Tag Archives: Tracing the Tribe group

Amazing What Information Two Photos Can Provide

26 Jun

It is a wonder how two photos that I did not know were related could help find a branch of the family that I had no information about.

I have a family album that we found hidden in the bottom of a closet in the attic of what had been my grandparent’s and then my parent’s home in Kauneonga Lake, NY.  We found it when we cleaned the house out about four years ago.  Most of the photos are from the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.  Many of the photos are unidentified.  But some have comments on the back written in one of many languages including, English, Yiddish, Hebrew, Polish and German. (See blog below.)

Every few months I open the book and focus on a few of the photos.  It is an emotional task, as I find that many of these photos lead me back to the Shoah.  And often the people in the photos perished in concentration camps or were murdered near their homes.  I find it a bit terrifying.

About a year ago I posted a photo of two young girls on the Tracing the Tribe website.  No one translated that one for me.  I am not sure why.  It probably got posted on a busy day. As usually these short messages are translated in a few hours.

Then about a month ago I posted two identical photos of a young man, but each had a slightly different note on the back, written in German.  I wondered why German, although I knew that my grandmother could read and write German along with three other languages.

I knew that one of the photos of the young man and the photo of the two girls were sent to my grandmother, Tova/Thelma.  And I that the other one of the young man was sent to her aunt, my great aunt Gussie.  This lead me to write about the young man Abraham Prentki/Prantki.  (See blog post below.)

I assumed he had to be the son of one my great grandfather’s three sisters , Esther, Sura or Leba, who we really had no information about.

By some serendipitous decision, I was looking for another post on the Tracing the Tribe Group when I stumbled upon this photo of the young girls who had never been identified.  So I reposted it on Tracing the Tribe and Jewish Ancestoy in Poland.   With in a few hours, I had a translation.  It was to my grandmother, their cousin.  There were names including the last name Granek. This postcard was also written in German.

My Tracing the Tribe friend, Amy, decided to search some more.  Thank you, Amy.  She found a Yad V’Shem testimony written by a Martha Granek Wynn, who wrote a page of testimony for her mother Cella Prentki Granek.   Cella’s parents were Esther Schenk and Pinkus Prentki and they lived in Breslau, Germany.  But originally came from Boleslaviec, Poland, where my grandmother grew up. Cella was murdered in Mauthausen.  The testimony is chilling.  In Place of death: it is written Mauthausen.  In circumstance of death, it is written: Oven.

The pieces were now coming together.  And although I cannot be one hundred percent certain.  This is what I know.  My great grandfather Shlomo Abraham had several sisters.  Gussie moved to the United States, where she married and had four children.  My grandmother moved in with Gussie and her family when she moved to the USA. (See two blogs below.). The postcards from the young man, Abraham Prentki were to his cousin Tova and his Aunt Gussie.  I assumed he had to be the son of Esther, Sura or Leba, my great grandfather’s sisters who we had no information on.  This leads me to believe that Abraham was the brother of Cella Prentki Granek who died at Mauthausen.  And that he was also the son of Esther Schenk Prentki.

Grandma Thelam, Carlsbad

My grandmother is sitting on the right.  Who are the other two women?

More information, we (my sister helps me with my research) know that my grandmother went back to Europe in 1931 with my mother and uncle. (see blog below.). We also know that she left the children behind with her father and then her in laws and went to Breslau to visit her family, her aunt, and go to the waters of Carlsbard/Karlsbard to heal.  The Prentki family lived in Breslau.

My sister says she agrees that this looks right. But we are not totally sure. On the page of testimony there is an address in Melbourne, Australia.  I found this address on line, in Australia.  I sent a letter to the woman who submitted the testimony about her mother, but not sure the family still lives there.  It was written in 1999, and Martha would be in her 90s now. She is probably one of the young girls in the photo.  I am hoping that some family members live there.

However, another connection.  After the war, my grandmother’s two brothers and their wives moved to Australia.  They were waiting for visas to get out of Europe and went when the first visa to Australia arrived.  They lived in Melbourne.  Coincidence?  Or did they move to be with other family who had escaped.  My mother’s first cousin is still alive. She was born in Melbourne in 1955 and now lives in Israel.  I have asked her if she knew this family. But she was a child when she left Australia.

