Category Archives: Historical Profiles

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


Leigh Hecht (1882-1914) – and Family

Leigh HECHT was the fourth child of Solomon and Rachael FRIEDMAN HECHT, grandson of Caroline JACOBOWSKY FRIEDMAN. Caroline was either first cousin to, or half-niece to my great-great-grandmother, Helena JACOBOWSKY LEVY.

Leigh was born on 15 March 1882 in Norfolk, Virginia, and by his mid-teens was a salesman in his father’s dry goods business. One newspaper article from 1900 said that Solomon HECHT’s business concern had made the family “very wealthy”, but there’s little evidence whether or not that was true.

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Eva Abrahams (1879-1931)

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.

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Gitel Wertel (1887 – 1943?)

Gitel WERTEL was a younger sister of my great-grandmother, Sarah WERTEL OCHOROWICZ (OCHOWITZ). From what I can tell, Sarah had six siblings born between 1882 – her only older sibling, Moshe Wertel – and the youngest sister, Genia, born in 1902. A large range, but not unusual for the time.  Sarah and Abe OCHOROWICZ , in fact, were married a year before Genia was born.

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Morris Levy [or not] (1838-1896)

Morris LEVY was my maternal grandfather’s maternal grandfather. But it appears he was not born with that name.


“Morris Levy”, c. 1883

Morris was born in Kozmin, Prussia – also known by its German name, Koschmin – on 11 May 1838. This was only about 30 miles from Sandberg, the birthplace of his eventual spouse, Helena JACOBOWSKY, although it’s unknown if the two families knew each other. His father’s name, according to Morris’s gravestone, was Samuel HaLevi; that is, “Samuel the Levite”.

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Photo Forensics

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.

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Project Piaski!

I realized there’s a lot of cousins who originate from Piaski, Poland (Sandberg, Prussia).  Many of them, I know little / have very little to say about individually, but on the whole I know a fair bit about the town they came from and the people there. Possibly worth their own site.

4168_Gostyn_1940 (2)

Prussian Land Survey, 1890, with 1940 topographic survey overlay

If you’re related to me via JACOBOWSKY, PAWEL, WOLFF, or SALOMONSKY, or are otherwise just curious, you can subscribe to  Not too much there yet, but it will grow….

Morris Abrahams (1849-1929)

One of my great-great-grandfathers, a man of several name variations and a murky past.

Morris ABRAHAMS was born on 10 September 1849 in “Russia” or “Poland” (even though it was not a political entity in 1849), son of David. Russia in that timeframe could mean anything East of Germany, and the only real clue we have of his birthplace is that his wife – according to family lore – was born in Pinsk, in what is now Belarus.

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Samuel Lester Abelson (1878-1967)

That’s A-B-ELSON, not A-D-ELSON….

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Fred Ochowitz (1907 – 1951)

My grandmother’s older brother. Most of what I know about him is from “what I read in the papers.” Fairly literally.

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