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ABRAHAM GROSSMAN and LENA BERNSTEIN

Abraham Grossman was born in Lapy, Russia (now Poland) on July 10, 1867 and immigrated to the United States about 1888. We have heard that he had ancestors or relatives in Hungary, or in a part of Hungary which is now in Poland. He went to New York, where he is said to have met and, in about 1891, married Lena Bernstein, who was born in Suvalch, Poland on May 20, 1867.

However, it turns out that Abe and Lena were married, not in New York City, where we thought Lena's parents lived, but in Los Angeles County in California. The only record we have of their marriage does not list their parents' names, but it is unmistakably them. At the time of their marriage application on February 18, 1891, A.B.Grossman was living in Puente in Los Angeles County, and Lena Borenstein [sic] was living in the city of Los Angeles.

What were they doing in Los Angeles at that time? How did they get there? Was there even a Jewish Community in Los Angeles before 1900? We do not know how Abe and Lena ended up getting married in Los Angeles, but we do know that there was definitely a Jewish Community in Los Angeles by then. In fact, there were enough Jews for a minyan in Los Angeles by about 1853-1854. For an interesting historical timeline of the Jewish presence in Los Angeles, see the following page:

http://home.earthlink.net/~nholdeneditor/timelinea.htm

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
 
The Grossman surname is historically an Ashkenazi Jewish or a German name meaning a large man. One author suggests it may have been a translation of the Hebrew name Gedalia, meaning a great man of G-d. Our Grossman Y-dna results indicate that our paternal ancestors, unlike most ancient Jewish ancestral lines, seem to have migrated into Eurasia after the end of the last glacial expansion thousands of years ago, and then spread around Europe. This separation would have taken place many thousands of years before the Torah was given at Mt. Sinai, so it seems likely that, somewhere along the way many generations ago, one of our male ancestors converted to Judaism.
 
If you want to know if your ancestors were Jewish, see the section below, Is Grossman a Jewish Surname?.
With regards to our own family history, Abe and Lena had their first child, David Isaac Grossman, in La Puente, California in 1892. By 1895, the family had moved to Seattle, Washington, where they had their daughter Bessie Grossman in 1895, and possibly one other child, Mose (or Elmer), in 1896.

Then, after living in Seattle, where we find listings in the 1895 and 1897 Polk's Seattle Directories for "A. Bernard Grossman", they moved to New Westminster, British Columbia in Canada, where they had two or three more children, Moses (or Elmer), Samuel and Jacob Grossman. Their youngest child, Solomon, who was later known as Emile, was born in New York in 1904.

We had previously wondered whether the whole family had moved to New York by 1904, or if Lena had simply gone to New York alone, visiting her parents when she had Solomon. But we are now fairly certain that the whole family had moved to New York, because Abraham is listed in the 1903 and the 1905 Trow's General Directory of the Buroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx, at the same address listed on Emile's birth certificate in Manhattan, 104 2nd Avenue. There were a lot of Abraham Grossman's listed, but we can be sure this is our Abe because of the address.

Abe Grossman's occupations seem to generally have been in sales or trading of some sort. We find his employment to be "second hand store" in the 1895 directory for Seattle, and as a merchant in the 1901 census in Canada. However, he is said to have been a tinkerer who travelled up and down the West Coast, fixing pots and pans and trading in coins. He is said to have acquired property in or around Moss Landing in California, but to have lost the property when he decided at some point that he did not want to pay taxes any more on what seemed like worthless property at the time.

We do not know when the tinkering nor the acquisition or loss of the property took place, although the property loss seems very likely to have been in the Depression, and the tinkering much earlier.

There is, however, an exception to his employment in trading and sales. He is clearly listed as a presser, which could be a tailor's or laundry presser, in the 1905 Manhattan, New York directory. Now, it is possible he said "pans" and got recorded as "pres," but we have found no other listings for him in New York to compare this to, as any 1906 and 1907 Manhattan residential directories have been difficult to obtain. So, we do not yet know when the family left New York after this; there are too many Abraham Grossmans listed in the 1908 Manhattan directory to be sure whether any of them is our Abe. and he clearly is not listed in the Oakland City Directory for 1908.

THE GROSSMAN'S IN CALIFORNIA

  • Residential Timeline
  • Locations for which we have records
  • 1891-1892 - living Los Angeles County
  • 1895-1897 - living Seattle, Washington
  • 1897-1901 - living New Westminster, BC
  • 1903-1905 - living Manhattan, New York
  • 1910 onwards - living Alameda County
However, Abe and Lena Grossman had definitely moved back to California, and were living in Alameda, California with their five children, by the time of the 1910 Census. Abraham Grossman listed himself as a merchant in 1910, but by 1920 had become a Real Estate Broker.

