Family Story Finder

The sweep of family history across the generations

1968 Democratic convention
  • August 26 1968 - August 29 1968

It was a signature moment of the turbulent 1960s. Walter, 18, and Dan, 15, were there in Chicago, working as messengers for the Eugene McCarthy campaign.

A milliner's daughter in Long Beach
  • 1943 - 1947

Elly worked hard to earn a living as a hat maker while Helga adapted easily at Julia Richmond High School. In the summer, they took a room in a beach town on Long Island.

A surprising double marriage in London
  • March 1911 - 2020

Rosa Ringel married Pinkas Twiasschor in a borough of London in January 1911, at the same time that Twiasschor's sister wed another Berlin businessman. What was that all about?

Abe Ratner in the seltzer business
  • -

The Ratner family became established in the Fifth Ward of Albany, N.Y. Abe bottled soda water and Rose nurtured a brood of children.

Abraham Blokh came from Minsk
  • -

Before he became Abe Ratner, he was Abraham Blokh from Minsk.

Action at a distance
  • -

Stan's Mathematica notebooks document his later work and speculations

Adventures in Israel—Walter and Joanne
  • -

Two of the Ruby offspring went back to Israel for significant periods.

An afternoon at Lake Merrit
  • -

In July 2003, Stan and Helga came to the East Bay for a golden summer outing.

Anguish during the bombing of Berlin
  • -

Watching from afar as British ‘heavies’ are lobbed into Berlin's neighborhoods

Arnaud Clerc
  • -

Joe Liebman’s son made his own name in the Parisian jewelry trade—and carried on the Rue de Saussaye tradition

Arson! The Paechter family store is targeted
  • 1898 -

In 1898, Paechter’s Kaufhaus in Tiegenhof came under repeated anti-Semitic arson attacks.  

Benjamin Hopper settles in California
  • -

Fleeing English coal country, he founded the family base in California's Central Valley

Betty Wohlgemuth's last years
  • -

Following Isaak's death in 1929, Betty lived comfortably in the cosmopolitan Bavarian Quarter—until the Nazi repressions made life unbearable

Bilingual blogging—my French collaborator
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Historical blogging makes strange bedfellows. A French jewelry critic and I were both interested in the history of the Clerc jewelry business during the Nazi era

Bob Felenstein's last fight
  • -

Bob struggled in his last year, supported by his loving Jane. A crew of his cousins rallied to his cause 

Bradley homestead in Wapello County, Iowa
  • -

Widow Patty Smith Swett and six children by two husbands were among the first settlers who staked claims in Wapello County near Ottumwa in May 1843

Brood of Haskells in Chautauqua County
  • -

After service in the War of 1812, Vermonter George Haskell set out with his third wife and many previous children for new lands in the west

Dan's 2018 research trip to Berlin and Gdansk
  • July 2018 - August 2018

Dan supplemented his attendance at a Warsaw genealogy conference with a tour of family locations. Read his blog postings and view the post-trip video coverage.

Demise of the cultured Lewi family
  • 1902 - 1942

Five siblings who stayed true to German ideals until the bitter end

Ed Eilertsen tribute puzzle
  • -

Ed loved crosswords, so Dan Ruby created a tribute puzzle for his memorial. Kate and Twyla were the clue crew.

Edith and Gina — the Ringel cousins in London
  • 1938 - 2007

Betty Ringel's two daughters were able to leave Germany before 1938. They were in the twenties and they settled in London.

Eilertsen roots in Farsund, Norway
  • -

Farmers and seafarers from the south Norway coast

Eilertsens at sea
  • -

Members of a farming family took to the sea both as an occupational calling and a means of emigration

Eilertsens by the lake
  • -

Ed was the rector at Saint Martin's By the Lake in Minnetonka Beach, Minn. The family was raised in towns around the lake region west of Minneapolis, including in the church rectory

Elly’s European travels
  • -

Elly lived out her senior years in a studio apartment on the Upper West Side. But she lived for her annual European vacations.

