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JEWISH GENEALOGY RESEARCH. Pete Tanner Suncoast Genealogy Services. About Me. Born & raised here in Clearwater Bar Mitzvah & Confirmation right here at TBI Married 3.5 years – met my wife here at TBI One 2 year old daughter & baby on the way

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Jewish genealogy research


Pete Tanner

Suncoast Genealogy Services

About me
About Me

  • Born & raised here in Clearwater

  • Bar Mitzvah & Confirmation right here at TBI

  • Married 3.5 years – met my wife here at TBI

  • One 2 year old daughter & baby on the way

  • Researching my genealogy on a regular basis since 2006

  • Board Member – Jewish Genealogical Society of Tampa Bay

  • Member – Association of Professional Genealogists

  • Bachelor’s Degree from UF and Master’s Degree from USF in Information Systems

  • Work as a Computer Programmer for the City of Clearwater

Do you know your ancestors8
Do You Know Your Ancestors?


Born around 1780 in NE Poland

He was my 7x Great-Grandfather

What is genealogy
What Is Genealogy?

  • Genealogy is the study of your unique family history. It is a personal record of your ancestors - when they were born and where they lived, who their children were and who they married, and where you belong in your extended family tree.

  • It’s not just about dead ancestors!

  • It’s also about your current living relatives

Jewish genealogy
Jewish Genealogy

  • We are not just a religion, but also an ethnicity

  • Your “Jewishness” is passed to you from your mother (Matrilineal)

  • Determination of Kohanim or Leviim descent comes from your father (Patrilineal)

  • Proof of Jewish status to become an Israeli citizen

Jewish genealogy myths
Jewish Genealogy Myths

  • Our last name was changed at Ellis Island

Jewish genealogy myths1
Jewish Genealogy Myths

  • Our last name was changed at Ellis Island

    • Ellis Island officials did not change names

    • Checked medical health (turned away if too sick)

    • Made sure immigrants could take care of themselves

    • However – Names were changed before and after arrival at Ellis Island

Jewish genealogy myths2
Jewish Genealogy Myths

  • All the records from Europe were destroyed in WWI and WWII

Jewish genealogy myths3
Jewish Genealogy Myths

  • All the records from Europe were destroyed in WWI and WWII

    • Some records may have been destroyed in bombings

    • However, most survived

    • Nazis wanted to preserve synagogue records so they could identify the Jews

    • Depending on where your relatives lived, there could be a large number of records available

Jewish genealogy myths4
Jewish Genealogy Myths

  • The towns that my family were originally from no longer exist

Jewish genealogy myths5
Jewish Genealogy Myths

  • The towns that my family were originally from no longer exist

    • The towns are probably still there

    • However, there may not be any Jews living there anymore

    • In many cases, the current residents of the town remember the Jews that once lived there

Jewish genealogy myths6
Jewish Genealogy Myths

  • No one in my family knows anything about our past

Jewish genealogy myths7
Jewish Genealogy Myths

  • No one in my family knows anything about our past

    • Have you asked anyone?

    • Many Jewish families don’t like to talk about the past, but they may know more than you think

    • Learning a small amount of information may be enough to get you started

    • Reach out to distant relatives if necessary

Where did i start
Where Did I Start?

  • 7th Grade Project – “My Family Tree”

    • Interview family members

    • Take good notes

    • Write a report about my family

  • Who Did I Interview?

    • Two parents

    • Four grandparents

    • One great-grandparent

What did i learn
What Did I Learn?

  • Family from England, Russia, Poland

    • Only learned one town name – “Stanslav”

  • Almost all settled in New York City

    • Lower East Side, Brooklyn, Bronx

  • One family settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania

  • Some family lines – no info at all

What did i learn1
What Did I Learn?

  • Family Stories:

    • Great-Grandmother who died early – no one knew her name

    • 3x Great-Grandfather who went to Israel (Palestine) and died there

    • Paternal line suspected to be Cohanim

Fifteen years later 2006
Fifteen Years Later (2006)

  • Found my report in the back of my closet

  • Decided to revisit my research

  • Discovered many, many more resources via the Internet

  • Started building my tree once again online

  • Have been addicted to it since

My current family tree
My Current Family Tree

  • Sixty-Five direct descendants

  • Eight generations

  • Exact town where each family line originated

  • Contains over 1,800 people

    • Brothers, Sisters, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins

    • Includes anyone who shares a common ancestor with me

    • Hundreds of relatives alive today

    • Living relatives in England, South Africa, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil

How do you get started
How Do You Get Started?

