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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 16, Number 35 | September 13, 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.

Shana Tovah!
Happy (Jewish) New Year to all!! May you be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life for a good year.

“Seven Unique Technologies for Genealogy Discoveries”
Many of us are aware of the amazing technologies being developed in the tiny country called Israel. Genealogy is blessed with having Israeli technologists focusing on the problems we face in documenting and researching our relatives and ancestors. This technology exists through

At the recently completed 35th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, Gilad Japhet, CEO of MyHeritage, discussed seven technologies unique to the MyHeritage environment. The 45-minute lecture is a must to listen to, if you consider genealogy a serious hobby. It describes technological advances at MyHeritage that focus of the very problems genealogists face on a regular basis that can be solved or lessened by using computers. None of its competitors have these features.

The talk can be viewed on YouTube at watch?v=XrVrx5zy4eU. Japhet discusses in some detail each of these technologies, how they work, and why they are important to genealogical research.

What amazes me about Israeli technology as it applies to genealogy is that it has the user in mind. How can we help the user describe what s/he is looking for? How can we find meaningful results even if the information on file does not exist exactly how the user requests it? How can the results be presented in a way that is immediately understandable to the user? I experienced such Israeli technology some years ago when I was asked to preview the Shoah Victims Names Database  at before it was made available to the public. My response to the Yad Vashem technology team was “You nailed it; you got it right the first time.”

The proof that MyHeritage is #1 in genealogy technology is that last year FamilySearch made a deal with MyHeritage to trade FamilySearch records for MyHeritage technology. (See Nu? What’s New? article

Japhet announced two new technologies were being added to the MyHeritage environment—the sixth and seventh he discussed.

Search Connect: Providing the user with the names of other genealogists searching for information about the same person. Every search made at MyHeritage becomes a record that is matched against searches with other users. When appropriate, the two users are connected. Example: Let us assume a search for information about an individual produces no results. It could be useful to a researcher to know that someone else is searching for information about the same individual. MyHeritage has already accumulated tens of millions of search requests by MyHeritage users.

Global Name Translation. This addresses the idea of matching names in records of various languages. The most obvious example is that now the tree created by your Israeli cousin, who has been building his family tree in Hebrew, can be matched with your family tree written in Latin characters. MyHeritage now is applying this technology to records. It will find records of potential interest to you written in languages and alphabets that are not your own. The system now supports all Latin-based languages (French, English, Spanish, etc.), Hebrew, Russian, Ukrainian and Greek. Asian languages are in the works. It also includes soundexing of Russian and Hebrew names so spelling variants within these languages will match. There is a synonym index for given names so that pet forms of these names (example, Sasha for Alexander) will produce a match.

MyHeritage To Index All Graves in Israel
In his lecture at the annual conference (see above), Gilad Japhet, CEO of MyHeritage, stated that his company is committed to photographing and indexing all cemeteries in Israel by the end of 2017. The project is progressing at the rate of 100,000 gravestones per month. When completed, Israel will be the first country in the world to be able to claim that all cemeteries in their country are photographed and indexed.

Lithuanian Prime Minister States All Jewish Graves To Be Preserved by 2017
Lithuania’s Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius has promised that a government project to mark, memorialize and maintain Jewish burial grounds in his country would be completed by 2017. He made the comment last week in a speech before the Israel Council on Foreign Relations and the World Jewish Congress in Jerusalem, Butkevicius said: “I can assure you that this obligation will be fulfilled. The history of Lithuania is unthinkable without the Jewish presence.” It is unclear what documents will be created from the project and whether there will be public access to these documents. The prime minister’s comments can be found at

Maceva, an non-profit organization in Lithuania founded in 2011, has been involved in maintaining and documenting through pictures the remaining Jewish cemeteries in that country. Their website is at

Litvak SIG Site Has a New Look
The Lithuanian Special Interest Group—Litvak SIG—has redesigned its website to give it a fresher, easier to navigate look. They are also sporting a new logo. Their All-Lithuania Database now has 1.5 million records and can be searched by surname, given name, town or “any field.” Search options include Exact, Phonetically (Beider-Morse system), Sounds Like (Daitch-Mokotoff), Starts With and a variety of Fuzzy searches.

