Genealogy Expert: Tracing family roots from Lithuania

Vol I: Can you please guide me in tracing my family roots from Taurage, Lithuania. We are trying to trace if we have any living relatives with a particular name on my husband's side. Do you have any advice where I can begin?

Dardashti-224 trees-88 (photo credit: )
Dardashti-224 trees-88
(photo credit: ) is proud to present its newest expert, Schelly Talalay Dardashti, who will lead the new 'Ask the Genealogy Expert' section. Schelly, a native New Yorker in Tel Aviv, focuses on Jewish genealogy as researcher, journalist, blogger, online instructor and international speaker. For nearly 20 years, she's traced the DARDASHTI and TALALAY families across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the Americas. She writes Tracing the Tribe - The Jewish Genealogy Blog (since 2006) also featured on JPost Blogs; was the Jerusalem Post genealogy columnist ("It's All Relative," 1999-2005); co-founded, offering online genealogy classes; and was the former multi-term president of the five-branched JFRA Israel (member, International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies - IAJGS). Here is s list of websites to help you get Home of Jewish genealogy on the InternetOne Step Tools Portal More than 100 utilities to help you find what you Search engine for 1,500+ genealogy sites, free multi-language online family tree Country-specific resources, Name index, discussion group,Les Fleurs d'Orient Ottoman Empire Sephardic genealogyFamily Tree DNA Largest genetic genealogy DNA databaseInternational Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies Find a Jewish genealogical society near you2008 International Conference on Jewish Genealogy Annual event August 17-22, 2008. Click here to send us your questions for Schelly; include as many details as possible Please note: Schelly regrets that she cannot answer all questions and that she cannot conduct private research for readers. * * * Vol I: Q: I'm a long-standing amateur Jewish genealogists and have discovered the record of a great-uncle's brother's naturalization papers located in Mississippi. I have the date (1904), the publication and the page number, but where do I go from here? I live in Italy so cannot do on- the-ground research. How can I find either a local person well-versed in research methods or the appropriate library source to contact? MG A: Hello MG Jews have always been a tiny minority in the state, but have been there for more than 160 years - since the 18th century. The first religious services were held in Natchez in 1800 and the oldest synagogues were formed in Natchez (1840) and Vicksburg (1841). Consider contacting these resources: --The Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, and its Digital Archive Project (for Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana). --Archives of the Southern Jewish Historical Society at the College of Charleston, Special Collections, --The Deep South Jewish News --The Mississippi Historical Society Let me know if any of these prove fruitful. Q: Hello from New Zealand. My wife's grandfather was the London Museum bookstore owner, her mother was born in London in 1908, and we are looking for as much data as we can. A: Nice to hear from someone in New Zealand! Since I am not from London, this is out of my scope of reference. However, I would refer you to the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain, , which can refer you to numerous experts. I'm sure you'll find help there. Let me know if this works out. As far as subscription database onlines, there is likely to be interesting information at and, which hold many UK databases. Q: I'm an adoptee reunited with my birthmother. Her aunt told her that her grandmother was Jewish. Although a Jewish genealogical society member was helping me, I've learned something new and don't know where to turn. The information is that my great-great grandmothers in question were from Modena and environs in Italy. I have the names. A: Modena had a very large Jewish population, so anything is possible. I've already sent you the email address for a researcher near Firenze, Nardo Bonomi, who has been indexing Jewish archives across Italy. He will be able to more properly advise you on research in Italy. In the meantime, go to and check out the Italy section for many excellent links. In the old days, genealogists were generalists. Today, with so many new websites and specialized knowledge required for specific country research, I try to refer questions to those people with particular knowledge who are on the ground. Q: Can you please guide me in tracing my family roots from Taurage, Lithuania. We are trying to trace if we have any living relatives with a particular name on my husband's side. Do you have any advice where I can begin? A: Go to and then to the Litvak SIG (special interest group), which holds remarkable assets for those with roots in Lithuania. Also read the many InfoFiles on Lithuanian research and archives. In the JewishGen Family Finder, search by surname and Taurage, Lithuania see who else is researching the name from that town and contact them. They may be looking for you! Additionally, go to ShtetlSeeker on JewishGen, find Taurage's coordinates, and using that as a central strating point, check for a list of villages within 20-30 miles. Many people came from even smaller places and migrated to a larger town in the area. You'll learn the names of nearby villages and can also search the Family Finder for those towns and your name. You can trace others who came from the same place through Passenger Arrival Manifests for many ports. Use Steve Morse's One-Step Pages to search more efficiently than directly at Ellis Island or other websites. Additionally,'s Megadex search engine also searches much of JewishGen's databases, and more than 1,500 genealogically relevant websites, so don't forget to check that out as well.     