Friday, October 20, 2006

Treasure from the past

My cousin Marty Dershewitz and I have been reconnecting after over 30 years going our own ways.  We've found that we both share an interest in saving what we can of our family history.  Marty was born and raised in New York, close to most of the original Dershewitz immigrants and consequently was able to interact with them and heard the stories they had to tell.  He has the memories of those experiences and is sharing them with me now.  I, on the other hand, was born and raised in California with a complete lack of exposure to the New York side of the family except for a couple of early childhood visits east and the rare visitors from the other side of the country.  What I have to offer to this family history effort is a knack for research and detective work.  To me, this effort is a puzzle and I love puzzles....

In one of our recent conversations, Marty had said he found an old document handwritten in Polish that he thought might be an immigration form of some sort.  I begged him to send me copy which he mailed out and I received today.  When I opened the envelope, I found an old photostat A4 in width and a little longer than A4 in length.  It was a boiler plate form with instructions in Polish and German filled out in handwritten Polish script.  Since I can read a bit of German, it was obvious that this was actually a birth certificate for Marty's father, Louis, my father's younger brother.

Some of the entries were obvious while others are going to take some Polish translation help to decipher.  Here is what I was able to glean in the first pass.

  • The birth was registered in Limanowa on November 30, 1920.  I can't make out the signature of the issuer.
  • Birth date was May 21, 1917 which matches Louis' known birthday.
  • Birth place was listed as Kamienica, house number 302.  I heard from Aunt Belle that all the children were born in Limanowa but this certificate indicates otherwise.  Kamienica is in the same vicinity as Limanowa and Stary Sacz, both places I've seen in other research.
  • Circumcision date was listed as May 28, 1917.  Strange to have a dedicated place on the form for that!
  • Given name was Juda Leib and was a male child
  • Father was Salamon Salman Deresiewicz of Kamienica.  His profession is listed as Tavern Keeper (szynkarz).
  • Mother is Gitel Leibler, daughter of Izaak Singer and Ruchela Leibler of Lukowica which is again in the same vicinity as Limanowa and Kamienica.
  • Names of the witnesses (mid-wife, circumcisor and another) which I need some help on.

This birth registration was done over 3 years after the birth.  I'm guessing this was needed to get immigration papers to leave Poland and enter the US.  If records are still intact in Limanowa, the birth certificates or registrations for the other children may be there as well.  Five months after this registration document was signed, the Dershewitz family passed through Ellis Island and started their new life in America.

I scanned the birth certificate but had to make 2 passes since it was too long for my flatbed scanner.  So you can either look at the top or bottom images.  Enjoy.... 

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