The Mysterious Son-in-Law

As of 1930, Milton Goldsmith and his wife Sophie and daughters Rosalind and Madeleine were all still living together in New York City.  All that would change in the next decade.

On September 29, 1933, Milton’s younger daughter Madeleine married Charles A. Jacobson, Jr. in New York City.1 Charles was a native New Yorker, born on February 8, 1905 to Charles A. Jacobson, Sr., and Emily Metzger.2 His father was a linen merchant. In 1930 Charles, Jr. was living with his parents and brother James in Lawrence, New York, on Long Island. His father was now retired, and Charles was a stockbroker.  His brother James was a book publisher.3 According to the engagement announcement in The New York Times, Charles was a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard. Madeleine was a graduate of Columbia University.

“Miss Goldsmith Plights Her Troth,” The New York Times, September 5, 1933.

Milton’s wife Sophie Hyman Goldsmith died less than a year after Madeleine’s marriage.  She died on June 18, 1934, in New York City. She was 67 years old.4

In 1940, Milton was living with his daughter Rosalind in New York City at 136 West 75th Street.  He was now 78, and she was 38. Neither listed an occupation on the census. 5 Madeleine and her husband Charles were also living in New York City; Charles was now working as a banker.6 They would have one child in the 1940s.

Later that year, Rosalind married Michael Zale on October 25, 1940, in New York City. 7 From 1942 until 1960, Michael Zale is listed in the New York City telephone directories at 136 West 75th Street, so I assume he moved into the apartment where  Rosalind had been living with her father prior to her marriage.

But I was having no luck learning anything else about Michael Zale.  The only records I could find were the listing in the NYC Marriage License Index cited above and those telephone directory listings. There was a Michael Zale in the Social Security Death Index who died in November 1968,8 but I wasn’t convinced it was the same person since that Michael Zale was born on October 15, 1915, making him fourteen years younger than Rosalind and 25 when he married her in 1940 when she was 39. Rosalind’s obituary9 also mentioned that she was the widow of Michael Zale. But that was it. I couldn’t find one other record or mention of a Michael Zale anywhere.

I searched Ancestry and FamilySearch using all the wildcards and variations I could think of. I searched the various newspaper databases—the New York Times, GenealogyBank.com, newspapers.com, and FultonHistory.com. I tried Google. Nada. Nothing. I was completely stumped.

So I turned to the genealogy village for help. And Heather in the Tracing the Tribe Facebook group came to my rescue. She found a death notice for Michael Zale in the November 5, 1968, New York Times that broke down the brick wall.

The New York Times, November 5, 1968.

I asked her how she’d found it since I had searched the Times database numerous ways numerous times. She said that she had gone through the obituary listings day by day in November 1968, hoping that the Michael Zale in the SSDI was the right person. And he was. Why hadn’t I done that? Now I have learned another important lesson. (Heather said she also had gotten no hits when searching by his name. Very odd.)

Now we knew that Michael’s father was named John, but nothing more. And I couldn’t find a John Zale either. But again Heather found what she hoped was Michael’s family on the 1940 US census: John and Olga Zalefsky in Brooklyn living with two children: Karl, 16, and Dorothy, 4. John and Olga were both born in Russia, John was an alien and Olga was naturalized. John was working as a bottler in a dairy.10  But was this in fact Michael Zale’s family?

From that point, I started searching for John and Olga Zalefsky and found them (as Zalifsky) on the 1930 US census,11 where they were living with four children: a six year old son Karl, a ten year old son Roosevelt, and a fourteen year old son whose name appears to be Metre. Could this be Michael Zale? The age was right (Michael would have been fourteen going on fifteen when the census was taken in 1930), and the name started with M. Perhaps John and Olga had given him a more Russian name that he later Americanized. John and Olga had immigrated in 1914, according to the census, and were still aliens. John was a laborer in a dairy.

Moving backwards, I then found them on the 1925 New York State census as John and Olga Silefsky with three children, Carl (one), Roosevelt (5), and a daughter named Metra, age nine.12 Was this a mistake? Was the oldest child a girl, not a boy as indicated on the 1930 census? Was this not the right family at all?

I wasn’t sure.  And so far I’ve had no luck finding them on the 1920 census or the 1915 census. And although I found birth records for Karl and Dorothy, I have none for Metra/Metre or Roosevelt.

Meanwhile, Heather found a great deal of information about John and Olga’s other children and found some living relatives. I have written to them and hope that they can tell me whether the Michael Zale who married Rosalind Goldsmith was the son of John and Olga Zalefsky.  For now, I can’t be sure, but I am hoping they respond and can help to clarify the conflict between the 1925 and 1930 census and tell me more about Michael Zale. In the meantime, I will continue to search for more information about the Zalefsky family.

Thank you so much, Heather, for all your help!

One final post on Milton and his family to come.

 

 

 

 

 


  1. Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Extracted Marriage Index, 1866-1937. Original data: Index to New York City Marriages, 1866-1937. 
  2. Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Extracted Birth Index, 1878-1909 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Index to New York City births, 1878-1909. 
  3. Charles Jacobson and family 1930 Census; Year: 1930; Census Place: Lawrence, Nassau, New York; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 0053; Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census  
  4.  Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Extracted Death Index, 1862-1948 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Index to New York City Deaths 1862-1948. 
  5. Milton Goldsmith and daughter, 1940 US Census; Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02636; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 31-572; Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  6. Charles and Madeleine Jacobson, Jr., 1940 US Census; Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02626; Page: 70A; Enumeration District: 31-51; Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  7.  New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Volume Number: 8; Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Marriage License Indexes, 1907-1995 
  8. Number: 114-01-4400; Issue State: New York; Issue Date: Before 1951; Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  9. New York Times, May 14, 1979. 
  10. John Zalefsky and family, 1940 US Census, Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, Kings, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02551; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 24-219.  Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  11. John Zalifsky and family, 1930 US Census, Year: 1930; Census Place: Brooklyn, Kings, New York; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 1857. Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 
  12. John Sliefsky and family, 1925 NYS Census; New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1925; Election District: 43; Assembly District: 02; City: Brooklyn; County: Kings; Page: 72. Ancestry.com. New York, State Census, 1925 

28 thoughts on “The Mysterious Son-in-Law

  1. Wow. That is some serious sleuthing. The search anomalies are very interesting to me, as I’ve been searching for obituaries for my great-great grandparents and coming up totally dry. Maybe day by day searching would work. Also, do you know of any archives for Yiddish newspapers in NY?

    Liked by 2 people

    • It was the New York Times website, which is not very user friendly for searches. I called them today and learned that to search by date, you need to be a subscriber and search on a different site than their main site. I am a subscriber, so I can do that, but even that is not a particularly good search engine.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I use that one also as well as newspapers.com, ChroniclingAmerica, and fultonhistory.com (which seems to be down at the moment). And then I also search local papers if I can. There are also some other free database; for example, there is one for Jewish newspapers in Pittsburgh. Good luck!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Amy, I hope you hear back and that they have helpful news for you. Wow, it’s so odd how some people are so hard to find whereas others have a surfeit of info available about them. But when you consider all the misspellings. Plus, I do think that some of the newspaper databases are very flawed. It’s about using the right search terms, and sometimes the name itself doesn’t work, so you need another word, but WHAT?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Milton Goldsmith: Final Chapter | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  4. Pingback: Friday's Family History Finds | Empty Branches on the Family Tree

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