Sunday, May 26, 2013


THE NATURE OF THE ADVENTURE (It is after all a government office)
The average Israeli knows Misrad Hapenim as the place to go for birth and death certificates, passports, name changes, identity cards and citizenship issues. These are all handled by the Population Registry. This same Misrad Hapenim deals with elections, urban and rural planning, firearms licenses, local emergency planning, foreign workers, financial oversight of municipal government  and more. Years ago, it was called "the Ministry of Internal Affairs" in English, but some years ago, they adopted the American-sounding name "Ministry of the Interior" which makes this US-born Israeli think of national parks, the Bureau of Mines, forests, Fish & Wildlife, water resources and the US Geological Survey.

First: Who are you?
Then: What do you want.
As a genealogist, I occasionally I turn to them for a death record - sometimes for my own work, sometimes for a client, sometimes for an attorney who is helping a court abroad deal with an inheritance. Current policy permits the Population Registry to provide death certificates to no one but a "first degree relative" or an authorized representative.

So let's say someone in Europe dies and leaves some money to someone in Israel. But the person in Israel is dead. If the Israeli died after the person in Europe, his descendants get the money. If not, the money goes back to the estate. The European court will typically require an Israeli death certificate and will not accept a photo of the grave or a dated obituary. The attorney in Europe sends me a copy of his own authorization and a letter of appointment authorizing me to act on his behalf. I send all that to the Population Registry, together with the appropriate forms, wait six weeks, send a reminder, make a few phone calls and eventually receive the certificate by mail. There is no charge for this service.

Lately, when I phone for follow-up, they have said "Why are you doing this by mail? Just come into any of our offices and they'll do it on the spot."

So in a recent case, I tried that. A woman had died in New York and she had neither children nor siblings, so the executors began looking for cousins. Two first cousins (brothers) had lived in Tel-Aviv and the executors needed their death certificates. They sent me the proper authorizations and I decided to take the applications to the local Jerusalem office to watch them "do it on the spot."

Here in Jerusalem, the Population Registry has a very busy office downtown, as well as a small satellite office in Gilo and my neighborhood is one of those permitted to use the Gilo office. But just to be sure, I called the central information number to see if the Gilo office could handle applications of this nature. The person who answered my phone call was not sure, but he went to ask the higher-ups and eventually told me that yes, I could do this in Gilo.

He was wrong. I waited in line maybe forty minutes and the clerk took my papers to the manager of the office. A few minutes later, I was back on the street, with nothing to show for my lost time. (I could hardly bill the client for that time, could I.)

I phoned the information people to find out why they had misled me. I'll spare you the story of the hour I spent trying to get someone to even answer me, but eventually I found someone who speculated that the folks at the Gilo office probably couldn't read English, so did not understand the authorizations. Lovely.

I few days later, I went to the main office downtown, arriving at seven-thirty to get an early number when they opened at eight. At 8:10, I presented my applications to a clerk who had no idea what to do, so she sent me to the manager. The manager looked askance, shook her head and suggested I try another back-office clerk. It took less than five minutes to get the certificates in hand, once I got to someone who was willing to issue them. (As I left, the manager said to the clerk "You actually gave them to him?!")

At least I know exactly where to go next time.

Six years ago, I wrote an article for the Israel Genealogical Society's quarterly Sharsheret Hadorot, which I am please to reproduce here, in part.

As far as I know, nothing has changed in the last six years.

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Housekeeping note
I am speaking (in Hebrew) at the Israel Genealogical Society's Petah Tikva branch on Wednesday evening 29 May.  The subject is
The meeting will be held at the Kefar Ganim Library, 44 Atzmaut Street. The meeting opens at 6:30.  At 7:00 Dani and Miri Gershuni will give a presentation about the Schifres Family and I am scheduled for 7:30.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


Last week was the annual memorial meeting of Skalat survivors and descendants at the cemetery in Holon. See last year's posts here and here.

This year is seventy years since the murder of the last Jews of Skalat.

There was a larger group than in the last few years, mostly Shammai Segal's children and grandchildren and Yocheved Sarid with her children and grandchildren.

Shammai's family was to go on to Shammai's grave in Rehovot, for his yahrzeit was the day before.

Yocheved's brother Motel Weissman was missing for the first time as age has begun catching up to him. His closing kaddish was taken up by the whole group.

There were people who had never been there before, not just from the third generation. Henie Winter was not able to accompany her mother Tonia, but her brother came instead. He told me he wasn't sure what the point of the meeting was, but by the time we left, I think he had begun to understand.

Zvika Sarid spoke about two pieces of news. Their family project to locate the body of their brother and uncle Herschel Weissman is proceeding and they hope to go to Siberia this summer - at least to find his grave and perhaps to bring him to Israel.

