Monday, May 24, 2010

In Search of Franconia: Wherein I Begin Looking at my German Roots



I have spent a large amount of time researching, thinking about and writing at length about Jewish origins, from the Hill Country of Israel, to the Nile Delta to my own Ashkenazi roots in what is now Latvia near the shores of Lake Lubanas, where one of my ancestors took the name "Luban" when Jews in the Russian Empire took last names.

But more recently I have turned to my German, non-Jewish roots, a subject just as fascinating, though to me somewhat less approachable. Since I was raised by my mother and her mother (whose maiden name was Luban), not my father, Peter Kunkel, it has always been the shores of lake Lubanas, and the very circuitous connection through it to Israel, that has fascinated me.

But in reality I am able to trace my father's German roots back further than I can my Jewish roots. In fact, I have grown amazed at the care with which Lutherans keep their church records, keeping track of every Johann Georg and Johann Phillip back to whenever the village became Lutheran. It has just taken longer for me to feel a connection to the Balthazars, Maries, Marys and Adams of Darmstadt-Hesse than it took for me to feel a connection to the Dwieras, Jankels, Sawels and Enochs of Latvia. Of course it helped that in 2003 I was able to visit Dvinsk and Rezekne in Latvia and see the towns where my family came from.

Now I have the chance to see the small villages in Germany where all those Johanns come from.

Let's face one fact: It remains even today, difficult to view German history without one's view being distorted by what happened in the 1930's and 1940's. Ironically I have found (with some exceptions like Chinese-Americans and Korean-Americans and WW II Veterans) when Americans hear "Japan" they don't automatically think Pearl Harbor, Rape of Nanjing, Bataan Death March...they think sushi, sake, Karaoke...and if they are in more of an historical mood, the samurai. However, when Americans hear "Germany" they don't think Bach, Beethoven, the diesel engine or sulfonamides, they think Hitler, Nazis and WW II. They don't even think of Teutonic Knights, perhaps the German equivalent of the Japanese samurai and the origins of the Hohenzollern dynasty that brought us the Kaisers so unfairly singled out for blame for the First World War.

This barrier that WW II throws across German history is both fair and unfair. As someone who has frequently written about Nazis, Nazi treatment of Jews and Jewish resistance to Nazis, I, too, fall too often into the same trap.

And yet Germany was not alone in its march to fascism in the 1930's. The impact of the First World War, influenza epidemic, nationalist movements, and the Great Depression brought about a sense of chaos and despair that drove many nations to look either to communism or fascism. In fact most of Europe had BOTH movements fighting it out for their soul. Even in the United States both movements had some power and it was really, contrary to right wing propaganda, FDR's New Deal that convinced many Americans to stick it out with democracy rather than the right or left extreme. In fact people like Herbert Hoover, Charles Lindbergh and General MacArthur were sympathetic to Nazi Germany and (prior to Pearl Harbor) favored America siding with the Axis powers.

The situation in the lead up to WW II is summed up in Steven Ozment's A Mighty Fortress:

That fourteen of the twenty-five European democracies existing in 1919 had fallen by 1938 makes it clear that Germany was not the only nation to falter along the road to demcoracy.


Spain, Greece, France, Belgium, Hungary, Italy and Romania all had their fascists and toyed with or even accepted fascist rule. (Of these the existence of only the French fascists is controversial, but I think a strong argument can be made that France did toy with fascism, though did not completely succumb.) And Soviets were set up in many parts of Europe...even in Munich in the aftermath of the First World War and the Russian Revolution.

Throughout the world in the 1920's and 1930's democracy was seen as failing and the alternatives of fascism and communism were viewed my many as worth considering. I think the only reason why it became so much more the fate of Germany to be stuck with the blame for fascism (even though Mussolini came first by quite a bit) is because of the success they had with it, becoming the most powerful nation on earth through fascism, and because of Hitler's personality, a much more striking and powerful figure than almost any other leader of the time.

I had the chance to travel to Germany to go to a conference in Heidelberg. Nearby there are two seemingly unremarkable, beautiful-looking regions where few tourists ever go where my distant relatives still live. To the east, just in Bavaria, are the towns of Neuhutten and Rothenbuch where there are still many Kunkels living and from where my great-grandfather, Martin Kunkel (after whom my brother is named) left to find his way in America. To the west, in the Rhineland but also once in Darmstadt-Hesse, are the small villages called Dorrebach and Seibersbach (which includes a farm known as Autishof) from where my great great-grandfather Adam Wasem (sometimes mis-spelled Wassem) left to find his way in America. Both Martin Kunkel and Adam Wasem settled in Iowa and it was there that Martin met Adam's daughter, Mary Wasem. Martin and Mary were two of my great-grandparents. (It was one of Adam's granddaughters through Mary's sister Caroline, who married August Hilton...but that way lies madness).

From what I can tell, if you go far enough back, the ancestors of the Kunkels and Wasems both lived in what was called Franconia in the 11th and 12th centuries, long before I can actually trace my ancestors.



There can be few stronger arguments for the damage that can be done by paying too much attention to history than how Germany has understood and taught its ancient past, however aesthetically pleasurable it can be in operas
--Simon Winder in the excellent Germania: In Wayward Pursuit of the Germans and Their History


Jews have a hard time defining their recent history, strangers in strange lands sometimes accepted, often not, moving from nation to nation always hopefully ahead of the worst of the latest anti-Semitism. Nationalities, last names and first names change, sometimes more than once per generation. But despite, or perhaps because of, this problem with recent history, Jews have a deep sense of their origins, which are mentioned in ancient writings in Egyptian, Edomite, Assyrian and Babylonian even before being enshrined the bible and in Flavius Josephus' Judean War. Jews are overwhelmed by their ancient history. They consciously define themselves in relation to that ancient history.

Germans in some ways have the opposite problem. They are overwhelmed by an ancient history that is virtually unknown except in myth or in mythical histories written by their enemies, the Romans. Whether you rely on Wagner or Tacitus, the result is the same: myth packaged as a national identity. In many ways German history begins when Jewish history becomes subsumed into a subset of the history of their places of exile. The Romans ended the independent history of the Jews, but they began the very concept of German history, the very notion of a "German" identity...and they did so at roughly the same time.

Whatever you might read in either early German myths or Roman histories (the two share much in common, and that is to the detriment of the history), we know almost nothing about the origins of the Germans. According to one line of thinking, the Gauls (Celts), Germans and Slavs were one shifting mass of tribal affiliations that were divided by Roman ideas of geography rather than any real differences. Gauls were barbarians on one side of the Rhine, Germans were barbarians on the other side of the Rhine and Slavs were barbarians even further east. In reality a person, family or clan might shift from one tribal identity to another with relative ease. Even languages were mixed and shifted. Groups like the Huns and Goths were in reality multi-ethnic, multi-lingual entities with relatively short histories, but which, in comparison to the Romans, had their histories projected back into myth.

From A Mighty Fortress by Steven Ozment:

Germanic Tribes established themselves in the eastern Rhine valley by the mid-first century B.C., by which time the term "German" (Germani, Germania) was used by the Romans. At this time the tribes were neither racially uniform nor transregionally united...Quickly settling, they lived within, or along the borders of, the Roman Empire by agreement with the Romans, swapping their services as soldiers, farmers, and tax collectors for land and security. Of these tribes, the Fanks, Goths and Lombards developed historical identities by allying themselves with leading, or royal, families and embracing their genealogical myths.


Real tribal groups are very fluid. This is the case when looking at Native American tribes, African tribes before colonialism, steppe nomads like the Huns or Scythians or Mongols, or the Gauls, Germans and Slavs. Most of the Germanic tribes the Romans fought were actually tribal groupings around one warlord or, in many cases, a particular noble clan and the strength of that tribal grouping was determined by the interaction it had with Rome. Roman trade routes, Roman money, Roman military and diplomatic training, Roman weapons and Roman politics did more to shape the Goths (whether Tervingi or Greuthungi, whether Balthi or Amali led, whether Ostrogoth or Visigoth), the Franks, the Burgandians, the Belgicae, etc. than did any native German forces. Almost everything we know about early German history is really just part of Roman history. Almost all the Germanic "tribes" we know of were formed in one way or another around Roman influences, usually based on trade, war, or both. The history of colonial Africa has many parallels where the fluidity between !Xosha and Zulu, Bantu and Kikuyu, Tutsi and Hutu far outweighed any rivalry until colonial policies ossified these tribal distinctions, creating the sometimes genocidal rivalries we recognize today. Now we project the colonial-imposed situation back in time to pre-colonial days...but that is not accurate. The tribal distinctions among Germans and Celts was much the same in ancient times. They were vague and fluid, largely overshadowed by family and clan affiliations, until interaction with Rome ossified those tribal distinctions. Rome, and through them modern Germans themselves, tend to project the post-Roman situation back into pre-Roman days.

The Germans, whatever anyone might think based on reading Tacitus, have no real independent ancient history. This is not a bad thing. What it really means is that most of them stayed at home raising fat cattle and nice crops, drinking beer at night and singing bawdy songs rather than rampage over Europe as the Romans pictured them doing. Trouble really only came when the Romans came around. Okay, sometimes a push from the other way came from steppe tribes on their horses, but those steppe tribes were really only an extension of ancient Chinese history until a man named Temujin turned the world upside down...but that is the story of ANOTHER people on the fringes of so-called "civilization."

Bottom line is that most "primitive" agricultural societies don't do much in the way of killing, conquering or otherwise making history until trade and military intervention from neighboring "civilizations" comes by. Personally I like the complexity and fast-paced action of that civilization better than the quiet pastoral or agricultural life of the more "primitive" societies, but archaeology tends to support the notion that fewer people get violently killed when there is no nearby civilization to impress or luxury trade goods to buy. Of course there are exceptions, but not that many of them if you look at archaeology rather than listen to the histories which were mostly written from the civilized point of view.

Even such quintessential "German" tribes as the Goths, Vandals and Lombards spent very little time in what is now modern Germany. They originated to the East, spent a great deal of time in the Ukraine, moved into the Balkans, and then swept across Europe in an odd collaboration/competition with the faltering Roman Empire, to occupy places in Spain, France, North Africa and Italy. But they had very little impact on Germany itself. The Germanic tribes who did have an impact on Germany can be seen in some of the state names within Germany through history (Swabia for the Seubi, Franconia for the Franks, Burgundy for the Burgandians...) and in the names for Germany (Allemagne in French from the Allemanni, Deutch from the regional dialect Theodisk...).

