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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 19, Number 50 | December 23, 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.

Merry Christmas to our Christian readers!

Michael Tobias Leaves JewishGen
Michael Tobias, Vice President—Programming for JewishGen, has left JewishGen after more than 20 years of service as a volunteer and then as a full-time staff member.

To me, Michael is a technical genius. I say that with some authority, because I was one of the pioneers of the computer software industry, having started programming computers in 1959 for IBM and continued for 34 years.

One particular incident comes to mind. The JewishGen Family Tree of the Jewish People was still in its conceptual stage, and for some reason it was decided to farm out its implementation to another software group. After many months the group failed to implement the project, possibly because they felt it was beyond their technical capacity. Michael took the project from them and had the system running within 48 hours. It was not a simple task. What you see today is, for the most part, what Michael originally implemented.

Michael lives in Glasgow, Scotland. What continually amazes me was that no matter what time of day I emailed him from the East Coast of the U.S., I got a response within an hour or two.

Michael’s contribution to genealogy goes beyond JewishGen. Have you ever used the Ellis Island search engine at the Stephen P. Morse site? Michael participated in the implementation. He is, and will continue to be, the senior technician of JRI-Poland. He is the senior researcher on the International Institute of Jewish Genealogy project “200 Years of Scottish Jewry – a Demographic and Genealogical Profile.”

Most importantly, Michael is a mensch; a person you want to have as a friend and associate.

How Did Ashkenazi Jews End Up With Famous Non-Jewish Last Names?
Dr. Alexander Beider, author of many name books published by Avotaynu, is writing a monthly column for the Forward newspaper located online and in New York. His latest article is titled “How Did Ashkenazi Jews End Up With Famous Non-Jewish Last Names?”

Dr. Beider notes that, “Because Jews in the Diaspora have long been living as a minority among a non-Jewish majority, their names often share similarities with those used by their non-Jewish countrymen.” He adds that, “Many surnames describe occupations, physical qualities or moral characteristics.” Clearly these types of surnames can be shared by Jews and non-Jews.

The article can be found at You can find numerous previous articles by Googling “Alexander Beider” Some examples are:
   • No, Yiddish Is Not a Corruption Of German
   • Why Do So Many Jewish Last Names Come From Women?
   • The Khazarian Hypothesis is Not the Only Junk Science Origin Story of Jews.
   • Are Italian Jews Sephardic, Or Ashkenazi?

New Genealogy Website Has Index to 1897 Census of Ukraine Online
A new website, IndexingRoots, states it has online an index to the Ukrainian portion of the 1897 census of Russia. Registration is required to search the index. The registration process has the ominous statement “IndexRoots may process my personal data for the marketing purposes in accordance with the Privacy Policy.” Reading the policy shows they conform to the European Union’s GDPR privacy rules. To play safe, I used an email address reserved for organizations from whom I do not want to receive future emails. The disclosure statement indicated the site is run by Tomasz M. Jankowski of Wroclaw, Poland.

They have a powerful search engine. I searched for any person named Tartacki (my maternal father’s family) and they came up with a result for a person name Tartotskiy on the 1897 census.

It is a fee-for-service site. To get additional information requires paying a fee. The website is located at

Eight Reasons You Cannot Find Anything About Our Ancestors
The Ancestor Hunt has published an article that suggests eight reasons you cannot find information online about your ancestors. The article is primarily of value to persons who are just starting their family history research. Veteran researchers might want to take a quick glance at the list to confirm they have considered all the reasons.

One of the stated reasons is familiar to Jewish genealogists; the name may be spelled differently. This is a common challenge to people researching their Eastern European Jewish roots. The correct spelling of my surname in Polish is Mokotow. Relatives living in Israel are named Mokotov and in English- and Spanish-speaking countries, it is invariably Mokotoff. Some years ago, I found that the Jews of Warsaw pronounced it “Monkotoff.” I have found records with that spelling variant.

The article can be found at

Updates to Jewish Genealogy Databases
A number of Jewish genealogy organizations have made major updates to their databases.

JRI-Poland. 211,500 new or updated entries have been added to the JRI-Poland database, bringing the total to 5.7 million. Plans call for linking search results to digital images on the Polish State Archives “National Digital Archive” and other websites.

Lodz. 50,000 names have been added to the Lodz Registration Cards 1916–1921. bringing the total to 180,000 Jewish names. It is part of the JRI-Poland collection.

LitvakSIG. 32,594 have been added this quarter to the All-Lithuania Database of LitvakSIG. They include conscription lists for Vilnius city and suburbs, as well as for Sejny uyezd of Suwalki guberniya; family lists for towns in the Zarasai district and the 1942 census of the Siauliai ghetto. Also foreign passport applications for Vilnius city. The All-Lithuania Database is located at

Gesher Galicia. Gesher Galicia has added to the All Galicia Database information about 3,200 Jewish medical students. The database is located at The current update includes records of 1,500 students and graduates from Lwow University for the years 1894–1918.
Earlier this year, the indexes of Jewish medical students from Galicia attending other universities were added:
   • Jagiellonian University: Jewish medical students and graduates (1802–1918)
   • Jagiellonian University: Jewish midwifery students (1802–1850)
   • Pest University: Jewish Medical, Surgical, and Midwifery Students (1793–1846)
   • Pest University: Jewish Medical Graduates (1770–1921)

FamilySearch Adds 1.3 Million Records This Week
A list of recent additions to FamilySearch, 1.3 million indexed records, can be found at This site provides direct links to the individual collections. They include records from Colombia, French Polynesia, Germany, South Africa and the U.S. states of North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia.

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.

Clarification on Documenting Jewish Cemeteries in Ukraine
The last issue of Nu? What’s New? stated that the European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative (ESJF) has published online a detailed survey of Jewish cemeteries in the Volhyn region of Ukraine. Ron Doctor has informed us that the report covers only modern Volhyn. Many towns of historic Volhyn are not included in the report even though they are shown on ESJF’s map. Doctor states that this doesn’t diminish the work that ESJF is doing, but the restriction to modern Volhyn should be more prominently noted. Doctor is a board member and past coordinator of the JewishGen Ukraine Special Interest Group.

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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