23 May 2013

Are we there yet? Five tips for answering this nagging question

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How does one know it's time to go abroad for family history research? I've been thinking about a genealogy research trip for a while, but I am one of those who believes one needs to have completed a great deal of United States research before jumping the pond. For me, pre-work is critical to enjoying a productive research trip abroad.

I've not previously blogged about my plans for the summer. Although I did mentioned earlier that I have some summer genealogy travel plans. Well, preparations have been taking a great deal of my time. On 2 June 2013, my daughter and I head off to Ukraine.

How does one know one is there? that it's nigh time for a research trip? One needs to evaluate what one has already learned and evaluate which research problems might benefit from a trip abroad. I see this type of trip as a bit different from very focused research where one researches one problem. When making the time and money investment for a trip abroad, one must think more broadly. Things to consider: 

1. Who emigrated and when? 
Is your family research well documented? Include the earliest generation of immigrants on down through their children and children's children and each generation's collateral relatives.

The names are critical when one is looking through records in archives. What were your relatives names in the old country? Write the names in script in all the languages one may encounter in the archives. 

If one is lucky enough to have relatives who left the shtetl relatively recently, one may find locals who remember the family or the family name.

In my case I have great grandparents (born in about the 1860s who arrived in New York between 1897 and 1922) and one set of great great grandparents (born about the 1840s-1850s) who came to the USA in 1913. My last immigrant relatives arrived in the USA in 1922. It's unlikely that I will find anyone in Ukrainian communities who recalls my family members who emigrated. 

Father's Family
  • GARBER ggf Avrum/Abraham (b. ca. 1864, Labun) son of Mordechai, grandson of Yitchak Leib.
  • MACEVICKI (Mazewitsky, changed to MORRIS) ggf Yitzchak Leib/Isidore (b. 1874) son of Solomon and Sarah. Sister Chana (likely older sister) married Avrum GARBER, died before early 1922 in Labun.
  • MALZMANN (changed to MYERS, other may have used MOLTHMAN & MALTMAN) ggf David (b. ca. 1933-1854, Labun) son of Yisrael.
  • KESSELMAN ggm Chaye Sura/Ida Kesselman Myers (b. ca. 1844-1854, Labun) daughter of Baruch Yisrael and Devorah. 
Mother's Family
  • LIEBROSS ggf Eliezer/Louis (b. 1864). Lived in Radauti, Romania. Likely born in Zaleszczyki, Ukraine area.
  • WENKERT ggm Breindl/Bertha Wenkert Liebross (b. 1864). Lived in Radauti, Romania. Likely born in Zaleszczyki, Ukraine area.
  • WILENSKY and EPSTEIN - Not this trip. The rest of my mother's family were from today's Belarus and are not relevant to my Ukrainian research plans.
2. Where did the family live before emigrating? Where were they born? 
Documentation of shtetls of origin has been, surprisingly, somewhat of a moving target. As I've completed more research I seem to locate more and more collateral relatives who lived in different, albeit usually nearby, shtetls. 

For the main paternal village, Labun (aka Lubin, aka Yurovshchina, Zaslav Uyezd, Volhynia Gubernia), I've applied the Genealogical Proof Standard in my research (and I've continued to do so as I seek and locate new records) and I'm sure that I've identified the correct village. One doesn't want to complete a genealogy trip and discover that one visited the wrong location.

The more I research my Liebross and Wenkert relatives in the Bukovina and Galicia areas of Ukraine, the more villages and towns I find. This part of my family research is, unfortunately, not as solid as my paternal side. This is not optimal, but the constant in my research is the Zaleszczyki/Ustechko area. That's where I will concentrate my research for these families.
3. Are there "floaters" that need to be tied down? 
I like to call them "floaters," but others might identify people of unknown relation to the known family as "brick walls."

Have you conducted exhaustive research using United States records on those people who have the same surnames as your relatives, came from the same villages as your family, and keep showing up interacting with your relatives after immigration? These are the people who, while likely relations, resist your efforts to determine kinship. Are you at the point where evidence gleaned from records in foreign archives may be the best next step?

Some of my floaters include families who emigrated as Malzmanns from Labun and then took slightly different surnames in the United States: Molthman and Maltman. Benjamin Molthman shows up as my ggf Isidore Morris' business partner. 

A couple of the Myers brothers' manifests show them joining their "uncle" Abram Malzmann (aka Abraham Maltman). At this point, I cannot definitively identify the parents of Benjamin Molthman and his brother Abraham Maltman. I may be able to find some evidence on this research trip.
4. Are there relatives who did not emigrate?  
With which towns/villages are they associated? From relatives and resources in the USA and the few records I have been able to acquire from some eastern European archives, I've documented some of those who were left behind. Yad Vashem and other Holocaust databases that may associate family surnames with family villages have also been helpful for linking the surnames and the villages. This sort of research broadened my geographical scope (see item # 2, above)
5. Which foreign archives are likely to hold records for communities and relatives of interest?
A scatter shot approach is not advisable. Know where you intend to research and what you might find there. Routes to Roots has a well-known database of Jewish shtetl records and their repositories. 

But, in some cases, additional resources have been located.  Check out what Gesher Galicia has been doing, Ukraine SIG, and the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People. These organizations have indices and finding aids that may give one a good idea of archival holdings relative to a particular village.

Check for JewishGen Kehilalinks websites for villages of interest. There may be information about record repositories or stories of trips by other researchers that may disclose archival gems. In Googling "Polonnoye," the neighboring village 10 miles to the east of Labun, I found a newsletter article by Ellen Shindelman regarding her trip to the area in 1997. The article was in the Belarus SIG newletter - a place I would not have checked for Ukraine research for my area of interest.

Based upon the above five criteria, I have created draft research plans.  This is my draft research plan for the surnames and shtetls of interest in the Volhynia Gubernia area of today's Ukraine.

With a research plan in hand, I have been able to identify places that are a must for my research visit. Of course, I won't be totally clinical in my visit. I will visit family villages for the pleasure of walking in my ancestors' footsteps. I expect that when I do that, I'll know that I am indeed there!

[This is a re-posting of an article published yesterday, 22 May 2013, that somehow disappeared from my blog. I have been able to reconstruct it.]

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