Jewish Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

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Encyclopedias provide information on all branches of knowledge, usually in articles arranged alpha-betically. They often contain information of great interest for genealogical research, including articles about towns, places, prominent people, minorities, and religions. They can give information about diverse topics such as record- keeping practices, laws, customs, commerce, occupations, costumes, and archaic terminology.

The Family History Library has general knowledge encyclopedias from countries throughout the world. Similar collections of encyclopedias can be found in most research and university libraries. Examples of two general knowledge encyclopedias are:

  • Great Soviet Encyclopedia. 31 vols. New York: Macmillan, 1979. (FHL book 030.47 G798s.) Translation of the third edition of Bol’shaia Sovetskaia Entsiklopediia.
  • Orgelbrand, Samuel. Encyklopedja powszechna (Universal Encyclopedia). Warszawa: Archiwum Dokumentacji Mechanicznej, 1974. (FHL film 0997501–0997518.)

There are several Jewish-specific encyclopedias. The following may be particularly helpful in your research:

  • Kurzweil, Arthur and Miriam Weiner. The Encyclopedia of Jewish Genealogy Vol. 1: United States and Canada. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson Publishers, 1991. (FHL book 929.1 En19e.)
  • Encyclopaedia Judaica. 17 vols. Jerusalem: Keter, 1972, 1982. (FHL book 296.03 En19j.)
  • Jewish Encyclopedia. 12 vols. New York City: Funk and Wagnalls, 1901–1906. (FHL book 296.03 J556.)
  • Pinkas Hakehillot (Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities). Various editors. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1969–date. These volumes are in Hebrew and cover many different countries as defined by pre-WWII boundaries. Jewish communities with a population of over 100 are discussed in each volume. The countries covered to date include Romania (2 vols.), Germany (5 vols.), Hungary, Poland (7 vols.), Netherlands, Yugoslavia, Latvia and Estonia, Lithuania, Greece, and Libya. The Family History Library collection of this reference is incomplete.

Region FHL book

  • Netherlands 949.2 F2m
  • Romania 949.8 H26ph
  • Bavaria 943.3 H26ph
  • Hungarian 943.9 H26ph
  • Poland-Lodz 943.8 H26ph v.1
  • Poland-E.Galicia 943.8 H26ph v.2

Language dictionaries are discussed in "Language and Languages" in this set of Wiki pages. Historical dictionaries of most countries have also been published by Scarecrow Press, Inc. in Metuchen, N.J. and by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress (Country Studies). These books give valuable background information on many of the smaller countries of the world.