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.

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