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Family Research

If you are new to Litvak genealogy research, you will need some orientation on how to get started. This page aims to point you in the right direction to the resources located on this site and elsewhere to help you in your endeavor.

There are two main things you need to know to leverage your way into Litvak records. The first is the shtetl from which your family originated and the second are likely versions of your ancestor’s surname.

To find your ancestral shtetl, you should first read this FAQ on the JewishGen website. Then, use the Shtetl Finder on JewishGEN. Once you have found your shtetl, use the Shtetl Database to determine the Uyezd and Gubernia in which your ancestral shtetl was typically assigned during the late 19th and early 20th century. The Shtetl List page for your ancestral shtetl includes a wealth of related links so that you can learn about the history of the shtetl and other resources available for continuing your research on the shtetl including links to others doing research on the same shtetl.

To find or confirm spellings of your ancestor’s name, use the JewishGEN Family Finder to search for your family name. Try using multiple search types, including the D-M soundex system so you have a complete picture of the ways in which your family name is likely to be spelled in the records. You should use the Lithuania Given Names Database to identify likely given names for your ancestors. These generally vary from the Anglicized or modified names people adopted after they left Lithuania.

Your next stop is the All Lithuania Database (ALD) This database is a compilation of all data acquired and translated by LitvakSIG since its inception (circa 1998) and up through about 18 months ago. You can search this database for various combinations of surname and locality.

When you begin your searches, it's best to start with a "broad" search before "narrowing" it down. For example, search your surname for all of Lithuania and if you get a large number of hits, then begin to narrow down the search by entering the shtetl name along with the surname. By starting with too narow a search (eg. surname with town) you may find that you get few or no hits.

Where do you go from here?

  1. Join LitvakSIG to gain access to our Members Website which has additional research resources including catalogs for various archives in Lithuania, our Research Library and many other resources in several languages.
  2. Join the LitvakSIG Research Group for the Uyezd (District) or Gubernia in which your ancestral shtetl belongs.
  3. Identify and join, if applicable, any Special Projects for your shtetl.
  4. Subscribe to the free LitvakSIG Digest, a discussion forum dedicated to Litvak research.
  5. Explore the Resources Section and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Sections of our website.

Good Luck !