Sunday, August 2, 2020

Zubkis Family, 1858 Style

I've been researching my Zubkis family for years (although when I started, I was researching the Supkoff family--which turns out to be an Americanization of the original name).  My branch of the family lived in Kuna for multiple years, and I thought I'd exhausted all Kuna resources.  When Alex Krakovsky posted the 1903 Kuna census which referenced an 1858 revision list, I was excited, since no one seemed to know where the 1858 revision was--and in fact, it had possibly burnt up in the Kamenets-Podolsk archives fire.

But it turns out the 1858 revision (which is a Russian Empire type of census) is still around.  And it may have found a new ancestor for me.
Header of a page of the Kuna 1858 Revision

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Longest Segment Coming on AncestryDNA!

If you are from an endogamous population, you're used to getting predicted "close" relatives that aren't really so close after all because of endogamy.  One of the best strategies for determining if a match is truly worth pursuing for us endogamous people is looking at the size of the largest segment, since many small segments may be artifacts from being related in many ways on many lines, pretty far back.  Most of the large genealogical testing companies give the size of the largest segment, but AncestryDNA hasn't done so. 

I've accosted Crista Cowen at many genealogy conferences for years (sorry Crista) with my largest segment plea; in fact, I was thinking that Crista appreciated Covid stopping in-person genealogy conferences for now so I can't bother her in person.

But Ancestry has come through!!

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Enumerated....Three Times

Every genealogist knows the frustration of not finding a specific family member enumerated in a census.  A lucky genealogist will find family members enumerated in two places because they in school (and enumerated there as well as at home) or had moved right in time to be enumerated at an old and new home.  But have you ever found someone enumerated THREE times in one census?

Meet someone who has: Srul son of Mordechai Zubkis, my second cousin four times removed.
Zubkis Family, 1875 Russian Empire Conscription Census, Kuna, Gaysin Uezd

Sunday, June 28, 2020

My Great-Great-Great Grandmother's Grave

I have only one great-great-great grandparent who ever came to America, Mira Alpern Lefand Marienhoff.  Her death certificate from Pittsburgh says that she died in Pittsburgh in April 1913, less than seven years after coming to America.  The certificate notes that she was buried in "White Hall."  What was then known as Whitehall Cemetery is now divided into Beth Abraham, Shaare Zedeck and Shaare Torah cemeteries in the Carrick section of Pittsburgh.

Mira had children buried in Beth Abraham and Shaare Zedeck.  When I was in Pittsburgh a few years ago, I spent hours going through these very large cemeteries trying to find Mira's grave, but I never found it.  Pittsburgh's Jewish cemeteries seem relatively well-indexed on JOWBR, but she was not listed there.  I assumed that perhaps as new immigrants, her family was unable to afford any sort of gravestone for her.

Just in case, I put up a request on FindAGrave, in hopes that someone would enable a miracle.  And that miracle has occurred.
Grave of Mira Alpern Lefand Marienhoff!

Sunday, June 21, 2020

1921 Czech Census for Podkarpatská Rus (Now Zakarpattia Oblast, Ukraine), Online!

If you have ancestors from the slice of Europe which is currently Zakarpattia Oblast (Ukraine), was Podkarpatská Rus (Czechoslovakia) between WWI and WWII, and which was part of Hungary before that, then prepare to get excited.  After this area became part of the newly-formed country of Czechoslovakia after WWI, the new government conducted a census in 1921 to get a handle on their population.  A fellow Subcarpathian researcher let me know that this is now online, and OMG, is this incredible.
Part of Lajzer Ruttner's Family, 1921 Czechoslovakian Census, Dulfalva/Dulovo

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Finding Uncle Leibish's Grave

For quite a while, Uncle Leibish was my genealogy white whale.  My father's cousin remembered my grandfather's Uncle Leibish coming to Baltimore to visit but knew nothing about where he lived (she guessed New York, since he came by train) or if he had any other family.  I wanted/needed to find him.

I had finally found his ship manifest (details here), and eventually located a very strong suspect (here).  I tracked down that suspect's grandson, and DNA proved that I had, in fact, located Uncle Leibish (details here)!

