Monday, December 22, 2014

Great-Grandmother Sarah or Sally Handler

At Connecting with a Handler Cousin, I shared the link to a 1988 video interview that my husband's second cousin did with his aunts, my father-in-law's cousins Esther and Helen Solomon.

At about 18:45 minutes in, the sisters start talking about their mother's father, Aaron Handler. Their mother's name was Regina (younger sister to Sam and Joseph Handler). According to Helen, her grandfather, Aaron Handler, was a wealthy farmer who owned a large farm. He had four sons with his first wife, whose name they don't know. The sisters share a little bit of what they remember of these older sons of Aaron (Herman, Leopold, Philip, and "the one who made his career in the service").

After taking a brief break, the video interview continues and it comes out that after Aaron's first wife died, he married his brother's daughter: his niece, whose name is Sarah Handler, as remembered by Helen and Esther. They don't know Sarah's father's name.

I have written about this great-grandmother of my husband's before at: Finding A Jewish Great Grandmother (which includes her death certificate) and Great-Grandmother Handler Married Twice. And at one of my favorite blog posts: Passenger Lists...And Following Up on Family Stories.

JewishGen's JOWBR (JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry) has a record for Sally Handler, buried in Lansing Avenue Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio. With some additional digging, I found that she is buried in row 15 of the Knesseth Israel section of the cemetery and I'm hoping someone will fulfill the FindAGrave photo request I have made.

JewishGen has this cemetery in its index and the record for "Sally Handler" indicates that her tombstone reads: "Chaya Sara bat Zvi."

If this is correct (and I'd love to see the tombstone to be sure), then Zvi Handler is brother of Aaron Handler and father of Sarah / Sally Handler.

Another interesting thing to think about: In looking up the given name Zvi at JewishGen's Given Names Database (for Hungary), the U.S. equivalent is Herman or Harry.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tombstone Tuesday ~ Rebecca Levitt

Rebecca (Neminroff) Levitt was the first wife of David Levitt, a son of Max Levitt and his first wife. (David was a half brother to Rose (Levitt) Goldstein, my husband's grandmother.) Rebecca is the only person I have in my genealogy database who died during the 1918 influenza epidemic. She left her husband and three young daughters.

She is buried in Har Jehuda Cemetery, Upper Darby, Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

Photo courtesy volunteer Sheila Peascheck

Beloved Wife
And Mother
Rebecca Levitt
Died Oct. 7, 1918
Aged 35 Years
Photo courtesy volunteer Sheila Peascheck

The Hebrew is roughly translated as:
Here lies
My dear/beloved wife
Mrs. Rivka daughter of
Yerachmiel died
On the first of the month of Cheshvan
5679. May her soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life.

Translation help is from the Tracing the Tribe Facebook page and JewishGen's How to Read a Hebrew Tombstone.

Her FindAGrave memorial can be found here.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Connecting with a Handler Cousin ~ Blog as Cousin Bait

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to discuss family and think about those family who are no longer with us. When I opened my email the day after Thanksgiving this year, I found an email from a second cousin of my husband's who did just that. Gary has been making video recordings of family members for almost 30 years, knowing that they would be interesting to family members. He wrote: "I figured that either someday I would have the time to start exploring our history based on these histories or perhaps my kids or grandkids would." After watching one of his older videos (which my husband and I have now watched - it's a treasure), he thought he would search on the Internet for some of the information mentioned by his aunts in the video.

Well, up comes my blog with a good bit of family information about Handler ancestors and relatives in Ohio. He and I started an email conversation and this past weekend, enjoyed a Google chat with our respective spouses.

Sisters Esther and Helen
Well, the treasure can be found at YouTube in a two and a half hour video called: "Mishpacha Tape Helen and Esther 1988." Gary's aunt Helen and aunt Esther are first cousins of my father-in-law; their brother, Gary's dad, Morton, died at age 44 in 1972. All these cousins were born in Ohio to Regina (Handler) and Jake Solomon.

Just mentioning these aunts to my mother-in-law reminded her that my father-in-law introduced Morton (who lived in Cleveland) to Gary's mother (who lived in Akron, in an apartment in the Handler home). Gary's mother is still living and was visiting for Thanksgiving. She was thrilled that we connected online!

Some of the information about the family that Helen and Esther talk about in this video is new to me (including several photographs shared near the end); some information reinforces what I already knew; and some is in error. For example, they say that their cousin Margaret Handler was born in Hungary, as well as her older brother Arthur. However, passenger lists show otherwise.

I will share some new findings about the Handlers that I found in this video in future blog posts. I thank Gary for taking this video almost 27 years ago and sharing it at YouTube. I especially thank him for contacting me and look forward to seeing photographs that I haven't seen before!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Connecting with a Segal Cousin

In late October, I was contacted by user of Family Tree DNA, suggesting that there was a strong DNA connection between us. Since she mentioned the Segal surname, I knew it would be a match with my mother-in-law and my husband.

I'm still getting used to exploring the chromosome browser and there are several chromosome matches to my mother-in-law, but fewer with my husband. The match that is the same is on chromosome 21.

After several emails, and inviting each other to view our respective online trees, we think that her second great-grandmother, Henda Segal Gershman was a sister of my husband's second great-grandfather, Simche Segal/Siegel.

