Anna Lipansky Kerstman’s naturalization papers provide new clues

Anna Kerstman [via Joel Landes]
Mere days after ordering a copy of naturalization papers for Anna Lipansky Kerstman from the National Archives, I received Anna’s documentation in the mail. The delivery was in a flat, letter-sized envelope, a feature I appreciated over the thrice-folded records received from New York City, creased to fit in a number 10 envelope.

Not only was I impressed with the form, but I appreciated the content as well. The documentation affirmed the date of naturalization for both Anna and as her husband, Isidore (Isadore) Kerstman.

I’ve been recording Anna’s maiden name as Lapinksy or Lupinsky so far, but the naturalization and immigration documents include her last name as “Lipansky.” Anna’s marriage certificate, which I should be receiving soon, has an index wherein the last name is spelled “Lipiansky.” English spelling was not as important a century ago as it is today, and slight variations depended on whoever happened to be the scribe.

Anna’s birthplace is listed as Yanova, Kovna, Lithuania, which I’ve identified as the town now known as Jonava, Lithuania. The following is from JewishGen about the town of Jonava, an excerpt from Beginning, Growth and Destruction by Itzchak Judelvitch:

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Reach out to relatives to reconnect and discuss family history

I spoke with my great aunt (or grand aunt — the terminology can be confusing — my mother’s mother’s sister) over the phone a few days ago, and by asking a few specific questions I was able to correct some errors and fill some holes in the family tree.

Last week, I mentioned that I was in the process of sorting out the Hermans, and talking to my great aunt (again, I’m not using names of living people on this website for privacy reasons)helped answer some of the questions that remained at that point. Talking to relatives is a huge part of completing a family history. It’s a way to document stories (whether true or not, stories can be an invaluable part of a family tradition) as well as a starting-point for finding concrete evidence.

My first question was about Stanley Herman. The information I previously had indicated Stanley was one of my grandmother’s uncles, along with the other Hermans. My grandmother’s sister indicated Stanley was her cousin, not her uncle, and knew his precise location in the family tree. Because I had identified the wrong wife and child for Harry Herman, I would have never come to the conclusion on my own that Stanley was their son. I was influenced by another family tree on that contained much of my family, but this information is now confirmed to be incorrect.

She also knew the names of Staney’s wife and daughter, which has helped me confirm even more information. I later determined that the wife we knew about was Stanley’s second wife, and his first wife had other children, as well. With the correct names in hand, I was able to find some of the appropriate census records.

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Pearl Kerstman Rosenberg and her descendants

Pearl Kerstman [via Goodie Rosenberg Kaplan, Jon Derow]
About ten years ago, maybe longer, my father sent me an email containing a graphic depicting the family tree of Pearl Kerstman Rosenberg, his mother’s father’s mother. It contained a wealth of information about her branch. When I started building my own family tree last year, I remembered receiving this email. I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping all of my personal email I’ve received since about 2002 or 2003 thanks to the virtually unlimited storage provided by Gmail. I searched through all my old messages, but the Kerstman family tree was nowhere in these vast archives.

Only a few months ago, a chance search on Google uncovered not only the family tree I had seen years ago, but accompanying photographs and stories as well. Most of the information on this tree, as I’ve been able to see now, pertains only indirectly to the Kerstmans. Pearl had only one son and no daughters with the Kerstman progenitor, but went on after her first husband’s death to become part of the Rosenberg family. The Rosenbergs comprise the majority of this family tree, but thanks to the work of the Derow family, who organized this information as far as I can determine, I now have starting points with which finding information about the Kerstmans will be easier.

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Autosomal DNA analysis

In addition to my family history, I’m curious to find out what my genetics have to say about my ancestors. A few weeks ago, I ordered’s new DNA analysis service. There is a dizzying array of different types of DNA tests available from many vendors, but I chose the new AncestryDNA test because I had already been using for my primary family tree maintenance for the past year.

I also liked the theory behind autosomal DNA testing. Unlike Y-chromosomal testing which analyzes only patrilineal genetics or mitochondrial testing which analyzes only matrilineal genetics, autosomal testing looks at the genetic information inherited by all ancestors. This is the same type of testing featured on the popular television programs Who Do You Think You Are? and Finding Your Roots.

Unfortunately, DNA analysis is not an exact science. The ability for to be able to provide accurate results insofar as geography, it needs to have a wide enough database to compare users’ DNA results. In theory, will update users’ test results automatically in the direction of accuracy as the comparison database continues to grow. might also be able to match you with relatives you didn’t know you’ve had — if you and they have also agreed to connect DNA results to family trees hosted on the website.

