After a week away in the beautiful Florida Keys where we were able to put the miserable New England winter weather behind us and enjoy the outdoors, kayaking, swimming, walking, and seeing wildlife including dolphins and alligators, I am back in New England with the miserable winter temperatures outside, but happy knowing that spring is at least here on the calendar if not in the weather quite yet. It has to get above freezing soon, doesn’t it?
While I was away I received a number of documents, mostly confirming the hunches I’d had about Lillian and Rebecca Rosenzweig. Today I will focus on Lillian. About ten days ago I posted what I knew and thought I knew about Lillian. I believed that she had married Toscano Bartolini in July, 1901, had had a son William born in March, 1902, and then lost her husband in 1904. All of those facts are now confirmed by the marriage certificate, William’s birth certificate, and Toscano’s death certificate, all of which I received late last week.
First, as you can see from the marriage certificate, Lillian and Toscano were married by an alderman, not a rabbi, on July 6, 1901. This is clearly the right Lillian Rosenzweig, as her parents’ names are Gustav and Gussie nee Sagg. According to the certificate, Lillian was then eighteen years old, which would have made her birth date 1883—a year before her parents married. Lillian must have lied about her age in order to get married without parental consent. I have speculated elsewhere that she was likely born in 1885 since her parents were married in June, 1884. Also, Lillian’s address is given as 320 East 9th Street—not in Brooklyn where her parents were living. She must have moved out before she married Toscano, who was living on Sullivan Street at that time. These inferences are consistent with the family story that Lillie’s marriage to someone who was not Jewish led to disapproval and perhaps some estrangement from her family.
From William’s birth certificate, another inference seems possible. William was born on March 9, 1902, just eight months after Lillie and Toscano had married. Perhaps Lillie was already pregnant at the time of the wedding, although I am not sure she would have known that at the time since she would have been just one month pregnant. It is, of course, entirely possible that William was a month premature. William was born at home—177 Houston Street in NYC. Interestingly, Lillie’s age is now reported as seventeen—a year younger than she had reported on her marriage certificate a year earlier. If she was in fact seventeen in March, 1902, her birth year would have been 1885, as I suspected. It also means she was only sixteen when she married Toscano.
The other interesting fact gathered from this certificate is that Lillie had already had a child before William’s birth, but that that child was no longer living. When could she have had that child? Her marriage certificate reported that her marriage to Toscano was her first marriage. Had she had a child with him before they married? Had she had an out-of-wedlock child with someone else? Had that child really died or had she given that child up for adoption and simply reported it as if he had died? I have no idea and no idea how to try and figure that out. (It’s also sad that on the 1910 census when Lillie was back living with her parents, she is listed as single and having no children.)
The third document in this trilogy is Toscano’s death certificate. Toscano died on April 27, 1904, from chronic nephritis, kidney disease, at age 27. He’d been working as a bartender and died at 69 Carmine Street in NYC. He had only been in the US for five years, had been married for less than three years, and left behind his 19 year old wife and 2 year old son. I don’t know what causes chronic nephritis, although it looks like uremia is given as a contributing cause of death. But I’ve never heard of someone dying at age 27 from that today.
The rest of the story, as reported earlier, shows a family in disarray. Lillie and William moved back to Brooklyn and were living with Gustave and Gussie and the family in 1905, indicating at least a temporary reconnection. In 1906, however, William was living at the Brooklyn Hebrew Orphanage. Although it appeared that he was released back to his mother for some time, by 1910 William was living at St. John’s Home in Brooklyn and in 1915 at the NY Catholic Protectory. Lillian, who was living with her parents in 1910 without William, then disappears from the records.
I still have not found either William or Lillian after that. I don’t know what happened to either of them. Joseph’s grandchildren told me that at some point Lillie was back in touch with her siblings, but no one knows anything more specific than that. I will keep looking for some new clue, but for now I’ve hit the proverbial brick wall with Lillie and William Bartolini.
What I do know is an incredibly sad story of a young woman, emigrating with her family from Romania when she was only a young child, having two children before she was eighteen years old, losing one apparently to death and another to institutional care, losing a young husband after just a few years of marriage, and losing the support of her family as well for at least some period of time. It’s a story to contrast with the story of Leah Strolowitz Adler, the daughter of Tillie Rosenzweig and Jacob Srulovici, who also came to the US as young girl but found the American dream.
The story of Lillie Rosenzweig raises so many questions: how did she, a young Jewish immigrant living in Brooklyn, meet and get involved with a young Italian immigrant who was living in the Lower East Side, not Brooklyn? Who was the father of her first child, and what happened to that child? What happened to William after he left the Catholic Protectory? Did he have any contact with his mother or her family? And what happened to Lillie after 1910? Did she remarry and regain custody of William? Did she also die at a tragically young age? These loose ends make me crazy—I want some endings to the story, but I may have to accept that I may never know what happened.