When I started doing genealogy research about four years ago, I only had seen pictures of two of my eight great-grandparents: Isidore Schoenthal and Hilda Katzenstein, parents of my paternal grandmother Eva Schoenthal Cohen.
I had no idea what any of my other six great-grandparents looked like. Over time I have been very fortunate to find cousins who had pictures of four of those other six. For example, I now have pictures of Moritz Goldschlager and Ghitla Rosenzweig, parents of my maternal grandfather Isadore Goldschlager.
Another cousin had pictures of my great-grandmother Eva Seligman, but I did not have a photograph of my great-grandfather, Emanuel Cohen. Until now. One of the photos in my Aunt Eva’s suitcase was a photograph of Emanuel Cohen. I was so excited to be able to see his face. It’s amazing how a photograph can bring to life someone you’ve never seen.
So I now have pictures of Eva Seligman and Emanuel Cohen, parents of my paternal grandfather, John N. Cohen, Sr.
That leaves me missing only one photograph in the collection of photographs of my great-grandparents. I am fortunate to have a picture of my great-grandmother, Bessie—the person for whom I named. But I do not have a picture of Joseph Brotman, my great-grandfather. The Brotmans remain the most elusive of my ancestral families, and they were the ones who started me on this search and to the blog. How I would love to know what Joseph looked like, but none of my cousins has a photograph, and somehow it seems very unlikely that any will turn up. But here is my great-grandmother Bessie Brod/Brot/Brotman, the mother of my maternal grandmother Gussie Brotman Goldschlager.
When I scan through these photographs and think of my eight great-grandparents, I feel somehow comforted and inspired. It makes me feel good to know that they are remembered and that their stories are being told, at least as well as I can tell them. Five of the eight were born in Europe and immigrated here to make a better lives for themselves and for their children and those who followed. They came from Sielen, Germany, from Iasi, Romania, and from Tarnobrzeg, Poland. The other three were the children of immigrants from Gau-Algesheim and Jesberg, Germany and from London, England; they benefited from the risks taken by their parents, my great-great-grandparents, but they each took risks of their own. In America, my great-grandparents lived in Washington (Pennsylvania), Philadelphia, New York, Denver, and Santa Fe. Each in his or her own way was a pioneer. Each one is an inspiration to me.
On this week of Thanksgiving, I am grateful to them for all they did and proud to be their great-granddaughter.