Thursday, June 20, 2013

ALABAMA NATURALIZATION, 1909-1991
By Ann Rabinowitz
 
 
 

1932 Naturalization of Milton Israel / Mendel Esroch
 
A new set of records on Ancestry.com are the State of Alabama Naturalizations,
1909-1991, which contain Jewish as well as non-Jewish individuals. As most of the naturalizations have the arrival information on the individual which includes the date of arrival, name of ship and where the person left from, researchers can easily find the ships’ manifests for these individuals and perhaps other relatives who accompanied them.  The naturalization and the arrival manifest give researchers two powerful tools for locating information on their families. 

Since the records extend to 1991, you may find individuals who were naturalized in the 1940's as they were soldiers based at the large military installations in Alabama such as Camp Sheridan, Camp Sibert, Ft. McClellan, Ft. Rucker, and Gunter Field.  This means that the records cover more than just individuals who settled in Alabama, but they were originally from other states as well. 

The records can not only be searched by the name of the individual, but by
country too.  Searching by country is a good idea as the names of the towns that individuals were from are so misspelled or written so poorly that it is almost
impossible to decipher what one should search by.  I particularly like the
spellings of Byallysdoy, Russia; Ivis Villa, Russia; and Malagarostanetz,
Rumania, Russia. 

For those researching the Jews of the Baltic states, this is a welcome addition
as many times records only state "Russia".  Amongst these records are approximately 115 records of individuals originally from Lithuania.  Some of the towns represented in the records are Anyksciai, Kaunas, Kupiskis, Lazdijai, Leckava, Molotai, Pokroi, Raseiniai, Sakiai, Skud, Utena, Varna, Vilkja, Vilnius, Zagare, and Zeimelis.


One of the records from Lithuania documents a Milton Israel (see his naturalization above), who turns out to have originally been Mendel ben Getzel Esroch from Kupiskis who settled in Sheffield, Alabama.  It so happened that Sheffield was founded by the Sheffield Land, Iron and Coal Company in 1884 which was set up by early Jewish entrepeneurs, Alfred and Mordechai Moses.  Milton’s brother also came to Alabama and became Sam Jake Israel and another came who was Manuel Ben Israel, whilst the rest of their brothers settled in Worcester, MA, according to family sources. 

Milton Israel passed away in 1942, but his brother Sam Israel became quite influential in Sheffield as one can see by a quotation from a description of the town taken from the “Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities”:
Samuel Israel left Lithuania in 1909 when he was 18 years old, settling in Sheffield.  He initially worked as a clerk in a grocery store and lived as a boarder in the home of Phillip Olim, another Russian-born Jew who owned a dry goods store.  In 1912, he married Bessie Kreisman, the daughter of another Jewish dry goods store owner in Sheffield.  Israel later opened a wholesale grocery business.  After World War II, Israel founded the Paper and Chemical Supply Company, which grew into a very successful business.  Israel was very community-minded, helping to get the Muscle Shoals Airport built and supporting various charitable causes, including the Northwest Alabama Rehabilitation Center.  He served on many local non-profit boards and worked to improve adult literacy across the state.  The area Chamber of Commerce named Israel its citizen of the year.  When he died in 1991, he was eulogized in the Congressional Record by Alabama Senator Howell Heflin.

Two sites can be checked out which provide cemetery info on the Israel and related families who are buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Sheffield, Alabama:  http://www.isjl.org/history/archive/al/SheffieldJewishCemetery.htm and http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~alcolber/cem-oakwood-sheff-ikard.htm There are also many local newspapers which carry articles about the family.

There are also fifty-three records for Jews from Latvia from towns such as
Gostini, Liepaja, and Riga, and thirty-two records for Jews from Estonia from
such towns as Talinn and Tartu.

In addition to the Baltic records, there are twenty-one from the Ukraine and
forty-nine from Galicia.  The Galician records state Galicia and such countries
as Austria, Hungary, and Poland.  There are also separate listings for these
countries (Austria, 1,389 records; Hungary, 836 records; and Poland, 1,105
records), so it is important to look at both categories when searching.  

An interesting record involving an individual from the Odessa, Ukraine, is for
Schaie Dwoskin, who lived in New Hampshire, joined the Army and was sent
to Alabama and whilst applying for his naturalization there, also changed his
name.  There are many other records for individuals serving in the military which provide the original birth place and where they settled in America as well as their original name and wife's name.

Surprisingly, there are approximately 5,003 records for Germans in the
naturalization records, by far one of the largest ethnic groups, many of whom
came after both World War I and World War II.  One of the records is for an Edgar Ballin who managed to come to America with his wife and daughter from Muensterberg, Silesia, Germany, in 1940, via Havana, Cuba, to Montgomery, Alabama. 


Another record was for Abraham Israel Silver, who came from Hanover, Germany in 1939 to Brooklyn , NY.  He then joined the military and was stationed in Camp Rucker, Montgomery, Alabama, when he applied for naturalization.  Another soldier was Edgar Wertheimer from Magdeburg, Saxony, Germany, who came to New York in 1939 and ended up at Fort McClellan in Alabama.

Other records reflect adoptions of children from Germany, War Brides, Holocaust survivors, as well as older records such as for Solomon Wertheimer, who was born in Brettan, Baden, Germany, in 1884, and came to New York in 1899, and went directly to Montgomery, Alabama.

In addition, one can find 2,687 records of individuals from Russia, which is another large ethnic group.  The transcriptions of the names of the people and the names of the towns are astoundingly poor, so you have to be creative in looking up these records.  The town of Kaunas, Lithuania, is particularly misspelled in most of the records. 

An example of looking in the Russian records for individuals from other countries is the record for Meyer (later Martin) Barr.  He was actually born in Linkuva, Lithuania, as was his wife Jennie.  Another example is Musja Schemer (later Minnie Berlin), who was born in Kupiskis, Lithuania.

A last country to mention is South Africa which had 304 records, although most were non-Jews.  The one’s who were Jews were those who mostly came to America in the 1960-1991 time period.  Many were professionals such as doctors. 

All in all, these records are a gold mine of information.

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