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Research: Jewish Ancestors
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Researching a Jewish ancestor may seem a daunting task especially when you consider the Holocaust and the incredible destruction of lives, synagogues, and cemeteries in Europe. You may ask “why should I even try?” Then there is the myth that immigrants had their names changed at Ellis Island that leads us to believe that our Jewish ancestors are nearly impossible to research. All of these things scare off many from researching their Jewish family and discovering that there actually is a great deal of information “out there.” Researching Jewish ancestors is challenging, but with the research techniques provided in this course it will be revealed that much information is available.

This course is presented with the assumption that the student may have little to no first-hand knowledge of Jewish ancestry. At the completion of the course the student will have a solid foundation to research Jewish ancestors and will understand the types of records available. This course will start with an introduction to the history of the Jewish people to better understand the challenges of this research. We will then get a basic understanding of the languages, dates, and name conventions of this unique group. Immigration patterns of the Jews as they came to North America are a valuable component to ultimately discovering their origins and the resources to assist in this research will be presented. Jewish life and record sources as they settled can provide additional clues to their origins and experiences as they came to America and Canada. Effective research strategies for finding Jewish ancestors will be presented. Lastly, the course includes an extensive discussion on resources available to pursue the genealogy of Jewish ancestors.

Course Content

Module 1
Note about Web Addresses
Introduction to Jewish Ancestry
What does it mean to be Jewish?
• Jewish Religious Denominations
• Ethnic Definitions
• Rabbinic
• Matrilineal/Patrilineal
Jewish History
• Ancient Times
• The Diaspora and History Leading to Modern Times
• Jews come to New Amsterdam
• Jewish Immigrants Continue to Settle in America
• World War II and the Holocaust
• The Aftermath of the Holocaust
Recommended Resources
• Books
• Websites

Module 2
Language, Calendar, and Names
Primary Languages
• German
• Hebrew
• Yiddish
• Polish
• Russian
Translation Tools
Jewish Calendar
Naming Patterns
Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System
Recommended Resources

Module 3
Immigration Patterns
Types of Immigration Records
Coming to America
• 1654-1820
• 1820-1855
• 1855-1924
• Other Major United States Ports
United States Research Strategies
Other Records for Clues
Major settlements within US & Canada
United States Naturalization Papers
• Where to Look
Canadian Naturalization Papers
Recommended Resources
• Book
• Websites

Module 4
Jewish Life and Record Sources
• Newsletters
• Member Lists and Financial Records
• Naming Ceremony Records
• Confirmation and Bar/Bat Mitzvah Records
• Marriage Records/Ketubah
• Burial Records
Hebrew Schools
Jewish Societies
Holocaust Records
• Yizkor (Memorial) Books
• Victim Database
• Holocaust Survivor and Victim Database
• JewishGen Holocaust Database
Jewish and Local Newspapers
• Headstones
Recommended Resources

Module 5
Research Strategies
Gather Known Information
• Interview Oldest Generations
• Follow Collateral Lines
• Be Open-Minded
Vital Records
Census Records
City Directories
Naturalization and Immigration Records
Cemetery Headstones
Focusing on Ancestral Origin
DNA Testing
Recommended Resources
• Book
• Websites

Module 6
Available Resources
Locations for Research
• United States
• Archives
• Libraries
• Museums
• Canada
• Archives
• Libraries
• Museums
Online Resources
• Research
• Education
Genealogical Societies
• United States
• Canada
Recommended Resources

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