Sunday, December 15, 2013

Tracking Mira's Children: Chava/Eva

This is the fifth in a series tracking the children of Mira Halperin Lefand Marienhoff.  You can see everything in this series to this point here.

Chava Marienhoff (and her twin Yaakov) were born on July 1, 1887 in what is now Nezhin, Ukraine, to Mira and Yitzchok Marienhoff.
Birth Record for Chava & Yaakov Marienhoff; Nezhin, Ukraine; 1887
By the time the Russian Empire's 1888 Poll Tax Census was taken in 1888, Yaakov had died, but Chava is there as a one-year old living with her parents and some of her older siblings and half siblings.
Russian Empire 1888 Poll Tax Census; Chava Marienhoff is the 1-year-old

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Ancestor Deep Dive: Avrohom Beitch

My great grandfather was Avraham Beitch (also spelled Bajcz in Polish).  He was born around 1885 in the small village of Huben, near what is how Horochiv, Volhynia, Ukraine (then Horochow, Poland) to Tzvi Hirsch and Ronia (nee Lazovnik) Beitch but grew up in Horochow (when it was the Russian Empire).  He had one sister Etia, who died of typhus during the First World War.
Avraham Beitch, About 1932

He married Batsheva Fine in September 1918 in Lutsk, Volhynia, Ukraine (then Luck, Poland).  By 1922 they were living in Horochow, where my grandmother Sonia/Sara was born.  She was followed by Malia (accent on the first syllable) and Hershel, who lived for only one year.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How Genealogy Saved (or Significantly Changed) My Life

I've been quiet on my blog recently.  I've been a bit preoccupied with some other things that I'll explain below--all of which started with my genealogy addiction.

I wrote earlier how I found another whole branch of my family via DNA testing.  This was so exciting that I decided to test with the other large companies in case other lost cousins had tested with those.  One of those companies, 23AndMe, offered health information in addition to identifying potential cousins.  I viewed the health benefits as a side feature, but I checked my account daily to see if my results were back and if there would be more clues to help with my genealogy search.

And then the results came.  And my life changed forever.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ancestor Deep Dive: Shmuel Moshe Rutner

(NOTE:  This post has been updated with much new information.  Read the updated version here.)

Shmuel Moshe Rutner was my great-great grandfather.  He was born in 1855 in the town of Kolodne (also called Darva) which was then in the Austria-Hungarian Empire and is now in Subcarpathian Ukraine.
Extract from Shmuel Moshe "Mosko" Rutner's birth Record--Extract from 1922, Birth in 1855
Shmuel Moshe (legal name Mosko) Rutner (also Ruttner)'s parents were Mendel and Yita (nee Farkas) Rutner.  So far as I know, he lived in Kolodne his entire life.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Tracking Mira's Children: Liba/Elizabeth

This is the fourth in a series tracking the children of Mira Halperin Lefand Marienhoff.You can see everything in this series to this point here.

Liba Marienhoff was born around 1890 or 1892 in Nezhin, Ukraine.  Her birth was not recorded in the Jewish metrical records--which seemed to be not unusual for girls, as there were almost double the number of boys as girls recorded in the town's birth records of the 1890s.

The first mention of her is when she came to America with her mother, sister, brother and half-nephew in 1906:
Liba Marienhoff Ship Manifest, 1906 (line 3)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The British Intrigue Continues

I wrote earlier about how I found a potential British connection for my family and how I got a copy of my grandmother's probable great uncle's marriage license in England.  Thanks to the advice of JGSGB, I contacted the Office of the Chief Rabbi in London to request of copy of Meyer and Rachel Fine's marriage authorisation.
Meyer and Rachel Fine Marriage Authorisation, Manchester, 1896

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Supkoff--um, Zubkis--Family

My great-great grandparents were Yeshaya and Zlata Tzipra (nee Sanshuck) Supkoff.  I've blogged earlier about how the Supkoffs were from the town of Shpikov, but I hadn't been able to find them in the metrical records that our Shpikov group obtained.  I knew that Yeshaya had at least one brother Yossel and three sisters who never left Europe and whose names were unknown, and that his father was Shaul Ber.

Recently, we got another batch of records, the largest part of which is a revision list from around 1895--basically a census of the Jewish residents of Shpikov.  They're being transcribed by volunteers, and that process is still ongoing.  However, the first pages of the records are an index to the heads of each family in the overall records.  I asked the volunteer transcribing the records if he was Supkoff or Zypkoff in the index--but he didn't.  Oh well.

But then Alexander sent the first half of the transcription of the index--and a quick glance through the names made me do a double-take--"Shoel-Ber Zubkis" was listed as a head of family.  The Zubkis name was familiar to me.
Elke & Malke Zupkin Boat Record, 1906

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tracking Mira's Children: Leib

This is the third in a series tracking the children of Mira Halperin Lefand Marienhoff.You can see everything in this series to this point here.

Leib Lefand was born in Nezhin, Russian Empire (now Nezhin, Ukraine) on April 10, 1882, to Mira Halperin Lefand.  His father Yehoshua Zev Lefand had died nearly 9 months earlier.
Leib Lefand birth record, Nezhin, Russian Empire, 1882
Leib had at least 4 older siblings.  His mother soon remarried, and by 1888, Leib was living with his siblings, step-siblings, and two new half-siblings.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The British Connection, Part 2

The British saga continues!  A couple of weeks ago, I found indications that my grandmother's great-uncle--and potentially her great-grandfather--had immigrated from the Russian Empire to England.  I ordered my great uncle Meyer's marriage record from England, and it came in the mail last night.  (I am very impressed with the speed of the UK's GRO office--less than 2 weeks to receive a certificate internationally, much faster than most US states!)

