If you are seeking to find long lost relatives and make new connections to
reveal family relationships, I can't emphasize enough how important it is
to take the long view and recognize that solving family mysteries does not
happen instantly. It's very important to leave messages in family forums on
ancestry websites and enter family names on family finder sites. One may not
get a reply, that week, that month or that year. However, if the message is
there, there is a good chance, that a reply will come one day, and a memoir
or a letter will appear that will answer a load of family questions.
Case in point: My maternal great-grandmother was Esther Wolf, who married my
great-grandfather Joseph Brody. The family came >from Lithuania, and
immigrated to Youngstown Ohio. My great-grandmother's brother, Louis Wolf,
partnered with his first cousin, Gustave Efroymson to found a number of
department stores in Indianapolis, including Wassons. Esther and Louis's
parents were Velvile Rousuck and Chai Ephraimson >from Vilkaviskis. Through
research on Ancestry, I had discovered that the Wolf name was originally
Rauzuk and most of the family immigrated to Indianapolis, where the name
In 2010, I responded to a message board on Ancestry for the Rosuck family
that included posts that went back to 2001. A number of persons posted
messages about Rausuk/Rousuck family members coming >from Wilkowski (now
Vilkaviskis) and settling in Indianapolis. When I first posted, I had
discovered >from an old passport application that a Wolf cousin had
changed his name >from Rousuck to Wolf, when he immigrated >from
Vilkaviskis to Indianapolis, in the early 1900's and found reference to
the Rousuck name in other family documents. Additionally, a number of
Wolf/Rousuck and Efroymson nieces, nephews and cousins came to
Indianapolis to work for the family businesses, including my grandfather,
Ben Brodie. Since my great-great-grandfather was Velvile (Yiddish for
Wolf) Rousuck, I assume that the name change >from Rousuck to Wolf was a
patronymic reference to my great-great grandfather. I also believe that
it made the family name seem less Russian, because on census documents,
family members began to say they were German.
Upon reading the messages on Ancestry, I discovered that there were also
many Rousucks who came to Indianapolis >from Vilkaviskis, who did not
change their name, or the name morphed to Rose or Rosen. I corresponded
with about half a dozen persons who shared similar stories. We were never
able to find an exact connection to my family, but we assumed that there
must be a relation. Additionally, I made a number of significant DNA
connections with persons who had Rauzuk/Rousuck ancestry >from the area,
but we were never able to confirm the exact connection to my family.
However, through one person who had posted on the Rousuck message board,
Allison Vrolijk, we were able to test her male Rosuck cousin and
discovered he shared a Y DNA match with a known Wolf cousin of mine,
Jeffrey Wolf. They both shared the same J-M172 Haplogroup.
Fast forward to this past weekend: Last Saturday, I found a post >from
Jane Brown on the Rousuck Ancestry message board that said, "I am a
descendent, granddaughter, of Louis Rossuck >from Chicago via Verbolin
?) Russia. I have a letter dated 1952 and posted >from Indianapolis
from a Manuel Freeman, whose mother was a Rossuck. He says that thename has morphed into Rausuk, Rosen and Ross. He says there were 8
brothers. Some even changed to Wolf. I found this letter recently
addressed to one of my mother's sisters, Madeline Rossuck."
I immediately sent Jane a note and asked to see a copy of the 1952
letter. I also did a google search of Verbolin Russia and discovered
it is today, Virbalis, Lithuania, located 15 km east of the City
Vilkaviskis, a three hour walk. Jane's letter turned out to be the
Rosetta Stone (or should I say "Rousuka Stone") connecting many of
the Rousucks, Rosens and Wolfs of Indianapolis. The letter, written
by Manuel Freeman, told the story of eight Rossuck brothers who came
from the Suwalk region, where Vilkaviskis is located. He says that,"some spelled it Rausuk, some call themselves Rosen, and some changed
their name to Wolf." The letter actually references, Louis Wolf, my
great-great Uncle, and confirms that he changed his name >from Rossuck.
Interestingly, the letter also illuminates an old family story that I
was never able to confirm. In my mother's family, we were always told
that a cousin of ours was the Governor of the Virgin Islands. I since
found reference to Ralph Moses Paiewonsky, governor of the Virgin
Islands in the 1960s, whose family was originally >from Lithuania, but I
was never able to find the exact connection to my family. In the same
letter that clarifies the Rousuck/Wolf family in Indianapolis, Manuel
Freeman also mentions that his Aunt (the sister of his Rousuck mother)
married into the Piawonski family in St. Thomas, as well as another first
cousin named Kushner. On a family tree on the ancestry, I discovered that
Ralph Palewonsky mother was Rebecca Kushner. I also discovered the family
was originally >from Vilkaviskis.
Although Manuel's letter doesn't connect all the dots, it confirms that
there is a relationship to Jane Brown's family. It also reveals the
relationship to one of my strongest DNA connections, Margery Mendelsen.
Margery's daughter-in-law, Shirley Mendelsen, corresponded with me and
esearched her mother-in-law's family. She revealed that Margery was a
Rosen by birth, and was the daughter of Isaac Rousuck >from Vilkaviskis.
This past weekend, Shirley also shared that Margery was also directly
related to Manuel Freeman, through her Rousuck family, the writer of
the letter >from 1952 to Jane Brown's aunt, Madeline Rossuck.
The next step is to figure out who were the original eight Rousuck
brothers >from Vilkaviskis, and how they connect to my new found family.
Recently, Jewishgen added taxpayer and voter lists for Vilkaviskis >from
the 1860's that names nearly a dozen Rousuck men, including my great-
grandfather, who is listed as Wolf Rauzuk. Some of the names also
include a father's name. One can assume that many of these men were
brothers, and if we can tie them to my new found connections, we will be
able to document some of the new branches of the family, and extend the
family tree by another generation.
I hope this story will help others with there own research.