Rachel Cohen 1853-1925: An Ordinary Life

As I move down the list of my great-grandparents’ thirteen children, I will face a few new obstacles.  First, there are several daughters among the middle group of siblings, and as noted before several times, women have a tendency to disappear if I cannot figure out their married names.  Second, as these children were born later, many also died after 1924, making it much more difficult to obtain their death certificates and other vital records on line.  That means I will either have to order documents from the Pennsylvania archives or visit a local branch of the Family History Library where I can view microfilm sent from Salt Lake City.  Those visits will have to wait until the fall probably as I will not have ready access to a branch until then.  For now I will report what I know based on what I can find and then update my findings as I obtain more documents and information.

I have reported on the first four children of Jacob and Sarah, my great-great grandparents: Fanny, Joseph, Isaac, and Hart.  Rachel is the next child.  She was born in Philadelphia in 1853 and spent her childhood at 136 South Street with her family.  In 1879 she married Lewis I. Weil, who was born in Pennsylvania of German-born parents.  In 1880 Rachel and Lewis were living at 406 South 2d Street with a servant.  Lewis was in the gentlemen’s furnishings business, and Rachel was at home.  (It is hard to imagine what a young woman with no children did at home all day, given that she had a servant, but times were different back then.)

Rachel and Lewis Weil 1880 US census

Rachel and Lewis Weil 1880 US census

Rachel and Lewis had six children: Sallie (1880), Benjamin (1882), Jacob (1883), Blanche (1888), Irene (1891), and Joseph (1893).  All but Benjamin survived to adulthood; Benjamin died when he was six months old from enteritis, an inflammation of the small intestine usually caused by a bacterial infection.

Benjamin Weil death certificate

Benjamin Weil death certificate

On a separate record of Benjamin’s death, it identified the attending physician as “Sarah Cohen.”  Since this was 1882, it seems unlikely that this was really a doctor, but rather Rachel’s mother, Sarah, my great-great grandmother.

UPDATE:  See the comments below from rustica2389.  It seems there was a Dr. Sarah Cohen practicing in Philadelphia at that time!  I should never make assumptions….

Benjamin Weil death record

Benjamin Weil death record

That must have been an awful loss for Rachel and Lewis, but like so many others, they went on to have four additional children.  In 1900, Rachel and Lewis still had all five surviving children living with them, and Lewis was still engaged in the business of men’s clothing.  They also still had a servant living with them, now at 1401 Ridge Avenue.

Rachel and Lewis Weil 1900 US census

Rachel and Lewis Weil 1900 US census

By 1910, the family had moved to 606 Diamond Street, and only Sallie (who never married), Irene, 19, and Joseph, now 17, were still living at home. Lewis was still working in men’s furnishings, and Joseph was working in the same business.  Sallie was a salesperson in a department store, and Irene was at home.  Lewis’ brother Simon was also living with them.

Rachel and Lewis Weil 1910 US census

Rachel and Lewis Weil 1910 US census

In 1908 Jacob had married Flora Cohen and was selling men’s neckwear in 1910, and the following year his younger sister Blanche had married Alexander Klein who was a “manager” in some kind of manufacturing, according to the 1910 census.

Marriage certificate of Blanche Weil and Alexander Klein

Marriage certificate of Blanche Weil and Alexander Klein

Ten years later in 1920 Rachel and Lewis were living with Sallie, Blanche, and Blanche’s son Edwin, who was nine years old, born in 1911.  They now lived at 4620 Thirteenth Street, and Lewis was working as a buyer and manager in “furnishings,” I assume men’s clothing.  Sallie was an assistant buyer of dry goods, and Blanche was a singer in the theater. (Each of these moves from Second Street to Ridge to Diamond to 13th Street took the family further and further north, consistent with other family members and Jews in general in Philadelphia.)

Rachel and Lewis Weil 1920 US census

Rachel and Lewis Weil 1920 US census

Although Blanche was still listed as married, her husband Alexander was not living with her, but was living with his brother Lewis at 4510 York Drive.  He was in the shoe business.  He also is listed as married.

Alexander Klein 1920 census

Alexander Klein 1920 census

Since Blanche and Edwin were also living without Alexander in 1930, I assume they never reconciled, although perhaps they also never divorced. Thanks to Gil Weeder, a relative by marriage to the Weil family, I now have these photographs of young Edwin Klein with his father’s family, presumably with his mother Blanche next to him sometime before Blanche and Alexander separated.Klein Family Edwin Klein

 

Blanche and Edward Klein 1930 US census

Blanche and Edward Klein 1930 US census

Rachel and Lewis Weil’s daughter Irene had married James Doran in 1915.   They had a long marriage, living in Philadelphia for almost twenty years before moving to Camden, New Jersey in the 1930s where they lived for at least another ten years.  I have not found any records for either of them after 1945, except for a record of Irene’s death on April 8, 1977 in Erie, Pennsylvania, on the Social Security Death Index.  Both Irene and James were buried at West Laurel Hill cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, but no dates are recorded for James, so I am not sure when he died.  They left no descendants.

