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Finding Papa Izzy's Family Part II: When Paper Trail and DNA Collide

Updated: Nov 8, 2019

In my last post, I discussed how I used FamilySearch to find more relatives connected to my grandfather. The last name "Tanawer" was unknown to me, and when I looked at the manifest, I wasn't sure if that was even a correct transcription.

I decided to move my search to Ancestry and see what might come up in their database. For the same manifest, the website guessed "Janover," which looked more correct to me. I knew that name sounded familiar, although I couldn't put my finger on it immediately. Excitingly, when I began searching for Janovers, a Hirsch Janover popped up in yet another ship manifest that also used my great-grandfather as his destination and referred to him as his brother-in-law! My guess: this Hirsch was Schlojme's father. Now, I needed to figure out if they were related through my great-grandfather or my great-grandmother.

ship manifest for Hirsch Janover
The ship manifest for Hirsch Janover.

Next, I tried to figure out what happened to the Janovers, but wasn't uncovering anything that seemed correct. From experience, I guessed that Hirsch would likely become a Harry and Schlojme might be Solomon, Samuel, or Simon, but those entries didn't yield anything either.

But then it clicked. I remembered why Janover sounded so familiar. I had a DNA match whom I could tell through shared matches and her recall of some family history that she was related through my great-grandmother's family. She had assumed it was through her grandmother's side, but the dots wouldn't connect. Moreover, my own quick search of her grandfather's family uncovered that they were from Romania, which was inconsistent with what I knew about my family. However, these ship manifests proved that it was actually through her grandfather because the last name? Yanover!

This was it! I began to research the Yanovers and first learned that my hunch that Hirsch would become Harry was correct. Using census records and the death index, I found that Hirsch's wife shared my great-grandmother's maiden name...and her first name, Rose!

1920 census for Yanovers
The 1920 census where Harry, Rose, and Samuel Yanover living under the same roof. This Samuel wasn't Schlojme!

Yes, two sisters named Rose, which at first made me question my conclusions. However, in Hebrew/Yiddish, the names were different (one was Rusia, the other Reisa), which explained how this could happen (Ashkenazi Jewish naming customs consider naming after living relatives taboo). More than that, this new Rose had two sons who at one point both went by Samuel, which you can imagine added to the confusion in combing through records.

naturalization papers
Naturalization papers for "Schlojme Tanawer."

This case reinforced that paper trails and DNA can work hand in hand. Although I had this DNA match for quite some time, we couldn't place her exactly without further information. Yet, if I only had the ship manifests, I might have been stuck on the last name as well as trying to make sense of whether the two Roses were sisters or the two Samuels were even related to each other, as one listed the correct town I was looking for and the other Romania. However, I later figured out from further inspection that one Samuel was born in Bessarabia, which was formerly part of the Kingdom of Romania, but today much of the area is actually in Ukraine.

AncestryDNA match
The unknown AncestryDNA match through my great-grandmother.

I solved the mystery and figured out a new branch of my family tree!


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