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*Tracing Jewish Roots
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*Pulling It All Together
* South Asian


In this section * * * * *
Researching Central and Eastern Europe*    
Writing to Archival Repositories*    
Hiring a Researcher*    
On-Site Research*    
Records on Microfilm at the LDS Family History Library*   list of films of Jewish interest* Austria* Belarus* Bulgaria* Croatia* Czech Republic* Estonia* Germany* Hungary* Latvia* Lithuania* Moldova* Poland* Romania* Russian Empire* Russia* Slovakia* Ukraine* USA*   
Books*   Further Reading Suggestions for Researching Ancestors*   

*Researching Central and Eastern Europe*top of page

By the time you have exhausted the UK-based record sources and collected as much background material as possible from your family, you are likely to have some sense of where your ancestors originated.

The easiest way to begin a search for your ancestors in Central and Eastern Europe is through the internet. The best places to start are:

You will not find all of the answers, however, on the internet. Unfortunately, Jewish genealogical research in Eastern Europe is challenging to say the least. Although millions of records of genealogical value do exist, they are scattered throughout dozens of *archives and *repositories.

There are four main ways to access records in Eastern Europe:

  • Write to archival repositories
  • Hire a researcher
  • Visit the country for on-site research
  • Use records on microfilm at the LDS Family History Library
The Market, Dvinsk
The Market, Dvinsk, 1903. According to the 1897 census, Dvinsk had a Jewish population of 32,369, or approximately 47% of the total population.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (JML) 77.13

*Writing to Archival Repositories*top of page

Many Eastern European archives hold records of genealogical value. Many now have inventories and finding aids such as microfilms, Soundex indexes (which provide ideas about variant spellings of *transliterated names) and catalogues of holdings. Most archives also have photocopy machines, fax and email facilities, and many also have useful web sites.

Nevertheless, with requests it can take many months before any replies are received. Almost all archives can accept inquiries in English, and these can be made directly to the archive or through a local consular office. They may, however, come back in the language of that country.

*Hiring a Researcher*top of page

Private researchers are available for most areas. Personal recommendations from other genealogists should always be obtained.

*On-Site Research*top of page

Birth certificate of Ella Frank, 19 November 1906
Printed certificate confirming that Ella Frank was born on 19 November 1906 at Vienna, the daughter of Edmund and Hedwig Frank.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (JML) 2000.56.1
Visiting the country of your ancestors allows you to learn more about their lives, and also to familiarise yourself with the archives available and how they function. Conditions vary widely from country to country.

Doing research in Eastern Europe can be particularly difficult. Unless you speak the native language, can read archaic (often Cyrillic) scripts and have plenty of time, you will need to hire a local guide or translator.

Plot listing for Berta and Josef Meninger, Jewish Cemetery, Vienna
Printed card with black edging, completed in ink for Berta and Josef Meninger. This gives the location of their burial place in the Jewish cemetery in Vienna in 1946.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (JML) 2000.26.15

*Records on Microfilm at the LDS Family History Library*top of page

The LDS (Mormon) Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, has the world's largest collection of microfilmed records of genealogical value, including Jewish records from Eastern Europe. For more information about the Family History Library link to *JewishGen FAQ, Question 13.

Using LDS microfilms is the easiest, most direct and least expensive approach if records from your area of research have been microfilmed. The FHL has made a systematic effort to microfilm any records that have genealogical value from all over the world, including Jewish records. They have extensive collections of 19th-century Jewish records from Poland, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine and Hungary.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the FHL has begun to microfilm previously inaccessible records from Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine.

Many of these listings have been published, but a lot of new records are microfilmed and added to the collection every year. Check the Family History Library Catalogue (FHLC) for the most recent listing.

The FHLC has a card catalogue of the holdings of the library in Salt Lake City, which is available on microfiche and/or CD-ROM at all local Family History Centres, and is now online at *www.familysearch.org.

Using the FHL Catalogue

The most important part of the FHL catalgue is the LOCALITY section, where records are organised by jurisdiction: by Country, Province/State, County/District, City/Town. Each heading is organised as follows:

[Country], [Province], [Town] - [Topic]

For example:

Poland, Lublin, Chelm - Jewish records
Germany, Preussen, Brandenburg, Berlin - census

Instructional guides to using the FHLC are available from a local Family History Centre. The Hyde Park Family History Centre in London is the largest in Europe and has a good collection of finding aids, namely:

  • 'Using the FHLC' (Reference number 30966, 48 pages.)
  • 'How to use the FHLC' (Reference number 53191, Video.)
Link here to view a list of films of Jewish interest* available at the LDS Family History Library, Hyde Park, London.

The address of The Hyde Park Family History Library is:

64-68 Exhibition Road, South Kensington
London SW7 2PA

Individual Countries

Below, in alphabetical order, Eastern European countries are listed to allow you to link to pages with the details you need to research the particular country that is of interest to you. Where possible the following categories have been covered to aid your research:

  • History: border changes for the last 200 years
  • Record keeping: how vital records were kept
  • Archives: address of country's main archives
  • Books: useful reference works
  • Articles: significant periodical articles
  • LDS microfilms: status of FHL holdings and projects
  • Special interest groups (SIGs)
Copy of certificate of naturalisation as a Prussian citizen for Heinrich Keidanski, 1935
A copy of Heinrich Keidanski's certificate of naturalisation as a Prussian citizen dated 8th March, 1935.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (JML) 1998.39.9
Simply click on the country of your choice for details:

*Books*top of page

Reading around your subject is almost as important as doing primary research: with a good understanding of the political and social history that affected the lives of your ancestors you will be better able to place your own research in context, and to find new avenues to explore. Our Further Reading Suggestions for Researching Ancestors* are good places to start.

Creators:  Saul Issroff

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