Genealogy Q&A: Jewish Genealogy

By Family Tree Editors

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Q: I’m researching my Jewish ancestors in Poland. How can I determine if any vital records are available for a town there?

A: You may be pleasantly surprised that Jewish vital records have survived in Poland for more than 600 towns. In general, the Polish State Archives holds records more than 100 years old, while more recent records remain at each locality’s civil registration office. The Family History Library has microfilmed more than 2,000 reels of records from Polish archives, mostly from 1808 through the 1880s. Search the catalog by the name of the town and look for a Jewish records heading. You can download an inventory of these records here.

The JewishGen website has an extensive guide, organized by town, to extant records and which of the 75 different archives maintains these records. Also see Jewish Roots in Poland: Pages from the Past and Archival Inventories by Miriam Weiner, published in cooperation with the Polish State Archives. The SEZAM database searches all the holdings of the Polish State Archives. JewishGen notes that Jewish records are indicated by Polish terms such as “Akta metrykalne zydowskiej” (Jewish vital records), “Akta Stanu Cywilnego gminy zydowskiej” (Civil Status Records of the Jewish Community), “Urzad Stanu Cywilnego Gminy Wyznania Mojzeszowego” (Municipal Civil Status Office of the Jewish Faith) and “Akta stanu cywilnego Okregu Bozniczego” (Files of the Civil District Synagogue).

Answer provided by David Fryxell

A version of this article appeared in the December 2013 issue of Family Tree Magazine.

Q: How can I research surnames of Jewish families from Italy?

A: There are many Italian Jews, and Jewish culture was very prominent in Italy at times in its history. Several books can help you research surnames of Italian Jews. First, the book on Italian surnames is Joseph G. Fucilla’s Our Italian Surnames (Genealogical Publishing Co.); the current edition is a 1998 reprint of the 1949 edition. As for Jewish surnames, see A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire (Avotaynu) and A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland (Avotaynu), both by Alexander Beider.

Answer provided by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack

A version of this article appeared in the October 2000 issue of Family Tree Magazine.