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The theme for Week 52 (December 24-31) is Resolution. My major genealogy-related resolution has to do with organizing my files and research. I actually have a good idea of how I want to do this, essentially with hanging file folders color-coded for each of my great-grandparents.

I also need to do a better job of reviewing DNA matches.

And there are some parts of my family I really need to do more research on. For example, my mother’s maternal grandmother, Malka MAKOWER, had at least one sister, who I know about only because she’s listed as the closest relative on Malka’s passenger manifest when she arrived at Ellis Island. As another example, my father’s paternal grandmother, Tsivia BRUSKIN, had at least two children with her first husband and I’ve not really done much research into what became of them.

I think a good starting point would be making a list of questions I’d like to answer.

Note that this is the last prompt of the year. Apparently, there will be new prompts next year, but I don’t intend to be quite so completist about using them.
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The theme for Week 51 (December 17-23) is Nice. This was a tougher question than I expected. Oh, plenty of my relatives were nice enough, but nobody really stood out to me for exceptional niceness.

And then I thought of a story I know very little about. I have a picture that I think was taken some time in the 1920’s of my paternal grandmother, her sister, and another women. According to one of my cousins, the other woman is somebody who my great-grandparents, Schachne and Chaya FAINSTEIN, took in when her parents were killed in an accident. They had two sons and another daughter, too. (Possibly a third son, though I haven’t found any records of him after his birth.)

That sort of informal adoption seems above and beyond the call of duty as it were. So I’ll nominate them for the nice list.
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The theme for Week 50 (December 10-16) is Naughty.

This one is pretty easy, because I think of being naughty as something that is not quite right but not actually evil. And that seems to suit the circumstances of what my grandfather’s youngest brother, my great-uncle Willi, did.

The Morro Castle arrived at the port of New York on 26 December 1930. Most of the passengers had no particular problems at Ellis Island. There were a couple of issues relating to a 21-year-old tailor named Wolf CHLIBIOCKI, however. For one thing, he didn’t have a visa. For another, he had stowed away on the ship from Havana. The inspector at Ellis Island marked the record LPC, which means they thought he was likely to become a public charge. At least two of his half-brothers (Nathan and Max) and one sister (I’m not sure if Adele was a full or half sister) were already living in the U.S., but they denied his appeal and sent him back on the Oriente, departing on 31 December. I’m not sure whether or not any of them were even notified. I’m guessing not, because there is a penciled note about Nathan, but it has his surname incorrect (he went by LEBOFSKY, not LUBOWSKY) and the address just says "New York, NY," with no street address. (And, I am pretty sure Nathan was living in Brooklyn by then.)

There’s a little more info from the record. For one thing,t indicates that he’d been living in Havana for 2 ½ years. For another, it gives the address of his brother, Simon, i.e. my grandfather, as Calle Habana 207. That would be fun to look for, should I ever get to Havana.

He did eventually get to the U.S. legally (in 1937, via Canada and a border crossing at Buffalo). Far from becoming a public charge, he had a successful career in the fur business. I didn’t know him well, but I had the impression of him as a fun-loving and happy man.
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The theme for Week 49 (December 3-9) is Winter. The primary suggestion for this was to write about someone whose name reminds you of winter. There wasn’t anyone obvious there. So, let’s use a really contrived connection. Winter means snow. S-N-O-W is a 4-letter word. And K-A-T-Z is a 4-letter name. So let us tackle the KATZ family.

Golde KATZ, nee GOLDWASSER, was my maternal grandfather’s aunt, the sister of his mother. I had a recent breakthrough by discovering that her husband, who I knew of as Hyman, came to the U.S. with the name Chene. (I had assumed he was Chaim, since that is the most common name for men who became Hyman in the U.S.) He arrived in New York on the Neckar from Bremen in December 1913. I haven’t quite tracked down when Goldie and one or more of their children arrived, but it has to be before 1925 because she was listed on Hyman’s naturalization certificate.

