How to look for records of... Jewish people and communities in Britain and its former colonies

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

How many are online?

  • Some

1. Why use this guide?

This is a guide to records held at The National Archives that document the arrival, settlement, status and activities of Jewish people and communities in Britain and its former colonies over the last 900 years.

Only a small percentage of these records are available to view online so to see them you will usually have to either visit us in Kew or, if you can locate document references, order copies. However, you may find that to locate document references you will also need to visit us – there are calendars and indexes held in our building that may prove essential in your search.

2. Getting started on a search for records

Records relating to the history of Jewish people in the UK are scattered throughout our collections. This means that the way you target a search will depend very much on the period of time that you are interested in and the specifics of what you would like to find out.

A search for documents at The National Archives usually begins in our online catalogue. The catalogue contains short descriptions of the records and a document reference for each – you will need the document reference to see the record itself. You can search the catalogue using keywords and dates. The following keywords, or a combination of them, will give you a good start:

  • Jews OR Jewish

    A black and white photo of a colonial building, actually a synagogue, with two flags hanging from an upper balcony, one British, the other carrying the Star of David.

    An image from The National Archives’ Colonial Office collection of the Penang Synagogue in 1937, in what was then British-controlled Malaysia (catalogue reference CO 1069/502).

  • Hebrew
  • Yiddish
  • Kosher
  • Rabbi

Use the advanced search of our catalogue to restrict your search results to records of a specific government department (and its predecessors) or multiple departments and record series. Departments and series are identified by letter and number codes and useful departments and series are highlighted throughout this guide.

However, some record types are better described in the catalogue than others. To pin down individual records from the medieval and early modern periods often requires consultation of additional finding aids, in conjunction with the catalogue. Among the key finding aids are the calendars of State Papers, available from the library at our building in Kew and online via institutional subscriptions at universities and specialist libraries, including our own. More advice on these appears in sections 3 and 4 of this guide.

2.1 Tracing individuals

Locating records of Jewish individuals at The National Archives can be tricky, largely because they are not specifically denoted as Jewish in most of the records in which they appear. A person’s religion was not routinely indicated in most official records (religion was not a question in the census until 2001; the most recent census available for details of individuals is 1911).

Jewish individuals and families are usually identifiable because they have typically Jewish names but, of course, this is not an exact science. Many surnames widely perceived to be Jewish are, more accurately, German or Eastern European, or in the case of Sephardic Jewish families, Spanish or Portuguese. So surnames may not be uniquely Jewish, and many Jewish immigrants who came to the UK anglicised their surnames or simply changed them. Jewish forenames are typically from the Old Testament, but again were not unique to Jewish people, and many such names were also favoured by some English and Welsh nonconformists, for example.

Similarly, birthplace is not always helpful, because many non-Jewish immigrants came from the same places.

For suggestions on how to locate records of Jewish individuals held in other archives, see sections 9 and 10.

2.2 Locating specific communities

There is advice throughout this guide on how you can try searching for records of Jewish communities and how to use the records to pinpoint the locations of these communities. There are also some search methods that can work more broadly across time periods and this is particularly true for the last two centuries. For 19th- and 20th-century communities try the following approaches:

  • Search for ‘synagogue’ in The Gazette, which listed places licensed for worship. As Orthodox Jews have to live within walking distance of a synagogue, locating these places of worship is a good indicator of where Jewish communities have or had formed.
  • Use the advanced search to search our ED records using the search terms ‘Jewish’ ‘Hebrew’ or ‘Jewish school’ to locate Jewish schools, another good indicator of nearby Jewish settlement
  • Search the 1851 Ecclesiastical Census Returns in series HO 129 using the search term ‘Jewish’. The Ecclesiastical Census lists synagogues.

For further catalogue search help see our website.

3. Jewish people and communities in England in the medieval period

The Norman conquest of 1066 heralded the arrival of Jewish communities in England. Jewish financiers from Rouen soon arrived at William I’s invitation. Leading Jewish figures, like Josce of Gloucester or Aaron of Lincoln were key funders of English kings and their policies in the 12th century. By the 13th century communities had been established in London and other major centres such as York, Leicester, Norwich, Winchester, Gloucester and Oxford. For more background detail on the period, read Sean Cunningham’s National Archives blog on England’s Medieval Jews.