Escape from Berlin—last good chance to get out
  • -

Our reconstructed timeline: How Elly and Helga Ringel were smuggled with SS escort out of Germany and across the Belgian border in October 1938

Family History Machine is reborn in 2020
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Machinist Dan Ruby and his team members envision a new future for Family History Machine

Family roots in the Plymouth colony
  • -

Isetta Stetson descended from early Massachusetts colonists, going all the way back to the Mayflower on one side. Nine generations later, her midwestern parents still upheld Yankee values

Filming of "The Heartbreak Kid"
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Ed officiates at a movie wedding

Final days in Kovno
  • -

The amazing story of the unrelated Rabinowitz family in the days before the liquidation of Kovno. Two sons survived to make their lives in Israel.

First grandchild
  • -

Twyla Ariel Eilertsen Ruby was born on August 7, 1985

Fourth Generation Rubys
  • -

Just a bit about Twyla, Gene, Zach and Lani.

From Rezitsa to Rostov
  • 1875 - 1892

Sholom and Sophie Tulbowitz left their ancestral town in the 1870s to settle for 20 years in Russia near Rostov-on-Don.

Ghosts of Weißensee—the cemetery played on
  • 1929 - 1942

How did Betty Katz meet her end in February 1942?

Grad-student life in a packet of letters
  • -

Stan maintained correspondence with his closest high school and Army buddies, several of whom went on to prominent careers.

Grammy — everyone’s favorite grandmother
  • 1941 - 1981

She made each of her six grandchildren feel special

Green Valley Drive—our exurban childhood
  • -

Our years in Pittsburgh were spent in a tract house in a natural wonderland—backed up against a family farm and an equestrian estate.

Helga at the Theodor Herzl School
  • -

Amid the chaos of the Nazi period, the Zionist school in Charlottenburg taught skills and values that lasted a lifetime

Helga in the League of Women Voters
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Helga expressed a commitment to liberal values in her lifelong work for the League of Women Voters.

Hermann Ringel's German citizenship
  • August 13 1906 -

When Hermann turned 21 in 1906, he presented documentation to secure legal German citizenship.

Hilda's fabulous lifestyle with Joe Liebman
  • January 1943 - February 1978

After the war, Joe Liebman came back to Paris with a glamorous new wife. Oh, what a life they led

If walls could talk—75 years in a Parisian villa
  • 1918 - 1992

Insider dealings in the French jewelry trade. Swank cocktail parties for the Nazi elite. A rough-cut Jewish jeweler and his ebullient new wife. Where Henry Kissinger met Le Duc Tho.

In the Signal Corps in New Guinea
  • -

Stan strung transmission wires in the South Pacific during World War II.

Internment on the Isle of Man
  • February 1940 - October 1940

German refugees in the UK, even Jews like Gerhart Feidt, were deemed potential enemy aliens

Janis Brenner—a Ratner in motion
  • -

An innovator in modern dance and choreography since breaking in with the Murray Lewis Dance Company in the 1980s. The Ratners moved geographically. Janis moves artistically.

Jews in jazz—the big band era
  • -

Stan's musical idol was Benny Goodman, the King of Swing.

Joan and Ruby
  • -

Joan’s second marriage to Rueben Meyers brought her great happiness.

Just so—how the Rubys got their name
  • 1912 - 1939

When and why did Walter Rabinowitz take on our abbreviated last name? He may have gotten the idea during intermission at a Bronx nickelodeon

Kindergarten campaigner
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In 1955, Helga led a committee of parents to open a preschool in Vestal.

Last Christmas in Berlin
  • -

In December 1937, the Feidt and Lewi family members share a last holiday together

Lest we forget—family Holocaust testimony
  • 1941 - 1942

Remembering our Ringel and Wohlgemuth/Paechter family members who perished in the Shoah.

Liberal values in the 1960s
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From civil rights to war resistance to arms control, Ruby family members embraced liberal social causes

Life on the Western Reserve
  • -

Families from Connecticut settled northeastern Ohio in the early 1800s

Lisbon to New York—with a detour to Havana
  • August 1940 - May 1941

The Ringel family crossed from Lisbon on the SS Guine—but their entry to the U.S. was anything but routine

Long Beach—taking in the Klein family
  • -

During the Depression, families helped each other out. The Kleins moved in with the Rubys in Long Beach.

