Friday, January 17, 2014


Because of all the snow we have had in Chicago this year I have been unable to do any cemetery photography since the middle of December. The last few years Chicago has had had fairly mild winters, and I was able to keep up with my cemetery photography almost year-round, but this year the weather is not cooperating.  I decided to make use of this time to post some of the photos I have taken at Jewish Waldheim Cemetery over the past several years but have not had time to post to Find a Grave.  When I added them up, it turned out that I had over 6,000 photos of graves at Jewish Waldheim that I have not posted. Lest you think this is a lot, there are over 300,000 graves at Jewish Waldheim, so it really is just a drop in the bucket.

As I was posting some of the 6,000 photos I came across one that caught my eye.  It is the tombstone for Leo Yarmulnick:

As you can see, Leo died in 1934 and his family has added the epitaph:

A Fine Son
A Loving Brother
A Good Friend
Loving All 
And Much Beloved 

to the tombstone and then:  "God's Greatest Gift Taken."  So, I decided to check into Leo Yarmulnick and see what information I could "dig up."

Little did I realize when I started looking, just how hard it would be to find information on Leo Yarmulnick.  The more sources I checked, the less information I found.  In fact, if I didn't have a photo of his tombstone I would not have been convinced that he ever existed.  Sometimes when doing genealogy research you have to get creative with how you search for information.  Many immigrants from Eastern Europe had never written their names before, so whoever was writing the name down used their "best guess" as to how the name should be spelled.  I had mentioned in a previous post that when a reporter asked the name of a murder victim, the family responded "Aron Yegalovitch" which is how the reporter took down the name.  Imagine his surprise when the death certificate came back spelling the surname as "Iglowitz."

Well, after I got creative I was able to find Leo.  But just to show you how frustrating this can be, I found the surname that was spelled "Yarmulnick" on the tombstone spelled:

and lastly

Sometimes genealogy research can be maddening.

The 1930 US Federal Census showed 21 year-old Leo Yarmulnik living at 3237 W. Hirsch Street in Chicago with his mother Sarah, his brother Morris, and his sister Dina.

3237 W. Hirsch Street, Chicago

Sarah was a widow and not employed, Morris worked as a salesman for a fruit store and Leo as a salesman for a dry goods store.  They paid $65 per month rent for their apartment and said that they had immigrated to the U.S. in 1928.

That is all of the official records for Leo until we get to his death certificate:

According to the death certificate, Leo "Yarrow" died on July 11, 1934 at Michael Reese hospital of injuries he sustained when he was "struck by auto while driving his automobile."  The cause of death was "traumatic laceration of the stomach and bowel, local peritonitis, complications of May accident."  His accident had taken place May 23, 1934, but he did not die until July 11, 1934.

I checked the Chicago Tribune archives for information about the accident that ultimately killed Leo Yarmulnik, but could not find anything.  The same day as Leo's accident, May 23, 1934, a water tower collapsed in Chicago, killing six people, so most of the local news reporting was given over to that tragedy as opposed to reporting on Leo's car accident that caused no immediate deaths.    

Leo was buried at Jewish Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park on July 13, 1934.  He was buried at Gate #265 - Ziditshover:

And what or the rest of Leo's family?  Big brother Morris died in Chicago on April 23, 1942.

Leo's little sister Dina started calling herself Vanya, and she married Alex Straus (1892-1974) from Chicago on November 4, 1936.   By the 1940 Census, Alex, Vanya (now calling herself "Tanya"), and Tanya's mother Sarah, had all relocated to Los Angeles.  They rented a house at 363 N. Stanley Avenue - near the intersection of Crescent Heights and Beverly Boulevards.  Alex opened a store in Glendale called "Al's Swap Shop."

Sarah Kirsch Yarmulnick died in Los Angeles on July 18, 1952.  She was 75 years old.  Dina/Vanya/Tanya Yarmulnick Straus died in Los Angeles on January 20, 1962.  She was 55 years old.  There is no record of Tanya and Alex having any children.

So, that's the story of Leo Yarmulnick and his family.  From Russia through Chicago to Los Angeles.  A lifetime of adventures that took them more than half-way around the world.

May Leo Yarmulnick (God's Greatest Gift Taken) rest in peace.

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