Get ready for a real brain twister here.
As I mentioned in my last post, my cousin Wolfgang sent me several new documents relating to our mutual Seligmann ancestors. Wolfgang and his mother received these from Beate Goetz, who had also sent me several important documents over a year ago. I continue to be amazed by how much information is available about my Seligmann forebears.
The first document is a death certificate for Jakob Seligmann, my four-times great-grandfather, father of Moritz Seligmann and grandfather of Bernard Seligman. Until now Jakob was the earliest relative I had found in the Seligmann line; he was born in Gaulsheim, Germany in 1773 and died there in 1851. His wife, my four-times great-grandmother, was Martha Mayer.
With help from Wolfgang, his mother, and my friend Matthias Steinke, I learned that this document says that Jakob Seligmann died on December 21, 1851, when he was 78 years old. He was born in Gaulsheim, the son of Seligmann Hirsch, deceased, a merchant in Gaulsheim, and Mina nee Mayer. The informants were his son Leopold Seligmann and Konrad Vollmer, not related. What was most exciting about this document was that it revealed the names of Jakob’s parents: Seligmann Hirsch and Mina Mayer.
Seligmann Hirsch and Mina Mayer were thus my five-times great-grandparents. I now had another generation back to add to my family tree. And then something occurred to me. When I saw that Mina’s birth name had been Mayer, I was puzzled. Was she related to her daughter-in-law Martha Mayer? Of course, it could be. But when I thought about it a bit more, I realized that when Mina was born in the mid-18th century, Jews were not using surnames. Instead, they were using patronymics—Mina was probably the daughter of a man whose first name was Mayer, not whose surname was Mayer. She was Mina bat (daughter of) Mayer.
So if Jakob Seligmann’s father was Seligmann Hirsch, it meant that he was probably Seligmann ben (son of) Hirsch. That meant that the Seligmann surname really came from Jakob’s father’s first name. When Jakob had to adopt a surname in Napoleonic times, he must have taken his patronymic of Jakob ben (son of) Seligmann and compressed it into a first name and surname, creating Jakob Seligmann. Seligmann ben Hirsch was thus the original source for the Seligmann surname that survives to this day in my family with Wolfgang himself.
And that meant that Seligmann ben Hirsch was the son of a man named Hirsch, who was my six-times great-grandfather.
That hunch was corroborated by another bit of evidence that Wolfgang brought to my attention. Back in July 2015, I posted about Moritz Seligmann’s sister, Martha Seligmann, who had married a man named Benjamin Seligmann, son of Isaac Seligmann and Felicitas Goetzel. Martha and Benjamin’s son Siegfried had married Moritz and Eva Seligmann’s daughter Caroline. Caroline and Siegfried were the parents of Emil Seligmann, who created that very long and detailed family tree I wrote about here. That is, Emil was the grandson of both Moritz Seligmann AND his sister Martha Seligmann. He was his own second cousin.
Here’s the chart I posted last time. I know this is all confusing, but if I don’t write it down, I will never remember my own thought processes.
Or as I wrote then, “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 Seligmann, Martha’s husband, was also a cousin, there is truly a remarkable amount of inbreeding there.”
And I think that’s in fact the case: Benjamin and Martha were also first cousins. Back in July I had thought that perhaps Benjamin Seligmann and his wife Martha Seligmann were cousins since both had the surname Seligmann. I thought that their fathers, Isaac and Jakob, respectively, could have been brothers, but I had no way of proving it. But now I know from Jakob’s death certificate that his father’s name was Seligmann ben Hirsch. Was that also the name of Isaac’s father?
