The Growing Family of Taube Brotman and Jacob Hecht: An Exercise in Deciphering Census Records

Although the evidence of Taube Brotman’s life before 1892 is very limited, beginning with her son Harry’s birth certificate, we have evidence of her life after arriving in the US, probably in 1887.

Harry Hecht birth certificate

The birth record for Harry indicates that he was born at 33 East Houston Street in New York City on May 24, 1892, that his parents were Jacob Hecht and Toba Brotman and that they were living at that same address. Jacob was 25 and working as a cloaks operator, that is, in a sweatshop, and Toba was 20, suggesting a birth year of 1872. Both reported that they were born in Austria. Harry was Toba’s first child.

Where it says there are now seven children living, you might be puzzled. But this birth certificate was not filed until 1906, fourteen years after Harry’s birth, for reasons that are not clear. As we will see, Jacob and Taube Hecht were not very conscientious about filing records with the city. But by 1906, Jacob and Taube did in fact have seven children.

The 1900 census is the next source of information about Taube’s early years in the US.  It is rich with information, but also filled with errors and almost illegible cross outs. First, it gives Taube’s name as Mitilda—probably because she was already using Tillie at that time. They were living at 64 Broome Street in New York City, about a block away from Taube’s father, my great-grandfather, Joseph Brotman, and his family (including my grandmother Gussie, Taube’s sister) at 81 Ridge Street.


According to the census, Taube had been married to Jacob Hecht (spelled Hect here) for nine years at the time of enumeration, meaning they were likely married in about 1891. Unfortunately, I cannot find a marriage record for them. Jacob was working as a tailor, probably meaning he was still a cloak maker in a sweatshop on the Lower East Side.

Contrary to Harry’s birth record, the 1900 census reported that Jacob and Taube were both born in Russia, not Austria. Of course, neither is strictly accurate since Taube was born in Galicia, a province of the Austrian-Hungary Empire that bordered what was then Russia (now Ukraine). According to the census, Jacob had been in the US for twelve years, yet it says he immigrated in what looks like 1880? Or 1887? And the census says that Taube had been here for fifteen years, but then says she immigrated in 1875, written over 1885. Oy, that poor enumerator… he must have had a really hard time understanding whoever was giving him the information.

By 1900, Jacob and Taube had four children, all living with them: Harry was eight, born in 1892; “Annie” (actually Ida) was seven, born in May 1893; David was four, and although the year is crossed out, he likely was born in 1896, and Yette (later Etta) was seven months old and born in October 1889. Obviously that should be 1899 or Yette would have been eleven years old, not seven months old. As I discussed here, I have been unable to find birth records for three of those four children, only the later-filed certificate for Harry shown above.

Hecht family 1900 US census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1094; Page: 14A; Enumeration District: 0290; FHL microfilm: 1241094

Five years later, the Hecht family had moved to 22 Mangin Street, about a half mile from where they’d been living in 1900, according to the 1905 New York State census. This enumerator seems to have had an easier time recording the family information. Taube is now listed as Tillie, as she was known in the US. Her age is reported as 35, meaning she was born in 1870; Jacob was 42, and now both once again report their birthplace as Austria. Jacob had been in the US for 17 years, Taube for 20. Neither was yet a citizen of the United States. Jacob was still making cloaks.

Hecht family, 1905 NYS census, New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1905; Election District: A.D. 12 E.D. 14; City: Manhattan; County: New York; Page: 64, New York, U.S., State Census, 1905

They now had six children, two daughters having been born since 1900: Harry was 13, Ida 11, David 9, Etta 6, and the two most recent additions were Gussie (later Jean), who was five, and Sadie {later Shirley), who was two. Also living with them was another Sadie, listed as Jacob’s mother. She was 65 and had been in the US for 12 years. I find it rather odd that Taube and Jacob would have named a child Sadie if Jacob’s mother was Sadie and still living. And I cannot find any other record for the older Sadie Hecht, so I am wondering whether this was an enumeration error.

By 1910, the family had moved again and grown again. They now were living at 48 Boerum Street in Brooklyn. Jacob was still working as an operator in a coat shop and had filed his papers to become a citizen. On this census, both he and Taube (Tillie) gave “Aust Polish” as their birthplace. Jacob was 48, Taube 38. He had immigrated in 1886, she in 1884, according to the census record. And they’d been married for nineteen years, or in 1891, consistent with what was reported on the 1900 census.

Hecht family, 1910 US census, Year: 1910; Census Place: Brooklyn Ward 16, Kings, New York; Roll: T624_964; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 0329; FHL microfilm: 1374977 Description Enumeration District: 0329 Source Information 1910 United States Federal Census

There were now eight children. Harry, now eighteen, was working as a bookkeeper in a department store. Ida was seventeen and a “button holer” operator. David was 14, Etta 11, Gussie 9, and Sadie was six. The two new additions were Rose (later Ruth), four years old, and Eva (later Evelyn), who was two. Eva is the only other Hecht child for whom I have a birth record:

Eva Hecht birth certificate

Eva was born on January 30, 1908, at 38 Montrose Avenue in Brooklyn, where the family was then residing, so they had moved again between 1908 and 1910 when they were living on Boerum Street. Note the errors on this record: Jacob is identifed as Joseph, and Taube’s birth name is listed as Rothman, not Brotman. Taube’s age is given as 37 here, meaning a birth year of 1872. Both Taube and Jacob reported that they were born in Austria.

With Eva’s birth, the Hecht family was complete. There were eight children ranging from Harry born in 1892 to Eva born sixteen years later in 1908. The next decade would see most of those children join the work force and one marry and have children of her own.

9 thoughts on “The Growing Family of Taube Brotman and Jacob Hecht: An Exercise in Deciphering Census Records

  1. Wondering if you have Jacob Hecht death certificate that might have his mother’s first name on it? But I am sure you have thought of that and I might be jumping the gun 🙂 Yes ~ those poor enumerators.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am amazed how Jacob got away with handing in such a messy census form. No wonder you had so much trouble with the names, dates and birthplaces. With the constantly changing historical landscape in Eastern Europe, it is hard to tell even today were immigrants from that area originated. According to my birth certificate I was born in Dietfurt Germany. You would have a hard time finding this place today, which is now Znin Poland.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The US census was not done that way back then. Men went door to door, interviewing whoever answered the door. Often the person they interviewed didn’t speak English well. Sometimes they interviewed a child or a neighbor. So the census records are helpful, but not reliable as proof of anything. But it wasn’t Jacob’s fault! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Taube Brotman Hecht’s Son Harry: A Son of Immigrants and a World War I Hero | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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