Louis Katz of Kolberg
  • 1839 - 1918

Betty’s father was a prosperous merchant who came to Pomerania from East Prussia.

Love conquers all as Gerhard marries Ilse
  • 1931 - 1939

Two young Berliners make a modern marriage—with lasting consequences

Margot Dränger's survival story
  • June 1939 - January 1945

Helga's second cousin suffered unimaginable traumas in and around Krakow from 1939 to 1945. She survived and gave testimony later in life

Meeting Harriet Berkowitz
  • 2008 - 2009

Harriet Berkowitz was doubly distanced from her Rabinowitz roots, first by her father’s partial family estrangement and then by his divorce. But she shared a trove of precious family documents and childhood memories after discovering this blog. 

Mel Brenner
  • -

Mel accomplished many things in life, but his life’s greatest moments happened during the Battle of the Bulge

Memories of young Stan
  • -

Stan was smart and fresh, with something to say about almost anything

Mercantile roots in old Danzig
  • 1850 - 1910

Three brothers of the Kleemann family from the Weinberg district of 19th century Danzig operated a coffee and tea import business. Hugo Lewi married into the family and was a dealer in military effects. 

Mössbauer man—Stan makes his mark in physics
  • -

Stan's innovations in Mossbauer spectroscopy.

Motives for mercy—the consuls of Toulouse
  • October 24 1968 - December 8 1940

In July 1940, consular officials from three nations conspired to open an escape route for Jews out of occupied France. Why did they do it?

Musical appreciation in the Ruby household
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From Mozart to swing to the Grateful Dead.

On Hill Avenue
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The Ruby family comes of age in a bedroom suburb west of Chicago

Our Brenner cousins
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Janis, Leslie and Amy grew up—each a star in her own way.

Our family during the Nazi years in Berlin
  • February 1933 - September 1942

During the first five years of Hitler's reign of terror, Jewish families of Berlin faced one repression after another.

Our Israeli cousins
  • -

Ze’evs progency: a new generation of vibrant, contemporary Israelis.

Our Ruby name—sullied in Dallas
  • -

Lee Harvey Oswald's killer Jack Ruby was not related to our family. He tarnished our family name in the history books.

Paechter diaspora
  • -

Paechter descendants ended up on every continent after World War II. 

Paechter roots in West Prussia
  • April 9 1875 - May 17 1902

Our Paechter family prospered in the Vistula delta town of Tiegenhof. But their roots probably go back further in west Pomerania.

Rabbi Spektor's true genealogy
  • -

Most of what we discovered about Rabbi Spektor's genealogy was entirely true. All but the myth of our family's connection to it

Rabinowitz family in the Bronx
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Before and after Joseph Rabinowitz’s death in 1917, family members resettled in the Bronx

Ratner family in Albany
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Rearing eight children in Albany’s Third Ward

Ratner family passage to America
  • July 1890 -

Abe Blokh became Abe Ratner to avoid conscription and get out of Russia. With his young wife and her mother, they voyaged from Bremen to Leeds to New York

Ratner family reunion
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In 2016. we organized a reunion weekend with Brenners, Rubys and Felensteins in East Quogue, Long Island

Ringel vs. Ruby in World War I
  • -

Herman Ringel and Walter Ruby wore opposing uniforms in the Great War

Rosa’s fateful choice
  • 1936 - 1940

Rosa Feidt was the only Lewi sibling who got out, to her everlasting remorse

Rose Ratner's scar—the 1881 pogrom in Rostov
  • -

The Tulbowitz tavern in Novocherkassk was overrun by Cossacks during the Rostov pogrom of 1881

Sandy Klein
  • -

A precocious Ratner girl takes on life in midcentury America.

Seymour Rabinowitz and Harriet Berkowitz
  • -

Seymour, also called Samuel, was partly estranged from the family. He worked as a truant officer in the New York City schools. His daughter Harriet Berkowitz discovered our blog and contributed a trove of precious documents.