According to the certificate, "Myer Fien," aged 22, married Rachel Kaufman, aged 20 on August 2, 1896.  The married took place in Prestwick's Central Synagogue in Manchester & Lancaster Counties.  Myer's profession was that of a Journeyman cabinet maker, and Rachel was a Mantle Making Assistant.  (This reconfirms that the Meyer Fine found with his father "Hebel" in England's 1891 census was probably the same person, as Meyer was there a 16-year-old cabinet maker.)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

71st Anniversary of Senkevychivka Ghetto's Destruction

71 years ago today (2nd day of חול המועד סוכות), the Nazis "liquidated" the ghetto in Senkevychivka, Ukraine. Among those murdered were:
Kreina Diamant Mazurik was among those killed

  • In my grandfather's family:
    • My grandfather’s parents Avrohom Tzvi Diamant (age 65) and Tzivia Suttleman Diamant (age 54)
    • My grandfather’s sister and brother-in-law Kreina Diamant Mazurik (age 26) and David Mazurik
    • My grandfather’s niece Rivka Mazurik (age 5)
    • My grandfather’s brother Shlomo Diamant (age 14)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Paul Diamond's Autobiography

This autobiography was written by my grandfather, Paul Diamond, probably around 1980.

I, Paul Diamond, was born in Wolyn, Ukraine, Poland, in the year 1922. We were a family of fine children, two sisters and three brothers.  I went to school and I also attended Yeshiva until 1939.  When I was 17 years old, the Russians entered our area. I went to auto mechanic school for one year; then they assigned me to drive a truck for a hospital.
Paul Diamond

In 1941, when Germany invaded Russia, it started to look very bad for the Jewish people. First, they took away our homes and valuable possessions. Then the Nazis put us in the Ghetto. There was no more school, no more freedom, and we had to do very hard work.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Fine British(?) Connection

My grandmother had told me that she had an uncle Mordechai "Motke" Fine who had come to America, but that because he was diabetic, he was sent back to Russia where he was drafted into the Russian Army to serve in World War One, and then he died soon after.
My great-great uncle, Mordechai Fine (picture taken around 1919)

I'd searched sporadically for a ship manifest to document this, but I'd never found it (Fine is a relatively common name), even using M followed by a combination of wildcards.  When transcribing my grandmother's story, I decided to give it another try.  I didn't know when Motke was born or when he came to the US, but I bounded the search for all Fines, Feins, and Fajns from Russia within what would make sense given his sister Sheva's birthdate (she was my great grandmother) and the fact that he was back in Russia to be able to serve in World War One.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sonia Bajcz Diamond: Coming to America (Part 9: 1947-1948)

This is the eighth in a series that summarize an interview of my grandmother, Sonia Bajcz/Beitch Diamond (then Sara Bajcz), from about 20 years ago.  This continues her story of leaving the DP camps and arriving in America.  Previous posts in this series are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Embarkation Card for the Ernie Pyle

We went to Bremenhaven port, and we took the Ernie Pyle.  We were five days at sea, and we ran into stones which made a hole in the ship, and we were in trouble.  In the camp, the people who remained heard that we had drowned, and they already said kaddish for us.  But the boat took us to Plymouth, England.  We stayed in the water because the captain didn't have money to anchor in the port.  We waited there for a week until the Marine Marlin came to pick us up.  Everyone was sick because the weather was so bad.  It took us 3 weeks until we came to the United States.  It was not a passenger ship--it was meant to be a cargo ship, and it was a piece of junk.  There were beds hanging on chains, and the weather was so bad that they flew back and forth.

My husband and his sister were so sick.  His brother-and-law and I could walk around.  Devora stayed in bed until we could see the Statue of Liberty, and I told her that she'd better get up because the lady wanted to welcome her.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sonia Bajcz Diamond: Displaced Persons' Camps (Part 8: 1945-1947)

This is the eighth in a series that summarize an interview of my grandmother, Sonia Bajcz/Beitch Diamond (then Sara Bajcz), from about 20 years ago.  This continues her story of after the war had ended, living in DP camps.  Previous posts in this series are here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

We eventually passed the border and stayed outside of Prague with the help of a group from Palestine.  My husband showed me the city, since he knew it from his time in the army.  Our honeymoon was going through swamps and water in bad weather.

Finally we came into Munich.  They had a special building where they sprayed us and our belongings with a special powder.  They sorted everyone into Deported Persons (DP) camps; we ended up in Leipheim.  It was a Zionist camp; at night they would fill up trucks and take people to Marseille on a ship and then onto Israel.  We were trying to send my mother to Palestine legally, and we younger ones were going to sneak in illegally.

Leipheim was long blocks of barracks.  It used to be a military post.  Ours was across from #14.  There, they gave us food packages.  Others exchanged for things from the Germans and got non-kosher food.  Some came into the United States with dishes and jewelery.  My husband was caught right away and was put in jail because he had smuggled a few coins in his collar.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sonia Bajcz Diamond: The Ending of the War (Part 7: 1944-1945)

This is the seventh in a series that summarize an interview of my grandmother, Sonia Bajcz/Beitch Diamond (then Sara Bajcz), from about 20 years ago.  This continues her story after the Germans retreated from the Wolyn area and the Russians came in, and then as the war truly came to an end.  Previous posts in this series are here, here, here, here, here, and here.

We soon came to the village where my husband had left his brother and sister.  His sister had left to Lutsk, but his brother was there.  I left to find my mother.  She was still with the man who had taken care of her the whole time.

Soon after a Russian soldier saw me walking and was trying to catch me.  I hid in a special bunker that a lady had.  I told the lady after who said, "Didn't you go through enough already?"

I took my mother along with a lot of Ukrainians, and we went to Lutsk by foot, since there was no place for us in the village.  The war was not yet over, and we were still in danger.  We got a room and lived there.  My husband came there, too.  But that year he was drafted into the Russian army, and they were first sent to Vladimir-Volynsk.  I followed and took cigarette paper to be able to sell for some rubles.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sonia Bajcz Diamond: Hiding in Plain Sight (Part 6: 1943-1944)

This is the sixth in a series that summarize an interview of my grandmother, Sonia Bajcz/Beitch Diamond (then Sara Bajcz), from about 20 years ago.  This continues her story of survival after the Senkevychivka Ghetto's destruction until the Germans were retreating from the area.  Previous posts in this series are here, here, here, here, and here.  

