Thursday, 9 March 2017

I think he was a tailor

My cousin Sandra posted this a few days ago in our family Facebook Group:
“As a child I met relatives who came from Panama to visit us in the USA. I don't remember the names but the male was our cousin and I think he was a tailor. This was in late 40s or early 50s. I think they stayed with my Aunt Fannie.”
Well, there were 6 of them, and they were all tailors. They are the Schwartz brothers from Gombin, and their parents were Towie Aron Szwarc and Bajla Frankensztajn. They had all left Poland to try their luck elsewhere. Jack came to London in 1913, and Abraham followed him in the 1920s. Morris also came to London, then went to Panama in the 1930s, and ended up in the USA, in New Jersey. Nathan, Paul and Ralph went to Panama in the late 1930s.

They all came together in 1946, in New Jersey, for a special occasion:

Morris, Nathan, Paul, Abraham, Ralph, Jack

Cousin Belinda tells the story behind the photo:
“The picture of the 6 brothers is in my parents’ wedding.  My parents, Pinhas (Paul) and Sarah were married in New Jersey in 1946. My eldest brother Allan and I were born there, but they returned to Panama when I was a baby, so my first language is Spanish, then English, and now, Hebrew. In Panama my brothers Arthur and Eddy were born there. 
The story about the picture is the following. You'd better sit down: 
My father had emigrated to Panama with his brother Nathan. He got a visa for his mother Bajla and his brother Herzl Ber to leave Poland; his father Towie Aron had died a couple of years before. 
My father said that later on they will send for the rest of family that was staying in Poland. But Herzl Ber got sick, and they exchanged the visa and gave it to the youngest brother, Ralph. Another brother, Isaac, did not want to leave Herzl Ber alone and stayed taking care of him. 
Bajla did not want to leave because she wanted to stay with her two daughters Sarah and Rivkah.  Sarah was married with two children and her husband Izrael Zolna was in the army. Rivkah was engaged, and she was waiting for her fiancé to return - he was also in the army.  They were planning to leave Gombin in the near future.  Rivkah’s fiancé didn’t return.
Well, the Nazis got into Gombin in 1939. They killed Sarah’s two children in the snow, in front of them, and as far as we know Bajla and the sisters were sent to Auschwitz. Herszl Ber and Isaac were also killed.
My father had left in the last ship to leave Poland, bringing his young brother Ralph. They arrived in Panama, where Nathan was waiting for them. 
Several years later, after the War, my father went to the USA, where his brother Morris had emigrated earlier. He met my mother, and this beautiful picture occurred. 
The B'nai Brit magazine sent the picture all around the world. In Australia, Rivkah’s fiancé saw the picture and recognized the brothers and called via telephone to my father. (I can’t remember his name... I was a little girl). 
I know he came with his wife to Panama to explain why he never returned to Gombin.
He was sick in a hospital in Russia and couldn’t leave.  When he finally came to Gombin, it was too late.  He came to Panama to explain himself to the family.”
So who was the tailor from Panama who stayed with Sandra’s Aunt Fannie for this momentous occasion? I think it must have been either Nathan or Ralph. And what was their relationship to her?

Morris, Nathan, Paul, Abraham, Ralph, Jack - with hats

I’m pretty sure that Sandra's ‘Aunt Fannie’ was Frajda Rajn, daughter of Boruch Rajn and Sura Rywka Zegelman. This makes her not just a cousin, but a Triple Cousin to Bajla Frankensztajn, the mother of the Schwartz boys:
  1. Boruch’s brother Gersz Ber Rajn married Tauba Frankensztajn, and then after Tauba died, he married her sister Rywka Laja; Bajla is their younger sister.
  2. In the generation before, Sura Rywka’s father Hemie Zegelman, and Bajla’s mother Rachla, were brother and sister.
  3. At the same time, Sura Rywka’s mother, Hana Frankensztajn, and Bajla’s father Wolek, were sister and brother. In other words, a sister and brother had married a brother and sister. So the children of these two couples would be cousins twice over.
(Nathan and Ralph Schwartz later kept up this family tradition, when they married two sisters, Ruchla and Siza Aizenman, in Panama in 1944.)

So Aunt Fannie's mother, Sura Rywka, and the Schwartz brothers' mother, Bajla, were Double Cousins, through both the Zegelmans and the Frankensztajns. Then in the next generation the Rajn brothers joined the party, and married a Frankensztajn and a Zegelman respectively. So in fact all of Boruch Rajn’s descendants are Triple Cousins to all of Gersz Ber’s. The rest of our Frankenstein clan can only look on in admiration. Have a look at I have a feeling that we are related for how we worked all this out.

This is now the third time in a couple of months that we have confirmed family connections through things that happen at weddings. In Is this the Missing Link?, it was where the groom was staying, in Another Link in the Chain it was the identity of a witness. This time it's where the groom's brother was staying. The first two were in documents, this one is from childhood memories.

And in this case we also have an iconic photograph, which as Belinda's childhood memories tell us, had played a part, 70 years ago, in bringing together people who had been separated in tragic circumstances.

I wonder what's next?

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Another Link in the Chain

Once again, you're looking for one thing, and you find another. In my last post, Is this the Missing Link, I described how I came across evidence that linked my own Frankenstein family with another branch I was sure we were related to.

Well, it's happened again. With the same family.

The Marriage Certificate above is for Lewis Allerhand and Fanny Shalinsky, at the East London Synagogue in 1912. Fanny appears in the 1901 Census as a grand-daughter of Sarah Frankenstein, matriarch of the family I have been trying to link with my own. By this time Sarah is allegedly 70 years old, although I believe she must have been a good 10 years younger.

Sarah is a widow, her husband Israel Jacob had probably died in Poland before the family came to England in the 1880s. Sarah is described as a 'Hawker (Cakes)', and her birthplace is Gombin, Poland - this is what first caught my eye when I was trawling through all the Frankensteins I could find in the 19th Century UK Censuses. Gombin is our Frankenstein town.

