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. 3, No. 7 - April 21, 2002

Eastern European Archival Database Launched

The Home Page says "Welcome" in big letters, and the latest accomplishment of the Routes to Roots Foundation is, indeed, a big welcome to Jewish genealogy. RTRF, that is Miriam Weiner, has placed the complete Jewish holdings of the State Archives of Belarus, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland and Ukraine in a common searchable database. It is the result of years of effort on the part of Ms. Weiner who worked closely with the head archivists of the five countries.

Because of the political upheavals in the past century, records are scattered for many towns and cities. The consolidated inventory brings them all under one umbrella. As an example, using the RTRF database, I was able to determine that the Jewish records of Volkovysk (now in Belarus), where my maternal grandfather was born, are in three different countries (Poland, Russia and Belarus) and five different archives.

An excellent feature of the Web design is that each page that details a specific record group has a link to another page that provides the address of the archives containing the records. There are Daitch-Mokotoff-Soundex and Starts-With options for those users who are uncertain how to spell the town name. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all genealogy-related websites were designed by genealogists, rather than government employees or (even worse) web designers?

But this website is more than a searchable database. It is an e-book with some 275 pages of illustrations and information. Many of the website pages (Archive Acknowledgments, Archive Chapters and Maps) are excerpted chapters from Weiner's two books
Jewish Roots in Poland and Jewish Roots in Ukraine and Moldova.

There are numerous links to other sites on the Internet associated with record gathering from Eastern Europe. For example, there is a link to a website in Poland that provides the address of every Urzad Stanu Cywilnego (civil registration office) in Poland. Other examples are links to websites that identify archives and libraries by country throughout the world, and others that are map resources.
No reference work is ever complete or error free. By publishing the inventory on the Internet, the database will be updated regularly as new information surfaces about other collections or to correct errors. In addition, as the archives receive additional collections, they have agreed to send the updated information to RTRF to keep the website current.

I recommend starting at the site map page at to gain an understanding of the comprehensiveness of the presentation. The Home Page is at There is no charge for access to the database.

Avotaynu Offers Encyclopedia of Jewish Life at 25% Off!!

One reference work of great value to Jewish genealogical research is the recently published "Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust". This three-volume work provides information about the shtetls and cities of your ancestors in almost every country of continental Europe (exceptions: Bulgaria, Finland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland). The problem is price--you can buy the work on for $395 (list price) or used for $321.75. JewishGen Mall sells it for $339. Now Avotaynu has made special arrangements with the publisher to offer it for only $299.

The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust is the condensation of the renowned Pinkas HaKehillot series published by Yad Vashem plus information on areas of Europe yet to be covered by the series. The Encyclopedia chronicles the history of the Jewish communities, its people, as well as the habits and customs of the communities. There are more than 600 photographs and illustrations.

The work is so valuable to understanding history of these Jewish communities that you should not only contemplate buying it for yourself but also donating a copy to your synagogue library. $299 may seem to be a lot of money, but it is a three-volume work that you will cherish for years.

Additional information and ordering information can be found at

New York University Press, co-publisher of the encyclopedia has substantial information about the work at Sample entries can be found at

International Roots Conference July 14-18

A conference for North American genealogists researching their European roots, both Jewish and non-Jewish, is planned for July 14-18 in Dearborn, Michigan (a suburb of Detroit). Named the International Roots Conference, it is the brainchild of two past presidents of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Michigan: Stephen Rosman and Marilyn Natchez.

The program consists of nine concurrent lectures or events in one-hour sessions over a four-day period (July 15-18) with an opening session the evening of July 14. More than 35 experts will be presenting over 150 educational sessions. Included are lectures on Poland, Austria-Hungarian Empire, Czech-Slovak region, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Eastern Europe, in general. There are lectures for other countries.

Only two lecturers are Jewish genealogists: Jordan Auslander and Howard Margol. Two LDS experts who have spoken at previous International Conferences on Jewish Genealogy will speak: Daniel Schlyter and Kahlile Mehr. The majority of the lecturers are some of the best on the U.S. genealogical lecture circuit; most of them unfamiliar to Jewish genealogists.

Typical of the experts is Duncan R. Gardiner, a regular lecturer at Federation of Genealogical Societies and National Genealogical Society conferences. He is a Certified Genealogist and Accredited Genealogist and probably the best lecturer on Czech and Slovak research. William "Fred" Hoffman, Jonathan Shea and Paul Valasek are three of the leaders of Polish-American genealogy.

I have attended lectures at FGS and NGS conferences on Central and Eastern European genealogy and, for the Jewish genealogist, they suffer from having to devote a considerable amount of time to a valuable source of information for non-Jews: church records.

The conference is patterned after the very successful national conferences by FGS and NGS and includes hands-on computer lab sessions, luncheons, tours of local sites of interest, and other functions.

For complete information, visit the conference web site at

Spring Issue of AVOTAYNU at Printer

The Spring issue of AVOTAYNU, the International Review of Jewish Genealogy, is at the printer. One article in this issue covers two of the hot items of Jewish genealogy today--breaking down the brick walls of 18th-century Jewish research and using DNA testing in genealogy. It merges the two topics by describing how DNA matching was able to confirm the results of an analysis of 18th-century Lithuanian records.

Melody Amsel started a quest some years ago to document all of the Holocaust victims from her ancestral town of Stropkov, Czech Republic. (Of the approximately 2,000 Jews who lived in the town, all but 70 were murdered in the Holocaust.) In this issue she describes her research techniques for locating records of the Jews of Stropkov. Ms. Amsel has written a yizkor book for the Jews of Stropkov that will be published shortly by Avotaynu. More information will be available in a future issue of
Nu? What's New?

Also in the Spring issue, Miriam Weiner gives her perspective on why she developed the All-Eastern Europe Database described above. As noted in a previous edition of
Nu? What's New?, my contribution to the issue is a study in 20th-century and Internet resources for genealogical research.

For those planning to attend the 22nd annual International Conference on Jewish Genealogy but have not overcome the inertia of registering, a registration form appears in the issue.

If you subscribed to AVOTAYNU in 2001 and have not yet renewed for 2002, you can resubscribe at Alternately, in the U.S. and Canada, you can call 800-AVOTAYNU (800-286-8296). It you want to be a new subscriber to AVOTAYNU, either of these two procedures applies. Makes Available First 1930 Census Index

If you had mishpacha (family) in Delaware in 1930, you can now locate their names at in the first online index for the 1930 census. As promised, the company is starting to make indexes to the census available concurrent with making census images available. Delaware is the first state to have an index.'s progress in making 1920 and 1930 census images and indexes available online is:

1920: 100% of images are available. 48% on the indexes are online. They are for the states of Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

1930: Images available for Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Utah, and Vermont.

Additional information can be found at

Definition of a Holocaust Survivor

A recent posting to the JewishGen Discussion group asked the question "What is the definition of a Holocaust survivor?" Many Jewish genealogists add a note to their family history database to identify Holocaust victims and survivors so the question is appropriate to genealogy.

Who is a Holocaust survivor was answered rather eloquently by Benjamin Meed, president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors--a Warsaw ghetto survivor--in an incident he related to me some years ago. Meed travels the New York to Washington shuttle weekly in his dual role as AMG president (New York) and as a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council (Washington).

