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Bring It Home

Today was Yom HaShoa (Holocaust Remembrance Day) in Israel. While there are many ways to commemorate the Holocaust, and those family members we lost, I wanted to bring to people’s attention a very interesting attempt at remembering those who were lost.


Menorah rescued from Budapest flea market, now being used in Israel.

We know the Nazis stole an incredible amount of artwork from Jewish families during the Holocaust, from valuable paintings, to even Judaica. While the Nazis were known to steal expensive Judaica such as gold menorahs or silver candlesticks, what happened to the everyday ritual items that most Jewish families used? Certainly the Nazis didn’t bother to collect cheap Judaica and send it by train somewhere – so where did it go?


Kiddush cup rescued from flea market.

Some of the Judaica might have been taken with Jews when being sent by trains to death camps, some may have been sold cheaply in an attempt to raise some money before fleeing, but most of it was likely left behind in their homes. What happened to the Judaica left behind? Either it was looted following the mass deportations, or the people who moved into the homes left behind by the Jews just took it when they moved in. Maybe they sold it, maybe they stuck it in a box and stuck it in the attic, maybe they just threw it in the garbage. No one knows exactly what happened to all of that Judaica, but we do know that there are likely millions of such ritual objects from candlesticks to menorahs to spice boxes to seder plates that once existed and many of them may still exist.

Which brings me to Bill Frankel. On a trip to to Budapest, he stopped by the very large Esceri flea market in that city. While wandering around looking at the various wares for sale, he started noticing things like kiddush cups, menorahs, Torah yads, spice boxes, etc. Hundreds of them. When he would show interest in a Jewish piece, the dealers would inevitably pull ut a box from under their table with more Jewish objects. The supply was endless.


A strange mixture of items for sale in the Esceri flea market.

On the trip Bill Frankel bought several objects, but determined that more of these Jewish ritual objects needed to ‘come home’. Moreover, he didn’t want these objects to end up in museums or on display somewhere in some exhibit – he wanted them to be used again by Jewish families. With this idea he founded Bring It Home, a charity with exactly that goal.

Bring It Home was founded to facilitate finding these items, purchasing or otherwise acquiring Jewish ritual objects in Europe, distributing them to new Jewish homes, and creating an educational experience for those who get involved in the process.

Bring It Home is brand new, and are still putting together their marketing materials, organizing their first buying trip, etc., and need funds to get off the ground. To that end, the charity has started a fundraising campaign through crowdfunding site indiegogo. They’re looking to raise $10,000, and they have two weeks left in the campaign. To see the current status, go to the campaign website, or check the widget below (and then go to the web site).

There are many ways to memorialize those killed in the Holocaust, but I think this is one of the more interesting and personal ways that one can commemorate those killed – by facilitating the return of these lost ritual objects, and putting them back into use by Jewish families worldwide.


Wacky Wednesday: Fire Extinguisher Hand Grenades

Many bloggers use the Geneabloggers Daily Blogging Prompts to help them with ideas for what to post on a given day. There’s Black Sheep Sunday, Maritime Monday, Tombstone Tuesday, etc.

This, however, isn’t an official blogging prompt – I’m making it up right now. I’m calling this Wacky Wednesday because I’m posting something that is wacky, and not actually genealogy related, but something I discovered while researching in the NY City Archives last year. If you find something wacky while researching your family, feel free to post it as Wacky Wednesday as well.


I was researching my gg-grandfather who lived in New York City at the turn of the last century. In the city archives they have city directories which are unfortunately falling apart. I hope other copies of these directories exist somewhere, because the copies in the NY City Archives are not particularly good copies. In any case, while looking up my gg-grandfather, I came across the following advertisement in the 1890 NY City Directory for The Hayward Hand Grenade Fire Extinguisher:



In case you think this was some kind of random ad, apparently fire extinguisher hand grenades were fairly common back then and many companies manufactured them. The grenades were actually glass bottles filled with salt water (and later toxic chemicals) that you would throw towards the base of a fire, breaking the glass, and allowing the liquid to hopefully put out the fire. 

A quick look on eBay shows several vintage glass fire extinguisher grenades for sale, for a few hundred dollars each. One collector is selling a Hayward Hand Grenade made from cobalt blue glass:

Cobalt Blue Hayward Hand Grenade Fire Extinguisher  (eBay)
The same collector has many other glass grenades in his collection:

More glass fire extinguisher hand grenades (eBay)
A glass collector named Ferdinand Meyer has written up a good summary of the background of these interesting artifacts from a glass collector’s point of view – with a collection of photos of many of the grenades from different companies (including Hayward). One photo he displays is from another site that sells antique bottles, and shows a yellow glass bottle that largely matches the image in the advertisement:

Yellow Hayward Hand Grenade Fire Extinguisher (GreatAntiqueBottles.com)
That particular bottle is for sale for $390.

