United States Consular Reports of Marriages, 1910-1949

Posted by Ann Rabinowitz

Cabinet Marriage Photo of Mr. and Mrs. Mordelovich
Harbin, China, 1929

One of the latest additions to Ancestry.com’s arsenal of helpful databases is the U.S., Consular Reports of Marriages, 1910-1949. Not only can one search by country and/or name of individual, but when the records are obtained, there is an enormous amount of information in the images of the marriages certificates which are produced in English as follows:
  • Surname
  • Consulate location
  • Date
  • Birth place
  • Age
  • Spouse’s name
  • Local residence
  • Witness’s name
  • Marriage officiator
In addition to the American consular certificate, there are extra pages of documentation in a number of cases which provide the names of the Rabbis performing the ceremonies or information about the Jewish community in the area or the marital pair. It is helpful to search on the next page or two after the main certificate in case such information has been provided.

One way to locate family is to search by country where the consular office was located and I happily looked for countries where my genealogical interests lie such as Latvia, which had 156 entries, Lithuania, which had 10 entries, and Russia, which had 206 entries, as well as South Africa, which had 414 entries and (what was then) Palestine, which had 608 entries.

When searching by country one will usually find a lot of entries, but be aware that not all entries are for Jewish couples and there maybe double entries for each couple involved in the marriage with one separate entry for the groom and one for the bride.

Unfortunately, for genealogical purposes, the names of the parents of the marital party are not included in this database and this prevents the researcher from sometimes authenticating exactly who the individuals are. One of the examples in this regard is the following couple who were married in Latvia:

On February 7, 1928, Carl Kasriel Schuel, age 37 years, May 16, 1890, born Daugavpils, Latvia, living at 492 Saratoga Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, was married to Fanija Fanny Gafanovich, age 31, May 25, 1896, born Kupiskis, Lithuania, living in Latvia. A passenger list reports that the couple came to New York on September 21, 1928, following their marriage in Latvia.

In regard to the bride, Fanija, her last name of Gafanovich is a very common name, particularly in Kupiskis. Since no parents’ names are given, one would need to locate their names in order to tell who she was. There are no birth records before 1900 in Kupiskis, so that option is out. One of the members of the Kupiskis SIG is Anschel Strauss who has spent decades documenting the Gafanovich families in Kupiskis and when contacted, he found that he did not have a Fanija listed in his records.

The Ancestry.com death records, Social Security Death Index (SSDI), list Fanny Schuel’s last residence when she died in February 4, 1970, as Brooklyn, NY. Searching the JewishGen JOWBR database did not produce a record of her tombstone, which, if found, would tell who her father was. Also, searching all of the on-line cemetery databases for New York proved to be of no avail.

Further, on Ancestry.com, there was another listing for a Fanny B. Schuel who had died in 1970 in Miami-Dade County, Florida, according to the Florida Death Index. This may have meant that Fanny was a “snow-bird”, a winter visitor to Florida, who happened to have passed away during her stay there.

This was quite fortuitous as that meant she might have been buried in one of the cemeteries I was familiar with as opposed to being buried in a cemetery in New York. Rather than spend the money on a death certificate to confirm which cemetery it was (whether in Miami-Dade County or New York), it is possible to contact several of the local cemeteries to see if she was buried there. This may prove to be fruitful, but will take some time to accomplish.

As to Fanny Schuel’s husband, he is found in quite a number of records which provide the information that his mother was Ethel Schuel, born 1865, and died May 23, 1933, in Brooklyn, NY, and his sister was Sarah Schuel who married Wolf Salovostak, born in Minsk, Belarus. They had two children Fannie, born 1913, in Daugavpils, and Bennie, born 1917, in Denmark. At one point, Sarah is listed as Solovitz in 1942.

The Daugavpils records which have been translated by the redoubtable Christine Usdin do not mention Ethel or who her husband might have been or her two children. There is the possibility that Ethel’s husband may have been a Benjamin and that Carl Schuel named his child Bennie for him.

To carry on with other aspects of the Consular Marriages, it appeared that the marriages in the database were performed in embassies, civil registries, courts, synagogues, hotels and private residences which amounted to quite a variety of venues. An example of one of these marriages is that of Esther Abraham, born in Safed, Palestine, age 41, who married Herman Eisenberg, age 68, born Russia, but an American citizen, living in Jaffa, Palestine, on August 25, 1921, in the American Consulate in Jerusalem. Another is that of Devora Abramovitz, born 1907, in Petah-Tikvah, a U.S. citizen, who was now residing in Jerusalem, who married on July 1, 1927, in the house of Mr. Isaac Ellshstein, Nehemia Saloman, a citizen of Palestine who was born 1903 and was residing in Jerusalem.

