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Genealogy Update

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  • SusanneLevitsky@aol.com
    Jewish Genealogical Society of Sacramento _www.jgss.org_ (http://www.jgss.org/) July 27, 2009 Upcoming Meetings: Monday, August 17, 7 p.m. -- Ron Young,
    Message 1 of 59 , Jul 27, 2009

       

      Jewish Genealogical Society

      of Sacramento

      www.jgss.org

      July 27, 2009

       

      Upcoming Meetings:

      Monday, August 17, 7 p.m. --  Ron Young, Converting 35mm Slides to Video

      Monday, September 14, 7 p.m. --  Jerry Unruh, Using the Internet for Genealogy

      Sunday, October 18, 10 a.m. -- Roy Ogus, The South African Jewish Community

       

      Notes from the July 20, 2009 Meeting

      President Mort Rumberg introduced the evening’s speaker, Dr. Joel Weintraub of Dana Point.  Joel is an emeritus biology professor at Cal State, Fullerton, who has volunteered for many years at the National Archives facility in Laguna Niguel.  He has also worked with Steve Morse since 2002.

      Joel’s two-hour presentation focused on the 1940 U.S. census which will be open and available to the public in April 2012.

      “It’s 986 days away -- two and a half years,” he said about the opening of the census.  And since April 1, 2012 is a Sunday, he guesses Monday, April 2 will be the first day the data will be available.

       

       

       

       

      Why talk about it now, Joel asks?  “Because it’s the last good genealogy census, we can showcase one-step tools and we’re looking for volunteers.  And everything you know about why the census is released after 72 years is wrong.”

      Taking us back to 1940, Joel noted that the minimum wage was 30 cents an hour, unemployment was about 15 percent.  The census started April 2, 1940, “a frozen moment in time.”

      Joel provided definitions used, such as enumerator (the counter), schedule (the forms the enumerator filled out) and ED (enumeration district). 

      “Those alive on that day are counted,” -- or are they? 

      Joel said his main research sources are a 1940 enumeration handbook, old newspaper columns and archives, a scrapbook of clippings he found on eBay, films, and a book on procedural history.

      He said planning began for the census with a committee created in 1937. Some 6,000 questions were suggested to be included in the census. Among those rejected: do you own a Bible, are you over 6 feet tall, and how many dogs do you own?  (Although one county in New York took a dog census in 1941-- enumerators were paid 20 cents a dog, versus four cents usually provided for humans in the regular census.)

      Joel showed a clip from a short Three Stooges movie (1940) focusing no the census: “No Census, No Feeling.”

      The government did a trial census using two counties in Indiana.

      Highlights of the 1940 Census questions:

      -- Name

      -- Who gave the information

      -- A new question: What is your highest grade completed?  (In 1930 they had asked whether the person was able to read and write.  In 1940, an estimated 1/4 of the population had a high school education.)

      Dropped was a question about parents’ birthplaces; there was no immigration information or dates, or naturalization, just one citizenship column.)

      The 1930 census was not a Depression census -- it hit after.  But the 1940 census did include a question regarding residence as of April 1, 1935, and did you move from a rural area or a city greater than 2,500 people.

      Employment questions -- Did you work the week before the Census date? Were you on relief?

      Some of those in CCC camps may have not been counted, some may have been counted twice.

      The last question --- How much money did you earn? And did you earn more than $50 from other than wages or salary?  People got furious about this question, Joel said.

      The average wage in 1940 was about $1900.

       

      Senator Charles Tobey of New Hampshire opposed the census and advocated a national census strike.

      If you didn’t want to tell the enumerator something, you were able to fill out the form, place it in a sealed envelope.  The enumerator noted where you lived and put a “C” for confidential on his form.

      For the 1940 census, Joel said 5 percent of the population was sampled -- this was the first year of population sampling.  These people answered additional questions.

      Joel said the trend has been less questions for everybody and more sampling.  On the 2010 census form, he said there are only 10 questions.

      “The 1940 census was the last good genealogical census,” Joel said.

      In promoting public awareness of the 1940 census, a record was made and distributed to radio stations, and  a slogan developed: To Know America, Tell America.

      In 1940, Joel said they began to estimate the undercount of the census.  About six months after the census, there was mandatory Selective Service registration.  Based on that data, there were 13 percent more blacks and 3 percent more non-blacks.

