Friday, January 3, 2014

A New Year's breakthrough

I must say that the new year is starting off well-- on New Year's Eve, while many people who have lives were partying down, I was on Ancestry.com.

It started Christmas week while I was on JewishGen, a website owned by Ancestry.com that focuses on Jewish genealogy, searching for the maiden name of my great-grandmother Nachama. 

This was not the first time I had searched for her name here, but had come up empty. But when I changed the spelling from the one I had been using (my paternal grandparents' marriage record gives her maiden name as "Smuter"), I found a listing for a member who was researching the name SCHUMUTER with origins in Krasnostav in the former Russian Empire; this is the same town that my great-grandmother Nachama is from. I immediately sent a message to the member letting him know that I think there is likely a connection. 

This man wrote back and we compared notes; his great-grandmother was Gitel SCHUMUTER whose married name corresponds to that given in a family history that I have regarding this branch of the family; she was born a year before Nachama was. Her death record gives her parents' names as Abraham and Sadie.

We exchanged photos of our respective great-grandmas and found that they bore an uncanny resemblance to each other. Gitel also ended up in Canada before immigrating again to the States, just as my great-grandmother did. 

So they had the same surname, came from the same town, were born around the same time, Gitel's married name corresponds to that given in a family history, they had similar immigration patterns, and looked almost like twins. The case was good that they were sisters, but there was no hard evidence; we needed something to connect these two women and prove that they were related.

Left: Gitel with her sons (photo courtesy of my cousin);  Right: Nachama

The proof came on New Year's Eve when I clicked on an Ancestry.com hint leaf for Gitel; an immigration record to Canada that showed that her contact in this new country was Nachama's son, who had immigrated and settled in Ottawa many years before and had changed his name to William Freedman. She listed his relationship to her as "nephew."



Gitel's Canadian immigration record


Eureka! Gitel and Nachama were indeed sisters.

It's not often that a break like this comes in genealogy, particularly Jewish genealogy. So now I've gained a great-great aunt, great-great grandparents, and a new 3rd cousin. 

In this same database, I also finally found Nachama's immigration record, along with those of her son, daughter-in-law, and their two children. They had all come over together, and stayed with Nachama's son William, whose poor wife must have felt like she was running a highly unprofitable Best Western.



Nachama's Canadian immigration record


But that's not all... today I finally found out where she is buried. In a previous entry, I had been trying to discover this, and had mistakenly thought that the writer's hard-to-read handwriting had read "not known" in the field for burial. My newfound cousin, who looked at it after I emailed him the document, thought it read "Mt Leb." Mount Lebanon is a cemetery in Collingdale, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia, and a phone call confirmed this. I submitted a Find-A-Grave photo request, but there are several requests that have not been answered for that cemetery. I'm sure that up north, fulfilling requests doesn't happen as often in the winter. With the severe weather the northeast has been getting over the past couple of days, I'm certainly not expecting anything this weekend.

So this year has started off very nicely indeed. I hope that the same is true for my readers.


Ancestry chain:

Abraham SCHUMUTER m. Sadie UNKNOWN

Nachama SCHUMUTER (b. abt 1854) m. Menashe K

Boruch K  (1901-1956) m. Clare RYAN

My father (b. 1933) m. S. HOWES

Me (b. 1974)