Saturday, October 31, 2009

New Ratner family branch discovered

New information (for us) about a branch of our Ratner family popped up on, and as a result I have now made a connection with a new second cousin once removed. She is Nicole Richner, a great granddaughter of George Peyser Ratner, the older brother of our grandmother Selma.

We had known about Peyser's daughter Marjorie Decker, and knew that she had been alive in a nursing home near Albany until recently. Walter made an unsuccessful attempt to contact her. We also knew Marjorie had married Robert Ken Decker and that they had two sons, and thus we had conjectured that there could be another generation of Deckers. However, my efforts to discover who and where they were had gone unrewarded.

Then a week ago I am scanning Ancestry for new leads on the Rabinowitz side when I am presented with alerts that new information has been posted about people in my family tree. Clicking through, I see that George Pizer Ratner is a part of a new Decker Family tree that was posted on October 3 by an Ancester member named Nicole Richner. Attached to his record are several familiar census citations that confirmed that this was the same George Ratner that is our great uncle.

Clicking further into the tree gave me several answers to open questions. First, Marjorie passed away at age 91 a year ago, in October 2008. I'm sorry that our project began too late to have reached her when she was able to contribute her memories. (Nicole has her photo albums, though.) Second, we now knew what had become of Marjorie's sons Ronald and Curt.

Well, sort of. Ancestry has a policy of not showing full information about a living people in members' family trees. The tree's owner can allow access to other members to see the full names and personal information, but I was viewing Nicole's tree as an unprivileged user. So all I could see was profiles labeled "Living Decker" for each person. Still, I could deduce that one of the two sons was unmarried and childless and that the other had had six children, three sons and three daughters. Two of the daughters had last names other than Decker, including a Living Alexander and a Living Richner, who had presumably married and taken their husbands' names.

So this living Richner was obviously the Nicole Richner that posted the Decker Family tree. Delighted to have learned this information but wanting to be able to see the full information, I sent off a message to Nicole through Ancestry's Member Connect feature. I identified myself as her second cousin and told her a bit of our Ratner genealogy and asked her to reply.

Today her message came back. Here is an excerpt:

Most of what I have has been due to my grandmother, that you so kindly mentioned in your email. She was an awesome women! I had the opportunity a few years back when both my grandparents were still living to visit with them for a few days. I went specifically to just sit and listen. They were the ones that gave me the framework for every peice of information that I have. I very grateful that I was able to do that. She also sent me her photo albums and other documents that I have yet to fully go through. She had a memory like an elephant. I was amazed at the information that she was able to share.

I've written back again and hopefully soon will be able to get photos and other information about Marjorie's Ratner family. With all the progress we've made about our Rabinowitz family as a result of Harriet finding us, it is exciting that we are positioned to learn more about our Ratners now that Nicole has turned up.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Graves of Joseph and Lena Rabinowitz

Here are photos of the gravestones of Joseph and Lena Rabinowitz at Mt. Zion Cemetery in Queens. Note that Joseph is identified in both Hebrew and English as "Yehuda Noah" and not Yosef, which raises the question as to why he has come down to us as Joseph. He is also identifed as the son of Abrhaham Yoel and Leah as the daughter of Abraham Yaakov.
I am still working on the Hebrew translation, especially of Joseph's grave, which is quite poetic with the first line saying something like "For these, we are weeping" and the third line something like "From my head fell the crown".
Lena's grave identifies her as "our dear mother" and something like a "woman of righteousness"--but let me get the full translation because I am missing some important stuff from both of them.
Gene and I were moved by the cramped setting with a factory smokestack looking over the old cemetery which is clearly a slightly earlier and decidedly less opulent setting than Mt. Hebron several miles east where Walter and Selma Ruby are buried. More as soon as I get full translations...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

David Zimkin lists Arthur J. Zimkin as next of kin

Ancestry has a host of records for David Zimkin, husband of our great aunt Sadie. We see census records for 1900 and 1910 as well as the 1920 and 1930 we already knew about; draft registration cards for both World War I and II; and his Social Security death index. He died in New York at age 80 in 1966. (Note that he was born in Riga and that there is lots of information available about Zimkins in Latvia, but I don't have time for that now.)

