- June 10, 2013Upcoming Meetings:Next Sunday, June 16, 10 a.m. "Breaking through Brick Walls"Einstein Center, SacramentoSunday, June 23, 2 p.m. "Next Steps in Jewish Family Research," Victoria FischDavis LibrarySunday, July 21, 10 a.m. "The WPA: Sources for Your Genealogy," GenaPhilibert-OrtegaEinstein Center, SacramentoMay 19 Meeting NotesPresident Victoria Fisch called the meeting to order. She noted that we have a new venue in Davis, the Yolo County library on E. 14th Street. Meetings will be held there every fourth Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m.On May 21, there will be a tour of the El Dorado County Archives and Museum in Placerville; admission is free.Victoria presented the JGSS slate of officers for 2013-14:President -- Victoria FischVice Presidents for Programming -- Art Yates and Dave ReingoldTreasurer -- Bob WascouRecording Secretary/Publicity -- Susanne LevitskyThe slate was voted upon and approved.Mort Rumberg was thanked for his many years of finding program speakers -- "It takes two people to replace him," Victoria said.Teven Laxer was welcomed as the new librarian. He noted that there are some 20 books out on loan that should be returned; he will start contacting the borrowers.Teven said we have about 300 volumes in the library that are part of the inventory, with maybe another 100 not yet inventoried.Dave Reingold talked about the upcoming National History Day -- "we're always looking for topics and people to work with students." Those interested can contact Dave at camp_wiseowl@....The Sacramento Public Library continues to offer a free 45-minute session, "book a genealogist."Victoria mentioned that the Western States Jewish History group is putting together a series of online museums-- check out their website for online exhibitions, starting with Los Angeles and San Francisco.The Boston IAJGS conference in August 4-9; Bob Wascou and Teven Laxer are among those planning to go. Victoria Fisch and Jeremy Frankel have decided to not to go, due to one of the speakers included in the program.May Program -- Jim Rader on "The New Super DNA Tests"Jim talked about FamilyTree DNA, which tests different parts of your DNA. Details can be found on FamilyTreeDNA.com. He says this test does all the search work.National Geographic sends its test to Family Tree DNA, he says.Jim says you can search for a surname or can set up a group -- there are more than 6,000 groups out there now.Bennett Greenspan, founder of Family Tree DNA -- "his reason for starting it was to do his Jewish genealogy research," Jim says.Family history and DNA will be the focus of several speakers on June 6 at the upcoming Southern California Genealogy Jamboree, which Jim will be attending. It takes place just two blocks from the Burbank airport.23andme.com -- the wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin is involved with this site, which plans to test one million people to establish a large database and track diseases.Some questions to ponder:When does your ancestry have an ethnicity?What date did you become a member of a nationality?Jim says race is a social construct, not a biological one.You have to break that old notion that you're from Germany. But where did those ancestors come from?AncestryDNA -- can go back to your great, great-grandparents.Each company doesn't have rights to other companies' databases.Jim showed what he received from three different companies -- FamilyTree DNA, Ancestry DNA and 23andme -- different results for each.FamilyTree DNA -- showed he had 87% Western Europe ancestry,12.08% European (Scandinavia, Turkey, Finnish)Ancestry DNA -- 67% Central Europe, 38% Scandinavian23andmeDNA -- 100% European"As we get more and more tests, it gets more and more foggy," Jim says.FamilyTreeDNA Family Finder tests 289 markers; Ancestry DNA 100; National Geographic 200.When something is "autosomal" it tests all of your DNA>FamilyTree DNA's Family Finder Feature tells you who has the same actual DNA that you have, Jim says. "It definitely goes back three generations.""The very largest pool is FamilyTree DNA."Common uses for your DNA findings:-- finding adoptee relatives-- find fellow sperm donor siblingsTests 700,000 locations out of three billion. "You can map your whole chromosome now for $1500," Jim says.Before, the DNA focus was on STRs; now the focus is on the SNP -- single base pair substitutions--which account for many of the genetic differences between you and others (appearance, diseases, etc.)Most--no observable differences."With the SNPs, we can figure out where you are in the timeline."Hundreds of video clips on YouTube to check out re DNA,SNPs, etc.Jim says FamilyTree DNA stores your DNA for 20 years -- "none of the others do that." And your test will always be updated with the latest science.www.yhrd.org -- if you want to create a map, you put your results in. Haplotype database.Family Tree DNA does Y-DNA STR testing, has the best set-up for surname projects, and the largest genealogical database.23andme -- does medical risk testing as well, possibly the best for the ethnic admixture.Ancestry DNA -- only does autosomal DNA now, links to trees on Ancestry, US only."There's no commonality in the tests," Jim says.Jim noted that if you want to read up on DNA and genealogy, there are about 30 books on Amazon.com, some on forensic genealogy.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~From Gary Mokotoff's Avotaynu E-Zine: May 26U.S. Version of Who Do You Think You Are? Returns to TelevisionThe U.S. version of the family-history based show Who Do You Think You Are? is returning to television on July 23 at 9 p.m. It will appear on the TLC network with Ancestry.com remaining as the sponsor. There will be eight one-hour episodes in the new season. The celebrities featured this year include: Christina Applegate, Kelly Clarkson, Cindy Crawford, Chris O’Donnell and Zooey Deschanel.
