Showing posts with label Samuel Schwartz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Samuel Schwartz. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Sam Schwartz Arrived as Simon

Almost wordless! For years I tried to find my great-uncle Samuel Schwartz's name on a manifest, knowing he arrived in NYC before 1906, but no luck.

After receiving his naturalization papers last week, however, I now had a month and year: January, 1904, plus a departure point (supposedly Hamburg) and the name of a ship (the Pretoria).

Finally I found Sam--except he arrived here as Simon Schwartz, on a ship from Cuxhaven. It's definitely him, because in the far-right column, my grandpa Teodor (Theodore) Schwartz is listed as Simon's brother in New York City. A small step forward and a new mystery, never to be solved: How did Simon get from his hometown of Ungvar, Hungary, to the dock at Cuxhaven? That's quite a journey.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tuesday Time Travel: 1954, When Great-Uncle Sam Schwartz Died

My maternal grandfather Teddy Schwartz had an older brother, Sam Schwartz, who was the immigrant trailblazer. Sam told officials (draft boards and others) that he was born July 4, 1883 and I know he died on June 9, 1954, less than a month before he would have turned 71. Cousin Harriet tells me that Sam died of a heart attack, mowing his lawn on a hot summer day.

Sam spent many years operating his own grocery store in Queens, New York. Coincidentally (or not), my grandpa Teddy operated his own grocery store in the Bronx, NY. Sam's first wife, Anna Gelbman, died in 1940 and Sam remarried Margaret ___ sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s.

What was happening in 1954, the year that Great-uncle Sam died?

  • The US social and political landscape was changing. Pres. Eisenhower had recently ended the Korean War; Brown vs. the Board of Ed Topeka outlawed racial segregation in schools, a major shift in Southern states that had minimal effect where Sam lived in NYC. Senator Joe McCarthy was making headlines with Commie lists--and was finally discredited. The phrase "under God" was added to the pledge of allegiance. The first US nuclear sub, the Nautilus, was launched, adding to the atomic weaponry race during the Cold War. Rock 'n roll was coming to life. Sam would have been aware of most these shifts (not the rock 'n roll, for sure) and probably had a strong opinion on them (though I don't know what his opinions would have been).
  • The Hungarian revolution was brewing. Sam, a native of Ungvar, certainly would have been unhappy about the Soviet domination of Hungary. Russia's Stalin died in 1953 and Hungary became embroiled in a struggle between the repressive Soviets and a slightly more progressive group of officials who wanted reforms. Sadly, Sam died before the Warsaw Pact tied Hungary even more tightly into the Soviet bloc and before the brief Hungarian Revolution of 1956, which failed in its attempt to tear Hungary away from the Soviet orbit.
  • New York City: Ellis Island closes, Giants win World Series. Sam and his siblings knew all about Ellis Island. In fact, my grandpa Teddy worked as a runner for insurance firms etc., recruiting new arrivals at Ellis Island, because Teddy had a facility for languages. Perhaps immigrants like Sam and Teddy felt nostalgia for the first US building they set foot in, or perhaps they were relieved that the overcrowded place was no more. As a New Yorker, Sam would have been a bit pleased to know that a home team, the Giants (soon to decamp for California), stomped all over the Cleveland Indians in a four-game rout. Not of much consequence, I know, but who could resist mentioning this?
I'm still trying to find out more about Sam's second wife, Margaret, who I believe died in the 1970s and who had a son, William, from her first marriage.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mystery Monday - Margaret Schwartz and son William

My great-uncle Samuel SCHWARTZ died in 1954, while married to his second wife, Margaret (his first wife, Anna, had died in 1940). According to family lore, Sam and Margaret drifted away from the family after their marriage and once Sam died, leaving nothing to the children of his first marriage, the rift was complete.

Looking for more on Margaret, I found a grave for someone with that name in the same cemetery where Sam & Anna are fact, Margaret's plot is in the same block and section as Sam & Anna, and the burial society (1st Hungarian Independent Lodge) is the same for all three.

