03 October 2019

Why we test

When it all comes together it's just beautiful! DNA, family trees, indexed records on several websites and images of originals - the tools of our trade.

A couple of days ago, I decided to do a check of my Ancestry DNA matches to see if anyone new had been added among my 3rd to 4th cousin matches. I am 100 percent Ashkenazi Jewish (an endogamous population). As a result, I rarely look beyond those (currently) 62 matches who share 90 or more centiMorgans (cMs) of DNA with me.  

Ancestry does not provide information about individual shared segments. So, I usually spend quality time only with those matches with a relatively low number of segments in common with me. The idea is to high-grade the matches by looking for those who (on average) may share at least one or more 20 cM segments with me. For the first time in many months there was a new 3rd to 4th cousin on my match list.

My match listed his full name, but it meant nothing to me (we'll call him CS). He had no tree associated with his DNA results. He shares 121 cMs of autosomal DNA and 10 segments with me. He is 51 percent Ashkenazi Jewish.

Although, due to endogamy, a search of matches in common is often more confusing that illuminating, I tried it. CS seemed to match my Liebross side and I  noted that another match (JS) had the same last name as CS and 19 percent Ashkenazi Jewish. JS was below my usually threshold: 4th-6th cousin and only sharing 5o cMs and five segments. 

I tentatively guessed, based on the name and the percentage of ethnicity assigned to Ashkenazi, that this might be CS's son. When I contacted JS he confirmed that to be the case.

JS has a tree of 74 people. His emphasis was quite obviously on his mother's non-Jewish family, but the three people listed on his father's side were enough to indicate this might be a match with which I could work. JS's grandmother, Heather Marie Schafer was born in Vienna, Austria. 

My great grandfather, Louis Liebross. had a sister named Rifke who married Abraham Dov Ber Schaffer in Radautz, Bukovina (now in northern Romania) on 24 June 1877.[1]

Extract: (left page) Marriage 24 June 1877. Groom: Abraham Ber Schaffer of Radautz, son of Mortko and Scheinde Schaffer of Radautz.

Extract: Bride: (right page) Rifke Libruss of Radautz, daughter of Mani and Zirl Libruss of Zaleszczyki.

While Heather Marie's first and middle names had been clearly Anglicized in the Ancestry family tree, her birth date was provided: 17 February 1917. I searched in Ancestry on Heather Marie Schafer and another more in-depth tree came up. This one identified Heather as Herta Marie Schaffer and indicated her parents were Raphael Schaffer and Susan Frank.

Raphael was a good hit because Rifke Liebross Schaffer's fourth or fifth child was Rafael, born on 1 April 1875 in Radautz.[2] Yet, Rifke and Abraham Dov Ber Schaffer were married in 1877. 

This situation of marriage years after children's births is not unusual in Austrian Empire Jewish marriage and birth records. The Austrian Empire government had made it costly for Jewish couple to register their marriages with the civil authorities. As a result, many Jewish couples had religious ceremonies and often did not register their marriages with the government until may years later. If the couples did not register their marriages, the state did not consider them married. Birth records for their children would often only show the mother's surname and the children would be recorded as illegitimate. Couples might register their marriages years later for several reasons including to make sure future inheritances would follow the framework from legally identified father to child.

Rafael was recorded as illegitimate. A note in the last column indicate he was legitimized by his parents marriage at a later date. 

Another note on Rafael's birth record indicated he'd married Dvoira Grupp in Bucharest on 17 September 1934. For me, after that, the trail ran cold. I had no further information on Rafael or Dvoira; no indication of offspring (although by 1934 Rafael would have been 59 so there might not have been any from that union). I assumed that Rafael and Dvoira, like several of Rafael's family members had been killed during the Holocaust.[3]

Extract: Rafael, son of Abraham Berl Schaffer and Rifke Libruss, born 1 April 1875 in Radautz, house no. 1102. Legitimized by marriage registered in vol. I, p. 64/65, entry no. 36, 24 June 1877. Rafael married Dvoira Grupp in Bucharest on 17 September 1934.

But, Herta Schaffer was supposedly born to a Rafael Schaffer and Susan Frank in 1917 in Vienna. This was new information. Did my Rafael have an earlier marriage and a child? I needed to see a copy of Herta's birth record.

I found her birth record indexed on JewishGen. The date and location in Vienna matched. The father's name matched. But the mother's name was Susie Grunwerg not Susan Frank.

