A Brief Biography of the Joseph Sarvetnick Family

With all the research I’ve conducted on the family of Jan Savitt over the past 12 days, I thought I’d put it all together to write a bit of a biography of the family.  In addition to the information I’ve published on this Blog, I’ve read some biographical information published in books and reference materials and I’ve found some other data in online indexes, the census, and newspapers, so I have a good amount of background material.

THE FAMILY OF JOSEPH SARVETNICK

Joseph Sarvetnick was born in Shumsk, Russia.  At the time Joseph lived there, Shumsk was located in the Volhynia Gubernia (Governate or Province) of The Russian Empire.  Prior to January 23, 1793, this region was part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, but was annexed to Russia during the Second Partition of Poland.  Today, Shumsk is known as Shumskoye, located in the Ternopil’ Oblast (Province) of western Ukraine.  Shumskoye is east of Poland, south of Belarus, and north of Romania.

The Sarvetnick family was Jewish and, in fact, most of the shtetl of Shumsk was Jewish at the time they lived there.  In 1897, the population of Shumsk totaled 2258, 87% of whom were Jews.

Joseph Sarvetnick and Ida Steinberg were married in about 1891 and had five children, four of whom lived to adulthood.  According to Joseph’s naturalization papers, Joseph was born on December 10, 1869, his wife Ida was born in August 1877, their son Morris was born on September 8, 1895, son David was born on April 2, 1901, son William was born on April 9, 1903, and son Jacob was born on July 4, 1908.  All were presumably born in Shumsk, Russia.  These dates may be only estimates, however.  Nearly every official document lists a different date of birth for the members of Joseph Sarvetnick’s family.

Joseph immigrated to America on the S.S. Kaiserin Auguste Victoria, departing from Hamburg on November 23, 1906 and arriving in New York on December 10, 1906.  Upon arriving in New York, Joseph traveled to Philadelphia, where he stayed with his brother Isaac Sarvetnick.

The rest of the family probably immigrated to America in 1909, but the details of their immigration are not known.  Joseph may have traveled back to Shumsk and returned to Philadelphia with his family, or he may simply have sent for them after he had established himself in America.  By 1920, the family had changed their surname to Savitt.

During the period from 1910 to 1930, Joseph worked as a maker of feather dusters, as a dealer (?) and as a motor mechanic in a motor brushes manufacturing factory.  By 1920, the family owned their own home in Philadelphia.

Morris Sarvetnick (Morris Savitt)

Morris married a woman named Sarah.  Sarah was born in about 1899-1900 in Russia.  Between 1910-1930, Morris worked variously as a manufacturer of feather dusters, as a shoe worker in a shoe factory, and as a cutter in a meat store.  The couple raised three children:  Thelma (or Tillie) born in about July 1918, Lillian born in about 1920-1921, and Robert, born in about 1926-1927, all in Pennsylvania.

David Sarvetnick (David Savitt)

David married Hilda V. Joffe.  David was born In Shumsk, Russia on April 15, 1898 or 1899 or 1900 and died on October 6, 1964.  Hilda was born on July 5, 1912 in Rochester, New York and died on August 26, 2000.  From 1920-1930 David worked as a cutter and as a salesman in wholesale dresses.  David and Hilda had two sons, both born in Pennsylvania.

William Sarvetnick (William Savitt)

William married Mildred Elizabeth Lehrman.  Mildred was born on July 21, 1917 in New Mexico.  Between 1920-1930, William worked as a salesman in a department store and as a salesman in wholesale shoes.  William and Mildred had a son, Richard William, who was born on December 16, 1943 in Los Angeles, Los Angeles Co., California.  Richard died on February 26, 2006 in Visalia, Tulare Co., California.

Jacob Sarvetnick (Jan Savitt)

Although some official documents list Jacob’s birthdate as September 4, 1913, he was most certainly born before 1910, probably about 1908.  Biographies often list his birthplace as Petrograd (St. Petersburg), Russia, but it’s more likely that he was born in Shumsk, Russia, where his parents and brothers were born.

By 1930, Jacob went by the name of Jay Savitt, and later he adopted the name Jan Savitt.  He studied violin at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia from 1924 to 1930 with Carl Flesch and Richard Hartzer.  According to the 1930 Census, he was working as a musician in an Orchestra, probably the Philadelphia Orchestra where he played under the direction of Leopold Stokowski.

