Posted in Genealogy, Jewish Gen

Early Working Women Relatives: Stenographers in the 1920s

I found a few instances where our women relatives were listed in the early 20th century census as ‘Stenographers.’  I had an idea that this was some type of administrative, secretarial work but decided to do some more digging.  Today a stenographer is almost exclusively employed in courts, but when the typewriter was first invented stenographers were used in almost all corporate office, dictating meetings, calls etc.  In our family tree – I found ‘Stenographer’ show up as an occupation in the 1920s and 1930s census for our immigrant ancestors living in Brooklyn. steno

The Miriam Webster Dictionary defines stenographyas a form of shorthand typing done on a special machine which makes it possible to produce simultaneously a verbatim transcript, for instance in courts.’    Stenographers basically record what is being spoken through shorthand using a machine called a stenotype or typewriter.

Stenography as an office based employment option for our women relatives became available with the rise of the corporate office in the city during the early 20s and 30s. It’s seemed to mainly have been an option for single girls in the 1920s while the majority of married women still stayed at home working as a mother or homemaker.  As corporate offices increased, the need for dictation and data collection and storage became increasingly important. Vintage photos show entire floors in office buildings with rows of desks filled ladies listening to various dictations and typing away. Women also joined the offices in the 20s as clerks, filing assistants and secretaries. While working as a stenographer seems to have been a cleaner and safer option then the garment factories, the pay remained low and they experienced lower status then men including inequality of pay.  In 1927 a report by the Industrial Conference Report showed that the weekly wage of a man was $29.35 compared to $17.36 for women (Miller).  In addition, in the 1920s there weren’t many opportunities for women to be promoted past administrative positions.


Stenographers in Brooklyn, 1925 Image Source

According to old newspaper ads that advertise for Stenographer positions in NYC it appears you needed some office experience.  Our relatives who worked as Stenographers must have received a certification and/or taken courses in basic secretarial skills, including typing.  I found a couple of places where our relatives may have gained their skills to find a job in Stenography in 1930s Brooklyn.  Our Jewish relatives may have taken classes at the Young Women’s Hebrew Association on 1578 Lexington Ave.  The YWHA was opened from 1888 for the purpose of immigrant education and had opportunities for Jewish girls and women to take classes in English, embroidery, typing, stenography, book keeping and Hebrew.  There was also the Hebrew Technical School for Girls on 15th and 2nd Avenue that offered various vocational skills courses including dressmaking, typing, bookkeeping, hand sewing, millinery, embroidery and stenography.  In addition, there were a few business colleges open in Manhattan were women went to school to become stenographers, secretaries, and/or teachers.


The Brooklyn Daily Eagle 
24 May 1925, Sun • Page 49

Also interesting to help think about our relatives in this context is how the working girl as a Stenographer seemed to be a cultural icon in the 1920s.  The first comic strips about a working woman featured Stenographers – including ‘Somebody’s Stenog’ (1918-1941),Winnie Winkle’ (1920-1996) and ‘Tillie the Toiler’ (1921-1959).


Tillie the Toiler, Louis Star 23 December 19


Winnie the Winkle 1930


Merriam Webster Online Dictionary

The Guide to the United States for the Jewish Immigrant by John Foster Carr, published in 1913 by the Daughters of the American Revolution

Young Women’s Hebrew Association

Miller, Nathan, New World Coming: The 1920s And The Making Of Modern America. Da Capo Press, Apr 28, 2009.

Other Fun Reads I found while thinking about our Early Working Women relatives:

Witness2fashion – A Woman’s Clothing Budget for 1924 versus 1936

Office Museum – Gender in the Office

Women’s Bureau of the US Department of Labor Women Workers Infographics in 1920 


Posted in Genealogy, Jewish Gen, Pearlman

Planning a visit to Mount Hebron Jewish Cemetery – Queen’s, New York

I am hoping to take the first research trip for J’s family genealogy to the cemetery where his great grandparents, Meyer and Anna Pearlman are buried.  Meyer and Anna immigrated from Russia and I’m hoping that exploring their grave plot might give us some more detailed clues as to their ancestral shtetl (or maybe some names of their siblings). has given me the cemetery and plot information but there hasn’t been a picture posted yet.  Here is what I know of their burial place:

Mount Hebron Cemetery is located in Flushing, Queens in New York City.  Meyer and Anna came through New York from Russia around 1900 but they settled in Pennsylvania for the majority of their adult lives.  Around 1942 they moved to Brooklyn to live with their older daughter Pearl Epstein in the home of her husband’s family (also from Minsk, Russia) and were later buried in Queens.  What is interesting though is that Pearl is buried with her husband and his family in Montefiore Cemetery.  Which raises the question of why Meyer and Anna are in Mount Hebron if no known children are buried there as well.  Are there other family members in Mount Hebron?

