Friday, July 31, 2009

My Scher Family from Lodz, Poland (updated 7/16/13)


"Scher der shneider / Shears the tailor." For Szmul Szer, a Jewish tailor living near Lodz, Poland in the late 1800s, identity and occupation were almost one and the same. Tailoring was one of the few trades Eastern European Jews were allowed to practice, and when the Prussians forced Szmul's grandfather or great-grandfather to take a surname in 1797, the whole family became known by the German/Yiddish word for "scissors" -- Scher (spelled "Szer" in Polish). Szmul's father, grandfathers, half-brothers, and most of his uncles were also tailors.  

In the 1880s, the Schers moved from the small town of Strykow to the big city 12 miles away: Lodz, then a Russian-controlled center for silk manufacturing. One branch of the family immigrated to Paterson, NJ, which attracted many "Lodzers" as another major center of silk manufacturing. Even in America, tailoring dominated the Schers' lives, as all of Szmul's children and most of his American-born grandchildren either made cloth, sewed clothes, or sold clothing.

Unexpectedly, the Schers were haunted in America by an uglier remnant of Europe, the forced baptism and abduction of Jewish children. This horrid practice, approved by the Catholic Church since medieval times, forever altered the family of Morris Scher, Szmul's oldest son. By the summer of 1903, Morris had left Manhattan's Lower East Side and ran a tailoring shop on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, and his family lived a few blocks away on Jones Street. 

A 40-year-old neighbor, a Frenchman named Jean Michel, grew fond of Morris's eldest boy, nine-year-old Samuel Scher. They went on outings, played in Central Park and visited nearby St. Joseph's Church. Things came to a head on Christmas, when Jean Michel gave Sammy a toolbox as a gift. Morris returned the gift and told the Frenchman never to play with his son again.

On January 2, 1904, Samuel and the Frenchman suddenly vanished. Morris desperately searched the streets in the wake of a blizzard, and policemen across the eastern seaboard searched in vain. The papers ran the kidnapping story two days later, but focused on a crazed autobiographical account left behind by Jean Michel that claimed he was a white slave in Africa, and papers commented on how the Frenchman was a "good Christian." Samuel's parents were never to lay eyes on their lost child again.


In 1955, Morris's sons in Paterson, NJ were contacted by a Catholic priest who turned out to be their long-lost brother! "Father Samuel," as he was now called, had been secretly baptized as a child when he ran a fever, and at the tender age of nine was convinced by Jean Michel to leave his family and journey to Quebec Province, Canada. At the tiny town of Mistassini, 14-year-old Samuel decided to enter the local Trappist monastery. By 1922 he was an ordained priest, and he lived the rest of his days in Mistassini (but in later years received occasional visits from American family).

Szmul Szer's last surviving grandchild, Charlie Feitlowitz (1912-2007), valued his family, preserved its history and generously shared many tales with me. He was the last first-generation American among the Schers and a brave WWII veteran. Charlie became fascinated with family history in 1930 when he met his paternal fourth cousin, Dr. Jacques Faitlovitch (b.1880 in Lodz; d.1955 in Jerusalem), who was raising money in New York City to aid the Ethiopian Jews. In Charlie's words, "He encouraged and guided me to keep the family history alive." Just as Dr. Faitlovitch helped the world's Jews remember their long-forgotten kin in Ethiopia, so did Charlie keep alive the Feitlowitz familial ties by carefully notating their common story. 

Another important window into the family's distant past comes from genetic testing of mitochondrial DNA. Szmul Szer's wife, the bookseller Anna (Hana Brumer) Scher (1844-1923), seen in the above left picture, and all of her matrilineal descendants belong to Haplogroup H. That means that a direct maternal ancestor left Africa for South Asia around 65,000 to 70,000 years ago, and a long line of daughters lived in South and Central Asia, where many of their descendants still live today. 

Around 30,000 years ago, another direct maternal ancestor left the Middle East with fellow Cro-Magnons for glacier-covered Europe. That woman is also the direct maternal ancestor of about half of all Europeans today. DNA testing shows that Queen Marie Antoinette and Czarina Alexandra of Russia belonged to Haplogroup H as well, and their royal maternal-line relatives include Louis XIV and Louis XV of France, Queen Christina of Sweden, Napoleon II (the son of Bonaparte), Queen Victoria, and Kaiser Wilhelm II.  

Now, about 15 percent of Polish Jews and 25 percent of Russian Jews belong to Haplogroup H, compared to about half of Polish and Russian gentiles. To oversimplify the genetics studies, researchers believe that the first Jews in Europe were male traders of Middle Eastern descent who often took brides from the local gentile populations. Jewish identity was originally determined through the father (look at Genesis) and then around Roman times Jewish identity became "passed down" through the mother. 

THE SCHER FAMILY

Strykow, Poland was home for the Scher/Szer family dating back to 1800, if not earlier in the 18th century. The Brumer family came from Glowno, a town about seven miles northeast of Strykow where Jews first settled in the mid-1700sThese towns were majority Jewish through World War II, and many of the Jews were Hasidic, like the famed "Strykower Rebbe" who was taught by disciples of the Baal Shem Tov. Sadly, both towns set up oppressive ghettos in 1940, and by 1942 Strykow's remaining Jews were sent to Brzeziny and Lodz ghettos and Glowno's last Jews were sent to the Warsaw ghetto. 

View Scher family documents and photographs. 


The incredible Jewish Recording Indexing - Poland project taught me that my earliest-known Scher ancestors were tailors. Aron Jakob Szer (c.1764-1836) the tailor first married Raca Uszerowna (c.1754?-1814) and then in 1814 married Toba Aidel Lisinski, who was also a widow, and had children with both wives. 

Aron's oldest surviving son, the tailor Abram Szer (c.1798-1877), also married twice, first to Laia Lewek (c.1798-1843) and then in 1843 to Laia Rayman (c.1813), the daughter of the tailor Moszek Szmul Rayman (c.1783-1855) and Hana Haskiel/Michal (c.1777?-1847). Abram and his second wife had a son, Szmul Michal Szer (1846-1880), a tailor who was born, lived, and died in Strykow.

Meanwhile, among the first generation of Jewish residents in Glowno was a couple, Szaia and Goldathat had a daughter, Fayga Szaiów (c.1784-1831), who married the tailor Abram Brumer c.1770-1847). 

Among Abram and Fayga's children was Szaia Brumer (b.1805), another tailor, who married in 1829 Dyna Gundalia (c.1809), the daughter of Aron Gundalia and his wife Hane

Szaia and Dyna Brumer had a daughter, Hana Brumer (born June 12, 1844 in Glowno, Poland; died February 20, 1923 in Paterson, NJ). In 1866 in Glowno, Hana Brumer married Szmul Michal Szer and they raised their children in Strykow. Following Szmul's untimely death, the widow Hana moved to Lodz, where by the 1890s she ran a bookstore. She came to the United States, aboard the S.S. Amsterdam in December 1899, and  helped raise her grandchildren in New York and New Jersey. Anna Scher is buried in Passaic Junction Cemetery in Saddle Brook, NJ. Szmul and Anna Scher had four children:
1. Morris [Moszek Lejb] Scher (b. 1867 in Strykow, Poland; d. September 29, 1943 in Paterson, NJ)
2. Dina Gela [Diana Gertrude] Scher (b.1871 in Strykow, Poland; d. November 27, 1936 in Paterson, NJ)
3. Fannie [Feige] Scher (b. c.1876 in Poland; d. December 19, 1956 in Miami, FL)
4. Abraham Scher (born June 15, 1881 in Lodz, Poland)

