18 September 2006

Family detectives: Birth family located

International experts cooperate to help researchers find needed information. Several interesting cases were resolved at this year’s International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in New York. Here’s one of them.

Californian Bob P., 53, an adoptee, registered in late July for the conference after intense online searching for information on his birthmother.

He made use of JewishGen, www.jewishgen.org, and its Austria-SIG mailing list, where British researcher Celia Male’s sleuthing provided Bob with the names of his mother and her sister, born in 1920s Vienna, to parents from Galicia and Russia.

His grandmother, Blime Gross, was born in what is today Kopychintsy, Ukraine. According to American and Austrian records, his grandfather, Samson Tabacznik, was born in “Raszkow, Russia.” There are several locations with similar names, the correct one is still to be determined. The family left Austria for New York in April 1939.

Via e-mail, Renee Stern Steinig of the ICJG Conference Committee says she got to know Bob very well as they brainstormed for two weeks before the event: "By August 13, we were old friends."

At the conference, Bob took in lectures on New York City archives and libraries.
He then searched New York City marriage and death records for the unusual surname.

On the last day of the conference, Bob searched death indexes at the New York Public Library’s www.nypl.org Milstein Division of U.S. History, Local History & Genealogy, and discovered his mother had died at 45 in 1969.

Determined to examine every marriage license from every borough for an eight-year period, Bob found his aunt’s 1949 marriage in the New York Municipal Archive microfilms for 1944-1951. He walked across the street to the City Clerk's office and obtained the actual duplicate certificate with her married name.

He was soon on the phone with his aunt, 81, and his first cousins. He's been welcomed back to the family “with great warmth and joy,” reports Steinig, as they share photographs and stories of the mother he never knew.

Last weekend, he visited his newfound Aunt Jean and Uncle Morris in Florida, and on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, he’ll visit his mother’s grave at New Montefiore Cemetery on Long Island, NY, with a new first cousin.

In anticipation, Steinig visited the grave to check on its condition and trimmed the weeds with her garden tools – essential tools in many genealogists' backpacks. "It was sad to see her footstone, marked 'beloved daughter and sister.' "

Jewish genealogy's experts, networking and increasingly accessible resources mean that such connections are not only possible, but occur with greater frequency.

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