  • Be a good detective

    • Learn how to search the various online resources

    • If a record you are seeking isn’t available online, see if you can find it offline

    • Talk to other people who are researching common surnames or towns

  • Don’t give up

    • Everyone will hit a brick wall – don’t let it discourage you

    • If a record isn’t available now, it may become available in the future

Ancestry com

  • Most popular genealogy website

  • Contains the greatest amount of records

    • US & State Census Records

    • Immigration Records

    • Military Records

    • Birth, Marriage, and Death Records

    • Naturalization Records

    • Newspaper Articles

    • Message Boards

    • Other Users’ Family Trees

Census records
Census Records

  • US Federal Census – Taken every 10 years

    • 1940 is latest year currently available

  • State Censuses – Varies depending on state

  • Gives a snapshot of a family at that point in time

  • Most include name, address, age, place of birth, occupation

  • Some include years married, year of immigration, naturalization status

  • Example – Tannenbaum Family In 1920

Immigration records
Immigration Records

  • Information about the immigrant at the time of their arrival to the US

  • Information varies depending on year of arrival

  • Most include name, age, occupation, nationality, place of birth

  • May list family members from their last place of residence

  • May list who they are coming to live with in the US

  • Example – Sylvia Bloomberg Arrival

Naturalization records
Naturalization Records

  • Usually consist of two separate forms

    • Declaration of Intention (First Papers)

    • Petition for Naturalization (After 5 year residency requirement)

  • Contain a wealth of genealogical data

    • Name, DOB, Place of Birth, Arrival Date, Port of Arrival, Spouse’s Name/Age/Birthplace, Children’s Names/Ages/Birthplaces, Current Residence, Witness Information

  • Example – Irving Schechtman Naturalization

Jewishgen org

  • Premier website serving the Jewish Genealogy community

  • Non-Profit – mostly staffed by volunteers

  • Relies on donations to operate

  • Full of resources, including tutorials for beginners

  • Offers online interactive courses on various Jewish Genealogy topics

  • Overview Video – This Is JewishGen

Jewishgen org1

  • Country-specific databases

    • Ex: Poland, Hungary, Ukraine, Romania, UK, Latvia, Lithuania

  • Holocaust database

  • Family Finder – towns & surnames currently being researched by other site users

  • Town Finder – 6,000+ Jewish communities, mostly in Europe

  • ViewMate – Allows you to post photographs & documents online and request help from other users

  • Burial Registry (JOWBR) – contains around 2 million records of Jewish burials throughout the world

Tombstone inscriptions
Tombstone Inscriptions

  • Tombstones are important to Genealogy, but even more important in Jewish Genealogy

  • Hebrew name listed – important when looking for records from Europe

  • Father’s name listed – may be your only reference to the father of an ancestor

  • Many Jewish cemeteries will photograph a tombstone for you (sometimes at a small cost)

Tombstone inscriptions1
Tombstone Inscriptions

Fischel Son of Yitzchak

Maite Daugher of Israel

Special interest groups
Special Interest Groups

  • Websites and mailing lists centered on one specific area of interest

  • Most are centered on a geographic region

  • Users often communicate and help each other with research

  • Great resource to help with specific questions

  • Many SIGs raise money for projects

    • Obtaining records

    • Translating records

    • Photographing Jewish cemetery tombstones

Newspapers obituaries

  • Families often posted life events in the newspaper

    • Births, Marriages, Deaths, Anniversaries

    • Visits from out of town relatives

    • Articles written about relatives

  • Many websites provide newspaper archive access (most for a fee)

  • Many newspapers also available overseas

Newspapers obituaries1

My 3rd Great Grandmother – Leah Cohen (nee Rybicki)

Obituary printed in the Jewish Chronicle of England

Died on 10 Jul 1923 in Manchester England

Prior to discovering this, I knew nothing of her seven other children

Newspapers obituaries2

My 2nd Great Grand Aunt – Fanny Cohen (nee Brown)

Printed in the Auckland (NZ) Star in April of 1897

Newspapers obituaries3

  • Obituary records can be a great source of current information about your relatives

  • Recent obituaries may list the name and city of residence of your living relatives

