Category Archives: Research Trips

Unfinished with Uzhgorod

My last archive visit was in Uzhgorod, the impenetrable archive. That’s what everyone says about it. I didn’t find it so difficult, besides the huge language barrier. My translator did all the talking for me. We waited for the director to call about when I could do my research, but he didn’t. On my last day in the city, we got proactive and I finally hit the jackpot.

The director stopped in a couple of times but one archivist was in the room with us the whole time. I was presented with five books of Jewish and civil births. I was cautious at first, not knowing how much they would let me photograph. But she didn’t seem to mind and I ended up with over 200 pages. If I’d been asked, I would have requested marriages first, but I was just happy to have the access.

I haven’t been including a lot of images of the records in these posts because they’ve been in Russian. I doubt many of my readers could make them out. But these records were in Hungarian and Czech, so they’re easier to deal with.

I was particularly excited over a few of the records I found for my Rosenthal family. The handwriting was a bit messy, but I found my grandfather’s birth record. It occurred to me as I looked at it that it was the first time I had seen the record of a birth for a grandparent. Earlier in the trip, I tried to find the record for my other grandmother, but she was not registered. I didn’t have the chance to look for the other two.

Abraham Rosenthal Birth

Three siblings were registered together. There was another brother in this group that died as a child, so years later, they probably wouldn’t feel the need to record his birth. Between these two records, they switched from Hungarian to Czech.

Rosenthal Group

Interestingly, these were all delayed registrations and the second page refers back to another book where they were taken from. So maybe the missing Moshe is in those books? Something to look for on my next visit.

And finally, I found Hana’s birth. A cousin once asked me what her “real” name was. Well, in Hungarian, it was Hana. She went by Honka most of her life.

Hana "Honka" Rosenthal

Another thing that was interesting to see was David’s signature on several records. There are no pictures of him and his wife, but now I’ve seen his handwriting. This sample is one of the neater ones.

David Rozenthal

Years ago, someone searched these records for me and found some information, but only provided extracts of the data. They found my great-grandmother, Eszter Schwimmer, the mother of all these Rosenthals, but not their father. I was able to find David Alter in the records. (Eszter’s record is a Hungarian civil registration, a completely different format and not as easily shown here.)

David Alter Rosenthal

But the biggest surprise was some pages after David. He was an only child, as everyone agreed. I found that hard to believe and assumed he probably had siblings who died young, or maybe there were stillbirths or miscarriages.

And then I found one sister, born in 1878, Ester Gitel. She died in 1880, less than two years old.

Ester Gitel Rosenthal

Although I did not digitize any book in its entirety, I did take a lot of pictures. Two of the books had 15-20 records per page. I have already indexed them and need to get them onto my web site. But I did not get to see every book of birth registrations, and of course I have to go back again for marriages and deaths.

But at least now, I’ve finally finished sorting through the records that I brought back from Europe. Planning my next trip won’t feel like I’m getting ahead of myself. Now, where can I find a few weeks open in my calendar before the end of the year?

Curiosities from Konin

My Halpert and Szleper families come from Kalisz. Or at least, that’s what I’ve always known. Just before I left for my trip, I double checked the records that I wanted from the PSA in JRI-Poland and discovered that some Halpert records I wanted were actually in the Konin Archive and not the Kalisz Archive. Unfortunately, this meant trying to squeeze both of those cities into one day, which was a failure. I had trouble with transportation from Konin to Kalisz and never made it to Kalisz this trip.

But I learned something interesting in Konin.

My great-grandparents were Henry Halpert and Bertha Szleper, just to establish the connection between these families. I already had tons of records from Kalisz for the Szleper family from microfilm, and probably some ordered from the PSA years ago. I can go back into the late 1700s with them, and sideways to many other cousins. In my great-grandmother’s generation, they all Anglicized their surname, to Smith, Sheppard, Levy, Burnstein, or Bornstein. I assume that Smith and Sheppard were to be similar to the original. Levy is a maiden name in the family. I still haven’t figured out the reason for Burnstein yet, but the multiple spellings don’t concern me; they’re probably all for the same reason or copying each other.

Halpert is another problem. I have barely found them indexed by JRI, except for two births that were in the Konin Archive (and one death in the Kalisz Archive). Upon arrival in Konin, I ordered up a few books, two for the indexed records, and the following years to look for more. I soon confused the archivist when I didn’t want to look through the other books, though I eventually did.

