Sunday, May 23, 2021

Berel Tolchinsky's Fate

My great-great grandfather had a half-brother Berel/Berko.  I have his birth record, marriage record, and birth records for four of his children (and the death of one in 1915), plusa few census records (with the latest of those from 1909) all in Nezhin or nearby Losinovka in Chernigov Guberniya, Russian Empire (now Ukraine).  But after that 1915 death record, there was no sign of what happened to Berel.

Birth Record of Ber Tolchinsky, 1873

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Make Your Voice Heard - Make Genealogy Records More Accessible!

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is asking for comments about their services and programs.  This doesn't happen often, so take advantage of this call for comments to let them know what you think!  USCIS administers a Genealogy Program and also holds records that should be transferred to NARA--which would make them more accessible and less expensive for genealogists.  So what can you do to help?

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Hers Fuchs. And His Brother Hers Fuchs. Huh?

My great-great grandmother had a brother named Eizik Leib Fuchs.  Eizik Leib married Gittel Buchbinder, and they had a bunch of kids.  Two of those kids were named Hers (pronounced Hersh) Fuchs, so I recorded the older Hers' death as "before 1887," as that was when Hers #2 was born.  So far no mystery, right?

Birth of Hers Fuchs #1; Felso Neresnicze, Hungary (now Novoslytsya, Ukraine); December 25, 1878

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Yom Hashoah 2021

Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) starts this evening.  For the past five years, I have listed the names of the family members I've found who were murdered in the Holocaust.  In 2020, I listed 454 relatives.  In 2021, I am listing 515.

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 over 60 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 515of 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

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Neverless, she persisted (Don't Mess with Chava Lefand, Part 3)

My 5th great grandmother, Chava Lefand, did not take no for an answer.  Her petitions to dismiss her sons from being conscripted into the Russian army went to the highest of levels--Saint Petersburg, capital of the Russian Empire.  I got the first batch of documents from Saint Petersburg (but am waiting on her Supreme Court-equivalent case).  And in here is a petition written by Chava that lays out the situation of each member of the extended Lefand family.  And why Chava thinks some of them should have been recruited instead of her son (and my 4th great grandfather) Berko/Ber.

Below is her incredible testimony.  Following this is a series of investigations and findings into her situation, covering November 12, 1854 through December 7, 1859 that I'll cover in a future post.

These pages center around Chava's main petition.  Rather than summarizing, I'll let her tell her incredible tale (and a genealogist's dream) in her own (translated) words, along with some of my own comments.

A page of Chava Lefand's Petition

Sunday, March 21, 2021

My 4th Great Grandfather's Russian Army Draft Date

Last week, I showed how to potentially find reference to your own family's cases within the Russian Empire that could be stored in the Russian State Historical Archive in Saint Petersburg.  I just got the actual documents from some cases relating to my family (yes, I yelped with joy when I saw the first batch had arrived).  I'll have to get everything translated, but my skimming the Russian showed many references to my 5th great grandmother Chava Lefand (who never took no for answer) and many other Lefand family members.  One item included in the file was a copy of the family's revision list as of 1851.  I already have one from 1850 from another similar file; there are no additional names here, but there are some comments added after 1851 that directly relate to my 4th great grandfather and one of his brothers.

Lefand Family as of 1851--with great comments on the right side

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Russian Empire Records in Saint Petersburg

The Russian Empire was huge.  It not only included modern-day Russia, but also most of modern-day Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, and more.  Its capital was Saint Petersburg--and that city still houses many records relating to many of the enormous number of individuals who lived in such a large area.

The Russian State Historical Archives (RGIA) has indexed a subset of its holdings, to the point that you can search for specific surnames to see if your family had any dealings at the federal level, at least within those records that are searchable so far.  I wouldn't have thought that my family would have had any such dealings, but as I wrote last week, I learned that my 5th great grandmother didn't take no for an answer and brought her concerns to the highest level.  So while I expected (and found) reference to her case, I was pleasantly surprised to find a case relating to yet another relative as well.

