Was the Census Taker Incompetent? Lewis Cohen 1862-1924

Having now completed the stories of the seventeen children of Reuben and Sallie Cohen, I can return to Reuben’s siblings, the other children of my great-great-grandparents Jacob and Sarah Cohen.  Reuben was their sixth child, followed by three daughters, Maria, Hannah, and Elizabeth, about whom I have already written.  That means we are up to Jacob and Sarah’s tenth child, Lewis.

Lewis was born March 20, 1862, and grew up with his siblings at 136 South Street.  In 1880 when he was eighteen years old, he was working as a clerk, presumably with his brothers in his father’s pawnshop.  In 1886 when he was twenty-four he married Carrie Dannenbaum.  At that time he was working with his brother Joseph as a pawnbroker at 1001 South 10th Street and living at 404 South Second Street.  By 1910, Lewis and Carrie had a daughter Helen, who was listed as being sixteen, and they were all living at 2144 Green Street.  Lewis’ pawnshop was still on South 10th Street at 1537, where he remained for another decade or more.

Lewis Cohen 1910 census

Lewis Cohen 1910 census

The only real wrinkle I encountered in researching Lewis was a strange entry in the 1920 census.  On that census, Lewis and Carrie are listed as living with a son named Isidor Solis Cohen, 23 years old, who was working as a clerk in a department store.  If Lewis and Carrie had a 23 year old son in 1920, then where was he in 1910 when he was thirteen?

Lewis Cohen 1920 census

Lewis Cohen 1920 census

I could not find any later record for him either.  I found him on two other ancestry.com family trees as Lewis and Carrie’s son, but aside from the 1920 census, the only records relied on for support on those trees referred to different Isidor Cohens—one whose parents were born abroad and one whose parents were born in New York, whereas both Lewis and Carrie had been born in Pennsylvania.

The only source used on those trees aside from the 1920 census that referred to Isidor as Isidor Solis Cohen was a World War I draft registration, but on that form Isidor listed his contact person as J. Solis Cohen, MD.

Isidor Solis Cohen World War I draft registration

Isidor Solis Cohen World War I draft registration

A quick search revealed that Jacob Solis Cohen was a prominent Philadelphia surgeon whose family had come to the United States far earlier than my Cohen family and from Russia, not England.  I found Isidor living with Jacob Solis Cohen on the 1910 census along with his numerous siblings.  It seemed pretty clear to me that Isidor Solis Cohen was not the son of Lewis and Carrie, but of Jacob Solis Cohen, MD.

So how did he end up living with Lewis and Carrie in 1920? Or was this just some strange mistake by the census taker?  When I dug deeper and searched for the Solis Cohen family in 1920, I found something rather odd.  Except for one brother who had married between 1910 and 1920 and one sister who was hospitalized, all of Isidor’s siblings and his father Jacob were living at 2113 Chestnut Street, but their listings were spread throughout separate pages of the census for the enumeration district.  Jacob was listed with one daughter; three daughters were listed together on a different page; and one brother, Myer Solis Cohen, was listed not only apart from his sisters and father, but with two people a few years older than he named Ramsburgle.  What made that even stranger was that Myer, aged 42, was listed as the son of the Ramsburgles, aged 49 and 48.  Unless there was some truly miraculous event, there was no way Myer was their son.

Myer Solis Cohen the 42 year old "son" of the Ramsburgles, aged 49 and 48

Myer Solis Cohen the 42 year old “son” of the Ramsburgles, aged 49 and 48

Mixed in between the census pages listing all the other Solis Cohens was a page that listed Isidor as Lewis and Carrie’s son.  The address was not 2113 Chestnut, but an apartment building called the Coronado located on the same block at 22nd Street and Chestnut.  All of these inconsistencies in this enumeration district convinced me that the listing of Isidor as the son of Lewis and Carrie was wrong, just as the listing of his brother Myer as the son of the Ramsburgles was wrong.

Thus, I believe that Lewis and Carrie had one child, Helen.  Although the 1910 census gave her age as 16, it also said she was a cook for a private family.  Looking at that census, it looks like the census taker had some information for Helen confused with information for the family cook, Margaret Johns.  The numerous cross-outs make it rather hard to read.  This was a different census taker, I assume, from the one who later took the 1920 census of the Solis Cohen family, but another census taker who was not very careful.  Later census reports put Helen’s year of birth at about 1890.

At any rate, Helen was not 16 in 1910.  Later that same year on September 28, 1910, she married William Bacharach, and the marriage record filed with their synagogue indicated that Helen was then 22.  I know that this is the right Helen Cohen because the address given, 2144 Green Street, is the same address where Lewis, Carrie and Helen were living in 1910.

Helen Cohen marriage certificate

Lewis died on May 9, 1924, from an intestinal obstruction caused by carcinoma sigmoid or colon cancer.  He was 62 years old.  His widow Carrie died four years later on June 14, 1928, from endocarditis.

