31 October 2013

Treasure Chest Thursday: Saul and Hoda Wilson on the Voter List, 1918

I've been trying to locate my great grandfather Saul Wilson's naturalization records for some time. His son Joseph Wilson, born in the Russian Empire, identified his citizenship as derivative (i.e., coming via his father's naturalization). [1] I have been unable to find Saul, however, in any extant naturalization index in any court in New York City. I have also gone through all the index cards microfilmed by the Family History Library for Columbia County, New York. The City of Hudson, where the family lived at least from 1898 to 1904 is in Columbia County.

The census records I have gathered for both the U.S. Federal Census (1900, 1920) and the New York State Census (1905, 1915) indicate that Saul was naturalized. [2] I suspect that Saul was naturalized before 1906 (therefore, the naturalization papers would likely be in a local court/archive rather than at the National Archives).

However, I have also contacted US Citizenship and Immigration Services genealogy program and asked them to look for any records on my grandfather Joseph Wilson's derivative citizenship. They had none.

So, I have been checking Voter Lists. [3] Before 1957, New York State voters had to register to vote annually. Voter lists will identify individuals, their addresses and party affiliations. Books of voter lists are organized by Assembly District within each New York City Borough. Google Books has the 1918 List of Enrolled Voters book for the Bronx. [4] I found my great grandparents in Assembly District 7.

They are listed as Saul and Hattie Wilson at 2086 Vyse ave - where they'd lived since at least 1917 and where they continued to live for the rest of their lives.

Seeing them in this book still does not tell me where and when Saul was naturalized, but it does tell me that they were, indeed, citizens. [5] With this information I will be able to contact the Bronx Board of Elections to see if they still have voter registration forms from that year or earlier. The registration forms may tell me the court in which and when they naturalized.

At first, it was surprising to see my great grandmother Hoda's name on the list. After all, women did not gain suffrage in the United States until 1920. In fact, however, women in the State of New York gained the right to vote in 1917. So, it appears, "Hattie" wasted no time getting to the voting booth.

1. "New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957," digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 18 May 2008), manifest, Olympia, New York (10 February 1956) to New York, arriving 27 February 1956, List 20, passenger number 5, Joseph Wilson; citing National Archives Microfilm Serial T715, Microfilm Roll 8691.
2. On the 1910 U.S. Federal Census population schedule, the citizenship info for the family was left blank.
3. For a nice summary of NYC voter records see the JewishGen InfoFile:
4. Board of Elections of the City of New York, List of Enrolled Voters, 1918, Borough of the Bronx. Google Books (http://books.google.com/books : accessed 17 October 2013). Google Books also has 1919 and 1922 NYC Voter Lists.
5. Prior to 1922, women gained or lost citizenship based upon the status of their husbands. So, Hoda and their minor children (Nina, Joe and Ben) would have gained citizenship based upon Saul's naturalization. Their youngest child, Esther, was born in the United States and, therefore, born a citizen.

29 October 2013

Tombstone Tuesday: Esther Wilson Marwit Warmflash

Esther Warmflash gravestone, Mount Hebron Cemetery, Flushing, Queens, New York, Block 23, Reference 20, Section L, Line 3, Grave 60, Zaleszczyki Kranken Unterstuetzungs Verein, photograph in possession of the author, photographed by Mount Hebron Cemetery, 24 October 2013.
Here lies
Ester daughter of Saul
DEC. 4 1973

Last Thusday I noted that I did not yet have a photograph of my Great Aunt Esther's tombstone. I had paid Mount Hebron Cemetery ($10.75) to take a photograph of her stone.  A hard copy photograph arrived in the mail on Saturday.

Thursday's post indicated that I thought Esther had taught at Seward Park High School. I have since found out that she did and later taught English at William Howard Taft High School in the Bronx from, probably, the late 1950s and into the 1960s. [1] 

There are a few things about this grave and gravestone that are either wrong or curious. First, is the location. Esther married (for that time period a little late in life) at age 31 on 29 June 1930. [2]  She and her husband, Rabbi/Cantor Solomon Marwit, were together for 36 years until Sol's death in February 1967. 

