Nearly a year ago, I wrote of finding some BERKOWITZs in the US, the wife, Dwojra, being my great-great-grandmother’s sister. Turns out, I was wrong.
The KUNAs were the family of my great-great-grandmother along my direct maternal line. Until very recently, I knew very little about them, and today I only know slightly more, but enough that it’s worth talking about. This post is not only about obtaining the addition bits of knowledge I have now, but also about the slow process of getting there.
This is a (very) slight extension of research I sent to close family a little while back, but I think it’s an interesting example of genealogical investigation, and it’s good to capture for “posterity”. This research involves my great-grandfather, who was known in the U.S. as Alex BLOCK, but whose birth name appears to have been Elias SCHNITZ.
My great-grand Aunt Eva was the fifth child of Morris ABRAHAMS and Sarah JACOBY ABRAHAMS, born in New York, and about as middle of a child as you could get. The second daughter, after her eldest sibling, Dena, yet the first female of what would be five of the last six children. I suspect she may have gotten less attention than she wanted.
My Aunt Lillian – technically, my mother’s Aunt Lillian, but we always called her “Aunt Lillian” – was the keeper of the family photographs. I recall visiting her in the early 1990s, and looking at her photo albums while she told me who people were. Unfortunately, at the time, I really wasn’t paying attention to people I had never heard of before, and who had died prior to my birth.
When Aunt Lillian died in 1995, the photographs remained, but for many of them, no survivor knew who they were, nor where, when, and why they had been recorded. This is one reason I am always on the lookout for cousins with family photographs, and hopefully recollections about who they are.
Questions come up occasionally about my use of genetic genealogy: using genetic testing for matching family. You may have seen TV ads for 23 & Me or AncestryDNA tests. It’s becoming more and more popular, and I think it’s worthwhile to post a quick overview of what it is, what it can do, and what it can’t. Don’t worry, you won’t need a biology degree for this.
This is just the nickel tour… there’s lots of detailed posts out there that get into the science behind it all, but I thought an overview might be interesting for some of you.
There’s a lot of reasons genealogy could be easier. For example, I used to think of surnames as eternal, more or less. Turns out, that’s usually not the case. My grandparents were born ADELSON, BLOCK, ABRAMS, and OCHOWITZ. Their fathers (paternal grandfather in the case of ADELSON) were born FINGERBREN, SCHNITZ, ABRAHAMS, and OCHOROWICZ, respectively. Five years ago, only ONE of these name changes was known to living generations! Or at least to family to whom I had access.
“Always… no, no… NEVER forget to check your references.” – Real Genius, 1985
One thing I’ve seen is that it’s rarely a waste of time to work on a side tree. Especially in closely-knit European Ashkenazi communities, everyone was related to everyone else, and it’s just a matter of teasing out the relationships. That’s easier said than done, perhaps, but sometimes it works out.