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Ask Ancestry Anne: Finding Grandma’s Family in Brooklyn

Question: My grandmother, Jenny Golub, came to America in approximately the 1890s from Russia. She settled in Brooklyn, New York. I know she had many relatives but we lost touch with most of them. How can I find them? There are several Golubs throughout America and I wonder if any are related to me. Mother, Selma Golub Briskin, was born 5/8/17, although somehow this was changed to 1924 – I found her original birth certificate.
— Robert Briskin, M.D.

Answer:  I found Jennie living with her husband Jacob in Brooklyn in 1920.  They have two children—Alex, born around 1915 and Selma, born around 1918. Jacob and Jennie are not citizens yet, as their naturalization status is listed as AL (alien).  Jacob came into the country in 1908 and Jenny in 1901.

In 1930, they’re living in Brooklyn as well, with Alex, Selma and another Aida who was born in 1923. According to this census they have both been naturalized.  Also, it reports that Jacob was 24 when they were married and Jenny was 25.  They were married most likely in New York in 1913.

The Italian Genealogy Group has a database of marriage records   for the New York City area. A quick search for Jacob Golub turned up a 1912 marriage to Jennie Abramowitz. You’ll want to request the full record to get all the details from the record. Names of witnesses may be helpful in identifying other relatives and it should include her parents’ names. The search page for the groom index provides a link to a printable form to order that record.

Searching 1910 for Jennie Abramowitz shows Jennie is living with father, Abraham, and her mother who is either Gussi or Gusni. Jenny’s working in a clothing factory and Abraham is a dealer in woolen rags. Her arrival date in the U.S. is given as 1902.

Going back to the 1920 census, Jennie states her arrival date is 1901. But in reviewing, there’s something even more revealing. In the same building live Abram and Goldie Abrahowitz. The last name is slightly off and the ages are definitely off from the 1910 entry, but their proximity makes it very interesting.

You’ll need to gather more evidence to definitively link Jennie with Abram and other family members, but fortunately there are a lot of records for this era that can help you link family members together. Here are some suggestions.

Check for passenger arrival records for this time period. Records from the early 1900s will typically state where the immigrant is from, as well as who they’re going to meet—often a family member. I found a Jeina Abrahamowitz, occupation tailor, going to meet her brother Isaac Abrahamowitz at 1229 Myrtle in Brooklyn.  Again, you’ll want more evidence to support the theory that this is Jennie, but I would definitely put a pin in it while you look for more records.

Check the collection of U.S. City Directories  for Brooklyn directory listings for Abramowitz and variations. Note addresses and occupation. You may be able to find family clusters through shared/nearby addresses and occupation could be a clue to family businesses that also link relatives. 

Be a collector of addresses. Assemble addresses from directories, census records, passenger lists and anything else that includes that important piece of information. Plotting addresses on a map you may see groups of Abramowitz family members living in close proximity. Recent immigrants typically settled near other family members and friends from the old country. 

Naturalization records could also provide links to other relatives since immigrants often asked other family members to act as witnesses in their petitions.

Once you’ve identified Jennie’s relatives you’ll find great tips on how to trace them forward to descendants today in our free online class, Forward thinking: Tracing the children of your ancestors.

Happy Searching!

Juliana Smith and Ancestry Anne

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