From Odessa and back again – Jacob Leviton

I did not discover Jacob Leviton, son of Aaron and Goldie, until I had nearly finished researching the vast Leviton family in Chicago. He was on the 1930 census staying with his sister Sophie Welcher. Eventually I found him first travelling to Chicago from Odessa via Liverpool with his father in March 1908. Unfortunately the name on the manifest was spelt Lewiten, a combination of letters I had not tried. And unfortunately I cannot read the profession of Jacob and Aaron. Jacob was recorded as married and 35 years old. Their relation in Odessa was Jacob’s sister, L Mesirow, who lived at Malaya Arnautskaya 50, the first time we get a picture of where this family might have been living in Odessa. The house is in the middle of the long street near Pushkinskaya. There is no mention of Jacob’s wife as being their closest relation. Most of the rest of their family was in Chicago.

Malaya Arnautskaya 50

Their destination was Chicago and the home of Harry Welcher on Stoneman Street, who is down as Jacob’s uncle, whereas it should have said his brother-in-law, the husband of his sister Sophie.

In 1911, Jacob is again travelling from Odessa, this time via Antwerp, to Chicago with both his parents, Aaron and Goldie, and Jacob Mesirow with his wife and widowed mother. All the men are described as merchants. Both families are travelling to the Welcher family now live on Le Moyne Street. Both list cousins as their nearest relations in Odessa. The Leviton cousin lives at Ekaterininskaya 85 on the corner with Malaya Arnautskaya, very close to their Mesirow daughter at Malaya Arnautskaya 50.

Ekaterininskaya 85

Odessa 1888 centre

Malaya Arnautskaya was highly populated with Jews, possibly many of whom were small businessman, who had left the Moldavanka area, becoming more successful and helping their children take up professions as the Levitons were doing. The Mesirow cousin, Lazar Mesirow, lived at Vorontsovskaya 46, a street that runs from the edge of Moldavanka south of the Jewish cemetery to the railway lines and was filled with small factories and warehouses where it ran by the railway. The road has now changed names but if the numbers were similar the house would have been near the tracks, but it is very difficult to find numbers now and there were probably more houses in the past. The sections of the street shown below are closer to Moldavanka where more houses remain. It does not have the style of the centre, but it may have been a place where a factory owner could live by his work.

Vorontsovskaya

Odessa 1901 Vorontsovskaya bottom left

Jacob next appears in New York on his World War I registration. His name appears as Jacob Aaron Leviton, boarding at the Lipschitz home at 120 W. 114 Street. His occupation is manager of the Velcher Bros cigar packing company on East 18th Street, and his nearest relation is his father in Chicago at 1929 Fowler Street. His birthdate is 20 February 1875, age 43.

West 114th Street

There are two Welcher brothers living on the Upper West Side, one quite near Jacob at West 111 St and the other at West 189th St. Jacob is the only member of the Leviton family living in New York, though he is working for his brother-in-law’s family business which has offices in Chicago and New York. He is also the only one who has not settled down with a wife and children. He may also be the only brother of Moishe Leviton, born in 1879, who died in the pogrom.

Jacob does not seem to be someone who fills in records unless they are absolutely necessary or filled out by someone else.. He next appears on his sister’s 1930 census, living with her and her daughter, Alice, 20, on Morse Ave, shortly after the death of her husband, Harry, who died in December 1928. Jacob is listed as single, 52, and a salesman for a cigar company. It was around this time, in 1927, in Chicago that Jacob applied for naturalisation. He must have been working for the Chicago branch of the Welcher cigar company. He was living at 2033 Pierce St, very near Wicker Park, where much of the Leviton family was living in the 1920s. On the application he gives his birthdate and place of birth, Pereyaslav, and says that he is divorced, giving no details of his wife.

Possibly Jacob went to live with his sister to help her after her husband died. There are no more records for Jacob that I can find. On the final naturalisation form, written in 1929, he gives his wife’s name as Anna and says that they were married in August 1905 in Odessa and that his wife was born in Odessa in 1884. He states that he came to the US in August 1911 and his wife came in 1919 and still resides in the US. He says he has no children. At this point he was living at 1635 Morse Avenue with his sister. He received citizenship in September 1930 and had moved to 1222 Farwell Ave, the street next to Morse Ave.