A fascinating entry is that of the marriage of Julia Aronson, born 1895 in Zozmorah (sp.?), Poland, the daughter of Shalom Aronson and Hannah Raizel. She married Alexander M. Dushkin, born 1891, in Suwalki, Poland, a U.S. citizen, living in Jerusalem, on July 4, 1921, in the home of Miss H. Szord (sp.?), Jerusalem.

Location of Marriage of Alexander M. Dushkin and Julia Aronson
(Jewish Women's Archive. "Home of Henrietta Szold and Sophia Berger, Jerusalem, c. 1921." (February 15, 2011.)

Upon looking closely at the marriage certificate, one can see that the person in whose home the marriage took place was none other than Miss Henrietta Szold, the founder of Hadassah. It appeared that the bridal couple was amongst Henrietta Szold’s closest friends in Palestine.

The groom was a well-known and outstanding New York Jewish educator who founded the Department of Education at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His wife Julia was a dietician and active member of the Hadassah organization in Palestine. Her sister was married to Israel Friedlaender, Professor of Biblical Literature, at the Jewish Theological Seminary, who later founded the Young Israel movement.

One can learn further about this couple by viewing the Alexander M. Dushkin papers in the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People. This resource tells us that Alexander Dushkin came to America in 1901 and studied at City College, the Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University in New York. His remarkable career is documented in the materials to be found in the Archives.

In a listing of a marriage for a South African couple, all sorts of facts unfold. The marriage of Mark Joachim Zurel, born 1925, and Henriette Ludel, born 1926, took place on September 26, 1948, in Temple Israel in Johannesburg. Both the bride and groom were born in Amsterdam and were living in Johannesburg.

It might have been thought, due to the date of the marriage, that they were both Holocaust survivors. However, that was not true as passenger lists prove that Joachim Zurel, age 32, born 1893, and Jansche (Jeanne) de Jong, age 32, born 1893, and son Mark, age 1, 1924, came to South Africa on the Armadale Castle, departing from Southampton on December 12, 1925, and that they made a number of other trips back to Europe after that.

However, Henriette Ludel, only came to South Africa in 1945. In addition, there was another family of that name, the Bernard Ludel family, who also came to South Africa from the Netherlands. It is thought then that perhaps Henriette was a Holocaust survivor.

One of the unique things one finds in these marriage records are the ceremonies of the Jews who were married in China. There were approximately a total of 9,620 marriages listed in China itself, although a very tiny percentage of these were Jewish. Many were refugees or were serving in either business or military capacities.

One of the places where marriages occurred was in the Chesed-El Synagogue in Singapore, then a part of the Straits Settlements. In 1905, it became the second synagogue founded in Singapore.

Chesed-El Synagogue, Singapore
(Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Two marriages were solemnized by Hazan Rev. Ezra Meir in the Chesed-El Synagogue for sisters Esther and Ada Frankel, both born in Singapore, who married Americans Lester L. Goodman of Phoenix, AZ, and Hart Richard Aaron of San Francisco, CA, in April 17, 1924 and September 29, 1929 respectively.

Another locale was the town of Tientsin or Tianjin as it came to be known as. One such was the January 15, 1920 marriage of Joseph Litman Abramovitch an American citizen who was born in Braila, Rumania, and Shlima Mochman, who was born in Sorok, Grodnensky district, Russia, both of whom were living in Tientsin.

Further information regarding the Jews of Tientsin or Tianjin can be found in two books: “China Dreams, Growing Up Jewish in Tientsin” by Isabelle Zimmerman Maynard and “The Jews in Tianjin” by Anna Song.

The town of Shanghai was another place where there were a number of Jews who married. There were two sisters, Ruth and Sophia Begelman, who were born in Denver, Colorado, the daughters of Morris and Anna Begelman, who were living in Shanghai, China, and who married there.

Another marriage was performed in the town of Chefoo, China, on September 19, 1932, between Maurice Begelman, who was from Brooklyn, NY, and was serving in the Navy aboard the USS Black Hawk and who married Polish refugee Chaja-Leja (Helen) Piasecka from Neahowic, Poland. One can see her in the Index to Ledger listing in handwriting persons registered at the Polish consulate in Shanghai, 1934-1941, on the basis of documents issued by Polish authorities. Approximately 60% of those listed in this document were Jewish.

