Every experienced researcher knows that sometimes it's good to step back from her research, especially if she's hit a brick wall, so she can come back to it in the future with a fresh eye or when more records become available. In my case, the latter allowed me to punch through a brick wall...again.
More than four years ago, I discovered an extract from the 1897 Russian Census for my father's paternal grandmother Sarah Klein. She was born in Lomza, Poland in 1883, daughter of Abram Jdzk Zejburski and Pesza Brajna Okuniewski. This 2009 discovery also came after a break from my research on that branch of the family tree. Once I discovered this record, I was able to fill in a large portion of the Zejburski branch, including coming forward to the present and making contact with a living cousin. Unfortunately, the Okuniewski branch remained a mystery until recently. Back in 2009, a search of the JRI-Poland database resulted in only a few records for the surname Okuniewski, none of which I could tie to my family.
A couple of weeks ago I decided to take another shot at my Okuniewski research. I searched the JRI-Poland database first, because without more records, I'd really have no other place to go. To my surprise, there are now many more birth, marriage, and death records for Okuniewski in the town of Nowogrod, Poland, the town listed on the 1897 Russian Census as Pesza Brajna's place of birth. All of these records fit into my family tree. Pesza Brajna is the daughter of Jusko/Yosef Okuniewski and Sora Marja Gruszka (now I know who Sarah Klein, born Sora Marjam, was named after). I was quickly able to add thirty-five people to the family tree in both the Okuniewski and Gruszka branches, most of whom are blood relatives. Included in this total are several of my fourth and fifth great-grandparents.
As exciting as this was, I was disappointed to find that many more records are still missing. Pesza Brajna had four brothers. This is usually a good thing because it means that the family name lived on for at least one more generation. One brother died as a child, another as a young man. I don't see death records for the other two brothers, but I also don't see marriage records for them either. This means that I'm still stuck in the 19th century. I have a similar problem with the Gruszka branch...people born in the 1860s that I can't trace forward in time. I don't see any evidence that they emigrated to America, and I also don't see these surnames in the records of JewishGen's Holocaust database that can be tied back to my towns.
I'm not giving up. My patience has been rewarded several times. With the Polish State Archives records coming online with free access, I'll be able to download more records. The discoveries described above have made Sarah Klein's branch of the family tree the most populated branch in my overall family tree. This is ironic because no one in my family knows for sure when Sarah died (late 1950s in Brooklyn), or where she is buried. I guess it's time to step back...again.