|... or read on about the ZEMSERs|
Zemser Name Origins
The "Zemser" name comes from the Vilna area and derives from the Yiddish word “zemsh” that means “chamois”. Common variations were Zemshman, Zimser and Zamshnik and Szenicer. The Zemser's may also have hailed from Radin.
Personal Note: Growing up, I always looked forward to the Zemser Cousins Club get-togethers. There were holiday parties with lots of singing and dancing. There were annual picnics in Valley Stream State Park, Long Island, NY. My grandmother, Bessie (Zemser) Weller was a great entertainer and she livened up every gathering.
GENERATION No. 1
JACOB/RAPHAEL ZEMSER (UNKNOWN 1) was born about 1867 in VILNA, and died about 1919 in Vilna. He married MARIASHA STRELECKAJA in Vilna, daughter of ABRAHAM STRELECKAJA and WIFE-1 UNKNOWN. MARIASHA was born about 1867 in Vilna and died about 1919 in Vilna. JACOB and MARIASHA were innkeepers. It is possible the name MARIASHA is a combination of the names MIRIAM and RACHEL or RASHA.
MYSTERY: YUDEL ZEMSER, age thirty, immigrated to the US in 1909 from Vilna. He was going to W. Hoboken, NJ and was a glovemaker. He claimed his nearest relative from whence he came was his father, ISRAEL ZEMSER. Given Yudel was thirty, we guess his father was at least fifty, making him a potential sibling or cousin of Jacob/Raphael Zemser. ???
- JACOB vs. RAPHAEL ZEMSER: Flora Weller recorded Bessie's father's name as "Jacob" and Bessie and her brother Sam's marriage certificates both state Mariasha's husband was Jacob. However, Frances Albertson's records and Shirley Strassler's recollection concur that Mariasha's husband was "Raphael". It has been said that when someone is sick, their name is changed to fool the Angel of Death. As Raphael means "God heals" pehaps Jacob's name was changed to Raphael after an illness. ???
- Birth dates for Mariasha and Jacob/Raphael have been assumed. Their oldest child, Hymie was born in 1884. Believing the earliest age for child bearing to be about seventeen we calculated Mariasha and Jacob/Raphael were about that age at the time of Hymie’s birth.
- Death dates for both Mariasha and Jacob/Raphael were assumed based on Shirley Weller-Strassler’s recollection that her mother, Bessie cried upon receiving news of her parents’ death when Shirley was nine or ten years old. It is possible they both died about 1918 in the influenza epidemic.
The name Raphael (which means "God heals") is quite common among Ashkenazim. That is because it is one of a group of names often selected to "rename" a boy or man who fell ill with a life-threatening disease. Other such names are Hayyim and Yehi'el (both containing elements that mean "life"). This custom was adopted because of a widespread superstition (mainly among Eastern European Ashkenazim but also found in Western Europe) that changing a sick man's name would fool the Angel of Death -- who would be unable to find him as he was searching for him under his old name! .... so, was Mariasha's husband born Jacob and renamed Raphael ... or was he born "Raphael" ? ..or ... have we been fooled too?
Children of JACOB/RAPHAEL ZEMSER and MARIASHA STRELECKAJA are:
i. HERMAN ( HYMIE) ZEMSER, b. 1884, Vilna, Poland; d. before 1952 in NY or NJ.
ii. ESTHER (ZEMSER) STERN, b. 1887, Vilna, Poland; d. NY.
iii. BESSIE (ZEMSER) WELLER , b. 1888, Vilna, Poland; d. 01 Jun 1972, New York, NY.
iv. SAM ZEMSER, b. about 1892, Vilna, Poland; d. Mar 1952 in NY.
ISSUE: Were the Zemser's from Vilna or Radin? Most documentation for the Zemser's indicate they were from Vilna. However, Mariasha's family hailed from Radin, a town about forty miles south of Vilna. It is possible that Mariasha's children were born in Radin.
