Gary Mokotoff

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Gary Mokotoff
Organisation Avotaynu Inc
Personal details
Birth name Gary Mokotoff
Born (1937-04-26)April 26, 1937
New York City, New York US
Parents Sylvia Mokotoff
Jack Mokotoff
Spouse Ruth Mokotoff
Children 3
Occupation Jewish Genealogist
Computer Scientist

Gary Mokotoff (born April 26, 1937) is an author, lecturer, and Jewish genealogy researcher.[1][2][3] Mokotoff is the publisher of AVOTAYNU, the International Review of Jewish Genealogy,[4] and is the former President of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS). He is the creator of the JewishGen's Jewish Genealogical Family Finder and the Jewish Genealogical People Finder. He co-authored the Daitch–Mokotoff Soundex system.[5][6][7] Mokotoff is co-author of Where We Once Walked: A Guide to the Jewish Communities Destroyed in the Holocaust.[8]

Early life[edit]

Mokotoff was born in New York City to parents Sylvia Mokotoff (née Friedberg) and Jack Mokotoff.[9][10] He grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, spending his teenage years in Queens. His grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Russia-Poland.[1]


Computer career[edit]

Mokotoff joined the IBM Applied Programming Department in 1959, working on developing systems software for the yet-to-be-announced IBM 1401.[11] He is the author of SPS-1, SPS-2 IBM 1401 Symbolic Programming System, coauthor of 1401 Autocoder and participated in the 1401 Fortran II compiler project.[12]

In 1965, Mokotoff was drafted into the U.S. Army and spent his entire two-year career in the data processing department at Fort Dix Army Air Base in Fort Dix, New Jersey. He led the team that installed the first computer at Fort Dix (an IBM 1401). For his efforts, he received a Certificate of Achievement from the Commanding General of the base. When he left the Army, he had achieved the rank of Specialist Fifth Class. In 1967, he returned to IBM.

In 1968, Mokotoff left IBM to form his own software company with partner Stanley F. Smillie. The company catered primarily to the retail industry. In the 1980s, the company, Data Universal Corp, developed a software system called Riva which it installed in early computer systems at such national retail chains as The Children's Place, Linens N Things and Bed, Bath & Beyond.[13]

In 1985, he assisted the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants to computerize the National Registry of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. This database is now located at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Genealogy career[edit]

Mokotoff became involved in genealogy in 1979 to prove, successfully, that all persons named Mokotoff/Mokotov/Mokotow have a common ancestor.[1][14][15] In 1980, he joined the Jewish Genealogical Society Inc (New York) and the following year became a member of its Board of Directors. During his tenure on the Board, he used his computer background to develop some of the earliest databases for Jewish genealogy including the Jewish Genealogical Family Finder (now called JewishGen Family Finder), a database used by more than 100,000 Jewish genealogists.[16]

Recognizing that there were many spelling variants of Eastern European Jewish surnames, even though they sounded similar, Mokotoff collaborated with Randy Daitch to create the Daitch–Mokotoff Soundex, system which provides a phonetic alternative to searching databases of names.[6]

In 1984, Mokotoff and Sallyann Amdur Sack formed a company, Avotaynu, Inc, which publishes Avotaynu Magazine.[17] This journal has been published quarterly since 1985. In 1991, the company expanded its effort into book publishing with Where We Once Walked: A Guide to the Jewish Communities Destroyed in the Holocaust, a gazetteer which lists more than 23,000 towns in Central and Eastern Europe with large Jewish communities prior to the Holocaust. The book won the 1991 "Best Reference Book Award" of the Association of Jewish Libraries.[18] Since then, Avotaynu has published more than 70 books, five of which have won awards. In 2003, the Association of Jewish Libraries gave Avotaynu Inc its "Body of Work Award."[19] This award has been given only five times in the past 20 years.

In 1987, at the request of Rabbi Malcolm H. Stern and Sallyann Amdur Sack, Mokotoff founded the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies, the international organization of Jewish genealogical societies all over the world.

In 1990, Mokotoff became a member of the Board of Directors of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS). He served on the Board, with some interruption, for 15 years. In 2002, he served four years on the Board of the Association of Professional Genealogists.

In 2001, Mokotoff created the weekly e-zine of Jewish genealogy, called Nu? What’s New?


