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Genealogy 101: a guide for new genealogists

I have received many questions about genealogical research. So I decided to write a small guide on how I started and what was the process of the research.
This document is not intended as an exhaustive list of all the tools, documents or sources that exist today, but simply a testimony of my personal experience limited to researches in Argentina, Moldova, Ukraine, France and some in USA.

This little guide consists of 3 parts:
a) The search process
b) The various documents and the information they contain
c) Research tips

a) The search process

1) The beginning

The basic source of information is the family (parents, grandparents, uncles, great-uncles, etc.). They will be able to provide us with data, photos, documents and anecdotes. With this basic information, you can begin looking into other sources.

2) Obtaining documents and / or data

- Acts of birth, death or marriage (*): at the registry office or at home in the "casa de la provincia" concerned..
- Death certificates: cemeteries are a great source of information (both the tombstones as records). There is also a database of cemeteries AMIA (
- Immigration Records: Immigrant Museum can show that boat came a person (Puerto Madero) and database CEMLA (
- Census: Family History Library (
- Passenger lists and other documents JCA: Museo Judio de Buenos Aires (next to the Synagogue of Libertad)
- Miscelaneous documents: Museum of Jewish colonies of Entre Rios (censuses, passenger lists, and many others).
(*) In order to request the documents must be information base (for example in the case of birth, death or marriage, it should be the name of the person, the place and the approximate date)

- (JewishGen Databases) indexed many databases (birth, death, marriage, voting, etc.) and then you can ask a microfilm copy to the Family History Library
- Vital Records: Family History Library (
- (Holocaust Museum in Israel): databases of people killed in the Shoah

- Vital Records and others: (paid site) (*)
- Immigration Records:

- Vital Records Online: (portal)
- Family trees:

- Passenger Lists Hamburg: (paid site) (*)
- Passenger lists of Bremen: (available online from 1920 to 1939)

Search in family trees published by other genealogists: (There are loads anywhere in, and many others)

There are many other sources of information on the Internet. Links on the page there are a few that I found interesting.

(*) A separate review on is a fabulous site with plenty of information and one of the most complete online database of documents. But beware of subscriptions. Subscribing is easy and even a free trial period, but may be less easy to unsubscribe: the renovation is done automatically few days before the expiration of the subscription (not wait until the deadline to cancel), and in some cases (it happened to my me) to unsubscribe page does not show the button that allows you to do (is there but unseen, you need to select it with the mouse to find it). There is the possibility of canceling the subscription by phone but outside USA is long distance.

3) Family research and contact with genealogists working in the same ancestors
- JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF): the best place is the list indexes JewishGen where other genealogists publish the names they are researching by location. You can also leave your data for other genealogists to contact you.

4) General Information and Support
To get in touch with other genealogists and ask for advice, mailing lists and forums are the best resources (there are lists dedicated by type research or geographic locations)
- JewishGen Discussion Group
- JewishGen Special Interest Group (SIG) Mailing Lists
- Interest Groups at

5) Professional Researchers
Finally, in the case of searches in Eastern Europe, you can hire a professional researcher who will search the archives (will be cheaper and easier, since in general the documents are in Cyrillic). I hired a couple in Moldova and Ukraine at a cost of 100 or 200 USD. That if you have to be careful because there are many scammers. It is best to seek advice on the JewishGen discussion groups for other genealogists already hired the services and can provide references. There is also a compiled list at

6) Internet, an essential tool
Everyone related to the family can provide valuable data. My experience is that internet not only serves to search but also to connect with others. Besides discussion groups, or JewishGen Family Finder, the fact of publishing the family tree of the family helped me a lot. Many people saw the site and contacted me, not only providing valuable information but, more importantly, building relationships and friendships. Today it is not necessary to be a computer expert to publish your tree on the Internet. One possibility is to publish in one of the many pages that allow entering a family tree (but normally will only be consulted by genealogists). The other is to publish it by yourself (there are free programs that can generate pages on the Internet), so it is indexed on sites like Google or Yahoo. Many people enter their name in the search engines to see if they find references to his family, and that's how you can generate leads.
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b) The different types of documents and the information they contain

1) Birth records: date and place of birth, name, name and age of parents (sometimes grandparents), parents origin, other
2) Marriage records: date and place of marriage, names of spouses and parents, age and place of birth of the spouses
3) Death certificates: date and place of death, age of the deceased, place of birth, witnesses (possible family)
4) Census: name, age, relationship with the other members of the family, profession, others
5) Lists of passengers: date, ship, passenger name, age, origin, relationship to other household members, other
6) Pages of Testimony (Yad Vashem): person's name, age, origin, witness (possible family member)
7) Telephone Guide: name, address and phone number
8) Lists of Voters: name, age, origin
9) Business Records: name, age, profession, address
10) Naturalization records: date and place of birth, name, name and age of parents (sometimes grandparents), parents origin, other
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c) Research Tips

The following tips are based on my personal experience. Other genealogists could have different ones:

1) Write down the source of the information you've received. Often it happens that different people give different versions or documents or data, and it's good to know where the information that we had came from.

2) Do not despair if you get stuck at some point in the research of any branch of the family. If nothing is working, continue with another branch. It can happen that some time later a new lead appears that will restart everything.

3) Use discussion lists when faced with problems. Many genealogists surely went through the same issues and can provide solutions.

4) Many people ask me how to get records and documents in the country of origin of the ancestors.
It is very important to know exactly what town/village the ancestors come from before dealing with it (go to the archives, hiring researchers).
To clearly identify the place of origin, the first sources should be the local ones in the immigration country (family, death records, passenger lists, immigration records).
You can also search the records of the country of origin when they are indexed easily accessible online like at JewishGen, Yad Vashem, FHL, etc. and through contact with other genealogists researching the same family.
Until the town/village origin has not been clearly defined, going to the archives or hiring a researcher will probably be a waste of time, money, and a source of frustration.

5) Trust more the data in the birth and marriage records than the one in the death ones (except place and date of death, of course). The other data (name, place and date of birth, parent names) of the death certificates were provided by other people and usually many years later, so they can have errors.

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