New York City marriage affidavits and licenses

Thanks to the work of the Reclaim the Records organization, indexes to marriage licenses are now available online for the New York City, and the information in the index can be used to order documents from the New York City Department of Records and Information Services (DORIS). These documents tends to be more complete than the marriage certificates, whose index has been available online (for a more limited range of years) for some time.

Reclaim the Records was awarded the index in two parts. Records from years 1908 through 1929 were obtained from the New York City Municipal Archives. Records from 1930 through 1995 are housed with the New York City Clerk’s Office. The former have been available since April 2016, and the latter group was made public earlier this year.

A couple of months ago, I tested the waters by ordering four documents. I expected to wait several months for delivery, but I was pleased to receive them within four weeks.

Here’s what the documents look like. Continue reading “New York City marriage affidavits and licenses”

Revisiting Feige Berman, my third great grandmother

When I first visited Mount Hebron Cemetery in Queens to find my third great grandmother, Feige Berman, I ran into some trouble., in the spot where I thought she might be interred, the stone was overturned and flat on the ground. There was no way to know whether this was Feige’s location without having the cemetery’s grounds staff reset and repoint the headstone.

I contacted the cemetery administration, and guessing that this was Feige’s headstone, paid for the repairs.

At my next visit, the headstone was properly placed and I was able to confirm that it this was, in fact, where Feige is resting. A few things have bothered me since discovering the headstone. The inscription opened up more questions than it answered. Continue reading “Revisiting Feige Berman, my third great grandmother”

Anna, my great grandmother, finally found.

After a few years of occasional research — this isn’t by any means a full-time endeavor for me — I’ve finally solved a mystery. My mother’s paternal grandmother, Anna, was born in New York City, and so I thought that confirming details about her life would have been easier. With my mother and her cousin Barbara telling stories, I expected I’d be able to learn more about her. I did, but until recently, there was little I could confirm.

All that changed recently. First, I discovered that her father’s last name was Nachamin for their first few years in the United States, not Neckameyer. The family appears to have changed the name for the chance of better success in business, but that’s just an assumption at this point. This led to not only Anna’s birth certificate, but more vital records for Anna’s siblings, including a few I was not previously aware of because they died young. Because FamilySearch has indexed, though poorly, all names on New York City vital records, I’ve been able to find much more information.

Here’s her newly-found birth certificate from New York City. Continue reading “Anna, my great grandmother, finally found.”

Celia Neckameyer Walcoff found, but without her sister Anna

My great grandmother, Anna Neckameyer Berman, is lost to time. After her husband, my great grandfather, passed away she remarried twice, and I haven’t found anyone who has been able to point me in the right direction.

Her sister, Celia, has been easier to locate. Two years ago, I found a marriage certificate for Celia Neckameyer and George Walcoff, and that was prior to knowing anything about the Neckameyer family. But since then, I’ve been in touch with Walcoff descendants, and they’ve been able to fill in many details about the Neckameyers and their relatives.

Celia Neckameyer Walcoff footstone
Celia Neckameyer Walcoff footstone

This weekend, I traveled to Beth El Cemetery in Paramus, New Jersey to visit Celia and to see if she was surrounded by family members. She is located in the Haas/Walcoff plot along with her husband George, her son Irwin Walcoff, and her daughter-in-law Helen Pollack Walcoff.

The footstones provided specific birth dates and other information that helped me complete information in the family tree. Although the probability was low, I didn’t find my great grandmother near her sister. There has been some thought that Anna is buried in Wood-Ridge or Woodbridge, New Jersey, but without her latest married name or date of death, she’s been impossible to find thus far.

I’ve visited many cemeteries over the last few years in my search for ancestors and relatives, and the staff at Beth El were probably the most friendly and helpful I’ve encountered thus far.

Berman home movies

These films were recorded by Aaron (Al) Berman from the 1940s through the 1970s. At some point in the 1990s, the 8mm reels were converted to VHS tape. Barbara Berman-Moonlight recently loaned me the VHS tapes to convert to digital format. She also provided several home recordings on vinyl that I digitized and published earlier this year.

I will need some help labeling these videos, so I’ll continue to update this page as I have more to share.

From Hirschenbein to Hirsch and back again

Marty Hirsch and Shari Berman Landes via Shari Berman Landes
Marty Hirsch and Shari Berman Landes
via Shari Berman Landes
Some old family photos included a friend and cousin of my mother and her parents, Marty Hirsch.

As I progressed through my family research over the past couple of years, my mother identified Marty as someone who might be able to provide a lot of insight. Unfortunately, they lost touch some years ago. She was familiar with Marty’s address in Manhattan, and that helped us identify the Marty Hirsch who we thought was the “right” Marty — our Marty — among many listed in New York City.

And then I came across some bad news, taking the form of Marty’s friend’s obituary. Marty was listed as predeceased in this obituary.

