How to tell an immigrant’s story?

I’ve been chipping away over time at putting together the story of my husband’s grandfather, Nathan Greenberg, and how he came to this country as a young man.  The family has (don’t we all?) a story about it, but no hard and fast details.  Nathan didn’t talk much about his past, even when he was asked.  The general story line is that he ran away from an abusive apprenticeship in Russia/Poland at a young age (he said he was about 11, probably in the 1890s), and ended up in England where he met a fellow traveler, Harry Levine, probably in London.  They lived and worked in London for some unknown amount of time and then Harry was going to America.  He told Nathan that he should come to America too, and marry Harry’s sister, Lena.  So he did.  This picture is of the Lena and Nathan, probably early in their marriage or maybe even a wedding picture.  What we know about Nathan and the family starts at this point.

It has been particularly difficult putting this family’s information together, since Nathan pretty much refused to talk about his life before coming to upstate New York.  With the ever-increasing resources available on the Internet, and the help of several family members, I have collected some information about Nathan, and have been wanting to find a way to put  it together to tell Nathan’s story.  But I see so many holes in the narrative, that I hadn’t come up with a satisfactory way.  Until I discovered this website:, Everything I know about Hyman Victor, which is a wonderfully-done example of putting together a life story.  When you go to this site, click “start with Exhibit 1” to see the story unfold one page at a time.  This site inspired me to focus on what information I could find about Nathan.

And just this past week I discovered George Geder’s One-minute biography (page 9 of the breathtaking new magazine from the footnoteMaven:  This article is about putting together a multimedia presentation of a relative’s life which can be posted on a blog, the ubiquitous YouTube, a website, you get the idea.

The best thing about both of these is that they show how you can start without much information and create a full story about a person’s life.  And as George says at the end of his example biography, it can be expanded as more information is found.  Now all I have to do is start putting together the information I do have on Nathan, and I can tell his story!  Stay tuned!

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  1. […] 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 […]

  2. […] I will write Nathan’s story (see my post on him from November).  I have been wanting to do this for a long […]

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