2012-08-24 / Letters

Got Me Thinking

Dear Editor,

After reading your “Rockaway Beat” a few weeks ago, I thought I would add my two cents since I also have a large family tree which seems to get larger and larger. If you want you can use the following for “The Rockaway Beat” or “It”s My Turn” column, etc:

Where do I come from? I have a large extended familly on my mother’s side and it keeps getting larger day by day. More about that below.

After reading Howie Schwach’s “Rockaway Beat” column a few weeks ago and the story about his family, and where they came from, I think my story might be of interest as well. I always was interested in where we came from because I think it is so important to know your family history.

We have known for years that my grandfather, Jacob Levine, came from Lithuania to escape the Czar’s army, so we were told. At that time, in the late 1890’s, he was already married to my grandmother, Fannie, whom he left in Europe with one very young child while he came to America. This was not unusual in that time. My grandmother and her first child, Henrietta, arrived about 1903 and they lived in Brooklyn. They subsequently had nine more children, my mother Anne being the third oldest. At this point in time only one child is still here and that is my uncle, Harold Levine, age 95, who lives in Florida and is still sharp as a tack.

My grandfather was one of six children, three boys and three girls. My grandfather and his brother Herman and sister Sarah came to the United States. One brother went to South Africa and one sister to what was then Rhodesia. We are not sure about the third sister. In any event we know there is a large Levine family in South Africa and had met my grandfather’s brother Max and several members of his extended family when they came to the U.S. at different times. They own one of the largest architectural firms in S.A. The sister in Rhodesia, her family is now in Israel and the sister Sarah died shortly before I was born and I am named for her. She lived in Arverne.

As for my grandmother Fannie, both a brother and sister went to England. At one point in the mid-’50s, or so, her nephew took her to London to see her family who, at that time, she hadn’t seen in 52 years.

But to get back to Grandpa Jacob’s family. Several years ago one of my South African cousins contacted one of my cousins, we are 23 first cousins from the ten children of Fannie and Jacob, that he was doing a genealogy of the family and he has subsequently provided us with a 21-page history of the Levine family going back to Jacob’s great-great grandfather. While all of that information is interesting, the most fascinating thing is that we found we have relatives in Australia and Ireland among other places. With doctors and rabbis abounding. Little did we know how scattered was the Levine family.

Now, about six months ago I received a call from a fellow in Florida, (let’s call him Jerry) doing a genealogy of the family and he was looking for us. Since I had never heard his name before (it was not Levine) I was very cautious about giving out information and so I asked him a few pertinent questions about our family connection and how he got to me. How did he know we were related and how far back was the connection to Jacob Levine’s family?

We kept going back generation after generation and found that our second or third great-grandfathers were brothers and that he was related on his mother’s side. Her last name was Levin, which we feel may have been the family name all along and somewhere along the way part of us became Levines. “Jerry” lives in Florida and so I called my uncle Harold and the two of them met and had a wonderful time.

Now I have found, through “Jerry,” a whole additional family who come from Wisconsin by way of Lithuania, it’s just mind boggling. They didn’t know about us and we didn’t know about them. “Jerry” also found family living in Canada and one family in Oregon. Through him we find out that there is family in Argentina and goodness knows where else.

When I am in Florida at the end of the year I will meet “Jerry” and we will compare notes. From my 23 first cousins, just on my mother’s side, who now have children and grandchildren of their own, our family has exploded by leaps and bounds and I’m interested in knowing more about my new relatives to add to our family tree.

While I don’t know quite so much about my father’s family, the Gabriel’s, my dad kept a family history of who was born when and where, who married whom and births and deaths, in the back of a dictionary that he received as a Bar Mitzvah gift in approximately 1920. From this dictionary I do know that my father’s grandfather on his mother’s side, Morris Emanuel, was born in Neinstadt, Germany on November 26, 1850 and he died in New York City on September 18, 1905 at age 55. In 1871 he married Rebecca Isaacs and they had five children, my father’s mother Rachel (Ray) being one of them. Whether Morris had brothers and sisters we do not know, nor do we know how and why he was in London when he married Rebecca or when they came to America.

There is a lot more history to be found out and we are working on it.

As to my mother and father meeting, well when the Gabriel’s and the Levine’s moved to Rockaway sometime in the early 1920s they just happened to move in right next to each other on Beach 86 Street. There are probably very few men who can say that their mother-in-law was to their Bar Mitzvah, but that’s what happened with my father.

So you see, we come from many places but have called Rockaway home for over 90 years. Where do you come from?


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