They had several children. The oldest, Rose, was born in 1910 and, according to a conversation I had with another relative, ended up living "somewhere in the Midwest." The next was Samuel, born in 1910 and known (at least by my mother) as "Sam Katz, the dwarf Communist printer." Interestingly, he has to have come to the U.S. after his mother and sister, since he was still listed as living in Zambrowa, Poland on Hyman’s naturalization certificate. On the 1930 census, there’s a gap of 12 years before the next son (Jacob or Jack, who was born in 1926 in New York) so that suggests Golde likely came closer to 1925. There were 4 more sons to come, with the youngest born in 1937.

I once complained to my uncle Herb about the difficulty of researching a common name like Katz. He said, "Yes, there’s just too many of them – Siamese, calico, tabby, and so on." If only, say, Rose had been called Calico instead!
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The theme for Week 48 (November 26-December 2) is Next to Last.

I had two lists that I considered using for this. One of them is of the GOLDWASSER family from the Lomza District (Poland)Census of 1897. It includes my great-grandmother (my maternal grandfather’s mother), Pesia (Pearl) GOLDWASSER, who was 13 at the time, and her parents, Mortek Leybko (the son of Symcha) and Frejda (the daughter of Mortek, and, yes, that Yiddish version of Mordechai was a common first name), as well as several of her siblings. The next to last person on the list is a boy named Chonek, who was 4 years old, so born in 1893. Unfortunately, I have completely failed to turn up any other information about him.

The other list I looked at is a list of names my father wrote, for some unknown purpose. I know who several of the people on the list were and they come from both sides of his family. For example, they include his father, his paternal grandmother, his mother and her sister, etc. The next to last name on that list is Shifra, the daughter of Bliuma Golde. Unfortunately, that is another complete mystery to me. It’s a bit unusual in showing her as the daughter of her mother, versus her father. Also, the last name on the list is Shifra Raizel, the daughter of Shifra, which is presumably her daughter, and naming the daughter after her suggests she died in childbirth.

Ever more puzzles to solve.
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The theme for Week 47 (November 19-25) is Thankful. There are a lot of things I could say about thankfulness in the genealogy context. The generic one is that I am thankful for all of the people who have searched out archives to acquire records, translate them, and make them available to other people. It was the work of JRI-Poland that set me down the path of genealogical research many years ago, for example. And I’d know a lot less about my father’s side of the family without the heroic efforts of LitvakSIG and, especially, the Kaunas District Research Group.

More specifically, I am thankful to a mentor I was matched with from the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Washington. She helped me find the death record of my great-grandfather’s brother, which led me to learning about his descendants and corresponding with (and even meeting) cousins I wouldn’t otherwise have known about.

Finally, I am thankful for people who have given me the opportunity to help them fill in their blanks, too.
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The theme for Week 46 (November 12-18) is Random Fact. There are a lot of things I could have gone with for this, but here is one I think is particularly interesting and something I need to do more research on.

In 1922, there was a survey of apartments in Kaunas, Lithuania. This sort of thing is, of course, useful for things like finding addresses where people were living. So it shows that my great-grandmother’s brother, Abram Leiba BRUSKIN, bought his house at Siauiliu #21 on 16 May 1914 and that he lived there with his wife, Malka (nee IUTAL), and his three sons, Meyer, Moshe, and Rafael (who is shown as Fole).

But the more unusual piece of information has to do with another family. Namely, there’s a family with the surname BLOCH. The husband is Berke, wife is Berta, and they have two children, Moisei and Roza. What’s interesting is that Berke received his property at Benediktiniu Street #29 from Abram-Leiba and Malka BRUSKIN in 1913.

This doesn’t, however, tell me why the BRUSKINs gave the BLOCHs a piece of property. Actually, it doesn’t really say it was a gift. (I am reading a translation of excerpts of the survey, not the original, which doesn’t help.) I am assuming the BLOCHs were relatives of either Abram-Leiba or Malka, but I have no actual evidence of that. And it is a common enough surname to be a pain in the neck to research.

There are always more puzzle pieces.
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The theme for Week 45 (November 5-11) is Bearded.

I could pull out any number of photos of bearded men in my family, though there were fewer of those over the years as people assimilated. I never saw my father or either of my grandfathers with a beard, but my brother has experimented with one now and again.

