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Jewish Registers of Birth, Marriage and Death/Burial

Nature of Source

Registers of birth, marriage and death within Jewish communities.

Birth
Unfortunately the Jewish authorities pursued a haphazard method of record keeping and in the case of births little interest was shown in recording the birth of an infant. Jews did not begin the process of registering births until 1764. The Jewish congregations held on to their less than complete birth, marriage and death registers and are only available from the congregations themselves or from a few specialist collections. After the introduction of civil registration in 1837, births can be found in the civil registers.

Marriage
Jews together with Quakers were exempt from the stipulations of the Hardwicke Act of 1753, which stated that all marriages must take place in an Anglican church and only after the publication of banns. The result of this was that Jewish congregations kept their own records of marriage. After 1837, Jewish marriages can be found in the civil registers. Look for the Ketubah which is the formal Jewish marriage contract written in Aramaic with an English translation. These survive from the beginning of the 18th century. The Ketubah was usually kept by the bride and in most cases the synagogue kept a copy but only in the later part of the 19th century. The document includes the date of marriage (both the secular and Hebrew date), the place of marriage, and the Hebrew names of the bride and groom. It was very common (and still is) for marriages to take place in a private house and all that was required to make it legal was the presence of the registrar for marriages, a chuppah and a Rabbi.

For those marrying under orthodox Jewish law, it was necessary to obtain a marriage authorisation granted by the Office of the Chief Rabbi following an interview with the Beth Din or rabbinical court. The authorisation was granted after the authorities were satisfied that both parties were halachically Jewish or that they had an acceptable Certificate of Conversion. These authorisations contain much of interest such as the names of the couple, their addresses, places of birth, previous marriages, the names of any of the bridegroom’s brothers and the name of the synagogue. Many have been digitised and made available at United Synagogue’s web site (see below for details). Many orthodox Jews in the 19th century ignored the requirement that all marriages be registered with the civil authorities despite repeated calls from the Registrar General for the practice to stop and the threat of penalties. Some might have had what was known as a stille chuppah or silent marriage as no record of the civil union can be found in the marriage registers.

The London Magazine and the Gentleman’s Magazine often carried the wedding announcements of more wealthy Jews.

Death/Burial
Burial registers are kept by the individual congregations and from 1886 show the deceased’s place and country of birth. Jewish monumental inscriptions are worth finding as they can show entire family relationships. The Hebrew inscription should include the deceased’s Hebrew name which will also show the name of the deceased’s father.

Erecting a small memorial plaque in a synagogue dedicated to deceased loved one has been the practice for many years. These memorials are known as yahrzeit plaques. (Yahrzeit means anniversary in Yiddish, but it is used only in connection with the anniversary of a death). The plaques include the name of the deceased, the date of death, and the Hebrew name which includes the given name of the father. In addition, synagogues read out the death anniversary or yahrzeit of former members and this information should available amongst the synagogue records. Local Jewish newsletters also announce yahrzeit of former members.

All Jews were expelled from Britain in 1290 and later readmitted around 1655 during the rule of Oliver Cromwell. Jews were exempt from Hardwicke's marriage Act of 1753 which stipulated that all marriages must take place in an Anglican church. Sephardim Jews originated from Spain and Portugal in 1492 and the Ashkenazim came from Eastern Europe mainly from Russia and Russian controlled territories from the 1880s. Jews settled all over Britain from large cities to small towns. A community could establish a synagogue if ten males were present to form a minyan.

Because of the absence of Jewish registers, some Jews paid the local Anglican clergy to register a baptism or marriage where the need arose to officially record the legitimate descent of a person for purposes such as inheritance issues.

Some Ashkenasi synagogue registers are written in Hebrew or Yiddish. They also often use the person's Hebrew name which might not correspond to their civil name. The registers might only include the person's first name or even their nickname. Some burial registers survive and the records from the Bevis Marks Congregation from 1733-1918 form the bulk of such registers.

