Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Happy Hanuka!

Hanuka isn’t going to be celebrated for a couple weeks. It begins on the evening of December 2nd, this year. However, tomorrow is the day Hanuka would fall on if instead of the Hebrew calendar, we used the Gregorian calendar. The 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev in 164 BCE fell on November 21.

Of course, Pope Gregory hadn’t been born yet in 164 BCE. Jesus hadn’t been born yet. Not only was there no such thing as the Gregorian calendar, Julius Caesar hadn’t been born, so there was no Julian Calendar.

Moreover, the Hebrew calendar wasn’t standardized yet. Each Hebrew month began after two people declared they saw the crescent moon. So two different communities could be slightly off from one another, but each month there was a reboot.

So November 21 is an estimate.
The 25th of Kislev is an estimate too.

Happy Hanuka!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Amanuensis Monday: A Protest Against Agitation Against Japanese Farmers - 1919

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.

Today I transcribe a newspaper transcript of a protest my maternal grandmother's father lodged with the agricultural department of the El Paso Chamber of Commerce against any agitation to keep Japanese farmers out of the El Paso valley. It's not clear if the newspaper included the entire text of the protest. Some of the language makes me cringe, but giving some leeway for the year, I am glad my great grandfather didn't fall victim to the xenophobia of his times.

Tue, Nov 18, 1919 – 8 · El Paso Times (El Paso, El Paso, Texas, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

A protest against any agitation to keep Japanese farmers out of the El Paso Valley has been lodged with the agricultural department of the El Paso Chamber of Commerce by M.E. Van Every, a farmer of the lower valley.

Is For Americans

“I want to say that I am an American and believe in America for Americans, or those who wish to become Americans,” he writes, “and believe in the uplifting of my own race. But when this race degenerates so that it fears that another race will crowd them to the wall as farmers, I say move to town and start an oil company and sell stock to the little yellow fellow while he tills the soil.”

Mr. Van Every declares that there is a great deal of room for improvement in the farming methods in the lower valley. He praises the work done by the Japanese in California, saying:

Likes Japs in California

“Take the Japs out of California and you have killed the goose that lays the golden egg. They have made farming in California what it is, and they have caused land values to go higher than ever before.

“’When the Japanese come the whites go.’ It is about as well to go if we can’t compete with another race. Perhaps if we whites, who depend on Mexican labor and our country merchant for a living, were to leave and give a class of people who will work their own farms a chance, not so many country merchants would go broke, and our valley would have the appearance of the valleys in California, and our own land would sell for what it is worth, and not for what we can get for it.

Hits at Birth Rate.

“It is an appalling fact that the birth rate among Americans is not what it should be, and I am glad to note that the Japanese as a race are not afraid of their birthrate. If we cannot compete with the Japs I for one am willing to throw up the sponge and leave it with them.”

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Ahoy Vey! -- Jewish Pirates

Repost with slight changes

Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. As well as the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

What would be an appropriate topic, albeit perhaps a little afield from the subject of genealogy, for a blog post combining the two?

How about Jean Lafitte, the possibly Jewish Pirate?

[image - late 19th century artist's conception. [source]

The facts of his origins, and those of his demise as well, depend upon whether you believe the "Journal of Jean Lafitte" is a forgery or not. Discovered in the possession of a claimed descendant.
"My grandmother was a Spanish-Israelite. ... Grandmother told me repeatedly of the trials and tribulations her ancestors had endured at the time of the Spanish Inquisition. ... Grandmother's teachings ... inspired in me a hatred of the Spanish Crown and all the persecutions for which it was responsible -- not only against Jews." [source]
According to one account, Jean Lafitte was killed upon the General Santander, an armed private vessel in the service of Columbia, on Feb. 5, 1823, at the age of 41. In the Gulf of Honduras, the General Santander encountered two Spanish privateers or warships, and was mortally wounded in a brief battle with the vessels and buried at sea ...  
According to Lafitte's Journal ( which many believe to be a hoax, claimed to have been found by a great grand son of Lafitte) written by Lafitte himself in 1851, he took the name John Lafflin and died in St. Louis in his 70s. [source]
As a St. Louisan, this last definitely interests me. Though I have been unable to determine where John Lafflin (whether or not in reality Jean Lafitte) is supposed to be buried. Mysteries tend to surround pirates, don't they?

