The ladies who belong to our local Kin Seekers genealogy group represent the typical American melting pot of ethnic backgrounds. Two members are working on Jewish family lines. When I was asked for research suggestions, I realized that although I have not worked with any Jewish resources, as the teacher of the group, I needed to do a quick learning curve and find out what the best (free) sources were.
One of my oldest genealogy friends is Nancy Maxwell. She and I met through AAUW back in the 1970’s and discovered that four of us were interested in jumping into family history research. We’ve kept at it for the last 35 years. It was a sad day when Nancy moved to Texas because her husband was transferred there for his job. Although we get together now online instead of in person, it was a fortuitous move for her. Nancy is a librarian by trade and she was hired for her dream job – she is currently the genealogy librarian at the Grapevine Public Library in the Dallas-Fort Worth, TX area. By chance, she has Jewish family lines so I asked her for some suggestions for my Kin Seeker members.
Here are some of the resources we have compiled:
Check your local library for these books.
From Generation to Generation: How to Trace Your Jewish Genealogy and Family History, by Arthur Kurzweil, paperback published by Jossy-Bass, 2011, 400 pages.
Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy, by Gary Mokotoff and Warren Blatt, paperback published by Avotaynu, 1999, 66 pages.
Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy, by Sally Amdur Sack and Gary Mokotoff, hardback, published by Avotaynu, 2004, 608 pages.
FamilySearch.org – FamilySearch has a huge number of listings for Jewish records, depending on the locale in which you are interested. Many are available on film, but have not yet been digitized. Use the FamilySearch Wiki to determine what records are in the collection. The Wiki listing will indicate if any of the resources are digitally available through FamilySearch. It also will list any outside sites that have records available, including paid sites.
Here is the FamilySearch wiki link to general Jewish Genealogy Research.
JewishGen – Many links to resources.
Avotaynu – Another site with many links to various resources.
American Jewish Archives – This site offers research services, but there are some free online materials.
Jewish Genealogical Society – This society is based in New York City. While it is a membership organization, there are some free links available on its website.
Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston – Membership society, but there is a “Links” tab with free resources.
American Jewish Historical Society – Suggestions are offered for research along with links.
Center for Jewish History – Family history collections must be searched on site, but this link as an excellent list of research guides to find your family records worldwide.
Louis Kessler’s Jewish Genealogy Links – Mr. Kessler points out that there are thousands of web pages devoted to Jewish genealogy. He has provided links to those he feels are the greatest use to the most people.
Jewish Link – Its goal is to provide a link to every Jewish link.
The Jewish History Resource Page – This site is maintained by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and has worldwide links.
CyndisList – Cyndi’s List has Jewish genealogy research broken down into 28 categories with a whole separate list of related categories.
While the above list covers many of the major websites for Jewish genealogical research, by no means is it comprehensive. There are many, many local Jewish genealogical societies organized either at the state level or located near a large city. I included two organizations in the New York and Boston areas, but if your family was from, say, Philadelphia or Chicago, be sure to search for a society in those places.
There are at least five Jewish genealogy groups on social media sites and I purposely omitted sites that require a paid subscription to access most of their records. Further internet searching may well turn up sites not listed here that will direct you to specific records, but I hope this list will get you started.