Amazingly enough, although the immigrant Segals settled in Philadelphia and Woodbine, New Jersey, this new-found fourth cousin lives in the town next to ours in Massachusetts. We met for a couple of hours the night before Thanksgiving to share pictures and talk family history. I do see a similarity in some of the Segals in the first couple of generations.

The other helpful thing is that Henda Segal and her husband Louis Gershman had six children (five daughters and a son) and my mother-in-law remembers those sisters who lived in Woodbine; she remembers that they were cousins on the Segal side, but was never clear on exactly how they were cousins. It was a pleasure to confirm for her that those sisters were first cousins to her grandmother, Golda (her photo at right).

I have blogged about Simche Segal's gravestone translation. I also have images of his passenger lists. I blogged about him and his family in census records here and here. I have also shared his 1919 death certificate.

Below is an attempt to graphically display the generations descended from the unknown third great grandparents.

Unknown parents (father possibly Yehuda)
|                                          |
Simche Segal                  Henda Segal Gershman
|                                          |
Golda Segal Levitt                      Sadie Gershman Seltzer
|                                          |
Rose Levitt Goldstein                       Annie Seltzer Walowitz
|                                          |
Mother-in-law                    New-found 3rd cousin
|                                          |
Husband                       New-found 4th cousin

Simche Segal's gravestone indicates his father's name is Yehuda; his death certificate indicates his father's name is Israel. (I'm inclined to believe the gravestone.) Henda (Segal) Gershman died in 1909. Her death certificate indicates "unknown" for her father's name. She is buried at Har Nebo Cemetery in Philadelphia and I am looking forward to seeing if the Hebrew on her gravestone can confirm a father's name of Yehuda.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tombstone Tuesday ~ George and Elizabeth Levitt

George Levitt was the oldest full brother of Rose Levitt, my husband's maternal grandmother. I have written a little bit about him previously.

Photo courtesy FindAGrave contributor, Mark Barnett (48059838).

George and his wife Elizabeth (also known as Betty) are buried in Montefiore Cemetery, Jenkintown, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, where I have recently discovered that many of my mother-in-law's extended family are buried.

The Hebrew above George's name can be roughly translated as Yuda (aka Yehuda) Leib son of Mordecai. Again, I thank the members of the Tracing the Tribe Facebook page for assistance with this translation.

George's father, Mordecai, was also known as Max Levitt, and I shared his gravestone very early on in this blog.

The Hebrew above Elizabeth's name is Leah daughter of Gershon. I wrote about her mother's naturalization here.

George Levitt's FindAGrave memorial is here. Elizabeth Levitt's FindAGrave memorial is here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tombstone Tuesday ~ William and Rachel Siegel

Rachel (Segal) Siegel was the older sister of Gussie or Golda (Segal) Levitt, my husband's great-grandmother. Rachel and her husband, William, are buried at Montefiore Cemetery, Jenkintown, Pennsylvania.

One side of their gravestone is in English:

I am surprised to see 1869 as birth year for both of them, because usually when the birth year of immigrant parents is not known for sure, it is usually not mentioned on the gravestone. I'm sure it was a guess, as I have seven different sources providing a birth year for Rachel from 1866 to 1873 and eight different sources providing a birth year from 1864 to 1871 for William.

The other side of their gravestone is in Hebrew:

The Hebrew on the left is for William: Zev son of Reb Yitzhak / Died 28 Adar 5701 [Zev is Hebrew for Wolf, which is what he was known as earlier in his life.]
Rachel daughter of Reb Simcha / Died 8 Adar 5709 [See her father's all-Hebrew gravestone here.]

View Rachel's FindAGrave memorial and William's FindAGrave memorial.

Photos courtesy of volunteer, Charles Zar.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tuesday's Tip ~ View Next Page (for Inquest Results)

In July, I shared the Pennsylvania death certificate for a great uncle of my husband, William Siegel.

In a recent "conversation" with the volunteer who took a photo of his gravestone, when he asked if I had the death certificate, I replied that yes, I did, but it didn't show the cause of death, and the family story was that he was hit by a car on his way to synagogue. He replied and let me know that, yes, this was the cause of death and all I had to do was click on the next image arrow at the website.

So, today's tip is to remember to View the Next Page in a series of images, especially if you have a question about the initial image you have located.

Here is the original death certificate that I shared in July.

When I clicked on the right arrow at the bottom of the image (in Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1944, at, I get the following image:

The following are the details of the inquest on the second death certificate (handwritten (or stamped) items in blue):

Name: William Siegal
Residence: 1610 N. 52nd St, Philadelphia
17. I hereby certify that an inquest was held upon the body of the above named deceased on the APR 19, 1941 day of ____ 193__; that the jury rendered a verdict giving the cause of death as follows: Fracture of femur, Pulmonary embolism
Other contributory causes of importance: struck by auto

23. If death was due to external causes (violence), fill in also the following:
Accident, suicide, or homicide? accid[ent]  Date of injury: 3/12, 1941
Where did injury occur? Phila.
Specify whether injury occurred in industry, in home, or in public place:
bet 1707-09 N. 52nd St
Manner of injury: Fract[ure]
Nature of injury: auto

So it looks like he was hit by a car just down the street from where he lived on March 12, 1941. This was a Wednesday and the 13th of Adar in the Jewish calendar. The joyous Jewish holiday of Purim (the 14th of Adar) started at sundown that day. It must not have been very joyous for the Siegel family for their 73-year-old (or 75-year-old) father to break his leg, and then have him die two weeks later.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tombstone Tuesday ~ Litwin Family in Oheb Shalom Cemetery

Sophie (Lewites) Litwin and her husband, Samuel Litwin, are buried at Oheb Shalom Cemetery, in Hillside, New Jersey. I got a chance to briefly visit during our annual summer drive to visit family in southern New Jersey. We found the burial plot just as the rain started.

