When the family history researcher looks at the relatives of comedian Larry David (b. July 2, 1947), one notices a few things: they had a big spousal age difference, had children within a year of each other and lived in close proximity to other family members. As David’s new Broadway play Fish in the Dark, begins previews, it will be interesting to see if any of the trends in his family tree turn up in the play.
In the New York Magazine article from January 26 issue, David’s ex-wife, Laurie, discusses the Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn apartment where Larry and his older brother, Ken, grew up. She notes that there was an aunt next door, a grandmother upstairs, and a cousin who moved in. That was in the 1950s. Many years before that, the relatives were also living in close proximity to one another.
Larry Gene David is the son of Rose and Mortimer J. David (b. December 31, 1915, New York, d. June 23, 2009, Boca Raton, Florida)
Morty, as he is referred to in interviews, had a sister Gabrielle David Phimister (b November 18, 1914, New York, m. Albert Phimister, d. November 12, 2006, Newburgh, NY). The family history researcher might notice that these siblings were like Irish twins…though not Irish, but born very close to each other.
When the family history researcher digs a little deeper, one sees from the 1920 census that Morty’s father was Frederick Gebhard David (b June 5,1883 NY, d. November 11, 1966 NY). In the 1920 census, Frederick Gebhard David was age 35 and his wife, Carrie H. David (most likely b. June 1, 1893, NY, d. July 19, 1864, Yonkers, NY ) was age 26, the family history researcher will see. Hmmmmm. the genealogist will surmise that this is a big age difference for those days.
If we keep looking backwards, the family history researcher can find that Larry David’s grandfather Frederick Gebhard David comes from a family with the same things: great spousal age difference, children born very close in age, and, maybe, late marriages.
Larry’s grandfather Frederick Gebhard David’s father Julius David was born in Germany and his mother Henrietta Bernstein David was born in Alabama. In the census of 1900, great grandfather Julius had four children and if the family history researcher isn’t careful, one might think some were twins. But if the family history researcher is doing his or her job correctly, he or she will see that this is another instance of that Irish twin thing–children born very close in time. Let’s look closer.
In the census of 1900, the family history researcher will find that the Davids were in Brooklyn’s Ward 30. The household consisted of:
- Julius David 42 commercial transportation
- Henrietta David 43
- Jerome J. David 17 office boy, manuf
- Frederick David 16 office boy
- Berthold David 16 office boy
- Herbert David 6 at school
There is Julius David (b. around 1858, Germany). There is his wife Henrietta David (b. September 1856, Alabama, m. 1881). The family history researcher will note that the census says Henrietta had been born in Alabama. If the genealogist notices, Henrietta is slightly older than her husband. Larry David’s great grandfather Julius was born in Germany and in 1900 had been in America for 40 years, according to this census. This means he would have come to America in 1860. A look at his naturalization papers and his ship records will reveal correct dates as well as the place of origin including the town he is from in Germany.
Larry David’s great grandmother was born in Alabama, but the census reveals that both his great grandmother and his great grandfather had parents who had been born in Germany. This will be an interesting search for the family history researcher because the records of Jews in Alabama are likely vivid and will reveal more information. A family history researcher doing additional work may likely find good records on the German ancestry because the German genealogy records are often quite complete.
Looking at the siblings, Frederick and Berthold are listed as the same age. But when the family history researcher looks closer, the birthdates on the census records reveal the following birthdates that show that the siblings were not exactly twins:
- Jerome J. David June 1882
- Frederick David June 1883
- Berthold David May 1884
- Herbert David July 1893
In the 1900 census, the family history researcher will also notice that on the lines surrounding the David family, there are others who hailed from Alabama. This is a clue for the genealogist that extended family members may have been living nearby. So let’s take another closer look.
In the 1900 census, on the line above Julius David is Jacob Bernstein (b. 1867) who is listed as age 33. He is working in hat manufacturing and was from Alabama. His parents were from Germany. When the family history researcher looks on the lines above, you can see Larry David’s great grandfather’s uncle is living with another person from Alabama, who might just be another sister. We can put together that Henrietta David is one sister and the other sister may be Minetta Ochs (b. Sept 1870, d. March 17, 1931 Queens) Minetta is age 29 and was married in 1890 to David Ochs (b. November 1856) who the family researcher can see at the time of this census is age 43. Now there is another big spousal age difference.
This is who is living in the residence:
- David Ochs age 43 Germany
- Minetta Ochs age 29 Alabama
- Bertrum age 9 December 1890
- Bertha age 8 April 1892
- Hortense age 9 mos Sept 1899
- Jacob Bernstein age 33 April 1867, Alabama
So in 1900, the aunts, uncles and cousins were living nearby in close proximity to Henrietta David, Larry David’s great grandmother. A great uncle was 33 and does not appear to be married yet.
But there is even another surprise! When the family history researcher looks at the 1930 census, David Ochs is a clerk for the city of New York, Minetta Ochs is a housewife and Hortense, the baby of the family is now age 29, living at home and is a sales lady in a store.
Well, well, well, the family history researcher has become even more curious. Age 29 and living at home…we search for Hortense and see that she was married to a David Pfaelzer on November 23, 1919. In the 1930 census, David Pfaelzer is listed as Divorced. On November 1, 1933, Hortense marries Morris Cohen )B. 1895, d. Feb 7, 1956). He is age 45 and she is age 40. The children listed in the 1940 census are
- Stanley age 24
- Miriam age 18
This family history researcher thinks it looks like Hortense had a child at age 16 with her first husband, got divorced and then either had more or blended the family. That’s because this genealogist found that Mimi, Fred and Stanley are listed as their children in Morris Cohen’s obituary of 1956.
Think we’ve gone far afield? Nope. That is what happens when a family history researcher gets going.
We find trends in families, similarities in generations and oddities among relatives.
In the family of Larry David, it looks like he has drawn on generational issues when he writes and performs. This family history researcher has found proof!
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