However, while the origins of Jean Lafitte are controversial, in Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean, author Edward Kritzler makes the claim for several others. Some of the earlier ones are said to have gone into the piracy business as revenge against the inquisition.
One such pirate was Moses Cohen Henriques, who helped plan one of history's largest heists against Spain. In 1628, Henriques set sail with Dutch West India Co. Admiral Piet Hein, whose own hatred of Spain was fueled by four years spent as a galley slave aboard a Spanish ship. Henriques and Hein boarded Spanish ships off Cuba and seized shipments of New World gold and silver worth in today's dollars about the same as Disney's total box office for "Dead Man's Chest." [source]
Of course, pirates tend to break a few commandments in their daily routine. Ends rarely justify the means, and revenge isn't generally considered a morally appropriate explanation for deeds. One wonders if the above Jewish pirates recited the Al Chet (confession of sins) yearly on Yom Kippur.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Labor Day Weekend 2018

As you light up your barbecues this weekend and enjoy your day off from work Monday (those who have the day off) - take some part of the day to consider the advancements we have made in workers' rights over the last century - Many of us may have ancestors who worked in the coal mines or sweatshops.

Also, consider in what ways the struggles aren't over.

Here's a playlist of songs which may help.

A Pict Song - Rudyard Kipling (1917)

Rome never looks where she treads,
Always her heavy hooves fall,
On our stomachs, our hearts or our heads;
And Rome never heeds when we bawl.
Her sentries pass on—that is all,
And we gather behind them in hordes,
And plot to reconquer the Wall,
With only our tongues for our swords.

We are the Little Folk—we !
Too little to love or to hate.
Leave us alone and you'll see
How we can drag down the Great!
We are the worm in the wood !
We are the rot at the root!
We are the germ in the blood !
We are the thorn in the foot !

Mistletoe killing an oak—
Rats gnawing cables in two—
Moths making holes in a cloak—
How they must love what they do!
Yes,—and we Little Folk too,
We are as busy as they—
Working our works out of view—
Watch, and you'll see it some day!

No indeed ! We are not strong,
But we know Peoples that are.
Yes, and we'll guide them along,
To smash and destroy you in War!
We shall be slaves just the same ?
Yes, we have always been slaves;
But you—you will die of the shame,
And then we shall dance on your graves.

We are the Little Folk, we ! etc.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Amanuensis Monday: Obituary for Everett Van Every - 1924

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.

Today I transcribe a news article on the death of Everett Clarence VanEvery (1906-1924), the nephew of my maternal grandmother. Clipping found at Newspapers.com

ObituaryWed, Apr 2, 1924 – Page 1 · The Austin American (Austin, Texas) · Newspapers.com


Everett VanEvery Victim Of Cramps Attack.

Everett VanEvery, 16, senior student in Austin high school, son of Mrs. Charles Haynie, 2108 Swisher street, met death by drowning Tuesday afternoon at 2 o'clock while swimming with comrades in Campbell's hole on Barton creek, about one mile above Barton Springs.

VanEvery was a member of a picnic party composed of senior high school students, which was being conducted at Barton Springs park.

Overcome by Cramps.

VanEvery and several companions went to Campbell's hole shortly after eating dinner and were in swimming when the unfortunate youth was overcome by cramps and sank to the bottom of a 15-foot hole. His companions made an effort to rescue him as he sank, but were unable to help him. They then hurried to Barton Springs for aid and after half an hour, VanEvery's body was brought to the surface by D. Hamilton, special officer at the municipal swimming resort, and M. C. Muckleroy and Abe Parks, high school students.

Lungmotor Fails.

An effort to revive VanEvery by means of a lungmotor rushed to the scene of the drowning by the Rosengren-Cook Undertaking establishment was made, but proved futile. Charles G. Haynie, barber, the youth's stepfather, made the call to the scene of the drowning with the Rosengren-Cook ambulance.

After efforts to revive the youth were abandoned, the body was carried to the home of his parents on Swisher street.

Funeral services will be held this afternoon at 3 o'clock at the home of young Van Every's grandmother, Mrs. A. M. Dahlin. 1703 Sabine street. At 3:30 o'clock services will be held at the Swedish Methodist church. The services will be conducted by Rev. K.G. Norberg.

