Monday, January 27, 2020

"The Masked Singer" Brings Memories of My Mother

On the Hebrew calendar, today (January 27, 2020) is 1 Shevat (in the year 5780), my mother's yahrzeit, commemorating the date of her death.  It's the day I've chosen to share stories about her on my blog.  On the Christian calendar she died January 2, 1995.  Because the Hebrew calendar is a combination solar-lunar one, its dates change in relationship to the solar Christian calendar, and the dates don't match up the same year to year.

I thought about my mother a lot while I was watching the last few episodes of the recent season of The Masked Singer.  I heard about the show when it premiered but hadn't bothered to watch it, because it looked too oriented to the competition, which is a trend I have not enjoyed in a lot of current programming.

On November 13, however, Week 6 of the second season, I somehow ended up in front of the television watching the new episode.  I had to play a little bit of catch-up, figuring out what the format was and trying to understand the altered voices of the singers (extremely difficult!) as they talked about themselves and parceled out clues to their identities.  But I realized that not only was this an interesting program, it's something my mother would have enjoyed, and it's something I could see myself watching with her, or at least talking with her about it.

My mother is the person who got me hooked on recognizing voices, both of actors and singers.  She could recognize so many voices and accents, and I'm nowhere near as good as she was.  (I still haven't figured out what a Chicago accent is, but she knew one right away.)  I think she would have been really good at picking through the clues and recognizing the singing voices of the celebrity contestants, particularly those with longer careers.

I have to admit, I did much better with the people from my and my mother's generations.  I figured out Patti LaBelle and Seal and was most of the way there with Michelle Williams.  And I did guess Wayne Brady correctly.  (And I still can't understand why everyone was so surprised to learn he's a great singer; apparently none of those people remember the awesome extemp songs he did regularly on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, with or without Brad Sherwood.  I think he's brilliant!)  I haven't heard of the others who were still competing by the time I began watching, so I don't feel bad about not figuring them out (I was particularly impressed with Ken Jeong's amazing correct ID of Victor Oladipo, though!).

I don't know if my mother would have followed newer singers and actors to be able to recognize their voices.  But I think she would have had a lot of fun trying.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your Favorite Toys as a Child

How well will I remember my childhood as compared to Randy Seaver?  This week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun has people digging up old memories.

Here is your assignment, should you decide to accept it (you ARE reading this, so I assume that you really want to play along; cue the Mission:  Impossible! music!):

(1) Jen on Auntie Jen's Family Trees posted "Throwback Thursday Favorite Toys" on 23 January, and Linda S. thought it would make a good SNGF topic.  I agree!

(2) What are some (one or more) of the toys you played with as a child?  

(3) Share your favorite toy(s) with us in your own blog post, in a comment on this blog post, or in a Facebook message.  Please leave a comment on this blog noting where your conjectures are located.

Thank you, Jen, for the idea.

The only toy I remember playing with as a child is my Barbie dolls.  I didn't have an original model Barbie (not old enough), but I had Barbie, Stacey (I can always remember her because my sister's name is Stacy), and I think Midge.  If it wasn't Midge then it was Francie.  I had a few of the clothes you could purchase, but I learned to sew at a young age and made more clothes for them.  I know I still have Stacey and I think the others.  They're in storage right now, so I can't get to them.

Other than that, I played games with my brother and sister.  We played a lot of cards, especially poker and pinochle, and Monopoly, which my brother almost always won.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Where Were Your Ancestral Families in the 1950 U.S. Census?

Randy Seaver is getting the jump on things, because the 1950 census won't be available for more than two years, but this week in Saturday Night Genealogy Fun we can think ahead.

Here is your assignment, should you decide to accept it (you ARE reading this, so I assume that you really want to play along; cue the Mission:  Impossible! music!):

(1) The 1950 United States census release to the public is just over two years away (on 1 April 2022).  

(2) Who in your ancestral families will be in the 1950 census?  Where will they be residing?  What occupations will they have?  The official date was 1 April 1950.

(3) Share your conjectures with us in your own blog post, in a comment on this blog post, or in a Facebook message.  Please leave a comment on this blog noting where your conjectures are located.

Okay, since Randy said "ancestral families", I"m going to stick to my direct lines.  Collateral lines are not "indirect ancestors", they're not ancestors at all.

