Sunday, January 29, 2012

SHEVAT - My Wife's Ancestors

At least five of my wife's ancestors died in Shevat, all in the last seventy years. Four of those five have their yahrzeits this week. My wife's maternal grandfather, Mendel Baum, died seventy years ago and in reverse order my wife's father, HIS mother, HER mother and HER father - four generations.

MENDEL (Menahem) BAUM was born in Vidrany (Slovakia) in 1867. He went to England a few years before WWI as a widower with no children. His landlady brought her niece from Poland to marry him and they had five children - one of whom died in early childhood.

He was a very learned man and was the study partner of Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook, the Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael during the Rav's WWI exile. (The Rav was the sandak for his eldest son.)

Mendel Baum died 7 Shevat 5702 (25 January 1942). Three of his four children named sons for him.

MORDECAI DIAMOND was in England in time for the 1901 census, where he appears with his wife Beile Gittel (Betsy) and younger daughter Tova. An older daughter was already married and her husband had preceded them. (The husband is the only one for we have documented immigration information.) I am working with a descendant of the older daughter to nail down as much information as we can about the Diamonds. The family came from somewhere near Warsaw, perhaps Plock, and their name was probably more like Diament.

Mordecai ben Pinchas was born about 1851 and died 24 Shevat 5703 (30 January 1943).

TOVA DIAMOND was nineteen in the 1901 census and soon afterwards married Moshe Avraham Schwartz (originally Scharf).  They had four daughters and two sons. Tova died 5 Shevat 5723 (30 January 1963).

Wedding of Jane Schwartz and Harry Silberstein

JANE/SCHEINDEL SCHWARTZ was Tova's eldest daughter, born 5 June 1903. She married Jacob Harry Silberstein and they had three sons, one of whom died just before his twenty-first birthday.

The family was in the restaurant business in London.

Jane died 7 Shevat 5746 (16/17 January 1986).

Wedding of Arthur Silberstein and Esther Baum.
Jane and Harry's eldest son ARTHUR AARON (Alter Aharon) SILBERSTEIN was born 4 Kislev 5684 (12 November 1923). He married Esther Baum on 23 December 1945 and they had three sons and a daughter. He worked with his father and grandfather in the family restaurant, eventually bringing his family and the restaurant on aliya in 1969.

He died in Jerusalem on 8 Shevat 5765 (17 January 2005) and is buried in Kefar Etzion. He was survived by six grandsons and nine granddaughters and was predeceased by one son and one granddaughter. At present there are six great-grandsons and fourteen great-granddaughters.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

SHEVAT - Yahrzeit Month around here

Wednesday, Rosh Hodesh Shevat. Time to make sure we have yahrzeit candles. Let's review.

4 Shevat. Raymond Gordon. My mother's father. Forty years. Yerahmiel ben Zvi and Chana.
This will be my first time keeping this yahrzeit myself. The last few years, I have gone up to my mother's and lit the candle with her.
A few years ago, I learned of a custom whereby you keep the yahrzeits that your deceased parents would have kept. (Just their own, not the ones they inherited from their parents.)  It's a matter of kibbud av va'eim - honoring your parents.
That is not relevant for my father, who died thirty-one years ago.  My grandmother outlived him by fifteen years and asked me to keep my grandfather's and to say kaddish for her when the time came. So I am doing this without regard to that custom.
My mother never wanted me to say kaddish for her parents' yahrzeits while she was still living, so now I begin.
My gf on right. Also U. Frank, A. Rose &
A. Mary Jaffe who is buried in New York.

My grandfather was born in Dolginov, near Minsk. His mother died when he was a teenager, away at yeshiva. He became a Socialist and went to the US in 1906. In 1914 he married my grandmother, whom he had known in Russia, and they lived in Vandergrift Pennsylvania, where he owned a furniture store. My mother was the youngest of their five children.
My grandfather died in Pittsburgh and was buried in Washington DC. His is the only one of my grandparents' funerals that I attended. He and my grandmother are in adjacent graves.
His brother Frank and wife Mary are one row behind them. Next to U Frank are his sister Rose and her husband Max Shapiro. In front of them, adjacent but one to my grandmother is Celia Fritz, a first cousin of my grandfather's father. (Her granddaughter lives a fifteen minute walk from me in Jerusalem and I call her my closest living relative.)
I visited those graves this past summer for the first time since my grandfather's funeral.

