Thursday, 24 August 2017

Just like a jigsaw

Our first success
I did an autosomal DNA test with FTDNA getting on for 5 years ago, and since then a few of my cousins have done so too. Week after week I check our match lists, occasionally spotting a promising looking match, but never yet managing to establish a connection with anyone.

Well, we've just had our first success: my cousin Katy has been able to confirm a previously unknown cousin. It's on her father's side, and I'm connected to her on her mother's side, so it's not a new cousin for me, but the discovery could indirectly be of some help to my own researches.

A few days ago a new match, Niel, appeared in Katy's list, with figures too big to ignore: they share a total of 225cM, with a longest single segment of 75cM. FTDNA predicts they should be 2nd-3rd Cousins. We all have plenty of predicted 2-3Cs, as do most people with Jewish ancestry, and I have never yet been able to connect to any of them. But none so far have shown figures as high as this, so it was obviously worth investigating.

Mystery Man
I have pretty full information on our close relatives on Katy's mother's side, but I have no record of Niel's name. He appears on my match list, and that of my brother, but we share such a small amount of DNA with him that the match probably has very little significance. So the first conclusion is that he'll probably turn out to be on her father's side.

Next step: ask Katy. She had never heard of him. She asked her Dad. He didn't recognise the name either.

So I tried looking online. My first port of call was the Geni world-wide Family Tree - and bingo!, there he was, in a Tree with a handful of relatives, none of them known to us. One of these was his father, Louis, so I tried looking for him on Geni, to see if there was maybe another Tree for this family. There was, and it showed Louis' mother with a surname not too far from Katy's own family name. This did indeed look promising.

Yesterday, while we were still scratching our heads over this, Katy received an email from Niel. He had seen her in his own match list, and recognised her surname as being close to his grandmother's maiden name. He looked for her via Google, found her website, and saw that she had family connections to South Africa.

This is where the jigsaw comes in.

Niel told us that his grandmother, Mary, was "sent to Canada" to marry his grandfather, Noah, whose wife had died, leaving him with two young children. She herself had a young child, and as Niel puts it, "Unfortunately in those days they thought it was OK to leave her baby behind in Lithuania." This child, Heidi, was brought up by one of Mary's brothers, who later emigrated with his family to South Africa; Niel didn't know the name of this brother.

This last sentence immediately rang a bell with Katy. She knew from her father that his own father, Bentzion, had grown up in South Africa with a "cousin" called Heidi as part of the family. However none of the children seemed to know how she was connected, nor who her parents were.

Now we know. Piecing together the information from Niel and Katy, we have been able to re-constitute the family tree. Mary (also known as Miriam) has to be a sister of Woolf, Bentzion's father (and Katy's great-grandfather) - they have the same surname, and the two stories fit. Heidi is Mary's daughter by a first partner, brought up as a member of Woolf's family, and emigrating to South Africa with them. Meanwhile Mary and Noah had two children in Canada, including Niel's father Louis.

So Niel is Katy's 2nd Cousin-Once-Removed. Without the DNA test to spark the contact, we would most likely never have known. They are now moving on to swapping photos and more stories, no doubt.

And as an added bonus, FTDNA uses the DNA that a person shares with known close relatives to allocate some of their other matches to one side or the other of their family. In Katy's case, her mother is a First Cousin to myself and my brother. The DNA we share has enabled FTDNA to create a list of Maternal-side matches for her. Fitting together the pieces of the jigsaw with Niel has now produced a list on her Paternal side. This should help orientate further researches for her.

It may even have repercussions for myself and Brian, as we are more likely to be related to her Maternal matches than to her Paternal ones. So if a promising match appears on my own list, I can use Katy's lists as a steer, and pay it more attention if it is also on her Maternal side.

So we haven't exactly completed the jigsaw, but it's nice at least to fit two of the pieces together - and at the same time, to increase our chances of finding more pieces!

Friday, 5 May 2017

Let’s say I’m over the moon!

Six weeks ago I received an email from the Lida District Research group, associated with JewishGen, the website which collects together all manner of material to do with Jewish Genealogy. They had just released to subscribers a spreadsheet containing all the entries relating to Jews in the town of Lida, from the 1903 Russian Empire 'Revision List'. This was a sort of household register compiled periodically by the Russian authorities to try to keep tabs on all their subjects, mostly for tax and conscription purposes.

Judy Baston, who sent the email, couldn't contain herself: "Whenever I announce a new Lida District translation, I often begin with “I am delighted…” and even, “I am really excited…”.  But this new translation of the Lida 1903-1905 Family List is so important, those emotions pale in comparison to how I feel sharing this with you. Let’s say I’m over the moon!".

My grandmother Zlata (Sarah) Ilyutovich was probably born in Lida, which is in the north-west of Belarus, in the 1880s, and probably lived there for a number of years. Her father, Shlomo Dovid, died during the 1890s, and her mother Mikhlya took her children back to her home town of Gomel, 400km away in the far south-east of Belarus. This much we knew, more or less. However we have found precious few documents of their time in either town. There are a couple of birth records, and a re-marriage for Mikhlya, and that's about it. Zlata didn't appear once.

Then, in the mid-1900s, Zlata, her brothers Meer and Hirsch, and their mother all came to London. 

Zlata Ilyutovich - before she left Russia?

The only one who didn't leave was the oldest son, Shmuel, who had recently married and whose first child Raya was born in Gomel in 1906. So a 1903 List looked like a last chance to find something on them.

Previous research
We had had some research done a few years ago by the Jewish Heritage Research Group of Belarus. This suggested that Mikhlya's husband Shlomo Dovid Ilyutovich had been born in the town of Novogrudok, some 80km from Lida, and that his father Leizer had obtained permission to move the family to Lida in the 1860s, when Shlomo Dovid was a few years old. There were names and ages for the whole family, parents and half-a-dozen children, but I have never been able to identify any of them in any of the records I have looked through. There are Revision Lists for Lida from 1816, 1834, 1850, 1858, and a partial list from the period between then and the 1880s. There are similar records for other towns in the District. Not a whisper of any of this family.

As I opened the document, I wondered, as you always do, what I would find there. Would it be business as usual, or would I have reason to find myself alongside Judy, "over the moon"?

The 1903 Revision List
The List contains 10000+ names, and 1000+ families. Amongst these are 450 Ilyutoviches, in 37 family households. Scanning through the families, my eye was caught by one of them, Household 186.

As you can see in the clip above, the male members of the household are listed first, in their family groupings, and the female members follow on in the same order. Everyone is shown in relation to the designated 'Head of Household', which in this case is Shmuilo, at the top of the list. The names in red, 8 of them, correspond exactly to the family that we know, give or take one name. The dates of birth (not shown here) also correspond with what we know. This is our family, at last. No doubt about it.

The first of the women is Mikhlia, daughter of Berko (shown here as 'mother of Shmuilo'). She is my great-grandmother. Next is Sheina Zlata, her daughter. My Granny! The Head of Household is Shmuilo, Zlata's older brother, and they are both shown as children of Shlioma. Two other brothers follow, with names that puzzled us at first, Iosel Meer and Aron. I'll go into the evidence elsewhere, but they too definitely correspond to the people we know.

Then there is Shmuilo's wife, Goda, and their two tinies, Rasia (b 1906) and Shlioma (b 1908), who were both added to the document later.

Shmuilo Ilyutovich with wife Goda and baby Rasia, 1906, Gomel

This much is welcome confirmation of what we already knew. But who are the others? There's another 16 people here that we had never heard of. Who are they?

A closer look at the relationships shows that 4 of the men are shown as 'uncles' to Shmuilo. They are Shimel, Iudel Elia, Evel and Iser. The first 3 of these are shown as sons of Shmuilo - but beware, this is not the Shmuilo at the top of the list - they're his uncles! To be his uncles, they must be brothers to either his mother or his father. But his mother - Mikhlia - is shown as daughter of Berko, and they're sons of Shmuilo. So they're not her brothers. They must be brothers to Shmuilo's father, Shlioma. Shlioma himself, we presume, does not appear in this 1903 list because he had died by then, probably during the 1890s.

It had been suggested by the JHRG research that Shlioma's father was called Leizer, but the siblings listed here (the 4 uncles) had completely different names to the siblings in that family, and dates that cut across theirs. So they are two different families. This meant that we had to start looking for Shlioma's father again - if he wasn't Leizer, who was he?

Who was Shlioma's father?
This is a family group I had found a few years back, in a listing from 1874, in one of the updates to the 1858 Revision List:

I knew my great-grandparents were called Shlioma and Mikhlia. Could this be them? Trawling through all the available records, there is no other Shlioma married to a Mikhlia, let alone a Mikhlia daughter of Berko, in this period or any other. This ought to be them.

However I had been reluctant to claim this family, partly because their dates of birth, hers in particular, seem to be a few years earlier than we thought, but mainly because it seemed to have the 'wrong' father for Shlioma. His father was supposed to be Leizer, and this one was Shmuilo. But now we've seen the 1903 List, we know better. This is his father. And the 4 uncles in the 1903 List, shown as sons of Shmuilo, are indeed all brothers to Shlioma.

Who are our new cousins?
The remaining people in the list are the wives and children of the 4 uncles. This gives us some family units to follow up. Who are our new cousins? What happened to them? Did they emigrate? If they came to the UK or the USA we may be able to track them down.

So we now know that the family we were pointed towards in the earlier research is not ours. These, in Household 186, are our true ancestors. And now that we have their names and dates, can we trace them further back, through the records we already have to hand?

Let's just say that yes, I am up there with Judy - Over the Moon!

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 is 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.