Friday, September 15, 2006

Yitzchok - Who Was He?

Who was Yitzchok?

I only know his name because it is chiseled into the stone of my great-grandfather's matzeva. Yitzchok was my great great-grandfather.

In 1904, Yitzchok's 50 year-old wife named Gessie left Sudilkov, boarded the S.S. Main in Bremen, and was reunited with her children in the United States. My great-aunt Rose remembers Gessie only as a very religious woman who wore a sheitel. Gessie later passed away on the 16th of Sivan in 1918 and is buried in Har Jehuda Cemetery outside of Philadelphia.

But, did Yitzchok pass away before Gessie left Sudilkov?

I don't know.

What is the date of Yitzchok's yahrzeit?

I don't know.

Was Yitzchok a chassid?

I don't know.

What was Yitzchok's father's name?

I don't know.

Had Yitzchok's father or grandfather been one of those who disrespected the Degel Machaneh Ephraim and were then among the shtetl's residents that were cursed by Rebbe Baruch of Mezhibuz?

I don't know

Was Yitzchok buried in the shtetl's cemetery that I visited in 2001?

I don't know.

Yitzchok's great-grandson Asher now lives in Jerusalem but never knew him and does not know anything about him. Professional genealogists have confirmed that the shtetl's vital records were destroyed during World War II and also in a fire on April 10, 2003 at the Kaminets-Podilsky Archives that housed the oldest remaining documents concerning Sudilkov's Jewish population.

Without oral testimony or records about him and his family, I may never be able to learn more about Yitzchok or trace my lineage back another generation.

Perhaps I will have to wait to answer these questions when I reunited with my great great-grandfather in the next world.

Or, perhaps there is still yet another way that will allow me to uncover this information during my lifetime.

Documents destroyed in the fire - April 10, 2003
(Photograph courtesy of

Sudilkov's Jewish cemetery - Is Yitzchok buried here?


At September 15, 2006 at 10:21:00 AM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Touching post. What you've written really hits home w/me, as I only have a name and a shtel for my great-great-grandfather. Thanks.

At September 15, 2006 at 10:25:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

What was the shtetl's name?

At September 15, 2006 at 10:53:00 AM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

We can talk about this off-blog later, thank!

At September 15, 2006 at 11:59:00 AM EDT, Blogger AS said...

a very moving post..those pics..

At September 15, 2006 at 12:28:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Thank you.

At September 15, 2006 at 1:24:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My guess (and it's only a guess) is that, if Gittel came to the U.S. alone and was living with her children (but not Yitzchok) in the 1920 and 1930 Censuses, then she came here as a widow. (That was the situation for my great-grandmother, who joined her son [my grandfather] in NYC after her husband died.) So Yitzchok, indeed, was probably buried in the cemetery you visited. Even though you could not find his matzevah there (from the photos, it's easy to see why), I'm sure you sensed a special feeling of closeness when you were there.

I recently discovered that a relative of mine lived in the same town near Philadelphia where your great-great-grandmother resided, so I was interested to know that she was buried as far away as Har Jehuda. I need to check out the Jewish cemeteries in the entire vicinity. Too bad they don't seem to have an online database; I'll need to make some phone calls.

At September 15, 2006 at 1:28:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I should have said the 1910 Census, as I see she passed away in 1918.

At September 15, 2006 at 1:28:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Shoshana: Thank you for your thoughts. I also have another mystery I need to solve regarding someone buried at Har Jehuda. I person named Avraham who came over on the ship with my great-grandfather. He is not a brother so my guess is perhaps he is a cousin. His death certificate does not shed any additional clues....

At September 15, 2006 at 3:06:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ASJ, have you checked for your GGGM in the Ellis Island or Philadelphia passenger lists? The ship manifests often note whether someone is married, single, or widowed, as well as the names of their closest family in the former country and in the U.S. And look on the preceding and following pages, too, as the manifest was sometimes spread across two pp. You might also find the information in the 1910 Census, where marital status is recorded. Another thought is that, since you know the cemetery, you might ask them to check their records for any additional information (you never know, and you might get lucky).

At September 15, 2006 at 3:12:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Shoshana: All great ideas concerning Gittel! I have most of these but will have to go back and look now.

As for Yitzchok, I am at a brick wall and wish I could break through it....

At September 18, 2006 at 1:21:00 AM EDT, Blogger MC Aryeh said...

ASJ, a very poignant post. I too have a Yitzchak, only mine is Yeshaya. I have made a great deal of progress recently in my genealogical research and have faith I will yet find out more about Yeshaya and the others in my family tree who remain mysteries.

I would agree with Shoshana that if Gittel came alone in 1904, she was likely widowed. The 1904 passenger lists generally reveal little information. It is only in later years that the manifests stretch to two pages of information.

Where I have had some luck, and perhaps you would as well with Yitzchok, is in expanding my search from direct ancestry to focus on possible siblings of the person I was looking for. That has opened many doors for me.

So frustrating that the records were destroyed. Is there no chance they were already microfilmed by the Mormons? Might you find some information at a Family History Center location?

Also, though I am sure you have thought of this already, maybe naturalization records. I will be making a trip to the archives in Philly sometime in the next month to check records on one of my relatives and would happy to do some research there for you if it would be of help...

At September 18, 2006 at 6:32:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

MCAryeh: I appreciate your suggestions. The FHC records do not have anything additional nor do the naturalization records. I am really stuck.


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