05 December 2012

Family Matters

My very favorite brother is coming up tomorrow from Southern California for a visit. Sparky is my only brother – my only sibling, for that matter – but even if that were not the case I'm pretty sure he would still be my favorite. He's a good guy. I'm looking forward to spending some time with him.

It should be easier to get him up here, now that his oldest son (Arkman) recently took a job in our neck of the woods. Fortunately, Arkman still has zero furniture, so Sparky will be staying with us, this time at least.  It'll be fun!

Sparky has agreed to fill any empty space in his luggage with family papers or photos or whatever other detritus he might have run across in his excavations of the house where mom and dad lived (apparently without ever throwing anything away) for almost 60 years. Who knows what kind of stuff might turn up?

You never know what you'll find. After trying, off and on for a couple of years, to find out when my paternal grandmother arrived in this country, I had pretty much given up. I knew she came from a shtetl near Bobruisk in what was then the Russian Empire, and that she was traveling with at least one sister. I knew she was born sometime around 1890, although my dad always said she lied about her age. I knew her surname was common in the area she came from – the local equivalent of "Smith" – and that it could be spelled about 8,967 different ways. I knew (I thought) the girls' given names, although it turned out I really didn't. I thought she came here before 1906, because my father said she would call my grandfather a greenhorn because she had been here longer than he had. I looked every place I could think of, or at least every place I could find on the Internet, but couldn't find documentation of any of this. So I pretty much gave up and went on to other things. Then, a month or so ago, out of the blue, I ran across this:

It is the passenger manifest of the S.S. Lituania, sailing from Libau in Russia on 26 October, 1911. On line 12 is Riwe Gorelik. It says she's 21 years old, so she would have been born around 1890. On line 13 is Sore Gorelik, age 23. Both young women gave their occupation as tailoress. They said they were unable to read or write. They were Jews, from a Russian town called Pariczi in Minsk. Their nearest relative was their mother, Liebe Gorelik, in Pariczi. Their final destination was Chicago, Illinois.

Riwe Gorelik is my grandmother, Eva. Sore Gorelik is my great-aunt Sophie.

So you never know what might turn up, or where you might find it. I just wish I could show this to my dad. He spent a lot of time looking for it, and would've been happy to finally see it. I'll show it to Sparky and he'll think it's cool, but it won't be the same.

This is the three of us, captured in my mother's inimitable photographic style, sometime around 1954.

One more thing: On line 15 of the manifest is Basse Gorelik, a 19-year-old from Kcsedrin, which is a village near Pariczi. No relation, I don't think. Gorelik was a really common name in those parts.


  1. Good to see you back and I had to smile at those ancestry.com docs. I put that addiction away a couple weeks before Christmas last year. I wrote up and created a 'readable' family history for everyone on my side and Patti's side burned onto CD and printed on good ol-fashioned paper since NO one backs up a PC anymore and gave it to everyone for Christmas.

    With progression of Patti's MS related dementia - memory is simply not a given resource in an family.

    Caregivingly Yours, Patrick

  2. The names you've chosen for your relatives crack me up. As I recall Sparky is an Electrician. However, I've been pondering the inspiring for Arkman!

    About the stalking dead people and manifests, you're doing what I only talk about doing. I think it's amazing think about the daring move they made coming here. Leaving all behind for the unknown.