Marty’s mother, Lena Neckameyer Hirsch, was the sister of my great grandmother, Anna Neckameyer Berman. Because I’m interested in learning more about all the descendants of my ancestors, I researched the Hirsch family, but I wasn’t able to get very far. The marriage certificate for Lena Neckameyer was a little difficult to read, and once again, my interpretation of handwriting eventually proved to be incorrect. Lena’s husband’s name (and the name of Marty’s father) was Morris, and on the marriage certificate, his last name was Hirschenberg. Or Hirschensomething. It wasn’t clear, and I decided to go with Hirschenberg.

Lena Neckamayer and Morris Hirschenbein marriage certificate
Lena Neckamayer and Morris Hirschenbein marriage certificate

Neither the names Hirsch nor Hirschenberg revealed much about these descendants of my second great grandfather, Wolf (William) Neckameyer. But over the last week or so, I turned my attention to this family, particularly because of their closer relation to the Bermans, and Lena’s presence in home films my mother’s cousin provided me at the same time I received the Berman recordings.

Using wildcards in searches and scrutiny of the results, I determined that the name I was looking for wasn’t Hirschenberg, it was Hirschenbein. With this realization, I was able to find more census and military records for Marty Hirsch’s parents, brothers, and sisters. I still don’t know much information about the modern Hirsches, but now I have a better starting point.

One new piece of information this led me to is Marty’s brother, Arthur, who was wounded in action during World War II. Arthur’s last name was usually spelled Herschenbein.

Arthur Hirshenbein, wounded in action
Arthur Hirshenbein, wounded in action

The Aaron Berman recordings

This past weekend, I met my mother’s cousin on her mother’s side for the first time. My mother and her cousin were very close as children, but today, she lives only about thirty minutes from me in New Jersey. It took a long time for me to get the opportunity to visit, but I’m glad I did.

She shared with me stories from Brooklyn, but she had more than just memories to share. At some point, she had 8mm home movies converted to VHS, so we spent some time watching how she, her family, and occasionally including my mother spent holidays, visited Coney Island, and entertained each other. I thoroughly enjoyed the Yiddish songs performed in next to the Christmas tree.

Entertainment was a major part of life in this family, and the musical talent runs deep on the Berman side. It’s no surprise that my brother is a musician, I, while no longer practicing, studied music for a major part of my life, and other Berman descendants have talent.

My mother’s cousin also helped me complete more missing information about the descendants of my great grandfather, Samuel Wolf Berman, and suggested the burial location for my great grandmother, Anna Neckameyer Berman (who married twice after the death of Samuel). Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to determine the last name of her final husband.

Estelle "Pat" Lovejoy Berman, Aaron "Al" Berman via Shari Berman Landes
Estelle “Pat” Lovejoy Berman, Aaron “Al” Berman
via Shari Berman Landes

I learned about the musical talents of the Berman side of the family. My mother’s uncle, Aaron (Al) Berman played piano and sang, her aunt Rita Berman Abrams sang, and her great aunt Celia was also a musician. On several occasions, Al, who had a gramophone recorder, pressed 78s as the family played the piano, sang songs, and even delivered comedy. My mother’s cousin, who I visited this past weekend, had six of these 78s.

The Bermans made these recordings in the early 1950s (although the recording equipment makes the recordings sound older). During track 8, someone announces that the date is Sunday, January 2, placing the year of recording as either 1949 or 1955. At the beginning of track 9a, there is an announcement about Kathy Fiscus, a three-year-old child who died after falling into a well in 1949. Continue reading “The Aaron Berman recordings”

Rabbi Ezriel Yosef Yehuda in Russia

A few months ago while visiting the resting places of my ancestors and other relatives, I suspected a fallen gravestone to belong to my second great grandmother, Feige Berman. I asked for the stone to be reset and repointed and paid the required fee. Having discovered more ancestors buried at the same cemetery, I revisited recently. I paid a visit to Feige Berman to check on the gravestone, and it had been reset.

The engraving offered a new clue, but before I get to that, I had discovered more information about Feige from public records. Her son, Samuel, married Anna Neckameyer in 1919. This was the first marriage certificate I received from the New York Department of Records once I started searching for hard evidence beyond online tools like Ancestry.com. The certificate indicates Feige’s — or Fanny’s — maiden name is Short. That is the information I still have on my family tree, but it contradicts with something else.

Almost 30 years after Samuel was married, and outliving her son, Feige passed away. Her death certificate indicates her father’s full name is Joseph Slobus, and he was born in Russia. The name Slobus has not helped me turn up any additional information about her family. (Update: I’ve subsequently discovered the name is Slawitz.)

