Questions raised by Headstones

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.

Mt Sinai cemetery

Mt Zion cemetery

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.

Tillie Strolowitz Adler headstone Mt Sinai

Tillie Strolowitz Adler headstone Mt Zion

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.

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The Adler Strolowitz family continued

Although I still don’t have answers to all the questions about the Strolowitz/Adler family, I have made a lot of progress finding the descendants of Tillie Strolowitz Adler and her children, with a lot of assistance from Renee Steinig, who continues to teach me and to amaze me with her ability to find people through various search methods.  So here’s a summary and a description of the process used to find most of these people, including several living descendants who I am now trying to contact.

I’ve not had any success finding Tillie’s son Isidor yet aside from the entry in the 1910 census.  There are numerous Isidor Adlers listed in the NYC marriage index and many also in the US and NY census reports, but I cannot with any degree of certainty identify the right one.  Some are too old or were married and had children before 1910, when the right Isidor was still single and living with his mother.  Some are not from Romania or born in the United States.  I am beginning to think that Isidor either died young or maybe even returned to Romania.  I have found one death record for an Isidor Adler who died April 23, 1915, and the age looks right, so I will send for that death certificate.

I’ve had better luck locating the second son, David Adler.  After a careful process of elimination, I believe that Tilllie’s son David married a woman named Bertha (maiden name not yet found).  Since David also had a sister named Bertha, this created some confusion for me.  David and Bertha had a daughter Tessie, born in 1927 (possibly named for Tillie, who had died in 1925).  Renee found a memorial written about Tessie Adler on the Findagrave.com site, and the date of birth corroborated that this is the correct Tessie.  Tessie and her husband Harry had two sons, David, possibly named for his grandfather David Adler, and Ira.  I am now in touch with Ira, who confirmed that he is Tessie’s son and that she was David’s daughter and Tillie’s granddaughter.

The Strolowitz daughters were much trickier to find, as women tend to be.  Once they get married, they are much harder to find, unless I can find a marriage record which gives me their husband’s name.  I first focused on Bertha, figuring that it was a less common name than Beckie, Bella or Lizzie.  I found a marriage record for Bertha Strulovitz to Benny Bloom in May, 1914.  I then did a census search and found a Bertha and Bernard Bloom living on East 109th Street in 1915.  The “Bernard” threw me, as did the fact that Bertha was 27, meaning she would have been born in 1888, not 1885, as reported on the 1910 census.  But while scanning the page to look for their entry, I saw a listing in the same building for a Tillie Stralowitch and her children, David, Bella, Beckie, Peter (Pincus?) and Lizzie.  This was obviously Tillie Strolowitz, living in the same building as in 1910, with her married daughter Bertha and her new husband Bernard or Ben in their own apartment.  So far, so good.  It also made sense that Bertha was born in 1888, not before David, who was 28 in the 1915 census and thus older than Bertha.  That could explain why David and Isidor were Adlers, while the rest of the children were Strolowitz.  Perhaps Mr. Adler died right after David was born, Tillie remarried to Strolowitz and within a year had Bertha?  Phew!  They acted fast back then!  (Remember Harry Coopersmith…)

But after that, I could not find any references for Bertha Bloom at all.  I was stumped.  I couldn’t find any more references for Tillie Strolowitz either, no matter how I spelled it.  Finally, I decided to look for Tillie Adler, and there she was in the 1920 census, listed as Tillie Adler, living with her three daughters, Bertha, Bella and Leah (Lizzie?) on East 107th Street.  The ages and names matched, but why were they now using Adler? So much for my earlier hypothesis.  Maybe Mr. Adler was the father of all these children? Maybe Mr. Adler and Mr. Strolovitz were the same person? And what happened to Bertha’s husband? Why was she living with her mother?  She is listed as married, not single, on the 1920 census, but not living with Bloom.

In 1925 Tillie, Bertha and Bella were all still living together on East 107th Street under the surname Adler.  There was no question about marital status on this form, but apparently Bertha was still legally married because in 1926 she applied for citizenship.  On the naturalization form she signed as “Bertha Adler known as Bertha Strulovici and Bertha Bloom,” and listed her spouse as Benjamin Bloom.  Her brother David Adler signed as a witness for her.

By 1930, Tillie had died, and Bertha and Bella had moved in with David Adler and his wife Bertha and daughter Tessie.  Imagine—two Bertha Adlers living in one household.  The census taker must have been confused because he listed Bertha, David’s sister, as his mother.  On this census, Bertha (the sister) is now listed as divorced, finally.

In 1940, Bertha was no longer living with David, but now was living with her sister Leah on Grant Avenue in the Bronx.  Leah was married to Benjamin Schwartz, an optometrist, and had two children, Ira and Theodora.  Renee helped me locate Theodora, who is now living in Atlanta where her parents eventually moved and died.

No further luck finding out what happened to Bella or Bertha after 1940, but at least we know what happened to Tillie, David, and Leah, and have located the next generation of third cousins, the great-great grandchildren of David and Esther Rosensweig.

More discoveries in the next post, including some of the most interesting ones of all.  But for now, back to the research.

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