Discovery Your Family History

Jewish Genealogy 101

If you are searching for Jewish family connections, looking for a Jewish past that was lost due to conversion to another faith, or intermarriage, or looking for ancestors who were lost during the holocaust, fortunately there are many sources available to help you with your LDS family search. In this article, I will give you a few suggestions to get you started in your research. To find your Jewish family history, review the photos and other documents your living relatives may have available, and interview your family members to obtain oral accounts of your Jewish genealogy. Documents of your Jewish ancestors include, but are not limited to: bar/bat mitzvah invitations, Calendars that show when it is necessary to light a candle in memory of a relative who has passed away, marriage contracts, and wimpels, which are made from a baby’s receiving blankets.

 Although it is important to interview your older relatives, this may pose a difficulty, because some immigrants often refused to relive the memories of the societies, from whence they once belonged. The lives of many Jews were disrupted over the past two centuries, and those memories of the violence they suffered can often be painful. You as a Jewish genealogist, conducting your LDS family search can help them by forging new connections that help them look forward to talking about their lives.

 Jewish Genealogy Resources

 One web site where you can set up a free account and continue your search is called JewishGen. This site can be used after you have exhausted all of your family’s resources. On this site, you can register for the family finder, which is where you can find other genealogists who are searching for family relations with the same last names, and places where their ancestors lived. You can also join a genealogical society, and network with other family researchers who share your enthusiasm. You can also view the family tree where other members share their data online. After you comb through the resources on the JewishGen web site, you will probably conduct your LDS family search through resources such as the US census, vital records, city directories, phone directories, immigration and naturalization records, etc. While doing your research, there are some factors to keep in mind that will help you along the way.

  • In the same way that we have many nicknames, or our names have different spelling variations today, Jewish names were varied, depending on the language that was used. For example, many Jews had two given names, one in Hebrew, which was used for religious and other official purposes, and another in Yiddish, or the language of the surrounding countries.

  • For several thousand years, a male child’s given name was followed by his father’s given name. Male given names eventually evolved into family surnames. This naming system was called a patronymic system. Female surnames were less commonly derived from female given names, by using a system called a metronymic system.

  • Many Jewish names were often spelled in various ways. In order to find your Jewish ancestors, you may want to search for them in the avotaynu consolidated Jewish index of surnames. Before you search this and other Jewish indexes, it is important to read more about Jewish names to prevent any future confusion during your genealogical research.

 Here are a few more sources of information that you can use for your LDS family search. Gravestones are a wonderful place to begin your genealogical research, because most Jewish gravestones contain the Hebrew name of your deceased relative, his or her father’s name, and in some instances, the names of the deceased’s mother or spouse. These inscriptions can help you determine the religious categories that are useful in finding your Jewish ancestors.

Synagogue records are another valuable source, because although they were in formerly kept, they often contained membership lists, lists of donors, records of marriage ceremonies, bar/bat Mitzvahs, vital records, burial records, and other such important information.

 Long before labour unions offered health benefits to their employees, and government safety net programs were designed to help them, immigrants formed what was known as homeland societies. These societies provided their members assistance in the event of an illness, financial help if someone lost his or her job, created social events for the youth, and gave members the right to be buried in the society’s cemetery.

  Synagogue Records Can Prove Useful

 The personal papers that were kept by Jewish rabbis often contained similar records as were kept in synagogues. Although a rabbi may have records of several ceremonies that he performed over the years, he may also have some circumcision records among his papers. After you have completed your research using the sources listed above, you can continue your research by viewing information online, on microfilm, in books, and in original documents housed in various libraries, genealogical and historical societies, and other such archives.

 Many Jewish families are trying to locate information about loved ones who were lost in the holocaust, to commemorate their lives. This type of research has actually helped genealogists discover their living relatives who have unknowingly survived the holocaust. The reason family reunions are held for these researchers and their relatives is to re pare the torn fabric of their family stories, and help these relatives heal their long lasting emotional wounds. If you are one of many Jewish researchers looking for your relatives who survived the holocaust, you can search millions of holocaust documents and records, which have been recorded onto microfilm, and preserved by the international tracing service, located in Bad Arolson, Germany. Many holocaust records are available from countries such as Hungary, Romania, and Ukraine, which are no longer communist countries.

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