Many of the medieval sources noted in our guide to medieval and early modern family history are relevant for tracing Jewish people and communities before 1290. The texts of royal letters and orders to sheriffs or commissioners concerning prominent Jews, their families and property appear in the Chancery patent rolls and close rolls. For insights in to how to use these records see our guide to royal grants in letters patent and charters.

3.1 Records of immigration

The England’s Immigrants Database 1330-1550 has opened up National Archives records documenting immigrants from the medieval period but it does not provide for searching by religion.  Searching by nationality or place or origin is, however, possible and may be the best way to have a chance of tracing individual Jewish immigrants.

Consult our guide to immigration and immigrants for more detailed advice on records of immigration from the medieval period.

3.2 Records of economic life

The close connection to the Crown led to a flourishing of Jewish businesses built on trade in goods, property, finance and commercial loans. Records of the contracts between Jews and Christians were created in repositories called archae in each centre with a large Jewish population.

The perceived wealth of the Jewish community was reflected in the heavy taxes – tallages – imposed on Jews by all monarchs. They paid particularly heavily towards the ransom of King Richard I in 1194. Richard I set up the Exchequer of the Jews to administer the collection of taxes, and to register loans and other financial dealings. It was also a legal body, settling disputes between Jews and handling the suits of Jews with Christians.

Content from records of the Exchequer of the Jews is also available in some useful published sources, all available for consultation at The National Archives library in Kew:

Evidence for the economic activities of the Jewish community can also be found in personal property deeds, involving Jews, that later came into Crown hands. Search for examples in the catalogue with keywords such as Jew*, grant, lease or quitclaim in the period before 1300 in the following series:

Medieval contracts involving Jewish merchants, sometimes referred to as starrs drawn up by the individuals involved, survive among series of ancient deeds.

3.3 Records of persecution

The early 13th century brought stronger restrictions on Jewish communities. Henry III followed other rulers throughout Europe in limiting the building of synagogues and concentrating segregated Jewish communities in larger towns and cities. Defamatory cartoons and sketches found in 13th century records indicate that medieval Jews endured constant prejudice despite being  under the king’s protection. The Ancient Correspondence series, SC 1 contains letters showing how the king and his officials discussed and managed the Jewish community.

Aaron of Colchester, speaking up for his sons Isaac and Samuel who were accused, among others, of illegal deer hunting in Essex in 1277, was caricatured as the ’Son of the Devil’ in this image. It is the earliest English representation of the ‘Badge of Shame’, the yellow cloth which was to be worn by all Jews aged over seven after the 1275 Statute of Jewry.

Anti-Semitic pressure on Jews included allegations that they kidnapped Christian children for forced conversion or even murder in mysterious rituals. Accusations of kidnapping, mutilation and ritual murder by Jews, many of them baseless or explained away, begin to appear more frequently in the king’s courts from this part of Henry III’s reign. Records of the General Eyres contain information on many of these cases. Search for them in the following series:

Though protected by the Crown, statutes of Jewry in 1253 and 1275 regulated the Jewish community stringently. The 1275 Act sought to end Jewish rights to loan money at interest and though open trading between Jews and Christians was encouraged, restrictions on residence and the Crown’s close control effectively ended the legitimate ways for Jewish business to survive. Consult the following records for details:

  • A book of statutes held in Exchequer records, reference E 164/9, contains the comprehensive 1275 statute recorded in Statutes of the Realm.
  • Evidence of how the statute was enforced comes from enrolments of letters sent to justices and sheriffs on Close Rolls held in record series C 54 and summarised in the Calendar of Close Rolls, Edward I, 1272-79 (HMSO, London, 1900).

3.4 Records of expulsion

Emigration left a Jewish population of c.3000 by the 1280s. With a significant fall in royal tax income from Jewish communities, Edward I no longer saw them as a valued resource for the Crown. The related hostility of the Christian church whipped up popular discontent and the expulsion of Jewish communities by other European rulers was among the final elements in convincing the king to expel the Jews from England.

In 1287, King Edward ordered all Jews to leave his French lands in Gascony. In July 1290 it was proclaimed that all Jews were to have left England by 1 November that year. They could take personal goods but their lands, rents, debts and property were taken by the Crown.