The two records that were indexed, I was certain, were Henry’s siblings, Benjamin and Fajga. I already knew their parents’ names, Itzik and Rachel Leah (or, more correctly, Ruchla Laia in Polish). My family had been within about five years of their correct birth years, upon interviews with another cousin before I was born. Benjamin was born in 1891 and Fajga in 1894.

But it was Fajga’s birth certificate that surprised me. Even though I had the information in my database already (though a few years off), I just hadn’t noticed. Her mother was listed as a widow.

widow Ruchla Laia

I even had Itzik’s death year, and the listing from JRI-Poland to retrieve the record in the Kalisz Archive. But since my information was more like estimations, and I didn’t realize that he died while his children were so young, finding that he died six months before one of them was born was a shock. The month and year of his death are listed on his daughter’s birth, but I still need to get the death certificate for the exact date.

We also have some surname issues in this family. Both birth certificates listed Ruchla Laia’s surname as Bruks. I had been given that surname before, but it was not yet attached to her in my database. I don’t know if the person who told me that said it was her surname or just that it was in the family. (I’ll have to search for that note.) I was also told by two people that the name was changed to Halpert, but I don’t know what from. I think my grandmother told me when I was 11, but I didn’t write down every word she said. Her sister told me it was Moshkowitz, but I’ve found that as a maiden name in the family; she mixed up quite a few names, so it’s less likely she got it right.

I’ve tried searching for Itzik and Ruchla Laia’s marriage by their given names, but haven’t yet been successful.

Once again, I have more work to do on this. The Halperts are tricky.

Vexations from Wizna

All of the Kurlenders in the town of Wizna are related. I know this because I collected everything indexed by JRI-Poland, including the records that had to be ordered from Poland, and they all fit together into one large family. Also, Wizna is a small town, that I have now witnessed first-hand.

All of the people in the records fit together except for one family, which I refer to as the “floating family”. I have the birth certificates of two twin sisters, but their father’s patronymic is not included. I have no other records for him, birth or marriage, so I don’t know where he fits into the family. But I’m sure that he does because he carries a family name that I’ve rarely, if ever, seen elsewhere.

Thus, the family of Azriel Srol Kurlender, his wife Rochla Glodsztein, and their daughters Marim Sora and Ryvka, had nowhere to go until I found more information.

I hoped to find more when I went to Poland.

I was able to find more Kurlender records in addition to what was already indexed. Among them, a few that caused problems.

First, there’s the birth of Freida Leya, daughter of Joszk Gerszkowicz Kurlender and Ryvka. The problem? No Joszk Gerszkowicz in the family. There were a couple of first cousins named Joszk. Could there have been a third brother named Gerszk who also has a son named Joszk and this is the first I’ve seen of him? Totally possible. The two brothers I know about, Srol and Zorach, are born about 15 years apart; plenty of room in between for more kids. I still need to go through the earliest Wizna records (the unindexed ones, including the Catholic records), so maybe I’ll find a clue.

I then have a marriage record for Leya, though not Freida Leya, who is probably the same person. Her age is a few years off, but it’s still possible. At least those two records work together.

A marriage record for Mariem Sora Kurlender stumped me next, as her parents were not listed anywhere. However, her date of birth was unusually listed and matches exactly to the Marim Sora of the earlier “floating family”. So again, a record I’m not sure where to add into the family, but at least it matches something else I have.

The next stumper was a birth record for Mortek Berek, son of Abram Itzyk Kurlender and Rywka Spektor. I have Abram Itzyk and Rywka in my tree already, with three kids. Mortek is not one of them. However, their son Dov is born the same year. Was Mortek another son that my cousin didn’t know about when he told me about this family? Did Mortek become Dov? Dov Ber is a typical double name, so that’s entirely possible. So I’m not sure what to do about this one yet either.

I did find a few Kurlender records that were not problematic. Still I have some more work to do on this family, in earlier records and later ones. A lot of Kurlenders came to America. I still have to match them all up to the Polish families.

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Revelations from Rutki, Part 2

I am fairly certain that everyone named Mularzewicz is related. The name only exists in a certain part of Poland, and the earliest generation I’ve found are all born just after 1800 and their father’s name is Moszko. I’ve been in this situation before, and each time, when I’m able to find more evidence, I’ve proved my suspicions correct. But for this, I still want more proof.

My earliest Mularzewicz record was from 1839 in the town of Wizna. This was unexpected, as my branch of Mularzewiczes were from Rutki. The marriage was that of Moszko Szlomowicz Mularzewicz to Peszka Marchowicz. For those who aren’t familiar with Polish patronymics, the second name of the groom indicates his father’s name, Szlomo. Before this record, Szlomo was the furthest back I could go in the Mularzewicz line. The bonus information came in the parents’ names, which listed Szlomo and Malka, Moszkowicz Mularzewicz, indicating that Szlomo’s father was named Moszko. Szlomo’s wife was also new information. With this, I finally had more to match besides just Szlomo. I just needed some records of those alleged brothers.

