26 May 2013

Ukraine 2013: Mapping the Journey

My daughter, Katherine, and I will be leaving in a few days for Ukraine. I will be suspending my Tombstone Tuesday and Treasure Chest Thursday blog posts until I get back (unless, of course I find something wonderful and have an overwhelming need to share under those themes immediately!).

In the meantime, here is a concept map of the planned trip. I say "concept" because while we will pretty much take these routes, there is flexibility built into the schedule and things may change.

Map constructed in Google Maps, 26 May 2013

Our journey will start in the Galicia section of Ukraine, part of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. We will arrive in Lviv (A) about mid-day on 3 June. The next day we will head to Yaremche (B) with Alex Dunai (our genealogist, translator and guide) to take in Hutsel culture. I had hoped to hike Mt. Hoverla, the highest point (6762 feet) in Ukraine, but we've already had to change that plan due to a foot injury Katherine, my daughter, suffered yesterday. 

After at least looking at Mt. Hoverla we'll wend our way back to Lviv through the Carpathian Mountains. We will stop at Bolekhiv (C), the shtetl that Daniel Mendelsohn wrote about in his book The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million. I am finally getting around to reading it. Alex Dunai is featured as Mendelsohn's Ukrainian genealogist.

My first family shtetl stop will be at Skole (D). Skole is the place where Jutte Ett Barath was born on 21 January 1894 and where, her mother (also mother of David Ett, and Sophie Ett Leiner, Sarah Ett Cohn, and Chaitze Ett Rappaport) Perl Wenkert Ett died on 18 August 1895.

We will then spend a couple of days seeing the sites of Lviv and working in the archives. Records will likely be in Polish script. I have been reviewing "Reading Polish Handwritten Records," a 3-part tutorial in the Learning Center on FamilySearch.org.

After Lviv, we will once again head south to continue treading the ground where my Wenkert and Liebross (maternal) relatives trod: Kolomyya (E), Chernivtsi (G) and Zalishchyky (F), Ustechko and Torskie. By the way, I have not been able to put Ustechko on the above map (I didn't even attempt mapping Torskie!). Each time I ask Google Maps to include Ustechko, Google places a dot north of Ternopil - way off from Ustechko's actual location just north of Zalishchyky. So, I had Google Maps place a dot near Chortkiv (H), which is a little north of Ustechko.

I am really looking forward to Kamyanets-Podilskyy (I). The photos I've seen indicate a picturesque location: a walled town with a castle. One of my floater "relatives," Samuel Myers (nee Zise Malzmann) lived in K-P before emigrating to the United States.

Visits to the archives in Khmelnitsky (J) and Zhytomir (O) will mark my entrance to the old Russian Empire and Volhynia Gubernia and my father's side of the family (Garber, Mazewitsky/Morris, Malzmann, and Kesselman). The Family History Library has been unable to film any records for Yurovshchina [once Labun (K) and Lubin], Gritsev (M) and Polonnoye (L). These towns, having been neither part of Poland nor the Austro-Hungarian Empire since about 1795 , have no records in the Warsaw archives (accessible to JRI-Poland). So, the best bet is checking the Ukrainian Archives. The records will likely be in Russian script. I'm working on understanding that, too.

I hope to not only find family records but to locate village records for Labun, Gritsev, Polonnoye and Baranovka that may be acquired, perhaps at a later date, for use by other Jewish researchers.

I'm trying not to be too excited about setting foot in Yurovshchina. I just don't know what to expect. But I will come prepared with early 20th Century maps for comparison sake and a photo the the bath house (pictured here) repaired with the American Joint Distribution Committee's help in 1923. I'd like to see if we can locate where it was located in the town. I want to know where the Jewish section was. I want to visit the cemetery - if there still is one. And I want to know where the Jewish people lived. 

I know that many Jewish people were slaughtered along with their Jewish neighbors from Polonnoye in a location near Polonnoye. I want to go there, too. 

I would like to visit Baranovka (N) so I can see the town where Feiga Grinfeld (Fannie Greenfield) was born. I've written so many posts about her, I've an investment (!). 

