Sunday, October 27, 2013


I was editing this before posting and it suddenly went completely blank. Nothing left but the title. 

I drafted this a few days ago, so don't recall enough of it to recreate it quickly. Maybe another time.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


I have referred to my maternal grandmother's Rosenbloom family on several occasions here, but neither recently nor in great detail. The truth is, there isn't much detail at hand. In fact, we have several Rosenbloom families from Borisov but we have no idea how they fit together or even if they do.

My Great-Grandfather's Family
This week, with the yahrzeit of the younger of my mother's two older sisters coming up Thursday, seems a good time to see where we stand on this family.

Aunt Sadie sits on her father's lap.
(Mother was not yet born.)
Aunt Sadie Gordon - Shayna Liba bat Yerahmiel and Sarah - died twenty-one years ago at the age of seventy. She was born in Vandergrift Pennsylvania and lived her entire adult life in Pittsburgh where she was a secretary to an attorney. She never married. When I was very young we saw her frequently, then she pretty much disappeared from our lives until after my grandfather died. I don't think I saw her after his funeral, but we did exchange letters a few times a year.

Aunt Sadie was named after my grandmother's sister who died at about age twenty-seven in New York. She was married and had no children. Her husband disappeared, perhaps returning to Russia.

The elder Sadie 1910 - 
dressed for her sister's funeral
Israel David
My grandmother's sister Shayna Liba was the daughter of my namesake Israel David Rosenbloom and was named for his mother. Aside from the fact that her husband's name was Yaakov, we know nothing further about the family. No ages, no parents, not even if they had children other than Israel David.

Israel David Rosenbloom died in Penza sometime after 1929. The family had moved there after WWI. Or perhaps had been sent there. I exchanged a bit of correspondence with the Jewish community of Penza, but they could tell me nothing about his death or burial.

I have spent very little time and effort on Rosenbloom research in the last few years and that part of my family history seems to be walled off. My DNA tests are out there, but nothing obvious showed up thusfar. I approached two of my six male Rosenbloom second cousins about doing a Y-37 test , but neither was inclined to do so. We never got as far as Family Finder, as the Y-chromosome is more valuable here..

Borisov 54°14' N 28°30' E
Borisov is located some forty-four miles NNE of Minsk in Belarus and according to JewishGen was home to 7722 Jews in 1897.
There were other Rosenbloom families in town, in addition to that of Israel David ben Yaakov. there was Zalman Rosenbloom and his wife Esther (Friedland), who had nine sons. The family went to France in the first decade of the 1900s, and I had some correspondence with a grandson, Edouard, seventeen years ago.

Zalman died in 1937 and Esther is 1935 and both are buried in Paris. The cemetery records do not include their parents' names and Edouard told me that the parents names are not on the tombstones. The cemetery records say that Esther was eighty-one, meaning she was born about 1854, So Zalman was probably born in the early or mid-1850s, only a few years after Israel David. Maybe even a bit earlier.

There are, however, voter records for the 1906 Duma, the Russian parliament, which include two listings for Zalman Rosenblium of Borisov. In one his patronymic is Beniaminovich, in the other Bonevich. I don't know if these two are the same person but Zalman is clearly not a brother to Israel David, whose father is Yaakov.

Mother, Judith & Haim, us, Rosa & Alek
Then there is the family of Alexander Rosenbloom, who lived in Borisov until the late 1990s, when he and his family came to Israel. We met him and his wife Lilla at their home in Ariel. previously we had met his daughter Rosa and her husband at my sister's home in Elkanah.

Alexander knew his family in Borisov through his father Boris (b.1897), his grandfather Shaya (b.1869), his great-grandfather Tanhum and his great-great-grandfather Moshe. There is no place on this line where Israel David ben Yaakov or Zalman ben Binyamin could possibly fit in.

In the course of preparing this blog, I received an eighteen page pdf from Alexander's son Felix with a much more detailed tree. The additions are all in the descendants of Mordecai and Tanhum, so for the purposes of determining the relationships among the families, the sketch above is adequate.

So we are still clearly talking about either distinct families or a single family that goes back quite far.

There is no question that I need to go over all my notes and papers and see what the
Felix is Alexander's son. I'm not sure who the other two are, but I wrote to them.
databases have added these past years. I had a look at the JewishGen Family Finder a few days ago and saw that there are four researchers registered and all four have logged in during October, so we are talking about people with an active interest.

It is my understanding that Zalman's French family does not have many descendants, even fewer who are Jewish. Three of Zalman's nine sons were deported to their deaths during the Holocaust. My contact Edouard was born in 1915 and his first cousin the well-known research Bernard Kouchel, who made the introduction,  died a few months ago.

So much to do. So few hours in the week.
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Housekeeping notes
You can now read my recent AVOTAYNU (Summer Issue) article GETTING IT WRONG online.

Tuesday and Thursday evenings this week, I'll be participating in webinars on DNA analysis - one for project administrators.

I plan to attend an afternoon-long seminar "Sources of Rabbinical Genealogy Research in the National Library" at the Library, on the university campus next Monday.

