Nu? What's New?

Nu? What's New is a bi-weekly Internet magazine published by Avotaynu providing information of interest to persons tracing their Jewish family history.

To be added or removed from the Nu? What's New? mailing list,
go on the Internet to

Vol. 4, No. 12 - July 13, 2003

Another Stephen P. Morse Portal

Stephen P. Morse has done it again. He has created a superior portal to yet another Internet site that is useful for genealogy. The Morse site now includes the ability to obtain a road map or aerial view of any place in the world. It can be linked to from his home page

Key in a given latitude/longitude in degrees, minutes and seconds and the Morse portal will provide a road map, courtesy of, or an aerial view, courtesy of For the U.S. and Canada, it is unnecessary to know the latitude/longitude, because Morse permits identification of a location by street address.

The quality of the aerial views is quite poor for locations in Eastern Europe. Cities as large as Warsaw show little detail, but locations in Western Europe and North American show incredible detail. You can see individual buildings in Berlin, London and Paris. I was able to get an aerial view of my own home that clearly shows the swimming pool on the property of my next door neighbor.

To get the exact latitude/longitude of any place in the world except the United States, I use For locations within the U.S., I use

When defining a location at the Morse site, be sure to correctly specify whether the latitude is north or south of the equator and the longitude is east or west of Greenwich. I keyed in the lat/long of my ancestral town of Warka, Poland, and asked for an aerial view. I got nothing! I then keyed in the lat/long of the town where I now live in New Jersey and realized I had requested for Warka a global position west of Greenwich rather than east of Greenwich. When I corrected this, I got an aerial view of Warka. The first request was processed correctly. When I erroneously specified west of Greenwich, what I received was an aerial view in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean!!

Sample maps I retrieved using the Morse site can be found at They include views of the Houses of Parliament in London; Arc de Triomphe in Paris; Warka, Poland; and my house.

Next Year in Jerusalem

AVOTAYNU editor, Sallyann Sack, just returned from her annual trip to Israel to collect information that will appear in the Summer issue of AVOTAYNU. While there,she met with the members of the Israel Genealogical Society who will be hosting next year's 24th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy. She was very excited about the planned program. Commenting to me about the security problem, she said that things are not much different than when the conference was last held in 1994 or previously held in 1984. She ate at her favorite outdoor cafe and drove her rented car to meet with officials at various research sites from Haifa in the north to Ashdod in the south. Her comments, which will appear in the Summer issue of AVOTAYNU, were that "the security situation just is not as dreadful as many people think." She noted that her hotel was filled with Americans, many with children.

More Book Signings at the Conference

Two Avotaynu authors were inadvertently left off the list of authors who will be autographing their books at the conference. Suzan Wynne, author of "Finding Your Jewish Roots in Galicia: A Resource Guide," will sign her book on Monday, July 21 from 3:00-3:30. Lawrence Tapper, author of "A Biographical Dictionary of Canadian Jewry: 1909-1914," will sign his book on Thursday, July 24 from 3:00-3:30. A complete list of planned author signings can be found at

News About Online Databases

The JewishGen Holocaust Database now contains information from 53 databases and more than 400,000 entries about Holocaust victims and survivors. It is located at

There is now a search engine for more than 25,000 Istanbul marriage and burial records at

Links to Internet sites that have indexes and information about UK births, marriages and deaths is located at

There are a number of online databases at the American Jewish Historical Society site There is a database of Jewish men who answered questionnaires sent by the American Jewish Committee about their participation in World War I; Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum Records indexes of names found in ledgers from 1879-1925; Hebrew Orphan Asylum of the City of New York indexes of names recorded in a ledger titled "Index of Children, 1860-1900;" and Industrial Removal Office Records, 1899-1922. The Industrial Removal Office placed Jewish immigrants arriving and living in New York City into Jewish communities throughout the United States and Canada, finding them work and often providing loans for travel and board. has a national U.S. telephone directory from 1994 at

Hey, Mister, Wanna Buy a Subscription to AVOTAYNU Cheap?

An annual subscription to AVOTAYNU costs $35 per year, but that isn't the price on At that Internet site, you can buy it for $49.55. The extra cost is for the "cost of sourcing and distributing the subscription." You can also buy an annual subscription to FORUM, the magazine of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, for $31.95 on Alternately, you can get it directly from FGS for $18.

The service is being offered through an intermediary, EBSCO Industries, a highly reputable firm whose clients are mostly libraries who want the convenience of ordering many subscriptions through a single source. For this convenience they knowingly pay EBSCO above list price for the subscription in exchange for the service.

Anyone who has purchased a book from knows that they boast when they offer you a discount, specifying the list price and the lower selling price. In this case, they are selling magazine subscriptions above list price, and the regular price is not shown. The web site notes that the subscription is non-refundable because "some publishers of professional or trade magazine subscriptions do not allow cancellations. Consequently, these subscriptions are not refundable."

Shame on you To subscribe to AVOTAYNU at nearly 30% less than the price, go to

Classic E-mail Inquiries

For the past few years, Miriam Weiner of Routes to Routes Foundation, Susan King of JewishGen and I have been sharing unusual e-mail inquiries we receive from people. Some of them are quite amazing. Below are some of the better ones we have received.

Jewish History
In the novel [I am writing], I describe the Kishinev pogrom of April 7, 1903. However, other than the date of the pogrom and the casualties, I have very little knowledge about the pogrom, so I was basically going to put fiction in place of real facts, as best as I could. However, I came across your website on Kishinev, so I wonder if you could be kind enough to send me some information on the pogrom.

Jewish Culture
Can you please tell me if you have ever come across Orthodox rabbis wearing brown herringbone patterned coats instead of the traditional black? If so, where are they located?

I'm having trouble finding out what happened to all of the clothing that the Holocaust murder victims had to leave at the showers before changing into prison uniforms. Also, when exactly did the Jews leave Israel? I found some information that said when Babylonia took control of Israel, but not a specific date. Any help would be appreciated.

1. I am writing a report for one of my classes. Do you have any information or materials that I can research about the genealogy of Abraham? Please let me know thank you!

2. I need a family tree of the line of Adam until King David, son of Jesse as soon as possible. Is it possible to obtain this information over the Internet tonight? Please let me know asap. Thank you very much!!!

3. I need information on "what is a synagogue?". Kindly mail me information about synagogues in the Old Testament.

Is it possible to receive a copy of page 404, without buying the book? [The suggested answer to this inquiry was, "We normally accommodate such requests but unfortunately someone has already bought page 404 from our single sheet edition."]

Genealogical Inquiries
1. I am looking for a place in Poland that would give me a free list of my ancesters (sic). Do you know of a web site I could try? My father was living in northern Poland before World War 2. Could you help? I sure do appreciate your time.

2. Last name is I-------, need info on my grandparents from a town near Uman.

3. Can you help me to look for the L---- Family. My grandfather name is Ernest L----. He marriage Nellie V. help I am try If The L---- have some Indian on there side of the family. I try to get Indian blood certification from them. (sic)

4. Jefferson county kentucky. John Laney

5. My finance (sic) & I are starting to do a geneology (sic) on her family.

6. Please send me information about Martha Taufarher. I would like to know who she was, where she lived and what is known about her death.

7. How else would one pronounce Klophenstein?

8. Could someone please define, both in writing and by sending me a map, where in Warsaw would there be German borders, and what years did they change from Polish to German. (Posted to the JRI-Poland Mail List.)

1. I sent emails to YIVO and Beth Hatefutsoth for information on Teofipol/Tshon/Chon and never got a response. Can you look into it or know why I didn't get a response?

2. I know my family tree since my great-grandfather arrived in the U.S. in the mid-1850's. Before I spend $45, how do I know that you have information which I don't?

3. I have approximately 5,000 people on my family tree and think it is time for it to be published. I cannot afford it on my own. How might I be able to get financial assistance from you?

E-mail That Does Not Describe Anything
I know this sounds perfectly crazy, but can you tell me how I could find out whether I have already signed up?

E-mail That Does Not Describe Anything: The Sequel
My Dad is from Pinsk
He was born September 5th, 1910
Left for Israel and became citizen
Married twice.
I am the youngest son of his second wife Sarah.
Changed his name from Feldman
I think his parents were killed in the pogroms, but he did not talk about it to me.
He died in 1987.
He is survived by his three sons.


Legitimate But Cute
I am a company member of the production company of Fiddler on the Roof. I would appreciate it if I could tie up your time for a few short moments. I would love to obtain information on Jewish culture in general, however more specifically, I would appreciate it if you could share the traditions, customs and rituals involved with Sabbath, as well as any other information. As a 11th Grade student I take pride in my work and would love to have a full rounded knowledge of the perspective of the culture I am to portray.