But then we were requested to go somewhere else nearby--to Ostrov.  It was surrounded by water, and there were Ukrainian people there who were Seventh Day Adventist.  But we were on the outskirts in one room, with a bit of storage.  These people were nice to us; they thought we were Ukrainian like them.  We worked, but they fed us and treated us well.  One day my husband was working, and a horse kicked him in the stomach.  The Ukrainian workers came in with a wagon and wanted to take him to a hospital.  I knew he could get caught, so I told them he needed to stay still, and I'd take care of him until tomorrow, and then we'd see.  Since in Europe only Jews were circumsized, we needed to keep him out of the hospital.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sonia Bajcz Diamond: After the Senkevychivka Ghetto Destruction (Part 5: 1942-1943)

This is the fifth in a series that summarize an interview of my grandmother, Sonia Bajcz/Beitch Diamond (then Sara Bajcz), from about 20 years ago.  This talks about how she survived after the Senkevychivka Ghetto's destruction.  Previous posts in this series are here, here, here, and here.

I took my mother, and I took her to a family that I knew--the son was communist, and the whole family was against the Nazi regime.  The son told me that since I spoke fluent Ukrainian and Russian, he could get me a passport so that I could live on "Irish Papers" which is what they called false papers.  You had to become an actor and lead someone else's life.  I told him I had a friend, and I needed a passport for him as well.  He said he could steal a set of papers for my friend (my future husband), and he would be able to get a blank set of papers for me.  I would have to use my thumbprint on the papers, and we picked a name--Marina Karamenko, from Zhitomir, Russia.  I had to only speak Russian and forget that I spoke Polish or Yiddish.  I tried to give him some of my fabric as payment.  He didn't want to take it, but I insisted.

Meanwhile, my mother told me about a Polish man who lived by himself in the forest.  She asked me to go and ask if we could hide there.  He was so isolated, it would be a good way to stay unnoticed.  He told me he had relatives in Poleshe, near Pinsk, which was far away.  He told me that we could go together and become his mistress, and I should let my mother get killed by the Germans because she was too old.  I told him I didn't come here for that, but I came to get him to help myself and my mother survive.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sonia Bajcz Diamond: Senkevychivka Ghetto Destruction (Part 4: 1942)

This is the fourth in a series that summarize an interview of my grandmother, Sonia Bajcz/Beitch Diamond (then Sara Bajcz), from about 20 years ago.  This talks about surviving during and after Senkevychivka Ghetto's destruction.  Previous posts in this series are here, here, and here.

One morning, I was going to leave the ghetto to go to the village.  It was the second day of chol hamoed Sukkos in 1942.  My mother went outside to see where the guard was to see if I'd be able to sneak through.  She ran back and said, "You can't go--it's bad, they are running with trucks, and they are dragging people out of their homes.  They are shooting them.  Here are pieces of material, 2 rings that we have.  Maybe you can use them to get bread or a place to sleep.  Take your sister.  You're stronger and older, so take care of her."  We ran from our house.  We had to go through a ravine, across the main road, then the train tracks, and then another ravine, and then an open field.  Across the field were more villages.  We ran, and they spotted us.  They told us to come back.  We turned, and the Ukrainian guard started shooting.  A bullet touched my hair.

We ran, but not towards our house in the ghetto.  From the distance, we saw what used to be stores and homes for wealthy people but was now part of the ghetto.  I saw another friend from school with her parents and her brother (he survived and ended up in Haifa, Israel), and they were trying to figure out how to save the children.  The family name was Dreitzen; the brother changed the name in Israel to Doron.  The sister, Meita, had epilepsy.  She told me that she knew she couldn't run and hide, but I should survive for her.  I said to Meita, "How can I do this?"  She said that I had to.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sonia Bajcz Diamond: Living in Shklyn and the Senkevychivka Ghetto (Part 3: 1936-1942)

This is the third in a series that summarize an interview of my grandmother, Sonia Bajcz/Beitch Diamond (then Sara Bajcz), from about 20 years ago.  This talks about the years leading up to WWII, living with her grandfather in the village of Shklyn.  Previous posts in this series are here and here.

When I was finishing seventh grade, we heard rumors of what was happening behind the borders.  We had been supposed to build a new house, and we already had all of the materials.  But with the rumors we were hearing, my father decided that it was not the right time to build.  So he called a Ukrainian man he knew from the nearby village of Bludoff, and the man came with a big long wagon, and he picked up (in several loads) our brick, cement, lumber, and other building materials.  Around then, my bubby (my mother's mother) had passed away in Shklyn.  My zaidy said to my mother that since you're not building a house now, and your current house's rent is very high, why don't you come to live with us.

My mother did not want to go back to the village.  But my father said we should just go for a short while until the situation calmed down.  So my parents went to Shklyn.  However, my sister and I remained in Horochov with my father's mother who had said that she wanted to stay in the city--she was born in the city, was raised in the city, and she did not want to go to a village.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sonia Bajcz Diamond: Growing up in Horochov (1922-1935, part 2)

This is the second in a series that summarize an interview of my grandmother, Sonia Bajcz/Beitch Diamond (then Sara Bajcz), from about 20 years ago.  This talks about her growing up in Horochov, Volhynia, Ukraine (then Horochow, Wolyn, Poland), her family, friends, and how they celebrated holidays.  Part 1 can be read here.

My mother was one of the finest women--quiet, honest.  Her name was Batsheva Fine Bajcz.  She was born in Shklyn, a nearby village, and when she married my father she came to Horochov.  When my mother was born it was Russia, but by the time I was born it was Poland.  She worked very hard to make sure that we girls dressed like the richest girls in town.  She would buy fabrics and copy from the other girls.  We had a very close relationship.  She looked up to me because I went to school and could read and write.  She taught herself how to read and write, so she was very happy that I had the will to learn. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sonia Bajcz Diamond: Growing up in Horochov (1922-1935, part 1)

This is the first in a series that summarize an interview of my grandmother, Sonia Bajcz/Beitch Diamond (then Sara Bajcz), from about 20 years ago.  This talks about her growing up in Horochov, Volhynia, Ukraine (then Horochow, Wolyn, Poland), what the city was like, and her schooling.

