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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 18, Number 6 | February 5, 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.

Genealogy-Themed TV Program, “Relative Race,” Looking for Participants
For those who enjoy the American TV program, “Amazing Race,” Brigham Young University’s television station is looking for people to participate in its genealogy-themed program, “Relative Race.” The show features four teams of two contestants each. The teams take DNA tests, have a family tree built, and then complete challenges as they travel across the United States looking for newly discovered family members. The winners receive a $50,000 grand prize. Contestants also earn $700 per day plus an agency fee. The travel portion of the show lasts ten days.

Eligible contestants must fit the following criteria:
   • Must be between the ages of 21–55
   • Teams can be made up of spouses, siblings, or a parent and child
   • Must be non-union
   • Must be willing to submit to a DNA screening test and submit information for a family tree
   • Must have a valid driver’s license and a clean driving record
   • Must complete and pass a criminal background check
   • Must be available to film for two weeks during July, August, or September 2017 (exact dates will be determined later), and be available for various follow-up shoots as needed
   • Third-generation U.S. citizenship preferred
   • Compelling personal and/or family story and interest in family history is a plus.

Interested candidates should submit an application by February 28, 2017. To apply, visit Applicants must complete an online form and submit a short video and a team photo.

Additional information can be found at

RootsTech 2017 Announces Free Online Broadcast Schedule
RootsTech, the family history and technology conference to be held in Salt Lake City February 8–11, announced its free live online streaming schedule for 17 of its sessions. The broadcasts online give those unable to attend in person a sampling of the show's marquee content. Interested viewers will be able to watch the select broadcasts live at

This year, RootsTech offers more than 200 sessions for those who attend in person. In 2016, more than 150,000 viewers watched the conference sessions streamed live online. Even more are expected in 2017. The streamed sessions will include the popular general sessions and a sampling of technology and family history presentations appealing to varied interests. The list can be found at All times are in Mountain Standard Time.

GenTeam Adds Jewish Records for Nuremberg and Vienna
GenTeam, the Vienna-based genealogy site, has added 233,000 additional entries recently. They include Jewish marriage records from Nuremberg, Germany, and Jewish Viennese divorce records1870–1942.

Also added are Military Casualty Lists for the Austrian-Hungary military during World War 1. On the casualty lists are the wounded, prisoners of war, and the fallen from all member countries of the Habsburg monarchy. When completed, there will be approximately 3–3.5 million entries.

The GenTeam website is at It currently includes more than 15.7 million entries from a variety of sources.

Index to 19th-Century Name Changes in Hungary Online
A posting to the JewishGen Hungarian SIG Discussion Group notes that the Hungarian Society for Family Research has an index to Name Changes in Hungary at The public has access to 156,946 records for the period 1815-1932. Society members have complete access to 167,843 records from 1815–1955. The site is in Hungarian. Use Google Translate or the Chrome browser to translate other languages.

FamilySearch Adds 700K Records This Week
A list of recent additions to FamilySearch, about 770K indexed records and images, can be found at This site provides direct links to the individual collections. They include records from The Netherlands, Peru and the U.S. states of Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island and Wyoming.

Many of the U.S. additions are marriage records or indexes.

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.

Ancestry New Records for Week
Recent updates to Ancestry’s collection include additions to “Northern District, Illinois, (Chicago) Naturalization Index, 1926–1979” and “U.S., Cemetery and Funeral Home Collection, 1847–2016.” There is no indication how many records were added. The Chicago naturalizations are available on FamilySearch.

FindMyPast Updates Australia Electoral Rolls
FindMyPast has added more than one million new records to its collection of Australian Electoral Rolls. The new additions cover Queensland and Tasmania. There has been an improvement to the Australian Electoral Rolls search. Previously the Rolls existed as simple PDF searches that could only be accessed separately, state by state. FindMyPast has now fully transcribed these collections and placed them into one central collection of 12.6 million records. The entire collection covers New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and Western Australia and spans the years 1860 to 1959.

The database can be found at australia-electoral-rolls.

