(No. 4/2005 - March 2005)
Editor: Fran Bock
How I Found Shimshim
by Shana Egan
This is a true detective story. The names have been changed to initials in order to protect the individuals' privacy.
The story goes that Fanny B's father lost her dowry. No one knows if he was carrying it and dropped it, if he gambled it away, or if it was invested in a failing investment. All we know is it was lost. Fanny knew that without the dowry, she and her younger sister, Annie, would not be able to make a suitable match. Fanny and Annie decided to go to America where there might be better prospects. There wasn't enough money to travel together so Fanny went first. She worked, saved her money, and when there was enough she brought Annie over.
This and the fact they were from Lezajsk is all we know about pre-USA life. The few family members I have spoken to said they knew nothing as their family did not talk about the"old country." It has been suggested that I talk to more than a few family members but I can't. You see there aren't more than a few that I am aware of.
Annie (my grandmother) married and had four children, all now deceased. My mother was the only one of the four to get married.
Fanny married and had two children. One of those children had one child and the other had two children, only one of who married and had children.
So you can see there aren't many relatives to talk to. Ah, but the plot thickens. I remember hearing the name Shimshim. I asked my mother about him and was told that Shimshim was my grandmother' s half brother. After repeated questioning I found out that Shimshim lived in New Jersey. That was it. I didn't know if Annie and he shared the same father or same mother so I didn't know if his last name was B. I couldn't find out what town in New Jersey he lived in, what his occupation was, or the names of his wife and children. My mother didn't know when he emigrated. I had zilch.
I checked every database I could find for the name Shimshim and possible variations in spelling as I had only heard the name and hadn't seen it written. I looked for Samuel, Solomon, and other names starting with an S with a last name of B and living in New Jersey. There were lots of them but I had no way of knowing if any of them were the right one. I finally gave up.
My mother died several months ago. When I went through her things I came across her address book. In it was an entry for B c/o Lew L in Coral Gables, FL. That had to be Shimshim. No one else in the family had the name of B. He must have been living with a daughter who married an L. I do remember at one time I heard of relatives who were in Florida but I didn't know who they were.
Shimshim would be about my grandmother's age. My mother died at age 93. How old was that address? What were the chances anyone at that address would know anything about Shimshim? I had to check anyway. I went to:
I scrolled down to the reverse directories section. I typed in the address I had in Coral Gables. Someone by the name of S lived there. I didn't know if my relatives had owned the house or rented. On the chance that they may have owned the house I decided to check the county recorder's web site to see if they had recorded a purchase or sale by a Lew L. I went to:
This is the Miami Dade County recorder site. I searched for Lew L and got nothing. Then I searched for L and found several documents for Louis L. One of the documents was pertaining to the sale of property to a person by the name of S. This had to be it. I looked at the document hoping I might see Louis's wife name on it also. I had no luck.
I did notice a May L death certificate on the list of documents with the name L. The death occurred about a year before the house was sold. Perhaps she was Louis's wife and a year after she died he decided to sell the house. I looked for May 's death certificate on the Miami Dade County recorder site. I found one for May L wife of Louis L, daughter of Samuel B and Rose E. May was born in NY.
With this information in hand, I used Ancestry.com (available at many public libraries) and was able to look Lou and May up in the Social Security death index. I also found them in the 1930 census in Bayonne, NJ. I then found Samuel and Rose B in the 1910 census and Samuel, Rose, Benjamin, and Leonard B in the 1920 census.
Fanny and Annie's father was Benjamin B. They each have a son named Benjamin. I am sure that I have found the right family for Shimshim. I now had some leads for the rest of the family.
I went back to the Miami Dade recorder's web site and looked in their database for Samuel, Rose, Benjamin and Leonard B. I found Leonard's death certificate on the web site and saw that he had a surviving spouse named Doris. The death certificate even gave her maiden name.
Then it was back to the phone directory. I found Doris, called her, and now have a lot of information on Shimshim's family. I have spoken to one of Shimshim's grandsons and intend to contact others soon.
So that is how I found Shimshim.
Copyright © 2005 Belarus SIG and Shana Egan
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