Friday, May 13, 2022

Finding family in the 1950 U.S. Census

Barney Roth Family in the 1950 Census

In the U.S. the census is taken every ten years as mandated by the Constitution, but the data is not released to the public for 72 years!  The 1950 census was released on April 1 of this year and for family historians, it was a VERY BIG DEAL.  Like all of the earlier census records, the 1950 census was not indexed prior to its release so in order to find someone and see the answers to the various questions asked that year, you had to know the address where they lived at the time that the census enumerator visited them.  Hundreds of volunteers are working to review and correct the indices prepared for the first time by artificial intelligence, so the time between release and the completion of the indices will be shorter than in the past, but for many, it's still too long to wait to see those records.

I was one of those who couldn't wait.  This would be the first census where I, myself, would appear.  I wasn't sure where we were living in April 1950 when the census was taken but I had seen photos of a bungalow with my grandparents proudly displaying the infant me, so I started there. I remembered that I had one of the announcements of my birth that my Mom had pasted into my baby book.  It had an address, 9 Penwood Ave in Trenton, NJ.  Using the tools provided by Steve Morse on his "one-step" web pages,  and maps of the city as well as a map of the enumeration districts in 1950, I determined which enumeration district (ED) had that address and proceeded to examine every page in the census of that ED.  We weren't there!

I remembered that my parents had said that we moved to a larger place shortly after my brother was born in June 1949.  I knew where that was - Brookville Apartments, a newly constructed complex of garden apartments between the old canal and the Delaware River. We lived there until I was about six. Back to the map to find a street address (the buildings are still there) and to to find the ED.  There were two that could have included this complex, so I began examining each page of the most likely ED, number 33-189.  On sheet 7 I found my family!  In building 1922, Apartment B-1 lived Barney Roth, age 40 born in NJ, his wife Eleanor (sp) Melba age 29 born in Pennsylvania, his daughter Mary Jane (me) age 2, and his son Armin Jeffrey born the previous June. Barney is noted as the proprietor of his own store selling wholesale and retail tires and televisions who worked 60 hours in the previous week, and Elynore was listed as keeping house. Unfortunately, none of us was selected for the additional questions at the bottom of the sheet.

Finding myself was exciting enough, but since I remembered that my father's brother Ben and his wife had also lived in that complex when I was a child, I thought I would look at the remaining pages in the ED to find them.  To my surprise, I not only found Ben and Alice Roth but also living nearby in the ED, his other brothers Aaron and Isidore, five other of his cousins and their families, as well as my maternal grandparents Nat and Ida Lieberman with their other daughter and grandson. I would not have known where to look for the others until the index was completed.

Finding these folks that I knew in the census gave me lots of information besides their address to help fill out their stories.  Finding Isidore confirmed my baby memory that he worked on a dairy farm  (a hazy memory since he died while I was still very young).  Finding my Aunt who was listed as "Separated" gave me a hint on when to look for her divorce. Alice and Ben's son Daniel was still single and working as a plastics molder - not the occupation of salesman that I always knew. Sam Lavinthal was retired, but his family living with him earned $6000 in the previous year. Ben Lavinthal served in the U.S. Armed Forces in WWII.

It will take me longer to find a family when I have no idea where they were living in 1950.  I'll have to wait for the indexes.  I still have lots of work to do with the hints I have already found, but I'm already looking forward to 2032 when the 1960 census will be released!

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Family Recipes - Nana soup

Ida Lieberman making her soup about 1958.*

 My maternal grandmother, Ida Grosser Lieberman, was not known for her cooking  She made good but not special meals.  My memories of eating at her home included multiple courses including the traditional 1950s appetizers of tomato juice, half grapefruit, or store-bought shrimp cocktail.  Desserts were often store-bought as well. Holiday meals were at her parent's home ( her mother made all of the traditional Jewish dishes), or in later years, at my mother's table. Before my time, she had worked at my grandfather's store and later was active on various synagogue committees so focused on basic household tasks.  Cooking, I think, fell into the "necessary" category.

There was one dish that she made that was loved by everyone in the family, including my grandfather's picky siblings and their children.  That was her hearty vegetable soup.  We called it Nana soup.  The legend was that only the oldest daughter of the oldest daughter could make this soup correctly.  That would have included my great-grandmother, as well as my mother although I don't remember either of them making it.  

Me making the soup
in January 2017
The soup was thick and contained chunks of beef from the soup bone that started it, as well as both dried (tube of Manichewitz vegetable soup ingredients with alphabets) and fresh vegetables, mushrooms, barley, and pillowy dough bits that we called rivels.  The secret ingredient that gave the soup its creamy texture and a characteristic hint of sweetness was a small can of creamed corn.

