My Great-Great-Aunt Dean: The Story of A Strong Woman

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.[1]  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.

Brendina and Jacob Schlesinger 1900 census Year: 1900; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 20, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1463; Enumeration District: 0421; FHL microfilm: 1241462

Brendina and Jacob Schlesinger 1900 census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 20, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1463; Enumeration District: 0421; FHL microfilm: 1241462

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.

Brendina Katzenstein Schlesinger and family 1910 census Year: 1910; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 37, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1407; Page: 10A; Enumeration District: 0912; FHL microfilm: 1375420

Brendina Katzenstein Schlesinger and family
1910 census
Year: 1910; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 37, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1407; Page: 10A; Enumeration District: 0912; FHL microfilm: 1375420

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.

William Levis death certificate "Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-678Q-WCM?cc=1320976&wc=9F51-DP8%3A1073236401 : 16 May 2014), > image 1267 of 1772; Philadelphia City Archives

William Levis death certificate
“Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-678Q-WCM?cc=1320976&wc=9F51-DP8%3A1073236401 : 16 May 2014), > image 1267 of 1772; Philadelphia City Archives

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.

Jacob Schlesinger death certificate Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 019891-023570

Jacob Schlesinger death certificate
Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 019891-023570

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.

possible-birth-record-for-marie

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.

Heloise Schlesinger death certificate Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 102051-105290

Heloise Schlesinger death certificate
Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 102051-105290

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.

The Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, November 5, 1915, p. 12

The Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, November 5, 1915, p. 12

 

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?

S. Joseph Schlesinger World War I draft registration Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Philadelphia; Roll: 1907753; Draft Board: 29

S. Joseph Schlesinger World War I draft registration
Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Philadelphia; Roll: 1907753; Draft Board: 29

Alfred was the secretary of a car advertising company:

Alfred Schlesinger World War I draft registration Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Philadelphia; Roll: 1907753; Draft Board: 29

Alfred Schlesinger
World War I draft registration
Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Philadelphia; Roll: 1907753; Draft Board: 29

And Sidney was, like Joe, a furniture salesman but for Stern & Company:

Sidney Schlesinger World War I draft registration Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Philadelphia; Roll: 1907952; Draft Board: 43

Sidney Schlesinger World War I draft registration
Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Philadelphia; Roll: 1907952; Draft Board: 43

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 Schlesinger Steinberg death certificate Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 043501-046500

Aimee Schlesinger Steinberg death certificate
Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 043501-046500

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.

Aimee Schlesinger Steinberg and family 1920 census

Aimee Schlesinger Steinberg and family 1920 census

Philadelphia Inquirer April 22, 1920 p. 18

Philadelphia Inquirer April 22, 1920 p. 18

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.

Sidney Schlesinger and family 1920 census Year: 1920; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 42, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1643; Page: 13B; Enumeration District: 1563; Image: 705

Sidney Schlesinger and family 1920 census
Year: 1920; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 42, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1643; Page: 13B; Enumeration District: 1563; Image: 705

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.

 

[1] 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.

33 thoughts on “My Great-Great-Aunt Dean: The Story of A Strong Woman

  1. Woke to snow and this wonderful post…such heartache for Aunt Bean..I can’t even begin to imagine her thoughts and tears. Hilda moving to Denver must have been crushing for her. But what a testament to the human spirit of that time…thanks for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a devastating blow for Bean to lose Aimee. And to breast cancer, a disease that should not have affected a 33 year old in 1920. After bearing so many loses I hope Bean enjoyed some sunny days. I look forward to reading more about her in your next post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My first thought: food inspector. Look at the other S’s in lines 18 and 19; they look different than what is on the occupation line. I think it reads W. T. and could it be Ford instead of Food? Have you searched for a WT Ford? Oh, how sad…breast cancer that spread to the spinal column and dying at age 33.This family sure suffered.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Aunt Dean: A Long and Difficult Life | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  5. I always love your posts – there is so much research and organization involved. My siblings sometimes tell me “that was easy” and then I remind them that writing the blog post might be easy but it took a LONG time to get to that point. Good job!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Debi! I don’t even find writing the blog post easy. I am always re-organizing and editing, and then I always find a gap somewhere that needs filling by more research. But I love every second of it!

      Like

      • You’re right – I don’t think “easy” was the right word. I remember doing a chart a few years ago showing a tree with just the birth country of each individual colored differently so you could quickly see where everyone was born. My brother commented “that was easy for you”. I had to correct him that while the chart was easier for me to put together than it would have been for him, it took me years to not only find out where each of my ancestors was born but also who they even were.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Cousin Jane’s Parents | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  7. Pingback: Unraveling A Mystery and Deciphering Census Reports: Cousin Marie | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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