GENERATION No. 2
HERMAN ( HYMIE) ZEMSER
HERMAN ( HYMIE) ZEMSER (JACOB/RAPHAEL 2, UNKNOWN 1) was born 1884 in Vilna, Poland and died before 1952. He married BESSIE KATZ in 1906 or 1907. BESSIE was born 1885 in Vilna, and died about 1955. Source: 1930 census and SSDI.
The 1910 US Census shows Herman & Bessie married for three years and living on Fairmount Avenue in Jersey City, NJ. Phil was about one year old at that time. Hymie already owned a retail tailor shop and employed his cousin, Izzy (Isidore) Strelser, age eighteen. Izzy was also living with Hymie and Bessie in 1910. According to the census, Izzy immigrated in 1907, Hymie immigrated in 1900 and his wife Bessie immigrated in 1902. Hymie was naturalized before 1910. Both Hymie and Izzy were able to read and write.
According to the 1930 census, HYMIE and BESSIE both immigrated in 1901(contradicting the information from 1910). Hymie was a still tailor and the family was living on Delaware Avenue in Jersey City, NJ. Ages and immigration information were obtained from the 1930 census data. Shirley said Hymie’s family lived on 'Duncan' Avenue next to a cemetery and recalls staying with them sometimes in the summer when she was a child. Shirley said she loved it when Hymie would wake all the kids up at night to give them ice cream!
Children of HERMAN ZEMSER and BESSIE KATZ are:
i. PHIL ZEMSER, b. 08 Oct 1908; d. 15 Sep 1999, NY.
ii. ABE ZEMSER, b. 26 Dec 1912; d. 31 Dec 1996, California.
iii. ROBBIE ZEMSER, b. 26 Feb 1917; d. Jul 1977, FL.
iv. ANNA ZEMSER, b. after 1917; d. Age 8.
ESTHER ZEMSER (aka Esther Stern)
ESTHER ZEMSER (JACOB/RAPHAEL 2, UNKNOWN 1) was born 1887 in Vilna, Poland. She married UNKNOWN UKNOWN in Vilna and then she married MORRIS STERN 1897 in Vilna. He was born about 1886, and died sometime after 1930.
Esther was married and divorced in Europe before she married Morris (aka Max?). Fannie was a child of the first marriage. Morris was the father of Esther’s other children. ESTHER immigrated to the US in 1910. MORRIS immigrated in 1908. In 1920 Morris worked in a mattress maker shop and after that owned and operated a barbershop. In 1930, Fannie & Joe and their children were living with Esther and Morris at 262 Beach Street in the Rockaway's, Queens, NY. Fannie was a redhead and is remembered as being much older than her other siblings. Their son Max died in an airplane accident sometime before 1943. Max may have been the pilot.
Child of ESTHER ZEMSER and UNKNOWN UNKNOWN is:
i. FANNIE (STERN) ALHADEF, b. about 1905, Russia.
Children of ESTHER ZEMSER and MORRIS STERN are:
ii. JULIUS STERN, b. 1909, NY.
iii. MAX STERN, b. 1910, NY; d. before Feb 1943 in an airplane crash.
iv. GERTRUDE STERN, b. about 1914, NY.
Julius Stern worked with Phil Zemser. Fannie married Joseph Alhadef. Their daughter, Marion Alhadef married Nat Shaw who was a musician. Their son, Seymour Alhadef married Anita and they lived in Dallas, TX.
BESSIE ZEMSER (aka Basha or Bessie Weller)
BESSIE (BASHA) ZEMSER, daughter of JACOB/RAPHAEL ZEMSER and MARIASHA STRELECKAJA, was born between 1885 and 1888 in Vilna or Radin. When she was born, Radin was a part of the Russian Empire. It is currently called RADUN and is in Belarus, approximately forty miles south of Vilna.
