tips on how to conduct
oral interviews and how to collect the personal history of individuals
One APH member recommended a valuable book for oral interviews, To
Our Children's Children, which Avotaynu has been selling for
some time. Interviewing relatives who have a knowledge of your family's
history is a skill and this book can help you develop that skill. It
contains a list of more than 1,000 questions you should consider asking
when interviewing people. The questions are organized by topics such as
"The House of Your Growing Up," "Romance and Relationships," and
"Parenthood." Additional information including the book's Table of
Contents can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/toourchildrens.htm
[This offer is sold out] Avotaynu
has acquired the remaining 66 copies of Guide to the YIVO
Landsmanshaftn Archives, an annotated inventory of the
holdings at YIVO Institute for Jewish Studies in New York of more than
200 landsmanshaft organizations and other benevolent societies.
Landsmanshaftn were societies organized by Jewish immigrants to the
United States based on town of origin in the Old Country. They helped
new immigrants from these towns adjust to the American environment, ran
social/charitable events, bought cemetery plots and then resold them to
their membership and performed other benevolent events. Cost of the
book is $10.00 plus shipping. Ordering information and a list of all
towns represented in the book can be found at
Last Chance for 10% Discount on
Avotaynu is offering subscribers to its journal a 10% discount on any
item in its catalog--books, maps, CDs and microfiche--through Erev
Chanukah, Thursday, December 21. This includes those books already
discounted. Many AVOTAYNU subscribers have already taken advantage of
the offer. Two of the more popular books bought in the past few weeks
include Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy (no
doubt as a Chanukah present for a friend or relative) and The
Litvaks. A list of all items we offer is presented at http://www.avotaynu.com/catalog.htm.
Another Chanukah Present:
Ancestry Offers Free Access to Its Databases
Ancestry.com is offering free access to all of its 2,750 databases
containing more than 900 million entries through Erev Chanukah,
December 21. During this Free Access period, all of the databases
normally reserved for paying subscribers will be open to any who wish
to search them. You can search all databases at once for a given
surname and the results will identify which ones have information that
might be of interest to you. You can then bring up the data from the
particular database. The link to this service is at http://service.bfast.com/bfast/click?bfmid=5647408&siteid=30422001&bfpage=homepage2
Vol. 1, No. 24 - December 31, 2000
Happy New Year to all!!
Improvements at the LDS (Mormon)
Family History Library
Two major improvements are coming to the LDS (Mormon) Family History
Library. Plans call for the addition of a significant number of
Internet-access computers throughout the Library. This recognizes the
importance of the Internet as a tool for genealogical research.
Currently Internet-access computers exist only on the first floor in
the Automated Resource Center.
The second improvement concerns the method of paying for copies. Old
timers will remember that a trip to the Family History Library in the
1980s required rolls of dimes as part of your list of things to bring.
The Library at that time did not have change machines. When the Library
finally installed change machines, it reduced the requirement to having
crisp one-dollar bills. Now, the Library is in the process of
eliminating the need for coins and will go to a debit card approach.
You will purchase the card itself for 60 cents and can add up to
$50.00. Each time the card is used, its worth is reduced by the cost of
the copies made. The feature will not only be a convenience to patrons
but will allow the Library to charge their true costs. (Apparently it
is costing them more than 20 cents for a microfilm copy, and they feel
charging 25 cents would be excessive.)
Genealogydatabase.com Slips on
Until recently the Genealogydatabase.com Internet site stated that
digitized versions of all the U.S. federal censuses 1790-1920 would be
available in December 2000. The information has been changed to state
that "launch date is not known but will be announced in early 2001."
Both this company and Ancestry.com appear to have underestimated the
enormity of their projects to make these valuable censuses available.
In my opinion, a more practical date would be the end of 2001 with
indexes being made available sometime in 2002.
