DNA-The Next Big Gold Rush?

By |2017-05-29T18:05:24-07:00May 29th, 2017|

The discovery of gold at Sutters Mill, CA in 1848 promised untold wealth for those who had the resources and stamina to outlast the competition.  At the dawn of the California Gold Rush, there were no laws governing property rights; prospectors depended on a system of staking claims to protect their discoveries. Early prospectors did well, earning many times what they would have taken in as common laborers. But within a short time, the techniques of extracting gold became more efficient and sophisticated - far beyond the financial resources of the individual 49er. The tens of billions of dollars of gold recovered from the hills of California were ultimately controlled by only a few.  Many later prospectors returned home empty-handed. We are now experiencing a [...]

Extreme Genealogy – Arrival in Berlin and First Visit to the Berlin Bundesarchiv

By |2016-08-24T08:31:54-07:00August 24th, 2016|

Flight to Berlin and Arrival Thursday, August 11, 2016 Keflavik International Airport My trip from Los Angeles to Berlin went smoothly with a layover in Keflavik Interntional Airport.  It is the cleanest airport in the world. It felt more like an igloo than an airport – snug from the elements.  Yet it was a beehive of activity – with people snacking in one of several cozy cafes, or browsing the stores which naturally offer beautiful Icelandic sweaters and other products. The sandwiches are the most beautiful sandwiches I have ever seen. I was tempted to exchange $10 for Icelandic krona at the money exchange, but thriftiness got the better of me. The [...]

Who Was Joseph Smith?

By |2016-01-14T16:23:54-08:00January 14th, 2016|

The early life of Joseph Eugene Smith is a complete mystery.  Joseph's son Morton and Morton's daughter Karen have researched Joseph for over 20 years, yet they still don't know who he was.  Hopefully by reading his story, someone may come forward with new insight into Joseph's so far impenetrable history. Joseph Smith's Death Certificate, 25 December 1973 Over the years, Karen has gathered an impressive collection of information about Joseph starting with his enlistment in the US Army in November 1913,  yet she has not been able to discover anything about him before that. Although Joseph Smith claimed he was born on 15 July 1896 in Philadelphia, his birth certificate has never been located.  His life prior to WWI is unknown; nothing [...]

DNA Pilot Study on Missing Identity Holocaust Children – 2013 IAJGS Conference

By |2014-05-09T20:13:58-07:00May 9th, 2014|

In August 2012, I was invited to give a lecture at the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies in Boston, MA, on our pilot project to identify two missing-identity child survivors of the Holocaust.  Please enjoy the video of my talk that describes our progress as of late 2013.   We have come some ways since and continue to work towards solving the mystery of their identities. http://youtu.be/Tm9RMfsi864

Who Am I? What is My Name? Part V – Gertrude and Sonia’s Escape

By |2022-07-06T01:27:48-07:00March 7th, 2014|

Pawiak Prison Gertrude and Sonia Preiss-Spiro's names are listed on the transport to Auschwitz of 141 women from Pawiak prison in Warsaw on 24 August 1943.  Pawiak prison was originally used by the Polish judicial to incarcerate criminals, but after the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, it was converted into a Berman Gestapo prison.  Approximately 100,000 men and 200,000 women passed through the prison, mostly members of the Armia Krajowa, political prisoners and civilians taken as hostages in street round-ups.  An estimate 37, 000 were executed and 60,000 sent to German death and concentration camps.  There were few known escape attempts. Even if Gertrude survived Auschwitz, she would [...]

Who Am I? What is My Name? Part IV – Wolfgang and Adele’s Eyewitness Account

By |2022-07-06T01:24:59-07:00October 26th, 2013|

Margarete & Emil Schoessow Family (c 1922). Left to right: Erna, Herbert, Margarete (mother), Margarete (daughter), Charlotte. Emil was killed in 1917 during World War I. Charlotte Schössow Rebhun was the oldest of four children of Emil and Margarete Schössow from Berlin.  Charlotte, like her friend Gertrude Spiro, was a Christian woman who had married a Jew.  Charlotte's husband Max Rebhun had moved from Poland to Germany and settled in Berlin, probably right after WWI.  Max was arrested on Kristalnacht in 1938, and sent to Poland. His wife Charlotte followed him in 1939 with their two children Wolfgang and Adele, where, after the outbreak of the War, the family lived in the Warsaw Ghetto. On August 20, 1942, [...]

Who Am I, What is My Name? Part III – Gertrude and Sonia Spyra

By |2022-07-06T09:23:41-07:00October 17th, 2013|

Gertrude Spiro and Charlotte Rebhun, Warsaw, c 1942 A mystery within the mystery of Pnina's identity is the fate of Gertrude Spyra and her daughter Sonia. As the parties responsible for smuggling Pnina from the Warsaw Ghetto, Gertrude and Sonia may have left behind clues about Pnina's parents. Perhaps the Spyras wrote letters to their family members, as did their friend Charlotte Rebhun. Perhaps a co-worker overheard something they said about how they saved a baby during the last days before the Ghetto Uprising. According to "the story", Pnina's parents approached a German soldier about smuggling their daughter out of the Warsaw Ghetto in late 1942-early 1943.  The soldier [...]

Who Am I? What is My Name? Part II – Pnina, Wolfgang, and the Warsaw Ghetto

By |2022-07-06T01:47:43-07:00December 12th, 2012|

Barbara Rebhun? Convinced that my surname was Rebhun, I contacted Rebhuns around the world. Though the BBC, CNN, and the international press featured my quest, I initially received no responses. Finally in March 1997, the Munich Red Cross relayed a reply from a German named Wolfgang Rebhun, who was searching for his little sister, Baschka (Barbara in German). After receiving the Red Cross letter I began a correspondence with Wolfgang Rebhun. Then after a very short time we went to Germany, to meet Wolfgang and his (and my) sister Adela and some other members of the family.  The meeting was very warm and exciting. To them it was a [...]

Who Am I, What Is My Name? Part I – Pnina, Otwoc, and the Kazcmareks

By |2022-07-06T01:04:27-07:00December 10th, 2012|

My name is Pnina Gutman. I am 70 years old. I began the search for my biological identity in April 1996. I called this project "Who am I what's my name?" I came to Israel from Poland at the age of eight with a couple whom I thought to be my parents, Mania and Mendel Himel. As a child, I remembered living with the Himels in the town of Lodz, but it was a short time, about two years that I recall as a year in the kindergarten and a year in school. What I remembered before was an orphanage and the day the Himels were introduced to me as my [...]

Benjaman's 23 and Me Matches

By |2010-12-09T22:36:13-08:00December 9th, 2010|

Benjaman Kyle is the adopted name of an amnesiac who was found near Savannah, GA in August 2004.  (See his Wikipedia page for more details.)  Since recovering from a severe beating that left him unconscious, he cannot remember who he is.  Benjaman took a 23andMe autosomal DNA test earlier this year, hoping to discover close relatives, or at least possible names in his family and the geographical locations where they could be found. As of December 9, 2010, Benjaman's list of 23andMe matches includes a total of 411 matches ranging from 3rd to 10th cousins.  Benjaman's top 23andMe match is a third cousin named Thomas Perry whose family has lived in the area around Saluda, [...]

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