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First American Jewish Families

When it first appeared in 1960, Malcolm Stern's Americans of Jewish Descent marked a milestone in the study of American Jewish genealogy.  The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives is proud to make the latest edition of this classic text available online.

Researchers now have access to the complete text of Rabbi Stern's monumental volume that was published in 1991 as the updated and revised 3rd edition titled: First American Jewish Families: 600 Genealogies, 1654-1988.  This publication is an historical document in its own right, and it is not our intention to alter it in any way.  Students of American Jewish genealogy are encouraged to use this text as a basis for their research. 

First American Jewish Families


The Genealogies can be found in the following searchable pdf.  When searching for a name, simply use the "find" search that is used universally in all pdf documents.  You can press the "CTRL" and "F" key to access the find box.  Once you type the name into the box and hit return, the name (or words) you have entered, will be highlighted, page by page, throughout the document and in the index.

First American Jewish Families (PDF)
First American Jewish Families (Search)


Reading the Genealogical Charts:

Sources. In the upper left corner of each genealogy will be found the list of Sources. These are the bibliographical or personal sources from which the Compiler derived the information contained on that family tree. For the explanation of abbreviations in the naming of sources see the list of Bibliography and Sources to be found on pages 315-320.

Family Names. Each page is headed by a family name. Roman numerals (I, II, III, etc.) indicate several unrelated families who bear the same name. Arabic numerals in parentheses (1), (2), (3), indicate several pages for one family. The family name heading the page is usually that of the progenitor of the family (or of its first American representative) and of his descendants in the male line. If the female line is continued on that page, her spouse will have his name underlined. All lines descending from an underlined name bear that surname. When an individual changed his name, the adopted name has a double underline, and all descendants bear the new name unless otherwise indicated.

Cross-References. Many of the families in this volume intermarried with other families in the book. Two methods are used to show cross-references to another page: 1) q. v. {quern vide, meaning "which see"). This shows that the spouse appears on the page bearing his or her surname. For example: On page 1, in the chart labeled AARONS I, HANNAH AARONS married ABRAHAM ALEXANDER, ]R. Under his name appears the cross-reference indication "q. v.(l)" This means that full data for ABRAHAM ALEXANDER, ]R. is to be found on the first page of the ALEXANDER family chart. The second form of cross-reference is indicated by the term "vid." (abbreviation of "vide" = see). This is used when the spouse so indicated appears on a page headed by a different family name. For example: On page 1, in the chart labeled AARONS II, we find AARON married to HENRIETTA LEVY, and under her name, "vid. LYONS III." This means that HENRIETTA does not appear on a LEVY page but will be found on the third of our LYONS genealogies.

Abbreviations used throughout the volume can be found below in a downloadable and printable pdf.



Malcolm Henry Stern

Malcolm Henry Stern was born on January 29, 1915, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Stern was the son of Arthur Kaufman and Henrietta Berkowitz Stern and had one brother, Edward. In 1923 the Stern family moved to a seven-acre farm in Fox Chase, Pennsylvania. Stern earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1935 and in 1937 became the fifth member of his family to be ordained as a rabbi at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. In 1941 he received a Doctor of Hebrew Letters from Hebrew Union College and was honored in 1966 with a Doctor of Divinity degree from the same school.

In 1941 Stern became assistant rabbi at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Philadelphia. He ministered to the congregation from 1941-1943 and 1947. From 1943 to 1947 Stern took a sabbatical from his congregation to serve as a chaplain in the Army Air Corps. During World War II he survived a plane crash in Casablanca in which thirteen persons were killed. In 1947 Stern was elected Rabbi of Congregation Ohef Shalom in Norfolk, Virginia, serving there for 17 years. While in Norfolk, Stern spoke out strongly against segregation. In 1964 Stern moved to New York City to become the first Director of Rabbinic Placement for Reform Judaism for the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Stern held this position until his retirement in 1980. In 1981 Stern joined the faculty of the New York campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. He served as a counselor for student field work and was an adjunct professor of Jewish History.

Genealogy was Stern’s great interest in life. His love for genealogy started in grade school when he traced the descendants of Charlemagne for an assignment. From 1949 until 1994 he served as the genealogist for the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati. His work contributed to making the American Jewish Archives an internationally recognized institution. In 1960 he published Americans of Jewish Descent in which he traced members of Jewish immigrant families that arrived in the United States before 1840. Two more editions of the book would follow in 1978 and 1991 as First American Jewish Families: 600 Genealogies, 1654-1977 and First American Jewish Families: 600 Genealogies, 1654-1988. This work was the basis for much of Stephen Birmingham’s The Grandees.

Stern served the world of genealogy and American Jewish history in many ways and nearly every Jewish genealogical society in the United States was established with his help. He was known as the dean of American Jewish genealogy. Stern served as secretary of the American Society of Genealogists from 1968-1973, as vice president from 1973-1976 and as president from 1976-1979. Stern was the founder of the Jewish Historical Society of New York. He was also a trustee of the American Jewish Historical Society. In 1989 Stern testified before Congress, arguing that the position of Archivist of the United States should be awarded to a scholar and not an administrator. In 1990 he served on a special commission of the National Archives and Records Administration to prepare four American genealogists for a mission to Russia. The goal of this mission was to educate Russian archivists. Stern was also the vice president of the Gomez Foundation for Mill House in Newburgh, New York, which is the oldest surviving Jewish residence in North America, built by Louis Moses Gomez in 1716. Stern participated in numerous Jewish and non-Jewish genealogical organizations, including: the National Genealogical Society, the Jewish Genealogical Society (president emeritus), the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the Jewish Historical Society of England and the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society.

Stern had a deep love for music. In 1960, he edited the Union Songster for Reform Judaism. He coedited Songs and Hymns for Gates of Prayer and chaired the committee that created Shaarei Shira/Gates of Song.

On May 25, 1941, Malcolm Stern married Louise Steinhart Bergman. Malcolm Stern died in New York City of a heart attack on January 5, 1994, at the age of 78.

Rabbi Stern's papers are housed at the American Jewish Archives.