views updated May 23 2018


In the Bible

Genealogical lists in the Bible are of two main types:

(1) those which are simply lists of historical, ethnographic, and even legendary traditions, and which constitute most of the lists in Genesis that are called "generations" or "books of generations" (Gen. 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; et al.);

(2) those which are tribal genealogies or lists reflecting clan traditions, the census lists in Numbers, and the genealogical accounts in Chronicles.

A third type consists of detailed lists giving the genealogical background of individual families, usually where that family played an important historical role, such as in the case of the house of David (i Chron. 2:10–15; 3:1–24), the house of Zadok (i Chron. 5:28–41; et al.), and the house of Saul (i Chron. 8:33ff.; et al.). Sometimes, less important families (i Chron. 2:31–41; 5:14; et al.), and also individuals (ii Kings 22:3; Jer. 36:14), are represented in the same way as in the third type of list. The Bible does not distinguish these different types from each other, and the historico-ethnographic and tribal genealogies are all based on the view (common also among the Arabs) that nations, tribes, and clans all develop in the same way: every human grouping is descended from a single father. Nor is it always easy to classify a genealogy as belonging to one or another type.

It is not known when the tradition of recording genealogies became established in Israel, but it is undoubtedly an ancient one, as only by proving connection with some family or clan could an individual claim the privileges of citizen status. The important role of the genealogy is indicative of a society based on a tribal, patriarchal tradition. Consequently, certain family groups or individuals from among the local population or from closely related tribes, who joined the Israelites during the period of the Conquest or in the early monarchy, were included in the genealogical framework of the tribe as one way of truly incorporating them into the community. In like manner artisans, wise men, and poets, whose profession was customarily hereditary, were generally linked with some ancient ancestor (cf. i Chron. 2:55; 4:21, 23), and

whoever joined such a group was as a matter of course attached to it genealogically even though he did not actually stem from its line.

Such written lists were definitely family and clan genealogies and not those of individuals; in part they were composed for official purposes, such as for a national census, military service, or the levying of taxes. Genealogical lists in Israel are known from the time of the First Temple, from what is related in Ezra 2:62 of priestly families who on returning to Zion sought proof of their pedigree but could not find it. Nehemiah (7:5) also mentions the "book of the genealogy of those who came up at first." It seems that the institution of genealogical lists is the background of certain figurative expressions in the Bible (cf. Ex. 32:32; Ezek. 13:9; Ps. 139:16; et al.). Apparently genealogies of individual families were based on oral traditions passed down among the families concerned, or even on national traditions. Some think that the list of Aaron's priestly descendants (i Chron. 5–6) goes back to a text in which many generations were missing, and that the editors filled some of the gaps by repeating some of the names.

In the period of the return to Zion the question of genealogy acquired a special significance. Of primary importance was the lineage of the priests and the levites, for without proving their priestly descent they could not qualify for service in the Temple; but the other returning families were no less keen to prove their descent in order to claim family property. Consequently, a special interest developed in the ancient genealogical lists, some of which are reproduced in the opening chapters of Chronicles and presumably were written toward the end of the Persian period. Similarly, in the short historical stories of Esther, Judith, and Tobit, also written at the end of the Persian period, the lineage of the main hero of the story is given in detail, e.g., those of Mordecai (Esth. 2:5; cf. i Sam. 9:1), Tobit (1:1; cf. Gen. 46:24), and Judith (8:1; cf. Num. 1:6). It is hard to suppose that these are authentic genealogies, yet each of these books claims to relate an event that happened long before the time of composition.

In the genealogical lists, particularly those of i Chronicles, there are three main elements which are usually combined. One represents the relationship of clans through lines of descent from father to son; another sees it in the names of settlements (usually so-and-so, the "father" of the settlement); and a third, in the names of families (e.g., the Tirathites (i Chron. 2:55)). The line of Caleb's descendants (i Chron. 2:42–49) illustrates the mixture.

Various scholars have sought to find in the genealogical schemes of the Bible a conventional way of handing down ethnographic records and information concerning regional history and the pattern of settlement of local clans and families. These scholars have even attempted to establish rules to interpret the various genealogical schemes. Thus, the fusing of two ethnic groups or tribes can be expressed by an account of a marriage; and the integration of a newly settled tribe in the indigenous population can be indicated by the head of the tribe marrying one of the native women, or taking one as a concubine. Daughters generally represent settlements subject to a larger urban center, and sons naturally represent the strongest and oldest of these. Individuals from outside the "family" circle who appear in a genealogy usually symbolize weak families who joined a stronger tribe and so on.

Though such rules cannot provide the sole interpretation of the genealogical lists, they are an aid to the unraveling of the complicated process of Israelite settlement. One, of course, must bear in mind that several of the stories and traditions concerned derive from a combination of schematic descriptions, as regards the historic reality, together with legends and folktales.

It frequently happens that a given name – of a nation, tribe, or family – occurs in different genealogical contexts, or even in a compound list, once as father, once as son, uncle, or brother. For example, Aram is listed in Genesis 10:23 as the father of Uz, whereas in Genesis 22:20–21 Uz is a son of Nahor and an uncle of Aram. In Genesis 36:5, 14 Korah is a son of Esau, but in Genesis 36:16 the clan of Korah is descended from Esau's son Eliphaz. In i Chronicles 2:9 Ram is a son of Hezron and brother of Jerahmeel, yet in the same chapter, verse 27, Ram is the eldest son of Jerahmeel. Sometimes one name can be included in several genealogical lists in association with different ethnic or tribal units. For instance, Zerah, Korah, and Kenaz, who are included in the Edomite list in Genesis 36, are also found on the list of families in the tribe of Judah in i Chronicles 2 and 4; Beriah appears as one of the sons of Ephraim (i Chron. 7:23), and also as one of the sons of Asher (Gen. 46:17); and Hezron is listed as the son of Reuben (Gen. 46:9), and also as one of the sons of Perez son of Judah (Gen. 46:12). At times it may seem plausible that two entirely separate ethnic groups bore the same name, but generally such duplication is caused by uncertainty concerning genealogical attribution or the existence of parallel traditions. These may have had various causes; sometimes they reflect changes in historical circumstances – the power relations between tribes, families and clans; the migration of several tribes or clans from one region to another; or a mingling of various ethnic elements.

The editors of the genealogical lists in the Bible, particularly those of i Chronicles, were confronted with conflicting lists and traditions, often mutually contradictory. The combination of the various lists, without altering their different, individual character, was possible because the editors of the comprehensive lists regarded them as genealogies of individuals, the progenitors of families and tribes. Thus, the repeated recurrence of the same name provided no difficulty. They did not regard such recurrences as conflicting data concerning families and clans, but merely as showing that the same name kept recurring among individuals related to one another.

[Jacob Liver]

In the Second Temple Period

Purity of descent played an important role in the Second Temple period. It concerned mainly the kohanim ("priests") and those Israelite families who laid claim to the eligibility of their daughters to marry kohanim. Other families, who had no record of their descent but on the other hand were not suspected of impure lineage, were referred to as issah ("dough"). The kohanim, in order to preserve their pure status, were restricted to marital ties with families whose purity of descent was not in doubt, and were therefore required to know in detail their own genealogy and that of the families whose daughters they married. Families laying claim to purity of blood kept ancestral lists, which served as evidence of their seniority and legitimacy, for the very possession of such lists enhanced their standing. For the kohanim, a general genealogical list was maintained in the Temple, which recorded genealogical information on all priestly families; even the kohanim who lived in the Diaspora provided this genealogical center in Jerusalem with full details of their marriages (cf. Jos., Apion, 1:7).

A priestly tribunal, which convened in a special room in the Temple, was responsible for the upkeep of the genealogical lists and the verification of genealogical data. They functioned in accordance with established rules, and also based their findings on the evidence of witnesses and genealogical documents. One such rule followed in the Second Temple period was that families who traditionally performed certain functions were beyond suspicion and their purity of descent required no further examination: priestly families who served in the Temple "from the altar and upward" and "from the dukhan [the place from which the kohanim blessed the people] and upward," and members of the *Sanhedrin and other families who performed certain official functions (Kid. 4:4–5; Sanh. 4:2; Ar. 2:4). Other duties, such as participation in the priestly blessing or partaking in the terumah (the contribution made to kohanim), did not in themselves put the priestly family in question beyond the need for further proof. It should be pointed out that the various offices in the Temple service passed from father to son.

It is important to note that the sages did not owe their positions of leadership to their descent from prominent families. Some of the sages, it is true, were of noble lineage (such as *Judah ha-Nasi), but others came from families with no genealogical record and there were even a few who were the descendants of proselytes. In their society, the rabbi took the place of the father, and the tradition of the academies (the yeshivot) took precedence over the tradition of the family. Talmudic legends went so far as to "invent" a gentile origin for some sages, including some of the greatest (*Akiva, *Meir, and others); some sages were even said to have been descended from infamous and evil gentiles (Sisera, Sennacherib, Haman, Nero) who had repented of their ways and had become Jews. The evident purpose of such legends was to demonstrate that the acquisition of Torah learning and piety was not dependent upon noble descent.

Purity of blood did, however, play a role in the struggle for secular power among the prominent families, and even the royal houses had to resort to genealogical proofs in order to strengthen their position. Thus the *Hasmoneans, who had to defend themselves against the contention that only Davidic descendants could lay claim to kingship, in turn questioned the purity of David's blood, in view of his descent from Ruth the Moabite. *Herod, who also had to face a challenge to the legitimacy of his rule, forged for himself a pedigree going back to David, after first destroying the genealogical records maintained in the Temple (according to the third-century Christian historian Africanus). Later sources reflect the great danger inherent in any attempt to probe the purity of leading families, for the latter would not hesitate to use force against anyone casting doubt upon their pure descent (Kid. 71a). *Johanan b. Zakkai therefore decreed (apparently on the eve of the destruction of the Temple) that no rabbinical court would deal with matters concerning genealogy (Eduy. 8:3). A similar consideration led to an early rejection of Sefer Yuḥasin, which seems to have been a Midrash on Chronicles (Pes. 62b).

After the destruction of the Temple, when the kohanim lost their function, they prized even more their purity of descent, for it was the only symbol left to them of their exalted status. This emphasis on descent continued up to the end of the era of the amoraim (sixth century), in both Ereẓ Israel and Babylon. One result was that a man who wished to ensure the continued purity of his family would marry only his sister's daughter (Yev. 62b, et al.); many of the great sages followed this practice. The Damascus Sect (see Book of the Covenant of *Damascus) disapproved of it. It is doubtful whether the rabbis of the tannaitic and talmudic era had real knowledge of their own – and contemporary – genealogy. Numerous families are mentioned in the Mishnah and the Gemara, and some of these are described as being of traceable descent (Tosef., Pe'ah 4:11; Yev. 16b; Ta'an. 4:5, etc.). The list in the Mishnah Ta'anit 4:5 originates from the Persian period. Some of the genealogies ascribed to these families are undoubtedly of a legendary character, while the rest are disputed by scholars. A special problem is posed by the later genealogy of the house of David, a subject which also concerned the early Christians (Matt. 1:1–17, Luke 3:23–38).

