Category Archives: Jewish Ancestors

Two Additional Genealogy Programs by Vicki Ruthe Hahn – Sept. 25 and Oct. 23, 2017 at NSLD, IL.

Two Additional Genealogy Programs by Vicki Ruthe Hahn –

Sept. 25 and Oct. 23, 2017 at NSLD, North Suburban Library District, Illinois:

These are both free 1 hour classes available to all.

NSLD/Loves Park

6340 N. Second St.

Loves Park, IL 61111



5562 Clayton Circle

Roscoe, IL 61073


“Family History for Beginners, and Detective Techniques for Experienced Genealogists”

Monday, September 25 from 2-3pm at NSLD Roscoe, Illinois


Effectively find the most that you can about your family history with hands-on exercises, and examples.  Be successful using basic genealogy research methods. Learn how to: search archives and on-line, record evidence, organize your genealogy, use timelines and “FAN” clubs, analyze records, and find missing clues based on what you know, etc.



Research Your Overseas Ancestors Without Going ‘Across the Pond’”

Monday, October 23 from 2-3 at NSLD Loves Park, Illinois


Learn how to find your immigrant ancestors’ information in U.S. records, in over-seas on-line genealogy databases, and in other, mostly-free, resources. How histories and maps help track their immigrations. What to do about language barriers. 


statelinegenealogyclub @ Beloit Public Library - Vicki RUTHE HAHN

Vicki Ruthe Hahn  – Public Services Librarian, Beloit Public Library, WI – BA and MLIS University of Illinois.  Blog creator of “” 2014 ; founder of Stateline Genealogy Club @ Beloit Public Library 2012.  “Stateline Genealogy Sorter” SGS, with a background in Anthropology, History, clothing history, and teaching, she sorts out mysteries, rediscovers histories, weaves stories, and helps people with their family genealogy and local history,  specializing from Central Illinois to Central Wisconsin. 



Ellis Island, & other Top Heritage Museums & Genealogy Research Centers

Ellis Island, & other Top Heritage Museums & Genealogy Research Centers

Vicki’s Note – article from the July/August 2017 Family Tree Magazine.  We will be do an on-line “tour” of the Ellis Island Museum at our July 14, 2017 program 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. for Stateline Genealogy Club @ Beloit Public Library.

Ellis Island Immigration Museum, New York City – Peter Urban’s tour – how 12 million immigrants were processed there;  archival photos & films – immigrant experience. 

Here’s more information while you wait.  Lots of great museums in the U.S. to visit this summer, or in the future.  I think that my “Life List of Things and Places to Experience”  just got bigger.  (Doesn’t that sound nicer than “Bucket List”?)


Top Heritage Museums and Genealogy Research Centers


Set your sights on these 11 must-visit heritage museums where you can research your roots and walk in your ancestors’ shoes.


11 Must-See Heritage Museums for GenealogistsYou’ve probably devoted considerable time to discovering your ancestors’ origins. Just knowing the place they came from, however, is rarely enough. Genealogists also want to know how their ancestors lived, what they did for work, what they wore and ate, what their homes looked like. What you need is a resource that’s not only rich in genealogical information, but also shares the richness of your ancestors’ culture.

And if a relative’s specific place of origin yet proves elusive, learning the history of that heritage group may offer another research pathway, suggesting new records to try or offering clues in the lives of his countrymen.

Heritage centers and museums—usually located in places where people of a particular heritage settled together—cover nearly every ethnicity and cultural group. Whether your ancestors hail from Germany, India, Ireland, Japan, Sweden, Syria, Ghana, Mexico or elsewhere, there’s probably a museum that provides historical materials and a glimpse of that culture’s customs, history and people.

Some centers serve both as history museum and research destination, with manuscript collections, foreign-language newspapers, photographs, maps, local histories and more. They may offer genealogy workshops, translation help and research assistance.

Okage Sama De, the title of an exhibit at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai’i, translates to “I am what I am because of you.” That’s the crux of heritage museums’ significance: Exploring one rewards you with a better understanding of who your ancestors were—and thus, how you came to be who you are. Here, we highlight 11 of the best heritage museums in the United States, chosen for their genealogist-friendly research libraries, exhibits, tours, classes and community events. Use this guide as a springboard to similar organizations covering your family’s heritage.

American Italian Cultural Center

New Orleans  •  Immigrants from Sicily, who flooded New Orleans in the late 1800s, gave the Big Easy its famous muffaletta sandwich. You can still steep in your family’s Italian heritage here, in addition to starting your genealogy search. Genealogist Sal Serio conducts family history classes. The center also offers Italian language courses.Genealogists researching Italian roots can access special collections at the library, including books, magazines and Italian-language newspapers. “Vertical files,” Serio says, “are packed with information about businesses and benevolent societies, which are prolific in this part of the country.” Make an appointment with Serio for guidance to the right sources and help with translation.

The museum focuses on Italian immigrants to the Southeast, and Italians in jazz and sports. Don’t miss the nearby outdoor Piazza d’Italia, built by the city to honor its Italian heritage. You can play bocce ball, listen to a concert, watch traditional flag-throwers and attend wine tastings.

Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture

Chicago • The genealogy department here holds newspapers, books, obituaries, annals, maps and other documents in a collection that spans most of Lithuania’s turbulent history, from the 13th century to 1940. Although you can’t research the collection yourself, staff provide in-depth consultation services to museum members. Nonmembers can take advantage of fee-based services including translation of old documents.

Lithuanian name spellings can vary, as can languages used in records. Pre-WWI documents, for example, are usually written in Russia’s Cyrillic script. Records also may be in Latin or Polish.Get to know the culture of your ancestors in the museum, says Karile Vaitikute, genealogy department director. “There are exhibits and a film that describe Lithuanian history, national costumes, Lithuanian art, agricultural items and even a small house,” she says. The museum also provides workshops and guided travel opportunities.

