The Goldfarbs and the Hechts: Some Lingering Questions and Some Answers

Finding the woman I believe to have been my grandmother’s long missing sister was definitely one of those high points in my research that I will always remember.  I had spent hours and hours searching for the elusive Sophie years before. I had completely given up on ever finding her.  I even wondered whether she’d been a figment of my aunt’s very creative imagination. But she wasn’t.  My aunt just had the wrong name.

That she ended up being named Toba or Taube or Tillie and not Sophie certainly is a lesson in not relying too heavily on family lore, and it is also one of the many perplexing things about this discovery and how it fits with family stories.

max mason

Hecht family lore said that Taube had two brothers who had arrived in the US before she did, but I have no evidence that there were two Brotman brothers here before 1887 when Taube arrived.  Joseph Brotman had three sons in Galicia with his first wife Chaye and one with his second wife, my great-grandmother, Bessie.  His oldest sons, Abraham and David, came to the US in 1889, the same year that Joseph immigrated; Max came in 1890. His next son, Hyman, was born in 1883 and came to the US with my great-grandmother Bessie in 1891.  None of these European born sons was here in 1887 when Taube arrived, at least as far as I can tell.

Of course, it is possible that I have missed a child or missed an earlier manifest.  Or it is possible that the Hecht family lore is not correct, just as my aunt’s document naming the missing sister as Sophie is seemingly not correct.  I don’t know which is more likely.

There’s also the mystery of Eva Singer and Ascher Singer, the two people who sailed from Tarnobrzeg on the Moravia apparently with Taube Brodt.  Were they really sailing with her or just bracketed on the manifest to show they were all from the same town? And what happened to the Singers after they got to the United States?

Taube Brodt ship manifest 1887 Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Microfilm No.: K_1736 Description Month : Direkt Band 059 (3 Jul 1887 - 29 Dez 1887)

Taube Brodt ship manifest 1887
Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Microfilm No.: K_1736
Month : Direkt Band 059 (3 Jul 1887 – 29 Dez 1887)

More importantly, what happened to Taube after she arrived if, in fact, she did not have two brothers living here already? Did she really go to St. Louis, as Hecht family lore indicates?

How I wish we had the 1890 census.  Perhaps if it still existed, I would have found that my great-grandfather Joseph Brotman was living in 1890 with his four children from his first marriage: Abraham, David, Max, and Taube.  But the 1890 census was destroyed in a fire, taking the answers with it.

I searched the 1890 New York City police census and the 1892 New York census on Ancestry, but alas, none of the Brotmans appears on those either.  I’ve searched in city directories for both New York and St. Louis, but again with no luck. There is a J. Brodman in the 1891 NYC directory, a “pedlar” living on Ridge Street; that could be my great-grandfather, but I certainly can’t tell for sure; plus it doesn’t help me find Taube as there is no listing for her nor, for that matter, for Abraham, David, or Max.

I thus don’t know where Taube was from the time she arrived in the US in 1887 until she gave birth to her first son, Harry, in 1892.  But from there on, I have been able to find her story—up to her sad death in 1944.


As her death certificate reported. she died from osteomyelitis after a fall on the sidewalk. The Mayo Clinic defined osteomyelitis as follows: “Osteomyelitis is an infection in a bone. Infections can reach a bone by traveling through the bloodstream or spreading from nearby tissue. Infections can also begin in the bone itself if an injury exposes the bone to germs.”  According to my medical consultant, today osteomyelitis rarely results in death, but back in 1944, antibiotic treatment was not as effective.

I also have an answer to the question I posed in my last post; I had asked for help in deciphering Ida Hecht’s occupation on the 1910 census:

Ida Hecht occupation on 1910 census

Ida Hecht occupation on 1910 census

Several readers, here and on Facebook, responded to my question with “button holer.” I wasn’t sure what that was, but another commenter did.  Bob Brotman (no relationship yet found to my Brotmans) wrote that it meant buttonhole maker, and explained, “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.” Live and learn—always something new!

