Nothing Is Better Than Getting First Hand Information about Relatives from One Who Knew Them Well

I’ve been very fortunate to connect with Henry Goldsmith’s great-grandson Robin, my fourth cousin, and he has generously shared with me some additional insights into the lives of his grandparents Milton and Luba, his parents Norman and Emphia, and other family members. As noted in the footnotes below, a good deal of the anecdotal information in this post came from Robin.

As we saw in my last post, Milton Goldsmith lost his first wife Luba on October 7, 1931. He continued to live with his two sons, Norman, who was, like his parents, a doctor, and Albert, who graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and receive a master’s degree from Harvard. And then on March 17, 1941, Milton married his cousin, Fannie Goldsmith, the great-granddaughter of Simon Goldsmith, who was also Milton’s grandfather. Milton and Fannie remained married for the rest of their lives.

On March 24, 1944, Milton’s son Norman married Emphia Margaret Fisher in Washington, DC.1

“Indiana Girl Weds Health Surgeon,” The Pittsburgh Press, March 29, 1944, p. 18

Emphia was born on April 17, 1910, in North Judson, Indiana.2 Her father Albert Fisher was born in Ohio and was, according to his grandson, a “classic country doctor” in North Judson; Emphia’s mother Noi Collins was born in Indiana and taught in a one-room school. Emphia attended Ward-Belmont College in Nashville, Tennessee, and Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana, before graduating from the University of Chicago.   In 1940, Emphia was living with her parents and working as a laboratory technician; she later worked as a lab technician in a Chicago hospital.3

During World War II, Emphia moved to Washington, DC and worked as a mapmaker at Fort Meade. At the same time, Norman was serving with the US Public Health Service in DC. They married and moved to Gramercy Park in New York City, where Norman started a dermatology private practice. Emphia returned briefly to North Judson to be with her mother and sister Janet for the birth of her only child, Robin. Robin was born in a Chicago hospital. As recounted by Robin himself, “Two weeks later, long before it was common, Emphia and the baby boy in a basket flew from Chicago to join Norman in New York.” Sadly, Norman had contracted multiple sclerosis, and as he began having greater difficulty walking, the family moved to “the easier-to-get-around” Lancaster, Pennsylvania,  where Norman continued to practice medicine, now in an office on the same floor as the family’s apartment.4

According to Robin, “family members visited Norman and his family fairly frequently in Lancaster. Milton and Fannie visited on their way to annual medical society meetings in Atlantic City and at other times. Albert and Amelia [his wife, see below] and Walter Goldsmith’s children Edison and Edna came quite often. Florence Goldsmith Bernstein and Rae, SR’s widow, each visited at least once. In turn, Emphia and [Robin] visited Pittsburgh probably at least once a year and saw the rest of the relatives there, including seeing Walter for dental services and later for cousin Malcolm Meyer’s (Mac)’s optometry.”

Milton’s younger son Albert remained in Pittsburgh where he was a teacher and also a lecturer on art history at the University of Pittsburgh; he also participated in multiple musical activities, as reported in this profile from 1950:

“Who’s Who in Pittsburgh Music Circles,” The Pittsburgh Press, June 4, 1950, p. 75

Although Albert was not married when this profile was written, sometime not long after its publication, he married Amelia Wheeler, who was born on August 13, 1905,5 making her ten years older than Albert and about 45 when they married. Amelia was born in Pennsylvania and grew up in Pittsburgh, the daughter of George and Amelia Wheeler.6 In 1940, she was living with her widowed mother and siblings and grandparents in Pittsburgh.  Like Albert, she was a public school teacher.7

Milton’s older son Norman Goldsmith was not destined to live a long life. He died on October 8, 1953, from multiple sclerosis. He was only 46 years old, and according to his death certificate, he’d been struggling with MS for 25 years or since he was only 21.