Shtetl life in Russian Rezhitsa
  • 1790 - 1875

Today it is Rezekne in Latvia. In the 19th century, it was the village in Vitebsk Province where our Tulbowitz clan lived in the old Yiddish way

Sidney Kessler and American Spirits
  • -

Walter Ruby's boss in the liquor business became an influential figure in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

Split decision on restored German citizenship
  • -

Both Dan and Joanne applied for reclaimed citizenship under Article 116 of the German Constitution, but only Joanne’s application was approved

Sputnik in the backyard
  • -

Watching Sputnik at night from our back yard in a suburb of Pittsburgh is one of my earliest memories.

Stan at Brant Lake
  • -

Stan summered at a Jewish summer camp in the Adirondacks.

Stan finds love outside of a 20-block radius
  • April 1946 - June 1947

Home from the war, Stan Ruby was a graduate student in physics at Columbia University. Helga Ringel was a smart, pretty war refugee from Berlin

Storyspace creation guide
  • -

Tips and tricks to build out your Storyspace

The Bennetts in Scobey and Helena
  • -

Of the four Bennett children who grew up on the Scobey ranch, Judith was the little sister

The Clerc jewelry aryanization files
  • 1940 - January 1701

The Clerc jewelry assets were seized and resold to an Aryan buyer. The Nazis kept perfect records of the transactions.

The corkscrew on eBay—sourcing family artifacts
  • 1938 - 1939

Out of the files of the U.S. Patent Office and into the peculiar subculture of corkscrew collectors

The early history of the Wohlgemuth family
  • March 11 1812 - July 25 1876

In 1812 in Preußisch Stargardt, an elderly Jew Moses and his sons Salomon and Herz took the surname Wohlgemuth in exchange for Prussian citizenship rights. Our family, descended from Herz Wohlgemuth, stayed in Stargardt for the next three generations

The Eilertsens in Brooklyn
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From Red Hook to Gerritsen Beach to Bay Ridge, Jack and Camilla Eilertsen lived the Norwegian immigrant experience in Brooklyn

The family secret behind grandfather's desk calendar
  • July 22 1939 -

A surprising artifact discovered after a parent's death leads to a series of discoveries and a new pastime in genealogy

The Felensteins of Long Island
  • -

Joan Ruby married Milton Felenstein. Their life and family in Rockville Centre.

The Kaufhaus at Schloßstraße 97
  • 1907 - 2001

In 1907, Moritz Feidt built a department store in Berlin Stieglitz. It still stands today

The Kauflers of Krakow
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Our best documented family line is Feige Kaufler's ancestry among the Jewish families of Krakow.

The Klein family in the 1940s
  • -

Leon Klein continued to work for American Spirits as its upstate New York sales representative

The Meeker Massacre
  • -

Social reformer Nathan Meeker was among nine men killed in an uprising of Ute Indians at the White River reservation where he was serving as U.S. agent. His wife and daughter—Smith family descendants—were held hostage for three weeks

The North American Ringel branch
  • 1908 -

When his siblings went to Berlin in the 1880s, Jakob Schia Ringel went to Hamburg, then Glasgow and Montreal. His two daughters raised families in the New York area

The Paechters in Berlin
  • -

Most of the family from Tiegenhof found their way to Berlin by the early years of the twentieth century. At first they prospered—until the coming devastation

The Paechters in West Pomerania
  • -

The family formed and thrived in the Jewish community of Märkisch Friedland before another branch took root in Tiegenhof. Paechters were also resident in the town of Kolberg, the coastal city connected by rail to Friedland.

The peculiar case of Pinkas Twiasschor
  • -

The estranged husband of Betty Ringel was one of the 1000 war evacuees who found safe haven in the only U.S refugee camp 

The physics experiment that went wrong
  • 1951 - 1958

How and why did Stan Ruby's important post-graduate research go wrong, and what impact did it have on his career in physics?

The problem with anti-ballistic missiles
  • October 6 1968 - March 10 1969

Stanley Ruby entered the public debate over nuclear missile technology in 1968-69.

The Rabinowitz family in Jewish Harlem
  • 1875 - 1917

Joseph and Lena Rabinowitz were Russian immigrants who ran a corner grocery in Jewish Harlem. Their nine children were native Americans

The Rabinowitz girls
  • -

Meta, Blossom and Sadie

The Ringel family roots in old Rzeszów
  • -

Moses Ringel and Rose Lea Reichman raised a large family in Rzeszów in the Galizianer tradition

The Ringels in Berlin—time of prosperity
  • 1881 - 1931

From 1880s to the 1930s, the Ringel family prospered in the garment trade in the German capital. Herman made men's outerwear.

