Friday, June 12, 2009

It is a "small world" on the Internet

I posted a piece on this blog entitled "My life with music" this past April 4. In it I bemoaned the fact that, as a boy in the mid 1930s, I foolishly turned down a chance to take piano lessons because the lessons would interfere with playing ball. My mother had a distant cousin, Sidney Sukoenig, a concert pianist and teacher at the Juilliard School of Music. He was willing, my mother had said, to give me lessons.

In just another demonstration of how it is indeed a "small world" on the Internet, I recently received an e-mail message from a man identifying himself as Alan Sukoenig, the pianist's son. He had apparently Googled his father's name and was astonished to be referred to my blog. He wanted to know how we were related.

And so began an adventure in genealogical research. I had no idea, I told him, what the family link might be. I did know, however, that a cantor named Sukoenig officiated at my parents' wedding in New York in 1923. Alan confirmed that his paternal grandfather had indeed been a cantor.

In trying to establish a family relationship with me, Alan listed all his family names that he could remember. As part of the genealogical exercise, we began exchanging the maiden names of our maternal grandmothers and great-grandmothers. As we reached back historically, a familiar name emerged, who we concluded was a maternal great, great-grandmother from whom we were both descended. We mathematically concluded that we were third cousins.

The name was Rifkin, which he contributed to our search. I told him that I recalled that my maternal grandmother, with whom I lived as a boy, would frequently mention that name when reminiscing about her life as a child in the province of Minsk in what is now Belarus. It was evidently the maiden name of her own maternal grandmother. (My grandmother's own grandmother appears in a photo posted on this blog March 19 of this year, entitled "My ancestors in Jerusalem.) Alan confirmed that his father's family were also immigrants from the the Minsk region.

This was not my first experience establishing Internet connections to relatives and to the offspring of people I had named in postings on this blog. A second cousin discovered me because his mother's maiden name was the same as my maternal grandmother's.

The children and grandchildren of men with whom I served in the Army in India during World War II and of men with whom I worked as a journalist before retiring 20 years ago have also responded to references to their relatives on my blog.

These are the kinds of fascinating experiences that indeed make the blogosphere a small but wondrous world.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Peggy said...

I bet you are kicking yourself for not taking piano lessons when you had the chance.

That is a wonderful story!

Saturday, June 13, 2009 1:53:00 AM  
Blogger Sylvia K said...

It is amazing how the blogging world has reduced the size of the real world. It's fun and can be exciting!

Hope you have gotten settled in NJ again for the summer and that all is going well.

Have a lovely weekend, Mort!

Saturday, June 13, 2009 10:21:00 AM  
Blogger Darlene said...

Genealogy can be a lot of fun. My sister is really into it and has traced our maternal ancestors back to one of William the Conqueror's knights.

I wonder who I might be related to that I don't know about. I doubt that my blog will bring forth any surprises.

You really missed a golden opportunity to have such a fantastic piano teacher give you lessons, but I guess you already know that.

Saturday, June 13, 2009 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger inkytrails said...

LOVE your blog! I will link to it this weekend as I have a "Retiree Blogs" page so retirees can find other bloggers! Lots of great reading here!

Wendy, www.retirement-online.com

Wednesday, June 17, 2009 7:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

That's an amazing story! I've been working on a timeline of the events of World War II at http://timelines.com/topics/world-war-2, where the stories of your experiences in WW2, or those of people you know would fit in perfectly.

Anyone is free to contribute descriptions, images, video, etc. relating a particular event.

Monday, July 20, 2009 5:22:00 PM  

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