Sunday, September 15, 2013

Max Levitt's Naturalization in Cape May, New Jersey

As I have mentioned before, one of the family stories is that my mother-in-law's grandfather, Max Levitt, changed his name from Levitas, because he thought it sounded "too fancy." I have been trying to find proof of this, but in the late 19th century, there wasn't always a requirement that someone making a name change had to do it officially through the courts.

So I'm trying to see if he ever used Levitas, but I have only ever found him as Levitt, starting in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census. (See Levitts in Woodbine. And I have not found him in the 1895 New Jersey State Census.)

More recently, I found that he became a naturalized citizen using the name Max Levitt. Sometimes naturalization paperwork will indicate a name change, noting that the person used another name previously, but not in this case, so I'm guessing that he had been going by the name of Levitt by the time he filed the following paperwork.

On, I recently found New Jersey, Cape May County, New Jersey, County Naturalization Records, 1749-1986, which is not indexed, so I had to browse to find Max Levitt. I was pretty sure he was in Cape May, New Jersey, and sure enough, he was the only Levitt in Declarations of Intention 1896-1906.

This Declaration of Intention, made at the Court of Common Pleas in Cape May County (New Jersey) tells me that on October 20, 1900, Max Levitt, a native of Austria, now residing at Woodbine, Cape May County (New Jersey), age about 35, renounces his allegiance to the Emperor of Austria. This is his first step to becoming a U.S. Citizen.

About three years later, he files his Petition for Naturalization on September 4, 1903, at Cape May Court House, New Jersey.

The petition tells me that Max Levitt was born in Austria (no town, unfortunately), and that he arrived in the U.S. on the 1st of Dec. 1894, at the City of New York. He is now 39 years old, working as a tailor and living in the Borough of Woodbine, Cape May, New Jersey.

He has lived in the U.S. for at least five years and references his October 20, 1900, declaration of intention. There is a witness, Fred Schmidt, of Woodbine, whose occupation is "Superintendent," who vouches for Max Levitt.


The following document confirms that at the end of that month, on September 30, 1903, Max Levitt becomes a Citizen of the United States.

Because it was before 1906, when laws changed, Max's family members are not listed on any of these documents. If family had been listed, I would have expected to see his second wife, Golda, some of his children from his first marriage (David and Rebecca), and his children from his union with Golda, which would include George (b. 1900) and Rose (b. 1902), the only one of my husband's grandparents to be born in the U.S.  Also because of the laws at the time, Golda and his non-U.S. born children would have automatically become citizens when he became a citizen.

I also was hoping for the specific town of his birth in Austria, but no luck here.

UPDATE: I found where the Levitas/Lewites/Levitt family was from! See My Best Recent Genea-Prize from September 2014.


  1. Elizabeth,
    Do not feel disheartened.In our old courthouse, I must have gone through , at least , 100 of those pre-1900 Petitions and NA papers for people,and only once , did I come upon a village for someone !
    Great tutorial on this paperwork ! I would like to share with my groups .

    1. Magda,
      Yes, I was disappointed to not find a town or village name for him, but I was thrilled to find these digital images on! What a fabulous resource! Glad you like my description and want to share it.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

    2. Hi Elizabeth,
      You may want to keep in mind that "Austria" at the time referred to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Someone who listed "Austria" as their place of birth was not necessarily referencing the modern country of Austria. My great-grandfather, Louis WEISZ, emigrated to the U.S. in the late 1870s. I also was able to find his naturalization papers which listed "Austria" as the country of his birth. Years later, after looking in all the wrong places, I discovered that he was actually born in Cemerne, which is in present day Slovakia. My guess is that it's very likely that Max was born not in Austria, but somewhere in Hungary/Slovakia/Croatia, even Romania or Galicia.....

    3. Judy,
      Yes I have learned that "Austria" referred to quite a large and varied area, which is why I am looking at whatever documents I can find for Max and his brother and his sister for any hint as to what part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire his family might have come from. So far, almost all have reads just "Austria." I plan to research more about his siblings and will post what I find. I keep hoping for a city or town but none found yet.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.