Covert Anti-Semitism
A question that is troubling our household: Could you tell me whether Goldberg is a well-known Jewish name?

And, Finally, For Those Who Think Anti-Semitism Is Dead in Eastern Europe, this e-mail was received from Vilnius, Lithuania:
Dear Madame President,

Can you tell us now how many records you have in your illustrious All-Lithuania Database? Your database become famous among archives in all Lithuania. Can we make Gentile ALD also?

Can you also explain to us how Jews become so rich in Lithuania? We have many towns where our olders tell us that Jews who lived there buried their gold and stones in the ground, and many of our nationals are trying since many years to find this gold and stones but few have finded (sic) them. Do Jews use special equipment to do this? I know all Jews are smart could make special equipment. My family is happy to share many finds with world Jews if we find things.

And can help us prepare this Gentile true Lithuanian database.

Vol. 4, No. 13 - July 27, 2003

Major Announcements Made at 23rd International Conference on Jewish Genealogy

The 23rd International Conference on Jewish Genealogy is history. It was held in Washington, D.C. last week with some 1,200 people attending.

There were four major announcements at the conference that are elaborated below.
  * Yad Vashem plans to place online digitized and indexed images of their important Holocaust collections. All Pages of Testimony, the Gedenkbuch, French deportations and other name lists are already completed
  * The National Yiddish Book Center plans to reprint 650 yizkor books.
  * JewishGen plans to integrate many of their databases into All-"Country" systems.
  * JewishGen has launched their JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry.

Next year's conference will be in Jerusalem, Israel, July 11-16. The Israel Genealogical Society will host the event. I was encouraged by comments made by many people at the Washington conference who said they plan to go to Israel next year. Some specifically stated that the fear-of-flying fear-of-terrorism that exists among some people would not deter them from going. The Israeli conference planners have already established a website at Complete the Survey Form if you are planning to attend. It will greatly help the planners.

Yad Vashem Unveils Online Pages of Testimony

Yad Vashem unveiled at the recently concluded 23rd International Conference on Jewish Genealogy a very preliminary version of an online "Names Memorial Database" that includes more than 10 sources of information about the fate of persons caught up in the Holocaust--some four million digitized records. It includes all Pages of Testimony (PoT) plus name lists from France (Klarsfeld deportation lists), Germany (Gedenkbuch), Greece, Hungary (Nevek project), Luxembourg, Netherlands, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, and Mauthausen and Theresienstadt concentration camps. Alexander Avraham, director of the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, which houses the Pages of Testimony, indicated that their goal is to have the system available to the public by summer 2004.

Pages of Testimony are one of the most important collections for Holocaust genealogical research. (For those not familiar with Pages of Testimony, a description can be found at I had the opportunity to use the preliminary version a week before the conference and it has already been of value in my personal research. Amazingly, I was able to determine that a first cousin of my father survived the Holocaust, a fact previously unknown to the family. I am in the process of trying to locate the person or her descendants. Just the day before publishing this edition of Nu? What's New?, I received an inquiry from a man of German-Jewish ancestry who stated he was trying to find information about his father's sister and brother. He stated "Both disappeared in the Holocaust and it is unknown what happened to them and their families." In less than 15 minutes, sitting at my home computer, I was able to determine that the aunt was "deported to the East (Riga)" on December 14, 1942, and his uncle was deported to Prague.

The system is very well thought out--even in the preliminary version. When I saw Alex Avraham at the conference, I told him I was very impressed with the system. He was apologetic stating there still was much to do. My response was that I would be happy if one-tenth of the software I used was of the quality that existed in the preliminary version of what Yad Vashem has developed.

There are two search screens identified as Basic and Complex. The Basic search permits the user to search by last name, first name and place. The Complex search allows access to most fields on the Page of Testimony including last name, first name, father's first name, mother's first name, date of birth (approx), place of birth, place of residence, spouse's first name, profession, date of death (approx), place of death, submitter's last name and submitter's first name.

Most of these fields can be searched by Exact Spelling, Phonetic, Synonym or Word Stem (Word Stem is meant for names spelled in Hebrew). The Synonym feature is very powerful. Yad Vashem has compiled a list of both last and first names and determined which are synonyms of the other. This feature is especially useful for given names. In one example, searching for a person whose name was Rose, identified women whose given names were Raizel, Reize, Riscl, Raizela, Royze, Roza, Roze and Ruza.

The last name search automatically includes searching for maiden name. Thus a search for anyone named "Mokotoff" included among the results married women whose information on the Page of Testimony indicated their maiden name was "Mokotoff." My family tree includes a number of female Holocaust victims whose married names were unknown to me. Locating the PoT of a woman who was born a Mokotoff not only provided me with her married name but invariably the name of the husband. As stated above, the system is very well thought out with the user in mind.

You can even search by submitter name. In the past 15 years I have submitted scores of PoT but lost control of which family members I had identified as Holocaust victims. Using this feature, I was able to determine that I had submitted 77 documents.

Yad Vashem to Digitize Their Microfilm Collection

As almost an aside, Alex Avraham of Yad Vashem noted in his lecture that the institution has purchased equipment that will permit them to digitize their microfilm collection. Their first project will be to convert the copy they have of the records of the International Tracing Service with plans to eventually make the records available to the public.

National Yiddish Book Center to Reprint Yizkor Books

The National Yiddish Book Center located in Amherst, Massachusetts, has signed an agreement with the New York Public Library that permits them to reprint and sell all yizkor books in the library's collection--some 650 books. The books will be scanned using high resolution equipment, and the images will be used to produce the reprints. Samples were on display at the 23rd International Conference on Jewish Genealogy. The quality of the text was quite good; the picture reproduction was only fair. Future plans call for duplicating additional yizkor books where permission can be granted. (A description of what are yizkor books can be found at

The National Yiddish Book Center site is At present, there is no information about the project at the site.

JewishGen Announces All-Country Database Systems

JewishGen has announced plans to integrate many of its search engines into "All-Country" systems. The new "All-Poland" system, the first of this type, is located at It consists of more than two million records for Poland from a variety of sources including vital records (Jewish Records Indexing-Poland project), business directories, voter lists, passenger manifests, yizkor books and other Holocaust sources, JewishGen Family Finder and the JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial registry.

All-Country systems can be searched by surname or town name. Using the surname Urbach (Exact Spelling option), the search engine returned 662 matches; 507 in JRI-Poland (listed by guberniya), 26 in JewishGen Family Finder, 18 in the JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial registry, 97 in Holocaust-related databases, 3 in a Galician business directory, 10 in a 1907 Voter list and 1 in a list of immigrants to New York in 1890-91 from Austria, Poland and Galicia. Searching for the ancestral town of the Mokotow family, Warka, Poland, it identified 466 records in JRI-Poland, 20 in the JewishGen Family Finder, 394 in the Warszawa guberniya Duma 1907 voter lists and 4 records in the Czestochowa Forced Laborers List.

The term "country" is used in the broadest sense. Any town that was once in Poland is included. If the town is no longer in Poland, it will also appear in the All-Country system in its current country.

Other All-Country systems already exist at JewishGen but none yet have the integration that exists in the All-Poland environment. All will eventually be upgraded.

JewishGen Launches Online Worldwide Burial Registry

JewishGen announced at the 23rd International Conference on Jewish Genealogy the launching of its JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry database (JOWBR), a compilation of burial records, photographs and information about individual cemeteries. The system already has data on 643 cemeteries, 314,778 burial records, and 11,461 tombstone photographs representing cemeteries in 25 countries. In the coming year, JewishGen intends to include information for an additional 242 cemeteries, 150,461 burial records and 22,400 tombstone images from 36 cemeteries in Eastern Europe. The system can be found at

Susan King, founder of JewishGen, included in the JOWBR demonstration the first example of online data entry for JewishGen projects. Most of the Hebrew inscriptions on tombstones in the current database have not been translated, and a system has been designed to allow volunteers to view the tombstone online with adjacent data entry fields. There are almost 12,000 tombstones that need translating. Volunteers should contact JewishGen.

Vol. 4, No. 14 - August 10, 2003

Lawrence Sack Passes Away

It is with great sadness that we announce that Lawrence C. Sack, M.D., husband of Avotaynu co-founder Sallyann Sack, died Tuesday, August 5, in Boston. He and his family were vacationing at their summer home on Martha's Vineyard when he suddenly became ill. He was 69 years old.

Larry was a "genealogy widow," not actively participating in Sallyann's many genealogy ventures, but constantly providing her with the moral support needed that has made Sallyann one of the most productive persons in Jewish genealogy. Those of us who knew him enjoyed his warmth and humor.

