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Yichus (יִחוּס), a Hebrew-based Yiddish word for family tree or genealogy, to those who take it seriously, is the gatekeeper to considering potential marriage partners.

Colloquially it refers to the chain of origin for a statement, creative work or object.[1]


The biblical spelling used in Nech. 7:5 סֵפֶר הַיַּחַשׂ (Book of Lineage)[2] differs in the last letter, compared to both Yiddish and modern Hebrew (יִחוּס, sometimes ייחוס).

Although the word yichus originated in Hebrew[3][4], the term is generally accepted as a Yiddish word that has flowed into Modern English.

The Anglicized word has been transliterated as

In Judaism[edit]

Despite the fact that being Jewish from birth is universally accepted based on the religion of the mother[10], that same universally accepted definition says "(the tribal affiliation, tradition, customs and nusach of prayer) are determined by the Jewish father." To the obvious question[11] there is the question of why "Rabbah bar Bar Chanah"[12] and the matter of the Blasphemer, Lev. 24:10-23, not accredited to the tribe of Dan.

As far back as the Talmudic era, being son-in-law to someone widely respected was valued.[13] Subsequently, even the Yichus of being son-in-law to the son-in-law and similar lineage links were on one side, versus "meritocratic leadership based on scholarship" on the other, in the areas of "the arrangement of marriages and determination of hierarchical social distinctions."[6]

There were those who, for the above[14] and other reasons, devalued or hid it:

  • Dem gonefs yikhes (The Thief's Genealogy) - a song[15]
  • "In Lithuania some Jewish families hid their Yikhus (lineage)"[16]

Yichus book[edit]

The family trees, or pedigree charts, of Jewish families, listing genealogy and family history records, have been identified with several names, among which are:

To help a child trace lineage, some families would write a "Yichus book"[23]

The focus of a Yichus brief (letter of relationship)[24] is not as extensive as a Yichus Book[25][24][26] whereas a Yichus book or Yichus record/"sefer yuchsin"/registry[21] is community-oriented.

Some families also kept a separate "Register of Circumcisions"[23].

Family name[edit]

For various reasons, Last names[27]/family names were changed, and sometimes reverted[23]. Hence certain family names, such as Cohen, are not as strongly indicative of being a Kohen as Katz.

Family links[edit]


Being the Mechutan[28] of someone important is sometimes important enough to include in a wedding invitation and in giving other credentials.[29]

ex. "When he was 20 years old, he married the daughter of the Vilna Dayan, who was the son-in-law of ..."[30]

Although primarily used for same generation relatives, it can be used beyond that generation.[31]

Ben achar ben[edit]

Being a "ben achar ben" (literally son-after-son) descendant[32] is highly valued in Orthodox circles.[33][34]

Even where personal merit is mentioned and valued, ben achar ben is cited:

  • "the recognized rav-tza'ir, as well as the ben-achar-ben, son, grandson, and great-grandson of the First, Second, and Third ...Rebbe."[35]


  1. ^ Talk:Midrash (timestamped 17:19, 15 May 2007), QUOTE: If the original source has "yichus" (i.e., Jewish Encyclopedia or Britannica) ...
  2. ^ capitalized here by Artscroll, but not for the directive לְהִתְיַחֵשׂ, "trace your lineage"
  3. ^ "Parshas Bamidbar (5771) - Got Yichus?".
  4. ^ Nechemia,7:5
  5. ^ "Dina Abramowicz, 90, Librarian and Yiddish Expert, Dies". The New York Times. 9 April 2000.
  6. ^ a b "Yivo Encyclopedia - Yikhes".
  7. ^ Ironically, it was in the Obituary of a YIVO expert who spelled it Yikhes that the NY Times spelled it Yichus.
  8. ^ "Jewish English Lexicon".
  9. ^ Dynner, Glenn; Hundert, Gershon. "Yikhus and the early Hasidic movement". McGill University.
  10. ^ "Yichus - definition and meaning - Wordnik".
  11. ^ what if the father isn't Jewish
  12. ^ A sage in the Talmud. "Bar" means son of. "bar Bar" means son of son of. Chanah is a feminine name.
  13. ^ Gittin,31b,re being son-in-law of the Reish GaLuSa, the Exilarch.
  14. ^ meritocracy
  15. ^ "Mark Glanville - Dem gonefs yikhes (The Thief's Geneology)".
  16. ^ "Rabbinical Genealogy" (PDF). Center for Jewish History.
  17. ^ "Registry of "Who is a Jew" Realpolitik". aishdas.org. January 2000.
  18. ^ "Issues of Jewish Identity".
  19. ^ "a "golden book" of "Jewish yikhes" - from an archive about Jewish life in Poland". YIVO Archives.
  20. ^ "Margolios Family Yichus Brief". davidbaisrebeinu.com.
  21. ^ a b "MK Porush: Approval of Civil Marriages Spells Disaster". Israel National News. June 22, 2004.
  22. ^ "R'Metzger deviates from chareidi view".
  23. ^ a b c Gilman, Sander L. (1997). Smart Jews: The Construction of the Image of Jewish Superior Intelligence. Doubleday. ISBN 9780803270695.
  24. ^ a b "From the Henry F. Skirball Collection: Some Recollections and Reflections". archive.org.
  25. ^ Sefer HaYichus, singular, or Sefer HaYichusim, plural - on the word Yichus.
  26. ^ "... drawn up about 15 years ago for one of our relatives. The letter dealt with the ancestors of ..."
  27. ^ written in some cultures "last" hence the terminology
  28. ^ "How do you say Mechutanim in English". The Yeshiva World. "(grammatically formed in Binyan Pu-al, which is the passive form of Binyan Pea-el and pronounced with a sefardic tuf,not suf)"
  29. ^ "Video: Rav Yisroel Brog: How I Found My Mechutan". January 11, 2013. "Rav Yisroel Brog is the beloved and brilliant rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Tiferes Avigdor in Cleveland, Ohio. Rav Brog is... (link to Rav Avigdor Miller, ZTL)
  30. ^ "R'Chaim Ozer Grodzinski". Pirchei weekly. Agudas Yisroel of America. May 5, 2018. p. 4.
  31. ^ Ex. That man is a Mechutan to me - his grandson is married to my grand-daughter.
  32. ^ "Rebbe Avroham Yosef Yuska Gottesman". .. is a descendant ben achar ben of ..
  33. ^ (FIL=Father-in-law) "Rebbe Eliezer Chaim Rabinowitz". kevarim.com. December 17, 2007. My FIL is a ben achar ben
  34. ^ "Beis Medrash of the Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk Miraculously Redeemed". hamodia.com. March 8, 2017. ... a ben achar ben of the famed ...
  35. ^ Samuel C. Heilman (2017). Who Will Lead Us?: The Story of Five Hasidic Dynasties in America. p. 126. ISBN 0520966481. Each group could claim that its candidate had the necessary family ties. Benzion Aryeh Leib was a holy seed and was the recognized rav-tza'ir, as well as the ben-achar-ben, son, grandson, and great-grandson of the First, Second, and Third Bobover Rebbes. Although he had no sons, Naftali, the Fourth Rebbe, had two daughters, and [...]