I'll tell you about some of the other Shevat yahrzeits as the month progresses. The full month includes (ancestors - mine and my wife's - plus others whose yahrzeits I personally observe):
My mother - 15 Shevat, my sister Devorah (Carol) - 25 Shevat, my wife's father - 8 Shevat, my wife's maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother - 7 Shevat, my father's mother's father's mother - 7 Shevat, my father's father's mother's father's mother - 27 or 28 Shevat, my wife's father's mother's mother - 5 Shevat, my wife's father's mother's mother's father - 24 Shevat. (On the other hand, we also mark the birthdays of two three of my grandsons.)

Saturday, January 21, 2012


First there is this one:

A presentation in Hebrew by Israel Pickholtz
and the Israel Genealogical Society Jerusalem Branch
(IGS charges NIS 20 for non-members.)

What do you do when the hard proofs just aren't there,
but you are as sure as you can be what they would say if you could find them?
If you fold your hands and wait, you may never get anywhere with your research, but if you
accept your suppositions as fact, they may never be questioned again.
Not by you nor by your research heirs.
This presentation will use examples from the east Galician single-surname
Pikholz Project to consider when what you know
is beyond a reasonable doubt and if that is indeed good enough.
This lecture was presented in English at the 31st IAJGS Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Washington DC

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Then on 21 February, I am speaking in English to a senior citizens group in Maale Adummim.  It's a general presentation, not for people with genealogy experience.  No idea who is allowed to come.  I am calling it
and it will consist of anecdotes from my research. It is at 10:15 in the morning at the Pnai Shmuel Synagogue in Mitzpeh Nevo.
I did this kind of thing a year or so ago at AACI in Jerusalem.  It was well-received and quite a few people asked for my card, but I got no actual business.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I have decided to put this into a blog format so that everyone can see everyone else's comments. Please sign your name to comments, with something that indicates who you are. You can also write me privately by email if you wish to say something not for general consumption.

I have tried to bring this to the attention of most of the relevant Pickholtz descendants, to a number of the descendants of Schewach Wachs (of Podkamen), to the genealogy researchers who responded to a question I posted on a few weeks ago and to some of my gen-friends whom I think might be interested.

There are two bits of background:

Isak-Fischel and Rivka-Feige
The earliest couple we have in our own Pickholtz family is Isak-Fischel and Rivka-Feige, who were probably born around 1820 and lived in Podkamen (49°56' N 25°19' E), a town in east Galicia for which there are no records. It is my firm belief that Rivka-Feige is the Pikholz and we haven't a clue what Isak-Fischel's surname was.  Rivka-Feige is occasionally referred to as Feige-Rivka. Her father was almost certainly Isak-Josef Pikholz (~1784-1862) of Skalat.

Isak-Fischel and Rivka-Feige had four children that we know of - Yechiel, Leah (married Yaakov-Hersch Brunn/Braun), Bassie (married David Lazel Frankel/Franzos/Francis) and Hersch (married Jutte-Leah Kwoczka), during the approximate period 1843-1855.
Diagram 1
Yechiel's family was lost in the Holocaust, Bassie's family was largely in Denver (though she and her husband were in the New York area) and Leah and Hersch lived in Pittsburgh, though Leah lived for a time in Denver as well.  Hersch is my great-grandfather.

David Lazel Frankel was from Skalat, where the Pikholz families (including Rivka-Feige) came from, but the spouses of the others were from Zalosce, the next town over from Podkamen.  We have access to birth records from Zalosce for 1877-1890 plus quite a few years of death records, though these have little actual information.

In the course of my genealogy work over the years, I have sought out records of anyone named Izak-Fischel or Fischel-Izak, particularly in the records from east Galicia, just to see if something might turn up. Of the six I found, two lived in Tarnopol and one lived near Skalat, but there wasn't much I could really do with any of them. (Fischel is usually found as a Yiddish form of the Hebrew names Ephraim or Yeroham.  We know that our Isak-Fischel is Yeroham, not Ephraim.) I suspect something may show up in nearby Brody, but I haven't found anything yet.

Where the Braun and Wachs connections fit in
My father's first cousin, Herb Braun - who lives in Florida - is named for Hersch Wachs, who died 20 March 1917 in Pittsburgh. Hersch Pickholtz, Herb's grandfather, was alive at the time, so Hersch Wachs must have been quite close to the family. (We don't name for living relatives, so using the name while the grandfather was alive would be unusual, even if it were after someone else. So I figure it has to be someone important.)