Sallyann has requested that any person who would like to make a contribution in her husband's memory should donate to the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem. In the United States, the donation can be made through a tax-deductible non-profit organization: P.E.F. Israel Endowment Funds, Inc., 317 Madison Avenue, Suite 607, New York, NY 10017. Be sure to designate the gift is for CAHJP. Comparable institutions may exist in other countries. If not, you can contribute directly to the archives at its address: POB 1149, 91010, Jerusalem, Israel.

Major Improvement to Online Family History Library Catalog

There have been two major improvements to the online version of the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library Catalog: (1) you can now search the database by keyword and (2) updates to the catalog will occur more frequently.

The catalog identifies the complete holdings of the library which contains more than 2.5 million rolls of microfilm, 250,000 books and 700,000 microfiche. It is located at

The regular cataloguing scheme is a bit cumbersome and the keyword feature will permit users to locate rapidly what information is available about a town, surname or subject. The online catalog now includes eight methods of searching the database: place name, surname, keyword, title, film/fiche number, author, subject and call number.

It was also reported to me that plans call for updating the online catalog "daily."

Jewish Genealogical Research Trip to Salt Lake City

If you failed to have your genealogical "fix" for the year because you did not attend the very successful International Conference on Jewish Genealogy held recently in Washington, D.C., consider spending a week doing research in Salt Lake City in late October. Every year, veteran professional genealogist Eileen Polakoff and I accompany a group of Jewish genealogists on a research trip to Salt Lake City. This year's dates are October 30 - November 6. Experience levels range from absolute beginners to advanced researchers all of whom take advantage of the individual consultations with Eileen and me as well as access to the 2.5 million microfilm reels of records at the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library. Additional information can be found at

Auschwitz Archives Prisoner List Online

The Auschwitz Archives has placed information about 69,000 prisoners who died at the infamous concentration camp online at Only a Polish version currently exists. The information can be searched by surname (nazwisko), given name (imie), place of birth (miejsce urodzenia) and place of residence (miejsce zamieszkania). Information displayed is name, date and place of birth, date of death, and last residence. If your request produces more than 40 hits, a warning message is generated and nothing is displayed. The home page is The site has some interesting sections. The "Latest News" portion has a number of feature articles about the history of Auschwitz s well as current plans.

Canadian Naturalization Index 1915-1932 Now Online

The Jewish Genealogical Societies of Montreal and Ottawa have joined forces with the Canadian Genealogy Centre to place almost 200,000 names of persons who became naturalized between 1915 and 1932 on the Centre's website. Plans call for including the years 1933-1951 which will raise the total to 600,000 names. The information is located at

The database consists of scanned images of lists of names of those naturalized subjects printed in the annual reports of the Secretary of State (Sessional Papers) and in the "Canada Gazette." There is an everyname index for 1915-1920 and all supplementary lists of special cases from 1915-1932. For 1921-1932, the system displays links to those pages in which the name might appear. Using Acrobat Reader for this second group, the user displays the page and searches for names of interest. Once an entry is found, the researcher can request of the Canadian government the whole file for the person.

The Canadian Genealogy Centre is a branch of the Library and Archives of Canada.

CD-ROM Identifies French Naturalizations from 1900-1950

There is a CD available that is an index to French naturalizations from 1900-1950. More than one million people are identified. Information provided includes name (including maiden name of spouse), date and place of birth, date of naturalization and the naturalization reference number. The actual documents can then be searched at the French National Archives. Cost of the CD is 34 Euros plus shipping. Information can be found at The site includes a search engine. Key in a surname and it returns the number of persons in the database with that particular surname.

The site is in French. Use the translating facility at if you do not understand the language. At that AltaVista site paste in the URL to translate the French page to your native language.

Visit the home page of this site at There are a number of CDs available identifying persons who live(d) in France. A search engine on this home page identifies which of 15 different databases for sale contain a particular surname.

FGS Conference in Orlando

If you live in Florida, you might want to consider attending the annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies which this year will be held in Orlando, Florida, from September 6-9 at the Renaissance at Sea World Hotel.

The conference has more than 100 sessions on genealogy given by some of the best lecturers of the American genealogical community. You won't get total immersion in Jewish genealogy as existed at the Washington conference, but if you thread your way through the program, you will find there is at least one lecture of value at every session primarily in methodology, Internet resources, Florida research and others. I will be giving lectures as will Eileen Polakoff and Gladys Paulin.

One aspect present at the FGS conference not found at Jewish conferences is the enormous exhibitor's hall. More than 70 vendors will be displaying their wares, be it genealogical software, Internet services, books on American genealogy, short-run publishers, DNA testing services, genealogy-oriented novelties and others. Avotaynu will be exhibiting there.

The complete program can be seen at Use the buttons at the top of the page to walk through each day of the program.

New Publication Date for Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy

Publication of
Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy has been delayed. The new estimated ship date is mid-October. All the chapters have been written and most edited. All that remains is to add the illustrations to each chapter. Given that there are 100 chapters to the book, if each chapter takes only a half-hour, there is still 50 hours of work remaining.

Additional information about the book, including the complete Table of Contents and a sample chapter can be found at

Finding Your Jewish Roots in Galicia Going Out of Print

Finding Your Jewish Roots in Galicia is almost out of print. We have only 32 copies remaining, and there are no plans to reprint. Published in 1998 by Avotaynu, the book is a comprehensive guide to doing Galician-Jewish genealogical research. Its content includes items such as archival collections of Jewish vital and other records; geographic, visual and language aides; books; documents related to the Holocaust; and articles about travel and research in specific towns by members of Gesher Galicia, the Special Interest Group for Jewish genealogy. The archival collections portion has been superseded by such lists as the inventory posted at the Routes to Roots Foundation, but the other segments such as the history of Galicia and basic principals of Galician-Jewish research are still valuable.

The author, Suzan Wynne, is the founding president of Gesher Galicia and has been doing Galician genealogical research for more than 25 years. Additional information, including the Table of Contents can be found at [The book is now out of print].

Vol. 4, No. 15 - August 24, 2003

The Wolf Blitzer and Christiane Amanpour of Jewish Genealogy

In the 19 years Sallyann Sack and I have spent gathering information and sharing it with researchers of Jewish genealogy, we have developed many contacts. It is the principal reason why our journal, AVOTAYNU, is filled with so much information that is on the cutting edge of Jewish genealogical research. I tell people that when Sallyann goes to Israel and sits down with the head archivist of the Central Archives of the Jewish People, what they talk about the most is their grandchildren. That is the level of rapport we have with the movers and shakers that matter to Jewish genealogists.

It seems logical, therefore, that the lead article in the Summer issue of AVOTAYNU, which is now (finally) at the printers, guessed it: "Jewish Resources in Baghdad." A close friend of ours, Harold Rhode, was one of the U.S. government officials who went to Iraq after the collapse of the Hussein regime. Harold is a member of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington, so like any good genealogist, his interest in Baghdad extended beyond the role for which he was sent.

He found in the basement of the Iraqi Intelligence Service hundreds of Jewish books, records and Torahs, water-damaged by a 2000-pound American bomb that failed to explode but broke the water pipes in the building. His discoveries are described in the lead story. He also describes the remnant of a once viable Iraqi-Jewish community that numbered more than 150,000. There are now less than one hundred Jews living in Iraq.

There is nothing that upsets me more than to see photographs of Jewish artifacts located in places where Jews once lived but no longer exist because they were murdered, evicted or fled. Whether it is an abandoned wooden synagogue in Lithuania, Torah scrolls stacked up like cord wood in a Ukrainian archives or the urban renewal project the Arabs did to the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem after the 1947 War of Israeli Independence (they even destroyed the synagogue).

We can now add Iraq to the list.

Other articles in the Summer issue discuss Balkans, Belgium, Germany, Israel, Lithuania, Netherlands, Russia, South Africa, Transcarpathia and Turkey. The issue includes those topics plus the usual information supplied by our 22 Contributing Editors throughout the world; summaries of reports from Jewish genealogical societies and Special Interest Groups; and book reviews.

You can subscribe to AVOTAYNU at

JRI-Poland/Polish State Archives Online Ordering Project a Success

Jewish Records Indexing - Poland has reported on their Discussion Group that the pilot project which permits ordering vital records from the Polish State Archives (PSA) through the Internet has been a success. Since late last year, the JRI-Poland Order Processing Center has worked with the Bialystok and Lomza branches of PSA to test the new system.

