Nu? What's New?


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

To be added or removed from the Nu? What's New? mailing list, go on the Internet to http://www.avotaynu.com/nuwhatsnew.htm


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Vol. 2, No. 5 - March 18, 2001
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Major Update to the Consolidated Jewish Surname Index
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Avotaynu has just made a major update to its Consolidated Jewish Surname Index located at http://www.avotaynu.com/csi/csi-home.html. We have added the surnames contained in the following databases:
JRI-Poland
All-Lithuania Database
All-Belarus Database
All-Latvia Database
JewishGen Family Finder

CJSI is a database of databases. It is an index to 31 different sources of information about (mostly) Jewish surnames. Rather than searching the indexes to each source separately to see if there is information relevant to your research, CJSI indicates which databases contain surnames of interest to you. Links are provided to other Web sites that either have the databases or information about how to access the data. Most of the sources that are not online are published in books or on microfiche. In combination, all 31 sources represent more than 2 million records for approximately 370,000 unique surnames.

CJSI has some special features to enhance it usefulness. The index is presented in Daitch-Mokotoff soundex order rather than alphabetically. This means that many spelling variants of a surname appear on consecutive lines. CJSI is browseable like a telephone book. It does not merely provide you with a list of surnames that match the soundex code. Keying in a given surname places you at a certain point in the database. You can then search up and down the database beyond the limits of the soundex code. This allows you also to review surnames that are small variations of the one being searched. Finally, an advanced search feature allows you to mix exact matching and soundexing of the letters of the surname lowering the incidence of false positives (the procedure is described at the Internet site).

Because these newly added sources are ever growing, Avotaynu plans to update CJSI at least semi-annually to include the additions that have been made to these databases.


U.S. Censuses Online
===============

We have previously reported that two companies are in the race to place U.S. censuses online: Ancestry.com and Genealogydatabase.com (the latter has since canceled plans). It appears there are two other contenders.

Genealogy.com has placed the entire 1900 census on the Internet at http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/1900census.html?Welcome=984927794. For those who have to key in the long address, you can also access the site from the company's home page at http://www.genealogy.com. The cost for access is high compared to its competitors (who currently offer little) at $99.95/year for the census database only.

The other company, Census4all at http://www.census4all.com, plans to make available the 1910 census with indexes for those 29 states that were not indexed by the U.S. government including New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Maryland. Currently only Rhode Island is indexed with Vermont and New Hampshire to follow. If their strategy is to do the smallest states first, it can be anticipated that the states of greatest interest to Jewish genealogists will be the last to appear. Census4all currently does not charge to use the index. There is a charge of $12.50 for a copy of the census image.

Ancestry.com continues to add more images of the 1900 and 1920 census at http://www.ancestry.com/search/io/main.htm

To summarize the status of online U.S. censuses for 1900, 1910 and 1920:

Ancestry.com. Portions of the 1900 and 1920 census online without indexes. Future plans call for all of the 1900, 1910 and 1920 censuses to be online with indexes. Cost $59.95/year for census-only subscription; $99.95/year for all their databases which they claim include more than one billion records.

Genealogy.com. Entire 1900 census online including index. Future plans unknown. Cost $99.95/year.

Census4all.com. 1910 census for Rhode Island online with index. Future plans to make available all states in 1910 census that were not indexed. The use of the index is free. Copies of census sheets are $12.50.

Genealogydatabase.com. Have postponed all activity in getting census data online while their parent company reevaluates their Internet strategy.


Jewish Genealogy Month 2001
=====================

A number of Jewish genealogical societies have already indicated that they plan special events in conjunction with Jewish Genealogy Month which this year is March 25 - April 23. The Avotaynu-sponsored event corresponds to the Hebrew month of Nisan 5761--the Passover season. In association with this event, Avotaynu created a poster, copies of which were distributed free to every Jewish Genealogical Society in the world. There are some 80 societies. 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 ancestors.


Annual Jewish Genealogy Trip to Salt Lake City
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For the ninth consecutive year, veteran professional genealogist, Eileen Polakoff, and I will be offering a research trip to the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library in Salt Lake City from October 26-November 2, 2001. To date, more than 300 Jewish genealogists from the U.S., Canada, South America and Europe have taken advantage of this program.

The program offers genealogists the opportunity to spend an entire week of research at the Library under the guidance and assistance of professional genealogists who have made more than two dozen trips to Salt Lake City. The program includes a specially arranged three-hour class on the day of arrival introducing the participants to the facilities and resources of the Family History Library, a mid-week informal group discussion of progress and problem-solving,and access to trip leaders from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Library for on-site assistance and personal consultations. For those new to genealogy, a beginners workshop on the first morning of the trip introduces them to the wonderful world of Hamburg immigration lists, U.S. passenger arrival lists, naturalization records and census records. Additional information is available at http://www.avotaynu.com/slctrip.htm.


Featured Book:
The Naturalized Jews of the Grand Duchy of Posen in 1834 and 1835
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In 1836 a list was published of the naturalized Jews of the Grand Duchy of Posen 1834-1835. Edward David Luft of Washington, D.C., authored a book in 1987 that included the list--more than 5,000 persons--with additional commentary and maps. It is a valuable reference work because many genealogists with roots in Posen province during that period have difficulty determining their ancestral town from other sources. This book includes for each person the town of residence and occupation as well as the person's name.

Avotaynu has bought the remaining 26 copies of the book from its publisher, and they are available on a first-come-first-served basis. Cost is $34.95. Additional information can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/posen.htm.


List of Vilna Ghetto Residents
====================

For the past three years, Avotaynu has been selling the two-volume work Vilniaus Getas (Vilius Ghetto): Lists of Prisoners. We are down to our last 5 sets and we do not plan to reorder. Volume 1 lists more than 15,000 Jews who were confined to the ghetto in 1942. Volume 2 lists the names and information about the Jews living in various work camps in the vicinity of Vilnius. Cost for the two-volume set is $40.00. They are available from us on a first-come-first-served basis. Once we are out of stock the books can be ordered from the Jewish Museum in Vilnius. Litvak SIG, the Lithuanian Jewish Special Interest Group, plans to place the lists of names on the Internet sometime in the future. [Note 4 Sep 2001: Avotaynu is now out of stock of both volumes. Order directly from the museum.]


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Vol. 2, No. 6 - April 1, 2001
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Another Nu? What's New? Milestone
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There are now more than 5,000 subscribers to Nu? What's New?


Ellis Island Database to Launch April 17
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One of the most significant databases for Jewish-American genealogy will be on the Internet starting April 17. On that day, at ceremonies to be held at Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation will launch its database of 22 million passenger arrivals (1892-1924). The database can be accessed at the Family Immigration History Center on the island or online at http://www.ellisisland.org/history.html, according to a public affairs spokesperson at the Foundation. Information provided about each immigrant includes name, ship name, port of origin, arrival date, page/line number on manifest, gender, age, marital status, nationality and last residence (town & country). The actual passenger record, which contains much more information, can be ordered from the Foundation for a fee. Included will be a soundex search facility developed by a professor of linguistics--implying that none of the known soundex systems will be used.

There will be a fee of $5.00 for using the database at Ellis Island; early statements were that access to the Internet version would be free.

The project was started by the LDS (Mormon) Family History Department some years ago with 12,000 Church members volunteering more than 5.6 million hours to extract the information. The decision-makers in Utah elected to turn over their efforts to the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. The Family History Department had considered developing a CD-ROM version of the database but according to a person at their Extraction department, there are no immediate plans to make such a version available.


Migrations from the Russian Empire CD
===========================

In June, Genealogy.com will be offering a CD version of Migrations from the Russian Empire: List of Passengers Arriving at the Port of New York. The CD includes the period 1850-1893. A second CD will follow at some unknown date for the years 1894-1897. The price has not yet been determined, but typically Genealogy.com CDs of this type cost in the $40-50 range.

The CD will contain information extracted from the original passenger lists--the only records that furnish proof of the arrival in the United States of millions of immigrants from the Russian Empire. During that time period, the Russian Empire included today's Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Moldova, northeastern Poland, Russia and Ukraine. For each passenger, the CD includes the date of arrival; ship's name; person's name; age; sex; occupation; and in some cases, place of origin and destination. There is an alphabetical index of all persons. Most of the arrivals are for the Port of New York, but some other ports are included for certain years.

