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Genealogy Update

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  • SusanneLevitsky@aol.com
    Jewish Genealogical Society of Sacramento www.jgss.org June 9, 2012 Genealogy Update June 2012 Victoria Fisch called the meeting to order and outlined the
    Message 1 of 59 , Jun 9 2:37 PM
      Jewish Genealogical Society
      of Sacramento
      June 9, 2012
      Genealogy Update  June 2012
      Victoria Fisch called the meeting to order and outlined the speakers for the coming four months.  The meetings for the next four months will be held on Monday evenings at 7 p.m.
      Monday, June 18, 7 p.m. -- Glenda Lloyd, "City Directories -- A Problem-Solving Approach."
      Monday, July 16, 7 p.m. -- Tamara Noe on "Names and How to Search for Them."
      Monday, August 20, 7 p.m. -- Ron Arons, "Searching for Living People."
      Monday, September 10, 7 p.m. Presentation on Angel Island --Maria Sakovich
      Victoria noted that our table at the Jewish Heritage Festival was a tremendous success -- "all of our volunteers were busy talking to people."  She said we were in an excellent location at the entrance.
      One of the benefits of membership in the JGS is access to our library -- those who haven't paid their dues or who receive the notes without benefit of membership, are encouraged to send in a check for $25.  This covers honorariums for our speakers, books, CD and DVD purchases and other expenses.  Why not help sustain us by sending a check made out to the Jewish Genealogical Society of Sacramento, c/o the Albert Einstein Center, 1935 Wright Street, # 240, Sacramento, CA 95825.  We appreciate your support.
      Next Tuesday at 10 a.m., the A-Files (Alien Files) will be made available at the San Bruno archives.  Jeremy Frankel noted that these files were created in 1944 and may include correspondence, photos and visa documents.  There are more than 60 million files, and San Bruno will hold those for California, Nevada, the Phillipines, Japan and other Asian countries (and include many Jews who came in through the West Coast.)  The remainder of the files are accessible through the National Archives office in Kansas City.
      The rate of release depends on the date of birth.
      May Presentation: Robbin Magid -- California Jewish Cemeteries
      Robinn is a member of the Bay Area JGS and a board member of JRI-Poland. She spoke to us last year about her research trip to Poland. She is working to index 88 towns in the Lublin area of Poland and can trace her grandmother's family back 12 generations.
      Robinn thanked Bob Wascou, Victoria Fisch and Jeremy Frankel for helping her with her cemetery resarch, which she calls " From the Gold Rush to the Roszgolds," (a name in her family).
      In doing her cemetery research, she checked all of California's 58 counties.
      She has during the Gold Rush era, you could walk up to any of the miners and they thought having a place to bury people was a good idea.  There was money donated for cemeteries and land -- she says no anti-semitism was present until the 1890s.
      Robinn says there are some 86 cemeteries in 33 of the 58 counties.
      Solomon Nunes Carvalho, a Sephardic Jew, accompanied Gen. Fremon in 1853-54 -- he found Jews were already in California.  Jews had arrived in large numbers beginning in 1848. Carvalho advised Los Angeles Jews to form a Chevra Khadisha, which today would be located beneath Dodger Stadium.
      Robinn cited the www.findagrave.com site as one source of information.
      The first Jewish cemetery in California was located in Pacific Heights in 1847, bordered by Broadway, Vallejo, Gough and Franklin streets.  Jewish burials from Yerba Buena cemetery were moved here.  Emanuel Hart was also an early-day cemetery.
      Henry Johnson was the first Jewish person to be buried -- he apparently died eating poision mushrooms.
      When burials were full at the Emanuel Hart cemetery, it was moved to a new site near Mission Dolores in San Francisco.
      Burials then were moved out of the city, with the Jews the first to be kicked out, Robinn said.  In 1889, there was a move to Colma "and everybody else followed."
      The oldest surviving tombstone is of Charles Lyon, who died in June 1851 during the "Great Fire of San Francisco."
      Bob Wascou found the earliest burial -- Samuel Harris Goldstein of Marysville, who died in 1850, drowning in the Sacramento River apparently loaded down with gold dust in his pockets.  He is buried in the Home of Peace cemetery in Sacramento.
      The oldest cemetery in continuous use is Temple Israel cemetery in Stockton.  The land was donated by Capt. Charles Weber.
      Robinn outlined the parts of a typical Jewish cemetery, including:
      -- consecrated ground
      -- a section for Cohenim
      -- separate sections for men and women (although not in California)
      -- family plots
      -- columbarium section
      -- chidlren's section (Home of Peace has one)
      -- cenotaphs -- markers, where no body buried
      -- orthodox or Kosher section
      Typical symbols:
      -- star of David
      -- candles, menorah
      -- hands -- cohenim
      -- pitchers
      -- Masonic symbols, Odd Fellows
      -- some may be symbols of American culture, or part of mail-ordered tombstones
      -- literary or poetic references
      -- usually show torch, flame upside down on Jewish tombstones
         (eternal flames became popular after JFK's death)
      --nautical references, apparently a symbol of immigrants
      Robbinn showed the grave of Emperor Joshua Norton, famous San Francisco figure.  His tomb was copied by many others.
      Some newer trends: California cemeteries are now noting Holocaust survivors; Russians include a little of their history on tombstones.
      You can trace lots of California history through cemeteries, such as April 18, 1906, the date of the great earthquake and fire.
      Robinn said the first Jewish governor of California was Washington Montgomery Bartlett, who's buried in Oakland.  He was governor in 1887, and died nine months into his term. His mother was a Sephardic Jew.
      The first Jewish congresswoman was Florence Kahn of San Francisco, who succeeded her husband Julius in 1924.   (A well-known San Francisco playground is named after him.)
      Robinn said the most famous person buried in Colma is in a Jewish cemetery -- Wyatt Earp.  His wife,  Josephine Marcus, was Jewish.
      The first Jew elected an Indian chief was someone in New Mexico.
      The second Jewish mayor of San Francisco was Adolph Sutro; the first was Washington Bartlett, who later became a California governor.
      Robinn also talked about some of the Jews buried in Hollywood area cemeteries, such as Westwood Memorial Park, where Fanny Brice is enterred.
      There are also Jewish pets buried among California's 17 pet cemeteries, some of whom are identified by stars of David on their tombstones.      
      Today there are approximately 86 Jewish cemeteries throughout California.
      From Gary Mokotoff's May 20 Avotaynu E-Zine:
      American Version of “Who Do You Think You Are?” Not Renewed for Fourth Season