A look at Isaac’s gravestone from the Steinheim Institute website revealed this, one of the most beautiful grave inscriptions I’ve ever seen:
|האיש החשוב משכיל וטהור||Here lies the respected man wise and pure,|
|החבר ר’הירש בן כ”ה זעליגמאן||the Torah Scholar Mr. Hirsch, son of the honored Mr. Seligmann of|
|גוילסהיים: למלאכתו מלאכת||Gaulsheim. For his work was Heaven’s work. As swift as|
|שמים כצבי מהיר אור תורתו||5||a deer was the light of his Torah. Like a sapphire.|
|כספיר תאיר צדק קדמו פעמיו:||righteousness was before him. A wholly righteous man, great in deeds, doing|
|איש תמים ורב פעלי’ גומל חסדים||many acts of lovingkindness for the|
|רבים: לרעבים וצמאים||hungry and thirsty.|
|אורו נגנז יום וי”ו ך”ה ובא||He died on six, 25 Iyar, and he came|
|למנוחתו כבוד יו’ א’ך”ו אייר||10||to his honored resting place Day 1, 27 Iyar.|
|לפרט יקר בעיני ד’המות’ לחסידי’||Especially dear in the eyes of the Lord is the death of the pious.|
|תנצב”ה||May his soul be bound up in the bonds of eternal life.|
(Thank you to Neil, Bracha, and Gerald from Tracing the Tribe on Facebook for help in translating the Hebrew; the original German translation on the Steinheim site did not translate well into English using Google Translate, so I decided it would be better to get a translation of the Hebrew directly rather than getting a translation of the translation. If the lines of the translation do not line up exactly with the Hebrew text, that is my error, not that of my translators.)
And thank you to my friend Dorothee who told me about the link to the photograph of the headstone.
“Isaac’s” Hebrew name was Hirsch, son of Seligmann. His father was thus named Seligmann, as was Jakob’s father. Furthermore, Jewish naming patterns suggest that Isaac’s father could have been Seligmann son of Hirsch, the man who was also Jakob’s father. Hirsch/”Isaac” was older than Jakob; when Seligmann son of Hirsch had his first son, he named him for his own deceased father, Hirsch. Jakob and Hirsch/“Isaac” were most likely brothers, both sons of Seligmann ben Hirsch.
Why then is Isaac referred to as Isaac, not Hirsch as his gravestone indicates? I don’t know. The Steinheim Institute site notes that “Hirsch from Gaulsheim called Isaac Seligmann. He was a schoolteacher in Bingen,” without further explanation. On the page for Hirsch/Isaac’s son Benjamin, the Steinheim site comments that “Benjamin Seligmann was in Gaulsheim (today district of Bingen), the son of school teacher Hirsch (later: Isaac) 1798 Seligmann and his wife Felicity born.” [Translation by Google Translate] Hirsch must have changed his name to Isaac.
So that means that Benjamin Seligmann, son of Hirsch/Isaac, and Martha Seligmann, daughter of Jakob, were first cousins. Their son Siegfried was thus not only their son but also a first cousin removed from each of his parents. Oy vey. Siegfried then married his first cousin Caroline, daughter of his mother’s brother Moritz. ENDOGAMY, anyone?? No wonder Emil’s tree was so convoluted!
Here is an updated pedigree chart for Emil Seligmann. Notice that Seligmann ben Hirsch and Mina Mayer appear as his great-grandparents in three different places:
Where am I? Oh, right. I now know that my six-times great-grandfather was named Hirsch and that he had a son named Seligmann, who had at least two children, Hirsch (who became Isaac) and Jakob.
But what about Jakob Seligmann’s wife Martha, daughter of Mayer, my four-times great-grandmother? The second document Wolfgang sent to me was her death certificate. Martha died on December 17, 1849 in Gaulsheim when she was 76 years old. She was born in Oberingelheim and was the daughter of Jakob Mayer, deceased, a merchant in Oberingelheim, and Odilia, nee Simon. The informants were her husband, Jakob Seligmann, and Konrad Vollmer, who was not related to her.
Thus, I now know another set of five-times great-grandparents, Martha’s parents: Jakob Mayer (probably Jakob ben Mayer) and Odilia Simon (probably Odilia daughter of Simon). And I know where to search for them: Oberlingelheim. And if I am right about the patronymics, then I know two more of my sixth-great-grandfathers, Mayer, father of Jakob, and Simon, father of Odilia.
All that from two pieces of paper dating from the mid-nineteenth century.
Thank you, Beate Goetz, Wolfgang Seligmann and his mother Annlis, Matthias Steinke, and the members of Tracing the Tribe, for all your help.