On one of the flights he happened to sit next to former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. They, of course, struck up a conversation. At one point, Meed stated to Kissinger, "You are a Holocaust survivor." Kissinger seemed surprised at Meed's statement and reminded him that he fled Germany to the United States in the 1930s. Meed's response was to ask a question. "If you had remained in Germany what would have happened to you?" Kissinger responded, "I surely would have died." Meed concluded, "Then you are a Holocaust survivor." Kissinger thought for a moment and responded, "Yes, I am a Holocaust survivor."

New Jewish Genealogical Society in Venezuela

A new Jewish genealogical society has formed in Venezuela. There are now more than 80 societies in 14 countries. They are all members of an umbrella group: the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. A list of societies and contact information can be found at Information about the annual International Conference on Jewish Genealogy to be held this year in Toronto from August 4-9 can be found at

Vol. 3, No. 8 - May 5, 2002

New Book by Avotaynu: Between Galicia and Hungary: The Jews of Stropkov

A number of years ago I asked a Holocaust survivor whether it was proper to refer to a Holocaust-related painting as a "beautiful painting." This simple man, who was not very educated--his teenage years were interrupted by the Holocaust--answered my question with a story. He said that he once had a Christian friend who died. When he went to his friend's wake, the widow approached him, grabbed his arm and walked him over to the casket. As the he stared at the body of his late friend, the widow said, "Doesn't he look beautiful?" Taken aback by the comment, the survivor looked at his late friend, thought for an appropriate response, and said, "Yes, he looks beautiful."

Melody Amsel, an American-born Israeli amateur genealogist, has written the latest book to be published by Avotaynu. It is a beautifully written yizkor (memorial) book about the Jews of Stropkov, Slovak Republic. Its title is
Between Galicia and Hungary: The Jews of Stropkov. Many Jewish genealogists have memorialized members of their family murdered in the Holocaust. Melody went a step further and not only memorialized the Amsels of Stropkov, but -all- the Jews of Stropkov. The book has some unusual features for a yizkor book. It is written in two languages: Hebrew and English, each a mirror of the other. It does not have a necrology--a list of those who were murdered. Instead, it lists all the Jews of Stropkov (and neighboring communities), identifying the survivors in bold face. The list goes on for 64 pages of Holocaust victims, occasionally interrupted by an entry in bold face to identify a survivor. Of the more than 2,000 Stropkovers identified, only 162 survived the Holocaust.

The narrative is a history of the Jews of Stropkov, from their first presence about 1640 to 1945. Particular emphasis is on life just before the Holocaust and the events during the Holocaust. Amsel personalizes the times by not merely describing life during these periods but by naming Jewish citizens of the town. Clearly she interviewed many of the survivors and described activity as it happened to specific people.

A center section has more than 100 pictures of the Jews of Stropkov. Heavy emphasis is on life before the Holocaust but also includes pictures from the archives of Yad Vashem that were taken by a Christian photographer during the deportations.

The book costs $35.00 plus shipping. Additional information--including the table of contents, the beautifully designed covers (English and Hebrew), and pictures of the Jews of Stropkov--can be found at

More Hamburg Emigration Records To Be on Internet

I just returned from a four-day trip to Hamburg, Germany, courtesy of the Hamburg government. The Link-to-Your-Roots project, which is placing on the Internet an index of all emigrants who passed through the port of Hamburg from 1850-1934, expects to add to its current database in the next 30 days all records from 1899-1902. Previously available were records from 1890-1898. When I was there they were keying in manifests for March 1904. These entries must then go through a verification process to confirm their accuracy. The database can be found at

Sallyann Sack's Annual Trip to Israel

Each year, AVOTAYNU editor Sallyann Amdur Sack goes to Israel to gather information about the latest developments in Jewish genealogy at the major research locations there. She just returned from her latest trip and reports that the Jewish National and University Library on the Givat Ram campus of Hebrew University has finally opened the collection of Ashkenazic rabbinical family trees willed to it by the late Paul Jacobi. Jacobi created more than 400 trees in his lifetime. Not all of the trees are there; some appear to be missing. A complete report of this and her other discoveries will be published in the summer issue of AVOTAYNU. You can subscribe to the journal at

More Microfilms of Lithuanian Vital Records at Family History Library

Warren Blatt of JewishGen reports that 40 additional microfilms of Jewish vital records of Lithuania are now available through the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library system. These records were microfilmed at the Lithuanian State Historical Archives in Vilnius between October 2001 and April 2002. The index provides the microfilm numbers for the specific town, date, and event type. The microfilms are available for borrowing at any local Family History Center. An index to all the Jewish Lithuanian holdings of the Family History Library can be found at

Online Registration for the Toronto Conference

You can now register online for the annual International Conference on Jewish Genealogy to be held in Toronto August 4-9. The address is The deadline for advanced registration at a discount has been extended to May 31.

The annual conference features more than 100 lectures on Jewish genealogical research, meetings of the Special Interest Groups, a beginners workshop, computer room, resource room, birds-of-a-feather meetings, breakfasts with experts, and networking with hundreds of Jewish genealogists from all over the world.

Will the 1901 British Census Ever Go Online?

A member of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain has informed me that some British genealogists with insider information are claiming that the 1901 Census of England and Wales may never go online again. An analysis of the current problems are "formidable" and would require substantial additional funding. The census was placed online in January but shut down almost immediately because it could not handle the demand.

Dick Eastman of Ancestry reports in his weekly column that a second issue also has arisen: that of the quality of the indexes. Eastman states that those who have succeeded in accessing the database claim that the error rate is "outrageous." The Federation of Family History Society's website states "initially 85% of the transcribed data failed to meet the (unspecified) accuracy rate required." Eastman's column can be viewed at

1930 Census Images for California and Connecticut
=================================== has released images of the 1930 U.S. Federal Census online for California and Connecticut. 1930 images are now available for California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Utah and Vermont. Additional information can be found at

Avotaynu's Book on Galician Research

If you are a Galitzianer, Avotaynu published a book a few years ago that is still one of the best sources for how to do Jewish genealogical research for Galicia.
Finding Your Jewish Roots in Galicia: A Resource Guide includes what is known about Galician-Jewish resources--such resources as archival collections of Jewish vital and other records; geographic, visual and language aides; books; documents related to the Holocaust; and articles about travel and research in specific towns by members of Gesher Galicia, the Special Interest Group for Jewish genealogy. The author, Suzan Wynne, is the founding president of Gesher Galicia and has been doing Galician genealogical research for more than 20 years.

Additional information, including the Table of Contents can be found at

Vol. 3, No. 9 - May 21, 2002

This past week, I was at the annual conference of the National Genealogical Society (NGS) held this year in Milwaukee. This issue of "Nu? What's New?" is devoted primarily to information I gleaned at the conference.

Evaluating Genealogical Software Systems

One lecture I attended was by Bill Mumford who writes reviews of genealogical software packages for the
NGS Newsmagazine. Mumford has created a "Genealogical Software Report Card" on the Internet which is a comprehensive analysis of 19 different packages in 12 different categories. Examples of categories are each package's ability to provide planning tools, data recording, and reports. Each of the 12 categories has an underlying list of capabilities. The Reports category has 34 items in the evaluation. Mumford tries to minimize the subjectivity by assigning points based on whether a system has a capability or not: one point for having the ability, no points if the feature is absent. A bit of subjectivity exists in that a few features are considered so important they are assigned a value of 5 rather than 1. For example, in the Reports section, important reports are Ahnentafel, Custom (user designed) lists, Family Group Sheet (with basic options), Individual report (developer choices) and Register reports in the standard NEHGS and NGS formats.

