Friday, April 9, 2021

Yom HaShoah: Commemorating My Lost Family Members

The annual day of rememberance to remember Jewish victims of the Holocaust during World War II is called Yom HaShoah.  It falls on 27 Nisan on the Jewish calendar, which measures days from sunset to sunet.  This year on the Christian calendar it began at sunset on April 8 and will end at sunset on April 9.

The following is the list of my family members I believe to have died in the Holocaust.  All of them are from my Mekler/Nowicki family and lived in what was Grodna gubernia in the Russian Empire (now in Belarus).  May their memory be for a blesisng.

Beile Dubiner
Eliezer Dubiner
Herschel Dubiner
Moishe Dubiner
Sore (Mekler) Dubiner
Aidel Goldsztern
Golda Goldsztern
Josef Goldsztern
Pearl (Gorfinkel) Goldsztern
Tzvi Goldsztern
Esther Golubchik
Fagel Golubchik
Lazar Golubchik
Peshe (Mekler) Golubchik
Pinchus Golubchik
Yechail Golubchik
Mirka (Nowicki) Krimelewicz
— Krimelewicz
Beile Szocherman
Chanania Szocherman
Maishe Elie Szocherman
Perel Szocherman
Raizl (Perlmutter) Szocherman
Zlate Szocherman

The Golubchik family:  parents Yechail (third from left) and Peshe (second from right);
sons Lazar and Pinchus and daughters Esther and Fagel

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Google Maps of Ancestral Homes

I had an interesting tme with this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge from Randy Seaver, because I found what appeared to be conflicting information that I had to resolve.

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!):

Identify an ancestral home address (preferably one with a street address . . .) for one of your ancestral families. (You do know where they lived, don't you?  If not, consult the 1900 to 1940 U.S. Census records, or city directories.)

(2) Go to Google Maps ( and enter the street address (and city/town if necessary; usually you can pick from a list) for your selected ancestral home.

(3) Look at the street map, the satellite map, and the street view.  Zoom in or out, or manipulate the image as you wish.

(4) Tell us or show us your map images in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook Status post.  
Please leave a link in a comment to this post.

(5) Do you have maps and street view pictures for all of your known ancestral homes?

1.  I chose a house that was in my family for more than 40 years, if not always with an ancestor.  In 1900 my great-grandmother and her mother were enumerated living as boarders in the house with my 2nd-great-grandmother's uncle and aunt.  In 1910 and 1920 the uncle and aunt were living there by themselves.  In 1930 my great-grandmother is listed as the head of household and her granduncle, now widowed, was a boarder.  And I've been told my great-grandmother was still living there in 1940, even if that address was not enumerated in the census.

2.  When I went to look on Google Maps,  I started by double-checkng the address on the 1930 census (the most recent census in which I have found family members in that house), which looked like 242 Broad Street in Mount Holly, New Jersey.  Except when I looked for that on Google Maps, I became frustrated quickly, because there was no 242 Broad Street.  The numbers were very strange:  There were odd and even on the same side of the street, and the 200 block ended at 215.  The next block started with 301.

So I went back and looked for other information and discovered that the 1910 census showed the address as 343 Broad Street.  And that I was able to find on Google Maps.  I went back and looked again at the 1930 census, and I could see that it probably did say 343, not 242.  That's a great example of having to deal with poor handwriting and trying to find more than one source for a fact!

3 and 4.  Here are my maps.

This is the regular street view.  Unlike San Francisco, Mount Holly doesn't show any designated neighborhoods.  A few local businesses and cultural locations are marked, such as the Burlington County Prison Museum and Mt. Holly Cemetery.

And here's the satellite view.  Mount Holly has a lot of trees, which is nice to see.  While San Francisco had some recognizable topography, Mount Holly looks pretty flat.

And here's the street view.  The house looks kind of small on the lot, which is mostly green lawn.

5.  Of course I don't have this for every one of my ancestral residences!  I mostly don't even have addresses.  I only have this information for this home because I did it for this blog post!  Sigh, add another project to my ever-growing list . . . .

On the other hand, I do have a photo of ths house, which shows I found the correct address, because you can recognize the house in its current view from the photo.  And I think it is so cool that the house is still there!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Who Was Your First Ancestor Born in ...

For this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun adventure, Randy Seaver is asking us to climb up our family trees to find some of our "first" ancestors.

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) Lorine McGinnis Schulze, in her blog post "
Who Was Your First Canadian or American Born Ancestor?", asked that question.

(2) Let's broaden it a bit to "Who was your first ancestor born in your chosen county, state, province, or country?" based on your known ancestry.

Put it in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook post.  Please leave a link in a comment to this post.

I'm going to make a caveat to my post:  These answers are based on what I have entered into my family tree program.  I have additional information about earlier generations, but this is the information that is accessible.

For the British colonies that became the United States, my earliest recorded known ancestor born there is my 7th-great-grandmother Ann Pharo, born about December 14, 1677, probably in the Province of West Jersey, probably in an area that became part of Burlington County, which was not officially formed until 1694.

For the Province of New Jersey, which was established in 1702, my earliest recorded known ancestor born there is my 6th-great-grandfather Hananiah Gaunt, born March 2, 1706/07, possibly in Germantown or Hananicon.

For the United States of America, declared an independent country in 1776, my earliest recorded known ancestor born there is my 3rd-great-grandfather Hananiah Selah Gaunt, born January 25, 1795 in Burlington County.  I suspect I do have someone else born earlier than that, but I can't find the info currently.

For New York State, my earliest recorded known ancestor born there is my maternal grandfather, Abraham Meckler, born July 23, 1912 in Brooklyn, Kings County.