Courtesy of the Cherokee Heritage Center

Cherokee Heritage Center

Tahlequah, Okla. • Your admission to the Cherokee Heritage Center allows you access to the Trail of Tears exhibit, Diligwa (a 1710 Cherokee village), Adam’s Corner (an 1890s rural Oklahoma village) and Cherokee Family Research Center.Most visitors are new to genealogy. “They’re here primarily because they learned from a family story or legend that one of their ancestors is Cherokee,” says Gene Norris, the center’s genealogist. He recommends starting your research with three federally compiled rolls covering the Cherokee: the Dawes Final Roll, the Guion Miller Roll and the Baker Roll. The center’s website offers tips on getting started.

The library offers databases and records including government and private documents, photographs, posters, maps, architectural drawings, books, manuscripts and articles focusing on Cherokee history and culture. Staff researchers are available for hire.

Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration

New York, NY •  Ellis Island’s immigration museum tells the stories of arrivals before, during, and after Ellis Island processed immigrants (1892 to 1954). The Peopling of America Center, opened in 2015, shares the migration history of American Indians, slaves transported against their will, and Colonial- and Victorian-era immigrants.

The island’s American Immigrant Wall of Honor is inscribed with more than 700,000 names of immigrants through all ports.

If your ancestors came through Ellis Island, you can walk in their footsteps at the immigration museum, view the renowned Great Hall, and follow an audio tour through the immigrant experience as if you were a new arrival. A centerpiece is the American Family Immigration History Center passenger list archive. Now numbering 51 million names of passengers all the way up to 1954, the database is searchable both on-site and online; search results link to images of original manifests showing the immigrant’s name, age, last place of residence and more. You also can view images of immigrant passenger ships—maybe even your ancestor’s.

Historic Huguenot Street

New Paltz, NY • Huguenots were Protestants, largely from France, who left their homelands to escape religious persecution. Many settled in New York’s Hudson Valley, South Carolina and elsewhere along the East Coast. Their descendants include George Washington, the grandson of a Huguenot.

Start exploring this 10-acre museum at the Visitor Center, then head to any of seven historic stone houses, a reconstructed 1717 church, a burial ground dating to the earliest settlers, archaeological sites and more. The annual Gathering for Huguenot descendants includes history workshops that may open a door to your family tree.

“Historic Huguenot Street holds genealogies of the New Paltz patentees and associated families, transcriptions of church records, surname folders that include family trees, plus the archive of items such as letters, family Bibles, and estate records,” says spokesperson Kaitlin Gallucci. Access the research library on-site by appointment ($25) or send a research inquiry.

Irish American Heritage Center

Chicago • Nestled on Chicago’s northwest side, the Irish American Cultural Center houses a museum (open for tours by appointment) with artifacts including exquisite Irish lace, an art gallery, the Fifth Province pub, a theater, classrooms and a research library.

“This is the place to find out where you’re from,” says spokesperson Kathy O’Neill. You’ll find 25,000 books on Irish history and literature, newspapers, access to online databases, and other material. A limited-access archives section preserves documents, records and other rare and historic items. Family history classes take place once a month, or you can make an appointment with a staff researcher. Other classes cover Irish language, history and music. Celebrate your Irish heritage here with folk concerts, traditional céilí dances, festivals and storytelling.

Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai’i

Honolulu  • Those tracing Japanese roots, especially in Hawaii, will find a valuable resource here. “The center’s historical Okaga Sama De exhibit tells the story of Japanese immigration to Hawaii, from 1860 to statehood and beyond,” says Derrick Iwata, education and cultural specialist.

Visitors can tour the Honouliuli Education Center, which focuses on Japanese internment during World War II. Experience Japanese culture at one of the center’s festivals, including a New Year’s Ohana (Family) Festival on the second Sunday in January. Or come for the classes on martial arts and the Japanese tea ceremony (called chado, or the Way of Tea).

The center’s Tokioka Heritage Resource Center offers a wealth of material related to Japanese-American history, art and culture on Hawaii and the mainland. “Our library and archives has an assortment books and oral histories, as well as a number of directories which list Japanese residents in Hawaii,” says center manager Marcia Kemble. (Access the catalog here.) Staff can provide fee-based services such as translation, Japanese name consultation, and genealogical assistance, including help obtaining a family registry record, or koseki tohon, from Japan.

Museum of Jewish Heritage

New York • “In the case of Jewish genealogy, where so many records were lost and lives disrupted, an institution like the Museum of Jewish Heritage provides a crucial narrative,” says Michael Glickman, museum president and CEO.

The core exhibition uses first-person histories, photos, video and artifacts to explain Jewish history and tradition before WWII, European Jews’ confrontation with the hatred and violence of the Holocaust, and Jewish communities today. (View a selection of photos and documents here.) The outdoor Garden of Stones is a memorial to those lost in the Holocaust.

This museum’s “research library” is at its free partner website, JewishGen, where you’ll find discussion groups and more than 22 million records, including Holocaust records, a burial registry and the Communities Database. “Say your grandfather came from a town called Ostroleka,” Glickman says. “You might find six towns with the same name. How would you know which is the town your grandfather was referring to?” The database lists 6,000 Jewish communities, with their political jurisdictions and name variants over time.

National Hispanic Cultural Center 

Albuquerque, NM • Archivist Anna Uremovich calls this center a “full saturation of the Hispanic culture.” Its art museum features a 4,000-square-foot buon fresco depicting thousands of years of Hispanic history, and works from Spanish artists around the world. You also can attend art classes and other events.

