It’s Thursday, February 25, 2021 in Austin, Texas
Moskowitz or Frank? Researching Jewish Roots
Discovering more about my Moshein Moskowitz ancestry
I grew up hearing about my Grandmother's Mother, "Granny Lena". Mom was practically raised by her, as my Grandmother had a full time job to support the family. My older sister remembers Granny Lena very well also. Everyone in the family "knew" before she married Grandpa Jacob Ellis, she was "Lena Ruth Moskowitz".
We "knew" that until I started doing my family genealogy. I quickly found Jacob and Lena's marriage record from Cook County Illinois, but it said her maiden name was "Lena Frank". My Grandmother's birth certificate said "Lena Frankel". Grandmother Charlotte's brother Charles' birth certificate said "Lena Ruth Frank".
I kept thinking something was wrong. I remember Mom and my Grandmother always talking about Granny Lena being "Moskowitz."
I asked my sister, who was emphatic. "Granny Lena was a Moskowitz. She always said so." A first cousin had notes she made when our common grandmother was alive. She too was emphatic. "Nanny always said she was Lena Ruth Mokowitz. Nanny made notes. Lena's parents' names were Charles and Zlotte Moskowitz."
I was stumped. Everything on one side said "Lena Moskowitz" and everything on the other said "Frank/Frankel". How could great grandma Lena have two different names? Nothing made sense.
Another note surfaced, our Grandfather loved making these notes about family things. This one mentioned that "Charles'" parents were "Moivshe and Gitla". I duly noted this in the family tree and went on trying to track this conundrum down.
I joined a social media group devoted to Jewish genealogy. I posed my question there. One answer came quickly. The fact that Chicago official records said "Frank/Frankel" meant one thing only. Lena had papers giving her name as Frank/Frankel. That was clear.
Then a light bulb went on in my head. A story I heard from my Grandmother many times flashed. "My parents had a butcher shop. Neither of them could read, but Mama could do arithmetic very well. She knew which page was for Mrs. Mandel and which for Mrs. Katz and kept the books that way."
The final clue came when one of the Social Media group people asked what "Charles" or actually Chaim's, parents names were. I replied Moivshe and Gitle. Her answer was immediately a smiley face followed by "The patronymic for Moishe is "Moskovitz" meaning "son of Moishe".
It became instantly clear. Granny Lena's family was Frank. Her papers issued by the Imperial Russian government in the 1890s said "Frank". Lena couldn't read her papers however. For her entire life, she always heard her father's name spoken as "Chaim Moskovitz". What Granny never really understood or knew was that her father's name was actually "Chaim Moskovitz FRANK".
Within an hour, I had confirmation. A birth record for "Chaim Frank, son of Moivshe" appeared for almost the exact right year he would have been born. A marriage record popped up for Chaim Frank, son of Moivshe to "Zlata Bos." less than two years before Granny Lena was born. "Leia Ruchla Frank" or Lena Ruth in English, the exact age as Granny Lena, with a hometown listed which was less than five miles from where she was born, boarded the Hamburg-Amerika Line ship "Patria" and landed at Ellis Island in July 1895, less than six months before she married Jacob Ellis in Chicago. Exactly as Grandma had always said.
So in the end, both names were right. Lena Frank was the daughter of Chaim Moskowitz.
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