The Litwin family plot has four burials.

Husband and Father
Samuel Litwin

Wife and Mother
Sophie Litwin

Husband and Father
David M. Litwin

Wife and Mother
Minna Krasner Litwin

Sophie was a sister of Emanuel Levitas (who is buried on Staten Island, NY) and Max Levitt (who is buried in Woodbine, NJ). I wrote about Assemblyman David Litwin here.

Interesting to note that these gravestones do not include any Hebrew. This is the first Jewish cemetery that I have visited that had many gravestones without Hebrew inscriptions.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday's Obituary ~ Samuel Litwin, 1935

Samuel Litwin was my mother-in-law's uncle. (His wife was "Tante Sophie," Sophie Lewites. Max Levitt, Sophie's brother and my mother-in-law's grandfather, died earlier that year, in May.)

My mother-in-law remembers the family attending Samuel's funeral in 1935, but she and her brother remained at the house when the adults attended the funeral service. She remembers being served lunch by a maid or housekeeper, who didn't understand what she and her brother said in response to the question "what part of the chicken do you want to eat?" and they answered "pulka" which is Yiddish for thigh or leg of the chicken.

Obituary for Samuel Litwin, November 29, 1935, Jewish Chronicle,

Samuel Litwin Dies
  Funeral services were held Monday for Samuel Litwin, father of former Assemblyman David M. Litwin, who died Saturday [November 23, 1935] at his home, 53 Girard Place. Rabbi Julius Silberfeld of Congregation B'nai Abraham officiated. Interment was in Oheb Shalom Cemetery.
  Mr. Litwin was born in Russia 63 years ago. He came to this country fifty-three years ago with his parents. He was educated in the public schools. For the last thirty years he had been in the real estate and insurance business in Newark. He was a grocer and butcher in Harrison for fifteen years prior to that time.
  He was a trustee of Congregation B'nai Abraham. He was president of two building and loan associations, treasurer of two others and a director in four other associations. He was a member of several fraternal organizations.
  Besides his son he is survived by his wife, Mrs. Sophie Litwin, and two other children, Moe A. Litwin and Mrs. Jeanette Picker, both of this city.

Unveiling of stone of Samuel Litwin, October 30, 1936, Jewish Chronicle,
LITWIN - The unveiling of the monument in memory of the late Samuel Litwin, beloved husband of Sophie Litwin and devoted father of Jeanette G. Picker, Moe A. and David M. Litwin, will take place Sunday, November 1, [1936] at 2:30 P.M., at Oheb Sholom Cemtery, North Broad Street, Hillside. Relatives and friends are cordially invited to attend. In case of rain the unveiling will be postponed to the following Sunday.

I don't know if my mother-in-law attended the unveiling, but perhaps her mother did.

I find it interesting that there is no mention of Sophie's maiden name.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tombstone Tuesday ~ Levitas in Baron Hirsch Cemetery

To continue with the Levitas siblings and connecting them with their parents and their likely birthplace, I recently had a couple of FindAGrave photo requests fulfilled.

Emanuel Levitas is brother to Max Levitt (my mother-in-law's grandfather) and Sophie (Lewites) Litwin. Sarah is Emanuel's wife. They are buried in Baron Hirsch Cemetery, on Staten Island, New York.

The Hebrew reads:
Here lies 
Menachem Mendel son of
Moshe Eliezer HaLevi [a Levite]

Emanuel's brother, Max Levitt, also has "son of Moshe Eliezer" on his gravestone (in Woodbine, New Jersey).

You can just see the edge of Emanual's gravestone behind and to the right of Sarah's gravestone. Too bad there is no Hebrew here, other than "here lies". I know very little about Sarah's family.

Photos courtesy of FindAGrave volunteer, George Plunkett.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mappy Monday ~ Husiatyń

As I recently discovered, the Levitt / Levitas / Lewites family of my mother-in-law was originally from a town called Husiatyń. Where is that, you might ask?

From JewishGen's Communities Database:

Before World War I, the community of Husiatyń was in Galicia, a province in the Austrian Empire. THIS is why almost all of the records I have found for the Levitas family in America indicates a birthplace of AUSTRIA.

Using present-day country boundaries, Husiatyń is about 214 miles WSW of Kiev, Ukraine, and about 130 miles ESE of L'viv, Ukraine.

However, this is one of those communities where someone could have been born in one country (Austria), married in another country (Poland) and died in yet a third country (Ukraine) and lived in the same house all his or her life.

After WWI, the Austrian Empire dissolved, and Galicia no longer remained a geographic entity. Husiatyń then became part of Poland. Then after WWII, Husiatyń was within the boundaries of Ukraine, a Soviet Socialist Republic until it officially became an independent country in 1991.

