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Finding Papa Izzy's Family Part I: Learning New Tricks

Updated: Nov 8, 2019

Genealogists are constantly learning. If any genealogist ever tells you he or she knows it all, walk away. I have found that collaboration and dialogue are great strategies to acquire new skills. This is exactly how I recently uncovered new branches in my family tree.

In a previous post, I had talked a bit about my paternal grandfather Izzy and his military service. Of all the lines in my family, I probably knew the least about his, especially his father's. While I hope that the recent Y-DNA test I purchased for my Dad will help break down some brick walls, DNA is never a substitute for building a paper trail.

Ancestry Tree
A zoomed out version of my family tree on

So when a fellow genealogist posted in a social media group a strategy that I had never noticed on FamilySearch (, I decided to give it a shot. FamilySearch is a free genealogy site run by the Church of Latter Day Saints that has a myriad of records from all around the world. In this post, she shared that you can search records by "Other Person," which for ship manifests means searching by the person who the immigrant identified as his or her destination. I decided to give this a shot because I had found a few of my great-grandmother's siblings using my great-grandfather as their destination contact on their ship manifests.

I started by heading to the Home Page and clicking on "Records" under "Search."

Next, I went to the area marked "Find a Collection" and typed in the collection I wanted, which in this case was Ellis Island, and clicked on what popped up.

Then, I scrolled down to "Search with a relationship" and clicked on "Other Person."

I was really excited by the possibilities, but I worried that with a last name like Rosenthal and a fluid first name (many Ashkenazi Jews changed the name they went by, sometimes more than once as a result of assimilation), I wouldn't uncover anything.

However, after trying a couple options for a first name as well as the first initial S., I decided to use my grandfather's Yiddish nickname that his brother-in-law had also used on a ship manifest--Schie. JACKPOT!

Immediately, I checked the ship manifests themselves (because you never want to rely on the secondhand transcription of a document if you don't have to) and learned that I was dealing with two different branches connected to my grandfather. "Schlojme Tanawer" referred to my great-grandfather as his uncle, while Taube Rosenthal and her daughter were headed to their husband and father, respectively, who was a different Schie Rosenthal. However, I felt it had to be meaningful and worth further exploration since their former residence was listed as Shepetivka, a nearby town home to my great-grandmother's known relatives, in the province of Volhynia in modern day Ukraine. And of course, he also shared the same name as my great-grandfather!

Cracks had appeared in what I thought to be a solid brick wall, and I was excited to break it down further.

To be continued...


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