My father should be living with his parents, who in 1950 were still together.  According to the list of his residences that my grandfather wrote up, from 1946 to 1952 he was living on Union Mills Road in Mount Holly, New Jersey, so that's where I will expect to find my grandfather, grandmother, and father.  My father would have been 14 when the census taker came around, so I don't think he was working yet.  My grandfather might have been working for the Army at Fort Dix.  I have no idea whether my grandmother was working, but if I had to guess I would say no.

• B. L. Sellers, Sr., age 47, born New Jersey
• Anna Sellers, age 57, born New Jersey
• Lynn Sellers, age 14, born New Jersey
• Mildred Sellers, age 21, born New Jersey (maybe in the household)

My paternal grandfather's mother should also be in Mount Holly, probably on Broad Street at the same house in which she was living in 1940 but wasn't enumerated (that address is missing from the 1940 census).  She might have retired by then.

• Laura Ireland, age 68, born New Jersey

My paternal grandmother's parents were both alive in 1950.  They were probably in Mount Holly; I don't have an address.  Considering their ages, I hope they were retired.

• Thomas K. Gauntt, age 79, born New Jersey
• Jane Gauntt, age 78, born England

My mother should be with her parents, but I don't know if they will be in Miami, Florida or in Brooklyn, New York.  I think by that time they had moved to Miami.  My mother was 9 when the census taker visited, so she won't be working.  My grandfather might be a taxi driver, and my grandmother might be working in real estate or else a housewife.

• Abe Meckler, age 37, born New York
• Lily Meckler, age 31, born New York
• Myra Meckler, age 9, born New York
• Martin Meckler, age 6, born New York

My maternal grandfather's mother had already passed away, but his father was still alive in 1950.  He should be in Brooklyn, although I don't know an address.  In 1953 he was living at 591 Sneider Avenue, so maybe he was there in 1950.  I don't know if he will be working.  Hey, there were rumors that he remarried after my great-grandmother died; if that was true, maybe I'll find the second wife with him in the 1950 census!

• Morris Mackler, age about 68, born Russia

My maternal grandmother's parents were both alive in 1950.  They should also be in Brooklyn, I think on Livonia.  My great-grandfather was probably still working in the clothing industry.  My great-grandmother was a housewife and never worked outside the home that I know of.

• Joe Gordon, age about 58, born Russia
• Sarah Gordon, age about 59, born Russia

And I think that's it.  I've accounted for all my known great-grandparents, and my last great-great-grandparents died in 1948.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Happy 9th Blogiversary to Me!

It's January 15, the blogiversary date I share with Lisa Hork Gorrell (because we started our blogs on the same day in 2011) and with Dick Eastman, of all people (who has been doing it far longer than we have).  It's the 9th blogiversary for Lisa and me, and 9 is one of my lucky numbers, so I think this will be a lucky year for my blog.

I passed 1,500 posts this past year (and didn't even notice it at the time!), which on the one hand is quite an accomplishment for someone who doesn't enjoy writing, but on the other isn't as good as I had been doing.  I averaged fewer than one post every three days or so in 2019.  I have accumulated a long list of stories I want to write about, however, so I have enough material to work with.  I'm going to work hard on posting those stories so they aren't forgotten.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Accentuate the Positive Geneameme 2019

I always have fun with lists of questions for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, but I have to admit I've never heard of the word "geneameme" before.

Here is your assignment, should you decide to accept it (you ARE reading this, so I assume that you really want to play along; cue the Mission:  Impossible! music!):

(1) Jill Ball reconstituted her "Accentuate the Positive Geneameme 2019" on 30 December 2019 and invited readers to participate.  

(2) This week, let's contribute our answers to her questions about our genealogy accomplishments in 2019.  Copy the questions below and add your own responses.

(3) Share your responses on your own blog, in comments on this blog, or on Facebook.  Please leave a comment on this post so readers can find your post, and please let Jill know about your efforts by e-mailing her at

Here are mine.

1.  An elusive ancestor I found was:

I did not discover the names of any unknown ancestors in 2019.

2.  A great newspaper article I found was:

I found several interesting newspaper articles about my cousin Sam Brainin on, including one about a bad car accident he was in as a child.

3.  A geneajourney I took was:

I took three geneajourneys, to RootsTech, the Ohio Genealogical Society conference, and the IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy.