I was born in the city Horochow (in Polish) or Gorochov (in Russian) in West Ukraine; in Yiddish it was Horochov.  Wolyn was the name of the state (Lara's note: it is now in Volhynia Oblast).  I lived on Pilsutski Street, I think number 120.  We led a normal life.  We lived between different nationalities-Ukrainian, German, Czechoslovakian.  In the street we spoke Polish; in the house we spoke Yiddish between ourselves.  I also learned to speak a bit of German and Czechoslovakian from friends in my class.  The city was not a big city like Warsaw or Krakow.  But we had a mayor and a governor, doctors, a hospital, some banks.  The city was very nice with wide paved streets and a variety of stores--food clothing, fabrics, pharmacies.  The gentiles would mostly live outside the city.  Near the park were mansions for the high officials (mayor and governor) so they would not live with the Jewish people.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Genealogy Blogs I Follow

Below are some of the genealogy-related blogs I follow.  If anyone has more that I've missed, please share!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tracking Mira's Children: Meyer

This is the second in a series tracking the children of Mira Halperin Lefand Marienhoff.You can see everything in this series to this point here.
Meyer Lefand Birth Record, Nezhin, Ukraine, 1879

Meyer Lefand was born in Nezhin, Ukraine on September 9, 1879, to Yehoshua (son of Ber) and Mira (daughter of Yitzchak) Lefand.  He was at least their fourth child.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

IAJGS Conference - Day 5

Day 5 of the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy.  My entire summary, day by day, can be seen here.

The day started by listening to Alex Denysenko talking about the destiny of deported Hungarian Jews (and Polish Jews) as seen in the Stanislawow 1941-1942 death records.  He has been working on this project for 3 years in conjunctiom with the Rabbi in Ivano Frankovic.

He found strange books (called IGW records) which were records of the kehila of Stanislow from 1938-1942. He indexed most of these records and hared some records with the rabbi and other friends. The information is all available online at . There are also records for Nadworna and Podvolchyska. 

IAJGS2013 Conference - Day 4, Part 2

Day 4 of the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy.  My entire summary, day by day, here.  The first part of day 4 can be seen on that link as well.

I attended the Ukraine SIG meeting. This meeting marked the transition of the leadership of the SIG from Ron Doctor (who has done incredible work revitalizing the group) to Janette Silverman.

Ron covered some of the things the SIG has accomplished in the 2 years since he announced that they wanted to revitalize Ukraine SIG. They have made considerable progress towards that mission. 

They changed the culture of sig to otimism and helpfulness. The SIG has actively been seeking out new records and working on making them available. They also changed the leadership structure of the Sig and shifted from being Gubernia-focused to emphasizing specific towns and villages. They created a fabulous new website to help find data sets available for towns. 

There is still a lot more to do.  More and more datasets will be available over the next year.

People with interest in Ukraine should subscribe to the discussion list and Facebook page.  There is also their Ukraine database which has all data from the areas covered by Ukraine SIG.

They now have 214 Kehilalink websites 259 yizkor book translations, 33 Cemeteries, and more

An upcoming project will index names from yizkor books and from separate kehilalinks pages in a searchable database.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

IAJGS2013 Conference - Day 4, Part 1

Day 4 of the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy.  My entire summary, day by day, here.

The day started with my listening to Alex Dunai talking about shtetl travel in the Ukraine.

Alex stresed that success depends on personal goals and interests of travel.

Planning a trip in advance helps to fully enjoy the trip. He recommends that people research ahead of the trip--this will save money and time. He also advised against doing research yourself on the trip rather than having someone else do it for you.  The time you will require, plus having to hire a translator will cost more than doing through researchers and may take more time than expected. Research may uncover more towns of interest, and it is hard to readjust to add more towns when you are already on the road.

Yehoshua Zev Lefand - Ancestor Deep Dive

Now time for a break from conference recaps--so back to the regularly scheduled blog!

My great-great-great grandfather Yehoshua Zev Lefand was born around 1851.  As his family was registered in Nezhin, Russian Empire (now Ukraine) and he was married there, he was likely born in Nezhin as well.  His father was named Ber; unfortunately there were several Ber Lefands living in Nezhin at this time, so other than a hypothesis, I'm not completely certain of Yehoshua Zev's mother's name.

On April 28, 1871, Yehoshua Zev married Mira Halperin.
Marriage Record for Yehoshua Zev and Mira (Halperin) Lefand, Nezhin, Ukraine, 1871

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

IAJGS2013 Conference - Day 3

Day 3 of the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy.  My entire summary, day by day, can be seen here.

I started out early with a Ukraine Breakfast with the Experts. Miriam Weiner and Olga M from the Ukraine archives answered questions. There were no huge insights, and much of what was asked had been answered at talks I attended yesterday. It was still goo to have it reinforced, and the hot breakfast was a nice start to another long day.

I then took full advantage of today's free access to ProQuest. I searched a lot of family names and downloaded a ton of articles to go through later. ProQuest has many newspapers which are searchable. While they didn't include Maryland- or Pittsburgh-based papers, those are available online elsewhere, and I've already searched through them. This helped me to pick up articles on other lines that lived elsewhere.

Monday, August 5, 2013

IAJGS2013 Day 2, Part 2

Day 2 of the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy continued.  As the conference progresses, you'll be able to see my entire summary, day by day, here.

Next I heard a speech by Alex Dunai, a Ukrainian research expert (who has helped trace my Zutelmans back to Muravitsa).  He spoke on records from the interwar years in Western Ukraine--the time and place in which both my paternal grandparents were born.

This talk was great. It covered records that exist from between 1918 and 1939.  Between 1918 and 1923 a Polish republic was created out of what had been the Russian and Austrian empires. The former Galicia and Volhynia became part of this republic.  Poland was divided into provinces. Lutsk was the Capitol of Wolyn province, which is the area covered by this talk.  The provinces were divided into counties; Wolyn had 11 counties.

IAJGS2013 Conference - Day 2, Part 1

Day 2 of the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy.  As the conference progresses, you'll be able to see my entire summary, day by day, here.

I started my morning in the conference hotel's presidential suite. Much better view than from my room!
IAJGS people brought together people from across the US and the world (including Japan and Brazil) with no local Jewish Genealogical Society (JGS). Baltimore doesn't have an active one, and three of us were at the (early) morning meeting.  We are going to try to reconstitute the society. Anyone from the Baltimore area interested?  Please let me know in the comments. 

Then I attended a very interesting (and applicable for me) talk by Olga Muzychuk who is the deputy director of the state archives in Ukraine.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

IAJGS2013 Day 1, part 2

Day 4 of the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy.  (Note to bad people: no, my house is not empty, so don't bother.)  As the conference progresses, you'll be able to see my entire summary, day by day, here.