The plan now is to implement the "shopping basket" system in all branches of the archives through a two-step approach. The first step is to increase the number of PSA branches in the program from 2 to 14 within a month or two. The second step is to have all branches on the new system by the end of the calendar year. The next PSA branches to utilize the new system have not been finalized, but will include many of the larger PSA branches and their sub-branches.

The ordering process is integrated with the index at the JRI-Poland site. When you search the index, the results include a new column at the extreme left of each entry: "Order?" Click the entry, and the request for that vital record is added to a list that resembles the shopping cart design that exists at most Internet sites where products or services can be ordered. After identifying all the records desired, you complete the order in the same manner as any online shopping cart system.

There is a step-by-step tutorial of the shopping basket system on the JRI-Poland website at The announcement of the pilot project can be found at

Photographs/Audio Tapes of the Washington Conference Available

If you missed the 23rd International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, you can live it vicariously at two sites that present photographs of the event. CMS Communications has placed online photographs of the event at Also Boris Feldblyum has posted photos at Copies of the photographs are for sale.

More valuable are audiotapes of the more than 100 lectures available through Repeat Performances. If you attended the conference and missed a lecture because of another commitment, or you did not attend the conference and want the benefit of knowledge provided by any of the lecturers, tapes are for sale at Hundreds of tapes of previous conferences going back to 1984 are also available. They can be located at by searching for any genealogy conference that has the word "Jewish." You can also search by topic or author. For example, there are 54 lectures I have given in the past 15 years at various conferences.

Only a Limited Number of Openings Available for Salt Lake City Trip ===============================================
There are now 32 persons signed up for the annual Jewish Genealogical Trip to Salt Lake City run by two veteran professional genealogists, Eileen Polakoff and me. We limit the group to 40. It will take place October 30-November 6. Experience levels range from absolute beginners to advanced researchers all of whom take advantage of the individual consultations with Eileen and me as well as access to the 2.5 million microfilm reels of records at the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library. Additional information can be found at

Galicia Book Sold Out

The book Finding Your Jewish Roots in Galicia: A Resource Guide is now sold out. It was announced in the last issue of Nu? What's New? that there was a limited number of copies left. All have been sold in the past two weeks.

There are no plans to reprint the book.

A Case Study

There is a new UK website that contains and index and images of documents pertaining to 200 years of immigration to Britain--Irish, Jewish, Asian, African, and West Indian. The site is located at The actual documents are in PDF format and can be downloaded. The site had particular significance to my personal research because it provided closure to a branch of the Mokotow family about whom I have been pursing information for the past 21 years.

One of the negative consequences of my heavy involvement in growing Jewish genealogy is that my personal research has suffered. I have defaulted to the technique of not seeking out documents of my ancestors, but letting the documents seek out me. My experience is that if you wait long enough, some event will occur that will help you fill in another piece of the family history puzzle.

The British site concluded my research into one of the most dramatic stories in the Mokotow family history. It is the story of Leonhard Mokotow and his parents. The story started with a letter I received in 1982, just three years after I began researching the Mokotow family. It was from a "genealogical cousin" who lives in England. He is my fourth cousin, but the common bond is that we are both Mokotows.

The letter read:

"In 1937, my father received a cable from Berlin, a desperate plea. It was from his cousins the German Mokotovs. Please would you look after our 15 year old son Leonard (Hardy). So Hardy Mokotov came to live with us in September 1937. When the war began in 1939, the Government decided that `enemy aliens' had to live at least 20 miles from the coast. (Portsmouth is the largest Naval port in the country.) Seventeen-year-old Hardy was, they decided, an enemy alien. My father arranged Jewish lodging and work in a large Jewish factory. The owners promised to look after him. The location was of the outskirts of London.

"On the 11th of September 1940, a German bomber, miles off target, discharged its bombs. They exploded on a shelter where my 18-year-old cousin was sheltering. He was buried in the West Ham cemetery in London. My parents were distraught. Hardy was an only child. His parents had entrusted him to their care.

"We survived the war. In 1945, my father had a letter from Hardy's parents. They had escaped to Vichy France. They had been hidden by friends and they too had survived, but they were both very sick. They wanted their son. All through the terrible war years, they at least felt happy that their son was safe.

"My poor father had to tell them the truth. I believe they died shortly afterwards. My father had a stroke three years later, I am sure partly from this. The rest of his life was spent as an invalid until his death in 1969, just 6 weeks before my son was born."

Since receiving this letter, I have been able to assemble information about the family.

1. In 1982, an interview with another cousin of that branch of the family gave me the name of the father, Mordechai, and mother, Rosa.

2. In 1988, while attending the annual conference on Jewish genealogy in Washington, I found at the National Archives that Leonhard (the correct spelling of his name) had applied for immigration to the U.S in 1938 and was rejected.

3. In 1995, I located the parents in the 1939 Aryan Census in Germany, which has been microfilmed by the Mormons, showing the mother and father living in Berlin. It gave the places and dates of birth of Mordechai (he called himself "Mordka") and Rosa. It also included Rosa's maiden name, Schwartzfeld, and that she was born in Solka, Romania.

4. In 1999, I received a book from a genealogy friend who, while in a used bookstore in Berlin, found a romance novel written in German and published in 1930 that had stamped on the inside "M. Mokotow. L. Mokotow, Berlin Norden, Wichertstr. 53."

5. In 2000, my British cousin sent me a picture of Leonhard taken in 1938 and another of his gravesite.

6. In 2001, a database was added to the Internet that listed 60,000 civilian casualties in England during World War II. It also lists British Commonwealth forces who died during World War I or World War II. It is located at For Leonhard Mokotow included were date of death, address at time of death, where he died, and where he is buried.

7. I knew the parents had died in Paris, so finally, about six months ago, I had Laurence Abensur, a professional genealogist in Paris, locate their death records. I received the results about a month ago.

8. The British immigration site described above gave me the birth date of Leonhard. The source of the information was an interview he had October 23, 1939, as an enemy alien (he was born in Berlin) where he requested exemption from internment claiming he was not an enemy alien but a Jewish refugee from Nazism. The exact text of the decision to exempt him from internment was at the Internet site. It stated "This person is a Jewish refugee from Nazi oppression. His parents are in Belgium. Has no passport, came on a children's transport. States father came from Poland, mother came from Romania. Has tried to enlist. Says `Germany kicked me out so I want to join up and show my gratitude to the country that has given me refuge.'"

Had the United States admitted him as an immigrant or the British government allowed him to enlist in the armed services, he might be alive today.

So I now have the complete vital information about the family.

Mordka Mokotow, b. 26 Jan 1894 in Warta, Poland. He married Rosa Schwartzfeld, b. 14 Apr 1897 in Solka, Romania, (daughter of Litman Schwartzfeld and Rivka Brecher) d. 19 Feb 1958 in Paris, France. Mordka died 26 Dec 1952 in Paris, France.
Leonhard Mokotow, b. 22 Mar 1922 in Berlin, Germany, d. 11 Sep 1940 in London, England. In 1938, he applied for a visa to the United States and was denied. He was killed at the Public Shelter, Albion Way.

As an epilogue to this story, the cousin who wrote the letter has the unusual circumstance that no male child in his ancestral line--for six generations--has known his paternal grandfather. My cousin's son is Dov ben Tuvia ben Dov ben Tuvia ben Dov ben Tuvia.

Next Edition of Nu? What's New? in Three Weeks

Nu? What's New? will skip a week because I will be attending the annual "Conference for the Nation's Genealogists" of the Federation of Genealogical Societies in Orlando, Florida. It is from September 6-9. I will be lecturing at the conference on Holocaust Research, Access to Records in Eastern Europe, and trying to convince member societies that "It Ain't No Sin to Make a Profit." Avotaynu will be an exhibitor. If you live in the Orlando, Florida, area, it would be worth your while to attend the conference. The complete program can be found at Use the buttons at the top of the page to walk through each day of the program.

The next edition of Nu? Whats' New? will appear September 17.

Vol. 4, No. 16 - September 14, 2003

Beth Hatefutsoth May Close Its Doors

Beth Hatefutsoth, the Nachum Goldmann Museum of the Diaspora, located in Tel Aviv may close its doors permanently due to severe financial problems. Employees at the museum were informed recently that they were being placed on a three months unpaid leave.

Beth Hatefutsoth is one of the major museums of Israel. It is primarily a display museum rather than a research institution. It tells the story of the Jewish people of the Diaspora--beginning with their expulsion from the Land of Israel 2,500 years ago to the present. This is accomplished through reconstructions, dioramas, audio-visual displays, documentary films and interactive media presentations. Three floors house a permanent exhibit; other areas have temporary ones each depicting a different theme. Anyone who has visited the museum will testify to the high quality of these exhibits.