Bessie tried to immigrate to the US in January 1908 when she sailed from Antwerp on Red Star Line on the She arrived in the Port of New York on 22 JAN 1908. She claimed she was 17 implying a birth year of 1891. (Considering her marriage certificate later in 1908 says she was twenty-three she was probably not 17!) She is indexed as BOSIE ZEMSA and as "male" in spite of the fact the M is crossed out and replaced with an F for "female". She was going to her brother, H. Zemser at 772 [W. side?] Ave in Jersey City and she was five feet tall with brown hair and brown eyes. She listed her nearest relative back home as her father, Yankel Zemsa in Wilna.
Her first attempt at immigration failed as she was sent back to Antwerp due to an eye infection (Trachoma). She was hospitalized upon arrival in NY until 28 JAN 1908 when she was deported back to Antwerp on the . Having been denied enrty to the US due to this eye infection, we suspect Bessie may have returned under an assumed name as we have not been able to find any record of her re-entry to the US. She obviously did return before November or December 1908 when she married JACOB WELLER in New York City.
Bessie and Jacob’s marriage certificate is confusing:
1. Jacob reports his parents were “Yisrael Waller" and "Lena Angelson”. However, Jacob's brother was Yisrael (Kasril) and his sister was Lena. We believe that either his limited understanding of English and perhaps nervousness accounts for the confusion. His sister, Gussie Weller, reported her parents as "Sam Waler" and "Neche Engelson" on her marriage certificate; we believe Gussie is correct.
2. Bessie reported her parents were “JACOB Zanser and Marjasha Streletsky”. At first, we thought she confused her father's name with the name of her husband-to-be as some family history suggests Mariasha was married to RAFAEL Zemser. However, Bessie's brother, Sam Zemser, lists his parents as "Jacob and Mariasha" on his marriage certificate in 1917. It seems her father's name really was Jacob Zemser.
Bessie was twenty-three and Jacob was twenty-four when they were married in New York City on 06 Dec 1908 (NYC Marriage Certificate No. 24348 or 22348). Family history says they were married on 24 Nov 1908. (?) When they married, Jacob was living at 227 Clinton Street and Bessie at 195 Clinton Street. Their daughter Shirley believes they knew each other in Vilna, however, if that was not the case, they may have met in the neighborhood.
When Jacob and Bessie were first married, they lived on the Lower East Side in Manhattan, first at 88 Monroe Street and then at 133 Henry Street.
The 1910 US census shows Bessie, Jacob and their 6 month old daughter Sarah (Shirley) living on Clinton Street. It states Jacob immigrated in 1905 and Bessie in 1908 and also lits Jacob as 24 (implying a birth year of 1886) and Bessie as 20 (implying a birth year of 1890). Jacob spoke English and was an operator in a clothing shop. They had a border living with them, Morris Rosinstein. Morris, who immigrated in 1910, was 22 and was a mattress maker in a mattress factory.
Bessie was short and rotund and bubbled with energy! She was always on the go. Her daughter Shirley inherited her energy! Bessie was a real entertainer – leading groups in Yiddish songs whether she was at a Cousins Club meeting, a Workman’s Circle meeting or hanging out with friends on the boardwalk in Brighton Beach. She was very active in the Workman's Circle and used to go to camp with them. She was interested in politics and often held court on street corners talking about Eugene Debs (five time Socialist Candidate for Presidency and the only candidate to run for US President from prison!) and Samuel Orr (socialist member of the NY State Assembly).
Bessie was a real character:
--When her children were in their late teens, she took time out for winter vacations in Florida – leaving Jacob and the kids to fend for themselves. This was unheard of in the 20’s & 30’s! (Her daughter Shirley bought her the train ticket to Florida!)
--When she was in her 70’s, she would take the train from Brooklyn and then a bus to visit Flora & Sam or Frances in Queens - without calling first! It was a real schlep … and she did have a telephone! (If she had just called, we would have picked her up in a car!)
--When she stayed with Frances she would make tea with the lights off to save money on electricity!
--While none of her grandchildren remember her cooking, one of her granddaughters claims she made great taiglach in a can.
