In my “spare time” I volunteer at the Genealogy Center at the National Library of Israel. For seven years now there have been sessions twice a week where people arrange to come in and receive help with their family history, sitting with both a genealogist and a reference librarian. People have come with requests from almost all across the world. Some are at the beginning of their journey and others have hit a “brick wall”. Some come with a stack of documents, others with none. There are those who are internet savvy and others who are limited because of language and/or technical ability. Each fills in a form with basic information so that we can do a bit of research beforehand and come prepared to the session.
I have a routine that I follow in cases
like these. I check with JewishGen, Yad Vashem, the CAHJP, MyHeritage, IGRA and
others. Each can provide a different window to look at the family search.
Sometimes (like with much of my own family research) I come up with very little
in the way of relevant records and other times I feel like I have hit the
The information provided before my session
today referred to a family that had lived in Dvinsk and Riga. They were looking
for information about the family of their mother – maiden name MEIZEL, her
father was Baruch and mother was Marisha, there were eight children in the
family. Most of the family was killed in the Holocaust.
Using the Unified Search on JewishGen I hit
a home run on my first try. My first check was in the Latvia Births Database. There
were 104 entries so I went back and checked for MEIZEL and Baruch. That
returned 9 entries – and among those I found these two:
If I had just found these two records –
DAYENU!! Here I not only learned the names of two of the siblings of the family
(when they were born and the Mohel used), but that the father went by two names;
the name of the paternal grandfather; the name of the maternal grandfather; the
maiden name of the grandmother; the place of birth of the grandmother and the
year she was born; and the place the MEIZEL family originated from before
coming to Dvinsk.
For those of you who look at the document
and understand what I just said – continue to the next paragraph. For those who
are confused – I’ll explain here using the example above of MAIZEL, Ilia. Above
the record you have the key explaining each of the spots on the record. The
first section is the name of the child. The link, if you follow it, takes you
to a registration page of the Latvian Archive but not to an image. Next section
is divided into three: top = name of father, name of paternal grandfather;
middle = name of mother, name of maternal grandfather; bottom = Maiden name of
mother. Then we have the date in two formats followed by the town, uyezd (administrative
subdivision) and gubernia (province). The comments section may have a wealth of
information as they do in the instance above. From the last areas we learn
where and when the registration took place and how to request a copy of the
document from the archive of source. Each form may have different types of
information – but the key is always at the top of the page to help you out.
From there I went to Yad Vashem where I was
able to locate pages of testimony and other information documenting all of the
brothers and another sister who had been married before the War. It is known to
the family that another sister survived and made her way to the United States.
There were additional entries in the Bad-Arolsen files that have recently been
made available online.
This record is just one example of
information available through Yad Vashem that is not a page of testimony. Here
is a listing for Abram Jacob MAISEL whom we “met” in the above birth register.
The information provided regarding year and place of birth match, the names of
the parents, including the maiden name of the mother, also match (note that
here the father goes by Scholom rather than Shalom-Borukh or Baruch but this is
the same person). We gain additional information about his profession and the
name of his wife. There are many sources with information available on most of
the family members identified by being born in Dvinsk with the parents being
Scholom/Baruch and Marjascha.
As we sat with the couple, different ideas
came up and I continued my searches. Could there be any records of passports? Riga
Passport and Travel Documents Registration List 1900, also found on JewishGen, showed
Good thing I was sitting down – here I find
that Pinchas was sometimes Pinchas Siskind and at others Pinchas Salkind, but
in addition the name of his wife AND back another generation, the name of
Pinchas Siskind’s father! Looking again there are also three siblings of the
grandfather – where we started this whole quest.
Lastly, I checked in the All Russia 1897
Census (for Latvia) on JewishGen and found the following:
The information here corroborates the
previous information about Pinchas (the great-grandfather of the man across
from me), the father of Pinchas, the age and occupation of Pinchas and their
place of origin, which we also have from the previous documentation. We learn
now the name of the father of Beila, how old she is and that she is from
Dvinsk. We also add another sibling to Baruch! The next record provides yet
another sibling of Baruch and information about his wife.
Within one hour – and based on very limited
beginning information – the couple left with many more details than they ever
anticipated gathering, and now can sit down and put together a family tree with
two additional generations, see how the names return generation after
generation, have more places to look for records and can see the family
This was a good genealogy day and I hope
that each of you are able to have similar luck with the searches you conduct.
January 26, 2020
JewishGen – https://www.jewishgen.org/new/
Yad Vashem – https://www.yadvashem.org/
CAHJP – http://cahjp.nli.org.il/
MyHeritage – https://www.myheritage.com/
IGRA – https://genealogy.org.il/
Garri Regev lives in Israel and was an elementary teacher there for
over 20 years. Garri has been doing
genealogical research since 1995. She
volunteers at the Genealogy Center at the National Library of Israel and
lectures on Genealogy to adult groups and has spoken at 8 IAJGS
Conferences. Garri was the Vice-Chair of
the 2015 IAJGS Conference in Jerusalem and co-chair of program for that
Conference. She is among the founders and was President of the Israel Genealogy
Research Association (IGRA). Garri serves on the Board of LitvakSIG.