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. 5, No. 7 - April 11, 2004

Avotaynu Offering From Generation to Generation At Special Price

Arthur Kurzweil has published a new edition of his landmark guide to Jewish genealogy,
From Generation to Generation. The new version is a major rewrite of previous editions, not merely an update. There are now chapters in its 392 pages on how Jewish genealogy is different from other genealogy, Internet resources, names, Holocaust research, immigration, research in the Old Country and cemeteries. The Table of Contents can be seen at the Avotaynu site

Since it was first published in 1980,
From Generation to Generation has inspired thousands to pursue the unique challenges and rewards of Jewish genealogy. More than 40,000 copies of previous editions of this book have been sold.

One interesting and unusual aspect of the new book is that it contains interviews with persons associated with Jewish genealogy about certain phases of research. Included are "conversations with" Robert Friedman (Center for Jewish History), Zachary Baker (YIVO Institute for Jewish Research), Sallyann Amdur Sack (Israel), Ladislau Gyemant and Miriam Weiner (professional genealogy), Gary Mokotoff (Avotaynu), Warren Blatt (JewishGen), Neil Rosenstein (rabbinical genealogy) and Alexander Beider (names).

The book retails for $24.95. For a limited time, Avotaynu is offering it for only $17.00. Order it now; order more than one and give it to a friend or relative to get them started on the great adventure of genealogy. You can order the book at

Romanian Archives Restricts Records Access

Rosanne Leeson, co-coordinator of ROM-SIG, the Romanian Special Interest Group reported to her membership that the director of the Romanian National Archives, Mihai Corneliu Lungu, has given an order to all the district branches of the National Archives not to allow researchers any access to vital records. It is not a written order but was verbally transmitted.

At about the same time, AVOTAYNU received e-mail from its Romanian Contributing Editor, Ladislau Gyemant, of this new regulation. Gyemant also noted that there has been a general slowdown in service to patrons. The number of registers given to a researcher daily has been reduced to ten making the process much slower. Requests for photocopies of documents are being refused under different pretexts: lack of toner, paper or personnel; bad functioning of the copying machines; etc. Archival fonds which were accessible before have become inaccessible under the pretext that the archives was not prepared for public access to these fonds. Gyemant confirmed the restriction of access to vital records.

One reason given for the new policy was that the researchers were using these records to make money. The second was that this data was being used to make claims for Holocaust reparations from the Romanian government.

Regarding the objection that the archives is being used for commercial purposes, one user of the Romanian archives commented: "Everybody who does research in the archives earns money in one form or another. Teachers researching for their degree papers improve their salaries; specialists preparing their doctor's degrees get more money after passing their exams; researchers who publish a book as a result of their research sell the book and earn money; researchers who do research as part of their work in a research institute get salaries for their work, etc."

Lungu was invited to give a presentation on access to the Romanian archives at the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy held last summer in Washington, DC. He accepted but canceled at the last moment.

The Mormon-Jewish Controversy: "The Problem That Won't Go Away" ================================================
The controversy over posthumous baptism of Jews by members of the Mormon Church is heating up again--just ten years after the practice was exposed by the Jewish genealogical community. A group of genealogists has examined recent versions of the Church's International Genealogical Index (IGI) and Ordinance Index (OI) and have determined that Mormon religious rituals on Jews go on unabated. In 1995, the Church removed the names of 360,000 Jews murdered in the Holocaust from their records. Some of these very names have reappeared in the IGI and OI. Other research has demonstrated that the names of tens of thousands of Jews have appeared in the IGI/OI since 1995 despite the Church's agreement to limit the practice.

Mormons practice the ritual of posthumous baptism on Jews and other non-Mormons to save the souls of these persons. To save their souls, it is the Mormon belief that the individuals must accept the teachings of Jesus Christ.

The Mormon written policies that limit members of their faith in performing rituals on deceased persons I consider comparable to the 55-mile-per-hour speed limit. The policies exist; no one follows them; no one enforces them.

I will be giving a lecture at the Jerusalem conference titled "The Mormon-Jewish Controversy: The Problem That Won't Go Away." There are many misunderstandings about what was agreed to when an agreement was signed in 1995, and I will clarify those issues. I will also give examples of the recent discoveries that demonstrate the terms of the agreement have been abused. Hopefully, the matter will be resolved by July, and I will report on those developments too.

The latest newspaper article on the topic, written by the Associated Press, can be seen at

165 Lectures Planned for Israel Conference

The Israel Genealogical Society has released a preliminary conference program for the 24th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy to be held in Jerusalem from July 4-9. Continuing the long-standing tradition of having a rigorous program, there will be 165 lectures from Sunday through Friday--morning, afternoon and evening. For example, the Wednesday program starts at 8:00 a.m. with three concurrent lectures: Ethiopian Jewry, Records in the Hungarian Jewish Archives and Jewish Names. The evening ends at 9:35 with a lecture by Stephen Morse about using his site to access the Ellis Island database. Morse is preceded that evening by Juergen Sielemann of the Hamburg State Archives speaking about the archives' project to have an every-name index on the Internet.

The complete tentative program can be downloaded at

Yad Vashem Central Database of Holocaust Victims Grows

At the annual conference on Jewish genealogy held in Washington last summer, Yad Vashem previewed their Central Database of Holocaust Victims Names. The center of attraction was the Pages of Testimony. The organization now plans to have the following databases included when they go online sometime this summer. It will be available earlier to attendees of the Jerusalem conference.

Archives Lists (Small Lists)
Austria (Dow)
Berlin (Gedenkbuch)
France (Klarsfeld deportation lists: 70,000 Jews deported from France primarily to Auschwitz)
Germany (Gedenkbuch: 128,000 German Jews murdered in the Holocaust)
Hungary (Nevek series of name lists)
Lodz Ghetto (Censuses of the ghetto)
Luxembourg (All victims)
Mauthausen (Jewish inmates)
Megilot - Memorial Lists (Small Lists)
Netherlands (Oorlogsslachtoffers)
Pages Of Testimony Collection (3 million victims)
Slovakia (Deportations in 1942)
Theresienstadt Camp - Bohemia/Moravia
Thessaloniki (Deportations)
Yizkor Books
Yugoslavia (State Register)

Index to New York City Deaths 1891-1911 Now on Internet

The Italian Genealogical Group has posted an index to New York City deaths from 1891 to 1911--more than 1,400,000 records. The index is located at

The project was accomplished by scanning the original index pages, so the quality of the results is yet to be determined. When using the death index, be sure to click a button for both Last Name option and Years Searched. There is no error checking, and if you do not select a button, no results are produced and there is no error message.

The site also includes a number of naturalization indexes including Southern District of New York (Manhattan) for 1906-1959, Bronx County (1914-1952) and Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The group has a number of other indexing projects in the works including a brides' index (for Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx) and grooms' for all boroughs of New York City.

John Carlin to Step Down as Archivist of the United States

President George W. Bush has announced his plans to nominate a historian, Allen Weinstein, to be the next Archivist of the United States. Dr. Weinstein currently works at the International Foundation for Elections Systems as Senior Advisor for Democratic Institutions and Director of its Center for Democratic Initiatives. He previously served as president of The Center for Democracy in Washington, D.C. Earlier in his career, Dr. Weinstein was a professor at Boston University, Georgetown University and Smith College. A more detailed bio can be found at

The current archivist, John Carlin, issued a statement to his staff that can be seen at

Ellis Island Foundation Concludes "If You Can't Fight Them, Join Them"

When the Statue of Liberty / Ellis Island Foundation placed on the Internet the index to 24 million immigrants who passed through Ellis Island from 1892 to 1924, it was obvious that the search engine was wanting. It was so bad that Stephen P. Morse developed an alternate portal to the site that has become the standard way to search the Ellis Island Database. The portal is located at

Apparently SLEIF has decided not to spend money to match the quality of the Morse site. When you use their portal at and cannot find the individual for whom you are searching, a message appears that says "Not successful? Click here for useful tools that could help you search the Ellis Island database." This link takes you to JewishGen site which introduces the user to the Stephen P. Morse portal. Unfortunately, the link is limited to cases where there are no hits. If you use the SLEIF portal and get some hits but not the person being sought, the recommendations take you through the tortuous process of using the various options they provide, few of which are of little value.

