Friday, December 25, 2009

Great-grandmother's Politician

Groundbreaking - Left to Right : Joe Forbes

One of my great-grandmother's grandsons, Joseph Goldfarb Forbes (Joe Forbes for short) was mayor of the city of Oak Park (1967-1970) and member of Michigan State House of Represantatives (1971-1984) . He was born in Detroit, son to David and Yetta Goldfarb, the fourth of their seven children. He resided in West Bloomfield where he was known for his friendly behaviour and affection for people. He died on December 2004, at the age of 88. May his soul rest in peace!

Several years ago, I embarked on an internet genealogical quest intended mainly as a tribute to my mother's memory, in an attempt to track her father's family saga. She had been very fond of her father (Hersh Goldfarb) and she kept telling me the story about his widow mother, his three brothers and three sisters who had emmigrated to America, leaving him behind as his wife was against departing from Romania. Sort of mini tragedy. Sometimes I think that the fact that I've never visited the USA and feel no urge to do so, has its roots in this story of hers. It is as if in my subconcious I resent the place that has 'robbed' my grandfather of his initial family.

The first of my great-grandmother's descendants I contacted after finding information through the internet, were a nurse from Cincinnati and a restaurant owner from Los Angeles. These people were fourth generation like me , so they knew little (the nurse) or almost nothing (the restaurant owner) about great-grandmother (first generation), her children(second generation) and grandchildren (third generation).

And then I came upon the name of Joe Forbes. He was a public figure, so I thought I would find some biography with information on his parents and siblings which could also lead me to the others. Well, I found no such thing. In those days people were humble ,not like today when the biography gets written on the first month of their public job. I did ,however , find in local newspapers, his obituary and also an eulogy on his service and integrity as a man and legislator.

Obituaries in Genealogy are of the utmost importance. It was from the obituary that I learnt about his three daughters. One of them who lives in Aghoura Hills , California, kindly emailed me some pictures and additional information on her father and his family.

Joseph Goldfarb Forbes was considered a key leader in the Legislature of Michigan. He was elected as the Democrat majority floor leader for five consecutive terms. One of his successors said that in order to survive as a floor leader (whose job is to run the floor debate) one needs a sense of humour and "Joe Forbes possessed humour in abundance". (Im sure of that. All those on my mother's family side had terrific humour that helped them overcome hard times).


  1. It is tragic that so many families were torn apart. And I never considered the genealogical aspect of obituaries. Humor has great healing power, does it not?

  2. Genealogy is a real eye-opener. Those side trips in the search can be very full of history never taught in school.

  3. the best medicine. Life.. sometimes I wonder why so many bad things happen.. but than I read it is an opportunity for growth.

    hugs to you..

  4. Interesting story. Keep looking, you may find exactly what you are seeking.

  5. I agree with Dimple. Don't give up yet.

  6. Ronda Laveen,

    In those days, means of comnmunication were scarce or non-existent, immigrants had to work hard and often wander from one county or country to another - so the cut off was inevitable and tragic.

    For someone searching for people from the distant past, obituaries are of great value as they contain names (sometimes address) of those surviving the deceased, and so one gets to his family that can provide the neccessary details.


    I totally agree with you on that. Through genealogy one learns a lot about geography, history, social and political aspects of places.

    Sometimes I think I know more about America than most americans do, mostly due to my genealogical search.

    MS Hen,

    Humour has all the good powers in the world. Whoever is gifted with a good sense of humour is a lucky person.

    BTW, 'hen' (or perhaps spelled as chen) in the hebrew language means 'charm'.
    So, have a blessed day, charming lady!

  7. Dimple'
    Janie B,

    I haven't given up; it just takes a lot of time and effort, and I am far from sources such as relevant archives.

    I wish to write a summary on my search so far, but I'm 'stuck' with two members of the sought after family of which I know almost nothing. So, it will have to wait.

  8. Wonderful insight into your family. I find it amazing how truly similar we all are, no matter what nationality or country we come from.

    It's interesting to me that your Grandfather remained because his wife did not want to go. That really speaks volumes about what kind of person he was. He sacrificed so much (the loss of his family) for the one he loved.