The Grossman Children - First Generation

As noted above, Abe and Lena's first child was David Isaac Grossman, who was born in La Puente, California in 1892. We had been told by his sister Betty that, unfortunately, she had an older brother who had passed away as a child. And, we have located his death certificate, listed under the name David Dizek [probably Isaac] Grossman, who was about 5 years old when he passed away in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada, in 1897. His birthplace is listed as "Puenty, Cal," which clearly must be a misspelling of Puente, California. His father signed the death certificate "A.B. Grossman" and there was another Abraham B. Grossman living nearby at the same time, originally putting an element of doubt into whether he was our family member. However, Abe's signature on the death certificate matches his signature on his application to marry Lena, so we are sure this is their child.

Their daughter Bessie Grossman, who was born in Seattle Washington on May 20, 1895, later became known as Betty Grossman. She married Morris Lerman, who was born May 21, 1895. Morris apparently owned, or had part ownership of, the Bireley's Beverage Company in Oakland by the 1940's or 1950's. They were living in San Francisco by 1928 or 1929, but had settled in Piedmont, California by 1935. Morris and Betty Lerman had no children.

Mose Elmer Grossman, who was either born in Seattle on August 6, 1896, or in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada in 1898, married Phoebe Leah Blumstein, who was born in London, England, on December 15, 1896. They had three children, all born in Oakland, California: Paul, Sid, and Eleanor, all of whom married and had children. Mose Grossman was in the jewelry business in Oakland, but the family moved to Watsonville, and then Salinas in the 1930's, where he founded Sid's Department Store, specializing in men's clothing.

Samuel Grossman, who was born in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada on June 2, 1899, married Pauline Bradley, who was born in Idaho on March 9, 1916. They had two children in Oakland, California. Sam worked on the longshoreman docks, checking cargo, and also owned a tobacco shop.

John Grossman, who was born July 14, 1901 or 1902, married Florence Shatkin, who was born on August 12, 1901. John is said to have attended law school, and to have worked at the Collection Agency he co-owned. If he did attend law school, it is not reflected in the 1940 census, where he is recorded as having only a high school education. John and Florence Grossman had one son, Bruce David Grossman, who was born in Oakland, California on October 31, 1924. Bruce Grossman married Mary Zoe Akins, and they had one child, Mary Gale Grossman in 1943, but then David passed away due to a tragic accident on June 10, 1948.

David Grossman's wife Mary Zoe Grossman remarried a number of times, having two more children, and finally passed away as Mary Zoe Victor in Washington State on January 22, 1975. Their daughter Mary Gale Grossman married and had children, and passed away in Kent, Washington on October 7, 2006.

Emile Grossman, who was born as Solomon Grossman on February 26, 1904 in New York, was a lawyer and a member of the California Bar Association. He married Irene (Ida) Ethel Tannenbaum, who was born in Denver, Colorado on December 22, 1914. Emile and Irene Grossman had two children, both of whom married and had children.

If you know or are a member of the Grossman family, please note that we are not listing the names of people if they or their siblings are still living, in order to protect the privacy of the living. Our family tree, however, does include the names of deceased relatives, whether or not they are survived by any living siblings, and you can visit it by going to http://blumstein.tribalpages.com, which includes notes and sources, or view the Grossman family branch in our Feldberg Family Tree at Rootsweb, which has better charts for printing.

If you find any errors, have more information you would like to see added to this page, or are a Grossman just wanting to say "hello," please do contact us.

ABRAHAM LEVITT and ANNIE SCHULMAN

Starting around 1950, holidays and special family occasions for our families included visits with the Levitts in San Francisco, who were very distantly related to us by marriage only. Abraham Levitt, who was born in 1878, and passed away in 1972, and his wife Annie Schulman, who was born in 1883 and passed away in 1959, were both born in Russia. Abraham Levitt was a clothing salesman, and was interviewed in the local television news in the 1960's or 1970's as an old-timer who could talk about his memories of the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco.

Abraham Levitt's brother, Samuel Levitt, was the first husband of Mose Grossman's second wife, Edith (nee Kasviner) Levitt. Samuel and Edith Levitt had two children in Southern California in the 1920's, and Abraham and Annie Levitt had three daughters in San Francisco, California about 1910. If you are related to Abraham or Samuel Levitt, please do get in touch with us.

OUR GROSSMAN FAMILY PUZZLES

Lena's father is said to have been a rabbi, and it is quite likely if he truly was a rabbi, and not a sextant or cantor, that he performed the wedding of Abe and Lena. But we do not know, at this point, whether Lena's parents lived in Los Angeles rather than in New York, or possibly moved from one city to the other.

Then, assuming that Lena's father was a rabbi in New York City, the question remains, what was his name? Since Bernstein is a common Jewish name, there also are quite a few Rabbi Bernsteins in New York, and we have not been able to ascertain which one of them could be Lena's father.

There are only three or four Bernsteins listed in the Los Angeles City Directories around the time that Abe and Lena were married. One is clearly not our family as he was not born in Europe. But was Lena related to any of the other three men, Jacob Bernstein, Max Bernstein or Simon Bernstein? This requires more research.

Then there is the question of how and why Abe and Lena each ended up in Los Angeles and La Puente, not that long after they arrived separately in the United States. Some census records indicate that Lena came as a young teenager, while others indicate she arrived about the age of 20. And she went by a variety of first names on various census records, so locating her in the 1880 census, if she arrived before then, has not been possible.

