Sunday, January 26, 2014


The Kling Family
A few weeks ago, we were in Nahariyya for Shabbat and made a few cemetery stops on the way home, including this one in the Kiryat Yam section of the Afek Cemetery, at the edge of Kiryat Bialik. It had been on my list for years, almost since the beginning of my Pikholz research.
Yaakov and Zisl Kling and their adult son Yehudah Inbal. Zisl's stone (right) says "bat Mordecai and Sarah Pickholz."

I first came across this family fourteen or fifteen years ago in the International Tracing Service microfilms at Yad Vashem. These films were a small portion of the ITS index and had been held by Yad Vashem since the 1950s. (Only in 2008 was the whole set made available.)

Zisl Sofia Kling, formerly Willner, originally Pikholz, daughter of Markus and Sara, born 23 March 1920 in Lwow, followed by a list of places she had been from 1941  - the Lwow Ghetto and various camps - until her arrival in Israel in 1948.

I had no idea who she was. I had no couple named Markus (probably Mordecai) and Sara Pickholz (and even today I still don't have such a couple) and a family living in Lwow could have come from any of the east Galician towns where Pikholz families were known to have lived.

I found an address and phone number in Kiryat Yam (near Haifa) for Yaakov and Zisl Kling but had no success in contacting them. I even went there once, but no one answered and none of the neighbors were helpful.

Eventually, I tried the burial society, where I found that Yaakov had died in 1987. I thought that perhaps Zisl was in a retirement home or living with a son or daughter, but had no success in locating her. I set it aside. There was so much else to do and many, more promising leads to follow.

Once the full index of ITS records became available in 2008, the folks at ITS became more cooperative and I acquired copies of the substantial files for both Yaakov and Zisl. There were several mentions there of a son Leon who was born in 1947. I eventually found him buried next to his father, identified as Yehudah Inbal. He had died in 1983. By then, Zisl had died (in 2005) and was buried on the other side of her husband.

I also learned that the "Willner" on the first card was Zisl's first husband, Arthur Willner. No mention of children there..

In the meantime, I learned that the Klings had a second son, Motie (=Mordecai), born 1959, with an address in Eilat. After not succeeding in contacting him, I went to the apartment building but did not see him name on any of the boxes. I happened to see the mailman and he had never heard of Motie Kling.

I set this aside until I had the opportunity to visit the grave, but that opportunity never seemed to come up.

The Invitation
Eventually I did visit the graves and the fact that someone took the trouble to name Zisl's parents as Mordecai and Sarah Pickholz was encouraging. I figured that when I'd find someone, they'd know something. Perhaps some identification of Mordecai and Sarah. Perhaps Zisl had brothers and sisters. Perhaps birth places and ages for Mordecai and Sarah.

Then I saw the paper. Right there on Yaakov's grave, held down by two stones.

Deciding to literally leave no stone unturned, I picked up the paper and to my surprise, I found an invitation. Barely legible.

I neglected to photograph the invitation when I was there...
I could make out the date, 30 January 2013. It had been out in the elements for nearly a full year.

I could also make out the name of the wedding hall, in Haifa.

But no names of any sort. Well with any luck, that hall had only one affair that day and with a bit more luck, they'd put me in touch with the family.

... so I thank Dana Michaelovici for going to do it for me.
Than I turned the card over and learned that this was a wedding. Gal and Maor. No surnames, but a picture.

One of them must be a Kling grandchild - either from Yehudah or from Motie. I learned later in the week that there is in fact a custom among some Hassidic groups for the grandchildren to go to the cemetery to invite the grandparents and learned further that some actually leave invitations.

I get home, phone the hall, they won't give me any surnames, but they give me a cell phone number. I call but the person who answers knows no couple named Gal and Maor. I call the hall again and they refuse to give me anything else, invoking the usual claims of privacy.  They also refuse my request to forward a letter to the couple or the families.

