Landes immigration map

Moses Landes, my second great grandfather, migrated from Romania to North America, and his sons also followed a similar path at different times. While Moses traveled through Liverpool, my great grandfather, Joseph Landes, traveled through Hamburg. Within a few years, they were reunited in Montréal first, then New York City. I’ve written more details about the Landes family history here.

Using Google Maps, I’ve highlighted the important locations — residences and ports — for these Landes ancestors. Because I still haven’t determined some city and town details prior to immigration, when only a country name has been confirmed, the location in the map is Google’s center marker for that country.

The timeline extends from the birth of my second great grandfather to the death of my grandfather, Herbert Landes.

The map is fully interactive. Note: this map will not be visible in email or on other sites. If you don’t see the map included in this article, visit the article on its home on the Landes Family Tree Research website.

National Library Week: Free access to ProQuest’s obituary database

National Library Week is celebrated across the country from April 13 through 19, 2014, and ProQuest has been providing free access to several of their popular databases. I still have access to ProQuest through my former graduate program’s website, but I found ProQuest’s own tools to be much more successful.

In particular, ProQuest’s obituary database, which includes more than 10.5 million obituaries and death notices, has helped me quickly find information about my relatives without searching through thousands of pages on microfilm. The search facility seems to be much better than what I’ve previously used, as the results for similar searchers were much more plentiful and relevant through ProQuest’s own interface.

Herbert Landes Obituary [New York Times]
Herbert Landes Obituary [New York Times]

Most notably, I found obituaries for my grandfather, Herbert Landes, and great grandfather, Joseph Landes. Although these notices appeared in the easily-searchable New York Times, I hadn’t come across them until now.

Note that the New York Times obituary for Joseph Landes includes yet another, different, mistake regarding the name of the landsmanschaft with which he was involved. The Practical Druggist and Pharmaceutical Review of Reviews called the organization “First Berauer, K. N. V.” in its announcement of Joseph’s death; the New York Times gets farther from accuracy with “First Berzuer K. N. V.” The organization should be listed as “First Bacauer K.N.V.” I imagine type typesetters and typists were not very familiar with these organizations.

In order to access the free ProQuest obituaries database, visit ProQuest’s National Library Week feature, scroll to the bottom, and activate the link says, “Access ProQuest Obituaries.”

These newspapers are included in the free search:

  • Atlanta Constitution (1868-1922)
  • Boston Globe (1872-1922)
  • Chicago Defender (1921-1975)
  • Chicago Tribune (1852-1984)
  • Los Angeles Times (1881-1984)
  • New York Times (1851-1994)
  • Washington Post (1877-1950)
Joseph Landes Obituary [New York Times]
Joseph Landes Obituary [New York Times]

If you try to visit this link directly, without viewing the National Library Week page first, you will be required to log-in using your ProQuest access credentials. The only way to view the database for free this week is through the National Library Week page.

So far, I have found more than 25 death notices and obituaries using this free database, many of which I wasn’t able to find using my regular ProQuest account. The obituaries that I’ve found for potential relatives have been helpful in identifying more of their family members, and might someday be helpful in connecting the dots between my confirmed relatives and others who I suspect are closely related.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle archives are available for free

With so much of my family history throughout the last century and a half having taken place in Brooklyn, New York, the Brooklyn Eagle, the borough’s hometown newspaper, has been a valuable source for me as I try to piece history together.

And technology has made research so much easier. If I were taking on this project a decade ago, I’m sure it would require long nights at a library, shuffling the pages of newspapers, or scrolling through microfilm. Luckily, I’ve been aided in my research through the Fulton History website, a collection of New York newspapers. The collection includes the Brooklyn Eagle and other newspapers that would be relevant to New York researchers. The pages of the newspapers have been scanned and run through optical recognition software, and that makes the text of the paper searchable.

The search functions on the Fulton History website are fairly robust, but the interface isn’t the easiest to use. It does, however, provide close match results, and that’s important when dealing with scanned and machine-interpreted text. That means I can use “Sturmwald” as a search term, and the Fulton History website will provide results that are almost Sturmwald.

I prefer using Google to search the Fulton History website. This makes the results easier to view, but because this method of searching will provide different results than the search form on the site itself, I usually do both.

Now, however, there is a new collection of old Brooklyn Daily Eagle issues. The Brooklyn Public Library has teamed up with to offer the archives of the Brooklyn Eagle for free. The library’s scans seem to be much cleaner than those on the Fulton History website, making the searchable index somewhat more accurate, and the website is a lot faster and more responsive than the other.

This doesn’t replace the Fulton History website. First of all, Fulton History has more newspapers in the website’s database than he Brooklyn Daily Eagle, including other newspapers that cover issues in Brooklyn. The search form does not allow close matches, so if I were looking for “Sturmwald,” I’d also have to construct queries that include “Sturnwald,” “Strumwald,” Strunwald,” “Sturmwalt,” and an infinite number of varieties just to try to ensure I’m getting everything I’d like to see.

Herbert Landes [Brooklyn Daily Eagle]

Herbert Landes [Brooklyn Daily Eagle]

The Daily Eagle archives from the Brooklyn Public Library seem to be more complete. I was able to find this photograph of my grandfather, Herbert Landes, using the new, free site.