Charles B. Cook will direct the funeral.

Active pallbearers are: Clifford Palmier, Joseph Rubenson, Louis Lindahl, Ernest Severine. Harold Laveen, Louis Sward.

Honorary pallbearers are: Henry McCallum, Dan Ward, William Deveraux. Albert Haynes. Gustave Watkins and Charles Lewis.

1) This goes into much greater detail of the incident than I have been able to uncover from his death certificate, previous newspaper articles, and family. There had been some question of whether he had drowned in Barton Creek, or in Deep Eddy Pool, which is in a community named after the creek. This article clarifies it was in the creek, or more specifically, Campbell's Hole.

2) I knew that Everett's mother had married Charles Haynie at some point before her death, since his name appears on her death certificate, but I didn't know it was before Everett's death.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Poetry Friday - 1492 - Emma Lazarus

Emma Lazarus, (1849 - 1887)

Thou two-faced year, Mother of Change and Fate,
Didst weep when Spain cast forth with flaming sword,
The children of the prophets of the Lord,
Prince, priest, and people, spurned by zealot hate.
Hounded from sea to sea, from state to state,
The West refused them, and the East abhorred.
No anchorage the known world could afford,
Close-locked was every port, barred every gate.
Then smiling, thou unveil’dst, O two-faced year,
A virgin world where doors of sunset part,
Saying, “Ho, all who weary, enter here!
There falls each ancient barrier that the art
Of race or creed or rank devised, to rear
Grim bulwarked hatred between heart and heart!”

The Alhambra Decree was signed March 31, 1492, and Spain's Jews originally had four months to leave. That was extended by 10 days to August 10th.

Columbus set sail on August 3, 1492. In his crew was the interpreter, Luis de Torres. Born Yosef ben HaLevi HaIvri, he had converted to Catholicism on August 2nd.

The Alhambra Decree was officially revoked on December 16, 1968.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Days of Love - Religious and Personal

Tu b'Av is a relatively obscure Jewish holiday that falls on the fifteenth day of the month of Av (sundown Thursday, July 26 to sundown Friday, July 27 this year).

The fifteenth day of each month on the Hebrew calendar falls on a full moon, and the holiday was observed as a sort of fertility festival during the period of the Second Temple. After the destruction of the Second Temple, it was forgotten for the most part in the Diaspora, only to be revived in modern times as a Jewish alternative to St. Valentine's Day.

To some, St. Valentine's Day, or Tu B'Av, may feel manufactured for greeting card companies, florists, and chocolatiers. However, most couples have their own personal "Days of Love." Whether the annual date commemorates a first date, an engagement, a marriage, or another anniversary, it's significant only to the individual couple.The memories connected with these dates are often stronger than the ones associated with the annual religious or societal holidays. Still, any reason for two people to celebrate their love for one another is a good reason.

To A Lady
by Victor Hugo,
From Les Feuilles D'Automne

Child, were I king, I'd yield my royal rule,
     My chariot, sceptre, vassal-service due,
My crown, my porphyry-basined waters cool,
My fleets, whereto the sea is but a pool,
     For a glance from you!

Love, were I God, the earth and its heaving airs,
     Angels, the demons abject under me,
Vast chaos with its teeming womby lairs,
Time, space, all would I give--aye, upper spheres,
     For a kiss from thee!

translation by Thomas Hardy
photogravure by Goupil et Cie, from a drawing by Deveria, appears in a collection of Hugo's poetry published by Estes and Lauriat in the late 1800s.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Amenuensis Monday: Obituary for Julia Wallace (1867-1934)

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.

Today I transcribe the obituary for Julia (Wallis) Wallace (1867-1934), the second wife of my wife's second great grandfather, John T Wallace. Clipping found at Newspapers.com

Funeral services for Mrs. Julia Wallace, 66 years old, who died Tuesday at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Elmer Kindred, in Crowder, were conducted at the residence at 10 o'clock Wednesday morning by the Rev. A.C. Sullivan, pastor of the Morehouse Baptist church. Burial was in Memorial Park cemetery.

Mrs. Wallace, who had been ill for approximately a year, was born in Florence, Ala. on June 2, 1867. In March 1898 she married John Wallace. She had been a member of the Missionary Baptist church at Vanduser for the last twenty-six years.

