Friday, January 18, 2008

Genealogue Challenge #111

This is an open-ended challenge. I want you to find out as much genealogical info as you can on the mother of Bobby Fischer, the chess wizard who died on Thursday. Here are a few questions to get you started:

When did she arrive in the United States?

What was her mother's maiden name?

Where did she live in 1920?


Mother of Bobby Fischer....

1. When did she arrive in the United States?
Per the 1930 United States Census of St. Louis Missouri, she immigrated to the United States in 1914.

What was her mother's maiden name?
Her maiden name was Regina Wender

Where did she live in 1920?
Per the 1920 census she and her brother Max were living in the Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York.



To be clear, I'm looking for Regina's mother's maiden name.


I just noticed that Bobbie Fischer died.

It appears that the FBI were interested in Regina Wender, see:
I haven't found her mother's name yet.

I wonder what happened that they were in an orphanage in 1920 and 10 yrs later in St. Louis?

If the 1930 St Louis census is correct then Regina's mother is: Ethel born abt 1888 in Poland. I am confused by the births of the children and the immigration dates:
Sylvia age 21 born in Missouri
Max age 19 b. in Poland
Reginia age 17 b. in Switzerland
Jacob arrived in 1912
Ethel arrived in 1905
Max arrived in 1914
Regina arrived in 1914
If Jacob didn't arrive until 1912 how could Sylvia been born in MO in 1909? Is she a daughter by a previous marriage of Ethel?
Maybe someone else can unravel this.

Drew Smith

According to the California Death Index, her mother's maiden name was Abramson.


I'm pretty uncertain about this, but perhaps Regina's mother was Natalie Abramson Wender? In 1920 Natalie was a patient in the NJ State Hospital in Greystone Pk, NJ--which would explain why Max & Regina were in the Hebrew Orphan's Asylum in 1920. Per Sam Sloan's online chart, Natalie died in 1923. Also, there is Rosa Wender, with 2 children, arriving 1914 in NY, but this could be way off.


Interesting bit in today's NYT:

"A few years ago the Philadelphia Inquirer, obtaining F.B.I. records under the Freedom of Information Act, also found compelling evidence that Bobby Fischer’s father was not the man named on his birth certificate, but a brilliant Hungarian scientist, Paul F. Nemenyi, with whom his mother had an affair. Mr. Nemenyi apparently paid to help support Bobby, and there is even the record of a complaint he made to a social worker about Bobby’s upbringing. If that identification is accurate, the paradoxes of Mr. Fischer’s virulent anti-Semitism become still more profound, since Mr. Nemenyi, like Ms. Wender, was Jewish."


I too believe her mother was Natalie Abramson, and that she died (perhaps in New Jersey) after the 1920 census. I also have a strong suspicion that Regina arrived with her brother and mother at Ellis Island on 20 Dec. 1914.

Can anyone find the first husband of her step-mother, Ethel?


NY passenger records show a Jacob Wender arriving in the US on Aug 5, 1913. He is listed as Russian and Hebrew, last permanent residence, Zurich, Switzerland. He appears to be alone, which could explain wife and children arriving the following year.


This article about Regina appeared in El Mundo on Nov 24, 2002:

La madre de Fischer redactó su último «CV» en los escombros del paraíso: «Nací el 31 de marzo de 1913 en Zurich. Mis padres son el sastre Jakob Wender, natural de la polaca Lodz, y su esposa Natalie Abramson.

Apparently the CIA and FBI thought her mother was Natalie Abramson. [Link]


Google translates the above as this:

The mother Fischer wrote his last "HP" in the rubble of paradise: "I was born on March 31, 1913 in Zurich. My parents are tailor Jakob Wender, a native of Lodz Polish, and his wife Natalie Abramson ...


Armed only with a shovel...

I had the info and didn't post it the first time. Drew is correct...

California Death Index 1940-1997
Regina Wender Pustan
b. 31 March 1913
d. 26 July 1997 Santa Clara, California
Mother's Maiden Name: Abramson

It is known that Bobby Fischer's mother married additional times and the last time to Cyril Pustan, so the surname is correct.



I believe Ethel is listed in 1910 in St. Louis as Ethel Rotman and then in 1920 as Ethel Rothman. The key is the daughter Sylvia who was born in MO in 1909, according to the 1930 census. Nevadagen pointed out the logistics problem of her MO birth. Sylvia is there with Ethel in both census'. Husband Joe Rotman [sic] only appears in the 1910, and Ethel, Sylvia and an older bro are living by themselves in 1920. The earlier census agree with Ethel's immigration date of 1905 as given in the 1930 census.


I agree, it does appear that she was Ethel Rothman. This book says that her maiden name was Greenberg, and that she and Regina "did not get along."


Ah. Just the tip I needed. An Ethel Grünberg immigrated through NY in August of 1905, on her way to uncle David Grünberg's in Springfield, Illinois. Springfield is just up the road from St. Louis. The 1905 immigration date matches at least two of the census.


On other tidbit: these Russian Jews were all in the clothing business. Ethel Grünberg Rothman was a seamstress for a clothing company, per the 1920; Her uncle David (Grünberg) Greenberg was a clothing merchant up in Springfield, and Ethel's second husband Jacob Wender was a tailor. This could help explain their connections to one another.

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