Digging deep for roots in the Bay Area

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Have you thought about starting a family history project this year but don’t know how to begin?

Help is now readily available with the second edition of The San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society’s “Jewish Genealogy Basics and Resource Guide for the San Francisco Bay Area.”

“It’s a way to promote the research-rich Bay Area,” says Berkeley resident Jeremy Frankel, the genealogical society president.

“Some resources are tucked away and it’s not obvious how to access them.”

Although the information can be obtained on the Internet, he says, there are still people without computers or online access.

“We felt it would be better to collate local information and make it easier for people researching Bay Area roots. Additionally, in printed form, it’s not subject to technical malfunctions such as computer crashes.”

The San Francisco society, says Los Altos resident Leeson, often receives messages from around the world asking for help in locating Bay Area records.

“Indeed, this is such a widespread area, that many of our own members were not aware of some of the available resources.”

Opening with the basics of how to start and find documents, the guide explains in some detail the relevant documents, why they are important and how they provide trails to additional information. Listed are birth, marriage and death records; census records; city directories; immigration and naturalization records; and newspapers and periodicals, as well as holdings in major record repositories.

There’s information on surnames, given names, languages and place names, plus tips on how to find names and locations of ancestral towns, and do Holocaust research.

The guide lists offerings from state and county archives and all types of historical and genealogical societies; public, university and Jewish libraries; and other Jewish sources such as synagogues, funeral homes and cemeteries.

Information on the Mormon Church’s LDS Family History Centers follows. The church operates the largest genealogical library in the world, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, with more than 3 million microfilm reels, thousands of which contain Eastern European Jewish birth, marriage and death records, an essential source for researchers.

There are more than 3,500 history centers worldwide — 25 in the Bay Area — and films may be borrowed from the main library and sent to branches. According to Frankel, the Oakland LDS Family History Center is the second largest in the United States and offers a very fast turnaround in ordering films.

Research tips from the local society are useful, and provide standards for sharing genealogical information and for posing oral history interview questions.

A list of Jewish genealogy Web sites and resources for maps and popular software programs provides additional help. A list of essential books (and where copies may be accessed locally), includes reference works, periodicals, ancestral towns, names, Holocaust resources, immigration and naturalization records, family trees and rabbinic research.

All this information is packed into a 22-page booklet, three-hole punched for easy placement into your project notebook.

For more information on “Jewish Genealogy Basics and Resource Guide for the San Francisco Bay Area,” go to www.jewishgen.org/sfbajgs. For more information on The San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society, contact President Jeremy Frankel at (510) 525-4052 or [email protected]; or on the Peninsula, Rosanne Leeson at (650) 964-9657 or [email protected].