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.

Monday, September 1, 2014

52 Ancestors: #1 ( really #35) - Finding a Great-Aunt.... online

As you may have noticed, Genealogy, in its many forms, has changed my life and my feelings about retirement. No Story To Small has created a challenge I cannot resist. Each week participants write a SMALL story about one family member and share it in the 52 Week Challenge.   Today I begin at  the effort. Hope you enjoy meeting all these folks.

In 1953, at my wedding, several of my father's cousins came from Philadelphia, PA as guests. I had never met them before, and to tell the truth, at that moment, I really did not care! The years go by, 3 children and a new marriage, the death of many family members and, suddenly, I did care who they were and how they were related. And this happened because genealogy entered my life.... late but you start when you start. I began with what I knew: the family surname, the city they came from, and I knew we were related somehow.  It took some census searching, help from others who read my requests for information on the JewishGen website, and an amazing piece of luck. Yep, I found the Baraff family. Had them on the census, looked up each individual and I knew I had the right family. Nothing made them look like the were related to me. And then the AHA moment arrived.  I searched for each of the 5 children of Jenne Baraff.  On 4 birth records the  mother's name was a form of Jenne Baraff but, wonder of wonders, up came the surprise and solution on the birth record gave the mother's name as Jennie Talmage Baraff. My pgm's maiden name was Talmage. My dad, his sisters or my grandmother never spoke of any of the family from Romania that we can recall. Here we had found another sister of my dad's mother.  It was a wonderful surprise for all in the remaining family that our Baraff mystery was finally solved.

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.