Gitel Berkman to Gertrude Freeman

Most of the historical and genealogical records I have used to trace my ancestors in Lithuania were collected and published by JewishGen and the Litvak Special Interest Group. I joined JewishGen years ago, but it wasn’t until I was able to trace my Berkman ancestors to Lithuania that I realized the full power of their collections.

In this post, I will look at the first of Hirsh and Sore’s children, their daughter Gitel, my great-great-aunt, sister of my great-grandfather, Myer.

Gitel was born in Vilkija in the early 1860s. In November of 1883, she married Leyb Freyman, also from Vilkija and they had two children, a daughter Chaya Beyle (1885-) and son Itsek Ber (1887-).

In October 1887, the family of four left for New York from Hamburg, via Liverpool, on the steamship City of Chester.  The manifest notes their port of arrival as “Grimsby (Amerika (USA) via Liverpool)” and I learned that this was a typical route for emigrants to the US. They were able to purchase a package ticket that would take them from Hamburg to the port of Grimsby (England), and then a train from Grimsby through Manchester, to Liverpool. From there, they could get a ship to the US.

city of chester
Steamship City of Chester

I haven’t been able to determine when they sailed from Liverpool to the US, nor what port they arrived at.

The next time I find the family is via the US Census of 1910. They are living in Boston. Leyb has become Louis and Gitel is Gertrude. They have had seven more children:  Rose (b. 1890), Mae (b. 1892), Morris (1893-1894), Sadie (b. 1896), David (b. 1896), Charles (b. 1900), and Harold (b. 1903).  These were all born in Massachusetts as per the census, so they arrived in the US not long after their journey through England.

The two children born in Vilkija are now Bessie and Benjamin. Father Louis is listed as a house painter, Bessie (23) a bookkeeper in a shoe store, Benjamin (21) a tobacco salesman, Rose (20) a Stenographer in a picture store and Mae (18) is an underwear maker in a factory. They live at 132 Brighton Street which they own (with a mortgage.)

By the time of the next census in 1920, Gertrude has been widowed. Louis died in 1915 at the age of 57 from chronic nephritis and secondarily, lobar pneumonia. His is noted as being in real estate in the death record. He had spent four days in the two-year-old Peter Bent Brigham Hospital at the time of his death on the 24th of December.

Peter Bent Brigham Hosp. Est. 1913 Courtesy: Boston Public Library.

In 1920, the family has moved to 17 Holborn Street where they are renting. Gertrude still has seven children living with her, plus her daughter Mae’s husband Morris Brown and their two daughters. She also has a female lodger.

Gertrude died in August of 1929 at the age of 66 and was buried at Adath Israel cemetery near her husband.
There is much more to this story, but I haven’t figured it all out yet. When I was searching for pictures of the houses on Brighton and Holborn, I came across this item from the Boston Post. I note the addresses 132 Brighton Street, 70 Brighton Street (the address where Rose was born), and that Gitel Freeman is noted as the “supposed present owner” of 101 Brighton Street. My next step will be to peruse some city directories to find out who lived where and when.

Taxes due at various properties owned by Gitel Freeman and various Berkmans.
“City Collector’s Notice.” (Unpaid taxes.)
Boston Post, 7 November 1896.

Final note: if you are related to this (my) family, I would love to hear from you. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me, particularly if I have made errors in my research, or just to connect!