20-year-old Typo Has Gone Undetected

Shame on the Israeli readers of our journal AVOTAYNU! There has been a 20-year typographical error in AVOTAYNU that has gone undetected. When Sallyann Amdur Sack and I founded AVOTAYNU in 1985, we decided the logo for the journal should have a graphic that demonstrated we are a journal of Jewish genealogy. I came up with the idea of a globe signifying the international nature of Jewish genealogy and within the globe the symbols of the twelve tribes of Israel. I decided to add at the top of the globe the name of the journal written in Hebrew further symbolizing the Jewish nature of the publication. "Avotaynu" means "our (fore)fathers" in Hebrew. I knew I would be criticized for being sexist ("What about our foremothers?") so to pacify people, I placed the Hebrew word for "our mothers" below the globe.

For the past few months I have met with an Israeli who lives in New York, Ranan Lurie, in conjunction with our recently published book
The Lurie Legacy written by Neil Rosenstein. Ranan is a world-renowned political cartoonist. His cartoons are hilarious and politically biting. You can see some of his work at his website Ranan created a magnificent book cover for The Lurie Legacy, which you can see it at

At my last meeting with him, we were schmoozing, and I mentioned to him the origin of the name of our publication AVOTAYNU. When I came to the portion of the story about "our foremothers" I said "imotaynu." Ranan corrected me and said I was pronouncing it wrong. It is "imahotaynu." I was puzzled because I mentally pictured the logo and the Hebrew spelling aleph-mem-vav-tav-yud-nun-vav. I became suspicious there was a missing letter in the spelling, and this weekend it was confirmed by Martha LevZion, one of members of the Jerusalem conference committee. The correct spelling is aleph-mem-HEH-vav-tav-yod-nun-vav.

We will correct the error in a future issue.

Vol. 5, No. 8 - April 25, 2004
************************ Offering Online Courses on Jewish Genealogy
=========================================, the parent company of, is offering two interactive online Jewish genealogy classes. They are:
May 6, 2004 Jewish Basic Research Class
June 3, 2004 Jewish Internet Research Class

Both courses are run by Schelly Talalay Dardashti and Micha Reisel. Dardashti is president of the Jewish Family Research Association (JFRA), Jewish genealogical society located in Israel. A freelance journalist specializing in Jewish genealogy, she has written the Jewish genealogy column, "It's All Relative," for the
Jerusalem Post since 1999. Micha Reisel, vice president of the JFRA, has been working on his own family tree since 1985.

The Jewish Basic Research Class includes such beginning essentials as calendars, handwriting, charts, phonetic searches, basic reference works, oral history, maps, geography and names, immigration, documents, JewishGen and other Internet sources, archives, sharing information and more.

The Jewish Internet Research Class will cover search engines and indexes, general genealogical sites, JewishGen and other Jewish sites, archives, print/net publishing and other topics.

Both classes run for four weeks, with two lessons per week, and offer ways for participants to interact and ask questions, including two online group chats per week. The cost for each course, $39.95, includes unlimited access for one month to all databases.

Information about courses can be found at There are links to the specific courses. Adds 1901 British Census to Its Databases

Through a license agreement with the National Archives of England, Wales and the United Kingdom, will digitize and index the 1.47 million original census images of the 1901 census of England, Wales, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. A portion of the England census is already completed and available at their site, It includes the counties of Berksire, Hampshire, Kent, London, Surrey and Sussex--nearly 8 million names or 24% of the entire census.

Their collection already includes the 1871 and 1891 censuses. As is true of most of's databases, it is a fee-for-service site but is available to current subscribers at no additional cost.

Online Bremen Lists Expanded

In the April 15, 2001, issue of
Nu? What's New? I reported that the Bremen Germany Chamber of Commerce planned to index extant emigration lists for that port city and had completed 1920-22 and part of 1923. I revisited the site at and apparently in 2002 they updated the database to include 1920-1926 completely, and 1927-28 and 1930 partly. Eventually the group hopes to put all surviving lists through 1939 on the Internet.

You can search the lists using a surname only or a portion of a surname. The system will then display all persons whose surname has the key letters supplied. Using the surname Weiss, the system displayed all names that had the consecutive characters w-e-i-s-s including Weiss, Schneeweiss, Schweiss, Serweiss, Stirnweiss, Weissenberg, Wessenberger, Weissenborn, Weissenbruch and others. There is no soundex search. Information provided includes name of the person, town of origin, ship, date of departure and name of the ship.

The site states that ships left Bremen/Bremerhaven for the United States, Canada and South America. Lists earlier than 1920 were systematically destroyed by officials who ran out of storage space. The surviving lists had been stowed in a salt mine during World War II together with other archival material. After the war, they were transferred by the Russians to the Moscow Archives. In 1987 and 1990 the lists were given back to the Bremen Chamber of Commerce.

The project is a joint effort of the Bremen Chamber of Commerce and a Bremen society for family research called Maus.

Imotaynu vs. Imahotaynu

Apparently I hang around with the wrong crowd. I received a number of responses from
Nu? What's New? readers about the Hebrew spelling of "our mothers" discussed in the previous issue of Nu? What's New? The consensus is that the way it appears in the AVOTAYNU logo--imotaynu--is the preferred spelling, and the version suggested by my associates--imahotaynu--is a modern creation.

The word
imotaynu appears in the Bible in Lamentations 5:3. One reader noted that the imahoteinu variant appears in "Language of the Sages (Haza"l)" and is noted in the Ben-Yehudah dictionary.

Romanian AVOTAYNU Contributing Editor Receives Appointment

Professor Ladislau Gyemant, AVOTAYNU Contributing Editor for Romania, has been elected dean of the Faculty of European Studies of the Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj. He is also a professor of Jewish history and European history and director of the Dr. Moshe Carmilly Institute for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. In his new position, he has the responsibility of the administration of more than 2,000 students and 100 professors.

Avotaynu Business

In the past two weeks, more than 150 people took advantage of the deep discount price for the new version of
From Generation to Generation. All books have been shipped. You can still order this landmark work by Arthur Kurzweil at for $17. The retail price is $24.95.

If you renewed your subscription to AVOTAYNU for three years, the map of the Pale of Settlement we offered as a gift has been mailed to you this past week. If you are not a subscriber to AVOTAYNU, our quarterly journal, you can do so at An index to the articles that have appeared in the past 18 years can be found at The Spring issue will go to the printer this week. The lead article is by Stephen Morse titled "A One Step Portal for Jewish Genealogy"; a 13-page description of the functions at his Internet site.

If you were a pre-subscriber to
The Lurie Legacy, the new work by Neil Rosenstein, copies of the book were shipped this week. Information about the book can be found at

Another Good Buy from Avotaynu

Avotaynu is still offering
Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust for only $99. The price is $135. The three-volume, 1,824-page work originally sold for $350. The Encyclopedia provides information about approximately 6,500 towns in Central and Eastern Europe where Jews lived before the Holocaust. It won the Association of Jewish Libraries Judaica Reference Award for 2001.

You can order the book at At the site, we have provided a list of all the towns described in the work. Check to see if the shtetls you are researching are included.