      The American version of Who Do You Think You Are? has not been renewed for a fourth season. Neither Ancestry.com, the show’s sponsor, nor the NBC television network gave a reason for the cancellation. Ancestry.com indicated the company and the show’s producer were exploring other avenues of distribution.
      The fact that Ancestry.com wants to continue the program demonstrates that the show generated a good deal of interest from people wanting to know more about tracing their own family history.
      From the May 27 Avotaynu E-Zine:
      Yad Vashem Creates “Transports to Extinction: Shoah Deportation Database”

      Yad Vashem has created a new database called “Transports to Extinction: Shoah Deportation Database” which maps the deportations of Jews to concentration and extermination camps and killing sites in Europe. Yad Vashem notes that while in the past, historians have seen the deportations simply as a necessary logistical step on the way to the “Final Solution,” the research undertaken in the “Transports to Extinction” project indicates that the deportations were not simply an intermediary stage between transit camps and ghettos and finally extermination camps, but had an overall plan, unique in its design, its implementation and its historical significance.

      Thus far, the project has mapped some 400 transports from Vienna to various destinations, among them, Minsk, Riga, Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, and from Berlin, Cologne, Breslau, and several Czech cities.  Yad Vashem researchers have reconstructed the transport's route, including details on those involved in organizing the transport, the socio-economic characteristics of the Jewish deportees, and recollection of survivors. The findings are available, in English, German and Hebrew at http://db.yadvashem.org/deportation/page.html?language=en.