It is always good to start from what you know and work backward,, acquiring information from census records, citizenship records, passenger manifests and more. Much of this is on the subscription site, but in the US, some public libraries and (Mormon) Family History Centers do provide it free. Worth trying to track it down in your neighborhood. Q: I want to trace my family history in Spain and am at a loss on how to do so. The Spanish Civil code grants citizenship to Jews of the inquisition. But they want proof. I always joke that we were too busy running from the death squads and forgot to take the filing cabinet with our papers. I know only that the family left Spain and went to Turkey and eventually to Israel. Family names from Turkey included PALACHI, ALTAI and RUSSO. A: You are lucky. These names show up in all the various Sephardic databases online and in many books. Look at the databases on (with some 60 major reference works indexed), (with country-specific databases) and search JewishGen as well. Also check MyHeritage's Megadex for instant searching of more than 1,500 relevant databases at one click. The Spanish archives are goldmines for those with prominent and not-so-prominent names. The Inquisition records are also of interest. Thanks to dedicated volunteers, Jewish records from Istanbul and Izmir are also searchable online, and include births, marriages and deaths. Q: Hello my name is Raquel A---------, and even though I was born in Peru, my family roots are from Spain. I heard through a family member that we have Jewish roots, maybe because our ancestors escaped Spain. I am very confused, but I would like to know more about this. Is there any way I can trace my family tree to know my heritage? Any information will be really appreciated. Thanks in advance. A: I'm happy to hear from you.  I've checked some of my reference books and don't see your name listed, although that doesn't mean it isn't in some other book that I don't have, or that it might have changed over time. Check the surname indexes in two places: and which will provide more information if your name is listed. Information on Jewish genealogical sources in Peru can be found on Another suggestion is to have a male relative do a Y-DNA test with which may produce genetic matches with families in other parts of the world and provide more clues. You can also search that site and see if your name is already part of a surname project. I suggest this company because it has the largest Jewish DNA databases of both Ashkenazim and Sephardim. Q: My family left a town called Horuska in 1919 one clue I have is that one of my uncles had told me that Napoleon was defeated here by the Russians. The name of the town must have changed. The family names are Steinberg and Shinderman. Thank you in advance. A: I suggest you Google "Napolean defeat Russia" and read the history of this event and the town. For searching your names, go to and its extensive country databases and Family Finder. You may find what you are looking for right there and families who are from the same town with the same names. Also check's Megadex for your names - it now includes most of JewishGen's data as well. Q: I'm in the process of trying to document parts of my family tree from Cordoba, Spain to Amsterdam to Germany and have no idea how to do it. What's your suggestion? A: If you know your family was from Cordoba, that is excellent news as Spanish archives hold records dating back to the 12th-13th centuries. They can be accessed by researchers on the ground. If you write to me privately, I can give you the names of some excellent researchers who might be able to help. However, here are some easy tips for now: Go to and search the surname index. If your name is there (remember to check variations), make a note of the indexed books in which the name was mentioned and try to access them at local public or university libraries (in the US, use InterLibraryLoan to obtain them). Go to and see if the name is listed on one of the many databases and indexes at that site as well as country specific resources for Holland and Germany. Also check JewishGen's Family Finder for possibilities (you'll need to register but it is free). Do check's Megadex which searches 1,500-plus genealogy sites at one click. The Amsterdam Jewish archives are excellent and may hold information. If you know the German town or towns, those archives may have what you need. Q: Although I was raised Catholic (mother's family, Catholic; father's family Episcopalian) I learned from my father's cousin that my paternal grandfather's side is of Jewish heritage. Supposedly the son of Swiss immigrants (the mother is listed as Austrian) from Berne according to documents, spoke Yiddish and may have immigrated in the 1880s. I'd like to research this more. How would I do that? Are we considered Jews if the heritage runs through the paternal line? A: The rule of genealogy is go from what we know to what we don't know, but most European Jews spoke Yiddish in addition to the language of the country where they lived . The first thing would be to gather the family names and determine where they settled after they arrived. Do you know where your grandfather is buried? Have you seen the gravestone? If you can access check the census records and go back each decade to find them, note when they were naturalized for citizenship. Check for citizenship records which will hold more information. Check the Passenger Arrival manifests for his name (and variations), and narrow down those who were Swiss. If you have access to search for the name in its plethora of databases. The subscription database is offered for free in some public libraries and Family History Centers, and offers many databases of genealogical use. Try the Megadex at which searches more than 1,500 genealogically relevant databases at one click. It is an amazing resource. Go to and check the Family Finder (you will have to register, but it's free), another amazing resource which you can search by various parameters. Also, the Swiss Jewish communities have good archives. If you can determine the town and the original name, you can search further in Switzerland. Berne's Jewish community site is here . The Jewish cemetery was opened in 1870. As far as descent, only Reform/Progressive Judaism recognizes Jewish heritage from paternal as well as maternal lines; all other denominations recognize only maternal descent. * * * Cafe Oleh is the place where you can join in and be published. 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