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Unearth Your Jewish Ancestry

Though parts of history were lost in the Holocaust, you can still find out a lot about your family roots

  • Check out GenealogyBank.com: A subscription site that archives more than 5,000 newspapers that can help you track down your ancestors mentioned in the local press.
  • CyndisList.com has hundreds of links to Jewish genealogical sites, such as the Sephardic Genealogical and Historical Society in Paris, birth records from selected cities from many countries, cemetery records from many locations, details of residents from shetls and much more.
  • JewishLink.net includes hundreds of databases, such as the obituary index of Polish - language newspaper in Chicago (1890-1958), the Association of Jewish Genealogy sites and much more.
  • At EllisIsland.org, you can search for your ancestor's arrival in the United States, the ship that brought them here and sometimes even a picture of the ship.
  • Naturalization papers: There's no one-stop shopping to find your ancestor's naturalization papers. You must know the state where naturalized and visit local federal courthouses for documents. Census records may give you a clue where they lived at time of naturalization. The 13 National Archive satellite sites have some microfilmed naturalization papers. Much of it is not online, but Ancestry.com and Footnote.com are making many naturalization papers available online. 
  • Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is good for Americans born after 1870 who died by 1962 or more recently. It is only an index — it doesn't have death records. What it does have is a good accounting of the final payout from Social Security and the location where the SSN was originally requested.
  • Check the index of New York births before 1880 in your search for your Jewish ancestors, many of whom arrived in the city and stayed there.
  • Translating documents can be a challenge. If you don't have a friend or relative who can help, there are volunteer organizations that provide free translation services.

If all your research from home makes you want to take that trip to the "old country" after all, you can check with local synagogues or Jewish organizations that often organize such expeditions.

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