Friday, April 8, 2011

A Two Dollar Gamble

Not the lottery but a successful result may feel like I'm holding a winning lottery ticket. In this case the $2 is the cost of ordering a copy of a record from the Family History Library (FHL) microfiche collection. That's all it costs to roll the dice in the hopes that the record referenced in one of the JRI-Poland databases is the one I'm looking for. The fee is small because there's no searching involved...I know the microfiche and record number.

About a year and a half ago I found out the name of one of my maternal gg-grandmothers. I knew her married name was Tokar and her daughter's (my g-grandmother's) death certificate showed her given name as Sydell. The name Sydell does not appear in my Hebrew/Yiddish name book but I knew that was a clue that my 2 cousins named Sydell were named for her. Then, finally , an informative response from my cousin Madeline...the Hebrew name of both Sydells is Szprinca and that her sister had a photo of Szprinca's grave and headstone in the Brest-Litovsk, Poland (now Brest, Belarus) cemetery. The photo is important because the land the cemetery occupies is now covered by a sports stadium. Once I knew Szprinca's name I was able to confirm that some of the Holocaust records I had were in fact family members, her husband, children and grandchildren.

Shortly after this I was able to contact a couple of other closely related cousins who I had never heard of before. One of them confirmed that Szprinca's maiden name was Last and her parents were Szymon and Sura. This cousin also mentioned the names of some descendents of Sprinca's sister Zelda Rynkiewicz. Zelda and her husband died in the Brest Ghetto. Through this new cousin, David, I found out that all 4 of Zelda's children were able to get out of Poland in the 1930s. David and I exchanged information. I was excited to be receiving a copy of his family tree but found out quickly that it most mostly "unknown" names and "about" dates. It did still provide information I didn't already have. I began searching for the Last surname and found some results but nothing definitive.

Last month I decided to take a chance and spend the $2 per copy for several Last records listed on JRI-Poland for the towns of Lukow and Miedzyrzec Podlaski which are located not far to the west of Brest. I'm waiting on full extracts from my translator but I can make out the names well enough to know that I can be 99.9% sure I have the right people. One record is for the 1863 Miedzyrzec Podlaski birth of Mirjem Szprynca Last. This date makes sense for my gg-grandmother Szprynca because her first child was born in 1885. Her parents names were not listed in the database but in the nearby town of Lukow I found a 1858 marriage record for Szymon Wolf Last and Sura Grynberg so I ordered it. Of course after I received both records I learned that Mirjem Szprynca is the daughter of Szymon Wolf and Sura. In searching for the Grynberg names in the same region of Poland, I discovered that the name Sprynca is being carried down from that side of the family.

I can order up to 8 records at a time at $2 each. I found 7 that that I felt pretty sure were related including Szymon Wolf's 1837 birth record, birth records for 2 of Szymon Wolf's brothers, their father's death certificate, and a birth certificate for a child that appeared to be another child of Szymon Wolf and Sura. My gamble paid off and I'm on my way to opening up this branch of the family tree.

As soon as I receive the extracts from these records I can analyze and absorb the data into my family tree. Next is probably another order from the FHL. $2 a copy is an inexpensive way to get a good start on analyzing a new branch of the family tree. It's not the first time I've don't this. When I have all of the FHL copies I need, next will be ordering from the Polish State Archives. Again, these records are in the JRI-Poland database so I can place an order for specific records, no search fees. They actually charge less than $2 per copy but I have to pay a $45+/- international wire fee and I have to add another 20 zlotys to the wire (about $5) to cover the bank fees charged by the receiving bank.

Szprynca means "hope" and the name was carried down to many of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. My gg-grandmother Szprynca died in the early 1920s so she never knew that some of her namesakes were murdered in the Holocaust. Some, however, were born in America and Israel and she'd be happy about that. By bringing more of her family information to light I hope all of the Sprynca's who had tough lives (and deaths) are smiling somewhere...all for the bargain price of $2.

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