  • That information can then be used to track your relatives down

  • I often use Facebook to find relatives and make contact with them

Family stories
Family Stories

  • Great-Grandmother who died early – no one knew her name

  • 3x Great-Grandfather who went to Israel (Palestine) and died there

  • Paternal line suspected to be Cohanim

Mystery great grandmother
Mystery Great Grandmother

  • First I found her in the 1930 Census

    • Learned her first name, age, date of arrival

  • Next I pulled their NYC Marriage Record

    • Learned her maiden name, parents names

  • Next I found her Naturalization Record

    • Learned her birth city and exact arrival date

  • Next I found her Immigration Record

    • Learned who she listed as family in the US

  • Finally I pulled her NYC Death Record

    • Learned death date, how she died, place of burial

3x great grandfather died in israel
3x Great Grandfather Died In Israel

Printed in the Jewish Chronicle of England on 7 Feb 1908

Paternal line cohanim
Paternal Line Cohanim

  • The Cohen line has been passed from father to son without interruption for 3,300 years

  • Until recently, there was no way to prove you were a Cohen

  • Now, scientists have identified a set of genetic markers that all are shared by all Cohanim

  • These markers are called the Cohen Modal Haplotype

  • Only men can be tested for the markers

Paternal line cohanim1
Paternal Line Cohanim

  • In June of this year, I had my Y-DNA tested

  • A few weeks later, I received my results, which included the following

  • My grandfather was not just making things up!

  • My DNA says I am definitely a Cohen!

Genealogical dna testing
Genealogical DNA Testing

  • Besides providing Cohen matches, DNA testing has other uses for Jewish people

  • DNA Shoah Project – Collects genetic material from Holocaust survivors and their immediate descendants in hopes of reuniting relatives displaced during the Shaoah

  • DNA surname & geographical projects track the DNA of people with specific surnames or from specific areas in Europe

Genealogical dna testing1
Genealogical DNA Testing

  • Three basic types of DNA tests for genealogy

    • Y-DNA: Passed from father to son

      • Looks at your direct paternal line

      • Can only be taken by males (only males have a Y)

    • mtDNA: Passed from mother to all her children

      • Looks at your direct maternal line

      • Can be taken by anyone

    • Autosomal DNA: Present in all of us

      • Looks at all your non-sex DNA (22 pairs)

      • Can estimate your ethnicity

      • Can match you with possible cousins who share DNA

Genealogical dna testing2
Genealogical DNA Testing

  • I have taken a Y-DNA test and an Autosomal DNA test

    • Y-DNA test confirmed Cohen heritage and provided matches to other males with matching Y-DNA

    • Autosomal DNA test provided an ethnicity breakdown and matches to both male and female “cousins” who share my autosomal DNA

    • More About Autosomal DNA

My ethnicity
My Ethnicity

  • My ethnicity breakdown:

    • European Jewish

      • Poland, Ukraine, Romania

    • Persian/Turkish/Caucasus

      • Iran, Turkey, Armenia

    • Central European

      • Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Czech Republic

    • Finnish/Volga-Ural

      • Russia, Finland

    • Uncertain

      • Alien (according to my wife)

My cousin matches
My Cousin Matches

  • Matches could go back hundreds and even thousands of years

  • Degree of cousin relationship is predicted by the amount of DNA shared with others

  • I currently have around 4,800 cousin matches!

  • I concentrate on close matches with shared surnames

  • Was able to confirm a connection to a distant cousin who I found via research

Third party dna sites
Third Party DNA Sites

  • Take your DNA “Raw Data” and upload it to other sites

  • – compare your results with people who have tested with other companies

    • More results = more possible cousin matches

  • – provides a report on your genetic attributes

    • Propensity to diseases, eye color, hair type & color, reaction to medications, etc.

In conclusion
In Conclusion…

  • There are many, many sources of genealogy information – I have only gone over a small percentage of what is out there

  • Try not to get too overwhelmed!

  • Ask for help (internet message boards, Jewish Genealogical Society, your local library)

  • Like most hobbies, it can get costly, but you determine how much money you want to spend

In conclusion1
In Conclusion…

  • I provide research services through my company, Suncoast Genealogy Services

  • Feel free to visit my website to learn more about the services I provide

  • You will also find a copy of this presentation

  • If you would like to use my services, I will donate 10% of my fees to the Yachad and Lyla chapters of Hadassah