Using Ottoman Records in Arab and Arab American Genealogy: Palestine Nüfus Registers on – Part I

Greetings and Marhaba. Welcome back to my series on using Ottoman records in Arab and Arab American genealogy research! Using an example of Ottoman records, we will look at records for “Nüfūs registers (Ottoman census and population registers of Palestine), 1883-1917.” These records are primarily in Ottoman Turkish, with some in Hebrew.

According to, the collection “consists of 7 types of registers: preliminary registers; basic registers; early population registers; registers of births, marriages, divorces and changes of address; registers of men of military age; registers of foreigners; and Mukhtars’ registers.”  The registers are arranged into districts and then by religious affiliations. To review these records, you must create a free account. Once you have an account, you must go to a Family History Center or an affiliate library to use their computers, since these records are unavailable on a private computer.

To read these documents, you will need to be able read Ottoman Turkish or Arabic. The towns, names and dates are clearly understandable in Arabic. They list an index of towns and religious affiliations on each section of the scanned microfilm; however, the indexed lists do not match with the noted page numbers on the registry. There are currently no indexes on Family Search which allow you to search by town, religion, or name. It therefore takes a while to go page by page or at least reel by reel to locate the city or town and then, page by page, to locate names of individuals listed.

In the basic registry, the headings include information such as description of the individuals, however, in most instances, not all information in the headings are completed. The information most commonly provided includes the city, gender, name, parents’ names, birth year and religion. This alone, therefore, provides a significant amount of information that is relevant to genealogy research.

Published by Reem Awad-Rashmawi

Photographs & Memories by Reem

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