The Germans started coming into their own, history and culture wise, when the Romans lost their edge. But the road even from there, was an extremely difficult one. Germany has seldom been unified during its entire history. Until very modern times it has always been a shifting jigsaw puzzle of transient alliances (whether tribal or among rival barons) over which an occasional warlord, noble family or dictator has been able to impose an ill-fitting unity. Look to the Thirty Years War, which absolutely devastated the German states. Look at what Napoleon Bonaparte did to the German states. Germany was a major force from the collapse of Rome on, but it was seldom a superpower until almost the 20th century. More often it was where other nations fought each other, similar to the later history of Poland, ironically enough. And yet Germany's influence on European thought and culture has, since the collapse of Rome, been enormous.

Jews are overwhelmed by their ancient history. Germans have often been overwhelmed by their need for an ancient history to match their modern accomplishments. Interestingly this would have been a familiar obsession to Romans who lived under Ostrogothic rule right after the Western Roman Empire whimpered itself out of existence with the abdication of poor little Romulus Augustulus. So, from Roman times on, Jews have looked back to and tried to recreate an ancient past. And from Roman times on, Germans have tried to create out of myth an ancient past that appears more glorious than simply raising fat cattle and good crops, drinking beer and singing songs at night and trying not to run afoul of Roman "civilization."

German history after the fall of the Roman Empire parallels that of Poland in many ways that probably would make both Germans and Poles uncomfortable. Both had few natural boundaries defining a clear territory, both were regions fought over by all their neighbors at one time or another, and both faced disunity and the threat of extinction from time to time. I think the key differences are simple luck (Germany tended to fare better than Poland) and the fact that Germany started with more structure since it was, contrary to common perception, a fairly Romanized region that had long ago lost most of its "barbarian" characteristics while Poland was more outside the Roman influence.

The rise of Western Europe in the Middle Ages is the story of Germanic tribes absorbing Greco-Roman "civilization" and creating a new society that became modern Europe. From A Mighty Fortress:

Between the rule of the Merovingian Frank Clovis in the late fifth and early sixth centuries and that of the Saxon Conrad in the early tenth, Germanic cultures melded with Greco-Roman, Roman Christian and Byzantine to create the Western Europe we know today.


Sometimes this is overstated, like the often repeated claim that the map of modern Europe dates to the three-fold division of the Frankish lands among the grandsons of Charlemagne. The lands of Charles the Bald are seen as the precursor of France, the lands of Lothar are seen as the precursor of the frequently fought over Netherlands, Belgium, Burgundy, Alsace and Lorraine, and the lands of Louis the German are seen as the precursor of Germany. I'd say, however, that this is oversimplification since between the division of Frankish land and the modern map are centuries of of dynastic conflicts that redrew the map over and over, attached much of France to Britain, parts of Germany to Austria and Scandinavia, and otherwise redrew the maps in ways unrecognizable to us today. However, there is a grain of truth to the fact that the division between Chrales the Bald and Louis the German (who was more of a conqueror and abuser of Germany than a partisan of Germany) did create two centers of power that roughly presage France and Germany, with an in-between land that spans modern Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Alsace and Lorraine and which switched sides over and over.

But really after the division of the Frankish realm, much of the structure of that division was disrupted by the Viking, Magyar and Muslim invasions. From this collapse five duchies formed that are reflected in modern German states: Franconia, Saxony, Thuringia, Swabia and Bavaria (all named for much, much older Germanic tribes loosely affiliated with those regions). It is from these duchies that "Germany" began to be unified under a succession of royal dynasties. The entities "King of Germany" and "Holy Roman Emperor" were sometimes combined, sometimes separate entities but both theoretically had authority.

The Thirty Years War (1618–1648) cuts across German history with such trauma that it took something like WW II to dim its significance. The Thirty Years War involved almost every nation and power structure in Europe...and was mostly fought on German soil. It was a confusing mixture of religious war (Protestant and Catholic Talibans fighting over which version of the Christian faith would dominate Germany and get to oppress the other) and intricate political conflict, largely involving a rivalry between the Bourbon and Hapsburg royal families.

Lutheranism and Catholicism were fighting it out in Germany even before 1618. The absolutely insane level of disunity in Germany (with over 200 individual states) made conflict inevitable. Religious leaders, local barons, regional powers (including the regional state of Hesse, where my humble origins are rooted), foreign nations and trans-national royal families like the Hapsburgs and Bourbons, constantly fought over control over the various German states. Even the Ottomans got involved from time to time. It was, in many ways, the first world war because it was fought by European powers as far afield as Brazil, Africa and Asia.

The political consequences of the Thirty Years War were far reaching. The independence of the Dutch was assured and the decline of Spain accelerated. This allowed the rise of France and England as the next superpowers. Protestantism was unquestionably here to stay after the war, particularly in Germany. But somehow, Germany wound up even MORE divided after the war even than it was before the war.

The Kunkels were already living in Neuhutten before the Thirty Years War. And through thick and thin they remained Catholic to this day. For decades the earliest Kunkels all seemed to be born, married and died in "The Glasshouse" in Neuhutten. I assume they were ones not to throw many stones, living where they did, but the earliest Kunkel I know of, Hans Kunkel, born around 1530, had the nickname "Schwarzkoph" according to local records. He was my greatx10-grandfather. Neuhutten and neighboring Rothenbuch are in the Spessart Mountain region, which was very thinly settled until the 13th century. The wider region was once part of Roman Germany, and then was fought over by the Alemanni and Frankish tribal alliances. Rothenbuch was first mentioned in records back in 1318 in an agreement made between the Archbishop of Mainz, Peter of Aspelt, and the Bishop of W├╝rzburg, Gottfried III of Hohenlohe. In 1342 a castle was built in Rothenbuch at the source of the Hafenlohr river.

Neuhutten was known for its glassmaking as far back as 1349. The name Neuhutten, which in itself refers to glass making, is only first recorded in 1513. Shortly before Hans Kunkel was born, in 1525, the Peasant's War damaged Rothenbuch castle, suggesting that this region felt some of that unrest. These mountains were best known for hunting (and the associated "poaching") and glass making and otherwise was fairly under inhabited.

While the forces of Europe were getting together to fight it out in Germany during the Thirty Years War, Hans Kunkel was almost certainly a glass maker in a family of glassmakers from a region famous for its glass making and not that much else. The kind of glass making done was not large-scale, factory operations, but small scale, setting up small dome-shaped glass works where sand and wood could be found and moving on when resources ran thin.

Hans Kunkel and Anna Catharina Wolfgang (also born in "the Glasshouse"...which probably just refers to the general area since the glasshouses were not really structures people lived in) were married and they begat Johannes Jurg Kunkel. Then came the begetting of a whole series of Johanns who are my ancestors--Johann Michael, Johannes, Johann Balthasar, Johann Christian, another Johannes, and Johann Kunkel, all born in Neuhutten. It should be noted that the exact records may not be as clear as this suggests. This is the genealogy that has been reconstructed mainly by Americans searching for their roots, but it has not always been confirmed by the records in Germany. But most Kunkels stayed put from before Hans Kunkel even until today where Kunkel is still one of the three most common last names in Neuhutten and Rothenbuch.

Okay, look, my Kunkel ancestors were a quiet lot! They stayed at home and made glass and whatever else the had to do to get by in what really was a long German tradition of quietly living their lives in small villages far from the more disruptive and noisy thing called civilization. I kind of get the feeling that my Kunkel ancestors may have lived there quietly for many generations before Hans Kunkel, possibly being nearby when the Romans passed on the skills of glass making. "Kunkel" is actually a word related to wool making. So perhaps we quietly raised sheep and made wool in the area near the Spessart Hills before and we decided glass making was the thing to do once civilization came near.

That last Johann Kunkel broke the long tradition of naming all their sons "Johann." Their son, my great-great grandfather, was named Bernard Kunkel and, according to one distant relative, is the fist Kunkel I know of in my lineage to be born outside of Neuhutten. However, another distant relative who actually has access to the Neuhutten church records says Bernard was indeed born in Neuhutten (he has shown me the entry in the church record and this seems confirmed).

Bernard Kunkel has a story as well. Bernard seems to be the first Kunkel in my family lineage to leave Neuhutten since at least Hans Kunkel. He also married a woman who had earlier been widowed. Elizabeth Englert married a Schulzler before marrying into the Kunkel family. Bernard and Elizabeth's first son, Killian Kunkel, was born before they were married...Hmmmm, this has made some people wonder about Killian's true parentage. From what I have heard this is a touchy subject among some Kunkels even today. I think Bernard and/or Elizabeth were somewhat wild folks, at least for the area, and clearly were breaking out of the stay-at-home Kunkel mold. I should note that Englert (Elizabeth's maiden name) is also one of the three most common names in the area.

Bernard and Elizabeth's second son was my great-grandfather, Martin Kunkel. Born in Rothenbuch, he went further than his father, Bernard. Bernard moved about 5 km over a hill to Rothenbuch. Martin moved across the Atlantic to America, settling in Davenport, Iowa. It was there that he met a woman from a very different German background named Mary Wasem.

My mother remembers some of Mary's relatives. There were two eccentric and very modern sisters, Ella and Lena Wasem, and their brother, who was a bit more stodgy. In one generation, Mary Wasem's generation, dozens of Wasems up and moved from Ober-Ingelheim in Darmstadt-Hesse, to Iowa, where they got married and had children, struck it rich selling their farm to the American Gypsum company after they found gypsum there, and retired to Long Beach California. Quite a life it seems!

The solid Wasem records I have don't go back before the Thirty Years War, though I have seen the house where a distant ancestor, Jakob Wasem, was supposed to have lived as assessor for the local lord. Unlike the Spessart Hills where the Kunkels had been for a long time already, the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt where the Wasems first show up was very much at the center of conflicts in the Holy Roman Empire. The Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt was formed in 1567, as the inheritance of the youngest son of Philip I, Landgrave of Hesse. Before that, the area was part of the Landgraviate of Hesse and before that the Landgraviate of Thuringia. A Landgrave was basically the Holy Roman Empire's equivalent of a Medieval Count. Various succession disputes and a rivalry between Calvinism and Lutheranism led to a conflict that was part of the wider Thirty Years War. I should note, though, that when I visited the Wasem ancestral farm of Autishof, I noticed a stone with the symbol of the Archbishop of Mainz, suggesting that, just like Neuhutten where I first saw such stones, the area was under the control of the Archbishop more than the Landgrave. Yes...German history really is that confusing, and finding such stones, still on farms centuries later, can tell you a lot about what happened there.

