Friday, August 18, 2017

DNA Testing and My Family Tree

It's that time of year again and I just ended another whirwind of genealogy activity at the International Association of Jewish Genealogy Societies annual conference.  This year it was in Orlando FL. As usual, the schedule was packed with great sessions on all sorts of topics, but a highlight was a full track on the latest innovation in genealogy, using DNA to help build your tree.

You've probably seen the commercials for the DNA testing companies on TV.  "Find out where your ancestors come from", "Find your lost cousins."  Maybe you were intrigued.  (To my cousins:  If you have tested or are interested in doing so, please PM me!).  This can be really interesting but unfortunately, traditional techniques of using DNA to find relatives do not work well for Ashkenazic Jews.  It's much harder.  We are an endogamous population; everyone is related to everyone else.  Everyone who tests comes up as a match to everyone else who tests.  This problem was not addressed at the outset by the companies performing the analyses for general consumers, but with advances in analysis and the advent of two companies and many researchers that put a focus on Ashkenazi Jews, DNA analysis has been added to our toolbox.

I have been trying to incorporate DNA results into my research.  It can be especially useful where traditional document based research can't confirm a suspected relationship.  I have several places in my tree where everyone agrees that two branches are related but we don't know exactly how.  I have written about some, "the Other Roth Family" here, and the "Tepper Zimmerman" connection here.  My research indicates a common ancestor for these branches, or a family story says that a couple were close cousins, but there is no documentation.  That is where DNA may be able to help.

It takes a fair amount of work, and for many family members to test.  Because everyone has a 50/50 chance of inheriting any piece of DNA from either parent, after a few generations, the amount of shared DNA goes down significantly even among direct descendants.  In my family, I have almost reached the limits of reliable testing material since my missing connections are four or five generations back from me so it is important that as many of the oldest generations still alive test now so that their DNA is available for the future.  The test that I have found to be the most useful in my research is the autosomal DNA (or "Family Finder") test.  This isn't limited to only direct male line descendants (Y-DNA) and it can be more specific than MtDNA which can say that the person is in a direct maternal line, but not how far back the common ancestor is.

Over the past two years, I have been getting DNA tests from some relatives.  After the test (a quick cheek swab, no pain, no blood) either they administer the results themselves (look at matches, answer e-mails from potential matches, analyze the results etc) or I act as administrator for them.  At the conference, I  heard about how several companies now allow you to upload the results from one company to another and use their tools for analysis.  A representative from Family Tree DNA, the company I use, also told me how to group all of the kits that I administer into one private family project to streamline my analysis.  I've started that process and am looking forward to making my life easier.  When it is complete, I will also be able to invite others into the project, if I am not the administrator of their results.

I hope that with more family members testing, and more work on my part I may be able to confirm or deny some suspected relationships in my tree.  Several companies have sales on the tests going on right now so if you are interested in giving it a try, let me know.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Gone too Soon: Little Esther Grosser

     Esther Grosser was the last child of my great grandparents, Elcon and Jennie Grosser.  She was born on May 2, 1909, at the family's home at 814 S. 4th St in Philadelphia [1].  She was remembered by her older sister, my grandmother, as a happy child.  By 1920, the family had moved to 344 South St, where Elcon had a retail store selling hardware items.[2]
814 S. 4th St Philadelphia, taken Nov 2015

      According to my grandmother, On October 31, 1920, Halloween, Esther was in her costume.  As it was dark, she reached to light the gas lamp, and her costume caught fire.  The death certificate says her clothing caught fire, not specifying a costume, but agreed with the gas lamp lighting.  She was burned over most of her body (flameproof childrens' clothing was not the norm at the time).  She was taken to Pennsylvania Hospital, about one mile away, where she died on November 1, 1920 [3].  She was buried at Har Nebo Cemetery in Philadelphia on November 2, 1920[4].

1. Ancestry. com, Pennsylvania Birth Records, 1908-1909 (Lehi, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2015), Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania (State). Birth certificates, 1906–1909; Box Number: 240; Certificate Number 79776. Record for Ester Grosser

2., 1910 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Operations Inc., 2006), Database online.Year: 1910; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 3, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1387; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 48; Image: 797. Record for Colkin Grosser.  

3., Pennsylvania Death Certificates, 1906-1924 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2014),, Record for Esther Grosser.

