This is a work in progress.  My husband’s grandfather, Nathan is a man of mystery in a family of many mysteries.  I have more questions than answers, but here is what I know so far.

Nathan was born June 3, 1882 to Abraham (Alter) Greenberg and Fannie (Feige) Goldring.  There were never any stories about brothers or sisters so he may have been an only child.  Then again, there were very few stories about his life and even fewer about his family.  It seems more likely that he had siblings but for his own reasons just never talked about his family.  He was born in the shetl of Aleksandriya, Rovno province, in Russia.  Rovno was also the nearest large town or city.  As I have written in an early post, he said that he was apprenticed at a young age (about 7-8 years old which would have been about 1889 or 1890) to a cruel master.  It could be that he either lost touch with his family when he moved, or that he was angry enough at them that he never wanted further contact.  It seems likely that he was apprenticed to a cabinetmaker since that is what Nathan worked at as a young adult.  At some point, Nathan ran away from this apprenticeship and made his way to London.

Map showing Ukraine

It is approximately 1140 miles from his birthplace to London.  He never told anyone where he was living when he fled to London or how old he was at the time. An estimate would be that he was between 16-18 years old at the time, which would have been between 1898 and 1900.  [Update: Cousin Jean says that the only story she heard was that Nathan said he walked out of Russia when he was 15.] I can only imagine that it must have been a long and hazardous journey for a runaway youngster.  He probably didn’t have much (if any) money, so it may have taken a very long time for him to get to London.  And it isn’t clear whether that was his original destination or it was happenstance that he ended up there.  There would have been trains and animal-drawn vehicles, but cars were not yet common, and without money he may have had to walk or hitch rides when he could.

In later years, Nathan told his son that he had lived in the Whitechapel area of London, which was a Jewish area,  and worked as a cabinetmaker.  It was while in London that he met Choneh (Harry) Levine, who was also a cabinetmaker.  Both young men were politically radical and probably active, at least to the extent of belonging to groups or attending speeches and rallies.

Nathan and Harry became very good friend over time.  Harry persuaded Nathan that he should plan to go to America with him and meet his sister Lena.  Harry thought the two of them would be a good match.  Since we know that Lena was politically radical later in life, it is likely that she also was as a young woman.  This may have been the reason Harry thought that they’d be a good couple.  For non-religious Jews, in particular, politics and political groups were often a source of friendships and a community.  At any rate, Nathan did sail to New York, on the SS Pennsylvania from Boulogne on June 5 1904.  He arrived in New York on June 16th.

passenger list SS Pensylvania, June 1904

On the passenger list Nathan was said to have last resided in Liverpool, to have paid his own passage, and to have $10.  He could not read or write, and his occupation was given as cabinetmaker.  His last name was spelled Grinberg (rather than the Greenberg used the rest of his life in the US).  It is difficult to decipher his intended final destination; one in Montreal seems to have been erased and another in New York written more clearly.  It may be that the person named as his contact was actually Harry’s brother Sam.

Sometime in late 1905 or early 1906, Harry and his family, and Nathan, and probably Sam and his family all moved to Syracuse in upstate New York.  Lena was either already there or went with them (I haven’t yet found out when she came to America).  How and when Nathan and Lena met is unknown.  Meet they did, however, and on November 4, 1906 they married in Syracuse.

Marriage certificate for Nathan Greenberg and Lena Levine

They lived in a number of places around Syracuse over the next 15 years or so.

In 1907 Nathan filed a Declaration of Intent to naturalize.  In 1907, too, Nathan and Lena’s first child, my father-in-law, was born.  In 1910 the family appeared on the federal population census  living on South State Street in Syracuse and a city directory shows that Nathan had a furniture store at the same address.  Presumably the family lived in an apartment above the store.

Nathan in front of his store

In 1912 their second child, a daughter, was born.  And in 1914 Nathan’s Petition for Naturalization was finalized and he and Lena became naturalized citizens.  So far I have not found any World War I registration for Nathan.  The family continued to live in Syracuse through 1920 (federal population census).  At that point they were living in a multi-family house with Lena’s brother Sam and his family.  Another of Lena’s cousin’s family lived in a little house in the backyard. 

