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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 15, Number 8 | February 23, 2014

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
IIJG Plans Rabbinic Y-DNA Project
The International Institute for Jewish Genealogy (IIJG) is undertaking a major, multi-year project to apply Y-DNA testing to rabbinic families. In so doing, it expects to identify the unique Y-DNA signature of each family (passed unchanged down the paternal line from father to son). At the same time, utilizing the enormous Y-DNA database compiled by Family Tree DNA of Houston, Texas, the project also will identify numerous other individuals who may be unaware of their rabbinic forebears.

A pilot study will be performed to identify the Y-DNA signature of the Katzenellenbogen rabbinical lineage. This will help determine the feasibility of the long-term project. If successful, the project will then include the 430 studies of leading Ashkenazi rabbinic families that were intensively researched by the late Paul Jacobi over a period of 50 years.

The lead participants in the project include:
   • Ambassador Neville Lamdan, formerly of the Israel Foreign Ministry and currently chair of the IIJG board.
   • Dr. Sallyann Amdur Sack-Pikus, founding chair of the IIJG, co-owner of Avotaynu Inc, and editor of AVOTAYNU. She is IIJG’s liaison to the project.
   • Dr. Jeffrey Mark Paull, who has conducted several pioneering Y-DNA and autosomal DNA research studies of rabbinic lineages, including “Connecting to the Great Rabbinic Families Through Y-DNA: A Case Study of the Polonsky Rabbinical Lineage,” and “Using Autosomal DNA Analysis to Connect Rabbinic Lineages: A Case Study of the Wertheimer and Wertheim Dynasties.” He is project director and administrator.
   • Dr. Neil Rosenstein, one of the foremost experts on rabbinic family genealogy and prolific author of numerous books on the subject, including The Unbroken Chain, the definitive study of the Katzenellenbogen family history
   • Bennett Greenspan, founder and CEO of Family Tree DNA, will supervise the DNA testing.

Another Shidduch (Match): MyHeritage and BillionGraves
Yet another two genealogy companies, MyHeritage and BillionGraves have teamed up to describe what they call “a global initiative to digitally preserve the world's cemeteries.”

Over the next few years, the project will be working with volunteers to preserve and document gravestones worldwide using the BillionGraves app. The app has patent-pending technology that lets users photograph and document gravestones, and, with the help of MyHeritage, the app will be available in 25 languages and will support Gregorian, Hebrew and Julian dates. The app also records the GPS locations of gravestones to make them easy to find. Volunteers can easily see which areas of any cemetery remain undocumented to maximize efficiency and avoid duplication.

Users who have access to MyHeritage’s SuperSearch feature will receive notifications whenever the feature finds a gravestone that matches their family tree.

BillionGraves’ seven million headstone records are also available on and FamilySearch. The announcement can be found at

MyHeritage Adds U.S. Public Records Index
MyHeritage has placed 815 million U.S. public records online. The collection is an index of names, addresses, phone numbers, and possible relatives of people who resided in the United States “spanning the last five decades.” These records were generated from telephone directories, property tax assessments, credit applications, voter registration lists and other records available to the public. The collection is at

Webinar on Sources for Jewish Genealogy in Ukraine Now Available
The webinar, Sources for Jewish Genealogy in Ukraine, was broadcast on December 23, 2013, as part of a meeting of the Israel Genealogy Research Association (IGRA). It is now available online at

The lecture covers the following issues:
   • Main chronological and aerial divisions of genealogical sources (overview of former lands of Galicia, Poland, Russian Empire, USSR)
   • Primary and secondary types of sources (civil register, censuses, voter lists, property and school records among others)
   • Online and offline databases
   • Practical tips for archival and field research
   • Limits and possibilities of research on individual Jewish families in Ukraine

FamilySearch Additions for the Week
Recent additions to FamilySearch—4.2 million indexed records and images—can be found at This site provides direct links to the individual collections. Included are records from Australia, Austria, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Honduras, Italy, New Zealand, Peru, Spain, United Kingdom and the U.S. states of Arkansas, California, Canal Zone, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, Washington and Wisconsin, .