4.  Ibid.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Phyllis Lieberman Schlesser Swern 1922-2017

Phyllis Lieberman about 1944
    Phyllis and her twin, Jerry Lieberman, were born on December 15, 1922, in Philadelphia to Nathan and Ida (Grosser) Lieberman.  Phyllis told me that she was overweight and always felt unattractive as a child.  The family moved to Trenton, NJ in about 1940. Phyllis, who had dropped out of high school, studied cosmetology and hairdressing.  The family was not a happy one, and the stress grew worse when Phyllis' twin Jerry was killed in 1943 flying for the USAAC (see post here).
    As she grew older, Phyllis learned to highlight her beauty.  In May 1944, Phyllis became engaged to David Bernard Schlesser, son of Selig and Minnie Szlesser of New York City[1].  The Szlessers had immigrated to the US from Austria in 1932[2], and David had signed up to fight for his new country in 1942 at age 20[3].  He was a private in the US Army, probably stationed at nearby Ft Dix.  When they married on September 5, 1945[4,] he had recently been mustered out of the Army and returned to Trenton.  The couple was active in social activities at the Har Sinai synagogue and in October 1948, just before the birth of their son, David purchased a delicatessen at 64 Market Street in Trenton [5]. The marriage only lasted a few years, part of which the couple spent living in the Lieberman home.  By March of 1949, David posted a notice in the newspaper disavowing any debts not contracted by himself[6].  David moved to Miami, Florida, and after the divorce in March 1951[7], Phyllis officially became a single mother.
Phyllis and her son
     Phyllis wanted a more exciting life, and by 1953 she and her son had moved to Manhattan where they lived in an apartment on the Upper West Side, a block from Central Park[8]. Looking back, I suspect that the apartment was subsidized by her long time gentleman friend, although my family never said as much in my hearing. She became a dress designer.  She was always very chic. I remember frequently visiting her there as a child. She took me to lunch at elegant restaurants and ordered me my first oyster. She travelled to the Caribbean, and to Europe.  Her son soon began his education in a series of boarding schools and overnight summer camps, and Phyllis enjoyed the New York social life. By 1960 they had moved to a high rise apartment building at 3 Washington Square Village [9] and she had opened her own dress shop in Greenwich Village.  She designed and made all of the clothes, often using hand painted fabrics made by other artists in the Village.  The clothes were popular, but she was not a good business person, and the store closed, despite contributions from various family members who tried to keep it afloat.  Despite her financial troubles, Phyllis was always generous.  She always had a gift for me, even if I now realize that she was often re-gifting something that had been bought for her.  Sometimes the gifts were not perfectly appropriate.  I remember after a trip to Switzerland and France, she brought my six year old brother some skis, and she brought eight-year-old me a french string bikini.  I loved it, but the rulers of the Jewish Community Center swimming pool decreed that I could not wear it to swim there.
Phyllis in India
    Meanwhile, like many people in Greenwich Village and elsewhere, by the mid-sixties Phyllis had become interested in Eastern religions, and she embraced the idea of shedding worldly goods and living a simpler life.  She moved back to Trenton for a while, and in 1967 briefly married Marvin Swern[10], a widower from a prominent Trenton family who was also going through some difficult times.  They were divorced in 1973[11], although they had separated before that time.  She then went to to India in the mid 70s to study with her guru.
    Although I would see her often at family gatherings in Philadelphia or in Florida over the next decade, I was too involved in making my own life to be aware of hers.  I'm not sure where she was living or what she was doing.  Sometime after her son married and had sons of his own in the mid 1970s, she moved to Portland Oregon to be near his family. In her mid sixties, she decided to take advantage of a program for seniors and continue her education.  She got a GED, and then went on to complete undergraduate and graduate degrees in fine art.
     Phyllis finally moved into a senior citizen apartment building on Northrup Ave in Portland and lived there until the end of her life.  She had a small but nice upper floor apartment with a spectacular view of the city.  She continued to use her designing and sewing talents, making items to sell at crafts fairs for some years, and then in the last few years, making hats for a local charity.  When I visited her last year, her apartment was filled with boxes of fabrics and her dining table was shared with a cutting mat and sewing items.  She was very independent, continuing to drive her car and running her own errands.  Her son and grandchildren were the focus of her life.  In December 2016 she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  She refused treatment, staying in her apartment and continuing to be independent as long as she could.  She died on March 2, 2017.

1.   Trenton Evening Times, Trenton, NJ. Sunday May 14, 1944. p.10 "Society: Number of Engagements, Miss Phyllis Lieberman" database on line.
2., New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc. 2006),, database online.  Record a SS Alfred Bain from Hamburg.
3., U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death file, 1850-2010 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2011), Record for David Schlesser.
4. Trenton, Mercer, New Jersey Marriage Certificate:  David Bernard Schlesser and Phyllis Lieberman 5 September, 1945. original document. Papers of Phyllis L. Swern.
5.  Trenton Evening Times, Trenton, NJ. Sunday October 10, 1948. p.16.  "Delicatessen Store Changes Ownership" database on line.
6. Trenton Evening Times, Trenton, NJ. Thursday March 3,1949 p.35.  "Personals" database on line.
7., Florida Divorce Index, 1927-2001 (Provo, UT, USA.The Generations Network, Inc., 2005),
8., U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2011),, Record for Phyllis Schlesser.
9., U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2011),, Record for Phyllis Schlesser.
10.  Kettubah between Marvin Swern and Phyllis Lieberman Schlesser, Dec 23, 1967., Dec 23, 1967, Phyllis Swern papers; privately held by Phyllis Swern, Portland OR, 2017
11. Divorce of Phyllis Swern and Marvin Swern June 1973., Papers of Phyllis Swern; privately held by Phyllis Swern, Portland OR, 2017.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Nan (Lieberman) and Harry Carr

