Milton Goldsmith’s Family Album, Part III: Finding Hettie Steele

Before my father died, I had started posting images from the pages of Milton Goldsmith’s family album. Because my father had a memory of Milton—he was his first cousin, twice removed, his grandmother Hilda’s first cousin—this project was and is special to me. So today I will return to my Monday postings about Milton’s album.

In my last post about Milton Goldsmith’s album, I highlighted this sentence from his family report about his aunt Betty Goldschmidt because it led me to the discovery of a new cousin:

BETTY: married to Jacob Goldschmidt, (a cousin,) with several children, all of whom except Hettie Steele lived in Germany

In my research of Betty and Jacob Goldschmidt, I had not found any living descendants. Their story was among the saddest I’d researched. Betty and Jacob had eight children, but I’d only been able to find adult records for one of those eight, their son Berthold. Berthold and his first wife Mathilde had seven children, and all but one of those children died before reaching adulthood. Only their son Siegfried lived to adulthood, and he and his wife Frieda Fanny Pless were murdered in the Holocaust. Their only child Max survived, but Max died without descendants. In addition, Berthold had a second wife, Rickchen Geissberg, with whom he had two more children and a grandson. All were killed in the Holocaust.1

So I was excited to read in Milton’s family report that Betty and Jacob had had a child—Hettie Steele—who had left Germany and presumably survived. But who was she?

I looked back at my posts and notes on Betty Goldschmidt and Jacob Goldschmidt (Lehmann’s son) and saw that they’d had a daughter named Hedwig for whom I had a birth record, but no subsequent records. She was born on August 21, 1868, in Oberlistingen  Could this be Hettie Steele?

BIrth record of Hedwig Goldschmidt, Abschrift der Geburts-, Trau- und Sterberegister der Juden von Oberlistingen (Breuna) 1826-1890 (1937) (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 673)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 18

Milton had written under Hettie Steele the name “Adolph,” so I set off to research Adolph and Hettie Steele and found a couple with those names on the 1900 census living in Butler, Pennsylvania. From there I was able to work forwards and backwards in time to learn a great deal about Hettie.

According to the 1900 census, Hettie arrived in the US in 1883, when she was only fifteen years old.2 A number of her mother Betty’s siblings were then living in Philadelphia, including my great-great-grandmother Eva Goldschmidt Katzenstein. Presumably that is where young Hettie was headed, though I have no record of her living in Philadelphia after she arrived.

Hettie married Adolph Steele in Philadelphia in 1889.3 He was born in Germany in November, 1856. Records conflict as to when he immigrated, but the 1900 census as well as the 1930 census say he arrived in 1872, and the 1920 census says 1877, so my guess is that he arrived sometime in the 1870s.4 (The 1910 census says 1864, but that seems less likely to be reliable.) It appears that Adolph settled in Baltimore and lived and worked with his brother Louis, a clothing merchant.5

Adolph and Hettie’s first child Florence was born on September 23, 1890, in Washington, Pennsylvania. 6 Their son Leighton was also born in Washington; he was born on April 15, 1895. 7

Prospect Avenue, Washington, PA 1890

Of course, several other members of the Goldschmidt/Goldsmith clan had lived in Washington, but in 1890, the only member of Hettie’s extended family who was still living there was my great-grandmother, Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal. Hilda was Eva Goldschmidt’s daughter, Betty’s Goldschmidt’s niece, and thus Hilda and Hettie were first cousins living in the same small town together in the 1890s.  They were also having children at the same time; my great-uncle Lester was born in Washington, Pennsylvania in 1888, his brother Gerson in 1892. These cousins were thus all close in age. They must have known each other, and yet I had never known of Hettie until I read Milton’s family report in his album.

Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal, my great-grandmother

But by 1900, Hettie and Adolph and their two children had left Washington and moved about sixty miles north to Butler, Pennsylvania, where Adolph was working as a clothing merchant. A boarder named Leopold Goldsmith was living with them, but I wasn’t sure whether he was connected to the family.

