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Help with understanding my jewish ancestors from Europe

Help with understanding my jewish ancestors from Europe

Posted: 3 Dec 2012 9:53PM GMT
Classification: Query
I am new to studying ancestry and I am dealing with some confusion. My jewish ancestors arrived in America in the mid 19th century. I have found them on the 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1900 census. On one census, it will say that an ancestor was born in Prussia. Then on another census the same person was born in Poland, and on another, Germany. I've even seen an early 20th century census of a great aunt that says her mother (my great grandmother) was born in Russia, but every census in the 19th century says she was born in Germany. Has anyone else had this issue? If anyone has any advice I would appreciate it.

Thank you,
Eric

Re: Help with understanding my jewish ancestors from Europe

Posted: 3 Dec 2012 11:49PM GMT
Classification: Query
Here are some possible explanations:

- In census records, the information is only as good as the knowledge of the respondent (the person who spoke to the census taker may have been guessing).
- Borders and/or sovereignty changed over the years, and the person may have answered in terms of the then-current location of the birthplace.

Good luck in your research!

Re: Help with understanding my jewish ancestors from Europe

Posted: 4 Dec 2012 5:54AM GMT
Classification: Query
Welcome to the wonderful world of Central and Eastern European national boundaries. Every one of those nationalities you mention is probably the truth, for the year in which it was stated. Those of us with family from those regions will see it over and over again.

My grandfather was born in Warsaw, which you and I might unambiguously say is in Poland, right? He was born around the turn of the century and came to the US as a teen. He grew up speaking both Polish and Russian. One day I referred to him as being Polish. He said "Polish, Russian...depends on the year." In other words, even people living in those places during those times were quite aware of the changes.

Another example? My mom's family is 100% Hungarian. Except that both her parents are actually Slovakian. When they weren't Austrian or Austro-Hungarian or Czechoslovakian. They mostly spoke German. One of my Hungarian great uncles was born in what is now Romania. Other Hungarians were born in what is now the Ukraine.

Cyndi
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