Each system is rated as to whether it applies to beginners, intermediate or advanced users. Needless to say, the most powerful systems are classified as requiring an advanced knowledge of computers and genealogy.

If you are not familiar with terms Mumford uses, a glossary is provided. The quality of the glossary is only fair. For example, the definition of "Ahnentafel" is "The old reliable ahnentafel ancestor report."

The Report Card can be found at I plan to write a complete analysis of Genealogical Software Report Card in the summer issue of AVOTAYNU. You can subscribe to AVOTAYNU at

News from the Family History Library

David Rencher is no longer Director of the Family History Library. He is now Director of Records and Information. He described to me his new function as the responsibility of handling new acquisitions from the end of filming to point of making the information available to patrons.

My first reaction was that he had been given just a different administrative job, but in a lecture he gave at the conference, Rencher gave a hint as to the importance of this position as it affects patron access to records. If the material is digitized, they can place the information on the Internet. This means that some time in the future, research using the resources of the LDS (Mormon) Family History Department might mean doing research from your home computer rather than going to a Family History Center.

During his brief, three-year stay as director of the Library, Rencher made major improvements to both the Library and the Family History Center system. Last year he rearranged the floors of the Family History Library for better patron usage. The process was accomplished over a six month period without significantly impacting patron usage of the Library. A major improvement was the installation of 160 computer stations--40 on each floor--that provide Internet access as well as access to the Family History Library Catalog and databases that previously were accessible at the Library only on CD. I had the opportunity to use these terminals last October on my annual trip to Salt Lake City with Jewish genealogists. At a single terminal, I could access JewishGen databases (Internet), the Library holdings of my ancestral town of Warka, Poland (Library catalog) and the Social Security Death Index (Library database).

Books, Maps, Pamphlets on Eastern Europe

One vendor at the conference, Origins Books of Janesville, Wisconsin, seemed to have the largest supply of books, maps and pamphlets relevant to Central and Eastern European genealogical research. As an example, their web site and catalog includes:
* indexed maps of the western portion of Poland that was once part of Germany. The index shows both the German and Polish names for each town.
* a pamphlet about the Austro-Hungarian Empire which covers a description of the land, ethnic groups, political boundaries and other data
* genealogical gazetteer of Alsace-Lorraine
* getting started pamphlets for most countries of Europe

Their URL is


A company is offering a complete spectrum of "fun stuff for genealogy" including genealogy-oriented t-shirts ("Genealogy-Living Life in the Past Lane"), mouse pads ("Genealogy, So many ancestors, So little time"), mugs ("Genealogy, Just passing time, diggin' up my roots"), bumper stickers ("Caution: I Brake for Cemeteries"), clip-art and other tchochkes [Yiddish for "trinkets"]. They seem to have the largest collection of this stuff. They are located at

Help to Write Your Bio

Have you considered writing your bio but don't know where to start or what to include? A company called LifeBio tries to make it simple by providing a question template as a guide. The use of the template and its results are free--they will place it on their web site--but the company hopes to sell you a LifeBio book which is a slick version of all the information you provided. Other products include an E-LifeBio, which is a personalized, electronic version of the online album in PDF format; and a LifeBio Memory Journal, a 150+ page journal which includes the same questions found at with space to write in answers. Additional information can be found at

...and for the Person Who Has Everything Genealogical

By far the most unusual item being sold in the exhibit area was a "Memory Medallion". For a mere $99, you can purchase a high-tech device that will record about 5-7 pages of information, pictures and sound about an individual on a button-sized data storage device. You then imbed the device in the tombstone of the loved one. As their promotional literature states, "Consider for a moment the ability to visit a cemetery and actually be able to read, see and even hear details about a family member, friend, or famous individual whose grave you visit." They claim the information will last 75-100 years. A read/write wand can retrieve the data to your laptop through a USB/serial/flashcard port. There was no indication as to whether you get your money back if the data disappears after 65 years or whether compatibility will be guaranteed if USB/serial/flashcard technology disappears at some time in the future. For further information, see

Plan Database of German Jews Based on 1939 Census

An Israeli news agency,, reports that Yad Vashem is working with the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance to establish a comprehensive database of names of German Jewry as it existed in 1939. They state that a 1939 census of the Jews of Germany identified 507,000 persons as Jewish. The new database is expected to result in a list of between 600-650,000 names because it will include persons whose grandparents were registered as Jews while they themselves did not declare themselves Jewish in the census.

Some years ago, the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library microfilmed portions of the 1939 "Minority" census of Germany; an attempt by the Nazi government to identify Jews within Germany. Avotaynu published a book,
German Minority Census of 1939, that identifies the microfilm numbers for the towns that were filmed. Information about the book can be found at A list of towns covered by the microfilming can be found in the Library's online catalog at at

Alternately go to, request a Subject Search and use the key words "Germany census"

The complete story can be found at

Early Registration Deadline for the Toronto Conference

Now is the time to make the commitment to attend the annual International Conference on Jewish Genealogy to be held in Toronto from August 4-9. The deadline for advanced registration is May 31. After that date, the cost of registration goes from US$175 to $205. You can register online at There also is a registration form in the Spring issue of AVOTAYNU.

The annual conference features more than 100 lectures on Jewish genealogical research, meetings of the Special Interest Groups, a beginners workshop, computer room, resource room, birds-of-a-feather meetings, breakfasts with experts, and networking with hundreds of Jewish genealogists from all over the world.

Information about the program, resources in the Toronto area, vendor exhibits, planned tours and hotel information can be found at

New 1930 Census Images Online

Since the last edition of
Nu? What's New? has added online images of the 1930 census for Massachusetts and New Jersey. Previous states available are California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Utah and Vermont. Additional information can be found at

Vol. 3, No. 10 - June 2, 2002

Shhhhhhh - 1901 Canadian Census Is Online

Fearing system overload as happened to the Ellis Island, Family Search and 1901 Census of England and Wales online databases, the National Archives Canada has quietly placed online the 1901 census of Canada with no public announcement. You can view it at (English version) and (French version).

Only the images exist; there is no index. You must know the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. enumeration district to locate a family. Provinces were divided into districts and sub-districts. You can search by district name, district number, sub-district name and/or sub-district number. For larger cities, use the "Detailed Search" facility to add any known district or sub-district information to reduce the number of hits.

The database uses the same software--Mr. Sid--as the Ancestry census images; therefore it is possible to zoom in and out easily and shift portions of the image shown on the screen. Response time seemed slower than the Ancestry site.

