Lithuania Jewish Records

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Beginning Research
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Go to Jewish Genealogy Research Main Page

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

The history of the Jews in Lithuania spans the period from the fourteenth century to the present day. There is still a small Jewish community in the country, as well as an extensive Lithuanian Jewish diaspora in Israel, the United States and other countries. Before World war II, Lithuania had a very strong Jewish population. The Jewish population was about 150,000 people, which was more than 5% of the total population. Throughout WWII, 91-95% of Lithuania's Jewish population were killed.[1]

Find the Town[edit | edit source]

In order to research your family in Lithuania, it is essential that you have identified the place where they came from. It is not enough to know only 'Lithuania;' you must know the town or shtetl that they came from. In addition to research in the records of the country the immigrated to, you may also want to examine the following sources to help you determine possible town locations.

JewishGen Family Finder[edit | edit source]

  • The Family Finder is a database of both ancestral hometowns and surnames that have been researched by their descendants world wide. The Family Finder allows you to connect with others who are researching similar ancestors and origins and collaborate your research. To add the surnames and locations you are researching, click on Modify (Edit your existing entries) or Enter (Add new entries). Type in the surnames and/or locations of interest and hit Submit. To search the database and see if you can connect to family members and other researchers, choose Search (Search the database) from the Town Finder home page. You can search for a surname and/or a town. Search results will appear in a chart format giving you the surname, town, country, and researcher information (often includes contact information) and the date they last logged into JewishGen.

Miriam Weiner's Surname Database[edit | edit source]

aUsing the Surname Database on Miriam Weiner's Routes to Roots Foundation website can help narrow down a more specific location for where individuals lived who shared your ancestor's surname.

  • Use the Standard Surname Database if you know your ancestor's given name, surname, or town name. This database is comprised of name lists from local historians and heads of Jewish communities, name lists from books, and name lists from various archives.
  • Use the OCR Surname Database (optical character recognition) to search for your ancestor's surname in either the Latin alphabet or in Cyrillic. This database is comprised of information from business directories, address calendars, telephone books, typed name lists, and name lists from books and from archives.

Maps and Gazetteers[edit | edit source]

JewishGen Gazetteer[edit | edit source]

  • The JewishGen Gazetteer is a useful online gazetteer for locations in Eastern Europe. Note that wild card searches are not supported. To view an entry page, click on the Jewish star to the left of the town name. Entry pages provide jurisdictions for before WWI, the interwar period, after WWII and modern-day. Alternate names and Yiddish and Russian spellings are also included. In the center, you'll find a map and a list of additional Jewish communities located nearby. Finally, under Additional Information and in the green box at the top, you'll find links to references and additional resources that may help you in your research.

Litvak SIG Shtetl Map and List[edit | edit source]

  • Use the Shtetl Map and List tool from Litvak SIG to determine the location of the town, spelling and district. Knowing the district will be important for knowing which District Research Group to join in Litvak SIG.

Maps of your Ancestor's Town[edit | edit source]

  • For a Jewish population density map of Europe in 1900, click here.
  • For a map showing the percentage of Jews in the Pale of Settlement and Congress Poland, c. 1905, click here.

1897 Census[edit | edit source]

The 1897 Russian Imperial Census was the first and only census carried out in the Russian Empire. The census enumerated the entire population of the Empire (excluding Finland), but after statistical data was gathered, many of the census returns were destroyed. There are, however; surviving census fragments from Kovno and Vilna guberni. Use the resources below to help you determine if census records survive for your ancestor's shtetl and how to access them. Use the Reading the 1897 Census "How to" Guide to learn how to read census records.

JewishGen and Litvak SIG (indexed records)[edit | edit source]

Census fragments from the Kovno and Vilga guberni have been indexed and are available through the JewishGen Lithuania Database and the All-Lithuania Database. To learn more about the collection, see the Lithuania 1897 Census Database article from JewishGen. Making a donation to Litvak SIG may allow you to see additional indexed records. To obtain the original record, contact the Lithuanian State Historical Archives with the information from the record, including the source (fond, series, and file number). For a nominal fee, a copy of the record will be sent to you.

Revision and Family Lists[edit | edit source]

Revision lists are enumerations of the taxable population (most Jews in the Russian empire fell into a taxable social class). There were ten revisions taken sporadically from 1772-1858. These records are a foundational source in genealogical research as they provide names, ages, and relationships.

Supplemental Lists, also known as Family Lists, can be found ranging from about 1860 through the end of the nineteenth century. They are similar in format to revision lists and are often grouped with revision list records in an archive.

JewishGen and Litvak SIG (indexed records)[edit | edit source]

Many Lithuanian revision list records have been indexed and are available through the JewishGen Lithuanian Database and the Litvak SIG All-Lithuania Database. Making a donation to Litvak SIG may allow you to see additional indexed records.

FamilySearch (digital images)[edit | edit source]

There may also be records available through the FamilySearch Catalog. Revision list records are catalogued at the uyezd level.

a. Click here to access catalog entries for Lithuania.
b. Click on Places within Lithuania and a list of places will appear.
c. Click on the location. In some cases, you will need to select Places within [Name of Location].
d. Click on the Taxation or Census topics. Click on the blue links to view specific record titles.
e. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the listing for the record. The magnifying glass indicates that the record is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the records. A camera with a key on top means the record is viewable but with certain restrictions that may mean the record can only be viewed at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, a Family History Center, or FamilySearch Affiliate Library. Take a look at the Family History Center Finder to discover a location near you.

