The Beginnings

In 1831, when Hirsh Berkman was born, much of Lithuania existed under the Russian Empire, so records from this time typically show the town, the uyezd (an administrative area under the Empire), and the guberniya (governorate). While we don’t have a record corresponding to Hirsh’s birth, he lived most of his life in Vilkija (or “Vilki”), in the uyezd and guberniya of Kaunas. Vilkija is about 30 km northwest of the city of Kaunas on the bank of the Nemen River.

Lithuania-1867-1914-EN
Lithuania 1867-1914

The name Hirsch means “deer” or “stag”, and is alternately spelled Girsh in some records due to transliteration from Russian and/or Yiddish. He also appears as Tsvi, the Hebrew equivalent (“gazelle”.)

Hirsh married Sore Bershteyn (1844- ) and they had eight children together, six of whom survived through childhood.

The first, Gitel, was born in Vilkija in 1861 when Hirsh was 39 and Sore was 17. Hirsh and Sore’s second child, Myer Abraham Berkman was born in Vilkija in April of 1864 and is my great-grandfather. By age 10, when the census was revised, he had three younger siblings: Getsel Ber (1867- ), Yankel Leyb (1870-1941), and Osher (1873- ). Four more children were born after that census, two of whom died from croup  as toddlers: Eyga Ester (1875-  ), Schmuel Volff (1878- ), Aharon Nate (1880-1882), and Teme Leye (1883-1886). 

[The Russian Czar conducted Revision Lists between formal censuses. These included taxpayers, those eligible for the draft, and their families.]

In the Revision List of 1890, the Berkman household is listed as missing from Vilkija. The members of the household are listed with the males first (sons Myer, Ber Getsel, Yankel Leyb, and Osher), and include Hirsh’s younger brother Leyb. Sore and their two daughters, Gita and Eyga, follow in the list. But they are no longer in Vilkija and this is where it gets more difficult to track them down. In future posts, I will focus on this generation and what I have been able to determine about them.

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