30 September 2015

Brooke-ing no denial: Reclaim the Records successfully pursues NYC marriage affidavits/licenses

Too many of us take no for an answer when access to public records is concerned. Not Brooke Schreier Ganz.

Brooke's objective was to make genealogists' lives much easier when they are pursuing New York City records from the 20th Century. She just achieved her first win: acquisition of the index for New York City affidavits for license to marry (marriage applications), 1908-1929. 

This record set (an index) could only be accessed in person at the Municipal Archives at 31 Chambers Street or via mail-in search requests - which could be pricey. 

Earlier this month Avotaynu Online featured an article about Brooke's quest.
Brooke's organization Reclaim the Records had filed a petition with the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York using New York's Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) to force the NYC Department of Records and Information Services (parent of the Municipal Archives) to grant public access to the 1908-1929 index of the City Clerk's Office marriage licenses. 

NYC Marriage Licenses and Certificates

For a period of time (1908-1937) for each borough in New York City, the Health Department and the City Clerk's Office maintained two independent marriage record collections. 

Health Department marriage certificates were created at the wedding. Indexes of marriage certificates from the Health Department (through 1937) have been available online for some time via the Italian Genealogy Group, the German Genealogy Group, Ancestry and FamilySearch and copies of original marriage certificates have been available (through 1937) on FamilySearch Library microfilm (as well as at the Municipal Archives). There are separate indexes for bride and groom.

City Clerk's Office records are less well-known and consist of three parts: the affidavit (an application to marry) usually filed several days to several weeks before the wedding; a reiterative summary of the information on the affidavit; and then, what is essentially a marriage return filed by the officiant documenting that the wedding had occurred, its date, place and witnesses.

The affidavits/licenses of the City Clerk's Office had not been microfilmed by FamilySearch or any other outside organization and the index had not been made available to the public outside the Municipal Archives. The City Clerk's index for records of 1908-1951 is arranged by borough, quarters of the year and the first two letters of the bride's or groom's last name. 

The records are filed by the date of the affidavit, not the date of the marriage. So, when I was searching for my family's records, I came armed with marriage dates and usually looked for records filed in quarters before the wedding. A great deal of microfilm scrolling was involved in finding each record.

Further information about these records may be seen in Estelle Guzik's book, Genealogical Resources in New York, published by the Jewish Genealogical Society, Inc (JGSNY) in 2003. JewishGen also provides a nice summary in an InfoFile, "New York City Vital Records," written by Sheila Kievel. A description and table regarding NYC marriage records is also included on page 23 of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society's New York Family History Research Guide and Gazetteer, published in 2014.

In the past I have posted a few blogs here, here, here and here using information from NYC marriage affidavits/licenses - which are different than the marriage certificates available (through 1937) at the Municipal Archives and on microfilm via the FamilySearch Library. I've shown how one may confirm or clarify information about the bride, groom, officiant, witnesses or marriage location when poor hand writing or document condition might otherwise prevent it.

Usually the information on the certificate and the affidavit/license is not hugely different. But sometimes additional or slightly different information may be provided. When I searched the index I found affidavits for marriages that never took place. I also found couples for whom there were two affidavits - apparently their wedding had been rescheduled for several months later and they applied a second time for a license. 

Here is my grandparents' affidavit for license to marry and associated filed documents, which I acquired on-site at the NYC Municipal Archives.

And this is the associated certificate of marriage - also acquire several years ago from the archives.
My grandparents applied for their marriage license on 11 July 1916 and married on 12 August 1916. 
  • Under clergyman on the affidavit it provides a location (Harlem Terrace Hall) not provided on the certificate. 
  • My grandparents' community of origin is listed on the affidavit, but not on the certificate (although, the name of the community was misspelled, confused with the more well-known Lublin). 
  • My grandmother's occupation (ladies waist) was listed on the affidavit and none was provided on the certificate. This is the only document on which I have any information that she ever worked outside the home.
  • The officiant's full name is provided on the affidavit. In addition, his name is written several times - giving one an opportunity to decipher difficult handwriting.

Back to Reclaim the Records

After indications they would continue to fight the Reclaim the Records request, the City abruptly changed course and approached Reclaim the Records' attorneys with an offer to settle. This victory means new access to over 600,000 genealogical records on 48 microfilms. This is huge! A big thank you is due Brooke for her tenacity in the face of rejection.

There is much work yet to do. Now Brooke hopes to fulfill her goal of placing the images of the index online (with free access) and then finding an entity to create a searchable index of the records so that researchers can more easily find their quarry.Armed with the index information, researchers may then order the records from the Municipal Archives.

The next Freedom of Information targets will be additional New York City and New Jersey records that should, based upon state law, be publicly available, but are not. Brooke is soliciting our opinions regarding future targets. See Reclaim the Records website and newsletter for more information about this exciting development.

25 September 2015

Pamela Weisberger, z''l

Pamela Weisberger
Words are just not adequate. I've spent the afternoon in shock.

