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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 19, Number 45 | November 18, 2018

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.

Reclaim The Records Files Lawsuit Against U.S. Veterans Agency
Reclaim The Records (RTR) has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to get them to release their Beneficiary Identification Records Locator Subsystem (BIRLS) Death File. This database contains basic information on about 14 million deceased American veterans who served in the U.S. military and then later received benefits from the federal government, such as healthcare or the GI Bill. The years covered are approximately 1850–2017. Each record includes the veteran's dates of birth and death, dates of enlistment and release, and branch of service. Some years have a little more information available than others, including the veteran's basic cause of death (i.e. natural or combat-related), gender, and possibly other fields.

RTR stated the database already exists on, but the Veterans Affairs department refused to give a copy to RTR. Access to the Ancestry information is through a membership fee. RTR would make it available at no charge.

The complete announcement can be found at

Latest Prices for DNA Tests
With Veterans Day Sales of DNA tests behind us, it is time for Thanksgiving Day sales. These low prices will not persist. Consider buying today for future use.

Here are the latest prices:
23andMe. $49 when you buy 2 or more. Offer ends November 22.
Ancestry. $59. Offer ends November 21
Family Tree DNA. $49. Offer ends November 22. Other DNA services are also discounted.
MyHeritage. $49.

The Ancestor Hunt Has List of Online U.S. College Newspapers
The Ancestor Hunt has list of back issues of hundreds of U.S. college newspapers that are online. It can be found at can be found at

Fall Issue of AVOTAYNU Going to Printer
The Fall issue of AVOTAYNU is going to the printer this week. The lead article is by Avraham Groll, director of JewishGen, discussing future plans for the organization. The issue also includes an article about the future plans for JRI-Poland written by its executive director, Stanley Diamond. Werner Frank wrote a very valuable article in our Fall 2017 issue about what he calls “Push-Pull” research; the idea of going as far back in your family’s history as possible and then going deeper in history to records and coming forward in time to make the connection with your family. In this issue he discusses yichus as a pathway to family history. He describes yichus as “the time-honored practice of identifying distinguished ancestors and finding lineage to such forebears.” If you are of Polish ancestry, there are numerous articles devoted to sources of information.

All told there are 14 articles plus the usual columns: From Our Contributing Editors, U.S. Update, Ask Dr. Beider About Names, Book Reviews and From Our Mailbox.
The complete Table of Contents is at If you do not subscribe to AVOTAYNU, you can do so at

Shared Ancestral Places Feature Added to MyHeritage DNA Matches
MyHeritage has added a new feature to its DNA program called “Shared Ancestral Places.” Shared Ancestral Places refer to towns, countries, or U.S. states that appear in your family tree as well as in the family trees of your DNA Matches, where birth or death events of your ancestors (and those of your DNA Matches’ ancestors) took place. These places are identified going back to 10 generations.

MyHeritage’s advanced algorithms know to match cities and places even if they were entered in different languages. If you entered Moscow, Russia in English into your family tree, and your match entered it in their tree as Москва, Россия, they will still match them and identify this as a Shared Ancestral Place.

Announcement of the feature and how to access it can be found at

AncestryDNA Introduces Traits Feature
For an additional $9.99, subscribers to AncestryDNA can find out how certain traits and attributes are influenced by their DNA. Called “AncestryDNA Traits,” the service allows customers to explore up to 18 traits and attributes such as eye color, freckles, hair color, hair type and male hair loss. By matching against results of other members of your family that subscribe to this service, Ancestry claims you can discover how these traits run in your family. An “Around the World” interactive map allows you to explore how your traits are alike with people having common geographic ancestry.

Additional information can be found at

FamilySearch Unlocking Centuries of Italian Ancestry Records
FamilySearch has announced free access to more than 150 million Italian historical genealogical records—the largest online collection of its kind. It is the result of collaboration between FamilySearch, the Italian government, the Italian State Archives (Direzione Generale per gli Archivi or DGA) and many other archives. The free collections include more than 200 years of digitized images of birth, marriage, death, and other significant family history records from all regions of Italy and many other repositories.

Additional information can be found at

More Than  60 Million Pages of Digitized Canadian Documentary Heritage Soon to Be Available at No Charge
As of January 1, 2019, 60 million pages of Canadian digital documentary heritage will be available at no charge to users. The Canadiana collections are the largest online collections of early textual Canadiana in the world. Making them available at no cost to users is a result of the recent merger between, a not-for-profit charity, and the Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN), a not-for-profit partnership of 75 Canadian universities.

The Canadiana collections include three flagship collections: Early Canadiana Online, Heritage, and Canadiana Online. The Early Canadiana Online and Canadiana Online collections are comprised of Canadian monographs, periodicals, government publications, newspapers and annuals and amount to over 19 million pages. The Heritage collection, developed in partnership with Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and CRKN, includes 900 collections of 41 million pages of archival materials.

The announcement can be found at

Photographs of New York City Buildings Now Accessible Through Morse Website
Last week’s issue of Nu? What’s New? included mention of online historical photographs of New York City buildings from the 1940s and 1980s. Stephen P. Morse has added a search engine for this database to his One-Step site that is superior to the one provided by the New York City Department of Records & Information Services, creator of the database. Morse allows more flexibility in the syntax of the street address and also provides results for all images of the street address, both from the 1940s and 1980s collection.

The One-Step site is at

FamilySearch Adds Nearly 5.5 Million Records This Week
A list of recent additions to FamilySearch, nearly 5.5 million indexed records, can be found at This site provides direct links to the individual collections. They include records from Honduras, Ireland, Peru, and the United States (Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and Texas).

Most notable for persons with Jewish family history are an index to 1.4 million New York, County Naturalization Records, 1791–1980.

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 British First World War Soldiers’ Medical Records
FindMyPast has added more than 224,000 new records to their collection of National Archive’s First World War Soldiers’ Medical Records. Including both images of transcripts, these records will help people determine when and where a soldier was wounded, the nature of their wounds, where they were treated, how long they were held for treatment and details pertaining to their service history.

The database can be searched at

Attend the 39th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy

Visit the website at

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