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The Facebook Cousins Club

Last week, a family photo on the MyFamilyGenie page on Facebook resulted in several cousins on my maternal grandfather's side having a lengthy conversation. Of course, not only is MyFamilyGenie for potential clients to learn about my work, but also for my own family to view the research that I've done. What good is my research if I'm the only one to know about it?

So you can imagine my surprise and delight when my 2nd cousin invited me to a Facebook group created solely for our family to connect, share photos and documents, and ask questions. Now why didn't I think of that?!

Recently I'd been considering some kind of Zoom family reunion to share my findings, such as research on the identity of my great-grandfather's mother, but this Facebook group seems to serve that purpose, and, even better, over an extended period of time; the reunion never ends! I've shared the blog posts on my research, documents and family trees I've collected from distant cousins that provide insight into our family's origins, and answered questions about relatives. In turn, I've heard stories and seen family photos, enough to make any genealogist giddy.

Photo shared of my great-grandparents. My great-grandfather was supposedly 6'2", my great-grandmother 5 feet.

Although the initial invitees were descendants of my great-grandparents, Abraham Berson (Berzak) and Sophie Wallace (Khvoles), the group has opened up to all Berzak and Khvoles relatives, which has been such a boon to my research. For example, a 3rd cousin (I think we're related two ways at least!) shared a biographical report her mother wrote on her own mother, Eva (Berzak/Berson) Hoffman, for middle school in the 1930s, This middle school composition provided a wealth of information that confirmed some of my own research (such as my great-grandfather's brother, Moshe Leib Berzak, dying before the birth of a child named Musa Liba, whom I suspected was named after him) and sent me off on new avenues to explore.

Excerpt from a 1930s middle school composition written about Eva Hoffman, my first cousin twice removed.

Image of the birth record and translation for Musa Liba Berzak who, according to the above composition, was named after her recently deceased father and who herself died 4 days after birth (though I've seen no death record).

I also invited a 3c1r I'd met through JewishGen who has been the source of several findings in the family. The reignited conversation has added more treasures to the collection, including a photo of her great-grandmother, my 3rd great-aunt, Esther Sara (Berzak) Zarach Polinsky, the only photo I have of anyone from that generation.

Photo of my 3rd great-aunt, Esther Sara (Berzak) Zarach Polinsky who immigrated from Lithuania to London.

Beyond known family, an unknown Berzak cousin has also joined the group, and we've been working to figure out the exact connection beyond known cousins. In our conversation, we've learned the Berzaks/Bersons are connected to Ysrael Seinuk (1931-2010), an engineer who designed the structure for many landmark skyscrapers in New York (including the New York Palace Hotel and Trump Tower) and around the world and was ranked by Time Magazine as one of the 25 "Most Influential Hispanics in America." We'res currently working out the exact connection, but it's amazing to see how the Berzaks literally went global.

Ysrael Seinuk (1931-2010). His paternal grandmother, Beyla Gitlia Berzak was "a cousin."

This Facebook group has just launched, so I'm sure we're only at the tip of the iceberg. I'm also now inspired to write up some more family history blogs I've been putting off to share with everyone.

Lesson? Create a Facebook group for family of your own because not only will you uncover some amazing treasures, you will meet and reconnect with your family, something extra special during COVID-19 times.


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