Also with Sarah is a daughter, Betsy, aged 30, described as a 'Cripple'. I've no idea what kind of disability she suffered from. Fanny is 14, and a Tailoress, and has the surname Shalinsky. Both Betsy and Fanny are born in Gombin. Sarah's other children, Jacob, Barnett and Rachael, have all married by this time, and set up their own homes. Sarah is down as Fanny's grandmother, but what is not clear is, who is her mother? Is it Betsy? Or is it another daughter that we don't yet know of? And where has her surname Shalinsky come from?

In an attempt to pursue those questions, I ordered a copy of Fanny's marriage certificate, and it arrived last week. Unfortunately it doesn't answer my questions. The only new information it gives about her is that her father is Samuel Shalinsky, a cabinet-maker. It doesn't say he is deceased - which it does say of her bridegroom Lewis's father - so I presume he was still alive at the time of the wedding. However I can find no such person in any UK records, so maybe he never left Poland. I haven't found him there either, though. So he's still a mystery.

But there's something else. Maybe you've noticed by now. I didn't until I looked at the marriage certificate for the third or fourth time. Have another look.

Who's the first witness?

Morris Frankenstein? Morris who?? We've got a Morris Frankenstein, and he lived within walking distance of the East London Synagogue. Could it be him?

There are three Morris Frankensteins in the 1901 UK Census, and they don't include ours. One is in Manchester, the other two are in the East End of London. Our Morris - Moszek Boruch - was my great-grandfather's younger brother. He was born near Gombin in 1886, and came to London around 1905, so he's in the 1911 Census. However, by then, one of the East End Morrises had emigrated to the USA, and the other had died. So our Morris was the only one left in London. It has to be him.

It was Uncle Morris who welcomed my grandfather Leib (Lewis) Frankenstein, and his cousin Jankel Szwarc (Jack Schwartz), to London when they came in 1913 aged around 20. He was probably also there for another cousin, Frajda Rajn, when she arrived at about the same time. These three are children of Moszek's siblings Jankel Josek, Bajla, and Riwka Laja, respectively.

Now then. In the Missing Link post, I traced how when Frajda got married in 1916, her fiancé gave his address as 28 Blyth Street, which we know was the home of Barnett Frankenstein. This, together with other evidence discussed in that post and elsewhere (see A Frankenstein by Any Other Name), led me to conclude that these two families are indeed closely related.

Barnett was the son of Sarah - which makes him an uncle of Fanny Shalinsky. He must have been at her wedding. And as we can see from the certificate, Morris Frankenstein, uncle of my own grandfather, was there too. I'm taking this as further confirmation of the closeness of the family connection.

And if the relationship between these two families is located where I think it is - a couple of generations further back - then Moszek also a sort of Uncle Morris to Fanny, and hence a suitable family witness to her marriage. And he's Cousin Morris to Barnett and his siblings Jacob and Rachael.

Unfortunately, over the course of the last 100 years, we have lost track of most of these relationships. But documents such as these marriage certificates show us how closely-knit our families once were.

In 1948 Jack Schwartz put together a photo album to commemorate those members of his family killed in the Holocaust; the only ones to survive were Jack and 5 of his brothers, who had all emigrated before the outbreak of the Second World War.

As well as photos of his parents, brothers and sisters, there are some of other relatives, including this one.

'Uncle Morris Frankenstein and wife Leah
London - England - 1922'

So here's to Uncle Morris - the man who links us all together.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Is this the Missing Link?

You know that moment when you're looking for something, and you find something else? Well, this is one of those moments.

Last week I met my Frankenstein 3rd Cousins Eve and Alan for the first time. We're 3rd Cousins because my great-grandfather Jankel Josek and their great-grandmother Rifka Laja were brother and sister, born around 150 years ago in little villages near Gombin in Poland. It turns out they both live about 15 miles away from me, but we had completely lost touch - I don't think our families had had any contact since my grandfather died over 60 years ago.

In the 1900s and 1910s, several members of our Frankenstein family emigrated to England. Jankel and Rifka's younger brother Moszek (Morris) came around 1905, and then 3 of his nieces and nephews came a few years later, all in their teens or early 20s. These were my grandfather Lajb (Louis) Frankenstein, Eve and Alan's grandmother Frajda (Frieda) Rajn, and Jankel Lajb (Jack) Szwarc, son of Bajla, who in turn was a sister of Jankel, Rifka and Moszek. So basically, it looks like each of these four siblings sent one member of their family to start a new life in London.

I know that Louis and Jack arrived in 1913. Whether they came together or separately I don't know. At the moment we don't know when Frieda came, but she must have come before the outbreak of the First World War in July 1914, because travel across Europe would have been impossible after that. In any case, by 1916 all three of them were getting married, all in the same place, at the Philpot Street Synagogue in Mile End in the East End of London, the area that most recent Jewish immigrants headed to on arrival.

When Jack first arrived, he stayed with Uncle Morris, and worked with him in his tailoring workshop, run from his home in Mile End. Jack got married in March 1916 from an address nearby, in Bethnal Green, and at that point he was no longer living with Morris. I know nothing of Louis until his marriage in November 1916, when he was living not in the East End, but across town in the West End. But then his bride was a West End girl, living just round the corner, in the shadow of the Post Office Tower (which of course wasn't there at the time).

I was interested to know more about how the 3 young cousins came to end up in London. Did they come together? Did they stay together? Did Uncle Morris offer lodging and work to Louis and Frieda, as he did to Jack? And why did Louis end up in a different part of town?

Eve and Alan didn't have any details on Frieda's arrival in London and her first few years there. They weren't even sure whether she and Aaron had married in London, or in Poland, before they left. So after our meeting I checked online, and found they had indeed married in London, in 1916. I ordered their Marriage Certificate. I was hoping the certificate would throw some light on where they were living at the time, and maybe help answer some of my questions.

Well it did throw light, but from a most unexpected quarter.

This is from the marriage certificate, shown above. They were both living in Blyth Street, Bethnal Green, but at different addresses. Maybe that's how they met? Who knows.

