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. 

Closer to home we have the Upper Midwest Jewish Archives at the University of Minnesota. They offer an excellent introduction to beginning genealogy at Genealogy Research.

other beginner sources

 
 
 

Minnesota Roots

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. 

 

 

For Jewish records, it is useful to look at the American Jewish World publication in the Minneapolis records from 1925 forward and in St. Paul from 1915 forward. 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.

The Hennepin County Library  offers a number of digital collections on the history of the Minneapolis area. The collection includes its city directories, photos of early buildings, building permits, school yearbooks and newspaper photos including images of people, places and events.

jewish roots

Litvaksig offers a searchable database, actually many individual databases, that focus on Jews from Lithuania.​

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There are many additional special interest groups that are accessed through Jewishgen.

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.​

Surname Distribution Mapper allows you to map your surname through time for areas that are or were once part of Poland.  See where it began and to where it traveled. Links to records within JRI-Poland.​

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. 

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. 

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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.

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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.

DNA

As the providers of DNA tests multiply, many are uncertain which company they should go with. The answer is ...it depends. What you hope to achieve may lead you to different choices. Here are two resources  that allow you to compare  many of today's providers - Innerbody and DNA Testing Guides.

 

Holocaust Records

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.

Yad Vashem offers the Central Database of Shoah Victims Names which has copies of testimony that family members have submitted. Don’t forget that you can submit testimony as well.​

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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.

 
 

OTher resources

If you would like to explore still more genealogy websites check out:

 

Translation Resources 

  • 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

Helpful Blog Articles

  • Go to the Blog page and click the Resources tab

Mailing address

MNJGS, c/o Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest (JHSUM)

4330 S. Cedar Lake Road
Minneapolis, MN 55416

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