According to The Big Bands by George Thomas Simon (Shirmer Books, New York, 1981), Jan organized The Savitt String Quartet and won the Philharmonic Society’s Gold Medal Award as well as a radio series on CBS.  He was hired to be the musical director at Philadelphia radio station WCAU, and later he was hired by the Philadelphia radio station KYW.

In 1937, Jan formed the popular band The Top Hatters, playing at hotels and ballrooms.  The band played with a distinctive beat called a shuffle rhythm, designed around a piano playing at double time.  On April 7, 1940, Jan married his wife Barbara in New York City.  The couple had two children.

Jan Savitt and His Top Hatters continued to play around the country, gaining great popularity.  In addition to playing instrumentals, the band employed the talented singers Carlotta Dale and Bon Bon (George Tunnell).  Bon Bon was one of the first African Americans to work with a white band.  Later, the budding movie star Gloria DeHaven performed with the band.  In 1944, Jan increased the size of his orchestra and went on tour with Frank Sinatra.

In his career, Jan Savitt played the violin professionally, worked for two radio stations, conducted his own orchestras, and wrote his own music, including Moonrise (1937), 720 in the Books (1939), and It’s a Wonderful Life (1941).  In 1939, Jan Savitt’s recording of 720 in the Books reached #17 in the popular music charts.  In 1940, his recording Make Believe Island reached #8 in the charts.  Recordings of the music of Jan Savitt and His Top Hatters are readily available on CD today.  If that weren’t enough for one career, Jan Savitt also made a couple of movies, including High School Hero (1946) and That’s My Gal (1947).

On October 4, 1948, while on tour in Sacramento, California, Jan Savitt died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 40.

Copyright © 2006 by Stephen J. Danko

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World War II Draft Cards for David and Morris Savitt

The last two records for the Savitt family I was able to find are the World War II Draft Registration Cards for David and Morris Savitt.  These cards are from the “Old Men’s Draft” described in a previous post.  These are the Draft Registration Cards for the Fourth Registration conducted in 1942 and include men born between 28 APR 1877 and 16 FEB 1897.

WWII David Savitt

David Savitt’s World War II Draft Registration Card

Click on the link for a PDF copy of the WW2 Draft Card for David Savitt – 1942. The record states that:

  • David Savitt’s Serial Number was U192
  • He lived at 5807 Hazel Ave., Phila., Pa. and his mailing address was the same
  • His telephone number was She. 0689
  • He was 46 years old and was born on Mar. 4, 1896 in Russia
  • A person who would always know his address was Mr. Frank Meingort, 5807 Hazel Ave., Phila., Pa.
  • His employer was Mayfair Leather Co., 1308 Vine St., Phila., Pa

WWII Morris Savitt

Morris Savitt’s World War II Draft Registration Card

Click on the link for a PDF copy of the WW2 Draft Card for Marris Savitt – 1942. The record states that:

  • Morris Savitt’s Serial Number was U1176
  • He lived at 5961 Belmar Ter., Phila., Penna. and his mailing address was the same
  • His telephone number was Sar. 7149
  • He was 46 years old and was born on Sept. 28 1896 in Sumk, Russia
  • A person who would always know his address was Sarah Savitt, 5961 Belmar Ter.
  • He was self-employed at his home address

Based on the birthdate of David, I assume this David is the brother or nephew of Joseph Savitt.  Morris is the son of Joseph Savitt.

These cards also have information on the reverse, but the way the cards were digitized, I could not obtain the reverse side of the cards.  When I’m in Salt Lake City next, I’ll copy the reverse sides of these cards.

Copyright © 2006 by Stephen J. Danko

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Where’s Morris?

Jan Savitt’s older brother Morris was listed with his parents and brothers in the 1910 US Census, but was missing from the enumeration of the same family in 1920 and 1930.  So, where was he?

In 1920, Morris is listed as head of household in a different house.