Rachel and Lewis’ youngest child, Joseph, married Goldie Kret on June 17, 1912.  He was only 19, though his age on the marriage certificate is 21.  Goldie was recorded to be 18.  They were married in Wilmington, Delaware, and Joseph’s sister Blanche and brother-in-law Alexander Klein were the witnesses on the certificate.  Goldie was the daughter of Jacob Kret and Sarah nee Newman.

Joseph Weil and Goldie Kret marriage certificate

Joseph Weil and Goldie Kret marriage certificate

Interestingly, Joseph was residing in Boston at the time and working as a salesman.  Why is this interesting? Because I have been in touch with someone who is a relative of Flora Cohen, Jacob Weil’s wife, and he has a copy of a baby book created for Jacob and Flora’s daughter, Maizie Weil, in which there is a reference to a trip to Boston to visit “Daddy.”  Maizie was born in 1912, so perhaps Jacob and his younger brother Joseph were living in Boston for work during that time period. Since both Jacob and Joseph were living in Philadelphia in 1910, this marriage certificate is the first document I’ve found that has a reference to anyone in the family living in Boston.

By 1917, however, Joseph was living back in Philadelphia, according to his World War I draft registration.  The registration also says that Joseph was married with two children, living at 2405 South Elkhart Street, and working as a buyer at N. Snellenburg and Company.  Joseph’s uncle, Joseph Cohen (Rachel’s brother) had married Caroline Snellenburg, so I imagine that this was a store owned by his uncle’s father-in-law’s family.

Joseph Weil World War I draft registration

Joseph Weil World War I draft registration

I cannot find Joseph or Goldie or either of their daughters on the 1920 census, although there is a man named Weil living as a boarder in a home in Tampa, Florida, with no other identifying entries in the listing.  By 1922, however, it is evident that the marriage between Joseph and Goldie had ended, as Goldie married Edwin Hoffman that year, and in 1930, she and her two daughters with Joseph, Lillian and Barbara, were living with her second husband in Newark, New Jersey.

Joseph, meanwhile, had also remarried by then.  He had married Rose “Rena” Sley in 1921.  On the 1930 census, he was living with Rena, and their daughter Geraldine, who was then seven years old.  Joseph was selling men’s shirts.  In 1935, they were living in Hackensack, New Jersey, and in 1940 in Irvington, New Jersey.  Two cousins were living with them as well. Joseph was a buyer at a department store; according to his World War II draft registration, he was working for R.J. Goerke Company in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and living in East Orange in 1942.

Joseph Weil World War II Draft Registration

Joseph Weil World War II Draft Registration

Meanwhile, on March 9, 1925, his mother Rachel, my great-grandaunt,  had died at age 72 of what looks like bone cancer: carcinoma of the left femur; she, like so many in her family, was buried at Mt Sinai cemetery.  Her husband Lewis died three years later on July 26, 1928, of heart disease and was buried beside her.

Rachel Cohen Weil death cert 1925

Rachel Cohen Weil death certificate 1925

 

Lewis Weil death certificate 1925

Lewis Weil death certificate 1925

Rachel and Lewis Weil death record

Rachel and Lewis Weil death record

Rachel’s life story is not dramatic.  It was in fact a bit of a relief after researching her brother Hart.  Rachel’s life seems to have been without scandal.  Her husband had a steady occupation throughout.  They suffered the loss of a child early in their marriage and perhaps other losses that are not documented in public records, but they also raised five children to adulthood.  Two of those children may have had some marital issues, but overall there were, aside from Benjamin’s death, no apparent tragedies or scandals. Rachel and Lewis stayed married to each other for almost 50 years.  They both lived into their seventies, unlike Rachel’s older siblings who did not live to see 70.  It was not a remarkable life, but it was a life not unlike many lives.  It may not make for an exciting story, but nor do most lives.  Their story is a family story, a story that many people aspire to live for themselves.

 

6 thoughts on “Rachel Cohen 1853-1925: An Ordinary Life

  1. Pingback: Pennsylvania, I love you! « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

      • She was the third of 4 children born to immigrant Jewish parents. She attended medical school after her father’s death and over her mother’s violent objections. After graduating from the Women’s Medical College, Class of 1879 – she practiced medicine in Philadelphia, along with her older brother Morris, also a physician and her younger brother Isaac, a pharmacist. Neither her marriage to a shoe store owner (Frederick Leon May) in 1892 or the birth of her 2 children (Ruth May and Fred Stacy May) interrupted her medical career. (this and more info in “Send Us a Lady Physician”: Women Doctors in America, 1835-1920 by Ruth Abrams)
        So, I do she was the same Dr. Sarah Cohen.
        Great Blog!!
        Elisabeth – scrapbookyourfamilytree.com

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, that is fascinating! So she would have been married when Benjamin died, but perhaps continued to use her birth name professionally (she obviously was a woman ahead of her times). Is she related to you? I don’t believe she was related to my Cohen family, but now that you’ve piqued my curiosity, I am going to check. I will also have to check out your website!! Thanks so much.

    Like

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