George Ralph Kesner

Geo. Ralph Kesner
George Ralph Kesner was born on November 16, 1856. He was my 2nd great-grandfather on my father’s side.
Information gathered by my father indicated that George was born in Leeds, England. I could find no proof of that. Nor could I find any emigration or naturalization information that might confirm he was an immigrant. I searched for years, to no avail, for his parents’ names hoping that might determine his birthplace.
Finally, two weeks ago, I stumbled upon a newspaper article about George’s business dealings. The article was quite lengthy and detailed complaints about George Ralph Kesner’s insurance adjustment business. I will write more about that story and how it helped me break through a “brick wall” in a future post.

From the Pennsylvania Church and town records
I located his actual birth record on As I can’t read Hebrew, I posted the image on ViewMate (a fabulous service of Several kind “genners” providing the following information:
Father & Mother’s name: Refael HaLevi, the mother’s name is not listed;
5616 (the Hebrew year) Date of Circumcision: Maybe the first line is the mohel’s name; the second line is the date 13 Kislev which is Nov 23, 1855.

 The first line above the date is the traditional was of identifying date by the Torah portion, in addition the day of the month.
In this case, the day was the eve of the holy Sabbath (in Hebrew, “erev shabat kodesh” abbreviated here to the three letters heading the words) the Torah portion (parasha in Hebrew, abbreviated to “p'” was “Vayishlakh”… which happens to be the portion that will be read on the coming Saturday, Nov. 16, the 13th of Kislev

The top line is the column heading. 
Starting on the right hand side:
No: 452 (the letters in Hebrew are Taf Nun Bet, I’m not sure what that stands for).
Name of the child (Shem Hayeled): Gershon in Hebrew, Georg in Latin letters.
Name of the father and mother: Rafael Halevi (in Hebrew), R. L. Kesner in the latin letters. 
5616 in the Hebrew letters: taf, reish, tet, zain (which is the year 1855). I can not make out the first word bellow the year, the second word is “in the day”: I can nto make out the top line. The bottom line states the Hebrew day and month, 13 of Cislev.

So, it appears George was born in Pennsylvania. However, his birth year was 1855 not 1856. His middle name was in honor of his father, Ralph Kesner, who WAS born in England. After a little more searching, I located his mother, Rachael Moore, who also emigrated from England.
George Ralph was the third of five children born to Ralph and Rachael.  The family moved quite often. The eldest, Jeannette was possibly born in Rhode Island. Julia was born in Pennsylvania as was George Ralph. The younger siblings were born in Massachusetts and New York.
By 1875, the family was living at 185-187 Fulton Street in Brooklyn, New York. During this time, George worked as a shoe clerk, a job he continued working through 1880, when he became a clothing clerk.
Jessie Davis and George Ralph Kesner
On May 8, 1878 George married Jessie Davis in New York. The newlyweds lived in the home of Jessie’s parents, Jacob and Rachael Davis at 138A Dean Street in Brooklyn, New York. In 1885, they resided at 183 Bergen, also in Brooklyn.
At some point, George became a partner in a tailor business with a gentleman by the name of Benjamin Sachs. By 18
88, this business failed and he and his partner sold the business to Henry H. Davis (relative?) for $2576.00
George opened his own business in 1891, beginning his career as a public adjuster. He was the first vice-president at the Long Island Fire Insurance Company<!–[if supportFields]>xe “New York:Brooklyn ” \f B<![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–>. The company was sued in 1894 by a policy holder claiming he was unable to recover his losses. The claimant also complained about “questionable business methods.” The company named was Hart &Co. located at Remsen Street in Brooklyn NY. George’s position was also listed as “secretary” of the company. Following this scandal he resigned from his position in 1894. (More on this in a future post.)
According to the 1900 US Census, George was residing at 362 Pacific Street in Brooklyn with his family, working as a fire adjuster. The 1910 census lists his occupation as “assessor of fire losses.” The family had moved to 489 Eighth Street. The 1915 NY Census states the job as “fire adjuster.”
George’s wife, Jessie died in 1916. By 1918 George was living at 553 Eighth Street and by 1920, he was living in the home of his son-in-law, Charles Feder, daughter Pearl and their daughter, Rose at 310 St. Johns Place in Brooklyn.
George was a charter member of the 12th A.D. Republican Club and was active in Jewish charitable services in Brooklyn.
George married his second wife, Jeannette Freeman, on April 30, 1923. The couple had no children. Jeannette was born in Pennsylvania, as was George, so one wonders if they had known each other as youngsters.
Just before his death, George was residing at the Ansonia Hotel in Brooklyn. This formerly luxurious hotel was declining rapidly by the time he was living there, and would fall into disrepair during the Depression years. 
George Ralph Kesner died on May 11, 1931 at the age of 74. He is buried in Washington Cemetery, McDonald Ave. in Brooklyn, New York

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s