Diagram 2
When Herb told me this about a dozen years ago, I made contact with a number of Hersch Wachs' descendants.  Some of them were aware of a vague connection with the Pickholtz family, but aside from Herb, no living Pickholtz descendant had ever heard of such a connection.

Diagram 3
When I made some broader inquiries, I learned that the brothers Zale and Chatzkel Anis - whom I knew well during my brief Chicago period forty years ago - were descendants of one Schewach Wachs and Chatzkel had a tree that included the Hersch Wachs from Pittsburgh, as well as his namesake who was born about 1814. Chatzkel put me in touch with Lenny Schorr - a native Pgher living in Haifa, whose grandmother was Devorah Feige Shapiro, the sister of Hersch Wachs. Lenny told me back then that the Wachs were not related to the Pickholtz family, but to the Brauns - Herb's father's side.

Diagram 4-Note the twenty-year age difference between the groups of step-siblings.
That's where things stood until this past summer.

Feige Rifke Silbermann, daughter of Chana Wachs
Last summer, I was preparing a large order of east Galician records from the AGAD archives in Warsaw and while looking for something else, I happened to see a listing in the JRI-Poland index for Feige Rifke Silbermann, daughter of Chaskel Silbermann and Chana Wachs. This Feige Rifke was born in 1878 in Tarnopol, which is the provincial capital of an area which includes all the small towns I mentioned above. The juxtaposition of my great-great-grandmother's given name Feige Rifke and the surname Wachs was intriguing, so I ordered the birth record, without doing any further research in the index.

The record came in early December and much to my amazement, it showed that Chana Wachs' parents were Isaak and Feige Rifke Wachs. Those are the same given names as my great-great-grandparents', minus the "Fischel."  My first thought was that this was perhaps the same couple and that there was a fifth child, Chana, whom we had never heard of. Not to mention perhaps finally putting a surname on our Isak Fischel.

That euphoria didn't last long.  I went back to JRI-Poland and found the marriage record for Chaskel and Chana.  Chana was born about 1842, which - if she had been a sister to my great-grandfather - would have made her the oldest, but well within the normal range of birth years. But the marriage record also showed that her father was not Isak Fischel, but Isak Leib.  Still it was worth following up.

I also posted on several of Jewishgen's message boards as follows:

Does anyone have any Isaac WACHS references in the mid-late 1800s, particularly one with a daughter Chana who married Chaskel Silberman?
These would likely be in (or from) the Tarnopol area.
I also went to the JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF) to see who else was researching Wachs in the right area and sent those researchers a similar message.

I received a number of responses, none of which made specific contributions to my search. All those who responded have been invited to this conversation.

I then touched base with Chatzkel Anis and Lenny Schorr and had another look at the list of Schewach Wachs' descendants. Perhaps the most striking thing there is the total absence of anyone named Isak. Schewach Wachs (b. ~1770-1780) was known to have had seven children, but the chart has names for only four of them.  (See Diagram 3, above.)

One of those sons is connected to the town of Husiatyn, a town the other side of Skalat.  (The chart says "Rusiatyn," but that is surely an error.) The Husiatyner Rebbe had a large following in Skalat, so those towns were well connected to one another. One of the researchers in JGFF has Wachs in Husiatyn.

It is entirely possible that one of the less developed lines from Schewach Wachs has the Isaks. And it may or may not have anything to do with our Isak Fischel. But I can't just walk away from it.

I have been trying to make contact with the keeper of the Schewach Wachs chart to see what she might know and what her sources are.


I'd like to get some thoughts and advice, particularly from the Schewach Wachs family and other Wachs researchers, as well as my gen-friends. How might we proceed to see if the several Isak Wachs who appear in JRI-Poland's database are somehow part of the Schewach Wachs family?

Incidentally, this index entry, which I just found now, is particularly interesting
and I will include it in my next order, in the spring. It is from Mosty Wielkie, which is about 55 miles NW of Podkamen and includes an Isak whose surname is both Schewach and Wachs and who has a specific connection to Podkamen and Brody.

That's it for now.  Thank you for your attention. (If you click on the images, you can see a larger version.)