I have had many exciting finds through the course of my search for my family history: wonderful photographs and letters, newspaper articles, government documents, birth and marriage and death certificates, and so on. But for me some of the most special finds have been the family trees prepared by other members of my extended family, like the family tree prepared by my Aunt Elaine. These trees are special not only for the information they convey, but also because they tie me to someone else who cared about the family history and wanted it preserved for posterity.
So you can imagine how excited I was when my cousin Wolfgang sent me a four page family tree prepared at least 75 years ago by one of our Seligmann cousins in Germany. We know that this tree was prepared by a child of Karoline Seligmann, the daughter of my three-times great-grandfather Moritz Seligmann and his first wife, Eva Schoenfeld because the tree refers to Karoline Seligmann and her husband Siegfried Seligmann as “our parents.” Karoline (sometimes spelled Caroline or Carolina) and Siegfried had five sons and two daughters: Heinrich, Eva, Wilhelm, Emil, Eugen, Rosa, and Carl. Two of the sons died in infancy, Wilhelm and Carl, , and one I cannot account for beyond his birth, Heinrich. Emil, Eugen, and Eva all died during the Holocaust. Only one child survived the Holocaust, their daughter Rosa, who immigrated to the US in 1940. I discussed Karoline’s children here. I don’t know which child created this tree.
Wolfgang thought Emil was the most likely author of the tree, so for simplicity purposes I will refer to it as Emil’s tree and to its author as Emil. (The last date given on the tree is 1909, and unfortunately it stops with the generation of Karoline and Siegfried and does not include their children.) Although I cannot be sure which of the surviving children—Emil, Eva, Eugen, or Rosa—was my fellow genealogist, I am extremely grateful to whoever created this tree because it provides me with one more generation of my Seligmann and Schoenfeld relatives—the siblings of my three-times great-grandfather, Moritz Seligmann, and the siblings of my three-times great-grandmother, Babetta Schoenfeld (Eva’s sister). It, of course, also raises new questions and new pathways for research.
Starting with page 1 of the tree:
It says at the top, “Our great-grandparents in Gaulsheim: a) fathers side: Jacob Seeligmann, his wife: (Merle) Marta nee Mayer (Gaulsheim).” I found it interesting that the early spelling of the family name was Seeligmann. Marta (Martha) Mayer’s name is consistent with the record I obtained for the marriage of their son Moritz to Eva Schoenfeld. Jacob and Marta were my four-times great-grandparents. According to prior records I’d obtained, they were both born around 1773.
According to Emil’s tree, Jacob and Marta had ten children. Until seeing this tree, I had only found three: my three-times great-grandfather Moritz and two other sons, Leopold and Isaac. I had found Leopold and Isaac on the Steinheim Institute website, but not the other seven children. According to the Emil tree, they were Simon, Martha, Mina, Caroline, Marx, Salomon, and Babette.
The next section of the first page and the second page provide information for the ten children of Jacob and Marta. For Simon and Isaac, it seemed that Emil had no information, except that Simon was living in Bingen. The entry for Leopold simply says “in Gaulsheim.” But then on the second page of the tree (see below), Emil returned to Simon, Isaac, and Leopold and listed what appears to be the names of their children. It looks like he thought Simon had two sons, Louis and Richard, and Isaac had a son named Hermann. Leopold’s children were Malchen, Sigmund, Sophie, August, and Roschen.
This, however, is not consistent with what I found on the Steinheim website. According to the Steinheim website, Isaac was born in 1795 and died in 1860. He seems to have lived in Gaulsheim all his life. The Steinheim site states that Isaac married Rosine Blad and that they had five children: Pauline, Magdalena, Henriette, Ludwig (Louis), and Richard. My best guess is that Ludwig and Richard are the same people who Emil listed as Louis and Richard. I don’t know whether Emil is correct or the Steinheim site is correct as to whether they were Simon’s sons or Isaac’s sons. I also don’t know where Hermann fits into the family. Was he really Simon’s son and Emil had it backwards? I don’t know.
There is also some inconsistency between Emil’s facts for Leopold and the information on the Steinheim website. The Steinheim site lists Leopold’s wife as Caroline Marum, and I found a marriage record for them dated December 17, 1849.
According to the Steinheim site, they had five children: Amalie, Rosalie (Roschen?), Sophia, August, and Therese. Emil did not have Therese or Amalie, but had instead Malchen and Sigmund. I don’t know which information is more accurate.
For Jacob and Marta’s daughter Martha, Emil wrote that she married Benjamin Seeligmann. To the right of Martha’s name is a box that says, “Our grandparents in Bingen.” Then next, for our mutual ancestor Moritz, Emil wrote “our grandfather in Gau-Algesheim.” There is a date underneath that looks like 13-2-1877; I believe that must be his date of death. But how could Martha and Moritz, sister and brother, both be Emil’s grandparents? Well, that will become clear later on.
For Mina, it says that she was the wife of Leopold Mayer of Oberursel and that they had one child, Adolf Eduard, who died and was never married. I wonder if this Mayer was a relative of Mina’s mother Marta Mayer. The next child of Jacob and Marta, Caroline, married Moses Moreau (?) of Worrstadt, and they had four children whose names are written underneath; the first I cannot decipher (maybe Markus?), but the other three are Albert, Bertha, and Alice.
The last entry on the first page is a long one for Marx Seligmann. With the help of the kind people in the German Genealogy group on Facebook, I was able to get a sense of what happened to Marx. He married Rosina Loeser on June 11, 1838. They were legally separated in June 1848, and he agreed to pay support for the children. They were divorced in February, 1849.
