The Kutche brothers on their own

With many of the Odessa families or orphans who left Odessa shortly after the pogrom that I have traced, it has been impossible or incredibly difficult to find them in further US records. In some cases the handwriting on the ship’s manifest is difficult to decipher or variations on the spelling do not come up in the records. Some people might appear on one record and then manage to leave no other trace. The people who survived the pogrom and may have lost family in it so often seemed like ghosts to me and even more so when I could not find them.

A few months ago I found two young brothers, age 9 and 11, travelling from Odessa in 1906 with an elderly couple, Simach and Nechama Klein, who were joining their son-in-law, Morris Rothstein, at 406 Rockaway Avenue in Brooklyn. The two boys, Schmeirel and Caumann Kutche, also sponsored by Rothstein, was described as a ‘friend’. Schmeirel and Caumann must have been orphans, whose parents may have died in the pogrom. I had so far not traced any orphans who had not been helped by one of the Jewish charities, like the Hebrew Society or the New York Industrial Removal Office.


Rockaway Avenue, Brooklyn

I tried looking up Kutche with various first names such as Samuel, Simon and Solomon and then tried many possible spellings of Kutche with no luck. I even tried just using first names beginning with S or surnames beginning with K.  I found Morris Rothstein, a house painter, on the 1910 census living with his parents, Simach and Nechama Klein at 1753 Prospect Place, Brooklyn. This was in Crown Heights, Brooklyn a short distance north-east of where he had lived on Rockaway Avenue in Brownsville. Crown Heights had originally been built as a more prosperous area than the working class mostly Jewish area of Brownsville which had been planned in the late 1880s as a spillover from the Lower East Side in Manhattan.

prospect Place Brooklyn

Prospect Place, Brooklyn


Belmont Ave market, Brownsville, Brooklyn

I didn’t find any other records for this Rothstein family, although I found another Morris Rothstein of similar age also living in Brownsville. I eventually just put the image of the ship’s manifest on my desktop and planned to return to it.

When I returned to the two Kutche brothers a few weeks ago, I started with the Odessa Jewishgen website ( to see if I could find their birth records in Odessa and how their name might have been spelled originally. I did find a birth record of a Shlima Kudish in 1897 but it is Cauman who might have been born around 1897 and there was not another birth close in age for his brother. There was no name very close to Kutche, so I tried Kudish and Kutz on the familysearch website I had been using ( with no luck. The name that came up most often on the Odessa Jewishgen search was the very common name Katz, so I tried that as well. There were no Simon Katz’of the same age but many Samuels, so I began to narrow down the Samuels and finally homed in on a Sam Katz on the 1920 census living as a boarder in the area just north of Brownsville on Howard Ave near where the Rothsteins had lived. He was 26 and working as a cutter of paper boxes and the head of the family he was living with worked in a clothing factory. I began to think about possible reasons for why he had not appeared on the 1910 census, what he might have been doing at the age of 15, and what he might have been doing since he arrived in the US at the age of 11.

The number of immigrant families who were living in the US in 1910 and appear on the 1910 census is relatively small compared to those that appear in 1920. I began to wonder if their lack of English or the conditions in which they lived meant they did not appear on the census. They may not have known enough English to know there was a census. Some parents did not understand how to find a school for their children or other mysteries of life in the US. Reading about the tenement houses of the Lower East Side and Brooklyn, there was massive overcrowding, with many families living in one flat, sleeping and working in the same room, sometimes without windows or ventilation. Families probably had more boarders than would have been allowed. Children worked from very young ages, mostly delivering clothing to be worked on or returned to the factory. In Russia as well, children were apprenticed from an early age, sometimes by 11. A child of 9 might also have been given work to do. A relation of mine who wrote a memoir described his family losing their business when he was young and being apprenticed at age 11, hundreds of miles from his house to a pharmacist who started him off making deliveries from 7 in the morning until midnight or later.

