DNA Puzzler #galicia
Meyer Denn writes:
"I received an intriguing correspondence >from a lady in Finland who
explained to me that we are a perfect match on the 111 marker, evidently
meaning that there is a better than 85% chance that we are directly
related in four generations or less... Her great grandfather Johan Viktor
SANTASALO (SANDSTROM translated into Finnish) was born in Hameenlinna
2.7.1864 and his mother never told anybody the identity of the baby's father.
There was only speculations that he was a Jew >from Russian army visiting
Finland and that he might have been a trumpeter in the army band....
"I do not know a great deal about my paternal line, but what I know is
pretty clear going back to about 1850. My paternal grandfather, Jozef
Juda (Joe) DENN, was born in Korczyna, Galicia (northernmost province of
the old Austro-Hungarian Empire -- currently in southern Poland) in 1894.
He had three older siblings who survived to adulthood, the oldest being
born in 1877. My grandfather's father, Chayem DENN, died in Korczyna in
1910 at the age of 59, placing his birth at about 1851 or so. My
grandfather told me that his father Chayem was born in Brod, a town
"deep in Poland." He seemed to indicate that this town of Brod was the
same town called today Brody in the Ukraine, which at that time was much
closer to the Russian border with Poland....
"Chayem's parents were Izroel Shimon DENN and Beila NEUMANN. She was
born in about 1831 in Baligrod, Galicia, not too far >from Korczyna in
southern Poland. I know nothing about Izroel Shimon DENN, but according
to oral family tradition, not long after Chayem's birth, Beila arranged for a
divorce >from her husband... Izroel Shimon was able to keep his son Chayem
and raise him >from the age of one or two years.... I do not know what
happened to him after my great grandfather's birth... where he lived, if he
remarried, had other children, where/when he died, etc....
"Other than the 1910 death certificate for Chayem DENN that I have from
Korczyna, Poland, I have no other documentation about the DENN family
prior to that time...
"I have never heard of our DENN family >from Galicia ever having been
associated with Russia or the Russian army, however I assume that it is
possible that if they lived in Brody, it might not be too big a leap to posit
that they may have come to Brody >from the other side of the nearby
Russian border, or could have ventured to Russia >from Brody. I would
assume that if Chayem DENN was born in 1851 and his mother was born
in 1831 (age 20 at birth), they most likely did not have other children in
that union. So, it is possible that Izroel Shimon was the father of Johan
Victor SANTASALO (SANDSTROM), or it is very possible that Izroel Shimon
could have had a brother, father or uncle who could have sired the child."
You certainly have an interesting set of circumstances and a complicated
path to follow.
You might first consult Alexander Beider's Dictionary of Surnames for
Russia, Poland and Galicia. (Three different dictionaries, available in most
larger public library and with genealogical society libraries.) Try to find
out where the surname DENN appears.
Keep in mind that Galicia existed >from 1772 and was considered "Austria"
so if your DENN relative was born in Galicia and is referring to another
town called "Brod" described as "deep in Poland," it might be elsewhere;
however Brody was known as "Brod" in Yiddish, so you might be right on
One possibility is the unique, exculsively Jewish town of Trochenbrod
(the fictionalized "Brod" >from the book "Everything is Illuminated") and the
subject of a book ("The Heavens Are Empty") and recent documentary,
"Lost Town:" film:http://www.7thart.com/films/Lost-Town.
That town of Brod was in Russia. Someone living in Galicia would have
been a soldier in the Austro-Hungarian military and not the Russian Army.
I don't see the name DENN showing up in the Galician records on the All
Galicia Database, with some "sound like" names in Lviv, but nothing at all
I would suggest you also research records in the Ukraine SIG and also
pursue military records to see if the soldier's name comes up. You also
might want to test another DENN relative to see if another exact match
Keep digging! There are many interesting 19th century documents out
there (tax, property, school, magnate, voter and conscription lists)
besides just vital records that may provide clues to your family.
As for divorce, much to my surprise it seemed to be rampant in Odessa
at the turn of the century and there are many divorce records >from Brody
and Lviv. It's something we still find to be unusual, but not as improbable
as once thought.
Getting a hold of the original record and looking for any intriguing
notes in the comments section can sometimes prove helpful.
Santa Monica, CA