One of the questions raised early on by several of the Brotman cousins was whether and how we were related to the Brotmans of Brotmanville, NJ. The history of Brotmanville is quite interesting and something I knew nothing about until I started this project; in fact, I’d never heard of Brotmanville at all.
Brotmanville was established by Abraham Brotman to provide jobs to the Jewish community that had settled in nearby Alliance, New Jersey. Alliance was founded to be an agricultural community for Jewish immigrants and funded by the Baron de Rothschild. As The New York Times reported:
In the 1880’s, pogroms and anti-Semitic laws in Russia caused a historic exodus of Jews. Most ended up crowded into tenements in American cities. But some Jewish thinkers urged their brethren, as one of them wrote, “to become tillers of the soil and thus shake off the accusation that we were petty mercenaries living upon the toil of others.” And so hundreds of Jews established agricultural colonies on land bought for them by charities and philanthropists.
As Richard Brotman, Abraham Brotman’s great-grandson, reports in a film he made in the 1980s about Brotmanville, the land was difficult to farm, and many people needed an alternative way to earn a living.
Abraham Brotman, himself a recent immigrant from Galicia, had established a successful coat factory in Brooklyn, NY, and decided to relocate it near Alliance to provide jobs for the people who lived there. Abraham moved with his wife Minnie and their children and his father Moses and his wife and children to southern New Jersey, where eventually a portion of the community was named in his honor.
Many of the Brotmans descended from Moses and/or Abraham Brotman stayed in the southern New Jersey/Philadelphia area, including Judge Stanley Brotman, Rich Brotman’s father, who recently retired from the federal bench at age 89. In addition, Moses’ granddaughter (through a child of Moses’ second wife), Elaine Ashin, still lives in nearby Vineland. I spoke with Elaine last week to try and find out more about her grandfather, but unfortunately he died when she was just a few months old so she knew very little about him or his background.
Moses Brotman (photo courtesy of Elaine Ashin)
Bruce and Dennis Brotman remembered meeting with Judge Brotman many years ago and attempting to trace some family connection. Although they cannot recall finding anything specific, they all left believing that there was some family tie.
Unfortunately, I have yet to find anything that reliably demonstrates that tie. Moses Brotman was born in Austria in 1847, making him a contemporary of our Joseph Brotman. Elaine Ashin sent me this photo of Moses’ headstone last week, and I was very excited when I saw it because Moses’ father’s name was Abraham. I thought perhaps Moses and Joseph were brothers, making us all closely related to the Brotmanville Brotmans.
Photo courtesy of Elaine Ashin
I ordered a copy of Moses’ death certificate from Trenton, NJ, and it arrived the other day. It confirmed that Moses’ father’s name was Abraham. However, it listed Moses’ mother’s name as Sadie Bernstein, not Yetta as listed on Joseph’s death certificate.
So I see four possibilities: one, Moses and Joseph are not related at all, but it’s just coincidence that they both had fathers named Abraham Brotman. Two, either Joseph’s death certificate is wrong as to his mother’s name or Moses’ death certificate is wrong as to his mother’s name, and they are brothers. Given that we have seen that so many records, even death certificates, have errors (Frieda’s birth year,Hyman’s place of birth, etc.), it certainly is possible that one is wrong, that both are wrong or that both are right. Three, it could be that Moses and Joseph are half-brothers and that Abraham had two wives and children with both, just as Moses and Joseph both did. Four, perhaps they are distant cousins sharing a common ancestor named Abraham for whom both their fathers were named.
Unfortunately, we may never know. In order to learn more, I would need to find documents from Galicia that would trace the history back further. So far I am still not even sure what town our family came from nor where Moses’ family came from, so that is a difficult task.
So at the moment, the lawyer in me says there is just not enough evidence to conclude with any degree of certainty that we are related in any direct way to the Brotmans of Brotmanville. But I have not given up, and I will keep looking or find someone in Poland who perhaps can search for me.