Archive for Category: Genealogy


Uzhhorod, Ukraine

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

I had trouble when I got to Ukraine. I had put a lot of work into building a working knowledge of Polish, but I hadn’t tackled Russian. I started learning and intended to do more, but I really didn’t. I tried to hire a genealogist to help me when I got there, but that didn’t work out. I felt more lost than ever. As time passed, I started getting used to it. I still don’t know if I got used to all the Cyrillic or if I just got used to not understanding.

In my time of need, I was glad to be Jewish. I’ve read stories of how Jews always help each other, but I’ve never really used such kind of help. I contacted Hesed Shpira, a Jewish Welfare Center. At the time, I didn’t know what they did, but they were in Uzhhorod and some of them spoke English. They were a huge help, connecting me with guides and translators that made my stay in Ukraine interesting and fruitful.

My driver took me out of the city to Mukachevo and Kopinovtsi on different days. His English wasn’t terrific, especially when people in my ancestral village were recalling stories about my family and he had trouble translating, but it was enough.

My other helper came with me to the Uzhhorod Archive and spoke to the director for me. We sat to fill out the record request forms while the director went out, so we had some time to chat about genealogy and how research works, and why those forms were of little use. We waited a week for him to get back to us. We finally called him on my last day in the country. I wish we’d called sooner, because we went back to the archive and were able to look through all of the books of birth records for Mukachevo, but didn’t have time for marriages and deaths. I need to go back and finish.

While waiting for that call, I spent quite a few unexpected days in Uzhhorod. Without any planning, I ended up in a hotel in the city center. I slowly learned this, as well as how many things were in walking distance. The coolest find was when I was just wandering around and spotted a building around the corner and off in the distance, and I recognized it from pictures as the former synagogue. I also visited the Uzhhorod Castle, the botanical garden, and the Zakarpattia Museum of Folk Architecture and Life. Many days I just wandered around the city center.

The URL of this post is http://idogenealogy.com/blog/2012/12/19/uzhhorod-ukraine/.
All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.

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Poland to Ukraine

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Crossing the border between Poland and Ukraine was an adventure in itself. The train I boarded in Kraków was about ten cars long, but only three went all the way through to L’viv. I had to buy a ticket on a sleeper car, though I had no intention to sleep before arrival. One cabin mate spoke a little English, the other did not.

The map didn’t make the trip out to be as long as it was scheduled for, but I soon learned that there were two stops along the way, at Przemyśl to leave Poland, and just over the border to enter Ukraine. Each stop was about two hours long. In Poland, we were pushed around a bit as they switched engines and adjusted the wheels beneath us, then we were pushed backwards into the station for customs. An agent came through the train and stamped our passports.

We then slowly headed for the border. In Ukraine, they took away our passports while we waited, still not leaving the train. And they even brought dogs through each cabin. Eventually, we headed off to L’viv, arriving after midnight, where I had to quickly buy another train ticket for Uzhgorod.

The URL of this post is http://idogenealogy.com/blog/2012/12/04/poland-to-ukraine/.
All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.

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December Goals Review

Sunday, 2 December 2012

It seems that, until yesterday, I completely forgot about blogging my goals review since I went to Europe — but that was a goal. So here is my review after all these months.

1. Go to Europe. Done! I can’t wait to go back and would like to next year. Anyone want to hire me for Eastern European research?

2. Organize my documents. Well, that stalled out again, but I’ll get back to it. I’m still posting the photos from my Europe trip to this blog, then I’ll get to the documents, and I’m sure I’ll get back to organizing some of the older ones around that time too.

3. Get pictures on the family web site. Oops. I’ve been posting Europe trip pictures on the blog at least.

4. Blog more. I slowed a bit in November for NaNoWriMo, but I should be picking that up more now, especially since I have a new computer and everything is faster. When I add a second monitor eventually, it will be even better.

5. Don’t procrastinate emails. I’ve done much better with this, save for between computers when running my email program on the six year old back-up computer often crashed it.

6. Invoice better. I should do this. Even QuickBooks runs faster now.

7. Index more. Not so much lately, but when I get to organizing the records I brought home from Europe, I’ve got quite a bit to index for one group.

In addition, the new computer and new desk have brought new life to my productivity on the computer. I needed a change of scenery and this was enough. I have been backing up old backup CDs and DVDs to my hard drive and scanning old papers to eliminate more files. I even got more reading done while doing these.

