Oh, Happy Day! Tillie Hecht Mystery, Part II

I was just about to throw in the towel.  I couldn’t find one additional clue about Taube Brotman Hecht and whether she was related to me.  There were no records online to help.

According to the 1900 and 1905 census records, Jacob Hecht and his wife Tillie lived in the Lower East Side and then by 1910 had moved to Brooklyn.  Jacob was a tailor, and in 1910 their son Harry was working as a bookkeeper in a department store and their daughter Ida was also employed, but I can’t quite make out her job: operator in a button or butter something?

jacob-and-tillie-hecht-1910-census

Jacob and Tillie Hecht 1910 US census Year: 1910; Census Place: Brooklyn Ward 16, Kings, New York; Roll: T624_964; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 0329; FHL microfilm: 1374977

Ida Hecht occupation on 1910 census

Ida Hecht occupation on 1910 census

In 1913, Ida married Julius Goldfarb, as noted in an earlier post.  In 1915, Jacob and Tillie Hecht and their other seven children were living in the same building as Sam and Sarah Goldfarb, Ida’s in-laws, and Hyman and Sophie Brotman, my grandmother’s brother and his wife.  Jacob was working as a tailor, and Harry was working as a salesman; the other children were still in school.

sam-goldfarb-and-family-1915-ny-census-bottom-left-and-top-right

Hecht family 1915 NY census;  New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 18; Assembly District: 06; City: New York; County: New York; Page: 85

Jacob and Tillie Hecht still had the seven other children living with them in 1920, now on East 4th Street in New York City; Jacob continued to work as an operator in a cloak factory and Harry as a salesman in a department store.  David Hecht was working as a clerk for the War Department, and Etta, Gussie (listed as Augusta here) and Sadie were all working as stenographers.  The two youngest children, Rose (listed as Rebecca here) and Eva, were not yet employed.

jacob-and-tillie-hecht-1920-us-census

Jacob and Tillie Hecht and family, 1920 US census Year: 1920; Census Place: Manhattan Assembly District 2, New York, New York; Roll: T625_1188; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 226; Image: 1055

Meanwhile, Ida and her husband Julius Goldfarb and their children had by 1920 moved to Jersey City, NJ, where Julius was in the liquor business.  Within five years, almost all of the Hecht family had followed them to Jersey City, including Jacob and Tillie.  As you can see from this segment from the 1925 Jersey City directory, Jacob and Tillie were now living at 306 4th Street, and right above their listing is a listing for their son Harry.  He was working as a clerk for none other than Herman Brotman: my great-uncle, my grandmother’s brother Hymie.  Another piece of the puzzle was fitting together.

Hechts in 1925 Jersey City directory Title : Jersey City, New Jersey, City Directory, 1925 Source Information Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

Hechts in 1925 Jersey City directory
Title : Jersey City, New Jersey, City Directory, 1925
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

But there were two other Hechts listed here at the same address as Jacob and Tillie: Jean and Shirley, both working as stenographers.  I wasn’t sure which daughter was now using Jean and which was now using Shirley, but I guessed that Jean was probably Gussie and Shirley was probably Sadie. David, Etta, Rose, and Eva were not listed.  I could not find them elsewhere either.  Was Etta married? Rose and Eva were young enough that they could have still been in school, but where was David, who would have been 29 in 1925?

Fortunately, I was able to find a few of the Hechts on the 1930 census, which answered some of those questions.  In 1930, Jacob and Tillie were still living in Jersey City with David, Rose, and Eva (listed as Evelyn here).  Jacob was no longer working, but David was working as a real estate broker and Rose and Eva were both working as stenographers.

Jacob and Tillie Hecht 1930 US census Year: 1930; Census Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: 1353; Page: 22A; Enumeration District: 0100; Image: 602.0; FHL microfilm: 2341088

Jacob and Tillie Hecht 1930 US census
Year: 1930; Census Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: 1353; Page: 22A; Enumeration District: 0100; Image: 602.0; FHL microfilm: 2341088

Their son Harry Hecht had moved to Brooklyn by 1930 and was now married to a woman named Sophie; they had two children.  Harry was the proprietor of a store.

