Friday, May 18, 2018

Legacy's ObitMessenger email alerts aren't completely reliable

Below on the left you see an obituary that appeared in the August 11, 2017 St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Legacy has an ObitMessenger service that is supposed to send you alerts if certain keywords show up in a specified newspaper's obituaries. You can specify up to five keywords per alert, and you can set up multiple alerts. Perfect for keeping track of obituaries with surnames of interest.

On the right is an email I received on August 12th, 2017 stating that no obituaries had appeared in the past 14 days with the specified words. (The alert is localized to the St. Louis Post Dispatch.) I have deleted the surnames from the email image that aren't applicable. I've also deleted my email address.

I don't know why the obituary wasn't found.
A search today on the website returns the obituary.
I may have to stop relying on the email service.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Amanuensis Monday: The Wedding of Harry Feinstein and Dora Serwinsky

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

Below I transcribe an article on the wedding of my great grandfather's brother, found at

St. Louis Republic, 16 Aug 1905, page 4.


Harry S Feinstein Weds Miss Dora Serwinsky With Elaborate Ritual, at Westminster Hall Last Night.

Gayety characterized the wedding of Miss Dora Serwinsky of No. 826 Carr street and Harry S. Feinstein of No. 1122 North Eighth street, who were married last night at 8 o’clock at Westminster Hall, No. 3906 Olive street.

Rabbis Z. Rosenfeld and S. Rosenberg of Tpherish Israel Temple, Ninth and Wash streets, jointly performed the ceremony. More than 1,000 guests were present.

One hundred candles were burned during the ceremony, in accordance with the orthodox custom.

The hall was decorated for the event. Weil’s orchestra furnished the music and rendered the wedding march. The attendants were H.M. Feinstein, brother of the groom, best man; Miss Lillian Serwinsky, sister of the bride, maid of honor; the Misses Sarah Raskas, Jennie Masta and Anna Seigel, bridesmaids; M. L. Serwinsky, Louis Kaufman of Elizabeth, N.J., and Mose Kaufman, groomsmen.

After the wedding a reception and banquet were tendered to the bridal party at Westminster Hall, followed by dancing. In the festivities the entire membership of Tpherish Israel Congregation participated.

Miss Serwinsky is a daughter of A. Serwinsky and is an elocutionist. Mr. Feinstein is a young business man.

The couple were the recipients of many presents and several hundred telegrams. A present of $250 was given to them by the various lodges of which the groom’s father is a member. Among the guests were officials of the Franklin Bank and teachers from the faculty of the Jefferson and Shields schools. Mr. and Mrs. Feinstein departed at 2 a.m. for the East on their wedding trip. They will live at No. 5606 Garfield avenue.


1. The photograph above is from the wedding. Some family members had identified the five men as the five Feinstein brothers. I've known for awhile this isn't the case as the youngest Feinstein brother would have only been 7 years old in 1905. The Bridal Party was a complete unknown.

But now I have a list of the Groomsmen and Bridal Party. Harry Feinstein, the groom, is most likely in the center, behind his bride, Dora Serwinsky. I believe Herman Max Feinstein, my great grandfather, and Harry's best man, is to Harry's right (our left). The other three men are M.L Serwinsky, and Louis and Mose Kaufman. My suspicion is that Dora's sister, Lillian, the bridesmaid, is to her right. The other three women being Sarah Raskas, Jennie Masta, and Anna Sigel. The two young girls aren't identified in the news article.

2. "Weil's Orchestra" refers to an orchestra conducted by William Weil. There are references to the orchestra performing at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904, as well as being the house orchestra for the St. Louis Browns baseball team in the late 1890s.

3. My second great grandfather, Selig Feinstein, father of the groom, was elected President of the Tpheris Israel congregation in 1903, which could explain why the entire congregation showed up at his son's wedding. Or it's possible the entire congregation showed up at the wedding of every congregant.

4. "Elocutionist," is a surprising, and impressive job for the daughter of an immigrant family. Dora was born in Poland in 1884, but was only three when the family immigrated.

5. I was unaware that my second great grandfather was a member of any fraternal lodges. I will need to see if I can find out which ones, and check if there are any records. My great-grandfather's application for the Moolah Shrine Temple in 1927 is where I discovered his alleged birthplace. The most likely fraternal organizations for Selig Feinstein are B'nai B'rith (which still exists), Order of B'rith Abraham, and Progressive Order of the West.  Progressive Order of the West was headquartered in St. Louis.

