The Brother Who Stayed Behind: Adventures in Genealogy Research

Born just one year after Simon, the next sibling was Jakob Schoenthal. (I am using the German spelling for two reasons.  First, Jakob stayed in Germany and thus that is how he spelled his name.  Second, it helps to distinguish him from his nephew, Simon’s son Jacob.) Finding Jakob’s story was quite a lesson in genealogy research.  It took some lucky breaks and the help of others, and in the end it led to a story of both tragedy and triumph.

 

Centro de la ciudad de Koln, Alemania Deutsch:...

Köln Germany, where Jakob Schoenthal lived as an adult (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

First, some background. I’ve already written about eight of the ten children of Levi Schoenthal and Henriette Hamberg, my great-great-grandparents.  They were the eight children who came to America between 1866 and 1881 and settled here permanently, including my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal.  All of them lived relatively long and seemingly satisfying lives.  They started in western Pennsylvania, but eventually they and/or their children moved far afield across the United States—to California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and elsewhere.  They thrived in America, and they have many descendants still living in this country.

But there were two siblings who did not end up in America.  One, the youngest child, Rosalie, had in fact immigrated to the US in 1881 with her mother Henriette and her brother Isidore, my great-grandfather.  But Rosalie returned to Germany to marry Willy Heymann in 1884, and that decision was in the end one with devastating consequences for her family.  I will write more about Rosalie in a subsequent post.

The only sibling who never left Germany was the sixth child of Levi and Henriette, Jakob, who was born in Sielen in 1850.  I will always wonder why Jakob stayed when almost all of his siblings had emigrated from Germany by 1874.  Jakob was 24 by then, only a year younger than Simon, who had left in 1867. Why did he stay? I don’t know, but my theory is that Jakob stayed to take care of his mother and youngest siblings. By 1874 when his father Levi died, Jakob was the oldest son still in Germany, and there were still some younger siblings at home, including my great-grandfather.  So perhaps Jakob stayed out of a sense of family obligation. As with his sister Rosalie, that decision to stay had tragic consequences.

On September 1, 1879, Jakob married Charlotte Lilienfeld, the younger half-sister of Helen Lilienfeld, who had married Jakob’s brother Henry in 1872 and moved with him to Washington, Pennsylvania.  Charlotte and Helen were both the daughters of Meyer Lilienfeld of Gudensberg, where Henry Schoenthal had once been a teacher before immigrating to the US.

Marriage record of Jakob Schoenthal and Charlotte Lilienfeld Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden: Trauregister der Juden von Gudensberg 1825-1900 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 386) 1825-1900

Marriage record of Jakob Schoenthal and Charlotte Lilienfeld
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden: Trauregister der Juden von Gudensberg 1825-1900 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 386, p.42) 1825-1900

 

For a long time I could not find much more information about Jakob.  I knew from the 1893 Beers biography of Henry Schoenthal that Jakob had then been living in Cologne, Germany in 1893, but I didn’t know if he and Charlotte had had children or if they had ever left Germany or when they had died.

Then while I was researching Henry Schoenthal and his family, I kept coming across two men living in Washingon, Pennsylvania, with the same names as two of Henry’s sons: Meyer and Lee Schoenthal.  At first I thought they were Henry’s sons, but soon it became clear that there were in fact two Meyers and two Lees.  When I found the death certificates for the Meyer and the Lee who were not the sons of Henry Schoenthal, I saw that their parents were Jakob Schoenthal and Charlotte Lilienfeld.

 

Lee Schoenthal death certificate Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Lee Schoenthal death certificate
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

I knew then that Jakob and Charlotte had had at least two sons, both of whom had lived in Washington, Pennsylvania, where their Schoenthal uncles Henry and Isidore as well as their aunt Helen Lilienfeld Schoenthal were living.  And, of course, the identical names made sense.  Both Meyers were named for their maternal grandfather, Meyer Lilienfeld, and both Lees were named for their paternal grandfather, Levi Schoenthal.

And then I was stuck.   What else could I learn about Jakob and Charlotte? I asked in the German Genealogy group on Facebook whether there were records available online for Cologne, or Köln, as it is spelled in German, and I learned that there were in fact archives online with birth, marriage, and death records.  Unfortunately, the archives are divided into geographic areas in and around Köln, and I had no idea where in the city Jakob had lived.  In addition, I had no idea what years to search for births or deaths for his family, and the number of records was too overwhelming to search without some parameters.