Harry Hecht and family 1930 US census Year: 1930; Census Place: Brooklyn, Kings, New York; Roll: 1522; Page: 15A; Enumeration District: 1357; Image: 271.0; FHL microfilm: 2341257

Harry Hecht and family 1930 US census
Year: 1930; Census Place: Brooklyn, Kings, New York; Roll: 1522; Page: 15A; Enumeration District: 1357; Image: 271.0; FHL microfilm: 2341257

As for Etta, Gussie, and Sadie, I assumed they were married, but I couldn’t find them.  And at that point I hit a wall. I could not find any of the Hecht daughters on the NYC marriage index.  Because the family had moved to New Jersey, and New Jersey has so far refused to put even an index of its birth, marriage, or death records online, there was no simple way for me to find marriage records for them in New Jersey. I assumed that Gussie/Jean and Sadie/Shirley had married between 1925 and 1930 and that Etta had married between 1920 and 1925, but paying for a search for these certificates did not seem like a wise use of my resources.

I already had two documents that said that Tillie Hecht’s birth name had been Taube or Toba Brotman: her son Harry’s birth certificate and her daughter Ida’s marriage certificate; there was also a ship manifest for a Taube Brodt from Tarnobrzeg.    In addition, I had found this entry on the SSACI for a Jean Gross, giving me not only information about Jean Hecht’s married name, but also another confirmation that Taube’s birth name was Toba Brotman:

Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.

Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.

The additional marriage certificates for the remaining daughters might have given me further confirmation that their mother’s birth name was Taube/Toba Brotman, but what I really wanted to know was who Taube’s parents were.  And that meant finding either her marriage certificate or her death certificate, not her children’s marriage certificates.  But before I could do that, I wanted some rough idea of when she died so that I could make a reasonable request of my researcher in Trenton.

That meant finding the 1940 census to see if Tillie Hecht was still alive in 1940.  The New Jersey archives allows public access to death certificates up to 1955; I had to hope that Tillie had died in New Jersey before 1955.

I was able to find Tillie Hecht on the 1940 census; she was still living in Jersey City at 306 East 4th Street.

Tillie Hecht and family 1940 US census Year: 1940; Census Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: T627_2401; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 24-50

Tillie Hecht and family 1940 US census
Year: 1940; Census Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: T627_2401; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 24-50

She was now a widow, so Jacob had died since the 1930 census. It also says she was sixty years old whereas Tillie would really have been at least sixty-four.  There were two adult children living with her: Dave, who was listed as 35 and not employed, and Ruth, who was 26 and working as an assistant in a doctor’s office.  David Hecht should have been 45 in 1950, and Rose would have been 36. Had Rose changed her name from Rebecca (1930) to Ruth in 1940?  Had Tillie shaved ten years off the ages of herself and both of her children, or was there possibly another Tillie Hecht living in Jersey City, born in Austria?

I decided to assume for search purposes that this was the right Tillie Hecht and to ask my researcher to see if she could find a death certificate for a Taube or Tillie Hecht between 1940 and 1955.  And then I waited.

But while I was waiting, I also emailed Tillie’s great-granddaughter Sue and asked her what she knew about her Hecht relatives: what were the married names of her grandmother’s sisters? When did Jacob and Tillie and their children die? Did she know anything else that might help me find out how Tillie Brotman Hecht was related to my Brotmans, if at all?

Sue then spoke to her cousin Renee, one of Tillie’s grandchildren (Jean Hecht’s daughter), and filled me in on what Renee had told her.  It was an email filled with a great deal of information, but the part that was most critical to solving my question about Tillie Hecht was this one:

Tillie (Toba) Brotman came to U.S. at 10 years of age she thinks. 2 brothers were already here…redheads …or at least one was. The brothers sent Tillie to a house in St. Louis…to work…learn English, or both. Renee remembers her mother and Aunt Etta (also a Hecht girl) taking the subway to Brooklyn to see “The Uncle” who must have been one of Tillie’s brothers.

I read this paragraph several times, trying to sort out what it meant.  First, the fact that Tillie had come to the US at ten was consistent with the Taube Brodt I’d found on the 1887 ship manifest, listing Taube as eleven at that time.

