Casa de Schwartz

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Casa de Schwartz

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Max and Anna (Balyetskey) Schwartz

Max Schwartz and Anna Bayetskey appear out of nowhere in Boston with the recording of their marriage in 1875. Not one record has been found prior to this year although Max claimed he arrived via New York City in 1868. After 1875 the movements of the Schwartz family become easy to track:  in the extensive Boston city directories; in the 1880, 1900 and 1910 US censuses; in Boston-based newspapers; and, finally, in Massachusetts’ excellent vital records system. Original analysis of these records gave the simplistic explanation that Max and Anna were poor  immigrates from the “Pale of Settlement” in Russia escaping anti-Jewish pogroms. However, that picture has evolved as more records have emerged.

Max Schwartz
Early documents about Max can be contradictory. After he surfaces in Boston with his marriage certificate on 13 Jun 1875 recorded as “Mark Schwartz”, the 1876-78 Boston City Directories list him as “Anthony Schwartz”. It is not clear whether the names  “Mark” or “Anthony” represents an error or a new significant clue. The family appears together in the 1880 and 1900 censuses, both with multiple errors likely due to miscommunication with the census taker. He became naturalized in 1882, stating his birth as Dec 1850, and his immigration to New York City on 10 Sep 1868. These dates may or may not be valid. Note that he would be under the age of 18 on his arrival making it potentially easier to get citizenship.

Max worked as a tailor on 80 Blackstone. Initially, it was assumed that he toiled alone at his little shop. New information about his career has recently been uncovered in “Leading Manufactures and Merchants of the City of Boston”, 1885 (googlebooks.com) where it is written:

“MAX SCHWARTZ, Tailor, No. 80 Blackstone Street. – Mr. Schwartz established himself in the business in 1875, and by close application to his bench and a careful attention to the wants of every customer, has acquired a reputation. He occupies a large floor 50×80 feet, well furnished and provided with every facility necessary for prosecuting his business. He gives employment to fifty hands and turns out a large quantity of very fine work. His trade is principally confined to Boston, although he had frequent orders out of town. Mr. Schwartz is a native of Europe, and came to this country in 1868.”

The property at 80 Blackstone lies near the famous Haymarket square where locals sell fresh produce on weekends in a grand outdoor market. Visit the address today and you will see a parking lot. We do, however, have a good clue what the property looked from historic photos of some nearby buildings. We also know that the business operated on the 2nd or 3rd floor based on help-wanted ads as exemplified by this classified in “The Boston Herald”, 1 Nov 1882. 

WANTED – Immediately experienced machine girls and fine stitchers on coats; also experienced binders; good pay and steady work. Apply at 80 Blackstone st.; up 2 flights. MAX SCHWARTZ.

Max had the financial means to start his own business. This wealth explains how he was able to employ the Irish servant shown in the 1880 census. It also explains how this Jewish tailor was able send four of his sons to MIT. One hopes that Max had a solid reputation in the community by providing decent jobs to the Boston immigrants rather than operating a “sweat shop”. Max would ultimately transition away from the clothing industry when he starting accumulating real estate with the purchase of the 10 Wall Street property around 1888. By the time of the 1910 census, he worked as a real estate operator who listed his occupation “on own income”. 

Max married again on 17 Oct 1910 to Yetta Frush, widow of Harris Belton. The marriage lasted all of forty days. Max died on 27 Nov 1910 from chronic illness associated with bronchitis and emphysema. Burial site is listed in Mishkan Tefila, but no gravestone has been found. Both Susan Schwartz, granddaughter of David Schwartz and June Schwartz, daughter of Aaron Schwartz, had a surviving photo of Max.

Anna (Balyetskey) Schwartz
We know little about Anna besides the information in the marriage certificate listing her age of 19 (born 1856) , and the names of her parents, David and Wilhelmina. Her maiden name is likely a variation of Balyetskey as listed on the marriage certificate or Barbietsky as named on Benjamin’s death certificate. However, those rare surnames do not appear on any Boston documents so we do not see any signs of any potential siblings or her parents. Anna simply goes by the anglicized “Bloom” (and sometimes “Davis”) on later documents.  Given the evidence, one cannot rule out that Max and Anna immigrated to Boston in 1875 where they recorded their marriage. She tragically died on 26 Mar 1899 from complications after the birth of her ninth child, Harry. The burial took place in Dedham, although no gravestone has been located. Thanks to June Schwartz, a photo of Anna survives. She appears to be a formidable woman. 

Roots of Max and Anna
It turns out that there is significance to the arrival date of Max and Anna, anywhere from 1868 (naturalization & 1910 census) to 1875 (1900 census).  Historically, the big wave of Jewish immigration started years later, in 1881, after Russia began anti-Jewish pograms in the Pale of Settlements. However, early Boston Jews came from German,  England, or even Holland prior to this huge influx from West Russia. The Jewish population, estimated at 3,000 in 1875, surged to 40,000 by 1900. You can see this trend in the Boston city directories by comparing the number of Schwartzes over time.