As I say, so much to do, not enough hours.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

AGAD Archives Adventures

Back in the earlier days of JRI-Poland, there was an arrangement whereby you could find records and order them directly from the Polish State Archives (PSA), including the AGAD archives, which is located in Warsaw but holds the records for east Galicia - my prime area of interest. They charged fifteen dollars for the first record and ten dollars for each additional record in the same order and the records came by mail.

Seven years ago, under new PSA management, the arrangement came apart and both the indexing and the ordering system were shut down.

When I began working full-time on genealogy five and a half years ago, I decoded that I wanted to acquire many more Pikholz and Pikholz-related records, not just the one-or-two per family that I had ordered until then. I looked into ordering directly from AGAD and found that they insisted on being paid by bank transfer. The cost of that bank transfer was high and made small orders very expensive.

So I decided to put together larger orders, including my own and those for other people, thus diluting the bank charges. I started with a fixed charge per record - ignoring the fact that AGAD charged double for records of two pages - and hoped to get enough interest from other people to cover not only the bank charges and my mailing costs, but part of the cost of my own records. That worked well enough that I later dropped the price and dropped it even further for larger orders.

This project, while enabling me to order my own records almost at will, required alot of work and aggravation, both vis a vis AGAD and vis a vis the people who wanted the records - many of whom made errors, paid me late or became general nudniks. A few stiffed me entirely, but since I never knew what AGAD would actually deliver, I could not ask for payment in advance. AGAD itself usually sent a few incorrect records that led to a few weeks of additional correspondence and delays.

And there was always significant, time consuming correspondence with people who did not understand that "records from east Galicia" did not include Lublin, Krakow, Kielce and who-knows-where-else.

This was not, I must emphasize, designed as a commercial endeavor. I only took other peoples' orders if I was ordering anyway - whether for myself or for research customers.

Eventually, AGAD began delivering scanned records online - a savings in postage, but requiring more work to sort them out.

About a year ago, everything changed as many of the records were placed online and people could download them free. It is not a simple process, as the link does not always the target the correect image, but it's usually off by no more than fifteen-twenty pages, so with a bit of patience, it's not hard to work with. Nonetheless, even today, I am approached by strangers asking me to help find their records because AGAD's links are imprecise.

Today's story is about a specific record of mine that I had ordered last year.  A search for the births to the couple Josef Pikholz and Lea Schwager turned up these six records:

My interest was in the last three, all in the same book. I had the others from previous orders. Taube and Chana Chaje are in consecutive akts in the same year, so they are twins. Mordko Hersch was born three years later. (Smaller towns often had several years bound into a single book.) This last record shows again why we should order as many records as possible, for only in his birth record, do we see that the mother is called Feige Lea, rather than just Lea.

In the meantime, the records became available online, so there was no need to order them - nor would they have provided them if I had. Following is the record for Mordko Hersch. It is the second one on the page. (I cropped the image to exclude the two additional records at the bottom of the page.)
 And here we see the parents' names enlarged. As you can see, the father is Josef Pikholz, as
expected, but the mother is not Feige Lea Schwager, but Henie Menczer - someone else entirely. Clearly what happened was that they has stitched the correct left page with an incorrect right page.  I leafed a few pages in each direction, but did not see the correct mother.

This error was not anything I had seen before, but their online scanned project was new and probably done without quality control. Beyond that, however, the left side of the next page was correct and since that was the other side of my right side, it was clear that they had the pages in hand and in order. (Friday, I heard from Mark Halpern of JRI-Poland and he explained that the scans online were not made from the books, but from microfilms, so the problem is in the microfilms.)

Another record - this one from Skalat - that I wanted about the same time came through like this: I wanted the second record on the page and it had the mother's side completely covered.

So I wrote to them about both records. several times. Eventually they gave me a better copy of the one here on the left, but they insisted that the Mordko Hersch record was correct. I pointed out to them that the index was different, but they insisted that they were not responsible for the index.

In the meantime, I was copying JRI-Poland's management about this, largely because I was concerned that other people were seeing incorrect records but didn't realize it.

In Boston, I brought up the subject publicly at a JRI-Poland volunteers meeting and another person in attendance told me that she had the same problem with one of her Skole records. The mother's data was from some other record.

After Boston, I tried two more times and on the second, copied Stanley Diamond of JRI-Poland. I had marked this on my calendar for follow up in three weeks, but Stanley said I should let him know if I didn't get results in one week.

And so it was that I received both records correctly. Or more precisely, I received the "covered" record uncovered as well as the right side of the Mordko Hersch record. I stitched the two sides together myself. I also alerted the woman with the Skole record and I assume she is pursuing it.

Today, I looked at the search results once again and they have made a change.

They added a column for the page number. The "view image" link still goes to the incorrectly stitched record. And they show two page numbers: 375, where the correct left side is, and 386 where the incorrect right side is. So those page numbers in fact match the faulty image.

