The genealogical adventures of the far-flung Kornmehl family continue! This week turned out to be a guest post double header. Today’s contribution was written by a different Kornmehl family member, but it was also made possible by the organizational skills of Jill Leibman Kornmehl, who is as good at people gathering as she at document gathering.
I’m not going to be overly modest, however. This blog — and this blogger — along with Friend Of Freud’s Butcher (FOFB) Lydia Davis, who found the key to unlocking the identity of the Ezriel Kornmehl/Kornel family during February’s Family History Writing Challenge, were ghost guests at this not-quite reunion.
A Kornmehl Reunion (of Sorts)
By Henry Sommer
The get together that took place last Sunday, June 2, was not a reunion in the conventional sense. Many of the participants had never met before. But it was certainly a reunion in every other sense of the term, because it reunited several long-separated branches of our family.
It all started last November when I was “found” by Jill Leibman Kornmehl after I posted the name Kornmehl on JewishGen.org, a terrific website with a “family finder” feature. I knew that my great-grandmother was a Kornmehl. I just didn’t know about those other Kornmehls all over the world, much less that one of them was Sigmund Freud’s butcher.
It turns out that our branch of the family, the Sommers, were among the few who stayed in Tarnow–the ancestral home of the Kornmehls in Poland–well into the 20th century. My father and one of his brothers had left Europe for the U.S. and Palestine before World War II. My 94-year-old Uncle Eli Sommer was undoubtedly the last surviving member of the Kornmehl family member to leave Tarnow during the war; he stayed until 1944. Eli’s survival through numerous concentration camps is a story in itself, told in his video for the Spielberg Shoah project.
Sadly, Eli’s parents, sister and nieces–my grandparents, aunt and cousins–did not survive.
It’s a Wonderful Day in the Neighborhood
Jill had been surprised to learn that she had a relative living so close to her, one town away from Teaneck in Hackensack–almost as surprised as she had been when she moved to her house and found that the next door neighbor was a distant Kornmehl relative (but that’s another story). She was especially eager to meet my uncle Eli, since he and her father-in-law, Nathan Kornmehl, were among the last of a generation who had been in Tarnow. She had hoped to get the two nonagenarians–-Nathan is 97–together. Unfortunately, Nathan could not make the event, having returned to his home in Buffalo a short time earlier.
Nonetheless, 11 Kornmehl descendants from several branches came together at Jill and Bernie’s house.
The attendees included:
- Jill and Bernie and their sons Jason, Adam and David
- Bernie’s brother, Marvin, his wife, Carol, and their daughter, Chelsea
- My uncle Eli and his wife, Jenny; Eli’s son Drew and his wife, Vicki; their daughter, Hannah; and my wife, Beth, another avid genealogist.
There was one surprise– at least to me–guest: Ed Kornel, another Kornmehl recently discovered despite a name change. Until recently, Ed did not know he had any relatives in the U.S.
He turned out to be quite closely related to my family. Especially interesting: The discovery that Reisel Blume Kornmehl, my great grandmother, and Samuel Leiser Kornmehl, Ed Kornel’s great grandfather, were siblings who had a double marriage on the same day. My uncle Eli also remembered Ed’s great grandmother, a savvy Tarnow businesswoman named Chana Kornmehl.
Ed said I looked like his brother, Amiel Kornel, my other third cousin.
A Good Place To Get Sick — Or Get Sued
We marveled at the number of doctors and lawyers in the family (well, maybe that’s just a Jewish thing).
Both Bernie and I are attorneys, and each of us has a son who is in or just graduated from law school.
Physicians in the family include Ed, his father, Ludwig, and his late grandfather, Ezriel Kornmehl/Kornel; my father, Moses Sommer (like Jill, a radiologist); Marvin and Marvin’s wife, Carol. In the small world department: Marvin is an orthodontist who, it turns out, knows the orthodontist who is married to Eli’s granddaughter, Stacy.
My branch of the family also includes four nurse practitioners and a podiatrist.
Coincidentally, my maternal grandfather and uncle also graduated from the University of Vienna Medical School, the alma mater of the Kornmehl doctors that Jill originally researched, a quest that led to finding Ed Kornel. But I never heard that my grandfather or uncle knew Dr. Freud.
We looked at a lot of pictures and ate a lot of good food. After many hours of merriment and picture taking, we drove off in our different directions*, confident that we would not let the strands of family history unravel again, and hopeful that perhaps even more Kornmehls will be found and reunited.
*Editor’s note: And in different vehicles; the picture next to the title is of Ed Kornel on a motorcycle, about to ride off into the sunset.