In about 1924 Nathan moved the family to Buffalo for an unknown reason.  Based on my father-in-law’s memory, it was his senior year in high school and after the school year had started.  According to the 1930 federal population census, as well as a city directory listing, Nathan worked (at least briefly) as an auctioneer for the Empire Outfitting company in Buffalo.  This is a little confusing, since he had always worked as a cabinetmaker, carpenter, and furniture store owner, but I don’t yet know what kind of outfitting this company was selling.

The next mysterious fact about Nathan is that he applied for a Social Security number in 1940, giving a Syracuse address and employer, although the family was still living in Buffalo.  Possibly he had found a job in Syracuse when he couldn’t find one in Buffalo.  By this time he was 58 years old, and it is not clear how much longer he worked or at what kind of jobs.

His wife Lena died in 1959.  It is not clear where Nathan was at this time.  My father-in-law told a story about going to a Jewish undertaker and asked about having his mother buried in the Workmen’s Circle Cemetery, and having one of the Arbeiter Ring men speak at her funeral.  Why Nathan didn’t handle this is unclear, but he may thought that my father-in-law,  who was a lawyer would be better able to take care of the formalities.  Shortly after Lena died Nathan moved to Rochester to live with his daughter and her family, and he lived the rest of his life there.  Nathan died in 1964 and his ashes were buried under a forsythia bush in the yard at the family home.

Did you get your envelope this week?  I admit that opening it gave me a little thrill.  We all love the census and we feel like it’s ours, even though genealogy was the last thing census takers have ever had in mind.  What did they have in mind?

There are lots of things that motivate humans, but from where I sit the big two are sex and money.  Yes, there is idealism and ideology and religion and altruism, but if I had to guess I ‘d go with sex and money.  There’s not much sex involved in the census story, except for Turkey and we’ll get back to that later.  So, it’s all about money and its corollary, power.

There are records of a census taken in Babylonia 6000 years ago counting people, livestock and commodities, such as honey and wool.  A census was taken in the Persian Empire about 500 B.C. to establish a basis for land ownership and taxation.

According to the New World Encyclopedia censuses were conducted in the Mauryan Empire  (c. 350-283 B.C.E.), “which prescribed the collection of population statistics as a measure of state policy for the purpose of taxation. It contains a detailed description of methods of conducting population, economic and agricultural censuses.”

Perhaps the most famous census was taken by the Roman Empire.  A man and his pregnant wife traveled to Bethlehem to be counted and finding no rooms available, settled down in stable where she gave birth to a son.  I doubt many censuses have had as much impact on the world, but again, this was a census taken to establish guidelines for taxation.

The Chinese census in the year 2 A.D. is the first census with actual data preserved into modern times.

In the western World there is the famous Domesday Book of 1086.  Taken at the direction of William the Conqueror it established property valuation for the purposes of taxation.  It was the final word, without appeal on the value of property for taxation purposes, and has come to be appropriately called the Doomsday Book.

And on it goes. Most modern nations now take periodic censuses with varied purposes. The U.S. has taken a census every 10 years since 1790.  Canada also takes a census every 10 years with a mini-census at the mid-decade mark.  The U.S. census figures determine how many representatives each state will have in the House of Representatives.  My home state of Connecticut lost one representative after the 2000 census, accompanied by much political upheaval as districts were redrawn and elections held.  All kinds of federal monies that flow to the states are determined by population figures.

So census taking through the years has largely been about money and power.  Is it a coincidence that your census form is due on the same day as your tax form?  I think not.

And what of Turkey?  Turkey has taken a census regularly since the birth of the Republic in 1927.  They hope to accomplish an accurate count by having everyone stay home from dawn to dusk while hundreds of thousands of enumerators and police officers make the rounds.  What do they do with this full day of enforced captivity?  Okay, I don’t really know, but people being people I’m betting there is an up-tick in the birth rate nine moths later.  So there you have it, Sex and the Census.  Sounds like a good name for a television show, don’t you think?

I have a couple of brick walls involving women in my Boothby line. Two of the women who married my Boothbys seem to have been born with a variety of last names. That is, I don’t yet have good evidence of exactly who they were.

