Nu? What's New?

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

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

Vol. 1, No. 20 - November 5, 2000

Population Registers

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 children.

How to use these registers and how to access them are described in the AVOTAYNU articles.

More Articles in the Fall Issue of AVOTAYNU

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 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.

Ukrainian Archives: Not an official site but it has much information about the Ukrainian archival system.

French National Archives:

Ships of Our Ancestors

There is a website that gives detailed descriptions of many ships that carried our ancestors from Europe located at (Reported on the JRI-Poland Discussion Group by Milton Goldsamt) Adds 1920 Census Data to the Internet
==================================== has posted images of the 1920 U.S. Federal Census for parts of Alabama, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas. It is located at 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 Conference

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 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

Avotaynu Fall/Winter Catalog Now Available

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
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.,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: at and at has already placed selected portions of the census online without an index -- a head-of-household index planned for the future. is still claiming they will have all censuses (1790-1920) online by the end of this year. To tweak'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 service is $59.95 per year ($39.95 if you are already an 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

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 Record Indexes

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

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 You can view items already posted at 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 at

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

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 Mokotoff research).

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 conclusion.

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 69.

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

Jerusalem Post Obituaries
================== has obituaries from 1999 editions of the Jerusalem Post at They claim it contains nearly 11,800 records and over 41,600 names.

Recovering Insurance Policy Holocaust Assets

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

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 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 Canada.

For additional information you can write to Gordon A. Watts at You can keep up to date on the status of this controversy at and

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

A list of other articles can be found at
. Included are such topics as "Naturalization of World War I Soldiers" and "Women and Naturalization, 1802-1940."

Attention Litvaks

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 Lithuanian Jewry.

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 very exciting."

Ordering information for the book as well as the complete Table of Contents can be found at

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 at [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

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

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

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
================= 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 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 It is worth visiting because their site includes tips on how to conduct oral interviews and how to collect the personal history of individuals we interview.

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

Closeout Offer

[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 Products

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

Another Chanukah Present: Ancestry Offers Free Access to Its Databases
================================================== 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

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.) Slips on U.S. Censuses

Until recently the 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 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 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

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
************************** Cancels Census Plans

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 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 project would succeed because HeritageQuest already makes these records available on CD-ROM at 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 Change

"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.

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] 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., 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 field sizes.

In one way Brothers Keeper is still old fashioned. It is shareware. You can download from their Internet site

Using the 1920 Census Data Online

Martin Mishkin of Ohio reports he recently subscribed to the 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

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, 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

Featured Book: Russian-Jewish Given Names: Their Origins and Variants

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

Winter Issue of AVOTAYNU Is at the Printer

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

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 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 towns.

To assist in the research, Avotaynu has published on the Internet all known holdings of the private archives of Polish magnates at 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 Medzhibozh!


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 now has more than one billion searchable records at its Internet site: 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 Toronto

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 weeks.

Don't Count Out

The decision not to place all U.S. censuses from 1790-1920 on the Internet at 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 be reactivated.

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

Winter Issue of AVOTAYNU Is in the Mail

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

Featured Book: A Guide to Jewish Genealogical Research in Israel

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

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

This year's theme is "Bringing Back the Names," reminding us that family history research brings back the long-forgotten names of distant ancestors.

Funeral Database Venture Started

In this era of failed 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. located at 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 documents.

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 index.

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 donations.

"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 genealogical community.

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

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 lists 25!

Records of the Polish Nobility (continued)

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) at and

Plans for Migration from the Russian Empire on CD-ROM
========================================= 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

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: If you order the DNA kit through JewishGen, the testing company will make a contribution to JewishGen. Additional information is available at There is an excellent article about DNA and genealogy at the U.S. News and World Report site at

Annual Conference
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 site:

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

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 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,

Place Source Documents in Your Genealogy Database

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. (See 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 the old.

Portion of 1900 Census On Line
====================== 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

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 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 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 Testing

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 There is even an alleged ascent from Rashi to King David, but it is likely flawed with missing generations. I found one site, 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 There is a fascinating history of the Shealtiel family at

The Charlaps have a site at 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

Featured Book: Auswandererhafen Hamburg -- Hamburg Emigration Port

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 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, 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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