Mea Culpa and more

I owe my readers an apology.  In my earlier post I had written that Jay Katz, the only child of Samuel Katz and Lorena Rothschild, had written on his World War I draft registration that he was born on October 23, 1882, in Omaha, Nebraska, which conflicted with the information on the census records. The census records from 1900, 1910, and 1920 all say that he was born in Kentucky, and that is consistent with the evidence suggesting that his family did not move to Nebraska until 1885.

On looking at the draft registration card more carefully, I now realize that it doesn’t list his birth place at all, only his birth date.  I misread the entry for his permanent residence (which was Omaha) as his birth place.  So Jay never wrote that he was born in Omaha. (I have now corrected my earlier post.)

Jay Katz World War I draft registration
Registration State: Nebraska; Registration County: Douglas; Roll: 1711763; Draft Board: 5
Draft Card : K
Source Information U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line].

However, the Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index on Ancestry lists his birthplace as Omaha. So, in my lame defense, I think that’s what made me jump to the hasty conclusion that the draft registration said that as well.  Mea culpa. Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.
Original data:
“Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916–1947.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2010. Index entries derived from digital copies of original records.

The good news is that in searching further to try and learn where Jay was born, I found a fairly detailed biography of him in Arthur Cooper Wakeley’s book, Omaha: The Gate City, and Douglas County, Nebraska, Volume 2 (S.J. Clarke publishing Company, 1917), pp. 979-980.  According to Wakeley’s biography of Jay Katz, he was “born in Taylor county, Kentucky, on the 23d of October, 1882, a son of Samuel and Lorena (Rothschild) Katz, who were natives of Germany and Kentucky, respectively.” That would seem to confirm the fact that Jay was born in Kentucky and that the Illinois death record is incorrect.

But the biography filled in other details about Jay and his family:

Jay B. Katz… attended public school, mastering the branches taught in the graded and high schools. Later he entered the Wentworth Military Academy at Lexington, Missouri, and following his return to Omaha spent four years in the employ of ME Smith & Company.

While employed there, Jay suffered a painful injury:

Wakeley’s biography continues:

After leaving that company, he engaged in the contracting business with his father, Samuel Katz, and George W. Craig, in the Katz Craig Contracting Company, where he took up municipal contracting and the building of public works.

The biography also reported that Jay married Ruth Rubel on June 11, 1912.  That would have been just six weeks after his father Samuel died on March 27, 1912.  What a bittersweet occasion that must have been. Ruth Rubel was the daughter of Isaac and Hattie C. Rubel of Omaha.  Ruth and Jay had two children born in the first few years after they married.

The Wakely biography praised Jay’s business skills quite enthusiastically:

Samuel Katz and Mr. Craig retired from the business in 1911, and Jay B. Katz took over the business and is still operating and has built waterworks and sewerage systems throughout the western country. His patronage has grown to extensive proportions and is well merited by reason of his ability his sound judgment and his enterprise. He fully merits the prosperity that has come to him as it is the just reward of his diligence and keen sagacity. He has many men in his employ, and every completed contract is an advertisement of the excellence of the work.

Mr. Katz is a thirty-second degree Mason and is also connected with the Benevolent Protective order of Elks. He likewise belongs to the Commercial Club and to the Omaha Athletic Club, and he has many friends in these organizations. Step by step, he has advanced since starting out in the business world in his youthful days, and his orderly progress has brought him into prominent relations.

Jay and his family stayed in Omaha where he continued to operate the construction business, but then Jay and Ruth are listed in 1926 in the West Frankfort, Illinois, directory; Jay’s occupation is reported as a sewer contractor, which seems consistent with his business in Omaha. West Frankfort is 542 miles from Omaha, and I have no idea why Jay would have decided to leave Omaha at that time.

This article from the March 8, 1928, Omaha World-Herald states that Jay and Ruth had left Omaha two years before and were living now in Chicago.  But West Frankfort is more than 300 miles from Chicago.  Although I could not find Jay listed in a Chicago directory for 1927 or 1928, he is listed in the 1930 Chicago phonebook, so the newspaper appears to have correctly reported that he was then residing in Chicago.

Why did Jay leave Omaha? Why did he then move to Chicago? Was business bad? Or was he seeking to expand by moving to West Frankfort and then Chicago? I don’t know.  But at some point things did go poorly for Jay, as a March 18, 1930 article from the Council Bluffs, Iowa Daily Nonpareil, p.12, as well as an article from March 18, 1930 edition of the Omaha World-Herald (p.2)  reported that Jay had committed suicide.  Both articles suggested that it was because of financial problems.  The stock market crash that led to the Great Depression had occurred just five months before, undoubtedly causing Jay, like so many others, to suffer devastating losses.

Some stories just break your heart.

26 thoughts on “Mea Culpa and more

    • I know. After reading that biography and seeing how successful he had been in 1917 and how well-regarded, it made his suicide even more poignant. Thanks for reading and commenting!


  1. I like that you share the mistake you made with your readers. You talk to us in each post and this is what we love about you. The biography is a wonderful addition to his story. The ending is short and to the point. No assumptions, just the facts.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Amy, such a sad story about Jay and the business acumen. Curious reading about the relocation from Illinois to Chicago as to why he traveled as far as he did.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Exactly—I’d have been content to have found his birth place from the other records and might not have kept searching for more information.


  3. Small World Department, Omaha Division. My 2nd great-uncle, John Franklin Stout (1861-1927) moved to Omaha when he was between 31 and 34 years old, and established a law practice. That is, some time between 1881 and 1886–near the time Samuel Katz moved there! I learned about his life from–guess what–Omaha the Gateway City…. Omaha was not all that large and John Franklin Stout was very engaged in civic activities, so I have to believe that John and Samuel knew each other–and probably Jay also. (f you’d like to read about my lawyer great-great-uncle, he’s on Ancestors in Aprons.
    I really enjoyed your sketch of Jay’s life here. I think you did a marvelous job both with the ‘fessing up part and the delicate news part.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow, there’s always another connection—we should search to see if your relative and mine ever appear in the same newspaper story. Wouldn’t that be wild!

      How do I find the story on your blog?

      And thank you!!


  4. I love it when I find biographies for ancestors in old city/town/county histories. They help add so much flavor to our family histories. Newspaper articles, too! The elevator accident sounds terrible, although I’m having a hard time visualizing how his foot got into that snafu.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do too! Nothing like those first hand accounts to make someone come alive. As for Jay’s accident—he was a 19 year old boy. Need I say more? We all know the silly things they do! (Or he was just a klutz who somehow tripped getting on or off the elevator too soon or too late.)


  5. So sad that he committed suicide! His elevator accident sounds awful! It made me cringe. We once lived in an old building that had the cage style elevator. It was really old, heavy, and hard to open. I always worried I was going to hurt myself with it. I guess my worries were warranted!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Hi Amy – Thank you so much for posting this information. Jay B Katz’s son was my grandfather. This information is incredibly interesting to me and my siblings as we know very little about this side of the family. Could you possibly private message me? We’d really appreciate it! Thank you. -Terence

    Liked by 1 person

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