4.  I located an important record:

Yes!  I found the passenger list for my great-great-grandmother Ruchel Dwoire (Jaffe) Brainin immigrating to the Untied States with four of her children.

5.  A newly found family member shared:

A cousin I discovered through a DNA match shared lots of information on his branch of the family, plus a photograph of my great-great-grandparents Gershon Itzhak Nowicki and Dube (Yelsky) Nowicki from about 1915, while they were still in Russia.

6.  A geneasurprise I received was:

When I posted a family photograph that I love but didn't know who was in it, one of my cousins recognized her grandmother and grandaunt, which was totally unexpected.  Plus the photo is probably of her father's bris!

7.  My 2019 social media post that I was particularly proud of was:

I am glad I took the time to write up all my family connections in "Now That's What I Call a Blended Family!"  It takes a genealogist to keep track of a family as complicated as mine.

8.  I made a new genimate who:

I've gotten to be friends with someone who comes regularly to the African American Special Interest Group at the Genealogical Forum of Oregon.  We're even working toether on a few genealogy projects.

9.  A new piece of technology or skill I mastered was:

Well, not quite mastered, but for the first time I was the speaker for a Webinar, and I did all the computer stuff for it.

10.  I joined:

Well, I rejoined the Jewish Genealogical Society of Oregon.

11.  A genealogy education session or event from which I learnt something new was:

I always learn something from every conference and Webinar, but one of the standouts last year was Judy Baston's presentation on the Vilna Ghetto Library, which I attended at the IAJGS conference.  It was fascinating to see the kinds of documentation that have survived.

12.  A blog post that taught me something new was:

Jennifer Mendelsohn's "No, You Don't Really Have 7,900 4th Cousins:  Some DNA Basics for Those with Jewish Heritage" has incredibly useful information on how to work around the overabundance of matches that endogamy produces.

13.  A DNA discovery I made was:

For the first time, a DNA match connected me with someone on the Jewish side of my family I was able to place in my family tree immediately but didn't know already.

14.  I taught a genimate how to:

I did 25 presentations at conferences and genealogical societies, in addition to my volunteer work at the Gresham Family History Center and "Helping Hands" sessions for the Jewish Genealogical Society of Oregon.  I think I taught several "genimates" how to do a lot of things.

15.  A brick wall I demolished was:

I had been looking for my great-great-grandmother's arrival into this country for about 20 years (see #4).

16.  A great site I visited was:

"Old Photographs of African Americans" is a site that displays unidentified photographs for free.  People have been able to find their relatives' photos, which is wonderful.

17.  A new genealogy/history book I enjoyed was:

I found a copy of London:  Then and Now by Diane Burstein at a thrift store, and it was a bargain.

18.  It was exciting to finally meet:

Like Randy, I also can't think of someone new and exciting I met in 2019.  I'm sure there was someone, but my memory is blanking.

19.  I am excited for 2020 because:

I am really looking forward to working more on figuring out who my paternal great-grandfather Mr. X was.

20.  Another positive I would like to share is:

I'm always excited about a new year of opportunities to learn about and share genealogy!

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Wonder of Wonders, Miracle of Miracles: A DNA Match on My Jewish Side Whom I Didn't Already Know!

A couple of months ago I logged into my account to check out my DNA matches.  I don't do this often (probably not as often as I should), mostly because I've gotten used to finding no useful information.  The close matches are all relatives I know already, the distant matches are too far away to be viable at the moment, and most of the in-between matches are on my Jewish side, which means they are actually distant anyway.

This time I saw a person estimated to be a 1st–2nd cousin.  The last name was Novick, a known Americanized version of Nowicki/Novitsky, one of my Jewish family names.  I think a 1st–2nd cousin match is the closest I've ever had on my Jewish side for someone I didn't already know, so it definitely got my attention.  I sent a message with some basic information about the family including the name of my great-great-grandfather Gershon Itzhak Nowicki and hoped for the best.

He actually responded!  And we are related!  In a definable, trackable way!

My great-great-grandfather was his grandfather.  What AncestryDNA had estimated as a 1st–2nd cousin relationship is actually 1st cousin twice removed.

His branch of the family is one for which I had almost no information.  I had his father's name with approximate birth and death years and the name of one child, whom I have learned is the oldest in the family (and she's 98 and still alive!).

We batted e-mail messages back and forth with names and dates and other tidbits about family members.  Then out of the blue my phone rang.  He had found my phone number and decided to call!  So then we spent a couple of hours on the phone talking more about family.