Next I tried the Haifa Religious Council where - if one of them lived in Haifa - they might have registered the marriage. The Council might have provided the rabbi as well, if the couple had no preference of their own. The folks there were very cooperative. It was a simple search since I had the precise date. But they had no such couple. I tried Kiryat Yam.. Nothing there either. Next would be Kiryat Motzkin and Kiryat Bialik. I had had some issues with K. Motzkin regarding the cemetery there, so I started with K. Bialik.

The clerk there, a woman named Kochava, looked for all the men named Maor and found nothing. Then she checked the women named Gal and found nothing there either. Next she tried the date and there they were. Gal was the groom and Maor was the bride!

Since you have to document that you are Jewish for the Rabbinate, they had a record that Gal's mother was Sarah Kling, and HER mother was a Pickholz. Sarah was apparently named for Zisl's mother. So there is a daughter, Sarah, in addition to the two sons, Yehudah and Motie.

Kochava won't give me a phone number without permission, so after we hang up, she calls Gal, get's Sarah's phone number, calls her and comes back to me. Sarah lives in Kiryat Bialik and is very interested, but I should phone in the evening.

Perhaps she'll be interested in the seventy-odd pages that I had from the ITS.

Meantime, I recorded Sarah, Gal and Maor in my database.

Calling Sarah
In the meantime, I make a list of questions.
  • What does Sarah know about her grandparents? Ages? Where were they born? Who are THEIR parents?
  • Did Zisl have brothers and sisters? 
  • Does Sarah have siblings besides Yehudah and Motie? 
  • What other grandchildren are there besides Gal? 
  • Why does Zisl's grave have Freida in parentheses, but the ITS card has the additional name Sofia? 
  • What family members were killed in the Holocaust?
  • Were there any children from Zisl's first marriage to Arthur Willner, who I assume was killed in the Shoah. (Note to self: Perhaps Sarah has never heard of Arthur Willner or a first marriage - I must be careful with this.)
  • Does she mind if I tell the story on my blog, with names.?
So I spoke with her. She goes by Sarit. As usual, it's a bit of a project to explain who I am and what I want, especially when I have no clue who she is either. Sarit doesn't know much. She has just the two brothers, who are both dead, but they left children. She is widowed and has just the one son. She knows that her mother had a sister, but she doesn't recall if her name was ever mentioned.

She knows about her mother's first husband and even has a photograph of him. She was really surprised that I knew of him.

But she has pictures and papers, including some documents with her mother's story, which were prepared as part of her claim for reparations. That kind of thing is likely to be very helpful. Sarit will have to get that organized and scanned for me and already wants to when I am coming to Kiryat Bialik.

She explained the Sofia/Freida thing. Sofia was a name she never used here and Freida was a name she decided she liked, so she'd use it from time to time.

In the meantime, I emailed her a few of the cards like the ones that appear here above and will Dropbox her material from the ITS files. I also prepared a little chart with what I know of the family and indicating what specific information I hoped she could give me.

I am hoping that this brick wall will actually come down in the next few weeks. Perhaps we can even find her some living family, even if it's distant.

Housekeeping notes
1, I am posting this Sunday, 25 Shevat. If you don't know the significance of this date, please see my post from two years ago.

2. Last Monday, I was just interviewed by Marian Pierre-Louis for her weekly Genealogy Professional podcast series. I air on 10 Feb. Afterwards she said she enjoyed listening to me speak because my accent reminds her of her uncle who grew up in Pittsburgh. Marian has already written about the interview - and my Pittsburgh accent - on her personal blog.

Reminds me that when I was in Chicago last summer and I asked my thirteen year old grandson to bring my spare glasses from the box in my suitcase.  He goes into the kitchen and I hear my daughter-in-law say "He means BAHX."

3. Follow up from last week.  I heard from the burial society. arrangements were made by her brother-in-law. Both he and his wife (Freida's sister Rachel Rozner) are long deceased.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Wednesday at Yad Vashem - The visit was not meant to be
A couple of weeks ago, I went to Yad Vashem to do some work in the International Tracing Service (Arolsen) database for a client.

