According to his naturalization documents, my paternal great grandfather, Joseph Landes, arrived in the United States on 1 Sep 1899.
A search on Ancestry.com revealed a Josef Landes, a 21-year-old Romanian student born in Iași, who departed Hamburg on 20 Aug 1899 on the ship Palatia. This must have been a recently indexed document because the search result did not look familiar to me. The Hamburg passenger lists do not contain many details, but everything presented makes it likely that this record pertains to my great grandfather.
By April 1901, Joseph was living with his parents and siblings in Montréal, Canada. But he lived there for only a short time; by November that same year, he had a residence in New York and was declaring his intention to become an American citizen. Until now, I had not found an Ellis Island immigration record for Joseph, but now potentially with the name of his vessel, I could browse through the images on Ancestry.com. Many of these immigration records have not been indexed, so research requires looking through the manifest page by page.
After some browsing, I found the record for the Joseph Landes who arrived in New York on 1 Sep 1899 on the ship Palatia.
The record obviously pertains to my great grandfather. It indicates Joseph is a medical student heading to Montréal, where his brother Martin Landes is waiting for him. Everything adds up. As a result, I have some more thoughts about the experience of my Landes ancestors.
I noted previously that Joseph was a pharmacist and that he was an organizer for the landsmanshaft First Bacauer, K.U.V. It seems likely that Joseph, now confirmed to have been born in Iași like his siblings, studied pharmacy in Bacău until he was 21. At that point, he joined the rest of his family in North America.
Joseph Landes’s immigration details were missing from my records, so this find is particularly satisfying. I still have many questions about my ancestors, and after this discovery, I may find myself spending more time looking for missing immigration records by browsing the images of the record books page by page.
Over the past year, I’ve found Ancestry.com to be an excellent tool for organizing and researching my family’s history. Unfortunately, sharing the information isn’t quite as easy. I’d like to be able to share the family tree with family members while allowing the rest of the world to see public examples I write about here.
I’ve invited family members to my tree on Ancestry.com, and they can view some of the information, but they can’t view everything I’ve discovered without paying a fee. And if they don’t pay the fee, they are bombarded with advertisements and other annoyances in order to convince them to sign up for a paid membership.
I have no interest in seeing my family part with their money, so I’ve been looking for a better solution. I’ll continue to use services and software like Ancestry.com, Family Tree Maker, and MyHeritage for my own management and research pertaining to my family history, but I will also host a public, free-to-access, version of the tree here on landesfamilytree.com. The interface is not as polished as it is on Ancestry.com or any other commercial tool, but it provides access to the information to visitors and members, free of charge.
You can access the family tree website here. Currently, it contains almost 5,000 individuals, focusing mainly on my ancestors and their descendants, but I’ve also researched somewhat distant branches of the family and added them to the tree if I felt there was a good enough reason to do so.
In order to see details about living persons and other information like sources and certain media, you must log in after requesting a new account. Because of the nature of private information available, I’ll approve new accounts for only family members. Otherwise, only certain basic information will be visible.
There have been a few notable updates since my last posting:
After writing about piecing together more details about the Lepianski branch, I was contacted by a cousin who provided more details. I knew that several of Anna (Khiene Liba) Lepianski Kerstman’s brothers and sisters found their way from Yanowa, Poland (now Lithuania) to the United States, but I hadn’t discovered their whereabouts. The cousin was closer to this family and provided more information on Moisei Isaak Lepianski, who became known in the United States as Morris Lopinsky. I’m still on the look-out for Anna’s sister Esther (Ester Leia).
I most recently wrote about my relatives who perished in the Holocaust. Sophie Heimbach, my second cousin three times removed and a Sturmwald descendant, and her father both perished. Sophie’s two sisters, Frieda and Ida, both left Europe for the United States during the first decade of the twentieth century. I’ve been able to find more information about Frieda Heimbach, who married Christian Schaefer.
While reviewing my DNA matches using FamilyTreeDNA and Gedmatch, I’ve encountered several matches who are related to the Oppenheimer family, a prominent Jewish family from Germany. The Oppenheimers have many living descendants, and more than just a few are interested in tracking their family history. One branch of the Oppenheimers (Feygele, daughter of Samson Oppenheimer) consists of ancestors of a Royal Dutch family. I’ve known of my own connection to the Oppenheimers as one several marriages away from my own lineage, but I’m wondering if DNA evidence is pointing to a closer connection.
There’s no definitive conclusion as a result of DNA analysis yet, but I’m continuing to try to make sense of what is known.
In my research, I found this diagram of the Oppenheimer family tree courtesy of the Loeb Family Tree website. According to the author of the site, this tree was drawn by Samuel Dokow of Hemsbach in 1900.
In the last month, Ancestry.com has made available to the public lists of passengers departing from United Kingdom’s shores between 1890 and 1960. The information was available to the public previously, but only through The National Archives in Surrey, England, and not online in any format. The records are now fully indexed.
My first search of this database revealed great results. I immediately found departure documentation of my second great grandparents, Moses Landes and Bertha (Brauna) Yeruslavitz Landes, on the ship S.S. Vancouver. The couple, born in Romania, traveled from Liverpool to Montréal, and later settled in New York City.