The other news is that the town of Skalat is planning a celebration in August of five hundred years since the founding of the town. The mayor has said that they would be pleased to have Jewish former residents and their descendants as "honored guests." Zvika said that they were considering scheduling their Siberia trip to allow them to allend the celebration. Bronia objected to the idea that Jews should want to take part in a celebration of this sort. Everyone acknowledged that both attitudes were legitmate and that anyone who chose to attend would not be representating anyone but themselves.

A cousin of Bronia - whose name I didn't catch, but who is a Birnboim from Grzmalow - told of her own family's experience in the first two aktiot. The family had been in hiding and escaped the first aktzia, but her baby sister cried too much and the family that was hiding them on the roof, turned out the mother and two younger sisters, so only she and the father survived the second aktzia.

As we dispersed, I had a personal word with Zvika and some of his family. They live on Kevutzat Yavne, where I spent a year after the Six Day War. At the time I knew nothing of my own family history. The name Skalat meant nothing to me, nor did Zalosce, wher my grandfather was born. I do remember that Yitzhak Sarid, Zvika's father, spoke to us about his Holocaust experience and surely mentioned both those towns at that time. And I lamented the missed opportunity. There were people alive at the time who could have answered so many of the genealogy questions that I have today.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


Earlier discussions of my wife's grandfather Mendel Baum appear here and here.

A few months ago, I was visiting the office of my wife's first cousin Menachem Goldstein in his capacity as my dentist. Menachem is named for their grandfather Mendel Baum, as is my wife's eldest brother and another of the first cousins.

Menachem had just returned from a visit to his father in London (his mother died eleven years ago) and while he was there, he went through his father's library. While doing so, he found two books that had belonged to the grandfather, Mendel Baum, with handwritten notes inside the front and back covers. (One of them had only a back cover.) Both books were pretty much falling apart and Menachem brought them to me to see if I could learn anything new about the family.

The notes are in handwritten Hebrew, some in pen but some in badly-faded pencil. Some of it, I could make out pretty well. Other parts were not only difficult to read, but appeared to be riddles written in flowery language. I took them to Rav Dovid Shapiro, a document expert, to get them properly transcribed.

Almost all the genealogy notes were in the front of the first book (Kings and Chronicles, with commentaries, published in Vilna in 1874) and I want to present that here. I have not attempted to interpret the riddles but I will make those available when I have a chance. The remaining genealogy items will also have to wait.

The material I describe below is available online now.

I am presenting this now, a few days before the Shavuot holiday, for a reason which will become clear below.
The top image is the inside cover and the page opposite. Below is an enlargement of the center of the left-hand page, with R' Dovid's transcription. Other than the signature - Menahem Mendel Baum - I'm not sure what to make of it.

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At the bottom right, he twice writes in Hebrew what appears to be "Naftali Yitzhak Fradmin" - the aleph is clearly emphasized in the first instance. The name is misspelled both times and the vertical lines in the second instance makes me wonder if there isn't some kind of wordplay here..

To the left of those, he writes (in Latin letters) "I. Freedman" three times, which I assume is a reference to the same person.
I have no idea who this Freedman or Fradmin is.
R' Dovid Shapiro writes:
It's common to find lots of names on old seforim. Usually former owners, or even someone who borrowed it. You will notice that Naftali is spelled wrong in the Hebrew, both times. The first time Freedman is written Fradmin in the Hebrew. It's looks like it was written by a child, or at least someone who doesn't know Hebrew well. In the "English", I think the first initial is a European 'J', not I. This suggests that it was written on the continent, before the seforim arrived in England, and may well have been a former owner.
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My son Avraham was born to me Rosh Hodesh Nisan 5676, in their count [=Gregorian calendar] April 23, 1916 [actually 3 April]. We hope to merit to raise him to Torah, the marriage canopy and good deeds.  
The quality is really poor, I know.
And I don't know why Blogger
will not let me put this image on the right.

My son Yaakov Yehoshua was born to me on the Tuesday of the week we read Parashat Toledot 5680, 18 November 1919, 25 MarHeshvan. We hope to merit to raise him to Torah, the marriage canopy and good deeds.

My daughter, the girl Esther, was born to me Motzaei Shabbat Bereishit 5685, 28 Tishrei, in their count October 25.
My daughter, the girl Chaya Sarah, was born to me on the Sunday of week we read Parashat Yitro, 16 Shebat 5686, 31 January 1926.
We hope to merit to raise them to Torah, the marriage canopy and good deeds.
Shalom, the third son, who died, is not listed here.
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My  father, my teacher, of blessed memory died in 5667 on the eighteenth of the

 month of Adar. May his soul be bound in life. 1998.

My mother, my teacher, of blessed memory died 5658 on erev Shavuot and was buried on the day of Shavuot, on Sunday. May her soul be bound in life. 1907

I was born 5626.

