April 22

In 1989, Frances Strauss died at the age of 73 in a fire. She was the daughter Rose Strauss nee Jacobs, sister of my maternal grandfather, David, making Frances my 1st cousin once removed. She never married or had children.

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Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. The date marks the anniversary on the Jewish calendar of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943, but of course it represents so much more. The Holocaust directly impacted my family in ways that I know and do not know.

My mother’s mother’s brother, Chaim Weisskopf, lived in Germany with his wife and 3 children in the early 1940s. They knew they were in danger and wanted to at least get the children out of the country. They were in touch with the French Hidden Jewish Children program, but that program only accepted children in a narrow age range. The oldest son was too old, the daughter was too young. They accepted the middle child, Werner Weisskopf, and they managed to get him to America in 1942, where he was raised by my mother’s parents as a son. As far as we know, the rest of the family was killed.

My father’s father’s family, Sepersky, was from Kletsk in modern Belarus. They left around 1900. The Jewish population of Kletsk was killed in the early 1940s by the Nazis. This page lists several people named Sepersky who were killed at that time. Perhaps they were cousins?

Name
Year of Birth
Place of Residence 
Source
Fate based on this source
Ceperski,Aron Kleck, Poland‎ Page of Testimony Murdered
Tzeperski,Aron Kleck Area, Poland‎ List of persecuted pe … Murdered
Tzeperski,Leyba Kleck Area, Poland‎ List of persecuted pe … Murdered
Tzeperski,Avsey 1910 Kleck Area, Poland‎ List of persecuted pe … Murdered
Tzeperski,Yesel 1902 Kleck Area, Poland‎ List of persecuted pe … Murdered
Ceperski,Yehoshua Kleck, Poland‎ Page of Testimony Murdered
Ceperski,Ester Kleck, Poland‎ Page of Testimony Murdered

I know that the Holocaust affected my other ancestral towns of Pultusk, Poland, and Brody, Ukraine, possibly killing other unknown cousins. It’s difficult to research any town in Eastern Europe without encountering a phrase like, “most of the Jewish community was wiped out by the Nazis in the 1940s”. So, while today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, I am forced to remember it most days I research my family. This is the least appealing aspect of my genealogical journey.

DNA

In addition to traditional historical records searches and word of mouth, I am attempting to use DNA analysis in my genealogical research. I have had my DNA analyzed by 23andMe and Ancestry. I have also submitted my 23andMe raw data to Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) and GEDmatch. FTDNA does their own DNA testing, including much more extensive tests, but they also allow raw data from other services to be added to their database for purposes of matching with others. GEDmatch does not offer testing, but they accept raw data from other testing services also for matching.

Thus far, my DNA analysis experience has been intriguing and frustrating. I have discovered no new confirmed relatives, but the matching services have matched segments of my DNA with thousands of other people. I have learned a lot about how chromosomes are passed from generation to generation and how they change along the way. But Ashkenazi DNA offers special challenges, generating vast numbers of false positives. Perhaps I’ll make a separate post about why that is at some point.

For now, I am continuing to study my matches and develop new techniques to further analyze them. My goal is to find a legitimate match with someone I don’t know who can be verified as a new relative, perhaps still back in Europe. My hope would be that such a new relative would have information about some wing of the family that I have not been able to learn about via traditional means.

April 15

In 1890, my paternal grandfather’s brother, Isadore (Israel) Sepersky, was born in Kletsk, then a part of Russia, now in Belarus. In 1900, he came to America with his father. He married Laura Slawitsky in 1912, and they had 3 children, one of whom is still living. Sometime in the 1920s, he changed the family’s last name to Spear.

What was my grandmother’s maiden name?

My father’s mother was born Rebecca Joseph, according to my mother and brother. I have not been able to find any information about her under that name, though, and as such, I have found no information about her parents and little verifiable information about her siblings.

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered an alternative last name. The birth certificate of my uncle Ben from 1907 lists his father as Samuel Saporky and mother and Beckie Fakir. That must be them, but Fakir is not Joseph. “Fakir” is Turkish for “Poor”, so maybe she was just saying in Turkish (which she may have been) that they were very poor, and that was put down on the birth certificate.

Now, I have found information about what appears to be the marriage license of my grandparents. In 1904, Philadelphia recorded the marriage of Samuel Separisky and Rebecca Hirsh. Again, that seems to be them, but now there’s the name Hirsh, not Joseph or Fakir. Here’s another lead for me to search immigration and marriage records for her siblings.