Vital Records[edit | edit source]

Throughout the Russian Empire, birth, marriage, divorce, and death records were required to be kept by the Jewish community beginning in 1835. Jewish records were generally kept in a tabular format with the left-side of the page in Russian and the right-side of the page in Hebrew. Vital records are available online in both indexed and digital image formats.

JewishGen (indexed records)[edit | edit source]

Vital records, or records of birth, marriage, and death, for many shtetl in Lithuania have been indexed and are searchable via the JewishGen Lithuania Database or the All-Lithuania Database. Some vital records are available through FamilySearch. See the article, Finding your Record in FHL Films.

FamilySearch (digital images)[edit | edit source]

See Jewish metrical books for locations in Vilnius and Kovna below:

There may also be records available through the FamilySearch Catalog.

a. Click here to access catalog entries for Lithuania.
b. Click on Places within Lithuania and a list of places will appear.
c. Click on the location, in some cases, when you select one, there will be Places within [Name of Location].
d. Click on the Taxation or Census topics. Click on the blue links to view specific record titles.
e. A combination of icons will appear at the far right of the listing for the record. The magnifying glass indicates that the record is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the records. A camera with a key on top means the record is viewable but with certain restrictions that may mean the record can only be viewed at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, a Family History Center, or FamilySearch Affiliate Library. Take a look at the Family History Center Finder to discover a location near you.

Cemeteries[edit | edit source]

  • Litvak SIG All-Lithuania Database contains information from headstones from cemeteries in Lithuania.
  • Litvak Cemetery Catalogue, is a project to record, document and preserve all of the information from the cemeteries that still exist within Lithuania. The database requires a donation, but includes locations of cemeteries on a map as well as images and indexes of gravestones.
  • Jewish Roots, database of tombstone inscriptions in former Russian Empire countries. The site should be searched in Russian.

Passports[edit | edit source]

During the interwar period (1919 and 1940), all Lithuanian residents over the age of seventeen were required to have an internal passport that acted as an identification card. Internal passports included information such as birthdate and place, name of father, residential address and a photograph.

Holocaust[edit | edit source]

Yizkor Books[edit | edit source]

Yizkor books are memorial books commemorating a Jewish community that was destroyed during the Holocaust. Books are usually published by former residents and records the remembrance of homes, people and ways of life lost during World War II. Most books are written in Yiddish or Hebrew, but in recent years, many have been translated and made available online. You may wish to refer to the Glossary of Yizkor Book Terms list to help you.

Historical Photos[edit | edit source]

The Image Database on Miriam Weiner's website contains photographs and postcard views of many towns and cities throughout Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Lithuania, Poland, and other select countries dating back to the early 1900s. These include pre-WWI and current town views, photos of synagogues, Jewish cemeteries, and Holocaust memorials. Even if you are unable to find a picture of your ancestor's town, it may still be interesting to see what other towns in the area looked like, which will allow you to a get a feel of what life may have been like for your ancestor.

Additional Records - Finding Aids and Record Inventories[edit | edit source]

Genealogy Indexer[edit | edit source]

Genealogy Indexer is a free database that provides access to thousands of records including city directories from the Russian Empire, Yizkor books, WWI casualty lists and other military records, as well as school records. Links to the original records are included.

Miriam Weiner Routes to Roots Foundation[edit | edit source]

Use the Archive Database to locate what records exist for your ancestor's town, and where to find them. Search for the name of your ancestor's locality, and the database will provide results for known surviving records from that location, and where the records are held. (Remember to adjust the search criteria for Soundex options or spelling variations).

This database contains documents such as army/recruit lists, family lists and census records, Jewish vital records (birth, marriage, death, divorce), immigration documents, voter and tax lists, property and notary records, Holocaust documents, police files, and pogrom documents (school records, occupation lists, local government and hospital records).

  • See Routes to Roots Foundation and hover over Lithuania for a Genealogical and Family History guide to Jewish and civil records in Eastern Europe

Jewish Roots[edit | edit source]

The Еврейские Корни (Jewish Roots) site is an excellent resource to help you locate archival documents. The website is in Russian, but if you are using the Google Chrome browser, simply right click anywhere on the page and select Translate to English. Search using the name of the town (find the Cyrillic spelling of the town on JewishGen Town Finder) to see what archival records might be available for your location. In addition to the database, use the Forum to connect with other researchers and find other potential resources for your location.

Archives of Lithuania[edit | edit source]

  • Visit the Office of the Chief Archivist of Lithuania website by clicking here.
  • To view the Genealogical Search page at the archives, click here.

Reading Records[edit | edit source]

Lithuanian Jewish records are most commonly written in Russian and/or Hebrew. Later records may be recorded in Lithuanian. Use the resources in this list to help you learn how to read the records. You may also consider using a free translation service such as the FamilySearch Community (Be sure to post in the Russian Empire Genealogy Research group or tag @RussianEmpireGenealogyResearch in your question) or JewishGen View Mate. The Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture also offers translations of documents for a fee.

Russian[edit | edit source]

Hebrew[edit | edit source]

Lithuanian[edit | edit source]

Additional Resources[edit | edit source]

Sources in Print[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Wikipedia contributors, "History of the Jews in Lithuania", in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Lithuania, accessed 2 Dec 2020.