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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 17, Number 49 | December 11, 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.

Stanley Diamond Awarded Canada’s Meritorious Service Medal
Stanley Diamond of Montreal has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal of Canada for his work in documenting Jewish genealogy and particularly for establishing and directing the Jewish Records Indexing – Poland project. Diamond is also the founder of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Montreal. In 2002, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS).

Dr. George F. MacDonald CM, director of the Bill Reid Centre for Northwest Coast Art Studies in Vancouver, nominated Diamond for the award. McDonald emphasized that JRI-Poland has evolved into today's “sophisticated and internationally acclaimed online resource with indices to five million Polish Jewish birth, marriage and death records. Reliable data has become accessible, affordable and highly effective in helping thousands of people gain access to historical evidence of their families”

He added, “Information from JRI-Poland's efforts has been used to help reunite families torn by the ravages of World War II, has made it possible to quickly identify previously unknown family members who might be potential matches for those urgently needing bone marrow or tissue transplants, and has facilitated significant connections between the Polish and Jewish peoples.”

Diamond emphasized, “This is truly an honor that I share with all JRI-Poland leadership and volunteers. What we have accomplished has only been made possible through teamwork and a level of collaboration and dedication unmatched in the Jewish genealogical world.”

Lithuanian ID Cards Are Not New News
In the last issue of Nu? What’s New?” we reported that Yad Vashem archivists have found some 26,000 previously unknown identification cards belonging to Jewish citizens in the national archives in Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania. Leaders of Litvak SIG have pointed out that these cards were not “previously unknown.” Howard Margol, past president of Litvak SIG (among his many leadership roles) found these records in 2004. His announcement on the JewishGen Digest on December 20, 2004, can be found at Litvak SIG has completed the translation and indexing of these records. You can read about the records and see examples at:

Litvak SIG states there were more than 27,000 passports issued between 1919–1939 for Kaunas and information from them has been extracted and is freely searchable on the All Lithuania Database at A complete list of ID Cards for Kaunas (Litvak SIG calls them Internal Passports) is available to anyone who contributes $100 to the Kaunas District Research Group ( There are additional records for other districts also, particularly Vilnius and Panevezys.

Legacy Family Tree Webinar Series Plans 76 Classes in 2017
Registration is now open for the 2017 Legacy Family Tree Webinar Series. Choose from 76 topics ranging from genealogy technology, to DNA, to in-depth research methodologies. All live webinars are free and their recordings are free to watch for the first 7 days. The complete 2017 schedule including topics and speakers can be found at

The January program includes:
   • Strategies to Find the Most Challenging Ancestors with Autosomal DNA
   • Tips and Tricks to Organizing Your Genealogy
   • Legacy Family Tree for Complete Beginners
   • Writing Up Your Research
   • Create a Free Google Earth Historic Map Collection for Your Research
   • Playing Nice in the Genealogy Sandbox

Family History Daily Identifies No-Charge Genealogy Sites

Family History Daily has developed a site that identifies websites of potential interest to genealogists and makes their information available at no charge. Currently it identifies 115 such sites. The project is new and undoubtedly will grow in quantity and maturity. Each identified site has a complete page which gives an overall description, what types of records the site includes, geographic area it covers and links to related articles.

There is a search engine that permits you to find records by topic. Currently, searching for “Jewish” identifies six sites: All Galicia Database, Avotaynu (our Consolidated Jewish Surname Index), Dos Bundesarchiv, GENUKI, JewishGen and Litvak SIG. If your urge is to say “but they left out...,” the site is new and will grow. I have never heard of the GENUKI before, so I followed the link to the site and, indeed, they have a lot of Jewish information about synagogues and cemeteries in the UK and Ireland.

The site is located at A more detailed description of the project can be found at

Blog: Tackling the Problem of Names That Are Difficult to Read
MyHeritage’s contributing author and U.S. genealogy advisor, Schelly Talalay Dardashti, has written an article about the problem of reading names that are written in script. The most notorious lists of handwritten records are the U.S. passenger arrival manifests. She offers a variety of strategies to deciphering these lists. One I use continually is to check to see if other words on the same page might also have the confusing letter(s).

