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Birthplace #poland #germany #lithuania #russia


mattianlevine@...
 

I have been doing some research to come up with the area/place one of my ancestors is from but I seem to be getting conflicting places in my research. The census data for the birthplace of one of my ancestors varies tremendously. The following places are listed as birthplaces of the same ancestor on various census': Russia, Poland-Russia, Germany, Lithuania (Russia-Kovna). I know a bit of history about western Russia and that the Kovno Gubernia bordered Prussia/Germany, Poland (Suwalki), and other, various gubernias. Prussia/Germany and Suwalki (Congress Poland) are particularly of interest to me because Germany, Poland, Russia, Kovna, and Lithuania were all stated on various documents and census' pertaining to my ancestor. My ancestor's name is Moses Caplan and his only known sibling is Catherine/Kate Caplan Wolf(e). Parents unknown and immigration documents found.

Any information, thoughts, or suggestions as to what I should make of this information would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks,
Matthew Levine
New Jersey


Jill Whitehead
 

Hi Matthew,

You may have a name change, or name anglicisation (from migration) as Caplan and Wolf are not particularly Suwalki type names. Wolf is a common first name. 

You can try Litvak SIG or JRI Poland, but the best place to start is your ancestors' naturalization record, as the is the place most likely to give the name of the town or shtetl your ancestor came from, or sometimes you can get these from census records. Also any name change may be on these records. 

All my ancestors came from the Suwalki Lomza or Kovno gubernias, and I used a combination of naturalisation records,  the census, Litvak SIG, JRI Poland and the records for the former Suwalki Lomza Interest Group (now defunct) which were presented in their magazine Landsmen. I got all their birth places this way. 

You do need to beware of name changes, which can happen multiple times, and also note that many reverted to their patronymic name on migration in preference to the name they were given by authorities in the old country. My great aunt Leah Servian (Serwianski from Sejny in Suwalki Gubernia) was buried as Leah Max in 1894 in North Wales, after her patronymic (Mordecai was her grandfather). Her widower Max Goldblat (whom she had married in Liverpool in 1887) remarried and changed his name in Britain to Morris Max and then Morris Marks.He emigrated to Chicago in 1905 with his 2nd wife Sarah Klein of Bradford, and changed his name to Aaron Marks.His descendants assumed his name had always been Marks, and so could not find him  when they came to Britain to search for his family. They did not know about the name Goldblat (he came from Kovno). 

The answer is that you need to think laterally.

Jill Whitehead, Surrey, UK


Stephen Weinstein
 

On Sat, Nov 14, 2020 at 05:26 PM, <mattianlevine@...> wrote:
conflicting places in my research. The census data for the birthplace of one of my ancestors varies tremendously. The following places are listed as birthplaces of the same ancestor on various census': Russia, Poland-Russia, Germany, Lithuania (Russia-Kovna).
This is not really as conflicting as it sounds.

I encountered one case of a census taker who listed "Russian" as the native language of Jews from Poland who would not have spoken Russian as their first language.  It seems most likely that the census taker heard Jews from Russia speaking Yiddish, assumed it was Russian because the speakers were from Russia, and later heard Jews from Poland speaking it, and recognized it as the language as the language spoken by Jews from Russia, and continued assuming it was Russian.  Things happen.

The same physical location on the earth would be variously referenced by different country's names at different times.

Depending on how a question was phrased, it could have been interpreted as "When you lived there, in what country was the place where you lived" or "What country is it now" or "Of what country where you a citizen or subject" -- and if the question was "What country is it now", the average person might not know the answer.

Americans often use the word "Russia" to mean anywhere governed from Moscow (including the entire Soviet Union when it existed), even if not officially part of Russia.

Lithuania was part of Russia (ruled by the Czars) for a long time, was briefly independent, then became part of the Soviet Union (although not part of the Russian SSR), and finally became independent again.

Parts of what is now Poland were ruled at various times by Russia, Prussia (northeastern Germany) and even Austria.

And Galicia was eventually split up, with part of it become part of Poland and part becoming part of Ukraine.

But someone might know only that they were from Galicia and not which side of a border that wasn't established until after they left.

Or they might answer "Poland" when asked for the name of the country now ruling the place but "Emperor of Austria" when asked "who ruled you before you came to America".
 
--
Stephen Weinstein
Camarillo, California, USA
stephenweinstein@...