Eliyahu's Branches:
The Descendants of the Vilna Gaon and His Family.

by Chaim Freedman

After decades of research, a noted Israeli genealogist has produced a book about the Vilna Gaon that contains a rare portrait of the illustrious 18th-century Eastern European sage, a discussion of his substantial influence on the Jewish world and a thoroughly-documented family tree listing more than 20,000 descendants of the rabbi and his siblings. A small portion of the tree--the first four generations--is available on the Web.

For Chaim Freedman, who has lived in Israel since 1977, the compilation of
Eliyahu's Branches: The Descendants of the Vilna Gaon and His Family was more than just a scholarly obsession that took hold of him as a child in his native Australia. Freedman is an eighth-generation descendant of the Vilna Gaon who was spurred into researching his own roots after growing up hearing countless tales about his many cousins in Russia and their celebrated common ancestor who died in 1797.

"Unconfirmed Connections," the last chapter of the book, details the claims of about 100 families that they are related to the Gaon -- claims that Freedman had been unable either to verify or disprove. If all had been valid, he said, "You'd be looking at several tens of thousands of people to add to the family tree."

It is in this section that the Yudelman / Judelman claim is detailed, as yet to be verified.

"You wouldn't imagine there could be so many problems in proving the descent of so many people in only seven or eight generations," Freedman said. "I tried to record all of the claims that seemed solidly based. It was important for me to properly record and analyze them. I was able to prove some claims, and some I was able to disprove."


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