We'll end our trip with a few days in Kiev (P) and then fly home on 22 June. I hope to have my iPad and Dropbox folders filled with photos to share. If all goes well, I'll be able to blog a bit about my trip as it happens. If not, I'll be sure to post quite a bit when I return to the United States.

23 May 2013

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

Ukraine Flag
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.]

Treasure Chest Thursday: Ellis Island Detention for Max Garber

Ellis Island is still closed right now due to storm damage, but the Kingston Lounge historic preservation blog has posted a fascinating illustrated article about the Ellis Island Baggage and Dormitory Building - one of the buildings abandoned and not open to the public.

Think of these photos whenever you see that little X in the left column next to a passenger's name on a manifest. The X indicates that the passenger was detained.

A few of my relatives were detained. For most this was a matter of staying at Ellis Island until their relative or friend came to meet them - especially true for women traveling alone and mothers and their children expecting to be met by their husbands/fathers.

"New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957," digital images, Ancestry.com
 (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 7 February 2009), manifest, Pretoria
Hamburg to New York, arriving 30 December 1907, p. 10, line 5, 
Motel Garber; citing National Archives Microfilm Serial T715, Roll 1067.

In the case of Max Garber, the second son of Avrum Garber and the first child to emigrate to the United States, he was to be met by a friend, Morris Tafel (sp?). I know nothing about Tafel and do not know if he ever arrived. Instead Max (or, at the time Motel Garber) was detained for a short time (he had one meal) before being turned over to United Hebrew Charities (UHC).

UHC typically signed guarantees for those immigrants thought by Ellis Island officials to be "likely public charges." UHC would provide money and a place in a boarding house for newly arrived Jewish immigrants. [1]

The following relatives were also detained on arrival at Ellis Island:
Jacob Myers, 24 March 1908
Bessie Hasner (later married David Ett), 31 May 1910
Sprinze (Sophie) Ett (later married Charles Leiner), 23 July 1912
Esther Haber (later married Eddie Garber), 3 March 1921 
Awrum Garber, special inquiry, 20 November 1922

Detention pages in manifests can provide very nice information about those who came to meet the immigrant: names, addresses and relationships. The detention pages of a manifest are typically near the end of the manifest. If one sees an X in the margin to the left of your immigrant's name, be sure to jump to the end of the manifest to find the detention page. 

I have actually found this much easier with Ancestry.com (where one can see how many images there are in a set and can go directly to an image) than the EllisIsland.org website where one may need to scroll through many images to get to the detention page. Oftentimes (although not always), an Ancestry search will result in links to the first page in the manifest with the name searched and the detention page, as well.
1. Cannato, Vincent J. American Passage: The History of Ellis Island, New York: HarperCollins, 2010: 80.

21 May 2013

Tombstone Tuesday: Harry Myers & Mollie Glickman Myers

Used with permission: JewishData.com, digital image (http://www.jewishdata.com : 
accessed 11 March 2010), photograph, gravestone for Rose and Harry Myers, 
Beth David Cemetery, Elmont, New York.

Here lies
Malcha daughter of Noach
Died 21 Tishri 5747
May her soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life
DIED OCT. 24, 1986
Here lies
Tzvi son of David
Died 12 Tammuz 5712
 May his soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life
DIED JULY 5, 1952

Harry Myers was the youngest child of David and Ida Myers. He was born 16 July 1893 or 1895 in Lubin. [1] He is the only Myers sibling not buried in Montefiore Cemetery.