6. Harry's address is given as 1122 North Eighth. The Feinsteins hadn't yet moved out of the tenements in the Carr Square/Little Jerusalem neighborhood. 826 Carr, the address of the bride, is also in the same neighborhood.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Happy St. Patrick's Day 2018

My Great-Grandfather, Barney Newmark, celebrated his birthday on March 17th, and claimed to have been born in Dublin, Ireland. It's significantly more likely that he was born in Warka, Poland - on the outskirts of Warsaw. The dates of March 25th and April 14th also appear on some documents as his date of birth, but no birth records have been uncovered, so anything is possible. There may be some significance to the fact that there are 20 days between March 25th and April 14th. (12 days adjustment between the Gregorian and Julian calendar, and 8 days between birth and circumcision.) There are also 8 days between March 17th and March 25th.

To the left, he is with his sister, Nellie, likely in 1907 or 1908.

While my Irish ancestry may be somewhat mythological, my wife's isn't. According to some sources, her 3rd great grandfather, Thomas Muldoon, was born in Ireland in 1817, in County Fermanagh.

After a holiday post in 2007, a friend introduced me to online genealogy, and the rest is family history.

Past St. Patrick's Day Posts
2017: Happy St. Patrick's Day 2017
2016: Corned Beef on Rye
2015: Corned Beef on Rye
2014: Happy St. Patrick's Day 2014
2013: Happy St. Patrick's Day
2012: Happy 126th Birthday to my Great Grandfather
2011: Happy St. Patrick's Day
2010: Barney's Birthday and Birthplace
2009: On St. Patrick's Day Everyone is Irish
2008: My 'Irish' Great Grandfather
2007: Corned Beef and Cabbage on Rye

Thursday, March 8, 2018

I Know Jack! The Identification of my Maternal Grandmother's First Husband

Ockham's Razor is the problem-solving principle that, when presented with competing hypothetical answers to a problem, one should select the one that makes the fewest assumptions. The idea is attributed to William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347), who was an English Franciscan friar, scholastic philosopher, and theologian. (source)
Nine years ago I asked the question, "Do you know Jack?"

I knew that my grandmother had received letters in 1919 from her parents consoling her on her divorce from a man named, Jack.

Looking back, I know that I knew back then that Jack was a ubiquitous nickname that any man could use. I also knew back then that divorces take awhile between filing and finalization. How did I conclude there was another marriage in such a short span of time? My grandmother's marriage to Dale Bowlby Ridgely in 1927 only lasted three months, but her first marriage could have lasted longer.

I have found several pieces of evidence recently strongly suggesting Alfred Connevey was Jack.

From the 1919 El Paso City Directory. My grandmother is already using the address 'Miss,' even though she is still using the surname, Connevey. (It is interesting that Alfred Connevey is working at the same address, though for a different company. I am positive this is my grandmother, as she provided a letter of recommendation from China Palace to the St. Louis Post Office when she applied after her divorce was final in 1920.)

From the June 5, 1918 El Paso Herald - my grandmother is listed as Myrtle Connevey, and enrolling in the summer session of high school. She was 18 years old. I know from her application to the St. Louis Post Office that she had attended El Paso High School.

And the clincher: The 1910 Census record for a Jack Connevey residing as a boarder with a Diebel family. I am fairly certain Elsie Deibel was married to my grandmother's brother, Samuel O Van Every, for a period of time. I have not been able to find dates, however, an Elsa Diebel is listed as a wife in the family history notes left by one of my great grandfather's sisters. 

This census record indicates that Jack Connevey was born in 1889. My grandmother was born in 1900. If they were married in 1918, he would have been 29, and my grandmother 18. There is a possibility the marriage may have been in 1917. If Jack was boarding with the Diebels in 1910, there is a question of the ages of him and my grandmother when they first met. My grandmother's brother, Samuel, was born in 1886.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Returning to the question of a Vanevery Surname Non-Paternity Event

Back in 2016 I blogged about the possibility of a Van Every Surname Non-Paternity Event. Several researchers have questioned the parentage of McGregor Van Every (1723-1786). One theory being Martin Van Iveren and an unnamed McGregor mother. One theory being a McGregor father and an unnamed Van Iveren/Vanevery mother.

Either way, there would be Van Every DNA in the descent, so the only way to prove the theories would be through a Y-surname test of a multitude of Van Every male descendants. Which I am not one.

Back in 2016 I noted that in all of my matches, I had 2nd cousins, 3rd cousins, 4th cousins, and 5th cousins, all sharing a Van Every common ancestor. Nothing higher than 5th cousins. All descendants of McGregor's son, David. If there was no Non-Paternity-Event, or even if there was, and one of the prevailing theories was true, one would expect more distant Van Every cousins.

A Shared Ancestor Hint popped up at AncestryDNA recently. (Excerpt below)
This provided a lot of excitement. Though I knew even with the two prevailing theories, I should have a match with someone descended from Martin Van Iveren. So even though our Family Trees matched up, it didn't prove anything. It was nice to see.

And then I checked the individual's Shared Matches.

