Heartbreak after Heartbreak: Eight Tragic Deaths in Less than Eight Years

As seen in my earlier posts, by 1900 Levi Goldsmith and his wife Henrietta Lebenbach had both passed away, but they were survived by eight children. Thank you to my cousin Julian Reinheimer for this photograph of the headstones of Levi and Henrietta:

Courtesy of Julian Reinheimer

(I note that Levi’s name is spelled Levy on both stones; records are inconsistent about how he spelled his name, and since I’ve thus far used Levi, I have decided to stick with that spelling for consistency’s sake.)

All of Levi and Henrietta’s children except for their son George were married by 1900, and almost all of those who married had at least one child. Five grandchildren had died very young, but twelve were still living as of 1900. That would not be true in seven years.

The year 1900 saw the births of two more grandchildren. Felix Goldsmith and his wife Bertha Umstadter had their fourth child in Virginia in May 1900, a daughter named Minna.1 And Blanche Goldsmith and her husband Max Greenbaum also had a baby in May of that year, a son named Levis Greenbaum, another grandchild named for Levi Goldsmith.2 He was their third child, but their first two—Ethel and Leah—had died very young.

As of the taking of the 1900 census in June, Eva Goldsmith had separated from her husband Nathan Anathan. On the 1900 census, Eva is listed as a widow, living in Philadelphia with her two daughters, Helen (21) and Bessie (17) and eight boarders. Helen was working as a school teacher, and Bessie was still in school. I assumed that Nathan had died, but then I found him living in Chicago, working as a tobacconist and reporting that his marital status was single. I am quite sure that it is the same Nathan Anathan since he listed his birthplace as Philadelphia, he is the right age, his surname is quite unusual, and he was still in the tobacco business. Further searching revealed that Nathan died (under the name Nathan Nathan) in Chicago on April 9, 1907.3

Eva Goldsmith Anathan and family, 1900 US census, Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 29, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Page: 2; Enumeration District: 0710; FHL microfilm: 1241470
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census

Nathan Anathan, 1900 US census, Census Place: Chicago Ward 1, Cook, Illinois; Page: 3; Enumeration District: 0020; FHL microfilm: 1240245
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census

The 1900 census reported that Estella and her husband Solomon (listed as Samuel here) Rothschild were living in Philadelphia with their three sons, Jerome (16), Leonard (12), and Herbert (6), and two servants.  The boys were all at school, and Solomon reported his occupation as “gentleman.” He is also listed without an occupation in the 1899 Philadelphia directory, though earlier directories list him as being in the millinery business.4

Rothschild family, 1900 US census, Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 29, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Page: 6; Enumeration District: 0711; FHL microfilm: 1241471
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census

Levi and Henrietta’s oldest son, George Goldsmith, was living in Philadelphia as a lodger and working as a druggist in 1900.5 His younger brother Felix was living with his wife Bertha in Norfolk, Virginia, with their four children Frances (Fannie here, 11), Lee (7), Hortense (2), and the newborn Minna, who was a month old at that time. Bertha reported that she had given birth to six children, four still living, but I have not yet been able to find the other two children, so there must have been two more grandchildren who died very young. Felix was in the clothing business. They also had a nurse and a cook living with them.

Felix Goldsmith, 1900 US census, Census Place: Norfolk Ward 1, Norfolk City, Virginia; Page: 5; Enumeration District: 0086; FHL microfilm: 1241735
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census

The third oldest son, Isadore, and his wife Mary were living as boarders in Philadelphia. They had no children. For his occupation, Isadore listed that he “lives on income.” 6 I wondered where that income came from. More on Isadore in my next post.

Isadore’s next youngest sibling was Helen Goldsmith, and she and her husband Harry Loeb were living in Dubois, Pennsylvania, with their two children, Armand (6) and Henriete (4); Harry was working as a lumberman. They had one servant living with them as well.

Harry Loeb and family, 1900 US census, Census Place: Dubois Ward 2, Clearfield, Pennsylvania; Page: 5; Enumeration District: 0071; FHL microfilm: 1241396
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census

Blanche, the youngest daughter, was living with her husband Max Greenbaum and her newborn son Levis in Philadelphia, where Max was a dentist. They also had a servant living with them. Although Blanche had lost two children before 1900, she reported that she had only given birth to one child. 7

The youngest Goldsmith sibling, Sylvester, was living in Addison, Indiana, with his wife Ida and their two children Henrietta (4) and Louis (1), as well as Sylvester’s mother-in-law. Sylvester was working as a clothing salesman.8

Unfortunately, during the next seven years the family suffered loss after loss of many of its members including far too many children as well as adults who died too young.

First, on October 30, 1900, just five months after the birth of his daughter Minna, Felix Goldsmith died. He was only 37 years old and left behind not only his infant daughter, but three other young children.

