It's exciting to start researching your family tree but you soon realise it can be a daunting undertaking. Researching Jewish ancestry presents unique challenges as Jewish families migrated widely, especially during the 18th and 19th centuries, and many were torn apart by the momentous events of the 20th century. Countless records, if they existed at all, may have been lost or destroyed... Names changed as people migrated and the many languages spoken created multiple spellings and translations of those names. Towns changed jurisdictions and also acquired new names or altered spellings.
Unfortunately, for some localities, it's almost impossible to find records. For example, records for Sephardi communities from the Middle East are scarce, however moves are afoot to access, digitize and index hitherto inaccessible resources.
Extensive records do exist for the U.S., UK and Australia. There are excellent online resources to search available records for Europe - both east and west - and resources are also available for some Asian regions; for example the Jews of China.
As complex as all this sounds our society is here to help you uncover your Jewish roots and understand the rich cultural context in which your ancestors lived.
The AJGS Library
So... Where do you start?
You collect data, stories, photos and documents; you collate these into a collection, a book or an archive - either in a box, a folder or online; and then you share the fruits of your labour with the rest of your family.
Collecting and collating tend to happen simultaneously and once you begin its very hard to actually 'finish' a family history as new information seems to pop up all the time. This isn't a problem, it's just one of the realities of this type of research.
If you're very new to genealogical research check out our GETTING STARTED page for tips, tricks and traps to avoid!
If you've started your research and want some help and ideas for where to go next click on the COLLECT button below for information on websites, archives and other resources for specific localities.
If you have loads of information and would like some ideas on how to organise it all click on the COLLATE button for information and resources for organising and preserving your family memories.
If your research is extensive and you have your family archive organised but would like to learn how you can share the fruits of your labour with your family click on the SHARE button for links, resources and inspirational ideas.