May 23, 2024
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May 23, 2024
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Seek and Ye Shall Find: Uncovering Jewish Marriage Records From the Old Country

After decades of research, there’s still news to report. Soon after giving birth to our first child in 1988, I began recording his family history. That was with paper and pen. For years, I collected information by word of mouth, interviewing and recording relatives on videotape, corresponding by mail or speaking on the telephone. The research included all sides of our ancestry.

Never in my wildest dreams did I expect 34 years later to find Jewish marriage records of my great-grandparents in the old country. That’s the beauty of the internet.

Angels do exist. Early one recent morning, Igor Lekhtman, who I “met” on a Facebook group, sent me a private message via Messenger. I woke up to the unexpected and welcoming news, “…going through Chudnov indexes and came across a marriage record for your ancestors, Moshe Muravin and Rukhlya Temnogorod in 1863.”

Shockingly, the archives of my ancestral Chudnov, Ukraine, held the 1863 marriage records of my paternal great-grandparents. Earlier this year, the birth years of my great-grandmother and her siblings were discovered on revision lists (Russian census records) and added to my files. The documents include the names of ancestors on that side of my family back to about 1765.

I am very lucky. The current political climate has led to the archives from Zhitomir suspending all scanning requests. “Luckily, we already have almost all surviving Chudnov books published…other than a few books on deaths,” according to Lekhtman, a diligent volunteer continuing the arduous process of indexing the records.

These newly released marriage records reveal the name of my great-great-grandfather, Gets Morovin. According to those documents, it is safe to say that he was probably born about 1820. These coveted archival records further show that my great-grandparents married on Oct. 30, 1863. The bride was 19, which coincides with the earlier records from Chudnov, and the groom was 18.

Asked if it shows they were married in Chudnov, Lekhtman replied affirmatively. There are always more questions, and Lekhtman is a sounding board. Not long ago, this masterful, ambitious and selfless researcher with roots in Chudnov discovered my father’s birth records. Similarly, these documents were written in Russian on one side of the page and Yiddish on the other.

The names were obviously those of my ancestors, which I had long ago recorded as Moishe Muravin and Rachel Leah Temnogorod. Moshe and Rukhlya were names that fit the bill. Adding legitimacy to my claim, Temnogorod was my grandmother’s family name.

Sounding out Rukhlya sent chills down my spine as I realized the name was Rachel Leah. She must have been a warm and wonderful bubbie, with five of her seven children having her as a namesake. As for Moshe, my great-grandfather, he had to have passed away before June 1909, when my eldest uncle was born and named for his zaidy.

Some records disclosed that the family name was Murovanny, with various spellings. For a less Jewish-sounding name, it was changed in 1938 to Muravin for the men, Muravina for the women. Now, Morovin joins the list of spellings of the family name that ended up as my maiden name of Mark in America.

Who am I to complain about the variety of names? Satisfyingly, the tree blossomed with added dates, and aging records are now confirmed. But, honestly, if only one picture would surface, then rather than relying on my imagination, there would be an image to check for any family resemblance.

The overwhelming excitement in me whirled as I exuberantly asked Lekhtman if he spotted the marriage records of my other great-grandparents or their other sibling, Rose, aka Risya. Within seconds, he responded with the marriage records of Risya Temnogorod. Lekhtman wrote, “this is a marriage record of Risya daughter of Yolik Yevel = Joel), marrying Itsek-Ber son of Avrum-Gershko Vajnerman.” They married in Chudnov on July 29, 1868. The bride was 20, and the groom was 21. Those details filled in several more pieces of the family tree puzzle and confirmed fixed entries. They also gave me a hint for finding more records with the spelling of Vajnerman for the Americanized Weinerman.

Lekhtman told me there are three more years of ensconced records for him to plow through. He noted, “Most, but not all, Chudnov marriage records survived from 1854 through 1874.” I’m waiting with bated breath to see if he retrieves more of my family’s marriage history.

Backtracking, the name of my great-great-grandfather, Gets Morovin, was puzzling. Upon questioning Lekhtman, he had an answer for the given and surname. As for Gets, the unusual first name of Moshe’s father, he said, “I’ve seen it show up a few times. Not sure what it means or if there’s a Hebrew alternative. The Hebrew side has Gets as well. Usually it would write out the full Hebrew name. e.g., if Russian says Moshko or Yevel, Hebrew would say Moshe or Yoel, respectively.”

As for Morovin, that’s a bit stickier. “The scribes mucked up the names at every chance they got,” explained Lekhtman, who made this determination based on his perspective from going through a large number of metric books.

I could hardly wait to share the news with my cousins all over this country, Israel, Russia and Germany. Most of all, communicating the information to my cousin Tanya, a great-great-great-granddaughter of Moshe and Rukhlya, born, bred and living in Chudnov today, was thrilling. In July, Tanya wrote, “…Unfortunately, we cannot go anywhere, it is dangerous in the cities, rockets often fly. It’s quiet and peaceful with us so far.”

Over 200 years later, with the help of Google Translate, Moshe and Rukhlya’s great-granddaughter, a reporter living in America, is communicating with their great-great-great-granddaughter, a 32-year-old nurse. A young widow raising her daughter while caring for her disabled aunt, Tanya lives where it all started, in Chudnov. If that doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, nothing will.

To learn more history of the Jews of Chudnov from one family’s memorabilia and connectedness, follow

By Sharon Mark Cohen

1863, Chudnov, Ukraine


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