SZMUL & ANNA'S CHILDREN

Morris [Moszek Lejb] Scher (1867-1943) married Esther [Estera Chaia] Kaltz (1871-1945) in 1891 in Zgierz, Poland. He immigrated later that year, and his wife and daughter came to New York abroad the S.S. America on September 6, 1893. The family lived first in Manhattan, but within a year of the kidnapping of the eldest son Samuel, the remaining family moved to Paterson, NJ. From 1905 to around 1930, Morris was a silk manufacturer and ran the Scher Silk Company. Morris is buried in Mount Neboh Cemetery in Queens, NY. 
Their children were:
1. Lillian "Lillie" Fiber (b.1892 in Poland, but she said 1896; d.1971 in New York City) married the silk manufacturer Larry L. Fiber (b. c.1883 in Russia; d.1960 in Tuscon, AZ) and had two daughters, Audre Mulvaney and Mona Mason. View Larry & Lillie's family in the 1940 Census. In later years, Lillie lived in a Manhattan townhouse next door to the Whitney Museum.
2. Father Samuel Scher (b.1894 in Manhattan; d.1974 in Mistassini, QC, Canada) was kidnapped in 1904, joined the Trappists at Monastère Notre-Dame de Mistassini in 1908, was ordained as a priest in 1922, and reunited with his siblings and family in 1955.
3. Edward [Aaron] Scher (b.1897 in Manhattan; d.1964 in New Jersey) ran the Scher Brothers Chemical Company with his brothers from 1933 to the 1950s. He married Frances Fox (1902-1996) and had a daughter and son, Cecile Kaplan and Alan Scher (1929-1981).
4. Robert [Abraham] Scher (b.1900 in Manhattan; d.1968 in Miami, FL) co-owned Scher Brothers, married and had a daughter, Barbara.
5. Martin Scher (b.1901 in Manhattan; d.1973) was first a co-owner and then the sole president of Scher Brothers (renamed Scher Chemicals Corp.) from the 1950s until his death. He married and had two daughters, Sylvia Barbara and Judith, and a son, Stephen. The latter inherited the chemical business and controlled it until it was acquired by Noveon.

Dina Gela Scher (b.1871 in Strykow, Poland; d. November 27, 1936 in Paterson, NJ) met her husband Gershon "Gustave" Feitlowitz (b. March 28, 1875 in Lodz, Poland; d. August 16, 1951 in Paterson, NJ) in her mother's bookstore and they married in Lodz in 1894. Gershon was the son of Moshe Kopel Feitlowitz (c.1853-1928) and Necha Abramowitz (d.1880), and the great-grandson of Mojzesz Fajtlowicz (1767-1837), one of the founders of Lodz's Jewish community. Gershon immigrated in 1900 and Dina and the children came over in 1903. They lived briefly in NYC's Lower East Side and then moved to Paterson, when Gershon worked as a tailor, then owned a soda fountain, and then worked for the local silk industry. View Gustave Feitlowitz and his children Sadie and Charlie in the 1940 Census. Dina and Gershon, who are buried in Passaic Junction Cemetery in Saddle Brook, NJ, had seven children:
1. Sam [Samuel] Feitlowitz (b.1896 in Lodz; d.1967 in Haledon, NJ) was an insurance broker who married Bertha Rosenstock (1902-2000), and had a son, Robert.
2. Abe [Abram] Feitlowitz (b.1898 in Lodz; d.1962 in New Jersey) was a silk warper who married Ruth Biber (1902-1982), and their children were Daniel and Harvey Lewis (1930-2006). Abe and Ruth are buried in Riverside Cemetery in Saddle Brook, NJ. 
3. Nellie [Necha] Feitlowitz (b.1900 in Lodz; d.1901 in Lodz)
4. Sadie [Hannah Suda Frimma] Feitlowitz (b.1904 in Manhattan; d.1950 in Paterson, NJ) married Nathan J. Hiller and their children were Deanna and Herbert.
5. Nathan [Nussan] Feitlowitz (b.1906 in Manhattan; d.2000 in West Orange, NJ) ran a printing shop for many years in Paterson. He married Pearl Fisher (1909-1996) in 1932 in Manhattan and their children were Martin and Diane. View Nat's family in the 1940 Census.
6. Frieda "Fritzi" Feitlowitz (b.1909 in Paterson, NJ; d.2001 in Westwood, NJ) married Harvey Feinberg (1908-1973) and their children were Anita Morosohk (1930-2005) and Gerald. Fritzi then divorced and married Benjamin Holsman (1907-1986). View Fritzi's family in the 1940 Census
7. Charles [Shai] Feitlowitz (b.1912 in Paterson, NJ; d.2007 in Deerfield Beach, FL) was a window dresser and a U.S. Army engineer from 1943-1945, who earned a Bronze Star for his service in World War II. He was partners with Erwin "Bud" Schroers, Jr. (1923-2009) from the early 1950s until his death. Charlie is buried in King Solomon Memorial Park in Clifton, NJ. 

Fannie [Feige] Scher (b. c.1876 in Poland; d. December 19, 1956 in Miami, FL), seen in the above right picture, arrived at New York with her sister-in-law Esther and niece Lillie aboard the S.S. America on September 6, 1893. Fannie was 17 years old, but to seem older she used the passport of her 20-year-old sister Dina, who was about to get married back in Lodz. Young Fannie worked in the sweatshops of Hester Street, then in 1896 married the young widower housepainter Paul Davis (b. c.1867 in Russia; d.1926 in Spokane, WA). They moved to Milwaukee in 1904 and Spokane, WA in 1909. Details on their life together and their children are in the previous blog entry. Fannie clearly loved Paul and never remarried. She moved to Miami in 1952 to live with her daughter Dorothy, but when she died her body was flown back to Spokane to be buried next to Paul in Mount Nebo Cemetery. View Fannie Davis in the 1940 Census and Fannie's obituary in the Spokane Daily Chronicle. 
Their children were:
1. Jennie Wexler (b.1893 in Manhattan; d.1984 in Portland, OR) [stepdaughter]
2. Jack [Samuel] Davis (b.1896 in Manhattan; d.1951 in Spokane, WA), a World War I veteran, insurance salesman and real estate agent in Bend, OR.
3. Morris Davis (b.1898 in Manhattan; d.1989 in Bainbridge Island, WA), a clothing store owner in Spokane and later Portland.
4. Bessie Lillian [Rebecca] Davis (b.1900 in Manhattan; d.1995 in Miami, FL), an outspoken saleswoman, who first eloped and married Nathaniel Karasov (1895-1977), a British-born salesman, in 1918 in Coeur d'Alene, ID. Then in 1978, she married Lou Krutt, a retired pots and pans manufacturer.
5. Florence Fraser Daly (b.1904 in Manhattan; d.2001 in San Francisco, CA)
6. Dorothy Berg (b.1905 in Milwaukee; d.1991 in Santa Ana, CA)
7. Esther Kaplan (b.1913 in Spokane, WA; d.2002 in Queens, NY)

Abraham "Abe" Scher (b. June 15, 1881 in Lodz, Poland), a clothes fitter and then a grocery store worker, was married at Manhattan's City Hall in 1910 to Regina Epstein (b.1885; daughter of Samuel and Esther Epstein). They lived in the Bronx and then White Plains, NY, and their children were:
1. Gertrude Scher (b.1910) attended college and was first married in 1930 to William Pollack (b.1900). She got divorced and then married in 1952 the chemist Jack J. Bulloff (1914-2002), and had one son, Eric Bulloff.
2. Seymour Scher (1922-1976) married and had a family.

