Family history and genealogy are becoming a significant part of many people’s lives as they investigate their family’s past and what it means to them. With the Internet, oceans of data are at our fingertips and the main issues with this are knowing where to look, and finding the time, because this kind of research can become an all-consuming passion.
It takes time, patience and creativity to follow the clues and find the information we seek, and all success comes with a combination of experience and luck. Fortunately, for Jewish genealogy, www.JewishGen.org is an excellent first port of call. Free access is limited, but a donation of $US100 per year entitles a subscriber to unlimited access to all databases and enables this important network to continue its priceless work in worldwide Jewish genealogy.
Jewish genealogy has its own complications, most especially the matter of name changes. This is where the family’s oral history is so important. Those reminiscences of our parents and grandparents, the ones we now wish we’d listened to and written down, take on great importance. Names, places and events – if only we could remember what we’d heard.
For those fortunate enough to have family elders who are still able to talk about their family history, now is the time to take oral histories wherever possible. Get out the photo albums, because visual prompts are an excellent way to get a person talking.
The comprehensive Links page of this website may offer some sources where you will find family information.
Public libraries and local history centres often have computers with free access to paying genealogy websites, and may have historians on hand to help you with your searches. And do not overlook the value of print material, microfilm records, oral history collections and photographic collections. Even if these don’t actually mention your ancestors, they can provide insight into their life and times.
Some countries, states or counties worldwide may have local history centres that offer a research service whereby records and censuses are searched for references to your family, and a family tree constructed, based on information you are able to provide. The Latvia State Archive is one that provides an extremely thorough service, though the wait is several months because they are so popular.
So good luck with your research, and be prepared for some surprises!