1930 Morris Savitt

1920 US Census Record for Morris Savitt and Family

Click on the link for a PDF copy of US Federal Census Record for the Morris Savitt Family – 1920. The record shows that:

  • Morris Savitt was living at 5535 Pemberton Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Morris was a married white male, 26 years old, and born in Russia
  • He owned his house; the house was mortgaged
  • He immigrated in 1907 and was an alien
  • His native tongue was Yiddish, he could read and write, and he could speak English
  • He was employed as a shoe worker in a shoe factory
  • Morris’ wife was a married white woman named Sarah who was 20 years old and born in Russia
  • She immigrated in 1906 and was an alien
  • Her native tongue was Yiddish, she could read and write, and she could speak English
  • She was not employed
  • The couple had a daughter Tillie who was a single female 1 6/12 years old, born in Pennsylvania
  • A boarder named Isaac Bronstrin [?] lived with them

In 1930, Morris had moved.

1930 Morris Savitt

1930 US Census Record for Morris Savitt and Family

Click on the link for a PDF copy of US Federal Census Record for the Morris Savitt Family – 1930. The record shows that:

  • Morris Savitt was living at 5544 [?] Chester Avenue in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Morris was a married white male, 34 years old, and born in Russia
  • He was 22 years old when first married
  • He rented his house for $80 a month
  • He immigrated in 1908 and was naturalized
  • His native tongue was Yiddish, he could read and write, and he could speak English
  • He was employed as a cutter in a meat store
  • Morris’ wife was a married white woman named Sarah who was 30 years old and born in Russia
  • She immigrated in 1908 and was naturalized
  • Her native tongue was Yiddish, she could read and write, and she could speak English
  • She was not employed
  • The couple had a daughter Thelma who was a single female 11 years old, born in Pennsylvania, who was attending school, could read and write, and could speak English
  • The couple had a daughter Lillian who was a single female, 9 years old, born in Pennsylvania, who was attending school and could read and write
  • The couple had a son Robert who was a single male, 3 years old, born in Pennsylvania

So, by 1920 Morris had married and started a family.  The immigration information in the 1910 Census showed that he immigrated in 1907, 1908, and 1909.  He was naturalized between 1920 and 1930.  The information in the 1930 census indicates that he and Sarah were married in 1917 or 1918.  Based on information in the 1910, 1920, and 1930 census records, Morris was born between 1893-1896, Sarah was born between 1899 and 1900, Thelma (Tillie) was born in about July 1918, Lillian was born between 1920 and 1921, and Robert was born between 1926 and 1927.

Copyright © 2006 by Stephen J. Danko

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Josef Sarwetnik and the Kaiserin Auguste Victoria

Devi provided me with some additional information on her grandfather, Josef Sarwetnik (Joseph Savitt) that she obtained from her cousin.  The information was from her grandfather’s naturalization papers, which stated that Josef Sarwetnik arrived in New York on December 10, 1906 aboard the S.S. Kaiserin Auguste Victoria which departed from Hamburg.  The naturalization papers also stated that he was born on December 10, 1869 in Shumsk, Russia and listed Josef’s wife Ida and children Morris, David, William, and Jacob.  The Petition for Naturalization was dated June 17, 1918 and provided Joseph’s address as 1328 So. Reese Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Kaiserin Auguste Victoria

The Kaiserin Auguste Victoria

A search of Ellis Island Records produced no positive results.  Likewise, using Stephen Morse‘s search tools for the Ellis Island Records produced no results.  Since Devi knew the name of the ship and the date on which her grandfather arrived, I searched the ships lists on Stephen Morse’s site.

I entered the name of the ship and the arrival date and was rewarded with a link to the first page of the Passenger Manifest for the Kaiserin Auguste Victoria for passengers arriving on December 10, 1906.

I searched the manifest, page by page, until I found the name Sarwetnik on one of the pages.  Although a significant portion of the page was missing (including the first name of the passenger), I became confident that this manifest matched the information on Josef’s naturalization papers.