New “Forced Labor 1939–1945” WebsiteA website “Forced Labor 1939–1945” has interviews with nearly 600 persons from 26 countries who had to perform forced labor during the Nazi period. It is located at https://zwangsarbeit-archiv.de/archiv/en/archive. Some are undoubtedly Jews because 25 of the interviewees live in Israel.
An interactive map shows sites of biographical relevance to the interviewees: place of birth, deportation, camps, companies and prisons, places of residence after 1945. You check off which of nine categories are relevant to your search and then all locations are highlighted on the map. Clicking on a location identifies which interviews include the location. If you are registered, you can listen to the interview. The most comprehensive search is “Mentioned Places” which includes hundreds of locations.
To hear the interviews requires registration which is processed by the site’s creators. You then receive a response in e-mail containing login details if your application to register was successful. I registered but never received a response.
UK National Archives Adds Naturalization Records OnlineThe records of thousands of 19th-century immigrants to Britain are now available to search and download online at http://tinyurl.com/UKNaturalisation. The collection, which covers the period 1801 to 1871, includes records relating to more than 7,000 people who applied to become British citizens under the 1844 Naturalisation Act, as well as a small number of papers relating to denization, a form of British citizenship that conferred some but not all the rights of a British subject.
The records include:
• All naturalization applications to the Secretary of State, 1844–1871
• Some naturalizations by private Act of Parliament, 1801–1868
• Some letters applying for denization, 1801–1940
The announcement can be found at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/news/840.htm.
JewishGen Offering Intermediate-Level Course in New York ResearchMany Jewish family historians have ancestors or collateral relatives with roots in New York City. Starting June 1, JewishGen is offering an intermediate-level course in New York City research. It will focus on the more esoteric documents generated such as naturalization, probate, landsmanshaftn, voter registration, newspapers, and court cases.
The four-week course has seven text lessons that are downloaded; there are no specific times for the course; students interact with the instructor though a 24/7 forum, in a query and answer format. Phyllis Kramer, JewishGen Vice-president for Education, is the instructor. Tuition is $100 (there are no waivers for this course). Additional information, including a video, is at http://www.JewishGen.org/education.
JOAN GRIFFIS , Commercial NewsThe Commercial-NewsSun May 19, 2013, 01:00 AM CDT May 19, 2013Noted genealogical author Megan Smolenyak has reported in the Huffington Post that after a bit of a lull in genealogical programming, four genealogy series will premiere on U.S. television in the near future. First one was Christopher Guest and Jim Paddock’s mockumentary series, “Family Tree,” on May 12 on HBO.The remaining series that are “under production” are “Who Do You Think You Are?” (TLC) and “Finding Your Roots (PBS) — which both focused on celebrity subjects — and Genealogy Roadshow, “an Irish import … with an emphasis on family history mysteries, historical events, and ‘average Joes.’”Smolenyak’s website, Honoring Our Ancestors, at http://www.honoringourancestors.com, should be bookmarked and visited frequently for helpful advice and other information. For example, a click on the toolbar title “Library” allows one to click on “Internet Research” with links to Smolenyak’s articles from the Huffington Post, Ancestry Daily News, Family Chronicle, and others.“Celebs” on the toolbar, provides links to interesting articles including President Obama’s roots, Michelle Obama’s roots, and Annie Moore’s roots (the little girl who was the first to step on Ellis Island).Smolenyak’s generosity is greatly appreciated by the 600 recipients who've received her no-strings-attached genealogical grants since May 2000. Read the stories of the genealogical projects she's supported. Perhaps a local society could request similar help? (The online application is brief and easy.)Under the toolbar title, “Submit,” one can click on a link to share with Smolenyak information or stories under the topics Orphan Heirlooms (“treasures” that need to be returned to owners/descendants), Lost Loved Ones’ Stories, and Brick Wall/Mystery Stories. She welcomes such new challenges, and although she “can’t tackle all cases,” her expertise might be just what is needed.In her latest book she remarks, “It’s high time for all of us to let our roots show.” Start searching.Avotaynu, May 19 edition:European Holocaust Research Infrastructure Adds New ToolA new tool for researchers is now available on the website of the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure. It is called “EHRI National Reports” and provides for 47 countries an historical overview of the Holocaust period and what archives in the country have Holocaust-related material. Finally, there are published works cited that provide information about the Holocaust period. A description of the project is at http://www.ehri-project.eu/drupal/national-reports-on-website.