Cover of Mason Mint magazine (news letter of the Mason Au & Magenheimer Conf. Mfg. Co. Inc) September 1954 featuring the Trenton Tobacco Co., distributor of Mason Confectionery products.  L-R Harry Carr, Nan Carr, Alvin J. Carr[1]

     Nan Lieberman was the youngest daughter of Phillip and Bella Lieberman (more about them here and here).  Her exact birth date was always a matter of discussion in the family, and she got younger as the years passed, but she is listed with the family in the 1900 census as having been born in May of the previous year [2].  Her name then was Annie, and she continued as Anne through the 1920 census, when the family lived at 718 S. Beulah St. in a neighborhood of two story brick row houses.[3]
     Harry was the son of Louis and Fanny Cohen who had arrived in Philadelphia with their young son Joseph from Romania about 1898 (I haven't found their manifests yet).  They quickly had three more children, Harry in 1901, Herman in 1902, and Henrietta in 1909.  On his Declaration of Intention to be come a citizen in 1900, Louis said that he was living at 920 S. 5th St. in Philadelphia[4].  Like many recent immigrants, Louis moved often and worked in the garment industry.   By 1909 on his Petition for Naturalization, he listed himself as a tailor living at 8021 Suffolk Ave in South Philadelphia[5], and in April 1910 on the census he reported the family living at 1218 North Warnock St. (now part of the Temple University campus) and gave his occupation as operator in a pants manufacturing company[6].  When he registered for the WWI draft he was listed as a self employed tailor again, living at 994 N. 5th St[7].
     Around 1918, Louis moved his family to Trenton, NJ where they lived at 495 Logan St.  He soon bought Trenton Tobacco Company, a
Trenton Tobacco 806 South Broad St.
From Mason Mint Magazine.
The building is still there, and you can still
see the words Trenton Tobacco Co on the
top of the building.
wholesale business located at 177 South Broad Street in a three story store front building with an apartment above where the family lived[8].  Louis, Joseph, and Harry owned and ran the business together.   The business must have been very successful.  In 1921, Louis, Joseph and Harry invested $30,000 in the Salamandra Company, which was incorporating as a brewing business.[9]  In July 1922 Louis, Fanny, and young Henrietta travelled to Europe for six months, planning to visit Romania and Switzerland to visit relatives, England and France as tourists, and Germany and Austria-Hungary for business[10]. Also in 1922, Louis and Joseph Cohen bought a building with a storefront and apartments on South Broad Street for "upward of $50,000"[11].  Trenton Tobacco  moved from the original location to the new location at 205 S. Broad Street in 1923.  By 1923, Louis had acquired a large single family home at 8 Oak Lane in a newly built Trenton neighborhood where they lived with their children until each grew up, married, and moved out. [12]
      By the time of her wedding in Philadelphia in November, 1923, Annie Lieberman had begun to be called Nan[13].  Harry and Nan returned to Trenton where their son Alvin Joshua was born on August 18, 1924[14].  In 1930 they bought a newly built duplex at 30 Sanhican Drive[15], near Harry's parents where they lived into the 1940s.  Harry continued to work as a salesman and then manager of Trenton Tobacco.  Joseph married Gertrude Introligator about 1923.  Herman became a doctor and married Elizabeth Stein in 1930[16], and Henrietta married Nathan Levine in 1932 and moved to Philadelphia[17].  The ever growing Trenton Tobacco  moved again to 806 South Broad St. in about 1938[18].
     Alvin (known as "Sonny" within the family, and Al by others)graduated from Trenton Central H.S. in 1942[19], and in January 1944 he enlisted in the U.S. Army[20].  He served overseas in France for seven months and was severely wounded in the leg in April 1945[21].  After his recovery he resumed his studies at Lafayette College and the at University of Minnesota.  It was at this time, around 1950 when he wanted to go on to medical school and faced the widespread practice of quotas limiting the number of Jewish students in professional schools, that the family changed their last name from Cohen to the less Jewish sounding Carr[22].
    Joseph Cohen had died in 1942, and Louis in 1946[23], leaving Harry as the sole owner of Trenton Tobacco Company after he bought the remaining interest from his widowed sister-in-law[24].  Al joined the firm in 1948.  Things were going very well for the Carr family.  In 1954 they moved into a custom built home in Yardley PA across the river from Trenton.  The home featured 12 rooms, a 20' x 65' recreation room, a pool and cabana, and was decorated with marble [25].  I remember that special accommodations were made to store Nan's growing collection of antique furniture, china, and silver.  The raised dining room was secured by an ornate wrought iron gate, behind which one could see her collection of silver tea and coffee services.  One room had a full wall of lighted cabinets to store the many full services of antique china she had acquired.  She loved to open them up and let me examine everything when I visited a child.  She was a regular at high end auctions and estate sales.
     At the same time, Trenton Tobacco was growing, too.  By 1954 the business had about 1500 retail accounts and carried about 2000 different items, including tobacco and candy products, toys, watches, and shavers.  They built a new office and warehouse complex on the edge of town, increasing storage space from 6000 sq ft to 15,000 sq ft. The warehouse layout, designed by Al, had the latest innovations in stock management, designed so that filling orders was most efficient. Al said that Nan only paid social visits to the office, but that she was just as interested in the business as his father.[26]  I remember going to the grand opening when the display room was filled with candy boxes open for sampling.  I was literally a kid in a candy shop!
     Harry and Al continued to run Trenton Tobacco together.  Al married Rosalie Klinghoffer in 1961.  Harry died in 1976[27].  Nan closed up the big house and moved to a newly built condo at 860 Lower Ferry Road in Ewing until she died in 1980[28]. Al sold Trenton Tobacco Company in November of 1980, moving on to other business ventures[29].