Speaking to Uncle Leibish grandson, I learned that Uncle Leibish and his wife had divorced, and his wife took the children to California, so Uncle Leibish's grandson knew very little about his grandfather.  When Uncle Leibish was visiting my part of the family in Baltimore, he was living alone in New York.

The grandson didn't even know when Uncle Leibish had died, although we had a ballpark 10-year probable window.  So I put in requests for FindAGrave photos for every Louis Diamond buried in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts who had died within that time window with a grave listed on FindAGrave.  I know that the graves listed on FindAGrave only consist of a small percentage of actual graves, but it was a start (and there were still many Louis Diamonds who fit my criteria).  Over the past few years, volunteers have photographed some of my requested graves, but none were him.  Until now.
Uncle Leibish's Grave; New Montefiore Cemetery, West Babylon, NY

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Preschool Pal Leads to Genealogical Find

Did you ever think that a preschool classmate's blog post would give you information about your own family?  Well, it's happened to me.

Elli Fischer writes on HaMapah, which "aims to bring modern tools of quantitative and geographic analysis to Rabbinic literature."  It's definitely worth checking out.  His latest post in particular caught my eye because it involved Felsö Neresznicze, Hungary (now Novoselytsya, Ukraine), the town where my Fuchs family lived for generations and discussed the story behind the publication of a book coordinated by someone from that town.  Elli writes about the prenumeraten in this book, subscriptions that people paid for to help fund the book's publication.  And since the coordinator lived in Novoselytysa, it's clear that some people from that town would have subscribed.
Subscribers from Novoselytsya

Monday, May 25, 2020

Some Fine DNA

Back in 2013, I wrote about a potential new branch of the Fine family.  My grandmother had told me how her uncle Mordechai had come to America but had been sent back to Russia, where he was drafted into the Russian Army and killed in WWI.  On his ship manifest, he said he was going to an uncle, "Meyer Fein," in Toledo, Ohio, a totally new name to me (although I did know of Toledo Fine cousins).  I traced this Meyer back to England, where he'd lived and married after emigrating from Russia.  And his father lived with him--could this be my great-great-great grandfather?

As background, I wrote up tracking down this Fein/Fine family in a series of posts:
I found out a lot about this family, including via an 1891 British census, where Meyer (there Myer Fein) is enumerated along with his father.  Hmmmm.....
1901 England Census, Hebel and Myer Fein, London
But I recently got in touch with someone who I thought could help answer that question.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Getting a GRIP on Jewish Genealogy - From Home!

This summer, I'm co-teaching a week-long intensive course on Jewish Genealogy, along with Emily Garber, Janette Silverman, and Marian Smith at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh.  And now GRIP will be going virtual, so you don't need to travel to Pittsburgh, and you can have an intense genealogical learning experience from your own home.  There are only a few seats left in our Jewish Genealogy class, but in addition to our class, there are lots of other great offerings.

So what would you learn in this course?

Sunday, May 17, 2020

David Ruttner in the (1857) News!

As more and more foreign newspapers come online, I've been pleasantly surprised to find my ancestors mentioned.  Earlier, I wrote about how my 4th great grandfather's land was listed as about to be taken by eminent domain.  And a new article came online on Arcanum Digitheca giving a bit more information about what he could have done from there to try to keep his land.
Pest Napló, January 1857, Page 94

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Yom Hashoah 2020

Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) starts tomorrow evening.  For the past four years, I have listed the names of the family members I've found who were murdered in the Holocaust.  In 2019, I listed 367 relatives.  In 2020, I am listing 454.

Every year, this list grows as I find new branches of my family--and then find that multiple members of those branches were killed somewhere between 1941 & 1945.  This year I found nearly 90 more people--and many other relatives whose fates are as yet unclear.

Publishing this yearly list is my one small way to make sure they are all remembered--all 454 of those currently on this list.

Front Row L-R: Yosef Wollich, Mendel Chechman, Devorah Chechman; Back Row L-R: Sara Fine Wollich, Moshe Wollich, Chaike Chechman.  All were murdered in the Holocaust

Sunday, March 29, 2020

My Family in the Cholera Pandemic of 1848

As COVID-19 has spread across the world, instantly changing how we go about our day-to-day lives, our lives have changed.  It's the first time in most of our lifetimes that we've experienced something like this impacting ourselves and our families personally.  But pandemics have happened before, and at least once before, they specifically impacted my family.
Tzipra Brandman Death; Krasnoye, Podolia, Russian Empire; July 26, 1848

Monday, March 16, 2020

Upcoming Free Webinars!

