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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 18, Number 49 | December 25, 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.

Merry Christmas to Our Christian Readers

The Clock Is Ticking: Make Your Donations to Genealogical Causes
Just a week is left to make your annual contributions to those institutions who assist you with your family history research: JewishGen, JRI-Poland, Litvak SIG, Gesher Galicia, Ukraine SIG, Leo Baeck Institute and the like. I made my final contribution this past week. It was to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

Mormon-Jewish Controversy: The Problem That Won’t Go Away
In recent years, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been successful in preventing whistle-blower Helen Radkey from gaining access to their religious database that includes millions of people on whom they have performed posthumous baptisms and other temple ordinances. But the inevitable has happened. Radkey managed to gain access to the ordinance database and what did she find? She found that nothing has changed. Thousands, probably tens of thousands of Holocaust victims have been posthumously baptized into the Mormon church in the past few years. (Erroneously reported in the Associated Press version as “proxy baptisms were performed on at least 20 Holocaust victims.”)

This is even though the Church states they have implemented additional safeguards, including adding four full-time staffers who watch the database and block baptisms on restricted names. Apparently four Mormons are not as effective as one Helen Radkey.

Of course, the list of famous Jews being posthumously baptized grows. It now includes the Lubavitcher Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson and his father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, who were baptized in 2015. The late Ernest Michel, who led the discussions more than a decade ago is not included but Benjamin Meed, the late president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, and his wife, Vladka Peltel Meed, are in the Mormon database. The records state the submitter was his son Steven Meed. The Associated Press report can be found at A more comprehensive report was done by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency at

30 Percent Discount on Ancestry Membership for Senior Citizens
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) indicates that their members can receive a 30 percent discount on subscriptions to Register at There is an implication at that some discounts may also apply when existing members resubscribe.

Ancestry (RootsWeb) Announces Possible Security Breach
Last week, Ancestry’s Information Security Team received a message from a security researcher indicating that he had found a file containing email addresses/username and password combinations as well as user names from a server. As a result of an analysis by Ancestry, it was determined that the file was legitimate, although the majority of the information was old. Though the file contained 300,000 email/usernames and passwords, through analysis it was determined that only approximately 55,000 of these were used both on RootsWeb and one of the Ancestry sites, and the vast majority of those were from free trial or currently unused accounts.

Because of this discovery, Ancestry has taken two immediate corrective actions. First, for the approximately 55,000 customers who used the same credentials at RootsWeb’s surname list and Ancestry—whether currently active or not—the company has locked their Ancestry accounts and will require that they create a new password the next time they visit. Second, Ancestry has temporarily taken RootsWeb offline, and they are working to ensure that all data is saved and preserved to the best of their ability.

The complete story can be found at /12/23/rootsweb-security-update.

FamilySearch Additions This Week
A list of recent additions to FamilySearch, nearly 1.5 million indexed records and images, can be found at This site provides direct links to the individual collections. Those identified with a dagger (†) are Christian-only records. They include records from Brazil, England(†), Italy, Nambia(†), Peru and the U.S. states of Delaware, Illinois, and Michigan. In addition, more than 2M historic records from Find A Grave were added.

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.

Blog on How to Use FamilySearch
FamilySearch has published an excellent write-up on how to use the various components of their system. For example, it explains the meaning of the icons to the right of results.

Subsections of the article are:
   • Using FamilySearch’s Records
   • Understanding Record Availability at FamilySearch
   • Searching Records Not Available at FamilySearch

The blog posting is at

FamilySearch Adds Gazetteer
FamilySearch has added a gazetteer to its overall system. Called “FamilySearch Places,” it will—at a minimum—locate a town anywhere in the world using Google Maps. Some of the additional information it will provide is:
   • Nature of the place (populated place, province, etc.)—probably taken from the U.S. Board of Geographic Names database
   • Local history from three specific websites
   • Link to Wikipedia entry, if it exists
   • Link to FamilySearch for records that include the place name.
   • Places within five miles of location
   • Places within the same jurisdiction
Using the new feature demonstrates the system is very much in its infancy. In every feature I ran into problems using the Mokotow ancestral town of Warka, Poland, and Warsaw, the capital of Poland.
   • Nature of the place (populated place, province,). It shows Warsaw as a province and not a populated place.
   • Local history from three identified websites. There was no information for Warka or Warsaw. Warsaw likely because it was not considered a populated place.
   • Link to Wikipedia entry, if it exists. The Wikipedia entry for Warsaw is present. For Warka it is absent.
   • Link to FamilySearch for records that include the place name. Warsaw produced 233,155 results. On the first page were all deaths in Warsaw taken from the BillionGraves database.
   • Places within five miles of location. Because the FamilySearch source is likely the U.S. Board on Geographic Names database, every speck of a location is shown. For Warka, about 100 locations are identified as being within 5 miles of the town.
   • Places within the same jurisdiction. Equally useless because it treated Warsaw as a province and the system identified the thousands of towns within Warsaw province.

FamilySearch Places is a great concept, but is quite useless now if Warka and Warsaw are typical examples. JewishGen Communities Database and JewishGen Gazetteer at contains some of the features of FamilySearch Places and works quite well. The Family Places announcement can be found at

Reclaim The Records Releases Buffalo, New York, Death Index
Using the New York State Freedom of Information Law, Reclaim The Records has received and published the death index for Buffalo, New York, for the years 1852–1944. They estimate that there are about 640,000 names listed. For the years 1891–1897, there is an additional second page with information on the father and mother—name, place of birth, street address of death and exact date of death.

The index records can be found at Additional information about the announcement can be found at

OpenArchives Site Has Records on 174 Million People in Dutch and Belgian Archives
Jan Meisels Allen, Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee, reports that the website, OpenArchives, has information about 174 million people in the Dutch and Belgian archives. The website is located at

Results of a search provide name, role (examples: child, mother, bride), event, date, place and source. Example of some sources are vital records and notarial records. Remarkably, some of the death records show place of death as Auschwitz, Sobibor or Westerbork. Almost all records were Dutch—very few Belgian place names. Clicking on an individual produces a two-generation family tree (parents) and sometimes the exact birth date/place. Some of the sources are family trees.

To get a copy of the source documents requires logging in and a subscription.

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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