Their Internet site is http://www.genealogy.com. Avotaynu plans to sell the CD as soon as it becomes available.


London Conference Posts Lecture Schedule
==============================

The 21st International Seminar on Jewish Genealogy will be held July 8-13, 2001, in London at the Hotel Inter-Continental. The sponsoring society, the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain, has posted the speaker list and tentative schedule at their Internet site http://www.jewishgen.org/London2001/. Attendees will be kept busy. Some 160 speakers make up the 182 lectures and panels on the program. Most days have five concurrent sessions. Early registration, with its discounted registration fee, ends April 30.


Names, Names, Names
================

The subject of names has occupied a good portion of my life in recent months; first through Alexander Beider's newest book and second through a new film by Alan Berliner.

I have just finished reading, editing and rereading Alexander Beider's newest magnum opus A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names: Their Origins, Structure, Pronunciation and Migrations. It is yet another incredible accomplishment of this remarkable person. Zachary Baker, former head librarian of YIVO Institute and now curator of Judaica and Hebraica Collections at Stanford University Libraries, received a preview copy of the book. His immediate reaction was that "...it takes my breath away -- he has truly outdone himself! It will be THE authority on the subject from now on."

To give you a taste of how comprehensive a study Dr. Beider has made, we posted the dictionary entry for the feminine name Yentl [of Barbra Streisand fame] at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/yentl.htm. The dictionary comprises only 60% of the book. The balance is a 300-page thesis on the origins, structure, pronunciation, and migrations of Ashkenazic given names. Readers of Dr. Beider's previous books A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire and A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland know his works not only inform but educate. Avotaynu will publish the book in July with a pre-publication discount offer to be announced shortly.


Last weekend, I saw a preview of Alan Berliner's latest documentary The Sweetest Sound. Its subject is names. Berliner is an independent film producer, director, and writer who uses genealogy-oriented topics for his films. His first film, Family Album consisted of portions of 16mm family home movies. His second film, Intimate Stranger, was a biography of his mother's father, an Egyptian-Jewish cotton merchant who became wealthy before World War II selling Egyptian cotton to the Japanese. His grandfather lost much of his wealth during the war but recovered a portion of it afterwards by helping to rebuild the Japanese economy. Nobody's Business, Berliner's third documentary, consisted of an interview between Alan and his father during which, like a typical genealogist, Alan tries to convince his father of the importance of family history. His father's response was that it is "nobody's business--who cares about the past." A more complete description of the film can be found at http://www.librarymedia.org/nobodys.html. This film won numerous film festival awards including New York, Berlin (Ecumenical Prize, Caligari Film Prize & International Film Critics Prize), San Francisco (Golden Spire Golden Gate Award), and Jerusalem (Mayor's Prize for Best Documentary).

Some years ago Alan approached me and other genealogists about how to go about locating all the men in the world named Alan Berliner. He decided that would be the subject of his next film: names, specifically the name "Alan Berliner." It is the subject of this just-released film titled The Sweetest Sound. He managed to locate 12 other men named Alan Berliner and invited them all to meet. The film not only includes the meeting but is a general documentary about the importance of names. Alan now has his own Internet site at, you guessed it, http://www.alanberliner.com. The film will air on PBS in June. The exact date will be published in a future issue of Nu? What's New?


Sephardic SIG Internet Site
===================

The Sephardic Special Interest Group now has an Internet site at http://www.jewishgen.org/SefardSig. There are numerous articles on how to do Sephardic genealogy, sources of information, information about Sephardic surnames and links to other Internet sites. Sephardic Jews are descended from Jews of medieval Spain who were expelled from that country in 1492. They are distinguished from Ashkenazic Jews who settled Central and Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages.


New Version of CJSI a Great Success
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In the last issue, we announced a significant update to the Consolidated Jewish Surname Index, a database of more than 370,000 surnames, mostly Jewish, extracted from 31 other databases. It is located at http://www.avotaynu.com/csi/csi-home.html. Since the announcement two weeks ago, the Internet site has had nearly 10,000 visits. The tremendous success of this update has motivated Avotaynu to call for more databases to be added to CJSI. If you are the owner of a database of at least 1,000 different Jewish surnames, preferably accessible on the Internet, Avotaynu would like to consider including it in CJSI. Write to me at garymokotoff@avotaynu.com.


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Vol. 2, No. 7 - April 15 2001
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Batya Unterschatz to Retire
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Sallyann Sack, co-owner of Avotaynu returned recently from her annual trek to Israel to gather information for future issues of AVOTAYNU. She came back with some disheartening news: Batya Unterschatz will end her 29-year career as the one-person Search Bureau for Missing Relatives when she retires on May 31. Batya will still work for a while as a consultant for the Search Bureau's parent organization, the Jewish Agency.

Batya is a legend in Jewish genealogy due to her ability to locate people living in Israel with only the smallest scrap of information. Her dedication and sometimes ingenious solutions have been the key to her success. She has been responsible for uniting close relatives who were Holocaust survivors and thought they were the sole survivors of their family. Typical of her skills was the manner in which she handled the most recent inquiry I sent her. I was looking for a man named Abraham Wigoda whose last-known address in Israel was 44 years old. After hitting a brick wall, Batya re-evaluated the evidence and realized the man's name was not Wigoda but Yagoda. Subsequently, she was able to determine the man had since died, and she put me in contact with a son.

Batya plans to continue her professional genealogical research practice.


Bremen Emigration Lists on Internet
========================

A portion of the surviving Bremen Emigration Lists have been placed on the Internet. The years 1920-1922 with part of 1923--172 sailings of 66,000 people--can be found at http://db.genealogy.net/maus/gate/shiplists.cgi. The project is a joint effort of the Bremen Chamber of Commerce and a Bremen society for family research called Maus. Eventually the group hopes to put all surviving lists, through 1939, on the Internet.

You can search the lists using a surname only or a portion of a surname. The system will then display all persons whose surname has the key letters supplied. Using the surname Weiss, the system displayed all names that had the consecutive characters w-e-i-s-s including Weiss, Schneeweiss, Schweiss, Serweiss, Stirnweiss, Weissenberg, Wessenberger, Weissenborn, Weissenbruch and others. There is no soundex search. Information provided includes name of the person, town of origin, ship, date of departure and name of the ship.

The site states that ships left Bremen/Bremerhaven for the United States, Canada and South America. Lists earlier than 1920 were systematically destroyed by officials who ran out of storage space. The surviving lists had been stowed in a salt mine during World War II together with other archival material. After the war they were transferred by the Russians to the Moscow Archives. In 1987 and 1990 the lists were given back to the Bremen Chamber of Commerce.


Do You Want to Know About Copyright and Genealogy?
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An excellent description of copyright law and how it applies to genealogy has been written by Dick Eastman of Ancestry.com as part of his regular weekly column. It can be found at http://www.ancestry.com/library/view/columns/eastman/3714.asp. Eastman covers such questions as:
(1) Can another person copy all or part of your family tree without your permission?
(2) Can you post a message on a genealogy forum, such as the JewishGen Discussion Group, requesting someone to search for information in a copyrighted book?
(3) If a book does not have a copyright notice, can you copy information from it without the author's approval?
(4) If you don't charge for your use of someone else's material, for example, as non-profit organization or in your own personal family history that you distribute free to the family, can you use the information without the author's approval?


Polish CD-ROM
============

The Polish State Archives has placed an inventory of its holdings on CD-ROM and plans to offer it for sale within the next few months, according to an article in Rodziny, the magazine of Polish-American genealogy. The CD will be searchable by town name, religious group, and other methods. There are two language modes: Polish and English. When ordering information and price become available, we will publish them in this publication.


Ancestry Daily News
===============

I subscribe to too many online newsletters and Discussion Groups, but one of them, Ancestry Daily News, always seems to come up with gems of information. It is the daily e-zine of Ancestry.com. Most of the information is about pre-1880 American genealogy, but each issue tends to have something of value to any genealogist.

