Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois (JGSI)

"Members helping members since 1981"

Society History

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois (JGSI) is a non-profit 501c-3 organization dedicated to helping members collect, preserve, and perpetuate the records and history of their ancestors. We serve as a resource for the worldwide community to research their Chicago area Jewish roots.

The Society was founded in 1980 and today has over 230 members.

JSGI published Search, a publication dedicated to presenting search techniques related to Jewish genalogy. View the first issue: Vol. 1, Number 1, Fall 1981. (PDF 2.5MB will open in new browser window or tab.) Search archived issues are available in our research library.


The JGSI logo is a very full healthy tree, suggesting a prodigious, healthy future.

The center of its very sturdy trunk shows where the a bark has split to make a slightly oval shape (as sometimes happens with these large older trees). Actually, this kind of shape is sometimes caused by the loss of a branch, and therefore this shape represents those branches on our trees that may be completely lost to us, though their influence may be seen. Those familiar with the shape of the state of Illinois will recognize it in this shape. It's central location on the trunk indicates that it is the center of our society's activities.

Emanating from the trunk are seven branches-- a reminder of the seven branched menorah which stood in the Temple in Jerusalem and which has been a symbol of the Jewish people for over 2000 years.

The three large roots of the tree are just visible above the ground, but look like they'll become more uncovered as time goes by, which is our hope for all our members. The three represents the three groups of Jews: Kohanim (the priestly class, Levites (the assistant priests) and Israelites (the rest).


The Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois is dedicated to helping members collect, preserve and perpetuate the records and history of their ancestors. JGSI also serves as a resource for the worldwide community to research their Chicago-area Jewish roots by maintaining a free website that includes useful family history databases, including an online searchable death index.

The organization holds monthly meetings, usually at Temple Beth Israel, 3601 W. Dempster St., Skokie. Most meetings are held on the fourth Sunday of the month from 2 to 4 p.m. Prior to each meeting, the JGSI meeting facilities at Temple Beth Israel open at 12:30 p.m. to accommodate members/guests who want to use JGSI’s genealogy library materials, get help with genealogy research or ask genealogical questions of member experts before the main program begins. The JGSI research library contains more than 800 volumes of interest to Jewish genealogists. Its catalog is available online on the JGSI website.

Recent programs have touched on a variety of topics, including 1940 U.S. Census finding aids, a research case study involving online newspaper and book databases, a lecture titled “Chicago Story of Sex, Murder, and Genealogy,” features of ancestry.com and its affiliated websites, and an “Ask the Experts” question-and-answer session. Future meetings will include programs about instructive genealogy online videos and webinars, a “Kvell and Tell” session in which members share their special family history discoveries, and a beginners’ workshop.

JGSI publishes a newsletter, Morasha, which is distributed to members three times a year (February, June, and October). The society also maintains a speakers bureau of expert genealogists who are available to do presentations on Jewish genealogy for local organizations.

One of JGSI’s most successful special projects has been its role as publisher of the award-winning book A Translation Guide to 19th-Century Polish-Language Civil-Registration Documents by Judith R. Frazin. This valuable resource, which is of use to anyone with roots in Poland, is available for purchase through the JGSI website.

JGSI is affiliated with the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies, which will be holding its 32nd annual conference on Jewish genealogy July 15-18, 2012. Several JGSI members will be attending the conference in Paris, France.

For more information about JGSI, visit http://www.jewishgen.org/jgsi or phone 312-666-0100. JGSI’s email address is info@jgsi.org; its postal mailing address is: JGSI, P.O. Box 515, Northbrook, IL  60065.

A Twitter account, @JGSofIllinois, has been established by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois. Members and others who “follow” it will receive notices of coming JGSI meetings and special events. Retweets about various Jewish genealogy topics of interest to members will also be shared by @JGSofIllinois.

© 2008 JGSI
P.O. Box 515, Northbrook, IL60065-0515 • 312.666.0100• info@jgsi.orgwebmaster@jgsi.org