Category Archives: Family history

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

memories from my mother’s life

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I just came back from closing up my mother’s apartment in Florida and moving her to Virginia to live with my sister.  I thought I’d create a post to collect some of the fond memories of that trip.

Memories of watching Fiddler on the Roof:  My mom is not able to sit still for very long. She sits in the lazyboy for 20-30 minutes then goes to lie down for the same amount of time.  Then 20-30 minutes later it’s back to the chair in the den. So the first night of playing this VHS (that we found in one of her drawers in the den;we watched it in two evenings) when she sat for nearly two hours, we knew she was enjoying it.  It’s one of her favorite movies and also one of mine and we both sang all the words to every song.  I even heard her humming a song from the movie in the middle of the night.  It was so nice to watch one of my favorite movies with my favorite mom, my favorite sister and my favorite girl.  It’s a memory I’m going to cherish my whole life.

Memories of all those photos!  Something else I apparently inherited is collecting photos.  I have many electronic versions of my photos. But mom grew up before the electronic era and has many, many photos,  which ended up being a positive experience in that we were all able to take a trip down memory lane through these photos. There were photos I had never seen before, like the two very fragile and ancient photos of my mother’s grandparents! I believe these are my maternal grandmother’s parents. There were many photos of the early years of her marriage to my father and many photos of the cute little boy who is my brother. I shared so many of these photos with my facebook friends and relatives. I even surprised my cousin with a photo of her mother that she had never seen. Yes indeed, a very fond memory of this trip is viewing my mother’s life from so many different perspectives through her photos.  Here are some that I took photos of:

Memories of her last lunch bunch lunch:  We were privileged to attend Mom’s last lunch bunch gathering that she has been going to for many years. These were women she sang with, also the same women who won the lottery together.  Yes, it does happen!  They have met once a month for many years and pooled their money to play the lottery using the same numbers every week. In 2010 those numbers paid off! We planned our trip around this lunch so that we could go to the last one.  They order their food ahead so their meals arrive early then they sing “Heart of my heart” at the end. This time they started with “Auld Lang Syne” to Mom and many tears were shed. Then one of them said “let’s sing something happy now!” Here they are singing “Heart of my heart”:

Memories of hamburger and pimple: There are two words that every time my mother says them, it makes me laugh. So we had a bit of that again this trip. She says the word, I giggle, then she giggles. Happiness making.

Memories of “Nina, the elevator’s here!”:  In the mid 70s Mom took my sister and me to Hawaii for vacation. I don’t remember much about the trip but one of our favorite memories is this moment in time where Mom and I are waiting at the elevator at the hotel to go somewhere and Nina is nowhere to be found.  So we called down the hall “Nina, the elevator is here!” to try and hurry her along.  Mom still remembers that and I usually say it at some point when we’re all together, usually when we’re waiting on Nina for something.  It gets a big laugh every time.

Memories of my sister, the comforter:   We all have our many roles in life. One of my sister’s is that of comforter. One of mine is crying at the drop of a hat. As you can imagine, there were many emotional moments during this trip. The day Salvation Army came to take our donations of furniture and many boxes of household items, I went in a corner and started to cry. My daughter and my sister came to comfort me. It’s only fitting then that my sister becomes the caregiver and comforter of our mother for this next chapter in her life. I can’t express enough how grateful I am that my sister is able to do this.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.


Filed under Family history, Writing