Every issue includes a feature article. Many are about methodology and, therefore, apply to all. Examples are "Spelling Problems" (how to recognize and deal with spelling errors in places and names), "One Step at a Time" (how to pursue a lead in an orderly manner). A more specific topic of interest to Jewish genealogists was the recent one on "Passenger Arrival Records."

There are free Databases of the Day, most of interest to only a few researchers. But then if your ancestors lived in Swampscott, Massachusetts, in 1890, Ancestry.com made available the city directory for free for the 10 day period following the announcement.

Each issue has a featured map, occasionally one of 18th-20th century Europe. I have since determined you can search the index to Ancestry's map collection at http://www.ancestry.com/search/rectype/reference/maps/

You can subscribe to Ancestry Daily News from Ancestry.com's home page at http://www.ancestry.com.


More About A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names
=======================================

In about 45 days, Avotaynu will send to our printer A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names, the latest major work of Alexander Beider. One component of the book is an index of all the Ashkenazic given names Beider discovered--some 15,000 variants. This index points the reader to the most common root name associated with the variant. An alphabetical list of all 15,000 variants can be seen at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/dagnindex.htm. In the next issue of Nu? What's New? and in the Spring issue of AVOTAYNU, we will be offering a special pre-publication discount for this 704-page book.


Ellis Island Internet Site
================

Tuesday, April 17, is the big day when the index to the Ellis Island passenger arrival database becomes available on the Internet. Don't expect instant access to the site. The opening will be featured on the Today show, a popular morning television broadcast in the United States viewed by millions of people. If you try to access the site but cannot get a connection, try between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. U.S. time or wait a few days. It will be located at http://www.ellisislandrecords.org. In an article in Family Tree Magazine, a spokesman for the Ellis Island Foundation stated that there is no soundex system but "a computational linguistic search filtering system that is sensitive to ethnic linguistic patterns" is an essential feature of the system. The person claims that in many ways it outdoes a soundex system.


Featured Book: Jewish Roots in Poland: Pages from the Past and Archival Inventories
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If you are thinking of buying Jewish Roots in Poland: Pages from the Past and Archival Inventories by Miriam Weiner but have been procrastinating, be aware that it will probably be sold out in the next several months. Nearly 9,000 copies have been sold from a total run of 10,000. There are no plans to reprint it. You can order the book at http://www.rtrfoundation.org or from the Avotaynu catalog at http://www.avotaynu.com/catalog.htm. For those not familiar with the book, it is a pictorial essay of what Jewish life was like in Poland before the Holocaust. As a genealogical work, it includes an inventory of Jewish holdings of the Polish archival system including birth, marriage, death, census and other record types. Additional information about the book can also be found at http://www.rtrfoundation.org/.


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Vol. 2, No. 8 - April 22, 2001 -- Special Edition -- Ellis Island Database
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Ellis Island Search Engine Has Great Shortcomings
==================================

If your name has many spelling variants, some unknown to you, don't expect to find your ancestors in the Ellis Island database. The search engine used to retrieve records has great shortcomings. In the last issue of Nu? What's New? I reported that there is no soundex system. According to the Ellis Island Foundation, "a computational linguistic search filtering system that is sensitive to ethnic linguistic patterns" is an essential feature of the system. Perhaps they should have stuck to plain old-fashioned soundexing.

With great dedication to my readership, I got up Sunday morning at 3 a.m. to access the database. Any other time of day on the East Coast of the United States, attempting to reach the site generated a system-busy notice, a problem not uncommon for popular genealogical databases during their first few weeks of operation.

I keyed in my family name, MOKOTOFF, knowing that there were spelling variations of it used by my grandfather and his siblings and parents. This produced three hits out of about 10 known records in the database (Mokotoff is an uncommon name). The system then allows you to select "Close Matches Only" or "Alternate Spellings Only." (Only Exact Match is allowed in the initial search--a flaw that should be corrected in some future enhancement). In both cases there were no additional matches to the surname MOKOTOFF.

I then tried the correct Polish spelling of my name, MOKOTOW, and got only one hit, my grandaunt, Taube. The Closest Matches Only option produced no additional hits. The Alternate Spellings Only option also produced no hits. Still missing were the arrivals of my grandfather, his brother Tuvia and his parents (frankly I have never found the arrival of his parents--I had hoped the database would find the record). Apparently MOKOTOFF is not considered a variant of MOKOTOW.

The next step was to try spelling variants. I deliberately misspelled the name as MAKOTOW and up popped granduncle Tuvia, spelled "Torvie Makotow." Testing the system's ability to catch spelling variants, I clicked the Close Matches Only option and got one hit: MAKOTOWITZ. I tried Alternate Spelling Only and got nothing. Apparently MOKOTOW is not a variant of MAKOTOW in the Ellis Island system. The most primitive rule of soundexing--drop the vowels--is not implemented!

It took me 15 years to find my maternal grandmother's Ellis Island passenger arrival record because of the inadequacies of the Russell soundex system--the standard soundex system of the U.S. government. I knew her name was TARATOTSKY (Soundex code T633) but could not find her in the microfilmed index to Ellis Island arrivals which is organized in Russell soundex order. Only because I knew her year of arrival and got lucky that she came to Ellis Island through the port of Hamburg, Germany, was I able to find her in the Hamburg Emigration lists as Frushe TARATOZKI (Soundex code T632). The Russell soundex system does not equate the "ts" and "z" sounds--the Daitch-Mokotoff soundex system, which I co-authored, does equate the two. My genealogical research files were in my office, so, from memory, I keyed in TARATOZKY and got no hits using searches Exact Match, Close Match, or Alternate Spelling. I then recalled that there was a list on my home computer of all persons named Taratotsky (and variants) who came through Ellis Island. Locating the file, I determined she arrived as TARATOZKI and immediately found her in the Ellis Island database. Apparently their "computational linguistic search filtering system that is sensitive to ethnic linguistic patterns" does not equate names ending in -SKY and -SKI.

As noted above, there was only one case where I was able to generate a Close Match. The name MAKOTOWITZ appeared as a Close Match for MAKOTOW. The best guess is that Close Match means "Same Initial Letters."

Misspellings in the Ellis Island Database
===========================

To further confound the researcher, there is strong evidence that there are many spelling errors in the database. My Mokotow family came to Ellis Island from Warsaw, Poland, through German ports. All records of their arrival show Warsaw with the German spelling: WARSCHAU. The Ellis Island database shows that grandaunt Taube came from WARSCHAN, and granduncle Tuvia came from WARSCHAW. On the Taratotsky side of the family, Nahem Taratazky came from BRALYSTOK (Bialystok), Leib Tartazky came from BIELISTOK, Chaim Tartazky came from RIALYSTOK, Frusche Taratozki came from TALOWKI (Jalowka).

There may be comparable errors in the names of the passengers.

The Importance of Soundexing
=====================

The importance of soundexing can be seen in my research into the Ellis Island records for my maternal grandfather's surname: TARATOTSKY. In my years of research, which demonstrated that all persons with that surname from the region of Bialystok, Poland, are related, I have found the following spelling variants in Ellis Island records: Taratatski, Taratatzki, Taratatzky, Taratazki, Taratazky, Taratoszky, Taratotzki, Taratozki, Taratzki, Taritazki, Tarotazki, Tartacka, Tartacki, Tartacky, Tartatzki, Tartatzky, Tartazki, Tartazky, Tartotsky.

Using the Ellis Island database, it appears I would have to search all 19 variants--plus some unknown number of variants due to errors in data capture. Using the microfilm index that implements the Russell soundex system, it is reduced to two searches. Soundex code T632: Taratazki, Taratazky, Taratoszky, Taratozki, Taritazki, Tarotazki, Tartacka, Tartacki, Tartacky, Tartazki, Tartazky. Soundex code T633: Taratatski, Taratatzki, Taratatzky, Taratotzki, Taratzki, Tartatzki, Tartatzky, Tartotsky. Using the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System only one search would be required--all 19 names have the same code: 393450. No wonder the Daitch-Mokotoff system has been the standard for Jewish genealogical databases for the past 15 years. For those that think it is a Jewish soundex system or an Eastern European soundex system, I assure you the Daitch-Mokotoff soundex system has applicability to any ethnic group--but that is the subject of another column of "Nu? What's New?". For those that are impatient, see my article "Soundexing Multi-ethnic Computer Databases: A Proposed Solution". National Genealogical Society Quarterly. Vol. 86, No. 2, June 1998.