The Gentleman’s Magazine often reported on the lives of wealthy Jews and is useful for births, marriages and deaths announcements. The Jewish Chronicle, first published in 1841, is the main publication for birth, marriage and death notices and a surprising amount of genealogical information is packed into a typical entry. The archive of the newspaper is available from the British Library Newspaper Collections. The entire run of the Jewish Chronicle has been digitised and is available for searching and downloading for Jewish Chronicle subscribers.

Names
Every Jew is given a religious name known as shem ha'kodesh shortly after birth. The shem ha'kodesh consists of the person's Hebrew given name, followed by "son of" or "daughter of," followed by the Hebrew given name of the person's father. This naming arrangement has genealogical value as the naming pattern reveals the name of the individual and the father's name. Unfortunately, there are cases where the Hebrew name bears no relation to the father's civil first name. The naming patterns of the Ashkenazi Jews from central and eastern Europe also provide genealogical information. It is customary for a new born to be named after a deceased relative, thus narrowing down the date of death (the first son is named after the paternal grandfather and the second after the maternal grandfather). In more recent years it is also customary to name a child's middle name with the relative's name. Finding common names could suggest common ancestry. In the Sephardim tradition, naming offspring after a living relative is considered a way of honouring that person and is therefore common practice.

Many Jewish and non-Jewish records and resources can provide evidence of a birth, marriage or death.

See also
Holocaust (Shoah) Records
Jewish Records
Yizkor Books & Shtetl Records

Where Found

Synagogue records
LDS FamilySearch Centers (Bevis Mark's and other synagogue registers available on microfilm. Search the Family History Library Catalog for details of these and other records)
Society of Genealogists (Various resources including publications of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain and the Jewish Historical Society which includes transcript of synagogue records. Collections include the Colyer Fergusson Collection which has pedigrees compiled from a variety of sources and newspaper cuttings mainly dealing with obituaries; the Hyamson Collection which consists of pedigrees; the Mordy Collection which consists of a card index of information on individuals and families. The collection is available online as part of the Knowles Collection at http://histfam.familysearch.org with a Research Wiki article available here)
London Metropolitan Archives (Includes the proceedings of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, 1806-1995, papers from the United Synagogue and from the Office of the Chief Rabbi, the Beth Din records, records from the Federation of Synagogues including the Sephardi synagogue Bevis Marks, Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation archives dating from the mid-17th century. The records relate to the Bevis Marks Synagogue in the City of London and other Congregation Synagogues and include birth, marriage, burial and circumcision registers, Jew’s Free School, Westminster Jew’s School, London School of Jewish Studies and Jewish welfare organisations. See the LMA guides:
Information Leaflet Number 24: Jewish Genealogy: A Summary of Sources for Jewish Genealogy at London Metropolitan Archives and Elsewhere
Archives of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation

Period Covered

1690 - Onwards

Genealogical Value

Birth Registers
Name of child, date of birth, parent's names, congregation and synagogue.
Marriage Registers
Name, age, condition, occupation, address of bride and groom. Name of bride and groom's father and occupation. Names of witnesses. Date of marriage and name of synagogue.
Ketubah
Names of bride and groom, father's names, names of witnesses.
Burial Registers
Name of deceased, name of the cemetery, date of burial, family relatives.

Further References

Berk, Louis. East End Jewish Cemeteries: Brady Street & Alderney Road: Amberley Publishing, 2017  Buy Now on Amazon
Dobson, David. The Jewish Presence in Early British Records 1650-1850: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2014  

Gandy, Michael. Family History Cultures And Faiths: How Your Ancestors Lived And Worshipped: TNA, 2007

 

Joseph, Dr Anthony. My Ancestors were Jewish: Society of Genealogists, 2002

 

Kershaw, Roger. Immigrants and Aliens. 2nd ed.: TNA, 2004

 

Kolsky, Rachel & Rawson, Roslyn. Jewish London: A Comprehensive Guidebook for Visitors and Londoners: New Holland, 2012

 

Kurzweil, Arthur. From Generation to Generation: How to Trace Your Jewish Genealogy and Family History: Jossey-Bass, 2004

 

Leventhal, Michael & Goldstein, Richard. Jews in Britain: Shire Publications, 2013

 

Lewin, Harold. Marriage Records of the Great Synagogue, London. 1791-1885: Lewin, 2004