Winter Issue of AVOTAYNU
The Winter issue of AVOTAYNU is at the printer. It is our annual ”human interest” issue where we include articles about how genealogy affected people’s lives. In addition, there are the usual articles that help its readers expand their knowledge of Jewish genealogy and Jewish history. Because of the dual purpose, there are an unusual number of articles (23) and the edition has been expanded to 84 pages from the usual 68. The Table of Contents for the issue can be viewed at

Special offer: Five issues for the price of four. If you do not subscribe to AVOTAYNU, there is a special offer good for the next eight days. Subscribe to AVOTAYNU for 2017 and receive the Winter issue free—five issues for the price of four. The Spring 2015 issue will not be published until May. Go to and choose one of the two Special Offers (domestic or foreign). When checking out, add the Discount Code "5for4D" if you live in the U.S. or Canada, or the Discount Code "5for4F" for those living in other countries.
At this point, I usually give a summary of the contents of the issue. But in the interests of time required to prepare for the SuperBowl, the fact is that AVOTAYNU editor, Sallyann Amdur Sack-Pikus, provides an excellent summary of the issue in her “As I See It” column that appears in each issue of the journal. It is reproduced below.

As I See It
by Sallyann Amdur Sack-Pikus, Editor
My mother used to insist that “why?” was the first word I ever spoke. I’m not sure I really believe that, but if not the very first, it surely was among the earliest—and one of the most important. Why people do what they do has been a central interest of my life. It is why I became a clinical psychologist, and it has been central to my genealogy life as well. “Why do we do this?” was the title of a panel I organized for the first (1984) Jerusalem genealogy conference.

When I look over the human-interest articles in this issue, “why?” pops out as the central question. I am still asking why we do this. What motivates us? For many, it is the effects of the Holocaust. Deborah Long’s mother was a Holocaust survivor, and after 50 years, Long is still searching for the fate of her mother’s family. This time she details her still unsuccessful search for an uncle who survived.

David Price assumed that he had found all of his Holocaust-scattered family when the wonderful Jewish genealogy grapevine uncovered a previously unknown cousin in Israel. Connie Newhan grew up hearing about the non-Jewish Polish uncle who had abandoned his wife to the Nazis. Thanks to JewishGen, she learned the true, much different story. Rose Lerer Cohen spent her childhood in the shadow of the Holocaust, never daring even to mention her father’s murdered siblings lest she cause her father more pain. The wish to learn more led Cohen on a remarkable journey to Lithuania, where she came to know much about the members of her father’s family, even meeting an aunt who survived the war as a convert to Christianity. In Michael Braverman’s case, his desire led him to a cemetery in Germany that connects the Holocaust with earlier generations of his family’s long residence in that land.

Cemeteries seem to be especially important. Both Judith Manelis and Steve Stein were shocked to learn of the premature deaths of children in their family—and both describe deep urges to learn where the children are buried. Stein’s determined research led eventually to a successful outcome. In Manelis’s case, the outcome unexpectedly revealed more about herself.

Sometimes we yearn to know more about the people to whom we belong. Werner Frank just wanted to know more about his father’s remarkable life; Daniel Wagner has been intrigued to find a number of professional comedians in his family and speculates about the still-developing efforts of his young daughter in this area.

Yvette Gluck’s mother died young from an illness linked to her experiences during the Holocaust. Gluck movingly describes deeply emotional effects significantly ameliorated when she accidentally stumbled upon JewishGen and found her maternal relatives.

In an effort to build a new life and move forward, Gluck’s father discouraged discussion of her mother’s family. Sometimes, however, family members become estranged for other reasons and we want to know why. Daniel Meerson and Helen Horwitz both learned the answers, but with different results.

Alexander Woodle exhorts readers to “never give up.” Woodle spent countless years looking for his great-grandfather’s roots, always reading about new sources for research. Eventually, thanks to learning about the genealogy service of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, Woodle found his answer. Thomas Fürth is still puzzling over the identity of a single man. Steven Skorka didn’t just want to visit his ancestral Galician town while on a tourist trip to Poland, but wanted to know more about his forebears and their lives. A total novice to Jewish genealogy, his efforts led him eventually to Stanley Diamond and JRI-Poland with stunning personal effects. Arlene Beare’s desire to learn more about her grandmother’s life also has changed hers, leading her to make countless trips to Latvia trying to resolve some still unanswered questions. Beare has even written a book on Jewish genealogical research in that country.