Wait a minute. I've seen Blyth Street before. Didn't someone else live there at some point .... ?

This is from the 1911 Census for Barnett Frankenstein and his family. It's the same house. Not just the same street, but the same house.

It's only 2 years ago that I first came across Barnett and his family in the records, and I've managed to make contact with a number of his descendants. Together we've been trying ever since to establish whether our two families are connected, and if so, how. There are a couple of circumstantial clues that suggest we probably are:

  • Firstly, Barnett gives his birthplace as Gombin, which is our Frankenstein town, and so far all Frankensteins found in the records for that area are members of our family. There are none that aren't.
  • Secondly, the Ashkenazi Jewish tradition was to name children after deceased relatives. The effect of this is that names are not repeated from father to son, but usually skip a generation, and are passed down from a grandfather or great-grandfather. Barnett uses exactly the same names for his sons as are repeated throughout the 19th Century - and longer - in my family: Jack, Woolf, Lewis, Isaac. Notice that in this same generation, my grandfather is Louis, and his cousin is Jack Szwarc.

Neither of these on their own would be convincing; together they make a stronger case, but it's still not quite definitive. The coincidence of address looks like a third clue, albeit from 5 years earlier. The case is building.

Well, next up, this is from the Post Office Trade Directory for 1916:

They're still there in 1916, at 28 Blyth Street. So when Frieda got married in March 1916, her fiancé Aaron Hyman was staying with Barnett Frankenstein. Of all the households in London - alright, of all the households in the East End - he was staying with Barnett.

Barnett is family. We still don't know exactly where the link is, but I think there's sufficiently convincing evidence here to meet the Michael Shade Genealogical Proof Standard. 

So this is one of those moments. Hello to a whole new branch of the family. Hello to new cousins. Dozens of new cousins!

Friday, 27 January 2017

My Lost Cousins

To mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I bring together what I currently know about the fates of members of my family who were caught up in the terrible events of the Second World War in Eastern Europe. My mother’s families - Frankenstein and Waxman - were from Poland, my father’s - Schreibman and Ilyutovich - from Belarus.

All four of my grandparents had emigrated to the UK during the early 20th Century. That is why I am here. Unfortunately, during the 1920s and 30s, contact between those who had left and those who stayed seems to have been largely lost. I am not sure my parents' generation had more than a very sketchy knowledge of who their cousins back in the old country were, or even whether they knew they had any. I do not remember being told of any family members who had been killed in the Holocaust.

It is only during the last few years, since I have been researching my families and making contact with others doing the same, that I have begun to realise the extent to which all of these families have been affected.

Almost all of those who did not leave before the outbreak of war in September 1939 were slaughtered; a handful, somehow, survived. These are my parents’ lost cousins, aunts and uncles.

My Frankenstein family (Gombin)  
Rifka Laja Frankensztajn b 1870
Bajla Frankensztajn b 1879
Gitla Kohn b 1861
Chawa Frankensztajn b 1891
Chaja Tauba Frankensztajn b 1901
Sura Rajn b 1890
Herschel Boll b 1873
Yita Boll
Etka Boll
Malka Boll
Moische Boll
David Boll b 1901
Hersz Ber Szwarc b 1904
Sarah Szwarc b 1905
Ryfka Szwarc b 1911
Itzhak Szwarc b 1915
Marjem Florkiewicz b 1915
Szejwa Florkiewicz b 1919
Jakub Josek Florkiewicz b 1921
Mendel Wandt
Abram Zegelman b 1898
Wolek Zegelman b 1901
Kajla Rajn b 1892
Lajb Rajn b 1901
Fool Pindek
Sura Rajn b 1930

Laja Florkiewicz b 1917
Bronislawa Wandt
Bernie Pindek

Fate unknown
Ida Lipisz Frankensztajn b 1882
Rifka Laja Manczyk b 1887
Maier Mendel Frankensztajn b 1909
Bajla Frankensztajn b 1910
Szyfra Frankensztajn b 1912
Rachmiel Frankensztajn b 1921
Nusen Zegelman b 1896
Bajla Zegelman b 1899
Jakub Lajb Zegelman b 1924
Zysa Zegelman b 1926
Toba Zegelman b 1929
Itta Tatarka b 1901

My Waxman family (Demblin, Lublin)
Judko Klawir b 1866
Judessa Klawir b 1878
Manya Frydryk b 1881
Pola Klawir b 1897
Pesza Klawir b 1902
Manya Klawit b 1907
Icek Mietek b 1908
Rosza Klawir
Viktor Bialer
Moszek Klawir b 1897
Tsivia Etel Nest b 1892
Sara Sala Klawir b 1898
Boris Goldschmidt
Pinchas Klawir b 1900
Lajbl Klawir b 1903
Mila Studnia b 1903
Miryam Klawir b 1907
Szyia Klawir b 1911
Izak Bialer b 1928
Mira Klawir b 1924
Beno Goldschmidt
Icek Goldschmidt
Hala Klawir b 1936

Betty Klawir b 1936

Fate unknown
Miriam Bialer b 1931

My Schreibman family (Pinsk)
Ahron Schreibman b 1897
Sara Kopels b 1904
Meer Schreibman b 1986
Friedel Apelbaum b 1905
Avraham David Schreibman b 1933
Noakh Shimon Schreibman b 1938

Fate unknown
David Schreibman b 1871
Menakhem Schreibman b 1876
Sorah Schreibman b 1885
Shlema-Hirsh Schreibman b 1887

My Ilyutovich family (Gomel)
Shmuil Ilyutovich b 1919
Alexander Taratin
Aron Gurevich b 1910

Riva Ilyutovich b 1912
Yakov Ber Kozlov b 1913
Mikhlya Ilyutovich b 1918
Yeorgy Felitsin
Janna Felitsin
Vladimir Taratin b 1942
Sulama Kozlov b 1939
Ludmila Kozlov b 1943
Chaya Levin
Nekhama Levin b 1910
Necha Levin b 1917
Leya Levin b 1900
Marya Gurevich b 1936
Ilya Katzman b 1937
Manya Amronin