Optional Searches
=============

In the Ellis Island system, once the initial search is performed, there are a number of options solely of interest in those cases where there are too many hits. You can qualify the search by Gender, Year of Arrival (range of years), Ethnicity, Age of Arrival (range of ages), Port of Departure (all ports for which there were hits on the initial search), and Name of Ship (all ships for which there were hits on the initial search). I searched for John Kennedy and got 538 hits. I then qualified my search by Ethnicity and got the following choices: American, British, Canadian, English, French, Irish, Lithuanian, Newfoundlander, Russian, Scottish, Unknown and White. Clearly Ethnicity refers to the Race column on the ship's manifest.

Other Features
==========

Clicking the passenger's name provides greater detail--namely, person's name, ethnicity, place of residence, date of arrival, age, gender, marital status, ship of travel and port of departure. You can then request the Ship Manifest, which lists all the passengers on the page with the identified passenger. This list is browseable providing the ability to go to the Previous Page and Next Page. Finally, clicking the Ship link provides you with a picture of the ship and its history.

Performance
=========

The evidence is that once the usage of the system becomes more normal, response time from the database will be excellent. At 3:00 a.m., I got system-busy messages about 25% of the time. I had a reason to jump back onto the Internet site at 6:00 a.m. to verify some of the items discussed above, and I got very rapid responses to my searches. By that time the Australians had gone to sleep and the Americans had not yet awakened.

Cost
===

The site is at http://www.ellisislandrecords.org. Use of the index on the Internet is free. All items described above are displayed at no charge.

Conclusion
========

At least for Eastern European Jewish genealogy, with its multitude of spelling variants, the index to the Ellis Island database is wanting. With 19 spelling variants of Taratotsky for some 50 passenger arrival records it is highly unlikely that any person searching for that surname will find ancestors.

My 35 years in the computer software business demonstrated to me that if you get ever aspect of system design right but fail in one and only one aspect, your end product is a low quality system. It appears the Ellis Island database designers got every aspect right but one: information retrieval.

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Vol. 2, No. 9 - April 29, 2001
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A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names Discount Offer
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Avotaynu is offering a pre-publication discount on its new work, A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names: Their Origins, Structure, Pronunciation and Migrations, by Alexander Beider. Until June 15, if you order the book the cost is $75.00. Thereafter, it is $85.00. (Both prices are plus shipping costs.) The book is 704 pages, full size (8½x11), hardcover with dust jacket. Persons taking advantage of the discount will not be charged until the book is shipped in July.

A web site providing details about the book is located at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/dagn.htm. The site includes the complete Table of Contents; the list of the given names to be found in the dictionary portion of the work; and, to illustrate the dictionary portion, the complete entry for the feminine given name Yentl is presented.

By using the index to the dictionary portion of the book, which contains more than 15,000 given names, it is possible to locate in the dictionary the given names of interest to you. Each dictionary entry includes a detailed etymology of the name and all the variants and derivatives discovered by Dr. Beider. These variants and derivatives are presented in the form of an indented hierarchal structure that shows how each was derived. Finally, the dictionary shows all references to the various forms of the name. If the name is a kinnui (vernacular name) for another root name, it is so noted.

This book is yet another incredible work by Alexander Beider. People who own Dr. Beider's previous works know that his books are more than reference works. He teaches as well as informs. Chapter 1 is an introduction to given names in the Ashkenazic tradition. Concepts are discussed such as the fact that male Jews have two names--a shem ha'qodesh (religious name) and a kinnui (vernacular name). Chapter 2 discuss the earliest occurrences of Ashkenazic given names and introduces you to the methods that caused these names to develop variants and derivatives such as borrowing, calques, loan translations, etc. Chapter 3 provides a rigorous analysis of suffixes that were added to given names to give them variety and richness. Dr. Beider claims that no previous book has done such an extensive analysis of Yiddish given name suffixes.

Chapter 4 is not meant for mere mortals but for linguists as it discusses the phonetic changes that have occurred in given names. You will be introduced to such terms as apocope, apaeresis, syncope, diphthong, protovowels, plosive consonants, regressive assimilation, and many others. Fear not. Dr. Beider gently walks you through these mine fields. Actually this chapter is one of the more fascinating ones in the book because you gain a better understanding of how the names of a culture start with just a few hundred and grow to thousands. I must confess it took me two readings before I _began_ to understand the chapter. Chapter 5 discusses Beider's experience with serendipity. He started the project to gain a deeper insight into the origin and evolution of Ashkenazic given names and found that one of the fringe benefits was a deeper insight into the evolution of the Yiddish language, both historical and geographical. There are also some major breakthroughs in the history of Ashkenazic Jewry, especially in the area of migration patterns.

There are more than 2,200 footnotes. The bibliography, which Dr. Beider says he limited to only the works cited in his book, has more than 350 entries. But then, those of us who have formed a cult of Beider Believers would expect nothing less from this remarkable person.

This book can also be ordered by calling Avotaynu at 1-800-AVOTAYNU (286-8296).


Spring Issue of AVOTAYNU
====================

There was so much good material available for the Spring issue of AVOTAYNU--which will be mailed out later this week--we held over five stories. Yet the issue is eight pages larger than normal; 76 pages rather than 68. Cooperative projects, Ashkenazic given names, the Holocaust victims database at Yad Vashem, and DNA testing are just some of the subjects in the issue. The lead article is about a joint venture between the Genealogical Society of Utah and various Jewish genealogical Special Interest Groups (SIGs) to get copies of microfilms of Eastern European Jewish records in possession of the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library. What is different about the project is that the copies will be supplied as scanned images on a CD rather than film. These images can be separated easily into batches which can then be worked on by SIG members who are located all over the world.

Alexander Beider gives a small hint as to the scope of his latest book, "A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names: Their Origins, Structure, Pronunciation and Migrations," by discussing some general aspects of the evolution of Ashkenazic given names. The book identifies more than 200 Jewish variants of the biblical name Jacob. I proposed to Dr. Beider that he write an article for AVOTAYNU about how these variants came about. For example, how did the Jewish given name Kopel evolve from Jacob. Like the book, the AVOTAYNU article makes fascinating reading.

More than a year ago, the Pages of Testimony Holocaust victim database of more than 3 million documents was computerized. Shalom Bronstein, a professional genealogist living in Jerusalem, Israel, went to Yad Vashem to use the database which currently is only accessible on site. He describes his experiences, mostly positive. Plans call for eventually making the database accessible on the Internet.

For those planning to go to the annual Jewish genealogical seminar being held in London in July, there are a number of articles about London resources including the Bevis Marks synagogue, the Guildhall Library and the records of the Poor Jews Temporary Shelter.

There are so many extraction projects happening in Jewish genealogy, that AVOTAYNU editor, Sallyann Amdur Sack, thought it would be valuable to list as many as we were made aware of in the issue.

You can subscribe to AVOTAYNU at http://www.avotaynu.com/journal.htm.


More on the Ellis Island Database
=======================

There is a simple rule to follow when creating something new--it should be better than its predecessors. This rule was not accomplished with the Ellis Island system. You can reduce the scores of complaints posted to the various Jewish genealogical discussion groups on the Internet about the Ellis Island system to one statement: It is worse than the microfilm index that has existed for decades. In the last issue of Nu? What's New?, I focused on the inadequacy of the information retrieval system used for the Ellis Island database. This issue focuses primarily on the data entry quality.