But then another member of the Genealogy Group suggested I look in city directories to see if I could narrow down where in Köln Jakob and his family had lived.  I learned that there were city directories online that dated as early as 1797 all the way through to the 1960s.  I started searching year by year, and I eventually found many listings for him, starting with one in 1901 and going as late as 1935, and then he disappeared.  Here are a few examples:

 

Greven's address book for Cologne subtitle:and environment especially Mühlheim am Rhein and lime Author / Edit .: Ant. Carl Greven Publishing company: Greven's Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven Vintage: 51 Year: 1905

Greven’s address book for Cologne
Author / Edit .: Ant. Carl Greven
Publishing company: Greven’s Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven
Vintage: 51
Year: 1905

 

Grevens Adreßbuch 1915 Cologne and environs

Grevens Adreßbuch 1915 Cologne and environs

 

Greven's address book for Cologne subtitle:and neighborhood and business directory the circles Cologne-Mülheim country and a. Rh. Publishing company: Greven's Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven Vintage: 67 Year: 1925

Greven’s address book for Cologne
Publishing company: Greven’s Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven
Vintage: 67
Year: 1925

 

So I thought Jakob must have died or moved or emigrated around 1935, but not knowing German had once again proven to be a problem.  I posted the 1935 listing on the German Genealogy Facebook page, and my friend Matthias translated it and pointed out that the listing was not for Jakob, but rather for his widow.  He explained that the abbreviation Ww meant “widow,” and when I went back to look at the earlier directories, I saw that the Ww was included in almost all of the listings I had thought were for Jakob Schoenthal.

 

Greven's address book of Cologne subtitle:and its environs, as well as the address book of the circles Cologne-country Bensberg, Bergisch Gladbach u. Porz, Volume (→ Second volume ) Publishing company: Greven's Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven Year: 1935

Greven’s address book of Cologne
Gladbach u. Porz, Volume (→ Second volume )
Publishing company: Greven’s Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven
Year: 1935

 

I worked all the way back to 1905, seeing that Ww.  There were no directories on the website for 1902-1904, but in 1901, there was no Ww, so I assumed that meant that Jakob was still alive in 1900.  Thus, it seemed likely that Jakob had died sometime between 1901 and 1905.

 

Greven's address book for the borough Cologne subtitle:and for the environment especially: Mühlheim am Rhein and lime Author / Edit .: Ant. Carl Greven Publishing company: Greven's Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven Vintage: 47 Year: 1901

Greven’s address book for the borough Cologne
Author / Edit .: Ant. Carl Greven
Publishing company: Greven’s Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven
Vintage: 47
Year: 1901

 

From the address on Breite Strasse in the directories, my friends in the Germany Genealogy group thought that Jakob had lived in the central part of Köln.  Having narrowed down the years and the section of the city where he lived, I now combed through the relevant records until I found a death record for Jakob.  He had died on November 19, 1903.  He was only 53 years old when he died.  He was the first of his siblings to die.

 

Jakob Schoenthal death certificate Das Digitale Historiche Archiv Koln, Civil registry, civil registry Cologne I, deaths, 1903 1903 Vol 03 p.320

Jakob Schoenthal death certificate
Das Digitale Historiche Archiv Koln, Civil registry, civil registry Cologne I, deaths, 1903 1903 Vol 03 p.320

 

Since 1935 was the last year Jakob’s widow Charlotte was listed, I assumed that she must have died around 1935.  I wrote to the synagogue in Köln to see if they had information about Jakob and Charlotte, and the secretary there informed me that Jakob and Charlotte were both buried in their cemetery and that Charlotte had died on June 17, 1935.  She also confirmed Jakob’s date of death.  So I now knew when both Jakob and Charlotte had died and where they were buried.

But the 1935 Köln directory listing, along with a number of others, also revealed something else.  Notice that right above Jakob’s widow’s listing it says, “Schonthal & Co, Jul. Levi and Frau Jul. Levi,” and some additional text following, including the same address as that listed for Jakob’s widow.

Greven's address book of Cologne subtitle:and its environs, as well as the address book of the circles Cologne-country Bensberg, Bergisch Gladbach u. Porz, Volume (→ Second volume ) Publishing company: Greven's Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven Year: 1935

Greven’s address book of Cologne
subtitle: and its environs, as well as the address book of the circles Cologne-country Bensberg, Bergisch Gladbach u. Porz, Volume (→ Second volume )
Publishing company: Greven’s Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven
Year: 1935

My friends in the German Genealogy group explained that the first listing was for a Julius Levi and his wife, Henny nee Schoenthal.  Obviously Henny was Jakob and Charlotte’s daughter, living at the same address as her parents with her husband Julius Levi.

Julius Levi and Henny nee Schoenthal were listed again in 1936 (without a listing for Charlotte), but after that they disappeared.  By then, of course, Jewish-owned businesses were being restricted or closed by the Nazis.  What had happened to Julius and Henny? Had they left Germany, I hoped? Or had they been killed in the Holocaust?