And that's it for me and North America.  No known ancestors born in Canada or in states besides New Jersey and New York.  Now, if we go back across the pond:

For England, my earliest recorded known ancestor born there is my 4th-great-grandfather Richard Dunstan, born about 1790ish, probably in Lancashire.  I know I have ancestors born before that; I think the earliest Gaunt ancestor I know about is Peter, born about 1507 or something like that.  But I can't find that information right now. :(

For the Russian Empire, my earliest recorded known ancestor born there is my 3rd-great-grandfather Avram Yakov Nowicki, born before about 1835, likely in Grodno gubernia, now part of Belarus.

And so far those are the only countries I have prior to North America.  My family didn't move around much.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

The Triangle Fire 110th Anniversary

On March 25, 1911, the fire at New York City's Triangle Shirtwaist Company caused the deaths of 146 workers, mostly female immigrants.  The outcry after the fire and deaths helped change labor laws in New York and across the United States.

I wrote about the Triangle Fire on its 100th anniversary and told the story of Frieda Welikowsky, a cousin of a friend of mine.  My friend had been told that Frieda had died in the fire and had asked me to research whether the claim was true as part of a larger family history project.  I was able to verify that Frieda was one of the fire's victims, although she did not die in the fire itself but from injuries caused by jumping out of the building to escape the flames.

This year, for the 110th anniversary, the lives of two survivors of the fire were highlighted and commemorated in a new podcast.  Fin Dwyer of the Irish History Podcast worked with Hope C. Tarr, a historical fiction author, to create a three-part podcast series highlighting the lives of Annie Doherty and Celia Walker, an Irish and a Polish immigrant, reespectively.

The first episode discusses the lives of the two women and why they immigrated to the United States.  The second episode covers the Triangle Fire itself and the experiences of Annie and Celia, who were trapped in the building with many other workers.  The third and final episode looks at the aftermath of the fire and the lives of Annie and Celia after the fire.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your High School Years

It seems a little early in the year to be reminiscing about high school, but that's what we're doing tonight with Randy Seaver for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun!

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.  This week we travel down Memory Lane again.  Tell us about your high school years with answers to ten questions.

2.  Put them in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook post.  Please leave a link in a comment to this post.

Okay, here are my answers:

1.  What was your high school's full name, where was it, and what year did you graduate?  Niceville Senior High School; Niceville, Florida (of course!); 1979.

2.  What was the school team nickname, and what are/were your school's colors?  It's the Niceville Eagles, and the colors are maroon and gold (or something similar).

3.  What was the name of your school song, and can you still sing it?  I'm not sure if Randy means the school as a whole or my graduating class.  I remember my class' song was "Fantasy" by Earth, Wind & Fire, which I can still kind of sing.  If the school had/has an overall school song, I have no idea what it is, so I certainly can't sing it.

4.  Did you have a car?  How did you get to and from school?  I did not have a car in high school.  I didn't even have a bicycle.  Most of the time I got to and from school by the school bus, which came out to County Line Road.  Nicevile is in Okaloosa County, and I lived in Villa Tasso in neighboring Walton County, just over the county line.  Sometimes my mother would drive me (and later my brother also) to school, such as in bad weather.  At least once the mother of one of the my classmates, who also lived in Villa Tasso, drove my brother and me to school, because we had flooded roads, and my mother's Corvair was too low to the ground to drive through the high waters.  (When the water starts coming up through the floorboards, you know it's time to use a different vehicle.)

5.  Did you date someone from your high school?  Or marry someone from your high school?  Were you considered a flirt?  Ha!  I had one date in high school (see #9).  I'm still not married, therefore so much for that question.  And I definitely wasn't a flirt.  Social pariah was more like it.

6.  What social group were you in?  Like Randy, I was a social outcast, with the smart geeks and nerds.  My few friends were the other students in the advanced classes.  My school was also heavily cliquish.  The only times the "cool" kids talked to me were when they wanted help with their homework (I'm looking at you, George Skipper).

7.  Who were your favorite teachers?  The only teacher from high school whose name I can remember right now is Mr. Clifford, who taught math.  I really enjoyed his calculus class.  That's funny, I remember more of my junior high school teachers' names than high school.

8.  What did you do on Friday nights?  Stayed home.  I wasn't asked out on dates, I didn't go to sports events, and I was a geek.  Actually, once a gaming club started, which was held at the Niceville/Eglin AFB YMCA building, I think I sometimes did that on Friday nights, although we also gamed on Saturdays.

9.  Did you go to and have fun at the Senior Prom?  My only date in high school was for the Senior Prom.  I was asked only five (yes, five!) days before the prom.  I found a dress to wear at a thrift shop for $5 (I'm wearing it in this photo; I think I still have it).  Even though my date (I really don't want to attest to his name in public) pretty much ignored me at the prom itself, I did have fun, because I ended up hanging out with a friend of mine who was there without a date.

10.  Have you been to reunions, and are you planning on going to the next reunion?  Surprisingly enough, considering the history I've described, I have been to reunions, I htink three of them.  I went to the 5-year reunion because I was working at USC in 1984, the year Los Angeles hosted the Summer Olympics, and all nonessential staff were told "you are taking vacation during these two weeks, thank you, see you later."  Coincidentally, the reunion fell during those two weeks, so I figured I might as well, and it made for a good excuse to visit my parents.  I think that was also the year my brother graduated with his Master's degree, so we all ended up going down to Gainesville for that while I was out there.  I went to either the 10th or the 20th reunion (maybe both?), which I had forgotten about but was reminded of when I went to the 40th reunion in 2019.  That one I had planned to attend primarily so I could again visit my parents while there, but before the reunion took place my father passed away and my stepbrother moved my stepmother to Texas so he and his wife could take care of her there, and I didn't see either one of them.  I did get to visit my stepfather, though, so it was somewhat successful in that regard.  And am I planning on going to the next reunion?  I really don't know.