I had been unable to locate Harry's burial location and was unsure of his death date until I found this photograph on JewishData, a fee website. Beth David Cemetery does not have an online index and this grave has not been indexed or recorded elsewhere (e.g., JewishGen Online World Burial Registry, Find A Grave, or Internment.net)

Harry emigrated as Herschel Meyers, an 18 year old glazier. He sailed on the Noordam from Rotterdam on 17 August 1912 and landed at the Port of New York 27 August 1912. [2]

Mollie Glickman and Harry Myers married in Brooklyn on 5 November 1916. [3] They had two children: George (born 10 July 1919) and Lillian (born 25 September 1924). [4]

1. "World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 29 March 2008), card for Harry Myers, number 404, Kings County, New York, ED 55, AD 22.
"U.S. World war II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 25 March 2008), card for Harry Myers, serial number U3362, Kings County, New York; citing Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Fourth Registration. National Archives and Records Administration.
2. "New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957," digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 3 September 2011), manifest, Noordam, Rotterdam to New York, arriving 27 August 1912, p. 2, line 9, Herschel Meyers; citing National Archives Microfilm Serial T715, Roll 1921.
3. Kings County, New York, Certificate and Record of Marriage number 13551 (5 November 1916), Harry Myers and Malie Glickman, New York City Municipal Archives, New York.
4. Petition for Naturalization of the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York, 1865-1937, for Mollie Myers, 17 September 1930; Digital Images, Fold3 (http://www.fold3.com: accessed 3 September 2011); from National Archives microfilm Publication Number M1879.

16 May 2013

Treasure Chest Thursday: Louis Myers' Death Certificate and Ida's Maiden Name

Louis Myers was successful in business as a glazier and was influential politically in the Jewish community in New York City. Like most of his siblings, he died rather young. [1]

Bronx County, New York, Certificate of Death number 9710 (8 November 1938), Louis Myers, 
New York City Municipal Archives, New York.

When Louis died of liver cancer at the age of 52, he was living with his second wife Yetta G. and his daughter Renee in the same apartment building they'd lived in since at least 1930. [2]

The most interesting information on Louis' death record is the maiden name of his mother: "Kesselina."

This agrees with other information about Ida's (Chaye Sarah) maiden name from several documents informed by a variety of relatives.
Kestelman - Chaye Sarah Meyers' death certificate (informant, husband)
Kestleman - Rebecca Myers Sotskess' death certificate (informant, brother Joseph Myers [3]
Kestelman - Joseph Myers' marriage certificate [4]
Kestleman - Harry Myers' marriage certificate [5]
The only conflicting record is Joseph Myers' death certificate where the informant, daughter Lillian Langer, identified her grandmother's maiden name as Cohen. [6]  

It is likely, considering that Lillian, who was two generations removed from her grandmother and about 8 years old when her grandmother died, was confused. This confusion, however might have coincided with two possibilities: that there were Kesselman/Kestelman relatives in the United States who had changed their names to Cohen and/or that the Kesselman's were Kohanim (members of the Jewish priestly caste [7]).

This far I have located a few Kesselmans in New York, but have not been able to make family connections. 

1. Myer Myers, 60; Rebecca Sotskess, 60; Joseph Myers, 56; and Harry Myers, 58. The only sibling who lived a long life was my great grandmother Sarah Myers Morris, 80, who outlived not only her siblings, but also her eldest child, my grandmother Dora Morris Garber, 57.
2. 1930 U.S. Census, Bronx County, New York, population schedule, New York City, Enumeration District 3-178, sheet 17A, family 306, Louis Myers; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 March 2008).
3. New York County, New York, Certificate of Death number 2120 (24 january 1940), Rebecca Sotskess, New York City Municipal Archives.
4. New York County, New York, Certificate and Record of Marriage number 7674 (25 March 1913), Joseph Myers and Rose Adler, New York City Municipal Archives, New York. 
5. Kings County, New York, Certificate and Record of Marriage number 13551 (5 November 1916), Harry Myers and Malie Glickman, New York City Municipal Archives, New York.
 6. New York County, New York, Certificate of Death number 26865 (15 December 1945), Joseph Myers, New York City Municipal Archives, New York. 
7. Even if Ida's Kestelman family were Kohanim, this only follows the male line. So, Ida's offspring would not have been of Kohanim  descent via their Kestelman connection.

14 May 2013

Tombstone Tuesday: Joseph and Rose Adler Myers

Montefiore Cemetery, Queens, New York, Block 89, Gate 156N, Line 6R, Grave 1 & 2,
 photographed 2 September 2008.

