Research in Syria and Lebanon

The staff at the Jafet Library of the American University in Beirut, Lebanon will help if they can. If you know the Arabic names and the appropriate dates, you may be able to obtain birth and death certificates from district or central offices of the Bureau of the Census. Mail a letter to the Census Office in the community (i.e., village, city, county) where your ancestor lived with as much information as you have.

Due to the fact that Syria and Lebanon were part of the Ottoman Empire until the early 20th Century, birth, death and marriage records do not exist for Syria until very recent times, except in synagogue or rabbinical records, which are privately held.

The Syrian National Archives contains records of the various courts located in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, and Hama for the years 1517-1919. The court records include inheritance cases, property purchases, divorce proceedings, and other legal matters for Muslim, Christian, and Jewish urban populations. However, the records are not catalogued and they may not be able to provide services for researchers abroad. This means that researchers would need to go to Damascus to view the records. A knowledge or Arabic and better yet, Turkish would be needed.

Note: The transliteration of names from Arabic to English is not an exact science. In Syria, many Jewish families had double surnames, so you need to know both names. A thorough investigation of the names you are researching is worth the effort, and will save time and money later.