Sol may be buried in Mount Carmel Cemetery. I say "may" because while Find A Grave documents his grave there, the Mount Carmel Cemetery website interment index does not indicate they have anyone by that surname in the cemetery. I have also checked the JewishGen Online World Burial Registry and JewishData.com and they do not include Sol's grave. I will have to either send a note to the person who documented the grave for Find a Grave or contact Mt. Carmel Cemetery, or both.

Before Esther died, she had, apparently, been living with Max Warmflash. Max did not produce a marriage certificate, but insisted that he and Esther were, indeed, married. Needless to say, attorneys were involved. Ultimately the case was settled.

The family must have left the immediate burial arrangements and the placement of the stone a year later to Max. I suggest this because I would think that her stone might otherwise have noted her role as a "beloved sister" and an "aunt." In addition, Esther's father's name is incorrect on the stone. Saul Wilson's Hebrew/Yiddish name was Zelig Chaim. Saul was the name he took when he immigrated. The family would have known that.

1. Thank you to Barry Kuperman (my cousin Gail's husband) for this information. He was a student of Esther's at Taft. Email communication (28 October 2013).
2. New York County, New York, Certificate and Record of Marriage no. 15704 (29 June 1930), Solomon Marwit and Esta E. Wilson, New York City Municipal Archives, New York.
3. "United States Social Security Death Index," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 30 Oct 2013), Solomon Marwit, February 1967; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).

24 October 2013

Treasure Chest Thursday: Esther Wilson's Yearbook Photo

I had hoped this past Tuesday (in my Tombstone Tuesday post) to be able to share a photograph of Esther E. Wilson Marwit Warmflash's tombstone in the Mt. Hebron Cemetery in Queens, NY. But several free access options came to naught and, now, I have sent a check to the cemetery and await their response. I will post it when it arrives.

In the mean time, I contacted Hunter College Library and Archives to inquire whether they have any records of my great aunt Esther's matriculation and graduation from that esteemed institution. Why, yes, they do. I received files with both a yearbook photo and the commencement ceremony program for the Class of 1920. Here's the yearbook image.

Hunter College Wistarian Yearbook 1920, Esther Wilson, Hunter College Library & Archives, New York, NY.

Esther was the fourth child of Saul Wilson and Hoda Epstein Wilson to live to adulthood and the only one born in the United States (10 September 1898 in Hudson, New York). [1]

She was the only child to attend college (and may have been the only one to actually complete high school). Hunter College started in 1870 as a teachers' college for women. It is part of the City University system in New York City. By 1920, when Esther graduated, Hunter had the largest enrollment of women of any municipally operated college in the United States.

The "epitaph" for her yearbook photo leads one to believe that Esther was often late, I do not recall this being discussed as a trait of hers, but I did not know her well. I hope my cousins will chime in with any elucidating memories.

Esther became a high school English teacher and, I believe (I'm still researching) she taught at Seward Park High School in Lower Manhattan.

I have some contradictory information about her first name. Sometimes it is written as Esther (as in her birth certificate [1]) and other times as Esta (as in her marriage certificate [2]).

Esther married Solomon Marwit (1888-1967), an immigrant who was both a Cantor and a Rabbi. [2] Esther and Sol never had any children. The family was surprised to learn, after Esther died in December 1973, that she may have married again. There was a protracted probate contest from her "husband," Max Warmflash (but that's another story for another time). She is buried as Esta Warmflash in the Mt. Hebron Cemetery.

1. City of Hudson, Columbia County, New York, Register of Births, Esther Wilson, 10 September 1898, Register Number 3612, page 36.
2. New York County, New York, Certificate and Record of Marriage no. 15704 (29 June 1930), Solomon Marwit and Esta E. Wilson, New York City Municipal Archives, New York.