The research library and archives is a destination for family historians with deep Southwest roots, holding Spanish census records, land grants, and the 90-volume set of Enciclopedia Heraldica Genealacia Hispano-Americana and the 15-volume Diccionario Hispanoamericano de Heraldica Onamastica y Genealogia. These books include more than 15,000 names from Spanish and Spanish-American families.

Search the library catalog here
(select National Hispanic Cultural Center from the menu at the top right). Uremovich also suggests researching Catholic parish records to learn family birth, marriage and burial details, and sometimes, names of other relatives.

Mark Bealer Photography

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Cincinnati • Search for African-American roots in the John Parker Library on the fourth floor of this inspirational museum (admission isn’t required if you’re just visiting the library). The library hosts a FamilySearch Center, where you can use databases, microfilm and other resources from FamilySearch. You can call ahead to schedule an appointment with an on-site genealogist. “We help between 60 to 120 patrons a month,” says marketing director Jamie Glavic, who recommends first completing as much of a pedigree chart as you can.

The Freedom Center museum can help you understand the experiences of your enslaved ancestors, who they were, how they were transported to America, and how they lived and worked here. Step inside a slave pen built in the early 1800s on a Kentucky farm, and follow in the footsteps of Underground Railroad passengers and conductors whose actions resisted slavery.

Watch a short film, narrated in part by Oprah Winfrey, describing the work of early abolitionists, intent on ending slavery. You’ll learn about those who resisted slavery and how slavery continues today.

Swedish American Museum

Chicago • Step inside this museum in the heart of Chicago’s “Little Sweden,” and you walk in the footsteps of Swedish immigrants, from preparing to leave their homeland to building new communities in America. View artifacts including steamship tickets, passports, folk crafts and household items brought from Sweden. A children’s museum allows kids to do chores in a stuga (farmhouse) and board a 20-foot “steamship.”

The center’s Swedish American Genealogy Research Center is “the only Chicago-area center that focuses on Swedish research,” says volunteer Vereen Nordstrom. It holds Swedish censuses, immigration and burial records; provides access to church records on the Swedish subscription website ArkivDigital; and hosts genealogy classes. Make an appointment to work with volunteers like Nordstrom, or send a research request (free for members of the museum’s Swedish American Genealogical Society; fee-based for nonmembers).

More Online

The Basics of Czech Research

Vicki’s note – very helpful article from Legacy Tree Genealogists.  My children’s paternal grandmother is Bohemian.  She always proudly said that they were “Bohunks”.  I have not researched that Central Europe part of my children’s ancestry yet.  The tools in this article will help when I do.       On most of the websites – there is an option to translate it to English .

  The Basics of Czech Research

The first challenge in beginning Czech research is figuring out that your ancestors actually came from what is now the Czech Republic.

The area now known as the Czech Republic was historically two different lands (Bohemia and Moravia), which later became provinces under the same names as part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and then changed hands several more times in the 20th century. So, your ancestor might have been recorded as a citizen of Austria, Austro-Hungary, Czechoslovakia, or even the Soviet Union, depending on the time period, while at the same time considering themselves Bohemian, Moravian, Silesian, Czech, or German.

Historically, the western half of what is now the Czech Republic was the kingdom of Bohemia (Böhmen in German), and the eastern side, bordering Slovakia, was Moravia (Mahren), with a little piece of Silesia (Schlesien). In fact, the terms Bohemia and Moravia are still used today by modern Czechs (Čechy and Morava) and the two regions differ slightly in culture, vocabulary and dialect.

As with other European research, almost all records useful for genealogy were kept at the town or parish level, so you need to know which specific town or village your ancestor came from before beginning research outside of the United States (or any other country to which they immigrated). Some sources that can give a specific village name include any family papers that have been passed down, naturalization records, passport applications, passenger lists, and church records (to name a few). General trends in immigration or surname distribution can also be helpful in narrowing down the region if it proves to be tricky or if it is a common village name.[1]

Czechs that immigrated to the United States came from both Bohemia and Moravia, but they tended to settle in different areas of the country with their neighbors. For example, many of the Czechs that came through the port of Galveston and settled in Texas were from Moravia or Eastern Bohemia, and it was common for a whole village to move together. The farmers that settled in the Midwest, such as Wisconsin and Iowa, tended to be from Bohemia, since it had a very similar climate to their homeland and they could continue practicing the same forms of agriculture to which they had long been accustomed.[2]

Once the hometown has been identified, the next step is to reference it in a gazetteer to determine the local parish and therefore, what church your ancestors would have attended. An excellent gazetteer available online is The entries on GenTeam not only detail which parish the town was part of, but also include information on when church records began, the town’s name in both German and Czech, and a link to the archive website where the records are housed for that specific parish. The best news for researchers is that all of the Czech regional archives are working to digitize their church records, and most parishes are complete!

The majority of the Czech population was historically Catholic because it was the state church under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but other minority religions kept records too, including the Lutherans, Reformed (Calvinist), and churches unique to Czech history, like the Hussites or the Moravian Brethren. Most church records are held at the regional level, but there are some, like the Jewish records for Bohemia, that are housed in the National Archives (Narodní Archiv) in Prague. (The Jewish records for Moravia are in the regional archives.) Other types of records, such as cadastral maps (government land maps), school records, and censuses are sometimes available through the regional archive websites as well, though some are at the district level and only available onsite. There are seven regional archives as shown in this map, and all have different websites with access to the digitized images:

Map showing the seven regional Czech archives. Map courtesy of the Czech Society for Genealogy and Heraldry in Prague,



Vicki’s note – the Czech regions names and links to their archives are hard to read                              on the map, so I am adding them larger here (and on the Genealogy Links page.                               There was also no direct link to each – I made the links.  The numbers refer to the map above.   

