Latvia to Rostov to Albany


From the Blog

April 6, 2012 - 13:42

Access to images of the 1940 census enumerations has just been made available though Ancestry and probably other sources. So far, the records are not searchable by name, but the actual enumeration sheets are browsable by population center.

So, I went to Long Beach in Nassau County NY and found six enumeration districts listed. Using Google Maps, I was able to figure that District 30-207 would include the section of West Walnut St. where the Ruby family resided. Clicking that link leads to 79 pages of image files, but I was lucky to find 138 West Walnut on just the third page. It is below.

 There's nothing very surprising here but interesting nonetheless. The enumeration date is April 3, 1940. Selma, age 40, is the head of household. The other household members are Stanley, son, 15, and Ruth... more

September 23, 2010 - 19:38


Brilliant work! I'm pretty sure thats what got him fired. That's two times Coca Cola comes into Ruby family lore and things turn out badly; let's not forget that our great-grandfather Abraham Bloch (Walter's eventual father in law, who was in the seltzer business in Albany around 1910) was offered the franchise for upstate new York by a small upstart company from Atlanta that offered a syrupy new carbonated drink and he said, "Naw, I've got more than enough business already." For the rest of his life, whenever he had an idea or made a suggestion, people would say, "Yeah, yeah, and you're the guy who said no to Coca Cola." I drank a Diet Coke today (eveybody in Georgia still seems to drink Coke in support of the home team) and it tasted kind of weird to think of all the pain and grief those... more

September 15, 2010 - 14:48

Considering that both Walter and I had spent a good deal of time trying to find the records of our Ratner ancestors' passage to America, the story of how they finally came into our possession is somewhat anticlimactic. now has a nifty feature of hints that automatically conducts searches and alerts users to information they may not yet have discovered.

Last week I received just such a hint for our great-grandfather Abraham Ratner pointing to an inter-European voyage from Hamburg to the Port of Hull near Liverpool. At first, I was inclined to disregard it: There were many Abram Ratners, and importantly we thought the Ratner name didn't come into use until Abe's arrival in America. Thus, a pre-arrival record for that name would not be him.

The 1890 date was the right year, however,... more

October 31, 2009 - 13:04

New information (for us) about a branch of our Ratner family popped up on, and as a result I have now made a connection with a new second cousin once removed. She is Nicole Richner, a great granddaughter of George Peyser Ratner, the older brother of our grandmother Selma.

We had known about Peyser's daughter Marjorie Decker, and knew that she had been alive in a nursing home near Albany until recently. Walter made an unsuccessful attempt to contact her. We also knew Marjorie had married Robert Ken Decker and that they had two sons, and thus we had conjectured that there could be another generation of Deckers. However, my efforts to discover who and where they were had gone unrewarded.

Then a week ago I am scanning Ancestry for new leads on the Rabinowitz side when I am presented with... more

July 4, 2008 - 13:12

In my researches into the Tulbowitz family, I came across the well-documented work by Dave Howard, a descendant of the Gurwitz family of Rezekne who has done a great deal to discover and publish information on our ancestral town. The photo shows Dave on one of the residential streets in the old Jewish part of Rezekne.

We've been in touch several times in the last few weeks, with the result that he... more

June 20, 2008 - 11:05

Walt, you should get a kick out of this because of the other entries under Bottlers—Carbonated Beverages, including Albany Coco-Cola Bottling Works and Orange Crush Bottling Co. This is interesting in light of the family story that Abe turned down the opportunity to become a Coca Cola franchise.

June 20, 2008 - 09:43

Oh boy, I have a lot to catch up on here. I visited the Mormon Family Research Center in Oakland, where I met Jeremy Frankel, the president of the SF Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society. More on that, and what I learned about ordering LDS records, in an upcoming post.

Also, I connected online with Dave Howard, who is the leading researching about the Jewish community in Rezekne. His and sites are a treasure trove of information. I will be posting highlights and links to the most relevant stuff in an upcoming post.

For now, I thought I would post this excerpt from Alexander Beider's Dictionary of Jewish Surnames From the Russian Empire. Howard has a few small parts of the work available to view on his Horwitz site. Here is a section dealing with the surname Katz.... more

June 5, 2008 - 15:46

In the 1920 census form for the Ratner family, the enumerator first wrote down Minsk and then crossed it out and wrote Russia for Abe's birthplace. Similarly, Rose is noted as born in Rostof, which is also crossed out and replaced. I'm not going to put up the image, since the quality is very bad and will not be legible at blog size and resolution. If you want to check for yourself, look up the 1920 census in Ward 5 of Albany NY.

