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[Page 34]

The Nevins Family Story

The author's grandfather, Hyman Nevins (Chatzkel Joseph Neviadomsky) was born in Dubrowa on June 19, 1878. Neviadomsky, roughly translated, means “unknown” suggesting that an unimaginative ancestor became flustered in response to a government agent's inquiry when it became necessary for Jews to take family names.

Hyman's father, Nissan, was a peddler who died when his son was twelve. When Hyman went to shul to say kaddish, he met Celia Zaban who was three months younger and also saying kaddish for her mother, Freda. Celia's father, Moishe Aaron, and her paternal grandfather, Joshua, were custom tailors and Hyman became apprenticed to the former.

In 1896, in order to avoid being drafted into the Czar's army, the eighteen-year-old tailor fled across the border and made his way to America, settling on New York's lower East Side. Celia did not get along with her stepmother and moved to Grodno where she worked temporarily as a cook for a gentile physician. When Hyman had accumulated some money, he wrote to her and proposed marriage. She arrived in 1899 on the same day that Admiral George Dewey, the hero of Manila, was given a tumultuous welcome in New York harbor.


Moishe Aaron Zaban, the author's great-grandfather,
with his second wife, Bashe. Dubrowa, 1914.


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After many years of struggle and poverty, Hyman purchased a men's clothing store on Third Avenue and 84th Street under the El; The family grew with Nathan's being born in 1902, Irving in 1903, Samuel in 1905 and Mary in 1907. In later years Hyman and Celia moved to the Bronx, where Hyman died on January 5, 1962. Celia lived on until February 27, 1966.


Celia Nevins with children.
From left: Samuel, Nat, Mary and Irving.
  Celia and Hyman Nevins, with grandsons Michael
and David (in background), at Jones Beach,1941.


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