Notable additions are more than one million Australian Index to Probate Registers, 1841–1989 index records and images added to the FamilySearch collection. Also New Zealand Probate Records, 1848–1991, both indexes and images.

Note that at the website announced collections may not be complete for the dates specified and will be added at some later date. Also note that counts shown in the announcement are the number added, not the total number available in the collection, which can be greater.

Conference Registrants Asked To Submit World War I Stories
The theme of the upcoming IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy is the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. To commemorate this event, the Conference is offering registrants (both those who will attend the conference in Salt Lake City and those who register to access it LIVE! over the Internet) the chance to share their family’s World War I era stories and photos. Stories may relate to military service, the disruption caused by fighting, forced relocation, emigration, or other topics related to this era.

To use the “World War I Story Upload Feature” you must first register for the conference. Then use the Registration Update feature to upload your story and pictures. The deadline is June 15, 2014, to allow time to create the online exhibit for the conference.

Complete information is at

Yiddish Books Online at Polish Site
For those subscribers who can read Yiddish, more than one hundred 19th-century works of Yiddish writers have been digitized and placed on Examples of authors include Sholem Aleichem, Chaim Nachman Bialik, Isaac Leib Peretz and Mendele Mocher Sforim. Included is Aleichem’s Tevye der Milkhiger (Tevye the Milkman) at This was the basis of the Broadway play and film Fiddler on the Roof. Some of these books already may be digitized at the Yiddish Book Center site. There may be other items of interest at the site ( for people who read Polish. For example, The Golem by Gustav Meyrink.

Philadelphia Inquirer Issues Now at
The site contains more than 26 million pages of New York State historical newspaper pages with full-word indexing. Some newspapers are from New York City and environs. Now it has expanded its collection to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Unfortunately, the site does not include a list of newspapers and time periods scanned, but the Inquirer pages appear to be from the 1920s and 1930s.

Maps of the Habsburg Empire Online
It is reported on JewishGen that a new website, "Historical Maps of the Habsburg Empire," located at, contains numerous historical maps of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. They are overlayed by present-day maps from Google or OpenStreetMap allowing researchers to compare the past with the present. There were two types of maps from that time period: military surveys (typically scaled 1 to 28,800) and the more detailed cadastral
maps (scaled 1 to 2,880) with both covering the entire territory. Additional information can be found at

Australian Convicts and Early Settlers Online
The lead article in the very first issue of AVOTAYNU, published in 1985 (Volume 1, Number 1) was by the late Rabbi Dr. Israel Porush, then Chief Rabbi of Australia, about “History of the Jews of Australia.” It noted that, for the British, Australia was initially a penal colony, and some of the convicts in the First Fleet were Jews. Dr. Porush was quick to note, “Most of the Jewish convicts were guilty of petty crimes, such as pickpocketing, shoplifting, and receiving stolen goods, and came from the poor and squalid quarters of immigrant families in London.” has now published online two convict record sets containing information about more than 500,000 convicts and early settlers. The “Convict Transportation Registers 1787–1870” database located at contains original handwritten records and transcripts relating to some 123,000 convicts. There are 43 persons named Levy. The second resource is “New South Wales and Tasmania: Settlers and Convicts 1787–1859,” located at, which consists of transcripts, indexes and original handwritten records relating to convicts, former convicts and settlers. There are 147 persons named Levy. Additional information about these databases can be found at

Bucharest Business Directories Added to
Bucharest business directories (Anuarul Bucurescilor) for 1883, all years 1885–1895, 1904, and 1906 are now searchable at Searching with default options will include these directories together with all 1200+ other sources at the site. Restrict a search to just Bucharest, or just Romania, by changing the "Any Place" option below the search box.

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 a check to Avotaynu Foundation,  794 Edgewood Ave., New Haven, CT 06515, USA. 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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