Category Archives: Grinker

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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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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Dorothy Levensohn and Her Academic Brilliance

Dot Senior Photo

Aunt Dorothy was eccentric.  That is a word we used to describe her.  One of the examples I have used to illustrate her eccentricity is that she was a vegetarian from, I heard, the age of 19.  That would have been in 1928.

Now, I think, I would call her a woman born ahead of her time.  Her brilliance, her intellectual fearlessness, her outspoken and informed expressions of her opinions, coming from a woman of her generation, were startling and, probably, off-putting to many. She could be infuriating, a know-it-all, even when she didn’t – although she usually did.   But her senior yearbook ditty has it right: “Her bark’s really worse than her bite.”

And Aunt Dorothy could be loving, endearing, gentle, incredibly generous.  When I was a little girl she would delight me on walks, identifying the trees and other flora as we strolled through a park.  She thrilled me by telling me that I was smarter than some of her students (in college preparatory Latin), when I would pick up one of her textbooks and learn, “Agricola sum.”

My cousin, Johnny, told me recently that in the 1980s, after Dot had moved into a nursing home, herself, she kept her apartment and let Johnny live there for 18 months.

But her outspokenness could come across as mean.  I remember her speaking derisively of people she thought were stupid, even people she knew and cared about.  My sister proudly took Dorothy to her new townhouse and was hurt by Dorothy’s (probably meant as a humorous compliment), “It’s too good for you!”

It’s so hard to know where to start when writing about Aunt Dorothy.  I suppose the best place is her brilliance.  That’s something everyone would have to agree about.

Dorothy was 17 when she graduated from Walnut Hills High School in 1926.  WHHS, still one of the premier public high schools in the US, is a college preparatory school.  According to Wikipedia, when WHHS was known as a “classical high school” “modeled on eastern college preparatory schools in general, and on Boston Latin School in particular.”  In Dot’s senior year, according to her high school yearbook, she was:

Editor of the Yearbook

  • Remembrancer Staff

President of the Senior Debating ClubSenior Debating Club

Member of the French ClubFrench Club

Member of the winning Tri-State Debate TeamTri-State Debate

University of Cincinnati and Yale University

She attended UC (University of Cincinnati) and was an academic prize winner (source:  The American Israelite, June 23, 1927).  She graduated in 1930, and I have yet to discover which particular degree she won, but I assume it was a B.A. in the Classics.

In 1930 Dorothy apparently joined and her older brother, Mitchell, at Yale University.  The American Israelite reported that Dorothy was recipient of a scholarship in classical languages, while Mitchell won a graduate fellowship in the classics (May 23, 1930, p.2). 

Again in The American Israelite the following year (May 14, 1931, p. 2):

“Miss Dorothy Levensohn, who was graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1930, was among the eight Jewish students who were awarded fellowships at Yale University last week.”

The eight Jewish recipients were among 176 fellowship winners across the country.    Three of the eight were women  (The American Isrealite, May 28, 1931).   Next year, (May  12, 1932) the Israelite  reported that Dorothy had “been awarded a Susan Rhode Cutler fellowship to continue researches in the classics at the Yale University Graduate School” (p. 2).

I do not know if Dorothy completed her advanced degree at Yale.  I remember hearing, as a child, that she had obtained a Library Sciences Master’s degree from Yale, but I have no evidence that my recollection is correct.

She was also B.A. 1937 from the University of Cincinnati.  I know this only because I found a web link that showed a listing from the Cincinnatian Yearbook.  It didn’t state her major.

