Friday, October 14, 2016

Taking Stock

Part 3 of a genealogy story, please read two prior posts first...

It was time to gather my findings and take stock. My original mission was to find the married names of Sara and Szajndla Ruchla, their husbands and their children.  I also needed to link them to Chaia, the mother of Sara and grandmother of Szajndla.  I had indeed found the married names of both Sara and Szajndla as well as the names of their husbands. I had also found Sara's two other children, and the two children of Szajndla. One of the challenges is to be able to say with some certainty that the records that were discovered apply to the right people.  There were lots of Saras and Szajndlas in the Lodz community.

Testing Validity
To test the connections I decided to try some mind mapping.  I wrote about this in a blog entry after the IAJGS Conference (the international Jewish genealogy conference) where I attended a session on it.  Mindmapping is a visual way of looking at data from multiple sources. For each key person, I noted data sources and the data that each provided. I look for at least two data points to validate my conclusions and ideally they fit into a web of data. The mind map is a way to visually see those connections and the mere act of laying out the data is a part of the thought process.

There were three women who I was trying to validate; Chaia, Sara and Szajndla Ruchla.  It is the women who are often the hardest to anchor in genealogical records even as they play such a central role in their family.

In the first records of Chaia from the early 1916-21 registration cards, she tied out to her town of origin, her husband and her father's given name. Her year of birth fell in the expected time period based on family story and was consistent through multiple records. Chaia's death record also tied out to her father's name and his name was also found in relationship to Chaia in the Lodz cemetery.  Her granddaughter, named after Chaia's mother, was with her at her death validating the family relationship. 

I also felt quite confident that I had Sara's marriage record because it referenced her parents and maiden name correctly. Her husband was also found at the same address with her in the prewar period as well as during wartime and also reflected in the marriage record. Her anecdotal death in the ghetto was also validated by the Holocaust Museum records.

Szajndla Ruchla was found in the 1916-1921 registration cards, together with her parents. Later when she was grown her linkage was to her grandmother at the time of her death. A further linkage was the fact that her siblings moved to the next door address. We also have a naming pattern connection with her great-grandmother.  Not only do multiple data points exist, but there is truly a web of connection.

Based on their married names, I searched for  individuals of the same surname and address.  Thus children and husbands were linked to the family member with whom they lived and whom multiple sources had validated.

We still have a multiplicity of maiden names, but my previously outlined theory that Galinski and Walinski are one and the same seems sound. Cyralnik or Soralnik arose several times and in fact there is another individual named Sonia Cyralnik at the same address where Chaia was at the time of her death. Both of them are also listed at the same address outside of the ghetto before it was formed. A Yad Vashem record indicates this new Cyralnik has the married name of Lapin, perhaps a version of Lape and another possible point of connection.  Sometimes names derived from the mother so perhaps Soralnik refers to a long-ago ancestor named Sora. Given the fact that Chaia's daughter was named Sara, it is quite possible it was a family name that dates back in time.   Galinski, Walinski and Soralnik all appear to have originated as patronymics or matronymics, taking a parent's name and adding an ending signifying "son of" or "related to". Silversztajn remains a puzzle. It appears only once and after some preliminary searching presents no corroborating evidence or thread to pursue at this time.

The other puzzle is when the relationship between Sara and Kalma began. The timeline indicates that Kalma's first wife was alive through 1913 when it appears her last child was born based on the early registration cards.  Here it shows Kalma as a widower with four children and we know from another source the year one son was born so can date this card to 1916.  Szajndla was born in 1913/1914. Sara moved to Lodz in 1918 and Sara and Kalma married in 1924. Is Szajndla the child of an earlier marriage or did this relationship develop as Kalma struggled with loss and if so where did Sara and Kalma first connect? It helps to remember the human dimension as we consider how events unfolded.  And while we know something of Isser's future (Kalma's son from his prior marriage) what about those other children? Perhaps a third puzzle, albeit off the track of our inquiry.

Next Steps

I never wind up a search without suggested next steps.  Seldom is this work completely ended and tied with a bow. If there are mysteries, I consider how to tackle them.