In the photo, readers get a view of part of Herbert’s face, and not much else. But the caption says those in the picture are signing a petition in a drug store at the corner of 41st St. and 5th Ave., and in 1931, that would just happen to be the location of the Landes Pharmacy, operated by Herbert’s widowed mother at that time.

While an item like this is interesting, it doesn’t add much to my family tree. But the Brooklyn Daily Eagle has still been very helpful in identifying vital records, with death notices, as well as birth and marriage announcements.

For saving these articles as newspaper clippings to my personal finance tree, I generally copy the screenshot of the article. With, I can continue to do this, but the site also offers a “save to” option, which saves a link to the newspaper page as a genealogical source.

Thanks to the Brooklyn Public Library and for providing this feature for free; I’m hoping it remains free for the foreseeable future.

Obituary for Moses Landes, 1926

On December 3, the Canadian Jewish Review published a death notice or obituary for my second great grandfather, Moses Landes. Moses found his way from Iași, Romania to Montréal, Canada to New York City. And although he was living in New York City when he died in 1926, he still had family ties to Montréal, where his son Martin was working as a salesperson. A month after Moses’s death, Martin was naturalized in the United States.

The Canadian Jewish Review often shared the social comings and goings of the community. It was the Facebook of its day, where everyone in society would let the rest of the community know about their travels, their parties, and their major life events. Here is the death notice published about Moses Landes.

The death occurred Wednesday, November 24, of Moses Landes, of New York City, after an illness of several years. Besides his wife, he is survived by two sons, Martin of Detroit, Mich.; Charlie, of New York; nine grandchildren, one great grand-child, and his one daughter, Mrs. Adolphe Goldenberg, of New York City; and one sister, Mrs. Cohen, of St. Louis, Mo.

My great grandfather, Joseph Landes, died in 1925; Bertha Brauna Yeruslavitz Landes, my second great grandmother and wife of Moses, died in 1927. I still have not been able to determine the identity of the sister of Moses Landes. I’ve searched through all of the publicly-available St. Louis city and county death certificates after 1926 for women with the last name Cohen, and I haven’t found one that is definitively a daughter of Joseph Hersh Landes and Perla Leah.

Moses Landes Obituary [Canadian Jewish Review]
Moses Landes Obituary [Canadian Jewish Review]

Death certificate for my great grandmother: VitalChek orders

About a year ago, I ordered death certificates from New York City through VitalChek. VitalChek is an online service from Lexis/Nexis that has created partnerships with just about every municipality that generates vital certificates. And in many cases, the only way to order certificates online from these municipalities is to order through VitalChek. The alternatives are to order birth, marriage, and death certificates by mail or in person.

In New York City, the Municipal Archives, a division of the Department of Records, holds birth certificates dated prior to 1910, marriage certificates prior to 1930, and death certificates prior to 1949. For $15 per certificate plus a shipping fee, you can order any certificate held. They are part of the public record due to their age.

These are easy to order online from the NYC Municipal Archives genealogical resources. Because my family has so much of its history over the last century and a half in New York City, I’ve been ordering these records for as long as I’ve been doing family history research.

I should point out that this isn’t the least expensive option for ordering these records. The Family History Library of the Church of Latter-Day Saints has these certificates on microfilm, and they can accept orders through an online form, and they can return scans of the certificates through email. This service is free, but there is a long turnaround time. The library also discourages people who live near a Family History Center from using this “free duplication” service.

You can, however, order the microfilm to be delivered to a local Family History Center. You can view the microfilm there and pay a very small fee to print a copy of the certificate you’re looking for. This isn’t free like the email service, and requires a lot of work if you have many certificate to order.

Certificates for New York City vital records more recent than the dates mentioned above must be ordered from the Department of Health (for birth and death certificates) or the Office of the City Clerk (for marriage certificates). This process can be much more complicated. You can order some certificates online through VitalChek. For example, you can order birth certificates, but only if your name appears on the certificate. That means that the certificate would generally need to be your own or your child’s. Otherwise, you need to order by mail or in person. Ordering by mail requires some kind of documentation of your identity and relationship, and the form must be notarized.

For death certificates, when ordering online, you need to be a blood relative, and VitakChek will verify your identity by accessing your credit report via your Social Security number. This is the process I used last year to order death certificates for my great grandparents on my maternal grandmother’s side, Jack (Jacob) Klein and Lillian Herman Klein. The order went though, but I never received anything. I had successfully ordered certificates through VitalChek in the past, but there was no response to these.

Last month, without realizing I had already tried to order Lillian’s death certificate last year, I placed a new order. This attempt was much more successful, and the certificate arrived thirteen days later. The certificate provided me with several new addresses, another confirmation of my second great grandfather’s full name (Samuel Wolf Herman, one f in Wolf, though there is no guarantee this spelling is correct), and, most relevant, her date of death. The date of death I originally listed was two days off.

VitalChek isn’t always consistent. Last year, I tried ordering this same certificate, and I never received a response. By the time I followed up, my order status expired. Although I track my orders — not just from VitalChek but from all sources — in a spreadsheet, I didn’t follow up in time.

Lillian Herman's Death Certificate
Lillian Herman’s Death Certificate