To get a more complete picture of my ancestry, I will likely follow these results up with other types of DNA tests from other vendors. With Y-chromosomal and mitochondrial testing, I will be able to determine a selection of my ancestors’ migration patters.

As I mentioned, I ordered’s new DNA kit a few weeks ago. It arrived fairly quickly, and within a few days of delivery, I followed the instructions for taking and preserving a sample of my DNA. Unlike many other test that require a cheek swab, this test required saliva. I spent a minute or two depositing saliva into a plastic tube. By closing the tube, a preservation chemical was released into the tube, and mixed with the saliva. I placed the tube into a biohazard bag, sealed the self-addressed envelope, and dropped it off at the post office. In a few weeks, I should see the results online.

I’m disappointed that does not currently allow users to export their genome data. This information could be useful. Other services allow data imports in place of providing additional samples. The idea of a company owning rights to someone’s DNA fingerprint is a little frightening, too. You never really know what a corporate entity would do with this type of personal information. Even if their terms and conditions currently say one thing, there is often a clause allowing the company to change its terms and conditions at any time.

When I receive the results in a few weeks, I will certainly share them, and I’ll write more about my experiences with DNA testing for genealogical research. Keep reading to see’s entertaining instructional video explaining how to prepare the DNA sample.

Death records: Joseph and Moses Landes

Joseph Landes’s Family Tree
In record-setting fashion, the New York City Department of Records sent copies of death certificates for my great grandfather and second great grandfather, Joseph and Moses Landes, arriving a mere twelve days after placing the order. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for a marriage certificate for Samuel Herman placed over a month ago. Perhaps I was working on a misguided assumption, but I expected most records requests would take four to six weeks anyway.

I originally used the resources on Steve Morse’s website to locate potential ancestral records. I didn’t have precise dates of death for either Joseph or Moses Landes, but census records helped me pinpoint a likely range, and I had confidence that both lived in New York City when they passed away. Turning to Steve Morse, I pinpointed the most likely candidates and placed the order.

The names of relatives on Joseph’s death certificate and the address listed on Moses’s death certificate confirm I have the correct records. I added the information to my family tree on, including complete dates of death, the causes of death, and in the case of Moses, parents’ names. Moses’s parents, my third great grandparents, were Joseph Landes and Pauline Leon. Pauline or its variations Paulina and Pearl have been common names in my family over the course of the last 150 years. Joseph and Pauline were born in Romania according to the document, but Leon does not sound like a common Romanian surname.

Is it possible I have some Spanish ancestry?

Death certificate for Moses Landes

Who are the Neckameyers?

When starting my family tree research about a year ago, I didn’t have much information about any prior to my grandparents. Relying on the memories of my living family could only take me so far. At some point over the last few months, with the help of my parents, we discovered more documents filed away that could provide clues. One of these documents was my mother’s father’s death certificate.

I didn’t even notice at first, but this document provided some information I had been looking for: his mother’s maiden name. I had understood from oral history that my great grandmother Anna had a sister Lena, but didn’t know much more. With the death certificate, I was able to put a last name to Anna and Lena: Neckameyer. With this information, I had more ammunition for finding public records. I quickly found the U.S. Census record from 1920 pertaining to Anna and Lena and from 1930 pertaining to Anna, with both also including their father William and their step-mother Rose. Also included was their father’s mother, Fannie.

Around the same time, I also discovered a census record from 1910 that looked it might be the same family, but it also included two other siblings: Celia and Isadore. I didn’t want to accept this record as pertaining to the Neckameyers of my family right away, because they lived at a different address in 1910 (though not too distant from their location in 1920), the ages didn’t line up precisely, and oral history did not include Celia or Isadore.

With my mother confirming she recalled an aunt Celia, I didn’t want to dismiss the records so easily. After more sleuthing, I saw that Celia Neckameyer later married George Wacloff. The Walcoff family lived at the same address as the Neckameyers who, through their address on a marriage certificate, I had confirmed as my relatives. While by 1920 George and Cecilia had moved away from their families, I was able to trace the Walcoff family to the previous census to confirm George was in fact part of the same Walcoff family.

The fact of the marriage of Celia Neckameyer with George Walcoff, whose family lived at the same address as Anna Neckameyer, convinced me that Cecilia and her brother Isadore (sometimes known as Irving) were in fact the sister and brother of my great grandmother, Anna Neckameyer. By this time I had been tracing the Neckameyers in a separate tree, eager to discover any other clues that might help me connect the two families. Earlier this week, I merged the two trees, “accepting” Celia, Isadore/Irving, and their children into my family tree.

Continue reading “Who are the Neckameyers?”