More than 250 subscribers have already taken advantage of our offer. Note: There are special shipping charges because of the heavy weight of the three volumes. $16 in the U.S.; $21 for Canada; and $25 for other countries. Books are shipped directly from the publisher. We have been informed that once the supply of books has been exhausted, there will be no reprints.


Exactly 25 years ago this week, I received a letter from a man named Israel Cohen of Bat Yam, Israel, that stated "Noticed your unusual name in the 78-79 Mensa Register. Also noticed that there were very few families here with the same name." The letter continued with a list of the names and addresses of 11 Mokotow/Mokotovs from the Israeli telephone book.

It was this letter from a total stranger that launched my interest and career in Jewish genealogy. I sent 11 letters to Israel asking "are we related?" Within four years, I had traced the Mokotow family back six generations and documented more than 400 descendants of my ggggrandfather, the first person named Mokotow, Tuvia David Mokotow, a merchant of Warka, Poland.

Had I not received this letter from a stranger, it is possible I would never have become involved in genealogy.

Prior to my heavy involvement in genealogy, I was active in the computer software industry, starting with IBM in 1959 as a computer programmer/analyst where I developed some of the earliest systems software IBM supplied with its computers. How I became involved is also an interesting story. While in college in the late 1950s, I learned about this new device called a computer and briefly read a programming manual. After college, I went to the personnel office of IBM in New York and told the receptionist that I wanted to become a computer programmer. She asked me whether I had a master's degree in mathematics. I told her "no." She thought for a moment and said "Well, take the examination anyway." I took the Programmers Aptitude Test and got the highest score of any person to that date (in 1959 IBM probably had less than 200 programmers). Had this receptionist told me "I'm sorry, you need a master's degree in mathematics," it was my intention to leave the building and go over to the "New York Daily News" and become a newspaper reporter.


Vol. 5, No. 9 - May 9, 2004

Yiddish Book Center Makes Yizkor Book Reprints Available

Yizkor books are classified as rare books. When copies become available, they often cost hundreds of dollars. The Yiddish Book Center is now selling reprints of hundreds of yizkor books at a cost of $90.00 for Yiddish Book Center members and $120.00 for non-members. Tax-deductible membership is only $36 per year. The reprints were made using the new digital printing technology. Original yizkor books were scanned using high resolution equipment, and the images were then used to produce the reprints. Samples were on display at the re International Conference on Jewish Genealogy last summer in Washington. The quality of the text was quite good; the picture reproduction was only fair. The Center's website is at

Meanwhile, the New York Public Library (NYPL) announced plans to put digitized images of its complete collection of yizkor books--more than 700 books--on the Internet. It has already placed 9 of these books representing 12 towns at their site. The portal to this collection is at

Yizkor books are Holocaust memorial books. After World War II, the remnant of European Jewry published these books to memorialize the towns and townspeople destroyed in the Holocaust. More than 1,200 have been published, each for an individual town or region. The largest collection is at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Yizkor books provide a history of the Jewish presence in the town. Also included are articles written by survivors that often provide a great deal of information about specific individuals. Many include a necrology--a list of townspeople murdered in the Holocaust. Most are written in Hebrew and Yiddish.

Finally! Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy Has Gone to the Printer

At long last,
Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy has gone to the printer. It will be the most comprehensive guide to Jewish genealogical research to date. The book has 624 pages, 95 chapters, six appendices, 10 maps and more than 250 illustrations. The foreword was written by Arthur Kurzweil.

The biographies of the authors, listed in the back of the book, represent a Who's Who in Jewish genealogy. There are 68 authors living in 17 countries (an additional 10 countries are represented in country of birth). There are 9 PhDs, 5 MDs, 9 archivists or librarians, and 8 professional genealogists. At least 16 of the authors are presidents or past presidents of Jewish genealogical societies. Three are past presidents of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies.

The book is divided into five parts. Part I covers Essentials of Jewish Genealogical Research. As a sample, there are chapters on methodology, shtetl geography and Jewish naming practices. Part II is a Topical Section that covers subjects such as Holocaust research, rabbinical genealogy and cemetery research. Part III is devoted to U.S. Research; discussing census, naturalization and vital records as well as topics peculiar to U.S. research. Part IV, Researching Country of Ancestry, is the largest section of the book. It has 50 chapters, from Algeria to Yugoslavia (former), that describe (1) history of the Jewish presence in the country, (2) what records are available, (3) how to access records, (4) address of repositories and other institutions, (4) bibliography, and (5) Internet addresses. The largest section, the one on Poland, is 32 pages and is subdivided into four subsections: General Information, Austrian Poland, Prussian Poland Including East Prussia, and Russian Poland. Part V consists of eight appendices. One appendix displays five alphabets (Gothic German, Hebrew, Polish, Russian and Yiddish). Another explains the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System. Hiring a Genealogist and Engaging Your Children in Family History Research are other significant appendices.

More than 500 people are advanced subscribers to
The Guide. Each will receive a postcard to confirm the mailing address is still correct and the credit card number and expiration date are accurate. Print jobs normally take six weeks from time of submission until the books are shipped to our warehouse, so our distribution center should be mailing the books in early July.

Additional information including the Table of Contents and a sample chapter can be found at If you order the book now, you will not be charged until the book is shipped.

News About the Jerusalem Conference

If you were one of the first 100 people to register for the 24th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy which will be held in Jerusalem from July 4-9, we have just shipped you a free copy of
A Guide to Jewish Genealogical Research in Israel by Sallyann Amdur Sack and the Israel Genealogical Society (Avotaynu, 1994). If you were not one of the first 100, you can still buy a copy for $21.00 at There are now less than 50 copies in our inventory.

There is more to past International Conferences on Jewish Genealogy than lectures and meetings morning, afternoon and evening. There are the cultural and social functions. Here are just three that will be available to registrants of the Jerusalem conference.

Shabbat Dinner
Some of us planning to attend the annual conference will arrive in Jerusalem before it starts on Sunday, July 4. Since El Al doesn't fly on Shabbat, those coming from North America will need to arrive on Friday. In both 1984 and 1994, Avotaynu arranged to have a Shabbat dinner at the conference hotel for the early birds. We are sponsoring this function again this year. The cost of a traditional meal with challah and wine, taxes and tips will be $44. That is our cost.

The menu will be:
Traditional Gefilte Fish served with Red Horseradish
Nile Perch in Oriental Sauce
* * * * * *
Consomme with Vermicelli
* * * * * *
Steak in Esterhazi Sauce
Half a Chicken in Fine Herbs
Pommes Fondant
Banquet of Garden Vegetables
* * * * * *
Lettuce Salad in Fresh Dressing
* * * * * *
Apple Strudel with Ice Cream (pareve)


You can make a reservation online at or
call our offices at 1-800-AVOTAYNU (286-8296)
Fax: 201-387-2855

The deadline for reservations is Friday, June 24.

Shabbat Discussion Groups
Avotaynu is also planning to sponsor one or more discussion groups for Shabbat afternoon similar to the one led by Rabbi Meir Wunder in 1994. The leaders and topics, suitable for Shabbat with a genealogical theme, will be announced in the coming weeks.

Yad Vashem Program
The Conference Planning Committee, in conjunction with Yad Vashem, has planned a rich and moving program to honor our families and provide continuity to our history. The program will be held at the Yad Vashem facilities Monday afternoon, July 5. It will start with two plenary sessions by the senior staff from the Yad Vashem Archives and the Hall of Names. They will detail current archival resources and research tactics, as well as unveil their vision for the future. Sessions will then be divided into a choice of lectures given simultaneously by various Holocaust scholars. After that, we will disperse to the monumental Valley of the Communities, a vast memorial to the more than 5,000 Jewish communities destroyed or shattered in the Shoah. Here each of us will have the opportunity, as we wander through the stone courtyards, to locate the names of our families' communities and to hold a private memorial service to honor their memories.