Josef Sarwetnik Manifest

Passenger Manifest for Josef Sarwetnik (1906)

Click on the link for a PDF copy of of the Passenger Manifest for Josef Sarwetnik – 1906.  The manifest states that:

  • (Josef) Sarwetnik was a 38 year old married male, listed on line 22 of the manifest
  • He traveled on the S.S. Kaiserin Auguste Victoria, departed from Hamburg on November 23, 1906, and arrived in New York on December 10, 1906
  • He was not able to read or write
  • His nationality was Russian, his race was Hebrew, and his last residence was Shumsk
  • Josef’s final destination was Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he had a ticket to his final destination, and he paid for the passage himself
  • He had seven and a half dollars;  he had not been in the United States before
  • He was going to stay with his brother, Isaac Sarwetnik at 1254 [Psum] in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • He was 5 feet 6 inches tall, with light brown hair and grey eyes
  • His place of birth was Shumsk

Since this manifest is torn, not all of the information is available.  The first name is missing and we can only assume this is Josef.   His occupation is missing, the date of arrival shows December 8, 1906 overwritten with December 10, 1906.  The actual date of arrival was December 10, 1906.  The information on his brother Isaac is actually written on the wrong line, but we can conclude this is the correct information for our passenger by counting down the entries on the page to arrive at line 22.  The street address for Isaac is hard to read.

Devi had also told me that her grandfather had a brother Isaac, so this is further evidence that this is the correct manifest.

I also found the World War I Draft Registration Card for Isaac Sarvetnik.

WWI Isaac Sarvetnick F

WWI Isaac Srvetnick B

World War I Draft Registration for Isaac Sarvetnik

Click on the link for a PDF Copy of the WW1 Draft Card for Isaac Sarvetnik – 1918.  The Draft Card states that:

  • Isaac Sarvetnick’s Serial Number was 1247 and his Order Number was 2325
  • He lived at 1324 South Reese Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • He was 40 years old and was born on October 25, 1878
  • He was white, a declared alien, and was a citizen of Russia
  • He was employed as a shoemaker at J. Edwards and Company at 314 North 12th Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • His wife was Ida Sarwetnick who lived at 1324 South Reese Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • He was of medium height, medium build, with grey eyes and black hair

Note that Isaac’s address from his World War I Draft Card in 1918 is right next door to Joseph’s address from his Petition for Naturalization in 1918.  Note also that both Isaac and David Sarvetnick (see yesterday’s post) worked at the same shoe company.  Both of these observations provide further evidence that Joseph, David, and Isaac are related.

All in all, the Passenger Manifest for Josef Sarwetnik appears to be the correct manifest.  However, Josef arrived alone in 1906 but his son Jacob was born in Russia in 1908.  Furthermore, the family reported on the 1910 Census that they immigrated in 1909.  Did Josef return to Russia, sire a son, and return to Philadelphia in 1909?  If so, there should be another Passenger Manifest to document the arrival of the family in 1909.  As yet, we have not found this manifest.

Copyright © 2006 by Stephen J. Danko

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World War I Draft Registrations of David Sarvetnick and David Savitt

In the 1930 Census Record for the Joseph Savitt family, there are two David Savitts listed.  One is the son of Joseph Savitt and the other is listed as the nephew of Joseph Savitt.  Both of these Davids registered for the World War I Draft.

Joseph’s son David registered on September 12, 1918 as David Savitt.

WWI David Savitt Front

WWI David Savitt Back

World War I Draft Registration for David Savitt

Click on the link for a PDF copy of the WW1 Draft Card for David Savitt – 1918. The document states that:

  • David Savitt’s Serial Number was 1233 and his Order Number was 3316
  • David’s permanent address was 1326 South Reece Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • David was 18 years old and his birthday was August 15, 1900
  • He was a White, Non-Declarant Alien and a citizen of Russia
  • His occupation was laborer and his employer was Sonia Fleischer
  • His place of employment was 1217 Vine Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • His nearest relative was his mother, Ida Savitt whose address was 1326 South Reece Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • He was described as short, of medium build, with brown eyes and black hair

David, who was described as Joseph’s nephew in the 1930 Census, registered on June 5, 1917 as David Sarvetnick.

WWI David Sarvetnick Front

WWI David Sarvetnick Back

World War I Draft Registration for David Sarvetnick

Click on the link for a PDF copy of the WW1 Draft Card for David Sarvetnick – 1917. The document states that:

  • Three numbers appear on David’s registration card:  708, 4829, and 37-6-1
  • David’s permanent address was 1326 South Reece Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • David was 21 years old and his birthday was march 4, 1896
  • He had declared his intention to become a citizen and was born in the Valucz Guber (Volhynia Gubernia) in Russia
  • His occupation was shoe worker and his employer was Edwards Shoe Company
  • His place of employment was 12th and Wood Streets, City (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
  • His father and mother in Russia were dependent on him for support
  • He was single and of the white race
  • He was described as of medium height, of slender build, with blue eyes and black hair

On the 1930 Census record, this David was reported as Joseph’s nephew.  This may be the same David Sarvetnick whose passenger manifest reported him as Joseph’s brother.  On the passenger manifest, he was 17 years old in 1911, indicating he was born in 1893-1894.  On the 1930 Census, he was 31 years old, indicating he was born in 1898-1899.  On this World War I Draft Card, he was born on March 4, 1896.

