I wrote more than a year ago (here) about finally edging my way into the waters of social networking by signing up on Facebook. I have had a number of positive experiences (and a few negative ones!) since then, and find myself thinking about whether there is a better way for me to use it for genealogical purposes. My negative experiences, by the way, have been with Facebook itself not with “friends”. (I tried to log in from a strange computer and then couldn’t remember my password and Facebook locked me out for a month or so. Did, finally, get back into my account; but not without a lot of frustration.)

The gist of the issue for me is this: I first signed up so I could stay in touch with the younger generation of our family, most of whom repeatedly said to me “those pictures are on Facebook”. That use of my Facebook site has worked wonderfully. I can see all the family pictures and comment on them when I want to. I can even share my own pictures. As I got more practiced using the site, I also wanted to connect with other family members, “cousins” of all varieties and have started to do that. So far all of these connections have originated with me, that is, I went looking for people.

However, because it is my personal site, I have tried to be very careful about privacy and so have tried to keep my posts and photos as contained as possible by only letting friends (people already in my friend list) see them. I know that I am limiting myself in terms of others being able to find me by searching for the family names I post periodically. (I assume you can do this in Facebook. Guess I should find out.) For example, I try, whenever I have posted something on this blog, to put that on my wall so everyone who is interested can go look at what I said. Assuming that names mentioned in a wall post can be searched, I am going to try making those posts public, to see if anyone finds me.

I also recently started playing around with making a page in Facebook for the Genealogy Gals. Until I figure out how to use the page, however, and decide with Judy what it should have on it, it will remain unpublished.

screen capture of the Syracuse group on Facebook

The very best is that I discovered a group, thanks to cousin Nancy, called Jewish Community of the 15th Ward, Syracuse, New York (click on the name to go see the front page of the group). This is a new group, in existence for just over a month now, with 88 members last I looked. (There were 68 I think when I joined, so you can see it is growing.) The purpose of the group is to share memories and photos and information about the old 15th ward. This neighborhood doesn’t exist physically any more due to the construction of a major highway and general urban renewal. The group is active and there are some wonderful photos and images already. Everyone is also very helpful in making connections or answering questions.

I haven’t actually verified whether my husband’s family lived within this neighborhood, that is the actual boundaries of the ward, but they certainly were part of the Jewish community from their arrival in about 1905. That makes them latecomers compared to some of the Jewish families, but puts them in the middle of the pack compared to many others. I am hoping my sister-in-law will join the group and that we may find new “cousins” as well. So far the group has shared the recipe for potato latkes originally submitted by one of the aunts to a Hadassah cookbook in the 1960s, and I’ve been told about a handwritten pickle recipe from another aunt. I also found out about a book from the Arcadia series of picture books about places, which I have ordered and await impatiently. What a treasure trove!

I have a number of pictures and documents that I plan to share with this group. I don’t want to step on cousin Nancy’s toes, so will try to be careful not to share pictures we have because she sent copies to us. And before I share any studio photographs I will check up on the copyright issue. I seem to remember that photos taken before a specific date (or over X number of years old) are in the public domain, but I want to be certain.


The other social networking site I use is Twitter. I also originally signed onto this thinking that the younger generation in the immediate family would adopt it as a communications channel. I was the only one there for a very long time, but they’ve started to join in.

So, I am on Twitter as an individual and follow several of our fellow genealogists. The question for me again is separating the personal family stuff from the more general genealogical. As far as I know tweets cannot be directed to only some people.

Judy put the Genealogy Gals on Twitter too (yay, Judy!!) and both of us can access that account. Please notice the “follow us” icon on the bottom of the left menu. I suppose the answer to my own question is that I should use the Genealogy Gals account for general genealogy stuff and my personal account for staying in touch with individual family members or friends. I don’t use it much anyway since I’m often not doing or thinking anything I feel the need to share in that way. Too, I haven’t added using Twitter to my cell phone abilities, so there are many times when it isn’t easily available to me.

And, finally, there is a useful new posting by James Tanner over on familysearch.org that summarizes social networking for us genealogists. This post, plus the first comment capture it all.

In a variation on the theme, this post is about three sisters who came to America and went in different directions.  There actually were more than 3 Yellin sisters and there was a brother too.  And some of them did eventually go in different directions.  But before they did, all of them migrated to Syracuse New York.  Somehow Syracuse had become the hub for the family and most of them lived there for some period of time.

The Yellins I’m interested in were the children of  Abraham David Yellin and Chaya Fage Singer, who met and married and lived in or near Jalowka, Gubernya Grodno, Volkovysk District, Russian Empire (an area that has been in Russia or Poland depending on the year and the politics).  This is the same area that the Levin family came from, and it was Abraham David’s aunt Dvora Yellin who married Itzhak Levin, parents of Lena and Harry Levine and Sam Levin.