To get an idea of where Husiatyń is today, I looked at Google Maps:

Screenshot from Google Maps with the red icon showing the present-day location of Husiatyn.
Country names in red added by me.

To get an idea of where Husiatyń was in the former Galicia, I found the following map at the website of the Toronto Ukrainian Genealogy Group:

"This map shows the territory of former Austrian Kingdom of Galicia, which was created artificially in 1772, with the partition of Poland. The red line marks present day border between Poland and Ukraine / former USSR."

The arrow at the right points to Husiatyń, where the Lewitas family was from. The arrow at the bottom points to Kolomyja, where Rebecca Levitt's husband Jacob Reisner was born.

For another very cool map, check out the following interesting website: European History Interactive Map from Worldology. This map not only shows the changes in European geopolitical boundaries over time, but also uses scroll-over buttons that, when you scroll over them, display text, explaining what was happening in that region and shading certain areas of the map, if needed. The dates are at the top of the map, or you can click on the large arrows to "move through time."

Now that I have discovered that my husband has roots in a community in Galicia, I need to learn more about it. Gesher Galicia is a website devoted to finding and putting online records for Jewish communities in the Galicia region. The page for Husyatyń is found under Gusyatin.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Levitas = Lewites from Austria

As I shared last week, after asking for advice on Facebook, a fellow genealogist contacted me with the results of a search he had done at JRI-Poland showing where the Levitt / Levitas ancestors in my husband's ancestry might have come from!

At JRI-Poland, searching for the surname Levitas brings up many instances and variations of Lewites. Narrowing the search to produce one result:

"Model LEWITES" was born in 1857 to father Moses and mother Gitel. After clicking on "View Nearby Image" (you ALWAYS want to look at the original image), I had to scroll through a few images to find the page that included the following:

Model Lewites was born on the 6th of May 1857 to Moses L. and Gitel. (The index didn't show the "L" but I'm pretty sure I see the father as Moses L. I believe "70" before his name indicates his house number in Husiatyn.

Another narrowing of the search to bring up one result gives me:

"Sosie Lewites" was born in 1871 to father Moses Leiser and mother Gittel. Again, looking at the original image, I found a page with the following:

This one is more difficult to read, but it shows that Sosie Lewitas was born on 8 September 1871 to Moses Leiser and Gittel.

I believe that Model Lewites is Max Levitt. Model is a nickname for Mordecai, which is the Hebrew name on Max Levitt's Woodbine, New Jersey, gravestone.

I believe that Sosie Lewites is Sophie Litwin, wife of Samuel Litwin, and Max's sister. (I blogged about her son here.)

When searching on "Lewites," many more results appear between 1857 and 1871, several with Moses, Moses L., or M. Leiser as father and Gittel or Gitel as mother. I need to explore the records more to find a birth record for Emanuel Levitas.

Max Levitt's death certificate lists his father as Moses L. Levitt (mother unknown) and Max's brother's Emanual Levitas' death certificate lists his father as Moses and mother as Gittle Jorisha.

Detail from the 1937 NYC death certificate for Emanuel Levitas

The variety of information I have collected about the Levitt / Levitas family seems to support the theory that these Lewitas siblings were born in Husiatyń, a town now in Ukraine.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tombstone Tuesday ~ Jacob and Rebecca Reisner

Rebecca (Levitt) Reisner and Jacob Reisner are buried in B'nai Jacob Cemetery in West Springfield, Massachusetts. They both have memorials at FindAGrave (Rebecca and Jacob).

For the translation, I used JewishGen's Reading Hebrew Tombstones, Steve Morse's Deciphering Hebrew Tombstone Dates in One Step, my rudimentary knowledge of Hebrew, and some help from the Tracing the Tribe Facebook page:

Here lies the woman Rivka
daughter of the worthy Mordecai
Died on 13 Adar 5722
May her soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life
Beloved Wife
And Mother
Died Feb. 16, 1962

Here lies worthy Jacob Nathan
Son of Mendel
Died on 26 Tamuz 5725
Beloved Husband
and Father
Died July 26, 1965

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun ~ My Best Recent Genea-Prize

Randy Seaver of the Genea-Musings blog issues a weekly Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge and this week it is a timely one.

1) Did you do some genealogy research during August 2014? Did you find a great record or story pertaining to an ancestor or family member?

2) Tell us about the BEST genea-prize ("record") you found during August 2014. What was it, where did you find it, and how does it help advance your research?

3) Share your genea-prize in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook or Google+ post.

4) NOTE: If you didn't find one in August, tell us about a recent genea-prize from another month.

In August, I did lots of research, some of which was on Jacob Reisner, an uncle of my mother-in-law's. His wife was Rebecca Levitt, daughter of Max Levitt, my mother-in-law's grandfather. As I have noted before, I am trying to find where Max came from; just about all sources note simply "Austria," which in the pre-World War I era, referred to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a large area.

Last week, after sharing the World War I Draft Card for Jacob Reisner at the Tracing the Tribe Facebook group, one very kind reader emailed me with lots of information that he found about the Reisner family, showing that they were from Horodenka, a town in Galicia, a province in the pre-WWI Austrian Empire. When I emailed back, I thanked him and commented that I have been researching Jacob Reisner because I was hoping it would lead me to where his wife's family was from. He soon got back to me with information from an index at JRI-Poland, which I had never thought to explore since there had never been mention in the family that anyone was from Poland.

