Jewish Archives and Libraries

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Jewish Genealogy  > Archives and Libraries
Yad Vashem memorial in a building complex including a library, Jerusalem, Israel.
Archives collect and preserve original documents created by organizations such as governments or religious institutions. Libraries generally collect published sources such as books, city directories, and maps. Many of the records discussed in this outline are deposited in archives and libraries throughout the world. This section describes the major repositories housing records that may be used for Jewish historical and genealogical research.

If you plan to visit one of these repositories personally, first contact the organization and ask for information about their collection, hours, services, and fees. Ask if they require you to have a reader’s ticket (a paper indicating you are a responsible researcher) and how to obtain one.

Remember, the Family History Library may have a printed or microfilmed copy of the records you need.

The following publication lists addresses and telephone numbers of many local and state archives:

  • Archivum: Revue Internationale des Archives Publiée avec le Concours Financier de l’UNESCO et sous les Auspices du Conseil Internationale des Archives (Archivum: International Listing of Archives Published with Financial Assistance of Unesco and under the Authority of the ICA). Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1992. (FHL book 020.5 Ar25 v. 38). Much of the text is in English.

There are many Internet sites that have information about archives and libraries. One site that lists details about various archives and libraries by geographical locations (country and state) is:

Many archives and libraries house significant collections on subjects relating to Jewish history, historical events, and people. Staff at many archives and libraries usually will not undertake genealogical research. However, they may be able to locate and copy documents in their collection if you are reasonably specific in your request.

YIVO Institute

The YIVO Institute was established to preserve East European Jewish heritage and is currently the world’s leading research center for East European Jewish studies. Among its holdings are the world’s largest collection of Yiddish books and materials relating to the history and culture of Eastern European Jewry. They also have extensive resources to aid in the genealogical research of Eastern Europe including encyclopedias, gazetteers, yizkor books (Holocaust town memorial books), reference books on the geographical distribution of Jewish family names, biographical directories, and Landsmanshaft records.

You can contact the YIVO Institute at:

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
Center for Jewish History
15 West 16th Street
New York, NY 10011

Leo Baeck Institute

The Leo Baeck Institute is dedicated to preserving the history of Jewish communities of German- speaking nations. All geographic areas where German was spoken are documented in the Institute’s library and archive. Its collections date from the 17th century to the Holocaust and include family pedigrees, family histories, memoirs, and Jewish community histories. The institute has a Family Research Department to help genealogists.

You can contact the Leo Baeck institute at:

Leo Baeck Institute
Center for Jewish History
15 West 16th Street
New York, NY 10011

The Institute also operates offices in England and Israel:

Leo Baeck Institute
4 Devonshire Street
London W1N 2BH
Leo Baeck Institute
33 Bustanai Street
91082 Jerusalem

Holocaust Memorial Museums

Yad Vashem is the major repository in the world for information about the Holocaust. The Yad Vashem library contains more than 85,000 volumes documenting the Holocaust and includes the world’s largest collection of yizkor books. Also at Yad Vashem are the only publically available copies of the records of the International Tracing Service, a manuscript collection called Pages of Testimony that identifies more than three million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, and many oral or written testimonies of Holocaust survivors.

You can contact the Yad Vashem library at:

Yad Vashem Martyrs and Heroes
Remembrance Authority
P.O. Box 3477
91034 Jerusalem

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum provides access to archived material relating to the Holocaust. Its Survivors Registry and other resources such as transport lists, death lists, yizkor books, personal papers, and oral histories can be used to determine the fate of Holocaust victims and survivors. Most materials are in English, German, Polish, Russian, Yiddish, or Hebrew.

Library staff will not do genealogical research. An online catalog of their holdings is available at:

You can contact the museum at:

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW
Washington, DC 20024-2150

Other Libraries and Archives

The Library of Congress houses hundreds of yizkor books as well as an extensive collection on the Holocaust and all aspects of Jewish history and culture. An online catalog is available at:

You can contact the Library of Congress at:

Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave. SE
Washington, D.C. 20540

The Hebraic Section is located in the Adams Building at 110 2nd Str., SE Washington, D.C.

The Jewish Public Library of Montreal has a large collection of yizkor books and the largest public collection of Judaica in North America. Reference and catalog information is available in English, French, Hebrew, Yiddish, and Russian. The collection documents all major aspects of Canadian Jewish history and maintains a large genealogical resource collection.

