My grandfather's papers

I have been working on researching my family history on and off for several years now. I found the children of my mother’s first cousin through the magic of Google. My cousin in Israel who I mostly know as an adorable toddler, despite the fact that he is the father of children, has been wonderful at organizing information. Through JewishGen.org I have been contacted by some of my maternal grandfather’s cousins. This has all been quite exciting.


Several days ago my new to me cousin Jeff Miller –( his great grandfather and my great grandmother were siblings), let me know that he had found evidence of my grandfather changing his name from Yankel Freider to Jacob Levy from the online records of the Kings County Clerk’s office. You could mail in your request and pay $10 per document copied or you could go in person and just pay for the cost of photocopying the images.

The Kings County Court house is 30 minutes from my house by subway so I made the trek this afternoon. I was directed to the basement and waited at the long counter. Behind the counter were aisles filled with racks and racks of cardboard document boxes. It looked like one of the scenes in an Episode of Law and Order where the detectives have to go through miles of records. I was told that the person who could help me would be back in a few minutes.

True to the clerk’s word in a few minutes the clerk who could help me showed up. I showed him my document that showed the document volume and bin number. He asked me if I wanted to go with him to find the document. I did. The shelves were filled with decaying looking large ledgers.  My clerk informed me that they were all in the process of being scanned, but he loved the old volumes. We walked and walked until he pulled open a stainless steel cabinet that was filled with  two foot high fat ledgers. He found the documents pertaining to my grandfather. I wanted to take photos but taking photos in the courthouse building is forbidden.

The clerk said that the documents had already been scanned into the database and he would print out the scans for me. I just needed to wait for a few minutes.
This was the first page.
I just want to go through this document with a bit of commentary.
The address in East New York (it’s a neighborhood in Brooklyn) is correct. The occupation though threw me for a loop. It says that my grandfather was a woodworker. I had always known that he was a furrier. Perhaps he did woodworking  before he got into the fur business. I also see my grandfather’s birthday listed as March 7, 1888. I knew the year ( the year of the big storm) but not the date, or even the season when he was born.

Next we see that my grandfather came to New York from Liverpool. This is a surprise.  The name of his hometown was mis-transcribed. It is Frampol. We see the name of the boat, the Oceanic, and the day my grandfather arrived to New York, August 8, 1906.

I just checked the ship’s manifest from the Oceanic landing in New York on August 8. My grandfather is not on the boat. My cousin Oren from Israel sent me a list of the detained Aliens on the boat and my grandfather is among them

You see in the next section that he is married to my grandmother Tobe, and my two aunts are names. I am amused to see my Aunt Sophie listed as “Sopha”. That is was her Russian neighbors called her in Jerusalem, G’veret Sopha, Mrs Sopha. We used to refer to her as G’veret Sopha.


I don’t think that giving up allegiance to the Czar was at all difficult for my grandfather




Here is an earlier declaration of intent to become a citizen.

Sadly, this too was in the file.
My grandfather didn’t show up at his hearing so his application for citizenship was denied.
I really wish I could have shared this with my mother. She would have loved hearing about these documents.

My father had many birthdays. He celebrated the English and Hebrew dates of his birth.He also celebrated the English and Hebrew dates of his bar-mitzvah along with the Torah reading of his birth.

My mother only celebrated one birthday but she has many different anniversaries of her death. I had discussed in an earlier post about the complication of marking the day of her yahrzeit on a leap year, like this year is. Yesterday was the secular calendar anniversary of my mother’s death. My mother would have loved my adventure in the basement of the Kings County Courthouse.


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