Some record indexes were found with the organization CRARG. One was the military record of Kalma's son from his first marriage. The second was the marriage record between Sara and Kalma. A full translation of the marriage record could provide Chaia's maiden name. It's possible that they also hold other Gliksztajn records that I had not yet discovered that might help us gather more information on the timeline of Kalma's life.

A number of Cyralnik names are found in Yad Vashem from Narewka submitted by a survivor in 1999.  While I did not see anyone who shared a father with Chaia, it may be worth mapping out relationships and seeing if naming patterns reveal anything.  I would pay particular attention to Sonie Cyralnik who shared a maiden name, ancestral town and two addresses with Chaia. Sonie was a student in Lodz and was born in Narewka in 1919. There are records of testimony submitted by her sister who survived. It is likely that she is related and if so, we know that her sister who provided testimony survived.

When I started this search I had no idea where it would take me. I hit dead ends at the beginning as I searched their towns of origin unsuccessfully.  Records may not exist and even if they do, they may be buried in archives with no on-line index or hidden behind privacy laws.  Most archives do not do research for you so you need to be able to identify what you are seeking.  Keep in mind that everything I uncovered was solely from my computer and existing indices.  It was when I turned my attention to the registration cards and the Holocaust records that I began to find a way in.

Even when you identify a database, you still need to explore how best to mine it. That is where that art of genealogy comes in, finding connections between disparate pieces of data, always asking the next question. The person for whom I did this research described this work as a mosaic and spoke of weaving elements together.  I think that describes the process well. With each new piece of data or each new hypothesis, I had to go back to earlier sources to see how it fit against existing threads.

As I've noted,a genealogy search requires the ability to hold conflicting information in your head, always weighing it against a burden of proof and allowing for the possibility that transcription and translation errors may corrupt or alter the data.  You also need to consider the practices of the time.  Is a different given name from a double name or possibly an altered version of the original name (Chaim, Kalma) Could a religious marriage occur separately from a later civil marriage? Each piece of data opens up a new door to potential linkages, some of which will be dead ends and some which may just solve a mystery.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Making Sense of Records

Deciphering Handwritten Records
In the prior blog Holding Conflicting Thoughts, we last left off awaiting records from the US Holocaust Museum. Of those that I received, Chaia's death record presented the most new information.  One side was in German, the other in Polish. This repetition was useful, deciphering handwriting often is easier when we get two shots at it in two different languages. Two witnesses were listed with ages and addresses.  Chaia's date of birth and death were listed as well as her parents Szlama and Szajna and here her maiden name looked like Wilowski although the Holocaust Museum had transcribed it as Witowski.  I was able to decipher individual words using Google Translate, but the handwritten text was often difficult to read.

As there were a few things I wasn't sure I was interpreting correctly, I sent the record off to ViewMate to get a more precise translation.  The response included two pieces of new data, a reading of Chaia's town of birth as Narewka in Bielsk. Back to the community database on Jewishgen where I determined that in that period Narewka was in the town of Bielsk and the province of Bialystok, all consistent with the area they were known to be from.  The family history says that Chaia was born in Jalowka so I looked at the relationship to Narewka.  The two cities are 18 miles apart, but I find a site that indicates that Narewka is actually the name of the municipality in which Jalowka (translates to Heifer)  is located.

The other piece of information was a different reading of the maiden name as Wilenski, not Wilowski.  Remember the maiden name the family believed to be Galinski. Could these be one and the same?  G's and H's are often interchangeable (Gersz and Hersz) just as are C's and S's (Cyralnik and Soralnik). It would be easy to read that first letter as an H instead of a W and conclude that it is interchangeable with a G. Having the actual handwriting presents possibilities that otherwise wouldn't occur to me.

As I contemplate the challenges of deciphering handwritten letters,  I go back to study the document and note that the same W in Narewka is read as an N in Wilenski. Still a bit skeptical as to whether the W is an N, I do a search for the names Wilowski and Wilenski. As far as common names, Wilenski wins by a landslide.  I am leaning towards this interpretation when I discover a listing on JRI-Poland of names from the Bialystok region and there is Wilanski as well as a Galunski. I confirm that Cyrulnik is on the list while I'm at it. 

