Sunday, 21 August 2011

Finding My Roots

Even though my blogging has slowed significantly, I have been hard at work behind the scenes!  Who would have thought that a “journal entry” to my mother one Sunday morning would have led me to start a blog, then a FB page, and now a full-out search of my roots!  I guess that my subtitle “A Daughter’s Journey of Discovery” foreshadowed all of this, even though it was not my original intention.

I started this blog to reconnect with my mother, to move past the shell that Alzheimer’s has left in its wake, and breathe life back into my memories.  It’s hard to explain, but this blogging journey has brought my mother back to me. 

Anyone who has been touched by Alzheimer’s will easier understand…your loved one’s body is there, but they are gone.  It’s like opening a beautiful box of chocolates…the excitement and anticipation building as you peel off the cellophane and open the box…you know something wonderful is waiting for you…but then you open the box and the chocolates that were once there are missing, and all you are left with are the empty wrappers.  That is what it is like for me with my mother in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease.  Every time I see her and I eagerly try to make a connection, only to discover that the essence of who she was is lost, and all I have left is her beautiful, ravaged shell.   

So I write to her, constantly composing letters in my mind, telling her of my day’s experiences, relating to her as a person, as opposed to a mother, more and more as my life goes on.  And I look at family photos, remembering her as the beauty she was, so charming and kind and loving.  And then, I fell into this blog.  I suppose it is a natural progression for me to try and discover the world she came from, but I never expected to be so intrigued by the adventure!

What follows is a quick recap of my recent discoveries.  I was speaking with Jimmy (Uncle Jim - Mom’s brother) last Monday, and mentioned my desire to fill out my sparse family tree AND to reconnect with his and Mom’s family (cousins, etc).  After trading memories for an hour or so, he gave me the email addresses for 3 cousins from Bubbie Lou’s side of the family, and I set out to write them that night.  I heard back from Carol, cousin Jack’s wife (Jack is Etta’s son, Auntie Etta is my Bubbie Lou’s sister), who painstakingly took Auntie Etta’s photos, scanned and labeled them, and put together an online photo album of our family – well, their family, really, but half of it is mine too!  This is the reason I am able to share family photos already!  Thank you Carol!

Jimmy also reminded me that Mom has a family tree that Bubbie Lou, pieced together, which dates back to 1800s Europe.  All these treasures are in a box in a locker in my Dad’s condo, which we will soon be sorting through to find these missing links.  I have also told Dad that he needs to start working on his side of the family for me…and he is…stay tuned for a whole other history to unfold!

But I digress; back to my story…while perusing cousin Carol’s collection of Auntie Etta’s old photos I discovered a photo of Isaac Chaliff, my GREAT, GREAT-Grandfather (Bubbie Gertie’s dad).   Another door opened!

Isaac Chaliff
My friend, Aviva, saw the name Chaliff posted on a photo of Bubbie Gertie, recognized the name and pulled out her own family trees.  Turns out that she has Chaliffs in her tree too, and she also traces them back to the Ukraine!  I know, I know, I really need to get to the storage lockers and find Bubbie Lou’s family tree…I’m on it!

So, this brings me to the present.  I have joined the Jewish Genealogy website and registered all my family’s names.  This led me to, where I discovered a listing for Isaac Chaliff. Before joining the site, I decided to google “Gertrude Chaliff Pearlman” and Bubbie Gertie and Zaida Sam appeared on my screen!  Along with that, came her very brief  life history and that of her parents!  Click here for the link to Archives  Canada.

I now know the years that Bubbie Gertie and Zaida Sam were born, married and died, as well as my Bubbie Gertie’s parents’ names, the fact that my Zaida Isaac was a merchant, hired my Zaida Sam to help manage his rural stores, and was a charter member of the Sha'arey Zedek Synagogue in Winnipeg.   I also know when Isaac Chaliff was born, immigrated to Canada, and died.    AND I have discovered my Bubbie Clara.  Another name to add to the Registry!

Don’t worry, Carlo and the kids are still eating well…my home-cooking hasn’t suffered, and I have been thumbing through the Golden Recipes, making Bubbie Lou’s Chocolate Chunk Cookies…yumm….among other things.  It is almost time to start jarring for the winter (got to get in touch with my pioneer roots!) and then the recipe blogging will kick into high gear!  Until then, B’Tayavon and Buon Appetito!