Although the term Ashkenaz originally referred to a place now in Germany, it is broadly used these days to refer to all European Jews. This guide is intended as an aid to researchers who are searching for Ashkenazic Jewish ancestors from Eastern Europe who immigrated to the United States primarily between 1880 and 1924.
Researchers face many difficulties when trying to identify their Ashkenazic ancestors. Since the majority of Ashkenazic immigrants likely changed either their given name or their surname after arriving in the United States, locating them in record sources—for example, in immigration records—is particularly challenging. Pinpointing an Ashkenazic ancestor’s hometown is likewise a challenge, since over time some Eastern European countries ceased to exist, had lands ceded to other countries or encountered border changes, or had town names that were known by different names in different languages. In addition, Jewish immigrants were often inconsistent when recording their ages or dates of birth, in part because of the difference between the Jewish lunar calendar and the Julian and Gregorian solar calendars.
This guide first tackles the various difficulties you’ll face when researching your Ashkenazic Jewish ancestors and then offers concrete advice on how to overcome these difficulties. In just four, laminated pages, you’ll find everything you need to know to get your research started—the most helpful databases and reference works, as well as the major record sources, repositories, and online resources. Identifying Ashkenazic immigrants is challenging, but with this Genealogy at a Glance guide at your side, the task will become much easier.