Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Two Lebowitz Sisters Married Two Markell Men

"Barna Markell" is a witness to Julius Markell's naturalization
I'm hot on the trail of the link between two Lebowitz sisters and two men named Markell. The Markell men are directly connected by a single document--a 1920 naturalization cert on which one is the witness and the other is the new citizen. Are they blood relatives? Well, that's the mystery . . .

Joseph A. Markell (1894-1975) was the husband of my great-aunt Mary Mahler Markell (1896-1979). He's the reason I'm trying to unravel this tangle of Lebowitz and Markell folks.

Here goes: Great-uncle Joseph Markell, born in Boston, was the son of Rose Lebowitz and her hubby, Bernard (aka Barnhart, Banna, or Barna) Markell. Bernard was an immigrant from Russia or thereabouts, having arrived in Boston in 1891. He was naturalized in NYC on 5 February 1902 (occupation: Driver).

Alas, Rose died young (before 1910), after which young Joseph and his father Bernard came to live with Rose's mother Fannie Lebowitz in New York City for a short time. (The Lebowitz matriarch was supposedly born in Czechoslovakia, but I haven't confirmed that.)

Meanwhile, Rose's younger sister Ella Lebowitz (b. 1890) also married a Markell. His name was Julius, and he was a plasterer born in Vilna. He arrived in New York in 1904, and somehow made he made his way to Washington state, where he married Ella Lebowitz in 1908. (How she managed to get across the country from New York to Washington is another question mark.) Their only daughter (Ruth Markell) was born there in 1909.

Clearly, Julius Markell must have had a yen to travel or a need to find work, because the next year they turn up in Boston, in the 1910 Census (remember that Joseph Markell, son of Bernard and Rose, was born in Boston but much earlier). Then, according to his nat papers, Julius resided in New York City from 1911 on. In fact, his WWI draft card puts his residence in Brooklyn, NY, and he stayed put through the 1920, 1930, and 1940 Census in Brooklyn.

However, Julius Markell and his wife Ella Lebowitz Markell must have fallen out with each other, because by the time of the 1920 naturalization, he tells the court that she and their daughter Ruth are living in Pittsburgh. I found them there, with strong clues to a link between Bernard and Julius Markell:
  • In the 1930 Census, Ella and her daughter Ruth Markell are living with Ella's mother Fannie Lebowitz (remember her? She took Bernard and Joseph into her NYC apartment in 1910) in the household of Ella's brother Samuel Lebowitz. Ella tells the Census that she's a widow. Not true!
  • In the 1940 Census, Ella is living in the household of her bro-in-law Joseph Sobel and his wife (Ella's sister?) Sarah and their four children. This time, Ella Markell tells the Census that she's divorced. Almost certainly true.
Sometime in the 1920s, Julius Markell remarried and had a child (William Markell) with his second wife, Tillie, in 1923.

Bernard Markell also remarried. Conflict with Bernard's new wife (Esther) prompted Joseph to run away to sea, a family story I wrote about earlier this month. Bernard (Barney) and Esther had a daughter together, named Rose Markell. It's not much of a leap to see that their daughter was named after his late wife Rose Lebowitz. They lived in New York at least through 1940, according to the Census.

Now I'm trying to find more about Bernard Markell's life and family background so I can connect him even more directly with Julius Markell. Are they cousins? Or what?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Happy Birthday to Us (again!)

HaPpY BIRTHDAY to my wonderful sis! Here we are at about 7 years old.

Note the trademark side ponytail, which is what a friend from day camp (Laura) remembered about us years later, apart from the fact that we're twins.
Above, at our 5th birthday party. Side ponytail is already on the fashion scene :)
And Sis and I agree she's on the left in this photo, I'm on the right. She actually remembers sitting together for this shot!


Monday, February 11, 2013

Matrilineal Monday: 1920s School Days in the Bronx

Late in 1984, my aunt Dorothy Schwartz wrote my sis a letter enclosing a newspaper article about her alma mater P.S. 62 at 660 Fox Street, which at the time was "an island of stability in a crumbling neighborhood" of the Bronx, according to the New York Times. P.S. 62 served students in K-4 in 1984 and K-5 today (left), but then it had one of the highest student turnover rates in the city.

My aunt's comments:
P.S. 62 was the elementary school we attended, only then it ran to the 6th grade. I never knew the area was in the South Bronx; I did know it had been renamed Fort Apache. To me, the South Bronx was below 149th St.!
Auntie Dorothy, her twin Daisy (my mom), and their older brother Fred were born in the apartment building across the street from P.S. 62, at 651 Fox Street. Their parents, Minnie Farkas Schwartz and Teddy Schwartz, moved every few years during the 1920s, but always stayed in the neighborhood.

My aunt remembers that after 651 Fox, they lived on Leggett Ave., a few steps away from Teddy's Dairy (my Grandpa's grocery store), which today is a hop, skip, and jump from Bruckner Blvd. Later, the family moved to 712 Fox Street. Finally, they settled at 672 Beck Street, around the corner from Teddy's Dairy store, where they stayed for many years until everyone was grown and my grandparents retired.

