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From Generation to Generation: How to Trace Your Jewish Genealogy and Family History Paperback – 1994

4.9 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Given the extent of the Jewish Diaspora and the devastation of the Holocaust, it has always been a difficult proposition to trace one's Jewish genealogy. First published in 1980, From Generation to Generation provided invaluable information and research tips for Jews interested in plumbing the depths of their family history. In this latest edition, Kurzweil incorporates the most recent technological advances and innovations into his information-gathering guide. Using the Internet as^B a resource, it is now easier and less time-consuming to gather documents, cross-check references, and peruse government records. Although much of the information provided can be applied to any ethnic group, the author painstakingly outlines how Jewish genealogy substantially differs from all other genealogy. Brimming with worthwhile advice and handy shortcuts, this handbook will have immense appeal for a limited audience. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


This is the only definitive guide to Jewish genealogical research, providing clear information on gathering details on family history from both family papers and memories and official records around the world. Recently discovered sources are included in this revised, updated edition, making it of ongoing value to both newcomers and those familiar with a previous edition. -- Midwest Book Review

Product Details

  • Paperback: 388 pages
  • Publisher: Harpercollins; Revised edition (1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062733354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062733351
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,807,029 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Along with the new Avotaynu Guide, indispensable.

Kurzweil's book is not as lengthy and technical as the Avotaynu book, nor as concise and tightly organized as Barbara Krasner-Khait's Discovering Your Jewish Ancestors (2001). But what it offers is something unheard of in genealogy textbooks - a work that reads like a novel. He is not afraid to be expansive and anecdotal, even chatty. His personal stories with genealogy, dating back to 1970, are gripping. Especially so because Kurzweil (unlike many genealogical authors) knows how to tell a story. The book is often lyrical and intensely earnest, without being melodramatic or overwrought. His passion for discovering his ancestral roots is sincere and infectious. In fact, his discovery of a descent from a famous Hasidic rabbi led him to embrace more traditional Judaism in his spiritual life.

But the book is not ALL personal stories, as interesting as they are. He packs the bulk of these into his opening chapters, and then sprinkles them as useful illustrations throughout the work. He covers all of the important topics, and is quite up to date on the online resources (through about late 2003). He has a great command of the details of doing Jewish genealogy, and he has some very brilliant recommendations for some unique and creative sources. (He was a founding father of Jewish genealogy in the mid-70s, and has given something like 600 lectures around the country).

His enthusiasm is infectious, and he makes strong arguments for the moral and spiritual value for Jews to explore their roots (bolstering his case with short gripping quotes from the Old Testament, Jewish sages, and Talmud). Further, he makes a good case against cremation (with which this Christian reviewer agrees).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having become interested in doing the genealogy of my family about two years ago, I began by going it alone and stumbling around Google and visiting some resources in New York City including the fascinating Municipal Archives.

I was told about this book some months ago and, voila!, it has opened the whole world of Jewish geneaology for me. I've bought 14 other books on the subject and find this the most interestingly written and the most complete. There are updates to the book so I'd caution the buyer to get the latest one from Amazon rather than one of the much older ones being sold as used. The list of resources is exhaustive and clearly organized and each area of investigation is illustrated by the author through sharing his journey of discovery of his own roots.

You'll find information about how to use resources in the US and in the major cities like NY and Chicago as well as information about national resources such as YIVO, the National Archives, the Mormon Church's extensive records and how to access them. Special interest groups for Rumania, Latvia, etc. are listed and you'll eventually find many rich sources which you'd probably not discover on your own except by accident.

This is the book I wish I'd had two years ago and I would have saved much time, money and frustration. No one book can be the only one worth having, but I'd definitely buy this one first, read it through with a highliter and post-it notes to mark sections worth exploring again more deeply.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While this book focuses on one man's search for his family history, his examples could be of value to anyone who is considering beginning a research project. Mr. Kurzweil's joy of discovery is very compelling, and was probably a big reason why I got into the hobby myself.
There is plenty of practical advice on how to start, where to look for documentation, how to interview, etc. While the book lacks depth in some areas, it covers every important facet of Genealogical research, and provides a point to jump from in search for more information.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an awesome book. I am a novice at family genealogy, with a research background. When I became interested in tracing my family's roots, I was intrigued by the data available on the web. It was hard to figure out where to look first. I saw the reviews for this book on Amazon, and I first took this book out from the library. When I realized how much I'd use it, I bought my own copy.
This book is very easy to read, especially in terms of how to sort out the kinds of information you can look for, hints about where to find it, and realizing that it's okay to decide for yourself how far to delve. The enthusiasm of the author is contagious. I couldn't put it down.
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Format: Hardcover
Many of us who are involved in Jewish genealogy can name a single event that began the process of discovery. For Arthur Kurzweil it was a look at the Yizkor (memorial) book of his father's shtetl that he discovered in the New York Public Library. His passion for genealogy is obvious on these pages. There is a moving Foreward by Elie Weisel, where he indicates that genealogy can be a spiritual pursuit: in Jewish history a name connects us with our origins, a single word becomes one with the community from generation to generation.

Kurzweil rightly focuses on the first priority of talking to your elderly relatives, and includes a list of 50 good interview questions. Jewish history may be seen through the eyes of individuals and families, and another part of this focus should be learning about the history of their communities. The two best websites recommended are [...] and [...]. Note that most of Avotaynu's resources are available for purchase, whereby there is no charge for access to the JewishGen databases. Here are a few of the best places to review:

1. The Bible: the 1st family tree is the genealogy from Noah to Abraham.

2. Yizkor (memorial) Books: available in Hebrew or Yiddish for over 1000 shtetls. JewishGen has some chapters translated into English, varies with the book.

3. YIVO Institute for Jewish Research: Library and archives, searchable online catalog of Yiddish literature. (I was thrilled to find a book of Yiddish poetry written by a cousin in 1931.

4. LDS Family History Library: has some Polish, German and Hungarian records

There is an interesting chapter on the history of Jewish surnames. Napoleon issued a decree to register family names, and in 1845 Russian Jews became required to register family names.
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