Science versus Inference:  Was Moses Cohen the Brother of Jacob Cohen?

The case for concluding that Moses Cohen, Sr., who lived in Baltimore (1850) and Washington, D.C. (1860), was the brother of my great-great-grandfather Jacob Cohen is built almost entirely on inference.  As I’ve described before, I have tentatively concluded that they were brothers based on the following bits of evidence:

  1. The 1841 English census that lists as the children of Hart and Sarah Cohen the following: Elizabeth (20), Moses (20), Jacob (15), and John (14).

    Hart Cohen and family 1841 English census

    Hart Cohen and family 1841 English census

  2. A passenger manifest for the ship New York Packet, dated July 7, 1848, that lists the following passengers: Jacob Cohen, Sarah Cohen, Fanny Cohen, Moses Cohen, and an infant named John Cohen.  Jacob Cohen and family ship manifestMoses Cohen page on ship manifestSource Citation
    Year: 1848
    Ship or Roll Number : Roll 073
    Source New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.
    Original data: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897. Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls. Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36. National Archives at Washington, D.C.Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1897-1957. Microfilm Publication T715, 8892 rolls. Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; National Archives at Washington, D.C.Supplemental Manifests of Alien Passengers and Crew Members Who Arrived on Vessels at New York, New York, Who Were Inspected for Admission, and Related Index, compiled 1887-1952. Microfilm Publication A3461, 21 rolls. ARC ID: 3887372. RG 85, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; National Archives, Washington, D.C. Index to Alien Crewmen Who Were Discharged or Who Deserted at New York, New York, May 1917-Nov. 1957. Microfilm Publication A3417. ARC ID: 4497925. National Archives at Washington, D.C.Passenger Lists, 1962-1972, and Crew Lists, 1943-1972, of Vessels Arriving at Oswego, New York. Microfilm Publication A3426. ARC ID: 4441521. National Archives at Washington, D.C.
  3. Headstones that identify the Hebrew name of the father of both Jacob and Moses Cohen as Naftali Ha Cohen (Hart being the Dutch and English equivalent of a deer, the tribe symbol for the tribe of Naftali)
    Jacob Cohen headstone cropped and enhanced

    Jacob Cohen’s headstone

    Moses Cohen, Sr. headstone

    Moses Cohen, Sr. headstone

  4. The fact that both Jacob and Moses named a son Hart, the same name as Jacob’s, and presumably Moses,’ father, Hart Levy Cohen.
  5. The fact that Moses had a granddaughter named Grace Cohen and that a bridesmaid of one of Jacob’s granddaughters was a Grace Cohen from Washington, DC.

These five bits of evidence were enough for me to reach the tentative conclusion that Jacob and Moses were brothers and that therefore the descendants of Moses Cohen were also my relatives.  There was also additional “evidence” in my failure to find a Moses Cohen other than the DC Moses who fit as well; there were two Moses Cohens of the right age on the 1851 English census, but neither was the right one.  I sent for marriage certificates for both of them, and they were not the sons of Hart and Rachel. I’ve already dug fairly deeply into the history of Moses Cohen and his children and grandchildren based on that hunch and those bits of evidence.

But I wanted something more scientific and definitive.  I was very fortunate to find someone who was a direct descendant of Moses’ son, Moses, Jr.  He had already done a DNA test with FamilyTreeDNA, so I asked my brother to do the same so that we could compare the results.  That was almost two months ago, and I finally received the results late last week.  I was very disappointed to see that my brother was not in the same haplogroup with the descendant of Moses, Jr., meaning that there was no genetic link between the two.  I was bewildered and discouraged.  I looked at all the hours I had spent researching Moses’ family and felt as if I had wasted a tremendous amount of time.

I am in touch with the wife of the Moses, Jr., descendant who was tested, and she also was disappointed, but not as surprised as I was.  She told me that there was a family story suggesting that Moses, Jr., had been adopted and was not in fact the biological child of Moses, Sr.   Suddenly, other bits of evidence started to make more sense.

The earliest document I have for Moses, Jr. is the 1850 US census. It lists Moses, Sr., living in Baltimore with his wife Adeline and eleven year old son Moses, Jr. Moses, Jr., is reported to have been born in Germany, and since he was eleven, born in 1839.

Moses Cohen and family 1850 census

Moses Cohen and family 1850 census

Other documents record his year of birth as 1840.  But Moses, Sr., was living in London in 1841, as seen on the English census of that year.  I had been confused by that before, but had assumed it was some error.

Also, Moses, Sr. is variously reported to have been born in years ranging from 1820 to 1828, depending on the document. His headstone says he was 32 in 1860 when he died, giving him a birth year of 1828.  Even assuming it was 1820, he would only have been twenty when Moses, Jr., was born.  How would he have met a German woman at such a young age, had a child with her in Germany, but then been living without her in London a year or more after the child was born? And where were Adeline and Moses, Jr.,  in 1848 when Moses emigrated from London to the US on the same ship with his brother Jacob?

I decided I needed to find out more about Adeline, the woman who married Moses and the mother of Moses, Jr.  I know that her birth name was Himmel from a birth record for their son Hart.  I cannot find a passenger list for Adeline or Moses, Jr., nor can I find a birth record or a marriage record linking Moses, Sr. and Adeline with Moses, Jr.  The earliest document I have found for Adeline is the 1850 US census above.

That 1850 census, seen above, show that living in the home next door to Adeline and Moses was a family with the surname Himmel: Jacob, Hannah and Moses Himmel.  Jacob, like Adeline, was born in Germany.  Both Jacob and Adeline Himmel had sons named Moses.  I am going to guess that Adeline was Jacob’s sister, though I’ve yet to find anything to corroborate that.

So this is my new challenge: to find records that will indicate where and when Moses, Jr., was born and where and when Moses, Sr., married his mother Adeline.  I am also going to focus on finding a biological descendant of Moses, Sr., so that perhaps I can find some scientific evidence to back up my inferences.  In the meantime, I am going to continue to assume that Moses, Sr., was the older brother of my great-great-grandfather and thus to tell his story as best I can as well as the story of his children and grandchildren, including Moses, Jr.





6 thoughts on “Science versus Inference:  Was Moses Cohen the Brother of Jacob Cohen?

  1. Pingback: Cohens in the Nation’s Capital: 1860-1880 « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  2. Pingback: The Family of Moses, Jr. and Henrietta Cohen 1880-1900: Years of Growth and Change « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  3. Pingback: A Brick Wall Tumbles, Thanks Once Again to the Genealogy Village « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  4. Pingback: The Cohens: Questions Left to Answer « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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