The search for family history

One thing on my list for retirement was to work on my family history for my mother’s side. My uncle did quite extensive research on my father’s side so I wanted to have something about my mother’s heritage. I started this project about 1996. I know it’s about that time because upon cleaning out our mother’s apartment I found a letter I had written to her that year. I sent her a rough family tree that I had written up based on a chart and a cassette tape that my uncle, her brother, made for my sister’s college project in 1979. I asked her to fill in what I had highlighted on that family tree but I guess she never found the time to do it and I didn’t pursue it further at that time.

Some time last year I did a DNA test with Ancestry. In the DNA match list I found someone with a 4% match, with a familiar last name from my grandfather’s side. I sent him a note hoping to learn more but he never replied. I was poking around in there again recently but this time I clicked on family trees wherever I was able to view them. One of those trees had two familiar names so I messaged my DNA matched relative and he replied!! He is my second cousin and we’ve been getting acquainted via email and we became Facebook friends too. He gave me his cousin’s(another of my second cousins) email and said that he might have more information about that side of the family. Between the two of them I have learned so much!! And I thought I’d put together a post here and share some family photos for anyone else that may be interested.

My sister and I attempted to get through the huge stack of photos that our mother had. We still need to get back to that but during that trip to my sister’s I found my grandmother’s inspection card when she arrived in northern America. We didn’t know any of this so we were very excited to find that! It had the date she arrived, the name of the ship she traveled on and that her ship landed in Quebec. Quebec? That was a surprise because until two years ago I assumed she arrived via Ellis Island. Here’s a photo of the inspection card. Thank goodness she passed! (editing to add that my niece actually found the ship’s manifest after I posted a photo of the inspection card on Facebook and I’m so glad she did!)

At the time we found this card I calculated Pearl’s age to be about 17. And then sat in awe wondering how such a young woman could take that long trip to America. I looked on every page of the ship’s manifest looking for other family names but did not find any. As far as I can tell she travelled alone. Alone at 17!?!?!? Wow. I later learned that she was actually 18, not much different, and that at least one of her brothers travelled to America first. Eventually all 7 siblings and their mother made it to America.

Another fun story is about a photo that my sister and I labeled “unknown Russian man”. There were a handful of photos with Yiddish on the backs and we put them in a separate pile to find someone to translate the Yiddish. We labeled it unknown Russian man’s photo because it looked like there was Russian writing on it. One day after I connected with my two second cousins I was studying that photo and finally I saw Samuel Rabinowitz written on the bottom of the back of the photo. One of my grandmother’s brothers was Samuel and if this photo was my grandmother’s brother then he was the grandfather of my two second cousins. I sent the photo to both of them with the subject “could this be your grandfather?” The first to reply confirmed my suspicion but he also attached the exact same photo and gave me roughly the year it was taken. Mystery solved!

I did find a translator and learned that the writing on Sam’s photo was in German. Luckily my translator knew German as well and here is what Sam wrote on the back of his photo: A memento so that you will remember me forever. I sure will remember him forever! The unknown Russian man is my great uncle about 1908. Here he is:

The back of Sam’s photo postcard.

I spent a lot of time searching Find a Grave and Family Search for pieces of my family’s history and I found tons! I also looked for obituaries of people I know have passed on and learned many details there as well. It’s been an interesting quest but just about everything that I’ve found was on my mother’s mother’s side. I haven’t much of her father’s side. It’s too bad the first relative I contacted didn’t reply. I am pretty sure he is from my grandfather’s side of the family.

I typed up what I had in Word because I’m still not sure which software I want to go with. I got some great advice from a Genealogy forum and I’m still working through all of that. So far I’ve keyed in most of what I have on Ancestry.

So in the meantime I at least have my Word files typed up now. It feels great to have that done as I have been thinking about it for a long time!

I also wanted to share some photos here as I have figured out who a lot of the people in the photos are. I started writing this shortly after I connected with my second cousin back in March, 2021. I had intended to add more photos to this post but I’m going to get back to that later as I still need to get together with my sister for that. In the mean time, here’s a gallery of some of my mother’s family One photo of a man is wrapped in plastic likely because it’s falling apart. I think this man might be my great grandfather but there’s no writing on it so I am left to guess:


Filed under Family history

12 responses to “The search for family history

  1. Fascinating! I look forward to following along with your updates over time. Thank you for this interesting post about your ancestry saga. Good luck. Best, Babsje

  2. Bev Learman

    Toby, I loved reading this blog. How exciting to learn so much about your ancestry! After hearing about your ancestry research and my sister-in-law’s joy in discovering more about her and my family history, I think that I might spend some time as a sleuth as well!!
    I’m happy your efforts were finally successful! Hopefully you’ ll discover more about your Mom’s Dad’s side of the family too.

    • Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Yes, it can be quite rewarding but also some frustration when you can’t find information. Good luck with your research! I look forward to seeing what you discover 👍

  3. There’s obviously a lot of satisfaction in finding these links, Tobyo. That photo of your ‘unknown Russian man’ is beautiful, isn’t it? Good luck with the continued search.

    • Thanks Jo! Agreed, it’s a beautiful photo but then I think all of them are. Thanks for stopping by. Love your new blog! I was getting caught up and was trying to figure out if I should comment on the old blog? I didn’t find a spot to do that in the new blog. I’ll try again later. Nice work though!!

  4. Nina Reinfried

    What a great blog. You must’ve posted this while I was visiting Gus in Virginia last week. Thanks for spending the time to do all this research.

    • Actually it was right after you got back so you were probably getting caught up. I’ve got more research to do! Gotta find those Leidermans :) Thanks for looking!

  5. Pingback: My 2021 in photos | travels with toby

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