Jewish Societies

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Societies

Introduction

Jews are members of many types of societies. You may be able to obtain help with your family history research from the following types of societies:

  • Family associations - Many family organizations are gathering information about their ancestors and descendants. Some organization are gathering information about all individuals with a particular surname.
  • Fraternal organizations - These types of societies, associations, and lodges include people with common interests, religions, or ethnicities. Membership records and other records that they generated may be useful in tracing your family history. Examples of fraternal organizations include Ancient Free and Accepted Masons (Freemasonry), Knights of Pythias, and Order of Odd Fellows.
  • Lineage and hereditary societies - Lineage and hereditary societies are for people or their descendants who were associated with prominent individuals or events, for example National Society, Daughters of the AmericanRevolution (DAR), and Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.). They generally are involved in educational, cultural, social, and other programs to preserve the documents and memories of the past and often maintain libraries and museums that can help you in your research. Most publish a periodical or newsletter.
  • Historical and genealogical societies - These types of societies may have records and services to help you with your research. Many countries throughout the world and each state and most counties in the U.S. have organizedsocieties. They generally collect historical documents of local interest, publish periodicals, and have special projects and compiled indexes.

In addition to these general types of organizations, many societies were formed specifically for Jews. These societies are generally located in areas with a significant Jewish population. Some focus on Jewish genealogy and are able to help members with genealogical research. Others focus on local Jewish history or a common place of origin. Many publish helpful journals and newsletters.

Genealogical Societies

Federation of East European Family History Societies

The Federation of East European Family History Societies (FEEFHS) includes individuals as well as genealogy societies, heritage societies, surname associations, book or periodical publishers or besellers, archives, libraries, institutions, and other groups. One of their goals is to share information about new developments and research opportunities in Eastern and Central Europe. Included in their Internet site are notices of new publications put outby its member societies; information about the services and activities of FEEFHS and their member societies; and online databases of pertinent resources. Many of these databases include Jews while some are Jewish specific. For membership information, contact them at:

Federation of East European Family History Societies
P.O. Box 510898
Salt Lake City Utah 84151-0898
Website: www.feefhs.org

Jewish Genealogical Society of New York

The Jewish Genealogical Society (JGS) seeks to help those researching Jewish ancestors. The JGS hosts seminars and monthly meetings with guest lecturers to instruct researchers. The JGS also hosts field trips to synagogues, cemeteries, and libraries and archives. The website contains an index of Brooklyn Naturalization records, a cemetery burial society database, and the New York Landsmanshaften database.

Jewish Genealogical Society, Inc.
PO Box 631
New York, NY 10113-0631
Email: info@jgsny.org
Telephone: 212-294-8318
Website: jgsny.org

Special Interest Groups

Many Special Interest Groups (SIGs) have formed to focus on Jewish genealogy research in particular
localities or subjects. Examples of such groups are: Austria-Czech SIG; Belarus SIG; Bailystok Region; Early American SIG; Glaicia SIG; German-Jewish SIG; Grodno SIG; Lativia SIG; Sephardic SIG; Southern Africa SIG; Hungary SIG;and Rabbinic Genealogy SIG. Most SIGs have web sites and E-mail list serves. For a more complete listing of SIGs, and information about them, see:

JewishGen: The Home of Jewish Genealogy

The goal of JewishGen is to preserve the collective Jewish family history and heritage for future generations by allowing anyone with Jewish ancestry to use their research tools and databases. JewishGen has more than 25 million records on their website. They provide records, resources, and search tools to all those researching their Jewish ancestry. Some of the more popular components include:

  • JewishGen Communities Database
  • JewishGen Family Finder (a database of more than 590,000 entries)
  • JewishGen Discussion Group
  • JewishGen Holocaust Database
  • JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry
  • The Yizkor Book Project and Necrology Databases

Go to www.jewishgen.org to search in these (and many other) databases.

International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies

The IAJGS was created to organize Jewish organizations, advance Jewish genealogy, and coordinate items between societies. Most local and national Jewish genealogical societies (JGSs) and a few Jewish genealogical special interest groups (SIGs) and historical societies are members. See IAJGS: Member Societies to view all member societies.

Website: www.iajgs.org

Historical Societies

Historical societies can be valuable sources of information. They generally collect information about Jewish history in particular areas. Some may have information about specific individuals. Many societies have books and manuscripts about Jews that may be difficult to find in libraries and archives. Most publish historical periodicals. You may be interested in the services, activities, and collections of these groups.

American Jewish Historical Society

The American Jewish Historical Society maintains a list of local Jewish historical societies in North America and national Jewish historical societies overseas. For more information, contact them at:

Jewish History Center
15 West 16th Street
New York, NY 10011
Website: ajhs.org

Other Societies

Landsmannschaften [Societies of Fellow Immigrants]

A Landsmannschaft is an organization formed by people from the same town, shtetl, or region in Eastern Europe for political, social, and financial activities. Originally their benefits included maintaining a cemetery and providing sick benefits, interest-free loans, and life and burial insurance for members and their families.

Many Landsmannschaften published yizkor (memorial) books as a tribute to their old homes and the people who died during the Holocaust. These books are some of the best sources for learning about Jewish communities in Eastern and Central Europe. For more information see JewishGen: Landsmanschaft - Immigrant Benevolent Organizations.

Help in finding yizkor books and translations is also available at: JewishGen: Yizkor Book Project.

Immigrant Aid Societies

The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society [HIAS] was founded in 1902 in New York as a Jewish shelter home for immigrants in New York City. It began operations in Europe in 1915 to help families emigrate. Families that were assisted before this date may have had help from the Baron de Hirsch Institute, which operated out of Montreal, Canada, and had offices in Paris, London, and some other large European cities.

Records of the HIAS archives from 1903 to 1961 have been deposited with the YIVO Institute in New York City. These records include genealogical information and leads for finding European origins for your ancestors. The Family History Library has some filmed HIAS records, including shipping lists, passport records, other immigration documents, and some indexes. See JewishGen: Yizkor Book Project for more information.

Other Online Resources

There are many online resources now available for Jewish genealogy researchers. Some include:

  • Jewish Records Indexing - Poland (JRI-PL). This project aimed at indexing all the Jewish vital records in Poland and providing a means for individuals to obtain copies of those records. There are now more than 3 million records from 450 Polish towns now indexed in a searchable database. For more information see: Jewish Records Indexing - Poland.
  • Routes to Roots Foundation. This project focuses on tracing Jewish Roots in Poland, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus. You can find a searchable database of vital records available in these countries, additional information about the Jewish communities that once existed, and more. For more information see: Routes to Roots Foundation.