Here is his WWII draft registration. Notice that he lists his only son Arthur J. Zimkin as the "person who will always know your address." Why is this significant? Because it is the first confirmation of Arthur's middle initial, which further links him to that Montreal engagement.

Freida Zimkin died in Canada

We learned from Harriet that Sadie Rabinowitz's son Arthur Zimkin married a Frieda. We have an intriguing 1965 Canadian engagement announcement for Mark Raymond Zimkin, son of Arthur J. Zimkin of New York. Now from Ancestry, below is a Social Security death index for Frieda Zimkin indicating that she resided and received social security benefits in Canada.

(She was age 64 at death. Would she have been eligible for benefits? I looked it up. Eligibility for female workers and widows was extended to age 62 beginning in 1956-—for men in 1961.)

Could be that Mark settled with his wife Phyllis in her hometown of Montreal, and that later his mother Frieda came to live with them. Speculation of course. If true, we'd like to find out if Mark and/or Phyllis are living, and whether they had children.

Name: Frieda Zimkin
SSN: 057-01-5649
Last Residence: 953 (U.S. Consulate), Canada
Born: 31 Dec 1912
Last Benefit: 953 (U.S. Consulate), Canada
Died: Jul 1977
State (Year) SSN issued: New York (Before 1951)

Sharon family 1975

Joanne is in Israel this week visiting with younger generations of the Sharon family. Here is a selection of photos from her visits to Kibbutz Afeq in 1975 and 1985. We'll look forward to a new batch following her trip.

Love to all the Sharon descendants and family as they observe Pnina's shloshim at Afeq tomorrow. 

Monday, August 17, 2009

1965 engagement of Arthur Zimkin's son is announced in a Canadian Jewish newspaper

Unlike some other names that turn up huge numbers of search results, there are not a lot of Arthur Zimkins. The one we are interested in is the son of Sadie Rabinowitz Zimkin and her husband David. Speaking with Harriet Berkowitz over the weekend, she mentioned that Arthur was married to Frieda and that they may have had a child.

I had searched on Arthur before but when I did it again yesterday, this very interesting citation came up. It is the November 5, 1965 edition of The Canadian Jewish Review, in the section on births, deaths, marriages and engagements. Under the heading of Montreal Engagements we see this very interesting announcement:

Mr. and Mrs. Mac Schwartz, 1357 Van Horne Avenue, announce the engagement-of their daughter, Miss Phyllis Penny Schwartz, to Mark Raymond Zimkin, son of. Mr. and Mrs. Arthur J. Zimkin, of New York.
Here is the image (click to enlarge). Look for the Schwartz Zimkin notice in the second column from the right near the top. It isn't necessarily the right one, but the ages are about right and as I say there are not a lot of Arthur Zimkins. This gives us a hopeful lead toward tracking down another living Rabinowitz line.

Thoughts on the new revelations and a glorious day with Gene


Bravo on all of your amazing research since we got the death records for Joseph Rabinowitz and Lena Lincoff Rabinowitz. I also very much would like Bertha Yesersky to be the sister-in-law of Rabbi Spektor, as it would tie things up nicely with a pink ribbon, but as the culprit who led us down the garden path with my Alex Haley moment in the Yeshiva University archives three years ago, just assuming that the Joseph Rabinowitz mentioned in the Shimoff book and Toldos Yitzhak as having been trained in the Tamlud and Jewish Codes by Isaac Elchanan Spektor, MUST by our Joseph, the grandson of the great rabbi, I will now play the role of skeptic who warns about making such conceptual leaps. In short, I've been burned once before and its a powerful lesson.

