Saturday, June 9, 2018

Finding the Strausbergs – confirming cousins through chance conversations

In Sept., 2011, I connected with Diane Davison through JewishGen. We were both searching our Binsztok from Bedzin, Polish roots.  According to the Bedzin census there were four Binsztok families living there in 1939. Diane shared with me that her Great Grandma was Marja Bienstock Konkowski.  Most of her family settled in Brussels. She also had cousins in  Paris and Canada. Whatever she knew was based on conversations she had with her mom’s two cousins, daughters of Marja and Josek Zelman Konkowski: Lilianne in Paris and Renee in Canada.

We did not know how we connected. When I connected with Marilyn, I was able to confirm we were cousins with the Y-DNA test, because we shared the Bienstock surname through our fathers. My brother Claude matched Marilyn’s father with a distance of 0. That meant that Marilyn and I were related within 4 generations. With Diane the connection was on her mother’s side.

Diane and I shared and compared  old family photos.  I had a photo from 1920 of my dad’s Aunt Sheindle with her family.  On the back my dad wrote “all killed in the Holocaust”.  Diane was convinced that this was a photo of her great grandparents,  Josek and Marja (Bienstock) Konkowski. The older boy was her grandfather Menachem (Maurice), the younger boy her great uncle Adolphe, and the girl was her great aunt Sonya. Sonya’s daughter, Lilianne, was living in France. The resemblance was undeniable.

Diane posted a photo of her ancestor Josek Konkowski.  Again, he looked like Sheindle’s husband.  All photo clues pointed to my Sheindl Bienstock as a match with Diane’s Marja Bienstock Konkowski . In my 2nd vinatge photo, my ggma Screnca (ggpa Alexander’s wife) appears as a match to Marja’s mother: Hana Malka Szajndel Kownkowski.

Images compared on website
My Screnca on left matches Diane's Malka on right

After more than a year of research, including Jewishgen,  Facebook and email discussions,  a chance conversation with my brother Claude in early January 2013 gave us the key to our connection.  Claude randomly mentioned that he visited cousin Adolf Konkowski in Montreal Canada in 1974.  Adolf had also visited us when we lived in Paterson.  As Diane relied on her older cousins for advice, I relied on my brother. Claude was 11 years older and had a good memory for details of family names and dates.

This solidified that we were related. Diane and I connected our family trees on MyHeritage. She had done extensive research on our tree, so connecting with her provided me with a goldmine of data.  By end of 2013 Diane was able to identify her connection with Marilyn, through CRARG, Czestochowa-Radomsko Area Research Group (, Szczekociny records.   We still could not figure out how my grandpa David matched on the tree, because for some unknown reason, according to his immigration records, he was born in Poltava Ukraine while all the other Binstoks were born in Bedzin area.

It was 2 years later, 2/26/2015, that I had a conversation with Diane about her mom’s first cousin, Lilianne. Diane told me that Liliane remembered my Aunt Clara, my dad Jacques, and their father David!  Lilianne had met my family in 1970.  Lilianne told her my gpa David was first cousins with her mother Sonia, Diane’s Gpa Maurice, & his brother Adolfe! 

I dug deeper into Diane’s tree, and discovered that Liliane was a Stzrausberg!    I knew that surname well. That was the cousin my dad often spoke about.  I shared two pictures of Jean Strausberg from my dad’s photo album.  Lilianne confirmed that she was the woman in that photo with her husband Jean. Jean was the 15-yr-old boy who hid in Ceyroux with his father Max, from 1942 until liberation.

In my dad’s memoire, he writes ….  

CEYROUX Chapter:  My father’s cousin Jeannette, originally from London, was married to Max Strausberg, my father’s business partner, in the early 1930's.  In August 1942 they left Paris for Ceyroux with their 15 year old son Jean.  Unfortunately as they were crossing the demarcation line into the free zone, the Germans spotted them.  They ran as fast as they could.  Jean and his father made it, but Jeanette did not.  They caught her and she was never seen again.  It was a terrible thing.  Mr. Strausberg and his son found a room to rent in Ceyroux.  Later they received some work from Paris and were able to survive the rest of the war.  Occasionally Marie worked for Max as a seamstress.

