Friday 10 August 2012

Finding new cousins

Morris Shreibman My Grandfather Moshe Shreibman came to London in 1905, completely on his own, and we have never known anything at all about his family, except that they came from Pinsk (now in Belarus). As far as I know he had completely lost contact with them.

After my own parents both died in 2004, my brother and I began trying to pull together what we could find out, but it wasn't much. Then last year some cousins and I commissioned research in Belarus, and did a week's visit there. The researchers found various references in the local archives, and pieced together a Shreibman family tree for us, which shows Moshe's father Nevakh. It also shows some brothers and sisters of Nevakh, one of whom is Chaim. Chaim's son Aron and his wife Chaya Vishnya also appear on the tree with a son Gdalia, born in 1897.

The tree shows Moshe Shraibman with 4 or 5 brothers and sisters - yet my own father, Moshe's son, never referred to the existence of any uncles or aunts on his father's side. We know now that one at least of his brothers stayed in Pinsk, but Moshe had in all probability lost contact with them all.

Then just a week ago I stumbled across a list I had downloaded some years back of Shreibmans who had arrived at Ellis Island, the immigration portal for New York. There are over a hundred of them, from many parts of Eastern Europe. However, looking through for arrivals from Pinsk, and then checking the passenger lists on the Ellis Island website, I found Chaje Schrabman with two sons Gaalia and Abraham, coming to New York to join her husband Aron Schrabman in 1906. The document shows their ages, which correspond with what we had been given in the family tree - 'Gaalia' is 9, therefore born around 1897, and his name I assume to be a mis-hearing or mis-spelling of 'Gdalia'. The second son Abraham hadn't appeared in the Russian records, but then nor do several members of our family.

I then started looking in the US Census records; I'm not sure if I found the family in the 1910 Census - I can't find the document if I did, I'll have to look again. I did however find a candidate Schreibman family in the 1920 Census: Harry (aged 42), Ida (40), Julius (23 - which corresponds with the birth date we have for Gdalia from the research - 1897), Gussie (12), Fanny (11), Anna (9), and Samuel (5). This suggested to me that Aron had become Harry since arriving in the US, Chaia/Chaje had become Ida, and Gdalia become Julius. I think the coincidence of these three names, and the age of Gdalia/Julius, is fairly conclusive. At this stage Abraham (who would be 21) does not appear to be living with them.

The same family appears in the 1925 New York Census; in the 1930 US Census Abe is back with them. I have not yet been able to trace them in the 1940 Census.

It is unlikely that many, if any of those appearing in the 1930 Census would still be alive today. I therefore needed to see if I could trace their descendants. I tried searching Birth, Marriage and Death records, and the first likely ones I came across were entries on the 'Find a Grave' website for Sam Schreibman, and then for his wife Anita, both of whose tombstones have been photographed and placed on individual memorial pages. On Anita's  page there was a clipping from a local newspaper, which included the names of their children: two females and a male. I guessed that the male would be more likely to have kept the surname than his sisters, so I started by looking for him, and found him on Facebook. I sent him a message, but I think like many people, he's signed up but he probably doesn't use it much, and I haven't heard back from him yet.

At the same time I found a Samuel Schreibman on a family tree on the Ancestry website. The tree is private, so I couldn't see it to check for correspondences, but I contacted the owner of the tree. She is not a Schreibman herself, but she was able to put me in touch with one of Sam's daughters, Andi.

And there we are. Andi has checked the information I have sent her, and we have been able to confirm that we are indeed cousins - whether second, third, or removed - who cares? The clinching evidence turned out to be Aron's wife's maiden name: Vishnya in our Belarus research, confirmed as Vishnaya by Andi. It all fits together.

So now we have a whole new set of cousins, all over the USA and maybe elsewhere. And they too have a new set of cousins, in the UK and across the world.

The rest, as they say, is History.

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