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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 18, Number 37 | October 2, 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.

Ashkenazic Jews Descended from Khazars and Other Myths
Dr. Alexander Beider, author of books on Jewish names and the origins of Yiddish, has mostly kept out of the public limelight, instead focusing on publishing scholarly papers and books on Jewish onomastics and linguistics. Recently, he attacked what he calls “revolutionary theories” that Ashkenazic Jews are descended from the Khazars. He lectured on the subject at the recent IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy. A version of the lecture appears in the Summer issue of AVOTAYNU. Readers who did not hear his lecture or do not subscribe to AVOTAYNU will find a version of his thoughts published in the Forward at

In the yet-to-be-published Fall issue of AVOTAYNU, Dr Beider attacks another myth in his article, “Pseudo-Sephardic Surnames from Italy.” In the articles he demonstrates the surnames Bassan(o), Noveira/Novara, Morteira/Morata, Porto, Basevi, Castro, Segre, Toaff, Del Mar and Elhaik are not of Sephardic origin.

Dr. Beider holds a doctoral degree in Applied Mathematics and another in Jewish Studies. He uses onomastics and linguistics as tools to unravel the history of the Jewish people. He has written several reference books dealing with the etymology of Jewish surnames and given names, all published by Avotaynu Inc. His book, Origins of Yiddish Dialects, published by Oxford University Press, sheds light on the early stages of the development of Yiddish. Books published by Avotaynu can be found at They include:
   • Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names
   • Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Galicia
   • Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Maghreb, Gibraltar, and Malta
   • Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire, Second Edition
   • Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Poland (out of print)
   • Jewish Surnames from Prague (out of print)

“13 Lessons to Make You a Better Historical Newspaper Researcher”
The Ancestor Hunt has a set of more than 1000 links to newspaper archives primarily in the United States. They also have 13 lessons on how to maximize usage of newspaper archives. Lesson 1 addresses where to find newspaper archives. Lesson 13 is “Search Tips and What to Avoid.” Links to the lessons can be found at

Finding Your Roots New Season Starts October 3
A brand-new season of PBS’ show Finding Your Roots, hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., premieres on Tuesday, October 3, 8–9 Eastern Time. There will be an additional nine episodes on following Tuesdays. The season features a host of entertainers and other well-known persons who discover their ancestry. This Tuesday’s episode stars Larry David and Bernie Sanders. There has been reports that the show will disclose they are distant cousins.

Other personalities include (not in order of presentation) Carmelo Anthony, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ted Danson, Ava DuVernay, Bryant Gumbel, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Gaby Hoffman, Scarlett Johansson, Garrison Keillor, Téa Leoni, Tonya Lewis-Lee, William H. Macy, Suzanne Malveaux, Dr. Phil (McGraw), Janet Mock, Ana Navarro, Lupita Nyong’o, Questlove, Paul Rudd, Amy Schumer, Carly Simon, Mary Steenburgen and Christopher Walken.

The complete schedule can be found at 09/26/pbs-finding-your-roots-returns-october-3-at-87c/.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a professor at Harvard University, was the banquet speaker at the recently concluded 37th IAJGS International Conference of Jewish Genealogy.

How to Develop a DNA Testing Plan
MyHeritage blog now includes an article about “Developing a DNA Testing Plan.” Subsections of the essay are:
   • Creating a DNA Testing Plan
   • Understanding Shared DNA
   • Don’t Overlook the Importance of Traditional Genealogy Research!
   • Prioritize Testing to Achieve the Highest Level of Coverage
   • Other Benefits of Creating a DNA Testing Plan

The article can be found at

FamilySearch Adds More Than 3.5 Million Records This Week
A list of recent additions to FamilySearch, more than 3.5 million indexed records and images, can be found at This site provides direct links to the individual collections. They include records from Australia, Austria, England, France, Ireland, Italy, Paraguay, Peru, South Africa and Find-a-Grave.

Most of the additions are more than 1.3M from the collection: “South Africa, Cape Province, Probate Records of the Master of the High Court, 1834-1989.” Also, more than 900K index records from the Find-a-Grave Index.

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 at
Ancestry has added/updated the following record groups at their site. Note that they do not indicate how many entries have been added. Announced collections may not be complete for the dates specified and will be added at some later date.

New Collections
California, County Birth, Marriage, and Death Records, 1849–1980 (This new collection appears to go up to about 1949.)

Updated Collections
U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s–Current
South Dakota, Marriages, 1905–2016
U.S., Presbyterian Church Records, 1701–1970
New Jersey, Episcopal Diocese of Newark Church Records, 1809–1816, 1825–1970
U.S., Cemetery and Funeral Home Collection, 1847–2017
U.S., Obituary Collection, 1930–2017
Texas, Death Certificates, 1903–1982

JewishGen Class: “Brick Wall or Dead End” to Be Given Again
Frustrated and at a loss in an area of your family history research? Are you at a dead end or just experiencing a brick wall? Are you stumped by a small detail or is there a major avenue you can't get past?

For researchers who are at a standstill in an aspect of their research and need new ideas, JewishGen Education offers their popular class, “Brick Wall or Dead End,” from October 6 - October 27. Participants will review and analyze their data with a personal instructor in a one-on-one mentoring that is open 24/7. Tuition is $150 for three weeks.

Requirements: Students must have done enough research to have reached a point where help is needed. Students should feel comfortable with computers and Internet searches. Additional details, including registration, are at

Hungarian Jewish Museum Integrates Display with Technology
Jewish Heritage Europe reports that the Hungarian Jewish Museum in Budapest has redone its Core Exhibit in a way that integrates physical display of the museum’s collection of Judaica and other objects with modern technology.

Included are approximately 400 objects — some 80 percent of which were also displayed in the old exhibit, which had been in place there for decades as a traditional display of objects in glass cases, with a heavy focus on ritual items and little information as to the history or contexts of the objects.

In the new exhibition, very little textual information is provided about the objects on display. Visitors are expected to download an app, which has detailed information about each item. To date, only the Hungarian version of the app is available. The English app only includes an audio guide description of 40 objects. For visitors without smartphones, the museum will provide a device.

Additional information is available at revamped-hungarian-jewish-museum-opens.

Museum of Polish Jewry Honored with EU’s Top Heritage Award
The Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews was recognized with a top honor from the European Union for a project promoting Jewish cultural heritage. The Europa Nostra Prize, or Our Europe, is the top prize presented by the EU for outstanding achievements in the fields of conservation, research, education, training and raising awareness of cultural heritage. Last year, the museum won the Museum of the Year Award from the European Museum Forum.

The museum will be the site of the 38th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy to be held from August 6–10, 2018. Additional information about the current award can be found at

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.

 Avotaynu Online is free of charge. 

Nu? What's New? is published weekly by Avotaynu, Inc.
Copyright 2017, Avotaynu, Inc. All rights reserved

To change an e-mail address, send a request to

To subscribe to AVOTAYNU, The International Review of Jewish Genealogy, go to

To order books from our catalog, go to

To contact us by postal mail, write: Avotaynu, Inc.; 
794 Edgewood Ave.; New Haven, CT 06515

Telephone  (U.S.) : 475-202-6575