My father had told me that his grandparents, Shachne FEINSTEIN and Chaia (nee KHONKEL) had 4 surviving children – Ethel (my grandmother), Nachum, Beila, and Velvel. Shachne also had a brother who had at least 3 sons. This brother had been able to emigrate to South Africa in the 1930’s, going to one of the sons, who had gone there earlier. Another son was a well-known artist, who lived in Minsk where he directed the Jewish museum. The third son was Shlomo, who I mentioned in a previous entry, and who we knew since Dad had reconnected with him on my parents’ first trip to Israel and he later stayed with us for a bit while getting medical treatment in New York. (Nachum, along with my father and grandfather, survived the Shoah and went to Israel. Dad wrote to him regularly and I am in touch with his daughters and granddaughter, by the way.)
Both the artist and the South African connection are the sort of things I find interesting, so I’ve been trying to chase them down. And I believe I have, at least partially, succeeded. There were two key pieces of information that broke my deadlock – both of them from a page of testimony at Yad Vashem. Nachum submitted a page about his sister, i.e. my grandmother. I had always known of her as Ethel FEINSTEIN, but that page identified her as Dvora Etel. And it gave Shachne’s first name as Issachar.
With that information, I searched (suing the "sounds like") options on the All Lithuania Database on jewishgen.org. And I found my grandmother’s birth record, which shows Dvoira Etel FAINSHTEIN born on 14 Feb 1907 in Kaunas. More importantly, it shows her father as Shokher and her paternal grandfather as Shimkha, her mother as Khaia Tsipa and her paternal grandfather as Efraim. And it indicates her father was a resident of Yasven [Josvainiai]. Aside from matching what I already knew, there are two new pieces of information for me in this – the name, Shimkha, and the town.
Between vital records, revision lists (essentially the census) and the internal passport database, it was fairly straightforward to find Shimkha’s children and, hence, answer some questions. What I’ve come up with is this list of my great-grandfather’s children and those of his siblings, along with their birthdates and birthplaces:
Shokher (Shachne) FAINSTEIN and Chaya Tsipe KHONKEL :
- Noson Wulf – 1903 (The record in the internal passport database says 1923, but that record is from 1920 and it also shows him as an employee, so I am guessing that 1903 is the most likely. I am also assuming this is Velvel, since that is a common nickname for Wulf.)
- Dvoira Etel - 14 Feb 1907, Kaunas. As noted above, this is my father's mother.
- Beile – 1908. All I found for her is a marriage record.
- David Mishel - 5 Aug 1910, Kaunas. He apparently went by his middle name, Michle, and died on 25 Sep 1930. The death record says he was 18, but he would actually have been 20.
- Nokhum – 1916, Slutsk (then Russia, now Belarus)
Itsko (Itsyk) FAINSTEIN and Chaya Sora PAPERN (or PAPIRNO):
- Abram Faivush - 9 Jan 1906, Kaunas
- Nokhum Gersh - 19 Feb 1907, Kaunas
- Izrael Mordkhai - 4 Dec 1909, Kaunas. He died 13 Jul 1910 (at the age of 1) of pneumonia.
- Khone Meir - 2 May 1911, Kaunas
- Solomon – 1916, Zinovyesk (Ukraine). For those unfamiliar with Hebrew names, this translates to Shlomo.
Rokhe (or Rachel) FAINSTEIN and David VIATRAK
They disappear from the records after their marriage in 1907. He was from Makow (Poland), so they may have moved there, but I haven’t found anything yet.
Note that the two births in 1916 were not in Lithuania. This is because the Jews were expelled from most of Kaunas Guberniya in 1915 while the Germans and Russians were fighting World War I. They returned in 1918, at the end of the war.
So where does this take me towards answering the questions I started with? Reading up on Lithuanian Jewish artists of the right period turns up a Chaim Meyer FEINSTEIN and I have tentatively identified him as Khone Meir, above. I’ll put my confidence on that as low-medium because I have no documentary evidence to prove it.
I do, however, have some documentary evidence from South Africa. The shipping lists there show Isaac and Chaya FAINSTEIN going to their son in 1936. He’s identified just by the initial “N,” so is, presumably Nokhum Gersh. And there is, indeed, a shipping record for Nachum FAINSTEIN in 1927, showing him as age 20. Bingo!
There’s still work to do on the South African side. I’ve found Chaya Sora’s burial record from 1941 in Brixton Cemetery in Johannesburg. But I haven’t found what became of Isaac or Nachum. I suspect one or both of them anglicized their names and I have one lead there on the latter (a burial record for a Norman FAINSTEIN, who was born in 1907). The most intriguing puzzle involves Nachum’s shipping record, which indicates he was going to a cousin, S. MELTZER in Southern Rhodesia, i.e. what is now Zimbabwe. But when his parents came, they gave his address as a post office box.
Once again, there are always new puzzles to solve.
I’ll also note that I was able to go back a few more generations for the FAINSTEIN family, but will put that in a separate entry since this is long enough.