United States Jewish Research

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Beginning Research
Record Types
United States Background
Cultural Groups
Local Research Resources

Online Databases[edit | edit source]

Introduction[edit | edit source]

The United States does not have many records specific to the Jewish people. However, researching Jewish ancestors is possible in the United States through the use of many different records. The following will detail important record types to look in and research strategies to try in order to find Jewish ancestors. The Family History Library has helpful resources on Jewish history in the United States, as well as Jewish records. See Jewish Genealogy Research for information on Jewish records found throughout the world.

Record Types[edit | edit source]

Cemetery Records[edit | edit source]

Find the cemetery where the ancestor was buried. This information may be found in a death record or obituary. If the cemetery is unknown, search all the cemeteries located near where the ancestor died. A cemetery record or tombstone may list parents or children and may even include where the ancestor was born.

Census Records[edit | edit source]

In the United States, search the census for all years the Jewish ancestor was in the country. Search both national and state censuses. It is important to search for variant spellings of the given name and surname. Check the following books for alternate spellings:

  • Beider, Alexander. A dictionary of Jewish surnames from the Russian Empire. Bergenfield, New Jersey: Avotaynu, 2008. (FHL call no. 947 D46)
  • Beider, Alexander. A dictionary of Jewish surnames from the Kingdom of Poland. Teaneck, New Jersey: Avotaynu, 1996. (FHL call no. 943.8 D46)
  • Beider, Alexander. A dictionary of Jewish surnames from Galicia. Bergenfield, New Jersey: Avotaynu, 2004. (FHL call no. 943.86 D46)

If the ancestor cannot be found in the index, check the City Directory. If they are in the directory, locate someone with an address near the ancestor. Then find that person in the census. The ancestor should be located on the same page or within a few pages from this neighbor.

Court Records[edit | edit source]

Change of name or assumed name certificates may be found in court records.

Naturalization Records[edit | edit source]

Declaration of Intent. This document sometimes gives the name of the town the ancestor immigrated from.
Petition. Beginning in 1906, this record usually gives: date of arrival and port, name of ship, name of town of birth, birth date, and date of naturalization. Before 1906, the record sometimes gives date and port of arrival and the name of the ship.
Oath of Allegiance. This document will give the date of naturalization.

Obituaries[edit | edit source]

Obituaries are found in newspapers. While some newspaper have been digitized and made available online, other newspapers can only be found in libraries or archives. Contact libraries and archives located in the town where the ancestor died. Also check the FamilySearch Catalog. For example, the Catalog has an index to death reported in The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle.

Passenger Records[edit | edit source]

You must know the port of arrival. Some records are indexed. You will need to check the first and last names and their variant spellings. The following is a list of records that can be searched:

US passenger records from 1893 had a form listing: name, age in years and months, native country, and last residence. Beginning 16 June 1897, the form asked for: final destination in US (state, city, or town); if they were in the US before and if so, when and where; and if they were going to join a relative and if so, their name and address. From 1907, the form asked for the city and country of birth.

Passport Records[edit | edit source]

The FamilySearch Catalog may also have some passports.

Probate Records[edit | edit source]

To find probate records, search in the FamilySearch Catalog by County under the word PROBATE. Probate records give the names of the heirs, including married names of the children and their location.

Social Security Death Index[edit | edit source]

The Social Security Death Index contains over fifty million records of deaths reported to the Social Security Administration from 1937 to 1998. The bulk of the records are from 1962 and later. The index provides the decedent’s names, birth date social security number, state where the social security card was issued, month and year of death, state of residence at death, zip code, and state where the death benefit was sent. For more information see the U.S. Social Security Death Index Wiki page.

Vital Records[edit | edit source]

Search for birth, marriage, and death certificates. Birth certificates generally give the parents' names and ages and often give the parents' birthplaces. Look for birth certificates of brothers and sisters also. Marriage certificates could contain names of parents and the mother's maiden name. Check marriage records of all siblings or other relatives. Death certificates can help locate the cemetery records or tombstone. Check with the funeral home if the information is available. Also check obituaries, probate records, and land and property records.

Check all applicable jurisdictions to find vital records. Most will be found on the county or state level in the United States.

World War I Draft Records[edit | edit source]

Everyone had to register for the draft, even "aliens." In 1917, men between the ages of 21 and 30 had to register and in 1918, men between the ages of 18 and 45 had to register. They give the exact birth date, and the name and address of nearest kin. They may also give the city or town of birth.

Research Strategies[edit | edit source]

For detailed information on how to search for Jewish ancestors, see Search Strategies. One important step to talk to all relatives and gather information. Relatives may have letters, passports, photos, naturalization records, etc. with names, dates, and places. Also remember to surname search for written genealogies on the ancestor.

Locate Town of Origin[edit | edit source]

It may be difficult to locate the town of origin. Search through all of the above record types to find clues or the exact town of origin. Also talk to living relatives, who may have documents listing the town of origin. Check out gazetteers and maps to help narrow down or locate the town (see Gazetteers and Maps for more information).

Check out these books:

  • Mokotoff, Gary et al. "Where once we walked : a guide to the Jewish communities destroyed in the Holocaust." Bergenfield, New Jersey: Avotaynu, 2002. (FHL call no. 940 E5ms)
  • Cohen, Chester G. "Shtetl finder : Jewish communities in the 19th and early 20th centuries in the pale of settlement of Russia and Poland and in Lithuania, Latvia, Galicia, and Bukovina, with names of residents." Los Angeles, California: Periday Co., 1980. (FHL call no. 947 F24s)

Meaning of Family Name[edit | edit source]

  • Rottenberg, Dan. Finding our fathers : a guidebook to Jewish genealogy. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1995. (FHL call no. 929.1 R747f)
  • Stahl, Abraham et al. Jewish family names : material for discussion and work in the school and community center. Tel Aviv, Israel: Society for Jewish Family Heritage, 1987. (FHL call no. 929.4 St14j)

Resources[edit | edit source]

  • Stern, Malcolm H. Americans of Jewish descent; a compendium of genealogy. New York, New York : Ktav Pub. House, 1971. (FHL call no. 973 D2sm 1971)

Websites[edit | edit source]

Some general websites to search:

Some websites specific to Jewish research: