Monday, January 30, 2017

The Kaplans

Since I began working on my family's genealogy, this picture has hung on my wall, representing my ultimate challenge.
This came from from my grandmother's younger brother Uncle Hymen and it shows his eldest sister Alta Rosenbloom Kaplan and her four children. Uncle Hymen knew that the man in the lower right is Jakov, the eldest, that one of the other boys is Baruch Yosef and that the girl in the middle is Etta Bryna, named for our great-grandmother who had died in 1896. The picture itself was taken in the 1920s in Moscow, though Alta was born in Borisov..

A 1929 letter from my great-grandfather (and my namesake) Israel David Rosenbloom tells us of two granddaughters born to Alta. And that is where we have been since the early 1970s. (I have mentioned this family before - most recently here.)

This is the family structure as we knew it.

Then along came Galit, a DNA cousin with roots in Borisov. I mentioned here recently that she and I have embarked on a DNA project involving a number of Borisov families. Galit lives near Philadelphia and we were to meet yesterday for the first time when I was scheduled to speak for the JGS of Philadelphia. Galit's first language is Russian.

Last week, Galit reported that she thought she had found Alta's descendants, that Alta had lived to age 93 - well into our lifetimes - and that she had six children, not four. And that some of the four in our photograph were mislabeled. (Uncle Hymen knew there were six, but probably just identified (or tried to) the four and no ever asked him if there were others.)

Friday morning, she wrote on our "Etta Bryna's Descendants" Facebook group "all is confirmed." For me, at least, the key confirmation was this.

The woman is clearly the same as the one in our photo and we know the young man in the back. Uncle Hymen. He left for the US at age twenty so this would have been a farewell visit to his sister. This includes Alta's husband Berl Kaplan who died of smallpox in 1916. Sons are Jakov, Boris (Baruch Yosef?), Lev, Isaak. Girls are Esfir (Etta Bryna) and Sofia.

I am now Facebook friends with Katya in Moscow, the granddaughter of Isaak, the boy on the left sitting next to Alta. Katya is a translator, so she does English.

The entire family lived in Moscow since before the war, so they survived the Holocaust unscathed. And some of the knew the half-sister Aunt Mera, who has a son Mihail who may be alive. (Katya will check that with her mother.).

Jakov's great-grandson Ilya has a tree online at My Heritage - in Russian - and I went over it with Galit. Alta herself died in 1968 and her children are all gone, but there are eight or nine living grandchildren. My second cousins. Some are still in Moscow. Ilya's family are in Nuremberg. One branch is in Israel. Several families are in the US and I plan to meet my second cousin Lydia (daughter of Lev) in Columbus Ohio later this week, on my way to speaking in Detroit. She is the one with the pictures.

Ilya has a great uncle in Indianapolis. I wish I could get to him as well but there are not enough days this week. Another family is in northern New Jersey. Nuremberg is a seven hour train ride from Budapest, where I plan to be in the spring. I wonder if Aeroflot has a flight from Israel to Orlando that will allow me to see the Moscow cousins this summer.

It was very special to have U. Hymen's granddaughter, my cousin Beth and her husband, with Galit and me when we met yesterday. These new cousins are to Beth and me as we are to each other. (Beth and I are the ones with the glasses.)

Obviously, I am rather overwhelmed by all of this. So much DNA to collect.

 More later. Enjoy the ride with me.

Housekeeping notes
My Baltimore talk on Uncle Selig was very good and we had a nice turnout, as usual. This was the first appearance of the Uncle Selig presentation, which I will also be doing in los Angeles in two weeks. I have also submitted it for Orlando.

The rest of the talks this trip are
2 February 2017, 7 PM – JGS of Michigan, Farmington Community Library – Main Branch – Auditorium,32737 W. Twelve Mile Rd. Farmington Hills, MI 48334
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey

 5 February 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Cleveland, Park Synagogue East, 27500 Shaker Blvd,  Pepper Pike
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey

10 February 2017, 11:00ROOTSTECH2017, Jewish DNA: Successes and Lessons from the Journey

12 February 2017, 1:30 – Orange County JGS Temple Beth David, 6100 Hefley Street, Westminster, CA 92683
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey

13 February 2017, 7:30 – JGS of Los Angeles, American Jewish University, American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive
Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?


  1. Good stuff. I'm very excited.

    1. You can visit the one in Indianapolis. Mn about ten years older than I, married daughter with kids.

  2. Wow!An incredible find. Are the Kaplans cohanim? I never heard the name Esfir. Not a typo for Esther?

    1. No idea if they are kohanim but I will ask. They may not know.

      Esfir is Etta Bryna, after g-gm. Galit says Esfir is a Russian version of Esther.