According to the work done by David Baron, the earliest known Jesberg Katz/enstein ancestor was Bonum Katz ,who was also known as Pinchas ha Kohen. Those two surnames actually share the same meaning and origins. The name “Katz” is an acronym for Kohen Tzedek or “priest of justice” in Hebrew and is another name like Cohen usually indicating that the father’s family descended from the Cohanim, the priestly tribe traced back to Aaron, Moses’ brother. It is a fairly common Jewish surname as is Cohen.
All I know about Bonum Katz is that he died in Jesberg sometime after 1720 and that he had at least two children: a son named Schalum Ha Cohen, and a daughter named Jitl Katz. I don’t know when or where Pinchas was born, what he did for a living, who he married, or when he died.
Nor do I know very much about his son Schalum, though I know a little more about him than I do about Pinchas. According to the research done by David Baron, Schalum was born about 1720 in Jesberg and died there on February 3, 1774. He married a woman named Brendelchen, who was born in Treysa, Germany, and who died on May 17, 1776, in Jesberg.
According to David Baron, Schalum and Brendelchen had at least two children: my 4th great-grandfather, Meier Katz, born sometime before 1744, in Jesberg, and his brother Schneuer ha Kohen, also known as Salomon Katz, born in Jesberg on November 11, 1752. Salomon had ten children with two different wives.
Barbara Greve disagrees with David Baron as to whether or not the Katzenstein line began with Bonum Katz; she believes that that line is separate from the Katzenstein line. Whereas David believes that Schalum and Brendelchen had two sons, Salomon and Meier, Barbara believes that Meier was not their son but part of a separate family. I have at this point no way of knowing who is right and thus have included both views here for the moment. If Barbara is right, my Katzenstein line would begin with Meier Katz.
Meier Katz, my four times great-grandfather, only had one child: my third great-grandfather Abraham Schalom Ha Cohen, also known as Scholem Meier Katzenstein. It is interesting that whereas Meier used the surname Katz, his son Scholem used Katzenstein.
Scholem Meier Katzenstein, my third great-grandfather, thus may have been the first in my direct line to use the name Katzenstein. He was born in September 1769 and died on October 13, 1826, in Jesberg. He was an “Ellenwarenhandler,” according to Barbara Greve. Thanks to the help of the German Genealogy group on Facebook, I learned that Ellenwarenhandler is a term that was used to describe someone who sold dry goods according to specific measurements.
Scholem Katzenstein was married twice, first to Gella Katz (Katten) in January 1795 in Jesberg. Gella died on January 31, 1808, after giving birth to her fourth child with Scholem, Gela. The four children born to Gella and Scholem Meier were Hannchen (1798-1840), Mendel (1799-1799), Jacob (1803-1880), and Gela (1808-1808). Only Hannchen and Jacob survived infancy.
Scholem remarried on September 29, 1808; his second wife was my third-great-grandmother, Breine Katz Blumenfeld. She was born in Momberg, Germany, and David Baron thought was she probably the daughter of Abraham Katz Blumenfeld, and Geidel Katz, who would thus be my fourth-great-grandparents.
Scholem and Breine had four children. The first was Freudchen, born on November 4 1809 in Jesberg; she died September 8, 1818 when she was not yet nine years old.
A second daughter, Rahel, was born on January 15, 1813, in Jesberg. She married Jacob Katz, also of Jesberg; he and Rahel were cousins. Jacob was the great-grandson of Bonum Katz; Rahel was the great-great-grandaughter of Bonum Katz. Thus, Rahel and Jacob were second cousins, once removed. Rahel and Jacob had five children. Rahel died on December 7, 1861, in Jesberg.
(Since Barbara Greve believes that Bonum Katz was not the great-great-grandfather of Rahel, this statement may not be correct. For the moment I will let it stand, subject to change.)
Scholem and Breine also had a son named Moses, who was born in Jesberg on November 4, 1814. There was no further information about Moses on David’s family tree.
But most important to me was the remaining child of Scholem and Breine, Gerson Katzenstein, my great-great-grandfather. Although most American records have Gerson’s birth year at roughly 1815, the German records show that he was born on August 11, 1811, making him the second oldest child and oldest son of Scholem and Breine. Since Freudchen had died as a child, Gerson was effectively the oldest child, assuming that the Jesberg record as transcribed is more accurate than the US records.
So where do I begin to tell the story of this large family that extends back 300 years? I think it makes sense to start with my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein and his siblings.
 Given the seven year age gap between Salomon and Meier, it seems likely that Schalum and Brendelchen had other children who have not yet been found; the 1744 Jesberg census, for example, lists another son named Mendel, but no other information about him has been found.
 Despite the Katz surname, it does not appear that Gella was closely related to the Jesberg Katz/Katzenstein family as she was born in Halsdorf, another Hessian town; but given the marriage patterns in these families, there is likely some connection.