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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 21, Number 32 | August 9, 2020

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.

Virtual Conference Begins This Week; More than 1,700 Have Registered
The IAJGS 40th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy will begin Monday, August 10, as a virtual conference. There will be 38 live presentations, an additional 70+ pre-recorded lectures that would have been presented live at the originally planned in-person conference, and more than 40 Special Interest Group and Birds of a Feather meetings. All told, there are approximately 150 events over the four-day period.

To date, more than 1,700 people have registered. This includes the “free limited access” attendees as well as the paid full conference attendees.

This will be the 37th International Conference I will have attended. The three missed conferences were two in London and the last Jerusalem conference. The Jerusalem conference coincided with my 50th wedding anniversary, so I gave my wife a choice of going to Jerusalem or a resort in Cancun, Mexico. She made the wrong choice.

A few conference anecdotes:

I co-hosted the first IAJGS conference that was held in Salt Lake City. At the banquet which was held at the end of the conference, I started to eat my salad and noted there was shrimp included. Realizing there were attendees that kept kosher, I went to the hotel’s liaison and asked him, “Why the shrimp?” “Oh, Mr. Mokotoff,” he explained, “You were such a wonderful group to have at the hotel, we thought we would give you all something extra!” I quickly got on the microphone and notified the audience.

Do you know the origin of Birds of a Feather (BOF)} meetings? It was the brainchild of Suzan Wynne of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Washington. The society hosted the second (1982) conference. Avotaynu co-owner Sallyann Amdur Sack-Pikus was the conference coordinator; she mentioned to me in a phone conversation that Suzan suggested there should be the opportunity for conference attendees with a common interest to spontaneously create their own meetings. “Oh, we have them at our annual computer industry conferences,” I said. “We call them Birds of a Feather meetings.”

“Breakfast with the Experts” was a Sallyann creation. At the first Jerusalem conference in 1984, which she cohosted, she suggested that we should invite university professors and archivists to breakfast so they could meet genealogists and discuss problems the genealogists were having with their research. It was the origin of “Breakfast with the Experts.” My first breakfast with an expert was with the late professor Dov Levin of Hebrew University. About seven of us sat at a table having breakfast and asking Professor Levin various questions. At one point, he mentioned he was a partisan in Lithuania during World War II. One of the persons at the table exclaimed, “Oh, that must have been every exciting!” Professor Levin looked at her with a wry smile and responded, “Yes. It was very exciting.” Over the years, the program has degenerated into a breakfast with a lecture.

If you have not yet registered for the conference, go to

Israel Genealogy Research Association Adds Significant Sephardic Collection
The Israel Genealogy Research Association (IGRA) in collaboration with SephardicGen has announced they have added to the IGRA website the “Jeff Malka SephardicGen Database Collection,” a Sephardic collection commemorating Jeff Malka, the late Mathilde Tagger and SephardicGen. Jeffrey S. Malka, MD made part of the extensive SephardicGen collection available to IGRA to incorporate it in the IGRA “All Israel Database.”

The scope of this collection, 43,000 records in total, offers a major resource to all Sephardic Jewish researchers. A list of the SephardicGen databases that will be accessible through the IGRA database search is included on the “List of SephardicGen Databases” page. To search these databases, you can search the IGRA database and results from these databases will now be part of the search results.

The IGRA home page is at SephardicGen is at

Summer Issue of AVOTAYNU to Printer
The Summer issue of AVOTAYNU will go to the printer this week. A large number of subjects are covered by the 12 articles that appear including city directories, Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, Arolsen Archives, American Jewish Yearbook, Bremen as an emigration port, and more.

One type of article that I enjoy that appears from time to time in AVOTAYNU is an overall survey of genealogical research in a specific country. The Summer issue has such a six-page article on family history research in Finland. You may not have Finnish ancestors, but this article might describe a resource that you never considered that might exist in your countries of ancestry.

In addition to the 12 articles, there are the usual columns: From Our Contributing Editors, U.S. Update, Ask Dr. Beider, Brick Walls, Book Reviews (two reviews) and From Our Mailbox.

The complete Table of Contents is at

Subscriber to AVOTAYNU at

Summer Sales on DNA Testing
It is Summer Season for the DNA testing laboratories. Here are the current rates.

23andMe. Ancestry + Traits Services $99. Health + Ancestry Service $199. No discount.
Ancestry. $59. Offer ends August 16. Also discounts on AncestryHealth (see announcement in this issue).
Family Tree DNA. $59. Paternal ancestry, $109. Maternal ancestry, $139. Discounts end August 31.
MyHeritage. $49. Offer ends August 19.