As I said above, I have DNA matches who are 2nd through 5th cousins, all descended from David Van Every. Not one of them is a shared match with this individual.

Martin Van Iveren is in both of our online family trees. I think I am fairly sure that's not where our shared DNA resides. All of our shared matches have Eastern European Jewish DNA. That's the 75% of my ancestry that doesn't come from my maternal grandmother, Myrtle Van Every Deutsch. [It is fun to see a cousin from that 75% also has Van Iveren/Van Every ancestry.]

Which raises the question again. If neither I, nor any of my Van Every DNA cousins, share any Van Every DNA with this descendant of Martin Van it possible there was a Non-Paternity Event that completely broke the DNA trail. (Like an adoption?) It's certainly possible. Of course, the lack of evidence isn't proof of anything. It just continues to raise the question.  

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Etymology of the Surname Dudelsack/Dudelczak/Dudelzak

When I began researching, all I could find on my ancestral surname, Dudelsack, was the German bagpipe.

Later, once I realized 'Dudel' was a Yiddish diminutive for 'David,' I realized the surname was likely 'Dudelczak' or 'Dudelzak,' and patronymic in origin.

A different etymology is provided in Dictionary of Jewish Surnames From the Russian Empire, by Alexander Bieder, Avotaynu, 1993.

Dudel'zak (Pinsk, Lutsk, Ostrog, Odessa, Rovno) O: from 'nudlzak' [Southeastern Yiddish] needle packing. 

This would make it an occupational surname. Needle packing is probably related to the profession of tailor. The entry also provides some locations where the surname could be found.

It's worth noting that there are several surnames in the dictionary that are based on the Yiddish diminutive, 'Dudel.'

Monday, February 19, 2018

Anna Yetta Babchik Blufston - 1873-1930

I wrote most of the below in 2016, but I put it aside, confused by the information I had. Now I know more. 

Several years ago I shared a passenger manifest from the TSS New Amsterdam, October 28, 1891.

The Feinsteins included Nechama (my 2nd great grandmother), Gitel (my 3rd great grandmother), and Nechama's children Hersch, Chaim (my great grandfather), Berl, and Pearl. There was also an 18 year old woman named Yetta Feinstein traveling with them. Who was she? I didn't know then. I know a lot more about her now, but I'm not really any closer to figuring out what I want to know. [I wrote that in 2016. I'm a lot closer now.]

My second great grandfather, Selig Dudelczak, immigrated a year earlier. Gitel was his mother. It was always known that the family changed their name to Feinstein in America. The popular story was that the person ahead of them in line at Ellis Island was named Feinstein. Of course, Ellis Island wasn't open yet. And beyond that, Selig traveled under the name Dudelczak, and nobody named Feinstein arrived at Castle Garden at the same time. (Or at least there are no Feinsteins in the Castle Garden database for that date.) Five years ago my first thought was that perhaps Yetta was the mystery Feinstein. It was just Nechama who changed the name, not Selig.

Recently, I believe, I have uncovered documents for Yetta.

In August of 1894 she married Samuel Blufstein in the City of St. Louis. (I have found the marriage certificate that confirms they did get married.) 

In the 1910 census, Samuel and Anna Y Blufston are residing in St. Louis

How do I know that Anna Y is Yetta, and Samuel Blufston is Samuel Blufstein?

Anna Y was born in 1873, which matches an 18 year old woman in 1891. She also immigrated in 1891 from Russia. It could be a coincidence. There's also the daughter Etta.

On June 9, 1929, Samuel Blufston's obituary appeared in the St. Louis Post Dispatch

This obituary suggests, if Anna Y was the passenger on the manifest, her real name wasn't Feinstein either. It was Babchik.  (Her death certificate states her father was Jacob Babchik.)

How was Yetta related to Sylvia Dudelczak Babchik Blufston, sister of my second great grandfather? She was born at about the same time as Sylvia. 

Her obituary (something I hadn't yet found in 2016) provides a possible answer. From the Aug 6, 1930 St. Louis Post Dispatch

The obituary states she is a sister of Bertha Rovin, Goldie Klein, Harry, Leo and Etta Buflston. These are the children of Sylvia. However, she is the same age as Sylvia, so Sylvia can't be her mother.

However, Sylvia's first husband could have had a prior wife, and a daughter. Having a significantly younger second wife isn't uncommon at that time. This would make Sylvia a step-mother of Anna Yetta, and Anna Yetta would be a step sister to Sylvia's children. While none of the obituaries for Bertha, Goldie, Harry, Leo or Etta mention Anna, this is the most likely solution to all the documents I have uncovered to date. More documents might suggest a different answer.

This theory still doesn't explain why the Feinstein surname was chosen, by the Dudelczaks, or Anna Yetta Babchik.

This is my last blog post related to the Dudelczak immigrants - until I discover more.