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Sat, Jan. 11th, 2014, 07:13 pm
Genealogy: The sad story of Chane Einhorn

I was recently experimenting with the advanced search options on the amazing (if idiosyncratic) site fultonhistory.com and stumbled on a sad newspaper article that mentioned my great-grandfather Solomon Allweiss. (Trigger warning: possible suicide.)Read more...Collapse )

Mon, Jan. 6th, 2014, 11:05 am
Genealogy: The sad, short tale of Joseph Green (1903-1904)

When I was surveying the Dinaburg section of the Mt. Neboh Cemetery, I found a grave in the children's row that I had missed my first time there:

Read more...Collapse )

Sun, Jan. 5th, 2014, 08:52 am
Tani's Dvar Torah: Bo

This is the dvar Torah that I helped Tani research and write and that he delivered at yesterday's hashkama minyan kiddush: Read more...Collapse )

Wed, Jan. 1st, 2014, 09:09 pm
Dvar Torah: Shmot

I noticed this a few weeks ago, and wanted to capture it even though it's not fully formed. Read more...Collapse )

Wed, Dec. 25th, 2013, 09:39 am
Genealogy: How many Coleman Wertheims were there?

I've been circling back to the question of "How many Coleman Wertheims were there?Read more...Collapse )

Tue, Dec. 17th, 2013, 08:50 am
Genealogy: Birdie Greene – A successful re-evaluation of the evidence

For the version of this post with the pictures, please see the PDFRead more...Collapse )

Mon, Nov. 25th, 2013, 12:55 pm
Genealogy: Werdesheim: Branch 4

One area of ongoing research is figuring out how all the Werdesheim branches fit together. We're working on the assumption that anyone from Galicia who spelled their name that way in the 19th century is a member of a single family.Read more...Collapse )

Sun, Nov. 24th, 2013, 08:21 pm
Genealogy: More Green progress

A lot of stuff to catch up on (Werdesheims, finding Sarah Levy's grave and then her will, surveying the Dinaburg section of Mt. Neboh) but first I want to jot down this weekend's exciting progress.LongCollapse )

Sun, Sep. 1st, 2013, 07:21 am
Genealogy: What about Herman/Hersh/Hyman Wertheim?

I've been struggling since the beginning with Herschel Wertheim, my great-uncle. He was the older brother of my father's mother's father, Leo. I keep finding plausible records that turn out to be for the wrong person.

So I'm starting over, and documenting each step along the way, so that (as with a logic puzzle) when I discover a contradiction, I know how to unwind to a known safe checkpoint. Cut for lengthCollapse )

Tue, Aug. 27th, 2013, 10:48 pm
Genealogy: Who Is Max Green?

I got this month's set of scans from FamilySearch, and may have made some good progress. There are a few contraindications, but I'm going to set everything out here so I know what I knew and when I knew it. Cut for lengthCollapse )

Tue, Aug. 20th, 2013, 06:25 pm
Genealogy: Greene, Incorporated

A few odd findings from recent weeks, that I want to document so I don't forget them. Cut for length and picturesCollapse )

Thu, Aug. 15th, 2013, 08:44 pm
Genealogy: A Visit to the Boston City Archives

This morning I went to the Boston City Archives to do a little research. I met the archivist, Marta Crilly, at the IAJGS conference last week, and I emailed her a dossier over the weekend detailing what I already knew about Barnett and Ida Green's years in Boston (1887-1891) and what I was hoping to find.

I don't have a lot of time to blog this now, but the short version is: I found Barnett in the Boston tax archives for 1889, 1890, and 1891, at the addresses where I already had him listed in the Boston city directory and in birth records. I could not find him for 1892, which means that they'd already left for New York by May 1 (which is not surprising).

Here, for example, is his listing at 21-23 Fleet Street in the 1890 tax books:

Interestingly, he was not found in the listing for 7 Cherry St. for 1888. Perhaps they were still considered "transients" at that point, and not subject to the poll tax, or perhaps even the Boston tax assessors made mistakes. For a moment, I thought I had found something interesting: There was a Barnat Wolfe listed at that address, with the profession "cutter", but his age was about 20 years too high and I found him in the 1890 book, so he can't be the same person.

I did get a nice perspective though on how close "20 Moon, rear" and "21-23 Fleet" were. In fact, they may not have actually moved when their address changed:

My cart when I was done:

So in the end, I had mostly confirmation of what I already knew, and a few negative results on other lines of inquiry. (For example, no sign of Max in Boston.) Still, I enjoyed exploring the archives and hope to get back there with more questions in the future!