  1. Czech Region – Archiv hlavního města Prahy,
  2.  Czech Region -SOA v Praze,
  3. Czech Region -SOA v Zámrsku,
  4. Czech Region -SOA v Opavě ,
  5. Czech Region –Moravský zemský archiv v Brně,
  6. Czech Region -SOA v Třeboňi,
  7. Czech Region -SOA v Plzni,
  8. Czech Region -SOA v Litoměřicích,



While some of the regional archive websites are available in German or English in addition to Czech, many others are not. Still, these can often be navigated without too much trouble by using the translate feature on Google Chrome into your native tongue of choice.

Once you have found your family’s parish and located the records on the archive website, the next step is being able to read them! Parish registers were recorded in three different languages, depending on the time period and the individual priest: Latin, German, or Czech. Some excellent resources for interpreting the old handwriting and learning vocabulary in the various languages can be found on the FamilySearch wiki, or Brigham Young University’s Script Tutorials paleography website (for German only at this time). And don’t forget to try Google Translate!

Czech parish registers themselves are a fantastic resource for genealogical information. Unlike some church records, where the christening records give the bare minimum of information, many Czech records give the child’s name, birthdate, christening date, parents’ and grandparents’ names (including maiden names of the women), fathers’ and grandfathers’ occupations, and the house number and village where each member of the family lived. House numbers are particularly helpful in Czech research to differentiate between families because there are often multiple individuals in the parish with the same names.

There are countless other helpful websites for Czech research, like this database of obsolete Czech towns or this Polish name translator that lists given names in several different European languages including English, Czech, Latin and German. Don’t be too intimidated by the language barrier—Czech records are a treasure trove for genealogists and you don’t have to speak the language fluently to learn to read the words “narozeny, oddany, zemřely” (births, marriages, deaths) or 17 května 1887 (17 May 1887).

Do you have Czech ancestry? Would you like help discovering your roots? Contact Legacy Tree Genealogists today for a free consultation.


[1] The website uses census data from the 20th century to modern day to identify percentages of surnames in different regions and can be very useful in narrowing down likely regions.

[2] “Introduction to your Czech Roots,” Amy Wach, J.D., presentation at the National Genealogical Conference 2015, syllabus material in possession of the author.

Legacy Tree Genealogists
The team at Legacy Tree Genealogists has been helping clients worldwide discover their roots for over a decade. We’re based near the world’s largest Family History Library and connected with genealogists and archives around the world, and we love doing what we do! We also love sharing our genealogy tips with our readers.


JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR)

(Vicki’s note – this suggested Posting is from the website JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR).  See also 4 previous Postings (that I put on the BLOG within the last 3 months) with the Category “Jewish Ancestors”.  Also click here  for ““.

This Posting is worth reading for it’s “For hints on photographing tombstones” in red below.):

JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR)

Login to JewishGen

The JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) aims to catalog data about Jewish cemeteries and burial records worldwide, from the earliest records to the present.
JOWBR is a searchable database of names and associated information, including photographs of gravestones.

As of June 2016, JOWBR contains more than 2.88 million burial records from 6,300 cemeteries in 123 countries.

What is JOWBR?

The JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) is a database of names and other identifying information from Jewish cemeteries and burial records worldwide, from the earliest records to the present.  It is a compilation of two linked databases: a database of burial records, and a database of information about each particular cemetery.  JOWBR’s aim is to catalog extant data about Jewish cemeteries and burial records worldwide.  Photographs of the gravestones (matzevot) are also included in this database.

JOWBR is a searchable database on JewishGen, and the data is also incorporated into the relevant JewishGen “All Country” Databases.

For more information on donating information to JOWBR, see our page “Why Submit Burial Records to JOWBR”.

You can watch JewishGen’s screencast series
“How To Submit Data To JOWBR”

How does the JOWBR project work?
The indexing of burial records is the responsibility of a large team of volunteers, coordinated by Nolan Altman.  The technical aspects of the project are guided by Warren Blatt, JewishGen’s Managing Director; and Michael Tobias, Vice President for Programming.

To help accumulate burial data, JewishGen has initiated an “adopt a cemetery” program, to encourage Special Interest Groups (SIGs), local Jewish genealogy societies (JGSs), synagogue youth groups, Jewish Federations, and other interested parties to adopt a cemetery or a landsmanschaft plot and index its records for submission to the JOWBR project.  We hope to appoint coordinators for cities, states, and countries outside the United States who will organize efforts to collect data for their areas.  Those people who wish to become coordinators should contact Nolan Altman.

We regret that we cannot accept individual family burial data.  JOWBR only accepts data from an entire cemetery or an entire landsmanschaft/organization plot within a larger cemetery.

All forms and explanatory material are available online, using the links below: a Donor Agreement, a template for data entry (an Excel spreadsheet), and an explanation of the fields used for data entry.

The fields for data input for each burial are:

Plot Location
Given Name(s)
Place of Birth
Date of Birth
Place of Death
Date of Death (English)
Date of Death (Hebrew)
Age at Death
Date of Burial
Hebrew Name
Spouse’s Name
Father’s Name
Mother’s Name
Other Surnames
All Towns
Photo Filename
For more information about these fields, please see the JOWBR data entry instructions.

If for some reason you are unable to enter the data yourself, please contact us and we will arrange to have this done by one of our volunteers.  Please also remember that we are not accepting information on individual burials, only information for complete cemeteries, landsmanschaft or synagogue plots.

All contributors of burial data are asked to submit a Donor Agreement giving permission for this material to be put online.

