Hyman Berson

Hyman Berson

Hyman Berson appeared among index cards kept by Nathaniel R. Perkins, MD, who examined thousands of men who were going into the war, 1914-1918. Given by Mrs N. R. Perkins in accordance with instructions from her late husband, Dr. Nathaniel P. Perkins of 1122 Adams St, Dorchester.

Hyman Birson lived at 14 Lena Park Dorchester

Hyman James Berson. By Camille Arbogast.

Hyman James Berson (sometimes spelled Birson) was born in March, 1896, in Vilnius, Lithuania. His birthdate was reported as either March 20, 28, or 30. In 1906, he immigrated to the United States, along with his mother Annie (Rosensky or Rezefsky) and his siblings, Rose (born in 1892), Bennett (1894), and Arthur (1898). They joined their step-father, Jacob Berson, in Boston. Jacob, a carpenter, immigrated in 1903. After settling in Massachusetts, Jacob and Annie had six additional sons: Philip (1907), Charles or Marckus (1908), Barnet (1909), Max (1911), and Samuel (1913).

When they first arrived in Boston, the Bersons lived at 109 Leverett Street in the West End. By late 1909, they had moved to 263 Havre Street in East Boston. That August, three-year-old Philip fell off the second story porch and fractured his skull. He survived, thanks in part to a laundry wagon driver, who saw the accident and rushed the boy to the hospital in his wagon. In October, 11-month Barnet died of pneumonia.

Hyman was not in the family household at that time; by April 1910, he was an inmate at the Suffolk School for Boys, a reform school on Rainsford Island in Boston Harbor. The island had been home to a reform school since 1895; it was renamed the Suffolk School for Boys in 1906. Multiple misdemeanor offenders were sent to the school for “special attention in the formation and building of character and habits, to fit him to occupy a useful place in the community.” Boys attended academic classes and also studied trades like shoemaking. It is possible Hyman was already at the school in December 1909, when a “great storm” did “thousands of dollars worth of damage” to the island.

It is unclear when Hyman rejoined the Berson household. In 1911, the family returned to the West End, living at 39 Anderson Street. In 1912, Rose was married. She died of toxemia three years later at the Boston Lying-In Hospital.

By 1914, the Bersons were living at 14 Lena Park (later renamed Lorne Street) in Dorchester. Hyman gave this address in August, 1914, when he was arrested for shoplifting in downtown Boston. Plain-clothes officers charged him “with the larceny … of a pair of shoes valued at $2.” It is possible he was sent to the state prison in Concord, Massachusetts, for this crime. He was an inmate of the “Massachusetts Reformatory, Concord Junction ” in June 1917, when he registered for the draft.

About a month later, on July 19, 1917, Hyman enlisted in the Army. He served as a private in Company F, 23rd Infantry, 2nd Division. In September, he sailed overseas. The 23rd Infantry participated in engagements at Chateau Thierry, the Aisne-Marne, Saint-Mihiel, and the Meuse-Argonne. It was most likely during the Meuse-Argonne offensive that Hyman was injured. Initially, on October 21, 1918, he was reported missing in action. About two weeks later, his status was changed to severely wounded. He returned to the United States on the USS Princess Matoika, as part of Convalescent Detachment Number 102, sailing from Saint-Nazaire, France, on March 8, 1919, and arriving at Newport News, Virginia, on March 20. His records show two discharge dates: June 30, 1919, or April 29, 1920.

Hyman was not part of the Berson household at 14 Lorne Street in January 1920, when the census was taken. Later, he lived in a home his family owned at 17 Hiawatha Road in Mattapan. Hyman died on December 12, 1922. He was buried in Beth Abraham Cemetery in West Roxbury. In 1939, a government issued veteran headstone was requested by his mother and placed on his grave.


Naturalization Records. National Archives at Boston, Waltham, MA; Ancestry.com

1910, 1920 United States Federal census; Ancestry.com

Boston directories; various years; Ancestry.com

“Child Falls from Piazza,” Boston Globe, 10 August 1910: 8; Newspapers.com

Death Record, Barnet Berson, Massachusetts Vital Records, 1840–1911. New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, MA; Ancestry.com

A Brief History of Rainsford Island Boston. Printing Department, Rainsford: Suffolk School for Boys, 1915; Archive.org

Marriage Record, Death Record for Rose Berson Zetlin, Massachusetts Vital Records, 1840–1911. New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, MA; Ancestry.com

“Three Arrests in Stores,” Boston Globe, 14 August 1915: 14

World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration; Ancestry.com

“Grooming Themselves to Upset Bill’s Apple Cart,” Boston Globe, 19 July 1917: 6; Newspapers.com

Applications for Headstones for U.S. Military Veterans, 1925-1941. Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Ancestry.com

“United States, Veterans Administration Master Index, 1917-1940,” database; FamilySearch.org

Lists of Outgoing & Incoming Passengers, 1917-1938. Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774-1985, The National Archives at College Park, MD; Ancestry.com

“New England Boys on Casualty List,” Boston Globe, 9 November 1918:5; Newspapers.com

“Casualties Reported by Gen. Pershing,” Official US Bulletin, November 12, 1918: 17; Books.Google.com


Posted on

March 25, 2022

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