Friday, August 22, 2008

Yichus - Finding records to establish

Sacha Bogomilsky's comment to "EJFamily - Solving intermarriage through conversio...":

"For one thing many documents were destroyed during WW2. "

After the war, survivors of each village compiled Yizkor books listing the names of every Jewish family in their village and also copying the communities archived records. Yizkor books can be used to prove Jewish status since they are compiled by eyewitnesses.

The Mormons have Chevra Kadisha records, mohel books, marriage registers etc etc etc for hundreds of thousands of European Jews.

I got my great grandmothers birth certificate from Lodz Poland, 1884, without much difficulty. While I was there, I went all the way back 4 more generations just for fun.

The Soviet government kept excellent records of who was a Jew because Stalin wanted to wipe out the Jewish influence (ie Trotsky) from Communism. The Soviets recorded the ethnicity of both parents on birth records.
These records are becoming available as the Mormons are copying them to microfiche.

When proving Jewish status, one can document via civil records the mother-child relationship back to a family documented to be Jewish (ie via civil records, burial in a Jewish cemetery, yizkor book, synagogue membership, membership in any Jewish organization) in Europe.

Additionally, European countries regularly did censuses of their Jewish subjects. These records are available from the Mormons Family history libraries.

Thousands of headstones in Eastern Europe have been cataloged for genealogy purposes by members of Jewish gen. Many cemetery records are also search able online.

The Cuban Jewish community archives are stored in Miami and also can be searched online. I have not had any difficulty affirming the Jewish status of any Cuban Jew who was halachically Jewish as the community kept excellent archives.

I have helped Jews whose ancestors were from Cuba, Egypt, Russia, Poland, Greece and many other now defunct Jewish communities document their Jewishness, it is not really difficult, and it is much easier today in our internet world.


  1. This is simplistic. I went to my father's home town where there were 15,000 Jews before the war, and I can tell you the municipal records in his town in Poland were very scant. I'd love for it to be so "easy". Sacha is perhaps exaggerating!

  2. For starters you have to differentiate between Jews of the FSU who were living in the former areas known as the pale of settlement under the czars and those Jews after the communist revolution who were no longer living in their communities and were scattered all over the Soviet republics.

    Also in those areas where approximately one million Jews were murdered during operation "Barbarosa" there are no live witnesses, yizkor books, or even community cemetaries remaining (either from the war or because of Soviet construction projects).

    As far as birth records are concerned. Things were not done as uniformally or efficiently as you think.

    The fact is that there are many Jews from the FSU who had problems obtaining documentation deliniating their maternal lineage for the rabbinate her for whatever reasons. Some of them have been authenticated by witnesses acceptable to the rabbinate who knew their families. These people are fortunate. There are a lot of people who lived outside Jewish environs or kept their Judaism hidden and they have no such witnesses.

  3. Also in many cases peoples families are not from those municipalities that they think that they are.

    For instance one may be from Cambridge Mass. but when traveling or if they move will tell people that they are from Boston. Also people from Vaughn Ontario or Markahm will tell people that they are from Toronto for simplification.

    I always knew that my family came from a town in Lithuania called Shavel. I have never been there but I have learned that there were many families with my same surname (which today is not so common) in villages all around the hinterland of Shavel. Whether or not my immediate ancestors lived in Shavel or one of its environs (or which environ for that matter) is not information that is available to me. Anybody who knew that information has already passed on. Now I have enough information in my head on the names of my family ancestry (I can take it back to the 1800's) to do an extensive search and fill in the blanks.

    However our family at least in America has always kept a lot of information on our family history. Many people have not. Moreover there names have been changed and modified (some people are not even aware that there was those changes over the years. Also no, I am not just talking about name changes one hundred years ago to avoid the draft in the czars army. I am talking about more recent changes than that.

  4. I know that the records were in the town where I thought they should be. I found partial records. The girls in the municipal office explained that things were lost/destroyed during the war and they don't have full records. And yes, I slipped them some money ...

    For example, I know of two close-by families called "balbin" in the region. They had their own branch. The key is that every such member I have found (there aren't many) is a Cohen (like me). Exactly how we are related, could be worked out if we had decent records. Unfortunately, this is one of the things the Nazis y"sv took from us.


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