Leonora Goldsmith Jaffa and Her Family: Too Many Lives Cut Short

The second decade of the 20th century saw the oldest of Jacob Goldsmith’s children entering their sixties while his youngest children were entering their forties. In 1910, twelve of Jacob’s fourteen children were still living; Emma and George had already passed away. By the end of 1920, only seven of the remaining children were still living.  Five of the siblings died between 1911 and 1920. We have already seen that one of them was Jacob’s oldest son Felix, who died in 1919. We also saw that Rachel Goldsmith died in 1915. But two other siblings predeceased them in that decade, and one died in 1920.

The first was Leonora Goldsmith Jaffa. She died on February 22, 1911, at the age of fifty-two.1  According to her obituary, she had been ill for two years:

“Pioneer Woman of Trinidad Summoned,” The Las Vegas (NM) Daily Optic, February 24, 1911, p. 5

Mrs. Sol Jaffa Dies There After A Long Illness—Aunt of Secretary Jaffa

Trinidad is mourning the death of Mrs. Sol H. Jaffa, wife of the city treasurer and prominent retail merchant, who passed away peacefully at her home, 218 east Third Street, Wednesday night. The deceased, who was one of the oldest residents of Trinidad, had been ill for the past two years, her malady taking a serious turn last October, when she was reported to be in a precarious condition. Since that time the deceased had been steadily declining and thus her sad demise did not come unexpected to her relatives and friends.

The deceased was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Goldsmith of Washington, Pa. She was married to Sol H. Jaffa in Philadelphia, thirty years ago, in the year 1881, when she took up her residence in the city of Trinidad. The deceased had been a resident of this city since that time and had been an active charity worker and prominent in the Jewish circles of the city. Her death is deeply mourned throughout the city and county by a host of friends.

The deceased was 52 years of age and is survived by her husband, Sol H. Jaffa and a daughter, Miss Helen Jaffa, of this city, and a son, Arthur who is engaged in the government service as an engineer, residing in Cheyenne, Wyo., and four sisters and three brothers. Her sisters are Mrs. Dr. Levy of Denver, Mrs. J. Emanuel and Mrs. R. Emanuel of Denver and Mrs. Uhlfelder of Albuquerque, N.M. The three brothers of the deceased reside in the east and south. Arthur Jaffa was notified of the death of his mother by telegraph and is expected to arrive her either today or tomorrow.

The funeral will take place from the family residence Sunday afternoon, and interment will be in the Jewish cemetery. Among the relatives who will attend the funeral are the son, Arthur Jaffa, Dr. and Mrs. Levy of Denver, Mrs. R. Emanuel and Mrs. M. Emanuel of Denver, Mrs. Uhlfelder of Albuquerque, and give nephews of the deceased, Nathan Jaffa, secretary of the territory of New Mexico, Joseph Jaffa, an attorney of Denver, Julius Jaffa of Roswell, N.M., and Ben Jaffa of Albuquerque.

[A final paragraph discusses how Nathan Jaffa, who was acting governor of New Mexico, asked President Roosevelt for a leave of absence to attend Leonora’s funeral.]

There are some strange omissions from this obituary. The only sisters named as survivors are Rebecca, Gertrude, Florence, and Eva, but in 1911 Leonora had four other living sisters—Annie in San Francisco, Rachel and Celia in Denver, and Ellena in Philadelphia. Why weren’t they mentioned? I first thought that this was an oversight as Rachel and Celia were living with Rebecca in Denver in 1910, but a second obituary from the Denver Rocky Mountain News also mentioned only the same four sisters as survivors.

“Mrs. Sol H. Jaffa Is Dead,” Denver Rocky Mountain News, February 24, 1911, p. 4

Had their been a falling out between Leonora and the other sisters?

Two years later, Leonora’s daughter Helen F. Jaffa married Abram Harold Minton on June 8, 1913, in Trinidad.