Case relating to my 5th great grandmother

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Supreme Court, Russian Empire Style (Don't Mess with Chava Lefand, Part 2)

In January, I wrote about my 5th great grandmother, Chava Lefand, and the lengths to which she tried to keep her sons from being conscripted into the Russian Empire's military.  (You can see that here.)  Well, this past week I got another file related to Chava, and it shows once again that she was a very persistent woman, bringing her concerns to the highest levels of government.

Chava Lefand generated lots of paperwork!

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Finding Missing Census Records

Sometimes you just can't find someone in the US census, even if you're sure they're there.  Sometimes they were just missed (I believe this to be the case for my 1-year-old grandfather and his parents in 1920).  But sometimes there's a transcription or other issue, and they're there.  Here's how I was able to locate a relative who I knew HAD to have been recorded in the 1940 census, but whom I just couldn't find.

Samuel Isadore LaFond (yes, they used that spelling) was my third cousin three times removed.  He was born in Detroit to Louis and Bessie LaFond and was their only child for whom I have found a record.  Bessie died when Sam was very young.

I have Louis and Sam living in Detroit in the 1930 census.  I have Sam registering for the draft in 1942, also in Detroit.  But I simply could not find the two of them in the 1940 census, even using all sorts of wildcards to try to find LaFonds.

Samuel Isadore LaFond WWII Draft Registration, 1942;

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Prison, Conversion and Reprimanded Rabbis!

My third great grandfather had a brother named Meir Leib Lefand.  I have Meir Leib's 1862 birth record and his 1883 marriage record.  But then he disappeared from records.  I couldn't find birth records for any children, I didn't see any death records for Meir Leib or his wife, and they didn't seem to have emigrated.  So what happened to them?

Marriage of Meir Leib & Sheina Freida Lefand; Nezhin, Russian Empire; July 5, 1883

Sunday, January 24, 2021

"I humbly ask you not to recruit my own sons, but take the sons of my husband's brother"

I've mentioned how I got various cases relating to my family from the Chernigov Archives, thanks to J-Roots tipping me off to their existence.  I just finished getting the largest case (nearly 100 pages) translated, and it reveals a tale of betrayal, ancestors being arrested, relatives illegally traveling to far-away districts to hide from the draft, and an ancestor of mine who was set on protecting her remaining children, whatever it took.

Life for Jews in the Russian Empire under Czar Nicholas I was very difficult.  There were many difficult edicts that impacted where they could live, what professions they could enter, and how much they were taxed.  One of the most hated edicts was the mandatory military service that took Jewish boys from their families, with the ultimate intent of converting them to Christianity.  Jewish boys were taken as young as aged 12 (and sometimes younger, illegally) and conscripted to military institutions until the age of 18, at which they were mandated to enter the regular army for a 25-year term--which started at that point, meaning that if they survived, they were serving until the age of 43.  These boys were called Cantonists, after those military institutions.  Each Jewish community had a quota to meet, and everyone knew that once a boy was taken, he'd likely never be seen by his family again.  There are lots of stories of what families would do to try to protect their sons.  (You can read more about this era here.) In a document I've recently had translated, I've learned part of my own family's story.

And I've learned that you should not mess with my 5th great grandmother.

One page of correspondence

Sunday, January 17, 2021

My 5th Great Grandfather's Signature - And How I Found It

Finding names and dates are great and are the foundation of genealogical research.  But I love finding documents that tell the stories and show that my family actually interacted with those documents.  So how excited do you think I was to find my 5th great grandfather's signature?

Meir Lefand's Signature

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Following the Clues to A Grammy Winner and a New Year's Rockin' Eve 2020/2021 Performer

I started writing this just this past Thursday, based on a trail I latched onto the previous day.  When I started, I expected to write about a huge mystery behind how a branch of my solidly Russian Empire family ended up in Hungary.  Just a few days later, I've likely figured out why they emigrated to Budapest--and I've discovered that I'm distant cousins with a Grammy Award-winning cellist and a performer who was on New Year's Rocking Eve (but of course I only found that connection the next morning when it was too late to watch it, but I did watch on YouTube).  I have not discovered why that musical talent did not make it into my DNA.

This is another tale of why you need to use multiple sources to fully flesh out a family.  Keep track of how many different resources I use in figuring out these connections.

A Marriage Record With A Mistake - Keep Reading to Find Out More!