Tuesday, September 30, 2008

                                                              Israel Isaacs (~1802-1875) of Lomza-Suwalki and New York and his family

              Back in the early 1960's, I started asking my paternal grandfather, Joseph Nydorf ('Pop' to me) about the history of his family. He knew little about his father's side but a good deal about his mother's relatives. One branch was called the Isaacs and they had this name, unusual for Polish Jews, even in Europe. The first of the Isaacs to come to America. a long time before the Civil War, was Pop's great-great uncle who went to the far north to trade with the natives for furs. During the Gold Rush of 1848 other members of the family came to the US so that Pop's maternal grandmother, Sore (Sarah) was the only one of the Isaacs family left in Europe. In the late 1970's I got in touch with Pop's maternal first cousin Ida Reimer who told pretty much the same story.

            One question that I had was what the exact form of the name in Europe. Back then good references on Jewish surnames did not exist but this has changed in the last few years with the publications of Alexander Beider. When his "Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland" came out, I looked to see if any names like Isaacs were used by Polish Jews. The closest matches were Izaak, used in Lomza, Kolno and Konstantynow, Izaakowski, used in Suwalki, and Izakowski used in Lomza. Pop's famly lived in Radzilow as well as Lomza, Kolno and Suwalki. The first mention of my great-great uncle is in 1827 and there the name is spelled Isaac, without an 's', so the European form of the name was probably Izaak.

           It should be noted that the communities of Lomza, Kolno and Suwalki were geographically close and frequently intermarried. The three names Izaak, Izaakowski and Izakowski are virtually variants of each other and may go back to a single name. So it is possible that all the bearers of these names were related.   

          Also in 2003, I found that it was easy to look up things in the US censuses on the internet. I tried looking for people with the last name Isaacs and the first names of my grandfather's great-grandfather and great-uncles. To my surprise the US census for 1850 showed that Jno. Isaacs aged 48, Moses Isaacs, 32, and Harris Isaacs, 27 were living in Sacramento California, Gold Rush country. They were merchants and had come from Poland. I was astonished: My grandfather's grandfather was named Jonas (Yeyne) Isaacs and he had brothers named Moses and Harris.

             This inspired me to look for an Isaacs who had come from Poland, years earlier and was a furrier. I soon found one, Israel Isaacs, who is mentioned in the US censuses for New York City from 1830 through 1870. The same Israel Isaacs is mentioned in other sources. In looking for records for anyone, you have to make sure that you are not confusing different people with same name. This is not a problem in the earliest sources because there is only one Israel Isaacs in New York in 1830 and he is one of only two Polish Jewish householders. Later it gets harder because more Isreal Isaacses appear in New York; there is already a second Israel Isaacs by 1857. Also, names are not always spelled the same. This is true even in the censuses but there you can confirm that you are dealing with the same person by checking that the names of his wife and children are the same from one census to the next and that his age is conistent.

               The earliest mention of Israel Isaacs, is in the  register of the ship Elizabeth which sailed from Liverpool and arrrived in New York on June 8, 1827. Here his name is given as Israel Isaac with no 's'. He is decribed as 21 years old, and a tailor from Russia (Radzilow was in the part of Poland then under Russian rule). Right after him at the end of the register is Aaron Levy, 36, a furrier also from Russia and Isabella Levy, 24 a tailor from England. Although, at the time Israel is listed as a tailor, he is travelling with an older countryman who is a furrier and who could have introduced him to the business.

                    The next mention is in the records of Congregation Bnai Jeshurun of New York. On September 2, 1829, Israel Isaacs the son of Isaac married Sarah Cohen or Kahn. Sarah's parents were Jacob and Ester from England. Israel is said to be 27 years old and his wife's age is given as 22.

          The first mention of Sarah I found was from February 11, 1829 when she arrived in New York aboard the Cambria from London with her mother Ester described as a matron, 58 years old.

              Sarah and Israel would have six children: Ester born in 1832, Catherine in 1835, Hannah in 1837, Isaac in 1838, Abraham in 1840, and Rebecca in 1845. These names also give some more information about the parents of Sarah and Israel. Sarah's mother Ester who was born in about 1777 would have died by the time her granddaughter Ester was born in 1832. Her father Jacob seems to have lived past 1840 since no grandson got his name. Israel's mother may have been named Kreyndl (which often becomes Catherine in English) or Hannah.

       Israel evidently did well in business because by 1870 his house was valued at about $2,000. In 1857 his home address was 160 Varick St. Later it was 548 Greenwich St.

           It is possible to follow the lives of some of Israel's children in the censuses. Rebecca and Hannah (Anna or Annie) stayed in New York living with their parents. Rebecca married Benjamin B. Jacobson who was born in Holland in about 1842 and immigrated to the US in 1872. He is described in the census as a travelling salesman. From IRS records it appears that Israel may have had a business partnership with him going back to the 1860's. Rebecca and Benjamin had a son, Nehamia Benjamin Jacobson on November 27, 1882. At least from 1888, the Jacobsons lived together with their widowed mother Sarah and unmarried sister Hannah at 340 W. 45th st., a building that is still standing.

            Benjamin who went into the antiques business died on October 2, 1915 at the age of 73. His son Nehamia married Lena Schwartz, a long time family servant from Germany who was 10 years older than him. Nehamia worked as an insurance agent and he and Lena were still living in the same place during W W II    

              I may have found two of the other children in the 1870 US census for Louisville, Kentucky. This lists an Adams Isaacs, 28, a cigarmaker born in New York. Adams who had a wife, Fanny, 25  born in Prussia, and two children Jake, 3, and Katie, 9 months, may have been Abraham. He is living with a brother Isaac, 32, who is unmarried. His profession is hard to decipher but I think he was a druggist. This Isaac Isaacs is the same age that Israel's son, who was born in 1838, would have been. His brother Adams could be Abraham who was born in 1840. The ages don't agree but the discrepancy is only one or two years and may represent an error.  
              I am currently looking for records of Israel's brothers who were in Sacramento in 1850 including my great-great-great-grandfather Jonas Isaacs. I believe that by 1860 all were living in New York.            

1 comment:

Terry said...

Hi Chuck,
Roy and I are back from Italy (where we had a nice visit from your sister) and I've finally had a chance to read your blog. It's fascinating! You're finding some amazing historical records. Do you have any of this in a standard genealogical format? It's hard for me to figure out relationships in a narrative form like this - being a visual person I find that seeing a chart is clearer. I'm working on posting my family tree on ancestry.com and want to include as much as the Nydorf information as I can.
Hope you and Eleanor are well. Thanks for your posts!