Posted in Belarus Genealogy, Dolger, Genealogy, Jewish Gen

Finding Bessie Zaralow – Clues from an old handwritten family tree

I found two new names that extend J’s maternal family tree! Charles Dolger and Bessie Zaralow, his Great Great Grandparents who immigrated from Vitebsk, Belarus around 1905 – formerly Russia [1][2][*]. I had hit a brick wall on this line – but broke through by studying a family tree drawn from the memory of J’s mother and researching the sibling names listed for our known ancestor on that tree (Ida Dolger, J’s Great Grandmother, b1889).[3]

I had started searching for the parents of both J’s Great Grandparents on this line – Max Coldofsky Gould (1886-1929) and Ida Dolger. We did not have any information on their parents’ names or really anything on their life before they were married and had their first child (J’s maternal grandfather William).  Since I didn’t have much on Ida I started with her siblings.  I knew from interviewing J’s mother and looking at an old hand-written family tree the names of Ida’s 4 siblings: Hyman, Hanna, Anne and Flora. [3]  

J’s mother’s memories included those of her Aunt Hanna who married Maurice Berry and had a successful dress shop in Brooklyn called Berry’s dress shop. She shared some pictures she had of this family along with the stationary she had from Hanna’s shop (Circa 1942). [4]  (Dress Shop Picture)

Stationary from Berry’s Dress Shop circa 1940s

I started with Hanna because I thought that she would more likely have left a document trail or be found in old newspapers since she had owned a dress shop.  I searched historical newspapers in Brooklyn and found Maurice’s obituary. This gave me his death date, his birth year, the correct spelling of Hannah (we had Hanna before) and their son’s name [5].  This was really helpful because my assumed birthdates for Maurice and Hannah were actually 10 years off and I couldn’t find any records on them.  I had been looking for them with a birth year close to Ida’s – who is actually 10 years older than her sister Hannah!  With the correct information on birth year I was able to find Maurice in the 1930 census.  

Maurice and Hannah
Hannah and Maurice Berry (1930s or 40s?)

Maurice is found in Brooklyn living on Nathan Street listed as a contractor in the dress industry. In his house is a Hannah Berry, Jerome Berry and a new name – Bessie Dolger, mother in law to the head of the house and listed as a widow.  The census also gives me an immigration year for both Hannah and her mother Bessie as 1907 [6]. I can assume that this is the same year Ida, our ancestor, came over as she likely was with her sister (Hannah) and their mother (Bessie). I also took the detailed information on Hannah and Maurice and found their marriage certificate which lists both Hannah’s parents as Charles Dolger and Bala Zaralow [3].  

1930 Federal Census Record

Citation [1]
I searched ‘Bala’ on the ‘ Given Name Variation Search’ option on Ancestry and found that Bessie is one form Bala was translated in the United States [7].  I’m excited now to get back to Ida with this information to search for her immigration records and maybe see if I can find anything more on Bala/Bessie Zaralow.  But this research already gave us an exciting new surname to  put on our family list!  

Name Insert

I think my next steps will be:

  • Ensuring I have exhausted the vital record search for the siblings
  • Research Hyman Dolger and family for any hints
  • Search immigration records based on dates found


  1. “New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940,” database, FamilySearch( : 20 March 2015), Maurice Berry and Hannah Dolger, 30 Jun 1923; citing Marriage, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York City Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,653,914
  2. Confirmation of Vitebsk origin: Family documents and various records – see *below
  3. Family Tree Drawing 
  4. Berry’s Dress Shop Stationary
  5. Maurice Berry Obituary 1977: The New York Times. New York, NY, USA: The New York Times, 1851-2001; Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003,
  6. 1930 Federal Census; Year: 1930; Census Place: Brooklyn, Kings, New York; Roll: 1497; Page: 51A; Enumeration District: 1293; Image: 275.0; FHL microfilm: 2341232
  7. Jewish Given Name Variations: Jewish Given Name Variations [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: This data is provided in partnership with

*Vitebsk, Russia – is also listed on Hyman Dolger (brother of Hannah and Ida) World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942.  Vitebsk is a city and a gubernia in present day Belarus – formerly of Russia

*Featured picture – Ida Dolger Gould, possibly 1920s but date unconfirmed.  




5 thoughts on “Finding Bessie Zaralow – Clues from an old handwritten family tree

  1. I really enjoyed your post! It gave me hope and direction. Funny, I am currently researching a family Sam Fruchtman and his wife (name unknown) who owned Minnie’s Dress Shop on Mermaid Ave in Brooklyn in the same time period.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh so fun! I thought it was an interesting piece of history – I was hoping to find old adverts or something in the newspaper but didn’t :). I’m glad you enjoyed this! I would be interested in hearing about how your research goes!


  2. Her death certificate is under the name Becky Dolger, died 1930. It is indexed on FamilySearch with her parents’ names (but look at the original at your local family history center since the transcription looks a bit garbled). This Becky died on Nathan Street so is likely yours.

    Liked by 1 person

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