Carrie Cohen

Carrie Dannenbaum Cohen

Their daughter Helen and her husband William Bacharach had three children, Augustus, Lewis Cohen, and Jeanne. I am very lucky to be in touch with two of Helen and William’s descendants.   They were able to supply me with the photos posted here and with some of the information as well.   William Bacharach came from a family that, prior to Prohibition, had been in the liquor business, but when Prohibition became the law, the family sold the business and developed a business as pawnbrokers; family lore is that they sold their liquor business to a company that became part of what is today’s Seagram’s.  Thus, William, like the Cohens, was a pawnbroker and spent his career in the business.   He was very successful.

Helen Cohen Bacharach and her children c. 1927

Helen Cohen Bacharach and her children c. 1927

During the Depression, William and Helen purchased a large house with seven bedrooms in the Oak Lane neighborhood of Philadelphia.    They also were very involved with the historic Rodeph Shalom synagogue and with the Philadelphia Jewish community in general.  Helen died in 1950 from cancer, and  William donated money and charity work to Moss Rehab, where there is an award given yearly in his name there, according to one of their descendants.  After Helen’s death William moved to Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia.  William died in 1973 in Tucson, Arizona, where he had retired.


Jeanne, WIlliam, and Helen Bacharach

Jeanne, William and Helen Bacharach

Grandpa Bacharach

William Bacharach


This is what I know about Helen and William’s three children, Augustus, Lewis and Jeanne.

Jeanne, Lewis, and Gus Bacharach

Lewis, Jeanne, and Augustus Bacharach

Helen and William’s son Augustus was their first born child, born on October 24, 1912.  He was still living at home and not employed in 1930, presumably still in high school, but by 1940 he had married Jane Sinberg and was working as a salesman (I cannot decipher the entry for the industry).   In 1950, Augustus was working in radio repairs, according to the city directory.  He seems to have lived in the Philadelphia area all his life. He and Jane had one child.  His wife Jane predeceased him by six years, dying in 1975.  Augustus thereafter married Carolyn Sundheim Ostroff Osser, who had been married and widowed twice and had two children.  Augustus died in December, 1981, leaving Carolyn a widow for a third time.

Helen and William’s second child, Lewis Cohen Bacharach, was born in August 22, 1914.  He continued the Bacharach and Cohen family pawnbroker tradition until the 1960s when he closed the last of the family’s pawnshops.  He and his wife Mary retired to Tucson, Arizona, and both lived full and long lives even after retirement.   I was able to find a few articles and their obituaries which beautifully capture their lives and their commitment to helping others.

First, this profile of Lewis C. Bacharach from the June 2008 newsletter from his retirement community, Evergreen Estates in Lancaster, PA:

Resident Spotlight: Lewis Bacharach

Lewis was raised in Philadelphia, PA, the middle child with one brother and one sister. A graduate of Northeast High School, Lewis studied business for two years at Temple University.  In 1942 Lewis began three years in the United States Army in New Guinea. It was while training at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland, that he met Mary. She drove for the Red Cross Motor Corps and was volunteering for an evening of Bingo. That night Lewis offered Mary a cup of coffee and four dates later they were engaged. In July the Bacharach’s will celebrate their 65th anniversary. They are the parents of two children and have two grandchildren.

Lewis said, “Doing for others is what brought him and Mary together.” They were always involved in community having singly or together volunteered for the following organizations: Art League, Brandeis Book Club, Lions Club, Mobile Meals, United Order of True Sisters, Tucson Medical Center, the March of Dimes and Food Bank. In 1977 Lewis helped organize and establish the LaCanada Magee Neighborhood Association, a neighborhood of 5,000 homes in Arizona. Lewis has served as president of Wyndmoor Lions Club, Whitemarsh Village Association and The LaCanada Magee Neighborhood Association. Lewis and Mary served as docents at the Arizona Desert Museum, a world known organization, where they had the privilege of hosting people from around the world.

Lewis said he misses “doing for others.” These days he faithfully visits Mary who is recuperating in the nursing care unit at Brethren Village.


I also was able to obtain more information about Mary from her obituary in 2011:

Mary was a graduate of Maryland Art Institute and moved to New York City where she was a window decorator. She also taught at the Devereaux Foundation and was a founding mother in the Mothers March of Dimes, a co-founder of the Tuscan United Order of True Sisters, an organizer of the Whitemarsh Village Policemen’s Ball, and a member of the National Council of Jewish Women. As a little girl, she sat on Babe Ruth’s lap and studied dance at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. Her love of art was a guiding light in her life and she encouraged her son to become an artist. She was always doing for others and enjoyed being a Cub Scout Den mother. Brandeis University bestowed upon her the honor of “Woman of Valor.” At the age of 90 Mary wrote and illustrated a children’s book called Big Black’s Neighbors. She was a member of Temple Emmanuel in Tucson, AZ and attended Shaarai Shomayim in Lancaster, PA.

