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Tracing Jewish Roots
Jewish Perspectives on UK Records
Service Records of Jews
Records in Other Countries
Pulling It All Together
For a community defined by its religious identity, religious records are obviously very important in tracing and understanding the lives of Jews. This section concentrates on resources for tracing Ashkenazi Jews.
The Jewish Yearbook published annually (Vallentine Mitchell, London), has up-to-date contact details of all communities in the United Kingdom.
Annual statistical data about the communities, since the mid-1960s, are set out in a life-cycle sequence of births, marriages, divorces (gittim) and deaths on the Board of Deputies of British Jews website at www.bod.org.uk/.
Follow any of the links above to find contact details and an outline of the records held by each community.
There are no separate Jewish birth records. All births within the United Kingdom can be found in civil registers in the Family Records Centre, in the microfilmed copies of the registers held in Mormon Family History Centres or the Society of Genealogists Library.
Birth notices may be found in the Jewish Chronicle.
Circumcision registers are usually privately kept by the mohel who performs the ritual circumcision, usually on the eighth day after the birth of a male child. Very few of these registers ever become available for research.
All Jewish marriages since 1837 are registered in the usual way, and indexed in the GRO volumes. Civil registration marriage certificates can be traced at and ordered from the Family Records Centre, and they give the:
In addition, you may be able to locate the marriage certificate issued by the synagogue, called a ketubah (plural: ketubot). These are in the Aramaic language but written in Hebrew script, with an English translation. Names of bride and groom, and father's names, are given, as are those of the witnesses. Follow the link for a Full Translation of a Jewish Marriage Certificate.
Illustrations of marriage certificates from the following countries are in the Jewish National and University Library (Israel).
Their website address is: jnul.huji.ac.il/dl/ketubbot/html/country_list.htm
Marriage Applications (London's East End)
Tower Hamlets Local History Archive has marriage notice books for Stepney and Bethnal Green.
The Beth Din holds a large collection of material relating to marriages, divorces and some other material.
Copies of marriage authorisation certificates may be given after production of a civil marriage register certificate. A marriage authorisation (evidence or proof of Jewish origins) is equivalent to a marriage ban and often lists the names of witnesses who may be relatives, and the place of origin of the bride and groom.
The Beth Din office should be approached only after civil records have been thoroughly researched.
The office holds divorce records (a get/gittim), though it is very difficult to obtain details.
The Beth Din also holds adoption records, conversion records and certificates of evidence (proof of Jewish birth). These often contain additional information and are particularly useful in tracing Jews who were not naturalised, and for information about a marriage abroad that may not exist elsewhere.
The Beth Din office does not usually permit visitors. Applications for information are best made in writing to the Archivist, by post. The address is:
London Beth Din
735 High Road
London N12 0US
Fax: 020 8343 6310
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Website: www.brijnet.org/us or www.unitedsynagogue.org.uk
A charge is made for the provision of information. All records are confidential and in most cases information will only be provided to those with a family connection and/or a legitimate legal interest in the records.
Try to find a civil registration death certificate for the ancestor you are tracing. It will give:
Death certificates, however, do not give the place of burial or parental names.
Also, look for obituaries and death notices in the Jewish Chronicle.
A death notice may give the:
Eastern European immigrants in London tended to use the federation and Adath Yisroel.
An increasing number of burial records, information and indexes are being made available on the internet.
The IAJGS and Jewishgen Worldwide online burial project has a very comprehensive listing of Jewish burial grounds in the United Kingdom at www.jewishgen.org/cemetery/brit/england.
Also, try the United Synagogue website at www.unitedsynagogue.org.uk/burial. All the United Synagogue Cemetery plans are on this site too and can be downloaded:
Orthodox Judaism prohibits cremation, so it is only carried out by Liberal and Progressive synagogues, though members of other communities may choose to use their services, with the ashes being scattered or interred in the appropriate cemetery.
The crematorium at Hoop Lane, London, keeps a Jewish room with memorials on the wall (kept for a limited time, often up to 20 years) and a memorial book with permanently inscribed messages. They also have memorial plaques placed by rose bushes. In the West London section of the cemetery, opposite the crematorium, there is a section where the cremated remains have been buried.
Jewish tombstones and graves often provide considerable genealogical information, sometime including details of the father, spouse, children and notable information such as place and date of birth and death.
Link here to read about locating a Jewish Burials.
Creators: Dr Saul Issroff
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