Tuesday, September 6, 2011

More on Landsmanshaftn

A few weeks ago I wrote about Landsmanshaftn, the mutual-aid societies that Jewish immigrants around the turn of the century set up with members of their original communities overseas, and their role in securing cemetery sections for their members.

I mentioned in the article that I had asked the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) if they could send me the articles of incorporation for the:

Independent First Odessa Sick & Benevolent Association

Shortly after I wrote that article, I received a response from the AJHS with the articles of incorporation for the:

First Independent Benevolent Society of the City of Odessa

Now those names are very similar, but not exactly the same. Indeed both of those names show up in the list of Articles of Incorporation that were microfilmed by the AJHS. The following is a list of 20 different Landsmanshaftn that were connected to Odessa in the AJHS list:

1First Odessa Aid Society
2Erster Odessa Unterstuetzungs Verein
3Independent First Odessa Sick Benevolent Association
4Erster Independent Odessar Unterstuzung Verein
5First Independent Benevolent Society of the City of Odessa
6The First Independent Congregation of Odessa
7Congregation Sarei Tfiloh Anshei Odessa
8Odessa Realty Company
9Odessaer Mutual Aid Association
10Odessar Relief Fund Association
11Odessa Friends Association
12United Odesser Benevolent Association
13Young Men of Odessa
14Odesser Young Friends
15Progressive Odesser Ladies Sick and Benevolent Association
16Independent Progressive Ladies of Odessa Sick and Benevolent Association
17Jacob Moogerfeld Progressive Ladies of Odessa Sick and Benevolent Association
18Odessa Organization
19First Odesser Ladies Aid Society
20Bessarabia and Odessa Relief Association

You'll note that the 3rd and 5th organizations in the list are the one I requested and the one I was sent. At first I thought it was a simple mistake. Both files were in the same box according to the list online, and I figured it was just that the archivist grabbed the wrong file. The truth was a bit more complex. It was the wrong file, but it was the correct organization. The reason this is possible is that the file I was not sent originally was simply a change-of-name document for the organization. The original articles of incorporation was filed in 1891 under the name:

Independent First Odessa Sick & Benevolent Association

and in 1931 that organization's name was changed to:

First Independent Benevolent Society of the City of Odessa
Name Change Document from 1931
The cemetery section and its grand entrance was obviously set up before the name change in 1931. In the original document from 1891, it lists the directors of the organization at the time of incorporation:

Directors of the Independent First Odessa Sick & Benevolent Assoc. in 1891
That shows (as best I can interpret):

David SilbermanPresident
Samuel KreimanVice President
Solomon RosensteinFirst(?) Secretary
Abraham MandelRecording Secretary
Morris BelphordTreasurer
Abraham FrankTrustee
Harris GoldemanTrustee
Isidor ChertokTrustee
Leon PerlessMarshall

Interestingly those names don't correspond to the names on the arch at the entrance to the cemetery section, so it would seem the leaders of the Landsmanshaft were different by the time the cemetery section was dedicated. In this document the addresses of the directors were not listed, but some of these documents (such as the 1902 incorporation document I received earlier for a different landsmanshaft) contain the address and signature of each director. It's possible the address requirement came later than 1891 (and before 1902).

One of the more important points to notice is how many Landsmanshaftn are in the AJHS list just for Odessa. There are 20 organizations, and those are just Landsmanshaftn which were incorporated in New York City. Of course Odessa is a large city that had a large Jewish population before WWII, but it gives you an idea of how many possible routes you can pursue to find out about immigrants from your ancestral town (which may provide you information on your ancestor from that town, or at least shed light on their experiences when they arrived in their new country) that are not the normal vital records, newspapers, etc. routes.

Also, if you know where you ancestor was from, but not where they were buried, seeking out a Landsmanshaft organization from their hometown and figuring out where they owned cemetery sections may help you find your ancestor's grave location.