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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 16, Number 47 | December 6, 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.

Family Tree Magazine Publishes Best Websites for U.S. State Research
Family Tree Magazine publishes annually its top 100 websites for genealogy. It now has published their 75 best websites for U.S. State genealogy research. The magazine notes that many of the most useful records for genealogists are kept at the state level and are preserved by state archives and historical societies. Instead of traveling to state capitals around the country, borrowing microfilms or ordering photocopies, you now can access a number of these records online—many for free.

Examples are:
   • California Digital Newspaper Collection at This site includes more than 8 million articles from California newspapers dating from 1846 to the present.
   • Illinois State Archives at where you can search various county indexes for births, wills, probate and naturalization records, as well as statewide indexes to marriages (1763–1900) and deaths (pre-1916 and 1916–1950).
   • New York. Efforts of the German Genealogy Group and Italian Genealogical Group which created a site where you can search indexes to births, marriages, deaths, naturalizations and church records in New York City and Long Island. (See obituary notice below about John Martino.)

The Family Tree Magazine complete list can be found at article/2015-best-state-genealogy-websites.

It Is Time to Think about Charitable Donations
Now, the last month of the year, it is time to think whether you have made your annual contribution to Jewish genealogical non-profit organizations such as JewishGen and the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy. If you are a regular reader of JewishGen material, consider (at least) a $100 donation to the organization. JewishGen is a victim of its own success. Because of its tremendous amount of volunteer work, there are increased costs to make this information available on the Internet. The organization is approaching a $1 million annual budget relying almost entirely on contributions and grants. Also consider membership in one of the many Jewish genealogical Special Interest Groups. In many cases, your membership helps fund their extraction of records for their geographic area.

Secondly, there is the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy that has made great strides in developing Jewish genealogy into a recognized field of academic investigation, within the realm of Jewish Studies and in association with a broad range of other sciences on an inter-disciplinary basis. It seeks to do this by conducting scholarly research into all aspects of Jewish genealogy, both independently and collaboratively with other institutions and social scientists, as well as by promoting the teaching of Jewish genealogy at university level.

This year, IIJG awarded prizes for original genealogical research in the name of the late Mathilde Tagger to:
   • Dr Kamila Klauzińska (Poland) for her 2012 doctoral dissertation on “Modern Genealogy of Polish Jews” – 1st prize of $5,000.
   • Judy Golan (Israel) for her paper entitled “Reading between the Lines: Mining Jewish History through Extraction of Polish Archival Data” - 2nd prize of $2,000.

Research projects have recently been completed by:
   • Prof. Heshel Teitelbaum (University of Ottawa, Canada): “A Genealogical History of the Jews of Pinczow (Poland) in the 18th & 19th Centuries”.
   • Dr. Sara Yanovsky (Hebrew University of Jerusalem): “Social Networks, Demography, and Identity among Vienna’s Jewish Upper Class 1800–1938”.
   • Dr. Ricardo Muñoz Solla (Universidad de Salamanca, Spain): “Hispano-Jewish Onomastics in Jewish Population Records from 15th Century Castile”
All these items will be posted shortly on the IIJG website at

On other fronts:
   • Dr. Judith Kalik’s book on “Village Jews in the 19th-Century Minsk Guberniya” is soon to appear as an e-book.
   • The preparation of the Jacobi monographs for publication is nearing completion.
   • IIJG has continued to encourage universities to include Jewish genealogy in their courses and this summer sponsored a course with Daemen College, NY, on “Multicultural Poland” with a significant Jewish genealogical component.

Contribute to JewishGen at and IIJG at

Our Chanukah Offering: Practical Guide to Jewish Cemeteries for Only $22.00
Is it possible to write a book about cemeteries that is both informative and interesting to read? Nolan Menachemson of Australia created such a book and Avotaynu published it in 2007. Its title is A Practical Guide to Jewish Cemeteries. The first chapter of this 256-page book, “A Brief History of Jewish Burial,” describes many of the customs associated with the ritual of burial. Chapter Two focuses on what genealogists want for their research: “How to Read a Jewish Gravestone.” Then the book gets interesting. Chapter Three deals with more than 25 different symbols that appear on tombstones.