We might never know the truth.  My sister is right,  we cannot be 100 percent sure.  But in my heart, I think these were the children of my great aunt Esther.  In my heart I believe that this was the family my grandmother visited in Breslau.  In my heart I think the mystery of these two photos is solved.  Still not sure about the photo from Karlsbard.

It is amazing what information two photos can lead to.  And that is why I keep going back to this album and searching.

https://zicharonot.com/2014/08/19/old-photographs-bring-memories-to-life/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/06/04/the-mystery-of-abraham-prantki/

https://zicharonot.com/2015/06/13/finding-katie/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/05/29/grandma-thelma-knows-what-she-knows/

https://zicharonot.com/2016/06/06/the-mysterious-kalsbad-photos-who-are-they/

Working on An Ancestor Mystery

20 Jun

You would think that with my niece’s wedding in two days my sister (the mother of the bride) and I would focus on the wedding. But not us. After a day of running wedding related errands, my sister and niece were putting together a display about our family weddings, when my sister and I got into a mini dispute over a wedding date.

This lead to my sister logging into her ancestory account to check the date, which of course led us into a lengthy look into our family mystery: our paternal grandfather’s family.

Once again we started searching for his family on the census documents and in other areas. We know his birthdate and the names of some of his siblings. And we think we found his family. We knew of six siblings in his family. We are now up to eight in the 1905 census. But there is one brother not yet listed. And we cannot find another census with the family listed. So we honestly do not think this is our family. We need to investigate more.

But that is not our only mystery. Sometimes the documents have all but one child born in the USA. Others show all but one born in a Russia. Some say the father, our great grandfather came in 1880 or earlier. Others say 1890. We know he was born in 1859 and his wife in 1865 we know they married in 1883 and started having children in 1885. The biggest problem is their very common names. If only we could find documents with the original last name of Grau instead of looking for Rosenberg.

We know our great grandfather abandoned the family when our grandpa was about 13. It is now looking as if grandpa might have been a bit older.

The names are so common that we have to be careful we are staying with the right family when we search. And it is difficult and confusing.

In the midst of this research, while I was looking for a post relating to my paternal grandfather’s family, I found a post I put up a while ago of two young girls which was never translated. This lead us down another path and, thanks to a Tracing The Tribe member, connected us to a relative on my maternal grandmother’s family. I need to do a bit more research before I can write about this photo.

But we have found a photo of my grandmother and what looks to be this woman. We know my grandmother visited family in Breslau in 1931, where this woman lived. And we know her mother has the same name of our great grandfather’s sister. So we are pretty sure she, this women murdered in The Shoah, is grandma’s first cousin.

My sister and I love mysteries and searching for our family in Europe. Identifying our family who perished in the Shoah is important to us. We want their names to stay in our memories.

So at my niece’s wedding, I sat with my mother’s first cousin and showed her some of the information. Sometimes she remembers a name or knew someone that my siblings and I never met.

My grandmother left Poland when she was 16 in 1922, while my great aunt stayed until 1936, when she was 22. So she had stronger connections with the extended family in Poland right before the war.

However, with this family member, my cousin had no memory to share. In fact she did not seem to know about the cousins my grandmother visited in Breslau in 1931. However she reminded me that my grandma was 8 years older than her mother.

We have one last link. The Yad Vshem testimony was submitted in 1999. I have a contact name and address. I know the person who submitted it would probably be in her 80s now. But I plan to send her a letter with our information and copies of the three photos I have. Perhaps we can make a connection.

The Mysterious Kalsbad Photos: Who Are They?

6 Jun

June 26, 1931. My Grandmother was in Europe with my Mother and my Uncle. She left them at the farm owned by my great grandparents in Poland while she went to Karlsbad (Karlovy Vary), Czechoslovia to take the waters and revive her health.

The doctors in the United States told her that she was going to die. She had been pregnant again in the USA. But doctors terminated the pregnancy through a very illegal abortion in an effort to save her life. But still she was sick. So she decided she would not burden my Grandfather with two young children, 5 and 2. She would take them to Europe to live with his parents and she would die there. He, then, would be free to continue his life.