Adolph Steele and family, 1900 US census, Census Place: Butler Ward 3, Butler, Pennsylvania; Page: 12; Enumeration District: 0057; FHL microfilm: 1241386 1900 United States Federal Census

On the 1910 census, Adolph and Hettie were still living in Butler, and Adolph continued to work as a merchant. Their daughter Florence, now nineteen, was working as a public school teacher. Leopold Goldsmith was still living with them, and this time he was identified as Adolph’s brother-in-law. My eyes lit up. Leopold Goldsmith had to be Hettie’s brother, meaning another child of Betty and Jacob Goldschmidt had made it to adulthood.

Adolph Steele, 1910 US census, Census Place: Butler Ward 3, Butler, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1321; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 0066; FHL microfilm: 1375334 1910 United States Federal Census

Betty and Jacob’s youngest child was named Lehmann on his birth record, and he was born on October 22, 1872. I looked back at the 1900 census and saw that on that census Leopold Goldsmith reported a birth date of October 1872. Leopold had to be Betty and Jacob’s son who was born Lehmann.

Birth record of Lehmann Goldschmidt aka Leopold Goldsmith, Abschrift der Geburts-, Trau- und Sterberegister der Juden von Oberlistingen (Breuna) 1826-1890 (1937) (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 673)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 19

I searched a bit more and found Leopold living in 1897 with Hettie and Adolph in Washington, Pennsylvania, where he was working for Adolph.8

But alas, Leopold’s life was cut short like so many of his siblings. He died on March 24, 1914, in Butler, Pennsylvania, at the age of 40. According to his death certificate he died from exhaustion from chronic heart disease. His brother-in-law Adolph Steele was the informant on his death certificate.

Leopold Goldsmith, death certificate, Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1965; Certificate Number Range: 020581-024050, Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966

The Butler (PA) Citizen published this lovely obituary on March 25, 1914 (p.3):

Seeing the mention of only Hettie and “a brother in Germany” as survivors confirmed my conclusion that all of Betty and Jacob Goldschmidt’s five other children had died. The brother in Germany must refer to Berthold.

But Hettie’s family survived and grew. On February 15, 1915, Hettie’s daughter Florence married Herman Wise, a German immigrant born on July 1, 1878, making him twelve years older than Florence.9 Herman had immigrated in the 1890s and was working as a clothing merchant in Ottawa, Ohio, when he married Florence. Florence and Herman settled in Ottawa, where their first child Martha was born on February 22, 1916. 10 In 1920, they continued to live in Ottawa, where Herman was still a clothing merchant.11

Butler (PA) Citizen, February 16, 1915, p. 5

Hettie and Adolph’s son Leighton graduated from the dental school at the University of Michigan in 1916. In 1917 when he registered for the draft in World War I, he was a self-employed dentist working in Detroit, Michigan. The 1923 University of Michigan alumni directory lists Leighton as a first lieutenant “D.R.C. 1918-1919;” D.R.C. stands for Dental Reserve Corps. In 1920 he was practicing dentistry in Detroit.12

Leighton Steele, World War I draft registration, Registration State: Michigan; Registration County: Wayne; Roll: 2032496; Draft Board: 18
Source Information U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918

Hettie and Adolph were still living in Butler, Pennsylvania, in 1920, but Adolph was no longer a clothing merchant. It looks like it says he was an employment agent for “car works” or maybe “gas works.” Anyone have any idea what that means?

