There has always been a family tradition that my mother was Jewish. My mother even has recollection on her mother and her mother's mother using specifically Jewish terms, such as referring to "Hashem" when talking about G-d. Another example of the tradition's legitimacy is the fact that my mother's family never belonged to a religious institution, and oftentimes declined invitations to churches and such. (In the place where they lived, there was no synagogue.)

(Because of the tradition, I have been raised all my life with a Jewish upbringing.)

However, I have been having some trouble locating the roots of the tradition. I tried JewishGen, searching some of my ancestors' names, but to no avail.

The census records for all my ancestors show up in the North American Jewish Collection on Ancestry, but this is not definite proof, and not the proof I want/need.

  • I've added tags for 20th Century and United States but if I have estimated wrong just change them.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 7:26
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    Have you looked at the actual census images to see what was reported as the individuals' birth location & ethnicity ? Have you found the passenger lists of those that immigrated (re ethnicity reported there)? Have you identified the nearest synagogues, in case of attendance for special occasions?
    – bgwiehle
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 13:13
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    When you say you're looking for proof your ancestors were Jewish, do you mean proof of their religion (Judaism) or ethnicity? These are not necessarily the same thing, and the term "Jewish" is very misleading in this respect.
    – Harry V.
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 14:42
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    @Harry Vervet If census records for ezar's ancestors/relatives are referenced in a Jewish Collection, then either there is objective evidence on the record itself, or someone submitted the names to the compiler as being applicable. Looking at the records will show whether the first option applies.
    – bgwiehle
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 19:04
  • 4
    I agree with the statement that one record is not proof of anything, but I am unclear about what kind of proof ezra is seeking which would be different from any other proof made using the Genealogical Proof Standard. Rather than fishing in online databases which are marked as having Jewish records in them, why not just -- do genealogy, and see where the trail leads?
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 19:36

4 Answers 4


You are the perfect candidate for a DNA test. I would recommend FamilyTreeDNA because they have a large number of Jewish testers and allow more detailed analysis of your matches.

From the autosomal test, you'll get a heritage profile that will include an estimate of your Jewish percentage. If you find you are 40% or more, then that adds evidence that at least one of your parents has Jewish ancestry. 75% or more and it's very likely that both your parents have.

Your matches will help confirm that. Find your closest matches on your mother's side and contact them. Work with them to see how you two are related and if you can figure out the connection, then ask them what they know of your mother's family's religion and traditions.

And since you suspect your mother's line, you should also take a full mt-DNA test at FamilyTreeDNA which follows just the mother's line. The Jewish religion considers children with a Jewish mother to be Jewish, so your mt results should trace through a line of your Jewish female ancestors going way back in time. If the mt haplogroup you get assigned is a predominantly Jewish haplogroup, then that would be further evidence for you.

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    But if only your greeat-great-grandmother on your maternal line is jewish, you'd be 1/16 jewish biologically, but 100% religiously. On the other hand, if all your great-great-grandparents are jewish exept your great-great-grandmother, you'd be 15/16 jewish biologically but not at all religiously.
    – Bregalad
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 15:52
  • @bregalad - Very true. But due to endogamy among the Jewish people, neither of those cases are likely under the conditions of the question.
    – lkessler
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 17:53
  • @Ikessler I don't think you can generalize jews as being necessary endogamic anymore, especially not the reformed jews.
    – Bregalad
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 21:28
  • @bregalad - I would agree with you that they're not today. But three generations ago and earlier, they definitely were.
    – lkessler
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 23:55

There's no easy shortcut, so you're going to have to do your family tree the old-fashioned way first. Then add in DNA and see if you can get confirmation, or not.

From what countries did your mother's family immigrate, and when? Have you found their naturalization paperwork? What were their tombstone inscriptions? Do you have death certificates naming their parents' names? Census records? Even occupations? These can all be hints.


I see nobody mentioned graves. What about tracing their graves?

If they were Jewish, chances are high (unless there was no Jewish cemetery where they lived, as well...) they were buried in a Jewish cemetery. And if so, you can figure out the individual's Hebrew names, which are the ones gived at the Synagogue, the first Monday, Thursday or Saturday after birth (when the parents reached a consensus on the name) when the father receives an "Aliah" to read the day's portion of the Torah.

This could add additional little pieces to your puzzle.


When did your family immigrate to the US? Tracking back to when your family came to the US would give you a lot of information. I have an article on finding some of that information through passenger manifests, naturalization papers, military records, census records, etc.:


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