Saturday, March 4, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Lunch with a Fearless Female

After a long, full day at San Francisco History Days talking to people about genealogy for seven hours straight, I came home to find a really interesting topic from Randy Seaver for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge:

Here is your assignment if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible music):
(1)  This is March, the month for Fearless Females posts, started by Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist blog.  See her Fearless Females blogging prompts for 2017 at

(2)  Answer this question for March 16 (I've changed it a bit): 
If you could have lunch with any female family member (living or dead), or any famous female, who would it be and why? Where would you go? What would you talk about?

(3)  Tell us about it in your own blog post, in a comment on this post, or in a comment on Facebook or Google+.

I'm going to answer this in two parts:  for a female member of my family, and for a famous female.

1.  Today when I thought about which female family member I would like to have lunch with, my maternal grandfather's mother came to mind.  Her name was Minnie Zelda Meckler, born Mushe (and I don't know what her Yiddish second given name was) Nowicki.  She was born about 1880 in Russia, probably in Porozovo, which is now in Belarus.  Her parents were Gershon Nowicki and Dube Yelsky.  She died August 4, 1936 in Brooklyn, New York, before my grandparents married in 1939, and possibly before they met.  On some level she was fearless, because she came to this country with three small children on a boat, probably not knowing any English, having faith in the American dream, or at least that her husband would be on the other side to meet her.

I want to have lunch with her because I really know very little about her.  She died young, and I have only one photograph of her.  I would like to talk to her about herself and her life, similar questions to those I considered asking of my maternal grandmother's mother.  Minnie lived here twenty-five years; did she learn to speak English?  If not, I hope we have a magic interpreter, because I don't speak Yiddish, and I don't remember enough Russian to hold a conversation.

I want to learn about her parents, especially her mother, who died a mere six months before her, on February 9, 1936 in Brooklyn.  I know Dube's parents' names — Ruven Yelsky and Frieda Bloom — but that's all.  She likely knew her grandparents and could tell me what they were like.  Few documents about Jews in Porozovo have survived, so I would ask her what life was like there, who she knew, which relatives she lived near.  I don't know specifically why the family decided to emigrate.  I have been told that when they left most family members also came to the United States, but one daughter and her family stayed behind and died in the Holocaust.  I want to learn about them, learn their names so they can be commemorated.

I would also ask about her father's side of the family.  I know Gershon's father's name — Abraham Jacob Nowicki — but only his mother's given name — Sirke.  Maybe she could tell me what surname Sirke used and the names of Sirke's parents.  Maybe she would remember the names of aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews — more family members I can honor and remember — and could tell me about them, so I could learn about them as people.

I'd ask her about my great-grandfather Morris (Moishe) Meckler, her husband, who died in 1953:  what he was like, what she knew about his side of the family, if they communicated with family members still in Europe.  I would ask what she remembered about my great-great-grandparents, Morris' father and mother — Simcha Meckler and Baila, also of an unknown maiden name — who lived and died in Russia.  She and my great-grandfather married in Russia and had three children there before immigrating, so she might have known them, or at least known about them.  I'm pretty sure Simcha had died before about 1903, as my grandfather's brother was named Simcha (as was a cousin born about the same year), but Baila may have lived longer; Morris' sister named a daughter born about 1924 after her.  Maybe Minnie knew Baila.

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?

As to where we would go for lunch, it would have to be somewhere that served kosher food, as I know she was Orthodox.  In the one photo I have of her, it is clear she is wearing a sheitl, the traditional wig that a married Jewish woman wears.  I also know that my grandfather's side of the family was very conservative and Orthodox.  So absolutely it would be a kosher meal.

2.  Now, if I could have lunch with any famous female, living or dead, my first choice is always Queen Elizabeth I of England.  Why?  Because she is a fascinating historical figure.  In a world very much run by men, she was a female head of state who actually did run her country.  She was intelligent and literate, conversant in several languages.  Besides talking about history in general, one topic in particular I would love to discuss with her is what she actually thought of her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, and how the decision was made to execute her.  Maybe I'd even ask if she really did die as the Virgin Queen.  As for where to eat with Good Queen Bess, I think I'd let her choose.


  1. I found this post very interesting. I hope you are able to learn more about the relatives you mention. Especially the aunt that died in the holocaust. I agree she needs to be commemorated. Excellent post!

    1. Thanks, Mary! Obviously I won't get to have the hypothetical conversation I wrote about, but I'm still trying to find information about the missing daughter. I won't give up.


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