Still, as you say, there is the name Bertha Yesersky popping up as Joseph's mother, and we know Sara Raizel Yesersky was the wife YES married at the age of 13, so there must be a family connection there. I must say that even as it became more and more clear that our Joseph Rabinowitz was NOT after all, the son of Rabbi Chaim Rabbinowitz and the grandson of YES, I never lost my bedrock faith that we were descended from Rabbi Spektor in some manner, because Stan Ruby told me so on a number of occasions during my childhood and he obviously would not simply have made that up. Obviously that information came from his father, Walter Ruby, but the exact nature of the connection got a little muddled over the years. So to see the name 'Bertha Yasersky' on Jseph's death certificate is certainly very powerful and compelling.

I went with Gene to the Mt. Zion cemetery on Saturday to check out and photograph the graves of Joseph and Lena Rabinowitz, only to learn to my dismay that Jewish cemeteries in the U.S. are locked up on Shabbat. Then we popped over to Mt. Hebron to see if by chance that onje would be open and Gene could meet Walter Ruby and Selma Ruby, but of course it was locked as well. I had somehow understood that the cemeteries would be open, but the offices closed, but I had figured we could find the graves without their help as we had the row number etc. Most disappointing because I may now not get a chance to go until after returning from the second of two trips around Sept 7. Gene plans to go on his own before that, but he seems to have lost the battery of his camera, so may not be able to take photos.

He has gotten interested in the family history thing recently; as he has realized that he lives between two cemeteries in Queens; one holding the remains of his great-great grandparents and the other his great grandparents. He was asking me a lot of questions about who they were etc, and that gives me a great feeling about what we have managed to do over the past five years to preserve and unearth the memory (much of it previously lost) of these forgotten generations for our kids and generations to come. All of this is a profoundly spiritual experience for me as I approach 60. Also for next month, I will make a trip to Varick Street to look for the ship record of the arrival of the families of Joseph Rabinowitz and Lena Lincoff in New York.

After Gene and I struck out at the cemeteries, we drove around talking and ended up in Flushing, Queens, so I took him to see one of the forgotten pieces of New York history, a Quaker meeting house on Northern Boulevard built in Cape Cod style that goes back to the 1690's, and a site a few yeards away where the English Quaker settlers of Flushing (a Dutch name) in 1655 demanded religious liberty from Peter Stuyvesant, the leader of nearby New Amsterdam whose sovereingity extended well into Long Island and up the Hudson River to Albany. The plaque at the site makes the point that the origins of the First Amendment to the Constitution (at least the freedom of religion part) flow from that incident in Flushing. Its one of those examples of forgotten history that we pass a million times a day and are blissfully unaware of and I think it impacted Gene a bit. Flushing, long very Jewish, nowadays has become New York's largest Chinatown (and Koreatown and Japantown and a little distance away India, Pakistan and Afghantown and is a wonderful place to step out of prosaic American reality and be swept into an Asian one. After our excursion the two of us went to a Japanese/Korean restaurant and discussed Israel and the Palestinians for several hours. All in all a great day with my son, even if we did miss the great-greats.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Meet the Yeserskys

Receipt of Joseph Rabinowitz's death certificate earlier this week provided near conclusive evidence that the simple story of our relation to the illustrious Rabbi Isaac Elchanon Spektor is false. To have been true, we needed Joseph's father to have been named Chaim or Aryeh but it was in fact Abraham.

However, Joseph's mother's name opened a new possibility for a close familial connection to the rabbi. She was named Bertha Yesersky. You can see the death certificate here. The thing that is interesting about that is that Isaac Spektor was married to a Sara Yesersky at the age of 13 in 1830, and thereafter lived with the Yesersky family in the town of Volkovisk for a period of six years.

You may recall that Spektor was raised by his rabbi father Israel Isser in the town of Ros', just a few miles north of Volkovisk. After his marriage to Sara, he came to study in Volkovisk under the eminent rabbi Benjamin Diskin. He lived on the largesse of his father in law Eliezer Yesersky for those six years until he took on his first rabbinical appointment in another nearby village, Izabellin.

Now let's suppose that Eliezer and his wife Bluma have more children than just Sara. Since Joseph Rabinowitz is born in 1855, his mother was probably born somewhere in the range 1820-1835. What if Bertha Yesersky is a daughter of Eliezer and Bluma and is born in 1825? Then should would be five years old at the time of her older sister's marriage, and she would spend the next six years of her life closely influenced by the young man who would become a great rabbi who is sort of her big brother.

