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.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Passenger Lists...

... and following up on family stories.

In my husband's family there is a story about his paternal grandmother, known to her grandchildren as Bubbie Lena, feeling homesick and wanting to return home after immigrating to America. After having followed her husband Joseph Handler to America, she returned home to Hungary with her two oldest children for a visit with her family. They ultimately returned to America with her daughter contracting polio on the return trip. She survived the bout with polio, but had a limp for the rest of her life.

To verify the story, I looked for the passenger lists.

The Oceanic from Passenger Ships and Images [database on-line].
First, I found the passenger list for Josef Händler. Josef arrived in New York City on the ship Oceanic on April 14, 1910. It had sailed from Southampton, England on April 6, 1910.

The image of the passenger list is below. For any of these images, you should be able to view a larger image by clicking on them., New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957, Year: 1910, Microfilm: T715_1453, Page: 82, Line: 14, record for Josef Handler
Josef Händler was 26 years old (born about 1884) with an occupation of baker. My father-in-law remembers hearing that his father was not a baker, but a delivery man for a bakery. The next marks indicate that, yes, he could read and write and that his nationality is Hungary. The next column is headed "Race or People" and he is listed as "Hebrew." The following columns are "Last Permanent Residence" in which he is listed with a country of Hungary and a town that I originally thought was Jeok. (Jeok is also how it is transcribed by The following column is how I know this is "my" Josef Handler: the name and address of nearest relative in country whence alien came is wife Lina Handler, in "Jeok."  The last column indicates that his final destination is New York.

Another thing to know about passenger lists, at least at this time (1910's) is that there is a second page. The information on the second page of Josef's passenger list record shows that he arrived with $15 in his pocket and that he had not been in the U.S. before. The next column notes that he is going to join a cousin, Morris Levin (?) in New York. Another task will be to try to find this cousin!

Page 2 of Josef Handler's passenger list record
This also indicates that he was 5'9" tall, white (complexion), with brown hair and brown eyes.

All the way to the right notes that his birthplace is Ilok, Hungary, reproduced at the right. You can see why I thought for years that it read Jeok!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Those Places Thursday: Woodbine, New Jersey

My husband's mother was born in New York City, but by 1930, she and her brother were back in Woodbine, New Jersey, where their mother, Rose (Levitt) Goldstein was born (in 1902) and raised.

The Borough of Woodbine's website has a wonderful summary of the community and its early history. Although the community of Woodbine was founded in 1891, within Dennis Township in Cape May County, New Jersey, it was not until 1903 that it was incorporated as a Borough. In 1891, the Baron DeHirsch Fund purchased the 5,300 acres (about 8 square miles) in Dennis Township to start an agricultural settlement for immigrant Eastern European Jews. The town's website indicates that Woodbine was known as the "First self-governed Jewish community since the fall of Jerusalem" because most of the original settlers were Jewish.

Baron DeHirsch
Baron Maurice DeHirsch (1831-1896), known as Baron DeHirsch, was a wealthy German Jewish businessman who wanted to support Jewish immigrants once they arrived in the U.S. by teaching them trades and occupations. One of his many philanthropic endeavors was the Baron DeHirsch Fund, established in 1891 in New York City. The Fund's Board of Directors were given great flexibility in what organizations and activities the Fund could support, and developing an agricultural community in southern New Jersey was one of their projects. More information about the Fund can be found at the Center for Jewish History website. Note that because of poor soil, Woodbine was not successful as an agricultural community, but became a manufacturing town.

The story that has come down in my mother-in-law's family is that Baron DeHirsch went around to the Jewish immigrants in New York City and encouraged them to come to Woodbine to work, that there were plenty of jobs. (My guess it that it was likely a representative of the Fund, as the Baron died in Hungary in 1896, at age 64.) According to my grandmother-in-law (Rose (Levitt) Goldstein, who died in 1995), her father, (my husband's great grandfather), Max Levitt, a widower with three children, was interested in this opportunity and planned to come to Woodbine with his family. The oldest son, Manuel (or Emanuel?), didn't want to go to New Jersey and ran away from the family in New York. There was a search for him, but he was never found, so Max went to Woodbine with his two younger children, David and Rebecca, where he met and married Golda Segal and had four more children, one of whom was my husband's grandmother, and became an established member of the Woodbine Community. See my earlier post for their gravestones. The family never found out what happened to the oldest Levitt son.

The Woodbine Brotherhood Synagogue was the center of religious life in Woodbine. Now that there are very few Jewish families in Woodbine, the Synagogue is only open on the High Holidays for out of town members who enjoy returning to the old synagogue. About ten years ago, the synagogue was renovated and the lower floor made into The Sam Azeez Museum of Woodbine Heritage, which includes much information about the establishment and history of Woodbine.

The Woodbine Brotherhood Synagogue, now The Sam Azeez Museum of Woodbine Heritage

Thank you to my husband, for this photograph taken June 2011.

Those Places Thursday 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.  

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday ~ Woodbine Brotherhood Cemetery (Part 3)

This is the third in a series of Tombstone Tuesday blog posts from the Woodbine Brotherhood Cemetery in Woodbine, New Jersey.

Stanley Goldstein was the only son of Morris Goldstein and he was a beloved uncle. He fought in World War II and when recovering from injuries suffered in battle, he met his wife, Betty Coleman, an English nurse and married her in England before returning home to the U.S.

The Hebrew reads:

Simcha ben Moshe Hersh Halevi

"ben" means "son of"
"Halevi" means he understands himself to be a Levite

"Always Fighting Windmills" is in reference to Don Quixote by Cervantes, which was Stanley's favorite literary character.

Betty (Coleman) Goldstein was born in Liverpool, England. She met her American in-laws after having married Stanley in England. They settled in southern New Jersey.

The Hebrew reads:

Basher (or Beser or Baser) bat Yosef v'Sarah

"bat" means "daughter of"
"Yosef v'Sarah" means "Joseph and Sarah"

My grateful thanks to Rabbi Todd Markley of Temple Beth Shalom, Needham, MA for his assistance in the translation of the Hebrew.

Tombstone Tuesday 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.