I'm sorry for your loss.

I get asked this a lot, so I'll tweet this out to everyone in case it helps.

Nobody does things exactly the same way, but I'll tell you what has worked for me. This will be Jewish-specific, but some of it is universal.
The first mistake may come as a surprise. *Don't* start at JewishGen. Because if you don't have a lot of specific information, it's easy to get a) overwhelmed and b) off to a misleading start.

Start by finding your family in the 1940 census, the latest that's available.
The mistake too many people make is thinking generally and not specifically. You want the path that leads directly to *your* family and your family only. The key for Jewish searches is having a town, so you can search for records from Europe.

Which are surprisingly available.
Once you've situated your family in 1940 (or 30, or 20, whenever they first arrived), you want to look for other documents: naturalizations and draft registrations are great for providing very specific locations.

You can do most of this for free at familysearch.org.
Or you can use a pay service like MyHeritage or Ancestry. But the caveat there is don't rely on other people's trees. Because many people build trees rife with incorrect info.

You also want to be looking for birth, marriage and death records, to fill in maiden names.
You might discover from US records that your great-grandmother Chana Rosenblatt was born in Czernovitz on April 21, 1886 and that her mother's maiden name was Levin. Now you know where to go to find more. If you just start on JewishGen without that info, you could be misled.
When I said don't start at JewishGen, I meant don't start searching records.

Do make use of their townfinder, which can help you decipher a name:
and the family finder, where you can look for others searching the same names/towns: jewishgen.org/jgff/
Once you have specific info on where your family came from, there are a multiple region-specific sites to take it from there, including the country databases on JewishGen. But be aware that there may be more out there. Look for the JG "SIG" pages for various regions.
Here's a list of them.

These pages are helpful too kehilalinks.jewishgen.org

There are great FB groups like Tracing the Tribe and Jewish Genealogy Portal where volunteers (like me!) will help in response to specific queries.
Some people have mentioned Yad Vashem and the ITS, which are both great. But I wouldn't start there without knowing a little more about what you're looking for.

Once you know that your family was Rosenberg from Proskurov, you can search Yad Vashem for that specifically.
And remember there were likely multiple Rosenberg families. The more specific information you have, the better.

But the most important thing to know is that TONS of info is out there. There's a misconception it's all lost or destroyed. Not true at all.
There's a million more things I could say, but I think I'll leave it there for now. HTH.

Oh, and nobody's name was changed at Ellis Island. But you all know that already, right? 😜
I should throw out that @larasgenealogy has done an amazing series of posts on finding documents from Eastern Europe. larasgenealogy.blogspot.com/2015/10/Findin…
@larasgenealogy Oh, and one random PS that those of us who do this know, but may not be apparent to beginners:

If your family says in the census they came from "Russia," that can mean anything from Estonia to Ukraine and everything in between. Sometimes even what's now Poland.
Your goal is to find a region or town mentioned, so you can zero in. You never know where you'll find it, but once you do, if it's not obvious what it is right away, you can use the town finder on JewishGen, and go from there.
Also confusing: immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian province of Galicia often identified themselves as "Austrian." But you won't find their records in modern-day Austria. They may be in Poland, Ukraine, etc.
One other random trick: think of it like playing Concentration. Pay attention to every detail: the name of the contact person on a ship's manifest. The names of the witnesses on a marriage license. The names of the boarders in the census. You never know when one will reappear.
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