After a light supper, the program will conclude in the auditorium with an evening of Jewish music and culture, with films and live performances by folk singer Shuli Natan (who popularized the ballad "Yerushalayim shel Zahav") and the delightful children's Harmonica Orchestra of Ramat Gan. The evening's master of ceremonies will be Beni Hendel.

Special bus transportation will be provided to/from the conference hotel.

It is not too late to register for the Jerusalem conference. Information can be found at

Family History Library Expanding Again

After extensive reorganizing and remodeling last year, the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library in Salt Lake City is remodeling yet again; the victim of growing pains. Since it was opened in 1985, the third floor was used exclusively for administration. This group is in the process of being relocated to the Joseph Smith Building, one long block away. The third floor will now be used for the Library's extensive U.S./Canadian book collection, freeing up space on the main floor which will house the Family History and Biographies collection. The main floor will also have a computer training area.

The Family Histories and Biographies are available in the Library but will not be in their permanent location until September. The United States and Canada book collection will not be available from June to July; this collection is being moved from the Main Floor to the 3rd Floor. The International book collection is currently in high density storage.

The work will be completed in stages June through September.

Annually, for the past 11 years, Eileen Polakoff and I have been taking a group of Jewish genealogists to Salt Lake City for a week of intensive research, consultation and training. This year's dates are October 21-28. We already have 20 people signed up (mostly alumni) and limit the group size to 40. Additional facts, including cost and information on how to make a reservation can be found at

JPEG Images of Postcards Available at Avotaynu Site

For those who are recent subscribers to
Nu? What's New?, for about three years Avotaynu has been offering scanned images (JPEGs) of towns in Eastern Europe. Postcards of your ancestral town from the turn of the 20th century can be a wonderful addition to the photographic portion of your family history, but they are rare items and consequently very expensive. Typical prices are $20-50 each, with some costing hundreds of dollars.

Tomasz Wisniewski, a resident of Bialystok, Poland, has collected nearly 2,000 postcards and pictures of Jewish life in what was interwar Poland and today encompasses eastern Poland, western Belarus and Ukraine and portions of Lithuania. Avotaynu has convinced him to sell JPEG images of these cards, and they are now available for sale at There are some 330 towns represented in more than 1,300 pictures. Many of the pictures are of synagogues since destroyed in the Holocaust, street scenes, and panoramic views.

The cost of each JPG is only $2.50 (minimum purchase $10.00). These images are a perfect way to dress up your family website. They can also be printed in color for inclusion in a published family history or to have in your files as pictures of a time that once was. [Note: We are offering computer images of the postcards which will be sent by e-mail, not the postcards themselves.]

Wisniewski is also the author of two books about Jewish life in the Bialystok area:
Synagogues and Jewish Communities in the Bialystok Region, published in 1992; and, more recently, Jewish Bialystok and Surroundings in Eastern Poland, which is sold by Avotaynu (

Avotaynu Office Closed May 14 - May 24

Avotaynu's office will be closed from May 14 - May 24. We will be attending the annual conference of the National Genealogical Society in Sacramento, California.

Beware of a Strange Virus

Twice in the past few months I received the following e-mail (shown in its entirety). There is an attachment to the e-mail which if opened, undoubtedly would spawn the virus. It shows the sophistication of some virus programs. In this case, it went to the infected computer's e-mail files and extracted the beginning of a JewishGen message. Note the very old date. Also the return address,, does not exist.

From: JewishGen Discussion Group digest []
Sent: Friday, April 30, 2004 2:51 AM
Subject: jewishgen digest: August 16, 2003

Thinking of visiting your ancestral shtetls?
Let JewishGen ShtetlSchleppers=AE take you there!

JEWISHGEN Digest for Saturday, August 16, 2003.

1. Re: Hebrew Names
2. Re: Hebrew Names
3. Re: Genners' responsibility for their postings
4. 1860 IL & 190

Vol. 5, No. 10 - May 30, 2004

We've Come a Long Way Baby

Those of us who were active in genealogy in the early 1980s recall a maxim at that time--when you go to a Jewish library or archives, never say you are a genealogist. The reaction from some archivists and librarians at that time was one of disdain; genealogists were mere hobbyists pursuing matters in a non-scholarly manner. We were an annoyance to these institutions.

We have come a long way since then in demonstrating that our pursuits are serious and that we can make a positive contribution to the Jewish scholarly world. Typical is the current view of the Association of Jewish Libraries. In the past 13 years AJL has given their "Best Reference Book" award to four books developed by the genealogical community.
Where Once We Walked received the award in 1991 and A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Poland in 1996. Now, for two consecutive years, books created by genealogists have received the award: "Sephardic Genealogy" in 2003 and Dicionario Sefaradi de Sobrenomes (Dictionary of Sephardic Surnames) in 2004. In giving the 2004 award, the AJL noted, "This beautifully executed volume is a dictionary of 17,000 Sephardic surnames culled from 335 different sources from the 14th to the 20th centuries. Information for each surname includes locality where the surname is found, etymology, when the surname was first registered, names of Inquisition Courts that refer to the surname, and well-known Sephardic or Christianized Jews with the entry's surname. The authors were inspired by Alexander Beider's Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire (Avotaynu, 1993). Due to historical and geographical differences between Ashkenazim and Sephardim, the authors had to develop new methods of evaluation and analysis for their dictionary." Information about Dicionario Sefaradi de Sobrenomes can be found at or

This year, a second award, the AJL's "One-time Body-of-work Award," was given to Avotaynu, Inc. as "the single organization which has helped to grow Jewish genealogy by providing excellent reference tools for the increasing number of people interested in their Jewish roots. In the past twenty years, ... AJL has given more Reference and Bibliography Book Awards to Avotaynu Publishers than to any other publisher."

The "Body-of-Work" award has been given only one other time in the 20-year history of AJL recognizing books of note. Information about the 29 books Avotaynu has published since 1991 can be found at

Polish Sources at the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People
One of the most important repositories for the history of the Jews in the Diaspora is the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People (CAHJP) which is located in Jerusalem. Their collection of Jewish community records for Central and Eastern Europe is substantial. It is a must stop if you are attending the Jerusalem conference in July. Avotaynu Foundation has just published
Polish Sources at the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People. The 320-page book is an annotated inventory of the Polish holdings of CAHJP, that is, Poland as defined by it boundaries between World War I and World War II. The book therefore includes many towns that today are in Belarus, Lithuania and Ukraine such as Brest, Grodno, Lwow (L'viv), Pinsk, Tarnopol and Wilno (Vilnius).

More than 1,000 towns are identified in the book. Additional information, including a complete list of towns, can be found at Also at the site is a sample entry: Grodno, now in Belarus. The cost of the book is $25.95 plus shipping.

News from the NGS Conference

Last week I attended the annual National Genealogical conference in Sacramento, California. Below is news that might be of interest.

ProQuest 1920 Census Index and Images
ProQuest now has a head-of-household index to the 1920 census. One already exists at ProQuest also has images of the census pages, but many are illegible. This is because they used a black-white technology to scan the pages rather than the gray-scale method used by Consequently, in the ProQuest version, there are many pages where the names of the persons enumerated are illegible because faint handwriting is eliminated. There is an advantage to the index though. Since it was created independent of the index, errors in the latter may not appear in the former. For example, my grandfather Mokotoff was one of four brothers. Only three appear spelled correctly in the index, the fourth, Joe, is in the ProQuest index. ProQuest services are available only to institutions not individuals. A local library or organization must subscribe for you to use it. Adds 1910 Index
--------------------------------- has added a head-of-household index for the 1910 census. The index, containing 32.2 million names, is not yet linked to the actual images of the 1910 Federal Census that also are available online at, but the index can be used to locate individuals in those images. A future project will link the index to images. (See "Dr. Morse Does It Again--1910 Census", below.)

