Saturday, November 8, 2008

Why Genealogy? A Common Question. The Puzzling Answer

I've been asked many times, often by complete strangers who are contacted by me for information about their families, why I am "doing this." The answer can be long or short.

The short answer, a defense of genealogy usually given to those who ask accusingly and suspiciously why it is that I am building family trees of EFRONS, is:

"Some people collect stamps, some people collect coins -- I collect EFRONs"

This sort of explains the hobby of genealogy, because often it is the thrill of adding on to one's compilation of people that is satisfying -- just like any collection-type hobby. But there is a lot more to it, just as there is much more to stamp or coin collecting.

Here's what I think is my motivation: It's just darn interesting and fun and it is intellectually satisfying. Genealogy is the solving puzzles -- and I've always loved puzzles.

Well, I know I'm not the first one to say that genealogy is like a jigsaw puzzle. But more than that, it is a puzzle that at one time was far from being a puzzle, so it is like a treasure hunt. It is a puzzle that has only one, certain, true and eternal solution, so it is like scientific discovery. It is a puzzle that requires a multitude of skills and strategies to solve, and so it is like life itself. Sort of.

Think about this: at one time my great-great-grandmother, Rivka Rochel (nee EFRON) BRAWERMANN, was the daughter of two parents, had a spouse with two parents, had brothers and sisters, and had children. Now, I have little idea who her mother was and do not know the names of four of her daughters. But I have learned the first name of her mother, her father's name and some of her great grandparent's names, and the names of seven of her children and numerous descendents.

What skills are required to solve these puzzles? Good interviewing skills where the correct questions are asked; the ability to read, at least phonetically, in several languages; a lot of geography and in my Jewish genalogy a fair amount of Hebrew onomastics (the study of names). Persistence, patience and imagination are required to get to an evasive solution.

Example: an Israeli-American who was born in Russia tells me that his mother says that her Efron relatives - Yosef, Mottel and Shmuel -- had immigrated to Sao Paolo, my first step is to start searching Sao Paolo phone books. Then some searches through FamilySearch.org (the LDS Church's site) and in JewishGen.org. Nothing. Think. Think. Have I seen a family with these three names anywhere else in my research?

Of course I have! These are some of the brothers of the family that settled in St. Paul, Minnesota!! Not Sao Paulo, Brazil! And yet, the same place name.

I hope to post some current, particular puzzles to share, and invite you to sleuth along with me to solve them!

3 comments:

batyad said...

Hi Jim, I received your email of March 23 today. What a remarkable accomplishment!
I was wondering if you have contact with other Effron descendants living in Israel. I've never met any.

Recently, I completed a DVD about my parents. My mother was an Effron. I'll send it to you. If anyone else from the Amdur Effrons is interested on what happened to some of the Effron descendants I'll be glad to send them a copy as well of the DVD.
Keep up the great work.
Batya Dashefsky

Dana said...

Jim, this is really something.Reading the info you sent our this week. So happy I married an Effron - Dana (Ira's wife)

Br'er Bear said...

Batya, I'd be very interested in receiving the DVD. You can reach me at effron at gmail. Thanks - Sam.