Having reached the conclusion last week that I was not going to be able to get any further specific information about where in Galicia my Brotman relatives lived and then realizing that even if Tarnobrzeg was the ancestral home that the records there are very limited and too recent to be of much help, yesterday I went back to look over what I have learned and what is left to be learned about my Brotman relatives.
I have learned an incredible amount. I know much more about my great-grandparents Joseph and Bessie Brotman and about the life they lived in the Lower East Side. I have found all five of their children—Hyman, Tillie, Gussie, Frieda and Sam– and know what happened to them: who they married, who their children were, where and when, and in most cases, why they died. I know what they did for a living and where they lived. I even have been able to trace what happened to their grandchildren and who they married and the names of their children. I have seen pictures of almost all these people, except Joseph, Abraham, David, and Frieda. It’s been an incredible experience, so much more rewarding than I ever expected less than a year ago when I first starting dipping my toe into the waters of genealogy.
I’ve also been able to locate three of Joseph’s four children from his first marriage to a woman likely named Chaye Fortgang. I have found Abraham, Max and David, but not Sophie. I have also been able to learn a great deal about their lives, occupations, families, and homes and have located their living descendants. Although there are a few missing holes in David’s life story and a number of years for which I can find no records, I know that he married a woman named Annie Salpeter and that they did not have children. I know that he came to America with his older brother Abraham and that he died in 1946 of hypertension. Only Sophie is missing from the picture, but given that I do not know either what her Yiddish name was in Galicia or her married name in the United States, I am not sure what else I can do to locate her.
There are many unanswered questions, but most of them relate to their life in Galicia—where did they live, what did Joseph do for a living, what happened to his first wife? These questions I cannot answer, and that makes me sad. Also, when did Joseph arrive in the US? I cannot find him on a ship manifest, but will keep looking. I will also try and fill the holes in David’s story and look for Sophie, but overall, I think I have to say that I have reached the end of my search for the Brotman family.
So what does that mean? Obviously, I hope to continue to develop my ties to my new cousins (and my old cousins, of course), and I also hope that they will help to fill out the personal side of the stories of their parents and grandparents. It will make the family story so much more meaningful and interesting if people contribute stories or profiles or letters or pictures that bring to life their relatives. I cannot do that on my own. I didn’t know Abraham, Max, Hyman, or Tillie—but those of you who are their grandchildren certainly did. I also didn’t know any of Joseph’s grandchildren aside from my mother and her siblings, but my second cousins—their children—must have memories and stories that they want to survive. Let me know, and I will be happy to interview you or help you write something you’d like to share.
Thank you to all the Brotman cousins who helped me get this far—for answering my emails and my questions, for sending me pictures and telling me stories, for providing me with names and contact information, for sharing whatever you were comfortable sharing. It’s been an amazing experience to share with you all, my Brotman family.
The rest of my personal journey to find my family will continue with the Goldschlager and Rosenzweig lines and eventually my paternal lines: the Cohens, Schoenthals, Seligmans, Katzensteins, Nusbaums, and so on!
 There remains, of course, a possibility of a tie to the Brotmanville Brotmans, but my research has hit a brick wall there as well. Without being able to trace back to Joseph’s parents and grandparents and Moses Brotman’s parents and grandparents, I will never know whether Joseph and Moses were siblings, cousins, or not related at all. Brotman is and was a much more common name than I had anticipated, and we could be related distantly to all of them or none of them. Without better European records, there is just no way of knowing.
I hope eventually enough records will surface that you will be able to do so. I know that the records for Jewish families are very limited because they were destroyed in so many cases, but it is amazing how they are starting to reconstruct some of the information. My husband’s families were Jews from Kiev (and other Ukrainian towns), but a relative had some work done and they were able to find out more than we thought would be available. Like you, we have a brick wall. They are supposed to be related to the yeast company Fleischmanns, but nobody has found the connection yet.
Thanks for the encouragement. It is frustrating because I can’t go back further than my great-grandparents on any of my maternal lines. But at least I was able to fill in lots of gaps, so that was rewarding. On my father’s side, the family goes back in the US to about 1840, so I will have lots more to work with, plus they were German and English Jews so the records are more intact than those in Eastern Europe. I’ve traced one paternal line back to the mid-1700s, so that’s a big difference! Good luck in your hunt as well!
I’m glad you do have your father’s side to get more information from, but you’ve done so well so far! And thank you, Amy, for the luck :).
Yes, I hope you find that Fleischmann’s link!