The following article is based upon a Research Services case regarding the
descendants of Mendel Levin and Gola Kahn of Židikai, Lithuania.
When researching twentieth century immigrants, genealogists should keep a
wide focus that includes the possibility of group or chain migration. Very often
the passages of our ancestors were paid by friends or relatives from the Old
Country. The records of these associated individuals may help us identify the
origins of our own ancestors. Twentieth century passenger arrival lists are not
only useful for identifying our own ancestors, but also their associates in the
Old Country and in the New World. Thus, we can often identify our own family
tree by researching the other trees (the forest) around them.
The case of the Levin familyThe case of the various
Levin families points out how researching a cluster of families sheds light on
each individual, and highlights the relationships among these families. In 1905,
George Oscar Levin and his sister Ida Levin sailed from Cuxhaven, Germany on the
SS Pennsylvania and arrived in New York City on 1 July 1905. They appeared on
the passenger list under their Hebrew names of Gershon and Chaia, and they gave
their birthplace as Ziedik, Lithuania (Židikai in Lithuanian). George and Ida
stated that their final destination was Boston, and that they were going to join
a brother named Nissan [Nathan] Levin at 12 [North] Washington Street, Boston.
[The village of Židikai is located near the Latvian border, 12 miles east of the
town of Mažeikiai, in the district of Telsai or Telshi, gubernia of Kovno (now
Kaunas), Lithuania.] Furthermore, when George Levin petitioned to become a U.S.
citizen in 1913, two men witnessed his signature on the petition: Israel G.
Levin and Benjamin S. Kahn.
Such U.S. contact information is an important clue often overlooked by
researchers. In this case, the Nathan Levin of 12 North Washington Street was
not actually George Levin’s brother, since Nathan’s marriage record showed that
he was the son of Abraham and Rose Levin, and George’s marriage record showed
he was the son of Mendel Levin and Gola Kahn. Perhaps George Levin used the
term “brother” loosely and Nathan Levin was actually a cousin.
George’s sister, Ida Levin, married Israel George Levin in Boston a few
months after her arrival in 1905 - a clue that the couple probably had known
each other in Lithuania. Israel Levin sailed on the SS Rotterdam and arrived in
New York on 14 July 1902. The passenger list showed that he had been born in
“Zidicky,” Lithuania, his final destination was Boston, his passage had been
paid by his brother, and his U.S. contact was his brother S. Levin at 12
Washington Street North [sic], Boston. Israel Levin was among 190 passengers on
the SS Rotterdam who were detained for unknown reasons at Ellis Island. The
detention list showed that Israel was discharged to his brother, Solomon Levin
of 12 [North] Washington St., Boston. So here was a second immigrant from
Židikai giving the address of 12 North Washington Street as a U.S. contact.
When Israel George Levin petitioned the U.S. Circuit Court to become a
U.S. citizen, a Nathan Levin also was naturalized at the same court and on the
same date. The documents of both Israel and Nathan were witnessed by the same
men: Benjamin Frutkoff and Solomon Ephraim Levin [Israel’s brother]. Nathan
lived at 9 Minot Street, Boston, but later moved to Cambridge. In his
naturalization petition, he stated that he had arrived in New York on the SS
Pretoria on 15 May 1902. A search of the passenger lists for May 1902 showed
that a Nissen Levin, age 28, had arrived in New York on the SS Pretoria on 31
May 1902, and was detained at Ellis Island. The reason for detention was “too
late for boat.” He gave his U.S. contact as Nathan Levin at 45 Salem Street
Boston. This was the same Nathan Levin who was a dry-goods merchant who later
moved to 12 North Washington Street, according to Boston city directories.
Nissen Levin (the 1902 immigrant) had been born in Židikai, according to the NY
passenger arrival list, as well as the Hamburg embarkation list for 18 May
1902. Nathan was a haberdasher who lived at 48 Maple Avenue, Cambridge.
His death record indicated that he died on 6 February 1934 at Beth Israel
Hospital, and was the son of Louis Levin and Yetta Sacks. Nathan was married in
Russia to Sarah Paris, who died in Cambridge on 18 March 1931. Her parents were
David Paris and Soula Prussian. So Nathan Levin of Cambridge, who was
naturalized with Israel George Levin, and who gave the same contact address of
12 North Washington Street, was not the brother of Israel, Nathan, Maurice G.,
or George O. Levin. He did come from Židikai, and was probably related to
Israel. The wife of Israel George Levin’s brother, Solomon Ephraim Levin, was
Rose B. Levin. She was the daughter of Lazur Levin and Yenta Tuck, according to
her marriage record. Her parents may have been the same as Louis Levin and
Yetta Sacks, the parents of Nathan Levin of Cambridge. If so, this would
establish a relationship between Israel George Levin and Nathan Levin, since
Nathan would have been Israel’s brother Solomon’s brother-in-law.