When I got there I found that the database was down. Obviously it was not meant to be, at least not that day.

In the days that followed, I learned a few things about one of my Pikholz puzzles.

In earlier visits to the ITS database, some years ago, I found these two cards.

Mendel and Frieda Pickholz, a married couple, he born 1883 in Podwoloczysk, died in 1941, she born 1893 in Czernovitz, released from the ghetto there in 1944. A handwritten note with a 1965 date seems to indicate she survived the war. Maybe she is a Hellenberg. It's not clear what the Halpern is doing here.

I ordered the files from Germany. Aside from the fact that Mendel died in the Czernovitz ghetto, my German-speaking friends could not add much.

Then came two breakthroughs, two weeks ago. First I received the 1923 Czernovitz marriage record for Mendel and Frieda, thanks to Daniel Horowitz of My Heritage. The next day, I heard from Batya Unterschatz that she had located Freida living in Tel Aviv until her death in 1971. In the same apartment was Bella Hellenberg, about the same age, perhaps a sister-in-law. Batya was not able to identify family members of either woman.

Defining Mendel
Here is the marriage record - the second one on the page.

Groom: Mendel Pickholz, son of Joel Halpern and Chana Pickholz; Bride Freida Hellenberg - with a note
Well, I certainly recognize the family of Joel Halpern and his wife Chana (sometimes Chancie) of Husiatyn. Here they are, with Mendel and his wife Freida at the bottom left.

I believe that Gabriel is the son of Nachman Pikholz (b.1795) though I have no actual evidence.

I also believe that the son Moses, born 1851, is the same man who heads the family we call TONKA. Here we have a bit of indirect evidence. Tonka is Moses' granddaughter and lived in Skalat. She wrote a piece in the Skalat memorial book about the Rebbe of Husiatyn, who used to spend several weeks a year in Skalat. Tonka's father Tuvia was a Husiatyner hassid and that fact may be connected to the fact that Gabriel - a Skalater - lived in Husiatyn.

If the two Moses are the same, we have living descendants of Gabriel and Sara. Of Chancie's children, we have not found any descendants beyond the above chart, but perhaps the newly-found marriage of Mendel and Freida gives us something to work with.

I found what the note on the marriage record says. Mendel and Freida were divorced in Czernovitz in 1936. That  explains why Freida was using her maiden name Hellenberg in Tel-Aviv.

 I did some searching in the yizkor books listed on JewishGen and found a listing in Husiatyn for "Yoel, wife, daughter Chanchia, Sons Moshe, Berl and Fishel." Close, but not quite what I wanted. But since I'd be going back to Yad Vashem in a few days to do that client work that I hadn't done a few days earlier, I figured I should have a look at the actual Hebrew version of the Husiatyn book as well as seeing if the ITS database had anything on the putative sister-in-law Bella Hellenberg.

I also decided to go to Kiryat Shaul Cemetery in Tel-Aviv, to visit the graves of the two Hellenberg women. I wanted to see if the stones said "our mother" or "our sister" or what and if there was any additional memorial to family killed in the Shoah, as is often done here.

The following Wednesday - Yad Vashem and Kiryat Shaul
Wednesday morning, I went to Yad Vashem, set myself up for a look at the ITS database and asked my friend Zvi, who was on duty in the library, for the yizkor book for Husiatyn.

First I did the work for the client.

I found ITS references to a Bella Hellenberg, but not the right woman.  I found the Joel Halpern family in the Husiatyn book but there was nothing beyond what I had already seen in the JewishGen translation.

I did find ITS references to the wrong Joel Halpern and figured I may as well order those files. The file numbers didn't make sense and I went to discuss it with Zvi, returning the Husiatyn book at the same time.

