Wednesday, November 26, 2014

52 Ancestors #49: Smashing the Brick Wall of Hinda Chazan's Maiden Name

Isaac Chazan and Hinda Chazan, before 1921
This post has been months in the works as I tried to learn more about Hinda Chazan (1865-1940), the aunt who hosted my paternal grandpa Isaac Birk in Manchester, England in 1901. Isaac Birk had left his native Lithuania with his brother, Abraham, and lived with the Chazan family in Manchester for a year or two before continuing on to North America. According to the 1901 UK Census, Isaac and Abraham were living with their "uncle" and "aunt."

My UK Chazan cousins were quite sure that Isaac Chazan wasn't a blood relative of Isaac Birk. That meant Hinda had to be the actual relative, and our link to the Birk family. But we didn't know Hinda's maiden name--it wasn't on her death cert, unfortunately. We only knew Hinda was from Telsiai, the same area where my grandpa was from, and she was married and had her first child there before arriving in Manchester around 1888.
Luckily, there were a few more documents we could consult. One cousin had a UK birth cert from Hinda's second child, showing the parents as Isaac Chazan and Hindy Chazan, "formerly Metow" (see excerpt above). Next, we sent for the UK birth cert of the youngest daughter, and it showed the parents as Isaac Chazan and Hinda Chazan, "formerly Mittaw."
This morning, I posted these two excerpts on Tracing the Tribe's Facebook page and asked for ideas about what the real maiden name might be back in Hinda's native Telsiai. Tracing the Tribe has many smart and helpful Jewish genealogy mavens, and they broke through my brick wall in less than an hour.

The key was knowing that "Metow" and "Mittaw" might be pronounced "Mitav" instead. One of the mavens had noticed "Mitav" in the Lithuanian database listings of JewishGen.org. In fact, once the mavens saw Hinda's headstone (above) and translated her father's name as "Tzvi Hirsh," they suggested I look for the equivalent "Girsh Mitav" in Telsiai.
Amazingly, this search turned up an entire family unit featuring Girsh and siblings in the 1834 Census (living with Girsh's uncle Shpits and his family, by the way). Girsh's Telsiai death record even showed up: He died at 85, on September 10, 1904, and was the son of Shimel Mitav. The dates don't match exactly, but this still sounds quite promising!

Learning about Girsh was a wonderful clue for another reason: My father's Hebrew name was "Tzvi" also, sometimes called "Hirsh" as well. He was born in September, 1909, and it seems not too much of a leap to assume that Isaac Birk--nephew of Hinda Mitav Chazan--named his first son after Girsh (Tzvi Hirsh) Mitav.

This amazing breakthrough has enabled me to leap back two generations from Hinda, to her father Girsh and her probable grandfather Shimel in Telsiai, for which I'm thankful on Thanksgiving week.

2 comments:

Elizabeth Handler said...

I am excited for your breakthrough - sounds like the kind help I got when I finally found the origins of the Levitt/Levitas great-grandfather of my husband's. JewishGen and JRI-Poland are tremendous resources!

Marian Burk Wood said...

Elizabeth, I agree 100% with you! I am really thankful for these kind and smart mavens ... and I give back by photographing hundreds of graves each time I visit a cemetery so I can post on F-A-G and help others!