Saturday, September 10, 2016

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Interview a Relative Who Was at a Family Event

Sometimes when I read Randy Seaver's challenge for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun I know right away what I want to write about, and tonight is one of those nights.

Here is your assignment if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible music, please!):

If you could go back in a time machine and reattend one family event that you were present at as a child, and would love to return to interview your relative, what event would that be?

(2)  Tell us about it in a comment on this blog post, in a blog post of your own, or in a Facebook post.

The family event I would like to attend again is one for which I have no memory of my own, but which both of my parents told me happened.  My mother told me that shortly after I was born, she took a trip back to Florida so that her maternal grandmother could see me.  There is no photograph to document this trip, so some years ago I asked my father about it, and he does recall my mother taking a trip to Florida with me when I was a little baby.  This would have been in 1962, probably summer or fall.

Obviously, I don't remember the visit, but it would be logical to presume that my maternal grandmother would have been there also.  Perhaps my grandfather was not there, because otherwise there really should have been a photograph.  He took photos of all sorts of family events.  Why, oh why, is there no photo of the four generations of women?

The relative I would like to interview is my great-grandmother Sarah Libby Gordon (born Sore Leibe Brainin).  She died the next year, and there are lots of questions I would like to ask her.  I would love to have more information about her parents (who did immigrate to the United States but died even before my mother was born), her sister (since I know almost nothing about the Jaffe side of my family), her grandparents (whom she probably knew), when she came to this country (after thirty years of searching I still haven't found her on a passenger list, even though she would have been traveling with three small children), where she was actually living in Europe (all the documents about that side of the family here in the U.S. say they were from Kreuzburg, Russia, now Krustpils, Latvia, but I haven't found a single document from Europe to verify that), what it was like living in Europe, how the family decided to emigrate, and many more I'm sure I would come up with.

I would love to ask her about the photograph my grandmother had (which I now have) showing her as an apparent teenager with her mother.  Also in the photograph are another woman and two other girls.  My grandmother recognized her mother and grandmother but had no idea who the other three people were.  I think the second woman might be my great-grandmother's sister, but I have no clue about the two girls.  I suspect the photo was taken soon before my branch of the family came to the United States.  I want to know the significance of the photo book shown on a small table on one side of the photograph, and of the rolled-up piece of paper in my great-great-grandmother's hand.

I'd ask her about my great-grandfather, her husband, who died in 1955:  what he was like, what she knew about his side of the family, if they ever communicated with any family members still in Europe.  Maybe she would know if the Gorodetskys really were related to the Kardishes.

I would ask what she remembered about my great-great-grandfather, her husband's father, who immigrated to the United States in 1914 and died in 1925.  She and my great-grandfather had been married about ten years when he passed away, so I'm sure she would have known him at least a little.

I would ask her what it was like to have one of her sons take the advice to "Go west, young man!" literally.  While the rest of the family stayed in the New York–New Jersey–Massachusetts area, Dave was in San Francisco in 1910, Montana in 1917, and Washington State in 1918, before appearing in the 1920 census in New York.

I'd see if she knew anything about the man her older sister took up with, the mysterious "Mr. Katz", who was the father of my grandmother's favorite cousin.  Perhaps she could also shed some light on what happened to that older sister that caused her to live the last years of her life in an institution.

I'd like to find out what she thought of her new life in the United States.  Did it live up to what she had expected?  If not, was it still better than what life had been like in Russia?

My mother used to tell me that her grandmother never learned to speak English.  My mother would talk in English, and her grandmother would respond in German, and somehow they managed to communicate that way.  I'd like to find out if that was accurate.

I'd like to tell her that I now have her silverplate flatware and that I traditionally use it for seder dinner during Passover.  I think she'd like that.


  1. This is a great post. I hope you find out answers to some of these questions somehow even though you can't ask her anymore.

  2. Thank you, Mary. I'm pretty sure I'll find some answers, but I suspect most will be lost in time.

  3. Great, specific questions. The ancestors never expected that their descendants would be such a snoopy bunch, we would like to know everything about them, wouldn't we?

    1. I bet they would have liked to know more about us also!


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