I’m not going to lie. After being away for a while, it’s been a little tough getting back into my family history.
For one thing, all roads seem to lead to antisemitism, if not death.
Then there’s the learning curve. It feels like a lifetime ago that I took February’s Family History Writing Challenge — at least long enough that it’s taken me a while to reacquaint myself with the information I once knew intimately. The intensity of the writing/researching experience was like cramming for a final exam — now that really is a long time ago — with the associated memory loss in a matter of weeks.
And, although I’d like to wrap up the story one of the relatives I explored during that challenge, the thrill of the research chase is gone.
So you’ll forgive me if I needed a little celebrity spice to get back into the mood.
I focused on two relatives during the challenge, Viktor Kornmehl and Ezriel Kornmehl — not because they are particularly closely related, but because they were both doctors who studied at the University of Vienna. I thought there was a good chance that they had interacted with Sigmund Freud, thus providing an additional link of Freud to my family that was not meat related.
I had proof in Viktor’s case, a letter to Freud on the occasion of his 75th birthday, but none in Ezriel’s. Viktor Kornmehl’s son, Hillel Koren, provided a great deal of information about his family and more was tracked down, but the trail of Ezriel and his family grew cold after the war.
That’s because they changed their name to Kornel, just as Viktor’s family changed it from Kornmehl to Koren. With the help of friends and family, I now know much of the story.
Ezriel, born in 1891, was the son of Leiser Kornmehl and Chana Sheindel Kornmehl. He had one younger brother who died of tuberculosis when he was three years old or less, and a younger sister, who was killed in the Holocaust.
Here’s a bit more about them.
Samuel Lejser/Leiser Kornmehl, known for most of his life as Leiser Kornmehl, was born March 28, 1864 in Tarnow, Poland. He was the son of Baruch Hersch Kornmehl, an innkeeper who likely owned real estate, and Chana Sheindel Kornmehl.
Leiser married Chana Dwora Grossbard, who was born in 1866 in Zabno, Poland. They owned a store in Tarnow that sold roofing supplies, including tar and tiles, at Lwowska 21. After Leiser died, in 1921, his widow, Chana, opened a gas station. She is remembered as a very successful businesswoman.
Leiser and Chana Kornmehl had three children in Tarnow, Pinkas, Helena (Chaya), and Ezriel.
Pinkas was born in 1888 and died in 1891 of pneumonia.
Helena (Chaya) Kornmehl was born in 1889. She moved to Krakow when she married Josef Margulies, an attorney. They had two children, Stella, born in 1916, and Sigmund (Zygmunt), born around 1924. The Margulies family relocated to Tarnow during the war to be with Helena’s widowed mother, Chana.
Stella was initially deported to Plaszow, a labor camp near Krakow. Her piano-playing skills had been recognized in Krakow (she is listed as a musician) and she was asked to play for the commandant — likely Amon Goeth, of “Schindler’s List” fame.
All of the members of the Margulies family perished during the war.
See what I mean about all roads leading to antisemitism?
The Celebrity Tie-In
But the name Margulies — sometimes spelled Margolis — persists. Among many Margulieses around, the current most famous one is Julianna.
I wasn’t crazy about her in “ER,” but she is amazing in “The Good Wife,” which is one of my favorite shows. I would be proud to have her ancestors in my family.
Is claiming relationship a stretch?
According to Wikipedia:
Her parents were Jewish, descended from immigrants from Austria, Hungary, and Romania…. The family lived in Israel for a time before Margulies was born, before moving back to the Upper West Side of New York City.
So you never know. I’m not planning to pursue it, though I’d bet there’s a subgroup of genealogists that try to link their families with current celebrities rather than, say, past royalty. If there isn’t, there should be — although I suppose there’s the potential for stalkiness or scams.
I promise not to ask you for any money, Julianna. And, by the way, I loved the ending of this season’s “The Good Wife.”
Next: Ezriel’s story.