More JPEGs of Eastern Europe
We have added more than 100 new JPEGs of towns in Belarus, Latvia,
Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine to our Internet site
http://www.avotaynu.com/postcards bringing the total number
of pictures to more than 1,300. These images are transmitted to you by
e-mail and are retrieved directly from your computer. Additional images
are now available for:
Belarus: Baranow, Borisow, Brest, Byten, Gomel, Grodno, Kobryn, Lida,
Luniniec, Minsk, Mogilev, Orsha, Pinsk, Pruzana, Rozana, Slonim, Vidzy,
Vileyka, Vitebsk, Volkovysk
Latvia: Jelgava, Libau
Lithuania: Alytus, Kybartai, Obeliai, Panevezys, Seda, Siauliai,
Skaudvile, Taurage, Ukmerge, Zarasai
Poland: Augustow, Biala Podlaska, Bialystok (9 more pictures), Brzesko,
Chmielnik, Cmielow, Czermin, Dabrowa, Debica, Dobczyce, Dobrzyn, Dynow,
Dzialoszyn, Gdansk, Glogau, Ilza, Jaslo, Jaworow, konin, Lipno, Lublin,
Miedzyrec Podlaski, Nowy Dwor, Olkusz, Ostrow Wielkopolski, Oswiecim,
Plock, Przedborz, Przemysl, Przytyk, Pultusk, Rajgrod, Sedziszow,
Sierpc, Skierniewice, Staszow, Szydlow, Tarnobrzeg, Wroclaw, Zbaszyn
Ukraine: Balaklava; Berdichev; Bprshchev (Borszczow); Chernovtsy
(Czernowitz); Delyatin (Delatyn); Divin (Dywin); Goloby; Golta;
Gorodenka; Grodek Jagiellonski; Kalish (Kalusz); Kamenets Podoloskiy;
Kherson; Khirvo; Khmielnitskiy (Proskurow); Kirovograd (Elisavetgrad);
Kiyev; Kosov (Kosow); Kovel; Lavochne; Luboml; Lutsk (Luck);
Mikulichyn; Milyatin; Monasterzysk; Nesterov (Zolkiew); Odessa;
Ozeryany (Jezierzany); Rava Ruska; Rogatyn; Slavuta; Suchum; Tartakow;
Terembovlya (Trembowla); Ternopol (Tarnopol); Tlumach; Truskaverts
(Truskawiec); Tulchin; Turka; Uzhorod; Vishnevets (Wisniowiec);
Vladimir Volynskiy (Wlodzimierz Wolynski); Zablotov; Zaleshchiki
(Zaleszczyski); Zolochev (Zloczow);
Featured Book: WOWW Companion
Avotaynu published a book in 1995 at the suggestion of Harold Rhode of
the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington. This book is an
index to the now out-of-print Where Once We Walked (WOWW).
Rhode noted that often genealogists want to know which towns are in the
vicinity of their ancestral shtetl because they are logical places for
collateral relatives to have moved or they may be the ancestral towns
of people who married into the family.
Thus was born WOWW Companion. In this book, each of
the 21,000 towns in WOWW is sequenced by latitude/longitude. The last
digit of both the latitude and longitude is dropped creating a grid
effect. If a given town is located at 51o47'/21o12', it is located in
grid 514/211. All towns with the initial latitude digits of
51o4x'/21o1x' are listed within the grid also. To find towns north of
the grid, you add 1 to the latitude. All these towns are in grid
515/211. Those east are in 514/212; west in 514/210, and so on.
The price has been reduced to $16.00. Information about the book can be
found at http://www.avotaynu.com/books2.htm#wowwcomp
YIVO Book Sold Out
The last remaining 66 copies of the out-of-print Guide to the
YIVO Landsmanshaftn Archives, have been sold out. It was
offered to Nu? subscribers in the last issue.
Vol. 2, No. 1 - January 19, 2001
HeritageQuest and Generations have canceled plans to place all federal
censuses from 1790-1920 online. They cite "current economic pressures
in the Internet market." This leaves Ancestry.com as the sole company
with plans to make these records available, some of which are already
on the Internet. In the last issue of Nu? What's New?
I noted that both companies may have underestimated the enormity of
their projects to make these valuable censuses available. It would have
seemed more likely that the Genealogydatabase.com project would succeed
because HeritageQuest already makes these records available on CD-ROM
Apparently the startup cost to maintain the millions of pages on the
Internet compared to anticipated income ended the project.
Soundexing: It Is Time for a
"This is an exciting information technology age for genealogy.
Genealogical software systems maintain the documentation of our
ancestors. Scanners allow us to integrate pictures and documents with
the genealogical software we use. Multi-million record databases on the
Internet give us access to information from our homes. Shortly, viewing
the documents of our ancestors on the Internet will be a reality. Yet,
we are still using a soundex system that is 82 years old."
This is the beginning of an article that I wrote for the latest issue
of Genealogical Computing. http://shops.ancestry.com/product.asp?dest=product&productid=1564&ti=0
Sad to say, in checking with various organizations that are involved in
developing large databases outside of the Jewish genealogical arena,
few seem to be addressing the question of soundex indexing. [If you are
not familiar with the topic of soundexing, there is a description at http://www.avotaynu.com/soundex.html.]
The Ellis Island project, which will index all arrivals at the Port of
New York from 1892 to 1924, has retained a linguistics professor to
look into the problem, but there is no evidence that soundexing will
exist for the planned unveiling of the database this April.
Ancestry.com, who will be placing on the Internet all the national
censuses from 1790-1920, may consider soundexing their planned index
but only at my prodding. The program at the Gentech conference from
February 2-3, does not include a single lecture on soundexing.