I have a month left of 2013 to try to do better on a few of these goals. I predict a couple will improve more and at least one won’t change. So is life.

The URL of this post is http://idogenealogy.com/blog/2012/12/02/december-goals-review/.

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Auschwitz, Poland

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

On my last day in Kraków, I finally made it out to Auschwitz. I went out with a small, late tour in slightly rainy weather, which just made the trip seem more depressing. I thought it was appropriate. As we arrived, crowds of people were leaving, making the camps very desolate during our tours.

Our guide didn’t even want to walk us around the second camp for a fear of lightning. In the end, some of us insisted so she walked us out, and the rain eventually stopped. However, I thought that one of our goals was to see the big memorial at the end of the camp, and we still missed it.

I’ve heard some people complain about their tours of the camps, where the guides try to change the story and make the Poles seem more like victims. Our guide was not like that. She was unapologetic and simply told us what she knew. Some of the story that stuck with me was their restoration efforts. We saw evidence of this at both camps, scaffolding and tape that we weren’t supposed to cross. Not only were costs prohibitive, but they couldn’t be sure what condition to restore the buildings to, since some had been altered after the war.

The URL of this post is http://idogenealogy.com/blog/2012/11/14/auschwitz/.
All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.

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Kazimierz

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Kazimierz is the old Jewish Quarter. When Jews were forced out of Kraków, that’s where they went. It is south of the old town, Stare Miasto. Wawel Castle is between the two.

There have been at least seven synagogues, all of which are still standing, three are still active, one is now a museum.

My hotel was in the corner of Kazimierz nearest to Wawel and Stare Miasto. I walked around the area quite a bit. Unfortunately, I didn’t cross the river to see Schindler’s Factory and the ghetto. I was in Kraków during the Jewish Heritage Festival, and I could tell from the crowds I saw a few times.

More about the synagogues and Kazimierz can be found at:

Wikipedia has individual pages for the main synagogues, and a long list of others that I didn’t visit.

The URL of this post is
All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.

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Krakow, Poland

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Krakow was my longest stay in Poland. A friend told me I shouldn’t miss it, but also because my only paying client for this trip had family in Kraków.

I had done a little research, but not enough. I had an idea of a few things in the city to look for. Mostly, I just wandered around and saw what I saw, and took a lot of pictures. I did a lot of walking; my feet were in pain for days. Unfortunately, that kept me from crossing the river to visit more things I should have seen. I didn’t know exactly where they were and did not feel up to wandering more.

My photos begin in a small park near the train station. I had an incredible knack for exiting the train stations in the wrong direction and ending up in the “back”. I walked through the park, then headed the long way around towards the front of the train station. I took a taxi to my hotel because my phone had again died, so it couldn’t lead my way.

After a nap, I walked to Stare Miasto, the Old Town of Kraków. I returned again two days later for two days, as the archive was also there.

I learned a lot about the things I photographed while adding these photos to the gallery. Want to know more? Here are some Wikipedia links.

The URL of this post is http://idogenealogy.com/blog/2012/10/23/krakow/.
All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.

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Konin, Poland

Sunday, 21 October 2012

My family was not from Konin, or so I thought. I still haven’t been through all the records that I retrieved during my trip, but apparently, we were there. From JRI-Poland, I knew that the Konin archive had a couple records for my Halpert family. So I took the train over and went to the archive in the morning.

I found those two records, the births of two siblings of my great-grandfather, Henry Halpert, finding that their mother was a widow on the second record. That changed the story a little. But I still haven’t found the records for the older siblings or their marriage, or any other Halpert records, except for her husband’s death, which is in the Kalisz archive.

I had plans to go to the Kalisz archive next, but that proved a bit difficult. I couldn’t find a train or the right bus, and it was Friday. Instead, I wandered around Konin for a bit before heading to Krakow, but I didn’t go much more than a couple blocks away from the train station. I hadn’t done any research about what was in the city, as I didn’t expect to stay for long while waiting for a train.

The URL of this post is http://idogenealogy.com/blog/2012/10/21/konin/.
All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.

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Jedwabne, Poland

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

I had no ancestors in Jedwabne, but I believe there were some cousins. Few records, or perhaps only one, indicate my family was in Jedwabne. Kurlender has appeared on surname lists.

This town is a sad tale in Poland’s history. Most of the atrocities brought against the Jews were committed by the Nazis, but there were some Poles who took it upon themselves to also contribute. In this village, already under some German influence, they rounded up the Jews into a barn by the Jewish cemetery and burned it down.

