Genealogy research can be both very frustrating and very exhilarating. Sometimes you feel like you have hit a wall and can get no further. Every stone you turn leads nowhere. People don’t respond to requests for information, documents have been lost or destroyed, and you feel like you will never find anything new. Then there are the times that are exhilarating. You find a document that tells a story and reveals a relative you never knew about. You contact a long lost cousin and make a new friend. You put together pieces of a puzzle and see a picture of your family that touches you in ways you never anticipated.
Yesterday was one of those exhilarating days. I had found an email address for someone I thought could be one of Leah Adler’s grandsons and had taken a chance that it was the right person and that he would respond. It was a long shot—we are fairly distant cousins—third cousins—and it was very unlikely that my name and background would mean much to him. Well, I hit the jackpot! He forwarded my email to his sister Jean, who is herself someone with 30 years of experience in genealogy. Jean wrote to me right away, and we have since exchanged several emails and lots of information. Through this contact, I have been able to learn a lot more about my great-grandmother’s sister Tillie and her family.
Some might wonder why I care so much about these individuals and their lives. Well, these were my grandfather’s first cousins. He and his brother David were close in age to Isidor, Bertha, Bella, David, Pincus and Becky, and his sister Betty would have been close in age to Leah. These could have been their playmates as children in Iasi. They all had the same grandparents, David and Esther Rosensweig. Tillie and Ghitla both named sons for their father David.
Moreover, Tillie took in my grandfather and his sister in 1910 when she herself was a single mother already caring for her seven children. My grandfather and his sister must have been mourning their father, who had died in April, 1910, and awaiting their mother, who arrived in November. (One mystery: I cannot find David Goldschlager on any 1910 census, though he shows up living with his mother and siblings in 1915.)
So what have I learned from Jean about my grandfather’s aunt and her children? For one thing, it now seems quite clear that Itic Yankel Srulivici and Jacob Adler were one and the same person. Jean said that family lore in her family is that Jacob never left Ellis Island. The ship manifest does indicate that he was admitted in 1907, but perhaps something happened after that to block his ability to leave Ellis Island. The ship manifest does indicate that he was examined by a doctor and had scars on his corneas and coloboma of both irises. Could that have been enough to block his entry and have him deported? I have ordered a death certificate for a Jacob Adler who died in 1910, and I have asked my Romanian researcher to look for a record for Itic in Romania.
Jean was also able to confirm much of the information that I had found in public documents: that Bertha had been briefly married, that David died in the 1930s, and that her mother Teddy had married Abner Cohen. She also told me that Bertha had been killed in an accident in the 1960s, that Bella had married Baer Rothschild and had had no children, and that Beckie, who became Ray as an adult, had married Ben Seamon and had four children, including a daughter Thelma with whom Jean had corresponded in the late 1970s and who had filled Jean in on many of these details. Sadly, Thelma was also killed in a freak accident in 2000.
It seems no one knows what happened to Isidor, and I have sent for one death certificate that might be his from 1915. If it is in fact his death certificate, it would mean he died very young, as did his brother Pincus. The Adler family had more than their fair share of tragedies—losing Jacob, Isidor, Pincus and David at such young ages and losing Bertha and Thelma to freak accidents. As with my grandfather as well as his brother David Goldschlager, it seems that Leah and her siblings also did not like discussing their past or their childhood family. Perhaps the hardships of leaving Iasi where they had lived as children, coming to America as immigrants, and fighting to survive the poverty and the language and cultural differences left them all with scars that made it too painful to recall the past.
I don’t know anything about what their childhoods were like in Iasi. I’ve read enough to know that there was terrible anti-Semitism in Romania during those years and also terrible poverty. But children often are immune to those external factors in many ways because they know nothing else. I’d like to think that the Goldschlager-Rosensweig-Srulivici children as young children had some joyfulness in their lives. I’d like to imagine that Isadore, David and Betty Goldschlager and Isidor, Bertha, Bella, David, Beckie, Pincus and Leah Srulivic/Adler were all young cousins who played together and grew up together in Iasi, just as I was fortunate enough to grow up with my first cousins Jeff and Jody, who lived less than 20 minutes away from us during my childhood. All my first cousins—Jeff, Jody, Beth, Suzie, Robin and Jamie (Jim)– added so much laughter and joy to my life as a child, and I would hope that the same was true for my grandfather, his siblings and his first cousins.
Isadore and Gussie’s nine grandchildren