The last couple of years I have been doing family history research, especially about my maternal great grandparents. Not much is known about them, the immigrated from Poland in the 1930’s, came through elis Island and changed their name. They died long before I was born so I never got the the chance to meet them, but my mom and aunts say they refused to talk about Poland or speak their native language. Saying instead “we are american now.” And leaving it at that.
After some pretty extensive (and hella frustrating) deep dives in as many geneoloy archives as possible, I was finally able to find out they both came from Makow Poland. the family story goes that my Great Grandfather came to the us ahead of my great grandmother to get things settled and ready for her. She had left Macow and was staying with an aunt tor many years in Warsaw (about 45 minutes away from Makow) who worked as a seamstress. Eventually she followed him to the us and they settled here.
When I was finally able to find the name Makow for where they had been born and lived before immigrating, I found out that the jewish population made up 90% of the total population of Makow by 1827, and that an organized jewish community untiy had been long since established there as far back as the second half of the 16th century. My great grandfather was born in 1895, my Great Grandmother 1894. So by then most of Makow was jewish.
So I was wondering if it was fairly safe to say they were most likely jewish? If so, does that mean it would be appropriate for me to reach out to a rabbi or synagogue to learn more about my heritage? I know traditionally speaking, since it was my mother’s father’s parents that neither she nor I would be considered jewish (at least that’s my understanding based on the research I’ve done so far) but I think (?) because it is my great grandparents on my mother’s side I can say I have jewish ancestors/some heritage.
Unfortunately in 1898 a huge fire ripped through the village and many houses in buildings were lost, including the archives where their records and a lot of religious texts were stored. So it makes it really hard to actually reach out to the place where they were from to try and access records at that time. Since their records (dob 1894 and 1895) would’ve been the ones that burned in what was referred to as “The Great Fire.”
I hope I asked correctly, I really want to learn and explore and honor my heritage, and want to make sure I’m doing so in a respectful and appropriate way.