But the better story related to beards is one of surname origins. My maternal grandmother’s maiden name was originally SCHWARTZBARD (spelled various ways). Polish Jews didn’t take surnames until the partition of Poland in the 1800’s. Surnames have a number of different origins, but one of the common ones is personal characteristics. SCHWARTZBARD is Yiddish for "black beard." When I had first told my mother that I’d found that was the family’s original surname, she said, "oh, no, we’re descended from pirates!"

I should also note that my branch (the descendants of Enoch Ber SCHWARTZBARD) mostly became SCHWARTZ in the U.S., though my great-grandfather was buried under his original surname, or, at least, the Anglified spelling of it, when he died in 1937. His wife, Malka, nee MAKOWER, was using SCHWARTZ exclusively by the time she died in 1952. However, some of the children of his brother, Chaim Wulf SCHWARTZBARD, who died in Israel in 1959, took the surname BART or BARD.

I have probably mentioned this before, but SCHWARTZBARD to SCHWARTZ Is pretty obvious. So how did Enoch Ber become Henry? Family speculation is that it was because he lived on Henry Street. Since some records show him as "Henoch," that may be a simpler explanation, but it interferes with our running joke that it’s a good thing that he didn’t live on Delancey. Though there would be a certain charm to Delancey Schwartz as a name. And it would be much easier to research!
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I am late on this because I was out of town, in a mixture of personal things (planned) and business travel (last minute).

Stay tuned for further catching up.

The theme for Week 44 (October 29 - November 4) is Frightening. I don’t really have anything that jumps out at me for this theme. I suppose the thing I find most frightening about genealogical research is how addictive it is. But, at the same time, I don’t have nearly as much time as I’d like to spend on it.
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The theme for Week 43 (October 22-28) is Cause of Death.

I’ve written about this before. My great-aunt, Mary LEHRMAN (nee Mariasha CHLEBATZKA in one of many variant spellings) was one of the 79 people killed in the wreck of the Congressional Limited near Philadelphia in 1943. Her tombstone actually says "died in accident" and my uncle had mentioned a train accident, which (combined with the date) enabled me to find several newspaper stories, including one with her name and address. My theory that she was returning to New York from visiting her daughter, Sima SLANSKY, who lived in the DC area, is, however, speculation.

I can't find it at the moment, but the father of somebody who married into the family was killed when a box fell on his head at a train station in Lithuania.

So I should probably not be quite so sanguine about trains as I am.
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The theme for Week 42 (October 15-21) is Conflict. There’s certainly been plenty of conflict between members of my family. For example, my grandfather cut off all contact with his sister, Laika, because she objected to his buying a fur coat for my grandmother and not buying one for her. Or at least that’s the version I heard from my mother.

Another example is that a cousin, Jack, was cut off from the family after he got drunk at Uncle Herb’s wedding. It’s not entirely clear how, but this resulted in my grandmother breaking her leg, which was pretty much the beginning of the end for her.

In other cases, I thought there was some conflict, but it turned out not to be the case. For example, my father had no contact with his uncle in Atlanta, so I assumed there had been a falling out. But what actually happened is that his uncle died just about when Dad came to the U.S.
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The theme for Week 41 (October 8-14) is Sports. My family was not really sporty. My parents watched sports on TV, but never played anything at more than a casual level.

However, some people do consider chess a sport and there I do have a notable family member.

Rivka CHWOLES, aka Maria LICHTENFELD, was the daughter of Moshe CHWOLES and Chava-Leah nee BRUSKIN. The latter’s sister was my great-grandmother, Civia BRUSKIN, so Rivka was my paternal grandfather’s first cousin. That made her my first cousin twice removed.

She was born in 1923 (or, according to another source, 1928) in Vilnius, Lithuania. She (and her sister Sonja) escaped the Vilna Ghetto in 1941 and assumed identities as Christian Poles, allowing them to survive the Shoah. It was during this time that she took the name Maria, by which she was known within the chess world. Her parents and three other sisters were murdered at Ponary.

She won the Lithuanian women’s chess championship in 1954 and 1955 and was the vice champion in 1951 and 1952. (I assume that means she placed second.)

