The combined archival holdings from archives/historical institutions in Belarus, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland and Ukraine.
Discover your story in our Jewish family history records.
Dicover your story in our Jewish family history records.
We’ve partnered with JewishGen®, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the American Jewish Historical Society, the Miriam Weiner Routes to Roots Foundation, Inc., the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the USC Shoah Foundation, and Arolsen Archives to create a collection of over 20 million Jewish historical records.
Let us help you discover your story.
Begin your free family tree with a few simple facts. We’ll help you discover a lot more.
Or start with a 14-day free trial. This ensures you can access all historical records on Ancestry.
Let us help you discover your story.
Begin your free family tree with a few simple facts. We’ll help you discover a lot more. Or start with a 14-day free trial. This ensures you can access all historical records on Ancestry.
These collections are available with an Ancestry membership or 14‑day FREE trial.
- Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum Records, 1878–1969 (AJHS)
- Selected Naturalization Records, New York City, 1816–1845 (AJHS)
- New York Hebrew Orphan Asylum Records, 1860–1934 (AJHS)
- AJHS Industrial Removal Office Records, 1899–1922
- AJHS Selected Insolvent Debtor’s Cases, 1787–1861
- AJHS Selected Mayor's Court Cases, New York, 1674–1860
*These record collections are provided free of charge on Ancestry. Please note that some individual records, such as those attached to members’ family trees, may sometimes appear in other areas of the site, including paid areas.
Where to Start
You have come to this site to find out how to begin tracing your Jewish ancestry, or for help furthering the Jewish research you have already started. You have come to the right place. Ancestry is the number one online source for family history information with billions of historical records, some oriented specifically toward Jewish family history research.
Many people think that Jewish genealogical research is different than other genealogical research. For the most part it is not. All genealogical research, whether Jewish or otherwise, starts with documenting what you know and then with family members or others who might have information about the family.
Written by Gary Mokotoff for Ancestry
Record What You Know
First, start by recording everything you know-names, dates, and places of yourself, your parents, your grandparents, and so on. A helpful way to record this information is by starting a free family tree on Ancestry. By entering what you already know into a family tree, you keep all your information organized in a centralized place.
Talk with Family
You may be surprised what you can learn simply by talking with your family. When speaking with them, do not ask the general question, "What do you know about our family’s history?" The response will invariably be, "Nothing!" Ask specific questions, like names, places, and dates. The following examples are taken from real interviews:
Life events can jog memories.
"When did your grandfather die?"
"I don’t know."
"Was he alive when you were born?"
"Did he attend your bar mitzvah?"
"Yes, in fact he died a year after my bar mitzvah."
Photographs can jog memories.
"When were your grandparents married?"
"I don’t know."
"Do you have any photographs of them?"
"Yes, in fact I have the photo album created in 1951 for their 50th wedding anniversary celebration."
Search for Records to Fill in the Gaps
Once you’ve recorded what you know and gotten as much information from your family as possible, it’s time to fill in the gaps by finding records about your ancestors’ lives. Interestingly, you are rarely looking for Jewish records, because historically there is nothing in the Jewish religion or culture that requires keeping records of life events. Synagogues did not keep records of births (there are no christenings) or deaths, and there is nothing comparable to marriage banns.
When you do Jewish research you are looking for government records. If your great-grandfather was born in New York City, his birth record is in the New York City archives. If your great-grandfather was born in Minsk, Belarus, his birth record is in the Minsk archives. Some people believe all Jewish records were destroyed in the Holocaust. While it is true that most things Jewish were destroyed during this period, the records you are looking for are government records, not Jewish records. For the most part, government records have survived.
Research Issues Peculiar to Jewish Genealogy
There are some unique aspects of Jewish culture and religion that can help you trace your family history, such as Jewish naming patterns and tombstone inscriptions.
Jewish Naming Patterns
Every Jew has a religious given name as well as a secular name. The religious name is used in baby namings, religious services, and on tombstones. Ashkenazic Jews-the Jews who originated in Central and Eastern Europe-invariably give their children the religious name of a deceased relative. Sephardic Jews-whose origins are primarily the Mediterranean rim and the Middle East-name their children in the following manner: the first son is named after the father’s father; first daughter-mother’s mother; second son-mother’s father; second daughter-father’s mother. These rules are often the first clue as to the names of ancestors for whom there is yet no documentation.