In addition, one can find much more about Maurice Begelman and his military service on Ancestry.com as his Navy muster roll and burial at Arlington National Cemetery are included there.

An interesting marriage occurred on October 26, 1930, at the residence in Harbin of Rabbi Aaron M. Kiseleff, chief rabbi of the Japanese and Manchurian Jewish communities, between Isidor Spivak, born in Uman, Russia, a US citizen living in Harbin, and Sopia L. Anshelevich, born in Melitopol, Russia, a Russian citizen, living in Harbin. Mr. Spivak’s passport number was given which would be a good clue to locating more information.

Information on the Harbin Jewish community can be obtained in the book “Jews in China,”which has a very nice photograph of Rabbi Kiseleff and other leaders on page 1919.Another fine resource is the JewishGen ShtetLinks site for Harbin. This site provides many items which can be researched regarding the settlements of Jews in China.

One other Chinese marriage of interest was the one which took place October 19, 1936, in the Jewish Synagogue, Wusih Road, Tientsin, China, performed by Rabbi Shevel Levin, between Morris Gold, age 52, a U.S. citizen, born in Lomza, Poland, living in Peiping, China, and Leya Weingort Udelstein, age 44, no nationality, born in Ostrow, Poland, and living in Peiping, China. As one can see, marriages took place amongst the young as well as older couples in those times when people were fleeing the ravages of war or found themselves in remote foreign lands.

A unique group of Jewish marriages were those that were performed in Mexico. A majority of them seem to be listed as civil marriages with no indication of their religion other than their “Jewish-sounding” names. For instance, the Jews who are listed amongst the 598 marriages in Mexico City, appeared to have married spouses who were Jewish and some non-Jews too. Many were either born outside Mexico in Eastern Europe or were Americans who just happened to be in Mexico.

One such example of a Mexican marriage is that performed by a Judge on April 7, 1925, of Irwing (probably Irving and incorrectly typed on certificate) Gold, age 29, born in Russia, living in Chicago, Illinois, and Esther Kutzubei, age 26, born Tiraspol, Russia, living in Mexico City, Mexico. Other couples, to be found in the marriage records were Harry Zichlin and Flora Grabelski Frimet, Harry W. Froehlich and Anneliese Rothschild, Bernard Katz and Helen Goldberg, Jacob Goldman and Doba Finkleberg, Kisil Schatz and Sylvia Marie Levine, Marcos Braslavcky Levinson and Ernestine Neuhauzer Schwartz, and Zalme Zylbercweig and Cila Zuckerberg.

Another way to conduct a search in the Consular Marriages Database is to look by family name such as COHEN and one will find a variety of them, approximately 78, listed in countries such as Algeria, China, Cuba, Egypt, England, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Latvia, Luxembourg, Morocco, the Netherlands, Palestine, Turkey, and Wales.

An example is that of the marriage performed by Rev. Nathan Isaacs on February 9, 1921, at The Assembly Rooms, Cheetham Hill Road, Manchester, England, of Eli David Wolf, age 32, a U.S. citizen, born in Manchester, England, and living in Columbia, Tennessee, and Annie Cohen, age 27, a citizen of Great Britain, born in Manchester, England, and residing there.

Looking further, one can find the 1920 U.S. Census listing for the Wolf family made up of Jake Wolf, age 56, his wife Rachal, age 50, and son Eli D., age 31. The parents were born in Minsk, Belarus, and they came to America in 1904, and Jake Wolf was the manager of a shoe store. Eli’s World War I Draft Registration provides his exact birth date of December 20, 1887, and the fact that he is the manager of Wolf Sample Shoe Company, in Columbia, Tennessee. Also, that his father is solely dependent on him in business as he does not read or write English.

As one can see, the Consular Marriages are quite a revealing group of records which document the varied travels and loves of Jews during the turbulent period of 1910-1949 when wars, revolutions, and other incidents as well as business interests caused Jews to sometimes live in remote and exotic locales throughout the world. It also points to the fact that many American citizens who are reflected in these Consular Marriages were recent emigrants to America.

1 comment:

  1. Solovitz is supposed to have come from 'soloveitchik' - which has a relatively well known East European Jewish antecedence. Jews hoping to make it to the USA were occasionally mislead into landing in the UK and then abandoned there. Whether or not this is how my family arrived in the UK (in the 19th century) is unknown.


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