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Ancestral Home of Kaminsky, Kamin Family Traced to Bobrynets’

Leah and Nathan Kaminsky

Our great-great-grandparents, Nathan and Leah KAMINSKY, immigrated to the US from Odessa. This I had gathered.  What is new is their birthplace.  On their passenger manifest – the earliest document I have with that information – the birthplace for both of them was listed as “Bobrininnec, Gub. Cherson.”   Here is where I found that when I consulted JewishGen.org:

JewishGen Communities Database

Searching for Town BOBRINIAK
in modern country Ukraine
(D-M code 779650)
Run on Sunday 10 February 2013 at 09:21:18

Modern Town & Country Other Names c. 1950
After WWII
Town / Country
c. 1930
Between Wars
Town / District /
Province / Country
c. 1900
Before WWI
Town / District /
Province / Country
# of JGFF
Entries
 Bobrynets, Ukraine
48°03′ N 32°10′ E
181 mi SSE of Kyyiv
Bobrynets’ [Ukr], Bobrinets [Rus], Bobrinitz [Yid], Bobryniec [Pol], Bobrinez [Ger] BobrinetsSoviet Union Bobrinets
Kirovograd
Ukraine SSR
Soviet Union
Bobrinets
Yelizavetgrad
Kherson
Russian Empire
27
Number of matches = 1

Further searching on JewishGen told me that the Jewish population in 1900 was 3,481.  Nathan and Leah arrived in the US in 1908; depending on the source, they were born either in the early 1840s or the mid 1850s (conflicting data you’ll be pleased to know I won’t go into here).

New information about my families is hard to find, especially going back to the Old Country. I experienced what is, in my genealogist mind, a major breakthrough on the weekend. Here’s how it happened.

Searching for “Kaminsky” in Port of Baltimore arrivals (and I’ve done this search many times before), I hit on an extraordinary (again, to my genealogist mind) document, such as I’ve never seen before.  It was indexed under “Abraham Kaminsky” and also under “Jake Kaminsky.”  It was an “Affidavit of Support” and it was actually contained among the pages of a 1908 manifest.

KAMINSKY Ab & Jake for parents

[I hope that you can double-click on the above image to see an enlarged version; supposedly, the above image is 100%, and I am not skilled enough in WordPress to make it larger.]

It appears that Abraham and Jake were savvy enough to ward off the possibility that their aging parents might be detained or sent back as LPC –  “likely to become a public charge.”

Besides giving valuable family history information about Abraham and Jake, this document also gives the street address where “Neheminah” and “Lena” (I’ve lost track of how many different versions I’ve found of their names) were living in Odessa at the time this document was sworn, in September 1907.  They were living at “No. 43 Bulgarski St.”  Brady, my son, fluent in Russian, has found that street on an old map and on Google Earth.  I’ll try to post images later.

So I had the Affidavit, but not the actual manifest of arrival.  Finally found it.  It covered two pages and was quite legible, compared with many other manifests I’ve perused:

KAMINSKY Nathan and Leah 1908 arr p 1

KAMINSKY Nathan and Leah 1908 arr p 2

The Kaminskys are on the top two lines.  Here is an approximate transcription:

It is the SS Main, sailing from Bremen on June 4, 1908 and arriving in Baltimore on June 17.

“Nechemie Kaminski” age 52, married, male, painter, reads and writes.  “Leje Kaminski” age 48, female, marred no occupation, reads and writes.
Both are from Russia; Hebrew “race.”  Last permanent residence:  Russia Odessa.
Name and couple address of nearest relative. . . “son Mojsche Kamenska Odessa Catamychyskaya 24 Gub Cherson Russia.”
Have a ticket to their final destination, paid by son; they have $30; have never been in the US; [“affidavit attached”] going to: son Abram Kaminski 9 15 St Cincinnati, OH.
Both in good health, though Nathan has “defect recorded of kyphosis.” [This is what has been called a “dowager’s hump.”] He is 5’4,” complexion fair, hair dark, eyes brown; no identifying marks.
Leah is 5’4,” fair complexion, black hair, gray eyes, no identifying marks. 
The place of birth for both of them is written to cover both lines, so I can only assume that it was meant to apply to both of them.  Birth:  Russia Bobrinnec Gub Cherson [which would be the Kherson Gubernia, in which Bobrynets and Odessa were located].
The place of birth is the item that made me do my happy dance, jump up and down and squeal.  But there are several other new things here:  Nathan being a painter.  Later documents show him as a tailor.  Both? Truth?  The birth dates are new, and don’t really make sense to me, unless they were young teens when they married and had their first child, my great-grandmother Jenny Kaminsky Grinker.  The kyphosis and other physical descriptions are new.  And, a close second in the happy dance line-up, the son still in Odessa, Mojsche.  My family tree shows some unknown children, and now I can put a name to one of those.
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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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Some of my Grinker Mysteries: Who was Chune Grinker? Who was Itzig Cohn in Baltimore? Whence and Wherefore Cincinnati?