Besides Mrs. Kindred, Mrs. Wallace is survived by two daughters, Mrs. Verbal Rodgers, Sikeston, and Mrs. Edna Hamlin, Vanduser; two sons, Alva Wallace, Vanduser and Arthur Wallace, Morehouse; three stepsons, Turner and David Wallace, Vanduser, and Jim Wallace, Morehouse; and thirteen grandchildren. Three children have died. Mr. Wallace has been dead for eighteen years. Welsh service.

1) My wife's second great grandfather had two wives, Lorrah Wallis and Julia Wallis. All indications are that when his first wife died in 1893, he married her younger sister the following year. Lorrah was the mother of my wife's great grandfather, John Turner Wallace. (I haven't yet verified the parents of Lorrah and Julia that are indicated on some Ancestry.com family trees are accurate.) Wallis and Wallace are alternate spellings of the same surname, so John T Wallace may have been related to his wives in some fashion, perhaps distantly.

2) The obituary doesn't list the names of the children who predeceased Julia. Jesse (1902-1911) is one of them. I'm guessing the other two died as infants between censuses.

3) "Welsh service" is a reference to "Welsh Funeral Home," which is now called "Ponder Funeral Home."

Monday, July 2, 2018

Amanuensis Monday: Obituary of Melvin Van Every (1863-1929)

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.

Today I transcribe the obituary for my great grandfather, Melvin E. Van Every, which appeared in The El Paso Times, May 29, 1929. I found the obituary at Newspapers.com.

MELVIN E. VAN EVERY, 66, of Garfield, N.M. Funeral services were held from the chapel of Kaster and Maxon at 4 o'clock Tuesday afternoon with the Rev. W. Angie Smith officiating. Burial was in Evergreen cemetery. Pallbears were members of the  W.O.W. Mr. Van Every is survived by his widow, three daughters, Mrs. Minnie Benold and Mrs. I.T. Herrin, both of El Paso, and Miss Myrtle Van Every of Kansas City, Mo., and one son, Dr. S.O. Van Every of Kansas City.


1) I believe W.O.W. stands for Woodmen of the World, a fraternal benefit organization that provides life insurance for its members. From other sources I already knew my great grandfather was a Freemason.

2) My grandmother, Myrtle, appears in the St. Louis City directories every year between 1921 and 1930. It is possible, however, that she spent some time in Kansas City with her brother, as well. She appears in the St. Louis census in 1930, but her brother is listed as living with a woman named, Myrtle, in the Kansas City census. The woman is listed as a wife, but no record with her appearance after the census has been uncovered. I think it's possible my grandmother would occasionally visit her brother, and whoever provided the information for the census (a landlord perhaps) wasn't aware they were brother and sister.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Amanuensis Monday: Ebenezer Denyer's Muster Roll Index Cards

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.

The service record of Ebenezer Denyer, my second great grandfather, is described in A Brief History of John and Christian Fretz, Rev. A.J. Fretz, 1890.

"Mr. Denyer served in the Mexican War of 1848, with Captain Henry McCohlogh, and was with the Ohio Rangers for several years. About 1858, he moved to Onion Creek, Hays County, Texas, where he remained until the breaking out of the Civil War, when, after moving his wife to her mother's home in Eastern Texas, he joined the 2nd, Texas Company Volunteers, mustered at Marcos, Hays County, in the summer of 1861, and served throughout the war in the Confederate service. He was taken prisoner at Vicksburgh, Mississippi, was exchanged, and laid in the hospital at Galveston until the close of the war."

My grandmother wrote to the Department of Interior in 1933, providing what she knew from the above family history, and requesting confirmation of her grandfather's war service. She was seeking membership in the Daughters of the Confederacy, and her nephew was seeking a scholarship. She received responses from both the Department of War and the Texas Library and Historical Commission State Library.

Several years ago I found his muster roll records at Fold3.

Recently I found  his name in the Texas Muster Roll Index Cards database at Ancestry. There wasn't any new information, which isn't surprising. They're index cards for the muster rolls I had already found. But in addition to providing a summary of his activities, there was a surprise waiting for me on the last index card below.

