Skip to Main Content

Genealogy Guide: United States Synagogue Records

Finding the Records

If the synagogue still exists, contact it. If not, there are several repositories of synagogue records, including the Center for Jewish History. Most have only a few dozen records, and in each case it is necessary to check catalogs carefully for all forms of the name, e.g. “Congregation…,” “Temple…,” “Anshe…,” “B’nai...,” “Bet ...,” etc.

United States (including New York)

The American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, both located at the Center for Jewish History, have U.S. synagogue records among their institutional manuscript collections, which can be found by searching the Center for Jewish History’s online catalog., a non-profit service sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ Family History Library, has microfilmed synagogue records from around the United States and United States territories, including St. Thomas. Search by keywords for the congregation name or search by place for the city or town in which the congregation was located and select the category “Jewish records.”

American Jewish Archives, 3101 Clifton Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45220; (513) 221-1875; e-mail form. Holds records of hundreds of congregations. You may search their catalog or view a list of finding aids.  The Union for Reform Judaism (formerly known as the Union of American Hebrew Congregations) collection contains records of many Reform synagogues, arranged by state. A finding aid to this collection is available.

Jewish Theological Seminary, Joseph and Miriam Ratner Center for the Study of Conservative Judaism, 3080 Broadway, New York, NY 10027; (212) 280-6011; Holds records of Conservative synagogues and papers of Conservative rabbis and communal leaders. For more information about these collections go to the library.

Yeshiva University Archives, Mendel Gottesman Library – Special Collections, 2520 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10033; (212) 960-5451; Holds records of dozens of congregations, mostly Orthodox. 

New York City Area

New York (County) Hall of Records Selected Incorporation Papers, 1848-1920, contains microfilmed documents that were filed by New York County (Manhattan) Jewish non-profit organizations, including synagogues, in order to become incorporated.  These papers typically indicate the purpose of a proposed organization, the names of the petitioners, and the initial officers of the organization. (A complete list of these organizations, arranged alphabetically by associated ancestral town name, is also available.)