The Mishnah (Kid. 4:1) lists ten social groups who returned from the Babylonian exile, in the order of their genealogical precedence. The first three – kohanim, levites, and Israelites – are of equal status, except that the kohanim are restricted in their choice of wives; the ḥalalim are the sons of the marriages of disqualified kohanim and are themselves disqualified from service in the Temple and marital ties with kohanim; next are gerim (converts to Judaism) who are equal to Israelites in most respects, except that they may enter certain marriages which are prohibited to an Israelite by descent; the sixth group are the ḥarurim, manumitted slaves; the seventh are the *mamzerim, i.e., bastards, the children of one of the unions prohibited on pain of death or *karet; next are the nethinim, the descendants of the Gibeonites who were circumcised at the time of Joshua and were not regarded as full Jews because their ancestors' conversion was incomplete; the ninth group are the shetukim ("the silent ones") who do not know the identity of their father; and the tenth, and lowest, group are the asufim ("foundlings") who know neither mother nor father. A chapter in the Talmud (Kid. 4) is devoted to the relationships between these groups, i.e., the rules applying to intermarriage between one group and another. Not included in the scale are gentiles and slaves; these have no genealogical status at all, and when they convert or are set free achieve their own "descent" and are legally free to marry even their closest relatives. This genealogical scale applied to marriage and honorific matters; it was not deemed relevant in respect of Torah learning and piety, and the Mishnah states clearly that "a learned bastard takes precedence over an uneducated high priest" (Hor. 3:8).

Babylonian Jewry considered that the purity of its descent was of a higher order than that of Ereẓ Israel, basing its claim on the tradition that all those whose purity was in doubt had returned to Ereẓ Israel with Ezra. In the course of time, however, Babylonian amoraim declared the population of entire areas as Jews who were not fit "to enter the assembly of God" (i.e., for marriage with other Jews; Kid. 70b). The rabbis of Ereẓ Israel made several attempts to change the existing rule which regarded Babylonian lineage as superior but failed in their attempt; this was a result of the general reluctance to take up genealogical questions prevailing in Ereẓ Israel, as well as the rising importance of Babylonian Jewry at this time (beginning of third century). Babylonian Jews continued to claim greater purity, and the Talmud (Kid. 71b) tells of an impostor who feigned a Babylonian accent to claim Babylonian descent.

This development testifies to the degeneration of the concept of genealogy which, with the destruction of the Temple ceased to have practical significance and merely became a symbol of social status. The Talmud makes frequent references to honorable families and individuals who quarreled with one another about their lineage, even stating: "When men quarrel among themselves, they quarrel over birth" (Kid. 76a). The amoraim tackled the problem from two angles: on the one hand they decided that "anyone with a family stigma stigmatizes others and never praises anyone" (according to the correct reading in der 1), and Samuel added that "he stigmatizes with his own stigma" (Kid. 70b). It is also related in this same spirit of the people of Ereẓ Israel: "When two people quarrel they see which becomes silent first and say to him 'This one is of superior birth'" (ibid. 71b); on the other hand they included within their homilies abundant praise of birth, such as "When the Holy One causes His divine Presence to rest, it is only upon Israelite families of pure birth" (Kid. 70b); "The Holy One is reluctant to uproot a name from its place in a genealogical tree" (Gen. R. 82:11; cf. tj, Suk. 5:8). The sages also protested against "anyone who takes a wife not fit (i.e., with a stigma) for him" (Kid. 70a) because he disregards the importance of birth. The sages included among their homilies sayings in the style of prophecies of comfort that God will purify Israel's genealogy in time to come. They stressed, however, that for the time being one can only act carefully and be guided by the rule that "a family once mixed up remains so" (Kid. 70b) – an important rule which they regarded as "a charity shown by God to Israel" since it is likely to abolish the obstacles of genealogical stigmas: one should not reveal the truth concerning families that have become mixed up and whose stigma has been forgotten (see also *Family).

The Talmud records the Davidic descent of the patriarchs of the Ereẓ Israel community in the talmudic era, and of the Babylonian *exilarchs. Similarly, in the post-talmudic era the exilarchs were regarded as descending from the house of David. The same claim was made about some of the geonim (such as *Hai Gaon). In the Middle Ages, Davidic lineage was claimed for some great scholars, e.g., *Rashi, and in consequence his grandsons Jacob b. Meir *Tam and *Samuel b. Meir were said to have descended from *Johanan ha-Sandlar, who in turn was regarded as being of Davidic descent.

In the Modern Period

From the 12th century onward, the term *yiḥus (birth) assumed additionally a new and positive meaning among the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe. Dynastic connection not only ensured the family concerned against any suspicion of impure birth, but also provided it with family privileges (zekhut avot) applicable in many matters. These dynastic genealogies stemmed from superiority of their pious and scholarly forefathers, the founders of the family, and its main importance was in connection with arranging marriages. Many families possessed genealogical trees – whether of substance or otherwise – which they took great pains to preserve. Some of these lists were published in order to add further luster to the family name. Many rabbis strongly criticized this custom and stressed the value of a man creating his own good name. In *Ḥasidism, descent from the *ẓaddik was endowed with special significance, rooted in the belief that the ẓaddik transmitted some of his sanctity to his descendants. With the development of dynasties of ẓaddikim the term yiḥus acquired also great formal institutional value. In 19th-century Germany the study of genealogy held an important place in Jewish public affairs, because of the aspiration to prove that the Jewish community was deeply rooted in the locality. Scientific journals dealing with this topic were founded and much scientific and archival material published.

[Israel Moses Ta-Shma]

Genealogical Research


Jewish genealogy is a popular and even scholarly pursuit in many parts of the world today. Since Judaism is not only a community of faith but a people that claims descent from common ancestry, there has always been an interest in tracing and validating descent. To this day there are Jews who trace their descent from the ancient priests (kohanim) and levites (leviim) of the biblical period and who receive special recognition as such in the synagogue service. *Sephardim are particularly scrupulous in maintaining family genealogical records in order to demonstrate that they are indeed "pure" Sephardim (sefardi tahor).

rabbinic genealogy

Because of the importance attached to Torah learning in the Jewish tradition, genealogical records of rabbis and ḥasidic leaders (rebbes) are relatively abundant and carefully recorded. Genealogical research is facilitated by the frequency with which these families intermarried.

Rabbinic genealogical information may be found in biographical works, rabbinic manuscripts, scholarly works and responsa literature. Yizkor books on the shtetls of Eastern Europe contain stories about the town rabbis and their families. Because rabbis and scholars held positions of esteem in the Jewish world, their writings were preserved and their yahrzeits observed. Therefore it may be possible to trace farther back into time if one is of rabbinic descent even if the family did not maintain records.

Amongst the problems in creating a rabbinic family genealogy is the fact that despite large numbers of children born into rabbinic families, only those sons who were rabbis and daughters who married rabbis were usually recorded.

Research has been complicated by the changing of family names. A son-in-law might take the name of a scholarly father-in-law or that of a beloved mother-in-law in place of the patronym. Adding to the confusion is the usage of the Hebrew word ḥatan, which refers to both son-in-law, father-in-law, and husband. Encyclopedic works may record rabbis according to first names. Since words in rabbinic literature are used sparingly, rabbis were often known by rashe tevot (first letter abbreviations) or by the names of books they authored (see B. Friedberg, Bet Eked Sefarim). The use of the title "Reb" as sign of respect for a non-rabbi also leads to misunderstandings. Publication of a rabbi's writings often contained bibliographies of the author and yahrzeit dates for members of the family. Introductory haskamot (approbations) by rabbis who read the manuscript included their own biographical notes about the author and his family, recording the names of other scholars in the family. She'elot and teshuvot (rabbinic responsa) also may contain genealogical references.

what is genealogy today?

In contrast to the traditional view of genealogy as simply a compilation of ancestors' names and dates in a chronological order from the past to the present, genealogy today differs both in direction and in scope. Starting with the present, the researcher works back into history, recording personal characteristics and history as well as names and dates. Since the search has a personal motivation, which is self-understanding, the term genealogy is being used interchangeably with family history or personal history. Genealogy previously had been primarily an activity of the elderly. The "new" genealogy has attracted a much younger constituency.

It is not unusual to hear that a genealogist has been researching his ancestry for 30 years. Starting with two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, continually increasing their number, we find that, within ten generations, if successful, a person will have 1,024 direct ancestors. The number grows proportionally as we add brothers, sisters and their spouses and children at each generational level.

Key elements in genealogy are names, dates, places, and relationships. These records have been recorded on many artistic charts and trees. Information can be collected and stored in albums or books, on tapes, maps, and slides. Today, with a computer, people with large genealogies produce computerized copies of their ancestry.

Starting with oneself, the genealogist poses the following questions. What were the personal, historic, economic, religious, and social reasons that brought my ancestors to uproot themselves and move from one country to another? How have my parents' and ancestors' decisions, beliefs, and needs affected my environment and my life? A family tree is only the framework for family history. Stories, legends, and events in the life of members of the family give drama and meaning to the genealogy. Often a family maintains that it is descended from the Ba'al Shem Tov, the Vilna Gaon, the Maharal of Prague, Rashi, and other famous personalities. These traditions add excitement and encouragement for the genealogist.

An explosion of interest in genealogy across the United States of America was sparked by the bicentennial celebration of American independence in 1976 and ignited by the television screening of Alex Haley's bestseller Roots in 1977. These events carried a strong message of encouragement to all Americans to take pride in their ethnic origins. Along with other ethnic groups Jews have joined the "Back to Roots" movement.

In 1977, Dan Rottenberg published Finding Our Fathers: A Guidebook To Jewish Genealogy which provided a major resource for Jewish genealogists. In 1979 there were three Jewish genealogical societies in North America and by 1984 there were 17, located in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Tidewater (Virginia), Orange County, San Diego, San Francisco, Detroit, Boston, southern Florida, Cincinnati, and Montreal. These organizations function as a support system for the researcher and a forum for sharing discoveries, methods, and sources of research, and genealogical skills and techniques.

In 1977 the first American journal of Jewish genealogy, Toledot: The Journal of Jewish Genealogy, was published in New York, followed by Roots Key from Los Angeles, Philadelphia's Newsletter, Mishpacha from Washington, and Search from Chicago.

In 1981, the First National Summer Seminar on Jewish Genealogy took place in New York City. Subsequently, national seminars were held in Washington in 1982, Los Angeles in 1983, and Chicago in 1984. The First International Seminar, sponsored by the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington, was held in Jerusalem in 1984. These seminars provide participants with the opportunity to visit local archives, libraries, and cemeteries, to meet other genealogists from different cities and countries, and to attend educational workshops.

The shock of the Holocaust was a significant factor in stimulating Jewish genealogy. Jewish attention was turned back to Eastern Europe. Jews were tormented by questions of what and who had been lost. Questions about ancestral roots were reawakened. Grievous family losses created a hunger for the reuniting of families and a fierce desire to know who survived. In response agencies were created that are important resources for genealogists: the International Tracing Service (its) in Arolsen, West Germany, and the Search Bureau for Missing Relatives in Jerusalem.