ANNA'S NEPHEWS

Three "nephews" of Anna Scher lived in Paterson, according to her grandson, Charlie Feitlowitz. These men, who Charlie called his "uncles," were probably Samuel Brummer, Nathan Greenbaum, and Samuel Sanders. Their exact relation to Szmul Szer's family is not yet known. 

Sol Brummer married Celia Greenbaum, and they had at least one son:

Samuel [Shy-Schluma] Brummer (1874-1945), a housepainter who lived in the Bronx. He married Katie [Keile] Sandberg (1879-1956) in Poland, lived in England by 1902 and the USA by 1905. They had four children:
1. Thelma "Debbie" Brummer (1900-2000), who married Bernard Moroz (1892-1972).
2. Abraham "Al" Brummer (1902-1978), who married Mathilda Hess (1907-2000).
3. Mildred Brummer (1905-1965), who died unmarried.
4. Ceil Brummer (b.1908), who married in 1941 Catello Santaniello (1911-1987). 

Another Greenbaum family had at least three children:
1. Nathan [Nachem] Greenbaum (b.1878), a silk worker and metal fabric maker who married Lillian Miller [Leye Mulchatski] (1882-1973) in Lodz in 1904. They immigrated later that year and lived in Paterson, NJ. They had five children: Isabel Aretsky (1905-1991), Dorothy Korman (1906-2010), Ruth Harelick (1911-1985), Abraham Greenbaum (b.1917), Shirley Greenbaum (b.1922)
2. Hanna [Greenbaum] Denna (b.1882)
3. Freida [Greenbaum] Goldberg (b.1885 in Lodz), who immigrated in 1906.

The Sender family (later Americanized to "Sanders") had at least four sons:

Simon Sanders [Szaia Sender] (b.1869 in Strykow; d.1942) was a tailor who married Katie [Yetta] Brandt (1869-1948) in Lask, Poland in 1890. They first immigrated to London around 1902, then came to Paterson, NJ in 1929. View Simon and Katie in the 1940 Census
They had five surviving children:
1. Abraham Sanders (1891-1953)
2. William Wolf Sanders (1896-1940)
3. Hyman Sanders (b.1896)
4. Leslie [Lazarus] Sanders (b.1901)
5. Sarah Rosen (b.1903) 

Samuel Sanders (1875-1931), a silk warper, married Millie Berlach (b.1878) and immigrated first from Poland to England around 1903 and then to the United States around 1905 and settled in Paterson, NJ. They had four children:
1. Maurice Sanders (1902-1967), an assistant district attorney
2. Dina Sanders (1903-1953), who died unmarried. 
3. Anna Sanders (b.1906)
4. Joseph Sanders (b.1908)

Gedaly [Gdalya] Sanders (b.1880) immigrated in 1909 and lived in the Bronx with his wife, Jennie.

A fourth Sanders brother, Barnet, was living in London by 1929.

Questions? Comments? Email me at ruedafingerhut [at] gmail.com.

My Davis family From Kiev, Ukraine (updated 7/5/14)

Despite the all-American last name, this Jewish family's original surname is said to be Davinsky or something similar, and they came from Kiev, Ukraine, a major city in the Russian Pale of Settlement. My great-grandma Bess (sitting in the middle of this family picture) said that her family raised Sammy Davis, Jr., and that's why he converted to Judaism... but somehow I doubt that story.

The father of all the Davis family was named
Yekutiel Zusman. His name was given in another record as "Jacob Davis." At least one grandson was also named Yekutiel Zusman, and two other grandsons named Jack may be named after him. The first of these children was born in 1891, implying that Yekutiel/Jacob died in Russia, before his children immigrated. However, I have not found any Russian records about the family.

His wife,
Esther Davis, came to New York around 1892. She lived with her daughter Ella in the Lower East Side and then Brooklyn. Esther died on October 15, 1910 and her death certificate lists her parents as "Sussman Davis" and "Sara Cohen," although her husband's name is maybe listed as her father's. On another form, her maiden name is given as "Saslawsky."

In the 1900 and 1910 census, Esther claimed to have birthed 13 children, with 6 surviving. All 6 children came to the United States in the 1890s: they were Ruben Davis, Joseph Davis, Isaac Davis, Louis Davis, Paul Davis, and Ella Axelrod.  


Ruben and Rose Davis, c.1930 - courtesy of my cousin Steve Davis.

Ruben Davis (sometimes spelled "Reuben" and "Rubin") was probably the eldest sibling. His first wife, Ida Mostrofsky, died young around 1880 and he married his second wife, Rose (Rachel) Basilevsky, shortly thereafter. Ruben said in his naturalization records that he came to New York in December 1890. His wife Rosie and children came the following year. His occupation was given as tailor (1897), shirtmaker (1900), fruit store owner (1905), storekeeper (1906), fish dealer (1910), none (1920), retired operator (1930).


Joe Davis, c.1900 - courtesy of my cousin Steve Davis.

Another older brother, Joe Davis, lived more of a double life, as he eventually grappled with a divorce and a gambling addiction. Within a few years of immigrating from Russia he was in Cripple Creek, Colorado, the site of one of the last great Wild West gold rushes. A September 1896 article described him as "a well known character upon Myers avenue [the town's red light district].... Joe, so Dame Rumor whispers, is a 'gay boy' and is prone to mixing up with the opposite sex in an undue degree." The article described how a judge dismissed charges a "discarded housekeeper" brought against Joe. Angered, the housekeeper "let dive with her dainty little fist and Joe's eye at once assumed a sable tint." 


Joe had gotten rid of this nameless housekeeper as he married an Illinois-born woman named Margaret Ann McDonald the previous month, across the border in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Joe and Margaret's only child, Reuben, was born in 1898 in Washington State. 


Joe and his brother Isaac were arrested in Spokane, WA in August 1899 for running an unlicensed pawn shop, but they still stayed in the town. In the 1900 census (dated June), Joe said he had a "confectionary store" and claimed to be born in Ohio, even though he probably was in Russia a decade before. By August 1900, Joe owned a jewelry shop called The Diamond Palace, which advertised jewelry with cheap quartzes called "Ural Diamonds," and he spent his leisure time playing competitive checkers. My grandmother owned a gold watch made by "Uncle Joe," which may date from this time. 

Then, Joe's life quickly devolved. Joe and Margaret got divorced in August 1900, and the following March, Joe left Spokane over a debt and his store closed down. In an article from May 1901, ex-wife Margaret said that Joe had not paid his $15 monthly alimony for the last two months. Joe insisted on custody of their son Reuben, but she said that he was “unfit” to raise or even see Reuben, as he was “a man of violent temper and ugly disposition” and “a man of immoral habits, he is dishonest, untruthful, unreliable and has no standing whatsoever.”

Margaret said as a divorcee she was forced to work as a domestic for a local Jewish businessman, Isadore M. Cuschner, and they both said that Joe would see her at all times of the day and night in the Cuschner home, threatened to kill her if she did not marry him again, and said he would abduct Reuben. Saying she wanted the equivalent of a modern restraining order, Margaret also wanted Joe to pay railway fare from Spokane to a different city.
Cuschner and two other local Jewish men gave the shameful allegation that Joe thought “that the decree of divorce was not binding upon him, that he was a Jew and did not consider the orders of this court legal or binding.”

