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Finding Belarus Jewish Ancestors
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Local Research Resources

Find the Town

In order to research your family in Belarus, it is essential that you have identified the place where they came from. It is not enough to know only ‘Belarus;' you must know the city, town, or parish that they came from. The Surname databases were created with information from Belarus, Bessarabia/Moldova, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine.

Miriam Weiner's Surname Database

Using the Surname Database on Miriam Weiner's Routes to Roots Foundation website can help narrow down a more specific location for where individuals lived who shared your ancestor's surname.

  • Use the Standard Surname Database if you know your ancestor's given name, surname, or town name. This database is comprised of name lists from local historians and heads of Jewish communities, name lists from books, and name lists from various archives.
  • Use the OCR Surname Database (optical character recognition) to search for your ancestor's surname in either the Latin alphabet or in Cyrillic. This database is comprised of information from business directories, address calendars, telephone books, typed name lists, and name lists from books and from archives.

Maps of your Ancestor's Town

Miriam Weiner's website offers select historical maps of Belarus, as well as a variety of historical images from towns in Belarus that may prove useful in your family history.

Maps will help you locate places where your ancestors lived and give you context for the records you are using. Maps can identify political boundaries, place names, parishes, geographical features, cemeteries, churches, etc. Historical maps are especially useful for understanding boundary changes or finding communities that no longer exist.

Find Records for your Town

Miriam Weiner's Archive Database

Use the Archive Database to locate what records exist for your ancestor's town, and where to find them. Search for the name of your ancestor's locality, and the database will provide results for known surviving records from that location, and where the records are held. (Remember to adjust the search criteria for Soundex options or spelling variations).

This database contains documents such as army/recruit lists, family lists and census records, Jewish vital records (birth, marriage, death, divorce), immigration documents, voter and tax lists, property and notary records, Holocaust documents, police files, and pogrom documents (school records, occupation lists, local government and hospital records).

Accessing the Records

For information about the repositories referred to on Miriam Weiner's Archive Database, see this document of Archival Codes. Contact/visit the respective repository for details on their holdings.

Hiring a Professional

Historical Photos

The Image Database on Miriam Weiner's website contains photographs and postcard views of many towns and cities throughout Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Lithuania, Poland, and other select countries dating back to the early 1900s. These include pre-WWI and current town views, photos of synagogues, Jewish cemeteries, and Holocaust memorials.