      On opening day of the census, what can you expect, Joel asked.

      -- Most likely, there will population schedules  online (no film)

      -- There will be no name index

      Geographical searches and locational tools

      Check out www.stevemorse.org, census folder -- where search tools are posted.

      Joel has manually transcribed 28 rolls of film, the National Archives is proofing.  There will be a city block index, and information about changes in enumeration districts from the1930 to 1940 censuses.

      “We can use volunteers” to do more, Joel said.

      All cities over 50,000 in population are done and will be searchable.  Joel has taken photos of more than 61,000 frames from 1940 films.   “We have lots of tools all dressed up and ready to go.”

      The 72-Year Rule and Confidentiality

      Joel presented a chronology about the census itself as well as the 72-year rule for release of census data.

      In the Constitution, in 1787, Congress was given the right to direct the census.  States have also taken censuses -- New York completed its last one in 1925.

      In the 1790 census, there was no confidentiality and the tradition of census data being public continued until 1850.

      Presidential proclamations beginning with William Howard Taft stressed the confidential nature of the census, but Joel said the Census Bureau didn’t follow along, and in 1917, used some of the information to track down draft evaders.  In 1940, census data was used to aid in the internment of the Japanese.  “And, on at least one occasion,” Joel said, “in 1943, names were given to the FBI.”

      In Canada, census data is closed for 92 years, and now, if you say you don’t want your information to be disclosed, it won’t.  In Australia its 99 years and 100 years in England.

      Why 72 years in the U.S.? “It has nothing to do with life expectancy,” Joel said.

      Is it because there are 72 columns around the National Archives building? No.

      Here’s why:  the 1870 census records were transferred to the Archives in 1942 and released -- 72 years after they were taken.  It became the tradition, records being closed for a period of 72 years.  (FYI, the life expectancy for those born in 1870, was 66.2 years.)

      Joel then traced the history of divergent views on census records disclosure and restrictions, with debates between the head of the National Archives and the head of the Census Bureau.  The Census Bureau usually advocated for confidentiality, the Archives for openness and the right to know.

      In 1973, it was decided that confidentiality restrictions were no longer necessary.  Joel said there were three things that continued to support this view -- 1) House Speaker Carl Albert was interested in genealogy, 2) so was President Jimmy Carter, and 3) the acclaim of the book “Roots,” tracing Alex Haley’s genealogy.

      But, Joel said, “the director of the Census Bureau and the Archivist could changes the rule tomorrow if they wanted to.”

      For more information on Joel Weintraub’s presentation and related efforts, see his Web site at http://members.cox.net/census1940/

      ------------

      Treasurer’s report from Allan Bonderoff:  Our JGSS account balance is currently $1320.25 after recent expenditures.  Your annual dues go to purchase books for our library, provide small honorariums to our speakers and more.

       

      From recent editions of Avotaynu’s E-Zine:


      New Book: Handbook of Ashkenazic Given Names and Their Variants
      The most important part of Alexander Beider’s name dictionaries is not the dictionary portion but the introductory portion, a scholarly dissertation on the book’s subject. It was this portion of his first book, A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire, that established him as one of the world’s leading authorities on the origin and evolution of Jewish surnames in Eastern Europe. The 300-page introductory portion of his Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names actually is his doctoral thesis at the Sorbonne’s Dept. of History.

       Dr. Beider has created a new book, Handbook of Ashkenazic Given Names and Their Variants which is that portion of the larger 
      Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names: Their Origins, Structure, Pronunciation, and Migrations focusing on the needs of genealogists. Missing from the smaller work is the doctoral thesis and the portion citing sources for all the variant names. Included in the Handbook is the description of the origin and evolution of the name, a tree-like structure of all the name variants showing how they were derived from the root name, and the all-important indexes which list all 15,000 names derived from the 735 root names. The index is in three sections: names as they appeared in the Latin alphabet, names in the Cyrillic alphabet and those in the Hebrew alphabet.

      I (Gary Mokotoff) used it to research my mother’s Hebrew name: Tsiril. I was surprised to find out that it is a variant of Sarah. The Derivation Scheme for Sarah showed the evolution of the name from Sarah, to Tsore to Tserl(e) to Tsirl(e). All told, Dr. Beider identifies nearly 100 variants of the popular feminine given name, Sarah.

