Vivian’s Genealogy: The Basics

My ancestors were Ashkenazi Jews; all four grandparents came to the U.S. between 1893 and 1914, as part of the mass immigration of Jews fleeing the Russian Empire. Below I list the families I’m researching, ancestral homes, and DNA haplogroups.

Branches I’m Researching

GERTZMAN HERTZMAN Branch

  • From Mogilev (Mahilyow) on the Dnieper River, now in Belarus
  • Also lived in Ekaterinoslav (Dnipropetrovsk), now in Ukraine
  • Surnames associated in the Old Country include (that I know of):
  • EINHORN, SHIK, TALALAY, SHAFFER, FINKELSTEIN, BELENKI (WHITE), BENSMAN, BILLIPINSKY, GOLDBLATT. SCHULMAN, SHRAER

  • In the US, lived mainly in Cincinnati, New York City, Louisville
  • Surnames of cousins and descendents and in-laws include:  KANTOR, KLEMPORT, WHITE, LEHRNER, SHORR, SHERMAN, COHEN, BIRSTEIN, FISHMAN, FREEMAN, SERVETTER, SHAPIRO, SHAW, SHENDER, LOW, KASAVAN, STEINBERG, STOUN, JASWOIN, GLASSMAN, KORKES, SACHS, SPITZ, BECKER, LEVENSOHN

GRINKER KAMINSKY Branch, aka GRüNFELD (GREENFIELD?)

  • The elder Kaminskys were born in Bobrynets’, Kirovohrads’ka oblast, Ukraine in the 1840s
  • John and Jenny Grinker Left Odessa ca. 1891; the earliest ship manifest shows their name as Grünfeldüü
  • Some later, 2nd-hand documents list Chune (John) Grinker, b. ca. 1858, as from Germany
  • Briefly lived in Maurico, Argentina, one of the Baron Hirsch agricultural colonies
  • Immigrated to the port of Baltimore in 1893, going to a “cousin” named Itzig COHN
  • Settled in Cincinnati
  • Possible surnames associated with Kaminsky in the old country:  ILSKY, OURISKY
  • Surnames of cousins and descendents and in-laws include:  KAMIN, LEVITT, SHUSTERMAN,  DUBINSKY, DUBIN, KATZ, KOBY, GARDUNSKY, FIERMAN, SIEGEL, STEIN, LEVENSOHN, JENTELSON, BLODSKY, LORIMER, BAILEY,  RABINOWITZ, LIPSON, MELLMAN, HUMPHRIES, FLOX, SHECTER, BACH, NOBLE, FRIEDMAN, BRAUNSTEIN, SIVITZ

LEVENSOHN GERSHENSON Branch, aka KIGEL KEGEL KUGEL

  • From Kiev area, including towns of Ruhzin and Dzyun’kov,  and possibly Belilovka,
  • Surnames associated in the Old Country include (that I know of):
  • HECHT, BELILOVSKY, possibly LITWACK, GOLDENBERG, MINCOWSKY, ROSENBERG, WEINHEIM
  • Immigrated to US in 1890s and 1900s (1st decade) to ? port, then to Cincinnati.  Most branches moved to San Francisco, Stockton, Berkeley, and Sacramento in the 1910s and later
  • Surnames of cousins and descendents and in-laws include: NEUSTAT, BARASCH, CRAFT, KRAFT, RUBIN, WASSERMAN, SIVITZ,  JENTELSON, MEYERS, BOGNER, LAIDLAW, IORNS, ROSE, SILVERMAN, STATES, CARPENTER, MEYER, EVANSON, ALTER, GOLDEN, GERT, ULLMAN, SIMON, BELL, GOLDEN

SKLAR SIMON SCLAR BERLIN Branch

  • From Moletai, now in Lithuania; SKLARs also in Svedasai, Kovno, Lithuania
  • Almost all my info about the BERLIN branch comes from an Israeli researcher who has done extensive work but will not release his sources
  • Surnames associated in the Old Country – and these are all BERLIN related – include (that I know of):
  • SHILER SILERAITE, DANTOWITZ, STOLOFSKY, COGAN, BURGIN, ZISKIND – all in Moletai
  • SKLARs immigrated to Worcester, MA; Baltimore, then Philadelphia; and Cincinnati
  • BERLIN branches immigrated to Israel and to New York and New Jersey
  • Surnames of cousins and descendents and in-laws on the SKLAR side include: SCLAR,BERMAN, BECKER, SIMON, DEUTSCH, JACOBS, WILSON, LEVENSOHN

DNA Haplogroups

mtDNA (mitochondrial)

female line SKLAR/SIMON—> mother GERTZMAN—>mother SHIK—>mother ?  :  K1a1b1a

female line JENTELSON—>mother LEVENSOHN—>mother GRINKER—>mother KAMINSKY—>mother ILSKY :  N1b2

yDNA

male line LEVENSOHN J1 J-M267; negative for J1a and J1b; have not tested for J1c but negative for J1c1, J1c2, J1c3

male line SKLAR  J1; J-M172

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Levensohn Kigel Immigration: Sara and Frume (Fannie?) – Pt. 3 in Levensohn Immigration Series

Kigel Sisters Arrive in 1903

Two young women, Sara and Frume KIGEL, arrived July 23, 1903 in Baltimore on the SS Frankfurt, sailing from Bremen. These two young women clearly are my great-aunts, as they were going to my great-uncle,  their brother, Max Levensohn, in Cincinnati. Here is the excerpt from their arrival record indicating where they were going:

LEVENSOHN KIGEL Sara and Frume detail arr 1903

Who were Sara and Frume?

The ages of these two women, 19 and 18, imply that Sara was born in 1884 and Frume was born in 1885. So, which of my great-aunts were these?

Sara

Six-and-a-half years later, when “Sarah Levenson” was listed on the 1910 U.S. Census, her age was shown as 19. So she had aged by zero years? That census also said that she arrived in 1905, not 1903. Does this mean this is not Sarah Levenson (Levensohn), the one who married Sam Meyers?

To add to the confusion, here is a summary of information from all the subsequent censuses:

July 1903: Sara Kigel arrives at age 19—->born 1884
Apr. 1910: Sarah Levenson age 19———>born 1891, arrived 1905
Jan. 1920: Sarah Meyers age 35———–>born 1884, arrived 1906
Apr. 1930: Sarah Meyers age 44———–>born 1885 or 1886, arrived 1906
Apr. 1930: Sarah Meyers age 56———–>born 1884 or 1885, no arrival date listed

So is this or is this not Sarah? It really must be – who else could it be? But there must be some doubt. First of all, people immigrating did lie about their age, but it would be more likely a single woman would say she was older than she was (in Sarah’s case, implying a birth date before 1884), so that she would be viewed as an adult.

Census data are a different story. The person answering the census taker might be someone else in the household who did not have accurate information. In the 1910 Census, Sarah was a lodger in the flat of Mollie Freedman, in San Francisco. The landlady might not have known Sarah’s actual age. Even a neighbor can be an informant on a census.

What about the consistent date discrepancy between the arrival of Sara Kigel in 1903 and Sarah’s listings in the 1910, 1920, and 1930 censuses? This, to me, throws the most doubt on saying that the two Sara(h)s are the same person. I’ve often encountered discrepancies between dates of arrival on a census and the date of actual immigration. People just forget exactly what year it was.

Frume – Fannie? Or not?

I believe that the person listed as Frume Kigel was there person who later was known as Fannie Levenso(h)n, and then married Nathan Bogner. I have been told by a relative that Fannie’s Hebrew (Yiddish) name was Feige, which is different. Names are funny things, especially when people changed them as freely as Jews did when moving from Eastern Europe to the U.S. around the turn of the twentieth century.

The JewishGen.org website has an authoritative database of given names and how they changed. Here is Frume:

However, there is  another reasons to doubt that this is Fannie. The 1910 Census says the she arrived in 1898. However, it gives that same date for her husband, Nathan Bogner. Perhaps someone assumed that both arrived the same year. Furthermore, Fannie does not seem to appear in the 1900 Census.

Then, in the 1920 Census, it is unclear which date is given for her arrival. Here are Nathan’s and Fannie’s dates of arrival excerpted from the 1920 Census:

So it appears to be a date in the early 1900s, but I cannot read it.

The implied birth dates also do not work for Fannie. Frume Kigel was born, according to her arrival record, in 1885, give or take a year. However, in July 1908, when she married Nathan, Fannie was listed as 20 years old, implying an 1888 birth. Then, in the 1910 Census Fannie Bogner was 21, having barely aged since her marriage, and implying 1889 birth. In the 1930 Census she was 31, consistent with 1899 birth year.

But who else might Frume be? I’m pondering.

A New Hometown:  Dzinnkow, now Dzyun’kov, Ukraine

The earlier Levensohn/Kigel siblings arriving in the U.S. (see also) listed a last residence or birthplace as Ruhzin, the name of a place within the Kiev area that I had previously thought to be connected with the family. But here is the last residence of Sara and Frume on the passenger list:

Last residence of Sara and Frume Kigel

According to JewishGen.org, Dzinnkow is now known as Dzyun’kov Ukraine, 83 miles south of Kiev. Ruhzin is 21 miles away from Dzyun’kov. Both are now within the Kiev region.

HOW I FOUND MY LEVENSOHN IMMIGRATION RECORDS, Part 2 – Annie Levensohn Rubin not yet found

Frustration with records still unfound and confusing names

There are several Levensohn (Kigels?) whose arrival records still elude me. And, still to discuss, are records with names that confuse me – Frume Kigel, who arrived with Sara in 1903; and Sprina Kigel, who arrived with her father, the patriarch of the family Joseph Levensohn. When he arrived with “Sprina” (I think this is Jennie) in 1906, his given name, as written on the manifest, is indecipherable (more about this in a later post).

Annie’s missing manifest

After the arrivals of Max and Morris and Clara, the next I expect to find is Annie (Hannah) Levensohn or Kigel (or variation). I expect her arrival next for several reasons. As far as I can tell, she is the next oldest of the siblings. (I cannot be sure of her birth date, nor actually of the birth dates of her siblings, but records I have show her as being born between 1878 and 1884.) She married in 1903, had her first child in 1904, and gave her U.S. arrival date to the census as 1901.

Hannah Levensohn married Morris Rubin in 1903

In late November, 1903, in Cincinnati, Rabbi Lifschitz officiated at the wedding of Hannah, daughter of Joseph, and Morris Rubin. The license put her age at 25, implying a birth year of 1878. Most other sources put her birth date several years later.

Here is their marriage license.

Marriage of Hannah Levensohn and Morris Rubin, 1903

 The Rubin’s first son, Paul, was born in 1904

In October, 1904, almost a year after they wed, Annie and Morris had their first child, Paul Rubin.

The 1910 Census showed the growing family still in Cincinnati and housing Annie’s sister Jennie

Below is an excerpt from the census sheet showing the Rubin family. Aside from from the common mangling of spelled names, it appears clear and straightforward. The implied birth date for Annie is 1881 or 1882, and it indicates she arrived in the U.S. in 1901.

1910 Rubin family in Cincinnati, with Jennie Levensohn

My fruitless search for Annie’s arrival

I’ve cast a wide net, using every name spelling variations I can conceive of, in my search for an arrival record for Annie. Knowing that the cursive capital K sometimes resembles and H, I tried all the Kigel variations using an initial H, too. I also tried leaving out any name, just looking for a single Jewish woman from Russia in the approximate age range, arriving in Baltimore or New York between 1900 and 1903. I tried searching with Cincinnati as a key word; also with Ruzin, Dzinkow, and other nearby places, trying various spellings and wildcard searches. Hours and hours and hours I have spent, to no avail!

 

HOW I FOUND MY LEVENSOHN IMMIGRATION RECORDS, Part 1 (HINT: THEY WEREN’T LEVENSOHN)

The Long Story Short

Several years ago I wrote about my total lack of success in finding any immigration records for my Levensohn family (Why Can’t I Find My Levensohn Immigration Records?). I summarized my long, complicated, thorough search and hypothesized various reasons for my failure. All of my hypotheses were wrong.

The real reason I couldn’t find them is that they did not travel using the name “LEVENSOHN,” not any spelling variation, nor any other family name I tried. Instead, they arrived under some variation of the name “KEGEL.” I began to find this out – and started telling the story – in another, more recent post (Levensohn Hecht Kigel Kegal).

The Immigration Records I’ve Found So Far

Max was first, arriving in 1893, as Marcus KIGEL

In the post I’ve just cited, I summarized Max’s arrival on the  and his eventual naturalization as Max Levensohn. He arrived at Ellis Island, with New York listed as his ultimate destination.  Where and when he lived in New York is something I have not been able to find (yet?).

In the Cincinnati City Directory, published June 1895, Max Levensohn, cigar maker, was listed as boarding at “504 9th Street, near Freeman Ave.” That is the first record I have found for him after his arrival in New York.

Why he came to Cincinnati is still a mystery to me. (A mystery to solve!)

Three Levensohn Siblings Lived in Cincinnati in 1900: Max, Morris, and Clara

The Census lists the three siblings in Cincinnati at 1916 Western Avenue in January, 1900. My working assumption is that these three were the only ones who arrived in the 1890s.

Max, Morris, and Clara Levensohn, Cincinnati, 1900

Here is a detailed excerpt:

Detail of the 1900 Census Entry

As often happened, the census taker wrote the name wrong, Anglicized to  “Livingston.” (And the indexer for this census entry read it as “Sivingston.”  They were living at 1716 Western Avenue in Cincinnati. The letter that looks like a cursive “m” is a “W,” indicating white. The dates are dates of birth. Max and Morris are shown as Single. Clara is shown with both an “S” and an “M” written in the marital status column, and I cannot tell which was meant to be the actual status.

All of these details fit with what I know, including the confusion about Clara’s marital status (and that’s another story).

And here are more details, including the dates of arrival:

After the dates are the number of years in the U.S. “Al” stands for “alien.” Women did not get designations like that. The 0 refers to number of years unemployed in the past year. The three columns of Yes and No are whether the person reads English, writes English, and speaks English.

Given the details here, plus the KIGEL name listed on Max’s arrival record, I was – after more than a decade of searching – able to find the arrival records for Morris and Clara.

Morris arrived as Mosche KEIGEL in 1895 and Clara arrived as Chaja KIGEL in 1897

The arrival years for all three of the siblings were one year later than the years listed on the census.

Morris arrived at the Port of Baltimore in May, 1895 on the SS Oldenburg, sailing from Bremen, Germany. Here is the record, excerpted from the arrival manifest:

KEIGEL (?) Mosche (Morris Levensohn) arrival record

It looks like he was 16 years old, implying a birth year in about 1879. His list residence is listed as “Ruzin,” consistent with what I have suspected. He is going to his brother, in Cincinnati, with $5.

Clara arrived two years later, in June, 1897 also landing in Baltimore. She sailed on the SS Willefidd from Bremen

Clara Kigel (Levensohn) arrival in 1897

Her name was right under another person who was going to Cincinnati, so I included both on the excerpt. It sits her as Chaja Kigel, a 21 year old female, no occupation, able to read and write, from Ruzin in Russia, going to her brother in Cincinnati, Ohio.

 

Levensohn Hecht Kigel Kegal

  • Max Levensohn came to the U.S. as “Marcus Kigel”

I’ve already written about the possibility that “the Levensohns were Hechts (Dodging the Czar’s Draft and Confusing My Levensohn Research.”). Now I’ve discovered a new name. Here is an excerpt from Max Levensohn’s arrival record (ship manifest) on September 26, 1893.

KIGEL manifest excerpt

“Marcus Kigel” manifest excerpt 1893

How do I know that Max arrived as Marcus? Because his naturalization papers say so. If you note that number  – “22×6313-12/2/35” – it is an addition made to the original manifest as part of Max’s naturalization process in 1935. As an older man, in his early 60s, Max became a citizen.

Here is his Petition for Naturalization:

LEVENSOHN Max Petition Naturalization

The Petition refers back to his arrival at Ellis Island on the S.S. Elbe, excerpted above. There are some typographical errors on the Petition:  listing him as “Marcus KEGEL” vs. “Marcus KIGEL” on the manifest (or is it HIGEL?). It also says he was married in “Corkington, Kentucky” rather than “Covington,” where he was actually married.

Max Levensohn, briefly

Max was the oldest of three sons in the family, and he had six sisters. Leah, the only one who did not come to the U.S., was possibly older than Max.