The one I’m looking at here is my great great grandmother. There is general agreement that her first name was Elizabeth. However, her birth name has been variously reported as Divers, Stores, or Stewart. The first piece of information I found that named her specifically was the death certificate for my great grandfather, Alexander A. Boothby. I am lucky that this family was in Ohio from the early 1800s; Ohio is one state that has good access to digital images of death certificates and indexes for some that aren’t digitized. So I have digital copies of lots of Ohio death certificates. Including 4 of Elizabeth’s 10 children, the eldest and the youngest and two in between. I show the names of their parents from these 4 certificates below. These death certificates are where my collection of last names for Elizabeth come from. Unfortunately both James and Elizabeth seem to have died before Ohio started requiring death registration/certificates. There are also a variety of birth places listed for both Elizabeth and her husband James Boothby on these certificates. A problem for another day.

Based on my great grandfather’s death certificate, and no other good evidence, for a long time I thought Elizabeth’s name was Stores (or something like that).

Alexander Boothby's death certificate

Collins Boothby death certificate

Then I discovered that Stewart had been listed as Elizabeth’s last name  on Collins’s death certificate.

And he was much older than Alexander, so maybe he had passed along more accurate information.

Edward’s death certificate didn’t help (he also was older than Alexander); it listed Elizabeth with no last name.

Edward Boothby's death certificate

Finally, I found the death certificate for Mary Jane, the eldest child (that I have found so far) of James and Elizabeth. Her certificate said E. Divers.

Mary Jane B. Fiscus death certificate

This fits with information I got from a number of people on Ohio listservs that either said it was Elizabeth Divers or at least suggested it.

The documentation I can put together so far looks like this:

Maryland Marriages 1655-1850 lists a marriage for William Divers to Elizabeth Hanna, 12 Apr 1803 (, accessed and printed 3/14/10).

The Methodist Circuit Riders Registry for Harford Co., Maryland (found in Google books) lists a number of children born and baptized to parents William and Elizabeth Divers, children born from 1804 to 1813, including Elizabeth Hanna born 12 Feb 1810. This is the right age for our Elizabeth Divers, based on ages and that she is listed as born in Maryland in every federal census found that named her. She is also listed as Elizabeth H. in at least one of the censuses.

11 Oct 1827 A James Boothby marries Elizabeth Divers in Brown Co., Ohio. Certificate of her parents filed; oath and presence of Josiah Boothby. [Therefore, it appears that both were underage to marry and that James is the son of Josiah. This information came to me from Lois Derrough, obtained on her trip to Ohio, June 2002] If she was born in 1810, Elizabeth would have been 17.

On the Divers side these are questions I am currently considering:

Did the Divers family migrate from Maryland to Ohio between 1813 and 1827 or was the certificate of her parents agreeing to her marriage sent from Maryland (see 1830 census)?  If the family didn’t migrate how, when, and why did Elizabeth Divers get to southwestern Ohio?

If the 1830 federal census of Harford Co., Maryland I find is William and Elizabeth, he was born between 1751 and 1760 (only adult man); the woman between 40 and 50 is the right age to be Elizabeth; there are 2 children in the household, one boy and one girl, both both in the age 10 to 14 range so born between 1816 and 1820. There is also an 1840 federal census for Harford Co. that includes a William Dever and two females: one woman the right age range to be Elizabeth and a girl age 15 to 19, who could be the girl from the 1830 census. These suggest that the Divers parents stayed in Maryland. at least through 1840.

On the 1850 federal census, an Elizabeth Courts (age 68 born in MD) lived in Ohio with James and Elizabeth Boothby and their children. She wasn’t living with them at the 1860 federal census, or in the 1840 one. Could this have been Elizabeth’s mother, Elizabeth Hanna Divers remarried and widowed? Her birthplace of Maryland fits with this possibility.

So it is possible, perhaps even likely, that my great great grandmother was Elizabeth Divers. But there are many questions remaining and nothing primary yet linking the James and Elizabeth Boothby who were my Alexander’s parents to Elizabeth Divers and a specific James Boothby (there was more than one in the area at about the same time).

Death Certificate Summary:

Mary Jane Boothby Fiscus d Jun 7, 1917, age 85 7 mo 21 days. Father James Boothby, born in Clermont Co. Mother E Divers, born in Maine. Informant James C. Fiscus (of Oxford, Ohio, ?relationship). Buried Oxford Cemetery.