"What is the name of your grandmother?"
"I don’t know. She died before I was born."
"Who are you named after?"
Two Jewish genealogists who suspect they are related but have not found records as proof often will compare given names in the two families. If there are given names common to both families, it suggests common ancestry.
If a Jewish tombstone has a Hebrew inscription, it includes the religious name of the deceased and his/her father’s given name. It is a quick way to go back one more generation. Assimilated Jews tended not to have Hebrew inscriptions on their tombstones. As a generalization these inscriptions do not appear on tombstones of Jews who came from Germany in the 19th century, Jews who are members of the Reform movement, or more recent burials where the Hebrew name of the decedent has been lost to the family.
If the decedent was the immigrant ancestor, the Hebrew name is a clue to the Yiddish name used when the person lived in Eastern Europe. The tombstone inscription shows that Harry was Hirsch, Morris was Moshe (Moses), Rose was Frusha, Ida was Chaya. The problem of knowing the European given name is so critical to locating information about an ancestor on passenger lists or in European records that our Jewish Family History Collection homepage has a search for "Jewish Name Variations."
Additional Jewish Resources
There is much help available in your quest to find your Jewish ancestry. The following resources are available:
- Databases on Ancestry and JewishGen.org, which may include records of your ancestors and family.
- Jewish Special Interest Groups (SIGs), organized primarily by country of ancestry.
- Approximately 80 Jewish genealogical societies worldwide where you can attend meetings, network with other genealogists, and attend lectures that will expand your knowledge of genealogy and history or e-mail for local assistance.
- An annual International Conference on Jewish Genealogy where hundreds, sometimes more than a thousand, persons attend to network and learn.
- The journal of Jewish genealogy: AVOTAYNU.
- More than 50 books that focus on the needs of Jewish genealogical research.
Ancestry and JewishGen.org
The ultimate goal is to find records of your ancestors and there is no better place to start and continue to return than Ancestry and JewishGen.org. Many of the important JewishGen databases are also on Ancestry and free to the public; therefore, searching for your ancestors at the Ancestry Jewish Family History Collections homepage will automatically retrieve the information from JewishGen.org without you having to actually go to the JewishGen site. However, here are two important databases that must be accessed directly at JewishGen.org:
JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF). Your genealogy may already be done! More than 80,000 genealogists worldwide have submitted to JGFF the Jewish surnames and ancestral towns they are researching. Go to the site and search for the surnames you are researching to determine if other genealogists are doing similar work. Be sure to search using the "Sounds like" option because there are often spelling variants of names. JGFF will display the surname, town, and identifying information about the person who submitted the information so you can contact the individual and jumpstart your research. You can search for a surname only, a town only, or both.
Family Tree of the Jewish People (FTJP). This database includes more than 2.5 million people on Jewish family trees. Perhaps a distant relative or a relative by marriage has already done some of your research and can fill in a portion of your tree. FTJP also provides a way for you to communicate with the person who submitted the information.
Some additional resources specific to JewishGen.org include the following:
- Infofiles – Articles written by genealogists about specific aspects of Jewish genealogical research.
- Discussion Groups – Daily bulletin boards you can join where questions are posted and answered.
- ShtetLinks – Web pages devoted to the history of specific ancestral villages. These are created by other genealogists.
- Viewmate – Post photos and documents for identification, analysis, and translation.
Special Interest Groups
Because today most Jews do not live in the countries where their ancestors lived 150 years ago, Special Interest Groups have developed oriented toward researching their country of ancestry. Most are for countries in Central and Eastern Europe (e.g., Germany and Ukraine). Two are topical SIGs: Rabbinic and Sephardic. You can link to their homepages from the JewishGen.org homepage. Go to the section titled "Special Interest Groups." Two SIGs are not part of the JewishGen umbrella and are listed in the "Hosted Organizations" section of the homepage: Jewish Records Indexing-Poland and LitvakSIG (Lithuania).
