Max and Irving: The Sons of Abraham Rosenzweig

Abraham Rosenzweig was the oldest son of Gustave and Gussie Rosenzweig and my grandfather Isadore’s first cousin.  He was born in New York City on February 12, 1889, apparently the first of their children born in the US.  He served in the Navy before and during World War I, and he worked for a bakery after the war and thereafter.

Although I do not have any documentation for Abraham’s marriage, it seems that he probably married in Pennsylvania.  Rebecca Fagles, his wife, was born in Pennsylvania, and Abraham was stationed on the USS Georgia in Philadelphia in 1910.

Abraham Rosenzweig 1910 census US Navy

I assume that that was when and where they met and that they married around 1915 because although Abraham was living with his family and single as of the 1915 census, his first son Maxwell was born April 2, 1916.  Abraham and Rebecca’s second son Irving was born April 26, 1919, and in 1920, they were all living in Brooklyn, according to the 1920 US census.

UPDATE: I was able to find the marriage of Reba Fagles and Abraham Rosenzweig in 1915 on the Philadelphia marriage index.  I am assuming that that is the record for Abraham and Rebecca.

Abraham Rosenzweig and family 1920 census

Abraham Rosenzweig and family 1920 census

Abraham and Rebecca, known as Abe and Beck, lived in Brooklyn for the rest of their lives, where they raised their two sons, Max and Irving.  Max married Sylvia Herrick and had two sons, Joseph and Gerald.

Max and Sylvia Ross

Max and Sylvia Ross

Irving married Irene Rubenstein/Robbins and had two daughters, Jane and Arlene.  Gerry remembers his grandparents very well since he grew up in Brooklyn where they lived.  He remembers that his grandmother Beck served untoasted English muffins and used memorial candle holders as glasses.  Gerry named his two children for his grandparents, his son for Abe and his daughter for Beck.  Abe died in 1961, and Beck died in 1970.

Abe, Sylvia, Ray (Abe's sister) and Beck

Abe, Sylvia, Ray (Abe’s sister) and Beck

Here are some photographs of Max and Irving and one with their aunt Ray, an aunt I’ve otherwise been unable to locate.

Max and Irving Rosenzweig/Ross

Max and Irving Rosenzweig/Ross

Max and Irving with their aunt Ray

Max and Irving with their aunt Ray

I was able to get some background information about the lives of Max and Irving from Gerry and Arlene.

Max and Sylvia settled in Brooklyn, where Max first was in the egg and poultry business and then in the business of reconditioning steel drums for storing oil.  At some time after World War II while doing business with the army, Max changed his last name from Rosenzweig to Ross, believing that he would have more success with a name that was not obviously Jewish.  Sometime thereafter Irving also changed his last name to Ross for similar reasons and also because their mother Beck did not like the idea of the two brothers having different last names.

Arlene told me that her father Irving had met her mother Irene when her uncle Max went to Sylvia’s house while they were dating and brought his younger brother Irving with him.  One of Sylvia’s friends was there and arranged for Irving to meet her younger sister Irene.  For Irving, it was love at first sight, but not for Irene.  For a year, Irving pursued her.  Irene had joined the Navy, one of the first ten women to become a WAVE, and Irving, himself in the US Army, placed an ad in the Stars and Stripes to find her and to get her attention.  Eventually, Irene agreed to date him and fell in love with him as well.

They were married in 1945, and according to Arlene, to his dying day, her father would do anything to make Irene happy.  Irving and Irene  Irene and Irving lived at 41 Kew Gardens Road, Queens, and their two daughters were born at Kew Gardens General Hospital.  Irving owned a share in a successful hardware business.

In 1957, Irving and Irene and their daughters went to visit Irene’s parents, who had moved to the Miami, FL, area.  Irene was so taken with life in South Florida that within days after returning to Brooklyn, Irving sold his share in the hardware business and bought three tickets to Miami for Irene and his daughters, coming down a few months later himself once his business matters were resolved.  He was, as Arlene said, determined to make Irene as happy as possible.

Within five years, Irving, a man who never graduated from high school, had obtained a license to sell insurance and had established a very successful insurance brokerage business.  He was able to provide his family with a large, custom-built house and a comfortable lifestyle.  Irving and Irene remained in the Miami area thereafter and only occasionally would they return to the New York area.

