I heard variations on this story (minus the DNA part) independently from my father, my uncle, and their first cousin. Many family historians have similarly apocryphal stories in their families. When I heard this one, I thought, "That's interesting," smiled knowingly and then cached it in the back of my brain in the unlikely event I might need it. Uh-oh.
During the last two years I've been working the angles with a reasonably exhaustive search through the records associated with the Greenfield/Lederman story. I started with just an unfamiliar name on a manifest and have been trying to determine how or if Feiga Liderman Grinfeld of Baranivka (aka Fannie Greenfield of Cincinnati) was related to my family (this is my tenth post in this series - see links, below).
In the last couple of posts regarding the Greenfields and Ledermans (here and here) I identified Fannie's brother as the Morris Lederman who:
- was born in about 1892-3 to Levi Yitzchak Liderman and Frieda Simberg
- married Rene Lewis-Cohen in New York City 1920;
- lived in Detroit with Rene and their three children: Marvel, Zena and Sheldon;
- was buried in the Hebrew Memorial Park, Workmen's Circle, Turover Aid Section, Detroit, Michigan. He died 12 January 1954.
Sheldon has been great. I learned a good deal more about Morris. Immediately after World War I he was part of the Polar Bear Expedition in Archangel, Russia (that story deserves its own blog post!). He and Rene got together when he was in England recuperating from wounds and she was helping in the hospital. Fannie and Morris had another brother (Leon?) and sister (name unknown) who died in Europe. Morris' son shared some letters and post cards (written in excruciatingly small Yiddish script) from his grandfather (Levi Yitzchak) to his father. I was struck by the coincidence that my uncle Lenny Garber's Hebrew/Yiddish name was also Levi Yitzchak. But, best of all, Sheldon agreed to do a cheek swab.
I already had a base for comparison with my Garber Y-DNA. I had convinced my brother Jim and my father's first cousin, Mel, to collect samples for Y-DNA testing. Family Tree DNA placed both results in the T-M70 haplogroup - they, as expected, matched at 0 distance at 37 markers. The T-M70 Y-haplogroup is a relatively small group thus far in the Family Tree DNA test results population. In fact, Jim and Mel were each other's only exact matches. Other matches are only as close as 3 and 4 alleles distance (difference). Only one person matches at distance 3 and three at distance 4.
And Sheldon? As of this morning, Jim and Mel have another exact match on 37 markers: 0 distance. I now know that the Fannie Lederman Greenfield and Morris Lederman were Garber cousins. But, Lederman and Garber related along fathers' lines? What goes on here?
The apocryphal story is starting to look better and better. I doubt the conscription aspect of the story - especially since the local Jewish community often selected those members of their community who would be taken for military service. Surely, just changing a surname would not fool many locals. But it's reasonable to stay open to some aspects of family lore. While we may not be able to immediately document causation, we may be able to support evidence for surname changes.
My father's first cousin, Sandra, seems to think that her grandfather, Avrum Garber, was the Garber sibling of the family story. If so, our further research needs to acknowledge that he was born about 1864 and Levi Yitzchak (whose daughter Feiga was born about 1878) was likely a bit older. Conscription rules and practices in effect during that time period will require additional research.
Several areas to be pursued:
- Research 19th Century Jewish conscription practices. I know they were not uniform over time. Could they have been associated with family Jewish name changes?
- I have ordered an autosomal (FamilyFinder) test for Sheldon and already have test results for Mel and me. Our results, according to Family Tree DNA, are consistent for first cousins. The test may provide information relevant to the closeness of our relationship with Sheldon (I hope to see the results of his test in the next week or so).
- Exhaust the possibilities of records in eastern Europe. It's unlikely there are relevant records for this Russian Empire part of Volhynia Gubernia in today's Ukraine. But, never say never. The Routes to Roots website, which documents archival collections for a variety of communities in eastern Europe, indicates that there are several collections that include Baranivka records. None relate to the time period that I really need: about 1870s to 1920. But, I will be going after whatever I can find for both Baranivka and the Garber shtetl of Labun. I have traced Utcheniks to Zhvil (Novograd Volynsky) and Polonnoye. I need records from those places, as well.
- Find Utcheniks to test. I have already researched the Utchenik family who settled in Detroit. This is an unusual surname and other Utcheniks who settled in other areas of the USA are likely related to them. I contacted a couple of Utchenik researchers a few years ago. They knew of no similar story. But, now, I think I need to find someone for a Y-DNA and autosomal test.
In the meantime, I'm starting to believe in fairy tales!
Posts in this series:
Avrum's Women, Part 2: Feiga GrinfeldAvrum's Women, Part 12: Finding Family with Family Finder
Avrum's Women, Part 3: Following Feiga (and Raya)
Avrum's Women, Part 4: The Trouble with Harry
Avrum's Women, Part 5: Finding Feiga
Avrum's Women, Part 6: Added Confirmation
Avrum's Women, Part 7: Feiga's Family
Avrum's Women, Part 8: Fannie's Story
Avrum's Women, Part 9: Fannie's Brother Morris
Avrum's Women, Part 13: Bond of Brothers