Holocaust ancestors

This guide was last updated in 2009

Tracing ancestors caught up in the Holocaust can be incredibly harrowing, but researching their experiences can help fill gaps in both your own family tree and your understanding of the period. Laura Dixon, Jenny Thomas and Lorna Kay offer their tips.

If Jerry Springer’s story about searching for his lost Jewish grandparents has struck a chord with you, it is good to know that despite apppearing to be a daunting task, tracing Holocaust ancestors is becoming increasingly possible as more and more records go online.

Many of the websites mentioned, especially the JewishGen ones, are constantly updated, so even if you have visited these sites before, it’s worth checking again.

With a case such as Jerry’s, a huge amount of information is available on the internet, with extensive databases from Eastern European towns and cities as well as hospital and ghetto records from Theresienstadt, and some arrivals and departures information such as registration cards and departures cards. There are even databases on the internet holding photographs of children who were separated from their families.

One important thing to bear in mind when researching Eastern European names is that spellings vary considerably, even within the same family. Some databases let you choose the option of a “Soundex” search which brings up names that sound the same regardless of spelling. Name endings too can vary: Horowitz, Horowich and Horovits can be from the same family, and so can Levien, Levin and Levine.

Photo: Hulton Archive, Getty Images

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