Another witness on George Oscar Levin’s naturalization petition was Benjamin
S. Kahn. Since we know that George Levin’s mother was Gola (Kahn) Levin, the
relationship between Benjamin S. Kahn and George Levin was investigated.
Benjamin Solomon Kahn was born on 19 September 1886 or 1887 in Courland,
Latvia. Since the draft registrations of his brothers Milton and James showed
that they had been born in Libau, in the district of Kurland [Courland],
Latvia, Benjamin probably was born there also. Libau (Liepaja) is a city in the
district of Courland in western Latvia on the Baltic Sea, and was a major port
of embarkation for immigrants to the United States. Benjamin emigrated with his
parents Harry and Ida Kahn on the SS Saxonia, which arrived in Boston on 14 July
1904. The passenger list recorded them with their Hebrew given names.
Accompanying Harry and Ida Kahn were their children: Behr (Benjamin), Roche
(Rosa), Michel (Milton), Jasel (James), Chaje (Ida), Rebecca, Minna (Minnie),
and Gershon (George). When the Kahns were processed through Ellis Island in
1904, they listed their U.S. contact initially as Miss Gehuda [?] Levin at 11/12
Washington Boston. But this name was crossed out and, in another person’s
handwriting, the names, Nathan & Maurice, uncles, at 12 No. Washington
Street, were entered. The death record of Edith (formerly Ida) Kahn showed that
her maiden name was Levin, and that she was the daughter of Abraham Levin and
Rose Hayman. So, as we see below, she was the sister of Nathan and Maurice G.
Levin, whose business was located at 11-12 North Washington Street.
The Levin Brothers of 12 North Washington StreetSo who were Nathan and
Maurice G. Levin of 12 North Washington Street, and what relationship did they
bear to each other and these other immigrants? Boston city directories were
consulted for the years 1890 through 1920. The directories showed a business,
under the names of Nathan and Maurice G. Levin, dry-goods merchants, located at
11-12 North Washington Street. Before 1902, the same merchants were located at
45 Salem Street in the North End of Boston. In 1905, their partnership was
joined briefly by Solomon Ephraim Levin, who was the son of Max Levin and Etta
Rostofsky, and the brother of Israel G. Levin. So Solomon was not a brother of
Nathan and Maurice, but may have been their cousin. 11-12 North Washington
Street was a 4 ½ storey building located in Haymarket Square, near the
intersection of Cross Street and North Washington Street, just a few blocks from
Nathan and Maurice Levin’s former address on Salem Street.
The immigrants who gave the addresses of 45 Salem Street or 11-12 [North]
Washington Street were:Immigrant Name Year Contact
Name RelationshipIsrael George Levin 1902 Solomon
Levin brotherNissen Levin (Cambridge) 1902 Nathan Levin cousinHarry
& Ida (Levin) Kahn 1904 Nathan & Maurice Levin unclesGeorge Oscar
Levin 1905 Nissen Levin brotherCharles Hyman 1905 Nathan
The earliest immigrant, Nathan Levin, was born in Russia in 1872 and arrived
in Boston in September 1888, according to his naturalization petition filed at
the U.S. Circuit Court in Boston in 1896. A search of passenger lists did not
show anyone in that year and port, but there was a Nathan Levin of Kovno who
came into New York on 31 July 1891. Nathan was a dry-goods merchant; was the
son of Abraham and Rose Levin; and married Fannie Bernstein in 1894. Nathan
lived initially at 24 Bremen Street in East Boston, and his business was located
at 45 Salem Street in the North End of Boston. In 1902, Nathan was living at
152 Salem Street, and his business was located at 12 North Washington Street.
In 1910, he lived in at 52 Monument Square, Charlestown. By 1918, he had moved
to 16 Seaver Street in Roxbury, but his business was still at 12 North
Washington Street. He was also the president of Monarch Clothing Co. at 119
Hanover Street. Since we have evidence that Nathan’s brother Maurice G. Levin
and his business partner (and Israel Levin’s brother), Solomon Ephraim Levin,
were from Kovno and Židikai respectively, Nathan was probably from the same area
in Lithuania, and possibly from Židikai.
