|Gargzdai, hometown of Grandpa Isaac Burk & family|
For this week's #52Ancestors prompt from Amy Johnson Crow, I want to look at the three immigrant brothers (alert: long post ahead!). Next week, I'll look at the two immigrant sisters.
The five siblings used different variations of their family surname. My Grandpa used Burk, but others used Berk, Burk, Block, Berg, and Birk.
Old Brother: Abraham Berk
The oldest son of Solomon Elias Birck and Necke Gelle Shuham Birck, Abraham (1877-1962) was a trained cabinetmaker.* So was my Grandpa Isaac (but not their younger brothers).
By 1901, Abraham and Isaac had left Lithuania and were living in the household of Annie Hinda (Mitav?) Chazan and Isaac Chazan of Manchester, England. Like so many others who left Eastern Europe during this period, they probably paused their journey in England to learn the language they would speak in North America and earn more money for their passage.
|Abraham Burke in 1914 Montreal directory|
I found Abraham listed in the 1914 Montreal directory as a "carpenter" living at 431 Laval Avenue (see page at right). By this time, his surname had morphed into Burke.
He served as informal patriarch when my father (Abraham's nephew) married my mother in 1946, proudly standing near the bride and groom in the wedding photos. By the time Abraham died in December of 1962, he had 10 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren.
Younger Brother: Meyer Berg
The longest-lived of the brothers, Meyer Berg (1883-1981) arrived at Ellis Island on May 16, 1903, age 19, occupation as a "clerk." He lived with his future sister-in-law's family in Jewish Harlem for several years, then married Anna Paris (or Peris or Peretz) in 1907 and went on to have five children.
Sadly, one of these children (Milton) died as a young man of 23, just before World War II. Milton had gone to Los Angeles, working as an insurance agent in Beverly Hills for New England Mutual Life Insurance.
Meyer originally worked as a cutter in the garment district (see draft card above). Soon after Milton's death, however, Meyer and Anna moved to Lakeland, Florida to start a citrus orchard. They loved Florida so much that they convinced Meyer's brother Max and sister Jennie to move to the same town.
Remarkably, Meyer and Anna were married for 73 years, and my cousin says they were very happy together. They died, well into their 90s, within months of each other.
Younger Brother: Max Berk
The youngest in the family, Max (1891-1953) Americanized his original name, which was Matel. (Not just family story, but also shown on his petition for naturalization.)
Max was the last brother to arrive in North America, landing at Ellis Island in 1906. Sometime between then and 1917, he moved to Chicago, where he worked as a jeweler (see above). He became a naturalized citizen in 1923 in Chicago.
The next time I found Max in the records, he was back in New York City, getting married to Rebecca in 1936. The couple settled in Brooklyn for a time, where he worked as a jeweler in Manhattan's diamond district. They also had a home in Florida, where eventually they moved to be near Meyer and Anna. I'm continuing my search to fill in the missing years...
My great uncle Max died at the age of 61 (or possibly 60, if his gravestone is accurate), and his wife Rebecca outlived him by 31 years.
*One of the experts at the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain told me that 19th-century Lithuania was dotted with thick forests. Given the limited occupations open to Jewish people at that time and place, training as a carpenter and cabinetmaker would provide sons of the family with practical skills to make a living.