Ancestry.com. Colorado, County Marriage Records and State Index, 1862-2006

It was a challenge tracking down Abram’s history before he married Helen. According to his World War I draft registration, Abram was born on August 6, 1879;2 in 1900, he is listed as Abram Minsky, living with his mother Rose Minsky and sister Ada in New York City; that census reports his birth place as Russia Poland and states that he and his mother and sister had immigrated to the US in 1887. Abram, then twenty, was in school and his sister was a school teacher.3 I was able to locate seven year old Abraham Minske on a passenger manifest arriving in the US on May 31, 1887, with a thirty year old male (first name not legible), presumably his father, who must have died before the 1900 census was taken.4

On August 25, 1910, Abram H. Minton married Julia Cohen, in New York City. His parents were listed on the index as Aaron Minton and Rose Feltstein; Abram’s birth year was estimated as 1879 since his age was 31. Given the match to his age, name, and mother’s first name, I assume this was the same Abram Minton who later married Helen Jaffa, but this record says Abram was born in New York. His first wife Julia was the daughter of Israel and Esther Cohen and was according to the index on FamilySearch also born in New York.5 Julia died less than a year after the marriage on June 5, 1911, in New York. I do not know the cause of death; she was only 28 years old.6

But if Abram was married to Julia in August 1910 in New York and she died there a year later, I cannot understand why Abram is listed (as Abraham H. Minton) on the 1910 US census as living already in Trinidad, Colorado, 29 years old, single, boarding with a family, and working as a school teacher. This census lists his birthplace as New York and his parents as born in the US, both of which were not accurate, but nevertheless I still think this refers to the same Abram H. Minton who married Helen Jaffa in 1913.7 That Abram did become a school teacher, and the name and age match closely. In addition, the 1910 and 1912 Trinidad directories list an Arthur H. Minton as a school teacher residing in Trinidad, as does the 1915, although now as Abram H. Minton. My best guess is that Abram returned to New York in August 1910, married Julia, perhaps stayed in New York until she died, and then returned to Trinidad where he met and married Helen Jaffa in 1913.

But Abram’s bad fortune continued as Helen Jaffa Minton died on May 1, 1915, less than two years after their wedding. She had just given birth on April 26, 1915, to their son Arnold Jaffa Minton, in Trinidad,8 and I assume her death was related to some complication from childbirth. So Abram was once again a widower, now with a newborn son to care for.

http://data.jewishgen.org/imagedata/jowbr/USA-01836/TAT128.jpg; JewishGen, comp. JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR)

Abram Minton and his son Arnold left Trinidad, and in 1920 were living in New York City with Abram’s family. Abram continued to work as a school teacher.9 In 1925 they were living in Brooklyn with Abram’s sister Ada, and Abram continued to teach. He had not married again.10

Then, tragically, Abram died on August 24, 1927, at age 48, leaving his twelve-year-old son Arnold an orphan.11 Arnold continued to live with his father’s relatives in 1930 and in 1940, when he was working as a merchant in New York.12 He married Alma Cohen in 1947 and lived the rest of his life in New York, dying on September 14, 1998.13 I wonder whether he ever had contact with his mother’s family again once they left Trinidad after her untimely death.

Solomon Jaffa and his son Arthur had thus suffered two devastating losses in the space of four years, first the death of Leonora and then the death of Helen—as well as the relocation of little Arnold, their grandson and nephew, respectively.

There had been some happier news for them in those years, however. On June 8, 1914, Arthur married Eleanor J. Jaffa, who was his first cousin, once removed. Eleanor was the great-granddaughter of Aron Jaffa, Arthur his grandson. Eleanor’s grandfather Benjamin Jaffa was the brother of Solomon Jaffa, Arthur’s father. Eleanor was born on October 4, 1893, in Roswell, New Mexico, where she and Arthur married. Eleanor’s father Nathan Jaffa had been the Secretary of State in New Mexico, and acting governor, as mentioned above. Eleanor was the granddaughter of Aron Jaffa, the father of Sarah Jaffa Goldsmith (Henry’s wife) and Sol Jaffa (Leonora Goldsmith’s husband and Eleanor’s father-in-law).14

“Another Jaffa Wedding,” Albuquerque Journal, 31 May 1914, Sun, Page 10

Arthur and Eleanor settled in Roswell, New Mexico, where in 1918 Arthur was the city manager, according to his World War I draft registration. They would have two sons. In 1920, Arthur was still the Roswell City Manager, but by 1930 Arthur and his family had moved to Las Vegas, New Mexico, where he was working as an accountant for a wholesale merchandise business. His father Solomon was also living with them at that time. 15 Ten years later in 1940, they were all still living together in Las Vegas and Arthur was now listed as a bookkeeper for a wholesale merchandise business.16

