24    May 20077 comments

Jewish ancestors? Some essential resources

If you are searching for your Jewish ancestors, here are some essential resources. There were Jewish communities around the world in every country, so one must look for religious records in addition to civil records.

The first step is tracking down where your family came from. Your family might have come from Belarus:

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or from anywhere in the Pale of Settlement:

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or from North Africa, Spain/Portugal, the Middle East or Asia. Jews from Eastern Europe (who used Yiddish) are generally termed Ashkenazi. Those originally from the Mediterranean area, who may have used Ladino, are called Sephardim, while others used other dialects and languages and are identified as Mizrahi. Different sources are available for each, in many different languages.

The very first place to go to is JewishGen, the home of Jewish genealogy on the internet. The resources available here make it essential for everyone searching Jewish ancestry.

There are many Infofiles on a wide range of topics, arranged by geography and topic. These make for very good reading before you even begin your quest and are highly recommended by experienced genealogists.

The JewishGen FAQs are also essential reading for beginners.

The JewishGenFamily Finder, one of the most popular JewishGen sites, is a great connector. Researchers list their family names and towns of origins with contact details. Those searching for the same names and places can contact the submitters for more details. Many miraculous connections have been made through the Family Finder.

ViewMate is helpful in obtaining help in deciphering and translating documents, photo inscriptions, and other items. An item is uploaded, a notice about it is posted on one of the appropriate discussion lists and volunteers chime in very quickly with the results.

The general discussion list has many readers around the world and very helpful individuals, and there are many special interest group lists are where experts reside.

Special interest groups, called SIGs, have been organized by volunteers on geographical and topical lines. This is where you'll find your geographical experts to help you locate those who know specific communities and available records, archives, translators, many resources and more. Each SIG also has a specialized discussion list.

Many SIGs have participated in transliteration and translation projects with records available online. Some, like Belarus SIG and many others, extract information from Mormon microfilms, translate them and place them online at the SIG site.

In addition to JewishGen, there are other sites, which are collections of links, sites and articles, which are also of major use.

The International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies maintains a list of its world-wide member societies. Joining a society can help you in many ways. In addition to monthly meetings, reference libraries, you'll find people ready to help you find information you may need.

Some societies also work on various projects such as cemetery transcriptions which help researchers around the world. One society in Israel has transliterated and translated 85,000 burials in two major cemeteries, which has enabled researchers around the world, who do not know Hebrew, to find their relatives' resting places.

Always remember to check MyHeritage's search engine for your names of interest.

I am always happy to hear from readers who may have questions, comments or suggestions. I look forward to reading your messages.


The first stop for Jewish genealogists, with a wide array of resources.

Publishers of essential Jewish genealogy works, various online resources and a link to an e-newsletter, Nu? What's Nu?, publisher of Avotaynu: The International Journal of Jewish Genealogy.

Tracing the Tribe - The Jewish Genealogy Blog
The only dedicated Jewish genealogy blog, frequently updated with news, resources, publications, events - in short, everything you need to know about Jewish genealogy as it happens.

Harry Stein's Sephardim.com
Particularly useful for a major index of many specialized books, showing where mentions of specific names may be found; Sephardic customs, links, and a specialized discussion list of some 2,000 world-wide membesr.

Jeff Malka's Sephardic Genealogy Site

One of the best, most complete set of Sephardic genealogy links, organized by topic and geography, by the award-winning author of "Sephardic Genealogy: Discovering Your Sephardic Ancestors and Their World" (Avotaynu, 2002).

Compilations of links, articles and much more by the dedicated Ted Margulis.

Yad Vashem
Online searchable index of Pages of Testimony submitted for Holocaust victims.

Bet Hatefutsoth
A museum with a genealogy center, information on towns, name meanings and more.

Search for your ancestors:

Comments (7) Trackbacks (0)
  1. pe篠informa絥s sobre uma residencia em marseille-fran硠que pertenceu a minha tia-av
  2. Does anyone know a Jewish, yiddish, Polish, Judiac origin for the surname Winborn, Winburn, Weinbern (or other variant)? Does anyone now have the surname Winborn etc. that chamged their name or know of a family member that did? I am up against a wall in my research and need to find the names of ancestors before they changed to Winborn or variant thereof.Many, Many, Many thanks for any response or help. Bob
  3. Anyone who's trying to trace their family's Jewish lineage, or is just interested in the subject might enjoy a new book about a Jewish family called the Backenroths. I really enjoyed it, and I also think that there are people who might find information about their own families in the book, because so many families are linked to the Backenroths, and are mentioned in the book. The book traces the family from Europe in the mid-14th century until our time, following their descendants through important historic events in Europe, Israel and the United States. The book is by Michael Karpin, and is called - "Tightrope: Six Centuries of a Jewish Dynasty".
  4. I am really enjoying reading your well written articles. It looks like you spend a lot of effort and time on your blog. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work!
  5. Let me add to Adi's comment the list of the families that are connected to the Backenroth family and are mentioned in my book Tightrope: Avigdor, Birkenthal, Bacharach, Bereznizki, Backenroth (Buchenrath), Collier, Heller, Edelsberg, Eichenstein, Epstein, Friedman, Feder, Feurstein, Feigenbaum, Graubard (Graubart), Gellerstein, Gertenberg, Greenberg, Greenwald, Gartner, Horn, Hagndel, Horowitz, Kahane, Kaler, Kartin, Koslowski, Kronenberg, Krauthammer, Margulis, Manis, Mahler, Moses, Nacht, Panzer, Petranker, Reichman, Rothenberg, Silberstein, Schreiber, Sobel, Shapiro, Sirkes, Shor, Schulz (including relatives of the writer Bruno Schulz, who was a close friend of Naftali Backenroth-Bronicki and whose murder by a Gestapo officer is described in detail in TIGHTROPE), Tannenbaum, Turkel (Tirkel), Tenzer, Teomim, Thorne, Wickler, Weidman, Weber, Weinberger, Wawelberg, Weintraub, Zygelbaum (Zigelboim), Zinder, and many, many others.
  6. azerty
  7. Thank you Michael and Adi! I am a Gellerstein and I just ordered the last copy of your book via Amazon. I can't wait to read it and learn about that amazing family and how my family is connected!

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