Fate unknown
Bogdana Levin b 1906
Genya Levin b 1907
Ilya Levin b 1918
Yankel Levin b 1890
Feiga Levin b 1894
Vulf Levin b 1894
Leia Levin b 1897
Fruma Levin b 1898
Leiba Levin b 1907
Ber Levin b 1894
Maryasya Riva Levin b 1894
Zalmon Levin b 1895
Vilya Gurevich
Raisa Babchin

Apologies for any errors or omissions - please let me know.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Finding Florkiewiczs

"Hi, I just discovered ... "

Ten days ago I received an email via the JewishGen Family Finder beginning: "Hi, I just discovered .... ". It was from a lady called Emily Y, and what she had just found was that her grandfather's brother, Barney Rosenberg, had married someone called Sylvia Florkiewitz, in the 1920s, in New York. "The name seems to be quite rare," she said. "Do you have any information about it?".

Florkiewicz is the family name of one of my cousins, Eva, and no, we knew very little about them. I had listed it on the JGFF in the hope that one day someone like Emily, who seemed to know something we didn't, might spot it and get in touch.

Eva is my Second Cousin, her grandmother Chawa Frankensztajn was a sister of my grandfather Lajb. Chawa’s husband was Elias Florkiewicz, they married around 1914. Our Florkiewicz family stayed in Poland, in the village of Juliszew, near Gombin (Gabin), where the Frankensztajns were living. Elias died in the 1930s, and sadly Chawa and three of her children were killed in the Holocaust. The only one to survive was their daughter Laja, who managed to get out in time and was evacuated to the USSR.

After the War Laja returned to Poland with her husband Josef and their son Henrik. Eva was born a few years later, then when Josef died in the early 1960s Laja and the children emigrated to Israel. All Eva knew of her grandfather Elias Florkiewicz was that he had some sisters who had gone to America. It seems Laja knew nothing more about them. You can see more about Chawa and her family in these posts from a couple of years ago.

Emily's email prompted me to start looking again. Where had I got to with my research into the Florkiewicz family?

Well, it turns out that I had had a pretty good lead a couple of years ago, and that I had not followed it up. The clue is tucked away at the bottom of the Registration Card that Laja filled in when she returned to Poland after the War. 

1: Laja Florkiewicz's Poland Registration Card 1946
The Jewish Community in Poland registered the details of all Jews who had survived, and managed to return to Poland after the War. The Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw has an archive of all these registration cards, but they are not available online. Laja returned in 1946, and was registered in Lublin. When I was researching in Warsaw in 2014, Anna, one of the lovely people at the JHI, found her card for me. 

Section 15 of the card is ‘Relatives Abroad’, and there you will see the following entry (see top of this post):

Name: Florkiewicz Sura
Relationship: Grandmother
Country: USA. 

Here was confirmation that Laja’s grandmother Sura - Elias’s mother - had indeed emigrated to America. Anna had then helpfully located Sura Florkiewicz's Passenger Manifest for us, showing that she had emigrated in 1921. She suggested that Eva should be the one to follow this up, since it was her family - her cousins, hopefully - and Anna thinks people should be involved in their own research. I agreed, and passed the Manifest and the message on to Eva. You can probably guess what happened next - Eva and I both left it to each other, and neither of us followed it up.

Until Emily wrote. 

The first thing I did was to have another look at Sura's Passenger Manifest, which should tell us when she went, who she went with, where from, where to, and possibly other things as well.

2: Mendel Florkiewicz ANT-NYC 1921
This is the document that Anna had found for us. It shows Sura, with husband Mendel and children Chana, Laja and Malka travelling from Antwerp to New York in 1921. Their nearest relative back in Poland is shown as: ’son E Florkiewicz, Juliszow’. That’s their home village, and that has to be Elias. These are his parents and sisters.

3: Mendel Florkiewicz ANT-NYC 1921 p2
The New York Passenger Lists often have a second page. This shows where, and who, they are going to - in this case: ‘daughter L Blumenstock, 468 Hinsdale Street, Brooklyn’. This must be a fourth daughter, but all I knew about her was what is written here - she is married to someone called Blumenstock, and has obviously emigrated earlier. And she, or possibly he, has the initial 'L'. 

Climbing Trees
Then, as I was browsing the usual sites, I came across a Tree on, put up by David G. His Tree had Mendel Florkiewicz (with a wife whose name is denoted 'Private') and 4 daughters: Pearl, Sylvia, Anna and Minnie. This was almost certainly our family - Mendel is Mendel, Anna is probably Chana, and Minnie could well be Malka, and the dates he has for them are a fairly good match to those on the Manifest. Sylvia could well be the person mentioned by Emily, Pearl is a new name, and he doesn't seem to have Laja; could Laja be the L Blumenstock shown on the Manifest?

Unfortunately for us, the only daughter David had any further information on is Minnie, who was the wife of Morris Schonberg. David turns out to be Minnie's grandson, and like us, he's very keen to share information.

Emily also has a Tree on Ancestry, but the only thing she had on Florkiewicz was the name Sylvia, married to Barney William (Benjamin) Rosenberg. She has a birth date of 1900 for her, similar to the date on the Manifest for Chana. She could possibly be the Sylvia on David's Tree. In which case that would give us 2 daughters who came over to the USA independently from the rest of the family - Pearl and Sylvia - making 5 in all. Elias is developing quite a family.

At this point I came across some Trees in a different part of the forest, on the website. They were put up by Roseanne S and Marsha Sdescendants of the Blumenstock family who were aware of the Florkiewicz connection. These Trees showed that Pearl Florkiewicz was married to Louis Blumenstock, and so she must have been the daughter 'L Blumenstock' that the family was travelling to in 1921. They also give us the families of Anna, who married Adolphe Feigeles, and Lillian - who must be Laja - who married Charles Eisenberg.

That now gives us families for all 5 of Elias's sisters. The next challenge would be to identify who are the sisters who became Pearl and Sylvia in the USA; we'll have to delve into the Polish records again for that.  