Jewish Genealogical Societies
There are some 80 Jewish genealogical societies in the world under the umbrella of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS). A complete list of societies is available at https://www.iajgs.org/?s=member+index. If there is one in your area, join the society. At their meetings you will be able to discuss your research with experts who can point you in the right direction. You can also e-mail them for local assistance.
International Conference on Jewish Genealogy
The International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) sponsors the annual International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, which has been held annually since 1982. Typically between 750 and 1,000 people attend. Information on the conference can be found at the IAJGS website: https://www.iajgs.org/.
AVOTAYNU is a quarterly journal of Jewish genealogy, which publishes articles of value about Jewish genealogical research. Information about AVOTAYNU can be found at https://www.avotaynu.com/.
Books on Jewish Research
Avotaynu, Inc., the publisher of AVOTAYNU, has also produced more than 50 books to assist persons researching their Jewish ancestry. Written by more than 60 authors on 100 subjects, Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy is the definitive guide to Jewish genealogical research. Avotaynu also publishes the e-zine of Jewish genealogy, Nu? What’s New?, published biweekly and available free of charge.
About Gary Mokotoff
Gary Mokotoff is an author, lecturer, and leader of Jewish genealogy. He has been recognized by three major genealogical groups for his achievements. He is the first person to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS); and is the recipient of the Grahame T. Smallwood Award of the Association of Professional Genealogists, and the Rabbi Malcolm H. Stern Humanitarian Award of the Federation of Genealogical Societies. Mokotoff is also known for his application of computers to genealogy. Among his accomplishments is co-authorship of the Daitch-Mokotoff soundex system; the JewishGen Family Finder, a database of ancestral towns and surnames being researched by some 50,000 Jewish genealogists throughout the world; and the Consolidated Jewish Surname Index.
- The Philadelphia Jewish Exponent Obituary Index, 1887–2006 FREE
- A history of the Jews in the United States
- AJHS Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum Records, 1878–1969
- AJHS Industrial Removal Office Records, 1899–1922
- AJHS New York Hebrew Orphan Asylum Records, 1860–1934
- AJHS Selected Insolvent Debtor’s Cases, 1787–1861
- AJHS Selected Mayor's Court Cases, New York, 1674–1860
- AJHS Selected Naturalization Records, New York City, 1816–1845
- Austria: Mauthausen/Gusen Concentration Camp Death Record Books , 1938–1945 FREE
- Belarus and Lithuania: Census & Family Lists from Various Districts, 1795–1900 FREE
- Belarus: Birth Records from Select Cities, 1837–1917 FREE
- Belarus: Jewish Surnames in Minsk Vital Record Collections FREE
- Belarus: Marriage Records from Minsk (1921) and Mogilev (1857–1891) FREE
- Belarus: Minsk City Homeowners Lists, 1889 and 1911 FREE
- Belarus: Minsk, List of Deaths, 1889 FREE
- Belarus: Mogilev Male Birth Index, 1862–1893 FREE
- Bessarabia (now Moldova), Birth Records, 1829–1910 FREE
- Bessarabia (now Moldova), Death Records, 1858–1914 FREE
- Bessarabia (now Moldova), Marriage and Divorce Records, 1879–1915 FREE
- Biographical Dictionary of Canadian Jewry, 1897–1909
- Biographical Dictionary of Canadian Jewry, 1909–1914
- Consider the years : the story of the Jewish community of Easton, 1752–1942
- France: Natzweiler-Struthof Concentration Camp Record Book, 1940–1945 FREE