      Handbook of Ashkenazic Given Names and Their Variants is 232 pages, softcover and costs l$26.00 plus shipping. It can be ordered at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/handbook.htm. As an illustration of the content of the book, the complete citation of the feminine name, Sarah, is shown, including a description of its origin and derived names. Also shown at the site is a complete list of the 15,000 names..


      New Book: Sephardic Genealogy–Second Edition
      Jeffrey S. Malka, author of the award-winning Sephardic Genealogy: Discovering Your Sephardic Ancestors and Their World, has completely updated the book.  Nearly 100 pages longer, it adds a new chapter on DNA as well as new chapters on resources for the Sephardic communities of
      Portugal, England, Rhodes, Hamburg-Altona and Vienna. There is also a new chapter on how to research the Spanish archives with clues on deciphering old Spanish script.

      The section on the Internet is fully updated and now includes more than 300 links to sites that have information valuable to Sephardic research. The surname index alone has 3,037 names.

      The book, 472 pages with hard cover, can be ordered for $45 plus shipping through http://www.avotaynu.com/books/Sephardic.htm.



      Need Volunteers to Translate Yizkor Book Information
      Lance Ackerfeld, recently appointed JewishGen’s Yizkor Book Project Manager, is looking for volunteers to translate from Hebrew to English lists of necrologies found in yizkor books. Yad Vashem has supplied these lists as Excel files. According to Ackerfeld, these lists have important information including names of parents, spouses, location in the war and more. To volunteer for the translation project, contact Ackerfeld at lance.ackerfeld@....

      New Functions at Stevemorse.org
      Stephen P. Morse reports two new functions at his One-Step site, http://stevemorse.org.

      Morse has had for some time an Assembly District/Election District (AD/ED) finder for the
      New York State censuses of 1905, 1915 and 1925 for all boroughs of New York City. Given a street address in New York City, the function determines the correct AD/ED.  You then use this result to find the census record on microfilm.  FamilySearch, the genealogy arm of the Mormon Church, has now placed at its site images of the 1905 census for the borough of Brooklyn without a name index. Morse has update his AD/ED finder linking the results of the search directly to the FamilySearch census images.

      The second function is an Ahnentafel calculator converting an Ahnentafel number into a description of the relationship between the individual and the person whose pedigree is being defined – i.e., on a pedigree chart, the person with an Ahnentafel number of 123 is the mother's mother's mother's father's mother's mother of the person whose pedigree is defined. For more about the numbering system: http://genealogy.about.com/cs/research/p/ahnentafel.htm.


      JOWBR Now Has 1.2 Million Records

      The JewishGen's Online Worldwide Burial Registry has been updated for the Philadephia conference. Added are more than 94,000 new records and 12,000 new photos from 16 countries. This brings JOWBR's holdings to more than 1.2 million records from more than 2,400 cemeteries (or cemetery sections) from 46 countries.

      Some of the collections added in the recent update are:
         • U.S. National Cemetery Records. More than 23,000 records from 150 national cemeteries located in 46 states and
      Puerto Rico. These records represent veterans whose markers have a Star of David on it.
         •
      Iasi, Romania. 17,500 additional burial records translated from the Hebrew burial register from 1888–1894 and women's records from 1915–1943.
         •
      Bathurst, Ontario. 9,000 additional records from 60 sections of this Canadian cemetery.
         •
      Krakow, Poland. 6,300 records from the Miodowa Street Cemetery in Krakow.
         •
      Vitsyebsk, Belarus. 5,600 cemetery records
      Bayside, NY. 5,600 additional records from the Bayside/Ozone cemetery complex
         •
      Chernivtsi, Ukraine. 4,300 additional records and photos

      The database is searchable at http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/cemetery/. A list of cemeteries included in the collection can be found at http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Cemetery/tree/CemList.htm


      Mormon/Jewish Controversy: The Problem That Won’t Go Away
      Mormon Leaders Present President Obama with HIs Family History

      The Mormon Church practice of posthumously baptizing Jews murdered in the Holocaust made the news media again when Mormon leaders presented  President Barack Obama with five leather-bound books detailing Obama's family history.  What was not mentioned at the meeting was the fact that the Church had posthumously baptized Obama’s mother as well as other ancestors of the
      U.S. president.