The soundex system used today for U.S. databases does not satisfy
today's needs. It was designed in an era when humans had to do the
encoding. We are now in the computer age, and more sophisticated rules
can be used because in the future all encoding will be done by
computers. It uses a coding scheme that favors Anglo-Saxon names. We
are now a multi-ethnic society. The Genealogical Computing
article notes many other deficiencies of the current soundex system and
recommends that the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System, which has been the
standard for Jewish genealogical software for more than 15 years, be
used as the starting point for the development of a more sophisticated
system. The article discusses an approach that handles multi-ethnicity.
Three years ago, in an article in the NGS Quarterly,
I provided a solution to the problem that different languages pronounce
letters of the alphabet in different ways. It is called decision tables.
It is time for the genealogical community to address the
Brothers Keeper Version 6.0
In the 1980s, when genealogical software was just being developed, the
packages were known more by their authors' names than by the packages'
names. Howard Nurse developed Roots III, Steve Vorenberg developed
Family Roots and John Steed developed Brothers Keeper. Nurse eventually
sold his company, Commsoft, to Palladium Interactive, who was bought
out by Broderbund (authors of Family Tree Maker), which was acquired by
Mattel. The consequence was that Nurse's handiwork--its last version
called Ultimate Family Tree--was discontinued. Vorenberg could never
keep up with the revolutionary changes happening in genealogical
software, so his package fell by the wayside.
But always in the background, doing his own thing, was John Steed of
Rockford, Michigan, slowly improving his package, Brothers Keeper. For
years it has been well behind its competitors in capability. The one
feature I always liked was its Descendancy Report, which I claim is the
best format in the industry for presenting a family tree in a family
history book. Avotaynu used it to produce Eliyahu's Branches,
the book that identifies more than 20,000 descendants of the Vilna Gaon
I personally use it for publishing my family trees on the Internet (see
Steed has now made a major upgrade to Brothers Keeper with Version 6.0.
It has improvements in areas where Brothers Keeper was lacking,
primarily in the areas of adding miscellaneous events and expanding
In one way Brothers Keeper is still old fashioned. It is shareware. You
can download from their Internet site http://www.bkwin.net/version6.htm.
Using the 1920 Census Data Online
Martin Mishkin of Ohio reports he recently subscribed to the
Ancestry.com census image service and has found the database valuable
as it currently exists. He reports:
"I find the work process of perusing the images to be a little more
cumbersome than on microfilm, but the convenience of instantly making
copies and not having to retrieve and spool the microfilm, all from the
convenience of my home, is pretty nice.... Of course all this will be
more valuable once the indexes are online, but it is still pretty cool
to have all the digitized images sitting out there on the Internet. I
have a broadband DSL line so the images download fast. Otherwise it
would probably be a bit frustrating-- and certainly slower than viewing
a standard microfilm reel."
Samples of the census data can be found at http://www.ancestry.com/search/io/main.htm.
Online Morton Allan Directory
The Morton Allan Directory of steamship arrivals
has been online for some time. It includes every passenger ship that
arrived between 1890 and 1930 at the Port of New York, and for the
years 1904 to 1926 at the Ports of Baltimore, Boston and Philadelphia.
Information supplied is the ship's name, date of arrival, and steamship
line, port of departure and port of arrival.
The online version, located at
http://www.cimorelli.com/safe/shipmenu.htm, has extensive
search capability. You can find ships by date, name, or by name/date
combination For example, if you know an ancestor arrived on the SS
Nieuw Amsterdam but are unsure of the date, the database will give you
a list of all arrivals for the ship.
The software design is poor; you may have to suffer long waiting times;
apparently each request causes the host computer to scan the entire
database looking for records that satisfy the request. For example, if
you request a list of ships that arrived starting in 1903, the system
will download all arrivals from 1903 through 1930. Do not use the "Find
a Steamer" option to locate information about a specific ship. This
feature allows you to search for a ship by initial letter of name only.
Instead use the "Select by Ship and Link to Detail Records." That will
limit the results to only the ship in question.
Avotaynu offers the Morton Allan Directory in book
form at http://www.avotaynu.com/bookref.htm#morton.
Featured Book: Russian-Jewish Given Names: Their Origins and
In 1911, Isser Kulisher, a minor bureaucrat in czarist Russia,
published a book of Jewish given names prevalent in the Russian Empire.
It served an important need: Russian bureaucrats, unfamiliar with
variants of Jewish names, were confused when dealing with matters
involving Jews. Was the man named Itsko who owed taxes the same man who
was named Itsek on a town birth record and who was known in the
community as Ajzik the butcher?
In 1998, Jewish genealogist Boris Feldblyum translated Kulisher's work
into English and Avotaynu republished the introduction, names and index
with Feldblyum adding his own commentary. The book, Russian-Jewish
Given Names, begins with a historical overview of Jewish
given names from the Russian Empire. This is followed by a list of all
the given names Kulisher could find organized by root name often
including its etymology. The last section is an index listing all names
alphabetically and identifying the root name.