Vienna Jewish community vital records have been imaged, but not completely indexed, on FamilySearch. One may find the records listed in the FamilySearch catalogue. But, these records cannot be viewed from home. They must be viewed at a Family History Center.

Record entry 282 shows Herta Schaffer, daughter of Raphael Schaffer and Susie Grunwerg, born on 19 February 1917 in Vienna. Parents married 6 September 1903, Czernowitz [4].

The imaged record did not provide much more than the basic information shown in the JewishGen index. The comment on the far right column, however, was excellent: Herta's parents had been married in Czernowitz on 6 September 1903.

Like the Viennese Jewish records, some Jewish Czernowitz vital records listed in the FamilySearch catalogue have not been indexed. I looked for the indexed marriage record in the GeneaSearch Czernowitz database and found it.
I then took this information to the FamilySearch catalogue to view an image of the original record. Czernowitz records may be searched and viewed on FamilySearch from one's home computer, but one may not download the images (a screen shot is not optimal, but worked for me).

Extract: Groom: Raphael Schaffer, born in Radautz, son of Abraham Schaffer and Rifke Liebross of Radautz. Born 1 April 1875. Bride: Sossie Grunwerg born in Kolomea, daughter of Berl Grunwerg and Sura, born Frank, in Czernowitz on 20 November 1880. [5]

Extract: Married on 6th September 1903 in Czernowitz. Rabbi Benjamin Weiss.

Evidence in this record addresses the problem of Herta's mother's name. Sossie was identified with her mother's last name (Frank), not her father's (Grunwerg). To be sure, I located Sossie's birth record via the Jewish Records Indexing- Poland database.[6]

Extract/summary: Sossie, born in Kolomea on 18 November 1880 [her marriage record showed 20 Nov. 1880]. She is shown as illegitimate and her father's information is not included in the last column on this page. A note above the illegitimate notation indicates that her parents married in Czernowitz on 5 May 1888, thereby legitimizing her.

Extract: Mother's name was Sura Frank. Sossie's father's name, Berl Grunwerg of Kolomea is recorded in the first column under her mother's name. Sura's parents were Meier and Ester Rifka Frank of Kolomea.

She, like Rafael, was listed as illegitimate. Her parents married civilly after her birth.

I did find Sossie's parents' marriage record from 1888 among the Czernowitz  Jewish marriage records, but will not include it here. It shows that her mother Rifka's surname had been Udelsman (perhaps Rifka's mother's maiden name!).

It appears I have located a new 3rd cousin (CS) and his son (JS), who is my 3rd cousin once-removed. Now, I have other record-confirmed 3rd cousins+ on this side of the family with whom I share no autosomal centiMorgans. So, these matches with CS and JS are special. I hope to get more of my clear-cut Ancestry matches' results uploaded to other websites to allow more in-depth analyses.

Mane and Tsiril had four children (that I know of). Rifke Liebross Schaffer had nine or ten. Louis had at least eight. So the family tree below just shows our direct lines from our common ancestral couple.

For those who sometimes question the value of DNA testing for one's family history, note that in this case DNA results allowed me to find a person for whom I was not previously searching. Without the initial interesting match with CS I would not have looked further. And without the availability of indices and images of European Jewish records I never could have made this connection. It takes a village of websites and organizations to build a family tree. 

In addition to CS, JS and all my cousins whose curiosity and trust allow me access to their DNA test results, I think kudos are due to GeneaSearch, Edgar Hauster and Bruce Reich (who are behind the acquisition and indexing of Radauti Jewish vital records), JewishGen, Jewish Records Indexing-Poland, and FamilySearch. And of course, let's not forget the big four DNA testing companies: Ancestry, FamilyTree DNA, MyHeritage and 23andMe. With patience DNA tests are gifts that keep on giving.

