Article Library / Annual Assessment

2013-2014 Annual Assessment

With regard to conventional genealogical research, there are several free online databases dedicated specifically to Jewish genealogical research. JewishGen.org, which is affiliated with the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, features thousands of free easy to use databases consisting of over 20 million Jewish historical records, such as burial registries, yizkor book entries, and various pieces of data collected within Jewish communities during the 19th century by state and local officials.22 JewishGen.org acts as a hub connecting genealogists researching Jewish families and towns, enabling the sharing of research and exchange of information. It is also part of the Family Tree of the Jewish People project which aims “to provide a powerful resource to connect individuals researching the same Jewish family branches, to re-connect their families, and to increase interest in Jewish genealogy.”23 It is in partnership with the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS), and Beit Hatefutsoth (Museum of the Diaspora) in Tel Aviv and it consists of more than 5 million names.24

The World Zionist Organization maintains the Central Zionist Archive, the official archive of the Zionist movement. It contains millions of documents and records, many of which have been digitized and made accessible through a searchable online database. Over the past decade the Archive decided to engage in the field of genealogy, offering a research service to consumers interested in their family history as well as hosting a course in genealogical research in their office in Jerusalem.25 The Government of Israel also maintains a State archive, which has some electronic records accessible through their Hebrew webpage. Yad Vashem has led an international effort to create a database of victims of the Shoah. To date, the database, accessible online, contains biographical information on 4 million victims.26

Recently, there has been a bridging between Jewish genealogical websites and DNA testing. Both Beit Hatefutsoth and Jewishgen.org, for example, advertise DNA testing for Jewish genealogical purposes by Family Tree DNA.

While genealogical DNA tests are not yet changing the Jewish community as a whole in any major way, they are becoming popular enough on an individual level to suffice exploring what the test results show, what the results mean, and what the policy implications are.

Previous
Next