I was reminded of the power of headstones when I received a set of photos from Tillie Strolowitz/Adler’s great-granddaughter Jean. Jean has been doing genealogy research for many, many years, and it has been wonderful to have a family member who shares this passion. Jean started in the pre-internet era, and she has been helpful in reminding me to be patient as I wait for documents. I want immediate gratification, typical of those of us working with modern technology; Jean reminds me that back in the pre-internet era there were no documents that you could view from the comfort of your home just by clicking on a computer. You had to travel to libraries, government offices, cemeteries, synagogues, and other record-holding institutions—or at best mail away (snail mail) and wait for documents to be returned by snail mail.
Anyway, Jean wrote to me about her visit to Mt Zion Cemetery back in 1999 to search for her great-grandmother’s headstone. Her experience was very much like mine when I searched for my great-grandfather Joseph Brotman’s headstone last fall. The stones are so overcrowded in the old cemetery that it is impossible to walk around without stepping on the gravesites of other people. It is also very difficult to find a particular headstone. There are no straight lines, no easy paths, as in other cemeteries. Here are some photos Jean took back then to capture the feeling.
But when you do find the headstone, it is a powerful experience. You suddenly understand that your long-lost relative is in fact buried there and that someone stood there in mourning to bury them many years ago. Jean pointed out that Tillie’s headstone only refers to her as a loving mother, not a wife, and that the Strolowitz name is nowhere included on the stone, just the name the family adopted in America, Adler, despite the fact that Tillie’s death certificate is under the Strolowitz name.
When Tillie died, two of her sons had already passed away, Isidor and Pincus, and were also buried at Mt Zion under the Adler name. Had the family erased Jankel from their memory by dropping his name and not including any reference to Tillie as a wife on her headstone? Does that provide any clues as to what happened to him? One would assume that he, too, was buried at Mt Zion, if he had died shortly after arriving in NYC, but I cannot find anyone with a name similar to his buried there.
I am still waiting for some records that may relate to Jankel and his fate. I am not optimistic that these will in fact relate to Jankel, but I will be patient, count the days, and hope that these records will help to answer the mystery of Jankel Srulovici.