Mount Hebron Cemetery opened to the Jewish community in New York City with its first burial in 1909.  There have been over 217,000 burials since then.  Apparently it is a very large cemetery so we might need a full day to navigate and explore (I have no idea how I will convince J to take a day trip to NY to hang out in a cemetery all day)!  I believe there are also memorial sites for communities lost during the Holocaust which we will want to visit as well.

Through further Mount Hebron research, I learned about society’s that Jewish immigrants formed at the turn of the century to support each other in the New World.  These society’s were formed around shared houses, neighborhoods, synagogues, professions and/or places of origin and not only provided a social life they also supported their members with certain social welfare benefits.  This included health insurance type of benefits and also burial support.  Some of the societies bought large tracts of land in Jewish cemeteries for their members – including in Mount Hebron where 80% of the land was sold to local Jewish societies in the first years.  I looked at the list and it looks like there are 100s maybe even 1,000s of different society plots in Mount Hebron.

The internment search I did on the website for Meyer showed me that he is buried in the Workmen’s Circle Society plot.  Whats interesting here for me is that Meyer lived and worked his adult life in Wilkes-Barre, PA only moving to NY to live with his daughter in his later years – I wonder why, how and if he was a member of this society.  The cemetery website says the Workmen’s Circle plots are in blocks 14, 113, 75, 63, FCIR.   Meyer’s record shows he is in 113, line 13. He is in grave 26 and Anna in 27.

I found website for the Workmen’s Circle Society – today it is a non profit that promotes social justice and Jewish education, including Yiddish!  I emailed them through their contact page to see if they had any information on Meyer’s membership.  They emailed me back within a day and had checked their burial lists and confirmed that both Meyer and Anna were at Mount Hebron, buried next to each other, in the Workmen’s Circle plot.   I also found that genealogists can access paper based records from the Workmen’s circle in English and Yiddish at American Jewish Historical Society in New York.


I guess the next step in this trail is a visit to New York! I’m noting the links below to save in the case that one day we plan this trip.   Any tips on Mount Hebron Cemetery and/or general cemetery visits?

Relevant Links and Sources:

Mount Hebron Cemetery Web Page

Guide to Workmen’s Circle Records

American Jewish Historical Society

Workmen’s Circle

Montefiore Cemetery

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, 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 the as electricians in the 1920s and his daughters worked 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!

Posted in Genealogy, Jewish Gen

A 1930s Nurse and other Newspaper Pearlman Finds

I’m currently searching for the vitals of J’s great grandfather and immigrant ancestor, Meyer Pearlman (b abt 1879).  I came to a roadblock with the information I have for him, so decided to take a step back and go downwards in the family tree and research and explore the lives of all 5 of his children for any clues.  After establishing what I could with census and vital records, I looked for them all in the archives of their hometown paper, Wilkes-Barre Evening News, through  I found two finds for him – as well as some amazing engagement and wedding announcement pictures of J’s grandmother!  The Meyer Pearlman finds were:

  • while all early records showed Meyer as Meyer – the newspaper spelled in Myer – something to go back and search
  • Our Meyer moved to New York after 1940 – which confirms a place of burial and death theory I have had.  Previously, I had found information on a Meyer Pearlman, who matched all of my information, buried in Long Island but I never felt comfortable confirming that was our Meyer as I had no information on why he would be buried there (his parents died in Russia and we thought he lived in Wilkes-Barre his entire adult life).  His grandson’s birth announcement – says Meyer was living in Long Island in the 1940s! That places him in New York.  I am also assuming he had more relatives there (I’m not finished researching his relatives but I do know he had more siblings who also came to the US through NY).