When a "ski"  is at the end it was originally formed from a patronymic, the father's name and an ending that means "son of".  Families used patronymics before last names were required and while some may have turned the patronymic into their permanent name, it is possible that they took another name. Perhaps that also contributes to our multiplicity of maiden names.

Look at the Witnesses
The one thing I've learned about death records is to look at the witnesses as they are often family members.  In this record one of the witnesses was Szajna Ruchla Kaminska.  Remember Szajndla Ruchla, Sara's eldest daughter whose married name we were seeking, the one who is likely named after her great-grandmother Szajna? She was 28 which would have made her birth year 1913/14, exactly what the anecdotal information indicated.  What would be more natural than a granddaughter supporting her grandmother on her deathbed?  I was beginning to feel a connection to these people who were once just names as I imagined that human experience.

Choosing Your Search Engine
Now I had three surnames to search, Lape, Gliksztajn and Kaminska.   At this juncture I turned to the Lodz Ghetto Database which lists those who were trapped in the ghetto during the war.  There are a few doorways to it.  It comes up on searches in the Survivors and Victims Database at the Holocaust Museum and their search engine allows you to search on multiple variables which pull up a variety of records from many sources. Sometimes I like to pull up a broad universe of only one source and go through each record.  For that I preferred the Jewishgen gateway to the Lodz Ghetto Database. It returns results solely from that database instead of mingled with other sources, but allows a search on only one variable at a time. With more results on a page, you can easily use the find command to do a secondary search for additional family members by address.  You will find the search field at the very bottom of the page in the link above.

I began by searching for Szajna Ruchla Kaminska (i). The female form has an "a" at the end, but the male form has an "i". I used the find command to search each page for any names that were close and then verified the year of birth.  Once I felt certain that I had found the correct record, I shifted to searching for the addresses among that surname in order to find all family members.  It is a laborious process, but one with satisfying results.  By the time I concluded this effort I had found Szajna Ruchla's husband and two children.  I had also found Sara's husband and her younger two children who both carried the name Gliksztajn.  In addition I found the child of Sara's husband from his first marriage together with his wife and child.  Chaja Lape was listed with the maiden name of Cyralnik. Remember she had the maiden name of Soralnik in the 1916-21 registration cards. A name that survived decades is one to which I pay attention.

Now I began to drill down another level.  The records all indicated a year of birth, a name and an address.  Could that information verify anything about relationships?  I soon discovered that both of Szajndla Ruchla's siblings were listed at two addresses.  I imagined that they may have moved when their mother Sara died.  Their second address was Baluter Ring 6 Flat 3.  Szajndla Ruchla's address at the time of her grandmother's death was Baluter Ring 6 Flat 2.  This is where remembering the human dimension is valuable. What do people do in times of loss? They reach out to be near family.

New Sources Emerge
As I was proceeding down this road a new source emerged. Remember those Lodz registration records from 1916-1921? An email came out on the JRI-Poland email list indicating that all of the records were now posted. Previously I was only able to find the records for the Lapes. Now I returned to search for Gliksztajn and Kaminska. I was a bit doubtful of finding anything because Sara and Kalman didn't marry until 1924 and Szajndla was born around 1914 so was still a long way from marrying and acquiring her married name.  Nonetheless a good genealogist leaves no stone unturned.

In fact I met with some success on the Gliksztajn name.There was a record for a Chaim Gliksztajn that also listed Sara Lape as born in Bialystok and Szajndla Roza born in Lodz in 1914.  A newer address was listed than what I had previously found.  Chaim and Kalma are likely the same name and the link with both Sara and Szajndla together with the correct year of birth for Szajndla seemed to tie out.  So what about that marriage in 1924?  I am assuming it was a civil marriage as opposed to a religious marriage which may have preceded it.

As I continued to search I found an additional listing for Sara Gliksztajn with the maiden name Lape, born in 1893.  There were two addresses listed, one which corresponded to that of Chaia and Moszek Lappe and the second which corresponded to that of Chaim Gliksztajn.