Although the dates don’t match, these three records are for the same person, since the address on the Draft Card was the same as Joseph’s son David Savitt, his occupation was the same as the David in the 1930 Census, his year of immigration was the same in the passenger manifest and on the 1930 Census, and his birthplace (Volhynia Gubernia, Russia) was the same on the passenger manifest and on the Draft Card.

The question remains, however, is this David the brother or the nephew of Joseph?

Blank World War I Draft Registration Cards are available at Ancestry.com so that you can read what the questions on the cards were.  Three different cards were used during different registration campaigns:

  1. Registration on June 5, 1917 for men born between June 6, 1886 and June 5, 1896
  2. Registration on June 5, 1918 for men born between June 6, 1896 and June 5, 1897 with a supplemental registration on August 24, 1918 for men born between June 6, 1897 and August 24, 1897
  3. Registration on September 12, 1918 for men born between September 11, 1872 and September 12, 1900 who had not previously registered

Men already in the military did not have to register, but all other male residents of the United States between the ages of 18 and 45 were required to register, whether or not they were citizens.

Copyright © 2006 by Stephen J. Danko

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The Immigration of David Sarewetnik

While searching for records on the immigration of Jan Savitt, I came across the 1911 Immigrant Passenger List for a David Sarwetnik.  Much to my surprise, this individual stated on the manifest that he was going to stay with his brother J. Serwetnik at 235 Monroe Street in Philadelphia – the same address at which Jan Savitt, then known as Jacob Sarvetnick, was living.  Since Jan’s father’s name was Joseph Sarvetnick, I concluded that David was Joseph’s brother.

Sarwetnik Manifest page 1

1911 Passenger Manifest for David Sarwetnik, Page 1

Sarwetnik Manifest page 2

1911 Passenger Manifest for David Sarwetnik, Page 2

Click here for a PDF copy of the Passenger Manifest for David Sarwetnik – 1911.  The manifest shows that:

  • David immigrated on the S.S. Uranium which left Rotterdam on September 7, 1911 and arrived in New York on September 20, 1911
  • David Sarwetnik, listed on line 14, was a single, 17 year old male with no occupation
  • David was able to read and write, was a Hebrew from Russia and last lived in Szumsk, Russia
  • David’s nearest relative in the country from which he came was his father Chaim Sarwetnik in Szumsk (Volhynia) Russia
  • David was traveling to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he was planning to stay with his brother J. Serwetnik at 235 Monroe Street
  • His brother paid his passage and he had no cash with him, but had a ticket to his final destination
  • He was in good physical health, 4 feet – 11 inches tall, with fair complexion, brown hair, and brown eyes
  • He was born in Szumsk, Russia
  • David was traveling with Chaje Katzman, a 47 year old widowed woman who worked as a housekeeper
  • Chaje could not read or write, was a Hebrew from Russia and last lived in Szumsk, Russia
  • Chaje’s nearest relative in the country from which she came was her brother Chaim Sarwetnik in Szumsk (Volhynia Gubernia) Russia
  • Chaje was traveling to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where she was planning to stay with her son Shaia [?] Katzman at 340 North Randolph [?] Street
  • Chaje’s son paid her passage and she had no cash with her, but had a ticket to her final destination
  • She was in good physical health, 5 feet – 1 inch tall, with fair complexion, grayish hair, and brown eyes
  • She was born in Szumsk, Russia

Notice the marks to the left of David’s name on the manifest.  David was held for a Board of Special Inquiry before being admitted to the United States.  Imagine how he must have felt, to have traveled all this way at age 17 and then be told that he might not be admitted and that he had to state his case before a Board of Special Inquiry!

