Sunday, October 26, 2014

I Found Two Possible Siblings of My Great-Great-Grandfather!

Possibly Gersh Wolf Gorodetsky
One of the great advantages of searchable electronic databases is their ability to show you information you wouldn't have thought to look for.  Even if you had considered looking, the time required might not have been practical.

Many years ago, I rented several rolls of microfilm of Jewish metrical records from Kishinev, Russian Empire (now Chisinau, Moldova) from the Family History Library.  I was trying to find information about my great-grandfather's family, which I had been told moved to Kishinev from the Kamenets Podolsky area some time soon after his birth.

My search was very successful.  I found the birth registrations of five of the six younger children in the family, the death record for my great-great-grandmother, and the index entry for my great-great-grandfather's second marriage (the church did not have the full marriage record on film).  I learned that this branch of my family was probably reasonably well educated, because when those five siblings immigrated to the United States the birthdates they used were surprisingly close to the actual dates.  I also learned my great-great-grandmother died one month after the birth of her youngest child, and that my great-great-grandfather did not remarry until two and a half years later, even though he had a one-month-old child.

I still have those microfilms on extended loan at my local Family History Center in Oakland, because I know it can be helpful to go through these types of records and look for other people with the same name and from the same place, as they might be related.  As these records were in Russian handwriting from the 1890's to the early 1900's, however, I kept putting it off, because I didn't want to slog through the 100+-year-old Cyrillic.

But now we have the Internet and searchable databases.  Several volunteers have transcribed many of the FHL microfilms of Kishinev records, and the transcriptions are now online in one of those databases.  I was recently doing research for someone else and ended up searching in the database that includes the Kishinev metrical records.

I didn't find any relevant information for the family I was researching, but I really thought there should be something.  To test the database, I searched for my family name, Gorodetsky, to see what kinds of results I would get.

The first thing I did was look for the information I had already found on microfilm.  All of it was there — that was a good start.  In these records my great-great-grandfather was consistently listed as being from Orinin, and his father's name as Gersh Wolf.  Then I glanced over the other results from the search.

I noticed a minimal death listing with my great-great-grandfather's name as the father.  I found another listing with more information about the same death and discovered that my great-great-grandmother had had at least one more pregnancy beyond the eight children I knew of, but this one apparently had sadly ended in a miscarriage.  I didn't know that miscarriages could be included in the death registers, but at least this one was.


Then I saw a second Gorodetsky whose father was also Gersh Wolf and who was from Orinin.  This man was potentially a brother of my great-great-grandfather!  He had three children listed in the database results.  Based on the birthdates of his children, he was probably a little younger than my great-great-grandfather.

I also found the death of a woman with the same father and from the same town, but she's quite a bit older than my great-great-grandfather.  She might be a sister!  It appears that she was not married.

Looking at the range of ages for these possible siblings made me wonder about my third-great-grandfather.  If these three were siblings, I wonder how many wives/mothers there were.  It's plausible, though on the extreme end, that all three could be children of the same mother.  Unfortunately, these records give only the father's name; the mother's name is not included.

I also began to think about Gersh Wolf's possible age.  I realized that none of Gersh Wolf's eight grandchildren I know about and the three potential grandchildren from the database had that name.  It was a common practice among many Eastern European Jews at this time, including my family, to name children after deceased ancestors.  In fact, my great-grandfather and three of his siblings named their first daughters after their mother; three of the siblings named their first sons after their father.  Admittedly, I know the names of only eleven possible grandchildren, but those births extend to 1910.  I'm starting to consider whether my third-great-grandfather was still alive as of that year, and that's why no one had yet named a child after him.  If Gersh Wolf was the father of the woman whose death I found, however, he had to have been born by around 1818 at the latest, so that would make him at least 92!  Of course, it's also possible that his children didn't like him, and that's why they didn't name any sons after him . . . .

Obviously, I need to follow up on all of these potential new clues.  And all this because I decided to poke around in a database!

2 comments:

  1. Sometimes people don't use an ancestral name because someone else living bears that name (and not named for the same person). The spouse's father, perhaps. But it would be statistically unusual for that to be the case three times out of eight.

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    Replies
    1. And even if that were the case, wouldn't you expect the ancestral name to appear more than once among descendants, as in the four girls named for their grandmother? The fact that no one is named Gersh Wolf does strike me as unusual.

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