The book is very valuable to genealogists for the same reason it was
valuable to the bureaucrats. In comparing different documents of our
ancestors, the names may not be the same. For example, was the Yehosie
Mokotow born in 1833 the same Shia Mokotow listed as the father of a
child born in 1858?
Additional information about the book, including a complete Table of
Contents, is located at http://www.avotaynu.com/feldblyum.htm.
Winter Issue of AVOTAYNU Is at
The Winter issue of AVOTAYNU is at the printer and should be mailed in
about 10 days. It is an unusually large issue--92 pages--because it is
our annual "human interest" issue. Particulars will appear in the next
issue of Nu? What's New? Subscription information
can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/journal.htm.
We just received the color proofs of the poster for Jewish Genealogy
Month. The poster will be posted to the Internet in the next 30 days.
Copies will be distributed to Jewish genealogical societies worldwide
in February. The theme this year is "Bringing Back the Names." Last
year's poster can be seen at http://www.avotaynu.com/poster.htm.
This year, Jewish Genealogy Month is March 25 - April 23, corresponding
to the Hebrew month of Nisan 5761.
Vol. 2, No. 2 - January 28, 2001
Pushing Back the Brick Wall
Jewish genealogists with Eastern European ancestry hit a brick wall in
tracing their roots at about the year 1800 for two reasons: (1) prior
to that date Jews did not have hereditary surnames; therefore, if there
are any records of that time, ancestors are identified only by their
given names and perhaps their patronymics; and (2) for many years the
evidence was that there were few records prior to 1800 that identified
Jews by name.
With the increased sophistication of Jewish genealogical research, this
brick wall is being pushed back at least a century. Because Eastern
European Jews historically name their children after deceased
ancestors, a number of more advanced researchers have been able to
analyze 18th-century documents and identify their family based solely
on given names. (See "Tackling the Lack of Surnames in 18th-Century
Russian Records" by Len Yodaiken in the Fall 1999 issue of AVOTAYNU.)
The Fall 2000 issue of AVOTAYNU addressed the second obstacle, lack of
documents, by noting that Polish nobility records contain information
about the population on their lands, including Jews. (See "Can Jewish
Genealogists Successfully Research 18th-Century Poland?" by Sallyann
Amdur Sack) The region covered is Poland and the Grand Duchy of
Lithuania which today comprises portions of Belarus, Lithuania, Poland
and Ukraine. Researchers should first determine which nobleman owned
his/her ancestor's town and then find out where the private archives is
now located. There is a good chance that these records will include
censuses and lists of Jews who lived on the noble's lands and in his
To assist in the research, Avotaynu has published on the Internet all
known holdings of the private archives of Polish magnates at http://www.avotaynu.com/magnates.htm.
For example, if your ancestors lived under the rule of the Mierzejewski
family, their private archives is at the Academy of Sciences in
Vilnius. The Sambirs'kyi family archives is at the State Historical
Archive in Kiev. One researcher found censuses in the Czartoryski
family archives in Krakow that included entries on the Ba'al Shem Tov
(1700-1760), the founder of Hassidism, in the Besht's hometown of
This is the first anniversary of Nu? What's New?.
Based on feedback from our subscribers, it is evident we are providing
a valuable service to the Jewish genealogical community. With more than
4,500 subscribers, Nu? is rapidly becoming the most
popular subscribed list in Jewish genealogy. Our intent is to provide
fresh news in summary form; we do not plan to include articles in this
e-zine. If additional information is available, rather than incorporate
it into Nu?, we will point to an Internet site or
some past issue of AVOTAYNU that has the information.
The JewishGen Family Finder now exceeds 50,000 contributors and is
approaching 250,000 records. JGFF is a listing of ancestral surnames
and towns being researched by Jewish genealogists throughout the world.
Its purpose is to identify other genealogists researching a surname
and/or town of interest to the inquirer. About 60% of the entries
represent the five most common ancestral countries of Jewish
genealogists: Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Germany. Another
12% of the entries are for towns in the U.S. Possibly the most popular
database at JewishGen, JGFF has some 100,000 searches per month. There
have been secondary uses for the information. A child survivor of the
Holocaust, knowing he had distant relatives somewhere in the world,
used it to locate his family. His family was my wife's family and
further genealogical research demonstrated he was my wife's second
cousin. His grandfather was a heretofore unknown brother of my wife's
grandfather. JGFF is located at http://www.jewishgen.org/jgff.
Ancestry.com now has more than one billion searchable records at its
Internet site: http://www.ancestry.com.
The one billion records are divided among approximately 3,000
databases, which include such data as the Social Security Death Index
and U.S. Federal Census images. While a number of the site's databases
are for paid subscribers only, the site also makes available nearly
half of its content free to all site visitors.
