Monday, September 15, 2014

52 Ancestors #2 Week 37 Where in the world is Uncle Moritz?

As a child how everyone was related was not of interest to me. They were family. We saw them on holidays and family events. Why we were all at the same events was not a question I asked. By the time our family history bug bit it was too late to ask questions. No grandparents. No parents. Only one aunt was still living. Even cousins older than I were gone.  There were not even many papers remaining that would be of help answering the questions that began to arise.  This is the story of my really rude awakening and awareness of what I was missing.

Here is what I knew.  My mother, Sally Segall Greenfield, had a first cousin, Ruth Leibovitz, who was one of her closest friends. I knew Ruth, I knew her sister, Lillian, and I knew Ruth's mother, Aunt Jennie.  Through all my growing up years I never wondered where Uncle Somebody was! Perceptive kid, eh?  Now I am starting to create a family tree and some empty spots began to appear. Why was Aunt Jennie's name Leibovitz? Where did that come from? Well, some searching and my maternal grandmother's maiden name was -- Leibovitz (Leibovici).  Granma must have had a brother.

And to further prove that I had the right Moritz-Morris my grandfather's signature was right there on Moritz' Naturalization card. And in addition, there was even a marriage license to be found.  So it would seem all the answers had been found. Morris and Jennie were married. They had two daughters, one was Ruth, my mother's close friend/cousin, and Lillian. But no, we were
not yet through with the mystery of Moritz. In the 1930 census Aunt Jennie and her girls are living with the Weiss family, Jennie's parents, and Jennie is listed as a widow.  BUT when and how did Moritz die?

Now you know the unsolved mystery.  I have searched all the places I have thought of to look. I have sent messages through JewishGen to see if he was known elsewhere. Did he die? Did he disappear and start a new life? Was he in an accident that I have not found listed anywhere?  It seems he will remain a mystery forever.  But I learned an important lesson.

Since this search I have been sending a message to all of my nieces, nephews, grandchildren and the children of friends. Here is the message.  ASK QUESTIONS!  Ask you grandparents to write names on the back of old pictures. Let your grandparents and parents tell you their stories and, if you can, record those stories. You will never be sorry to have those artifacts; you will only be sorry if you don't.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

52 Ancestors #1 Week36 Solving One Mystery

Early posts have already shown how Genealogy searches have changed my early feelings and frustrations with retirement. No Story Too Small has created a challenge I cannot resist. Each week participants write a SMALL story about one ancestor and share it in the 52 Week Challenge.

Several of my father's cousins were at my 1953 wedding. They had come from Philadelphia and I didn't know my dad had cousins in Philly. I had never met them before and had no idea how they were related to my father. And, to tell the truth, at that moment, I really didn't care. Years went by. Although it was children, a new marriage, the death of many family members (including both parents and all grandparents) and, suddenly, I did care who they were and how they were related. And this happened because family history and genealogy entered my life..... late but you have to start when you start. I began with what I knew: the family surname, the city where they had settled and, somehow, they were related through my father's family.  It took some census searching, help from folks on the JewishGen website who read my requests and I was able to find the Baraff family I was looking for. But even though I recognized the names and knew I had the right people, there was no apparent name that made clear how we were related.  It took a while to find the link. Through the census I was able to find Aron Baraff, his wife Jennie (Jenne), and the names of their five children. I was even able to discover that the husband of one of maternal great aunts had lived with the family for a short time.  Then, after working on other family for awhile, I had an AHA moment.  I went back and looked for birth information on each of the five children.  On my first four searches the mother's name was Jennie Baraff. But the fifth was the charm. For that child the mother's name was entered as Jene Talmage Baraff.  My pgmother's maiden name was Talmage. My dad, his next older sister and his mother came from Romania when he was fifteen. An older sister and my grandmother's brother, Isaac, had come earlier. At no time in my life had I, or my brothers, ever heard my dad, the aunts or our grandmother mention this sister. It was a wonderful surprise but it still has a way to go. I am still searching for her manifest and naturalization papers. Perhaps there are my surprises ahead.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Now It's Time ---- On to Krakow

We left Warsaw afater breakfast on our way to Krakow. It was an interesting to see how highways can be handled differently in different countrys. Here in Illinois as you drive along there are exit turn offs for major intersections. It was odd to see stop lights and stop signs for the same kinds of intersections. We saw mostly countryside as we drove along; no large towns visible along the highway. Because the rules say drivers must have breaks along the way that last at least 20-30 minutes we did stop once before our lunch stop. It was a rather unusual stop, I would think, in the Polish countryside but it did provide a smile.

