Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Opening a Time Capsule

We spent a week looking for our grandmother's birth record. We know she must have been born, but there does not seem to be any evidence of the event. Our grandmother had always told us that her birth was never registered. It's a woman's prerogative to not reveal her age, but eliminating all evidence of her birth from her town records seems to be going too far. We were excited when the Jewish records from her town in Galicia were indexed and the index and records were placed online. We searched the index, hoping that her story was wrong and that there was a record of her birth. We found her siblings, but no grandmother. We went a step further and manually searched the online records, page by page, for the possible years of her birth. Our grandmother was still absent. Instead of finding her, we found a time capsule version of the world she was born into. Names, occupations, places, signatures, handwriting, and language all tell us a lot about her neighbors. Compared to some of the other towns we've researched, there was more variety in the last names. That tells us that it was a larger town with more mobility. Occupations included a lot of doctors and lawyers. People in the records came from many towns, telling us that this was a growing town. Signatures were mostly in the Latin alphabet, compared to Yiddish. That shows a level of assimilation. The handwritings of the records keepers were ornate. The records were written in Polish. This gave us a feel for the cosmopolitan city she grew up in. We have not found her record yet, but we haven't given up. We did learn more about her childhood, an excellent addition to all of the stories we heard growing up.

Jacobson and Jacobson Genealogy Researchers
interpreting your complex genealogical information


  1. Agree whole-heartedly that those records tell a story that cries out for documenting. We need genealogical town historians to do this. Now that Polish records are going online, maybe this can be accomplished. BTW, my Galitzianer grandmother was born in 1870, but her birth was not recorded until 1908 along with most of her sisters. Her brothers births were recorded at or near the time of their birth. Keep looking!

  2. Thanks Mark! Did your grandmother's parents have a civil marriage in 1908? Our grandmother's parents had a civil marriage in 1916, so maybe her birth was recorded then. We have to wait.