Louis Isard note about Yesersky genealogy, circa 1958.

Interesting but it might be a stretch. To check it out, I start looking up Yesersky on JewishGen and Ancestry, and there is no shortage of good leads. Right away, I see that there are two people listed as Yesersky, or Yezersky, researchers, a Joan Sohn in Toronto and Jay Cohen in Silver Spring, Md. I emailed both of them introducing myself, and both replied within a few hours.

Since then in email exchanges with Joan and Jay, as well as with two others, Steven Director and Robert Isard, I have learned a great deal about the Yesersky family both in Volkovisk and nearby cities as well as in Philadephia, where most of them ended up when they came to America. I will try to summarize.

Several of the Yesersky family members have a similar theory to mine but with Miriam as Sara's sister. That could well be, but there is a further twist in their case because Miriam was later married to Shmuel, son of Rabbi Joseph Lieber. The odd thing is that Shmuel would take the Yesersky name as his own, which seems peculiar on first thought but is not completely outlandish.

Especially in this family, where name changing seems to be the norm. But let me cut to the chase. Shmuel and Miriam have at least three children. We know that one of them Solomon raised his family in the nearby village Swizloch while another Zvi Hirsh moved to the bigger regional city Grodno. Both brothers had sizable families and many of their descendants would end up in the Philadephia, as I said.

One branch of Philadelphia Yeserskys are the Kormans. Sam Korman is at right.

One such was Louis Isard, who was born as Louis Yesersky, the son of Hirsh, in Grodno in April 1880. How his name changed—his and many other relatives who also became Isards—is not well explained. But hold that thought.

In the late 1950s, Louis is recovering from a heart attack and receives a visit from an Israeli cousin Tsvi Jezerski. Previously Louis didn't like to share a lot of family lore, but Tsvi prevailed on him to set down on paper the fascinating details of his family history. That included a family tree and a remarkable story involving not one but two illustrious rabbis.

You can read Louis Isard's note for yourself, but I will run through the high points. Louis says that his grandfather Shmuel Yesersky is the son of Rabbi Joseph Eliezer Lieber, and that Lieber is the son of the very famous Rabbi Judah Low Edel of Slonim, a city only 30 miles from Volkovisk. Two generations older than Spektor, Edel was known as a great Torah scholar and was the author of an influential book of teachings and several Hebrew lexicons. Here is his biography in the Jewish Encyclopedia.

Louis writes that Edel's grandson Shmuel becomes the husband of Miriam Yesersky, who he describes as the sister of Isaac Elchanon Spektor. He also writes that one of his uncles, Leib Yesersky, was among the founders of the Isaac Elchanon yeshiva in New York in the late 1890s.

The note seems to have a few things mixed up, but mainly it checks out with known facts. We know that both Miriam Yesersky and Sara Yesersky are from Volkovisk (which by the way we don't know about Bertha). If she is a sister, she would be Spektor's sister-in-law, and would have grown up with him in the household. The fact that her son Leib goes to America and is a follower of Spektor there suggests the great influence that Isaac had on the family.

Solomon Yesersky's final resting place at Montefiore Cemetery in Jenkintown PA

So I am inclined to accept Louis' story at pretty much face value, despite all the peculiar name changing. Now the question becomes can we connect our Bertha Yesersky with the Yeserskys of Volkovisk. So far there is no hard evidence but there is one tantalizing tidbit.

The note-writing Louis Yesersky Isard had a sister name Bertha Yesersky who born in 1878. If our Bertha born around 1825 was a sister of Sara Yesersky, and Miriam was also a sister, then the older Bertha is the great aunt of the younger one. With the Jewish prohibition on naming for living relatives, the older Bertha must have passed away before 1878. Maybe her passing was the cause for that naming.

So I was going to quit on that point, but I just came across an oversight in my work. Almost a year ago, I was contacted by Shirley Portnoy for help on something related to Rabbi Spektor. Unfortunately, I was just then going into the hiatus in my research from which I am now emerging, and I fear that I was not at all helpful to Shirley.