I've learned lots more about his branch of the family.  He sent some photographs, too, includng the one above, which is of his grandparents (my great-great-grandparents) and his father in 1915, still in Russia.  Previously the only photo I had of my great-great-grandparents was this one:

where they look quite a bit older.  I had not considered where this photo had been taken, but now I'm thinking it might have been in the United States.  If that's the case, I can bracket it between 1922, when Gershon and Dube arrived in New York, and 1936, when Dube died in Brooklyn.

And now I want to meet my newfound cousin in person.  I would have loved to try to travel over the holidays, but who wants to visit Long Island in the winter?

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your 2020 Plans/Goals/Resolutions for Your Genealogy Research

The new year is a time when lots of people make resolutions for what they're going to do.  Me, I don't make resolutions, not since the one I made many years ago and have followed ever since:  never to make another resolution!  So I'm glad that for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, Randy Seaver gave the option of calling them plans or goals instead.

Here is your assignment, should you decide to accept it (you ARE reading this, so I assume that you really want to play along; cue the Mission: Impossible! music!):

(1) It's the New Year, and many readers have already made resolutions, or goals, or plans for one or more tasks or projects.  Or they haven't yet, but could or should.

(2) For this SNGF, please tell us what plans you've made, or what goals you've stated, or what resolutions you've averred for 2020.  Writing them down may help you achieve them.  Do one or more as you wish.

(3) Put it in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook post.  Please leave a link on this post so readers can find your resolutions/goals/plans.

I think I will set myself two genealogy goals for 2020:

1.  I will get back to work on finding the ever elusive Mr. X (probably Mundy), my paternal grandfather's biological father.  I've gone back far enough with no lines that come down to the present day that if/when I finally find someone connected to this line, it will be a distant enough cousin that DNA will probably not be helpful.  So I'm going to change my approach to looking for more documentation for my likely candidate, in particular photographs.  If I can find a photo of Bert Mundy and he looks a lot like my grandfather, I may grudgingly accept that as "proof" that he was my boilogical great-grandfather.

2.  I want to catch up on data entry in my family tree program.  I actually coughed up good money to retrieve all the data from my failed hard drive, including Family Tree Maker.  Now I need to see if it will run in a virtual environment on my Mac so that I can continue using the program I like.

Friday, January 3, 2020

I Knew They Didn't Fly!

Ruchel Dwojre (Jaffe) Brainin, Mendel Hertz Brainin,
and Benjamin Brainin, c. 1906, New York

I have been looking for the arrival of my great-great-grandmother Ruchel Dwojre (Jaffe) Brainin and her three youngest children to the United States for about 20 years.  This was the closest I had to a brick wall.  I don't count research questions as brick walls unless I have exhausted every single possibility, and I hadn't quite done that.  And that was the key to solving the problem.  This is a story of a lot of forgetting and dropped clues, but also of how things went wrong in the first place.

Ruchel Dwojre Jaffe was born about 1866–1871 in the Russian Empire (possibly in modern-day Latvia; she and other family members claimed to be from Kreuzburg [modern Krustpils], but I have no European records confirming that). She married Mendel Hertz Brainin about 1880–1884 in Russia and died November 9, 1934 in Manhattan, New York.

When she left Europe, I was pretty sure she would have been traveling with her three youngest children: Welwel/Velvel (William), born about 1891; Pesche (Bessie), born about 1892–1895; and Binyamin (Benjamin), born about 1896.  I was told their Jewish names by family members.  I knew those were the names I should be looking for on passenger lists.

The chain migration of the family began with the oldest son, Nachman, who arrived in New York on August 21, 1904 on a ship from Southampton, England.  Next were Chase Leah, Sora Leibe (my great-grandmother), and Dovid, who came on August 4, 1905 from Liverpool to New York.   Patriarch Mendel Hertz came April 5, 1906, also to New York, having departed from Bremen.

I knew that Ruchel Dwojre and the children were in the United States by 1910, because they were enumerated in the census in Manhattan with Mendel Hertz.

My beginning hypothesis was that they had come into New York, as did the previous family members, so I focused my searches there.  When discussing this once with my grandmother, however, she said that she remembered her grandmother saying something about coming into Watertown, which led me to research Boston records.   I later discovered that there is a Watertown, New York which was a border crossing, so I searched Canadian border crossing records.

