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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Non-Anglican Church Records by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
The Jewish people are scattered around the world hence genealogists need to take a more global approach to research. There is an immense variety of books on Jewish culture, the diaspora and holocaust available from any public library and the researcher who finds a Jewish link would be well-advised to do some background reading. Much of the published genealogical research and how-to books concentrate on the affluent Sephardim; but some are now available for the poorer Ashkenazis who constitute the overwhelming majority in England.
Wenzerul’s book (A Beginner’s Guide to Jewish Genealogy in Great Britain. Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain, 2001) is written for beginning genealogists who have Jewish ancestors, thus it contains a lot of general British research advice as well as worthwhile material specific to the Jews, particularly names and addresses of associations, libraries, archives and key people, some information on the Hebrew language, bibliography, and a selected list of articles in the journal Shemot. Wellisch and Solnik-Rogers’ Finding Your Jewish Ancestors. Heritage Productions is a basic book containing a listing of Jewish organizations and collections in Canada and an introduction to other countries’ records. This is useful as genealogists will inevitably jump back over the English Channel to Europe at some juncture in their research. Mordy’s My Ancestors Were Jewish is the standard book for those knowledgeable about genealogy but now delving into Jewish research. Rottenberg’s Finding Our Fathers has been the classic text for several years and is more detailed than the above. A useful article featuring Jewish history and genealogy is Wood (Jewish Ancestors in Britain. Family Tree Magazine Vol 6. Part I in #9, page 17-18; Part II in #10, page 17-18, 1990).
There is more than one Jewish Encyclopaedia which can be sought at public libraries and will provide background as well as biographical information on those of note. YIZKOR (Memorial) books are histories of individual Eastern European Jewish communities, some going back into the 17th and 18th centuries. There are over 1,000 compiled after WWII by survivors of communities in Poland, Ukraine and Hungary. Most are in Hebrew or Yiddish but a number of them have sections in English, and translations are a project of the JewishGen website.
Databases and Search Engines
The first three in this list are part of the JewishGen website. To get an overview send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF) is a list of surnames and towns being researched by more than 96,000 genealogists around the world.
Family Tree of the Jewish People contains 800,000 names:
IAJGS Cemetery Project has 400,000 names in 22,000 cemeteries worldwide:
Consolidated Jewish Surname List is a gateway to 699,084 surnames in 42 databases:
Federation of East European Family History Societies.
Check under all Jewish categories under both Great Britain and England, and under the town. There do not seem to be many under the county category. Examples of the number of titles for four different areas are shown below.
Chart: Selected Jewish References in FHLC
|- 18th century||1|
|- WW II||1|
|- inventories etc||1||1|
•GB = Great Britain
As a taste, amongst these holdings are:
- Isobel Mordy’s collection of pedigrees and indexes on 12 films starting at 1,279,240.
- Index to Bevis Marks records on 0,978,426.
- Printout (index) to Hambro Synagogue births and christenings 1770-1860 on 6903808 (1).
- List of Jewish residents in Leeds, Yorkshire from the 1891 census in book 942.74/L1 X22*.
Keyword searches using Jew, Jewish cemeteries, Jewish customs etc., and Subject searches for Jewish, Concentration Camps, Holocaust, Inquisition, or Minorities will bring up further categories and hundreds of other records. An indispensable aid for Jewish research using the FHLC is the inexpensive LDS Research Outline Jewish Genealogy #36383.
Jewish Genealogy Societies
Wellisch and Solnik-Rogers’ Finding Your Jewish Ancestors list the main Jewish genealogical societies in many countries, and an up-to-date list of dozens more can be found on CyndisList under the heading Jewish—Societies.
Jewish Journals and Annuals
Avotaynu: The International Review of Jewish Genealogy is a quarterly publication founded in 1985. Shemot is the journal of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain. The complete list of contents to all back issues is on their website. The Jewish Year Book started publication in 1896 and gives the dates of foundation of the various Jewish congregations as well as the addresses of burial society secretaries. It also carries tables of Jewish and Christian years.
Jewish Libraries and Archives
- Jewish Historical Society of England at the Jewish Museum.
- Society of Genealogists in London has a good collection.
- Tower Hamlets Local History Archives covers the East End of London where most Jews lived. They are one of the areas which have marriage notice books, in this case for Stepney from 1926, and for Bethnal Green 1837-78, and 1920-1965. The information given when couples applied to get married was date, names, marital status, profession, age, address, length of residence in UK, and place of intended marriage. Other sources include electoral registers, and local newspapers from 1857.
- The Archivist of the Court of the Chief Rabbi, (London Beth Din) has much of the original Ashkenazi archival material and should be the first place to contact for the following:
- Proceedings Books 1876-1938, 1940-date.
- Case Files including adoptions, conversions, divorces, Jewish and marital status about 1945-date.
- Certificates of Evidence 1921-1966 giving places of birth, and of marriage abroad, mainly for those not naturalized.
- Access to records of Chief Rabbinate 1855-1965.
- Access to records of United Synagogue 1870-1950 and those of the defunct congregations of the Great, Hambro, New and Bayswater Synagogues held there.
- Marriage authorizations since 1880 containing more information than on civil marriage certificates.
- Burial authorizations since 1896 containing more information than on civil death certificates. ________________________________________
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Non-Anglican Church Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at email@example.com
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