28 February 2015

Avrum's Women, Part 13: Bond of Brothers

Considering the dearth of family history artifacts in my family I sometimes forget that D-N-A are not the only letters in genealogy. So, when Sheldon told me he had a bunch of postcards and letters that had been sent from his grandfather Levi Yitzchak in Ukraine to Sheldon's father Morris Lederman in the USA, I wasn't sure where this new information would lead. Nevertheless, I had him send me some of them.

It appears Morris, early in his USA experience, was in New York City with relatives surnamed Simberg (his mother's maiden name), Boston with the Berger family and Lexington, Kentucky with Harry Greenfield (whom we had chronicled earlier in this research). Sheldon and I could read the addresses, but the text was in excruciatingly minute Yiddish script.

I hired a translator to work on one of the Boston postcards Sheldon had initially sent me. It did not tell me much of interest, although it did confirm that Morris and Fannie had a brother who'd stayed in Europe. Then somehow in our conversations Sheldon agreed to send me copies of all the post cards and letters.

With a good-size package in hand, I scanned through the postmarks to find the earliest message for translation.

3 7 10. 3 July 1910! I transliterated the postmark. Annopol, Vol. Annopol, Volhynia Gubernia, Russian Empire. This was not a community I'd dealt with previously in my research.

And then I looked at the text on the back of the card and was astounded. Toward the end of the Yiddish message there were letters in the Latin alphabet.

B. Mester for N. Garber, 266 Manopes Street

I recalled that my great uncle Nathan (aka Nuchum) Garber arrived in the United States in 1910, more than two years after his younger brother Max (aka Motel). Where was my grandfather's brother Nathan in July 1910? I located the digital copy of his manifest on my computer.[1] Nuchum had arrived in New York City on 18 June 1910, so this letter was sent only a couple of weeks after he'd landed in New York.

And whom did he say he was going to meet in the USA? 
Brother-in-law A. Schophel [or Schojchet]
266 Monroe Str New York

I had never successfully located anyone of that name at that address. But now I had the name "B. Mester." I located Benjamin Master and his family at 266 Monroe Street, Manhattan, NY in the 1910 U.S. Census.[2]

I had to get this postcard translated!
June 30, 1910

Dear Mr. Yakov Eisenberg:

The story about it is now over. The tide has turned for us, and thank G-d we are in good health in such a situation. We are sending our unmarried son Moshele to America. We don’t even have what to live on ever since there was a [illegible] the 6th year. Ever since we ran into this situation, we don’t have the strength for it. Zeidel is already a 23-year-old young man.  G-d helped me out on the issue of the army conscription and they rejected him.

The result is that I haven’t got the ability to [illegible] him and there is absolutely no future here for him in Russia. The same thing goes for Sarahle, who is at the age for [illegible], and she is a girl for whom it is already the time to get married. And more than anything else is the need to get a job which makes [illegible] your only sister, and we have decided to send Moshele off to America. So now let me tell you that your only sister [illegible] live and be well is asking all you children to fulfill it. At the present time thank G-d he doesn’t forget to provide assistance. However, I gave him money for the expenses of the eldest, and especially when the time comes to leave on a safe journey to America.

He intends to travel with a company, and apparently he will start using their name. They are going somewhere not far from New York which costs one dollar to go from New York. But we are telling him that he should eventually contact you, [and?] Yisrael –Yoelka. There are already two children in New York – my brother Avraham Abba’s eldest son whose name is Nochum, and the younger one whose name is Mordechai, who has already been in America for 2 years in New York.

The eldest has just been there for 2 months and is there. My Moshele will leave for Castle Garden, which is where he will arrive.  I just wrote a card to Yisrael-Yoelka, the uncle and requested that when they summon Moshele Yisrael should get there to get him.  My two nephews will of course come out. [illegible]  I also ask that the children come together right away for sure and some advice [illegible words]. My nephew’s address is:

B. Mester, for N. Garber  266  Manopes Street

[The last three crowded lines and the writing along the right edge are illegible]

translation by David Goldman, New York City
2 Feb 2015

Oh, wow! I'm sure you noted the high-lighted section (that's me jumping up and down in the background). That Y-DNA and autosomal testing put us on the right track! Levi Yitzchak was my great grandfather's brother. Wow!

The information from this letter fits well with the range of relationships suggested by Family Tree DNA - 1st to 3rd cousins.

Mel and Sheldon are 2nd cousins and the next generation are 2nd cousins once removed from Sheldon. As a result of merging our trees, Sheldon now will know that his great grandfather was Mordechai and his great great grandfather was Yitzchak Leib.

The letter was addressed to J. Simberg (who, I am sure, was Jacob Simberg), but my translator assured me the salutation on the letter, itself, is to Yakov Eisenberg. This letter was not sent to Morris, but to Yakov Eisenberg in advance of Morris' (Moshe's) travel to the United States. 

While I was most anxious to translate the part nearest "N. Garber" I was struck by the tone of this letter. Surely this was a man beaten by the odds against him. He had given up hope and was sending his youngest son away to the new land. His eldest son, Zeidel [or possibly "Zanvel" in the letter I'd earlier translated], had avoided conscription but the opportunities for him in the Russian Empire were few.