22 October 2013

Tombstone Tuesday: Max Morris

Here lies
Baruch Mordechai son of Yitzchak Shlomo
16 Iyar 5723
AUG. 23, 1903 - MAY 10, 1963

Mea culpa! Here's where I admit the sins of the past: I found this photo on the web somewhere along with a few other Morris family tombstone images in the same cemetery back in February 2008 (i.e., early in my genealogy "career"). I must have Yahoo'd (which I used a great deal back then) one Morris relative's name and came up with this. I recollect that the images were associated with a synagogue (maybe?  :-D  ). I cannot relocate these on the web, the graves are not indexed in Find a Grave or the JewishGen Online World Burial Registry and I have zero notion as to the cemetery in which they are located (although I strongly suspect the cemetery is in New Jersey).

I have a query in to Max's granddaughter, but, until I hear from her, I'm still searching. I tried loading each photo into tineye.com - an online application that will, supposedly, find images on the web. Nothing.

I will update this post when I figure out where Max is buried. [Red Bank Hebrew Cemetery. This image was located on DistantCousin.com.]

Max B. Morris was born, according to his son Don, on 23 August 1901. Don said that the tombstone carver made an error and wrote a birth year of 1903. The stone may have another error, as well, although one cannot conclude it was the carver's fault. Max's father's name is shown as Yitzchak Shlomo. I had always heard that Isidore's Hebrew name was Yitzchak Leib (and this is what is on Isidore's tombstone). I was told that my Hebrew name (Gilah Gabora) was derived as a female version Yitzchak Leib, whom I am named after. 

Max was the first son and the third child of Isidore and Sarah Morris. He was born Mottel Mazewitsky in Lubin, Russia (Labun or, now, Yurovshchina, Ukraine). Max, his mother and siblings emigrated on the Vaderland from the port at Antwerp in 1910. [1]

Like his father, brothers and several other relatives, Max became a glazier. On 15 September 1920, he married Irene Ratner. [2] They had four children who lived to adulthood: Bernice (1922-1996), Muriel (1926-1962), Dr. Edwin (1928-1996) and Donald (1937-2010). Recently, I located the family in the 1925 New York State Census and was surprised to see two additional children Charles (born about 1923) and Vera (one week old). [3] By the 1930 U.S. Census, when the family is in Red Bank, New Jersey, neither Charles nor Vera are recorded. [4] I have found no New York City Death Certificates for these two. It is possible that they passed away in New Jersey, but I have yet to locate evidence of that.

1. "New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957," digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 11 January 2012), manifest, Vaderland, Antwerp to New York, arriving 7 June 1910, p. 1, Mottel Morris; citing National Archives Microfilm Serial T715.
2. New York County, New York, Certificate and Record of Marriage number 34502 (15 September 1920), ax Morris and Irene Ratner, New York City Municipal Archives, New York.
3. 1925 New York States Census, New York County, New York, population schedule,  Enumeration District 18, Assembly District 7, sheet 21, Max and Irene Morris; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 January 2013), New York State Archives: Albany, New York.
4. 1930 U.S. Census, Monmouth County, New Jersey, population schedule, Red Bank, Enumeration District 13-104, sheet 1A, family 10, Max Morris, digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 March 2008), citing Family History Library microfilm 2,341,107.

15 October 2013

Mallomar Season!

While at the grocery store this morning I decided to give in to a week long chocolate craving and check out the cookie aisle. I was browsing but then, well,  there was really no choice. It wasn't that the shelves were not laden with goodies, but when I saw the Mallomar boxes, I knew what I needed. It's 15 October. Do you know where your Mallomars are?

The seasonality of Mallomars is legendary. In this day and age, with year-round imports, it almost impossible to find seasonality even in the fruit and vegetable section. Yet Mallomars continue to be available only from September to March. After that, you're outta luck for a good chunk of the year.

Supposedly, this seasonality dates to the early years (starting 100 years ago in 1913) of the product when the real dark chocolate covering couldn't handle the heat. There's still no wax added to the chocolate on these babies to extend shelf-life. That, in itself, is amazing - and delicious.

