If you’re at all familiar with genealogy, you’ve heard the term “cousin bait”: information posted expressly to attract relatives. This blog seems to attract relatives without my having had to deliberately create a particular type of post — Jessica Klein Levenbrown was only the most recent — and that’s a wonderful thing.
But I had a feeling in the back of my mind that if I posed a genealogical problem, as I did yesterday, I would be putting out a lure of another kind, one that I’ll call “researcher bait.” I thought it might be irresistible to someone who loves to dig in and solve family history mysteries. And sure enough, my friend Lydia bit.
So I already have an answer to yesterday’s question about Ezriel Kormehl’s putative father, Leiser.
It turns out reports of Leiser’s death in 1892, the year after Ezriel’s birth, were greatly exaggerated, assuming Leiser Kornmehl is the same as Samuel Leiser/Lesher/Leizor Kornmehl — which I find no reason not to, at least at this point.
As I noted yesterday, Lydia had previously found an L. Kornmehl who had a paraffin business in Krakow in 1926, at the address Lwowska 21. In the same year, at the same address, he is also listed as having a roof tiles business.
Today Lydia turned up a listing in the 1906 Galicia Industry Directory for a “Kornmehl/Samuel Leizor, papa i. ter.” After consulting online dictionaries for these Polish words, she came up with “papa” = tarpaper (the abbreviation “ter.” was less clear).
She also found listed in the 1938 Polish Public Companies directory: “L. Kornmehl, Skład Nafty, Benzyny, Olejów, Papy Dachowej i Teru. Kr-A. Tarnów, Lwowska 21.”
Clearly the L. Kornmehl with the roofing business in 1926 is the Samuel Leiser/Leizor/Lesher — oh, why didn’t he just use Samuel? — Kornmehl who is Ezriel’s father.
The Polish words in the 1938 listing are for various chemical compounds, which might be explained by this description of the coal tar industry:
One of the most considerable outlets for crude tar is in the manufacture of roofing felt. This industry was introduced in Germany upwards of a hundred years ago…This roofing-felt is used as a cheap covering, both by itself and as a grounding for tiles or slates.
I wrote a post a while back about how surprised I was to learn that my family’s ancestral town of Tarnow was considered a shtetl, a term that brings to mind “Fiddler on the Roof” cliches. I don’t know about any fiddling, but now I can say with authority that a member of my family was involved with roofing.
Lydia Davis says
Edie, you’re so right–I jumped at the bait. Research is absolutely addictive. It’s a fascinating journey, though. The names alone are such a puzzle. I found not only Samuel Leiser and Leiser by itself, but also Leisor, Leizor, and Lejzor. The first time I spotted “Samuel” alongside Leizor, it looked like this: ia-Tiuel. That’s what happens sometimes when you go from print to digital.
But another adventure is with the languages. I can decipher some German and French, but I thought Polish was beyond reach. However, there are the cognates–suddenly I recognized naphtha in “nafty” and our benzene in “benzyny” and then our oleo- (as in oleomargarine) in “olejow”. And there’s a nice online dictionary called bab.la that helps with all sorts of languages and has a great feature for helping with abbreviations–so prevalent in directories, for instance. You start typing in the word, and bab.la supplies possible choices for the whole word. Great if you really don’t know the language and couldn’t guess otherwise.
One other thing, though–the Polish “papa”. I looked this time in Wiktionary, another online dictionary which is useful because it gives you lots of languages at once, while with bab.la you choose just one language to look up. I thought papa might mean “potato”. I knew it could mean “father” but also knew Leiser wasn’t selling fathers. What was fun to discover was not just that “papa” meant “tarpaper,” which went so nicely with Leiser’s paraffin business, but all the many other things “papa” means in other languages. It does mean “potato”–in Quechuan. In Portuguese (and also Old English and Catalan) it means “pope”; in Maori, “rump”; in Malay (and others), “father”; in Dieri, “paternal aunt”; and in Pitjantjatjara (don’t ask), it means “dog”.
Edie Jarolim says
Thanks not only for your help but for this great essay on resources to find words in different languages. Because my Spanish is so firmly menu oriented, I would have associated “papas” with “potatoes” (and now I wonder what the relationship is between potatoes and the pope because Catalan and Portuguese are both close to Spanish). Oh dear, now you’ve gotten me started…