I once asked my Grandfather, why he let her go. “She was a sick woman,” he told me. “I had to let her do what she thought was best.”

“Would you have left Mom and Uncle Stanley in Europe?” I asked. This was a very important question. His entire family perished. If he had left them, I would not be here.

He looked me in the eye, and said, “As soon as she died I was going to get on a boat and return with my children. I would never leave them there. “

His words made me feel a bit better. But if Grandma had died the world my Mom and Uncle lived in would have been very different. But at least I know my grandfather would not have abandoned them in Poland.

Luckily Grandma did get well. She stayed in Europe for six to eight months and then returned to the USA with my Mom and Uncle. She saw the rise of Hitler coming and now had a new purpose: get the family out. She could not save as many as she wanted. But she tried.

Grandma Thelam, Carlsbad

Grandma is sitting in the front. The date and place were added by my Mom. I think the two women are related. This is the photo we knew about.

We have several items from that trip to Europe. We have a ceramic vase that stays in her breakfront/curio cabinet in our Catskills’ home. We have stories about the trip.  We have a few photos. We knew of one. Grandma is with two other women. We have no ideal who they are. But I think they are related to her, one women sort of looks like her sister-in-law. We are not sure. There is no identifications on the back.

But I recently found another.

FullSizeRender (10)

Grandma is in back row on the left wearing a white hat.

It is a group photo. In the very back row, near the center is a woman in a white hat, that is my grandmother. She is 26 years old.

I do not know the other people. Are they family members who perished? Or are they just other people who are in Karlsbad? Sometimes I imagine that they are just other people at the resort who were pulled together for a group photo that the photographer would then sell to tourists.   Other times I imagine that people in the photo look like family, especially the man in the front on the left. But I honestly do not know.

This photo is different from the others we have from that trip. There is writing in Yiddish and English. The English is easy, her name and the address where she stayed in Karlsbad. Or is it a place she visited?

The Yiddish is more exciting to me. It is the only letter I have seen that she wrote to my Grandfather. (Thank you members of the Tracing the Tribe Facebook Group for translations!)

It says: “As a souvenir from your faithful wife, who hopes, to meet you again in good health.” Another translated it as “A souvenir from your devoted wife, who hopes to return to you in good health.”

Either makes sense. She was sick. She was away from my grandfather. She wanted to be reunited with her family and be healthy.

And that all happened. She returned to the US and lived an additional 50 years. And 80 years later, I keep finding treasures in her photo album!

 

 

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/speaking-yiddish-always-brings-me-holocaust-memories/

Treasures in the Bookcase

16 Aug
Bound Copies of the Bialystoker Stimme from 1922-1941. Several were personalized.

Bound Copies of the Bialystoker Stimme from 1922-1941. Several were personalized.

I honestly thought that we had discovered all the treasures in our Catskills house. Last summer my siblings and I had torn the house apart, filling a 20-cubic yard dumpster with unused and unusable items.   We had discovered a mother lode of photos and a photo album from the 1920s that I am still slowly scanning and finding more information about our maternal grandmother and her family.

But I had forgotten about the old bookcase in the corner of the living room. I actually did not think about it until the very last day we were in the Catskills this summer, when I got a ‘jubba’ as my grandfather would say — a feeling that I had to open the glass door.

My Grandma Esther's bookcase in the corner.

My Grandma Esther’s bookcase in the corner.

We now call it my brother’s bookcase. But in reality it was my paternal grandmother’s and before her it belonged to her parents. Since they lived in the same apartment, there was no real distinction. The bookcase came with the books in it after my Grandma Esther passed away. Over the years, new books were put in and the older books migrated to the bottom shelf.

We have placed it along side the fireplace behind the television. It acts as part of a wall, so that the area behind the fireplace can be used as a bedroom when needed. This semi-room holds an old upright piano, a trundle bed that opens up to two twins, and a computer desk. So we usually do not even think of this piece of furniture as a bookcase, but more of a wall divider.