      In response to the revelation by the news media of the baptism, a Church spokesperson gave the standard Church response, "It is counter to Church policy for a Church member to submit names for baptism for persons to whom they are not related."  So baptism of non-relatives goes on unabated contrary to Church policy but in conformity with Church doctrine.

      Meanwhile the posthumous baptism of Holocaust victims continues. Baptisms as recently as July 2009 have been discovered contrary to Church policy but in conformity with Church doctrine.

      Third Edition of Polish Translation Guide Published
      Judith Frazin has expanded and enhanced her A Translation Guide to 19th-Century Polish-Language Civil-Registration Documents (including Birth, Marriage and Death Records) in a third edition. In addition to being a translation guide, it also helps the reader locate Polish ancestral towns on a modern map, determine if old vital records exist, learn how to acquire them and—through its unique step-by-step method—decipher and translate the records. The book is published by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois of which Frazin is a former president.
       

      Jewish Genealogical Research Trip to Salt Lake City

      For those who want an additional dose of genealogical research in addition to, or instead of, the annual conference, veteran Jewish genealogists Gary Mokotoff and Eileen Polakoff are offering a research trip to the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library in Salt Lake City from October 22-October 29, 2009, for the 17th consecutive year. To date, more than 400 Jewish genealogists have participated from around the world.

      The program offers genealogists the opportunity to spend an entire week of research at the Library under the guidance of professional genealogists who have made more than a three dozen trips to
      Salt Lake City. For details: http://www.avotaynu.com/slctrip.htm.

                                                                    
      ----------------

    • SusanneLevitsky@...
      May 10, 2017 Upcoming 2017 Meetings: Sunday, May 21, 10 a.m. -- Preserving Family Heirlooms -- Teven Laxer Sunday, June 11, 10 a.m. -- Oral Histories, Memoirs
      Message 59 of 59 , May 10

         
                                                                                        May 10, 2017
         
        Upcoming 2017 Meetings:

        Sunday, May 21, 10 a.m. -- Preserving Family Heirlooms -- Teven Laxer

        Sunday, June 11, 10 a.m. -- Oral Histories, Memoirs and More -- Maryellen Burns
          
         
        Notes from April 16, 2017 Meeting
         
        President Victoria Fisch called the meeting to order.  She presented the Board of Directors slate for 2017-18:
         
        President -- Mort Rumberg
        Vice President -- Sherri Venezia
        Secretary -- Susanne Levitsky
        Treasurer --  Victoria  Fisch
         
        Directors (appointed by the president with approval of the board)
         Library --   Teven Laxer
         Membership -- Judy  Persin
        Programming  -- Sherri Venezia
        Publicity --  Susanne Lrevitsky
        Webmasters  --  Victoria Fisch, David Fiedler
         
        Board Members at Large
        Tony Chakurian
        Mark Heckman
        Dave Reingold
        Art Yates
         
        The slate will be considered for ratification at the May meeting. The officers will assume their new posts June 1.
         The next board meeting will be June 11 in the afternoon. Anyone interested may attend.
         Announcements:
         
        Ron Arons will speaking to the Calaveras Genealogical Society in the near future.
        The annual IAJGS conference will be held July 23-28 in Orlando, Florida
         
        Dave Reingold recounted a recent experience providing information on his late uncle to the mortuary -- he said they made an error but it was too late by the time he discovered it.

        May 7 is the Jewish Heritage Festival, to be held this year at the Scottish Rite Temple., 1-5 p.m. We'll have a table. Mort Rumberg will be there the whole time but hopes there will be other volunteers who might want to sit at the table for an hour or so,
         
        April Program -- Victoria Fisch:
        How to Find "Lost" Relatives You Didn't Know You Had
         
        Some highlights from Victoria Fisch's presentation:

        Preparation -- Research Plan
        Where were your ancestors born?
        Some tried and true methods, common sense research principles
        Much of research is preoccupation with details. We can think of it as a Google Map, dive in closely until we see house and house number
         
        If you're not yet using online resources, you're missing the boat
        1) Ancestry.com -- gives you ability to manipulate a tree online
        Many of Family Search centers have Ancestry and you can save your documents to a flash drive. Can also access Ancestry at any public library .. but to build a tree, need to subscribe.
         AARP -- offers $100 discount. Victoria suggest you get the "world" subscription.
        You can subscribe for 3 months, 6 months or a year.