And then, the purpose of the exercise so far as Eva is concerned - to trace their descendants. What cousins does she have? The information we have gathered from the Trees, and the contacts we have made this week, will help us do that. We are in touch with Emily and David, and I have written to Roseanne and Marsha, but I have not yet heard back from them.

Meanwhile, back in Poland - who were Pearl and Sylvia?

4: Florkiewicz Births Warsaw 1915

The prime source for Jewish Family History in Poland is the website of JRI-Poland, who have indexed an enormous number of surviving vital records. I came across the listing in this document some years ago, but until this week did not realise that they are in fact the records of our own Florkiewicz family. The original documents are not available online, but this index shows that Mendel and Sura registered the births of these four children all at once, in 1915, some 10 to 15 years after they were born. I can only think that at this point they were hoping to emigrate, and needed proper documentation to obtain passports. I would not put much faith in the precise dates of birth they give - Chana and Malka are shown as too close together, for a start - but I would think that the order of birth is correct.

The new find is Szejwa, the eldest of the four children appearing here. I was thrown a bit at first by seeing this person listed as 'M' for 'Male'. I had not seen Szejwa as a masculine name before, and indeed Elias used the name for one of his own daughters, Laja's younger sister, born in 1919. I think this is a clerical error, either in the original document or in the transcription for this database.

So who is she? The candidates we have are Pearl and Sylvia, and the similarity of names strongly suggests she will turn out to be Sylvia.

Two further things we learn are that Sura's maiden name was Lipe, and that they all seem to have been born in the Powazki district, in the north of Warsaw. The original documents are held at the Jewish Historical Institute, I will see if I can order copies of them, they may tell us a bit more.

And notice that neither Elias nor Pearl are included here. Elias was already married by 1915, and would be responsible for obtaining his own documentation if he needed it. What about Pearl?

5: Perla Florkiewicz b 1893

The only original birth certificate for this family that I have managed to find through JRI-Poland is this one. It confirms that Perla is indeed a daughter of Mendel and Sura, and is several years older than the other 4 sisters. We don't yet have any document giving a year of birth for Elias, but I would guess he comes between Perla and the others.

Like all records of this period, it’s hand-written and in Russian. Very badly hand-written. However I have managed to decipher that Perla was born on 17 October 1893, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, to Mendel Florkiewicz aged 35 and Sura née Lipe, aged 24. Amongst other things it also gives us the house number: 1659/60, and I have since managed to find out exactly where this building was situated, in the centre of Warsaw.

And the bonus at the end is the signature of the father, in Russian: Mendel Florkiewicz, great-grandfather of Eva and David, and also of Marsha and of Roseanne's husband, if my arithmetic is correct!

We're on a roll now. When did Perla and Szejwa emigrate? Did they go together? Let's see if we can find their Passenger Manifests.

6: Stefania Florkiewicz ANT-NYC 1920
I eventually managed to track down this Manifest for Szejwa (Sylvia), arriving in New York from Antwerp in 1920. She is neither Szejwa nor Sylvia, but Stefania. However, we can identify her by her contact back in Poland: 'mother, Suhra Florkiewicz, Warsaw’. The name ‘Stefania’ is not an Americanisation of her name, as this would not have happened until after she had arrived in the USA, and the Passenger Lists were compiled before they got on the boat in Antwerp. It may have been a name she used in Poland, outside Jewish circles.

7: Stefania Florkiewicz ANT-NYC 1920 p2
Page 2 of her Manifest tells us that she was going to: ‘sister, L Blumenstak, Hunsdale Street 465, Brooklyn’. We now know this was Perla, and her husband Louis. Her passage was paid by: ‘brother-in-law’, ie Louis.

The 1920 US Census for Louis and Pearl Blumenstock shows their eldest child Ruth as 3 years old, which suggests they married before 1917. I'm currently trawling through the New York City Marriage Index, but have not yet found them. The release of this Index, by the way, was obtained by Freedom of Information action taken against the NYC authorities by Reclaim the Records, a not-for-profit organisation set up to "get public data released back into the public domain" - more power to their elbows!

This Census also says that Louis and Pearl immigrated in 1915, and were naturalised in 1918. I have not yet found documentation for either of these events. Did they emigrate together, or separately? Did they marry in Poland, or in the USA? Who were they going to? Did either of them have relatives already there?

------- Hold the Front Page! ------- Hold the Front Page! ------- Hold the Front Page! 

* * I have just this minute found the answer to some of these questions * *
* * Separate post to follow * * 
------- End -------

8: Descendant Chart Isadore Florkiewicz 3gen

Using these documents and many others, such as Census records, Birth, Marriage and Death listings, and others, I have put together this Tree. It shows what we currently know of the family from the parents of Mendel Florkiewicz, through three generations down to the children of Elias and his 5 sisters, Perla, Szejwa, Chana, Malka and Laja.

On Mendel’s Death Record his parents are shown as Isadore Florkowitz and Sylvia Zeshnick - but Isadore and Sylvia are not names that were used in Poland, they are clearly Americanisations. Either they emigrated as well, or Mendel used these forms when he spoke of them. Sura appears to have been the informant for this record, so it will have been she who supplied the names to the Registrar. My guess at the moment is that Mendel’s father Isadore would have been Icek (Isaac) in Poland, and his mother Sylvia would have been Szejwa - remember that Mendel's daughter Szejwa became Sylvia in the USA. Further, that his mother would have died some time before the birth of his daughter Szejwa, so that he was able to use the name for the new baby, in her memory.

I do have some names for the following generation, which is where Eva and David make their appearance, but there are a lot of blanks at the moment, which I hope to be able to fill in before too long.

What's in the name?
Going back through my emails, I have just realised that I was approached a couple of years ago, quite independently, by two people, one in Israel and one in France, who have connections to Florkiewicz families, and who may be connected to ours. The name does not appear to have been used by many Jewish families, but was reasonably common amongst gentile Poles, so many people with the name will not be related to us.