So that’s the wacky thing I found while researching my family in the NY City Archives. What wacky things have you found when you were looking for information on your family?

Who’s in that photo?

It’s a common problem for those researching their family history. You find an album or a box of photos, and you have no idea who the people in the photos are, or even how to go about finding out. In many cases, you may not even know if the people in the photos are related to you at all.

In my own family research, where I’ve spent considerable time reaching out to relatives to try to collect family photos, it’s not uncommon to find a cousin with photos of people they don’t know anything about. Sometimes I’ve only figured out who people are by finding the same photo, or a photo of the same person, in the possession of other distant cousins who might have a labeled photo. Sometimes you need to do a bit of detective work, such as if the photo has a studio stamp on the back showing where it was taken, which can help you figure out which cousins to ask about them (i.e. if the studio was in Rzeszow, Poland and you have only one branch of your family you know lived there, then start by sending the photo to other descendants of that branch and asking if they’ve seen the photo or otherwise know who the people are).

I’ve had some luck in researching photos in that I have a few 90+ year old relatives who remember who many of the people are, but sometimes you run into a picture that nobody knows about. My guess in many of these cases the photos are of people related to the person who saved the photo, but not to you. In other words, from the other side of the preserver’s family.

Imagine finding a group of family photos preserved by your third cousin’s grandfather, whom you are related to, and one photo out of the group ends up being his wife’s family’s photo. You could contact a hundred of your distant cousins and never find a match for the photo because simply, the photo is of people not related to you.

One that I think falls into this category is the following photo, which I found among my first cousin twice-removed (i.e. my grandfather’s first cousin)’s photos:


Family Photo – 19th century? Poland, probably. Click to enlarge.

Now it’s a great photo, right? Probably 19th century. Most likely taken in Poland. I have no idea who any of the people are. The relative who shared this photo with me, now deceased, had no idea who was in the photo. I’m related to his father, and have a lot of other photos of our mutual family, but not these people. So perhaps they’re connected to his mother’s family? Could be, but I’m not in touch with any of them, so I don’t know. That family’s name is Augenblick, in case you might be related. Then again, they could be from another branch entirely. It could be his mother’s mother’s family, whose name I don’t know, or could be people not related at all.

If you’ve seen this photo, or any of the people in it, certainly be in touch. Also, if you’ve seen the prop the man on the left is leaning on in any of your family photos, let me know. If you know what town it was taken in by identifying the prop or the background, then that can help figure out what family this might be. I actually have two other photos taken in the same studio with the same prop, both around WWI, and while I knew who the people were, I only knew the location of one of the photos. By noticing the same prop and background in both photos, it let me figure out the location of the photo. Interestingly enough the photos each showed by great-grandfathers, but before their children married each other some 30 years after the photos were taken.

One interesting thing about the photo is that the man on the left, presumably the father, is not in the same photo as the other people. If you’re confused, take a closer look and you’ll notice that he’s a cut-out from a different photo. The easiest place to see it is on the bottom left where the table leg is partly colored in to match, and the floor under the table changes color. Also, his left foot (right side in the photo) has a clear white line that comes to a point, showing where the negative was presumably spliced.

Are the other four people his children? Is one of them a spouse? Was this put together after the father died? Where is the mother? I don’t know the answers to these questions.

I have a lot of family photos which I’ve collected over many years from many relatives, but I don’t have too many photos from the 19th century. True, this could be early 20th century, but in any case I think I can say with certainty that it’s over a hundred years old. After years of trying to figure out who is in the photo, I’m fairly convinced that this is not my family. The question then remains as to how much energy I should put into figuring out who is in it, when I don’t think they’re related to me. I’d love to be able to share the photo with whomever’s family this is, but at the end of the day there are only so many hours one can put into research, and this kind of research take a lot of time and effort that I’d rather put into the many other mysteries in my tree. In the end, this post has led me to reach out to a few possible relatives of the family this photo MIGHT be from, and if I get any positive responses, perhaps I can find a match, and if not it will likely sit on this web page until someone else recognizes someone in the photo and contacts me.

When I started this post I actually intended on taking a look at a few other photos I recently discovered, but those will have to wait for another post, as this one seemed too interesting to combine with others.