According to the Petition, Max was born in 1873 in “Ruzin” – now Ruzhin, Ukraine. His wife, Clara Belilovsky (later, Bell), also from Ukraine, arrived in the U.S. in 1901, when Max was established in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was a cigar maker and owned a small cigar manufacturing company.

In the early 1930s Max and Clara moved to San Francisco, presumably to be closer to more of the Levensohn family. Note that the witnesses on the Petition, above, were Martha Craft and Max Newstat. Both of these were offspring of Clara Levensohn, one of Max Levensohn’s sisters.

Max Levensohn died in 1955 in San Francisco. His wife preceded him in death in 1949.

Max Levensohn and his wife, Clara (gets confusing, doesn’t it? Max Levensohn, Max Newstat; Clara Levensohn, his wife and Clara Levensohn, his sister) left no children. I haven’t found a record of a stillbirth or a birth to indicate that there ever was a child.

I’m always saddened when I research these “forgotten” relatives. I have heard no one living ever refer to them. When I was growing up, I never heard my father ever mention his “Uncle Max,” nor did I hear my grandfather, Morris, mention a brother (even though Morris had worked for Max from time to time, in the cigar making business). I don’t even recall my Aunt Dorothy – the only relative who ever told me about my “California cousins” – ever mentioning Max and Clara.

These records of Max, left behind and dug up in my research, seem to revive his memory, at least a bit. And the mystery of the name, “Marcus Kigel,” adds another clue in my search for the family history.

Here is a photo of Max, from naturalization papers (specifically, from his “Declaration of Intention”).

LEVENSOHN Max pic from declaration

 

 

Name Changes: Was GRINKER originally GRUNFELD?

Review of John Grinker Mysteries

I have written a couple posts already about my father’s paternal grandfather:  my great-grandfather, John Grinker. (See posts:  http://wp.me/p35vsQ-y and http://wp.me/p35vsQ-5c). I know he was married to Jennie Kaminsky, of Odessa; that his first two daughters – my grandma Bessie and her sister Fannie – were born in Odessa; and that this small family were settlers in the Mauricio Colony of Argentina, prior to coming to the U.S. I know they arrived in Baltimore in 1893, sailing from Mauricio via Hamburg. I know also that their first son, Joe, was born in Argentina.

But there is more that I don’t know. Particularly germane to this post is the fact that I don’t know the names of his parents (other than names provided by his second wife on a marriage license; these are questionable) nor where he was originally from. I can find no record of him in Odessa. The name “GRINKER” is not common. A number of Grinkers seem to have come from Lithuania. On a couple of documents his daughters wrote that he was from “Germany.” This was well after he had left the family in the early 1900s. Other documents list his birthplace as “Russia,” referring to the Russian Empire of the late nineteenth century.

Name Variations and Changes

Those of us doing Ashkenazi family history know how fluid were names – surnames and given names. Our ancestors changed their names frequently and were free with their spelling variations. Because their surnames in the old country were written – at the rare times they were written – in Cyrillic and/or Hebrew characters, not with our Latin alphabet, there was no “correct” English spelling when they came to the U.S.

Their names written on ship manifests did not necessarily accurately reflect the names they had before emigrating from the Russian Empire. I have some relatives, through marriage, whose name in the old country, was pronounced roughly as “Belinky.” It was a variation of the Russian word for “white.” On their ship manifest as they moved to the U.S. their name was listed as “White,” and that is the name the family used in the U.S.

Many of these immigrants were illiterate in any language or, perhaps, were literate in Yiddish and Hebrew; maybe literate in Russian. But when they traveled to the U.S., they may often traveled on a German or Dutch steamship. In that case, their name on the manifest might be written as the ticket issuer or ship purser heard the name spoken. Language differences and accents, as well as the different ways sounds were written in other languages also affected the way a name might be written. For instance, in German “w” has the same sound as “v” in English.

Not only surnames show variations and changes. A Jew coming from Odessa in the late 1800s might have had a double name in Hebrew, a double name in Yiddish, perhaps a nickname, too.

I write about this, in a very cursory way, as background to what seems to be a possible name change. It may be that, before coming to the U.S., GRINKER was not the family name. It may have been GRÜNFELD, or something similar.

Immigration to Mauricio

Although I have the record of their arrival in Baltimore from Argentina, via Hamburg, I never have found record of the earlier journey – the travel from the old country to the agricultural colony, Mauricio.

Years ago I had hit a dead end on this. My correspondence with a Jewish genealogy society in Argentina led me to believe such records didn’t exist. Yesterday I decided to revisit this search.

Looking for information about the Jewish agricultural colonies in Argentina, it’s not surprising that the internet revealed articles I had not seen before. First, I found the full text of an article from the 1906 edition of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/905-agricultural-colonies-in-the-argentine-republic-argentina), an article that told me “locusts, which were very numerous, destroyed the growing crops, and water was scarce. Although the colonies received constant accessions, it was necessary to deport so many discontented colonists to the United States.”

My Aunt Dorothy, when I was a kid, had alluded to unlivable, primitive conditions that the Grinkers endured in Argentina. Perhaps the Grinkers were among the “deported.”

My Google search yesterday brought me more and more recent information about this in an academic publication from April 2013:  “Colonia Mauricio: Two Complementary Visions,” by Edgardo Zablotsky (http://www.ucema.edu.ar/u/eez/Publicaciones/Serie_Documentos_de_Trabajo/doc485.pdf).

It turns out that conditions for the early settlers were even worse than depicted by the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, and discontent among the colonists ran high.

Perhaps more apropos to my search, it became clear to me that 1891 was the year of initial mass settlement of Mauricio. Also, the one departure port mentioned in Zablotsky’s article was Hamburg. That led me to a re-examination of the Hamburg Passenger Lists (in German) online.

Searching the Hamburg Passenger Lists

Ancestry.com has the indexed Hamburg Passenger lists. I tried – as I’m sure I have before – to search GRINKER on that list, and also variations of how it might have been indexed, to no avail. I also tried “Mauricio” and “Maurico” (the way it had been listed on the Grinkers’ passenger list to Baltimore), but could only find at Baltimore manifest.  I also tried using the word “Odessa,” but again couldn’t find another record.

When I left off names but limited the arrival date to “1891 +/- one year” and put in the word “Buenos” (as in Buenos Aires in the “anything” box, I got a huge list (>1,000 records) of Jewish names too many to easily go through. The arrival port for many of these was listed as “La Plata.”

Then I had a brainstorm. I knew that the initial journey would have involved four family members: John, Jennie, Bessie, and Fannie. I had a pretty good idea about the birth years of the two daughters. But I also knew that the given names of these individuals were quite various among the early records. In particular, on the Baltimore manifest they were listed as “Chune,” “Eugenia,” “Paula,” and “Feige,” respectively. Of all of these, “Feige” the one I figured was most likely to be used by a Yiddish-speaking family upon leaving Eastern Europe. “Feige” would also be heard and spelled easily by a German-speaking ticket seller or purser.

I searched within the 1,000+ results I had received by putting in the first name “Feige” and specifying “exact” for that name; I also specified that the result should be a person born in 1890 +/- two years.  Of the 254 results I got, the first five were infant Feiges sailing between 1891 and 1893 and arriving at La Plata. Three of them arrived in 1891:  Feige Goldschmeid, Feige Grünfeld, and Feige Gutrad. No Grinker.

But looking more closely at the records of each of these, I found that Feige Grünfeld’s was suspiciously familiar.

Maybe Fannie and her family; maybe not

Here was the transcribed record for Feige Grünfeld:

Name: Feige Grünfeld
Departure Date: 12 Aug 1891
Destination: Buenos Aires
Birth Date: abt 1890
Age: 1
Gender: weiblich (Female)
Residence: Libau (Liepaja)
Ship Name: Petropolis
Captain: Albert, Th.
Shipping Clerk: Hamburg-Amerikanische Packetfahrt-Actien-Gesellschaft
Shipping line: Hamburg-Südamerikanische Dampfschifffahrt-Gesellschaft
Ship Type: Dampfschiff
Accommodation: Zwischendeck
Ship Flag: Deutschland
Port of Departure: Hamburg
Port of Arrival: La Plata
Volume: 373-7 I, VIII A 1 Band 075 A
Household Members:
Name Age
Chaim Grünfeld 38
Schone Grünfeld 20
Pesse Grünfeld 3
Feige Grünfeld 1

A number of things on this record make me think of my Grinker family.

