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Explore Your Jewish Heritage

Shalom (or Boker Tov)! Jewish genealogy isn’t easy, but the dark spots don’t have to stop you from discovering and honoring your past. Here are several ways to shine a light on your Jewish heritage.

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Free Genealogy Records Checklist Download

Think you’ve hit a brick wall? Don’t assume you’re stuck yet—use this rundown of record types to guide you to other records you haven’t checked.

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Jewish History Timelines for Genealogists

Timeline of the Holocaust

1920–1938

Feb. 24, 1920
Adolf Hitler outlines the German Workers’ Party program, declaring that “no Jew can be a countryman”
Jan. 30, 1933
Hitler becomes chancellor of Germany
March 22, 1933
Nazis open the first official concentration camp in Dachau, near Munich
Sept. 15, 1935
Nuremberg Laws strip Jews of citizenship
March 13, 1938
Hitler announces the Anschluss (union) with Austria
April 26, 1938
Order for the Disclosure of Jewish Assets requires Jews to report property worth over 5,000 reichsmarks
July 6, 1938
Jews are prohibited from trading and providing a variety of commercial services

1938–1940

November 9-10, 1938
During the Kristallnacht program, Jewish synagogues and shops are destroyed, and 30,000 Jews are arrested
Nov. 15, 1938
All Jewish children are expelled from German schools
March 15, 1939
Germany seizes Czechoslovakia
Sept. 1, 1939
Germany invades Poland
Sept. 3, 1939
Britain and France declare war on Germany
Sept. 29, 1939
Germany and Russia divide Poland, leaving more than 2 million Jews in Nazi-controlled areas
Feb. 12, 1940
1,300 Jews from Stettin, Germany (now Szczecin, Poland), are deported to Lublin in occupied Poland

1940–1941

April 30, 1940
Nazis seal off the Lódz Ghetto in occupied Poland with 230,000 Jews inside
May 10, 1940
Germany invades France, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg
June 14, 1940
Nazis occupy Paris
Sept. 29-30, 1940
SS Einsatzgruppen kill 33,771 Jews at the Babi Yar ravine in Kiev
April 6, 1941
Germany invades Yugoslavia and Greece
Sept. 1, 1941
Nazis require German Jews to wear the yellow Star of David badge on the outside of their clothing
Dec. 11, 1941
United States enters the war in Europe

1942–1945

July 16, 1942
Nearly 13,000 Parisian Jews are arrested
Sept. 26, 1942
SS begins cashing in possessions of Jews from Auschwitz and Majdanek concentration camps
July 24, 1944
Russian troops liberate Majdanek
Aug. 4, 1944
Anne Frank and her family are arrested in Amsterdam and sent to Auschwitz
April 30, 1945
Hitler commits suicide in his Berlin bunker
May 7, 1945
Germany surrenders to the Allies

Jewish Genealogy Research Resources

Books and Publications

For beginners

Abraham’s Children: Race, Identity and the DNA of the Chosen People by Jon Entine (Grand Central Publishing)
Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy edited by Sallyann Amdur Sack and Gary Mokotoff (Avotaynu)
A Field Guide to Visiting a Jewish Cemetery by Rabbi Joshua L. Segal (Jewish Cemetery Publishing)
Finding our Fathers: A Guidebook to Jewish Genealogy by Dan Rottenberg (Genealogical Publishing Co.)
From Generation to Generation: How to Trace Your Jewish Genealogy and Family History by Arthur Kurzweil (Jossey-Bass)
A Practical Guide to Jewish Cemeteries by Nolan Menachemson (Avotaynu)
A Genealogist’s Guide to Jewish Names by Connie Ellefson (Family Tree Books)

For Sephardic and converso researchers

Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Galicia by Alexander Beider (Avotaynu)
Dicionario Sefaradi de Sobrenomes (Dictionary of Sephardic Surnames) by Guilherme Faiguenboim, Paulo Valadares and Anna Rosa Campagnan (Avotaynu)
The Forgetting River: A Modern Tale of Survival, Identity, and the Inquisition by Doreen Carvajal (Riverhead Books)
Guidebook for Sephardic and Mizrahi Genealogical Resources in Israel by Mathilde Tagger and Yitzchak Kerem (Avotaynu)
The Jewish Nation of the Caribbean: The Spanish-Portuguese Jewish Settlements in the Caribbean and the Guianas by Mordechai Arbell (Gefen)
The Journal of Spanish, Portuguese and Italian Crypto Jews (Florida International University)
Juggling Identities: Identity and Authenticity Among the Crypto-Jews by Seth D. Kunin (Columbia University Press)
Sangre Judia (vols. 1 and 2) by Pere Bonnin Aguilo
Secrecy and Deceit: The Religion of the Crypto-Jews by David Gitlitz (Jewish Publication Society of America)
Sephardic Genealogy: Discovering Your Sephardic Ancestors and Their World by Jeffrey S. Malka (Avotaynu)
Sephardic Horizons journal
To the End of the Earth: A History of the Crypto-Jews of New Mexico by Stanley M. Hordes (Columbia University Press)

For Eastern European and Ashkenazi researchers

A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names: Their Origins, Structure, Pronunciation, and Migrations by Alexander Beider (Avotaynu)
A Dictionary of German-Jewish Surnames by Lars Menk (Avotaynu)
A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland by Alexander Beider (Avotaynu)
A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire by Alexander Beider (Avotaynu)
Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust edited by Shmuel Spector and Geoffrey Wigoder (New York University Press)
Genealogical Gazetteer of the Kingdom of Hungary by Jordan Auslander (Avotaynu)
German Name-Change Gazetteer by Otto Kredel and Franz Thierfelder (Avotaynu)
History of the Jews in Russia and Poland by Simon M. Dubnow (Avotaynu)
Jewish Personal Names: Their Origins, Derivation and Diminutive Forms by Rabbi Shmuel Gorr (Avotaynu)
Jews of Lithuania: A History of a Remarkable Community 1316-1945 by Masha Greenbaum (Gefen Publishing House)
Russian-Jewish Given Names: Their Origins and Variants by Boris Feldblyum (Avotaynu)
Where Once We Walked: A Guide to the Jewish Communities Destroyed in the Holocaust by Gary Mokotoff and Sallyann Amdur Sack with Alexander Sharon (Avotaynu)

Organizations

American Jewish Archives

Center for Jewish History: This is the online gateway to Jewish genealogical records and sites of other prominent organizations: the American Jewish Historical Society, YIVO Institute (East European Jewry), Leo Baeck Institute (German Jewry) , the Sephardi Federation (Iberian, Arabic, African Jewry)  and the Jewish Genealogy Society of New York.

Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People

Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society: Works with refugees, most recently resettling immigrants from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union. Its website features a service to find lost relatives and an immigrant archive. The society facilitated the escape of more than 70,000 families during and after the Holocaust, and will search its case files on these relatives for a fee.

International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies

Routes to Roots
Family Tree Magazine 101 Best Websites Winner, 2020

Yad Vashem: Most Holocaust-related records are stored here.

See All Jewish Genealogy Articles See All

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