Sunday, December 27, 2020

Multi-Source Research - Connecting Chana Lefand

People often want to know which genealogy company's database they should subscribe to in order to best research their family.  There's no one right answer; while some records are common across multiple platforms, some are only on one.  And sometimes the answers can be scattered across different platforms.  Here's a puzzle I solved this long weekend, and the resources used.

Women often disappear into the genealogical ether upon their marriage.  Name changes wreak havoc on building back families.  But sometimes records can help reconnect them and their descendants to their families.  And there are some great online resources that might be able to help with that.  No one resource is necessarily the best--sometimes you get a tip-off from one but need to use lots of different sites to find all of the pieces.

Chana Lefand, 1850 Revision List, Nezhin

I knew from a not-online 1850 revision list that my 5th great uncle Itzko Lefand had a daughter Chana, who was 15 in the 1850 Revision List.  But she doesn't appear in any of the Nezhin marriage records (which begin in 1854).  So either she never married (but I have no death record under her maiden name), married before 1854 or married somewhere other than Nezhin.  Or her marriage was never recorded.  And Nezhin birth records, like most Jewish birth records in the Russian Empire, do not give mothers' maiden names.  So Chana was essentially just hanging out there on my tree, and I figured I'd likely never discover what happened to her.

For the past few days, I've been tracking Lefand descendants who came to America, some relatively early (and I'm sure I'll be writing about that in upcoming posts).  One resource I used was the U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 located on Ancestry.  This by no means covers everyone who's had a social security number, but it does cover a fair number--including many records with parents' names.  I did a search for people born in Russian with mother's maiden name Lefand.  Most of those who showed up were already on my tree, but there was an intriguing result:

Sam Homelsky Social Security Claim

Who was this Sam Homelsky?  His mother was Anna Lefand.  And he was from "Nezin, Soviet Union," so he was from my Lefands' town.  Anna was a common Americanization of Chana.  Could this be the link?

I found Sam and his family in many American records, but none gave additional information on his mother.  So I located his ship manifest.

Schmerko Homelsky Ship Manifest

Sam emigrated as Schmerko Homelsky in 1904.  He was coming to join his brother Jakob who lived on Henry Street in New York.  I found Jacob Homelsky and his family on Henry Street and followed them as they moved around New York City.  But by 1920, they seemed to disappear.

A search using just given names turned up a matching family; Jacob and family had Americanized their surname to Homes!  With that piece of knowledge, I found Jacob's indexed death record on FamilySearch (and will get the original when Family History Centers open once again).

Jacob Homes Death, New York City, 1931

Aha!  Jacob's mother is "Hannah Lifland."  Could she be my missing Chana?  But why would Jacob's father be Simon, while Sam's father was listed as Israel?  My first thought was that there was a double name at play, and that was confirmed by a photo of Jacob's gravestone from JewishData:

Jacob & Sarah Homes' Grave;

Jacob's father was Simcha Yitzchok.  So one brother Americanized the Simcha and the other his middle name Yitzchok--for a man who likely never left the Russian Empire.

But this still doesn't tell me how exactly the Homelsky/Homes brothers' mother connects into my Lefand family.  So I started going through Nezhin family lists which are available as unindexed images on FamilySearch.  And there they were.

Homelsky/Gomelsky Family; Nezhin 1882 Family List

In 1882, the Homelsky family was living in the village of Drozdovka outside of Nezhin.  The head of household was, sure enough, Simcha Yitzchak.  And his wife was.....  Chana daughter of Yitzchak.  There's my Chana!  Among their enumerated children was 10-year-old Shmerka, who later became Sam Homelsky.  And more evidence--two households before in the enumeration was Chana Lefand's brother Mordechai.  And three households before were her father and grandmother.

So although I've not found anything in any European record that connects Chana Lefand to Chana Homelsky, online American records (from several sites) helped to figure out what happened to Chana after that 1850 census.

Now I need to figure out what happened to her sister (and no, she doesn't appear nearby in that 1882 family list; I looked!).

One point I want to make here is that I used multiple different resources just to find this connection.  The original nugget came from Ancestry.  But I needed to use FamilySearch indexed records, JewishData, and unindexed FamilySearch records to complete the puzzle.  No one resource is "best," it's just a matter of which resource(s) have the pieces of data you need.

Now to do some Homelsky tracing!

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  1. FYI-Jacob Homelsky's marriage in 1881(Nezin Marriages 1881,Nr 3).

    1. Thanks! I’ve actually since found that and births of the kids. I love the Nezhin records!

    2. I don't read Russian well, so my research is pretty slow, but the records seem pretty complete. I very much appreciate your Homelsky-Lefand posting, since I was trying to trace the Homelskys when I found it. Thank you.