Death of a farmer, death of a laborer: The two Philip Stacks of Coolkeragh

The two Philip Stacks of Coolkeragh in County Kerry, Ireland lived side-by-side for most of their lives, but examining the land records and their death registrations makes clear that in life as in death, there was disparity between Irish farmers and agricultural laborers.  My great great great grandfather, Philip Stack the farmer, died in April, 1884, and his death record reads: Philip Stack of Coolkeragh, aged 72, married, died of heart disease. His son William Stack was listed as present…

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The two lives of Sam Schechowitz

A lot of people had questions about Sam. His first family, who knew him as Sam Schechowitz, wondered what happened to him when he disappeared in 1929. His second family knew him as Sam Miller and they wondered about his past. Through DNA and genealogical research, I’ve been able to piece together much of Sam’s difficult history. In this post I’ll highlight the documents that I’ve found, the places I found them, and the questions that still remain. Early years…

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Farmers without a farm: Researching rural Irish ancestors

“What class of men do you mean by laborers?” — “The men who use the spade.” “Do you mean by labouring men, men who have no land?” — “A man who has no land; who goes out with his spade or pitchfork on his shoulder, and hires for employment.” 1 In the 1850s in Coolkeragh, a rural townland in County Kerry, Ireland, there were two men named Philip Stack. Born just two or three years apart, they lived on adjacent…

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Who’s your daddy? Using DNA to find find unknown parents

Wondering how to start the process of using DNA research and genealogy to find your biological family, or help an adoptee do the same? Here are a few tips. Get tested at both Ancestry and 23andMe. Both have big databases but you can’t compare your results to the people in their database unless you test with them directly. If you can only test with one, start with Ancestry because their database is larger and users there are more likely to…

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When doing DNA research consider adoption’s troubled history

Like most genealogists who have taken a DNA test or three, I’ve come across several adoptees in my DNA match list. I was intensely curious about where these people fit in my family tree, but I had never given much thought to the process behind these adoptions, or known that babies could be taken from unwilling mothers who desperately wanted to keep them. Reading journalist Gabrielle Glaser’s compelling new book, American Baby: A Mother, a Child, and the Shadow History…

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Przedbórz Yizkor books

Yizkor books are memorial books put together by Jewish emigrants from a specific community, often part of a landsmanshaft society, to memorialize their villages and shtetls that were destroyed in the Holocaust. These can be a great source of information, both in terms of names of people who were murdered, but also in learning more about life there before the war, when most of these communities were almost completely destroyed. Most Yizkor books are in Hebrew or Yiddish rather than…

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A 1915 Visit to Przedbórz

A few weeks ago I came across this story from the October 23, 1915 issue of a German weekly, Die Woche. It’s a travelogue of a visit to Przédborz written by Dr. H. Roesing, believed to be Dr. Lieutenant Roesing of the German Royal Wuertemberg Army Corps. It’s a fascinating look at pre-war Przédborz and its Jewish community, infused, of course, with the prejudices one might expect. In trying to learn more about this piece, I found a PDF translation…

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Przedbórz burial societies

Landsmanshaftn were organizations started by Jewish immigrants as a multi-purpose fraternal organization, health insurance, death benefits, and aid society. There were two New York landsmanshaftn for Przedbórz, the First Przedborzer Benevolent Association and the Independent Przedborzer Friends Society. The former has sections at three cemeteries in New York, at Floral Park, Montefiore (Block 53 Gate 469/E), and Union Field (Block 72). The latter has one at Beth David Elmont (Section G Block 7). Unfortunately, the paperwork for these organizations has…

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Mike Schackowitz, Satanover Benevolent Society

Michael Schackowitz is the reason I started photographing the Satanover Benevolent Society. My elusive great great grandfather Moses Schechowitz or Scheckowitz (or indeed, about 30 other spellings of this name) was registered in the nearby town of Volochisk, so when I saw that there were several Scheckowitzs and Shackowitzs buried in the Satanover Benevolent Society plot at Mount Hebron, I thought I might as well research all of them, and figure out if they had any connection to my family.…

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Taube Spilka Scheckowitz, Satanover Benevolent Society

Last year I visited Mount Hebron Cemetery in Queens, New York and spent a few hours taking photos of every headstone in the section for the Satanover Benevolent Association landsmanshaft. Mount Hebron has a very useful website where you can search for people by name or by burial society, and I discovered that there are a group of people named Scheckowitz in the burial society for Sataniv, Ukraine. This Scheckowitz family is my great white whale, and the whole story…

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