A Genealogical Study


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Goldberg (Fr)







I always knew Aunty Lynda was the family historian. I remember, when I was very young, she brought some rolled-up family trees with her to my grandparents house, and I remember them being placed behind the sofa when people had finished looking at them. When I started to become interested in the family tree and had data for all my great-grandparents and their descendants, Aunty Lynda then provided me with a further generation of research, as a Bar Mitzvah present. This was the first time I had heard of Radzilow and the Staroletni and Kowalski surnames, and it inspired much of my future research. I was so lucky to have such an astonishing basis for my research, which I picked up in earnest in 1998. I asked Grandma, Aunty Lynda, Aunty Daphne and Aunty Anne lots of questions, and was able to annotate my Bar Mitzvah tree very heavily.


However, the most significant development in my research was the e-mail I received from José Gutstein on 18 November 1998, introducing himself as the Radzilow Shtetl Co-Op Co-Ordinator. Through José, I began to buy birth, marriage and death certificates from the heim, and Aunty Lynda’s tree spawned many new branches. I was grateful for the donations I received towards my purchases from various members of the family.


A few months after Jose first made contact with me, he set up his stunning Radzilow website.  Of course, this brought in a great many descendants of Radzilow families, and continues to do so. In August 2003, Jeff Kaiser found the site, and Jose put him in contact with me, as we were both Kowalski descendants. Jeff taught himself how to translate Polish and Russian civil registration certificates with the help of books he bought online, and he and Jose began to work as a team to buy and translate as many of the outstanding certificates as we could. With Jeff’s added funding and translating skills, which negated the necessity to buy English extracts of the certificates, our knowledge of the Kowalski, Chemnicki and Piechota families far exceeded our wildest expectations. My role in the team was to analyse the data that we received, construct trees and suggest the direction of future research. One of my most important discoveries was the relationship to the Piechota family, which involved collating snippets of information from various certificates and make a series of assumptions based on very little evidence! José’s role was to order the certificates and also act as an expert on Radzilow and its environs. Jeff would translate the certificates and distribute them to us, either by snail-mail or by e-mail.


In August 2004, Robin Kavall found José’s site as a result of a spiritual epiphany she experienced on holiday in Israel. She quickly joined the team, providing breathtaking photos from her father’s estate, such as the photo of the Kowalski blacksmiths’ forge (Photos Page 6). She also had contacts in Nochym Mendel Kowalski’s branch of the family, such as Amy Stover, and suddenly the research began to take on a whole meaning. From being the single representative of my family working on the research, I had become part of an enthusiastic, well-funded, international team of researchers, all connected by the common blood in our veins.


Following the death of Efraim Sharon (né Efroim Hersz Niedzwiecki) in Israel in May 2005, his son, Yehiam, who lives in Maryland, discovered his father's Radzilow roots and contacted José. José put him in touch with us, and it turns out that he and Robin live less than an hour from each other! They are second cousins. Yehiam has provided some fascinating stories and photos, and is going to help fill in the gaps in that branch of the family tree as well.


One other skill I have developed during my work on the Tyszkowski group families is the ability to track down “lost” branches of families, particularly in the US and the UK, using various online search engines. This has reaped great rewards for the team over an extended period of time.





One of the biggest challenges of researching an ancestry as vast as the Tyszkowski group is that there are more “lost” branches of the family that need to be found. The team has scored some significant successes in this regard, including a number of long-standing “lost” branches which Aunty Lynda had not been able to find, but there are many more now that the tree is much bigger. Also, the branches have been “lost” much earlier in time, so we are totally reliant on documentary evidence to reconstruct these branches forward in time until living relatives can be searched for plausibly. There are Chemnicki, Szafsztejn, Slawatycki and Markowicz branches which are examples of this, where the most recent records are those of the 1830s! It would be optimistic, verging on naïve, to believe that every “lost” branch will be found, but many seemingly impossible tasks of this nature have been completed to date, and successes continue to be within reach. Other, more recently “lost” branches include the Elterman and Jelaza families, both of whom are known up to the 1930s.


One of the “lost” branches of the Kowalski family is the Dietnik branch, which includes the recently-deceased advertising mogul, Maxwell Dane. Although my telephone call with a member of the Dane household met with the inevitable suspicion and cynicism, I cannot help but feel that all is not lost in attempting to prove a connection. The difficulty lies in inspiring interest in the Dane household in a connection which is exceedingly remote even to the closest of living relatives today. Perhaps a written letter will be more successful.


Another family legend is that a Tyszkowski ancestor directed Napoleon Bonaparte towards Warsaw during the Emperor’s 1812 campaign. This would be wonderful to substantiate, although perhaps only the local historians around Jedwabne and Radzilow would be able to say for definite whether Napoleon’s army marched through that area.


Also in the Tyszkowski family is the mystery of Morris Tish. He was living with his wife and daughter in Norfolk, VA, when, around 1915, he vanished without trace. He left home, apparently on a buying trip to New York for his clothing business, where he saw his brother, Max. When he came to say goodbye, he kissed Max on cheek very emotionally, which was very unusual. A few days later, he was seen in Cleveland, Ohio, by a friend who called him by his name to attract his attention. Morris denied his identity, saying his name was not Morris and the man must be mistaken. He was never seen or heard from again, despite many attempts to trace him. One possibility is that he joined the US Army recruits headed for the trenches of World War I in Europe, but no documentary evidence of his enlistment has been found. It is thought that he may have fled home because he, too, could not stand his wife. In 1931, when Molly was about to marry, she came to her uncle Max and pleaded to see her father. Of course, Max had no idea where Morris was, so Molly remained frustrated.


Certificates are still being bought by the team, and new information being collected and collated. Jeff has had some considerable success with his Palenbaum family in using Catholic civil registration records that date back before the introduction of compulsory registration in 1826. However, very few, if any, pre-1826 records are known to exist for Radzilow.



Saul Marks

Rev 20 Sep 2005

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