Sunday, October 28, 2007


Last year, a cousin provided me with a handwritten family tree of my father's side of the family, and recently another cousin sent me a history of the family. I've been compiling the latter into the former and attempting to update and reconcile some differences.

Because the family name is Zinshtein (also spelled Zinshteyn and Zinstein), a rather unusual name meaning in Yiddish "sun-stone," it's been easy to Google-up references, and I've discovered several who must somehow be related but I don't yet know how. One, in fact, is a somewhat famous artist in Russia today.

Here are a few tidbits about my family:

The Ur-Zinshtein, our earliest-known relative, our "primogenitor," so to speak, was born in Felshtin in a Tsarist-controlled province called Podolsk (aka Podolia) which is now Gvardeyskoye in present-day Ukraine. His name was Ber and he is believed to have been born in 1770, and died in 1844. Like most Jews there at that time, he did not have a surname, but was probably known as Ber ben ??, or Ber, the son of ??.

His son Mordechai, born in 1787, was the first to carry the name Zinshtein. He and his wife Blima (born in 1788) had three sons, Aaron, Moshe and Srul (probably short for Israel). In 1846, the three men moved about 75 miles away to Staro Zakrevsky Meidan, a Jewish agricultural colony on land that was purchased from local owners/authorities with the approval of the Tsar, and had been established two years earlier. It was the first, largest and, reputedly, most prosperous of such colonies.

Aaron's youngest son, Abraham, was my grandfather Joseph's father. Joseph came to the U.S. in 1918 after his older brother Charles had come here. And grandpa returned in 1920 to Staro Zakrevsky Meidan (literally "Old Zakrevsky's Farm") where he married my grandmother. By the time of their voyage to America in 1921, she was pregnant with my father, Bernie, who was born in New York that year.

Those Zinshteins who emigrated to the U.S. (and there were several) or to Palestine (primarily one branch) were lucky--most of the remaining family and other Jews in that community were rounded up by the Nazis and Ukrainians and shot to death in 1942.

More details on my discoveries in a future post--some juicy stories to come.

Until next time...


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