IAJGS Conference for 2002 In
There are still a few loose ends to clear up, but plans call for the
2002 International Conference on Jewish Genealogy to be held in Toronto
some time in the first half of August 2002. The last conference in
Toronto was in 1993. More particulars should be available in a few
Don't Count Out
The decision not to place all U.S. censuses from 1790-1920 on the
Internet at Genealogydatabase.com was made by the parent company,
SierraHome. They decided to reevaluate their total presence on the
Internet and issued a moratorium on all new Internet activities no
matter how close they were to completion. The census project was within
30 days of going live. This means that once SierraHome redefines its
long-term Internet plan, there is a possibility that the project will
Bialystok Book Back In Print
We now have copies of Jewish Bialystok and Its Environs
by Tomasz Wisniewski. It was out of print for a number of months. The
book includes historical photographs and maps of Jewish sites and
cemeteries for 30 towns in the vicinity of Bialystok. You can view
details about the book, including a list of towns represented at http://www.avotaynu.com/bialystok.htm.
Winter Issue of AVOTAYNU Is in
The Winter issue of AVOTAYNU will be mailed this week. The over-sized
92-page issue is our annual human interest issue which includes a
number of articles about personal experiences of genealogical research.
My favorite human interest article is by Carol Baird, the daughter of
Holocaust survivors, who returned to the German town where her
grandmother was born at the invitation of the citizens of the town. The
story includes a picture of her renewing her wedding vows in the
synagogue where her grandparents were married. Another
Holocaust-related article describes how a British Jewish genealogist
was able to determine that not all of his Belgian relatives were
murdered in the Holocaust; one 8-year-old cousin was hidden and
survived. How he was able to rapidly find his cousin, now living in
Canada, is a tribute to the networking that exists today within the
Jewish genealogical community.
When AVOTAYNU editor Sallyann Amdur Sack attended a conference in
Israel last year, she was invited by the director of the International
Tracing Service in Arolsen, Germany, to visit its facilities. ITS is
the principal repository of Holocaust records about individuals--both
victims and survivors. When she was invited to speak last October in
Hamburg, Germany, at a conference that recognized the city's major role
as a European port of emigration, she took the opportunity to visit the
ITS facilities. She reports in the latest issue of AVOTAYNU about both
the Hamburg symposium and the ITS visit.
Under the banner "Salt Lake City Success Syndrome" a number of people
who attended the annual conference last year held in Salt Lake City
describe how records at the Family History Library led to breakthroughs
in their research. There are also articles--as well as a registration
form--about the forthcoming 2001 conference to be held in London.
Subscription information about AVOTAYNU can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/journal.htm.
Featured Book: A Guide to Jewish Genealogical Research in
Archives in a country normally contain only records of that particular
country's history. Israel is different. Many of their archives contain
information about the Jewish people worldwide. Typical are the Central
Archives of the Jewish People, Central Zionist Archives and the Joint
Distribution Committee Archives. For that reason, Avotaynu co-owner,
Sallyann Amdur Sack with the assistance of the Israel Genealogical
Society, published A Guide to Jewish Genealogical Research in
Israel. It identifies 25 archives in Israel with in-depth
descriptions of their holdings. There are even lists of genealogies and
family histories located at Yad Vashem, Central Archives and the Jewish
National and University Library. Additional detail, including a table
of contents can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/books3.htm#israel.
Vol. 2, No. 3 - February 11, 2001
Jewish Genealogy Month 2001 --
March 25 - April 23, 2001
For the third consecutive year, Avotaynu is sponsoring Jewish Genealogy
Month which this year is March 25-April 23. It corresponds to the
Hebrew month of Nisan 5761--the Passover season. In association with
this event, Avotaynu created a poster, copies of which will be
distributed free of charge to every Jewish Genealogical Society in the
world. There are some 80 societies, 58 of which are in the U.S. and
Canada. Societies will be encouraged to post them in synagogues and
other Jewish institutions in their area and to include the address and
phone number of the local society so that residents can contact them
for information. Individuals can purchase the poster for $5.00 ($10.00
outside North America). The poster for this year can be viewed at
Avotaynu's web site http://www.avotaynu.com/poster.htm.
