Thursday, December 22, 2016

Hanuka Songs

As a kid I believe I knew four Hanuka songs:
  • Maoz Tzur (Rock of Ages)
  • Who Can Retell
  • Oh Hanukah, Oh Hanukah
  • The Dreidel Song
Of those, my favorite was Who Can Retell

Who can retell the things that befell us?
Who can count them?
In every age, a hero or sage 
came to our aid.

In days of yore in Israel’s ancient land
Brave Maccabeus led the faithful band
But now all Israel must as one arise
Redeem itself through deed and sacrifice.

Short, simple, and extremely serious for a childhood favorite. Looking back as a parent, I like the emphasis that it is possible to come to the world's aid through wisdom and learning, as well as heroics.

I believe the first Hanuka song I heard outside of these four was Peter, Paul and Mary's Light One Candle. The second was probably Tom Lehrer's Hanukah in Santa Monica. (Though, despite the title, the song mentions several Jewish holidays, and several locations, so it is appropriate for year-round play.)

In recent years, it seems, the pace of new Jewish holiday songs has been increasing exponentially. Especially in the overlapping genres of humor and song parodies. I love humor, but I prefer even the lighthearted song to take the holiday at least somewhat seriously. Adam Sandler now has four versions of his Hanukah Song listing Jewish celebrities "just like you and me." (In my opinion, the sequels seem very redundant after the original. Beating a one-joke horse.)

Following are 8 videos of some of my current favorites

Here's a long list of songs updated annually for the past several years

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Favorite Christmas Carol

The footnoteMaven is continuing her annual tradition of hosting Blog Caroling.
So my fellow GeneaBloggers, I challenge each of you to blog or post to Facebook your favorite Christmas Carol - Blog Caroling. We'll all sing along! (Blog Caroling is posting the lyrics, youtube video, etc. of your favorite Christmas carol on your blog.)
I last participated in 2008. I may deserve a little coal in my stocking.
While Jewish, I am familiar with a few Christmas Carols.

Here's Carol Burnett performing a poem she claims to have written at age 12

Christmas Carol. Get it?

For those who want a song, and perhaps something a bit more traditional.
2016 began with the passing of David Bowie. In his honor:

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Moshe Blatt son of Jacob - Who did he marry?

The marriage document I shared last week was written in Old Russian. I received the below information from a translator:
  • Międzyrzec [Podlaski], Jul 25 1885, 6 p.m.
  • Witnesses: Sucher Rozencwejg (Isokher Rosenzweig), 57 yo, and Izrail (Isroel) Pizmanter, 36 yo, both Międzyrzec dwellers
  • religious ceremony was at 5 p.m., same day
  • groom: Moszko Jankiel (Moyshe Yakev) Blatyta, Łosice dweller, bachelor, 22 yo, son of Jankiel and Perla alive, spouses Blatyta who live in Łosice
  • bride: Chaja Bejla (Khaye Beyle) Boksern, Międzyrzec dweller, maiden, 16 yo, daughter of Chaim Erma (Khayem Irmye) and Ruchla Leja (Rokhl Leye) alive, spouses Boksern, she's living with her parents
  • So, are these my second great grandparents? A very good question.
I do know (from his tombstone) that my second great grandfather, Moshe (Morris) Blatt, was the son of a Yacov Blatt. (Yankiel is a Yiddish diminutive for Jacob). He is said to have been from Łosice.  Family lore also stated my second great grandmother was named Belle (or Bela) Wyman. When another Blatt/Blatyta researcher sent me their research several years ago, all I knew was what was in the Polish archives index, which didn't include the details above. One of Moshe Blatt's granddaughters recalled being told that her grandmother had a prior marriage. So it was reasonable to conclude that Belle Wyman could have married a Boksern before marrying my second great grandfather. But the details of the marriage document specify Chaia Beila Boksern was a 16 year old, and not previously married.
  • So could family lore be wrong about her surname?
My second great grandmother died in Poland. One of my second great grandfather's daughters married someone with the surname Wyman. There were family jokes about the possibility of his relationship to his deceased mother-in-law. And there weren't enough generations lapsing inbetween for much confusion. Surely Morris would have told his daughters the correct surname of their deceased mother?
  • Might there have been two Moshe Blatts, sons of Yacov Blatt, who married a woman named Belle/Bela, living in Losice? Sure.
My second great grandfather's death certificate states his date of birth was Sept 9, 1864. Informant, his second wife. Polish archives states Moshe Blatt, son of Yankiel and Perla, was born on May 1, 1862.

