Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Sibling Reunion?

Earlier this week, Lara Diamond posted about the reunification of her family with the descendants of her grandfather's aunt. This sparked a seriies of "me too" posts and comments.

Here is another version of the classic sibling reunification story, one in which I was tangentially involved, nearly twenty years ago. One with a different ending. (And with names changed to protect privcy.) 

An American genealogist was helping someone find what happened to her father's eldest sister, Feige Abramowitz. Feige's maiden name was unique and her birth date and birth place were known. Her husband was Shemuel (=Samuel) Abramowitz. This was in the late 1990s. Feige would have been ninety-one. The family "knew" she was killed, but didn't have any testimony or documentation.

A typical ITS card. (Can any such report ever be "typical?")
She asked me to have a look at the International Tracing Service card index at Yad Vashem. (This was before the major release of ITS records nearly ten years later.) I found a record that this same Feige Abramowitz - identified by maiden name, parents' names and birth date - applied for entry into the United States in 1947. The trail ended there. The Red Cross looked into the case, but reported back in a cryptic sort of way that they could not tell the family anything. 

We tried everything we could think of, including searching the Social Security Death Index using nothing but her birth date, but nothing looked right. Of course she could have died before 1962, when the online SSDI begins. Or perhaps she had not died at all.

Then we searched SSDI by the husband's birth date and found a Sam Abrams, who had lived in a large city in the Midwestern USA. Shemuel Abramowitz as Sam Abrams? With the same birth date? Looked promising. 

In that particular city, I had a third cousin who knew all the old Jewish women. I asked my cousin if she knew a Feige Abrams, about ninety-one, the widow of Sam. "You mean Phyllis," she said. "What do you want of her?"

A meeting was set up, very carefully, with the social workers in the retirement facility where Phyllis Abrams lived. Eventually she told her story. 

Feige Abramowitz was dead, killed in Poland. 

Sam survived. He met a fellow survivor in Poland and they married. She had no identification papers so he gave her his dead wife's identity. She spent fifty years in the United States terrified that someone might find out she had lied on her immigration papers and that she would be sent back to Poland. 

I'm thinking that the Red Cross had already figured that out.

Housekeeping notes
My own cousin reunion tour continues next week. I reported earlier on finding my grandmother's older sister's family and on meeting second cousins in Columbus Ohio and Nuremberg Germany. Next week Moscow where I plan to meet two more second cousins. With DNA kits in hand.

Then Orlando.

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