The next Spokane newspaper account, from October 1901, gave an update on what they termed the "Sad Fate of Joe Davis." Fleeing to Portland, Oregon, Joe became obsessed with playing checker games for money, and after a particularly large loss tried to accuse his opponent of theft. The following February, it was reported that Joe's former jewelry business partner also fled to Portland and was accused of being a bigamist.

Despite these clouds of scandal, Joe returned to Spokane and somehow was able to reopen his jewelry store in the exact same spot by 1903. By the following year, he was gone. It's possible that Joe moved to Milwaukee, as his younger brother Paul also settled there at the same time.

Eventually, Joe made it to San Francisco, and according to his great-nephew Marc Axelrod, did a partially redeeming act. The story goes that Joe worked in a haberdashery, saved his money, and eventually bought the store. With his (honestly-earned) money, he was able to pay for his newly immigrated younger sister Ella to return to New York City, when she accidentally boarded a train for Montana.

The family story is that Joe died in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, but he is listed in his two brother's obituaries in the 1920s as a San Francisco resident, so it's possible that he survived the earthquake. Perhaps more sources can flesh out the story of this shadowy man.


His ex-wife Margaret went to California, married another man, and raised Reuben with the new husband's last name. Reuben became a successful bank executive and lived into his 90s. It wasn't until 2011 that Joe's descendants learned the backstory of their Wild West ancestor, thanks to this blog. 

Ike Davis, c.1900 - Courtesy of my cousin, Steve Davis

Another older son, Ike [Isaac/Yitzhak] Davis, was in 1890 possibly the first family member to immigrate to the United States. His wife Rebecca and their four surviving children immigrated sometime the following year. Ike is possibly listed in immigration records as "Itzig Dewinsky," a 32-year-old tailor from Kiev who took the S.S. Wieland from Hamburg, Germany and landed in New York City on September 26, 1890.
By 1894, they lived in Missoula, MT, where Ike's daughter Anna was born. Maybe Ike knew about the town from Ella? In 1897, Ike appeared in Montana newspapers as a Missoula jeweler who was swindled by a business partner.

The family story is that Ike traveled by train to join his brother Joe in California, but the train broke down in Spokane, WA. Ike liked the town and decided to stay. In August 1899, Ike appeared in the Spokane papers when he and his brother Joe were arrested for running an unlicensed pawn shop. By November, Ike was again in the paper for having his house robbed, and he was mentioned as the owner of a clothing store, which he was for the next two decades. In 1901, Ike became one of the founders of Keneseth Israel, Spokane’s Orthodox Jewish congregation.
Rebecca died of tuberculosis in 1904, and Ike remarried around 1905 to Lena Prager (originally Podajetsky, who came from Katerinopol, Ukraine). Ike died in a car accident outside of Spokane on March 27, 1921. By the late 1920s, Lena Davis had moved with her daughter and son to Brooklyn.



Paul Davis, c.1910

Paul [Peisach] Davis landed in New York with his first wife Gittel aboard the S.S. Werkendam on June 23, 1893, and their daughter Jennie was born two months later. Gittel died of tuberculosis in 1896, and Paul soon married Fannie Scher (who immigrated from Lodz, Poland). The story goes that Fannie met two-year Jennie Davis, "fell in love with her," and raised Jennie as one of her own children. Paul was a housepainter, but the exposure to lead paint ruined his health, and doctors advised him to leave New York and go west. Paul took a train to Milwaukee, WI in 1903 and his wife and children followed in his tracks in 1904, using tickets provided by the Industrial Removal Office.

They moved to Spokane, WA in 1909, where Paul ran a clothing store in his later years, and Fannie became prominent in local Jewish affairs. Paul became sickly in later years, gradually had his whole leg amputated, and died in Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane on March 7, 1926. Fannie clearly loved Paul; she never remarried and claimed to have conversations with Paul's ghost at night. Fannie Davis died in Miami, FL on December 19, 1956, and her body was flown back to Spokane to be buried next to Paul.



Ella Davis, the youngest sibling and only sister, came to the United States as a teenager with a female cousin. According to Ella's grandson Mark, the two women went by train from Russia to France, took a ferry to England, then another train to Southampton to get on a boat to New York. Weeks later, instead of seeing a large city, they docked in Charleston, SC. Somehow they had boarded the wrong ship! Luckily, someone in the train station who spoke Yiddish explained what happened and the two immigrants bought two tickets to New York. Many days later, in the dead of winter, the train pulled into a wilderness town and Ella saw "American Indians sitting around the station all wrapped up in brightly-colored blankets and smoking pipes." Somehow, Ella and her cousin ended up 2,000 miles east of New York, in Missoula, Montana! By a miracle, the women found another Yiddish speaker, and the almost-penniless immigrants wired Joe Davis in San Francisco. Joe was able to wire money to his sister and cousin, and they were able to arrive at long last in New York.

After a few years living with her mother on the Lower East Side, Ella married in 1900 Benjamin Axelrod, a Russian-born ladies' tailor who in later life resembled Churchill. Benjamin's father, Wolf Axelrod, founded the Axelrod dairy products company in 1896, and Benjamin's brother and nephew later ran the company. Ben and Ella Axelrod moved to Brooklyn in 1905, where they spent most of the rest of their lives.



SOME DAVIS DESCENDANTS



Ruben Davis (b. c.1855 in Russia; d.1934 in New York) first married c.1875 to Ida Mostrofsky, who probably died in Russia. Then sometime before 1885, Ruben married Rosa Brodsky [Rachel Basilevsky] (b.1864 in Russia; d.1941 in Brooklyn; 
daughter of Nathan and Leah Brodsky). 
Ruben's children were:
1. Mary Davis (b.1876 in Russia; d.1965 in New York City), who married c.1899 the storekeeper Sam Prigerson (b.1874 in Russia) and had three children: Henry Prigerson (1900-1958), Harriet Mintz (1904-1983), and Irving Prigerson (1908-1937).
2. Jennie Davis (b.1879 in Russia) married Julius [Jacob] Litkowsky (b.1880) in 1904 in Manhattan and had at least one son, Harold Litkowsky (b.1905).
3. Lena Davis (b.1885 in Russia; d.1965 in Brooklyn) married Abe Leibowitz and had four children: Norman Leeb, Howard Leeb, Elinor Lowe, and Jane Pollack.
4. Anna Davis (b.1889 in Russia; d.1984 in Los Angeles), a suffragrette who married Abraham Marshall (1884-1955), a builder and union painter. They had four children: Gladys Shepard Salit (1908-1969), Irving (1911-1971), Elinor (1915-2013), and Norman (1918-1939), and moved to Los Angeles in their later years. The eldest daughter, Gladys, was a social worker, the mother of pioneer American mime Richmond Shepard, and the grandmother of pop singer Vonda Shepard. The third child, Elinor Marshall Glenn, was the first woman hired as an organizer by the SEIU union, and she helped lead a 1966 strike of Los Angeles hospital workers, leading to the "first collective bargaining for public workers." See union obituaries for Elinor here and here.
5. Arthur [Otto] Davis (b.1895 in Manhattan; d.1971 in Brooklyn), who as a youth played piano in a silent movie theater and later ran a meat factory, married Helen Uhler in 1920 and they had at least one daughter, Jane.
6. Philip Davis (b.1897 in Manhattan; d.1974 in St. Paul, MN) was a meat broker and then a liquor broker, who in 1926 married his first cousin Betty Davis (1906-1994, Ike's daughter, see below) in Brooklyn and they had two sons, Richard and Robert.


