According to Time Magazine in 2014, genealogy is the second most popular hobby behind gardening. There is another statistic that has genealogy as the second most popular use of the Internet, but that is another story…
Genealogy is, of course, the study of family history and of our ancestors.
Jewish genealogy is even more exciting than general genealogy because it forces you to understand history, geography, new languages, new alphabets as well as social history. There were no Jews in this country between 1290 and 1657 so an ancestor of yours must have come to the UK from some other “old country” be it in Eastern Europe, Germany, Holland or elsewhere.
We are not a Jewish Society for genealogists, but a secular Society for anyone with Jewish heritage, whatever their current religion. The JGSGB has been helping people find their Jewish roots for the past 25 years.
To do this, we provide a wealth of experience and resources to introduce you to the fascinating subject of Jewish genealogy.
We have an extensive library in London, close to the Barbican tube station where our headquarters are now (since April 2017). This has one of the most extensive sets (over 1000) of Jewish genealogical reference books. This includes more than 125 “Yizkor” books of destroyed communities in Europe, along with magazines, journals, family trees, certificates and a set of volunteers to point you in the right direction.
We run annual conferences in London and Manchester with speakers on diverse topics covering family history and Jewish genealogy.
We hold regional meetings with speakers and workshops. Currently these are in Brighton, the Chilterns (Northwood), North Hertfordshire, Leeds, Manchester, South East Essex (Southend) and South & West London (Teddington).
This is the perfect place to tell people about your latest “brick wall” and get help from others to break through it or give help to others so they can break through theirs. Alternatively, you can listen to a variety of speakers and be inspired to further your research based on their findings, or new techniques, such as the use of DNA in genealogy.
We host special interest groups focusing on particular topics, such as DNA research, Eastern European genealogy, German genealogy, Dutch & Sephardic genealogy and Anglo Jewry (typically those who have been in England since well before the Eastern European Ashkenazi onslaught from the 1880s).
Every month we run an educational webinar for members. We also have a mentoring programme to provide one to one assistance for less experienced members by some of our expert members.
We produce an award-winning journal called “Shemot” with articles on Jewish genealogy. This is published 3 times per year. There is also a quarterly newsletter with the latest news, book reviews and event details.
We publish books in the “Jewish Ancestors?” series, for sale online and at resellers such as the Jewish Museum and the National Archives. These include Latvia and Estonia (our first e-book), Poland, Lithuania and of course the UK. There is also one on deciphering Jewish tombstones.
We also organise workshops regularly at the Jewish Museum in Camden and at synagogues and communities all around the country. We also accept genealogical enquiries by email from the general public at .
We maintain an active Facebook page, a members’ email discussion group and of course a website at www.jgsgb.org.uk (don’t forget the .uk at the end unless you are interested in Jewish Genealogy in Greater Boston!)
Finally, we publish Jewish genealogical data and information on every Jewish community in the UK at our Jewish Communities and Records UK (JCR-UK) website. See http://www.jewishgen.org/JCR-UK/. This is a collaboration between the JGSGB and JewishGen, Inc.
Most of the above are provided for free (with the exception of conferences at which members pay a reduced price) as benefits of JGSGB membership, which is £35 per year currently or £40 for families. Or a small charge can be paid by non-members at each meeting or library visit, refundable from the cost of membership if taken out on the day.
If you are interested in talking about Jewish genealogy, feel free to drop me a line at . Or visit our library and HQ at 14 Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell Road, London EC1M 7BA, but remember to check opening times on our website at www.jgsgb.org.uk and let us know if you are coming.
About Leigh Dworkin
Leigh has been Chairman of the JGSGB since May 2016, having joined Council in 2014 and been Vice-Chairman since 2015. He is a passionate amateur genealogist and has been working on his own family tree for about 35 years. Genealogically speaking, he considers himself to be ⅝ Polish, ¼ Lithuanian and ⅛ Belarusian, judging by his great-grandparent’s nationalities, which is far more interesting and exotic than being just an Essex lad.