 Farwell Avenue

Sometime later I found a final document that might belong to Jacob. On the 1910 census, there is a Jacob Levitton living at 70 W. 113th St, one street over from where Jacob was living in 1918. Jacob, 35, is living with a wife Hannah, 28, and a daughter Minnie, 6. Jacob is listed as being born in Illinois and Minnie in New York, but much of the rest of the information is listed as unknown – where Hannah was born and Jacob’s job. It seems as if the information was volunteered by someone outside the family, maybe a neighbour. There are blanks in the columns for number of years in present marriage and number of children born and alive.

Jacob Levitton New York 1910 census

Also living in the building are a widow of independent income and a lodger, a 35-year-old music teacher. Jacob’s birthdate and age vary with the years and the ages of this Jacob and Hannah are quite close. He would have come to New York from Illinois. Could Minnie have been Hannah’s daughter? She might have been born in 1904 before Jacob and Anna married. If any of these facts are true. Possibly Jacob did have a daughter. Possibly Anna and Minnie came to America shortly after Jacob arrived in 1908. Did they then return to Odessa after the 1910 census, with Anna and Minnie remaining in Odessa until 1919, while Jacob returned with his parents in 1911? Or did they split up in New York and Jacob returned to Odessa late in 1910, only to return again to New York in 1911? There are no more records that I can find for Anna or Minnie in New York or Chicago. There are several Anna and Minnie Levitons in both cities but none are right. They may have married and slipped through the net. They may have returned to Odessa. There is one death record in 1932 for a Jacob Leviton of the correct age in Los Angeles, and two records, one in 1969 and the other completely un-dated, in Chicago with no age. Although I have found out quite a bit about Jacob, I still feel this family is unknown and has slipped from my fingers, so I will probably keep on searching.

 

Happy families – Levitin and Levit

Why happy families? Feeling I was having extreme good luck in finding the two family names, Levit and Leviton, both names in the pogrom death records, on ships to America in 1906, and in the US records, I delved deeper and found two families who seem to have had successful professions or businesses, married, had children and generally thrived in the US, one family in Chicago, the other in New York.

There was no sign of insane asylums or orphanages. And so, to some extent, they may have been happy families, as happy as any family can be who may have had relations killed in the pogrom and felt forced to flee their home. And possibly, with so little to go on, Tolstoy is correct that ‘All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ But I was interested in why these families might have been as happy or successful as they appeared to be.

I will begin with the Levitin (Leviton) family who emigrated from Odessa to Chicago. They may have had a young son killed in the pogrom, as Moishe Levitin, in the pogrom records, was 26, and the young Levitons on the ship from Antwerp on 30 June 1906, were all in their 20s. There was an older woman, Golda, 56, and her daughter, Rochiel, 28, a nurse, travelling to Sophia Leviton, Golda’s daughter and  Rochiel’s sister at 363 W. North Street, Chicago. With them was Motel, 19, a student, and Gerschon, 24, a dentist, nephews of Golda who were travelling to their brother, Jacob Leviton who lived at the same address.

Golda Levitin and family June 1906

Later I found Sara Leviton, 20, travelling to America in 1904, to her uncle, David Leviton, who also lived at 363 W. North Street in central Chicago and had emigrated to America in 1893. I also found that the two brothers, Motel and Gershon, were the sons of Isaac Leviton, who was travelling with his wife on the same ship with them and Golda although listed on a separate page. Golda’s husband, Aaron, came later.

I first looked up Jacob Leviton, as he was already settled in Chicago. When I started this search I thought that all the young people on the list were the children of Golda and Aaron which led to endless confusions, especially as each of these Leviton families had a Harry or Jacob or David or Morris. And most of the girls had married a Harry or Jacob. I found that this particular Jacob, who was Jacob Isaac, had only arrived that same year, 1906, and by 1910 was married with two small children, living in an area of West Chicago called Wicker Park, an immigrant area of narrow three-storey houses and tree-lined streets reminiscent of many streets in Odessa. During the 1910s and 1920s, most of the enormous extended Leviton family, the brothers David, Isaac and Aaron and their many children, were living around the area of Wicker Park.

