By Allyson Freedman
It all started in 2007 with a sick dog named Fonzie.
When the Feigelson family dog had surgery in Tennessee, Baltimore resident Margy Resnick Feigelson seized the opportunity to meet her extended family in Knoxville for the first time. Feigelson, who had pored over genealogy websites to trace her family’s roots, immediately connected with her grandfather’s sister, Yetta Resnick Burnett, and her Burnett cousins. Her quest to find her extended family ignited a spark in her newfound cousin, Michael Burnett. Soon after her initial visit, he began tracking down the rest of the Resenkov/Resnick clan. Seven years later, 116 Resenkov/Resnick descendants from 10 states packed the Park Heights Jewish Community Center on Sunday, June 22 for their largest-ever family reunion.
“Driving down to Tennessee all those years ago, I never would have dreamed it would lead to a major family reunion. I started the genealogy, but Michael took over and found so many long-lost relatives,” said Feigelson. “This beautiful family began with one brave couple, my great-grandparents, restarting their lives in Baltimore. My grandfather was one of seven children. Look at how much our family has grown.”
Between 1906 and 1910, Rose and Isaac Resnekov (changed to Resnick) immigrated from Haisyn, Ukraine in search of a better life. Escaping the hardships and pogroms of Eastern Europe, they brought their six children — Zelda “Jenny,” Sarah, Abraham, William, Louis and Mary — to the United States. Their seventh and youngest child, Yetta, was born in Baltimore. Blessed with longevity, Burnett’s mother, Yetta, passed away in January at the age of 101.
Burnett’s desire to fill in the branches of her family tree grew even stronger with the loss of her mother — the last surviving child of Rose and Isaac.
“After my mother passed away, I wanted to see her whole family. All of the guests today are descendants of my mom’s parents, Rose and Issac Resnick,” said Burnett. “When I planned a Baltimore reunion, I expected 20 people to attend. I had been working on the genealogy for a long time, and I was able to contact many people. Through multiple emails, phone calls and simple word of mouth, the event grew and grew and grew. The majority of family members are meeting each other for the first time, just like I met Margy all those years ago.”
Family members flocked to Baltimore from Pennsylvania, Missouri, Maryland, Florida, Connecticut, New York, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina for the lively afternoon affair. Through sips of coffee and bites of chocolate cake, they got to know each other and pieced together
how they are related. The family’s rich history was on full display at the reunion via slide shows, old photographs, immigration papers, personal letters, certificates of achievement and newspaper clips. In addition, Burnett handed out copies of the most updated Resnkov/Resnick family tree for every guest.
“One of the best features is the article on my great-great grandmother Bessie Snyder,” said Feigelson, holding up a newspaper clip on Snyder at the White House. “Everyone has a story about Bubbie Snyder. She was Rose’s mother and adored by everyone. Although we didn’t know her exact age, she lived to be 109 to 115. She even went to the White House to meet the president when she turned 100.”
Since many members of the Resnick family live in Baltimore, Burnett hopes that the relationships forged will extend far beyond last Sunday’s reunion. Before meeting each other on Sunday, some of the relatives traveled in similar circles without realizing they were related. Prior to the reunion, for example, Barbara Goldman discovered she worked with one of her cousins, Lisa Greenberg, at Woodholme Elementary School in Pikesville.
“After taking a job as a para-educator at Woodholme Elementary, I ran into my cousin Rozzie Seiden at the store,” said Goldman. “She informed me that our cousin, Lisa, worked there as a guidance counselor. Unaware of the family connection, I realized I had been working for several months with a cousin of mine, and I did not even know it.”
“It was very emotional once we discovered we were cousins,” added Greenberg. “I brought in family photos of our grandparents. We had an immediate bond. It was the family bond.”
That centrality of family was the overarching theme at Sunday’s reunion.
“This reunion amazed me,” said Burnett. “I had everyone write down their contact information on clipboards. I want to keep in touch and try to find more of the family. At the end, it all comes down to the importance of family. I guess now I’ll have to come to Baltimore more often.”
Allie Freedman is an area freelance writer.