The its, administered by the International Red Cross, maintains a master index on an alphabetic Soundex System. Among the holdings of the its are indexes and name lists of concentration camp victims, deportation lists of Jews, and lists of children separated from families. Postwar holdings include lists of inhabitants of the displaced person camps. The staff of the its can respond to queries in most languages.

In 1945 the Jewish Agency for Palestine established the Search Bureau for Missing Relatives. The office published The Register of Jewish Survivors, listing 58,000 persons. Now they have computerized their list of World War ii survivors. Also, the Agency maintains a computerized family finder for Israeli residents indexed by surname, country, and town.

French Holocaust research can be done at The Memorial Library in Paris. The book by Serge Klarsfeld, Le Memorial de la Déportation des Juifs de France, contains vital statistics of some 80,000 Jews deported from France.

Post-Holocaust Archives.

At this time also archives were established to gather, save, and preserve what remained of Jewish records from before the Holocaust and those concerning that period. *Yad Vashem was founded in Israel in 1945. The Leo Baeck Institute, an important archive for German Jewish records, was established in Israel in 1955; its New York Archive has valuable genealogical materials.

Yad Vashem became a major center for the collection of oral, photographed, and written testimonies of Holocaust survivors. It has a copy of the its holdings; however, it is not equipped to deal with queries or research. There is at Yad Vashem a plan to create a separate file on those who gave testimony and a computer series in Hebrew and English characters listing the victims and significant information about them.

Motivated by a need to remember and record life in their native villages and towns now destroyed by Nazis, the landsmannschaft organizations began to produce yizkor bikher ("memorial books"). These yizkor bikher now number over 500 and are an indispensable source of information on the destroyed Jewish communities of Eastern Europe. They include lists of local residents, photographs, stories about personalities who lived in the town, and history of the town itself. Many books have hand-drawn maps of the town which outline the main streets of the shtetl, cemeteries, synagogues, and details not normally found on a map. These books are written mostly in Yiddish and Hebrew, with some English. Most Jewish libraries carry some of the volumes. The most complete selection is at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and yivo in New York City. The most recent listing of these volumes can be found in Appendix i by Zachary M. Baker in A Ruined Garden (see Bibliography).

Yad Vashem also has put online names and information for more than three million victims of the Holocaust gathered over the past half century. The names of those murdered are a prominent feature of the new museum exhibition with the Hall of Names and are now accessible for all to search. In 2005, it signed an exchange agreement with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for the exchange of names of victims taken from lists of deportee and concentration camp records, which will join the affidavits of those murdered that Yad Vashem has painstakingly gathered. Yad Vashem will also have access to the Ben and Vladka Meed National Registry of Jewish Holocaust Survivors collected by the *American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors since 1981. The more than 50,000 pre-interview questionnaires of the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, under the auspices of the University of Southern California, also contain an extensive list of Holocaust victims as well as survivors; the material was not yet accessible online in late 2005. In addition, the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw is the home of a genealogical search for records of Jews in Poland. Yale Reisner developed the project with major financial assistance from the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation.

general methodology

(1) Interview family, starting with the oldest in each branch of the family. Record and tape everything carefully. The most valuable sources are the oldest living members of the family. Their memories of events and recollection of family experiences cannot be replaced. Fortunate is the researcher who has a relative from the immigrant generation, for this person may remember those who remained behind and were lost in the Holocaust.

(2) Locate all relatives; interview or contact by letter or phone. Record dates of all contacts.

(3) Search for diaries, biographies, family papers and letters, diplomas, journals and newspaper clippings, photographs, passports, vital records, yahrzeit records, and inscriptions in Bibles and prayer books.

(4) Try to discover through family and survivors of the Holocaust who of the family remained in Europe during World War ii and what happened to them. Contact International Tracing Service, d-3548 Arolsen, Federal Republic of Germany.

(5) Contact or visit Yad Vashem to see if your relatives are recorded in the pages of testimony filed there. These pages list the name and address of the testifier who is often a family member.

(6) Search for death records at home, in cemeteries, at funeral parlors, and in synagogues, ḥevra kaddisha records, society and landsmannschaft records, vital statistics departments of the government, newspaper or journal obituaries and notices.

(7) Search for birth records at home, in maternity clinics, in government health record centers, and in physicians' files, circumcision records, and vital records in government and state archives.

(8) Obtain immigration and naturalization records. In the U.S. petitions for naturalization, "first papers," are particularly valuable since they may record the name of the ship, date, and port of arrival, and destination in the new country. They may have the immigrant's birthplace.

(9) Search for steamship passenger manifests. Write for steamship passenger arrival lists, to American and Canadian ports, using the original family names prior to immigration. Ship manifests are available in the National Archives and Record Service (nars) in Washington d.c., at the archive of the Genealogy Society of Utah, at *yivo Institute for Jewish Research in New York, and at hias (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society; see 15: 1539) in New York. hias holds steamship ticket records for 1907–10, and passenger lists for 1884, 1886, 1887, 1891–95, 1898, 1901, 1912, 1913. The State Archive in Hamburg holds passenger lists from their heavily used port. Hamburg passenger lists from 1850–1914 may also be found at the Museum of Hamburg, Historic Emigration Office, Holstenwall 24, 2000 Hamburg 36 (there is a users' fee). Some of these archives also hold passenger arrival records from Dutch ports of Amsterdam and Rotterdam; Antwerp, Belgium from years 1854–1855; Trieste, Naples, and Le Havre. The Bremen passenger lists were lost in World War ii.

(10) Search in old telephone and city directories in larger libraries for addresses of relatives. Census and military records are based on address and ward in large cities. An uncommon name can sometimes be used to find relatives. Old city directories may include occupation and wife's names. The n.y. Public Library Annex has some pre-Holocaust books from cities in Austria, Poland, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia, and post-Holocaust ones which help to locate family.

(11) For the U.S., obtain U.S. census records taken every ten years; currently available are those from 1790 through 1910. They may provide date of immigration and birth date and place. The National Archives of the United States houses the United States federal census records. The records are filed geographically and by Soundex. These records may be obtained on interlibrary loan or through a regional branch of the Federal Archives. Pamphlets on "How to Get Census and Other Records" are available from the United States Government Printing Office, Washington d.c. 20402. In other countries turn to state archives for census records.

(12) Examine court and probate records, pension and social security records, land and tax records, military and draft registration records, business employment records, adoption and divorce records.

(13) Visit the local branch of Mormon Genealogical Library. Use gazeteer to find the province where towns are located. Examine town records for Jewish holdings. Order birth, marriage, or death records, census records, and ships' passenger lists.

(14) Visit Jewish historical societies, Jewish libraries, large public libraries with genealogy departments, and Jewish archives.

(15) Request to see synagogue records and bulletins, old-age home records, landsmannschaft and other society records.

(16) Examine yizkor books of the towns from which the family came.

(17) For the U.S., obtain information from hias records concerning ships' passenger lists, steamship records, and passage order books. hias records can be obtained from yivo in New York or from a branch of the Genealogical Society of Utah. Also, hias processes inquiries for missing persons through a Search and Location Department in New York City.

(18) For the U.S., write to the United States Government Printing Office, Washington, d.c. 20402, for pamphlets on "Where to Write For Birth, Death and Marriage."

(19) For Canada, write to the Public Archives of Canada (395 Wellington, Ottawa kia 0n3, Canada) for a booklet called "Tracing your Ancestors in Canada."

(20) In Holland, two organizations of assistance in research of Sephardi genealogies are the Netherlands Joods Familienarchif at Amsteldijk 67, Amsterdam and the Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie, pob 11755, 2502 at, The Hague.

genealogy in israel

The first guide to the use of modern techniques of genealogical research in Israel is "Eretz Israel Jewish Genealogy, An Introduction to the Sources for the Late Ottoman and Mandate Periods" by Michael Plotkin, which appeared in Toledot, 3 (4), 1983.

Traditional research in Jewish genealogy relied almost exclusively on Jewish sources such as citations in rabbinic works, family records, ḥevra kaddisha records, cemetery registers, and oral traditions. Modern methods of genealogical research incorporate the technique of quantitative history, including census records, birth, marriage, and divorce registrations in the civil courts, steamship passenger lists, immigration and naturalization records, court records, name changes, wills, and estate and land records. Plotkin, a trained archivist at the Israel State Archives, has shown that these techniques can be used in research in Israel. He also shows how Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization aliyah records, the Pinkas Ha-Bogrim of the Yishuv in Mandatory Palestine, and histories of local settlements can be utilized for genealogical research. Simultaneous with the publication of Plotkin's pioneering article, the first Jewish genealogical society was organized in Jerusalem.

In 1971 under the leadership of Dr. Isaac Halbrecht of Tel Aviv University, the World Zionist Organization established Moreshet Beit Saba (the "Society for Jewish Family Heritage"). The purpose of the society is "to spark a movement centered in Israel that would encourage interest in Jewish family heritage and roots." A questionnaire was formulated in several languages suited in part for computer processing with a genealogical component which is being distributed worldwide to Jewish organizations and educational institutions. In order to preserve the genealogical and ethnographic contents of the questionnaire and to facilitate the study of personal and family history, there is a plan to create an archive and a computer center in Israel which will be available to roots searchers. Moreshet Beit Saba is also supported by the Israel Ministry of Education to foster "a dialogue between the generations through oral history and the roots program in the public schools of Israel."

Moreshet Beit Saba is in some ways a response to the revolt against the Jewish tradition which marked some ideologies within the Zionist movement. These ideologies often resulted in feelings of disdain for the Yiddish language and the traditional East European Jewish style of life. The determination to create a new society, a new culture, a new Jew produced a mass movement to adopt new Hebraic names in place of the old, Yiddish, East European names. This movement was given impetus by the insistence that official representatives of the State of Israel abroad had to assume new Hebrew family names. Moreshet Beit Saba is designed to repair some of the disruptions and discontinuities which these Zionist ideologies of revolt produced.

mormon genealogical archives

The Mormon Church of the Latter Day Saints (lds), established in 1830, has the largest holdings of microfilmed genealogical data in the world. These are stored in six disaster-proof storage vaults in Granite Mountain in Salt Lake City, Utah. Daniel Schlyter is archivist of Jewish records and has provided valuable assistance for Jewish genealogical research. Over 400 branch libraries throughout the world maintain microfilm indices of their holdings which the public may view, and from which it may order specific films for a minimal fee. The lds fund this program as a religious duty, since a believer who can document his ancestors can bring them posthumously into the Church. The records consist of annual records of births, marriage, and death documents written in archaic foreign script, mainly from 1826 to 1865. Jewish records (approx. 2,500 films) from Poland and Hungary and 220 rolls of film on Jewish records from Alsace-Lorraine have been purchased through the efforts of Dr. Isaac Halbrecht. They are not yet available to researchers. "A Translation Guide to 19th-Century Polish Language Civil-Registration Documents," written by Judith R. Frazin (published by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois, 1984), was prepared specifically for these documents.