Frankfurt and Mainz, both near the area the Wasems later emerge into the records, were at the center of the Thirty Years War...and of a huge path of devastation. Mainz, Worms, and Speyer each were major Catholic centers with famous cathedrals. At one point in the war, Mainz lost, according to some records, 40% of its population. Many villages and towns simple vanished, its inhabitants either killed or forced to move or both. I suspect the Wasems may well have experienced some of that devastation given the absence of clear records (from what I have been able to find) even though legend has that Jakob Wasem had been there earlier (around 1508).

Johann Heinrich Wasem, my greatx5-grandfather, was born 1682 in Autishof, Hessen Darmstadt, Germany. Having roots that only go back to after the Thirty Years War implies that Johann Heinrich's parents had had a tough life. Where they settled, though, is now some of the best wine making area in Germany. The Wasem family today has largely moved away from the small villages and moved to Brazil, America or to the nearby town of Ingelheim where they make what I can attest is great wine (unusually for Germany, they are known for great red wine!). But there is at least still one Wasem family that lives on the old homestead of Autishof. The Wasems may not have been from the Autishof area originally, though I can't know that for sure, but they seem to have had considerable continuity after that. However, there seems to be considerable local mobility between Autishof and nearby Dorrebach (where Jakob Wasem had his home in 1508). Today both are considered "Dorrebach" though Autishof seems across some woods from the main part of Dorrebach. Johann Heinrich was born in Autishof, but he moved to nearby Dorrebach where he married Maria Margaretha. Their son was also named Johann Heinrich Wasem. He moved back to Autishof. His son, Johann Georg Wasem, then broke the tradition of naming all their sons Johann and named one of his sons, my great-great grandfather, Adam Wasem. It was he, after marrying his second wife, Anne Maria Hirschman, who moved his whole family, including Mary Wasem, to Iowa. He died in Iowa, but most of his kids died in California. All in all, the Wasems seem less sedentary and tied to the region than the Kunkels, though by all evidence they were farmers. My mother remembers that even in California many of the Germans who had moved from Germany to Iowa to Long Beach grew grain in their California gardens to remember their distant farms.

Why did the Kunkels and Wasems move all about the same time?

There were many reasons. Other branches of the Wasem family started moving from Germany as early as the 1820's. The first migration seems to be to Brazil where there are still many Wasems today. As pointed out by another Wasem descendant, in 1822 Brazil declared independence and started offering Europeans free land, seed and livestock. It was soon after that that Wasems started moving to Brazil. Wasems started moving to Iowa soon after Iowa passed its Homestead Law in 1862. So the incentive to move was partly good offers from New World governments. However, people don't move if they are comfortable where they are.

The Napoleonic Wars came soon before the 1820's. This destroyed the Holy Roman Empire as an entity and much of Germany was devastated. However, one of the German states that fared well during and after the Napoleonic wars was Hesse-Darmstadt. So economic devastation was not a reason for the Wasem migration to Brazil. This was later considered a rather complacent, quiet period by comparison to what was coming. Perhaps the Wasems that left for Brazil left for their own reasons, maybe being on the wrong side of someone during the Napoleonic era and its aftermath.

But the wave of Wasem migration and the Kunkel move to America came at a very different time when the complacent German society was breaking down. In 1830 came the July Revolution in Paris which sparked similar uprisings in Germany. Liberal protest, often led by the younger generation, met reactionary repression. There was not massive disruptions as there were during the Thirty Years War, Napoleonic Wars and, later, in the Revolution of 1848, but there were rising tensions. At the same time the first railroads were being laid and the first steamships crossing the Atlantic. Agrarian and economic crises began hitting in 1846 (when the first Wasems I know of started moving to America) and highly optimistic guidebooks began to come back from America to Germany promising a more open society that many younger Germans were agitating for in Germany. This seemed the combination of events that started the Wasem move to America (when Iowa started offering free land). But my branch of the Wasems, and my branch of the Kunkels seemed to wait until things really broke down in the Revolution of 1848.

From Germania: In Wayward Pursuit of the Germans and Their History by Simon Winder:

The vast scope of the Revolutions of 1848 encompassed in one form or another everywhere from Ireland to Sweden...Beyond a revulsion at the cold grind of repression instituted by regimes such as Metternich's in the Austrian Empire after 1815, there was no real agreement as to what should come next. This was allied to a middle-class timorousness that wanted political representation but was acutely anxious, on the whole, to exclude the working class.

All sides in 1848 felt an often crippling self-consciousness. Few events have occurred with more of a sense of acting out a historical script, of making gestures all waiting to be immortalized in the period's innumerable cheap prints.


In 1848, in Frankfurt, within 50 miles of both Rothenbuch and Dorrebach, the March Revolution began. In Frankfurt, a new constitution was written. The revolution pushed for a united Germany and a more democratic system, essentially rejecting the disunited, outdated system Germany was ruled under. This revolution was unsuccessful and was of course ruthlessly crushed by the autocratic rulers. Otto van Bismark's political career took off the next year in 1849 in the aftermath of the revolution.

The revolution and its failure led to many Germans fleeing to America.
From Steven Ozment's A Mighty Fortress:

...Between 1850 and 1870, after half a century of reactionary politics and the failure of a native democracy movement, 1,700,000 Germans emigrated to the United States amid growing fears of social discrimination and religious persecution by their government...


This was also a period where Austria and Prussia became rivals for who would dominate German society. The Wasems and Kunkels were in the Austrian sphere of influence and were not directly affected by the rivalry (which was focused more on what is now Poland), it is hard to imagine that there wasn't a sense of Austria fading and Prussia becoming an oppressive force.

Clearly the Kunkels, who had by then broken out of their Neuhutten shell but still seemed mostly homebodies), and the Wasems, were affected by all of this. The Kunkels seem to have merely been affected by the economic results, having too many kids to support in the devastated Germany that followed. But the Wasems, who had always had more of a connection to the nobility, had taken a direct role in the revolution. My great-great grandfather, Adam Wasem, was police commissioner and burgomeister in Bingen (part of Ober-Ingelheim I believe, and located right where the Rhine turns North not too far from Autishof, where he was born). While he was at his peak of influence, two of his sons, John and Jacob (yep...another Jacob) joined in the revolution of 1848, centered at Frankfurt. Well, in the end they moved to America. I suspect it got too politically difficult for the family as Otto von Bismark crushed the revolution. So it may well be we wound up in America thanks to Bismark! Jacob Wasem, the rebel of 1848, wandered from New York to Ohio to Missouri, becoming a hatter. Not sure if that means what it sounds like or more of a furrier. I'd like to envision him as a mountain man getting furs to make into hats. Either way, he disappeared in Missouri, never to be heard from again.

Ultimately, the result was that the Wasems and Kunkels who are my direct ancestors moved to America. Martin Kunkel briefly joined the Union Army in the Civil War before marrying Mary Wasem. Mary's siblings and cousins struck it rich with gypsum. Martin and Mary's son, Edward Kunkel, founded a sporting goods store in Davenport that survived until near the end of the Bush years, when the Bush recession drove it under. Edward's son, Peter Kunkel, was, as far as I know, the first Kunkel or Wasem to become an intellectual: he got his Ph.D. in Anthropology and met my mother on a dig in Mexico...which led to my brother and me. It was in Mexico where my Latvian Jewish and Lutheran/Catholic German lines came together. (For those who might be confused by last names here, Michaelson was my step-father's last name...Kunkel my original last name).

Back in Germany, the Wasems have successful wineries and hotels in Ingelheim. If you are going to Germany, I strongly suggest staying at the Wasem Wine Hotel. They speak good English and are very hospitable and their wine is really excellent. The Kunkels remain quietly in Neuhutten and Rothenbach and surrounding areas. The Spessart mountains are harder to visit because places to stay are hard to find and English is not as widely spoken, but it is a beautiful and friendly area, so if you are more adventurous, make an effort to visit. Despite its rural and out of the way location, I noticed more solar panels in Neuhutten than I see even in California towns! And BMW's are a common car to see. Many of the buildings are the same construction as when my ancestors lived there, as carefully documented by my distance relative and Neuhutten's unofficial historian, Linus Kunkel.

A couple of final little quirks. My Jewish side may also have German roots. My maternal grandfather was German Jewish, but I have been unable to trace that lineage at all...try tracing Jacobsons in New York! So from somewhere in the same disunited mess that was Germany between the Thirty Years War and the March Revolution, I had some Jewish ancestors. Even my Latvian Jewish roots may originally come from Germany. One family that married into the Luban family were the Latvian Galbraichs. One generation before they were Halbraichs, a German name. A generation or two later they were Goldbergs in America. German Jews were moving to Latvia at that time. The Lubans seem to have been fairly settled in Latvia (the name Luban comes from Lake Lubanas in Latvia), but my great-grandmother's family, the Misrochs and/or Diamondsteins, seemed more cosmopolitan, educated and may well have had the same German origin as the Galbraichs. Though Misroch is a name that looks to the East, and I have imagined it was a link to the Caucasus kingdom of the Khazars, in reality it could just as easily be a family that came from Germany. I will probably never know.

Finally, my wife's mother's maiden name was Rothenberg. This was not their original last name but was taken by an earlier ancestor from the family who helped them escape from the Russian pogroms. It is possible, though unlikely, that that Rothenberg family came from Rothenbach, where the Kunkels still live. Probably not a real link, merely one of the many coincidences that history is full of. But sometimes those little coincidences turn out to be meaningful.

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Record of Adam Wasem's Death February 12, 1922

This is the obituary of the brother of my great grandmother, Mary Kunkel (nee Wasem). Interestingly, his death occurred precisely 43 before my birth, to the day.

May 10, 1838 -- February 12, 1922

Fort Dodge Messenger, Iowa
February 13, 1922

Adam Wasem, Pioneer of Webster County, Dies in California - Death occurred on Sunday afternoon

Adam Wasem, prominent pioneer of Webster county, died at his home in Long Beach, CA., Sunday afternoon at 2:30. Death came after a lingering illness brought on by the infirmities of old age. Mr. Wasem would have celebrated his eighty-fourth birthday May 10. Until a year ago he enjoyed splendid health, but has failed since that time and his death was not unexpected. Mr. Wasem was closely associated with the early life of Webster county. Coming to this country at the age of 18 from his home in Oberingleheim, Germany, he settled with his parents near Eagle Grove. He underwent all the hardships of early pioneer days, prairie fires, poor crops and low prices, but he lived to enjoy the fruits of his labors and the prosperity which resulted from hard work, saving and wise investments. In August 1862, he enlisted as a private in Company A., 32nd Iowa Infantry. He was discharged from service in August 1865, having served three years and nine days or till the close of the war. He joined Fort Donnelson Post number 236 and retained membership in that until his death. Mr. Wasem was a great admirer of Lincoln and the fact that his death should occur on his birthday is a peculiar coincidence. At the conclusion of the war Mr. Wasem moved to Fort Dodge and for a number of years he teamed freight to Boone, Iowa Falls, Webster City and other railroad termination points.

