10/12/2007

Long Lost Relatives

On the first day of Sukkot, while looking at some old family pictures at my parents’ home, I came across some photos that my mother had taken when she visited Germany about 15 years ago. The pictures were of the graves of my great-great grandparents, Reuven and Sarah Gummersheimer. I had not known much about my maternal grandfather’s family, and certainly not about his grandparents. His surname was Levi, which makes it very hard to trace any genealogies, since there are many, many Levis out there. But how many Gummersheimers could there be? I decided to try a bit of research on the Gummersheimer family name after Yom Tov.

After a bit of searching, I came across this website of a fellow who has been researching his own family tree for several decades. He had two Ruben Gummersheimers listed in this particular family tree. One had the same birth date, but slightly different death date, than what appears on the headstone. He also was the son of Benedikt Gummersheimer, which would correspond to the Baruch which appears on the headstone. The death date confusion could be explained by something hard to read on the headstone concerning moving dates and the actual death date. In the family tree, Ruben’s wife and any descendants are not mentioned.

Feeling confident that I had discovered a long-lost relative, I contacted the siteowner and introduced myself. Not surprisingly, we are indeed distant relatives. Moreover, the fellow, who is approaching 90, lives just a few blocks away from where I grew up, in Baltimore, and lives even closer to where my grandfather, Ruben Gummersheimer’s grandson, used to live. So I asked my new-found cousin if he even knew my grandfather, Eric Levi, since they lived so close.

As it turns out, this gentleman, in the early 1980s, had come into possession all sorts of family documents in German, and was ready to throw it all away. Coincidentally, around that time he met my grandfather, who encouraged him to pursue genealogical research and offered to translate the documents into English. While going through the documents, he saw that some of this man’s ancestors hailed from the southwestern German town of Bonfeld. My grandfather mentioned that he also had relatives in Bonfeld and that perhaps, someday, they would discover a family connection.

My grandfather passed away in 1992. Fifteen years later, I stumbled across this man’s web-based research and made the family connection.

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