Wicker Park Chicago 1912

The older generation of Levitons were businessman, Odessa merchants, but many of their children took up professions – doctors, pharmacists, dentists and an architect. There were two other extended Odessa families in Chicago, related to the Leviton family by marriage, the Schoenbrods and the Mesirovs, Golda’s family. There were also Schoenbrods married to Mesirovs, and often the families lived within one or two houses of each other, on various streets around Wicker Park – Fowler St, Evergreen Ave, Potomac Ave, Le Moyne Ave, Milwaukee Ave, Hoyne Ave and Wicker Park Ave, where Golda was living when she died in 1915.

1351 Wicker Park Ave Golda’s house 1915

Potomac Ave, Wicker Park, the Schoenbrod house in 1900; Jacob Leviton lived on this street in 1910; his father Isaac and the rest of his family lived around the corner on Evergreen Ave.

Evergreen Ave

Fowler St across from Wicker Park where Aron Leviton and his daughter Rose Mesirow lived as did Morris Leviton and Solomon Schoenbrod; Aron died there in 1924

It was this closeness which made me feel that this was a happy family. The families of Aaron and Isaac, one of whom probably lost a son in the Odessa pogrom, were the only two families arriving as late as 1906. David and his family settled in Chicago in 1893 and there was a Morris Leviton who came in 1892.

Wicker Park 1910

Division Street from Wicker Park, now full of cafes and bistros

The records for Chicago, particularly the birth records that list the mother’s maiden name, made it possible to discover the married names of the Leviton daughters. Rochiel became Rose Mesirov, marrying a relation, an insurance salesman. She had two sons and lived in the same area as the rest of the family, gradually moving further out from the centre. She died at age 59 in 1939. Her husband died a year earlier. Neither of the two sons, Abner and Raymond, are listed in the 1940 census. They would have been 27 and 28 years old when their mother died. They both married, had children and lived long lives.

Sarah married Abraham Kaminsky, a teamster, and lived some distance away in South Chicago. She had 5 children, plus one stillbirth. She died in 1928, age 45. Abraham brought up the children alone until he died, aged 55, about 10 years later. Abraham appears on the 1930 census with his children but none of them appear in the 1940 census, which may have been shortly after he died. The eldest, Fanny, never married, possibly because she became the mother of the other children. There are no definite records for two of the others, Vivian and Robert. Goldie married and had one son.

Sophia Leviton, the daughter Golda listed on the ship’s manifest, came to Chicago in 1905 and married Harry Welcher, a cigar manufacturer and they settled near Wicker Park on Le Moyne St. Harry had a prosperous enough business that in 1918 he applied for a passport to travel to Japan, China and the Philippines. On his application he said he was born in Pereyaslav (now Pereyaslav-Khmelnytsky), an old city south of Kiev, perched high above a tributary of the Dnieper River, where many of the Levitons, Schoenbrods and Mesirows were from. Another Welcher living near Wicker Park, Joseph, listed his district of birth on one of the censuses as Poltava, the district of Pereyaslav , and he was also married to a Sophie from Odessa. Sophie and Harry had two children, one of whom died at birth. On the 1930 census, Sophie was already a widow, her husband having died the year before, 1929, at age 54. She was living with her 20-year-old daughter, Alice, and her single brother, Jacob, 52, who emigrated in 1912.