The index covers all states and is available on a fee-for-service to subscribers of their U.S. Census Collection at:

A Family Tree Quilt
Do you want to display a family tree in your home in a magnificent fashion? There is a company that will make a colorful quilt of your family tree that you can display on your wall. Examples can be found at

Publish Your Family History on CD-ROM
Are you considering publishing your family history? Until now, two popular forms have been books and web sites. A new company now offers a software system that permits you to publish the information on a CD that can then be duplicated and sent to family and friends. The end product is a very user-friendly CD that integrates photographs, family trees, biographical information and other material. Some technical knowledge is required to build the CD information but the product comes with a 58-page users manual. You can download a trial version at the site

More Regarding DNA for Genealogy
I had a chance to speak again to Bennett Greenspan of FamilyTreeDNA, the DNA testing firm associated with JewishGen. I questioned the significance of the results of an "exact" DNA match (matching 22 haplotypes) which denotes a 50% likelihood of a common ancestor within seven generations. He stated that the 50% probability only applies to two randomly selected individuals. If there is additional evidence, such as the person having the same surname or ancestry from the same local area, the likelihood of having a common ancestor within seven generations approaches unity. This is because there are so many combinations of the 22 haplotypes that the likelihood of two people coming from the same area having an exact match and not being related is extremely small. Information about the FamilyTreeDNA project can be found at

The Incredible Dr. Morse Does It Again--1910 Census
===================================== has announced a head-of-household index to the 1910 census (see above). They hope "a future project will link the index to images" they also have online.

Enter Stephen P. Morse, the person who put the organization to shame with his One-Step portal to the Ellis Island Database. No need to wait for to create the linkages between their index and images. You can do it at the Morse site Find the "1910 Census Images" entry among the 45 functions that already exist at his site.

First go to the site (if you are a subscriber to their service) and retrieve the state, microfilm roll number, part and page number of the census image you want. Then go to the Morse site and key in the relevant information, click "Display," and Morse links you to the Ancestry census image.

For the record, the one case I tried was off by one page. Morse explained to me that this is caused by Ancestry's filming of the images. For example, if a page was filmed more than once, it throws off his algorithm.

Pages of Testimony to Be Online This Fall

Public availability of the online version of Pages of Testimony will take place this Fall, "around the Jewish High Holy Days," according to Alexander Avraham, director of the project. It is part of a "Names Memorial Database" that includes numerous sources of information about the fate of persons caught up in the Holocaust--some four million digitized records. (See
Nu? What's New? Vol. 4, No. 13 - July 27, 2003, at

Pages of Testimony are one of the most important collections for Holocaust genealogical research. They identify more than 3 million of the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust providing such information as year/place of birth/death; and names of parents, spouse and sometimes children. A description of this record collection can be found at

Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy Ship Date

We have received a ship date from the printer for
Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy. It will leave the plant in Michigan on June 28. It must then reach our distribution center in Massachusetts, so advanced subscribers should be receiving their copies by mid-July.

The book is the most comprehensive guide to Jewish genealogical research to date. The book has 624 pages, 95 chapters, six appendices, 10 maps and more than 250 illustrations. The foreword was written by Arthur Kurzweil. Additional information including the Table of Contents and a sample chapter can be found at

Reminder: Shabbat Dinner at Jerusalem Conference

If you are planning to arrive in Jerusalem for the annual conference before Friday evening, Avotaynu has arranged to have a special Shabbat dinner at the conference hotel for the early birds. The cost of a traditional meal with challah and wine, taxes and tips will be $44. That is our cost.

The menu will be:
Traditional Gefilte Fish served with Red Horseradish
Nile Perch in Oriental Sauce
* * * * * *
Consomme with Vermicelli
* * * * * *
Steak in Esterhazi Sauce
Half a Chicken in Fine Herbs
Pommes Fondant
Banquet of Garden Vegetables
* * * * * *
Lettuce Salad in Fresh Dressing
* * * * * *
Apple Strudel with Ice Cream (pareve)


You can make a reservation online at or
call our offices at 1-800-AVOTAYNU (286-8296)
Fax: 201-387-2855

The deadline for reservations is Friday, June 24.

Vol. 5, No. 11 - June 13, 2004

The Amazing Dr. Morse (and Friends)

Stephen P. Morse's project to compile a complete list of every ship arrival at Ellis Island from 1892 to 1924 is complete. It can be accessed at For each arrival the database has the microfilm roll, volume, frame, date, ship-name, and ports. Now, for the first time, there is a searchable list of every ship arrival along with links to the associated manifest pages. This means you can now search for persons not found in the Ellis Island Database because of misspelling or misindexing if you know the name of the ship on which the immigrant came. The list consists of a total of 84,000 ship arrivals.

The work was done by a team of over 50 volunteers who read through every one of the 3700 rolls of Ellis Island microfilms from 1892 to 1924.

Index to Hamburg Emigrants Passes 2 Million Mark

The project to index all persons who emigrated from the Port of Hamburg, Germany, from 1850 to 1934 has passed the two million mark with the entry of Nochem David Goldfarb, a 17-year-old Russian worker from Odessa who left Hamburg on May 13, 1908, on the "City of Leeds", taking the indirect route via Grimsby to Philadelphia. The Internet site at now has all emigrants from 1890-1906. The 1906 data was just added last month. It can be anticipated that the 1907-1908 data will take up to a year to be placed on the Internet site because the data must be verified and then integrated into the active database.

The index provides basic information about the emigrant: name, country/state of origin, approximate age, and destination. The search engine does not allow soundex searches. Use the wildcard feature which is explained on the search page to find name variants. I found at least six variants of Tartaski by searching for any person whose name started with "Tart" or "Tarat". For a fee, you can receive an abstract of the entire entry from the ship's manifest. The cost for an abstract is $20 for 1-3 persons, $30 4-10 persons, $40 for 11-20, $50 for 21-30 persons. Because it is an abstract rather than the actual manifest, each member of a family of three on a specific page would have his/her own abstract. Therefore, they would count as three persons if you requested information about all three. Funds are used to support the Internet site.

Avotaynu sells a wonderful 80-page book published by the Hamburg City Archives that shows, through photographs, the emigration experience of our ancestors through the Port of Hamburg, Germany. There are more than 50 high-quality photographs plus numerous illustrations and posters. My favorite, which is shown at the Internet site, is the German-Jewish community assisting in processing their Eastern European coreligionists through the Hamburg port facilities. Most of the pictures are on the Internet at, but you cannot fully appreciate the quality and interest of the pictures except through the book. It is a worthwhile addition to your genealogy book collection and can even be used as a coffee-table book for guests to peruse. All descriptions are in German and English. You can find additional information about the book at The price is only $17.

ITS Records May Be Available to the Public

After years of pressure to make their records more accessible to the public, the International Tracing Service of the International Committee of the Red Cross has announced it will open its archives to researchers. What is meant by "open its archives" and who constitutes a "researcher" has not been defined.

ITS, located in Arolsen, Germany, has been reluctant to open its records to the public citing privacy reasons. Germany has one of the most restrictive privacy laws in the world. ITS is run by representatives from 11 nations: Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Poland, United Kingdom and the United States. Pressure from the UK, US and Israel that need-to-know is now more significant than privacy issues undoubtedly helped in convincing ITS to reconsider its policy.

