Millions of records from 14 countries have been placed online this week as a result of a major link-up between two genealogical websites.
They could potentially contain information about a host of British personalities who are either Jewish or have Jewish ancestry, including David Beckham, Rachel Stevens, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Elton, Stephen Fry, Esther Rantzen, Matt Lucas and many others.
Under an agreement between ancestry.co.uk and JewishGen, historical records will be made available free on the ancestry site from the Holocaust database (these include wartime records of displaced persons, refugees, ghetto and transmigration records); Schindler’s List; yizkor books (memorial books from Holocaust survivors); births, marriages and deaths registers from 14 countries and information from the ShtetlSeeker website, which will give locations and spellings of historic Jewish villages in Europe.
There will also be 150,000 records from the American Joint Distribution Committee which have never been published before.
Lawrence Harris, chairman of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain, welcomed the move as a significant benefit to those seeking their ancestors.
“Our members will be very pleased because this will give them an alternative way of searching that may be slightly easier and could give them a different set of results,” said Mr Harris. “It will also help them pick and choose the right tools to use and how to use them. We in our turn will make that help available to the general public as we are happy to answer general inquiries.
“The new material released by the American Joint is also to be welcomed, though I would be surprised if that had not appeared on an American website before now.”
Jewish family history researchers will now be able to search JewishGen’s 300-plus historical record collections together with more than seven billion names and 25,000 historical records on the ancestry site.
The records from the American Joint relate to thousands of Jews the organisation helped to escape from the Nazis and then resettled around the world during and after World War II. They also refer to those who made their homes in Israel from the end of the 19th century.
JewishGen managing director Warren Blatt said: “This important partnership between JewishGen and ancestry demonstrates a commitment both to preserving Jewish heritage and providing the public with unprecedented access to those records.
“The impact on the genealogy community will be significant. Not only will genealogists now have the use of powerful search tools to make research easier, they will also be able to find everything for their needs in one location.”