I recently posted this on a number of Jewish genealogy Facebook sites and
it was suggested that I also post on Litvaksig:
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
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 was changed.
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
relatioon. 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
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 descendant,
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 the name has morphed
into Riausuk, 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 researched 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,
LitvakSIG 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 their own research.