Jan Savitt in the Census

Yesterday, I posted the 1930 US Census Record for Jan Savitt in order to discover if some of the biographical material about this famous bandleader of the 1930′s and 1940′s was correct.   The record showed that, in 1930, Jan Savitt’s name was recorded as Jay Savitt, that he was born in about 1908 in Russia, that he immigrated in 1911, was Jewish, and in 1930 was single, employed as a musician in an orchestra, and living in Philadelphia.  The 1930 Census also showed that his parents were Joseph and Ida Savitt and that he had two brothers named David and William, and a cousin David.

The 1920 Census Record for Jan Savitt reveals some interesting information as well.

1920 Census Joseph Savitt

1920 Census Record for Joseph Savitt and Family

The 1920 Census shows that:

  • In 1920, the family was living at 4056 [?] 62nd Street in Philadelphia (this address is close to the family’s address in 1930)
  • The head of household was Joseph, age 48, a married white male, born in Russia, working as a dealer [?] at OA [?] 
  • Joseph’s wife was Ida, age 40, a married white female, born in Russia, with no occupation listed
  • Joseph and Ida’s son David was a 19 year old, single white male, born in Russia, working as a cutter (could this have been in the same wholesale dress business in which he was employed in 1930?)
  • The couple’s son William was a 16 year old, single white male, born in Russia, working as a salesman in a department [store?] 
  • The couple’s son Jan is listed as Jacob Savitt, an 11 year old, single white male, born in Russia, with no occupation listed, although he was in school at the time
  • All people in the household are listed as citizens who immigrated in 1909 (Joseph’s record looks like it says he immigrated in 1902, but it could be 1909) and were naturalized in 1919 [?]
  • The family owned their home and, though it’s difficult to read, it appears that the home was mortgaged
  • Though it’s difficult to read, everyone in the family could read and write except for Ida

Clink on the link for a PDF of the 1920 Census Record for Joseph Savitt’s family.

This census record suggests that Joseph and Ida were born a little later than does the data in the 1930 Census.  The immigration year listed in the 1930 Census was 1911, but in this census the immigration year was 1909.  With an immigration year before 1910, a good place to look for the family is in the 1910 Census.

The family does, indeed, appear in the 1910 Census.

1910 Census for Joseph Servetnick

1910 Census Record for Joseph Servetnik and Family

The 1910 Census shows that:

  • In 1910, the family’s surname was Servetnick and was living at 235 Monroe Street in Philadelphia
  • The head of household was Joseph, age 36, a married white Yiddish male, born in Russia, working as a maker of feather dusters
  • Joseph’s wife was Ida, age 36, a married white Yiddish female, born in Russia, with no occupation listed
  • Joseph and Ida were married when both were 17, suggesting that they were both born in about 1874 and married in about 1891 (so they must have been married in Russia)
  • Ida had given birth to 5 children, but only 4 were living in 1910
  • Joseph and Ida’s son Morris was a 15 year old, single white Yiddish male, born in Russia, working as a maker of feather dusters
  • The couple’s son David was a 13 year old, single white Yiddish male, born in Russia, with no occupation listed, but listed as being in school
  • The couple’s son William was a 10 year old, single white Yiddish male, born in Russia, with no occupation listed, but listed as being in school
  • The couple’s son Jan is listed as Jacob Servetnick, a 2 year old, single white male, born in Russia, with no occupation listed
  • All people in the household are listed as aliens who immigrated in 1909 
  • The family owned their home and, though it’s difficult to read, it appears that the home was mortgaged
  • Joseph and Ida spoke Yiddish, but Morris, David, and William could speak English
  • Joseph, Morris, David, and William could read and write, but Ida and Jacob could not

Click on the link to see a PDF of the 1910 Census Record for Joseph Servetnick’s family.

Here’s a summary of the calculated birth years based on the 1910, 1920, and 1930 Census Records:

                    1910              1920              1930     Cumulative Range
Joseph     1873-1874     1871-1872     1869-1870     1869-1874
Ida          1873-1874     1879-1880     1878-1879     1873-1880
Morris      1894-1895     1893-1894*   1895-1896*    1893-1896*
David       1896-1897     1900-1901     1900-1901     1896-1901
William     1899-1900     1903-1904     1903-1904     1899-1904
Jan          1907-1908     1908-1909     1907-1908     1907-1909

* Data on the birth year of Morris from the 1920 and 1930 Census is from records not yet published in this Blog.

A couple of observations on this information:

  • Jan Savitt was clearly born before the birthdate (September 4, 1913) ascribed to him in his biographies; he was most likely born between 1907 and 1909
  • The family most likely immigrated from Russia in 1909, in contrast to the immigration year of 1914 listed in some biographies and in contrast to the immigration year of 1911 listed in the 1930 census
  • The family likely became citizens in 1919; probably only Joseph went through the naturalization process and the rest of the family became citizens automatically as a consequence (derivative citizenship)
  • The family was Jewish and had emigrated from Russia
  • The family’s surname changed from Servetnick (or a variant such as Sarvetnick, Serwetnick, Sarwetnick, Servetnik, Sarvetnik, Serwetnik, or Sarwernik) to Savitt (or Savit in some records such as the 1930 Census)
  • Jan’s name was originally Jacob, but changed to Jay and later to Jan
  • Jan was playing in an orchestra by 1930, when he was about 22 years old, which is at least consistent with the biographies that state he was playing in the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra at the age of 14 or 15
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3 Responses to Jan Savitt in the Census

  1. David N.Savitt says:

    I believe my father and Jan Savitt were first cousins.I have some interesting genealogical data about the family.

  2. Devi Savitt Bellows says:

    Hi David,
    My grandson just sent me this old message. I would be very interested to find out how or if we are related. My father was Jan Savitt and he died when I was still 6 years old. I know very little about his family or heritage.

    Thanks you,
    Devi (Savitt) Bellows

  3. Todd Rogers says:

    Devi: My sister and I have followed with great interest anything I could find on Jan Savitt. My dad played trumpet in the band in 1939 in Philadelphia. I think it was only for a short while, as his fiancee (my mother) didn’t want to live the musician’s lifestyle. Both my mom and dad died in 2006. I have tried to find any pictures or videos of the band. One of the albums that I have has a picture of the band in 1939 and, voila, there is my dad in the back row. If you know of a good source for pictures, I’d really appreciate knowing about it. My wife and I went to a play last Friday of “A Christmas Story” and I was floored, when I heard the old time radio that they were playing as background, to hear the announcer refer to Jan and His Top Hatters! My sister said, “It’s Dad telling us he’s ok.” Any info you could supply me with would really be appreciated. Thanks, Todd Rogers. Fort Collins, Colorado

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