  • Search in the Patent Rolls Calendar  and Close Rolls Calendar for 1290 for the orders, licences, safe conducts and instructions relating to the expulsion.
  • Search in series E 101 for evidence of efforts by the king’s officers to exploit Jewish-owned resources, the records collectively providing a snapshot of the condition of England’s Jewish community at the time of the expulsion.

3.5 Records of the Domus Conversorum or House of Converts

After the expulsion, though no practicing Jews lived in England, a small number who chose to convert remained. Having forfeited all their possessions at the expulsion, they lived at the Crown’s expense in the Domus Conversorum on Chancery Lane in central London (the site of the former Public Record Office, the predecessor of The National Archives). The last Jewish person born in England before the expulsion, Clarice of Exeter, died in the Domus in 1356.

  • Search in series E 101 for records and accounts of the keeper of the Domus.
  • Search in series E 145 for petitions for welfare and provisions, and occasional surveys of the building and its residents; use summaries of and indexes for this series from the first volume of Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous (HMSO, London, 1916).

4. Jewish people and communities in England in the early modern period, to 1782

Following the expulsion of the Jews in the late 13th century, though some Jews and Jewish converts were resident in England, there was no official right of residence or worship until the late 1650s.

Although after 1492, when the Jews and Muslims were expelled from the Spanish kingdoms, Marrano (Portuguese-Spanish) Jews and New Christians (Jews who had accepted Christianity), sought homes in northern Europe, including in England, they were not free to practice as Jews. The official re-establishment of a Jewish presence in England was made possible in the years following the English Civil War (a period known now as the Interregnum), by the religious tolerance of Oliver Cromwell’s government. There was also lots of interest in Hebrew scholarship of the Old Testament during the Interregnum and various conferences were proposed to address the petition of the Marrano Jews to settle in England. The numbers of refugees from the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal rose during the 17th and 18th centuries.

The richest sources at The National Archives for tracing Jewish people and communities connected to England or Britain during this period are those collections of petitions, orders, letters and grants created by government officials in the course of their work for the state. For this reason, material in State Papers Domestic and Foreign remains the best way to approach the scattered evidence of Jewish activities. Access to State Papers Online (institutional subscription required) will open up correspondence, petitions and discussions of events in the Privy Council.

4.1 Records of immigration

A small community of Jewish merchants and doctors, though unable to openly practice their faith, existed in London by the mid-16th century.

Searching for records of any immigrants from this period, whether Jewish or otherwise, involves largely speculative searches. You may find evidence of Jewish merchants and settlers in Chancery and Exchequer records, in which we know there are references to immigrants. State Papers are also worth trying. Some good places to start might include:

  • E 179, Exchequer subsidy rolls – includes names of foreigners living in the city and suburbs of London and details of the taxes levied on them 1523 to 1561
  • SP 37, State Papers Domestic, George III – there is material in this series on Jewish immigration in the 1770s

For more advice see our guide to immigration and immigrants.

4.2 Records of economic life

It may be worth searching in records documenting overseas trade in State Papers Foreign. Start by consulting our guide to State Papers Foreign. The following series are likely to be useful:

It might also be worth consulting port books. Port books were kept to record customs duties paid on overseas trade. Our guide to port books contains all the necessary search advice.

An image of a hand-written petition on parchment, signed by around half a dozen signatories.

A petition to Oliver Cromwell, dated 1656, from “the Hebrews at present residing in this city of London” requesting protection so that they might meet in their houses “without fear of molestation” (catalogue reference SP 18/125).

4.3 Records of persecution and royal protection

Since Jews did not have full rights or protections under English and British law until the 19th century, the best evidence of Jewish lives and settlement in this period is reflected in complaints about the abuses they suffered or appeals for the intervention of the agencies of government on their behalf.

In the 16th century the presence of the small Jewish community in London caused the king’s council to investigate those suspected of being practising Jews. Records of the Privy Council and in State Papers Domestic of the Tudor governments show orders to investigate individuals and provide evidence that the Jewish religion had to be practiced in great secrecy.

Reactionary attitudes to the greater religious tolerance exercised by the Interregnum government were given greater voice with the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660, which brought with it an expectation that Jews would be expelled from England once again, evidence of which is in SP 29. Anti-Jewish petitioners rehearsed the old claims that the Jews had damaged English society, undermined trade and harmed the Christian faith, with demands for heavy Jewish taxation and a licencing system for residency. Yet the king was very aware of the value of Jewish trade and the wealth that had flowed into London and the colonies during the Interregnum as a result. There is evidence of royal policy to protect Jewish traders in London who had expressed fears of threats to their livelihoods and lives in SP 44/18.