Isaac Davis (b.1857 in Russia; d.1921 in Spokane, WA)
first married c.1881 to Rebecca Kukler (b. c.1862 in Russia; d.1904 in Spokane, WA; daughter of Abraham and Anna Sarah Kukler)
Their surviving children were:
1. Alex Davis (b.1881 in Russia; d.1978 in Spokane), a clothes salesman, married Elizabeth Markowitz (1892-1932) and had a son and daughter, Private First Class Robert Davis of the Army Air Force (1917-1944), who died as a POW aboard the Japanese ship Arisan Maru, and Zelda Taitch (1919-1968). Alex then married Daisy (1910-1990) and had another daughter, Roberta Greer.
2. Morris Davis (b.1885 in Russia) lived as a saloon/pool hall worker in Western towns. First he married Kathryn "Kate" Greene Shortridge (1882-1917), a divorcee, in 1914 in Great Falls, MT. Kathryn was first married in 1901 to Charles G. Shortridge (1864-1927), a son of Populist North Dakota Governor Eli C. D. Shortridge (1830-1908). Kathryn and Charles had a son, Lyman (1901-1976), but Morris never raised him. In February 1917, Kathryn committed suicide in her home in Lewistown, MT by ingesting 
strychnine. Seven months after his first wife's death, Morris married Aritia Cassell (b.1896) in Cascade County, MT, and they stayed in Lewistown.
3. Sadie [Sonya] Cassell (b.1889 in Russia; d.1982 in Los Angeles) married in 1909 David Bennett Cassell (b.1882 in Arkansas; d.1965 in Los Angeles), who worked for a construction company. They had four children - Daniel (1910-1914), Benjamin (1912-1978), Betty (1913-1968), and Jane Lapota (1915-1996) - and Sadie outlived three of them.
4. Jake [Jacob] Davis (b.1891 in Russia) lived in Chicago.
5. Anna Davis (b.1894 in Missoula, MT; d.1972 in Bellevue, WA), who became a registered nurse in Spokane in 1912, 
converted to Catholicism in 1916 against her father's wishes, and became a nun named "Sister Mary Mercedes." According to her obituary, Sister Mercedes first worked with the Sisters in Longview, WA, spent 30 years as a supervisor at St. Joseph's Hospital in Bellingham, WA, and then for 11 years was the receptionist at Sacred Heart General Hospital in Eugene, OR, before retiring in 1969.
Isaac remarried c.1905 in Spokane to Lena Prager [Podajetsky] (b. c.1876 in Katerinopol, Ukraine; died in New York; daughter of Itzig/Isaac Podajetsky and Miriam Feinberg), and they had the following children:
6. Betty [Rebecca] Davis (b.1906 in Spokane; d.1994 in St. Paul, MN), who dated Bing Crosby in Spokane before she went to New York City, married in 1926 in Brooklyn her first cousin Phil Davis (1897-1974, Ruben's son, see above) and had two sons.
7. Max [Mordechai] Davis (b.1910 in Spokane; d.1910 in Spokane)
8. Leo Davis (b.1911 in Spokane) married Gertrude Lees in Brooklyn in 1934.


Joseph Davis (b. c.1859 in Russia) was a jeweler who married Margaret Ann McDonald (b.1871 in Illinois) in Cheyenne, WY 
in 1896. They lived in Cripple Creek, CO and then Spokane, WA and divorced in 1900. Afterwards, Joe operated a Spokane jewelry store that failed twice, fled to Portland to escape a debt, and then after 1903 ended up as a haberdasher in San Francisco (maybe by means of Milwaukee). Family lore says he died in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, but according to his brothers’ obituaries he was still living during the 1920s.
Joe and Margaret had one son: 
1. Reuben Irvin (b.1898 in Washington State; d.1989 in California) took the last name of the stepfather who raised him. Reuben had a son and helped found the Santa Barbara Bank & Trust.  

Paul Davis (b. c.1867 in Russia; d.1926 in Spokane, WA) first married Gittel Abelov (b.1873 in Russia; d.1896 in Montefiore Home in Manhattan). Their only surviving child was:
1. Jennie Davis (b.1893 in Manhattan; d.1984 in Portland, OR), who married in 1919 the chiropractor Herman Wexler (c.1894-1962; son of Morris Wexler and Jennie Abrams). They had a daughter, Myrtle Marsha Williams (1920-1995), and a son,
Paul Wexler (1929-1979), who was a Hollywood actor. Paul in turn had a son who became a high-ranking Hare Krishna, Bhaktividya Purna Maharaja.
Paul remarried in 1896 to Fannie [Feige] Scher (b. c.1876 in Poland; d.1956 in Miami, FL), and they had the following children:
2. Jack [Samuel] Davis (b.1896 in Manhattan; d.1951 in Spokane, WA), who served in World War I and moved to Bend, OR by the 1920s. Jack worked there as an insurance salesman and real estate agent, commanded the local American Legion, and among many civic duties helped organize and lead Deschutes County's World War II draft board. Jack Davis first married Genevieve Perkins (1890-1946; daughter of Hugh and Frances E. Nelson) and then a woman named Gladys (d.1958) but had no children. He died while visiting his mother.
3. Moe [Morris] Davis (b.1898 in Manhattan; d.1989 in Bainbridge Island, WA) ran a clothing store in Spokane, where lumberjacks and Spokan Indians numbered among his customers, and also led the synagogue's social events. He married 
Jennie [Genevieve] Itkin (1910-1988; daughter of Henry Itkin and Lena Bade) in 1931 in Portland, OR. They had a son and a daughter, Paul Davis and Eleanor Capeloto, moved from Spokane to Portland in the 1940s, and spent their last years in Seattle.
4. Bessie Lillian [Rebecca] Davis (b.1900 in Manhattan; d.1995 in Miami, FL) was an outspoken saleswoman with a sarcastic wit, who eloped and married Nathaniel Karasov (1895-1977), a British-born salesman, on April 10, 1918 in Coeur d'Alene, ID. They had one daughter, Frances, and moved to many places, including Spokane, WA; Watrous, Saskatchewan; Los Angeles, and Portland, OR before retiring in Miami. Widowed, Bess married in 1978 in Miami the retired pots and pans manufacturer Louis Krutt (1899-1983).
5. Florence Davis (b.1904 in Manhattan; d.2001 in San Francisco, CA) married in 1922 in Coeur d'Alene, ID and later divorced Walter J. Fraser, and they had one son, Robert. She lived the later half of her life in San Francisco, CA and remarried, probably to Martin Edward Daly (1890-1969). Robert Fraser served in World War II in General Patton's Third Army and helped bring the famed Lipizzan horses to safety from Czechoslovakia to Austria. After the war, he served in the FBI, became an assistant district attorney and evenutally was a judge in Washington State.
6. Dorothy Davis (b.1905 in Milwaukee, WI; d.1991 in Santa Ana, CA) married Mickey Berg (1905-1986; son of Jacob Berg and Hannah Aronowitz) in 1934 in Brooklyn and had a son and a daughter, Paul and Anita.
7. Esther Davis (b.1913 in Spokane, WA; d.2002 in Queens, NY) married Ruby Kaplan (1913-2005; son of Joseph and Ida Kaplan) in 1936 in Brooklyn and they had a son and a daughter, Jerry and Marilyn.