1. "Mason Mint", Vol IX, No.4, September, 1954.  Mason Au & Magenheimer Conf. Mfg. Co., Inc.  Copy held by Mary-Jane Roth.
2.. 1900 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc, 2004) www/, Database online. Year 1900; Census place; Philadelphia Ward 2, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll:T623_1452; Page 11A; Enumeration District 40.  Record for Annie Liverman.
3.  Ancestry. com, 1920 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc, 2004) www/, Database online. Year 1920; Census place; Philadelphia Ward 1, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll:T625_1614; Page 3B; Enumeration District 21.  Record for Anne Leiberman.
4., Pennsylvania, Federal Naturalization Records, 1795-1931 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, I,c., 2011), National Archives; Washington, D.c.; ARC Title: Naturalization Petitions for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, 1795-1930; NAI Number 72; Record Group Number :M1522 Record for Louis Cohen.
5. ibid.
6. Ancestry. com, 1910 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc, 2006) www/, Database online. Year 1910; Census place; Philadelphia Ward 20, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll:T624_1394; Page 2A; Enumeration District 0343; FHL microfilm: 1375407. Record for Louis Cohn.
7., U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc, 2005) Registration Sate: Pennsylvania; Registration County; Philadelphia; Roll 1907612; Draft Board :10. Record for Louis Cohen.
8.  There are several sources for this information. The description of the building is from "O'Neill Property Sold for $35,000"   Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey) Sunday, February 15, 1920 p. 7.   Copyright NewsBank and/or the American Antiquarian Society. 2004. Source:  The family being resident there is from Joseph Cohen's WWI draft registration Card: U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 (Provo UT, USA, Operations, Inc. 2005) Registration State: New Jersey; Registration County: Mercer; Roll 175444; Draft Board 3. Record for Joseph W. Cohen., and well as, U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations Inc., 2011), Trenton, NJ Record for Louis Cohen, manager of Trenton Tobacco.
9.  "Variety of Purposes for New Companies" Trenton Evening Times, June 22, 1921. p 6. Source:
10., U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2007), database online.  Record for Louis Cohen.
11.  "Tobacco Company Takes New Home" Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey) Sunday, November 12, 1922. p. 7.  Copyright NewsBank and/or the American Antiquarian Society. 2004. Source
12.  The 1923 date is extrapolated for several sources.  In his application for a passport cited above in 1922, Louis gives his address as 177 South Broad St.  An article about the trip gives the same address. "Will Travel Abroad for Six months" Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey) Tuesday July 18, 1922. p. 8. Copyright NewsBank and/or the American Antiquarian Society. 2004. Source  Another article in early January 1924 gives the Oak Lane address for Henrietta. "Miss Cohen Honors Miss Fay Bookman" Trenton Evening Times. Saturday, January 5, 1924 p. 14. Copyright NewsBank and/or the American Antiquarian Society. 2004. Source  It is unlikely that Henrietta would have entertained in the first week of January 1924 if they had just moved into a new house that week.  Finally,  The City Directory of Trenton in 1925 gives Louis' address as 8 Oak Lane., U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2011),, Record for Louis Cohen.  That Louis and Fanny lived there until their deaths is attested to by their obituaries. " Mrs. Louis Cohen" Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), Wednesday July 6, 1943 p. 11, and "Louis Cohen" Trenton Evening Times (Trenton New Jersey) Thursday, June 6, 1946. p. 10 both Copyright NewsBank and/or the American Antiquarian Society. 2004. Source
13., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951 (Provo, UT. USA, Operations Inc., 2011) Record for Nan Lieberman.
14., Social Security Death Index (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2009),, Database online, Number: Issue State: New Jersey; Issue Date: Before 1951. Record for Alvin J. Carr.
15., 1930 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2002) www., Database online, Year: 1930; Census Place: Trenton, Mercer, New Jersey; Roll:1365; Page 13B; Enumeration District : 71; Image: 929.0. Record for Nan L. Cohen.
16.  "Miss Elizabeth Stein Becomes the Bride of Dr Cohen at Pretty Ceremony Yesterday at Belmar - Interesting Notes of Various Women's Organizations" Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey) Monday , July 7, 1830 p. 11. Copyright NewsBank and/or the American Antiquarian Society. 2004. Source: 
17. " Lavine-Cohen Nuptials" Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey) Monday, August 29, 1932 p. 14. 
Copyright NewsBank and/or the American Antiquarian Society. 2004. Source
18. "Tobacco Company Negotiates Lease" Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey) Sunday, December 11, 1938 p.22 Copyright NewsBank and/or the American Antiquarian Society. 2004. Source: 
19., U.S. School Yearbooks, 1880-2012 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2010),, Record for Alvin J. Cohen.
20.  National Archives and Records Administration, U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations Inc.), Database on-line. Record for Alvin J. Cohen., AJHS WWII Jewish Servicemen Cards, 19-42-1947 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc. ), Database on-line. Record for Alvin J. Cohen.
22. Personal e-mail. "RE: Long Time No Hear". Alvin J. Carr ( to Mary-Jane Roth. Wed. 30 Jul 1997. Copy held by Mary-Jane Roth.
23. Obituaries. " Rites Held Today for Joseph Cohen" Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey) Friday July 17, 1942. page 16. and "Louis Cohen", Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey) Thursday, June 6, 1946. page 10. Copyright NewsBank and/or the American Antiquarian Society. 2004. Source: 
24. "Mason Mint" Op. Cit. p2.
25.  "Lower Makefield is Proud of its People and Homes" Levittown Times (Levittown, PA.) January 28, 1957. p 11.
26. "Mason Mint" Op. Cit. pp. 3-5
27.  " Obituary Harry N. Carr at 75, Trenton Businessman" Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey) Tuesday, May 18, 1976. p 32. Copyright NewsBank and/or the American Antiquarian Society. 2004. Source: 
28. Obituary "Nan Lieberman Carr" Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey) Wednesday, December 24, 1980. p 23. Copyright NewsBank and/or the American Antiquarian Society. 2004. Source: 
29. "Buyers Exchange under new owners" Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey) Thursday, July 9, 1981. p 37. Copyright NewsBank and/or the American Antiquarian Society. 2004. Source: 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

