In January of 2017, I was sitting at the computer on a cold, wintry, Saturday night. All of a sudden, a thought occurred to me. I knew nothing about my grandfather, Irving Wosnitzer. Maybe there is something on the Internet I could discover, I said to myself. It had been years since I had done any searching on him. He and my grandmother had been divorced and no one ever mentioned him. However, I knew that my mother had reconnected with him before I was born, and was very upset when he passed away when I was a baby. After all, he was our grandfather so it would be nice, after all of these years, to learn something about him.
I googled his name and up popped a death record. That was new! I clicked on it for the details and it confused me. It had Irving married to Minnie Leber (that was correct), but it also said he had a daughter named Elsie. My mother’s name was May, so where did Elsie come from? It also mentioned that he died in 1939. I knew for a fact that he died in 1949, since my mother had always told me he gave me a toy telephone for my 1st
birthday. I decided to email the person who posted the record to see what primary sources they had. Was I confused, or were they mistaken?
The next morning I was greeted with a wonderful surprise in my email. A response from a Michel Esterson in Israel. She had posted the record. Thus began an almost daily email correspondence.
It turns out that Michel’s great-grandmother, Ida Leber, and my grandmother, Minnie Leber, were both the children of Max Leber, so Michel and I were half-cousins! Max had 2 families. He had 6 children with his first wife in Tarnow, Galicia. After she died, he remarried and had 6 more children. He brought his second wife and all 12 of the children to America. Michal’s family descended from the first 6 children, while my family were from the second 6.
We shared and identified photos for each other and learned a lot about our 2 halves of the same family. We even SKYPED. I have to say that Michel is definitely part Leber. When I first saw her online, I was startled. I thought I was talking to my Grandma Minnie. The resemblance was uncanny.
At first, Michel did not want to believe that my grandfather died in 1949, because she had documentation showing that Irving Wosnitzer died in 1939. This started my quest to prove that there must have been more than one Irving Wosnitzer. I was correct, but were they related? Finally, in March, 2018, over a year after I googled Irving’s name, I put all of the pieces together and learned that the 2 Irvings were first cousins. It took many hours of research, and also help from Michal and other Wosnitzers whom I found online on genealogy sites who were also researching the family.
Back to 2017: After I found Michel, and after we exhausted identifying photos, some still remained nameless. I then emailed my Cousin Steve (on the Leber side of the family) to help me identify some old photos. He misunderstood the purpose of my email and thought I was on to something that he knew about, but had never shared. He wanted to meet with me. We met for lunch at Rein’s Deli in Manchester, CT, at the end of February, 2017. This was about half-way for both of us since he was from MA. (Coincidentally, the hostess sat us in the Brooklyn section of the restaurant, which is where both Steve and I were born.)
Tara and Cousin Steve Winnick looking through old photo albums that Steve brought with him
By the end of lunch, my life had taken a strange turn. Steven told me about a family rumor that he knew about for over 40 years which effected my ancestry . . . I will save the details for another blog! However, if it were not for Irving and wanting to know more about him, I never would have learned about the rumor. Irving tore his family apart when he divorced my grandmother, but now, because of him, people are reuniting.