Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Who was Devorah Tolchinsky? (aka How Blogging Helped me Find Two More Ancestors)

I've viewed 60 years' worth of Nezhin birth, marriage & death records (no, I don't sleep well) in the past few weeks.  I found multiple records for Tolchinskys who were registered in Lubny but living in Nezhin from around 1866.  All of these people are descended from my great-great-great grandfather Shimon Tolchinsky, and I've been able to fit them into my tree.  Well, all except one.

Devorah Tolchinsky Death - Full Page

Devorah Tolchinsky died at the age of 24 in Nezhin on June 1, 1867.  Her father was Leib, and she was registered in Lubny.

I started writing this to lay out the puzzle of who this Devorah was and how she didn't seem to fit into the other Lubny-registered Tolchinskys when it hit me.  I know exactly who she was.
Devorah Tolchinsky Death
I knew that my great-great grandfather Hillel Tolchinsky's mother died when he was young; Hillel's father Shimon was noted to be a widower when marrying Risha Frayda Mechansky in 1867, when Hillel was about two years old.  My only clue to Hillel's mother's name was on Hillel's Pennsylvania death certificate.
Hillel Tolchinsky Death Certificate; Pittsburgh, PA; 1938
Hillel's mother was given as "Helen."  Since Hillel's mother lived and died in the Russian Empire, she would have never gone by Helen.  However, Hillel did have a daughter who went by Helen in America--and the name on her ship manifest was Chaje.  So I assumed that Hillel's mother was Chaya as well.  But while writing up this blog post, I just double-checked Helen Tolchin Sobel's gravestone, which I had photographed a few years ago outside Philadelphia.
Grave of Helen Tolchin Sobel
Helen's name in Hebrew was Chaya Devorah.  When naming after someone who died young, the name Chaya (which means "life") is often appended.  So it appears that Helen was named for her grandmother Devorah and Helen's brother Sam (the informant on their father Hillel's death certificate) knew that, which was why he said his grandmother was "Helen."

So the mysterious Devorah (whose identity I didn't know when I started writing this up) seems to have been my great-great-great grandmother!  And my great-great-great-great grandfather was named Leib.

(And as an interesting data point, my great-great-great grandfather remarried 26 days after Devorah's death.)

This isn't what I expected to be writing when I began putting together this post!

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

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  1. Congratulations, Lara, on piecing this together. How exciting to be able to place Devorah and her father Leib in your pedigree. Those sleepless nights trawling through 60 years worth of Nezhin records really paid off.