“Mr. Goldsmith’s Funeral,” Norfolk Virginia-Pilot, November 1, 1900, p. 2

According to his obituary in the Norfolk Virginia-Pilot of November 1, 1900 (p. 2), Felix died after being quite ill for two years. The paper described him as a “well-known and highly-esteemed citizen.” It also reported that after high school, Felix had taken “a medical course of study with the intention of being a physician.” Instead he became “an excellent businessman and was quite successful in his enterprises.” What a terrible loss this must have been for his family and his community.

1901 brought two new babies to the extended family in the same week. Harold Goldsmith was born on February 2, 1901, to Sylvester Goldsmith and his wife Ida in Indiana.9 Then six days later Helen Goldsmith Loeb gave birth to her third child, a boy they named Leonard Loeb, presumably for Helen’s father Levi.10

Whatever joy that may have brought to the extended family must have been dashed when little Levis Greenbaum, son of Blanche Goldsmith and Max Greenbaum, died in Philadelphia five months later on July 15, 1901.  According to the death register, he died from toxemic collapse.  With help from my brother and some people in Tracing the Tribe, I’ve determined that Levi most likely died from what today we would call septic shock from a bacterial infection. He was just over a year old when he died. And he was the third child of Blanche and Max to die before reaching age five. I can’t imagine how devastated they must have been.

Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-65Y7-7PQ?cc=1320976&wc=9FRH-C68%3A1073327701 : 16 May 2014), 004047862 > image 394 of 687; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

 

And then, just seven months after the death of little Levis, his cousin Leonard Levi Rothschild, son of Estella Goldsmith and Solomon Rothschild, died on February 2, 1902. He was only thirteen years old. Within the space of just seven months, two of the namesakes of Levi Goldsmith had died as children. Leonard died from gangrenous stomatitis or noma, which according to Wikipedia is “is a rapidly progressive, polymicrobial, often gangrenous infection of the mouth or genitals.” Today it is associated with malnutrition, poor hygiene, and unsafe drinking water. Given the family’s status on the 1900 census, it is hard to imagine that Leonard was malnourished or had poor hygiene.

Leonard Rothschild death certificate, “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-63B7-4Z1?cc=1320976&wc=9F5C-L2S%3A1073221501 : 16 May 2014), 004009533 > image 376 of 1778; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Sylvester Goldsmith and his wife Ida Simms experienced both a tragic loss and the birth of a new child in 1903. On February 15, 1903, their seven-year-old daughter Henrietta died from the measles. She was the eighth grandchild of Levi and Henrietta Goldsmith to die as a child.11

And then eight months to the day later, Ida gave birth to a boy they named Blanchard. 12 Was Ida already pregnant when Henrietta died? That must have been a very bittersweet and frightening pregnancy.

Fortunately 1904 brought no deaths to the family (as well as no births), but the heartbreak began again on January 9, 1905, when Estella Goldsmith Rothschild died from mitral regurgitation and pulmonary edema at age 45.She left behind her husband Solomon and her two surviving sons, Jerome (21) and Herbert (11). Had the loss of her two other sons, Stanley and Leonard, affected her health? It certainly is possible.

Estella Goldsmith Rothschild death certificate, “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-68KD-GL?cc=1320976&wc=9FRY-W38%3A1073113702 : 16 May 2014), 004008757 > image 316 of 534; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Estella’s memory was honored a year later when her brother Sylvester’s wife Ida gave birth to another child on February 8, 1906 and named her Estella Rothschild Goldsmith.

Estella Rothschild Goldsmith birth certificate, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Box Number: 5; Certificate Number: 14402
Source Information
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Birth Certificates, 1906-1910

April 1907 started out with good news when Blanche Goldsmith and Max Greenbaum had a new child, Helen Estelle Greenbaum, on April 7, 1907, also named in memory of Estella Goldsmith Rothschild.

Helen Estelle Greenbaum birth certificate, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Box Number: 100; Certificate Number: 104056
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Birth Certificates, 1906-1910

Two days later Nathan Anathan, Eva’s estranged husband, died in Chicago.13 Then Mary Wheeler, Isadore Goldsmith’s wife, died on April 17, 1907, from a stroke; she was 54.14

Six months later on October 11, 1907, Isadore himself died from a cerebral hemorrhage to which acute alcoholism was found to be a contributing factor. He was only 43 years old; from the death certificate it appears that he died after about a day in the Gibbons Sanitarium in Philadelphia. When I saw that, I decided to look further into Isadore’s life. More on that in my next post.

Isidore Goldsmith Death Certificate, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-68DJ-WR?cc=1320976&wc=9FRT-N38%3A1073183102 : 16 May 2014), 004008905 > image 483 of 536; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Looking back on what the extended family experienced between 1900 and 1907 is mind-boggling. Three of the children of Levi and Henrietta Goldsmith died before their 50th birthdays. Felix was only 37, Estella was 45, and Isadore was 43. In addition, Isadore’s wife Mary and Eva’s estranged husband Nathan died in April 1907.

Even more tragic, three more of their grandchildren died: Levis Greenbaum was only a year old, Leonard Rothschild was thirteen, and Henrietta Goldsmith was seven. That meant that eight of the grandchildren of Levi and Henrietta died as children.