Ancestry Database: Texas, Muster Roll Index Cards, 1838-1900

Source information:Ancestry.com. Texas, Muster Roll Index Cards, 1838-1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

Original data: Civil War Muster Rolls index Cards (both Confederate and Union). Also Texas State Rangers. Austin, Texas: Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Name: Ebenezer U. Denyer
Rank: Private
Com. off: Capt. Henry E. McCulloch
Organ: Texas Vols.
Date enlist: Oct 25, 1848
Date disch: Dec. 8, 1848
Age: 20
Remarks: 1 month. 13 days service. Ranger Muster Rolls.
Name & Rank: Denyer, Ebinezer, Pvt.,
Comm. Off: Collins, Thos. B. 2nd Lieut.,
Organ: Co. "E", 2nd Tex. Vol. Inf., Col. Ashbel Smith, CSA.
Enlist: June 12-62 in Hays Cty. for the war.
Disch: Served 3 months at $11 per month
Remarks: R&F 61; Roll dated Dec. 31-62 to Feb 28-63; En.Off. Randall; Last paid D.1-62; Am't of Pay $33; Bal. Paid $33; Transferred from conscript.camp June 11-63; Detached service as Teamster Ja.17-63; Stationed at Camp Maury, Miss.; Disc. Instr., Arms,
Accoutr. & Clothing good; Military appearance fine; Co. moved to Yazoo City Feb. 10th; N.L. McGinnis Insp. & Mus. Off.;
Name & Rank: Denyer, Ebenizar, O[phan], Pvt.,
Comm. Off: Holder, Wm., Capt.,
Organ: Co. E, 2nd Regt., TVI, Col. Ashbel Smith Comdg., CSA
Enlist: Je.12-62 in Hays City. for the war
Descrip: R&F 62; En.Off. Randall; Mus.Off. Col.Ashbel Smith; Last Paid Ja.12-'63; Disc.,Instr.Mil.App.&Cloth.good; Arms & Accoutr, in good order; Change of sts.F26-63 from Camp Maury near Yazoo City to Ft. Pemberton; from Ft. Pemberton Ap.11-64 to Camp Timmons near 
Vicksburg; Sta. in the field in Miss. Ap.30-63. Detached service as teamster Ja.17-63; [Married Sarah Ann Hartly. This information received from his granddaughter, Miss Myrtle Van Every, St. Louis, MO.]


1) The information on the last index card above clearly matches the information the Texas Library and Historical Commission State Library gave my grandmother in 1933. I love that they added to their record some of the information she had given them, and cited her as the source. I'm certain that the bracketed part of Ebenezer Denyer's middle name also came from my grandmother.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

JRI-Poland Record Indexing and Morris Blatt

JRI-Poland.org (Jewish Records Indexing - Poland) is a must for anyone researching their Polish Jewish roots. Four of my 16 second great grandparents came from Poland - Samuel Newmark, Rose Cantkert, Morris Blatt, and his wife, Belle.

Not only have they indexed a lot of records, and are slowly digitizing those records and linking to the images from the index, they provide a summary of the records that are available from each town, and the status of the indexing.

As can be seen below, while they aren't done, they've done a great job indexing the available records from Losice, where my Blatt ancestors came from. Unfortunately, my great grandmother, Anna Blatt, was born in 1888, and her older sister, Blanche, in 1886. Neither year is available. I interpret that to mean that the records from those years haven't survived. If so, no amount of waiting will make them magically appear online.
That means I have to rely on the records that do exist.

1) Anna's father was Morris (Moshe) Blatt, son of Jacob or Yankiel Blatt. (Source: tombstone)
2) Moshe Blatyta, son of Yankiel Blatyta married Chaia Beila Boksern in 1885. (record indexed, and digitally available online). Chaia Beila was 16 and Moshe Blatya 22. It was the first marriage for both of them. Many other individuals with the Blatyta surname shortened it to Blatt.
3) Anna's daughter, Belle, and Blanche's daughter, Belle, were both named after their grandmother (Family history).

Family history indicated Moshe Blatt's wife was named Belle Wyman. Jokes were made because their daughter, Blanche married a Wyman. While their mother died in Poland, there wasn't enough of a generational gap to yield too much confusion. However, Chaia Beila Boksern could have had a Wyman ancestor in her family tree, which could have been conflated to mean that it was her maiden name.

4) Moshe Blatyta was born in 1862 (Record indexed). According to his death certificate, Morris Blatt was born in 1864. Both 1862 and 1864 birth records have been indexed. That doesn't mean there weren't birth records from 1864 that have been lost.

