Searching for your Jewish Ancestors in Lithuania
Searching for your Lithuanian ancestors can be rewarding, challenging and puzzling. Knowing the history of Eastern Europe from the thirteenth century to present helps clarify the many challenges of determining the source of your ancestors. Wars were waged, won and lost, territories were captured and occupied, borders changed.
Start with the LitvakSIG site (http://www.litvaksig.org)
A wealth of information is available. Search the All Lithuanian Database ALD http://www.litvaksig.org/index.php/component/litvaksearch/?view=ald. Documents then can be ordered directly from the appropriate archives.
Records are held in a number of archives in Lithuania. The major ones are listed below:
Lithuanian State Historical Archives
Web site: http://www.archyvai.lt/en/archives/historicalarchives.html
Mailing address: Gerosios Vilties 10, LT-03134 Vilnius, Lithuania
Telephone: +370 5 213 7482, Fax: +370 5 278 43 69
“Lithuanian State Historical Archives is the main repository of records for the Lithuanian history from the 13th century up to the declaration of the Independence of Lithuania in 1918 (civil registry and vital records up until to our days). The records of state institutions, religious communities, popular organizations and families that are maintained in this Archives also reflect the history of Russia, Belarus, Poland, Ukraine, Latvia and other countries.”
Lithuanian Central State Archives
Web site: http://www.archyvai.lt/en/archives/centralarchives.html
Mailing address: Milašiaus 21, LT-10102, Vilnius, Lithuania
Telephone: +370 5 247 7811, Fax: +370 5 276 5318
Reserved e-mail: email@example.com
“… preserves records of state, local government, enterprises, religious communities, popular organizations, other non-state institutions and individuals, dating from 1918 until 1990”
Kaunas Regional Archives
“The biggest County archives, which preserves documents of the former Kaunas Gubernya institutions from the middle of the 19th century until 1918, documents of some institutions that functioned in the Kaunas region during the 1918-1945 period, and documents of regional state, municipal and non-state institutions, enterprises, popular organizations and individuals of the Kaunas, Jonava, Kaišiadorys, Kėdainiai, Prienai, and Raseiniai districts from 1945 until the present day. Archives is also involved in supervision of records management of local public institutions.
The Lithuania Internal Passports Database (1919-1940)
Is rich in the scope of information on the person to whom the passport was issued and his/her family members. http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Lithuania/InternalPassports.htm
Spelling our ancestors names, or rather guessing how the name might have been spelled, is an additional challenge. Help is available in understand the ALD standards, see:
“Translation, Transliteration, and Database Standards for the ALD” http://litvaksig.org/search-ald/translation-transliteration-and-database-standards-for-the-ald?task=article
Routes to Routes Foundation http://www.rtrfoundation.org/index.shtml is a family history and genealogy guide to Jewish and civil records in Eastern Europe. Click on the map of Lithuania and follow the subjects you would like. The site is rich in useful tools and archival information.
See Town Find, KehilaLinks, Yizkor Books, Family Pages, Family Finder, Family Trees, etc. Keep in mind that borders changed frequently. Therefore if you do not find your shtetl in Lithuania, try neighboring countries such as Belarus, Ukraine and Poland. Keeping that in mind see the Courland Research Group http://www.jewishgen.org/Courland/ and http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Lithuania/ and JRI-Poland Jewish Records Indexing Poland http://jri-poland.org/
JewishGen Given Names Data Bases (GNDBs) (http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/GivenNames/index.htm)
YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (http://www.yivoinstitute.org/)
In addition to research aids, the Lithuania: Jewish Family History Research Guide details some of YIVO’s holdings http://www.cjh.org/pdfs/Lithuania.pdf
Polish Geographic, see the town index http://www.pgsa.org/Towns/townindex.php
Genealogy Indexer (http://genealogyindexer.org/)
For example, there are Lithuanian telephone directories for 1930, 1935, 1938, and 1939.
New York Public Library Yizkor Books on-line (http://yizkor.nypl.org/)
Some yizkor books have indexed by Genealogy Indexer (see above)
Good sources of immigration to the US are found at the following sites:
Ellis Island (http://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/passenger)
Castle Garden (http://www.castlegarden.org/)
SHEMOT The Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain. March 2012 Vol. 20, 1. 40 p.
The entire issue is devoted to Lithuania genealogy with articles written by leading experts in the field.
Several archives in Israel have a wealth of information. Some are catalogued and searchable online, whereas others are either partially computerized or in the process of being computerized and require sending a request for information.
Central Archive for the History of the Jewish People (https://cahjp.huji.ac.il/)
Central Zionist Archives (http://www.zionistarchives.org.il/en/Pages/Default.aspx)
The Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel has an extensive historical archive http://www.lithuanianjews.org.il/HTMLs/article.aspx?C2004=14519&BSP=690&BSS6=14519 and requires writing to the archive with specific requests.
The following two archives in Israel are catalogued online and do have information on Lithuanian Jewry and their plight:
Beit Lohamei Haghetaot (http://infocenters.co.il/gfh/?lang=eng)
A number of important publications are listed below:
Yahadut Lita(Hebrew) Tel Aviv: Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel, 1960-1984. 4 vols.
Vol I Lithuanian Jewry from the 15th Century to 1918
Vol II The Jews in Independent Lithuania 1918-1941.
Vol III The Annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry 1945-1991.
Vol IV The Holocaust 1941-1945.
Pinkas Hakehilot Lita(Hebrew). Translation from Hebrew to English of Table of Contents http://www.jewishgen.org/Yizkor/Pinkas_lita/Pinkas_Lita.html Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1996.
The Holocaust in Lithuania 1941-1945 by Rose Cohen and Saul Issroff. Jerusalem, Gefen, 2002. 4 vol.
Check Avotaynu http://www.avotaynu.com/ for its many publications.