I have written previously about my great-grandfather, Elias SCHNITZ (a.k.a. Alex BLOCK) as well as the man listed as his cousin in the U.S., Samuel ABELSON. I may have made a breakthrough regarding how these families are related.
First, a little recap: Alex BLOCK died in 1939, and his son, David, was the informant on his death certificate. According to David, Alex’s mother’s maiden name was Fredia ABLESON.
Now, it certainly was not unusual for children of immigrants to get the name of their grandparents wrong, or even to not know the names at all. After all, they had never met these people in person, and immigrant parents often avoided speaking about “the old country”, as there was a great stigma in being a recent immigrant. Still, this name seemed odd when I first saw it, close to my own surname. Perhaps, I thought, David BLOCK’s recollection of the name had been conflated with the name of his fairly recent acquisition of a brother-in-law, my grandfather, Sol ADELSON.
Some time later, I found the Texas death certification for Alex BLOCK’s sister, Sarah MARCUS. Sarah had died in 1932, and we are left with a death certificate informed by her son, Ben MARCUS. The name here was Frieda JACOBS.
On top of this, I had already been aware of close cousin, Ida JACOBSON LASSER. Ida,
daughter of Samuel JACOBSON, married Jake LASSER in Galveston, TX, in 1911, having arrived in the United States sometime within the previous year. Her ship manifest – which I have yet to find – might well be informative for additional information, and knowledge of whether she came over with other family or not.
In any case, there is a very strong case to be made, which I have placed into my own tree, that Ida and Alex/Sarah were first cousins, and that their respective parents Samuel and Frieda, were siblings. Thus, it appeared, the mystery was largely solved: both BLOCK children had the name of their maternal grandmother incorrect. It was neither ABLESON nor JACOBS, but JACOBSON.
More recently, I found the time to dig more into the family of Samuel ABELSON, as outlined in the link at the top of this post. Although the ABELSONs appear to have originated in the same towns as the SCHNITZ and JACOBSON families, it was not at all clear exactly how they were related. This week, I managed to contact a branch of the descendant family of Benzion (Barney) ABELSON, brother of Samuel ABELSON. To start, I was able to confirm that, indeed, my research had not led me astray, and these ABELSONs were indeed the right ones.
Far more interestingly, the original name of the ABELSON family was preserved in notes from the late Rita ABELSON HORN, Barney’s daughter. That name was YANKELOVICH… possibly spelled YANKELOWICZ, but probably in Yiddish in any case. The name was changed to ABELSON around the time the family began an immigration to South Africa in the 1890s.
Why is this especially interesting? Well, -ovich or -owicz is the common ending for “son of”. Yankel was a common Yiddish name in the region. It’s a variant on Yaakov, or Jacob. Thus, YANKELOVICH translates in English to… JACOBSON! This would explain why David BLOCK thought the name was ABLESON while Ben Marcus had it as JACOBS; it was because of a name change which occurred in Frieda’s family around the time she married Isaiah SCHNITZ.
The exact relationship between Alex BLOCK and Samuel ABELSON still isn’t completely defined. Barney ABELSON was about the same age as Alex/Sarah Block, and thus – if Samuel ABELSON was known as a cousin to Alex BLOCK – there’s a strong likelihood that Frieda [JACOBS/JACOBSON/ABLESON] SCHINTZ was sibling to Barney ABELSON’s father, Morris Aba YANKELOVICH, and therefore Alex and Samuel were first cousins. It’s possible that the relationship is one more generation back, but the likelihood falls quickly given the communication necessary to know a more distant cousin had moved to South Africa and then to New York. For now, I go with the greatest probability of siblingship with Frieda BLOCK, Morris YANKELOVICH, and Ida’s father, Samuel JACOBSON.