I have always wondered about my family. About their lives back in Poland in the 1700’s and the 1800’s, about their large families, the economic and religious challenges. I started getting interested in genealogy about 17 or 18 years ago when personal computers started to be connected to the internet. Since then, the digital revolution enabled people to access thousands of historical data sources online, thanks to the help of dozens of non-profit and volunteer groups.
Many genealogy sites allow you to connect to folks interested in the same names as you are. Eventually you find people who may be part of your extended family, or sometimes not. My kids and I had a great time spending an afternoon with a new part of our family in Philadelphia a year ago. Ten years ago, we spent a wonderful evening with a newly found part of our family in Brazil and stayed in touch with them since through Facebook.
A few years ago, I had trouble finding information about the Krywin-side of my family, but many more records were made available since. A few weeks ago, I found out that my uncle David, whom I knew well when I was young, was hidden during WWII by a Belgian priest and was actually baptized then. Wow! He is on the right in the photo, I recognized him right-away.
Here is another amazing story: One branch of my Brazilian family are the children of my grandmother’s brother Mihal who moved there in 1940. Timing is everything! One of his daughters shared old documents with me such as this telegram shown on the left. The telegram was sent from Belgium by my mother to Mihal in August 1945. She was 16 years old at the time! The telegram says (words in parentheses are mine):
Bella (my grandma), Adele (my mom) and Leon (a cousin) are doing very well. No news from Cecilia and her husband (they were deported and died in Auschwitz). Poland: Wool clothing and foodstuff needed. Letter will follow.
This, sadly, gives you a glimpse of the emotional roller coasters that WWI survivors and their families around the World went through and what it took to start a normal life again.
An Expanding Tree
As the record of my family tree has expanded, my views on family too have expanded. Ultimately, we are all linked, all connected. A family expands beyond the close-knit core that we talk to every day. We are a mix of our parents and their parents and their sisters and brothers and their uncles and cousins. We end up in all corners of the World, in Latin America, in Australia, in Belgium and France and the Netherlands, in South Africa, the U.S. and Canada. We all do our best to live and raise our families. My family’s immigration records, marriage records, birth records and others tell a universal story.
Our Jewish people has been afflicted by the Holocaust, the unthinkable murder of million of innocent victims. My family is no exception. Seeing members of my family in the records of the U.S. Holocaust Museum or the Caserne Dossin in Belgium (where many of my family members were gathered then deported from) always brings me heartaches. Entire families were sent to their deaths to no fault of their own. Children were robbed of their future. Placing their name in my family tree and learning about them and their fate helps me commemorate their names and bring a small tangible proof of their short passage on Earth.