 

Lewin, Harold & Lewin, Miriam. Birth Records of the Great Synagogue, 1791-1877 & Hambro Synagogue, 1770-1905: Lewin, 2009

 

Lewin, Harold. New Synagogue Births, 1774-1896 and Marriages of the New Synagogue, 1790-1823 and 1837-1860 and Hambro Synagogue, 1797-1837 & post 1862: Lewin

 

Menachemson, Nolan. A Practical Guide to Jewish Cemeteries: Avotaynu, 2007

 

Segal, Joshua. A Field Guide to Visiting a Jewish Cemetery: Jewish Cemetery Publishing, 2005

 

Steel, D & Samuel E. Sources for Roman Catholic and Jewish Genealogy and Family History: Society of Genealogists, 1986

 

Wenzerul, Rosemary. Tracing Your Jewish Ancestors: Pen and Sword, 2014

 

Wenzerul, Rosemary. Jewish Ancestors? A Guide to Jewish Genealogy in the United Kingdom: Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain, 2011

 

Wenzerul, Rosemary. Genealogical Resources within the Jewish Home and Family: FFHS, 2002

 


Bevis Marks Sephardic synagogue records of birth, circumcision, marriage & burial published in six volumes. The volumes are available at many libraries. For a list of volumes see www.brunning47.demon.co.uk/melhado/bm.html.

