Every Family Has a Story: Tales from the Pages of AVOTAYNU Edited by
This book will not tell you how to do genealogical research. Instead, it will tell you how genealogical research affected the lives of the researchers and the people they discovered. Every Family Has a Story: Tales from the Pages of AVOTAYNU consists of 72 articles that have appeared in our journal, AVOTAYNU, each story focusing on the human side of genealogy—how genealogists have been personally affected by their research and how the research of genealogists has affected others.
The book is divided into eight sections. The first section, titled “Potpourri” contains a mixture of articles chosen as the best of the best human interest articles selected for the book. “Freya Joins the Kahn Klan” relates how a woman, who was adopted shortly after birth, decided to locate her birth family when, in her mid-40s, she became interested in genealogy. She discovered she was one of eight children—the only one adopted out. None of her birth siblings knew of her existence. How she found the family and the consequences would make a Hollywood movie.
“Evelyne Regains Her Identity” relates how a genealogist helped a child survivor of the Holocaust find family and return to Judaism. Another article, by Batya Unterschatz, “The Diary of Miriam Hanania,” describes how she helped locate a woman who wrote a diary as a teenager. The story has a shocking ending. The most unusual name-change story ever published in AVOTAYNU is described in “A Priest in the Family.”
Valery Bazarov of HIAS and Marian Smith of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services relate a very unusual immigrant story in “Children Under 16 Unaccompanied by Parent: The Family Zuser.” When a Jewish mother with four children got off the boat at Ellis Island, the authorities were suspicious that two of them were not hers—they were black. Finally, the Potpourri section ends with the real story of how the legend the hapless Jewish immigrant whose name was changed at Ellis Island to Sean Ferguson..
The remaining stories are divided into sections:
Back to the Old Country.
One of the best stories is the last in the book. Written by Olga Zabludoff and titled “When Good Men Do Nothing,” it relates how the author and other Jewish genealogists, with the help of local citizens, restored the Jewish cemetery and mass graves in Butrimonys, Lithuania. (On September 9, 1941, 1,230 Jewish men, women and children, were shot to death by German SS soldiers and their bodies dumped into two mass graves.) In our correspondence with Olga, we apologized for making her story the last one, but she responded that it was of no concern to her. She stated that with the name Zabludoff, she was used to being in last place.
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