When my niece Danielle visited Ceyroux to meet the farmers who rescued our family, she spoke with someone who remembered Max and Jean having dinner at the restaurant in Ceyroux.   

I posted & tagged the Strauzberg photos with Lilianne, and her daughters Val & Catherine on FaceBook.  After many interactions in email, online and by phone, I finally met Diane and her mother Claudine in-person in April 2015.  This August, 2018, I will be traveling to France to finally meet Lilianne and her daughter Catherine. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Honoring My Family's Heroes of the Holocaust, Then and Now

Heroes who saved my family during Holocaust

  1. My dad, Jack Bienstock - It was his ego, so humiliated by having to wear the "Juif" star, he insisted on leaving Paris immediately, within days of the edict.   Timing was key, since the final solution -"la grande rafle - the big roundups", had begun June/ July 1942. My dad, left Paris just days before his 21st birthday on July 1, 1942. It was my dad who convinced the rest of the family to follow him to Ceyroux.  "Mon pere etait le hero de ma famille parce que c'etait lui qui dit les mots, l'address de Ceyroux."  Hear him tell his story on
  2. The cheminot from Vierzon - This hero lived and worked in Vierzon, one of the largest railroad stations, strategically located on the boundary between zones. He gave his life for the lives of desperate Jewish families. He smuggled my dad, my mom, my aunt, & countless others onto coal trains headed south to the Free zone, "la zone libre".  My dad did not know this hero's name & often referred to him as the "cheminot",  French for railroad worker. 
  3. French resistance fighter, Albert Mayne. He provided the house in Ceyroux Les Brisseau, where my parents and grandparents lived in hiding for two years. My dad did not know who owned the house he was renting. Mayne's daughter Bernadette, who I met at the Yad Vashem ceremony 12/4/2017, still lives there today.
  4. Parcelier and Simonnet families - farmers also members of the resistance.  Alice Meillassoux was a bicycle courier for the Maqui, the resistance of the woods. These families also provided an occupation on the farm and made Ceyroux-Les Brisseaux home for them for two years.
  5. Mayor Leon Daquet - provided my dad with a new Identity card to disguise his Jewish identity, changing his name from "Jacob Joseph" to Jacques and his occupation from printer to cultivateur, farmer.

Some heroes of today:

  • Nicki Haley - Ambassador to the UN - fights for Israel
  • Alan Dershowitz - speaks up against Anti-Israel hate groups
  • Ben Shapiro - outspoken journalist
  • Brigitte Gabriel - Lebanese author of "Because They Hate"
  • Ryan Bellerose- Native American who fights for the indigenous rights of the Jewish people to the land of Israel.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Reflecting on Finding Family, Retracing my Genealogy Journey on Social Media

