The Slawitz family: Feige Slawitz Berman and Chaia Sarah Slawitz Stein

I have to admit that I haven’t had a lot of time for family tree research over the last few years. The result is that progress has been slow.

But as more and more people are sharing their own research on, I was able to stumble upon some proof that confirmed the theory I posited in my last entry way back in March 2016. (Has it really been that long?)

The crux was that the inscription on the headstone for my third great grandmother (my mother’s father’s father’s mother), Feige or Fannie Berman, included the words “our beloved aunt and grandmother.” At the time, I was unaware of Feige having any siblings. And research was difficult because sources (her son’s marriage certificate and her own death certificate) gave her two different maiden names (Short, and Slobus, respectively). Continue reading “The Slawitz family: Feige Slawitz Berman and Chaia Sarah Slawitz Stein”

Birth records from Czecze don’t include Joseph Lustig

I’ve discovered very little about My second great grandfather Joseph Lustig. The 1900 census indicates he was born in January 1855, I have his parents’ names from his own death certificate and marriage certificate, and the death certificates of one of his children indicates he was born in the town of Czecze, Hungay, which seems to correspond to the town currently known as Cece.

Joseph Lustig came to the United States in 1875 or 1876 and became a naturalized American citizen by 1900. I haven’t been able to find any documentation of his naturalization, immigration, or any other events prior to his arrival in the United States. I have found his listings in New York City directories for various years.

Joseph Lustig's HeadstoneAfter asking for some assistance brainstorming within the Hungary Exchange Facebook Group, I decided to order a microfilm from the Family History Library that should help. In the 1950s, volunteers in Budapest photographed synagogue and church records, including births, marriages, and deaths, in the towns not far from this capital city. Cece was one of these towns.

The microfilm arrived at my local Family History Center in East Brunswick, New Jersey earlier this week, so I took a couple hours out of my day to visit the center and scroll through the microfilm. I found several entries for Lustig (or Lusztig) in Cece, but none appeared to be associated with Joseph Lustig. I could not find his parents’ names, either.

I left the center a little disappointed. After arriving back home, I began digging through some more records. I made a careful record of the changes of his home address, and then discovered something new. Joseph Lustig, my second great grandfather, was listed as a witness to the naturalization of another Lustig from Hungary living in New York City, Nathan Lustig, in 1902. I haven’t figured out whether there is a relationship between Joseph and Nathan, but it seems likely.

I found more information on Nathan, whose father was Elias Lustig. Nathan’s naturalization documents include a testimonial from Joseph stating that he is Nathan’s brother, but the ages make this seem unlikely, and neither of Nathan’s parents’ names coincide with any of the varied names of Joseph’s parents. In another location in the naturalization papers, Joseph is indicated as Nathan’s uncle. Nathan would be the right age to be Joseph’s nephew. There is a probability that when Nathan and Elias arrived in New York in 1891, they knew Joseph had been living in the city for several years, and Joseph might have even helped Nathan and Elias immigrate.

If it’s true that Joseph is Nathan’s uncle, Joseph and Elias would be brothers. There’s about thirteen years’ difference in age between Joseph and Elias, which isn’t impossible for brothers. However, a family history document written by Mortimer Landes, Joseph’s grandson, says the following: “Joseph had no brothers or sisters as far as I know — but there were many cousins from his side — and I still have contact with some of them.” Morty died twenty years ago, so I never had a chance to ask who these cousins may be. Perhaps Elias and Nathan Lustig are some of those cousins.

Updated spellings after new information

A few days ago, I spoke to another cousin, a first cousin twice removed, who found me thanks to the progress I’ve posted online as I research certain branches of my ancestry. He offered a wealth of information about the descendants of Wolf Neckameyer.

He mentioned that my great grand aunt, Celia Neckameyer Walcoff, held a job as a model for an uncle whose last name was Kashowitz. The name rang a bell. Earlier in my research, I obtained the marriage certificate for my great grandparents, Anna Neckameyer and Samuel Berman. I had a hard time interpreting the handwriting on the form, and I’m still getting used to interpreting different handwriting styles.

At first, I interpreted Anna’s mother’s maiden name on the certificate as “Rochaurtz.” This never sat well with me, and after further examination, and with the assistance of Lena Neckameyer’s marriage certificate where the name was written more clearly, I was happy with my new reading of “Rashowitz.” Although the cousin I spoke with didn’t know how Celia’s uncle was related, the fact that he said his name was “Kashowitz” forced me to go back to the marriage certificate once again.

With the new knowledge, it’s clear that the name is Kashowitz. The handwriting on Anna and Samuel’s marriage certificate is still a little suspect, but when I look closely, I can see that the initial is most definitely a “K” rather than an “R.”

Armed with the name Rashowitz and the possibility that more relatives were living in New York at the beginning of the twentieth century, I’ve discovered quite a few families with the last name Rashowitz documented in census records. I have yet to make any solid connection between these Rashowitz households and Rebecca Rashowitz, the first wife of Wolf Neckameyer, and the mother of my great grandmother Anna.

The three images below are how Rebecca Kashowitz’s name appears on three marriage certificates. I’ve slightly edited the images to get rid of lines from entries above and below the mother’s maiden name on the certificate.