Working Documents:
· JOWBR Template (Excel Spreadsheet)
· JOWBR Template Instructions
· JOWBR Donor Agreement
Completed datafile spreadsheets are to be sent to as e-mail attachments.  Photos can be sent by postal mail on a CD-ROM or DVD to the address below, or can be transferred using a third party file sharing service (e.g. DropBox).

Nolan Altman
3817 Oceanside Road East
Oceanside, NY 11572

Completed Donor Agreements are to be returned to JewishGen at the address on the Donor Agreement.
For any questions, please contact Nolan Altman.
Photographs and Translations:
For hints on photographing tombstones, please see this file.

If you need the Hebrew inscriptions of tombstones to be translated, place the JPEG images of the tombstones (of an entire cemetery or landsmanschaft plot) on a CD-ROM disk or disks and mail them to JewishGen at the address above.  Please indicate on the Donor Agreement that the photographs have been submitted on a CD-ROM disk.

If you would like to volunteer to be on the team of translators, please contact Nolan Altman.

Last Update: 17 Jul 2014   WSB

Edmond J. Safra Plaza | 36 Battery Place | New York, NY 10280
646.494.5972 | | © 2016, JewishGen. All rights reserved.

Jewish Research Tips, Part 3: Conclusion

(Vicki’s Note – Legacy Family Tree August 14, 2015 article from Marissa.  Here is Marissa’s Part 3 of Jewish Genealogy Research.  I included her links to all three of her articles to make it easier for you to read.  I had shared her Parts 1 and 2 in previous BLOG posts. She noted in her response to a comment, that these articles were not intended to cover all aspects of Jewish history, but only genealogical ones.):

Latest posts by Marissa – Legacy Tree Genealogists Researcher (see all)

Jewish Research Tips, Part 3: Conclusion – August 14, 2015
Jewish Research Part 2: Tips and Resources – June 26, 2015
Family Tree Research and Jewish History – June 5, 2015

Jewish Research Tips, Part 3: Conclusion

This post concludes our three-part series on Jewish genealogy. If you missed parts one or two, they can be found here or here.

Record Types
Jewish families appeared in a variety of records throughout their time in Eastern Europe. When conducting ancestral research for Jewish families, the following resources for their town, district, and region should be considered:

Civil Registration: government-kept records of births, marriages and deaths.

Synagogue Records: Jewish-specific records of child naming and circumcision (at 8 days old), marriages, and burials.

Census Records: some censuses were for the general population, others were specific to the Jewish community.

Church Records: when a Jewish community was in an area where the church and government were intertwined (areas with a state church, for example) the predominant church in the area sometimes recorded vital events for the entire local population, including those not of their faith. This was an early form of Civil Registration.

There were also some city directories, guild and occupational records, land records, emigration permission records, and various others in which these Jewish ancestors might be found. These record types have not been the primary focus of microfilming and digitizing efforts by FamilySearch, JewishGen, or other such genealogically-minded organizations because they generally cannot be used to trace ancestry from one generation to the next. Thus, the majority of these other types of records are only available in the regional and state archives of Central and Eastern Europe.

Once you have identified one or more possible hometowns for your ancestors, it is necessary to find out the location, condition, and availability of any pertinent records from these towns and their affiliated synagogues. There is a great database called Jewish Records in the Family History Library Catalog that has been created by the FamilySearch team.

This resource provides information about Jewish-specific records that are available through the Family History Library. However, you should still check the regular FamilySearch Catalog as well, since Jewish families also appeared in non-Jewish record types.

Due to the efforts at FamilySearch to make more records more easily accessible, you may find that the records you want to use are available online, or at least indexed in the “Record Search” section of the FamilySearch website. If the records you need are on microfilm and you don’t live in the Utah area, a copy can be ordered for use at your local Family History Center, a process similar to inter-library loan.

Please note that while the Family History Library does not loan out books, they are working to digitize them, making these resources more accessible for those who cannot come to the library and read them on the premises as well. Find an already digitized book here! You can search by title, author, family surname, or location.

The Family History Library has many important records for Jewish research in Europe, and their collection is always growing. However, they do not have every record from every location. (This is common to genealogy in general and is not unique to Jewish research.) Some records were destroyed or lost during wars or natural disasters. Some are housed in archives that are so disorganized that the extent of their collection is not known. Others simply have not been microfilmed or digitized, but they are available on-site in archives and synagogues in Europe., an affiliate of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, is also actively working to make these records more accessible. Similar to,, and others, they accept Jewish family trees and include them in an online database. If you have distant relatives who are researching the same ancestors, you may find that they have more information than you do. And best of all, it’s free!

There are a many other public resources to aid you in locating records for your Jewish ancestors, but most of them have some affiliation with JewishGen. These include Jewish Record Indexing-Poland, Avotaynu (Jewish genealogy publications), and Routes to Roots. Click the hyperlinks to check them out.

Reading the Records
Once you have determined the location of the records for your ancestors, you or an on-site researcher (if needed) can search them to find your ancestors and extend your family lines. Synagogue records were usually kept both in Hebrew and in the official local language. The other record types discussed here were typically only recorded in the official language of the country or region. Since many people in the United States do not speak the necessary languages to research their ancestors onsite themselves, it is often the case that a little help is needed. If you find yourself in this situation but still want to tackle the project yourself, a genealogical word list would be very beneficial. While you may not be fluent in the foreign tongue of your ancestors, these resources contain key words that you will frequently encounter in records, enabling you to recognize them and comprehend what the record was describing in a general way, if not exactly. has published such lists for many languages pertinent to Jewish research. In a pinch, Google Translate can also be useful. Are any of these helpful to you?

Latin Genealogy Word List

German Genealogy Word List

Poland Genealogy Word List

Russian Genealogy Word List

Hungary Genealogy Word List

Czech Genealogy Word List

Slovakia Genealogy Word List (available soon!)

