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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 12, Number 35 | September 4, 2011

Every government puts value on preserving its history. That is why we have national archives. Genealogy preserves history; the history of a family. It cannot be done without access to records, just as historians cannot preserve a nation's history without access to records. It is a greater good than the right to privacy. It is a greater good than the risk of identity theft.
JewishGen Ending the Use of “Shtetl” in Its Database Names
If you have not read about it already on various Discussion Groups and blogs, JewishGen is moving away from using the term “shtetl” in the titles of its town-oriented databases. Shtetl is the Yiddish word for “town” and connotes a small village, the kind where Tevye lived in Fiddler on the Roof. It also has an eastern European connotation.

This term may have worked in the earlier days of JewishGen when much of the focus was on eastern Europe, but now the focus is more global and the term is inaccurate. ShtetlSeeker, the incredible gazetteer that pinpoints every populated location in 54 countries in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. has been renamed the JewishGen Gazetteer. ShtetLinks, the individual pages about Jewish communities throughout the world, has been renamed KehilaLinks. Kehila is a Hebrew word meaning “community.” Historians use the term to mean the organized Jewish community in a town or area.

UK Merchant Navy Archives Online, in partnership with the UK National Archives, has added one million Merchant Navy seamen records to its collection. The time period is 1918 to 1941. Search results show the name, year of birth, place of birth, and for those born in the UK, county of birth. Subscribers to the site can view the actual document. Its content varies. For one Abraham Cohen, it was not much more than what appeared in the index. For an Abraham Harry Cohen, it showed his exact date of birth and a photo. The database is located at

Videos on YouTube by FamilySearch and NGS
Using YouTube to promote or teach genealogy has attracted the attention of at least two major genealogy organizations: FamilySearch and the (U.S.) National Genealogical Society. These videos are all brief, usually less than five minutes, and designed more for the public than the genealogy hobbyist. For example, FamilySearch has a series of presentations, all with the main title “Genealogy in Five Minutes.” With subtitles such as “Learn from Family,” “Find a Record,” “Record What You Know.”

I found interesting their two videos about the Granite Mountain vault which houses all the master copies of microfilms and other material. They can be seen at and The entrance to the FamilySearch video site is at

National Genealogical Society also has a number of videos. Find them by going to and search for “National Genealogical Society.” David Rencher, Chief Genealogical Officer of FamilySearch, gives a good overview of his organization at Helen F.M. Leary reflects on why people do genealogy and on the comforts that people find in researching their ancestors at There are many others.

New Book Offering: DNA & Tradition
Every year, just before the annual conference, Avotaynu gets inquiries from other publishers asking whether we would be willing to sell their book at the conference. We have stopped doing it because our past experience is that these books do not sell well. So when I got a call from Ken Tauber of Devora Publishing about their book “DNA & Tradition.” I said “no.” Further discussion revealed his offices were within driving distance of Avotaynu’s offices, so I told him if he delivered the books to us and picked up the unsold copies, I would make the book available at the conference. He delivered 25 copies and the book sold out at the conference. (Actually we had more orders than copies.)

This book describes how DNA research has confirmed many of the traditions of Judaism. The best known is the so-called Cohanic gene which almost all men have who claim to be of the priestly class. Another important discovery through DNA is that today’s Jews are descended from Semites, that is, people from the Middle East. This is discussed in Chapter 2. Anti-Zionists have claimed that modern-day Jews are not entitled to the Holyland because they are descended from Eastern Europeans, not Semites. I recall listening to a lecture by Dr. Michael Hammer at an IAJGS conference where he noted that, interestingly, the closest DNA kin to today’s Jews are the Palestinians.

The cost is quite low for a book of its size—204 pages. It is only $15.00 plus shipping. Order it at The chapter titles are shown below.

Chapter titles
  The Discovery of the “Cohen Gene” – DNA Test of Tradition
  Scattered and Gathered – DNA Confirms Middle Eats Origin of World Jewry
  The Founding Mother – Genetic Matriarchs
  The DNA Key
  Tribes of Israel – Lost & Found / Ancient and Modern
  Tribes of Exile – Ashkenazim and Sephardim
  All About the Kohanim and the Tribe of Levi
  Ancestor Search
  Abraham’s Chromosomes? Genetic Indications of the Historical Abraham
  Confirmation of Tradition

New Startup: Am haZikaron - the Institute of Science and Heritage of the Jewish People
Everybody is getting into the genealogy game. All you need is an idea, a website and sufficient claims to attract the news media. Four years ago, a company called Famillion announced they were going to create a family tree database that will contain the entire Jewish population of the world by the end of 2007, and the entire Western world by 2009. The website no longer exists.

Now there is a new startup: Am haZikaron: the Institute of Science and Heritage of the Jewish People, Their goal is “to connect contemporary Jewry with the medieval times and eventually with the times of the TaNaCH [Hebrew Bible] by restoring the past of the modern Jewish families.” Their Endorsement Committee has 58 Nobel Laureates—including the Dalai Lama.

They are offering as a service to provide any Jew with a “Family Origin Certificate.” They state “when a certificate is ordered, a special research is initiated. This studies centuries of the history of the clan with that name. The research is concluded with writing the certificate that includes the description of the origins of the family name and when the name appeared, it describes the routes of migration and the residence places of the family members during centuries of the family history, and it lists the prominent members of the family.” No fee is specified, perhaps because it is impossible to determine the cost of research until the customer provides family history data.

The Israel-based company has a bilingual (English and Russian) website at They have attracted the news media with an article in the Jewish Press at

FamilySearch Additions for the Week
Below are the only additions of images and/or indexes to FamilySearch that I have concluded may be of interest to Jewish genealogists. The complete list can be found at

To search indexes, use the search engine at To view images, go to the same web page and then click the appropriate “Browse by Location.” Narrow it down to the country or state and then click the appropriate record collection.

Indexes and images
U.S., Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh City Deaths, 1870–1905

Images only
Hungary Civil Registration, 1895–1980 Added images
Mexico, Chihuahua, Civil Registration, 1861–1997 New collection
U.S., California, San Mateo County Records, 1856–1967 Added images
U.S., Kentucky, Probate Records, 1792–1977 New collection
U.S., Louisiana, First Registration Draft Cards, compiled 1940–1945 Added images
U.S., Louisiana, Second Registration Draft Cards, compiled 1948–1959 Added images
U.S., Washington State County Records, 1885–1950 Added images
U.S., Washington State, Army National Guard Records, 1880–1947 Added images

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