ITS was founded in 1943. It claims to have information relating to 17 million people caught up in World War II including Jews and non-Jews. Each record places an individual at a certain place at a certain time. Information was taken from surviving concentration camp records, deportation lists, refugee camp lists and other sources. A duplicate copy of their index and records through 1955 is at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and will be a popular resource for those attending the forthcoming International Conference on Jewish Genealogy to be held in Jerusalem from July 4-9.

There are a number of reasons for the need for public access. Typically, it takes ITS six months to two years to reply to any inquiry. They claim to receive nearly 500,000 inquiries a year. Secondly, they will not do generic searches; invariably you must ask for information about a specific individual, and, if the name is common, you must provide more information such as date of birth or place of residence. Often, this information is not known by the inquirer who is trying to determine the fate of a relative. For example, the inquirer may have been a child at the time of the Holocaust and did not know this additional information. Giving public access allows the inquirer the ability to devote the time, perhaps hours or days, to locate the information. That is why the duplicate copy on microfilm at Yad Vashem is so valuable. People can go to Yad Vashem and devote the time or hire a professional genealogist to do the work.

ITS is in the process of computerizing their information. Yad Vashem is digitizing their microfilm copy with plans to create an index to the digital images. Hopefully either or both of the databases will be made available to the public on the Internet. More information about ITS can be found at and

Shabat Discussion Group at the Jerusalem Conference

Avotaynu will once again sponsor a Shabat discussion group at the Jerusalem conference as it did in 1994. Rabbi Meir Wunder, who led the session in 1994, will hold another at 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 3, at the conference hotel. There is also a Shabat dinner on Friday night. Persons interest in attending the Shabat dinner can sign up at

Attendance at the conference will undoubtedly top 600. This is very good for a conference outside North America, however, I am surprised the attendance is not even higher. Many people I have spoken to over the phone or through e-mail end the conversation with "see you at the conference."

The International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, when held in North America, is rapidly becoming the world's largest conference on genealogy. The 2005 conference in Las Vegas should attract 1,500 people, and the one in 2006 in New York will easily top 2,000 attendees. The two major conferences in the United States, those of the Federation of Genealogical Societies and National Genealogical Society, have suffered declining attendance in the past few years and now have fewer than 1,500 attendees.

18th-Century Records of the Vilna Gaon Family

Chaim Freedman's book,
Eliyahu's Branches: The Descendants of the Vilna Gaon and His Family, is the most comprehensive listing of the descendants of the Vilna Gaon. The book identifies more than 20,000 descendants of the Gaon and his siblings. Of equal importance, Freedman presented documentary evidence of the children of the Gaon and theories as to how many there were and what years they were born. Freedman has since found 18th-century census records of Vilnius that confirm some of his theories. It is all described in an article on the Internet at [Yes, the %20s in the URL are correct.]

Information about his book,
Eliyahu's Branches can be found at The site includes a descendancy chart of the first four generations of the Gaon's family.

Argentinean Jewish Death Index Online

AMIA, Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina, has placed a death index for Buenos Aires cemeteries at their website The information provided is name, date of death, cemetery where the person is buried and information that gives the exact location within the cemetery. In the case of married women, the maiden name is given also. The site is in Spanish but the search engine is quite simple. The title of the page is Busqueda de difuntos (Search for Deceased); the first entry is Ingrese el apellido (Insert last name); the second entry is Elija el cementerio (Choose the cemetery-normally leave this blank).

NARA Places World War II Soldier Database Online

The U.S. National Archives & Records Administration has placed online information about 9 million people who served in the Army in World War II.

It is located at At that site, click the "Select" button and on the next page, click the "Select" button again. This displays the search engine. One search parameter is "Name." Keying in a surname displays all persons who served in the Army with that surname. On the next page you must check off the box of the person and click "Show Selected Records" to display the detailed information. Some of the information includes person's name, state and county of residence, year of birth, rank and marital status. This information is often known so the database appears to have more historical than genealogical value.

Five Books Received the AJL "Best Reference Book" Award

In the last issue of
Nu? What's New? I noted that genealogy has come on the scholarly scene as evidenced by the fact that in the past 13 years four books developed for Jewish genealogy have won the prestigious "Best Reference Book" award of the Association of Jewish Libraries. Miriam Weiner has reminded me that the actual count is five. Her book Jewish Roots in Ukraine and Moldova won it in 1999. It is quite amazing that our small discipline of genealogy has won five awards in the past 13 years.

A Message That Will Be Posted on JewishGen Ten Years from Now

I received the following e-mail recently. It may be a common posting on a genealogical bulletin board some time in the future.

My Y-chromosome string is:

DYS 391 10
DYS389I 12
DYS439 11
DYS389II 28
DYS438 10
DYS437 16
DYS19 15
DYS392 11
DYS393 14
DYS390 23
DYS385 14-14

I am looking for family can you help me??

Vol. 5, No. 12 - June 27, 2004

An Interesting Genealogy Project

I just concluded a fascinating genealogy project that I would like to share with you. Some months ago, I was contacted by a man who has formed an organization called "Schlach Ami" ("Let my people go"--Exodus 5:1). The purpose of this organization is to help Christians who are halachically Jewish to return to Judaism. According to Jewish law (halacha) a person is Jewish if it can be proven that the maternal ancestry demonstrates s/he is descended from a Jewish woman. Note I use the term "return to Judaism" rather than "convert" since Jewish law implies such persons have always been Jewish.

The specific case was a woman living in St. Louis whose ancestry had been Christian for four generations, but she offered proof that her great-great grandmother (mother's mother's, mother's mother) was Jewish. I was asked to join the project as a genealogist who would evaluate the evidence and determine if it was sufficient for a Beit Din (rabbinic court) to conclude the woman was halachically Jewish. The evidence consisted of the marriage record of the gggrandmother which demonstrated she was married by an orthodox rabbi in Quincy, Illinois. Additional evidence was that a maternal granddaughter of the woman was married by an orthodox rabbi in Troy, New York. There was also circumstantial evidence. For example, the father of one of her sons-in-law fought in the Civil War and was included in a book published in 1896 listing Jewish soldiers that fought in that conflict.

As evidence that she was a descendant of this woman, we offered birth certificates, and, when they were not available, baptismal certificates.

All this evidence was evaluated by a Chabad rabbi, who passed on the data to a Beit Din in Los Angeles who concluded the woman was halachically Jewish. My report was then sent to the leading Beit Din in the country, the one in New York, who, just last week agreed this woman was Jewish. They found the evidence in the 25-page report (mostly documentation) so compelling they said the woman would not have to go to a mikvah (ritual bath) to return to Judaism. She was, indeed, Jewish.

The decision was made on the anniversary of the death of the last Lubuvitcher Rebbe, Menachem Schneerson. Upon hearing the decision, the woman flew to New York with the founder of Schlach Ami to visit the Rebbe's grave.

The decision was significant in that a Chabad Beit Din accepted secular records (birth certificates) and baptismal certificates as proof of kinship.

Schlach Ami now hopes to have an organized program to assist other persons wanting to return to Judaism. Others who contact them who are not halachically Jewish, for example, paternal or mixed Jewish ancestry, will be offered literature and advice about the significance of their Jewish heritage.

Broken Links

I received a number of inquiries from readers who claimed that the link to the U.S. Army World War II soldiers site was not correct. When they clicked on the link, they got a message that the page did not exist.

Whenever possible, I try to take the reader directly to the web page of interest rather than give an address that then requires additional keying or linking. This often can create a URL that is very long. When that happens, the web address occupies two lines in Nu? What's New? and many e-mail handing programs create a link that includes only the first line of the URL, thus causing a broken link.

