Having completed the story of my great-great-uncle S.J. Katzenstein and his family, I am now going to turn to my great-grandmother’s sister, Brendina, who was the third child of Gerson Katzenstein and Eva Goldschmidt and just three years old when the family immigrated to the US. I have been looking forward to writing about Brendina because my father knew her (he refers to her as Aunt Dean, which is how she was known in the family), and he knew some of her children and her granddaughter. He has been able to bring them to life for me in a way that has not been possible with so many of my other ancestors and their families.
As I wrote previously, Brendina was married to Jacob Schlesinger, a butcher who had, like Brendina, emigrated from Germany with his family. Brendina and Jacob had five children: Heloise (1874), Solomon Joseph (known as Joe, born 1875), Alfred (1879), Sidney (1880), and Aimee (1887). As of 1900, they were all still living together in in Philadelphia, and Jacob listed his occupation on the 1900 census as a meat salesman. Their oldest son, Solomon Joseph, was a manager of a laundry, and Alfred was managing a newspaper. Sidney was working as a clerk in a clothing store. The two daughters, Heloise and Aimee, were not employed.
Ten years later, all five children were still living at home, ranging in age from 23 to 35. Jacob had retired, but the three sons were all employed as was the younger daughter, Aimee. Joseph was working as a salesman in a department store as was Sidney, and Alfred and Aimee were both working in advertising—Alfred as a manager, Aimee as a clerk. Heloise was not working outside the home.
The years between 1910 and 1920 were eventful years for the Schlesinger family, some joyful, some quite tragic.
In 1911 Sidney Schlesinger was the first of the Schlesinger children to marry; he married Anna Levis. My father remembers her fondly as his cousin Nan, as she was called. Nan was the daughter of William R. Levis and Caroline Bopp. Her father William, a plumber and son of a bricklayer, was born on December 25, 1860, in Philadelphia. He married Caroline Bopp, daughter of Moritz Bopp, a liquor dealer, on December 25, 1882, in a Methodist church in Philadelphia. Nan was born May 19, 1886, in Philadelphia. Sadly, Nan’s father died on March 15, 1898. He was only 37 years old and died from heart disease. Nan was only eleven years old.
Before marrying Sidney in 1911, Nan had been living with her mother, her uncle, and her grandfather Moritz Bopp. She was working as a stenographer in a bolt factory where her uncle attended the furnace. Nan was 25 when she married Sidney; he was 31. Sidney and Nan had a daughter Jane born on May 13, 1913, in Philadelphia.
Just a few months before Jane was born, the family suffered a loss on February 23, 1913, when Jacob Schlesinger died a few weeks before his seventieth birthday; he died from cerebral softening and myocarditis. He was buried at Adath Jeshurun cemetery in Philadelphia.
Joe Schlesinger was the second child to marry; on July 11, 1915 he married Marie Wetherill in Philadelphia. My father also has fond memories of his cousin Marie as a very sweet woman who cared for her mother-in-law Brendina for many years. Marie was born on August 15, 1888. She was 27 when she married Joe, and he was 40.
I am sad that I’ve been unable yet to find out anything about Marie’s background or family history. I did find a record of a Philadelphia birth certificate for a child born to a Francis M. Wetherill and his wife May on August 15, 1888, the same date given as Marie’s birth date on the SSDI and the Florida Death Index, but that child’s name was Emma Virginia M. Wetherill. Perhaps the M stood for Marie, but I can’t be sure. Plus when I went to find the Wetherill family on the 1900 census, I could not find them, even though Marie would only have been twelve years old at that time. If anyone has any suggestions for how I might learn more about Marie, please let me know.
On October 29, 1915, the family suffered a terrible loss when Brendina’s oldest child Heloise died at age 41 of complications from diabetes. Heloise had never married or worked out of the house so perhaps she had been suffering from diabetes for a long period of time. Like her father, Heloise was buried at Adath Jeshurun cemetery in Philadelphia.
As this obituary notes, “Her death caused great sorrow among a large circle of friends.” How very sad this must have been for her family and her friends.
Meanwhile, World War I was raging in Europe, and all three of Brendina’s sons registered for the World War I draft. Joe was working for the Pennsylvania Furniture Company as a salesman and an inspector of some kind—can anyone decipher what that says?
Alfred was the secretary of a car advertising company:
And Sidney was, like Joe, a furniture salesman but for Stern & Company:
Given that the three brothers were in their late 30s and early 40s during World War I, I do not believe any of them actually served in the war.
That was probably very fortunate as Brendina had already lost her husband and her daughter in less than three years. But the heartbreak did not end there. On April 20, 1920, the youngest Schlesinger child, Aimee, died of breast cancer at age 33.
Aimee was married to Samuel Steinberg, a Russian immigrant who had immigrated to the US with his parents, Menashe and Deborah, in 1890 when he was just a baby. His father was in the butter and eggs business in Philadelphia in 1900. By 1910 Menashe owned a store in Philadelphia where Samuel and his brother both worked.
When he registered for the World War I draft in June, 1917, Samuel was still single and working as a presser. Thus, he and Aimee could not have been married very long at the time of her death. They were living in Philadelphia with Brendina and her son Alfred in 1920. Samuel was a commercial traveler in the jewelry business at that time.
After Aimee died, Brendina was left with her three sons, Joseph, Alfred, and Sidney, who were all living in Philadelphia. As noted above, in 1920 she was living with Alfred, who was still single and was in the advertising business. Joe, like Alfred, was in advertising and living with his wife Marie in 1920. Sidney and Nan were living with their daughter Jane and Nan’s mother Caroline in 1920; Sidney was working as a furniture salesman.
Thus, after losing her parents in the 1890s and two of brothers in the 1900s, Brendina lost her husband and two of her daughters (as well as her last surviving brother Jacob) between 1910 and 1920. Her only surviving sibling was my great-grandmother Hilda, who had moved all the way to Denver by 1910. It’s hard to imagine how Aunt Dean endured so many losses. And yet she did, for she lived long enough for my father to have clear memories of her. More on that in my next post.
 I am skipping over Jacob Katzenstein for now because I have ordered a book about the Jewish community in Johnstown and am waiting until I’ve read it before I continue the story of his life after the 1889 flood.