Finding Renate

2 October 2011

At the start of 1999, my closest missing relative was Renate BACH, my mother's first cousin.  The last direct contact between my mother and Renate had been 65 years earlier, in early 1934.

Renate was born in Berlin in December 1933.   In early 1934, Renate's parents arranged to get out of Nazi Germany and emigrate to South Africa.  Due to health or age concerns, or both, Helmut and Lotte could not take their little baby with them on the journey to South Africa.

At least in part because my mother's father was a pediatrician and her mother had training as a nurse, the baby Renate came to live with my mother's family in Breslau for about 6 months.  My mother was about 11 when she temporarily had a little baby to help looking after.  At the end of that period, Renate was entrusted to someone traveling to South Africa and she made the passage to re-join her parents.

The only other things I knew were (i) that Renate's parents got divorced, (ii) that Helmut had died young from tuberculosis, and (iii) that Renate might have been living in Jerusalem.  I had no luck trying to finding Renate under her maiden name BACH.  A 1997 posting to the Jewish Genealogy online discussion group with that limited information did not lead to any result.

In 1998, from a cousin in Israel, I received a letter written by my great grandmother Rosa BACH, geb. PERL (1870-1955) in 1947.  It included mention of her (ex) daughter-in-law Lotte with the information that she lived in Johannesburg and had a women's clothes shop "Charlotte".   A 1998 posting to the Jewish Genealogy discussion group with that slightly expanded information again did not lead to any direct result, but (if I recall correctly), it caused me to get in contact with a professional genealogist / researcher in South Africa.

In the end, it cost me all of about $50, but I know I gave serious consideration to foregoing this approach because I had never paid anyone to do research for me.   It was certainly money well spent.  I got copies of three sets of legal papers with information on the 1935 divorce of Helmut and Lotte, the re-marriage of Lotte, and Lotte's second divorce.  From this material, most importantly, I learned that Renate had been adopted by her step-father and got the surname KANIUK.  That gave me a whole new avenue to search.

I could not find Renate KANIUK -- which would not have been her name if she had married.   So, the next day, I posted a third note to the Jewish Genealogy discussion group.  At the same time, I also looked for all of the KANIUK addresses I could find, and sent a postal letter to about 18 families.  The first reply was from a family that was not the one I was looking for.   The second reply, three weeks after getting the documents from South Africa, was a telephone call from Jerusalem -- from Renate!   One of my letters had reached her half-brother in England and he had passed it on to her.  The next day, my mother called her first cousin and re-established contact after 65 years.   We learned about her life and her family, including her 3 children -- new second cousins.

The following year, Renate came to the US and met us in Philadelphia and visited my mother in North Carolina.  My mother reciprocated with a trip to Israel.  In 2001, my brother and I also went to Israel and saw Renate.   On both sides, the re-connection was gratefully appreciated.  And the timing was fortuitous; Renate died in October 2003.  But, we are left with great memories and our new cousins.


Thirty Years to Find My Third Cousin Micheline

9 June 2011

(I hope and Family Tree Magazine will select me to win a family reunion with my long-lost French cousins.)

    My IMMERWAHR family tree always contained an interesting branch -- but one that seemed to peter out in the early 20th century.   The IMMERWAHRs originated in the small Prussian town of Kreuzburg in Upper Silesia (now Kluczbork, Poland).  By the 1830s, they were living in Breslau (now Wroclaw), the capital of Silesia, where David IMMERWAHR (1796-1861) became a successful merchant.  He and his wife Lina SILBERSTEIN (1811-1883) had 9 children.   The second youngest was my great grandmother Clara IMMERWAHR (1845-1914).  The youngest child was Mathilde Marie Ottilie IMMERWAHR (1847-1929).

    Considering that she came from a German Jewish family, the story of Mathilde was always very interesting and surprising -- because she married a non-Jewish Frenchman, who was a career soldier.  Col. André Albert LAFFITTE-ROUZET fought in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 and became a prisoner-of-war.   As a POW, he was garrisoned in Breslau.   Somehow, Mathilde and the Colonel met, and presumably fell in love.  They were married in 1873 on her uncle's estate, Malkwitz.

    Col. LAFFITTE-ROUZET and Mathilde settled in France.  They had 2 children, Charles and Gabrielle.  In about 1890, my grandfather traveled from eastern Germany to France to visit the LAFFITTE-ROUZET family when he was just a teenager.   Gabrielle was my grandfather's favorite cousin, and 30+ years later, he named his daughter (my mother) Gabrielle.