The next entry that I found was for a Kalman Gliksztajn, widower.  It listed his father's name as Chil which differed from the marriage record which showed Leib.  Possibly it is a second name as was common.  It notes that he was born in Przyrow near Czestochova and lists four children, Chil age 7, Isser age 6, Jozef age 4 and Itta age 3.  I had found a military record for Isser that indicated he was born in 1910 so this puts the record date at 1916.  The address is the same as the Lape's address which points to a connection quite some time before the 1924 marriage.  I hypothesize that his first wife died at the time the youngest child was born in 1913.  Sara's daughter Szajndla Ruchla was born in late 1913.  But there is a notation on Sara's record of 1918 by an address, this notes when the person came to Lodz and to that address. Another mystery!  How was I to reconcile the timeline of when Sara arrived, Szajndla Ruchla was born and when the relationship, married or not, began with Kalman.

We've made a lot of progress, but uncovered some mysteries as well.  In my next post, we'll take stock of where we stand. See Taking Stock for our conclusion.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Holding Conflicting Thoughts

 Periodically I write of some of the genealogy puzzles that I take on for others, hoping that my process may prove helpful for those in similar searches.  Lately I've been trying to unwind a knotty puzzle that is based in the city of Lodz, Poland.  It was presented to me by a fellow genealogist who hoped to provide testimony to Yad Vashem on his family members who died in the Holocaust, documenting the core elements of their existence.  His dilemma was that he had some holes in his knowledge to fill in first.

Like stories of old it began like this...Once upon a time Chaia and Moshe Lappe had several children. Most had the good fortune to immigrate to America, but in the ghetto of Lodz resided their married daughter Sara and her three children, Szajndla Ruchla and her two younger siblings.

With that storytale-like introduction, I find myself settling back to hear their story.  Unfortunately beyond that, little was known. We feared that surnames were lost to history. This is where I was enlisted to help find that story. Stories unfold gradually and they often leave a few mysteries unsolved or raise new ones. So too does this story.

Where to Start
I always start a puzzle by asking two questions. What do you want to know? What do you know? What we wanted to know was Sara's married name, the names of her two younger children and Szajndla Ruchla's married name as well as any of her children.  We also hoped to discover the names of both Sara's husband and Szajndla Ruchla's husband. What we knew were the names outlined in the story's beginning and that Chaia and Sara died in the Lodz Ghetto and Moshe died pre-war.  All other family members were murdered by the Nazis in death camps.  We also knew the towns in which they once lived prior to Lodz.

A Geography Lesson
So where shall we start in unraveling this puzzle?  I began with where they once lived. Their towns and regions of origin were presented as Krinki (e), Jalowka and Wolkowysk. A search on the Jewishgen community finder places Jalowka in the district of Wolkowysk in the province of Bialystok. Krinki was in Grodno, also in the province of Bialystok, but Grodno is now on the other side of the border from Poland in Belarus.  Borders changed frequently and what was Poland once cut a broad swath. All of these towns were in close proximity to each other, but were over 200 miles away from their later home in Lodz. The story is Sara went to Lodz to marry. Just as many parents do today, hers followed her to Lodz.

What Resources are Available?
I begin my search process by identifying what resources are available. Every country and city has its own unique features to learn. Is there a Book of Residents? A Kehilalink (website through Jewishgen) on the city? Which records are on film at the Family History Library? If they are Polish records, has the Polish Archives put some of them on-line?  Where are records housed? My starting point is to answer those questions, to know what sources will inform my work.  Lodz was a big city. Surely there were substantial resources.

JRI-Poland Most roads begin with JRI-Poland. A search of JRI-Poland for Lappe in Lodz reveals a Mowsza and Chaia in the Lodz Cemetery with death dates of 1929 and 1941, both likely to be our Moshe and Chaia given that it matched up with names, fathers' names and anecdotal information as to dates of death. I was soon puzzled as I continued my search of JRI-Poland. I found no Lappe ( or variants on the name) in Jalowka, Krinki or Wolkowysk. Clearly their pre-Lodz life was not going to reveal much information.

