Thursday, 11 December 2014

Meet my great-great-great-grandmother's family

Lewek and Libe Taube

This is from a Book of Residents covering the villages between Gombin and Plock, in central Poland. It is an entry on the page for the family of my great-great-grandfather, Wolek Frankensztajn, and it identifies his parents. The entry is written in Russian, and probably dates from the 1870s or thereabouts.

Wolek's parents are my great-great-great-grandparents. I had no idea what their names were going to be - I hadn't even known of Wolek until I saw this book in the archives in Plock last June. There isn't an online index for the book, so there's no way of knowing what's in it without going there and asking to see the original.

I can read a bit of Russian, not fluently, but enough to decipher the names in the first line: Lewek and Libe Taube. The word on the second line should be her maiden name - but what is it? I couldn't make it out. I put it aside, intending to post it online to see if anyone could decipher it for me.

Then a couple of days ago I was putting together a little booklet to give to my 'new' cousin Joan. We are third cousins, and this is the document that proves it: Wolek, born in 1839, is our most recent common ancestor, and I wanted to translate the whole of this page into English for her. I could work out all the rest - but I didn't want to leave out our great-great-great-grandmother's maiden name.

I had another look, I blew it up big. Suddenly it dawned on me that the word might start with the Russian character: щ , which gives a sort of double sound 'shch'. I followed through, trying out all the possibilities I could think of for all the other strokes, and laboriously pieced together a candidate: щавинска . Written in Polish, which uses Latin characters, this would be: Szczawinska .

I'd never heard of the name, so I was a bit dubious. Maybe I'd got it wrong. I went to the JRI-Poland web-site, and put in a query. There they were: a handful of Szczawinskis (masculine) and Szczawinskas (feminine) in the area, including two or three in Lewek's home town of Gombin. The database didn't include my Libe Taube, but that was because the time period it covered was wrong for her.

But at least I now know her family name, thanks to Cousin Joan :-), and I also know that there were others with the same name in the same area, so it may be possible to find traces of her family.

And now, three days later, however hard I stare at the word, I can't see it as anything but: щавинска . How come I couldn't see it before?

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