I can't help but think that the continuation of this seasonality thing is just a fantastic marketing ploy. But, I don't really care. If it is just marketing, it's brilliant. I can support brilliance.

For me, Mallomar memories are tied to my after school milk and cookie break. I never liked the taste of milk, so chocolate cookie accompaniment was required. Sometimes there were Melodies (large flat circular chocolate cookies with a scalloped edge and dusted lightly with sugar - what ever happened to them?); sometimes Oreos; and, September through March, there might be Mallomars. Each had their own eating ritual.

Melodies (and I think I owe my brother for this idea) were best dunked in milk. The wet part would them be slurped off and the remainder dunked again. Ultimately, small pieces of the cookie would be at the bottom of the glass. But, that only made the milk much more tastey. I also vaguely recall someone spreading cream cheese on them - but that was never my preference.

Oreos had to be eaten by separating the biscuits. The goal was to leave an intact cream center on one half, eat the cream-less biscuit and then the creamed one. I was not a dunker of Oreos.

And then there was the Mallomar ritual - almost as complex as eating a whole lobster. Press down on the center. This results in pie-slice shaped chocolate bits. Carefully peel the chocolate from the center. Peel the remaining chocolate from the sides of the marshmallow dollop. Suck the whole marshmallow off of the soft graham cracker cake. Eat the cake.

Mallomars are celebrating their 100th anniversary. Since they are covered in dark chocolate, may we now consider them health food?

Tombstone Tuesday: Ben Wilson

Ben Wilson gravestone, Mount Judah Cemetery, Queens, New York, Section 2, Block 1, Grave 151, Path R06, Berdichev Relief Society, digital photograph by AlbFirefly, 19 September 2012, posted on FindAGrave.com .
When I first began searching for Ben Wilson's grave, I tried several of the inventories posted by some individual cemeteries and found it at Mount Judah Cemetery in Queens, New York. Mt. Judah provides an index, no photos, so I then went to the JewishGen Online World Burial Registry (no grave for Ben included) and then Find A Grave. There was a listing, but no photograph. I posted a request for a photo of the grave. 

AlbFireFly, a frequent Find A Grave contributor was kind enough to fulfill my request. I wish s/he had also photographed Ben's wife's adjoining grave (and shared stone), but I didn't ask for that - so my shame, only.

Ben's grave does not include a Hebrew name (his family must not have known it) nor a patronymic.

MAR. 5, 1891
AUG. 22, 1971

Ben, my grandfather Joe Wilson's younger brother, was the third child and second son of Saul and Hoda Wilson. He was likely born in today's Belarus either in Kozyany or somewhere in the vicinity of Minsk (about 100 miles SSE of Kozyany). [1]

He arrived in New York Harbor with his mother, sister Nechame and brother Josef Wilensky in June 1897. [2] 

In 1914, Ben married Leah Cummings. [3] Like his brother Joe, Ben worked in the sweater industry as a salesman and, later, as a manufacturer.

Ben and Leah had two sons: Howard M. Wilson (31 December 1915 - November 1968) and Marvin "Buddy" Wilson (ca 1920 - ca 2000).

1. "World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 29 March 2008), card for Benjamin Wilson, no. A234, New York City, Draft Board 149.
2. "New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957," digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 7 September 2009), manifest, Pisa, Hamburg to New York, arriving 1 June 1897, list 7, Benjamin Wilensky; citing National Archives Microfilm Serial M237, Microfilm Roll 579.
3. New York County, New York, Certificate and Record of Marriage no. 17171 (2 July 1914), Benjamin Wilson and Lena Cummings, New York City Municipal Archives, New York. 

09 October 2013

Jewish News features Phoenix JGS

 Nice Jewish News article about the Phoenix Jewish Genealogical Society as it transitions to new leadership.

