Jan Mayer | Jul 5, 2017

10 Great Resources for Jewish Genealogy

This is the third of a three-part series exploring Jewish genealogy. Read part one and part two.

In last week’s article, we examined some of the ways to understand Jewish names and how to find tombstones. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most useful tools to add to your Jewish genealogy research toolbox.

Internet search engines return thousands of sources when you search for “Jewish genealogy,” and finding what you really need can be difficult. The following 10 resources can help point you in the right direction:

JewishGen

JewishGen is a free website with databases, a family finder, articles, societies, projects, and discussion groups. One of the databases, the JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR), contains names and other identifying information from cemeteries and burial records. The site helps researchers organize their work by providing an overview of possible directions.

“On JewishGen … they have a getting started tab,” said professional genealogist Laura Diamond during her RootsTech 2017 presentation. “Just explore that,” she said, and you’ll find “a treasure trove of … detailed information about where you want to look in Jewish genealogy and what JewishGen can offer to you.”

FamilySearch

FamilySearch, the largest genealogy organization in the world, offers millions of free digitized images, a variety of databases, and research help. One of the newest additions is the Knowles collection, a Jewish genealogy database with over one million records. This collection links generations of Jewish families and is growing by more than 10,000 names per month as people contribute records from over 80 countries.

Ancestry

Ancestry has a vast collection of easy-to-access records, including Jewish family history collections, census records, vital statistics, and passenger and immigration records. (A subscription is needed for in-depth research.)

Yad Vashem

This collection has a Shoah Names Database, which contains names and biographical information of four and a half of the six million Jews who perished during the Holocaust (Shoah) period. The site also includes WWII-era records, pictures, and personal testimonies.

Avotaynu

Avotaynu is the most prolific publisher of Jewish genealogical books and articles, and it even has an e-zine about Jewish genealogy. Avotaynu also has a list of helpful internet sites, including the Consolidated Jewish Surname Index with about 700,000 Jewish surnames.

International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies

The International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) website lists about 75 Jewish genealogical societies from around the world and provides individual links for each site.

“You can look at [the list of IAJGS member organizations] and find a Jewish genealogy society near you,” Diamond said. “You can both reach out to Jewish genealogy societies in the area that you live and also the areas that your ancestors lived. …  They might know of specific Jewish resources in that town.”

Jewish museums often partner with historical and genealogical societies.

“Jewish historical societies, Jewish historical museums—different towns call them different things,” Diamond said. But regardless of what they are called, “they have an incredible amount of information.” Diamond further explained, “Each one will be a little bit different, but [they are a] really good resource.”

Routes to Roots

Routes to Roots specializes in Jewish records in the archives of Eastern Europe and has helpful lists of related websites.

Find a Grave, Billion Graves, and Cemetery Scribes

These three websites are great sources, primarily if you’re looking for information from the United Kingdom. Each site has huge databases of cemetery locations and tombstone images. 

Jewish publications

Some Jewish publications date back to the mid-1800s and have searchable archives, which contain marriage announcements, birth records, obituaries, and human-interest stories. Such publications are most common in cities with large Jewish populations. 

“Certain towns have been really good at getting their Jewish newspapers digitized,” Diamond said. “And if they aren't online, they probably exist somewhere in that city in a Jewish historical society or Jewish museum.”

Miscellaneous internet resources

In addition to the resources listed above, here are a few other helpful sites:

  • General genealogy sites such as Cyndi’s List or Genealogy.com have significant sections on Jewish genealogy.
  • Facebook pages such as Jewish Genealogy Portal and Tracing the Tribe have online communities of individuals who can answer questions or help with the translation of Hebrew on a tombstone or document.
  • Blogs such as The Knowles Collection (different from the database on FamilySearch) provide firsthand insights and ideas for researchers.

Despite the amount of online information, the search for Jewish ancestors can still be challenging. But don’t get discouraged. New records are constantly being digitized, and what looks like a dead end today may become an important clue tomorrow!

What tips can you offer for Jewish genealogy research? Tweet us @RootsTechConf to join the conversation.

Jan Mayer

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