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!

Last Wednesday, I did a periodic search of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum's Holocaust Survivors and Victims Database.  I've been concentrating on my Lefand family recently, so I did some searches of variations of that name, including "Lefant."  One result was that of a clearly Hungarian woman, "Sandorne Starker" (I've indexed enough Hungarian records to know that appending 'ne' to the end of a given name means that this is for Sandor Starker's wife.)  I almost completely disregarded that entry--and very well may have disregarded it in the past--except that the name of her town of birth was listed.

Sandorne Stalker Results inthe USHMM's Database

Mrs. Starker's birthplace is Nyezsin.  My Lefands are from Nezhin.  And I found her entry by searching for "Lefant."  Now that's interesting!

The detailed entry tells that that Margit Chaikes Starker was born in Nyezsin about 1895.  Her mother was given as "Roza Lefant"; no father's name is given in this entry.  And Margit had registered as a Holocaust survivor in Budapest in 1946, generating this entry.

My initial assumption was that Margit had survived the war and along the way had met a Hungarian man who was a fellow survivor, and they'd married shortly after the war.  This was a common story.  I knew that FamilySearch has digitized civil records for the Budapest area, and I was hoping to find a 1945 or 1946 marriage record for the Starkers.  However, while the record images are on FamilySearch, not all of these records are indexed, and I got no results.  So I turned to MACSE, which has indexed a different subset of those same images, and there they were.

Marriage of Schlem Starker and Mnucha Chajkin; Budapest; 1915

Mnucha Chaikin married Schlem Starker in 1915, not after WWII.  So who is Mnucha, how does she fit into my Lefant family, and how on earth did she end up in Budapest in 1915?

Mnucha's parents are given as Jankel Chajkin and Reisel Lefant.  Interestingly Mnucha's name is "Mnucha Iczkowa" which (for a Russian Jew) would imply her father was Iczko, not Jankel. And I have no Mnucha Lefands in my tree.

Nezhin births are surprisingly complete and available (unindexed) on Familysearch.  Of course 1895 is one of the few years where birth records are not available for the Nezhin Jewish community, so it would make sense that she wasn't yet on my tree.  And I wasn't sure if I'd be able to connect her.

But searching on MACSE found that Mnucha had a brother who married in Budapest as well.  (It also revealed the birth record of a Starker son, Tibor.)

Marriage of Mozes Chajken and Feige Machle "Frida" Spiro; Budapest; 1919

Mozes Chajkin from Nyezsin married in Budapest in 1919.  His parents are given as Jakob Chajken and Rozalia Leffant.  (And a witness is Salamon Starker.)  This is Mnucha/Margit's brother!

We now know that their mother was Roza/Rozalia.  There were several candidates on my tree named Raiza and Rasia and other similar names.  It could also be a Rochel or Rivka, with Roza/Rozalia being a Hungarianization of that name.

While Mnucha/Margit's birth record wouldn't be available, Nezhin's 1882 births are digitized on FamilySearch.  Chaiken is a very common name in the Nezhin area, but there was only one birth record from 1882 that looked reasonable (with the exception of the exact birthdate, not an unusual phenomenon at all, and the father's name).

Birth of Moshe Chaiken; Nezhin, Chernigov, Russian Empire; 1882

Moshe Chaiken was born in Nezhin on Janaury 25, 1882.  His mother is given as Feiga Reiza daughter of Ber, and his father was Yitzchak son of Nachum Chaiken.

Wow!  I had Feiga Reiza on my tree; she's my second cousin five times removed.  And I had her marriage record as well--but I'd recorded her husband as Nachum son of Yitzchak Chaiken.  I'd looked for any kids' births but saw no births registered to a Nachum Chaiken over a 20-year period after her marriage.  So I took a closer look at her marriage record.

Marriage of Feiga Reiza Lefand to Mr. Chaiken; Nezhin; 1877

The Hebrew part of the entry does say that the groom was Nachum son of Yitzchak.  But the Russian part gives the groom's name as Itzko (the Russian version of the Hebrew Yitzchak) son of Nachum.  So the Hebrew version has a mistake and had flipped the groom's name with that of his father!

However, this still doesn't demonstrate why both Mozes and Mnucha gave their father's name as Jankel (although Mnucha did have that "Iczkowa" patronymic).  But as I went through birth records finding siblings for Mozes and Mnucha (and there were many), some of them demonstrated what was happening here.

