Jewish Records

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Jewish Genealogy  > Jewish Records

Jewish records, including synagogue records, contain information specifically about Jews. These include vital records (births, marriages, divorces, and deaths) prepared by or for Jewish communities, registers of name changes, account books of congregations, circumcision records, and burial records. Synagogue records are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under Jewish Records, but they have a separate section in this outline.

Jews generally did not keep vital records unless required to do so by law. In most countries Jews are recorded in the civil registration or vital records along with people of other religions. For example, when civil registration started in France in 1792 and the Netherlands in 1795, Jews were recorded with the rest of the population.

Some countries required separate Jewish vital records be kept. After 1826–1835, many countries of Europe required separate registers to be kept of Jews. Although these separate registers were a form of civil registration, they are listed in the Family History Library Catalog as Jewish Records.

For information about the relationship between Jewish records, civil registration, and church records, see "Vital Records" in this outline.

Records kept of Jews are not the same from country to country or from time period to time period. Even within the same country Jewish records can vary from region to region. An example from Austria is given at the end of this section.

Many records of Jews kept by local governments or by Jews themselves, especially for cities of Europe that had significant Jewish populations, have been microfilmed. For example, there are Jewish records at the Family History Library for marriage contracts [ketubah], circumcision records [bris], burial and cemetery records, and other Jewish records from Amsterdam that date back to 1580. Excellent records of German and Portuguese Jewish communities during the 18th century are found in cities such as Bordeaux, France. Other Jewish records include:

  • Matrikel, 1826–1938 (Metrical Books, 1826–1938). Wien: Niederösterreichischen Stadt und Landesarchive, 1980. (On 236 FHL films beginning with 1175370.) Registers of births, marriages, and deaths in the city of Vienna from 1826–1938.
  • Matrykua, 1826–1866 (Metrical Books, 1826–1866). Warszawa: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1968. (FHL film 0689510–0689556.) Registers of births, marriages, and deaths in the city of Warsaw from 1826–1866.
  • Juden und Dissidenten–Register, 1812–1874 (Jews and Dissidents’ Register, 1812–1874). Berlin: Staatsarchiv, 1938. (On 44 FHL films beginning with 0477280.) Registers of births, marriages, and deaths in the city of Berlin from 1812–1874.

Examples of some published Jewish Records are:

  • Attal, Robert. Registres Matrimoniaux de la communauté juive portugaise de Tunis aux XVIIIe et XIXe siècles (Marriage Registers of the Portuguese Jewish Community of Tunis [Tunisia] from the 18th and 19th Centuries). Jérusalem: Institut Ben-Zvi, 1989. (FHL book 961.1 F2a.)
  • Margolinsky, Jul. Jødiske dødsfald i Danmark 1693–1976 (Jewish Deaths in Denmark 1693–1976). København: Dansk Historisk Håndbogsforlag, 1978. (FHL book 948.9 V22m.)

An Austrian Example

The following example shows how laws in parts of the Austrian Empire affected the keeping of Jewish records. The availability and genealogical value of Jewish records varies for the time periods mentioned and in the different regions (Bohemia, Silesia, and the rest of the Austrian Empire).

Some circumcision registers were kept in Austria since the early 1700s (officially designated as Matrikeln [vital records] in 1722). These records, written mostly in Hebrew, had no legal validity.

Although a law was made in 1766 requiring birth registers be kept in Bohemia, there was not wide-spread compliance. In 1784 the Austrian vital registration system was revised; standardized forms were made for recording births, marriages, and deaths. The rabbis were now required to keep Jewish vital records for their congregations.

In 1788 Austria passed a law requiring records be in German. Jews had to take fixed surnames and a given name selected from a list of German names. Larger Jewish congregations began keeping records, which were not considered legal unless verified and approved by Catholic clerical authority.

In 1797 Jewish registration in Bohemia came under Catholic clerical supervision. Because there were no rabbis in Silesia, tax collectors in this area kept the Jewish records.

Laws in 1837, 1843, and 1846 gave the responsibility of keeping accurate Jewish records to civil registrars with Catholic oversight. In July 1868 Jewish records finally received full recognition as legally valid without Catholic supervision.

