I have had some incredible luck following my hunches when ordering vital records about people who I think are my family members—finding Frieda Brotman’s death certificate and marriage certificates, for example, or finding Susie Mintz and Gustave Rosenzweig and Tillie Strolowitz and their relatives. But lest anyone think that all my hunches have worked out, I want to give you three recent examples where I just guessed wrong.
The first example involves Gussie Rosenzweig, Gustave’s wife. Recently I was able to obtain her death certificate and saw that her son Jack had listed her as a widow with a husband named Ben. I was very puzzled by this as Gussie had not been listed as living with any man in the most recent census reports before she died. Had she married sometime in the 1920s or 1930s and been widowed in between census reports? I did a search and found only one Gussie Rosenzweig who had married a man named Benjamin. I ordered that certificate, and this is what I received:
Clearly, this is not the right Gussie. This Gussie was only 27 in 1934, whereas our Gussie would have been in her 70s; this Gussie had different parents who had come from Hungary. So I still have no idea whether there ever was a Ben who married Gussie after she and Gustave split up. Strike one.
The next bad guess involved a search for the other children of Gussie and Gustave who did not survive infancy. I had seen on Rebecca’s birth certificate in 1893 that Gussie and Gustave had had five children, four living at Rebecca’s birth. Somehow I miscounted and thought there was a missing child, although now when I go back and re-read my blog post, it seems pretty obvious that I had found all four living children (Lillie, Sarah, Abraham, and Rebecca) and the one deceased child (David). But I thought I had found another—Samuel Rosenzweig—and sent for that death certificate. Not surprisingly, he was not the child of Gustave and Gussie, as you can see below. Strike two.
The last example of my bad hunches involved a man named Paskel Rosenzweig who came from Iasi in 1900. I thought that he might be another Rosenzweig sibling and decided to research his life in the US. I was able to determine that he had changed his name to Charles and ordered a death certificate, hoping it would show that he was the sibling of Gustave, Tillie, Ghitla and Zusi, but as you can see below, he was not. Strike three.
Perhaps he was a cousin, but it would require some further digging into Romanian documents to see if Charles’ father was related to my great-great grandfather David Rosenzweig. For now I will accept that my hunch is unproven, if not yet proven wrong.
There are other examples of times I made a bad guess. Fortunately for the most part these bad guesses are not costly, as the documents usually came for free from the Family History Library. But even so, every time I open a document, either electronically or in hard copy, my heart is beating, hoping it will provide an important clue or confirm a hunch. When it does not, it is very disappointing. Inevitable—what are the odds I will always find the right person?—but nevertheless, disappointing.