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Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy

March 2, 9, 16, 23, 2022
Live Broadcasts Wednesdays, 6-7:30 p.m. ET
Members Save 10%

Presented by James Heffernan, Carolyn Kohlman, JGSGB, Rhonda R. McClure, and Melanie McComb

In partnership with the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center and the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston (JGSGB)

Today there are an estimated 7.6 million Jewish Americans living in the country, the majority of whom descend from diaspora Jewish populations from Central and Eastern Europe. Learning how to trace your Jewish ancestry is not without its challenges: changing surnames, locating your ancestor's home village or shtetl, and access to overseas records are just the tip of the iceberg. This four-week online seminar will provide you with the key records, repositories, and strategies for making real headway in your family history research. We will look at the historical context of your ancestor's arrival in the United States, strategies for uncovering your ancestor's exact origins using American records, an overview of key records and websites of the old country, and finally, researching family who perished in or survived the Holocaust.

This course includes four 90-minute classes; exclusive access to handouts and recordings of each presentation; and in-depth q&a sessions with the instructors.




James Heffernan


James Heffernan
Genealogist Of The Newbury Street Press

James has been with American Ancestors/NEHGS since 2015. He is a graduate of Boston College, where he worked in the conservation department at the John J. Burns Library. His previous work experience also includes an internship at Plimoth-Patuxet in Plymouth, Massachusetts. James is a frequent contributor to American Ancestors magazine, the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and Vita-Brevis blog. In his spare time, James scours Ebay looking for family heirlooms.


Carolyn Kohlman


Carolyn Kohlman, JGSGB

Carolyn Lee Kohlman is the co-President of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston (JGSGB). The main focus of her family research is Germany, particularly in the Palatinate, the city of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein regions, as well as Holocaust research. Carolyn has been a board member of her congregation, Temple Beth Elohim and when not doing genealogy, Carolyn, a retired clinical social worker, is a hospice and pastoral care volunteer.


Rhonda R. McClure


Rhonda R. McClure
Senior Genealogist

Rhonda R. McClure is a nationally recognized professional genealogist and lecturer. Before joining American Ancestors/NEHGS in 2006, she ran her own genealogical business for 18 years. She was a contributing editor for Heritage Quest Magazine, Biography magazine and was a contributor to The History Channel Magazine and American History Magazine. In addition to numerous articles, she is the author of twelve books including the award-winning The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Online GenealogyFinding your Famous and Infamous Ancestors and Digitizing Your Family History.


Melanie McComb


Melanie McComb

Melanie McComb, Genealogist, assists library visitors, both on-site and online, with their family history research. She is an international lecturer who teaches on a variety of topics. Melanie holds a B.S. degree from the State University of New York at Oswego. She previously served as the social media coordinator for the NextGen Genealogy Network, a non-profit that creates a community for younger genealogists, where she managed the Facebook and Twitter accounts. She continues her interest in helping younger genealogists get involved at American Ancestors by assisting with educational programs from local schools, scout groups, and universities. 



March 2

Class 1: Coming to America: History of Jewish Immigration to the United States
Presented by Rhonda R. McClure

In this first class, we will look at the three main waves of Jewish immigration to what is today the United States—where they came from and where they settled. We will discuss the many push-pull factors and how they changed over time, the important role of immigrant aid societies, and how we can start to trace our ancestor’s movements using passenger lists.


March 9

Class 2: Finding Origins in American Records
Presented by James Heffernan

Before researching our ancestors in the Old Country, we must first discover their origins—as exact as possible. For this we turn to American records. This class will provide an overview of key U.S. records that may list your ancestor’s hometown, offer several tools on how to triangulate and sometimes decipher the information found in these records, and demonstrate several case studies and strategies for making the leap.


March 16

Class 3: Accessing Records in the Old Country
Presented by Melanie McComb

With your ancestor’s origins in hand, it’s time to start looking at records in the Old Country. In this class we will review what types of records exist, how to use them in your research, and how to access them. We will pay special attention to resources that can be accessed from home, online.


March 23

Class 4: Researching in Holocaust Records
Presented by Carolyn Kohlman, JGSGB

If you have Ashkenazic or European origins, you have relatives who were impacted by the Holocaust. Class four will explore the major repositories for Holocaust research, how to access these records online and how finding both family who perished and those who survived the Shoah can be a resource for your family research.