1. Radauti Jewish Marriages, Abraham Ber Schaffer and Rifke Libruss, 24 June 1877, Vol. 1, p. 64, entry 36; Radauti City Archive. Indexed records searched at: https://czernowitz.geneasearch.net/
2. Radauti Jewish Births, Rafael Schaffer, 1 April 1875, vol. 1, p. 83, entry 30; Radauti City Archive. Indexed records searched at: https://www.reisch-family.net/RadautzBirthRegistersIndex/BirthsSearchForm.html
3. I have been in touch with one descendant of Rifka Liebross Schaffer who lives in Israel who has been very helpful.
4. Vienna, Jewish births 1917, no. 282, Herta Schaffer, 19 February 1917; images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org: accessed 2 October 2019), "Metrikel 1826-1943,">Geburten 1917-1918 (microfilm 1199227); citing Judische Gemeinde Wien (Niederosterreich), Stadt und Landesarchiv Wien.
5. Czernowitz, Jewish marriages 1903, Raphael Schaffer and Sossie Grunwerg, 6 September 1903; images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch,org : accessed 2 October 2019), Austria, Bukovina, Czernowitz - Jewish Records>Metrikel Books, 1856-1940>microfilm 2395731, Item 1>image 73 of 850; citing Central State Historical Archives of Ukraine, Czernowitz, vol. IX, p. 104, record 128.
6. Kolomyya, , Jewish births, Sossie [Grunwerg] Frank, 18 November 1880; images, Polish State Archives, AGAD, Stanislowow Wojewodztwo, Kolomyya, Fond 300, Signatura 395, Akta 670; accessed via Jewish Records Indexing-Poland (https://jri-poland.org/ ).

16 September 2019

Basics and Beyond: JGS Colorado Seminar, Sept. 22, 2019

Denver should be beautiful this time of year! And I am pleased that I have been invited to speak at "Basics and Beyond," a seminar hosted by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Colorado next Sunday, September 22, 2019.

I guess I am the "beyond" part. Nancy Adelson from Washington State will be delivering two talks for Jewish genealogy beginners serving on a panel with other experts. I will be delivering three intermediate-advanced presentations as well as the conference opening keynote.

My talks will be:

9:15 A.M. - Keynote: "Planning for Success: A Strategy for Effective Family History" 

10:30 A.M. - "Conflict Management: Evaluating Evidence of Identity"

1:15 P.M. - "When it Takes a Village: Applying Cluster research Techniques"

2:45 P.M. - "Beyond the Manifest: Methods for Confirming One's Ancestral Origins"

For more about the JGSCO Annual Seminar see their flyer and their website. Click here for registration information.

05 August 2019

Jewish geography at IAJGS 2019, Cleveland: Bellmore, Vassar, Zaleszczyki and Belle Harbor

I had planned and actually drafted several posts about the conference this past week while in Cleveland but did not complete them in a timely manner. Thinking back, however, I want to share my most memorable moments - the ones best described as networking or Jewish geography.

Once one has been to numerous conferences perhaps the most anticipated activity is not usually the presentations but the chance to catch up with friends and make new ones.

Alec and I have known each other for a few years. He is in his 20s and lives in New York City. I am, let's just say, a bit older and live out West. We already knew from past contact that he and I grew up in pretty much the same town on Long Island: Bellmore and North Bellmore. We did go to different high schools (there are three in the area) but that may be one of our few differences. We went to the same college: Vassar. We both majored in Anthropology. 

In Cleveland, Alec and I sat for more than an hour chatting and discovered that in addition to all our previously known similarities we also share an ancestral town in Galicia: Zaleszczyki (now in Ukraine).

At this point all I can say is, "Stop it! Just Stop it!"

While this was amusing, it did not (as of yet) advance my genealogy research. However, my contact with Ruth did.

A few minutes after I arrived at the hotel on Saturday afternoon I sat in the lobby awaiting the arrival of my hotel roommate who was on her way from the airport. Ruth and I struck up a pleasant conversation.

The following morning we recognized each other while eating breakfast and continued our conversation.

"Where were you from in New York City?"

"Belle Harbor."

"That's the Rockaways. I had relatives in Belle Harbor, I think. I'm embarrassed to ask but I will anyway: did you know a family named Ett?"

Ruth broke into a huge smile. "I lived across the street from them. My older sister Doris was best friends with their daughter Pearl." Ruth, her late sister, and Pearl had kept in touch for many years.

The Rockaways are a collection of small houses built on a barrier island along the south shore of Long Island within the borough of Queens.

Ruth proceeded to tell me the kind of story about Pearl's older brothers, Seymour and Herb, that I never got from records. 

Seymour and Herb Ett were very handy. As adults they moved to Florida with their families and built houses. They became successful developers. Before that, though, they were teenage boys living by the water. They decided to build a boat. 

Ruth was about 15 years younger than Seymour and 12 years younger than Herb. She was fascinated by the endeavor. They worked in their basement and allowed Ruth to sit quietly and watch as the boat took shape. At some point during the winter the boys decided that they'd have to move their craft outside before it got too large for the basement doorway. It was winter, but Ruth, ever loyal, continued her vigil outside watching the boat take shape. 

Several months later the boat was ready and Seymour and Herb asked their little friend Ruth if she'd like to go with them on the maiden voyage. 

