Our Stories: Never-before-seen photos

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It’s always exciting to hear about MyHeritage users who have reconnected with family members around the world. One such user, Peri, recently told us about the incredible discovery of her unknown cousins through MyHeritage. As a result, she now has photos of her ancestors that had never been seen before.

I am wild with excitement. I got an email that on MyHeritage there was a match. I was shocked to see my mother’s maternal family in another tree and the best part was there were so many photos which – as we all know – is “genealogy gold.”

Peri is married and has two children. She is an attorney in Connecticut and graduated from Quinnipiac School of Law in 1984. For the past several years, she has devoted her practice to locate missing and unknown heirs, given her background in genealogy. She has successfully solved many cases where she reunited family members or just gave someone their family tree, and they were very grateful.

Peri became interested in genealogy in 1998 and, since then, she has been continuously working on her family tree. As an only child, and then having her own children, she was curious about her family’s history and would speak regularly to her aunts and uncles and ask questions.

Peri had traced her father’s maternal family, the Anfangs, around the world. They had moved to Argentina and China to escape the war. She had lost touch with her mother’s maternal family many years ago as the older generation passed on. So it was a real shock for her to see an email about a SmartMatch to her mother’s maternal family from MyHeritage:

I immediately contacted the site owner to make a connection. How did these photos end up in his hands? Luckily, the owner of the tree allowed me access and we have been emailing each other with family stories. The owner of the tree is my mother’s first cousin’s grandson, Gershon. When Gershon’s grandmother Frances died, he inherited a box of her personal belongings and he created his tree on My Heritage. In my wildest dreams, I did not think I would make such a discovery as to see a photograph of my maternal great grandparents.

Peri's great-grandparents, seated and surrounded by their family, her great-aunts and uncles. The little girl with the hair bow is Peri's grandmother.

The owner of the tree also had a photograph of my grandmother in her late teens, and that is also something I have never seen before.

Peri's maternal grandmother, Rosemary, in her teens.

Even more remarkable is that her mother, Irma, is alive at 89 – and Peri was able to show her all the photos on MyHeritage.

My mother was amazed, to say the least. When you work so hard to find information like this, it is the fuel that makes you move on to look for the next big break.

Peri joined MyHeritage about a year ago because of the availability of SmartMatches. She now has 2,359 people in her tree and is the most involved researcher in her family. One “cousin” is just beginning. She has another cousin who wrote a book about his mother’s life to honor her memory when she recently died.

Peri's father, Jerry, and his sister, Faye.

She was my father’s sister, Faye, so my father is part of the story and it was delightful to read it. Everyone is always interested in what I am doing.

Her family members live throughout the USA, Israel, and Argentina.

I also started a family tree for my future son-in-law’s family as a gift for them. His family tree has enabled me to go back to the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, to times when my family was not in the USA, so that has been very enlightening.

She has discovered many of her father and mother’s first cousins and has been in touch with their children and grandchildren.

Several of them have traveled to New York where we arrange to meet and it has been fabulous. One was my father’s last surviving cousin, who was 90 when we met. When he walked toward me, the shocker was that he looked and sounded like my father and it was like spending the day with my dad who had died by then.

Another one of her significant discoveries has been finding information about family members lost in the Holocaust.

Her father’s Anfang family is originally from Poland.

Basha Adler Anfang, Peri's paternal great-grandmother, whose family was lost in the war.

Several years ago, I was looking at the Yad Vashem website and researched my grandmother’s maiden surname Anfang and her village Dubiecko and I found nine pages of testimony. I was shocked. My father was still living then and he confirmed that the relative who survived the war, Jacob, and who reported the lost family members was sent to live in Israel.

After more research over the years, Peri discovered her grandmother Pauline also had a brother Max Anfang, who escaped the war and went to Buenos Aires. Her daughter is fluent in Spanish, so she called a woman in Buenos Aires to see if she was a relative.

Max Anfang (left) in Berlin before going to Argentina (Photo provided by his daughter).

The woman did not know her father had any family and, after looking into the names of father’s parents, she confirmed my information. I have corresponded with her over the years sharing information. Her daughter came to New York City and I met her. I found two other cousins in Chicago and Los Angeles. They were traveling separately to Buenos Aires and they met with the woman and they were all so delighted that I reunited everyone.

Peri then discovered her grandmother’s other brother, Alfred Anfang, had escaped the war and went to Shanghai; his name is listed at the refugee museum.

Plaque from the Shanghai Jewish Refugee Museum showing "Alfred Anfang."

Her most troubling discovery was how her relatives died during the war.

I purchased a yizkor (memorial) book for their village Dubiecko in Poland/Galicia and it listed my great-grandmother’s name along with several other family members who were killed in a mass grave when the Nazis came to their village. I had no idea my great-grandmother had been alive at that time and that was a very disturbing discovery. However, I strongly believe I have been bringing all our scattered family members together with my research and now I was able to honor their memories with some prayers and share their information with other family members on a private Facebook page where I share my discoveries with other family members.

Peri advises those just beginning their genealogy journey to:

  • Never give up – because you don’t know what may be around the corner waiting to be discovered.

That happened to me so many times it just adds fuel to the fire of desire.

  • Talk to everyone you can and record what they say.

I only wish I knew then what I know now and I would have been more aggressive about my research. I have a running joke that I would like to hold a séance and ask my relatives to fill in all my remaining blanks in the tree.

Did you enjoy Peri’s story? Share your comments below.

Do you have a story to tell? Email us at stories@myheritage.com.

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  • Robin Edwards


    August 16, 2016

    Persistence pays off, as Peri says “never give up”. Sometimes those brick walls seem unsurmountable, and if we only knew back then what we know now. Keep a record of all those stories you hear, don’t hope to rely on memory alone. My husband’s great grandfather Joseph Dobias back ground is a mystery, but through My Heritage we have contacted living cousins, who unfortunately haven’t solved the mystery yet either, but we have been able to share photos.

  • Sally Rolls Pavia


    August 18, 2016

    What wonderful luck you had finding the pictures. Gives me hope that I’ll find some of my families pictures. Also, need to get busy and post the ones I haven’t posted yet. Some going back to the mid-1880.

  • Nancy Paskin


    August 25, 2016

    Congratulations, Peri. A wonderful account of all of your hard work and persistence. Glad to be among your cousins, though more distant than most.

  • Diane Steinberg-Lewis


    August 26, 2016

    Peri, this is so such a special gift to your family. We are about to dive in once again in search of photos of people we’ve discovered through records but cannot get a picture. I’m inspired and celebrate with you the jewels you’ve discovered in your historical treasure chest.

  • Ina Getzoff


    August 26, 2016

    I have been doing my family genealogy for 25 years and l get excited each time I break down a brick wall but also get excited for someone else when they break down that proverbial brick wall. Peri-your story is wonderful and you have also made many other people really happy. Keep going forward.