The Rubys in Israel—1961 sabbatical
  • -

Our family’s amazing year of discovery and connection

The Scheunenviertal in the 1880s
  • -

Schija Ringel came from Poland to seek his fortune in Berlin’s old Jewish district.

The Stetson family’s manifest destiny
  • -

From stalwart Yankee roots, Herbert and Hattie Stetson went west with the country

The Stetsons of Sumner, Maine
  • -

Militiaman Hezekiah Stetson homesteaded in Oxford County, Maine, in the years after the American Revolution

The tragic death of Minna and Hede
  • -

Facing imminent deportation, the Lewi sisters took control of their destiny 

The Wohlgemuths in Danzig
  • -

Before moving his family to Berlin in 1912, Isaak Wohlgemuth prospered as a mover in Danzig. His family roots were in nearby West Prussia.

The Wohlgemuths in Elbing
  • -

The Wohlgemuth family settled in Elbing, near to Tiegenhof, during the 1890s, where they owned and operated a water mill.

The Wohlgemuths on the Woelckpromenade
  • 1912 - 1942

In 1912, Isaak and Betty Wohlgemuth moved to the German capital and settled in Weißensee, where their two daughters came of marriageable age

The Yeserskys of Volkovysk
  • -

Joseph Rabinowitz’s mother was Bertha Yesersky. Was she related to Sora Yesersky, the wife of Rabbi Elchanon Spektor?

The Zimkin line—David, Arthur and Mark
  • -

Following the descendants of the eldest Rabinowitz daughter, without a happy ending.

Third Generation Rubys
  • -

First came Walter, then Danny and Joanne. They would carry on the Ruby-Ringel genes.

Tulbowitz in the USSR—an alternative history
  • -

If Sholom Tulbowitz had gone to Dvinsk instead of Rostov, as his cousin did, his Ratner descendants might have grown up in Perm instead of Albany.

Turning over rocks to find long-lost relatives
  • -

During the course of my genealogy work, I have discovered and connected with cousins from all my family branches. Here are some lessons learned.

Twiasschor family in Berlin
  • -

The Twiasschors settled in Berlin in several waves from Kolomiya, Ukraine

Two Ringel sisters manage on their own
  • -

The Ringel sisters, Betty Twiasschor and Rosa Schattner, lived with their children in adjacent apartments on Lothringerstraße. 

Twyla's childhood
  • -

Outlooks of a pre-millennial

Walter Ruby and the Carioca Cooler
  • 1933 - 1938

The U.S. liquor industry took off after the repeal of Prohibition. Walter Ruby was the marketing manager for the American Spirits company

Walter's first draft of family history
  • 2006 - Present

Cherry picking the best content from our founding document written in 2006: "The Ruby Family Histories — The Early Lives of Stanley and Helga Ruby" 

When Ed Eilertsen "crossed the bridge"
  • -

In a dramatic moment while crossing the Mississippi River, he broke with his parents' austere Lutheranism for a more ecumenical approach

Wild goose chase—an accident in Jersey City
  • -

A newspaper clipping placed Walter Ruby on the scene of an automobile wreck in Hudson County, N.J. Not every lead pans out.

Yichus and our relation to the famous rabbi
  • -

Walter thought he had proved the family legend of descent from the celebrated Kovno Rav, Rabbi Yitchak Elchanon Spektor. Later facts emerged that suggested a more tenuous connection.  

Young man on the make in the Roaring Twenties
  • March 1919 - September 1929

Walter Ruby hustled his way as a traveling silver salesman, with some career side trips into boxing promotion and medicinal alcohol.

Your first family story
  • -

Family stories may be sweeping or specific. They capture some essential aspect of the family's generational journey.

Ze'ev and Penina Sharon of Kibbutz Afeq
  • 1935 - 2009

A pioneer to Palestine in 1936, Ze’ev married Penina and they did their part to build the state of Israel as founders of Kibbutz Afek.