Sandy Malek of the Jewish Genealogical Society-Los Angeles, posted notice of Pamela's passing on JGS-LA's FaceBook page. Pam was their Vice-President of Programs and passed away suddenly after a brief illness on September 25, 2015. She leaves her husband, Ken Kaufman, and three children.

Pamela also leaves thousands of fans in the genealogy community: people who have benefited from her humor, wit, enthusiasm for genealogy (and life), creativity, and energy. She was a force of nature in genealogy, leading Gesher Galicia to new heights of research relevance.

Pamela Weisberger, a wholly committed genealogist, a researcher of extraordinary talent, a lecturer of great skill and originality, and a great teacher, was also President and Research Coordinator of the non-profit Gesher Galicia. Inc., international lecturer, and frequent traveler and visitor to archives in Ukraine, Poland and Austria. 

Pamela's talks were always lively and cleverly presented. I have been partial to her ability to turn a phrase in developing titles for her talks: "Chutes and Ladders: Innovative Approaches to Genealogy," "It's News to Me! Historical Newspaper Research for Genealogists," "When Leopold met Lena: Marriage, Divorce and Deception in 1892." No stodginess here! 

And although she was a Jewish genealogist, she'd developed cross-over appeal. Last year at the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in Salt Lake City, the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society sponsored her luncheon talk, "Holly Golightly was a Nice Jewish Girl: Our Ancestors Reinvented." She also spoke at A.J. Jacobs' Global Family Reunion. A couple of her speaking proposals had been accepted for RootsTech 2016.

Pamela in the tunnel beneath the Western Wall, Jerusalem (5 July 2015 - E. Garber)
Pamela started her first career in the film industry working with director Otto Preminger - a man who would not take no for an answer. She definitely learned from that: I don't think "no" was in her vocabulary. Somehow I visualize her as part of the Andy Hardy film series: "Come on, kids! Let's put on a show!" She was frequently planning some event, whether something as large (and successful) as the 2010 International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies conference in Los Angeles (where she was co-chair), or as small as an invitation-only tunnel tour under the Western Wall in Old Jerusalem this past summer or dinner with an assortment of friends during a conference. 
A gathering (she arranged) at the Western Wall, Jerusalem, 5 July 2015
She was always either involved or available to be involved. A month or so ago she contacted me (since I'm on the program committee for the Seattle IAJGS conference) and offered to organize a Jewpardy game - crowd-pleasing evening entertainment - during the 2016 IAJGS. And just last week I finished reading Israel Pickholtz' new book (Endogamy: One Family, One People) and learned that Pamela and her daughter had participated in Israel's research by allowing him to analyze their DNA samples.

Pamela was generous with her time and expertise. When I was planning my trip to Ukraine several years ago, she spent an hour on the telephone with me sharing her much-welcomed and excellent advice. I did not interact with Pamela on a daily basis or even a monthly basis, but I always looked forward to seeing her at conferences.

The genealogy community - especially the Jewish genealogy community - has lost a dynamo. She had so much more to do. But, more than anything, we've all lost a good friend. We'll have to follow her example and make sure the show goes on. 
** If you would like to leave a message of condolence or remembrance, Gesher Galicia has a memorial page: http://www.geshergalicia.org/about-gesher-galicia/pamela-weisberger-in-memoriam/
In a fitting honor to Pamela's memory, her family has authorized the establishment of the Pamela Weisberger Memorial Fund, to be administered jointly by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles (JGSLA) and Gesher Galicia.

For immediate contributions, please send checks made payable to the Pamela Weisberger Memorial Fund, c/o JGSLA, PO Box 55443, Sherman Oaks, CA 91413. Paypal will be set up shortly.

For further information, see either the JGS-LA webpage or the above-mentioned Gesher Galicia memorial page.

24 September 2015

Treasure Chest Thursday: Henry I Fetell family advertisement, FLPBA 1949 anniversary publication

Henry Fetell and his wife, Lillian Meyers Fetell purchased an advertisement in the 1949 publication commemorating the anniversary of the founding of the First Lubiner Progressive Benevolent Association (the landsmanshaft organization for the community of Labun, Russian Empire (Ukraine). 

Henry and his siblings were born in Labun. He arrived in the USA at the age of 9 with his brothers (Jankiel and Moise) and sisters (Mania and Usla).[1] His eldest sibling, Mania, was only 18. They were headed to their uncle Hyman Boris (their mother's brother) in New York City.

Henry and his siblings lived together for several years in New York City.[2] An older brother, Ben, had immigrated before World War I. It appears their parents may have both died in the old country before the rest of the children emigrated.

