For example, if one finds the record for a “David Shapiro, son of Hirsh,” born in 1905 and then pulls out a list of five Hirsh Shapiros born in the same shtetl between 1870-1885, the one who is “Hirsh, son of David,” is the most likely to be the original David’s father. While this technique can’t prove connections on its own, it can be helpful in identifying where to look for other clues.
Another helpful tip: to find women’s maiden names, search marriage records. Often, marriage records recorded not only the bride’s full unmarried name but also her father’s – and sometimes her grandfather’s – name as well.
Some of the nineteenth century census records (often referred to as “revision lists”) record all the individuals within a household, including married women, but these are often listed only under their married names. However, these records also usually include the names of every individual’s father. This means that cross-referencing these names against marriage records can help fill in blanks when a woman’s maiden name has been left out.
Discovering an ancestor’s siblings can often be just as important to building a tree as uncovering the names of his or her parents, as these can serve as markers for identifying the family in other documents. If one has found that ancestor “David Shapiro, son of Hirsh,” had a brother named Avram, sometimes searching for an “Avram Shapiro, son of Hirsh” can bring up a family record that includes other relevant information, such as the name of an as-yet-unknown grandparent. Moreover, siblings often sponsored each other to come to the United States. Knowing where an ancestor’s sibling arrived from in Europe almost always reveals where the ancestor grew up as well.
Jewish genealogy at times can be a frustrating pursuit, and many researchers will find that extending knowledge of their family trees isn’t always successful. But with all the resources now available free and online, there is far more to be discovered than many people even believe possible. It’s time to shatter the myth that all this information has been lost to history. With these three sites and these introductory tips, it’s easy to get started on a genealogy project, which can be a fun activity for families to work on together across generations.