The number of people, their relative ages and genders, fit very closely. (Ages of the parents varied quite a bit on records I have found, but this seems pretty close.)

Feige is the right name and age for Fannie. And “Pesse” seems very similar to “Bessie,” the name my grandma always used in the U.S. Grandma Bessie’s birth date, on most records, is 5 August 1888. so the age of three on 12 August 1891 would be exactly right for her.

But the last residence is shown as “Libau.” The names “Chaim” and “Schone” are ones I never saw recorded for John and Jennie. And, at least at first glance, “Grünfeld” is pretty far from “Grinker.”

 Back to the Issue of Names

Grünfeld, with the umlaut over the “u,” would be pronounced in German something similar to “GRINfeld” in English. So, although the name is still quite different from GRINKER, the sound of the first four letters is about the same.

What about “Chaim” for “John/Chune”? I really can’t explain this. Based on the Hebrew on the headstones of some of his offspring, I think his Hebrew name was Elchanen, for which “Chone” might have been a kinnui. But “Chaim,” as far as I know, is not connected with any of these names. I suppose, in a stretch, I might argue it has a similar sound.

What about “Schone” for Jennie/Eugenia? According to her headstone, her Hebrew name was “Scheindel (Shayndl),” meaning “beautiful.” “Jennie” was apparently a common English cognate for this. The Argentinian name for it might be “Sonia.” (My source for this information is the “Jewish Given Names Database” on JewishGen.org.).  There certainly are possibilities here.

But the names that most make me think this could be the GRINKER family are the names of the girls, combined with their ages.  My grandma Bessie was so secular that she did not have her Hebrew name inscribed on her gravestone. According to the Jewish Given Names Database, Basya / Bisya / Pesha / Peshka would be a Hebrew name that would translate to Base / Basha / Bashe / Basi / Basye / Pesa / Pese / Peshe in the Yiddish of Ukraine and a Yiddish nickname of Peshl / Pesi / Pesil / Pesl / Pesle / Pesye. These sound to me as if they could easily be sounded as “Pesse.” And the US name, according to the Database, would be Bessie, Beverly, or Pauline.

What blows me away here is the “Pauline.” I’ve always been so puzzled by the name “Paula” for my grandmother on the passenger list showing her arrival in the U.S. in 1893. This ties it all together.

The Evidence is Circumstantial and Not Strong

I cannot say with any certainty that the family listed as “Grünfeld” on the 1891 La Plata arrival manifest is my Grinker family. It is way far from reaching any genealogical proof standard. It’s, at best, a guess.

But, to me, it is a guess worth pursuing, and I will be searching for evidence of the Grünfelds in the old country as another avenue to trace my lineage. Also, when I look at my autosomal DNA results (and those of my brother and my paternal first cousin), I will be on the lookout for ancestral names such as “Greenfield,” names I never would have noticed before.

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Clerk of Courts Research, Cincinnati, OH

Recounting My Experience

I’m writing a brief post documenting my experience with an afternoon of research at the Hamilton County Courthouse in downtown Cincinnati. Perhaps it might help or inspire someone else.

For some reason I have avoided courthouse research, but I knew there were things I must get there, things not available elsewhere.

Starting Online

I began at http://www.courtclerk.org/cpciv_namesearch.asp, which is the “Common Pleas Civil Names Search.” It was helpful to copy this chart, from elsewhere on the Clerk of Court’s site, to use as reference:

Help for Case Number Formatting
Case Numbers must be entered in the format of their court of jurisdiction as shown below.
Common Pleas Civil A9707417
Common Pleas Felony B9805800
Court of Appeals C9700980
Domestic Relations DR090001
Domestic Violence Not available online.
Common Pleas Execution EX9800001
Land Registration LR9800001
Common Pleas Misc. M9800002
Common Pleas – Stalking Not available online.
Municipal Civil 98CV04000
Municipal Cert. of Judgment 00CJ28500
Common Pleas Cert. of Judgment CJ99001070
Municipal Criminal C/99/CRB/12362/99/CRB/12362
Municipal Traffic C/99/TRD/12362/99/TRD/12362
NOTE: Municipal Criminal/Traffic case numbers must be entered using the format shown above. The cases begining with a “C” are county cases and the cases beginning with a slash (/) are city cases. The slashes (/) must be included. Do not include the charge code (A, B, C, etc.) at the end of the case number. For felony cases the category will be “CRA”, for traffic it will be “TRD” and DUI’s are listed as “TRC”.

I didn’t use this to enter case numbers, but to help interpret what I found. As it turned out, the very older cases I found (from the first three decades of the 20th century) did not have any letters in front of the case numbers.

The name search worked fine for my purposes. I had a few possibilities in mind, but didn’t necessarily know the years; and I certainly didn’t know the case numbers. The name search form requires a last name and a first initial. If you just put in a last name, it will not perform a search.

Old Records Not Digitized

I did find some digitized records, but they were recent and not of any immediate interest to me. In most cases, when I got a hit in my search, the information provided online was minimal.

The Example of My Great-Grandparents’ Divorce

I knew that my great-grandparents, John and Jennie Grinker, were divorced in about 1908, based on brief articles of court news found through my newspapers.com subscription and my genealogybank.com subscription.

When I entered John Grinker’s name in the name search online form, I got:

Common Pleas Civil Name Search Results
Search results for a party name like: GRINKER/JOHN
Name
GRINKER JOHN

By clicking on John Grinker’s name in this result, I got:

 

Search results for a party name like: GRINKER JOHN
Name Case #  
Party Description Filing Code Case Date Party Info
CJ Indicator Disposition Code Disp Date Image #
GRINKER JOHN 138550
Litigant-2 party/atty info

There were two links to click on here:  the case number and the party/attorney info. Clicking on either of these brought me to a “Case Summary” page, but the only information there – singularly unhelpful – was a message saying:

The case number that you entered was not found.

Pretty discouraging.

I had this experience repeatedly, with the names of several ancestors.

The good news was that when I phoned the Clerk of Courts office and asked if this meant that there was no record of this case, I was told that there was a record, just not a record online.

Go To the “Paper Room”

I was told I needed to go to the Paper Room at the Court House.

The Paper Room is not listed on the building directory at the elevators. When I first came in, I asked the guard stationed before the security checkpoint. He told me it was the Law Library on the 6th floor.

I was doubtful. When I got through security and got to the elevators, I saw that the Clerk of Courts was on the 3rd floor. I went to the 3rd floor and lucked out. The first person I met in the hallway said, “That’s where I work. I work in the Paper Room. Follow me.”

Turns out, if you go to the Clerk of Courts area, someone will direct you to the Paper Room.

Not All Staff Are Equally Adept

When I got to the Paper Room in the early afternoon, the gentleman who helped me was nice but not able to find most of the things I was looking for. I gave him three of the case numbers I had found.

  • One was John Grinker’s, which I assumed was the divorce. When I searched on Jennie Grinker’s name, the same case number had come up, and she had shown up as L-1 (i.e. Litigant One), to his L-2. So it was likely their divorce (it was).
  • One was the case number of another presumed divorce, probably in the 1920s (I didn’t know for sure)
  • The third was a case number in the 1950s.

The staff member was only able to find the third case number for me. It was more recent, and actually had an “A” before the numbers, denoting a “Common Pleas Civil” case, as on my reference table, above. I knew it to be a lawsuit.

The one he found was on microfiche.

He searched mightily for the two older cases, but  he decided the records did not exist.

But all was not lost! He told me that another staff member was “really good” at finding these things, and that she would be back from lunch in 20 minutes.

Don’t Give Up; Work With A Staff Member Who Specializes

I won’t put her name here. But my advice is to ask if there is someone else in the office who might be able to find your records.

This lady knew her stuff. She found both divorce records. She obviously takes pride in her knowledge of the ins and outs of the old records. Both divorce records were on microfilm.

It Doesn’t Go Quickly; It Isn’t Self-Serve

In both cases – the microfiche and the microfilm records, the staff members used both their computers and drawers in a back room to search for the items I needed.

And, in both cases, the staff members loaded the readers, operated those machines, and made the copies. There was a big sign that insisted that only staff could use the machines. But I could pull up a chair and look over their shoulders, no problem.

The process of finding and making printed copies for me was a tedious process. I was there for 2 – ½ hours and ended up with fewer than 50 pieces of paper, covering the three cases.