According to Cousin Nancy the family story was that Abraham David Yellin wanted to send his children to the United States and had planned to send his oldest daughter, Esther, first.  A ticket was probably purchased in her name, and then it seems he may have decided that he needed her to stay and help him in his tailor shop.

Ester Jelin 1899

Ester Jelin arrival 1899

So we think a younger sister, Ida, was sent in her place, to an uncle (Chaya’s brother, also named Abraham David) in New York. This was in 1899 and Ida would have been just a young girl (about 10-14).  She apparently traveled with another young woman from Jalowka. Three years later, Esther did migrate, probably going to her aunt (father’s sister)  in New York.

Ester Jelin #2

Ester Jelin arrives 1902

Esther and Ida lived in a tenement on the Lower East Side and worked long hours in a sewing factory (a true sweatshop).  If you visit the Tenement Museum on Orchard Street, you will get a strong sense of what lives were like in such tenements.  Judy and I did one of their tours a number of years ago and it was amazing.

These two sisters lived and worked in New York City until about 1905-1906 when Sam Levin (a first cousin once removed who was older than the Yellins) moved his family to Syracuse and invited Esther and Ida to join them.  Both sisters met their husbands in Syracuse, and both married in 1909.

Selde Jelin 1921

Selde Jelin arrival 1921

Their younger sister, Zelda, came in 1912 and so she went directly to Syracuse rather than spending any time in New York City first.  And their younger, and only, brother Sam came in 1921 via Boston.   He arrived less than a year before their father Abraham David died.

Szmuel Jelin

Szmuel Jelin arrival 1921

Sister Merke had married in the spring of 1921 and she and her family migrated to Argentina between 1923 and 1926.  The remaining sister, Friedel married Hershel Levin in Jalowka and stayed in Russia.   Perhaps Hershel was a relative of Dvora and Itzhak Levin.

This left their mother Chaya and the youngest sister, Jeanette, still in Russia. Jeanette migrated through Canada after her father died.

Szejna Jelin 1926

Szejna Jelin arrival in Quebec 1926

I have not yet been able to find her entry into the U.S. but Cousin Nancy says that she had to go through Canada because of quotas at the time.  She arrived in Quebec in June 1926. Chaya was apparently able to come directly to the US at that time, because she was the mother of people already here.  I haven’t found her official entry yet either.  In a nutshell, this is what we know about the migration of each of the Yellins.

The tricky part in figuring some of this out has been that the names are not always what I would expect.  For example, in all the emigration records found so far Yellin (as they spelled it in this country) was spelled Jelin. (And the village of Yalowka is also spelled with a J.) The most likely reason that we found two Ester Jelins and no Ida was because one of the Esters was actually probably Ida (who we’re pretty sure came first).  The first Ester was listed as having her passage paid by an uncle and as going to her uncle, A.D. Singer at 57 Norfolk Street in New York City.  This was the address for Abraham David Singer on the 1900 federal census so it was most probably one of the Yellin sisters in our family.  In the case of the second Ester Jelin, her ticket was paid by an uncle Abr. Dewis Singer and the address she was going to was that of an aunt, Anna Singer Schneider, in New York City.  Selde Jelin who arrived in May 1912 was going to her brother-in-law Killian (Esther’s husband) in Syracuse, so it is a reasonable guess that this was Zelda.  And Szmuel Jelin who arrived in Boston in 1921 listed his father as David Jelin of Jalowka and also was going to his brother-in-law Killian in Syracuse.  The combination of father’s name and village as well as the brother-in-law make us sure that this was little brother Sam even though his age given was off by 5 years.

When I look at these names I realize that only one of the 4 children of Abraham David and Chaya Yellin who came to America went a different direction.  The usual genealogical tale is that 3 came to this country and they all went different directions.  This family, and the Levines as well, showed the more common pattern of collecting in a place and mostly not moving too far away from the rest of the family here.  In the Yellin family one exception was one of Ida’s daughters, who left Syracuse and moved West after marrying; Ida and her husband followed.  They did not lose touch with the family though.  Jeanette and her family also moved west as far as Michigan, but did not lose touch with the family. In the Levine family one branch (Harry Levine’s family) moved west to Michigan as well, to be closer to his wife’s siblings.  They lost touch with much of the Levine family for several generations although it was known where they were and there were occasional letters or visits.

