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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 12, Number 38 | September 25, 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.

Past issues of Nu? What's New? are archived at
Not that much interesting happened this past week.

Shana Tovah!
Happy (Jewish) New Year to you all!!

Books Published by JGS of Great Britain
The Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain has published guides to family history research. They include information on how to do research in a number of countries including Germany/Austria, Latvia/Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and the United Kingdom. Other books include Genealogical Resources within the Jewish Home and FamilyA Guide to Reading Hebrew Inscriptions and Documents and The Jewish Victorian 1861–1870. The Lithuania and UK guides have been updated this year. Additional information can be found at

JewishGen Offering Basic Course in U.S. Genealogy
JewishGen again is offering its Basic course, “Genealogy in the United States,” from October 1 – October 31. The course is designed for beginning students and as a refresher course for those who wish to become familiar with Internet resources. Instruction includes four online lessons covering topics of census, passenger arrivals, and vital records. Tuition for the course is $80, This fee is waived if you qualify for the Value Added Services having made a $100 donation to JewishGen's General Fund within the past 12 months. Additional information, and registration can be found at Contribute to JewishGen at

Arizona Birth (1855-1935) and Death Records (1844-1960) Online
The Arizona Department of Health Services website at now has birth certificates (1855-1935) and death records (1844-1960) available online.

History of the Jews in Russia and Poland Now In Softcover
Avotaynu is making Simon Dubnow’s landmark work History of the Jews in Russia and Poland available in softcover at a significantly reduced price. The original work was published in 1916 in three volumes. Avotaynu republished it in 2000 as a single volume, hardcover version. Now it is available in softcover.

Understanding the environment in which our ancestors lived is important background to genealogical research. History of the Jews in Russia and Poland describes the history of the Jews of Eastern Europe from Roman times to the time of the book's publication, with particular emphasis on the two centuries that preceded its publication. I read the book some years ago in the hope that I would be able to discover 18th-century sources of information about the Jews of my ancestral country of Poland. It was by reading this history that I discovered the 1764 census of the Jews of Poland. (It did not help my Mokotoff research.)

I have mixed feelings about this book. It taught me that history is not the recording of the past but a historian's perception of what occurred in the past. When you read the Dubnow work, you get the impression that Jewish life in Eastern Europe was one of constant persecution by the Christian majority. To confirm my theory, I once opened the book to an arbitrary page and found, as I suspected, that the page described some horrific event in Eastern European Jewish history. I then advanced 20–30 pages and, again, the text on the page described yet another incident of persecution against the Jews. I continued this process a number of times, each page confirming my conclusion.

Some months after reading the Dubnow book, still being interested in knowing more about the history of the Jews of Eastern Europe, I read Bernard D. Weinryb's The Jews of Poland. Weinryb takes a more middle-of-the-road position that, while it is true that there were numerous instances where Jews were victims of persecution by the Christian majority, they must have lived in a basically viable environment, because in the five centuries before the Holocaust, they flourished. This position was supported by Alexander Beider in his book A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names where he notes that Jews gave their children Christian given names demonstrating rapport with their immediate Christian neighbors.

Dubnow's view was understandable when you consider it was formulated during a period of time when there were major pogroms in czarist Russia. These not only were devastating but reminded people of the time of previous persecutions of Jews in the area.

I commented about both historians' perspective of history in a review in AVOTAYNU some years ago, Jews in Poland: A Documentary History, by the Polish historian Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski. This book, in my mind, completed a trilogy, because it was Pogonowski's view that Polish Christians and Jews lived in harmony for centuries and that Polish Christians were always helpful to their Jewish neighbors, especially during the Holocaust period! Readers who have a copy of AVOTAYNU on CD-ROM can find the review in the Winter 1993 issue on page 69.

Despite my reservations about the Dubnow work, it is important reading for any genealogist with roots in czarist Russia. You can purchase the book online at for $39.50. Additional information as well as the book's Table of Contents can be also be viewed at the site. The hard cover version was $69.50. We have five copies left of the hardcover version and they will go to the first five persons that order the book.

Geni Offers an Intermediate Pricing, a popular collaborative family history site, has announced a new pricing plan between its free service and its Pro service. It is called Geni Plus that costs $4.95 per month. The differences between the three services can be found at Persons who enjoy the Geni environment can get the $4.95 price with Geni Pro by signing up for a year.

FamilySearch Additions for the Week
This week there are an unusually large number of indexes and/or browsable images added to FamilySearch that are potentially useful for Jewish family history research. It is better for most readers to scan through the entire list which is located at Most notable are U.S. World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942; Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900–1965; and San Francisco Passenger Lists, 1893–1953.

Contribute to the Success of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy
Help support a dynamic institution that in its brief existence already has been the catalyst for such benefits to Jewish genealogy as the Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching System,  Sephardic DNA and Migration project, inventorying the Paul Jacobi Collection of 400 prominent Ashkenazic lineages, the Proposed Standard for Names, Dates and Places in a Genealogical Database, and a system for Integrating Genealogical Datasets.

Visit the IIJG website at and read about these developments, as well as  ongoing and proposed projects.

Make your tax-deductible contribution by credit card or PayPal at Click the Donate link. If you prefer, mail it to the Friends of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy, 155 N. Washington Ave., Bergenfield, NJ 07621. Make the check payable to “Friends of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy.” Donations are tax deductible for U.S. taxpayers.
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