This project contains many photographs. I have kept the file sizes small to minimize the download time, but to those of you with slow telephone modems, I apologize for the length of time it may take to load these pages.
This has been a labor of love for me. Since retiring several months ago, I find that I have the time to do this kind of thing. Having been a photographer for all of my adult life, I have taken many pictures of my family over the years. I have been going through closets and I have found treasure troves of pictures that I had forgotten even existed. And, during a recent visit to my sister, Carol, I was given a photo album that was filled with old photos of parents, grand parents and even some of a great-grandparent that filled in missing gaps in our family history.
The accounts given here are from memory and may not be entirely accurate. I am 70 years old as I put this together and while I may not be senile at the moment, I often have trouble remembering what I had for breakfast a few hours before. So, please bear with me if I have gotten some facts or dates wrong. Where I am sure of the date, I will state the date in the text or caption. If I am not sure of the date, I will take an educated guess and will state the date as circa something or other.
When my children were young and going to school, they had to write reports on their family tree. It amazed me that I could only go back one or two generations on both sides of my family. I suppose that this was due, mostly, to the fact that both sets of grandparents had emigrated to America from Europe and a lot of family history was lost in the transition. That's a shame. However, with the advent of the computer and digital photography, everyone can take pictures and record the history of their families. I hope that my efforts here will serve to be a base for my grandchildren and their descendants to continue to record their lineage.
I hope that you enjoy this as much as I have enjoyed putting it together.
I wish you all a long and happy life.
The furthest back that I can go with my family are my parents' parents. Beyond that I have no knowledge. Both sets of grandparents fled Europe to escape persecution. My father's parents came here from Austria before World War I. There were no Nazi's then, but Jews were the targets of everyone's dissatisfaction with the government, the economy or any social bump in the road. My mother's parents came here from Russia to escape the pogroms of the Cossacks during the reign of Tsar Nicholas.
Both sets of grandparents came through Ellis Island. There is a story that I remember from childhood, about how my maternal family name came to be Sherman. My grandfather, Avram, came to America first, sending for his wife, Yetta, after he found a place to live and a job to support them.
When he understood what the question was, my grandfather nodded.
"Your American first name will be Abraham." he was told. "What is your last name?"
My grandfather didn't understand.
"Your last name! You know, your family name! What is the name of your family?"
Poor grandpa. Even with someone translating, he couldn't answer the question. In Russia, Jews had no last names.
"What were you called?" asked the inspector?
"Avram," he said. "Avram ben Yitsak." In English, that translated to Abraham, son of Isaac. Just as in biblical times, Jews were know by their first name and then son of whoever the father was. And girls were Felda bas Gittel. Felda, daughter of Gittel.
When the inspector finally realized what my grandfather was trying to say, he told him emphatically, "You have to have a last name in America. You can't just be the son of someone. Everyone in America has a family name."
He asked my bewildered ancestor. "What did you do in Russia? What was your job?"
Grandpa replied, "I sheared sheep for their wool."
"Then," said the government official, "Your last name will be Shearman, Abraham Shearman." With that, he filled out a document, stamped it and grandpa had a last name. Eventually it became Sherman. I don't know how accurate my dialogue is, but, I have always enjoyed telling that story, so let it be so.
This is Baba. Her name was Leah Pressman and she was my Great-Grandmother on my Mother's side. I have dim memories of an incredibly ancient woman who always wore a babushka (head scarf). She also wore an apron and kept pieces of bread in her pocket. It wasn't to feed birds, I was told. Baba had lived through Russian famines and deprivation due to pogroms. Now that she was in America, she didn't ever want to be without a crust of bread.
Baba spoke not one word of English. She conversed with her daughter, Grandma Sherman, and my mother, her granddaughter, in Yiddish.
There were three sisters. The eldest was Rose. Then my mother, and then Ila. My grandmother owned and operated a small grocery on Manhattan's East Side. She would commute there before dawn on the subway and return home well after dark to take care of the house. This included stoking the furnace in the dank cavern of a cellar and hauling out huge cans of ashes to the curb.
Living near-by was Grandma Sherman's sister, Gussie and her husband, Dave Needelman and their son, Isadore, whom we called Irving.
Of my father's family, I have very little knowledge. There seemed to be no pictures and there were few oral references. Fortunatly, when my Aunt Hilda Kraus heard of my problem she promptly sent me a wealth of great photos, some of which I include here.
My grandfather died either before I was born or shortly thereafter. I have no memory of him. I remember my grandmother being very austere and unemotional. She was an aristocratic looking woman and I remember her having white, white hair. We all lived in the Bronx and I remember my mother taking me to visit her. We would take a trolley, I recall. She lived on Grand Concourse in one of the many new art-deco apartment buildings that were the rage in the '30's. They were a large family. My father was the youngest. His parents went back to Austria to visit while my grandmother was pregnant with him. He was born in Austria, and I believe that he held dual citizenship. Pop had an older brother, Jack. And, four sisters; Anna, Helen, Hilda and Ruth. Aunt Hilda is still alive, as of this writing, and living in Connecticut. Aunt Anna was married to Sol Goldschmidt and Uncle Jack was married to Jean. The three unmarried sisters still lived at home with their mother and I do remember that they made the household very lively. Helen and Ruth married much later in life.
Here are some more family photos from the 1920's and 1930's.
The end of Ancestors.