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MAD RAVINGS OF A GENEALOGIST



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AncestorsfromMlynov

SOME CHARACTERS IN THE MLYNOV SAGA

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Table of Contents: 1) The Mad Ravings of a Genealogist, 2) The Goldberg/Gelberg Story Part I, 3) The Mystery of Sylvia Goldberg, 4) The Search for Simon Steinberg,5) The Love Story of Rosa Berger and Boruch Meren 6) The Photo from 1935, 7) The Kosher Butcher War in Baltimore

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The Mad Ravings of a Genealogist

Below, in essay form, are the "mad ravings of a genealogist" who is in search of a small town called Mlynov and the story of the families that once lived there. I am, of course, referring to myself.

I say "mad ravings" half-in-jest and half-in-seriousness. You have to be a bit crazy and obsessed to try to track down what has happened to all the scattered descendants from one small town in Russia, which later became Poland after WWI, and then for a short time was part of the Soviet Union, before the Nazis established a ghetto and did away with most of the people still living there.

But that is exactly what I have been doing for the last six years. It didn't start out that way. I started out researching only my own family, but my interest was gradually expanded, concentric circle by concentric circle, until I found myself interested in what happened to everyone there.

The effort has occupied me, obsessed me even, often morning, noon, and night, when I am not at work, which draws me, thank God, back to reality. Otherwise, I might never return from the depths of my search. I am fortunate to have a tolerant wife who loves gardening and can occupy herself while I disappear on these day and week long jaunts into record searching looking for the traces of someone to whom I'm not even necessarily related. Why I've been so obsessed, is a story for another time, but some of the reasons are clear. Read more about why I rave.

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The Goldberg/Gelberg Story Part I

This essay tells the story of the Goldberg migration from Mlynov to New York and Baltimore between 1911 and 1922. Focusing on the descendants of the orphaned Labish Gelberg and his wife Eta (Schuchman), the story chronicles what happened to those Goldbergs who stayed behind in Europe and what happened to those who left and made it to America. The story recounts, too, my interactions with descendants Edith (Spector) Geller and Harold Goldberg and the interesting interplay of family memory and the actual historical record that emerge as one digs into a family story.

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The Mystery of Sylvia Goldberg

Anyone interested in Mlynov will stumble across the name Sylvia Goldberg. Her photo appears throughout the Mlynov book and she was the only woman among the Committee of Eight that pulled together the memorial volume. I was surprised when I started investigating Sylvia's background, because I realized that she was born in Lutzk, not in Mlynov. What made her interested in Mlynov? This essay recounts the story of how I figured out the answer to that question that was, in the end, both prosaic and profound.

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The Search for Simon Steinberg

This is the story of how I figured out my family relationship to an unknown person with whom I had a third cousin DNA match on 23andMe. In the process, I not only discovered a missing line of my Shulman family but learned that other parts of the Shulman family had also come from the same small town as my great-grandfather, something that seemed at odds with family memories and stories. For my newly identified cousin, I uncovered the lost maiden name of his great-grandmother, and opened up another whole line of his family history that had been lost to memory. He was about to learn that he was related to some well-known Jewish enlightenment thinkers (Haskalah).

This story turns too on a handwritten family tree that was written down by my father’s first cousin who lived in Chicago, and who sent it in 1977 to his second cousin in Detroit. Passed along and saved for years, from family to family, the handwritten tree eventually made it to me, where it saved in my records until it just resurfaced through an odd combination of facts. And now I was about to pass it on to Larry, and not only fill in a gap in his knowledge about his family, but open up a vast set of new information about his past that he never knew.

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The Love Story of Rosa Berger and Boruch Meren

Learning about this touching love story between a young man in Mlynov and his girlfriend who left for Palestine in 1933 opens a window into the yearnings and aspirations of the youth of that period and the ways in which their life choices shaped their destinies.

This love story was shared with me by Hagar Lipkin, the daughter of Rosa Berger, who was born in Mlynov in 1910, daughter of Wolf and Golda Berger. I had tracked down Hagar as I was trying to understand what became of the Bergers who made aliyah in the 1930s from Mlynov. This is an excerpt from a longer essay I am writing about the Berger family from Mlynov.

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The Photo from 1935

Early in my research, I found a surprising photo in the collection of my aunt Neena Schwartz who had passed away. It was of Yetta Schwartz, my paternal great-grandmother, that was taken in the mid 1930's back in Mlynov, which was Poland at that time, only a few years before the Soviet invasion in 1939. I never knew that she had gone back to Mlynov.

I was later surprised to find the same photo in David Sokolsky's book, Monument, about his step-grandmother, Liba Tesler, who was born in Mlynov and had survived the Shoah. David had the names of Liba and her sisters in the photo, but not the name of my great-grandmother, Yetta. I set off in search of David, to tell him that my great-grandmother was in the photo he had published.

This essay recounts my search for David and what the photo revealed to me about myself.

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The Kosher Butcher War in Baltimore

In 1897, a man named Levi Edlavitch made the Baltimore news, embroiled in an interesting and somewhat hilarious legal case over kosher slaughtering that was covered in some detail in the Baltimore Sun. The case was described as “novel” and “an interesting case and the first of its kind in the city.” The case was also a kind of veritable who’s who of the emerging orthodox Jewish community, immigrants from Russia and Eastern Europe.

I had gotten interested in this case, which I bumped into, because it occurred in the decade when the earliest Mlynov immigrants to the US, Getzel and Ida Fax, landed in Baltimore in 1890/1891. They left shortly after the assasination of Tsar Alexander II which set off turmoil for Jews across Russia at the time. Baltimore, at the time, had been a growing port on the East Coast of the US since the 1850's. As a major wave of Russian "backward" Jews arrived in Baltimore in the 1890's, the German Jews began to move uptown.

This fight for authority over kosher meat in East Baltimore provided what I found to be a fascinating window into the emerging religious politics in Baltimore, when the first Mlynov immigrants arrived and were getting on their feet and participating in the remaking of Baltimore.

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Compiled by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD
Updated:July 2020
Copyright © 2019 Howard I. Schwartz

Webpage Design by Howard I. Schwartz
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