Dale Atkinson of Albuquerque married into the Clevenson family—and has joined Aaron Clevenson of Humble, Texas, as one of the chief custodians of the family’s history. Here he describes how and why he started this research, and recounts some of the original American story of the “Clevensons:”
Harry Clevenson, born Avram Klipatsky in 1884 in Russia, was the father of Sam Clevenson, who founded The Jewish World in 1965.
By Dale R. Atkinson
I started looking into the Clevenson family genealogy after one of the annual family reunions in Laconia, N.H. As a non-Clevenson (I married into the family) and a Jew-by-choice, I was interested in the story of where these people came from, how, and why. After all, what had I gotten myself into?
Here were four generations of a family gathered in one place and tracing themselves back to Harry and Sadie Clevenson, both of whom had come to the U.S. as young people.
I started by attending the annual “A Taste of Honey” put on by our Albuquerque Jewish Community Center, where there were talks on genealogy. I learned of organizations and websites that could assist with my search, and pointers on how and where to start. Turns out that’s with the people you already know – the family.
Start your own site
I also learned about MyHeritage.com. This pay website has a special relationship with JewishGen.org for record sharing, tracks Jewish life events such as bar/bat mitzvah, provides a search engine of hundreds of other sites (including Ancestry.com, JewishGen, World Vital Records, and so on), and DNA linkages.
Best of all, it allows you to have one site for an entire family and allow all of the family members to access, edit, share, upload pictures and documents, and so on.
The icing on the cake is its Smart Search, which compares the family trees of all the participants in the site (millions of family trees) to identify potential linkages and allow you to contact those other individuals that have family members that match yours.
I set up on MyHeritage.com, invited as many family members as I knew, and started building the family tree and collecting the stories. For me, it is not just about who gave birth to whom, it is about the stories.
My searches took me through Ancestry, JewishGen and many other places. While there is a lot to discover online and talking to family members and other researchers, the best gems are discovered by visiting the places the family lived and looking through the old paper records that haven’t yet been digitized.
1730 relatives and counting!
I expanded my interest to include all the other families that had married into the Clevensons (like me), as well as my own family and the families that Harry and Sadie Clevenson came from. From that simple start two years ago, we have 1730 names of relatives in our tree, from the most recent events (the deaths of my aunt and brother-in-law this summer) all the way back to 1560, and with links to 599 other family trees.
We’ve “discovered” and met Sadie’s family, the Goodmans, and they are now part of the annual family reunion. Most recently we’ve “discovered” some of Harry’s family, the Koritzskys.
Here’s some of the story of Harry and Sadie Clevenson.
Harry Clevenson was born Avram Klipatsky in Lepujny-Vilna, Lithuania (which at the time was a part of Russia) on April 3, 1884. To avoid the tsar’s draft in Russia, he came to the U.S. aboard the Majestic, landing in New York on Nov. 17, 1904. He had no money, so he paid for his passage by working his way across as a boat-washer and painter.
He arrived in the U.S. intending to live with his cousin, Leah Klipatsky, who had married a man in Bangor, Maine, Nathan Koritzsky. All of them had come from Lithuania.
Need $2 to enter the U.S.
Arriving with no money, Harry was held in detention until his cousin’s husband sent the requisite $2 for entry to the U.S. Harry went to live with his cousin’s family in Bangor. Nathan and Leah Koritzsky were peddlers and had many children, including a son, Jacob, then about 9.
Harry Clevenson married Sadie Goodman, the daughter of a Bangor cantor and rebbe, Harry Goodman, on Oct. 14, 1906. Sadie had been born in Jerusalem, Palestine, on May 19, 1888, and moved to the U.S. with her parents around the time she turned 2, so she’d grown up in Bangor. Her father, Harry Goodman, was a shoemaker and owned a shoe factory. Harry Clevenson also made, repaired and sold shoes. Initially, Harry and Sadie lived with the Goodmans in Bangor.
Harry and Sadie moved to Old Town, Maine, in 1908, where their first child, Anne, was born. Harry’s brother, Daniel, came from Lithuania and worked with Harry in Old Town. In 1909, Harry and Sadie moved to Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, where they opened the H. Clevenson Cash Shoe Store. They lived in Dover-Foxcroft for several years, and several children were born there: Libby (Lee) in 1909, Gershon in 1911, Julius in 1912, and Dorothy in 1914.
Sometime during those years, Harry had his cousin’s son, Jacob Koritzsky, come to Dover-Foxcroft to work for him in the store. After Dorothy’s birth, Harry was told to move south for his health. He turned the store over to Jacob (who by then was turning 20), took his family to live with Sadie’s parents in Bangor (where his next daughter, Deena, was born in 1915), and then headed south as far as his money would take them. That turned out to be Laconia, N.H!
Their children Sam (who founded The Jewish World), Henry, Diane, Sherman, and Helene were all born in Laconia between 1917 and 1927. Harry, Sadie and the family ran a shoe store and shoe repair shop for many years, and Harry helped found and support the shul in Laconia. Harry and Sadie Clevenson lived the rest of their lives in Laconia. Sadie died in 1964, and Harry followed her in 1979.
And that’s just the first of many stories of the Clevensons.
Dale R. Atkinson is married to Samantha Lapin, great-grand-daughter of Harry Clevenson. Her grandmother was Lee Clevenson Lapin, one of Sam Clevenson’s older sisters. Jim and Laurie Clevenson, children of Sam and Pearl Clevenson and co-owners of The Jewish World, are cousins to Samantha’s father, Jerry Lapin of Tucson, Arizona. Dale and Samantha own an information technology firm in Albuquerque, N.M.