I learned a bit about Canadian history while visiting the site. The current provincial structure was not the same in 1901. At the beginning of the 20th century, there was an area called "The Territories" which is described at the Internet site as "the Northwest Territories (i.e.: Saskatchewan, Alberta, Assiniboia East, and Assiniboia West) and the Unorganized Territories (i.e.: Athabasca, Franklin and Keewatin, Mackenzie, Ungava and Yukon)." Sherry Irvine, president of the Association of Professional Genealogists and a resident of Vancouver, British Columbia, informed me that:
  * Assiniboia was the southern third of what is now Saskatchewan
  * Athabasca was the top third of Saskatchewan and Alberta
  * Mackenzie was the Northwest Territories from the line of longitude that splits Manitoba and Saskatchewan to the Yukon
  * Keewatin was northern Ontario, the top 60 percent of Manitoba and what was between Hudson Bay and the Northwest Territories
  * Ungava was northern Quebec
  * Manitoba would have been the southern 40 percent of today's province
  * Saskatchewan would have been the middle third
  * Franklin was the Arctic islands

Complete Conference Program On Internet

The complete program for the 22nd International Conference on Jewish Genealogy is now available at The current conference planners have maintained the fine tradition of previous conferences in creating an exhausting six-day program of lectures, workshops, films, and meetings. Sessions Monday through Thursday start at 8:15 a.m. and continue to 10:00 p.m. with breaks for lunch and dinner. Attendees will have to choose from one of six concurrent sessions for each time period. There are three time periods in the morning, three in the afternoon and one in the evening. A seventh concurrent session is reserved for meetings of Special Interest Groups. Even the lunch period is expected to be filled with organization-sponsored luncheons that will include a speaker. Sunday events, including a beginners workshop, start at 1:00 p.m. and end in the evening at 10:00. Friday's events start at 8:15 and conclude at 12:30. All told, there are more than 200 events that focus on the needs of Jewish genealogical research.

For those planning to attend the Conference with family or friends, the sponsors have announced a number of tours available.
  * A special block of tickets for the Toronto performance of the The Lion King, on Wednesday night
  * A bus tour of Niagara Falls, the Escarpment and the Niagara Region
  * A tour of Old Jewish Toronto

Also for those who want to do research in the Toronto area but would like an orientation to the resources of the facilities:
  * A guided tour of the extensive genealogy collection at the Toronto Reference Library,
  * University of Toronto's John R. Robarts Library with its large collection of yizkor books
  * Archives of Ontario

Additional information about the conference can be found at You can register for the conference at

Meorei Galicia Index Now Online

Do your ancestors include rabbis from Galicia? A number of years ago, Rabbi Meir Wunder of Israel published Meorei Galicia: Encyclopedia Lekhakhmei Galicia (Encyclopedia of Galician Sages), a five-volume bio-bibliographical work containing extensively detailed genealogies of Galician rabbinical families. Rabbinic Genealogy SIG (Rav-SIG) has placed an index to the surnames and towns present in this epic work. It is located at the Rav-SIG site The two indexes now online include 1,362 surnames and 324 cities and towns.

A Problem That Won't Go Away

In 1995 the Mormon Church signed a historical agreement with a number of worldwide Jewish organizations agreeing to never knowingly posthumously baptize a Jew unless the person was a direct ancestor of a Mormon. I consider it historic because it is the only case I know of where a religion modified its practices based on the wishes of non-believers. At that time the Church also agreed to removed some 400,000 Jews from their International Genealogical Index, a public database of 750 million people posthumously baptized by members of the Church. It also agreed to remove from the IGI any Jewish person who was not a direct ancestor of a Mormon if the Church was made aware of the entry.

Last year a woman, Helen Radkey, accused the Church of not honoring the agreement stating that many notable Jews are still in the IGI. They included Sigmund Freud, David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir and Albert Einstein and Anne Frank. She was able to convince the Simon Wiesenthal Center to participate in her protest.

Radkey was born Catholic and converted to the Mormon faith. She subsequently became disenchanted with the religion and disavowed it. One report stated she has become interested in Judaism and is actively exploring the possibility of converting under the auspices of a Conservative synagogue.

I have monitored whether the Mormon Church has honored the agreement since 1995 and have found no cases to the contrary. The claims that notables such as Einstein, Freud and others are in the IGI are undoubtedly true, but these names likely existed prior to the agreement. The Church is not obligated to do its own search of the IGI to look for Jews; it only agreed to remove them if made aware of the entry. As recently as a few months ago, Anne Frank was still in the IGI. I sent e-mail to a contact in the Family History Department requesting that Anne Frank be removed and it was honored almost immediately and now her name is no longer among the 750 million.

The events that led up to the signing of the agreement heavily involved the Jewish genealogical community and was written up in an article in AVOTAYNU in 1995. The complete article can be seen at You can subscribe to AVOTAYNU at

Many Jews are offended by the Mormon practice of posthumously baptizing Jews. It reminds them of the long history of Jews being given the option of death or converting to Christianity. Many Jewish family trees include ancestors who took option one; no doubt, Mormon family trees have ancestors who took option two.

List of Town Names from Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Now Available
Avotaynu has posted a complete list of towns described in the three-volume work, The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust. Some 6,500 towns are represented (plus an additional 2,500 alternate names with "see" references).

The list of towns can be reached through

The Encyclopedia is the condensation of the renowned Pinkas HaKehillot series published by Yad Vashem and also includes information on areas of Europe yet to be covered by the series. It chronicles the history of the Jewish communities and the people, as well as the habits and customs of the communities. There are more than 600 photographs and illustrations.

New York University Press, co-publisher of the encyclopedia, has substantial information about the work at Sample entries can be found at

The regular price of the encyclopedia is $399. Through special arrangement with the publisher, Avotaynu is offering the encyclopedia at 25% off--at only $299.

JPEG Images of Postcards Available at Avotaynu Site

For those who are recent subscribers to Nu? What's New?, for about two years Avotaynu has been offering scanned images (JPEGs) of towns in Eastern Europe. Postcards of your ancestral town from the turn of the 20th century can be a wonderful addition to the photographic portion of your family history, but they are rare items and consequently very expensive. Typical prices are $20-50 each, with some costing hundreds of dollars.

Tomasz Wisniewski, a resident of Bialystok, Poland, has collected nearly 2,000 postcards and pictures of Jewish life in what was interwar Poland and today encompasses eastern Poland, western Belarus and Ukraine and portions of Lithuania. Avotaynu has convinced him to sell JPEG images of these cards, and they are now available for sale at There are some 330 towns represented in more than 1,300 pictures. Many of the pictures are of synagogues since destroyed in the Holocaust, street scenes, and panoramic views.

The cost of each JPG is only $2.50 (minimum purchase $10.00). These images are a perfect way to dress up your family web site. They can also be printed in color for inclusion in a published family history or to have in your files as pictures of a time that once was. [Note: We are offering computer images of the postcards which will be sent by e-mail, not the postcards themselves.]

Wisniewski is also the author of two books about Jewish life in the Bialystok area: Synagogues and Jewish Communities in the Bialystok Region, published in 1992; and, more recently, Jewish Bialystok and Surroundings in Eastern Poland, which is sold by Avotaynu (

Vol. 3, No. 11 - June 16, 2002

Ukrainian Archives Now Has English-language Web Site

At the encouragement of Miriam Weiner, the State Archives of Ukraine has posted the English version of major portions of their website that includes contact information for archives throughout Ukraine, a very useful "Q&A" section and a special section for "Genealogy." The Home Page is at Subsections include:
   About Us
   News / Announcements
   List of Archives
   Programs & Projects
   On-line Resources
   Archival Guides
   Ukrainica Abroad
   Useful Links

The Contacts list includes the e-mail addresses of members of the State Committee on Archives of Ukraine, Ukrainian Research Institute for Archival and Records Studies, and Society of Ukrainian Archivists.