On page 2 of the Emil tree, Emil continued with the facts about Marx Seligmann.
This is the hardest part of the document for me to understand, despite help from Wolfgang and the German Genealogy group. At the top are listed the names of the two daughters of Marx and Rosina: Mathilde and Sophie. But what does it say underneath? All my German helpers agreed that is says, “Underage ??? in Amerika.” One thought it said “Wife in Amerika,” another thought it said “Later in Amerika.” Who went to America? And when did they go? I have started looking, but so far have not had any luck.
(As I was finishing this post, Wolfgang sent me another handwritten version of this tree with more information about Marx and a few others. I need to finish deciphering that one and then will update with more information.)
Emil wrote that Salomon had a wife named Anna Chailly of Mainz and a son and daughter, whose names are not listed here. I found an entry in the Mainz Family Register database on ancestry.com for Salomon and his family, and his children were named Emilie, Mathilde, Siegmund, and Jacob. Jacob married Dora Rosenberg in 1887, and they had a daughter named Anna Dora, born in 1890. I have not yet found any further information for the other three children of Salomon and Anna.
Finally, for Babette, the tree recorded that she had died unmarried and had lived in Gaulsheim.
That completed Emil’s entries for the children of Jacob Seeligmann and Marta Mayer. He then drew a horizontal line across the page as if to start a new section. Under that line he wrote, “Isaac Seeligmann and his wife Felicitas nee Goetzel of Bingen.” I was totally confused when I saw this; was this the same Isaac Seligmann, the son of Jacob and Marta, about whom Emil had written already? Underneath the names of this Isaac and Felicitas was a list of their children, and they were not the same names that I had found on the Steinheim site, discussed above, for Jacob and Marta’s son Isaac. Instead, the following names were listed: Benjamin, Theodor, and Martha. Who were these people?
According to my German Genealogy helpers, under Benjamin’s name it says, “Our grandfather from Bingen.” Suddenly something clicked. This was the Benjamin Seeligmann who married Martha Seligmann, the daughter of Jacob and Marta and the sister of Moritz. Remember that Martha and Benjamin had also been named as Emil’s grandparents. This section of the tree is reporting on Emil’s other great-grandparents, the other Isaac Seligmann and his wife Felicitas Goetzel, and their children.
Was this Isaac Seeligmann related to Jacob Seeligmann, my four-times-great-grandfather? They all lived in the Bingen-Gaulsheim area. I’ve yet to find any documentation linking the two different Seligmann families, but my hunch is that they were in fact cousins if not brothers, meaning that Benjamin Seeligmann might have married a cousin, Martha Seligmann.
Emil then reported on his grandfather Benjamin’s siblings. Theodor was living in Nancy (in France, presumably), and he had a son August who lived in Paris. Martha married Isaac Cahn of Mainz, and they had a son Adolf Cahn.
That brings me to the third page of Emil’s tree.
This page is primarily devoted to Emil’s grandparents Benjamin Seeligmann and Martha Seligmann. He provides their birth and death dates and then the names of their seven children: Siegfried, Emilie, Hermann, Karoline, Ferdinand, Lambert, and Bertha. Under their names, Emil reported on who some of them married, including his father Siegfried, who married Karoline Seligmann. Suddenly the rest of the tree made sense to me.
Emil’s father Siegfried was the son of Martha Seligmann; his mother Karoline was the daughter of Moritz Seligmann. Moritz and Martha were siblings, so Siegfried and Karoline were first cousins. Thus, Emil’s paternal grandmother Martha and his maternal grandfather Moritz were sister and brother. Now if in fact Benjamin Seeligmann, Martha’s husband, was also a cousin, there is truly a remarkable amount of inbreeding there. Here is a family chart that will (I hope) help to visualize these relationships:
The last entry on the third page provided me with the death dates for Moritz Seligmann and Eva Schoenfeld, information I had not had before.
Finally on page four Emil discusses his maternal great-grandparents, a) the family of Jacob Seligmann of Bingen, already discussed under his paternal great-grandparents; and b) the family of his grandmother Eva Schoenfeld, sister of my three-times great-grandmother Babetta Schoenfeld, the sister who married Moritz Seligmann after Eva died in 1835.
As I already knew, Eva and Babetta were the daughters of Bernard Schoenfeld and Rosa Goldmann of Erbes-Budesheim. I also had records of the names and births of most of their children. Emil’s list confirmed these and added one more for whom I did not have a record, Alexander. The children as listed on Emil’s tree are Alexander, Eva and Babetta (described as the first and second wives of Moritz Seligmann of Gau-Algesheim), Maria Anna (wife of Alexander Levi of Kirchheimbolanden), Sara (wife of Leokov (?) Kahn of Bubenheim), Zibora (wife of Karl Levi of Alzey and mother of Albert, Bernhard, and Berta), and Rebecca (wife of Salomon Goldmann of Kirchheimbolanden). Then at the bottom Emil listed the children of Maria Anna and Alexander Levi: Fridolin, Leonhard, Judith, Lina, Hedwig, Elise, and Ottmar.
I was recently contacted through Wolfgang by one of the grandchildren of Zibora Schoenfeld Levi and am hoping to learn even more about my Schoenfeld ancestors.
What a treasure trove this tree is! Such a gift from one of my predecessors as a family historian—someone who died during the Holocaust and who left behind evidence not only of his ancestors’ lives, but of his own. Now it is my job to try and fill in the details and continue the story.