There are several problems with this death information. Let's assume he meant 1898, not 1998. That fits the Jewish year he lists for his mother, while 1907, which he wrotes for his mother, fits the Jewish year for his father. I am assuming the Gregorian years are correct because in 1898/5658 erev Shavuot was Shabbat which fits Sunday burial. In 1907/5667 erev Shavuot was a Thursday, so the Sunday burial would not be right. On the other hand,"Yom Rishon" may not mean Sunday, but rather the first day (of Shavuot). 

have inquired in Tarcal and they say they have no Baum deaths in either 1898 or 1907.
I am very disappointed that he does not record the names of his parents' parents. I really hope that if I find death certificates, the parents' names will appear.
According to the 1867 census, he was two years old, so 5626 may not be precise, though my guess is that it is.
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Interesting here is the stamp at the top of the page:
Salamon was the next younger brother, who went to New York sometime in the 1880 or early 1890s. I do not think they ever saw each other again, though Salamon's two elder daughters visited London in the 1930s.

I'll post something about the rest of the notes at a later date. I may do something about Blogger too!

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I am speaking (in Hebrew) at the Israel Genealogical Society's Petah Tikva branch on Wednesday evening 29 May.  The subject is

The meeting is at the Kefar Ganim Library, 44 Atzmaut Street and I am to speak at seven-thirty.
This is the frontspiece for the book
in which all the above appears.

Sunday, May 5, 2013


This Wednesday, we celebrate the liberation of Jerusalem forty-six years ago, after nineteen years of occupation by the Jordanians. It seems like a good time to tell the story of Baruch, a freshly-retired superviser for Gihon, the Jerusalem water company.

I have been going to this particular shul fairly regularly for maybe two years and that's where I met Baruch. He has an Israeli surname which was obviously something else beforehand and one day I asked him about it. He told me that his name was originally Graniwitter and that his father had changed it after coming to Israel from Europe.

Right: Golda bat Zvi Aryeh, died 18 Kislev 5719
Left: Israel ben Nachman, died 22 Teveth 5748
I asked him where his father was from (Baruch himself was born here) and he said "Galicia." I asked him where and he said "a small town you have never heard of Roz..-something." "Rozdol?" I asked. Yes it was Rozdol. It's a town I know well, because the "other" Pikholz families are from there. He wasn't sure exactly when his father - Israel ben Nachman - was born.

Baruch's mother had died when he was young and he didn't know much about her family. Her name was Golda bat Zvi Aryeh and he knew she was born in Stryj in 1902. But no surname.

Later, at home, I went to work, beginning with JRI-Poland. Rozdol birth records are indexed only through 1900, so I was not surprised that Baruch's father Israel did not appear. I found four other records - three births to (Jakob) Israel and one Nachman Sisze born to Mendel Zaumfus and Taube Granivetter.
The "View Image" links are new and were not  available when I first did this search.

I saw quite a few Graniwitters in other towns in the area and several Nachman Sisze of one spelling or  another, so it appeared likely that the one born in 1878 was Baruch's grandfather. It would not be the first time that a middle name was lost along the way.

I turned my attention to Baruch's mother. Golda bat Zvi Aryeh, born 1902 in Stryj, without a clue to her surname. Clearly Zvi Aryeh would appear in Galician records as Leib Hersch so I searched for the given names Golda, Leib and Hersch in Stryj and limited the search to the 1898 and on.  (We only have indexed births for Stryj through 1903.)

Here too, we did not have the benefit of the "View Image" link at the time.

The third one here looked good. I presented it to Baruch and he said that his older sister Hencha is named for their maternal grandmother, so it makes sense. He later spoke to his sister and she recognized the surname Messinger.

I ordered the records for Baruch's mother and paternal grandfather, learned their mother's parents' names and ordered a few more records. In the end, I put together a nice picture of Baruch's ancestors, complete with documents - including for some of those ancestors' siblings.

But it wasn't the end.

As I said, we have a large number of Pikholz records from Rozdol and in the course of scanning some of them, I came across this:

Click to see a larger version
The record before the 7 April 1875  birth of Jakob Pikholz was the birth - on the same day - of Nachmen Granenweter. His parents are Israel Jakob and Golde. That's the other Rozdol family that had shown up earlier. This made way more sense to be Baruch's grandfather. Nachman without Sisze. The father Israel Jakob, where Baruch's father (Nachman's son) is Israel.

Now I can go to the birth records of Nachman's younger brother and sister and get the mother's parents' names.

Why didn't this birth show up before? Well, the "sounds like" function does not catch everything that we might think sounds like what we want. In this case, the second "n" in Granenweter was enough to keep it out of the results. And of course, since there was another reasonable-looking result, I fell into the trap of thinking it is correct. I should know better, of course.

I have since done some additional searches, including "starts with Gran," but this was the only result that I really missed. I gave Baruch this newfound record and he was pleased.

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Housekeeping note
I am speaking (in Hebrew) at the Israel Genealogical Society's Petah Tikva branch on Wednesday evening 29 May.  The subject is