Nu? What's New?
The E-zine of Jewish Genealogy From Avotaynu

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 9, Number 23 | October 14, 2008

A New Image of Volunteers
Attention volunteers. Henceforth the fruits of you labor will generate income; you will no longer be working with no compensation. Now for the bad news. You won’t be the one getting paid; the institution you are supporting with your volunteer effort will get paid.

The alliance between and JewishGen will likely usher in a new age of cooperation between for-profit and non-profit institutions. Non-profits own valuable databases that for-profits are willing to pay to license. Non-profits like JewishGen have become victims of their own success, financially, finding their growth inhibited by the cost of maintaining all of the wonderful volunteer effort of its contributors. Now that financial pressure can be eased by alliances with for-profit companies.

JewishGen has created a good template for these alliances. As a non-profit, they are merely licensing their databases and will remain autonomous of Ancestry. Since the JewishGen data will always be available free of charge at their site, it discourages Ancestry from bundling it with their fee-for-service components.

Google Translate Now Includes Hebrew
Google Translate, located at, now includes the ability to translate Hebrew. Like most online translators, the results are only fair. The Google dictionary does not include the word for “genealogy” and it was transliterated into English as “ganelogy.” Interestingly, if you translate “genealogy” into Hebrew, the result is “yichus” which more accurately means “pedigree.”

Hebrew is a language that is written without showing vowels, creating numerous ambiguities that are usually resolved contextually. “I gave my wife a melon” written in Hebrew translated into English using Google Translate as “I gave my wife a hotel.”

The languages Google claims it translates are Arabic, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Filipino, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Ukrainian and Vietnamese.

An Issue of AVOTAYNU—At Last!
For a variety of reasons, the Summer issue of AVOTAYNU was greatly delayed. It is now at the printer and should be mailed out in two weeks or less. It is yet another issue that has articles that are both timely and advance our knowledge of genealogy.

With the visit to the International Tracing Service earlier this year, we had a first-hand look at exactly what that repository has and does not have regarding the Holocaust era. Three articles in the issue focus on the subject.

The newly created Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching System is explained to us in an article by the authors, Alexander Beider and Stephen P. Morse. You are going to see numerous applications of this system in the next few years.

Normally it is our Fall issue in which we publish some of the best lectures of the annual conference, but because this issue was late, we managed to include a lecture by Lenka Matusikova, Archivist and Deputy Head of the First Department of the National Archives in Prague, Czech Republic. The lecture is so good, we have devoted 11 pages to it. The lecture rigorously describes the resources for Jewish genealogy in the Czech Republic. The description of the pre-World War I holdings, will be of interest to anyone with roots in the Austro-Hungarian Empire such as Galicia.

I have always had the impression that rabbinic genealogy is a world unto itself. It derives much of the pedigree of rabbis from the writings of rabbis. The article “JRI-Poland Database and Rabbinic Data Merging” describes the results of matching rabbinic data with the civil vital records of Poland.

Ernest Kallmann’s article on genealogy and privacy is going to be controversial. He looks at privacy from the European conservative view, compared to the U.S. view which tends to be more liberal.

There are a total of 13 articles in the 68-page issue plus the usual columns: From Our Contributing Editors, U.S. Update, Ask the Experts, Book Reviews and From Our Mailbox.

You can subscribe to AVOTAYNU at

Canadian Census Questionnaire To Be Made Clearer
Statistics Canada, the governmental agency responsible for the Canadian censuses, has been opposed to making historical censuses available 92 years after a census was taken. As a compromise with the historical community, in the 2006 census, there was an informed consent option which allowed persons to release the data after 92 years. The wording of the question was so vague and negative that only 56% of respondents said “yes.”

Working with Statistics Canada, which has a new director, the Canadian Historical Association has created new wording to the question for the 2011 census, and tests show that the response rate among Canadians jumped to 73%. Hopefully this new version will be incorporated into the new census.

Cook County (Chicago) Naturalization Online
An index to Cook County (Chicago) Circuit Court Declarations of Intention from 1906–1923 are now online at Plans call for adding additional records through 1929. Eventually the Supreme Court Declarations will also be available. One unusual feature of the search engine is that when you search, the data provided is treated as “contains.” For example, searching for Tarre also yielded Starrett as a result.

Back Issues of Stammbaum Online
Back issues of Stammbaum, the “Newsletter of German-Jewish Genealogical Research,” are available at The first issue was published in 1992. These were 31 issues; the last in 2007. An index is available in alphabetical order by author.

Annual Trip to Lithuania
Howard Margol and Peggy Freedman are organizing their 16th annual group trip to Lithuania, June 30 to July 10, 2009. If you are interested in tracing your roots in Lithuania, Latvia, Eastern Poland close to Lithuania, or Belarus, now is the time to sign up. This year the group will be limited to 25 persons. The trip includes stops at various archives, synagogues, ghettos,
Holocaust sites, meetings with Jewish leaders, sight-seeing, guide/interpreters, and two days to visit and spend time in your shtetls of interest. Margol and Freedman are very familiar with the archives, are on a first-name basis with the archivists, and know all the main places of Jewish interest.

The trip is sponsored by the American Fund For Lithuanian-Latvian Jews, a non-profit organization, and is not a commercial venture. Any profit from the trip will go to support the Jewish community in Vilnius.

For details and a full itinerary, contact

Suggestion: Searchable Yahrzeit Reminder Service
There was a recent posting to JewishGen about a site,, where you can post information about recent Jewish deaths. This gave me an idea for a great JewishGen project (Warren. Are you out there?) that potentially would be both a public service and a genealogical gold mine: Have a database of yahrzeit reminders. (Yahrzeit, Yiddish for “time of year,” is the death date of a loved one reckoned by the Jewish lunar calendar.) We would invite the Jewish public to post the death dates of loved ones reckoned on the secular calendar, and annually JewishGen would notify the persons of the yahrzeit date based on the Jewish calendar. The database would be accessible to the public, such as genealogists, who could capture death dates of individuals on their family trees. To uniquely identify people, birth dates and names of parents would be provided.

Using Google, I discovered a number of online yahrzeit date services, hut none provide searchable databases. Such a concept would also provide publicity for JewishGen and advance the idea of making family history a hobby.

Correction About New York Cemeteries
In the last issue of Nu? What's New?, I stated, "Steve Lasky reports that the information also includes nearby Hungarian Union Field Cemetery which is now supervised by Mt. Lebanon Cemetery. Lasky added that Knollwood Park Cemetery will also be included in the database by the end of the year." This is incorrect. What Lasky said was Mt. Carmel Cemetery, not Mt. Lebanon Cemetery, is involved with Hungarian Union Field Cemetery and Knollwood Park Cemetery. The Mt. Carmel Cemetery site is located at"

Help Grow the Shoah Victims’ Names Database
Yad Vashem wants volunteers who are willing to contact local institutions and individuals to grow the Shoah Victims Database whose principal documents are Pages of Testimony. With the aid of promotional materials Yad Vashem has developed, volunteers will reach out to survivors and their families and assist them in registering the names of Jews who they know were murdered in the Shoah. This will be done through synagogues, Holocaust centers, Jewish Community Centers, Jewish student organizations, senior centers and social service agencies. To volunteer send your name, address, phone number and e-mail address to with the subject heading "Names Volunteer"

To submit a Page of Testimony, there is a link on the left portion of the screen from the Basic Search page at Click the words “Submit Additional Names.”

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