Max and Anna variously specify their county of origin as Russia, Poland, Russia Poland or Germany, and their native tongue as Polish or Yiddish. These places are found on the census, naturalization papers, and birth registers of their children. Yet Poland did not exist. The “Poland Lithuania Commonweath” as it was called, had progressive laws that allowed Jewish culture to flourish. However,  the government failed to resist the surrounding countries of Germany, Hungary and Russia who absorbed this land in successive moves in the late 1700’s. By 1792 parts of Poland could be found in Russia (hence references to Russia and Russia Poland), in Prussia (part of the German Empire), and in Hungary (part of the Austrian Hungarian Empire).

Various Homelands Named by Max and Anna Schwartz

County of OriginSource
Russia1880 census, 1900 Census, Max & Etta marriage, Benjamin birth, Harry birth
PolandMax & Anna marriage, David birth, Rebecca birth, Aaron birth,
Russia PolandMax naturalization, 1910 census
GermanyAugusta birth, Lewis birth, Myra birth, Esther birth

If Max and Anna emigrated from Russia Poland, a few events in Russia Poland may have prompted them to leave as noted by Thomas Balkelis in “Opening Gates to the West: Lithuanian and Jewish Migrations from the Lithuanian Provinces, 1867–1914”. First, a crop failure occurred in 1868 resulting in an outbreak of cholera. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Russia expanded their military draft in 1874 to include all Jewish men, regardless of social class. Russia used this tool to stock their army, and limit the Jewish population. A lot of young men started to leave the area rather than serve the required 25 years in the Russian army.

An email by Lois Lopatin implies Max and Anna came from the German part of Poland when she gives the oral history of her grandfather and grandmother: “Joseph’s marriage to Rebecca Schwartz was something of a social coup from his perspective, as Rebecca’s family had been in the United States for one or more generations and because Rebecca’s family was of German origin– higher status than Joseph’s Russo-Polish roots.”

In 1875, a small number of synagogues in Boston served its various communities. One early synagogue, Mishkan Israel,  formed in 1858 by East Prussian Jews (many specifically from Krotoszyn) as a breakaway from the first Boston synagogue, Ohabei Shalom, started by German Jews in 1843. It would merge with Shaarei Tefila in 1895 to become Mishkan Tefila. Max is listed as buried in Michkan Tefila.

On the other hand, Max and Anna were married by Henry E. Dann. Although Dann emigrated from Prussia according his 1880 census, he contracted with Beth Abraham of Boston in 1876. According to various sources, Congregation Beth Abraham was organized in 1875 by Lithuanians. It would later merge in 1886 with Shomre Shabbos to become Shomre Beth Abraham. 

So could Max and Anna Schwartz come from the Polish region known as Krotoszyn? Well, it was located in Prussia, making it more “German”, and we know Max was buried in Michkan Tefila. Or did Max and Anna Schwartz possibly immigrate from Lithuania? The timing of their marriage matches the formation of the Congregation Beth Abraham, and the family seems to identify strongly with Russia Poland. No good answer exists. We simply have little evidence to determine the home state of Max and Anna.

Where the Schwartz Family Lived in Boston
The Boston Public library has a wonderful collection of maps, called the Bromley Atlases, allowing us to track the family’s movements in the city. City directories list addresses as 97 Prince St, 7 Carroll Place, 1 Noyes Place, 10 Wall Street, and 177 Chambers St. All these addresses lie in Boston’s “West End”. The area consisted of tenement houses packed closely together to accommodate the immigrants. Historical photos survives that show views of this neighborhood. One photo shows the street corner 3-4 houses down from the Chambers Street house. Houses are multistory with families living on various floors at a given address. The following newspaper article, which describes a fire at the Schwartz residence on Wall St, gives a good description of the family’s living conditions (from “The Boston Globe”, 6 Oct 1897):

Three Families Asleep in a Burning Building – All Escaped.
Yesterday was one of the great Jewish holidays, when it is customary among members of this faith to leave a lamp or candle burning during the night., and this custom was the cause of a fire which nearly cost several human beings their lives in the tenement house at 10 Wall street early this morning. The house is owned by Max Schwartz, and he occupies the two lower floors with his family, while the third floor is occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Goldstein and several children, and the fourth by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Stone and three children. The Stones had left a lamp burning in the front room of their suite, and were asleep in the rear room. They awoke to find the whole front of their apartment in flames. With great difficulty they managed to make their escape from the burning rooms, and calling the other occupants, all fled to the street, practically in their night clothes. An alarm had been turned in from box 414 at 1:50 o’clock, and when the firemen arrived the entire upper part of the house was in flames. The firemen made quick work of the blaze, but before the fire was out the lower portion of the house was badly wet down. The frightened occupants of the house were taken into neighboring houses, and intense excitement prevailed for a short time, it being reported in the crowd that several people had been burned to death. The total loss on the building and contents will probably not exceed $500 or $600.