Sadly, their lives would be marked by tragedy.  In 1968, Irving was admitted to Baptist Hospital in Miami for congestive heart failure.  While he was being admitted, Irene and Arlene went to get something to eat, and while driving down North Kendall Drive, where Baptist Hospital is still located, they were hit head-on by a minibus going northbound on U.S. 1, South Dixie Highway.  The minivan had defective brakes and  had skidded across the median.  Both Irene and Arlene suffered severe injuries, and Arlene underwent numerous surgeries and was laid up for a substantial time after the accident.  For some period of time all three members of the family shared one hospital room.

Arlene and Irving Ross August1968

Arlene and Irving Ross August1968

Not long after the accident, Irving was diagnosed with inoperable cancer and died at age 51 on August 5, 1970.  Irene was only 49 when he died.  She had to go to work to support herself and her children and became a purchasing agent at Florida International University, where she worked for many years.  She died January 16, 2009, at age 88.

Irene Ross in 2006

Irene Ross in 2006

Arlene Ross

Arlene Ross

Max also died at a prematurely young age.  His wife Sylvia had a number of medical problems, and while accompanying her for treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital in November, 1975, Max had an aneurysm and died.  He was only 59 years old. Sylvia lived more than twenty years after Max died.

Sylvia Ross

Sylvia Ross

The two sons of Abraham and Rebecca, Max and Irving, thus had many parallels in their lives.  Both were big strong men over six feet tall, both had changed their name to Ross, both had had two children and long marriages to women to whom they were devoted, and both had died before they were sixty years old. Gerry said he speaks to his father daily and has every day since he died in 1975; Arlene also spoke adoringly of her father.  I could tell in speaking with both Gerry and Arlene that each of them loved their fathers dearly and want their memories preserved.   I hope this blog will help to do that.

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Mystery solved, Questions Answered!  The Internet Is Magical

 

Internet

Internet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The internet is magical.  I’ve hit a lot of brick walls lately, but I’ve also found some goldmines. Recently I’ve been able to find a number of my third cousins—grandchildren of my grandfather’s first cousins.  I had already located Joe Rosenzweig’s grandchildren and one of Rebecca Rosenzweig’s grandchildren, and now I have located one of Abraham Rosenzweig’s grandchildren, Gerry.

I’ve also located other third cousins previously,  Tillie’s great-granddaughter Jean and her family, and many second cousins: David Goldschlager’s grandson Richard and Betty Goldschlager Feuerstein’s grandchildren Barry, Karyn, Robyn and Gayle.  It’s all quite remarkable.

Gerry and I had a wonderful conversation this morning, sharing information and family stories.  Gerry did tell me that the mystery photo with the Yiddish inscriptions was not a picture of his grandmother Rebecca and her grandsons.  He does not know who the people in the photograph are, but he is certain it is not his grandmother.  Also, since Irving had two daughters and no sons, the reference to “Yitzhak’s son” must be to a different Irving.

I can only imagine what our grandparents would think.  Would Isadore and David and Betty and Leah and her siblings and Abraham and Joe and Rebecca be amazed that we all found each other, or would they have assumed that family members would always have stayed in touch? Certainly they could never have envisioned that someday there would be technology that allows us all to communicate instantly and freely across the oceans and time zones, to send photographs to each other over a digital network, to find personal records and documents that help lead us to one another.  After all, many of us could not have envisioned any of this ourselves just 25 years ago.  Like I said, the internet is magical.  Thank goodness we have it.

 

Emptiness: The Magic Trick, magician & assista...

Emptiness: The Magic Trick, magician & assistant, top hat and cape, painted panels, magic box, red, black, blue, white, painting, Seatac Airport, Seattle, Washington, USA (Photo credit: Wonderlane)

 

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Abraham Rosenzweig: Update

A week ago I wrote about my search for Gustave Rosenzweig’s son Abraham and the process I used to narrow it down from the thirteen possible Abraham Rosenzweigs who were born in New York between 1885 and 1895 to the one who seemed to be the most likely possibility.  That one was the Abraham who married a woman named Rebecca, had two sons named Max and Irving, and who worked for a bakery company.  But I needed some specific evidence proving that that Abraham was the son of Gustave Rosenzweig.

I searched the New York marriage record index over and over and finally decided that Abraham and Rebecca had not been married in New York City, but in Pennsylvania where Rebecca was born.  Abraham, Gustave’s son, had been stationed in Pennsylvania while in the Navy, and I assume that that was when they met.  I looked for a Pennsylvania marriage record, but have not found it.

I was, however, able to find a death notice for that Abraham in the New York Times dated May 14, 1961.  It named his wife Rebecca, his two sons Max and Irving, and his four grandchildren.

