Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Musings While Tracking a Family

By Ann Rabinowitz

 
It all started when a fellow researcher sent me a Declaration of Intention (DOI) for Aaron Feldser, originally of Kupiskis, Lithuania (see above document).  Challenged by the newly found information about a person I had never heard of being associated with my ancestral shtetl of Kupiskis, I decided to see if I could find out whom his family was and what had happened to them.  In this regard, my online research led me on a winding and adventurous trail through the American Southland.

Evidently, according to Aaron Feldser's DOI, dated May 3, 1911, he was born in Kupiskis on February 15, 1877.  Since there are no Kupiskis birth records prior to 1900, finding this vital fact was a terrific discovery which was not otherwise available anywhere else.  Another invaluable fact was that he was listed as having blue eyes . . . this was a possible indicator that he was a Kupishoker or a descendant as I had found in the past that a good proportion of our Jews from there had blue eyes.

Further, the DOI and available manifests stated that Aaron Feldser sailed from Lithuania with his wife Sarah and his son Benjamin, to Liverpool and thence to Quebec, Canada.  From Quebec, he took a train to New York City and arrived there on December 28, 1905.  

After arriving in America, Aaron and his family settled in the small town of Vienna, Georgia.  It was a strange choice and one that I would follow up later in my research.  Once there, their family expanded to include children Fannie, Joseph, Dina, Esther and Bessie. 

A dry goods merchant, Aaron became one of the many Jews who were the lifeblood of the small town southern economy.  In addition to Aaron Feldser, the town of Vienna was also the home to one other Jewish family, that of Harry and Winnie Orovitz.  Mr. Orovitz was a dry goods salesman and merchant too.  His son, Abe, later became the well-known director and actor Vincent Sherman (1906-2006). 
 

Abe Orovitz aka Vincent Sherman

Orovitz was known for his relationships with such Hollywood superstars as Joan Crawford, Bette Davis and Rita Hayworth which he detailed in his biography entitled “Studio Affairs, My Life as a Film Director”.
 


The Orovitz family moved onto the larger metropolis of Atlanta, Georgia.  It provided the needed amenities for growing Jewish families.  It was from there that Abe Orovitz made the transition to Broadway and Hollywood and the persona of Vincent Sherman.

By 1923, according to existing City Directories, the Feldser family had also left Vienna, Georgia, and was now found in the larger city of Birmingham, Alabama.  It afforded many more commercial, educational, religious and social opportunities for the family and they settled harmoniously into life there where they flourished and grew.  Later, I was able to access the records of the Beth Knesseth Cemetery (http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ssjdb/KIBirmingham.htm) where I found the tombstones of Aaron (died 1956), his wife Sarah (died 1961), and their son Benjamin (died 1990). 

It was the cemetery information that enabled me to note that Aaron's father was Meir Shimon Feldser.  I could now go back to the Kupiskis records to see what Feldser records I had and if there were any relationships to the family in Birmingham.

What I found was that Meir Shimon Feldser and his wife had two prior children, Gena (1880-1884) and Zalman-Meier (1882-1886), who had died as toddlers. However, there was nothing more in the records about the family.  It occurred to me, at this point, that I should look at another resource that I had at hand which was the 1892-1894 Ukmerge Family List.  This was a list from the Ukmerge District in which Kupiskis resided. 

Happily, I found that in 1875, Meir-Shimon ben Iosel Feldser left Skapiskis, Lithuania, and came to Kupiskis, Lithuania.  There were many connections between Skapiskis and Kupiskis and it wasn’t unusual to see movement of Jews from one shtetl to the other which was occasioned by marriages between Jews of both shtetls.

Since Meir-Shimon’s oldest recorded child, Aaron (Orel in the records), was born in 1877, it seems likely that perhaps Meir-Shimon came to Kupiskis to marry Mera-Rivka (maiden name unknown).  Their other children, who were listed, were Iosel, Sora-Leyka, and Chana.  

Still interested in the Skapiskis roots of Meir-Shimon Feldser, I peeked at some records from that shtetl which resided in the Zarasai District and did not find anything further in regard to the family.  I was disappointed, but sometimes that is the case where few records are available or are not for the relevant years when the family lived there.

Deciding now to see what had happened to Meir-Shimon Feldser, I looked in Ancestry.com thinking that he might have left Lithuania as his children had.  I found that indeed, he and his wife Mera-Rivka Feldser, departed from Lithuania in 1923 and settled in Massachusetts.  According to the 1930 Census, they were living with their daughter Minnie and her husband Louis Adelson in Springfield, MA.

Who was Minnie as there wasn’t anyone listed by that name in the 1892-1894 Ukmerge Family List?  Fortunately, there was an arrival record for a Chana-Mina who had arrived in Worcester, MA, in 1913, to join her sister, who was married to H. Griff. 