Most people assume that because of the destruction of life and property during the Holocaust, no Jewish records remain in Europe. Though Nazi Germany destroyed Jews they did not deliberately destroy Jewish records. In fact they maintained scrupulous records of the destruction itself.

Only recently, with the publicity about the Jewish records of the Genealogical Society of Utah (Mormons) we have become aware that much remains to research. To the surprise of many Jewish genealogists, despite the many losses of records due to fires, pogroms, frequent moves, lack of or careless record keeping, documents remain, even in Eastern Europe. It has recently become known that the governments maintained vital and census records in the countries where Jews settled and lived.

By 1826 in Poland and Hungary and by 1865 in Germany, there were uniform vital records of the Jewish communities in official archives. Archives of some small towns were included among those of the larger nearby towns, often mixed with Catholic or general records. Thus far, records have been released for microfilming from c. 1740 to c. 1870 enabling genealogists to examine 124 years of Jewish records.

Wherever and whenever possible, Jews avoided creating records. They had valid reasons to fear placing census and birth records in government hands, since these would be used to draft Jewish men and boys for the army or to collect taxes. Jewish congregations though they did not ordinarily record births and marriages often kept burial records, if they maintained a burial ground or cemetery.

In the late 1960s the Mormon Church filmed 100-year-old vital records in the towns and cities of West Germany, Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, and France. We find the following relevant birth, marriage, and death records among the Mormon microfilms:

(1) Hungarian records of cities and towns within the former borders of Hungary, which include areas now in the former Soviet Union, Romania, Austria, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia from the early to middle 1800s to 1895, were filmed in the Budapest Archive. Also, there is a Jewish census from some old Hungarian counties in the year 1848. Hungarian Jewish Registers from 1840 are complete within modern borders. There were uniform vital Jewish records in Hungary from 1826.

(2) German records of the German empire, which is now Germany, the former Soviet Union, France, and Poland from 1800 to 1895. East German Jewish records are being withheld at this time.

(3) French civil records for Jews exist since 1792, many of which have not yet been filmed. Nineteenth-century Jewish records are in the Consistoire, and in the Alliance Israélite Universelle in France. Civil records for Jews are also in State Archives of Alsace and Lorraine.

(4) Polish records: Russian and German areas of Poland had separate civil registers for Jews from 1826. Polish records in the Austrian territory of Galicia, except for Cracow and Tarnow, have not yet been filmed at the Polish State Archives. In most cases, Polish records which have been filmed provide records up to 1870.

(5) Czechoslovakian Jewish records were centralized in Prague during World War ii. Slovakian records were gathered in Bratislava. The records from Prague have been microfilmed and are also in the Archives of the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem. The Czechoslovakian Embassy in Washington has a user's fee for genealogical research.

(6) Soviet records have not been microfilmed. Government records are not made available to the researcher. However, there exist Jewish census records in Russia from 1794, 1811, 1815, 1833, 1850, and 1887. Jewish records are held in the Central State Archives in Minsk; Warsaw and Vilna Archives in Poland hold some pre-1917 Russian census records which are costly to obtain but are available. Russian-Polish vital records from Suwalki have been filmed.

There are some pre-Holocaust Russian records in the Archives of the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem, including birth, death, and marriage records in Hebrew and Russian from c. 1857 to 1878.

Russian Consular Records from 1860 to the 1920s, left behind in Washington, d.c. by the Czarist government, have been discovered recently in storage in the National Records Center in Suitland, Maryland. Many files exist on Canadian and American Jews of Russian origins. Efforts are being made to index, catalogue, and translate these records from Russian to English. The Canadian Public Archives in Ottowa hold the Vancouver and Montreal files. They contain valuable genealogical materials. These files may be useful to Polish, Galician, Ukrainian, and other nationals who lived within the borders of Imperial Russia.

The Mormon Church is now microfilming records from 1840 in Yugoslavia, which was under Austrian rule at that time.

The Polish, Hungarian, and German Jewish records of the Genealogical Society of Utah were first published in Toledot: The Journal of Jewish Genealogy in 1978–79. An update of these records can be found at the Mormon library or at the Archives of the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem or in John Cherny, The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, "Jewish American Research," ch. 21 (1984).

genealogy and education

Currently, genealogy is being used in schools as a method of personalizing Jewish history. Examining one's own family history leads to a more significant understanding of the total Jewish experience. History teachers are assigning students the task of preparing a chart and a map of family migrations in order to lead them into a study of the world of their direct forebears. An awareness of genealogical connectedness helps a group to maintain its distinctiveness. Genealogy binds individuals to the family and to their history.

Genealogists write of their deepened interest in Jewish history, geography, and religion as a result of their genealogical research. They express a desire to study Yiddish and Hebrew in which so much Jewish family history is recorded.

It is rare that a Jewish genealogist does not find that the family suffered grievous losses during the Holocaust. Forty years after the Holocaust, Jewish genealogists, as a result of their research, are finding for the first time that members of their families were among the six million. This discovery leads to a search for names and information about the deceased. The genealogist adds these names to records and charts, ensuring that the victims are memorialized and remembered within the embrace of the family. This personalizing of the Holocaust is a major concern of Jewish educators today.

surnames and genealogical research

Name changes, both of a voluntary and involuntary nature, create problems for the genealogist. Most East and Central European Jews used patronymics (e.g., Moshe ben Amram). Surnames were rare, unless the family was in commerce, and traveling between cities. Around 1800, the governments in Central Europe began to demand surnames for the Jews. By 1844, Russia and Poland mandated that surnames be registered. However, even these names underwent a metamorphosis when they passed through the immigration gates of America. Hardly able to understand the heavily accented pronunciation of names, immigration officials wrote down phonetic sounds as they heard them. They would anglicize, change, or shorten names, as the mood struck them. Without a family record it is exceedingly difficult to trace families earlier than the 18th century. With marriage, women's maiden names were dispensed with and lost. Federal census records list the head of the household and occasionally the number of family members. Jewish tombstones usually refer to a person's father, and rarely the mother.

problems in genealogical research

(1) Because of war and change of borders, it is often hard to know in which country to do your research.

(2) Frequently, Jews were married in Europe by religious ceremony (ḥuppah and kiddushin) but not with a civil license. Anti-Jewish legislation often forbade Jewish marriages, so couples often married secretly. Children of these marriages were not recognized by civil authorities as legitimate. Therefore, children took their mothers' surnames. Only sons were not conscripted by the Russian army. Additional sons were placed with families without sons and took that family's name.

(3) Record keeping in Eastern Europe was careless. Control of fires was poor in small villages and records were irreparably lost.

(4) Children were born at home and not in hospitals. Parents remembered the time of year ("around" which holiday) at which they were born but not the exact date.

(5) Russian records since the end of World War i are not available to the public.

(6) The pronunciation of town names varies greatly from their conventional spelling. There can be as many as 50 towns with similar sounding names all located within the same country.

(7) Documents and genealogical material may be in Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, Polish, or other official languages.

computer and genealogy

A major problem in genealogy is information storage. The ongoing growth of genealogical information requires a constant revision of charts. For this reason many genealogists with very large inclusive family histories, resort to holding material in notebook form with sections assigned to each branch of the family. The computer with its various programs designed especially for genealogical study has become a very important tool.

In 1982 the Jewish Genealogical Society, Inc. (New York) published the first computerized Family Finder. The purpose is to enable members of all Jewish genealogy societies to list names and towns being researched in one central location. This aims at reducing the duplication of research. Entered into the computer are the name and address of the researcher along with family surnames, and the names of towns, cities, and countries being researched. (The computer service for this project is Data Universal, Teaneck, New Jersey.) The printout is updated regularly, with the inclusion of new researchers' data, and sent to Jewish genealogy societies throughout the United States so that their members can utilize the information.

Two Jewish books have been published by the Computer Center for Genealogy by Dr. Neil Rosenstein (The Margolis Family and Latter Day Leaders). This appears to be the wave of the future.

Beth Hatefutsoth, the Museum of the Diaspora, in Tel Aviv has a computer department that holds information about Jewish names, cities, and towns and stores genealogical information. Famous published genealogies are being computerized.

[Sara Schafler]

In Latin America

The Asociación de Genealogía Judía de Argentina – agja (Association of Jewish Genealogy of Argentina) – was founded in 1996 and is affiliated to the *International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies – iajgs. agja undertook voluntary work in documentation and digitalization of vital records, creating the database of the Jewish cemeteries in Argentina (with more than 215,000 names), and promoted similar work in Chile, Uruguay, and Peru. It digitized lists of settlers in the agricultural colonies of the Jewish Colonization Association (ica) and is working on the lists of weddings and bar mitzvahs celebrated in synagogues in Buenos Aires.

agja also promoted educational activities, conferences, and courses in Buenos Aires and in other communities for adults and students. It publishes the journal Toldot and has published the Diccionario de apellidos judíos ("Dictionary of Jewish Surnames," 2003) by Benjamin Edelstein.

[Efraim Zadoff (2nd ed.)]

For additional information see *International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies.


