Jews Found in Records of Other Denominations

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Jewish Genealogy  > Jewish Records in Other Denominations

In many countries the established national church (such as Catholic, Orthodox, or Lutheran) was appointed as the official record keeper of births, marriages, and deaths for the entire population, including Jews. The clergymen already recorded christening, marriage, and burial records for mem-bers of their parishes. As most people belonged to the established church, it was easier for the government to require the clergymen to include the birth, marriage, and death information for people of other religions in their parishes rather than have the government keep a separate record. Therefore, it can be important to check records of Christian churches when researching Jewish ancestors.

This is particularly true of Central and Eastern Europe in the period prior to 1826–1835, when the governments of most countries in this area required separate records be kept of the Jews. Copies of the church records in many of these countries were sent to the government. These records are known as metrical book transcripts and parish register transcripts. Eventually most governments developed a separate system for registering births, marriages, and deaths, called civil registration. For a more lengthy explanation of how church records, civil registration, and Jewish records interrelate, see "Vital Records" in this outline.

Countries where Christian church records were used by the government as a form of civil registration and where Jews are likely to be recorded include Poland, the Russian Empire, and other central and eastern European countries.

The Inquisition in Spain, Portugal, and Latin American countries also resulted in recording Jews (conversos or marranos) in Christian church records. See "Inquisitions" in this outline.

Two other reasons why Jews may appear in records of Christian churches are:

If there was no rabbi or synagogue in an area where a Jewish family chose to settle, events associated with that family are sometimes recorded in another church.

If a Jew voluntarily left the Jewish religion, future records of that individual and his family may appear in a Christian church.

If there is a research outline for the country or state where your ancestor lived, see the "Church Records" and "Civil Registration" sections of the outline.

Finding Church Records

Many original church records are still at the local church. Others have been deposited in church or government record centers or archives. The Family History Library has a extensive collection of church records for many countries. Use the Locality Search to locate church records. The catalog listings for church records sometimes include a notation that the record contains information for Jews.