Monday, November 6, 2017

Name Game in Jewish Genealogy - Ancestry DNA Cousins... Ya... Help... Surnames & Shtetls Dizzying Array of Options. Key West, Miami, Philadelphia, England ... Plunge, Ludwinkoff? Chernigov, Nizhin ... Jewish Gen ..

Badalo Hungary.
Small town.
Just North of Satu Mare Romania.

Yehuda Leib AKA Leopold Schwartz (born Weiss)
(born in Badalo Hungary)
Rivka Gizelle aka Gussie (born Vais) Schwartz
(born in Satu Mare Hungary/Romania)

Oh Lord ....What is in a name?
Jewish Genealogy.
Never easy.

Family descendants today.
The family above died in the Holocaust.
One on their young sons survived.
The older children remained in America.
They moved here....
.... moved back to Hungary early on.
Picture taken at their older daughter's wedding.
Some of their descendants and spouses below.
Another wedding.

My oldest son next to his daughter in the center is named for the son of the man in the above picture. We are a very blended family. My son-in-law is from a Satmar Family (as was my Great Grandmother above) who married into a Chabad family (mine) ... my ex-husband was German and my children are directly related to Anne Frank on his side... my newest son-in-law top right is Yemenite. We be very blended these days...

It's been a while but the hurricane season is winding down (my main job) and I'm looking into some loose ends on the Family Tree still trying to make sense of it all. It occurs to me over and over that I can't imagine anything harder than trying to weave your way through Jewish Genealogy. Ancestors with so many name changes that it hurts my brain to try and follow families from place to place. It's said we are called "Wandering Jews" and from a religious viewpoint we are wandering about bringing Godliness down into the universe while we are in Golus on our way to Geulah. Many of us get lost along the way and fall short on that goal, but that's the general plan. Seems as we get closer to that "End Game" science comes along and helps us reconnect with those lost 3rd cousins with names that sound familiar that we have never heard but a DNA test confirms we are closely related.

What is in a Jewish Name and why did they constantly change over time? That's basically what I am discussing here today as I'm trying to find a system that works for me.... to keep track of the  many names to figure out how I am related to people who I share the same Great Grandparent with but nothing makes much sense. I had an English Professor at FIU who was named St. George Tucker Arnold Jr. and who spent his summers going back to cemeteries trying to record new relatives into his family tree.... he didn't have this problem.

In South Florida my cousin's grandson plays with my grandson at family functions and yes they are both adorable. Yet I can't recognize people who show up as my 2nd cousins in a DNA Ancestry result. And, yes due to Endogamy that was common in small Shtetl's in Europe with European Jews a 2nd cousin is probably a 3rd cousin with a few shared distant ancestors... still it's frustrating. My husband grew up in the mountains (Catskills) where his Grandmother owned a hotel and every relative around by marriage or blood had a job there in the summer. They hung out.... they worked...they made memories they share today on Facebook or when talking at any family function. They actually know their 3rd cousin by marriage and how they are related ... or at least they do on that side. They kept their basic name (or most seem to have) being Schaeffer from Bialystok. All seems simple, but I'm sure it's not so simple yet a cousin made a beautifully drawn tree with every branch filled in and added to it as the family grew. On my husband's father's side (we could be distantly related) they were Hungarian (a mix of Weiss and Biederman) and even those family members by marriage had summer jobs at Fanny Schaeffer's Vegetarian Hotel. Seems the family that worked and played together actually knows who their second and third cousins are and how they are related!

My family moved about in business following the trade winds to whatever places were popular at the time and provided a good stream of income; often owning homes in two different places depending on the time of year.  As they were able to move about often (during the seasons when it was horribly hot in Key West without AC) they seem to have come  to America with money before they set up their Dry Good stores or Tin Ware business (Key West after the 1886 fire needed rebuilding) and like a cat on a hot tin roof Wolfe or Woolf or Wolf moved about looking for the next hot place to make money. Tampa, another boom town, called and he sold timber.... tobacco... and probably tin. At one time or another towards the end of his life he sold Singer Sewing Machines. But ....where did Wolfe come from and why does one daughter have his name on her tombstone as Velvel and the other insisted it was Zev? Kind of sketchy.... or just the way it was back in the day. Velvel was his Yiddish name and Zev his Hebrew name. Jewish genealogy not easy.