Sarah, the youngest daughter was nearing the age of marriage, but the economic situation mitigated against such unions. When Levi Yitzchak refers his reader to "your only sister," I believe he is speaking of his wife (mother of Zanvel, Fannie Geenfield, Morris Liderman,  Sarah - Frieda Liderman). The recipient of the letter was likely Frieda's brother. I do not yet know the identify of  Yisrael-Yoelka.

There is no doubt that Avraham Abba, identified as Levi Yitzchak's brother, was my great grandfather Avrum. Avraham Abba was his name on his tombstone. His eldest son was Nochim who arrived in the United States in June 1910. Avraham Abba's younger son, Mordechai (Motel/Max), had arrived in the United States two years earlier. 

There is no street in New York called "Manopes." Levi Yitzchak spoke and wrote Yiddish and, highly likely, Russian and Cyrillic. Latin letters may have been unfamiliar to him. The letter that looks like a p in Cyrillic is pronounced with an r sound. So it is possible that Levi Yitzchak mis-wrote "Monroe" as "Manopes."

Pieces have been falling into place. My uncle Leonard I. Garber told me that his Hebrew/Yiddish name was Levi Yitzchak and that he was named after his grandfather Avraham Abba's deceased brother. Lenny was born in December 1923. 

I began this research several years ago with the goal of identifying the relationship of Feiga Grinfeld (aka Fanie Greenfield) of Baranivka to my Garber family of Lubin. I can now add a new Lederman branch to my family tree and an additional community to research: Annopol. Feiga was Levi Yitzchak Lederman's eldest daughter, and Levi Yitzchak was my great grandfather's brother.

There is a great deal in this letter that needs additional research. The first paragraph refers to privation in its 6th year. All of Avraham Abba's sons who were of age left between 1907 and 1912. We know there were pogroms in this area about 1905-6. What more can we learn about this part of Volhynia Gubernia during this period?

How is it that brothers, related to each other on the Y-chromosome have different surnames? In a previous post I mentioned family lore of four brothers in the Russian Empire settling on different surnames to avoid the Russian draft. The fact that the story seems to fit, is not enough to call it proven. There could be other reasons why Levi Yitzchak and Avraham Abba would up with different surnames. In some locations in the Russian Pale of Settlement Jewish families may not have taken surnames at all until after 1850. Possible explanations must be exhaustively researched.

Now that I know the approximate era of this name change (Avraham Abba was born about 1864 and died in 1928) I must learn more about the experience of Jewish people in this area of the Russian Empire during this period. 

Four surnames were identified in the family story: Utchenik, Garber, Reznik and Lehman. It may be that the name Lehman in the story was the result of a "game of telephone." Perhaps Lederman changed to Lehman over time in the retelling. 

I will require additional confirmation of the family lore  - perhaps by linking to another of the surnames. I have arranged an autosomal DNA test for an Utchenik descendant (a male, but one whose surname is not Utchenik, unfortunately) whose test result may prove interesting. I hope to have the result before the end of March. (If any Utchenik males read this, I would like to chat with you about Y-DNA testing.  :-)

I heard this four-brothers story from my late father, my late uncle Lenny and their first cousin Sandra. I called Sandra in the summer of 2014 when Sheldon's Y-DNA test proved a winner to tell her that I felt I was hot on the trail of documenting the family lore. I am sorry to say that Sandra passed away in November 2014 and I will not be able to share this latest find. I feel sure, however, that Lenny and Sandra, who definitely enjoyed hearing tales of my family finds would be doing the genealogy happy dance with me now, if they could. 
Previous posts in this series: 
Avrum's Women, Part 2: Feiga Grinfeld
Avrum's Women, Part 3: Following Feiga (and Raya)
Avrum's Women, Part 4: The Trouble with Harry
Avrum's Women, Part 5: Finding Feiga 
Avrum's Women, Part 6: Added Confirmation
Avrum's Women, Part 7: Feiga's Family
Avrum's Women, Part 8: Fannie's Story 

Avrum's Women, Part 9: Fannie's Brother Morris 
Avrum's Women: Part 10, Morris Lederman - Who's Your Mama? 
Avrum's Women, Part 11: Garber Y-DNA = Lederman Y-DNA
Avrum's Women, Part 12: Finding Family with Family Finder 

1. "New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957," digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 7 February 2009), manifest, Uranium, Rotterdam to New York, arriving 18 June 1910, p. 10, line 30, Nuchim Garber; citing National Archives Microfilm Serial T715, Roll 1501.
2. New York County, New York population schedule, Manhattan, enumeration district 97, sheet 8A, dwelling 9, family 144, Benjamin Master; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 February 2015); NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 1008.


  1. I'm excited for you - what a treasure this letter is! I'm looking forward to seeing what else you find.

    1. Thank you, Elizabeth. Genealogy is the definitely the gift that keeps on giving.

    2. Utchenik is an occupational name. I have forgotten the meaning.

    3. I believe it means something like student.


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