I got the recipe from her, and as the next "eldest daughter" in line, started to make it every winter.  I use a 16-quart soup pot and fill containers to put into the freezer. I like to serve it to my brother and others who remember my Nana, as the taste of it always brings back good memories and family stories.

*Photo colorized by

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

We don't see Polio much anymore

Me collecting for the March of Dimes at my room at Orthopedic Hospital

   I don't usually write about myself in this blog, but after two years of the COVID pandemic, I decided that a story from my life might put some things into perspective.

   On August 12, 1954, the front page of the Trenton Evening Times carried a story that Trenton had registered its third case of Polio.  The article listed my name, age, address, my parents' names, and the hospital to which I had been admitted. It also noted that I had attended the Jewish Community Center Day Camp and that the camp had been given permission to operate as usual for the few remaining days of its season.1 Clearly, the intention was to notify everyone with whom I had been in contact. I spent ten days at McKinley hospital in a coma, during which my parents were told to prepare for my death, and when I woke up, I was moved to the Trenton Orthopedic Hospital, an Art Deco structure at the corner of Brunswick and Cavell Avenues in Trenton.2  Many of the patients there suffered from Polio and its effects.  Many were children.  Like me many were confined to beds, unable to move, or were using wheelchairs. I was in a private room on an all adult floor, but when I was able to use a wheelchair often visited the other children in the ward, and most of us attended school in a one-room school the hospital provided.

   Polio was recognized as early as 1894 and there were periodic epidemics, mostly in the summer months.  The paralysis could strike anywhere in the body but often started in the legs.  The fatality rate was 2-5% for children and 15-30% for adolescents and adults.  If paralysis struck it was often permanent as it was for me.  If it struck the abdomen and lungs, the fatality rate could go as high as 75%.  There had been a widespread epidemic in the US in 1952 with more than 57,000 cases of which 21,000 had been paralytic.3There was no vaccine and no cure, and communities were on edge if the disease appeared in the summer.

   President Franklin Roosevelt who had been paralyzed by Polio as an adult in 1921 had campaigned since then to find a vaccine to combat the disease. In 1938 comedian Eddie Cantor had suggested on the radio that folks send dimes to President Roosevelt to aid the fight against Polio.  Within weeks nearly a 2.7 million dimes had been sent to the White House and the charity The March of Dimes was born with the aim of funding the search for a vaccine against Polio4 

   I spent more than a month at Orthopedic Hospital, receiving excellent if often painful physical therapy treatments.  Twice a day they would roll a machine full of boiling water and heavy wool Army blankets into my room.  They would wrap me in the hot wet blankets from neck to toes and leave me with a tray of iced drinks for what seemed forever.  I took treatments in a whirlpool bath that left me with a permanent dislike of hot tubs.  I learned to walk again.  I wore a brace holding my right arm up in the air for more than a year, and orthopedic shoes for longer. I had lots of visits from family and adult friends at the hospital (no children were allowed to visit so my brother spent hours in the car in the parking lot - different times), and as is shown in the photo above, decided to charge my visitors a contribution to the March of Dimes for the privilege of visiting me.  My plan was covered in the newspaper which noted that I had raised $6.29 in the previous week.5

    A vaccine against Polio was in trials in 1954 and was approved in 1955.  A massive effort has been underway since then to eradicate wild Polio worldwide.  It was declared gone in the Americas in 1991, Europe in 2002, and Southeast Asia in 2014,  By 2017 it was endemic in only three countries, but since then conflicts in Africa, Syria, Pakistan, and other areas have made it difficult to reach and vaccinate children so numbers have ticked up.6 The progress shows that a vaccination campaign can work against a disease that maims and kills. Recent vaccine skepticism has raised fears that other diseases will re-appear as children do not get readily available vaccines against them.

Get vaccinated.

1.  Mild Polio Case is Reported Here. Trenton Evening Times Thursday Aug12, 1954, Trenton NJ, page 1. Accessed from 2/7/2022 

2.  North Trenton, New Jersey. Wikipedia,_New_Jersey. Accessed Feb 7, 2022.

3.  Polio Vaccine Accessed Feb 7, 2022

4.  Polio Vavvine Loc. Cit. Accessed Feb 7, 2022

5.  Patient aids Polio Drive Trenton Evening Times Wednesday, Sept 1, 1954, Trenton NJ, page 4. Accessed from 2/7/2022 

6. Polio Vavvine Loc. Cit. Accessed Feb 7, 2022

Monday, April 12, 2021

An Unknown First Cousin!


Surprising DNA Results

When I teach a beginning genetic genealogy class for my Jewish Genealogy Society, I always tell the students to test at more than one site and warn them that sometimes DNA results can be surprising. 

