Emigrants to the US leaving their families #usa

David Sanger

Hello. This is a question about Jewish custom and practice in the early 1900's

We have been trying to identify other family members (brothers and sisters) of our great-grandfather Berl Schlanger.

My cousin recalls stories of his grandfather and his father Berl visiting an aunt in another village. She was abandoned by her husband who ended up in the USA. This would have been between 1900 and 1920 roughly

I am wondering what the possible relations are.

1. If the husband who had moved to the US was a brother of Berl, would it have been appropriate for him to visit the "abandoned" wife? How did families respond to such situations? I understand it was not an uncommon situation but am wondering how it was received in the community. Would there have been a divorce after some period of time

2. If instead it was the aunt who was a sister of Berl, would that have been a appropriate visit? Would either of them likely have remarried? 

So far I have identified DNA matches to two different sets of Schlanger families in the US but cannot find the direct link. I am wondering what kind of additional records to look for.


Thanks for any insights.

david sanger


SCHLANGER, BRAND from Jezowe,  Kolbuszowa, Sokołów Małopolski 




david sanger, albany ca


david sanger photography

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updates at www.davidsanger.com


You might consider a YDNA test for a male on each line to see if they match.  I did this recently and it showed an exact match (at Y111) for two men who were linked through a great great grandfather.  Also look for similar naming patterns in the two families, remembering that there is usually one child named after the deceased grandparent.  Finally, if the two families lived near each other in the US, look for marriage certificate witnesses from the other family.  I hope this helps.

Marlise Gross
Cherry Hill, NJ

Sherri Bobish


You can search the husband's name in this database:
The Forward: A Gallery of Missing Husbands (1908-1914)

The page has a lot of info that may be helpful, including:

"The majority of desertion cases featured in the “Galleries” were husbands who abandoned their families within the United States. However, some of the cases dealt with men who had come to the United States from Europe by themselves and had stopped communicating with their wives back home."


"In addition to economic hardship, desertion also posed a religious problem for these wives. A Jewish divorce requires a get, a document that the husband formally presents to his wife. This concludes the divorce process and allows both parties to remarry under Jewish law. Thus, these women who wanted to divorce their husbands could not proceed with the customary divorce. The Hebrew word agunah (plural: agunot) refers to a “bound” woman who is unable to leave her marriage on the grounds that her husband is not physically present to give her a get. Some of the entries address this issue, and explain that the wife seeks to “become unbound.” This means that the wife is looking for her husband so that they can divorce in accordance with Jewish law."

Good luck in your search,
Sherri Bobish
Searching:  RATOWSKY / CHAIMSON (Ariogala, Lith.)
WALTZMAN (Ustrzyki Dolne, Pol.)
LEVY (Tyrawa Woloska, Pol.)
LEFFENFELD (Daliowa & Jasliska, Pol.)
BOJDA / BLEIWIESS (Tarnow & Tarnobrzeg, Pol.) 
SOKOLSKY / SOLON / SOLAN (Grodek, Bialystok, Pol.)
BOBISH (your guess is as good as mine!  LOL)

Alex Girshovich

When discussing this topic we shouldn't forget about the influence of the WW1 and the revolutions in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century.
Here's the real story of my grandparents.
My GGF emigrated to the US in 1913 alone to "pave the way" for his wife and their 8 children aged from 1 to 18, who stayed in Vitebsk in today's Belarus. In 1914 the WW1 outbroke and the East front reached Belarus very soon, cutting off all communication. In 1917 there were 2 Russian revolutions (in February and October), followed by the Civil War until 1920. The years after the Civil War was a time of famine, devastation, and violence. The connection was lost for 10 years until in 1924 my GGF managed to send an invitation to my GGM with children. However, the Soviet authorities allowed only children under 18 to leave. The two older children who married by this time had to stay in the USSR. The third one who just turned 18 managed to escape illegally in the ship hold via Latvia and Canada.
When my GGM finally arrived in Cleveland, OH, she found that the GGF already married another woman, with whom they managed together a fish trade. 11 years passed since my GGF departed for the US, and it was part of his survival. Especially, since he had no clue if his family left in Vitebsk were alive or not. It's very hard to blame my GGF for abandoning his family under these circumstances.
However, the end was happy in certain sense. His second wife passed away, and my GGF return to my GGM and spent his last years with her.
I think that there are many other Jewish families that unfortunately fell under this or a similar pattern.

Alex Girshovich
Jerusalem, Israel.

Hank Levine

This is not a direct response to the "custom" question you raise, but...You may have already investigated the issue from this angle. However, if not, you may want to take a look at archives of The Forward and other Yiddish newspapers of the time. The Forward published "personal ads" including women who were looking for "missing husbands." I hope that you can find something there. If you find something and need help reading the Yiddish, let me know.

Hank Levine
Henry S. Levine, MD
Bellingham, WA, USA
Originally from Passaic, NJ
Researching ISRAEL and SCHIFFMAN in Ropczyce (Ropshitz) and Lopuchova (Lupakhev), Galicia
LEVINE and LONDON in Pakuonis, (Pakon) Lithuania
LOWENSTEIN in Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania

Steve Low

This conversation reminds me of two things:

First, is the classic film Hester Street, in which this topic is the principal plot element. It's also worth watching the film for it explores the tension between tradition and assimilation.

Second, is a story from my own family: My great-grandmother Rosa came to the U.S. in 1893 with four children, and their arrival is documented in the passenger manifests. Recently, a cousin told me that her husband David (my great-grandfather) also came to the U.S., although I have never been able to find a record of his arrival here.

The story is that the couple operated a restaurant on the Lower East Side. At some point, they divorced (not sure when), and David emigrated to Palestine, where he died--I believe in 1929. The story was that Rosa's divorce was in NYC; David's in Constantinople. Civil? Religious?  I don't know.

I had always assumed that the couple separated before Rosa came to America--with David leaving Bessarabia passing through Constantinople on his way to Palestine.

But, I still hope someday to find a record of David's arrival in the U.S. to confirm that part of the story.

Steve Low
Lincoln, MA  USA

LOW from Satu Mare/Seini, Romania  (i.e., Szatmar/Szinervaraljá, Hungary) to New York
SCHWARTZ from Halmeu, Romania (I.e., Halmi, Hungary) to New York
WITTNER from Iasi, Romania to New York; Manchester, England; Australia
LANDO/LANDA/LANDAU from Kiliya, Ukraine (i.e., Chilia Nouă Bessarabia) and Kishinev, Moldova to New York and Palestine