biblical: Klein, in: Zion (Me'assef), 2 (1927), 1–16; 3 (1929), 1–16; 4 (1930), 14–30; Maisler (Mazar), in: Zion, 11 (1946), 1–16; U. Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, 1 (1961), 249–89; 2 (1964), 141–224, 250–77; J. Liver, Toledot Beit David (1949); idem, in: Sefer D. Ben-Gurion (1964), 486–99; S. Yeivin, Meḥkarim be-Toledot Yisrael ve-Arẓo (1960), 131ff.; Luther, in: zaw, 22 (1901), 33–76; E. Meyer, Die Israeliten und ihre Nachbarstaemme (1906); W. Robertson Smith, Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia (19033), 3–39; Freund, in: Festschrift A. Schwarz (1917), 265–311; M. Noth, Das System der zwoelf Staemme Israels (1930); W. Duffy, The Tribal Historical Theory on the Origin of the Hebrew People (1944); De Vaux, Anc Isr, 4–7; Malamat, in: jaos, 88 (1968), 163–73. post-biblical and modern: A. Buechler, in: Festschrift Adolf Schwarz (1917), 133–62; L. Freund, ibid., 163–209; A.S. Hershberg, in: Devir, 2 (1923), 92–100; idem, in: Ha-Tekufah, 28 (1935), 348–62; V. Aptowitzer, Parteipolitik der Hasmonaeerzeit im rabbinischen und pseudoepigraphischen Schrifttum (1927); idem, in: Sefer Zikkaron… A.A. Poznański (1927), 145–69; S. Klein, in: Zion, 4 (1939), 30–50, 177–8; idem, in: Sefer ha-Yovel… B.M. Lewin (1939), 86–92; J. Katz, in: Zion, 10 (1945), 21–54; H.L. Poppers, in: jsos, 20 (1958), 153–79; Shunami, Bibl, 466–9; E.E. Urbach, in: Divrei ha-Akademyah ha-Le'ummit ha-Yisre'elit le-Madda'im, 2 (1969), 31–54. RESEARCH, GENERAL: M.Z. Baker, "Eastern European Jewish Geography; Some Problems and Suggestions," in: Toledot: The Journal of Jewish Genealogy, 2 (1978–79); idem, "Landsmannschaften and the Jewish Genealogist," in: Toledot: The Journal of Jewish Genealogy, 4 (1983); idem, "Russian Consular Collection at the Public Archives of Canada; Genealogical Implications," in: Toledot: The Journal of Jewish Genealogy, 4 (1983); C.G. Cohen, Shtetl Finder Gazeteer (1980); J. Cherny, "Jewish American Research," in: The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, (1984); J.W. Clasper and M.C. Dellenbach, Guide to the Holdings of the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati (1979); S. David, "In Search of a Sephardic Tradition," in: Toledot: The Journal of Jewish Genealogy, 2 (1978–79); Israeli Archives Association, Guide to Archives in Israel (1973); S. Gorr, Official Gazette 1921–1948, Extract of Public Announcement of Legal Changes of Names during British Mandate in Palestine (4 volumes; 1983); P. Grayevsky, Avnei Zikkaron (1920); D. Kranzler, My Jewish Roots, A Practical Guide to Tracing and Recording Your Genealogy and Family History (1979); A. Kurzweil, From Generation to Generation, How to Trace Your Jewish Genealogy and Personal History (1980); B.C. Kaganoff, A Dictionary of Jewish Names and their History (1977); J. Kugelmass and J. Boyarin, A Ruined Garden, The Memorial Books of Polish Jewry (1983); A. Morton, Directory of European Passenger Steamship Arrivals (1931); S. Milton, "Genealogical Sources of the Leo Baeck Institute," in: Toledot: The Journal of Jewish Genealogy (1979); National Archives, Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives (1983); M. Plotkin, "Eretz-Israel and Jewish Genealogy, An Introduction to the Sources for the Ottoman and Mandate Periods," in: Toledot: The Journal of Jewish Genealogy, 3 (1983); A. Segall, Guide to Jewish Archives (1981); N. Rosenstein, The Margolis Family (1983); idem, Polish Jewish Cemeteries (1984); N. and E. Rosenstein, Latter Day Leaders, Sages and Scholars Bibliographical Index (1983); D. Rottenberg, Finding Our Fathers, A Guide Book to Jewish Genealogy (1977); M.H. Stern, Jewish Genealogy: An Annotated Bibliography Leaflet (1976); idem, First American Jewish Families, 600 Genealogies from 1654–1977 (1977); Who's Who in World Jewry (1955, 1956, 1968, 1972, 1978, 1981); D.S. Zubatsky and I.M. Berent, A Source Book of Family Histories and Genealogies (1984). rabbinic: C.J.D. Azulai, Shem ha-Gedolim ha-Shalem (1905); I. Alfasi, Ha-Hassidut (1974); D. Einsiedler, Rabbinic Genealogy: A Research Guide, an annotated bibliography, (1983); B. Friedberg, Beit Eked Sefarim (1956); N.Z. Friedman, Ozar Ha-Rabbanim (1975); N.S. Gottlieb, Ohalei Shem (1912); J. Levenstein, Dor Dor ve-Dorshav (1949); H. Michael, Or ha-Ḥayyim (1965); N. Rosenstein, The Unbroken Chain, New York (1976); N. Rosenstein and E. Rosenstein, Latter Day Leaders, Sages and Scholars Bibliographical Index, Computer Center for Jewish Genealogy (1983); A. Stern, Melizei Eish (1974); A. Walden, Shem Ha-Gedolim Ha-Hadash (1879); M. Wunder, Me'orei Galicia; Encyclopedia Le-Hahkmei Galicia, vol. i–ii (1978); Encyclopedia Judaica, Ḥasidic Dynasties. examples of some outstanding biographic genealogies: S.M. Auerbach, The Auerbach Family (1957); S. Epstein, Mishpahat Luria (1910); The Feuchtwanger Family; L. Lauterbach, Chronicles of the Lauterbach Family; A. Siev, Rabbeinu Moshe Isserles (rema) (1972); E.B. Weill, Weil-De Veil, A Genealogy 1360–1956 (a Rabbinic family with Christian branches; 1957). sephardi research: A.L. Frumkin, Sefer Toldot Hakhmei Yerushalayim (1910); J. Gelis, Encyclopedia le-Toledot Hakhamei Eretz Israel (1973); C. Neppi and M. Ghirondi, Toledot Gedolei Israel ve-Geonei Italia (1853); M. Markowitz, Shem ha-Gedolim ha-Shelishi (1910); S. Rosanes, Korot ha-Yehudim be-Turkiah ve-Ateret ha-Kedem (1905, 1945); R. Halperin, Atlas Eẓ Ḥayyim (sections on Spain, Egypt, Israel, Italy, Turkey, and North Africa) (1978); A.M. Hyamson, The Sephardim in England: A History of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Community 1492–1951; A. Chouraqui, Between East and West: A History of the Jews in North Africa (1973); C. Roth, World of Sephardim; A History of the Marranos (1954); M. Angel, La America (1982); Keyserling, Bibliotheca Espagnol-Portugesa-Judaica (German; 1890); Encyclopaedia Sephardica Neerlandica (Dutch; 1949); R. Singerman, The Jews in Spain and Portugal, a bibliography (1975). rabbinic family genealogies: Avot Atarah le-Banim, for the families Katzenellenbogen, Wahl, Lifschutz back to Rashi; Mishpahat Luria, for families Luria, Treves, Spira; Shem mi-Shimon, for families Schapira, including the Baal Shem Tov; Mishpahot Atikot be-Yisrael, on Schapira and others related to them; Toledot Mishpahat Horowitz, ha-Dorot ha-Rishonim, Horowitz Family; Toledot Mishpahat ha-Rav mi-Liady, for the Schneersons of the Lubavitch Dynasty; Daat Kedoshim, intertwined families; The Auerbach Family; Chronicles of the Lauterbach Family; Sefer Hut ha-Meshullash, on the Sofer-Schreiber and Eiger families; Nitei Ne'emanah, on the Rubinstein family; Toledot Mishpahat Schor; Toledot Mishpahat Rosenthal, The familiesfrom Hungary; Reshimoth Aboth: Eine Ahnentafel von 27 Generationen bis zum Yahre 1290, on the Rabbinic families, Seckbach, Auerbach, Hirsch, Marx, Bodenheimer. add. bibliography: A. Kurzweill and M. Weiner, Encyclopedia of Jewish Genealogy (1994). holocaust: 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 (2000).


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GENEALOGY . As formal structure, genealogy is foremost an intellectual discipline. Its concern is with recording and putting into systematic order the histories of families, differentiating them by rules of descent and allocating to each a share of those enduring human valuables that consist of privileges and honors, titles and powers. Although grounded in myth and circumscribed by tradition and, thus, seemingly a rote and rigid subject, genealogy is to be understood rather as a product of informed speculative reasoning about metaphysical, specifically ontological, matters. Its subject matter goes beyond the listing of pedigrees. It identifies and differentiates the forces and generative sources that give shape to and regulate the entire universe of life. From its cosmological concepts, it draws implications for human conduct and for the structure of the social order. Most directly, genealogies connect human families with their mythical origins, joining them as kinfolk within the universal community of gods, spirits, and other forms of life.

Principles of Genealogy

The genealogical discipline exercises a controlling influence upon everyday life, for it is the source of the morality and of the principles of systematic order that bind systems of descent into clans, lineages, and similar groupings. Among tribal societies especially, the genealogical order frequently dictates all social relations. In early and more complex traditional societies, where only royalty and related families come within its scope, the genealogical system acts as the focus of authority. In sum, for preindustrial societies the genealogical discipline is unitary and unifying, joining the social and the religious forms by demonstrating that society is an extension of the mythical era of original creations. From this unitary perspective, the gods, spirits, and ancestral beings who brought human beings into existence are themselves drawn into the human sphere. In more recent times, genealogical interest has been reduced. Stripped of its religious and cosmological associations, genealogy serves, at most, the general purpose of celebrating ethnicity.

The general model for making genealogical distinctions is drawn from nature. This is most clearly exemplified in totemic systems, whose family lines are represented as descended from animals or other distinctive natural forms. Each line of descent appears as a species and therefore stands as one among all the other natural varieties of life. In nontotemic systems, the special qualities attributed to particular human ancestors serve the same purpose of distinguishing the lines of descent. Thus, human founders of clans and lineages are held to be the primary sources of the vigor and continuity of their descendants, as are totemic ancestors. In both systems, the natural species exemplify the traits of continuity and social immortality that human societies seek through their own genealogies.

As a process, differentiation appears as the signifier of forces that promote growth and development. The natural evolution commonly depicted in creation myths begins with relatively amorphous beings and proceeds systematically to final stages of specificity. This understanding of the natural direction of life underlies the metaphoric assumption that takes the contrast between the chaotic and the structured in ritual and myth to be analogous to the contrast between the deathlike and the vigorous in social life. Accordingly, genealogical systemsthe primary promulgators of differentiationare impelled to drive toward singularity, to single out families and persons for special distinction as principal bearers of vital powers.

Essentially, all the systematic modes of differentiation upon which genealogical systems are constructed express some concept of generative powers. The rules of primogeniture and of relative seniority of descent generally concern the special nature of powers presumed to lie in primacy, that is, in the original conditions that generated forms and natural processes. The rules of descent by gender (matriliny, patriliny, bilaterality) stem from the distinctive generative powers of femininity and masculinity. The rules governing direct and collateral lines reflect closeness to the central sources, and those that differentiate between long and short genealogies involve issues of inherent longevity. Each mode of descent has the added significance of being the appropriate mode of transmission of powers, and each member of a genealogical chain has stature as a designated and graded conveyor.

In substance, the characteristic modes of genealogical transmission impose a powerful order upon social structures. They regulate marriage and other social relations, and they determine the formal lines of social divisions and the character of dependency in subordinate branches. In keeping with the general idea of a genealogical system as an organism that grows and branches, lineages are quite commonly envisioned as vegetative.

The social and cosmological implications of genealogical differentiation are realized most fully in lineage structures. In contrast to clans, which only imply and therefore generalize their putative connections to founders, lineages depend upon true pedigrees, upon the real chain of names and their sequences, and often upon the sequences of outstanding events that demonstrate the potency and special quality of the names. Genealogical traditions and related rituals evoke, reanimate, and, in some sense, reincarnate ancestors. Remembering the long line of ancestors by name (in Polynesia, as far back as ninety-nine generations) is an act of piety that, even in tribal societies, imposes the technical requirement of creating the scholarly and priestly craft of official genealogist for royal and noble lines.

Aristocracy, understood as a social system in which a singular descent line has come forward as the focus of generative powers, may take shape among clans as well as among lineages, drawing upon their common genealogical rules. But it is the specificity of the lineage and its greater adeptness for drawing fine distinctions that endow royalty with the extra degree of moral authority for governing. The lineage is so much the social instrument of royalty that it readily becomes its own characteristic form of organization. Even among tribal societies, among whom organic unities are the common norm, it is not exceptional for chiefly lines to be the exclusive protagonists of the lineage system, and for all others to fall into a binlike category of relatively generalized descent. The Kwakiutl and some Polynesians, who are discussed below, illustrate what are, in effect, the social fractures in a system of descent.