You can contact the Jewish Public Library at:

Jewish Public Library of Montreal
5151 Cote St. Catherine Road
Montreal, Quebec H3W 1M6

The New York Public Library is an excellent place for research because most Jewish immigrants to the United States lived in New York for a time. The library has borough directories, census records for the greater metropolitan area, back issues of The New York Times, maps, atlases, gazetteers, community histories, yizkor books, indexes to some of the U.S. federal census returns, vital records for New York City, and ship passenger lists.

The library’s Jewish Division has one of the most significant collections of Judaica in the world, including bibliographies, reference works, periodicals, and newspapers. The collection is only available in the Jewish Division’s reading room. About 40 percent of the Division’s holdings are in Hebrew; the remainder are in other languages, primarily English, German, Russian, and French.

An online catalog of material cataloged after 1972 is available at:

Pre-1972 materials are described in the Dictionary Catalog of the Jewish Collection, published in 14 volumes in 1960; the 8-volume First Supplement, published in 1975; and the 4-volume Hebrew- Character Title Catalog of the Jewish Collection, published in 1981.

You can contact the New York Public Library at:

New York Public Library
42nd Street & 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10018

The American Jewish Archives has organizational records, family and personal papers, and synagogue records (many of the synagogue records have been filmed by the Family History Library). An online catalog of the Archives’ holdings is available at:

You can contact the American Jewish Archives at:

American Jewish Archives
Hebrew Union College-Jewish
Institute of Religion
3101 Clifton Ave.
Cincinnati, Ohio 454220

Historical and Genealogical Societies

The Jewish community has established many historical and genealogical societies. Some societies maintain libraries and archives that collect valuable records. See the "Societies" section of this outline.

Inventories, Registers, Catalogs

Virtually all archives and libraries have catalogs, inventories, or guides that describe their records and how to use them. Many of these repositories have online catalogs on the Internet. If possible, study these guides before you visit or use the records of these repositories so you can use your time more effectively. Many books have been published that list inventories of Jewish records in various regional archives. These include:

  • Bernard, Gildas. Les Familles Juives en France XVIe siècle–1815, Guide des Recherches Biographiques et Généalogiques (Jewish Families of France 14th century–1815, Guide to Biographal and Genealogical Research). Paris: Archives Nationales, 1990. (FHL book 944 D27bg.) An inventory of Jewish records in the Departmental Archives of France.
  • Elyashevich, Dmitri A. oymehtahe matepa o ctop ebpeeb b apxbax CH ctpah at (Documentary Sources on Jewish History in the Archives of the CIS and the Baltic States). Sankt-Peterburg: Akropol’, 1994. (FHL book 943 A3e.) This is an inventory of records for the countries of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States, which includes all the former Soviet Union except the Baltic states) and the Baltic states.
  • Gundacker, Felix. Matrikenverzeichnis der Jüdischen Matriken Böhmens (Register of Jewish Vital Statistics in Czech State Archives Pertaining to Bohemia). Wien: Felix Gundacker, 1998.
  • Guzik, Estelle M. Genealogical Resources in the New York Metropolitan Area. New York: Jewish Genealogical Society, 1989. (FHL book 974.71 A3ge; fiche 6100654.)
  • Rhode, Harold and Sallyann Amdur Sack. Jewish Vital Records, Revision Lists, and Other Jewish Holdings in the Lithuanian Archives. Teaneck, NJ: Avotaynu, 1996. (FHL book 947.5 F23r.)
  • Sallis, Dorit and Marek Web. Jewish Documentary Sources in Russia, Ukraine & Belarus: a Preliminary List. New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1996. (FHL book 947 A3sd.)
  • Weiner, Miriam. Jewish Roots in Poland: Pages from the Past and Archival Inventories. New York: YIVO, c 1997. (FHL book 943.8 F2wm.)
  • Weiner, Miriam. Jewish Roots in Ukraine and Moldova: Pages from the Past and Archival Inventories. New York: YIVO, 1999. (FHL book 947.71 F2w.)

The Family History Library has copies of other published guides, catalogs, and inventories of some archives and libraries. Check for these records in the Family History Library Catalog. Volunteers at the Family History Library are also making an inventory of Jewish records in the collection.