Websites

www.thejc.com (The Jewish Chronicle Archives)
www.jewishmuseum.org.uk (The Jewish Museum London)
www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/muller (Leopold Muller Memorial Library: Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. The library holds various special collections including the Kressel, Elkoshi and Hugo Gryn collections all searchable on SOLO. The Library also holds many journals and periodicals. The library is found at the Clarendon Institute on Walton Street, Oxford and is merged with the Bodleian Libraries)
www.jewishgen.org/JCR-UK (JewishGen Jewish Communities and Records - United Kingdom: The website contains details of more than 1,200 congregations including current communities and those that no longer exist. The site has an A-Z selection of recommended websites for those researching UK Jewish Genealogy and a link to the JewishGen UK Database)
www.jewishgen.org (JewishGen: Databases and other extensive resources for researching Jewish ancestry including calculator tools, InfoFiles providing information on topics of relevance to Jewish genealogical research and discussion groups)
www.londongardensonline.org.uk
(London Gardens Online. Online access to information on cemeteries/burial grounds across the whole of London covering C of E, Jewish, Roman Catholic, Quaker and other denominations as well as churchyards and burial grounds)
www.lo-tishkach.org (European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative - information on Jewish burial grounds in Europe)
www.iajgs.org/cemetery (The International Jewish Cemetery Project, The project aims to catalogue every Jewish burial site in the world)
www.bloodandfrogs.com (Jewish genealogy blog)
www.bloodandfrogs.com/2011/03/jewish-genealogy-basics-mailing-lists.html (Jewish Genealogy Basics: List of Jewish Genealogy Mailing Lists)
www.jewishgen.org/JCR-UK/susser (The Susser Archives)
www.bloodandfrogs.com/2011/04/jewish-gravestone-symbols.html (Jewish Gravestone Symbols)
www.jgsgb.org.uk/blog (Jewish Ancestors?: A Blog about UK Jewish Genealogical matters from The Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain)
www.rtrfoundation.org/archdta.shtml (Foreign alphabets including Hebrew and Yiddish)
www.asiamap.ac.uk/collections/index.php (Search for Jewish collections held at UK institutions)
www.jgsgb.org.uk (Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain. The JGSGB maintains a Register of Professional Researchers and Translators who are members of the Society who can offer help with research)
www.iijg.org (International Institute for Jewish Genealogy)
www.ancestry.com/learn/library/article.aspx?article=7232 (Beginning Jewish Research by Barbara Krasner-Khait)
www.ancestry.com/learn/library/article.aspx?article=4114 (Jewish Research by Gary Mokotoff)
www.connectinghistories.org.uk/Learning%20Packages/Migration/migration_settlement_jh_lp_03.asp (19th Century Birmingham Jewry)
www.movinghere.org.uk (History and guide to Jewish immigration and transcriptions and images of original documents including photos)
www.movinghere.org.uk/galleries/roots/jewish/jewish.htm (Jewish Roots)
www.movinghere.org.uk/galleries/roots/jewish/religiousrecords/religiousrecords.htm (Jewish Religious Records)
www.movinghere.org.uk/galleries/roots/jewish/tracingjewishroots/tracingjewishroots.htm (Tracing Jewish Roots)
www.suffolk.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/D3701F37-CAEC-4392-949A-92B3840DF076/0/28JEWISHANCESTRYBWJES20090518.pdf (Researching Jewish Ancestry)
www.iajgs.org/cemetery/british-isles/index.html (International Jewish Cemetery Project, British Isles)
http://217.154.230.218/NR/rdonlyres/A309CAC1-C05F-4DE0-94D5-AA1BFFDFE618/0/infono16.pdf (Records of The Anglo-Jewish Community at London Metropolitan Archives)
http://217.154.230.218/NR/rdonlyres/E53DC45F-D3D6-47A5-A795-4E4E7AA69F90/0/Infono32.pdf (A summary of Sources for Jewish Genealogy at London Metropolitan Archives and Elsewhere)
www.avotaynu.com (Publisher of books, maps & CD ROMs of interest to persons who are researching Jewish genealogy)
www.british-jewry.org.uk (Forum & resources for researching British Jewry)
www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/looking-for-person/immigrants.htm?WT.lp=rg-3112 (TNA Guide: Looking for records of an immigrant)
www.channel4.com/history/microsites/H/history/browse/jewish.html (Jewish history in Great Britain)
www.portcities.org.uk/london (The Jewish community and the port of London)
http://yourjewishgem.blogspot.co.uk (Jewish Gem's Genealogy: Mining for Your Elusive Ancestors. Blogging about information related to Jewish genealogy found on foreign language websites, including names, events, resources, etc)
www.untoldlondon.org.uk/community/jewish (History of Jewish life in Great Britain including a directory of relevant museums and archives)
https://www.familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Jewish_Genealogy_Research (FamilySearch Research Wiki: Jewish Genealogy Research)
https://www.familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Jewish_Search_Strategies (FamilySearch Research Wiki: Jewish Search Strategies)
www.familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Jewish_Genealogy (FamilySearch Research Wiki: Jewish Genealogy)
http://homepage.ntlworld.com/hitch/gendocs/cem.html (Victorian London Cemeteries, including Jewish Cemeteries)
http://homepage.ntlworld.com/hitch/gendocs/churches.html (Victorian London Churches, including synagogues)
www.jgene.org (Jewish Genealogy Wiki, links, resources & databases)
http://library-2.lse.ac.uk/archives/pdf/Jewish_notebooks.html (Notebooks relating to the London Jewish community taken from The Charles Booth Online Archive)
www.avotaynu.com/nu.htm (Nu? What's New is a weekly Internet magazine published by Avotaynu providing information of interest to persons tracing their Jewish family history)
www.chabad.org/calendar/birthday_cdo/aid/6228/jewish/Jewish-Birthday-Calculator.htm (Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center: Jewish Birthday Calculator)
www.arc.id.au/Calendar.html (Multi-country historical calendar for the years 1000 to 2100)
http://surnames.behindthename.com (Behind the Name: The etymology and history of surnames covering English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh and Jewish Names
www.behindthename.com (Behind the Name: The etymology and history of first names covering English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Biblical and Jewish Names)