So this was Jacob Aaron, the son of Golda. Jacob was a salesman for a cigar company and I thought of Sophie’s husband. The only other record I found for Jacob was a 1930 naturalisation form where he lists his sister, Sophie’s, address in North Chicago. Later I searched again on the Ellis Island website, using the full name Jacob Levitin (as it was usually spelt on the manifests) and therefore not bothering to narrow the search with the town, Odessa. This time I found another manifest, which only listed Russia for last residence, for Jacob and his parents, Golda and Aaron, travelling with Mesirov relations in 1911. Becoming more creative with spelling, I also found Aaron travelling to New York with his son Jankel (Jacob), 35, in 1908, shortly after Golda . Jacob is described as married, although he is listed as single on the 1930 census. At some point Golda and her husband had returned to Odessa and were now going back to Chicago with their son Jacob and more of Golda’s family, the Mesirows. I will continue the story of Jacob and the Levitons  returning to Odessa as it finally shows a picture of these interrelated families before they came to America.

Sophie died in 1941, age 66, and her daughter, who married and moved to California, died two years later, in 1943. There is a Jacob Leviton who died in California, in 1932, age 55, about the correct age, but it is not an uncommon name. Alice married Robert Simonoff in 1939 in Los Angeles and had a daughter Harriet in 1940. Alice died in 1943. Robert remarried and died in 1995.

When I realised that the two brothers on the 1906 ship from Odessa were the sons of Isaac, it became clear that Gershon, the 24-year-old dentist, became George, who in 1910 was married, working as a dental technician and living near Wicker Park on a main street, Milwaukee Avenue.

Milwaukee Ave near Wicker Park

He was the one brother who left Chicago and became a businessman in Indiana and later California. He and his wife lost two children while they were in Chicago, one Bella at just over one year old. They had two more daughters in Indiana.

Motel was a student at 19, so might have been studying for a profession. There is a Morton Isaac Levitan, an architect born in 1889, who emigrated in 1906. I finally found the Isaac Leviton family on a 1910 census (the last name had not been understood properly) with all the family and their emigration dates. The parents had arrived in 1906 with the youngest son Morton, although he was listed (Motel) with his aunt, Golda. Max, with no profession listed, and Henry, a doctor, had arrived in 1904 and the eldest brother, Harry, a cigar maker, had arrived in 1905. The father was working in real estate. Morton became an architect but does not appear in the records except for his naturalisation form and his World War I registration, where he states that he is an architect and is living at the family home.

Max became a doctor, like his brother Henry. He married Anna Livshis in 1912 and in 1920 he and Anna were living with her parents and their two children, Lawrence and Alice. Anna died in 1930 when their children were 15 and 12. None of the family is on the 1930 census. In 1940, their son Lawrence, 25, is working as a resident physician at a maternity hospital. I found a 2003 obituary for him. He was an Army medic during the war and then became a paediatrician, moving to Florida in the 1950s. He was particularly interested in child mental health. His sister, Alice, became a librarian and never married, but I found her, in 1946, aged 28, on a ship back from France. I wondered why she might have been by herself in France right after the war, and somehow the word Nuremberg came into my mind. I seem to have decided this family did not always take the easy route. I studied the manifest more closely. At the top of the document it said ‘War Department Civilians – American Red Cross, so my instinct was correct and she was doing war work.

The Levitons were the first family I have investigated where many of the younger generation went into professions, either in Odessa or later in America. Most seemed to have no problem picking up with their education, training or finding jobs. In Isaac’s family, who had only arrived in America between 1904 and 1906, there were two doctors, a dentist, an architect and a lawyer among the many sons. An older son Philip first became a bookkeeper and then studied law. Another son, Harry, became a millinery manufacturer, and Jacob was an insurance salesman. David Leviton, also from Odessa, who had arrived first in Chicago in 1893, had three sons, a doctor and two pharmacists. Two of David’s sons, the pharmacists, Samuel and John, worked together and lived in the same building. Although the Leviton family were all living in Odessa, many put their town of birth as Kiev or Pereyaslav, as had Harry Welcher.

Kiev and Pereyaslav 1893

Possibly this large extended family had such resilience because they stayed together, worked together and helped each other, both through their professions and other ways. All of their naturalisation forms were signed by a brother and a lawyer in the family, Nathan Schoenbrod.