Data Entry Quality - "...katon, Moische"
----------------------------------------

This past week, I was able to find in the Ellis Island Index the arrival records of all my grandaunts and granduncles already in my possession by trying different (erroneous) spelling variants of the name Mokotoff. The record of my grandfather could not be found using this technique. It was found using a method discovered by others who have had the same problem. I examined the copy of the ship's manifest in my possession that shows the arrival of my grandfather and selected a name that could not conceivably be misinterpreted by the extractor--"Paula Brooks." I searched for her name in the database and, consequently, located the page that included my grandfather's name, Moshe Mokotow. He is listed as "...katon, Moische"; that is, the extractor could not read the handwriting for the initial letters of the name and misinterpreted the ending "w" as an "n." (Do not forget that the microfilm index shows the name correctly.) Examination of the rest of the entries for the page showed that the problem wasn't just with the line for my grandfather. A number of lines have the "..." entry. The page is not of low quality. The extractor just could not understand the 1911 European script of the person who created the page but undertook the task of extracting the page anyway.

The extractor was clearly not Jewish. One Jewish women's given name is listed in the database as "Ri...ka." Is there a Jewish genealogist reading this column who cannot fill in the missing letter? The name is Rivka--actually it is spelled on the document with the German/Polish spelling: Riwka. On other parts of the page the extractor found "...uchem", which is clearly "Nuchem". "Fei...al" is clearly "Feiwal". The extractor appeared to have difficulty with the letter "w".

Another example of an error is the Place of Residence for a family whose names appear on consecutive lines. The town is spelled two different ways in the database--Zilkevoitz and Zilkewitz. You cannot blame the legibility of the document; a ditto mark was used on the original document for all family members but the first one listed, the usual practice on Ellis Island manifests.

On the same page a mother is listed with the surname KrasMostafsky. Her children are listed as KrasNostafsky (emphasis added). The person on line 24 came from Smargan, Russia. The person just three lines later, on line 27, came from Smogan, Russia. (The correct name is Smorgon.) On line 25, the Place of Residence is "...insk." It is clear when reading the ship's manifest that the town name is Minsk.

These errors as well as others occur on just one page.

It is claimed the data was entered twice by two different people and when there was a mismatch, the document was reexamined to break the deadlock. Clearly the person who examined the document to break the mismatch did not do a proper job.

Even the Smiths Are Not Immune
----------------------------------
There is an interesting flaw in the information retrieval system. I received a report that a person could not find her ancestor, Robert Smith. Suggesting the technique used to find my grandfather noted above, she determined that her ancestor was listed in the database as Robert P. Smith. Only by providing the given name "Robert P." was she able to retrieve the record. The system is sensitive to the presence of middle initials.

New Information Retrieval Technique
--------------------------------------

There is (at least) one redeeming feature of the Ellis Island system. It includes the ability to analyze the records for possible mistakes caused by misreading the handwriting. I know of no genealogical information retrieval that incorporates such a capability. If you cannot find a specific record, click the Names & Gender Edit button. The system will display surnames in the database that are called "Alternate Spellings." They are not alternate spellings but possible misinterpretations of handwriting. Makotow is not an alternate spelling of Mokotow; it is a misreading of the letter "o" for an "a". If the surname has a "k" among its letters, the system will substitute an "h" and check to see if there is a name in the system with an "h" rather than a "k". That is how I found a distant cousin entered as Max Mohotoff.

It was this adjustment-for-handwriting feature that made it possible for me to locate the arrival of my great-grandparents, Chaim and Gittel Mokotoff, something that has been eluding me for the past 20 years using the microfilm index. According to the database, they arrived under the surname Monkohoff. How do you get Monkohoff from Mokotoff? It takes two errors; one phonetic, the other graphic. I had previously determined, during my years of genealogical research, that a phonetic variant of my Polish surname Mokotow is Monkotoff. That is how it is pronounced in Yiddish, at least by Jews from Warsaw. I found the entry for my granduncle David in the Ellis Island database because I knew from the ship's manifest in my possession that it was spelled Monkotoff. Using the Names & Gender Edit feature for David's record, I found a variant existed in the database, Monkohoff, that led me to my grandparents record. They arrived in 1912 with their youngest daughter Sarah, erroneously extracted as "Perlei".

Genealogical software systems have focused on spellings that sound similar--soundex systems have been developed. The Ellis Island database feature focuses on letters of the alphabet whose handwriting is similar. I am already in discussion with one of the software engineers at JewishGen to try, on an experimental basis, such a search technique.

The database is at http://www.ellisislandrecords.org.


All Census Records Digitized by Ancestry.com
================================

Andre Brummer, the General Manager of Ancestry.com, stopped in at the regular meeting of the New York Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists last week. He told the group that his company has completed digitizing the more than 10 million pages of all U.S. censuses from 1790-1920 and at all deliberate speed is placing them at the Ancestry.com site.


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Vol. 2, No. 10 - May 13, 2001
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Expect Improvements to the Ellis Island Search Ability
=====================================

I have had e-mail correspondence with the professor of linguistics who designed the portion of the Ellis Island Database search engine that provides assistance when there isn't an exact match. He stated there will be significant improvements to the search engine in the next 30 days. He specifically stated that the current system's inability to recognize that surnames ending in -SKY and -SKI are synonymous is handled by his algorithm. Although he did not state it overtly, it appears that the Ellis Island people decided not to delay the opening despite that fact that all the software was not yet implemented. It would have been valuable to know this in the past few weeks, because part of the problem of the inaccessibility to the site is that frustrated researchers are staying online longer than normal trying other combinations of their surnames in a vain effort to locate records of their ancestors. The Ellis Isalnd database is located at http://www.ellisislandrecords.org.


A Little Bit of Ellis Island Humor
======================

One demonstration of the inadequacy of the current Ellis Island database (EIDB) environment is that there is already third-party software being developed to combat the shortcomings of the system. Edward Rosenbaum, president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Bergen County (New Jersey), is a computer analyst. He has developed shareware that provides possible alternate spellings of names that you cannot find in the EIDB. You can download it from http://members.bellatlantic.net/~elr228/eidb.htm. At the recent meeting of his society, when he announced the product's availability, someone added, "Yes, and the next thing we will have is a book titled 'An Idiot's Guide to the Ellis Island Database'." In a serious vain, as an alternative to "An Idiot's Guide...", I am writing an article for the Summer issue of AVOTAYNU titled "Strategies for Using the Ellis Island Database" that discusses ways of locating the records of your ancestors when the straight and narrow method does not work.

It has been noted on a number of postings to the JewishGen Discussion Group that the EIDB organization is now accepting e-mail regarding errors discovered in the database. If you find what you believe to be a database error and wish to notify the Foundation, write to dberrors@ellisisland.org . In the subject line of the e-mail indicate the type of error encountered so they can channel it to the correct department. Choose from the following subjects:
    * Manifest error
    * Spelling error
    * Ship Image error
    * Other Database error


Folk Etymology
===========

One of the fascinating aspects of Alexander Beider's new book, "A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names: Their Origins, Structure, Pronunciation and Migrations" (to be published by Avotaynu in July) is what he calls folk etymology. The origins of certain names are misunderstood by many people because they associate the name with words that sound similar to the given name. Many of these errors exist in current books about Jewish given names. Two of the more popular misconceptions are the origins of the feminine name Fruma and the masculine name Feivel (Fayvush).

The word "frum" in Yiddish means "pious." What a lovely name to give a girl, Fruma, because you expect her to live her life in a pious manner. Fruma, Beider points out, does not come from the Yiddish word for "pious" but from the German given name Frumet, which is derived from the Middle High German words "vro muot", which mean "good cheer".

Similarly, Fayvush has been misinterpreted as coming from the Greek name Phoibos, the god of the sun. Consequently, Jews have associated it with the given name Uri, which means "light." In his book, Beider conclusively demonstrates that Fayvush comes from the Latin word "vivus" meaning "living" or "alive" and was likely created as a calque of the given name Chaim (which means "life" in Hebrew) or Yechiel (whose definition includes the Hebrew verb meaning "life" in its structure).

Beider's book also notes folk etymologies associated with the masculine given names Amsel, Godl, Karpl and Shneyer and the feminine given names Grune, Mamle, Raytse, Shprintse and Tile.

Folk etymology is just one of the many fascinating aspects of the book. Additional information about "A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names: Their Origins, Structure, Pronunciation and Migrations" can be found at its Internet site http://www.avotaynu.com/books/dagn.htm. It includes a pre- publication discount offer.