But other questions remain unanswered. There is the question of whether Brod, Brodman, Brotman, etc., are different names or different versions of the same name.  Were my great-grandparents both really named Brod or Brotman? Or was one a Brod, the other a Brotman?

I posted a question on the JewishGen listserv about whether Brod and Brotman were the same or different names, and I received conflicting responses.  One person, referring to Alexander Beider’s Dictionary of Surnames for the Russian Empire, wrote that Brotman is just another form of the surname Brot, meaning bread or bread man. Another person suggested that Brotman was an Americanization of Brod and that people often forgot the original name once they immigrated.

But another person said that they are two different names; this person said Brotman means “bread man” whereas Brot is a toponym for the place where people “ford” rivers, Brodt being a Slavic word for “ford.”  And then Stanley Diamond of JRI Poland wrote that both names existed in the Tarnobrzeg region and seemed to come from different families. So I am just as confused as I was before I asked the question.

Also, I still don’t know how, if at all, my great-grandparents Joseph and Bessie were related to each other. If they were first cousins, through what relationship? Were their fathers brothers? Or was it that one’s mother and the other’s father were siblings? Or were their mother’s sisters? I don’t know.

As has happened time and again with my Brotman line, I can only move forward in inches, but at least I am moving forward.  I have found a woman I believe to have been my great-grandmother’s sister—Sarah Brod/Brotman Goldfarb.  I have also found a woman I believe to have been my grandmother’s half-sister—Toba/Taube/Tillie Brotman Hecht.  And it all started with the discovery of my aunt’s 1917 baby book and two names that were not familiar to me.[1]  Once again, I am indebted to my Aunt Elaine, who would have been 99 years old tomorrow.

Aunt Elaine baby book 5

Can I say with 100% certainty that I am right about either one? No, but I am probably as right about it as I can get.  Having checked again to see if there were any new records discovered in Tarnobrzeg and learning that there have not been (and will not be, apparently), this may be the best I can do.

In my next post I will share some of the photos of my Hecht and Goldfarb cousins and compare them to my known Brotman relatives to see if there are any family resemblances.


[1] There are still other names in the baby that I will investigate more completely, though nothing has yet turned up that’s been helpful.

33 thoughts on “The Goldfarbs and the Hechts: Some Lingering Questions and Some Answers

  1. The first word up there looks like Butler, and the second word appears to start with an H. I can’t make out the rest. As for family stories, we have ours as well. One version is that my great aunt “was dropped as a baby” thus causing one leg to be shorter than the other; she walked with a significant limp her whole life. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. When telling my mother-in-law, a former nurse, she said this was a common result for babies who were born with a dislocated hip. Treatment for this didn’t exist in 1902. I believe the stigma of this being a possible “deformity” is why the former story began, and the reason she never had children. I think the family created the story out of fear. I never heard that the dropped version was a doctor’s opinion. It’s forever a mystery. Great job once again. 🙂


    • Thanks, Karen! I can’t imagine a woman was a butler, but then I don’t see holer there either.
      What a story! You’d think they’d be more ashamed of dropping the baby than it being born with a dislocated hip. And perhaps both are true—could the fall have dislocated her hip?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know, right? A female butler was not common, but that’s what the word looks like to me; just can’t explain the second word. You know, both could be true, but Hazel was very tiny–only grew to 4′ 10″ and weighed about 110. So as a baby, she was tiny and small like my daughter who was top heavy. When my daughter was a baby, all her weight was above the waist. If that were true with Hazel, I would think her injuries would be more in the head or neck or shoulder regions, unless the point of impact was at the hip. Just cannot be sure. When I described how my aunt walked, my MIL immediately thought of dislocated hip, but both could have occurred. I think the family was more afraid of what others would think had that been a “deformity” than a dislocated hip.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Other than my MIL, I’ve never asked but I like your idea. I’ll run it by my doctor. You’re writing to one of Hazel’s two remaining descendants. She was my great aunt, and my sister and I are the only ones left. I keep hoping I’ll find a reference to this and the loss of Orah oldest daughter, Lillian, but so far, nothing. Good thing I’m retired…. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The missing 1890 census has tripped up so many of us. Any missing census year would have us complaining. However, we see a lot of 1880-1900 period immigration on the 1900 and 1920 census and that 1890 census would be ever so helpful.
    Keep asking the questions, Amy. Maybe you just haven’t asked the right one or asked it the wrong way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know—it drives me crazy that there is this critical 20 year gap between the two census reports. Many of my relatives came here between 1880 and 1900.