What would the next decade bring for the five children of Levi and Henrietta who remained and for the surviving grandchildren? More to come in a subsequent post.


  1. Minna Goldsmith Goodman, ship manifest, Year: 1932; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 5138; Line: 28; Page Number: 182. Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 
  2. Levis Greenbaum, 1900 US census, Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 29, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Page: 1; Enumeration District: 0710; FHL microfilm: 1241470. Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census 
  3. Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N7HF-SQZ : 8 March 2018), Nathan Nathan, 09 Apr 1907; citing , Cook, Illinois, United States, source reference 10463, record number 37, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm 1,239,756. 
  4. Philadelphia city directories, 1879, 1881, 1889, 1890, 1894, 1899, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. 
  5. George W. Goldsmith, 1900 US census, Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 20, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Page: 8; Enumeration District: 0418; FHL microfilm: 1241462. Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census 
  6. Isadore Goldsmith. 1900 US census, Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 32, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Page: 5; Enumeration District: 0808; FHL microfilm: 1241473. Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census 
  7. Max Greenbaum and family, 1900 US Census, Census Place: Dubois Ward 2, Clearfield, Pennsylvania; Page: 5; Enumeration District: 0071; FHL microfilm: 1241396.
    Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census 
  8. Sylvester Goldsmith and family, 1900 US census, Census Place: Addison, Shelby, Indiana; Page: 4; Enumeration District: 0104; FHL microfilm: 1240402. Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census. 
  9.  Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. SSN: 288073757. 
  10. Leonard Loeb, World War II draft registration, The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 1495. Ancestry.com. U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 
  11. Death record of Henrietta Goldsmith, February 15, 1903, Clearfield County, PA Death Records, 1893 – 1905. PAGE: g-89-1 & g-89-2. NO: 3. Found at http://files.usgwarchives.net/pa/clearfield/vitals/deaths/goldsmith-henrietta.txt 
  12.  Number: 138-03-2325; Issue State: New Jersey; Issue Date: Before 1951.
    Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014. (An eerie note: On the 1910 census, Sylvester is listed with four children, and he and Ida did have four living children at that time, but the names listed on the census included Henrietta, who had died, instead of their still-living son Louis. Sylvester Goldsmith and family, 1910 US census, Census Place: Du Bois Ward 1, Clearfield, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1331; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 0074; FHL microfilm: 1375344. Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census 
  13. See Note 3, above. 
  14. Mary Goldsmith death certificate, Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1966; Certificate Number Range: 038171-041450. Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966 

31 thoughts on “Heartbreak after Heartbreak: Eight Tragic Deaths in Less than Eight Years

  1. When we think about health care in those days, it is amazing how much has changed. It was not unusual then for young children and adults to die. Now it is a major tragedy, but then commonplace. So sad.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It was sad to read of so many deaths in this family in the short time period. Getting back to the introduction, it is often difficult to be consistent with the names when they are spelled differently in records. In my own research, I am discovering later generations gave an ancestor a nickname or middle name which they never used when living or which cannot be found in any record they produced. I find myself having to explain why I am not using the names others have in their trees.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, it sometimes drives me crazy, trying to figure out which spelling to use. Obviously spelling of names was not as important in the “olden days.” My grandfather himself spelled Isadore with an A, an I, with and without the final E. So in this case I went with the original spelling. I assume Levy was a way to “Americanize” Levi.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. The tragic deaths of so many members of the Goldsmith family make me wonder whether they represent the nation’s state of health in general or if the Goldsmith family was particularly hard hit by these tragic events. One thing is sure, most deaths could have been prevented in our present day health care system. Looking forward to the next instalment, Amy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think they had more than their statistical fair share of early deaths, even in those times. I say that by comparing them to the families of Levi’s siblings, who experienced some early deaths, but nowhere near as many as Levi’s family. Thanks, Peter!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. So many deaths and so much sadness for this family. I wanted to comment on something that jumped out at me. In the obit for Felix Goldsmith under the membership he held, it said he was a member of the Black Hawk Tribe of Red Men. Have you done any research on this? Does the family have some Native American ties?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It always feels bitter-sweet when I come across infant or your children’s deaths – sad as many of those illnesses are treatable now, yet glad I found them, so I can add them to the family tree and they’ll be remembered.

    Those were hard times for your family

    Liked by 2 people

  6. That definitely is a lot of heartbreak for one family. It is so sad to learn about our ancestors dying at such young ages. It seems that living until 70+ was not necessarily the norm. And the children? That is unimaginable.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Great post! I was interested to read about noma – I don’t t think I’ve ever heard of that disease. Sounds dreadful! All these large families lead to lots of family history trails and stories. Nice job on keeping it all straight and sharing the details with us!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I’d never heard of noma either—and it does sound horrible. We are so lucky to live today when most of these diseases are no longer a serious threat to most of us and our children.

      Like

  8. Pingback: Isadore Goldsmith: A Life of Strife and Sadness Revealed in the Newspaper | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  9. Pingback: Friday's Family History Finds | Empty Branches on the Family Tree

  10. Pingback: Levi Goldsmith’s Remaining Family 1910-1918 | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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