Did My Great-Grandfather’s First Cousin Live Two Separate Lives?

I have started tracking down the lives of the children of Jacob and Sarah Cohen, my great-great-grandparents, and all was going pretty well until I started to research their son Hart.  It seems he might have been living two lives, one in Philadelphia, one in Washington, DC.   Or perhaps not.  Here’s what I have found; see if you have any ideas on how to resolve this one.

The first mention of Hart, obviously named for his grandfather Hart Levy Cohen who was still alive when he was born, is on the 1860 US census, listing little Hart as nine years old, so born in 1850 or 1851, depending on whether his birthday was before or after June 7th, the date in 1860 when the census was taken.  Since he was not listed on the 1850 census taken on July 25, 1850, he was obviously born sometime between July 25, 1850 and June 7, 1851 if he was actually nine on June 7, 1860.

Jacob and Sarah Cohen and family 1860 US census

Jacob and Sarah Cohen and family 1860 US census

Things start getting weird in 1870.  I found two census reports for Jacob and Sarah and their children for 1870, one taken in June, one in November.  The second one is labeled “Second Enum” for second enumeration so for some reason the census taker went to the neighborhood twice.  What’s odd is that Hart is listed as 20 on the June version and 19 on the November version.  I’ve seen age mistakes so often that this did not faze me in the least, but it does not help pin down Hart’s precise birth date.

It is the 1880 census, however, that really threw me.  In 1880 there are also two census reports for Hart Cohen born in 1850 or 1851.  One is clearly the right Hart:  He was living in Philadelphia, working as a storekeeper, and was born in Pennsylvania of parents born in England. He is 30 years old, giving him a birth year of 1850 or 1851.  This Hart was married to a woman named Henreta or probably Henrietta and had three children, Jacob (6), Sarah (5), and Julia (4).  If Hart and Henrietta had a six year old child, then presumably they would have been married no later than 1873, and in fact I was able to find a record of a marriage of Hart Cohen to a Henrietta Brunswick in Philadelphia on February 12, 1873 in the Pennsylvania marriage index.

Hart Cohen and family Philadelphia 1880 US census

Hart Cohen and family Philadelphia 1880 US census

All seemed to be making sense until I found another 1880 census report for a Hart and Henrietta Cohen residing in Washington, DC. This Hart was also 30 years old.  I was ready to dismiss this as just as bizarre coincidence since this Hart was listed as having parents who were born in Germany.  His own birthplace was given as Washington, DC.  This seemed like it had to be a different person.  The DC Hart and Henrietta had one child, a daughter named Fanny who was only a year old.

Hart Cohen and family Washington, DC 1880 US census

Hart Cohen and family Washington, DC 1880 US census

I have a city directory for Philadelphia listing Hart Cohen as a pawnbroker in 1886, so I was convinced that the DC Hart was just a fluky coincidence of someone with the same name and age as my Hart marrying a woman also named Henrietta.  The 1890 census was destroyed by fire, so I had to skip ahead to 1900 to see if I could follow up on the two Hart and Henrietta Cohens.

I could not find the Philadelphia Hart and Henrietta on either the 1900 or the 1910 census, but I did find the DC Hart and Henrietta on both.  The 1900 census for the DC Hart provided a more specific birthdate—September, 1851—and had his birth place as Maryland, but this census listed his parents’ birthplace as England, not Germany as on the 1880 census. DC Hart was working in a jewelry store, a retail business not unlike those of my ancestors, so that seemed strange as well. Hart and Henrietta now had four children, Frances, Munroe, Isador and Jacob.  But this Jacob was only 14 in 1900 so could not be the same Jacob who was 6 in 1880 and thus born in 1874.  Once again I felt pretty certain that this was still not the same Hart Cohen who was Jacob and Sarah’s son.  Despite the fact that his parents were now reported to be English-born, that he was a jeweler, that he married a woman named Henrietta and that he was also 30 years old, I again said that this was just a coincidence.

Hart Cohen and family in Washington, DC 1900 US census

Hart Cohen and family in Washington, DC 1900 US census

On the 1910 census report for the DC Hart and Henrietta,  Hart still had a jewelry store and was married to Henrietta and living with Frances and Jacob, two of their children.  His birthplace was listed as Maryland, and now his parents’ birthplaces were reported as England for his father and Germany for his mother.  This also seemed to suggest that this was not the Philadelphia Hart.

Hart Cohen and family Washington, DC 1910 US Census

Hart Cohen and family Washington, DC 1910 US Census

But because I could not find the Philadelphia Hart on the 1900 or the 1910 census, I was a bit perplexed.  Could he have died? Had he moved to DC?   Even if that were the case, it would not explain the two 1880 census reports.  Was he living a double life, having two wives both named Henrietta, one in Philadelphia and one in DC, and two different sets of children?