Dardashti provides a table of letter groups that are often confused when trying to read old documents or handwriting. The article concludes with a list of websites that focus on reading script as written in various countries and time periods. The article can be read at Creates Guide to WWII Records
Ancestry has created a World War II Research Guide to assist people in finding records of relatives who participated in the war. In 1973, a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, destroyed 80 percent of the records of the Army, Air Corps, and National Guard Official Military Personnel Files (OMPFs), leading people to believe such research is not possible.
The article dispels several myths and misunderstandings:
   • You must be the next of kin to receive records
   • I do not have a serial number/service number so I cannot attempt a record search
   • If the OMPF burned, there is no way to trace service or reconstruct service, because there are no records online
   • I can search online for information, because I know the exact unit in which my soldier served. That is all I need to know.

The guide can be found at

Ancestry Adds Marriage Indexes and Records for Various States
Ancestry is in the process of adding indexes and records for marriages in various states. They include:
   • Connecticut Marriage Index (1620–1926)
   • District of Columbia Marriage Records (1810–1953)
   • Kentucky County Marriages (1783–1965)
   • Maine Marriage Index (1670–1921)
   • Michigan County Marriages (1822–1940)
   • New Jersey Marriage Records (1670–1965)
   • Oregon County Marriages (1851–1975)
   • Pennsylvania County Marriages (1845–1963)
   • Utah Weber and Piute Counties County Marriages (1887–1940)

Note that all years are not yet completely represented. For example, New Jersey records only go up to 1900.

FamilySearch Adds Nearly 3.5 Million Records This Week
A list of recent additions to FamilySearch, 3.5 million indexed records and images, can be found at This site provides direct links to the individual collections. They include records from Canada, England, Japan, New Zealand, Philippines, Sweden, Scotland and the U.S. states of Ohio, Louisiana, North Carolina and West Virginia. In addition, there are an additional 267,000 records from

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.

FindMyPast Adds More to Its British Newspaper Collection
FindMyPast has added 204 million new articles from British newspapers to their UK collection which includes thousands of local and regional publications across England, Wales and Scotland. Each page has been completely digitized and fully indexed, offering the ability to search every word within an article. The collection is located at british-newspapers. To see a full list of newspaper titles included, select “By Newspapers” from the filters on the left of the screen. Access is by subscription.

New Website “Jewish Bialystok” Covers Much Larger Region
Tomasz Wisniewski of Bialystok has created a new website titled “Museum of the Jews of Bialystok and the Region.” The “region” is huge: from Suwalki in the north to Bielsk in the south; from Volkovysk (Belarus) in the east to Ostrolenka in the west. The entire defined region can be seen by clicking on the map image.

The site is in its infancy. It is located at Wisniewski is noted for his Bagnowka site at which includes nearly 60,000 photographs—some from postcards—of Poland. Most are pre-World War II and many are of Jewish life in Poland. There is a search engine at the site that allows searching by surname or town name. Warning: A tiny note states the search is case sensitive. When I searched for the Mokotow ancestral town of “warka” (lower case “W”) there were no hits. Searching for “Warka” (upper case “W”) produced 18 results (although some of the pictures did not appear to be of Warka).

JOWBR Now Has 3 Million Records
Memorial Plaque Database Exceeds 100,000 Entries
In a series of end-of-year announcements, JewishGen has reported that the JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) now exceeds 3 million records. The database contains names and other identifying information from graves in more than 6,800 cemeteries worldwide. In some cases, an image of the tombstone is provided. JOWBR is located at

The JewishGen Memorial Plaques Database (MPD) now has more than 100,000 records gleaned from memorial plaques and yizkor lists. In many cases, the actual memorial plaque is shown. These plaques usually include the person’s name, date of death (based on the secular and Hebrew calendar) and religious name (which includes the patronymic). If the plaque is not illustrated, the site provides information on how to contact the institution that has the plaque. The database can be accessed at

France to Allow Digitization of Their WWII Archives
France has signed an accord with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) and France’s Shoah Memorial to allow the museums to digitize the vast French World War II archives so that they can more easily display information on the Vichy regime to the public. France's Vichy-based government collaborated with the Nazis under Marshal Petain and helped deport Jews to concentration camps. USHMM director Radu Ioanid said that the move by the French government—to be carried out by dozens of archivists—will also help uncover more information on war criminals and anti-Semitic crimes committed in France. The report is 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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