Sunday, July 22, 2012


I'm not sure how long ago it was. It was definitely before we began our single-surname Pikholz Project in the fall of 1998. And I know it was late spring, so it would have to have been 1998 or maybe 1997.  My own email files don't go back quite that far.

Wait - the JewishGen Archives. Here it is. From 27 July 1998.

Subject: BAUER from Kunszentmiklos
Comments: To: JewishGen Discussion Group-Moderation
I'd turn to you folks for some direction. We have
no LDS here in Israel and I'm not in a position to spend
significant money right now.
My ggm, Regina Bauer, was born 1 July 1870, probably in
Kunszentmiklos. Her father was Shemaya. (Perhaps he had a gentile
first name as well?) Her mother was a Stern From Kaloscha. We know
the names of Regina's brothers and sisters, but do not have an age
order. (Hermina, Ilona, Susanna, Lajos, Sigmund and Louisa. Louisa
came to the US, so we know something about her. One of the brothers
was a high official in Franz Josef's government - perhaps Commerce.)

I expect that my next step is a birth certificate, which would
give her mother's first name, but I'm not clear how to go about even
that simple step, from this distance. Regina was married to Moritz
Rosenzweig (a widower) in about 1889/90 and they lived in Budapest,
but I'm told they weren't married there. Perhaps that too is to be
found in Kunszentmiklos.
Your guidance would be greatly appreciated. (I've run this by the
Hungarian SIG, with no response.)
I got a response from Eleanor Bien in Virginia, she offered to get me all the Bauer records from Kunszentmiklos and to see if there was anything relevant in Kalosca in  exchange for my finding her great-grandmother's grave on the Mt of Olives.

the namesake of Eleanor's sister
Carol Skydell, VP of JewishGen
Chaya Gittel Wagner had come to Jerusalem as an elderly widow and died in 1911. I don't remember if Eleanor had a precise date, but she knew her great-grandmother had come from Seret, in Bukovina.

Finding the grave was the secondary mission - the primary goal was to learn her father's name.

I had never done anything on the Mt of Olives before, though I had gone past it many times. How hard can it be, right? Of course I knew that the nineteen-year Jordanian occupation had been accompanied by much destruction in the cemetery, but still.

I decided to start by phoning the burial societies - first time for that experience! - and the first one I called had her. That was the Hassidim and her grave was in a section  right opposite the police station, near the checkpoint at the beginning of the Jericho Road that leads to the Dead Sea. He said if I'd come to the office, he'd go out to the site with me. The grave site was easy to find, he said, because it was very near an easily recognizable pile of tombstones that were out of place.

In the office, I saw the record. It had her name "Chaya Gittel bat" then a large space where her father's name ought to be, "from Seret" and the date, 18 Menahem Av 5671. They didn't have the father's name either, but they left a space in their record book, as though someone expected that this information might yet turn up. Not a good omen.

There was no mention of a surname, but apparently the date and the mention of Seret was enough for him to consider this an absolute identification. There is no gurantee, he said, that there actually is a stone. And if there is, it may not be legible.

We went up to the site and I saw the pile of tombstones that he used as a landmark. More like three stones at various angles, looking something like an Indian teepee.

Some of the graves had no stones. Others were broken or battered by the weather. We went up and down the row a few times, counting plots and trying to make out inscriptions. Eventually, he settled on an unmarked grave and said that this was Chaya Gittel.

Chaya Gittel's stone in its place.
You can see that the left side
had been buried.

But we didn't leave it at that. We decided to look around and see if perhaps the stone was someplace else nearby. And sure enough, one of the teepee stones, half-buried lengthwise, showed "Chaya Git" and "18 Menahem." The rest was in the ground. Even what we were able to read was face down and that may be why it was so legible, having been protected from fifty years of weather.

I seem to recall that we exposed the entire stone on that visit, though it was too heavy for the two of us to move to the grave site. There were four lines:

P"N [= Here lies buried]
Chaya Gittel bat
                   from Seret
18 Menahem Av 5671

No father's name, but there was a space. Like they were hoping someone would yet provide that information.

A few days later, I came out again with one of our boys and a crowbar and we moved the stone to its proper place. I felt bad for anyone who had used the teepee as a landmark, because the remaining stones were now quite useless for that purpose.

I took pictures before and after, plus a panoramic view and had two copies, one for Eleanor and one for her sister Carol. I visited again soon after, after receiving some special stones from Chaya Gittel Skydell.

A few weeks later, I received the Hungarian records from Eleanor. Some of them provide the basis for what I wrote here last month.

When I first considered writing about this here, I asked permission from both Eleanor and Carol. Here is what Carol wrote:
How nice to hear from you Israel.  I tell the story often about how genealogy binds us to people we may never meet in person.  People cannot believe that you were willing to find Chaya Gittel's grave, get your son and his friends to lift the stone that had fallen over it and ultimately visited memorializing the  visit with  prayers and placing two stones from my favorite beach in the entire world (Squibnocket on Martha's Vineyard).  Connectivity is what it is all about and people are truly amazed at what you did on our behalf, despite the fact we never met in person.

Go right ahead and share the story....I never stop telling it!
Housekeeping note - Next week's post will go up Monday, not the usual Sunday.


  1. OH my gosh! You'd told me this story in private, but never mentioned it was a Carol Skydell story. She's one of my favorite people. That is so her to send rocks from Martha's Vineyard. Great story, Israel. This one was riveting.

    1. Thank you, Varda, for your kind words. As usual.

    2. I'd kind of like to mention this on JewishGen because of that connection, but I don't think the moderators would let it through.