London Conference
==============

The clock is winding down for those who are still wavering about whether to attend the 21st International Conference on Jewish Genealogy which, this year, is being held in London. It will be at the Hotel Inter-Continental from July 8-13. The host society, the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain, has developed a program rich in subjects that will advance your knowledge of Jewish family history research. You can view the complete program at http://www.jewishgen.org/London2001/. To name a few, the contemporary topic of Genealogy and Genetics will be discussed by Prof. Vivian Moses, director of Genetic Anthropology at University College, one of the world's foremost researchers on the subject. Avotaynu co-owner, Sallyann Sack, will be chairing a panel of international experts on the subject of open access to archives. As you can tell from recent issues of AVOTAYNU, one of her hot buttons is making more and more records accessible to genealogists, especially on the Internet.


Spring/Summer Catalog Available
=======================

Avotaynu's Spring/Summer catalog of items of interest to people researching their Jewish family history will be mailed out this week. It includes books, CDs, videos, maps and microfiche. New items in the catalog are:

"A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names," the soon-to-be-published book by Alexander Beider
"The Naturalized Jews of the Grand Duchy of Posen in 1834 and 1835," by Edward David Luft
"The Lost Wooden Synagogues of Eastern Europe" an excellent video documentary about this lost heritage.
"Russians to America--1855-1895" A CD index of immigrants to New York from the czarist Russian Empire during that period. The CD will not be available until later this month.
"Auswandererhafen Hamburg -- Hamburg Emigration Port" a book showing events in the passage of emigrants from the port of Hamburg. There are numerous high-quality pictures showing the emigrant experience.

Additional information about all these items can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/catalog.htm.


Gone Fiching
=========

This coming week I will be attending and lecturing in Portland, Oregon, at the annual conference of the National Genealogical Society. It is one of the two major genealogy conferences in the U.S. and will attract well over 1,000 persons. The other major conference is sponsored by the Federation of Genealogical Societies which is to be held this year in the midwest--Davenport, Iowa (Quad Cities)--from September 12-15. Both conferences have more than 100 lectures that take place in four days. Of great value to all are the many methodology lectures which cover topics that are independent of the ancestral lines you are researching. There are also an large number of vendors displaying their wares. That, plus interacting with other genealogists for four days, invariably advances your knowledge of genealogical research. If you live in the Portland area, it is worth your while to attend at least one day of the conference to gain an understanding of its scope. Additional information can be found at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org. Information about the FGS conference can be found at http://www.fgs.org.



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Vol. 2, No. 10a - May 13, 2001
*************************


More Ellis Island Information
====================

Normally I wait the two weeks between editions of "Nu? What's New?" for information sent to me by subscribers. Stephen P. Morse of San Francisco has developed a valuable searching aid for the Ellis Island database that hopefully will become a permanent feature of some future update of their system.

The EIDB system allows you to qualify the scope of your search in a variety of ways. You can qualify the search by Gender, Year of Arrival (range of years), Ethnicity, Age of Arrival (range of ages), Port of Departure (all ports for which there were hits on the initial search), and Name of Ship (all ships for which there were hits on the initial search). But you cannot make all these qualifications at the same time.

Morse has developed a front-end for the search process that allows you to specify ALL your search parameters on a single page. It can be found at http://sites.netscape.net/stephenpmorse/ellis.html. It then submits your request to the EIDB.


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Vol. 2, No. 11 - May 27, 2001
*************************


More About the Ellis Island Database
=========================

Significant improvements have been made to the Ellis Island database since the last issue of Nu? What's New?. It now includes phonetic (soundex) alternatives. If an initial attempt to find a record is unsuccessful, click the Edit Name & Gender option. In addition to showing handwriting error alternatives, it will also show phonetic alternatives. In my first use of the system a few weeks ago, Mokotow was not an alternative to Mokotoff. It is now. Similarly Mokotoff is an alternative to Mokotow. Names ending in -ski are now alternatives to names ending in -sky. Previously this condition failed.

Complete phonetic functionality is not present yet. The system is poor in phonetic variants of the initial letter. The Polish spelling of Zuckerman is Cukierman. It was not shown as an alternative. In virtually all cases that I tried, variants of surnames always had the same initial letter.

In the area of handwriting alternatives, the presence of a question mark (?) in the database is treated like a wildcard character. For example, in looking for alternatives to the surname "Zuckerman," the system displayed "?uckerman" from the database. This will be a valuable tool in cases where the person extracting the records could not read the handwriting.

It is evident that there are still more software improvements to come. The Name/Gender Edit feature now has a message that states: "The final version of alternate name finding will be in place shortly. We appreciate your patience while we continue to upgrade the site."

Response time is much more rapid now than it was the first three weeks indicating fewer people are using the database now that its newness has worn off (or they added more hardware to the system).


Family History Library Plans Major Renovations
=================================

David Rencher, Director of the LDS (Mormon) Libraries Division of the Family and Church History Department, announced at the recent conference of the National Genealogical Society in Portland, Oregon, that there will be major renovations this summer to the Family History Library located in Salt Lake City. The principal purpose of the renovation is to make access more efficient to the Library's 1.4 million rolls of microfilm, 742,000 microfiche, 300,000 books, 617 microfilm readers, and other collections.

A major improvement will be the nearly doubling of the computer terminals from 87 to 160. From these terminals it will be possible to access the Internet and any of the databases developed by the Family History Department. Previously, access to the Internet and CD-ROM-based databases was limited to the first-floor Automated Resource Center, which now will be abandoned.

Despite the moving of many pieces of furniture, microfilm cabinets, readers and other items, Rencher states access to the collection will continue without interruption. At worst, library attendants might have to retrieve materials from portions of the building that will not be accessible to the public.

The net result will be a more efficient, patron-friendly Family History Library. The process will start in mid-June and continue through mid-September.


Roots II Family Board Game
====================

There is a Monopoly-like board game called Roots II Family that is a fun way to teach children about their family heritage. The game was exhibited at the recent National Genealogical Society conference in Portland, Oregon. For an additional fee, it can be customized to your family--like "Collect $200" for landing on Grandma Rose's square. If you land on a Bonus square you get to pick a Bonus card. (Example: Name as many of your family members as you can, using the center family tree. Advance that number of spaces.) If you land on a Penalty square you have to pick a Penalty card. (Example: For not knowing the names of all 8 of your great-grandparents, lose a turn.) Additional information can be found at http://www.gehill.com.


Complete 1880 U.S. Census Available on CD
===============================

The LDS (Mormon) Family History Department has announced that the 1880 U.S. Census is now available on CD and can be purchased online. It contains the complete 1880 United States Census plus a National Index for 50 million individuals. Census Information is shown by household or institution. There is a link to the ordering page at http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Home/News/frameset_news.asp.


Only 19 Days Left to Take Advantage of Discount on Beider Book
=============================================

There are just 19 days left to take advantage of Avotaynu's offer of a pre-publication discount on its new work, A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names: Their Origins, Structure, Pronunciation and Migrations, by Alexander Beider. Until June 15, if you order the book the cost is $75.00. Thereafter, it is $85.00. (Both prices are plus shipping costs.) The book is 704 pages, full size (8½x11), hardcover with dust jacket. Persons taking advantage of the discount will not be charged until the book is shipped in July.

A web site providing details about the book is located at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/dagn.htm. The site includes the complete Table of Contents; the list of the given names to be found in the dictionary portion of the work; and, to illustrate the dictionary portion, the complete entry for the feminine given name Yentl is presented.

There is also a discount offer for purchasing all three of Beider's major works:
* A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire
* A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland
* A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names: Their Origins, Structure, Pronunciation and Migrations

Spamming
=======

On a regular basis I receive e-mail from subscribers complaining that they used to get Nu? What's New? and are no longer receiving it. I add them to the mailing list and in most cases receive a message from my list server that the name is already on the list.