This meant that in the aforementioned 1930 Census, Sarah, the wife of Harry Griff, was actually Sora-Leyka, the second youngest daughter of Meir-Shimon.  It also meant that Minnie, the wife of Louis Adelson, also in the 1930 Census, was actually Chana-Mina or Chana, the youngest daughter of Meir-Shimon.  In addition, according to JOWBR cemetery records, Meir-Shimon died in Massachusetts on June 25, 1933, and his wife died the year before.  

It was an interesting migration pattern for the Feldser family, who originated in Skapiskis, going then to Kupiskis for marital purposes and then the sons moving to the southern United States whilst the daughters and their husbands moved to the New England states.  Lastly, it was the parents too who left Lithuania and settled where their daughters were residing.     

Moving along in my further research into the Feldser family, I decided to return to records for Vienna, Georgia, where Aaron Feldser settled and happened upon a Max Feldser.  Looking in the 1910 Census, I found that Aaron, listed as married, was living without his family, but only with Max and his two children Samuel and Robert.  It stated that Max and Aaron were brothers and that Aaron had arrived in America in 1905.  

It appeared that Aaron had gone to Vienna due to his brother's earlier presence there.  The 1920 Census provided the information that Aaron had not brought his wife and child Benjamin to the United States until 1913.  This was why he was living by himself in the 1910 Census despite being listed as married.    

According to his World War I Draft Registration, Max Feldser, the oldest brother, was born October 4, 1874.  He had not appeared in the 1892-1894 Ukmerge Family List, where the Feldser family was listed, as he had already left home in 1887 for America as recorded in the 1920 Census. 

Further, Max was listed as a widower in the 1920 Census as his wife Katie
Kopelowitz Feldser had passed away on November 1, 1919.  In addition, there was a death record for their eldest son, Joseph Feldser, who had passed away in 1911, when he was seven.  His brother Aaron also had a son named Joseph and both cousins were probably named for their great grandfather Iosel Feldser who had been born circa 1810 or so in Skapiskis.


Apparently, Aaron's and Max’s other sons did not marry.  However, Aaron’s daughters did, all of which brought additional surnames into the family circle.  In addition, as I looked further through various Census data, I found that Max and Aaron had both gone to Birmingham to settle, although Max had later moved with his children to Atlanta, GA.  Various City Directories now online confirmed this movement between cities.

Very often, researchers will neglect to look for family trees on JewishGen, Ancestry.com and other places which will provide just the information needed to either get you started on your research or knock down the brick walls you have been experiencing. Not only that, the family trees are often accompanied by the name and contact information for the person, who put the tree together, which can be invaluable in expanding your knowledge of your family.

In this regard, going back to Aaron and Max's sister Chana-Mina, who had married Louis ben David Adelson, I found a record for Louis that stated he was originally from "Nemajuni, Trokai, Lithuania".  Never having heard of this small place, I looked it up and found that there was a site (
http://www.zeislerfamily.com/) on the Internet which included the family of David Adelson and his wife Zlota Gordon, the parents of Louis Adelson.  The site included quite a bit of interesting information and photos and added substantially to what was known about the Adelsons.

Another such instance is that of Aaron Feldser's daughter Fannie, who married Nathan ben Moshe Aizik ben Yehuda Leib Kulpe in Birmingham, AL.  When looking up Nathan on the Internet, I was able to pull up a family tree from Ancestry.com on the Kulpe family.  This showed that Nathan's father was one of fourteen children which amounted to a very large extended family, who all lived in Birmingham, AL.  Their exact origins were not generally mentioned, although there were many Kulpe’s who originated in Siauliai, Lithuania, and some World War I Draft Registration Cards for Kulpe family members stated Siauliai as a birthplace.

 
Oswald Kulpe

In fact, Kulpe is the name for a type of carp (fish), in addition, to being a well-known name in psychological circles.  It belongs to Oswald Kulpe (1862-1915), who was originally from Kandava, Latvia.  He co-founded what was called the Wurzburg School in Germany and he became the father of the concept of “imageless thought” and mentored many Jewish psychologists.  As to whether Oswald was Jewish or not, I did not find any references to confirm that fact at all.  It may just be a case of the name being taken by both Jewish and non-Jewish families and there being no relationship involved.


At this point in my research, having gone much astray with musings about Oswald Kulpe, I received an e-mail from another researcher in Atlanta who had seen my postings about the Feldser family on the JewishGen digest.  She told me that the Feldser family was distantly related to her via marriage.  In fact, she knew one of the few Feldser grandchildren who were still around. 

This was a remarkable result of what can happen when one is persistent.  It all started with just one record, the DOI, given to me by another alert researcher.  I was then able to track down the family, no matter where they wandered, and ended up with a living descendant due to the vigilance of another JewishGenner. 

It now meant that I had come full circle and would indeed be able to add the Feldser family to the Kupiskis SIG KehilaLink site.  My time could now be devoted to further studies of other previously unknown Kupiskis family whose names I had been given.

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