Melbourne: Meeting the family – at last!

Thirty years ago, Alexander Katsnelson, his wife Jenny and toddler Nelly arrived in Melbourne from Bobruisk, Belarus.

Later on, his father and brother Leon arrived from Bobruisk. Alex and Leon’s mother was a TALALAI whose family was from Mogilev.

In the photo below are (from left) Leon, Schelly and Alex.

About seven years ago, members of the Australian Jewish Genealogical Society – notably the late Les Oberman – located Alex and Jenny after information from new-found Moscow cousins indicated they might be in Melbourne.

We communicated for awhile until I experienced a major computer malfunction and lost much data (including emails). Yes, I know. Tracing the Tribe always advocates backing up, backing up, backing up. I goofed and thus our family lost years during which we could have been in contact.

However, as soon as I landed in Melbourne, I told my hostess, Ziva Fain, that we needed to find them. Fortunately, we found L. Katsnelson in the online phone book (cousin Leonid), who gave me Alex’s number.

Today was cousin day.

Alex and Jenny came to take me to their home – which is very close to Ziva’s – where Alex’s younger brother Leon, their older daughter Nelly and granddaughter Miliana, 2, were waiting. Later that day I also met Nelly’s son Jordan, 5, and Nelly’s sister Fleur.

Nelly has a degree in journalism – is it genetic? – while Fleur is an attorney. Our daughter is Liana, Nelly’s is Miliana.

We went over family charts and photographs. Leon told us many anecdotes from his childhood. As the younger brother, he was closer to his grandmother and he remembered a large photo on the wall of his mother’s family in Mogilev.

When Alex and Jenny left, they could not take any family photos with them. When Leon left, he took many small photos, but was not permitted to take other family memorabilia. His mother’s sister went to Brooklyn later on and took other items, including the photo. She has since died; no one knows where the large photo of the Mogilev family is now, but Alex and Leon said they will try to find who has it (and many other photos) and have them scanned.

After lunch, Jenny showed me a Russian-language site that translates as “classmates” – sort of a Russian Facebook. We checked for TALALAI and were amazed to find so many, although some I knew. This could be a very valuable resource for genealogists. Names can be typed in English, but everything else seems to be in Cyrillic.

I showed Jenny and Nelly how to use both Ancestry and JewishGen. Everyone was surprised to see how many FamilyFinder entries for KATSNELSON from Bobruisk were listed. A few years ago, Leon had been contacted by a US researcher who sent him information and charts but they couldn’t see how they were related; he did not hear from that researcher again.

Many of the KATSNELSON researchers in the Family Finder are either deceased or have not logged in since 2004.

Jenny is also looking for her HEIMAN (sometimes written KHAYMAN) family of Bobroisk. Her grandmother lived in Bobruisk, but her family had moved to Riga, Latvia, where she grew up and attended school. How and why they moved to Riga is a story in itself.

Jenny and I later went to dinner and we didn’t stop talking all evening. There was an instant connection, as if we had known each other for a lifetime.

There will be more to tell. And this time we won’t lose the connection!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: