Category Archives: Historical Profiles

FINGERBRENs in the 1784 Lithuanian Records

Some data from the 1784 Poll Tax of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania recently was released on-line. This was (effectively) a census of the entire population of the Duchy.  While very interesting, there are three major drawbacks for Jewish Genealogy:

  1. The date is prior to the forced adoption of Jewish surnames in the Napoleonic reforms of the early 19th century. Thus, we have only the given name and, in most cases, their father’s given name.
  2. While the census includes all the members of the household and their relation, it does not provide ages nor professions, which might help more clearly identify them.
  3. In many cases, the next set of available records is 30-50 years later. So we’re talking a difference of at least a full generation, and sometimes two, when trying to match individuals.

Nonetheless, I may have found my own direct paternal family in the records for Stakliskis, Lithuania.

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On the joy of being wrong….

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.

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Finding Zaboklicki

A little while back, I wrote of finding the name of my great-great-great-grandmother, given as Bessie ZABAKLITZKY, in the Social Security application form of my great-great-grandmother’s brother, Abram KUNA (a.k.a. Abraham COHEN). Several months after that, I was able to find in the Polish State Archives the actual name, Basia Laja ZABOKLICKI. (Technically, the Polish language gender variant, ZABOKLICKA, but I try to stay with the normative form.)  “ZABAKLITZKY” is still a correct and valid translation, so, happily, Abram wasn’t totally off about his own mother.  Continue reading

The End… of one line’s record

In the last few months, the Polish State Archives has digitized a number of their 19th century records, leading to a tremendous breakthrough on my Warsaw-area ancestors and related cousins. [As opposed to UNrelated cousins? Anyway….] I hope to be writing about them soon.

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Kunas in America II

Short post with an update.  A new piece of paper arrived, and set off a whole slew of revelations.

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Kunas in America

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.

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Peyser Abraham (1876-1950)

Pesach ABRAHAM, my great-grandfather’s brother, was born in Manhattan on 20 October 1876. He was the third child of Morris and Sarah ABRAHAMS, and the first born in the United States. Aside from his birth record and the Hebrew on his grave marker, he doesn’t seem to have used the name Pesach, but instead usually went by Peyser, sometimes Peter, or Pete, or even “Captain Pete”.  No one seems to remember how he picked up the latter moniker.

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Block / Abelson… a possible breakthrough

I have written previously about my great-grandfather, Elias SCHNITZ (a.k.a. Alex BLOCK) as well as the man listed as his cousin in the U.S., Samuel ABELSON.  I may have made a breakthrough regarding how these families are related.

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Block / Schnitz… What’s in a name?

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.

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Elkhanon Leib Fingerbren, a.k.a. John Smith (1870-1958), and family

To the best of my knowledge, the first branch of my paternal side to arrive in the United States was that of Elkhanon Leib FINGERBREN, who took the very generic name of John Smith in this country. It’s impossible to know if this name was chosen simply to “fit in” in his new land, or if it was a play on words, given that the FINGERBRENs had been blacksmiths for several generations prior. Continue reading