Over the course of my internship at the NYG&B, I was able to learn so much about my family’s history through many different resources. When I initially planned my mode of research, I wanted to find out more about one of my distant ancestors, named Max Jacoby, who, according to family lore, served in the Civil War. As I soon discovered, Max was not as distant to me as I once thought. He was my great-great-great grandfather and lived the majority of his life less than ten miles away from where I grew up. I was able to uncover valuable information such as his address in New York City and later in Newark, New Jersey—as well as census records, donation slips, and even his Civil War draft registration card. Because Max Jacoby turned out to be much easier to uncover than I had expected, I made it my goal to continue searching as far down that family line as I could possibly get. Unfortunately, as a Jewish family in the mid-19th century, very little information exists prior to the time they entered the United States, where we have lived for many generations longer than other Jewish families in the region. Max’s mother Anna is the first member of my family I was able to locate in the United States and she is believed to have been born in Germany. As such, I could never find out the name of Max Jacoby’s father, probably because he was born in Germany sometime before the 1840s, and generally hit a brick wall for all generations prior to the mid- 19th Century.
The US records were much easier to find, and provided a wealth of information on more recent generations. Some of the more recent generations on my mother’s side were very interesting to look at because I knew most of them personally, like my great-aunt Hortense, who lived to be over a hundred years old, was listed in an early 20th Century census as “dance instructor”—a profession my family has always laughed about . Although my own family’s history does not stretch back very far in this country, I still had a great time looking through source materials and trying to find out many things that I did not know previously. Hopefully I can continue to practice genealogical research on my own time and ultimately find out more about where I come from.