Monday, July 25, 2011

Mystery Monday ~ Levitts in Woodbine

The Levitt home on Jackson Avenue,
Woodbine, New Jersey, photographed in 2003.
As I wrote about in Those Places Thursday ~ Woodbine, New Jersey, the family of Max Levitt moved from New York City to Woodbine soon after arriving in the U.S.

In good genealogical fashion, I will work backwards from what I know to share the history of this Levitt family in Woodbine.

In the 1930 U.S. Federal Census, I find my husband's great grandparents, Max Levitt and his wife Gussie, on Jackson Avenue in Woodbine.

1930 U.S. Federal Census, Woodbine, Cape May County, New Jersey; Roll: 1325; Page: 11B; Enumeration District: 28; Record for Max Levitt.

He owns his home, worth $1,500. Max is 73 (born about 1857) and Gussie is 60 (born about 1870). They and their parents are all listed as having been born in Poland. First mystery about this family: His age at first marriage is 34 (married in about 1891) and her age at first marriage is 21 (married in about 1891). That would seem logical, except that based on family stories and earlier census records (see below), Max was married and fathered at least three children before he married Gussie. The language spoken before they came to the U.S. was Yiddish. Max immigrated in 1891; Gussie immigrated in 1890 and they are both naturalized citizens. One son lives with them, Israel [a.k.a. Eddie], born about 1910 in New Jersey, and he is a radio salesman. Another mystery is that this son sold radios, but the household did not own one.

Ten years earlier, in the 1920 Census, I find Max, Gussie, and children, Rose, Morris, and Edward, again on Jackson Avenue in Woodbine.

1920 U.S. Federal Census, Woodbine, Cape May County, New Jersey; Roll: T625_1025; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 120; Record for Max Levitt.

The 1920 Census tells me that Max is 63 (born about 1857) and Gussie is 46 (born about 1874). The next column is puzzling. The column asks about the year of immigration: Max's line indicates 27, Gussie's 31. Perhaps it means number of years ago that they immigrated (Max in 1893, and Gussie in 1889)? Since I have not found passenger lists or naturalization records for either of them, I can't be sure. (Other records on this page indicate a year of immigration in this column.) Both are naturalized citizens, with year of naturalization in 1903. In this census, Max is listed as being born in Austria and Gussie was born in Russia. As in the 1930 census, Max is able to read and write, but Gussie is not. This census also indicates that she did not speak English. His occupation is Presser in the Clothing industry.

The daughter listed is my husband's grandmother, Rose, age 18, born in New Jersey. She did not attend school and worked as a Trimmer in Felt Hats.
Detail from 1920 Census for Morris Levitt
The next younger brother, Morris [a.k.a. Morton], was 15, and also did not attend school. He worked in the Clothing industry as a B___ler? See the detail at at the right and let me know in the comments section below what you think he did.

Levitt family, circa 1918

This photograph from my mother-in-law's collection is of (standing:) Eddie Levitt (1908-1988), Morton Levitt (1904-1977), (seated:) Harold Reisner (1912-1990), Golda (Gussie) Levitt (circa 1870 - 1952), Rose Levitt (1902-1995).

Harold was the son of Rebecca Levitt (Reisner), Golda's step-daughter; see the 1910 and 1900 censuses below.

Golda's oldest son, George, was in Philadelphia by 1918, as I have his WWI draft registration that tells me so. By 1920, the Reisners had moved to Manhattan, which gives me ideas about the date of the photograph.

In 1910, Max and Gussie are still on Jackson Avenue in Woodbine with six children and a boarder in the household.

1910 U.S. Federal Census, Woodbine, Cape May County, New Jersey; Roll: T624_870; Page: 13B; Enumeration District: 88; Record for Max Levitt.

The 1910 U.S. Census indicates that Max (age 39) and  Gussie (age 36) had been married for 11 years (married about 1899). It also indicates that it was Max's 2nd marriage and Gussie's 1st marriage. Gussie had given birth to four children and all four were living. Dave (18), Rebecca (17), Irael [a.k.a. George] (10), Rose (7), Morris [a.k.a. Morton] (5), and Ihe [a.k.a. Eddie] (1) are the children listed with them. Note the boarder is Jacob Reisner, who married Rebecca a couple of years later.

Detail from 1910 Census

It's important to remember that the relationship of the children is to the head of the household. Although the census does not specify it, Dave and Rebecca are Max's children from his first marriage, and they are listed as having been born in Russia.

It's a bit difficult to read, but it looks like they all immigrated in 1898 or 1897 and that Max is a naturalized citizen. Family stories say that Max came over with his children, so these years should all be the same. I have not yet found record of a passenger list for this family.

The family can all speak English except Gussie, who speaks Yiddish. Max works as a tailor in a factory, owns his own home and has a mortgage.

I find that the biggest mystery about this family has to do with how the family is enumerated in the 1900 U. S. Federal Census. I think that the following census schedule, lines 52 - 57 lists the family of the same Max Levitt listed in the above censuses. There is no street name or street number on these pages of Dennis Township, Cape May County, but I know Woodbine was formed from part of Dennis Township in 1903.

1900 U.S. Federal Census, Dennis Township, Cape May County, New Jersey; Roll: T623_960; Page: 18B; Enumeration District: 113. Record for Max Levitt.

Max Levitt is listed as born in August 1868 in Australia (should be 1858 in Austria) and has been married for three years to wife, Rebecca (? Gussie), who was born in Russia in May 1877. 

The children living with them were Minnie (age 12), Rebecca (age 11), Davis (age 10), and Daniel (age 1, b. Dec 1898). The census indicates that the wife had given birth to one child, who was still living. Since George was not born until November 1900, this couldn't be him. The census also indicates that neither Max nor Rebecca could speak English. My mother-in-law doesn't recognize that Max had any more than one marriage before his marriage to Gussie and she remembers being told that he was 15 years older than Gussie. This makes me wonder if one of the children or a neighbor was providing information about the household and the census taker didn't get Gussie's name right, but took Rebecca's name as the wife's name, as well as the 10-year-old daughter. This is only my guess.

My mother-in-law doesn't recognize Minnie or Daniel as siblings or half-siblings of her mother, Rose, but perhaps Daniel died as an infant, so even Rose may not have known about him. Interestingly, in 1910, the family reports that Gussie had given birth to four children, and all four were living, so that makes one-year-old Daniel in the 1900 census even more mysterious.

There is obviously much more to explore here, and I need to find Cape May County, New Jersey vital records: the marriage of Max and Gussie, the births of their children, and what happened to Daniel and Minnie, not to mention immigration and naturalization records of their parents.

Mystery Monday is a daily blogging prompt from GeneaBloggers, the genealogy community’s resource for blogging. It is used by many genealogy bloggers to help them tell stories of their ancestors.

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