This also raised questions previously, but dates of birth can move around. For example, I know that my great grandfather's sister, Nelly Newmark, has documented dates of birth for both March 1889, and December 25, 1886. Without a birth record, it's unclear which is accurate. (Though I lean towards the earlier school record of Dec 25, 1886)
  • DNA tells me that I am related to the Blatyta family. In some fashion. So if they are separate people, my Moshe Blatt was related to that Moszko Blatyta. But I don't know how.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Oops, make that Russian

I've written several times about converting calendar dates from Julian to Gregorian, and how part of Poland switched from Gregorian to Julian in the 19th century under Russian control. (example).

So, since I knew that the Poland where my ancestors lived was under Russian control at the time, you would think when I discovered a 19th century marriage record in a Polish database, it would occur to me that there were multiple languages it could be written in? And that perhaps the most likely was not Polish.

Well, anyway, I've been informed that I need to find a Russian translator.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Polish Marriage Record of Moszko (Morris) Blatyta and Chaia Beila Boksern

The below image comes from JewishGen's Polish archives - in particular: (Miedzyrzec Podlaski PSA Births, Deaths 1869-1901,09-11,13,14 Marriages 1869-1901,09-11,13)

It is supposed to be the marriage record of a Moszko Yankel Blatyta and Chaia Beila Boksern - 1885 - that's the only information in the archive's index, and I can't read the Polish Russian. [I'm unable to even find the names on the document, so there is a possibility there is a mistake and the link on the website goes to the wrong image.] I hope to find someone who can translate the document for me.

I believe this to be the marriage record of my second great grandparents Morris and Beila Blatt. Family lore suggests Chaia Beila had a prior marriage, and her maiden name was Wyman.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

We're Related: Elvis Presley?

The latest celebrity kin Ancestry's mobile app has suggested for me is Elvis Presley. This interests me primarily since this is the first Dutch shared ancestry that has appeared.

All of my celebrity kin are through my maternal grandmother's VanEvery ancestry, but most of them branch off from the VanEvery line with my second great grandmother Abigail Stuart, who married Samuel VanEvery. A few branch off with Sarah Showers, my fourth great grandmother, wife of David VanEvery. However, while those lineages travel through my VanTock ancestors, they end up with alleged ancestors named Pierce, Cole and Rice, suggesting we're still in the Commonwealth.

My alleged connection to Elvis travels through Elizabeth Meyer, wife of my 7th great grandfather, Burger VanIveren.  Meyer isn't necessarily a Dutch surname, and I notice that the information above doesn't include a date of birth or death for Elizabeth, suggesting that the connection to Henrickje Hermans might not be heavily documented. There's also the issue of the possible Non-Paternity Event in my VanEvery line around McGregory VanEvery.


I've revised the spreadsheet I've created for documenting the celebrity kin from the Ancestry app. I am now indicating the furthest ancestor I have confirmed in my alleged lineage, and how many generations there are between that ancestor and the alleged shared ancestor. This will tell me where I need to begin my research.

Since I wasn't writing this down at first, before the App reinitialized my data, there are several blanks. I assumed I would have the charts the app provides for future reference, but this was an incorrect assumption.

It appears, if my goal is to confirm the most celebrity kin, I should focus my attention on Abigail Clark's ancestors. (That isn't actually my goal.)

Note: Some genealogy bloggers have indicated that their biggest complaint with the App is that it extends their lines back further than they have researched. (Using connections they either know are wrong, or at least highly unlikely.) I admit, that's my favorite part of the App. I certainly don't trust the information the App provides, but it provides me with something to research. And it is partly my joy of researching (almost anything) that propels my genealogy obsession.