Beth Hatefutsoth houses the Douglas E. Goldman Jewish Genealogy Center, which in 1984 was the genesis of the Family Tree of the Jewish People. Goldman, a descendant of Levi Strauss, is not related to Nachum Goldmann.

The seeds of this financial crisis may have had its roots in the very creation of the museum. It was built from a donation by Nahum Goldmann (1894-1982), a Jewish philanthropist. When creating the museum, he stated that the institution should be governed by five organizations: the City of Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv University, World Jewish Congress (which he founded in 1936), the Jewish Agency and the Israeli government. Part of the responsibility of the directors was to insure the financial viability of the institution. It is difficult to understand how a group of representatives from such an auspicious group of institutions could have the interests of the museum at heart. For example, in economic downturns, each would focus more on the survival of its own programs than on the museum it agreed to manage.

Search Bureau Functions Taken Over by Central Zionist Archives

The function of the Search Bureau for Missing Relatives of the Jewish Agency, run for decades by Batya Unterschatz until she retired two years ago, has been taken over by the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem. The new title of the agency is Search Bureau for Information About Immigrants.

The Search Bureau, or more specifically Batya Unterschatz, developed a well-earned reputation for being able to locate virtually any person in Israel. It was accomplished by Batya's ability to access government records, persistence and ingenuity. There were many circumstances where she reunited relatives, even siblings, who were thought to have been killed in the Holocaust. My personal use of the Search Bureau was to locate persons who submitted Pages of Testimony to Yad Vashem in the 1950s. (For a description of Pages of Testimony, see In some instances the submitter had died, but Batya was able to locate the children of the deceased.

E-mail inquiries should be directed to

DNA Testing - I Am Confused As to Its Value

The recently concluded annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies held in Orlando, Florida, was a great success to those who attended. I usually come away from such conferences which all sorts of new information to write about in Nu? What's New?

Some valuable information I gained was from a lengthy conversation with Bennett Greenspan of the company, Family Tree DNA, about the value of DNA testing in confirming kinship. His organization is allied with JewishGen, and information about the program can be found at Based on my conversation, I am still confused about the value of DNA testing to prove kinship.

I think the excitement about DNA testing is the result of its use by law enforcement agencies to prove (or disprove) participation in a criminal act. It is done by finding an exact match between the alleged perpetrator and crime scene evidence.

DNA testing for kinship does not do exact matching; it matches, at most, 25 DNA markers. According to Greenspan, an exact match on all 25 markers (according to currently accepted scientific claims) means there is "a 50% probability of kinship in the last 8.3 generations." This table of probabilities is described at Family Tree DNA's site at

The problem I have is with the "50% probability" statement. Genealogical research, when applied correctly, demands 100% probability. If a birth record shows that the parents are Abraham and Sarah, a genealogist does not say there is a 50% probability that is the Abraham and Sarah that it is the researcher's great grandparents. Conclusive evidence is required.

Greenspan told me that the probability increases when non-DNA evidence can be added. The implication is that DNA testing should not be used to prove kinship, but to support the belief that there is kinship. For example, I have never been able to prove by genealogical standards of evidence that the Mokotowskis and Mokotows have a common recent ancestor. There is a slender thread of vital records that lend weight to the theory. If I had a Mokotow and a Mokotowski tested and there was an exact match, it would add weight to my theory, but not prove it.

Interestingly, if there was only a near match, it would still lend weight to the kinship between the Mokotows and the Mokotowskis because it could be argued that since there may have been a common ancestor only 8.3 generations ago, there may have been a mutation. But there is the problem with using DNA testing for proving kinship. A near match merely theorizes that a mutation occurred. It cannot be proven unless there are living father/sons where the father has one set of DNA and the son has a near match.

It appears that DNA testing for proving kinship is not a panacea but merely another piece of evidence that suggests kinship. If it has any value, it can prove with certainty no kinship in recent generations if the DNA markers between two persons are substantially different.

Ellis Island Database Still Shows No Improvements

It is now two-and-a-half years since the Ellis Island database went on line. It has been two-and-a-half years since the Statue of Liberty / Ellis Island Foundation (SLEIF), owner of the database, has promised to clean up the glitches in the system. How much progress has been made? None.

They promised that if users sent in corrections to the database they would make the changes. My grandfather, who arrive as Moische Mokotow, is still in the index as ?ukaton, Moische.

In the cases where the ship's manifest exists as two pages, the EIDB displays the second page. To retrieve the first page, there are still cases where you do not click the Previous button but the Next button.

There are still missing pages from the database.

You are foolish to use their portal at Instead use Stephen P. Morse's portal at His search engine is superior to the one created by the EIDB technicians. One would think the EIDB technicians would be so embarrassed they would have cleaned up their act by now.

About a year ago, I offered to correct the town names in the database by enlisting volunteers from the various ethnic genealogical societies. Each would focus on their country of ancestry. I estimated the project would take only about 1,000 hours and would allow people who could not find their (misspelled) ancestors to search by town of residence. My proposal was turned down by SLEIF.

Actually, there is at least one improvement. Instead of offering images of the manifest for free, they now charge $25.00 per page. There are numerous workarounds this blocking effort. The simplest may be to use Netscape 4.7 if you have a copy.

Avotaynu Foundation Publishes Two New Family Histories

Avotaynu Foundation has recently published two new family histories, both of German-Jewish families.

"The Diaries of Bernhard Cahn: A Man of His Time" is a fascinating view of life in Germany in the 19th century from a Jewish perspective. From 1817 through 1871, Bernhard Cahn kept diaries recording daily life and thoughts of a German-Jewish citizen. He was a veteran of the Napoleonic War, and in his community of Kastel, Hesse, he served as teacher, schochet (ritual slaughterer), and religious leader for more than fifty years.

In addition to everyday life, Cahn describes activities such as the arrival of the steam engine and steamboats that would soon ply the Main River, the visits of dignitaries, traveling to visit family members, and secular and religious festivals. He described interactions with the mayor and other officials, Christian officials who attended major Jewish community functions. He wrote much about America and the Civil War, about President Lincoln's assassination, as well as his views on Presidents Jefferson and Grant. Anti-Semitic events in Europe, the building of the Suez Canal, and migration of Germans to America are all described.

The diaries were written in Judeo-German; a form of writing using Hebrew letters to express German words and sounds. His great-great granddaughter, Arline Sachs, translated all 4,000 pages and presents excerpts from these diaries to give a picture of the life of a German-Jewish citizen in the 19th century. Sachs is a genealogist living in the Washington, D.C. area. She was the original creator of what today has evolved into the JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry located at

Ordering information for the book can be found at

"Legacy: The Saga of a German-Jewish Family Across Time and Circumstance" describes the German-Jewish experience in the rural area of southwestern Germany, an area traditionally known as the Kraichgau, in what was once the principality of Baden, now a part of the State of Baden-Württemberg. It is an account of Landjuden (small-town Jews) whose livelihood as horse, cattle, and feed brokers depended upon the needs of the surrounding gentile farming communities. Their life as Schutzjuden (protected Jews) is recorded from the period of the Thirty Years' War to their achieving emancipation in the early 19th century, and they are shown as loyal subjects of imperial Germany in the latter part of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The impact of Nazism on this family is revealed through the life experience of the author, Werner Frank. Included is his immediate family's immigration to the U.S. in 1937, and the ultimate fate of his closest relatives on Kristallnacht, and their subsequent deportations to the death camps beginning in 1940. Archival records, family photographs and documents provide the basis for the story told in this book.

This book is written by Werner Frank, one of the pioneers of the computer software industry. Frank co-founded Informatics, a computer software company of the 1960s that developed the first database management system called Mark IV. It could be said that the word "database" was created by this group.

Ordering information can be found at

Vol. 4, No. 17 - September 29, 2003

Happy New Year. Shana tova umevurechet -- a good and blessed new year.

Levite DNA Show Descent from Central Asia

At least a portion of the ancestry of Levites is from the area of Central Asia that in ancient times was Khazaria. That is the conclusion of the latest work by DNA researcher Dr. Michael Hammer and his associates. Hammer's team was the one who demonstrated through DNA analysis that the paternal ancestry of all Kohanim had a common source and that Ethiopian Jews do not have DNA markers common to Semitic people including Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews.

According to Jewish tradition, Kohanim are Jews who are descended on paternal lines from Aaron, brother of Moses; Leviim are descended from Levi, the son of Jacob; and Ethiopian Jews claim descent from Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

Dr. Hammer's associates indicated in a paper published in Nature in 1998 that the Levites clustered into three groupings, the sources unknown at that time. It took until today to locate one of these groupings. This new research states that 52 percent of Levities of Ashkenazi origin have a particular genetic signature that originated in Central Asia. The new report is published in the current issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics. It was prepared by sampling Levities in Israel, United States and England for the last six years.