Feige Slobus (Short) Berman headstone
Feige Slobus (Short) Berman headstone

Feige’s gravestone, now that it is position upright, provides what could be valuable information. The Hebrew inscription of her name is as follows:

פײגא בת הרב ר’ עזריאל יוסך יהודא

“Feiga bat haRav R. Ezriel Yosef Yehuda.” This indicates her father was Rabbi Ezriel Yosef Yehuda, and as I know from census records and Feige’s death certificate, he is from Russia. Feige was born at 1848, so there is a good chance that the Rabbi was in Russia around that time. I’ve searched the internet and JewishGen, but I have not been able to find any Rabbi with that name.

I’m not sure where to go next. I’ve posted a message on the Ancestry.com message board, looking for some assistance or clues. And I’m publishing this article on my family research blog, to document my research but also to serve as an outpost in the remote chance that someone else happens to be searching for similar information.

Family tree of Feige Slobus (Short) Berman
Family tree of Feige Slobus (Short) Berman

Berman family photographs

The photographs below are courtesy of Shari Berman Landes and Joel Landes.

Adventures in Brooklyn: streets and cemeteries

A few weekends ago, I spent two days in Brooklyn with two goals. First, I wanted to visited cemeteries to document gravestones and resting places of relatives, and second, I was hoping to visit the homes in which my ancestors lived.

Sadie and Albert Lustig, Green-Wood Cemetery
My first visit was to Green-Wood Cemetery, a location that is also a national historic landmark. The grounds, while partially under construction, were quite beautiful. I may return to take the trolley tour of the location, and now that I know at least one additional relative is resting there, I have a strong reason to return. I visited Albert Lustig and Sadie Jacobs Lustig at Green-Wood. Albert is the brother of my great grandmother, Sadie Lustig Landes.

This visit introduced me to the term columbiarium. The columbarium was busy with a group of mourners, so I was careful to be very respectful of others while looking for the Lustigs’ spot.

I am not familiar with the different neighborhoods of Brooklyn, and relied on GPS to find my way. I was able to visit a few old houses to snap photographs of the their exteriors before heading out of Brooklyn.

The next day featured a trip back to Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island. There were many sites to visit, so I used a Google document to keep the day organized. The document has also helped me remember after the fact where I had been, which is important if I plan to write about these trips on this site. The first stop was Mount Hebron in Flushing to visit Samuel W. Berman, my great grandfather, and his mother, Feige Short Berman. Finding these graves took a good deal of time, even with directions from the cemetery’s office. My girlfriend, who went on these trips with me, didn’t have a great feeling about visiting this cemetery.

I’m not superstitious in any way, but once we found the stones, the bad feeling made sense. What we suspected to be Feige’s headstone had fallen. After documenting Samuel’s grave, we returned to the office to let someone know about the problem. They informed me they would have someone look at the plot, determine if the stone did belong to Feige, and send me a bill to fix it. I received the bill today. I’ll be looking forward to visiting again once the stone is reset and repointed.

After Mount Hebron, I visited my great grandmother Pearl Kerstman Rosenberg at Mount Judah. Pearl’s story has become more interesting lately. Pearl’s first husband was Shlomo Kerstman according to family history recorded by Jon Derow, mentioned in the linked article. Her maiden name is documented as Libowitz on her son Isadore’s marriage certificate, but it is recorded as Hoffman on her own death certificate, informed by her daughter Lillian. In my family tree online, I listed her birth name as Libowitz.

This has attracted the attention of someone who is a potential cousin as identified through AncestryDNA. His ancestors include Leibowitz, and he believes that the Pearl Libowitz in my tree is the Pearl Leibowitz recorded in his own family tree, someone for whom all records seem to be missing. This potential cousin also happens to have been a neighbor to my family twenty-five years ago. The coincidence is a little difficult to believe. According to the information I have, Pearl was born in or came from Odessa, while her son, Isadore, was born in Poltava. This doesn’t match with the Leibowitz history according to my potential cousin, but it doesn’t rule out the possible relationship either.

I’m now looking for additional documentation, but I haven’t had much luck finding anything prior to immigration. Isadore’s naturalization records might provide some clues, but these need to be ordered directly from the Kings County Clerk’s office and could take much longer to receive, particularly in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

After visiting Pearl, I spent more time in Brooklyn looking for old residences. Many buildings from the early twentieth century are gone, replaced with retail establishments or different buildings. In some cases, the addresses no longer exist. Moving forward in time, my family moved to different areas of Brooklyn, and these areas continue to be residential. I’ve included photography in the family tree.

The day ran long, and I didn’t make it to all the sites I had planned, but this fall I intend to return and continue my visits. A few days later, I noticed something I didn’t see in person. Samuel Berman’s headstone includes a Freemasons symbol at the top: the square and compass with the letter “G.” I didn’t expect any of my relatives to be Freemasons, but it does give me the opportunity to reach out to another organization that would potentially have records pertaining to my relatives.

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 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.

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”