Abraham Rosenzweig death certificate May 14, 1961 NYTimes

Abraham Rosenzweig death certificate May 14, 1961 NYTimes

From this death notice and the date of death I was able to find where he was buried, Mt Lebanon Cemetery in Queens.  I called the cemetery and asked whether there was any record of his father’s name.  The woman there said that they did not keep that kind of record; however, they would take a photograph of the headstone for a fee and email it.  I gave her my credit card number and ordered the photograph.

While waiting for that photograph, I hoped that it would in fact have his full Hebrew name with his father’s name.  If it only had his English name, I’d be back to square one.  It would be hard to obtain a death certificate since he had only died in 1961, barely 50 years ago.  It would mean waiting a few months to get the answer.

But fortunately the headstone does have his full Hebrew name as you can see below:

Abraham Rosenzweig headstone Mt Lebanon Cemetery

Abraham Rosenzweig headstone Mt Lebanon Cemetery

Avraham ben Gedalia ha Levi.  Abraham son of Gedalia the Levite.  Remember that Gustave’s birth name was Ghitale.  Ghitale is the Romanian equivalent of Gedalia, Hebrew for God is great.   Abraham Rosenzweig, the son of Gustave Rosenzweig, married Rebecca from Pennsylvania, worked for a bakery, and had two sons and four grandchildren.  Now I will try to find them.

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David Rosenzweig and The Reality of Infant Mortality

In the course of researching Abraham Rosenzweig’s life, I discovered a tenth child born to Gustave and Gussie Rosenzweig.  On the 1910 census there were nine children, all but one born in New York City between 1888 and 1904.  (Lillian, the first child, was born in Romania around 1884.) There were four boys, Abraham, Jacob/Jack, Harry and Joseph, and five girls, Lillian, Sarah, Rebecca, Lizzie and Rachel.  The NYC birth index covers those years, so I started my research of Abraham by looking for a birth record.  I had several records indicating that he was born sometime around 1890, but I could not (and still have not) found a record for Abraham’s birth.

Gustave Rosenzweig and family 1900 census

Gustave Rosenzweig and family 1900 census

I expanded my search to look for any Rosenzweig born around 1890-1892, using FamilySearch as my tool as it allows for liberal use of wild card searching and, unlike ancestry.com or other sites, reveals the names of the parents in the search results.  I still did not see any Abrahams or Abes, but in scanning the results, I noticed a child named David who was born to Gadaly and Ghitel Saak Rosentveig.  Before receiving the Romanian records for Gustave and Gussie I might not have recognized that these were their Yiddish names: Ghidale Rosentvaig and Ghitla Zacu on their marriage records from Romania.Ghidale Rosentzveig with Ghitil Zacu_Marriage Record_1884_5  I knew that this could not be a coincidence, that this baby had to be their son, born September 5, 1891.  Since I still have not found Abraham on the birth index, I cannot be sure whether David was born before or after Abraham.  What I did realize was that David must have been named for my great-great-grandfather, David Rosentvaig, who had been alive in 1884 when Gustave married Gussie in Iasi but who must have died sometime before the birth of this new David.

But where was the new David in 1900, only nine years later? Since he was not listed on the 1900 census, I assumed the worst, as I have gotten accustomed to doing, and checked the death index.  Sure enough a one year child named David Rosenzweig had died on December 25, 1892.  Although I have not yet seen the death certificate for this child, I have to assume that this was Gustave and Gussie’s son David.  My great-great-grandfather’s namesake had died before his second birthday.

I have expressed in an earlier post my thoughts and feelings about the impact the deaths of babies and children must have had on their parents and their siblings.  The numbers are staggering.  On the 1900 census Gussie Rosenzweig reported that she had had thirteen children, only eight of whom were then living (Rachel was not yet born).  In 1910, she reported eighteen births and only nine living children.  Had she had five more infants die between 1900 and 1910? My great-grandmother Bessie Brotman reported in 1900 that she had given birth to nine children, only four of whom were living (Sam was not yet born).  We also know that Hyman Mintz died within a month of birth and Max Coopersmith within a day of birth.

These infant deaths were not at all unusual for that time period.  According to a PBS website for a program called The First Measured Century, “[p]rior to 1900, infant mortality rates of two and three hundred [per one thousand births] obtained throughout the world. The infant mortality rate would fluctuate sharply according to the weather, the harvest, war, and epidemic disease. In severe times, a majority of infants would die within one year. In good times, perhaps two hundred per thousand would die. So great was the pre-modern loss of children’s lives that anthropologists claim to have found groups that [did] not name children until they have survived a year.”

