Sunday, April 12, 2009

Just when you thought you were sure . . .

. . . that you knew everything there was to know about your family, you learn something. This is the Bridgeport (CT) Telegram from May 12, 1922, and it is about my grandmother. My sister, our family genealogist, found it somehow. It's hard to read, so here's the text:

Mrs. Rose Levy Bound Over on Bigamy Charge
Mrs. Rose Levy of Grove Street was arrested yesterday morning on a charge of bigamy. Believing her first husband Isaac Grannick of Philadelphia had died eight years ago she became the wife of I. Levy. Recently the first husband came to Bridgeport and confronted his wife threatening prosecution. She reported his threats to the authorities through her counsel and her arrest followed. In City Court yesterday morning she was bound over the the Superior Criminal court in $100 bonds.

Now, this was six years after my father was born, so I guess she was a bit surprised. We will probably never know if she really thought Isaac was dead or whether, in the tradition of certain Eastern European Jews, she just considered him dead for some injustice that he had done her.

Unfortunately, we have not yet found the sequel. Was she found guilty or innocent? I'm also not clear, though, what the penalty was back then for bigamy. How would you handle the existence of the son by the second marriage? Do you force a divorce on the first couple and then re-marry the second couple?

In the 20+ years I knew her while I was growing up, I never heard mention of this incident. What have you found in your family history that was news to you after years of ignorance? Please submit stories.


georgewdawson said...

After a hiatus of about 5 decades, we reunited with our lost cousin a few years ago. His father and my Dad were brothers. His mother was a child holocaust survivor who with her sister survived the war using their musical skills and ended up in the displaced person's camp in Germany that my father dircted after WW II. Dad secured Visa's the sister's and brought them to Virginia to live with us. They then auditioned at Julliard and were accepted going on to lifelong musical careers teaching at the college level. One of the sisters married my dad's brother.

My cousin Greg Dawson has just published this story - with his book "Hiding In the Spotlight" due out in June. Website :

The Reverend of Rock and Roll said...

We once found out that a distant cousin had taken a dangerous prisoner across the country to avoid being lynched. A couple years later we found out that we were also distant cousins with the criminal.

catsandmusic said...

I was in my forties before I found out that my great-grandmother had been sent to prison for selling some sort of Lithuanian home brew-- to the wrong person--during Prohibition.

During my childhood, on every single family trip up Route 2 that passed the Concord Prison, all of us children were lectured on the importance of being good so that we did not end up in prison, where we would receive only bread and water to eat. My brothers and I were indeed very good children, but I think it was the thought of the prison menu that motivated us more than any other factor!

Martha said...

I discovered last year that my great-grandmother was investigated by the predecessor of the FBI for allegedly making pro-German statements in the closing months of WWI in 1918. Her youngest son (my grandfather's brother) was seeking an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, and my great-grandmother's remarks were thought to be seditious. Upon investigation (surreptitiously--the investigator went to the grocery store she ran in Providence, RI, and questioned her under a pretext, as the investigative report said), it turned out that she meant the opposite and was a supporter of the US military. The investigation was dropped.

My great-uncle was subsequently accepted into the Academy, graduated in 1922 in the same class as Hyman Rickover, and was a career Navy officer. But no one in the family knew this story until I found it in an online database, complete with images of the original complaint and the investigator's report.

Reading the documents was wonderful wonderful, as they give the background of the investigation, as well as my great-grandmother's verbatim answers. But it is also a reminder that, 70+ years ago, immigrants like my great-grandmother were suspect--and innocent remarks by those with foreign accents could be easily taken the wrong way.

Anonymous said...

We have a relative who left his wife and two children in Kingston in 1894 and went off with a young lady member of a itinerant theater group visiting Jamaica. They traveled first class to NY, then moved to California where they "married" in front of a Justice of the Peace. It still reverberates and has caused rifts amongst the relatives. We are in touch with one of the granddaughters (second time around) who will not accept the evidence of the first marriage certificate and two birth certificates issued in Kingston, because grandfather said he wasn't married, "only registered to be married."

The second time around great granddaughters think it is something of a joke.

Marcia Molay said...

Dear Paul,

I wrote this recently because none of us really knew anything about the mysterious extra husband my grandmother had. Maybe it was easier in the old days to be colorful or eccentric.

My grandmother had many names.
Blanche, Lena, Bleema, Mommie,
anything but Grandma. Always,
too young to be a grandmother.

I was told to call her Mommie
and did until the day she died.
I had a mother and a mommie -
no maternal grandmother

A beautiful woman who needed men.
Not that she was dependent.
A strong jaw, four husbands, and work
at running dairy stores shaped her character.

She and her young man fled Europe as teenagers, crossed the sea, lived the immigrant dream in the East side ghetto of New York.
My grandfather died at 44.

Afterward, Mommie moved to Far Rockaway, the only grandmother (forgive the phrase) who swam expertly in the ocean. I was proud of her.
She went to Catskill resorts to meet men...and did.

Husband #2, Sam Berman sang Russian songs, drank schnapps, owned a used furniture store on run-down 9th Avenue in New York.
A boisterous ruddy Russian, children adored him.

Berman was fun to be with; hard to live with, drank hard while he sang. After twenty years, schnapps and tough, heavy work in his store caught up to him. Widowed again.

Husband #3 promised good times and dancing.
After the wedding he would not eat out
would not dance, so she divorced him
or just left without legalities. We didn't ask.

There was another husband for a very short time between #1 and #2, so brief and quiet that none of us knew who or when.
Mommie knew when to leave and when to stay.

She knew how to stay cheerful - take a small square of chocolate, a medicinal shot of whiskey and excursions each day. Dressed up, busing to a shopping area, she tried on hats, felt the goods.

My chin is weak, but my psyche is strong, a bit of Mommie reincarnate.
I want to eat out, I want to dance,
enjoy a small square of chocolate daily,
Like her, I want to live life in my own way.

Marcia Molay

fibrowitch said...

When I was four years old, my two year old brother was struck and killed by a mail truck. I was blamed for the accident, for not watching my brother and distracting my mother who could not stop him from running out into the street.

After years of emotional abuse, I decided to learn as much as I could about the event. To find out if I really as to blame for what happened. I learned more about the death of my brother that cold March day.

I read police reports, medical reports, even the inquest report and newspaper articles about the accident. I learned that what I had been told happened that day was wrong, and my limited memories of the day had been correct all along.

Best of all, as I read the reports was the realization that I was not in any way responsible for my brothers death. While there are still many people who blame me for the accident, I am no longer one of those people.

It still hurts to be mistreated and attacked for some thing I had nothing to do with. The knowledge of the event, and the freedom from blame has made me so much stronger a person.

death of a sibling

Carl said...


Soon after completing my undergrad, my mother called me to let me know my grandparents were never married. Turns out my grandfather was married to another woman back in Poland before WWII. He was a soilder and was taken prisoner. After the war, he was set free and never returned to his wife, for reason I do not know. Instead me meet my grandmother, had a child, (my mother) and came to the US. My grandfather was already dead when I found out this news and my grandmother is known for keeping a tight lip about her history. I actually know very little about her life or my grandfather life in Poland. I always wondern what kind of life they had.


Anonymous said...

I, along with several million other Americans, am descended from the first man hanged for committing murder in the Plymouth colony, John Billington.