As always, we welcome your comments and shared experiences. Do you have further questions? Have you had success implementing any of these techniques? Feel free to comment below or on Facebook!

The scope of this article series could not hope to include every resource out there for Jewish research. Each family was and is unique, so they require individual research efforts to find them and learn about them. If you’d like help, contact the professionals at Legacy Tree Genealogists.

Soundex Coding – Solve misspellings or alternate spellings of your ancestor’s names

(Vicki’s note – the JewishGen site for  how to solve misspellings or alternate spellings of any of your ancestor’s names; Jewish or not.)


Soundex Coding

NARA and Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex

NARA (Russell) Soundex
Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex

With Soundex, the “sound” of names — the phonetic sound to be exact — is coded.  This is of great help, since it avoids most problems of .

For example: Scherman, Schurman, Sherman and Shireman and Shurman are indexed together as NARA Soundex Code “S655”.  Surname soundex indexing is not alphabetical, but is listed by the letter-and-number code.  If several surnames have the same code, their index cards are arranged alphabetically by given name.  Example: S655 Arthur, S655 Betsy, S655 Charles.

To convert names to Soundex codes, use JewishGen’s JOS Calculator… or you can manually encode a name using the following instructions and charts.

I.   Russell (NARA) Soundex Coding

The Russell Soundex system is used by many indexes at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, including indexes to Census Records, Passenger Lists, and Naturalization Records.

In the 1930s, the Work Projects Administration (WPA) did a complete Soundex index of the 1880, 1900, 1910 (partial), 1920, and 1930 (partial) censuses (for details, see the Census section of the JewishGen FAQ).  The census information was copied onto file cards, alphabetically coded, and filed by state.

NARA Soundex coding rules:

  1. Coding consists of a letter followed by three numerals.  Examples: L123, C472, S160.
  2. The first letter of a surname is not coded, it is retained as the initial letter.
  3. A, E, I, O, U, Y, W, and H are not coded.
  4. Double letters are coded as one letter (as in Lloyd).
  5. Prefixes to surnames like “van”, “Von”, “Di”, “de”, “le”, “D”, “dela” or “du” are sometimes disregarded in coding.
  6. Code the following letters to three digits, using 0 at the end if needed.
Letter Code
B P F V 1
C S K G J Q X Z 2
D T 3
L 4
M N 5
R 6

For additional Russell soundex information see The Source, A Guidebook of American Genealogy, by Arlene Eackle and Johni Cerny.

II.   Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex Coding

The Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System was created by Randy Daitch and Gary Mokotoff of the Jewish Genealogical Society (New York), because they concluded the system developed by Robert Russell in 1918 in use today by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) does not apply well to many Slavic and Yiddish surnames.  Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex also includes refinements that are independent of ethnic considerations.  The rules for converting surnames into D-M Code numbers are listed below.  They are followed by the coding chart.

  1. Names are coded to six digits, each digit representing a sound listed in the coding chart (below).
  2. When a name lacks enough coded sounds for six digits, use zeros to fill to six digits.  GOLDEN which has only four coded sounds [G-L-D-N] is coded as 583600.
  3. The letters A, E, I, O, U, J, and Y are always coded at the beginning of a name as in Alpert 087930.  In any other situation, they are ignored except when two of them form a pair and the pair comes before a vowel, as in Breuer 791900 but not Freud.
  4. The letter H is coded at the beginning of a name, as in Haber 579000, or preceding a vowel, as in Manheim 665600, otherwise it is not coded.
  5. When adjacent sounds can combine to form a larger sound, they are given the code number of the larger sound.  Mintz which is not coded MIN-T-Z but MIN-TZ 664000.
  6. When adjacent letters have the same code number, they are coded as one sound, as in TOPF, which is not coded TO-P-F 377000 but TO-PF 370000.  Exceptions to this rule are the letter combinations MN and NM, whose letters are coded separately, as in Kleinman, which is coded 586660 not 586600.
  7. When a surname consists or more than one word, it is coded as if one word, such as “Ben Aron”, which is treated as “Benaron”.
  8. Several letter and letter combinations pose the problem that they may sound in one of two ways.  The letter and letter combinations CH, CK, C, J, and RS are assigned two possible code numbers.

The Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex Coding Chart

Letter Alternate
Start of
a name
a vowel
Any other
NC = not coded
AI AJ, AY 0 1 NC
AU 0 7 NC
Ą (Polish a-ogonek) NC NC 6 or NC
B 7 7 7
CHS 5 54 54
CH Try KH (5) and TCH (4)
CK Try K (5) and TSK (45)
CZ CS, CSZ, CZS 4 4 4
C Try K (5) and TZ (4)
DRZ DRS 4 4 4
DS DSH, DSZ 4 4 4
DZ DZH, DZS 4 4 4
D DT 3 3 3
EI EJ, EY 0 1 NC
EU 1 1 NC
Ę (Polish e-ogonek) NC NC 6 or NC
FB 7 7 7
F 7 7 7
G 5 5 5
H 5 5 NC
J Try Y (1) and DZH (4)
KS 5 54 54
KH 5 5 5
K 5 5 5
L 8 8 8
MN 66 66
M 6 6 6
NM 66 66
N 6 6 6
OI OJ, OY 0 1 NC
P PF, PH 7 7 7
Q 5 5 5
RZ, RS Try RTZ (94) and ZH (4)
R 9 9 9
SCH 4 4 4
SHT SCHT, SCHD 2 43 43
SH 4 4 4
ST 2 43 43
SZT SHD, SZD, SD 2 43 43
SZ 4 4 4
S 4 4 4
TH 3 3 3
TRZ TRS 4 4 4
TSCH TSH 4 4 4
TS TTS, TTSZ, TC 4 4 4
TZ TTZ, TZS, TSZ 4 4 4
Ţ (Romanian t-cedilla) 3 or 4 3 or 4 3 or 4
T 3 3 3
UI UJ, UY 0 1 NC
V 7 7 7
W 7 7 7
X 5 54 54
ZD ZHD 2 43 43
ZH ZS, ZSCH, ZSH 4 4 4
Z 4 4 4
Letter Alternate
Start of
a name
a vowel
Any other

