Monday, August 1, 2016

Mystery Monday: More Pieces of the Markell Puzzle

My Markell quest began more than 3 years ago, when I was researching the family of great-uncle Joseph Markell (1894-1975). He married Mary Mahler (1896-1979), my father's aunt and one of the two matchmaker aunts responsible for introducing my father to my mother. No wonder I'm so interested in the Markell family!

Two Markell men married two Lebowitz sisters. One of those Markell men was Joseph Markell's father, Barna Barnhart "Barney" Markell. But was the other, Julius Markell, a sibling or a cousin? My research strongly suggests that Julius and Barna were the sons of Alchanan Abraham Hyman Markell, of Vilna, Lithuania (usually called "Russia" on documents of the period).

Julius came to America before 1907, when I found him in the city directory of San Francisco, working as a plasterer. In 1908, he married Ella Lebowitz (1884-1965) in Washington state, and they had a daughter, Ruth, before the couple moved back east. Some time around 1920, they separated and divorced (I'm still searching for that record).

Julius then married Tillie and they had one child, William Markell (1923-2009). Until now, I couldn't locate a marriage record for Tillie and Julius, or proof that William was their son.

Today, after a lengthy wait for William's original Social Security application document (I had to appeal the original "redacted version" due to the 120 year rule), I received the document (at left) showing his parents' names as Julius Markell and Tillie Sachs [sic]!

With that maiden name in mind, I returned to the hunt for Julius and Tillie's marriage record--and found it in an index of Massachusetts marriages, as shown above. To double-check, I searched the index for "Tillie Sachs" and found Tillie Sacks in the same volume and the same page. Now I've proven that Julius and Tillie are William's parents, and another piece of the Markell puzzle is in place.

Julius and his brother Barney aren't direct ancestors of mine. Barney is actually the father-in-law of my great-aunt Mary Mahler. But I love solving genealogy mysteries, I have Markell cousins, and the Markell family has an interesting background (early owners of a theater in Massachusetts, for example--see directory excerpt from Adams, MA, at right).

Knowing about the theater, I can imagine that's one reason why Julius and Tillie were married in Pittsfield (in the same county as the theater).  How this couple got to Brooklyn, where their son William was born and raised, I don't know--yet.

UPDATE: I called Pittsfield's City Clerk and learned that Julius and Tillie were married on May 31, 1921. I'm arranging to get their marriage license info and will write up what I learn!


Wendy said...

Like you, I get interested in different people in my family line even if they are not directly related. And if there is a mystery that looks like it SHOULD be solvable, I can't let it go. Good for you for sticking with this one!

Marian B. Wood said...

We just can't help ourselves when it comes to genealogy mysteries, can we? I'm following up with other Markell researchers and who knows what we'll find together! Thanks for reading and commenting, Wendy.

Colleen G. Brown Pasquale said...

Marian, sound like you are the trail of some fascinating research. I live in NY but MA is close by. Your family came from a very pretty area of rolling hills, trees & lakes.

Marian B. Wood said...

Colleen, you're so right--the Berkshires are beautiful! And in 1921, Pittsfield was booming because of transformers being manufactured there by GE, etc. The funny thing is that the Markell family really didn't "live" in Pittsfield. They were there off and on for the theater business but actually lived in Boston, Pittsburgh, and NYC. I hope to uncover more stories by checking the Berkshire Eagle of the period!

Michelle Ganus Taggart said...

Very exciting Marian! I love how uncovering one bit of info starts the domino of additional info.

Marian B. Wood said...

Michelle, I like your analogy of dominoes :) Thanks for reading and commenting!