Everything’s Relative August 2002

By Family Tree Editors Premium

Roundabout Research

One of our grandsons, Daniel, was born in Bountiful, Utah, in the summer of 1982. He started school in St. Louis Park, Minn., and while in the first grade became good friends with Eric, who was born in St. Louis Park in January 1982. After being born several months and several hundred miles apart, what other possible bond could these two young friends share?

About the same time that Daniel and Eric met, I had been spending many hours at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was discouraged. After several months of searching for information that would help me extend my husband’s paternal line beyond his grandfather Samuel Sherman, I hadn’t found anything new.

Grandpa Sherman had immigrated to the United States from Russia and married Grandma Rebecca Rapoport. Grandma Rebecca also had come from Russia with her family in about 1906.

Before leaving the library, I browsed the Iowa books. I had a copy of a delayed birth certificate for my husband’s father, Alexander Sherman, showing his birth as taking place in Cedar Rapids. I picked up an old business directory of Cedar Rapids and turned to the index. My heart began beating faster when I discovered a business with the name of Rapoport in its title. I jotted down the address and left the library with a feeling of anticipation. The next day I mailed a letter of inquiry to the Rapoport business. In it, I briefly shared the family information I had concerning Grandma Rebecca, her children and our relationship to her. I requested any information they might have that would help me in my research.

Not long after, I received an answer. It wasn’t from Iowa, however; it was from southern California. My letter had been forwarded to Louis Rapoport. He was the “family historian” and the most knowledgeable on matters of Rapoport genealogy. Louis wrote to explain that the business belonged to family members and that he had known the Sherman family. In fact, years before he had visited with them in their Chicago apartment. Grandma Rebecca was Louis’ aunt, the sister of his father, Aaron.

The history I had gathered concerning Grandma Rebecca was limited. She and my husband’s father had both died before I met my husband. The information cousin Louis sent filled me in on the story of the Rapoport family’s trip to America.

Great-grandpa David Rapoport (above), his wife and children — including daughter Rebecca, son Aaron, Aaron’s family and others — had to flee for their lives during a pogrom, or an organized massacre of Jews, from their town in Russia. Being Russian Jews, they were driven from their homes and forced to leave behind most of their possessions. In the confusion of their flight, a small grandson was left behind. Great-grandpa David was wounded in the successful rescue of his grandson. He died aboard a ship sailing for America, and was buried at sea. Cousin Louis was that 3-year-old grandson.

Through letters and phone conversations between me and Louis, I found out that two families of Rapoport cousins were living in St. Louis Park, Minn. One of the most exciting parts of my discovery was that Daniel and Eric share more than friendship — they share a family bond with a grandpa who loved his family and valued their lives above his own. Daniel Sherman and Eric Rapoport are first cousins five times removed.


Fan West, Utah


When my daughter became interested in genealogy, we decided to do some personal exploring of the areas where our Huguenot ancestors had fled from religious persecution. In addition to French archives, we visited a distant cousin in Cologne. After visiting Wollmar, Munchausen and Cologne with him, we sailed down the Rhine to Strasbourg to continue our research, then headed to Kaiserslautern to visit the Institute for the History of People Who Emigrated to America. We checked into a small hotel in Kaiserslautern — so small it had only one elevator, which held only three people. The next day, an American officer joined us on the elevator. We were so close, I could read his name tag: “Ken Shipley.” I said, “You must be a relative.” He replied, “What? Where are you from?” I told him Maryland, and that my great-grandmother was a Shipley. “I’m from Anne Arundel County,” he said — just where we came from. To go 3,000 miles away to meet a Maryland relative!


Baltimore, Md.
From the August 2002 issue of Family Tree Magazine