So starts the email I received out of the blue from Louis K, about 6 weeks ago. He'd been looking in the Family Finder section of the JewishGen website, where we can list the family names we are interested in, and the places they come from. He'd spotted that I had listed a few names that tallied with his own family, from Gombin in Poland.
He mentioned his great-grandfather, Baruch Nussan Rajn, and Baruch's father Kalman. I knew I had a few Rajns, so I checked on my Tree. I did have Baruch listed, but I hadn't managed to link him to my own family as yet. I had the names of several children, and the given name of his wife, Sura Ryfka - but not her maiden name. Nor, as yet, his father's name.
The Rajn I had in my own family was Gersz Ber Rajn, who was married to two of my great-grandfather's sisters, Tauba and Ryfka Laja Frankensztajn. Not at the same time, I hasten to add. Tauba had two children, and then twins; however she died soon after giving birth, along with the new-born twins, and Gersz Ber then married her younger sister Ryfka Laja. I was pretty sure there would be a connection between this family and Boruch, but I hadn't yet found it.
I then had another look at what I had on Gersz Ber. Sure enough, his father was Kalman. Given that from 1821 onwards, Jews in this part of Poland were required by the Russian Empire to use one surname per family per town, it is unlikely there would have been a second Rajn family in Gombin. So I concluded that there was only one Kalman Rajn, and that Gersz Ber and Boruch were therefore brothers.
So I told Louis we appeared to be connected, but not directly related - he was my great-grandfather's sisters' husband's brother's great-grandson. I'm not sure if there's a cousin-label for that. We agreed to keep sharing notes.
A couple of emails later, Louis mentioned that his mother, Sarah Rose, was named after her grandmother, Boruch Nusyn's wife - Sura Rifka Siegelman. Wait a minute, this was the maiden name I was missing ....
My great-grandfather's mother was Rachla Zegelman, and I had managed to sketch out some branches of this family from the 19th Century records, but didn't know what had become of any of them, apart from one.
Sure enough, I had a note of a Sura Ryfka Zegelman, born about the right time - but I hadn't found any further records of her. By the same logic as before with the Rajns - same name, same time, same place - she has to be the same person. And I know who she is - she's the daughter of Rachla's brother Hemie.
So, I'm from Rachla's branch, and Louis is from Hemie's. We are obviously both descended from their parents, Wolek Zegelman and Wajla Chern - they are our 3x-great-grandparents. So Louis and I are indeed directly related: we Fourth Cousins.
But there's more.
Rachla Zegelman's husband was Wolek Frankensztajn. Hemie Zegelman's wife was Hana Laja Frankensztajn. And - you've probably guessed it by now - Wolek and Hana Laja were brother and sister. As of course were Rachla and Hemie. So brother and sister married sister and brother. Is there a word for that?
All of which means that not only do Louis and I share Zegelman 3x-g-grandparents, as outlined above - we also share Frankensztajn 3-timers, the parents of Wolek and Hana Laja: Lewek Frankensztajn and Libe Taube Szczawinska.
So we're not just Fourth Cousins, we're Double Fourth Cousins.
And that's not all.
My Third Cousin Fran is not only a Frankensztajn and a Zegelman, as are Louis and I, she's also from the Gersz Ber Rajn family, mentioned at the beginning of this post. So she and Louis both go back to the same 2x-g-grandparents, Kalman Rajn and his wife, another Sura Rifka. So Fran and Louis are related 3 ways: they are not only Double Fourths, they are also Third Cousins!
I'm trying to find a way of visualising the relationships between these families, but they seem to be too complex for the family tree websites and software I'm using. They all use straight lines to portray relationships, and can't display the interconnections on screen - or paper - at the same time.
I'm thinking I'm going to need something more bendy. It might be time for a mind-map ...