1846-1911:  Frances Cohen Hamberg, My Great-Grandfather’s Oldest Sibling

By 1870, Jacob and Sarah’s oldest child, the baby they had brought with them from England, was married.  Frances, or Fanny, had married Ansel Hamberg in 1866, and they had had three daughters in those four years: Bertha (1866), Sarah (1868) and Hannah (1869).  Ansel was working as a pawnbroker with his father-in-law Jacob, according to the 1868 city directory.  The family was living in Ward 13, District 38, at 533 Lorain Street, a street that I cannot find on a current map.

Fanny and Ansel Hamberg and family 1870 census

Fanny and Ansel Hamberg and family 1870 census

One additional note on Ansel before we move forward, especially since this is Memorial Weekend.  He served as a second lieutenant in the Union forces during the Civil War and was cited in a number of newspaper articles as an example of the Jewish men who fought for their country during that war.  He was commissioned as a colonel after the war in 1872, and even volunteered his services to the Secretary of War in 1898 during the Spanish-American War.  I don’t know that he ever was called to duty during that war, however.  He was born in Germany and came to the US as a young boy, but obviously felt a strong tie to his adopted country.

In 1872 and 1877, Ansel was working as a pawnbroker at 233 South 9th Street, according to the city directories for those years.  At home, Fanny and Ansel were having more children.  Rachel was born in 1872, but died just a year later of typhoid fever.

Rachel Hamberg death certificate June 17, 1783

Rachel Hamberg death certificate June 17, 1783

Another daughter, Caroline, was born in 1879.   In 1880 the family was living on Lombard Street in the Seventh Ward, not too far from 136 South Street where Jacob and the other children were living.

Hamberg Family 1880 US census

Hamberg Family 1880 US census

Ansel was still working as a pawnbroker in 1881, now at 515 South 8th Street, just a few blocks away, so perhaps they moved to be closer to where he was working.

From 1882 through and 1884 Ansel continued to work as a pawnbroker, although moving to new locations in 1882 and in 1884.  I cannot tell from these records whether he was still working with Jacob or whether he was on his own, nor can I determine why he kept moving.

In 1887, the family was living at 1323 South Street, and Ansel was now listing his business as “livery” at 609 South 13th Street.  A year later his occupation in the directory was men’s furnishings, and he remained in the clothing business from that point on until his death.  The family also continued to live at 1323 South Street during this entire time period, a location right near Broad Street and further west from where Fanny had grown up.

In 1900, Fanny and Ansel were still living at 1323 South Street, and three of their daughters, Bertha, Hannah, and Caroline, now 33, 30, and 21, were living at home and all working as “salesladies,” perhaps in the “furnishing store” where Ansel worked and perhaps that he owned.  There was also a male servant living with them, Alexander Blunt.  From the address and the fact that they had a servant, I assume that the family was doing quite well.  Although I have not yet found a marriage record for the fourth sister, Sarah, I assume that sometime between 1880 and 1900, she had married, as I know from later records that she was married to a man named Harry Speare.

Hamberg family 1900

Hamberg family 1900


Sadly, on December 16, 1901, Ansel died at age 61 of heart disease and was buried at Mt Sinai Cemetery in Philadelphia.

Ansel Hamberg death certificate 1901

Ansel Hamberg death certificate 1901

In 1903, Frances, now a widow, was listed in the city directory, still living at the same address, under the “Men’s Furnishings” category, so it would appear that she took over running the store.  In 1910, Frances and two of her daughters, Bertha and Caroline (Carrie) were still living together, now at 1532 Page Street in North Philadelphia.  Frances’ occupation was owner/manager, if I am reading the handwriting on the 1910 census correctly.  Bertha was working as a mail order clerk for a department store, and Carrie was working as a saleswoman in a department store.  I am assuming that the department store was the family store, the one owned and managed by their mother.  Hannah had married by this time.

Hamberg family 1910

Hamberg family 1910

Ten years after Ansel died, his wife Frances, my great-grandaunt, died on October 24, 1911.  She was 65 years old.  The cause of death was hemiplegia, with contributing causes given as “nephrotic mitral stenosis,”, which, according to my medical expert, sounds like a combination of health issues—heart, kidney, and who knows what else.  Hemiplegia is defined as “total or partial paralysis of one side of the body that results from disease of or injury to the motor centers of the brain” by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary.  Overall, it sounds like Frances was in poor health for many reasons.  She was buried at Mt Sinai cemetery with her husband Ansel.

Fannie Cohen Hamberg death certificate 1911

Fannie Cohen Hamberg death certificate 1911

Looking back over Fanny’s life, it seems like a fairly good life, despite losing one child to typhoid fever.  She and her husband Ansel had a long marriage and seemed to build a business of their own once Ansel left the pawnbroker trade and focused on men’s clothing instead.  They lived in one location for many years after bouncing around earlier on when Ansel was a pawnbroker.  They raised four daughters and even had a servant living with them for some time.

At the end, Fanny and her daughters Bertha and Carrie were able to move to a neighborhood in North Philadelphia, the area where more and more Jews were moving by the end of the 19th century.  I imagine those last ten years as a time when these three adult women, Fanny, Bertha and Carrie, were, like their aunt Elizabeth Cohen, not living the traditional roles assigned to women.  They were all unmarried, working outside the home, and even owning a business.

If Jacob left England to find a better life for his family, Fanny’s life may have been some evidence that his hopes were fulfilled.


I had thought I would write one post that covered four of the siblings, but now I see that that would make for very long posts.  For now, I will instead write one post per sibling and see how that goes.



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One thought on “1846-1911:  Frances Cohen Hamberg, My Great-Grandfather’s Oldest Sibling

  1. Pingback: Filling in a Few Gaps, but Leaving Several to be Filled « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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