According to his daughter Rebecca’s birth certificate, we learn that Morris, aka Moses Aron and aka Moritz, hailed from Bessarabia. Why did Morris want to leave to come to the US?

At that time, many articles appeared in the Jewish Press in Bessarabia.

  • “Prices are rising and the numbers of the poor are growing – they have no food”. This was written from a village in 1895.
  • Another village is described in 1890 as “…the poverty among the Jews has reached frightening levels”. The correspondent adds, perhaps an exaggeration, “People are dying of hunger”.
  • The expulsions and the deteriorating economic situation pushed the Jews to leave.
  • In 1893 the central committee of the Jewish Colonization Association received requests from more than 300 Jewish families from Bessarabia to help them leave Russia.
  • The main destination was the United States, but others went to Canada and other countries including Argentina and Eretz Israel.
1893 MIlwaukee City Directory

Our Morris left Bessarabia and arrived in the US around 1889. Tall, lean and blue-eyed, we first find Morris living in Milwaukee, WI, in the 1893 city directory.  He was listed as a carpenter under Moses Feldman.

We also know that he married Esther Stern from Odessa, Russia, on May 3, 1893. On their wedding license, Morris’ name is Moses Aron Feldman. Their wedding photo was taken by photographer, Paul Prescher, of 529 Chestnut Street, Milwaukee.

Wedding license of Morris Feldman and Esther Stern, 1893
Morris and Ester Feldman's wedding photo, 1893
Moses and Esther Feldman, 1893

Morris’ first child, a son named Benjamin, was born in Milwaukee on April 2, 1894.  On his new son’s birth certificate, Morris’ name is listed as Moriz.

Morris and Esther move to Chicago by 1895. Their next two children were born there. On July 24, 1895, their daughter, Ida, was born. On August, 5, 1896, their daughter, Rebecca (Becki), was born. Becki would later be known as Beattie.

Sometime after Beattie arrives, the family relocates to New York.  They first settled in the tough neighborhood of Goereck Street where their daughter, Anna (named Sadie on the birth certificate) was born on Dec. 6, 1897.

At some point after her birth, they relocated to Brooklyn, New York where more children were born. Each child, though, was born at a different address meaning they moved around quite a bit.

  • Apr. 9, 1899 – Bertha, later known as Birdie
    • Dec. 8, 1900 – Rose
    • July 27, 1902 – Samuel
    • Aug. 9, 1907 – Peter
    • Aug. 5, 1910 – Rudolph

By the 1900 Census Report, it appears that Moritz Americanized his name and was now going by Morris. He also changed jobs but was always working.  From the 1900 census, we learn that he could read, write, and speak English, but had never been to school.

Over the years, the Census Reports list his various jobs.

Morris Feldman's various jobs from 1900 - 1910

In the 1907 family portrait, Morris’ youngest 2 sons, Peter and Rudy, were not born yet.

Morris and Esther Feldman's family in 1907

November 4, 1911, was a life-changing day for Morris and his family.  The family now lived very close to to where Morris worked.  One day the older children came running to the shop.  “Come home, Papa” they screamed, “There is something wrong with Mama”. He ran home to find Esther bleeding on the floor.  She was taken to the hospital but died a few days later.

He now had 9 children, ranging in age from 17 to 1, to raise on his own. He kept his family together, never putting them into foster care and never separating them, and never remarried. He devoted the rest of his life to his family.

Even without his wife by his side, Morris continued to move his family around.  By 1917, he had a phone with the number:  Williamsburg 3031. By 1920, he owned his own home and had a different phone number: Skidmore 7011.  This was common back then.  Each time you moved you received a different number.

Alexander Graham Bell  had invented the telephone in 1876.

By 1900, over 600,000 phones were in homes across the country, but it appears that Morris did not have one until 1917.  That is the first year that a phone number appeared for Morris in a city directory.

As mentioned above, even after Esther died, he continued to move around and change jobs.

Morris Feldman's jobs from 1915 - 1930

The older children all pitched in and helped Morris with their younger siblings. Ida was devoted her entire life to her younger siblings and throughout the years she kept the family together even though they lived miles and states apart from each other.

In November of 1917, Anna suddenly marries her boyfriend, Abraham E. Kessler. Did Morris, or any of her siblings, know that she was pregnant when she got married?

Birdie married in June of 1917 and moved out of the family home.

Morris and his 2 youngest sons, Peter and Rudy, 1920
Morris and his 2 youngest sons, Peter and Rudy, 1920

Ida married Isadore Rosenberg on Oct. 21, 1919. She and her husband moved in with Morris and the rest of the family and were there through the 1925 Census.

Morris msut have been very proud when he was able to purchase his own home at 1925 Rockaway Parkway in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn.

Side view of the 1925 Rockaway Parkway house
Side view of the 1925 Rockaway Parkway house

Morris’s home was a single family house built in 1915. It consisted of 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, a sunroom, a living room, a kitchen, and was 2 stories. We don’t know what it sold for back then, but it sold in 1997 for $148,000 and today in 2019, it is estimated at $531,897.

