Sometimes when doing genealogy research, the world seems very small. Six degrees of separation becomes more than a Kevin Bacon game, but a reality. Little did I know that I was six degrees of separation from living with Oscar Award winner Louis Gossett, Junior.
The story is really about Sarah Rosenzweig, Gustave and Gussie’s second daughter. Sarah was born in New York City around 1888, according to several census reports. (I’ve yet to locate her actual birth record.) She appears on the 1900, 1905, and 1910 census reports living with her parents and siblings. In 1900, she was in school; in 1905 she was doing housework; and in 1910 she was a “saleslady” in a department store.
On March 26, 1911, Sarah married Samuel Kurtz, born in Brooklyn to Lena and Solomon Kurtz.
Sarah and Sam settled in Brooklyn, and in 1915 Sam was working as a clerk in a department store while Sarah was home. Their first child, Solomon, named for Sam’s father, was born in 1918, and in 1920 Sam and Sarah were living on Howard Avenue in Brooklyn. Sam was employed as a driver for a laundry business. Their second child, Benjamin, was born later that year. In 1924, Sam and Sarah’s daughter Rebecca was born.
Although I have not found the Kurtz family on the 1925 census, I did find them on the 1930 census, living on Neptune Avenue with the three children and two lodgers, Victor Oleson, a 64 year old Swedish-born house painter (like Sarah’s father) and Louis Gossett, an eighteen year old born in South Carolina, working as a newsboy. As soon as I saw the name, I thought, “Could this be Louis Gossett, Junior’s father?” I checked the box for race on the census, where it was reported that Louis Gossett was “neg” or Negro. I began to think this could be more than coincidental.
I then found a blog describing an episode of Who Do You Think You Are, the television show that was a part of what had inspired me to start researching my family history. One of the episodes had traced the family history of Louis Gossett, Jr. I had seen this episode, but forgotten the specific details. The blog post retraces Gossett’s family history all the way back to the mid-1800s including his father’s birth in South Carolina and includes a snip from the 1930 census when Louis Gossett, Sr. was living with my grandfather’s cousin, Sarah Rosenzweig Kurtz.
So I think that’s within six degrees, right? Louis Gossett, Jr—Louis Gossett, Sr—Sarah Rosenzweig—Gustave Rosenzweig—Ghitla Rosenzweig—Isadore Goldschlager—Florence Cohen—me. Okay, seven degrees. But really, who’s counting?
As for Sam and Sarah Kurtz, by 1940 their two sons and their lodgers were no longer living with them, but their daughter Rebecca was still living with them on Dean Street in Brooklyn, where they also resided in 1942 when Sam registered for the draft. That is the last record I have of either of them so far. I have not found any death records yet. I am also still in the process of researching the lives of their three children, Solomon, Benjamin, and Rebecca.
But what I learned from researching Sarah’s life up through 1942 is that you never know what surprises you may uncover while doing family research. You never know who crossed paths with your ancestors or what stories may lie beneath the cold hard data you can find on the records. It is endlessly fascinating.