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#52Ancestors – Week 1 Fresh Starts

This week’s prompt is about fresh starts. In a way this blog post is a fresh start. A few years ago I tried a similar personal challenge to write a blog post a day about an ancestor, in-law, or Spaceball. This post is not meant to be a deep dive, but rather getting my feet wet and seeing where it takes me. Other previous blog posts and pages go more in depth. If asked I can always go into more detail later.

As a Jewish genealogist a significant portion of my research involves fresh starts. Ask any Jew you know why their ancestors came to this country and more often than not they will tell you it was to escape some sort of persecution or for a better life.

My maternal grandparents and their families came here escape the Nazi’s in the Netherlands and Austria. My paternal great grandparents came here to escape the Pogroms in Ukraine and Belarus.

I can’t speak much about my paternal side as my father works on his side but I will be taking it over soon. So I guess in a way that will be a fresh start.

My maternal grandparent’s stories are the ones the first come to mind when talking about fresh starts.

My maternal grandfather was born in Vienna in 1924. Growing up he was surrounded by family on both his parents sides. He learned about woodworking and gem cutting, went skiing, and probably visited family in Tarnopol and Stanislwow where his parents were from. In 1938, when the Nazi’s annexed Austria, his father was sent to Dachau and his mother sent him and his older sister to live with relatives in New York City. His paternal grandparents and 4 of the 5 other children had immigrated in the 1910’s and 1920’s but my great grandfather and his wife had stayed behind. Eventually, after being transferred to Buchenwald, my great grandfather’s brother managed to get him released with the help of a NY state senator and about a month later they were in the US. They never returned to Vienna after the war and lived out their lives in New York.

My maternal grandmother was born in Tilburg in 1923. She grew up with two older sister and her uncle’s family two doors down with whom she was very close. The Nazi’s invaded the Netherlands on May 10, 1940 and it was on that day that my grandmother’s family left their home. As the families drove from Tilburg to Amsterdam bridges were blown up behind them. After arriving in Amsterdam and some drama ensuing they made their way to England where they stayed with a family friend and a cousin. Eventually they made their way to New York City where they lived until the end of the war. My great grandparents went back to Tilburg where they had to fight to get their house back as it had been ransacked.

My grandfather met my grandmother before he enlisted and while deployed they stayed in touch. After the war they got married and had may aunt and mother. Shortly after my mother was born they moved to Pittsburgh after he saw an ad about a job. Their descendants continue to live in Pittsburgh, as well as Rockville and Israel.

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