Morris enjoyed making wine and Slivowitz, a plum brandy, in his basement.

At some point after the 1920 Census, Ben got married and moved out.

On June 1, 1935, Morris’ youngest child, Rudy, dies from a bad heart due to complications from Scarlet Fever that he had as a child. There was no penicillin in those days. This was a devastating blow for the close-knit family. He was only 25, and engaged to be married.

Contract for Rudy Feldman's headstone..
Morris make the arrangements for his son’s tombstone.

For the 1930 Census, Birdie and her husband, Mike Wissner, are now living with Morris. They were married on June 1, 1917. Ida and her family had moved out.  However, at some point they moved back in with Morris and were there until his death in 1937.

Morris Feldman

Only 18 months after his son, Rudy’s, unveiling, Morris died. He passed away on Dec. 6, 1937, at the age of 68. Morris had sold his Canarsie house and was living in an apartment when he passed away.

Morris Feldman death certificate - 1937

Note that on the death certificate, his parent’s names are given as Abraham Feldman and Sarah Cohen. This is different from what is on his marriage license and on his tombstone. Maybe Abraham is his brother and was confused filling out the form? I have encountered many errors on these historical records so this could be just another one.

Morris is buried in Beth David Cemetery in Elmont, NY in the Bogopoler Unter Verein section. (Bogopil is another name for Odessa where Esther came from).

He is in Section A, Block 9, Row E, Grave 21.

The Hebrew on his tombstone says: Moshe son of Raphael Dov. Passed away 2nd day of Teves 5698

Morris Feldman's grave in Beth David Cemetery.
Morris Feldman's tombstone plan.
Peter arranged for his father’s tombstone.

Below are some memories of Morris from 3 of his grandchildren:

Estelle Rosenberg Eisler remembers her grandfather living with them and always felt that she was his favorite. He was retired when she knew him. Estelle vaguely remembers her grandfather going to Synagogue and observing the Sabbath as well as the Holidays. She still remembers the Sukkah he built in the backyard. Ida kept a kosher home for him after her mother died.  She remembers that he spoke English to his children and grandchildren, but he continued to read a Yiddish newspaper everyday.  Although her mother understood Yiddish, she was not fluent in it. Morris, her grandfather, had bought a house in Canarsie, a section of Brooklyn. Before moving in with grandfather, Estelle’s family moved around a lot.  Actually, her grandfather always wanted to own a farm, but he never got to realize that. (like the name “Feld” origin!) I wonder if he came from a rural area? Estelle remembers all 13 cousins coming for dinner on Friday nights with Ida doing the cooking. He was a cabinet maker and made the dining room table in the house. Rudy, Sam and Pete also lived in the house.  The depression was hard on all of them. Anna’s family lived across the street for a short time.

Estelle remembers living at 37 Lincoln Place when Morris moved in with them.  Here is what that area looks like today.  We see #35 on the left and #39 on the right. I think #37 must have been in the space where the cars currently are.  I wonder what happened to it.

Estelle remembers a man visiting and being greeted warmly by Morris.  Was that his brother?

Eddie Wissner ( age 100 in 2018) recollects about his grandfather:

Morris was a quiet man who did not talk English too well and spoke mainly in Yiddish. (Estelle disagrees with this and says he always spoke in English to his family.  As a matter of fact, she says that none of his children were fluent in Yiddish, including her mother, Ida, who cared for him.)

Although Eddie thought his grandfather seemed distant, Estelle did not and she remembers him fondly.

Estelle admits that her grandfather was not a talkative man, or warm and cuddly.  He was dignified and close to his daughter, Ida, his granddaughter, Estelle, and his sons. He was a very loving family man.

Eddie can picture his grandfather reading the newspapers which were either in Hebrew or Yiddish.

He was a family man. He had a furniture factory and was well off.

Florence (Kessler) Cronson, when asked about her grandfather in Feb. of 2019 said that there were so many cousins running around, that if he lost one amid the clamber he wouldn’t have known.

As her comment indicates, though, the cousins were all close growing up, but sadly, grew apart as the years went by. However, they never forgot each other and would visit, and often stay with each other, when their travels brought them to the various different states they all ended up settling in.

As of 2019, Morris has over 105 descendants from his 5 daughters.

  • 9   Children
  • 14  Grandchildren
  • 27  Great-grandchildren
  • 39   Great-great grandchildren
  • and at least 25 great-great-great grandchildren and counting!

Note: Although his sons all married, they never had children of their own so there are no “Feldman” last name cousins in our direct line.

Outstanding Questions:

  • Exactly when did Morris immigrate to the US and what US port did he enter?
  • What are the names of Morris’ sibling?
  • Why did he go to Milwaukee and then to Chicago?
  • Where and when was he naturalized?