Tag Archives: relatives

The Shoah Impacts My DNA Relatives

24 Apr

Today I went on my 23 and Me account to access some information.  I manage both my account and that of my now deceased father, since I am the one who had him provide a sample about six months before he passed away.  I am so glad I did that.  It has provided me with my father’s Y chromosome information, which I otherwise would not have had.

I have over 1100 relatives on 23 and Me.  Most are third or distant cousins.  But today I had a revelation.  An unhappy one I must say.  There are 49 pages of relatives.  I just started scanning them.  And page after page after page, I kept seeing the same words, “on your father’s side,” after every entry.  Over and over again, not a single relative from my mother’s side. NO close relatives.  No distant relatives.

I started to cry.

Then I finally found ONE.  One distant relative. One.  I know that there were cousins who survived the Shoah. Not many.  And there were a few relatives already here in the USA. But I guess they are not on 23 and Me.  But in reality, most of my mother’s relatives perished.  She had one aunt and two uncles who survived. But among them, they only had two living children.  I know them well.   They also had descendants, I am happy to report.  Some live here in the USA, others in Israel.

But all those distant relatives are GONE.  Those distant relatives who share bits of my Dad’s and my DNA are welcome. But the missing ones from my mother’s side are so obviously a result of the Shoah that it reminds me of the horror of the loss.  I should have an equal number of distant relatives from my mother.  Instead of 1100 people, there should be 2200 people who share a bit of my DNA.

I am feeling a sense of loss I have not felt before.  Maybe because I am working on an article about my grandparents’ survival story.  So I am already feeling the dread of reliving their sorrow over their family’s loss.  But this was a blatant reminder that my family really is not like every other.

My Familiar Ancestor, Who We Cannot Identify

19 Dec

My cousin posted photos yesterday in the hope I could help identify them. None of them had any identifying information.  Several we could figure out, they were mainly our great grandparents and one great uncle. Several are children I has never seen before, perhaps they were from her Mother’s side.  And then there was this photo. A young women who looks much as I did as a young woman. She could be me.

Mystery woman, a relative?

Joan Steiner and me graduation

My college graduation.

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A mystery couple; is it the same woman?

I see so many similarities: our hair, our eyebrows, our noses, our resting face, our lips.  My glasses hide my eyes, but believe me they are similar. When I first saw the photo, I was startled.  Under it my cousin had written: You resemble this woman.  And I do.

I am now haunted by her. Who is she? Is she a great aunt? A cousin?  I am relatively sure she is NOT a grandmother of some generation.  But if I was a time traveler, I think I would be her.

I also love her dress.  There is a bit of sparkle on the collar.  All who know me, know that I love sparkle. I could wear a dress like that.  Perhaps not the high collar.  I do not like turtle neck shirts or high collars of any sort.  The dress itself, is something I would wear.  I imagine that it is blue, my favorite color.

I think she is my doppelganger.  I cannot quite get her out of my mind now.  She also looks a bit like some of my cousin’s daughters.  The family genes are strong. I really want to know who she is? Where she ended up?

This photo was taken in the USA at a photo studio on Grand Street, NYC.  So I at least do not have to worry about her dying in the Shoah.  I think she might be one of my grandfather’s five or six sisters.  I only ever met one as a child.  There were four or five we never knew.

We have another photo taken at the same studio.  Is this her as well?  Or a sister?  I am similar to her as well.  I think it might be her a few years older, with her husband.  She has rings on her fingers now.  But she is still wearing a top with a little drama to it, with all that lace!

Then there is the location of Grand Street, in lower Manhattan.  It runs parallel and a bit to the south of Delancey Street.  My grandfather and great grandfather had a tailor shop on Delancey Street. Also the Bialystoker Synagogue is on Grand Street!  Well we are all Bialystokers!  The synagogue started life as a Methodist Episcopal Church, built in 1826.  In 1905 it was purchased to be a synagogue.  But more important it was started by the Chevra Anshei Chessed of Bialystok, and our great grandfather was extremely active in all Bialystoke communal organizations. The synagogue is an historic landmark. I think I need to go and see this synagogue!!!

I am sure she is related somehow.  There are so many connections. I just wish I knew how! I do not think I ever will unless another photo turns up with a name!

In my heart, I wish that my ancestors had put names on the back of all the photos.  The ones with names in Yiddish, or Hebrew, or Polish or German are so wonderful because we actually have a name.  But the many photos that remain forever nameless sit in albums and wait for a name that will probably never come. This lack of identification concerns me as we go on to web-based photo collections.  We need to keep some sort of identification for generations to come.

But for now, I will look at this photo of my familiar but unknown relative and truly wish I knew who this woman is, and how she might be related to me.

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/louis-of-the-blessed-heart/

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2015/10/10/12-delancey-street-and-my-family/

https://images.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=Bialystoker+Synagogue+on+Grand+Street+image