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Finding My Tribe

My Journey to Discover Which Tribe of Israel I Descend From

By Bradley GreenlandPublished 4 years ago 3 min read

I have been researching my family tree for a while and have made many discoveries throughout my journey. My family tree comes from a wide range of countries throughout Europe, but a part of my family tree that has always fascinated me are my Jewish roots. The problem with researching this part of my family tree, is that I constantly run into a problem which most people with Jewish ancestors run into, the Holocaust. Many records of Jewish people were destroyed during both the Holocaust and the years after, which makes it harder to find any information about my family.

As part of discovering my Jewish roots, I wanted to look into discovering which of the twelve tribes of Israel I belong to. When I began this journey, I had no idea where to start. I decided to have the Yiddish on my great-grandparents' headstone translated to see if that lead to anything.

With the help of a Facebook group specifically for translating genealogy related items (yes they exist) I was able to get the headstone translated.

The headstone of my great-grandmother, Mollie (Kaplan) Greenland, translates to:

“Malka, daughter of Chayim the Cohen, died on Sivan 16th 5732 (which is equal May 29th, 1972).”

The title of Cohen is given to those who are of priestly descent and belong to the tribe of Levi. Those who are of priestly descent are also believed to be descendants of Aaron the high priest, Moses’s brother. This was an amazing discovery and one that made me very excited. However, my journey to discover which tribe of Israel I belong to did not end there because, in Judaism, your tribe is inherited through your paternal side and not your maternal side.

I then looked at the headstone of my great-grandfather, Joseph Greenland. His headstone translates to:

“Yosef, son of Avraham. Died on Av 10th 5738” (Which is equal to August 13th, 1978).

Unfortunately, his headstone did not provide me with any information about his tribe. Another obstacle I ran into was that I have not been able to locate the grave of my 2x great-grandfather, Avraham, my great-grandfather’s father. Luckily for me, I was able to find the grave of my 3x great-uncle Aaron Greenland in the same cemetery as my great-grandparents.

The Yiddish of his headstone translates to:

"Aharon Yehoshua, son of Menachem"

His headstone also did not provide me with the answer to my question. After this, I needed to get creative. Aaron's son, Mason Stanley Greenland, is buried in the same cemetery and I was able to obtain a picture of his grave.

When I found this, I turned back to the genealogy translation group. They were able to translate the Yiddish to read as follows:

"Here lies buried Moshe Shmuel son of Mr. Aharon Yehoshua the Levite

Died the 5th day of Elul (August 26th, 1990)"

This was the breakthrough I was looking for. This provided me with the tribe which my 3x Great-Uncle Aaron belonged to, which is the tribe of Levi. This is important because Aaron and my 2x great-grandfather, Avraham, belonged to the same tribe, which means that my great-grandfather also belonged to the Levite tribe. Meaning that I also belong to the Levite tribe.

Finding out this information brings to light information about a branch of my family tree which I typically would not find any information about. This discovery made me very grateful that my family thought to put tribal information on their headstones so it could be known by future generations.

I am thankful for the group of translators that helped me in my journey as I would never have been able to solve this on my own.


About the Creator

Bradley Greenland

Bradley Greenland is a freelance genealogist looking to tell the stories hidden in your family tree.

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