Sunday, January 27, 2019

Divorces in the Shtetl - Frequency

Recently, I've been involved in several conversations about the divorce rate in America's Jewish community.  Many people say that there was essentially no such thing as divorce in Eastern Europe and that this is purely a function of American society; they imagine shtetl life to have been some sort of utopia.

Before you read further, guess what percentage of marriages in Europe ended in divorce.  And see how close your guess is to reality.

Because the vital records for Nezhin's Jewish community are largely intact from the late 1850s through the Russian Revolution, I decided to look at the ratio of divorces to marriages each year in that town.  (You can browse through these record books online yourself; information on what is available with links can be found here.)

What I learned about that is below; I also took note of the reasons for the various divorces, which are interesting enough to merit their own future post (so stay tuned).
Nezhin Divorce:  Because he was blind

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Philadelphia Bank Passage Order Books

A great resource on JewishGen--one that applies to immigrants of all religions, not just those who were Jewish--are the Philadelphia Bank Passage Order Books.  Relatives already in the United States could save up money to bring over relatives or friends still in Europe and arrange for their passage through various immigrant banks.

A combined effort between the Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center and the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Philadelphia indexed surviving books, and they can be invaluable for finding your relatives.  Even if your immediate family did not end up in Philadelphia, you may find that other family members did.  In fact, I recently found some of my own relatives that way:
Chaje Zupkiss Bank Passage Order, 1895

Sunday, January 13, 2019

mtDNA Success!!

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is passed down the direct maternal line.  mtDNA mutates very infrequently, so people (especially people from closed communities like Ashkenazim) tend to have dozens--or hundreds--of exact mtDNA matches, and those matches may be from common ancestors hundreds or more years back.  Some people dismiss mtDNA as being of much genealogical use.  But sometimes it can help you find another branch of your family, and it's just done that for me.  (And as I was in the middle of writing this, Roberta Estes posted about her own recent mtDNA success.)

Back in the summer of 2016, I wrote about how my mother had only one exact mitochondrial match, a man named Michael.  At the time, I noticed that while Michael was an exact match, they both had over 200 matches with one mutation's difference from both of them.  (Two-and-a-half years later, Michael is still my mother's only exact match, and they have over 380 matches with one mutation.)  In 2016, I recognized the name of one of those 200 distance-one matches and asked her how many exact matches she had.  It turned out that every one of those distance-one matches was an exact match to her mtDNA.  So I hypothesized that Michael and my mother were descended from one woman who relatively recently had a mutation that differentiated her mtDNA from the mtDNA shared by those 200+ people
My mother's mtDNA matches in 2016

Thursday, January 10, 2019

RootsTech for Jewish Genealogists

It's almost that time of year--RootsTech is coming!  And while Utah isn't the first place one would think of for Jewish genealogy, there's so much that RootsTech offers the Jewish genealogist.

(Note:  If you're coming or thinking about coming, keep reading to learn about a dinner for Jewish genealogists.)

Just a tiny portion of the HUGE exhibit hall

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Zubkis Family to 1755; Another Bit of Evidence

A few years ago I found what looked like my Zubkis family living in Uman in 1811.  This fall, I found another piece of evidence demonstrating that the 1811 family was, indeed, my great-great-great-great-great (yes, 5 greats) grandfather, listed with his five sons in Uman (the census was of males only).  If I could prove that this family was actually mine, then I would have traced the Zubkis family back to 1755, the approximate year of birth for my presumed 5th great grandfather.

And now I have another piece of evidence still that points to this being my family.  And this, like many recent successes, has been due to having Alex Krakovsky's wiki with scans from Ukrainian archives being consistently added.
1903 Kuna Households List, Zubkis Family #29 (males)