(Intelligencer Journal-Lancaster New Era (PA) – Monday, January 31, 2011)

Mary Bacharach

From Lewis’ obituary in 2013, I obtained this additional information:

[As a long time pawnbroker in Philadelphia, Lewis was] respected by his peers as well as his clients, among whom he was known for his honesty. In the ’60’s, he closed his business and went to work managing the bookstore of the Philadelphia Community College, where he stayed until retiring to Tucson, Arizona. During his time in Philadelphia, Lewis was involved in the Lions Club, Congregation Rodeph Sholom, and founded the Whitemarsh Village Association. While working and volunteering, he still found time to help his wife lead a Cub Scout Pack and raise his sons to value friendship, loyalty, and honor. He instilled the importance of a good name and the concept that a man’s word should be his bond.

When Lewis’s wife Mary visited Tucson in 1973, she fell in love with the desert. A few months after her visit, the house was sold and Lewis took on new challenges. Outgoing, gregarious (God help you if you went to the market with him; he knew and spoke with everyone), and willing to help anyone, he soon became part of the community. Along with Mary, he became a docent at the Desert Museum, where he loved introducing visitors to the plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert. He started a neighborhood association in Casas Adobes East, where he fought to preserve the natural habitat and put limits on construction, and volunteered with the Food Bank. …. When other family members moved west, Lewis introduced them to his circle of friends and became the patriarch of the family, a role that he enjoyed.

Lewis and Mary returned to Pennsylvania while in their 90’s and moved to Evergreen Estates. When Mary’s health declined, necessitating a move to a skilled nursing facility, Lewis remained at Evergreen, visiting her faithfully until her death. Meanwhile, the wonderful staff and residents at Evergreen became his extended family and a source of support and camaraderie. He was a regular at the nightly pinochle gathering and enjoyed kibitzing in the evening over ginger ale. While in Lancaster, Lewis loved spending time with his children and grandchildren, and took pleasure in family gatherings and dinners, especially if there was a martini on the menu. He was proud of his extended family, and looked forward to his almost nightly chats with his niece … who kept him up on the news in Tucson.

(Intelligencer Journal-Lancaster New Era (PA) – Friday, June 21, 2013)

Mr. Lewis C. Bacharach

Lewis Cohen Bacharach

Lewis and Mary were clearly well-loved not only by their children and grandchildren, but also by every community where they had lived during their long and meaningful lives.

Helen and William’s daughter Jeanne was born December 15, 1917.  She married Charles Towle, who became very well-known for his extensive collection of railroad related stamps.  According to Wikipedia, Charles L. Towle “was a stamp collector who studied postal history and wrote philatelic literature on the subject…. On the basis of his studies, Towle, co-authored with Henry Albert Meyer, and wrote Railroad Postmarks of the U.S., 1861-1886, and, in 1986 Towle wrote his four volume United States Rates and Station Agent Markings. Towle wrote extensively on transit markings and received numerous awards for his effort. For three years Towle edited The Heliograph, the journal of the Postal History Foundation.  … Towle was active in philatelic organizations, such as the Mobile Post Office Society, where he was president until he died, and as Chairman of the Board of the Western Postal History Museum, later renamed the Postal History Foundation.  ….Towle was named to the American Philatelic Society Hall of Fame in 1991.”


Family members told me that Charles’ stamp collection was donated to the University of Michigan.  Charles and Jeanne lived in Dearborn, Michigan, for many years where Charles was the president of a railway company during the 1950s and 1960s.  Charles and Jeanne later moved back to Philadelphia and then to Tucson, Arizona, where Charles became very interested in mineralogy, eventually donating that collection to other museums. He and Jeanne were also very active in the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum along with Lewis and Mary Bacharach.

Jeanne died in 1976 of cancer, like her mother Mary.  Charles died in 1990.  They had four children who survived them and many grandchildren.

Jeanne Bacharach

Jeanne Bacharach Towle

Thus, Lewis Cohen, my great-granduncle, has a wonderful legacy in the many contributions and commitments to community made by his daughter and son-in-law and their children.




8 thoughts on “Was the Census Taker Incompetent? Lewis Cohen 1862-1924

  1. See bureaucracy was plagued with just as many problems in the 19th century. 🙂 Seriously, the amount of work you’re doing on this is AMAZING. Bravo, woman!


    • Thank you! Of course, this was a city, so no farm hands were there. I think this time the census taker made the errors, not those he was taking information from, but who knows?


  2. Pingback: How Genealogy Research Works:  Solomon Monroe Cohen as A Sample Case « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  3. Pingback: Children Losing Parents: The Family of Leopold Nusbaum « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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