The record shows that Moses and Bertha traveled with two companions. The first looks like it may be Sam Landes, though this document indicates the traveler is female, with an unreadable age (indexed as 22). The second is Edith Yeruslavitz, a housekeeper, age 58. Could this be Bertha’s mother? Or perhaps her aunt? Or (or and) maybe the mother of Martin Landes’s wife Pearl Yeruslavitz Landes. She is listed as married, so my assumption is that she married into the Yeruslavitz family, and is thus unlikely to be Bertha’s sister.
The departure date on the record is incorrectly listed on Ancestry.com as 30 April 1900; it’s actually 30 August 1900. With this information, I was able to browse the Library and Archives Canada collection of immigration records, and I found the corresponding arrival records on 9 September 1900.
The scan isn’t at a very high resolution, but the only illegible piece of information is the street address of the Landes family’s destination. This record, when compared to the United Kingdom departure list, provides a different age for the companion Sam Landes, listed here as a farmer rather than a servant; Edith Yeruslavitz is listed as a servant rather than a housekeeper. The group’s destination is Moses Landes’s son, living on a street I can’t read.
I’d like to tie Sam Landes and Edith Yeruslavitz into the family, but I don’t know exactly where they fit yet. I have found a Samuel Landes in New York, and although records for this Samuel Landes indicate he was also born in Romania, his birth year is not the same as what is listed in either of these documents and his date of immigration would have been prior to this travel in 1900.
Finding immigration records further back for Moses and Bertha might prove to be impossible. If they traveled on foot from Romania to England, there’s unlikely to be any kind of documentation, available online or not, of their travels.
There’s no question that had I started researching my family history earlier, I would have had a much easier time reaching conclusions. My paternal grandmother passed away in 2009, and I wasn’t particularly good at staying in touch with relatives separated by distance. Had I been, I might have also been inspired to learn more about the family while those who were the most knowledgeable were still able to share their stories.
I’m hearing now that two of my grandmother’s closest friends might have been her cousins. To research this, I looked through census and immigration records to verify a connection within the last few generations. I didn’t get very far, and I haven’t found any clues that would help me. When I got stuck, I decided to take another look at my confirmed family tree and try to work outwards, towards these two potential cousins, starting from where I would expect them to be in the tree if they were in fact cousins.
This led me to examine the immigration records for the Lepianski family again. My grandmother’s mother was known in the United States as Anna Lapinsky (married name Kerstman) but she spelled her name Chiene Lipansky when she traveled from Lithuania. Indexes to Lithuanian records are readily available online thanks to JewishGen, and this allowed me to explore this branch of my tree deeper in history than any with other ancestor. Lithuanian records transliterate her name as Khiena Liba Lepianski (or Lepiansky), and provided links to her brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles, for several generations. The records aren’t as easy to navigate as those on Ancestry.com, but they are surprisingly complete.
Before reviewing the Lithuanian records, I was aware that Anna’s mother, Ruth, my second great grandmother, was living with the family here in the United States by the time she was older. The Lithuanian records helped me realize that she would have traveled to the United States using the name Rochel Lepianski, and that led me to even more information about her other daughters — Anna’s sisters — who also came to the United States. At the time I was researching this branch, months ago, my discoveries ended here. I didn’t find anything about more Lepianskis living in the United States.
Last night, however, I discovered what I missed. In the ship manifest for Rochel’s arrival in the United States, she mentions her contact in the United States her son. I did some preliminary research on this individual months ago and nothing turned up, but with fresh eyes, the handwriting became clearer. She and her daughter, Kreina, came to the United States to stay with her son (in law), Frank Ratzken (spelled incorrectly on the manifest as Ratzkin). I was able to track Frank to Paterson, New Jersey, where he and his family were in the business of silk. His wife was Minnie.
A little more research in Frank’s own naturalization papers confirmed his marriage into the Lepianski family. His papers pointed out that his wife, Minnie, was born in Jonava, Lithuania (Yanowa, Poland at the time). That led me to Minnie’s naturalization information, which provided the name under which she immigrated to the United States: Minnie Lopinksy. Her birth date coincides with the birth date for Khiene’s sister Mina Lepianski, and I’m confident enough that the two records are identifying the same person.
In case there was still any doubt about the family connection, one of the witnesses to Minnie’s Declaration of Intention was Isadore Kerstman, Minnie’s brother-in-law.
By 1930, the Ratzken family, including the children of Mina Lepianksi, was living just a few houses down the street from my maternal grandfather’s house.
Although I haven’t yet found a connection to my grandmother’s two friends and possible cousins, a few hours of research have helped me identify blood relatives in the United States, and has given me a better picture of how the Lepianki family gradually came to the United States.
It wouldn’t be family history research if it didn’t create even more questions:
What happened to Kreina Lepianski after she came to the United States with her mother Rochel?
In 1910, Frank Ratzken’s home includes a boarder, Jennie Libynsky. Could this be Mina’s and Khiena Liba’s sister Sheina Mikhlia Lepianski?
Different census recount different marriage dates for Frank and Minnie (Mina), and stevemorse.org is silent on the issue of marriage.
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:
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 Ancestry.com, stevemorse.org, 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 Ancestry.com, 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 Ancestry.com.