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|Jewish Perspectives on UK Records|
Tracing Jewish Roots
Jewish Perspectives on UK Records
Service Records of Jews
Records in Other Countries
Pulling It All Together
The following sections highlight the record sources you should consult first when tracing Jewish immigrants, and provide tips on overcoming problems you might experience. You should try to build up as complete a picture as possible of your ancestors' lives after they arrived here before tackling the records in the country of origin.
The vital records of persons of Jewish descent are found in the conventional civil records or registers, along with those of everyone who was born, married or died in England.
Most names are found in the General Register Office indexes held at the Family Records Centre or in the microfiche version available at Family History Centres and other libraries and archives.
If you cannot find your ancestor where you believe they should be in the indexes, think laterally of all the possible variant spellings. Names from other languages and often different alphabets can be transliterated or translated in many different ways, or could be arbitrarily anglicised.
A number of births in the East End of London, where many Jews settled on first arriving in England, do not appear in the General Registry Office indexes as expected but are found, for example, in the local registers. (Tower Hamlets covers Whitechapel, Stepney, Mile End, Bethnal Green and Poplar.) It may be necessary to contact:
Tower Hamlets Register Office
Bromley Public Hall
London E3 3AA
Tel: 020 7364 7891
A similar problem may occur with births in other areas, especially Manchester.
Deaths are registered in the conventional manner and are found in the GRO indexes. All Jewish communal institutions keep separate burial records. Cremation records are usually kept by the specific crematorium, as cremation is not regarded as acceptable by orthodox Jewish institutions.
For further details, link here for Jewish Religious Records.
There is a large volume of wills proved in England from 1858 onwards at the Principal (Probate) Registry of the Family Division, Wills and Administrations, and as they are organised in yearly sections it makes searching relatively easy. The address is:
1st Avenue House
42-49 High Holborn
London W1V 6NP
Read more about wills and probate.
The 1891 and 1901 census records are of particular interest to those undertaking Jewish genealogical research.
Read more about where to consult census records and what they contain.
Census records can present a particular challenge for tracing immigrant ancestors: heavily accented informants, often wary of government officials, providing unfamiliar names to over-stretched enumerators, often mean that names are mangled, misspelled or corrupted. For this reason, indexes of censuses (such as 1881, 1901 and parts of other censuses) are often frustrating for those in search of Jewish ancestors. If, having checked all likely variants in the index, you have no leads, try searching the original census records of areas around known addresses found in certificates or letters.
As chain migration was common, with new arrivals settling close to or staying with already established family members or people from the same shtetls, and communities of immigrants concentrated in particular areas, it is well worth exploring the neighbours when you've found one branch of the family in the census.
If you can find a relative, the census should provide the country, if not place, of birth, as well as dates, occupations and names of other members in the household.
The National Archives series (PRO) HO334 holds duplicates of certificates and declarations granted under the various naturalisation and aliens acts.
Consult the name indexes to naturalizations in the HO class lists to 1936, or the additional finding aids in the research enquiries room at the National Archives for 1947-57, and in the series of parliamentary papers on microfiche in the microfiche reading room at the National Archives for 1958-61.
From 1961 onwards the indexes are still held by the Home Office.
Even if it is not possible to obtain a copy of the naturalisation certificate, the background papers to the naturalization are often very helpful, providing details of:
A common pitfall is that the individual may only have been naturalised many years after first arriving in the United Kingdom. Indeed, some people never bothered to take this expensive step, though that did not necessarily stop them from claiming to have been naturalised in the census.
Many married women did not have individual naturalisation papers but became British automatically because of the husband's naturalisation. Also, it was possible to travel outside the United Kingdom without a passport for many years.
Until the Aliens Act of 1905, immigrants were required to register on arrival, and the certificate was sent to the Aliens Office. In this manner the government could keep check on criminals and foreigners rather than excluding them from entry to the UK. Some of the Alien Registers are held locally, such as at the Manchester Police Museum.
Ship's Passenger Manifests in the National Archives series (PRO) BT26 contain inward passenger lists from 1878-88 and 1890-1960. Unfortunately ships arriving from the Mediterranean and other European ports were excluded; therefore, the majority of Ashkenazi Jews entering England are not found in these lists. For earlier settlers though, the records in HO 2 contain certificates of arrival for many Jews and other people travelling to England and Scotland between 1836 and 1852. These are partly indexed in HO5. The certificates contain details of:
It is also worth consulting the masters of ships' returns in (PRO) HO3, which cover the period 1836 to 1869. Though the series is largely unindexed, and arranged by year of arrival, the Metzner index at the National Archives lists Germans, Pole and Prussians arriving between 1847 and 1852, including many Jews.
Many Jews, especially those of German origin, were interned during the First and Second World Wars. Not all of the records survive, but those that do are held at the National Archives in Kew. Link here for more information on the internment records available at The National Archives.
Although well over 40,000 Jews passed through the temporary shelter in Leman Street, London (see le.ac.uk/hi/teaching/papers/jewspap and chrysalis.its.uct.ac.za/shelter/about for access to the database), the majority went on to the US, South Africa or South America, meaning that few remained in England.
Nevertheless it is worth looking at the database for possible relatives. The actual registers are now kept at the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) Link here for further details about Jewish records at the LMA.
Further information relating to Jewish immigrants can be found at:
Tower Hamlets Local History Library
277 Bancroft Road
London E1 4DQ
Tel: 020 8980 4366
This library holds marriage notice books in Stepney from 1926, Bethnal Green 1837-78 and 1930-65 and records of marriage applications, as well as material on London's East End, local newspapers, census and electoral registers.
Southampton SO17 1BJ
Tel: 023 8059 2180.
Web site: archive.lib.soton.ac.uk/guide
The Hartley Library, Archives and Manuscript Department includes the Parkes Library, founded to promote the study of relations between the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds, and contains 14,000 books and periodicals.
It also has extensive collections of manuscripts relating to Anglo-Jewry, including archives of the Union of Jewish Women, the papers of the Jewish Board of Guardians and of the Jewish Blind Society. A catalogue of the archives was published in 1992.
The University of Southampton, Geography Department also has large-scale maps of 1920s Poland, and Luftwaffe maps of part of the western area of the former USSR.
190 Cheetham Hill
Manchester M8 8LW
Tel: 0161 834 9879
If you are interested in the sources used for compiling this information, please follow this link to the author's references for Jewish Perspectives on UK Records, which you may find useful in your own research.
Creators: Dr Saul Issroff
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