I saw three stories about the fate of the Jews in Rutki. In one, they were sent to Łomza. In a second, they were marched out to the forest and killed. (It was along the way to Łomza, so maybe both of those stories are the same.) In a third, they were sent to Jedwabne.

I knew where the synagogue used to be in town, but I just drove by the spot quickly. I went out to the memorial and the Jewish cemetery.

You can read more about the Jedwabne pogrom.

The URL of this post is http://idogenealogy.com/blog/2012/10/02/jedwabne/.
All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.

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Wizna, Poland

Sunday, 23 September 2012

After the interesting time I had in Rutki, and backtracking some of my journey to find that memorial, I went back to Rutki and followed that sign to Wizna.

I knew the road would take me through a few even smaller villages. One of them was Grądy Woniecko, the birth place of the earliest Mularzewicz ancestor who’s birth record I have. I only stopped long enough to take a picture of the sign. It seemed like the only thing in town was a prison, which Polish Wikipedia confirms opened in 1999.

The earliest Mularzewicz record I have so far is the for a marriage for Moszko in 1838 in Wizna. However, Wizna is primarily known to me as where my Kurlender family comes from. My great-grandmother Sorka was born there in 1865. When I first got her Polish birth record, I was not sure it was hers because I lacked more information about her. But I was just being hesitant. After retrieving all of the indexed Kurlender records, I was able to put them all together into one large family tree.

As I did with Rutki, I tried to find where the synagogue used to be, but while I found some pictures online, I could find no address or other details. So I just went to the center of town. There was a sign pointing for information, but when I followed it, I got to a one way street out of the center of town and could never find where it wanted me to go.

And to be a good genealogist, the names inscribed on the monument in the Wizna park:

  • Dobronski Jozef
  • Glinski Jan
  • Grzeszczyk Marceli
  • Konopko Franciszek
  • Krasnowski Jozef
  • Lipinski Jozef
  • Markfart Boleslaw
  • Olszewski Teofil
  • Ostrowski Stefan
  • Pruszko Jozef
  • Piotrowski Andrzej
  • Ptaszynski Edmund
  • Radziwon Antoni
  • Renkiewicz Apolinary
  • Szulc Antoni
  • Trepanowski Jozef

The URL of this post is http://idogenealogy.com/blog/2012/09/23/wizna/.
All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.

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Rutki, Poland

Saturday, 22 September 2012

After my first day of research in an archive, I headed out to see where my ancestors once lived. The first stop was the birth place of my paternal grandmother, Marian Mularzewicz (later Mary Miller).

Marian was born in May 1910 and arrived with her mother Sorka and several siblings to Ellis Island in 1920. Her father Zyskind and all the older siblings were already in America. Zyskind had travelled back and forth a few times, having first visited the US in 1904. The second of his arrivals that I found was in March 1910, so unless he quickly turned around and went back to Poland, he was in America when she was born.

This is all assuming that her birth date is accurate. I have found that none of my Polish ancestors (nor anyone else’s) actually knew their birth dates. They didn’t celebrate every year like we do today, so it wasn’t as important to know. While in the Łomza archive, I looked for records for the children in this family and did not find any except for the first born son (which I’d already had). So the dates that they used in America are the closest we’ll ever know to when they were actually born.

Zyskind probably did meet his youngest daughter before her arrival in America, as a third ship list for him was found in 1913. His birth I found in the records as well as his wife’s.

The Napoleonic records do not give street addresses or even house numbers usually, so I was just in Rutki to visit the town in general. There was nothing left of the Jewish cemetery, but it was established in the 1920s or 1930s, so my ancestors weren’t buried there; some cousins may have been.

I did find online information about the former synagogue, including the street address. I had some trouble finding it because there were two buildings there, neither with addresses. I gathered my courage (and as much Polish language skill as I could muster) and went inside the general store to ask for help. We eventually found that one of those buildings was the correct one, but it was set so far back from the street that they had changed the access to the other side. It is now a few different shops in one building. At one end, the owner invited me in and knew it had been the synagogue. His shop was on the side that was the bima. He pointed out that all of the surrounding houses were once occupied by Jews.

He then told me where to find a memorial to the Jews of Rutki who were killed by the Nazis, which I visited.

The URL of this post is http://idogenealogy.com/blog/2012/09/22/rutki/.
All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.

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