Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Other Shmuel Moshe Rutner

Around 1991, I found the book Sefer Maramaros, a Yizkor book commemorating the various Jewish towns of the Maramaros megye (province) of Austria-Hungary.  There were articles about specific cities and towns, ranging from one to several pages each.  I immediately looked up what was written about Kolodne.
Kolodne Entry from Sefer Maramaros

The article gave some history of the town--and had an entire paragraph on the Rutner family (the next to last paragraph in this image)!  It talks about Shmuel Moshe Rutner who lived in Kolodne (but spent his final years in Borsa) who was a scholar and a Sanzer Chassid.  It gives his father (Avraham-Leib) and grandfather (Dovid) who was a very rich man who owned forests and sheep.  (I show some of his land in an earlier post.)

Teenaged Lara was quite excited, since at the time I had only known Shmuel Moshe's name and nothing further back.  I wrote to the book's publisher in Israel asking about the source of information, and they responded with the name and address of the person who had supplied the information--a man named Rabbi Yaakov Ben-Tzion Rutner.  I wrote a letter to Rabbi Rutner and eventually got a reply.  (The back-and-forth took months; email has sped up many things in genealogy!)
Letter from Rabbi Yaakov Ben-Tzion Rutner ~1991
Rabbi Rutner laid out the family as he knew it.  He gave me the names of his father, aunts and uncles.  He then traced the Rutner family back even further to the Ta"z, born in 1586 and the Ba"Ch, born in 1561.  And the Ta"z's family has been traced back to Rashi, born in 1040.  Rabbi Rutner also enclosed a book about his life which I recently re-read and which gives great insight into what life was like in the region in the early 20th century.

Well, this was incredible!  I was going to camp in Israel that summer after my sophomore year of high school, so I arranged to meet with Rabbi Rutner.  So while all my friends spent their free day touring or shopping or at the beach, I took a bus to Bnei Brak to talk genealogy.  (Yes, I have been an addict for a very very long time.)  Rabbi Rutner spoke no English, and my Hebrew was tentative, but we were able to communicate with family tree diagrams and my Bais Yaakov high school Hebrew.  He had been born in Europe and survived the Holocaust.  He did not know that Shmuel Moshe (his grandfather) had also had a wife named Rochel, but I assured him that it was so, since my great-uncle Izzy had known both of them.  I appended his tree to mine and celebrated going back a millennium on the one branch.

I tried to contact him again when I went back to Israel in college, but his wife told me that he had passed away, and she didn't know much about his research.

As I've been getting more and more documents from Kolodne, some things didn't add up.  My great-great grandfather's father was Mendel.  Maybe he was Mendel Avraham-Leib?  Or maybe there were two Shmuel Moshes, one the son of Avraham-Leib and one the son of Mendel.
Birth Record for Nathan (Nachman) Rutner, 1871
I found a birth record for Nathan (Nachman) Rutner, son of Moses son of Leb.  This looks to be the father of Rabbi Rutner from Bnei Brak--and it backs up the names of his direct ancestors as he told them to me.  Rabbi Rutner's mother is given as Zelda Userovics.  Additional birth records matched the aunts and uncles of Rabbi Rutner from his letter.

This Moses/Shmuel Moshe and his wife Zelda had at least 7 children, and the birthdates I know are between 1866 and 1883.  My Shmuel Moshe and Rochel were having children as early as 1881, plus my Shmuel Moshe was having children with his previous wife Henya-Rochel in the 1870s--so it seems there were two Shmuel Moshe Rutners in Kolodne!

So does this mean that my whole ancestral trail back to Rashi is wrong?  Well, not necessarily.  The records I have helped me to determine the relationship between the two Shmuel Moshes.
Relationship Between the Two Shmuel Moshes
"My" Shmuel Moshe Rutner (the one without a photo above) was first cousins to Rabbi Rutner's Shmuel Moshe Rutner.  And the direct line back to the Ta"Z and the Ba"Ch was supposedly through their mutual grandmother Rechel.  So that should still be fine--except that I'm much more skeptical these days, and I haven't managed to find documentation showing it's true.  At least not yet....

One more interesting note.  One would think that two first cousins with the same name were named after a mutual ancestor or relative.  Well, my Shmuel Moshe seems to have been named after his grandfather Shmuel Moshe--on his mother's Farkas side!  So far, I've found no connection from "the other" Shmuel Moshe to the Farkas family.  They may well be named for two separate people.

So don't assume that seeing someone with the right name, at about the right age, in the right place is your ancestor.  Check and double check.  You may be dealing with two Shmuel Moshes.

Note:  I'm on Twitter.  Feel free to follow me (@larasgenealogy).

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