There could have been two Moshes son of Yankiel born two years apart. But absent contrary evidence, I'm leaning towards accepting that there was only one. I admit that the availability of the birth records for both Moshe and his father, Yankiel Blatyta (though not yet digitized) is an influencing factor. I'm also slightly influenced by the fact that if the relationship is correct, according to the research of another genealogist, my grandmother was second cousins with Jay Black (David Blatt) of Jay and The Americans.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day - 2018

Below is my annual post for Memorial Day.

A post on what Memorial Day is for, besides barbecues.

The above image comes from a past version of the Memorial Day page at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, explaining that Memorial Day is a day for remembering those who died in the service of their country.  [Read the full text of the poem.]
Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. men and women who died while in the military service. First enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War (it is celebrated near the day of reunification after the civil war), it was expanded after World War I to include American casualties of any war or military action. [source]
[More on the history of Memorial Day]

Unnamed Remains the Bravest Soldier - by Walt Whitman (From 'Specimen Days')

OF scenes like these, I say, who writes—whoe’er can write the story? Of many a score—aye, thousands, north and south, of unwrit heroes, unknown heroisms, incredible, impromptu, first-class desperations—who tells? No history ever—no poem sings, no music sounds, those bravest men of all—those deeds. No formal general’s report, nor book in the library, nor column in the paper, embalms the bravest, north or south, east or west. Unnamed, unknown, remain, and still remain, the bravest soldiers. Our manliest—our boys—our hardy darlings; no picture gives them. Likely, the typic one of them (standing, no doubt, for hundreds, thousands,) crawls aside to some bush-clump, or ferny tuft, on receiving his death-shot—there sheltering a little while, soaking roots, grass and soil, with red blood—the battle advances, retreats, flits from the scene, sweeps by—and there, haply with pain and suffering (yet less, far less, than is supposed,) the last lethargy winds like a serpent round him—the eyes glaze in death—none recks—perhaps the burial-squads, in truce, a week afterwards, search not the secluded spot—and there, at last, the Bravest Soldier crumbles in mother earth, unburied and unknown.

The cartoon above is by John T. McCutcheon - published circa 1900

I have many ancestors and kin who served in their nation's armed forces during war-time. I honor them on Veterans Day.

However, the closest relative who was killed in action was my grandfather's brother, my great-uncle, Mandell Newmark.

Mandell was born Jan 31, 1923. He was almost certainly named after his great-grandfather Mandell Mojsabovski. He enlisted in the army on Feb 22, 1943, and served as a Sgt. Technician Fifth Grade, in the 163rd infantry. He was killed in action on April 15, 1945. Less than a month prior to VE day

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 Newspapers.com

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 Iveren...is 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.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Bessie or Rebecca (Bella) Dudelczak Portnoy 1871-1916

Below is the 1900 census record for my second great grandfather, Selig Feinstein. He is actually recorded as Samuel Feinstein. In a city directory, his name appears one year as Salem Feinstein. However, on most records he used his Yiddish name, Selig. He lived at 1122 North 8th. This is part of the Carr Square tenement district I've written about several times. The Feinsteins were in the front of the building, and several families were in the rear. The census also indicates (in a column that isn't in the image below) that the Feinsteins were owners, and everyone else at the address rented. 

Others at the address: Sarah Freeman, the Finkelsteins, the Buchanans, the Shparbergs, and Ruben and Bessie Portnoy. I've had this census page downloaded since 2007, when I began my research. It didn't occur to me back then to research all the names of the people living at the same address as my ancestor. Now I know that Bessie Portnoy was Selig's sister.

Other things to note: Almost everyone on this page was from Russia. Ruben Portnoy is recorded as having filed his first papers, so I will have to see if I can find them. Ruben and Bessie are recorded as having immigrated in 1896, so hopefully that will help with locating their passenger manifests. In 1900 they've been in the US for 4 years, and have been married for 8 years. They have no children.

Bessie died on November 2, 1916. Her death certificate (PDF), under the name Rebecca Portnoy, records her father as Samuel Feinstein. I have no doubt that it is actually Shmuel Hirsch Dudelczak, but the informant (R Portnoy, likely her husband) used the surname my second great grandfather chose.

