I wouldn’t say I’ve broken through another brick wall, but I’ve started chipping away a frustrating barrier. My great grandmother, Anna Neckameyer Berman, is still a bit of an enigma. She remarried several times after my great grandfather passed away, and all though my relatives are sure the cemetery in which she is interred, I have not been able to find her.
I had until recently been unable to find a birth record for her, as well, even though she was born in New York City.
A few new pieces of information, when put together, helped uncover some of the “truth.”
While looking for the Neckameyer headstones at Union Field Cemetery in Brooklyn, a cemetery that does not have an index online, I came across this stone marking the grave of Anna’s mother, Becky. I later found the same headstone indexed on JewishData, so I’ve begun using that site more frequently as a resources as well.
The stone contains some interesting information. Occasionally, stones include a hidden message in the form of an acrostic. If you’ve ever as a kid taken the letters of your name and used each letter as the first letter of a word or sentence, you may have been following in this tradition without knowing it.
This acrostic is Hebrew prose, which I have not yet had translated, where the first letters of each line spell out Becky’s name. But there’s a problem. The acrostic letters spell Rebecca, daughter of Abraham Moshe Nachamin (רבקה בת אברהמ משה נאכאמינ). Note that because this is an acrostic, the final forms of the Hebrew letters aren’t used.
When I saw this, I just assumed it was a two-fold mistake. Becky’s birth name was Kashowitz, not Neckameyer — or Nachamin.
At the time, I didn’t think much of this, dismissing “Nachamin” as an error, and moved on.
But recently, FamilySearch updated their indices for New York City vital records to include more information about additional names on the certificates. You can search birth records, marriage records, and death records. The quality of the indexing is low, but I understand it’s difficult to read handwriting.
When searching these indices for various spellings of Kashowitz, I noticed that several records that included Becky Kashowitz named her husband as Wolf Nachamin (with some room for handwriting interpretation). Not only did I find a reference to Anna Nachamin’s birth certificate, of which I will order a copy soon, but I found birth and death records for two of Anna’s siblings, Louis and Rachel. I had never seen any previous records for these individuals because they passed away as children (not appearing on any census records) and the vital records contained the name Nachamin.
Thankfully, the FamilySearch index (unlike all other indices, like on Ancestry.com and Steve Morse’s website), provides enough additional information to confirm that these two records are my relatives. I also found the birth record for Anna’s brother Irving Neckameyer, under the name Isaac Nachamin.
Another problem I’ve had is that while I’ve known that the Neckameyer (Nachamin) family arrived in the United States prior to 1900, I had been unable to find any reference to them in the 1900 Federal Census. So I tried another search technique on Ancestry.com that I should use more frequently: I searched without a last name, using just the first names of all family members, pulling up any households with Wolf, Becky, Lena, Celia, Anne, and Irving.
I immediately found a household with the last name written on the census record as if it could be Noshanna.
This puts the timing of the name change in English from Nachamin to Neckameyer between 1900 and 1905. But why would Wolf decide to change the family’s name from Nachamin to Neckameyer? He did frequently use an Anglicized first name, William, particularly in dealing with his business partnership in the garment industry, but the switch from Nachamin to Neckameyer, still a “Jewish-sounding” name, is confusing. Maybe Neckameyer had a more German ring to it rather than Eastern Europe, and German immigrants were generally seen as economically superior and better businessmen.
Despite these developments in my research, I’ve still been unable to find immigration documentation for the Nachamin family. They were living in Minsk before emigrating, then Russia but now Belarus, and perhaps in the Koidenov area of Minsk like the Kashowitz family. Wolf, Becky, and their first two children (Louis and Lena) arrived around 1890 according to other census records, but they were never naturalized (except for Lena who was naturalized through her husband, Morris Hirschenbein).