But the Service is Great, and Inexpensive

I got individual attention from staff members the entire time. The charge to me, ten cents per copy, was less than $5.00. It cost me more than twice that to pay for parking in the area.

I Think I Was Lucky

I was lucky that the very adept staff member was there and that she was not otherwise occupied. I was also lucky that she seemed genuinely interested in providing the service to me. Finally, she gave me her name and phone number at the office, if I needed more assistance. I was impressed!

Next time I come to Cincinnati, I will go for further research, calling in advance.

Courthouse Fires

Before I left, my excellent staff member gave me a handout that began with an article about Hamilton County Courthouse fires. They occurred well before the 20th century, which was my interest. However, if you are interested in records from the 19th century and earlier, I recommend you phone the Clerk of Courts, ask for the Paper Room, and see if they can forward their courthouse fires article to you.

 

 

 

 

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Sonia Gertzman Einhorn: A Family Hero, A Childless Woman

The Forgotten Ancestors – Childless Women and Men

When I research my ancestors, I wonder who will remember those who left no descendents.  The trails backward to female ancestors, especially, are often lost because they took their husbands’ surnames, and their birth surnames can’t be found in the records. But, when working the trails forward, finding cousins, there are no cousins descending from them. Who remains to remember them? I guess that will be me. As much as possible, I want to preserve the memories of these childless family members.  I’ve already devoted a post to my paternal Aunt Dorothy Levensohn (http://wp.me/p35vsQ-3i). I hope to add others, both men and women. Today I want to devote a post to Sonia Einhorn, who was truly a family hero whose memory should be preserved.

Who She Was

I know little about who she was – even the bare bones of her biography. Gertzman Women 1946_2 Sonia Einhorn was born Sarah Gertzman, in 1872, 1873 or 1874. Or maybe it was another year. She was born either in the town of Mogilev (now in Belarus) in the Russian Empire, or in the town of Senno (now Syanno) in the Mogilev Gubernia. Or, maybe – but probably not – she was born in Ekaterinoslav (now in Ukraine and called Dnipropetrovsk). Her father was Schlomo Gertzman, and her mother’s name is unknown to me. A guess is that her mother’s name was Liba, a name given as the wife of a Schlomo Gertzman, but not necessarily the same Schlomo Gertzman. Sonia had two brothers that I know about:  Harry Gertzman and Nathan Gertzman. Nathan was one of my four great-grandfathers. (Of course, “Harry” and “Nathan” are Americanizations of their names. Their Yiddish and Hebrew names are variously transliterated.) Sonia married Nachum (Nathan) Einhorn, from Ekaterinoslav. She was already married and living in Ekaterinoslav in 1903 when she emigrated to the U.S. to meet her husband. So she was married some time before the age of 30.

Sonia Einhorn arrives Ellis Island, 1903

Sonia Einhorn arrives Ellis Island, 1903

If you are unable to decipher the manifest, here are the highlights: The sheet was for steerage passengers. The SS Statendam sailed from Rotterdam 13 June 1903, arrived NY on June 23. Sonia is on line 7, listed as “Sonie Einhor,” age 30 married, no occupation, able to read and write; country of last permanent residence – Russia; Hebrew race or people; last residence Yekaterinaslaw; final destination NY, passage paid by husband; carrying no money. She was to join her husband, “N Einhor ℅ A Finkelstein 105 Stanton St, NY.

Mogilev Woman, Ekaterinoslav Man

How did it happen that a Mogilev woman would marry an Ekaterinoslav man? Both towns were on the Dnieper River. The map below is one I found online, from an environmental project proposal (http://projects.inweh.unu.edu/inweh/display.php?ID=654), and it is the best I can find that shows the route from Mogilev to Ekaterinoslav (Dnipropetrovsk). I have not found out yet if the travel between the two places was via river or whether there was road or rail travel. Dnieper River Basin I believe both families, the Einhorns and the Gertzmans, were related. On passenger lists, both Einhorn and Gertzman men listed the same cousin – either a Finkelstein or a Shaffer – as their final destination upon arriving in New York. I still haven’t figured out how these Finkelsteins and Shaffers are our relatives, but they were apparently shared relatives with the Einhorns and Finkelsteins. Several Gertzman relatives gave Ekaterinolav as their hometown, or last residence; or told their descendents that it was their home town.

Lil’s story of the match

Lil Gertzman (her maiden name), my mother’s first cousin, was born in 1915 in Cincinnati. I was fortunate enough to make contact with her and speak with her, both on the phone (in 2001) and in person (in California in 2002). Lil knew her Great-Aunt Sonia well, visited her often in Lil’s childhood. Lil admired and was fond of Sonia. Although when I asked Lil about Sonia, Lil was showing some signs of occasional confusion, those old memories from Lil are the closest thing I have to a first-person account. According to Lil, Nachum (Nathan) Einhorn was the last boy left in his family and needed a match. The Einhorn family was unable to obtain a match with a dowry. Sonia’s family was poor, and there was no dowry, but she was bright and capable and literate. Lil did not know how the two families got together or were related.

A Quick Note About Names

Throughout this post I will use some names interchangeably:  Nachum Einhorn = Nathan Einhorn; Sonia Einhorn = Sarah Einhorn. These names were used variously on records and in people’s conversations with me.

From Ellis Island to Cincinnati: 1903 – 1904

Women and children arriving at Ellis Island were routinely detained until they were fetched by a responsible man. In Sonia’s case she was gathered up almost immediately upon arrival by her husband, “Nathan Einhor” of 194 Allen St, NY City. The immigration service on Ellis Island needed only to feed her one meal, her evening dinner, before Nachum picked her up. The record is on line 15, below:

Record of Sonia Einhorn's brief detention at Ellis Island

Record of Sonia Einhorn’s brief detention at Ellis Island

Sonia lived with Nachum in the Lower East Side of Manhattan for less than a year before they moved to Cincinnati.

Tenements on the Lower East Side

Jewish immigrants to New York in the early 20th century typically moved into tenements on the Lower East Side. Now there is a tenement museum (http://tenement.org), worth at least a day’s visit, including tenements re-created as they were when the immigrants lived there. The museum gives guided tours both of the tenement housing and of the Lower East Side. When Sonia sailed from Rotterdam to New York, the address she had for Nachum was the Finkelstein residence at 105 Stanton St. But when Nachum picked her up at Ellis Island his residence was 194 Allen St. Both of those addresses were tenements in the Lower East Side. The Einhorn address at the time they left, March 1904, was 231 E 10th St, a bit further north, in the East Village. Neither of the Lower East Side tenements exist today. The Stanton St. tenement has been replaced by an 8-apartment rental building built in 1995. The Allen St. address now is the location of the famous Katz Deli. The E 10th St building, however, was built in 1900 and is still standing: beautifully updated, it appears, and expensive to live in. The website Zillow.com estimates a one bedroom apartment here is valued at $1.6 million. Not too shabby.

Sonia & Nachum's last address, on E. 10th St., today.

Sonia & Nachum’s last address, on E. 10th St., today.

I found this building in the 1910 Census.  Then 87 people were living in this 5-storey building, or a little more than four people per 1-bedroom apartment.

Help from the Industrial Removal Office

The IRO was started in 1901 by the Jewish Agricultural Society, one of the Baron de Hirsch Fund projects. It attempted to resettle Jewish immigrants into interior U.S. communities, outside the New York City area. According to what I have read, it tried to find work for immigrants, then arrange for and finance transportation to those job opportunities. It looks to me as if Nachum and Sonia were not the first members of the extended family to be sent to Cincinnati by the IRO. In 1903 “Sal” (probably”Schmerl,” as the family knew him) Hertzman, a cabinetmaker, was sent to Cincinnati; and in January 1904 Abram Gertzman, a tailor, was sent. Both Schmerl and Abram (known to my mother’s generation as “Uncle Schmerl” and “Uncle Avrum”) were related to Sonia, possibly her first cousins. Maybe the existence of family already there was one reason Nachum and Sonia went to Cincinnati. Here is the record of the IRO sending Nachum and Sonia from NY City to Cincinnati, OH:

Nathan and Sonia Einhorn sent to Cincinnati March 1904 by the IRO

Nathan and Sonia Einhorn sent to Cincinnati March 1904 by the IRO

The IRO spent $18 on their tickets and $10.85 on their freight. Most people on the page received only 35 cents for freight, so the couple must have had considerable possessions, relatively speaking. Mr. Rosen was the IRO agent in Cincinnati. In May 1904 he sent a report that included the initial outcome of Nachum’s relocation to Cincinnati.

