The JewishGen USA Research Division (USA-RD) was launched in 2020 to highlight Jewish record collections about Jews in America 1654-present.
Central to the new USA-RD is the USA Database, with searchable material created by volunteers. The database currently includes Jewish newspaper surname indexes from Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Ohio, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Texas; synagogue and rabbinical lists from Illinois and Massachusetts; and various miscellaneous collections, including tuberculosis patient application records of the Jewish Consumptives Relief Society in Denver, bank passage order records from Philadelphia, HIAS Boston arrivals, and Feldman Mortuary record books. Other interesting datasets detail Jewish Civil War veterans, American Jewish Yearbook obituaries, Jewish names in U.S. State Department files, and emergency U.S. passport applications.
A recent addition to the database is a searchable index of surnames found in the Yiddish version of the Forward newspaper column, “A Gallery of Missing Husbands 1908–1914.” Results include a link to digitized images from The National Library of Israel’s Historic Jewish Press Collection.
Another recent addition is an index to over 1000 surnames found in the Atlanta-based Breman Museum Oral Histories.
A primary objective is to expand the U.S. collection. Jewish genealogy societies and individuals are encouraged to identify new projects and create surname indexes to materials such as:
• Synagogue or rabbinical collections documenting Jewish lifecycle events that occurred in the U.S., including birth, circumcision, ritual naming, bar or bat mitzvah, marriage, divorce, death, and burial.
• Materials originating from repositories with a primary Jewish American focus such as the American Jewish Archives, Jewish historical societies, university Judaic studies collections, and elsewhere.
• Jewish newspapers published in the United States in any language.
• Unique Jewish institutional collections such as those for hospitals, mortuaries, immigrant banks, orphanages, and other establishments.
Holocaust-era materials are typically not sought by the USA Research Division, although there are exceptions such as oral histories. General civil or public government materials also are not included and are more suitably housed on commercial websites or elsewhere.
Additional JewishGen resources useful for researching Jewish families in the United States include the JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) the Memorial Plaques Indexing Project, and KehilaLinks.
The Memorial Plaques Indexing Project, a database of names and additional information from synagogue yahrzeit plaques and other memorial records worldwide currently holds 193,485 records with 132,590 photographs from 275 U.S. synagogues.
KehilaLinks are online memorials that provide resources about places where Jews have lived. Anyone with an interest in a particular state, city, town, or Jewish group can create a web page about that community. Currently, websites represent Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin incorporating Jewish community histories and local resources for cities and towns that are both extinct and thriving. There are also Jewish agricultural settlement sites about Cotopaxi, Colorado; Farming Communities of New Jersey; and the New England Hebrew Farmers of the Emanuel Society in Chesterfield, Connecticut.
In the future, volunteers might want to create a KehilaLinks website for such American Jewish communities as the Catskills or Borscht Belt, Jewish Hollywood, or Jewish mob connections from Las Vegas, Atlantic City, or Chicago.
Last updated 6/4/2021.