He was married in November 1866, to Miss Henrietta Wiese of Manson, who survives him. They settled on a half section of land in Cooper township, which place the family still retains. Later he bought land adjoining underlaid with gypsum deposits. Fourteen children were born to them, all of whom with the exception of the oldest boy, who died when he was 10 years of age, survive. His children are Willia, Charles, John, Ella, Otto, Mrs. Roy Scheerer, Henry and Walter of this city, Etta, Adam, Mrs. Bertha Meigs, Carrie and Lena, of Long Beach, CA. With the exception of Henry, Water, Mrs. Scheerer and Miss Ella Wasem, they were all with their father at the time of his death. One sister, Mrs. Mary Kunkel and a brother, Fred Wasem, are also living in Long Beach. Two other sisters, Mrs. C. Laufersweiler of Fort Dodge, and Miss Sophia Wasem passed away several years ago. Mr. Wasem had six grand children. They are Richar, Robert and Jean Wasem, children of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Wasem, Mary Louise, daughter of Mrs and Mrs. Otto Wasem, Mary Henrietta Scheerer, daughter of Mrs. and Mrs. Ray Scheerer and Betty Lyle Meigs, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Meigs of Long Beach, CA.

Moved to California in 1904 - Mr. Wasem went to California where he invested in property in Long Beach, and later built a home there. He enjoyed the milder climate and while he never relinquished his loyalty to Iowa was very happy in his life there. He made many trips back and forth to Iowa until five years ago last summer when he made his last visit here. The summer will be remembered as one of intense heat and Mr. Wasem suffered greatly from it. At that time he said he would never return. In October, 1916, Mr. and Mrs. Wasem celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary with a family reunion at Long Beach. Mr. Wasem was a faithful attendant at all the Iowa picnics in Los Angeles and he always had a warm welcome for all Fort Dodgers who visited California. Family Company - In October, 1909, Mr. Wasem deeded over his gypsum land to his 13 children who organized a stock company known as the Wasem Plaster Co. of Fort Dodge. This company which operates a large mill east of the city is unique in that all the stock is owned equally by the 13 children and the officers are also members of the family. The message that brought the news of their father's death said nothing about funeral arrangements but the funeral will probably be in Long Beach as the long trip back here would be hard for Mrs. Wasem. Knowing their father's failing health all the members of the family have visited him during the past year.

Friday, April 23, 2010

My search for my Jewish family

MISROCH/DIMENSTEIN/COHN
LUBANS DANNINGS SPEROS

A family history compiled by David Michaelson.

What follows is a history based around three people: Dora, David and Ida. These three are thought to be siblings, though there some inconsistencies regarding that. They seem to form the coming together of three families based in and around the city of Daugavpils, then Russia, now Latvia: the Misrochs, Dimensteins and Cohns, though there is almost no evidence for the last of these. For nice symmetry, these three individuals are also the origins of three family branches: Dora married into the Luban family (from Rezekne, near Daugavpils) to form the Luban branch; David changed his name to Danning, forming a new family branch, and Ida married into the Spero family.

What follows starts with a narrative, but mostly it is a collection of information, gathered mostly from the internet, drawing from Russian and US census data, ships manifests, death indices and from the memories of the children and grandchildren of Dora and David. Since I have been unable as yet to contact the Speros, I sadly cannot draw from their memories. Added mainly at the end are partly or completely hand drawn family tree diagrams which I hope will be clear.


MY SEARCH FOR ORIGINS: (narrative introduction)


I guess the first thing I should cover is where we came from. Living memory seemed contradictory at first. Harry and Ben Danning remembered references to “Poland.” I am assuming that these references were made in the 1920’s and 1930’s, which will be relevant in a moment. Evalyn Michaelson remembered references to “Rezitska, Latvia” from Dora Luban, her grandmother (spelling of “Rezitska” is a guess on Eve’s part). For my part, I remember my grandmother, Celia Jacobson, saying our family came from “somewhere near ‘Minsk’ or ‘Pinsk’ or something like that.” So it seemed like we had Poland, Latvia and Belarus as possible places of origin, all of which were simply “Russia” at the time our ancestors left. At first I thought it would be impossible to sort this out, but I have found the solution that brings them all together. In fact the solution is kind of obvious since it is where these three places (as well as Lithuania) come together, focusing on what was the Vitebsk and Livland districts of Russia back then.

My first clue came courtesy of a Patricia Liebham who I found on the Rootsweb.com website. She has provided me with two 1920 US census records (see below) of Lubans from Milwaukee, WI. My grandmother, Celia, had lived in Milwaukee before the Danning family convinced some of the Lubans to migrate to Los Angeles. Celia’s father was Solomon (sometimes called Samuel) Luban and her mother Dora Luban. One of the two 1920 Census records Patricia gave me was for Solomon Luban, his wife Dora and their children Simon, Sarah, Celia, Jacob and Norma. This, obviously, was Dora and Solomon’s family. In this record, Solomon, Dora, Simon, Sarah and Celia were all born in Russia, while Jacob (remembered as Jack) and Norma were born in Milwaukee. The place of birth within Russia is hard to read but looks something like “Lit..sk,” maybe “Litovsk” or “Litevsk.” There is another 1920 Census record of a Henry and Esther Luban, living on the same street as Solomon’s family (11th Street in what seems to be a primarily German, Christian neighborhood). Henry and Esther had 6 children: Belle, Sarah, Minnie, Sophia, Helen and John (also remembered as Jack). Henry, Esther, Belle and Sarah are listed as having been born in Russia in a place that looks like “Wit..sk,” maybe “Witebsk.” I figured it is likely that two Luban families living on the same street in Milwaukee in 1920 are probably related and this has been borne out. If Henry and Solomon were related, then “Lit..sk” and “Wit..sk” probably refer to the same place. I took a guess and found the city of Vitebsk (also spelled Witebsk) which is now in Belarus but once was the capital of a district (Vitebsk district) that included part of what is now Latvia and which was part of Poland in the 1920’s and 1930’s. This, based on the 1920 census record and the memories of Poland, Latvia and Minsk/Pinsk (Belarus), seemed a likely place for us to come from.

I then turned to the Jewishgen.org website. Searching for “Lubans” I hit the jackpot. I found am 1897 “All Russia” Census record for a Sawel and Dweira Luban of exactly the correct ages living in a town called “Rezekne” in the Vitebsk district of Russia. Today Vitebsk is in Belarus and Rezekne is in Latvia. Solomon was a carpenter according to the 1920 census record, and the Sawel in the 1897 Russian census record is listed as a joiner, which is essentially the same profession. So based on profession and age as well as similarity of names, Sawel and Dweira of Rezekne Russia of 1897 are almost certainly Solomon and Dora of Milwaukee, WI of 1920. Furthermore, Dweira is listed as having been born in a town called “Daugavpils” which is near Rezekne and today is near the border of Latvia and Lithuania. Daugavpils is also called Dvinsk. Daugavpils is a city where there are a lot of Misrochs and Dimensteins, names that are associated in both memory and death records with Ida and Dora, while Rezekne (and nearby Jekapils) have many Lubans. I think Dora, Ida and David would have been born in Dvinsk. Their parents may have had hit hard times, so, maybe at about the same time, David was sent off to Argentina and Dora was sent to live with an uncle who owned an inn. My guess is that the uncle lived in Rezekne and that is where her marriage to Solomon was arranged. I do find a record of one family of Misrochs living in Rezekne, but the husband’s occupation is “Coopersmith,” and there is no mention of an inn (see Misroch family tree starting with Moisey). Interestingly, family memory among Henry Luban’s family suggests that the Lubans of Rezekne were innkeepers. Was Dora’s “uncle” a Luban??

I find no record of David’s trip from Russia. Family memory indicates that the family could no longer support him, so he was sent to Buenos Aires where he worked for the postal service until he could make his way up to America. When he did, he first moved to Philadelphia where he met Jennie Goldburg, whose family included one of the first Jewish cops in Philadelphia. Somewhere along the way he met a woman who taught him English and he took this woman’s name, Denning. Not wanting to sound too Irish, according to Harry Danning, he changed it to Danning. Jennie and David (who is remembered by Curtis Ben Danning as Robert David) moved to California. The story goes that they honeymooned in California but couldn’t find the money to get back so they just stayed. Interestingly I find records on the Ellis Island database of a Raphael and other Misrochs from Russia coming from Buenos Aires to Philadelphia (through New York) around 1922. Although this is very similar to the names associated with Robert (Raphael?) David Danning, and the path from Russia to the US is the same, the date is way too late since David was certainly in California by then. Still there is evidence for a trail of Misrochs from Russia to Argentina to Philadelphia that must have been pioneered by Robert David, then continued at least into the 1920’s.

I have possibly found records for Solomon’s and Dora’s trips from Europe to the US, but they are very uncertain. Solomon (according to the 1920 US Census) came to the US in 1904. I find a record of a Schlime Lewin, age 37, occupation: joiner (same age and occupation as Sawel/Solomon) who came over on the ship Statendam out of Rotterdam arriving in New York City. We have no memory of family in NYC at that time, but I do find records of Lubans from Jekapils (near Rezekne) in NYC. Maybe they are related. Maybe Sawel (living in Rezekne), Shlime (on a ship to the US) and Solomon (also called Samuel) are all the same person.

Dora, Simon, Sarah and Celia are listed in the 1920 US Census as having come to the US in 1906. I find a listing for a Bassje D Lande, Ente Lande, and children named Simon, Sara and Chaje coming to Ellis Island in 1906 on the Corina from Liverpool. Their destination is Chicago, which is close to Milwaukee. This entry is actually crossed out from the ship’s manifest, but an entry for the same people (different spellings) is shown soon after on a ship named Campania from Liverpool. The ages of Simon, Sara and Chaje all match the ages of Simon, Sarah and Celia for 1906. Bassje D. Lande, however, is listed as age 46 while Dora would have been 36. Still, the “D.” in Bassje D. could be Dora. Finally there is Ente Lande. Ente’s age is identical to the age Ida would have been at that time. We don’t know when Ida came over, but it is likely that she came with Dora. So I think we have a somewhat garbled record of Dora, Ida, Simon, Sarah and Celia coming to the US. Ente is listed as the same name as Dora, yet Ida was not a Luban. I suspect that since she was traveling with Dora, and Dora was older by more than 10 years, Ida just went along using the same name to simplify immigration. All of this is speculation, but it a tantalizing link between Sawel and Dweira in Rezekne and Solomon and Dora in Milwaukee.

