(No. 5/2005 - March 2005)
Editor: Fran Bock
Landsmen for sure - but maybe more!
by Bill Farran and Logan Lockabey
Bill's Story - In the beginning
While perusing the Belarus SIG Newsletter, (Issue No. 2 - February 1999) I was struck by an author's request for help in identifying persons from a series of photos.
The photos, except for one, were from Polotsk, Vitebsk Gubernia, from where my maternal family came. The author, Logan M. Lockabey, asked to be contacted if any persons in the photographs were recognized. A series of fourteen pictures appeared with the notation, "Click on the photo for a larger version". There were assorted children and adults, seemingly well dressed for the era.
As I looked, I was struck by the image of one man in particular in photo #8, (photo left, man on right) with a very unique hairdo. Believing this to be familiar, I searched through my family album and found him! Unfortunately, I did not know who he was. As I continued to search the posted photos, there were no others that appeared to be familiar.
There was a notation about photo number 6 (right), explaining that the woman on the left was Rosa Blockoff with her sister, Sonja Blockoff Satkin (middle), and her husband, Jossil Satkin. Blockoff - That name rang a bell... So I called the Genealogist's best friend - Mom - and asked, "Who were the Blockoffs "? She said, "Henry and Chaya Blockoff lived around the corner from us on East 95th Street in Brooklyn." Then I remembered Mom told me that if I ever wanted to look up grandma Celia Piatoff Beytin's records of entry into America I had to look under Celia Blockoff since my grandmother came to America as a 14 year old daughter of Henry and Chaya Blockoff. Grandma Celia was 17, but in order to save half fare, she came as the 14 year old child of the Blockoffs. Mom was quite insistent, however, that we were not related to Logan's cousins Henry and Chaya Blockoff, although I believed a family connection exists between my family and Logan's family. If not, the families were very closely connected as friends.
Back to our mystery man. He appeared in two photos I had of my grandmother, Celia Piatoff, and her family. That was the good news; the bad news was that Logan's unknown relative is one of my unknown relatives. My great-grandmother was my great-grandfather's second wife. Therefore, the photos show relatives my mother could not identify, including the man with the unique hairstyle. My best guess is that he was one of my grandmother's older half brothers; her full brother and sister came to America but none of her older half siblings emigrated.
I contacted Logan, who lives in California, the other side of the continent from my home in New York. After much conversation I asked him how it was possible for a Jewish boy to be named Logan Lockabey.
This is Logan's Story
I explained to Bill that my mother was adopted which caused me to spend many years of frustrating attempts to trace her family. One day I found a document hidden in a safety deposit box which had a single name on an adoption paper. I took the paper to a seminar and got some advice from the teacher as to how to proceed. Armed with this information I went to vital records in Los Angeles, California, where my mother was born. There, contained among the marriage and divorce records, was evidence that my mother was the child of Russian Jews! She had been given up by them right after her birth and adopted by a Christian family. And so, having discovered that I was Jewish by law since my mother was 100% Jewish, I was more excited and determined to find all of my new relatives and work up a family tree.
As I searched further in the records I found that my grandmother remarried, so I began to search for any living relatives. One day I called someone out of the blue and explained who I was; there was dead silence and then the response that he thought everyone was accounted for. He was ecstatic, and the next day I experienced my first big family reunion.
In 1984 I had the thrill of going to the first International Jewish Genealogical Conference in Jerusalem, where I had my ritual Bris and my Bar Mitzvah by the late Rabbi Gorr. (Rabbi Gorr had been helping me with my genealogy for some time, by mail.
Fast forward to the present time, where I have now found some 800 relatives on my tree from several countries around the world.
And here comes the strange and wonderful story. About a year ago I posted a series of photos taken in Polotsk, Belarus, early on in my searching on the Internet. However, the relative who had given them to me did not know who the people were. Everywhere I went I asked relatives I met if they recognized them, and everywhere I went I got the same resounding " Sorry".
And this is where I made contact with Bill Farran, who sent an excited response to my posting on the Belarus SIG. He said that his mother thought one of the photos was one of his grandmother's stepbrothers. Bill and I began to e-mail each other and I offered to send Bill copies of the photos he found on the web plus several that were not posted.
Bill was especially interested in seeing a full photo of one in particular, that of three men in Russian military uniforms, one sitting and two standing. His computer could not completely download this image, going only as far as the seated man's hairline. When Bill received my package of photos, his wife immediately recognized the man in the photo that would not fully open, and screamed, "Bill, There's your grandfather!" There he was, Bill's grandfather, Barnet Beytin, in a photograph taken almost 100 years ago. He appeared to be the the same age as in a silk photo Bill has in his living room.
And the plot thickened. Also in the file was a photo of Bill's grandmother's (Celia Piatoff) sister, Mariasha Piatoff, and his Grandfather's brother and wife, Max Beytin and Shimka Selbst. We then exchanged family trees, but could find no connection. I had the family name of Blockoff and there were given names of Celia and Henry.
Bill and Logan:
So here we stand. Logan's family kept photos of both sides of Bill's family, which Logan now has. Two families from Polotsk. Landsmen. Connected, but unable to make a family tree connection.
Copyright © 2005 Belarus SIG and Bill Farran and Logan Lockabey
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