Well I just this moment stumbled across her old correspondence, and guess what? She is also related to Yeserskys from Volkovisk and Grodno. Her great great grandmother is Sarah-Taibe Yezerski and she also mentions a Gruna Yezerska. I'm going to go write to her now with apologies for my long absence but perhaps bringing her some useful new information.

Rubys in Rehovot 1961

We spent a year in Israel in 1961-62. Here are a few shots on the balcony at our Rehovot apartment, plus some others of family activities.

Joanne had quite the doll collection.

I had started on recorder before then, and kept up my lessons in Israel.

On the way to the beach at Nabi Rubin, Stan paid with Marlboros for Walter and us to ride a camel. Helga's bathing suit scandalized the Bedouin women.

At the beach, I coaxed this cat out of hiding and took it home to Rehovot. It was the first cat I ever had since we were more of a dog family. Lots more noble felines have followed.

Overlooking Haifa on Mt. Carmel

Saturday, August 15, 2009

More photos for Harriett

I have promised to supply Harriett with more family photos. Here's a few to start. First the three conspirators in this project. Then some of Stan's sister Joan Ruby Felenstein Myers.

Joanne, Walt and Dan at Jo's house in January 2009 celebrating Walt's birthday.

At Joanne's wedding in Chicago in 1983: Joan and Ruby Myers are flanked by the bride's happy parents.

Joan descends the staircase at the loft apartment where the wedding was held.

Combined 75th birthday celebration for Stan and Helga, held at mountain winery in Saratoga CA in 1999. From left: Mel Brenner, Sandy Brenner, Bill Rehm, Twyla Ruby, Dan Ruby, Lani Rehm, Zach Rehm, Stan Ruby, Joanne Ruby, Helga Ruby, Gene Ruby, Ludmilla Ilishaev, Kate Eilertsen. Walter was out of the country and could not attend.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Lena Lincoff Rabinowitz death certificate

Commentary to come. Click to enlarge.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Did Julius have another son?

We've always known that Julius Rabinowitz and his wife Annie had two children—Abner, born in 1907, and much younger Judith, born in 1919. But look at these census records for the Julius Rabinowitz family in 1920 and 1930. On both forms, look at the top rows, which show only some family members (the others are on bottom of the previous pages, which I also have).

Anyway, you will see Abner and Judith on both forms, but also a Seymour, apparently born in 1903. That's weird (1) because we haven't heard of him and (2) he would have a living uncle named Seymour. But see for yourself (click to enlarge).

What do we make of this?

Small update: I can't locate a census record for Julius and family in 1910. He is not listed with the Joseph Rabinowitz household in that year, which makes sense because he is married with children (one or two).

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Rabinowitz sisters

Besides the five sons of Joseph and Lena Rabinowitz, there were three daughters—Sadie (b. 1881), Meta (b. 1886) and Blossom (b. 1891). Here are photos from Harriet's collection.

Here is Meta as a college graduate. She went on to be a schoolteacher for many years.

Harriet says she doesn't know which one this is.

Here are Blossom and Meta together.

Long Beach photo from the Harriet collection

While we are identifying family members in old photos, here is a great one from Harriet's batch. It looks like the front steps of the Long Beach house and we definitely have Walter and Stan in the front right. Harriet says that is Henry's son Harold Rabinowitz standing behind them. I'm pretty sure the three at front left is the Kline family (our Aunt Lil and Uncle Lee and little Sandy) who lived for a time with the Rubys in Long Beach. The others are uncertain. Harriet thinks that might be Selma next to Harold, but it doesn't look like her to me. Could she have been the one taking the picture and so is not in it?

The women behind Aunt Lil bears a resemblance to a woman identified by Harriet as Blossom in another photo. I'll post that one and a couple of others of Rabinowitz women in the next item.