Examples of Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex Coding:

AUERBACH = 097500

0 NC 9 7 NC 5 Pad
0 9 7 5 00

OHRBACH = 097500

0 NC 9 7 NC 5 Pad
0 9 7 5 00

LIPSHITZ = 874400

8 NC 7 4 NC 4 Pad
8 7 4 4 00

LIPPSZYC = 874400

8 NC 7 NC 4 NC 4 Pad
8 7 4 4 00

LEWINSKY = 876450

8 NC 7 NC 6 4 5 NC Pad
8 7 6 4 5 0

LEVINSKI = 876450

8 NC 7 NC 6 4 5 NC Pad
8 7 6 4 5 0


4 8 NC 6 NC 7 NC 4 Pad
4 8 6 7 4 0


4 8 NC 6 NC 7 NC 4 Pad
4 8 6 7 4 0

For additional Daitch-Mokotoff soundex information, see Where Once We Walked by Gary Mokotoff and Sallyann Amdur Sack (Avotaynu, 2002), pages 567-569;  or Gary Mokotoff’s article “Soundexing and Genealogy“, on the Avotaynu website.

To convert names to their corresponding Soundex codes, use JewishGen’s JOS Calculator.

Jewish (and Slavic) Research Part 2: Tips and Resources

(Vicki’s Note – May 15, 2016  article by Marissa – Legacy Tree Genealogists Researcher.  These same techniques work for your other ancestors that immigrated/migrated.  there are many valuable resource links here for general Soundex, and Slavic atlas genealogy research. Part 2 of 3.  Look for part 3 soon.)

Jewish Research Part 2: Tips and Resources

In a previous post, we covered an introduction to Jewish immigrant research, focusing on historical context, migration patterns, and determining the European hometown.

Once you’ve made the connection across the pond, however, there is still work to be done.

Maps and Gazetteers
Once you have found a record that names your Jewish immigrant’s hometown, it is important to identify all possible matches for this town. First, you should try to identify the region from the Pale of Settlement where the town was located. This usually isn’t too difficult since the region often appears on several records before you find the exact town name. Comparing the location to modern and historical maps of your choice, you should be able to see what country and region the town now lies in.

It is a good idea to start any “place search” by typing the town name and the country into a search engine to see what comes up. Sometimes it is that easy to identify the Jewish hometown. However, more often than not, the town name has been spelled phonetically in the United States record or the spelling of the town name might have changed with the controlling government or a language change.

There are several gazetteers that are useful for locating and identifying the correct Jewish hometown. The Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex system uses six characters instead of the typical four, and it soundexes the first letter as well. This is an extremely useful and often necessary tool for locating possible hometowns. The JewishGen Communities Database and the JewishGen Gazetteer both use this advanced soundex to assist in locating Jewish and Eastern European towns.

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, has some excellent gazetteers that used to be hidden behind the B1 reference counter, but are now accessible to anyone. They are on the shelves near the microfilm readers. Some of these gazetteers are also available online, some free and some not. The following list includes some excellent Eastern European maps, gazetteers and other useful resources.

Poland, Galicia, Hungary & Slavic Gazetteers ($$)

Research Idiosyncrasies
When researching different ethnic groups, religions, and people from other linguistic backgrounds, there are often small things that may be unfamiliar, and which can trip up a genealogist unfamiliar with the culture. Jewish research is no different. Here are some quirks you’ll often run across, and which are important to know:

First, the name on the passenger list might not match the census or other documents exactly. When taking on Americanized names, many Jewish immigrants have often been known to use several – as long as they all began with the same letter. Isaac, Isaak, Isador(e), Ishmael and Israel might all refer to the same man. Rachel, Risa, Rosina, and Ruth could all be the same woman. You should definitely think outside the box with your search parameters.
Think Old Testament – a man called Jacob in one record could be called Israel in another. This has to do with the fact that Jews often had Jewish names relating to their religion as well as everyday names they used in their public and professional lives. Sometimes the Anglicized name was a variation of the Hebrew one, but not always.
Jewish gravestones almost always include the name of the deceased’s father. This is a patronymic tradition being carried on from the times before Jews had established surnames. If you can’t read Hebrew or Yiddish, the JewishGen website has instructions to walk you through it.
Surnames were not always consistent. After arriving in the United States, many Jews shortened their surnames for simplicity or to be less identifiable as Jews. Keep an open mind with spelling variations. As long as it was phonetically similar it could be a match. Use indexes carefully and try to find ones that use the Daitch–Mokotoff Soundex system.
Watch for the third and final installment of our Jewish genealogy posts in the coming weeks, and feel free to comment with any questions, or your own experiences!

Legacy Tree Genealogists has experts trained in Jewish and Eastern European research that would be happy to help you find your ancestry. Contact us for more information and to begin your journey.

Family Tree Research and Jewish History, Part 1

(Vicki’s note – May 8?, 2016 article from Marissa – Legacy Tree Genealogists Researcher.  Some great resources here and in part 2 for General Genealogy research.  Look for part 3 soon.)

