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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Forget not the Chamber Set!

Something unusual I ran across, from the marriage coverage of Louis Selig and Sadie Salomonsky, Norfolk, VA, 14 November 1888.  Newspapers covering weddings, down to who wore what, was pretty common in small towns in the late 19th century, but this particular article actually listed the wedding presents provided to the couple. Many of them, in any case; the article notes “There were other presents made by E[lizabeth] City [NC] friends who were not there.”

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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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Genetic Genealogy – Does it work? Does it help?

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.

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Ashkenazi genealogy is a PITA!

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.

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Like to write? You Can Help!

In many cases, I suspect, I know at least as much about our ancestors as anyone else living today. This is especially true in the case of those who have passed out of living memory; those people none of us had the chance to meet.

In other cases, I have no doubt that some of you have stories and recollections about which I know nothing. Sure, I have raw facts: when and where relatives were born, their profession, when they died. Perhaps occasionally I uncover a family scandal, long suppressed and forgotten. But that, in isolation, does not an interesting entry make.

On the other hand, some of those who have passed away more recently may be quite well-known to you, far more so than I ever will know them through my research. And so, I wish to invite everyone to write a short biography of these good people.

Here are some guidelines:

  • Nothing about living people without their express consent. If you want to write about yourself, or your mom doesn’t mind her story being placed out there, I’m great with that. Otherwise, off limits.
  • The person needs to be a common relative. Unless you’re my sibling or parent, you have some ancestors and cousins who aren’t related to me. I have no doubt that they were fascinating people, and more than worthy of reverence, but those stories will have to be published in another venue.
  • No worries if you don’t think you write well enough. If I can do it, you can too. If you CAN write well *cough*Hannah*cough*, you get double encouragement. 🙂
  • Shoot for at least 500 words, 1000 are better. But use whatever space you need. Electrons are cheap.

You’ll get full credit (/blame), of course. 🙂 Let’s see who can add to this growing blog!