Norman Goldsmith death certificate, Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1965; Certificate Number Range: 086101-088800, Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a wonderful obituary that not only noted Norman’s professional accomplishments as a dermatologist despite being confined to a wheelchair, but also his successful career as a writer. (Recall that Norman had taken a writing course at the University of Pittsburgh with his mother Luba after he’d graduated from Cornell and before starting medical school.) Norman wrote numerous fiction and medical articles, drew a comic strip about Agent X-9, and published two books, The Atlantic City Murder Mystery and You and Your Skin. He was featured in a book, When Doctors Are Patients.

“Dr. Goldsmith, Physician and Author, Dies,” The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 10, 1953, p. 8.

After Norman’s death, his widow Emphia and son Robin continued living in Lancaster, though they moved from their downtown apartment house to a single-family house just outside the city. 8

In 1961, when Robin was in his freshman year of college, Emphia suffered a severe stroke while visiting her family in North Judson, Indiana, where Emphia had been born and raised and where her family lived. Robin wrote, “After years of hospitalization, she was able to move back to her mother’s home and navigate the small town despite her diminished physical and speech capacity.”9

Emphia and her sister attended Robin’s 1971 wedding in Rochester, New Hampshire, as did Albert (who, according to Robin, drove through a snowstorm from Pittsburgh because he was afraid planes would not be flying) and Edwin (Rex) and Helen (Goldsmith) Meyer’s son Edgar and his wife Esther, who had moved back from Vienna to Southboro, Massachusetts.10

Emphia died in Indiana, where she’d been born and raised, in January 1974 when she was 63. She and Norman are both buried in North Judson, Indiana.11

Meanwhile, Milton Goldsmith continued to practice medicine well into his 80s. He died at age 90 on January 10, 1968.10 His obituary appeared in both the Pittsburgh Press and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 11 Both obituaries noted his pioneering work in treating diabetes as one of the first doctors to use insulin. Milton was survived by his wife Fanniey, his son Albert, and his grandson, Robin. As noted in the prior post, Fannie died on July 27, 1975, at the age of 85.

As for Albert, he, like his father Milton, lived a long life. He died at the age of 93 on October 20, 2008.12 His obituary described him as a retired Pittsburgh public school teacher of home-bound children, a teacher of employees-children with special needs at the Children’s Institute, and a teacher of current events at the Vintage Adult Day Care center. Albert’s wife Amelia had predeceased him by almost forty years; she’d died on October 2, 1970.  Albert’s nephew, his brother Norman’s son, was named as his survivor as well as Albert’s first cousin Malcolm Meyer, son of Helen Goldsmith Meyer. 13 More on him in my next post.

Milton Goldsmith, my double cousin, was a very accomplished man—a top scholar in school and a successful doctor who did important work in treating diabetes. His first wife Luba was also very accomplished—the first woman to graduate from the University of Pittsburgh Medical School, she was also a writer and lecturer. Norman Goldsmith followed in his parents’ footsteps and was also a doctor who did important work and published books. Both Luba and Norman died far too young. But Milton remarried and lived a long life with his second wife, his cousin Fannie. And his son Albert, who followed his own path and did not become a doctor, had a long career as a teacher of children with special needs and was also an accomplished musician.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to my cousin Robin, Milton’s only grandchild, for sharing his stories with me and giving me real insights into Milton and his family.