    From the family tree that I first saw in the 1970s, we knew that Charles followed in his father's footsteps and also rose to the rank of colonel in the French army.   We knew that Gabrielle married a CLERC (or CLERONE) -- first name not known -- and had three sons, one of whom had a son who was a dentist.   That was about it.   And that is where things stood.

    In 1998, I got in contact with another cousin from the IMMERWAHR family who still lived in Germany.  His father had been a colonel in the German army -- until 1936 when he was given the options of divorcing his wife (from the Jewish IMMERWAHR family) or ending his military career.  To his credit, he chose to retire.   Colonel DOHNE and the younger Colonel LAFITTE-ROUZET were in contact, and had met on a few occasions.   They cancelled their last planned meeting in the 1930s because of concern that their meeting would be misconstrued by the Germans, or the French, or both, as espionage.

    In 1999, I thought to write to the archives of the French army, "Service Historique de l’Armee de Terre."   I received files on both French colonels, including information on Col. André Albert LAFFITTE-ROUZET's time as a POW, and his marriage to Mathilde.   The file did not help me track down their descendants, but it did contain a clue that eventually led to new information -- that André Albert LAFFITTE-ROUZET died in Valence, France.

    In 2006, through the network of Jewish genealogy researchers, I saw a note from a man in Valence and thought to ask him how I could learn if there were LAFFITTE-ROUZET burials there.   He contacted the cemetery, and learned that my great great aunt and her husband were buried there.   I wrote to the cemetery and in mid 2007 received an e-mail with information about André Albert and Mathilde, about Charles and his wife, about Gabrielle and her husband, and about their three sons, all buried in the LAFFITTE-ROUZET family tomb in Valence.  The information brought my research up to 2002, when Gabrielle's grandson, the dentist Jacques CLERC died in Paris.   Learning Jacques' last address led me to believe that I would finally find a living member of this branch of my family.  I did, but unfortunately, the contact did not lead anywhere.

    In 2009, a different cousin in Germany sent me the 1970 death notice of Gabrielle's son Jean François CLERC.   I learned the name of Jean François' two grandsons and one granddaughter.  Within a day, thanks to the ubiquity of Facebook, I had found and "friended" my new third cousin once removed Marie-Astrid.  She got me up to date on my CLERC cousins, including her father's two first cousins, brother and sister, living in the south of France.

    The very next day, I received an e-mail with an amazing photograph.  My brand new cousin Maurice who sent me the photograph knew that the younger man on the right was his father André CLERC, but he did not know who the older man on the left was.

When I saw the photo, I immediately knew that the other man was my grandfather Walther FREUND!

    The photo from about 1920 captured a return visit of the French family to my grandfather's home in Breslau.  It is always rewarding to find a new cousin, or better yet, a whole new branch of the family.  But to receive a photograph of my own grandfather from some long-lost cousins, over 50 years after the death of my grandfather, and over 75 years since the family connection had been lost, was most remarkable.  It felt like I was matching my half of a 100-year-old photograph to the half preserved by lost, but loving, cousins from a different era.

    Since then, my mother and I have had a great correspondence with our new French cousins -- with lots of talk about trying to arrange to meet.   Cousin Micheline is now 89, and has failing eyesight.   She has urged me to come to meet her while she can still see me; something I truly hope to be able to do.   So far, it has not happened, but perhaps the contest will make it possible.


Discoveries - No. 1 in a Series - FEIGE / STENZEL

7 June 2011

One of the things I have wanted to do on this blog is to make a record of the discoveries and process of discovery that added new ancestors to the family tree.  Here is one from 18 months ago.

4 December 2009

On 4 December 2009, I received an e-mail from my cousin Jonathan PERL with the sad news that his mother Ann PERL, née MESIANO, had died the day before.  Looking at the family tree, I noticed Ernst PERL's middle name Salo in a way I had not before -- seeing the connection to Ernst's grandfather, my great great grandfather Salo (Seelig Salomon) PERL, who supposedly died in 1907, supposedly in Kattowitz -- just in time for Ernst to have gotten the name Salo in 1908 in memory of his grandfather.

From Salo PERL, my eye moved up the tree to his mother-in-law Mariane FRIEDENSTEIN, geb. FEIGE, my great great great grandmother who was just a name at the top of one line in the family tree.   A year earlier (29 September 2008), I had found an entry in the JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) database full of question marks:

"FRIEDENSTEIN?, Mariane?", buried in the Kozilska Street Cemetery in Kattowitz; Reg. Page 48, Line 855, who died in "1904?"

