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My Persky Cousins

A Drive to Reconnect

3500 miles, 17 days to meet cousins

“The minute Adam walked into the hotel, I knew he was a Persky by the narrow face, high forehead and the shape of his nose.”

By Allan Karan as told to Nancy Siegel

Sam and Jennie Soforenko, ca. 1907

Sam and Jennie Soforenko, c. 1907 - the picture of the “possible unknown Soforenko” that started Allan's search

Earlier this year I drove over 3,500 miles in 17 days to visit with cousins I only rediscovered last year through my postings on JewishGen. All of these cousins are descended from my maternal great-grandparents, Joseph Persky and Lena Zamara of Poltava, Ukraine.

My mother was Sadye Persky; her father - my maternal grandfather - was Hyman Persky. Besides that, all I knew were the names of Hyman's brothers, Louis and Meyer Persky, and that his only sister, Jennifer, had married into a Soforenko family. As for my cousins -- Bill, Arthur and Joe Persky -- other than a brief visit with Bill in 1979 and an exchange of emails in 2006 regarding our family history, I'd had no contact since the summer of 1948, when we all sat around together and kept the radio going, listening for Israel's independence.

I had a photo that my mother's sister, Ruthe Persky Zucker, said might be a Soforenko, so I posted a request to the JewishGen Discussion Group asking for help with the picture. I received a reply from Linda Silverman Shefler, who is related to a Soforenko on her mother's side. Linda recognized the Soforenko and Persky names and told me that the people I was searching for were Jennie and Sam Soforenko.

Linda also said a Bill Persky had been in touch with her years ago about the Persky family and that Jennifer Persky, married to Sam Soforenko, was Bill's aunt. This was in fact my cousin Bill and it led me to renew my relationship with him.

From: Linda Shefler
Sent: Friday, November 21, 2008 12:04 PM
To: 'Allan S. Karan'
Subject: Soforenko

Hello Again ~
Okay, I just looked at my tree…. I should have done that the first time I wrote you! Samuel and Jennie were the parents of my great uncle-in-law Eddie Soforenko. I have quite extensive trees for the Soforenko and Persky families. Let me know if you are interested.

Linda tells Allan that she knows who elusive sister Jennifer is

Linda, Bill, and another new-found relation, Elizabeth Perry, filled me in on Jennie and Sam Soforenko's children - my mother Sadye's first cousins - except for one daughter, Sylvia. They knew she had married a Howard Green, and my aunt remembered that a Soforenko was living in Palm Beach. After months of many searches without any luck for a Sylvia or Howard Green in the Providence and Palm Beach areas, I put my Soforenko search aside.

Having learned much of my great-aunt Jennie's family, I now wanted to find my other two cousins, Arthur and Joe Persky. I used census and marriage records and then phone book look-ups. Luckily, it didn't take long to find Arthur and Joe, and I was then in phone and email contact with both families.

With the information from my Persky cousins, I filled my family tree with the descendants of my great-grandparents, Joseph and Lena, with one exception. I was still missing Sylvia Soforenko.

Because I was looking for Sylvia, possibly in Palm Beach, I noticed an announcement on the JewishGen Discussion Group for the Palm Beach County Genealogical Society. I emailed the society and asked if there was a way to research for Sylvia or Howard Green in Palm Beach. Someone knew a “Greene” who was a member of her husband's golf club. She contacted this person for me - it turned out that she was the Sylvia (Soforenko) Greene I was related to - and gave me Sylvia's phone number.

I called Sylvia and we spoke at length. She and her daughter Leslie filled me in about the family. Since then I have spoken with Sylvia and Leslie many times. Leslie and I have exchanged pictures, as well as phone calls and emails where we reminisce about family members we both knew. Leslie grew up in Providence, Rhode Island. During the 1940s and 50s, when I visited Providence to see my grandfather, I most likely met both Sylvia and Leslie, though I don't recall doing so.

With the information that Leslie and Sylvia provided me about Jennifer Soforenko, and my renewed connections with my Persky cousins, I was finally able to complete the story of the descendants of Joseph Persky and Lena Zamara and was ready to start my journey.

Joseph Persky and Lena Zamara, ca. 1910

Allan's great-grandparents, Joseph Persky and Lena Zamara, ca. 1910

In February 2009 I set out from White Plains, New York, to visit my Persky cousins.

My first visit was with Arthur Persky's son, Adam, and his family in North Carolina. The minute Adam walked in the hotel, I knew he was a Persky by the narrow face, high forehead and the shape of his nose.

My next stop was in Florida to pick up my aunt, Ruthe Persky Zucker, and to visit with Sylvia Greene. Sylvia was sharp and engaging, and we spent the afternoon talking family and politics.

Next day I was on my way to the opposite side of the state to visit Bill Persky. We spent the whole day together, talking family and swapping pictures and family tree software files.

From Bill's, I set out to meet my cousin Arthur Persky, who lives in Alabama. We had lunch and he filled me in on his side of the family.

Last on my list of cousins was Joe Persky, who lives in North Carolina. Joe set up a dinner where I met his two daughters and their families. We had a great reunion and his daughters were fascinated by the family tree I had put together.

Before leaving White Plains, I printed a booklet of our tree. It included each member who I had been able to add because of my research, including a photo if I had one. The front cover of the booklet had a picture of great-grandfather Joseph and great-grandmother Lena, our common Persky family ancestors.

The booklet was a big hit and the trip also netted me with many more pictures to include in future editions.

September 2009

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Allan submitted inquiries to the JewishGen Discussion Group and SIG mailing lists, posted an old photograph that became the key to connecting with a “lost” branch of his family, searched census and marriage records, and used the internet to find telephone numbers and email addresses. He then drove 3,500 miles, with stops in five cities, to visit his newly found cousins - learning more about the family, gathering photos for his collection, and making lasting connections with his cousins and their families.

You too can post emails asking for help in finding your ancestors and possible living relatives, by subscribing to the JewishGen Discussion Group mailing list, and to more than thirty Special Interest Group (SIG) mailing lists, here.

You can also search the JewishGen Discussion List archives from 1993-current, for posts related to your family names and towns; and search the JewishGen SIG Mailing Lists archives for posts from 1998-current.
In addition, he told the rest of the JewishGen community of his discoveries and success by posting to the JewishGen Discussion Group which you are encouraged to subscribe to if you do not already.

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Updated by MH on Tuesday, May 24, 2010.

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