Friday, August 27, 2010

Speedy NYC Marriage Cert

With unprecedented speed, NYC has sent me my grandparents' marriage license from 1906. It's some help with genealogy but has less detail than I'd hoped.

I didn't know where Isaac Birk/Berk lived at that time, and now I do. Below is a photo--the tenement is still in existence, although the storefronts have obviously been updated (not necessarily "improved") since Grandpa's time.

Grandpa was 26 and Grandma was 19 when they married, the first time for both. This license may be where some of the confusion about Grandpa's name came about. The official who wrote out the info calls Grandpa "Isaac Burk" but he signs himself "Isaak Berk." He gives his birth place as simply "Russia" and writes that his occupation is "carpenter." His father's name was Elias L. Burk (but the last name has been clearly corrected in some way). His mother's name was Necke Burk (again, both names heavily corrected, suggesting that they didn't translate well?). I see more research in my future, as usual!

PS Here's where my Grandma lived at the time, another address I never knew (here we are between the US Census years, so they may have moved every year for all I know). Another tenement still standing but with changed storefronts.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Not MY Rachel Jacobs

Wonder of wonders, the NYC authorities turned my death cert request around in only one week, a new speed record. And now I know that I was wrong about my g-g-grandma Rachel Jacobs being buried in the cemetery plot devoted to patients from the Montefiore Home for Incurables in NYC.

The death cert I received shows a Rachel Jacobs dying in 1904 and being buried in that plot. It can't be my family's Rachel Jacobs because this one was just 56 yrs old, married, and born in US. None of that fits the profile of MY Rachel Jacobs.

I feel sorry for this Rachel Jacobs, however, because she had a cerebral hemorrhage in 1902 and finally died in 1904, having been at the Montefiore Home for 21 months, according to the death cert.

Lessons learned: (1) just because someone with the same name as an ancestor is buried within walking distance in the same cemetery as a known relative, doesn't mean he or she is in my family; (2) if the known relatives have expensive headstones and paid $ for perpetual care, but the mother of one of those relatives has a nearly impossible-to-see, insignificant headstone in a charity plot, chances are that mother is not a relative.

I'm going to have to take a different approach to finding my Rachel.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Where Great-Great Grandma Is Buried

If I'm correct about where the mother of Tillie JACOBS is buried, I have more clues to my great-great grandma's life in New York. The cemetery shows her in a plot set aside for the Montefiore Home for Incurables, an institution founded in the 1880s (shown below). I was wrong, this is not MY Tillie JACOBS, see later post!

Again, thank you to wonderful, friendly cemetery personnel who are willing to help family researchers like me!

The gravestones were, alas, too worn to be read, and I searched for her a good long time before giving up. Once her death cert arrives (4-6 wks), I'll be able to confirm that this is indeed my great-great grandma. She came to the US in 1886, was shown in the Census of 1900 as living with her daughter and son-in-law and their children. Unfortunately, she died in 1904, apparently of a chronic disease (cancer perhaps?).

The 1900 Census shows great-great grandma as widowed and having 2 children, of whom 2 were living. One was obviously her daughter. The other, I think, was a son who lived in another apartment in the same tenement house. In those days, small families were rare, so my conclusion is that she was widowed early and rather than be left behind when her 2 children moved to the US, she came along. That must have taken courage, IMHO, knowing that she might never see her other relatives and friends again.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tracing My Mahler Ancestors

Today I visited the graves of great-grandparents Meyer and Tillie MAHLER--thank you for responsive, caring cemetery staff members! They helped me locate the graves in the middle of very crowded plots and photocopied the cards on file. Although I had their death certs, I never knew the middle names of these ancestors, so this was helpful. Although they died decades apart, their stones were side by side.

Feeling like Peter Falk's Columbo, I turned back to the cemetery office before leaving and said, "Just one more thing..." This cemetery has a searchable online database and I had previously searched for Tillie's mother, Rachel Jacob (or Jacobs). I found a Rachel Jacob, but not in the same cemetery section. Almost didn't ask but as long as I was in the office, I did. All I knew was her name and that she died after 1900 (because of her appearance in the 1900 Census).

The cemetery staff checked a big ledger book and there was Rachel JACOBS, along with her death date which I would never have found otherwise. Sadly, it was impossible to find her grave stone (must have weathered away since her death in 1904) but as soon as I arrived home, I searched out and found her NYC death cert number. Yes! In approximately one month, I'll know her full name, parents, place of birth, and anything else that NYC records on death certs from that era. This was a very good genealogy day for me!