In fact one of our good friends in Gombin is Lukasz Florkiewicz, from a Polish Catholic farming family. He is intrigued by the fact that a Jewish community existed in the town for over 500 years; he now maintains the Jewish Cemetery in the town, and has been a tremendous help in our researches. He has researched his own family history back to the 18th Century, and can find no evidence of a Jewish connection. However we now know - from Perla’s Birth Certificate - that our Florkiewicz family was living in Warsaw from at least the 1890s. I will let him know what we have found!

I can only guess at how a Jewish family came to use the name Florkiewicz. Jewish families in this part of Poland were obliged by the Russian authorities to take on surnames in 1821; previously the tradition was to use patronymics - ie, people were denoted as being the son or daughter of their father. So I rather expect any Hebrew text on Mendel Florkiewicz’s headstone will say he was Mendel, son of Isaac. Jews took on all sorts of surnames at that point, often relating to places, people, or occupations; very occasionally they chose common gentile names. Florkiewicz could possibly just be a name that someone felt was rather nicer than some others, when the time came to make a choice.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

I have a feeling that we are related

So starts the email I received out of the blue from Louis K, about 6 weeks ago. He'd been looking in the Family Finder section of the JewishGen website, where we can list the family names we are interested in, and the places they come from. He'd spotted that I had listed a few names that tallied with his own family, from Gombin in Poland.

He mentioned his great-grandfather, Baruch Nussan Rajn, and Baruch's father Kalman. I knew I had a few Rajns, so I checked on my Tree. I did have Baruch listed, but I hadn't managed to link him to my own family as yet. I had the names of several children, and the given name of his wife, Sura Ryfka - but not her maiden name. Nor, as yet, his father's name.

The Rajn I had in my own family was Gersz Ber Rajn, who was married to two of my great-grandfather's sisters, Tauba and Ryfka Laja Frankensztajn. Not at the same time, I hasten to add. Tauba had two children, and then twins; however she died soon after giving birth, along with the new-born twins, and Gersz Ber then married her younger sister Ryfka Laja. I was pretty sure there would be a connection between this family and Boruch, but I hadn't yet found it.

I then had another look at what I had on Gersz Ber. Sure enough, his father was Kalman. Given that from 1821 onwards, Jews in this part of Poland were required by the Russian Empire to use one surname per family per town, it is unlikely there would have been a second Rajn family in Gombin. So I concluded that there was only one Kalman Rajn, and that Gersz Ber and Boruch were therefore brothers.

So I told Louis we appeared to be connected, but not directly related - he was my great-grandfather's sisters' husband's brother's great-grandson. I'm not sure if there's a cousin-label for that. We agreed to keep sharing notes.

A couple of emails later, Louis mentioned that his mother, Sarah Rose, was named after her grandmother, Boruch Nusyn's wife - Sura Rifka Siegelman. Wait a minute, this was the maiden name I was missing ....

Siegelman? Siegelman??

My great-grandfather's mother was Rachla Zegelman, and I had managed to sketch out some branches of this family from the 19th Century records, but didn't know what had become of any of them, apart from one.

Sure enough, I had a note of a Sura Ryfka Zegelman, born about the right time - but I hadn't found any further records of her. By the same logic as before with the Rajns - same name, same time, same place - she has to be the same person. And I know who she is - she's the daughter of Rachla's brother Hemie.

So, I'm from Rachla's branch, and Louis is from Hemie's. We are obviously both descended from their parents, Wolek Zegelman and Wajla Chern - they are our 3x-great-grandparents. So Louis and I are indeed directly related: we Fourth Cousins.

But there's more.

Rachla Zegelman's husband was Wolek Frankensztajn. Hemie Zegelman's wife was Hana Laja Frankensztajn. And - you've probably guessed it by now - Wolek and Hana Laja were brother and sister. As of course were Rachla and Hemie. So brother and sister married sister and brother. Is there a word for that?

All of which means that not only do Louis and I share Zegelman 3x-g-grandparents, as outlined above - we also share Frankensztajn 3-timers, the parents of Wolek and Hana Laja: Lewek Frankensztajn and Libe Taube Szczawinska.

So we're not just Fourth Cousins, we're Double Fourth Cousins.

And that's not all.

My Third Cousin Fran is not only a Frankensztajn and a Zegelman, as are Louis and I, she's also from the Gersz Ber Rajn family, mentioned at the beginning of this post. So she and Louis both go back to the same 2x-g-grandparents, Kalman Rajn and his wife, another Sura Rifka. So Fran and Louis are related 3 ways: they are not only Double Fourths, they are also Third Cousins!

I'm trying to find a way of visualising the relationships between these families, but they seem to be too complex for the family tree websites and software I'm using. They all use straight lines to portray relationships, and can't display the interconnections on screen - or paper - at the same time.

I'm thinking I'm going to need something more bendy. It might be time for a mind-map ...

Friday, 22 January 2016

Of X-boxes and Abraham’s Ancestors

Or, ‘No’ is also an answer.

I have recently posted - Big Chunks of DNA, Talking ‘Bout Our Generations - about a close autosomal DNA match I have with CG. He has only one Jewish great-grandparent, whereas I have 8, so the match between us almost certainly goes via this great-grandfather, Abraham Lewis. FamilyTreeDNA predicts that we are 2nd-to-4th Cousins, GEDmatch says our Most Recent Common Ancestor is 4.1 generations back. This puts us in 3rd-great-grandparent territory, ie a couple of generations prior to Abraham Lewis.

I ran a number of comparison tests on GEDmatch, on CG, myself, and a few other people who are closely matched to me, and who are also matched to CG. These threw up a number of possibilities, and closed off several others, but so far I haven’t been able to draw any solid conclusions as to how or where any of us match. See the Talking post for a discussion of these tests.

