The Center’s Genealogy Institute & Reading Room

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by Anna Khomina, Research and Special Projects Intern, Center for Jewish History

Visitors to exhibits at the Center for Jewish History sometimes discover the Ackman and Ziff Genealogy Institute and the adjacent Lillian Goldman Reading Room, and they wonder what these serene and light-filled research oases are. This post serves as a basic introduction to these two rooms, based on inquiries I have received from visitors.

Baum Family Tree. Germany, 1976. c/o Leo Baeck Institute.

The Ackman and Ziff Genealogy Institute is geared towards individuals who would like to know more about their ancestors–be it figuring out the origins of a surname (a quick look into the Institute’s copy of a Jewish surname origins book told me my mother’s last name means “castrated rooster” in Russian), locating an obscure and long-gone Jewish shtetl, or simply tracing a family tree farther. A shelf near the Genealogy Institute’s entrance holds books that offer visitors information on surnames, areas of significant Jewish populations in Europe and beyond, and general directions for searching. Resources focus on Jewish genealogy, though some of them are broader and relevant to people of other backgrounds, such as the option of searching on Ancestry.com and similar genealogy websites for free. A row of computers offers wide genealogy services. So, if you’re curious about discovering your roots, visit the Genealogy Institute and start searching!

The book-filled Lillian Goldman Reading Room serves as a hive for academic research as well as a bridge between the public and the vast archival and book material held by the Center’s partners. A large amount of photographs and papers have been digitized, but if you believe that there’s nothing like the smell of an old cloth-bound book or the feel of a yellowed document, archival collections can be accessed here. If you have searched digital.cjh.org and found any material of interest to you–be it for research or for curious browsing–it can be accessed with the filling out of a simple call slip.

Don’t forget that you can chat with a librarian or genealogist via the Center’s website. Click here to begin!

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