Adolph and Hettie Steele, 1920 US census, Census Place: Butler Ward 3, Butler, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1543; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 16 1920 United States Federal Census

In 1923, Hettie’s daughter Florence had a second child, a son Robert born on September 9 in Ottawa, Ohio.13 Hettie’s son Leighton married Rae Finsterwald on December 27, 1924, in Detroit. She was born in Marion, Wisconsin, on November 8, 1897, to Charles Finsterwald and Selma Goldberg. She grew up in Wisconsin, but in 1920, she was living with her parents and siblings in Detroit where she must have met Leighton. Leighton and Rae would have two children, one born in 1926 and another in 1935.14

By 1930, Hettie and Adolph had moved from Butler, Pennsylvania, to Highland Park, Michigan. Adolph was now 73, but still working, now as a storekeeper for a carpet business.15 He died just three years later on January 18, 1933, in Ottawa, Ohio, where their daughter Florence was living. According to his death certificate, he died from acute pulmonary edema after suffering from chronic hypertension and myocarditis since 1931. He was 77.

“Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 21 May 2014), 1933 > 06001-09000 > image 1083 of 3247.

Hettie died six and a half years later on June 13, 1939, in Ottawa, from acute coronary occlusion; she was seventy. She was the longest surviving child of Betty and Jacob Goldschmidt. And she was survived by her children Florence and Leighton and four grandchildren.

“Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 21 May 2014), 1939 > 38901-41800 > image 298 of 3242.

Florence continued to live in Ohio with her husband Herman Wise, until his death there on October 23, 1954.16 Her brother Leighton lived in the Detroit area and practiced dentistry there until about 1952 when he moved to Los Angeles, where he died in 1956.17 His wife Rae died in 1986, as did his sister Florence.18

Florence was 95 when she died on April 9, 1986.19 She and her brother Leighton were survived by their children and grandchildren and have a number of living descendants today.

How grateful I am for that one little comment on Milton Goldsmith’s family report mentioning Hettie and Adolph Steele. It led to the addition of a whole new branch on my Goldschmidt family tree. More importantly, I learned that Betty and Jacob Goldschmidt have living descendants, contrary to what I’d thought before Milton’s report enlightened me.







  1. Death record of Rickchen Geissberg Goldschmidt, Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Signatur: 8196, Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958. Hedwig Goldschmidt Starksy, Yad Vashem entry, Jacob Julius Goldschmidt, Yad Vashem entry, 
  2. Hettie Steele, 1900 US census, Census Place: Butler Ward 3, Butler, Pennsylvania; Page: 12; Enumeration District: 0057; FHL microfilm: 1241386, 1900 United States Federal Census. 
  3. Film Number: 004141925, Pennsylvania, Marriages, 1852-1968 
  4. Adolph Steele, see census records depicted below. 
  5. Adolph Steele, 1880 US census, Census Place: Baltimore, Baltimore (Independent City), Maryland; Roll: 498; Page: 105B; Enumeration District: 047, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census. 
  6. Florence Steele Wise, Number: 295-40-7386; Issue State: Ohio; Issue Date: 1962, U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014. “Florence Wise,” Lima (OH) News, April 11, 1986, p. A4 
  7. Leighton G. Steele, World War I draft registration, Registration State: Michigan; Registration County: Wayne; Roll: 2032496; Draft Board: 18, U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 
  8. Washington, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1897, U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  9. Herman Wise, World War I draft registration, Registration State: Ohio; Registration County: Putnam; Roll: 1851085, U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 
  10.  FHL Film Number: 915768, Ohio, Births and Christenings Index, 1774-1973 
  11. Herman Wise and family, 1920 US census, Census Place: Ottawa, Putnam, Ohio; Roll: T625_1429; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 107, 1920 United States Federal Census 
  12.  Catalogue of graduates, non-graduates, officers, and members of the faculties, 1837-1921. University of Michigan, U.S., College Student Lists, 1763-1924; Leighton Steele, 1920 US census, Census Place: Detroit Ward 4, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: T625_805; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 138, 1920 United States Federal Census 
  13. State File Number: 1923091889, Ohio, Birth Index, 1908-1964 
  14. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division of Vital Records and Health Statistics; Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952; Film: 180; Film Description: 1924 Wayne – 1925 Calhoun, Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952; Name: Ray Finsterwald, Birth Date: 8 Nov 1897, Birth Place: Waupaca, Wisconsin, USA, Reel: 0304, Record: 000972, Wisconsin, Birth Index, 1820-1907; Finsterwald family, 1920 US census, Census Place: Detroit Ward 4, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: T625_805; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 158, 1920 United States Federal Census 
  15. Adolph and Hettie Steele, 1930 US census, Census Place: Highland Park, Wayne, Michigan; Page: 15B; Enumeration District: 0983; FHL microfilm: 2340809, 1930 United States Federal Census 
  16. “Herman Wise Dies in Lima Hospital,” Washington C.H. Record-Herald, 25 Oct 1954, Mon, Page 10. 
  17. California, Death Index, 1940-1997. “Dr. Leighton Steele,” Detroit Times Monday, Mar 12, 1956 Detroit, MI Page: 16. 
  18. California, Death Index, 1940-1997 
  19.  Michigan Department of Vital and Health Records. Michigan, Death Index, 1971-1996. “Florence Wise,” Lima (OH) News, April 11, 1986, p. A4 