Other chapters that make the book interesting reading are devoted to:
   • The burial location of more than 100 famous Jews with biographies of the individuals
   • A chapter on preserving cemeteries
   • A description of famous Jewish cemeteries and the location of major Nazi concentration camps    • A set of “Frequently Asked Questions” on such matters as Jewish cemetery architecture, prohibitions, burial organizations and much more
   • There is also a 820-year Hebrew year to secular year calendar converter (years 1200–2020).

The original cost of the book was $39.00 plus shipping. Nu? What’s New? readers can purchase the book for $22.00 plus shipping until December 14—a 44% discount. No need for a discount code. When checking out, the discount will be automatically taken. If ordering more than one copy, a $17.00 discount will be taken for each copy.

Additional information, including the complete Table of Contents, a sample chapter and ordering information can be found at

Library and Archives Canada Updates Home Children Database
Library and Archives Canada has launched a new version of its online database: Home Children Records. Between 1869 and the late 1930s, more than 100,000 juvenile migrants were sent to Canada from the British Isles during the child emigration movement. Motivated by social and economic forces, churches and philanthropic organizations sent orphaned, abandoned and pauper children to Canada. Many believed that these children would have a better chance for a healthy, moral life in rural Canada, where families welcomed them as a source of cheap farm labor and domestic help. Home Children refers to this group of individuals. Jewish children were included. There are 33 persons named Cohen in the database.

The database now includes more than 245,000 entries. The records can be searched at Information about Home Children can be found at

Genealogists Declaration of Rights Nearing Goal
Only 325 signatures are needed to reach the goal of 10,000 for the Genealogists Declaration of Rights. The Declaration of Rights is a statement advocating open access to federal, state, and local public records. It affirms America’s long history of open public records, which has been threatened the last few years over concerns about identity theft and privacy. The Records Preservation and Access Committee has worked with state and federal legislators as well as local public officials for more than 20 years in support of legislation and regulations that achieve a balance between access and privacy. The Declaration of Rights has been approved by the board of directors of the three sponsoring organizations: National Genealogical Society (NGS), Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS).

If you have not added you name to the Declaration, please do so at The signatures will be sent to state and Congressional elected officials when legislation affecting access to records is pending to show that their constituents are in favor of having open access to records.

December 15 Deadline for IAJGS Speaker Proposals and
AVOTAYNU Human Interest Stories

Final reminder that December 15 is the deadline for submitting lecture, workshop, and panel proposals for the 36th IAJGS Conference on Jewish Genealogy being held in Seattle this summer. All proposals must be submitted using the Conference website at, under the Program tab. In addition to basic demographic and biographic information about the speaker(s), proposals must include the presentation title, a brief description of the presentation and target audience level. Submitters of proposals will be notified by email no later than February 15, 2016, as to whether or not their proposal has been accepted.

December 15 is also the deadline for submitting human interest article to be published in AVOTAYNU’s Winter issue. Write an article about how genealogy changed your life or how it affected the lives of others. Submit your story by e-mail to When possible, illustrations should accompany the article.

John Martino (1936–2015)
I doubt if more than a few Nu? What’s New? readers have heard of John Martino, even though this Italian-American’s impact on Jewish genealogy was significant. Martino was Vice President for Special Projects of Italian Genealogical Group, a society based in a suburb of New York City. Under his leadership indexing of New York City vital records was accomplished by a host of volunteers—Italian, Jewish and others.

Below are some of the indexes accessible through (Actually, I use the One-Step Pages by Stephen P. Morse which gives greater flexibility in accessing the databases):
   • New York City Births (1878–1909) 2,000,000 records
   • New York City Groom Index (~1864–1937) 1,825,000 records
   • New York City Bride Index (~1866–1937) 4,244,000 records
   • Long Island (Nassau/Suffolk County) marriages (1908–1935) record count not shown—22 persons named Cohen
   • New York City Deaths (~1868–1948) 2,760,000 records

There are other record collections at the ItalianGen site. All told, it is claimed that 16 million vital records and naturalizations for New York City and vicinity are available free online, all the result of John’s perseverance and leadership.

At the 2006 IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy held in New York, the Jewish Genealogical Society (NY) presented him with a plaque honoring his achievements. In 2014, his work was recognized by the National Genealogical Society with an Award of Merit.

Martino died on November 30. One of his legacies will be his contribution to genealogy.

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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