Last night was the opening session of the conference!  There are over 1200 people registered, and there are also people attending a selection of the presentations online!  It was announced that next year's conference will take place in Salt Lake City during the last week of July; then the 2015 conference will be in Israel beginning July 6; and the 2016 conference will take place on Seattle.

Aaron Lansky of the Yiddish Book Center gave the keynote address. I almost didn't go since the topic didn't sound very interesting, but I'm very glad I went.  Not only was he an entertaining speaker, but he has an important story to tell.

IAJGS2013 Conference - Day 1

I'm currently up in Boston at the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy.  (Note to bad people: no, my house is not empty, so don't bother.)  As the conference progresses, you'll be able to see my entire summary, day by day, here.
I arrived in Boston early this morning and went straight to the conference hotel, which is just across from Boston Public Gardens, a perfect place for lunch:

I then walked around the vendor area, which was an eclectic mix of DNA-testing companies, book sales, judaica, and online genealogy site organizations.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tracking Mira's Children: Nechemia

After discovering that my great-great-great grandmother Mira Halperin Lefand Marienhoff had at least eleven children, I wanted to track down what happened to each of them.  And a bit selfishly, perhaps one of their descendents would have information about Mira's family that I didn't have.

You can see everything in this series to this point here.

This is the first in a series that tracks each of Mira's children.  Her oldest, Pesha Riva, was my great-great grandmother, so I obviously knew what happened to her.  Mira's second child was her son Nechemia.
Birth Record for Nechemia Lefand, Nezhin, Ukraine, 1875
Nechemia Lefand was born to Yehoshua (son of Ber) and Mira (daughter of Yitzchok) Lefand on May 28, 1875 in what is now Nezhin, Ukraine.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tuesday's Tip - Google Maps in Genealogy

A free but often overlooked research for genealogy is Google Maps (GM).  GM tends to be able to locate even very small villages in obscure parts of Eastern Europe--including villages that JewishGen doesn't have in its ShtetlSeeker database. As an example, I discovered that the Tolchinskys had lived in Nezhin before emigrating; however, Hillel Tolchinsky's boat record had him last living in "Losinowka," which had realistic hits on JewishGen. Panning around the Nezhin area, I discovered that Losinovka is a small village just south of Nezhin.

GM allows you to view your family towns from above, using the satellite view. You can scope out the size of the town today, how isolated it is, and how closely packed the homes are.  If you're lucky, Google StreetView has been to the town, and you can virtually drive around to see what the town looks like today.

My personal Google Map--places my family has lived.  View this map in a larger map

Sunday, July 28, 2013

IAJGS2013 conference next week

I'll be at the IAJGS Jewish genealogy conference in Boston next week (and no, my home will not be empty).  Will anyone else be there?  Please stop by and say hi--I'm volunteering at the NextGen Jewish Genealogists table at the SHARE Fair on Sunday from 3-4.  I'll also blog from the conference next week.

Census Sunday - Zutelman Family in 1850 Russian Empire Census

Zutelman Family, 1850 Russian Empire Revision List; Source: State Archive of Zhytomyr Oblast; Fond 118, opys 14, file 3, pages 684-685
This is the 1850 Revision List (Russian Empire version of a census) for the Zutelman family in the town of Boremel, in what is now Rivnens'ka Oblast, Ukraine, located here.  The left page are the males in the family; the right side lists the females.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Kreina Diamond Mazurik

Kreina Diamant Mazurik was my grandfather's older sister.
Kreina Diamant Mazurik
She was born around 1916 in what's now Biscupice, Ukraine, in the Volhynia area, to Avrohom Tzvi and Tzivia (nee Suttleman) Diamant.  She was named after Tzivia's mother Kreina.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tuesday's Tip - Pittsburgh Jewish Newspapers Online & Searchable

The last 100+ years of Pittsburgh Jewish Newspapers are available online and are searchable here.  This collection has been invaluable in finding information about my family in Pittsburgh and McKeesport. 
Jewish Criterion, December 1944, obituary for my great-great grandmother, Pearl Tolchin (aka Pesha Riva Lefand Tolchinsky)

I learned that my grandfather's (Lou Tolchin's) nickname was "Toll Bridge Tolchin" because he "was the fastest man down the Ohio Line."  Apparently I have inherited his driving abilities.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Who Do You Think You Are - Tomorrow Night on TLC

One of my favorite shows, Who Do You Think You Are, premieres tomorrow night on TLC, tracing Kelly Clarkson's family.  You can currently download the episode for free on iTunes!
Who Do You Think You Are?, Season 4

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Moshe Dovid Fine: Ancestor Deep Dive

Moshe Dovid Fine was my great-great grandfather.
Moshe Dovid Fine; this picture was saved from a pile of garbage in the destroyed ghetto by his granddaughter, Sonia Beitch
He was born around 1862 to Yechiel Mechel Fine; I haven't (yet) discovered his mother's name.  He had at least two brothers, Tanchan & Mechel; the fact that Mechel has the same name as his father implies that Yechiel Mechel died before that son was born (or that my grandmother misremembered a name).

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mira Halperin Lefand Marienhoff - Ancestor Deep Dive

As mentioned earlier, Mira Halperin Lefand Marienhoff was my great-great-great grandmother.  She was born about 1848 to Yitzchok Halperin and had at least one sister, Risha (later Risha Rubenstein).  Her parents were registered in Krasne in the Vilna District--what is modern-day Krasnoye, Belarus, northwest of Minsk.  She first married Yehoshua-Zev Lefand and had at least 5 children:
  • Pesha Riva (my great-great grandmother), born 1874
  • Nechemia, born 1875
  • Sara-Margolia, born 1876
  • Mayer, born 1879
  • Leib, born 1882
Leib Lefand Birth Record, Nezhin, 1882
As Yehoshua-Zev died in 1881, Leib would have been born after his father's death; Mira would have been a young widow with 5 children.