IAJGS 2016 - Seattle

Attendees at the "Blogger Breakfast" Banai Feldstein, Emily Garber, Judy Russell (conference banquet speaker), Steve Jaron, Mary-Jane Roth.  Missing from the photo, Lara Diamond and Janice Seller

     I started this blog by saying that it would include my adventures in genealogy, so I thought I'd post a bit about my week at the International Association of Jewish Genealogy Societies (IAJGS) annual conference in Seattle.  This is my fourth conference (Paris, Boston, and Salt Lake City), and I thought that I might find fewer sessions of interest and have some time to walk around the neighborhood.  I was wrong.  There were so many intriguing presentations that I couldn't get to everything.  Most days started at 7:30 AM and ended about 10PM.  In the few spaces where I wasn't going to a presentation, I met with folks that I had corresponded with about shared research, or new folks whose shared interests had become apparent in discussions during presentations we had both attended.

I was interested in several of the "tracks"; Hungary, Ukraine, DNA research,  research techniques so there were many things to choose from.  New at this conference was a detailed session on the requirements to become a Certified Genealogist.  That is something that I will probably explore further.  There was also a workshop on writing your family stories that gave me some good ideas.  Several presentations about Hungarian research gave me a way forward towards finding out more about my Hungarian grandfather, which is exciting.

At the Ukraine Special Interest Group meeting I gave a short presentation about a document acquisition and translations project I am working on, and as a result I found more people willing to work on the difficult translations of some of the documents.  That was a real win for me, too.  Other presentations highlighted new records that have been located and will be available for the area where my Lieberman great grandparents lived.

I did have time to visit the exhibitors hall as well.  I bought two more FTDNA kits (on sale!) and worked with the folks there to answer some questions I had on the kits I manage. DNA research is a new area and I find it complex, but the presentations during the conference really helped me to structure the problems that I want to solve, so that the DNA results can provide answers.

In addition to the regular presentations there was an extensive selection of Jewish themed short films running all during the conference.  I didn't get to see many, but I was a volunteer monitor for a film about the Jews of Cuba that was a new area for me.  There was also a showing of "Woman in Gold", a feature length film about a woman who goes to court to recover art looted by the Nazis from her family.  The lawyer who won the case, Randy Schoenberg, is now a genealogist and spoke after the film.  We also had a live theater presentation of the play "Door to Door" by the Seattle Jewish Theater  Group.

