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.  



Posted in Belarus Genealogy, Genealogy, Jewish Gen, Pearlman

Finding an Elusive Maiden Name Through Social Security Documents

I got an amazing genealogical gift through the mail – a new surname for the family from Minsk, Belarus! I received the Social Security Application for J’s Great Grandfather, Meyer Pearlman, in the mail which gave me the maiden name of his mother, Ida Woodinski.  We believe Meyer (1880-1951), our immigrant ancestor, came over without his parents, Julius [Jacob] and Ida Pearlman who stayed in Minsk (then Russia) where they were born around 1845 and died between 1900-1910.[1]  I had requested the application from the Social Security Administration about 5 weeks ago. It was incredibly exciting to open and see new information, because I wasn’t keeping track of when it would come and I wasn’t sure if they would even be able to find it.[2]

The record was signed by Meyer Pearlman on December 1, 1936.  It gave me information on his address during that time, his employer and employer’s address, his birthdate, his place of birth (listed as Minsk, Russia), his father’s name and his mother’s maiden name.  We had seen most of this information before, but Woodinski was new! Woodinski could also be a variation of of Yiddish Budinsky, or Budensky. [3]  This find gives us a whole new line to look at and another possible way to link us to somewhere in Minsk.

The other interesting piece I found on this document to explore was Meyer’s father’s first name, Jacob.  I had his name as Julius Yuna Pearlman until we saw this document.  His name Julius came from genealogical research done by J’s Great Uncle 20 years ago so I will need to do some more digging and cross checking with both of the names.


US Social Security Applications – What is it and how to get it

The Social Security Administration grew out of the period after the depression in the 1930s – which began a call for change to support the Americans in times of economic shock, leading to the signing of the Social Security Act in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Social Security Act included several provisions for general social welfare as well as a continuing income for retired workers, aged 65 and older (a major issue of the depression being our elderly population was living on complete dependency and unable to work).[4]

Social Security poster; FDR Library Photo Collection [5]

I found my ancestors’ Social Security Application through two steps;  1) Searching for the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) where you might a social security number and then 2) Send in a request for their Application for a Social Security Number, Form SS-5 – which has all of this information I listed above!

You can search for a deceased person’s Social Security Death Index (SSDI) if they passed after 1962 on familysearch or ancestry sites.  The Social Security Act was passed in 1935, so any person alive after 1935 could have a SSDI and/or an application record.  The SSDI has limited information (it can be used as a proof of death) but you can take the Social Security Number listed on the SSDI and send away for the original Social Security Application that was most likely completed and signed by your ancestor.  A request for this document can be done through the Social Security Administration using a Form SSA-771 under the Freedom of Information Act.  This can be done online if you are sure you do not need a proof of death with your application.  The Social Security Administration is only able to send you documents for persons who are at least 100 years old along with proof of death and/or they are more than 120 years old.

Here are a few links that helped me::

Family Search  Summary of US Social Security Records for Genealogists

Social Security Administration Online Request for Deceased Individual’s Social Security Record


  1. Various census records of children who mother and father from Minsk Russia: 1910 Federal Census [Database online,]
  2. Social Security Application, 1936.  United States Social Security Administration Archives
  3. JewishGen search for potential matches
  4. History of Social Security Administration:
  5. FDR Library Photo Collection. NPx. 53-227(1733).(picture)
Posted in Belarus Genealogy, Genealogy, Jewish Gen

The Epsteins in Brooklyn abt 1920

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.

1930 Census:


1940 Census:  


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!