family history and genealogy

Category: Journeys

The Wooden Synagogue

Wooden synagogue in Volpa, circa 1920. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

My great-grandparents Harry and Tillie Kubrin came from a town called Volpa, which in their day was part of the Russian Empire. Nowadays it is called Voupa, or Woupa, and it is part of Belarus. How you identify this place depends on where you locate it in the long view. Over the centuries, Volpa has belonged to Lithuania, Poland, and Russia, in addition to Belarus, and it has been known by its Russian, Yiddish, Polish, and Belarusian names, which are rendered in English as Volpa, Volp, Wołpa, Voŭpa, and Wolpa. The purser who boarded my great-grandparents on the S.S. Finland entered this name on the manifest as Wolpy. This swirl of place names hints at the area’s history of conquest, and it makes for confusing research. If you like certainty and order, genealogy might not be for you.

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Origins: Taube Kurdabrin

Sam_Kubrin_arrival_record

I never knew my great-grandmother was originally called Taube. I always thought her name was Tillie, the name she used most of her life, the name by which she is remembered today. But apparently I was wrong. I stand corrected now thanks to the record of her arrival at Ellis Island, which I located through the Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation. Taube, or Tillie, arrived on June 24, 1905, sailing on the S.S. Finland out of Antwerp, like her husband Chaim Kurdabrin before her. That’s Taube on line 22 in the image above. Her son Schmuel (later Sam) is on line 23. He became my grandfather. Continue reading

Origins: Chaim Kurdabrin

Chaim Kurdabrin's Arrival Record at Ellis Island

My great-grandfather Chaim Kurdabrin landed at Ellis Island on June 6, 1903, arriving on the S.S. Finland out of Antwerp. I make this statement with reasonable certainty, having located his arrival in records posted online by the Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation, which also sold me a facsimile of the ship’s manifest. That’s him on the seventh line in the image at the top of this post. Continue reading

Then and Now

I was down in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago for another round of spelunking in the family archives. My explorations were extremely successful. I found scads of old letters, notebooks, calendars, and greeting cards. My grandmother was a terrific archivist, and my mother has preserved everything. Continue reading

Becoming Canadian

Shaking hands after the citizenship ceremony with Judge Joan May Way. Photo by Kate Dauphinee.

We gathered in a government office building on a Thursday afternoon, some 120 of us, from 30 different countries. It was as diverse a crowd as you will see anywhere—young and old, male and female, of every class and ethnicity. Some wore business suits, other hockey shirts and jeans. Looking on, you might have thought we had nothing in common, but we were in fact all in agreement on one point. We had all chosen to become Canadian citizens. Continue reading

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