I decided to search for a death record for any Hart Cohen born around 1850, and I found one dated January 3, 1911.  Since this   record was from the District of Columbia Selected Deaths and Burials database, I assumed that this related to the DC Hart especially since the report said that the deceased was living in DC at the time of his death, but on a closer look I saw that it said that he had been born and was buried in Philadelphia.

I then found a second record in the Philadelphia Death Certificates Index that made it quite clear that this was the Philadelphia Hart, not the DC Hart: it listed his parents’ names as Jacob Cohew (sic) and Rachel Jacobs, both of whom were born in England.

Pennsylvania Death Certificates Index

Pennsylvania Death Certificates Index


Further research revealed that Hart’s body had been moved from its original burial location twice by two of his children, Jesse Cohen and Sarah Cohen Jonas, ending in a move in 1944 to a location in Mt Sinai Cemetery where both his son Jacob H. Cohen and a Ralph Brunswick were also buried.  Since the Henrietta who married Jacob was born Henrietta Brunswick, this seemed (no pun intended) to be the final nail in the coffin establishing that the Jacob who died in January, 1911, was the Philadelphia Hart, son of Jacob and Sarah Cohen, my great-great grandparents.

If that conclusion is correct, then Philadelphia Hart was actually living in Washington, DC, at the time of his death in January, 1911, just nine months after the 1910 census recorded DC Hart (and no other Hart) living with his wife Henrietta and two children Frances and Jacob at 1806 4th Street.  Philadelphia Hart’s residence at his time of death was reported as 1737 N. 15th Street in Washington.  He was also a widower, and I was able to locate a death record for a Henrietta B. Cohen who was born in Lengnau, Switzerland and died in November, 1902.  Had he moved to DC after Henrietta died? If so, why? And what, if any connection, might there be to the “other” Hart and Henrietta?

The other Hart, the DC Hart, was still alive in 1920 and living with his daughter Frances in the District of Columbia.  He also was a widower at this time and retired.  The census report lists his and his parents’ birthplaces as DC, but that is clearly wrong, at least for his parents, whose birthplaces had previously been reported at various times as England and Germany.

Hart Cohen Washington, DC 1920 US Census

Hart Cohen Washington, DC 1920 US Census

My next find was a record of DC Hart’s death. He died August 10, 1926, in Washington, DC.  His parents’ names were listed on this record: Moses Cohen and Adeline Himmel.  His wife’s name was Henrietta Baer.  So not only did both Philadelphia Hart and  DC Hart marry women named Henrietta, they both married Henriettas  with a birth name that started with a B.  It is no wonder that I was confused, and there are numerous trees on ancestry.com that have mixed together the two Hart and Henrietta Cohen families.

Screenshot (3)

When I saw the name Moses Cohen as DC Hart’s father, it stopped me in my tracks.  Could this be my great-great grandfather Jacob’s brother Moses, the one I thought had stayed behind in England? So far I have not been able to find whether there is a connection.  Although I did find a ship manifest with a Moses Cohen emigrating from England to New York in 1848, the same year Jacob left England, I have no idea whether this is the right Moses Cohen.  Tracking Moses Cohen and Adeline Himmel, I know that they had a son also named Moses before Hart and that Moses the younger was born in Baden, Germany around 1839.  Adeline was born in Germany, and Moses must have gone there, married her, had Moses his son, and then moved sometime between 1839 and 1850 to the United States and settled in Maryland where DC Hart was born.

If this was in fact Moses, the son of Hart Levy Cohen, my three times great grandfather, it would explain why Moses named his son Hart.  It might also explain why Philadelphia Hart was living for some time in Washington.  Perhaps he wanted to be closer to his cousin DC Hart and his family.  On the other hand, if there is no connection, then it is just a very, very strange series of coincidences.

What do you think?



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14 thoughts on “Did My Great-Grandfather’s First Cousin Live Two Separate Lives?

  1. Wow, beats me. Any chance of tracking children of the Hart’s to today interviewing them and seeing what light they can bring to the subject?
    Sent on the new Sprint Network from my Samsung Galaxy S®4.


  2. Pingback: Mystery Solved—I think « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  3. Pingback: Hart Cohen 1851-1911: The Black Sheep of the Family? « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  4. Pingback: An Important Clue Buried in A Wedding Announcement « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  5. Pingback: Science versus Inference:  Was Moses Cohen the Brother of Jacob Cohen? « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  6. Pingback: Hart Cohen of DC: The Rest of the Story « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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