This same source reports that most of these deaths were caused by poor infant nutrition, disease and poor sanitary conditions.  In the early 20th century substantial efforts were made to deal with these causes of infant and other deaths.  “Central heating meant that infants were no longer exposed to icy drafts for hours. Clean drinking water eliminated a common path of infection. More food meant healthier infants and mothers. Better hygiene eliminated another path of infection. Cheaper clothing meant better clothing on infants. More babies were born in hospitals, which were suddenly being cleaned up as the infectious nature of dirt became clear. Later in the century, antibiotics and vaccinations join the battle.”  The infant mortality rate began to decline, and today it is well under ten deaths per thousand within the first year of life in the United States.

Infant mortality

But what impact did this high death rate for babies have on their parents?  There have been many books written by sociologists, social historians and psychologists on the history of society’s view and treatment of children.  According to this research, until the 18th century, children were not valued highly by parents, perhaps in part because of the high infant mortality rate.  The likelihood of losing a child was so great that it made it difficult for parents to become too attached.  In Europe often parents did not even attend the funerals of their children and even wealthy parents had their children buried as paupers. See, e.g., Viviana A. Rotman Zelizer, Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children (1994); Linda A. Pollock, Forgotten Children: Parent-Child Relations from 1500 to 1900 (1984). Both authors also observe that the attitude towards children changed during the 18th and 19th centuries as people began to be more concerned about their children’s growth and development and families started to become more child-oriented and affectionate.  This change in attitudes contributed to the increased efforts to reduce infant mortality.

It’s so difficult for me to imagine that these parents were indifferent or unaffected by the deaths of so many of their babies.  I know I live in another era, an era when parenting has become not just a part of life, but in some ways an obsession. I plead guilty to being a helicopter parent, to being probably too involved in my children’s lives as they were growing up.   We live in a time of thousands of books on parenting, dealing with every issue imaginable.  There are experts to help you before a baby is born and experts to help you deal with every imaginable childrearing issue that can arise after they are born: doulas, lactation consultants, sleep consultants, life coaches, tutors, college admissions consultants, and probably some I don’t even know about.    So many of us center our lives on our children.  Losing a child is often said to be the worst thing anyone can experience.

Could it really have been so different back then? Were children really seen as disposable and replaceable? Is that why people had so many children—in order to ensure that at least some would survive to adulthood?  Or was it simply the absence of effective birth control, not the desire for so many children, that led to these huge families?  Did those huge families make it easier to accept the loss of so many babies? Were even those who survived devalued and distanced as a defense mechanism against their possible death?  It seems unlikely they were as doted upon and cherished as children of today, given both the cultural attitudes and the economic and environmental conditions of the time.

Maybe that made those children stronger and more self-reliant, less indulged and less entitled.  But it also had to have left its scars.  Maybe it is why so many of them did not want to talk about their families, their childhoods, their feelings.

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Thirteen Abraham Rosenzweigs or How I Almost Threw My Computer through the Window

English: Bromo-Seltzer advertisement for heada...

English: Bromo-Seltzer advertisement for headache medicine. Lottie Collins sings Ta-Ra-Ra Boom-de-ay! after being healed by the medicine and this effect makes her to dance and sing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A couple of weeks ago I started trying to trace Gustave Rosenzweig’s story and the story of his children by searching for census reports and other documents on ancestry.com and familysearch and other websites.  Gustave and Gussie had ten children, and they all had names that were apparently very common back then: Lillian, Sarah, David, Abraham, Rebecca, Jacob, Joseph, Lizzie, Rachel and Harry (not necessarily in that order).  When I came down with the flu around the same time that I started trying to sort all those children out, I decided that I needed to wait until I felt better.  Names, numbers, census reports, and vital records were all floating before my fevered eyes, and I was unable to focus at all.

So yesterday and last night, finally back to full strength, I decided to try again.  No fever, no chills, but nevertheless names, numbers, census reports, and vital records were still circling around and making me dizzy.  I decided to take one child at a time and not get distracted by the other children.  I had previously accumulated a fair amount of information about Abraham and thought I would start there.  I thought I had found a census report for Abraham for almost every year that there was one: 1900, 1905, 1910, 1925, 1930 and 1940.  I was only missing 1920.  I also thought I had found Abraham’s wife and children and ordered his marriage certificate a few weeks back.  But given that I had accumulated a lot of this without yet going through it very thoroughly, I knew I needed to go back and be more careful.