--When she came to my house, she would become Robin Hood! She would take my toys saying “you don't need them and I know someone else who does”. (She was right!)
Before moving to her last apartment in Brighton Beach, she lived in an old walk-up on Brighton 4th Street. The apartment was dark with the bathroom in the hall. Several years before she died, she moved to a one bedroom apartment with a terrace in a brand-new elevated high rise over looking the Atlantic Ocean and Brighton Beach. To her, it was living in the lap of luxury.
Bessie died in a nursing home on June 01, 1972 in Queens, NY. Death Certificate # 156-72-407571. She is buried in Wellwood Cemetery, in Farmingdale, NY. She and Jacob are buried in Workmen Circle plots, but in different cemeteries.
Children of BESSIE ZEMSER and JACOB WELLER are:
i. SHIRLEY (SARAH) (WELLER + HERMAN) STRASSLER, b. 25 Oct 1909, Manhattan, NY.
ii. SAMUEL WELLER, b. 19 Mar 1912, Brooklyn, NY ; d. 09 Nov 1997, Pembroke Pines, FL.
iii. FRANCES (WELLER) ALBERTSON, b. 20 Aug 1915, Brooklyn, NY; d. 21 Apr 1999, Florida, USA .
iv. LILLIAN (WELLER) NEGRI, b. 22 Mar 1921, Bronx, NY; d. 27 Feb 2003, Los Angeles, California.
SAM ZEMSER (JACOB/RAPHAEL 2, UNKNOWN 1) was born July 24,1892 in Vilna, Poland, and died Mar 1952. He married ROSE BRACHMAN. She was born 24 Dec 1892 in Vilna, and died Nov 1977 in NYC.
June 5, 1917 Sam registered for the WWI Draft. He stated he was twenty five, single and was living at 52 Ludlow St. in NYC. He was an alien, working for Sam Cohen at 12 Ludlow Street. It is possible he was a dairy salesman - but the wording is almost impossible to read. He spoke Russian and was supporting his mother and father back in the old country. He had grey eyes and brown hair.
Sam was twenty-five and Rose was twenty-four when they married 12 Aug 1917 in NYC. Sam listed his parents as Jacob and Mariasha and Rose listed her parents as Joseph and Jenni (Greenberg) Brachman. At the time of their marriage, Sam was a "salesman." He was living at 274 Albany St. and Rose was living at 266 E. Houston St. in NYC. It seems they were married in Rose's home. Source: NYC Marriage Cert. # 22700 and 1917 WWI Draft Registration.
Children of SAM ZEMSER and ROSE BRACHMAN are:
i. HERMAN ( HYMIE) ZEMSER, b. about 1918 in NYC and d. Mar 1952 in NYC.
ii. YETTA (ZEMSER) BECKERMAN. b. 19 Oct 1920 in NYC and d. 15 Jan 1994 in NYC.
iii. MARTHA (ZEMSER) CASHIN.
Sam Zemser’s brother Herman (Hymie) was most likely still alive when Sam’s son Hymie was born. It is odd that Sam named him with the same name as his living brother. Rumor has it that there was some disagreement about money and this entire branch of the family cut themselves off from the rest of the Zemser’s. Sam worked in a wholesale fruit market.
GENERATION No. 3
CHILDREN OF HYMIE ZEMSER and BESSIE KATZ
PHIL ZEMSER (HERMAN (HYMIE) 3, JACOB/RAPHAEL 2, UNKNOWN ) was born 08 Oct 1908, and died 15 Sep 1999 in NY. He married IRENE SIMON 24 Aug 1941. She was born 09 May 1920. They divorced after their children were grown and Irene re-married Irving Greenberg. Irving was Ruth Greenberg-Zemser's (Robbie Zemser's brother-in-law) brother.
Children of PHIL ZEMSER and IRENE SIMON are:
i. MICHAEL ZEMSER, b. 02 Feb 1943.
ii. RICHARD ZEMSER, b. 09 Jul 1945.
iii. HOWARD ZEMSER, b. 21 Dec 1952.