Beare notes the saying, “No one is truly dead so long as someone still alive remembers them.” With that sentence, Beare touches on what I have learned about the “why we do this?” Within the past few weeks, I have learned something new about why I do it.

As my husband and I prepare to move soon into much smaller living quarters, I am struggling with the emotionally wrenching process of culling a lifetime of photographs—and often overcome by the intense nostalgia the process generates. Pondering the experience, especially as I read the human-interest stories in this issue, has made me again think about why the pursuit of genealogy can be so compelling.

Think about it. What are the major components of this pursuit? Thought, memory, focus (largely, but not only) on people who are dead, many of whom we never met. Look at how many articles in this issue reflect a passionate desire to reclaim the identities—names, photos, dates, occupations, activities of people obliterated in the Holocaust.

Several years ago, when the International Association of Jewish Genealogy Societies (IAJGS) honored me with its Lifetime Achievement Award, I described why I pursue genealogy, citing “love of being Jewish, passion for puzzles, interest in history and curiosity about people.” All of that is true, but I overlooked the core element—something I had stumbled upon several years earlier with that 1984 “Why Do We Do This?” panel. I spoke then about our existence as a link in the chain of history.

Today as I sort through my lifetime of photographs and memorabilia, a personal archive of my life, I feel as if I am tearing away a piece of my being each time I consign something to the wastebasket.

The whole process has made me realize that I have built my identity around the people I have known, places I have been, and events and ideas I have experienced—so much of which is symbolized by my photographs and memorabilia. We are born with potential for identity; living constructs the identity. I think of central roles of remembrance in our lives (and in Judaism generally). When a person dies, we retain—and often actively nourish—the memory of that life. I have reached the age where many of those who were important in my life no longer exist physically. Instead they still exist for me in memory—along with the memory I have constructed of ancestors I never knew when they were alive, but who have come alive for me by learning about them. In some ways, too, these ancestors also have contributed to my identity.

That brings me to the eternal question of what happens after we die. Do we have any kind of immortality? Some believe in a life after death. For me, it is my place as a link in the flow of history of those who came before me and those who will follow. I now think that might be the essential drive that powers the often so intense drive to pursue our genealogies. One way or another, we are all working on expanding aspects of who we are.

Many stories in this issue show how difficult it can be to learn the details we seek. My wish to expand possibilities for genealogical knowledge is what led me to propose a “second-tier project” in the fall 2016 AVOTAYNU—and to urge IAJGS to lead that effort. IAJGS president Marlis Humphrey responded with some questions and comments, which in turn, led us into a dialogue. Humphrey and I publish that discussion in this issue.

Be sure also to read Sarah Nadia Lipes’ story of how she used second-tier sources to construct the genealogy of famed 18th-century tzaddik, Rabbi Levi of Berdichev. And don’t overlook Avrohom Krauss’s encyclopedic description of the uses of another second-tier source, landsmanshaftn records.

Humphrey wants to include the Sephardic world in any project to index “second tier.” I counter that finding and using Sephardic resources is a separate, more complex process. Our Sephardic world columnist Laurence Abensur offers some examples of highly useful, nonarchival sources from North Africa. Knowledge of migration routes is essential for all genealogists, whether Sephardi or Ashkenazi. Yefim Kogan enlightens us on the whys, hows and from wheres of 19th-century Jewish migration into Moldovia.

Plans are well underway for the 2017 IAJGS conference in Orlando, Florida. Conference co-chair Adam Brown and Diane Jacobs provide the first important details. As program co-chair, I promise some terrific, first-ever features. The value of attending these conferences can’t be overstated. It’s not just the talks you attend, but the overall experience of meeting and mingling with others who share our passion and, in the process, networking that so often generates exciting, valuable, unanticipated paths for further discovery.

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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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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