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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Finding the shtetl where an ancestor came from

MR asked
I am trying to locate the shtetl my grandmother, Fannie (Fanny) Cohen Yudien (Yudin) came from.

Fannie was born February 12,1893 and according to family information, she came to the U.S. when she was about 5 years old from Russia/Poland. Her father's name was Morris and her mother's name is unknown. Her stepmother's name was Jennie (Chainie/Shayne/Jenney) Meyerson.

According to (April 22) 1910 US Federal Census Records (for Morris F. Cohen): Fannie (they have her listed as Frances, but I think the census taker must have confused her with my grandfather's stepchildren because "Fannie" is listed as only 6, (but my grandmother was born in 1893) and I know this Census was taken after my grandfather's second marriage to Jenny (it says, "M2" indicating second marriage, married for "0" years) and "Fannie" not "Frances" was about 17 years old. The 6 year old must have been Jennie's child from her first marriage. [I saw her in 1920 Census Report as Fanny Meyerson]). They listed Fannie (my grandmother) as coming in 1899 from Russia, "Pol" (Poland?) was crossed out. Evidently Morris re-married some time between 1909-10.

According to 1920 US Federal Census Records (for Morris Cohen): Her father, Morris Cohen, came from Russia in 1895. (If Fannie arrived in 1899, did she come with her mother a few years after her father emigrated?)

According to the 1930 US Federal Census (for Sam and Fannie Yudien): Fannie was born in Poland. Because of the discrepancy of point of origin--Russia or Poland, I assume the shtetl was near the Polish/Russian border of the time (late 1800's).

According to my grandfather, Sam Yudien's, Petition For Naturalization in 1918, Fannie was born in "Ustalenky, Russia" (is this a shetl or a region/province?). I assume that this location was written phonetically because I can't find this location. On JewishGen.org, in searching for shtetls, I found similar names (at least similar to my American ear!): Ust'Tsilenskiy Rayon (region of Republic of Komki, Russia, 825.8 miles from Moskow) and Ustye-Zelenoye (in the Ukraine). I used a text-to-speech reader, Expressivo online to listen to the pronunciation. However, neither of these locations are near the Polish border.

So, my questions: 1. How do I find the real shetl and how do I find a family that has a very common last name (Cohen) in the Russian Empire?

2. How do I locate the ship Fannie/Morris arrived on? I have gone into the immigration/ships listings found on Ancestry.com, but there are so many Morris Cohen's, and I couldn't find anything that would match the criteria for Fannie (or Fannie) Cohen. (as an additional note, besides Meyer and Clara (born in U.S.), my grandmother had a full brother, Charlie Cohen, probably born in Russia also).

Olive Tree Answer:

The last sentence was the most important. No matter how impartial we strive to be, it is a fact that it is far easier to trace men than women.

I suggest you follow the brother Charles. Or whatever his original first name was. You may want to read my post "Finding an Ancestor Who Disappears

Find the 1900 census for the Morris Cohen family. This may be crucial as Morris' first wife may be there. If she is, then you can work on the assumption that she died in NY, and look for her death information. I use the census records on
Ancestry.com but Footnote,comicon also has many online.

You should also look for Morris' second marriage license. Occasionally, people did fill in their actual birthplaces.

Did Morris or Charles apply for naturalizations? Footnote.comicon has Naturalization Records online. Also see NaturalizationRecords.com website for free Naturalization Records and other citizenship papers

And do not assume a birthplace of Russia or Poland or anything in between until you have exhausted all other avenues of research. Reigns and realms and borders changed; names of countries changed; people supplied whatever answer to the census-taker they thought expedient.

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