Category Archives: Genealogy

A Grave Concern: Help Restore the Tarnow Jewish Cemetery

A Grave Concern: Help Restore the Tarnow Jewish Cemetery

Fanning out. Contracting back. In my last post, I explored the story of a family member who fled halfway across the world from Vienna to escape Hitler–only to have to escape another dangerous dictator in his adopted home. Here I look back to my ancestral roots in a town I’d never heard of until IContinue Reading »

A Tale of Three Dictators: The Farber Family, Revisited

A Tale of Three Dictators: The Farber Family, Revisited

Since I first started exploring the roots of my mother’s family here, lo these many years ago, my sense of who I am and where I came from has shifted.  So too has my view of the Jewish diaspora. Forced from Europe by the Nazis, members of the Kornmehl family fled to Curaçao, Singapore, Australia,Continue Reading »

Why a Historically Oriented Genealogist Took a DNA Test

Why a Historically Oriented Genealogist Took a DNA Test

Those who pursue genealogy do so for a variety of reasons. To find a particular relative. To determine whether they’re descended from royalty. To occupy time that might otherwise be devoted to earning a living.   Me, I was interested in learning about my mother’s family, the sixteen men and women in the picture topping thisContinue Reading »

Return to Vienna

Return to Vienna

There’s so much to report about my recent trip to Vienna, hosted by the Jewish Welcome Service, and so little time to do it right now as I prepare to leave for a book tour. But I won’t bury the lede. I’m thinking very seriously of returning to Vienna next year for a much longer timeContinue Reading »

Opening Up to Elijah: A Passover Story

Opening Up to Elijah: A Passover Story

Call me a seder skeptic. I’m fond of the Passover story, its message of exile and redemption. I especially like the ritual of saving a place at the table and a glass of wine for the prophet Elijah. Like Santa Claus, he is required to visit millions of homes in a single night. Opening the door for him to comeContinue Reading »

Grief, Food, & Nudity: A Story About My Mother & My New Book

Grief, Food, & Nudity: A Story About My Mother & My New Book

Not long after my father died, I went to Martinique with my mother. I remember three things about that trip.  My mother’s grief. The profiteroles. And the topless beach. Grief, food, and nudity My mother was in a raw stage of mourning, subject to fits of literal wailing. But no one in my family was everContinue Reading »

Of Genealogies and Possibilities: A New Year’s Musing

Of Genealogies and Possibilities: A New Year’s Musing

Happy 2015. It’s that time of year when all the possibilities seem to open up. January 1 is an arbitrary date, of course, but who doesn’t want to believe in fresh starts, in learning from our experiences, even if those experiences sometimes seem arbitrary too? I ended last year on a sad note, with the accidental death of aContinue Reading »

And the Memoir Contest Winner Is…

And the Memoir Contest Winner Is…

First of all, thanks to all of you who participated in the win-a-great-memoir contest. Short and long, the family stories posted in the comments were great. I urge you to read all the them if you didn’t when you posted your own story or if you’re just checking in now. And the winner, chosen by Random.org,Continue Reading »

Contest: Tell Us About Your Family’s Journey, Win a Great Memoir

Contest: Tell Us About Your Family’s Journey, Win a Great Memoir

Besides changing their names, one of the greatest banes of family historians is that ancestors move around–and aren’t always considerate enough to leave accurate records of their new addresses. They move for a variety reasons–some to strike out and start a better life, others, like many of my relatives, to flee imminent danger. I’m often amazed at howContinue Reading »

Fleischhauers, Freud & Pez: Vienna’s Famed Berggasse

Fleischhauers, Freud & Pez: Vienna’s Famed Berggasse

I was in Vienna’s Jewish Records Office last week — was it really only last week? — looking to fill in some key bits of my family history. When archivist Irma Wulz showed me the marriage records of my grandparents, Hermann Rosenbaum and Ernestine Kornmehl, I wasn’t especially surprised to learn that the wedding witnesses had been David Schmerling, Ernestine’s brother-in-law and also her first cousin, as wellContinue Reading »