Kind of like Randy, I really didn't enjoy high school, except for the learning part.  I was not in the right social circles, I'm plain as a mud fence, and intelligence wasn't highly regarded.  Not a great place to be.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your #1 All-time Favorite Song

Some questions are harder to answer than they first seem.  And so it is with tonight's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun question from Randy Seaver.

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!):

What is your all-time favorite song?  Yep, number 1.  It's hard to choose sometimes.  If you made your favorite all-time Top 40 music selections, what would be #1?

2.  Tell us about it.  Why is it a favorite?  Do you have special memories attached to this song? 

Put it in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook post.   Please leave a link in a comment to this post.

I spent several hours thinking about this.  I'm a musican and a singer, and there are just so many songs I love!  Almost anything someone says can make me think of song lyrics.  I almost started to make a list of #1 song by category (favorite by recording artist, favorite in a movie, favorite performed in recital, favorite practiced for performance, favorite performed with the USC Marching Band, . . .).

Then I thought about it from the perspective of "what songs do I drop everything to listen to when they come up?"

And one clearly rose to the top:  "The House of the Rising Sun."

I'm familiar with the version recorded by The Animals in 1964, and that's what I hear in my head when I think about the song.  But it apparently has a much longer history, at least according to Wikipedia.  It's said to be a classic folk ballad, with the earliest published version of the lyrics dating to 1925 but references to the song going back at least to 1905.

Musicologists have studied "The House of the Rising Sun" for several decades, and most information about it is still conjectural.  No definitive origin has been found.  Researchers still can't agree on whether the "House" in question is a brothel, bar, or jail or whether there was an actual "House" in New Orleans that the song was written about.

Now, why is this my favorite song?  The lyrics speak to me somehow.  No, I have not spent time in a brothel or jail, thank-you-very-much, so that's not the reason.  I think something about the hopelessness and sorrow in the song.  They strike a chord with me, down deep.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Fearless Females 2021

I haven't posted much recently, but I couldn't miss doing something for my grandmother's birthday today.  And what do you know — tonight's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post from Randy Seaver fits the situation perfectly!

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.  Check out Lisa Alzo's "Fearless Females 2021" blog post prompts and write about one of them.

2.  Put it in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook post.  Please leave a link in a comment to this post.

What a great coincidence!  Today, March 6, is my maternal grandmother's birthday!  So I noticed the prompt for March 6 which Randy had used and thought it would be perfect.

"Describe an heirloom you may have inherited from a female ancestor (wedding ring or other jewelry, china, clothing, etc.).  If you don’t have any, then write about a specific object you remember from your mother, grandmother, or aunt (scarf, hat, cooking utensil, furniture, etc.)."

Something my grandmother gave me before she passed away was a set of china.  She told me she had used it as her Passover dairy dishes when she kept a kosher household.  The amazing thing is that she acquired it one piece at a time from a grocery store during its weekly dishware sale, or at least that's what she told me.

For those not familiar with this practice, many grocery stores would sell a specific piece of china from a set for a very low price, or sometimes free, every week.  If I remember correctly, you had to spend a minimum amount in purchases at the store to get the china on the special deal.  If you worked at it, you could biuld up a nice set.

Bubbie (Yiddish for grandmother) had full settings for fourteen people:  dinner plate, salad plate, soup bowl, coffee cup and saucer, dessert bowl.  She also had two large serving platters, two large serving bowls, a gravy boat, a creamer, and a sugar bowl.

That's a lot of trips to the grocery store.  I think Bubbie was an overachiever.

The set is "Golden Wheat" (by Homer Laughlin, according to Replacements, Ltd.).  The back of some of the dishes (not all of them) says, "Golden Wheat / Made in USA / — 22K Gold — / Oven Proof."  The 22K gold was used on the wheat design on the observe, on the rim, and for the lettering and design on the reverse.

I have to admit that I am amused by the fact that the dishes are safe to put in the oven but not the microwave (because the 22K gold will set off the micro).

I still remember picking up the set from Bubbie.  I lived in California; she lived in Florida.  One day, out of the blue, she decided it was very urgent that I should come visit because she wanted to give this set to me and have me take it home.

The first problem was that she insisted on this right when I was planning my foot surgery.  No, she didn't care that I wasn't going to be fully mobile.  It had to be that month, December 1997.  Sure, I just had foot surgery and I had to be pushed around the airport in a wheelchair, but I could figure out a way to handle this, right?  But it was my Bubbie, so I went.

The second problem, which I didn't find out until I got there, was that she didn't give me an accurate idea of just how much she wanted me to take home.  This was a lot of china, even if I hadn't been working with only one good foot.

Somehow we managed to pack everything into one duffel bag, with a reasonable amount of padding to protect the pieces.  But it wasn't secure enough that I could check it as luggage; it would have arrived as a huge bag of china shards.

So I had to lug the bag around with me at Fort Lauderdale Airport, and at my transfer airport, and at Oakland Airport.  All while being pushed around by very nice airport personnel who were very, very annoyed (but tried to keep a good face) that I had this big bag of china on my lap during the entire time.  I explained to each of them that I was very sorry, that my grandmother had insisted I had to pick up the china now, that I didn't want to do it right after my surgery.  I don't think it helped a lot.

But the good news is that the china and I arrived safely and in one piece back at Oakland Airport.  I managed to get home also.  I don't remember if I drove or had a shuttle pick me up; it was likely a shuttle, because the surgery was on my right foot, and I don't think I was ready to drive yet.  But we made it.

And I still have the set.  I brought it to Oregon with me.  Only a couple of pieces have been broken over the years I've owned it, one being the gravy boat.  I think I lost one of the small plates also.

