Sunday, November 28, 2021

A DNA Match is Only the Start - Using the Paper Trail to Find the Connection

DNA results don't generally tell you how someone's related.  You can use a match as a clue that someone is related to you, and then you can use other matches along with a paper trail to try to find the actual connection.  And when dealing with Jewish ancestry, endogamy comes into play in a major way.  Recently, a new match popped up which was intriguing--this person (listed with just initials) on GedMatch matched multiple people on my maternal grandmother's side, some with large shared segments.  Since my grandmother's parents were from what's now Subcarpathian Ukraine, I was pretty sure that this person would have had similar ancestry.

Here's how I took a DNA match and have been able to almost figure out our relationship.

I reached out to Moshe, whose email address was associated with this match, and he told me that the DNA was that of his grandmother, Malka.  He had a few of her ancestral surnames and locations.  I could rule out her Lithuanian ancestors as being our connection, but the Czech ones sounded more intriguing, since this part of the world was Czechoslovakia between WWI and WWII.  He didn't have towns of origin, though.

I located Moshe's great-great grandmother's birth registration

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Lara and the Three Little Bers - Identical Names, Different People

Even in small towns, a "unique" name may actually not be as unique as you think.  People were named for common ancestors, so first (or second or....) cousins often were given identical names.  I learned the hard way that teenaged Lara had assumed that a Shmuel Moshe Rutner who lived in the small town of Kolodne was my great-great grandfather--but it turns out that there were two Shmuel Moshe Rutners in that small town.  Current (non-teenaged) Lara has learned from that mistake, and I've come across other situations where it's important to disambiguate two--or more--people with the same name.  (Owners of Ancestry and other online trees would be well-advised to do this.)  In my Lefand family, I have what I call my Three Little Bers.

Marriage of Yehoshua Zev (son of Ber/Berko) and Mira Lefand, 1871

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Rabbinical Negotiations, 1892 Style

In 1892, the Jews of Gaysin district, Podolia Guberniya, Russian Empire (now Ukraine) were negotiating rates with the local Crown/Treasury Rabbi.  This was not necessarily the Rabbi in the shul (synagogue) that they went to, but this person was an intermediary between the Russian government and the Jewish community.  They were responsible for registration of Jewish vital events and various other things.  (You can read more about their responsibilities here.)  I'd love to know the backstory to this particular document, but in 1892, there was an agreement made between the Jewish heads of household of Gaysin district and the Rabbi where rates were laid out--as well as the repercussions if this Rabbi ever protested those rates.  And then as a bonus, all (or most?) of the Jewish heads of household in the district signed the agreement, including at least three relatives of mine!

1892 Agreement of the Gaisin Jewish Society with the Treasury Rabbi on the cost of his services (from DAViO 286-1-192)

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Russian Empire Rules Mean Research Opportunities Today - An 1852 Explanation

Jews were very regulated in the Russian Empire.  They could only live in particular places, it was difficult to move to other towns, even towns nearby, and there was mandatory long-term military service for many men and young boys.  While this made life difficult at the time, it means that often there are documents asking for permissions of the government and others asking for forgiveness that can inform today's researchers.  In the document you'll see below, a relative of mine is giving an explanation for why he isn't living where the government thought he should be living.  (Spoiler alert:  Because the government made all the Jews leave that place!)

Duvid Zubkis testimony about his situation (page 1); 1852

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Finding Family: J-Roots & Google Combined

I've written about the awesome J-Roots resource before.  It's a Russian-language forum for Jewish genealogy.  If you have ancestry from the Russian Empire, you should be using it (with Google Chrome to help you translate, if you aren't fluent in Russian).  You can see a previous success here and Dmitry Pruss' overview here

In any case, one of the goldmines on J-Roots is their forum.  Here, people ask questions, discuss what they know about records from various towns, and often do their own rudimentary indexing of various record sets.  But without reading through all of the forum posts, it's hard to know if there's a record that's been indexed for one of your family members.  But there is a way to figure that out.

Birth of Aron Zubkis; Uman, Russian Empire; 1910

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Family Reunited, 75+ Years After the Holocaust

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I've done quite a bit of research on my Zubkis/Supkoff family.  The various branches of the Zubkis family moved quite a bit, generation by generation, and my particular branch ended up in what's now Shpikov, Ukraine, before coming to America.  In 1908, my great-great grandparents came to America, but I knew both from oral tradition and from records that my great-great grandfather had a brother Yosef/Yossel who had stayed in Shpikov.  Yossel had three sons who came to America in the 1920s, but we knew there were sisters who stayed behind in Russia and were killed in the Holocaust.  In fact, I mention in a post that I did in 2019 after discovering a 1902 Households List that the daughter Rivka that was mentioned was killed in the Holocaust.  Except I recently discovered that she wasn't.  And that I have living relatives in Ukraine (and England and America) who are her descendants.  So how did this happen?

The First Hint

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Russian Empire Recruit Lists - Garber Edition

My Garber ancestors lived in what is now Torchin, Volhynia, Ukraine.  My grandmother knew that her grandmother's maiden name was Devorah Garber, but she didn't know Devorah's parents.  Devorah died around 1935 in what is now Horochiv, Ukraine (it was Horochow, Poland at the time), and there are no known surviving death records from that time and place that might mention at least a father's name.  Normally she would be a dead end--except that my grandmother also told me that one of Devorah's brothers had come to America.  From that brother's grave, I know that his and Devorah's father--and therefore my ggg grandfather--was Chaim Asher Garber, and from his ship manifest and other documents, I confirmed he was from Torchin.  (Via DNA testing of some of his descendants, I confirmed the relationship as well.)  And with the help of some Russian Empire recruit lists, I was able to trace the family even further back.

Lists of Torchin recruiting district. 1859 – 1862; Garber Family