And Three Sisters Came to America…

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.

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One comment on “And Three Sisters Came to America…
  1. Apple says:

    If you are researching in Syracuse, are you familiar with the Old Fulton Post Cards Site? You may have to play with your search terms and check out Tom’s FAQs for some tips on searching. I did quickly find an article about Samuel Yellin which you’ll find if you paste the following into the search box on the site: Syracuse NY Daily Journal 1921 – 4552.pdf. My husband worked for Kilian’s in Syracuse in the 70’s but I do not know the history of the plant or if your family was related to that one but it is name most people from Syracuse know.

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