JewishGen Home Page

The Genealogical Research Division of

JewishGen Communities Database

The JewishGen Gazetteer
The JewishGen Communities Database:
      · Comparison with the Gazetteer
      · JewishGen Locality Page
      · Interfaces
      · Linkage

The “JewishGen Communities Database” is a master database of Jewish Communities throughout the world, which unifies and links together all of JewishGen's resources about each community.


Previously, all JewishGen resources — the JewishGen Family Finder, KehilaLinks pages, the JewishGen Gazetteer, the Yizkor Book Project, JOWBR and other Databases, SIG and regional resources, etc. — were each independent projects, not linked together in any way, and in many cases were redundant or duplications of efforts.

The goal of the JewishGen Communities Database project is to create a master database of localities, and then link all JewishGen resources for each locality to this master database.  Using this system, a user can easily see all JewishGen resources for any town, rather than having to search multiple locations on JewishGen, under various town names.

The JewishGen Communities Database contains each town’s geographic/political history, and all town names synonyms.  Clicking on a town name in the JGFF will bring up a page containing all historical names and jurisdictions for a town, and links to all relevant JewishGen resources for that town.

JewishGen Gazetteer Example —
Many towns with the same name

Let’s say that you know that your grandfather came from a town called “Ostroleka”, which you think was near Lomza.  If you do a JewishGen Gazetteer search, the Gazetteer will locate six towns in Poland named “Ostroleka” — so how do you know which one your grandfather was referring to?

To anyone with any familiarity with Polish-Jewish geography, it’s obvious.
By analogy, there are more than 30 towns in the USA named “Brooklyn” — but when a Jew tells you that his father lived in Brooklyn, you know which one it is.  Yes, it is remotely possible that they’re referring to “Brooklyn, Montana” or “Brooklyn, Kentucky” — but in all likelihood, they’re referring to “Brooklyn, New York”.

Likewise, it’s obvious which “Ostroleka” a Polish Jew would be referring to.  Experts at JewishGen have identified the Jewish communities as part of the JewishGen Communities Database project, and these communities are now marked in the JewishGen Gazetteer.

The JewishGen Gazetteer

The USBGN data used by the JewishGen Gazetteer is a great tool, but it has several drawbacks as a Jewish community (shtetl) locator, namely:

  • It lists too many towns, the vast majority of which did not have Jewish any population.
  • It does not contain any historical or jurisdictional information, which could help identify the correct locality — especially problematic when there are dozens of localities with the same or similar names, and when country borders have changed.  (see sidebar)
  • It does not contain Yiddish town name synonyms.  Jews often had their own Yiddish names for their shtetls, which sometimes bore little or no resemblance to the official names.

The JewishGen Communities Database overcomes these deficiences.

The JewishGen Communities Database uses a different set of data, which has been compiled by JewishGen.  The JewishGen Communities Database contains information on more than 6,000 Jewish communities in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, together with Jewish population figures, historical town names and jurisdictions, and links to JewishGen resources.

Some features of the JewishGen Gazetteer (formerly called the “JewishGen ShtetlSeeker”) include:

  • Linkage to the JewishGen Communities Database
    Jewish communities are marked with a special icon.
  • Sortable columns
    Clicking on any column header in the Gazetteer's search results will sort the data by that column.
  • Selectable central location
    You can select from drop-down lists of more than 200 major Jewish communities to use as a central reference point.

The JewishGen Communities Database

The JewishGen Communities Database currently contains data for more than 6,000 communities, and will continue to grow.

The following chart shows the differences between the “JewishGen Gazetteer” and the “JewishGen Communities Database”:

  JewishGen Gazetteer JewishGen Communities Database
Number of Localities ~1,000,000 ~6,000
Localities Included All localities Only Jewish Communities
Synonyms Included Official synonyms only All known synonyms, including Yiddish town names
Source of the Data U.S. Board on Geographic Names Experts at JewishGen have used multiple sources
Contents for each Locality Town Name, Official Synonyms, Latitude/Longitude, Distance/Direction from reference point, Links to Maps and Radius Search Everything that JewishGen Gazetteer has... plus much more: Historical names and jurisdictions, Links to JewishGen resources (JGFF, Yizkor Books, KehilaLinks, etc.), Jewish population figures, Inset maps, List of Nearby Jewish Communities, Links to search JewishGen databases, List of applicable SIGs and resources.

JewishGen Locality Page

Why isn't my town in the JewishGen Communities Database?

The “JewishGen Communities Database” is a database of Jewish communities — places that had a synagogue, or a Jewish cemetery, etc.
It is not a database of all places where Jews have lived.
Smaller places appear only in the JewishGen Gazetteer”.

The JewishGen Communities Database is primarily a database of JewishGen resources: Yizkor Book translations, KehilaLinks sites, JOWBR cemetery indexes, JGFF database entries, etc.
If your ancestral town does not appear in the Communities Database, we ask:

  • Have you created a KehilaLinks site for this town?
  • Have you translated a Yizkor Book or portion of a Yizkor Book (or a chapter from an encyclopedic work such as Pinkas HaKehillot) about your town?
  • Have you indexed this town's Jewish cemetery, or a landsmanshaft cemetery plot for this town, for JOWBR?

If you feel that your ancestral town should be included in the JewishGen Communities Database, please contact the JewishGen Support Team.

Every community in the “JewishGen Communities Database” has a “JewishGen Locality Page” (JLP), which contains compiled information about that Jewish community.  For an example — for the town of Opatów, Poland — click here.

