Monday, February 17, 2014

Salt Lake 2013 Research Trip

Dick and I joined 20 other members of the Fairfax Genealogical Society for a research trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City November 10-15, 2013. It's reputed to be the largest genealogical repository in the world.  

There were several reasons that I was interested in the trip:
  •    The library staff includes records experts who can speak Polish, German, Swedish and Norwegian.  Their assistance in finding and interpreting non-English language records is free.
  •   The library houses images of Polish Jewish birth, marriage and death records  that can be found only here and at their original site in Poland (See for indexes and more information.)
  •  Many New York City birth, marriage and death record images are here, available for free rather than the $15 vital records fee from the New York City Municipal Archives
  •  It's fun and motivating to pursue one's genealogy goals, share information and research tips with like-minded researchers.   We know that we're a tad bit obsessed; there's comfort in like-minded company!
Days were long - sometimes 9 a.m. until well into the evening for the truly industrious, but we were richly rewarded.  Here are some of my treasures:

1.  2nd great grandfather Isaac Helburn's 1868 naturalization document from New York.  Genealogists always prize an original signature.


2.  Swedish grandfather Axel Strom's 1867 birth register from Stockholm showing 'unknown' parents. (Axel's record is the first birth on the register, "Hjalmar Alfred Oscar".  This is the only document I've seen which lists his name as Alfred rather than Axel.  Another church document recorded "Hjalmar Axel Oscar", just as on his 1882 christening document shown below.)  This birth register corroborates information I've received from a Swedish researcher who maintained that Axel was born out of wedlock. 

3.  2nd great grandmother Nanetta Feldheim Helburn's 1907 NYC death certificate.  Her cause of death was listed as 'chronic diffuse nephritis".  At 87, she was positively ancient, almost 40 years past the average life span for a woman in the early 1900's.  Nanetta's father's name is listed on page 1 - Julius Feldheim, adding another generation to Dad's maternal German Jewish branch.  Page 2 shows a statement made by Nanetta's grandson, Julius Helburn (and the first cousin of our grandmother, Blanche Sachs Zweighaft).   "Do not know the maiden name of my grandmother.".  Sadly, after this loss of her grandmother, Blanche was to lose her husband, Bernard Zweighaft, only 4 months later. 

4.  Polish Records:  Zweighaft and Sachs/Saxe/Sax

Napoleon implemented extensive civil registration of births, marriages and deaths in the Duchy of Warsaw in 1808, after his conquest of this area.  These wonderful narratives, written in Polish, are rich in content often listing occupations in addition to parents' and witness's names.

My initial intent was to locate Polish birth and marriage records for great grandfather Simon Zweighaft.  However, after extensive searching both at Salt Lake and afterwards, the very helpful Polish researcher, Maria, was unable to find anything for Simon from Pilica or Gostynin.  One Zweighaft  record we found was for  Abram Maier Zweighaft, b. 1845 in Kozienice, the same year as Simon's birth, but the relationship to our family is not established.   It's quite interesting as the index record, shown first, lists the Germanic spelling of the name, Zweighaft, whereas the full record uses the Polish spelling, Cwajghaft.

The researcher explained that the father would come to report the birth of the child, bringing the child with him.   She marveled at the detail of the record and provided this translation (11 Nov 2013): 

Abram Maier Cwajghaft, born 1845

It happened in Kozienice on 2nd June 1845 year that a covenant man (i.e., old testament, a Jew) Mosiek Jaskowicz Zweighaft merchant of leather in Kozienice residing, 25 years old, in presence of witnesses, Mendel Borenschtein, merchant, 55 years old, Jankiel Klejner dealing with flour, 48 years old in Kozienice residing; and showed us an infant, gender male, born in Kozienice on 26th May year current.  wife Dobra Majzer Cwajghaftwicz, 26 years; circumcision was given, names Abram Majer Maskowicz Cwajghaft. This record was read to the one appearing and the witness and signed.  

We had more luck with the Sachs/Sax family.  Here is great grandfather Fabian Sachs Kaliske's 1833 birth record from Kalisz, listing both his parents, Szaia Hersz Sachs (aka Sigmund) and Blanche Brockman:

 I was especially excited about this record, not only as it extended the family tree a generation once again, but as it identified Fabian's mother who so tauntingly neglected to give her name on this engraved silver plate in my possesion, a gift to Fabian in 1867.  "An Fabian v. seiner Mutter.  1867"  ("To Fabian from your Mother.  1867").  Now we know where our grandmother Blanche Sachs Zweighaft got her name - from her grandmother Blanche Brockman (aka Blimcha Brokman). 

But even more amazing was the 1826 marriage record for Fabian's parents.  This contained the names of both parents for both the bride and groom, our 3rd great grandparents:  Hersz and Hanella Sax, parents of Szaia Sax and Ayzyk Brokman and Haiya Sora Moyzes, parents of Blanche Brokman.  Wow!  Now we're back to ancestors born in the 1700's.  

5.  Norwegian surnames:  Anunsen or Olsen?

After a couple of days of pouring over records in Polish, a pretty daunting task, I was ready to take a break and get back to English-language records.   The 1930's marriage records below for Aunt Helen and Uncle Mike, as well as Aunt Clara and Uncle Wilbur illustrated the use of the old and newer style of Norwegian surnames.  The old Nordic tradition of patronymic names survived until 1922 when Norway required that children be given inheritable surnames.  Aunt Helen listed our grandmother's name as Annie Olsen.  Aunt Clara listed it as Anna Anunsen.  I remember Mom mentioning that her mother sometimes used Olsen, sometimes Anunsen for her maiden name.   Anunsen literally means 'son of Anun'.