         2) Family Heritage -- Israeli competitor -- don't recommend

         3) Find My Past -- UK competitor
            Look at the databases they have

        Victoria likes to focus on building a family tree online -- Ancestry, she says, "is way easier" and has the edge over the others.

        Ninety percent of Jewish families, even beginning in the Gold Rush era, Victoria says, came over and knew someone here already -- a relative or friend in town. That's one avenue for finding lost relatives.

        If your relatives came after June 1906, all the better -- the passenger manifests looked different. Before 1906, they were one page of columns, asking the questions upon departure.

        After 1906, they were two pages. The first page included a column asking about the relative they left behind. On the second page, who they were going to -- most of the time that person was a relative, usually identified. "And the person was probably related, even if they had a different name."

        Pre-1906, sometimes a column:

                        1) where were your ancestors from
                                        It's not enough to know "Russia," but what was the town?
                        2) where did your ancestors live upon their arrival here?
                                        Where did they move, if moved?

        Discover the birthplace of your ancestors:
                        -- from immigration records (passenger manifests)
                        -- citizenship records
                        -- WW I and WW II draft registration
        -- death notices (paid notices) -- usu. deceased children, wife, sometimes siblings noted
        -- newspaper notices -- wedding anncts., etc.
                        -- family stories
                        --  correspondence -- old letters and postcards
                        -- photographs
        Familiarize yourself with the region of nativity (birthplace):

                        -- JewishGen town finder
                        -- Links to town pages, Yizkor books (compiled after Holocaust by survivors)
        -- Google the town for maps and history-- get a sense of what other towns in the area

        Yizkor books -- usually in Hebrew -- some translated on JewishGen, could be a book done in Argentina by former European residents

        Jeremy Frankel: The New York Public Library has a very large collection.
        Teven Laxer: Some even have family trees-- and they're constantly coming online, new stuff all the time. There is a Yizkor book name finder.

         The books also give a little description of what life was like in the town.

         Preparation -- Find all the consecutive years of the census, Victoria says. Identify the earliest census year, closest to the year of the family's arrival.

        Record the address of the family, record profession of head of household, because lots of families had the same name.

        Also look for state censuses, although erratic.  New York -- 1905, 1915, 1925 -- pretty good.

        Sherri Venezia; Cyndi's List notes what's available.
         
        At left edge of census -- usually name of street, left column, house number.

        Methods:

        Using city directories and census records to find lost relatives.
                        City directories -- do a manual search in Ancestry.
                        Find a city direction on InternetArchives.org website.
                        Find directories in genealogy or historical societies
         
        1880 census -- asks "When did you come to this country?" so gives you a window.
        Jeremy: Big city reference library will maybe make a copy and scan for you.

        Research Plan
                        -- Search for adult male ancestors in city directory
                        -- Look for listings w/same surname, maybe same address
                        -- Search for new individuals in same census year -- should be same address or street

        Using immigration data:
        Research Plan -- find contact in U.S. on page 2 of manifest
                        -- record name and address of contact
                        -- search for him in closest census year
                        -- match address from census to city directory
         
        Using Census Records:
                        -- Review earliest census record
                        -- scan page for same surnames and birthplace
                        -- Use "see others on page" function (ancestry) to save individuals to your tree.
                        -- Search for them to confirm relationships
                        -- Check immigration year and profession of new individual

        Teven -- Just because it says "boarder" -- might be sister of wife
                        -
                        -- Search county of residence for surname and birthplace
                        -- If children born in other states, search in those states.
         
