Henry Goldsmith’s Family, 1920-1930: Losses and Heartbreak

Up through 1920, the family of Henry Goldsmith had had generally good fortune and much success. Henry’s eight surviving children were doing well in their chosen professions. All but two were married, and six of the surviving eight children had children of their own.

On the other hand, Henry had suffered some tragic losses—Henry’s little son Albert died as a young boy, his son Edison died in a horrific train accident, and his wife Sarah Jaffa died in 1907 when she was 56. In addition, Henry had suffered a stroke in 1911, but had recovered. And Henry’s unnamed grandson, the son of Walter Goldsmith and his wife Ella, had died in 1915 when he was just twenty-two days old.

Walter and his wife Ella had then been blessed a year later with a second child, Sarah Jaffa Goldsmith, named for her grandmother. But Walter and Ella suffered another heartbreaking loss on March 21, 1921, when four-year-old Sarah died from acute gastroenteritis.

Death certificate of Sarah Jaffa Goldsmith, Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1965; Certificate Number Range: 020501-023500, Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966

Ella had just twenty days earlier on March 1, 1921, given birth to another child, a son Edison, named for Walter’s deceased brother.1

I can’t imagine how Walter and Ella coped with this tragedy. To lose a second child on the heels of the birth of third—did they worry that the new baby would also get sick and die? Did they worry that they had not been fast enough to notice little Sarah’s illness because of the chaos that always surrounds the birth of a new baby?

Walter and Ella somehow survived this loss. In fact, another child was born to them less than two years later. Stanley Goldsmith was born on December 16, 1922.2 And a daughter Edna was born on October 4, 1924.3 Fortunately, all three of these children survived and lived full lives.

The extended family also continued to grow when the first of Henry Goldsmith’s grandchildren married in 1921.  Eleanor Goldsmith, daughter of JW, married Julian F. Rosenbaum on August 16, 1921, in Connellsville.4 Julian was the son of Joseph and Toni (Frankel) Rosenbaum, German immigrants, and he was born on December 18, 1897, in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, where his parents had settled after immigrating.5 His father was a dry goods merchant there, and in 1921, Julian was working as the assistant manager in his father’s department store, Rosenbaum Brothers.6

Eleanor and Julian settled in Uniontown where Julian continued to work at the family store.  They had three children born in the 1920s in Uniontown, Henry Goldsmith’s first great-grandchildren.7

But the extended family suffered another loss on June 19, 1923, when Henry Goldsmith died from edema of the lungs at the age of 76.  His funeral was attended by “[o]ver 200 of Fayette county’s prominent citizens, including judges of the common pleas and orphans’ courts.”8 Henry was survived by eight children and nine grandchildren.

Henry Goldsmith death certificate, Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1965; Certificate Number Range: 067501-070500, Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966

Henry Goldsmith had lived overall a good life, but not a life without tragedy and heartbreak. He had lost his mother when he was three and had outlived two of his children and two of his grandchildren. His wife had died fifteen years before he did. But despite those tragedies, he and his wife Sarah had raised an incredibly well-educated, intelligent, and successful family, all of whom were still living relatively close by in western Pennsylvania when Henry died in 1923.

That would start to change in the years after Henry’s death.


  1. SSN: 181120537, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  2. SSN: 201142857, Death Certificate Number: PA 2972985, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  3.  Issue State: Pennsylvania; Issue Date: Before 1951, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  4. “Hostess at Rehearsal Dinner,” The Connellsville Daily Courier, August 15, 1921, p. 2. 
  5. SSN: 550052846, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007; Joseph Rosenbaum, passport application, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 550; Volume #: Roll 550 – 07 May 1900-11 May 1900, Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925; Rosenbaum family, 1920 US census, Census Place: Uniontown Ward 5, Fayette, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1571; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 103, Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census. 
  6. Uniontown, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1921, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  7. Julian Rosenbaum and family, 1930 US census, Census Place: Uniontown, Fayette, Pennsylvania; Page: 16B; Enumeration District: 0104; FHL microfilm: 2341775,
    Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 
  8. “Henry Goldsmith,” The Pittsburgh Press, June 22, 1923, p. 28. 

16 thoughts on “Henry Goldsmith’s Family, 1920-1930: Losses and Heartbreak

  1. There is no individual blame attached to the many tragic deaths of little babies in the early part of the 20th century, when infant mortality was high. Modern medical facilities which we take for granted today were not available to parents with sick children. Overall the Henry Goldsmith family did well in spite of the losses and heartbreak.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, Peter—Henry overall had a very good life. And I hope you’re right that Walter and his wife did not feel responsible for the deaths of their two young children.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Children were much more prone to die in the early 20th century from illnesses that can now be treated successfully in a hospital. Gastroenteritis is still serious but with IV and ongoing hydration plus medication the child can recover. Our modern medicine and technology has helped us make these advancements. You did a good job with the research to pull all the pieces together, Amy.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Henry Goldsmith’s Children, 1923-1930: Years of Change | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

    • Why do you doubt the death certificate? I assume some severe diarrhea and dehydration caused by some kind of intestinal problem? Did you have another thought?

      Like

  4. Pingback: Henry Goldsmith’s Grandsons: College Men | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  5. Pingback: Henry Goldsmith, The Final Chapter: Walter, Florence, and Helen | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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