Guide to Jewish Genealogy in Chicagoland

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Old Country Information

Finding Your Ancestral Home
Sephardic Research
Holocaust Research

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Finding Your Ancestral Home

The search for your ancestral home is an important element of Jewish genealogists' research.  This effort usually involves an iterative process of finding census records, naturalization papers, and ship arrival records. These records have been discussed in previous sections. In this section we will review additional resources available.

Books (see Reference Materials

Where Once We Walked.
This gazetteer contains 22,000 towns in Central and Eastern Europe where Jews lived before the Holocaust and includes 15,000 alternate spellings.
It can be found at:

A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames. This series of books by Alexander Beider contains the origin of names from the Russian Empire, Prague, Poland, and of Ashkenazic origin. Shows the origins of the name, name variants, and where the name was found. While it is best to find your direct family records, if that fails this may provide other leads to follow. These books can be found at:

On-Line Resources

JewishGen provides many tools for the genealogist researching his/her Jewish roots. 

The ShtetlSeeker allows you to enter the name of a town and country and returns all towns with similar names. You can also ask for a listing of all towns within a certain number of miles (you specify) from a given town. This allows you to check out the neighborhood around a big town for something that might look or sound familiar.

The Family Finder allows you to search for a given surname and town/country and all combinations of these. It returns a list of researchers who have entered their family name and town that match your search. Over 300,000 entries can be found in this database. Once you find a match, you can write to the researcher(s) that match your request and compare notes about your family name and town. 

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Sephardic Research

For the best overall background on Sephardic research, consult Jeff Malka's book Sephardic Genealogy: Discovering Your Sephardic Ancestors and Their World. 

The American Sephardic Federation in New York City also has resources to help with Sephardic research. They can be reached at 212-294-8350 or

The Sefard Forum: Discussion Group for Researchers of Sephardic Genealogy is also a good place to get help: 

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Holocaust Research

Yad Vashem

The central repository of all Holocaust related information. You can consult their website at Yad Vashem to review all of their resources. They now have online "The Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names" which includes about half of these victims and is searchable. 

You can request research (via e-mail), for which there will be a fee. 

International Tracing Service of the Red Cross

This organization maintains a file of more than 45 million index cards for over 17 million former persecutees of the National Socialist Regime. You can write to them to request information about a family member but these requests may take a year or longer to be answered.

Holocaust Memorial Foundation

Founded in 1981, this organization has a large volume of Holocaust related material in their library. Contact them for assistance.

Yizkor Books

These memorial books document towns and townspeople destroyed in the Holocaust. Over 1000 have been published to date. They contain articles written by survivors and the books are mostly in Yiddish and Hebrew. To find a full list of the books go to the JewishGen
® website. The books can be found in Chicagoland at:

There are also some available on-line via the New York Public Library.




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Guide to Jewish Genealogy in Chicagoland 
Copyright © 2004-2016 by Mike Karsen

Last update:26 July 2016