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Since my initial goal was producing the book for my nephew, my first focus was on areas where I didn't have already have a lot of information.

My mom's side of the family was going to be easier than my dad's. First of all, my grandfather had written up the story of his and my grandmother's families, so I had the names and biographies of their parents. Second, there have been two genealogies of clans from Ichenhausen, written up by distant cousins, on which our family appears -- one tree of the Bissingers, by Jim Bennett of Haifa, and "Eleven Generations of the Gerstle Family", by Karen Spiegel Franklin.

Since I knew I'd be able to get what I needed for my mom's side, I decided to start by seeing what I could find on my dad's side. In particular, while my paternal grandmother's family had the names Wertheim and Allweiss, both good German/Austrian names, I've always wondered what the Greene family name was in Europe. So I started my research with my paternal grandfather's immediate family.

I was reluctant at first to give money to Ancestry.com, but the Newton Free Library has an institutional subscription so I did much of my initial research there. I started in the obvious place: searching the census records for the names that I knew of.

(I'll say right now: I would have been a lot more effective much sooner if I'd started off by paying Ancestry and building my database on their service.)

Anyway, one of the first pages I found was the 1910 Census, in which Abe and several of his siblings are found. And to my surprise, three of them were listed as having been born in Boston, Massachusetts:

So I turned around and searched the Massachusetts State Archives of Vital Records, and found...

Green	Simon	Boston	1888	387	193	Birth
Green Harris Boston 1889 396 117 Birth
Green Jennie Boston 1890 405 59 Birth

These are plausible, based on the names and dates, but really insufficient evidence to conclusively claim that these are the birth records of my great-uncles and great-aunt. The fact that each search yielded exactly one match is encouraging, though.

I then discovered that FamilySearch.org, which is run by the LDS church, has many of these records available as scans of the original ledgers. I searched for children of Barnet and Ida Green born in Massachusetts between 1886 and 1895, and found scans of many of these records:

These match up with the earlier records in most cases, but there are a few interesting discrepancies. Who is the child listed in Dec. 1887 with no name? Is it the same as Simon, who appears in the register of Jan. 1888 with no date but with the same parents and address? Or were there twins, one stillborn in Dec. and one given a name at a bris in early Jan.?

And the name "Harris" is never seen on any records again; this child must be Gerson; how did his record come to read "Harris"? [And yes, Gerson was also my father's name; we'll get to the circumstances of that in my next post.]

Aside from those oddities, though, we're also getting street addresses. A few weeks later, I went to the main branch of the Boston Public Library, and looked up Barnett Green in the microfilms of the Boston City Directories. I found him in every edition from 1888-1892, with addresses that matched up with the birth records. For example, here's the listing from 1888, where the address "7 Cherry" is the same as on Simon's birth record:

(Astute readers will have noticed that the final "e" on "Greene" is absent. Sometimes it was there, sometimes it wasn't.)

Now let's return to the census records. I learned at this point that the records from the 1890 census were, for the most part, destroyed in a fire. I was able to find the 1900 and 1910 Federal census records, and the 1905 and 1915 New York State census records.

I have a copy of my grandfather's birth certificate, which indicates that at the time of his birth, he had eight surviving older siblings and five who had passed away:

The problem is that when we look at the census and birth records, we only see the 9 who survived, I think:

I'm assuming here that the unknown and Simon are the same person. Harris/August/Gerson/Gershen/Joseph are undoubtedly all the same person. The truly odd one is Henry, listed as a son, and Annie/Hannah, listed as a daughter. But again, the census taker probably just misheard "Hannah" as "Henry" and assumed that it was a son.

We're also missing two sisters: Marian, b. Jan 12, 1898, and Hattye, b. circa 1905. Is Marian the same as Annie/Henry/Hannah? And where's Hattye?

Could I find birth records for the New York births? The Italian Genealogical Society of New York has compiled a complete index, which is also searchable through Steve Morse's incredible genealogy portal page. But none of the matches here are good enough for me to have confidence, especially when the information that I do have already is in conflict. So this is an area where I'll have to return later.

There was one other piece from the census data that caught my eye: here's a line from the 1905 census, listing Fannie Levine as Barnett's mother:

Had I found our family name? It would make sense --- I inherited my status as a Levy through the male line; "Green" and "Levine" rhyme, so it would be plausible that someone looking for a name that sounds "less Jewish" to make that choice. I was so excited when I found this that I sent an email off to my mother: "I am 99% confident I know what our name was before it was Greene"

On the other hand, when I looked at my grandfather Abe's birth certificate I saw that Ida's maiden name was Levin(e?), and given how the census was administered, it's also likely that Fanny was Ida's mother, not Barnett's. And, in fact, when I took a closer look at the 1910 census, I saw that Fanny (this time spelled with a "y") was listed as "mother-in-law." (Evidence that I found later definitively reinforces that Fanny was Ida's mother.)

So here's a perfect example of how even seemingly primary sources can, in fact, be not just slightly inaccurate but out-and-out wrong.

And on that cautionary note, we'll end for today.
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Andrew M. Greene

January 2013


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