Mon, Jun. 17th, 2013, 10:39 am
Genealogy: Wang

I was reviewing my records to see where I still have gaps, and I noticed that I don't have direct documentation of the wedding of my great-grandparents Leo Wertheim and Anna Allweiss. I can bracket it, because in 1900 she was living with her parents, and by 1905 they were married; according to the 1910 census they were married about 1903. Their first-born was in 1906.

But then I turned to a notation that I've ignored for a while. On Anna's father's passenger list at Ellis Island, in the column "Whether going to join a relative and, if so, what relative, their name and address" is the notation "brother i.l. Louis Wang 67 Columbia St." I naively assumed that Wang was a Chinese name, and that as a tailor, Salomon was fixed up via some sort of immigration broker to work in a Chinese-owned laundry.

Never let cultural assumptions fool you.

I went to the Mielec town records that are available online, and determined that in fact there were several entries for the Wang family, along with Wanger, Wangheimer, etc.

Then I found a blog post by Patty Allweiss. Patty is trying to tie together various branches of the Allweiss family, working on the reasonable assumption that we all come from the same original root stock. Back in January, Patty wrote about the newest discovered "branch":

A New York state marriage license dated 28 Aug 1891 shows Ester Alweiss, age 20, birthplace Galicia (parents are Moses Alweiss and Ruchel) married Leib Wang, age 23, also born in Galicia.

I was able to independently confirm this via FamilySearch and Steve Morse/ItalianGen (which, as usual, have things almost right: They have "Alweifs" for "Alweiss" -- that's probably an ess-zet).

Well, Salomon's parents were Moses and Sarah; I know that Salomon had half-siblings from Moses and Frieda; so between the common parent name "Moses" and the notation on the July 1897 passenger list that "Louis Wang" was Salomon's brother-in-law in New York, I feel comfortable adding to my tree: (1) that Moses Allweiss had a third wife, Ruchel (or Rachel); (2) that they had a daughter Ester; (3) that she came over before 1891 and married a man named Leib (Louis) Wang. Then Ancestry.com suggested that Leib and Ester were in Fallsburg NY for the 1915 census, and there is another Wang family on the same census page. So there's a lot of possibilities there, which I don't have time to follow up on now. (In fact, the main reason for blogging this now is to record the provenance of the new entries on my tree and to record what I am certain of, what I merely suspect, and what I want to research further when I have time.)

This also brings back the whole question of the "elopement" story. Clearly, Salomon and Sarah were not completely cut off from all family contact.... but what can we learn from this?

Wed, Jun. 5th, 2013, 10:42 pm
My dvar torah from last shabbat: Parshat Shelach Lecha

Shabbat Shalom. My dvar Torah today is l’zecher avi mori [in memory of my father, my teacher], Gershon Eliyah ben Avraham ha-Levi v’Raizel, whose second yahrzeit occurs this coming Thursday.

I also want to remember his mother, Raizel bat Yehuda Leib v’Chana, whose tenth yahrzeit will occur the following Monday; and, although I never met her, I would like to remember his grandmother Chana Grune bat Yosef ha-Levy v’Fanny, whose yahrzeit will be next Shabbat.

In today’s parsha, the meraglim [spies] return from touring Eretz Yisrael [the land of Israel], and among their reports, they say:

הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר עָבַרְנוּ בָהּ לָתוּר אֹתָהּ, אֶרֶץ אֹכֶלֶת יוֹשְׁבֶיהָ הִוא
The land which we have passed through to tour it, is a land that devours its inhabitants

My attention was caught by the phrase “a land that devours its inhabitants” What do they mean by this?

The meforshim [commentators] all say it means that the residents were dying.

Seforno explains this as a form of natural selection: This was because the giants were strong, “v’ha-shaar metim bah mipnei ro'a ha-avir.” (“and the others died there because of the harsh climate”)

Abarbanel explains that the meraglim were spying out the land during the summer months, when people usually die in greater numbers because of disease.

