I’ve been asked what got me started on doing this research. I’d like to claim some life-changing event or spiritual moment got me started, but to be honest, it was a television program, Who Do You Think You Are. That program showed celebrities researching and learning about their ancestors, and as I saw how moved these people were learning about an ancestor they’d never met, I decided that I wanted to learn more myself.
I started by joining ancestry.com and made a lot of progress with my paternal side, but very little on my maternal side. I hit a wall and put it all aside, figuring I’d never find more. Then this past summer I received an email from someone who’d seen my ancestry tree and thought we might be related through my maternal grandfather, Isadore Goldschlager. My interest was sparked again, and that contact gave me a contact in Romania who was able to find documents about my grandparents and great-grandparents, including the name of my great-great-grandparents, names my mother had not known. The fact that my great-great-grandfather was named Ira, the same name as my brother, even though my mother had never known her great-grandfather’s name, gave me the chills and made me realize how rich and rewarding this research and these discoveries could be.
So I turned to the Brotman side, and this time I turned to third parties for help, asking questions on ancestry.com, geni, JewishGen, anywhere I could. I learned how to find and order birth, marriage and death certificates and other documents, and one of my mentors found the obituary of Renee Haber, which was how I found David Ruzicka. I also found David Haber through ancestry.com, and he helped me find Judy. Someone on JewishGen/GesherGalicia contacted Bruce Brotman in response to my inquiry, and slowly but surely the pieces came together. It wasn’t until then that I realized that there was a brother named Max; my mother only remembered the names Hyman, Tilly, Frieda and Sam. Yet she remembered Renee and Rosalie, thinking they were Hyman’s daughters, so I knew I had the right people. And then my brother found Abraham’s naturalization papers with Max’s name on them. When I was able to confirm by the address that it was the same Max, the hunt to verify that Abraham was another brother began.
There have been so many dead ends and false starts, but also so many amazing moments on this journey so far. I have encountered so many kind and generous people—not only the Brotman cousins themselves, but the helpers on the other sites and the man who volunteered to go to Mt Zion cemetery to take pictures of Joseph and Abraham’s headstones (and then also took those of Abraham’s wife and son Joseph on his own, just to be nice).
I am not done. There are still many unanswered questions. Most importantly, I am still trying to find out where our family came from in Galicia and what their lives were like there.
So stay tuned…who knows what and who else I will find?