Kashowitz on Marriage Certificate #1
Kashowitz on Marriage Certificate #1
Kashowitz on Marriage Certificate #2
Kashowitz on Marriage Certificate #2
Kashowitz on Marriage Certificate #3
Kashowitz on Marriage Certificate #3

Also, after receiving the naturalization documentation and death certificates for Martin Landes and his wife Pearl (Pauline), I’ve decided to change the spellings of Pearl’s maiden name, which happens to be the same as Martin’s mother’s maiden name (Bertha Brauna). I had been using the German-based spelling: Jereslawitz or Jaruslawitz. Many immigrants from Eastern Europe arrived in the United States will German spellings for their names, and that seems to come out of the fact that many boarded ships in Bremen, Germany. The boarding agent who transcribed the names simply wrote down what he heard using the letters he’s accustomed to associating with certain sounds.

As time passed, families took on the Anglicized spelling, using y instead of j for the Yiddish and Hebrew letter י, using v instead of w for the Yiddish װ. While there still is some inconsistency, I’m standardizing the name with spelling Yaruslavitz. This should also be closest to what I imagine the Yiddish spelling would have been (ירושלאַװיץ) or the Hebrew spelling (ירוסלביץ) using English transliteration rather than German.

Update: As I’ve found more, later records for newly discovered members of the Yeruslavitz family, this spelling is more common, so I’m updating the tree to reflect Yeruslavitz.

Sometimes the clues fall into place

Just a few days ago, I wrote about how my search to connect my grandmother’s friends, rumored to be relatives, led me in a different direction. It helped me discover previously unknown-to-me cousins.

This was a result of two-pronged research. I was researching my grandmother’s friend’s family to try to find a connection while also looking at my known relatives, immigrants from Lithuania, to see if there was a path I hadn’t traveled. While I was researching the friend’s family, I took note of the home addresses I found in the Brooklyn city directories on

Anna Lepianski Kerstman's petition for naturalization
Anna Lepianski Kerstman’s petition for naturalization

I periodically look through the hard copy records I’ve ordered received from various record keeping agencies, like the New York City Department of Records and the National Archives. In looking at my great grandmother’s naturalization documents, I noticed the address listed for one of the witnesses matched the address I had found just a few days earlier. The naturalization was witnessed in 1938, so I decided to try the 1940 U.S. Federal Census to see if more family information would lead me to some new clues.

Visiting the Steve Morse website, I used the Enumeration District finder for the 1940 Census to pull up the images from’s database. About three quarters of the way through the images, I found the address of my grandmother’s friend, and living there was the witness, Jennie Cohen. If the name weren’t so common, I could have just searched the index, but with several hundred Jennie Cohens in Brooklyn in 1940, that tactic wouldn’t have helped me reach the result nearly as quickly as browsing through the images in search of the address.

Tracing this family back from 1940 through Federal and New York State Censuses, I saw the Cohens lived with or near the Ratzkens from about the time Sheina arrived in the United States. I mused the other day whether the Jenny Libynsky living with Frank Ratzken as a boarder in 1910 would be Sheina Mikhlia Lipianski, and I am now all but certain that this is the case. Sheina, or Jenny, married Israel Cohen in 1915, and I’ve already ordered the marriage certificate from the New York Department of Records for more confirmation. Their daughter, Bernice, is my grandmother’s friend we have suspected to be a relative.

My great grandmother’s naturalization documentation made sense: her two witnesses were her husband and her sister.

This is a good reminder that all the details on records are important, even witnesses and their addresses.

Discovered cousins in the Lepianski branch: the Ratzken family

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, 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.

Additions to Lepianski branch of the family tree

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 is silent on the issue of marriage.

Naturalization documents received for Paulina (Pearl) Landes

Pearl Landes, Petition for Naturalization [National Archives]
An index of naturalization records pointed me to a potential record number for Pearl Jaruslawitz/Jereslawitz Landes’s naturalization in the United States. I ordered the naturalization documents from the National Archives regional center in Chicago, and received the package in seven days. The information included confirms that the record pertains to the Pearl Landes who would be my great grand aunt.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I re-evaluated some handwriting which led me to a different conclusion about Pearl’s children with Martin Landes, but these documents helped clarify even more details. I previously determined that a Canadian birth record indicated Pearl had a son on 1 June 1903 named Isack or Isaac. I was already familiar with a son born around 1904 with the name Isadore, Irwin, or Irving. I assumed that Isaac was yet another alternative name for the same child.

The naturalization documentation is the first piece of evidence to provide a specific date of birth for this child (listed in Pearl’s Petition for Naturalization as Irving). This date of 13 August 1904 is too far removed from the Isaac’s recorded birth of 1 June 1903. If I can trust these dates of birth, Isaac and Irving are two separate individuals, but I’m still not sure. The document lists only four surviving children, which excludes both Isaac and Lillie, the two children whose only evidence I’ve found so far are the Montréal birth records. A Michigan death record for Irwin Landes, recorded in 1981, also offers a birth date of 1 June 1903, which would have been Isaac’s birth date. A census record indicates Isadore was born in August 1903. It’s a confusing mess.

The documents indicate Pearl arrived in Detroit via the C.N.N.R. — Canadian National Rail Road. Prior to moving to Detroit, she and her family lived in Montréal, Canada, and before that, they immigrated from Romania. The Petition for Naturalization also pinned down Pearl’s date of marriage to Martin.

Pearl Landes. Oath of Allegiance [National Archives]
Pearl Landes, Certificate of Arrival [National Archives]

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:

Continue reading “Anna Lipansky Kerstman’s naturalization papers provide new clues”

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.

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”