finding your roots

Jewish Immigration to America

Peggy Wilkins April 30, 2012

“Finding Your Roots” has given me a clearer picture of my husband’s Eastern European Jewish roots, and why it has been so difficult to research them. Thank you for illuminating how dangerous it was to live in then-Russia before WWI. There are no stories of the Old Country passed down through generations, no pride in the family name, no famous relatives to hold up as role models. These facts only make me more curious as to how the 4 Patiky brothers were able to get themselves to America at the turn of the century and why their parents never joined them.
Anyone who has been at this “hobby” for more than a few years has probably had some family secret show up on a document found on the Internet. Our ancestors could never have imagined how their “beans” would be spilled 100 years later! My husbands’ grandfather, David Patiky, one of the 4 brothers from what is now Ukraine, told his youngest daughter that he lost his fingers fighting in WWI. She was surprised when I told her recently that I found his original draft document from 1917 stating he is exempt from serving DUE TO “2 fingers cut off of left hand.”. I believe it was on the Maggie Gyllenhall episode that Dr Gates revealed that men in Russia had been known to cut off their own fingers so as not to be conscripted into the Tsar’s Army.
These historical tidbits are what can bring life and humanness to our story, so thank you for that!

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  • Mike Savin

    May 1, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    I wish to thank Mr. Gates for the series – and the stories. I just watched the Rice/Jackson/Simmons episode which, as with the other episodes, I found very moving. I find I am in tears after each of these. My own roots are Jewish on both mother and father’s side: all 4 grandparents came as children from Russia from about 1895 to 1905. I know very little, but do have some interesting stories from Russia during that time. I wrote a bio on my father in 2006 months before he passed away. He had an interesting life and history. I could provide this bio. His father, my grandfather, Ted Savin, participated in a land rush in Montana, homesteading in Ismay, Montana. Ted was a rabbi and the community’s kosher butcher. He broke horses – and one of my dad’s proud memories were when they later lived in Chicago, were attending a Rodeo, and participating cowboys came up in the stands to talk with and shake hands with Ted. Dad’s family moved from Chicago to Dallas, then to Los Angeles – where my grandfather, who was an innovator, had come up with a tool that allowed him to change brake bands in Model T Fords in a few minutes compared to the hours previously needed. He set up business on a rented portion of another man’s service station, doing brakes – and it grew into a larger business. Ted built with his own hands a large building (that still stands) at 4th and Soto Sts, in Los Angeles. There my dad and his two brothers learned the brake buisness (from about age 10, and attending school). After the 3 brothers came back from WWII, Grandpa gave the brake shop to the brothers – and he went into building houses and apt buildings full time. My dad wanted to be an auto dealer – and he was. Crosley first, then imported autos: Hillman, Renault, Alfa Romeo, AC, Morgan, Triumph among other brands – and he participated in Sports Car racing – and was very successful at it.

    Again, Mr. Gates, thank you for your work!

    - Mike Savin

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About the Series

The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the new 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 12th series from Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Filmed on location across the United States, the series premieres nationally Sundays, March 25 – May 20 at 8 pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

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