A.J. Jacobs is a best selling author probably best known for The Year of Living Biblically, though his Global Family Reunion initiative may provide more of a clue as to how he figures into this ongoing tale of uncovering my Dad’s history. However, Jacobs is also responsible for one of my favorite quotes ever about being Jewish: Jacobs states “I’m Jewish in the same way Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant.” That quote endeared Jacobs to me instantly, but I would have probably had a soft spot in my heart for him one way or the other simply because of what his GFR efforts ended up meaning for my quest to unravel my Dad’s history.
Jacobs reached out to me as one of his innumerable “cousins” when he was planning the Global Family Reunion, something that united millions of people in 2015 via social networking and several “hometown” get togethers (including one in Salt Lake City, if I’m not mistaken). There was no Portland reunion (that I recall, anyway) and I didn’t want to meet several million people over Skype, so that part of the GFR didn’t really interest me, despite its cool intent. However, part of the GFR was a then new site called Wikitree, which is kind of the Wikipedia version of Ancestry. Jacobs’ initial email to me recommended starting a family tree on Wikitree, which I did. (I had previously uploaded some very minimal data to Ancestry through their free–meaning not very extensive–portal.)
By this time we had quite a bit of data on Kate Tetenbaum Kauffman’s side of the family, and we knew that there were two missing children: my father’s elder brother Hyman, who stayed with my grandfather Jacob after Jacob dropped the younger kids off in foster care in New York City; and baby Catherine, whom my grandmother Kate had died giving birth to. I included that data as well as all of the siblings of Kate I knew about, and then I pretty much promptly forgot about having done so.
Luckily, the internet has a long memory and that upload of data would finally provide some astounding new connections as 2015 gave way to 2016.