So then I did a quick look for the name Bloch in the JewishGen Belarus database. What pops up are lots of people named Blokh in the Minsk guberniya. On a first pass, I didn't find a Abram Blokh born in May 1869, but I think it is pretty likely we now have the original home region for another of our eight great-grandparents.

To recap:

Selma Ratner's parents came... more

June 2, 2008 - 20:53

Walt, I just looked again at the 1900 U.S. census record for Solomon and Sophie (and Edward) Tulbowitz, and noticed a couple of interesting things. First, the census includes information for "Mother of how many children" and "Number of those children still living." In Sophie's record, the responses are 5 and 3. Second, Solomon and Sophie are both listed as having been married 34 years.

That's a lot of years. Since they were 52 and 49, respectively, at the time of the census, they would have been 18 and 15 at the time of their marriage. I don't remember what we know of exactly when and why they left Rezhitsa. Can you remind me?

On the number of children, I have Rose, Gavriel, Edward and Yitzhak (who died young). That's four, not five. I'm not sure where my information is from, but I have both... more

December 29, 2007 - 21:21

More 120 year old news about the Tulbowitz clan from the Minsk archives sent to me today by archivist extrordinaire Maxim Mill:

Hello Walter,
I have looked at the 1886 list of Vitebsk guberniya business owners (it has preserved only partially) and found following record:
"Peisach son of Gavriel Tulbowitz 68 years old listed with Rezhitza Jewish Community small retailer."
It means that Solomon's father continue living in Rezhitza after his son moved to Rostov.
Exact dates of birth of Tulbowitz family members we will not be able to determine, only their year (that's how records used to be taken)
The earliest Rezhitsa records I've seen in the archive are in the bad condition and go as far back as 1806... more

December 26, 2007 - 19:49

Please read the back and forth between myself and geneology investigator Maxim Mill who has been looking into the roots of the Tulbowitz family who were identified to Tanya and I during our trip to Rostov as "Rezhitsa meshanye (small merchants from Rezhitsa).

On 12/24/07, Belarus wrote:
Dear Walter,

I have checked Rechitsa and Rezhitsa beginning and mid of 19th century records.
In Rechitsa there is not even close to Tulbowitz last name was found.
In 1811 Rezhitsa revision list just one family with this last name was found, in 1850 lists 2 Tulbowitz families were found.
Minsk historical archive only has Rezhitsa records prior to 1858 year. The latest records are... more

July 30, 2007 - 08:45

Dan and Jo,

We are in Rostov having a great time with warm and wonderful people. It is also close to 100 degrees and havent had a chance to swim in the Don which is clean only intermittently. I am also very tired, so only a brief note for now. There arer, sadly, fewer mentions of Tulbowitzes than I had hoped. The problem appears to be that Rostov did this super-wonderful census in 1896 that would have had all sorts of terrific information on them, but as you know, Rose, Abe and Sophie left for US in 890 or 1891 and the rest of the clan left within a few years, so there werte none of them left in '96. Couldnt Shlomo-Aharon and company have held on for a year or two to get into the census? They ought to have anticipated some great-son would show up 110 years later seeking info on them. Maybe they did, but... more

August 3, 2006 - 13:10

Now that the focus is back to Albany, how about this great photo from the Sandy Brenner collection? Here we have a photo from 1941 with matriarch Rose Ratner (seated), her daughter Selma (right), Selma's daughter Joan (left), and Joan's daughter Wendy (on Rose's lap).

August 3, 2006 - 12:27

Here is one interesting lead, a Sofie and Morris Tulbowitz in Albany Ward 3 in a special NY State census in 1915. I can imagine that Sofey might be Sophia, but Morris doesn't sound right for Solomon.

Albany, New York State Census, 1915 Record
Albany, New York State Census, 1915 Record

Whether or not they are related, the 1915 census is worth looking into deeper. Here is info about the census database.

Although not the largest city in the state, Albany, New York is one of the most important urban areas along the Hudson River. This database is a collection of state census records from the city in 1915. It includes information regarding residents of the city's first... more

August 3, 2006 - 12:12

So far, I have not found more than the 1900 census document Walter discovered. Here it is blown up and divided into three panels left to right. The Tulbowitzes (Solomon, Sophia and Edward) are the bottom three rows in each image.