Family Tree Research and Jewish History (Part 1 of 3)

In the last several hundred years, there were three major influxes of Jews into the United States (and countries like England and Canada). [1] The Sephardic Jews from Spain and Portugal were the first to arrive, coming during the Colonial years of American history. The second wave was of Jewish families from Germany (Ashkenazic Jews), who began arriving in serious numbers in the 1840s. The last major wave of Jewish immigration into the United States was the Eastern European Jews (also Ashkenazic Jews). This wave of immigration began around 1880 and continued until about 1924, when the United States began setting immigration quotas to restrict the number of immigrants arriving. During this third wave of Jewish immigration, over 2,000,000 Jewish immigrants arrived in America from Eastern Europe.

Jewish map 1

Map of Jewish immigration, circa 1880-1924. Courtesy of

Historical Context
A majority of Jewish immigrants during the 19th and 20th centuries came primarily from two areas: Germany and a portion of Eastern Europe known as “the Pale.”

The first German Empire was established in 1871. At that time, the kingdom of Prussia and the independent southern German duchies, kingdoms, etc., became united under one government. Jews from these areas immigrated to the United States and other “safe havens” during the early to mid-1800s as persecution drove them from their homes. There were very few of them left in Germany by the late 1800s.

Jewish map 2

A map of united Germany, 1871. Courtesy of

In 1792, Poland was completely wiped off the map due to the ever expanding borders of the Kingdom of Prussia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Russian Empire. Just inside the Russian border, in the middle of non-existent Poland, was an area called the Jewish “Pale of Settlement.” It was established in 1791 under the rule of Catherine the Great, and continued until the fall of the Russian Empire in 1917.[2] At that time, Poland was reestablished and much of this land was returned to that country.

The Pale was approximately one-fifth of the land in European Russia (west of the Ural Mountains). The present-day countries of Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, and parts of western Russia were included in the Pale’s borders.[3]

Jewish map 3

Map of the Jewish Pale of Settlement. Courtesy of
The Pale was supposedly where the Russian Empire magnanimously allowed their Jewish population to make their homes. In actuality it was the area to which the “less desirable” Jewish population was exiled as a buffer from the other two competing European empires. Jews were not the exclusive residents of this area, but they were not allowed to live outside its borders without special permits, or to live inside most of its cities.

Jewish map 4

Map of regions within the Pale. Courtesy of

As an example, you may recall having watched the musical/movie Fiddler on the Roof. Anatevka was a small, relatively self-sufficient Jewish community or shtetl established just outside of a Russian city in the Pale. This was fairly typical of the political situations and boundaries for the Jewish population. This story of the poverty-stricken Tevye and his family was set in the early 1890s during a wave of anti-Jewish pogroms that led to the expulsion of over 20,000 Jews from Russia.[4]

Finding the Jewish Hometown
The predominant Jewish community in the United States today is from the Ashkenazic Jews of Eastern Europe. Due to their relatively late immigration, it is usually not very difficult to find a record that names their hometown. It is important to keep in mind, though, that when the birth place is found in a record, it may refer to the nearest large city or the region from which they came, just as we tend to do when generalizing our past residences. The maps earlier in this article can help to determine if this was the case since they show the large cities and the regions within the Pale.

A brief review of some records that are most likely to include the name of an immigrant hometown are as follows:

Military records

Service records from both World Wars – some are online through major repositories like Fold3, and some are available through the National Archives (NARA).
Draft registrations for World War I and World War II. These can be found at most major genealogy websites.

Naturalization papers

If you find a naturalization online at or, browse a couple of pages forward and backward. You may find more than you thought!
Post-1906 naturalizations usually included the name of the immigrant hometown and the date and ship on which they arrived in the United States.
Post-1922 naturalizations also included female immigrants who were now required to establish citizenship independent of their husband’s. Prior to this date, a woman’s citizenship status changed when her husband’s did.

Passenger lists

A lot of passenger lists from the 1890s forward include the name of the hometown or the nearest relative back home and their hometown/residence.
Remember that passenger lists aren’t always just one page. Browse forward to see if there is a second page with un-indexed information!

Social Security Applications (SS-5 forms)

It may take several weeks to get one of these records, but they usually give an exact birth date, birth place and the parents’ names. If your immigrant had a Social Security number, it’s worth it to send for this record! Click here for more information on how to obtain it through the Freedom of Information Act.

Vital records and Synagogue/Church records

Marriage license applications are generally the most informative vital records available, but in some cases birth, marriage and death certificates have been known to include the exact hometown.
Synagogue records of naming/circumcision (at 8 days old), marriages and burials are available throughout the United States. Don’t be afraid to call or email the local historical society or a possible synagogue location. They are more than happy to help you trace your Jewish ancestry!
If the family converted or a local church served both the Christian and the Jewish communities, the hometown may be recorded in a local parish church’s records of baptisms, marriages and burials.

Peripheral family members and friends

If you have a hard time finding a record for your immigrant, remember that they usually didn’t come alone. Find another family member who came over and try to locate a record with their hometown named.
JewishGen databases See

Newspapers and obituaries, family records, town and county histories, cemetery records, etc.

You just have to find the right record. The name of the hometown is out there! Stay tuned for Part II of this article next week… (Vicki’s note – next BLOG Post)


[1] MyJewishLearning, “Jewish Immigration to America: Three Waves” (Online: MJL, 2015),, accessed May 2015.

[2] JEWDAYO: A Daily Blast of Pride, “December 23: Pale of Settlement” (Online: Jewish Currents, 2015),, accessed May 2015.

[3] Wikipedia, “Pale of Settlement” (Online:, 2015),, accessed May 2015.

[4] The word Pogrom is defined as “an organized massacre of a particular ethnic group, in particular that of Jews in Russia or Eastern Europe.”