I looked for Ruchel Dwojre and the children in the Ancestry New York passenger record collection; the Ellis Island database, using the Steve Morse interface; microfilmed Ellis Island index cards at the Family History Library; the Ancestry Boston passenger record collection; the Ancestry Canadian border crossing collection; and the FindMyPast outbound UK passenger list collection.  I searched using their Jewish names and looked under Brainin and Jaffe.  I found no one who even closely approximated them.

I looked for naturalization paperwork for the four.  I determined that my great-great-grandmother had not become a citizen at all.  Bessie became a citizen by marrying a man who naturalized as a citizen a year later, in 1915, so she had no file of her own.  I searched for Benjamin in multiple naturalization indices but didn't find his name.

The one person I had overlooked was William.  I simply forgot to check on him, probably because I knew he had died young.  This was brought to my attention when I was teaching an intro to genealogy class at the Sacramento Public Library.  I had chosen Willie's World War I draft registration as an example of a military-related document that one should search for, and as I was going through the information on the card, I read that it said he was naturalized, which I simply had not noticed before.  I stopped dead and stared at the screen, then turned to the attendees and told them this was a great example of why it's good to look over older documents that you've had a while, to see what you can glean from them now that you have more information or what you missed the first time.  After the class I made a note to myself about his naturalization, but as he had been in the Army I thought it was probably a fast-tracked military one and didn't pursue it at the time.

In 2013, my cousin Janis, Benjamin's granddaughter, surprised me with the revelation that her mother had just discovered Benny's "immigration papers", which said that he had sailed from Riga and named the ship and date.  When I finally received a copy of the document, it was a Declaration of Intention to become a citizen that Benny had filed on April 20, 1926.  On that, he stated that he had left Europe form Libau (not Riga) on the Coronia and had arrived in New York on September 15, 1906.   Woo hoo, I had something to look for!  Unfortunately, I did not find the ship arriving in New York on that date.  I searched the ship’s passenger lists for other dates in 1906 on Ancestry and through Steve Morse’s site, but not exhaustively, because it was tedious, eye-tiring work.

Eventually I broke down and paid USCIS for an index search for Benny's naturalization file, referencing the Declaration of Intention number.  I learned that all he had ever done was file the Declaration.  He never followed up on it and so did not actually become a U.S. citizen.  Because he did not file a petition to become a citizen, no Certificate of Arrival had ever been generated, and I was still stuck with not finding him and the other family members on a passenger list.

I sent my question to Avotaynu (twice!), for its "Ask the Experts" section, listing what I had done already in my search.  I didn't receive a response either time.  I even tried speaking with one of the experts at the Coaches Corner at RootsTech in 2019.  He couldn't come up with any avenues I had not explored, but in speaking with him I realized that I really needed to pursue Willie's naturalization, which I had not yet done, just so I could cross it off the list.

So I did.  I coughed up the requisite fee and sent another USCIS request, this one for Willie.  And then forgot about it.

This October I was looking through some old e-mail messages and realized I hadn't ever received a notice of results from the USCIS search.  So I sent an FOIA request and referenced my search request number.  About a week later I received a letter sayiing that USCIS had, in fact, actually found a naturalization file for William Brainin, who had become a citizen in New Bedford, Bristol County, Massachusetts on June 6, 1916.  The letter included a generous offer for me to pay an additional $65 for a copy of the file.  I made a mental note to follow up on that.  And then forgot about it.  (Hey, I have a lot on my mind!)

Two days after Christmas I was noodling around on my computer and found that letter again.  I was getting ready to head to the USCIS site to pony up the money when I realized I really should check to see whether FamilySearch might have digitized Bristol County naturalizations from that period.  Which it had.  After looking through some of the record sets and figuring out where the index pages showed up, I was able to find Willie's naturalization, which was in fact not a fast-tracked military one but a regular one, with a Declaration of Intention, a Petition . . . and a Certificate of Arrival, verifying that he had arrived in New York on the Caronia on October 3, 1906.

Oh, and by the way, his name on the passenger list was Wolf, not Welwel.


Well, forget that, let's find the passenger list!  I jumped onto Ancestry and searched for Wolf (sounds like) Broinen (sounds like) (the spelling indicated on the Certificate of Arrival), arriving in October 1906, in the New York passenger lists database.