And I use it for my Passover seders, although I don't keep kosher.  Bubbie stopped keeping kosher after her father-in-law passed away, which was in 1953, so the dishes were already trafe by the time I got them.

And now that I've written all of this up, I'll print out ths post and include it with the dishes, so I have documented them and why they're important, just as I did with the silverplate flatware that used to belong to my great-grandmother.


Addendum, March 15, 2021:  This is the gravy boat I received today from a very generous reader, to replace the one I broke several years ago.  Thank you so much!

Monday, February 15, 2021

Lily and Abe: A Love Story

Lily and Abe were my maternal grandparents, Lillyan E. Gordon and Abe Meckler.  I knew them as Bubbie and Zadie, Yiddish for grandmother and grandfather.

Lily was born Esther Lillian Gordon on March 6, 1919 at 1575 Madison Avenue, Manhattan, New York.  Her parents were Joe Gordon and Sarah Libby Brainin.

Abe was born Abram Meckler (I think) on July 23, 1912 in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York.  His parents were Morris Meckler and Minnie Zelda Nowicki.

Bubbie lived in Manhattan until shortly before 1930, when her family was enumerated in Baltimore, Maryland.  In 1940, her parents were enumerated in Brooklyn at 231 Livonia Avenue, and the census taker indicated that they were living in the same house in 1935, so sometime between 1930 and 1935 they moved there.

As far as I know, Zadie lived in Brooklyn from birth through to when he and Bubbie left New York and moved to Florida in the 1940's.  In 1930 he was at 420 Junius Street with his parents.  I have not yet found his father in the 1940 census (his mother died in 1936) so don't have a possible address for 1935, assuming he was living with his father at that time.

I don't know how my grandparents met.  Bubbie told me that they met on September 15, 1937 in Manhattan but didn't give me more details.  So they were both living in Brooklyn but met in Manhattan.  In 1940 they were at 484 Livonia Avenue, Brooklyn, only a couple of blocks from her parents.  The census shows that both were living in Brooklyn in 1935.

Bubbie and Zadie were married October 29, 1939, not in Brooklyn, not in Manhattan, but in The Bronx.  It was a double wedding, of sorts.  Bubbie's older brother, Alexander "Al" Gordon, and Roslyn "Rose" Rubin were married on October 28.  I was told that Jews are not supposed to have double weddings and so Al, being older, was married first and then Bubbie and Zadie were married.  Because the dates that I was told are from the civil calendar, that would suggest that Al and Rose were married just before midnight, and Bubbie and Zadie just after.  But Judaism uses sunset as the divider between days, which could mean that sunset was the breakpoint between the two, and perhaps the consecutive secular dates were used on the marriage returns for convenience.  I probably won't find an answer to that question, or why they were married in The Bronx, now that all four of them have passed away.

Right now I can't find the name of the rabbi who performed the marriages, but I do know that Jan Peerce, the well known Metropolitan tenor, sang two songs, because Bubbie suddenly blurted that out one day.  She couldn't remember what he sang but did recall that the cantor's son sang "Because" (maybe this one) and "Oh Promise Me."

Bubbie and Zadie were in love with each other for their entire lives.  They were always so good to each other and went everywhere together.  For each of the 50 years that they were married, Zadie gave Bubbie a big, flowery Valentine's Day card.  Bubbie used to call Zadie her "little man" because she was taller than he was.

Zadie was ill for the last years of his life but lived long enough to attend the big 50th wedding anniversary party that their three children coordinated for them.  It was held in Las Vegas, and lots of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relatives came.  I think Zadie really wanted to go to the anniversary and held on so he could.  He died shortly after it took place.  Bubbie missed him so much after he was gone.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Sylmar: 50 Years Ago

With me being from California, I've experienced several earthquakes.  Today, February 9, 2021, is the 50th anniversary of the Sylmar earthquake (also known as the San Fernando earthquake), which struck the Los Angeles metropolitan area early in the morning in 1971.  My family was living in Pomona at the time, about 50 miles to the southeast, and I remember that we felt it.  I don't recall any damage to our house, but hey, we did move to Australia less than two months later.  That had been in the works for a while, though, so really couldn't have had anything to do with the earthquake.

I've had a vague memory for many years that my brother slept through a big earthquake while we were living in California.  I recently asked him about that because of the Sylmar anniversary.  See, I thought he had slept through a quake in La Puente, where we lived before Pomona.  I can picture my parents and me standing outside of our house, but not my brother.  I'm not sure if that was in La Puente, but it was definitely not the house in Pomona.

Unfortunately, I didn't ask either my mother or my father about that memory, and they both have since passed on.  My brother does remember our mother waking him up to see if he was okay, but he thinks it was in Pomona, which would have been the Sylmar quake in 1971.

He found a Wikipedia page about a quake in 1968, the Borrego Mountain earthquake.  Now that was about 150 miles from La Puente, a pretty good distance, but that quake was felt as far away as Las Vegas, so there's a decent chance it was felt in La Puente.  It occurred in the evening, and my memory is that we were standing outside in the dark, so that could be the picture in my head.

On the other hand, that means I don't have any visual memory of the 1971 earthquake.  Maybe it was too early in the morning, and my brain was still fuzzy from being woken up?

Wait a minute!  I just put two and two together.  If my brother was asleep when the earthquake happened, it must have been in 1971, because that was early in the morning.  He was 5 years old in 1968 and probably not taking naps in the early evening.  So I've been mentally misidentifying it all these years.  Well, feh!

My father used to tell me that he had actually seen a sidewalk roll during an earthquake, but he never said which quake it was.  Considering that the Sylmar quake occurred at 6:00 a.m. in February, I don't know if it would have been bright enough to see the sidewalk do that.  Maybe it was one of the aftershocks.

