Two families in our database came from the same small city of
Rakov, Belarus. This report was prepared by Dave Howard as a report to
I have some exciting family history news based on the
information you have given me about your family. Your grandmother Mary
Botvinik and my grandmother Rose Segal(ovich) came from the same
little city. You and I might be much more closely related than we
could ever imagine. Time will tell.
Here is what I have found. According to your records your
mother's mother, Mary Botvinik was born in Rokov, Russia in September
of 1892 (sic).
I have found your mother's birth record on the Internet at the
highly regarded Jewishgen.org site. It is fortunate that the Botvinik
name is not very common. However, in the city of Rakov, Belarus your
family was prominent.
Rokov is a small city about 35 miles West of Minsk, the capital
of what today is the country of Belarus.
What makes this exciting for me is that my grandmother, Rose Segal,
was also from Rakov, Belarus and was born about the same time.
Your grandmother was listed as Masia-Beila Botvinik born 8 Sep
1897 in the town of Kakovno, registered in the city of Rakov, Gubierna
Masia is a Russian form for the Hebrew name Miryem which is
often translated into English as Mary. This is per A Dictionary of
Askenazic Given Names, Their Origins, Structure, Pronunciation, and
Migrations by Alexander Beider, p. 545.
From the same book I found that Beila is the Russian form for
Bella (beautiful). It also is found in Yiddish as Bile or in Hebrew as
Beyle. The name is found in the Bible in Genesis 29:29, Bilhah was the
servant of Rachel and the mother of Dan and Naphtali by Jacob. In
Italian it would be Bella.
Her father was Itsko Botvinik and his father was Srol' Botvinik.
Itsko is a form of the name Itskhok in the Bible at Genesis
21:3. In English we call him Isaac.
Srol is a variation of the name Hebrew name Isroel from the
Bible, Genesis 32:28, Israel in English.
Her mother was the same name, Beila, and Beila's father was
Movsha-Berko. It may be that Berko was the name of his father. I do
not know the family name.
Movsha is a variation of the Hebrew name Moyshe from the Bible
Exodus 2:10, Moses in English.
Berko is derived from the German Ber meaning bear. Among the
Jews several animals were popular male names: Leyb (Lion), Hirsh
(deer), Volf (kangaroo), and Ber (bear). Ber was also used among the
Jews as a nickname for Isaac. So Movsha-Berko is the same as
I also found Itsko Srolevich (meaning son of Srol) Botvinik on
the Minsk Home Owners List as living on Aleksandrovkaya Street #43,
Minsk in 1911.
The problem with your grandmother's the birth record is that it
is 5 years off from the year of birth you had. However, I have found
that being 5 years off is pretty typical. What is more interesting is
that it is a birth record for Mary Botvinik for a September birth in
registered in the city of Rakov. I cannot believe that this is not
I was looking through other historical documents from the town
of Rakov and I found a marriage record for one of my Segal relatives
(really Sagalovich) and a witness to the marriage was a Botvinik.
One of your relatives has a web site with lots of information
about your Botvinik family. I have cut and pasted some of that
information into this letter. You can check it out for yourself by
going to http://www.eilatgordinlevitan.com/index.html.
Russian wedding photographs of Faga and Nathan Botwinik
This was a pretty small town. I am sure my relatives knew your
relatives pretty well. In fact, I will have my researcher check this
out. It is possible that a few more generations back that the
Sagalovich family and Botvinik family were related. Who knows, Bell
and her father Moses-Bear might have been Sagalovichs