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Yichus (יִחוּסyḥws), a Hebrew-based Yiddish word meaning "lineage". In some past and present Jewish communities, good yichus - meaning descent from a family of high reputation - is necessary for a person to be considered as a potential marriage partner.

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


Yichus first appeared in the Bible in the Book of Ezra.[2] It appears in Ezra 2:62 and Nehemiah 7:5), where the Hebrew root (yud-chet-sin) means "relation to" or "related to."[2] In the later rabbinic Hebrew, the last letter of the root changed from sin (ש‎) to samekh (ס‎), though the pronunciation and meaning remained unchanged. The latter spelling (yud-hey-samech) appears frequently in rabbinic literature.[3]

Although the word yichus originated in Hebrew,[4][5] the term is generally accepted as a Yiddish word that has flowed into Modern English. The Anglicized word has been transliterated as yichus,[6] yikhes,[7][8] yiches,[9] and yikhus.[10]


As far back as the Talmudic era, being son-in-law to someone widely respected was valued.[11] Subsequently, even the yichus of being son-in-law to the son-in-law and similar lineage links were valued.

From the 14th century onwards, yichus was an important concern for Eastern European Jews.[7] Good yichus could refer to Torah scholarship or wealth, while bad yichus resulted from the suspicion of illegitimate descent.[7] However, many rabbis disapproved of the concept of yichus, instead insisting on judging individuals based on their personal merits.[2] "In Lithuania some Jewish families hid their Yikhus (lineage)".[12] There was a tension between yichus on one hand, and "meritocratic leadership based on scholarship" on the other.[7] Judgments of yichus became one of the mechanisms which determined social hierarchies.[7]

From the 19th century, the significance of yichus declined as more marriages were based on romantic love,[13] and reformers criticized yichus for leading to inbreeding within small circles of "acceptable" families.[7] However, nowadays yichus is still an important qualification for marriage in charedi communities.[14][15]

Yichus book

The family trees, or pedigree charts, of Jewish families, listing genealogy and family history records, have been identified with several names, among which are Yichus book,[16][17][18] Yichus brief,[19] and Yichus record.[20][21]

To help a child trace lineage, some families would write a "Yichus book".[22]

The focus of a Yichus brief (letter of relationship)[23] is not as extensive as a Yichus Book[24][23][25] whereas a Yichus book or Yichus record/"sefer yuchsin"/registry[20] is community-oriented.

Some families also kept a separate "Register of Circumcisions".[22]

Types of yichus


Being the mechutan (מְחוּתָּן, father of one's child's spouse[26]) of a notable person is sometimes considered important enough to include in a wedding invitation and in giving other credentials.[27][28] Although primarily used for same generation relatives, it can be used beyond that generation.[29]

Ben achar ben

Being a ben achar ben (literally son-after-son, i.e. patrilineal) descendant is sometimes considered more notable than other forms of descent.[30][31][32][33]

Family names

For various reasons, surnames/family names were changed, and sometimes reverted.[22] Thus, Jewish family names have not always been a reliable indicator of ancestry. For example: certain family names, such as Cohen, are not as strongly indicative of being a Kohen as Katz.


  1. ^ See the entry at Talk:Midrash (the "unsigned comment" that is the 3rd entry at Talk:Midrash#Midrash Rabbah) that is timestamped "17:19, 15 May 2007". QUOTE: << If the original source has "yichus" (i.e., Jewish Encyclopedia or Britannica) ... >>
  2. ^ a b c Johnson, George. "Jewish Word: Yiches". Moment Magazine.
  3. ^ Sefaria search: יחס
  4. ^ "Parshas Bamidbar (5771) - Got Yichus?".
  5. ^ Nechemia,7:5
  6. ^ "Dina Abramowicz, 90, Librarian and Yiddish Expert, Dies". The New York Times. 9 April 2000.
  7. ^ a b c d e f "Yivo Encyclopedia - Yikhes".
  8. ^ It was in the obituary of a YIVO expert who spelled it yikhes that The New York Times spelled it yichus.
  9. ^ "Jewish English Lexicon".
  10. ^ Dynner, Glenn; Hundert, Gershon. "Yikhus and the early Hasidic movement". McGill University.
  11. ^ Gittin 31b, regarding being son-in-law of Exilarch.
  12. ^ "Rabbinical Genealogy" (PDF). Center for Jewish History.
  13. ^ What’s Yichus Got to Do with It?
  14. ^ Samuel C. Heilman, Defenders of the Faith: Inside Ultra-Orthodox Jewry, p.280
  15. ^ Block, Sima Zalcberg. “‘The Art of the Deal’: Preferences in Spouse Selection among Parents in a Hasidic Community.” Israel Studies Review 28, no. 2 (2013): 61–82.
  16. ^ "Registry of "Who is a Jew" Realpolitik". January 2000.
  17. ^ "Issues of Jewish Identity". 17 November 2013.
  18. ^ "a "golden book" of "Jewish yikhes" - from an archive about Jewish life in Poland". YIVO Archives.
  19. ^ "Margolios Family Yichus Brief". 29 September 2013.
  20. ^ a b "MK Porush: Approval of Civil Marriages Spells Disaster". Israel National News. June 22, 2004.
  21. ^ "R'Metzger deviates from chareidi view". 7 December 2009.
  22. ^ a b c Gilman, Sander L. (1997). Smart Jews: The Construction of the Image of Jewish Superior Intelligence. Doubleday. ISBN 9780803270695.
  23. ^ a b "From the Henry F. Skirball Collection: Some Recollections and Reflections". 1990.
  24. ^ Sefer HaYichus, singular, or Sefer HaYichusim, plural - on the word Yichus.
  25. ^ "... drawn up about 15 years ago for one of our relatives. The letter dealt with the ancestors of ..."
  26. ^ Jewish English lexicon: mechuten
  27. ^ "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)
    ex. "When he was 20 years old, he married the daughter of the Vilna Dayan, who was the son-in-law of ..."
  28. ^ "R'Chaim Ozer Grodzinski". Pirchei weekly. Agudas Yisroel of America. May 5, 2018. p. 4.
  29. ^ Ex. That man is a Mechutan to me - his grandson is married to my grand-daughter.
  30. ^ Samuel C. Heilman (2017). Who Will Lead Us?: The Story of Five Hasidic Dynasties in America. Univ of California Press. p. 126. ISBN 978-0520966482. 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 [...]
  31. ^ (FIL=Father-in-law) "Rebbe Eliezer Chaim Rabinowitz". December 17, 2007. My FIL is a ben achar ben
  32. ^ "Beis Medrash of the Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk Miraculously Redeemed". March 8, 2017. ... a ben achar ben of the famed ...
  33. ^ "Rebbe Avroham Yosef Yuska Gottesman". .. is a descendant ben achar ben of ..