This year's theme is "Bringing Back the Names," reminding us that
family history research brings back the long-forgotten names of distant
Funeral Database Venture Started
In this era of failed dot.com companies, one startup group plans to go
against the trend and make a success in an area that will be a great
boon to genealogists. funeralCENTRAL.com/rootsCENTRAL.com located at http://www.funeralcentral.com
plans to offer consumer services through the funeral industry and has
already developed their first product: permanent memorials to deceased
loved ones on the Internet. The information provided in the sample at
the Web site shows that the memorial can include biographical
information about the deceased as well as photos and images of
funeralCENTRAL will provide participating funeral homes the facility to
publish a Funeral Information Notice (FIN), similar to the obituaries
published in a newspaper. This will be a free service, one for every
death, preserved in perpetuity on the Internet and accessible to the
public. With the company's goal to sign up every funeral home in the
U.S. and Canada, such a database would become a North American death
To enrich this memorial, funeral homes will offer to create for a fee a
memorial from family photographs and stories similar to the sample at
the Web site. Friends and relatives of the deceased can also place
permanent memorials and condolences on the Internet. This could be in
place of or in addition to the current customary methods of expressing
condolences through the giving of flowers, food, and various types of
"Today's funeral purchasers are insisting on personal touches to make
the ceremony a unique celebration of an individual's life. They are
looking for an event focused more on the memorialization of a life than
on the mourning of a death . . . photographs and stories from the
rootsCENTRAL memorials help fulfill that need," says Doug Porter,
President of Turner and Porter Funeral Directors, one of the largest
independent funeral homes in North America.
Future plans call for consumers to be able to register for a service
that will inform them by e-mail of deaths. You can select notification
by surname or geographic region. As an example, I can request to be
notified of any death of a person named "Mokotoff" and all persons who
die that lived in Bergenfield, New Jersey.
The online database will be the property of the Federation of
Genealogical Societies, a confederation of more than 550 genealogical
societies in the United States and Canada. One goal is to encourage
funeral homes to donate their historical records to FGS who will then
have the opportunity to use funds they are going to receive as a
partner in the funeralCENTRAL venture to make them available to the
JGSNY Publishes Burial Plot Data
It took 12 years to complete, but the Jewish Genealogical Society, Inc.
(New York) has published on the Internet information about the more
than 10,000 Jewish burial plots in the Greater New York area owned by
landsmanshaftn (home-town associations), synagogues, family circles,
fraternal organizations and labor unions. It involves data from some
100 cemeteries in New York City, Long Island, Putnam County,
Westchester County, and northern New Jersey. The database is located at
The search engine allows you to key in a town name or key word. It
displays the name of the plot (e.g., Bialystoker Bricklayers
Progressive Benevolent Association), Cemetery name (Mt. Zion), and the
exact location of the plot within the cemetery (Path 42 Right, Gate 3),
and society type (labor union). At another JGSNY site there is a list
of New York metropolitan area cemeteries at http://www.jgsny.org/nycem.htm.
I have recently been doing research on ancestors who came from
Bialystok. I was familiar with four different cemetery plots of people
from Bialystok in the New York area. The JGSNY burial plot database
Records of the Polish Nobility
The last issue of Nu? discussed records of
18th-century Polish noblemen that contained information about Jews who
lived on their lands. We received a number of inquiries from people who
asked how to determine which Polish noble owned the lands occupied by
their ancestral town. The best source is the 15-volume Slownik
Geograficzny Kr¢lestwa Polskiego i innych kraj¢w
slowianskich (Geographic Dictionary of the Former Kingdom of
Poland and Other Slavic Lands). It is available on microfilm through
the Family History Library system (microfilm numbers 920957-920971).
Libraries with large map or Slavic departments might also have the
dictionary. It is written in Polish, of course. A description of the
work can be found at the Polish Genealogical Society of America site at
A few towns have been translated into English and are available on the
Internet. Two lists of translated towns exist (they are not the same)
Plans for Migration from the Russian Empire on CD-ROM
Genealogy.com will make available an index of Russian immigrants
arriving at the port of New York on CD-ROM. It will cover the period
1850-1898 and includes some 461,000 entries. Presently in book form,
six volumes of indexes covering the time period 1875-June 1891. That is
the good news. The bad news is that the CD will not be available for at
least six months due to production commitments at Genealogy.com.
Date Confirmed for 2002 Conference
The 22nd International Conference on Jewish Genealogy will be held on
August 4-9, 2002, according to the host group, the Jewish Genealogical
Society of Canada (Toronto).
DNA Testing Providing Good Results
When Dean Draznin submitted a DNA sample to FamilyTreeDNA, he wanted to
determine the validity of the family legend that Draznins where
Cohanim. He got back two results. First, the DNA testing demonstrated
he did not have the Cohanic trait, but more surprising was that his DNA
exactly matched the Glazer family of Bereza, Belarus. The Draznin
family is from Skidel, Belarus, about 90 miles (100 km) from Bereza.
The match was made possible because the company maintains a Surname
Databases Library, a collection of all previous testing they have done
where they received permission to keep the results. All new testing is
automatically matched against previous results. Additional information
is available at their site: http://www.familytreedna.com.
If you order the DNA kit through JewishGen, the testing company will
make a contribution to JewishGen. Additional information is available
There is an excellent article about DNA and genealogy at the U.S. News
and World Report site at http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/010129/migration.htm.
