16 October 2014

Treasure Chest Thursday: Ben Wilson and Lena Cummings marriage certificate

Ben Wilson, my grandfather Joe's younger brother, married Lena or Leah Cummings in 1914. I recall Ben as a large man, at least larger than my grandfather, and somewhat larger than life. His granddaughter told me that her family considered him to be somewhat of a swashbuckling entrepreneur (although those were not the words she used). This fits with my mother's information that my grandmother insisted that my grandfather not enter into any additional business relationships with his brother after the two declared bankruptcy in 1928

What's interesting about this record is that I can find nothing about Lena/Leah before this record. She identified her parents' names and, in subsequent census records, identified when she arrived in the United States (about 1899), yet using this information I have not been able to locate her family or her in census or directory records prior to her marriage. Mount Judah Cemetery, where she is interred next to Ben, lists her as Leah Wilson who died in May 1964. I have not found her in the Social Security Death Index. I'm stumped.
New York County, New York, Certificate and Record of Marriage no. 17171 (2 July 1914), Benjamin Wilson and Lena Cummings, Municipal Archives, New York.

Items in red will be discussed further, below. 

[1st page]
Groom: Benjamin Wilson
Residence: 10 West 116 St.
Age: (24) Twenty four
Color: White
Single, Widowed or Divorced: Single
Occupation: Salesman
Birthplace: Russia
Father's Name: Saul
Mother's Maiden Name: Hoda Epstein
Number of Groom's Marriage: First

Bride: Lena Cummings
706 Fairmont Place
Age: (22) Twenty two
Color: White
Single, Widowed or Divorced: Single
Maiden Name, if a Widow: [blank]
Birthplace: Russia
Father's Name: Henry
Mother's Maiden Name: May Shonen
Number of Bride's Marriage: first

I hearby certify that the above-named groom and bride were joined in marriage by me, in accordance with the laws of the State of New York, at 66 East 109 Street, in the borough of Manhattan, City of New York, this 2nd of July, 1914.

Signature of person performing the ceremony:
                                                        /s/ M. Kaufman
Official Station: Rev. M. Kaufman
Residence: 66 E. 109, New York

Witnesses to }  Sigmund Kaufman
the Marriage }  Abraham Kaufman 

[2nd page]  
WE hereby certify that we are the Groom and Bride named in this Certificate, and that the information given therein is correct, to the best of our knowledge and belief.
                              /s/ Benjamin Wilson  Groom
                              /s/ Lena Cummings Bride  

Signed in the presence of  /s/ [blank]
Fairmont Place, should actually be spelled Fairmount Place. It is in the Bronx. I could find no evidence of the Cummings family from Russia in the 1910 U.S. Census, the 1915 New York State Census or in directories from the period.

Ben and Lena's marriage license application indicates that the clergyman's full name was Morris Kaufman.[1] The two witnesses also gave 66 E. 109th Street as their address, so it's likely that they were relations of Rabbi Kaufman. 

1. Bronx County, New York, "Affidavit for License to Marry" no. 2624 (26 June 1914; marriage date 2 July 1914, certificate no.17171), Benjamin Wilson and Lena Cummings; "Bronx Marriage Licenses 1914, 1801-2700," Municipal Archives, New York City, microfilm roll 1914-3 MN 38003; transcription made from microfilmed image.


  1. Have you found new immigrants in early part of the last century using the occasion of their marriage to change their first or last names ? I am thinking of all those with name of Golda/Goldie becoming Olga in that period.

  2. No, I haven't. Usually, if the name is different on the marriage certificate than on other documents it seems to be because the Rabbi does not write in English very well (or hear American names very well).

    If there is documentation of names changes at all, it seems to be on naturalization records. I have seen one name change on a WWII draft registration.


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