Sorting out the Herman kids

Most of the information I’ve had about the sons and daughters of my second great grandfather Samuel Herman has come from my mother. I’ve written down what I was told by placing his ten children into our family tree on, but once I started researching the family, I found a few inconsistencies.

The earliest federal census record for this family is the latest addition to the sources. The 1900 census lists Samuel’s occupation as a fish dealer, his date of marriage with his wife Rose, and a few other details. In combination, they give this record a very good likelihood for being connected to the Hermans in my family.

This could be a sensitive subject. Rose, Samuel Herman’s wife, had several children who did not survive. At the turn of the century, this was a common occurrence, but that doesn’t prevent the situation from being somewhat morbid and sad.

  • I do know that according to the 1910 federal census, Rose had a total of seven children, four of whom survived to that year. The four children in 1910 are Gussie (Augusta), Harry, Etta, and Tobias.
  • In 1905, the New York State census also included a son Joseph, four months old. Joseph must be one of the three who did not survive to 1910.
  • In the 1900 federal census, a daughter named Lattie is included, aged four months. Also in 1900, the census notes that Rose had a total of two children, and only one — Lattie — has survived to the time of the 1900 census survey. As Lattie is not included in any census record from 1905 on, she passed away before 1905.
  • This leaves one child of Rose, the third to not survive to 1910, as having passed away before 1900. I have not yet found a record of this child’s name.

Continue reading “Sorting out the Herman kids”

Naturalization: Moses Landes

When I first started using to search historical records for my ancestors, I came across naturalization index records for Moses Landes. The only pieces of comparable information were an approximate birth date and the occupation listed as “standkeeper.” These didn’t match closely enough to any other information I had in order for me to conclusively say that the index records pertained to my second great grandfather. I made a note of the index and moved on.

Now with access to Fold3, I searched that site for additional naturalization records for Moses. Fold3 has digitized more full naturalization records, whereas in many cases for New York City, only offers indices. The full petition for naturalization included a familiar address, but it was off by one house, and it would be Moses’s children who lived there several years later. The declaration of intention, however, filed a few years before the petition for naturalization included yet another address, 541 5th Avenue in Manhattan.

Realizing I hadn’t yet tracked down the 1905 New York state census record for Moses and his children, I used the Family History Library’s to try again to find this record. I found the family indexed under “Landers,” a common misspelling. The address on the census record from 1905 matched the address on the declaration of intention for 1903.

Putting all of the above together, I’m confident the naturalization records pertain to my second great grandfather, and I’ve added the information as sources to my family tree on This has given me a more accurate birth date (Dec 1852 rather than about 1851), the date of naturalization, and definitive residential addresses for Moses and the rest of his family. It has also provided the date on which he arrived in New York, 20 Oct 1900, but according to the 1901 Census of Canada, he is later living in Montréal. The Canadian immigration records state Moses immigrated to Canada in 1900. The question remains about whether Moses, and possibly part of his family, lived in both Canada and the United States at the same time.

Marriage certificate: Joseph Landes and Sadie Lustig

The next marriage certificate arrived recently from the New York City Department of Records. It’s convenient having most of my recent ancestors residing in New York City — but ordering records is not cheap. With some time to spare, I might visit the department in person to discover and copy these items personally, but at the moment, time is at a premium for me. I prefer the convenience of online ordering. At some point, research will not be possible without visiting locations in person, so I’m taking advantage of convenience for as long as possible.

The latest document to arrive is the marriage certificate for my paternal great grandparents, Joseph Landes and Sadie Lustig. Joseph married Sadie when he was 28 and she was 18 according to the document, but other sources put Joseph’s age at 30 at the time of the marriage in 1909. The date of birth I have comes from a World War I draft registration card, and this is the only documentation I have of Joseph’s full birth date. Census records list Joseph’s age inconsistently.

The marriage certificate offers Joseph’s parents’ names: Moses Landes and Bertha Jereslawitz. This is the first indication I’ve had of Bertha’s maiden name. I should also point out that oral family history had previously indicated that Moses’s wife’s name was Brenda, but I’ve found no evidence of the name Brenda so far. All records, and I have a high level of confidence that the records that I’ve found do pertain to my family, list my second great grandmother’s name as Bertha. Incidentally, I have also discovered a related record indicating Moses’s other son Martin married Pauline Jeruslavitz. The last names are close enough, and I suspect that Bertha and Pauline were related somehow before marrying their respective Landeses, but I have no information yet regarding that relationship.