      And yes, I will keep plugging along. A year ago I’d never, ever have imagined that I’d find more Brotmans, and then my cousin found her mother’s baby book.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Amy, I’m incredibly intrigued by your blog and your journey. I’ve only just stumbled across your writing here but as a Hecht with an interest in my family genealogy I’ve stumbled across the records of your Hecht ancestors many times before.

    Again and again I saw the Hechts you mentioned while trying to untangle the web of similar names and similar immigration timelines I found online in order to tease out some meaningful information about my own lineage. My great grandfather, Samuel Hecht, immigrated to America from Tarnapol, a city in what may have been Poland then, or possibly the Ukraine? (the family stories were unclear, and in census documents his origin was noted once as Russia and once as Austria) between 1910 and 1912. He eventually arrived in Philadelphia where he founded a cabinetry business, the sign for which, S. Hecht and Sons, can still be seen today although the business is long gone. He married a woman either named Ida, or Sdo, according to the census, again.

    I thought that might be all I’d ever know but I was told by one of my second cousins a couple years ago that Samuel’s father was Leib Hecht and his mother Hinda. She also told me Samuel Hecht had numerous siblings: an older half sister named Clara and another two younger sisters, as as well as three younger brothers. The younger sisters were Tzeril and Sarah. Tezeril also came to America. The younger brothers were Gidalya, Philip, and Jacob. Jacob Hecht immigrated to America as well some time in the early 1900’s. I was subsequently able to meet one of Tzeril’s grandchildren, now in her nineties, and get more information and even some photographs

    So by now I suspect you can see why your ancestors sounded so familiar. While your Hechts are clearly not the exact same Hechts, I would not be surprised if somewhere along the way there wasn’t a connection. I’d be happy to share any information and materials I have if you think it could be of interest to you. And my compliments again on your amazing work. I look forward to reading more of your blog in the future.

    Kimberley Hecht

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Kimberley, Thank you so much for reading and for commenting. And for your kind words! It would be amazing if our Hecht families were connected. Since Jacob Hecht was only related to me through his marriage to Toba Brotman, I had not fully explored his background. US records say he was from Poland and that he arrived in the US sometime between 1886 and 1890. He obviously was in NY and married to Toba by 1892 when their first child was born. But I have not found anything that reveals his place of birth more specifically that Poland. If I do, I will let you know!

      Thanks again!


  4. Amy, I think everyone will eventually work their way through the initial shock. I’ve read and heard on the news about people who want to run away to Canada. No, I want to say. That is not how you fight back. That is not how you build alliances. No, you will not grow strong. All that does is help fear become your master.

    I was bullied for three years in Junior High School. My parents had problems in their marriage and we had many money problems. My Dad would not take me out of the school. I was in a program for special progress students that was said to prepare the students for college. My parents bought into that. My Dad told me it wouldn’t kill me. I had to learn how to take a lot of verbal abuse, he said, because the goal of a scholarship was worth it. At least I wasn’t getting physically hurt.

    It was based on anti-Semitism and a dislike of some of my friends. I learned that you cannot back down and show a bully your weaknesses and fears. It’s very hard but if one runs away, what will you do the next time you meet a different bully in a different place?

    People have showed an ugly mob mentality and yes it is scary. But if you learn how to be sly you can navigate through these encounters and not get mentally and physically scarerd. Hurt maybe but not scarred for life. There are people out here who have to work for a living, You don’t know if your boss or client might support the other side. This is what I mean about learning how to navigate. Not everybody has the means to pick and choose the ideal environment and surroundings and people in their envioronment.