Going back before 1860 is often difficult for American Jews and going back to 1840 is almost impossible unless someone has it written down in the Family Bible and as it was considered a sin to write in a Holy Book ... Jews rarely have a Family Bible.

In Europe they simply went by the name they were called up to read the Torah by or a name someone used to pray for them should they be ill and need a blessing. Ida (Maybe Marks) the widow Seidenberg (1st marriage) Abrams (2nd marriage) and moved to Key West. When she was born she was simply Chaya Etel Bas Yoseph (the chazan) but in Tampa her husband changed his name often and may have been originally Abramowitz though most of his family in England changed it to Abrahams and then he changed it to Abrams in America.

Add in the shuffle game of trying to hide your sons from being drafted (abducted) into the Tzar's Army found family's that had means sending young boys to distant relatives in different towns nearby and changing their names. It was not uncommon for a small child the age of 8 or 9 to be kidnapped from his home while playing in a field and being put into the Tzar's Army and being indoctrinated while there for the next ten or twenty years into Christianity. Families did almost anything to avoid this if they could and so my Great Grandfather was a Schwartz yet his father was a Weiss and most likely it seems he was sent to the small town of Badalo where some of the family lived from another city nearby. His wife was a Vais (Weiss) who was a distant relative who lived in Satu Mare when it was Hungary before it was Romania. He lived in Badalo Hungary, yet his younger sister was born in Badalo, Czechoslovakia.

I mean really what is in a name? Even the towns changed their actual name. Add in most towns had a Polish name, a Yiddish name, a Hebrew name, a German name and a Lithuanian name which various relatives used depending on their mindset. Herman Schwartz married Esther Peres from Plunge or Plumyam depending on who was talking. I'm pretty sure that the name Peres was spelled several different ways as was her father's name Neftalin.

Then add in the the distant siblings of my Grandparents who made it to Israel after surviving World War 2 and not dying like their other siblings in the Holocaust. In Israel is was popular to change the Yiddish sounding old world name to a HEBREW NAME as Hebrew as a modern language had been developed so Bela Schwartz who settled somewhere in Tiberias changed his name to Simcha Schwartz and I believe another last name was later added that sounded more Hebrew. Oh my goodness.

In truth Bela was his Hungarian name as Hungary demanded the Jews have secular names on government records so Herman Schwartz's mother either Rivka Gizelle, however when he got married in NYC he put down her name as Gussie Schwartz. His father Yehuda Leib who I was told went by Leib was named Leopold on Herman's wedding certificate. First I ever heard of Leopold and that's consistent because it seems her father Bentzion Neftalin also went by Benjamin on government records. Esther's mother Tzipora who went by Tzipi is listed as Celia. I mean who knew? Now I know. She most likely was named after a Faigy (Yiddish) before the family was more modernized after having a Hebrew name became popular. Of course that has not been proven but probable. Zionism in Europe grew and I have friends whose Grandmothers were named Shoshana after their grandmothers who were Raiel or Roza.

It's a name game and not easy.

Ancestry doesn't let you look up "Chaya Etel Bas Yoseph" it demands a Surname or a Place. Luckily the Neftalin or Naftalin or Naftolin family as they are named on various documents are well documented and records for Esther's parent's marriage are up on JewishGen. Of course that document spells the names differently, but it is definitely their marriage certificate. One of those "moments" doing research when you come across your Great Grandparent's marriage certificate and you just stare... Of course his name is spelled Bentsion and her's Cipi ... more variations on the same name.

Record of my Great Grandparent's marriage.

Record of my Great Grandmother's death.