Arthur Jaffa World War I draft registration, Registration State: New Mexico; Registration County: Chaves; Roll: 1711858
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918

Solomon Jaffa died the following year at the age of 92. He was buried back in Trinidad where his wife Leonora and daughter Helen were buried. 17 The Intermountain Jewish News published this wonderful obituary on its front page on December 5, 1941:

Arthur Jaffa did not inherit his father’s longevity; like his mother, he died before his seventieth birthday in 1952.18  He and his wife Eleanor, who died in 1970, were buried in Las Vegas, New Mexico. They are survived by their sons and grandchildren.


  1. Trinidad, Colorado, City Directory, 1912, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  2. Abram Minton, World War I draft registration, Registration State: Colorado; Registration County: Las Animas; Roll: 1561836, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 
  3. Abram Minsky, 1900 US census, Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Page: 1; Enumeration District: 0843; FHL microfilm: 1241119, Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census 
  4. Abraham Minske, passenger manifest, Year: 1887; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 507; Line: 41; List Number: 657,
    Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  5. New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:24ZH-SNJ : 10 February 2018), Abram H. Minton and Julie Cohen, 25 Aug 1910; citing Marriage, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York City Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,503,752. 
  6. New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2WMM-4D3 : 10 February 2018), Julia Minton, 05 Jun 1911; citing Death, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,323,280. 
  7. Abraham H, Minton, 1910 US census, Census Place: Trinidad Ward 1, Las Animas, Colorado; Roll: T624_122; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 0113; FHL microfilm: 1374135, Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census 
  8. SSN 125-10-8177, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  9. Abram Minton, 1920 US census, Census Place: Manhattan Assembly District 9, New York, New York; Roll: T625_1202; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 693,
    Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  10. Abram Minton, 1925 NYS census, New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1925; Election District: 45; Assembly District: 21; City: Brooklyn; County: Kings; Page: 2, Ancestry.com. New York, State Census, 1925 
  11.  Certificate Number: 4568, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Extracted Death Index, 1862-1948 
  12. Arnold J. Minton, 1930 US census, Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Page: 16B; Enumeration District: 0463; FHL microfilm: 2341292, Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census; 1940 US census, Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02641; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 31-736,
    Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  13. Marriage record, License Number: 7751, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan; Volume Number: 12, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018. Number: 125-10-8177; Issue State: New York; Issue Date: Before 1951, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014. https://www.nytimes.com/1998/09/15/classified/paid-notice-deaths-minton-arnold-jaffa.html 
  14. SSN: 525322497, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007; 
  15. Arthur Jaffa and family, 1920 US census, Census Place: Roswell Ward 5, Chaves, New Mexico; Roll: T625_1074; Page: 11B; Enumeration District: 7, Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census; 1930 US census, Census Place: Las Vegas, San Miguel, New Mexico; Enumeration District: 0032; FHL microfilm: 2341134, Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census. 
  16. Arthur Jaffa and family, 1940 US census, Census Place: Las Vegas, San Miguel, New Mexico; Roll: m-t0627-02451; Page: 26A; Enumeration District: 24-34, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  17. “Solomon Jaffa Dies In Las Vegas,” Albuquerque Journal, 01 Dec 1941, Mon, Page 1. JewishGen, comp. JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) 
  18. “Arthur Jaffa,”  Las Vegas Daily Optic, 22 Nov 1952, Sat, Page 6. JewishGen, comp. JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR). 

27 thoughts on “Leonora Goldsmith Jaffa and Her Family: Too Many Lives Cut Short

  1. I must get back to Trinidad some day. It has taken on a whole new meaning for me. Every newspaper article you found adds so much depth to your family. Sol Jaffa’s obit write up was exceptionally enlightening I thought. Great post ~

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I guess the sad, but also very rewarding part of writing a family history is that one becomes completely familiar with the concept of death. We encounter that experience each time a loved one passes onto the other world, but in most cases it happens rarely enough that we can return to living our own life. But when writing a family history it is almost overwhelming to deal with death in such concentration.
    Again I must state how impressed I am at your sharp mind to catch the slightest inconsistency, even in an obituary where some names appear to be missing. You should have become a detective, Amy. Have a great weekend!

