The Nathanson Newsletter 1998
January 1, 1998
Publisher: Norbert H. Nathanson
Greetings and Happy New Year to all Nathanson Family members. If this first newsletter reaches you, either you or your children are descended from Ephraim Judah Natanzon of Talnoye (Talna) in what is now the Ukraine and was formerly a part of the U.S.S.R. Each year I promise myself that I will publish all of my data on the descendants of Ephraim Judah (there are more than 500 of us) and make it available to any who want to have it, and this I will do, but each year something delays my plans and, since I have been promising for a few years now, I am taking this way of providing you, in the interim, with just a bit of information about who we all are and what has been happening in my search for our family history. Most importantly, I want to thank each of you with whom I have been in touch for your interest and your cooperation. Clearly in such an undertaking mistakes are made and memories fail. Although the following is but an overview, if you note inaccuracies or omissions, I would appreciate your notifying me. I am interested in receiving additional family names, birth, death, marriage and divorce dates and family stories which will provide some sense of the person and add to the family history. I am particularly anxious to have the addresses of every living relative, so please send me the addresses of everyone you know who would be interested in receiving a newsletter or adding to the data. I want to make it clear however, that this is a last appeal and that that phase of my research which has to do with actively pursuing the history of the descendants is almost completed and I will spend my time in the future in pursuit of information about our antecedents and in organizing my material into a reasonably understandable publication which will of course, include all of the addresses as well as a family tree chart measuring roughly 3 ft. x 6 ft.
How All This Began
Approximately six years ago I set out to satisfy a curiosity which, in my youth, my father had been unable to satisfy. When I was old enough to wonder and asked him where his father and mother had come from, he was only able to tell me that they came from Russia and had experienced a difficult time getting here. Being the only son of my Grandfather Nathans second family, born in the United States along with two sisters, he knew nothing of the Russian life of his father. His three half-brothers and three half-sisters had lived in Uman in the Ukraine before fleeing the terrors of the pogroms, emigrating here in 1893 with their father when the youngest was only about twelve after their mother, Rivka, had died of tuberculosis in Russia. (It is said that Rivka was of the family Altman, the same as the famous New York City department store. The two brothers who founded the store were both bachelors.)
Apparently, was there little time or interest in discussing the Russian experience in those days, when the first priority was to become American, learn the language and make a living. When Nathan died in Pittsburgh on the first day of Yom Kippur in 1913, my father was only 12 years old and had had little opportunity to learn of his fathers life in Russia. Thus, when I had asked him to tell me about his family, he had little to offer me.
Although the matter came to mind frequently during my life, it was not until I retired that I decided that I wanted to address the question: Who were the Nathansons?; From where did they come?; What kind of lives did they lead? The more I read about the life and times of Jews in Eastern Europe, the more I wanted to know about how my ancestors had survived and lived. Unfortunately, that information was not easy to come by. It is one thing to study the history and the times; it is quite another to place specific persons in them.
My first efforts to trace my ancestors back in time were unsuccessful; I encountered problems at every turn. The information I possessed was too little to unlock the available data banks and I was too inexperienced at the complex process of genealogical research, so I made a decision to search in the reverse direction, identifying living Nathansons and interviewing them for their knowledge and memories of the past in the hope that that would lead me back in time in Russia.. Unfortunately, I began too late. Those who had knowledge had passed away and as a family, perhaps not so uniquely on the American scene, we had been so involved in being Americans, the oldest of us already second generation Americans, that the family stories of our elders were, for the most part, already lost. In the absence of first person witnesses, such research requires the use of the old public records, Polish, Russian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian and others. Documents which reveal the lives of those long gone and little known are only now beginning to become available to genealogists, but only to those who can visit the locations in Eastern Europe and spend the time necessary for research and translations or who can pay to have it done. In that context, should any of you plan journeys to Israel or the Ukraine, please get in touch with me before you go and perhaps you can do a bit of family history research.
In the efforts of six-plus years however, I have compiled the identities and relationships of more than 500 Nathanson family members, seven generations, who are descended from Ephraim Judah Natanzon of Talnoye (Talna), Ukraine, and it has been an interesting experience, meeting so many of you and finding one or two who had lost all connection to family spread across the world.
