*   Tracing Jewish Roots
Search Tracing Your Roots  *

* Introduction
* Caribbean
* Irish
* Jewish
*Tracing Jewish Roots
*Jewish Perspectives on UK Records
*Religious Records
*Service Records of Jews
*Records in Other Countries
*Holocaust Research
*Pulling It All Together
* South Asian


In this section * * * * *
Getting Started*    
Finding the Relevant Records*    
Suggestions to Aid your Search*    
Recommended Reading*    
Case Study - Vivienne Wilfling*   Case Study of Vivienne Wilfling*   

*Getting Started*top of page

Tsippa and Minnie Perkoff
Tsippa and Minnie Perkoff, daughters of the Russian-born photographer Michael Perkoff, in 1895.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (JML) 1986.32.17
Many *Ashkenazi Jews (from Central and Eastern Europe) settled in the United Kingdom. An estimated 120,000 Ashkenazi Jews, mainly from Russia and Poland, arrived between 1880 and 1914. Most, but not all, of the earlier immigrants, dating from 1656, were *Sephardim (Spanish, Portuguese and Italian Jews), with some Ashkenazim from Holland after 1680. This section concentrates on the waves of Ashkenazi immigration from the 19th century onwards.

At the time of the Second World War. groups of refugees arrived from Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary and other parts of Europe. Jews of Ashkenazi origin from Southern Africa, Australia and New Zealand have also settled in England, particularly from the 1960s onwards.

Many of the techniques and sources for researching Jewish ancestors who settled in the United Kingdom are the same as those for tracing anyone else who has lived here. You should read the general introduction to family history on this site thoroughly first of all.

Begin at home to assemble as many clues as possible and look for:

  • Names
  • Places
  • Dates in any papers
  • Letters (postmarks, stamps, sender's address, mention of names)
  • Certificates
  • Photos (studio photos often indicate the photographer's address; notes may be written on the back)
Contact relations, starting with the oldest. Write, talk to, video or record every member of your family you can reach. Ask for family memorabilia, such as passports, photos and marriage certificates.

An identity photograph of Juda Hersz Fiszer on a Certificate of Nationality
An identity photograph of Juda Hersz Fiszer on a Certificate of Nationality, written in both Polish and English, issued by the Polish Consul General on 15 January 1920.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (MOL) 72.255/1
Ask about:

  • The family names - in the country of origin and in the United Kingdom - and don't forget variant spellings, nicknames and name changes that may have occurred
  • The towns they, and other family members, came from, and remember variant spellings; for example, the name of the country when they left it as well as the probable name now
  • The approximate dates of arrival in the United Kingdom, names of ships (if known), ports of arrival, and communities, towns and cities where they first settled and any subsequent movements
  • Occupations both prior to arrival and in this country
  • Copies of all documents that other members of your family may have
  • Family albums, the backs of photos and prayer books that may have brief family details noted on them
Find out where family members are buried (in the UK and elsewhere). Visit the cemeteries where possible and record the tombstones (decipher the Hebrew and take photographs). Take note of any illnesses and causes of death where these facts are available.

*Finding the Relevant Records*top of page

Check background information sources:

  • Find places of residence
  • Review regional and local history and geography, especially changing boundaries
  • Check gazetteers, atlases and city *directories to find addresses of your ancestors (usually available in public libraries)
  • Use translation aids to decipher Hebrew, Russian, Yiddish, Polish etc.
  • Check compiled records of research already done; for example, private family histories, records in Mormon Family History and other libraries
  • Check the original records from the archives in the countries of origin and places of settlement
  • Check vital birth, marriage and death records. These, for the UK are usually in the *Family Records Centre. For outside the UK refer to the Records in Other Countries section
  • Check census records in the country of origin and in the UK (for the UK this will probably be 1881, 1891 or 1901)
  • Check Jewish communal records both in the UK and in places of origin
  • Check wills of ancestors, *probate (estate) records and property deeds. In the UK these are in the Family Records Centre or in the probate registry of the Family Court.
Detail of a page from the Jews' Temporary Shelter register of inmates for the year 1898-9.
Detail of a page from the Jews' Temporary Shelter register of inmates for the year 1898-9.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (LMA) LMA/4184/03/01/019
Detail of a page from a Hull directory, 1892
Detail of a page from a Hull directory, 1892.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (HCA) SRL/D/28
Contact important archives:

  • *The National Archives, Kew
  • *Family Records Centre, Myddleton Street, London for vital records (births, marriages and deaths)
  • Family History Library, *LDS Church. The main UK branch is at Exhibition Road, Hyde Park, London, but there are many regional branches where microfilms of records can be researched. The main office is at 35 North West Temple St., Salt Lake City, UT 84150, and has the world's largest collection of birth, marriage, death and other genealogical records, which are catalogued by locality. Much of it is available on microfilm via inter-library loan at branch LDS Family History Centres.
  • Foreign archives (Records in Other Countries)
  • Jewish communal record archives such as the Beth Din (Ecclesiastical Court) Archives connected to the Chief Rabbi's Office (Orthodox, United Synagogue) and various Burial Society records

*Suggestions to Aid your Search*top of page

  • Note and record everything you find
  • Put together a family tree and circulate this to anyone interested - this will often bring out more material
  • Join the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain (JGSGB) at *www.jgsgb.org.uk and read the journal 'SHEMOT'
  • Join a local history society
  • Go to a *JGSGB beginners' workshop; these are held monthly at various locations (annual beginners' courses in Jewish Genealogy are held in London, and a one day seminar is also held)
  • Subscribe to Jewishgen at *www.jewishgen.org, an online discussion group of Jewish Genealogists (it is free but donations are welcomed); also, look at the various special interest groups (SIGs) and subscribe to the appropriate ones connected to your ancestral places of origin (Internet Resources)
  • Look especially at the Jewishgen Family Finder *www.jewishgen.org/jgff that will give entries for a particular surname and identify other researchers interested in the name, and the JGSGB Family Finder Index *www.jewishgen.org/JGFF/jgffweb.asp (Internet Resources)
  • Join the 'Jewish Communities and Records UK' database project and discussion group *www.jewishgen.org
  • Don't neglect other non-Jewish online resources such as the Mormon Family History Library Catalogues that can be accessed at *www.familysearch.org and the 1901 Census *www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/census/.

*Recommended Reading*top of page

Reading about your subject is almost as important as doing primary research: with a good understanding of the political and social history that affected the lives of your ancestors you will be better able to undertake your own research in context, and to find new avenues to explore. Our suggested reading list is a good place to discover some books that will help you on your way.

*Case Study - Vivienne Wilfling*top of page

Vivienne has been searching for two years for further evidence of the Wilfling family's existence, then, on coming across the Moving Here site she found it! She searched records Moving Here has provided relevant for the Jewish community and although she is not yet sure her relative was Jewish, and he may not be, her story demonstrates that there are records of great value on the site to family historians. Click here to read the Case Study of Vivienne Wilfling*.

Creators: Dr Saul Issroff

*     previousJewish Roots Jewish Perspectives on UK Recordsnext