Louis Davis may be a man found in records (b.1862 in Kiev, Ukraine; d.1944 in Manhattan) who immigrated in 1891 under the name Leiser Dewinsky with his wife, Minnie [Mindel] Chudnoff (1862-1930), and three oldest children and became a Manhattan fish dealer. He had nine children:

1. Ida [Chaje] (b.1884 in Russia), who may be named after Ruben's first wife.
2. Tamy [Trimme] (b.1885 in Russia)

3. Rachael (b.1889 in Russia)
4. Samuel (b.1893 in New York)
5. Rebecca (b.1895 in New York)
6. Abraham (b.1898 in New York)
7. Anna (b.1900 in New York)
8. Hyman (b.1902 in New York)
9. Beatrice "Bella" (b.1904 in New York)
Yet it's not definite whether this Louis was related.


Ella Axelrod (b. c.1876 in Russia; d.1960 in Brooklyn) married in 1900 the tailor Benjamin Axelrod (b.1875 in Minsk, Russia; d.1948 in Brooklyn; son of Wolf Axelrod and Ida Perelman). Their children were:

1. Solomon [Yekutiel Sussman] Axelrod (1902-1988), a salesman who married Sylvia Pardes (1913-1994) and had one son, Mark.
2. Milton Axelrod (1908-1910)
3. Estelle [Esther] Axelrod (1914-1994), who died unmarried. 



Questions? Comments? Please email me at ruedafingerhut [at] gmail.com

My Karasov Family from Poltava region, Ukraine (updated 4/23/13)

Although Karasov is a common name in Russia and Ukraine (where the name is usually transliterated as "Karasev"), most Karasovs in the USA are descended from William and Beatrice Karasov, Russian Jews who immigrated from Kiev, Ukraine, to England, then to western Canada, and then to the United States.

The family story is that the Karasovs came from Kiev, but in his 1911 British Census entry and 1940s papers for U.S. citizenship, William Karasov said he was born in "Lochvich" [Lokhvitsa, Ukraine] and Beatrice was born in "Lubna" or "Luben" [Lubny, Ukraine]. Both towns are in the Poltava region of central Ukraine, south of Kiev. 

Karasov is a patronymic name derived from the Slavic word "karas," meaning carp. Maybe the first Karasov was a fisherman or a fishmonger? "Lokhvitsa" probably stems from the Slavic word for "salmon," so amusingly the "Son of a Carp" came from "Salmon-Town." 

Another vital clue in William's U.S. naturalization papers is that his alternative name is given as "Wolf Karasik." This may have been his birth name or an alias, but I've found no other document that mentions this. There were some Karasiks in the Poltava region, including a soldier who died in the Russo-Japanese War. Maybe this was the same family?

Jehosuah Karasov's grave, Rice Lane Cemetery, Liverpool, England. 

The oldest-known ancestor of this line is Yitzchak Chaim Karasov (d. c.1880) who probably lived and died in Russia. He had at least one son, Jehosuah.
Jehosuah Karasov (c.1848-1917) and his wife Betsy (c.1850-1924) immigrated to Liverpool, England at some point between 1901 and 1911 to join one of their sons. Jehosuah worked as a newsvendor, and they lived and died in the Jewish section of Liverpool and were buried in Rice Lane Cemetery. In the 1911 British census, Betsy claimed she birthed nine children but only four were still living.


According to Rose K. Lora, there were five brothers Karasov who were born in Russia, and only two immigrated: Isaac and William. Isaac Karasov (1880-1942), who was named "Yitzchak Chaim" for his paternal grandfather, was a carpenter. He stayed in Liverpool, England, and supposedly George Harrison of Beatles fame apprenticed with him (although technically George was born after Isaac died). Isaac married Fanny Hlushkin (1882-1934), and had four children: Tommy Kay (born Abram Karasov, 1905-1970), Ellis Kay (born Eli Karasov, 1912-1953), Sarah Karasov (1914-1971), and Rose Kay Lora (born Rosa Karasov, 1920-2001).



According to his naturalization papers, Tommy Kay (a.k.a. Abram Karasov or Arthur Thomas Kay) was born in Liverpool and was living in Canada by 1942, the year he entered the USA by train. By 1943 he had settled in Washington, D.C., where he was a cab driver. He was in New York when his sister Rose immigrated there in 1948. Within a few years, they resettled in Miami, where in 1958 Tommy married Kentucky-born Jetta Deatrick (1908-1993).


Rose K. Lora, although a distant relation, was always kind and loving, and my family called her "Aunt Rose." A beautician by trade, Rose straddled several worlds in her lifetime: she was raised in a Jewish household, spoke with a British accent, kept close to her American and Canadian cousins, and married a Dominican man named Raymond Lora (a maitre'd). Raymond and Rose hosted all-night merengue parties in their house in Miami, and my mom attended them and had really fun times. Rose left no immediate family, with the exception of Raymond's children from his first marriage.


Beatrice Karasov, the mother of the U.S. Karasovs, was born Besheva Tarnarutsky in 1869 in Lubny (Luben), Ukraine to Hyman Tarnarutsky (d. c.1902) and an unknown mother. Hyman may have been among the Jews of Luben who in 1880 elected a 21-year-old man named Solomon Rabinovich to serve as the town's "crown rabbi," or vital records registrar. Rabinovich later wrote under the pen name Sholem Aleichem and his "Tevye the Milkman" stories inspired the musical "Fiddler on the Roof." 

Beatrice also had a brother who immigrated to England: Morris Turner (c.1876-1947), who married Betty Segal (c.1882-1948) in Stoke-Upon-Trent, England in 1902 and settled in Sheffield, then Manchester. They had at least six children: Herman Turner (1903-1990), Burrell Turner (1904-1976), Isabel Shapiro (1908-1996), Eric Turner, Renee Klavir, Dorothy Laker, and possibly Amy Geey (1908?-2002).


William Karasov (Hebrew name: Zev), as said before, was born in 1867 in Lochvitsya. He married Beatrice Karasov on June 8, 1890 in Lubny and immigrated to Liverpool, England around 1891. They doubtlessly left behind siblings and cousins, who may have fallen victims to the Nazis. German soldiers massacred more than 1,800 Jews from Luben at one time in a field outside the town in October 1941, then shot almost 300 Jews in Lokhvitsa in May 1942. 

William and Beatrice's first son, Jack, was born on February 22, 1891, but records and family members are uncertain whether he was born in Russia or England. William Karasov was a "travelling draper" [tailor], and the family lived in Wrexham (Wales), West Derby, Hanley, Stoke-Upon-Trent, and finally Sheffield, where Beatrice also worked as a "picture framer."


As a family with British-born children, it made sense for the Karasov family to immigrate to Canada. William was the first to leave in June 1912, and then Jack, Peter, and Nat came later that year. Beatrice and the other three children followed in 1913. The Karasov family first lived in Regina, Saskatchewan, which was recovering from a major cyclone, but through the 1920s they moved from town to town in Alberta and Saskatchewan. William would open a small grocery store, but he allowed his customers to use credit. When William's distributors forced him to make his customers pay with cash instead, his business suffered. To earn extra money, Jack became a prizefighter and even became the featherweight boxing champion of Canada. Once the family earned enough money, they moved to the next town and opened another store.

