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 How to Get Started

About Genealogy and Jewish Genealogy

Genealogy (from Greek: genea, "generation"; and logos, "knowledge") is the study of families and the tracing of their lineages and history. Genealogists use oral traditions, historical records, genetic analysis, and other records to obtain information about a family and to demonstrate kinship or pedigrees of its members. The results are often displayed in charts or written as narratives. Some scholars differentiate between genealogy and family history, limiting genealogy to an account of kinship, while using "family history" to denote the provision of additional details about lives and historical context. Clicking on each item takes you to its description lower on this page.

How to Begin Your Jewish Genealogy Research Project & Following the Paper Trail

    1. Write down as much as you can about your family's history.

    2. Ask the eldest members of your extended family to help fill in the blanks. Consider video recording an interview with your family member(s).

    3. Ask family members for copies of all photos and documents pertaining to vital life events, immigration, naturalization, and education, military participation, deeds, wills, etc. These materials are filed at the local, state, and federal level and not divided by religion in the United States. They Include:
    • All name and spelling variations: Hebrew name, maiden name, nicknames
    • Every place they ever lived
    • Birth: list date, places, locations. Obtain copy of birth certificate
    • Marriage: list dates, place, locations. Obtain copy of marriage application and/or marriage certificate
    • Death: list date, place, hospital, cause of death. Obtain copy of death certificate
    • Any information about when they immigrated to America
    • Obtain ship’s manifest, ship’s name, date, port of departure and port of entry. Any information about what town or country they came from.
    • What was their occupation or livelihood?
    • Were they a member of a landsmanshaften, Jewish fraternal organization, or organized trade group?
    • What languages did they speak? Write?
    • Were they literate? Educated?
    • Did they have any significant medical conditions?
      4. Join the JGSCO for $30 per individual or $40 per household. Lifetime and out of state memberships are also available.

      5. Attend a Jewish Genealogical Society of Colorado (JGSCO) meeting. You can check this website for upcoming events.

      6. Consider getting a DNA Test: Because a person's DNA contains information that has been passed down relatively unchanged from early ancestors, analysis of DNA can be used for genealogical research. A genealogical DNA test allows two individuals to find the probability that they are, or are not, related within an estimated number of generations. Individual genetic test results are collected in databases to match people descended from a relatively recent common ancestor. There are three types of DNA tests:
      • Autosomal DNA that we all possess where linked blocks of DNA across the 22 autosomal chromosomes are matched between two people and you can discover connections to descendants of all sixteen of your great-great-grandparents.
      • Mitochondrial DNA that we all possess and is passed down with only minor mutations through the mother.
      • Y-chromosome, present only in males, which is passed down with only minor mutations through the father.

      A genealogical DNA test allows two individuals to find the probability that they are, or are not, related within an estimated number of generations.

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      Explore Genealogical Resources Online

      1. Explore genealogical resources online, such as:
      2. Find a researcher. Resources include, but are not limited to; 
      3. Translate genealogy records. Resources include, but are not limited to:

      Jewish Genealogy

      • The words for generation in Hebrew are dorot or toldot; toldot is primarily used to document the male descendants. 
      • Avotaynu in Hebrew means our fathers or our ancestors. Families in Yiddish are mishpacha.
      • The Torah is full of references to family relationships including whom begat whom and the recording of the Table of Nations.
      • In the first temple in Jerusalem, there was a room designated for the storage of genealogies.
      • These examples demonstrate the importance Judaism has placed on genealogy.
      • Unique documents exist for tracing Jewish family history including the ketubah, which is a Jewish marriage contract listing the bride and groom’s parent names and the location of the wedding in relation to the nearest intersection of two bodies of water.
      • Unique Jewish naming patterns provide clues to ancestry.
      • Unique customs can help place the date and place of lifecycle events.

      The Jewish people have lived throughout the world, and as a result, not only are Jewish languages such as Hebrew, Yiddish, and Ladino used to record events within the Jewish community, but many local administrators recorded the lives of Jews in languages such as Russian, Polish, German, and Spanish.

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      JOIN us

      The Jewish Genealogical Society (JGS) of Colorado is a leader in education, research, information exchange forums, and resources for Jewish genealogy.

      Mailing Address

      Jewish Genealogical Society of Colorado
      P.O. Box 460442
      Denver, Colorado 80246


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      JGSCO is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.