      In association with the project, Yad Vashem has announced an agreement with the National Society of French Railways (SNCF) to increase research into the scope of deportations of Jews from France during the Holocaust. The SNCF's contribution will support research into the French section of the “Transports to Extinction: Shoah Deportation Database.” This portion of the database will be available in French.

      SNCF's contribution will assist researchers in more fully documenting the some 80 transports of Jews from France. Approximately 76,000 French Jews were murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau. The research will build on the work done by Serge and Beate Klarsfeld. Their book, Memorial of the Deportation of Jews from France, identifies the Jews by name on the 80 transports from France.  Survivors' testimonies, private documents and photographs will shed light on the deportees’ experience. The research will also map transports within France, from small towns and villages to Drancy.

      Follow-up on German Address Books Online
      The January 8, 2012, edition of Nu? What’s New? noted a large number of German address books online at http://wiki-de.genealogy.net. It appears a superior site by the same group is located at http://www.adressbuecher.net. If nothing else, the latter site is in English; the former is in German. Because many of the books are pre-World War I, the area covered is the German Empire including towns that today are in Poland. Example: Breslau which today is Wroclaw, Poland. The site contains more than 3 million entries from 373 address books for 6,872 towns and cities.

      Belarus SIG Plans Newsletter
      The Belarus Special Interest Group of JewishGen plans to publish a quarterly newsletter in PDF format. The first edition should appear about June 18. If you have any family history, links, questions or stories from Belarus that you would like to share, send it to belarusnews@.... To receive the newsletter, subscribe to the Belarus Discussion Group from the link at http://www.jewishgen.org/Belarus/.

      Finding Living People in the U.S.

      This week I was able to help a New Zealand woman locate a Holocaust survivor family living in the United States. The project came at an appropriate time, because I would not have been able to find the family but for the 1940 census. I also would not have been able to find the family but for the online Social Security Death Index to which the U.S. Congress wants to ban public access.