Although I have had my DNA results at both Family Tree DNA and My Heritage for a long time, I had never tested at Ancestry DNA. They had a good sale on tests last fall so I bought one and sent it in, not expecting results for a while due to the holiday crush.  When they finally notified me in January that my results were ready, I clicked on the link, expecting to see thousands of matches, including several that were known second cousins and below that I knew had tested there.  What I did not expect was to see a match that was so large that it had to be a first cousin (I ruled out a grandparent due to my age).  I won't use his name but just call him GRH.  I was pretty sure that I knew all of my first cousins so after I re-started my heart, I ran down the possible parents of this person and the likelihood that they were the parent. My father's much older brothers? Not likely.  My mother's sister?  From what I knew of her this was possible but not likely either.  Then it hit me. My mother had a brother, Jerry, who died at age 20 (before I was born) when his Army Air Corps plane crashed.  I wrote about him here.  

The story I heard from my mother was that Jerry had possibly fathered a child with a non-Jewish girl near his base before the crash and that my grandmother had been in contact with her but for whatever reason, contact was lost.  I looked at his ethnicity data and sure enough, he was 50% Ashkenazi Jewish.  My next best match, who appeared to be GRH's son, was 25% AJ. Could this person be Jerry Lieberman's son?

After several false starts, I finally contacted GRH a few days ago.  He confirmed that Jerry Lieberman was his birth father.  His mother had married and her husband raised GRH as his son.  GRH did not find out the true story until that man's death when GRH was about ten and his mother told him the story. He remembered seeing Jerry's mother (our grandmother) once when she came out to where he was living, and he knew that he had received gifts from his grandparents' Baby Furniture store.

We had a great FaceTime chat and it seems that we have a lot of interests in common.  I hope that I will get to meet my new first cousin sometime in person.  Meanwhile, we are exchanging photos and family information.  

Cousins who would like to know more should contact me offline.

Meanwhile, never be surprised at what your DNA results may show!

Monday, February 3, 2020

Carl Neumann, Consul to Puerto Plata

Beginning of Ledger Entry May 3, 1854
 Appointment for the merchant Carl Neumann as consul to Porto Plata.
I have written before (HERE ) about my husband's Neumann family, his grandmother Julia, and her father Victor.  I knew that the head of the family was his second great grandfather, known as Luis Carlos Neumann in Puerto Plata in what is now the Dominican Republic.  Family lore had said that he was the Prussian consul and that he had been born in "Germany" (which wasn't a  unified country until 1871).  I didn't have much further information about Carlos except that his wife was Maria Francisca Enriqueta Paris, and they had six children (Anna Maria Alicia, Carlos Henrique, Clementina Ragaela, Amelia, and Alberto in addition to the aforementioned Victor.)  The family referred to his German name as Karl.

Not one to give up on brick walls, I recently Googled Carlos Neumann and to my surprise got a hit on a Spanish language economics journal that had an article about the impact of the Dominican Restoration War of 1863-1865 on commerce in Puerto Plata1.  With the help of my Spanish neighbor, I found that there were several references to Carlos Neumann as the proprietor of businesses with an analysis of the impact on his business based on inventories and reports he filed as consul to the government of Prussia.  There were also footnotes providing references to the archive holding those reports in Germany.  With the help of my German neighbor (I live in a very multicultural neighborhood), I corresponded with the Geheimes Staatsarchiv PreuBischer Kulturbesitz (Prussian State Archive) in Berlin and they sent me images of 59 pages of letters and reports related to Carl Neumann of Karsruhe Prussia including the one shown above naming him consul to Puerto Plata (or Porto Plata as they called it).  I had to hire a professional translator as these were handwritten in old German, and they are still being worked on, but shown above is part of one page of the official ledger where they copied official correspondence showing the letter naming him as consul.  The paragraph shown above reads:

"We, Friedrich Wilhelm by the grace of God King of Prussia, etc. do hereby declare and add:, that, having found it convenient  to appoint a consul in Porto Plata, we have chosen and accepted there in grace Carl Neumann, a merchant who is acclaimed for his knowledge of business and other good qualities2.

It seems that in the official correspondence his name was spelled with a C, and that the often signed his letters as Charles!  The remaining correspondence in addition to business information seems to include references provided in connection with his appointment with information about Carl's business, his character, and possibly about his origins in Karlsruhe. There are also some hints in the Spanish article that may lead to further information on the family in Puerto Plata.  I will have lots to do to follow up on these new hints, but for now, it's good to know that the family story about Carlos being the consul is correct even if the assumption about the "German" spelling of his name was wrong.

