Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Tucker Puzzle

My great-grandmother was Jennie Schneider. She died in 1956, 8 years before I was born, so I never knew her. All I have are these 2 pictures of her with my great-grandfather Morris. Morris came to the US first. He came in 1911 then went back home to Brest-Litovsk, Poland, made a few more babies, then returned to the US in 1922 after their youngest son was born (or at least after he was conceived). Jennie came over with all of the children in 1928. In 1928, Morris & Jennie would have been about 40 years old so this picture may have been taken around that time (I'm not good at guessing ages).

This picture was taken in September, 1946, at the wedding of their youngest son Max to Bernice Shluker. They would have been in their mid-to-late 50s at this time. I'm told that shortly after the wedding, Morris lost part of both legs to gangrene, complications related to his diabetes. Morris died in 1951. Jennie died in 1955.

Their 1908 Brest-Litovsk marriage record reads as follows:

Small town of Opalin Vladimir-Volynskiy Uyezd Moshko son of Gdal-Khuna Shnayder a single man with the single woman Sheyna daughter of Moshko-Gershko Tokarzh from Terespol.

This is the only Polish record I've found so far with Jennie/Sheyne's name. I have the birth records for some of their children but only their father's name is mentioned. All of the children were born in Brest-Litovsk and this is where the family lived until they left for the US in 1928. There are 3 towns in Poland named Terespol. So far, I've operated on the assumption that my Tokarzh family was living in the Terespol located close to Brest-Litovsk. The surname Tokarzh, and similar spellings, were commonly translated to Tucker in the US. Jennie's headstone shows her Hebrew name as Sheyne daughter of Moshe.

I have not been able to find a definitive connection to other Tokarz families in the indexed records databases on Jewish Records Indexing-Poland ( The surname doesn't appear to be very common in the towns/cities that are in modern day Poland. I do have copies of the Brest Ghetto Passports (photo IDs from when the Nazis established the ghetto) for the Shnayder and Tokar surnames (and spelling variations) but I don't see any obvious connection to Jennie's family. There was always a story that my grandpa Saul, Morris & Jennie's second son, lost 11 cousins in the Holocaust. I don't know if these cousins are among the passports I have. I believe all of the old birth, marriage, and death (BMD) records for the town of Brest-Litovsk, now Brest, Belarus, are in the archives in Belarus. Not fun...the Belarus government is openly anti-semitic and hasn't caught on yet to the idea that they could make money from the "rich Americans" if they made their archives more accessible. I was lucky to get the few BMD records I have.

Today I was doing a broad search of all of the records on JRI-Poland for surnames that began with "TOK" and I found some interesting items. In the town of Kromolow, Poland, I found an 1860 birth record for a Mordka Hersz Tokajer. This date would make sense since Jennie was born circa 1890. His parents are listed as Lejbus and Laja. The name Laja is interesting because Jennie named her second daughter Leya. I also found the 1850 marriage record of Lejbus Tokajer and Laja Frydlender in the same town, as well as an 1851 birth record for their first child Leyzor. The town of Kromolow is not located anywhere near Terespol or Brest but the coincidence is very interesting. The 1860 record is at the Polish State Archives and the other two are at the Family History Library. I think I'll order all 3 records. Maybe I'll find another clue. See UPDATE below.

I still don't have my connection to Jennie but my gut tells me that these are pieces of the Tucker puzzle. I hope the dog didn't eat all of the other pieces. UPDATE...looks like my gut was wrong...see Holocaust Victims Identified - Tokar Family. Glad to have finally found some ancestors.

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