Ancestry on some level is nice and it's fun to get your pie chart (I'm 91% European Jewish) but if you don't already know your Family Tree it's almost impossible to figure out who any of those 2nd or 3rd cousins are that pop up. Yes, it's easy to say someone had an affair or some woman was raped or some traveling peddler fathered a child no one knew about... happens throughout history. But, in this case most likely it's the problem of Goldson who changed their name to Colson and his later relative changed it to Cole because really .... "what is in a name?"

Add in many on Ancestry are just trying to figure out what kind of hat their ancestor wore or "how Jewish they are" in the case of Jews always looking for some distant Scottish or Native American Ancestor. The closest I get to "other" is 4% Italian/Greek. Could be someone who was doing business in Chernigov and converted as there were many Greek merchants in Chernigov or possibly that part of Hungary closest to Italy or ????  Sarah Beila also went by Sara Bella and her father was Gabriel/Gavriel Rosen but she seems linked to many Rabbinical families and it's doubtful there's where the non Jewish blood came in but seriously one never knows. We could look towards Wolf Abrahams who told my mother they took the name Abrams after an Ancestor named Abraham. She wondered if possibly that Abraham had converted as converts often take the name Abraham. Then again as I pointed out to her... Abraham is a very Jewish name. His wife was Mary Morris from Russia (not Ireland) but maybe he lied? His daughter's husband Myron Falk often lied on census records and when he spoke to the census worker he told them that his wife Anna Abrams Falk was of German descent on both sides. No ... she wasn't but he was of German descent and I suppose he preferred writing that down. The Falk family... Southern Jews from Germany who were active in the Tobacco business.

So the point of this long rant on name changes is I'm trying to work things through my head and doing so here as I plan on being more active here again now that the Atlantic Hurricane Season has wound down.

Maybe we should trace hobbies or interests. Wolfe and Ida liked the water and moved to Key West where the weather was always warm as they started out in Russia before some time in England. I've been told Wolfe had asthma and he felt better by the water. Wolf also enjoyed sitting on his porch in Tampa watching thunderstorms coming in from nearby Tampa Bay. My Grandmother Mary was terrified of thunder as once a lightning bolt came int through the chimney terrifying everyone in the family except for probably Wolf who probably being my Great Grandfather thought it was the coolest thing he had seen since he first put into port in Key West in the late 1870s or early 1880s.

My kids playing in Key West in the 1980s.
100 years after my ancestor's became moved to Key West.
Jewish Conchs... 
The picture above is taken a few hundred feet from here.
Where our family was naturalized.
Old red court Mallory Square.
Key West, Florida.
My family's "Old Country"

Way before American Jews began changing names and using American names their ancestors were changing them as they tried escaping the Tzar's Army or tried to fit into a new world where an old name seemed odd and unpopular. The English side of my family (from "Russia") went by Marks, Morris and Abrams. Nice names but they did not start out that way trust me...  The ones who made it to Israel were pushed to use Hebrew Names to get jobs as .... it was a lot like Castro's Cuba it seems. For good or bad the early settlers were a bit socialistic and building a new world...  one based on Hebrew Names vs ones from the old world. Taking a "Modern Hebrew Name" moved you up the food chain towards a better job in the government. I've interviewed several people whose family moved to Israel and changed both the first name and their surname in order to be eligible for some jobs. Their grandchildren moved back to America and for them trying to find the original name of relatives on Ancestry DNA is extremely difficult.

Tombstones don't really work as my Grandfather Ben has his written down as Beryl however his name was Ber but Beryl was his nick name and my Aunt (my mother's older sister who knew nothing about Chabad naming traditions) told me his name was really Dov Ber but he went by Beryl. Ber's father was Yonah Chitrick and that name was shortened from Chitrikoff or Chitrickov and when they lived in Nizhin in the Chabad community that ended up moving to Chernigov after a Pogrom. I suppose you can say they moved for a better quality of life the way people move to Raleigh because it's generally safer and has a low cost of living compared to the bigger cities with crime and a higher cost of living. Except of course without the drunken Cossacks motivating them to find a better quality of life. Most of the members of the Chabad Nizhin families who moved to Chernigov later moved to Philadelpha after Pogroms followed them where ever they traveled in "Russia"

The Chitrik family came to America in parts and went by the various forms of the name. Ben's brother came to America with Chitzik on his travel records. Karl Rick came into this country as Koppel Chizik, however it's worth remembering that Koppel is another name for Jacob.