The Landes/Lustig marriage certificate provides names for Sadie’s parents: Rübin Lustig and Lisa Strümwald. My other information, namely Federal Census records, identify Sadie’s father as Joseph Lustig, so there seems to be conflicting information. This is the first time Sadie’s mother’s name is listed as Lisa; in all other records, the name is spelled Eliza, Louisa, or Louesa. I’m relatively confident that Lisa is either another nickname variation or a misspelling. Also, in all other cases, Eliza’s last name is spelled Sturmwald. Oral history indicates the Sturmwalds originated in Germany, and if this the case, Sturmwald — with or without the umlaut — would most likely be the correct spelling. Stürmwald translates to “raging forest,” and that’s a relatively exciting surname.

With every answer, more questions.

Continue reading to see the marriage certificate for Joseph Landes and Sadie Lustig. Perhaps you can help me decipher Sadie’s middle initial. It appears to be a “C.”

Continue reading “Marriage certificate: Joseph Landes and Sadie Lustig”

Marriage certificate: Wolf Neckameyer and Rose Goldfarb

The marriage certificate of Samuel Berman and Anna Neckameyer gave me the name of Anna’s parents: Wolf Neckameyer and Rebecca Rochaurtz. By the time Wolf is living in the United States with his daughter Anna (and possibly with other children — that’s a different discussion), Rebecca had passed away and he had remarried.

I ordered the marriage certificate for Wolf and Rose from the New York City Department of Records, hoping it would provide more information about Wolf. Rose Goldfarb was Wolf’s second wife. She was a widow herself, with the maiden name Schechter. She was born in Wolhina, Rossia, according to the document, and this most likely corresponds to the area known presently as Volhynia. Although Rose’s ancestry is not directly part of my heritage — Wokf’s first wife would be my second great grandmother — I have added her parental information into the family tree.

This document has also provided me with the names of Wolf Neckameyer’s parents: Aaron Neckameyer and Mollie Hecht. The certificate indicates Wolf was born in Minsk, another new piece of information for me. Continue reading to see the scanned marriage certificate.

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Samuel Berman’s migration to America from Odessa

Using tools on Fold3, I discovered Samuel Berman’s (my great grandfather’s) naturalization papers. Samuel declared his intention to become a citizen in 1912, and in 1916 completed his Petition for Naturalization, was informed of his approval, and signed the Oath of Allegiance. I hadn’t come across these documents in any other searches so far, including on,, and other tools available.

The information led me to discover Samuel’s immigration information. According to the Declaration of Intention, Samuel was born in Odessa, Russia (now in Ukraine). The city was also new information to me. He departed for America from Liverpool, England, on the ship Ivernia, and arrived in Boston on 18 Jul 1907. The address in New York confirms this naturalization information pertains to the Samuel Berman who is my great grandfather.

This brought me back to, where I searched this ship and year to find Samuel listed among the ship’s passengers. I found a Schmuel Berman listed within the manifest. I am confident that Samuel would possibly travel under the name Schmuel. From my family’s collection, I have evidence from his son’s marriage (Seymour Berman with Vivian Klein). The ketubah lists Seymour’s Hebrew name as יהושוע בר שמואל (Yehoshua bar-Shmuel).

He traveled with a cousin, Aaron Labunsky. The pair listed Aaron’s sister, Odella Labunsky, living in Lawrence, Massachusetts, as their final destination. Schmuel lists his closest living relative in his hometown as Feige Berman. It’s likely that this is a match with Fanny, Samuel’s mother’s American name as it has been told to me by living relatives.

If Schmuel’s destination was Lawrence, he didn’t stay long. He arrived in Boston in 1907, but by 1910 was enumerated in the Federal Census living in New York with his mother.

I have yet to find any trace of the Labunskys in Boston or New York. I also do not know how Aaron Labunsky is connected to Schmuel other than being listed as a cousin; he could either be his father’s sister’s son or Feige’s sister’s son, if he is in fact a first cousin.

Continue reading to view the Declaration of Intention and the first page of the passenger list. More documents are linked on the family tree on

Continue reading “Samuel Berman’s migration to America from Odessa”

Marriage certificates received: Berman/Neckameyer, Lustig/Sturmwald, and Klein/Herman

In order to complete the Family Tree I’ve been researching, I’ve ordered a number of birth, marriage, and death records from New York City. Last month, I received my first order, the marriage record for Sam Berman and Anna Neckameyer. Sam is my mother’s father’s father.

The record provided Sam and Anna’s parents’ names, filling in several holes, though Anna’s mother’s maiden name is a little unclear to me. I interpreted the handwriting as “Rochaurtz.” Take a look for yourself.

Continue reading “Marriage certificates received: Berman/Neckameyer, Lustig/Sturmwald, and Klein/Herman”