Start your search
Jewish genealogy is a wonderfully enriching project that takes people on a journey into their own past and helps them discover their own personal histories. Beit Hatfutsot offers some helpful resources in this exciting project. Here are some tips for getting started:
- Write down what you know about your family. Start with you and your close relatives: parents, grandparents, siblings, spouse, children, and grandchildren. Then add uncles, aunts, cousins, in-laws, etc. Interview elderly relatives or other family members who might know more about the family history.
- Look for documents at home. Look for things like birth, marriage and death certificates, family bibles or prayer books, old photos, ketubbot, old passports, immigration papers, newspapers clippings and so on.
- Find gravestones. Visit or ask family members to visit the graves of deceased relatives and note down the inscriptions as they may contain valuable information.
- Broaden your search. Look into municipal and state archives, libraries, and Jewish community records. Keep in mind that sometimes you will need help from experts as old handwritten documents generally are difficult to read and in some cases might be written in languages that you do not understand.
- Trace names. Remember that most Jews started using family names only during the last two hundred years or so. Therefore tracing back relatives that lived before the introduction of hereditary family names could be very challenging. Nevertheless understanding the meaning of family names could provide valuable clues in disclosing family's roots, its former places of residence, the occupational and social status of its members and more. To order a search for the meaning and origin of your family name click here.
- Search the Internet for genealogy sites. Some have valuable genealogical databases online, for a genealogical search of the Douglas E. Goldman Jewish Genealogy Center's database fill out our Search Order online.
- Ask for advice and guidance at your local Jewish genealogical society. They may be instrumental in providing further assistance on how to search your family and where to find specific sources of information in your area and around the world.
- Use a genealogy software program. This is useful to help you record all data and organize your family tree. We recommend the use of a program that can generate GEDCOM files.
- Contact Beit Hatfutsot. Once you have gathered all the information, you can record it in the database of the Douglas E. Goldman Jewish Genealogy Center.