DNA: I am still at something of a loss with what to do with the 7000+ matches I have. I do have matches to a couple of known relatives (e.g. a good match to a known second cousin once removed) but also some good matches for whom we have been unable to find any sort of connection. And, of course, there are dozens of people who provide no information to even decide if it is worth seeing if we have a connection.
Even more frustrating is my having uploaded my DNA to Geni (which frustrates me for other reasons, mostly having to do with it tending to show connections through 70 or so people on my father’s side of the family for a known 3rd cousin on my mother’s side or other similarly convoluted confusion. In the case of DNA, Geni is really bloody useless because it shows paths across marriages. There is some value in some of the collaborative capabilities there, but the annoyances are starting to outweigh that for me.
But, then Monday night gave me a little bit of hope. Israel Pickholtz, who is quite an expert on this whole genetic genealogy stuff, gave a talk at the JCC of Northern Virginia. He was interesting and entertaining and his talk at least gave me an idea of what might actually be worth doing with it. And I think the thing that makes the most sense is trying to use DNA info to sort out two specific branches of my family – the FAINSTEINs of Josvainiai, Lithuania and the SZWARCBORTs of Ostrow Mazowiecka, Poland.
Clearly I need to invest some effort into getting various relatives to test.
Obtaining Bits of Proof: While I was in Salt Lake City for the NPL con, I spent some time at the Family History Library. I obtained copies of birth certificates (from Lithuania) for my grandmother, Dvoira Etel FAINSHTEIN, and her brother, Nahum. It turns out that these are actually scanned and one need not go to the physical microfilms, so I decided to spend more of my time there on some things that I couldn’t do from home.
Namely, getting expert advice. Which leads me to the next topic.
A Few Updates on the CHLEBIOCKY Family: I hadn’t been able in the past to find much about my grandfather’s older sister, Adele WASSERMAN. While her two daughters are still alive, they are dealing with various health issues and don’t, frankly, seem very interested. I had located her in the 1930 census, living with her older brother, Nathan LUBOFSKY. But I hadn’t found more than that. With help at the FHL, I found her naturalization record, which was under the name Odel HLEBIECKA. She arrived on the Lapland in 1925. To make things slightly confusing, she gave her father’s name as Hersz, while I have always known my great-grandfather’s name as Mose Zvi. That isn’t a contradiction per se, since Hersz is the Yiddish form of Zvi (both of which mean "deer") but it doesn’t make things easier either.
Adele’s naturalization record always told me that her husband, Max, was from Zborow, Poland. I believe the town is now in Ukraine. But the useful thing was that knowing where he was from let me identify his (and, hence, her) graves at Montefiore Cemetery, where they are in a section for a Zborower landsmanschaft. She died 17 December 1968. (He died 5 September 1971.)
My other recent find is my grandparents’ ship manifest from Havana. This was tricky due to a typo which had their surname given as CHLEBROCKY, instead of CHLEBIOCKY. There are several points of interest on the record, which is from the Pennsylvania, sailing from Havana on 6 May 1932. The first is that date itself, which means that the family claim that Grandma decided to return to the U.S. because she was pregnant with my mother and didn’t want to go through another pregnancy in the tropical heat can’t be true (since Mom was born in January 1934 and I am reasonably sure Grandma was not pregnant for 19 months). The second is that Grandpa gave his place of birth as Lomza, Poland, not Tykocin. That’s not really significant, as Tykocin was in Lomza Guberniya, but was still a bit of a surprise. In addition, Grandpa gave his occupation as "silversmith," rather than "watchmaker."
But the real surprise is that just below their names is another name – Frieda SCHWARTZ She is, of course, Tante Frieda, one of Grandma’s sisters, and probably the family member I make fun of most often. (She was an unpleasant woman, a hoarder, and a chronic pessimist.. I also admit to some of my childhood resentment coming from times I used to have to share a bed with her when we stayed over at various events. Tante Frieda kicked.) Anyway, that raises a few interesting questiosn. Did Grandma invite her to come over to meet her husband – or, just as likely given this is my family we’re talking about – to taunt her with having found a husband? (Family legend, which is unconfirmed, is that one of the reasons they left Poland was that Frieda was developing an inappropriate relationship, i.e. with a non-Jewish man.) Or did my great-grandparents send her over to fetch her wayward sister home? And did she kick Grandma, too?
The Saga of Sam KATZ, the dwarf Communist Printer: Another part of my family that I did some research on involves the KATZ clan. Goldie KATZ was my great-grandmother’s sister. Her maiden name was probably GOLDWASER and we think she was from Zambrow, Poland. Anyway, she and her husband, Hyman, had several children, one or two of whom may still be living. I knew about several of their sons, but there had also been mysterious references to someone who was always referred to as "Sam Katz, the dwarf Communist printer." The story doesn’t say was form of dwarfism Sam had, but the main point of it was that Sam was forced to work for a Communist newspaper because nobody else would hire a dwarf.
I haven’t cleared up much, but I have found that in the 1930 census, the children living with Hyman and Goldie were Rose (age 19), Samuel (age 16) plus three others who help me confirm this is the right Katz family. A key finding here is that Samuel and Rose were born in Russia, while the younger three children were born in the U.S. The immigration date is claimed to be 1926, but it isn’t clear how accurate that is. Hyman was working as a shoemaker, though later (in the 1940 census), he was selling fruit. Both Hyman and Goldie have filed their first papers, though the two immigrant children haven’t. (It isn’t clear whether they needed to at that time, since they might have been covered by their parents’ naturalizations.)
Another interesting part is that I’ve found what appears to be Hyman’s naturalization certificate and it shows him having arrived in December 1913, with Goldie, Rose and Samuel (whose birth date is given as 10 August 1912) on the Neckar from Bremen, Germany. It gives his birthdate as 10 May 1888 in Lomza, Russia (which was really, of course, Poland) and Goldie’s birthdate as 15 May 1889, also in Lomza. The real key here is that this certificate is from 13 May 1925 and shows Rosie (and Goldie) living with Hyman – but Samuel living in Zambrovi, Russia, i.e. Zambrow, Poland. Which is exactly where Goldie was supposedly from.
This should be enough information to find a passenger manifest and I had, in fact, found one back when I thought they had immigrated in 1926 and dismissed it as being from the wrong year. But I can’t find it again, sigh. My guess is that they did come over in 1913, sent Samuel back to Zambrow when they realized he was a dwarf, and that he then came back to New York in 1926 as a teenager. But there is a lot more work to do there.