It looks like Max Levitt was from Husiatyn, Galicia, Austrian Empire.

My best recent genea-prize is finding the FREE website, JRI-Poland, and learning how to explore it.

This site, which I had heard of before, but never explored, will advance my research on the Levitas branch of my husband's ancestry. I will be sharing what I found at this resource in upcoming blog posts.

I thank Stephan Parnes for taking the time to explore records for the Reisner family and the Levitt/Levitas/Lewites family at JRI-Poland and for sharing them with me.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Military Monday ~ Jacob Reisner World War I Draft Card, U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations Inc, 2005),, Database online.
Registration Location: Kings County, New York; Roll: 1754613; Draft Board: 80. Record for Jacob Reisner.

When I first found this record, I wasn't sure that it belonged to the Jacob Reisner who married into the Levitt family, whose origins in "Austria" have eluded me for years. However, I more recently found Jacob's 1965 obituary, which noted that he had worked for Asinof and Sons Co. for many years, in New York and in Springfield. The occupation for Jacob Reisner here is as a Tailor for Essenoff + Sons at 37 Broome St. N.Y.

He claims exemption from service because he needs to support his family, his wife and three children.

The back of his card indicates that he was tall, of medium build, with blue eyes and brown hair.

In June 1917, Jacob Reisner is living at 74 Louisiana Avenue in Brooklyn. He has declared his intention to become a citizen and this record tells me that he reports his birth as January 12, 1890, in Kolamayer, Bucave, Austria. (At least that's what it looks like to me.)

However, I am not having any luck finding this place in JewishGen's Community Search or the Gazetteer. Anyone have any ideas?

UPDATE: Thank you to the Tracing the Tribe Facebook Group members (several of them), who let me know that this is Kolomea or Kolomyya, in present-day Western Ukraine. In the late 1800s and very early 1900s, this community was considered part of Galicia, within the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday's Obituary ~ Jacob Reisner

Springfield Union, Springfield, Massachusetts, online images (
July 27, 1965, p. 14, col. 5. Jacob Reisner obituary.

Jacob Reisner, 75, of 98 1/2 Fort Pleasant Ave. died Monday in Wesson Memorial Hospital following a brief illness. He was born in Austria, son of the late Mendel and Rachel Reisner, and came to this country in 1905. He lived in New York City until 1921, when he moved to this city with his late wife, the former Rebecca Levitt, who died Feb. 16, 1962.. He had been general foreman for Asinof and Sons Co. both in New York and later in Chicopee until 1934. He later operated a grocery store on Fort Pleasant Ave. for many years until 11 years ago. He was a member of B'nai Jacob Synagogue, Maccabean Lodge, Knights of Pythias No. 23 and Springfield Jewish Home for the Aged. He leaves three sons, Atty. Samuel and Joseph, both of this city, and Harold of West Hartford, Conn.; two daughters, Mrs. Adele Levitt and Mrs. Roselle Lewis, both of Longmeadow; two brothers, Benjamin and Alex, both of Brooklyn, N.Y.; nine grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews. The funeral will be held today at 2 p.m. at Harold R. Aschey Memorial Chapel. Rabbi Moses D. Sheinkopf and Cantor Herman Abramson will officiate. Burial will be in B'nai Jacob Cemetery, West Springfield. Memorial week will be observed at the home of his son, Atty. Reisner at 27 Bronson Ter.

A couple of observations:
(1) There is no mention of the two daughters who pre-deceased him. See Reisner Twins.
(2) There is mention of the move from New York City to Springfield in 1921, which helps confirm my theory that they moved from Manhattan soon after the death of their infant daughter.
(3) The reference to working for "Asinof and Sons Co. both in New York and later in Chicopee" helps confirm the World War I Draft Card that I thought was for him, which mentions that he worked as a tailor for Essenoff & Sons.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Jacob Reisner in the Census 1910-1920

My mother-in-law's mother, Rose (Levitt) Goldstein, was one of four children of Max Levitt (1858-1935) and Golda Segal (1869-1952). I shared census records for her family from 1900-1930 early on in this blog.

Rose also had three or four older half-siblings, children of Max Levitt and his first wife, Adele, who died before the family came to America:

Manuel Levitt: He was supposedly born about 1883 in Russia and "ran away" when told the family would be going from New York City to Woodbine, New Jersey. I have found no evidence to support this story. Interestingly enough, I found that Max Levitt's brother's name was Emanuel Levitas and he remained in New York.

Minnie Levitt: She was born June 1887 in Russia according to the 1900 census. I have found no more information about her.

Rebecca Levitt: She was born about 1889 in Russia and was the one cousin whose family kept in touch with her younger half-siblings.

David Levitt: I have several conflicting birth dates (and birth places) for him, ranging from 1885-1891, in Austria, Russia, New York or New Jersey.

I have found some basic information about Rebecca Levitt.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Jacob Reisner's Passenger List, 1905

I believe I have found the passenger list that shows when Jacob Reisner arrived in the United States. At, I searched in the New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957, for Jacob Reisner, born about 1888 in Austria (date and place from his marriage license). (I also have a middle initial of N from other sources.)

