This post probably belongs on my genealogy blog but I thought more people would see it here--so here it is!
My husband is adopted. He had amazing adoptive parents. I am a genealogy nut. My daughter wanted to know her roots and where she got her nose. Also, where did Mr. Snowbird get his ears. So the search began.
I had done extensive research on my family so decided to do Mr. Snowbird's adoptive family. Adoptive family went back to Lithuania and England. This was all well and good but didn't explain where Karen got her nose and he got his ears. Luckily he had a copy of his adoption history which gave his natural mother's full name, her parents names, her grandparent's names, places etc. So, tracing that part was easy. We received pictures of his birth mom and a half sister. We found out where Karen got her nose and Mr. Snowbird got his ears.
Not so easy when it came to the natural father. We had his first name, his sibling's first names, his parent's first names (you get the picture.) We knew they lived in Detroit and were Jewish. Still not an easy task. But, then we had a stroke of luck. I wrote to Michigan for his birth certificate which had his adoptive name on it but said he was born in Ohio not Michigan. So, I wrote to the state of Ohio and lo and behold got his real birth certificate and lo and behold it had his natural father's full name. From there everything fell into place. We corresponded with and met relatives he never knew he had. One relative was a second cousin by the name of Rafael Goldchain. I corresponded with him a couple of times but my daughter took up the challenge and pursued this side of the family even more than me--and in doing so, traded information with Rafael on the family.
While Karen and Rafael were corresponding, she discovered that he was working on a book of photographs. But not just any photographs. The book is a family album of photographs with a twist: Rafael is the only subject. After extensive research and planning, he transformed himself into some of his ancestors (and Mr. Snowbird's)and then took pictures of himself as that ancestor. The outcome was amazing. He also included parts of his sketchbook which he wrote for each character in his book. On the page he wrote about his great grandmother, (Mr. Snowbird's great aunt) he included my first letter to him. Also, in the acknowledgement page, he thanks my daughter. We were really surprised by this.
Anyway, with permission from Rafael, I am reprinting the pictures here of Rafael as some of Mr. Snowbird's ancestors. Enjoy.
This is Rafael's great grandmother and the sister of Mr. Snowbird's grandfather, Julius. This was taken from a real portrait of Chaja with her mother, Sarah.
This is a sister of Chaja and Julius. Malka was an actress in the Yiddish Theatre. I have a copy of the picture that Rafael used for his portrait. It is amazing how close he comes to looking like her.
Aida was Rafael's grandmother. She immigrated from Poland to South America in the 1920's with her husband and then moved to Chile in the 1930's. After the death of her husband, she moved back to Buenos Aires then to Israel where she remarried. After her second husband's death, she moved several more times finally moving to the US where she met and married Manuel "Manny" Ritten, her first cousin. They were in their 80's when they married. Manny was the brother of Mr. Snowbird's birth father, Don David Ritten.
So, there you have it. If you want to learn more about this book, all you have to do is google Rafael Goldchain or I Am My Family. It is really a fascinating book and one our family will treasure.