She and her husband, Yosef LICHTENFELD, emigrated to Israel in late 1956 or early 1957, and ran a hair salon in Ashdod. She won the Israeli women’s chess championship in 1957 and continued to teach chess for much of her life.

She was also known as a painter, though less famous than her brother, Rafael CHWOLES. She died in January 2017.
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The theme for week 40 (October 1-7) is Ten. This is, obviously, a theme that could be interpreted a lot of ways. Of the suggestions I read, the one I decided to go with is to write about the person designated at 10 in the Ahnentafel genealogical numbering system, which is one of several standard approaches to organizing an ascending chart of ancestors. You can google the details if you like, but the relevant part is that this particular number refers to one’s paternal grandmother’s father. In my case, that would be Shachne FAINSTEIN. Here’s a copy of his internal passport card from 1920.


Shachne is actually a nickname, an affectionate diminutive for Shokher, which is the Yiddish form of the name Issachar. I mention that because searching for records requires using "Shokher" – even allowing for phonetic searches wouldn’t find him as Shachne. It is, in general, useful to understand nickname patterns. As another example, Shachne FAINSTEIN’s brother was called Itsko, which is a nickname for Yitzchak (Isaac).

Anyway, Shachne FAINSTEIN was born in Josvainiai, Lithuania somewhere between 1876 and 1882, depending on which records you believe. His parents where Shimkha FAINSTEIN and Esther Malka, nee SALOMON. He had two siblings – Itsko (who I just mentioned) and Rachel, who married a man named David VIATRAK.

He moved to Kaunas somewhere before 1906, when he married Khaia Tsipa, nee KHONKEL.Their children were Dvoira Etel (my grandmother, born 14 February 1907), David Mishel (born 5 August 1910), Nachum (born 1916 in Slutsk, now Belarus), Sora Beila (born in 1912 or 1918), and Noson Wulf (known as Velvel, who was possibly born in 1923). There is some confusion because there is also a death record for a daughter named Michle, who died 25 September 1930 at the age of 18. I had been assuming that was a mistake for David Mishel, but there are some documents in the internal passport files which indicate that there was a daughter, Michle, and say nothing about a son named David. (The birth record is definitely for a son, as it has information on his bris.)

A 1941 voter’s list gives his address as Jonavos 48. That street has been torn down and everything replaced, so I was not able to see that building when I was in Kaunas in August. According to my father, he also had a summer house across the river in Slobodka (now Villiampole). He was a brick contractor. Apparently, he started out as a builder / bricklayer and then went into the contracting side of the construction business. I saw a lot of red brick buildings during my trip, so I guess it was a good business.

He was killed on 28 October 1941. The only one of his children who survived was Nachum, who settled in Israel after the war.
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The theme for week 39 (September 24-30) is On the Farm.

There’s not really much farming in my family history. My ancestors were mostly craftspeople – tailors, cobblers, and the like.

But Leib EDIDIE, who was apparently the uncle of my great-great-great-grandfather, Izrael Itsik FAINSTEIN, is shown as wanting to be a farmer on state land in an 1847 census list of Kaunas district farmers. And his father, Movsha, was a market gardener, which one could count as a small-scale vegetable farmer.

However, Leib ended up becoming first an innkeeper and then a distiller. And Izrael Itsik became a tailor. There were probably some cucumbers in backyards, but that’s about it for farming.
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The theme for week 38 (September 17-23) is Unusual Source. Newspapers aren’t unusual per se, but one normally looks for newspaper stories about people in the locations where they lived. I’ve got two examples where I’ve found newspaper stories about relatives in unexpected places.

My third cousin once removed, Abraham Krengel, came to the U.S. in 1947 at the age of 8. HIAS (the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) settled the family in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. I know that at least some of them (including him) were later in New York. But I found a newspaper article, showing a picture of him lighting Chanukah candles a year or two later – in a newspaper from Hillsborough, Ohio.

