Saturday, September 12, 2015

Finding Eastern European Records, Part 4 ( and

I've often been asked how I find so many documents from various parts of Eastern Europe--many of which have appeared in blog posts.  This is the fourth in a series of posts describing how to find Eastern European records for your own ancestors.  While these posts will generally concentrate on how to find Jewish records in Eastern Europe, many of the strategies will also be applicable to records for other religions.  (Note that in the Russian Empire, most record sets were recorded separately by religion.)  The entire series can be seen here. has a small but growing number of Eastern European data sets available.  In addition, since many Eastern European Jews spent time in Western Europe while in transit to America, often family members will appear in surprising places, so wider queries are recommended.

FamilySearch is free to use, although some of the documents it references are only available through other (paid) sites.
Hungarian Jewish Vital Records on FamilySearch; this is a joint effort with JewishGen's H-SIG

In addition to Jewish-specific records such as those covering parts of Hungary and Austria, FamilySearch also has put up many civil registration records which include Jewish registrations.
Hungarian Civil Registration on FamilySearch
The complete--and constantly being updated--list of all record collections available on FamilySearch is available here.  Clicking "Last Updated" will list the most recent additions first.

As mentioned above, a wider geographic search--particularly for less-common names--may reveal relatives in surprising locations.
Antwerp, Belgium Police Registration, Louis Marienhoff,
As seen in the above document (found on FamilySearch), Louis Marienhoff, who had been born in Goldingen, Courland (now Kuldīga, Latvia) in 1853 was living in Antwerp with his wife and children.  The document includes the names, birthdates and birthplaces of his parents, wife and children--all of whom had been born in various parts of the Russian Empire.

While is much stronger in its American and Western European records, thanks to a 2008 agreement, many of JewishGen's records are searchable via  Ancestry has a much more powerful and accurate (in my experience) search capability, so sometimes searching for JewishGen records on Ancestry finds records more easily than on JewishGen proper. is a subscription-based site; however, many of the JewishGen-associated records are searchable with a free guest account; in addition, many local libraries give free access to Ancestry on their computers.

Ancestry's Jewish Collection includes those JewishGen records as well as other Jewish-specific records.

Ancestry is also adding new records on a regular basis.  The latest documents available can be seen here; be sure that "All countries" is chosen on top so as not to constrain the list to United States or United Kingdom records.

Up next: Locating records in European Archives

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