In any case, my ‘jubba’ called me over to the bookcase about an hour before we were planning to drive home. And inside of it, I found treasures! Nine books containing bound copies of the Bialystoker Stimme from 1922 through 1941, as well as a 45th anniversary book.   My great grandparents, Louis and Rae (Rachel) Goldman, were very active in the Bialyskoker group in New York City that founded the Bialystoker Home for the Aged.   In fact, he was on several important committees and boards.

My great grandfather top right.

My great grandfather top right.

My great grandfather was elected to the board, or re-elected in 1936. Louis Goldman.

My great grandfather was elected to the board, or re-elected in 1936. Louis Goldman.

While just skimming through the bound copies, I found announcements of both my Dad’s and Uncle’s bar mitzvah. These were in English. The Bialystoker Stimmer was printed mainly in Yiddish. But there were also a few English pages or a few English paragraphs in almost every copy. I also found photos of my great grandfather on several pages that announced committee and board members.

His 70th birthday

His 70th birthday

But the best was a photo of him and a paragraph in Yiddish celebrating his 70th birthday. I can read enough Yiddish to recognize his name and a few other words. To be honest, I do not know what it says yet. But I will find out.

That was with just a quick skim. I needed these books.

I told my sister that I had to ship them home and search them. Since we found the books in what is my brother’s bookcase, my sister sent him a text asking if I could ship them to Kansas.

They both agreed that the books should come home with me, as I am acting as the family historian.   I was so excited. It was well worth the $40 I spent at Staples to ship them home.

Today the books arrived!

An article about my great grandfather. I also need to get this translated.

An article about my great grandfather. I also need to get this translated.

As I continued to go through the books, I found what appears an article about him. It, too, is all in Yiddish. I know I will need it translated. I am excited to know what it says about him. I know he was a tailor.

My Dad's first cousin, David, 1938. I think he graduated high school at age 16, but I need a translation.

My Dad’s first cousin, David, 1938. I think he graduated high school at age 16, but I need a translation.

I cannot read all the Yiddish, except really for the names and a few words. But in skimming the books I sometimes see a photo that jumps out at me. Like the one of my Dad’s first cousins, David. Well, it looked like a very young David. I was right, it was him at age 16, when he graduated high school. This article is also in Yiddish. I need a translator!!!

I realize that I will never know if my great grandparents were mentioned in other places. But I am taking photos of every page that has a photo or a mention of my family that I can find.

But besides the book, I posted the photo of my great grandfather Louis Goldman and the small article on the “Tracing the Tribe” Facebook group. I was hoping someone would be able to translate it for me. Although that has not yet happened, I remain hopeful. But someone posted a link to the Bialystoker Center Yahrzeit Cards website. There I found the yahrzeits for my great grandparents, my grandparents and my great aunt. I will say that the Hebrew name for my grandfather is wrong on the site. But it is definitely him. That was also interesting to see.

I started with the books from the 1940s, I am now in the 1920s.  There is much more Yiddish and much less English in these earlier books.  I am hoping to still find more treasures in them.  But to see members of my family mentioned in these early archives makes me so happy.  I knew my great grandfather was an active volunteer.  These books confirm what I had heard.  My heart is happy.

I hope to find a good home for these books after I am done investigating them. There are many other families mentioned in the books.   I do not know how many people saved them.   In our case it was benign neglect. We did not know they were there, so they were just ignored.   And allowed to survive. A happy, lucky find for me and my family.

PS: Thanks to Sabena and her Yiddish teacher who translated the paragraph about my great grandfather:  “Mr. Luis Goldman, has just become a septigenerian (70), and if he himself hadn’t told us, we would certainly not believed it. Mr. Goldman is among the most active people in Sumkh Nuflim (I think that’s a place) in the Center and in the old age home where his work is greatly admired. We wish him a lot of further birthdays with joy in his family.”

PPS:  The Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA, would love to have the Bialystoker Stimme books!

http://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/bialygen/Yahrzeit.htm

Finding Katie!

13 Jun

When my maternal grandmother immigrated to the United States in 1922, she was sponsored by her father’s sister: her Aunt Gussie. I wrote about this in another blog, which I will reference at the end.

Grandma became very good friends with her first cousin, Katie L. They remained friends throughout their lives, even though they did not live near to each other. But the letters and phone calls seemed to keep their love for each other in tact.