I started exploring social media with bevmargo accounts on Facebook (FB), YouTube, Twitter,.... Now, I am reflecting back on my genealogy quest, trying to remember how it started, the twists and turns, surprises, discoveries, over the years. Here is my list broken down into 5 major areas to reconstruct my searches and successes.  I've come a long way.
Tracking my Genealogy Journey:
1.  JewishGen: Family Finder bulletin board - posted surnames & towns, since ~2000
  • 2011 triple success story published JewishGen testimonials page Jan. 2011
    • Marc Ast photo of Abramowitz family matches my Henry Abramowitz
    • Marc Gelkopf - found him by revisiting old JewishGen emails for missed clues.
    • Yael Michaeli  - finds me in her first week on JewishGen - She sends me a photo, which unbelievably was my brother's Bar Mitzvah picture.
  • 2015 - Mary Fay Emanuel contacted me - another Gelkopf in Australia 
  • 2017 - Recently: Stephane Gehlkopf  found me through JewishGen, his first week, like Yael, July 2017. He connected me to Sylvie who lives between NYC, Florida & Paris.&  I met her for lunch in NYC.
2.  Sharing & Gaining Followers on Social Media - since 2008
  • Facebook:  added photos, videos, documents to genealogy albums. (> dozen albums).
    My niece Danielle reconnected with Larry Bugaisky.
  •  added videos: ~20 videos, including a dozen digitized and extracted from the 4-hour Steven Spielberg Survivors of the Shoah VCR tapes for my mom, dad & uncle.
  • Followers on YouTube, Twitter, Blogspot - at IAJGS Tammy Hepps referred to this as cousin bait, posting content that attracts cousins.
    • Twitter - Remy Binsztok from Paris 9/17/2014 - random follower
    • Blog & YouTube - Erwan Grandais  - 3/30/2015 Erwan found my TonTon videos and subscribed to my Youtube channel & also commented on my Blog - DNA started with Y-test & Mt  11/2011 - added autosomal FF 2016.
I suspected Marilyn Binstock was a cousin.  We share personality traits and our dads look like brothers in photos!  Marilyn's dad & my brother Claude took the Y test to confirm our connection with a distance of 0, which means that our grandfathers or great grandfathers were brothers.
4. Family Tree Smart Matching - joining other family trees & networking with other genies who share common branches,  since 2011.  Be wary, any wrong info will get propagated to many other Trees.
5. Traditional Classic Research Methods
  • Conversations 
    • 1/2013 confirmed cousins with Diane - based on my brother Claude remembering visiting Konkowski from Canada.
    • discovered Liliane Stzrausberg based on conversations with Diane.  Diane kept talking about "asking her cousin Liliane". One day I asked who she was & discovered she was the Strausberg cousin I had been seeking, on Diane's tree....just waiting for me to pay attention.
  • Research & Records
    • BMD records - found on Jri-Poland & Jewishgen - ordered from PSA- 2008-09 Gielkop marriage, ggpa Kiva Dawidiowicz marriage, gpa Shmul Dawidowicz birth
    • USHMM onsite visit 8/2011 - searched ITS & DP archive records
      • discovered my dad's cousin Maurice as Mordka Binsztock -  I recognized the  Paris address as my dad's apartment! My dad documented dates, names, places. However, could not locate living kin.....
      • until REMY !!!!  a Binsztok from Paris follows me on Twitter 9/2014
      • Red Cross ITS Tracing - provided me with Robert Binsztock birth record, son of Mordka. He was deported and murdered at age 8.
      • Columbia U - onsite visit to view shoah videos in  usc archive   8/2011- discovered Israel Binsztok from Bedzin - with 3 sons in Florida
  •  Meetings in-person and Face-Time 
    • FB face-time / video-chats with Yael, Stephanne, Quentin Schneigeiger
    • my sister Simone & niece Danielle went to Israel to meet Gelkopf cousins, Rosalyn & MarcSimone also went to Australia to meet other Gelkopfs - Mary Emanuel
    • met Sylvie in NYC

Monday, October 2, 2017

"Boot-up....Now" has been accepted as a member of GeneaBloggersTRIBE

So excited to be featured as a new member of GeneaBloggersTRIBE 

I am now listed among the ~3,000  blogs on their members page:
To find me in the list just enter Shoah, Holocaust, or Facebook as search terms. Mine is the only Blog that is returned. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

My FACEBOOK Presentation at IAJGS 2017

I recently received the recording of my session from the June 2017 International Association of Jewish Genealogy (IAJGS) conference   In my Facebook for Collaborative Family History Research presentation I share the Facebook albums I created, the photos, documents, videos I posted and the discussions and discoveries they generated.

The recording is 55 minutes long, too big to upload to YouTube. I will be extracting and sharing 1-minute portions here.   So, please check back to this post.  I will post excerpts like I did with the 3 hour Steven Spielberg videos on my youtube/bevmargo channel.

