Surprise! Another Mystery Solved When I Least Expected It

Sometimes when you aren’t even looking, an answer to an earlier mystery pops up unexpectedly. That’s what happened when I started researching the marriages of Abraham Goldsmith’s four oldest children, all of whom were married in the 1890s.

First, Edwin Goldsmith married Sarah Virginia Friedberger in 1891.1 Sarah Virginia, who was known as Jennie, was born in Philadelphia on January 17, 1866, to Henry Friedberger and Caroline Bellstrom.2 Her father was in the wholesale millinery business.  Edwin and Jennie had their first child on January 28, 1892, and they named her Cecile, presumably for Edwin’s mother, Cecelia Adler, who had died so young.3 A second child, Henry Friedberger Goldsmith, named for Jennie’s father, was born on September 8, 1893.4 In 1900 Edwin and Jennie and their sons were living in Philadelphia where Edwin continued to be a clothing merchant.

Edwin Goldsmith and family, 1900 US census
Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 22, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Page: 7; Enumeration District: 0486
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census

Then, two of Abraham’s older daughters married in 1892. Emily Goldsmith was married on January 28, 1892, to Felix N. Gerson.5 And her marriage to Felix N. Gerson led me down quite an interesting rabbit hole and to a surprise—a solution to an unsolved mystery. Remember the “other” Harry Goldsmith—Harry N. Goldsmith, son of Raphael Goldsmith, who was living with Eva Goldsmith Anathan in 1910? I had been completely befuddled because I could not figure out why this Harry N. Goldsmith was living with my cousin (and the cousin of my cousin Harry Goldsmith) when he seemed to have no familial connection to my Goldsmiths. Well, stay tuned. It’s a bumpy ride.

I searched for background information on Felix N. Gerson as the husband of my cousin Emily Goldsmith. I found him on both the 1870 and 1880 census, living in Philadelphia with his parents, Aaron and Eva Gerson.  His father was a furrier, born in Prussia, and his mother was born in Pennsylvania.6

Then I found Felix on the Social Security Applications and Claims Index, giving his birth date as October 18, 1862, and his full name as Felix Napoleon Gerson. But what really jumped out was that his mother’s birth name was Eva Goldsmith.  This was confirmed on the death certificate for Felix Gerson—his mother was Eva Goldsmith, born in Philadelphia.

Felix N. Gerson, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. Original data: Social Security Applications and Claims, 1936-2007.

At first, I groaned. Oh, no, another intrafamily cousin marriage, I thought. Which Eva Goldsmith was this? So I searched for more information about Eva Goldsmith Gerson and found this record:

Eva Goldsmith Gerson death certificate
“Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6G1Q-6L2?cc=1320976&wc=9FTM-K68%3A1073210502 : 16 May 2014), 004009428 > image 216 of 538; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

This Eva Goldsmith was the daughter of Napoleon Goldsmith and Zerlina Rosenthal. I knew immediately that those names looked familiar, but they were not part of my Goldsmith family.  Napoleon and Zerlina Goldsmith were the grandparents of that mysterious Harry N. (for Napoleon) Goldsmith who’d been living in 1910 with my cousin, the other Eva Goldsmith who’d married Nathan Anathan. Their son Raphael was Harry Napoleon Goldsmith’s father.

Napoleon and Zerlina Goldsmith were also the grandparents of Felix Napoleon Gerson, who married my cousin Emily Goldsmith. Felix’s mother Eva Goldsmith Gerson was the sister of Raphael Goldsmith. So Felix Napoleon Gerson and Harry Napoleon Goldsmith were first cousins, both named for their grandfather Napoleon.

 

Now’s where it gets a bit trickier. Felix Gerson married Emily Goldsmith. Emily Goldsmith Gerson and Eva Goldsmith Anathan were first cousins also; Emily’s father Abraham and Eva’s father Levy were brothers (and had been in business together.)  Still with me? Here comes the final twist.

 

When Harry Napoleon Goldsmith moved in with Eva Goldsmith Anathan around 1910, he was living with the first cousin of the wife of his first cousin. That is, Harry Napoleon Goldsmith was the first cousin of Felix Napoleon Gerson. Felix Napoleon Gerson was married to Emily Goldsmith, whose first cousin was Eva Goldsmith Anathan. Got it? Here’s a chart:

 

Now I knew how Harry Napoleon Goldsmith ended up living with my cousin Eva Goldsmith Anathan. They were connected by the marriage of their respective first cousins—Felix and Emily.

