For those of you following along, this story has gotten both stranger and sadder.
Aida/Ida (maiden name unknown) born in 1873, and Julius Katz -(born in 1870) were very much in love, most likely in or around Zyrardow Poland. So in love, in fact, that they got married in 1890. In 1901, Julius, now the father of four, emigrated to America to make a better life, and in 1904 Aida and the children followed.
Julius leaving wasn't the only thing of note that happened in 1901 in Zyrardow, oh no. Lajb Rotbard (my great-grandfather) and Liba Laia Szajer got married. In 1903 they had my grandfather, Abram Dawid, in 1908 they had Hana, and in 1909 Chaja/Claire/Ida (who later ran away to become an opera singer, but that's another story entirely.) There were also one or two children who are lost to history as of now.
In 1911, Lajb set out for New York, promising to send back money to help the family until he could afford to bring them over. Because the family was rather traditional, at 8 years old my grandfather was now the head of the household. My great-grandfather sent back nothing. Bupkes. Nada. Zero. Zip. Zilch.
In 1913 Liba got mysteriously ill and died in 1916 when my grandfather was 13, leaving him in charge of three (possibly four) children, the youngest of whom was 7. The community of Zyrardow rallied around them, and by 1920 had scraped together enough money to put the two surviving children (Abram and Chaja/Claire) on the Santarem to America.
Where did they go when they got to New York? Why, to Julius Katz's apartment. He and Ida and their now five children were living together happily. They were now well-off, having built a thriving newspaper stand. Why did the kids go to the Katz'syou ask? Well, their family was well-enough off to support a boarder - a man named Lejb Rotbart.
Lejb, you see, was not only widowed, but he was also listed on the census forms as their brother-in-law. So distraught was Lejb over the loss of his wife that he never worked again. Aside from a few years living with his daughter, he lived with the Katz family until he died in 1941.
So, here are the questions I have left: Liiba Laja Szajer's parents were Abram Dawid Szajer and Hana Milczer. Her grandparents on her father's side were Josek Szajer and Iska Birnbaum/Brinbaum. Lejb's parents were Josek Rotbart (also known as Pincus Joseph) and Syra Malka Feldman (also known as Sylvia Malka Joseph.) Besides their names, I know almost nothing about these folks.
I know that Josek Rotbart and Sylvia Malka Feldman Joseph made it to the USA. I also know they were very traditional, extremely ashamed that their son skipped out on his family and wanted nothing to do with the kids. Her family blamed Liba's illness on the hard work she had to do because her husband had abandoned her, and once she died wanted nothing to do with the kids. At least, these are the stories I'm told.
Where did they live for four years? When did Hana die? Who were the other two kids? Why/how did they die? What did Liba (also known as Liba Leah on forms Lejb filled out in the USA) die of? Who raised the money to send them here? Was it Julius? Aida/Ida? Is Liba the sister of my great-granduncle or my great-grandaunt? Who were my grandfather's grandparents? Did Liba Laia's grandparents die in the occupation of Congress Poland? Why are most Szajers in Bedzin yet a few are 2.5 hours away in Zyrardow? Finally, who runs away from New York City to become an opera singer??? Any and all answers are welcome.