As I waited for Zvi to get off the phone, I saw a man in hassidic-dress looking at the Husiatyn book that I had just placed on the counter. I asked him not to take it until Zvi has written that I had returned it. Turns out he works at Yad Vashem and has some Husiatyn interests as well. But the person who REALLY knows Husiatyn, he told me, was out in the lobby.

David Margaliot came in a few minutes later and we introduced ourselves. Also a man in hassidic dress, he runs an organization called Maagarim in Ashdod. Something about international archival services and a Husiatyner hassid. We exchanged cards and will speak later, but now I see why the visit the week before had not worked out. It was this week that I was meant to come to the Yad Vashem research library.

I proceeded to Tel Aviv. and found the two graves in Kiryat Shaul.

Freida Hellenberg, sister and aunt. No possessive pronoun - "my" or "our. "

Bat Mordecai and Chani from Chernovitz.

And her date of death.

So there are no children, but at least one brother or sister, living at the time of her death in 1971, probably here in Israel.

I submitted a request (it carries a fee of NIS 50) to the burial society for information on next of kin or other family information and I hope to hear from them soon.

There are niece(s) and/or nephew(s) - whom I can probably find - but whether they know anything about the family of the aunt's ex-husband is another matter.
Bella Hellenberg is called Betti. "My dear mother, my dear sister." Nothing else I didn't know.  She died in 1957 at age sixty.

Neither of the women's stones mentioned family lost in the Shoah.

The possibility that Betti/Bella's son or (more likely) daughter knows anything is pretty remote, but if nothing turns up with Freida's people, I'll check Betti's.

I am not optimistic, but progress often comes as a surprise.

Housekeeping notes
1. I am to be interviewed this week by Marian Pierre-Louis who does a weekly podcast with genealogy professionals. It should play next week

2. We have a set of matches between Pikholz and Kwoczka family members and my eighth grade math teacher and her daughters.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


I had planned to post this apolitical piece next summer, on the anniversary of my aliyah to Israel.

I have decided to run it now, dedicated to the memory of the man who brought peace to Gaza in the 1970s but later forgot the lesson he taught us about that very subject.

It was published in the Jerusalem Post in 1994. The context was the Oslo agreements, which set up the PLO in Gaza.

The events described took place in 1978 or 79.

Sunday, January 5, 2014


A few weeks ago, my friend Marla Raucher Osborn posted on Facebook about a birth record for her grandmother's sister Sime Horn, who died in Rohatyn in childhood. Some discussion ensued about notes of death being recorded on birth records and about the importance of reviewing documents, letters and other papers from time to time because what looked unimportant when we first saw them, may be significant now.

Here is the Facebook discussion.
Sandy Malek, the legal counsel of Gesher Galicia, mentioned that she "always seem[s] to find something new and enlightening" when having a second look at documents. Veteran researcher Sylvia Furshman Nusinov said that she "DOES look them over from time to time - finding clues which lead to new sources."

My contribution to the discussion was to explain that this is in fact the way my three-step filing system is designed, at least regarding genealogy-related paper.

Step one
                There is way too much stuff in this box
When I have a document, whether it is a vital record or some of my own correspondence or something else, I read it, record whatever seems relevant and put it into a box.

In the case of vital records from Warsaw, I usually make a note of the family on the back.

They stay there for months. At least.

(Non-genealogy-related is another matter, which I'll mention below. Things like utility bills get filed in binders, immediately. Other receipts, insurance and bank documents etc should as well. Sometimes I fall behind. A lot.)

Client papers go in a pile in a drawer and are filed from to time - usually when I need something and can't find it.

Step two
From time to time, I go through the box and put the papers into sectioned cardboard files
(There must be a name for these - in Hebrew, it's a "sadran.") like those pictured here. The one on the left is my Pikholz filing, the one on the right is everything else.

In the Pikholz file, each section represents a group of families. In the other one, each section is an ancestral line, either one of mine or one of my wife's.