The List of Archives is a complete list of all archives in Ukraine. Many of those located in the larger cities, such as Kiyev, have e-mail addresses. Even some of the oblast archives now have e-mail.

An excellent Question & Answer section covers such questions as:
   * What is your policy regarding access to archival material by foreigners?
   * What is the relationship between the State Committee on Archives of Ukraine and the oblast archives?
   * Is there a specific time period after which records are transferred from a ZAHS (ZAG) office to the state archive?
   * Are there any restrictions or requirements for genealogists who want to research records in Ukrainian archives to discover their ancestral past?
   * What procedures should be followed by someone who wants to obtain information from Ukrainian archives by correspondence?
   * What is the fee structure for research conducted by archives?
   * What is the present situation regarding methods of payment?

Some Advanced Features of the Morse Ellis Island Database Portal

I use the Ellis Island database (EIDB) at least once a week. My latest need was to answer an inquiry from a Russian Jew living in Saratov, Russia, who is trying to make contact with the descendants of his grand-uncle who came to the U.S. in 1913. That is why I was excited about Stephen Morse's acceptance of a request to write an article titled "Subtleties in Using the One-Step Ellis Island Website" for the Summer issue of AVOTAYNU.

The Morse site is much superior to the one provided by the Ellis Island Commission. It allows one to qualify the search parameters on a number of fields to such an extent that the name of the person almost doesn't have to be provided. For example, if you requested all married males between the ages of 25-30 who came to Ellis Island in 1903, were Jewish (Hebrew), and whose last name started with M, there are only 375 hits.

In his six-page article in the forthcoming issue of AVOTAYNU, Morse walks you through all the subtleties of his site, parameter by parameter, giving examples from his personal experience of how he was able to locate immigrants in the Ellis Island Database that were not possible using the regular portal. You can subscribe to AVOTAYNU at The Morse site is located at

Complete Index to 1920 Census Now Online

An index the 1920 U.S. Federal Census for all states has been completed by Puerto Rico is undone but it is expected to be posted by the end of the month. All images have been available for some time at the Ancestry site. Additional information is can be found at

Avotaynu to Exhibit at Toronto Conference

One successful feature of the past 21 International Conferences on Jewish Genealogy has been the Vendor Room where commercial suppliers of books, products and other items of interest to Jewish genealogists are on display and are for sale. This year's planners have reserved the entire trade show area of the Sheraton Hall to house a Conference Hospitality Office, the Computer Room, the Resource Room and the Vendor Room.

Avotaynu will be selling more than 100 books, maps and CDs that further Jewish genealogical research. New items will include:
   * A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names, by Alexander Beider. Dr. Beider will also be lecturing on Jewish surnames from Galicia, the subject of his next book. He will also give a lecture on the "Role of Rhineland Jews for Ashkenazic Jewry" which will cover some of his remarkable discoveries while doing his doctoral thesis at the Sorbonne on Ashkenazic given names. Information about the book can be found at
   * Between Galicia and Hungary: The Jews of Stropkov, by Melody Amsel. This poignant yizkor book is at the printer, and we will start shipping copies to people who have placed orders about July 1. Information about the book can be found at
   * Sephardic Genealogy: Discovering Your Sephardic Ancestors and Their World, by Jeffrey S. Malka will likely be at the printers at the time of the conference so we plan to have a mockup of the 300-page work and will be taking initial orders. It is an excellent guide to doing Sephardic genealogy written by the person who was the developer of the SefardSIG Internet site for JewishGen and is very active in the Special Interest Group. He was born in Khartoum, Sudan, the grandson of the chief rabbi of Sudan. We will have a Web site for this book in the next 30 days.
   * Where Once We Walked - Revised Edition, by Gary Mokotoff and Sallyann Amdur Sack with Alexander Sharon. It is our goal to have a mockup of the revised edition of WOWW by the conference. The book will feature a number of improvements over the first edition. These include (1) an additional 1,000 towns, (2) approximately 15 additional sources of information, (3) integration of the WOWW Companion book into the revised edition, (4) and many other improvements to be described at a later date. It is our goal to send the book to the printer in late August.
   * AVOTAYNU Guide to Jewish Genealogy, edited by Sallyann Amdur Sack and Gary Mokotoff. This ultimate guide to Jewish genealogical research has been two years in the making. It will feature more than 80 chapters (57 of which concern Jewish genealogical research in specific countries) written by more than 50 experts in Jewish genealogy. At present, galley proofs are being sent to authors for final editing. By the time of the conference we will have, at a minimum, the Table of Contents and sample chapters.

Information and registration for the conference, which will be held at the Sheraton Centre in Toronto, August 4-9, can be found at

A complete list of the more than 100 books, maps, microfiche and CD-ROM oriented toward the needs of Jewish genealogists which Avotaynu offers can be found at

The Human Side of Genealogy

I sometimes tell people that the dullest part of genealogical research is finding out who your ancestors were. The most interesting part is finding who are your living relatives. I get more pleasure out of receiving greeting cards on Chanukah from relatives all over the world than pushing back my family history one more generation. These cards are from relatives who I did not know existed before the start of my genealogical research. My relationship to them is usually remote--usually fourth cousins--but these cards affirm that we all have a bond through a common ancestor.

Equally warming are the stories of how genealogical research has reunited families or made life better for someone in some way. For example, in my wife's family, a second cousin of hers, whose branch we thought were all murdered in the Holocaust, contacted a family member recently by using the JewishGen Family Finder. He and his mother survived and immigrated to Columbia. He thought he had no other family.

I lump all these events into what I call the human side of genealogy.

A recent posting to the JewishGen Discussion Group described such an event. There are those that try to debunk the humanitarian motivation of Oskar Schindler and claim he was merely profiteering from the use of Jewish slave labor. The following story clearly demonstrates Schindler's concern for his Jews.

"In late 1970, I was with a survivor from the Schindler transport in a small village near the Brunnlitz factory where Schindler's Jews were held. The survivor, Victor Dortheimer, recalled that an elderly lady, Mrs. Hofstatter, died from natural causes. Schindler bought a piece of land (which he showed me) adjacent to a Christian cemetery so that she could be buried in a proper Jewish manner. The camp commandant wanted to cremate her in the factory furnaces.

"About a month ago I was in a London restaurant; sitting opposite was a lady unknown to me. During our conversation she told me that her family had originated in Krakow and that her grandmother was with Oskar Schindler. She said that her family never knew what happened to her which had depressed them over the years. I asked her name, and she said `Hofstatter'. I said, `I know where your grandmother is buried. I have been there and have seen the plot of land.' The woman was stunned that someone would know the fate of her grandmother and her final resting place. On June 5 there was a memorial service held in the Christian cemetery of the village of Deutsch Biela. Present were the Hofstatter family, a local priest, the Israeli Ambassador in Prague and local dignitaries. A plaque in memory of both Chana Hofstatter and Oskar Schindler was placed and I, Robin O'Neill, read a prayer for the occasion."

The story was reported on JewishGen by Tom Weiss of Newton, Massachusetts, and confirmed by Mr. O'Neill who lives in London.

