09 January 2017

Finding the missing link: the Wilson's in Hudson, NY

My grandfather Joe Wilson once mentioned in my presence that he and his family spent some time in Hudson before moving to New York City. 

So, early on in my research I determined to find them. (After I figured out that he likely meant Hudson in Columbia County, New York rather than Hudson County, New Jersey) I located a 1900 census record for a Wilson family at 254 Diamond Street that seemed to fit as a puzzle piece - if one dexterously applied a hammer and chisel. [1] 

What I had here was a problem of assessing and determining identity - a classic genealogy research problem.[2]

To be sure, there were some issues -  including the fact that only three of the six first names matched my family. As far as I knew, after his 1891 (not 1871) arrival in the United States, my great grandfather, Selig Wilenski, took the name Saul Wilson.[3] Saul's wife was Hoda Epstein Wilson, not Annie, and she immigrated with their children Nechama (who took the name Nina), Josef (not Daniel) and Benjamin in 1897.[4] Their last child, Esther, was the only one born in the United States.

The ages and birth order of the children were about right on the census form, but that was about it! While there were a few other Wilson families in Hudson at that time, no others were Russian immigrants and no others had the first names for which I was searching.  

I was pretty sure I had the correct family and record for them, but it was only with the recent find of Saul Wilson's 1905 removal sale advertisement in the Hudson newspaper that I can now confirm the identity of the Cyrus and Annie Wilson family in the 1900 U.S. census in Hudson, NY.

Several years ago I scrolled through 1884 through 1912 Hudson city directories on Family History Library microfilm and located a Saul Wilson who first appeared in the Hudson directories in 1898 and no longer appeared there after 1904.

1898 - Wilson, Saul, dry goods, 60 Chapel
1899 - Wilson, Saul, dry goods, 19 Diamond
1900 - Williams, Saul, peddler, 254 Diamond (1900 census shows Cyrus Wilson, clothing salesman, at this address)
1901 - Wilson, Shaw, agent, 14 Union
1902 - Wilson, Saul, agent, 14 Union
1903, Wilson, Saul, clothing, 24 S. Front
1904 - Wilson, Saul - ladies furnishing, clothing, &c, 351 Warren

I was hoping the directory would show Saul Wilson in Hudson in 1900 to help resolve the identity issue, but it did not. The 1900 census showed Cyrus Wilson at 254 Diamond and the city directory showed Saul Williams and no listing for anyone named Saul Wilson at that address. I noted, however, that "Saul Williams" directory listing is at the end of a list of people surnamed Williams and just before Thomas Wilson. My thought is that Saul "Williams" may have been a typographical error and that Saul should have been included under the immediately following Wilson heading.
1900 Hudson City Directory, p. 220A
There are other directory errors, as well. Thank goodness this peripatetic family stayed put at 14 Union beyond a year so that the 1901 "Shaw" Wilson directory entry could be corrected in the 1902 edition.

I actually had some strong evidence of the identity of the Saul Wilson family in Hudson from a passenger manifest record of 23 December 1903. On that date, 28-year-old Moses Epstein arrived at Ellis Island and indicated that his ultimate destination was Hudson, New York and his brother-in-law Samuel Wilson, 20 S. Front Street.[5] The 1904 Hudson City directory shows Moses Epstein, peddler, at 351 Warren (the same residence as Saul Wilson in the directory). Hoda's maiden name had been Epstein and I think I have located her brother, previously unknown to me.

Of course, Moses was going to "Samuel" Wilson at 20 (rather than 24) S. Front Street, but it's close to the correct Wilson address in 1903! We know that passenger manifests were created by shipping company clerks at ports of embarkation from records created by ticket agents.[6] So, there were many opportunities, as these records were transcribed and transferred for errors, such as these, to be introduced.

Beyond city directories, which supported but did not definitively indicate that the 1900 Saul Wilson was my Saul Wilson, I can show that children named Nina, Joseph and Benjamin Wilson were in school in Hudson in 1898, 1900 and 1901. The local newspaper printed lists of pupils who had "won promotion" in the Hudson schools. I located these in the Hudson (NY) Evening Register at the library at Columbia-Greene Community College in Hudson.
"Pupils Who Have Won Promotion," Hudson Evening Register, 30 June 1898, [no page no.], col 6.
"Have Been Promoted," Hudson Evening Register, 2 July 1900, p. 2, col 6.
"Pupils Promoted in the Public Schools," Hudson Evening Register, 1 July 1901, [no page no.], col 6.

If school children Nina, Joe and Ben Wilson in these news stories are all my relatives, then all three Wilson siblings were in the same classes at Fourth Street School. Ben (probably born in 1891) would have been the only one of the three who was the appropriate age (6-7 years old in first grade; 8-9 in third and 9-10 in fourth). But considering the language barrier (the Wilson family had just arrived in the USA from the Russian Empire in 1897) and the possibility that the children had little or no formal education in the old country, the two older children may have been slightly behind in their studies.