08 October 2013

Tombstone Tuesday: Joseph Wilson

Yosef ben Zelig
Died 13 Adar 5737
DIED MARCH 3, 1977

My maternal grandfather, Joe Wilson, is my only grandparent who lived into my adulthood, and, therefore, the one about whom I have the most memories. For some reason, we never called him "grandpa" or any other honorific. To us he was just "Joe."

Joe was born 9 October 1889 in Kasan, Russian Empire (today, Kozyany, Belarus). He was the second child and the first son of Saul and Hoda Wilson. He, his mother and siblings arrived at Ellis Island on 1 June 1897. [1] The family lived for several years upstate in Hudson, New York, where, I suspect, Joe and his younger brother, Ben, got their start in the sweater business, first as salesmen, then as jobbers and, finally, as manufacturers.

Oakdale Knitting Mills, Inc., Joe's women's sweater factory in Brooklyn, New York, was a family business. Joe's son, Ira entered the business after finishing New York University Law School and my father Bernie, Joe's son-in-law, joined Oakdale in the mid-1950s. 

For reasons only known to him, Joe was coy when asked about the origin of the Oakdale name. It was many years later, upon perusing maps of Hudson, NY, that I discovered that one of the lakes in Hudson was Oakdale. Perhaps the factory name was Joe honoring his childhood home in upstate New York.

The family always referred (lovingly, I guess) to Oakdale Mills as "the place." 

Joe married Tillie Liebross in Manhattan on 31 May 1917. [2] He and Tillie had two children: Ira Howard Wilson (19 May 1918 - 22 January 2004) and Norma Circe Wilson Garber (6 April 1921 - 23 March 2003).

Joe's grave is in Section 5, Block H, Lot 36, Grave 1 in Knollwood Park Cemetery (now part of Mt. Carmel Cemetery).

1. "New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957," digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 7 September 2009), manifest, Pisa, Hamburg to New York, arriving 1 June 1897, list 7, Josef Wilensky; citing National Archives Microfilm Serial M237, Microfilm Roll 579.
2. New York County, New York, Certificate and Record of Marriage no. 31607 (31 May 1917), Jos. Wilson and Tillie Lebross [sic], New York City Municipal Archives, New York.

07 October 2013

In which I follow the inviting path before me....

I had not really designed a path to the Jewish genealogy lecture circuit, but now seem to be following that yellow brick road. In the beginning of August I gave my first International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies Conference presentation in Boston. 

I'd prepared for this over the years, teaching classes on a variety of subjects during my former career in the federal government; making formal presentations to, sometimes, initially-hostile audiences; working with the media and public on wildfire incidents and; more recently, making formal presentations for my local Jewish genealogical society. In addition, over the last few years, I've attended several national-level and more local genealogy conferences, noting similarities and differences - the good, the not so good, and the could-be-better.

Starting next Monday, 14 October 2013, I begin teaching a six-session non-credit adult education course for Arizona State University's Center for Jewish Studies and the Arizona Jewish Historical Society. The course, "From Eastern Europe to the United States - Our Wandering Jewish Ancestors," was initially designed by my genealogy buddy Dr. Janette Silverman, who was to teach the course. She recently moved to greener pastures in New York City and I have been asked to take over. The intent is to emphasize the importance of methodology and context in locating, accessing, evaluating and understanding the genealogical record. In my view it is this context that differentiates Jewish genealogy from genealogy in general. The class is still open for enrollment and will be held Monday afternoon's at the Arizona Jewish Historical Society campus at 122 East Cutler Street, Phoenix.

Mid-November, I'll be flying to California. I have been asked to reprise my IAJGS presentation, "Beyond the Manifest: Methods for Confirming One’s Ancestral Origins " for the Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles.[1]  I will be updating my presentation and handout and speaking there Monday evening, 18 November 2013.

And then, Wednesday, 8 January 2014, I will speak in Delray Beach, Florida to the Jewish Genealogical Society of Palm Beach County.

I am excited about these opportunities and hope to see some of you along the road.