Related Posts:

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Sylvia Dudelczak Blufston Babchick 1874-1930

A great great aunt wrote down the family information years ago. Selig Dudelczak, son of Samuel Harry (Schmuel Hersh) Dudelczak and Gertrude (Gitel) Slupsky, immigrated to America and changed his surname to Feinstein. He had two siblings who also immigrated, Julius and Tillie. We didn't have surnames for either one. Four siblings remained in Russia: Bella, Gershon, Selma, and Sprinsa.
That is how I began the post I wrote last month, where I described how I discovered Selig's sister Lottie (Ylota) Getz Goldstein. The 1900 census indicates Gitel/Gertrude had seven living children. The census doesn't indicate how many are living in the US. Since last month's post, I have learned at least six of the seven children immigrated.

Below is Lottie's obituary from The Modern View, June 22, 1939, page 10

GOLDSTEIN, LOTTIE - On Sunday, June 18, beloved mother of Mrs. Sarah Goodman of Tulsa, Okla., and Sam Getz, dear sister of the late Zelik Feinstein, Udil Odelsohn, Sprintza Babchick, Toba Oberman and Baila Portnoy, our dear aunt, mother-in-law, grandmother, and great-grandmother. 
Funeral from the Jewish Old Folks' Home on Monday, June 19. Oxenhandler service.
I'm working my way backwards through the Modern View microfilm at the library. When I discovered Lottie mentioned in Tillie's 1935 obituary, I had already scanned the 1939 microfilm for surnames I recognized. I should have seen and recognized Zelik, Udil, and Toba - right? Browsing pages and pages of newspapers on microfilm searching for surnames isn't an easy task. And I will admit that in the obituary section, my eyes are attracted to the deceased's name more quickly than all the names mentioned in the obituary. So I missed it.

Lottie's obituary mentions five pre-deceased siblings, including Sprintza Babchick and Baila Portnoy. Two surnames that were new for me. However, in this case, the given names were names my great great aunt had mentioned.  Had they immigrated, or had they stayed in the Old Country, and Lottie had just remained in contact with them? The first obvious place for me to research was the Missouri digitized death certificates.

Here's Sprinza Babchick's death certificate (PDF). Under 'Name of Father' it says: Shmeel Hersch Doodelock. The name of the mother is unknown. The informant is Jake Rovin, who research suggests was a son-in-law.

It seems the father's name was passed down in every branch of the family, even though the spelling became fuzzy. The given name of the mother appears on the death certificate of only two of her children, and her maiden name on none. Our family records suggest it was Slupsky, but I have found no supporting documentation.

Here's Sylvia's obituary from the St. Louis Post Dispatch, June 2, 1930, p. 29

On Monday, June 3, 1930, dear mother of Mrs. Bertha Rovin, Mrs. Goldie Klein, Harry, Leo and Etta Blufston, dear grandmother and mother-in-law.  
Funeral from residence, 1285A Amherst place. Notice of time later. Oxenhandler service. Omit flowers.
Bertha and Goldie, research suggests, were Blufstons as well. There is no evidence, yet, that either of Sylvia's husbands immigrated, or that any of the children were born in the US. Though I have not yet uncovered the passenger manifests.

What about Baila Portnoy?
I've found her, too, and she will get her own post.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Lottie Dudelczak Getz Goldstein - 1861-1939

A Great Great Aunt wrote down the family information years ago. Selig Dudelczak, son of Samuel Harry (Schmuel Hersh) Dudelczak and Gertrude (Gitel) Slupsky, immigrated to America and changed his surname to Feinstein. He had two siblings who also immigrated, Julius and Tillie. We didn't have surnames for either one. Four siblings remained in Russia: Belle, Gershon, Selma, and Sprinsa.

In my early research I confirmed all the information except for the four who remained. Julius changed his surname to Odelson, and moved to Chicago. Tillie had married an Aaron Oberman, and they remained in St. Louis. Recently I was going through the library microfilm of The Modern View (a St. Louis Jewish weekly newspaper), and I came across Tillie's 1935 obituary.

Oberman, Tillie - On Thursday, August 8, beloved mother of Mrs. Minnie Felman, Ben Joe and Oscar Oberman, dear sister of Mrs. Lottie Goldstein of Tulsa, Okla., our dear aunt, mother-in-law and grandmother. Funeral from Oxenhandler Chapel.