Around 1923, William became a naturalized British subject. Eventually, he lived in Vancouver, British Columbia, where in 1927 he joined the pool of founders of the Achduth Association, the city's first Jewish loan society.  


My great-grandfather Nathaniel was the first Karasov to immigrate to the United States: he crossed the border at Sweetgrass, MT on January 2, 1917, and married the following year. Jack and Peter soon afterwards went to Minnesota. Rosa and Annie married and stayed in Canada, and Hymy stayed as well.

William and Beatrice left Vancouver for the United States and entered Blaine, WA aboard the Great Northern Railway on October 19, 1934. They settled in Los Angeles, where William became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1944. Beatrice died in Los Angeles on May 23, 1947. William Karasov was killed by a car while crossing a road during a family visit to Montreal on July 29, 1949. Both are buried in Home of Peace Cemetery in Los Angeles.

William & Beatrice Karasov's headstone, Los Angeles, CA. Photo by my cousin David Roniss. 


The six children of William and Beatrice Karasov are:


1. Jack Karasov (b.1891 in Ukraine or England; d.1976 in Minnesota), a traveling salesman, married Fanny Gordon (c.1900-1951), and settled in St. Paul, MN and then Miami. They had two sons, Harry (1920-2002) and Elliott.


2. Peter Karasov (b.1893 in Wrexham, Wales; d.1979 in Los Angeles) came into the United States in 1917 and briefly served in the Army in 1918. He married Cecilia Labofsky (b.1901 in St. Paul, MN; d.1955 in Los Angeles; daughter of Jacob Labofsky and Sara Berger) and had two children, Harvey (1924-2011) and Rosalind. By the mid-1920s, he was working in Los Angeles as a grocer. 


3. Nathaniel Karasov (b.1895 in Wrexham, Wales; d.1977 in Miami, FL), a traveling salesman, married Bessie Lillian Davis (1900-1995) in 1918 in Coeur d'Alene, ID, then settled in Spokane, WA (with intermittent times spent in Canada, Los Angeles, and Portland, OR), and finally moved to Miami, FL by the early 1950s. They had one daughter, Frances.


4. Rosa Mallin (b.1897 in West Derby, England; d.1946 in Montreal, Canada) married Ben Mallin (b.1891 in Kiev Province, Ukraine; d.1979 in Montreal Canada; son of Elia Malinsky) in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1920. Read a newspaper article on their wedding. They later settled in Montreal and had two daughters, Marian Adelson and Pat Coorsh (1924-2002).


5. Ann Karasov Nemetz (b.1899 in Wrexham, Wales; d.1946 in Vancouver, Canada), a prominent "clubwoman," married Harry Nemetz (b.1898 in Svatatroiske, Ukraine; d.1991 in Vancouver, Canada; son of Abraham Nemetz and Toby Pollock) in Rosthern, Saskatchewan in 1920. Read a newspaper article on their wedding. Harry ran an electrical supplies business with his brothers in Vancouver that went under in the Great Depression. Harry then opened his own electric business in 1930 and regained his lost fortune by selling refrigerators and real estate. In the 1960s, Harry was one of 100 people who helped finance the founding of Kibbutz Eilot, Israel's southernmost settlement. Ann and Harry had three children: Phyliss Snider (1921-1999) who married the prominent dentist Dr. Irving Snider (1903-2002), Milton Nemetz (1924-1970), and Alvin Nemetz (1929-2001). 


6. Hyman Karasov (b.1901 in Stoke-Upon-Trent, England; d.1980 in Vancouver, Canada) never married. He always wanted to be an artist, but instead worked for Harry Nemetz's refrigeration business. Hy also served in the Canadian army during World War II.


Questions? Comments? Please email me at ruedafingerhut [at] gmail.com.

My Fingerhut Family from Lemberg, Austria-Hungary (updated 5/17/13)

The Fingerhut family from Lemberg, Austria-Hungary (now L'viv, Ukraine) bears a surname that's German for "thimble," implying that ancestors were tailors. Other family last names forcibly adopted by my Galitzianer Jewish ancestors in the early 19th century are also humble German: Fischer (fisher), Tafel (table), Niedrig (lowly). 
But the Fingerhut men said they were part of the Tribe of Kohen, the direct patrilineal descendants of Israel's high priest Aaron, the brother of Moses who delivered the Hebrews from Egypt (as played by Charlton Heston). These brothers were in turn the great-grandsons of Levi (the son of Jacob, the grandson of Isaac, and the great-grandson of Abraham). 
Technically, my grandfather and his brother were the last surviving male links of this long chain of Biblical descent, but I don't believe they ever blessed congregations or performed other Kohen duties.

About 3,350 years after his ancestor spoke before Pharaoh,
Majer Izak Fingerhut ran a tavern at 8 Zrodlana Street in the old Austrian imperial city of Lemberg. Legend says that at one point Majer Izak ran the restaurant at Lemberg's royal armory, and there was familiarity between the tavernkeeper and the imperial household.
Majer Izak Fingerhut married
Fani [Fajga] Tafel, the daughter of Gimpel Tafel of Lemberg, who is listed in records as a gravedigger or goods dealer, and his wife Marjem.
Among the children of Majer Izak and Fani Fingerhut were:
1. Gietel Fingerhut (b. and d. 1869 in Lemberg, age 3 weeks)
2. Fredyryka [Friede] Fingerhut (b.1870 in Lemberg), who in 1894 married Ignacy Kikiniss [or Izak Kikenis] (b.1868 in Lemberg, son of Meier Kikenis and Hene Wurm), and their children included: 

   a. Malwina Kikiniss (b.1896 in Lemberg)
   b. Klara Kikiniss (b.1897 in Lemberg)
   c. Ludwik Kikiniss (b.1900 in Lemberg)
3. Jakob Fingerhut (b.1875 in Lemberg; d.1894 in Lemberg)
4. Baruch Fingerhut (b.1877 in Lemberg; d.1952 in Brooklyn, NY)

5. Herman Fingerhut (b.1879 in Lemberg)
6. Eljukim Gecel Fingerhut (b.1882 in Lemberg)
7. Marjem Fingerhut (b.1883 in Lemberg), who was named after her paternal grandmother.


Gimpel and Marjem Tafel also had a son, Meyer Baruch Tafel (b.1829 in Lemberg; d.1866 in Lemberg), who married Rose Wischek (b. c.1838), the daughter of Elias Wischek and Perl Spruch. At the time, the anti-Semitic Austro-Hungarian government did not recognize Jewish religious marriages. In fact, until 1830, the law only allowed one son from each Jewish family to officially marry. So Mayer Baruch and Rose had a civil marriage ceremony in 1864, probably long after their religious marriage, to legitimize their children in the eyes of the oppressive law. The officiant, Rabbi Bernhard Löwenstein (1821-1889), was the leader of Lemberg's Reform Jewish congregation. 
The children of Meyer Baruch and Rose included: 
1. Gietel Tafel (b.1855 in Lemberg)
2. Elias Tafel (b. and d. 1856 in Lemberg)
3. Samuel Zallel Tafel (b.1857 in Lemberg; d.1858 in Lemberg)
4. Chane Tafel (b.1861 in Lemberg)
5. Perl Tafel (b.1862 in Lemberg; d.1895 in Lemberg), who married Mechla Bressler. 
6. Markus Gimpel Tafel (b.1863 in Lemberg)
7. Osias Getzel Tafel (b.1866 in Lemberg, twin)
8. Samuel Tafel (b.1866 in Lemberg, twin)

Meanwhile, a grain dealer named 
Aron Mojzesz Niedrig and his wife Perl Schpatzner (or Rosenzweig), who lived in Rawa Ruska or Uhnow, small towns to the northwest of Lemberg, had at least two daughters, Sara Reisel and Ruchel. 

