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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 16, Number 17 | April 26, 2015

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
Underlined words are links to sites with additional information.

For the Genealogist Who Has Everything:
Introducing Ancestry’s Apple Watch App now has an app for the Apple Watch. As the company says “Bet you never thought you’d see the day you could do family history from your wrist! Okay, you might not do full family history activities, but you can learn about a new photo hint or reply to a comment about a story you attached to your tree.”

The app will include “on-this-day” notifications of events in your family history including birthdays, anniversaries, and death dates of your ancestors and relatives. states when they find records about a possible additional relative, or birth, marriage, and death information missing from your tree, they will notify you on the watch.

A description of the app can be found at

Now Available: Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy: 2015 Edition
The 2015 version of Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy is now in print. The book is updated annually because of the dynamic growth of Jewish genealogy research. A significant addition to the book is a description of the Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching System. JewishGen has indicated plans to include it as an option in all of its databases. The My Heritage description has been expanded to show the company’s ever-growing importance in the genealogy field. The Mocavo website has been added as a source and the genealogical software package popular among professional genealogists, The Master Genealogist, has been dropped because it is no longer supported. All statistics have been updated and 60 links confirmed and updated.

Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy is the most popular of the more than 70 books Avotaynu has published since 1991. More than 3,000 copies have been sold.

Additional information, including a Table of Contents, is available at The price remains at $14.50. Avotaynu offers the book to Jewish genealogical societies at half price when at least 20 copies are ordered. Some societies distribute the book at no charge to new members who are starting to research their Jewish roots. Others use it as part of beginners’ workshops.

Avotaynu Online Now Four Weeks Old
Today marks the fourth week of Avotaynu Online, our new online venture that features in-depth articles on topics of interest to Jewish
genealogists and family historians. More than 5,000 people have requested being on our distribution list either through email, Facebook, and our web page. Thousands more readers are reached regularly by Facebook subscribers who share our articles among their friends and colleagues.

In addition to the more than 40 new articles posted on the site, and 260 archived AVOTAYNU print articles from 2007–11, we are now hosting the complete archives of two distinguished but no longer published genealogical journals, Toledot and Bereshit: the Ser-Charlap Family Newsletter. Individual issues of these two journals may be searched at and soon both will be fully searchable using the global search engine on our home page.

If you have not yet joined the growing group of people receiving what’s new on Avotaynu Online, register at its home page: or Friend us on Facebook.

FamilySearch Additions for the Week
A list of recent additions to FamilySearch, 4 million indexed records and images, can be found at This site provides direct links to the individual collections. They include records from Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, England, Italy, South Africa and the U.S. states of Alabama, Arizona, California, Illinois, Maine, Montana, New York and Texas.

There are a number of notable additions for Jewish family history research. Examples are: 200,000 more index records for Cook County (Chicago) birth certificates (1878–1938) and an additional 350,000 index records for New York Passenger Lists (1820–1891). There are others and it is suggested the complete list be reviewed.

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.

Comment: A Small Donation Can Go a Long Way
The key to efficient genealogical research in today’s environment is to get records digitized, indexed and placed online. This requires money and volunteers. Sometimes the money is there but the volunteers are inadequate. FamilySearch has an infinite backlog of items to be indexed despite having more than 100,000 volunteers. Sometimes the volunteers are there but the money is not. This seems to be the plight of many Jewish genealogy Special Interest Groups (SIGs).
Such a situation exists now with the JewishGen Ukrainian SIG. They note that they now have more than 3,500 subscribers and more than 200,000 images of documents from archives in Ukraine which have not yet been translated because of lack of funds.

The leaders of the Ukraine SIG have a simple, painless solution for their subscribers. If each person contributed only $20, it would give the group more than $70,000.

If you have roots in Ukraine, make that $20 donation at If you don’t have roots in Ukraine, answer the call from other Jewish genealogy interest groups when they ask for a donation to a project. Just $20 given by many subscribers can go a long way.

IGRA Site Now Has Nearly 500,000 Records
The Israel Genealogy Research Association (IGRA) now has 440,000 records from 215 databases. They hope to reach the half-million mark in time for the annual conference in July. Its latest additions include files that deal with the illegal immigration to Eretz Israel from Atlit and the Central Zionist Archives and a 1939 deportation file from the Israel State Archives.

IGRA has been approached by several municipal archives to help scan and index materials. They will need volunteers to help with this process. Their website also has a number of useful articles, many available to members only. Annual membership for non-Israelis is 120 NIS for Israelis and US$36 for others. Their site is at

Reminder: Early Registration Discount for Annual Conference Ends May 6
For the procrastinators among us: The early registration discount for the 35th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy ends May 6. The annual conference will be held July 6–10 at the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem, Israel. Register at Also at the site is information about the program, tours, Shabatton, Exploration Sunday and other activities.

The registration price will go from $290 to $320. There are discounts for spouses and young adults (persons under 30 years of age).

IIJG “200 Years of Scottish Jewry” Project Is Yielding Results
As mentioned in previous issues of Nu? What’s New?, the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy (IIJG) is engaged in a major genealogical and demographic study of Scottish Jewry since its emergence in 1816. IIJG Chair, Neville Lamdan, reports that the data retrieval stage, being carried out by Michael Tobias of Glasgow, who is also Vice-President of Programming, is on the verge of completion. Lamdan reports that a fascinating, and perhaps worrisome, demographic picture is beginning to emerge from the raw data.

From roughly 100 Jews in Scotland in 1821, the community grew slowly over 50 years to 825 individuals in 1871. With the surge in Jewish emigration from the Russian Empire, it doubled itself in each of the next two decades, and then tripled itself in the 1890s, topping 9,000 in 1901 (more than 10 times its size 30 years earlier). Thereafter, it increased by about 3,000 in every decade from 1911 to 1951. After peaking at about 24,000 in the 1950s and 1960s, it has diminished by approximately 3,000 individuals per decade from 1971 on. Hence, in 2011, Scottish Jewry numbered an estimated 8,000 souls.

Since 1816–17, when the first synagogue opened in Edinburgh, the vast majority of Jews in Scotland have lived in Edinburgh and Glasgow. By 1851, Glasgow took the lead numerically. In 1901, there were over four times as many Jews in Glasgow as in Edinburgh (6,813 as against 1,623). Although the final figures are not yet available, Glasgow’s relative advantage continued to grow in the 20th century to perhaps five to six times Edinburgh’s Jewish population.

From 1855 to 2013, 24,826 Jewish births, 10,111 marriages and 15,947 deaths have been identified thus far. The decade of the 1900s had the highest number of births (4,649), reflecting a young immigrant population producing largish families. Deaths overtook births for the first time in the 1960s (1,925 deaths as against 1,611 births).With an aging and dwindling population, this imbalance has become progressively more pronounced. Since the 1980s, there have been twice as many deaths as births. If the present rate of attrition continues, Scottish Jewry could theoretically disappear altogether within three to four decades.

These raw data numbers will be refined and analysed from the statistical, demographic and socio-historical perspectives over the next 12 months, with a view to providing scientific answers to a number of fundamental issues, among them the methodically difficult question of how many Scottish Jews have there been over the last two centuries. A comprehensive family tree of Scottish Jewry, the first such tree for an entire community of Jews at the national level is also planned.

The project was initiated by IIJG three years ago. It is sponsored by the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities and the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council, and is funded in large part by the Rothschild Foundation and the Scottish Heritage Lottery Fund.

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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