If you are considering attending the 21st
International Conference on Jewish Genealogy to be held in London from
8-13 July 2001, there is considerable information at their Internet
Featured Work: The Lost Wooden Synagogues of Eastern Europe
Among the many tragedies of the Holocaust was the fact that the wooden
synagogues of Eastern Europe--some 1,000 structures--were
systematically burned to the ground by the Germans as they conquered
territories and murdered or deported the Jewish population. A few of
these magnificent structures survived and a group has documented them,
as well as the history of these synagogues, in a video tape that can
now be purchased through Avotaynu. The video includes photos of many of
the famous wooden synagogues of the past and file footage of Jewish
life before the Holocaust (some of which I had not seen before). It
also documents a trip to Lithuania to film the few (abandoned)
remaining wooden synagogues there. In additional to being an
interesting video to be included in a home video library, it is worth
showing to genealogical and general Jewish interest groups. (The
producers permit royalty-free group viewing for educational but not
fund raising purposes.) Run time is 48 minutes. The narrator is
Theodore Bikel (of course). Ordering information can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/synagogues.htm.
Vol. 2, No. 4 - February 25, 2001
Family History Library Judaica
Index Now Available
An index to all known Jewish items at the LDS (Mormon) Family History
Library in Salt Lake City is now available on the Internet at http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/fhlc/.
A CD version is available from the International Association of Jewish
Genealogical Societies. Both versions include a full-word search engine
that will identify any collection whose description includes the key
word(s) being searched. For example, searching with the key words
"displaced persons" identified eight record groups at the Library with
information about post-Holocaust refugees.
The index was made available in printed form at the 20th International
Seminar on Jewish Genealogy held in Salt Lake City last summer. Persons
who previewed the database were amazed at the number of heretofore
unknown Jewish records available at the Library. As an example, there
is a book containing an alphabetical list of persons sent to Siberian
work camps from Lithuania, 1941-1952. It identifies the I.D. number,
name, father's name, birth year, date sent, date released or died, and
name of camp to which the person was sent. In the nearly two decades
that I have visited the Library, I have noticed only five yizkor books.
They actually have 25 yizkor books.
Internet access is free. Prior to May 1, 2001, the CD can be purchased
for $20 plus $3 S/H in U.S. and Canada - $5 S/H to other countries.
After April 30, 2001, the price will be $25 plus S/H. The CD is PC and
Mac compatible. When you install the system, it places the entire
database on your hard drive so that you do not have to use the CD after
installation. To order, send a check, made payable to IAJGS, to:
Marilyn Natchez, IAJGS Treasurer; PO Box 251683; West Bloomfield, MI
48325-1683. Alternatively, you can pay by VISA or MasterCard. Send your
charge card number and expiration date to Marilyn at the mailing
address above or to her e-mail address, MRNatchez@aol.com.
Place Source Documents in Your
A constant topic of discussion among genealogists is how to organize
documentation. There are books written on the subject. One of the
better ones is Organizing Your Family History Search.
for further information.) When I started my family history work, I had
a simple system. I placed the latest documentation at the back of the
file. When the size of my file exceeded four inches (10 cm), I knew it
was time to reorganize the information. Fortunately, the progenitor of
the Mokotow family had 14 children, so the method I use to this day is
to have one folder per child. Although the Mokotow documentation now
exceeds three linear feet (1 meter), for my purposes it is still an
effective method of filing and retrieving information.
If you are relatively new to genealogy or you are willing to devote
time to reorganizing your files, consider a computer-age approach to
the problem: scan the documents and attach them to the people they
reference in your genealogical database. All genealogical software
systems allow computer-scanned images to be integrated with the data.
The primary purpose is to include photographs of the family. Why not
use it to attach documentation also? If you have the birth record of
your grandfather, scan the document and attach it to the record of your
grandfather and each of his parents.
The advantages are considerable. Every piece of evidence about the
individual is part of the computer record. If you receive a new
document that contradicts information previously obtained, such as a
birth date, the first question is "where did I get that previous
information." By attaching all documentation to the individual, you
have all sources handy, and you can evaluate the new evidence against
Portion of 1900 Census On Line
Ancestry.com has started placing portions of the 1900 census online.
Not many of the counties that tend to be of interest to Jewish
genealogists are available as yet--such as New York, Bronx, the New
Jersey counties that border New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago--but
Brooklyn (Kings County) and Baltimore are available. The census
information is available for a fee at http://www.ancestry.com/search/io/main.htm
More On Wooden Synagogues
In the previous edition of Nu? Whatþs New?
I referred to an excellent video tape titled The Lost Wooden
Synagogues of Eastern Europe. For more information see http://www.avotaynu.com/books/synagogues.htm.
Avotaynu sells JPEG images of the postcard collection of Tomasz
Wisniewski. It includes a number of pictures of these magnificent
structures. Avotaynu has extracted the images from the collection, and
they now can be viewed as a group at http://www.avotaynu.com/synagogues/.