My first thought was: This has to be a sister-in-law. That happens often in obituaries - spousal siblings being described as 'brother' or 'sister.' Even if my great great aunt had been unaware of one of the other siblings immigrating, "Lottie" bore no resemblance to "Belle" "Selma" or "Sprinsa." She had been correct on the other names. "I bet this is a sister-in-law," I thought to myself.

I lost the bet.

The tombstone on the left is at Chesed Shel Emeth. She is not far from her brother, Selig, and her sister, Tillie.

Getz Goldstein

Daughter of Reb Shmuel Zvi 
Died on the second day of Rosh Chodesh Tammuz in the year 5699

Below, from left to right:

1) Lottie's parents, according to her death certificate. The informant was her son, Sam Getz.
Father: Schmuel Hersh Dudelczak (I've edited the spelling to my preference. Hersh is Yiddish, and Zvi is Hebrew. Both mean 'deer.')
Mother: Gitel

2) Sam Getz's parents according to his death certificate. The informant was the nursing home.
Father: Aaron Getz
Mother: Lottie Feinstein

3) Sarah Getz Goodman's parents, according to her registration for Social Security.
Father: Harry Getz
Mother: Lottie Ohtalson (Odelson)

It appears that Lottie (like her sister) never changed her 'maiden' name. Both sisters were married in Russia, and their father appears with a variant spelling of the Dudelczak surname on their death certificates. However, both of Lottie's children, at some point, changed Lottie's maiden name in their minds, choosing between the two different surnames their uncles had chosen. Proving that they at least were aware of them.

In a fashion, these documents provide a nice wraparound, incorporating all of the surnames.

I have found no evidence that either of Lottie's husbands made the trip to America. I have no way to judge which document is more likely correct with the first name of their father. (Both could be correct. His Hebrew name could have been Aaron, and Sarah may only have been Anglicizing it with Harry.)

(I've updated this chart outlining the Dudelczak descendants for three generations.)

Here's some of the new names I've added:

Children of Lottie and Aaron/Harry Getz: Samuel, Sarah
Children of Frank and Sarah (Getz) Goodman: Harry Goodman, Gertrude (Goodman) Naron, Frances Goodman, Edrea Ann (Goodman) Appleton

Monday, January 1, 2018

This Week in Family History

Happy New Year!

In 1942 Woody Guthrie wrote these 33 New Year Rulin's.
For those stuck on writing resolutions, there are some good ones in the list.

My Selections:
#19: Keep Hoping Machine Running
#20: Dream Good
#31: Love Everyone
#33: Wake Up and Fight

Selected events from my family history databases

Jan 1
  • Henry Dexheimer (1831-1884) – d. Jan 1 1884 (wife's 3rd great grandfather)
  • Sol Cruvant (1893-1972) – b. Jan 1, 1893 (brother of great grandmother, Bertha Cruvant Newmark)
Jan 2
  • Ida Elizabeth Sammie Denyer (1859-1899) – b. Jan 2 1859 (1st cousin of great grandmother, Margaret Jane Denyer Van Every. She wrote this poem, about her mother.)
Jan 3
  • Benjamin Cruvant (1882-1960) – b.m. Jan 3 1883 (Brit Milah for brother of great grandmother, Bertha Cruvant Newmark) [Three dates have been given for his birth, but they can all be explained with the Gregorian and Julian calendar, and a confirmed Polish/Lithuanian Jewish custom of of observing the Brit Milah anniversary instead of the birthday.]
Jan 5
  • Marvyn Stern (1914-1993) – b. Jan 5 1914 (1st cousin of grandfather, Melvin Newmark)
Jan 6
  • Louis Pleas Gober and Annie May Taylor – m. Jan 6, 1891 (wife's 2nd great grandparents)
Jan 7
  • Sol Cruvand (1877-1942) – d. Jan 7, 1942 (1st cousin of great grandmother, Bertha Cruvant Newmark)
  • Aaron Cruvant Stern (1908-1981) – d. Jan 7 1981 (1st cousin of grandfather, Melvin Newmark)
  • Louis Mayer Wyman (1905-1997) – d. Jan 7 1997 (1st cousin of grandmother, Belle "Sissie" Feinstein Newmark)