Saturday, June 16, 2012

Surprising Discovery in the New York Census

Meckler Family in 1915 New York Census
After my recent less-than-successful foray into the new New York censuses on I decided to give it a rest for a few days.  Today I was ready to face the databases again, so I searched some more in the 1915, 1925, and 1940 censuses for family members.

The first ones I found were my mother's parents in 1940.  I knew my mother wouldn't be listed because she was born in November 1940, and the census was taken earlier in the year.  But my grandmother was pregnant with her at the time of the census, so she was kind of there.

I found my grandmother's parents in 1915 in Manhattan, and my great-great-grandfather (my great-grandfather's father) was living with them.  He had immigrated to the U.S. just one year earlier, in 1914.  He died in January 1925, so I know I won't find him in that census.  My great-grandparents did not yet have any children in the household in 1915; during that census, my great-grandmother was pregnant with my grandmother's oldest brother, who would be born in December.

I also found my grandmother's other grandparents in 1915, again in Manhattan (they lived on Madison Avenue).  Of their seven children, two were still living at home.  In the 1925 census, I found the youngest child married and with a family of his own.

I found my grandfather with his family in 1925 in Brooklyn.  Five of the six children were in the household; the oldest daughter was already married and had children (haven't found her yet).  But the really interesting find was for my grandfather's family in 1915.

It took me a while to find the family.  The name was Meckler, but no matter what wildcards I tried in my search they did not show up.  So I tried using first names only, and voila!  There was the "Macklin" family.  When I looked at the page, I agreed that's what it looked like.  I don't know if it was a communication problem or whether my great-grandfather was trying out a different version of the name.  Family members at various times used Mekler, Mackler, and even Miller.

I was always told that my great-grandmother had had seven children, four born in Europe and three here.  My grandfather was the first child born in the new country.  I was told that little Rubin had died as a young child before the family had immigrated.  But what did I find in 1915?

The family consisted of Morris, Minnie, Sarah, Sam, and Harry, all born in Russia, and Abie (my grandfather) and Rubie, born in the U.S.

What?!  Rubin was born here?

See, I had figured I would never find any records for Rubin.  The part of Russia these family members were from (which is now in Belarus) saw almost all of its Jewish records destroyed during World War II.  There's practically nothing left.  I thought the fact that I even knew Rubin had existed put me ahead of the game.

But I always tell people to try to get every record you can, because you never know what you will find.  And as most of my friends can tell you, I am not one of those "do as I say, not as I do" people.  I definitely follow my own advice in this.  And I'm so glad I did this time in particular.

When I found Rubin with the family in 1915, I figured the gist of the story was still true, and he probably did die very young.  So I went to Steve Morse's Web site and used his New York City death index search.  Little Rubin died on June 11, 1915, just ten days after the census was taken.  He was one year old.

Of course I'm going to order a copy of the death certificate.  I have no idea where Rubin is buried, and that should be on the certificate.  I've searched in all the cemetery databases listed on the Museum of Family History Web site, on JOWBR, and on FindAGrave with no success.  Now that I've found him, I want to make sure Rubin is remembered.

Oh, remember the two pregnancies I mentioned earlier?  In the 1915 census, my great-grandmother Minnie was pregnant with her next child, Florence, who would be born in December of that year.


  1. Well done you! Glad you followed your own advice in this one. As we both know, family stories have a way of sometimes being proved false in the small details. People's memories are "plastic" - hard copies of official records are not.

  2. And those small details can sometimes make all the difference. Sometimes it's good to be obsessive. (Even though official records aren't always 100% accurate either!)


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