And got "Your search for Wolf Broinen returned zero good matches."

Mumble grumble stupid Ancestry fiddle faddle foo . . . .


I went to the Steve Morse "Ellis Island Passengers Gold Form" and entered the same information:  Wolf (sounds like) Broinen (sounds like), arrived October 1906.  Steve's search immediately found one entry, Wolf Broinen, residence "Hangburg", age 17, arriving in 1906.  When I clicked on the "Manifest" link, however, I learned that the Ellis Island database no longer allows you to even look at the passenger list for free.  For the privilege of paying $29.99 you can receive something, probably an electronic file (it doesn't state what you get) of that page, without being able to confirm ahead of time that it's the correct one.

I don't think so.

The Ellis Island site had confirmed that the ship was the Caronia, arriving October 3, 1906 in New York.  So back to I went, this time searching for just the last name Broinen in October 1906 with no given name.  That brought me one result, Dwoire Broinen.  When I clicked on the link for that image, it brought me to a "Record of Detained Aliens" page, with Dwoire Broinen and four children as the first on the list.

This looked like it might be the right people!  They were met by husband "Mindel" on October 3, the same day the ship arrived.  Mindel is awfullly close to Mendel, and Dwoire is similar to Dwojre.  But I was expecting my great-great-grandmother to be traveling with three children, not four.

On the page it also indicated that the passengers were listed on group (page) 67 on lines 16–20.  So going back from page 227 in the database all the way to page 59, I finally found group 67.  And there, on lines 16–20 as promised, are:
Dwoire Broinen
Chase Broinen
Wolf Broinen
Pesse Broinen
Kosriel Broinen

whom Ancestry has indexed as:
Devorah Branen
Chose Branen
Coolf Branen
Pesse Branen
Koosel Branen

even though it's extremely clear that there is an "i" in Broinen and in Dwoire, and that there's no way that is two "o"s in Kosriel.  I'll give them Chose and Coolf; if you don't know what names they should be, I can see how those were misread.

And yes, that is my family! (doing the genealogy happy dance in the living room)

Okay, so where did I go wrong?  Why didn't I find them earlier?

I don't know why I didn't find them in the microfilmed Ellis Island index cards at the Family History Library.  I'm planning on looking at them again in February, when I'm in Salt Lake for RootsTech, to see if I can find the Broinen family now that I have the information.  But in the databases I searched, I can see some obvious problems.

I was looking for Dwojre, which is the spelling I was more famliar with and the one used by family members who gave me information.  Even though I routinely used "sounds like" and "similar" for matches, the "j" instead of the "i" would have thrown things off, because it's a consonant instead of a vowel.  I also looked for Ruchel, but that's not what she was called on the passenger list, so that clearly wouldn't find her.

I was looking for Pesche, again the spelling I am more familiar with and the one used by family.  Again, even using "sounds like" and "similar", having an additional consonant, the "h", will throw off the matching algorithms.

I was looking for Welwel/Velvel and Binyamin/Benjamin, not Wolf and Kosriel, which are totally different names.  I have never heard those names for my family members.  I asked Janis, Benny's granddaughter, if she had ever heard Kosriel for his Jewish name, and got a resounding "no."  We are at a total loss there.

And I never would have thought to look for Chase (pronounced "ha-suh", by the way, not like the English word "chase"), the oldest daughter in the family, Chase Leah, who went by Lena here in the United States.  I had not been told any stories that she went back to Europe at all, much less with her mother, presumably to help take care of the younger children when they came over.

On his Declaration of Intention, Benny had been close to the correct date, but the ship name was actually Caronia, not Coronia.  This probably would not have been a problem if there hadn't also been a ship named Coronia, although I still was looking for Binyamin/Benjamin, not Kosriel.

I had focused most of my searches on Benny, because he was the youngest person who would have been traveling with the group.  I have found that as people age you find more age variations in records, so I try to look for the younger individuals.  The given name being so different made those searches useless.

Another thing that would have thrown off my searches was the ages of Ruchel Dwojre and Willie.  I used the ages they later claimed here in the United States, but both are older on the passenger list.

I had tried searching with just a family name, but the number of results was overwhelming, because Brainin easily becomes Brennan, an extremely common name, with "sounds like" and "similar" searches.  That was another search like looking through all of the Coronia passenger lists:  too many pages, too tiring.  If I had persisted through all the Brennans, I might have found my family earlier.