1. I've changed the title of the lecture slightly from the Boston version which was: "Beyond the Manifest: Confirming One's Ancestral Origins Using Alternative Sources." Why is it we always take criticisms much more to heart than kudos? I received several reviews of my Boston talk and they were very complimentary. One, however, mentioned that that the subtitle of the lecture led them to believe that I'd be emphasizing record groups rather than methodology. So, I've changed the title to better reflect the methodological bent.

03 October 2013

Treasure Chest Thursday: Nina Wilson Herman's Death Certificate

New York County, New York, Certificate of Death no. 1585 (11 January 1919), Nina Herman, New York City Municipal Archives, New York.
Nina Wilson Herman passed away due to bronchial pneumonia on 11 January 1919. She had been living with her family at 1663 Madison Avenue, the same location as her husband Max Herman's glove and corset store.

Bronchial pneumonia is often triggered in those whose immune systems have been weakened by diseases such as influenza. Nina's case occurred during the 1918-1920 flu pandemic in New York. According to Wikipedia, this influenza strain was particularly deadly to young adults between 20 and 40 and death often came, in fast moving cases, from pneumonia.

The main portion New York City's epidemic ran from about 15 September 1918 to 16 November. It continued, to a lesser extent, for several months. During that time, 147,000 cases of influenza and pneumonia were reported and 20,608 adults died.

01 October 2013

Tombstone Tuesday: Nina Wilson Herman

Tombstones in the shape of a cut tree trunk are a common symbol in Jewish cemeteries and usually used for those who passed on before their time. Nina (pronounced Nynah) Wilson Herman, unfortunately, exemplified that circumstance, dying in the influenza epidemic in New York City.

Nina (born Nechama Wilensky) was the eldest child of Saul and Hoda Wilson. She was born 25 January 1888 and died 11 January 1919, just shy of her 31st birthday. She left behind her husband, Max Herman, and two children: her daughter Winifred Herman Green (3 September 1911 - November 2005) and her two month old infant son, Victor (9 November 1918 - 24 March 1974). 

Since the text of several of the lines were not standard tombstone fare, in March 2010 I uploaded an image of this tombstone to the ViewMate application on JewishGen. Two volunteers (David Rosen and Joe Slater) translated the text for me (thank you). They mentioned that sometimes these sort of poetic statements are difficult to adequately translate. They also noted that the fifth through eighth lines start with an acrostic of Nina's Hebrew name, Nechama ( נחמﬣ ).

Here lies
Nechama daughter of Zelig Chaim
Tenth of Shevat 5679
                    She was her husband's comfort;
                    Her children's protector and joy;
                    The light of her parents' eyes;
                    Woe, that these virtues have been buried.
May her soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life
Our Beloved
Nina Herman
Born Jan. 25, 1888
Died Jan 11,
Nina came to the United States with her mother and two younger brothers in 1897.[1] They settled in Hudson, New York until 1905-6 when they moved for one year to Albany and then, finally, to New York City.

On 26 May 1910, Nina married Max Herman (ca. 1878 - 1935), a merchant who sold gloves and corsets. [2] After Nina died, the children lived with their grandparents and aunt, Saul and Hoda Wilson and Esther Wilson.

My mother, Norma Wilson Garber, born in 1921, was named after her late aunt Nina. Her Hebrew name was also Nechama. 

Nina's grave is located in the United Hebrew Community section of Mount Lebanon Cemetery in Queens, New York: Block F, Section 6, Subsection 4, Line 2, Grave 33.
One thing I am curious about are the circles with the diagonal lines through them located at each corner of the tombstone marker. I suppose they might be just decorations, but I've never before seen them on a marker. If any readers have any ideas about what these may signify (if anything), please comment, below. Thank you.

1. "New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957," digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 7 September 2009), manifest, Pisa, Hamburg to New York, arriving 1 June 1897, list 7, Nachame Wilensky; citing National Archives Microfilm Serial M237, Microfilm Roll 579.
2. New York County, New York, Certificate and Record of Marriage no. 11661 (26 May 1910), Max Herman and Nina Wilson, New York City Municipal Archives, New York.