So I conclude that our family came from Dvinsk/Daugavpils where Misrochs and Dimensteins abound. David got put on a ship to Argentina sometime around 1888. Probably, Dora was sent to Rezekne about the same time. By 1897 she was married to Solomon in Rezekne, though they had no kids yet. Simon might actually have been born that very year (1897). Sarah was born the next year (1888) and Celia in 1903. Solomon left for the US in 1904 (following his relative Henry who left in 1903) and Dora, with Ida, Simon, Sarah and Celia, followed in 1906. Norma was born 1910 and by that time they were in Milwaukee. It is unknown if they lived elsewhere before Milwaukee, but Henry Luban came to the US first, but, according to Henry Luban’s family, followed Solomon to Milwaukee. This implies an intermediate residence (Chicago, perhaps?). They were still in Milwaukee in 1920. Sometime around 1924 or so, Dora divorced Solomon and moved, with her kids, to Los Angeles where David already lived (after working his way up from Argentina via Philadelphia where he met Jennie Goldberg). It isn’t clear when Ida joined them.

That covers where we came from. But who were Dora, David and Ida? Everyone, Harry, Ben and Leah Danning as well as Evalyn Michaelson, all remember the three of them as siblings. No one seems to suspect that these three were anything but two sisters and a brother. There is some uncertainty about their original last name. Everyone remembers Misrach, but there are echoes of another name, Diamondstein (probably originally Dimenstein, which is as common as Misroch in Dvinsk). Evalyn rememberd that David got his name “Danning” as a modification of Diamondstein. Harry, Leah and Ben counter this: Danning came from Denning, the last name of the woman who taught David English. I am uncertain as to whether he took the name Danning once he was in the US (in Philly?) or before. Ben does remember being teased as a kid about being really “Diamondstein” instead of “Danning”. I was ready to discount Diamondstein completely as mere rumor, but something from the Spero side makes me wonder.

Here I enter the realm of California Death records, a useful, if morbid, database. Celia Jacobson’s death record lists her mother’s maiden name as “Misrach,” presumably reflecting Eve’s memory of her grandmother. Since the only records I find of Dora are from after her marriage, the direct records only indicate her married name of Luban. But according to Celia’s death record, Dora was a Misrach, originally. In agreement with this is the death record of Celia’s brother, Simon. His death record lists his mother’s maiden name as “Misroch.” The spellings are equivalent, so from both Simon’s family and Celia’s family it is rememberd that Dora was a Misroch/Misrach. There is no death record in this database for David Danning since he died before 1940, when the records began to be kept, so I can’t get more information from that side of the family. But when I turn to the Spero side I find something very strange. I find Ida Spero’s death record and it lists her mother’s maiden name as Mizrach, yet another spelling of this name. But wait! Dora and Ida are supposed to be sisters, yet Dora’s maiden name is Misrach, but Ida’s MOTHER’s maiden name was also Mizrach! This suggests they were not sisters. Dora’s death record lists HER mother’s maiden name as Cohn. I have no other evidence for this name, though there are lots of families with names similar to Cohn who lived in Daugavpils. Looking at the death record of Ida’s son, Simon, I find that his record lists his mother’s maiden name as DIAMONDSTEIN! Dora was a Misrach whose mother was a Cohn. Ida was a Diamondstein whose mother was a Misrach. This suggests that Ida and Dora were really cousins! I can find no way to reconcile these—memory insists they were sisters, but death records strongly suggest that they were cousins. If they were cousins, it is unclear where David fits in. Two things might back up the idea of Ida and Dora being cousins instead of sisters. First, according to death records, Ida was about 13 years younger than Dora and 12 years younger than David. This is a LONG time between children. Second, according to memory, Dora was sent away to live with an uncle. If that uncle was actually the husband of her aunt, her father and aunt would have been Misrochs, and the uncle she was sent to live with could have been a Dimenstein who was Ida’s father. I can’t resolve this unless I can find a way to contact the Spero side of the family, something I have been unable to do so far.

The Misrochs are rememberd by the Latvian archivist, Aleksander Feigmanis as being timber mercahnts. I find records of these Misrochs on the Jewishgen.com website. He remembers Dimensteins as including religious personnel (Dora was proud of her family since they had many Rabbis…a hint at a Dimenstein connection?) I did find records of Dimenstein rabbis on Jewishgen.com. Aleksander also remembers Lubans as being innkeepers.

I have only hints as to the names of Dora’s parents. My mother remembers she was probably named Chava. If Dora’s death record is correct, she was Chava Cohn or something similar. The 1897 “All Russia” census record for Dweira Luban lists her father’s name as Awsey. If her maiden name really was Misroch, then he was Awsey Misroch. This reasoning is summarized in the family trees at the very end. But before I get to the family trees of our family, I want to go through the documented evidence in more detail.


MISROCHS AND LUBANS


Mizrach/Mizrachi: Jews in Syria (not Iraq, though?), Iran, Afghanistan (who are from Iran), and India (not all) and beyond, including China. Includes very old established presence of Iranian Jews in the 1800s in Russia, and many European countries. A mizrach is also a religious item. Derived from the Hebrew word for “East,” Mizrach is something to put on the wall to indicate the direction a Jew should pray (direction of the Temple Mount).

Luban comes from the name of a lake, Lake Lubanas, in Latvia not so far from Rezekne. Rezekne is south of the Lake. There was also a shtetl called Lubana north of the Lake.

Our Family in Russia:

From the 1897 “All Russia” Census, Vitebsk district: (From Jewishgen.org)

The following two entries are the basis for my linking our family to the Rezekne and Daugavpils areas.

Luban, Sawel, Father: Jankel; Occupation: Joiner; Age: 28; Birthplace: Rezekne; address: Rezenke, Volkov lane 11-2

Is this Solomon? According to Evalyn Michaelson, Solomon, her grandfather, sometimes went by Samuel. Solomon was a carpenter (same as joiner) and would have been 27/28 in 1897.

Luban, Dwiera, Father: Awsey; Age 26; Birthplace: Daugavpils (same as Dvinsk); address: Rezenke, Volkov Lane 11-2. Comment: wife of Sawel.

This is right for Dvorah. The name is similar, the age is about right (26/27) and the fact that she moved from her hometown (“was sent to live with an uncle outside the shtetl”) all fit. I should note that Dvorah may not have actually been her name. Dwiera looks more like Dvira, a different Jewish girl’s name that could also be anglicized to Dora. I think she would have left Daugavpils around 1884 or so assuming she was sent away at the same time that Robert David Misroch/Danning was sent away to South America.

From same census there also are:

LUBAN, Schmuila Jankel, Age: 76; Birthplace: Rezenke, address Plekshenskaya 24-2

(this may be the Jankel who is Sawel’s father; Jankel/Yankel is a version of Jacob)

LUBAN, Kreine, Age: 55; Birthplace: Rezenke, address same as Jankel; comment: wife of Schmuila Jankel (presumably Sawel’s mother; Kreine is probably a version of the name Kreindel)

GALBRAICH, Josel, Age: 40; Birthplace: Kraslava; occupation: Shop-assistant; Father’s name: Schmuila (Galbraich?); address: Rezekne Bolshaya Ludzenskaya 38-3. This would be Esther Luban’s father (see below for Henry Luban’s family).

GALBRAICH, Hanna Scheina, Josel’s wife. Age: 44; birthplace Rezekne. Presumably Esther’s mother.

There was a widow living with Josel and Hanna: FALKOV, Glika aged 70, born Rezekne.

There are many records for Maltinskys and Imjanitovs in Rezenke at that time (this is the name of Esther Luban’s mother’s parents). There are two households of Maltinskys who are neighbors to Josel and Hanna Scheina Galbraich (in Bolshaya Ludzenskaya 38-1 and –2). In 38-1 there is a Hillel (b. 1834) and Gitel (b. 1849) Maltinsky, who probably were Hannah’s parents (Hillel is also remembered as Ely or Eli). Ely/Hillel’s father was Meyer Maltinsky.

I find no record that matches Henry (Henach) and Esther (Menucha) themselves even though they would probably have lived in Rezekne at the time. There is a 1911 record in the 1911 Vitebsk Gubernias Database ( http://data.jewishgen.org/wconnect/wc.dll?jg~jgsearch~model~[allbelarus]vsyaminsk ) of a Berko Luban from Rezhitsa (Rezekne) area whose father is Iankel (Jankel). This is likely to be a brother of Henry and Solomon’s that is otherwise not known. He may have stayed in Latvia when Henry and Solomon left.

Rezenke (also called Rositte or Rezhitsa) is a town in what was the Vitebsk district of Russia. Vitebsk is now in Belarus, but Rezenke is in Latvia. Daugavpils (same as Dvinsk or Dinaburg) and was in the Lifland (or Livland) Province of Russia (whose capital was Riga). It is now in Latvia on the border with Lithuania. Dvinsk has many Misrochs, Cohns: (various versions of the name), and Diminsteins (see Jewishgen.org ALL LATVIA database) any of whom could be relatives. Lubans are concentrated in Rezenke (see above) and Jekabpils/Jekapils, also in the same area.

The Misrochs and Dimensteins I find on Jewishgen.org in Dvinsk can be compiled into a handful of family trees but none have the name Awsey that is listed in the 1897 census record as being Dora’s father. There are too many variations on the name Cohn to compile any meaningful family tree. The Lubans also are hard to compile into a family tree mainly since the records for Rezekne, where the Lubans are centered, don’t include as much information about family connections as the records for Dvinsk.

The Jewish Community of Dvinsk (Daugavpils): (adapted from JewishGen.org website)

Dvinsk (now Daugavpils, Latvia, German variation: Dinaburg) was part of the Vitebsk Gubernia (province) of the Russian Empire. It was one of the leading Jewish cities and a centre of high Jewish culture and debate. Jewish gravestones in the area date from the 17th century.

