Climbing the tree one branch at a time
Family Tree Research
My interest in family history began when I was 13 and with my first trip to Israel. It was a special trip for a number of reasons. I met my grandmother’s first cousins Tini, Hanna, and Dora for the first time; I met some of my second cousins for the first time; and it’s when I heard a very interesting, and what proved to be a farce, story from my great uncle Alfred. At one point during our trip we went to visit my grandmother’s sister Adah and her husband Alfred. I do not remember meeting them when I was younger when they came to visit in Pittsburgh and up til then I was unaware of certain things. Anyway while at their house in Tel-Aviv he showed me a picture of his great grandparents and began to tell me a story. When he and Adah first got married and he brought picture into the family Adah saw the picture and said something along the lines of how those were her great grandparents. And that was how they discovered they were second cousins. Years later I learned that they always knew.
My father began researching his family tree in the mid-80’s and in the 90’s began inputting not just his branch but my mother’s branch into a family tree database. Every once in a while I would look over his shoulder and look at the database.
While at Point Park University I took a Spanish class one summer to fulfill a language requirement. In that class I had to make a family tree to learn how to say various family relationships. After that class I decided to do a Google search for my 3rd great grandmother Seraphina de Jongh. I had chosen her because at the time I thought de Jongh was an uncommon Dutch surname. However I found that it is a very common surname because during Napoleon’s time he decreed that everyone must have surnames. Well some didn’t take this seriously which is why you have such names as Naaktgeboren (born naked) or when asked how they were called people would say they were Jacob de Jongh or de Oude. Anyway my search resulting in me finding the site Akevoth which is one of the primary sites for Dutch Jewish genealogical research. Included in this site is various family trees, including a tree about my great grandmother Seraphina van Cleeff’s ancestors. This tree was based off of a book written about the van Cleeff family in the 1960’s. I was hooked! From here I expanded what I already had from what my dad had entered in the database and began doing my research.
Over the years I would also research my ancestry in Germany and Galicia, I would find roughly 200 cousins of varying degrees on Facebook, and was instrumental in getting Stolperstein placed for my grandmother’s first cousin Bertram Polak; among other things.