Greven's address book of the Hanseatic City of Cologne subtitle:the circles Cologne-country, the county town of Bergisch Gladbach and Bensberg communities and Porz, Volume (→ Second volume ) Publishing company: Greven's Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven Vintage: 78 Year: 1936

Greven’s address book of the Hanseatic City of Cologne
Publishing company: Greven’s Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven
Vintage: 78
Year: 1936

Unfortunately, a search on Yad Vashem revealed that they were both victims of the Nazi atrocities.

Yad Vashem page of testimony for Henriette Schoenthal Levi Yad Vashem page of testimony for Julius Levi

I learned more details from a researcher in Köln named Barbara Becker, who informed me that Julius and Henriette Levi had been first moved to the ghetto in Köln in 1940 and then were deported to Lodz, Poland, on October 30, 1941.  From there they were sent to the death camp in Chelmno on September 10, 1942, where they were murdered by the Nazis.

Lodz Ghetto Bundesarchiv, Bild 137-051639A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Lodz Ghetto
Bundesarchiv, Bild 137-051639A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Chelmno death camp 1942 By SS Unknown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Chelmno death camp 1942
By SS Unknown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Two more names to add to the growing list of my relatives who were killed during the Holocaust:  Henriette Schoenthal and her husband Julius Levi.  Henriette was probably named for her grandmother, Jakob’s mother Henriette Hamberg, my great-great-grandmother.   Henriette Schoenthal Levi was my first cousin, twice removed.  She was my grandmother Eva Schoenthal Cohen’s first cousin.

When I looked at the Pages of Testimony filed on behalf of Henriette (Schoenthal) and Julius Levi more closely, I saw that they were filed in 1977 by their son, Henry Lyons.  There was even an address for Henry: 99-30 59th Avenue, Rego Park, New York.  My next step had to be locating Henry Lyons, my father’s second cousin.

To be continued….

 

34 thoughts on “The Brother Who Stayed Behind: Adventures in Genealogy Research

  1. Amy, for your audience it could be of interest that Köln/ Cologne has a very important
    municipal institution, one of the most eminent in Germany, for research – exhibition – education – about the “local” Nazi period and the holocaust. Barbara is one of the researchers there.

    http://www.museenkoeln.de/ns-dokumentationszentrum/pages/315.aspx?s=315
    http://www.museenkoeln.de/ns-dokumentationszentrum/pages/337.aspx?s=337

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amy superb research and very helpful people in the groups who helped you find the records to document Jakob’s line. I like that you have shared the process you went through to pinpoint the location in Köln. It will be helpful for others who feel overwhelmed by researching in Germany.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wrote a while back about my father’s most distinct memory of his grandfather, who was Jakob’s brother. His grandfather wept when he heard about the bombing in Cologne. My father didn’t know why, but I am thinking that he was worried about his brother’s children. For good reason.

      Like

  3. Ahhhh!!! I read the last few lines and can’t believe I have to wait to hear more. 🙂 But in all seriousness, a lovely post. I’m glad you made the connections and helped to honor the memory of these family members. I’m so sorry for the many losses you must feel as you find family members who were victims of the Holocaust. I imagine you have shed many tears. Hugs to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Jakob Schoenthal and Charlotte Lilienfeld, Part II: Finding Their Children and Grandchildren « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  5. Pingback: The Children of Jakob Schoenthal and Charlotte Lilienfeld, Part III: Lee and Meyer Come to America « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  6. What great research! And while I’m very sad to learn of the murders of your family, I am happy that you were able to determine what happened to them. I haven’t come close to finding any of my ancestors murdered by the Nazis – I hope I never do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Debi. Do you mean you hope you never find that you had any ancestors murdered by the Nazis? I was shocked when I discovered my first cousin killed in the Holocaust. It’s been a terrible awakening.

      Like

      • Yes, that’s what I meant. Most of my direct ancestors came to the U.S. in the mid 1800’s but I’m sure as I get deeper into this, and over to Europe, I might discover some who were murdered. I can only imagine the gut wrenching feeling when that is discovered.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s was my situation. I assumed that since my paternal ancestors were all here by 1860 or so that there were none left back in Germany. I was delighted to find all those GGaunts and uncles and cousins until I learned what happened to their descendants.

        Like

  7. Pingback: March 2016 Monthly Update | Travelogues of a Genealogist

  8. Pingback: Passover 2016: The Exodus | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  9. Pingback: My Grandmother’s Cologne Cousins: More New Records | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  10. Pingback: Cologne: Its Jewish History and My Family Ties to the City | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s