A major problem is that none of us seem to have full ancestral trees going back as far as we need to for these purposes - that is, 4 or 5 generations. At 4 generations we each have 16 2g-grandparents, at 5 we have 32 3g-grandparents. Here’s my current score, for ancestors whose given names and surnames I know:

parents: 2/2
grandparents: 4/4
great-grandparents: 8/8
2g-grandparents: 12/16, plus 3 given names and 1 completely unknown
3g-grandparents: 13/32, plus 3 given names, and 16 complete unknowns

That is a seriously incomplete tree, once you get down to my 3g-grandparents, and few of the others in the sample seem to have any more in theirs.

What about the X?
One test I did not take a close look at in that post was the X-Chromosome Matrix. The reason I didn’t go with the X is that it looks fiendishly difficult to interpret, but seeing as how I didn’t get as far as I’d hoped with the other tests, I thought I’d give the X a whirl.

The problem is that, as a male, I only get an X from my mother. At first sight this appears to be good news, because it means if I match someone on this chromosome, I can immediately discount my father as the source of the match - and all his ancestors. Females however get their X from both parents - this means that my mother’s X is a combination of both her father and her mother. This pattern repeats back through each succeeding generation, and should mean that we can narrow down the source of our matching X.

From the explanations I’ve seen, such as Unlocking the genealogical secrets of the X chromosome by Blaine Bettinger, this has the result that, at the level of 2g-grandparents, only 5 of your 8 maternal 2g-grandparents could contribute to an X-match, and none of your paternals could anyway. One generation further back, and the contributors form an even smaller proportion: only 8/16 maternal 3g-grandparents.

Blaine Bettinger's Male Inheritance Chart
Here’s the chart he devised - male is blue, always to the left, female pink (of course), always right (of course). I’m the blue circle in the middle, the left side is totally blank because my father didn’t give me an X. Two generations further back, and the same applies to my mother’s paternal grandfather - she got nothing from him, so neither do I. Which means that the whole of his line can be discounted for X-matching purposes. Similarly for each male that appears in my ancestry chart - they got no X from their father, only from their mother, so their father’s line doesn’t contribute to the party.

Now all I have to do is map my ancestral Tree to this chart, and do the same for anyone I have a decent X-match with, and hey presto, sooner or later we will spot someone appearing in both Trees, who would be the source of our match.

Well, following Bettinger’s chart, here’s my X-map, showing only those ancestors who could have contributed to my  X-chromosome:

4th Generation (2g-grandparents)
(m: mother, f: father)
m-f-m-f: Lejbus Kohn (1820-1884)
m-f-m-m: Marya Igla (b 1834)
m-m-f-m: Gitla Laja Glasman (1847-1872)
m-m-m-f: Aron Moise Szechtman (b 1845)
m-m-m-m: Laja Ruchla Landenbaum (b 1848)

I know them all. I have names and dates of birth, and some places, for all of them. Anyone I match on the X, the match has to be through one of these. The Most Recent Common Ancestor I share with the match person is not necessarily one of these, but the X-path we share goes through one of them, so the MRCA has to be an ancestor of one of them.

However, the autosomal matches I am considering here are at least one generation further out, and this is where, once again, our paper trail doesn’t quite meet our DNA trail. Here are my potential X-donors from the generation before:

5th Generation (3g-grandparents)
m-f-m-f-m: ? ?
m-f-m-m-f: ? ?
m-f-m-m-m: ? ?
m-m-f-m-f: Pinkus Glasman (d 1895)
m-m-f-m-m: Chawa ? (d 1886)
m-m-m-f-m: ? ?
m-m-m-m-f: Jankel Hersz Landenbaum (b 1822)
m-m-m-m-m: Cyma Elbsztajn (b 1822)

I know fewer than half of them. Or, to put it another way, at this level, which is the first we come to that could possibly host our MRCA, more than half my lines go blank. Worse still, Jews in Poland were only obliged to adopt surnames in 1821, just around the time when this generation was being born. Prior to that, the Jewish custom was to use patronymics, referring to the father’s given name. It is highly likely that the parents of this generation were not born with surnames, and many of them did not have surnames when they married. This makes them extremely difficult to trace even when the records are available, to put it mildly.

So even if I had a full house of 5th Generation ancestors, and knew the given names of all of their parents, I would be extremely lucky to be able to identify an MRCA with any of them. In fact I have names for only 2 out of the 13 candidate X-donors in the 6th Generation, so it looks like Mission Well-Nigh Impossible.

Nevertheless, I gave it a go, just to see where it might lead me.

Our X-matches
Here’s the chart that I get for the group of people who match both CG and myself, for matches on the X-Chromosome, in cM (centiMorgans, the unit used for measuring matching segments of DNA on a given chromosome):
















The first thing we notice is that 4 of us do not match any other member of the group: CG, AD, BN and myself. Which immediately suggests that I need to rethink the relevance of the X-Chromosome to my match with CG. I don’t match him there. So is the X-test useless for this study?

Well, maybe not quite. We have already deduced (see earlier posts) that my match with CG is not on my father’s side, as Katy, a known 1st Cousin-Once-Removed on that side, does not appear amongst his matches. So he’s almost certainly on my mother’s side. The lack of a match on the X means that we can probably discard those lines that do make an X-contribution - the ones I tried to map above. His match with me is not an X-match, so it is probably along one of my other maternal lines, one that sooner or later passes through 2 consecutive males, so that that particular X-stream comes to a halt.

So we are maybe one small step closer to locating our MRCA - they’re probably hiding in one of the blank boxes on the maternal side of Blaine Bettinger’s chart.

The same logic applies to the other non-matches here. We need to focus on our blank boxes.

On the other hand, the ones that do match look quite promising. JMN matches with 3 others, as does RNB, including their match with each other. JMN also has the two strongest matches, with Big Chunks in common with PL (41.6cM), and with LS (27.5cM). Does this indicate a common line of X-descent for the four of them? And is their MRCA to be found along those lines? If so, what implications does this have for the results we looked at in the two earlier posts?

Our Autosomal matches
In Talkin ‘Bout Our Generations, we noticed that CG and I have reasonable autosomal matches on 3 chromosomes with PL, 2 with RNB, and one with JMN. These matches seem to be quite significant, as there’s only one other match with any other member the group, a small match with YS. There is no other chromosome where any of them matches both CG and myself - they match us both, but in different places. 

