The Ballins of Germany and Denmark
For the past three years, I have been researching our Ballin family (descending from Simon ha'kohen, 1600s) for our grandchildren and their Ballin cousins.
At first, the trail went back only to Albert Ballin, the famous shipping fellow that so many Ballins believe they are descended from. In our case, we knew he was a great great uncle. So, I started by reading his biographies. I learned a lot about Germany and the world at that time as well as a good bit about Great Uncle Albert. But I also learned where his parents are buried and I found a photograph of them which is now copied to all the Ballins in our family.
We have an Amalia, but I didn't know after whom she was named until I learned about Albert's parents. In fact, grandfather Arthur was named after his uncle Albert.
In the past few years, I have tried to document every Ballin I can find from before 1900. I had many disconnected family lines. Some of these lines are now connected. But I'm still dealing with at least five different Ballin trees.
Another problem I had was that so many Ballins were levites. You can't be a Kohen and be a Levy. But eventually, I understood that some Ballins actually took their wives surnames for their own. And Levite and Kohanus status comes from the father.
One brainstorm that I've recently had was simply to find out what graves of Ballins have been identified in specific cemeteries. That helped break through some of the confusion.
Something else I discovered in following trees backwards is that not all Ballins were Ballins before the 1600s. Our Simon was not called Ballin. I'm not sure that his son, Joseph Ben Shimon ha'kohen was called Ballin either. But Joseph's son Joel Ben Yosef Hakohen is listed in a Danish census as Joel Joseph Ballin. So, I can't say for sure that our Ballins are related to any Ballins who trace themselves back furthur than 1600. But surnames are notable when they pop up in more than one tree. Then, I have to wonder if these point to related trees. We have quite a few Oppenheims, for example.
Of Simon's sons, there are four siblings besides Joseph. I have a tree for Joseph as well as a tree for his brother Michael (Michel Ben Shimon ha'kohen) Ballin.
I have trees for thirteen of Joseph's children, and for our patriarch Samuel Joel (Joseph) Ballin and his wife Amalia, I have four descendant trees so far.