Then, we are not at all sure of where Abe and Lena Grossman's sons Mose, Samuel and John were born. Our family lore has it that Mose Grossman was born in Seattle, Washington, although he is listed in the 1901 Canadian Census as having been born in British Columbia. Family lore also has it that Sam Grossman was born in New York, but he, himself, indicated that he was born in British Columbia, on his World War I Draft Registration card, and he is listed in the 1901 Canadian and 1910 United States Census Records as having been born in British Columbia.

We think that Abraham and Lena Grossman's son Jacob Grossman, who is listed in the 1910 and 1920 US Census Records as having been born in Canada, is probably John Grossman. However, family lore has it that Uncle John was born in New York, so we are not sure.

Jack Grossman is listed in the 1921 Oakland City Directory as being employed as a ship worker at the Union Construction Company, where our Samuel Grossman was also listed as being employed at that time. Jack is probably our John Grossman.

We are continuing to gather data to help with resolving these inconsistencies, and if you have any definitive information or corrections, or wish to assist in scanning or ordering records, please do contact us.

IS GROSSMAN A JEWISH SURNAME?

In our definitely Jewish Grossman family, we do not ask if Grossman is a Jewish surname, but we have written this section to help those of you visiting this page, who wonder if their particular Grossman ancestors were Jewish. While many Jews were given or took the Grossman surname when surnames came into being or when they migrated to a new country, it is not necessarily a Jewish surname.

If you want to find out if a particular ancestor was Jewish, and no one in your family knows for sure, or you want to document Jewish ancestry, your research techniques will be the same as anyone else wanting to find out about their ancestry. You will need to put your hands on every document you can find for the most distant ancestor in your Grossman line, and study these documents to see the nationality, ethnicity and race for them and their parents.

The kinds of records that might help you the most are census records, passenger lists, and birth, marriage and death records. The kinds of documents available and how much information is available on them will depend on time frame. United States census records indicate language spoken, and if this says Jewish, Hebrew or Yiddish, that tells you that you are on the right track. If a marriage was at a synagogue or by a rabbi, that will tell you the ancestor was Jewish, but it will probably not tell you if they converted to Judaism from another religion.

Passenger lists can also indicate if someone was Jewish. If the race or ethnicity was Jewish or Hebrew, that will answer your question. But an occasional military or compulsory draft registration record will also indicate Jewish or Semitic as race on male ancestors.

Your search is not likely to be easy but, as we mentioned above, your research techniques will be the same as anyone else researching who their ancestors were. You simply will also need to pay closer attention to information about native language and race.

We do have a page with beginner's tips for finding your ancestors that you might find helpful. And to learn about what free resources are available to help you in your research, see our free genealogy resources page, which also lists specifically Jewish resources. For tips about some fine points of doing research, see our genealogy research tips page. And if you want to learn more about Jewish language, culture and faith, see our Jewish Heritage page.

Autosomal DNA testing is another possible way to document Jewish ancestry, because there has been so much intermarriage in the Jewish population for thousands of years, that people with ancient Jewish ancestors tend to share a lot of autosomal DNA. However, if your Jewish ancestor was born to or descended from a parent or ancestor who converted to Judaism, their DNA very likely would not necessarily be categorized as Jewish and it would not answer your question.

REFERENCES

  1. Interviews with family members
  2. Marriage application of A B Grossman and Lena Borenstein at https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/K8DX-WWL
  3. Census of Canada for 1901, available online from ArchiviaNet at "Library and Archives Canada" at http://www.collectionscanada.ca/archivianet/020122_e.html, and also by either personal subscription, or for free through Public Libraries which subscribe, from Ancestry.com.
  4. United States Federal Census Records for 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930, available online (by subscription and at Public Libraries) at Ancestry.com and at Public Libraries through the Heritage Quest Census database.
  5. Oakland, California City Directory for 1921, available at some public libraries and online at http://DistantCousin.com/Links/Surname.html.
  6. Polk's Seattle Directories for 1895 and 1897
  7. Trow's General Directory of the Buroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx for 1905, Volume 119 published July 1905
  8. World War I Draft Registration Cards, available onlinE AT http://landing.ancestry.com/military/titles.aspx?html=ww1draft by subscription, and occasionally for free from Ancestry.Com's special offers
  9. California Birth Index 1905 to 1995, database at Ancestry.com available by subscription and online for free from some public libraries.
  10. California Death Index 1940 to 1997, at http://vitals.rootsweb.ancestry.com/ca/death/search.cgi?cj=1&o_xid=0000584
  11. Social Security Death Index, formerly available online for free at http://ssdi.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com, now available by paid subscription on Ancestry.com's Social Security Death Index or for free from subscribing public libraries.
  12. Records and tombstones at Home of Eternity Cemetery, Oakland, California
  13. Death certificates for David Dizek Grossman and Lena Grossman

Revised September 29, 2014


 
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