It may seem paradoxical that lineages, although they are buttressed by deeply held human convictions about the binding powers of common descent, should, in fact, promote, as a matter of principle, countertenets of antagonisms, oppositions, and structural divisions. Yet, these forms of divisiveness are not accidental but are the complements of systems that transmit singular powers. Powers must demonstrate efficacy; efficacy invites contention. As a consequence, aristocratic lineages must sustain themselves, not by their genealogical authority alone, but by the abilities of their actual rulers to balance sometimes conflicting claims of birth and force.

Systems of Genealogy

Thus, their orderly premises notwithstanding, genealogical systems are variable. They are subject to the vicissitudes of history that ultimately erode the most formidable structures, as well as to the variability that is allowed by their rules and to the ambiguities of situation that disturb any social order. One cannot hope to describe the varieties of genealogical systems encyclopedically. The following examples from tribal societies and from ancient and more recent civilizations are not necessarily the most characteristic, but they call attention to special features that pertain to the general nature of genealogies.

The Cubeo

The Cubeo, tropical forest Indians of the Colombian Vaupés, exemplify genealogical aristocracy as developed within the constraints of a subsistence economy. Even within the meager material setting of slash-burn root horticulture, supplemented by fishing and hunting, the rudimentary form of aristocracy exhibited by the Cubeo resembles, in many formal respects, the hierarchical structures and the patterns of dominance and subordination of the more complex civilizations, indicating that aristocracy may be less a product of material than of genealogical factors. Cubeo society is an organization of ranked, exogamic, and patrilineal sibs (clans), who are joined together in a confraternity (phratry) for what are largely ritual purposes. The sibs exchange wives with those of similar rank in a corresponding phratry. The rank of the sibs was preordained and revealed in the order of birth from an underground dwelling that brought into being the first set of fraternal ancestors, the founders of sibs. The names of their descendants have entered into the genealogies of the sibs, to be inherited in alternate generations by the grandchildren. The personal names, like "souls," carry the immortality of the descent lines and, the Cubeo believe, promote the growth of the children who bear them.

The names are but one of four elements that enter into the substance of the genealogies. The others are sacred trumpets and flutes that bear the names and represent the original ancestors; the life souls that are apportioned to each of the sibs; and, finally, the figure of a sacred anaconda, in whose elongated form the sibs are imagined as ranked segments extending from the head to the tail. The anaconda symbolizes the animal nature of human beings and their kinship with the animal world. These four elements characterize the Cubeo genealogical structure as a complex conveyor of vital forces that ensure their ethnic continuity and are therefore central to their religious and ritual purposes, namely, to maintain connections with founding ancestors. "When we remember our ancestors," the Cubeo proclaim, "we bring them to life." For them, the act of re-creating the ancestors in memory is comparable to the original creation, when the Creator willed people into existence by means of his own imaginative thought.

The correspondence of the hierarchical order of the sibs to the order in which the first ancestors emerged is also, in essential respects, a memorial to the circumstances of their origins; they are designated by genealogical relations as older brother/younger brother, and as grandparent/grandchild; by an original distribution of ritual powers, as chiefs, priests, shamans, warriors, and servants; and, by their place as segments of the body of the sacred anaconda, they are assigned a fixed order of residence along the rivers they occupy. The highest ranks, corresponding to the head of the anaconda, live toward the mouth of the river; the servants, toward the source. Thus the genealogical systemrecapitulating in each generation the generative conditions of origins as an action of creative rememberingencompasses the main areas of Cubeo social and religious existence.

The Kwakiutl

A similar genealogical system, but one notable for the unusual significance it attaches to hereditary personal names, prevails among the Kwakiutl Indians of Vancouver Island. The qualities commonly attributed to personal names imply the presence in them of spiritual or magical powers, a "name soul," as, for example, among the Inuit (Eskimo). The Kwakiutl seem to have elevated the concept of name soul to a high level of concreteness, thereby bringing to the surface a mystical attribute of names that in other cases exists only by implication. Their treatment of names suggests how pedigrees may indeed constitute a great chain of being.

In Kwakiutl genealogies, each personal name stands for a desirable attribute of being, ordinarily a special power, and the ensemble of ancestral names covers the range of attributes and powers that govern life and death and control valued possessions. Even as it is a specified segment of the patterned mosaic of life forces, each name also has existence as a being, as a spiritual personage who is attached to and yet may have an existence apart from its bearer. The bearer is no ordinary being either, having been set apart and sanctified in having met the genealogical qualifications of seniority. Among the Kwakiutl tribes, which once numbered in the tens of thousands, only a very small number of personal names are of this type; all others are scorned as "made-up." The real names are the exclusive property of a nobility of chiefs, the secular and religious leaders. The remainder are the names of commoners, people who cannot claim descent from mythical an-cestors.

The chiefly or spiritual names possess an autonomy congruent with their character as ancestral incarnations, and, as such, they impose their natures upon those who bear them. Under certain circumstances they stand apart entirely. Thus, a chief who possesses several names, some belonging to different divisions of the tribe, might engage in ritual transactions with his distant name as though it were another person. He might present this name with gifts, or, under other circumstances, go through a sham marriage with a name attached for this purpose to his arm, for example. Kwakiutl genealogies are histories of the acquisition and descent of all such names and of their intrinsic properties. Chanted at all important ceremonial events, the family history is a repository of its accumulated powers and capacities.

Polynesian societies

Cubeo and Kwakiutl genealogical systems are noteworthy examples of aristocracy that is deeply enlaced in mythological and shamanistic conceptions and, therefore, politically undeveloped. Polynesian societies offer contrasting examples. Perhaps because their religions are more fully theistic and relatively free of these other associations, the Polynesians were able to move in another direction. Upon similar genealogical principles, and upon an equally undifferentiated economy, Polynesian societies produced such relatively modern institutions as socioeconomic stratification and centralized territorial states. Thus, the capability of a genealogical system to evolve or to elaborate a new social order is never a function of rules of descent alone. New patterns emerge when genealogical rules are joined to an appropriate religious doctrine. In Polynesia, that doctrine has been based upon a concept of mana, a force that animates all of nature and characterizes the energetic properties of all substance. In principle, mana descends from the gods to the human generations in measured proportions as defined by the genealogical rules. Senior lines are richly endowed with mana and are energized and hence ennobled by it; the junior descent lines are left behind as the weakly endowed commoners.

Conceptualized as an efficient force manifested objectively in resultson the battlefield, in the fields of production, in the perfection of craft skills, in personal charisma, in the efficacious management of religious ritualsmana is not automatically and indisputably the gift of inheritance. Its possessor has also to demonstrate worthiness by standing up to challenge. Nevertheless, although the conviction that the powers that animate and bestow efficacy move by the generative forces of genealogical rules may yield to the acid test of actual events, it is never abondoned. When lower ranks win royal power by force, as they occasionally do, from time to time, they are still obliged to discover genealogical authority for their new office. Genealogical guilds guard the sanctity of royal and noble pedigrees.

Polynesian societies differ in the way each has managed to sustain the shifting balances between the genealogical and the pragmatic. The Maori of New Zealand exemplify relatively close adherence to traditional genealogical criteria. The Samoans, the Easter Islanders, and the Mangaians demonstrate a greater flexibility in following the traditional rules of descent. The emergent states and stratified societies of Tonga, Tahiti, and Hawaii, for example, reveal a seemingly typical developmental cycle that moves from traditionalism to greater openness and, finally, to the consolidation of hereditary rule, but within the framework of a markedly restructured social order.

Major civilizations

The histories of major civilizationsthose of classical Greece, Japan, or England, to take but three examplesshow their genealogical life as comparable, in many respects, with that in tribal societies. Hesiod assembled from the body of Homeric mythology a genealogical order of the gods that allotted to each of them appropriate honors, titles, and cosmological functions, and described "how the gods and men sprang from one source." Theogony emerges as one aspect of cosmogony. The gods, humans, and the fully differentiated natural order evolve in these genealogical tales within a turbulent atmosphere, in a setting of disputes for power among contending forces, very much as they do in tribal creation myths. The patterns set by the gods, the immortals, in their evolution define the courses of human history.

The genealogists of archaic and preliterate Japan assembled from ancient myths a comparable cosmogony. Heaven and Earth, initially formed from Chaos, after several generations produced the god Izanagi and the goddess Izanami, who gave birth first to the islands of Japan, then to other gods, and, finally, after many generations and much social disorder, to humans. The first mikado was granted sovereignty by the sun goddess and, as a link in the succession of the gods, became the center of the national religious cult. Similarly, each distinguished family or clan also claimed its derived divinity from other gods and from ancestral association with emperors. The Japanese chronicles of hereditary titles authenticated the social and religious organization.

Christianity, in principle, breaks with the tenet of the traditional genealogical order that claims divine descent, but it leaves essentially untouched the issues of sanctity and an even deeper concern with singularity and inequality. Even the egalitarian Quakers in England succumbed to the temptation of differentiating major from minor family lines. As for English royalty, it had found in the Roman Catholic church, itself the heir to the political institutions of the Roman Empire, the questionable but powerful bases for claiming the "divine right of kings" as an authority for absolute power. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 set that thesis to rest, and later monarchs settled for the moderate option of divine approval.

Through the long course of English history, the constant principle of monarchy, starting with the Celtic rule of the fourth century bce, is one of singular descent from divinely graced or otherwise extraordinary leaders. Except for kinship with the royal house, no other fixed principles for succession to the throne, as for example primogeniture, were established in England before the thirteenth century. As is common in such systems, genealogical authority fostered social unity when it was strong and wars for succession when it was weak. Social and cultural unity has been the aim and, to a considerable extent, the accomplishment of the genealogical orderwhich achieved its apotheosis in aristocracyuntil relatively recent times.

Nongenealogical Succession

Tibetan Buddhism, or Lamaism, illustrates the contrary qualities of a dynastic order from which genealogical succession has been totally banished. In the fifteenth century, the monastery of Dge lugs pa (Geluk pa), a celibate order and the original seat of the Dalai Lama dynasty, promulgated a doctrine of successive reincarnations as the mode of accession to divine authority. They believed that the Dalai Lama would be reborn in some infant unrelated and unknown to him, and that through this reincarnation, he would continue his work of enlightenment. Discovered after an exhaustive search that brought to light his divine traits and evidence of an earlier existence, the new Dalai Lama was trained for his post during an interim regency. The Tibetan doctrine set aside traditional considerations of individuality and family distinction so that the divine presence, a manifestation of the Buddha, would appear directly, albeit in human form. However, whatever forcefulness this system gained through directness of access to the religious source was at least partly dissipated by the dispersal of its constituencies. Unaffiliated to a systematic line of succession, Lamaist adherents were free to join any one of numerous monasteries, each of which was headed by an abbot, himself the incarnation of a lesser lama.

See Also

Dalai Lama; Names and Naming; Preanimism.