An article in the The New York Times at provides additional information. If previously you have not used this service, it is necessary to register to read the article but there is no charge.

A 1911 Encyclopedia Online

There is a 1911 encyclopedia online at This is in addition to the 1907 Jewish encyclopedia at

Old encyclopedias can be valuable in research because they give a perspective on history as it existed in their time period. The encyclopedia represents what was important at the beginning of the 20th century. There are descriptions of many notables of the second half of the 19th century who do not merit a mention in today's encyclopedias.

The Jewish encyclopedia has a superior design. The 1911 encyclopedia does not have a full-word search engine as is true of the Jewish encyclopedia. This means that it can only be used by main topics. It also lacks the illustrations that existed in the printed work. The Jewish encyclopedia captured pictures as well as the original page images from the printed text.

Center for Jewish History Plans Major Expansion

The Center for Jewish History in New York hopes to become the "Library of Congress of the Jewish People" as a result of its planned expansion that will add six new floors to its facility. It will accommodate the Center's rapidly growing collection of rare documents, photographs, artifacts, books, and records of the modern Jewish Diaspora. Officials of the Center claim it will make CJH "the largest repository to preserve Jewish culture and history outside of the State of Israel."

This major expansion come just three years after the institution opened its facilities. As the home of American Jewish Historical Society, American Sephardi Federation, Leo Baeck Institute, Yeshiva University Museum, and YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, it has been a magnet for historians, genealogists, other researchers and the general public.

The Center for Jewish History is located at 15 West 16th Street in downtown New York. Current exhibits include sculptures by Oded Halahmy, a Baghdad-born Iraqi Jew, and a photographic essay that commemorates the hundredth anniversary of the pogrom in Kishinev (now the capital of Moldova). A future exhibit will be about the Jews of Salzburg, Austria. Its Internet site is

On Monday, September 29, a "groundbreaking" ceremony took place prior to the beginning of construction.

Change of Dates for Annual Conference on Jewish Genealogy

The Israel Genealogical Society has changed the dates for the 24th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy to July 4-9, 2004. As originally planned, it will be held at Renaissance Hotel in Jerusalem, Israel. Additional information can be foudn at

Vol. 4, No. 18 - October 19, 2003

Call For Presentations, Jerusalem 2004

The Israel Genealogical Society has issued a call for presentations from potential speakers for the 24th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy to be held from July 4-9, 2004, in Jerusalem, Israel. English will be the official language of the conference. A number of lectures will be presented in Hebrew with simultaneous translation into English. Information on how to submit proposals is located at the conference site: Click on the link "Call for Presentations" to the left of the screen.

The conference will be held at the Jerusalem Marriott Renaissance which is conveniently located near many of the research sites that Jerusalem offers including Yad Vashem, Jewish National and University Library, Central Zionist Archives, Israel State Archives and others. There will be special room rates for conference participants.

A Discussion Group has been set up on JewishGen where interested persons can receive further announcements and make inquiries about the conference. To join the mailing list, go to, fill in your name and e-mail address, then go down the page and choose the Jerusalem 2004 mailing list.

Israeli Telephone Book Portal at Stephen Morse Site

Some time ago, Stephen Morse, author of the best portal to the Ellis Island Database, added English-to-Hebrew and Hebrew-to-English character translators to his site. He has now added a logical extension to this capability with a lookup portal to the Bezeq Israeli telephone book which is available only in Hebrew. The Morse portal can be found at his Home Page

Prior to this utility, it was necessary to key in the Hebrew name to search the Bezeq directory. This required Hebrew keyboard capability in your operating system environment. The Morse utility eliminates this requirement.

Step 1 at the Morse site is to key in the surname in the Roman alphabet. Morse then presents a number of possible spellings in Hebrew for the surname. You copy and paste any option to another area on the screen, and that Hebrew spelling is used to search the Bezeq phone book. I used the name "Mokotov" and it worked perfectly. Morse not only presents the listing from the online directory but also translates the characters into the Roman alphabet. This transliteration is crude--a character for character transliteration--but readable. Moshe appears as Mshh. Yitzhak is Yetzkhk.

Theoretically no knowledge of Hebrew is needed but it can be valuable in saving time. Morse offered four spellings for Mokotov. I knew the first was the one used in Israel. I also knew that the Israeli spelling of my surname was not Mokotoff but Mokotov.

IAJGS Offers Films to Member Societies

The International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies now has a film lending program for member societies. It is in conjunction with Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles (JCLLA). A list of films of interest to genealogists can be found at There are more than 1,000 films in the JCLLA lending library. If you see a film of interest and are a member of a JGS, suggest it to the society's leadership. If you are not a member of a JGS and wish to join one, a complete list of IAJGS member societies can be found at

One video in the lending library I highly recommend is Nobody's Business, an award-winning documentary that is a poignant, humorous look at the conflict between a genealogist and his reclusive father. The genealogist is trying to convince his father that family history is important, and his elderly father's attitude is that nobody cares and it is nobody's business. Another excellent video is The Lost Wooden Synagogues of Eastern Europe.

Images of Broadsides for Trans-Atlantic Steamships

Avotaynu co-owner Sallyann Sack discovered an interesting Internet site that shows advertisements for the steamship companies that made Trans-Atlantic voyages. They often include photographs or sketches of the ships. You can dress up a family history web site with these images. They are located at

Gone Fiching

Next week I travel to Salt Lake City for a week of assisting 35 genealogists--beginners and veterans--with research at the Family History Library. It is my annual (eleventh) Jewish Genealogy Research Trip with professional genealogist Eileen Polakoff. The next issue of "Nu? What's New?" will appear the Sunday after I return on (or about) November 9.

Vol. 4, No. 19 - November 9, 2003

Demise of Netscape

An incident that occurred in publishing the last issue of Nu? What's New? reminds me that Netscape is dead. Dr. Stephen Morse, who formerly worked for Netscape, informed me some months ago that the Netscape sign has been removed from the building where this company existed (it is now owned by AOL), and most of their development personnel have been laid off. It is unlikely there ever will be new updates to the Netscape browser.

I do not like monopolies. I avoid Microsoft products if I can, to encourage competition with this monopoly. That was my initial motivation for using the Netscape browser as opposed to Internet Explorer. I have watched over the past five years the decline of Netscape from 50% usage to less than 5% based on the statistics I receive about activity at the Avotaynu web site.

The tragedy is that Netscape is a superior browser to Internet Explorer in many ways, and the incident that occurred in the last issue of Nu? What's New? was an example. All URLs are checked before I publish the e-zine using Netscape. With 6,500 subscribers, I do not need to be inundated with e-mail that says I published an improper URL. But there was an error in the last issue. I erroneous gave a web address about broadsides for trans-Atlantic steamships as http://www.timetableimages/maritime. Note the absence of ".com" as part of the web address. The correct address was Netscape had the intelligence to add the ".com"; Internet Explorer did not.

That is one of the lesser reasons I use Netscape. Because I use the Internet so frequently, I store about 200 bookmarks. Netscape has a great feature called "keyword" that allows assigning a name to any URL. When I want to use the JRI-Poland site, I do not type the URL I only have to type the keyword I assigned: "jrip." I use Google so much, I assigned it the keyword "g". The site that translates words between languages is "translate" and I get my local weather by typing the word "weather."

In about a year I may be forced to switch to Internet Explorer. Web developers are now creating sites that are not compatible with Netscape, and increasingly I find myself switching to IE to use a particular web site. For example, you cannot get arrival and departure information at the El Al Airlines site using Netscape.

Ancestry Places World War I Draft Records Online
=================================== is in the process of indexing and providing images for all men who registered for the draft during World War I. They now have some indexes and images for the following states: Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Montana, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Major cities where Jews lived include 11 of the draft boards in Bronx, 22 in Brooklyn, 15 in Pittsburgh and most--if not all--of Baltimore. It is located at

The quality of the images is only fair based on the samples I looked at. Copies of the form used for the draft registrations can be found at They identify all the information requested of the registrant and, therefore, make it easier to decipher the handwritten answers.

JRI-Poland Expands Its Records Shopping Basket System

Since last year, Jewish Records Indexing - Poland has had in place a system that permits ordering vital records from the Polish State Archives (PSA) through a shopping basket system on the Internet. It was available as a pilot project only for the Bialystok and Lomza branch offices of the Archives, but now has been expanded to the following branches: Czestochowa, Gora Kalwaria, Grodzisk Mazowiecki, Kalisz, Krakow, Lodz, Lowicz, Lublin, Mlawa, Poznan, Przemysl, Pultusk, Rzeszow, Siedlce, Suwalki, Warsaw and Zamosc. The group expects the remaining branches to be added in early 2004. They are Kielce, Leczycz, Pinczow, Piotrkow Trybunalski, Plock, Radom, Sandomierz, Starachowice, Tomaszow Mazowiecki, Torun and Wloclawek.

