2The following basic steps for genealogical researchwill help get you started:
Step 1. Identify What You Know about YourFamily
Begin your research at home. Look for names,dates, and places in certificates, letters, obituaries,diaries, and similar sources. Ask relatives for anyinformation they may have. Record the informationyou find on pedigree charts and family grouprecord forms.
Step 2. Decide What You Want to Learn
Choose an ancestor to research for whom you knowat least a name, the town where he or she lived, andan approximate date of birth. The more you knowabout your ancestor, the more successful you will be with further research.It is best to begin by verifying the information youalready have. Then you can decide what else youwant to learn about that ancestor. You may want toask an experienced researcher or a librarian to helpyou choose a goal.
Step 3. Select a Record to Search
Effective researchers first find backgroundinformation. Then they survey compiled sourcesand finally they search original records. “For Further Reading” in this outline has a list of genealogy how-to books, both general andgeographically specific, that give information abouttracing Jewish ancestors.
Background Information Sources.
You musthave some geographical and historical information.This will help you focus your research in thecorrect place and time period.•Find the place of residence. Use maps,gazetteers, histories, and other place-finding aidsto learn about each place where your ancestor lived. Identify governmental and ecclesiastical jurisdictions, local Jewish congregations, cities,counties, and other geographical features.•Review local history. Jewish history and thehistory of the area your ancestor lived inaffected the records about the Jews. See“Gazetteers” and “Jewish History” in thisoutline for more information. If there is aresearch outline for the country or state whereyour ancestor lived, see “Gazetteers” and“History” in that outline.•Learn about the jurisdictions of the placeswhere your ancestors lived. You will need toknow about civil and often church boundaries.See “Gazetteers” in this outline for moreinformation.•Use language helps. Jewish records may be inYiddish, Hebrew, or in the language of thecountry of residence. Some church records for Jews may be in Latin. See “Language andLanguages” in this outline.
Surveying research alreadydone by others can save time and reveal valuableinformation. Check compiled sources such as:•Private collections of family histories andgenealogies deposited in historical andgenealogical societies and other libraries•Printed family histories and genealogies•Family histories, genealogies, and abstracts or transcripts of records on the Internet•Compiled records of the Family History Library•FamilySearch International Genealogical Index(IGI)•FamilySearch Personal Ancestral File•
Vital Records Index British Isles
Vital Records Index North America
. See“Genealogy” in this outline for details aboutthese sources. Similar indexes for other countries are in production.•
Pedigree Resource File
These records are described in “Biography,”“Genealogy,” and “Societies” in this outline.Remember, information in compiled records mayhave some inaccuracies, and the information inthem should be verified.
After surveying previousresearch, you can begin searching originaldocuments, which are often handwritten andcopied on microfilm or microfiche. Originaldocuments provide first-hand informationrecorded at or near the time of an event by areliable witness. To do thorough research, youshould search:•Jurisdictions that may have kept records aboutyour ancestor.•Records of Jewish communities.