Meyer Fortes was perhaps the most original and perceptive of anthropological authorities on genealogical issues. His Kinship and the Social Order: The Legacy of Lewis Henry Morgan (Chicago, 1969), a central work on the subject, is a most useful summary and refinement of his position with a rich bibliography of theoretical and ethnographic sources. For the Cubeo, the only work thus far is my The Cubeo: Indians of the Northwest Amazon, rev. ed. (Urbana, Ill., 1979), based on field work. Two exceptional studies on Barasana Indians, also of the Colombian Vaupés, that examine genealogical conceptions from structuralist and symbolist perspectives are Christine Hugh-Jones's From the Milk River: Spatial and Temporal Processes in Northwest Amazonia (Cambridge, U.K., 1979) and Stephen Hugh-Jones's The Palm and the Pleiades: Initiation and Cosmology in Northwest Amazonia (Cambridge, U.K., 1979). Taken together, the bibliographies in these three works are close to all-inclusive for this region. The best single-volume access to the very extensive literature on the Kwakiutl from the writings of Franz Boas and his native collaborator, George Hunt, is Boas's difficult but authoritative study, The Social Organization and the Secret Societies of the Kwakiutl Indians (1895; reprint, New York, 1970). A recent and useful interpretation of Kwakiutl culture and society that draws upon much of the Boas and Hunt texts is my The Mouth of Heaven: An Introduction to Kwakiutl Religious Thought (New York, 1975), which includes a bibliography of the published Boas field studies. There is no better introduction to the nature of Polynesian societies than the writings of one of Polynesia's native sons, Te Rangi Hiroa (Sir Peter Buck), of Maori descent and one-time director of the Bernice P. Bishop Museum at Honolulu. His greatest work is The Coming of the Maori (Wellington, 1952), an intimate yet anthropologically professional study. My Ancient Polynesian Society (Chicago, 1970) focuses more directly on genealogical issues because it is a study of variations in the forms of Polynesian aristocracy.

On the subject of the genealogies of the Greek gods, the principal sources are Hesiod's Theogony and Works and Days, conveniently available in the English translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White in his The Homeric Hymns and Homerica (Cambridge, Mass., 1967). As background on the ancient period, M. I. Finley's The Ancient Greeks (New York, 1977) is both authoritative and succinct. For Japanese sources, the general work of choice is George B. Sansom's familiar classic, Japan: A Short Cultural History, rev. ed. (New York, 1962), to be used, however, in conjunction with the source book on the Japanese genealogical and historical chronicles, as compiled by Ryusaku Tsunoda, Wm. Theodore de Bary, and Donald Keene, Sources of Japanese Tradition, 2 vols. (New York, 1958). On the genealogies of the royal lines of England, G. M. Trevelyan's History of England, new illust. ed. (London, 1973), the Oxford History of England, especially volume 3, and Austin Lane Poole's Domesday Book to Magna Carta, 10871216 (Oxford, 1955), are particularly noteworthy for their historical insights.

New Sources

Bakker, Egbert J., Irene J. F. de Jong, and Hans van Wees. Brill's Companion to Herodotus. Leiden and Boston, 2002.

Balsamo, Gian. Pruning the Genealogical Tree: Procreation and Lineage in Literature, Law, and Religion. London, 1999.

Detienne, Marcel. Writing of Orpheus: Greek Myth in Cultural Contact. Translated by Janet Lloyd. Baltimore, 2002.

Nanji, Azim. Mapping Islamic Studies: Genealogy, Continuity, and Change. Berlin, 1997.

Simons, D. Brenton, and Peter Benes. Art of Family: Genealogical Artifacts in New England. Boston, 2002.

Toullelan, Pierre-Yves, and Bernard Gille. Mariage franco-tahitien: histoire de Tahiti du XVIIIe siècle à nos jours. Tahiti, 1992.

Ulanov, Ann Belford. Female Ancestors of Christ. Boston, 1993.

Walens, Stanley. Feasting with Cannibals: An Essay on Kwakiutl Cosmology. Princeton, 1981.

Irving Goldman (1987)

Revised Bibliography


views updated May 23 2018


GENEALOGY. Genealogy is an auxiliary branch of history that was first recognized as a professional field of study in 1964 with the formation of the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG). Celebration of the U. S. centennial heralded the beginning of solid professional genealogical research and the first amateur craze of the 1880s and 1890s. Although the National Genealogical Society (NGS) was formed in 1903, there were no prescribed standards for professional genealogists until the middle of twentieth century. During the period between World War I and World War II, New England genealogists mounted an exhaustive examination of primary sources, which ultimately led to a scientific methodology for the discipline. In 1940 Dr. Arthur Adams and John Insley Coddington moved to redress the lack of standards with the founding of the American Society of Genealogists (ASG). The ASG appointed a Committee on Standards and Ethics that functioned from the early 1940s to the early 1960s. Although several proposals were received from the committee, they were not acted upon until 1963, when Noel Stevenson recommended that an organization headquartered in Washington, D. C., the BCG, be formed for certification purposes. Dr. Jean Stephenson served as the first president and Milton Rubincam served as chair.

The four major institutes within the United States where genealogists can receive professional training are the National Institute on Genealogical Research (1950), the Samford Institute of Genealogy and Historic Research (1964), the Genealogical Institute of Mid-America (1993), and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (1996). Although attending one of these institutes is highly recommended for professional genealogists, it is not required for certification purposes.

High standards were imposed not only upon the certification of genealogists but upon their research methodology as well. New genealogical research was put under a strict test of accuracy and documentation and existing genealogies were reexamined, although this new scrutiny did not greatly enhance the regard of scholarly historians for genealogical research. In his 1975 article, "The Fundamentals of Genealogy: A Neglected But Fertile New Field for Professional Historians?" Jay P. Anglin wrote that

inadequate recognition of the contributions of genealogists unfortunately still persists among a large number of professional historians, for old views of the elite professional genealogists as merely antiquarians and of the discipline as exclusive field for silly and rich eccentrics desirous of social status by finding tenuous ancestral linkages with Europe's illustrious figures are hard to destroy.

While genealogists remain isolated from historians, a reciprocal relationship has developed in the 1990s as more university and college history departments offer introductory genealogy courses as part of their curricula.

Obtaining Certification and Doing Research

The first step toward certification is gaining the knowledge and skills imparted by the BCG Genealogical Standards Manual. Within this manual are seventy-four standards that contribute to the level of credibility in genealogy that are referred to as the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS), which replaced a concept, "preponderance of the evidence," that BCG had once promoted. In 1997 BCG abandoned that terminology for analyzing and weighing evidence because the board's governing trustees felt that it was confusing. Originally borrowed from the legal system, the term failed genealogists because BCG standards require a higher level of proof than do legal codes. Professional genealogists are certified in three different research categories and/or two teaching categories by an examination of work samples in a portfolio sub-mission. The research categories include Certified Genealogical Record Searcher (CGRS), Certified American Lineage Specialist (CALS), Certified American Indian Lineage Specialist (CAILS), and Certified Genealogist (CG). The teaching categories include Certified Genealogical Lecturer (CGL)and Certified Genealogical Instructor (CGI). Each application is independently evaluated by several judges. Renewal applications every five years confirm that skills are up to date.

Methodology applied in genealogical research at the turn of the twenty-first century is much improved and more sophisticated compared to the sometimes careless and inaccurate compilations of yesteryear. However, both professional and amateur genealogists begin their research with present records and documents, eventually arriving at a solution to their research question by employing reverse chronology. Essentially, genealogists investigate known information for clues that will lead them to solving the research problem. Utilizing the GPS, the researcher completes an exhaustive search of the records, documents findings with complete and accurate source citations, analyzes and correlates the findings, resolves any conflicting information, and writes a soundly reasoned conclusion to the query.

Certified genealogists abide by a Code of Ethics and Conduct that mandates high levels of truth and accuracy in their work, collegiality and honor within the discipline, adherence to the BCG's Standards of Conduct, and protection of the privacy and best interests of the client. They are also bound to protect the public, the consumer, and the profession.

Raising Standards

Donald Lines Jacobus was one of the new generation of professional genealogists who raised the status of genealogy from a hobby to a science. In 1922 Jacobus founded America's premier independent genealogical journal, The American Genealogist (TAG). Fondly regarded as the "dean" of genealogy, Jacobus in the 1930s dispelled the myth that America's first settlers were of prime stock with vivid statistics. He found evidence of disability and other defects among early New England settlers, while remarking that the homogeneity of the population likely resulted in birth defects associated with inbreeding. Jacobus is also noted as the founder of scientific genealogy in the United States and the first inductee to the National Genealogy Hall of Fame in 1986.

Dr. Jean Stephenson was an early proponent and supporter of genealogical education who played a major role in establishing the institutions currently serving the discipline. Although she published several genealogical works, she is remembered for her service to and membership in many organizations and societies, including the ASG, NGS, BCG, the Institute on Genealogical Research, the Samford University Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research, the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR), the American Association for State and Local History, and the Society of American Archivists, among others.

John Insley Coddington's fluency and reading knowledge of several European languages as well as his familiarity with European libraries and archives gave him a distinct edge over other American genealogists. Initially an historian, he found the development of scientific genealogy appealing. Although troubled by the lack of seriousness displayed by genealogists, Coddington—along with Arthur Adams and Meredith Colket—launched an honor society comprised of fifty fellows, the ASG. Chosen on the quality and accuracy of their research, many leading genealogists were members. Upon the death of Jacobus in 1970, Coddington acquired the title "dean" of American genealogists. Known for his advocacy of documentary evidence, he published over two hundred articles in genealogy journals, was an elected a fellow in several genealogy societies, and was a contributing editor to TAG from 1938 until his death in 1991.

James Dent Walker formed an active and viable African American genealogical community when he founded the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society in 1977. Employed by the National Archives and Records Administration for thirty years, he served in several positions, but was renowned for his acumen with military and pension records and exhibited an outstanding ability to uncover sources important to African American genealogists. He also aided Alex Haley with the research that became the Pulitzer Prize–winning book, Roots (1976), which spurred African Americans as well as other Americans to search for their ancestors. Walker's contributions are not diminished by the discrediting of Haley's work in the 1990s. Walker is most noted for his ability to uncover the inaccuracy of historical information. While doing research for the NSDAR, which estimated that only five thousand members of minorities (blacks, women, and American Indians)had served in the American Revolution, Walker identified five thousand minorities serving in the New England region alone.


Anglin, Jay P. "The Fundamentals of Genealogy: A Neglected But Fertile New Field for Professional Historians?" Southern Quarterly 13 (1975): 145–150.

Carmack, Sharon DeBartolo. The Genealogy Sourcebook. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1997.

Doane, Gilbert H., and James B. Bell. Searching For Your Ancestors: The How and Why of Genealogy. 6th ed. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992.

Latham, William, and Cindy Higgins. How to Find Your Family Roots. Rev. ed. Santa Monica, Calif. : Santa Monica Press, 2000.

Mills, Elizabeth Shown, ed. Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 2001.

