Routes to Research Your Jewish Family History RYO #2

Our guide to Routes to Research Your Jewish Family History explores three routes you can take to develop your Jewish family history research project in this our second historytracings blogpost in the series Research Your Own (RYO).

In our previous blogpost Getting Started with Jewish Family History Research we gave you some ideas how to get started with three stages: GATHER, GLEAN and GUIDE. In this blogpost we will develop the basic routes you can use to underpin your research plan.


One of the routes to research, opign backwards through your Jewish family history is depicted as paper cut out people forming a human ancestral pyramid representing the generations of your family standing on each other's shoulders, with you at the top and your ancestors below.Family history research generally proceeds by tracing BACKWARDS from the known to the unknown, generation by generation and person by person. This is the safest way to proceed. Imagine your family as an ancestral human pyramid with you at the top. You need each generation of your family to be concretely rooted underneath you in order to be able to trace BACKWARDS through your ancestry with confidence. Therefore your research plan must aim to gather information from reliable, ideally first hand sources which give authentic, official evidence. You will need to obtain birth, marriage and death information for each generation of direct ancestors. This may come from civil or synagogue records, and ideally both where they exist, since they can contain varying useful information. These kinds of sources should also provide you with information about the previous generation, whose birth, marriage and death information you can then pursue.


For each of the key individuals you are researching BUILD UP other information around birth, marriage and death events. Drawing on synagogal records or looking for newspaper announcements of key family events, such as births and birthdays, engagements, marriages, divorces, special occasions, as well as burial information and cemetery details. Other easily accessible sources of information can be gathered in the UK and USA from national census records via the big name genealogical websites. You may have to purchase a subscription or your local library service in the UK may offer access for free, so you can try the sites out and see what information they offer. These sites also have a wealth of additional sources which can help you BUILD UP your family knowledge, confirming addresses in telephone directories and address books of cities and localities, as well as records relating to other life areas: education, legal, military, occupation and tax records. Immigration and travel records are valuable sources especially for family which relocated from continental Europe to the UK, USA and Australia.


If you are having trouble going backwards through the generations then it can be helpful to also LOOK SIDEWAYS. For example if you are looking for a family group in the censuses or a birth or marriage, but there are too many individuals of the same name and it is difficult to focus on the correct individuals, it can be necessary to LOOK SIDEWAYS. Particularly if you are reviewing the censuses but cannot locate your direct ancestor. By focussing instead on tracking their siblings or other wider family members this might bring you to the correct entry for your family group. Another valuable strategy is to broaden your search by using a wildcard asterisk, enabling you to search for a person by inserting the * symbol into a name or search term instead of a string of letters. This is useful not only if the name spelling may have varied but this also helps get round transcriber errors where your ancestor’s name may have been incorrectly recorded originally or subsequently when the online database was formed.

In our next historytracings blogpost we will continue this series on researching your own Jewish family history, so watch out for the blogpost entitled “Getting to the Source RYO #3” in which we will explore different key types of historical sources that can shed light on your ancestors and where they can be found.

Ed., historytrace, 16/12/2015

Historytrace can help you to develop an individual family history research plan if you would like to research your family history yourself or the history of a family business or a former place of residence. Alternatively if you have already begun a project but need some advice or assistance we would be very happy to hear from you.

If you would find this service useful then do get in touch using the Contact page of this website.

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You have been reading the historytracings blogpost “Routes to Research Jewish Family History RYO #2”. Copyright text and image www.historytrace.co.uk, 2015.