Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Joe Dershowitz comes to America

A couple of week's ago I had finally found the Ellis Island record for Johann Dersowitz (Joe Dershowitz) after many futile attempts. Again the surname changes bit me.... Once I found the record I ran into another problem. It seemed that the actual passenger manifest image did not match up with the text version of the manifest. Johann Dersowitz was shown to have arrived on August 22, 1905 on the SS Ryndam which had departed from Rotterdam on August 12th. When trying to view the actual manifest image, another ship's manifest was shown in error.

I sent off an email to Ellis Island support and received a reply a few days later. Ron Moldanado of donor services pointed me to JewishGen and had me do the following:

Good news! I may have found your ancestors. To view the manifest you go to http://www.jewishgen.org/ Scroll down to HOSTED ORGANIZATION. Once that is done Scroll down to the 3rd link / ELLIS ISLAND DATABASE. Then scroll down to the 5th link and click on / MISSING MANIFESTS. At the bottom of your screen you’ll see a tool bar. At the Left magnify to 0.7. Adjust to Series T715 After that is done on the same tool bar you’ll see ROLL and FRAME, on the roll you adjust the number to 612. And the frame to 725 . You’ll see the passenger there. If you want to purchase the manifest you must call 212-561-4550 and give the same information I gave you

Johann (Joe) was found on line #5. What was very interesting was that all the people in the first 5 lines (including Joe) were related in one way or another to Max Heller of 345 W. 38th St, New York City:

0001. Deutelbaum, Rose F 16y S Austria, Hebrew Neusandes
0002. Deutscher, Moritz M 27y M Austria, Hebrew Krakan
0003. Deutscher, Rosa F 25y M Austria, Hebrew Krakan
0004. Jacob, Helen F 17y S Austrian, Hebrew Krakan
0005. Dersowitz, Johann M 19y S Austria, Hebrew Krenicza

All were cousins of Max Heller except Helen Jacob who was a niece. Moritz Deutscher was listed as a furrier and Johann (Joe) Dersowitz as a waiter. The Polish place names were all in the general area that other relatives have come from: Nowy Sacz (Neusandes), Cracow (Krakan) and Krynica (Krenicza). Here is the link to the original manifest image.

Another great find yields more family history clues.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

DNA testing, the Dershowitz Surname Project

Last fall, I became interested in DNA testing as a tool for genealogical research.  I did some probing and found that Family Tree DNA had an existing surname project for Dershowitz and variations.  There were only 2 members at that time.  Since my family history research had hit a dead end I thought I would try the DNA approach and see what insights I might gain.

I spoke with Barbara Leibell who was the project administrator at the time to get more information on the testing process and what had been found in the results thus far.  I decided to go for it.  I ordered a 67 marker Y-DNA test kit through the surname project.  There is a substantial cost saving doing it this way.  The kit arrived within a week.  The sample collection is very simple using cheek swabs.  The kit was sent back and my first 12 marker results were out in October.  I found I was an exact 12 marker match with a gentleman in the surname project descended down through the Dershowitzs of Pilzno, Poland.  This was really exciting news!  The Dersh*witz surname is very rare and I would expect some common ancestor but wasn't prepared for an exact match.

As time went on the rest of the results came in.  I convinced the other member of the project to upgrade their test to 67 markers which can be done on the existing sample.  When all the results came back, we found we were a 66/67 marker match (a later retest showed a 67/67 match).  The only difference was in a fast mutating location.  This showed a very high probability of a common ancestor within 5-8 generations.  I also had the Deep SNP testing done to confirm my haplogroup which turned out to be J1.

Since the surname project had not really seen much activity I asked Barbara if she would be willing to take me on as a co-administrator to help with promotion and put up a public website.  She suggested that I just take over the project so we had ftDNA take care of the change.  In the last week I've put up a bare bones surname project website at http://www.ftdna.com/public/dershowitz/ to display project related news and Y-DNA results.

I recently convinced my cousin Marty Dershewitz to join the project to provide a second data point for our line.  Cousin Maimoona was able to get Greg Dersh to join as well.  I will be working on putting together a list of all male Dersh*witz I can find and try and solicit more participation.  Hopefully we can promote more interest.

Stay tuned for results.

New cousins found.....

Well it's been almost a month since my last post so I guess it's time to do some catching up.  Quite a bit has happened.  After getting in touch with Rachel Bernstein, a genealogy researcher, I discovered I have three previously unknown second cousins scattered around the US.  All are grandchildren of my grandfather Solomon's brother, Joe Dershowitz.

Maimoona Ahmed (Myrna Mintz, daughter of Sylvia Dershowitz Mintz) lives in California in the East Bay with her husband Nazeer.  She has 2 children, Ameena and Akbar, the same ages as mine.  We have spoken on the phone and find we have much in common, especially family.  Maimoona was able to bring a whole different perspective to my Dersh*witz family search.  A couple bits of history that were especially interesting to me were her mention of her great-grandmother, Mindel Frey and that Joe Dershowitz was born in Bobowa.  This provided a cross check that the birth registration I had found for Biene Marjem Dersiewicz, daughter of Aron Dersiewicz and Emilie Frei of Labowa was indeed the missing link in confirming my great-grandfather's identity.  I will be travelling down to the Bay Area in July and plan to meet Maimoona and her family then.

Karen Sandler (daughter of Blanche Dershowitz Mironov) lives in Pennsylvannia.  I got her hooked up through Skype and we have chatted a bit.  Also found out about Gregory Dersh (son of Marcus Dersh(owitz)) living in Des Moines, Iowa.  Maimoona recently reconnected with him.  He is one of the few directly descended male Dersh*witzs.

What started out as a search for Dersh*witz roots has blossomed into a discovery of family here and now.  What a pleasant surprise.......

Friday, April 27, 2007

The search gets a shot in the arm....

Yesterday I was doing my bimonthly check for updates to the JewishGen databases and noticed a new entry in the Family Finder looking for Dershowitz in the Nowy Sacz area of Poland.  I sent off a reply to the researcher, Rachel Heller Bernstein, with a brief overview of who I was and where I was in my current family history research.  By the time I came home from work, there was an excited email awaiting me.

 It turns out that Rachel was able to confirm that the Aron Deresiewicz that I had found in the Polish State Archives in Nowy Sacz was indeed my great-grandfather.  She also pointed me to relative living in California who is the granddaughter of Joe Dershowitz, my grandfather Solomon's brother. 

Thank you Rachel for replying and opening up a whole new avenue of possibilities.  More on new family coming up.....