Consult State Papers Domestic from the Hanoverian era for insights into the increasing economic contributions and political influence of Jewish merchants in the 18th century which led to the so-called ‘Jew Bill’ of 1753, providing a route to naturalisation for Jewish settlers in England. The new law provoked anti-Semitic unrest in the country, much of which was stirred by religious and trading groups. The threat of violence became so great that it was considered necessary to introduce a new bill to repeal the act.

5. Jewish people and communities in the United Kingdom in the modern period, 1782 to late 19th century

The significance of 1782 in our records is as the year the Home Office and Foreign Office were created, heralding the beginnings of two of the great collections of records held at The National Archives (for advice on Foreign Office records see section 8).

Given its broad remit, the Home Office inevitably created records relating to Jewish people, communities and affairs. Use our guide to Home Office correspondence for detailed advice on how to search for information on specific subjects and locate individual items of correspondence.

You can also try keyword searches in the following Home Office series by clicking on the series references below, though only some parts of these series are keyword searchable (consult the Home Office guide above for more information):

  • Domestic correspondence (outgoing letters) in HO 42 and HO 44
  • Registered files (from 1841) in HO 45
  • Supplementary registered files in HO 144 – some are closed until a specified date

Search by date in the following series of incoming correspondence, some items of which may relate to the outgoing letters in the series listed above:

  • HO 43, HO 136 and HO 152 – out-letters and entry books, not keyword searchable, arranged by date

5.1 Records of immigration, aliens and naturalisation

Anti-Jewish pogroms in Russia in the 1880s drove Jewish communities west and thousands of Jewish people from these communities came to the UK to settle or to move on to America.

People born outside the country and who did not have British parents were classed as ‘aliens’. If immigrants came to Britain from the British colonies they were not classed as aliens but were simply Britons. The government established an Aliens Office in the 19th century and various Aliens Acts were passed. For insight into government policy towards Jewish immigrants and aliens try a keyword-search in:

  • Aliens entry books from HO 5 (1794-1921) at Ancestry.co.uk (£)
  • Home Office denization and naturalisation papers and correspondence in HO 1
  • Home Office registered papers in HO 45

For records of individuals rather than policy, search our records of alien arrivals 1810-1811 and 1826-1869 by name, date, port of arrival or country/place of origin at Ancestry.co.uk (£). The original records are held in HO 2, HO 3, FO 83/21-22 and CUST 102/393-396.

Click on the following series references to search for records specific to:

  • the landing of Jewish immigrants, work of Jewish charities and settlement of immigrant Jews in the East End of London, 1887-1905, in the correspondence and papers of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in MEPO 2

See our respective research guides for more general advice on records of immigration and immigrants and naturalisation.

5.2 Records of economic life

Jewish people held all kinds of occupations, but were particularly associated with the retail and garment trades, and in the late 19th century many Jewish immigrants from the Netherlands were cigar makers. To locate records that involve Jewish businesses try any of the following:

  • Search exhibits in Chancery by name using the advanced search and searching within references C 103 to C 114
  • Browse by area the Registrar of Friendly Societies records in FS 1, FS 3, FS 9 and FS 15 for rules and activities of Jewish Friendly, Benefit and Loan Societies

Our guide to records of companies and businesses provides more detailed guidance on searching for company records.

6. Jewish people and communities in the United Kingdom in the 20th century

By the end of the 20th century there were over 250,000 Jewish people living in the United Kingdom. The most significant period of Jewish migration to the UK was not, as you might expect, during or just before the Second World War but between 1870 and 1914 when, it is estimated, some 200,000 Jewish immigrants arrived, mostly from Russia and Eastern Europe.

6.1 Records of refugees and immigration

Tens of thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s came to Britain, either temporarily, en-route to the United States and elsewhere, or to settle permanently. They included thousands of Jewish children from Nazi Germany and Nazi-occupied territories known as Kindertransport children, who were given homes in the United Kingdom just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. The children were placed in British foster homes, hostels, schools and farms.

