Introducing Shul Records America

Shul Records America will launch with a new interface during a JewishGen Talks webinar on November 2, 2022!

This material is protected by copyright and may not be reproduced or published elsewhere without permission. It is a work-in-progress and corrections and additions will be made.

Shul Records America is a new finding aid, a list of over 600 lists that direct you to American synagogue records housed in over 50 repositories or websites around the country.

What are synagogue records, where are they, and how to access them?

  • Synagogue records can contain a broad variety of materials including some that are of more value to community historians than family historians, but the real gems include birth, marriage, and death registers, mohel/circumcision lists, ketubot, burial maps, and yahrzeit memorial plaques.

  • Additionally, there are other types of synagogue materials held in archives that may be helpful such as membership lists, congregational bulletins, board meeting minutes, donor lists, bar or bat mitzvot lists, photographs, and more.

  • Until now, you could research the name of a congregation, rabbi, or mohel by searching on WorldCat, ArchiveGrid, or Google and possibly find the location of material hidden away at hundreds of small historical societies, museums, or within commercial genealogy company catalogs.

  • Now, to make it easier and in one place, we've partnered with the American Jewish Archives, the Center for Jewish History, Yeshiva University, and The Jewish Theological Seminary to start the search for you with a Shul Records America finding aid that points you in the right direction to get started. We've also added hidden online gems from FamilySearch and elsewhere.

  • The reality is that the archival world does not catalog all collections with the same terminology or use the same transcriptions from foreign languages, so when searching on Google or WorldCat with a phrase such as "synagogue records" a collection that is simply catalogued as a "congregation register" or "rabbinical papers" may not point you to where records are housed. There are also many errors in catalogs and the only way to verify contents is to see the records in person or by digitizing them.

WE NEED YOU! The goals of Shul Records America are:

  1. To identify where American synagogue records are located both online and offline, and grow this finding aid.

  2. Inspire individuals, Jewish Genealogy Societies, and congregations to create indexing projects from these records for placement on JewishGen.

  3. Motivate active congregations to collect and share their records.

If you find a congregation you are interested in or located near you, might you initiate getting copies of the records from the repository and then creating an index to the names to add to the JewishGen USA Database?

Please note that JewishGen has been encouraging congregations to add yahrzeit plaque data to the JewishGen Memorial Plaques Indexing Project and burials to the JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR). As such, some of the yahrzeit and burial type records found listed in Shul Records America are already indexed, but many are not.

DETAILS:

  • As for languages, most are in English, but there are also Hebrew, German, and Yiddish collections.

  • Most of the collections listed here are not digitized. When they are, there is a hyperlink in the last column. These are the easiest projects to tackle indexing first.

  • Some collections are duplicated and housed in more than one repository.

  • Others are split up with portions of records in more than one place.

  • If you find errors, which we know there will be, please contact us with corrections to keep this list as useful to everyone as possible.

  • And if you know of synagogue records housed in repositories not included here yet, please tell us so we can add them.


Repositories included to date are as follows but check back as others are being added:

AJHSQ;

AL Dept Archives & History;

American Jewish Archives;

American Jewish Historical Society;

American Sephardi Federation;

Ancestry.com;

Book;

Brandeis;

College of Charleston;

College of William and Mary;

Cong. Shearith Israel;

FamilySearch;

GA Historical Society;

Georgia Archives;

Jewish Archives of Greater Buffalo;

Jewish Atlantic World;

Jewish Theological Seminary;

JewishGen USA Database;

Memphis Public Libraries;

New York Historical Society;

NY Public Library;

NY State Historical Docs;

Phil. Cong Early Records Project;

Stanford University;

Tulane University;

UC Berkeley;

UNC Asheville;

Univ of LA @ Lafayette;

University of Denver;

University of Notre Dame;

University of Pittsburgh;

Wayne State University;

Western Reserve Historical Society;

Wisconsin Society Historical Archives;

Worcester Historical Museum;

Yeshiva University;

YIVO


Shul Records America has been compiled by Ellen Kowitt, Director, JewishGen USA Research Division.
This material is protected by copyright and may not be reproduced or published elsewhere without permission. It is a work-in-progress and corrections and additions will be made.