 Here lies
Reisa daughter of Yitzchak
Died 5 Tishri 5728
May her soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life
DIED OCT. 9, 1967


Here lies
Yosef son of David
Died 11 Teiveit 5706
May his soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life
DIED DEC. 15, 1945


Joseph Myers, born Jossel Malzmann on 15 January 1889 in Lubin, Russian Empire (also known as Labun and, now, Yurovshchina, Ukraine), was the third son and fifth child of David and Ida (Chaye) Myers.  

Joseph left Hamburg, Germany on 2 November 1906 and arrived in the Port of New York on 16 November 1906. [1] He identified himself as a glazier on his manifest and, like all his brothers and brothers-in-law, worked as a glazier in New York City.

Joseph married Rose Adler on 25 March 1913 in Manhattan. [2] They had three children: Lillian Myers Langer (born 15 February 1914), Marvin L. (10 January 1917-15 August 1917) and Eugene (10 August 1918-19 November 2001).

1."New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957," digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 19 June 2009), manifest, Batavia, Hamburg to New York, arriving 16 November 1906, p. 18, line 10, Jossel Malzmann; citing National Archives Microfilm Serial T715, Roll 798.
2. New York County, New York, Certificate and Record of Marriage number 5284 (25 March 1913), Joseph Myers and Rose Adler, New York City Municipal Archives, New York.

13 May 2013

Dear Abby, Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Name...

Will it never end?! Now we have Dear Abby perpetuating the myth that immigrants had their names changed by clerks at Ellis Island. [1]

I read the newspaper nearly from front to back each morning, but I usually don't even scan Dear Abby. This morning, however, the headline for the column caught my eye "Grandfather wants groom to change name." 

The question is a contemporary one regarding a grandfather who objects to his grand daughter's fiance's surname and is exerting pressure to have him change it. It is Abby's answer that continues the damage.

She describes the name changes that accompanied immigration a century ago and opines that while some people changed their names to Americanize and/or escape discrimination, others "had it done 'for' them by government officials" who didn't understand the pronounced names and, apparently, decided to wing it. [Yikes!]

Several researchers have already written about this myth so I will only summarize. [2] Many surnames and first names were altered with immigration. But it is likely that this was the result of personal choice and occurred after arrival, not as a result of big government ignorance or an American sense of superiority.

The fact is that manifests were created near or at ports of departure and not in the United States. [3] Clerks at Ellis Island checked the information on manifests, but did not change names. [4] The clerical staff at Ellis Island represented skills in more than 30 languages. Interpreters were available help emigrants upon arrival.

In my family I have relatives who arrived with their European names and never changed them (Garber and Liebross). I have others who changed their names after arrival (Mazewitsky --> Morris; Malzmann --> Myers; Wilensky --> Wilson). With subsequent chain migration, their loved ones sometimes followed under the new family name. Likely this was because the first family immigrant bought the tickets for the rest of the family.

One has to wonder how this myth arose and why it persists. There is an interesting article by Dara Horn in the Summer 2010 issue of Azure. She's analyzed the persistent name change myth against Jewish history. If one doesn't have the patience to read through the entire article and its discussion of Spanish and Polish Jewish history, after reading the first few paragraphs, skip down about half way through the article to get back to the Ellis Island discussion.  

I find this fascinating, but question whether the myth is really only Jewish. Other immigrant families seem to have embraced the same story. What do you think? Why did this Ellis Island name change myth start? and, why has it persisted?

1. Van Buren, Abigail (Jeanne Phillips), Dear Abby, syndicated column appearing in the Arizona Republic, 13 May 2013, page D6.
2. A selection of online posts:

Even better, read Marian Smith of the USCIS History Department:


3. Sack-Pikus, Sallyann Amdur.  “Just How Were Passenger Manifests Created?” Avotaynu XXV: 1 (Spring 2009), 7-12. 
4. Colletta, John P. They Came in Ships, third edition. Orem, Utah: Ancestry 2002, pages 127-128.