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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 20, Number 16 | April 21, 2019

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 Wants New York City Death Certificates and Restrictions on Access Overturned
Reclaim The Records (RTR) has filed its ninth Freedom of Information lawsuit, asking the New York State Supreme Court to overturn restrictions placed on historical records in New York City and a request to acquire and provide free online access to 1.6 million New York City death records (1949–1968). Previous successful actions were merely to gain access to records. This is the first time the non-profit institution has requested the court to overturn restrictions on access. It is also the first time that RTR has gone after actual vital record certificates, as opposed to an index to records.

The restriction is the NYC Department of Health recent ruling that death records are embargoed for 75 years. For every other jurisdiction in New York State the rule is fifty years. This ruling was made despite a public hearing in October 2017 where scores of genealogists, historians and other interested parties voiced their disapproval.

RTR notes that death certificates are completely open to the public in thirteen states. Another eight states have restrictions on death certificate accessibility of less than fifty years, and in another twenty-three states, fifty years is the rule.

Make a Donation to Reclaim The Records. There are legal fees and other costs associated with their successful battles in the courts to gain access to records. Your support helps the fight for more open records. Contribute—even a token amount to show support for such efforts—at Reclaim The Records is an IRS-recognized 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

The complete announcement can be found at

Early-Bird Registration Ends Soon for Cleveland Conference
Early-Bird Registration, with its discounted prices, ends April 30 for the 39th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy being held in Cleveland, Ohio, July 28 - August 2. The Program Committee will announce shortly which of the more than 400 submissions received will be included in the program.

On the first day of the conference, Sunday, the SHARE Fair and the Exhibit Hall will open at 11:30 am. The Opening Session, at 2:45 pm, will feature a talk on “Jews and Rock & Roll” to set the mood for Sunday evening’s reception at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The rest of the week will be filled with a variety of programs. In addition to the lecture presentations, there will be “Breakfasts with the Experts” (with limited attendance to allow for a more interactive experience). Special Interest Group (SIG) lunches will host outstanding speakers (often from overseas archives).

Additional evening programs are planned for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, followed by the banquet on Thursday.

Although FamilySearch in the past very graciously provided live-streamed or on-demand access to conference programs, they unfortunately are not able to do so this year. However, there will be audio recordings and PowerPoint slides for most of the talks available for a fee.

Register for the conference at

2020 Conference in San Diego. The IAJG website notes that the 2020 conference will be in San Diego, California from August 9–14.

Joint Distribution Committee Partnering with International Tracing Service
The Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has entered into an agreement where JDC records located at the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen, Germany, will be accessible through JDC. These include wartime and postwar JDC records concerning efforts to search for missing relatives and to provide emigration assistance.

The JDC-ITS collaboration aims to make these JDC records more accessible to genealogical and family researchers and others, including the JDC Archives staff. The first group of digital files that has been shared is the set of 30,000 Emigration Service Cards from JDC’s Paris Office.

The information on these cards will be indexed and added to the JDC Archives online Names Index. This project has just begun and is estimated to take up to two years. The records will significantly increase the existing index card records in the Names Database, which currently includes more than 100,000 cards from the JDC Emigration offices in Munich, Vienna, and Warsaw and refugee case cards from Barcelona.

The JDC database currently includes 500,000 names found in historic documents and client lists, with more being added regularly. The Name Index can be searched at

The complete announcement is at with-international-tracing-service/.

JewishGen Worldwide Burial Registry Now Has 3.45 Million Records
JewishGen has announced that the JewishGen Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) now has 3.45 million records. This is after an additional 116,000 records and 29,800 photos (mostly gravestones) were added to the database. JOWBR now has information from more than 8,000 cemeteries/sections representing 128 countries. Significant additions in this update are from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Czechia (formerly Czech Republic), England, France, Germany, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Ukraine and the United States.