    Liked by 2 people

    • It is a lot like detective work in some ways—but without the blood and gore and violence! Sitting at my computer and finding and analyzing “clues” is a much safer occupation. 🙂

      When I learn of all these early deaths, it makes me appreciate all the more how fortunate I am. And also how fortunate we all are to live in the age of modern medicine.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Peter Klopp explained the concentration of deaths in our family history writing so well. You are doing a wonderful job filling in between the birth and death of each individual placing more space in between the beginning of their lives and the end with all your research. It’s sad when you come to the point in which they die but I think, for the most part, your writing about them makes it less sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi There! I recently traveled to Trinidad with my cousin who is descended from Samuel Jaffa. There is an excellent exhibit in the local historical museum about the many contributions to the area by the Jaffa brothers. The synagogue there is also in disrepair. I wonder if it is possible to get funding from the state of Colorado to support maintaining the building for its historical significance? My understanding is that there is not a single Jew in Trinidad now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know—I thought I’d read that the building was being sold? If there is a fundraising effort, I’d surely contribute. And tell your cousin to get in touch—probably our relatives all knew each other. 🙂


  5. Amy, In your analysis of the illnesses and age at death do you find recurring patterns? Are there some illnesses that recur down a line? I keep a worksheet that records this data in excel. The data can be sorted and filtered. We find diabetes through three generations and heart disease along both of my dad’s lines
    I recommend compiling a list like this as it is a help when a relative needs care and the doctor asks about any hereditary illnesses. I am also finding patterns of alcohol and substance abuse as well. There is so much we inherit that is not always manifested in the current generation.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve only kept track casually through observation. Mostly heart disease and kidney disease and some cancer—just what you would expect even today. Since most of my research involves those who are several steps away from my direct ancestors, I doubt it has any helpful information since we’d share so little DNA. But thanks for the suggestion!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I started keeping track as well, and find it quite interesting. We have diabetes and heart disease and cancers. It’s also interesting how eating patterns affect generations yet to be born. I looked at this once and found it also pretty interesting.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Seems unlikely, huh? I have hundreds of letters my great grandma wrote between 1940 and 1952. Orah often discussed what they ate, her canning, etc. My father talked often about how meals were prepared and what they ate when he was growing up. His grandma raised him. Most had gardens, and this is where dad learned the value of home grown veggies. I also recall my grandma talking about food and I recall her own cooking methods.


      • You are so right, Karen. We found several incidences of death from stomach cancer between 1920 throgh early 1950s. Then it never recurred. Further investigation revealed that during that time carcinogens were used in processing sausages and other meats. Sausages were used regularly by some Iralians at that time to flavor the pasta sauce. My Dad’s family ate too much meat so that was a consequence. Also food processing used chemicals that nobody knew caused cancer. This 8nfo came as a result of modern research.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Very interesting. I’d have no idea what my relatives were eating. And the most common causes of death are so fairly typical for those times that I don’t think I could draw any conclusions about genetic tendencies. Or maybe I just don’t want to!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I became curious about diabetes in my family. My great grandma had it as did my father, and my mom is borderline. I looked at whether or not eating patterns affect three or four generations down the line, and although right now I don’t have that research, there was a correlation. I think it’s fascinating.

        Liked by 2 people

      • We are, even though there are hundreds of letters. It is a gift unlike anything I ever thought we’d have, but I am so thankful to have them. Orah didn’t leave out much when she wrote, and it makes for an incredible snapshot of their lives…not to mention the inspiration for a blog. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Karen! As for Trinidad, I could kick myself as were were right past there in 2014 when we drove from Denver to Santa Fe. But back then I wasn’t yet aware of my family connection. Some day…..

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Ellena Goldsmith Feldstein and Her Family: Not Blessed with Longevity | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  7. Pingback: The Surviving Seven: Jacob Goldsmith’s Children in 1920 | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  8. Pingback: A Jaffa Family Postcard | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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