Geography lessons: Lands of our ancestors


The Fischer and Levin families and their ancestors trace their origins to a wide area of Eastern and Central Europe. In the 19th Century, they lived in an area extending from Liepaja, Latvia, on the north to Bucharest, Romania, on the south, and from Kiev, Ukraine, on the east to Gröbitz, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, on the west.


Fischer paternal families

§        Due to lack of documentary evidence, the Fischers’ town of origin in Germany is unknown. There was a 19th Century West Prussian town named Fischer on the Baltic coast a little northwest of what is now Gdynia, Poland, and a little northeast of Slupsk, Poland (which may have been the ancestral town of the Slupsky family). But it would take a leap of faith to pin the origin of the Fischers in Fischer, West Prussia.

§        The Daus/Daust family was living in Wongrowitz, Posen, Prussia (now Wągrowiec, Pila, Poland) in 1836. Lucille Alexander recalls her mother, Martha Daust Fischer, speaking of the hardship of life in Gröbitz, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany. But a Social Security application provides documentation that Martha's sister, Bianca Daust Tyroler, was born in Zittau, Sachsen, Germany. Documentation is lacking to link the Daust family to Gröbitz, but it seems that the family may have sojourned in Berlin before immigrating to the United States. The 1886 Berlin Jewish addressbook lists a Salomon Daust as a merchant in the German capital city. Salo's brother, Adolf, may have preceded him to St. Louis, Mo., where an Adolph Daust had a notions store at 1109 Franklin in 1884. Salo arrived in St. Louis by 1895, when he operated a dry goods store at 305 S. 2nd. Also in 1895, Adolph was operating a business at 3534 Chestnut called A. Daust & Co. that sold hats. By 1904, Salo had relocated his dry goods store to 3224 Meramec, and Adolph had become vice president of Washington National Bank at 1401 Washington in St. Louis. After 1905, Adolph disappeared from the St. Louis city directory, and other records show that he may have relocated to Berlin, Germany, where he was a member of the Wongrowitzer Society in the early 20th Century.

Polish video (above) shows recent views of old Jewish sites in Kepno, Poland, home of the Kober family and their cousins the Slupskys in the 19th Century.
Video on memorial to victims of 1919 massacre of Jewish leaders in Pinsk, Poland, shows early scenes of the town where the Kagan/Cohen family lived in the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

§        Salo Daust’s wife, Jeanette Foerder Daust, is believed to have come from Posen, Prussia, which is now Poznan, Poland, but documentation is lacking. But we do know that in the 1830s there were Foerders in Wongrowitz, Posen, Prussia, the same shtetl where the Daus/Daust family lived, and in nearby Gollantsch.

§        Thanks to Leopold (Lieber) Kober’s royal Prussian passport, which Victor Weisskopf has donated to the Spertus Museum, we know the Kober family came from Kempen, Posen, Prussia, which is present-day Kępno, Poland. Confirmation of this is found in Jewish birth records that were  microfilmed by the Mormons. (See related Kepno video at right.)

§        Kaile Gastman Kober gave birth to at least 10 children in Kempen, but in one of the birth records, her maiden name is listed as Wartenberger, a hint that her family may have come from any one of several German towns named Wartenberg, most likely one in Bayern, Germany, or, less likely, the principality of Wurttemburg in southern Germany.

§        Michael Leiser Koppenhagen emigrated from Copenhagen, Denmark, before 1825 to Wongrowitz, Posen, Prussia (now Wagrowiec, Pila, Poland), where the Daus/Daust family lived.


Fischer maternal families

§        Abraham Levik was born in Minsk, Belarus, according to his U.S. citizenship papers, but he and his family lived for many years in Kiev, Ukraine. However, his father, Leib Levik, may have been born in Krákow, Poland.

§        We can only speculate that Leib Levik’s wife Jana Ostrowska Levik’s ancestors may have come from Ostrów, Poland.

§        Because of family letters, we know for certain that the Kagan/Cohen family came from Pinsk, Poland, which is now in Belarus. (See related Pinsk video at right below.)

§        Eliezar Kagan’s wife, Sarah Feigel Steinberg Kagan, came from Motol, Belarus, which is near Pinsk.


Levin paternal families

§        Menachem Mendel Levin’s town of origin has been identified on family trees as Palopokow, Malow, Russia, or Palupska, Mvolov, Russia. But searches through gazetteers, atlases and online databases have failed to locate it with any great degree of certainty. One possibility is Pobolovo/Pobalava, Gomel, Belarus. Another possibility is the hyphenated place name Palavkoviche-Male, Belarus. Other  possibilities include; Palupykh'ya, Estonia; Pylypki, Ukraine; and  Paliepiukai, Lithuania.

§        According to the family tree, Yaakov Serlin’s family came from Rossna, Mogilov, Russia, which is most likely Rasna or Ryasna, Belarus, which is located about 30 miles east-north-east of Mahileu, the Belarusian name for Mogilev.


Levin maternal families

§        Joseph Landman was born in Bucharest, Romania, according to the family tree.

§        Chaya Sara Lieb Juster Landman came from Târgu Neamt, Neamt, Romania.

§        Michel Mayer Gordon was from Liepaja, Latvia (formerly Libeau, Courland).

§        The Krewiansky/Harris/Krohn family was believed to have come from Courland, an old name for Latvia. But Jacob Krohn's Social Security application says he was born in Saini, Russia-Poland. This is most likely Sejny, in Suwalki Gubernia (county), in Bialystok Province. Today, Sejny is located just inside northeastern Poland on the border with Lithuania, but also close to the border of Belarus. Family tradition held that Jacob Krohn's son Harry was born in Vishay, Lithuania, which is most likely currently known in Lithuania as Veisiejai, which is located a short distance from Sejny, Poland.     


Due to the travails of life in Europe, many of our ancestors left their shtetls for the opportunities of America. They left behind the isolation of their home towns, traveling by land to port cities of northern and western Europe. There they booked passage on great steam ships to cross the Atlantic. Except for a few who stayed put at their North American port of entry of New York, most ventured inland to the heartland of America, settling in Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City.


Today, our cousins span the extremities of the contiguous United States: from Boston and New York in the east to Los Angeles and Portland, Ore., in the west; from Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., in the north to Baton Rouge, La., in the south. Some live in Israel and Australia.


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