Lebanese Roots

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The mission of this project is to aid and facilitate the research of Lebanese ancestors.


The goals of this project are, but not limited to:

  • Refine and standardise existing profiles of Lebanese ancestors.
  • Help family researchers learn more about their Lebanese roots.
  • Connect and co-ordinate research on Lebanese families.
  • Provide a knowledge base for research on Lebanese ancestors.


Currently, this project has one member, me. I am Omar Butler.

If you are interested in participating in this project, please post a comment on this page, in G2G using the project tag, or send me a private message.


  • The 'Research Guide to Finding Your Lebanese Ancestors' needs to be completed. If you have any resources or information that you feel should be added to the 'Research Guide to Finding Your Lebanese Ancestors', feel free to add it to the guide.

Research Guide to Finding Your Lebanese Ancestors

Please note that this guide is an on-going work-in-progress.


To the unaccustomed, uncovering Lebanese ancestry may seem a daunting, and almost insurmountable, challenge. Undoubtedly, there are a number of significant obstacles to Lebanese genealogical research. Almost all of these obstacles, however, can be overcome with enough effort. To help provide some guidance to those wanting to uncover their Lebanese roots, this guide will explore a few key resources for research, as well as provide helpful tips along the way.

Family Members

Family members are one of the most important resources for genealogical research. The more information you have about your family members, the deeper your family tree will become. No matter how insignificant a personal or family story might seem, it will always be relevant to the rich tapestry that is your heritage. As Lebanese genealogist Sandra Hasser Bennett observes, "public records will be available to you later, but the personal recollections of these original immigrants and their children will die with them".[1]

When speaking to family members, it is important to document all that you can. In particular, note surnames (in their original Arabic, Turkish, Persian, etc... spelling), sects and/or religions, villages, and family traditions. Such information will help guide your research later on and will be useful when constructing profiles on family members. Bennet recommends that researchers consult David Weitzman's book "Underfoot" when drafting questions for family.[2]


If you have exhausted all your options, in terms of speaking with family members, or if you cannot find any family members with memories of their Lebanese ancestors and roots, then DNA can become crucial to discovering your extended Lebanese family members.

In most cases, Lebanese DNA testers will not have public or large family trees. This is because Middle Eastern genealogy is heavily reliant on oral traditions, and so, many testers may not know, or remember, the names of all of their ancestors. The key to building a new family tree is to contact as many extended family members as possible and cross-reference their families trees. If you notice re-occurring surnames, this might suggest that you share a common ancestor with a match via that surname.

If you do not have much experience with genetic genealogy, it will be important to learn some techniques for triangulating ancestors and grouping matches. The following list provides a few useful sources for learning about genetic genealogy:

Clans, Tribes and Families

Certain Lebanese surnames may reflect membership of a wider clan, tribe, or family. If this is the case, you make be in luck. Many big Arab clans, tribes and families, will often have a large and extensive pedigree going back several generations. It is important to note, however, that, similar to Europeans, completely unrelated Lebanese families can use the same surname. The occupational surname Khoury (خوري), for example, is extremely common in Lebanon, having been given to priests and their descendants.[3] Even the surname Al-Hashemi, which indicates descent from Banu Hashim (a large and prestigious Arab clan),[4] is so common that it is almost impossible to use general research on the clan to find your own ancestors (furthermore, there are several disputed claims to this particular lineage). To deal with such cases then, it is extremely important to associate an ancestral surname with a geographical location. Unless your surname is rare, you may need to hone in on a specific village (rather than a city or governorate).

Once you have decided on a surname you would like to research, and you have associated that surname with a place, the next step is to search for records, documents and pedigrees mentioning your surname. Unless you belong to a particularly notable family (see, eg, Jumblatt family), this search will need to be conducted in a language other than English. Although this guide will focus specifically on Arabic, many of the same techniques discussed here can be applied to other languages (Note: If you already know Arabic, you can skip the General Searches section).

Luckily, with the help of Google Translate, it is now relatively easy to translate Arabic genealogical sources. The more difficult part is knowing what to search for, and where to search for it.

General Searches

Google Translate will be of little assistance in helping you draft a search query. Instead, you will need to be aware of some key terms in Arabic genealogy. The table below provides a brief overview of some of these terms:

Term (Arabic)PronunciationMeaning (English)
نسبNisbPedigree or lineage.
بيتBaytBayt literally means house, however, it can also refer to a family. This latter meaning is most often used in speech rather than writing. Bayt is one of the more restricted terms for family.
عايلةʿAylaʿAyla is one of the most common terms for family.
قبيلةQabilaQabila roughly translates to tribe. It is much broader than ʿayla but, usually, not as broad as Banu.
بنوBanuBanu is a prefix placed after the name of a progenitor, clan, or tribe. Banu Hashim, for example, refers to the clan of Hashim. This is one of the boardest genealogical groupings.
حمولةHamulaIn the context of Levantine genealogy, hamula refers to "a patrilineal descent group or patrilineage, related families or extended families being organised in a lineage of the segmentary type".[5]

Using the above terms, we can walk through how you might construct a search query. If, for example, you wanted to search for the Khoury family of the Rechmaya village, you could search: "عيل الخوري في رشميا‎". The first word (Arabic is read from left to right), "عيل", is ʿayla, meaning family. "الخوري" is Al-Khoury. "ال" or Al, is a prefix appended to mean the (it is a definitive article). Thus, "عيل الخوري" means the family of Khoury. The last two words, "في" and "رشميا", mean in and Rechmaya, respectively (Google Translate can be used to translate the names of places, although it is preferred to check the Arabic spelling used by the Wikipedia on any given place in Lebanon). Altogether, "عيل الخوري في رشميا‎" means "The Khoury family of Rechmaya".