The result shows Jankew N. Reisner on a List of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry., New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2010),, Database online. Year: 1905; Microfilm serial: T715; Microfilm roll: T715_534;
Ship: Zeeland, List: Special Inquiry, Line: 21; Image number: 180 of 990. Record for Jankew [Jacob] N. Reisner.
I have marked this image to draw your eye to certain items on this page. First of all, he arrived on the S. S. Zeeland on February 7, 1905, at 10 AM, from Antwerp.

(1) Jankew N. Reisner appears on line 21 here. To the left of the line number 21 is 16, which is his age. I am making an educated guess that this is Jacob N. Reisner who later married into the Levitt family. To the right of his name is A9, which represents that he appears on manifest A, line 9. I was able to use this information to find the original passenger list, which is NOT currently indexed. Note the young man listed below him, Uscher Sumer, also age 16. His name appears just below Jankew's on the original passenger list and he was also held for special inquiry.

(2) Cause of Detention is L.P.C. which represents "Likely Public Charge" which means he could be excluded as one who might become a burden on the public. This was part of the immigration law at the time.

(3) The scribble here is simply the initials or name of the initial inspector who made the L.P.C. determination and decided he needed to go before the board of special inquiry.

(4) 2/7 represents the date that Jankew [Jacob] had his hearing. 4 is the page number of the recorder's book where his information was recorded. (Unfortunately, most of these records have been destroyed.) It looks like his hearing was at 3:47 in the afternoon. (Uscher Sumer had his hearing at 4:00.)

(5) The numbers in the right columns indicate the number of meals provided (at a cost to the shipping company). It looks like Jankew (and his friend) got just one meal, lunch, before heading to his destination in New York City.

The man on the list above him left on the S.S. Zeeland when it left New York on February 10. This would have been at the expense of the shipping company.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wedding Wednesday ~ Jacob Reisner and Rebecca Levitt

Rebecca Levitt is a half-sister of my husband's grandmother, Rose. I recently acquired her marriage license via the Family History Library photoduplication services. I am trying to explore every avenue to try to figure out where the Levitt family was originally from.

New York, New York, Manhattan Marriages, FHL Microfilm 1613232, Certificate No. 19430.
Jacob Reisner and Rebecca Levitt, August 12, 1911.; Family History Library microfilm.

  • Groom, Jacob Reisner and bride, Rebecca Levitt.
  • Both lived at 131 Ridge Str. in New York City.
  • He is 23 years old (born about 1888); she is 21 years old (born about 1890). I actually have a variety of birth dates for both of them, but these are within the range.
  • They are both single (not widowed or divorced) and his occupation is Tailor (which matches all the other records I find for him). This is the first marriage for both of them.
  • Both list their birth places as Austrya (Austria). This is one of those instances that I wish they listed a specific city or town, or at least a district or county!
  • Jacob lists his parents as Max Reisner and Rechil Silber (note the "Levitt" that is crossed out.)
  • Rebecca lists her parents as Manuel Levitt (this should be Max Levitt) and Hudel [?] Willer. This gives me a surname for her mother. All I had known was that her mother's name was Adele and that she died before her father, Max, immigrated to America with his children.
  • They were married on August 12, 1911, at 106 Foursyth [Forsyth] Str. by J. Marcus Skhiller, of 177 Norfolk Str.

On the back of the license, we get to see Jacob's and Rebecca's signatures, as well as the signatures of the witnesses, Abraham Reisner and Sam Prufer [?], whom I have not researched.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sympathy Saturday ~ Reisner Twins

I would like to take this opportunity to remember twin sisters, one of whom died due to being born prematurely and the other who died as a teenager.

These girls were first cousins to my mother-in-law.

Manhattan (New York City) Death Certificates, 1919-1948. Certificate no. 1066 (1921), Sarah Reisner,
FHL Microfilm 2027054, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Sarah Reisner died on January 11, 1921, after having been born on January 9, 1921, to Jacob Reisner and Rebecca (Levitt) Reisner (half-sister to Rose (Levitt) Goldstein). The ONLY reason I knew to look for this death certificate is, again, thanks to the wonderful memory of my mother-in-law, who told me that her sister, Naomi Reisner, had a twin who died as a baby.
Photograph of Naomi Reisner
Courtesy: Jeff Kontoff

Sadly, Naomi Reisner died a couple of weeks before her 17th birthday, in Springfield, Massachusetts.

See Naomi's FindAGrave memorial here. Although her gravestone indicates that she died at 17 years old, she was actually just two weeks shy of her 17th birthday.

And Naomi's stone includes a photograph of her.

Thank you to Find A Grave volunteer, Jeff Kontoff, for all his work in the Jewish Cemeteries of West Springfield, and for giving permission to share this photograph here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Wedding Wednesday ~ Morris Moskowitz Marriage License

I recently requested a marriage license via the Family History Library's Photoduplication Services for one Morris Moskowitz (no bride listed) in Manhattan in 1904, hoping it was the great uncle of my mother-in-law whom I've written about before. Census records for 1910 and 1930 indicate a marriage date of about 1904-1905. Their first child was born in June 1905, so a marriage date in 1904 was likely.

I found the following at Steve Morse's website (Accessing the New York City Marriage Indexes in One Step), searching on Morris Moskowitz in 1904:

When I click on "get bride," I get a "bride not found" message, so by requesting this image, I was just hoping that it was "my" Morris Moskowitz. This time I had success.