Of course, I wasn’t done digging yet. I needed to determine whether Napoleon Goldsmith or his wife Zerlina nee Rosenthal were somehow related to me directly, not just by these circuitous connections. After hours of digging, I’ve concluded that they were not. Or at least in no obvious way. Napoleon Goldsmith was born in Nassau, Germany in around 1803 and came to the US in 1836. By 1840 he was married and living with one child in Philadelphia. His wife Zerlina was also born in Germany in around 1813, but I don’t know where. Her mother Rachel Rosenthal also immigrated, perhaps in the 1830s with her husband Seller, but I am not certain about that. At any rate, I think it’s just coincidence that these two separate Goldsmith families ended up connected by marriage.

But the good news was that I’d figured out why there was another unrelated Harry Goldsmith living with my cousin Eva Goldsmith in 1910.

Let’s return then to Emily Goldsmith and her husband Felix Napoleon Gerson. According to his entry in Who’s Who in Pennsylvania,7 Felix went to Philadelphia public schools and then studied civil engineering; in the 1880s he served in the department of the Chief Clerk, Philadelphia & Reading Railway Company, and then in 1891 he changed careers and became the managing editor of Chicago Israelite.  In 1892, Felix became the managing editor of the Jewish Exponent of Philadelphia.

As noted above, he married my cousin Emily Goldsmith on January 28, 1892. Their wedding was a very small and modest affair.

“Married Quietly at Home,” The Philadlephia Times, January 29, 1892, p. 5

Given Abraham’s one-time prosperity, I was surprised that Emily’s wedding was so understated. But then I learned from Abraham’s obituary8 that in 1890 or so he had suffered a serious stroke that left him disabled and in poor health. As his children were moving on to adulthood, his health was in decline.

Emily and Felix’s first child Celia was born on October 27, 1892.9  She was also presumably named for her grandmother, Emily’s mother Cecelia Adler Goldsmith. A second daughter, Dorothy, was born on June 2, 1897.10 In 1900, Emily, Felix, and their daughters were living in Philadelphia., and Felix was working as an editor.

Emily and Felix Gerson and family 1900 US Census
Philadelphia Ward 20, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Page: 4; Enumeration District: 0433
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census

Emily’s sister Rose Goldsmith married Sidney Morris Stern on May 25, 1892.11 Sidney was born January 14, 1861, in Philadelphia, and was the son of Morris Stern and Matilda Bamberger, who were German-born immigrants. His father was in the retail clothing business.12  Rose and Sidney’s first child, Sylvan Goldsmith Stern, was born on March 2, 1893.13 Two years later Rose gave birth to twin boys, Allan Goldsmith Stern and Howard Eugene Stern, on August 6, 1895.14 I could not find Rose and her family on the 1900 census despite having their address in 1899, 1900, and 1901.  They were living in Philadelphia during those years, and Sidney was in the jewelry business with his brother Eugene.

The next wedding in the family of Abraham Goldschmidt was that of his oldest child, Milton.  On Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1899, Milton married Sophie Hyman in New York City. 15 Sophie was the daughter of Nathan Hyman and Rose Friedberger. And Rose Friedberger was the sister of Henry Friedberger, whose daughter Jennie had married Milton’s brother Edwin in 1891. So Milton married his sister-in-law Jennie’s first cousin, Sophie Hyman.  Sophie’s father Nathan was a corset manufacturer.

“Weddings of A Day. Goldsmith-Hyman,” The New York Times, Februaru 15, 1899, p. 7

I found it interesting that although Sophie selected Milton’s sister Estelle to be her only attendant, Milton did not select either of his brothers—Edwin or Louis—to be his best man or one of the ushers. Instead he selected a first cousin, Samuel Goldsmith (son of Meyer Goldsmith) to be his best man. His mother and other sisters and brother Edwin are listed among those attending the wedding; Louis was not listed, but perhaps the list did not include everyone attending.

In 1900 Milton and Sophie were living in Philadelphia where Milton continued to work as a clothing merchant.16

Thus, by 1899, Abraham Goldsmith had four married children and seven grandchildren. In 1900, he was living with his second wife Frances and his remaining five children. Estelle, his youngest child from his first marriage to Cecelia Adler, was now thirty years old and working as a school teacher.  As for Abraham’s four children with Frances, Albert, now 22, was working as a salesman. Bertha was 21 and working as a “saleslady.” Perhaps they were both working in their father’s clothing store. Alice, 18, was a milliner, and Louis, 17, was still in school. Abraham’s mother-in-law Sarah Adler, his first wife’s mother, was also still living with them. Although the census lists her as a teacher, since she was 87 years old, that seems unlikely.

