The Lite Yizkor Book: I had been thinking about it for a while, and I finally decided to go ahead and inquire about getting the two chapters of the Lite (i.e. Lithuania) Yizkor book that my grandfather wrote translated. (For those who missed it when I mentioned it previously, the two chapters were "lchanan the Shoemaker"and "he Jewish Opera Studio."
The price for translation came in as something I thought would make a reasonable charitable donation, so I went ahead and funded that, with some additional money, potentially towards the chapter on Jewish artists in Lithuania. I’m not sure what the timeline will be, but I know the coordinator has already contacted the translator they use.
BRUSKIN / BIKSON / KHVOLES: There was a big update to the Litvak SIG databases recently, so I thought it was worth rerunning various searches. This proved to be quite useful and, in fact, cleared up a couple of major mysteries regarding my great-grandmother.
I had previously found the birth record for my grandfather, Leib NODEL, in Vilnius in 1906, as well as the death record of his father, Pinkhas NODEL in 1909. This new search turned up the record of his marriage on 9 November 1905) to Tzivia BIKSON, the daughter of Khatzkel BRUSKIN. Pinkhas was 42 years old and Tzivia was 29. Most significantly, the comments section said "ivorce and widow." And, indeed, a search for her turned up her first marriage to Shlomo BIKSON on 20 December 1895 and his death from typhoid fever in Vilnius on 4 December 1901. They had a son, Isaak, who was born in Vilnius on 10 August 1896. I also found a passport registration record that shows Zvija and Schloma BIKSOHN living in Riga in 1900.
The only problem is that my father thought his grandmother’s maiden name was CHVOLES. But I’ve resolved that mystery, too. See, Khatzkel BRUSKIN (who was from Polotsk, in what is now Belarus) had several other children. And one of them is a daughter, Khava Leia, who married Movsha KHVOLES. Bingo! It gets even better, though, because there is a birth record for their son, Rafail KHVOLES, born in Vilnius on 25 April 1913. Looking up the biography of the artist, Raphael CHVOLES, gives me fairly high confidence that they are the same person. Who, you ask? Only one of the most famous Lithuanian Jewish artists, who I now have evidence was my grandfather’s first cousin. That matters because, of course, my grandmother’s first cousin was another Lithuanian Jewish artist, Chaim Meyer FEINSTEIN (to use the more common spelling). I have to wonder if the two artists knew each other.
Going back to the children of Khatzkel BRUSKIN, in addition to Tzivia (my great-grandmother) and Khava Leia, there were at least three sons. Another daughter, Nakhama Liba, died in Vilnius on 11 August 1902 at age 6.5 of lung inflammation. And it appears there was yet another daughter, Tzirka-Dveira, who died in Daugavpils on 11 January 1888 at the age of 6 months.
Izrail was born on 24 February 1894. Except that there is also a record of his birth on 21 March 1892 in Daugavpils, Latvia. Of course, it is possible that there was another child given that name who didn’t survive. That Latvian record does fill in two blanks, however. It tells me that Khatzkel’s father was Rafail and that his wife was Rokha-Frieda Girshovna ILGOVSKI. (That is, her father’s name was Girsh.) Izrail married Sheina YOSEM, whose father was Benjamin, on 1 January 1915 in Vilnius. They had a son named Peisakh, who was born 14 September 1915 (nice timing on that, by the way). They had two more sons – Khatskel (born in 1919) and Girsh (born in 1922). They emigrated to Argentina (Iszrael in 1923 on the Atlanta, Sziena and three children on the Wilns in 1924.) Izrail was a (house) painter. I haven’t dug deeply into the Argentinian records, yet.
I haven’t found a birth record for Abram Leiba, but there’s an internal passport record indicating he was born in 1881 in Daugavpils. I did find that he married Malka IUTAL, the daughter of Movsha Leizer in Kaunas in 1906. They had three sons, Meir (born 9 December 1907), Moisei Leizer (born 8 December 1911), and Rafail (born in 1917). As of 1932, Meyer was a student, Moisey Leyzer a shoemaker, and Rafail a printer. I suspect that Abram Leiba was the man who my father described by saying his father had a prosperous uncle, who lived in a very modern, circular house in Kaunas. I have a list of names my father wrote down (for an unknown reason) that includes a man named Alter, the son of Yichatzkel (which is the Hebrew name for Khatskel), and his two sons, Moshe and Meir. Therefore, I believe Abram Leiba would have normally been called Alter, which is a name that might have been added to a man’s name if he were ill. That sort of thing tricks the Angel of Death, who isn’t as bright as you might think he should be.
I’ve found a birth record in Daugavpils of yet another son, Khaim-Mordukh on 19 December 1878. There are scans of the Latvian archive data, so I should be able to download it and see if it tells me more. I should also note that the surname in that record is spelled BRUSKIND. As you might have already noticed, spelling (especially in Latin characters) in Eastern European records is, uh, fluid.
By the way, if anybody is wondering about the international borders, both Daugavpiis (Lativa) and Polotsk (Belarus) were in Vitebsk guberniya and were at various times part of Lithuania. Vilnius (Vilna in Yiddish) was part of Poland during the post-World War I period of independent Lithuania. It looks like the NODEL family was from Dusetos, Lithuania and the BRUSKIN family from Polotsk, Belarus, but both ended up in Daugavpiis, which is more or less midway between Vilnius and Polotsk, at various times. All of this gives me an interesting itinerary for a heritage trip I am tentatively planning for the summer of 2017.