July 16th, 2013

How to Research Jewish Genealogy

Researching any family history is a challenge. There are so many variables involved in genealogical research that it can be overwhelming at times, especially for beginners. Researching a specific ethnicity can be even more of a challenge, as resources may be limited or even in a different language from your own. There are some basic things you can do though, to make tracing your family lineage much easier, even fun. Though inevitably you will have to knuckle down to some hardcore research, you can lay down a firm foundation for when that time comes by getting to grips with some genealogy basics, and taking advantage of the abundance of help that is available.

There are many records available online that are invaluable for individuals who with to research their Jewish heritage. JewishGen for example has over 20 million records in their collection. Before beginning a records search however, there is a goldmine of information right in front of and all around you – your family. Interview any family members you think might know a bit about your ancestors. Older relatives such as grandparents and great aunts and uncles (aunts and uncles of your parents) can surprise you with the stories they can tell. Make sure you take a recording device you can just listen and then write out any facts and figures later.

It is also a good idea to take a basic genealogy course, many of which are available online. If you’d rather not spend the time involved in taking a course, you can download our Free Family Tree Research Guide. It provides step-by-step instruction on tracing your family tree, including how to locate and understand the various record types, filling in family tree charts, and much more. Having such a guide at your disposal will ensure that you stay on course during your research, which is a critical aspect of how to research Jewish genealogy.

You may also benefit from joining a discussion group on how to research Jewish genealogy. The most popular one on the internet is the one at JewishGen, but there is also one at soc.genealogy.jewish in Google Groups. In a discussion group you can post messages about what surnames or ancestral towns you are researching. Other genealogists who are researching the same items can contact you, and will, especially if you ask nicely for help. You don’t have to worry about your privacy being violated, as everything happens on the JewishGen website, and you can submit your information or requests anonymously.

Thousands of people have discovered family members in discussion groups, and you can benefit from the knowledge of experienced researchers by joining one. The above tips can help you to get going in your genealogy research, and acquaint you with various research techniques. Though you won’t become an expert in how to research Jewish genealogy by following them, you will meet people who are!