Patty Sowalsky's JGFF success story

As a 4th generation American Jew, I was certain that I had never had any connection to the Holocaust, or to anyone in the "old country."  My family had been here for so many years that, even when asked, they had no recollection of anyone left behind when the family emigrated to America in the late 1880's. "Everyone was here" they always said - but my recent research has proved them wrong.

Part of my story starts with an old document, one that my mother had given to me for safekeeping. It was written in several languages and, though neither of us knew what it was, we valued it because it was an old remnant of our family. I saved the tattered document by having it dry mounted and then put it in a drawer where it lay for many years until I joined JewishGen and began to do some family research. Because I had always been curious about the document in my possession, one of the first things I did was to make a copy of the original and send it off to be translated. I could barely wait for the results which proved to be remarkable. For the document, based on the record of his  circumcision, was a certificate of my grandfather, Jack (Jankiel) Weisinger's birth with the official seal of the District Registration Office Borszczów, and the seal of the Keeper of Jewish Records issued by the Jewish District Registration Office. That one piece of paper provided me with a wealth of information about my past. It listed the date of my grandfather's circumcision (June, 30, 1891), and the names of his parents Nussen Weisinger and Lea Milmud. Because they had only been married in "traditional custom", their marriage was not recognized by the state and therefore, my grandfather Jack was listed as illegitimate. The document also notes the named of Leah's parents (Schaja Abrahamowicz and Elia Milmud) and the father's line of business (horse trader in Jezierzany). Much of this information, though valuable to me as it was, would prove to be invaluable to me in the second part of this story.

When I first joined JewishGen, one of the family names I listed among those I was researching was Milmud. Nearly a year after I posted the name I received an e-mail from a woman in Israel who had just joined JewishGen. Yochi Weintraub, it seemed, was looking for a similar name (Milmut) from the same town of Jezierzany. The first names of many of the people she believed she was searching for were amazingly similar to the ones I was related to in America. Last summer, after several months of our trying to put the puzzle together, Yochi found a recently posted listing on the Ellis Island database that definitively linked our families. For it stated that the man she was looking for, her great grandfather, Chaskel Milmud, had come to the U.S., at the age of 28, on August 18, 1903, on the ship named Noordam, which had sailed from the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The ship manifest stated that Chaskel had traveled to America to go to Providence, RI to see his brother-in-law, Nathan Weisinger, my great grandfather! But Leah Milmud Weisinger, Nathan's wife was not the only sibling that Chaskel had come to visit. Ida Milmud Ehrenberg, another sister, also lived nearby with her husband Sam and another sister, Sarah Milmud Ehrenberg, lived in the Philadelphia area with her husband Joseph Greenberg. So, I wondered, why had no one, not even my grandfather Jack who would have been old enough to remember, ever mentioned his Uncle Chaskel? The primary reason, Yochi informed me, probably lay in the fact most jobs in the U.S. that were available to Chaskel, a horse trader like his father, required him to work on the Jewish Sabbath. Unwilling to adjust to this and other American ways that must have seemed strange to him, Chaskel decided to return to his family in Jezierzany instead of bringing them to live in the U.S.. And, due to the fact that the means of communication were so limited in those days, the siblings lost touch with one another.

From what Yochi and I have been able to surmise Chaskel returned home to his wife Tehila (nee: Wasserman) and went back to earning a living as a horse trader until he was set upon by thieves who nearly blinded him. After recovering Chaskel devoted the rest of his days to religious study while Tehila literally became the family breadwinner by opening a bakery that was patronized by all of the town's people, Jew and non-Jew alike. Particularly because Tehila was charitable and had a reputation for fairness the name Milmud was greatly respected - a fact that was to save some of her and Chaskel's family during the Holocaust. Their story, according to Yochi, is as follows:  Chaskel and Tehila had five daughters whose names, translated approximately into English, were Tehila, Feige, Ethel, Miriam and Mina. Tehila and Feige were murdered by the Nazi's. Ethel & Miriam moved to Israel in the early 1930's. Mina, Yochi's grandmother, who is now nearly 100 years old, was hidden with her two daughters, Chana and Bluma (Yochi's mother) during the war, by a Catholic-Polish family. Yochi was born after the war in Cyprus where the family was detained while at tempting to get to Israel. 

I know there are many family stories still to be uncovered between me and my third cousin, Yochi. Last summer I met her wonderful brother, Shlomo Weintraub, who lives in Cupertino, CA, and Yochi and I are trying to make plans to meet one another in the not too distant future. I've encouraged her to visit me so that we might be able to attend the JewishGen Convention together in DC this summer. Finding family you never knew you had is like finding the best treasure in the world. There are few words to describe how wonderful it is!

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Last updated 10/21/03 by ELR
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