Saturday, December 8, 2018

Letter from Bergen Belsen

My great-uncle, Izzy Joshowitz, was my grandmother's older brother.  He was born in what was then Czechoslovakia (and is now Ukraine) and came to America when he was 7 years old.  During World War Two, he was an officer in the Army Air Corps.  As the war ended, he was sent to Bergen Belsen, where he met some cousins (who he had never before met in person, as they were born in Europe after he left to America) who had survived.

Recently, his daughter Randi went through some old boxes in her mother's attic, and she found the following letter:
Letter from Bergen Belsen

Sunday, December 2, 2018

An Incredible Resource for Russian Empire Records/Discussion: j-roots

If you have ancestors who lived in what was the Russian Empire, you must know about j-roots.  Check out the below guest post that talks about this resource and how English speakers can best interact with it.

The following is a guest post from Dmitry Pruss.  Dmitry Pruss lives in Salt Lake City. A native of Moscow, Russia, he holds a Ph.D. degree in Molecular Biology and works in the field of human genetics. Since 2006, his projects included solving heritable disease riddles by combining DNA testing with the classic kind of a gumshoe genealogy. Dmitry is a volunteer moderator of the Onomastics section of the Jewish Roots portal, and a contributing editor of Avotaynu magazine.

Did your great grand uncle attend college in Odessa or St Petersburg? Did you great grand aunt take apprenticeship exams for a pharmacist or a midwife ? Was their cousin sent to Siberia for anti-government agitation - or perhaps a petty crime? Or maybe an ancestor's signature graced a shul petition, or a plea to the authorities asking for a fire or famine relief?
The old country Jews interacted with the Czar's oppressive government in a myriad ways, always having to prove who they were, where they hailed from, who were their kin. Along the way, they left priceless breadcrumbs of genealogy information. It is still there in Eastern Europe's archives. The vital records may have been lost as the local archives went up in flames during WWII (note from Lara: Many do still exist though, as you can see in many of my blog posts), but the authorities hoarded up so much paperwork in their quest to suffocate the Jews, that the tales of your family are still preserved in as unlikely places as Moscow where millions of police file cards catalog all the brushes of the Jews with the system, or the Kremlin of the ancient capital of Siberia, overflowing with correspondence about prisoners and exiles.

Over a nearly decade of its existence, Jewish Roots portal ( has become the leading force in Russian Jewish genealogy research. It is busy uncovering and digitizing new genealogy sources in the archives of the former Russian Empire, and building a valuable help base of advice on genealogy searches, both for the online investigators and for those doing their research on the ground, in the archives, libraries, and cemeteries.
Just one example from j-roots

Sunday, November 25, 2018

1864 Volhynia Relatives--Maybe

Earlier, I mentioned that I went through some 1860 census addenda that Alex Krakovsky put on his Wikipedia page.  (If you have ancestry from Ukraine and haven't checked out this page, go look now.  Google Translate is your friend.)

In addition to finding a Diamant, there were also some other familiar names in the 1862-1865 list.
Veiner, Volhynia Guberniya Revision List Addendum, 1864

Monday, November 19, 2018

Colwell Coincidence

My sister grew up in Baltimore; her father grew up in Baltimore and her mother grew up in McKeesport, Pennsylvania.

My brother-in-law grew up in Monsey, New York; his father grew up in Monsey and his mother grew up in Columbus, Ohio.

There's no reason to think their families would have had any previous connection.

My sister and brother-in-law now live in Baltimore with their 4 children.  I've done some research on my brother-in-law's side of the tree for those 4 children.  And it turns out that these two families may have known one another a century ago.
"Yallen" Family; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; 1910 Federal Census

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Rebbetzin Nechama Dina Schneerson's Parents' Marriage

While I typically blog about my own family, sometimes I find records that will be of interest to others, so I write about them.  In June, I wrote about a Chabad link I found when going through records in Nezhin--the 1883 death record of Yisrael Noach Schneerson, son of the Tzemach Tzedek and himself the Nezhiner Rebbe.  And at that point, people said they wanted to see more Chabad-related records.

I've found another Schneerson record that is quite interesting.
1876 Schneerson Marriage

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Rosenfeld Connection - Test Everyone!

I recently received an email from a woman named Susan.  Susan had asked her first cousin Francine to take a DNA test, and when Susan uploaded Francine's results to GedMatch, she noticed that Francine shared a very large segment with two kits I administer--for my cousins Berly and Paula.

Berly and Paula are first cousins to my father through their Diamond mother, and they are sisters to one another.  My initial thought was that the connection was going to be through their father, and I was going to forward the email onto them.  But I looked at Francine's results first.  Right away, I realized that this shared DNA was via my Diamond side; both my father's first cousin Stephen (also a first cousin to Berly and Paula) as well as their second cousin once removed, Patty, all shared relatively large segments of that same chromosome.
DNA Shared by Francine & My Known Relatives

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Pittsburgh's Jewish Community & HIAS

I had a post on a genealogy success story nearly completed, and I was planning to finish it today.  But in light of what happened in Pittsburgh yesterday, that post will wait.

I would not be here today if it weren't for the Pittsburgh Jewish Community (on my mother's side) and HIAS (on my father's).

My mother's parents were born in Pennsylvania.  My maternal grandfather was born in and grew up in Pittsburgh; both of his parents, all four of his great grandparents, and one of his great-great grandmothers emigrated to Pittsburgh.  My maternal grandmother's parents emigrated to nearby McKeesport, where my grandmother was born.

My grandfather's family was very involved with Pittsburgh's Jewish Community.  My great grandfather was president of Pittsburgh's Shpikover Society, and my grandfather's whole family was very involved in Pittsburgh's Keser Torah Congregation.
Keser Torah Silver Anniversary Committee (1935), Pittsburgh, PA
(My great grandfather is second from the left in the back row)