Abraham Goldsmith and family 1900 census
Philadelphia Ward 12, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Enumeration District: 0208
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census

The 20th century would bring new challenges and new accomplishments for the family of my three-times-great-uncle Abraham Goldsmith.


  1.  Ancestry.com. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951. Original data: “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Marriage Index, 1885–1951.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009. Philadelphia County Pennsylvania Clerk of the Orphans’ Court. “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia marriage license index, 1885-1951.” Clerk of the Orphans’ Court, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. License No. 41318. 
  2.  Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 059001-062000, Source Information. Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. 
  3.  Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. Original data: Social Security Applications and Claims, 1936-2007. 
  4. Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Original data: United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. M1509, 4,582 rolls. Imaged from Family History Library microfilm. 
  5.  Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Marriages, 1852-1968. Original data: Marriage Records. Pennsylvania Marriages. Various County Register of Wills Offices, Pennsylvania. 
  6.  Year: 1870; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 10 District 32, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1395; Page: 549B; Family History Library Film: 552894. Source Information Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census. Year: 1880; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1172; Page: 458C; Enumeration District: 191, Source Information Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census 
  7.   John W. Leonard, ed.,Who’s who in Pennsylvania: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporaries (L. R. Hammersly, 1908, 2d. ed.), p. 292. 
  8. Abraham Goldsmith obituary, The Philadelphia Exponent, January 24, 1902, p. 3. 
  9.  Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. 
  10. Number: 161-05-1973; Issue State: Pennsylvania; Issue Date: Before 1951. Source Information Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  11.  Ancestry.com. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951. Original data: “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Marriage Index, 1885–1951.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009. Philadelphia County Pennsylvania Clerk of the Orphans’ Court. “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia marriage license index, 1885-1951.” Clerk of the Orphans’ Court, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. License No. 51669. 
  12.  Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. 
  13. Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  14. Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, WWI Veterans Service and Compensation Files, 1917-1919, 1934-1948. Original data: World War I Veterans Service and Compensation File, 1934–1948. RG 19, Series 19.91. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg Pennsylvania. Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  15.  Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Extracted Marriage Index, 1866-1937. Certificate No. 3384. 
  16. Milton and Sophie Goldsmith, 1900 US Census, Philadelphia Ward 24, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Page: 13; Enumeration District: 0572, Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census. 

22 thoughts on “Surprise! Another Mystery Solved When I Least Expected It

  1. Sherlock Holmes would have hired you as his chief assistant, Amy. For you have the mind of a top-notch detective. It is true that we often find something very surprising when looking for something entirely different. \

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d like to say I completely followed you down and around and up this rabbit hole, but it is very complicated! You did a great job showing the connections though. Wow. I feel proud of myself for just remembering that there was a question of why this other Harry was living with Eva! When I read that Sarah Virginia was called Jennie, my thought was OF COURSE she was. Anything to make it all more difficult! You are amazing and deserve far more than 111 on that great quiz! Maybe there is too much emphasis on “lineage societies” hahaha.

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL! Yes, that quiz was definitely more for those with long US lines! But 111 isn’t too shabby.

      It was quite a rollercoaster ride trying to explain the Harry N Goldsmith connection. I hope it makes some sense!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Very much so on the quiz. 111 is great! I didn’t take it, but wish that those ones and twos could be multiplied for all the times because then I’d have about 3,000 ;).
        You did a great job explaining. I am a little slow on the uptake . . . .

        Liked by 1 person

    • LOL! Yes, that quiz was definitely more for those with long US lines! But 111 isn’t too shabby.

      It was quite a rollercoaster ride trying to explain the Harry N Goldsmith connection. I hope it makes some sense!!

      Like

  3. I am with Luanne~ I thought ‘of course the other Harry – I remember him.’ Love when questions are answered and mystery solved. Totally feel your excitement and delight in this unravelling. Great post. As always, I love that you can find the wedding announcements to go along with your families stories.

    Like

  4. I read this earlier today and felt dizzy when I was done. You really had to dig for this one. But, how lucky and fun to have found out why that relative lived with the first ones you wrote about. This was a good accident. We had a Betsey Jane who went by Jennie–like that helps!–and have several intrafamily marriages. I wish they had thought this through….LOL. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Milton Goldsmith: A Victim of Conscience | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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