I went to Poland hoping to find a couple of those. I found one.

Kalman Mularzewicz was one of the people I was hoping to find. His death was indexed by JRI-Poland but it was only in the Polish State Archive. Even though he died at the age of 80, his parents were wonderfully listed on his death certificate. Finding Szlomo and Malka listed, I finally had enough proof that this Kalman belonged to my family. His wife, Odes, was also listed, further reinforcing his family. I had previously collected information about his family from JRI. I have to go through them again, but now I can confidently add them into my database. And as I recall, he had a good sized family.

I thought that I was also trying to retrieve more evidence for another brother in that generation, but alas, I cannot find such a record now. Any others may have to eventually be assumed, unless I can find something in the older Catholic records. The Jewish records in those are usually few and far between, but it may be the only way I can definitively prove any more.

I had some more trouble with another member of the family, Chaim. I previously had the information about his family based on his birth record, the 1897 district census, and the marriage record for his oldest son, all of which fit easily into my known family. In Poland, I was able to find Chaim’s marriage record, but I have some trouble with it. Many of the names don’t match the records I already had. His mother was listed as Pesa daughter of Abram, but I had that her father was Zyskind, which is a family name and seen a few times. His wife’s name was also an issue. Listed as Pesa Rozen on the marriage, I previously had Leya Royza Rozenowicz. While I can easily assimilate Rozen and Rozenowicz, Leya Royza and Pesa are trickier. Her father, Wigdor, is listed the same on all records, so it doesn’t look like two different wives, as that name didn’t seem very common in this part of Poland. I will have to re-examine everything to see if there might be more clues that I hadn’t found. Maybe I’ll try searching under her maiden name.

I have quite a bit more work to do in the Mularzewicz family now, sorting through all of those records from Kalman’s branch of the family, and climbing over to the Sokol family (from Part 1). If I recall correctly, Kalman had some descendents who immigrated to America and I communicated with one many years ago. I looked him up recently and unfortunately will have to find his descendents to get back in touch again. Fortunately, he is connected via a female line and wasn’t a Miller in America.

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Revelations from Rutki, Part 1

In the process of organizing and reorganizing all of my genealogy documents, I’m finally getting to the records I brought back from Europe.

I’ve started with my Mularzewicz family. I have been going through the records I already had, incorporating their data into my database, looking up more records that are online or indexed and easily findable on microfilm, in addition to carefully adding the new records from Poland.

The Mularzewicz family originated near Rutki. I can no longer say they came from Rutki, since I’ve found a couple of earlier records. Rutki kept separate records for a short while, but many are in the books from Zambrow and Łomza; all of these records are held in the archive in Łomza.

I tried to do as much research as I could before I went on my trip so I was prepared with as much as I could know. Pages of Testimony (PoT) from Yad Vashem had filled in some more of this family and the indexes on JRI-Poland pointed me to a few more records. Additionally, I searched through records that were not indexed and found a few more documents about my family.

From the nine known children of Lejba and Necha Mularzewicz, I was able to find the marriage records for three of them on this trip: Chaja, Chana Sora, and Juszk Szlomo. I learned a lot about the family just from these three records.

I descend from their son Zyskind, who came to America and brought all of his children. Several of his brothers also made the journey and brought their families: Pesach, Abram, Jankel, and Juszk. Shejna died as a child and Ester died in childbirth. That left the two sisters, Chana Sora and Chaja, who I learned about from those Pages of Testimony.

Chaja married Moszka Leiba Jedwabinski. Their son Josef was the person who filled out the PoTs for these families. Besides learning a bit more about Moszka, I finally learned the maiden name of Necha: Sokol.

I’ve had the name Ginsburg in my database for years, but the only source for that name was Zyskind’s death certificate.

Chana Sora married Izrael Zeborowsky. On his PoT, he was listed as Zabrowsky; he lost a vowel in translation. This marriage certificate not only confirmed the name Sokol, but Izrael’s mother’s maiden name was also Sokol. There is a nearby village of Sokoly, so they may not necessarily be related; but they could be.

And finally, the marriage of Juszk to Chaja Sora Koziol. She was a tricky one. I had her maiden name listed as Beckman, finding her brother with the family in a US census. He was actually misspelled and was Beckerman.