Now for the mystery: The next of kin listed on Margaret's cemetery info is "William Schwartz, son." Although I don't know whether this is the correct Margaret (I've guessed wrong before!), nobody has ever heard of Margaret and Sam having a son. Is William Schwartz a distant relative? Does he still have any of Sam Schwartz's family heirlooms?

Mystery partially solved! My cousin Bonnie just told me she remembers that Margaret had a child from her first marriage, so William must have been my great-uncle Sam's stepson. Where William might be and what he knows about the Schwartz family remains a mystery still.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Finding Uncle Sam

Well, I guessed correctly about which Samuel Schwartz was MY paternal great-uncle Samuel Schwartz (see my Searching for Uncle Sam post from February). I just received the death certificate and it's clearly the right Great-Uncle Sam, not some other person unrelated to my family.

Now I know exactly when he died and where he was buried. His second wife didn't give any details such as birth date or home town when providing info for the death cert, unfortunately, but I'm not surprised about that.

What was a surprise is that he's buried in the same cemetery as his first wife, which coincidentally is the same cemetery where my paternal grandparents are buried. Is it a coincidence? Well, I have a plot plan for where my paternal ancestors are buried and Uncle Sam's name doesn't appear on it. I'll check with the cemetery for more about the area in which Uncle Sam is buried. Maybe other relatives are buried nearby?

What I learned: Pay attention to the stories that relatives tell. One cousin said she believed this relative had a heart attack while mowing his lawn on a hot summer day--and it turns out she was right, he died in June. Another cousin was able to narrow down the range of years for when my great-uncle died, and he was right. Otherwise it would have been impossible for me to take an educated guess. I would have spent much more time and money searching for Great-Uncle Sam.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Searching for Uncle Sam (Really!)

Actually, he's my great-uncle Sam Schwartz, and I've been trying to find out where and when he died. During yesterday's expedition to a nearby Family History Center, I looked at microfilms showing NYC death indexes for the 1950s. Lots of Sams and Samuels. Now I've narrowed the possibilities down to 15 or so entries. Which one is the real Uncle Sam?

The "informant" would have been Sam's second wife, in all probability, and she may not have known Sam's actual birth date or place. (I only know what he reported on his WWI and WWII draft forms, which may or may not be accurate.) I'm going to assume she knew.

Also, I don't know which borough he was living in when he died. I've been assuming that he stayed on in the house he owned while married to his first wife. He probably owned it clear and free by the time he died. I'll check land records at another point.

My 1st cousin (once removed) remembers that he had a heart attack while mowing his lawn, so that suggests he died in a warm month (roughly May through September).

Only one of the entries matches all of these criteria. I'm going to go for it--spend the $15 to find out whether that's the Uncle Sam I've been trying to find. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ancestors Hidden in Plain Sight

If my ancestors in the old country never owned land or held an important job, their ordinary everyday lives might be invisible to my present-day genealogical researcher's eyes. Hidden in plain sight, just farmers or peasants or peddlers--who knows? But their lives are important to me and I hope I'll come across some tiny clue to their existence, other than cemetery inscriptions.

Being unimportant might have been an asset during the years when villages were sometimes considered part of one nation or empire and then became part of another nation or empire later as a result of war or political shenanigans. Religious beliefs played a role as well. Then there was the matter of not being eager to lose sons to military service. I can understand why my ancestors might not have wanted to be very visible. But I still hope I'll get a glimpse of their lives and aspirations through my research.

Even ancestors who lived in this country in this century are sometimes partially hidden because they weren't "anybodies." This week I got the marriage certificate of a relative who came to the US just after the turn of the 20th century and got married in the Cherry Street Synagogue in Bridgeport, CT, a place that no longer exists.

According to the certificate, Sam worked in a factory at the time of his marriage. Wonder whether the factory is still there? Wonder how Sam met his future wife, Anna? I know he later opened a grocery store with another relative in Astoria, NY. But how and why did he get to Bridgeport? What did Anna think of moving away from her family? I'm still trying to puzzle out these ancestors' movements, let alone their motivations. Hidden in plain sight?