The Ariogala Research Group has ※re-created§ and brought to life their ancestral shtetl, by sharing family information and pooling resources to obtain complete records for the town of Ariogala, Lithuania. They have reconstructed the lives of their families and gained insight into the workings of Jewish communal life in the shtetl over 250 years, from the Grand Duchy period (18th century), through the Russian Empire period (1795 每 1918), the period of Lithuanian independence between World War I and World War II, to the Holocaust


This presentation will begin with a description of archival documents, many of which are similar to those you will be able to find for your own town in Eastern Europe, particularly in areas that were part of the Russian Empire. Records that include all the residents of the town were used to uncover the relationships between families and to follow them to other towns.

Correspondence files found in Lithuanian archives show how the Jewish community leaders interacted with the government bureaucracy to provide religious, educational and welfare services for Jewish families.

Newspaper articles, personal memoirs of shtetl life in the early 20th century, and family photographs help to paint a picture of Jewish life preceding the Holocaust.


Finally, personal visits provided a sense of the place, and led to new information. They photographed the town, determined which buildings pre-dated the war, cataloged the remnants of the Jewish cemetery. They met elderly residents who shared memories of the Jews who once lived in the shtetl, and meet with the local secondary school children who now want to know about the Jewish families that once made up over half of the population of their town.

Multiple Resources to Give Your shtetl virtual life!


Architectural drawings of temple addition

A wide variety of records will be described, including:

Official censuses (revision lists and family lists)
Tax, voter and military/conscription lists
Applications for internal passports and to become farmers
Jewish community correspondence with government agencies
Bank and inheritance records
Landsmanshaftn (burial society) cemetery plots
Pages of Testimony for victims of the Holocaust
Architectural drawings of Jewish sites
Street maps with matching real estate lists showing where our families lived
Yiddish newspaper articles as evidence of plots and pogroms against the Jews
Photographs from the past and present
Letters, interviews, and personal memoirs
Remains of the synagogue such as the Oil Lamp from the Ner Tamid that hung above the Holy Ark


Lamp from synagogue Ner Tamid

This is an interactive project; new researchers join and contribute on an ongoing basis.

Sources include archives and museums, YIVO in New York, Yad Vashem, NARA (National Archives), the Library of Congress, and survivors, descendants and current residents of the town. And conclude with the tragic documentation of the mass murder of Lithuanian Jewry by the SS Einsatzgruppen ※Action Groups.§



Jew hits his daughter and Pavasarininkas accuse him in death of Christian child 每 police do a house search 每 shtetl lives in fear

This program provides methods and guidelines for you to paint a rich picture of your town.

SPEAKERS: David B. Hoffman, Ph.D. organized the Ariogala Research Group. He is the President of the Jewish Family History Foundation, a nonprofit genealogical organization that preserves 17th and 18th century eastern European archival documents. David serves as a director on the JGSLA and the Litvak Special Interest Group Boards. He developed systems for indexing inheritance, court, business and official correspondence files and has published numerous articles in Avotaynu, Roots-Key, and journals of other genealogical societies. He has given presentations at six IAJGS International Jewish Genealogical Conferences. He has traced his ancestors back to the mid-1600s.

Sonia Hoffman is Past President of JGSLA and coordinates the Grand Duchy Project of the Jewish Family History Foundation. Sonia served as coordinator of the Bialystok Shtetl CO-OP for JRI-Poland. She has published articles in Avotaynu and Roots-Key. Sonia has conducted research on families from Grodno, Lomza, and Volhynia guberniyas, Rostov-on-Don, Russia, and Lithuania. She has published a family history journal and newsletter for a world-wide cousins group, and articles in Roots-Key and Avotaynu. She has spoken at IAJGS International Genealogy conferences and for many other groups.

LOCATION: Valley Beth Shalom Synagogue, 15739 Ventura Blvd, Encino, CA  (North side of Ventura between Haskell and Hayvenhurst).




Grand Duchy of Lithuania period

1765 - Grand Duchy Lithuania Poll Tax/Census
1784 - Grand Duchy Lithuania Poll Tax/Census