ABE ZEMSER (HERMAN (HYMIE) 3, JACOB/RAPHAEL 2, UNKNOWN 1) was born 26 Dec 1912 (Source: 1930 census that states he was eighteen in 1930) and died 31 Dec 1996 in California. He married HANNAH USLAN 30 May 1942 in NJ. She was born 23 May 1913 in Bayonne, NJ, and died of Alzheimer’s disease 17 Jan 1999 in California.
Child of ABE ZEMSER and HANNAH USLAN is:
i. ZOE LYNN (ZEMSER) TOMACK , b. 09 Jun 1951; Adopted child. (Late in life Zoe discovered she was "bought" in the back office of a NJ attorney for the price of a Cadillac!)
ROBBIE ZEMSER (HERMAN (HYMIE) 3, JACOB/RAPHAEL 2, UNKNOWN 1) was born 26 Feb 1917 (Source: 1930 census that states he was 13 in 1930), and died Jul 1977 in FL. He married RUTHIE GREENBERG, born 14 May 1914 in NYC and died 7 Feb 2002 in Albany, NY after retiring to Florida.
Children of ROBBIE ZEMSER and RUTHIE UNKNOWN are:
i. ALAN ZEMSER.
ii. GARY ZEMSER.
NOTE: We believe all the Zemser's in the US are related to us.
CHILDREN OF ESTHER ZEMSER & MORRIS STERN
FANNIE STERN (aka Fannie Alhadef)
FANNIE STERN (ESTHER 3 ZEMSER, JACOB/RAPHAEL 2, UNKNOWN 1) was born about 1905 in Russia. She married JOSEPH ALHADEF. He was born 1899 in Isle of Rhodes, Greece. FANNIE immigrated in 1910. JOSEPH ALHADEF was an accountant.
Children of FANNIE STERN and JOSEPH ALHADEF are:
i. MARION (ALHADEF) SHAW, b. 1924, NY; d. before 1985.
ii. SEYMOUR ALHADEF, b. 15 Aug 1928, NY; d. Feb 1978.
JULIUS STERN (ESTHER ZEMSER, JACOB/RAPHAEL 2, UNKNOWN 1) was born 1909 in NY. He married MAY UNKNOWN. JULIUS was a furniture salesman.
Children of JULIUS STERN and MAY UNKNOWN are:
i. JERRY STERN.
ii. BARBARA STERN.
MAX STERN (ESTHER 3 ZEMSER, JACOB/RAPHAEL 2, UNKNOWN 1) was born 1910 in NY, and died before Feb 1943. He married IRENE FORMAN.
Child of MAX STERN and IRENE FORMAN is:
i. FREDDY STERN.
CHILDREN OF BESSIE ZEMSER and JACOB WELLER
CHILDREN OF SAM ZEMSER AND ROSE BRACHMAN
HERMAN ( HYMIE) ZEMSER
HERMAN ( HYMIE) ZEMSER (SAM 3, JACOB/RAPHAEL 2, UNKNOWN 1) He married UNKNOWN UNKNOWN.
Children of HERMAN ZEMSER and HELEN UNKNOWN are:
i. SCOTT ZEMSER
ii. JODI (ZEMSER) SANDRIDGE
YETTA ZEMSER (aka Yetta Beckerman)
YETTA ZEMSER (SAM 3, JACOB/RAPHAEL 2, UNKNOWN 1) She married HENRY BECKERMAN.
Children of YETTA ZEMSER and HENRY BECKERMAN are:
i. BERNARD BECKERMAN, b. 18 Jun 1946 in NY.
ii. SANDY (BECKERMAN) GRINSPAN, b. 25 Sep 1954 in NY.
DISCLAIMER: THIS IS WORK IN PROGRESS. WE ARE NOT SURE THIS INFORMATION IS ENTIRELY CORRECT, AND WE KNOW IT IS INCOMPLETE.