        Using Naturalization Index Cards
                        Sequence of becoming a citizen:
                        a) Declaration of Intent, valuable info.
                        b) Usually after five years -- Petition for Naturalization, more details
                        c) Actual naturalization certificate -- no information, worthless

        Look on card for witness name and address
                        if surname is a match, search for individual in census, city directory                      
         
        Newspaper articles -- weddings, articles about accidental deaths, tragedies

                        California Digital Newspaper Collection -- 1846 to 1910  -- free
        Most cost $$ -- newspapers.com  $39/year   OC
                        Genealogy bank -- seems to cover different newspapers, fee-based
                        Library of Congress, free  -- Chronicling America -- usu. get whole page, have highlights
                        **San Francisco Call Database -- vital records, indexed   1869-1900
        Nice thing about fee-based, usually zero in on whole article
         
        FultonHistory.com -- free -- mainly New York
                        thousands of small newspapers                                      
        Fulton old postcards -- goes back to 18th century
        London Jewish Chronicle newspaper -- free, goes back to 1841
         
        Using Death and Burial Records

        -- death notice and obituaries
        -- probate records
        -- burial sites, mortuary records, death certificates
        Legacy.com -- major aggregation of obituaries, death notices
        Probate records -- Ancestry started putting online
        Burial sites --
                        kehilalinks.jewishgen.org -- links to all NY or New Jersey cemeteries w/websites
        gives you plot location, can see who's buried in adjacent plot, or relatives in same "society."
        Death certificates -- usually say where person is buried, can use "Find a Grave: also. Can ask cemetery to take a photo.
        Also, respondent, person who doctor or mortician asks questions to -- look at home of respondent, might be son or son-in-law.
        Mortuary records -- Sometimes will say who index cards, sometimes buried, sometimes transferred to database.

        Steve Morse's One-Step Pages

        Direct portal to Ellis Island database  -- use Gold Form
                        For name - - want exact or starts with
                        Town will come up w/alphabetical  list of hits
                        And after 1906, more info

        Adding Maiden Names --

                        -- Order birth, marriage and death certificates
                        -- For NYC vital records, use ItalianGen to find certificates:
                                        Birth Certificates until 1909
                                        Marriage until 1937
                                        Death until 1948

        ItalianGen -- use if New York relatives
        Transcribed death certificates -- gives you names you never knew about before.
        Can search by parents

        Using Yad Vashem Records
        -- Digital collections -- Shoah Names Database
        -- Search by surname and town, or town only
        -- Look for Page of Testimony
        -- Other records may have parents and surname names
         
        Confirming Relationships
        -- World War I, II draft registrations -- often town where born
        -- Immigration records -- look for departure records (i.e. Hamburg Departures, usually good spellings of towns)
                        -- link to Hamburg on Ancestry, Steve Morse's site
         
        Other resources --
        JewishData -- paid website -- photos of headstones not on Find a Grave
        Logan Kleinwaks-- GenealogyIndexer.org-- free
        Canadian marriage records for Jews -- on Ancestry, incredible.
         
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        From Avotaynu's E-Zine
        April 30, 2017
         
        “How to Manage Your Family's Digital Assets”
        Dick Eastman, author of the daily ezine Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter, has written an article for the FamilySearch blog titled “How to Manage Your Family's Digital Assets.” He discusses various problems in preserving historical documents on digital medium, such as the problem of obsolescence of the medium. The extensive article can be found at http://media.familysearch.org/how-to-manage-your-familys-digital-assets. 


        ~~~~~~~~~~~~
        Genealogy success story: The mystery of my great-aunt Helen
        April 14, 2017 | Year 41, No. 32   Heritage Florida Jewish News
        http://www.heritagefl.com/cms_data/dfault/photos/stories/id/1/5/7815/.TEMP/s_topTEMP325x350-8939.jpeg
        Uncle Aaron and Aunt Helen in June 1942.
        Helen Benton was the younger sister of my maternal grandmother, Rose Rothenberg. My great-aunt Helen was an outgoing person in a family of reserved people. She was always very kind to my family and me. I have fond memories of times spent as a child with "Aunt Helen" and "Uncle Aaron."
        My sister, Barbara Silverman, and I have been working on our family genealogy for over a decade. A few years ago, my mother mentioned that at one time she had found naturalization papers for Aunt Helen. Everyone in the family wondered why there would be naturalization papers for someone whom we believed had been born in the United States.
        We encountered several roadblocks in our quest to unravel this mystery. Our first hurdle was that my mother could not find Aunt Helen's naturalization papers. Was she mistaken about the existence of these papers? My mother, Harriet Signer, who is 95 and lives in South Florida, has an excellent memory. She was absolutely certain that she had Aunt Helen's naturalization papers in her possession at one time.

