Birdie, born Bertha Feldman, was the fifth child born to Morris and Esther Feldman. She was born at home on April 9, 1899, in Brooklyn, NY.
She was probably named after her grandmother, Braine Burdman, Morris’ mother. Braine is a common Yiddish name and people Americanized it to Bertha with a nickname of Birdie! This based on a discussion about the name Braine on The Facebook Genealogy Group “Tracing the Tribe”.
Although we learn a lot from the census reports, they often contained errors. Here are some examples of what was in them and the errors they contained.
- In 1900, her family lived at 122 McKibbon Street in Brooklyn and she is listed as Bertha but her birthday is listed as January, 1897.
- In 1905, they lived at 306 Bushwick Avenue in Brooklyn, NY, and she is listed as Birdie and is 6 years old which would put her birth year as 1899, not 1897 as in the 1900 Census Report.
- In 1910, they lived at 1887 Beaver Street in Brooklyn and she is listed as Bertha and 25 years old, which could not be correct if she were born in 1899.
- In 1911, her mother, Esther, died, but her father kept the family together.
- In 1915, they are living at 1855 Prospect Street. However, the census report is mixed up and they have “Bertha” as an 18 year old daughter working as a saleslady. They also list a 16 year old daughter, Beatrice, working as a cashier. This Beatrice, I believe, is Bertha, aka Birdie. The Bertha on this report is really her older sister, Beattie. Esther, her mother, is still listed on this census report even though she died in 1911.
Birdie was the tallest of the Feldman girls and stood 5’8” tall.
On June 1, 1917, she applied for a marriage license and on June 3, 1917, she married Irving Michael Wissner
Birdie and Michael had 2 children:
- Edwin H., aka Eddie, 10/ 14/1918 – 4/16/2019
- Stanley Jack, 12/29/1922 – 7/1/2017/2017
By 1930, her father, Morris, was living at 1925 Rockaway Parkway. Originally, Birdie’s sister Ida and her family lived there, but they had moved out and Bertha and her husband and sons, Eddie, age 11 and Stanley, age 7 moved in. Birdie’s brothers, Peter and Rudy were also still living at home with them and their father. At this time, her husband, Michael (Irving), was a milk salesman. He preferred to be called Michael.
Michael (Irving) died in 1967.
Birdie’s niece, Estelle Rosenberg Eisler, Ida’s daughter, took a trip to FL in the 80’s. Her Uncle Pete had already died, but she saw Sophie, and visited Birdie and saw Birdie again when Stanley Wissner, Birdie’s son, picked her up and took her to the Ockman’s, his married daughter’s home.
Right before her 100th birthday, she tripped on a water sprinkler outside of her building and broke her hip. She celebrated her 100th birthday in the hospital, but needed surgery on her hip and died shortly after that.
Birdie died on May 6, 1999, at age 100 in Miami, FL. She had been living at 7231 Wayne Ave Apt 77, Miami, FL, 33141. She lived long enough to attend her great-grandson’s wedding. She and her husband, Mike Wissner, are buried at Mount Nebo Cemetery in Miami, FL.
Below are some recollections about Birdie from close family members.
From her son, Eddie Wissner:
When Bertha married Mike (Irving) they had no money and moved in with her father Morris in Carnesie.
From her niece Estelle Eisler:
Birdie came several times to visit her sister ((Estelle’s mother), Ida, and the rest of her family in CA. She stayed with her son, Eddie, for several days and longer with Ida. Estelle’ sister, Maxine, would take Birdie and Ida sightseeing, while Estelle was working. Birdie had 2 sons, so she enjoyed really enjoyed spending some girl time with her nieces. She was especially close to Esther Kessler (Anna’s daughter), as Esther was her oldest known niece. Estelle saw her Aunt Birdie, and her brother, Sam and his wife Ruth, when she took a trip to Florida. She also saw Birdie’s son, Stanley and his wife, Evelyn, and their daughter, Shelly and her family. Estelle last spoke to her Aunt shortly before the accident. Birdie was baking cake at the time of their conversation.
From Alberta Mandelblatt, Albert’s wife:
Albert’s family lived just one block away from the Mandelblatts so they spent more time with that side of the family. However, she did know Birdie well.
From her great-grandson, David Ockman:
Birdie was born in NY, but moved to FL. Birdie’s husband passed away in the 1960’s. Her friend Celia, who also lost her husband, came to visit and ended up staying and living with Birdie for many years.
David remembers Birdie packing to go out to CA for her grand-daughter’s wedding.
Birdie lived to be 100. She lived independently in a building with a lot of other widowed women. They played cards and mahjong and went out to dinner together. She lived close to her daughter and grand-children and someone was always looking in on her. David went every Wednesday and took her grocery shopping, even when he was in college. She never used a walker and was active her entire life. Up until the end, she cooked and baked and paid her own rent and bills.
From her grandson, Peter Wissner:
His grandfather, Irving Wisnesfsky, married Bertha Feldman. He was poor and was a milkman. He had trouble finding work so changed his name to Mike Wissner (not legally. He just started calling himself Mike). He was from Vilius, and never finished HS.
Bertha’s father-in-law had a brother, Lewis who had a son, Nathan Wissner. Nathan Wissner was convicted of murder (The Reader’s Digest Murder) and sentenced to die at Sing Sing. Nathan had been a “wanna-be” gangster.