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Before World war II, Lithuania had avery strong Jewish population. The Jewish population was about 150,000 people, which was more than 5% of the total population. Vilnius (Wilno) was home to a population of about 100,000 Jews which was nearly half of that cities population. This population was almost entirely wiped out during the Holocaust. Today the Jewish population is most likely less than 7,000 people. Many of those who survived the Holocaust have emigrated to other countries, such as Israel, United States, South Africa and Brazil, which all have communities of Jews of Lithuanian descent.
Archives and Libraries
As we research our Jewish ancestors it is so important to know what records are available in Lithuania, and how to access them in the Lithuanian Archives. In the book Jewish vital records, revision lists, and other Jewish holdings in the Lithuanian Archives, Harold Rhode and Sallyann Sack have made that task much easier. This is a very important book for those researching in Lithuania.
When researching Jews in any country, and especially in those countries of Europe during WW II, it is important to identify the name of the ancestral town. The book The Litvaks: A Short History of the Jews in Lithuania, Dov Levin, has included a listing of Jewish communities from war time Lithuania. He has listed both the Lithuanian and Yiddish names of the communities.
Another source is Where Once We Walked- Revised Edition: A Guide to the Jewish Communities Destroyed in the Holocaust. This source lists the names of the towns with their varient spellings and also provides some information, such as the estimated population of the community pre-WWII.
Once the name of the ancestral home has been determined, the next step is to identify which records survive from that community. The Roots to Roots Foundation, has created a database that identifies these records and also where they are now located. The database includes the records of towns in Belarus, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland and Ukraine.
The Knowles Collection, is a collection of records of the Jewish people from all over the world. While it consists of five databases, the records from Lithuania will be added to the Jews of Europe database has they become available. Further information on the collection including announcements of updates can be fount at knowlescollection.blogspot.com.
Records at the Family History Library
- 1897 census of the Jews of Lithuania
- Metrical Books, 1837-1923, Vilnius
- Metrical Books: Kovna, 1822-1940
- JewishGen Lithuania Database is a multiple database search facility.
- JewishGen Internal Passport Database, 1919-1940
- The Lithuanian Jewish Cemetery Project, is a project to record, document and preserve all of the information from the cemeteries that still exist within Lithuania. This is a valuable resorce for those trying to find their lost families.