My Vodovoz, Arbit, and Chernetz Ancestors from Bessarabia
By Jeff Wexler
What I knew when I started my genealogical research
As of 2010, when I started my genealogical research in earnest, I knew some basic facts about my maternal grandfather,
Louis Harry Vodovoz (1900-1966), and his family. I knew that Louis was born as Leib Vodovoz on December 25, 1900
in what was then Akkerman, Bessarabia, and that by 1920, when he emigrated to the United States, the city was known as Cetatea Alba, Romania.
(The city is currently Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, Ukraine.)
I also knew that Louis’ parents were Yonkel Velvel (Yakov Zev in Hebrew) Vodovoz (@1856-1913) and Zlata Brucha Chernetz Vodovoz (1862-1943),
and that Yonkel Velvel was a Levite. Photographs of Yonkel Velvel and Zlata Brucha graced the den of my grandparents’ house.
Yonkel Velvel (Yakov Zev) Vodovoz.
Akkerman, earlier 20 century.
Zlata Brucha Vodovoz (1860-1943) born Arbit (1856-1913).
Akkerman, earlier 20 century.
I knew from Zlata Brucha’s passport that she was born in Grigoriopol, which was then in the Kherson province of the Russian empire.
(Grigoriopol is currently in Transnistria, a breakaway territory of Moldova.)
Yonkel Velvel’s father was named Davud Ber; his mother’s name remains unknown.
According to family lore, Yonkel Velvel was born with the surname Arbit,
but he purchased the surname Vodovoz in order to avoid service in the Tsar’s army.
Zlata Brucha’s parents were named Fishel and Udel.
Zlata Brucha’s 1943 tombstone, in Minneapolis, identifies her father as Yerucham Fishel Chernetz
Yonkel Velvel and Zlata Brucha had 14 children, only four of whom survived to adulthood.
The surviving children were: (1) Chana (Anna) Vodovoz Kelber (1884-1968); (2) Mandel (Max) Vodovoz (1893-1964);
(3) Chasa (Susie) Vodovoz Abramovitz (1896-1984); and (4) Louis Vodovoz (1900-1966).
Mendel (Max), Chasa (Susie), Leib (Louis) Vodovoz
Chana (Anna) Vodovoz married Max Kelber (1882-1964) in Akkerman and came to the United States in 1906,
settling in Ashley, North Dakota. Max and Anna Kelber had nine children, all born in North Dakota.
Louis Vodovoz arrived in the United States on 1920, after spending two months on the docks in Athens, Greece because he missed his ship.
His immigration was sponsored by his brother-in-law Max Kelber, so he originally moved to Ashley, North Dakota, where he immediately started
to work as a patent medicine salesman. Soon thereafter, he moved to Minneapolis, where he in 1926 married Sarah Moscovici (1905-1979),
from Botosani, Romania. Louis and Sarah Vodovoz had seven children, all born in Minneapolis.
Louis Vodovoz Passport
In 1921, Zlata Brucha Vodovoz arrived in the United States, along with her son Mandel (Max), her daughter Chasa (Susie),
and Chasa’s husband Sander (Alexander) Abramovitz (1890-1971). Zlata Brucha lived in Minneapolis, passing away in 1943.
1921 Zlata Vodovoz Passport
Max married Ida Abraham (1903-1979); they changed their surname to Vozoff. Max and Ida Vozoff had three children, all born in Minneapolis.
Sander and Susie Abramovitz had four children, the first of whom was born in Cetatea Alba and the last three of whom were born in Minneapolis.
Confirmation of Arbit ancestry
When I started my genealogical research, I had some documentary evidence to support the family lore that the Vodovoz surname was originally Arbit.
First, the death certificates for two of the children of Yonkel Velvel’s older daughter Anna stated that Anna’s maiden name was Arbeit.
Second, an 1897 birth certificate from Grigoriopol for the 1893 birth of Yonkel Velvel’s older son Mandel identified Mandel’s father as Khaskel Shlem Vodovoz,
and Mandel’s 1914 internal ID card from Akkerman identified Mandel’s patronymic as Khaskeleva; these records suggested that Yonkel Velvel had purchased not only
the surname Vodovoz, but the identity of a Khaskel Vodovoz.
1893 Mendel Vodovoz Birth Certificate
1914 Internal ID Card from Akkerman for Mendel Vodovoz (Max Vozoff)
I was also aware that there had been Arbits in Akkerman in the early 20th century.