Additionally, Mokotoff has acted as a consultant for in the area of Jewish genealogical resources and is the author of "Where Do I Begin" in the Jewish genealogy section of[24]


Personal life[edit]

Mokotoff married Ruth Mokotoff (née Auerbach) in 1965. They have three children and eight grandchildren. He and his wife were members of Mensa International.[1]

Works and publications[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Profiles: Gary Mokotoff" (PDF). DOROT: The Journal of the Jewish Genealogical Society. 10 (2): 7–8. Winter 1988. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  2. ^ Eddy, Melissa (8 May 2008). "Lost in the Holocaust: experts plumb newly opened archive". USA Today. Associated Press. Retrieved 30 April 2015. 
  3. ^ "Gary Mokotoff, Avotaynu". Association of Professional Genealogists. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  4. ^ Mindlin, Alex (6 July 2006). "Genealogists' Lament: Yesteryear Is Gone". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  5. ^ "Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex Coding". JewishGen. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  6. ^ a b Mokotoff, Gary (1997). "Soundexing and Genealogy". Avotaynu. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Battista, Carolyn (3 June 1990). "Groups Seek Jews' European Roots". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  8. ^ "Gary Mokotoff - Bio". Avotaynu. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  9. ^ "Sylvia Mokotoff - Obituary". The New York Times. 20 May 2009. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  10. ^ "Garry Mokotoff - United States Census, 1940". FamilySearch. Retrieved 30 April 2015. 
  11. ^ "IBM 1401 1950s Team Bios: Mokotoff, Gary". The IBM 1401 Demo Lab and Restoration Project Computer History Museum. Retrieved 30 April 2015. 
  12. ^ "A milestone for me or How I learned to program the IBM 1401". The IBM 1401 Demo Lab and Restoration Project Computer History Museum. Retrieved 30 April 2015. 
  13. ^ "Riva by Data Universal Corp". Trademarkia. 2 July 1985. Retrieved 16 May 2015. 
  14. ^ Strasser, Teresa (19 July 1996). "Jewish genealogy: Seeking spirituality through the past". J. Weekly. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  15. ^ "History of the Mokotoff (Mokotów) Family". The Family Mokotoff. Retrieved 30 April 2015. 
  16. ^ "JGFF: FAQ - 1.4. What's the history of the JGFF?". JewishGen. Retrieved 16 May 2015. 
  17. ^ Villano, Matt (9 August 1996). "Internet Site Is The Latest Tool To Assist Genealogists". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 24 October 2015. 
  18. ^ "Reference & Bibliography Awards: AJL Judaica Reference Award". Association of Jewish Libraries. Retrieved 30 April 2015. 
  19. ^ Pearlstein, Peggy K. (20 June 2004). "Presentation of the Association of Jewish Libraries, Research & Special Libraries Division: One-Time Body-of-Work Award to Avotaynu Publishers, Inc." (PDF). Association of Jewish Libraries. Retrieved 16 May 2015. 
  20. ^ Kieval, Sheila (Fall 1993). "Program Reports: Russian-American Genealogical Archival Service (RAGAS) (September 19, 1993)" (PDF). DOROT: The Journal of the Jewish Genealogical Society. 15 (1): 3–5. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  21. ^ Miller, Michael M. (June 1990). "The Germans from Russia and New Resources". North Dakota State University Libraries. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  22. ^ "Officers: Gary Mokotoff". International Institute for Jewish Genealogy and Paul Jacobi Center. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  23. ^ "Who's Who at JewishGen". JewishGen. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  24. ^ Mokotoff, Gary. "Jewish Family History Collection: Where do I begin?". Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  25. ^ "FGS Award Recipients". Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS). Retrieved 16 May 2015. 
  26. ^ "IAJGS Achievement Awards 1998: IAJGS Lifetime Achievement Award: Gary Mokotoff". IAJGS. July 1998. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  27. ^ "Awards Program: Grahame T. Smallwood Jr. Award of Merit". Association of Professional Genealogists. Retrieved 16 May 2015. 
  28. ^ APG Staff (29 September 2008). "APG Honors Gary Mokotoff". Association of Professional Genealogists. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  29. ^ "Awards Program: APG Honorary Life Membership". Association of Professional Genealogists. Retrieved 16 May 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

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