The website is at

U.S. National Archives To Partner With FindMyPast
The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is proposing a partnership with FindMyPast that would allow the latter to copy and make available at its website NARA documents. It is assumed that the agreement is similar to the one NARA has with Ancestry, and if I understand the agreement, it proposes:
   • FindMyPast will have exclusive rights to the record groups it digitizes for a period of five years
   • FindMyPast can charge for access to these records
   • For the first five years after records are online, NARA can make them available free-of-charge at any NARA location
   • After five years, NARA will own a copy of the digitized records and can do whatever it wants with them.

Of great interest is the exclusive rights provision. It means FindMyPast will not duplicate the efforts of Ancestry and unique records will be available at both sites.

The agreements can be found at

The FindMyPast agreement is not final. NARA is accepting comments until September 19. Additional information can be found at partnership-agreement-for-public-comment/.

FindMyPast Adds One Million WWII Prisoner of War Records
FindMyPast has released one million records of service men, women and civilians who were taken captive during World War II. The publication, in association with the UK National Archives, marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Britons represent the largest number in the collection, followed by Dutch, Americans and Australians.

The records contain the names, ranks and locations of prisoners of war, along with the length of time spent in camps, the number of survivors, details of escapees and the nationalities of prisoners. In addition to this type of data, the collection comprises 360,000 images, including pages from personal diaries and photographs.

The records can be searched at A paid subscription is required to access the full information about an individual.

FamilySearch Adds 3.1 Million Records This Week
A list of recent additions to FamilySearch, 3.1 million indexed records and images, can be found at familysearch-collections-update-september-8-2015/. This site provides direct links to the individual collections. They include records from Brazil, England, Germany, Italy, Peru, Ukraine (church records) and the U.S. states of Arizona, California, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, South Dakota, Texas and Utah. Major additions include Delaware Vital Records (1650–1974) and Texas County Marriage Index (1837–1977), but there are other significant additions. Look at the complete list to determine if any are of value to your family history research.

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.

Index Created for Hungarian Jewish Vital Records at FamilySearch
With the help primarily from JewishGen Hungarian Special Interest Group volunteers, FamilySearch now has an index to more than 26,000 Jewish vital records from their collection. Eventually they will also be added to the JewishGen Hungary Database. The index can be accessed at

Dick Eastman Discusses Privacy Issues for Family Historians
Dick Eastman, author of the daily Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter, has published his views on privacy issues as it applies to making public information you have acquired through your family history research. He notes that “Fears of identity theft from public genealogical information often are irrational.”

Regarding publishing information online about an individual, he states, “In the U.S. and Canada, there is no restriction on publishing dates and places of birth, marriage, and similar facts online. Such facts are considered to be public domain, not private. Publishing such information is not an invasion of privacy in North America nor in most other English-speaking countries. However, European countries have a number of such restrictions.”
Eastman concludes, “In short, genealogists shouldn't worry much about privacy laws but perhaps should be guided by common sense and respect for their families' preferences.”

You can read his complete comments at privacy-issues-for-family-historians/

Ancestry Academy Now Has 29 Education Courses
Ancestry Academy, the educational arm of, now has 29 online courses to educate people in various aspects of family history research. Eleven of the courses are oriented toward Ancestry products and are free of charge. Examples are “Expand and Support Your Genealogy Research Using DNA” and “Getting the Most Out of Family Tree Maker.” Others are available by subscription for as low as $9.99/month. Examples are: “Finding Ethnic Origins and Passenger Arrival Records” and “The Records of Death: Using Probate Records in Family History.” The $9.99/month plan is likely the most economical. After discovering a number of courses of interest, subscribe for a month only. Then, if other courses become of interest in the future, subscribe yet again for $9.99. The courses are listed at

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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