I was delighted to receive a third photograph of my great-grandmother Gittel from my father’s cousin. When I started genealogical research three years ago, I had not even known her name.
Now I had immigration records, census records, birth records, death certificates, and other family information that had helped fill in some of the knowledge gaps about family members and key dates. I was able to determine that my great-grandparents had immigrated in the 1890’s from Korolowka, Galicia, now Oleyëvo-Korolëvka, Ukraine, the town where 38 Jews survived the Holocaust by hiding in caves for a remarkable 344 days.
But this photo was a little different. With her enigmatic smile and unusual hand positions, great-grandma seemed to be playing charades and sending the viewer a message. The photo reminded me of those that photographer and art dealer Alfred Stieglitz had taken of the hands of his wife, artist Georgia O’Keeffe. Looking at Gittel’s clothing, I wondered if the photo had been taken prior to her immigration to America.