Monday, October 6, 2008

Making Connections Using Search Engines

The internet has made all of my research possible. I don't know if I would have even started my search if I had spend hours upon end in front of microfiche readers. Thanks to this blog and several other websites, I'm in either regular or occasional with family members I never knew existed or hadn't been in touch with for 15-20 years.

Most recently, I received a comment from a Barry Lutsky to my Carnival of Genealogy post "C. Israel Lutsky, The Jewish Philosopher". Barry was googling "Israel Lutsky" and came across my post because my blog content is accessible by the Google search engine. It turns out Barry is the grandson of the brother of my great-grandfather making us 2nd cousins once removed. It turns out that, for the past year, Barry has been living only 50 miles from me and we hope to meet soon. He doesn't know much about the Lutsky side of his family. I'm hoping the information I'm giving him about his grandfather will spark some memories of stories his father told him.

In the hopes of making more contacts like the one with Barry, I try to always note alternate spelling of town names and people names when posting on my blog. Make someone else searching the web for these keywords will find me. Every few months, I'll google these same keywords in the hopes I'll come across new information.

Last year, another cousin found me when she was googling "Israel Lutsky". She found the listing I had entered on Phyllis Charney is also my 2nd cousin once removed, also in the Lutsky section of my family tree except she's the granddaughter of my great-grandfather's sister. Now Phyllis and I exchange e-mails on a regular basis and we're both on Facebook.

After connecting with Phyllis, I decided to google "Charney" to see if anyone else was reasearching that name. I came across 2 cousins on her grandfather's side of the family. One of them, Scott Sherris, had started working on his family tree on He invited me join. I quickly got in there and doubled the size of the family tree he had started. Now I go back in on a regular basis and add more details to my own profile and other family members' listings. I recently invited my uncle and 2 aunts to join.

Another 2nd cousin once removed, Marty Rotheim, contacted me through Geni. He told me he was googling his name and found that Scott Sherris and I had the common family tree with his name on it. I'm not sure how he did that. When I google his name, I don't get any Geni results or any results that would direct me to Geni ( when I google his name, I do get Geni results). Geni has a strict privacy policy and you can control whether members of your family tree are searcheable on public search engines. Even if the account is setup for public search engine results, the searcher can't get into the family tree without an invitation from a member. Anyway, Marty is now a member and is updated the tree as well as inviting new members.

Another cousin, my 3rd cousin Jeremy Lutsky, found me a few years ago when he was googling the Lutsky name and came across my posts on We exchanged a few e-mails and spoke once on the phone and then, POOF!, he disappeared. I'm not sure what happened. He stopped returning my e-mail and phone calls. His father, who seemed very excited by the connection never responded to the letter I sent him. What I think happened is that I scared them off...some people are curious to find the connection but then crawl back under their rocks when you start asking questions.

The biggest connections I've made have been through the JewishGen Family Finder or JGFF. This is a feature on the JewishGen website where members can list surnames they are researching by town/country. About 2 years ago, I noticed someone researching Belinsky from Ukraine. I sent a secure e-mail through JewishGen and very quickly received a response from Ronna Kreitzman, the wife of yet another 2nd cousin once removed. About 1-1/2 years ago, I noticed someone researching Belinki (the original spelling of Belinsky) from Talne, Ukraine. I again sent an e-mail and quickly received a reply from Shari Videlock, another 2nd cousin once removed. Ronna and I exchanged a small amount of information but Shari and I exchanged a lot of information. I found out that my ggm Lena Belinsky Lutsky had siblings I never knew about. Earlier this year, I met Shari's mother Enid when I was visiting my dad in Florida.

Shortly after Shari and I connected, she went to the Yad Vashem Pages of Testimony database and found a P of T for a Sara Belinki Avrutski. This is the sister of my ggm Lena and Shari's grandfather Solomon. The English translation of the P of T appeared to have an error in it so I posted it to JewishGen's Viewmate feature asking for help. In addition to confirmation that there was a translation error, a fellow researcher in Israel took it upon himself to contact the person who submitted the P of T in the mid-1990s Sara's daughter Rita Farbman. It turns out Rita is still living in Israel and I'm in regular contact with her granddaughter, my 3rd cousin, Ella Truf. Rita had no idea that any family outside of her little group in Israel even existed. They had lived in Ukraine until 1995 when they emigrated to Israel. I hope to visit them. Ella is coming to the US in April and I hope to finally make it to Israel in 2009.

When it comes to the internet, we all need to take certain precautions when it comes to information about living people. We have to be careful to make sure not too many details are out there in the public domain. Luckily websites like Geni allow you to control access to personal information. For websites like this blog, I need to control it myself. Luckily there are enough dead ancestors to talk about.

1 comment:

Scott said...

I wish I've had half as much as you've had on Geni. You found me, but we're not technically related, aven though our family trees connect. You're my second great aunt's second great niece. And Marty is second great aunt's great nephew. One other person found me through the internet - Jamie Nachinson. And he's my second cousin once removed's ex-wife's fourth cousin.

I admit it's really neat to see how broad my extended family tree can get, but I've completely exhausted myself trying to find blood relatives.

I did find some 3rd cousins in Dublin, but as with your cousin Jeremy, I don't hear back from them and I can't learn anything about them.