Posted in Genealogy, Jewish Gen, Michlosky

A Michlosky Puzzle – Lithuanian or Polish?

I thought I had a huge breakthrough in locating the ancestral shtetl (Jewish town) of the Michlosky line while looking at an old history book at the Library of Congress this week – but when I went to confirm connections, I came up with some contradictory information that has left me with a bit of a puzzle.

Michlosky Origins – What I knew:

Our Michlosky immigrant ancestor, Jacob,  lived, worked and raised his children in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania from about 1880 to his death in 1900.[2] He was born in 1852.[1] Jacob and his wife, Yetta Silverstein, had 6 children.[3] Our ancestor is Yetta and Jacob’s, 2nd son, Harry Michlosky (J’s Great Grandfather), who was a prominent businessman and was in the local newspaper many times for his business and various philanthropic events.[4]    Harry was born in Wilkes-Barre so to find where this line immigrated from, I had to find his father Jacob, J’s Great Great Grandfather.[5] [6]

The only information on Jacob’s origin we have is a from his first son, Peter Samuel’s death certificate where it is listed as ‘Russia’.[7]  I do not know where in Russia and today’s map looks very different from the map during their time. Russia could mean any number of present day Eastern European countries.


Jacob Michlosky -What I found at the Library of Congress:

I searched Wilkes-Barre History books in the LoC Catalog and found a few books from the early 20th century.  I ordered them to the Main Reading room and spent a couple hours browsing and looking for our family surnames.  I found two very exciting things in The History of Jews of Wilkes-Barre by Marjorie Levin[8]: 1) a match to our Jacob that might link us to a shtetl in Lithuania and 2) Last name variations for the Michlosky in Pennsylvania.  Specifically mentioned in the book:

  • An Abraham (Abram) Michelowsky [Micholsky] and Jacob Michelowsky [Micholsky] were among the group that formed a new orthodox Synagogue in Wilkes-Barre on 10 October 1881: Holche Yoscher
  • The Holche Yoscher Synagogue building was dedicated in 1887 on 198 Lincoln Street in the Heights neighborhood of Wilkes-Barre
  • The group of founders were from Wizan or Vischan Lithuania (the Holche Yoscher name coming from their origin)
Picture of an 1881 Synagogue in Wilkes-Barre: B’Nai Birth. pg 26 [8]

Things I already know that I believe connect us to this Jacob:

  • Harry’s father Jacob was buried in Holche Yosher cemetery  [1]
  • There is only one Jacob buried there along with his wife Yetta (1847-1922). Yetta is confirmed to be our ancestor linked through her obituary, census records, available vital records of her children. [8] [3] [7][10] In the same plot are an Abraham Michlosky (1849-1930) and Annie Berman Michlosky (1851 d 1909) [1]
  • My assumption at this point is that Jacob and Abraham were brothers.

I took the new information I found and looked up the dedication of the Holche Yoscher Synagogue in the old Wilkes-Barre newspapers to see if I could find Jacob and Abraham’s names.  I found nothing for a Holche Yoscher.  The history book said the new building was dedicated in 1887 on Lincoln Street, and I remember a few of the weddings of J’s relatives occurred at the  ‘Lincoln Street Synagogue’ according to newspaper announcements.  I searched ‘Lincoln Street Synagogue’, refining the search for the year 1887.  Sure enough, I found a few articles discussing the new synagogue.[11][12]

None of these articles discussed the founding members. Searches on Jacob also did not link him to the Synagogue, so I decided to search Abraham Michlosky.  Abraham, who lived to 86 years of age,  appeared a few times later in life in the 1930s. He was the honorary member at anniversary celebrations for Holche Yoscher as the last living Charter Member (confirming the Abraham buried next to our Jacob as a founding member from the book).[13]  I also found a few obituary articles.[14]  These articles did not specifically mention his brothers or the descendants of Jacob but they did confirm Abraham’s wife was Annie Berman, the other woman buried next to our Jacob and Yetta Michlosky.  

