Family History

Family History Collections

The Center for Jewish History Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute's web site offers suggestions to help you with your family history research. The Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute serves the partners of the Center for Jewish History: the American Jewish Historical Society, the American Sephardi Federation, the Leo Baeck Institute, the Yeshiva University Museum, and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research by responding to questions about family history research. Research Guides are provided to help you start your Family History search. There is also a complete list of the holdings of the reference collection, as well as FAQs that explain how to do genealogical research at the Center. For further questions, please contact the Genealogy Institute directly at cgi@cjh.org or visit their website.

Ziff Family Genealogy Website

Center for Jewish History Genealogy Institute

  • Suggests strategies for beginning a family history research project
  • Maintains a collection of genealogical reference works open to the public
  • Refers family history researchers to genealogically relevant collections of the Center for Jewish History partners
  • Offers public programs on family history research

The American Jewish Historical Society's holdings include a significant number of archival collections with information useful for family history researchers. Some have databases that are searchable by last name.

Orphanage records:

Records in these collections include admission and discharge ledgers.

  • Hebrew Orphan Asylum of the City of NY, Records, undated, 1855-1985 -- See Searchable Database at the Center for Jewish History Website.
  • Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum, Records, 1878-1969 -- See Searchable Database at the Center for Jewish History Website.
  • Hebrew Sheltering Guardian Society (NY, NY), Records, undated, 1879-1979
  • Hebrew Infant Asylum of the City of New York, Records, 1895-1934

Please note that orphanage records are restricted for 70 years due to privacy laws.

Immigrant aid organizations:

  • Jewish Immigrant Information Bureau (Galveston, Tex.), Galveston Immigration Plan Records, undated, 1901-1920
    JIIB was the branch of the Industrial Removal Office responsible for receiving immigrants in Galveston and relocating them in communities across the U.S. Between 1907-1914, 10,000 immigrants traveled through Galveston. Records in the collection include ship passenger lists and correspondence about specific immigrants. See Finding Aid and Searchable Database at the Center for Jewish History Website.
  • Industrial Removal Office, Records, n.d., 1899-1922
    The IRO, largely funded by the Baron de Hirsch Fund, aided immigrants in moving from eastern cities to less populated areas in the U.S. Records include lists of people departing from New York City, records of resettlement, and detailed correspondence about individual immigrants. See Finding Aid and Searchable Database at the Center for Jewish History Website.
  • Baron de Hirsch Fund, Records, 1870-1991
    The agency funded many immigrant assistance programs and provided grants and training in agriculture and the trades. The collection is comprised of six different parts: administration of the Fund, information about Jewish farming colonies, the Jewish Agricultural Society, Woodbine Colony (an agricultural colony), the Woodbine Agricultural School, and the Baron de Hirsch Trade School. Records include loan applications, student records and ledgers, aid applications, lists of farmers, records of property holders and companies at the Colony, and class photographs. See Finding Aid at the Center for Jewish History Website. See also the database for the Baron de Hirsch Trade School - Pupils’ Record Books

    This particular genealogy database records students who attended classes 7 through 66 at the Baron de Hirsch Trade School from 1897-1928. The information is taken directly from Pupil Record Books used for admission purposes to the school.
  • Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (Boston, Mass.), Records, 1870-1977
    Records include data cards with arrival information and individual case files.

Military records:

  • American Jewish Committee, Office of War Records, 1918-1921
    These records include questionnaires filled out by WWI soldiers detailing their military careers and other biographical information. Electronic name indices exist for this collection. See Finding Aid and Searchable Database at the Center for Jewish History Website.
  • National Jewish Welfare Board, Bureau of War Records, 1940-1969
    Records include thousands of data cards on individual soldiers. The collection contains name cards and geographic cards for most who served, except that in big cities, such as NY, Boston and Los Angeles, a sampling technique was used and there is not a card for every person who served. The case files are only for casualties and awards: wounded, killed, prisoners, and those who received honors and awards. Ancestry.com has a searchable database to this collection that is freely available on site at the Center’s Reading Room or through personal subscription.
  • National Jewish Welfare Board, Military chaplaincy records, undated, 1917-1984
    Records include biographical questionnaires completed by chaplains.
  • Sheftall Papers WPA Index of Names–American Revolution
    The Mordecai Sheftall Papers WPA Index of Names - American Revolution contains names found within the American Revolution-era papers of Mordecai Sheftall. This family history database transcribes Part II of the Works Progress Administration Guide (pages 150-259), Analytical Indexes to the Sheftall Papers and may be viewed here (see pages 150-259), and searched here. The index contains very helpful lists of personal names appearing within the indexed portion of the collection. The Persons Index lists persons mentioned in the Sheftall Papers as well as codes linking them to bibliographic sources of American Revolution soldier and participant rolls. According to the introduction to this section, "This alphabetical list contains all of the names, with their variants, found in the Sheftall papers; those in capital letters will be found in the transcriptions and abstracts in Part I of this book." Please note that this database only lists those selected provision returns transcribed in the WPA guide. You may find additional documents on access.cjh.org.

Court records:

  • Mayor's Court (New York, NY) Selected Briefs, 1674-1860
    Copies of ca. 500 Declarations of Intent to Become a Citizen.
  • New York (County) Hall of Records, Selected Insolvent Debtors Cases, ca. 1787-1861
  • New York (County) Hall of Records, Selected Incorporation Papers, 1848-1920
    Consists of legal filings made by Jewish-related, not-for-profit organizations incorporated in New York County, including fraternal societies, political clubs, professional associations, synagogues, landsmanshaftn, benevolent organizations, social clubs, burial societies, charities and neighborhood facilities. The filings are very similar to modern corporate filings and include original certificates of incorporation, consolidation or change of corporate name. Each certificate of incorporation is approximately 3-5 pages and generally includes the name of the organization, the purposes or objectives for which it was formed, the principal office or territory of principal operation, the names and addresses of the initial directors or trustees or officers, and the names of the incorporators. The Jewish Genealogical Society has a helpful guide to the AJHS landsmanshaftn records that can be accessed at their site.

Other collections:

  • Personal Papers: Family collections with genealogies and the papers of rabbis that include ritual records and mohel books.
  • Synagogue collections: Records of selected synagogues from large and medium-sized cities.
  • Association for Free Distribution of Matsot to the Poor records (I-106), List of 665 individuals and institutions requesting matsot for Passover in April 1857 on the Lower East Side.