The basic features of the JewishGen Locality Page are:

  1. Alternate town names, in multiple languages
  2. Links to JewishGen resources for the town
  3. Historical names and jurisdictions of the town
  4. Jewish population number
  5. Maps, and list of Nearby Jewish Communities
  6. Buttons to search JewishGen databases and JewishGen website
  7. Other Information Links

Each of these features of the JewishGen Locality Page is now described in more detail:

  1. Alternate town names.   In the top left are all of the alternate and historical names for the town, in various languages and transliterations.  The language is indicated in square brackets.

  2. Links to JewishGen resources.   In the top right are links to various standard JewishGen resources about this town: the JGFF, the JewishGen Yizkor Book database, KehilaLinks, JOWBR, etc.

    • JGFF: The link shows you how many matching entries there are for this town in the JewishGen Family Finder.  Clicking on the link will list all of these entries.
    • Yizkor Book Database: From the JewishGen Yizkor Book Project database, we list all Yizkor Books which contain material about this town.  Clicking on the book’s title will give you full bibliographic information about the book, including a link to the on-line English translation, if it exists.
      If the images of this book’s pages are online at the New York Public Library’s website, we link to the images, via the little book icon.
    • JOWBR: Links to the JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry.  If JOWBR contains any data about a Jewish cemetery for this town — or about a landsmanshaft plot for this town located elsewhere, links to that data will appear here.
    • KehilaLinks: If there is a JewishGen KehilaLinks site for this town, a link to that site will appear here.
    • JewishGen-erosity: If there are active JewishGen Projects for this town, links to those projects will appear here.

  3. Historical names and jurisdictions.   The next section is the “historical names and jurisdictions” — the districts, provinces, and countries where the town was located, during four historical time periods:

    • Circa 1900 (before WWI)
    • Circa 1930 (between the two world wars)
    • Circa 1950 (after WWII)
    • Circa 2000 (i.e., today)

    Some towns were in four different countries during the four time periods, with widely varying town names.

  4. Jewish population.   The next section contains the Jewish population circa 1900, and some simple notes about the town.

  5. Maps and Nearby Jewish Communities.
    The next section contains Maps and the Nearby Jewish Communities list.

    The Maps are an integrated feature, built using AJAX web t echnology.  The maps are interactive, without needing to refresh the entire page.  Two maps are currently available: one from MapQuest, and one from Google.

    The maps are zoomable (use the "railroad track" slide on the left), as well as pan-able (by clicking and dragging, anywhere within the map).

    The Google map is also linked to satellite imagery.  [Click on the “Hybrid” box at the top right, then start zooming.]  For some areas, it’s not too impressive, because Google doesn't have great imagery for all areas.  But for other areas, they have fantastic imagery — down to where you can see all buildings and cars on the roads.

    We also have a link to an inset MapQuest map.  [Click on the “MapQuest” radio button underneath the map image.]  You can switch back and forth between MapQuest and Google Maps.

    Next to the map is the “Nearby Jewish Communities” list.  This is a clickable list of all JewishGen Communities Database localities within 30 miles of the focus town (or a 100-mile radius, for those localities in sparsely-populated areas).  You can mouse-over or click on any town in the list — clicking brings up the “JewishGen Locality Page” for that town.

  6. Search JewishGen.   At the very bottom of the page are two “Search” buttons.
    The first one searches the respective JewishGen “All Country Database” for records from this town.
    The second one searches all the text on the JewishGen website for any mention of this town.

  7. Additional Information Links.   At the bottom-right of the page is the set of "Additional information" links.  This section contains a list of bibliographic resources about the town (e.g.: encyclopaedia articles, Jewish reference books, links to information on related websites), as well as any JewishGen SIG (Special Interest Group) that covers this town.

Interfaces to the JewishGen Communities Database

There are many ways to get to the JewishGen Communities Database — from the JGFF, from JewishGen Gazetteer, etc. — and via two distinct interfaces:
There is a search interface to find towns, as well as a browse interface.

  • The search interface allows you to query the database by town name.
    You can search by all of the usual methods: “Is Exactly” (precise spelling), “Sounds Like” (Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex), “Starts-With” (prefix) and “Contains”.  You can narrow your search by filtering by modern country, inter-war country, or pre-WWI country.

    The query searches all of the towns' historical names, so you can locate a community by entering any of its former names or Yiddish name, for example.

  • The browse interface organizes the towns by their historical jurisdictions, so that you can see all of the Jewish communities within Vilna gubernia, or Prussia, or any other historical district.

    The browse interface is modeled as a collapsable “tree” of communities.  The “Communities Tree” can be found at

    There are three different “Community Tree”s — for three different historical time periods:

    • Circa 1900 (pre-WWI)
    • Circa 1930 (between the two world wars)
    • Circa 2000 (i.e.: today)


The “JewishGen Locality Page” is linked to from everywhere on the JewishGen web site where the town is mentioned — in the JGFF’s search results, in the JewishGen Gazetteer’s search results, in the Yizkor Book bibliographic database, in the JOWBR database, etc.  These linkages will continue to grow in the future.

Communities Main Page JewishGen Home Page
Last Update: 22 Feb 2012  
JewishGen Home Page Edmond J. Safra Plaza | 36 Battery Place | New York, NY 10280
646.494.2972 | | © 2024, JewishGen, Inc. All rights reserved.