If you get an e-mail that includes a web address that is very long, always glance at the next line to see if it continues there. It may be necessary to paste in the completion of the web address. For the record, all links present in a new edition of Nu? What's New? are checked just prior to sending out the issue.

For practice, I am presenting the U.S. Army World War II soldiers link again: If you are unsuccessful and frustrated, and still want to access the site, you can do so from the Nu? What's New? archives at All back issues of this e-zine can be accessed from

Avotaynu Going to the Conference

Avotaynu's offices will be closed from June 29-July 12. We will be attending the annual International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Jerusalem. Orders placed within this period will be processed when we return.

Vol. 5, No. 13 - August 1, 2004

This is the first issue since June 27, 2004. Much of this edition of Nu? What's New? concerns the recently concluded 24th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy held last week in Jerusalem.

The 24th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy Is History

The 24th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy is history. More than 750 people attended the conference; it was anticipated that only 600 would attend. They came from 17 countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, Sweden, United States, United Kingdom and Venezuela.

The host society, the Israel Genealogical Society, did a great job. Not surprising to me. I know most of the members of the conference organizing committee and knew they take all their projects seriously. An innovation at this year's conference was the organization of lectures by themes. This allowed attendees to plan their research hours at archives, knowing that a group of lectures on a particular theme of interest appeared on the same day in consecutive sessions.

Recognizing that running a conference is an enormous task and they had no experience with such an event, the conference planners gave the mechanics of producing the conference to a professional organization, Ortra, who did a great job in their role. This was evident, for example, in the professional signage throughout the conference.

We've Come a Long Way, Baby

In the May 30 edition of "Nu? What's New?" I stated that Jewish genealogy has come a long way in gaining the respect of the scholarly Jewish community. It was very apparent at the conference. Many of the major archives extended their hours of operation to accommodate the conference attendees. At the first Jerusalem conference in 1984, Yad Vashem initially refused to allow the conference attendees to use their limited facilities because they were reserved for "scholarly research." Only by the intervention of the late Rabbi Shmuel Gorr were the conference attendees accommodated. In 1994, at the second Jerusalem conference, again Yad Vashem was reluctant to take on the crowd and only by the insistence of Sallyann Sack, the conference co-chair, were they accommodated. At this year's conference, Yad Vashem chairman, Avner Shalev, told the conference attendees "We want to partner with you!"

We've come a long way, baby!

IAJGS Announces Annual Awards at Jerusalem Conference

The International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies announced its annual awards at the conference.

Warren Blatt was awarded the "Lifetime Achievement Award," well deserved given his tremendous contribution to JewishGen and other aspects of Jewish genealogy. Of course, the behind-the-scenes whispering that has existed for a number of years is why his boss, Susan King, never has been given the award. In my opinion, Susan has done more to influence Jewish genealogy for the past 15 years than any other person.

The Outstanding Contribution award went to Dr. Alexander Beider in recognition of his major contributions to the specialized science of the origins and forms of proper names and surnames. Beider is the author of numerous books about Jewish names, all published by Avotaynu. They can be found at

Outstanding Publication was awarded to the Jewish Genealogical Society (New York) in recognition of its "Genealogical Resources New York" (2nd Edition). Information about the book can be found at

Outstanding Project to David Fox in recognition of the numerous projects undertaken within the Belarus SIG that have generated seventeen databases containing over 250,000 individual entries.

Future Conferences

The 2005 conference will be at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas from July 10-15. The 2006 conference will be at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City from August 13-18. Participants from Australia at his year's conference were seen wearing buttons that said "Sydney in 2007."

Security in Israel

I did not find the level of security in Israel intrusive in going about one's business. Basically, there is a guard at the entrance of every public facility who checks packages and handbags and occasionally will wand you. Perhaps I did not consider it unusual because it has become standard operating procedure in the United States. The last time I was in Salt Lake City, they were checking handbags as you entered the Mormon Tabernacle to listen to the choir. My wife and I did not allow fear of terrorism to interfere with being tourists. We visited the Western Wall, shopped in the Arab market in the Old City, went to a shopping mall and joined in the festivities at an evening fair on Ben Yehudah Street. There was security at virtually every public facility we entered in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. But then, now there is security in virtually every public facility you enter in the U.S.

Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy Has Been Shipped

Initial orders for Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy have been shipped. Most American purchasers should receive their copy within the next 10 days. For other countries, they are at the mercy of the international postal system.

The kudos for the latest major opus of Avotaynu are flowing in.

"Most of my books reside downstairs in my library. Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy will join the very few books on my shelf above my computer because I am sure I will be referring to it regularly. Great job, both of you!" - Miriam Weiner, President, Routes to Roots Foundation

"I received our group's copy today for our library and was very impressed, as always with your books. I can truly appreciate the time and hard work that you and Sallyann (and everyone else) did to make this real." Gary Palgon, past president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Georgia.

"I am bowing at the waist and sweeping my hat off to you both! Congratulations! What a splendid, splendid volume! When it comes to producing quality books, you two make an unbeatable team." John Colletta, PhD, genealogical author and lecturer.

Additional information about The Guide, including a Table of Contents, can be found at Collection Now Includes San Francisco Passenger Lists 1890-1912
======================================================= has added an index and digital images for San Francisco Passenger Lists 1890-1912. Information contained in the index includes given name, surname, age, gender, ethnicity, nationality or last country of permanent residence, arrival date, port of arrival, port of departure and ship name. If a name of a friend or relative whom the individual was going to join, or a place of nativity was provided, that information is included in the index as well. Many of these items may be used to search the index which is located at There is a fee to access the database.

First American Jewish Families Now on Internet

The American Jewish Archives has placed the late Rabbi Malcolm H. Stern's First American Jewish Families online with a searchable index at The book contains family trees of Jewish families that arrived during the U.S. Colonial/Federal period (1654-1838), tracing many families to the present. It provides birth, marriage and death information, dates of arrival in U.S. and other data. You can search the database by name or browse surnames by their initial letter. Clicking on a particular name brings up the page in the original book (PDF file) that shows the family tree on the page. The book itself is out of print.

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 Jerusalem conference, 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 22 - October 28. 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. To date 31 people have already signed up for the trip. We usually limit the group to 40 persons but may increase the limit this year due to the presence of Nicki Russler, a professional genealogist from Knoxville, Tennessee, who has helped us during recent trips with translation of Polish and Russian documents. Additional information can be found at

Global Surname Search

Do you want to search for the presence of your surname in multiple databases on the Internet?. An Internet site located in Germany will simultaneously search up to ten different Internet locations at one time. They are the Mormon FamilySearch site,, Gendex, Internment Cemetery Transcriptions, Gencircles, Rootsweb and a number of Internet search engines such as Google. You can limit the search to specific countries and can selectively choose which of the above-named sites are to be included in the search. The facility is located at

Information about people who lived in Brooklyn, New York, is available at The melange of data spans three centuries and includes various birth, cemetery, census, court, death, directories, immigration/naturalization, marriage, military , and newspaper records and other classes of information. You just might get lucky and find information pertinent to your research. Amusingly, the only reference to a Mokotoff at the site was in a graduation class of Forest Hills High School. The school is not in Brooklyn; it is in Queens.


Avotaynu is still offering Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust and From Generation to Generation at exceptional discounts.

Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust is a three-volume, 1,824-page work that provides information about approximately 6,500 towns in Central and Eastern Europe where Jews lived before the Holocaust. It can be purchased through Avotaynu for only $99 plus shipping. (Shipping is $16 in the U.S.; $21 for Canada; and $25 for other countries.) You can order the books at At the site, Avotaynu has provided a list of all the towns described in the work. Check to see if the shtetls you are researching are included.