      Name changes, estate executors can be found in probate notices
      By Roxanne Moore Saucier, BDN Staff   Bangor Daily News
      Posted June 03, 2012, at 9:08 p.m.
      Genealogists wouldn’t think of overlooking the classified pages in their daily newspaper, especially on the weekend. Newspapers such as the Bangor Daily News run probate notices on Saturdays, an edition which not only sells a lot of copies but is thoroughly read.
      The two major categories of items found in probate notices are name changes and appointments of personal representatives for estates of people who have died recently.
      Some name changes appear to be requests by people seeking to add a name or drop a name, an action which could be related to a marriage or a divorce or neither of those.
      Sometimes a person wants a new middle name, or perhaps a first name or surname that is more Americanized — or more connected to ethnic roots.
      Adults may ask to change a child’s name to fit in with the rest of the family, even if the child has not been adopted. Perhaps they are raising the child as their own. Or it may be that a whole family, adults and children alike, are looking to change their last name for a variety of reasons.
      Women may decide that not only do they not want to use a husband’s or ex-husband’s last name, but they would rather not use their father’s name either. I’ve seen women take their mom’s maiden name as their own or convert their original middle name to a last name.
      I also knew someone who decided to change both her first and last names as a way to choose her own identity.
      Occasionally I have seen a request for name changes where the petitioner appeared to be replacing a man’s name with a woman’s name, or a woman’s name with a man’s name. On the one hand, we cannot assume that the choice of a first name indicates whether a person is transgender.
      But on the other hand, we know that some people who are raised as one gender may choose to change that gender through legal and medical means.
      When Penobscot County Probate Register Susan Almy spoke to the Maine Genealogical Society last fall in Bangor, I asked her whether a person’s change in gender would be reflected on a probate record that granted a name change. She said it would not because it was not the Probate Court’s function to determine that.
      Rather, a person who had their gender changed through medical means would seek a new birth certificate after providing documentation to the state.
      The other part of probate notices pertains to appointment of personal representatives to estates, informally known as executors. If you read the obituaries every day, you may wonder why you should read probate notices also.
      These listings sometimes remind me that I meant to clip and save an obituary. Then I visit the BDN site at bangordailynews.com, put the cursor on Obituaries, then click on Archive/In Memoriam to search for an obituary published in the past few years. I print it off and save it in my records or a scrapbook.
      Here’s another reason to peruse the probate notices. Not everybody has a funeral these days, and not everyone has an obituary. If we read these items regularly, we’re sure to come upon notices for people we may not realize have died. Sometimes we can find an obituary by visiting the website of a funeral home in the town where the person lived or died.
      Frequently, the personal representative is a relative of the deceased. The address published in the notice may allow us to contact the family, particularly since fewer and fewer people these days have phone numbers and addresses listed in phone books.
      Recent probate notices were published May 26 and June 2 in the BDN.
      Lastly, if you are going to be a personal representative for someone, relative or otherwise, do make sure that the person’s will is up to date. Doing so will save you a lot of work and will save the estate money.
      Arizona Daily Star
      6-generation clan is a quick genealogy lesson
      Cousin, niece, aunt - it matters not: 'Family is family'
      ·6-generation clan is a quick genealogy lesson
      6-generation clan is a quick genealogy lesson
      6-generation clan is a quick genealogy lesson
      Destinee Wentworth, with Christopher: "It's heartwarming to have so many people who love him. To know he has the chance to know so many generations of his family is very special."
      2012-06-08T00:00:00Z 2012-06-07T20:06:18Z 6-generation clan is a quick genealogy lessonStacie Spring East Valley Tribune Arizona Daily Star
      With the birth of Christopher Daniel Forrest on Feb. 4, Destinee Wentworth of Mesa welcomed the sixth living generation of her family into the world.
      "I think the record is seven," Destinee said. "Don't think we'll make it that far."
      The family made a point to get everyone together to take a picture as soon as possible after Destinee's first son was born. Barbra Culp, 90, lives in Tucson. Culp's daughter, Anita Ellsworth, 75, is in Pinal County. And her daughter, Barbra Spear, 56, and Spear's son, Eric Wentworth, 35, live in the Phoenix area.
      "You always look for family characteristics," said Anita, the maternal great-great-grandmother of Christopher. "Right now he looks so much like his daddy, but that's OK."
      For Destinee, introducing Christopher to his extended family only reflects the love she has been given by the family's multiple generations.
      "It's heartwarming to me to have so many people who love him," she said. "To know that he has the chance to know so many generations of his family is very special."
      The family has always been large, and with generations that often overlapped, many family titles such as cousin or niece or aunt often disappeared, Destinee said.
      "For us family is just family," she said.
      And knowing multiple generations is nothing new to Destinee.
      "We've had five generations on both sides before," she said. "But never six. From what I understand, it's quite rare."
      Growing up, she spent much of her time with her many grandmothers. That includes one memorable summer when she spent a week with her great-grandmother, Anita. Destinee insisted she have an entire dresser emptied to make room for her week's worth of clothing, Anita recalled.
      "Destinee's always been sure of what she wants," Anita said. "She is always the family entertainer, always singing and dancing for us. I have it all on tape."
      While many people grow up not knowing their grandparents and never meeting their great-grandparents, Wentworth feels especially blessed.
      "It's such a great support system," she said.
      It can't be ignored that Destinee is a teenage mother, something she isn't shy about addressing. Yet if she hadn't had a child so young, it's quite likely that so many generations of her family would not have met.
      "I am not a statistic: I have never done drugs; I'm still with the father of my child; I'm a full-time student," she said.
      Wentworth just finished up her second semester at Mesa Community College. She is working on her associate's degree in psychology, hoping to transfer to a four-year university to pursue a degree that would allow her to work with special-education children, she said.
      Next Meeting, Monday evening, June 18th, 7 p.m.
    • 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.
        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.


        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
        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.

        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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