Update:  On further communication with Cousin Nancy I have a couple of corrections/additions to make to this story.  The simple correction is that of course, if you add up the Yellin children I talk about, there were 5 who came to America.  I’m not sure who I wasn’t counting when I said 4.  And it was 2 of the 5 Yellins who moved on and away from the rest of the family.  The longer addition is that the shift to California was not the way I described it.  Apparently Ida and Morris were the first to go to California, because Morris had a job painting naval ships; this was about mid-1943.  Their daughter Lillian went with them, and two of Morris’s sisters were already there which may have influenced the decision to go.  Not too long afterward their other daughter went to join them, since her husband was serving in the military overseas.  And finally, I should note that Jeannette’s original name was Shane Toby (or a variation of this spelling) as she was one of the children named after her grandfather, Yoshua Todros Yellin.  So she showed up in migration as Szejna.

In the past week my social life has been busier than usual (being a quiet home-loving type).  We had two graduation parties and I had a wedding shower, plus a day with Judy and Ann which is in a category of its own.  The graduation I am thinking about today is actually one that took place in June 1932.

One of our graduations was a young cousin (first cousin once removed to be specific) who graduated from high school this week.  She is a wonderful young woman who we are enjoying watch grow up.  As part of the festivities her parents held a small dinner party for the family and we had a mini-reunion.  Her father and his two sisters were there (my husband’s first cousins), one sister’s husband and their adult daughter, and a second cousin.  Along with all the talk about college, and the graduation ceremony, and what our young cousin will do this summer, there were many conversations about “how did they meet?” and “when did they move to?” and “where did we all sleep?” and the priceless (from one cousin to another) “remember when I took the scissors to your hair?”.  The kind of conversation that you hope for when getting family together.  And pictures got brought down from the walls and the upstairs cache.  Including a number that we don’t have copies of, that I am plotting to get my hands on long enough to scan.

Iz and Freda, graduation June 1932

The best one (and most appropriate to the graduation) was a picture of the two siblings who were parents to my husband and the three cousins, in graduation robes and hats.  The back says Iz-Law School, Freda-B.A., June 1932.

These graduations were significant for several reasons.  The most notable is that Iz and Freda were the children of recent immigrants from Eastern Europe, neither of whom had any formal education.  Iz and Freda not only graduated from high school but from college, and in Iz’s case also from law school.  Iz described his father Nathan as never having gone to school a day of his life but that he was “..able to tutor his kids here in America in biology and math when we were in high school. And where he acquired that knowledge, I don’t know. But it’s confirmed by the kids. My father also became literate, read the Yiddish papers and he read the English papers.”

Iz and Freda also grew up speaking only Yiddish until they started school, only learning English at age 5 or 6.  I am also told that Freda was left-handed and forced to switch to her right by having her left hand tied behind her.  What an introduction to education!

Iz’s progress through school was not the path I expected.  He graduated from high school in 1925.  The family had moved from Syracuse to Buffalo during his senior year of high school and although he finished the year in Buffalo, the school there wouldn’t grant a diploma because he hadn’t been there for the full year.  So he had to return to Syracuse to get his diploma from Central High School where he had started.  Then he apparently worked for about 3-4 years, and entered University of Buffalo in the Arts and Sciences program in about September 1928.  It looks like he may have taken a year of basic courses and then entered the law school probably the next year.  He graduated from the law school in 1932.  In those years the law degree was a Bachelor of Laws, not the Juris Doctor that it is today everywhere in this country, so it is possible that he originally entered as a law student directly from high school or after only a year of college level courses.

Between 1932 and 1936 he went back to school and did a Bachelor of Arts in History and Government.  My theory is that during this period of time, which was during the Great Depression, he had difficulty finding work and going to school made sense.  He could have gone part time and kept student benefits, or may have had a scholarship of some sort which was fairly common in those years I have been told.

Lena with Iz's sign

Lena with Iz's sign

We know that he hung out a shingle as a lawyer from a snapshot of his mother standing proudly beside it.  He also worked for the city water department at some point.  And I have been told by one of the relatives that he may have taught history after college for some period of time.  These occupations should be verifiable, but I haven’t gotten that far yet.  He was admitted to the bar in New York in August 1933, so couldn’t have practiced privately until after that time.

Iz’s sister Freda graduated with a degree in chemistry at the same time Iz graduated from law school.  She was one of the first women to graduate from the University of Buffalo in chemistry.  After graduation she succeeded in getting a highly competed-for job with DuPont, working in a lab.  She later taught high school chemistry in Buffalo until 1942 when she was pregnant with her first child.  She had married in 1937, and presumably married women were allowed to continue teaching as long as they weren’t pregnant.  She had to hide her pregnancy to avoid being fired.  I have been told that Freda had wanted to go to medical school, but given the Depression (and perhaps to help keep her brother in school) she went to work instead.  There has been a strong thread of interest (and ability) in science in the family (among the women as well as the men) although none of the older generation went into careers using science except for Freda.

This generation, the children of immigrants with little or no formal education, was highly educated one and all.  And they passed on the love of learning and the valuing of education to their children.  So we will continue to have graduations to celebrate for some time to come.