As I wrote in my two last posts, after following a rather convoluted research path, I had discovered that my great-great-uncle Jakob Schoenthal and his wife Charlotte Lilienfeld had had five children born in Cologne, Germany: Johanna, born in 1880; Lee, born in 1881; Meyer, born in 1883; Henriette, born in 1885; and Erna, born in 1898. Their father Jakob had died in 1903 when Erna in particular was quite young. Their mother Charlotte died in 1935.
Four of their five children immigrated to the US: the two sons Lee and Meyer arrived in Washington, Pennsylvania, in the early decades of the twentieth century. Erna arrived in 1938 with her son Werner; she was a young widow when she arrived. (I am still looking for information about her husband Arnold and hope to have an update soon.) Johanna and her husband Heinrich Stern arrived in 1947, having somehow survived the war and last residing in Lyons, France.
Tragically, Jakob and Charlotte’s remaining child, Henriette, had been murdered by the Nazis along with her husband Julius Levi. Their son Helmut, however, had left in time. He came to the US in 1939 and eventually changed his name to Henry Lyons. He and his wife Pauline nee Schwartz lived for many years in Rego Park, Queens, New York.
In the next few posts I will address these four children, Lee, Meyer, Erna, and Johanna, as well as the two grandsons Werner and Henry. Who were these people? What were their lives like once they got to the US? I will discuss Lee and Meyer first and their early years in the US and then their sisters and nephews and what happened to them all during and after World War II.
Lee and Meyer were not the easiest to research. Not only did I have the problem of distinguishing them from their first cousins with the same names, Lee and Meyer, the sons of Henry Schoenthal, I also had a very difficult time finding them on census reports. Lee only appears on the 1920 census, Meyer only on the 1930 census. I have no idea how they evaded so many census enumerators.
Figuring out when each of the brothers arrived was also a puzzle. I can’t find an early passenger manifest for either of them. The 1920 census reports that Lee arrived in the US in 1899, when he would have been eighteen years old, but Lee does not appear on the 1900 census nor does he appear in any of the available Washington, Pennsylvania directories until 1909, when he is listed as a tailor working at 12 East Cherry Avenue in Washington.
In 1911, Lee went back to Germany, presumably to visit his family. On the ship manifest for that trip (line 26), Lee stated that he had been living at 18 East Cherry Avenue, Washington, Pennsylvania, from 1907 through 1911, but I cannot find him on the 1910 census.
He does, however, appear in the Washington directories throughout the 1910s beginning in 1911, and he registered for the World War I draft in 1918. Throughout, Lee was working as a tailor. My best guess is that he had arrived in the US between 1907 and 1909.
Meyer, on the other hand, appears in the 1903 and 1905 Washington directories, working as a clerk for Rudolph Hanau and residing at 19 Sherman Avenue, as listed in both directories. Lee does not appear in either of those directories. Meyer, like Lee, is not on the 1910 census nor the 1920 census, nor does he appear in the 1909 directory or any other available Washington, Pennsylvania, directory between 1906 and 1928. According to the 1930 census, the one census which includes Meyer, he arrived in the US in 1923. But then how explain his listings in 1903 and 1905? Had he left the US and returned to Germany for all those years, not returning until the 1920s?
I have two ship manifests showing Meyer traveling between Germany and the US, once in 1927 and once in 1929. The 1927 manifest listing for Meyer states that his occupation was a merchant, that he was 44 years old, born in Koln, and last resided in Washington, Pennsylvania.
The second page states that his contact in Germany was his brother-in-law, Julius Levi, and that his contact in the US was his cousin, the above-mentioned Rudolph Hanau of 26 Sherman Avenue, Washington, Pennsylvania.
Of course, when I saw that Rudolph Hanau was Meyer’s cousin, I had to figure out the connection. After a few hours of looking at Ancestry and the Hessen archives online, I learned that Rudolph’s wife was Johanna Levi, daughter of Moses Levi and Rechel Lilienfeld. Yep, Lilienfeld. Rechel Lilienfeld was the sister of Helen and Charlotte Lilienfeld. Thus, Johanna Levi was Meyer’s first cousin (and also, obviously, a first cousin to Lee, Johanna, Henriette, and Erna Schoenthal).
Her husband Rudolph Hanau was, like my great-grandfather Isidore and his brother Henry, a merchant in the china business in Washington, Pennsylvania. He must have known my great-grandfather well. Thus, there were a number of other members of the extended family living in Little Washington whom I had not located earlier.
The second page of the 1927 manifest for Meyer’s trip to Germany notes that he had previously been in the US from 1911 through 1927. This would explain why he is not on the 1910 census, but it doesn’t explain his absence from the 1920 census, unless he had been out of town then also. It also is inconsistent with the fact that he appears in the 1903 and 1905 directories as well with the information on the 1930 census stating he had arrived in 1923.
The 1929 manifest for Meyer is similar in content to the 1927 manifest, but he now lists his mother Charlotte as his contact in Germany and his brother Lee as his contact in Washington. Here he claims he had previously been in the US only since 1923, consistent with what he later reported on the 1930 census, but inconsistent with both the directory listings in 1903 and 1905 and the passenger manifest from 1927, just two years earlier. Could the time periods listed on these manifests report times lived at a very specific address in the US, not time periods in the US generally?
Thus, both Lee and Meyer likely arrived in the US in the first decade of the 1900s, but may have spent time back in Germany for various periods. Lee seems to have been permanently settled in the US by the 1910s, Meyer by the 1920s.
The 1929 directory for Washington, Pennsylvania, lists both Lee and Meyer as tailors, living at different addresses, Lee at 321 Burton Avenue, Meyer at 143 North Avenue, but only about a half mile apart. As reported on the 1930 census, Meyer was living as a lodger in someone’s home. In 1931, both Lee and Meyer are again listed as tailors in the directory and both residing at the same addresses provided in 1929. But for some reason, Lee does not appear on the 1930 census. (Residing at 321 Burton Avenue on the 1930 census was a couple named Jacob and Ruth Weber, owners of a grocery store; Lee is not listed as living with them.)
Lee is listed on several Washington directories in the 1930s, but Meyer is not in any directory after the 1931 issue. Where was Meyer, and why isn’t he included in the directories after 1931? I was puzzled by his absence. More on that in a later post.
Thus, by the early 1930s, both Lee and Meyer had been settled in the US for quite some time. Their sisters were all still living in Germany as was their mother. That, of course, would all change once Hitler came to power.
 The thirteen year gap between Henriette and Erna and the fact that Charlotte would have been 43 in 1898 made me somewhat skeptical of Erna’s birth year, but three sources corroborate that as the correct year, so I have to assume it’s correct. Plus there was a gap of twelve years between my mother and her sibling closest in age, so I know it happens.