In 1883, Mira married a widower, Yitzchok Marienhoff.  Yitzchok was 14 years older than Mira.  He had at least two sons from a previous marriage:
  • Michel Marienhoff's children's births are documented in the Nezhin records
  • Binyamin/Benoit/Benedict Marienhoff, who later immigrated to Belgium
Marriage Record for Mira Halperin Lefand and Yitzchok Marienhoff, Nezhin, 1883
Yitzchok had moved a lot.  He was registered and was born in Goldingen, which is currently Kuldiga, Latvia.  Binyamin had been born in what is now Mokra Kalyhirka, Cherkasy, Ukraine.  And he married Mira in Nezhin, Chernigov, Ukraine.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Shlomo Diamant, 1928-1942

Shlomo Diamant was my grandfather's younger brother.  He was born about 1928 in Biscupice, Ukraine to Avraham Tzvi and Tzivia (nee Suttleman) Diamant.  A week after his Bar Mitzvah, the entire family was moved into the ghetto.  Shlomo was killed by the Nazis in October 1942, aged 14.

Short post for a short life, but it seemed important to document what I know of him.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Joseph Joshowitz's American Journey - Ancestor Deep Dive (Part 2:1922-1947)

The first part of this deep dive had Joseph Joshowitz's wife Esther and son Isadore coming to join him in America.  The following year, daughter Minnie (my grandmother) was born in McKeesport, PA.  An account of her growing up can be seen here.
Joseph & Esther Joshowitz with children Izzy & Minnie, McKeesport, Pennsylvania, 1922
That same year, Joseph was listed in the McKeesport Directory as Joseph Josavitch, a peddler who lived on Market Street.
McKeesport, PA, 1922 Directory with Joseph Josavitch listed
In 1923, daugher Malka "Mollie" Joshowitz was born.  She and Minnie were very close in age and looked nearly identical, and they often switched places.  (I remember once she came to visit from California when I was little, and I thought she was my grandmother; it was very upsetting when I realized she wasn't!)

Shimon Tolchinsky - Ancestor Deep Dive

Shimon Tolchinsky was my great-great-great grandfather; I'm descended from his son Hillel.  Shimon Tolchinsky was born about 1842 to Naftali-Hirsh Tolchinsky, probably in Lubny, Ukraine.  I do not (yet) know his mother's name.  Shimon was registered in Luben (modern-day Lubny, Poltava, Ukraine), and the first record I have found of him was in 1867 as a 25-year-old widower getting remarried in Nezhin, Chernigov, Ukraine; his new wife was a divorcee, 22-year-old Risia-Frayda Mechansky.  As my great-great grandfather Hillel was born in 1866 (according to early records; in the US he gave his year of birth as 1869), Hillel's mother would have been Shimon's first wife; however the Nezhin records do not record her death.  As Hillel was consistent in naming his birthplace as "Luben," probably his mother died there.  Hillel's death certificate listed his mother as "Helen," and Hillel's sister Helen's hebrew name was Chaya, so likely Shimon's first wife was Chaya.
Marriage record for Hillel Tolchinsky and Risia-Frayda Mechansky, 1867

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday - Memorial for Holocaust Victims

This is the back of my grandfather Paul Diamond's tombstone in Beth Tfiloh Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland.  It gives a place to remember those who didn't have the "luxury" of a grave; all were killed when the ghetto in Senkevychivka, Ukraine was liquidated in 1942.  The names are:
  • Avraham Tzvi son of Hillel (my grandfather's father, Avraham Tzvi Diamond)
  • Tzivia daughter of Yechiel (my grandfather's mother, Tzivia Suttleman Diamond)
  • Kreina daughter of Avraham Tzvi (my grandfather's sister, Kreina Diamond Mazurik)
  • Shlomo son of Avraham Tzvi (my grandfather's brother, Shlomo Diamond)
  • Avraham Bar Tzvi (my grandmother's father, Avraham Beitch)
  • Malia daughter of Avraham (my grandmother's sister, Malia Beitch)
  • Moshe Dovid (my grandmother's grandfather, Moshe Dovid Fine)
  • Beila daughter of Moshe Dovid (my grandmother's aunt, Beila Fine)
  • Sara daughter of Moshe Dovid and her family (my grandmother's aunt Sara Fine Wollich, husband Yosef, children Moshe Wollich and Cheike Wollich Chechman and Cheike's daughter Devorah

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Reading Russian Documents for non-Russian Readers

I've often been asked how I manage to go through Russian documents--and actually find records on my family--when I do not read Russian.  I vividly remember the first time I excitedly started perusing a roll of microfilm that I'd been waiting for--and then felt a sinking feeling as I realized everything was in Russian.  I've come up with a solution that allows me to find what I need in Russian census and vital record documents--I use basic matching skills.

I try to find an existing handwritten example (or better multiple examples) of a family name that I'm researching.  I extract just the family name from those records and then put them into a Word document.  I then email that document to my (free) Kindle address so that I have all of the examples on my iPad; you can also just print out the page for a more low-tech solution.  If you don't have examples, you can use Google Translate to guess how the name would be spelled.  Make sure you are translating from Russian to English.  In the bottom of the area where you can type Russian, there is a button that looks like "Py."  Click the arrow just to the right of that, and choose "privet -> привет."  Then type your family name (followed by a space), and what you just typed should turn into the Russian version of the name.  (This may not be exactly how your family spelled the name, but it should give you an idea.)

My iPad with family names to try to match

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Final Sugarman/Rubenstein Connection

Based on all of this research, it looked like the Rubenstein family, all of them, changed their name to Sugarman. Why would they have done that?  And how exactly is Sigmund (or Susman, as written on one boat record) actually connected to the Sugarmans?

I'd actually connected to two living Sugarman descendents. One is descended from Chatzkel and one from Sigmund. Neither had heard of a Rubenstein connection and didn't seem too confident in our families' connection.  So a bit more research was in order.

Back to the Nezhin microfilm. Was there a Sugarman family in Nezhin?  At this point I still am not finished going through the 1850s, but at this point there are records pointing to multiple children born to Avraham and Henya Tzuckerman.  Avraham's father is given as Chatzkel and Henya's father was Chaim.  Chatzkel Rubenstein's father is also Avraham.

The vital records also revealed that the Tzukerman family was registered in Lebodova in Vilna Gubernia. I searched Jewishgen for records from that town--and half the town was Tsukermans!  In addition, there were Rubensteins in the town.  Interestingly, Lebodova is only 16 miles from Krasnoye, the town where the Halperins were registered; both were far from their registration towns in Nezhin, but possibly they knew one another before.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Rubenstein -> Sugarman?

