From Generation to Generation: How to Trace Your Jewish Genealogy and Family History


Since it was first published in 1980, From Generation to Generation has inspired thousands to pursue the unique challenges and rewards of Jewish genealogy. Far more engaging than a mere how-to reference guide, this landmark book is also part detective story and part spiritual quest. As Arthur Kurzweil takes you along on his own fascinating journey through his family’s past, you’ll learn about the tools, techniques, and the step-by-step process of Jewish genealogical research – including the most current ...

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Since it was first published in 1980, From Generation to Generation has inspired thousands to pursue the unique challenges and rewards of Jewish genealogy. Far more engaging than a mere how-to reference guide, this landmark book is also part detective story and part spiritual quest. As Arthur Kurzweil takes you along on his own fascinating journey through his family’s past, you’ll learn about the tools, techniques, and the step-by-step process of Jewish genealogical research – including the most current information on using the Internet and the newly accessible archives of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. But even more, after reading this fully updated, revised, and beloved classic, you will undoubtedly be inspired to embark on a genealogical quest of your own!

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781118104422
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 4/12/2011
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 736,163
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Arthur Kurzweil is a leader in the world of Jewish genealogy. Kurzweil helped launch the first Jewish Genealogical Society more than twenty-five years ago, was awarded a "Lifetime Achievement" award from the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies, and has spoken about Jewish genealogy before hundreds of synagogues and Jewish organizations. He has served as director of the Jewish Book Club and editor-in-chief of Jason Aronson Publishers.

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Table of Contents


Foreword (Elie Wiesel).


CHAPTER ONE: Climbing Up My Family Tree: Jewish Genealogy as a Spiritual Pilgrimage.

CHAPTER TWO: Getting Started: How to Begin Your Research.

First Steps.

Gathering Your History: Collecting Stories.

Family Legends: Are They True?

Ten Common Family Myths—or Truths!

What Questions Should You Ask?

Tips on Interviewing Relatives.

Observations on People Who Don’t Appreciate Genealogy.

Following Leads like a Detective.

Taking Notes.

Visiting Relatives and Others.

Family Photographs.

Writing Letters.

Final Tips on How to Begin.

CHAPTER THREE: Are You Ready to Check the Records?

Prepare Yourself.

Telephone Books.

Vital Records.

Federal Census Records.

State Census Records.

Tips on Dealing with Government Agencies.

City Directories.

Synagogue Records.

The National Archives.

What if You Were Adopted?

Canadian Research.

A Few Important Canadian Resources.

Cardinal Rules When Dealing with Libraries, Archives, and Other Institutions.

Tips on Dealing with Librarians.

Publishing Your Family History.

CHAPTER FOUR: How Is Jewish Genealogy Different from All Other Genealogy?

Memorial Books (Yizkor Books).

Are There Memorial Books for Your Towns?

The Yizkor Book Project.

Other Places to Look for Yizkor Books.

How to Obtain Copies for Yourself.

The Yizkor Book Special Interest Group (SIG).

Two Traditional Sources: Mohel Books and Ketubot.

Archives, Libraries, and Organizations.

American Jewish Archives.

The Center for Jewish History.

A Conversation with Robert Friedman.

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

A Conversation with Zachary Baker.

The Leo Baeck Institute.

American Jewish Historical Society.

Jewish Historical Societies Around the World.

The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People.

A Conversation with Sallyann Amdur Sack.

Jewish Genealogical Societies Around the World.

The Douglas E. Goldman Jewish Genealogy Center.

LDS Family History Library.

Other Valuable Jewish Sources.

Toledot: The Journal of Jewish Genealogy.

The Encyclopedia of Jewish Genealogy.

Encyclopedia Judaica.

First American Jewish Families.

My Generations: A Jewish Genealogical Textbook.

Other Jewish Genealogical Publications.

Professional Genealogical Assistance.

A Conversation with Ladislau Gyémánt.

A Conversation with Miriam Weiner.

Ten Commandments for Jewish Genealogists.

CHAPTER FIVE: Avotaynu: The Premier Publisher in the World of Jewish Genealogy.