Seeing this earlier note, which had contained too much uncertainty to act on, I did a simple internet search on: Mariane Friedenstein Katowice.  This time, the first hit had the heading "Katowice – Grobowiec Mariane Friedenstein".   When I clicked on the link, I was on a webpage of -- the Virtual Shtetl website of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews -- looking at a beautiful photograph of the gravestone of my great great great grandmother Mariane FRIEDENSTEIN, geb. FEIGE, with her full birth date and death date, and in clear Hebrew, her name and the name of her father -- my newly discovered great great great great grandfather Aron FEIGE.  The photograph:

It was good timing.  The photograph was posted 5 months earlier.  The same search 6 month earlier would have just led to the same old uncertain information.

The JOWBR data turned out to have identifed the right person, but with the wrong death date.  The real death date of 6 March 1894 meant that my great aunt Marianne HERTHEL, geb, BACH (1896, Breslau - ca.1944, Auschwitz), was named after her great grandmother.

A little easy digging, mostly in the JRI-Poland database, led to information on Aron FEIGE's death, his father Jisheja(hu), his wife Rosel (Reisel) STENZEL, three other children, and their descendants (tying together some prevously unconnected FEIGEs).   So, overall, this led to:

great great great great grandfather Aron FEIGE (ca.1772-1849)
great great great great grandmother Rosel (Reisel) STENZEL (d.1845)
great great great great great grandfather Jisheja(hu) [FEIGE]

including a new family surname to ponder (STENZEL) and a new family town (Beuthen),

a new line of FEIGE cousins which happened to lead to Marion KRONER, geb. LEDERMANN (1913-2004), my mother's third cousin once removed, already in the family tree as the wife of my father's first cousin,

a possible new line of cousins descended from Rebecca FRIEDMANN, geb. STENZEL (, who might have been Rosel's sister,

and another possible new great great great great great grandfather, if the Joseph STENZEL living in Brzezinka, Kreis Tost in 1812 turns out to be Rosel's father...

So, Jonathan's e-mail about Ann's death, led to considerations of the origins of Ernst's middle name Salo, which led to Salo PERL and then, just-because, to his mother-in-law Mariane FEIGE, and to an internet search which had great results because of the activity of people in Poland documenting the Jewish history of towns, including Kattowitz / Katowice.


Anne Elizabeth FEILER - in memoriam - 1960-2011

20 May 2011
     Today, I and other members of the family received the sad and shocking news that cousin Anne died after surgery on Tuesday.
     I hope the family will not object to my re-publishing their note here:

In Memory of Anne Elizabeth Feiler

With deep regret, we have sad news to pass along. On May 17, our aunt, sister and daughter Anne passed away after surgery.  Anne was a happy, active and very kind person, fun to be with, always ready to help and advise, or talk about dogs.  She will be missed very much by her family, her many friends, and her colleagues in Chicago, Denver, and the Boulder areas.
There will be a memorial service on Sunday, May 22, 2011 in Boulder, Colorado, from 12:30 until 1:30 PM.
   First Congregational Church  
1128 Pine Street
Boulder, Colorado 80302-4096
There will be a gathering and light meal following the service at:
Hotel Boulderado 
  2115 13th Street
Boulder, Colorado 80302-4801
In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to organizations that Anne supported.  Please mention Anne’s name so that her family can be notified of your kind gift. 
   Habitat for Humanity
Director of Development
2540 Frontier Ave., Suite 209
Boulder, Colorado 80301
Golden State Greyhound Adoption
Please forward this message to anyone who would want to attend and remember our Anne.

Thank You,
The Feiler Family


FALK + OTWELL @ 25 Years + 1

19 May 2011
      One year ago, we celebrated our Silver Wedding Anniversary, all dressed up, with a tapas dinner at Amada Restaurant in Philadelphia.    We wore the silver tiara and pin that my great grandfather Wilhelm Salomon FREUND (1831-1915) gave his wife Clara geb. IMMERWAHR (1845-1914) on their 25th anniversary in 1892.
     A year later, we spent our 26th anniversary with me having hernia repair surgery, and Liz taking care of me.
     Now, the tiara and pin are back on the road, waiting for the next Silver Wedding Anniversary among the descendants of Wilhelm Salomon FREUND and Clara IMMERWAHR -- or a wedding or other appropriate occasion.