Sunday, April 30, 2017

Finding Uncle Leibish

Just over a month ago, I wrote about my grandfather's uncle Leibish, who came to America and vanished.  Well, thanks to others' help in examining records I'd seen before, he's been found--I think!

On Jewish Genealogy Portal, Russ Mauer pointed out a naturalization record for a Louis Diamond.  I'd seen this record before but disregarded it as being for my Louis, since it said that he was from Vilna--which my Leibish was not.
Louis Diamond, Declaration of Intention, 1920

But next to the Declaration of Intention of the Petition for Naturalization for the same man--and here his birthplace was different.
Louis Diamond, Petition for Naturalization, 1924
On his Petition for Naturalization, Louis Diamond said that he was from "Volin."  Poland is crossed out, and Russia is written in.  My Leibish was born in Wolyn/Volin (today's Volhynia, Ukraine), and by 1924 it was in Poland--although at the time of Leibish's birth it was in the Russian Empire.  So things were starting to add up.  In addition, this Louis had a son named Harry--possibly after Leibish's father Hillel?  (And while this ship isn't the one that Leibish sailed on, this ship didn't sail on the day that Louis says he landed in New York, and the date is within the same month of his actual sailing.)

I found registrations of both children's births in Worcester, Massachusetts; Harry's (Henry's on his birth record) gives his mother's maiden name.
Birth record for Henry Dimond to Louis & Bessie Hill Diamond.  Worcester, MA, 1914

On the same Jewish Genealogy Portal post, Char Bowman pointed out that Louis's marriage to Bessie Chiel/Hill had been registered in New York--and their parents' names would be on the certificate.  I ordered the microfilm (and also ordered the marriage license application, thanks to Reclaim the Records, although that hasn't yet arrived).  The microfilm came in, and I went to go view it at my local Family History Center.
Marriage Certificate--Louis & Pessa/Bessie Diamond, Brooklyn, 1913
And look at that--Louis's father is given as Hilel--which was my Leibish's father.  Now, I'd seen this record before; I went to the New York Municipal Archives and looked at marriage certificates for all the Louis Diamonds in Leibish's age range in my quest to find Leibish.  I remember gasping when I saw the father's name but then rejecting it when I saw that his birthplace was given as "Wilner," thinking it was referring to Vilna.  Now that I realize that it could also be Volhynia, it was much more promising.

On Louis's WWI Draft Registration, he gives his hometown as "Torchin, Waliner, Russia."  This is the district in which Biscupice was--and gives another piece of supporting evidence to this being Volhynia rather than Vilna.
Louis Diamond WWI Draft Registration--with birthplace Torchin, Waliner, Russia

Louis's mother is given as Anna Alpern.  My Leibish's mother was Hinda.  This isn't as strong a match, but Anna could well be an Americanization of Hinda.  I also am not sure of Hinda's surname--the other other reference I've seen to her lists her maiden name as "Christ."

I found the family living in Worcester, MA in 1920, and by 1925 they were living in Brooklyn and were enumerated in the New York State census.  And then the family group disappeared.

Since the daughter (Shirley or Sarah depending on the source) would have changed her surname, I decided to try to trace Louis's son Harry.  I found a match to to Harry Diamond's birthdate in the Social Security Death Index; Harry died in 1998 in California.  I found reference to his wife Jacqueline, but when I found Harry & Jacqueline's marriage record, it looked like they were both widowed and married one another in their 60s.

Jennifer Mendelsohn was able to find Jacqueline's son from a previous marriage--along with an email address.  I emailed that son in the evening; the next morning, I had a reply from him with contact information for Harry's son.  I emailed the son and waited--that afternoon, I had a reply!  We spoke later that night.

I'm about 99% sure that this is the right family.  I've asked Harry's son if he'll be willing to take a DNA test--both to add the final confirmation (as my father's second cousin, the match would be very strong) but more to be able to analyze it in one of my semi-regular DNA posts.

So what can you (and I) learn from this?  Don't disregard a record until you check it several times.  Don't ever give up--brick walls can be broken.  And be open to suggestions--others have a fresh view and can give a new perspective.  And they can help you crush through that brick wall.

Note:  I'm on Twitter.  Follow me (@larasgenealogy).

Want to get future blog posts emailed to you automatically?
Enter your email address:


  1. Lara, "Wilner" was most likely still Vilna. My grandmother spoke Slovak and interchanged W and V - as in "vindow" and depending on the speaker's accent, it might have sounded like an R was at the end of the town name. My mom's family is from New England and I quickly learned to answer to "Linder." :)

    1. However his WWI draft card (which I should add to this post) had him from Torchin, Waliner, Russia. Torchin is the district that he was from within Wolyn. I'll add that to the blog post as another piece of evidence.

  2. Thrilled for you. I know how much you put into this.

  3. You might want to keep this question in the back of your mind. Why was he so hard to find? Why wasn't he in contact with anyone in the family?

  4. I have learned again and again that the genealogy village is incredibly helpful and generous. So glad you were able to make this breakthrough!

  5. Happy for you, Lara. Glad I could help.