The book first appeared in 1960 and was a milestone in the study of American Jewish genealogy.
Researchers now have access to the complete text of Rabbi Stern's monumental volume that was published in 1991 as the updated and revised 3rd edition entitled: First American Jewish Families: 600 Genealogies, 1654-1988. This publication is an historical document in its own right, and it is not our intention to alter it in any way. Students of American Jewish genealogy are encouraged to use this text as a basis for their research.
The Preface to the 3rd edition by Stern (January 29, 1915-January 5, 1994) indicates:
A high school enthusiasm for royal genealogy inoculated me with a virus which became an all-absorbing hobby. After tracing thirteen generations of descendants of Charlemagne, I was well launched on a career of wholesale genealogy.
A maturer outgrowth of the hobby arose from a search for a doctoral dissertation in the field of American Jewish History. In June of 1950, I approached the dean of American Jewish historians, my beloved teacher, Professor Jacob Rader Marcus, with a request for a thesis topic. By then Dr. Marcus had created the American Jewish Archives on the Cincinnati campus of Hebrew Union College, and had begun collecting the data on America's Jews. Among his early acquisitions was the large collection of typescript genealogies of Americans of Jewish descent compiled by the late Dr. Walter Max Kraus, and presented to the Archives by his spouse, Marian Nathan Kraus Sandor. Dr. Marcus made this material available to me, and I spent the succeeding eight years revising, correcting, and quadrupling the data in the Kraus-Sandor material. The result was my Americans of Jewish Descent published by Dr. Marcus at the Hebrew Union College Press in 1960.
Stern invited readers to make additions and corrections and many responded to his invitation before the 3rd edition was published. New data had been printed and his own continuing research provided data from archives, court houses, historical societies, congregational records and cemetery epitaphs.
Stern also indicated that
The genealogist's task is never complete, for new generations are born daily. The growth of interest in family history, made accessible to individuals by the newer technologies of photocopying, microforms, and computers, has brought about this updated edition.
My goal over more than forty years has been to try to compile the genealogies of Jewish families established in the United States and Canada prior to 1840, tracing their descendants wherever possible to the present. The year 1840 was chosen because an estimated 10,000 Jews had settled in America by then. Within the succeeding twenty years, more than 200,000 additional Jews were to immigrate, creating an insurmountable task for one genealogist working alone.
The author also mentions the growing network of Jewish genealogical societies, seminars and increasing resources, as well as assimilationist tendencies towards intermarriage.
Jacob Rader Marcus's Forward to the 3rd edition states clearly, "In the historian's tool chest there are few utensils more helpful than genealogical tables." Since 1960 every work dealing with early American Jewish history has utilized Stern's book. See the site for the complete Introduction, Forward, Stern's bio and more information.