I've been wondering if my father might have photographed any damage from the earthquake, but all of my father's photos are still with my sister in San Antonio, Texas.  Maybe one of these years I'll get ot see them and find out if he documented any of the earthquakes.  He was originally from New Jersey, and he admitted to me once that the quakes kind of freaked him out.

I have been in two other big earthquakes, 1987 Whittier Narrows and 1989 Loma Prieta, which I thought was a significant number.  I met a woman at a conference once who had been in the same three as I had (I'm not counting Borrego Mountain) but also was there for 1992 Landers and 1994 Northridge.  Maybe she's bad luck to hang around?

The collapsed Newhall Pass interchange, where California Highway 14 merges into Interstate 5, after the 1971 Sylmar earthquake.  The overpass was deliberately repaired quickly, before seismic codes could be upgraded, and collapsed again in the same manner during the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

A DNA Success Story

I have written previously about my searches for my paternal grandfather's biological father, possibly a Mr. Mundy, and for the son whom my aunt gave up for adoption in 1945, both using DNA as the most promising tool.  So far I haven't made any real progress on either of those, although I continue to search and look for new approaches (hope springs eternal).

I have had another DNA search going on in the background, one I haven't posted about.  My sister had a son in 1981 and gave him up for adoption.  A few years ago, she asked if I could help try to find him.  So I gave her all the warnings (informed consent!) and bought an Ancestry DNA test for her.  When the results arrived, I downloaded her data and put it on GEDMatch, Family Tree DNA, and MyHeritage.  And waited to see if she had any close matches.

That waiting came to frution last month.

She has a match indicated as "son."

He reached out for contact via his girlfriend, who sent a message through the MH system (paraphrased):  "Hi, you show up as my mother.  Are you willing to talk with me?"  When I read the message, I shouted out, "Oh my god!"

I then immediately called my sister.  When I read the message to her, she shouted, "Oh my god!"

I guess we really are sisters, huh?

And I wrote back saying yes, she was indeed willing to talk with him and was looking forward to it.

That turned out to be a pretty nice Christmas present for both of them.

They have spent the past month talking a lot, from what I hear.  And this past week my sister flew out to see him in person and help him celebrate his 40th birthday.

I guess it makes a good birthday present also.

And yes, I do have permission to tell their story and post their photo on my blog.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Our "Academy of Genealogy and Family History" (AGFH) Nominees

Tonight Randy Seaver of Saturday Night Genealogy Fun fame should be saying, "And the winner is . . . ." while he opens an envelope.

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) Does anyone recall the Academy of Genealogy and Family History (AGFH) awards from back in the 2008–2012 timeframe, hosted by Jasia on Creative gene?  Geneabloggers would nominate blog entries in different categories, and Jasia would collect all of them with links to each blogger's post.  The bloggers selected their own posts for nominations.

(2) This week, let us nominate the "best" posts from 2020 that we wrote in these categories:

*  Best Picture (a photograph)
*  Best Screenplay (a story)
*  Best Documentary (a series)
*  Best Biography
*  Best Comedy

(3) Put it in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook post.  Please leave a link in a comment to this post.

I have never heard of the AGFH awards or Jasia before, but I can play along.  Not only does this sound fun, but I get to use Blogger's endless page that I just complained about yesterday!

• Best Picture

This is (probably) a photograph of my great-great-grandparents Avigdor and Esther Leah (Schneiderman) Gorodetsky and their oldest child, Etta, taken in Kamenets Podolsky, Russian Empire, circa 1890.  It's my oldest family photo and my favorite.  I posted it on April 4 for a Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge.

• Best Screenplay

On January 3 I wrote about the long, twisting path I took over about 20 years to find my great-great-grandmother Ruchel Dwojre (Jaffe) Brainin and her three youngest children immigrating to the United States, the last members of that part of my family to do so.  It had drama!  Comedy!  Suspense!

• Best Documentary

I didn't have any series of research posts, so I'll have to go with my Wordless Wednesday photo collection.  Those document the past, right?

• Best Biography

On July 23, I wrote about my maternal grandfather, whose birthday was July 23.

• Best Comedy

I also didn't write any comedy posts last year, so I'll have to settle for this goofy photo of me with my sling, posted on September 2, about a week after my shoulder surgery.

Friday, January 15, 2021

How Did That Happen?

I can't believe I'm writing this.  Today is my 10th blogiversary!  Lisa Hork Gorrell and I started our blogs on January 15, 2011.  They say time flies when you're having fun, but I am amazed to realize that we've been blogging for a whole ten years.

Admittedly, the past year hasn't been as productive as some earlier ones.  What with my shoulder surgery last August and the pain leading up to it, I definitely have not posted as much as I wanted to.  I have this long list of topics I want to write about, but I still have trouble finding the energy to follow up on them.

I still managed to squeeze out a post about every three days.  (It's harder to count the posts now that Blogger has "improved" [cough] the platform interface.  Whereas before 100 posts were shown on a page, now it's one of those endless pages that keeps growing as long as you keep scrolling.  Highly annoying, if you ask me.  Which they obviously didn't.)  Most of those were Wordless Wednesdays and Saturday Night Genealogy Funs (thank heavens for regular memes).

I'm happy to say, however, that I finally did write up a couple of the stories I had on my list.  I described the tortuous path I took to find my great-great-grandmother immigrating to the United States (traveling with one more child than I had expected), and I celebrated my maternal grandfather on his birthday.  I also reported on a surprising DNA match on my mother's (Jewish) side of the family, and posted about my aunt's son on his 75th birthday, keeping my fingers crossed that I can find him (or what happned to hiim) before my 95-year-old aunt passes away.  And there were a few additional original, nonmeme posts as well.  Progress!

So it's on to the next year, with more plans to get my schedule back on track.  Hope springs eternal!