Searching with Google for the announcement, the only result was the Facebook page of Sociedade de Genealogia Judaica do Rio de Janeiro at

Latest Prices for Autosomal DNA Testing
In recognition of Easter and/or DNA Day, some major DNA testing services are offering discounts. National DNA Day commemorates the completion of the Human Genome Project in April 2003 and the discovery of the double helix of DNA in 1953. This year's DNA Day is April 25, 2019. Here are the latest prices from the major firms:

23andMe. $99.
Ancestry. $69. Offer ends April 25.
Family Tree DNA. $49. Offer ends April 26. Other DNA services are also discounted.
MyHeritage. $69. Offer ends April 22.

Why You Need to Quit Attaching Records to Your Family Tree and What to Do Instead
Family History Daily has provided a thought-provoking article about the problem of migrating your family tree to another online site or genealogical software program. The standard (only) method of doing the migration is to use GEDCOM. But if you attached records to individuals in your family tree, GEDCOM has no method of transferring images; it only transfers data.

Read a potential solution at help-and-how-to/ quit-attaching-records-to-family-tree/.

Company Experiments with DNA Tracking by Trying to Identify Its Own Employees
With all the publicity about how law enforcement agencies have been able to solve decades-old crimes through DNA matching, BuzzFeed, an online news organization, decided to determine how easy/hard it is to identify people through DNA databases.

They took DNA samples from ten of their employees, submitted the samples with fake names, and when the results came back, they tried to identify the employees. They were successful in six of the ten cases. In one case, there was the obstacle that the employee’s mother was adopted.

There is a lengthy, fascinating report of the process they went through to identify the individuals at

Webinar on Comparing Genealogy Giants
Legacy Family Tree will present a webinar on “Comparing the Genealogy Giants:, FamilySearch, Findmypast and MyHeritage 2019 Edition” on Wednesday, April 24 at 2pm Eastern. Registration is at no cost. The lecture will consider each site's strengths and weaknesses and will help viewers to know which to use now and which to keep in mind when research interests or budgets change. Additional information is at webinar_details.php?webinar_id=918.

Site Has Information on Jews Who Fled Denmark to Sweden During WWII
Jewish Heritage Europe reports that the Danish Jewish Museum in Copenhagen has placed on their website documentation about thousands of Jews who fled from the coast of Zealand in Denmark to Sweden. On arrival, every person was protocolled by the Swedish authorities. The record keeping starts in October 1943.

A search engine is located at The engine first displays the names of persons who meet the search criteria and then there is a link to the actual document(s) from the Swedish authorities.

Interactive Map. The museum has also placed online an interactive map that marks locations in Denmark for three categories: synagogues, Jewish cemeteries and people. Click on the pins for pop-ups that then expand into pages with text and photos.

The Jewish Heritage Europe announcement can be found at 2019/04/14/denmark-interactive-online-resources/.

FamilySearch Adds More Than 2.6 Million Records This Week
A list of recent additions to FamilySearch, more than 2.6 million indexed records, can be found at This site provides direct links to the individual collections. They include records from France, Italy, Luxembourg, South Africa, Venezuela, and the United States: Illinois, Massachusetts, Montana, Oregon.

A large part of the additions is Massachusetts, Boston Crew Lists, 1917–1943 (1.4 million). Note these are crew lists, not passenger lists. They contain far less genealogy-relevant information than passenger lists.

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 Birth, Marriage, Death Civil Registrations for Jamaica
FindMyPast has added more than 2 million birth, marriage and death records for Jamaica. Range of dates (based on searching for the surname Cohen—477 births) are:
   • Births 1878–1930
   • Marriages 1880–1950
   • Deaths 1878–1924

Links to the collections are at

New Collections at
Ancestry has added/updated the following record groups at their site. The list with links to individual collections can be found at Announced collections may not be complete for the dates specified and will be added at some later date.
Updated Michigan, Divorce Records, 1897-1952

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Each year AVOTAYNU publishes more than 300 pages of useful, interesting information about Jewish family history research that can help you in your research. Now in its 33rd year, an index to the first 24 volumes is available to all the major articles.

Published quarterly, our contributing editors from 15 countries throughout the world regularly gather important information that appears in our issues. Our publishers, Gary Mokotoff and Sallyann Amdur Sack, are on a first name basis with officials at institutions containing genealogical data throughout the world. 
Some institutions are U.S. National Archives, U.S. Library of Congress, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Leo Baeck Institute,  Yad Vashem and  Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People.

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