Internet Summer Camp at International Roots Conference

An "Internet Summer Camp" will be one of the many elements of the program at the International Roots Conference to be held July 14-18 in Dearborn, Michigan. Ruth Pratt, who specializes in training genealogists on how use the computer, will be providing each day a 3-hour hands-on training session. It will cover what information is available on the Internet and what to be wary of; basic features of a search engine; and how to use FamilySearch, Ancestry, Family Tree Maker, RootsWeb, USGenWeb, CyndisList and how to subscribe to mailing lists that may give you information related to your genealogical research. Additional information about the conference can be found at

Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Wins AJL Reference Award
The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust has earned the Association of Jewish Libraries Judaica Reference Award for 2001. Two of Avotaynu's books have won this award in the past: Where Once We Walked (1991) and A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland (1994).

The Encyclopedia is the condensation of the renowned Pinkas HaKehillot series published by Yad Vashem and also includes information on areas of Europe yet to be covered by the series. It chronicles the history of the Jewish communities and the people, as well as the habits and customs of the communities. There are more than 600 photographs and illustrations.

Through a special arrangement with the publisher, Avotaynu is offering the encyclopedia at 25% off--at only $299 plus shipping. The regular price of the encyclopedia is $399. Avotaynu has posted a complete list of the 6,500 towns described in the three-volume work at our site. Additional information, including how to order the work can be found at

Vol. 3, No. 12 - June 30, 2002

Governments Consider Tightening Access to Vital Records

My experience with security systems has been that they inconvenience the honest and present no problem to a determined dishonest person. The problem of identity theft by acquiring birth, marriage and/or death records is rearing its ugly head in a number of states in the United States. Legislators want to close down access to vital records information in a manner that would make it impossible for honest people, like genealogical researchers, to access the information. The concern of these legislators is privacy as well as identity theft. Since September 11, there is the additional fear that terrorists will steal the identities of people to mask their nefarious deeds.

There is little doubt that thieves and terrorists can steal identities. My claim is severely restricting access to vital records won't prevent, or even hinder, identity theft. Its sole consequence will be to make genealogical research more difficult.

In New Jersey, the governor has issued an executive order stating that copies of vital records can only be given "to persons who establish themselves as the subject of the vital record, the subject's parent, legal guardian or legal representative, spouse, child, grandchild or sibling, if of legal age, to a State or federal agency for official purposes, pursuant to court order or under other emergent circumstances as determined by the Commissioner." In other words, if a terrorist falsifies that s/he is close kin to the individual, it will be possible to get the birth, marriage or death record. The complete Executive Order can be found at

In California, Bill SB1614 has passed the State Senate and is now being consider by the House. It threatens to reduce the information available in the birth and death record indexes rendering them significantly less useful and/or limit the use and access by genealogical researchers and family historians. Portions of the bill state that the comprehensive index of birth, marriage and deaths maintained by the State and birth and death record indices prepared or maintained by local registrars and county recorders are to be kept confidential, except that these indices may be disclosed to government agencies as prescribed by law. California takes the matter of identity theft more seriously. It requires the terrorist to sign a statement "under penalty of perjury" that the request is legitimate. The complete bill can be found at

The two major national genealogy organizations, the Federation of Genealogical Societies and the National Genealogical Society, have developed a position paper opposing the California bill. The paper notes that information used to minimize the risk of identity theft, such as requests for mother's maiden name, is readily available in open sources, namely newspapers, especially obituaries, birth and marriage announcements, cemetery tombstones, Who's Who publications, professional directories and published biographies.

It suggests that instead the California State legislature find a balanced solution to the matter of protecting the rights of the citizens from identity theft while still providing sufficient access to the records for the continued use by genealogists and family historians for the legitimate pursuit of tracing ones' heritage and ancestry. The position paper can be found at

David Rencher, chairman of the Records Access and Preservation Committee, run jointly by FGS and NGS, will appear at a hearing of the California House this week along with leaders of California genealogy groups.

International Roots Conference Canceled

The International Roots Conference (IRC) planned for July 14-19 in Dearborn, Michigan, has been canceled for lack of a sufficient number of registrants. One report claimed there were about 300 people who registered for the event. A conference of the magnitude of IRC requires 800-1,000 people to break even. The annual International Conference on Jewish Genealogy requires a much smaller attendance to break even because it relies heavily on volunteers, including the speakers.

In addition to the cancellation, the company that sponsored the event, My Conference Planners, LLC, has retained legal council who has informed all registrants that the company "has ceased operations, closed its doors, and gone out of business." The law firm stated, "the company has over $300,000 in debts, and no assets....As there are no assets on hand, there will be no monies available for creditors." The implication is that registrants will not be refunded their money. A number of registrants have filed consumer fraud complaints with the Michigan Attorney General's office.

More particulars can be found in the weekly column written by Dick Eastman for at

Breakfast with Experts and Luncheons at Toronto Conference

Two concepts introduced by AVOTAYNU editor, Sallyann Sack, to the annual international seminars on Jewish genealogy were "Breakfast with Experts" meetings and planned luncheons.

"Breakfast with Experts" was first introduced by Sallyann at the seminar in Jerusalem in 1984 which she co-chaired. The conference this year, to be held in Toronto from August 4-9, will continue the tradition. A number of truly expert people will participate in the program. To name just a few, they include: Daniel Schlyter, East European specialist at the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library; Batya Unterschatz, former head of Jewish Agency Search Bureau of Missing Relatives in Jerusalem; Dr. Alexander Beider, writer and researcher on Jewish names; Dr. Anthony Joseph, President, JGS of Great Britain; Jeff Malka, author of Sephardic Genealogy: Discovering Your Sephardic Ancestors and Their World to be published by Avotaynu late this summer; Professor Piotr Wrobel, Polish Historian; Yale Reisner of the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw; Dr. Neil Rosenstein, writer on rabbinic genealogy; Teresa Swiebocka, Curator, Auschwitz Museum; Miriam Weiner, author/researcher on East European sources; and Olga Muzichuk, Director Central State Archive of Ukraine, Kiev.

Sallyann Sack also introduced the idea of formal luncheons with speakers at the Salt Lake City conference in 2000. This year, Monday-Thursday, there will be two concurrent luncheons on each day. I will be speaking at the Avotaynu-sponsored luncheon on Monday. My topic will be "The Future of Jewish Genealogy." In the talk I will speak about my perception of the direction in which Jewish genealogy is heading. I will also pre-announce some exciting books we are working on.

If you have not yet made a commitment to attend the conference, do it now. Complete information about the event, including all lectures, Breakfast with Experts participants and luncheon speakers can be found at

Salt Lake City Now Has Kosher Deli

For those who go to Salt Lake City to do research at the Family History Library and keep kosher, life is a bit less difficult with the opening of a kosher delicatessen in the city. The eatery and food store was developed at the encouragement of Rabbi Benny Zippel of the Chabad Lubavitch of Utah, the only Jewish Orthodox community in Utah. Rabbi Zippel was Jewish chaplain for the Olympics that were held in Salt Lake City this past February.

In addition to a regular line of kosher and Jewish foods, the store, named "Kosher On The Go," maintains that fine Jewish-American tradition of selling Chinese food--well, at least one item. The restaurant owner's wife makes homemade Chinese noodles, a specialty of hers.