The system allows researchers to create a "shopping basket" for copies of records to order by clicking on index entries in the results page of a JRI-Poland database search. Orders can be saved and subsequently amended, modified, or deleted. When a researcher is ready to order, payment can be made by credit card (Visa or MasterCard) or U.S. dollar check or money order.

A step-by-step tutorial of the system can be found at

This is the only shopping basket system I know of that displays an index to vital records located in government archives and then allows a point-and-click ordering of the records. Comparable systems exist for the 1901 census of England and Wales from the Public Records Office ( of the United Kingdom and for Hamburg Emigration Lists 1890-1902 from the Hamburg State Archives

Latest News about the 2004 Conference

El Al airlines will be offering discounts (10% in coach, and 15% in business class) for persons planning to attend the 24th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy to be held in Jerusalem, Israel from July 4-9, 2004.

On the second day of the Conference, July 5, Yad Vashem will make a special effort to have their staff available to offer advice and assistance. That evening, there will be a commemorative event at Yad Vashem in the Valley of the Lost Communities, an area of the Yad Vashem complex that includes monuments that bear the names of 5,000 Jewish communities that were destroyed in the Holocaust. An example of part of the exhibit can be seen at

A Horowitz Families Reunion and Conference will take place on July 11-12, in Tel Aviv, immediately following the International Conference.

It is best to join the Jerusalem 2004 Mailing List to keep abreast of the latest plans for the conference. You can subscribe to the list at

A Visit to the Family History Library

Last week 33 Jewish genealogists joined Eileen Polakoff and me on our annual trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. The balance of this edition of "Nu? What's New?" is based on what was gleaned from the trip.

Case Study: Locating Ancestral Towns

While in Salt Lake City, I helped one of the participants locate two ancestral towns whose exact name and location eluded her. She had taken from an audio tape of an interview with an elderly member of the family, now deceased, the towns of "Yurganitzka" and "Jajanni." All she knew was that they were near Chortkiv in Ukraine.

When she asked for help, she was browsing through "Where Once We Walked" (WOWW) and could not locate either of the towns. (WOWW, a gazetteer published by Avotaynu, identifies 23,500 towns in Central and Eastern Europe where Jews lived before the Holocaust. Additional information about the book is available at I informed her that when you cannot immediately find the town in WOWW, rather than waste time browsing, go to the Daitch-Mokotoff (D-M) Soundex portion of the book which lists the town names by how they sound rather than how they are spelled. "Yurganitzka" has a soundex code of 195645. Using the soundex index there was no town in WOWW that fit the profile of the town being sought. We then tried to locate Jajanni (soundex code 116000) in WOWW. Again, no good results.

We then walked over to one of the computers at the Library and went to the JewishGen Shtetl Seeker database at It is a database of all (350,000) towns in Central and Eastern Europe. Using the D-M soundex search ability of this database, no town was found in the region of Ukraine where these two towns were located.

Shtetl Seeker has another useful feature. You can search for towns within a specified distance of a given town. Chortkiv, the town near our elusive two towns, is located at 49o01'/25o40'. Specifying the latitude/longitude of Chortkiv and limiting the results only to towns starting with the letter "Y", one of the results was the town of "Yagelnitsa". Similarly, using "Jajanni", Shtetl Seeker identified Jezierzany, a variant name of the town of Ozerjany.

I have found that Shtetl Seeker has a disadvantage. Because it is so comprehensive, any combination of letters will produce results. Key in your own name and you will get a lot of hits. Searching for the town of "Jerusalem" in Europe using Shtetl Seeker produces 14 results--four named "Jerusalem" (two in Germany, one in the Slovak Republic and one in the Czech Republic).

WOWW limits itself to towns where Jews lived. In theory, it includes every town in Central and Eastern Europe where at least 10 Jews lived between World Wars I and II. We went back to WOWW to determine if Yagilnitsa and Ozerjany were in the book. They each had substantial Jewish populations. This represented further evidence we had located the towns.

One of the myths of Jewish genealogy is that many Jews lived in a town so small "there was only two houses and one Jewish family." My experience in developing and using WOWW is that Jews did not live isolated from other Jewish families. In fact, their religion encourages living among Jews--Jews cannot pray as a group unless there is a quorum of ten adult males (minyan, in Hebrew).

I analyzed the information in WOWW which has population figures for 17,500 towns comprising 7.5 million people. 50% lived in the 137 largest towns; 95.5% lived in towns with at least 100 Jews; 97.4% lived in towns with at least 50 Jews. The country censuses were taken at various times between World War I and II so the analysis may not stand up to scientific standards.

Acquisition of Hereditary Surnames in the Warsaw Area

Last year the Family History Library added CD writers to their copying equipment. I took advantage of this capability by copying from microfilm all the vital records of the Mokotow ancestral town of Warka, Poland, from 1807-1825. It took me about four hours (maximum throughput was about five frames a minute). In 1826, Russia-Poland started to keep vital records by religion; prior to that year Christian and Jewish records are commingled. In fact, when searching the Family History Library catalog, if Jewish records for your ancestral town start in 1826, it is highly likely there are pre-1826 Jewish records. They will be catalogued as either Catholic Records (example, Warka) or Civil Registrations (example, Warsaw).

My interest in taking home this collection of records was to document the names of the families of the earliest Jewish residents of Warka and to see if there was much interaction between the Christian and Jewish residents of the town. When I visited Warka in 1997, I found records in the church conservatory that showed Jews were witnesses to Christian baptisms in the late 18th century. I have never found a Christian witness to the recording of a Jewish birth, marriage or death, but was curious as to whether Jews witnessed the Christian counterparts.

Examining the indexes on the CD at home, I was amazed to find that few Jews in Warka had hereditary surnames prior to 1826. Most are listed as patronymics. In my 24 years of Mokotow research, I never realized this because I only focused on the Mokotow name. My g-g-g-grandfather, Tuvia David Mokotow, the man who chose our family surname, selected his name no later than 1808, because in that year the Warka register documents the birth of his son Isaac. There are many Mokotow records in the period 1808-1825, all recording the births of Tuvia's children, and, in one case, the marriage of his eldest daughter. Almost all the hereditary surnames during this period in Warka were surnames that were familiar to me because they were men who were the leaders of the Jewish community at that time and, therefore, witnessed many records. According to family legend, Tuvia was one of the leaders of the community and, allegedly, was responsible for building the wooden synagogue there.

This morning, I reread the section on "Surname Adoptions in the Kingdom of Poland" in Alexander Beider's A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland. Beider notes that surname adoption in the Warsaw area (Warka is located 33 miles [54 km] southeast of Warsaw) started as early as 1797, but did not really take hold until the area became part of the czarist Kingdom of Poland and edicts in 1821 enforced the requirement that Jews have hereditary surnames. Enforcement of this rule lasted from 1821-1825.

The lack of surnames prior to 1821 is not a brick wall to ancestral research, but an obstacle that can be circumvented with a little bit of ingenuity. Led Yodaiken, in an article in the Fall 1999 issue of AVOTAYNU ("Tackling the Lack of Surnames in 18th-Century Russian Records"), described such a strategy. I must conquer this brick wall in my research of my father's mother's family: the Wlodawers of Warsaw. Through the index of JRI-Poland database (, I was able to extend my research back two more generations. I knew the name of my great-grandfather, Jakob Wlodawer, because my father is named after him (it is also on my grandmother's tombstone). I found the man's birth record in the 1856 JRI-Poland index. He was the son of Mork and Mindy Wlodawer (well, actually Mordka and Mindla Wlodawer). I found their marriage record in the JRI-Poland database which showed Mordka's father's name was Jakob and mother's name was Frejda Laja. I was able to get both records at the Family History Library last week. Given Mordka's age at time of marriage, I planned to look for his birth record in the 1816 Warsaw civil registrations under the name Mordka Jakobowicz, but records for that year are not at the library and probably have been lost. Earlier and later years do exist. The JRI-Poland index allowed me to piece together many other members of the Wlodawer family including three siblings of Mordka. The next time I go to Salt Lake City, I will examine the birth records for other years in that period for a child named Jakobowicz whose mother was Frejda Leja. Hopefully, the identification of the father Jakob, will include his patronymic, which will extend my knowledge of my Wlodawer ancestry back to the middle of the 18th century.