Arthur Kurzweil has updated his landmark guide to Jewish genealogy, From Generation to Generation. The new version is a major rewrite of previous editions, not merely an update. Since it was first published in 1980, From Generation to Generation has inspired thousands to pursue the unique challenges and rewards of Jewish genealogy. More than 40,000 copies of previous editions of this book have been sold. The book retails for $24.95. Avotaynu is offering it for only $17.00 at

Vol. 5, No. 14 - August 15, 2004

Conference Lectures Available on CD-ROM

All lectures at the recently completed 24th International Conference of Jewish Genealogy are available on CD for $40 (200 NIS including VAT) including shipping and handling. The CD is recorded using MP3 technology. A few lectures were not duplicated because the sound was too distorted on the original master. Orders can be placed at where there is a downloadable order form.

Photos of New York Buildings

Those readers with roots in New York may be interesting in dressing up their family history books or web sites with pictures of the buildings in which their ancestors lived. The New York City Municipal Archives is now selling through the Internet pictures of every building in New York City as they existed in 1939-41. They were photographed for tax purposes. You can order the photos at The cost is $33. $25 for the photograph, $3 for shipping and $5 for the archives to determine the building/lot number if all you know is the street address. When visiting the site, click on some of the items to the left of the screen to display other pictures of New York City in the past including aerial and panoramic views, bridges, landmarks, and other scenes.

Summer Issue of AVOTAYNU Contains a "First"

The Summer issue of our flagship journal, AVOTAYNU, is at the printer. It will be mailed to subscribers in about three weeks. It is the first issue in our 20-year history printed (partially) in color. It includes a full-color image of the Dayan family tree, an illustration for an article about the Dayan family of Aleppo, Syria. The author of the article, Mitchell Dayan, claims to be an 87th-generation descendent of King David, and the printed tree identifies all of his ancestors back to the biblical king. Another article, by Kamila Klauzinska of Poland and Daniel Wagner of Israel discusses the use of color in Jewish tombstones, giving examples from Polish tombstones.

Some other articles in the latest issue of AVOTAYNU include: how a family genealogy website can help in research, success in linking families through DNA results, methodology articles about using the JRI-Poland site to trace ancestors and one that cautions about the use of documented and oral family histories.

There is a fascinating human interest story involving a Jewish immigrant family. Apparently it was not uncommon for immigrants to sneak into the U.S. with underage cousins, nephews and nieces under the guise that they were the accompanying adult's children. One Jewish family from South Africa had a problem; two of the six children accompanying the mother were black. Valerie Bazarov of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and Marian Smith of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service dug into each of their organization's files to find documentation about the family, to describe what transpired when the family arrived at Ellis Island, New York, and to discover the final fate of the two young black girls.

You can subscribe to AVOTAYNU at At the site is a link to an index of all articles that have appeared in AVOTAYNU from 1985-2002.

A Scam Involving Holocaust Assets

I have received e-mail from a number of friends who alerted me to e-mail making the rounds that seems to be a variant of the Nigerian scam, but this one involves Holocaust assets. The message starts out:

"My name is Mr. George Graham a member of Independent Committee of Eminent Persons (ICEP), Switzerland. ICEP is charged with the responsibility of finding bank accounts in Switzerland belonging to non-Swiss indigenes, which have remained dormant since World War II... Most belonged to Holocaust victims... A dormant account of ORDNER ADELE with a credit balance of 50,000,000 US dollars plus accumulated interest was discovered by me..." Of course, the writer is willing to share the 50 million with you.

The e-mail inquiry cites many Internet locations where additional information can be found about Holocaust assets, including our site, Our site includes a list of persons who had dormant Swiss bank accounts and Viennese Jews who were forced to declare their assets in 1938 (these assets were subsequently taken away from them).

I received such a solicitation many months ago and found, interestingly, there is such an organization as "The Independent Committee of Eminent Persons." It is better known as "The Volcker Commission" and has a web site at The Committee's mandate is "to conduct an investigative audit to determine whether there are any dormant accounts, financial instruments, and other assets of the victims of Nazi persecution or others that were deposited in Swiss banks before, during, or immediately after the Second World War." There is no George Graham on the Committee according to the web site.

Needless to say, do not respond to the e-mail.


One of the sad aspects of Jewish life today is that the immigrant ancestors who fled Central and Eastern Europe at the turn of the 20th century for other countries throughout the world are all gone as are many of their children. Lost are many of the traditions they maintained. The problem is not unique to Jewish culture. Recently I complained to an Italian-American friend that I went to an Italian wedding and had a terrible time because it wasn't a traditional Italian wedding. Gone were the tarantellas and the bride sitting in the middle of the dance floor toward the conclusion of the event collecting gifts (money) from the guests. My friend gave a sigh of agreement and commented that -her- daughter would have a genuine Italian wedding.

The loss of the Jewish cultural past was brought home to me last night when I attended a 40th wedding anniversary party for my machutunim (daughter's in-laws) at Sammy's Romanian Restaurant on the Lower East Side of New York. The Lower East Side of Manhattan was where many Jewish immigrants lived after they arrived at Ellis Island and took the ferry to lower Manhattan to become part of the Goldene Medina (Golden Land). It was about a mile walk from the ferry slip. They had displaced the Irish immigrants who arrived a few decades earlier. Today the Jews have been displaced by Chinese and Hispanic immigrants. Sammy's is a remnant of what was once a bustling Jewish community.

The citadel of the Jewish Lower East Side, the building owned by the Yiddish-language newspaper, Jewish Daily Forward, was taken over in 1974 by a Chinese company. The Forward is now a weekly. For many decades after it was Chinese-owned, the top of the building was still adorned with the Yiddish word "Forvitz" chiseled into the top of the building. This was removed a few years ago.

The food served at Sammy's reminded me of my youth. As we sat down to eat, I noted the table was adorned with a bowl of pickles, another bowl of pickled green peppers, three bottles of seltzer (for eight people) and genuine Jewish rye bread--not the pseudo-Jewish rye bread you find in supermarkets hiding behind names like "Grossingers" and "Pechters." It was the kind of rye bread of my youth when I used to eat the center portion of the slice saving the crusty edge for last, devouring it as a delicacy.

The first appetizer was chopped chicken liver and raw horseradish topped with gribbenes (rendered chicken fat--no wonder many of our ancestors died of heart disease before the age of 60!). The second appetizer was stuffed cabbage. Stuffed cabbage is something I rarely enjoy today because no one could make stuffed cabbage like my late mother-in-law who was the daughter of immigrants. She ruined my taste for all imitations of her version.

The main course was a choice of the usual Jewish fare: steak, salmon or chicken. I elected to have steak which was offered at three levels of preparation: well done, very well done and extremely well done. There were three side dishes: mashed potatoes with fried onions, french-fried potatoes and deep-fried potato pancakes (latkes). (Still further evidence of why so many of our ancestors died of heart disease before the age of 60!) They were the only side dishes--no other vegetables.

Sammy's served a Jewish intermezzo after the main course and before desert: a genuine egg cream. An egg cream is a uniquely New York (and probably Jewish invented) drink. It consists of seltzer, chocolate syrup and milk (my apologies to my kosher friends). But to be a genuine egg cream, the chocolate syrup must be Fox's U-Bet. I am amazed the product is still made, since I always thought that the sole purpose of this variant of chocolate syrup was to make egg creams. Downing the drink required an additional two bottles of seltzer for the table.

Dessert consisted of the 40th-anniversary cake and rugelach (pastries).

It is now about 12 hours after we left the restaurant and I can still taste the food and there is a strange glowing feeling surrounding my heart.

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