As I wrote last week, Samuel Hamberg, my great-grandfather’s second cousin, was orphaned in 1879 in Columbia, South Carolina, when his father Charles committed suicide two years after Samuel’s mother Lena had died at age 28. But how did Samuel end up in Pennsylvania? Looking for the answer to that question led to another mystery and, I think, more answers.
Charles Hamberg died without a will, leaving behind personal property consisting primarily of furniture and household items valued at that time at $487.71; today that would be equivalent to approximately $11,600. The administratrix of his estate was someone named Amelia (or Amalia or Amalie ) Hamberg.
Now who was she? For a long time I assumed she was yet a third wife, someone Charles married after Mary, who’d been murdered, and Lena, mother of Samuel. Lena had died in 1877, leaving Charles with their nine year old son. I figured he had quickly married again, finding a mother for Samuel. But I could not find one record for an Amalia or Amelia or Amalie Hamberg anywhere in South Carolina before or after Charles’ death. I couldn’t even find someone with just that first name who seemed a likely candidate. I was working in circles, getting frustrated.
Then I searched for anyone named Amelia or Amalia or Amalie Hamberg anywhere in the US, and I found one Amalia Hamberg on a death record for her daughter Hattie Baer Herman, who had died in Philadelphia in 1910. Hattie’s father was Jacob Baer. Both parents were born in Germany, according to the death certificate.
Then it occurred to me: what if Amalia was not Charles Hamberg’s wife, but a sister or a cousin? If Charles died unmarried and intestate, some other family member might have been appointed to administer his estate.
So I looked back at the Hamberg family tree, and I saw that there was a Malchen Hamberg on the tree. Malchen was the daughter of Seligmann Hamberg and granddaughter of Moses Hamberg. She was my great-grandfather’s first cousin.
Malchen was born March 7, 1851, in Breuna, and according to the family report posted on the site maintained by Hans-Peter Klein, she had emigrated from Germany. She certainly looked like a possible candidate for the Amalia Hamberg who had been appointed to administer Charles Hamberg’s estate. She was, like my great-grandfather, a first cousin, once removed, of Charles Hamberg.
So I had found yet another Hamberg cousin who had immigrated to the US. Further research revealed that Amalia had immigrated in 1871, arriving in Baltimore.
According to the 1900 census, Amalia married Jacob Baer in 1873. Reviewing the birth records of their children indicated that Amalia and Jacob lived in Pittsburgh for many years where they had nine children born between 1874 and 1891. (More on Amalia and her family in a later post.) The fact that Amalia ended up in Pittsburgh where her Schoenthal cousins were living further corroborated my assumption that she was in fact Malchen Hamberg of Breuna.
And then the icing on the cake: I received the death certificate for Amalia Baer. Amalia Baer died on April 23, 1931, in New York City. Her father’s name was Selig Hamburger.
Okay, it not precisely right. Malchen’s father was Seligmann Hamberg. So the informant cut off a syllable from the first name and added one to the surname. I still think Amalia was Malchen.
The mother’s name was even further off—Julia Schwartz instead of Jette Gans. But death certificates are often filled with mistakes, and it’s not surprising that the informant did not have completely accurate information about the parents of a 78 year old woman, parents that the informant had likely never met.
The certificate also stated that Amalia had been in the US for 60 years; Amalia Hamberg had arrived in 1871, sixty years before 1931, the year Amalia Baer died.
So I am 99% sure that Malchen Hamberg, granddaughter of my three-times great-grandfather Moses Hamberg, was Amalia Hamberg, wife of Jacob Baer, administratrix of Charles Hamberg’s estate.
Only one thing seemed strange. If Amalia married Jacob Baer in 1873, why was she using the name Hamberg in 1879 when she was appointed to administer Charles’ estate? I don’t know. Hence, that lingering one percent of doubt.
There are also other questions. Why wasn’t Charles’ brother Moses made the administrator of his estate? He was the closest relative. Why Amalia, his cousin and a woman, instead?
Well, I cannot find the Moses Hamberg from Breuna who immigrated in 1846 as a seventeen year old shoemaker on any subsequent record. Having searched every census from 1850 forward using wild cards, misspellings, and several databases, I have hit that proverbial brick wall. I can find other men named Moses Hamberg, but none that fit the other criteria for being the correct person. Either the age is off, the birth place is wrong, or the family members and structure are different.
Maybe Moses changed his name so drastically that it is undiscoverable. Maybe he died and his death is not recorded anywhere I can find. Maybe he returned to Germany or went to some third place. I don’t know. But I can’t find him. That may explain why Amalia, not Moses, administered Charles Hamberg’s estate.
But there are other questions. By 1879 Amalia had several young children of her own to care for. Did she travel to South Carolina to deal with Samuel and with the estate? Or was it all handled locally by Walter. S. Monteith, the Columbia attorney representing Amalia, according to the estate papers?
And how did Samuel get from Columbia, South Carolina, to Washington, Pennsylvania? Did Amalia go to get him? Or Henry? Or some other family member? Or did he take a train by himself? These are all questions for which I have no answers.
As for what happened to Samuel after he came to Pennsylvania—well, that’s a story for yet another post.
 The spelling varies according to the record; later records seem to consistently use Amalia so I will adopt that in this post.