The 1900 and 1905 census reports were easy.  Abraham was living with his parents and his siblings, making it easy to be sure I had the correct reports.  Both indicated that he was born in 1890.  So far so good.  As I turned to the 1910 census, things became a little less clear as there was no census that had Abraham living with Gustave, Gussie and his siblings.  There were two possibilities.  One Abraham was living with his mother Gussie, who had been born in Romania, so that looked promising.  But this Abraham had only two siblings, Joseph and Isaac, and this Abraham was born in 1894 and was younger than his two brothers. His mother owned a candy store in Brooklyn.  It certainly could be that the census had errors; that happens all the time.  But I wasn’t sure. The other Abraham on the 1910 census who was a possibility was the right age and also had Romanian parents, but he was in the Navy, so I had no way of knowing his parents’ names.  I saved both census reports as possibilities.

I turned to 1915.  There were THIRTEEN Abraham Rosenzweigs listed on this New York State census.  I checked every single one of them, listing the facts, dates, occupations, places of birth, relatives’ names, and then narrowed it down to two real possibilities, the same two.  The younger Abraham, born in 1894, was living alone with his mother Gussie and working as a grocery clerk; the older Abraham was living with his mother Gussie and all the correct siblings and was a sailor.  It seemed obvious that the older Abraham, the sailor, was the correct one, meaning the correct Abraham in 1910 had been the one in the Navy, not the one living with Gussie.  Although that was very time-consuming, I felt like I had confirmed that the data I had previously collected was correct.

I moved on to 1920.  Now there were only (!) nine Abraham Rosenzweigs who fit within the appropriate age range and were born in New York City.  Again, I sifted through each census report and started finding some repeating Abrahams—the one working as a naval clerk, married to Lena but of Russian background, the railway mail clerk married to Tessie, but of Austrian background, a few who were too young, one who was in prison but had American born parents, one who was a motion picture operator, and two who lived too far away and were too young.  The one who seemed most likely was born in 1890, of Romanian parentage, and was married to a Rebecca and had two sons, Maxwell (3) and Irving (1).  They lived in Brooklyn, where he worked as a bread salesman.  But I had no way of linking him to Gustave and the right Gussie.  I searched for a certificate for a marriage between an Abraham Rosenzweig and a Rebecca, but could not find one.  I moved on to 1925.

Now there were eleven Abraham Rosenzweigs.  I was starting to get a bit punchy, but labored on, wanting to do this before I lost track of my findings and my thoughts.  Once again I saw some familiar faces—Lena and Abraham the naval clerk, Tessie and Abraham the railway mail clerk—and some new faces that did not fit.  After another long stretch staring at each census report, I narrowed it down again to two: the Abraham living with his mother Gussie and the Abraham married to Rebecca, living in Brooklyn with their two children and employed as a driver. I then did the same thing with the six Abrahams listed in 1930 and in 1940.

In my earlier search I had somehow assumed that the Abraham living with his mother Gussie in 1925, 1930 and 1940 was the right Abraham because I had not seen that there were two Gussie Rosenzweigs with sons named Abraham.  Thus, I had added information to my tree for the wrong Abraham, including what I now believe were the wrong wife and children since this Abraham had married in 1932 a woman named Lee and had two daughters.  I had been confused at the time also by the conflicting World War I draft registration forms I’d found.  I had thought Abraham was still single in 1917 since I’d thought he hadn’t married until 1932, and so I had eliminated any draft registration for a married man.  As a result I had selected an Abraham who also had had no prior military service.  Although I knew that conflicted with the 1910 and 1915 census reports that showed that my Abraham had been in the Navy, I could not then figure out where I had gone wrong.  Yesterday I realized my mistake, found what I think is the correct draft registration, and have to go back and correct my tree and look for records that will reveal if the Abraham who married Rebecca is in fact the right Abraham.

As usual, there remain more questions.  If our Abraham was not living with his mother Gussie in 1925, 1930 and 1940, where was she? Had she died? Where was Gustave in 1915? The children were living only with Gussie, and I cannot find another census that includes Gustave. There also remains the question of why the 1920 census shows the other children living with Gustave, not Gussie, and yet there is another Gustave who is a painter from Romania listed elsewhere living as a boarder in 1920. I can’t find a marriage certificate for Gustave for his second marriage.

And I’ve only done one of the ten children.  There are also multiple Josephs, Jacobs, Sarahs, Rachels, Lillians, and so on.  It will take a while to resolve all this, but in the end, perhaps I will have a fuller picture of Gustave’s family and his life and even more cousins with whom to share the story of our family.

This is not Gustave’s family, but it gives a sense of what ten children in a family looks like.

A family of ten children

A family of ten children

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