Sunday, November 1, 2009

Forays into the past

I am still learning how to post on this site. I have no idea what all these buttons and pictures mean and not sure if I need any bells and whistles. Maybe later.
Back to the exciting world of genealogy.
I have been flip-flopping between finding more Blumenthals and more Schoenbergs. Neither search has been very successful. My great-grandfather David Michael Blumenthal seems to have appeared in the US out of thin air. I cannot find his passenger record, despite his naturalization papers giving his date of arrival as August 17th, 1881. Nor can I find his first marriage certificate or where she came from. I am not sure if Blumenthal is his real surname or one he picked, or was his mother’s to avoid conscription in Russia. Sigh. Jewish Genealogy is incredibly difficult due to the myriad ways in which Jews switched identities, used several names and changed their ages over time. For example, David’s first wife had been known as “Amelia, Male, Malka, Mollie,” and possibly “Anna.” Her last name was “Greengrass,” also listed as “Gryngras” and “Gringras” and a million other spellings and pronunciations. I cannot find her passenger record either, but I am convinced (as are other Greengrass researchers) that she came from Radizilow Poland and was somehow related to one of the Falk Gryngras’s that came from that town. On her son’s death certificate her name was listed as “Molly Falk.” If I hadn’t studied the history behind the Gryngras’s from Radizilow I would have assumed that was another surname. But there are hundreds of Gryngras’s from that town and they descend from a male named Falk. All speculation of course. What is even more strange is that the story everyone had been told was that Mollie Blumenthal (nee Greengrass) had died after having 4 children: Anna, Julius, Gus and Ida; and that David Blumenthal was remarried around 1896 to Rivke Schoenberg, a 19-year old sent over from Russia for an arranged marriage. The problem with that story is that I received Molly’s death certificate from Rochester, NY and she did not die until 1903 of TB. And she was living a few doors down from where David lived with his new wife Rebecca, her children and his new children from Rebecca. It also lists her as married on the death certificate. There is no other info listed, as if she died alone and no one came forward with any info. I am going to send away for another search to make sure this wasn’t another “Molly Blumenthal,” but if it is true it begs several questions- Was David a bigamist? Did he leave her when she contracted TB? Did he get a “get” which enabled him to remarry Rebecca? Did the children see their mother or were they told she was deceased? If David did handle her care and support her financially why did she die alone with no one to provide her family information? It may also explain why everyone was reluctant to speak of the family’s history. My grandmother was actually named after her and her half-sister Ida named her daughter Molla after her, so she must have been remembered fondly. BIG MYSTERY.
Another issue with David Blumenthal and his family as they are missing from the 1900 census. I have searched through page after page of the Rochester, NY census and the house where they supposedly lived was skipped over or the page is missing. I think it would help solve some of the mystery by showing who lived with them. Rivke (Rebecca) came over from Kuzmin Russia in 1896 with her mother Rozia Schoenberg (spelled Schoeneberg on the passenger record) and Rozia seems to have disappeared. Did she go back to Russia? Did she live with David and Rebecca and the kids in 1900? Or did she die (a search for a death certificate yielded nothing)? Maybe she remarried? I can find no record of her anywhere. Nothing on Jewish Gen (actually I have found zilch on Jewish Gen thus far and wonder how people find their ancestors on that site), nothing on Ancestry, or any other site.
Another less important mystery is a listing in the Rochester NY Directory for a “Tontiff Schoenberg.” After posting on the Ukranian list serve on Jewish Gen I was emailed by several people suggesting that is real name would have been “Yom Tov,” a name given to males born on a holiday. Or a misspelling of “Yontiff,” another Yiddish worrd for holiday. I am not so sure. I cannot find him listed on any census, passenger record, etc. but I thought maybe his name was a form of “Joseph,” or “John.” I may try and send away for a death certificate but I have no date of death and I am not sure if he even lived in Rochester, past 1900.
I guess that is all for now. More to ponder and speculate

1 comment:

  1. AmyBeth you are a riot. At any rate I have been neck deep in family geneology at times and have discovered that the biggest wins happen when you are being irrational in your searches. For example, I went thru h.ll to research ship passenger records re a William Hicinbothem (paternal g-g-g-g uncle, or something like that), travelling to NY and CT and MA to do so, with no luck. Then one day was paging thru something on the internet re lower manhattan and BOOM. there he was, ship name and all, and a PICTURE OF THE SHIP. Shit.
    Keep looking at everything. It occurs to me that you might try looking for divorce info, or do research re the TB epidemic and learn what the customs were about this situation; bigamy may have been part of it, as he would have needed a new wife to look after the kids but perhaps would not have divorced his wife.

    Good luck. Love your blog. Please don't delete yourself.

    Peg Bainbridge