- Galicia Business Directory, 1891 FREE
- Germany: Dachau Concentration Camp Records, 1945 FREE
- Germany: Data on 7,400 North Bavarian Jews FREE
- Germany: Flossenbürg Concentration Camp Records, 1938–1945 FREE
- Germany: Jews in Würzburg, 1900–1945 FREE
- Germany: Lists of Jewish Families from Five Cities in Northern Germany FREE
- Germany: the Fate of Jews from Many Communities in Westphalia, 1933–1942 FREE
- Germany: West Prussia, Jewish Citizenship Register, 1812 FREE
- Historical study of the Jews in Massachusetts (1650–1750)
- History of the Jews in America : from the period of the discovery of the New World to the present time
- Holocaust: Auschwitz Forced Laborers FREE
- Holocaust: Index to Testimonials for Victims, as listed in the Soviet Extraordinary Commission Records FREE
- Holocaust: Krakow (Poland) Transport Lists, 1940 FREE
- Holocaust: Lódz (Poland) Ghetto Hospital Death Records, 1941–1944 FREE
- Holocaust: Lódz (Poland) Transports to Chelmo (Kulmhof) Camp, 1944 FREE
- Holocaust: Lodz Ghetto Hospital Illness Records, 1940 FREE
- Holocaust: Memorials from Several Communities in present-day Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Ukraine FREE
- Holocaust: Minsk Yizkor Book Index FREE
- Holocaust: Records from Ten Ghettos FREE
- Holocaust: Refugees Evacuated to Tashkent (Soviet Union), 1941–1942 FREE
- Holocaust: Register of survivors printed in Pinkas HaNitzolim I & II, 1945 FREE
- Holocaust: Schindler's Lists FREE
- Holocaust: Survivor List from the files of World Jewish Congress FREE
- Holocaust: Survivor Names printed in Aufbau Newspaper, New York, 1944–1946 FREE
- Holocaust: Survivor names printed in Sharit Ha-Platah, 1946 FREE
- Holocaust: Survivors listed in a Hungarian Periodical, 1945 FREE
- Holocaust: The Brest (Belarus) Ghetto Passport Collection from the Soviet Archives FREE
- Holocaust: Ukraine, Borislav Utility Records, 1941–1942 FREE
- Hungary: All Citizen Census, 1869 FREE
- Hungary: Assorted Census Records, 1781–1850 FREE
- Hungary: Birth Records collected by Rabbis in Various Counties, 1789-1921 FREE
- Hungary: Death Records collected by Rabbis in Various Counties, 1800–1914 (not all years) FREE
- Hungary: Jewish Census, 1848 FREE
- Hungary: Jewish Names from the Central Zionist Archives FREE
- Hungary: Jewish Names in Property Tax Census, 1828 FREE
- Hungary: Marriage Records from Various Counties, 1800–1914 FREE
- Israel: Index to Records from U.S. Consular Posts in Jerusalem, Jaffa, and Haifa, 1857–1935 FREE
- Jewish Community Locator FREE
- Jewish Given Name Variations FREE
- Jewish Transmigration Bureau Deposit Cards, 1939–1954 (JDC) FREE
- JewishGen Belarus Databases Name Index FREE
- JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) FREE
- JewishGen Yizkor Book Necrology Database FREE
- Latvia: Courland Registers and Family Lists, 1845–1874 FREE
- Latvia: Jewish Family Lists from Dvinsk, c. 1876–1917 FREE
- Latvia: Jewish Family Lists from Rezekne, c. 1896–1914 FREE
- Latvia: Passport and Police Registration Lists, 1900 FREE
- Latvia: Riga Jewish Marriages, 1854–1921 FREE
- Latvia: Riga Tax Administration List, 1858–1917 FREE
- Lithuania and Latvia: List of Donors to Charity from HaMelitz, 1893 -1903 FREE
- Lithuania: Birth Records from Various Towns, 1822–1940 (not all years) FREE
- Lithuania: Death Records from Various Towns, 1845–1940 FREE
- Lithuania: Directories from Several Towns and Shtetls, 1816–1944 FREE
- Lithuania: Internal Passports, 1919–1940 FREE
- Lithuania: Kelme Records, 1816–1944 FREE
- Lithuania: List of Donors to Charity from HaMagid, 1871–72 FREE
- Lithuania: Marriage and Divorce Records from Various Towns, 1855–1940 FREE
- Lithuania: Tax and Voters Lists, 1839 to 1949, various years FREE
