Take a second look: How revisiting old research can lead to new insights

Once in a while, it’s a good thing to go back and take another look at past research. With the passing of time and additional research, a second look over notes from past research can spark new insights.

Several years ago when I lived in New York City, I jumped on Metro North’s Hudson line and took a trip to Poughkeepsie. My great grandparents settled there after immigrating from Hungary in the early 20th century, and my grandfather was born and raised there. I’d never been (that I remembered, anyway), and wanted to see what the town was like and where they lived. I also knew that my great grandparents, Josef and Julia Silber, were buried in the Schomre Israel Cemetery near Vassar College, and I wanted to see who else might have been buried there and what information I could gather from their gravestones.

Silber plot

Visiting my ancestors at the Schomre Israel Cemetery in Poughkeepsie, NY

I was thrilled to find that there were several relatives buried in the same cemetery. Many of my grandfather’s siblings and aunts and uncles were also there. I was especially pleased to find the grave of my great-great grandfather, Ignatz Schwartz, there was well. I took lots of pictures of gravestones, including many that might be connected to my family even though I don’t know how they might, or even IF they might be.

Like many Jewish gravestones, all of my relatives graves had Hebrew inscriptions as well as English. A friend graciously translated the Hebrew for me on several of them, and I kept that in a document with my other genealogy research notes. Most helpful in these inscriptions was the listing of their Hebrew names, which include the names of their fathers. This confirmed a couple of things that I had found earlier, in particular that my great grandfather, Josef, was actually called Simon before coming to America. (His Hebrew name was Shimon Yehuda, and all records show his first name as Simon until the 1920 U.S. Census–his first in the United States.)

The other day I was looking at those translations for the first time in a while, and I noticed a name that instantly made a connection in my mind–one that I hadn’t made before. Before going to Poughkeepsie, I knew from my great grandparents’ marriage record in Hungary that his parents were named Samuel Silber and Czeczilia Kupferstein, and that his brother’s (Isidore’s) marriage record says that his parents were Saji Silber and Terez Kupferstein. (Read more here.) But I still couldn’t find anything to verify if these two couples were the same couple.

Gravestone of my great grandfather, Josef Silber

Gravestone of my great grandfather, Josef Silber

Here’s where taking another look at the gravestone translations led to a minor breakthrough. Josef’s and Isidore’s gravestones both listed them as sons of Isaiah. And the gravestone of one of Josef’s sons, Samuel, lists his Hebrew name as Shaia.

For some reason it immediately occurred to me that “Saji” in Hungary would be pronounced the same (or very close to the same) as “Shaia”. And “Shaia” is a alternate version of “Isaiah”. While this isn’t definitive proof of anything, it’s certainly provides a strong indication that Saji Silber and Samuel Silber (my great-great grandfather) may indeed be the same person–Saji/Shaia being his Hebrew name and Samuel being his Germanic name–and that my grandfather’s older brother, Shaia/Samuel Silber, was named after his grandfather, Saji/Samuel Silber.

Gravestone of Samuel Silber

Gravestone of Samuel Silber

I don’t know why I didn’t make this connection before. I had all the records and information. The important part is that what sparked this realization was revisiting old research notes.


One response to “Take a second look: How revisiting old research can lead to new insights

  1. I am so happy you figured this out, and it’s a great idea to go back and check our research. I also have had great luck using Jewish headstones to find fathers’ names and connections. It’s too bad that the practice of putting Hebrew names on headstones seems to be used less and less often. Great post, Scott!

    Liked by 1 person

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