Online Databases

http://histfam.familysearch.org (FamilySearch Community Trees: Jewish Families Knowles Collection: The collection contains information on more than 300,000 Jews from the Americas, British Isles, Caribbean, Europe, the Orient and Africa. Building on the work of the late Isobel Mordy who compiled any information she could about the Jewish people from many sources including Jewish records, civil records and personal family records, the collection links individuals into family groups. More names are added continuously)
www.familysearch.org (Historical Record Collections including the International Genealogical Index. The IGI may include only limited information on Jewish families but is certainly worth searching)
www.thejc.com
(Jewish Chronicle Archives from 1840. The Jewish Chronicle, based in London, is the world's oldest continuously published Jewish newspaper and contains details of births, marriages and deaths that occurred within the British Jewish community)
www.myheritage.com/research/collection-10148/the-jewish-chronicle (Online access The Jewish Chronicle newspaper archive dating back to 1841. The Jewish Chronicle, based in London, is the world's oldest continuously published Jewish newspaper and contains details of births, marriages and deaths that occurred within the British Jewish community)
www.jewishgen.org/databases/UK (JewishGen & JGSGB United Kingdom Database: More than 220,000 records for England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and Gibraltar and the Republic of Ireland extracted from a variety of sources, including synagogue birth, marriage and burial/cemetery records, census records, school records, business directories, the 1851 Anglo-Jewry Database, the Islington Jews Database, Jews' Free School Admission Registers, c 1856-c.1907, JewishGen Family Finder and others. The collection incorporates databases from the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain and is a joint project with JewishGen)
www.jewishgen.org/databases (Databases from Britain, Europe and across the world of Jewish related records, including burials, marriages, business records, names being researched and census entries. Look for the Special Interest Group [SIG] for the country being researched)
www.jewishgen.org/databases/cemetery (JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry: More than 2 million records from more than 4,900 cemeteries [or cemetery sections] from 104 countries)
www.jewishgen.org/databases/Cemetery/Submit.htm (JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry: Database of names and other identifying information from Jewish cemeteries and burial records worldwide, from the earliest records to the present)
www.jewishgen.org/JCR-UK/susser/susserpublications.htm (The Susser Archives available at JewishGen)
www.findmypast.co.uk (Boyd's Marriage Index 1538-1840 including the London & Middlesex Marriage Index 1538-1837: This collection indexes 96,000 marriages for the City of London and Middlesex. This is an on-going project by Cliff Webb working from surviving source records. Over 50,000 City of London marriages and 46,000 for Middlesex have been indexed. These include 3,100 Jewish marriages from Bevis Marks and the Great Synagogues)
www.thegenealogist.co.uk
(Jewish Records. These records with linked images contain Births, Bar Mitzvahs, Betrothals, announcements, Marriages, Deaths, Obituaries, Wills, Synagogue seat holders, Killed in Action, Jewry Roll of Honour, Roll of Service and Tombstones to be set)
www.lancashirebmd.org.uk (Lancashire BMD part of the UKBMD group of Family History and Genealogy web sites: North Manchester Synagogue records including those from the Higher Broughton Synagogue 1937, the Higher Crumpsall Synagogue 1937, Manchester Central and North Manchester Synagogues 1937 and the Kersal North Salford Synagogue, formerly the Rumanian shul, 1937)
www.mdcs.org.uk/searchburials.aspx (Manchester And District Council Of Synagogues: Public access to burial records for a number of the Jewish cemeteries within Manchester and the surrounding areas)  
www.british-jewry.org.uk (Transcribed records including burial and marriage registers, shul and school lists, name changes, Jewish Chronicle announcements and naturalisations)
www.synagoguescribes.com (Synagogue Scribes: database of London Ashkenazi Synagogue records, mostly pre-1837 civil registration)
www.cemeteryscribes.com
(Cemetery Scribes: Headstone inscriptions with photos from Jewish cemeteries throughout the UK. The site also has a section providing the ability to browse by surname, to find individuals and mini family trees extracted from various sources)
www.theus.org.uk/category/find-marriage-record (United Synagogue Marriage Authorisation Certificate Records, 1880 to 1901. Online access to indexes of Marriage Authorisation Certificates for marriages which took place under the auspices of the Office of the Chief Rabbi)
www.theus.org.uk/category/find-grave (United Synagogue Grave Search. Online facility to locate ancestors in one of the United Synagogue cemeteries)
www.sandp.org/archives.htm (Bevis Marks Records: Published volumes of the Bevis Marks records of birth, marriage and death/burial. The volumes are available at the London Metropolitan Archives and at the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain)

CD Roms

www.avotaynu.com/AvotaynuCDROM.htm (Avotaynu back issues 1985–2008. Avotaynu is the world's largest circulation magazine devoted to Jewish genealogy)