It was a productive and fun research session!  Some really good ‘ah ha’ moments with some precious newspaper clippings to save to our family tree.  One of the gems I found is the one above of Meyer’s daughter Florence – she went to nursing school in the 1930s!  Just think, if Meyer would not have made the long and difficult journey over to the US through Ellis Island, his daughter most likely would not of had an opportunity close to this in Russia.

Posted in Alabama Genealogy, Genealogy, Scrapbook Layouts

Scrapbooking my Alabama Pioneer Family

One tool that I like to use for genealogy is scrapbooking! Not only is it a fun way to share your findings to others but it can be a fun way to look at and organize what you know.  I also find it a time to reflect and think about what I do know as I layout the pieces of the puzzle that I have – and it’s just fun to be creative! Here is a page I did for a scrapbook I’m creating for research on my 5th Great Grandmother, Nancy Harding. I’m searching for her maiden name and am going through all her children’s history to find any clues! She had a lot – so this page was a fun way for me to visually look at all their names, birthdays and the pending death dates I’m looking for.  I know the Harding children were all born in Shelby, County Alabama abt 1830. Nancy was born in Tennessee and her husband George in South Carolina. My current theory is they arrived in Alabama before 1830 with their pioneer families on a covered wagon.

I’m on the lookout for tips on researching early Alabama settlers and cluster genealogy – would love to hear from anyone also looking in to these!


Posted in Genealogy, Jewish Gen

Searching for Naturalization Records Abt 1915 for Belorussian Ancestors

I found this Naturalization record for a Harry Margolin who emigrated from Minsk, Russia – one of my research goals is to come as close as I can to the shtetl in Minsk (present day Belarus) that J’s great grandfather, Meyer Pearlman, and siblings immigrated from – and then all of the information about what life was like there of course!  There is a Harry Margolin who is the brother in-law of Meyer who also emigrated from Minsk with his wife, Hannah.  They all settled in PA.  I hit a brick wall with Meyer and am now going through all of his siblings.  Unfortunately this Harry Margolin is likely not our relative (his wife’s name and birthdate are different from what I know of our Harry).  I’m sharing his record though because of the reminder that it’s not a straight-line to find our ancestors documentation by searching their names – this Harry Margolin had changed his name sometime after arriving in NY – he arrived as Gersch Margolin!  Reading this discouragingly reminded me that I need to keep an eye out for various first names to find our ancestors emigration and naturalization records (but how wonderful it will be when we do find Meyer’s naturalization record with the chance of a photo!).    I know that Meyer, our ancestor was naturalized abt. 1915 as per the 1930 census.  Most likely he was in Pennsylvania when he submitted his declaration of intent, but there is also a chance he was in NY or NJ (he moved within a couple of years).   This is my first time looking so intently for naturalization records abt 1915 (my family all came over before this period) – does anyone have any good blog links, tips, guides, videos on how to systematically uncover these documents?  Any great discovery stories?


Posted in Genealogy, Uncategorized

First post: An Online Research Journal

blog1Hello 🙂  Welcome to my online Family Research Journal!

I’m a family historian/genealogist living in Washington, DC.  I’ve been researching my family history for almost 10 years from my home and online (with a few trips to the National Archives –which I’m so fortunate to have nearby).

I have been researching my Western European roots as well as some elusive ancestors who were early American Pioneers.  One of my goals has been discovering my maternal line as far back as I can.  I have been stuck for a few years on my 5th Great Grandmother, Nancy Hardin who was one of the first Western European settlers in Alabama.  Her maiden name has been a roadblock that has been discouraging and even a bit de-motivating.  But after a few recent family history events of my own, I have been inspired to start investing in my genealogy through developing new skills and reaching out to fellow genealogists.

My new inspiration is my recent engagement, the joining of a new family and our next generation. My fiancé’s tree brings a new challenge as his entire family immigrated to the US during the Jewish emigration abt. 1880 from Eastern Europe as well as an emotional investment in a new line.

So here is my first step to connecting and documenting these stories. I started this online research journal to begin carving out more time to invest in myself and my family, learn better genealogy skills, connect with other family historians and hopefully teach something to someone else!  I would love to hear from you about any tips on genealogy blogging, research skills, possible family links, or collaboration!