Monday, October 12, 2020

The Magic of Local Facebook Groups - My "Well-Known" Tolchinskys!

I belong to multiple local Facebook groups for my family's ancestral towns.  These aren't genealogy groups; they're groups used for the day-to-day sharing that the current inhabitants do.  Much of what is posted isn't of that much interest to me (people selling produce, livestock, and complaining about the state of the roads, etc.).  But every so often there's a gem.  And recently there was one.

A Magical Facebook Post

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

My Grandmother's Holocaust Testimony - Via JewishGen

When I was in college, my grandmother was interviewed by Steven Spielberg's project (hosted by the USC Shoah Foundation) talking about her life and Holocaust experiences.  She got copies of the 11 VHS tapes that her story filled, and I summarized her life based on that testimony here.  And now I can easily find her testimony--and others who were related or lived in the same towns, and learn about their experiences via JewishGen.

Snippet from JewishGen's Summary of Sonia Diamond's Shoah Foundation Interview

Sunday, September 13, 2020

A Letter from the Past

My family has few old letters.  But a few weeks ago, I got an email from my uncle with a scan of a letter, followed soon after with the original.  He said that he had it from HIS uncle, my great uncle Izzy Joshowitz.

I could see my great-great grandparents' names (Ruchel and Shmuel Moshe) as well as some other family members who I knew--so there was promise of some great genealogical information, but my Yiddish wasn't good enough to translate.

But after I posted it on the incredible Genealogical Translations group, GĂ©raldine Tsiporah Trom was kind enough to translate.

The Letter

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Yeshaya/Josiah/Joshua/John/J. Supkoff's Permit Appeal Results!

A few weeks ago, I talked about how my great-great grandfather applied for a permit to build an extension to his home in Pittsburgh--but how the various papers gave him a different given name when mentioning his permit application.  There was a hearing to discuss if the permit would be granted, and it was denied.  And then one newspaper mentioned that he was appealing the denial.

But he didn't seem to appear again.  I wondered what happened--and some readers asked on Facebook and Twitter if I knew what happened.  Initially I was thinking that I'd need to wait for local Pittsburgh repositories to re-open post-COVID.  But I also realized that the OCR technology used to allow old newspapers to be searchable isn't perfect, so perhaps there was another mention of this case where Supkoff wasn't captured?  So I searched by the address of the home, narrowing search results to 1925 newspapers in Pennsylvania.  And there it was.

Joseph Supkoff Building Permit Appeal Decision; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; June 12, 1925

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Supplemental Passport Files - A Rich Resource

Simon Mitchneck was a famous voice/accent coach to Hollywood's elite.  He also was my cousin--although I don't know quite how.  Multiple Diamond cousins born in the 1940s and 1950s remember visiting him, and DNA has shown a strong connection to the Mitchneck family, but the actual connection is still elusive.

A few months ago, some genealogy friends were having an email-based discussion about letters from European family members found along with official US documents, and I mentioned some letters found to Simon from his sisters in Europe after WWI, which were included with some of his passport applications (which you can see here and here).

One of those friends was Rich Venezia, who knows pretty much everything about US immigration documentation.  So he decided to see what he could find about Simon's passport application, beyond what I had found on Ancestry.
A letter sent to Simon's siblings (pages 1 and 4)

Sunday, August 16, 2020

A Yeshaya by Any Other Name....

My great-great grandfather was Yeshaya Supkoff.  He was inconsistent with what name he used once in the United States.  But some of it wasn't his fault--it seems that even for one event, the newspapers used different names for him.

On March 1, 1925, three separate Pittsburgh newspapers reported on Yeshaya's application for a building permit.  But the three newspapers called him three different things.

J. Supkoff Building Permit Application; Pittsburgh Daily Post; March 1, 1925

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Leveraging Ukrainian Archives' Online Presence

Historically, archive branches in Ukrainian had put few records online.  However, that's slowly starting to change, at least for some of the branches.  I follow the Volhynia State Archives on Facebook, and last week they announced that they had put newly-digitized records for a Jewish gymnasium (high school) from Lutsk on their website.  My father's parents grew up in the Lutsk area, and I knew my grandfather had spent some time in a yeshiva in Lutsk.  I knew he wouldn't be in these records (as they are from the 1922-1923 school year when he was an infant), but I figured I could see if any relatives attended this school.

These records are nice for native English speakers because they're in Polish rather than Russian or Ukrainian, so it's really easy to browse through for names of interest; it took me under 20 minutes to review all records, and I did find one of potential interest.

Rejzia Dimant's School Report, 1922-1923 School Year