Russian Empire period

1816 Revision List - LVIA
1840 Box Tax Payers
1844 Box Tax Payers
1846 Candle Tax Payers
1846 Petition to Become Farmers
1848 Tax Payers
1850 Taxpayers
1850 Well to Do Taxpayers
1851 Additional Revision List - LVI
1852 Craftsmen
1852 Heads of Household 4th Category Taxpayers
1858 Vital Records - LVIA
1860 Candle Tax Payers
1860 Real Estate Owners
1865 Taxpayers
1867 Real Estate Owners
1868 Military List
1868 Taxpayers
1869 Property Owner's List & Map
1870 Income Tax, Box tax and Unable to Pay tax combined
1870 Unable to Pay Taxes
1872-3 Real Estate Owners
1874 Family List
1874 Index of Males (1850-1874)
1874 Passport Issuance File
1875 Passport File
1877 Box Tax
1877 Unable to Pay Box Tax
1879 Voters 每 LVIA
1886 Rabbi Electors
1887 Family List
1887 Box Tax
1889 Unable to Pay Box Tax (poor)
1888 Rabbi Elector List
1892 每 1894 Family List
Vital Records extracted from Kaunas vital records on microfilm 每 LVIA/LDS
1906 Municipal Electors
1907 每 1908: Correspondence files: Petition for new slaughterhouse, Repairs to Synagogue
Architectural Plan for modifications in Old Synagogue (in Color) with details regarding construction (materials and labor requirements.)
19th century list of inhabited places of Kovno Guberniya 每 Ariogala and surrounding towns.
Photo of Ariogala main street in 1906

Inter-War period 每 Independent Lithuania

Summary of Ariogala Files obtained from Lithuania Between the Wars Collection at YIVO, New York
Details of Ariogola Community Council Files 1921 每22 obtained from Lithuania Between the Wars Collection, YIVO, NY
1921 每1926 Children*s post war clothing needs (YIVO collection)
1922 Taxpayers 1st to 5th Categories (from YIVO Collection)
Vital records (Birth, Marriage and Death Affidavits) from YIVO files
Ariogola Vital Records Verified by Kaunas Municipality in 1922
1921 每1922 Jewish Community Council Records from the YIVO files
1931 Ariogala Telephone Directory
Photo of 6th grade class in Ariogala, 1920s or 1930s
Photo of 4th grade class in Ariogala, June 15, 1935
Photo of five residents of Ariogala killed in WWII (from Lithuanian student's interviews)
Photos of Ziv family of Betygala
Two interviews with elderly Christian residents of Ariogala regarding their memories of the Jews from Lithuania.
Photo of Ariogala taken after one of the fires (probably post WW1) (Richard Lutz)
Kaunas Newspaper article in Yiddish on blood libel in Ariogala 每 Library of Congress

Ariogala under the Nazi Occupation

Report by Commander of the security police and the SD Einsatzkommando 3 Kauen [Kaunas], 1 December 1941 on execution by shooting of Ariogala Jews
Sonia & Sherri arriving at Ellis Island
Photo of market square showing synagogue 每 1943 from book ※Rasseinio Krasto Zydai§ and translation of chapters on Ariogala and Betygala

New York

Burials of Chevra Anshe Ragola at Washington & Montefiore Cemeteries in New York (Sherri Bobish & Ada Greenblatt)
Original incorporation papers of Chevra Anshe Ragola, 1899
List of surnames on placque at Chevra Anshe Ragola plot, Washington Cemetery


Extract from the ※Enumeration of the Jewish Kahal of Eyrogolla in the Community of Keidan,
in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the year 1784§ The Grand Duchy Census of 1784

Boruch, son of Abram, his wife, Zlata, his daughter Meriem, second Malka, third Kassia,
and his son Abel 每 6 persons 每 are shown




Internal Passport Photo


Transcriptions and photos of headstones at Jewish cemetery in Ariogala (June 5, 1999); Uncovered, translated, transcribed and photographed by Sonia and David Hoffman, Regina Kopilevitch, Vitalija Gircyte.
Norman Videlefsky (born Nochum Videlevsky). Memories of Ariogala (his birthplace).
Sonia's report of trip to Ariogala and Ariogala Cemetery with Photos.
David's photos of his trip to Ariogala.

Report and photos by Harvey Kaplan of visit to Ariogala and talk at secondary school.
Photos of Ariogala taken by professional photographer with commentary on each building photographed.
Aerial photograph in 1944 每 National Archives.
Fiche of Ariogala Synagogue 每 Yad Vashem Destruction files.
English translation of Ariogala pages from Pinkas ha-kehillot Lita.
A one page summary of the Ariogala information from the book ※Lithuanian Jewish Communities.§
Translation of Memories of the Jews of Ariogala: interviews with elderly non-Jewish residents about the recollections of the Jews, life of the shtetl, etc. before the Holocaust.§
Vitalija's explanation of historica meaning of "Ariogala".
Other members* webpages and trip reports 每 Lipnick, Kaplan
Robert Lipnick*s letter re: book on Ziv family: "From Rasseyn to Worcester: The Generations of Gershom Mendele Ziv: A Genealogy of the Ziv, Siff, Feingold, Talamo, and Wolfe Families," by Stephen W. Feingold, copyright 1983-1984.


Vital records 20th century
Towns within ten miles
Vital records derived from nearby towns
Interviews and other study by current secondary post-secondary study of holocaust
Surnames Associated with Ariogala

Sonia Hoffman & Sherri Bobbish
arrive at Ellis Island


From Pages of Testimony 每 Yad Vashem:


Place of Residence
Date of Birth (approx)

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