Category Archives: Research Trips

Warsaw, Poland – Summer 2018 Trip, Part 6

I didn’t mean to take this long to finish blogging about my summer trip, but at least it’s still during the same year. My trip ended back in Warsaw. I stayed in a hotel near the Old Town.

I went out to the Jewish Cemetery on Okopowa street, passing Umschlagplatz on the way. This cemetery was in better condition than Łodz, and was also actively being cleaned up and worked on.

In 2012, the POLIN Museum was still under construction and surrounded by fences, so I couldn’t see all the memorials that were immediately around it. This time, I got to see those and the museum. I spent four hours in the museum, but I rushed some of it because I was hungry for hours. Clearly I needed to prepare more time as there was so much to see and learn. I found two things in that museum that directly affected my own genealogy research.

There were crowds at the Jewish Ghetto Memorial outside of the POLIN Museum. On the way in, there was a row of people holding Israeli flags and a shofar blowing. On the way out, a group sang Hatikvah.

I wanted to go to the Jewish Historical Institute for some Belarus research, but the RtR site implied they had records that the JHI site did not have. instead, since I’d already seen the building, I headed to the Old Town and, on the last day of my visit, I joined the walking tour. I had seen almost everything on the tour already, but I got to hear some great stories about the Ikea castle and the bell, among others. The Warsaw Museum was free that day, so I spent some time in there too.

I ate in the Old Market Square, the tourist trap restaurants, but they were good. And then finally, I had to leave.

As a bonus on the flight back to the US, we flew over Greenland.

Lodz, Poland – Summer 2018 Trip, Part 5

My next visit was completely unplanned. To get to Kalisz, I had to change trains in Łódź, so I thought I might just make it a longer stop on the way back. Otherwise, I would have just gone back to Warsaw.

In JRI-Poland, I found a marriage record that was possibly my great aunt Reizel Halpert, and the couple were buried in the Łódź cemetery. I was able to get the image from JRI without going to the archive, saving me the archive visit.

My hotel was just off of Piotrkowska street, which is a bit of a tourist attraction. I walked up and down it a few times. The street is sprinkled with statues and a Walk of Fame for Polish cinema, along with a few impressive murals (and some I saw on other streets). I went out to Manufaktura; currently a mall, a cinema, a museum; but once the site of Izrael Poznański’s textile manufacturing complex.

And then I caught an Uber out to the Jewish cemetery. I was looking for four people but didn’t find any of them. My biggest problem was that JRI would not work on my phone, so while I was at the section, I couldn’t look up the stones I was looking at to figure out the location of my people in relation. Most of my people were on the right side out in the forest area. One was probably covered in ivy. Another just looked like an overgrown forest with no signs of stones, and two were in sections I never actually found. Still, I wandered around the cemetery for a few hours. Then I headed a little north to the ghetto area and Radegast railway station. The museum was closed for renovations and fenced off.

Checking online just before I left for anything else to do, I noticed that I had already taken a picture of the archive without even knowing it. One Uber driver knew English and suggested that Łódź was boring and I should visit Wrocław. I guess I’ll have to try that my next visit to Poland since I only had a few days left before my flight home.

Kalisz, Poland – Summer 2018 Trip, Part 4

After a few days of walking around Warsaw, I bought a train ticket and headed off to Kalisz. My previous trip to Poland included a visit to the Konin archive for records and I didn’t make it to Kalisz, so it was a priority. My grandmother was born in Kalisz and most of my research on her side of the family has been in Kalisz  records, with some in nearby Konin.

I found a picture online of a sign at the Jewish cemetery stating that it was open on Tuesdays. I walked over and found it wasn’t open. A call to the caretaker, Hila, and I had a plan to revisit on Wednesday, August 15th, which was two major holidays in Poland on the same day while everything else was closed. She pulled up on a bike and I headed in with my camera in hand. There was also a museum in the building, which finished off my visit. After my first glance through the gates from the day before, I was surprised to find so many more gravestones on the property than I expected, although many were piled and stacked up so the writing wasn’t visible, while others were hidden behind tall weeds. Hila barely knew any English but I think she was trying to tell me that many of the stones were recovered from the nearby streets and apartment buildings.

I didn’t go out to where the old cemetery had been because I read that it was just apartment buildings, there were no markers about its existence, and that the boundaries were not even known anymore. It was a little out of the way of everywhere else I went in the city, and the day I sort of headed to it, it started to rain and I didn’t have my umbrella.