Wedding and engagement announcements

More on Stan and Helga's wedding. I did more NY Times searches today and found more Rabinowitz material. Here are two items relevant to the previous post: first a June 8, 1947 announcement of the wedding happening that same day, and then an April 7, 1946 announcement of Stan's previous engagement to Lorraine (who gets a last name—Sweedler—for the first time in our family narrative). Stan broke off his engagement with Lorraine before renewing his acquaintance with Helga.

Those who have read Walter's "Early Lives of Stan and Helga Ruby" manuscript will recall that after the breakup practical Stan sought a new girlfriend who lived within a 20 block radius of Selma's apartment on W. 73rd St. Helga was slightly outside that range but got the nod anyway.

Stan and Helga wedding photos (for Harriet)

Harriet has been asking me to return the favor by sending her pictures of Stan and his family members. Today I emailed her a precious set of three photos we have from the June 8, 1947 wedding of Stan and Helga at the Beacon Hotel in New York City. Unfortunately, the attachments did not come through in her email, so I told her I would post them here.

Of course, they should have been here already, but were never previously posted—an example of the spottiness of this blog as a complete historical record. Anyway here they are now (click to enlarge).

We've always been able to identify only some of the people in these photos. Maybe Harriet can help, especially with the second one, where the six people in the front are Rabinowitz family members. The others are Stan's Ratner relatives. In the third picture, Helga's mother Elly and Aunt Hilda are to her right with their escorts (Herman Peyser probably and Uncle Joe Leibman) and the young people in front are various friends of the bride and groom. But the partially obscured couple next to Uncle Joe are unidentified.

I'm looking forward to getting Harriet's input on this.

Tiffany Street in The Bronx

Update: FUBAR on this item. There was only one address where the family lived together in the Bronx: 965 Tiffany. I misread the 1920 census form to get a different address for that year. I've begun reading E.L. Doctorow's World's Fair to get a feel for life in the neighborhood in the 1930s.

I looked up the location of the two addresses where our family members lived in The Bronx during the 1920s, relocating there as their long-time previous neighborhood in Jewish Harlem underwent a demographic shift. The first address was right on the water in Hunt's Point in what later in the century became the blighted South Bronx. Two years later, they moved about a mile to the north into the neighborhood called Longwood, today also considered a part of the South Bronx. Here is some information about Longwood from Wikipedia:
For much of the first half of the 20th Century, Longwood was home to a predominantly Jewish population. Beginning in the 1950s, the neighborhood experienced a demographic shift as many Puerto Ricans moved to Longwood. Shortly after, white flight and abandonment began. By the late 1960s, many buildings in the neighborhood had burned down in an epidemic of arson.

There are still remains of the old Jewish presence in Longwood. For instance, 830 Fox Street, which is now a newly constructed low income apartment building, was formerly a Jewish synagogue and was burned down in the 1960s.

Colin Powell grew up on Kelly Street in Longwood.
The Fox St. address is about five blocks from 965 Tiffany.

More about Harriet Berkowitz

Catching up with more of the materials sent by Harriet Berkowitz, I'll begin with photos of Harriet herself, along with family members past and present. (Click photos to enlarge.)

These first two photos are from just two weeks ago, when Harriet and her husband Stanley were visiting their daughter's family in Southern California. First, here are Harriet, Stanley and their daughter Hillary Cohen. Now we know who got the good Rabinowitz hair.

Here are Harriet and Stanley with Hillary's children Julian and Avery. It is great to see a new generation of Rabinowitz offspring. I hope they get the chance to meet their third cousins Twyla, Gene, Zach and Elana sometime soon.

Now we go back 51 years to Harriet's wedding day on August 14, 1958. Here you see Sam (Seymour) Rabinowitz and Harriet's mother (we don't have her name yet) escorting Harriet down the aisle.

And here are Harriet and Stanley looking radiant in a group photo with family members present for the occasion.

Finally we have a few items of memorabilia from Seymour. The first is a photo of a 1934 banquet at the Waldorf Astoria, a formal affair for the Board of Education, where Seymour worked for many years.