What gets more interesting is that Beckerman is the only person in my family who came with a story of a name change at Ellis Island. The person who told me the story thought the name was changed from Mularzewicz, but it was actually the family of the wife of a Mularzewicz. His story was that when asked his name, he thought he was being asked his profession and said Beckerman — he was a baker. I have found more information about the Beckermans, and they were all bakers. I wonder if this story has a modicum of truth to it. I don’t believe they were misunderstood at Ellis Island, but did the name change happen because of a misunderstanding? Or did they change it to match their business?

From a collection of ship lists for unidentified as well as badly misspelled Mularzewiczes, I easily found Chaja and her eldest children arriving, listing both her husband and her father, further confirming the name change from Koziol to Beckerman.

Continuing on my research, I discovered that one of the brothers arrived in America as a single man. He was a tricky one to find. In fact, before very recently, I had no evidence of him in America. Once I finally found the 1940 Census, I was able to find his family in earlier records, including his New York City marriage. If I hadn’t known the correct mother’s maiden name, I would have discounted it as incorrect.

Jake Miller Marriage, Lejba and Necha listed as Louie and Annie

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Paris, France

The long stay in Uzhhorod was unexpected, but the end excitement to see the record books was worth it. I only wish I had more time because my next intended visit was Moldova. Instead, I conveniently found a well priced flight from L’viv to Paris via Warsaw.

I took a few walks outside of the hotel during the conference, sometimes for a meal with friends, other times just to take a walk. I escaped the conference one day for a little local sightseeing, then I had one day after the conference to see Paris.

Many Parisians spoke English, but even when they didn’t, my public school French, along with a recent vocabulary refresher, made the language feel much less foreign.

A lovely surprise awaited me at the Eiffel Tower, my first stop, when my cousin was standing in line at just the right moment. I easily convinced him to give up on the multi-hour wait and we toured the city together. I had marked out the places I most wanted to see and it was much more fun to have the company.

My photos here begin at the Ukraine airport, because I didn’t think to put them into an earlier post. This was the final part of my European trip. The next related blog posts will be sorting through all of the records I acquired.

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All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.

Mukachevo, Ukraine

On another outing from Uzhhorod, I visited Mukachevo. This is my Rosenthal and Schwimmer ancestral city. They all lived in or nearby to the large city. I had nothing specific to look for, so we just visited the usual places.

We began at the synagogue. My driver’s uncle worked there and we waited until someone let us into the building. Then we headed for the two Jewish cemeteries. Again, my driver stopped to ask directions instead of knowing where he was going. It made the trip a little more interesting. We visited the main downtown square where the synagogue used to be, and saw at a distance a renovated synagogue building. Apparently, there are now two synagogues in Mukachevo, though everyone refers to “the” synagogue as if there’s only one. And finally, we stopped at Palanok Castle. My driver stayed with the car to stave off the gypsy kids, so I walked through myself. There was no information in English, so I didn’t learn any of the history or stories behind things.

I did have a moment at the castle. Two people were talking to each other in English, mentioning they wanted to ask me to take a photo of them. Then they asked me, probably in Ukrainian.

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All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.

Kopinovtsi, Ukraine

This entry is for my Rosenthal family. Kopinovtsi is a small village northwest of Mukachevo. It is our Rosenthal ancestral village.

My driver didn’t like using the GPS that he had in his car, opting instead to stop and ask for directions every few people we saw. We were doing fine until we ran out of people. By the time we saw another, we had already driven past the village and off of the paved road. Kopinovtsi sits on a kind of side street to the main road, and we drove past both entrances. Neither had a sign with the village name, as every other village seemed to have.

After a quick stop, and asking more directions, we stopped at the Village Council building. Several people were soon on their cell phones to help. A cousin told me that our house was somewhat recently half post office, so I didn’t think it would be too hard to find. They knew that a Jewish family had once lived in the house directly across the street, but were able to verify it was my family. Down the street, a woman remembered Hershie and his family, while another spoke on the phone to a relative of her husband’s who knew them also.

The house turns out to be one third post office, one third library, and one third in ruins. The people in the village even offered to sell it to me. The post office was locked up, but I walked through the other sections. The back yard was pretty big with a mikveh at the back. It had its own private bridge over a picturesque stream; the water used to be suitable for drinking.

In all my excitement, I didn’t take any pictures of the village, just looking down the street, to get a feel for the area. Maybe on a future visit to the country, I’ll swing by there again.

This was the most personal part of my trip, where I visited the house my grandfather was born and raised in.

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All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.

Uzhhorod, Ukraine

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.

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All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.

Poland to Ukraine

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.

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All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.