Report from the Cincinnati IRO agent on Nathan Einhorn's relocation

Report from the Cincinnati IRO agent on Nathan Einhorn’s relocation

Nathan and Sonia Einhorn Opened Their Home

Without their Tante Sonia and “Uncle Einhorn,” as they called him, my Bubba and much of her family might never have come to Cincinnati. Having a place to go was essential to their immigration. Nachum and Sonia provided that place. Here are are some of the records I have found:

  • Idel Einhorn, age 29, male, married, tailor, arrived at Ellis Island on the SS Main on 24 Feb 1906. His destination:  brother N Einhorn, 1515 John St, Cincinnati, OH. (This would be Adolph (Eidel) Einhorn.)
  • Minnie Einhorn/”Eingorn,” age 29, arrived at Baltimore in August, 1906, with three young children (Jankel, age 4, Schmuel, age 3, and an infant girl whose name I can’t read). She was going to her husband, Edel Einhorn, 1515 John St., Cincinnati (Nachum and Sonia’s place).
  • Leie Einhorn, age 20, married, arrived at Ellis Island on the SS Breslau on 7 Apr 1907, going to:  husband, Jakob Einhorn, 1515 John St, Cincinnati, OH (so Jacob, Nachum’s brother, was living with him. Jacob had arrived in October, 1906).
  • Feidel Gertzman (my great-uncle Freddie), age 23, single, a tailor, from Ekaterinolav [not really – he was from Mogilev, but that’s another story], arrived at Ellis Island 25 July 1909. He was going to his cousin, Nachum Einhorn, 1402 John St., Cincinnati (Sonia and Nathan had moved down the street).
  • Avram Schlioma Gerzman (my great-uncle Sam), age 24, single, a tailor, born in Mogilev but last residing in Simferopol, arrived at Ellis Island in August, 1912 on the SS Russia. He was going to his brother at 1402 John St., Cincinnati.
  • 1910 Census (April, 1910) the Einhorn household consisted of Nathan &  Sarah (Sonia) Einhorn (mis-recorded as “Einhart”, and Fred and Eva Gertzman (mis-recorded as “Getzman”) at 1402 John Street. Eva Gertzman was Fred’s sister, my great-aunt.
  • Sora-Rivka and Chasja Gertzman arrived at Ellis Island in June, 1913 on the S.S. Russia. This is my great-grandmother and my grandmother. They were going to Sora-Rivka’s son (Hasha’s brother), F. Gertzman at 1402 John St. in Cincinnati. So Freddie had been living with Sonia and Nachum for almost four years at this point.
  • By the 1920 Census, Sonia and Nachum were  still living at 1402 John Street, but no relatives were living with them.

I do not know if Sonia and Nachum provided any financial help to my family, but it is clear that, in addition to housing many of Nachum’s relatives, they housed my maternal ancestors for many years. My great-grandmother, Sora-Rivka, had four living children, and all of them lived in the apartment on John Street. Yes, it was a rented apartment. The building no longer exists.

Hints that their generosity extended beyond opening their home

I’ve heard a few snippets from relatives that tell me that Sonia and Nachum led a life of generosity to family. The née Gertzman sisters – Lil, Ida, and Ann – Freddie’s daughters, my mother’s first cousins – each spoke of memorable and frequent trips to visit the Einhorns for Shabbos dinner. Sonia was reportedly an excellent challah baker, among other things. Lil waxed ecstatic over Sonia’s many talents, including being a fine seamstress alongside Nathan’s pantsmaking business. When I had a chance to hear stories from Lil, she told me of Sonia’s intelligence, talents, and generosity. One story Lil told me involved Sonia’s rescue of an ill African-American girl. At the time Lil told me the story, she was, as I mentioned above, quite elderly and occasionally a bit confused. Although “sharp as a tack” is the cliche I’d generally use to describe her, Lil told me that this girl was a runaway slave – impossible, given the timing being about 1920. Nonetheless, I believe Lil was remembering an actual event, but just confused some of the circumstances. Lil remembered Sonia taking in this sick child, calling in a doctor to diagnose and treat her, and then nursing the child back to health. One cousin on my Gertzman side, a granddaughter of Harry Gertzman, wrote me the following recollection: “Now I do recall that Harry had a sister named Sarah, and I also recall Uncle Einhorn. I believe that he’s the uncle who gave my dad a gold monogramed ring for his bar mitzvah {which was at age 12 rather than 13 because now he was now the man of the family!} I have the ring and wear it every day. It will eventually go to my grandson, Sam, who was named after my dad.”

“Don’t Bother Mine Pants”

In my family we have a phrase meaning, “Don’t bug me!” It goes, “Don’t bother mine pants!” or, as my mother used to say, “Don’t bodder mine-a pants!”  This is an inadvertent present handed down from Uncle Einhorn. He was a pantsmaker. As I gathered from Lil and Ann and Ida, he had his business in his home. If someone spoke to him or tried to get his attention when he was sewing, he would say, “Don’t bodder mine-a pants!” meaning, don’t bug me when I’m working on pants.

Uncle Einhorn

Uncle Einhorn

 

A Poignant Plea for a Son, 1911

In 1911 Sonia would have been in her upper thirties, having been born in the early 1870s. She and Nathan were childless. I have found no records of births or stillbirths to Sonia (though early records from Cincinnati are spotty). Nathan’s father, a respected patriarch, Moses Einhorn died at shul on Shabbos in February 1911. The Cincinnati Post published two articles after the funeral, one of them on the front page, focusing on Nathan and Sonia. The articles are poignant, crossing the border into the melodramatic, describing Sonia and Nathan’s desperate pleas that they might be blessed with a son.  (The first article is shown in two pieces and has some overlap of text; sorry!)

Date: Tuesday, February 21, 1911

Paper: Cincinnati Post (Cincinnati, OH)

Page: 1

This entire product and/or portions thereof are copyrighted by NewsBank and/or the American Antiquarian Society. 2004.
screenshot
screenshot
Then again,

Date: Thursday, February 23, 1911

Paper: Cincinnati Post (Cincinnati, OH)

Page: 4

screenshot
This entire product and/or portions thereof are copyrighted by NewsBank and/or the American Antiquarian Society. 2004.

The Later Years – 1920s – 1940

Although Fred Gertzman’s family often visited the Einhorn home for Shabbos dinner, my own mother’s family, children of Hasha (Gertzman) and Alex Simon, apparently did not go, or did not go often. Ida sometimes told me this, wondering why the Simons did not also attend the Shabbos dinners. She wondered if it was because Alex was a less social, more a “keep to himself” sort of person. She also wondered if he did not give Hasha the money she would need for carfare to travel from Price Hill and, later, the West End. As I muse on this, I can also imagine that the money just wasn’t available, especially as the Depression hit the Simons hard. Another possibility is that Alex and his family avoided taking the streetcar because it was Shabbos. This is little more than idle speculation.

The Alex Simon family lived in Price Hill, while the Einhorns lived downtown until sometime in the 1920s. At some point in the 1920s, probably late in the decade, the Einhorns moved to Avondale. So getting to Shabbos dinner would have required taking the streetcars for my mother’s family.

 

In the 1930 the Census Nathan and Sonia were listed as living in a 4-family building at 332 Rockdale Ave. in Avondale. The 1929 Cincinnati City Directory listed that same address for Nathan. Earlier years in the 1920s, the Directory gave a work address downtown for him, so I’m not sure when they moved there. The Jews of Cincinnati were generally moving away from downtown and Price Hill, and into Avondale. At the time of that 1930 Census, Nathan was listed as the owner of that building, valued at $12,500. However, something is confusing here because another person in the same building is also listed as owner, value $18,000.

The listing gives Sonia’s age as 56 and Nathan’s as 57 years old, occupation Pants Maker in the tailoring industry, but not the owner of his business. The 1930 census also asked if the individual was at work the last working day prior to the census and, for Nathan, the answer was “no.” It then referenced line 9 on the Unemployment Schedule (and I need to find out if that is able to be accessed online or elsewhere).

The Depression hit everyone hard and, one can imagine, an aging, old-fashioned pants maker might lose his work. I don’t know how long Nachum was unemployed. The first indication I have that he eventually found employment was in the 1933/34 Cincinnati Directory that listed him as a “clothes presser 3482 Burnet Av”; no longer tailoring, but still working. The home address was still 332 Rockdale.