Birth of Yisrael Noach Chaiken; Nezhin; 1884.  Father Yaakov-Yitzchak Chaiken

The birth records of some of those siblings, such as that of their brother Yisrael Noach, above, give the father as Yaakov-Yitzchak/Yankel-Itzko (others call him Yakir).  So that explains both the Jakob/Jankel and the Iczkowa!

So I now know exactly how Mnucha and Mozes fit into my Lefand family.  But how did they end up in Budapest?

Distance between Nezhin & Budapest

Nezhin and Budapest are 628 miles apart as the crow files.  But by road/train they are much further apart, and it would have been a long journey in the early 1900s.  They were in different empires (Russian Empire to Austro-Hungarian Empire).  What was the story here?

I first looked for Chaiken/Chajkins (with various spellings) on GenealogyIndexer.  I found multiple city directories for Mozes, but what was really interesting was his entry in the 1931 Hungary Industry Almanac.

Magyar Ipar almanachja 1929-1932 A magyar ipar almanachja (Budapest, 1931)II. rész [Névjegyzék]

Mózes Chaiken master hat maker. Paulay Ede street 1 [Budapest]. Phone: 124-71. Born in 1882 in Nyezsin, completed his training in the same town in 1899. Practiced with masters in Kiew and Budapest. In 1908 established his company in partnership, since 1912 works independently. Produces hats for student, for the youth movement »Levente«, fur and textile hats. He works with 4 assistants and delivers for retailers. His wife is Frida Spiró. (Thank you to Gyorgy Sajo for the translation!)
It looks like Mozes was quite the hat maker!  Part of his training was in Budapest, and he must have decided to remain there.  His sister came to join him, possibly to help him in his house, as he didn't marry until 1919, 11 years into starting an initial store partnership.  But then Mnucha went and got married herself in 1912.  (I have found no evidence that any other family members joined them.)

Looking on Arcanum Digitheca brings up multiple mentions of Mozes' business until WWII; I've not yet found any indication of his fate in the Holocaust.  (I did find a page of testimony for Miklos Haiken, son of Mor, who was born in Budapest.  It's possible that Mor Haiken is Mozes Chaiken, but I haven't found a definite connection.  And I found reference to a Mor Chajken being married to Adrien, not Frida as was Mozes.)

Wanna Buy A Hat?  1928

I then turned back to Mnucha/Margit and Schulem/Sandor Starker.  I first used the most underrated free genealogy tool out there--Google!  And I found an obituary for a Janos Starker that noted that he was "preceeded in death by his parents, Sandor and Margit Starker and his older brothers Tibor and Ede, who were killed in the war."

Janos Starker has quite the musical pedigree.  He was a child prodigy who was a gifted cellist performer and instructor who won a Grammy Award for Best recording by a Soloist without Accompaniment.  Whatever DNA he and I shared, it did not contain the musical gift component!

I was able to confirm that both Tibor (whose birth record I'd found) and Ede were murdered in the Bor Labor Camp in Bor, Yugoslavia (now Serbia), thanks to documentation on Yad Vashem.  Articles on the family just stated that the two never returned and were assumed dead.

Yad Vashem; List of Jews from Hungary who perished in Bor camp, 09-10/1944

Janos' obituary named his children and grandchildren. I looked for a grandchild on Facebook (with a name like "JP," I wasn't sure if it was a grandson or granddaughter).  And I was surprised to get a ton of results.

It turns out JP Saxe inherited his grandfather's musical ability--and he'd performed at New Year's Rocking Eve the previous evening.  While I'd never heard of him, some of my nieces now think genealogy is cool since they are related to JP Saxe.  I think that's less cool because it's less likely he'll respond to my reaching out; I prefer less famous relatives who are more likely to respond to me. (Added just before posting: I got in touch with Janos' daughter and have shared with her what I've been finding.)

Ancestry revealed that Mnucha/Margit and Sandor came to America in 1957 and later naturalized; she died in Illinois in 1978.

Lesson here is the same as what I posted last week.  There's no one place that will have all of your answers.  For this line, I used the USHMM database, FamilySearch unindexed records, MACSE, Genealogy Indexer, Arcanum Digitheca, Google, Ancestry and more.

Now back to Lefand hunting!  Gotta get them all!

You can like my page on Facebook:

or on Twitter.


  1. Unbelievable work here! As often is the case, you inspire me, and give me more confidence in tracks I take off in in my searches, at times. Thanks. Maybe, you should try some music lessons; who knows. . .

    1. Thanks so much!

      As for the lessons, I took piano lessons for 10 years. I can slowly read music, and if I practice for hours can make a piece sound decent. But I have little natural musical talent--unfortunately!