In the last post, I'd tracked the Rubenstein family to Syracuse, NY.  But then they disappeared completely--no matches in the 1920, 1930, or 1940 US Census.  So I began to search for some of the other Rubenstein children who I knew existed based on their birth records.

Since Rubenstein is a common name, I decided to start with Bunya, who had married Azriel Lempert.  I found a possible match:
Lempert Family Boat Record, 1906
I found a 1906 boat record for Asriel, Bune, and infant Mine Lefanti; Asriel is listed as being a butcher.  But it says that they lived in Kowno, which is modern-day Kaunas, Lithuania.  This is quite a distance from Nezhin, so could this be the right family?  My first thought was that I would need to keep searching, but I noticed that this family was going to Syracuse, just like the Rubensteins.  They were going to join their uncle Susmen Zuckerman who lived at 212 Montgomery Street in Syracuse.  This is the same address that Chatzkel and family were going to in order to join Chatzkel's son Isidor Rubenstein!  So it looks like this is Bunya Rubenstein Lempert!  It looks like they had moved to Kaunas for the year after marriage for some reason.

I was unable to find a record for Liba Devora, but if she had married in Europe, I wouldn't know her last name.  She also may never have left Europe.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Tracking the Rubensteins....

When my great-great grandmother Pesha Riva Tolchinsky came to America in 1911 with her six youngest (as of then) children, she was asked who her closest relative was who remained in Europe.  She stated that it was her uncle, Chatzkel Rubenstein who still lived in Nierzyn (Nezhin).

Pesha Riva Tolchinsky (and 6 of the kids') boat record naming her uncle as Chatzkel Rubenstein
Who was Chatzkel, how was he Pesha Riva's uncle, and if I found him, could I find more about the family?  Back to the Nezhin microfilm!

There was a Chatzkel Rubenstein who married Risha Halperin in 1874.  Risha's father was named as Yitzchok Halperin.  Well, I'd discovered earlier that Yitzchok Halperin was the father of my ggg grandmother Mira Halperin Lefand Marienhoff--Pesha Riva's mother.  So this Chatzkel was indeed the uncle named on Pesha Riva's boat record, and his wife Risha was my ggg grandmother's sister.
Marriage Record of Chatzkel & Risha (nee Halperin) Rubenstein, 1874
Were there cousins out there (maybe who'd know more about the Halperins....)?  I continued searching.  The records showed that they had multiple children:
  • Liba Devora Rubenstein, born 1879
  • Yehoshua Wolf Rubenstein, born 1884
  • Rivka Rubenstein, born 1886
  • Bunia Rubenstein, born 1884
  • Yuda Rubenstein, born 1888
  • Idel Rubenstein, born abt 1890 (based on info in death record), died 1908
  • Avraham Yitzchak Rubenstein, born 1894

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Joseph Joshowitz's American Journey - Ancestor Deep Dive (Part 1: 1885-1921)

Joseph Joshowitz, 1922, McKeesport, PA
My great grandfather Joseph Joshowitz was born about October 15, 1885 in what is now Subcarpathian Ukraine, in the Tiachev District (possibly in Tiachev itself; possibly in Kolodne) to Chaim and Mindel (nee Eizikovits) Joshowitz/Yosovitz.  When he was born, though, it was part of Austria-Hungary, and later Slovakia.

Joseph came to America twice.  The first time he came in 1906 as a single 20-year-old man "Josef Jasowics" with his 30-year-old brother Isak.  They were going to join their uncle Josef Eisikovitz in Brooklyn.  They were last from Darva, which was the Hungarian name for Kolodne.
Isak and Joseph Joshowitz's boat record, 1906 (lines 1-2)
Joseph didn't stay too long.  He went back to Kolodne in 1908, by way of England.  On that manifest, he is a 22-year-old laborer, "Josef Josavitz."

Joseph Joshowitz's boat record, New York to Southampton, 1908 (line 11)

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Starting in Genealogy--for Free

Genealogy has changed significantly since I started researching in the 1990s.  Instead of having to travel to an archives branch to try to find boat records and census records on microfilm, you can find many of those documents sitting at home.  The internet has made a lot of basic genealogy doable from home, which is wonderful.  Many people have heard of because of their advertising campaign, but Ancestry costs money (unless you cancel before completing an initial 14-day free trial), and until you have the basics down on your family, it could be overwhelming.  Ancestry is great (and I do have a subscription), but wait on it until you exhaust some of the other free sites.

A better starting place is FamilySearch.  This site is entirely free (although they do ask that you set up a free account to see some of the original documents).  They have a lot of records, and they add more all the time.  You can search for family members in census records, boat records, and more.  Many states (Ohio is one I've used a lot) have all of their vital records (birth, marriage, death certificates) on FamilySearch; these are great resources for finding parents' names and helping to move back another generation.  You can also search their catalog for additional (not online) documents that they have on microfilm and can be delivered to a local Family History Center for you to peruse.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sheva Beitch - Ancestor Deep Dive

My great grandmother was Sheva Fine Beitch (also spelled Bajcz in Polish).  I'm named for her (my Hebrew name is Sheva Esther).  She was born on May 12, 1895 in Shklyn in what is now Volhynia, Ukraine, just to the northeast of Horochiv.  Her parents were Moshe Dovid and Devorah (nee Garber) Fine, and she had two sisters Sara and Baila and a brother Mordechai.

She married Avraham Beitsch and had three children.  The oldest was my grandmother Sonia (originally Sara Etta), followed by Malia (emphasis on the first syllable), and then the baby Herschel.  Herschel died as an infant.

Beitsch Family.  (L-R): Malia, Avraham, Sheva, Ronia (Avraham's mother), Sonia.  This picture was saved by Sonia from a pile of garbage after the ghetto was destroyed
Although Sheva was from Shklyn and Avraham was from nearby Huben, the Beitch family lived in the bigger town of Horochiv (also Horochov or Gorokhov).  The town regularly switched between Russia and Poland--until the Germans arrived.  Then the Beitch family was moved into a ghetto in nearby Senkevychivka.

