Finding a Long Lost Cousin - Unraveling a Clue #general

Carl Kaplan

In searching for a long-lost cousin, I found this potential clue (below my questions) through Ancestry. My great uncle was Joseph Kaplan, and I know he had a daughter named Bertha. My 2 questions regarding the record below are:

1. Since Bertha married in 1940, which means the child (Norma) would have been born out of wedlock, would it be common at that time, especially for a Jewish family, to put down the grandfather as the father.

2. When this Norma is listed in Aug. 1961 as Norma Rabinowitz, does that mean she was married in August, 1961, or simply sometime before that?

Name:        Norma Doris Kaplan [Norma Rabinowitz]
Birth Date: 25 Jan 1938

Birth Place:                  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Death Date:                19 Dec 1995

Father:                        Joseph Kaplan

Mother:     Bert D Kaplan

SSN:           162303472

Notes:        Sep 1953: Name listed as NORMA DORIS KAPLAN; Aug 1961: Name listed as NORMA RABINOWITZ; 22 Feb 1990: Name listed as NORMA DORIS RABINOWITZ

Carl Kaplan
Winchester, MA

Sherri Bobish


I see that the info is from The Social Security Applications and Claims Index.

I believe that her birth date, and names of her parents, would have been written on the original SS5 application by Norma herself.

Today Social Security cards are given to babies at birth, that was not the case back then.

Norma would have, most likely, filled out an SS5 at the time she began working.

There are errors in the Social Security index, so you may want to obtain Norma's original SS5 form.
The fee is $24. for a photocopy.

Of course, it is possible that someone filled out the SS5 for her.  Seeing a copy of the original SS5 will help you determine if it is her handwriting, or not.


Sherri Bobish
Princeton, NJ

Sherri Bobish


You may also want to get a copy of Norma's birth certificate.
"For birth and death records after 30 June 1915, one must make application to the Pennsylvania Division of Vital Records, 110 North 8th Street 215.560.6011. To order certificates on a VISA card call 724.656.3100. For downloadable request forms please visit


Sherri Bobish
Princeton, NJ


Hello Carl,
On Ancestry, I found that Norma died in New Jersey. Then I checked and found several articles about her including one about the death of her daughter due to a car accident. The newspaper articles identified her husband as Herbert Rabinowitz, who also died in New Jersey. I did not find a marriage record. I did however, find a marriage record for her parents ( see below) Also, the 1920 census provides names of siblings for Bertha and other famly members, which may be helpful in tracking down long lost family members. (see census record below) - article about Norma receiving an award, with a photo. Let me know if you don't have access to it and I'll clip it for you. - article about the daughter's (Ann) death in Sep. 1975. She has a brother named Daniel - article about a burglary at the Rabinowitz home

New Jersey death index
Norma Rabinowitz
Age:     57
Birth Date:     25 Jan 1938
Death Date:     19 Dec 1995
Death Place:     Fort Lee Borough, Bergen, New Jersey, USA

Herbert F. Rabinowitz
Social Security Number:     091-30-3670
Birth Date:     7 Dec 1937
Issue Year:     1954-1956
Issue State:     New York
Last Residence:     07024, Fort Lee, Bergen, New Jersey, USA
Death Date:     1 Jun 1989

Name: Joseph Kaplan
Event Type: Marriage
Event Date: 13 Feb 1937
Event Place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Event Place (Original): Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Gender: Male
Father's Name: Nathan Kaplan
Mother's Name: Sarah Levin Kaplan
Spouse's Name: Bertha D Kaplan
Spouse's Gender: Female
Spouse's Father's Name: Joseph Kaplan
Spouse's Mother's Name: Fannie Gelfont

Name: Bertha Kaplan
Event Type: Census
Event Date: 1920
Event Place: Philadelphia Ward 32, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Event Place (Original): Philadelphia Ward 32, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Gender: Female
Age: 7
Marital Status: Single
Race: White
Race (Original): White
Birth Year (Estimated): 1913
Birthplace: Pennsylvania
Father's Birthplace: Russia
Mother's Birthplace: Russia
Relationship to Head of Household: Daughter
Relationship to Head of Household (Original): Daughter
Sheet Letter: B
Sheet Number: 11

Household    Role    Sex    Age    Birthplace
Joseph Kaplan    Head    M    34    Russia
Fanny Kaplan    Wife    F    33    Russia
Sarah Kaplan    Daughter    F    9    Pennsylvania
Bertha Kaplan    Daughter    F    7    Pennsylvania
Hymen Kaplan    Brother    M    50    Russia
Dora Kaplan    Sister-in-law    F    47    Russia
Ida Kaplan    Niece    F    16    Russia
Celia Kaplan    Niece    F    14    Pennsylvania
Frank Kaplan    Nephew    M    8    Pennsylvania
May Kaplan    Daughter    F    6    Pennsylvania
David Malofsky    Lodger    M    20    Pennsylvania

Stephen Weinstein

1. That a woman married someone in 1940 does not mean that a child born before 1940 would have been born out of wedlock.  She could have been married to someone else when the child was born, who could have died or divorced her before the 1940 marriage.  It's also common, especially in Jewish families, for the same couple to marry more than once, with separate civil and religious ceremonies.  This can occur in either sequence.  In my family, a couple got married as far as the state was concerned, and then told their parents, who persuaded them to redo it with a Rabbi.  I've also heard of the reverse: if a Rabbi failed to file the paperwork correctly or on time, the marriage might not be legal and would have to be redone for the state.  For whatever reason, many marriages show up in indexes with two different dates, which means that they definitely married before the date of the last record in the index; since not every marriage shows up in the indexes, it's also possible that the record you found also refers to a "redo" and not to the original marriage.

2. Seeing someone listed with a different name doesn't mean that she was married, then or before that time, or ever.  Names changed all the time, not just when a woman got married.  A single woman might have professional reasons to change her name and would not have to get married, except possibly in the case of the actress Nancy Davis, later First Lady Nancy Reagan.  (In his autobiography, U.S. President Ronald Reagan wrote that when she was single and he was president of the Screen Actors Guild, he tried to convince her to change her name from Nancy Davis for professional reasons, but she refused.  When Nancy Reagan died, their daughter Patti wrote a short item published in Time in which she mentioned that her mother had already been pregnant with her when they got married.  So while it's arguably correct to say that Ronald Reagan's efforts to get Nancy Davis to change her name may have led to the romantic relationship that ultimately resulted in her needing to get married, it's far too indirect to negate my point that a woman, generally, did not need to get married to change her name.  In fact, Patti herself changed her surname from her father's surname Reagan to her mother's maiden name Davis, without marrying anyone with that surname.  I normally wouldn't share information like this online, but since Ronald and Nancy Reagan are both dead and Patti Davis has chosen to be public about it, no living person's privacy is being violated without their consent.)