Search our Kindertransport records (drawn predominantly from series FO 371 and HO 213 but also from other National Archives record departments) at Findmypast.co.uk (charges apply). These records include lists of refugees, British government correspondence and official reports. You can also listen to and read the transcript of a National Archives talk on Kindertransport, given by Ela Kaczmarska in 2010. The majority of personal papers relating to Kindertransport cases are held at the London Metropolitan Archives.

Jewish refugees who arrived in England and Wales before 29 Sep 1939 and were in the country on that date will be recorded in the 1939 Register. Among other records covering Jewish refugees are the following:

  • AST 1/24 – contains details on assistance to Jewish refugees in the 1930s and 40s
  • RG 101/1781c-1781f – four 1939 Register records covering 3000 Jewish refugees at Kitchener Camp near Sandwich in Kent

Home Office records (department code HO) contain material on Jewish immigration from Central and Eastern Europe into the United Kingdom and Palestine.

Use the advanced search of our catalogue to target HO records and search using the construction ‘Jews OR Jewish AND aliens’ to uncover dozens of references to the related records. Drill down into smaller sections of the collection by clicking on the following series references and following the search advise below:

  • HO 45  – search using keywords in these Home Office registered papers
  • HO 162 – browse by date the papers on the working of the Aliens Act, 1905, covering the period up to 1921, revealing restrictions on aliens including Jews

For more general advice on these kinds of records, see our guides to records of immigration and immigrants and of refugees.

An image of a blank 1911 census household schedule with instructions in Yiddish and empty boxes where the occupants of the household would fill in their details (catalogue reference RG 27/8).

The Board of Deputies of British Jews worked with the Census authorities to help Jewish immigrants who didn’t read English well, or at all. This is an example of a 1911 census household schedule in Yiddish (catalogue reference RG 27/8).

6.2 Records of aliens and internment

The National Archives holds a small collection of aliens’ registration cards for the London area. These represent some 1,000 cases out of the tens of thousands of aliens resident in London since 1914. Although the cards represent a small sample they do include some notable cases including Ernst Freud, MEPO 35/29/4, who arrived in the UK in 1934, as Jewish Austrians and Germans fled Nazi persecution. Tens of thousands of Jews who escaped Nazi persecution in the 1930s and settled in the UK were assessed for internment at the start of the Second World War as they held German or Austrian citizenship. Many were imprisoned in internment camps along with Italian Jews in 1940. Search for and download:

See our research guide on Internees for further information.

6.3 Records of economic life

Jewish businesses could be exempted from the Sunday trading laws on grounds of their Jewish faith. Search in HO 239 for minutes and papers of the Jewish Tribunal Under the Shops Acts, 1936 and 1950.

Search in BT 31 using the term ‘Jewish’ or ‘Kosher’ which will find records of the dissolving of companies which included these words in their name.

6.4 Military records from the First and Second World Wars

Among the tens of thousands of Jewish soldiers who served in the British military in the First World War were those of the Jewish Legion, Britain’s first all-Jewish regiment, which fought in Palestine. Another Jewish unit, the Jewish Labour Corps, formed in 1915 in Egypt, served in Gallipoli. Search for:

  • records of the Jewish Legion and Jewish brigades in WO 32 using ‘Jews OR Jewish’ as search terms
  • medal index cards for members of the Jewish Labour Corps in WO 372 using the names of individuals or units as search terms

In the Second World War, the Jewish Brigade, formed in 1944, fought under the command of the British Army and served in the Italian Campaign. Search for:

  • records of the Jewish Brigade in WO 204 and WO 219 using ‘Jews OR Jewish’ as search terms
  • recommendations for awards of members of the Jewish Brigade in WO 373 using the names of individuals or units as search terms
  • war diaries of Jewish units in the Second World War in WO 169, WO 170 and WO 171 using ‘Jews OR Jewish’ as search terms

Jewish pilots served in various Royal Air Force squadrons during the Second World War. Many were British born, but others were members of exiled European air forces, principally from Poland and Czechoslovakia. Search the following which may include mention of Jewish pilots:

For advice on records relating to the Holocaust see section 8.3.

7. Jewish history and communities in former British colonies

The National Archives holds the records of now-disbanded central government departments once responsible for administering British colonies, notably the Colonial Office and Dominions Office. Connected material was also gathered by the State Paper Office. These records include documents relating to Jewish history, but they tend to be distributed throughout the collection, rather than collected in specific series. They are generally concerned with policy and administrative matters, so organisations and institutions are more likely to occur than individual persons. Individuals are only likely to be represented in the records if they were prominent in government or politics.

