Sunday, August 24, 2008

Genealogue Challenge #136

Music producer Jerry Wexler, who coined the term "rhythm and blues," died recently.

On what date did his parents marry?

Extra credit: On what date did his father arrive in America?

Drew Smith

Wikipedia indicates that Gerald "Jerry" Wexler was born 10 January 1917 in the Bronx.

A Deutsche Press-Agentur indicates that his parents were Harry and Elsa Spitz Wexler.

The 1930 census for New York City shows a Wexler family living in Manhattan with a 13-year-old son Gerald. Parents are Harry and Elsie, and there's a sibling, 11-year-old Arthur.

The 1920 census confirms that this family was living in the Bronx at that time, and Gerald's listed age of 2 and 11 months is consistent with the census being taken on 3 January and his being born 10 January 1917. The father is listed as having arrived in 1910.

The Italian Genealogical Group's database (via shows that Elsie Spitz married Harry Wechsler on 1 April 1916 in Manhattan.


I seem to be drawing a blank on this one, but I'm still looking.
What I've found so far:

Marriage date: 1916
Immigration date: 1910

According to a few online biographies, I learned that Jerry's parents' names were Harry Wexler and Elsa Spitz
In the 1920 census, in the Bronx Assembly District 8, Bronx, New York , Gerald Wexler is found at age 2 years 11 months living with his parents, Harry and Elsie and his younger brother Arthur. Harry is 28 (b. about 1892) and his birthplace is given as Austria, Elsie is 24 (b. about 1896) and her birthplace is New York. Harry's immigration year is given as 1910.

In 1930 the family is living in Manhattan and Harry's immigration year is again given as 1910.
Given their reported ages (37 and 35) and the ages they report they were when they married (23 and 21), Harry and Elsie were married sometime in 1916. Given that Elsie was born in New York and both sons were born there, that is likely where they married but I have yet to find it.

The Ancestry database New York City Births, 1891-1902 lists an Elza Spitz being born 23 Sep 1895.
The 1910 census finds her in Manhattan at the age of 14 (b. abt 1896) with her parents, Rudolph and Bella and the 1900 census finds her in Queens with her birthdate given as Sep 1895, which matches the birth record. The SSDI gives her birth as 28 Sep 1895, and her death as Feb 1987.

As I knew that Harry was Polish, I felt his name had likely been changed. Names in Polish which would naturally be changed to Harry would be Hieronim, Henryk and Heniek
I couldn't find his name in the New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 database on, nor on the Ellis Island site...yet

On a Rootsweb posting I learned that the surname may have been spelled Wechsler or Wecksler originally.

still hunting...


The marriage date was indeed 1 April 1916.

As for the date of arrival, I am fairly confident that I have found the right Ellis Island record. If I'm right, then Harry was counted in the 1910 census.


From the bio on Yahoo Music his mother’s name is given as Elsa Spitz. Found the family in 1930 New York, New York, Manhattan District 1121 census: Harry Wexler 37, Elsie 35, Gerald 13, Arthur 11. Harry listed as being born in Austria. Found a marriage in Manhattan for Harry Wechsler and Elsie Spitz married April 1, 1916. From Ellis Island records found a Hersch Wechsler, age 18, arriving August 16, 1909 with his sister Ethel, age 20. His uncle, Mendel (sp?) Goldberg is listed as relative that he will join. The 1910 census has a Harry Wexler living with his uncle Max Goldberg.


Yes! I think that's the right Harry. Notice that his occupation in 1910 was "Window cleaner," and that Jerry's father ran a window cleaning business in 1920 and 1930.

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