Locating Jewish Records

The Family History Library has filmed many Jewish records, including extensive collections from Hungary and Slovakia. Search for Jewish records in the Family History Library Catalog for the town or region where your ancestors lived under the topic Jewish Records.

The key to finding Jewish records in the Family History Library’s collection is the Family History Library Catalog. The catalog describes each of the library’s records and provides its call number. The catalog is available on compact disc (both DOS and Windows versions) as part of the FamilySearch computer program, on microfiche, and on the Internet at:

Click on Custom Search on the home page, then click on Family History Library Catalog.

Both the fiche and CD catalogs are available at the Family History Library, Family History Centers, and some other libraries and archives. You can also buy the Windows version at the Distribution Center (see "Introduction" for the address).

Because there are several different versions of the catalog, including the one that is available on the Internet, there are several different ways to search. Be creative when using the catalog.

The DOS version of the Family History Library Catalog has five types of searches:

  • Locality Search
  • Locality Browse
  • Surname Search
  • Film Number Search
  • Computer Number Search

The Windows version of the Family History Library Catalog has eight types of searches:

  • Title Search
  • Author Search
  • Film/Fiche Search
  • Place Search
  • Surname Search
  • Keyword Search
  • Call Number Search
  • Subject Search

The Family History Library Catalog on microfiche is divided into four major searches:

  • Locality Search
  • Subject Search
  • Surname Search
  • Author/Title Search

The Family History Library Catalog on the Internet currently has five types of searches:

  • Author Search
  • Film/Fiche Search
  • Place Search
  • Surname Search
  • Call Number Search

Subject Search

One of the most effective ways to locate Jewish records in the fiche catalog is by Subject Search. Many Jewish records are found under the subject headings Jewish History and Jewish Records. Other subject headings that should be searched include: Church Records, Civil Registration, Concentration Camps, Genealogy, Holocaust, Inquisition, and Minorities. All these records have geographical tracings, which enables you to choose the record by place that is appropriate to your research.

The Windows CD version of the Family History Library also contains a Subject Search option.

Locality Search or Place Search

Another effective way to locate Jewish records is by the Locality Search. The Locality Search or Place Search lists records according to geographical area. The records are listed by the name of government jurisdictions from the largest to the smallest reference. Different countries refer to these levels by different names; however three levels are generally used in the Family History Library Catalog:

Largest: Continents, regions, or countries

Middle: Countries divided into administration areas such as states, provinces, counties, and departments

Smallest: Each administrative area divided into local areas such as parishes, municipalities, townships, towns, and cities

An exception to this system is the United States and Canada, where the state or province is listed on the largest level, the county on the middle level, and the town or township on the smallest level.

For example, in the Locality Search look for:

  • The place where an ancestor lived, such as:

EUROPE (by continent)

GERMANY (by country)

AUSTRALIA, NEW SOUTH WALES (by country, state)

FRANCE, BAS-RHIN, ROSENWILLER (by country, department, parish)

POLAND, GDANSK, GDANSK (by country, county, city)

CHILE, TALCA, MOLINA (by country, province, municipality)

Then choose the record type you want, such as:




For example:


This search by continent lists the Württemberg emigration index


This search by region lists the Isabel Mordy collection of Jewish pedigrees


This search by country lists the surviving 1890 census or population schedules


This search by country and state lists the 1939 non-Germanic minority census for that state


This search by state (United States), county, and city lists synagogue and other Jewish records in Chicago

Keyword Search

The Keyword Search, found only in the Windows version of the catalog, is an easy and effective way to search for Jewish records. This powerful tool allows you to search for records using keywords.

For example, you may type in "Jews census" or "Census of Jews" to locate census records that are unique to the Jews. Circumcision records can be found using the keywords "Jewish records" or "circumcision." The key words "Church records Jews" locate synagogue records of Jews in Quebec, Canada, that were turned in as part of civil registration.

You can also do a wildcard search using "Jew*." This search brings up all the records in the Library that have this word (including Jewish and Jews) in the title, in catalog notes, or in a catalog reference citation.

Use several different keywords or combination of keywords in looking for specific record sources. The way they are listed or described in the catalog affects how you find them by Keyword Search.

Gray area shows the western area of the Russian Empire in which Jews were legally allowed to live. This ruling began with the first partition of Poland in 1772 and ended after World War 1.