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Which Story Is True?

My mother (in back) and
me, Stacy, and Mark, 1964

Today is January 14, 2021, which on the Hebrew calendar is 1 Shevat 5781.  My mother died January 2, 1995, also 1 Shevat and therefore the date of her yahrzeit, the commemoration of her death.  The Hebrew calendar is a solar-lunar one, and the dates don't line up year to year with the Christian calendar.  So the fact that I write regularly about my mother on her yahrzeit means that the date I write about her changes from year to year.

When I was young, but not too young, my mother told me how she had decided on the names for my brother, my sister, and myself.  I'm the oldest, and she said I was named for her grandfathers, Joyne and Moishe.  So my name is Janice Marie, using the initials, a common practice among American Jews.  Probably because she wasn't an observant Jew, she did not also give me Hebrew names (hers being Mushe Ruchel, for her grandmothers, Mushe Zelda and Ruchel Dwojre).

My sister, the youngest of us three children, is Stacy Ann.  I was told that Stacy was for my mother's grandmother, Sarah, again using the initial.  Sarah died the year before Stacy was born, so that fits well.  Her middle name was for my paternal grandmother, Anna.  Ann is pretty much the same name as Anna and would seem to be in conflict with the Ashkenazi tradition of not naming after a living ancestor, but, again, my mother wasn't observant, so maybe this didn't bother her very much.

The name of my brother, the middle child, is much more entertaining, however.  Mommy told me that my father wanted him to be Bertram Lynn Sellers III (my father being Junior and my grandfather Senior).  My mother didn't want to do that, this time invoking the prohibition against naming for a living ancestor, plus the very practical consideration of what my brother would be called.  My father had gone through the early part of his life being called Sonny (although he insisted it was Sunny, for his "sunny disposition") and ended up going by his middle name as an adult.  What to call the third male with the same name?

My mother came up with what she considered a better choice, Marc Anthony Sellers.  Either because of the historical nature of the name (I was told it took my father three times through to pass history in high school) or another reason, my father objected to that idea.  After some back and forth, my mother suggested Mark Russell Sellers, which my father decided was okay.  What my mother didn't tell him was that Russell was the name of an old boyfriend!  But that's what my brother was named, and it has worked out well enough.


Some time after my mother had passed away, I was driving her mother — my grandmother — to a family event, and my grandmother related an entirely different story about the origins of our names.

According to Bubbie (grandmother in Yiddish), the story my mother told her was that our first names were for deceased ancestors, in the Jewish tradition, and our middle names were after saints, because my father was raised Catholic.

If that were true, I am Janice for Joyne (the same), my brother is Mark for Moishe (no problem), and my sister is Stacy for Sarah (again the same).  So far, so good, right?

Under this interpretation, my Marie would be for Mary, mother of Jesus.  Okay, that works.

There are at lease a few Saint Ann(e)s to account for my sister's middle name.  Check.

But who would Saint Russell be?  Not that it's an infallible source, but Wikipedia doesn't have any listings for a Saint Russell.  Lots and lots of other saints are included, which make for an extensive listing, if not an exhaustive one.  Why no Russell?

And why different stories for different people in the first place?  Let's cnsider the situations.

I no longer remember the circumstances when my mother told me my version of the story, but I was young when I first became interested in family history, so I might have asked my mother about our names when I was in my early teens or even before that.  I wasn't particularly interested in Judaism, so I see no advantage to the explanation my mother gave me.

But I can think of two reasons that the version my grandmother repeated to me might have been preferred in a conversation between my mother and her mother.

The first reason that came to mind is that my grandmother might not have liked the idea that her grandson was named after an old boyfriend of my mother.   It's also possible that my mother was concerned that at some point Bubbie might repeat the information and my father would learn about it.

Second, and more important, is the Ashkenazi tradition (minhag) of not naming after living ancestors.  Saying that Stacy's middle name was for a saint, not an ancestor (who was most decidedly alive), could have allayed any discomfort Bubbie might have had with the name.

And that makes a lot of sense.  When Stacy named her son after my mother's brother, Bubbie was indeed quite upset, even though my sister pointed out that she had spelled the name differently.  Many years later, when Bubbie was getting older, she declared to the family that she would like the next female child to be born to be named after her, even if she was still alive at the time.  Stacy did that, and her youngest child has Lillyan as a middle name.  But Bubbie then was upset that Stacy did that while Bubbie was alive.  Yes, even though Bubbie had made the declaration.

Based on other things I have been told, neither one of the names should have mattered anyway, because supposedly the Ashkenazi tradition is important for the Hebrew names, not the secular names.  But I know from my own experience that Bubbie was very unhappy with both names.

It seems to me that the story my mother told me is likely the accurate one, and the one she told her mother was trying to obscure some information my grandmother probably would not have liked.  So now that's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What Do You Take after From Your Parents and Grandparents?

Get ready to dissect yourself for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun from Randy Seaver!

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!):

What do you "take after" or "favor" from your parents and/or grandparents?  It could be looks, traits, mannerisms, speech, etc.

(2) Put it in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook post.  Please leave a link in a comment to this post.

My thanks to reader Liz Tapley for suggesting this topic.

Physical Traits and Size

• My brown hair and eyes are from my father.  When I was young he taught me that brown eyes meant I was "full of it up to there."

• My very, very fair skin that can turn red in just five minutes out in the sun is definitely from my mother.  She told me once that she had gotten skin cancer when she was young, so I've always been a little paranoid about that.

• My "robust" chest certainly didn't come from my mother (who used to call herself the president of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee).  I can probably credit either of my grandmothers for that.

• My height also didn't come from my mother, who was barely 5'2" ("eyes of blue, oh, what those five foot could do").  My father was 6'1" in his prime, so at 5'8" I guess I'm right in the middle.  I'm giving the credit to my father, especially since I would have been taller without the scoliosis and curvature.

