Tag Archives: cemeteries

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.

On the road to Poughkeepsie

I’m off to Poughkeepsie this morning for my first New York genealogical expedition. For the past year, I have done a LOT of genealogical research, but it has all been online in my apartment. I went to the New York Public Library once in the first few weeks after arriving in New York City, but was quickly intimidated. I’m very familiar with the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, but this was all new, and I was still a bit intimidated by New York City in general. I spent a few minutes aimlessly wandering and looking, then left. (I actually just happened to run across the library on a walk around midtown, so I went in. I didn’t have any notes or my computer with me, so I wouldn’t have been able to do much anyway. However, I haven’t been back yet.)

So, anyway….I digress.

I’m jumping on Metro-North this morning to go to Poughkeepsie this weekend to find family graves. I know the cemetery where my great-grandparents, Josef and Jolan (Julia) Schwartz Silber, are buried, and I know that my great-great-grandfather, Ignatz Schwartz, is also buried there. Last September I emailed the genealogist at Congregation Schomre Israel in Poughkeepsie, Sam Wexel, and gave him some basic information. He emailed back two weeks later with obituaries and grave locations, and even pictures of the grave markers. So, finally I’m going up to see them for myself.

My hope for this trip is to find other family members, and answer a few questions. The number one question at the moment involves my great-grandmother’s sister, Sali (aka Zoli, aka Sarah) Schwartz, and her first husband, Izrael (aka Isidore) Silber. Isidore died sometime between 1910 and 1920, and I have a possible death certificate for him. However, as the story goes, Isidore was my great-grandfather’s (Josef Silber’s) brother. I have, however, marriage registrations from Hungary for both Josef and Jolan, and Izrael and Sali. The parents listed on Josef’s and Izrael’s registrations are different.

I have two documents for each “brother” with their parents names. I have a marriage registration and social security application for Josef that both say his parents were Samuel Silber and Cziczilia (aka Tilly) Kupferstein (Cooperstein). I have a marriage registration and birth registration for Izrael that say that his parents were Saji Silber and Terez (aka Teri) Kupferstein. The New York City death certificate that I have says that Isidore Silver says that his parents were Joseph Silber and Gertie Schwartz–way off!

So, I’m hoping that Poughkeepsie will provide some answers for me, or at least open up some new paths for exploration.