- Lithuania: Vilnius City Directory, 1915 FREE
- Mecklenburg, Germany, Jewish Birth, Marriage, and Death Records, 1813–1918
- Miriam Weiner Eastern European Archival Database FREE
- Munich, Vienna and Barcelona Jewish Displaced Persons and Refugee Cards, 1943–1959 (JDC) FREE
- New South Wales, Australia, Assisted Immigrant Passenger Lists, 1828–1896
- New South Wales, Australia, Unassisted Immigrant Passenger Lists, 1826–1922
- Noble families among the Sephardic Jews
- On the history of the Jews of Chicago : The Jewish congregation in Surinam ; A sermon by Moses Mendelssohn printed in Philadelp
- Our Jewish farmers : and the story of the Jewish Agricultural Society
- Paris, France & Vicinity Births, 1700–1899
- Paris, France & Vicinity Deaths, 1707–1907
- Paris, France & Vicinity Marriage Banns, 1860–1902
- Paris, France & Vicinity Marriages, 1700–1907
- Poland: Bedzin Jewish Census, 1939 FREE
- Poland: Business Directories, 1926, 1930, 1932, and 1935 FREE
- Poland: Homeowners Lists from Warsaw and Praga, 1852, 1864 and 1869–1870 FREE
- Poland: Jewish Records Indexing-Poland Vital Records Database (Births) FREE
- Poland: Jewish Records Indexing-Poland Vital Records Database (Deaths) FREE
- Poland: Jewish Records Indexing-Poland Vital Records Database (Marriages) FREE
- Poland: Jewish Survivors from the Keilce District, 1945 FREE
- Poland: Nowogródek Province Business Directory, 1929 FREE
- Poland: Residents of Auschwitz (Oshpitsin), 1919–1941 FREE
- Poland: Warsaw Death Notices from Nasz Przeglad, 1923 & 1937–1938 FREE
- Romania: Jewish Census, 1942 FREE
- Romania: Jewish Names from the Central Zionist Archives FREE
- Russia: Duma Voter Lists, 1906–1907 FREE
- Russia: Jewish Families in Russian Empire Census, 1897 FREE
- Russian Empire: Grodno Gubernia Voters List, 1912 FREE
- Russian Empire: Jewish Religious Personnel, 1853–1854 FREE
- The American Jewish year book, 5663 : October 2, 1902 to September 21, 1903
- The American Jewish year book.
- The Boston Jewish Advocate Index to Obituary Notices, 1905–2007 FREE
- The Boston Jewish Advocate Wedding Announcements, 1905–2007 FREE
- The Cleveland Jewish News Obituary Index, 1964–2007 FREE
- The early history of the Jews in New York, 1654–1664 : some new matter on the subject
- The Essex story : a history of the Jewish community in Essex County, New Jersey
- The Houston Jewish Herald-Voice Index to Vitals and Family Events, 1908–2007 FREE
- The Jew in America
- The Jewish community blue book of Detroit
- The Jewish community blue book of Newark
- The old Jewish cemeteries at Charleston, S.C. : a transcript of the inscriptions on their tombstones, 1762–1903
- The rise of the Jewish community of New York, 1654–1860
- The Russian Jew in the United States : studies of social conditions in New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago, with a description
- The Sentinel presents 100 years of Chicago Jewry
- The settlement of the Jews in North America
- U.S. Civil War Jewish-American Veterans, 1861–1865
- U.S. Consular Posts, Emergency Passport Applications, 1915–1926 FREE
- U.S.: Immigrants arriving at New York from Poland, Austria, and Galacia, 1890–1891 FREE
- U.S.: Jewish Names in Selected State Department Files, 1910–1929 FREE
- U.S.: Marriages performed by three Rabbis in Boston, Chicago and Massachusetts,1861–1956 FREE
- U.S.: Selected Jewish Obituaries, 1948–2002 FREE
- U.S: Boston Arrivals of Jewish Immigrants from HIAS Records, 1882–1929 FREE
- U.S: Papers of Rabbi Samuel Langer, 1929–1969 FREE
- Ukraine: Lviv, Cemetery Records, 1941–1942 FREE
- US, Ohio, Cuyahoga County, Jewish Marriage Record Extracts, 1837–1934
- US: Philadelphia Bank Immigrant Passage Records, 1890–1949 FREE
- What do Jews believe?