Doppelgangers, DNA, and Doubt

As part of your summer reading, we would like to offer a link to a intriguing story. Jeremy originally prepared it for publication in ZichronNote, the newsletter of the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society. It came to the attention of Nancy Siegal, editor of JewishGen’s “Success Stories,” and was subsequently published this past May on JewishGen as part of several other tales highlighting different aspects of genealogical research.

“Just over eighteen months ago I was contacted by someone in Australia. ‘Mitchell’ wrote to say he thought we might be cousins based upon his research. Although a DNA test confirmed missing parentage, it didn’t prove what he expected. This left me with a problem — and a challenge …”

Strange and wonderful things …

Many strange things happen to me in genealogy. They might be called coincidences, but they happen too frequently for me to label them in this manner. Although most commonly applied to finding your soulmate, the Yiddish word “beshert” means preordained or inevitable, and can also be used to describe a situation that was “meant to be.” A beshert set of circumstances took place very recently.

Periodically I get emails from the Tower Hamlets Local History Collection. Tower Hamlets
is the borough that encompasses London’s East End neighborhood. Many immigrant families, including Jews, made their first home there, as it was close to the docks.

A few weeks ago I received an email alerting me to an upcoming exhibit featuring colour photographs taken in the East End after World War II. These were unusual for the time – most photographs taken post-war were black and white as colour film was expensive. The images were taken by David Granick, a Jewish fellow who was a keen local photographer. After his death the photographs was donated to Tower Hamlets Local History Collection.

Now park that information and I’ll describe something else. I’m always desirous of communicating with the older relatives in my family. If I can jog their memory with bits of my genealogical research, I can sometimes learn more about the family; it’s a kind of symbiotic process.

My cousin Graham’s mother Marion is 91 years old and I was investigating her family. Her father’s mother had a sister named Jane who married but never had any children. The husband passed away, followed five years later by Jane. provided her probate entry as a “hint” which I clicked to review. There was her name, last place of residence, date and place of death, the date of probate, the amount of money she left, and lastly, the beneficiary – it was David Granick.

It was a very good thing I was sitting down when this appeared on the screen; I was quite shocked. Was this the same David Granick who was the photographer? A search of English online vital records showed me that only one David Granick had ever lived in England. A bit more sleuthing and I discovered that David’s mother was a sister to Marion’s father. This meant that Marion was first cousin to David Granick, as is my own mother, albeit by marriage.

What are the odds? Beshert! – it was meant to be – and I suggested Graham take his mother to the exhibit!

– Jeremy Frankel