Could a Missouri census taker in 1910 mistake a Litvak accent for German? #lithuania


Ada Green
 

On Tue, 26 Jul 2005 00:06:54 judymiller@va.net wrote:

> However, they are listed as German, not Russian, and there are some
mistakes in names.
> Was that a common mistake?

I don't know how common it was for a "Russian" Jewish immigrant's country
of birth to be listed as Germany in the census, but I know of at least one
other case. My grandfather had a cousin named Harry S. BLOOM, who was born
in Kaunas on 14-Nov-1871 (his actual birth record exists). Harry's wife
was Nellie GOODMAN, a native of Riga, Latvia. They met and married in
America. [Further information about them, including tombstone image, in is
the JOWBR].

In the 1900 US census for New York, both Harry and Nellie, who at the time
lived on heavily Litvak-populated Monroe St. on Manhattan's Lower East
Side, are listed as being born in Germany, which is incorrect. In the 1910
and 1920 census, their birthplace is more appropriately listed as "Russia".

While it is likely that the reason for such errors is that the census taker
mistook a Yiddish accent for a German one, do not rule out the possibility
that your grandfather in Missouri and Harry S. Bloom in NY could
*deliberately* have said Germany to the census taker in order to be
identified, at least on paper, with the more established, acculturated, and
affluent German Jewish community that preceded them to America. Perhaps
they felt embarrassed to admit to the census taker that they were >from
"Russia" and that they deliberately "put on an air". This kind of thing
did happen. There once lived a woman in South Africa who was born in my
ancestral shtetl of Krakes, Lithuania who went around telling her social
circle of friends in Jo'burg that she was born in Kaunas because she was
ashamed to admit that she was >from a small shtetl.

Like my late father said, "A mouth can say anything." The US census takers
didn't ask for proof of nativity (or proof of age for that matter). Only
the information comparison with later US censuses, passenger ship records,
naturalization records, and most of all Lithuanian archival records will
help you unravel the truth.

Ada Green
New York, NY
adagreen@att.net

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