After More Than 100 Years Apart, a Family Reconnects

Customer Stories
10 August 2021
by Elizabeth Asdorian

Family lore said that in 1881 two Polish brothers became estranged over a woman.

After five decades apart, they came face-to-face at long last. But then tragedy struck, and the family connection was lost.

Almost 100 years later, the brothers’ descendants found each other with help from Ancestry®. This is their remarkable story, as seen in an Ancestry TV commercial.

The Rift Over Rifka

Pinchas Leib and Rachmiel Meier Grinstadt grew up in Poland during a volatile time. Between the revolution and the dangers for Jewish families, life was challenging.

The brothers worked together as bookbinders in the family printing business, but when they vied for the affections of Rifka (Rebecca) in 1881, the family bonds frayed.

Black and white portrait of a half-smiling woman, Rebecca
Rebecca, according to family lore, was the cause of the rift between the brothers. (courtesy of the family)

Rachmiel got the girl. And Pinchas moved on with his life, marrying a woman named Esther and starting a family.

But conditions in Warsaw made him look for a new place to call home.

Pinchas’ Journey to America…Twice

Records show that Pinchas boarded the S.S. Armenia from Hamburg in 1906.

A ship manifest for the SS Armenia highlighting the name of a passenger, Pinkus Grindstadt, who was "pitted with smallp pox"
A ship manifest for the SS Armenia shows Pinchas (AKA “Pinkus”) Grindstadt arrived in New York from Hamburg in 1906. (via Ancestry®)

Like many people immigrating to America at the time, Pinchas’ first stop was Ellis Island.

While his daughter entered the country without a glitch, Pinchas was held for special inquiry, as he was “pitted with small pox.”

A few days later, he was marked as “LPC Dr. Cert.” (for “likely public charge”) and sent back to Europe.

A historical record, of aliens held for special inquiry, highlighting the name Pinkus Grindstandt and his cause of detention, "LCP Dr. Cert."
Pinchas was marked as “LPC Dr. Cert.” (for “likely public charge”) and sent back to Europe. (via Ancestry®)

But Pinchas was persistent. Although it’s unclear how he saved enough money for the return voyage, his second attempt to immigrate succeeded. And he landed in Philadelphia via Liverpool in December 1906, traveling under the name “Pinkus Davidson.”

A certificate of arrival for naturalization purposes showing details such as the name, port of entry, date of arrivla, and name of vessel, for the "alien" Pinkus Davidson
Pinchas did not give up and tried immigrating a second time, this time successfully, as Pinkus Davidson. (courtesy of the family)

By 1910, he had changed his name to Paul Green and moved to New York City with Esther and their children.

A portrait of a half-smiling woman, Ester, taken at a side angle
Pinchas’ wife, Ester, who like Pinchas (AKA “Paul”), went by the last name “Green” once they were living in NYC with their children. (courtesy of the family)

Blocks Away, but Worlds Apart

His brother Rachmiel’s journey was unusual too. He sent Rebecca and his children ahead to set up a new home in America, following them in July 1909.

Records show he was also detained “LPC.” But he was luckier than his brother. He joined his family in New York.

A dressed-up family of eight standing together outside, somewhere in New York City
Pinchas’ wife, Ester, who like Pinchas (AKA “Paul”), went by the last name “Green” once they were living in NYC with their children. (courtesy of the family)

Whether they were aware or not, census records show Pinchas’ and Rachmiel’s families settled less than half a mile from each other in the Lower East Side. Both men continued working as bookbinders, supporting their growing families.

For the next 20 years, the two families lived parallel lives in New York—lives that didn’t cross paths again until 1931.

A Reconciliation Ends in Tragedy

Most likely arranged by their sister Anna, the two brothers came together for their final meeting on May 31, 1931.

Two side-by-side images of brothers, Pinchas and Rachmiel
After decades apart, the brothers came together one last time. (courtesy of the family)

The men, older and wiser, probably realized time was running out to reconnect.

Yet the happy ending wasn’t destined to be.

On the way back from their meeting—just blocks from their sister’s home—Pinchas was struck by an automobile and sustained “a fracture of the skull and lacerations of the brain.”

A medical examiner's report, showing an accidental death caused by a fracture of the skull and lacerations of the brain as a result of an automobile accident, for one Paul Green
On the way back from his reunion with Rachmiel, Pinchas (AKA Paul Green) was struck by an automobile and sustained life-threatening injuries. (courtesy of the family)

He died a few days later on June 4, 1931.

“Are You a ‘Pinky’ or a ‘Rocky’?”

Almost one hundred years later, a family gathered from around the world for a Zoom call, bringing descendants from Pinchas (“Pinky”) and Rachmiel (“Rocky”) together—a meeting of “Pinkys” and “Rockys.”

A screenshot of a video conference showing 23 sets of participants, descendants of Pinchas and Rachmiel ("Pinky" and "Rocky") on a call together
Descendants of Pinchas (“Pinky”) and Rachmiel (“Rocky”) came together on a video call.

Although a small group had reconnected in the 1980s, this marked the first time most in the extended family had ever seen one another. Stories were shared, connections made or rekindled, and a new tradition was born for the Grinstadt family.

Bringing Families Together

We all have stories of family losing track of each other over time.

But as Pinky’s and Rocky’s families learned, the bonds of family can be deeply meaningful regardless of how much time has passed.

What forgotten family connections might you uncover?

Log in to Ancestry® or try Ancestry®14 days free to find out.