And finally a letter of appreciation written in 1921 to Seymour by Edward Flynn, the newly elected Sheriff of the County of Bronx. As Harriet notes in her annotation, Flynn became the so-called "Boss of the Bronx" and played an important role in state and national Democratic Party politics until his death in 1953. It is worth noting here, that the letter is addressed to the 965 Tiffany St. address that would be listed three years later as Lena's residence at the time of her death, not the 305 Tiffany St. address where a number of the family members lived 23 months earlier at the time of the 1920 census.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Lena's obituary and much more

Fueled with new information from Harriet Berkowitz, and by Walter's plan to visit Mt. Hebron cemetery this weekend, I took another dive last night into the New York Times historical database and other sources. The results were outstanding.

I got going because I was musing about what Harriet has told us about Henry Rabinowitz, who ran a restaurant in Edgewater Park in the Bronx. Searching on the name and the town, I got this entry from the July 19, 1937 edition of the New York Times:

Not a certainty, but it seems like this is probably the right Henry. Interesting, considering we had an earlier wild goose chase over a Walter Ruby auto accident in the same year in Jersey City. That turned out to be a different Walter, but here is Henry living in the right neighborhood and an accident a few miles from home.

I had to pay to download the item for the Times archive, either $3.95 a pop or $15 for 10 downloads. With all my new Rabinowitz information to try, I decided to buy the more economical download pack.

One piece of Harriet's new information was the approximate date for Lena's death. That helped me to this eureka moment, an obituary item from the NY Times on January 10, 1924.

A few comments: This date does not match any of the Lena Rabinowitzes at Mount Hebron. Also her address is listed at 965 Tiffany St. Four years earlier on the 1920 census she was living at 305 Tiffany St. I may have mentioned this before but I saw again today that the mother of choreographer Jerome Robbins was named Lena Rabinowitz. I guess Robbins was a fairly common name change for various Rabinowitzes. We know that Julius's children Abner and Judith also took that last name.

Lena's maiden name was Lincoff, and her brother Bernard Lincoff came to American with Lena and Joseph and lived with the Rabinowitz family for many years. Searching on his name turned up an obituary item for him, as well, dated April 8, 1948.

We've known him as Bernard for a long time, but the obit indicates that he was known as Uncle Ben to his nieces and nephews. In Harriet's recent mailing to me, she refers to him as Harry Lincoff. First I thought Harry could have been a son of Bernard/Ben, but in Harriet's photos he looks to be a few years older than Lena's sons Julius and Henry. So I guess he went by all those names. You'll see that the obit does not mention a wife or children.

One of the other new names we have to work with is Zimkin. Harriet told us that Sadie married someone named Zimkin and had a child Arthur. The Times database did not turn out any Zimkin obituaries, but a simple Google search uncovered this page at, which has indexed information from newspaper obituaries. And there is our Sadie, dead at age 47.

ZIMKIN Sadie 07,Feb, 1929 DN. Maiden name-Rabinowitz. Spouse-David. Funeral on Feb. 8, in N. Y. City.

Finally, I looped back around to the searchable index of New York City death records at With our new information, we can now be pretty sure that the following listings are our two great grandparents.

Surname Given Name Age Month Day Year Certificate
Number County Soundex
Rabinowitz Joseph 60 y Apr 25 1917 14014 Manhattan R153
Rabinowitz Lena R 62 y Jan 8 1924 194 Bronx R153

Walter points out that the ages don't precisely square with our recorded birthdates for the them, which had been drawn from census records and also from a reconstruction of hypothetical events following from Joseph's Spektor relationship. If our previous narrative is correct, Spektor's son Chaim dies in May 1874 and Joseph goes through religious training, is married and sent off to America, all within about 15 months of Chaim's death. If Lena is 62 at her death in 1924, then she would have been just 13 or so when married and emigrated — seemingly too young. So maybe she is really more like 65. Also, we have Joseph's birth from other records in January 1855, so he would have been 62 at the time of his death.

In any case, we will soon have additional information since we have now ordered physical copies of the two death certificates from the New York City Department of Vital Records. They cost $15 and take four to six weeks to arrive. When they do, they should provide a great deal of important information about Joseph and Lena, including their parents' names and birth nation, burial place, cause of death and lots more.