Somewhat less surprising was that the best source I found for the list of people killed in the crash of the Congressional Limited in 1943, which included my great-aunt, Mary Lehrman (originally Mariasha Chlebatzka), was a Chicago newspaper, even though the crash was in Pennsylvania. It’s not surprising because it was a huge story, with 79 people killed, and there were stories in a lot of major newspapers. What is, perhaps, surprising, however, is that the Washington and New York papers didn’t have as complete a list.
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The theme for week 37 (September 10-16) is Closest to Your Birthday.

I’m not really sure whose birthday is/was closest to mine. My best guess is my father. My birthday is September 4th. My father’s birthday was officially September 15, 1929, but he always said it was actually September 1, 1930. At some point during the Shoah (probably a selection at Dachau), he lied about his age and lied about the date to make it harder to disprove via whatever records might still exist.

He always celebrated both dates.

Also, I should do a better job of documenting information so I don’t struggle to answer questions like this one.
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The theme for Week 36 (September 3-9) was Work.

My maternal grandfather, Simon Lubowsky, owned a jewelry store in the Bronx. He was mostly a watchmaker, though on his passenger manifest when he came to the U.S. he described himself as a silversmith. I think a lot of the walk-in business was related to watch repairs, but I’m not really sure. Back in those days of mechanical watches, they needed to be cleaned regularly and we believe that the chemicals he used in cleaning them were what caused the leukemia he died of.

He also sold both fine and costume jewelry and he always had displays of personalized jewelry In the window. When my mother was growing up, all of the personalized jewelry always had her name. As I was his first granddaughter, I got pride of place for about 8 years. I have never completely forgiven my cousin, Ellen, for sharing the spotlight with me after that.

I guess he did well, but owning your own business is a huge constraint on your time. He had enough flexibility that he could close the store and take us to the Bronx Zoo, but it was hard for him to take vacations. What finally got him to retire, however, was a couple of robberies.
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The theme for Week 35 (August 27-Sept. 2) was Back to School.

I have believed for a long time that my father, a proud alumnus of City College of New York (or, as it was generally referred to in our house, the Harvard of the Proletariat) was the first member of my family to graduate from university. Dad got a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering in 1961.

During my recent trip, I discovered that Meir Bruskin, my great-grandmother’s nephew (i.e. my first cousin twice removed), had at least been a student at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania in the mid 1920’s. There is more research I need to do there, but he may have beat Dad out in the education sweepstakes.
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The theme for Week 34 (August 20-26): was Non-Population.

Non-population census records refer to information other than population statistics. There were various social statistics schedules (e.g. mortality), as well as agriculture and manufacturing censuses along with the census records for years from 1850-1880 in the U.S. There were also manufacturing schedules for 1820.

As far as I know, none of my family was in the U.S. during those years, so those don’t do me any good. There was a 1935 Census of Business, which might have some information. Unfortunately, these do not appear to be available anywhere on-line. (Please tell me if I am wrong about that.) So this is not really a prompt that I have much to say about, at least until I have a lot of free time to spend at the National Archives.
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The theme for Week 33 (August 13-19) is Family Legend.

According to my mother, my great-great-grandfather, Berel MAKOWER lived until the age of 100, when he was shot by Hitler himself, who was offended at the idea of a 100-year-old Jew. I’ve never actually believed this story, since there is pretty much no evidence that Hitler personally killed anyone. I got my great-grandparents’ marriage record (from Brok, Poland in 1896) translated and it lists my great-grandmother as Malka Ryfka MAKOWER, the daughter of the deceased Berel and still alive mother Bina Matlya MOSHKOVNA.

Obviously, if he was already dead in 1896, he wasn’t killed by Hitler.

The other suggestive thing about this has to do with Bina Matlya, who another family legend (also promulgated by my mother) says was a foundling, literally left in a basket on a doorstep. But the form of her name given here is a patronymic, indicating her father’s name was Moshe. As it happens, I’ve also gotten her death certificate (from Pultusk, Poland in 1909) and it identifies her as the widow of Berko MAKOWER (which is the same as Berel – just different diminutive endings for the name, Ber) and the daughter of Moszko (a form of Moshe) and Nikha MAGNUSHEWER. Of course, it is entirely possible that she was adopted and used the names of her adoptive parents. I’m not sure if there was any formal adoption process in Poland circa 1845, so who knows?


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