Saturday, July 17, 2010


It was a few years ago when somebody told me one could go to any library in the US and access their genealogy database – for free. It was only a few weeks ago I did that. On a Saturday morning I walked in the building and went to the computer that was booked for me. I sat down and looked for Tolpolar, Nusinkis, Fleck, Fishman and Leizarov. The most relevant result I got was for Jankel Tolpolar.

Jankel Tolpolar was the brother of my grandfather, the first of one his family to come to Brazil. For some reason, he moved back to Moldova and died there during the war. And that is the only information we ever had of him. No pictures, no other stories, nothing. When was he born, was he married, had kids, why did he go back to Europe, where did he die, how? Jankel Tolpolar was almost an unknown to us.

But that day at the library, the genealogy website shared a little bit more of this mysterious Tolpolar. In the database there was a passenger list of a ship named Konig Friedrich August, that left Hamburg in 1913, in Germany, and went to Boulogne, Southampton and then Rio de Janeiro. And in this passenger list there was the name of Jankel Tolpolar.

But it says more. Jankel was Russian, born in 1889 in Olishkany; he was single, was a businessman and travelled in a “zwischendeck” accommodation type. I asked a friend who speaks German what this word meant and he explained “between decks – probably not the best accommodation”.

This little piece of information was more than we ever had. Jankel was 24 years old when he decided to move to Brazil. He had to go to Rio de Janeiro by ship and then from there went to Porto Alegre (where my grandfather moved to in 1930). From there, he called on the other Tolpolars, probably said “this is fine, come over”. And then, one by one, advised by Jankel, some brothers and sisters moved to Brazil. And then Jankel moved back to Europe to die there, most likely single and with no kids.

The same list had another piece of information that puzzled me. It also said that in 1912, a year earlier than Jankel, another Tolpolar took the same ship but this time to Buenos Aires. His name was Herschel Tolpolar, Russian, born in 1893 in Palenesky.

I have never heard of this man before. My first inclination was to research Palenesky, but this location is nowhere to be found in the Internet. I tried different spellings, Talenesky, Palanasky, etc. but nothing.

A research always leads to another research, and there we go, endlessly looking for information that can explain more about our family and about ourselves.

Herschel Tolpolar, who were you?

NEXT: A documentary shot in Moldova.