International Association of Jewish Ge-Nealogical Societies

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The International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (iajgs) is an independent non-profit umbrella organization coordinating activities for more than 80 Jewish genealogical societies spanning six continents. The iajgs was formed in the late 1980s as a result of the growing interest in Jewish genealogy and the local groups that grew up as a result. The first president was Gary Mokotoff, a pioneer in Jewish genealogy, who led the iajgs for the first few years.

Thirty years ago, genealogy was typically described as a hobby for retired people who trudged from archive to archive and few Jews at that time were among them. Then a series of events occurred, beginning with Alex Haley's Roots that mesmerized television audiences night after night. The thought of tracing one's ancestors back to the old country struck a chord in literally millions of people, whether it was back to Africa or the shtetls of Eastern Europe. In 1977, the first Jewish genealogy society was founded in New York and the number of societies worldwide has continued to grow. These societies have motivated and guided thousands of Jews through lectures, seminars, and publications. The iajgs has sponsored or co-sponsored international seminars held in cities throughout the United States, Canada, England, France and Israel.

The iajgs promotes membership in local societies, acts as a spokesperson for the societies in areas of mutual interest, and provides new member societies with services to help in their development and growth. The iajgs also provides monetary awards for special projects and presents achievement awards recognizing excellence in various aspects of Jewish genealogy during the annual international conferences. Various committees of the iajgs address important issues such as Public Records Access (both in the United States and worldwide), fundraising activities for the member societies, and The International Jewish Cemetery Project to document Jewish burial sites throughout the world. Thus far it has identified over 22,000 cemeteries. The iajgs project identifies only cemeteries and burial sites. It is not an index of individual names and graves.

Among the recent projects of the iajgs are (1) achieving agreement with the Family History Library to remove thousands of names of Jewish Holocaust victims that had been inappropriately included in the International Genealogical Index and (2) gathering and making available data to support the research of Jewish genealogists, including the Family Tree of the Jewish People; various Jewish records at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah; and cemetery and burial information.

The Internet, along with the increasing number of computerized databases (Ellis Island, Yad Vashem, and others) has made it much easier for Jews worldwide to look for their roots and to discover previously unknown relatives.

Hidden within the files of archives and libraries throughout the world are old pieces of paper testifying to the lives of our families. When the family historian discovers one of these documents, an aging piece of paper is transformed into a profound connection between past and future. What was once a hobby for mostly amateurs is now a vocation for a growing number of professional researchers, producing scholarly publications that have become the authoritative word on a particular subject, welcomed and treasured by archivists, librarians, and genealogists.

The iajgs is an active participant in coordinating the activities of organized genealogy and continues to expand its list of accomplishments through its joint projects with various organizations and institutions worldwide.

Selected Websites:

united states

Avotaynu, Inc.,

Center for Jewish History, New York, ny,

Ellis Island Foundation,

Genealogy Institute,

Family History Library,

Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society,

International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies,

JewishGen, Inc.,

Leo Baeck Institute, New York,

Routes to Roots Foundation, Inc.,

U.S. Holocaust Museum and Archives in Washington, D.C.,

United States National Archives – The Genealogy page,

yivo Institute for Jewish Research,


Central Archive for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem,

Hebrew University, The Jewish History Resource Center,

Jewish National Library,

Yad Vashem,


Jewish Historical Institute,


E.M. Guzik (ed.), Genealogical Resources in the New York Metropolitan Area (1989, rev. 2003); A. Kurzweil, From Generation to Generation (1981; rev. 2004); A. Kurzweil and M. Weiner, The Encyclopedia of Jewish Genealogy, vol. 1 (1991, 1996); G. Mokotoff and S.A. Sack, Where Once We Walked (1991; rev. 2002); N. Rosenstein, The Unbroken Chain: Biographical Sketches and Genealogy of Illustrious Jewish Families from the 15th–20th Century (1990 rev. ed.); S.A. Sack and G. Mokotoff (eds.), Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy (2004); M.H. Stern, First American Jewish Families: 600 Genealogies, 16541988 (1991, updates 1978 ed.); M. Weiner, Jewish Roots in Poland: Pages from the Past and Archival Inventories (1997); idem, Jewish Roots in Ukraine and Moldova: Pages from the Past and Archival Inventories (1999). Periodical: Avotaynu: The International Review of Jewish Genealogy (published quarterly).

[Miriam Weiner (2nd ed.)]

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International Association of Jewish Ge-Nealogical Societies

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International Association of Jewish Ge-Nealogical Societies