Please see our research guide to records of  Colonies and dependencies from 1782 and American and West Indian colonies before 1782 for detailed advice on how to tackle these records.

Early Jewish presence in and connection to the English and British colonies is found in the CO 1, CO 5 and early Board of Trade records, digitised and made searchable in the related ProQuest and Adam Matthew Colonial State papers resources (subscription required).

During Charles II’s reign, a Jewish presence in England’s Caribbean colonies first appears. As foreigners, Jews were effectively prohibited by the terms of the Navigation Act of 1651 from trading with the American plantations. Nevertheless, Jewish merchants had been connected to islands such as Barbados for almost as long as English settlers had travelled there. In Jamaica, an Act in 1683 allowed the governors to grant naturalisation to foreigners willing to settle, and many Jews took up the invitation. A decade later, attempts to tax Jewish settlers at higher rates than others threatened their ruin.

A search for records of Jewish traders with interests in the colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries could include targeting:

  • Petitions from Jewish traders to demonstrate their value to English trade and influence in series such as CO 1
  • Appeals against the requirement to pay higher rates of tax in SP 44
  • Petitions from Jewish merchants to receive formal protection as denizens in SP 34

Among the more revealing and information-rich of record types is the correspondence received by the Colonial Office and Dominions Office from colonial governors, other government departments, external organisations and individuals. Sometimes a sensible way to start your research into these records is to target a particular former colony of interest and search the respective correspondence. The following examples serve as illustrations of this approach:

  • Search the correspondence for the Transvaal in CO 291 and the Union of South Africa in CO 633 for documentation of the many Jewish people who migrated from Lithuania to southern Africa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the rise of gold mining around Johannesburg in the Transvaal.
  • Search Palestine correspondence in CO 733 for a wealth of material on the British administration of Palestine under the League of Nations mandate and the establishment of Israel. The correspondence covers such topics as Jewish immigration into Palestine, the activities of the Zionist Organisation, Arab-Jewish relations and campaigns for independence (associated government records include the Palestine government gazette, held in CO 742, and sessional papers held in CO 814).

    An image of a small-scale map with an outline of an area of land in the centre.

    A map held in our Foreign Office collection showing the area proposed at the Sixth Zionist Congress in Basel, in 1903, for a Jewish settlement in British-controlled East Africa (catalogue reference FO 2/785).

Emigration registers and emigration registers of correspondence may also prove useful sources of information on the movement of Jewish people to British colonies. Search for “emigration registers” in our catalogue.

It is also possible to find correspondence relating to the settlement of German Jews and refugees in British colonies in the 1930s and 1940s in CO 323.

8. British records of Jewish communities in other countries

Our vast collection of Foreign Office records provides information on and insights into Jewish communities elsewhere in the world. Researching Foreign Office records can be complex, because of the structure of the records and the cursory nature of cataloguing detail before the early 1950s.

Our guides to State Papers Foreign 1509-1782: government papers on foreign affairs and Foreign Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office records from 1782 suggest research approaches and outline the means of searching the records.

8.1 Getting a search started

As with Colonial Office research (covered above) the best method is usually to start with a country of interest and then identify the respective correspondence series. For example, it may be possible to find information on Jews in Poland for the period before 1782 in SP 88, State Papers Foreign, Poland and Saxony. Between 1795 and 1918, Poland did not exist as an independent state, so you would have to examine Foreign Office correspondence under Austria, Germany and Russia. From 1918, records are likely to be found in the Foreign Office’s political correspondence at FO 371.

8.2 Jewish refugees, emigrants and overseas settlements

Use the advanced search of our catalogue to search for records of Jewish people seeking refuge or simply settling in other countries by using the ‘Searching for or within references’ option to target records with ‘FO’ references and searching with these words:

  • Jewish AND refugees
  • Jewish AND settlement
  • Jewish AND immigration
  • Jewish AND emigration

8.3 The Holocaust and other Nazi atrocities

Our research guide to Nazi persecution is the best place to start for advice on how to trace British government records of Nazi crimes and the Holocaust.