Bad news for descendants, who traveled to Boston, to pose in front of the 10 Wall street house – they went to the wrong address. It turns out that Boston had two Wall streets. The properties at Wall and Chambers no longer exist. A reclamation project in the late 1950’s destroyed that part of the city. It was a classic story of greedy developers and government officials displacing immigrant families, forcing them into less desirable, yet more expensive, neighborhoods. Even worse, the replacement buildings are completely devoid of any style or character. You can witness this architectural blight when you visit Government Center Plaza near Fanuel Hall.

The Probate of Max’s Estate
By the time of his death, Max had accumulated considerable property – organized in his probate into five parcels: (1) 12 Wall St, (2) 27 Lowell St, (3) 10 Wall St, (4) 38 Wall St, and (5) 177, 179 & 181 Chambers. He died intestate. Benjamin was appointed executor and guardian over minors Myra, Esther and Harry. Etta, the new bride, got 9/27 of the estate, specifically parcels 1 & 2. The nine children got 2/27 each. There has been a rumor that distribution of these properties might have created some ill will in the family. Benjamin hinted about this on the probate papers when he wrote about himself: “And some doubt has been raised as to whether the guardian’s interest is adverse to that of said minors,…”. Ultimately, Benjamin remained guardian. Two properties, parcels (3) and (4), remained in the family’s hands until at least until 1931 when Myra sold the Chambers Street property. It is unclear how the family ultimately distributed the proceeds.

Children of Max and Anna

  1. David graduated from MIT in 1897. He moved to Louisiana. There he married Laura Koebel in 1902. They had four boys. David became a big player in the oil business – the vegetable oil variety. He ultimately became Vice President of the South Texas Cotton Oil Company. He died in 1926 at the young age of 49 from complications due to asthma.
  2. Rebecca, who married Joseph Aronson in 1898, remained in Boston.  They had four children, three boys and a girl. Joseph became successful in the garment business. Family remains in the Boston area to this day.
  3. Aaron graduated from MIT in 1902 as an industrial engineer. Then moved to Quebec where he worked for the Canadian Power Company during the electrification of Quebec. There he married in 1914 his bride, Edith Ogulnik. They would have one child, June. Eventually, the family settled on a tony part of Park Ave in an apartment that would remain in the family until 2000’s.
  4. Augusta married in 1906 to Samuel Samuels. She died young in 1914 of tuberculosis. No children. Samuel owned a haberdashery store in Boston.
  5. Benjamin graduated from MIT in 1915 with degree in engineering. He married Rose Hambro in 1916, and the couple moved to NY City where Benjamin worked for Safepack Mills, a Boston based company that produced waterproof paper used to protect material being shipped for the war effort. Benjamin died on 1921, cause unknown. No children. Rose never remarried. She can later be found on a few travel manifests before dying near Boston in 1976.
  6. Lewis remains an enigma. He graduated from MIT in 1911 with degree in Chemistry, and moved to NYC. He worked as a chemist at American Litho Co in 1917, and was employed at York Safe & Lock Co in 1937. Not found on the US censuses of 1920, 1930 or 1940, or the NY censuses of 1915 or 1925. The obituary in 1958 of brother Aaron, which names sisters Myra and Esther, doesn’t mention him, although both lived in the same city. A picture of Lewis survives from his college days at MIT.
  7. Esther remains a women of mystery. According to rumors circulating in the Aronson family, Ethel was the musical one and she left her estate to her cats. No evidence has yet been found to support any of these tales.
  8. Myra became a book-keeper, and settled in Worcester. She worked as a secretary/office manager for the HL Robbins firm, an investment firm. Myra is buried in Worcester Rural Cemetery.
  9. Harry was actually born Hiram, but he later changed his name to Harry Wolfe Schwartz. When Anna died as a result of complication from his birth, it affected the family hard.  Max could not accept the situation. Instead, a practical nurse, Mary Harrington, raised Harry who went on to graduate from Harvard and attend Harvard Business school. He eventually settled in New London, CT to begin his career in management at Robertson Paper Box company.

DNA Results

  • On Ancestry.com, Bill Schwartz, a grandson of David Schwartz, matches Bob Schwartz, a grandson of Harry Schwartz. By triangulation, four other individuals are possible 3rd or 4th cousins.
  • On 23andme.com, Bob Schwartz listed as a second cousin to “D Aronson”,  likely a descendant of Rebecca. By triangulation, three other individuals are possible third cousins.
  • On familytreedna.com, Bob Schwartz has a 3rd-5th cousin match to “Andrew Aronson”, who is likely a descendant of Rebecca. 
  • Y-DNA, which allows us to go back many generations through the males heirs has been submitted through familytreedna. No matches were identified.