        First, we had to verify that Aunt Helen was actually born in New York like her sister, Rose, my grandmother.
        I went to the New York City Municipal Archives and found Aunt Helen's birth certificate. She was born on Oct. 2, 1897, at 200 East 7th Street in Manhattan.

        Now I was really perplexed. There were several ideas that circulated around the family to explain our conundrum. Sometime after World War II, Aunt Helen and Uncle Aaron changed their surname from Benowitz to Benton. Also complicating matters, Aunt Helen never told the truth about her age. Was there a relationship between these behaviors and what we had already discovered? The mystery became even greater.

        After several years of searching, I found Aunt Helen's Petition for Naturalization online. It clearly stated that she was born on July 4, 1898, (the date was a fabrication). The document also indicated that she was born in New York City and that her husband, Uncle Aaron, who was born in Lithuania, was naturalized in 1925.
        Every step in this journey to determine why Aunt Helen had applied for citizenship, despite the fact that she was born in this country, added more questions and increased the mystery.

        I was totally shocked by the final answer to my question. It not only involved Aunt Helen, but potentially many women living in the United States at that time. When I told people what I uncovered, they, at first, did not believe it could be true.

        One day at a Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Orlando meeting, I mentioned to a fellow member/genealogist that I had proved that while Aunt Helen was indeed born in the United States, she had applied for citizenship in 1928! This fellow member of the Society explained that it might have something to do with the fact that she married an immigrant.

        I went home that night and, in a short time on the computer, I was able to find the Naturalization Law of March 2, 1907, which stated that a woman's nationality would henceforth be determined by her marital status. Thus, if a woman married an "alien" (as they were then referred to), she would lose her citizenship. Only if her husband applied and was granted citizenship, could she then apply.

        This is totally startling by today's standards, but what was even more shocking was that, according to this law, males who married female "aliens" did not lose their citizenship. At that time, it was generally felt that women were subservient to men and their allegiance would be influenced by the thoughts and beliefs of their husbands. In actuality, since women did have not the right to vote at this time, and the most important right of citizenship was voting, it probably was not seen as an important issue.

        In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution granted women the right to vote. This created an untenable situation since a naturalized husband could vote but his wife born in the United States could not.

        Fortunately, this situation was remedied by the Married Women's Act of Sept. 22, 1922 (Cable Act). From that time, a woman had the right to citizenship of her own that was not based on that of her husband. Those women who had lost their citizenship by marrying a foreigner could regain their citizenship, but it was not automatic and an application was necessary. Therefore, it was not until three years after Uncle Aaron became a U.S. citizen that Aunt Helen applied for citizenship. I was fascinated that in her Petition for Naturalization it states in very small print that with her signature, Aunt Helen agreed "to renounce absolutely and forever all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, and particularly to "Republic of Lithuania and/or Republic of Poland and/or State of Russia." Ironically, these are countries to which she never had any allegiance in the first place.

        This genealogic journey was a fascinating insight into the position of women in the time of my great-aunt Helen, who died at age 85 in 1983. I wish I had known this unfortunate piece of our history when she was alive. I would have asked about her feelings-not about being treated as a second-class citizen-but about losing her citizenship entirely.

        http://www.heritagefl.com/cms_data/dfault/photos/stories/id/1/5/7815/.TEMP/s_bottomTEMP325x350-1343.jpeg
        Helen Benton's Petition for Naturalization.
        Dr. Richard Signer is a retired pediatric surgeon. He was the chief medical officer of Florida Hospital for Children for 14 years. He lives in Winter Park with his wife, Lainey. He can be reached at rds11544@....

        You can learn how to search JewishGen and other important resources at the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Orlando (JGSGO) "My Jewish Roots" workshops. The next workshop is "Jewish Names" featuring JewishGen Managing Director Warren Blatt on Tuesday, May 2, at 7 p.m. at the Roth Jewish Community Center, 851 N. Maitland Ave ., Maitland. The workshop is free and open to the public. Bring your own laptop to participate in the lab portion. It is also possible to attend via the Internet. Pre-registration is required. Pre-register for either in-person or online participation at 
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