Fear of Terrorism

In the era before 9-11, I would jokingly say the difference between Israel and the United States is that in Israel they check pocketbooks on the way into a department store and in the United States they check pocketbooks on the way out of a department store. It was the difference between fear of terrorism and fear of shoplifting. On September 11, 2001, I was attending the annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies in Davenport, Iowa. After listening to the television that morning, I went downstairs and greeted by friends with the statement "Welcome to Israel."

Part of the planned program of our Jewish Genealogical Trip to Salt Lake City is attendance of the regular Sunday morning broadcast of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They are one of the finest choirs in the world, and the setting in the Tabernacle itself is simple elegance. I was upset to find that now the standard procedure before entering the Tabernacle for the performance is to check pocketbooks and packages.

Welcome to Israel.

"Inappropriate Content"

Allowing public access to the Internet at the Family History Library it would seem logical that the Mormon Church would block web pages of inappropriate content. I was checking my e-mail at one of the computers and received a message from my son-in-law who was asking my advice about a bottle of wine that he was thinking of buying from an Internet site. When I clicked on the link to get to the site, imagine my surprise when I received a message: "Status 403 Forbidden. Description-Inappropriate content: alcohol."

Vol. 4, No. 20 - November 23, 2003
***************************** Plans Everyname Index to 1850-1892 Ship Arrivals

Those researchers whose ancestors came to the United States before the Ellis Island days know the frustration of trying to find the name of the ship and date of arrival of these ancestors. There are some finding aids, notably in book form, with the "Russians to America" and "Germans to America" series and similar indexes for Irish and Italian immigrants.

My has just announced they plan to develop an everyname index for passengers arriving at the Port of New York from 1850-1892, an estimated 11 million persons. Images of the ships' manifests will also be accessible. Currently available are indexes and images for 1850-1862. The records contain information including the immigrant's name, names of family members, dates of vital events, port and date of arrival.

Dubbed the U.S. Immigration Collection, this resource will eventually provide passenger lists for all of America's major ports including New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans and San Francisco. There is no stated deadline for completion of the project but stated that "names are being added weekly."

The database is part of's fee-for-service. Those who already subscribe to their service will pay an additional fee to access this database. There is a link to the New York Passenger Lists at the home page

Some Excellent European Maps on the Internet

Randy Daitch has made me aware of two remarkable map collections on the Internet, one for Ukraine and the other for Austro-Hungary. Coincidentally, this past weekend, I stumbled on a series of contemporary maps of selected cities and countries in Europe. All show great detail.

Ukraine 1:100,000 Topographic Maps:
Maps of this detail are 1 inch = 19 miles (1 cm = 10 km). The above link displays a map of Ukraine, and clicking on any portion of the main map loads a sectional map. The maps are in Russian. Warning: a typical map is 1.7MB, so it is recommended that you have high-speed download capability.

Austro-Hungarian Empire 1:200,000 Topographic Maps
This Hungarian site only includes the "Hungarian" portions of the main map displayed at the site. The maps do not correspond to any precise national boundary. However, they contain most, if not all of the Kingdom of Hungary. They do not include the region which constitutes the contemporary country of Austria, but do include most of Moravia, Silesia, Galicia and Bukovina all of which belonged to the Austrian part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Most or all of Bohemia appears to be missing as well as the sections of Galicia that include Lvov and Brody. Warning: These maps are typically 4.7MB in size, so the download can be time consuming.

Contemporary Europe
This site requires browsing to understand what is available. It includes maps of Berlin, Bratislava, London, Paris, Prague, Rome, Warsaw and other cities. Where it identifies a country and the statement "more map resources," there is a link to other Internet sites that have detail maps of the country. For example, for Germany, it links to where there are detailed maps of all of Germany.

Origin of Ashkenazic Levites

In the September 29 edition of Nu? What's New? I noted that recent DNA research has demonstrated that the origin of Levite Jews, supposedly all descended along paternal lines from Levi, the son of Jacob, actually showed that the origins of this subset of Jewry had a number of sources. It appears that the DNA testing has uncovered a potentially significant fact. Ashkenazic Levites may not be Levites. DNA evidence suggests they are descended from a non-Jewish man (or small number of non-Jewish men) from Eastern Europe.

I am interested in the subject of using DNA evidence in genealogy, so I obtained a copy of the paper that was published in the American Journal of Human Genetics. The authors are geneticists from Technion and Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Israel; University College in London; and the University of Arizona.

Their research shows that the DNA components tested for Sephardic and Ashkenazic Cohanim are quite similar. Those of Sephardic and Ashkenazic Israelites as well as Sephardic Levites are similar, but Ashkenazic Levites are not similar to any of the above groups.

Some of their conclusions are:
* The paternal ancestry of Ashkenazic and Sephardic Levites are genetically dissimilar.
* The rate of mutation for the particular DNA component studied is very low for Ashkenazic Levites suggesting a recent origin (rather than a Biblical origin) from either a single man or low number of men.
* This origin is in Eastern Europe and is likely non-Jewish.
* A Khazarian origin for Ashkenazic Levites cannot be ruled out.

I found the paper on the Internet. It is a PDF file located at

Annual Conference Looking for Volunteers

If you live in Israel--in Haifa, Beersheva, Gush Etzion, Rechovot, Eilat, the Galil, or anywhere else, you have the opportunity to be part of the excitement of the Jerusalem 2004 conference. Volunteer to help make the conference a success.

There are fringe benefits to being a volunteer:
* You will familiarize yourself with genealogical resources in Israel.
* You will meet fascinating people from all over the world.
* You will become an expert in your area of choice.
If you enjoy meeting people, you can be a hospitality volunteer!
If you have a language skill, you can be a translator!
If you like to run around, you can be a go-fer!

The Israel Genealogical Society needs help before, during, and after the Conference. Contact Martha Lev-Zion at or Batya Guttman at

The 24th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy will bee held in Jerusalem, Israel, from July 4-9, 2004, at the Jerusalem Renaissance hotel. Information can be found at their web site They also have a Mailing List to keep people abreast of the latest plans for the conference. You can subscribe to the list at

New Jewish Genealogical Society - Denmark

Denmark becomes the 17th country to have a Jewish Genealogical Society. The society has a web site at

Other countries with Jewish genealogical societies include Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Netherlands, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, United States and Venezuela. Most are members of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies which has a website at There are links and e-mail addresses for member societies. The United States has the largest number of groups: 50.

Feedback about Alternatives to Internet Explorer
My comments in the last issue of Nu? What's New? about the demise of Netscape drew a number of comments. Many noted that the browser Mozilla is a good alternative to Internet Explorer. Here are a few of the comments from readers.

"Replace your old version of Netscape with the Mozilla Firebird Browser: Mozilla keeps the Netscape tradition alive and all the features you like can be found in this browser. It is faster, better, and more feature laden than Netscape. Not the least of which is an excellent pop-up blocker."

"As a confirmed ABM person [Anything but Microsoft (software)] I have used Netscape for years. But recently, I have switched over to Opera. This is a very fast browser, has a number of features that Netscape lacked, and is free (if you do not mind an ad in the corner) Get rid of the ad if you pay a small price. Go to to try it out."

"The only option for those fighting the Microsoft monopoly is to use an Apple. Macs now have their own browser called "Safari," and yes, there are some sites where I still have to use IE, but not many. I realize this may not be practical for Windows users not ready to buy a new computer, but for those who are, Macs are not that different--and many prefer them, including myself. P.S. We also don't get hit by viruses!!"

"Your comparison of Netscape and the Internet explorer is totally unrelated to Jewish genealogy and has no place in your newsletter. Why would IE add com after a dot when it could be org or edu. Apparently Netscape ain't so smart after all. Think of it this way: If there had never been a Microsoft, there would be no Your bigotry against Microsoft because of its monopolistic tactics is deserved. Why throw out the baby with the bathwater? Apparently you are a MAC user and do not appreciate the power and contribution of Microsoft."

My Annual Trip to Salt Lake City

A number of readers of "Nu? What's New?" wrote to me that they wanted to know more about the experience of doing research at the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library as part of my annual "Jewish Genealogy Trip to Salt Lake City." Bill Israel, who has now gone on our trip for four consecutive years, took pictures of the research and social events of the trip which was held recently from October 30-November 7. They can be viewed at Next year's trip will be from October 21-28, 2004.

To be added or removed from this mailing list, go on the Internet to

To change your e-mail address, go on the Internet to and remove the old address and add the new address.

To subscribe to AVOTAYNU, The International Review of Jewish Genealogy, go to

To order books from our catalog, go to

Copyright 2003, Avotaynu, Inc. All rights reserved