Remembering the Holocaust

The photo above is Shlomo Thal, born in 1904 in Valdemarpils, Latvia. This photo is particularly powerful for me as it looks so much like my own grandfather, born the same year. Shlomo and my grandfather were second cousins. Shlomo was killed in Riga, Latvia, in 1941. He was 37. On this Yom HaShoah, I’dContinue reading “Remembering the Holocaust”

Linking Up the Blumenthals

Thirty-six years ago, in the winter of 1986, I took my very first genealogy “field trip.” I was a graduate student at the University of Michigan, and I found a wintry day to drive an hour-and-a-half or so north to Bay City. My destination was the Bay City Jewish Cemetery, to find the headstone ofContinue reading “Linking Up the Blumenthals”

School Christmas Play, 1914

I was looking for a holiday story to share, and thought I’d share one from my grandfather’s childhood at Jewell Hill School, outside of Quinter, Kansas. Ten years ago, I was working on a “fictionalized” biography of my grandfather, Chester Long, for my eldest child’s birthday,. I tried to find as many details as possibleContinue reading “School Christmas Play, 1914”

Leaving Courland

Among my collection of interviews is this story, told by Paula Thal Aminoff in 1974, of her brother Jacob and his efforts to leave Courland (now Latvia) before being drafted into the Russian Army. Ted: You know about Abraham Blumberg.. well, I’ll tell you. His father, Abraham’s father [Jacob Blumberg] was fairly well‑to‑do, he wasContinue reading “Leaving Courland”

Discovering Aunt Belle

My grandmother, Evelyn Schwartz Thal, used to visit her “Aunt Belle” every time she vacationed in New York City. My father even remembers stopping in to say “hello” to her at Bergdorf’s. But years ago, when I was asking questions, it was unclear to my grandmother whether her Aunt was her mother’s sister or sister-in-law.Continue reading “Discovering Aunt Belle”

Letter from Ireland, 1870

In my collection of documents is a copy of this wonderful letter, written to my great-great-grandfather, John (or William John) Miller, by his father, Peter. Peter and his wife, Margaret, were still living in Broughdone, near Cullybackey, in Northern Ireland at the time, and John and his family had settled in Scott County, Iowa. Broughdone,Continue reading “Letter from Ireland, 1870”

Traffic in Los Angeles, 1926

I have two teenagers – one with a brand-new driver’s license and one just about to get a learner’s permit, so I’ve been thinking quite a bit about driving lately. I recently remembered my grandfather’s account of his trip to California in 1926 in his old Hudson car. Chester Long spent about six weeks inContinue reading “Traffic in Los Angeles, 1926”

Did They Really Bring a Chair?

Finding the Truth in a Richartz Family Story There is a much loved story, often repeated in my husband’s family, of a Richartz ancestor bringing a small rocking chair onboard the ship from Germany to rock the baby in. According to the story, the baby died on the trip and was buried at sea. HereContinue reading “Did They Really Bring a Chair?”