Dr Henry Isaac Leviton naturalisation form

There were quite a few early deaths in the family of husbands, wives and infants. When there was only one spouse, he or she seems to have been able to keep the family together and look after the children. Sarah Kaminsky died at 45, Abraham Kaminsky at 55, Martin Leviton at 46, Harry Leviton at 56, Jacob Leviton possibly at 55, Alice Welcher at 32, Harry Welcher at 54, Rose Mesirow at 59, and Henry Leviton, at 55. Interestingly, it was the two families who arrived after the pogrom, the children of Isaac and Aaron, whose children most often died in their 40s or 50s. David, who possibly came out of choice rather than from necessity or fear, and whose children were younger when they came, mostly lived into their 70s and 80s and one of the daughters lived to over 90.

Moishe, who died in the pogrom, age 26, born in 1879, was probably the son of Isaac or Aaron, who emigrated after the pogrom, and as Isaac was the younger and had seven sons born in the 1880s, Moishe was most likely the son of Aaron, who only seems to have had one son, Jacob, born in 1875 or 1877, a few years before Moishe. Just as I was finishing this post, I made one more search for Jacob on Google and discovered a family tree of the Aaron Leviton family and a new branch of the family. This family tree included Aaron and Goldie, Rose Mesirow, Sophie Welcher and another sister, Shifra Pines (age 39, born 1868), who came to Chicago in 1907 with her four teenage children to meet her husband Jacob who was staying with the Harry Welcher. In 1910 the Pines family was living on Evergreen Avenue next to Isaac Leviton and the sons were working in cigar making like the Welchers. Another example of this tightknit family. The Pines were from Ekaterinoslav, which is south of Pereyaslav and near to where Aaron was born at Bassan.  Shifra, the eldest in the family, was born at Ekaterinoslav, possibly where the Levitons originally lived, before they moved to Pereyaslav, Kiev and then Odessa, and she either remained there or returned when she married. Jacob Aaron does not appear on this Leviton family tree; nor does Moishe.

In the next post, I will look a little closer at Jacob’s life, as for some reason he returned to Odessa and, unlike the rest of the family, lived in New York for some years, although he never seemed to have settled down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mesonzhnik family: from Odessa to Arpin, Wisconsin

Slowly working alphabetically, backwards, through the death records, I had reached M, which I put into the Steve Morse Ellis Island search, with the residence Odessa and the years 1905-1908. I could then look through names whose spelling seemed similar to a name on the list, and also look out for children travelling alone, or mothers with many young children who might be travelling to meet their husband or might be widows joining another relation in America. One of these mothers was 30-year-old Feige Mesonschnik (Mesonzhnik or Месонщник) with four children under 5 – Simoche 5, Momzi 4, Moische 2 and Chaim 1 – travelling from Rotterdam on 19 June 1906. She was travelling to her husband, and I would not have continued researching this family except that I was intrigued by where they were going – an isolated settlement called Arpin, Wisconsin. And her husband had changed his name to Finkelstein. J.W. Finkelstein. How did a family from Odessa come to be travelling to Arpin, Wisconsin? Were they joining relations called Finkelstein?

Feige Mesonschnik SS Noordam, Rotterdam 19 June 1906

When I first began to research this family, I could only find a Jacob and Fanny Finkelstein of the correct age with three children of similar ages and names, Celia, Morris and Hyman, living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1910. The second child must have died and the middle child, Morris, seems to have taken the age of his older brother, being 8 instead of 6. Hyman, who must have been born around the time of the pogrom, is 5. On the 1910 census, there are spaces for the number of children born and the number alive. Every family on the page has listed how many children they had had except the Finkelsteins who left the spaces blank. Possibly their son had recently died. In the next census, Celia is working in a department store, Morris is studying medicine, and Hyman is working at a bookbinders. On the 1930 census, only Hyman, 25, is living at home with his parents and is working as a barber. In 1940, the parents are living alone although they put the absent Hyman, 35, as still living in their home. He appears on the census at the Milwaukee County Asylum and all the inmates on this page have been in the asylum for the past five years.

