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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 13, Number 33 | August 12, 2012

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.

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Virtual Shtetl Expands into Belarus
A growing, major source of information about the history of the Jews of “Poland” is the Virtual Shtetl site at The word “Poland” is placed in quotes because this site has just announced it is expanding their interest into Belarus. Perhaps the motivation is that between the two World Wars, a portion of western Belarus and Ukraine was in Poland.

The organization has created an 18-minute film, Virtual Shtetl Is Discovering Belarus—one version with English subtitles—that describes the efforts to recover the memory of the Jewish presence in Belarus by a number of organizations. These efforts include:
   • Restoration of remaining buildings, primarily synagogues
   • Restoration and documentation of Jewish cemeteries
   • Recording interviews with elderly witnesses to the murder of the Jewish townspeople

When viewing the film, keep you mouse over the stop button. Sometimes the film does not allow sufficient time to read the subtitles. More important, as they interview officials, stop the recording to read the title of the person being interviewed. It demonstrates that the Belarusian effort is not the act of a few individuals or groups, but many are participating in the effort. For example, the first person interviewed is Inna Gierasimowa, Director of the Museum of the History and Culture of Jews, who mentions plans in Belarus for “Jewish cultural heritage protection and research.”

The film is located at,virtual-shtetl-discovers-belarus/

Virtual Shtetl is generating news releases at a rate in excess of one a day. They can be read at For the two days of August 8–9, they posted the following:
   • Cleaning the Jewish cemetery in Lodz
   • A festival in Tykocin
   • The 70th anniversary of the Allgemeine Gehsperre (General Curfew)
   • The anniversary of the liquidation of the Minsk Mazowiecki ghetto
   • The Polish town of Chojnice desires to commemorate the Jewish cemetery
   • The Polish edition of Avrom Bendavid-Val’s book called The Heavens Are Empty
   • The fifth edition of the days of memory of the Rymanow Jewish community

The site claims to have 71,965 photos, 903 videos, 115 audio recordings and information about 2269 towns.

ITS Plans Travelling Exhibition of “Life after Survival”
The International Tracing Service is working on a research project to explore the materials in their possession about the fate of Displaced Persons after 1945. It will lead to a travelling exhibition on the subject to be launched in 2014. A comprehensive brochure as well as educational resources will complement the exhibition. After the opening in Bad Arolsen in 2014, the exhibition will be shown at seven other locations in Germany. Its title is “Life in Transit - Trauma and New Beginnings.”

"The records in the ITS archives are a valuable source on the subject of life after survival," said Dr Susanne Urban, head of research and education at the ITS. "The materials document the Allies' care and relief efforts for survivors of concentration camps and forced labor, but also the difficult quest for a new beginning. The experiences of the survivors range from voluntary return to their home countries, to forced repatriation and emigration." ITS states there is as yet no comprehensive account available on this subject matter.

The project is supported by the Germany-based Foundation, "Remembrance, Responsibility and Future" (EVZ). The foundation indicates that among its purposes are:
   • Anchoring the history of forced labor under National Socialism firmly in the European memory and communicating the life experience of the victims
   • Promoting understanding of the different portrayals of history in Europe
   • Raising awareness of the Jewish contribution to European history
Information about the organization can be found at

Additional information about the project can be found at

1940 Census News
The last issue of Nu? What’s New declared that FamilySearch was done with the 1940 census except for New Jersey and Tennessee. This was based on a list published at which showed just prior to publication that only these two states were not yet searchable. Since publication, the number of unsearchable states jumped considerably. All states have been indexed, but 14 are not yet searchable. This is primarily because every one of the 134 million entries has been indexed by two independent persons. In the event of disagreement, a third person, an arbitrator, resolves the conflict. Conflicts in these 14 states are still being resolved. This will make the FamilySearch site the most accurate index to the 1940 census.

People reporting back that they have used the completed version state they are finding many errors. They then go to the FamilySearch version and find the correct entry.

Summer Issue of AVOTAYNU
The Summer issue of AVOTAYNU will likely go the printer next week. It is unusual because there are a number of very long articles (yet there are nine articles in addition to the regular columns of From Our Contributing Editors, U.S. Update, Ask the Experts, Book Reviews and From Our Mailbox).

Very long articles in AVOTAYNU tend to be the definitive work on the subject, and this applies to the Summer issue. The lead item is about the online archives of the American Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC). This 10-page article is likely a definitive work, because it is written by the archives director of AJDC and an associate. Alexander Beider has written a 12-page article on Jewish given names from Biblical times to the present. He is the author of A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names: Their Origins, Structure, Pronunciation, and Migrations. The final large article, also 10 pages, shows a practical application of DNA testing. Other topics covered by the remaining pages include two aspects of Sephardic Jewry, German research, resources in Romania and Moldova, New York State estate records, Canada resources, Israeli databases, Shoah Victims’ Names Database and the annual Jewish genealogical conference.

If you are not already an AVOTAYNU subscriber, you can do so at It is published quarterly. A typical issue is 68 pages.

Annual Report Shows Growth of LitvakSIG
The All-Lithuanian Database grew by more than 110,000 entries during 2011 according to LitvakSIG president Eden Joachim in her report to the group at its meeting held at the recent annual conference in Paris. Earlier this year, LitvakSIG became affiliated with Maceva, the Lithuanian Cemetery Restoration project. During Maceva’s short 1½ year existence, they have restored, digitally photographed, translated inscriptions and/or begun work in 61 cemeteries in Lithuania.

Joachim reported that many District Research Groups, especially those within the former Kaunas guberniya, have reached the point where all known lists in the Kaunas Regional Archives (KRA) and Lithuania Historical Archives (LVIA) have been translated. LitvakSIG is now translating lists discovered in the Central State Archives (LCVA). Many of these lists are country wide, rather than for a specific district.

The LitvakSIG website is at

Digitized Collection of Jewish Records
A site, calling itself “Digitized Collection of Jewish Records” at has a “searchable database of about 5000 digital copies of Jewish vital, communal, organizational, legal, immigration, school, and other categories of records of genealogical, historical and memorial value, most of them handwritten. They stem from the area of the former Austrian province of Eastern Galicia (subsequently Poland), including Lvov, Stanislawow, and Tarnopol provinces.” The years covered are from the mid-19th century to the late 1930s.

They include Jewish vital records, non-vital records such as census lists and hospital records, Polish aliyah passports, Holocaust related records, Jewish organizations, school records and Jewish lawyers of Czernowitz.

A search engine is provided. According to the website it was developed by a group of Russian historians dedicated to Holocaust research, education and commemoration. The site originates from Moscow.

London Burial Records 1770–1833
Harold and Miriam Lewin of Jerusalem have transcribed the burial records of the Great Synagogue of London for the period 1770–1833 and are willing to do lookups for people at no charge. Their e-mail address is

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