Back in January, I wrote about Harry Morris & his disappearance. You can see the earlier post published on January 13, 2013. His grandson Joe & I have spent many hours searching online for Harry & have never found anything. He simply disappeared from Kansas City — leaving his wife, Flora (Blume Kremer) Morris, with six children to care for. Because a person can’t completely vanish in today’s world, I have had a hard time accepting that he just walked out. I understand divorce and separation, but I can’t imagine never coming back to see your children. Thanks to Flora’s other recent immigrant family members from Russia and Lithuania, she somehow managed to keep her family together. And she eventually remarried and lived to be 81 years old, living from 1890 to 1971. Flora (Blume Kremer) was a resourceful and resilient woman.
Now with better communication, computers, DNA tests, etc., it is a rare occurrence that a man (or woman) can go to the corner store for a pack of cigarettes & never return. Harry’s grandson, Joe, has had his DNA tested on familytreedna.com and maybe some day, someone will be a good DNA match and the pieces can be put together.
My interest in Harry Morris started when I began trying to help my daughter’s Russian & Eastern European side of her family create a family tree. Over the last weeks, I have read many articles about the difficulties that these new immigrants had in adjusting to their lives in America. I bought a used book titled “Mid-America’s Promise: A Profile of Kansas City Jewry” that was edited by Joseph D. Schultz & published in 1982.
I bought this book hoping that it might contain some references to my daughter’s family members. Unfortunately, there aren’t any with the one exception of a photo of Robert “Bob” Bernstein who invented the McDonald’s Happy Meal. But, from this wonderful book I have learned how these Russian & Eastern European immigrants, at the turn of the 20th Century, ended up in Kansas City, MO.
I will try to keep this short, but a brilliant man named Jacob Billikopf was instrumental in the Kansas City immigration story. He was a recent immigrant from Lithuania who worked with other Jewish leaders to try and remedy the situation in New York. The wave of immigrants had begun to overwhelm New York’s resources and the city leader’s were quickly becoming desperate. The book explains how Jacob created the “Billikopf Route”. Many representatives of American Jewish charities traveled to Hamburg & Bremerhaven to try and convince the immigrants to land and move further west from NYC. Jacob Billikopf basically created the Galveston, TX route in order to help the immigrants find a “more assured future”. He managed Kansas City’s Jewish social services and found jobs and housing for the people willing to travel further west.
That said, it doesn’t explain what happened to Harry Morris. While many Eastern European immigrants were able to quickly assimilate, some were not. The ones who landed in NYC could hold onto their old ways, Yiddish language, and customs longer than the immigrants who moved further west. There was more pressure on those who took the “Billikopf Route” and some felt very isolated in their new country. There were also social and cultural rifts between the older German Jewish population and the new poorer Eastern European immigrants.
Desertion, the poor man’s “divorce”, happened so often among the Eastern Europeans that a National Desertion Bureau was formed to help locate the wayward Jewish husbands and fathers. Jacob Billikopf became very disturbed by the problems created by desertion and death. He and Judge Edward Porterfield wrote and passed a bill in 1911 that established a “Mothers’ Assistance Fund” in Kansas City. This bill was a forerunner to the Aid to Dependent Children programs across the country.
The problems caused by desertion didn’t occur only in Kansas City. The situation was so bad that the Jewish Daily Forward, the largest-circulation Yiddish daily in the world, began running the “Gallery of Missing Men,” a page full of mug shots of these husbands. It was published to shame them into returning to their families. Or maybe to warn other women about these scoundrels.
Harry Morris came to the United Stated from Russia. He was handsome and ended up in Kansas City, Missouri.
He married Flora Kramer (Kremer), daughter of Aron Kremer & Tema Malka Rykles from Kejdany,Kovno,Russia, Lithuania. After their marriage in 1909 — they had six living children Sam, Milton, Joseph, Ida, Max & Isador.
Sometime after the 1920 United States Federal Census, Harry Morris disappeared. Harry left Flora with six children & no one has ever been able to find out what happend to him. His guardian, Samuel Tranin, had gotten into trouble with the legal system, but there is no evidence that that Harry was a part of his trouble.
If anyone could offer any hints on how to find information on an almost 100 year old cold case, please let us all know. Even this long ago, it is interesting that someone could completely disappear.
I have tried to help other friends and family search for their relatives. The hardest search has been trying to find a family tree for my daughter’s grandmother. Her family came from Lithuania at the turn of the 20th century. They came to the United States in order to find a better life and to escape the horrible treatment of Jews in Eastern Europe.
I have searched and searched, but I can’t find Mamie Gershonowitz’s entrance into the United States through Ellis Island, New York. We know that she was born (approximately) in May of 1888 in Vilnius, Vilnius, Lithuania and died on 12 August 1931 in Kansas City, Missouri. In the 1920 Federal Census, it states that she arrived in the United States in 1906. Please note that a lot of the earlier census reports had typos.
1920 United States Federal Census about Mayne Kermer
Name: Mayne Kermer
Birth Year: abt 1887
Home in 1920: Kansas City Ward 11, Jackson, Missouri
Immigration Year: 1906
Relation to Head of House: Wife
Marital Status: Married
Spouse’s Name: Jake Kermer
Father’s Birthplace: Poland
Mother’s Birthplace: Poland
Able to Read: No
Able to Write: No
Neighbors: View others on page
Jake Kermer 37
Mayne Kermer 33
Samuel Kermer 9
Annie Kermer 7
David Kermer 3
There is a great site to search for Jewish ancestry records — http://www.jewishgen.org — and this site adds new records daily. Even if you don’t have any Jewish relatives, please look at this site. There is so much history here. There are many volunteers working to translate the records.
When searching for Jewish relatives, there are many road blocks. First, language and translation. Second, the Hebrew calendar and searching for dates. Third, name changes. And finally, World War I and World War II changed the borders of countries and their names changed also.
I have found more information about my daughter’s great grandfather, Jake Kramer. Jake was born in Lithuania. But some of his records say he was born in the Russian Empire on 15 Nov. 1887 in Kiev, Ukraine (Russia). I am not sure what is correct as Eastern Europe was in turmoil. Jake died in Kansas City, MO on 25 Feb. 1965.
His father, Aron Kramer, was born about 1862 in Yanow, Kowno, Russia and died 19 April 1942 in Droga Lubienska, Janowska. Both Aron Kramer and his wife Tema Malka Kramer died during the Holocaust.
Name: Aron Krämer
Death Date: 29 Apr 1942
Death Place: Droga LubienskaJanowska
Burial Date: 2 May 1942
Burial Plot: A II
Burial Place: Lviv, Lwow, Ukraine
Comments: Lviv Cemetery Records – 1942
Cemetery Burials: 7772
Cemetery Comments: The city of Lviv, Ukraine was formerly Lvov, USSR; Lwow, Poland; and Lemberg, Austrian Empire. Included in this cemetery data are files from 1941 and 1942, written in both the Roman and Cyrillic alphabets. The data for this cemetery is contain
His wife, Tema Malka Kramer was born about 1862 in Lithuania and died about 1941.
Holocaust: Krakow (Poland) Transport Lists, 1940 about Małka Kremer
Name: Małka Kremer
Birth Date: 1861
Date Transported: 17 Mar 1941
Departure Location: Lublin
Marital Status: Married
Address: Krasińskiego 5
Transport Number: 61
Transportee Number: 88