For fifty years, my grandfather searched for the descendents of three great-aunts who went to New York City in 1902. These three sisters had travelled with their brother Majer Israel (Meʾir Yisraʾel) Tepper, his grandfather, who had later returned. All siblings hailed from the town Mrzygłód, a shtetl near Sanok, Poland, and they had a number of descendents once in the States.
To track these relatives, I made good use of available materials, such as the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), which can be found online for free. I decided to track Sadie Goldsmith, because my grandfather knew she was alive into the 1950s and perhaps later, for his aunt had been in contact with her then.
I found about eight Sadie Goldsmiths in the SSDI, and, looking at the dates, only two seemed as if they matched her approximate dates. On a hunch, I picked the one living from 1890 until 1968.
I sent away for the Social Security Application Form (SS-5), which includes vital statistics that the deceased invididual submitted when applying for a Social Security number. Upon receiving it, I knew it was her. Sadie had listed her father as ‘Jonas Tapper’ and her mother as ‘Molly Tapper’, very close to the names I have (she Americanised ‘Matel’ to ‘Molly’). Providing me with a more information, I probed further and requested her death certificate, trying to track down her beneficiaries, and see who survived her, for she listed herself as a widow.
In early January 1999, I received the death certificate in my mailbox. Quickly opening it, I saw she was ‘found dead’ by an ‘Irving Gartner’ on 17 Jan 1968. Just for luck, I searched Irving Gartner in the SSDI, and found one who died in 1988, Boca Raton, Florida.
At this point, I took a chance and looked at an online phone book to see if perhaps he was still alive, not convinced that he had died in Florida. I found a certain match: ‘Irving and Edith Gartner’ in Boca Raton, Florida. Certain that at least his wife must be alive, I made the call.
There really is no joy like finding family in this continually growing world. While many fear we are growing farther apart because of the impersonal nature of computers and Internet—for the most part, sadly true—these mechanisms can sometimes be used to bring us together. Indeed, the power contained by the Internet demonstrates itself in producing unbelievable results such as finding a massive, flourishing family that I had never known existed.
Ever since my grandfather fled his home on 22 Jun 1941, he has sought out missing relatives. He had limited success: regaining contact with his aunt and her brother in 1958. But the relatives here in the United States that had sent him food and presents when he was a kid captured his imagination. ‘We had their picture on our wall—always’, he recalls. These names—Gärtner, Goldsmith, Tobias, and Rosenthal—have been included in our family trees for years, even though we never knew where they belonged, nor even if he and his aunt recalled them correctly. Finding them, and making this contact, has been one of the most satisfying accomplishments of my life, and something that has really brought my grandfather new happiness in his life.
My family is grateful for this great accomplishment—especially to the individual genealogists and to JewishGen—for the help I received. Likewise, I appreciate all help I receive in my other searches (my grandmother’s relatives in Russia and the US, my grandfather’s ancestors in Poland), and I offer my help—whatever I can do—to others in an effort to help them replant their roots.
If you have researched or know someone from any of the above cities or villages, please contact me. There is a chance you might stil be able to help me. All names are, of course, subject to different spellings: like Lischner (I can think of a few: Liszner, Lischner, Lishner), Löwenthal, Oberländer, and others. If any names come close to some of yours, please let me know.