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

Ancestry.com, U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005), www.ancestry.com, 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.