Ephraim Judah Natanzons Family
I have been able to document that Ephraim Judah Natanzon had at least four sons and one daughter. They were Benzion, Nathan, Chiam (Hyman), Mordecai and Ida. Although Ive not yet been able to document the arrival dates, with the exception of Mordecai, they all came to the United States. Ida married Joseph Bernstein (Boronstein?) (probably in Russia) and had a very large family and settled in Baltimore as did Hyman. Benzion settled in Pittsburgh and so did Nathan, after first living in Baltimore. Nathan had a total of nine children, Benzion had 7, Hyman had 9, Mordecai had 6, and Ida had 8.
In Baltimore, Nathan met and married Sophia Halfurt and four of Nathans six, children lived in the same household with their stepmother and their two new half-siblings. The 1900 U.S. Census reports that the four first-family siblings Belle, 19, David, 17, Rosa, 15, and Morris, 13, lived with their father and step-mother at 14 Exeter Street in Baltimore, MD. and that Sadie and Samuel, my father, had been born. It is possible that Ida may also have lived with the family until her marriage , before 1900.
Ida may have been the first to marry, wedding Philip Rose, whom she later divorced and eventually married Isadore Cooper. Max also wed, to Laura Hoffman and it was not too long before Belle married Jacob Chussitts, and Rosa married Nathan Deemer. David and Morris followed their oldest brother Max, (M.J.) as did his father with his new wife and children, to Pittsburgh. David married Pauline White in Pittsburgh in 1903. Max by that time, had established himself in clothing sales and initially his father worked for him making pants, as did his brothers and sisters. Max subsequently moved to Cleveland, OH and eventually established Lyons Tailors which became a very large and successful business in which both Morris and David were involved.
Sylvia, Nathans final child, was born in Pittsburgh in 1904. Morris married Helen Klausner in Cleveland, OH in 1915... Following Nathans death in 1913, Sadie, Sam and Sylvia lived with their mother in Pittsburgh. Sadie was the first to marry, about 1916, to Morris Speer, a small businessman who early in life contracted tuberculosis and died young. Sylvia married Jack Simon in 1923; she still lives in Pittsburgh at the age of 93. Sam married Louise Haisch, a gentile, in 1925, probably the first mixed marriage in a family that was to see many such events in later years. On a personal note, Sam and Louise were my parents and although I was always close to my fathers family, participating as a child in the religious holidays, I was nevertheless raised as a Christian. For those who wonder why then, I am so involved with tracing a Jewish family, the explanation is quite simple. Its not about religion, its about family. I want to know everyone involved. I have traced my mothers German heritage back to 1728; I want to do the same for my fathers.
It is not clear who was the first family member to arrive in the United States although there is good reason to believe it may have been Max, for two reasons; he was without question the most enterprising and entrepreneurial family member of his generation and thus the most likely to have braved the uncertainties of emigrating to America, and, until additional information surfaces, information in the 1920 United States Census indicates he arrived here in 1892, a year before his father arrived. It is however, possible that Ida and Joseph Bernstein preceded him.
Family of Benzion
It is not known when Benzion (Benjamin) Nathanson entered the United States. His eldest son, Abraham, was naturalized in 1911 and would have had to be here for five years previously. Inasmuch as Nathan moved his family to Pittsburgh about 1903-4, Benzion may have followed Nathan to Pittsburgh. Once there, he worked at cigar-making and through the years had small cigar and/or candy shops. He married Golda Deemer, the sister of Nathan Deemer who married Nathans daughter Rosa. Benzion and Golda had seven children: Abe, Sarah, David, Philip, Harry, Zelda and Ann.
Abe married Anna Bernstein who was a granddaughter of his fathers sister Ida. He was a pharmacist in Pittsburgh and later in Washington, DC at Dupont Circle. Sarah married Sam Cramer, a businessman who had a store in Pittsburgh where they lived. David married Ella Sachs and also lived in Pittsburgh and Harry married Rose Mervis. Zelda married Max Kaplan and lived in Pittsburgh. In the 30s, she was a passenger on the luxury liner Morro Castle which burned just off the coast of New Jersey. Zelda swam to safety. Ann married David Olbum in Pittsburgh and presently lives there at the age of 91.
According to the 1920 Census, Hyman arrived in 1899. He married Lillie (last name unknown) and they had 9 children: Julius, Samuel, David, Joseph, Meyer, Rose, Saul, Reba, and Eugene.
Information on Hymans family is limited inasmuch as those descendents who have been available to contact have either not known the requested information, or have been unable to locate records in their possession which contain the data. If you can identify a descendant of any of Hymans children by name, address or phone number, please send it to me.