The National Archives holds records across various series which document the Jewish experience under Nazi rule and occupation. GFM 33 includes records from the German Foreign Ministry Archives, which include documents relating to the Jewish population in various Nazi occupied European territories. Additionally, FO 371 contains general correspondence from political departments in relation to Germany, including the plight of Jews in the country, the situation of Jews in Nazi occupied territories, and atrocities committed in these areas. This series also includes records relating to German war criminals, including for crimes against Jewish people.

Records in FO 916 include registered files relating to the exchange of German prisoners for Jews in various European countries.

Read Lauren Willmot’s National Archives blog for insights into what happened to refugees and displaced persons after the Holocaust?

9. Other online resources and records elsewhere

Genealogy

Workhouse creed registers, which recorded the religion of all workhouse inmates from 1869, allow you to search for people by religion. They are held in local archives and some are available online through genealogy websites like Ancestry.co.uk, Findmypast.co.uk and Familysearch.org.

It’s usually worth trying a search in newspapers when trying to trace evidence of individuals. Try The Jewish Chronicle Archive, also available through MyHeritage.com.

The London Metropolitan Archives has published a summary of Jewish genealogy sources at LMA “which would be helpful in tracing a Jewish ancestor”.

Modern period including 20th century

The London Metropolitan Archives holds the majority of personal papers relating to Kindertransport cases, including lists of children and their “white cards”, and guardianship files. Use their Collections Catalogue to search for records.

The Wiener Holocaust Library is a library, archive and information service dedicated to supporting research, learning, teaching and advocacy about the Holocaust and genocide, their causes and consequences.

Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center has collected and recorded the names and biographical details of millions of victims of systematic anti-Jewish persecution during the Holocaust.

Medieval period

The Fine Rolls of Henry III project website is a fully searchable resource on payments made for the king’s favour, 1216-1272. It includes much evidence of Jewish life and business activity. Related essays in the ‘Fine of the Month’ feature expand on this content.

You can explore Jewish history in British towns and cities using the resources provided by National Anglo-Jewish Heritage Trails.

Hidden Treasures, from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, celebrates Jewish archives in Britain.

For extensive records of the Anglo-Jewish community in London contact the London Metropolitan Archives.

10. Further reading

Most of the following publications are available for consultation at The National Archives library at our building in Kew and some are available from our bookshop.

Genealogy

Doreen Berger, The Jewish Victorian: Genealogical Information from the Jewish Newspapers, 1861-1870 (Robert Boyd Publications, 2004)

Doreen Berger, The Jewish Victorian: Genealogical Information from the Jewish Newspapers, 1871-1880 (Robert Boyd Publications, 2000)

Anthony Joseph, My Ancestors were Jewish (Society of Genealogists, 2005), also available to buy from The National Archives bookshop

Roger Kershaw, Migration Records: A Guide for Family Historians (The National Archives, 2009)

Rosemary Wenzerul, A Beginner’s Guide to Jewish Genealogy in Great Britain (The Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain, 2000)

Rosemary Wenzerul, Tracing Your Jewish Ancestors (Pen and Sword, 2008), also available to buy from The National Archives bookshop

Modern period

Paula Kitching, British Jews in the First World War (Amberley, 2019)

Louise London, Whitehall and the Jews: British Immigration Policy, Jewish Refugees and the Holocaust (Cambridge University Press, 2000)

Early modern period

John Edwards, The Jews in Christian Europe 1400-1700 (Routledge, 1988)

David S Katz, Philo-semitism and the Readmission of the Jews to England, 1603-1655 (Clarendon Press, 1982)

Medieval period

Richard Huscroft, Expulsion: England’s Jewish Solution (The History Press [Tempus], 2006)

S. Lipton, Dark Mirror: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Jewish Iconography (Metropolitan, 2014)

Robin R Mundill, England’s Jewish Solution: Experiment and Expulsion 1262-1290 (Cambridge University Press, 1998)

J. Olszowy-Schlanger (ed), Hebrew and Hebrew-Latin Documents from Medieval England: A Diplomatic and Palaeographical Study (Brepols, 2014)

E.M. Rose, The Murder of William of Norwich: The Origins of the Blood Libel in Medieval Europe (OUP, 2015)

M. Rubin, Gentile Tales: Narrative Assault on Late-Medieval Jews (Yale, 1999)

Calendar of the Plea Rolls of the Exchequer of the Jews preserved in the Public Record Office, 6 volumes