Are You New to French Research?
Do you have some French relatives on your tree but don’t know where to find information about them? FamilySearch has just published a concise article, “Finding Your French Ancestors,” that will get you started.

There is a discussion about the FamilySearch Wiki which contains extensive information about how to and where to do research. There are also links to other sites other than FamilySearch that can help you in your research.

The article can be found at

Ancestry® Launches AncestryHealth®
Ancestry has updated their DNA-for-health service by launching AncestryHealth® powered by Next Generation Sequencing (NGS). It is designed to help people understand their risk for developing certain inheritable health conditions such as heart disease, breast cancer, colon cancer and blood disorders.

Next-generation sequencing (NGS) is the catch-all term used to describe a number of different modern sequencing technologies. These technologies allow for sequencing of DNA and RNA much more quickly and cheaply than those previously used. Ancestry states that Next Generation Sequencing offers more comprehensive data on more commonly inherited health conditions.

AncestryHealth is available to adults (ages 18+) in the United States, with the exception of New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island, for $179. Existing AncestryDNA® customers can upgrade to AncestryHealth for $99.

Additional information, including how to order, can be found at

Genealogy Basics Chapter 4: Using Photos to Discover More About Your Ancestors
MyHeritage continues its series on Genealogy Basics with “Chapter 4: Using Photos to Discover More About Your Ancestors.” Subsections of the essay include:
   • Get a closer look
   • What photos can tell you
   • Clothing and hairstyles
   • Pose, facial expression, and action
   • Ages of the subjects
   • Family resemblance
   • Digitize your photos

The article can be found at

“Ransomware in the Age of COVID-19”
Hal Bookbinder has published his latest article in the series, “Practicing Safe Computing.” It is titled, “Ransomware in the Age of COVID-19.” It is an update to his May 2016 article on ransomware. Bookbinder notes that ransomware has shifted over the past four years from locking down data and threatening to keep it locked up, or even to destroy it, pending receipt of an untraceable payment. Ransomware today does this and also exports a copy threatening to expose the data. This is generally more of an issue for businesses than individuals.

The article, as well as previous articles in the series, can be found at

Major Libraries Close
National Library of Israel has announced that due to budgetary constraints related to the coronavirus crisis, their 300 employees will be going on unpaid leave effective August 17. The brief announcement can be found at

U.S. Library of Congress buildings and facilities will be closed to the public, including researchers and others with reader identification cards, starting at 5pm March 12 until further notice. Even so, the work of the Library continues, as they bring more public programming online, continue the work of digitizing more collections to make them available outside of the Library’s walls, and explore new ways to celebrate milestones in the history of the Library and of this nation virtually. Additional information is at for-public/?loclr=ealn.

Blackstone Group Acquires Majority Stake in Inc
Blackstone Group Inc., a global investment firm, has acquired a majority stake in Inc. The deal is valued at $4.7 billion. The announcement noted that Ancestry has 3 million paying subscribers and more than 18 million people in its DNA network.
It is unclear how this acquisition will affect the consumer that uses its genealogy and DNA services.

The announcement on, a financial and business news service, also stated that LLC is readying an initial public offering, preparing “to take advantage of growing consumer interest in DNA tests and investors’ appetite for new health and technology stocks.” This implies there is more than one company; one with an LLC suffix and one with an Inc suffix. Conceivably two companies could form, one focusing on DNA testing and the other on genealogy.

More information is available at

FamilySearch Adds 8M Records This Week
A list of recent additions to FamilySearch, more than 8M index records, can be found at This site provides direct links to the individual collections. They include records from Brazil, England, France, Germany, Peru, South Africa, United States and Venezuela.

More than 5.4M records are for a new index to France, Nord, Parish and Civil Registration, 1524–1893. There are 456K additions to the Canadian census of 1851; more than 661K index records added to United States, GenealogyBank Historical Newspaper Obituaries, 1815–2011; and a new collection, 403K index records for New York, New York, Index to Passengers Lists of Vessels, 1897-1902. This latter one is a new collection unfamiliar to me even though I have looked through Ellis Island indexes for years. They are handwritten index cards with a soundex code written at the top.

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 Collections at
Ancestry has updated a few record groups this week. 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. There is also no indication of how many records were added to the updated collections.

Updated Collections
Ontario, Canada Births, 1832–1914
Canada, Selected School Yearbooks, 1901–2010
Montana, State Deaths, 1907–2018

Do You Subscribe to AVOTAYNU?
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 36th 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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