When I was a kid, we’d go visit my father’s mother. I don’t remember a lot of these visits—flashes stick out at me. My Great Aunt Molly made me matzo ball soup once and I seem to recall her breakfront vividly (yeah, I have no idea why that would strike a 3 or 4-year-old as noteworthy either).
Later when my Grandma Jennie and her sister, my Great Aunt Kate, had moved into the same city where we were, I remember going to visit them regularly. They also made matzo ball soup, which tasted radically different from Mom’s. My mom’s matzo balls were lighter than feathers. Grandma’s were what Dad called “sinkers,” but I loved it just the same. Sometimes they gave me things. I still have these tiny little Japanese figurines they presented me with. The Wilardy purse they gifted me with melted in the attic—now that I know they once had a hat shop, I wonder if this was leftover stock.
Mostly, though, I remember the time after Great Aunt Katie had died and Grandma Jennie was in the nursing home. Pretty much every Sunday we would go to visit. At some point prior, my mother had become casually interested in genealogy and would ask them things. She made mistakes and my grandmother’s memory was fading, but this is how I got interested in my family history. The names swam together at the time: Lewis, not to be confused with my cousin Louis, both long dead. Someone named Ruben. Another cousin named Goldie. My grandmother had six siblings, and most of them had married and produced quite a few children—she had eleven nieces and nephews through one now dead sister alone. And once in a while they talked about “Uncle Bonnet.”
I made a lot of mistakes, many in fact, and other than trying to organize things a bit better, I was largely stumped. I connected at some point with one of my dad’s cousins through his father, who could answer a few questions, but there were big mysteries.
A major one being Uncle Bonnet, who was my great grandmother Ida’s brother. Her maiden name was Schwartz (although Mom had it down with multiple variants), which was the same as her husband’s.
We knew these things: Bonnet Schwartz had lived in Black Rock at one point. His name may or may not have been called Barney. He had married a woman named Rose Feldman and he had at least four kids: an unnamed son and three daughters named: Ethel, Dora, who may have been a nurse, and Goldie. Later they all moved to North Tonawanda.
This is Ethel.
That’s all I had.
And for years, I looked and looked to no avail. Even when I started to know what I was doing, I had never had any luck.
Until a month or so ago.
To be continued . . .