JewishGen Memorial Plaque Project
JewishGen wants to grow its Memorial Plaque Project. This is a database primarily of plaques placed on a memorial board on synagogue walls. Also known as “yahrzeit plaques,” they exist to memorialize relatives, usually parents or siblings. On the anniversary of the person’s death (yahrzeit), the plaque is illuminated by two small lights on each side. The name is read to the congregation at the Sabbath service before the yahrzeit. These plaques are of genealogical value because they usually include the name of the deceased, date of death reckoned by both the secular and Jewish calendars and the person’s religious name, which includes the name of the person’s father (above example: Chaim ben [son of] Meir.).
Information on how to submit data can be found at http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Memorial/Submit.htm. The database is at http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Memorial.
MyHeritage Introduces “Record Detective”MyHeritage has added a feature to their record search capability called “Record Detective.” When you identify a record of interest in their collection of historical records, Record Detective will provide a summary of additional records about the person, or about people related to that person. For the more advanced researcher, the feature would be a disadvantage, because it will make the person aware of records s/he already knows of. For example, locating a person in the 1940 U.S. census might produce a result showing that the person in the 1930 and 1920 censuses. The reaction of the advanced researcher might be that the records are known, yet it might be new information to the beginner.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~From the newsletter of the JGS of Ventura and the Conejo Valley:First American JewsGeni.com has made available Rabbi Malcolm H. Stern’s book, First American Jewish Families: 600 Genealogies, 1654-1988. It identifies more than 25,000 members of the earliest Jewish immigrants to the U.S. beginning in the colonial days. It's available to be viewed here: http://tinyurl.com/bkfr3c7. You may also connect directly to the database by clicking: http://tinyurl.com/acynmo3http://www.jgscv.orgHow The USCIS Helped Break Down a Brick WallBy Jan Meisels AllenThis is a summary of the 5-minute genealogical hint given at the May 5th meeting. USCIS answered the question: What was Aaron Baker’s original name.What I Knew:Aaron Baker was my maternal Aunt Anna’s husband for 57 years—they married in 1922. He was a farmer in Torrington Connecticut, born in Kovno, Lithuania, and according to the 1920 and 1930 censuses he immigrated in 1914 to the United States. He immigrated with his mother Etta. The 1920 census noted his immigration year—1914 and said he had applied for naturalization: PA. At that time he was living in Torrington with his mother Etta.The 1930 census had him married to my aunt and living with their two sons: Allen and Merrill. It stated he immigrated in 1914 and that he was a naturalized citizen. I could not find his ship’s manifest and I had assumed his original name was Beker or Bekerowitz.I was going to Boston in late October for an IAJGS board meeting –I thought I would go a day ahead and do some personal genealogy. Knowing that he was naturalized between 1920 and 1930 from the census records, and that he “probably” immigrated in 1914 I contacted the New England Historic and Genealogy Society asking if they had any records that would either show his naturalization or his name change. They replied they did not and referred me to the National Archives North East Region. They also replied that they had nothing they could find.Superstorm Sandy prevented my original plan to go to Boston a day early—and as neither organization could assist, I contacted Marian Smith at the USCIS and asked if it was worthwhile to make an inquiry to them. Marian let me know that she found his file and it was interesting—the file had 12 documents in it! She also told me his original name was Israel Buruchowitz! I should fill out the USCIS forms and submit the payment to get the records. I went to the JGSCV website http://www.jgscv.org and clicked on “resources”: United States and scrolled down to the USCIS link: http://www.uscis.gov/genealogy and completed the on-line form and payment.When I received the packet, the cover letter explained that they identified 12 documents but were only enclosing 10 documents in their entirety and two partially as under the Freedom of Information Act others were named and they could not provide their confidential information—such as birthdate, Social Security number etc. These would have pertained to my aunt and their eldest child and as I did not need them I did not pursue the appeal which was offered.Of most interest was the New Naturalization Lost or Mutilated Form where Aaron attests that “it was burned up by mistake in burning other papers which I thought were no longer needed”. Aaron started his inquiry for a replacement of his naturalization papers several months after the US entered World War II—he probably needed them to prove he was not an alien during the war.Other documents included in the file and sent to me were: Certificate of Naturalization; Duplicate Naturalization Certificate, a query about different names on the Petition for Naturalization (Israel Buruchowitz) and the Declaration of Intention (Aaron Baker), the name change letter, the new naturalization form when the original is lost or mutilated, and a letter to the Immigration and Naturalization Service dated February 1, 1943 complaining that he had started the reapplication process in February 1942 in their Boston office and followed their suggestions, paid the fee, filled out the forms and told to appear at a local court in April 1942 where he was interviewed and had heard nothing since.Documentary: No Place on EarthA documentary film about Jews who hid in a cave in the Ukraine for more than a year during WWII, No Place On Earth is being released in selected cities across the U.S. To see the trailer go to http://tinyurl.com/blrprhf. To see where and when it's being shown, and to request a screening visit http://tinyurl.com/ag2yw2wWORLD'S OLDEST TORAH SCROLL DISCOVERED IN ITALYAfter conducting carbon dating tests, the University of Bologna in Italy announced this week it has what may be the oldest complete Torah scroll in the world. The scroll had been stored in the university library, but in 1889, was mislabeled by a librarian, who dated it to the 17th century. However, a Hebrew professor recently examined it and realized the script was that of the oriental Babylonian tradition—meaning it was much older than previously thought.Subsequent carbon dating confirmed the scroll may have been written more than 850 years ago.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~See you at our meeting next Sunday, June 16th!
- May 10, 2017Upcoming 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 BurnsNotes from April 16, 2017 MeetingPresident Victoria Fisch called the meeting to order. She presented the Board of Directors slate for 2017-18:President -- Mort RumbergVice President -- Sherri VeneziaSecretary -- Susanne LevitskyTreasurer -- Victoria FischDirectors (appointed by the president with approval of the board)Library -- Teven LaxerMembership -- Judy PersinProgramming -- Sherri VeneziaPublicity -- Susanne LrevitskyWebmasters -- Victoria Fisch, David FiedlerBoard Members at LargeTony ChakurianMark HeckmanDave ReingoldArt YatesThe 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, FloridaDave 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 HadSome highlights from Victoria Fisch's presentation:
Preparation -- Research PlanWhere were your ancestors born?Some tried and true methods, common sense research principlesMuch of research is preoccupation with details. We can think of it as a Google Map, dive in closely until we see house and house numberIf you're not yet using online resources, you're missing the boat1) Ancestry.com -- gives you ability to manipulate a tree onlineMany 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 competitorLook 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 fromIt'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-- photographsFamiliarize 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 societies1880 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 directoryUsing 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 CardsSequence of becoming a citizen:a) Declaration of Intent, valuable info.b) Usually after five years -- Petition for Naturalization, more detailsc) Actual naturalization certificate -- no information, worthless
Look on card for witness name and addressif surname is a match, search for individual in census, city directoryNewspaper articles -- weddings, articles about accidental deaths, tragedies
California Digital Newspaper Collection -- 1846 to 1910 -- freeMost cost $$ -- newspapers.com $39/year OCGenealogy bank -- seems to cover different newspapers, fee-basedLibrary of Congress, free -- Chronicling America -- usu. get whole page, have highlights**San Francisco Call Database -- vital records, indexed 1869-1900Nice thing about fee-based, usually zero in on whole articleFultonHistory.com -- free -- mainly New Yorkthousands of small newspapersFulton old postcards -- goes back to 18th centuryLondon Jewish Chronicle newspaper -- free, goes back to 1841Using Death and Burial Records
-- death notice and obituaries-- probate records-- burial sites, mortuary records, death certificatesLegacy.com -- major aggregation of obituaries, death noticesProbate records -- Ancestry started putting onlineBurial sites --kehilalinks.jewishgen.org -- links to all NY or New Jersey cemeteries w/websitesgives 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 FormFor name - - want exact or starts withTown will come up w/alphabetical list of hitsAnd 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 1909Marriage until 1937Death until 1948
ItalianGen -- use if New York relativesTranscribed 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 namesConfirming 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 siteOther resources --JewishData -- paid website -- photos of headstones not on Find a GraveLogan Kleinwaks-- GenealogyIndexer.org-- freeCanadian marriage records for Jews -- on Ancestry, incredible.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~From Avotaynu's E-ZineApril 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 HelenApril 14, 2017 | Year 41, No. 32 Heritage Florida Jewish NewsUncle 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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