In his well-known book about the immigration of East European Jews to America, World of our Fathers, Irving Howe writes little about child labour but says:

The streets meant work. Children, like nine-year-old Marie Ganz, went out to pick up bundles of sewing for her mother and was told they could bring in ‘maybe five dollars a week if she is a good sewer’. The full-time employment of children in shops and factories was rare on the East Side, partly because there was not much use for them in the ‘Jewish industries’, partly because the Jewish sense of family prompted fathers to resist with every ounce of there being the idea of children as full-time workers. (260)

But what happened when a parent or both parents became ill or died. If other family or a charity did not step in children probably lived on the streets. If Schmeirel and Caumann were found a place to board and work to do they were probably lucky.

Jacob Riis, a journalist and photographer, wrote How the other half lives, about the East Side tenements, which was illustrated with his photographs, often of children at work or living on the streets.

riis huddled-kids

Jacob Riis Huddled kids


Jacob Riis Lodgers in a tenement

Lewis Hine was a sociologist who began photographing child labour in 1908 and produced the first two of the photographs below.

children-delivering bundles 1912

Lewis Hine Children delivering bundles 1912


Lewis Hine Child labour

protest 1909 child labour

Child labour protest 1909

newsboys sleeping in the press room 1892

Newsboys sleeping in the press room 1892

I eventually found Sam Katz again in 1930, married to Sophie with a child of 1, Robert, working as a cloak salesman and living at 731 Pennsylvania Avenue near where it crossed Hegeman Avenue, which was in the south of Brownsville. This was a few streets further south from the home of the other Morris Rothstein. As Morris was a tailor I wondered if he was related to the other Rothsteins and had helped Sam. This Morris Rothstein died in 1915 at the age of 42, so could not have been a help for long. His wife Augusta had five children to look after, two of whom were working by 1920.

penn ave

Pennsylvania Ave, Brooklyn

731 penn ave

731 Pennsylvania Ave


With a further glance at Sam Katz on the 1930 census, I noticed that in the same 4-family house was a Chas Katz, several years younger, married with two young children, Adel and Sheldon, 3 and 2, and working as a radio salesman. I had finally found the other brother –Cauman Kutche. They may have been together in their first years in America when neither appears on the 1910 census, but for some time they were obviously not living together. They must have remained in contact and finally managed to get together and spend their lives in flats next to each other with their families. Both married quite late for the time, particularly Sam who was the eldest and possibly felt the most responsible. It must have taken Sam some time to feel settled and able to start a family. In 1940 they were still living in the same house. It is impossible to know whether the two brothers had been placed with a helpful family when they came to Brooklyn in 1906 or whether they had had a hard time working from a very young age. If they had had no more education and had worked very long hours it would even have been difficult to learn English and understand the world around them. What would the census have meant to them?

Whatever the case, they remained loyal to each other and eventually got together to live their lives, always there for each other, as many of the children who came to New York at that time seemed to do. Did the two brothers know much about their family in Odessa? They would have clearly remembered their parents if they had only died in 1905 in the pogrom, but without records from their descendants who knows whether they passed on anything about their family to their children?

I also found the original Morris Rothstein family who had moved to Ramsay, Minnesota by 1920. Morris died in 1926 at the age of 50. That the two Morris Rothsteins died so young suggests they might have been related with a family history of heart disease or whatever they succumbed to. Sophie Rothstein began to run a grocery store helped by her two older sons. In 1940 their house was divided into three apartments. Sophie was living with her youngest son, and each of the two older sons was living with his wife, and one of them had a young child. They were all running the grocery store – another family who helped each other out in hard times. There were two other Rothsteins, John and Louis, who arrived in the US from Odessa in 1909 and were also living with their families in Ramsay, Minnesota. Morris Rothstein, who had arrived in New York in 1904, may have decided to join the other members of his family sometime after 1910. Did they ever wonder about the two young brothers Sophie’s parents had brought from Odessa on the ship so many years before?



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