Rashi summarizes a midrash which is brought in full by the Torah Temimah from Sotah 35a:

ארץ אוכלת יושביה היא דרש רבא אמר הקב"ה אני חשבתיה לטובה והם חשבו לרעה אני חשבתיה לטובה דכל היכא דמטו מת חשיבא דידהו כי היכי דניטרדו ולא לשאלו אבתרייהו ואיכא דאמרי איוב נח נפשיה ואטרידו כולי עלמא בהספידא הם חשבו לרעה ארץ אוכלת יושביה היא
It is a land that devours its inhabitants. Raba explained: The Holy One, blessed be He, said: I intended this for good but they thought of it for evil. I intended this for good, because wherever [the spies] came, the chief [of the inhabitants] died, so that they [the residents] would be occupied [with his burial] and not inquire about them [the spies].... But they thought of it for evil [as they said]: It is a land that devours its inhabitants.

So this verse seems to say that the meraglim reported that Eretz Yisrael is a land with a high mortality rate, which was an unjust slander of the land.

But I suggest that there’s a bigger sin here.

We already know from Vayikra, parashat Acharei Mot, that Eretz Yisrael has the following response to being inhabited by a nation of sinners:

וְלֹא-תָקִיא הָאָרֶץ אֶתְכֶם, בְּטַמַּאֲכֶם אֹתָהּ, כַּאֲשֶׁר קָאָה אֶת-הַגּוֹי, אֲשֶׁר לִפְנֵיכֶם.
... that the land vomit not you out also, when ye defile it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you.

The metaphor that we use with Eretz Yisrael is not one of devouring its unworthy inhabitants, but of spitting them out. By focusing on the deaths of the inhabitants, the meraglim completely missed the fact that this land is not like other lands; they blinded themselves to its kedushah [holiness] and its uniqueness.

And I would take it one step further. Up until now, the rebellious nature of the people has been kept in check. With the chet hameraglim [sin of the spies], we reach what would seem to be the climax: this generation has condemned itself to die before reaching Eretz Yisrael.

But in next week’s parsha, with nothing left to lose, Korach and his followers explicitly challenge Moshe’s leadership. And Moshe says “If Hashem creates a new thing, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up, ... then you shall know that these men have spurned Hashem.” I find it significant that Moshe explicitly points out that the ground swallowing them would be a new thing.

If so, then the meraglim’s claim in our parsha of Eretz Yisrael devouring its inhabitants is, first, factually incorrect even if we take it to refer to burials; second, spiritually backwards and oblivious to the idea that Eretz Yisrael spits out those unworthy of it; and third, the introduction into this world of the idea for the very punishment that those who rebel against God are about to bring upon themselves.

The meraglim saw only the bad, not the good that Hashem was doing for them. They saw only the land, not the kedushah [sanctity] that pervades it. They saw only the here and now, and not Hashem’s promise for future generations.

My father and grandmother were proud Jews. They understood that what we see as setbacks are often the hidden hand of God working to our benefit, creating new opportunities. They understood the need for sacred space; each was instrumental in the founding and building of synagogues, mikdashim me'atim. And they both believed with complete faith that Hashem has a plan for Am Yisrael [the nation of Israel], and that each of us has a responsibility to advance the divine agenda.

They continue to be role models for me, and I pray that their memories be a blessing and inspire me and my children for many years to come.

Shabbat Shalom.

Sun, Jun. 2nd, 2013, 10:09 am
Genealogy: "I seek dead people"

On Friday, I managed to find two hours to spend tracking down some of the family gravesites in Queens. It was an amazing experience. Very long, lots of picturesCollapse )

Tue, May. 21st, 2013, 09:18 pm
Genealogy: Another name change (ERLANGER)

Just a quick note, because I need to document this.

I've been looking into the ERLANGER family of Ichenhausen, and using the data from jgbs.org to reconstruct the tree. I had five men who looked (based on their dates of birth) like they should be brothers, but I couldn't find birth records for them.

Finally I hit on the idea of just looking for people born at about the right time with the right set of first names. And sure enough, I found three records that had the right first name and birth year, all with the last name MEZGER [sic] and the parents Gerson and Sara.

To cross-check, I found death records from Gerson and Sara Erlanger in 1847 and 1843, respectively.

If I assume that sometime between 1820 and 1840 the family changed their name from Butcher to People-From-Erlangen, then I have a complete family picture. No one before 1840 used Erlanger, no one after 1820 used Mezger or Metzger, and I have a consistent set of names and dates across the boundary if I assume that single change. (I may yet find records from those two decades that helps me narrow it down further.)