• I have my father to thank for my big feet, also.  Not many people my height wear size 12 women's/10 men's shoes, another indication I really should been have taller.  My hands are really big for my height, too.

• My voice is all my mother's.  I sound a lot like her, so much so that when she passed away my stepfather had trouble listening to me talk on the phone for quite some time.

• I used to have a very large mole on my back, which my mother told me was the "Brainin family mole."  According to her, each Brainin family member and descendant had a mole right around the same place on the back.  Mine supposedly was the largest.  Was, because when it began to cause me pain, I saw a dermatologist who excised it and did a biopsy on it to make sure everything was okay.  It was okay, but now I have a scar instead of the mole.

• When I was younger, my mother told me at one point that her father had had flat feet and that's why he was unable to serve in the Army during World War II.  So I guess I have him to thank for my flat feet.

• I'm a lifelong klutz, which my mother said also came from her.

• Who do I look like?  Definitely my sister and half-sister (who also has brown hair, thanks to our mutual father but probably also to her mother).  (I also used to resemble my stepsister, which was kind of weird.)  When I was only with my mother, though, people knew immediately that we were related, so I must resemble her to some degree.  And when our whole family (father, mother, me, brother, sister) was together, everyone knew we were related, so that's another indication of resemblance.  When I met my half-first cousin once removed (the son of my father's niece through his half-sister; my family is really complicated), he immediately thought I looked like my paternal grandmother (his great-grandmother).  His mother thought he focused on that because he had been raised by my grandmother (which is a long story).  But I was told that when I was a baby, others also saw a strong resemblance to my grandmother

Mannerisms and Other Traits

• Along with sounding like my mother, I also talk a lot like her.  I used to pick up her New York City/Boston accent, and I use a lot of her phrases.  At times when I say something I can hear her voice in my head.

• I can credit both of my parents for my intelligence and curiosity.  They were both intelligent and encouraged me (particularly my mother) to think about and explore things.  I think my mother later came to regret that.

• My love for sports also comes from both my parents, who watched all sorts of sports on TV all the time.  My favorite is still football.  Now, my mother would watch golf and boxing, but I have my limits.

• Daddy gave me my love of cars and motorcycles, and transportation in general.  I used to hang over the engine compartment with him while he was working on a car.  I knew the engine parts and all the tools, and would run to get tools when he needed them.

• My ability in music comes from my father.  He was very talented, played piano and guitar, and competed on Ted Mack's Amateur Hour with a swing band when he was about 17 (with his group losing to a young Gladys Knight, in her first televised appearance).  Who knows, if he hadn't been lazy, he might have made a career out of music, and I wouldn't be here.

• My mother gave me a deep love of language.  She liked to play word games, such as creating "Spoonerisms" such as "chu blip stamps" (Blue Chip stamps) and "chotato pips" (potato chips) and talking about the "oneth of the month" (first day of the month).  She got me hooked on crossword puzzles, which I still enjoy.  And she sparked my interest in foreign languages.

• Even now, my handwriting strongly resembles my mother's, which resembled her mother's.  So there we have a three-generational thing going.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Significant Anniversaries of 2021

What are the important milestones to note this year?  What events happened in my family 50, 75, or 100 years ago (that I have dates for)?  This year's most important events from my family tree program are from both my father and mother's sides of the family, the Sellerses, and my aunt's family.

250 Years Ago

On February 12, 1771, in Godalming, Surrey, England, my Aunt Mary's 4th-great-grandparents, George Heath and Martha Stu(a)rt, were married.  That's as far back as I got on my aunt's Heath line several years ago, well before FindMyPast started digitizing and posting all those lovely parish records.  I should get back to work with the Heaths to see how much more information I can find about them, and maybe even take the line a little bit further back in time.

200 Years Ago

On January 18, 1821, my 5th-great-grandfather Moses Mulliner died in Tuckerton, Burlington County, New Jersey.  Moses is the first Revolutionary War ancestor I learned I had.  Even though he was about 35 years old during the war, he was a drummer, which has engendered some discussion with others about his background.  One of these days I really need to get around to applying to DAR, if nothing else to make my registrar friends happy.

150 Years Ago

My paternal grandmother's mother, Jane Dunstan, was born on April 28, 1871 in Manchester, Lancashire, England.  She immigrated to the United States in 1890 and married almost right away, immediately becoming an American citizen by virtue of marrying a citizen.  My father remembered his grandmother well, particularly her English accent.

The second event from my aunt's family is another wedding, this one for her paternal great-grandparents Isaac/Isidore Krebs and Frederika Weiss, who were married on August 16, 1871 in Peiskretscham, Obersilesia, Prussia.  Ruger Lustig helped me find dozens of records on this branch of my aunt's family; I lucked out because the family was in Gleiwitz, and Roger happens to specialize in that area and has thousands of transcribed records available to search.

100 Years Ago

The last child Laura May (Armstrong) Sellers, my paternal grandfather's mother, had, Bertolet Grace Sellers, was born March 6, 1921 in Mt. Holly, Burlington County, New Jersey.  This was the daughter born three years after her husband had died.  Imagine the scandal in 1921!  I had my sister track down Bertolet's birth and death certificates because we were hoping they would include her father's name, going on the possibility that her father might be the same man as our grandfather's biological father.  (Depending on who her father was, she was my paternal grandfather's half-sister or possibly full sister.)  No such luck!  Our great-grandmother declined to list Bertolet's father on both the birth and the death certificates.