Board of Special Inquiry

Record of David Sarwetnik Held for Special Inquiry

Click on the link for a PDF copy of the Special Inquiry Record for David Sarwetnik – 1911. The record states that:

  • David arrived on September 20, 1911 and his record is indicated on line 16
  • He was a 17 year old male, recorded in Group 7, No. 14 (this means page 7, line 14 of the manifest)
  • He was held alone (Chaje was not held) as a “lpc” or “likely public charge” – the officials were concerned that he wouldn’t be able to support himself – although the remark “asst” indicates that someone had promised to assist him
  • He was excluded on September 21, but was admitted to the United States on September 22 at 2:45
  • While detained, the Immigration Service fed him 2 breakfasts, 3 dinners, and 2 suppers

This record leads to the tentative conclusion that Jan Savitt’s grandfather was Chaim Sarwetnik, that his uncle was David Sarwetnik, that his aunt was Chaje Katzman, and that his uncle was Shaia [?] Katzman, living in Philadelphia.  It also leads to the tentative conclusion that Jan may have been born or may have lived in Szumsk, Russia.  Today, Szumsk (or Shumsk) in the Volhynia Gubernia of Russia is known as Shumskoye, Ternopol’, Ukraine.

Question:  Is this David Sarwetnik the same as the David Savitt who is enumerated with Joseph Savitt’s family in the 1930 Census?  The immigration year is correct, although the year of birth doesn’t match up exactly.  Also, in the 1930 Census, David Savitt is listed as Joseph Savitt’s nephew, not his brother.

Copyright © 2006 by Stephen J. Danko

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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 copy of the US Federal Census Record for the Joseph Savitt family – 1920.

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

Clink on the link for a PDF copy of the US Federal Census Record for the Joseph Savitt family – 1910.

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.

Copyright © 2006 by Stephen J. Danko

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The Bandleader’s Changing Birthdate

Earlier this week I received an email message from one of Jan Savitt’s children, Devi, asking for advice on how to research Jan’s Savitt’s family history.  We’ve exchanged a few messages this week so I could find out what was already known about the family and what Devi wanted to discover.  Well, the problem is so interesting that I couldn’t resist conducting some research of my own.  Sometimes I think my interest in genealogy is a curse – I can’t resist a good genealogical problem!

Devi’s father is Jan Savitt, a famous bandleader from the 1930’s and 1940’s who died suddenly in 1948 of a cerebral hemorrage while on his way to a gig in Sacramento.  Searching the internet for “Jan Savitt” produces lots of hits, many of which are links to CDs of his bands.

In his book American Big Bands, William F. Lee reported that Jan Savitt was born on September 4, 1913 in Petrograd, Russia and that Jan immigrated to the United
States with his family when he was 15. Some biographies, including those on IMDb and iTunes, describe his father as a drummer in the Imperial Regiment Band of Tsar Nicholas II. The biographies further state that he was invited to join the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra when he was 15, studied at the Curtis Institute and in Europe, formed a string quartet in 1936, formed his band “The Top Hatters” in 1937, and began touring in 1938.  He died on October 4, 1948.

So, how much of all this is true?  To start, if he was born in 1913, he couldn’t have immigrated in 1914 at the age of 15.  To be fair, most online biographies acknowledge that Jan’s birthdate is in dispute.

Devi provided me with some information about her father, her uncles, and her grandparents, and armed with that information, I immediately searched the census records to see if I could confirm the information in the biographies.

In 1930, Jan was living in Philadelphia with other family members.

1930 Census

1930 Census Record for Joseph Savitt and Family

The 1930 Census states that:

  • In 1930, the family was living at 6221 Pine Street in Philadelphia
  • The head of household was Joseph, age 60, a married white male, born in Russia, working as a motor mechanic in a motor brushes manufacturing company
  • Joseph’s wife was Ida, age 51, a married white female, born in Russia, with no occupation listed
  • Joseph and Ida’s son David was a 29 year old, single white male, born in Russia, working as a salesman in wholesale dresses
  • The couple’s son William was a 26 year old, single white male, born in Russia, working as a salesman in wholesale shoes
  • The couple’s son Jan is listed as Jay Savitt, a 22 year old, single white male, born in Russia, working as a musician in an orchestra
  • Joseph’s nephew David was a 31 year old, single white male, born in Russia, working as a salesman in wholesale shoes
  • All people in the household are listed as naturalized citizens who immigrated in 1910 and spoke Jewish before coming to the United States
  • The family owned their home valued at $5500
  • The family owned a radio
  • None of the family members were veterans

From this record, in 1930 Jan was known as Jay Savitt, was born about 1908, emigrated from Russia in 1911, was Jewish, was single, and was working as a musician in an orchestra.