All this is the good news. The bad news is that it is far from the center of the city, located at 1575 South 1100 East. It is open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 7 p.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The deli is closed on Shabat and on all Jewish holidays. Kashruth is under the supervision of Rabbi Zippel.

Advance Order Avotaynu Books for Conference Now

Persons from outside the United States who are planning to attend the 22nd International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Toronto this August and want to buy books from Avotaynu should order them in advance at our website. Since we will be bringing a limited number of copies of each title, this will assure you of being able to purchase the books you would like as well as save you the shipping costs and shipping time. Canadians will save both GST and shipping costs. Those persons living in the U.S. need not be concerned because we offer free shipping to U.S. conference registrants.

Just place you order using our secure server on the web. In the comments portion of the order include the statement "Please hold for pick up at Toronto conference." You will not be charged until one week before the conference.

A complete list of products--books, CDs, microfiche and maps--can be found at

1930 Census Images of Maryland Now Available
================================= has added Maryland to its list of available images for the 1930 census. Images are now available for the following states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Utah and Vermont. A link to the 1920 census is available at the home page

New Shareware Converts Data to Excel File

New shareware software has been developed that will convert certain databases to MS Excel spreadsheet files. Currently it supports four input sources:
* JRI-Poland database
* All Belarus database
* Ellis Island Database (Jewish subset only)
* GEDCOM files
It is especially valuable when dealing with a large number of hits when using these databases. For example, using the Jewish page of the Ellis Island database, I searched for all persons whose surname "sounded like" Tartacki. This yielded 79 hits. After I saved the data from the web, the shareware converted the records to an Excel file. I was then able to sort the Excel file by arrival year (people that may have come together), or surname (to eliminate false positives), or town of origin (family relationships).

Converting GEDCOM files to Excel had the advantage of providing a two-dimensional presentation of a family tree database. The individuals go down the page (rows) and the different information known about each individual is presented in orderly columns. Sorting fields such as birth date can provide an audit of missing information. You can also produce sorted lists by surname, given name or any other combination of fields.

The purchase price is $20.00 plus $9.95 for each types of input to be used. Thus all four current input sources would cost $59.80. Information, including downloading a trial version, can be found at

The author of the software, Edward Rosenbaum, has previously developed other software to interface the Heritage Quest Federal Census indexes on CD-ROM with images on the Internet, as well as other tools for genealogical research. A complete list can be found at

Vol. 3, No. 13 - July 14, 2002

Hamburg Emigration Sites Adds Additional Years

The Hamburg Emigration Index database is now complete for the years 1890-1900. The year 1901 should be added shortly. It is located at

The index provides basic information about the emigrant: name, approximate age, and date of departure. For a fee, you can receive an abstract of the entire entry from the ship's manifest. The cost is $22 for 1-3 persons; $34 4-10 persons; $46 for 11-20. Because it is an abstract rather than the actual manifest, a family of three on a specific page would each have their own abstract and, therefore, would count as three persons if you requested information on all three.

Avotaynu sells a colorful book about the Hamburg emigration experience; a valuable addition to your genealogical book collection. Portions of the book can be found at You can order the book at

Jewish Vital Records of Quebec Indexing Project

I am in the process of proofreading the Summer issue of AVOTAYNU, which will be in print in early August. A must to read is an article by Ruth and Stanley Diamond about a project undertaken by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Montreal to index the vital records of Quebec province from 1841-1942. It demonstrates the incredible challenges to doing an accurate index of any record group and the dedication genealogists have to creating accurate indexes. Some of their challenges were downright amusing. As they state in the article, "The professions of both groom and bride sometimes were included. This apparent bonus actually increased the possibility of errors cropping up in the rabbi's year-end index. To wit, only by examining the marriage record of Sara Locksmith did we learn that the groom was a locksmith and Sara's maiden name was Weiss!"

Anyone who has volunteered for an indexing project can tell you that one of the fringe benefits is the delight in discovering unusual entries in records. The Diamonds note in their AVOTAYNU article that an annulment/divorce document that gave as grounds for the separation: "He was impotent when we married, he is still impotent, he will always be impotent."

The index will be available for the first time at the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Toronto August 4-9. Information about the conference can be found at You can subscribe to AVOTAYNU at

An Alternate Conference

For those in the southern California area who have already decided not to attend the Jewish conference in Toronto, serious consideration should be given to going to the annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies that is being held this year in Ontario, California (just south of Los Angeles) from August 7-10.

That conference also has more than 100 sessions on genealogy given by the best lecturers of the American genealogical community. You won't get total immersion in Jewish genealogy as exists at the Toronto conference, but if you thread your way through the program, you will find there is at least one lecture of value at every session primarily in methodology, Internet resources, southern California research and others. I will be giving two lectures: Holocaust Research and Strategies for Using the Ellis Island Database. Eileen Polakoff will lecture on New York City Research and Passport and World War I Draft Records.

One aspect not found at Jewish conferences is the enormous exhibitor's hall. More than 70 vendors will be displaying their wares be it genealogical software, Internet services, books on American genealogy, short-run publishers, DNA testing services, genealogy-oriented novelties, and others.

The complete program can be seen at Buttons at the top of the page will walk you through each day of the program.

Dorotree Genealogical Software

One genealogical software system I look at from time to time is Dorotree. It is a system that truly focuses on the needs of Jewish genealogists, which is understandable because it was developed in Israel. It is bilingual; all data can be in two languages--Hebrew and a second language (English, French, Spanish or Portuguese). All aspects are in the native language with the exception of the Help system, which is in English.

An unusual feature of the software is that as you key in dates in the Roman alphabet on the left side of the screen, they are converted to the Hebrew dates on the right side. It also converts given names, a mixed blessing. For Israelis, who transliterate their given names into the Roman alphabet, it saves the step of having to key in the given name twice, once in each alphabet. For those of us in the Diaspora, it can create confusion. My wife's name is Ruth, which is translated into Hebrew by Dorotree to the name of the biblical Ruth. But my wife's Hebrew name is Rachel Leah.

Miscellaneous reports include a 30-year yahrzeit calendar. A bar/bat mitzvah calculator confirmed that I was bar mitzvahed on May 6, 1950 and that the parsha (Torah portion) was Emor. The nicest non-genealogical report is a calendar that allows you to print one secular month at a time, showing all events (birth, marriage, and yahrzeit dates) from the database and their corresponding Hebrew calendar dates.

There is a trial version that can be downloaded from the Internet at Members of the Dorotree team will be exhibiting at the annual Jewish conference in Toronto this year so attendees will be able to ask them questions about the system.

Little Known Feature of JewishGen Search Engines

Do you ever use the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex search option on a JewishGen database and get far more results than you wished? There is an undocumented feature of the search engine for most JewishGen databases that make it possible to more accurately pinpoint results. This Advanced Search ability allows you to enclose characters of the name being searched in brackets signifying that the letter should not be soundexed but must appear as is. For example, searching for the name Tartacki will provide all elements of the database that have the soundex 393450 including those names that start with the letter "D" because that letter has the same soundex code as "T." However, if requesting a search of [T]artacki, indicates to the search engine that the initial letter must be "T." This will cause the soundex search to bypass all hits that start with the letter "D." Any number of consecutive letters may be bound in brackets. Any number of sets of characters can be bound in brackets. Remember that attempting to reduce the number of false positives may, in fact, eliminate true positives, so the feature should be used judiciously.

