I'm trying to determine my (step-)grandparents' birth place from the 1916 Canadian Census. The relevant portion is this:
For context, here is the entire record. The people in question are listed as Louis Keslar (line 3) and Sara Keslar (line 4).
I've been struggling with this since February when I discovered the record. The transcription of the information at the Ancestry.com page lists the towns as "Ogec, Russia":
Clearly, the town name could be interpreted many different ways just from the handwriting and Oyic is quite possible as well. The key thing is that the spelling will not be correct. Louis and Sara did not write the name of the town and wouldn't have been able to spell it in English. They would have just said it to the census taker with their accents and the census taker wrote what it sounded like as best as possible with very poor handwriting.
The clues I know that I've used to try to pin this down:
- They were Jewish and it was most likely a town with a lot of Jewish people.
- They were born around 1878 and 1876 and came over in 1904 and 1906.
- Russia back then had extended boundaries and included much of today's Poland and more
- They spoke Yiddish and the town's actual name could have been in Polish or Russian script.
The difficulty is that only Louis and Sara came over, with no other family and no one else from their town came with them. Louis was escaping the army in 1904 and Sara joined him in 1906. Determining the town will ultimately unleash a whole new frontier of discovery. I have not yet tracked down their ships records, which is a laborious task, since none of the Canadian ship records are indexed. It is a matter of manually going through the microfilms one by one. I'll need a month minimum to do so. But the information in Canadian ships records are not usually helpful, except for seeing the people before and after, who they might have come with. In their case, I suspect they came alone and the ship's records in my mind will most likely show that.
There is still the possibility that they may have changed names when they came over, if they were afraid of being traced by the army. We don't know of any contact they had with anyone back in Russia after they came over. To the people who remembered them, they never talked about Russia or relatives.
The only other major clue I had was a picture of Louis in the Russian Czar's army which I asked about in Extract Facts from an Army Portrait. The clue it provided is that the picture was taken in Chelm. In a comment in that question, I said (incorrectly) that this record said "Osek" which with the record now displayed above, clearly was incorrect. The "eureka" in that question was that I thought the town might be Osiek, which is not too far from Chelm.
I followed that up checking out the Osiek listing at the Poland Jewish Records Indexing site, and I have been in contact with Orit Lavi, the town leader. As it turns out, there is no Kessler or Katkow (Sara's maiden name) or anything similar in Osiek. There are at least two other significant towns named Osiek near enough to Chelm, but now my hope that the town was named Osiek is diminishing.
Going back again to the original town: "Ogec", "Oyec" or whatever. The real problem is that so many towns have the same or similar names in the Poland/Russia area. I've gone through the JewishGen Gazetteer numerous times to try all possible similarly-sounding town names. The problem with any one sound is you either get zero towns listed, or you get dozens.
Examples from the JewishGen Gazetteer: "Ogec" gives nothing. "Oyec" gives a town near Mongolia (very unlikely) "Osec" gives 70 matches, most of which are in Poland.
The "j" sound in Russian is written by two Cryllic characters.pronounced "zh" which may make finding the current name of the town difficult.
So yes, I see I've got a lot of research ahead of me.
But what I'd like to know in this question, is if anyone sees any clues in the discussion above that I have missed to help me identify or narrow down which town this may be.
Update, July 16, 2021. Today, I found a death record for Sarah Kesler from 1929 giving her mother and father's birthplace as Odessa, Russia. Two of the answers suggested that, and now this death record adds evidence to that.
I'm giving the accepted answer to Peteris who was the first to suggest Odessa.