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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 17, Number 3 | January 17, 2016

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.

Three Ways to Use Your Smartphone for Family History
The FamilySearch blog has a column on three ways to use our smartphone for family history. The third point reminded me of an important aspect of gathering information about your family’s history. All sources state that step #1 is to interview members of your family. To this should be added: record the interview. This is so much easier today with smartphones. Fifteen years ago, when I interviewed a grand-aunt, I had to bring a tape recorder. Today it would be done with my smartphone which is always in my possession.

Using a recording device in an interview has at least two advantages:
   • You may have missed something when you wrote down what the person said. Playing the interview back will capture this information.
   • You have a permanent memory of the person. My grand-aunt died many years ago, but I can still play back that recording to hear her voice. One question I asked her was how she met her husband. This 85-year-old woman said, in a thick Yiddish accent, “Vell a bunch of goilfriends and I decided to go to Central Park to find some boys...”

The blog item is located at

A Report on Preserving Your Digital Documents
Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter notes that Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) has issued a report on how digital records are preserved and made available to future generations. Titled “Personal Digital Archiving,” the report notes that key threats to a personal digital archive include aging hardware and software, lack of secure storage and backup, natural and man-made disasters, neglect, loss of cloud-based host or service provider, lack of planning and death of individual. It provides recommendations addressing these. The DPC report can be found at

Randy Schoenberg Notes 23 Reasons You Should Be Using Geni
E. Randol (Randy) Schoenberg is one of the strongest proponents of using Geni as the method of recording your family history. He has posted to his blog, at, 23 reasons why genealogists should be using the system. He also notes that the number of records on Geni is approaching 100 million.

FamilySearch Adds 1.4 Million Records This Week
A list of recent additions to FamilySearch, 1.4 million indexed records and images, can be found at This site provides direct links to the individual collections. They include records from Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Italy, Sweden and the U.S. states of North Carolina, Rhode Island and Utah. The major addition is to an index to North Carolina State Supreme Court Case Files (1800–1909).

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.

Arthur Obermayer (1931–2016) z"l
Avid genealogist and philanthropist Arthur Obermayer died on January 10. He was co-founder of the JewishGen German Special Interest Group, but was best known for his establishment of the Obermayer German Jewish History Awards which, since 2000, honor the volunteer efforts of non-Jewish Germans, whose work ensures that the lives, culture and contributions of Jews in these German communities will never be forgotten. Lars Menk, author of A Dictionary of German Jewish Surnames, published by Avotaynu received the award in 2007. Information about this award can be found at In 2007, Obermayer received Germany’s highest honor, the Cross of the Order of Merit, for creating his award.

I knew Arthur quite well. We shared friendly conversation, opinions and advice. May his memory be a blessing. Read more at

JewishGen Looking for Volunteers: Cemetery Photos and Publicity
Most of us, when visiting the burials sites of our family, take pictures of the tombstones as part of the documentation of our family history. We all have the opportunity of doing a mitzvah by photographing the rest of the stones in the section being visited and submitting them to the JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Register (JOWBR). JewishGen will provide you with an Excel template to key in the data for each burial, but if you don't have the time or are not comfortable with Excel, JewishGen will find volunteers to key in the data. For more information, contact Nolan Altman, JewishGen Vice-President for Data Acquisition and JOWBR Coordinator, at

Do you have skills that could help promote and publicize JewishGen's important work. The organization is looking for volunteers to assist in the publication and distribution of a monthly e-Newsletter; post periodic announcements throughout the month on their website, discussion groups and social media pages; and help with their stewardship efforts with current donors. The time commitment is small; perhaps 2–5 hours per month. Contact the JewishGen Senior Director of Business Operations, Avraham Groll, at

IGRA Adds Additional Records to Their Site
Israel Genealogy Research Association (IGRA) has added nearly 3,300 additional certificates of marriage and divorce from the Mandate Period to their website at They have also completed uploading the database of “Name Changes from the Palestine Gazette (1921–1948).” IGRA has contacted the family of the late Pamela Weisberger z"l to request their permission to place her webinars on their website. The first, "Chutes & Ladders: Innovative Approaches to Genealogy," can be viewed at