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Housekeeping notes
I plan to place an order for AGAD record in two-three weeks, including the new ones I wrote about here a few weeks ago. No one else has joined my order yet, but several people have asked about other archives.

I received my copy on the Summer AVOTAYNU this week, which includes  an article of mine called GETTING IT WRONG. When I have a few minutes, I'll put it on my website.

The same issue opens with articles by Randy Schoenberg and my some-kind-of-cousin Adam Brown on Online Collaborative Genealogy and in particular, They presented the same subject in Boston. The next AVOTAYNU will have my response, plus something from the editor. This is really important.

I was in Haifa this week and took photographs of five Pikholz graves that I had not gotten before. Those are now online. Two others I didn't get to.

We received new DNA results this week. One is a Kwoczka cousin who matches most of the Pikholz from both Skalat and Rozdol. Another is from a Skalat Pikholz (from Grzmaylow, actually) who had not told me that he finally sent in his test. A third is a Pikholz descendant from Brezdowicz (near Rozdol) who had not even mentioned ordering a test.

Two webinars on DNA next week. I hope I'll learn something.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Name Changes

Under the British Mandate
It was about fifteen years ago that I first learned  - on JewishGen - that under the British Mandatory Government, all name changes had to be recorded in the Palestine Gazette and that these were available on a microfiche at the National Library in Jerusalem.

There were four Pikholz listed (actually, one Pikholz and three Picholz) and because it was a microfiche, I do not have a photograph, only my notes.

In 1923, Eliezer changed his surname to Haniel. He lived in Jaffa and listed no nationality. (You can see more about him here.)

In 1939, Chaim and Malka changed their surname to Etzyoni. This married couple lived in Tel Aviv and were of Palestinian nationality, as was typical of the Jews at the time.

In 1937, Hinde Renke Pikholz changed her given name to Shulamit. She lived in the Sheinkin neighborhood of Tel Aviv and was of Rumanian nationality.

The link to the search as it appears today.
In preparation for the IAJGS Conference in Jerusalem nine years ago, the Israel Genealogical Society (IGS) put this database online.

In today's version, the search button leads to something called Eretz Israel Records Indexing (EIRI), which is meant to search any number of databases on the IGS website.

So in order to reproduce the results for this post, I did a search. First in Latin letters. Using "Pikholz" or "Pickholz" as soundex produced no results at all Exactly "Picholz" did as well. Exactly "Pikholz" produced two name changes - Shulamit above and Ilan. But for neither was the original name listed.

Ilan is an odd story because his name was changed to Pikholz. It seems his mother entered the country using false papers which showed her as married to someone else, so Ilan's original surname was that of the fake "husband."

Starts with "Pik" gave me those two again, plus a few others from the 1922 census.

Is exacty "Pickholz" gave me two entries for someone I have never heard of.
These are reports of a pharmacist license (#571) for a woman in Tel Aviv. Her maiden name, Hilsenrath, is listed in the 1946 record and I haven't clue who she is. When I am next at the library, I'll check directories for those years and see who else lived at the two addresses.

Then I checked again using the Hebrew letters in the windows on the right. There is no "sounds like" function in the Hebrew search.

 None of those Hebrew look-ups shows any of the name changes nor, for that matter, Betti the pharmacist. All I found there were two Haifa directory entries and four entries from the 1922 census.

So much for that.

After the establishment of the State
The IGS website also has name changes after the establishment of the state, until 1979.  You can see the details here on the right. Interesting is that from 1962, they say that records include women who changed their names as a result of marriage, but in fact I do not see any. My sisters, for instance..
The search is OCR so it can only be done using Hebrew letters.
So I had a look at Pikholz and found quite a few name changes of people I know. Some with addresses, some with ID numbers, some with both and some - towards the end - with neither. There was also a legal notice of a probate case.
This excerpt from 1954 shows city of residence and ID number. But this was for just a short time.

There were, however, two people I had never heard of.
This list has previous names, new names and addresses. No ID numbers.
Elisheva Pickholz changed her name to Elisheva Reiter in 1950. Her address was Bet Simani, Romema, Jerusalem. I found listings for Elisheva Reiter in 1965 and 1970 Tel Aviv phone books and a 1992 tel Aviv burial, but I have not been able to get a handle on this, including from government sources. There is no ID number listed.

Here we have two columns of names, with neither addresses nor ID numbers
And we have a 1972 change from Yehudit Pickholz to Yehudit Ilani - no address or ID number listed. Here I really have nothing.
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Housekeeping notes
1. Family Tree DNA just made some significant changes in the display of their Family Finder matches page. There has been discussion among the researchers and some are pleased because there are new things they can do or existing things which are now easier. Some researchers are simply frustrated that things are not as they were and don't want to spend time and effort getting used to something new.

Other researchers - and I am in this group - are unhappy because information that we used regularly is no longer available. It will take time and patience to figure out how to deal with this and I am in short supply of both.

The fact that there was no warning makes it worse.

2. On Wednesday, 9 October, I plan to go to Haifa to hear Dana Michaelovici speak on DNA analysis for the Israel Genealogical Society.