It’s time to move on to the next family line, although there is still so much to do on those I’ve started. As my most recent discoveries about the Brotman line reveal, there is always more to learn, more to find. I still have collateral lines to complete in the Schoenthal family—the families of my great-great-great-aunts, Mina Schoenthal Rosenberg and Fradchen (Fanny) Schoenthal Goldschmidt. In fact, however, Fanny’s family is intertwined with the next family’s story as well.
Because now it is time to turn to my remaining great-grandparent—my father’s maternal grandmother, Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal, wife of Isidor Schoenthal and mother of my grandmother, Eva Schoenthal. Hilda was the daughter of Gerson Katzenstein of Jesberg, Germany, and Eva Goldschmidt of Oberlistingen, Germany. My grandmother Eva was presumably named for her grandmother, Eva Goldschmidt.
Just over a year ago, I wrote about the crazy twist in my family tree involving Eva Goldschmidt, my great-great-grandmother. She was the daughter of Seligmann Goldschmidt, a brother of Simon Goldschmidt, who married Fanny Schoenthal, my great-great-grandfather’s brother.
In other words, my great-grandmother Hilda was a Goldschmidt, and her husband, my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal, was the nephew of Fanny Schoenthal Goldschmidt and thus had cousins named Goldschmidt. In fact, one of those cousins, Simon’s son Jacob Goldschmidt from his first marriage, was likely the first member of the extended family to settle in Washington, Pennsylvania, where my grandmother was born in 1904. More on the Goldschmidt family tree twist here. And more on the Goldschmidt family to come.
But for now I am going to focus on the Katzenstein side of my great-grandmother Hilda’s family. As I’ve indicated before, when I first started looking into my family’s history, this was the one line that had already been extensively researched by others. Long before I started my own research, David Baron and Roger Cibella had posted their research on an old Geocities page. And who even remembers Geocities!? Roger is my third cousin, once removed. I had contacted David and Roger years ago when I somehow fell upon their website (I don’t remember how), and was amazed that they were able to trace my family back to Gerson Katzenstein, my great-great-grandfather.
And although I was fascinated by their research, I didn’t pursue it further. I hadn’t yet been bitten by the genealogy bug.
Then when I was first bitten in 2012 and started to explore genealogy on my own, I found a family tree on Ancestry that included some of my Katzenstein relatives, and I contacted the tree owner, a woman named Jennifer with whom I’ve been in contact ever since as we continue to find ways that our families overlap. Back in June 2012, Jennifer put me in touch with an entire group of people with ties to the Katzenstein family, and from that group I also received a copy of the extensive report on the Jesberg Katzenstein family that had been done by a researcher named Barbara Greve.
Barbara Greve was born in Berlin, Germany after World War II. As an adult, she developed an interest in the history of the Jewish communities that had once lived in the Hesse region where she now lived and taught school. She began to research those communities and what had happened to the people who had lived in them, compiling extensive information and genealogies for those Jewish families, including the Katzensteins of Jesberg. In 2010, Greve received the esteemed Obermayer German Jewish History award. You can read more about her here.
I was both awestruck and overwhelmed by Barbara Greve’s research. At that point in time I was a total newbie and knew nothing about genealogy research or about my family’s history. All I had done at that point was the fourteen day free trial on Ancestry, where I had randomly searched for any name I knew from my family’s history. She had traced the Katzenstein line back another whole generation before Gerson Katzenstein to Scholum Katzenstein, my three-times great-grandfather, and included not only Gerson and his descendants, but Gerson’s four siblings and many of their descendants. Now I could trace the family back as early as 1769 when Scholum was born in Jesberg, Germany.
I had no idea that there were ancient records still in existence in places like Germany. Seeing all those names and dates going back over 200 years was amazing to me.
My reaction to the Katzenstein research at that time in 2012 was—well, I guess it’s all done. Nothing much left for me to do. This was over a year before I started blogging. I thought just collecting the names and dates was all I needed to do, and someone else had done it. So I moved away from the Katzensteins and returned to the other lines where the research was not as complete.
And along the way I learned that genealogy is not just about collecting names and dates, although that is a big part of the work. It’s also about trying to learn the stories of the lives of all those people behind the names and dates. It’s about putting yourselves in their shoes and recognizing the legacy that we have all inherited from our ancestors.
Thus, I now return to the Katzensteins knowing that there is still work to be done. There are stories to tell about these people, questions to ask, memories to honor. The work is never done.