    Most thought America to be the 'land of opportunity' so I suppose it would seem a glimmer of hope to a widow with children. It would seem that they found earned their reward, Mr. Forbes was a great man. Judging from you, the family that remained behind are wonderful and accomplished people too. It's not so much about where you are but who you are that creates great people. One can tell from your postings and the experiences you relate that you lead and have lead a wonderful (although challenging) life.

    I'm sure you know this, but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the repository for most of the family backgrounds here in the U.S. This is non-denominational (they have everyone's recorded history on file). If you googled them you might be able to trace more of your lineage throughout the world.

    As always, I love your blog and the interesting postings.

  9. Hi Duta,

    I agree, researching genealogy can both be rewarding and surprising, but also sad. The last couple of months we have had a researcher in Scotland do some research on my husband's side of the family. So far the research has uncovered more information than we thought possible from the newspapers of the day. Unfortunately, tragedy befell them and it was reported on the news, which was so sad.

  10. This is such an interesting post. It must take a lot of time and effort to trace "lost" family. I am the youngest (10 years younger than my youngest sibling) of my father's (10 years younger than his youngest sibling) children and I never bonded in any way with my aunts, uncles or cousins because they were so much older, thus I have lost touch with them completely. Maybe I should start something like this.

  11. DUTA, it's fascinating how closely connected we all are, in many ways. I'm currently reading a book called The Way We Never Were by Stephanie Coontz who is an historian, specializing in family studies.

    I'm sure there is some completely mundane explanation for why it is that people, no matter where they are on the globe, sometimes find themselves thinking about the same subjects, essentially at the same time. Some sort of law of percentages and variables that would reduce such things to a statistic.

    But I choose to believe that it's more than happenstance that we -- two people with seemingly not a great deal in common on the surface -- were thinking of and drawn to subjects of family history at the same time.

    We're all of us connected and unified. Thank you for the post, DUTA. It got me thinking (as usual, your posts always do) and the things you write about so often spark a feeling of comfort, a sense of familiarity, and ultimately make the large world seem smaller, safer, and kinder.

    Places with Character, indeed :-)

  12. C Hummel Kornell a/k/a C Hummel Wilson,

    Thanks a lot!! I googled the Church and it looks good, they have a Family Search. I'll have to check it. You are a treasure.

    As for my Grandfather, he was indeed one of a kind judging by the sacrifice he had made.


    Hiring a professional genealogist is ,of course, the best thing to do. I'm sorry to hear that the results of his research were sad.

    A human kind of human,

    Thanks. Indeed genealogic search takes a lot of time, and there are periods of despair. Nevertheless, I would highly recommend it to you. If your aunts and uncles were born and lived or still live in one country that is South Africa, then it would not be too difficult to spot them or their descendants , since you are close to the relevant archives.

    Land of Shimp,

    I wish I were as generous as you are with kind words about people and subjects, but it's a gift one is probably born with.

    It is indeed fascinating the way people are drawn to the same thing at the same time. There probably is some universal, natural law that causes it.
    Anyway, family history is always on our minds.

  13. Well that was a nice post. I liked it.

  14. Oh my Duta! What a big task! And what a special gift! I do see myself doing the same thing someday, when I am not running around like crazy chasing my son (& my other is on the verge of crawling so it will be a few years) But I am so interested right now in even just my Mom's story of growing up, I can't imagine all the wonederful (some sad) stories you are uncovering!

    I even live in the U.S & actually I don't think I would travel here if I didn't. Don't get me wrong...I love the U.S.~ but the recorded hisory does not go back that far & I would be more interested in visiting places with architecture that is much older & history that runs back further. But if you ever change your mind...I'll make you some good ole' American food :)

    I hope we keep hearing about you own history! Take Care Duta!

  15. Cheryl,

    And with Janie B too. Both Dimple and Janie think I should keep on searching.


    Welcome! and thank you for your comment.


    Thank you for your warm words. Indeed, search for one's family history is big and special. It takes a lot of time and effort - but it's a rewarding process.