Click on this link to view a PDF of the US Federal Census Record for the Joseph Savitt Family – 1930.

Tomorrow:  What do earlier census records say about this family?

Copyright © 2006 by Stephen J. Danko

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Cemetery Iconography and Designing Bronisława’s Monument

The first burial in what would become a shared grave for my Aunt Bronisława was made in 1912.  Now, 94 years later, a monument will be erected on the grave.  I have thought long and hard about how to design the monument for this grave.  The questions I considered were:

  • What iconography should be on the monument?
  • Should the complete dates or just the years of birth and death be included on the monument?
  • Should some prayer or other inscription be included?
  • Should anything be written on the back of the monument?

Iconography is:

the science of identification, description, classification, and interpretation of symbols, themes, and subject matter in the visual arts.

Encyclopedia Brittanica

In reference to cemeteries, iconography usually refers to the images inscribed on tombstones and the meanings behind those images.

Modern iconography sometimes uses images that reflect important events or hobbies in the life of the deceased, such as the image of a pair of wedding rings or a picture of a man fishing.  Modern iconography also extends to images of the deceased or images of the church they attended.  A common icon for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) is a picture of the temple in Salt Lake City.

More traditional iconography, however, may require additional interpretation.  Many older icons are seldom used today.  A weeping willow signifies mourning; roses represent the brevity of life; oak leaves and acorns mean a ripe old age; butterflies represent an early death.  An angel trumpeting indicates the resurrection, while an angel weeping means mourning.  A bird represents eternal life, and a flying bird means resurrection.

Often, an icon can have different meanings for different persons.  In one case, an anchor may be used to indicate hope, while in another case an anchor can mean that the deceased was a seaman.  Specific types of trees can be used to mean different things:  an apple tree represents love, a cypress tree means faithfulness, and an olive tree indicates wisdom.

And sometimes, the icons on a gravestone mean nothing at all.  Someone may have selected an image simply because they liked the image.

In selecting the iconography and design for the monument for my Aunt Bronisława and the other two infants buried with her, I took into consideration the size limitations imposed by the cemetery and the style of the other monuments nearby.

Monument Front

Front of Monument

Because the information on three individuals could make the monument rather busy, I decided to keep the inscription simple (remember, this is a headstone for a single grave, not a grave intended for three people).  I decided to include the name of each child followed by the years, not the entire dates, of birth and death.  On the front I decided to include the icon of a lamb with a cross to symbolize the innocence of the children when they died and the Roman Catholic faith of the families.  I also decided to include an inscription I had seen on many graves in Poland:

JEZU UFAMY TOBIE

meaning:  Jesus, We Trust to You.

Finally, I added the surnames of the three children to the back of the monument, so it could be easily found when approaching from either direction.Monument BackBack of Monument

While the design is not finalized, I did receive the proofs of the design today.  I made a few comments and expect to receive the revised proofs in a few days.  I’m rather happy with the design.

1For further information on cemetery iconography, check out:

If a book-length work interests you, try:

Finally, if you’d rather listen than read, check out the Halloween 2005 edition of The Genealogy Guys Podcast.

Copyright © 2006 by Stephen J. Danko

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Finding the Third Infant

The third infant buried with my Aunt Bronisława in a single grave in Notre Dame Cemetery was difficult to research.  On the cemetery records, he name was listed as Franciszek Stonia and he was buried on August 30, 1914 at the age of 8 months.  I knew nothing more about him.

The Massachusetts Birth and Death Indexes for 1913 and 1914 did not list anyone by the name of Stonia.  A search for the surname Stonia in Massachusetts on Ancestry.com did not yield any results.  The book, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings, Second Edition by William F. Hoffman did not list Stonia, although the given name Franciszek is clearly Polish.  I suspected that the name had been misspelled in the cemetery records.

I searched for similar surnames such as Stania; I searched using Soundex.  I still had no luck.  Barb Poole went to the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) and searched for the child’s name in their records and she had no success, either.