41 thoughts on “Milton Goldsmith’s Family Album, Part III: Finding Hettie Steele

  1. Another example of great detective work, Amy! I like the photo of your great-grandmother Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal. It is not only a beautiful picture, but also gives the impression of a woman, who knew what she wanted to do with her life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I felt your excitement in locating more living family! Fabulous research. I am leaning towards the word being ‘gas’ for Adolph. Gas Works is a term in the gas industry in the 1920’s, suspecting it could refer to him being in HR (human resources). Just a guess 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you’re right that it is gas. At first I was sure it was car—and that’s how the indexer transcribed it. But a second look led me to see Gas—which makes a lot more sense than car! Thanks, Sharon!!


  3. Washington, Pennsylvania is one of the very few small places in Pa that are familiar to me.
    Jack Matzner had his last postion as Rabbi there. He was born in Wiesbaden (where I live since 1978) but with Polish passport, survivor of horrors, returned to Wiesbaden in 1945, cofounding a Jewish community with the help of a military Rabbi, marrying a survivor, getting rabinical training
    in USA. I knew only his widdow, unfortunately only for a few years. But all of the sudden, I was in contact with the office of the Jewish congregation in Wash.Pa,….got recollections and even photos of the couple……SMALL WORLD !!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I hate to disagree, Sharon and Amy, but if you look at the entire census page, you will see that Germany was written with a capital G which is not at all similar to the first letter in the occupation place – Car Works. Butler County, Pennsylvania was known for railroad car production during that time period.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Amy, I am utterly amazed by how much you found base on one entry in my grandfather’s handwritten family tree!!!

    I think the word looks like car works, not gas works. I guess that will take more research.

    I still have not figured out how to get the new scanner to work with my computer so I may just scan more pages of Milton goldsmith’s album with my old printer/scanner.

    When you and I connected I had been hoping to come to NY and meet your father who must have been one of the few relatives still alive who had met him. If there are any other Goldsmith relatives who ever met him I would love to connect with them

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sue, I am so glad you like what I am doing with your grandfather’s wonderful book, and I do hope you will be able to send more of the pages from the book.

      I wish that I did know anyone else who had met Milton, but my father is the only one I know of who did. His sister and first cousins are all gone, so there is no one left whom I know who might have met your grandfather.


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

  7. Pingback: Milton Goldsmith’s Family Album, Part IV: His Mother’s Parents | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  8. Pingback: Milton Goldsmith’s Family Album, Part V: A Love Letter | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  9. Pingback: Milton Goldsmith’s Family Album, Part VI: His Parents, Abraham and Cecelia | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  10. Pingback: Milton Goldsmith’s Family Album, Part VII: Abraham Goldsmith and Cecelia Adler Get Married | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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  14. Pingback: Milton Goldsmith’s Family Album, Part XI: Tributes to His Father Abraham | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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  16. Pingback: Milton’s Family Album, Part XIII: The Creative Talent of Milton Goldsmith Himself | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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