The History Detective: Isser Reznik, Part II

In today’s installment of The History Detective, we’re continuing our investigation of an Eldridge Street legend, Isser Reznik [click for part I.] As I mentioned last time, I did a bit of quick research on Isser, but found only a few interesting items. I checked first on a favorite research site of mine, footnote.com, which digitizes city directories, census records and all sorts of other historic documents. We actually worked with the people behind Footnote on a recent grant, and have found their resources and insights tremendously helpful. Plugging “Isser Reznik” into the search engine, I found the following:

Here, Isser Reznik acted as the witness for his neighbor Michel Susterman’s petition for naturalization. Here, Isser’s home address is listed as 86 Eldridge Street, which made his walk to work at 77 1/2 Eldridge Street almost ridiculously conveninent. Yes, I am slightly jealous.

Unfortunately it was all that Footnote had for our friend Isser. I then took a look on another excellent site geared specifically to genealogy enthusiasts, ancestry.com. It too had only one search result:

Here we have an Isser Reznik living in Brooklyn, recorded on this 1920 census. He is married to Jenny, and has children Max. Blanche, Sarah, and Sam, who is married to Belle and father to Irving. At first I was dismayed, thinking I had found a classic case of mistaken identity, the pitfall of many an amateur researcher. The original names I was given included Max, Jacob, Shmulkie, and a wife named Zeldah Rivkah!

But as I looked at the original picture of the family, I realized I had forgotten to account for name changes! Many Jewish immigrants changed their names in America, or used one name within the Yiddish-speaking community and a more common American name for legal matters. Shmulkie could easily be Sam, and Max is listed on both the picture given by Isser’s great-grandson and on this census record. It seemed too similar to be coincidence, and got me thinking: Could Isser have another name? Stay tuned for the next installment of The History Detective as I search for Isser’s alter ego.

Categories: History

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