I went to the Massachusetts Vital Records Office in 2005 and found that the vital records for 1911-1915 had been moved to the Massachusetts Archives.  I went to the Massachusetts Archives in 2005 and found that the death records for 1911-1915 had been sent out for microfilming.  I searched the birth records for 1913-1914 at the Massachusetts Archives, but I couldn’t find the child.  I contacted the Worcester City Clerk who told me that if I provided them with the correct spelling of the surname and $8, they would do a genealogy search for me, but they wouldn’t allow me to search the records myself.  I contacted the NEHGS and asked if they had the vital records for 1911-1915 and they told me that those records were not yet available to them.

So, on my recent trip to the east coast, I anxiously anticipated my visit to the Massachusetts Archives, hoping that the death records for 1911-1915 had been microfilmed.  When I arrived, I found that the volumes I needed to search had, indeed, been microfilmed and I jumped right in…

Since I knew the child was buried on August 30, 1914, I assumed he had died a day or two before burial.  Since he was buried in Worcester, I assumed he had died in Worcester.  I randomly looked through the death index for 1914 and made note of the volume numbers for death certificates in which Worcester deaths were recorded.  I found several volumes for 1911, selected one microfilm and fast forwarded through the records until I reached the records for August 1914.  Fortunately, the records on the microfilm were in chronological order.  There, on August, 29, 1914, one day before the child was buried, was the death record for Franciszek Stoma, a very close match for the Franciszek Stonia in the cemetery records.  Moreover, the date of birth on the death certificate was December 2, 1913, indicating that the child was 8 months old when he died, again matching the information in the cemetery records.

Stoma death record

Death Record for Franciszek Stoma

The Death Record for Franciszek Stoma – 1914 states that:

  • Franciszek Stoma’s death was recorded in Massachusetts Deaths volume 111, number 38
  • He was a single, white male, born in Worcester on December 2, 1913 and was 8 months, 28 days old at the time of death
  • His father was Wauzeniec Stoma and he was born in Russia-Poland
  • His mother was Mary Lachowicz and she was born in Russia-Poland
  • S. C. Mieczkowski. M.D. attended him from August 24, 1914 until August 24, 1914
  • He died at 7 PM on August 29, 1914 at the family home at 105 Washington Street in Worcester as a result of Gastro Enteritis
  • Wawrzinie Lachowicz of Worcester was the informant
  • The statement of death by S. C. Mieczkowski. M.D. was made on August 29, 1914
  • He was buried in Worcester on August 30, 1914 by the undertaker Lucian Karolkevicz of Worcester
  • The Death Certificate was filed by the registrar on August 31, 1914

Some problems here are that the correct spelling of both the father’s given name and the informant’s given name should be Wawrzeniec (Lawrence or Loran), the informant’s surname is listed as Lachowicz, suggesting that the informant may have been related to the mother, but it’s possible that the informant was the father and the clerk erroneously recorded the mother’s maiden name instead of the father’s surname.

Since the birth date was listed on the death certificate as December 2, 1913, I went to the 1913 Birth Indexes and found a Frank Stoma listed.  Frank is the English equivalent of Franciszek.  The child’s birth record was listed in a ledger, as were the birth records for Aunt Bronisława and John Kurpiel.

Stoma birth record

Birth Record for Frank Stoma

The Birth Record for Frank Stoma – 1913 states that:

  • Frank Stoma was listed as entry number 4108 in Massachusetts Births, volume 616, page 566
  • He was a male child, born in the City of Worcester, Massachusetts on December 3, 1913
  • His father was Loran Stoma and his mother was Mary Lakavic, both of whom resided in Worcester
  • His father’s worked in a Leather Shop
  • Both of his parents were born in Russia
  • His birth was registered in the City of Worcester in January 1914

As with Bronisława Dańko, the birth date on the birth record did not match the birth date on the death certificate.  In both cases, the birth date on the death certificate was one day earlier than that listed on the birth record.  the names of the child, the father, and the mother are all anglicized on the birth record.

So, I was able to find the birth and death records for all three infants.  In all, I’ve spent  over three years looking for the location of the grave and the birth and death records for the three children.

Tomorrow:  Designing the Monument

Copyright © 2006 by Stephen J. Danko

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