  1. Film Number: 002319414, District of Columbia, Marriage Records, 1810-1953 
  2. Certificate Number: 44190, Roll Number: 021, Agency: Indiana State Dept. of Health, Volume Range: 350 – 354, Indiana, Birth Certificates, 1907-1940 
  3. Albert Fisher and family, 1940 US census, Census Place: North Judson, Starke, Indiana; Roll: m-t0627-01095; Page: 10A; Enumeration District: 75-12, 1940 United States Federal Census. The other information in this paragraph came from Norman and Emphia’s son Robin. 
  4. Publication Title: Lancaster, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1946, U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. The other information in this paragraph came from Norman and Emphia’s son Robin. 
  5.  Number: 208-18-3381; Issue State: Pennsylvania; Issue Date: Before 1951, U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014. I could not find a marriage record for Albert and Amelia, but only newspaper items naming her as Mrs. Albert Goldsmith starting in about 1950, so I am estimating that they were married sometime after the June 4, 1950, profile of Albert in the Pittsburgh newspaper. 
  6. George Wheeler and family, 1910 US census, Census Place: Pittsburgh Ward 18, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1305; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 0523; FHL microfilm: 1375318, 1910 United States Federal Census 
  7. Amelia Wheeler, 1940 US census, Census Place: Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: m-t0627-03667; Page: 62A; Enumeration District: 69-517, 1940 United States Federal Census 
  8. Lancaster, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1960, U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. The other information in this paragraph came from Norman and Emphia’s son Robin. 
  9. Information from Robin, Norman and Emphia’s son. 
  10. Estate and Proceedings Indexes, 1788-1971; Author: Allegheny County (Pennsylvania). Register of Wills; Probate Place: Allegheny, Pennsylvania, Notes: Proceedings Index, Vol 091-092, Pennsylvania, Wills and Probate Records, 1683-1993; Number: 187-36-9987; Issue State: Pennsylvania; Issue Date: 1962, U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  11. “Rites Slated for Retired Oakland MD,” The Pittsburgh Press, January 11, 1968, p. 14; “Dr. Milton Goldsmith, Pioneer on Diabetes,” The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 11, 1968, p. 26. 
  12.  Issue State: Massachusetts; Issue Date: Before 1951, U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  13. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 26 Oct 2008, p. 42 

27 thoughts on “Nothing Is Better Than Getting First Hand Information about Relatives from One Who Knew Them Well

  1. A big thank you to Robin from me as well. I would love to read The Atlantic City Murder Mystery. Amazon has a few copies but very pricey. I was so sad to read Emphia only lived to 63 too. That led to a sad sigh. You told their story beautifully.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved the little tidbit about Albert driving up to New Hampshire because he thought planes would not be flying. How would you have known this without Robin sharing his stories with you? How many cousins like Robin have you found since you started blogging on Brotmanblog? Quite a few!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Exactly—that’s why finding cousins is so wonderful.

      I don’t have a count of how many found me through the blog or how many I found through research or a total. But lots more than I ever expected, that is for sure!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi Amy, a very moving account of your Goldsmith relatives with thanks to your cousin Robin.
    (My bird-brain is trying to work out on a bit of paper the triangular relationships between Milton, Fannie and Simon Goldsmith.) So sad about Norman being affected by multiple sclerosis at such a young age.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. When writing a family chronicle one appreciates the help of others who provide the missing pieces in the complexity of the numerous family branches. I can understand your grateful feelings for your cousin Robin, Amy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I come from a very small family – one first cousin on my dad’s side, none on my mom’s side. So when I am fortunate enough to have someone find me either through my blog or another tool, I feel like I’ve won the lottery. You definitely won by finding Robin!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. While the data we collect from records is enormously helpful in piecing together someone’s life, nothing can really replace the picture provided by the memories of people who knew someone, especially in understanding people’s relationships to one another. Like you, I have no first cousins on my dad’s side, so more distant cousins are a real gift. Glad you found a helpful cousin!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Congratulations! Your blog is included in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at
    Thank you, Chris

    Great story and very well researched… I’m envious that you have found such a great connection with your cousin… and filled in so much of your history. I’m the one that keeps our family history on my father’s side of the family, but I am very grateful to my cousin, Robyn also, as luck would have it… for she has filled in so much on my maternal side…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for including my blog! I have been so fortunate that a fair number of cousins found me through my blog. It was a benefit I never even dreamed about when I started blogging almost six years ago. So you never know!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I thought I already had a whole large batch of cousins… and then I have also connected with so many more thanks to blogging and FB groups…. the blessings of communication.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I think you mean Norman, Milton’s son. Yes, he sounds like he was, like both his parents, a very dedicated doctor. MS affected my family also—my paternal grandfather and my aunt both had it, so I really was affected by Norman’s story. Thanks, Emily, for your thoughts.


  8. Pingback: Family Portraits: The Artists Behind the Portraits Discovered | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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