And of course, the biggest problem was simply not following up on Willie earlier.  First I missed the clue from the draft registration, then I didn't immediately pursue it, and when I did I forgot to request the file.  So, lessons learned for the future.

And as I always used to joke, "I knew they didn't fly here!"

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Significant Anniversaries of 2020

Genealogists collect dates and facts about our relatives, but instead of just filing them away and forgetting about them, it's good to think about them and remember them, tell the stories of what happened.  So as I did last year, I searched through my family tree program to see what milestones from my family's history will occur this year.  Unlike last year, there's a good balance between events from my father's and my mother's sides of the family, which is good, so people don't think I'm researching only one side.

150 Years Ago

My paternal great-grandfather Thomas Kirkland Gauntt, son of James Gaunt and Amelia Gibson, was born May 23, 1870 in Fairview, Medford Township, Burlington County, New Jersey.  He was the father of my paternal grandmother.  I've written about him a few times before on my blog:  I celebrated when I found his birth registration on microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City; I have found him in eleven censuses (but no 1890); and I created a timeline based on all the records I have found for him.  I'm also fortunate to have a few photographs of him.  I did not know him, because he died before I was born, but my father remembered him well.

My great-great-grandparents Cornelius Godschalk Sellers (son of Franklin Peter Sellers and Rachel Godshalk) and Catherine Fox Owen (daughter of William Owen and Sarah Fox) were married in January 1870, most likely in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  I don't write about the Sellerses as much as I used to, after determining that my grandfather became a Sellers by informal adoption.  But neither Grampa nor any of his siblings knew that, and Grampa did know his grandmother Kate, so I thought it fitting to commemorate the 150th anniversary of her first wedding.

100 Years Ago

In the 100-year category I managed to hit the trifecta, with a birth, a marriage, and a death.

Morton Eli Perlman was born August 18, 1920 in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York.  He was the son of Louis Perlman and Jennie Novitsky and was my first cousin twice removed through the Novitskys (and my grandfather's first cousin).  Jennie was the sister of my maternal great-grandmother Minne Zelda (Novitsky) Meckler and filled the role of mother-in-law for my maternal grandmother, as Minnie died before my grandparents married.

I met Mort once, when I went to Florida to see my grandmother.  She had his address and thought it would be nice to visit him.  He had done some genealogy research and shared what he had collected on the Novitskys and Perlmutters, which has been invaluable in my research now, as he was the only one who had saved that information.  I was very fortunate to have met him when I did, as he died suddenly a few months later.

On January 18, 1920, Benjamin Brainin (son of Morris Brainin and Rose Dorothy Jaffe) and Yetta Braunstein (daughter of Max Braunstein and Betsy Schwartz) were married in The Bronx, Bronx County, New York.  Benny was my great-granduncle, the youngest brother of my maternal great-grandmother Sarah Libby (Brainin) Gordon.  Benny worked with automobiles in some form or another for most of his life.  I never met Benny or Yetta, but I know their granddaughter Janis (Brainin) Monat.  Along with (kind of) sharing the same given name with me, she also is interested in family history, and is one of the few relatives I've met who had done some family history research.

Benny was born in the Russian Empire, probably in some part of what is now Latvia.  There is a family story that he was shot by a Cossack when he was 3 or 4 years old, while walking in a cemetery.  I don't know if I'll find a way to prove or disprove that, but it's an interesting story!

Eight days after Benny was married in the Bronx, his brother William Brainin died, on January 26, 1920, in Manhattan, New York County, New York.  He was probably about 31.  While Benny was the baby of the family, Willie was two children before him.  He died of complications of the influenza virus, which he probably caught while he served in the U.S. Army at the end of World War I.  My grandmother used to tell a story of how when he was sent home he infected his sister (my great-grandmother) while she was pregnant (with my grandmother), but I don't know how much of the story is true.

There was at least one photograph of Willie that we had in the family.  When I was sorting through photos with my grandmother, she pointed one out and said, "That's my Uncle Willie in his Army uniform."  But the photo has mysteriously disappeared.