Life in the ghetto was difficult.  But then on October 14, 1942, rumblings were going on about a large deportation.  Sheva had Sonia and Malia sneak out of a hole in the ghetto's fence; they ended up hiding in a barn where Malia would be murdered.  That day the ghetto was liquidated.  Among those killed in the ghetto was Avraham Beitch, Sheva's sisters Sara and Baila, Baila's children Cheike (and husband Mendel) Wollich Chechman and Moshe Wollich, and Cheike's daughter Devorah Chechman.  Sonia believed her mother was dead as well.

Shortly after, Sonia (who was hiding wherever she could) met up with Pesach Dimant, who she vaguely knew from before the war.  He told her that he believed her aunt had survived.  He took her to an attic--where she found her mother Sheva!  (Pesach knew it was her mother but wanted to break it to her gently.  And yes, he later married Sonia, but that's another post to write.)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Deciphering History

I'd already determined that the Tolchinsky family which I thought was from Shpikov was not.  But I knew that the Supkoffs were.  My great grandmother was Malka (Mollie) Supkoff who married Isadore Tolchin after they both had immigrated to Pittsburgh.  Mollie's and her sister's Elka's boat record confirmed they were from "Spikow."  So Isadore's involvement in Pittsburgh's Shpikov Society must have been through his wife.
Mollie & Elka Supkoff's boat record (lines 8-9), 1906
Mollie's parents, Yeshaya and Zlata Tzipra (nee Sanshuck) Supkoff also came to America along with their younger children (besides Mollie and Elka, son Leib/Louis had come earlier).  Yeshaya and the children were listed as having been born in "Spikoff" and "Schpikoff," but Zlata Tzipra was from "Krosny."  With the help of JewishGen (which will list other towns with Jewish populations near a given one), I discovered that Krasnoye was only 11 miles from Shpikov.

Nice!  I then started investigating if any documentation existed of these towns' past.  Perhaps I could find documents on microfilm like I had used to learn about the Tolchinsky and Lefand/Marienhoff families in Nezhin.  I looked on familysearch, but unfortunately they had not microfilmed either of these towns' records.  I then looked at Miriam Weiner's excellent Routes to Roots, which catalogs many of the existing Jewish records in eastern European archives.  My heart sunk.  Both towns had listed documents, but they were followed by the following disclaimer:
I contacted Ms. Weiner to see if many of the remaining records were available, but at that time they were being preserved and protected and were not available to the public.  Drat.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Minnie Joshowitz Tolchin, in her own words

In the mid 1990s, I had an MSDOS-based program called (I think) Biography Maker.  I believe it was by the same company that made Family Tree Maker, and it would give prompts that would help you to write an autobiography.  My grandparents Lou & Minnie Tolchin were in town, and I used it to interview my grandmother.  Unfortunately we never got around to finishing, but it did get a really good feeling of her growing up during the Depression in McKeesport, PA.

Here is Minnie Joshowitz Tolchin's story, in her own words.
My Yiddish name is Mindel, and they called me Mindel or Minnie.  I was named after my father's mother.  I was born in McKeesport, Pennsylvania on February 19, 1922.

Minnie Joshowitz as a baby with her parents Josef and Esther (nee Rutner) Joshowitz and brother Izzy, 1922
When I started school, I was only five years old, and the starting age was six.  But my father went to the principal and told him that I had to go to school because there were three younger children at home. I could not even speak English, only Yiddish, because that's what we spoke in the house.  But I learned fast.  It was located in McKeesport [Pennsylvania] on Walnut Street.  It was called Walnut Street School.  It was a big red brick building three floors high.  If I remember correctly, there were two buildings; one was the old one, and then they built the newer one.  The higher grades, of course, went to the newer one.  The school went from first to eighth grade.  It was a public school, and the name of the principal was Mr. Snyder, an elderly gentleman who we all liked.  My younger sisters and brother went to the same school.  Mollie was one year behind me, and the other two, Herbie and Ruthie were five years behind me.  We didn't play with them at recess, but we had to go home for lunch every day which was three blocks away.  Every once and a while we got a penny for candy.  School was easy for me, and I didn't have to struggle.  Another girl and I took first honors when I graduated eighth grade.  We took sewing in school, and we made our own dresses.  We wore them in the May Day dance, and we graduated in them.  My teacher in eighth grade was Miss Newhouse, and she sent me to an elecution teacher to teach me how to give my speech for graduation.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


I've been playing around with Treelines recently.  Treelines is a new site that allows you to tell a story.  It takes genealogy from being all about dry ancestral charts and helps to tell the stories behind the names.  It won the Developers' Challenge at this year's RootsTech conference, and I can see why.

Treelines gives a way to integrate photos, documents and text, showing a timeline that spans the lives of players in the story.  It's very user-friendly, and you can quickly build a visually pleasing book of family stories.
Screenshot from one of my Treelines stories
As can be be seen in the screenshot, people who appear in the story are displayed underneath the current page, showing when various parts of the story occurred as well as those participating in the current page.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Lefand by any other name....

I'd mentioned earlier how I discovered a potential Liffond connection to my family, the fact that the family lived in Nezhin, and that there were Nezhin documents available on microfilm.  I ordered many of these microfilms to be sent to my local Family History Library (FHL) and started going through the records.  The FHL has most of the metrical documents (birth/marriage/divorce/death records) for Nezhin's Jewish community from the 1850s through the early 1900s.  The documents are written in Hebrew and Russian, with identical information in both languages.  At this point, the Russian looked like pretty scribbles to me, but I could read the Hebrew easily.

My great grandfather was Yitzchok Tolchinsky (later Isadore Tolchin).  I knew that his parents were Hillel and Pesha Riva.  My grandfather had always told me that Pesha Riva's maiden name was Marinoff.  I found Yitzchok's birth record from December 1889.  It had his father as being registered in Lubny and being Hillel the son of Shimon.  The mother was listed as Rivka the daughter of Yehoshua Wolf.
Yitzchok Tolchinsky's birth record, 1889
Shimon and Yehoshua Wolf were new names--my great-great-great grandfathers!  But was Rivka also Pesha Riva?  I tracked down Hillel's marriage record--and sure enough, he married a Pesha Riva early in 1889.