The Fluidity of Names iv

  Susan Weinberg
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  Case Studies



If you are just beginning you may be unsure of what to expect in your own research or from hiring a genealogist.  Below are case studies based on work I've done for different clients.  In each case I started with the information we knew.  Sometimes it was sketchy and uncertain, but even incorrect information usually has a germ of fact. 

In the first case, I've provided an example of the benefit of being on site where I was able to assist an experienced genealogist because I lived near where her great-grandfather once lived. 

The second case is a more typical search in that the objective was broad; gather as much information as possible about related family from a few pieces of information that may not be accurate.

The third case looks at locating towns of origin and family in Poland.

Much of my work is also documented in my blog posts which can be found at the Articles page. To learn more about my process, I would encourage you to access the following links:

Validating Instincts
A Puzzle in Ten Steps
The Safe-Cracker's Work

On the Articles tab, you will find additional articles on client work under the headings of Genealogy Searches, Names, and Searching the Lodz Ghetto.


Locating Minnesota Records

Finding Prior Generations   


Locating Minnesota Records

What We Knew:
Client’s great-grandfather came to the Twin Cities in the 1880s.  My client was an active genealogist and had already found considerable information and developed an extensive family tree.

What We Wanted:      
The client was located in another state and did not have easy access to all of the resources within Minnesota.  The main value I could add was to identify and access information in Minnesota to which she did not have direct access and continue to pursue the remaining puzzles in her search.

One of the puzzles she hoped to solve was to learn where her great-grandfather came from in Europe. Because he came over fairly early the typical source of immigration records wouldn’t provide that information.

What We Searched:

What We Found:
Initially I focused my efforts on information specific to Minnesota. I then explored census and immigration records as I found new branches to the family.  Information I found or sought included:
  • Death certificates
  • Obituaries
  • Probate records (wills)
  • Naturalization records
  • Cemetery tombstone photos
  • City directories
  • Draft records
  • Census records
  • Immigration records
  • School records
  • Synagogue records

I successfully located relevant death records and obituaries as well as pictures of tombstones.  Many documents were available at the local historical archives.  As the research was local I drove out to cemeteries to take photos, went to a synagogue to check on any old records and went to the school district  to check on old school records.  Not all efforts pan out and there were no records at the synagogue or from the school. 

I did; however, hit the jackpot with probate records that were held at the County Courthouse. There I found her great-grandfather's will.  It revealed the European town he came from, a new family branch from a sister of whom we were unaware and many of the causes that he supported.  Identifying the town from the name in the will required some creative analysis given the name changes that had occurred over time.

In the process of my search, I also had a serendipitous discovery.  At the Jewish Historical Society  I stumbled across a scrapbook for the local high school and inserted into its pages was a program from 1911 of a theater performance for the Jewish Home for the Aged.  Performing in that program were her grandmother and two of her grandmother's siblings.  Sometimes we're just lucky!

Case Studies

Finding Prior Generations

What We Knew:
We started out with the birth year of my client’s grandmother, an estimated immigration date and a few of the names of her grandmother’s siblings.  There was no family left who would be able to provide additional information.

What We Wanted: My client wanted to learn where her grandmother came from.  She also wanted to identify family members associated with her grandmother and work back several generations.  The client’s family records were primarily in New York and Eastern Europe.

What We Searched:
I located immigration, census, naturalization and death records. I also reviewed both European revision lists (a type of census) and Holocaust records for family names from the identified town.

What We Found:
 From these records I identified 27 family members going four generations back including:
Names of great-grandparents and great-great grandparents
Siblings to her grandmother, many of whom were unknown

Siblings to her great-grandfather in the US and Europe
Cousins of her grandmother and their spouses and children

In addition I was able to identify the European names of these relatives and their dates of birth and immigration as well as the name and location of her ancestral town.

Interestingly we discovered that her widowed great-grandfather brought over the older children in 1904 to stay with his brother, his sister and her husband.  Ten years later he returned to stay bringing over the younger children.

Case Studies

Tracing Back to Poland
What We        Knew:                                  
What We Wanted:

We started out with the names of grandparents and some possible towns of origin. Additionally the client was able to photograph tombstones of key family members.

My client wanted to learn where his grandparents came from.  He had some possibilities from family stories, but no evidence on which to base them.

What We Searched:

What We
I began with census records which led me to immigration records.  I also searched death records in the US.  I found Polish records which appeared to be the marriage record for the grandparents and translated them.  I also compared tombstone information.  Using information from the Polish record I again searched for immigration records by town.

I began with census records and then located the grandfather's immigration record. While the immigration record gave Warsaw as the town of origin, I was skeptical as many immigrants gave the nearest large city.  I then searched Polish vital record indexes and found a marriage record from a smaller town not too far from Warsaw that I suspected was that of the client's grandparents. The record was in Russian so I translated the key information.  I also translated tombstones for Hebrew names and fathers' names.  When I matched them up, everything was close with some minor spelling and name variations.

I was convinced I was on the trail, but needed something more to be sure. Using that town, I again did an immigration search and found the immigration record of the grandmother with the children. That record gave the mother's name as the nearest relative in Europe, the exact name that was on the marriage record as the bride's mother. It also indicated that she was going to her husband in Minnesota. All the pieces fit together.   Now knowing I had the correct record I sought additional vital records from Poland that tied to this record, finding additional relatives of this family.  In addition to these records, I identified death records in the US which gave parents names.

Case Studies




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