We know that Samuel married Jenny Feinberg, and Rose married a Mr. Buckner. No spousal information on the others is in hand although in some instances their children are known, but not thereabouts.
Mordecai is the only one of Ephraim Judahs children who did not emigrate. His wifes name was Gittel and they had six children; Leah, two sisters who are unknown, Gershon, Velvel and David. Leah, Gershon and Velvel came to the United States. Gershons wife was Gertrude and Velvels wife was Sophia. Leah married Issac Nadich. (see Rabbi Nadich)
Although not documented, Ida may have married either in Russia or in Baltimore. She married Joseph Bernstein (Boronstein?) and they had eight children: Abraham, David, Phillip , Maurice, Joseph, Eva, Belle and Fannie. Josephs wife was Sarah (last name not known), Eva married a Lehrman, Belle married Max Samakow, and Fannie married Joseph Alper. Inasmuch as Joseph also had a son named Joseph, it is assumed that in keeping with the Askanazi naming tradition, Joseph was the Americanization of their Hebrew names. Those whom I would like to contact are descendants of the following: Abraham, David, Phillip, Maurice, Eva and Belle.
The process of pursuing a genealogical history of a family is an extremely complex, but plodding activity. What motivates one to begin is usually some casual curiosity, but as one becomes involved it becomes a veritable treasure hunt, a jig-saw puzzle which is impossible to ignore. One sometimes searches for months, even years, for particular pieces of the puzzle which will make sense out of the data already in hand. For a couple of years, although I knew that Ephraim had four sons, I knew the names of only two of them, Nathan and Benzion. I knew of Hymans existence, and who his children were, and that he belonged to the family, but I did not know not where he fit into the family. Of Mordecai I knew nothing, not even the name.
In the course of my search, however, I had made the acquaintance of Bennett Nathanson, the grandson of Benzion. Bennett became interested in my search and told me that when he was married some forty-odd years ago, the Rabbi who had married him, Rabbi Judah Nadich, had mentioned that his own mother was a Nathanson. After a long search, I was fortunate to find Rabbi Nadich (now in his 80s), in New York City where he is Rabbi Emeritus at the beautiful Park Avenue Synagogue. After a few phone calls and letters, I learned that he was named after Ephraim Judah and I spent a fascinating afternoon with him in his office in New York as he unraveled the mystery of the two unknown brothers, one of whom was Mordecai, Leah Nathanson Nadichs father and his own grandfather. He also told me that Hyman was Mordecais brother and that he had known him as a child in Baltimore. It was then clear that the Rabbi and I were second cousins. In addition, he told me of the family of Mordecai, of those who had come here and those who did not and through him, I have been able to establish contact with another grandson of Mordecai, another second cousin, Mikhail Natanzon, who lives in Bila Cervka in the Ukraine. Thus far I have had the pleasure of meeting two of Mikhail (Mark)s friends who live in Brooklyn, exchanged letters with two others who live in Virginia, and exchanged letters with Mark in which I have learned of his family and of relatives now alive in Israel. I am hoping that perhaps through this new contact I might learn something more about the life and times of Ephraim Judah, and perhaps even about his forebears
About Norbert Nathanson
Perhaps a few words about myself are in order. I am now 71 years old, married to the former Barbara DeSandis, and have two children. Our daughter Jessica is married to Daniel Weinstein and they are both completing their doctoral studies in Buffalo, NY. Our son Jared is currently building a career as a multi/media artist/designer in Boston, MA.
My career was a mixture of service in higher education, government and public broadcasting. I have taught in two major universities, served in both state and federal education departments, and held creative, developmental and administrative posts in public broadcasting in Pittsburgh, Washington, DC, St. Louis, New York City and Schenectady, NY, where we reside. We are currently in hopes of selling our house, in a very bad real estate market, at which time we will take the genealogical effort on the road in our small travel trailer and try to meet as many of you as possible.
My new computer program has the capability of including pictures along with genealogical data. If you have pictures of anyone named in this newsletter, would you please have a copy made for me? If you do send photos, please be sure to write, on the back and at the bottom, the name of the person and the date and place of the photo if you know it.
I can be reached at:
48 Saturday Cove Road, Northport, ME 04849
207 338 6481
I look forward to hearing from any relatives interested in my efforts. If you have family who should be on my mailing list and in my data bank, please forward their names and addresses.
For additional copies of newsletter send self addressed, stamped envelope to above address. To receive Newsletter by Email attachment, contact me and include your snail mail address..