This is one of those cases where researching a collateral line gives me additional information about my husband's direct line.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

William Siegel's death - 1941

Rachel Segal Siegel
I have written several posts about my mother-in-law's Segal family. Her grandmother immigrated with her father and three siblings and I have shared a picture of the four siblings. Her great aunt Rachel had married William Seigel (or Siegel) before immigrating; I have blogged about the extended family's immigration from Hamburg to Glasgow to New York in 1891. has recently made Pennsylvania Death Certificates for 1906-1944 available. Because they are indexed, it has made it much easier to look for names of people that I think died in Pennsylvania and see if I can add to family records for some extended family members.

Following is the death certificate for William Siegel, Rachel's husband and a second great uncle of my husband., Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1924 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2014),, Death Certificate No. 34287 / 7013. Record for William Siegel, died 27 March 1941.
William Siegel (in past records he was Seigel) died on March 27, 1941 at 75 years old, (born about 1866), leaving a wife named Rachael. He lived at 1610 N. 52nd Street and worked as a tailor.

I do learn here that his father's name is Isaac and that he and his parents were born in Russia. He was buried on March 28, 1941, at Montefiore Cemetery (Jenkintown, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania). The website offers a burial search so I could obtain his plot location. I have added a memorial for him at FindAGrave and hope someone will take a photo of his gravestone.

Stamped on the cause of death section is: "Information supplied by coroner's office on this certificate (not official) inquest pending!" An inquest is required to investigate the circumstances surrounding any "sudden or violent" death. This includes suicides, homicides, and accidental deaths in addition to certain disease-related or simply unknown causes of death.

Since he was buried the next day, presumably the inquest was completed quickly, but it would be interesting to know more about his cause of death.

July 8, 2014 update: My mother-in-law remembers hearing that he was hit by a car when walking to synagogue.

I have never researched in coroner's records so if anyone can point me to a resource for coroner's records in Philadelphia County, I'd be greatly appreciative!

October 21, 2014 update: It turns out there is a subsequent image in the Pennsylvania Death Certificates that shows the result of the inquest. Read about it here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Wedding Wednesday ~ Lillian Levitas and Max Messing

Lillian F. Levitas, cousin of my husband's grandmother, and sister of Dr. Matthew Levitas, married a doctor. Following is the marriage certificate from New York City:

New York, Brooklyn Marriage Certificates, 1866-1937, Family History Library Microfilm 1613735,
Certificate No. 14741. Max Messing and Lillian F. Levitas, December 27, 1914.
Max Messing, of Philadelphia, married Lillian F. Levitas, of 2124 65th Street, Brooklyn, on December 27, 1914. They were married at her home in Brooklyn by Nathan Cantor of Temple Emanu El.

Max lives in Philadelphia and is a physician. His parents are Simon Messing and Clara Heiser (though I haven't found any record of his parents in the U.S.). Max was born in Russia and is listed as 30 years old, though other records I have found for him indicate that he may have been 34 at the time of his marriage.

Lillian lives in Brooklyn and her parents are listed as Emanuel Levitas and Sara Rabin. (However, I have found her last name listed as Rabinowitz on two of her children's birth records.) Lillian was born in Newark, New Jersey and is just 19 years old.

Witnesses to the marriage are Harry Berlin and Irving K. Schwab. I wonder if some research into those men would shed any light into where the Levitas family originally was from...

Monday, June 2, 2014

Celebrating Blogiversary #3

I started this blog three years ago because my other blog, From Maine to Kentucky, is about my ancestry, and researching my husband's ancestry is so different from mine that I thought it deserved its own blog.

I have not been as prolific during this past year, but I try to write at least a couple of blog posts each month.

In celebration of three years of blogging, I thought I'd share some of my favorite posts of this past blogging year.

I had fun finding records for Emanuel Levitas, brother to my mother-in-law's grandfather, Max Levitt. I am still trying to figure out where this family immigrated from!

And the fact that his wife, Sarah Levitas, had a patent in her name was a great find by my husband!

I enjoyed attending the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) Conference 2013, which was held in Boston last August and I blogged about my experiences in IAJGS Part 1 and IAJGS Part 2.

One of my favorite photos can be seen at Two Tone Tessie.

Another photo (one of many) of the "cousins in Israel" can be seen here.

And a photo of the uncle who remained in Romania and "became a Communist" can be seen here.

I do have several more photographs with Yiddish on the back that I should share...

Thanks for reading, even thought I haven't been posting much!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Military Monday ~ Stanley Goldstein

My husband's Uncle Stanley served in World War II. Several websites are offering free access to military records this Memorial Day weekend. On,, and, I found Uncle Stanley's U.S. World War II Army Enlistment record. (Original data from The National Archives.)