1. Donation de Capital de la Sociedad Rural Dominicana en el Siglo XIX Segunda Parte” by Manfred Wilckens. Ciencia Y Sociedad,  Voumen XXVII, Numero 2 Abril-Junio 2002.
2. Geheimes Staatsarchiv PreuBischer Kulturbesitz. Zentrales Staatsarchiv Hist. Abt. 11 2.4.1. Abt. II Nr. 642 Vol. II vom Sep. 1845 bis December 1862. May 3, 1854. no 5913 Article p. 102.

Friday, August 9, 2019

IAJGS2019 part 2 and Kandel cousins

Kandel Sisters: Bella Kandel Lieberman,
Alte Sara Kandel Apple, Chana Kandel Goldenberg
with Harry Apple
As I mentioned, my time at the Cleveland conference was really busy.  On Thursday I spent some time learning what is new in Ukraine research before giving my talk about this blog and how it has helped my research.  The talk went well, I think, and had good attendance.  I had been a bit concerned that few people would come because I had already given the talk at our local JGS so I didn't expect my friends to show up in support. Thursday night was the banquet which is always interesting.  This year we had a speaker on Jewish jokes so there was a lot of laughter. On Friday morning I met over breakfast with the new head of the Ukraine SIG to discuss my document translation project.  That was the last big item on my to-do list for this conference and I was glad she could fit me in.  My final session was a good one on DNA analysis with endogamous populations where I picked up some good techniques.  As usual, one of the best things about the conference is the opportunity to chat with new people with a real interest in genealogy.  The discussions go on into the evenings, in the lobby while waiting for airport transportation, and even in the departure gate areas at the airport.

This conference was extra special because I connected with cousins on a branch of my tree where I had no personal connections.  I had arranged to meet on Monday with my local cousin who I had corresponded with some years before and who had finally provided me with identification of the wonderful photo above of my great-grandmother Bella Lieberman with her sisters and nephew.  That had been in my "Who am I?" file for many years.  This cousin is descended from both Alte Sarah and Chana as her parents were cousins. We had planned for dinner and a three-hour meeting before my 7:30 session that night.  Once we started talking, we clicked, and my meeting was ignored in her favor.  We walked around downtown while we talked and she showed me some of her favorite places in Cleveland. In addition to providing me with family information, she put me on the phone with another cousin in Boston.  She came back to the conference as planned on Thursday to hear my talk, and brought photos, papers, and other information on her side of the family.  After another few hours, I did have to leave to attend the banquet.  Hearing that I was done with the conference by 11AM on Friday, but my flight wasn't until the evening, she arranged to pick me up on Friday for lunch with another local cousin and his wife.  We all had a great time sharing stories about the family and looking at photos.  They also agreed to take DNA tests and join my family DNA project (I had bought three kits at the conference so I had them handy).  Since then, she has contacted several more cousins on her line, connected me with them on Facebook and e-mail, and gotten agreement for several more DNA test kits that I will mail out to the happy recipients.  A genealogy goldmine, and a new group of friends.

I can't wait for next year's conference in San Diego!  There are cousins there, too!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

IAJGS2019 Cleveland, OH

It is summer again, so I must be at the International Association of Jewish Genealogy Societies annual conference.  This year it is in Cleveland.  It is my seventh conference, and each one has been fascinating in a different way.  My first conference, in Paris (France), was almost overwhelming.  I didn't know anyone and there were at least a hundred sessions to choose from, all of them interesting.  I learned so much and by the end of the week, I knew a lot more about how to do my research and had met a few people who were interested in the same areas that I was.
This conference is exciting but in different ways.  I don't have as much trouble choosing sessions to attend, as I have heard many of the introductory track topics before.  I now know many attendees from all over and carve out times to meet them at meals, or over a drink somewhere.  There are also events that are not formally part of the schedule but are organized every year for folks with interest in a topic, like the Bloggers lunch, or the Volhynia Researchers dinner.  And, of course, this year is different because I am also a speaker at the conference for the first time. (My topic is this blog as a research tool!).
In addition to hearing about new data that is available, and new projects to improve service from, I heard updates on projects from the Hungarian and Ukraine Special Interest Groups.  Those are the areas that I am most interested in for my research.  There was a useful talk on Hungarian names and deconflicting people with the same name.  Two professors from Case Western U gave talks, one on Jewish influence on American Popular Music (this is the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after all), and one on the nature and consequences of Jewish migration.  Both very thought-provoking subjects. One particularly useful talk was about historical maps and how to find and use them in your research. 
As usual, when I travel, I check to see if I have any cousins in the area that I can contact.  I was in luck this trip as there was a cousin on my maternal grandfather's side of the family with whom I had exchanged e-mails a few years ago, but never met.  We got together and spent a lot of time exchanging information and telling family stories.  I'll tell more about that in another post.  For now, since I am beat and I have to present my talk tomorrow, I'm going to bed.