This feature was initially made available for Avotaynu's Consolidated Jewish Surname Index at Because we share the same server with JewishGen, the feature was also made available to its databases.

Jews of Stropkov Book Shipped

Avotaynu has shipped copies of its latest book, From Galicia to Hungary: The Jews of Stropkov, to the initial purchasers. It is a yizkor (Holocaust memorial) book about the Jews of Stropkov, Slovak Republic. It is written in two languages: Hebrew and English, each a mirror of the other. Most yizkor books have a necrology--a list of those who were murdered. This book lists all the Jews that lived in Stropkov (and neighboring communities) in 1939. Of the more than 2,000 Stropkovers named, only 162 are identified by the author as survivors. The book has more than 100 pictures of Jewish life in Stropkov. Heavy emphasis is on life before the Holocaust but also includes pictures from the archives of Yad Vashem that were taken by a Christian photographer during the deportations. Additional information about the book, including the table of contents, can be found at

Bad URLs

With every issue I get a few e-mails claiming that a URL I gave was incorrect because they could not connect. Seemingly bad URLs can occur for a host of reasons. The most common is that the particular server you are trying to locate is temporarily down and, therefore, you cannot get thorough. The other common reason is that when a URL appears in "Nu? What's New?" that ends a sentence, you accidentally include the period (.) as part of the URL.

Vol. 3, No. 14 - July 28, 2002

ProQuest Announces "Heritage Quest Online"

One of the major players in the commercial aspect of American genealogy is Heritage Quest. For example, they are the publishers of the 1910 Census index for New York on CD and one of the better beginner guides to Jewish genealogy, Discovering Your Jewish Ancestors by Barbara Krasner-Khait. A few years ago, they were acquired by ProQuest, a company that provides online information primarily to libraries. On that basis, the marriage of HQ and ProQuest seemed a mismatch. Genealogy companies have individuals for clients.

Well, the shidduch (match) is bearing fruit with the announcement of "Heritage Quest Online" which appears to be a head to head competitor of the online databases. The product announcement has all the buzz words. "It provides a simple way for genealogists to pinpoint information from an impressive and varied array of resources. Using simple search techniques, users will be able to cross-search U.S. census data, banking and military records, obituaries, more than 24,000 family and local histories, and more."

Following the ProQuest model, the service is available only through libraries. So what is the advantage to genealogists? The advantage is that there is no cost to the individual. If your library subscribes to the service, you can access Heritage Quest Online at the library's terminal or even at home. ProQuest allows subscribing libraries to provide access to their databases by library members from their home. (Apparently there are some cases where access from home has been restricted. It is my understanding that the New York Public Library is not permitted to allow its patrons home access-at least not to the New York Times index.)

ProQuest already has online a very valuable database for genealogists: the complete backfile of The New York Times with full word indexing. That database is incredible. I keyed in the search word "Mokotoff" and discovered that the first occurrence of my family name in the New York Times was in 1916 when a distant cousin's name appeared in a news article about people living in the United States inquiring about the safety of loved ones living in World-War-I-torn Europe. Charles Mokotoff had made an inquiry about his mother Pesa. Mokotoff is a rare name and our family contains few prominent people, yet there were nearly 100 items in The New York Times about Mokotoffs. Obituaries, wedding announcements, bankruptcies, litigation and an occasional news item.

An article in the Summer issue of AVOTAYNU, which will go to the printer this week, is about one person's use of The New York Times backfile and how it was rich with information about his family.

You can subscribe to AVOTAYNU at You can purchase the Heritage Quest CDs or Krasner-Khait's book from Avotaynu at to Offer World War I Draft Records
================================== plans to digitize all available World War I Draft records and make the images available at its site. Records from Pennsylvania are the first to be posted. During the coming months, the entire collection will be made available and detailed images will be offered for more than 24 million men born between 1873 and 1900.

Two especially valuable items on the registration card for immigrant ancestors is place and date of birth. Place of birth often gives the exact town. Other information on the record includes marital status, address, occupation and employer, physical appearance and prior military service.

Additional information about Ancestry's draft registration database can be found at and the 1930 Census

Although not officially announced yet, major portions of images of the 1930 census for New York City are available at the site. It appears that all enumeration districts for Manhattan, with the exception of districts 1-19, are available. Also a brief scan of the Brooklyn list showed that most EDs are available. The 1930 census can be accessed at

Stephen Morse Calendar Converter-Worth a Look

Stephen Morse, the author of the best portal to the Ellis Island Database, has developed a number of other genealogically useful web sites. One, which he calls his "Jewish Calendar Conversion Website", I have ignored because there are a number of sites on the Internet that perform this function. As it turns out, his site does much more than convert Hebrew dates to secular dates and vice versa. It is located at

When you access this site, the Home Page immediately displays today's date, both in the secular and Hebrew calendar. Press the Display Calendar button and the system displays a Jewish calendar for the entire Hebrew year side-by-side with a corresponding secular calendar. Jewish holidays are highlighted in bold, and the four yizkor dates are underlined. In what is probably the most unusual example of an Internet cookie, you can provide the yahrzeit date of a family member and it will remember the date and present it accurately on future year's calendars.

What I found most useful at this site is a thorough description of the Hebrew calendar and its relationship to the secular calendar. It can be linked to from the site's home page by pressing the Calendar Rules button. Its direct URL is It is full of interesting facts that would be of interest to Jews and non-Jews alike. Example: The Hebrew calendar operates on a 19-year cycle that is accurate to within one day every 237 years. Morse notes that the secular calendar is accurate to within one day every 3,333 years.

Many Eastern European Towns Have Websites

More and more towns throughout the world are developing websites. This includes the towns of Eastern Europe. Some exist to promote tourism, others to promote industry, yet others are created by townspeople who merely want a web presence for their town. They invariably include pictures of the town past and present and a town history. Most importantly, an e-mail address of a local person or institution is included to make it possible to communicate with someone from the town.

The Mokotow ancestral town of Warka, Poland, ( includes subpages about the town today, a history, photo gallery, institutions (addresses and phone numbers of the town hall, post office, police, fire department, pharmacy, etc.), PKP (train schedules), and e-mail contacts. There is also a page devoted to Kasimierz Pulaski, the Polish army officer who participated in the American Revolution and died at the Battle of Savannah. He was born in Warka.

Use a search engine such as Google ( to determine if a site exists for your ancestral town.

Reminder: Advance Order Avotaynu Books for Conference Now

Persons from outside the United States who are planning to attend the 22nd International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Toronto next week and are planning to buy books from Avotaynu should order them in advance at our website. We will reserve these books for you in Toronto. Since we will be bringing a limited number of copies of each title, this will assure you of being able to purchase the books you would like as well as save the shipping costs and shipping time. Canadians will save both GST and shipping costs. Those persons living in the U.S. need not be concerned because we offer free shipping to U.S. conference registrants.

Just place your order using our secure server on the web. In the comments portion of the order include the statement "Please hold for pick up at Toronto conference."

A complete list of products--books, CDs, microfiche and maps--can be found at

Next Issue of Nu? What's New? Will Slip a Week

I will be away from my office for the greater part of the next two weeks to attend the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Toronto and the annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies in California. The next edition of Nu? What's New? would normally come out on August 11. Because of these commitments, the next edition will be published August 18.

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