A nice addition to my conference experience this year was a "Blogger's Breakfast" arranged by fellow blogger Emily Garber.  We gathered at 6:30AM (!) in a hotel restaurant and spent a pleasant hour or so discussing what we had learned at the conference.  It was an opportunity for me to get to know some folks whose blogs I have learned from.  I hope that this becomes a regular feature where we can share blogging approaches and genealogy tips.

All in all, this was another excellent conference.  The organization was splendid and the selection of speakers and events appealed to the novice and seasoned attendees.  I'm already looking forward to "Next year in Orlando!"

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Moshe and Chaya Sura Groiskopf

Mosche and Chaya Sura (Kurman) Groiskopf
Labun, Ukraine abt 1925
     Mosche Groiskopf was born about 1880 in Labun, a small town near Polonnoye, in what is now Ukraine.  He was the fourth child (that I know about) of Chaim and Chaya Groiskopf.  Like his father and brothers, Mosche grew up to be a blacksmith.  He married Chaya Sura Kurman, daughter of David and Miriam Kurman of Labun in about 1900, when he was about 20 and she was a few years younger.  They quickly had two children, David, in July 1902, and Alexandra (Shivka) in about 1905.
    As I have mentioned before, times were hard in that area of Ukraine, so in 1907 Mosche decided to go to America where his older brother Elkunah (Elcon Grosser) was living and where he was quite successful.  Leaving his family behind, Mosche made his way to Liverpool, England, where on July 8, 1902 he boarded the RMS Lake Megantic [1], newly refurbished to carry immigrants to Halifax and St John, Canada [2].  He arrived in Quebec on July 17 listing Philadelphia as his final destination.[3]   He crossed into the U.S. by train, declaring that he was a smith, and that he was going to his brother (Cohn Grosser) in Philadelphia[4].   
Brothers Elcon, Joe and Mosche Grosser
Philadelphia, abt 1907
     Some time between 1902 and 1906 he returned to Labun, perhaps to try to convince Chaya Sura to return to the U.S. with him.  He returned to the U.S. alone in February 1907, this time traveling through Hamburg [5] and arriving in New York City aboard the Graf Waldersee on February 16 [6].  He listed his last residence as Tadeushpol, a small village about 4 miles from Labun, and again said that he was going to his brother Elcon Grosser in Philadelphia.
     Within a few years, he had accumulated some money, and, missing his family, returned again to Labun.  According to his grandson who often visited Mosche and Chaya Sura in Labun as a child, he built three brick "American style" houses in Labun.  His family lived in one of them, his brother Zise, also a blacksmith, lived in one, and Chaya Sura's brother, also called Zisye, lived in the third.   Mosche worked as a blacksmith, having a forge set off from the house, and also repaired tractors for the local farmers.  One of the houses had a garage, but since none of them had a car, they used it for the animals.
     After the 1917 Russian Revolution conditions got worse in the Ukrainian countryside, especially for Jews.  Civil war, and invasion by German, Russian and Polish forces between 1917 and 1922 devastated the area as various groups fought for control of Ukraine. [7] There were pogroms in the area of Labun.  The family sent their son, David to the United States in 1921[8].  Mosche, Chaya Sura and Shivka tried to follow him, going to Riga, Latvia for about a year in about 1922, but because the U.S. had passed restrictive immigration laws by then, they were unable to get visas, despite strong efforts by family already in the U.S.  They returned to Labun.  The wars ended after the area was incorporated into the Soviet Union, in 1922, but they were followed in the 1930s by a man-induced famine, the Holodomor, resulting in the deaths of millions across Ukraine[9].
       The farms in Labun were collectivized.  Because Mosche was skilled with iron work and fixing tractors, he worked for the agricultural commune as a blacksmith.  They and most of their relatives were still living in Labun when the Nazis arrived in 1943. (Shivka had married and moved to Kiev). They, along with the rest of the Jews in the town, were all murdered in the woods near the town.  There is now a small memorial in the woods for those who were murdered there[10].      

1., UK Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc 2012) Record for Mosche Grosskopf
2. Record for ARAWA / COLON / LAKE MEGANTIC / PORT HENDERSON / ANAPO / PORTO SAID 1884 , accessed April 16, 2016.
3., Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2010), Record for Marche Groeskoff
4., U.S. Border Crossings from Canada to U.S.1895-1956 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2010) The National Archives at Washington, DC; Manifests of Passengers Arriving at St. Albans, VT, District through Canadian Pacific and Atlantic Ports1895-1954; National Archives Microfilm Publication: M1464 Roll: 13; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; Record Group Number 85. Record for Mosche Groiskopf.
5. Staatsarchiv Hamburg, Hamburg Passenger Lists 1850-1934 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2008) www.ancestry.comStaatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Microfilm No.: K_1798. Record for Moische Groiskopf
6., New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2010), Year: 1907; Arival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 0830; Line 25; Page Number 22. Record for Meiskke Greiskopf
7 Ukrainian War of Independence. .
8., New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2006) www., database online. Year: 1921; Arrival:, Microfilm serial: T715; Microfilm roll: T715_2938; Line 23 Record for David Grojskop
9., loc.cit.
10. Blog: Going the Extra Yad: Labun (home at last) 14 June 2013 .

