"One of the biggest problems with Jewish records is that they are held all over the place and one person can have records in multiple locations," FamilySearch research consultant and the collection's manager, Todd Knowles, said. "That means someone just starting to research their Jewish ancestry will have to drive from archive to archive and from synagogue to synagogue to find what they are looking for. What this collection does is put all the records in one location, which is an incredible time and cost savings for patrons."
Knowles started the database in 2007 to help him find his own Jewish ancestry. The collection began with 6,500 records from the British Isles, but has now rapidly expanded into five geographically-based databases with over 115,000 names:
• The Jews of the British Isles (82,000 names)
• The Jews of the Americas (10,300 names)
• The Jews of Europe (18,697 names)
• The Jews of the Caribbean (2,200 names)
• The Jews of Africa and the Orient (367 names)
The Knowles Collection is compiled from over 200 different sources that have been transcribed and combined by volunteers. There is also a complete list of where the original records can be found. The entire collection is now linked electronically as families and fully searchable on FamilySearch's Community Trees project, found at http://histfam.familysearch.org. Researchers can also download GEDCOM versions of each collection from www.familysearch.org.
According to Knowles, much of the growth of the collection is due to the continued donations of family records by people throughout the world.
"We have received donations from families in the British Isles, Germany, Russia, Jamaica, and many places in the United States," Knowles said. "We also have a great collection of synagogue records from Mattersdorf, Hungary, as well as burial records from Charleston, South Carolina, and New Orleans, Louisiana. It seems as word spreads, more and more custodians of these types of records want to be involved by donating copies of their related work to help expand the collection. "
Those interested in donating their Jewish family records to the Knowles Collection can contact Todd Knowles at firstname.lastname@example.org.