The Bessarabia Duma voter lists for 1906 and 1907 (available on JewishGen) identified two Arbits in Akkerman – Shlema Arbit and Mendel Arbit – both the sons of a David.
Arbit Bessarabia Duma search
The Family Tree of the Jewish People (also available on JewishGen) included an entry for Ber Arbit, the father of Shlomo Arbit and Mendel Arbit.
In 2013, I was contacted by Benjamin Arbit, the great grandson of the Shlomo Arbit from Akkerman who was identified in the Bessarabia Duma voter
lists and the Family Tree of the Jewish People; Benjamin found me because I had identified Arbit from Akkerman on the JewishGen Family Finder.
Benjamin knew about an Arbit/Vodovoz family connection but, according to his family tradition, the family surname had originally been Vodovoz,
and his branch had adopted the surname Arbit. Benjamin said that there had been another brother who had adopted the surname Wasserman and had moved to South America.
(Note that Vodovoz and Wasserman have the same meaning – water carrier – in Russian and Yiddish, respectively.)
In 2014, I discovered that the webmaster of a Russian-language website Old Akkerman devoted to the history of Akkerman had posted about my Arbit family from Akkerman
(he had been inspired by an earlier version of my Vodovoz/Arbit genealogy that had been posted on the Bessarabia SIGs website).
He found information from a 1904 member list for the Akkerman Mutual Credit Society that indicated
that Shlema Arbit was assigned to the petit-bourgeois society of Peschanka, suggesting that the Arbit family previously lived in Peschanka, Ukraine.
Akkerman Mutual Credit Society
In 2016, as a result of an autosomal DNA match through Family Tree DNA, I was contacted by the husband of the great granddaughter of a Gertrude/Katherine
Arbit Kuchuk (her given name is identified as Gertrude on the U.S. marriage record for one of her sons and as Katherine on the U.S. marriage record for another
of her sons, but her name in Akkerman was almost certainly different). She knew that her great grandmother Gertrude/Katherine was an Arbit from Akkerman with a Vodovoz brother.
1926 marriage record for Henry Kutschuck and Pauline Kadison
Because I have now confirmed that Yonkel Velvel had at least two siblings with the surname Arbit, it appears likely that Yonkel Velvel’s surname was in fact originally Arbit.
Chernetz roots in Tiraspol
In 2015, as the Bessarabia SIG was preparing extracts for the 1858 revision lists from Tiraspol, I learned from Inna Vayner of the SIG that Zlata Brucha’s father,
Fishel Chernetz, age 19, was identified in the 1858 revision list for Tiraspol. His parents were Moshko Chernetz, age 39, and Golda, age 38.
Moshko was the son of Nusim Chernetz (who had presumably died by 1851 because Moshko and Golda had a seven-year-old son named Nusim).
In addition to Fishel and Nusim, Moshko and Golda had one son (Leyba, age 14) and three daughters (Khava Etya, age 17, Leya, age 11, and Gitlya, age 1).
Because Moshko was born in about 1819, his father Nusim was probably born in the 18th century.
JewishGen search results with Chernetz records from Tiraspol
Because Zlata Brucha was born in 1862, Fishel must have married Udla not long after the 1859 revision lists were prepared.
Fishel presumably moved from Tiraspol to Grigoriopol (27 miles away) at the time of the marriage.
Also in 2015, Inna put me in touch with two of Fishel’s descendants, Polina Birzh and Alexandra Leiderman.
Polina knew that Zlata Brucha had moved to the United States and provided information concerning six of Zlata Brucha’s siblings.
Polina recalled that all of the Chernetz children were born in the village of Taslic (about five miles south of Grigoriopol), and that the family moved to Grigoriopol thereafter.
Birth Certificate from Jeff Wexler's Personal Collection
Certificate issued by the Tiraspol Uyezd Rabbi and stamped with the proper seal and signature to affirm that according to the metric record in the book of the Jews born
in the city of Grigoriopol in 1893 the following act is listed under #7:
on April 9, 1893 the Du[boss]ary meschanin (townsman) Khatzkel son of Shlema Vodovoz and his wife Zlata had a newborn son.
The newborn was named Mendel.
The Certifciate was issued for ... Tiraspol January 5, 1897.
From Jeff Wexler Personal Collection
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