GLOBAL DATABASES & RESOURCES
Many genealogical resources are designed to be used by people from all over the world and therefore cover global localities. Other subjects have no borders and so we have placed them here in this section to allow for easy access. Click on the menu to the left to find information on JewishGen, one of the very best sources of Jewish genealogical index records; major online family tree websites, Holocaust resources, Sephardi genealogy, and the new world of genetic genealogy.
JewishGen is affiliated with The Museum of Jewish Heritage - a living memorial to the Holocaust - and is one of the most comprehensive resources available online for Jewish genealogical research.
Jewishgen is predominantly run by volunteers and relies on donations. It is free to use although you must register as a researcher. Registered users are encouraged to donate to allow the site to continue to update their data. They currently have over 20 million indexed records in their database and continually to work to add more to their collections.
Using the JewishGen family finder can help you to connect with other people around the world researching the same family lines, geographical areas or subjects of interest.
JewishGen supports a number of Special Interest Groups (SIGs) filled with people who may be able to assist you in your search. There are SIGS on geographical areas and lost communities. They also support projects like KehilaLinks, who are working to build profiles of the thousands of Shtetls (small Jewish villages) that dotted the European countryside prior to WW2. Information and stories of life in these small, close knit communities can help shed light on the lives your ancestors may have led.
JewishGen has a number of tools to help you navigate the complicated changes of national borders, town, village and regional names, surname adoption and family name tracking. They have information sheets and resources covering the full gamut of Jewish genealogical research and work tirelessly to maintain their resources.
All in all Jewishgen is an invaluable resource for international research into Jewish family lines.
Genealogy is an obsessive hobby, particularly in the U.S. Many of the best online resources have grown out if the broad reach and deep pockets of American genealogical societies - most notably the Genealogical Society of Utah. The Mormon church (also known as the church of the Latter Day Saints) established the Genealogical Society of Utah in 1894 and dedicated themselves to "preserving the records of the family of mankind". In 1938 The society started using microfilm to record records from the U.S. And Europe. Today these films represent the largest single collection of genealogical data in the world and the church run dedicated Family History Centres around the world giving everyone access to these microfilms. As technology has improved these films have been indexed and are slowly being digitized.
Today these records can be accessed online for free through familysearch.org
FAMILY TREE WEBSITES
A large source of genealogical data are the subscription websites designed to help you build and research your family tree. The major players are Ancestry and My Heritage (which also owns Geni). All these sites have a variety of subscription offers, starting with free sign up with limited access through to premium packages worth several hundred dollars a year, which give you access to deep wells of information and online support.
Like Familysearch, Ancestry grew out of the Mormon records. While there are some free services on Ancestry its real power can only be harnessed with a paid subscription. Ancestry has exclusive deals with several data holders, which means they are sometimes the only place one can access particular data. However, in many cases their datasets are available from other free (or cheaper) sources.
Thankfully it's not essential to sign up to a paid Ancestry subscription as the website can usually be accessed for free through your local public library. Check with your local library to see if they have an Ancestry library subscription available. You will need to set up an account with a username and password (this is free to do). If you find a record at the library that you want to keep you simply email it home then log in to your account when you get home and download your discoveries.
My Heritage is free to join and they have a stand alone research subscriptions for about US$9.99 a month (paid annually), which gives you access to indexed and digitized records such as census and immigration data. As with Ancestry you can sometimes find this data freely available from other sources, however the advantage of all these subscription sites are their search engines, which are designed to help you hone in on your ancestor more accurately. You can also attach the documents you find directly to the relevant ancestors on your tree within their systems and/ or download digital copies of the documents to keep in your personal archives.
Some genealogists have concerns about placing family tree data online on sites such as Ancestry and My Heritage. These are valid concerns regarding data privacy and access that users of these resources should be aware of. It is important to understand how these sites work and how to adjust your Privacy Settings so your data is secure.
If you have any questions or queries about using these resources come along to one of our monthly workshops and one of our members will be happy to show you how to get the most out of them.
There are several guides on how to get the best out of Google (Just pop GENEALOGY + GOOGLE into the search bar and you'll get a list) but there are a few simple places to start.
If the ancestor you're researching has an unusual name it's as simple as Googling that name! To google a first name/surname combination accurately put the name sequence in quotation marks: i.e. "Firstname Surname" This will prioritise the exact word combination.
Think laterally... Google "Firstname Surname" + [using this + symbol will connect the search terms] Town name (check Jewishgen for changes to town and locality names over time).
Google is also a great place to find information on the history of localities and resident cultures.
A note of caution: While it is an invaluable resource the internet also contains inaccurate sources and information. Be a little sceptical if you have trouble verifying the information you find. Try to verify heresy with corroboration from a reliable source.
Avotaynu is a print and online journal for Jewish genealogy. They publish articles designed to stimulate discussion between genealogists and historians as well as push the development of new areas of study such as DNA, social media and online technologies as it pertains to Jewish genealogy.
YIVO centre for Jewish history is a New York based organisation dedicated to fostering knowledge of the ongoing story of Jewish life, with a focus on the history and culture of East European Jewry. They have a particular dedication to the continuation of Yiddish culture and language.
Jewish Virtual Library is a general interest site with information on a wide range of subjects that will be of interest to family historians as they try to place their ancestors in their historical context.
Many Jewish Genealogical Societies around the world publish their own journals. AJGS publishes Kosher Koala on a quarterly basis. Our society also subscribes to several international journals and members can access these during our regular monthly workshops.
Genetic genealogy is a recent addition to the genealogical landscape. Your genes are, of course, passed down from generation to generation. While the human genome was only mapped in the recent past there are several distinct characteristics passed down genetically that can be tested for used to determine your relationship to other people. Jewish Genetic Genealogy is a specific field of research and so far studies have shown that many populations of Jews have distinct genetic markers that link them to specific geographic districts and to the Middle East. Researchers have also discovered particular genetic markers for Cohenim and Levits (the priestly class) and Sephardi communities across Andalusia and North Africa.
European Jewish communities were decimated by the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. Thanks to the scholarship of hundreds of people organisation have worked tirelessly to try and name as many of the estimated 6 million people who perished as possible. Click on the button to access a detailed list of Holocaust related resources.
Sephardi communities are found throughout the world today and the term has come to define Jewish communities of middle eastern origin. This is actually incorrect (Middle eastern Jews are actually Mizrahi Jews). The term Sephardi or Sepharad actually applies to Jews of Spanish and Portuguese origin: i.e. those whose family's were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula in the great expulsion of 1642, when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella ordered all Jewish residents of their empire to leave, convert or die. Many stayed and practiced their judaism covertly, but many hundreds of thousand migrated north to the Ottoman Empire and, over time, gradually migrated back to Europe from the east.
Sephardi Genealogy covers communities from The Ottoman Empire, the Iberian peninsular (pre 1492) and identifiable Sephardi communities throughout Europe. A Sephardi Synagogue, Bevis Marks, was established in London in 1701.