JewishGen Discussion Group #JewishGen Re: Your thoughts on birthplace variations listed in US Census forms #general

Judith Singer

I believe your husband's family was >from what is now Lithuania. Almost
all of the variations you mention can be explained by one of two

1. There was no "Lithuania" per se between 1795, when it became part
of the Russian Empire, and a few years after the collapse of the
Russian Empire and the end of World War I, when the Lithuanians fought
off most of the claims of Germany, Poland, and Russia to establish
their own country. It did not obtain international recognition and
membership in the League of Nations until 1921 and did not adopt a
constitution until 1922. Therefore, "Russia" was correct for the 1920
and any earlier census; "Lithuania" was correct for the 1930 census -
but many immigrants were not aware in what country their hometown
became located, or thought it was irrelevant, and answered "Russia"
even in the 1930 and later censuses. You don't mention in what year
Charles was naturalized, but it doesn't much matter.

2. Our immigrant ancestors generally wanted to assimilate, and
especially wanted their children to fit in. For that reason, it was
not unusual for them to claim the U.S. as the country of birth of
their children and for them to claim English as their native tongue
(they may also have misunderstood the census question about native
language). Either "Jewish" (=Yiddish) or Russian would have been a
correct response with respect to native language since Russian was the
official language and nearly all Jews in Russia quickly learned
Russian in order to speak to government officials, though they would
have spoken Yiddish within the home and to fellow Jews and Russian,
Polish, or Lithuanian to their Gentile neighbors.

I have no idea why Benjamin said he was >from Czechoslovakia.
Czechoslovakia had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, not the
Russian Empire, before World War I.

The paragraph that begins "In 1920, Benjamin listed himself and his
father" contradicts the paragraph above which stated "In 1910 and 1920
the birthplace of Charles and Jennie was listed as "Russia" so I am at
a loss there.

Have you found the World War I and II draft registrations for the men
in the family? or the ship manifests for their passage to the U.S.?
Both are good possibilities for finding the name of the actual town
where they were from.

Good luck - Judith Singer

From: Julie Miller <jumiller6@...>
Date: Mon, 21 May 2018 11:40:18 -0400

My husband's family wasn't so consistent in completing their US Census
forms. Why might this be? What would you do as a next step to figure out
where they're from?

In 1900, the birthplace of Charles and Sonia (Jennie) Miller was
*Russia*. His son, Benjamin was listed as born in *Massachusetts*.

In 1910 and 1920 the birthplace of Charles and Jennie was listed as
*Russia*. The native tongue is English in 1910 and Jewish in 1920.

In 1930 (after Charles has died), Jennie's mother tongue is listed as
unknown with a servant listed as French.

We can't find Benjamin in a 1910 US Census.

In 1920, Benjamin listed himself and his father as being born in *Russia
*with mother tongues of Russian. He listed his mother as being born in
*France* with a mother tongue of French. His younger brothers listed
their parents as born in *Russia*.

In 1930, Benjamin listed that he was born in *Czechoslovakia* with his
mother tongue as Czech. One of his younger brothers listed their parents
as born in *Lithuania, *the other said *Russia*.

Charles naturalization record lists him as being >from *Russia*. His
witnesses are two men with the last name of Alpert. The Millers and the
Alperts all lived in Boston. We don't know if they were related.

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