Around this time the Polish Archives put some of the Lodz Registration Cards on-line for 1916-1921 and JRI-Poland linked to them alphabetically.  These cards were created by the Germans and were slightly different than a Book of Residents which only recorded those who were legally residents of a specific area. These actually record who lived there even if they were registered elsewhere.  Not all of the records were available yet, but fortunately the L names were among them. I found cards for Chaia and Moszek and a son. Ah-ha! The towns of Wolkowysk and Krinki were noted. Their early towns would at least help me determine if I had the right people. All records were at the same address linking these individuals into a family.

Mysteries Arise
But now we have a few mysteries. In one of the 1916-1921 records Chaia is noted as a widow and her  maiden name is Soralnik (can also be Cyralnik).  Remember Moszek didn't die until 1929 if the cemetery record is correct, so do these records extend further than 1921? I was beginning to suspect they did.  As with Books of Residents, they appeared to have several updates as someone moved from married to widowed or vice versa.  Another record for her husband notes Chaia's maiden name as Silversztajn at the same address as that which later gives her maiden name as Soralnik. Meanwhile the family thought her maiden name was Galinski.   Her death record gives the maiden name of Wilowski.   What about those four maiden names? One of the most challenging things in genealogy is we sometimes have to hold two and maybe even three or four conflicting thoughts simultaneously. So many factors in the records I had found were correct, that I wasn't ready to discard these as likely possibilities. Were they red herrings sending me down the wrong road or might there be a logical explanation that would arise in time?

One of the other challenges I was facing was that I needed records in the 1900s which was the time period in question. Frequently these records are not available due to privacy laws. I basically had the Registration cards and any Holocaust records I could unearth, but most of the JRI-Poland records were not going to be in this period.

Yad Vashem
I turned to the Yad Vashem index for those who died in the Holocaust. My client had a family member who had submitted known names, but they had the same unknowns for which he was trying to solve.  What I did find was a picture of the family with annotations. Now I could begin to visualize these people for whom I was searching.  The people who I sought to name included Sara's husband on the left and her two children in the front, family surrounding Moshe and Chaia. They already felt less anonymous as I could now picture them as people in a rich web of relationships.

A New Name from the Holocaust Museum
I circled the problem a little more looking for an entrance and decided to take the obvious route.  It was a Holocaust question so why not go to the on-line Holocaust Museum site? I had searched the Holocaust records in the past when they were far less robust and wasn't expecting what I now discovered. I pulled up the survivors and victims database and input my names with a few different spellings. Soon I  found a death record for Chaia in the index. I continued to search by inputting Sara Lappe.  An identity record for an Idek Glikstzajn appeared.  When I went into the record I realized that Sara was listed as his mother and the father was Kalma Gliksztajn, the gentleman on the left in the photograph.  Now I had a new data point on which to search, Sara's married name.  Entering that name, the first record to appear was her marriage in Plawno to Kalma.  Here her name had altered slightly to Sura Lapa.  Plawno was in the district of Lodz.  How did I know it was the right record? It gave her parents' names and her maiden name, or at least a reasonable facsimile. The record was identified by the Czestochowa-Radomsko Area Research Group (CRARG).

Seeking Original Documents
This appeared to be a second marriage for both Sarah and her husband. The marriage record noted his late wife's name and with this I was able to verify a child on JRI-Poland that he had in his prior marriage as well as Idek (probably Icek) who was a child that Kalma and Sara had together, in the front row of the photo.   Each new piece of information uncovered another, but it also raised some mysteries.  They hadn't married until 1924 and as I was to learn, the first two children were born before then.  It is likely that Sara had a previous marriage, but the status of it was not noted in her marriage record even though Kalma's prior marriage was.  The Holocaust records issued an invitation on several of the records to email for the original record.  I followed up with a request for Chaia's death record, Sara's hospital death record, and the identity paper of Sarah's son.

To be continued at Making Sense of Records with the original records and the Lodz Ghetto Database...