    I also look at an experience like this as a spiritual one. The struggle and the suffering one goes through are what show what one is worth. I get most of this from my spiritual and religious upbringing. If one can find strength in that, then go for it. Or else take up a physical fitness activity. But do not let the other side see weakness or get an in on you. That is when the bully sinks in and goes for the kill. And I do think many of those in the mob are bullies and that is what you’re dealing with.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emily, thank you so much for this and for sharing your own struggles. It means a lot, and your words are very wise. After two days of intense grief and anger, I am starting to find a place to put my positive energy to work. I need to feel like I am doing something to fight the forces of evil. It may mean less time for genealogy, but so be it. The past means nothing if we have no future. Thank you again for your wisdom.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Amy, Glad to share with you. I think all the ugliness we’ve seen is like a sign of a great sickness. Our country had a high fever and all this resulted in a purge of what was under the surface. If you can get a copy of the NY Times edition for today there are some very honest articles about what happened. Journalists were so arrogant they thought their analytics programs could predict who would win and what the trends were. They were not out there in the streets listening to Both Sides of the Issue from people all around the country. Both sides have been so badly isolated.

        I will be very forthright. The soul searching has to be from within the ranks of the Democtratic party as well. Debbie Wasserman Schulz got off too lightly. Bernie was my guy. What happeed with Debbie’s emails about him is awful. And remember there were some remarks about him not being a real Jew. What the hell does that really mean and who is Debbie and her cronies to say things like that?

        The media focused on the bullies who went mad during the crowded rallies. Let me give you another side. I connected with some cousins I have come to love very much. We came together through my other blog posting. It was almost supernatural how a FindAGrave memorial became the focus of our search and final connection to each other.

        My cousins have had an awful time since the Recession. Financial difficulties and health problems. Obama’s healthcare reform did nothing for us. Even with a subsidy my premium would be $300+ a month with a $5000 deductible. That is how much a bronze plan costs and is like here in New York. Instead I go to a community clinic where services are pro-rated. I was able to direct my cousin there.

        We’re both worried about gentrification. Lots of upper class whites are so hot to live in Brooklyn, Queens, Uptown ad even some parts of the Bronx. You should listen to the Pbs SERIES “There goes the neighborhood”. It’s about how the newcomers drive the long time families out of the community. My cousins and I gave each other a lot of support during out last meet-up. Bankruptcy, fears of increasing rent, fears for our health. And then I learned they supported Trump. I told them I was bitterly disappointed by the entire treatment of Bernie and his supporters. Yes, I had other Dems tell me to stop whining and get behind Clinton. I do not deserve to be treated like a unfeeling and unthinking adult. The last time someone told me to get in line and stop whining was back in elementary school when a teacher lost patience with me because I was in a rush to get inside after recess on a windy day.

        My cousins and I also agreed on the need for repair to our roads and parks. We didn’t argue. I gave ground. It didn’t matter to me that they said so much more than me. I love them and love is more important. I won’t give them or the relationship up.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Emily. I had no issues with Bernie, and on some issues agreed more with him than Clinton. But I never for a second thought (or think) that he was electable. I do hope he will continue to fight for the issues that matter so much to him. I hope we all will.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Amy, I love our exchanges. It helped me, too, to share my thoughts and feelings. I still think everyone has to prioritize and look at things from a practical point of view. Right now I know some people who say they are devastated at the defunding of NPR and PBS that is up ahead. They THINK that might happen but NPR and PBS have a solid base amongst middle aged people. They need to get sharper and consider alternative funding sources if indeed the gov’t cuts funding to them. Those with a sharp set of fundraising skills can offer to donate time. But not for the same old telephone call type fund raisers. They should consider partnering with philanthropists or privately owned companies. Where there is a will there is a way.

        What areas would you like to focus on, if you’d like to share? Mine is education. I’m very concerned about the excessive standardized testing that has dominated our schools. Too much time is devoted to test prep and not enough to teaching creative inquiry, reasoning, logic and philosophy geared towards teens. The kids are burdened with longer school hours. School becomes something they DO instead of experience. Memorization of answers to questions is not real learning. I’d also like to reconsider charter schools.


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