Maurice G. Levin was the son of Abraham Levin and Rose Chaima (Hayman), and
was born on 10 October 1876 in Kovno, Russia, according to his naturalization
petition in the U.S. District Court in Boston. One of the witnesses to his
petition was his brother, Nathan Levin of 34 Monument Square, Charlestown. He
arrived in Boston from Liverpool on the SS Catalonia on 9 September 1895. In
his 1918 draft registration, he listed his occupation as real estate and in
business for himself at 12-14 Washington Street, Boston. He was of medium height
and medium build, with grey eyes and black hair. By 1930, he was living with
his wife Pauline and their children at 57 Babcock Street, Brookline. He died on
24 December 1938 at 57 Babcock Street, Brookline, Massachusetts.
So the contacts in these passenger lists show a number of people named Levin
or Hayman who are somehow related to each other and probably all from the
village of Židikai. These are the relationships:
Immigrant Parents Arrival Date BirthplaceGeorge O. Levin Mendel
& Rose (Kahn) 1905 ŽidikaiIsrael G. Levin Ben/Max & Etta
(Rostofsky) 1902 ŽidikaiSolomon E. Levin Max & Etta
(Rostofsky) ~1901 ŽidikaiRose Levin Lazur & Yenta
(Tuck) 1904Nathan Levin (Boston) Abraham &
Rose 1891 KovnoMaurice G. Levin Abraham & Rose
(Chaima) 1895 KovnoEdith (Levin) Kahn Abraham & Rose
(Hayman) 1904 ? KovnoNathan Levin (Cambridge) Louis & Yetta
(Sacks) 1902 ŽidikaiCharles Hyman unknown 1905 ? Mažeikiai, Kovno
So here we have a cluster of families who were probably related to each
other. In some cases, the records only provided the general area (Kovno) of
origin. With such a common name as Levin, determining exact origin would be
difficult if the researcher focused merely on the individual. By spreading out
the research to include contacts on passenger lists and witnesses on
naturalizations, one can identify associates whose origins have been more
specifically detailed. One can then research the records of the specific area to
confirm these relationships. Keeping a wide focus by researching the forest will
increase one’s knowledge of the individual family trees.
1New York Passenger Lists 1820 – 1957, Roll #T715-599. 2Naturalization petition of George Oscar Levin, US District Court
Boston, petition # 9447, 26 August 1913.3Massachusetts Vital
Records, Boston, Marriages, 1894, vol. 44, p. 115, #2061.4Massachusetts Vital Records, Boston, Marriages, 1916, vol. 639, page
305.5Massachusetts Vital Records, Boston, Marriages, 1905, vol.
557, p. 272.6New York Passenger Lists 1820 – 1957, Roll
#T715-289. 7Naturalization petition, U.S. Circuit Court,
Boston, Petition #476.8New York Passenger Lists, 1820 – 1957,
Roll #T715-28, p. 127.9Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850 – 1934,
Volume 373-7, VII A 1 Band 131, p. 1275.10Massachusetts Vital
Records, Boston, Deaths, 1934, vol. 8, p. 209, #1289.11Birth
Record of son, Morris Levin, Massachusetts Vital Records, Births, Cambridge,
1909, vol. 583, p. 363, #1212. Mother’s name is Sarah Paris.12Massachusetts Vital Records, Cambridge, Deaths, 1931, vol. 28, p.
387, #388.13Massachusetts Vital Records, Boston, Marriages,
1904, vol. 549, p. 66, #1515.14WWI Draft Registration, Benjamin
Kahn, Draft Board #5, Boston, MA, Roll 1684878.15WWI Draft
Registration #3482, Milton Kahn, 5 Jan 1917; WWI Draft Registration, James Jason
Kahn, Draft Board #5, Boston, MA, Roll 1684878. 16Editor &
Publisher Unknown, A Town Named Libau, ca 1985. Translated and
reproduced on http://www.jewishgen.org/.17Boston Passenger Lists 1891-1943, Roll #75.18Massachusetts Vital Records, Boston, Deaths, 1934, vol. 14, p. 434,
#4836.19George Washington Bromley, 1902 Atlas of
Boston. Philadelphia: G.W. Bromley, 1902. 20Naturalization
petition of Nathan Levin, US Circuit Court, Boston, vol. 282, p. 148.21New York Passenger Lists, 1820 – 1957, Passenger List of SS
Polaria, Stettin, Germany to New York, 31 July 1891, Film #M237-572, List, 1140.
22Massachusetts Vital Records, Boston, Marriages, 1894, vol.
44, p. 115, #2061.23Naturalization petition of Nathan Levin, US
Circuit Court, Boston, 1896, vol. 282, p. 148. 1900 Boston City Directory, p.
977.241902 Boston City Directory, p. 1004.251910 U.S. Census, Ward 5, Boston, Roll T624-615, p. 10A, ED
1313.261918 Boston City Directory, p. 938. 27Massachusetts Vital Records, Brookline, Deaths, vol. 28, p. 202,
#581.28Naturalization petition of Maurice G. Levin, US District
Court, Boston, vol. 259, p. 220.29Boston Passenger Lists, 1820
– 1943, Film #17, 9 Sept 1895.30WWI Draft Registration, Roll
168, Draft Board 16.311930 U.S. Census, Brookline, MA, Roll
933, p. 13A, ED 19.32Massachusetts Vital Records, Brookline,
Deaths, vol. 28, p. 202, #581.