Spamming, the mass distribution of junk mail, has become a serious problem on the Internet. The solution, spam-detecting software, is creating its own problems. This newsletter goes to about 1,200 AOL users. When AOL receives this identical message to 1,200 of its users, is it spam? If the software says "yes", no AOL user receives Nu? What's New?. Furthermore some Internet Service Providers manually bounce spam mail by excluding ANY mail coming from specific domains.

If you do not receive Nu? What's New? for a period of time, check our archives at http://www.avotaynu.com/nu.htm to see if you have received the latest issue. If not, send a message to list@incor.com and in the body of the message state: join avotaynu. If you receive a return message that you are already subscribed, check with your ISP to see if they are excluding messages from avotaynu.com or incor.com.

Of course this explanation may be meaningless, because all the people who have been victims of what has just been described are not getting this message.


Privacy
=====

It has become de rigueur for web sites, and corporations in general, to have a privacy notice in which they disclose to you how the information they acquire is used. Don't be misled. Every privacy notice seems to start with the same statement: Our company and its affiliates strongly believe in protecting the confidentiality and security of information we collect about you. Read further and you will may find a statement such as "we may also provide information to other companies with which we have a joint marketing agreement..." A privacy statement does not mean they keep the information private, it means they are disclosing to you how the information they receive is used.

Virus Alert
========

Viruses are getting more insidious. Most of them operate as attachments to e-mail which, when opened, cause the damage. As a matter of routine, I refuse to open any e-mail attachment unless I am expecting such mail. The most common method of spreading viruses is by invading a computer and then mailing the virus to every person in the computer's mail directory. They are usually easy to spot. You receive e-mail, even from a friend, that has a small, often cryptic message such as "This will be of interest to you," and there is an attachment. When you open the attachment, the virus strikes.

I recently received a message from a friend that contained a virus which brings this problem to a higher level. The evidence is that this virus invades a computer and when the user sends e-mail with an attachment, it substitutes itself for the valid attachment. Thus I received e-mail from a friend with an expected attachment, but the attachment was a virus. It was caught by Norton Anti-Virus software. This highlights the important of having virus checking software, and more important, updating the virus definition list regularly.



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Vol. 2, No. 12 - June 10, 2001
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Ellis Island Data Base -- Patience, Patience, Patience
====================================

A number of people have noted that it is not always possible to display the actual ship's manifests at the Ellis Island database site: http://www.ellisislandrecords.org. Upon questioning a person at the Foundation, and was told that this particular function is not completely implemented. While they could not commit to when all images would be available, the track record of the implementers is quite good. Right now they are working on tweaking the software to make it run faster to accommodate the unexpected interest in the site. According to Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter at http://www.ancestry.com/library/view/columns/eastman/3936.asp, the Ellis Island site was the 50th most popular site on the Internet for April 2001 (Aol.com, Microsoft.com and Yahoo.com are the three most popular).

Go back to the site periodically, perhaps once a week, to see if they have added the ship's manifest image of interest to you.


My Ancestors Landed at Hoboken, New Jersey
=================================

Some people have contacted me claiming their immigrant ancestors landed at Hoboken, New Jersey, rather than Ellis Island. I queried Marian Smith, the historian of the U.S. Immigration and Naturlization Service, about this matter. She stated that a few steamship lines had their docks and buildings on the Jersey side, at Hoboken--Holland America, Wilson, and perhaps others. In the 1892-1924 era, first- and second-class passengers would have been discharged there, while steerage passengers would be ferried from the Hoboken docks to Ellis Island for immigrant processing.

Hoboken, like everyplace surrounding New York Harbor, is in the Port of New York, now administered by the Port Authority. So all the records went to Ellis Island and are included with the New York ones. Note that by the 1940s, when airplanes began arriving in the New York area from Bermuda and Canada, and in the 1950s when transatlantic flights began to arrive at Idlewild (now JFK), even the air manifests were interfiled with the New York passenger lists. All the seaport records were always centralized at the District Offices. Only along the land borders were records kept at each individual "port."


Last Chance! Discount Offer on Beider Book Ends June 15
========================================

Avotaynu's offer of a pre-publication discount on its new work, A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names: Their Origins, Structure, Pronunciation and Migrations, by Alexander Beider ends on June 15. If you order the book now, the cost is $75.00. Thereafter, it is $85.00. (Both prices are plus shipping costs.) The book is 704 pages, full size (8½x11), hardcover with dust jacket. Persons taking advantage of the discount will not be charged until the book is shipped in late July.

A web site providing details about the book is located at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/dagn.htm. The site includes the complete Table of Contents; the list of the given names to be found in the dictionary portion of the work; and, to illustrate the dictionary portion, the complete entry for the feminine given name "Yentl" is presented.

By using the index to the dictionary portion of the book, which contains more than 15,000 given names, it is possible to locate the given names of interest to you. Each dictionary entry includes a detailed etymology of the name as well as all the variants and derivatives discovered by Dr. Beider. These variants and derivatives are presented in the form of an indented hierarchal structure that shows how each was derived. Finally, the dictionary shows all references to the various forms of the name. If the name is a kinnui (vernacular name) for another root name, it is so noted.

This book is yet another incredible work by Alexander Beider. People who own Dr. Beider's previous works know that his books are more than reference works. He teaches as well as informs. Chapter 1 is an introduction to given names in the Ashkenazic tradition. Concepts are discussed such as the fact that male Jews have two names--a shem ha'qodesh (religious name) and a kinnui (vernacular name). Chapter 2 discusses the earliest occurrences of Ashkenazic given names and introduces you to the methods that caused these names to develop variants and derivatives such as borrowing, calques, loan translations, etc. Chapter 3 provides a rigorous analysis of suffixes that were added to given names to give them variety and richness. Dr. Beider claims that no previous book has done such an extensive analysis of Yiddish given name suffixes.

Chapter 4 discusses the phonetic changes that have occurred in given names. Chapter 5 describes Beider's experience with serendipity. He started the project to gain a deeper insight into the origin and evolution of Ashkenazic given names and found that one of the fringe benefits was a deeper insight into the evolution of the Yiddish language, both historical and geographical. There are also some major breakthroughs in the history of Ashkenazic Jewry, especially in the area of migration patterns.

There are more than 2,200 footnotes. The bibliography, which Dr. Beider has limited to only the works cited in his book consist of more than 350 entries. But then, those of us who have formed a cult of Beider Believers would expect nothing less from this remarkable person.

This book can also be ordered by calling Avotaynu at 1-800-AVOTAYNU (286-8296).


Genealogical Software Prints Pages of Testimony
=================================

The Ancestral Quest genealogical software system has added the ability to print Pages of Testimony to the Jewish version of the its system. The capability was developed with the assistance of Yad Vashem.

If you have not commited yourself to a specific genealogical software program or are unhappy with what you have, consider the Ancestral Quest package. It is a full function system that is very user friendly. Two years ago I helped create the Jewish version which is primarily the elimination of Christian events, such as christening, and adding Jewish events, such as Hebrew/Yiddish name. A demonstration version is available at http://www.ancquest.com.


The Sweetest Sound to Premiere on PBS
=============================

The Sweetest Sound, a documentary with a genealogy slant, will premiere on Public Broadcasting on the Point of View documentary series on Tuesday, June 26th at 10 p.m. Eastern time. Check local listing for exact time in your area.

It is the latest documentary by Alan Berliner, an independent film producer, director, and writer who uses genealogy-oriented topics for his films. His last film, Nobody's Business, won numerous film festival awards, including New York, Berlin (Ecumenical Prize, Caligari Film Prize & International Film Critics Prize), San Francisco (Golden Spire Golden Gate Award), and Jerusalem (Mayor's Prize for Best Documentary). It consisted of an interview between Alan and his father during which, like a typical genealogist, Alan tries to convince his father of the importance of family history. His father's response was that it is "nobody's business--who cares about the past."

The sweetest sound, according to Berliner, is your own name, and portions of this new film describe his quest to locate all the persons in the world named "Alan Berliner." He managed to locate 12 other men named Alan Berliner and invited them all to meet. The film not only includes the meeting but is a general documentary about the importance of names. Alan now has his own Internet site at, you guessed it, http://www.alanberliner.com.