Katie’s married name was Katie Alexander. That is the name we always heard, and this was the name we thought of when we spoke of Katie. It was so ingrained in our lives.   Grandma loved her cousin, Katie; she spoke of her often!

I think my sister was the most in love with the name.   She named her son, Alexander. And four years later, she named her daughter Katherine, or Katie. My Mom at first said, “How can you name her Katherine?” My sister was naming her daughter after my grandmother, whose name was Thelma in English/ Tova in Hebrew.

My sister reminded my Mom that Katie was Grandma’s friend and cousin. And since she did not want to name her daughter Thelma, she thought she would use Tova as the Hebrew name and Katie, Grandma’s cousin’s name for the English.

I laughed. I often tell my sister that she named her children for Katie Alexander. And so the name stays alive in my family.

Album

Last summer, while we were cleaning out the attic of the Catskill’s home that had been both our grandparents and parents, we found an old brown leather photo album. It was filled with photos from the 1920s. Many had no names. Some had Yiddish or Hebrew writing on the back. Some had just an address or a place.

Grandma:Katie

But within the photos was a photo from 1924 of Grandma and Katie. That was it. I decided I had to find out what happened to Katie Alexander’s family. Thanks to the Tracing the Tribe Facebook group, I now have that information. The wonderful members of the group found members of Katie’s family for me. And then I contacted them.

I have been in touch with one of her sons, a niece and a granddaughter. I have found out that another name we often heard in our home was Katie’s brother. We never knew Katie’s maiden name. She was always referred to by her married. But I realized after I send them some photos, that the Sam L. that my grandmother spoke was Katie’s brother. WOW!

I am hoping that they will be able to identify more of the photos in the album so we can put names to those nameless young men and women who were so important to my grandmother. I am so happy we were able to find Katie.

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/grandma-thelma-knows-what-she-knows/

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/old-photographs-bring-memories-to-life/

The Connections Keep Widening, My Family Contacts Keep Growing

16 Feb

Overwhelming, amazing, stunning, these words cannot really describe my incredible journey in researching my family history. And I have only finished two of my great-grandparents. I wonder what will happen when I research the other six?

Since researching one of my paternal great grandmothers, actually the one I knew as a small child, I have been really shocked.   I have lived in a city in the Midwest far from my family on the East Coast for over 30 years. And in the past month my research has shown me that a branch of my great grandmother’s family settled here. We just lost touch with them.

But what is absolutely amazing to me, is that I know many of these descendants. I have volunteered with them, emailed with them, see them around town. I am Facebook friends with three of these distant cousins. They are all people that I like. One of them played an important role in the life of my son, as she was an assistant superintendent of the school district where he went to school, during a difficult time in his life.

And now I find out that they are my third cousins. I know that is not a close relationship. But they are my cousins. And in Israel, where my daughter now lives, it is her second and third cousins who have reached out to her and consider her family.

But these cousins in Israel are all family members that we remained in contact with over the years. We always knew who they were and were they lived. The cousins in Israel come from both sides of my family and my husband’s family. We knew we were family, cousins.

With the new contacts it is different. These new family members were unknown, but at the same time known. These are people I had contact with in many forums, people who have had some impact in my life, and I never knew that they were also my cousins. How strange is that? To me it seems extremely strange.

But it makes so much sense. The Internet has changed the world.   Before in the 1800s and early 1900s when people moved to the USA from Europe, they had no way to keep in contact, except through mail. And mail was not always easy. They were busy learning a new culture and a new language. It was difficult to keep in touch with relatives in New York or even in Europe. So the family ties were forgotten and lost.

With the Internet and the many ways to trace family history, these lost members are found. Through websites and Facebook groups, we can make contact. It was through the ‘Tracing the Tribe Group” that I made the first contact. But it was through Geni, that I keep seeing more and more connections! It is these Internet tools and their large outreach that enhances my ability to make these connection.

Those who know me, know that I love a good mystery. And searching for my family connections is the most personal mystery. Although I am glad I have found this family branch, it is more of the success of a hunt, of finding the answers to a mystery, the mystery of my family that excites me. How lucky am I that I can actually find new branches?