What’s more, of the 3 who do match both of us, there are 2 chromosomes where 2 of them join with us to make a foursome: PL and RNB join us on a stretch of Chr 5, and PL and JMN join us on Chr 18. So CG, myself, and PL seem to form a core autosomal group, with RNB and JMN also associated. Is this a hint that some, or maybe all, of us share a single MRCA? Or maybe two MRCAs across the 5 of us, a generation apart?

And as we’ve just seen, PL, RNB and JMN are just the ones who form the core of the X-matching group. We might have a promising lead here, if it weren’t for the fact that neither CG nor I seem to match any of them on the X. However, maybe we can extract some clues from this situation.

Abraham's Ancestors
To re-cap: CG has only one Jewish g-grandparent, the rest of us have wholly Jewish ancestry, as far as I know. His match with us must come through his g-grandfather Abraham Lewis. The MRCA(s) he shares with the rest of the group must be ancestors of Abraham. So how do the rest of us connect to Abraham’s ancestors? And can our X-trails help us find our pathways to our MRCA(s)?

Let’s start with CG himself. His g-grandfather Abraham is on his father’s side, so CG has not inherited any X from his Jewish ancestors, which is why he doesn’t match on the X with any of the others in this group. However, all the rest of us can only connect to him via Abraham’s ancestors.

If I’m understanding this right, the most recent common X-ancestor of a group of people is the same person as their autosomal MRCA, it’s just that X gives us a different way of identifying them. So the X-ancestor of the core X-matching group - PL, RNB, JMN - is their MRCA. I’d really like to make the jump to say that this person is also the MRCA they share with CG, but I’m not sure that’s justified. It would be particularly nice for me, since the 5 of us - PL, RNB, JMN, CG and myself - have a reasonably good overall autosomal match, and the X-match could be pointing the way to our shared MRCA even though 2 of us don’t share in it.

Locating the X-ancestor
We can also narrow down the candidates for the common X-ancestor for each person, by tracing the lines back on Blaine Bettinger’s chart above. Both FTDNA and GEDmatch suggest our MRCA(s) lie 4 to 5 generations back. As we saw before, at 5 generations, for males there are only 8 candidates for X-donor, all on the maternal side. The lines are (m: mother, f: father):

Male pathways to X-ancestors

Of the core X-group, RNB is male, PL and JMN are female. So one of the above pathways should be RNB’s personal route to the MRCA he shares with the other two.

Females get their X from both parents, so in addition to the above pattern for the 8 lines on the maternal side of the X-chart, they also have 5 candidates on the paternal side:

Additional female pathways to X-ancestors

For PL and JMN respectively, one of these 13 pathways should be their route to the MRCA. All we need is a full family tree for each of them going back 5 generations along each of these lines. We  can then put those trees alongside the 8 candidate lines from RNB’s maternal tree, and wait for a name to jump out at us.


'No' is also an answer
My own case is different again. I know that I match CG on my maternal side, but do not match him on the X. This could be where “‘No’ is also an answer” comes in. I do not match him, so our MRCA should lie not in one of the coloured ‘candidate X-donor’ boxes in my X-chart, but in one of the blank boxes. Or, to put it another way, looking at the male-pathway list above, the path to our MRCA should lead to one of my 5th-generation ancestors who does not appear in that list - ie, to one of these:

My blank X-boxes
m-f-f-f-f: Lewek Jakobowicz (1803-1876)
m-f-f-f-m: Libe Tauba Szczawinska (d between 1852 and 1868)
m-f-f-m-f: Wolek Zegelman
m-f-f-m-m: Wajla Chern
m-f-m-f-f: ? Kohn
m-m-f-f-f: Izrael Waksman (1814-1860)
m-m-f-f-m: Chaja Gitla Ejsensztat (b 1822)
m-m-m-f-f: ? Szechtman

Amazingly, I seem to know these better than my X-match candidate ancestors (see list above). I have full names for 6 of them, and surnames for the other 2. So all I need is full lines of descent for each of them, then to put those alongside CG’s tree, and look for his 2g-grandfather Abraham Lewis, and Abraham’s parents Hyman Lisky and Rose (Lewis ?), to pop up.

Done and dusted!

Minor issues
There are a couple of minor issues that could make a bit of a mockery of my reasoning, if I’m not lucky. Many of us reckon that FTDNA, and to a lesser extent GEDmatch, overestimate the closeness of the relationships of Ashkenazi Jews. I have over 100 matches on FTDNA predicted to be at 2nd-to-4th Cousin level, but have not yet succeeded in identifying a single one of them. My guess is that most of the relationships are really a generation or two further out. That would mean looking for MRCAs at a distance of 6 to 7 generations. I have the given names of just 3 of my 128 7th-generation ancestors. 


The other issues arise from the way in which our DNA is passed on from one generation to the next. We do not necessarily receive exactly a half of our DNA from each parent, and as this is repeated over the course of a few generations, we could gradually have lost all genetic trace of one or more of our ancestors. Also, our DNA is liable to mutate over the course of the generations, and so will no longer match with people who are in fact our relatives.

These factors may be making nonsense of my argument at one point or another of this discussion. There is an outside chance that they could be behind the apparent contradictions in my interpretation of some of these tests. For instance, it is possible that CG is in fact related to me on my father’s side, but that he and/or Katy have lost some of the segments of DNA that would indicate this. The same could apply to my reading of the X data - maybe I’ve just lost the bits of X that would have indicated that I share the X-match with the core group identified above.

It is also possible that multiple instances of the endogamous relationships that are inherent amongst Ashkenazi Jews, such as cousin marriage, or just intra-community marriage over many generations, could be leading us up several garden paths at the same time.

As I have said in previous posts on this topic, I know next to nothing about genetic genealogy. I could be misunderstanding anything and everything, and making false assumptions left, right and centre. These posts represent my current grasp of the issues. Comments welcome.