It's a real shell game.

Why we can't have a genealogy company allow a search for various forms of first names and the names used by our ancestors is the question.  Jews early on were simply Yosef Yitchok Ben Sholom Dov Ber.

The Morris side may have been Smigelski originally so okay I get the name change and yet many of the members of the Morris family who moved to England early on married out of their religion and no one knows until they do Ancestry they may have been Smigelski........

It's a real shell game.... back when our ancestors moved from Germany into Poland into Lithuania changing their names before getting on boats across the North Sea to England and Ireland before moving to America changing their surnames again along the way they did not expect one day their Great, Great Grandchildren would be spitting into test tubes they bought from Ancestry for $79 during a sale to try to figure out where their grandparents came from...........

And someone named Savannah Rose living in Georgia of European Jewish Ancestry may have been named after a Shoshana Raizel who immigrated to America, met a nice man and settled down to raise a family in a free world living safe lives far from the Cossacks. Lord help Savannah Rose if she ever tries figuring out where her family came from as the death certificate for her grandmother probably simply listed "Russia" as her  place of birth.

I was a Reference Librarian. I helped people from South Carolina find five generations of their tree in one easy afternoon on the Reference Desk as people who aren't Jewish usually name after the living. And, I did that using published books in the Reference Section without the help of Google. One generation closer to the original name and less name changes along the way as every tombstone in Hardeeville South Carolina has the same surname for generations and often the oldest son's middle name was his mother's maiden name.

More frustrating than watching the Miami Dolphins find new boring ways to lose football games :(

7_DSC_2799_lg.jpeg (1200×778)

At least we know the names of the players on that distant Perfect Season. About as hard to replicate it as it is to figure out where in "Russia" your Grandma Mary's family was originally from before making money in Manchester England and moving on to warmer, sunnier ports of call.

More to come... sorry for the rambling but it's my blog and I'm in the mood to ramble. We call rambling out loud "thinking" where I come from...

Some links you may find helpful to understand terminology I used while rambling above. (when a shtetl had 9 families there was a lot of intermarrying)



Getting called up to the Torah by your Jewish Name:

Nizhin and Chernigov:


Yeminite Jews:

Key West 1886 Fire by San Carlos building on Duval Street:

Key West Jewish History. Old article but good.... we are it seems related (not surprisingly) to the Wolfsons and Wolkowsky families. Much like at the "Veg Hotel" families tended to travel and work together in the same places over time. DNA confirms what logic dictated way before Ancestry. In Miami in the 1950s if your Grandfather worked for FPL most of your cousins got jobs there too if they wanted...

Ya... various spellings possible for the same town... never easy researching but slowly, bit by bit, you get there. If it wasn't hard enough trying to find the right spelling for Bentzion Neftalin it's even harder trying to find the right spelling for the town they were born in and that's if you know the town vs "Russia" . . .

Much love.... and lots of luck trying to work your way through those thousands of 3rd and 4th cousins on Ancestry!

Bobbi aka Bracha aka Barbara... Granddaughter of Wolf aka Wolfe aka Woolf aka Velvel aka Zev. Seriously the name game obviously runs in the family...

Ps... And I didn't even mention my daughter in law whose family is Cuban/Columbian but from the same general area as the Weiss family around the border of Hungary/Romania so as Spanish as this generation is when the Abeula starts singing a Yiddish song she sounds like she just got off the boat with a heavy Yiddish accent! Cuban Yiddish the same way my Grandma Mary spoke Yiddish with a Southern Accent.  Beautiful couple...

Looking forward to being officially an Abuela ;)  and that's a high honor growing up in Little Havana in Miami the way I did...

My family worked with Cuban Tobacco, Cigars in Key West then later Ybor City in Tampa... been drinking Cuban Coffee my whole life even before my part of Miami (the Roads Section) became known as "Little Havana"

Besos Bobbi

Best video ever ;)

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