I’ve hit the jackpot


If you are a Jewish Denverite and your family moved to Colorado in the 1880s, chances are we’re related. It all goes back to two brothers: Ozriel and Moses Goldberg, who moved here in the late 19th century from Brisk, variably located in Poland, Lithuania or Belarus. Between the two of them, they had around 20 children, and many of their progeny had large families as well. Boscoe, Lederman, Tanenbaum, Linkow, Pepper, Leiser, Willner — these are some of the local family names descended from these two Goldbergs.

After meandering on and off the genealogy trail these past few years, I’m firmly back on, thanks to an IJN reader who alerted me to our possible shared kinship. When, after perusing his family tree, I realized he was of the “Moses” not of my “Ozriel” branch, making our relation extremely distant, he gathered for me records of Moses’ and Ozriel’s ancestors, facilitating a breakthrough I’d long been seeking.

That’s the thing about re-treading the path — there are always new records being added, and new data to discover. This time around, I’m finding other family trees particularly enlightening. Like every hobby genealogist, my tree suffers from blunted branches, ancestors whose ancestors I cannot find or verify.

Not this time around. I’ve hit the jackpot! Thanks to that distant relative, I’m now able to trace my direct line all the way back to the mid-16th century. Honestly, I thought those kinds of records were the exclusive purview of Jews who boast prestigious yichus — lineage — whereas my family have always been simple folk.

While I have no personal connection to my 10th great-grandmother, it still warms my soul to see my name dotting the tree among earlier generations, and to see that my family really are Brisker Jews. Often family origins are steeped in myth, but here is the evidence that indeed we are from the community we’ve long called our own.

My great-uncle Willie had a particular way of pronouncing Ma Nishtanah. Last year, my father observed that Willie must have inherited this from his father, a man my father never met. Suddenly there was a tangible connection.

Was it subconscious that I took another genealogy plunge just ahead of the holiday that celebrates our ancestors?

I’m not sure, but I know that this year, as my father voices Uncle Willie’s gutteral Yiddishized Hebrew, I’ll be wondering if all these new generations I’ve learned about recited it the same way.

Happy Passover!

Shana Goldberg may be reached at

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