... more

August 3, 2006 - 09:53

Big News! I got a call from Beth Abraham Jacob congregation in Albany today advising me that there are two Tulbowitz (finally the correct spelling) graves in their cemetery on Fuller Street, where Dan and I made a brief stop last month, and they belong to Solomon and Sophie Tulbowitz, who are clearly the parents of Rose Ratner and our great-great grandparents. The lady from the synagogue also told me exactly where in the cemetery to find the graves and I will make a trip up to Albany to photograph them after returning from my overseas trip. I went now to, typed in Sophie Tulbowitz and was directed to the 1900 census. Here is what I found: a three member household at 244 Pearl Street in Albany occupied by Solomon born in 1848, his wife Sophia, born in 1850 and son Edward, born in 1876, making him... more

July 30, 2006 - 20:37

Dan gave me the password to and showed me around a little bit, and I managed to make a few findings from the census. The 1900 census lists the arrival date of Abraham and Rose Ratner in America as 1890 (whereas the 1930 census says 1891). Assuming that one or the other is correct it solves the Ellis Island mystery--they arrived shortly before the opening of the Island on January 1, 1892 and were probably processed in the barge office that served as the site between the closing of Castle Garden on April 18, 1890 and the opening of Ellis Island. We see from that census that their oldest child was Peyzer born 1891 followed by Hyman (George?) 1892 and Lillie (probably Til ) 1896 and Sadie (clearly Selma) 1899 and Dora born 1900, who probably died soon thereafter. At that time they lived at 42 Broad... more

July 29, 2006 - 14:44

I mentioned yesterday that I signed up for a 14-day trial period with It has proven very useful so far, turning up various census and death records. If it continues to be useful, I will have to consider paying the very expensive membership fee--more than $300 a year or about $40 a month for access to their worldwide databases. I'm going to try to get as much use of it as I can in the trial period.

Two things of note I discovered today. I was doing searches on some of the Ratner children and was able to follow George and wife Emma to Englewood Cliffs, NJ, in 1920, where he was listed as a grocery proprietor. Household members were wife Emma, daughter Marjorie (age 2) and Emma's mother Louise Paeglow. From there I can follow Marjorie into her marriage with Robert K. Decker, evidently known... more

July 29, 2006 - 05:48

Just to record here the other wonderful discovery from our visit to the Hebrew Tailor's Assn cemetery--the Hebew inscription on Rose Ratner's grave refers to her as 'Raizel', which is Yiddish for 'Rose'. Some Google accounts say Raizel is actually Hebrew for Rose, but I had always thought of Rose as Vered or Varda, but my Eevreet is lamentably more rusty than it used to be. Anyway, its exciting to have the correct name to go with the young woman from Rostov-on-Don during her girlhood and when she was looking out the upstairs window to check if her would-be suitor Abraham Ratner was sufficiently presentable for her to come downstairs and make an appearance. (He was). The name Raizel tangibly connects us to the mysterious pre-American life of Rose and the whole Tulbowitz clan and that makes it very precious to... more

July 28, 2006 - 18:13

Here's a snippet from the 1930 census listing Walter, Selma, Joan and Stanley Ruby. A few interesting things to note here. On April 26, 1930, they were listed as living at 685 West End Ave. in Manhattan. According to our manuscript, Walter purchased the Long Beach home a year earlier. Also listed as residing with the family is Bertha Denkut, a servant. The census enumerator screwed up the ages of the Joan, Walter, and Bertha. Presumably, Joan was 11, Stanley 5, and Bertha 30 on the day of the census. Walter's... more

July 28, 2006 - 17:32

I just spoke with Sandy and she said she had found an old notebook. The family name had been Tublowitz with a "u," not Tablowitz. I did a quick look on and found some interesting hits for Tublowitz. More on that later.

I also looked for Abe and Rose Ratner and immediately discovered their 1910 census record. Here is an excerpt of it, from Ward 5 in Albany, listing six children as Peter (Peyser?), Hyman (Herman?), Tillie, Sottie (Selma?), Ruth, and Nellie (Lil?). Abraham's occupation is listed as "mineral water manuf." Here is a closeup of the document.

... more

July 26, 2006 - 11:58

Walter pointed out this surprising aspect of the cemetery plaque. Though written in Hebrew characters, the words are transliterated from English. Albany Hebrew Tailors Organization. It is right there in Hebrew.

July 26, 2006 - 09:55

From... more

July 26, 2006 - 09:51
July 25, 2006 - 01:32

Walter and Dan visited the house on Cuyler Avenue in July 2006 and found a sprawling three story white house with a large front porch. The house was in somewhat dilapidated condition and, like the south-side neighborhood in which it is located, had clearly had seen better days. The various entrances to the house and its large size led us conclude that the house had been built and operated as a multi-dwelling house, and that the Ratners must therefore have had renters in their own... more

July 24, 2006 - 14:22

After returning home from New York yesterday, I found the long-lost photos that had been loaned to me by cousins Sandy Brenner and Marsha Fields. I'll post more later, but here is the priceless one: our great-grandparents Abe and Rose Ratner, presumably from before the time they emigrated from Russia.