With "social distancing" becoming the norm, lots of people are going stir-crazy.  But this also gives you the time to do more genealogy--and to learn from other genealogists.  I'm pleased to be part of a series of free webinars that will be given nearly daily over the upcoming weeks.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Purim in Senkevychivka, 1934 -- Before the Ghetto

My grandmother Sonia Diamond rescued some photos from the ruins of the Senkevychivka Ghetto after its October 1942 destruction.  One of them is particularly applicable this time of year, with Purim coming up this week.
Senkevychivka Purim Play?

Sunday, February 23, 2020

My Prestigious (Possible) 5th Great Grandfather

My great-great-great-great-great grandfather was Avraham Rutner, who is said to have come from Galicia to Maramaros.  So far, I've been able to link all Rutners who lived in the Maramaros Megye of Hungary (now split between Subarpathian Ukraine and northern Romania) to being his descendants.

Distant cousins have said that he was also a wealthy man, but I've never seen anything to prove (or refute) that fact.  Until now--maybe.

Hazai's Külföldi Tudósítások; January-June 1827

Sunday, February 16, 2020

How Quickly the Holocaust Happened

My mother's parents were born in America, so I didn't hear about the Holocaust like I did from my father's parents, who both had survived the war in Poland (now Ukraine).  But my mother's parents had many relatives who had remained in Europe and who were Jews swept into World War II.  Until the war happened, they were living their everyday lives.  But this is a story of how quickly their lives changed--and ended.
From the Pesti Hírlap, February 1, 1944

Sunday, February 9, 2020

David Rutner's Land, Taken by the Government

My great-great-great-great grandfather was Dovid Rutner.  I knew that he owned some land as of 1865, per a cadastral map.  But it looks like he owned land in 1857 as well, but that land was taken by the government via a Hungarian version of eminent domain.
Budapesti Hírlap, January 28, 1857

Monday, February 3, 2020

Get a GRIP on Jewish Genealogy

This summer, I'm co-teaching a week-long intensive course on Jewish Genealogy, along with Emily Garber, Janette Silverman, and Marian Smith at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh.  Where else would you want to spend the week of July 19 but in beautiful Pittsburgh!  Registration opens this Wednesday, with limited seats.

So what would you learn in this course?

Sunday, February 2, 2020

My Patriotic 4th Great Grandfather (and an incredible site for Hungarian historical research)

My 4th great grandfather was David Rutner of Kolodne (then Darva). I've now learned that he was a patriotic Hungarian--via a really cool site.
Donations to the Patriotic Cause (Hungarian War of Independence), including David Rutner

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Movement Between Austro-Hungarian Towns

Last week, I gave examples of how some Russian Empire families moved quite frequently, calling into the question the idea of an “ancestral town” in many cases.  This isn’t only the case in the Russian Empire; I’ve been indexing many records from the Austro-Hungarian Empire (currently Subcarpathian Ukraine), and I see quite a bit of movement there as well.
Birthplaces of parents of Jewish children born in Beregszasz 1897-1898, zoomed in (Beregszasz in red)

Sunday, January 12, 2020

RootsTech2020 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 small part of the HUGE exhibit hall at RootsTech

Movement Between Russian Empire Towns

Many people assume that Jews in the Russian Empire lived in the same village for generations.  While sometimes that was the case, often it wasn't.  As an example, we can look at my own Zubkis family to see their movement, generation by generation.  And this is only what I've found so far!  (I'll be posting something similar for Hungarian Jews, so stay tuned!)
Places Within Modern-Day Ukraine Zubkis Descendants Lived

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Visualizing the Holocaust's Impact

My great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Avraham Rutner, had a lot of descendants.  I've used the incredibly useful and easy-to-use tool at to visualize his family, as I've reconstructed it so far.  And what is incredibly visible--and emotionally difficult to see--is how the Holocaust decimated this extended family.
Descendants of Avraham Rutner, per