Now who would have expected a windmill at this point in our drive! I thought we had taken a wrong turn while I napped and ended up in the Netherlands. No, all was well and we were still in Poland! On we went after this 'pit stop', had lunch and in the early afternoon we arrived at an important, and difficult, stop on our trip. We arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau, sometimes referred to as Auschwitz1- and Auschwitz2. Auschwitz is the German word for Oswiecim, the Polish town where it is located.  

We entered the camp through through the sign, now famous world wide, that says ARBEIT MACH FREI, work makes free. We entered behind a group of young Israelis. I later learned that most young Israelis make this trip before entering their service years. 

 We had an excellent guide and learned much about the horrors that happened at that place.  Auschwitz had been a Polish police training site and that was why so many of the original building were brick and well built. Newer buildings were wood and unheated. Four to six people slept on each of the slabs and

sanitary conditions were very poor. Our guide said that the sanitary conditions were so poor that the guards did not want to enter the buildings, which were separate from the bunk areas, so that provided the only space where prisoners could freely communicate with each other. Birkenau was built a short way from Auschwitz, taking over another small town. This camp became much larger and had not only gas chambers but crematoriums as well. Needless to say this visit left us all with strong emotional feelings and for some memories of their own families and the Holocaust.  There is much more about this and other camps where the Nazis tortured and killed many Jews, Romas, citizens from many nations who did not share their views. One of those sites is Auschwitz Concentration and Extermination Camp if you would want more information. 

It was a thoughtful and tired group that climbed in the bus ready for our ride to Krakow. We were looking forward to seeing the old city and visiting a different kind of museum, a salt mine that is also an art museum -- of sorts.  Part II of Krakow comes next.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Genealogy Interlude On My Way to Krakow

I LOVE technology. I guess anyone that has been reading along with me knows that!! My newest genealogy experience was to go to a #GenChat. If you are a Twitter user you will recognize the hashtag that is needed for Twitter Communication. To simplify, let me just say that if you click on the #GenChat link above, it will not be long before you will be chatting away with folks with a common interest.  You probably have already noticed the badge of the left that gives a shout-out to the chat.

Jen Baldwin, our virtual (and real) leader, does a great job of keeping it all moving along. She not only sets up the topics so they are known ahead of time but also plans questions to keep the topic going so we all learn something new from each other.  Although I am a fairly new at genealogy and very new at genchatting it is clear that many of the participants are old hands in finding the history of their families. Also for a newbie it is wonderful to see the camaraderie that exists in this online environment.  The topic for the last chat was the NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) which according to Google explores our national history through documents, photos, and records. Even if you are not into genealogy it is an amazing site to explore. There are regional offices and amazing resources for teachers.  But I digress... not unusual for me, is it?  Back to the GenChat.

The chats last an hour, and the time flies by very quickly. At the close of the hour we are given our 'assignment' (no grading, no collecting, just suggestions) based on the topic of the night. At the NARA chat the assignment was "CHALLENGE: Identify one record set that might help you at NARA, learn how to access it and write it up."

As one who had never used the NARA sites it was an interesting experience. First I looked up local office, learned their hours and read about available resources. I was really happy to see they invited email requests for information. My local office is about an hour away from where I live. I have collected quite a few cards showing the record number and date of naturalization for some family members.  Here are the steps:
1.Call and ask how to go about the process.
2. Prepared my email with list of names ( birth date, date of naturalization, the number) and my home address.
3. Press Send and wait.

But you don't wait very long.  Very shortly an email came back explaining that these records were available through the county office and the number to call. Surprise! The office is in the Daley Center located in downtown Chicago. When I called the gentleman in charge could not have been more helpful. Bring a phone with a camera, he said, as no cameras are allowed. We will bring you the document books and you take photos of the pages. If I wanted them printed out they would be more than $20.00 apiece. So this next Monday AM I am off with my smart phone  to collect the naturalization papers.

