Sunday, June 16, 2019

When Theories Are Wrong

Sometimes naming patterns can suggest a relationship, and you can theorize how someone is connected into your family.  But sometimes those assumptions are wrong.

More than two years ago, I wrote about Ukraine's Books of Sorrow, in which various districts of Ukraine attempted to list those killed during World War II.  (If you didn't read that post and you have relatives from what is now Ukraine, it's worth checking out the post.)  In that post, I mentioned that there was a Smil-Mozesh Ruttner (born August 14, 1928) from the town of Tyachiv who was listed as having been killed in the war.  Since my great-great grandfather Shmuel Moshe Rutner had died in nearby Kolodne in the previous month, I theorized that this Smil-Mozesh was the child of one of my great grandmother's brothers--possibly one who I hadn't yet discovered.


Sunday, May 26, 2019

Visualizing your Tree - With Expected Autosomal & X DNA Shared

I've mentioned the very cool Exploring Family Trees tool before, which allows you to upload a Gedcom file and quickly visualize your family tree.  I just uploaded a new Gedcom file and noticed that some useful features have been added, which can help you understand how much DNA you may have inherited from a particular ancestor.
Descendants of Avraham Rutner, my 5th great grandfather

Sunday, May 19, 2019

A Tulchin Boy, Who Befriended Presidents, Governors and More!

I've been trying to track Samuel Soupcoff and his family for years.  My grandfather had told me that the Pittsburgh Soupcoffs were related to his Pittsburgh Supkoffs, but he didn't know how.  The Soupcoffs had come to America earlier than my Supkoffs, and I was trying to find the Soupcoff town of origin.  But in most cases, they simply stated "Russia," although one of Samuel's brothers, in his name change application, said that he had been born in Bessarabia--and in other places he stated Germany.  And Samuel's father went back to visit family and said he had been in "Podolian," which would be the Podolia Guberniya where my Supkoff (then Zubkis) family was living.  But I wanted to narrow it down to a specific town to see its proximity to my family.

Because Samuel was famous, I thought that perhaps there would be more recorded about his origins.  But he either claimed he was born in Russia or Pennsylvania.  I looked in many (many) places.  Since he lived in Salt Lake City for much of his adult life, I spoke to local experts at the Family History Library, but they couldn't think of resources beyond those I'd already checked.
Nothing in the US gave his place of birth except for that one passport application, which was pretty much illegible.  It seemed like the Soupcoffs, despite being covered in news stories across America, didn't want their Russian Empire origins to be found.

Well, I found him.  And whatever was scrawled on that passport application was a lie.
Samuel Soupcoff Birth, 1884

Sunday, May 12, 2019

A Branch that Survived!

About five weeks ago, I sent snail mail letters to some of my family's ancestral towns in Ukraine.  I tailored each for the specific town but generally asked if they had any records or photos on my family (thanks to Google Translate).  I didn't know if I'd hear anything back, but if I didn't, I'd just be out postage.

One of those letters has already come through in a big way.
Some of the letters sent to Ukraine; the one to Kolodne is the bottom one

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Yom Hashoah 2019

Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) starts this evening.  For the past three years, I have listed the names of the family members I've found who were murdered in the Holocaust.  In 2018, I listed 259 relatives.  In 2019, I am listing 367.

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 100 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 367 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, April 28, 2019

Genealogy & the Power of Vaccines

I live in Baltimore, one of the places where measles (considered eradicated from the United States) has hit.  While the majority of the people I know are vaccinated and vaccinate their children, there are those who think that measles and the like are innocuous childhood diseases.  As a genealogist, I've seen how many children died before we had vaccinations.  And as an aunt to a niece who ended up in the ICU because of a vaccine-preventable disease, I've seen what the lack of herd immunity is doing.
Jewish Deaths, Volovets District, 1892

Monday, April 22, 2019

Supcoff/Soupcoff - DNA Proof

I've been trying for years to connect the Soupcoff family who ended up in Pittsburgh with my Supkoff family, who also ended up in Pittsburgh.  My grandfather had been told that they were some kind of cousins, but he didn't know how.  I've extensively researched both lines but never found that link, although it did appear that both lines had originally been Zubkis.  Recently, with records that Alex Krakovsky has been putting online, I found references to various Zubkis families.  In September, I wrote about a document I found enumerating a Zubko family in Gaysin in 1850, adjacent to the town of Kuna where my Zubkis family lived.  I was pretty sure that the Gershko who headed this household was the brother of my 4th great grandfather.
Zubka Family, 1850, Gaysin