Jewish Biography

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Golda Meir (Hebrew: גּוֹלְדָּה מֵאִיר‎), 1898-1978.

A biography is a history of a person’s life. In a biography you may find the individual’s birth, marriage, and death information and the names of his or her parents, spouse, children, or other family members. Biographies can include descriptions of family traditions, places where he or she has lived, military service, and activities within the community; stories; photographs; and clues about an ancestor’s place of origin. Use this information carefully because there may be inaccuracies.

Biographies are divided into two types: individual and compiled. In addition to general biographies, which often include Jews, there are also Jewish specific biographies.

Individual Biographies[edit | edit source]

Thousands of biographies have been written about specific people; copies may be at local historical societies and libraries. Public libraries have lists of published biographies for many countries. See the "Biography" Wiki article for a country.

The Family History Library has acquired some individual biographies. These are listed in the Surname Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under the individual’s name. Also contact other family members for unpublished life histories they may know of.

Compiled Biographies[edit | edit source]

Compiled biographies, sometimes called biographical encyclopedias or dictionaries, contain biographical sketches that have been collected and published. These are generally collected according to a particular theme, such as prominent individuals in a particular country, state, or county. One example is:

  • Konopczyski, Wadysaw. Polski Sownik Biograficzny (Polish Biographical Dictionary). Kraków: Polska Akademia Nauk 1935–1974. (FHL book 943.8 D36p; film 1044531–1044549).

Other compiled biographies are for specific professions (such as: The Courts and Lawyers of New Jersey, 1661–1912) or other themes.

Jewish Biographies[edit | edit source]

Jewish specific biographies include biographies of prominent or well-known Jewish citizens of a particular country. Others feature biographies of specific groups of people such as:

  • Spira, Roman. Rabbis and Jewish Scholars in Poland in the 16th, 17th, and 18th Centuries. [S.l.]: R. Spira, 1985. (FHL book 943.8 F2sr.)

Examples of biographical collections of Jews compiled by location include:

  • The Encyclopedia of Russian Jewry: Biographies. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1999. (FHL book 947 D36e.)
  • Jewish Biographical Archive/ Jüdisches biographisches Archiv on 781 microfiche. New York City: K.G. SAUR Verlag, 1994–1996. (FHL microfiche 6137099–6137108, 6142109–6142116, and 6144954–6144980.)
  • Levi, John Simon. The Forefathers: A Dictionary of the Jews of Australia, 1788–1830. Sydney: The Australian Historical Society, 1976. (FHL book 994 D3lj.)
  • Wininger, Salomon. Grosse jüdische National- Biographie: mit mehr als 8000 Lebensbeschreibungen namhafter jüdischer Männer und Frauen aller Zeiten und Länder; ein Nachschlagewerk für das jüdische Volk und dessen Freunde (The Great Jewish National Biography: with more than 8000 Biographies of Prominent Jewish Men and Women of All Ages and for All Countries: a Reference Work for the Jewish People and their Friends). Zug, Switzerland: Inter Documentation AG, 1975 (FHL film 1608860–01 and 1608864; fiche 6041316 [83 fiche].)

Many major libraries, including the Family History Library, have excellent collections and indexes of national and regional compiled biographies. These libraries can help you locate additional biographical sources listed in published bibliographies. To find biographies at the Family History Library, check the FamilySearch Catalog.

You can also find biographical information in local histories and encyclopedias and dictionaries. See Jewish History and Jewish Encyclopedias and Dictionaries and for other countries and states you are researching.