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Genealogy Guide

The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives has a large and growing genealogy collection, with over 1,000 family genealogy files. In addition, we have extensive resources in the following areas: Jewish communities and immigration during the Colonial Period, early Jewish communities in the Caribbean Islands, along with congregational records from early Jewish settlement to modern times.

The American Jewish Archives does not hold official government records (birth, marriage, death, naturalization) other than those that might be noted in synagogue or rabbis' records.

AJA Online Resources

For many years, the AJA was fortunate to have a professional genealogist on staff, Dr. Malcolm Stern. Dr. Stern has written two very useful resources that we are proud to publish online.

First American Jewish Families

  • Dr. Malcolm Stern's seminal work in an online format, searchable by surname.

Tracing Your Jewish Roots

  • An excellent guide for beginners to genealogical research

Planning Your Visit to AJA

1) Begin by working backward with what you know about your parents and/or other living relatives. Interview living relatives and gather stories and documents that may help you identify available records.

2) Identify the places where your ancestors lived or may have lived. Then search the AJA Online Catalog » to see what records are available for that place. Genealogical searches in the AJA Online Catalog can best be facilitated with a search by subject on the drop-down menu.

Here are some examples:
To search for a family in Kovno, Lithuania, type in one or all of the following searches using the AJA Online Catalog:

  • Immigrants Lithuania Kovno
  • Jews–Lithuania–Kovno
  • Kovno OR Lithuania

To search for Meyer family, location unknown, type in one or all of the following searches using the AJA Online Catalog:

  • Meyer family

3) Do not overlook synagogue and organizational records such as sisterhoods or brotherhoods. If you know your ancestor was active there may be some useful information in those records.

4) Contact an AJA archivist to arrange a visit to the Barrows-Loebelson Family Reading Room. AJA staff can retrieve materials you have identified during the online catalog search so that they will be ready for you when you arrive.

5) If you are unable to travel to Cincinnati to conduct research in person, the AJA offers reference assistance to all patrons, from beginning genealogists to professional researchers and scholars. Requests should be made using our Ask an Archivist! online form. Please include all pertinent information such as full names, Hebrew names, dates, and locations if they are known.

6) If we locate requested or needed materials in our files, the AJA will, for a fee, provide photocopies or other duplication of requested items in compliance with copyright and restrictions.

Using an Outside Researcher

Our goal at the American Jewish Archives is to assist all who come to us by providing information and guidance that will be of help in tracing your Jewish roots. However, we are not able to perform extensive genealogy searches. If you are in the need of research assistance, the AJA can provide lists of professional genealogists that are available on a fee basis.