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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 18, Number 2 | January 8, 2017

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.

Announce Best/Worst Organizations/Products of Genealogy 2016
Tamura Jones, who Dick Eastman calls “a widely-respected blogger and reviewer,” has announced her 2016 Best and Worst of Genealogy. The announcement is at The list, both good and bad, demonstrates how much the genealogy industry has grown. More than half the named companies and products are unknown to me. The complete article is worth reading because it may identify a product of value to your family history research.

MyHeritage won the Best Genealogy Organization Award for a host of new products and innovations including Family Tree Builder 8, Record Detective, Book Matching, MyHeritage community forum, PedigreeMap and SuperSearch Alerts. The company also added DNA support in 2016.

The Worst Genealogy Organization Award went to Jones cites the prolonged RootsWeb outage with significant user data loss and the sale of Family Tree Maker to Software MacKiev. She stated, “New Family Tree Maker users continue to suffer problems caused from a decade of poor programming practices and product mismanagement.” Runners-up for the Worst Genealogy Organization Award were FindMyPast, Geni and Shampoos.

Best New Genealogy Organization went to Software MacKiev. This is the company that rescued Family Tree Maker software system which wanted to abandon. Runner-up was Atavus.

Best Genealogy Product was RootsMagic 7.1. Runners-up were Ancestral Quest 15, Family Tree Builder 8, MacFamilyTree 8 and Family Historian 6.

Best New Genealogy Product of 2016 was the NYC Marriage Index created by Reclaim the Records. Runners-up included CSI: Crowd Sourced Indexing, a new web app, by Banai Lynn Feldstein, who is president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Utah. Other runners-up are Software MacKiev Family Tree Maker 2014, gedantic, Google PhotoScan and Cite This For Me.

Worst Genealogy Product went to Family Tree Maker 2014. Jones relates, “For many years, rushed ostensible major versions of New Family Tree Maker out to market to meet marketing-imposed Holiday Shopping deadlines, even if the new features weren't all that major, blatantly disregarding even their own Beta Testers feedback in the process. made such a mess of New Family Tree Maker, that late 2015, they finally gave up trying to make the product work right and abruptly discontinued it, without providing any migration path or guidance for the many users they so suddenly abandoned. Major competing vendors quickly responded with special upgrade offers, and early this year, Software MacKiev bought all the rights to all versions of Family Tree Maker. Software MacKiev was quick to get the product back to market as Software MacKiev Family Tree Maker 2014.”

Worst New Genealogy Product of 2016 was We're Related. Runners-up were rootsTrust and The Family History Guide.

An Interview with the Director of the ITS Tracing Section
In May 2008, Sallyann Amdur Sack-Pikus and I made a historic trip to the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen, Germany. We were the leaders of the first group (42 persons) to be allowed direct access to the massive ITS collection of documents about individuals who were the victims of Nazi persecution. For more than 60 years ITS was off limits to the public. Inquiries took as long as three years to process. In 2006, ITS had a backlog of 140,000 inquiries. Mostly through the efforts of Paul Shapiro of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the governing body of ITS relented in December 2007 and allowed public access to the facility.

At that time, we found the employees of ITS totally dedicated to helping inquirers determine the fate of loved ones. In fact, a few revealed, in secret, that before pubic access, they were told to slow down their efforts to assist people; something they objected to.

Now, Margret Schlenke, director of ITS Tracing Services has reiterated the dedication of her staff of 15 in an article titled “Every Search Is a New Challenge.” It can be read at She notes, “If we…succeed in tracing fathers in France, half-brothers and sisters in Australia or a cousin in Russia and in reuniting the families after so many years, these moments are very emotional and heart-felt.”

Ancestry Adds New Records to Its Collection
Ancestry has added Delaware Marriage Records, 1750–1954, and Montana County Divorce Records, 1865–1950, to its collection. In addition, it has updated their Florida Naturalization Records, 1847–1995; Iowa State Census, 1905; and Pennsylvania, Federal Naturalization Records, 1795–1931. Their website indicates plans to shortly add Pennsylvania County Marriages, 1852–1973; North Dakota Marriage Records, 1877–1929; and New York City Marriage Index, 1908–1953. Note that announced collections may not be complete for the dates specified and will be added at some later date.

FamilySearch Adds Nearly 2.4 Million Records This Week
A list of recent additions to FamilySearch, nearly 2.4 million indexed records (no new images), can be found at This site provides direct links to the individual collections. They include records from Argentina, Dominican Republic, Italy, Netherlands, Panama and the U.S. state of Alabama.

Half of the new records are additions to the index to “Netherlands Archival Indexes Miscellaneous Records.”

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.

New York Public Library Digitizing Its Collection of New York City Directories
Phyllis Kramer, JewishGen Vice President of Education, reports that the New York Public Library is digitizing its collection of New York City directories. The years 1849–1915 are now available online through the Libraries Digital Collections portal. Eventually the collection will include the years 1786 through 1922/3. (More recent years are probably still under copyright.)

City directories describe New York City and its history: the names and addresses of its residents, churches, businesses, schools, police stations, courts, and other government offices, often with the names of individuals associated with those institutions. Also included are maps, illustrations of buildings and advertisements.

The portal is located at directories#/?tab=about. Additional information about the project is at the Library’s blog:

Family Tree Maker 2014 Update Available
Persons who are using Family Tree Maker 2014 software and have not received notification of an update can find a good description of how to get the update at genealogy-help-and-how-to/family-tree-maker-free-update/.

Have You Registered to Receive Notices from Avotaynu Online?

Have you subscribed to Avotaynu’s latest venture: Avotaynu Online? We have created a special sign-on site at By registering, you will receive a weekly notice of items added to the site.

By virtue of its focus on the in-depth reporting of specific subjects, Avotaynu Online will be entirely distinct from the existing print journal, AVOTAYNU, which for over three decades has covered the broad spectrum of Jewish family history research, and from the weekly Nu? What’s New?, which reports breaking stories in the world of genealogy.

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