Henry graduated from law school, married Lillian Meyers and enlisted in the military during World War II.[3]

I have found no indications that Henry and Lillian had any children. They passed away in Pompano Beach, Broward County, Florida. Henry died 28 July 1982 and Lillian, 23 September 1989.[4]

1. "New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957," digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 16 May 2011), manifest, S.S. Estonia, Danzig to New York, arriving 27 September 1921, list 2 (handwritten), lines 28, Chaim Fertel, citing NARA microfilm publication T715, roll 3028.
2. 1925 New York State Census, New York County, New York, enumeration of inhabitants, Manhattan, assembly district 13, election district 42, page 24, entry 27, Henry Fetell; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 24 September 2015); New York State Archives, Albany.
1930 U.S. Census, Bronx County, New York, population schedule, Bronx, enumeration district 3-361, sheet 12A, dwelling 85, family 266, Henry Fetell; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 24 September 2015); NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 1474.
3. 1940 U.S. Census, Kings County, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn, enumeration district 24-2448, sheet 6B, household 127, Henry and Lillian Fetell; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 24 September 2015); NARA mircofilm publication T627, roll 2610.
"U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010," index, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 24 September 2015), entry for Henry Fetell, death date 28 July 1982; "Beneficiary Identification Records Locator Subsystem (BIRLS) Death File," Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
4. "U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014," entry for Lillian Fetell, 23 September 1989; index, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 24 September 2015); Social Security Administration.

22 September 2015

Tombstone Tuesday: Sidney Rubin, Montefiore Cemetery, Queens, NY

Last Tuesday's tombstones were from Harry and Anna Rubin. Their son Sidney is also buried in the same First Lubiner Progressive Benevolent Association plot.

Here lies
Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
Then I would fly away and be at rest.
Shmuel son of Tsvi Hersch
Died 13 Nisan 5753
May his soul be bound in the bonds of the living
MARCH 24, 1924
APRIL 4, 1993 

I was unsure of a translation of the second and third lines inscribed on the gravestone, so I posted its image on Tracing the Tribe FaceBook page and asked for help. Israel Pickholtz pointed out that the two lines are from Psalm 55, verse 7. I Googled that reference and found this beautiful verse: Oh, that I had wings like a dove! Then I would fly away and be at rest.

Sidney was born in Chicago and was Harry and Anna's second child and only son. An indexed record of his birth is located on FamilySearch, but I have not yet ordered the original.[1]

In 1930 Sidney and his family resided in Brooklyn at 910 Myrtle Avenue.[2] In 1940, they lived at 175 Ocean Parkway.[3]

Sidney served in the Army during the Second World War. He enlisted 3 September 1943 and was honorably discharged 15 February 1946.[4]

Based on his gravestone inscription, it appears that he never married (or was not married at the time of his death) and did not have children. His passed away in 1993 and his last residence was in Brooklyn. He is buried in block 5, gate 567W, line 6R, grave 1.

1. "Illinois, Cook County, Birth Certificates, 1871-1940," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QKM7-1XQK : accessed 21 September 2015), Sidney Rubin, 24 Mar 1924; citing Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States, reference/certificate 13683, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago.
2. 1930 U.S. Census, Kings County, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn, enumeration district 24-323, sheet 21A, dwelling 100, family 288, Sidney Rubin; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 September 2015); NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 1503.
3. 1940 U.S. Census, Kings County, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn, enumeration district 24-1404, sheet 7A-7B, household 162, Sidney Rubin; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 14 September 2015); NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 2582.
4. U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010," database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 September 2015), Sidney Rubin, 4 April 1993; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, D.C.

17 September 2015

Treasure Chest Thursday: Mr. & Mrs. Joe Norflus advertisement, FLPBA 1949 Anniversary publication

Joe and Fannie Norflus worked together as glaziers in their store in New York City. It was Fannie who was born in Labun - the community associated with the First Lubiner Progressive Benevolent Association. She was the daughter of Joseph and Anna Kargman and arrived in the USA in 1921 at the age of 23 with her parents and sister, Sarah.[1]

Joe's 1942 World War II draft registration card indicates he was born in Warsaw.[2] He and Fannie married on 7 January 1926 in Brooklyn.[3]

They had two sons: Morris (born about 1926) and David (born about 1930).[4] The family lived for many years at 1605 Fulton Street in Brooklyn.

1. "New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957," digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 13 Dec 2010), manifest, S.S. Zeeland, Antwerp to New York, arriving 1 August 1921, list 16 (handwritten), lines 5-8, Josef, Chana, Sura and Feiga Kargman, citing NARA microfilm publication T715, roll 3001. 
2. "U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942" digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 November 2010); Joseph Norflus, New York registration, Serial no. U337; NARA record group 147, microfilm publication M1987.
3. Kings County, New York, marriage certificate no. 822 (1926), Joe Norflus and Fanny Kargman, 7 January 1926; New York City Municipal Archives.
4. 1930 U.S. Census, Kings County, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn, enumeration district 24-272, sheet 2B, dwelling 35, family 59, Joseph and Fannie Norflus family; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 November 2010); NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 1502.
1940 U.S. Census, Kings County, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn, enumeration district 24-671, sheet 5B, household 92, Joseph and Fannie Norflus family; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 September 2015); NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 2563.