I wanted to visit the archive, just for the sake of visiting, but didn’t have much to do there, with only one year of records not yet digitized, and it was quite a distance from the city center. Instead, I went to the Urząd Stanu Cywilnego, the civil registration office. The building had quite a crowd. Ignoring the signs telling me to take a number, I went upstairs to where the office was, pleasantly finding no crowd at all. A couple of people started asking me questions, but the Poles talk very quickly and are difficult for me to understand. Soon someone came along who knew English, so the conversation progressed much easier for me. My problem was that my grandmother was probably born in 1914, but the archive skipped over that year and I hoped the USC still had it. Additionally, I’d found the death of her sister in 1915, one year old. Was she a twin? I really needed 1914.

They didn’t have it. But the woman took a look in what she had and found the 1916 index, where Alta Galpert was listed, and it also noted that she was born in 1915.

This was good news! The archive had the 1916 books, but they hadn’t been digitized yet. It meant that I didn’t miss her birth in the missing 1914 book, just her sister’s. I decided to wait until they are digitized rather than heading out there for the one record. Maybe I can encourage them by email to scan the books sooner than they had planned.

I walked around the Old Town area a few times while I was in town, which was just over the bridge from my hotel. The town hall building had an observation deck, but it was under renovation at the time.

Warsaw, Poland – Summer 2018 Trip, Part 3

When the IAJGS conference concluded, my roommate’s daughter showed up, so I headed out to another hotel for a few nights, where the price was lower.

This is where my plans ended. I had a couple of rough ideas of what I’d do and gave myself almost two weeks in Europe before my return flight, but I was even less prepared this trip than the previous one. I was actually hoping that some people would want some research done, so I somehwat expected to not have time to do my own. But alas, for all the interest after my previous trip to Europe, I was here just for myself.

And then, the walking started. I thought I’d go on the Old Town walking tour, but I went out for a walk on my own first. Once I took a good look at the map, I could finally orient myself from my previous visit six years earlier. That time, I came in to Warsaw through the train station, which was just a few blocks from my hotel. And ulica Sienna was in between the two, the last remnant of the ghetto wall. There were lots of memorials to the ghetto wall in Warsaw with engravings on the ground showing where the wall was, including one right next to my hotel, but I believe that one is the last original piece.

Six years earlier, I had marked a bunch of things to see on a map and I didn’t spend much time in Warsaw to do them. This time, I opened up that map and went looking for it all. The old map was not of great quality in my phone, but I managed to find everything on it and more. Philip had shared a Google map to the conference, and he put a couple new things on it. As I did six years ago in Krakow, I accidentally walked farther than I meant to and made it all the way to Old Town in Warsaw. So I skipped the tour that I was thinking of doing the next day.

I headed to the Warsaw Uprising Museum on Sunday, when it was free. After standing in line for longer than I should have, I gave up and went walking again, all the way back to Old Town and then across to The Palm from my 2012 map.

I’m Going to Europe. Who Needs Research?

It’s about time, right? After my first trip to Europe, I was all ready to go back right away, like at least once a year. And here it is, six years later?

Well, if it takes an IAJGS conference for me to finally go back, so be it. The IAJGS Jewish genealogy conference will be in Warsaw this year and I’m going.

Because of how long the flight is, I will be staying for a couple of weeks after the conference to do research, so I will be there for most of August. And I am for hire. If you are interested in some on-site research in Eastern Europe, please contact me.

My fees are a little more complicated than the in-Utah fees posted on my web site, but they’re not too bad. (I really don’t want them posted publicly for several reasons, including they could change for each trip.)

If nobody hires me, I have research to do for myself in Warsaw, Pultusk, Lodz, and Kalisz in Poland, and Uzhhorod in Ukraine. I am looking into visiting Grodno in Belarus and Moldova, but while I’d like to go, they are less likely on this trip.

On the other hand, if you need research in any other Polish archives, or in other Ukrainian archives, I would be happy to help you out. (I’d be happy to help in other countries’ archives too, but I haven’t been to them yet, so I can’t tell you how it might go.) All of the Polish archives should be open this August, though they may be hot. In Ukraine, I have so far only worked in Uzhhorod and I will require a translator anywhere but Poland, but I’m happy to head out there and see what I can do for you. (I need someone to communicate for me, but I do the research in the records myself.)

Some people ask me to do European research for them when they haven’t done all the US-based research they could do. Sometimes they are missing US records and sometimes there are European records that can be accessed without going all the way to Europe. So please contact me soon so we can try to get all of your pre-trip records first. Then I can spend my European time on records we can’t otherwise access.

You can see the archives I have already successfully researched in on my Research in Europe page. I wouldn’t mind adding a few more to that when I get home.

So, who needs some research done in Eastern Europe?

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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