75 Years Ago

Raymond Lawrence Sellers was born September 23, 1945 to Dorothy Mae "Dottie" Sellers and (probably) Clarence Newcomb "Zeke" Lore, in Bridgeton, Cumberland County, New Jersey.  I've been looking for Raymond for a little more than four years now, which I realize isn't very long.  Dottie is my paternal aunt, and she asked me to help her find Raymond, the son she gave up for adoption.  I write about him a few times every year in my blog.  Because New Jersey adoption records are very, very closed, we don't know anything about what happened to him after Dottie surrendered him.

If Raymond is still alive, he will be turning 75 this September.  I realize, however, that he might not be alive.  I don't know what his name was changed to, if he ever married, if he had children, or anything that happened to him.  All I know is that I want to find out before my aunt, who is currently 94 years old, passes away.

50 Years Ago

My great-grandmother and my father's paternal grandmother, Laura May (Armstrong) Sellers Ireland, died October 23, 1970 at the age of 88 in Niceville (yes, that's really the name), Okaloosa County, Florida.  I never got to meet her, even though she lived until I was 8 years old.

Nanny Ireland, as she was called throughout most of her adult life from what I can gather, was definitely an interesting woman.  She bore my grandfather as an illegitimate child and declined to state the name of the father on the birth certificate.  She married Elmer Sellers seven months later, and he raised my grandfather as his own son, with neither my grandfather nor his siblings ever knowing anything different.  She and Elmer had eight children together (notwithstanding rumors that not all of those were Elmer's), three of whom survived to adulthood.

Elmer died young, but that didn't stop Laura (because she wasn't Nanny Ireland yet at that time).  Three years after Elmer had passed away, Laura had another child, and again declined to name the father on the birth record.  Sadly, little Bertolet (yup, that was really her name) died before reaching the age of 6.  And would you believe that even on her death certificate, Laura did not name the father?

In 1929, Laura married a man named John Ireland.  I was told by one of my cousins that she did so because someone had convinced her that she needed a man to help her take care of her children and her affairs.  I was also told that soon after marrying John, she decided that was a load of crap and got rid of him (one hopes by divorce).  But the name Ireland stuck, and she became known as Nanny Ireland.

I'm really sorry I didn't get to meet Nanny Ireland.  She would have had some fascinating stories to tell, if she had been so inclined.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Top 10 Posts of 2019

The new year is a time for retrospectives, and I have been looking at my top 10 posts for the past few years.  I still haven't gotten back to a regular rhythm with my blog, and I only posted about once every three days in 2019.  On the positive side, I am still posting, so I probably shouldn't be so hard on myself!

Like last year, posts for Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenges figured prominently on the list—six of the ten, in fact.  A big change is that no Wordless Wednesdays are on the list at all, whereas three appeared in the 2018 list.

I noticed that all of the posts were from the first quarter of the year.  I think that has more to do with the "long tail", where stories continue to engage readers well after their initial posting, than with the actual content of the stories themselves.

Two posts tied at #9 in 2019.  First was the listing of significant anniversaries I found in my family tree for the year.  Second was a Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge to find my longest ancestral marriage (which turned out to be 61 years).

At #8 is a Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post, to choose an ancestral line and determine the birth order of each of your ancestors in it.  I was able to put together seven generations.

#7 is another Saturday Night Genealogy Fun entry, this one to post a favorite photograph.  At the time I posted it I did not know who the family members were in the photo, but one of my cousins recognized her grandmother and grandaunt!

At #6 is a Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge to put together a line of photographs through multiple gneerations.  I was able to find eight generations of photos on one of my Jewish lines, which really surprised me.

#5 is yet another Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post, about how my parents met, timed right after Valentine's Day.  Both of my parents are dead now, so if I want any more details about their meeting I'll need to talk to my cousin, who was there when they met.

The Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge that came in at #4 asked everyone how they got started doing genealogy research.

At #3 we take a break from Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, because that post celebrated my 8th blogiversary.

#2 was the top Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post, where Randy asked readers about their best discoveries in 2018 and research challenges for 2019.  I have to admit that I'm still stuck on the research challenges I listed then.

I'm actually quite happy that my #1 post last year was the one for my mother's yahrzeit.  I write annually about my mother on her yahrzeit, the anniversary of her death.  It is Jewish tradition to commemorate a deceased family member on that person's death date on the Jewish calendar.  My 2019 post was about advice my mother gave me on the ten things you should always carry with you (even though I only remembered seven of them!).

My posts didn't generate a large number of comments last year, but the one with the most was when I discussed my very, very blended family.