There is a book called Memories of the Days of My Childhood or A Look at the City of Dvinsk by Sarah Feige Foner of the House of Menkin - Printed in Warsaw, 1903 that describes life and religious conflict in Daugavpils between 1862 and 1871, the decade just before Solomon, Dora and Robert David’s births. Excerpts can be found at the website: http://www.fonerbooks.com/memoir.htm. In this book Foner outlines a fierce feud between the Hassidic and Mitnagdim (“opponents”) Jews. The former were more “spiritual” and the latter were more “intellectual” and were followers of the 18th century Rabbi known as the Vilna Gaon. In addition to this feud, Dvinsk also had a strong Jewish Mafia presence at the beginning of this period but was cleaned up by the end of the period. The St. Petersburg railroad ran through Dvinsk and the city included a fortress and large garrison.

According to the Jewish Encyclopedia (Funk & Wagnalls), commerce and manufacturing in Dvinsk were largely in Jewish hands. The 1893 census showed 330 industrial establishments owned by Jews and 99 owned by non-Jews. The most important trades followed by the Jews were tailoring (1,210) and shoemaking. Interestingly, the professions of several of the Misrochs, Dimensteins and even Lubans found in Dvinsk and Rezekne are tailors or shoemakers. Some 32 factories are identified including button manufacture, a sawmill, match factory, tannery etc, all owned by Jews with a total of 2,305 employees recorded. A further 684 day labourers are noted.

In 1910 the city numbered 111,000 of which 50,000 were Jews. Unlike its immediate neighbor the Courland district, Dvinsk was within the Jewish Pale of Settlement. Its ethos derived more from Russian, Lithuanian and Polish influences than from Courland which was broadly German in character and cultural background as a result of nearly 700 years of de facto domination by the Baltic Germans. Note, however, that many Jewish names in the area (e.g. Galbraich (Goldberg) from the German Halbraich) are German in origin.

The poverty of the Pale was a feature of Dvinsk Jewish life and it is estimated that 30 per cent of Jewish families applied for aid from the community in 1898. There were numerous Jewish aid societies recorded including a Mutual Aid, founded in 1900 and with more than 1,200 members by 1901. A loan fund was established in memory of the Merchant M Vitenberg. Loans, secured by personal property, were advanced without interest. Other charitable institutions included a society for aiding the poor founded by the Jewish governor, with an income in 1899 of some 8,917 Roubles, soup kitchens, a charitable dining hall, a bikkur holim, a dispensary and a lying-in hospital all organized and run by the community. These testify to the traditions of self help and community organization that reflect the high value placed on charity to those less fortunate.

Dvinsk was an important center of Jewish thought and culture and nurtured a number of Rabbis known and respected throughout the Jewish world. Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Kuk [Kook] of Palestine was a pupil of Reb Reuvele Dunaburger. Meier Simcha Hacohen, Rabbi of Mitnagdim for 39 years while Rabbi Yosef Rosen served as the Chassidic rabbi for 50 years. Both were formidable Talmudic scholars and vivid personalities. They were considered rivals but were buried next to each other.

Finally, the important painters Chagal and Rothko were born in the Vitebsk district. Rothko was from a Dvinsk family and a family portrait of the Rothkowitz family from which he was descended can be seen at http://www.nga.gov/feature/rothko/early1.html .

Further reading on this important and most Jewish of Russian cities can be found in the Latvia SIG Newsletter – See: Vol. 1, No’s 1,2 and Vol. 5, No’s. 1,2,3 - which contains the "Jews in Dunaburg" extracted from the Jews of Dunaburg, published in 1993 by Z. I. Yakub. See also Dvinsk, the Rise and Fall of a Town, by Yudel Flior (translated from the Yiddish by Bernard Sachs), Johannesburg, Dial Press [1965]. Unfortunately this book is out of print but it is an excellent evocation of the flavor of Jewish life in Dvinsk at the turn of the century and above all records the enduring affection of the writer for his home town following his emigration to South Africa in 1928.

Pictures from Daugavpils can be found at: http://www.avotaynu.com/wconnect/wc.isa?jg~jgsys~avotaynupc~Daugavpils

The Pogroms:

We supposedly left Russia due to pogroms. This is probably true, since our emigration, with the exception of Robert David Danning, precisely occurs just before and during the first stages of the pogroms. The following is a description of the Baltic revolution and its aftermath, beginning around 1905. Henry Luban, see below, left 1903 and Solomon and Henry’s family in 1904; Dora and her kids would still have been around as the revolution and pogroms started but left in 1906.

Excerpts from the website: http://vip.latnet.lv/LPRA/fg_early.htm

“Here we reach the focal point of this chapter, the 1905 revolution in the Baltic provinces of the Russian Empire. Marxism had been introduced to Latvia directly from Germany, and the Latvian proletariat had virtually no contact with the Marxist groups in St. Petersburg, Moscow, or other Russian cities. Unrest broke out in St. Petersburg on January 22,1905, and was echoed two days later in Riga with the proclamation of a general strike. The strike was called by the Federative Committee, which consisted of representatives from the Latvian Social Democratic Workers' Party (LSDSP, from the Latvian name), founded in 1904, and the Jewish Social Democratic organization "Bund," founded in 1897. One can say with confidence that Latvian Social Democrats and Jewish Bundists were close allies in leading the struggle for social reform, abolition of class privileges, a democratic constitution, and national autonomy -- territorial autonomy for Latvians, cultural autonomy for Jews. Bund representative Leonid Korobotchkin and others were prominent revolutionary activists alongside several Latvians. The LSDSP and the Bund established "military organizations" with 500 members at the garrisons in Riga and Liepaja (Libau), which agitated among soldiers of the Russian army. The Bund played a leading role in revolutionary activity in Latgale, Eastern Latvia, especially in the center Daugavpils (Dvinsk), a railway junction town where many Jews lived…

“The 1905 revolution was followed by repression -- punitive expeditions, gallows, forced labor. Toward the end of 1905 and in early 1906, savage pogroms were organized in the western and southwestern parts of the Russian Empire, which claimed many Jewish lives. Latvians refused to join in these anti-Semitic actions. In the town of Ludza (Lutsyn) in Latgale, there was an incident in which local Latvian Catholic peasants prevented Russians from attacking the town's Jews. This was reported at the end of January 1906 by the newspaper Gaisma (Light), published in St. Petersburg in the Latgallian dialect:

“‘Shortly before Christmas, the Black Hundred [a right-wing Russian gang] set out to attack the Jews in Ludza, to beat them up and plunder their shops. It is well known that no decent Latvian belongs to the Black Hundred. It had been decided to attack the Jews on a given day. Many of the Black Hundred showed up in Ludza, and by the end of the day, it appeared that the shedding of innocent blood was close at hand. Catholic Latvians from the surrounding area, having learned of this, came to Ludza in large numbers and stayed until late in the evening. They told members of the Black Hundred there would be no violence against the Jews, for Jews were people like everyone else. More Latvians than Black Hundred members had arrived in Ludza, who soon understood there would be no fooling around with the Latvians. Having failed to achieve their objective, the Black Hundred cursed the Latvians and retreated to their dark comers.’”

Coming to America:

Robert David Danning is the first of the family we know of to leave Russia. He was sent away “because the family could no longer afford to support him” when he was around 14. There may be another reason for his being sent off. According to Sarah Foner, during the 1860’s the Russians forcibly kidnapped Jews for service in the army, often using this as a way to separate them from their Jewish heritage. Any son after the first was liable to be taken. There was also a law that at least one son should be sent to a non-Jewish school. Many families sent away sons other than the eldest to avoid these fates (when they couldn’t pay for a substitute). It is quite possible that as David got older, his family realized they couldn’t buy a substitute and didn’t want him taken into either the military or the gymnasium, so they packed him off to Argentina. There is no record that I can find of David’s travels between Russia and the US, though, as I say above, there is evidence for other Misrochs following in his exact footsteps in the 1920’s, long after David had settled in California.

Turning to the Lubans:

There is a ship’s manifest (from the Ellis Island database, which can be accessed through Jewishgen.org) that might document Solomon’s entry into US. Hard to say. The ship is the Statendam out of Rotterdam, leaving Feb. 6 1904, arriving Feb 17, 1904. The year is right but Martin Michaelson has evidence from photos that Solomon came through England. The entry is:

Schlime Lewin, age 37, married, Russian-Hebrew, Occupaation: Joiner, Last residence looks like something like Swislocs (???) and the destination seems to be New York. The age and occupation are correct, but we have no record of the Lubans being in New York (though Lubans from Jekapils did indeed settle in New York) and I have no clue where “Swislocs” might be. This is the only entry I can find for someone with the initials S.L. entering the US in 1904 who has a name remotely like “Solomon Luban” who also is a joiner/carpenter. Other entries may be more similar in name (e.g. Samuel Lewin…) but don’t match occupation at all.

Even more tenuous is a ship’s manifest that might indicate Henry Luban’s family, Esther, Belle and Sarah’s, entry into the US. The manifest for the ship Kroonland from Antwerp (Aug. 20, 1904 arriving Aug. 29, 1904, has the following entries:

Rachel Liebstein, age 37, married, Russian-Hebrew, from “Mosty?” Russia, going to join her husband, Ephraim (?) Liebstein in Brooklyn, NY. If Solomon was on his way to New York (see above) sailing from Holland, maybe Esther would have followed a similar path. Problem is, “Rachel” isn’t “Esther” and Esther would have been more like 26-27. BUT notice the last two children, below:

Rachel was sailing with her children:

Moische, age 9; Feiwel age 7; Leib age 3; Beile age 2; and Sore, age 11 months.

In the 1920 census record, Henry and Esther’s elsdest kids were Belle and Sarah. They would have been age 2 and about 1 in 1904. No elder brothers are listed in 1920. No older brothers are mentioned by Henry Luban’s family. So this makes it unlikely that this record is of Esther and her family. Considering this entry to be referring to Henry’s family is based only on the names Belle and Sarah with about the right ages. Note also that Ephraim could well have been anglicized to Henry. The original was Enoch, similar to Ephraim to an immigration clerk? I can find no better candidate entry for their immigration, though we certainly know they came.

In this context it should be noted that Belle Luban, daughter of Henry and Esther, rememberd that before emigrating from Russia, Henry and Esther had a son Moshe who died in early childhood (info thanks to a comment in another article in this blog from Amy Siegel, Helen Luban's granddaughter and Henry and Esther's great granddaughter). So it is interesting there is a Moishe in this ship's manifest as well.

There are two ship’s manifests that might document the arrival of Dora, Dora’s three oldest children and Ida to Ellis Island. The first manifest contains appropriate first names and mostly appropriate ages, but the names are crossed out. A latter manifest for a second ship has the same names, but the ages are different (and less appropriate). In either case it takes some imagination.

Manifest for the Corina, leaving Liverpool, England, November 17, 1906, arriving in New York November 26, 1906. There is no record of how they got from Russia to Liverpool.

