Sunday, December 30, 2018

Thanks, JewishGen: My Great-Great Grandmother's Surprise Burial Location

My great-great grandmother was Rochel Fuchs Rutner.  Although she never lived outside of what's now Subcarpathian Ukraine (although it was Hungary when she was born and Czechoslovakia when she died), I actually have gathered quite a bit of documentation about her life.

But I never knew exactly when she died.  I have the death records from Kolodne and Dulovo, where she lived from the time she married, and her death was not recorded.  I did have a window of when she would have died; she was alive in 1920 when my grandmother's older brother came to America, and she had a granddaughter named for her in 1927.  In addition, when her husband died in 1928, he was listed as a widower.

I had been in Kolodne back in 2016, and I photographed what is left of the Jewish cemetery.  When I got home, I transcribed all of the tombstones, and sent the transcriptions and associated photos to JewishGen's JOWBR.  The other night I wanted to check on a particular tombstone to see if it correlated with a lead I was following (more to come on that lead in a future post), and I was being lazy, so instead of searching through my computer, I just searched for Kolodne graves on JOWBR.

And this is why being lazy can pay off!
Partial JOWBR Listing for Kolodne

Sunday, December 23, 2018

New Ancestor, New Birthdate, New Relatives, and New Questions

I've mentioned the awesomeness that is Alex Krakovsky's wiki before.  If you have ancestors from Ukraine, check it out if you haven't yet.  And if you've already visited, go again--he's constantly adding more documents.  I checked this week and found that a document from my ancestral town of Kuna had been added (which you can see here).  Since the document was from 1903, I wasn't too optimistic about my finding my direct ancestors, since by 1875 they were living in Shpikov, but I thought that perhaps I'd find some relatives.  Well, this document ended up having way more information than I anticipated.  Spoiler alert:  I've gone back another generation and verified another ancestor's name, among other things.
1903 Kuna Households List, Zubkis Family #21 (males)

Monday, December 17, 2018

Upcoming Lectures in CA, PA, FL, IN, UT, CA (again) & FL (again)

After a crazy November/December with a lot of travel, it looks like 2019 will be off to a similar start.  I met lots of awesome genealogists at various events, and I'm sure that will continue into the winter.

I'll be speaking all over the country, and hopefully some of the people who read this blog will live nearby and can attend at least one of these sessions.  Come by and say hi!

So here are some details.
Me speaking a few years back at OGS

Sunday, December 16, 2018

DNA Hinting At Ancestral Origins?

Genetic genealogy doesn't exist in a vacuum.  Many people who take DNA tests assume that their results will come with a fully populated (and maybe even documented) family tree back generations.  While DNA doesn't work like that (unless you are a good match to me), it can point you to places to do additional research, that you may not have known about otherwise.

Last Sunday, I got a message through MyHeritage from a woman named Kathy who said that many of my kits matched her sister-in-law Dorothy.  Generally when I get messages like this, I ask which kits match, and then I get to respond that they are from various lines of my family and are not related to one another, and I explain about endogamy.  But her response was different.  Everyone that Dorothy's kit matched was related on my maternal grandmother's side.  So I took a look.
Chromosome 3 - Shared segments between Dorothy and my family

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Letter from Bergen Belsen

My great-uncle, Izzy Joshowitz, was my grandmother's older brother.  He was born in what was then Czechoslovakia (and is now Ukraine) and came to America when he was 7 years old.  During World War Two, he was an officer in the Army Air Corps.  As the war ended, he was sent to Bergen Belsen, where he met some cousins (who he had never before met in person, as they were born in Europe after he left to America) who had survived.

Recently, his daughter Randi went through some old boxes in her mother's attic, and she found the following letter:
Letter from Bergen Belsen

Sunday, December 2, 2018

An Incredible Resource for Russian Empire Records/Discussion: j-roots

If you have ancestors who lived in what was the Russian Empire, you must know about j-roots.  Check out the below guest post that talks about this resource and how English speakers can best interact with it.

The following is a guest post from Dmitry Pruss.  Dmitry Pruss lives in Salt Lake City. A native of Moscow, Russia, he holds a Ph.D. degree in Molecular Biology and works in the field of human genetics. Since 2006, his projects included solving heritable disease riddles by combining DNA testing with the classic kind of a gumshoe genealogy. Dmitry is a volunteer moderator of the Onomastics section of the Jewish Roots portal, and a contributing editor of Avotaynu magazine.

Did your great grand uncle attend college in Odessa or St Petersburg? Did you great grand aunt take apprenticeship exams for a pharmacist or a midwife ? Was their cousin sent to Siberia for anti-government agitation - or perhaps a petty crime? Or maybe an ancestor's signature graced a shul petition, or a plea to the authorities asking for a fire or famine relief?
The old country Jews interacted with the Czar's oppressive government in a myriad ways, always having to prove who they were, where they hailed from, who were their kin. Along the way, they left priceless breadcrumbs of genealogy information. It is still there in Eastern Europe's archives. The vital records may have been lost as the local archives went up in flames during WWII (note from Lara: Many do still exist though, as you can see in many of my blog posts), but the authorities hoarded up so much paperwork in their quest to suffocate the Jews, that the tales of your family are still preserved in as unlikely places as Moscow where millions of police file cards catalog all the brushes of the Jews with the system, or the Kremlin of the ancient capital of Siberia, overflowing with correspondence about prisoners and exiles.

Over a nearly decade of its existence, Jewish Roots portal ( has become the leading force in Russian Jewish genealogy research. It is busy uncovering and digitizing new genealogy sources in the archives of the former Russian Empire, and building a valuable help base of advice on genealogy searches, both for the online investigators and for those doing their research on the ground, in the archives, libraries, and cemeteries.
Just one example from j-roots