Monday, March 7, 2016

Harry and Bessie Tepper Nitt

Bessie Tepper and Harry Nitt, about 1917
     Rebecca, or Bessie as she was commonly known, was one of the children of Meier David and Lena Tepper about whom I have posted off and on over the past year.  Bessie was born in Miropol, Ukraine, around 1892.  She moved with the family to Baranivka, then travelled with her parents and many of her siblings to the U.S.,through Libau, Latvia,  arriving in New York on December 22, 1907 aboard the SS Lituania[1].  The family then travelled by train to Philadelphia to join the siblings already established in that city.  
     By 1910, Bessie was working in a shirt factory in Philadelphia, and living with her parents at 312R Front Street[2].  On February 1, 1914, 22 year old Bessie married Joseph Stanley Blender[3].  Joseph was also born in Russia, had come to the US in about 1902, and had served in the US Coast Artillery from December 1909 until May 13, 1912, when he was discharged for disability[4].  The marriage did not last long, and by the time he registered for the draft for WWI in 1917, he listed himself as single and living with his parents[5].
     I'm not sure what Bessie did for the next few years as I haven't been able to find her 1920 census record, but by 1924 she had met the love of her life, Harry Nitt, and on August 6, 1924 Bessie and Harry had travelled to York (Toronto), Ontario, Canada, where they were married[6].  Harry was tall, rangy and handsome, He was somewhat exotic as well, a Lutheran, raised in the American West, and a bit of a rolling stone.
     Rhinehalt Gustav "Harry" Nitt was the son of a German immigrant, Pauline Mampel, and her husband Gustave Nitt a first generation American.  Pauline came to the US in 1885 destined for Detroit, MI[7].  She worked as a domestic[8]. S  In August 1889 she married Gustave Nitt, a blacksmith[9]. A son, Rheinhalt Gustav, was either born in June 1889 or in June 1890 according to various records.  By 1894,  Gustave had moved to the town of Denver Colorado where he continued to work as a blacksmith[10]. Denver had benefited from a "silver boom" and was growing rapidly, attracting workers to support new industries.  The boom ended suddenly in 1893 with a financial panic, leaving Denver and the country in the grip of a severe depression.  Denver did not begin to recover until 1897.  Gustave had died in Denver in 1896, leaving his young wife and son[11]. In the 1900 census of Denver, Pauline is listed as a widow, and 9 year old Harry is still in school[12].  Sometime around 1909, Harry married a woman named Hildred Josepha (last name unknown.)  They are listed in the 1910 census as living in Sterling, Colorado where Harry worked as a cement worker[13].  In the 1911-1912 Business directory for Sterling, Hildred is listed as working for the New Method Laundry and living at 528 Walnut St[14].  There is no mention of Harry.
     When Harry registered for the WWI draft on June 5, 1917, he was living in Salem, New Jersey, not far from Philadelphia, and working as a munitions worker at the DuPont Powder Company.  He declared himself to be married, although I have found no record of Hildred at that time in New Jersey or elsewhere[15].  Based on the clothing from the photo above, it is likely that Harry and Bessie met at about this time.
     I have not been able to find either Bessie or Harry in US or Canadian records until August 6, 1924, when Rhinehalt Gustav Harry Nitt, 34, a salesman, son of Pauline Mampel, and Bessie Rose Tepper, 32, daughter of David Tepper and Lena Zelbsman signed a marriage record in Toronto, Canada.  They both listed themselves as widowed, although I don't believe that their ex spouses were dead, but this designation was not unusual at a time when divorce was not approved of in many places[16]. (I have spent some time trying to determine the fates of Hildred and Joseph with no success so far.)
     Although Harry and Bessie had no children, they were welcoming to Bessie's nieces and nephews.  They moved to San Luis Obispo, California, sometime in the 1920s.  There is a family story that Bessie's nephew Hy Cohen (of whom more in another post) took has Bar Mitzvah money and travelled from Philadelphia to California in about 1925 to live with Bessie and Harry there.   Another of Bessie's great nieces told me that her mother and baby brother lived with Bessie and Harry during WWII when her husband was stationed on the West Coast.
     By 1930 Harry was a clothing salesman[17].  By 1935 they had moved to Santa Monica, where they rented various homes near the Santa Monica Pier[18] and took in boarders, one of whom was a friend of the (then little known) Desi Arnaz, who used to call the house often.  Harry was still a salesman, and Bessie had a concession on the pier[19].  Bessie's great niece told me that Bessie was a nurse during the war.  Harry had gone gray, and standing at 6' 1/2" 225 pounds was no longer rangy by the time he registered in the "Old Man's draft" in 1942.  He still worked "In and around Santa Monica"[20].  Harry died on July 17, 1953[21].
     Sometime after Harry's death, Bessie moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey,[22] where her sister Jennie lived.  According to one of her great-nieces, she worked as a "shill" at an auction house on the boardwalk.  Later, after the death of her sister-in-law Ida Tepper in 1963, she moved to Miami, Florida, to help her brother.  She continued close contact with her family in Philadelphia area, visiting often for family occasions, anniversaries, Bar Mitzvah's and the like, and entertaining family who visited Miami.  I remember her as warm and funny.  Bessie died in Miami in August, 1966[23].