Transcribed from this manifest (though on the real manifest the place of residence is hard to read):

Name Gender Age Married Ethnicity Place of Residence

0005. Lande, Bassje D. F 46y M Russian, Hebrew, Kansilow

0006. Lande, Ente B. F 23y S Russian, Hebrew, Kansilow

0007. Lande, Simon M 8y S Russian, Hebrew, Kansilow

0008. Lande, Sara F 7y S Russian, Hebrew, Kansilow

0009. Lande, Chaje F 2y S Russian, Hebrew, Kansilow

The “D” in Bassje D Lande could be Dvora/Dwieva, though she SHOULD be 36 in 1906. Bassje may be a version of Basya/Batyah. Ente could be Ida (who is not a Luban, but probably traveled with Dora and her family from Russia and hence would have used the same name for easier immigration) and she would have been about 23 in 1906. Simon and Sara are the correct names and ages. Chaje could be Celia, who would have been about 2 in 1906. Her real name may well have been Chaya (the feminine of Chayim, “life”). Oddly, their destination is Chicago, IL, where they are joining Bassje’s husband. Chicago is quite close to Milwaukee, of course, but I have never heard that we were in Chicago at any point. Bassje’s hair is listed as black and eyes as blue, unusual for a Jew but not uncommon in our family. She is 5’ even. Their place of origin on the original manifest looks more like “Sherpoli, Russia” rather than Kanislow which is shown in the transcript.

These names are crossed out, along with the three above them, on the manifest. They show up again on a manifest for the Campania, leaving Liverpool November 24, 1906 and arriving in New York December 6, 1906.

On the manifest for the Campania they are listed:
Name Gender Age Married Ethnicity Place of Residence

0024. Lande, Bassin F 46y M Russia, Hebrew ...isslov, Russia

0025. Lande, Ente F 28y S Russia, Hebrew ...isslov, Russia

0026. Lande, Sura F 8y S Russia, Hebrew ...isslov, Russia

0027. Lande, Simon M 6y S Russia, Hebrew ...isslov, Russia

0028. Lande, Chaja M 3y S Russia, Hebrew ...isslov, Russia

These are clearly the same people as on the manifest above but Bassin’s age is still wrong, but now all the other ages are also off. Simon and Sara’s relative ages are reversed. Chaja is now male. On this manifest, Bassin is listed as being from something like “Therpole” (could this be Daugavpils?) and Ida from “Charnovsky” or something like that. Ida’s occupation is listed as “tailoress.”

LUBANS IN WISCONSON AND BEYOND:

There is documentation for Lubans in Milwaukee in 1920:

From the 1920 US Census (courtesy of Patricia Kiddoo-Leibham)

**Solomon Luban household, 1920 U.S. census, Milwakee, Milwakee County, Wisconsin, page 35A, sheet 8 A, lines 24-30; T625-1999.

Listed with wife, Dora; daughters Sarah, Celia, and Norma; and sons Simon and Jacob. (see attachment transcribed by Patricia and the original, which is hard to read)

What Patricia transcribes as “Litnok” looks more like “Lit…sk.” This could be some version of Livland/Lifland, the province in which Daugavpils is? Or, more likely, it is a miswriting of “Witebsk” (see records for Henry Luban, below) the district that contains Rezekne.

From Wisconsin Death Record: http://www.vitalsearch-ca.com/jpgs/WI/deaths/1959-79/LIERMA/e07.htm

Solo5on (sic) Luban; died 24 Feb. 1963; age 93, Milwaukee, WI.

From the California Death Records:

**LUBAN, DORA (D’vora) (Misrach) Birth: 05/08/1870 Mother’s maiden: COHN Death: 03/18/1960 (CA)

Compiled from SSDI and California death index:

**SIMON LUBAN

SSN 552-62-4000

Residence: 90005 Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA

Born 21 Mar 1897 (WI)

Mother: Misroch (Misrach)

Died Apr 1985

Issued: CA (1960)

NOTE: Incorrectly indicates birth place as WI; actually born in Rezekne, Russian Empire

**SARAH LUBAN

SSN 563-03-7188

Residence: 91405 Van Nuys, Los Angeles, CA

Born 1 Aug 1898 (WI)

Died May 1974

Issued: CA (Before 1951)

NOTE: Incorrectly indicates birth place as WI; actually born in Rezekne, Russian Empire

**CELIA L JACOBSON

SSN 563-12-1398

Residence: 90036 Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA

Born 1 Jan 1903 (WI)

Mother: Misrach

Died 27 Jan 1997

Issued: CA (Before 1951)

NOTE: Incorrectly indicates birth place as WI; actually born in Rezekne, Russian Empire

**NORMA LUBAN

SSN 546-24-0902

Residence: 91405 Van Nuys, Los Angeles, CA

Born 5 Mar 1910 (WI)

Died Aug 1979

Issued: CA (Before 1951)

Note: Solomon Luban’s naturalization papers (kept by Sarah Luban, daughter of Simon Luban) has Norma listed as “Naomi.”

Along with Solomon and Dora, living on the same street in a German neighborhood, there is also a Henry Luban. The following is from the 1920 Census record as transcribed by Patricia Kiddoo-Leibham:

Henry Luban / Milwakee, Milwakee, Wisconsin / 1920

Author: Patricia Leibham Date: 21 Nov 2002 1:10 AM GMT

Surnames: Leiphon, Leibham, Luban

Classification: Census

Henry Luban household, 1920 U.S. census, Milwakee, Milwakee County, Wisconsin, page 201, sheet 10 B, lines 28-35; T625-2000.

Listed with wife, Ester; daughters Belle, Sarah, Minnie, Sophia and Helen; and son John.

See attached transcription

NOTE: What patricia transcribed as “Wituls” looks more like “Wit..sk” probably the same place as “Lit..sk” on Solomon’s census record. Litovsk or Vitebsk best fit the data. Vitebsk is the most likely since this is the district that contains Rezekne.

Esther’s maiden name was Goldberg, derived from the Russian Galbreich or Gelbraich which was originally German Halbreich. Her Hebrew name was Menucha.

On Rootsweb.com I find a record of a Minnie Galbreich, born in 1873, married to an unknown Luban. This might be Esther, though according to the 1920 census record she should have been born later than 1873. If this is Esther, her parents were Jospeh Berl Goldberg (born 1857 in Shtetl Kreslavka (not far from Daugavpils), Russia, died 1918 in Manhattan) and Hannah Sheina Maltinsky (born 1853 in Rezhitsa (Rezekne) Russia, died in 1940, Brooklyn). Joseph’s parents were Schmuil Galbreich (born 1827, Russia) and Mnuche (unknown maiden name, born 1829, Russia). Hannah’s parents were Ely (Hillel) Maltinsky and Fannie Imonitoff. Joseph and Hannah had many children other than Esther. See: http://www.kornspan.com/goldberg_genealogy/goldberg.html and http://www.kornspan.com/maltinsky_genealogy/maltinsky.html for more details on Esther’s family. Ely’s father may have been Zolman Maltinsky, born around 1794. I have found a photo of Hannah and Joseph with 2 children from 1898 (go to http://www.kornspan.com/pictures/goldberg1_pics.html ).

Much of the above information on the Galbraichs and Maltinskys was confirmed by Belle (nee Luban) Garfinkel, daughter of Esther and Henry Luban.

Another Maltinsky can be found on Rootsweb.com: Meyer Maltinsky (born 1882, died 1939) married to Sarah Goldberg (born 1884, died 1966). Sarah Galbraich/Goldberg was Menucha/Esther’s sister (see photo link above for a picture of Sarah (aka Sadie). The relationship between Ely Maltinsky and Meyer Maltinsky is not certain but it seems that Ely Maltinsky’s brother, Chaim Maltinsky (also found listed on JewishGen.org in the 1897 All Russia census in Rezekne, b. 1843), had two sons, Morris and Meyer Maltinsky, making Ely and Meyer cousins.

As shown above where I cover 1897 “All Russia” census data for Rezekne, there are records for Esther’s parents and grandparents living that year in Rezekne.

Compiled from the SSDI:

Known children of Henry and Esther:

Belle is: BELLE Garfinkel is still alive. Her husband was Harry Garfinkel. Her daughter is Joan Tarachow, of Glendale, WI 53209. Among Belle’s grandchildren is Henry Rollins of rock fame.

Sophia married Sidney Tarachow in New York. They had 2 daughters.

SOPHIA TARACHOW born: 01 May 1908 died: 29 Mar 2000 (V) last known address: 10021 (New York, New York, NY) SSN: 113-03-592, New York

“Minnie” is still alive but is actually Minette Luban (unmarried). Sarah and Helen are also alive in their 90’s. Sarah married Harry Fishman but had no children. Helen married Milton Hotzman and had a son and 2 daughters.

HELEN LUBAN

SSN 387-44-4117

Residence: 53216 Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI

Born 1 Jan 1912

Died 16 Apr 1988

Issued: WI (1961 And 1962)

This is actually wife of Jack Luban, not the same person as Helen Luban, sister of Jack and daughter of Henry, who is listed on the 1920 census record. Her maiden name was Wein.


JACK LUBAN

SSN 387-40-3840

Residence: 53223 Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI

Born 19 Jul 1911

Died 11 Aug 2001

Issued: WI (1957 And 1958)

Same as John Luban, the son of Henry. The records of Congregation Beth Israel in Milwaukee, which officiated at Jack’s memorial, indicate that his parents were indeed Henry and Esther and he had sisters named Minette (Minnie?) and Belle. His wife was Helen and he has a son David who lives in Maryland.

THE DANNINGS:

I can find no comparable census or ships manifest data on the Danning side. The roundabout way David came to the country seems to have hidden his tracks quite nicely. However, a bit of baseball trivia regarding Ike Danning from a baseball website:

SARAH DANNING:

Sarah Danning: USC law School: '24, retired in

1995, after 71 years in practice. Born in

1902 in Los Angeles, she was - like most of

the students who studied law at USC - the

first person in her family to attend college,

let alone study law. A graduate of Los

Angeles High School, Danning’s parents paid

her tuition while she lived at home to save

money. While preparing for a job interview,

she remembered the wise counsel of Judge

Clair Tappan who was also a professor at the

Law School from 1904 to 1928: “Don’t tell

the interviewers you can type; you will be

treated as a secretary rather than an attor-

ney.” Her seven-decade career included ten

years in practice with classmate Ladislav

“Jack” Styskal, and 22 years as a trustee on

t h e b a n k r u p t c y c o u r t . S h e r e t i r e d f r o m

Danning, Gill, Diamond & Kollitz

Sarah Danning died in Nov. 2003 (?)