Collins Boothby d Nov 12 1926, age 88 1 mo 28 day. Father James Boothby, born in PA. Mother Elizabeth Stewart born in ME. Informant Chas Boothby (?son). Buried Georgetown.

Edward R. Boothby d Mar 20, 1928, age 78, 9 mo 24 days. Father James Boothby, born in Pennsylvania. Mother Elizabeth, born in Ohio. Informant Mrs. JF Butts (?dau). Buried Mt. Zion Cemetery.

Alexander Boothby d Jun 5, 1922, age 70 4 days. Father James B. Boothby, born in Main. Mother Elizabeth Stores, born in Penn. Informant John Boothby (?son). Buried Bethel Cemetery.

Here is  a timeline for the life of Anna Donahue Costello, our Carnival of Genealogy entry for March 2010.  Annie’s life is on the left and major historical events that affected her life are on the right.  Please take the time to read Annie’s story .

Annie Donahue Costello   A Life

Another ancient project of a sailboat entered our lives recently and we are facing the big question.  Not, “Did you notice all those holes in the sails?’ or, “Why doesn’t the engine start?” or even, “Why is the water coming in faster than we can pump it out?”  No, the big question is, “What should we name her?”

We humans like to name things.  We name things to help us to understand how the rest of the natural order fits together.  We name things to honor people we have known and people we admire.  We name inanimate objects and imbue them with personality.  Many a GPS or an automobile has a name. My GPS has an x-rated name and would someone please tell her I’m not going over the George Washington Bridge, so she can stop trying.    In addition to the GPS I have named two children, 8 or 9 cats, 3 or 4 boats, a host of small mammals, most now buried in the backyard, and the odd goldfish or two.

All of which brings me to the subject of names and naming conventions. I greatly enjoy just looking at the given names in my database.

I love the virtue names.  In my database I have Mercy, Patience, Grace, Thankful, Prudence, and Temperance.  All the virtue names are female; make what you want out of that.

I love the names that have gone out of fashion.  In my database I find Americ,

Homera, Erastus, Jabez, Hepzibah, Asimuth, Archeleus, Mehitable, Shubael, and Zilpha and I love the ones that have returned, Bethany, Ethan, Samantha, and the like.

As a genealogist it is useful to be aware of naming conventions used by different groups. There are as many naming conventions as there are identifiable groups of humans.  Here are a few.

The general naming conventions among English and Irish is:

First son       after the father’s father

Second son       after the mother’s father

Third son       after the father

Fourth son       after the father’s eldest brother

Fifth son       after the mother’s eldest brother

First daughter                       after the mother’s mother

Second daughter            after the father’s mother

Third daughter                       after the mother

Fourth daughter            after the mother’s eldest sister

Fifth daughter                       after the father’s eldest daughter

Scottish naming conventions are slightly different, but follow the same theme of grandparents, parents and parent’s siblings.

Most Jewish people are named after dead relatives or occasionally friends.  Often the name of a recently deceased relative is used to name children who are born shortly after the death.  In my generation in my family there are four of us named after an uncle who died too young and was much beloved.

Some Asian countries have very strict naming conventions.  I am told that Chinese names will allow you to puzzle out a person’s place in the family genealogy

I’m sure there are many other naming conventions of which I am unaware.

Then what am I to make of those odd names in my database?

By far the oddest I have come across is the first name Ai. There are several hundred people with the first name Ai in the 1850 and 1860 censuses.  Most of the last names of these people are of English sounding origins.  A quick look at naming books and such list the name as a Japanese name meaning love.  How did this name find its way into my Blood family?

And what of the foreign names?  Rueta and Tavita found their way into my database thanks to an ancestor who was a missionary in Fiji.  I don’t know about Fernando.  Undoubtedly, there are some Spanish or Portuguese ancestors to look for.

I could go on and on.  Every given name raises the question of why it was chosen.

And the sailboat?  I suggest, Jessie Martin; if you read my last post you know why.  My husband reminds me that the Jessie Martin sank, twice.  He suggests we name her after a favorite cat.  I remind him that the cat died, only once. The former owner named her Blue Skies.  Nice name, don’t you think, already painted right there on the stern.  Blue Skies it is.