Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Unraveling the Puzzle of my Scottish Relatives

All genealogists have loose ends that they periodically tug on.  I’ve written a bit about my British and Scottish connections and recently revisited that information through the use of  ScotlandsPeople .  As its name implies this site is focused upon Scotland ancestry and provides vital records.

As I’ve written in the past, I began by tracing a family story from a late cousin of my father.  He recalled getting a gift of boxing gloves from relatives in England named Kodish.  He recalled the names Jacob and Louis.  When this cousin died I was given his old photos and discovered an inscribed picture of Louis Kodish.  “From your cousin Louis Kodish” it read.  When I first began working with family history I asked others who had been doing this for longer than I, what they did when they finished it.  They assured me it is never finished, you just move on to research cousins.  I am now at that once distant point in the horizon, tugging on threads that once seemed quite remote.

I’ve since found immigration records for Louis who came to the US in 1929 with his wife and returned to Glasgow in 1934.  He came to another family member confirming a family relationship and the Glasgow connection expanded my search still further.  It also offered his father Marks/Max as his closest relative in Scotland.

Genealogy is a process of building on each new piece of information to deepen one’s knowledge.  At the site Scotlands People, I found the death record for Louis’ father Marks or Max Kodish submitted by his brother Jacob.  In that it gave his parents names as Barnett Kodish and Sarah Rothchild Kodish.  My Raichels from Dunilovichi who came to America changed their last name to Rothchild.  They were in contact with their British relative so this shared name change seems like a legitimate linkage. I now had new names to search and to use to validate relationships.

Some records are immediately available on the site while others need to be ordered from the General Register Office for Scotland.  Among the documents that I was able to locate was the 1923 marriage record for Louis and his wife Katherine.  I was able to validate the record as it listed the correct parents of Louis, consistent with the birth record I received in his previously ordered visa file.  Interestingly the record states that rather than being done in a synagogue it was done by declaration and “warrant of Sheriff”.  Upon doing some research I learned that this was termed an “irregular” marriage similar to our civil ceremony.   They went ahead with an irregular marriage by declaration and then paid a fine to the sheriff in order to register it.  This practice went away in 1939 when civil marriages were permitted in a Registrar’s office.

A few years ago I had access to the Jewish Chronicle, a publication of the Jewish community in Great Britain.  I had copied all entries for Kodishes figuring I’d find the missing link eventually and it would then make sense.  Much of genealogy is prospective, getting ready for the big discovery that unlocks earlier data. I now went through the copied documents looking for Barnett.  There in December 1916 I found the obituary for Barnett which noted he was of both Glasgow and London.  It reported that he was the father of Max and Solomon of Glasgow and Jack of London.  A search of the Jewish Online Worldwide Burial Registry turned up a record at the Edmonton Cemetery in London for his burial.

Armed with this information I began to search the Scottish database.  I soon found the death record for Solomon that noted his parents, wife, address, cause of death and the submission of the death by his son-in-law. Working backwards with the name of his son-in-law I found the marriage record of Solomon’s daughter Lily which occurred at the Cromwell Road Synagogue as a “regular” marriage.  Solomon was a master cabinetmaker, a profession he shared with his brother Max.  Similarly my great-grandfather who was their cousin reported his profession as a joiner in his immigration manifest. I now  also have a synagogue name that may also have family records.

The brother Jacob (Jack) has a bit of a story.  Some time ago I found an immigration record for a Bloome Kodish with her three children Joe, Sid and Anna.  They came to the US in 1923.  She listed a brother with the last name of Silverman as her nearest relative in Glasgow (even though she had a husband in Glasgow as well, perhaps an early sign of trouble) and was going to another brother in Chicago.  I last saw the children listed in the 1930 census.  Then in May 1938 Jacob set out for NY to see his wife Bloome noting his brother Solomon as his closest relative in Glasgow.  He notes his original birthplace as Vilna, Russia.  The gubernia in which Dunilovichi was located was Vilna and is typically given as the place of birth by those from Dunilovichi.  His visit was short-lived as he returned in March 1939.   Working back I discovered the original Kodish-Silverman marriage in 1912.  A few years after his visit in the late 1930s he is listed as divorced as he enters a second marriage in 1941.  This marriage fared better, lasting until death parts them in 1967 as reported in his death record.

I’ve made considerable headway on a mystery that I once had little hopes of resolving.  I now know the relationship between our families and have identified many family members. I’ve also learned that the Rothchild name was assumed in both England and the US.

I was unsuccessful in finding the death record for Barnett Kodish even knowing where he is buried.  The records office had nothing on file. I decided a photo of Barnett’s tombstone would be worth locating as he likely came from Dunilovichi as well and contacted Gaby Laws of GenPals to get a photo and to see if there were other Kodish tombstones nearby.  Three days later I had the photo and confirmation that there were not other Kodish tombstones in the area.

Interestingly Barnett’s Hebrew name translated to Eli Dovid Ber son of Yehuda.  With this information I went back to the database from the Dunilovichi cemetery that I had posted on the Shtetlink I had created for this town.  While there are few surnames I did find an Abraham Hedesh, son of Yehuda who died in 1936.  I have found that names with an H, G or K are often interchangeable so I would suspect that this is a younger sibling. 

I’d like to find the death record for Sarah Rothchild Kodish as it would likely tie to the name of my great-great-great grandfather, but I’ve had no success finding a record of her death nor a tombstone near Barnett.  As Gaby pointed out, it is quite possible that she didn’t come to London and only the father and the older sons made the journey.  In the Dunilovichi cemetery there is a Sarah, daughter of Moshe (same father's name as my great-great grandfather), but no surname to offer assurance that it is the right Sarah.  She died in 1914 so may well be the elusive Sarah Raichel/Rothchild Kodish, sister to my great-great grandfather.

If you trace the threads of this journey you will find the following path:

1)    We begin with an anecdote about Louis Kodish
2)    Then discover an inscribed photo from him
3)    Examine Immigration records and find his father’s name
4)    Order a visa file from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service that provides the birth record with both parents’ names
5)    The Jewish Chronicle provides an obituary of Louis’s grandfather with related family members (obtained earlier, but made sense at this point)
6)    The Jewish Online Worldwide Burial Records offers burial information on the grandfather of Louis Kodish
7)    Scotlands’ People provides his father and uncles’ death records and various marriage records including that of Louis
8)    Back to Immigration records to explore his uncle Jacob’s first marriage and possible descendants in the US
9)    And then on to Genpals for a tombstone photo
10)    And back to the Dunilovichi cemetery to see if there are tombstones that are potentially related now that I have more information on earlier descendants.

It is this path of working one’s way through a puzzle, building on each successive discovery which keeps me so enthralled in this search.