I consider that sufficient evidence to enter it with confidence into my database. (But I'm writing this quick note to document my process.)

[Edited to add: There were a few siblings still missing, but when I searched Ichenhausen for anyone with the parents Gerson and Sara, I got the remaining siblings, with last names like MOSES and MAYYER, which are clearly errors for MEZGER. I consider that final confirmation that my hypothesis is correct. There's also another family, Gabriel and Esther METZGER, who at least didn't butcher the spelling of the name, but which I have no evidence is at all connected.]

Mon, May. 6th, 2013, 07:51 pm
Genealogy: Wertheim!


Excuse me, I'm really excited, because today I found THREE of the things that have been high up on my genealogy goal list, which helped me reach five of my goals. Long pots behind the cutCollapse )

Tue, Apr. 16th, 2013, 09:36 am
Thoughts after yesterday's attack

A thought on "bouncing back", on this day which is a mixture of Israel's Independence Day and Boston mourning its dead and wounded from yesterday's attack.

I was in Israel in March 1996. I walked down a Jerusalem street covered in blood, shattered glass, and Zaka volunteers climbing the trees to collect body parts for burial. I heard the bombing at the mall in Tel Aviv, and saw images of it on TV that didn't try to protect viewers' sensitivities.

And what did the Israelis do? They mourned the dead, they cleaned up the bombing site, and they got back to normal the next day. To do otherwise was, as the phrase goes, "to let the terorrists win."

Now I understand that there are a few big differences between the bombings of the Boston Marathon and the bombings in 1996 Israel.

First, there's an active crime investigation going on here, whereas in Israel it was known exactly who was behind the bombings and how they got there. (And that's why there's a wall.)

Second, Americans are still in shock that it can happen here. The bad news is that the very essence of a free society is that we tolerate a small number of bad guys in order to preserve the best possible life for the vast majority of good guys. Terrorism leverages that against us... and tempts us to "give up essential libery to gain a little temporary safety."

But we must return to normal. We must reopen downtown as soon as possible once the police have gathered evidence. We must patronize the stores and restaurants on Boylston Street. We must gather next Patriots' Day to cheer on the runners.

We must give up a little temporary safety to gain essential liberty.

Sun, Mar. 31st, 2013, 10:04 am
Genealogy: Some supporting documents from New York, 1898-1907

I recently received some document scans from FamilySearch, and wanted to quickly document what I've learned and what new questions I have. Large pictures behind the cutCollapse )

Fri, Mar. 15th, 2013, 10:20 am
Genealogy: Two ketubot

A quick note about a special find from this week.

My mom was going through boxes of old paper records, and she found this: Images behind cutCollapse )

Mon, Mar. 11th, 2013, 08:20 pm
Review: "Radical Responsibility"

Koren have sent me a review copy of Radical Responsibility: Celebrating the Thought of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks edited by Michael J. Harris, Daniel Rynhold, and Tamra Wright. Lengthy review behind the cutCollapse )

Sun, Mar. 3rd, 2013, 03:30 pm
Genealogy: A ton of raw data from Hüttenheim

This post is a followup to Friday's post, which includes the provenance of the records that I describe in excruciating detail below.

Last night, I copied all the possibly relevant records from the Hüttenheim file. For now, I'm just transcribing what I've got, with minimal analysis. My direct line ancestors lived in house 136 for most if not all of the time covered by these records, which made it somewhat easy to find them but may mean I missed some. There was also a family named Friedmann at house 80 who appear to have been Jonas's brother Mandel and his family.

To review the basics of what I know going in: My great-great-grandfather was Jonas Friedmann, who was married (I believe) to Babette Ermreuther from Ermreuth. Jonas's father appears to have been Moses Friedmann, and his mother's name looks like it began with a B.

These transcriptions are just a quick first pass, followed by another quick attempt to reconcile the different records with each other and to extract a provisional tree. But very productive for a quick pass.

Lots of pictures and length behind the cutCollapse )

Fri, Mar. 1st, 2013, 10:09 am
Genealogy: Amazing finds regarding Hermann Friedmann

Continuing on the theme of Hermann Friedmann, my mother's mother's father -- I just struck gold.Cut for lengthCollapse )

So I have partial confirmation of the information I set out to find, and several new pieces of information, including names for my great-great-great-grandparents. Another time, I plan to keep looking for Hermann's other siblings, for his mother's death record, for Jonas's parents death records, and for the record of Hermann's marriage to my great-grandmother Ella.

