Resources for Beginners


Here is a list of various resources to help you get started:

  • The most important resource is Jewishgen at www.jewishgen.org. A warning: you will spend many hours on this website.
    • Beginners, start at http://www.jewishgen.org/InfoFiles/ and here: www.jewishgen.org/infofiles/faq.html. Jewishgen has thousands of databases and literally millions of records from all over the world.  
    • You may want to start by looking at the Jewish Family Finder database to see if anyone with your family name is reaching out to other researchers.
    •  If you need help translating a document or interpreting a family photo, check out ViewMate. 
    • If you are trying to find information about your ancestral village, go to KehillaLinks and see if Jewishgen volunteer has created a virtual shtetl for your town.
    • There are numerous Special Interest Groups (SIGs) on Jewishgen, each with their own resources and members willing to help you with your toughest questions.

  • The International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) at http://www.iajgs.org/links.html has hundreds of links to different sites.

  • Gary Mokotoff’s website, www.avotaynu.com, is also a good place for beginning researchers to. Gary is the leading publisher of products of interest to persons who are researching Jewish genealogy, Jewish family trees or Jewish roots. If you are a beginner, make sure you go to http://www.avotaynu.com/csi/csi-home.htm and search your family’s surname. Also go to www.avotaynu.com/recommend.htm for a list of Gary’s most important resources for beginners.

    The Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) Names Index is a database where you can search for names of relatives, friends, ancestors; anyone worldwide who has received JDC aid, financial or otherwise. Currently indexed material includes lists of people helped from 1914 to 1973. While this is a substantial sampling of names on lists in our records, it is by no means our entire collection. The JDC Archives documents the relief, rescue and rehabilitation activities of the JDC from its founding in 1914 to the present. Its holdings include over 3 miles of text documents; over 100,000 photographs; a research library of 6,000 books; and approximately 1,500 audiovisual materials, including 200 oral histories.
    Go to http://archives.jdc.org/archives-search/?s=archivestopnav


  • Some other tips:
    • Start with what you know
    • Work from the known to the unknown, one small step at a time. 
    • Work backwards, from the present to the past, gathering facts as you go. 
    • Be methodical and use software or paper charts to keep track of information. Familysearch and other websites have free charts. 
    • Interview your relatives. Write or talk to your family members. Ask them about family names, where they lived, when they immigrated, what town they came from. 
    • Google your family name.
    • Check the U.S. Federal Census, taken every 10 years. The 1940 Census is the most recent available. Available online at www.ancestry.com
    • Check other records: 
      • City directories; birth, marriage and death records; naturalization records;
      • Passenger Lists; 
      • Probate records; deeds, etc. Your local Mormon Church may have computer access to its family search database and others, such as ancestry.com. 
    • Coordinate with other genealogists researching the same family names and towns: Consult the JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF) at www.jewishgen.org. 
    • Get involved with the Triangle Jewish Genealogical Society (TJGS). 
      • Join us on Facebook.
    •  Subscribe to Avotaynu--go to www.avotaynu.org. 
    • Attend conferences on Jewish genealogy--go to the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies for more information on the IAJGS yearly conference.