Second, Renee reported that Taube had had two brothers here already— and that they were redheads.  That stopped me in my tracks—my mother, my aunt, my grandmother, my grandmother’s sisters—all were redheads.  Red hair is recessive and not all that common.  Could this just be coincidence? A Brotman from Tarnobrzeg with red hair had to be related to my family.

My grandmother with her two daughters, my Aunt Elaine and my mother 1933

My grandmother with her two daughters, my Aunt Elaine and my mother 1933.  All redheads.

But who were these two brothers? And why did they send Taube to St. Louis? I had no record of any Brotman from my family arriving before 1887 when Taube Brodt arrived.

I then read Sue’s email again.  This time a different paragraph jumped out at me:

Renee recalls meeting a cousin also named Renee who she thinks was the daughter of one of Tillie’s brothers. As she recalls, they owned a hardware store on Lexington Ave. and 59th in NYC.  Renee thought that both Renees were named for an Aunt Irene.

A big, loud bell went off in my slow-witted brain.  I knew who that second Renee was.  She was Renee Brotman, daughter of Max Brotman, my grandmother’s older half-brother.  Renee had married Charles Haber, and they owned a hardware store on Lexington Avenue and 59th Street in New York City.  I emailed Renee’s daughter Judy to confirm that that was in fact the address.

Max, Sophie, Rosalie and Renee

Max, Sophie, Rosalie and Renee Brotman. Max was my grandmother’s half-brother.

Suddenly I knew exactly who Toba Brotman, aka Taube Brodt, aka Tillie Hecht, was.

She was my grandmother’s half-sister, the missing sibling I had long ago, years ago, given up on ever finding.  I had searched and searched and found not one shred of a clue.  I only knew she existed because my Aunt Elaine had listed all of the children of Joseph Brotman, including those with his first wife Chaye, on her family tree.  There had been a daughter named Sophie, according to my aunt.

Family Tree drawn by Elaine Goldschlager Lehbraum

Family Tree drawn by Elaine Goldschlager Lehbraum

max mason

My aunt had all the other names right—could she have been mistaken about Sophie’s name? Was it really Toba or Taube or Tillie?

Plus there was another thing that troubled me: if Tillie Hecht was really my grandmother’s sister, it meant that my grandmother had two sisters using the name Tillie: her full sister Tillie, the one my mother knew well, Tillie Brotman Ressler, and this other half-sister Tillie Brotman Hecht.  How could there be two sisters with the same first name?

Tilly Ressler 1944

Tilly Brotman Ressler 1944.  My grandmother’s sister. And also a redhead.

But then I thought some more.  Tillie Hecht’s original name had been Toba; Tillie Ressler’s original name had been Tema.  They were not given the same name at birth; they both had just adopted the same Americanized nickname in the United States.  Maybe that’s why my aunt thought of Tillie Hecht as Sophie? Maybe some in the family still called her Toba or Taube and that sounded like Sophie to my aunt? (Those of us who knew her well knew how my Aunt Elaine could mangle a name.)

And who was this Aunt Irene that the two Renees were named for? A clue for that came from my cousin Judy; she said her mother Renee had originally been named Ida, but it was changed to Irene soon after she was born.  Irene then evolved into Renee.  When I saw “Ida,” I recalled that Ida was often a secular name for girls named Chaye.  Chaye was the name of Joseph Brotman’s first wife, the mother of Abraham, David, Max, and “Sophie.” Max Brotman had named his daughter Ida (then Irene) for his mother Chaye.  If Tillie Brotman Hecht was in fact “Sophie,” it made sense that she also named her first daughter Ida for her mother Chaye.

It all made sense.  But I knew better than to rely on family lore.  I needed some kind of official record to back up my hypothesis.

And then it arrived.  Tillie Hecht’s death certificate:

tillie-hecht-death-certificate

Her father was Joseph Brotman, my great-grandfather. Tillie Hecht, born Toba Brotman, was my grandmother’s half-sister.  The Hecht children, all eight of them, were my mother’s first cousins.  I had found the long missing Sophie, only she was really Toba.

There were still questions to address, but for the moment, I just was content to wallow in the joyous mud of discovery.