More than 1,000 wooden synagogues existed in Eastern Europe. Almost all
were destroyed during the Holocaust. They were not merely buildings
made of wood. Many were magnificent structures with a distinctive
exterior design and elaborately decorated interior. Many were built
with the exterior boards erected vertically as a symbolic
representation to the tabernacle the Jews had erected in the desert
during their exodus from Egypt--"And thou shall make the boards for the
tabernacle of acacia wood standing up." (Exodus 26:15). In 1959, a book
called Wooden Synagogues was published in Poland
that included numerous photos taken in the 1920s of the exterior and
interior of 70 wooden synagogues. It is now out of print. I have seen
prices as high as $200 for a copy.
More Remarkable Results with DNA
In recent issues I have talked about the brick wall that exists in
tracing Eastern European Jewish ancestry because of the paucity of
documents prior to 1800 and the fact that Jews of that region did not
have hereditary surnames before that date. There is one area where the
brick wall does not exist: rabbinic genealogy. If you are descended
from a famous rabbi, there is a good chance you can trace your ancestry
back for centuries, and some claim, even millennia.
Many Jewish genealogists can trace a portion of their ancestry back to
the 11th century because they can demonstrate descendancy from the
great rabbi Shlomo ben Isaac, known as Rashi, who lived in France from
1040-1105. An example of such a genealogy can be found at http://www.nodabyehuda.com/.
There is even an alleged ascent from Rashi to King David, but it is
likely flawed with missing generations. I found one site, http://www.LoebTree.com
where the author demonstrates his ancestry back to Adam--132
generations. Note that on this tree the time span from King David (#34)
to Rav Khai (Hai) Gaon (#97) is 2,050 years, 64 generations for an
average of 32 years per generation--possible but unlikely.
A remarkable incident occurred recently involving two distinguished
rabbinic families: the Charlaps and the Shealtiels. Both families have
trees that describe descent from the last exilarch, Hezekiah who died
in 1056 CE. Each family claims to be descended from a different son of
the king, implying the only kinship between the two families is a
common ancestor 945 years ago!
The two families decided to test the theory of kinship by using the
services of Dr. Neil Bradman of London, England, who was one of the
scientists responsible for demonstrating that there is a Cohanic DNA
trait among Jewish men who claim to be the direct descendants of the
first Jewish priest, Aaron. They submitted many DNA samples from both
the Charlap and Shealtiel families--men who claim to be direct paternal
descendants of the Exilarch Hezekiah. The results? They all have common
Y-chromosomes. They all have a common ancestor in their direct paternal
line thus proving they are one family genetically.
There is an description of the pre-DNA Shealtiel family research
claiming descent from King David at http://www.shealtiel.org/david.html.
There is a fascinating history of the Shealtiel family at http://www.shealtiel.org/history.html.
The Charlaps have a site at http://www.charlap.org.
Arthur Menton, a member of the Charlap family, has published two
volumes on his family's history, titled Book of Destiny:
Toledot Charlap and Ancilla to Toledot Charlap.
The first book is a narrative description of the family's history. The
Ancilla is primarily the family tree. Avotaynu sells both books.
Additional information can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/bookrefj.htm#charlap.
Featured Book: Auswandererhafen Hamburg -- Hamburg Emigration
There is a wonderful 80-page book published by the Hamburg City
Archives that shows, through pictures, the emigration experience of our
ancestors at the Port of Hamburg, Germany. It was prepared for an
exhibition titled Auswandererhafen Hamburg (Hamburg
Emigration Port). This inexpensive ($14.00) work is now being sold by
Avotaynu, and information can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/hamburg.htm.
There are more than 50 high-quality pictures plus numerous
illustrations and posters. My favorite, which is shown at the Internet
site, is one of the German-Jewish community assisting in processing
their Eastern European coreligionsists through the Hamburg port
facilities. Most of the pictures are on the Internet at http://www.hamburg.de/Behoerden/Pressestelle/emigration/englisch/welcome.htm,
but you cannot fully appreciate the quality and interest of the
pictures except through the book. It is a worthwhile addition to your
genealogy book collection and can even be used as a coffee-table book
for guests to peruse. All descriptions are in German and English.
Where Once We Walked, the award-winning
gazetteer of Central and Eastern Europe that launched Avotaynu into the
book publishing business is out of print. A revised edition is planned
for the end of this year. There are no copies left of the book. People
are so anxious to get a copy that a used one was recently auctioned on
e-Bay for $227.16 (the list price was $69.50)!! If you hear the sound
of kicking emanating from Avotaynu's office in Bergenfield, New Jersey,
it is me kicking myself for not holding back 30 copies of WOWW and
selling them on e-Bay one at a time!!
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