Once you have constructed a search query, you can then use Google Translate to filter through the results. Although the translations will often be poor quality, they should give you the gist of the message. The Chrome and Firefox Google Translate extensions will be useful in quickly translating pages without having to switch tabs and paste URLs into Google Translate.

If you find a particularly interesting source, it might be worth sending to an Arabic-speaking friend or family member, for a proper translation.

Online Resources

There are several useful online resources for researching Arab families. Even if you don't know how to write Arabic and don't have a friend or family member who can help write questions for you, you may still be able to search for your family or surname using resources. Some sources are even accessible in English (without the need for Google Translate)!

The table below provides a helpful overview of some of the most useful online resources for Arab and Lebanese genealogy:

3alyiDatabaseArabic, English.Although quite difficult to navigate, 3ayli is a very useful tool for researching your Lebanese ancestors. Like WikiTree, users can create their own family trees and link individuals together, as well as provide information on their birth dates and marriages. It should be noted that a lot of content in Arabic has not been translated into English.
The Seven Families of BeirutArticleArabic.'The Seven Families of Beirut' is an interesting article on Wikipedia Arabic which looks at the lineages of some of the biggest families in Beirut. Some families that reside outside of Beirut, however, are also mentioned in this article.
Al-Ashraf LebanonDatabaseArabic.Al-Ashraf Lebanon contains information on Levantine families that belong to the Banu Hashem clan.
Al NssabonForumArabic, English.Al Nssabon is one of the biggest online forums for the discussion of Arab genealogy. Although it has an English section, it is relatively inactive and lacking compared to the Arabic section.
HowiyyaDatabaseAs of August 2020, only the Arabic part of Howiyya is accessible.Howiyya is an online database containing entries on over 28,000 families. Although the majority of these entries relate to Palestinian families, a few also relate to Lebanese ones. Families which span across the Levant region will also be included in the database. You can search the database by entering the name of a progenitor, the name of a village or city, or the name of a family.

Official Records

After 1920

The French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon was first established in 1920.[6] Emerging from the French mandate, in 1943, was the independent Lebanese state.[7] Birth, marriage and death (BMD) records from this period are still held in Lebanon today (at least after 1943).[8] Consequently, it is usually possible to obtain official records mentioning your Lebanese ancestors, if they lived, at least, after 1920.

According to FamilySearch.org:[9]

[There] are three places to obtain copies of or information from birth, marriage, and death records:
  • Mukhtar: The primary registration unit is the office of the Mukhtar (head of the local government). Each village in Lebanon has a Mukhtar that is in charge of keeping records. See Lebanon Mukhtar Records to learn more about Mukhtars and how to contact them.
  • Bureau of the Census: "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. Address your inquiry to the Census Office in the community (i.e., village, city, county) where your ancestor lived."[10]
  • Muhafazat: Birth, death and marriage records are also kept at the Office of the Registrar in each governate (called muhafazat).[11] The contact information for the Office of the Registrar in each district can be found on the appropriate district page…

Prior to 1920

To be completed.

Lebanese BMD records prior to 1920 are quite sparse. This is because, prior to 1920, Lebanon was administered by the Ottoman Empire.[12]

Ecclesiastical Records

To be completed.

If one of your ancestors belonged to a Christian denomination, you may be able to obtain BMD records from their local church. FamilySearch.org provides a useful guide on how to find such records, and what you can expect to find. FamilySearch.org also has a small database of digitalised church records, which you can search through.


  1. Bennet, S. H. (2000). Researching Your Lebanese or Syrian Ancestry: Where to Begin. Retrieved August 11, 2020, from http://www.genealogytoday.com/family/syrian/part5.html.
  2. Bennet, S. H. (2000). Researching Your Lebanese or Syrian Ancestry: Where to Begin. Retrieved August 11, 2020, from http://www.genealogytoday.com/family/syrian/part5.html.
  3. Oxtoby, W. G. (2020, August 16). Priesthood: An Overview. Retrieved August 11, 2020, from https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/priesthood-overview.
  4. Wikipedia. (2020, June 21). Banu Hashim. Retrieved August 11, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banu_Hashim.
  5. Rosenfeld, H. (1974). Hamula. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 1(2), 243-244. doi:10.1080/03066157408437887.
  6. Kingston, P., Bugh, G. R., Barnett, R. D., Maksoud, C. F., Khalaf, S. G., & Ochsenwald, W. L. (2020, August 10). Lebanon. Retrieved August 12, 2020, from https://www.britannica.com/place/Lebanon/
  7. Kingston, P., Bugh, G. R., Barnett, R. D., Maksoud, C. F., Khalaf, S. G., & Ochsenwald, W. L. (2020, August 10). Lebanon. Retrieved August 12, 2020, from https://www.britannica.com/place/Lebanon/
  8. FamilySearch.org. (2020, July 21). Lebanon Civil Registration. Retrieved August 12, 2020, from https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Lebanon_Civil_Registration.
  9. FamilySearch.org. (2020, July 21). Lebanon Civil Registration. Retrieved August 12, 2020, from https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Lebanon_Civil_Registration.
  10. Bennet, S. H. (2000). Researching Your Lebanese or Syrian Ancestry. Retrieved August 11, 2020, from http://www.genealogytoday.com/family/syrian/.
  11. U.S. Embassy in Lebanon. Obtaining Vital Records. Retrieved July 21, 2020, from https://lb.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/local-resources-of-u-s-citizens/obtaining-vital-records/?_ga=2.8108215.467531011.1595388572-311750993.1588637621.
  12. Kingston, P., Bugh, G. R., Barnett, R. D., Maksoud, C. F., Khalaf, S. G., & Ochsenwald, W. L. (2020, August 10). Lebanon. Retrieved August 12, 2020, from https://www.britannica.com/place/Lebanon/

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