for the beginner
Jewishgen.org offers a wide variety of resources for the beginner; resources, tools, classes and advice are available.
Familysearch.org is an invaluable free resource. It is affiliated with the Family History Library in Utah. Many of the library’s resources can be accessed locally. You can search the catalog to determine what resources are available. Many resources are now online. Microfilms is no longer being sent out to local libraries as they are focusing on digitizing all of their records.
Ancestry.com is a resource that you will become very familiar with. It is a pay site, but you can access it for free at most libraries, the local Family History Centers and the Minnesota Historical Society library. Bring a flashdrive and copy the files you identify. You can also find a free two week trial on their genealogy resource page. Gather all your info and clear your calendar.
other beginner sources
The information on Jewish tombstones is often a window into your history. Photographing the tombstones and translating the Hebrew text will often reveal information that can begin to take you back to your roots. Below are Minnesota cemeteries. If you would like to learn more about Jewish tombstones, see Jewish Epitaphs.
How to Read a Hebrew Tombstone (youtube)
The Upper Midwest Jewish Archives allows you to search the database for records that are held at the University of Minnesota in the Nathan and Theresa Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives. The archives are located at the Anderson Library.
Much of what is held at the archives originated with the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest. They are now focusing their efforts on projects and exhibitions that may well relate to your Minnesota roots.
The Minnesota Historical Society has birth and death indexes online. At the library itself, you can access regional newspapers, naturalization records and the actual birth and death records. At the Minnesota Historical Society check indices for wills. If you locate one in which you have interest you can go to the probate office in the city hall in which the will was filed and pull it up.
For Jewish records, it is useful to look at the American Jewish World which was published in St. Paul beginning in 1915 and Minneapolis after 1925. You will find the microfilm filed accordingly by city at the MNHS. You can find much of it online at UMedia with more being added each day. And check the Minnesota Digital Newspaper Hub for AJW issues through 1923 as well as other area newspapers.
You may find your family has a long history at a particular address. If those walls could speak! Well they may have some stories to tell. The MN Historical Society provides a library guide that you may find helpful in exploring the land, building and people associated with a home. You may also find this comprehensive guide useful as well, as you study the genealogy of buildings that were significant in your family history. And don't forget that you can pull up an image using Google maps.
Jewishgen.org is the main site for Jewish genealogy. Within it you can map out ancestral towns, identify and contact others who are searching a specific area and name, search the Jewish Online Worldwide Burial Registry, explore special interest groups, review Yizkor books on your town and access Kehilalinks on ancestral towns. Registration is required, but free.
Jewishgen Community Finder can help to locate where your family came from when those changing borders are challenging. Use the community finder to locate towns of a specific or similar name and their relationship to other towns. Here you can find the other names it may have been called and the other countries that may have controlled it. If you want to know how the town name is pronounced, click here.
Viewmate Once you get a record from Eastern Europe odds are it is in Polish, Russian or another language. Go to Viewmate for instructions on how to post it to get a volunteer to translate it for you free of charge.
JRI-Poland offers a searchable database to indexes for 5 million Polish Jewish records and 550 Polish towns. Once located records can be ordered from Poland or the Family History Library. Some records are being put online so look for a notation to that effect.
Litvaksig offers a searchable database, actually many individual databases, that focus on Jews from Lithuania.
There are many additional special interest groups that are accessed through Jewishgen.
Sub-Carpathia Genealogy® is a free resource for anyone with Jewish roots in the pre-1918 Hungarian megyék (counties) of Bereg, Máramaros, Ugocsa and Ung; the 1918-1938 Czechoslovak territory of Podkarpatská Rus' (Subcarpathia Ruthenia); or the Republic of Carpatho-Ukraine. You can search databases that contain vital, census, Holocaust records and more. Copies of records can be purchased. In addition, you can view tombstones from 240 surviving Jewish cemeteries in Sub-Carpathia.
The Czestochowa-Radomsko Area Research Group finds and translates Holocaust survivor lists and death lists from around Poland. This database is one of the largest on the web, with over 300,000 records so far, covering hundreds of towns and consisting of over 150 separate projects.
Routes to Roots Foundation will tell you what records are available in Eastern Europe and where they are located. You search by the name of your ancestral town.
stevemorse.org a website that offers a multitude of more effective search engines, often for existing sites. Basically, Morse has built a better front end that allows you to search on more variables. While immigration is a focus, it also offers census, vital records and translation aids.
The JDC Archives document the relief, rescue, and rehabilitation activities of the JDC. Within it, you will find the JDC Names Index, a database where you can search for names of ancestors; anyone worldwide who has received JDC aid. Indexes include lists of people helped from 1914 to 1973. Keep checking back, more lists will be added.
The Center for Jewish History, with the Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute, is based in New York and provides a collaborative home for five partner organizations: American Jewish Historical Society, American Sephardi Federation, Leo Baeck Institute, Yeshiva University Museum, and YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.The partners’ archives comprise the world’s largest archive of the modern Jewish experience outside of Israel. Click here for a resource guide.
Looking for maps? Two great places are the FEEFHS map room and the David Rumsey collection.The Rumsey collection will let you identify the region of interest and the time period you seek and will pull up maps relevant to that time and place.
The International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) is “an organization of organizations formed in 1988 to provide a common voice for issues of significance to its members, to advance our genealogical avocation, and to coordinate items such as the annual International Conference on Jewish Genealogy.” To view its list of member societies in the United States and around the world, click here.
Holocaust records can be an important part of your family search. The USHMM Holocaust Survivors and Victims Database has a robust search engine and extensive data. They will email you many of the documents without charge.
If you have family members who were in a concentration work camp, it is likely that the Arolsen Archives in Bad Arolsen, Germany has a file on them. You can contact them on-line to get a copy although it can be a lengthy process. Now many of the records are on-line so do a name search and you may find documents if you scroll down the page.
And don't forget to check the extensive resources on the Jewishgen Holocaust database. There you will find ghetto lists, wartime censuses and lists of Jews from towns and countries. You will find a search engine on their site as well as a list of the databases within it.
If you would like to explore still more genealogy websites check out:
stevemorse.org - convert names to Russian print or cursive or Hebrew text for easy visual recognition
Viewmate - a jewishgen volunteer service where volunteers will help to translate documents
Google Translate - useful for text translation as well as photo and voice translation
TREX- a bilingual contextual dictionary that includes such languages as Russian and Czech
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