The Evening News (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania) 19 Feb 1936. Page 16


While all of these finds and information were exciting, as they were all lining up – the discovery of Abraham’s death certificate and obituary inserted new and possibly contradictory information to the search for Jacob’s ancestral home in Eastern Europe.  The History book [8] clearly said that the founders of Holche Yoscher were from the shtetls of Wizan or Vischan in Lithuania and named a Jacob and an Abraham Michlosky as founding members (a total of 6).  Which was confirmed by our Abraham’s obituary (linked to us by cemetery plot at this point).  But Abraham Michlosky’s death certificate said he was born in Poland.  His obituary specifically said he was from Warsaw, Poland. [14][15]  While J can remember some mention of a Lithuanian background, Poland coming up is a surprise.  Were one of the documents incorrect and/or is this just a question of borders changing?  


The Evening News (Wilkes-Barre, PA) 28 Jun 1938, pg 2

I have come up with a few next steps to find more clues:

  • See if I can contact the author of the history book and ask about the sources that led her to her conclusions and/or if she is available to discuss her thoughts on the founders being from Lithuania (maybe a stretch!)?
  • Contact the Holche Yosher cemetery and synagogue in Wilkes-Barre, PA to see if they have any records on their founder’s (I haven’t been successful to date finding contact information).
  • Look up the changing borders of Lithuania and Poland during the years between founding of the synagogue and Abraham’s death
  • Research the descendants of Abraham to see if there are any clues.
  • I’m still missing a death record for Jacob, and would like to order his son’s, our great grandfather, SS application to see what clues may be there


  1. Jacob Michlosky, Holche Yoscher Cemetery; Hanover, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, USA. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current
  2. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1882; U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995
  3. 1910 Federal Census Records; Census Place: Wilkes Barre Ward 9, Luzerne, Pennsylvania; Accessed Ancestry.Com
  4. The Wilkes-Barre Recrod, The Evening News, The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader (various 1911-1945)
  5. Harry Michlosky, Temple B’nai Israel Cemetery, Elmira, NY, USA. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current
  6. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918; Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Luzerne; Roll: 1927076; Draft Board: 1 (Also, WWII Draft Registration Card)
  7. Samuel Pete Micholsky, 1936: Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1964 Accessed:
  8. Levin, Marjorie, The Jews of Wilkes-Barre : 150 years (1845-1995) in the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania: Wilkes-Barre, Pa. : Jewish Community Center of Wyoming Valley, 1999.
  9. Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, the Evening News – 4 Aug 1921, Thu – Page 11
  10. Joseph Michlosky, 1956; Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1964
  11. ‘Dedication of New Synagogue’ The Wilkes-Barre Record – 1 Feb 1887, Tue – Page 1
  12. ‘Jewish Synagogue Dedicated’ Dollar Weekly News – 12 Feb 1887, Sat – Page 7
  13. ‘Synagogue to Honor Abraham Michlosky’ The Evening News – 19 Feb 1936, Wed – Page 16
  14. ‘Death takes A.Michlosky’ The Evening News – 28 Jun 1938, Tue – Page 2
  15. Abraham Michlosky, 1938; Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1964
  16. ’Death Takes Jacob Cohen: Founder of Lincoln Street Synagogue’ Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, the Evening News – 2 Sep 1932, Fri – Page 15

9 thoughts on “A Michlosky Puzzle – Lithuanian or Polish?

  1. Oh, so frustrating. In my own family history I see people appropriating slightly different stories as it suited them. Also, someone could be. Born one place and then live for awhile elsewhere which could corrupt your information. Beautiful research, though!


    1. That is a great tip for me to consider! I have been thinking about your comment – the book also said that while the founders were from Lithuania the newspaper began to call it the Polish Synagogue because the majority of congregants soon became Polish after the founding – maybe people assumed he was from Poland and put that on his death certificate? it is interesting his mother’s name was unknown at death showing he didn’t talk much about his history to this children (?) and thanks for the comment – that means a lot!


  2. Great research, and I’d trust the history work over the newspaper just because I’ve seen many errors in obituaries. Have you tried to see where other members of the Jewish community were from in Wilkes-Barre at that time? Often Jews from one community settled where there were already people from their homeland and even their town. I’d look in particular at the people who are listed near your relatives on the 1880 census. Just a thought…


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