Saturday, March 7, 2015

Surname Saturday: GGGM Rachel Jacobs and the Plungianer Unterstutzungs Verein

Finally, I've located where in Lithuania my great-great-grandma Rachel Shuham Jacobs (1840s-1915) came from and where in NYC she spent her last days.

Both Rachel's early years and her whereabouts after the 1905 NY Census have been mostly a mystery. In 1905, Rachel was living at 88 Chrystie Street with her daughter, Tillie Jacobs Mahler (and her son Joseph lived in the same tenement).

The only clues to her death (and those of her son) were dates listed in my great aunt's notebook. Alas, those dates weren't exactly correct, as I learned by plugging them into various sites (including the usual suspects like Ancestry, ItalianGen.org, Family Search, and Findagrave).

As part of the Genealogy Do-Over, I tried not only different spellings (Jacob/Jacobs, Rachel/Rachael, etc.) but also different years of death, sometimes using the same month as my great aunt listed.
Rachel Shuham Jacobs with a Mahler granddaughter

Findagrave came up with a hit for Rachel Jacobs in Mount Zion Cemetery in Queens, NY, with a burial date that was only one year off from the family notebook

Happily for me and other genealogy researchers, the cemetery has a handy-dandy interment search linked from its home page. And that's where I located GGGM Rachel, buried in the Plungianer Unterstutzungs Verein [translation: Plungianer Support Club] plot. She's there along with her son Joseph Jacobs (d. 1918), daughter-in-law Eva Michalovsky Jacobs (d. 1941), and granddaughter Flora Jacobs (aka Florence, d. 1923).

Now it seems clear that GGGM Rachel was born or  brought up in the Plungian district of Telz, Lithuania, close to the border with Poland. That area had a Jewish population of nearly 2,200 when she was born in the 1840s, according to the informative Lithuanian Jewish Communities. We have other evidence linking Rachel and family to Lithuania, just nothing that gives us a specific town.

Of course I called the cemetery and received scans of the burial cards, which gave me exact dates and, in some cases, death cert numbers for the Jacobs family. Rachel's card says that her last address was 47 Allen Street in Manhattan, a now-gone tenement on the Lower East Side (see map at top). This is only 3 blocks from her Chrystie Street address in 1905, also on the Lower East Side.

Next, I ordered the death certs on microfilms from the Family History Center. Before the month of March is over, I should know more about my Jacobs ancestors, thanks to New York's vital records. And when the snow finally melts, I'll have photos of the Jacobs headstones!

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