1-Minute Video clips extracted from my Facebook presentation:

  1. This video clip describes connecting with my cousin Yael through  and a photo.

    2. In this next Facebook video clip, my mom describes seeing her little sister Henny for the first time after 7 years. She describes how confused my Tata Henny was, just learning that she was Jewish in 1945. She was 2 years old when she was sent to Switzerland. She grew up with the name Evi and parents who loved her.  She only discovered the truth of who she really was after liberation and a 1-year custody battle.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Kaplan's 105th Reunion in upstate NY

August 2017 was the 105th Kaplan's Farm cousins reunion in Fleischmans NY.    It's nice to have a central place in the country for the great-grandchildren of Israel Isaac and Leah Kaplan to gather on Little Red Kill Road, Fleischmanns, NY. My mother-in-law was Elaine Kaplan. Cousin Ellis Tobin wrote an article 5 years ago for the 100th anniversary reunion in

I wonder if I had a reunion to meet my cousins found in diaspora..... Australia, France, Israel, Belgium, London, US, Canada... where would we hold it, what would be an easily accessible central location?  Israel & France are central to US and Australia. Some day ...

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

IAJGS 2017 - International Assoc of Jewish Genealogy Annual Conference -

This was my 2nd time attending the IAJGS conference, my first time as a presenter. My Facebook for Collaborative Family History Research  was well attended. One attendee asked me why I did not use Facebook groups for storing my albums. I wish I knew about them when I started with Facebook back in 2008. 

Some highlights from IAJGS sessions I attended:

Tammy Hepp's session, Cousin Bait, described ways to lure & respond to family with social media. I have been successful with this, since this blog & my YouTube channel were both instrumental in allowing unknown cousins to find me: Erwan Grandais found my video of TonTon.  Tammy found photos of her family on Flicker, with Google. I googled "Bienstock family" and discovered  Another Google search format to try: " keyword ". 

Linda Levy presented on Jewish Joint Distribution Committee;  holds 80,000 index cards for 1945 Displaced Persons camps.  1914-74 is searchable online. I learned that the Dominican Republic accepted 700 Jewish refugees during the Shoah.  Alaska Airlines was responsible for airlifting of 50,000 Yemenite Jews to Israel, in Operation Magic Carpet. Operation Salomon, May 1991, rescued 14,500 Ethiopian Jews.

In How to Preserve your Research – Merle Kastner described how anecdotes and photos bring dry historical details to life. She creates spiral-bound family tree books, to give as gifts at family reunions, baby namings, unveilings.  I took  Emily Garber's advice from her talk on BLOGs & submitted my blog to her genealogy blog list on . Now my blog is listed on .

In Keys to Involving Students, Jeff Schrager discussed how he motivates teenagers in a 3-week Genealogy program. He uses storytelling to connect events & to tie genealogy to any subject – inherited disease, history, writing. Because genealogy has a start, but no end he teaches students context and focus. The earlier they start the more ancestors are alive to interview.   

Friday, July 7, 2017

Stephane: Another lost cousin finds me

Yesterday I got an unexpected email inquiry from Stephane of Paris.  He described his grandfather Wilhelm Gehlkopf from Elberfeld. His great grandfather Abel had a brother Schelemen and  a sister Maryjem.  Maryjem is my great grandmother: my mothers paternal grandfather Kiva was married to Maryjem Gielkop.  I knew immediately from what Stephane shared in his email that we were related. I confirmed the relationship. It was Stephan's 2nd week researching his tree.  I 've been searching for decades!  He found me through an email I sent his grandfather more than a year ago, 2/2016.

I made the first connection to my mom's Gehlkopf cousins in 2011. Thankfully my mom was still alive to discover I found the Gelkop cousin she was searching for since she left France in 1950's.

Today I met Stephane and his wife Valerie via Video chat through Facebook.  I am hoping to add him as a Facebook friend so I can introduce him to the other Gehlkopf family and share photos