In the 1940 Census Nathan and Sonia are shown as still living at 332 Rockdale. This time only Nachum shows as the building’s owner, but the value had dropped to $3,000.  Again Nachum, now age 67, was out of work but was seeking work. The number of weeks out of work was listed as 520 (10 years), which seems unlikely given he was working as a presser in the mid-1930s. His “number of weeks worked” in the previous year was zero. Both Nathan and Sonia were noted to have other source(s) of income. Certainly the rent they were receiving would be one of those. They also had a lodger living in their unit, Sydney Goldman, age 23, a salesclerk in a pawn shop.

So where is that Rockdale Avenue home now? Gone. It is an empty lot. According to a search I just did, it last sold in 2005 for $8,300.

 

332 Rockdale Sonia EINHORN home

More About Sonia in her Later Years

The 1940 Census had a unique feature – it gathered supplementary information for two people on each census sheet. Sarah was selected on hers. However not much additional is revealed. It says that she was from “Russia”; that she was married only once; and that she was age 20 when first married. But there is something really odd here. In the column for number of children ever born, not including stillbirths, the number is “one”. Did Sarah ever have a child, perhaps one that died very young? The 1910 Census, when she was shown as 36 years old, said she had had “zero” children born. Although I have just repeated searches for record of a birth or death of a child of Sonia and Nachum, I’ve not found a trace.

In her later years it seems to me that Sonia did not have much interaction with my mother’s family, nor with the Fred Gertzman family. Lil Gertzman spoke of being close with her Aunt Sonia, but she didn’t relate specific stories about her, except in the years Lil was a young girl. In 1930 Lil turned 15. I also heard nothing specific about her, in her later years, from Ida or Ann. They both mentioned Shabbos dinners, but nothing more than that.

It seems to me Sonia and Nachum may have had more connection with another branch of my family, the family of Harry and Sarah Gertzman. I knew almost nothing about this branch until I began researching family history.

Harry Gertzman was Sonia Einhorn’s brother, as was my great-grandfather, Nachum Gertzman. This gets confusing to read about, because it seems that almost everyone was named Sarah or Nachum.

Harry Gertzman died young, at about age 40, in 1913 of tuberculosis. He left his widow, Sarah (nee Billipinsky), with seven children ranging in age from about one year old to about fourteen.

Descendents of Harry and Sarah Gertzman have sent me scans of photos including Sonia (“Aunt Einhorn”) and Nachum (“Uncle Einhorn”). The individual portraits I have above, earlier in this post, are cropped from these scans. Here are others:

Sonia Einhorn & Shirley Gertzman 1932

 

Sonia Einhorn, Sarah Gertzman, Howard Levine - 1934 S McMorris Gertzman Women circa 1940 - Version 2

Deaths in the Early 1940s

Sonia died December 26, 1942 at about 70 years of age. Here is her death certificate.

EINHORN, Sarah 1942 death

 

It looks as if she died of heart disease. She clearly had cardio-pulmonary disease, perhaps chronic heart failure, as my grandmother, Hasha, did. (Hasha was her niece.) Nathan was the informant on the death certificate and he certainly gave little information about his deceased wife.

I note parenthetically that the Einhorn’s address had changed to 650 Rockdale Avenue. That address appears to be non-existent now.

Nachum died less than two years later, on August 10, 1944, age 73 according to Aaron, one of his younger brothers. According to Aaron, Nathan was 73 years old when he died.

EINHORN, Nathan death cert 1944

 

The death certificate indicates that Nathan was living in the Jewish Home for the Aged (on Maple in Avondale) and had been living there for two years. So, probably, he moved there shortly after Sonia’s death.

Here is a photo of their headstone, in the Love Brothers Cemetery in Cincinnati.

Sonya, Nathan Einhorn grave

 

The Hebrew on Nathan’s side says: A Respected and Important Man, Reb (Mr.) Menachem Nachum Son of Moshe, Passed 27th Day of the Hebrew Month of Av in the Hebrew Year 5704. The last line is the usual quotation from Samuel – May his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life.

The Hebrew on Sarah’s side says:  An Important Woman, Sarah Daughter of Reb Shlomo, Passed: 19th day of the Hebrew Month of Tevet in the Hebrew Year 5703. The last line is also the Samuel quotation.

 

 

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Nicknames: Lewis was Bobby and Bud

Lewis L young man portrait

This was my father, Lewis N. Levensohn, as a young man. Although his name was Lewis, no one in his family called him “Lewis” or “Lew.” They called him “Bobby” or “Bud.”

Here’s what I remember my mother telling me:

Bessie, his mother, wanted to name him Robert and call him Bobby. However, Morris, his father, took him to the shul and named him “Lewis Nathaniel.”

Thinking about it, this doesn’t really make sense. Morris must have completed the paperwork to register my dad’s birth, naming him “Lewis Nathaniel.” At the shul Morris would have given his son his Jewish name, “Leyb Nachem.” And this might well correspond to “Lewis Nathaniel.”

My mother had also told me that Morris, my grandfather, was a learned Jew from an observant family. As such, Morris might have determined to follow Ashkenazic tradition and name his new son after recently deceased family member(s).  Bessie’s own grandparents, Nathan (Nichemn) and Leah Kaminsky had both passed away in the two years previous to Lewis’s birth. I speculate that Morris named his son after the baby’s great-grandparents.

Apparently my grandma Bessie never accepted this as her youngest child’s name. She always called him “Bobby.” So did his sister, Ruth, who was two years older.  The two older siblings, Mitchell and Dorothy, who were about a decade older, chose a middle ground:  they called him “Bud.”

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Grinker Mysteries: What Happened to John Grinker?

I have already posted about some of the Grinker mysteries, including the mostly unknown figure of my paternal great-grandfather, John Grinker (http://wp.me/p35vsQ-y).

John Grinker was my great-grandfather. He arrived in the U.S. in Baltimore in 1893 with his wife, Jennie Grinker (nee Kaminsky) and three children:  my grandmother (the oldest, who came to be called Bessie in the U.S.); Fannie; and Joseph, the baby, who had been born while the family was in Argentina. They had had a brief stint in Maurico, an early agricultural colony established by Baron Hirsch. Before that the family lived in Odessa. Jennie was born in Odessa, or nearby, but John’s place of origin is still a mystery.

In late 1894 they were living in Ohio. Their fourth child, Abraham was born in Cincinnati in November 1894. By 1900 Celia (b. 1898) and Henry (b. 1899) had been born. Two more children, Rose (b. 1903) and Mat (b. 1907) came along in the next decade. [Sidenote: Mat was born in June 1907, while his nephew, Mitchell, was born six months before him, in January 1907. My grandma, Bessie had been married in late 1905 and Mitchell was her first child.]

Birth record of Mat Grinker, from University of Cincinnati rare books website

Birth record of Mat Grinker, from University of Cincinnati rare books website

The story I was always told was that John Grinker “left the family.” No other details emerged from a family who, typically, didn’t discuss unpleasantness.

John Grinker had left the family by 1910

In April 1910, the U.S. Census shows Jennie as the head of the household at 4397 Virginia Avenue (in the Northside neighborhood of Cincinnati) and her marital status is listed as divorced.  Repeated searches  – and I’m a pretty good searcher – have not turned up John Grinker, or anyone that seems to be him, anywhere in the 1910 U.S. Census. There are other John Grinkers, but none of their details come close to matching what I know (or think I know) about my great-grandfather.

Exactly When and Why Did John Grinker Leave His Family?

That is an unanswerable question, I am sure. Even if numerous narratives were available, the reasons would still be in question.  But, up until the past few days, no details about his leaving were available to me at all.

I asked about his leaving, once or twice when I was young, and was completely brushed off.

I can’t remember exactly when it was but, as an adult, I visited my Aunt Dorothy and asked pointedly and persistently about it. Aunt Dorothy was living in a home for the elderly at that point. Her sister, my Aunt Ruth, was also in the room.

John Grinker was the grandfather of Dorothy and Ruth.  Dorothy was born in 1909 and Ruth was born in 1915.  So neither of them knew John Grinker. But Jennie Kaminsky Grinker, their grandmother, lived until 1948, in the same city as they did, so they had the opportunity to know her well.