Milwaukee County Asylum

Although the censuses have different immigration dates on each one, 1905/6 in 1910 and 1907/9 in 1920, Jacob had gone to America a year or so before the rest of the family, so I tried to find him on the Ellis Island website and eventually found a Jankiel Mesaznik, age 30, an Odessa tailor, travelling from Trieste in October 1904. He was travelling with a friend from Odessa to the friend’s sister in Hoboken, New Jersey. Nine months after he left Odessa, his wife had Chaim (Hyman), in the summer of 1905, and she and the children left a year later for America. In the meantime, Jacob had gone to Wisconsin.

It was not until the second time I tried searching for the family that I discovered that Arpin had been a logging settlement on the new railway through Wisconsin in the late 1800s. Once the logging work was finished and the company moved on, there was an empty group of houses, shop and school. The New York Industrial Removal Office was trying to relocate Jewish immigrants outside New York City and Milwaukee was one of its first bases in the west. A rich German Jewish merchant and philanthropist, Adolph Rich, bought 700 acres north of Arpin, in the hopes of setting up a Jewish agricultural colony, which might become a magnet for Jewish immigrants in the west, a homeland for the Jews.

Arpin, Wisconsin 1920

In 1904, Rich arranged for 5 families, and then another two, to occupy the empty houses of Arpin, and begin to work 40 acres of land each. By 1906 the families were working 10 acres of land each. In an article by Louis Swichkow, The Jewish agricultural colony of Arpin, Wisconsin, Jacob Finkelstein is mentioned as one of the first group of seven families – Manny, Zefania and Jacob Cohen, Louis and Gedalia Smoller, Jacob Finkelstein, I. Classel, Samuel Pittelman, Sholem Antonovsky, and J. Weinberg.

The Pittelmans Arpin Colony 1909

The map below from 1928 shows all the owners of the lands around Arpin but none of the above. Most look German with some Scandinavian but there are none that look Russian and only one that is most likely Jewish, Jacobs.

Arpin 1928

Actually Jacob first appeared in the Wisconsin records in the 1905 census when he was boarding with a farming family in Saratoga, Wisconsin, next to another farmer called Sam Finkelstein, a widower with four children, who had immigrated to America in the early 1880s from Russia.

Wood County, Wisconsin, Arpin upper centre, Saratoga bottom right

I eventually came upon a newspaper headline about the murder of Sam Finkelstein’s wife Ida (called Rebecca in the article) in March 1905 by a Russian lodger in their house who felt he had been cheated by Sam into buying land that was not as it has been described to him. Sam, who, according to the newspaper, had previously been living at Arpin, had worked for a real estate agent in Chicago selling land to Jewish settlers, so possibly was setting up a similar type of colony at Saratoga. The lodger tried to plead insanity but was given life in prison. The trial was written up in great detail including a list of the jurors as if trial by jury was new in these western territories.

Sam, also known as Simon, married again in 1906 to a woman from Arpin, Sarah Robinowich, and possibly joined her in Arpin along with Jacob Finkelstein.

Sam, who had come to America in 1885 when he was 17, had previously been married to a Russian woman called Mary Quater and they had had 6 children in Chicago and Indiana. On the 1900 census, Sam was living with Ida in California Township, Starke County, Indiana, close to Chicago, and had had a seventh child, Samuel. One wonders whether Sam came to America with family, with a group of Russian colonists, or whether he was a lone pioneer.

California Township, Indiana

Bathers at Bass Lake (Cedar Lake) Indiana, 1900

The only discrepancy on the census is that although it says Ida has had one child, it also says that Sam and Ida have been married for 18 years. By 1905 they had a second child Morris. Sam next appears on the 1910 census as Simon with his wife Sarah in Milwaukee. They are living with the two youngest children, Simon (Sam) and Morris , who are 10 and 8. Both Simon and Sarah say they have been married once before, and Sarah apparently had two children no longer alive. She does not appear on the 1905 census so possibly had not been in America for long. She may have had as tragic a story as Simon.