I can show that my family was in Hudson on November 10 1898. That is when my great aunt Esther was born.
Her Hudson birth register record shows that her mother was Hoda Epstein Wilson (34 years old) and her father was Saul (35). Both parents had been born in Russia.[7]

All of these records added to the argument that the people in the 1900 census record were my Wilson family, but no one record tied it all together.

When I was in Hudson several years ago, I attempted to locate old synagogue records, since it is likely that my family had been members of one of the Jewish congregations. Unfortunately, a contact in the only current synagogue in Hudson stated that they do not have any records dating to the early 1900s.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about my great grandfather's advertisement in the Hudson, New York newspaper in March 1905.[8] The ad announced that Saul Wilson's store was having a big sale. Saul was planning to close his store in Hudson and open another shop at 196 Pearl Street in Albany, New York by 1 May 1905. 

The advertisement showed that Saul Wilson's Store was at 351 Warren Street in Hudson. This was the same address shown for Saul Wilson in the 1904 Hudson directory. 

While the Saul Wilson directory listings show him, variously, as selling dry goods, peddling, selling clothing, serving as an agent and selling ladies furnishings, clothing, etc, the advertisement makes it clear that Saul's inventory included women's, men's and children's clothing, some name-brand items (for which he could have been considered an agent), miscellaneous items, such as umbrellas, and notions. In short, these items are what used to be considered dry goods. So, despite the different wording, Saul was probably selling the same types of items throughout his time in Hudson.

For current purposes, however, the most important part of the "Removal Sale" advertisement is the first sentence.
This provided a link from Hudson to Albany and the 1905 New York State census enumeration of the family at 196 S. Pearl Street, Albany.[9]
Here in the 1905 census record is all the family as I know them (and as I have found them in other records, including the 1910 U.S. Census in New York City): Saul, Hoda, Nina, Joseph, Benjamin and Ester. They were all born in Russia except for Ester. Of course, this census enumerated indicated Ester was born in United "School" (adjacent lines indicate the enumerator meant to write "United States"). Compared to the census taker in 1900 Hudson, this 1905 one was a champ.

It is possible that Moses Epstein moved with his sister and brother-in-law to Albany from Hudson. The same 1905 census page shows a peddler of dry goods, Moses Epstein living as a boarder in the building next door to the one in which the Wilsons resided. In addition, the 1905 Albany city directory included an entry for a Morris Epstein then living at the same address as the Wilsons. It is possible that these two records caught an Americanizing name change for Hoda's brother from Moses to Morris (but this will require more research).  

I can now show that Saul Wilson in Hudson in 1904-5 is the same as Saul Wilson at 196 S. Pearl Street in Albany in 1905. And, due to Esther's birth record and school/newspaper records for the other children, I can show that Saul, Hoda, Nina, Joseph, and Benjamin Wilson were in Hudson before and after 1900. Additionally, I can show that Moses Epstein traveled to Hudson and lived in the same house as Saul Wilson and Hoda, whose maiden name was Epstein. 

I think I have nailed it. 

Cyrus and Annie? Welcome to the family!

1. 1900 U.S. Census, Columbia County, New York, population schedule, Hudson, enumeration district 19, sheet 24A, dwelling 126, family 172, Cyrus and Annie Wilson household; images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 January 2017); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 1019. 
2. Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, VA: National Genealogical Society, 2013), p. 1.
3. Manifest, S.S. Polaria, 23 November 1891, passenger no. 196, Selig Wilenski, age 28; images, "New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957," Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 October 2008).
4. Manifest, S.S. Pisa, 1 June 1897, list 1, lines 1-4, Hode Wilensky (33), Nechame (9), Josef (7) and Benjamin (6); images, "New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957," Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 7 September 2009).
5. Manifest, S.S. Albano, 22 December 1903, list 12, line 10, Moses Epstein, age 28; images, "New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957," Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 27 October 2009).
6. Sallyann Amdur Sack-Pikus, "Just How Were Passenger Manifests Created?" Avotaynu 27:1:3-9, Spring 2011.
7. Esther Wilson, Hudson, Columbia County, New York, 1898 register of births, p. 36, record no. 3612, 10 November 1898.
8. "Removal Sale," advertisement, The Columbia Weekly Republican (Hudson, NY), 23 March 1905, p. 7, col. 5; image, NYS Historic Newspapers (http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/ : accessed 13 December 2016).
9. 1905 New York State Census, enumeration of inhabitants, Hudson, election district 1, ward 4, p. 20, Saul and Hoda Wilson family; images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 18 November 2010).

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