Stevenson, Noel C. Genealogical Evidence: A Guide to the Standard of Proof Relating to Pedigrees, Ancestry, Heirship, and Family History. Laguna Hills, Calif. : Aegean Park, 1989.

Wright, Raymond S. The Genealogist's Handbook. Chicago: American Library Association, 1995.



views updated Jun 11 2018


Genealogy is traditionally defined as the study of a person's ancestry or the study of one's parental lines going back as far as possible in history. Probably the first recorded "genealogy" is that found in the Book of Numbers in the Bible. During the nineteenth century in the United States, genealogy became associated with membership in particular lineage societies. Only those who could prove they were descended from a particular group of people (e.g., Mayflower passengers, participants in the American Revolution) were eligible for membership in specialized societies.

The first genealogical society with membership open to anyone who wished to search for their ancestry, the New England Genealogical Society in Boston, was formed in 1845 and still exists. The National Genealogical Society, located in Arlington, Virginia, formed in 1903 with a national focus in its library collection, publications, and conferences. The National Archives, in Washington, D.C., and its branch record centers throughout the United States hold the federally generated records for public research. By the late twentieth century, many state and local genealogical societies were established where extensive library collections were made available to anyone who wished to research, sometimes for a small membership fee.

After the first U.S. centennial celebration in 1876, the number of published genealogies (often compiled by sources within a family and not always documented by public records) increased. By 1900, Gilbert Cope in Pennsylvania, Colonel Lemuel Chester and Henry F. Waters from New England, and Donald Lines Jacobus in Connecticut began to set a more professional standard for the study of one's family. The study and publication of family histories increasingly involved the use of original documents, evaluation of evidence such as that used in a court of law, standards for documenting sources, local history, and the areas of sociology, economics, and psychology. No longer was the study of genealogy only associated with exclusive organizations.

The study of genealogy has greatly expanded beyond an interest in only parental lines to include relatives who descend from all family members— brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles—across many generations of a family. The general genealogical principle in tracing one's family is to begin with the present and work backward, one generation at a time, collecting information from all living relatives and learning about the locations in and conditions under which they lived. Once that part of the search is completed, the research turns to a vast array of original source material, such as vital, census, land, probate, court, war, church, cemetery, social security, and employment records in the public domain and printed sources.

The U.S. bicentennial celebration and Alex Haley's Roots (1976), the saga of an American family with both African slave and Irish immigrant roots, have been credited with the burgeoning interest in family history. Genealogy has become an extremely popular hobby, as well as a growing profession in the United States. Genetic research and computer programs to store, retrieve, and analyze information on multiple generations of a family are both growing aspects of genealogical research.

Standard forms for collecting and documenting the family's history include an ancestral chart tracing paternal lines only, a family group sheet that documents all the details of each nuclear family, and the genogram or family chart diagramming a family's structure and process through multiple generations.

Home-study courses are offered by the National Genealogical Society, which also sponsors an annual conference in various locations around the country. Open to the general public, the conferences provide opportunities for beginning, intermediate, and advanced researchers to learn how to do personal research and use various source materials. College courses on researching genealogy are often offered at the community-college level in larger metropolitan areas. A handful of universities, including Brigham Young University, Vermont College of Norwich University, and New College of the University of Alabama, offer degree-granting programs specializing in family or local history.

By far, the single largest collection of original source material for researching families is that held by the Family History Library (FHL), owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons) in Salt Lake City. The FHL's collection, open to the general public, includes printed and microfilm material from all parts of the world. Hundreds of branch libraries of the FHL are attached to local stakes of the church and provide access to the holdings of the main FHL collection.

Other publicly and privately owned research facilities with large printed and microfilm holdings exist in every region of the country to assist researchers in locating materials of relevance to their families.

The Association of Professional Genealogists, located in Washington, D.C., is the membership organization for professional researchers. Two organizations grant certification or accreditation to professional researchers in the United States: the FHL and the Board for Certification of Genealogists, located in Falmouth, Virginia.

See also:Kinship


bentley, e. p. (1994). the genealogist's address book, 3rd edition. baltimore: genealogical publishing.

doane, g. h. (1992). searching for your ancestors: thehow and why of genealogy, 6th edition. minneapolis: university of minnesota press.

eakle, a., and cerny, j., eds. (1984). the source: a guidebook of american genealogy. salt lake city: ancestry publishing.

eichholz, a., ed. (1992). ancestry's red book: americanstate, county, and town sources, revised edition. salt lake city: ancestry publishing.

greenwood, v. (1990). the researcher's guide to american genealogy, 2nd edition. baltimore: genealogical publishing.

hey, d. (1996). the oxford companion to local andfamily history. new york: oxford university press.

jacobus, d. l. (1968). genealogy as pastime and profession, 2nd edition. baltimore: genealogical publishing.

kemp, t. k. (1990). international vital records handbook. baltimore: genealogical publishing.

wright, r. s. (1995). the geneologist's handbook: modern methods for researching family history. chicago: american library association.

alice eichholz (1995)bibliography revised byjames j. ponzetti, jr.


views updated May 18 2018


Genealogy plays an important role in Islamic civilizations, often drawing on local pre-Islamic traditions, common to most oral cultures, of preserving memory and history through recitation of long chains of ancestors. The pre-Islamic Arabian tribes, such as Quraysh, the tribe of Muhammad, traced their lineage back to a common ancestor who was the eponym of the group, which was further subdivided into smaller clans, each sharing a common line of descent. Islamic concepts of genealogy derive from pre-Islamic Arabian identification with tribal lineages, honor, and prestige, participation in early Muslim history, and relationship to the Prophet and his Companions.

With the triumph of the Islamic vision, tribal loyalties were to be superceded by common Muslim brotherhood. Traces of the tribal genealogical precedence and concept of nobility persisted, however, augmented by specifically Islamic associations. One genre of Arabic historical recordings was the citation of lineages (ansab), and this was incorporated in the compilation of early Islamic biographical compendia such as the Tabaqat of Ibn Sa˓d. The importance of lineage was based conceptually on the idea of noble ancestry as shaping character through lineage (nasl ) or origin (asl ). Priority in accepting Islam also had pragmatic benefits in early Islamic history as the caliph Umar established a system known as the diwan, recording precedence in conversion and apportioning payments to families based on this ranking.

As the Muslims expanded into new territories, they initially garrisoned Arab troops separately from local populations, who needed to form client relationships with Arabs and establish quasi-genealogical links to them as they Islamicized. Gradually these populations converted and assimilated, the dates of this process having been traced by historian Richard Bulliet through genealogical material and especially nomenclature preserved in the early biographical compendia. This tracing of conversion dates is possible because the period of the family's conversion to Islam is visible in the name of the final ancestor to preserve a local pre-Islamic first name.

Arabic names include various components. The kunya (patronymic) tends to be in the form "son of" (ibn), "daughter of" (bint), father (abu), or "mother of" (umm), and additional long strings of a person's ancestors (nasab) are recorded in more formal documents or histories. Names may further contain what is called a nisba or relational suffix that may indicate city of origin or principal residence, tribal or ancestral relationships, and a further laqab or descriptive epithet based on physical characteristics or profession.

Descendants of the Prophet are often designated by the title sayyid and given special respect in certain Muslim societies. For example, in Iran, sayyid males wear a black turban in ritual settings, in Morocco they are known as the shurafa, and in India and Pakistan they are the highest "caste" of Indian Muslims, followed, respectively, by those claiming Arab, Mogul, or Pathan ancestors. These groups are the nobles (ashraf ) or descendants of migrants to India rather than the descendants of indigenous converts (ajlaf ). This honoring may thus be seen to emerge from religious sentiment of respect for and charisma of the Prophet's household and Companions, and also of the cultural precedence accorded to Arab Muslims in non-Arab contexts. A modern example of this respect based on genealogy is the designation of Jordan as "the Hashemite kingdom," Banu Hashim being the clan of the Prophet, as a factor legitimizing the ruling dynasty, who claim descent from the Prophet's lineage.

A further element of genealogical understanding in Islamic cultures is the concept of spiritual or intellectual lineages in Sufi or scholarly traditions. Here chains of succession are established to previous masters and authorities, often ascending to the prophet Muhammad himself. This concept is known as the shajara (tree) of descent and diagrams tracing such trees form a component of hagiographic and other biographical genres and may be ritually recited as part of Sufi ritual.

See alsoBiography and Hagiography ; Historical Writing ; Tariqa .


Bulliet, Richard W. Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period: An Essay in Quantitative History. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979.

Rosenthal, Franz. "Nasab." In Vol. 7., Encyclopedia of Islam. 2d ed. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1993.

Marcia Hermansen


views updated May 21 2018

genealogy, the study of ancestry and family descent, is an indispensable handmaiden of history. Its development reflects a gradual process of democratization as interest moved down the social scale. In post-Roman Britain, it was important for monarchs to claim impressive credentials, however unlikely. Bede insisted that Hengist and Horsa were descended from Woden: Nennius traced Britain back to Aeneas through Brutus. Neither claim was closely argued. In the Middle Ages, genealogy was related to heraldry and of concern largely to the monarchy and nobility, to whom the tracing of the succession, estates, and titles was of great importance. As the status of the gentry improved, their own interest in genealogy kindled. Richard III established the College of Arms in 1484 and from the 15th cent. to 1688 the heralds conducted visitations to confirm or deny claims. The 17th cent. produced in Camden, Dugdale, Ashmole, and Cotton distinguished genealogists and antiquarians. Authors of county histories devoted much space to pedigrees of families, since this would induce the gentry to subscribe to their volumes. Status, rank, and patronage opportunities had rarely been of greater importance and even remote family connections could be of real use. Genealogical investigation was also a powerful motive behind the foundation of many 19th-cent. local history societies, with their libraries and card indexes. The Society of Genealogists was founded in 1911. In the later 20th cent. there was a remarkable growth of interest in tracing family history among ordinary people, using record offices and reference libraries, and assisted by many books and manuals on the subject. As society grew increasingly incoherent and urban life became ever more impersonal, the desire to relate to the past and rediscover one's ancestry grew stronger. See also heraldry.

J. A. Cannon


views updated May 23 2018

ge·ne·al·o·gy / ˌjēnēˈäləjē; -ˈal-/ • n. (pl. -gies) a line of descent traced continuously from an ancestor: combing through the birth records and genealogies. ∎  the study and tracing of lines of descent or development. ∎  a plant's or animal's line of evolutionary development from earlier forms.DERIVATIVES: ge·ne·al·o·gist / -jist/·ne·al·o·gize / -ˌjīz/ v.


views updated May 17 2018

genealogy XIII. — (O)F. généalogie — late L. geneālogia — Gr. geneālogíā, f. geneā́ race, generation; see -LOGY.
So genealogical XVI, genealogist XVII.


views updated May 11 2018

genealogy An important tool in kinship theory and a vital part of the political organization of kinship-based societies. A genealogy is the means of tracing real or fictive kinship links across and between generations.


views updated May 29 2018

genealogy a line of descent traced continuously from an ancestor. The word is recorded from Middle English and comes via Old French and late Latin from Greek genealogia, from genea ‘race, generation’.