Avotaynu: The International Review of Jewish Genealogy.

What Will You Find in Avotaynu: The International Review of Jewish Genealogy?

Avotaynu Back Issues on CD-ROM (1985–2002).

Books from Avotaynu.

A Conversation with Gary Mokotoff.

CHAPTER SIX: Jewish Genealogy in Cyberspace.

A Few Basics.

A Guide to the Site.



Discussion Groups.

Projects and Activities.

Hosted Organizations.

Contributions and Fundraising.

A Conversation with Warren Blatt.

CHAPTER SEVEN: Were Your Ancestors Great Rabbis?

Rabbinic Dynasties.

Rabbinic Sources.

Rabbinic Texts.

Hebrew Subscription Lists.

A Conversation with Neil Rosenstein.

CHAPTER EIGHT: The Names in Your Family.

A Brief History of Jewish Surnames.

The Origins of Modern Surnames.


Place Names.

Vocational Names.

Descriptive Names.

Names from Abbreviations.


Some Jewish Surnames and Their Meanings.

Personal Names.

For Whom Were You Named?

What if Your Name Was Changed?

Names as Clues to Dates.

Last Names from the Maternal Side.

Hebrew, Yiddish, and English Names.

Sources for Determining the Meanings of Names.

Some Additional Research Suggestions.

Back Issues of Avotaynu.

The Consolidated Jewish Surname Index (CJSI).

Project for the Study of Jewish Names.

Information on Jewish Names from

Some Final Thoughts About Jewish Names.

A Conversation with Alexander Beider.

CHAPTER NINE: Holocaust Research: Changing Numbers into Names.

Holocaust Research: The Search for Victims and Survivors.

The International Tracing Service.

The Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center.

Yad Vashem.

An Indispensable Guidebook.

Memorial Books as Sources for Learning About Holocaust Victims.

Locating Survivors.

Survivor Lists.’s Holocaust Database.

How Can These Lists Serve You?

The Jewish Agency Search Bureau for Missing Relatives in Israel.

Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) Location Services.

The Benjamin and Vladka Meed Registry of Jewish Holocaust Survivors.

Deportations from France During the Holocaust.

Mauthausen Death Books.

Other Death Books.

Pre-Holocaust European Phone Books.

CHAPTER TEN: Your Immigrant Ancestors.

Immigration to the United States.





1945 to the Present.

Immigration to Canada.

Aliyah to Israel.

Your Immigrant Ancestors: Who Were They?


Tracing the Journey.

How to Find the Ship That Brought Your Ancestors to America.

How to Find Steamship Passenger Lists with Your Ancestors on Them.

Passenger Lists Online.

Avotaynu Articles Concerning Immigration Records.

Canadian Immigration Records.

How to Obtain Photographs of Your Ancestors’ Steamships.

Naturalization Records: An Important Genealogical Source.

The Legitimacy of Sending for Family History Documents.

“These Are the Generations”.

CHAPTER ELEVEN: Discovering the Old Country.

Where Once We Walked.

JewishGen ShtetlSeeker.

Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People.

Encyclopedia Judaica.

Locating Landsmanshaften.

Sources for Landsmanshaft Records.

Your Shtetl or Town During the Holocaust.

How to Locate Your Shtetl.

Soundex Systems.

Genealogical Sources in the Old Country: How to Do Long-Distance Research.

Visiting the Old Country.

How to Plan Your Trip.

Advice Before Traveling to Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union.

CHAPTER TWELVE: Jewish Cemeteries: Your History Chiseled in Stone.

Cemeteries as Family Bonds.

A Walk Through a Jewish Cemetery.

Visiting Jewish Cemeteries.


Cemetery Plots.

Tombstone Transcribing.

How to Read a Jewish Tombstone.

Tombstone Rubbings.

Photographing Tombstones.

Locating Cemeteries.

Death Certificates.



European Jewish Cemeteries.

Other Valuable Jewish Cemetery Sources.

APPENDIX: Relationship Chart: How Are We Related?

The Author.


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