The information it provides is as follows:

Name: Stanley Goldstein
Birth: 1924, New York
Residence: Cape May [County], New Jersey
Enlistment: February 13, 1943 in Camden, New Jersey
Serial #: 32750962
Grade alpha: Pvt
Grade code: Private
Branch alpha: Bi
Branch code: Branch Immaterial - Warrant Officers, USA
Term of enlistment: Enlistment For The Duration of The War or Other Emergency, Plus Six Months, Subject To The Discretion of The President or Otherwise According To Law
Army component: Selectees (Enlisted Men)
Race and citizenship: White, Citizen
Education: 4 Years of High School
Civil Occupation: Semiskilled Occupations In Fabrication of Textile Products, n.e.c.
Marital status: Single, Without Dependents
Source: Civil Life
Height: 67
Weight: 169
Box #: 0559
Reel #: 2.222

On, I found a bit more information in the U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010. This record included his birth date of April 13, 1924, death date of December 28, 1993, as well as:
Branch 1: A
Enlistment Date 1: February 20, 1943
Release Date 1: April 4, 1946

I don't have any photos of Uncle Stanley in his military uniform.

As I noted in an earlier blog post, I noted that Stanley Goldstein 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 New Jersey.

He is buried in the Woodbine Brotherhood Cemetery in Woodbine, New Jersey.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Wordless Wednesday ~ Dr. Matthew S. Levitas

Dr. Matthew Samuel Levitas was first cousin to my husband's grandmother, Rose (Levitt) Goldstein. As part of his distinguished medical career,  he was recognized for his work with the V.F.W.:

Brooklyn Newsstand, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 10 September 1948, page 7

Monday, April 28, 2014

Military Monday ~ Dr. Matthew S. Levitas of Brooklyn

Matthew Samuel Levitas was a first cousin of my husband's grandmother, Rose (Levitt) Goldstein. According to his WWI and WWII Draft Cards, he was born in Newark, New Jersey, on April 14, 1892.

I shared his family in census records here (1895-1915) and here (1920-1940).

I'm not sure where he attended medical school, but by June 1917, according to his WWI Draft Card, he was working as a Physician at Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, N.J., U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.
Registration location: Kings County, N.Y.; Roll: 175449; Draft Board: 60; Record for Mathew Levitas

He did serve in the medical corps in World War I, initially serving at Base Hospital Camp Upton on Long Island, then as a surgeon in Hoboken, N.J. He was given an honorable discharge on September 4, 1919.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle can be found online at Brooklyn Newsstand. (Any issues not found there might be found at Fulton History.) I found several articles that mentioned Dr. Matthew S. Levitas in the 1940s and early 1950s. A select few follow.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wordless Wednesday ~ Two Dear Mothers

My husband's grandmothers:

And the back is labeled:

At left is Rose (Levitt) Goldstein (1902-1995) and at right is Lena (Hollander) Handler (1891-1983). The photo was taken on Rhodes Avenue in Akron, Ohio, in June 1952, a few months after Rose's daughter married Lena's youngest son.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Levitt in Pennsylvania Death Certificates at

I previously blogged about obtaining Pennsylvania Death Certificates via the Pennsylvania Department of Health website. has been working on digitizing Pennsylvania Death Certificates and have just made death certificates from 1906-1924 available.

I had previously ordered and received quite a few PA death certificates, including for my husband's great-grandmother, Goldie Levitt. Today, I filtered the names in Family Tree Maker to show those who could possibly have a Pennsylvania death certificate in this time period. This way, I could more easily search Ancestry's indexed records if I didn't know a death date.

Also, although I have over 4,700 individuals in Family Tree Maker (mostly for my family, but a couple hundred for my husband's family), I had no record that anyone had died during the 1918 Influenza Epidemic...until now.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Max Goldstein in 1930 and 1940

For Great Uncle Max Goldstein, I first shared that there were many of them in early 20th century New York City. I then shared some of the census records I have for him and his family.

In the U.S. Census for 1930 and 1940, it is easy to confirm that this is "my" Max Goldstein, as this shows wife Lottie, and children Jerry, Edith and Bernard (first cousins of my mother-in-law). Not shown here in the image of the family in 1930 is the column indicating year of immigration (1912 for both Max and Lottie) and citizenship status (naturalized).

In 1930, Max is a proprietor of a clothing store.

1930 U.S. Census; Manhattan, New York, New York; E.D. 235, Page 23B;
Lines 67-71, household of Max Goldstein
According to the 1930 U.S. Census, Max married his wife Lottie, when he was 17 and she was 15, in about 1912. Those ages must have been calculated from their reported ages in this census of 35 and 33, which are a few years younger than the ages that are reported in other census records.

Unfortunately, after exploring the Accessing the New York City Marriage Indexes in One Step at (which I think is the easiest way to search New York Marriages) for the marriage of Max Goldstein and Lottie Rosen (searching in a variety of ways) I have had no luck confirming a marriage date for Max and wife Lottie, or even if they married in New York City.


In 1940, the Goldstein family had moved to 65 Second Avenue in Manhattan. Lottie's widowed mother, Rebecca Rosen, is living with them.

1940 U.S. Census; New York, New York, New York; E.D. 31-122; Page 4B;
Lines 54-59, household of Max Goldstein
The 1940 U.S. Census has some interesting data. Years of education is blank for Max; Lottie is noted as having eight years of schooling (8); two children have completed high school (H-4); and the youngest has completed two years of high school (H-2).

Lottie is on one of the lines where the census enumerator asked a few additional questions. Although Lottie's census line indicates that her occupation was "Home Housework," she is listed with a usual occupation and industry of "Operator in Women's Apparel." Her age at first marriage is noted as 16, and she has given birth to four children. (I only know of the three listed above.)

More mysteries for this Goldstein family...