Yiddish Baseball

[Harry] Danning, by the way, was the brother of IKE DANNING, a catcher who played briefly in the majors and was a participant in our favorite Jewish baseball story. The scene is a 1930s celebrity game in Los Angeles. At bat is Yankee JIMMY REESE, born James Hymie Solomon in San Francisco. Pitching is HARRY RUBY, a famous songwriter. Danning is catching and rather than teach Ruby the signals, he calls out the pitch he wants in Yiddish. Reese gets four hits. Danning says to Reese, "I didn't know you were so good." Reese replies, "You didn't know I was Hymie Solomon."

Of course it is really Ike’s brother, Harry, who was the famous baseball star in the 1930’s. He had a very promising career until knee problems and WW II interrupted his career. He was told after the war that he shouldn’t go back to baseball, so he retired without a pension, married and moved to Indiana, close to Chicago. There is an interview with Harry Danning in the book Dugout to Foxhole by Rick van Blair, 1994.

Compiled from the SSDI and California Death indices:

No record of David Danning’s death (he died in 1928 or so, before these records were kept)

(David’s Wife?) DANNING JENNIE (nee Goldberg) born: 03/17/1879 died: LOS ANGELES(70) Manhattan Beach 11/01/1962.

DANNING, IKE Birth:01/20/1905 Mother’s Maiden: GOLDBERG died: CALIFORNIA LOS ANGELES Death: 03/30/1983 SSN: 548-05-5702

(Ike’s Wife) DANNING , MARYON born: 02/06/1907 died: CALIFORNIA ORANGE 10/05/1973 .

FLORENCE DANNING Birth: 12 Oct 1923 Death: 29 Sep 1999 (V) 90067 (Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA) SSN: 555-24-8231 California

GOTTLIEB, ESTHER (nee, Danning) Birth: 09/19/1908 Mother: (Jenny) GOLDBERG Father: (David) DANNING CALIFORNIA Death: LOS ANGELES(19) 03/12/1988 SSN: 548-05-8318


THE SPEROS:

Compiled from the SSDI and the California Death indices:

SPERO, IDA Birth: 11/14/1883 mother’s maiden: MIZRACH Death: LOS ANGELES 05/22/1966 Last residence: 91335 (Reseda, Los Angeles, CA) SSN: 566-80-8250 California


Ida’s husband’s name is uncertain. The only candidate I can find who makes any sense is a James Spero, whose entry follows. However, according to Evalyn’s memory of Ida’s husband being referred to as “The Old Man,” this James Spero seems too young.

JAMES SPERO Born: 18 Jul 1885 Died: Jan 1970 Last residence: 91335 (Reseda, Los Angeles, CA) SSN: 107-28-5710 New York

Note: There are many Speros in New York, as well as a handful in California.

The Spero children:

SIMON SPERO Born: 06 Aug 1911, NEW YORK Died: Oct 1990 Last residence: 91607 (Valley Village, Los Angeles, CA) SSN 548-05-9245 California, Mother’s Maiden: DIAMONSTEIN

EMANUEL B SPERO 17 Jan 1914 16 Dec 2000 (V) 91504 (Burbank, Los Angeles, CA) (none specified) 548-05-9242 California.

Manny (Emanuel) Spero was a tail gunner in WWII, was shot down and was a POW.

I don’t have information on Bertha Spero (who presumably goes by a different name since her marriage).

THE JACOBSONS:

To round things off, here is some information about Celia Luban’s husband, Joseph Jacobson’s, family. There are no records of Joe’s death since he died before the records were properly kept. However, I do find two records of land purchases made by Joseph in 1924 near San Diego. When I was a child Celia still had this land, inherited from her husband. Interestingly, 1924 is also the latest year that is likely to be when Dora and her family moved to California, following David’s family.

Land sale:

Name: JOSEPH JACOBSON

Date: 18 Jan 1924

Location: CA, San Diego

Document #: 929362

Serial #: CALA 0035853

Sale Type: Cash Sale

Meridian or Watershed: SB

Parcel: Township 009S, Range 003W, Section 10

Name: JOSEPH JACOBSON

Date: 18 Jan 1924

Location: CA, San Diego

Document #: 929362

Serial #: CALA 0035853

Sale Type: Cash Sale

Meridian or Watershed: SB

Parcel: Township 009S, Range 003W, Section 9

Joesph had a sister Hazel, who I know nothing about. He also had a sister Florence, but I don’t know the name of her husband, so I can’t trace her or her sons, Everett and Morton even though they probably live in Brooklyn where I live. He also had a sister Lena who married Henry Kaufman:

LENA KAUFMAN born: 25 Oct 1887 died: Mar 1979 last known residence: 10471 (Bronx, Bronx, NY) SSN: 118-40-6093 New York

He also had a brother George. I find two possible records of George Jacobson:

GEORGE JACOBSON born: 28 Jun 1893 died: Mar 1970 last residence: 11209 (Brooklyn, Kings, NY) SSN:083-09-0243 New York

Or

GEORGE JACOBSON born: 16 May 1905 died: 05 Nov 1989 last residence: 11238 (Brooklyn, Kings, NY) SSN: 087-05-6309 New York


Another family enters in even later than the Jacobsons: Evalyn Jacobson (Celia Luban’s daughter) married into the Kunkel family. This rather extensive family with almost equally extensive family records will be dealt with in another volume of this family history. The Michaelsons marry in at two points: to a branch of the Dannings (through Esther Gottlieb, nee Danning, whose daughter married Jay Michaelson) and as the second marriage of Eve’s, which is how I wind up David Michaelson. I may deal with the Michaelson clan in a separate volume if I can enlist the aid of Frank Michaelson, my step-brother.

Evalyn Jacobson/Kunkel/Michaelson (anthropologist):

Leigh M. Aaland and Evalyn Jacobson Michaelson

1976 Masculinity, femininity, and androgyny 4(2) pp. 251-70


What follows are the family trees starting with the Misroch/Dimonstein/Cohn triad of families and branching into the Lubans, Dannings and Speros. I think there are still holes which I hope to fill in as family members critique my efforts.

Family Controversy: Misrochs and Diamondsteins

Three siblings, known only by either their married names or immigrant names, were Dora Luban (wife of Solomon Luban), Ida Spero and (Robert) David Danning. All three were born in Dvinsk, Latvia. Their parents may have had hit hard times, so, maybe at about the same time, David was sent off to Argentina and Dora (and Ida?) was sent to live with an uncle who owned an inn. Some family memory suggests that their parents committed suicide due to the hard times. My guess is that the uncle lived in Rezekne and that is where her marriage to Solomon was arranged. I do find a record of one family of Misrochs living in Rezekne, but the husband’s occupation is “Coopersmith,” and there is no mention of an inn (see Misroch family tree starting with Moisey). Interestingly, family memory among Henry Luban’s family suggests that the Lubans of Rezekne were innkeepers. Was Dora’s “uncle” a Luban??

But who were Dora, David and Ida? Everyone, Harry, Ben and Leah Danning as well as Evalyn Michaelson, all remember the three of them as siblings. No one seems to suspect that these three were anything but two sisters and a brother. There is some uncertainty about their original last name. Everyone remembers Misrach, but there are echoes of another name, Diamondstein (probably originally Dimenstein or Dimenst, which is as common as Misroch in Dvinsk). Evalyn rememberd that David got his name “Danning” as a modification of Diamondstein. Harry, Leah and Ben counter this: Danning came from Denning, the last name of the woman who taught David English. I am uncertain as to whether he took the name Danning once he was in the US (in Philly?) or before. Ben does remember being teased as a kid about being really “Diamondstein” instead of “Danning”. I was ready to discount Diamondstein completely as mere rumor, but something from the Spero side makes me wonder.

Here I enter the realm of California Death records, a useful, if morbid, database. Celia Jacobson’s death record lists her mother’s maiden name as “Misrach,” presumably reflecting Eve’s memory of her grandmother. Since the only records I find of Dora are from after her marriage, the direct records only indicate her married name of Luban. But according to Celia’s death record, Dora was a Misrach, originally. In agreement with this is the death record of Celia’s brother, Simon. His death record lists his mother’s maiden name as “Misroch.” The spellings are equivalent, so from both Simon’s family and Celia’s family it is remembered that Dora was a Misroch/Misrach. There is no death record in this database for David Danning since he died before 1940, when the records began to be kept, so I can’t get more information from that side of the family. But when I turn to the Spero side I find something very strange. I find Ida Spero’s death record and it lists her mother’s maiden name as Mizrach, yet another spelling of this name. But wait! Dora and Ida are supposed to be sisters, yet Dora’s maiden name is Misrach, but Ida’s MOTHER’s maiden name was also Mizrach! This suggests they were not sisters. Dora’s death record lists HER mother’s maiden name as Cohn. I have no other evidence for this name, though there are lots of families with names similar to Cohn who lived in Daugavpils. Looking at the death record of Ida’s son, Simon, I find that his record lists his mother’s maiden name as DIAMONDSTEIN! Dora was a Misrach whose mother was a Cohn. Ida was a Diamondstein whose mother was a Misrach. This suggests that Ida and Dora were really cousins! I can find no way to reconcile these—memory insists they were sisters, but death records strongly suggest that they were cousins. If they were cousins, it is unclear where David fits in. Two things might back up the idea of Ida and Dora being cousins instead of sisters. First, according to death records, Ida was about 13 years younger than Dora and 12 years younger than David. This is a LONG time between children. Second, according to memory, Dora was sent away to live with an uncle. If that uncle was actually the husband of her aunt, her father and aunt would have been Misrochs, and the uncle she was sent to live with could have been a Dimenstein who was Ida’s father. I can’t resolve this unless I can find a way to contact the Spero side of the family, something I have been unable to do so far.

The Misrochs are rememberd by the Latvian archivist, Aleksander Feigmanis as being timber mercahnts. I find records of these Misrochs on the Jewishgen.com website. He remembers Dimensteins as including religious personnel (Dora was proud of her family since they had many Rabbis…a hint at a Dimenstein connection?) I did find records of Dimenstein rabbis on Jewishgen.com. Aleksander also remembers Lubans as being innkeepers.

I have only hints as to the names of Dora’s parents. My mother remembers Dora's mother was probably named Chava. If Dora’s death record is correct, she was Chava Cohn or something similar. The 1897 “All Russia” census record for Dweira Luban lists her father’s name as Awsey. If her maiden name really was Misroch, then he was Awsey Misroch.