GRINKER, John family outbound HamburgGRINKER family Hamburg to Baltimore 1893

My paternal grandma arrived in the US at the Port of Baltimore in 1893 on the SS Polynesia, sailing from Hamburg on the Hamburg Line.  The upper manifest is the outbound one, in German; the lower is the inbound one, for the US Immigration service of the time.  On the manifests her name seems to be “Paula Grinker,” very puzzling.  In the US she was known as “Bessie.”  Clearly, “Paula” is not a Yiddish or a Hebrew or even a Russian name, either.  I think it must be the way that the German purser heard it.

The outbound manifest says the family was from Maurico, Argentina, but I have been unable to locate a record of the family’s travel from Argentina to Hamburg; nor have I been able to find an earlier record – probably about a year or so earlier – of the family’s travel to Argentina, presumably originating in Odessa.

On these manifests there are five people:  Chune (known in the US as “John”), age 36, a farmer; his wife, Eugenia (“Jennie” in the US); “Paula,” age 8; Feige (“Fannie” in the US), age 5, and Josef (“Joe”), the new baby.  The ages of Paula/Bessie and Fannie/Feige contradict everything else I have found and I believe to be true.  Bessie, by all other accounts, was born in August, 1888 and Fannie was born in 1890.

Aside from the missing records of travel to and from Argentina (they tried farming in one of the earliest Jewish agricultural colonies established by Baron Maurice von Hirsch [hence “Maurico, Argentina”]); aside from the apparently wrong ages of the girls; and aside from the strange appellation “Paula,” there are three bigger mysteries here that I have been unable to solve:

WHO WAS JOHN GRINKER, my great-grandfather?

WHO WAS ITZIG COHN, the “cousin” they were joining in Baltimore?

WHEN AND WHY DID THE FAMILY MOVE TO CINCINNATI, where they were living by 1897?

The first, who was John Grinker, is a multi-part question, because I don’t know where he was really from (Odessa? Germany); do not know the names of his parents or any of his siblings or ancestors; do not know when or where he died; do not know why he left (abandoned?) his family in about 1907, about the time of the birth of his eighth child; and do not know where he went after leaving the family.  There are some tantalizing hints, which I’ll discuss in later posts.

I was in contact with the Jewish Genealogical Society in Buenos Aires many years ago; I was told that the records of immigrants from about the time John and his family were there just don’t exist now, so it seems that is a dead end.  My attempts to discover who Itzig Cohn was, at 130 North Front Street in Baltimore, have been multiple and fruitless.  Was he John’s cousin? Jennie’s cousin?  An uncle or a friend of one of the families?

And I have been unable to locate any record showing that they lived in Baltimore between the time of their arrival, in November, 1893 and the time that I first find a record of them in Cincinnati – in the 1897 Cincinnati City Directory.  Where were they during those years?  Why did they move to Cincinnati?

In tracing my family history, I would like to be able to work backwards – in the case of the Grinkers, find out more about John’s origins; and be able to work horizontally – in the case of John Grinker, find out who his other relatives were, what cousins I might have alive in the world now.  Finding out who was Itzig Cohn might help in this regard, if it turns out that he was a blood relative of John’s.

The question of Cincinnati is more than mere curiosity, because family history is not just names and dates, but is also the stories of people.  Also, answering why they moved could help trace backwards, if it turns out that John took his family to Cincinnati because he had a family member already there.

Here, I’ve only scratched the surface of my Grinker mysteries.

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