Some Interesting Internet Sites
=====================

Dubbing itself "The Ultimate People Finder Website," a site in The Netherlands at http://www.nedsite.nl/search/search.htm will link you to many, many locations that have e-mail address books, telephone/fax numbers, postal addresses, cemetery/death records and genealogy sites oriented toward locating people.

Kulanu (Hebrew for "All of Us") is an organization that describes itself as "dedicated to finding lost and dispersed remnants of the Jewish people and assisting those who wish to (re)join the Jewish community". It has an Internet site at http://kulanu.ubalt.edu/. Scroll down toward the bottom of the screen to find numerous articles about various obscure groups who practice Judaism including the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda, the descendants of the Jews of China, the Lembas of South Africa, the Jews of Timbuktu and many others.

At http://shamash.org/trb/yahr/ you can get a 50-year yahrzeit calendar when you key in a date from the civil or Jewish calendar.

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Vol. 2, No. 13 - June 24, 2001
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Nu?What's New? Switches List Server Providers
==================================

For some of subscribers to this e-zine, it is the first time you are receiving this publication in quite some time. Over the past two months I have received an increasing number of complaints from subscribers that they were not getting issues. The problem was finally traced to the company that provided the list service. They apparently were not compliant with certain anti-spam rules, and more and more domains were rejecting all messages coming from them as spam. With this edition, we have switched providers and hopefully, the problem will be a thing of the past. Those who have missed back issues can find them at http://www.avotaynu.com/nu.htm.


New CD: Russians to America 1850-1896
=============================

This weekend, I examined a copy of the new CD from Genealogy.com titled Russians to America 1850-1896. The cost is $39.99 plus shipping. Avotaynu sells the CD from its online catalog at http://www.avotaynu.com/catalog.htm. Previously, six volumes of books for the time period January 1875-June 1891 were available for $320.00 plus shipping. According to the creators of the index, the Balch Institute in Philadelphia, the CD incorporates all six volumes plus an additional 200,000 entries.

I analyzed the first 179 persons named Cohen on the CD. Regarding the claim that it covers 1850-1896, I could find no records for 1896; the last arrival date was June 24, 1895. There was only one Cohen who arrived prior to 1875, the first year included in the book form of this index.

To determine how comprehensive the data is, I analyzed people named Cohen from Russia for the year 1893. The Ellis Island Database (EIDB) identifies 47 people named Cohen whose ethnicity was Russian and who arrived in 1893; the Genealogy.com CD identifies only 27. In comparing the two lists, the difference seems to be a function of the definition of "Russian." Any person on the EIDB whose ethnicity was Russian but Place of Residence was not Russia does not appear on the CD, that is, the CD is a list of persons who came from Russia to New York, not a list of Russians who came to New York. Thus, Sam Cohen, a Russian Jew living in London before immigrating to the U.S. is not included in the CD.

There were names on EIDB not on the CD that clearly came from Russia (Hinde Cohen from Kiev) but there were also names on the CD that were not located on EIDB (Simon Cohen, a 27-year-old tailor from Russia).

Is the CD worth it? Probably. More than 300 Avotaynu catalog buyers thought the individual volumes of this series were worthwhile. The CD covers all the volumes and more and costs less than a single volume. One major advantage of the CD compared to EIDB is the accuracy of the spelling of names, which is much superior. Example: Medech Cohen on EIDB was accurately stated as Melech Cohen on the CD. If you cannot find a person on the EIDB who arrived between 1892-1895, you may find the person on the CD.

There are a lot of foolish design aspects to the CD search engine, too numerous to mention, but we genealogists have come to consider unnecessary suffering a standard part of our research.


Ellis Island Database Advances Backwards
=============================

One of the most valuable features of the Ellis Island Database has been significantly curtailed. After not finding a person in the database, clicking the Edit Name & Gender option provides 30 phonetic and handwriting variants of the surname being searched. Previously, you could select any or all of the 30 variants. Now you are limited to only two. Best guess is that this was done to speed up the response time to an inquiry. Given the great number of misspellings in the database, it actually increases the amount of time spent at the site. Now, what could have been accomplished in just one search of 30 variants, now requires 15 individual searches.


No Good Pastime Goes Unpunished
=========================

A few weeks ago, I received e-mail from a reporter for the Wall Street Journal that said:

Hi,

I am a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, working on a story about genealogy... Specifically, my article is about the potential drawbacks to genealogy. I'm looking for:
* people who have discovered surprises in their past that might have been difficult for them, or their family members, to deal with
* people who have searched out long-lost relatives, only to wish they hadn't found them (because the relatives won't leave them alone)
* people who feel that they have purchased genealogy products (books, CDs, etc.) that are not what they are advertised to be
* people who have had their DNA tested as part of their genealogy research--and who have tried to get their family members to do so, as well

If you can help in any way, I'd be very grateful.

My response to her was:

Frankly, I find your article has a very negative slant that will leave the reader with a misimpression that genealogy is not a joyful experience. Why don't you write instead about the members of your profession that are pedophiles, rapists and wife beaters.

The reporter did not heed my advice. Her views on the disadvantages of genealogical research appeared in the Wall Street Journal on June 15 and can be found on the Internet at http://interactive.wsj.com/public/current/articles/SB992558970976621678.htm. She was rewarded for her efforts by appearing on the Today show. If you disagree with her article, why don't you e-mail her and express your thoughts. Her e-mail address is at the end of the article.


An Increasing Trend Toward Charging for Internet Databases
=========================================

I lectured to the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston a few weeks ago about the "Future of Jewish Genealogy". Most of my comments were upbeat, but one negative trend I discussed is the growing tendency to charge for use of databases on the Internet. The bottom line is that it costs an incredible amount of money to create and maintain databases on the Internet.

An example is the Hamburg Emigration Lists at http://www.hamburg.de/LinkToYourRoots/english/welcome.htm. It first became available in October 1999 with the publication of an index to passengers who departed Hamburg during the years 1890-1893. The plan was to make an additional year available every month. To date, only the original database exists on the Internet. The problem: money. The project now is planning to charge a fee for the use of the database "to ensure the long term availability" of the system. To this end a billing system is presently being developed that can be used and will be accepted worldwide. Users will be able to locate individuals who departed Hamburg and get the basic data free--name, date of departure and destination. For a fee, the researcher can then order the complete data: place of origin, age, personal status, profession, accompanying family members, name of the ship, class of accommodation on the ship, shipping company and the name of the captain. The charge will help cover some of the salary costs for their 29 staff members.

Even the major volunteer efforts are feeling the financial strain of their own success. It costs money to install and maintain on the Internet the ever-growing databases created for "free" by volunteers. JewishGen's budget now exceeds $200,000 a year. JewishGen costs go up as the databases grow. Despite efforts to raise money for JewishGen through commercial ventures such as JewishGen Mall, the majority of their income still comes from voluntary contributions.

Do you use JewishGen? Do you make a voluntary contribution to JewishGen every year? It is important that you contribute now if JewishGen is going to be uninhindered in its growth for financial reasons. The JewishGen-erosity link is at http://www.jewishgen.org/JewishGen-erosity/Contribute.html


Leo Baeck Institute Archives and Library Catalog Now Online
==========================================

The Leo Baeck Institute catalog of its library and archival holdings are now available online at http://www.lbi.org/mclinkpage.html. LBI describes itself as a "research, study and lecture center whose library and archives offer the most comprehensive documentation for the study of German Jewish history." The archives and library are located in New York at the Center for Jewish History. There are also branches in London and Jerusalem.


Beider Book to the Printer
==================

Alexander Beider's latest book, A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names: Their Origins, Structure, Pronunciation and Migrations, will go to the printer this week. It usually takes about six weeks for the job to be completed. This means we should be shipping copies in late July or early August to the more than 200 people who took advantage of the pre-publication offer. Additional information about the book can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/dagn.htm.


A Reminder
========

Alan Berliner's genealogy-oriented documentary,"The Sweetest Sound", will premiere on Public Broadcasting on the "Point of View" series this Tuesday, June 26th at 10 p.m. Eastern time. Check local listing for exact time in your area. Details about the documentary appeared in the last issue of "Nu? What's New?" (Vol. 2, No. 12).


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