In searching for clues on the shtetl in Minsk that J’s great grandfather Meyer immigrated from, I have been exploring the life of each of his 5 children. I found out that his older daughter, Pearl, who was born and raised in Pennsylvania, married someone from Russia. Why, who and how did she marry someone from Russia? Was there a family connection from Russia? Was he from the same place as her father? Could exploring his life help me find clues to our ancestral shtetl? I thought it was worth a try – at least I could get more names of locations and learn about another link. So here is what I found out about the Epsteins:
Mendel Max Epstein, b 1867, in Minsk, Russia was married to Lena Epstein (maiden name unknown), b 1868. Mendel and Lena had 8 children: Harris, Martin, Morris, Kate, Frieda, George, Samuel, and Joseph. The first 7 children were born in Russia and Joseph was born in New York in 1909 when Mendel and Lena were 41, the year after they arrived in America.
Mendel and the boys came over about 1905 and it looks like Lena and the girls followed them in 1908 (the 1925 census has Max, Martin, Morris living in the states for 20 years and Lena, Freda and Kate for 17). The entire family was naturalized in NY in 1918. Martin worked as an electrician and Lena was a Homemaker. Their sons Martin and Morris were also working in as electricians in the 1920s and his daughters were working as bookkeepers. They lived in Brooklyn on Monroe Street for almost 30 years. Mendel died in 1934 at 67 and Lena passed 31 years later in 1955 at 87 years. They are both buried in Montefiore Cemetery along with their children.
1915 NY State Census:
1925 NY State Census:
J’s Great Aunt Pearl married their second oldest son, Martin in 1927 when she was 21 and he was 33, and they lived at the same address as his parents: 567 Monroe Street from the 1920s to at least the 1940s. Martin worked those years as an electrician and Pearl was a homemaker. Although J’s father remembers at some point she was a nurse like her sister Florence. In 1930 they rented their place for $45.00 and spoke Yiddish in their home (‘Jewish’ according to the census). In 1940 their rent went down to $35. Martin’s income as a store electrician was $3,120 and in addition to their two girls they lived with a domestic servant, Ann Daversk, from Wilkes Barre (where Pearl’s parent lived). Pearl and Martin lived in New York for over 30 years and they had two daughters Jen and Ellen born in 1929 and 1933. Martin died in 1948 at 54 years old and Pearl lived until 1994 and 88 years old. They are both are buried in Montefiore Cemetery with his family.
The Epsteins lived in an area called Stuyvesant Heights, a neighborhood in North -Central Brooklyn. Many Jews came to this area around 1907 after the construction of the Williamsburg Bridge and from what I have found, the neighborhood became a flourishing working and middle class Jewish neighborhood until around the 1960s. The Epsteins immigrated from Minsk during a time when almost 2 million Jews immigrated to America, 1 million to NYC, after the assassination of Alexander II of Russia and the following persecution of Jews.
Here is a picture via google maps of the house the Epsteins lived in on 567 Monroe Street in Brooklyn. J’s great grandfather, Myer Perlman (father of Pearl) has this address on his WWII 1942 draft card. It shows us that Myer and his wife Anna, went to live with their daughter, Pearl from Wilkes Barre, PA later in life. The house was built in 1899:
The records of Martin’s siblings and their spouses were important to us as they showed more evidence that the Pearlmans had a connection to Minsk (if we assume there is a family connection to the marriage of Pearl and Martin).
- Martin’s older brother Harris, who worked as an Engineer for the Department of Navy, has Minsk as place of birth on his death certificate, WWI Draft Card and WWI draft card.
- His younger brother Samuel, wife Ida’s passport application also shows Minks as Samuel’s birthplace (which was a joy of a document to find!).
Here are a few snapshots of documents that led me to what I know of the Epsteins to date:
Harris Epstein’s WWI Draft Card Excerpt:
Martin Epstein’s WWII Draft Card:
Harris Epstein’s Naturalisation Records:
Ida Epstein, wife of Samuel Epstein, 1922 Passport Application:
If anyone has any information on the Epsteins and/or life for Jewish immigrants in Brooklyn during the turn of the century please don’t hesitate to be in touch!