I haven't gotten down to the NARA office yet but I certainly am looking forward to making the trip.

It is an amazing time in which we live, isn't it? How lucky some of us are. No matter our age or where we are, there is always something new to learn and the Internet to take us on our journey.

I haven't forgotten about the trip from Warsaw to Krakow. See you soon.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Genealogy work is slowly moving forward.... But Now Some Time to Remember My Fall Trip to Eastern Europe

I DID IT!  I am almost finished with Step 1 of the organization process. I cleaned up all the digital files except for one. I can find (most) things now. I still have one big messy folder to go.  It is called, at this point, ZZ-Not direct family documents. The ZZ was to put the file at the bottom of list to be tackled later... and it will be. It does NOT mean that I will be snoring while I work!  Before I finish that up that I plan to attack the collection of paper documents. I will be back with more on this topic when that task is completed.

But on to memories of my trip to Eastern Europe this past October. It was a land trip offered by Odysseys Unlimited. I had traveled with them before and knew that they limited their trips to 24 guests, a perfect size. I traveled with my good friend, Jackie, and it was our fifth trip together so I knew all would be well.  It was a wonderful trip and included most of the places I wanted to visit. If I had it to do over, I might investigate similar trips planned through Jewish organizations and compare the places visited. But then I might have missed some of the other things I was fortunate to see and do. As my grandmother might have said, "We should all have such problems."   I do want to share some of the highlights in this and in more pages to come.

A map of the places that we visited during the 16 day tour called Discovering Eastern Europe

Our first stop was Warsaw. We were able to visit all of the things we had hoped to see and other new places as well. Upon arriving at the hotel, we decided to was walk out and get Polish money. The first thing that my eyes landed on was HUGH ad for Hyundai  on the side of an apartment building and that  really made me laugh; to have my first view while walking in Warsaw was to see an ad for the car I drive. The next thing I discovered was how wonderful Polish food was. Our guide and chef at the hotel informed us that the amazing, wonderful mushrooms that we devoured were grown in Poland and only in Poland. They look like the white Walt Disney mushrooms are were delicious and we tried to have them at any and every meal when we could.  One could be charged for extra weight on the plane after eating in Poland and throughout Eastern Europe.

Touring Warsaw gave us a view of the past and what has been done to bring the city back to what it had been before the war and reminding us of the cost of the war.



This statue sits in beautiful Lazienke Park. It was erected shortly after WW1 and was the first monument destroyed by the occupying Germans in 1940. Because the original mold was saved it was able to be replaced after the was. Throughout our tour of Warsaw we saw many memorials that were reminders of that time.

My focus was on history of WWII in Warsaw and there was much to be seen.  Within the city are building and monument the act as way to remember the horror of those days for many and the actions of  many partisans working to fight back against the attackers.

This memorial is located on Krasinskich Square. It was designed to honor and remember the heroes of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944.  More of the Warsaw monuments can be seen here.

Other memorials have been erected in Warsaw to recognize the thousands of Jews that were sent to extermination camps during the war. On the one remaining segment of Ghetto Wall that remains is a map delineating the great size of the area enclosed by the Wall itself. What remains today is segment about 14 feet wide (left picture).  In future entries we will also visit the wall fragments in Krakow and in Budapest. The center picture is a building located on Prozna Street. The large

 photographs are of people who were sent to the camps and never came back. The last picture is of the Umschlagplatz Memorial, one of the most tragic places in Warsaw. This is the location of a side-track with a platform where many of the 300,000 Jews from Warsaw and it surroundings were transported from Warsaw. Most left between July and September, 1942 on their way to the gas chambers at Treblinka.

Today Warsaw remembers and also moves forward. I wanted to come home and paint all our building to look as beautiful as those on some of the areas of Warsaw as well as other areas we visited in Eastern Europe. No matter what the weather you have to smile as the colors and decorations on many buildings as you walk the streets.

 Next time we will leave Warsaw and follow the road to Krakow (Cracow), sometimes called the Prague of Poland.