Your Stories: Understanding Where Your Family Comes From

Posted September 11, 2017 by Amanda | No Comment

Carole Forsman was born a twin in Omaha, Nebraska on October 7, the anniversary of the hospital. To celebrate, the hospital gifted the all the mothers who gave birth that day no hospital bill. And she even got her picture in the local newspaper!

Your Stories: Understanding Where Your Family Comes From

Carole Forman

A writer, a board member for the Danish Cemetery in Omaha, Nebraska and a member of the local Danish Club, Carole’s path to genealogy began after she became interested in learning more about her family and how they came to be who they are.

“I started my trek into genealogy to find answers about the why’s of my current family’s behaviors. What happened in the past that led to their behaviors now?”

This revelation came after she began creating spiritual based songs.

Your Stories: Understanding Where Your Family Comes From

Carole’s first known Jewish ancestor, Robert Sigmund Hirsch

“After becoming a songwriter, I started down a path in life that led me to going to Israel, which led me to my one Jewish ancestor, which led me into genealogy, ending up at Geni.”

Your Stories: Understanding Where Your Family Comes From

Hand written family tree Carole discovered done by Berthold Rosenthal

When she first started researching her family tree, she was the only person in her family interested. Then, her mother caught the bug. As a law librarian and researcher, Carole’s mother was a stickler for documentation. However, despite the long nights and hours of research, her mother (who passed in 2012) hadn’t found as many Jewish ancestors as Carole did after discovering Geni in May 2016. What she found was a wonderful surprise.

“I like Geni best of all the genealogy websites out there because of its ease in creating a tree, the ability to collaborate with others [is] better, and the wonderful help you can get from all the curators and others. I have found more ancestors on this site than any other site out there.”

Your Stories: Understanding Where Your Family Comes From

Grave marker for Rosa and Liebermann Hochstetter, the folks that connected Carole and Randy on Geni

Carole had some assistance early on from Geni curator Randy Schoenberg, who helped get her started and connected to the World Family Tree. Since then, Carole has been able to make even more cousin connections.

“Through Geni I have met several second cousins, some in Denmark, but most in the United States. One in particular has become a Facebook friend from the same line that settled in Nebraska. This was helpful to clarify in more detail a possible reason why my grandmother never referred to our Jewish ancestors as being Jewish and only as being German prior to my trip to Israel.”

As she began making new discoveries about her Jewish ancestry, her research only led her to more.

“I also connected to another second cousin on my Jewish line whose gg-grandmother was a sister to my gg-grandfather. This connection led to us being able to add to both our trees the discovery of another sister to those two gg-grandparents and discovering she died at Gurs.”

Not only has working on the family tree on Geni helped teach Carole more about her own close family history, but also bring about the feeling of a more personal connection to world history.

“Through Geni I learned more about German Jews and how they are basically all related to each other. Finding out Anne Frank is my 9th cousin was shocking and took me to a whole new perspective of Anne being a historical figure to being more personal, that this was my family this happened to versus just some historical thing that happened.”

It also taught her that you never know how history will unfold and can bring people together in unexpected ways.

Your Stories: Understanding Where Your Family Comes From

Carole’s parents

“Probably the most interesting aspect of my family research is how much Hitler played a role in my life. I am only alive because of Hitler and WWII. I have ancestors that only died because of Hitler and WWII and here I am only alive because of Hitler and WWII. My father was born in Iron River, Michigan, a small town in upper Michigan. He quit high school to join the Navy. After the war, my father came back to find his father had sold the family home and so he stayed with different sisters, first in Detroit, then in California. Then a program became available in Freemont, Nebraska for Veterans who had quit high school to join the military to get their diploma and on the road to college. My maternal great uncle Mark came back to Omaha, Nebraska paralyzed from shrapnel wounds he received at the Battle of St. Lo in WWII. He was a chaplain’s assistant in the Army. Through that school program, my father was placed in a job as an aide to my great uncle Mark. This is how my father met my mother, basically because of the events of Hitler and WWII that led to my parents’ meeting.”

It’s this personal connection to history that has really resonated with Carole.

“From finding out about one ancestor who was literally drawn and quartered, to ancestors who fought in all the wars in the America’s, from the Indian Wars to the Gulf Wars, and the one who founded a city in Rhode Island, one that played a part in financing the cotton gin, to the Mormon that helped build their temples but returned from Utah to Iowa because he didn’t want polygamy for his daughters, to all the other ancestry stories I research it has been an interesting journey to discover how the past influenced my present day family.”

In addition to her discovery of many generations of Jewish ancestors, her journey has also helped strengthen her religious beliefs.

“To me personally, I see my family tree, which I am fortunate to be able to trace back a good majority of lines, and think of Proverb 16:9 to which it states: ‘A man may plot out his course, but it is the Lord who directs his steps.’”

For others just beginning their journey in genealogy, Carole had these tips from her own experiences starting out:

Try expanding your search beyond names and look into the history of locations.

“When I started out doing genealogy research, I was not finding ancestors very easily. I did, however, have names of some of my ancestors and where they were born. I then researched the history of these birthplaces and fortunately found more about my ancestors through the town’s history, which then led me to more family ancestors. Cindy’s List had a write up about my one great-great grandfather showing his birthplace, he was a pioneer pharmacist and more information about him. From my research he apparently practiced his own form of Judaism and was more an Odd Fellow of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows type Jew.”

Don’t give up!

“If [you] need to, take a break, then come back to your research. It took me 25 years of on-again/off-again research of my Jewish line before I was able to really go from that one Jewish ancestor name to the now 16 plus generations of Jewish ancestors I now know about.”

Breakthroughs may come from places you least expect.

“You never know when something will pop up to help your research. After my mother passed and going through her things, I found an obit notice in German for the one Jewish name I had and, thanks to Google translate, was able to obtain the name of his sister, who then through her husband’s name and Geni, I was able to link my tree to Randy Schoenberg’s tree in Geni. But I only found Randy after trying to research that German obit name on the Google browser instead of Explorer, like I had been doing up until 2016. For some reason things that might not come up in Explorer will come up on another type browser, like Google. That is how I found and then the husband of that Jewish German 3rd great aunt of mine connected to Randy’s tree and then I was able to connect to others on Geni to now I know thousands of my ancestors.”

Thanks Carole for sharing your experiences with us! Do you have a story to share? Send them to us at

All photos courtesy of Carole Forsman

Post written by Amanda

Amanda is the Social Media Coordinator at Geni. If you need any assistance, she will be happy to help!

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