Sara Reisel Niedrig married Samuel [Shmuel Sholom] Fischer, a Talmud teacher from Lemberg, and among their children were: 
1. Adela Fischer (b.1877 in Lemberg; d.1927 in Brooklyn)
2. Ester Rachel Fischer (b.1879 in Lemberg; d. in Brooklyn) immigrated to Toronto, Canada by 1906, married Abraham Goldberg (b.1878), a Russian-born cloak-maker, and they went to New York within a few years. They had:
   a. Harry Goldberg (b.1907 in Toronto, Canada)
   b. Henry Goldberg (b.1910 in NY)
   c. Sarah Goldberg (b.1914 in NY)
   d. Helen Goldberg (b.1916 in NY)
   e. Irving Goldberg (b.1919 in NY), who changed his name to "Edward Grey" and became an executive in advertising.

3. Lajb Fischer (b.1882 in Lemberg)
4. Hirsz Fischer (b.1884 in Lemberg, a twin)
5. Perl Fischer (b.1884 in Lemberg, a twin)
6. Mojzesz Szulim Fischer (b.1886 in Lemberg)
7. Eliasz Dawid Fischer (b.1888 in Lemberg)
8. Adolf [Dawid] Fischer (b.1891 in Lemberg; d.1894 in Lemberg)

Sara Reisel was dead by the time of Adela's marriage (1902). 
A Talmudist named Samuel Schulem Fischer had at least two sons with Hene Plager from Bobrka: Izydor [Israel] Fischer (b.1894 in Lemberg) and Maurycy Zygmunt [Moses Salomon] Fischer (b.1895 in Lemberg), but I have not yet proven that this was the same Samuel Fischer. 

Ruchel Niedrig married Mojsesz Hecht, and their children included:
1. Schmiel Hecht (b. and d. 1895 in Lemberg)
2. Pepi [Perl] Hecht (b.1896 in Lemberg; d.1901 in Lemberg)
3. Jozef Baruch Hecht (b.1898 in Lemberg)

Of all these families, only three people (Baruch and Adela Fingerhut, Esther Fischer) immigrated to the United States. The other siblings and their families endured the Holocaust, which reduced the Jewish population of Lemberg (Lwow, Poland) from 110,000 in 1939 to less than 300 in 1944. The Lemberg ghetto was organized by the Nazis in November 1941, the majority of residents were transported to Belzec concentration camp between March-August 1942, and the ghetto was disbanded by January 1943.
Belzec kept notoriously sparse records, but historians estimate that more than 500,000 people were gassed with carbon monoxide and buried there between March to December 1942.
Only one European relative survived the war, but I do not yet know his name.

Now for the American Fingerhut family.

The S.S. Pennsylvania, which brought over Bernard Fingerhut and his family from Hamburg, Germany to Ellis Island in 1906.


Bernard [Baruch] Fingerhut (b.1877 in Lemberg; d.1952 in Brooklyn), married in 1902 in Lemberg Adela Fischer (b.1877 in Lemberg; d.1927 in Brooklyn), a businesswoman who ran a tobacco factory. Their pictures are seen at the top of this post. The rabbi who married them, Dr. Jecheskel Caro (1844-1915) of Lemberg, was one of Europe's leading Reform Jewish rabbis, who that same year of 1902 had conducted a controversial bat mitzvah for a young girl.
The children of Bernard and Adela were:
1. Charlotte Fingerhut (b.1903 in Lemberg; d.1967 in Manhasset, NY)
2. Sally [Sarah] Fingerhut (b.1905 in Lemberg; d.1984 in Miami, FL)
3. Alfred Fingerhut (b.1912 in Brooklyn; d.1998 in Miami, FL)
4. Rudolph Fingerhut (b.1915 in Brooklyn; d.2001 in Phoenix, AZ)

Baruch, Adela, Charlotte, and Salomea Fingerhut immigrated aboard the S.S. Pennsylvania, leaving Hamburg, Germany on February 16, 1906, and arriving at Ellis Island on March 2, 1906. Originally, they went to Toronto, Canada, where Adela's sister Esther was already living. But on September 1, 1906, the Fingerhut family reentered the United States aboard the Michigan Central Railroad to head back to New York City.

Baruch initially worked as a tailor, but by 1910 he went by Bernard and started a 30-year career as a waiter that included a stint at Feltman's near Coney Island, and his customers included the famous glutton Diamond Jim Brady and his actress girlfriend Lillian Russell.

By 1912, Bernard's family lived by Luna Park in Coney Island. They lost a home in one of Coney Island's many fires and Bernard wouldn't leave until he had shaven and put on a tie. Bernard always appeared well-dressed and as a younger man resembled George Fenneman, according to his daughter Charlotte (as related by her daughter, Leila White).

Bernard became an American citizen in 1924, and the following year the family moved into a brand-new house at 1016 Lancaster Avenue, which was the family residence for nearly 20 years.

Charlotte Fingerhut (b.1903 in Lemberg; d.1967 in Manhasset, NY) married in 1931 Leo C. Siegel (b.1896 in New York City; d.1990 in Great Neck, NY; son of Abraham Siegel and Anne Rudin), who fought in the U.S. cavalry in World World I and by World War II was a major in the Army artillery. They lived in the South during World War II (Ft. Knox, Ft. Bragg, Ft. Sill) and after the war they lived in suburban Long Island splendor. They had two sons and one daughter.


Sally Fingerhut (b.1905 in Lemberg; d.1984 in Miami, FL) married in 1923 the storekeeper Irving Haspel (b.1897 in Radautz, Austria-Hungary; d.1987 in Utica, NY; son of Chaim Haspel and Frima Goldschlager). They had two daughters.

Alfred Fingerhut (b.1912 in Brooklyn; d.1998 in Miami), known as "Al" to his coworkers and “Eddie” to his friends, started work as a greengrocer after his mother's premature death, then worked for New York Life Insurance from 1928 to 1942. He attended night high school and got an undergraduate degree and law degree from St. John's University. Alfred was admitted to the New York Bar in 1936, but instead of becoming a lawyer he became a New York City policeman in 1942. He became a detective in 1948, a sergeant in 1953, lieutenant in 1957, and then squad commander in 1961. His most famous case involved the theft of bonsai trees from the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, so he was called by his colleagues "The Bonsai." After retiring and moving to Miami, he worked as a special agent for American Express.
Alfred's great passions were comedy (from vaudeville he saw as a child) and sailing. He won the 1939 President's Cup Regatta aboard his sloop "The Aloha," with President Franklin D. Roosevelt cheering him on from the banks of the Potomac.
Alfred married in 1941
Frances Karasov and they had one daughter.

Rudy Fingerhut (b.1915 in Brooklyn; d.2001 in Phoenix, AZ) was a New York City fireman who married in 1940 Adelle Sigel (b.1918 in Worcester, MA; d.2007 in Phoenix, AZ; daughter of Nathan Sigelovitch and Minnie Rabunsky) and had one daughter. The family moved to Phoenix in 1958, and Rudy became a property management supervisor. In their later years, Rudy and Adelle traveled worldwide.

Questions? Comments? Please email me at ruedafingerhut [at] gmail.com