When I wouldn’t be brushed off, when I continued to insist she tell me why John Grinker left, she exclaimed, “Because the Levensohn women were so mean. All the Levensohn women were mean.” And she was clearly including herself. Now, when I say she exclaimed, I am using an exact word. Dorothy often exclaimed. In a manner indicative of the Debating Team champion that she had been, Dorothy had found another way to brush me off.

And Aunt Ruth, sweet Aunt Ruth, said, “That’s not the way I remember it at all.” Someone, probably Dorothy, then changed the subject. I was defeated for the moment; I didn’t realize that was probably the last time I would be able to get something close to a first-person account.

Who were those mean women?

Jenny Kaminsky Grinker was not a “Levensohn woman.” She was a Grinker woman by marriage, a Kaminsky woman by birth. “Levensohn” was the surname of her first son-in-law, Bessie’s husband, Dorothy and Ruth’s father. Levensohn was the name Dorothy and Ruth had been born with, but not Jennie. Dorothy was old and so I can forgive the slip from the brilliant and generally exact woman. But I know she wouldn’t have said “All the Grinker women were mean,” because everyone in the room knew that was not true. Bessie, her mother, was not mean, nor were her aunts Celia – with whom Dorothy had been close – nor Rose, whom Dorothy considered not so intelligent but couldn’t possibly view as mean. Aunt Rose was so sweet.

Had she said, “All the Kaminsky women were mean,” I would have done a double take because, at that time, I had never even heard the Kaminsky name. I am pretty sure, though, that Dorothy meant that Jennie Kaminsky Grinker was so mean that she had chased her husband away with her meanness. There is a good chance that Dorothy believed her Grandma Jennie was mean, but I think she was also just trying to deflect my question about an uncomfortable family situation.

Revelations about family dysfunction and marital turmoil

Newspapers for Genealogy

In the past few days I have partly broken through this genealogical brick wall. I subscribed to two paid services, newspapers.com and genealogybank.com, another site that specializes in historical newspapers.  Both use OCR (optical character recognition) to allow text searching. [Unfortunately for me, both sites are limited in terms of which newspapers they carry and which years they have in their catalogs. My interest in Cincinnati family history covers the time period from the late 1800s through to the present. Newspapers.com (owned by Ancestry.com) includes the Cincinnati Enquirer through 1923; GenealogyBank.com includes the Cincinnati Post through 1922. I hope that later years will be added, but the years I can now access have given me some startling information.]

The Bare Bones of the Skeletons in the Family Closet

  • In September 1907, about three months after Mat’s birth, Abe Grinker left home. That would have been about two months before Abe’s 13th birthday and probably at the beginning of the school year. I have no information about when Abe returned home, but he was still missing in mid-January 1908.  The Cincinnati Post newspaper published the following article on January 15, 1908.

GRINKER Celia news item 1908

  • In early January 1908 John Grinker separated from his wife, Jennie. Where he went is unclear.
  • On or about February 29, 1908, John went to the family home on Virginia Avenue in order to see his children. Trouble ensued. What actually happened was not stated in the newspaper report, but John was charged with assault and battery. The following newspaper clipping somewhat documents the separation and the ruckus on Virginia Avenue.
  • John Grinker Domestic Assault 1908

    John Grinker Domestic Assault 1908

  • On or about June 26, 1908 Jennie divorced John.Jennie Grinker divorces John
  • On August 22, 1908 John Grinker married Rosa Rabenstein in Cincinnati. Rabbi Deutsch solemnized the marriage.
Marriage of John Grinker and Rosa Rabenstein, 1908

Marriage of John Grinker and Rosa Rabenstein, 1908

  • On March 7th or 8th, 1910, John Grinker divorced Rosa.

John Grinker divorces Rosa 1910

What Was Really Going On With John Grinker Between 1907 and 1910?

How can we ever know? Did he leave Jennie six times in the years up to and including 1908, as the newspaper reported? His last child, Mat, had been born less than a year earlier. Why would he leave so often? Was it because she was the “mean woman,” as Aunt Dorothy had implied? Or did Aunt Dorothy, as a child, misperceive her grandma Jennie as a mean person because Jennie had been embittered by a husband who repeatedly left her, who reportedly assaulted her? Was John the problem? Both John and Jennie?

The quick rebound marriage John entered into with Rosa, only a few months after leaving Jennie, doesn’t reflect particularly well on him.  Then, two years later, he divorced Rosa, accusing her of being a tramp, stepping out on him, bragging about her exploits with other men. One possibility is that she really was like that, in which case one needs to question John’s judgment in marrying her in the first place. Or maybe John was lying. In those days one needed a reason such as adultery in order to obtain a divorce. Maybe John was delusional, paranoid. None of those things can be ruled out.

A Digression on Rosa Rabenstein, AKA Rose Raben Grinker

I’ve just begun a bit of research about John’s second wife, Rosa Rabenstein. Her first husband was Benjamin Rabenstein. They had three daughters in the 1890s: Jeanette, Sarah, and Laura. Somewhere along the line all of them – Rosa (aka Rose), Benjamin (aka Ben) and the three girls began using the last name “Raben.”

Rose’s daughters were in their teens when she had her brief marriage to John Grinker. Her oldest daughter, Jeanette, married in 1909.

A little more than a month  after John sued her for divorce, Rosa was recorded in the census as “Rosa Rabenstein,” head of the household, with Sarah and Laura living with her, in an apartment in Newport, Kentucky (across the river from Cincinnati).

Rosa/Rose died in Cincinnati in 1947, almost 80 years old. Her death certificate and her headstone give her name as “Rose Raben Grinker.” Her death certificate says she was the widow of John Grinker.

John Grinker “went missing” after his divorce from Rosa

Countless times I have searched for John Grinker, from 1910 onward. I’ve tried a myriad of name variations, search techniques, and websites. I cannot find him in the 1910 or the 1920 Census. I’ve searched the city directories of Cincinnati, year by year, in microfilm form when I couldn’t find a hard copy or an online version.  So far I have found  few possibilities:

John Grinker the “Soda Boy”?

A front page article in the Cincinnati Post, October 23, 1915, titled “Beneficiary of Miss Dow’s Will” discussed the benevolence of a drug store owner, Cora Dow. Her store was in the Mercantile Library Building, 437 Vine Street. When she died, Miss Dow left numerous bequests to her employees. Here are the last two paragraphs of the article:

GRINKER John Cinti Post p.1 Oct 1915

There are several problems connecting this with my great-grandfather. One is the age. Age 68 in 1915 implies a birth in 1847 or 1848. Most records suggest he was born in the late 1850s. No record suggests he was in the Navy. Perhaps the Russian Navy? I do not have any records for that, but it might explain how he got to Odessa. That is idle speculation. Was he a machinist? The 1907 birth record for Mat Grinker, reproduced above, said he was a harness-maker. But John didn’t seem to have a consistent occupation. His 1893 arrival manifest said he was a farmer. Several Cincinnati Directories listed him as a “porter.” In 1898 the Cincinnati Directory listed him as a clerk, while the 1900 Census gave his occupation as “janitor” at a dry goods store. The 1907 directory called him a “mach hand.” But his 1908 marriage license, posted above, gave his occupation as a machinist. So I think that the John Grinker in this article was, indeed, my great-grandfather.

Post-1910 City Directories

The 1924 City Directory of Cincinnati has a sudden reappearance of John:  Grinker, John h rear 2030 Vine. Oddly, the entry immediately above it lists, “Grinker, Jennie wid John.”

Then, the 1927-28 directory shows him as a resident of the Jewish Home.

There are John Grinkers in other cities listed, but typically there doesn’t seem to be any possible connection with my great-grandfather. Two possibilities, however, are a John Grinker, machinist, boarding at 1148 Fort w in Detroit, 1911; and John Grinker, laborer, living at 1211 Bank Lick in Covington, KY in 1914.

An inmate at a mental institution

The last record I can find for John Grinker is the 1930 Census, where he is listed as an inmate at Longview State Hospital in Cincinnati. He is shown as 81 years old, which would put his birth date around 1850, whereas most records have him born in the late 1850s. It also gives his birthplace as Ohio, with his parents’ birthplace as Russia. Is this a record of my great-grandfather? I think so, but have no definite information.

And after that, nothing. No burial in a Cincinnati Jewish cemetery. No burial at the Longview cemetery. I do not know when or where he died.

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