Sun, Feb. 24th, 2013, 12:35 pm
Purim Torah: Facebook

How do we know that Facebook is kosher? We can learn this from God and Moses.

As it is written (Ex. 33:11) "And God chatted with Moses face-to-face as one chats with a friend." Since God does not have a corporeal being, what does "face-to-face" mean? It must mean that God used "Face"-book "chat", and Moses was on God's "friends" list.

Furthermore, it is written (Ex. 32:32) "And Moses said to God: Delete me from your book." This "book" cannot refer to Torah, because Rambam wrote: "I believe with perfect faith that this Torah will not be changed." It is inconceivable that Moses would ask God to alter God's Torah. So what could Moses have been asking for?

From what kind of book does one delete another person? From the Facebook, and Moses was asking God to unfriend him.

Furthermore, how do we know that Torah is to be handed from person to person using Facebook? Because the Talmud (BT Taanit 7a) teaches "Rabbi Chanina b. Ida said, 'Why are words of Torah compared to water [mayim]?'" Do not read "mayim", but rather read "meme". Torah will only endure when it is taught by means of pictures of kittehs with cute misspellings.

Fri, Feb. 1st, 2013, 11:16 am
A thought about "unlocking mechanisms"

I just read Tyler's Mystery Hunt wrapup, and I had a thought. I don't know if it's a good idea or a bad one, but I'll toss it out there.

The fundamental problem with Mystery Hunt seems to have become that we want to have an event that lasts long enough for the large power teams to not completely blast through it, but still let the smaller or less-powerful teams see most if not all of the Hunt. In recent years, we've shifted from a "solve a puzzle, get a puzzle" unlocking mechanism to one which combines "points earned" with "time elapsed"; this provides an unlocking mechanism which keeps Hunt a race for the fastest teams, but allows slower or blocked teams to keep getting fresh puzzles.

Perhaps we need to experiment with rate-limiting puzzle release.

If you have a huge team that can parallelize the research or even have multiple subgroups working on the same puzzle, and the first to finish gets to call in the answer, good for you. Your score will be better than a team that doesn't have those advantages, and that will increase your odds of finishing the runaround first. (Perhaps every team that qualifies for the final runaround gets to do it, with an ACPT-style delayed start based on your team's score.)

But you may have to sit around and wait for the next set of puzzles to be released. Bring a copy of a Thomas Snyder puzzle book or Roger Wolf's cryptics or "The Maze of Games" to pass the time. Catch a nap or grab some food to keep your physical advantage. But maybe the answer to "large teams finish Hunt too fast" is to impose a speed limit, not to tinker with the puzzles to make the Hunt baseline solve time be longer.

(I also agree with what's been said elsewhere: the Boston Marathon isn't over when the first runner reaches the Pru; the Mystery Hunt isn't over when the first team finds the coin. I think speed limits might go hand-in-hand with this approach: No one can possibly "find the coin" before 8AM Sunday; all teams see all the puzzles at 8AM Sunday no matter how far back they are, even though the weaker teams don't have enough points to be "in coin-tention"; HQ stays open until 2PM; wrapup is at 3PM.)

Your thoughts?

Wed, Jan. 23rd, 2013, 09:24 am
NYT spaghetti, day 2

Once again, today's NYT crossword puzzle lends itself to a game of Spaghetti. Spoilers behind cutCollapse )

Tue, Jan. 22nd, 2013, 07:11 pm
My Mystery Hunt writeup

Short version: Long but gratifying hunt; had a great time. Long version under cutCollapse )

Tue, Jan. 22nd, 2013, 12:30 pm
Hunt is never truly over

Before Mystery Hunt, Eric Berlin resumed hosting a few rounds of "Spaghetti," the game of finding meta answers where there aren't really any meta answers.

In that spirit, and because once you've gone through Hunt you see metas everywhere, here is the solution to the metapuzzle that I found in today's NYT crossword. Cut for spoilersCollapse )

Sun, Jan. 13th, 2013, 08:51 pm
Genealogy: Ermreuther

I haven't had much time to blog for the last few months, and the next few months will also probably be spotty.

You may recall that my last several posts were about my maternal grandmother's family. I wrote about her father, Hermann Friedmann: From research that others have done, I know that his parents were Jonas Friedmann and Babette Ermanreuther, but I do not know anything beyond that about his family.Read more...Collapse )

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