How I Started

People ask me how I got started with genealogical research. Truth is that growing up I wasn’t interested what-so-ever in family relations past my grandparents. I wish I had been. I could have asked them and great aunts and uncles a whole lot of questions I much later struggled to resolve. Of course, my father says the same thing: if only he had asked his parents, his grandparents, his great aunts and uncles…

In fact, while growing up I was quite ignorant about my grandparents’ ancestry. I never acknowledged that they hailed from Poland, Galicia and the Ukraine. I never heard my grandparents speak a word of either Polish or Russian; Yiddish and German, yes. I inferred that because my father’s father and his father served in the Austro-Hungarian Empire Army, they were “Austrian” – like Viennese. Well, not exactly…

What happened was this: some time after the passing of my mother (who was extremely precise, organized, and detail-oriented), I met with one of her younger first cousins and brought with me an enlarged photo taken at their grandparents’ 1936 50th wedding anniversary celebration held in Brooklyn, New York. It was easy for Carolyn and I to pick out the celebrating couple’s eight sons, their wives, and even most of their children. But not all of them. My mother of course would have known in a snap who was who. But it was too late to ask her. And I understood that if I didn’t confirm identification of the people in this wonderful photo, in time, the information would be forever lost. 

So I started to contact surviving first-cousin descendants of the eight brothers, and along with some of my second cousins, put together the foundations of a comprehensive family tree. Instead of taking a piece of paper and outlining the faces in the photo, I uploaded the photo with face ID’s, so that all the cousins could access the photo and place a computer cursor over a face and know who is who. Other photos followed.

After I built a family tree for Mom’s family, Dad said, “what about my family?” This is what fueled serious genealogical research. Dad knew the names of his parents’ ancestral towns, and so it began. I discovered, and with it, found the world of my ancestors and dispersed distant cousins around the globe.

Contact me for assistance in your Jewish ancestry search.