75 Years Ago

Although I don't write much about the Sellerses anymore, I feel an obligation to include Edwin Jaquett Sellers, who died January 11, 1946, probably in Philadelphia, where he lived most of his life.  He did have a short period when he lived in California, but he returned to the East Coast after that.  The reason I decided I should write about him is because he was also a genealogist, as a hobbyist.  He published about a dozen books on different lines of his family, including two for the Sellerses.  The first came in 1903 in a private printing of 150 copies; the second was in 1925 as an update to the original, with another 150 copies.  Yes, I have one of each, plus I found a second copy of the 1903 version for my brother.

50 Years Ago

I have to admit, I was really surprised when this one came up.  My first cousin Andy Meckler will turn 50 this April.  I have several first cousins, but Andy and his younger brother were probably the two my siblings and I saw the most growing up, so I really know him.  And I just can't imagine that he'll be turning 50!  I doubt I'll get to visit him in California, so I'll have to think of something special to do.

Image of Edwin Jaquett Sellers' tombstone courtesy of Dawn-Marie Williams.  Used with permission.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You

As I look back on the past year, I want to thank all of those who were part of my genealogy world, particularly as our world in general changed so much.  First I would like to say thank you to those conferences and societies that chose me to be a speaker.  I am honored to have been part of their educational programs during the year.

And because 2020 was the pandemic year, some groups that chose me as a speaker had to cancel or significantly rearrange their events, and I didn't end up giving presentations to them after all.  I still am proud that they chose me for their original plans.

Thanks go also to the genealogical societies for which I volunteered during the past year.  I continue to serve on the board of the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society and also have responsibility for editing the quarterly journal ZichronNote, programming, and publicity.  I am the very active coordinator of the African American Special Interest Group (AA SIG) of the Genealogical Forum of Oregon.  And I am still involved with the Jewish Genealogical Society of Oregon, although I moved from board member to vice president, and then to president when the previous president had to step down for health reasons.  If it weren't for genealogical societies, many people would have even more difficulties accomplishing their research.  I am happy to be associated with thriving groups filled with other energetic volunteers.

And as my blog continues to plug along, I very much appreciate my readers.  Your comments, both online and offline, let me know that you find it worthwhile to spend some of your time reading my commentaries about our shared hobby.

I learn something from everyone I interact with, and I'm glad I leanred with all of you during 2020.  The adventure of 2021 will probably keep us on our toes, but at least we have genealogy to keep us sane at the same time.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What Are Your 2021 Plans/Goals/Resolutions for Your Genealogy Research?

It's the first Saturday of the new year and time for the first Saturday Night Genealogy Fun of 2021!  Let's see what Randy Seaver has in store for us tonight:

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 and bloggers 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 2021.  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 in a comment to this post so readers can find your resolutions/goals/plans.

I decided to start by looking at my post from 2020 about my plans for that year.  I didn't accomplish either one of the only two goals I set, but I did have shoulder surgery and recovery time to deal with, so I'll use that as my excuse.  I guess I better redouble my efforts this year.  Here are last year's goals, repeated verbatim:


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.


I will add that one of the problems that delayed #2 is that my hard drive on my Mac is full, and I'm still trying to finish adding a larger hard drive, reconfiguring things, etc.  As for goal #1, I just didn't work on it.  Oops!


Minor Update

Because I already announced my 2021 goals in this post, I'm also sharing it on The Family Heart's January Genealogy Blog Party!

Friday, January 1, 2021

Top 10 Posts of 2020

The dawn of the new year is always the time to look back at the old year and see what you've done.  For bloggers, that usually translates into seeing which of your posts piqued people's interest the most.

Last year was another full of health problems for me, so I'm still posting only about once every three days, and most of those are Wordless Wednesday and Saturday Night Genealogy Fun.  Maybe now that I've had my long-planned surgery I'll be able to get back up to speed.

Unlike 2019, when all of the top posts were from the first quarter of the year, in 2020 they were spread out through the first half of the year.  So I'm still benefiting from the long tail, but not in as concentrated a fashion.  Well, let's start counting them off.

In the #10 spot for 2020 is a Saturday Night Genealogy Fun exercise which was the second half of a two-part pandemic meme from Pauleen.

The #9 position is held by another Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post, this one about where I expect to find my ancestors in the 1950 census when it is released in 2022.  I have an address for only one of them, but I have a good idea where everyone should be.

#8 is a Genealogy Blog Party post (just to be different!).  The theme was "Create!", so I wrote about all the photo books I have created as gifts for family members.

A Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge came in at #7, this one about favorite sites for genealogy research.  Not unexpectedly, there's a lot of similarity between people's lists.

The #6 entry on the list is the Saturday Night Genealogy Fun exercise for the first half of the two-part pandemic meme, courtesy of Pauleen.  Oh, for those early days when we were still getting used to the pandemic!

For #5 we find (yet another) Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post, about a time machine to witness an event from my family history.  I wrote about wanting to witness the adoption of the son my aunt gave up in 1945, so I could find out who adopted him and what his name became.

#4 is a Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge (are we seeing a theme here?), the "Where I'm From" poem meme that was popular for quite a while.

Believe it or not, a Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post is at the #3 position on the list.  This one was about my genealogy goals for 2020 (I'm not saying yet how I did on them).

I am happy to report that the #2 position on the Top 10 list has nothing to do with Saturday Night Genealogy Fun (nothing personal, Randy!).  It's the post where I described the tortuous path I took to finally find my great-great-grandmother and her three youngest children arriving in the United States after emigrating from the Russian Empire.

And of course the #1 post on my blog for 2020 was . . . something for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun (that makes eight of the ten, for those of us who are counting)!  This one was when Randy shared a meme from Jill Ball to focus on what we had accomplished with our family history during 2019.

This was another year when my posts did not generate many comments.  The post with the most comments was #6 on the list, the first half of Pauleen's pandemic meme, which I did as a Saturday Night Genealogy Fun exercise.