They launched in Jamaica Bay, a body of water between the barrier Island and Long Island. The engine worked fine until is was well into the bay. Then it burst into flames. 

"Ruth, do you know how to swim?" asked one of the Ett brothers. 


The three abandoned ship and tried to head toward the nearest land. Luckily a boat was nearby and its crew plucked the three from the water.

As Ruth put it, "Then, they had to face my mother!"

In the 1940 U.S. Census, Dave Ett, my maternal grandmother Tillie's first cousin, was a furrier who lived with his wife Bessie and children, Seymour, Herbert, and Pearl at 271 W. 135th Beach Street, in Belle Harbour. Ethel Leibross, wife of my maternal great uncle, was actually not related to the Ett's. Her husband Simon Liebross had died and the Ett's took her in. My impression from this and several other stories is that Bessie Ett was a saint!

This is the left side of the 1940 Census page enumerating the Etts.[1]

In April 1940, Ruth's Fenichel family lived at 247 W. 136th Beach Street.[2]

Both Seymour and Herb are gone now. I have been out of touch with Pearl for a year or so. Guess it's time for a telephone call!

Love these IAJGS conferences!

1. 1940 U.S. Census, Queens Co., pop. sched., Belle Harbour, e.d. 41-1570, sheet 6A, household 130, David and Bessie Ett family; images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 4 April 2012).
2. 1940 U.S. Census, Queens Co., pop. sched., Belle Harbour, e.d. 41-1570, sheet 4B, household 87, Louis and Fae Fenishel family; images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 3 August 2019).

29 July 2019

IAJGS 2019 Cleveland Blogger Compendium

Each year at the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies conference I create a post to collect blogged content relating to the week. Readers, please check back daily for updates on what happened, what you attended and what you may have missed.

Bloggers, please send me a link to your first post on the conference and I will include you on the list. I will, as needed, continue to update this compendium for a week or so after the conference.

Banai Feldstein  - The Ginger Jewish Genealogist
"IAJGS 2019, Part 1"
"IAJGS 2019, Part 2"
Emily Garber - The Extra Yad
"Jewish geeography at IAJGS, Cleveland: Bellmore, Vassar, Zaleszczyki and Belle Harbor"

Lina Goldberg - The Cuckoo Tree
"IAJGS2019: JRI Poland and Congress Poland Records"
"IAJGS Cleveland highlights"

Barbara Zabitz -Adventures of a Jewish Genealogist
 "IAJGS 2019

Johannes Reiss - Koschere Melange (the blog of the Austrian Jewish Museum) - [click on the British flag at the top of the page to read in English]
"Lessons learned...from the Austrian Jewish Museum and Cemetery Project in Eisenstadt, Burgenland"
"Help! I can not Hebrew...but I need Hebrew sources for my genealogy research"

Jeanette Rosenberg -  Round2it Genealogy
"The #Not@Conference #IAJGS2019 Conference Blog Post"

Mary-Jane Roth - MemoryKeepers Notebook
"IAJGS2019, Cleveland, OH

Janice Sellers - Ancestral Discoveries
"IAJGS International Conference on Jewush Genealogy in Cleveland, Ohio"
"IAJGS Cleveland: Tuesday and Wednesday
"IAJGS Cleveland: Wrapping Up and Heading Home"

Michael Snyder - Clay in My Boots 
"IAJGS - 30-Jul-2019"
"IAJGS - Volynia Dinner
"Kremenets BOF at IAJGS"

18 May 2019

Catch me at Pikesville and Silver Spring, Maryand in the next two weeks!

I will be delivering my presentation, "Memory and Mystery: Breaking Down Family Lore," at two Jewish genealogy societies next week on Sunday and the following week, as well.

On Sunday, May 26, 2019 at 1:30 P.M., I will be at the Pikesville Library's meeting room, 1301 Reistertown Road, Pikeville, MD for the Jewish Genealogy Society of Maryland.

On Sunday, June 2, 2019 at 12:00 P.M., I will be speaking at a members' only luncheon for the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington at the Silver Spring Civic Building, 1 Veterans Place, Silver Spring, MD.

"Memory and Mystery" discusses those family stories many of us have and how we should approach them. In one example I will discuss the Chief Blue Jacket legend that made its way into reputable history publications and historical fiction. I will also present a story from my own family: four brothers who took different surnames in the Russian Empire. In both cases documentary research is combined with DNA results to help evaluate the truth.

Hope those of you in the vicinity will be able to make it to one of the presentations!