When I look at them now, I can see a resemblance in character. Every one of the four women I know are strong willed, determined and intelligent. They fit into my family, as my grandmother was a strong willed, determine and intelligent woman who worked until she was 77.

In fact, we take pride in my family that we are all strong women. And these four fit right in. Wow. If I could choose family members, I would choose women like them.

I plan to meet up with some of them next week for lunch. I learned they were my cousins several weeks ago. The other cousins, I just found out about this weekend when Geni sent me a match!

It is nice to know that I have connections here. I will look at them differently now knowing what I know about our large family. The connections keep widening and my family contacts keep growing!

Amazing Coincidences After Finding My Ancestors; We Are One People

1 Feb

It has been a crazy time since I found out the lineage of my two times great grandmother Esther (Etka Lew) Wolff. I have connected with distant family through the Tracing the Tribe Facebook page. I have been welcomed to see our very large family tree on Geni. And I have found out who my ancestors were back to 1720.

Amazing.

But the amazement does not seem to end. In one of the many emails my two distant cousins sent me I saw that a branch of the family, one of my three times great uncles descendants migrated to Kansas City. What! I live in the Kansas City metro area. I have lived here for 18 years with no family except my immediate family. For a while my husband had cousins here, but they moved away. Now I find out I have distant cousins here. Really?

And then I thought about it. Many years ago, when the Bialystok Home for the Aged still existed and they still did a newsletter, I would get the “Bialystoker Stimmer.” I was a supporter of the Home for the Aged because my great grandparents, my grandma and my parents were always supporters. So the tradition continued.

In any case, in one issue I read, there was an article by a man and his daughter from Kansas City. And I knew his daughter. I mentioned the article to her, and we would joke about it and call ourselves “Landsmen,” which we were. So when I heard that I had distant cousins here, I immediately thought of her.

I sent her an email.

“What was your maiden name? I just found out that a branch of my family, last name Lew/Lewin/Levin moved to the Kansas City area. (Originally from Bialystok region). Just curious.”

She wrote back. And it all fit. They were from the same small town, Ciechanowiec. Her dad’s last name was Lewin but he changed it to Levine in the USA. We were third cousins.

And I thought that was all.

But my contacts back east (EW and AB), who had been feeding me all this information, were not done. They had heard of my friend/cousin. But there were others as well. They sent me a diagram. And asked if I recognized any other names. I did. One was a boy the same age as my son, they had gone to school together through second grade and had played together. The family belonged to the same synagogue my family belonged to. We have been friendly acquaintances for 20 years. We are related through the father.

I sent them an email because I find it all so interesting. I would never have expected to find family in Kansas! I am still in a state of determined amazement. Jew from the small Polish village of Ciechanowiec settled in Kansas and Missouri!

When my children were little they went to the local Jewish day school. My daughter used to feel sad sometimes because everyone was related to everyone else, except for her. She had no cousins at the school. I wish I had known this when they were little, as they were in school together, although their children were younger and more my son’s age. We might not be family, but they would have been ‘cousins.’

My daughter lives in Israel now. Many of her cousins who she is in contact with are also third cousins. These are branches of my family and my husband’s family that we have been in contact with forever. She has many second cousins, as my husband’s first cousin moved to Israel 27 years ago. These cousins have all been welcoming and loving. It is strange that some lines of the family stay in contact, and we see these cousins even with the distance in relationship; we consider ourselves close family.

But some lines of a family are lost over time. The movement from Europe. The aftermath of the Shoah; the younger generations moving away.   I had information from my Grandma and my Aunt mentioning these lines of the family, but we had no contact with them.

What an amazing coincidence to find some of these third and fourth cousins in Kansas. Of course we are distantly related. Third and fourth cousins are not so close. But it was surprising to find a connection where I was not expecting to find one.

But even more important, it shows that the Jewish people are really one. We are interconnected. My family, with its approximately 20,000 descendants is a perfect example of the inter-relations between all Jewish families. And even though a number of my family, from both my maternal and paternal sides perished in the Shoah, we remain.

That is the most amazing aspect of my continued search for my ancestors how we are truly one people.

 

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/serendipity-wins-in-finding-a-family-connection/