The Palestine Gazette project is of particular significance to me. It was one of the first databases I created for Jewish genealogy—in about 1986. The project was the genesis of the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System. At that time, I observed that the European names being changed had many spelling variants. Being familiar with the American Soundex System developed by Robert Russell in 1918, I applied this system to the European names and found it did not work. One significant problem was that those names spelled interchangeably with the letter w or v, for example, the names Moskowitz and Moskovitz, did not have the same soundex code. So I developed my own soundex system and applied it to the Palestine Gazette names. This modification to the U.S. soundex system was published in the first issue of AVOTAYNU (Vol. 1, No. 1), in an article titled "Proposal for a Jewish Soundex Code." Randy Daitch read the article and made significant improvements to what I had developed. The joint effort became known as the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System which today is used by JewishGen; the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) for retrieving case histories; and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. It can be used to search the Ellis Island database of 24 million immigrants at the Stephen P. Morse One-Step site.

German Court Says Facebook “Friend Finder” Unlawful
Jan Meisels Allen, Chairperson of the IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee, reports that Germany’s highest court confirmed two lower courts’ rulings stating Facebook’s “Friend Finder” unlawful as it is a feature that constitutes “advertising harassment.” The feature asks users to grant it permission to “vacuum up” the email addresses of friends or contacts in the user’s address book. Facebook then sends an invitation to non-Facebook users to join the service. The Court said this was deceptive marketing. Read more about the ruling at

MyHeritage Featured on Israeli TV
MyHeritage was featured in a seven-minute segment on the Israeli TV show HaTsinor. In addition to an overview of the company, it showed how the company helped facilitate a reunion on the Greek island of Ereikoussa, between the islanders who hid a Jewish family in WWII and the descendants of that family. The piece also showed clips from a video MyHeritage produced, showing how they took their Instant Discoveries to the streets of Israel where passersby found ancestors, relatives, new information and photos. The segment can be seen (in Hebrew with English subtitles) at,

L’viv Center for Urban History Plans Summer Program on Jewish History
The L’viv Center for Urban History will have a summer program for young scholars from Eastern Europe who wish to take part in their Summer school “Jewish History, Common Past and Heritage: Culture, Cities, Milieus.” The four-week program is open to graduate and postgraduate students (MA and PhD programs); young researchers (up to the age of 35); university lecturers; museum workers; and practitioners in heritage from Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, and Russia. Additional information can be found at

Avotaynu Anthology of Jewish Genealogy
 All back issues of our journal AVOTAYNU from 1985–2011

    • 27 years   • 105 issues   2,900 articles  • 7,000 pages 
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 Cost is $35 (one-time charge).

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Number of articles in Anthology by topic:

Algeria 8
Argentina 21
Australia 36
Austria 17
Austro-Hungary 7**
Belarus* 26
Belgium 24
Bermuda 1
Book Reviews 289
Brazil 25
Bulgaria 5
Burma 1
Canada 94
Caribbean 9
Cuba 3

China 10

Computers 21
Conferences 52
Costa Rica 1
Croatia 3
Cyprus 1
Czech Republic 33
Denmark 2
DNA 25
East Europe– Gen’l
Egypt 11
England 125
Estonia* 5
Europe-General 25
Finland 1

France 102
Galicia 20
General 233
Germany 173
Gibraltar 1
Greece 12
Holland 83
Holocaust 177
Hungary 46
India 6
Iraq 3
Iran 5
Ireland 2
Israel 125
Italy 14 
Latvia* 26

LDS 29
Libya 1
Lithuania* 71
Methodology 84
Moldova* 5
Morocco 18
New Zealand 13
North Africa 2
Poland 118
Portugal 21
Rabbinic 57
Romania 33
Russia 46** 
Scotland 27
Sephardic 42
Serbia 2

Slovakia 1
South Africa 22
South America 1
Spain 13
Sudan 1
Sweden 5
Switzerland 27
Syria 3
Tunisia 3
Turkey 22
Ukraine* 57
United States   227
USSR 92**
Venezuela 1
Zimbabwe 1

* Also see Russia and USSR ** Also see individual countries
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