Carol Lieberman <cmenetwork@...>
For a number of years I have been searching for the origins of my BERNHARDTS, only knowing a few facts: my grandmother said she came >from Courland (near an island, on an island, near Estonia). That didn't work very well, as Estonia was nowhere near Courland. I engaged a search of the Latvian archives, but found no member of my family. I knew that the Bernhardts originally came >from Germany -- but where? My grandmother said they were related to Sarah Bernhardt -- but how?
My ggf, ( Bernard or Benis or Behr, born in Germany 1854 to Zundel, died
in Chicago, 1901)) had buried two wives in Courland ( #1 possibly Rose or Rosa), (#2, my ggm Ethel) and then emigrated to Chicago. His life was a total mystery as was that of my ggm.
Finally, last fall I engaged Aleksandr Feigmanis to do research for me in
Latvia. He spent several months finding a great number of Bernhardts,
none probably mine, but we developed >from his detailed work a plan to visit certain coastal cities of Courland that historically had Jewish centers of learning, to see what we could find. We did know that ggBernhardt was a rabbi, or someone affiliated with a synagogue as he later was a rabbi in Indiana. We knew that his wife had been a yeshiva teacher, and that her name was something that would translate in English to Ethel.
I purchased a ticket to Riga, planning on spending July 21-26 touring Latvia with Aleksandr and his driver. I made reservations at the Metropole in Riga, choosing it >from a large number of adequate hotels in the area paying about $109 per night. I worried about not being able to understand a word of what I would hear if Aleksandr were not around, but initially I chose to ignore that. He told me that I would be better off without traveler's checks and credit cards (it was true) and to bring new money (that was true also, as the older and more dirty the money, the less the exchange rate). I worried about carrying cash and I worried about what Aleksandr would be like. That turned out to be not a worry -- a pleasure!
Three weeks before my trip I received a present
from a cousin I had just found. He was the ggrandson of Behr Bernhardt aswell, >from the first wife. I received a picture of the first marriage of
ggfBernhardt, and on the back was small Russian writing that indicated the
name of the photographer and a city! A cursory review of the words found
RY for Russia, and before that the Russian words for KOVNO. So -- we were going to Lithuania!!! A Russian in Long Island where I live took the letters of the city name for me and tried to relate them to Lithuanian city names both old and new. I confess that even with the ability to translate, I could not figure out where it was. We finally came up with Gargzdai but this spelling used the old names of the mid-1800s, and that was why it was so difficult to read.
So the trip changed totally! I wrote Aleksandr asking him if he would go to Lithuania with me. When he suggested we take a 9 hour bus trip >from Riga to Klaipeda, because he didn't drive, I knew I would have to take this in hand! I changed hotel reservations to include two nights in Klaipeda and a rental car for three days. I found the only named hotel in my hotel book for Klaipeda that looked like it was something I could deal with,
and that was that! Off to Italy.
MORE --READ PART II TOMORROW!
Carol Lieberman searching BERNHARDT(BENIS, BEHR or BERNARD); YETTA, ITKA OR
ETTA, CHANNAH, JENNY, ROSE. (Konigsberg, Garzdai, Klaipeda, Libau and coastal towns of Latvia)
MISTACHKIN, MISTECHKIN, MESTECHKIN -- KIEV, JURBARKAS, TAURAGE
SHERBACOV -- KIEV, MINSK, JURBARKAS, TAURAGE