Now for some class photos of Daisy and Dorothy at P.S. 62 during the 1920s. Sorry, no notes about which twin is which. Note that the kindergarten class, in a photo taken around Halloween, has more than 30 students. Looking at the other photos, the classes are even larger!
Kindergarten: Daisy and Dorothy are in identical outfits and haircuts with bangs, center of 2d row, with a jack o'lantern between them

Second grade: Daisy and Dorothy at left of center, in matching outfits and haircuts again. Poster at far right is for American Junior Red Cross.
The twins were apparently separated during fourth grade. This is class 413--the twin is in closeup, below.
Dorothy or Daisy in class 413

Class 407, with the other Schwartz twin (along left wall, see closeup below).
Daisy or Dorothy in class 407

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Genealogy by the States: Massachusetts, Where "Pappy" Markell Was Born

Joseph A. Markell (1894-1975), who married my great-aunt Mary Mahler (1896-1979), was born in the Boston area, the son of Bernard (Barnhart H.) Markell and Rose Lebowitz. Who knew he'd wind up on a ship that almost touched off an international diplomatic incident?

Markell's mother, Rose, died young. In the 1910 Census, Joseph (then 16) is shown as living in his grandmother Fanny Leibowitz's apartment with her widowed son-in-law (Joseph's father), plus uncles Morris Leibowitz (23 yrs old) and Samuel Leibowitz (18). According to one of my cousins, Joseph (called "Pappy" by his grandchildren) later ran away from home after his father remarried because of conflict with the new stepmother.

The family story is that teenaged Pappy wound up at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, making money by shining the shoes of sailors who were going on shore leave. This seems to be confirmed by the 1920 Census, which shows Pappy as a yeoman serving on the USS Niagara, anchored in Tampico, Mexico, when the enumeration was completed in February, 1920.

Why would the USS Niagara be off the Mexico coast? Well, the Mexican Revolution was underway and the US and Mexico had been skirmishing along the border.

In 1914, there was an incident in Tampico (an oil-rich area of Mexico) involving the Mexican authorities arresting US sailors. This "Tampico Affair" escalated into a US occupation of Veracruz. During WWI, Germany secretly tried to forge an alliance with Mexico, which only heightened tensions along the border.

By the fall of 1919, when the USS Niagara steamed to the coast off Tampico, WWI was over but the Mexican Revolution wasn't quite finished. When the Niagara arrived, it immediately suffered a major outbreak of malaria (according to the documentation declassified in 1980 and posted on Fold3, where I read much of it--see a snippet above). 

In December of 1919, the USS Niagara was dispatched to intercept another vessel, the San Jacinto, before it could land at Tampico. The goal was to prevent the Mexican government from arresting someone thought to be on board the steamship San Jacinto, a person believed by the Mexican government to be a spy. However, the Niagara was unsuccessful in convincing the San Jacinto to stop, and it took no further action to avoid provoking an unnecessary international incident between Mexico and the US. And that's probably a good thing for Pappy, too.

This prompt is part of the "Genealogy by the States" series by Jim Sanders.

Future Genealogy: When Snowstorm Nemo Met Blizzard Charlotte


Overnight we came through one of New England's snows of the century. At 11 pm on Friday night, there was about 8-9 inches of snow on the ground. By 7 am on Saturday morning, we had 25 inches of snow on the driveway and roof. The official total for my town is about 15 inches, by the way.

Left, the snow swallowed up my three front steps. Below, the view from inside my garage. It's a solid wall of snow. Until the plow service shows up (again), I'm not going anywhere . . . except back in time to continue my genealogy research today.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Genealogy by the States: My Connecticut Connection

Connecticut is the topic of week #5 of Genealogy by the States, by Jim Sanders of Hidden Genealogy Nuggets. And here's where I get to talk about teaming up with honorary* cousin Art to track down Gelbman ancestors in Bridgeport. Before I connected with Art via Ancestry message boards, I hadn't even suspected that my family had any Connecticut connection.

Main Street in Bridgeport, circa 1909
Art is descended from a relative of Anna Gelbman (1886-1940), who married my great-uncle Samuel Schwartz (1883-1954). Thanks to Art's information about the Gelbmans living in Bridgeport, Connecticut, I got a copy of Anna and Sam's marriage license 100 years to the month after they were wed at Bridgeport's "Cherry Street Synagogue" (actually Ahavath Achim) in October, 1909, a week after Sam became a citizen. Later, I learned that Sam was named Simon when he came to America in January 1904--why he changed it upon arrival, I don't know.

With Sam and Anna's license in my hands, I visited the Bridgeport Public Library to check city directories that weren't available online. Now I was able to track Sam through the years he lived in Bridgeport:
  • In 1906, Sam Schwartz was a vegetable peddler living at 279 Lewis.
  • In 1907-8, Sam was a vegetable peddler living at 179 Lewis (typos might account for different addresses in '06 and '07?).
  • In 1908-9, Sam Schwartz was a printer rooming at 316 South Avenue.
  • In 1910, the Census showed him as naturalized, born in Hungary-Magyar, occupation of printer. The city directory showed the couple living at 95 Clinton Ave.
Anna's Gelbman family lived at 71 Wordin Avenue for many years, not far from the newly-wed Schwartz couple and a short walk from the field in central Bridgeport where P.T. Barnum wintered his circus, animals and all (see photo above). Today, the area around the former Gelbman house is a highway.

Sometime between 1910 and 1915, Sam and Anna moved to New York City. Ultimately he became the self-employed proprietor of a grocery store--the same work that Sam's younger brother Teddy (my grandpa) went into. Coincidence? I think not! Given Sam's early background as a vegetable peddler, he may have influenced his older brother's business decision, not the other way around.

One reason to blog on these state topics is to bring fresh eyes to my research. In this case, I realized I don't have Sam's movements in 1905, when he could have been in the New York State census. Nor do I have Sam's brother Theodore's 1905/1910 census records. So far, no luck on these, but I'll be searching!


*Honorary because we're not directly related but have helped each other climb our family trees over the years!