  16. Good job of research and compilation of the story of Joe Forbes. I have been a genealogist since my early 20's and most often for me it is just a bunch of disconnected facts. You have a real story there.

  17. A very interesting story as usual Miss Duta. It take pure persistence and some creativity in tracing ones genealogy. We have a farm worker who was raised in a orphanage and ran away at the age of 18. He knew his parents were dead but he also knew he had many siblings out there somewhere. With nothing to go on but his birth certificate we were able to locate eighteen children from this union. Yep, ya'll heard me right...we do live in the Ozarks. Paul was the youngest and it did my heart good for him to be reunited with the family that had no idea what had happen to their baby brother. Keep on keepin' on and you too will find what you are looking for.

    God bless and have a great New Year!!!

  18. I have had an on-again off-again fascination with geneology for years. I loved reading your story. If you continue your research, I hope that you will keep updating us on your finds.

  19. Sandy,

    Thanks a lot. I feel encouraged by your words and hope to go on with my search. By the way, I greatly appreciate your being a genealogist.


    The story of your worker and how you helped him find out his siblings (18!!) is truly amazing. There are lots of people in the world looking for lost/forgotten family and it nver ceases to move us.


    Yes, it is a fascinating domain. I wish to write a summary of some kind about my findings, but I'm stuck with two people of whom I know nothing, and they are very crucial, they are two of my great-grandmother's children. Si, it will have to wait.

    Anyway, among the descendants I have spotted are: an art designer, a clinical psychologist, a fashion shop owner, a nurse, a restaurant owner, a teacher.

  20. Duta,
    Thank you so much for visiting my home on the web and becoming a follower. I have so enjoyed reading so many of your posts. I have been searching for my family for thirty-nine years and have not had much success. Your stories give me courage and they give me hope so I can continue. Thank you.

    Happy New Year! ~ Just Joany
    Red Wagon Flights

  21. I find family history fascinating. I hope one day to do the same with finding out about my own.I wish you look in the search.

    I hope you had a lovely Christmas :)

  22. I love family history and wish everyone had kept a journal. Your family saga sounds like a good plot for a movie. Happy New Year. Peace

  23. Just Joan,

    My pleasure.I'm glad you've enjoyed reading my posts and that you find in my last story encouragement to go on looking for your family.
    Go Ahead ,Do it, it's important. ; I wish you the best of Luck!


    I have to agree with you; family history is indeed fascinating. I hope you do decide to look for yours soon.

    Lady Di Tn,

    Good plot for a movie indeed! Where do I take a producer?
    Happy New Year1 Peace.

  24. I wish you dear friend Duta by heart the best for the year 2010! Happy new year to All of you!

  25. Phivos Nicolaides,

    Thank you Phivos, and a Happy New Year to you too!

  26. Duta,,, thank you for visiting my blog. I have taken a few minutes to read your postings back to December 6th. Your writings are very interesting and for me to experience a place I most likely will never see in person, I thank you. I have joined your follower list and will return for a visit.

  27. Thank you so much for visiting my blog in 2009
    Come back any time you're welcome!

    I also want to wish you beautiful and Happy New Year 2010 !

  28. It sounds like your family tree yeilded a little fruit. It's always interesting to discover just who our anscesters were.

  29. Lori R,

    You're more than welcome.I'm glad you've read my postings and found them interesting. Thank you for your kind words.

    Adam Burek,

    My pleasure. I'll do my best to visit your blog in 2010 and hope that'll be reciprocal.

    Sharon Wagner,

    Right. It's both interesting and exciting to find out who our ancestors were. I still have a long way to go, but it's a rewarding process.

  30. Good luck with your search Duta! We've tried to track our past as well, and it's been tricky. Seems our name 'Nicolay' has was changed from Nicolai, along the line....making it even more tricky.

  31. Pinecone camp,

    Thank you. The name Nicolai is a common first name in Romania where I come from, and probably also in Russia , Poland and Bulgaria.

    Anyway you can start with the archives of Eliis Island; you might find something important there.
    Good Luck to you too!