Simon and Sarah do not appear on the 1920 census but in 1930 they are living together without any children. There are marriage records for Simon’s oldest son, Barney, who moved out to Portland, Oregon, and also his daughter Sadie, who, having been widowed, married again in Los Angeles in 1948. She died in California in 1956. On a Wisconsin Jewish burial database there is a Sam and a Samuel Finkelstein, one who died in 1917 and one in 1923. Possibly one of these is Simon and Ida’s son. On the 1940 census, Simon is 80 and in a chronic diseases hospital in Milwaukee on the same site as the asylum Hyman was in. Simon is a widower and has been there over five years. He died that year and is the only one in the story I found a gravestone for. It is hard to know what the man who was widowed three times and had at least eight children and may have deceived the man who killed his wife, was like, but at least one of his children probably remembered him with a marble gravestone. There seems to be no trace of Mary Quater, Ida Silberg, or Sarah Robinowich.

Once Jacob was settled in the Arpin colony, he must have sent for his wife from Odessa. They did not remain long in Arpin as by 1910 they were living in Milwaukee. Several families left Arpin, although a core remained until the 1920s. As there was no secondary school in the area, several families drifted to cities for their children’s education. Both Jacob and Simon were farmers in Saratoga, and in Milwaukee they both did manual jobs of different kinds. Jacob was a machine hand, a labourer for a cement block company, a fish peddler, and both men were watchmen at one point, one for a scrapyard and one for a tannery.

Jacob and Fanny lost one of their children and then, sometime after 1930, Hyman was admitted to the Milwaukee County Asylum, in Wauwatosa, just west of Milwaukee. Conditions were probably quite basic in asylums in the 1930s, and there were bound to be unpleasant and difficult experiences, so no parent would want their child admitted unless they could not cope with them at home. Several children born around the time of the Odessa pogrom found themselves with a similar fate. One might have thought it would have been the 2 or 3-year-old who suffered most during that period, but it was the babies or even those born just after the pogrom whose mothers were in such difficult situations they could not give them the attention they needed in those first months and years. Feige was alone in Odessa with four small children aged from a few months to 4 years old in the midst of the pogrom and then preparing to travel to Wisconsin – across Europe, across the Atlantic and then across America. And when she arrived, she would have found herself in the middle of nowhere, Arpin, Wisconsin, alone in a flat empty land, with a handful of other, probably older, Jewish families. Possibly I stuck with this story because my grandmother also had a child in 1905 just before they emigrated from Russia, who drowned when he was 23, his life and the cause of his death remaining a mystery.

The only record I found at first for Jacob and Fanny’s other two children was a Chicago birth record for Morris’ son Samuel, born in 1924, when Morris was 22. His wife was Minnie Perlman, and strangely there were a couple of other Morris Finkelsteins, born at different times, married to women with variations on the name Minnie Perlman having children in Chicago at that time. But this Morris was born in Odessa in 1902. Morris had been studying medicine when he was 18 but no more records appear for him so he may have done something completely different or possibly died young. One Russian Jewish Minnie Perlman of the right age that I found in the records as a child in Chicago belonged to a family of travelling actors which was unusual.

I had not looked for Morris’ sister, Celia, because without marriage records it is difficult to trace women, but as she also moved to Chicago, her maiden name appears in the birth records of her children, and she had become Celia Sachs. Her husband, Abraham, was 10 years older and had come to Chicago as a baby around 1890. He had first worked selling shoes and later had a sporting goods shop followed by a furniture repair shop. They had three children. Abraham lived until 1980, 90 years old, and Celia until 1991 when she was 91. At some point they had retired to 1020 W. Laurence Avenue in uptown Chicago, an art deco apartment block which had been built in the 1920s as luxury hotel apartments with a swimming pool, a long way for Celia from 1905 Odessa and her parents’ new start in the Wisconsin wilderness.

1020 W. Lawrence Avenue, Chicago

How much Celia, who was 5 when she left Russia, remembered the name  Mesonzhnik, her early childhood in Odessa and the trip to America, the death of one brother, and the background to Hyman’s move to the asylum, and whether she passed any of it on to her children… and if she did, whether they kept it to themselves…. who knows?