Friday, March 30, 2012

Trying to Make a 50-year Leap

Update Sept. 14, 2012: A few weeks ago I established contact with Berko Last's family thanks to a research group on Facebook. While many members of this family died in and around Lukow during WWII, several family members did survive the war to emigrate to Israel. Berko aka Berek died in Israel in 1983. The I. Last also mentioned below survived. The initial "I" stands for Icko or Isser. Most of the survivors were men so the Last surname has lived on.

A few months ago I discovered a record for a likely ancestor on the Polish War Victims website at . The record, contributed to the database by the Polish Red Cross, is regarding Berko LAST of the townlet Zalesie, born March 2, 1915. There are many towns and villages in Poland named Zalesie (see my earlier blog post). This one is located near the city of Lukow and all events such as births, marriages, and deaths taking place in Zalesie were recorded in Lukow.

My 3rd great grandfather Szymon Wolf LAST and his 2 brothers were born in Zalesie between 1837 and 1851. In 1858, Szymon Wolf married Sura Grynberg of Miedzyrzec Podlaski. The wedding took place in Lukow. By the time my 2nd great grandmother Marjem Szprinca was born in 1863, they were living in Miedzyrzec. Szymon Wolf and his father Jankiel were shoemakers, as were other men in the family, some of whom stayed in Zalesie. The 1929 Polish Business Directory shows an I. LAST, shoemaker, in Zalesie. I have in my possession all of the surviving BMD records for these towns showing the surname LAST. There are parellel branches also originating from Zalesie that I can't quite link to my branch. The connection might be just one more generation back in time.

Anyway, there is a good chance that Berko LAST is related to I. Last. The initial "I" might stand for Icko which is a name I see in a parallel branch. I e-mailed the Polish Red Cross twice with no response so my researcher in Poland contacted them for me. I expected the Berko LAST record to be a record of his death so I thought we would be able to get a copy. It turns out that the source is a 1946 court record regarding Berko...and his siblings! 1946!!! Survivors of the war!!! My researcher was told that Berko's 1915 birth wasn't recorded at that time and it is this court record that officially records it. I got the impression that the court record mentions their parents names. The problem is that I can't get any more information regarding that court record until I can prove the family connection because of the privacy laws. So, this is my problem. I have to make a leap from the 1890s to 1946 while trying to maneuver around privacy laws.

I contacted the Siedlce branch of the Polish State Archives to search that first decade of the 20th century. They only had records through 1907 and returned 2 records in their search results. It wasn't until after I paid them that I found out that the records show the surname LIUST, which is LUST, a completely different surname from LAST. I know this because I also have in my possession every surviving 19th century BMD record mentioning the name LUST, none of which have ties to Zalesie. There isn't a single instance of overlap, spelling change, or transcription error. They are completely different families. The archivist has agreed to search some other 20th century records, 1 hour's search time, to make up for this goof on their part (they don't see it as a mistake but I'll take the hour).

My question is, are there any 20th century Polish records that might help me bridge this gap? Zalesie is so tiny that if I can at least link Berko to any of the LAST records I have, even that parallel branch, I can be 99.9% certain that he is related and maybe we can get that court record released, or at least an extract of the pertinent information it contains. Of course I don't know what happened to him and his siblings after 1946. Did they stay in Poland? I don't see them on the US passenger lists after the war (on What happened to I. LAST the shoemaker?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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