Sources for Armchair Genealogists

Jerome Silverbush


To really do genealogy, you have to get out of your home and visit cemeteries, town halls, the National Archives, museums, libraries, your ancestorís country and so on. If you are like me and you are not inclined to get off your duff, there are many valuable on-line genealogical sources, some of which I have listed below. There are also literally thousands of genealogy web sites that are just trying to make a buck from you. Donít waste any time on them. Stick to resources from respected institutions like the ones Iíve listed below.



Ellis Island: Ellis Island has a database on line of all the immigrants who passed through there. Go to. The basic records includes name, age, date of arrival, ship, port of departure, etc. You can actually view the original shipís manifest for more details. Stephen Morseís web site helps you to search the Ellis Island database even if you are not sure of the spelling of the name.


The Bet Hatefutsoth museum has a database of family names and information on shtetls. Go to the home page and click on the communities link. You can fill out and submitt an online form for community information. You have to email them about family information.


Yad Vashem has a database of information on Holocaust victims, submitted by relatives and friends. If you have an unusual name, ask for a search on the name. I submitted Silberbusch and they sent back about 10 "Pages of Testimony" with comprehensive information on each person. Email,: Email your request and they snail mail you the information and bill you about 50 centsper page. It is best if you specify the town your ancestor came from.


Researcher: If you're interested in spending some money, there is a researcher who I have used in Romania who has helped me a lot. He charges $20 a record (birth certificate, etc) found and translated plus travel expenses (he charged me $70 for travel), Email me if you want information on how to contact him.


JewishGen Family Finder: This is a database of thousands of names/shtetls that JewishGeners are researching. You might find someone else who is looking for your family or your shtetl.


JewishGen Necrology Index: Go to the Yizkor home page: and click the link to Necrology Index. This is a searchable compilation of all the Yizkor books on JewishGen


Family Tree of the Jewish People: This is a database of family trees submitted by JewishGenners. You have to register to search this database or to submit your family tree.


Jewish Records Indexing Poland: This database indexes over one million vital records stored in Polish archives. After you find the records you want, you fill out a form and mail in the form along with a check for $11 for each record and in about a month copies of the original records will be mailed to you. JewishGen acts as an intermediary between you and the Polish archives.


Social Security Death Index: Go to and click on the Social Security Death Index link. It is a little hard to find. This is a database of anyone who ever applied for a social security card and eventually died. If you find a name of interest you, you can send for the original application which contains parentís names and place and date of birth. Unfortunately, it now costs $30 per record. I donít like sending you to a commercial site, but I canít find this information at the Social Security site.


Maps for Finding your Shtetl

JewishGen ShtetlSeeker

Ethnographic Map of Bukovina


Naturalization: Many of my ancestors were naturalized in New York City and thatís the process Iím familiar with. Naturalization papers are archived in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and if you have a branch near you, you can do your research and obtain the papers in one session. The cost is nominal, just the reproduction cost. I did the research at my local library. There is a company called Heritage Quest, 800-760-2455, that has indexes to the NARA microfilms at the library. Using the Heritage Quest index, you find a microfilm that interests you, for example, ďM1676, Roll 21:NY Nat Index 1824 to 1906, Schwartz to Sorgenfrei.Ē You ask the librarian to send for the film at a cost of $3:50 plus $3.00 handling. When the film arrives, you scan it for a card referring to your ancestor. The cards just have names and a volume and page number. If you find a card for your ancestor, you send a request to NARA in NYC with the film number, name, volume and page number and they will send you the naturalization papers. The NARA office in NYC is at 201 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014-4811.



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Updated 11/29/01