|One of two photos Max Crane (far left).|
Max was my great-grandmother Minnie's older brother. In Stored Treasures, Minnie credits Max with bringing his siblings to America. Here is how she describes her beloved Max.
She sprinkled only a few more Max tidbits later in the book. Max moved out of the family apartment to marry Freda Levit, a woman ten years his elder, whom Minnie didn't seem to like very much. She describes her as shy, and sickly. Minnie suggested Freda's often faned illness. They had a prodigy son, named Milton. What captured my attention was, that in her writings, Minnie failed to mention that Max committed suicide in 1925. He was thirty-six years old. She never explains the circumstances of his death.1903 was ".........the summer my brother Max came back from living in Pinsk.Max was the second brother (the family’s third child). Max or Chaim Mordechai, as he was called in Hebrew, was a very sensitive boy. At a very young age, he was sent to study at the Yeshiva in Pinsk with my mother’s brother Hillel (Yarmovsky). Max went to continue his studies, help his uncle with the younger students, who were rich, spoiled kids, and sort of look after them. Max’s job was to wait on the kids, bring their lunches, run errands, and so forth. Somewhere in the process of study, he became indoctrinated with the ideas of socialism through some young revolutionaries. Uncle Hillel had a small printing press for his school. Max and his radical friends secretly printed propaganda leaflets on the school printing machines. Unfortunately, they were found out.Pressure was put on Uncle. “Either you send Max away, or we tell the police.” He packed Max off home without any ceremony.Max found our small hometown to be intolerable. There was no one his age in Belitsa with whom he could exchange ideas. He left for America. Max was seventeen when he came to the United States. From America, he wrote his interesting letter telling us of his adventurous journey. Max’s ship, was not permitted to land at the first port of arrival because there was an outbreak of cholera at the port.It took Max eleven months to finally land on United States soil.Max arrived in New York. Mother’s brother, Harry Yarmove (changed from Yarmovsky), was there to greet him, but Max did not like New York. Instead, he headed to New Britain, Connecticut, where father’s youngest brother, Oscar Kranowitz (also known as Aaron) had settled. Uncle Oscar had five young children, two daughters and three sons, all of whom were nice to Max. They treated him like one of their own boys. He found work in a large food market. He went to night school and worked days as a clerk and delivery boy for the large market. Max was a young boy of seventeen or so, attractive with blond, baby soft, curly hair, blue eyes, fair skin, and a mischievous nature. The women customers liked to have Max take their grocery order and deliver it to them. Yes, in the pre-supermarket days, groceries were delivered. Max’s popularity with the ladies made a nice profit for the owner. Max could always get another job if the one he held did not suit him. Max made a nice living and saved his money. When he had saved enough, he sent for Brother Will (Vevel) and then for the rest of us."
A couple of years ago, at our Kranowitz/Crane family reunion, I learned a bit more about this tragic story. The Crane elders reported that Max was rumored to have had an affair, with his uncle Harry Yarmove's young wife. This is the very same uncle who received Max when he arrived from Russia and later offered work to the Crane brothers in Atlantic City. The lovers were about the same age, and almost a decade younger than their respective spouses. The wealthy, young aunt, was about to leave her husband, when he fell ill. Devastated, Max took his own life. No one was quite sure how (drowning, gas oven?). Freda, Max's wife was so angry, she threw away every photo she found of Max. Only two family photos were rescued from her rampage. He left behind a devastated wife, a young son (seven years old) and a torn apart family. I can only imagine the pain he was feeling and the stigma, shame and pain of those who loved him. My great-grandmother's choice not to share this story, reflects here generation. While today, memoirs are filled with traumatic events (or else it wouldn't sell), she chose to protect her family from such sorrow.
|Uncle Harry Yarmove and his wife Annie (Back)|
with their nephews Bernard and William Crane
at Bernard's graduation from Medical School
(University of Michigan) 1921
In his memoir, Tales of A Clam Digger, Sidney Crane (Max's nephew), alludes to the affair. Referring to his great-uncle Harry Yarmove, Sidney wrote:
"Despite an early hectic family life, he treated his wife, Aunt Anne and children, as though they were the royalty he had once placed on thrones of gold."According to Sidney, uncle Yarmove was a kindly mand and played an important role as patriarch. It was comforting for me to learn that the Yarmove family found a way to heal after such an ord.
Max himself remains as a puzzle and I decided to double check my document collection for clues. Years ago, before the internet, my cousin Minda spent long hours researching at +, YarEllis Island. Amazingly, she found four pertinent records and passed the information to me. According to Minda, Max arrived at Ellis Island on September 16th, 1905 aboard the Pretoria. The Pretoria departed from Hamburg. Here is the Ship Manifest I attached to Max, on the family tree:
|Line 8 reads: Mottel Krainowitz, age 15, tailor, from Bilitz. He headed to Brooklyn NY with $15 dollars in his pocket. He paid for his own trip and was meeting an uncle, Joseph something (very hard to read, maybe Passisovsky?)|
(Click to enlarge)
Since I've encountered this record three years ago, the following things have trouble me:
1. It is difficult to read. Many names are crossed out.
2. Kranowitz spelling is questionable. Ellis Island transcribed it as Kreinawitz while ancestry Krinsawitz. I can live with either. Misspelled Russian names are a dime a dozen in our line of work.
3. There is no other record indicating Max was a tailor. I can also live with this fact. Maybe he never worked as a tailor again. He was only fifteen. Perhaps he invented a profession because he was unskilled (a yeshiva student) and wanted to ensure his entry to the United States.
4. The Cranes had many uncles, none were named Joseph. Illegible as Joseph's last name is on the manifest, it's neither Yarmovsky nor Kranowitz, the two known uncles in America.
5. Is Bilitz the same as Belitsa? I've never seen the shtetl's name spelled this way, but again, I could overlook this one.
Of all the many travel manifests I've found for my numerous ancestors, this one is the least satisfying. Out of maybe fifteen facts, five are fishy. It was time to double check. I examined another record I had for Max, a US Naturalization Index Card. These cards frustrates me, because they don't provide much information. I can't afford to order so many records from the national archives. Instead, I wait for them to upload more documents while I save the index cards as a reference. I decided that, in Max's case, it was worth paying for the Naturalization Petition. These petitions, are rich with information, sometimes photos, and almost always provide information about how the immigrant arrived in the US. I bit the bullet, paid the ten dollars to our National Archives.
To my delight, they located Max's records quickly. On Monday, a thick envelope was waiting at my doorstep. Jackpot! Max's citizenship petition and records form 1908-1913. Low and behold, something jumped out at me from the page: Max was not aboard the SS Pretoria, from Hamburg. He departed from Liverpool, England on the Saxonia, arriving in Boston on October 5th, 1905!
Armed with this information, I was instantly able to located the Saxonia Passengers List:
Stored Treasures with this information).
Here is my second favorite find of the week. It's from a new database recently released by +ancestry.com: the Connecticut, Military Census, of 1917.
|Connecticut, Military Census, 1917 for Max Crane|
|The Crane siblings after William returned from WWI. Max is seated in the front,|
with his son Milton in his lap and wife Freda to his right.
Now, I could use some help from my genealogy friends and of course family members who might have some information I don't. As always, the more I discover, the more questions arise. Here are a few:
1. I have not been able to corroborate Minnie's story of Max being stuck at sea for eleven months due to a cholera epidemic. Any ideas?
2. I would like to find a record of Max's death. I only know he died around 1925, but I don't know where. I would love to find his death certificate and his grave.
And here is another question for you all:
Do you think genealogist should "spill" these kinds of family secrets?