Also, I haven't done a lot of "End-of-Line" research on some of these ancestors so I am more likely to be helped in this regard than some other researchers.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Ancestry We're Related Update

It’s been two weeks since the software glitch that reinitialized my We’re Related celebrity connections. I haven’t heard back from the customer service team beyond  their initial response that they hoped to have a fix within a week. However, my connections have been rebuilding at their former pace, and as I suspected, a handful of new connections are being presented along with some they had previously informed me about. (In addition to two new alleged celebrity cousins, several of those in the first batch have been presented to me with new, closer, shared ancestors.)

Current matches, relationships, alleged shared ancestors, and notes:
1. Bill Gates – 9th cousin 1x removed – Hannah Gore (A)
2. Meghan Trainor – 9th cousin 2x removed – John Lathrop
3. Lady Gaga – 10th cousin – Sarah Purrier (B)
4. Britney Spears – 9th cousin 2x removed – John Smith
5. Marilyn Monroe – 9th cousin – Ruth Wheldon (C)
6. Johnny Depp – 9th cousin 2x removed – Capt. Richard Betts
7. Matt Damon – 9th cousin 1x removed – James Clark
8. Jessica Simpson – 10th cousin – Gabriel Wheldon
9. Christina Aguilera – 10th cousin – Barnabas Wines
10. Walt Disney – 8th cousin 3x removed – Rice Cole (D)
11. Ronald Reagan – 10th cousin – Thomasine Constable
12. John Kerry – 9th Cousin – Capt Richard Betts (E)
13. Bill Clinton – 9th cousin 2x removed – Mary Iddenden (F)
14. Stephen King – 10th Cousin – Robert Chamberlain (G)
15. Ben Franklin – 4th Cousin 9x Removed – Sir William Jones (H)
16. Ralph Waldo Emerson – 6th cousin 4 x removed – Gabriel Wheldon (I)
17. Carrie Underwood - 9th cousin 2x removed - John Lathrop
18. Abraham Lincoln - 8th cousin 2x removed - Thomas Taylor
19. Mark Twain - 6th cousin 3x removed - Capt. Richard Betts

A) Bill Gates had been listed as my 9th cousin 2x removed with Susannah Hinckley as our alleged shared ancestor. A closer relationship appears to have been found.
B) Lady Gaga had been listed as my 10th cousin with Thomas Mapes as our alleged shared ancestor. I think the new relationship is the same, except they have now decided to provide Thomas Mapes’ wife as the shared ancestor.
C) Marilyn Monroe had been listed as my 9th cousin 1x removed with our alleged shared ancestor Thomas Burgess. Here too, a closer relationship appears to have been found.
D) Walt Disney had been listed as my 9th cousin 1x removed with Rose Kerrich as our shared ancestor. I consider 8th cousin 3x removed to be more distant, but it is possible the app doesn’t.
E) This is the confirmed relationship that I already knew about for John Kerry, with shared ancestors Capt. Richard Betts and Joanna Chamberlain (daughter of Robert Chamberlain and Elizabeth Stoughton). Closer than the alleged 9th cousin 1x removed with shared ancestor Thomas Clarke.
F) Bill Clinton is a new alleged cousin. Mary Iddenden doesn't appear in his ancestry in the 2009 edition of Ancestors of American Presidents. I haven't confirmed Mary Iddenden as my ancestor, either.
G) Stephen King is a new alleged cousin. I can confirm my descent from Robert Chamberlain and Joanna Stoughton. Stephen King appeared on Finding your Roots, and the app's suggested lineage for King carries the ancestry researched on the show back several more generations, and the ancestry at several online sites stops where Finding Your Roots stops. So I find the lineage for him alleged by the app to be doubtful.
H) Ben Franklin had been listed as my 6th cousin 7x removed with alleged shared ancestor Cecilia Nevill. I consider 4th cousin 9x removed to be equidistant, but I suspect the app considers it closer.
I) Emerson had been listed as my 6th cousin 4x removed with alleged shared ancestor Mary Durrant. This is equidistant.