1., New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc. 2010),, Year:1907; Arrival: New York; Microfilm serial : T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: 1064; Line 15, Page 133, Record for Riwke Teper.
2., 1910 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc. 2006), database online. Year 1910; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 11, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll T6254_1390; Page 6B; Enumeration District 159; Image:13. Record for David Japper.
3.  Philadelphia City Archives. Philadelphia, PA. Marriage Record for Joseph Stanley Blender and Bessie Tepper. Filed Jan 8, 1914.  License No. 306833 copy held by Mary-Jane Roth
4.  U.S. Army Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc. 2007), Database on-line.  Record for Joseph S. Blender
5., U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc. 2005). Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County; Philadelphia; roll: 1907647; Draft board 27. Record for Joseph Stanley Blender.
6. and Genealogical Research Library (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), Ontario, Canada Marriages, 1801-1926 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc. 2010) Database online.  Record for Rhinehalt Gustav Harry Nitt.
7., New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2006),, Database online. Year:1885; Arrival :New York, United States; Microfilm serial: M237; Microfilm roll: M237_490; Line:29; List Number: 1241. Record for Pauline Mampel.
8., U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2011), Record for Pauline Mampel. Detroit, 1888.
9., Michigan Marriage Records, 1867-1952 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2015) Ancestry. com, Record for H.H. Gustav Nitt.
10., Ballenger & Richards twenty-second annual Denver city directory containing a complete list of the inhabitants, institutions, (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2005). Record for <No Name>.  Gustave Nitt
11., U.S. Find a Grave Index, 1600-Current (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2012),,  Record for Gustave Nitt.
12., 1900 Unitred States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2004),, Year: 1900; Census place: Denver, Arapahoe , Colorado; Roll:119; Page:10B; Enumeration District: 0102; FHL Microfilm: 1240119. Record for Pauline Nil.
13., 1910 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2006), Database online. Year:1910; Census Place: Sterling Ward 3, Logan, Colorado; Roll;; Page; Enumeration District: Iname: Record for Hildred Joseh Nitt.
14. Hoffhine's Sterling Colorado directory for 1911-1912 containing an alphabetical arranged list of business firms and prove (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2005)., Record for <no name> Hildred Nitt.
15., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 (Provo, UT, USA Operations, Inc., 2005),, Database online.  Registration Location: Salem county, New Jersey; Roll: 1754437; Draft Board: 1; Record for Harry Rhineholt Gustave Nitt.
16. and Genealogical Research Library (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), Ontarion, Canada Marriages, 1801-1926 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2010), database online.  Record for Rhinehalt Gustav Harry Nitt.
17., 1930 United States Federal Census (Provo, Ut, USA, Operations, Inc., 2002) Database online. Year: 1930; Census place: San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo, California; Roll: 213; Page: 8A; Enumeration District:21; Image: 364.0; Record for Rhinehalt G. Nitt.
18. 1940 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2012) Year: 1940; Census Place: Santa Monica, Los Angeles, California; Roll: T627_256; Page 1B; Enumeration District: 19-761. Record for Harry G. Nitt.
19. California Voter Registrations, 1900-1968 (Provo, Ut. USA, Operations, Inc., 2008). Database online.
20. U.S. World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2010).  World Wat II Draft Cards (4th Registration) for the Sate of California; State Headquarters: California; Microfilm Roll: 603155.  Record for Rhinehalt Gustav Nitt.
21. U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index. 1936-2007) (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2015). Record for Rhinehalt G. Nitt.  And California Death Index, 1940-1997. (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2000). Database Online. Place: Los Angeles; Date 17 Jul 1953: Social Security: XXXXXXX Record for Harry Gustav Nitt.
22., U.S. City Directories, 1922-1995 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc. 2011), Record for Mrs. Bessie Nitt.
23.  Social Security Death Index (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2009). Database online. Number XXXXXXXXXX; Issue State: California; Issue Date: Before 1951. Record for Bessie Nitt.