 

25 thoughts on “Oh, Happy Day! Tillie Hecht Mystery, Part II

    • I think Chaya and Chaye are just two spellings of the same Hebrew name. I have also seen it Americanized to Anna. There were no firm rules for what name they chose when here. I’ve seen Chaim became Harry, Henry, Herman, etc. Glad it was helpful!

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  1. Wonderful story, Amy. I was glued to my computer screen through all the twists and turns! What a terrible way for Tillie to die though; so sad.

    It’s disappointing when children of the deceased list “unknown” for the name(s) of their grandparents, or “unknown” for birth dates/places, isn’t it? I imagine Tillie’s cause of death created some distress; maybe Joseph still wasn’t thinking clearly when the death certificate was being filled out.

    I’m so happy for you that an ages-old mystery has been solved. What a wonderful DONE (my favorite four-letter word) moment you must be having!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Laura! This one was so much fun to unwind. As for Tillie’s mother’s name, it wasn’t Joseph who would have filled it out—-he was long deceased by the time his daughter died. Her son Harry was the informant, and since Chaye had died in Europe and he’d never known her, it’s not that surprising that he didn’t remember her name. Chaye died by 1881 so Tillie would have been less than ten years old when her mother died. Thanks again!

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      • Whoops, I meant to say Harry, not Joseph. I see now that of course Harry wouldn’t have known that information. But what about Tillie’s birth date? Is it possible, having lost her mother so young, maybe even she didn’t know?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well, birthdays were not a big deal for Eastern European Jews. Most of my Brotman relatives had numerous dates for birthdays, including different years. And remember Toba had different ages on different records. I am sure Harry had no idea when she was really born!

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      • With today’s emphasis on birthday celebrations, it’s hard for us to imagine a lack of annual birthday parties, isn’t it? I have a number of ancestors with “unknown” in their DOB fields because (I imagine) they had far greater concerns.

        I loved the story. Just my Type-A brain wanting all the spaces filled in. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Amy:

    I haven’t written you before. I have been reading your amazing work, tho. Truly outstanding.

    I have one small correction for your last blog. You state that Max Brotman named his FIRST

    daughter Ida. Ida (Irene)(Renee) was his second daughter. His first daughter was Rose

    (Rosalie). She was two years older (born June 30, 1908) (my mother). Keep up the great

    work! Tom Jones

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Tom! It’s great to hear from you, and I am so glad you are still reading the blog. Thanks for your kind words, and thank you also for the correction! Of course, Rosalie was the older sister—it had slipped my mind. I will go and correct the text now. Thanks so much, cousin!

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  3. I believe that Ida Hecht was a BUTTONHOLE MAKER. In 1910 it was a specialized skill in the sweat shops and worth higher pay than most of the piece work. Women who sewed their own clothing at home would take the almost finished garments to a buttonhole maker for this final touch.
    Special buttonhole making machines were used commercially in the late 1800’s. Home sewing machines could not make decent buttonholes until the 1950’s.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is great, Amy, your new discovery, but I can certainly understand the frustration. From Jean/Gussie and Shirley/Sadie, to Toba/Taube/Tillie. Your persistence is remarkable; not sure I’d have stuck with it this far. Glad you stayed the course.

    My father’s aunt Hazel Dee Helen, de Helen, or D’Helen–we’ve seen it spelled all three ways–is what we’ve been dealing with and the fact she was married to a criminal who managed to cover up his shady past. She had some papers revealing his past buried with her. If I can ascertain my suspicions, it will be a blog post/series for sure. Her name differences and his past make for a great novel, someday.

    While you were wallowing, I hope you made some mud pies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL! Lots of mudpies! I love these mysteries, and in my family, multiple names is the norm. Jews in Europe had both Hebrew names and secular names; then they came here and adopted Americanized names, often moving among various spellings and names before settling on what they liked. So it does make it challenging! Good luck wih Aunt Hazel. Sounds intriguing.

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  5. Pingback: The Goldfarbs and the Hechts: Some Lingering Questions and Some Answers | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  6. Pingback: The Work is Never Done | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  7. Pingback: Meeting New Cousins | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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