When I first started my research about 10 years ago, I knew that my mother’s paternal grandparents were Morris and Jennie Schneider (nee Tucker) and I had one photo of them, taken at their son Max’s wedding. I remembered all of their children, including my grandpa Saul, as having accents so I figured I had correctly been told that they were from Poland but I did not know now which city or town. I started from there, as most researchers do, digging up US records. I even got lucky with some records from the old country. Here is what I now know:
>I have a 1903 Hamburg, Germany departure record showing a single man, Moische Schneider, age 20, sailing for London. I can’t find a UK arrival record or a US ship manifest for this voyage so I don’t know (yet) how far he travelled.
>Morris and Jennie married in Brest-Litovsk Poland in 1908. I have a copy of the original marriage record. According to this record, Moshko Shnayder of Opalin, son of Gdal-Khuna was marrying Sheyne Tokarzh of Terespol, daughter of Moshko-Gershko. Opalin, Poland (now Ukraine) is a very small town about 50 miles from Brest. Terespol, Poland, is about 6 miles from Brest and is referred to as being in the Brest region by researchers.
>Morris came to the US in August 1911, age 26. His occupation on the manifest is covered by a black blob of something. According to the ship manifest, he was last living with father Gidale in Brest, a reference to Brest-Litovsk, Poland (now Brest, Belarus). By this time, sons Meyer and Saul/Shlomo had already been born and Jennie would have been about 4 months pregnant with daughter Ray/Rivka. The manifest also shows that he was coming to NYC to see cousin Schulle Tucker, obviously a cousin of Jennie’s. He had $25 with him. I have copies of Saul’s 1910 birth record and Ray’s 1912 birth record.
>Morris went back to Poland by late 1913 because twins Lilly/Leya and Sarah/Rokhl were born in August 1914. He would have stayed in Poland with the family during WWI because there was no place to go. If you look at the US ship manifests database, there is little or no activity during WWI. Twin Sarah “didn’t survive”…I’m not sure how old she was when she died but I have a photo of 3 of the children probably taken circa 1920 and she is not in it. I have a copy of the twins’ 1914 birth record.
>Morris returned to the US in 1922, about 6 months after youngest son Max was born. I don’t know if the war was the reason for the gap in children (1914>>>1922). Maybe it was the war, maybe Max was a pleasant surprise, or maybe there were other pregnancies and/or babies who did not survive. Morris is listed as a 40 year-old baker from Pinsk, last residing with wife Sznya Sznajder in Brest-Lit. The Pinsk reference is incorrect…I think the clerk typing up the manifest just liked the word Pinsk because everyone on the page is listed as being from Pinsk. The manifest indicates that he lived in Brooklyn from 1911-1913 and that he was coming to see brother S. Sznider in Paterson, NJ. This is the first time I saw a reference to brother Samuel. I think later on someone mentioned brother Samuel which, at the time, helped me confirm this detail.
> Per the 1930 census, Morris, Jennie and the five children are living in Paterson, NJ. The census shows Jennie and the children arriving in the US in 1928 but I still have not been able to find the ship manifest. Morris became a US citizen in March 1928. All of the children were under 21 at the time so they would have automatically become US citizens when they were already in the US or the moment they stepped off the boat. Jennie was not automatically naturalized and would have had to apply herself. I have no evidence that she ever did this. According to Morris’s naturalization papers he was born in Brest-Litovsk. I’m not sure about this…it was common to reference a larger town or city located near a small town. I think he was born in Opalin.
>Morris moved the family from Paterson to Brooklyn in the early 1930s. I know they were there in January1934 when Saul married his first wife Pauline Propper. Pauline died in October 1935 from rheumatic heart disease, not in childbirth as I had always heard. Luckily, Saul married again in 1937 to Bessie Berger (Peshe Bergzon), my grandmother.
>Morris died in 1951, Jennie in 1956, both in Brooklyn. My Uncle Harold told me that the 1946 photo of them taken at son Max’s wedding (married Bernice Shluker of the Shlukers Bakery family) is probably the last photo of Morris before he lost parts of his legs to side effects of his diabetes.
Not long ago, I started a discussion on Geni about my grandpa Saul’s cousin Gershon Schneider to see if I could get some more details about him. I had heard that he escaped from a Russian labor camp and met his wife Leda while traveling across Europe. There was an interesting story here. Growing up I had heard that about a dozen or so of Saul’s cousins had died in the Holocaust but to this day I still don’t know who, when, or where. Until recently, my best guess was they died in the Brest-Litovsk ghetto because I know Morris and Jennie were living there before coming to the US and that 1911 ship manifest listed Gdal as living in Brest-Litovsk. A couple of weeks ago, cousin Madeline Zacharaowicz (daughter of Morris’s daughter Lilly) posted that Gershon was born in Lodz, Poland, and that he met Leda at the Tashkent refugee camp. The Tashkent (Uzbekistan) registration card database is online but I don’t see him there…that doesn’t mean he wasn’t there. The Lodz reference was very interesting though.
When I requested a copy of Morris’s naturalization papers, I also requested a copy of naturalization papers for a Samuel Schneider of Paterson, NJ who I thought was Morris’s brother. My gut told me I had a match but I could never prove it…until now. According to Samuel’s naturalization papers he was born in Lodz! His papers also show the name he arrived in the US under, Shie David Schneider. This explained why I never found his ship manifest…until now! I have it! Shie David Schneider arrived in September 1912, last resided with wife Chana (Anna in the US) in Lodz, and was coming to see brother Moische Schneider of Perth Amboy, NJ. Samuel’s manifest also lists his place of birth as Opalin (or a word that looks like Opalin). I already had the 1920 & 1930 census pages for the family of Samuel Schneider in Paterson, NJ so I knew his children’s names. A few days ago on Ancestry.com, I found the 1995 obituary for Samuel’s oldest son Isadore which listed all of the names of the surviving family members. I found one of Isadore's daughters thanks to Google and sent an e-mail and I found another daughter on Facebook and sent a message. Both responded very quickly and confirmed that we had a match.
Late in the 1800s and early in the 1900s, and even before this, there was a significant movement of people from small towns to larger towns and cities either to find a better standard of living or ultimately to emigrate. What must have happened is that Gdal and son Morris and maybe other family members moved from the tiny town of Opalin to Brest-Litovsk while Morris’s brothers Samuel and Gershon’s father (name not known as of yet) went to Lodz. Lodz was further away but a much larger city. Gershon must have either evacuated east as the Nazi’s approached Lodz or the “Russian labor camp” he escaped from was the Lodz ghetto. I have copies of all of the Brest ghetto photo IDs (called passports) for the Schneider and Tokar (and variations) surnames but no can’t link any of them to our Schneiders. I know nothing about Jennie’s family except her father’s name. I need to look for Schneider’s in Lodz ghetto records.
The hunt continues...