For the most part, this is not just a matter of putting the paper into the right place. In order to file them properly, I generally have to reread the documents. Often in doing so, I will see something I missed months earlier. Or there will be some piece of information which was meaningless at the time, but has since become a point of interest. The name of a witness, a town or street address, some event that suddenly takes on significance, something else I could not have known when I first touched the particular paper.

A paper like that goes through the recording process, almost as though it were entirely new.

Step three
Every once in a while, I will take the papers from one or more of these sections and and put
them into the appropriate binders.

The purple binders on the shelves on the right are all Pikholz Project families. The yellow binders are my other families and the green binders are my wife's families.

As in  step two, moving each piece of paper involves rereading it and  re-evaluating its contents. But there is more because putting the papers into the binders brings me into contact with older papers which are already filed. Sometimes it is those older papers which produces new insights.

Paperless office?
Of course all of this requires paper.  Online-genealogy guru Dick Eastman has been on a "paperless office" crusade for some time. A post last week opened as follows:
On January 1 of this year, I wrote a short article entitled A New Year's Resolution: Going Paperless in which I promised I would stop wasting paper and not file all sorts of paper in piles, nor in binders or filing cabinets. I am happy to report that I have achieved nearly 100% success during 2013.

I now print almost nothing on my computer. Most everything is saved in Evernote or in an appropriate folder in Dropbox. Of course, the same items can be retrieved quickly and viewed not only on my desktop or laptop computers, but also with my iPhone or iPad, wherever I am. (An Android phone or tablet will do the same.) The few pieces of paper that need to be given to others are usually sent by email, never printed and mailed.
He goes on to discuss different types of paper - bills, bank records and of course genealogy. (He also discusses back-ups and is partial to "the cloud" for that.) He concludes his recent piece::
I can report 99% success at being paperless during all of 2013. I no longer have mounds of paper lying around. I can find anything quickly and easily, thanks to the capability of quickly searching the computer's entire hard drive for any words. I can retrieve any item quickly when I need it. 
I can see this with utility bills and other expense records and will even give that part of paperless a try in 2014, though the eight-page monthly cell phone invoice is a challenge. . Bank and other type records are a bit more complicated because it means I have to deal with them before they pile up. But genealogy paper? 

If I were to go paperless, it would kill my entire filing system as I would never see those documents again unless I went looking for them specifically. I certainly wouldn't leaf through them, as I do with paper files..

Online genealogy
Although it was not my intention in discussing filing, I come back around to online genealogy of the Geni-type, which I discussed at length three weeks ago. But it comes up on its own.

In private correspondence, one of the Geni advocates wrote:
I make a discovery, I enter a branch into Geni, I upload all my photographs and documentation, and phew!, I can rest easy that I have put everything in its place and move on to my next interest.  And when I am looking for it again, I know where it is.
For me that's a negative. I don't want to simply "rest easy...and move on" I want to see old documents and correspondence even when I am not looking for them.  I want to have to review each document and letter in each of the three steps. It doesn't have to be how other people work, but it's my system. My research heir - if I will be fortunate enough to have one - can do it differently if he wants, when the time comes.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Housekeeping notes

1. Today, 4 Shevat is yahrzeit for my grandfather and begins a string of family memorial days during the month, a few of my wife's ancestors (including her father, her maternal grandfather, her paternal grandmother and others), my mother (here and here) and my sister - all in Shevat.

2. I have submitted two proposals for the 34th IAJGS Conference on Jewish Genealogy, to
be held in Salt Lake City next summer. And I made a reservation for the conference hotel. None of this means a commitment, just yet.

3. The following was written to me by a possible non-Jewish DNA match. The last sentence is hilarious. (Emphasis mine.)
Anyway, it's more than a little difficult to find the common thread between everyone in my search for a place of origin, but it seems *very* safe to assume that my "epicenter" for this would be the Pale of Settlement/Congress Poland... basically the [east] Galicia region you mentioned. And judging by the tiny sliver of it involved, I'm also guessing a birth from around 1700. But how/when/why they got to America is a complete mystery to me.