Ella Goldschmidt Sigmund Did Not Have A Baby in Her Fifties: Mystery Solved

As of 1900, Ella Goldschmidt Sigmund had over twenty grandchildren, but had lost her husband Albert and four of her ten children. Three of those children had died without any descendants: Jacob, Lena, and Stella.

William had left five children behind, and in 1900, all of them were still living with their mother Adelaide in Washington, DC. Albert (26) was a clerk in a jewelry store; Abraham (24) was working in men’s and women’s furnishings. Jeanette (20), Goldie (17), and Howard (13) were not working outside the home.

Adelaide Sigmund and family, 1900 US census, Census Place: Washington, Washington, District of Columbia; Page: 1; Enumeration District: 0031; FHL microfilm: 1240159
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census

There are two things to note about this census record. First, Goldie was a son, not a daughter. That threw me off until I found later records for Goldie, whose real name was Goldsmith. Second, the record reports that Adelaide had had seven children, only five of whom were still living. I knew that Herman had died in 1883, but I have not located the other child who was no longer living.

Ella Goldschmidt Sigmund’s six surviving children were all married by 1900, and four of them were living in Baltimore.  Ella herself was living with her daughter May, May’s husband Gerson Cahn, a fur salesman, and their baby boy, Felix Albert Cahn (listed as Albert on the census).

Gerson Cahn and family, 1900 US census, Census Place: Baltimore Ward 16, Baltimore City (Independent City), Maryland; Page: 13; Enumeration District: 0209; FHL microfilm: 1240615
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census

Simon Sigmund was a dry goods salesman and was living with his wife Helen and son Harold in Baltimore.1 Leo Sigmund and his wife Claudia and infant daughter Tracy Edna were also living in Baltimore in 1900 where Leo was a hat merchant.2  Leo and Claudia’s second child Albert Lloyd Sigmund was born on September 17, 1902.3

The fourth of Ella’s children living in Baltimore in 1900 was her daughter Mollie, who was living with her three children and husband Harry Goldman.4 Although Harry was working as a police magistrate in 1900, his other activities are what he would become best known for. Harry Goldman, who was known as Judge, was one of the original organizers and investors in the team that would eventually become Baltimore’s American League baseball team, the Orioles, when the American League was formed in 1900. Here is the first Orioles team in 1901:

As a somewhat lapsed baseball fan, I loved reading the many articles describing how the American League was created and the obstacles it had to overcome as the older circuit, the National League, took extraordinary steps to try and prevent the creation of a league that would compete for audiences and players. For example, Harry Goldman located the land where the Baltimore’s stadium was to be built, and the National League tried to block that acquisition. Harry played such an instrumental role in the organization of the team and its league that he was named the first secretary-treasurer of Baltimore’s first American League team in 1900.5

The Baltimore Sun, November 17, 1900, p. 6.

Ella’s two remaining children were not living in Baltimore in 1900. Henrietta had long ago moved to Washington, Pennsylvania, with her husband S.J. Katzenstein. And by 1900, Joseph Sigmund had left Pittsburgh, where he had moved several years before. In 1900 he was living in Denver with his wife and children and working in advertising.

Joseph Sigmund and family, 1900 US census, Census Place: Denver, Arapahoe, Colorado; Page: 4; Enumeration District: 0059; FHL microfilm: 1240118
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Censu

Thus, in 1900, Ella Goldschmidt Sigmund had four of her six surviving children living nearby in Baltimore, plus one living in Pennsylvania and one in Denver. The next four years would be terrible ones, however.

First, Ella’s son-in-law S.J. Katzenstein, Henrietta’s husband, died on December 7, 1901, at the age of 53. He left behind his wife Henrietta and six children, ranging in age from Moynelle, who was 22, to Vernon, who was only nine years old.

Then two years later on November 23, 1903, Ella lost another son-in-law when May’s husband Gerson Cahn died from pulmonary tuberculosis. He was only 31 years old.

But the family’s tragedy deepened when May herself died just four months later on March 18, 1904, at the age of 29, from pulmonary edema and heart failure. Their son Felix Albert was orphaned at just four years old.

When I recently received May’s death certificate, it answered a question I had asked in a recent post: Had Ella Goldschmidt Sigmund really had a child in her fifties?

May was not Ella and Albert’s biological child. She was the child of their daughter Lena and her husband Solomon Sigmund. Although her death certificate states that May was born on May 2, 1875, both the 1880 census record and the 1900 census record suggest that she was born in 1874, not 1875. That would mean she was just over a year old when her mother died on July 31, 1875.

So perhaps her grandparents Ella and Albert adopted her, legally or unofficially, and thus they identified her as their daughter on the 1880 census and as one of Albert’s children in his obituary. But it also explains why Ella reported only five living children on the 1900 census, not six.

Gerson Cahn and family, 1900 US census, Census Place: Baltimore Ward 16, Baltimore City (Independent City), Maryland; Page: 13; Enumeration District: 0209; FHL microfilm: 1240615
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census

One question that remains unanswered is what happened to Lena’s husband and May’s father Solomon. I have not been able to find one reference or record that reveals where he was after Lena’s death. He is not listed in the Baltimore City Death Index for 1875-1880, so presumably he was still living in 1880 when May was living with her grandparents and listed as their daughter. So perhaps he had returned to Germany or just moved on to a new location in the US.6

Losing May after losing Lena as well as Jacob, Stella, and William must have been just too much for Ella to bear. She had now outlived four of her ten children as well as her husband Albert and now her granddaughter/adopted daughter May. Ella died the day after May on March 19, 1904, at the age of eighty-one from nephritis and diabetes.

Ella Goldschmidt Sigmund, my first cousin, four times removed, had lived quite a challenging life. Born in Grebenstein, Germany, she was the oldest of seven children and lost her mother when she was only sixteen. Faced with financial burdens, she had taken on the responsibility of not only helping to care for those younger siblings but of earning a living as a milliner. Then when she was about twenty-one, she decided to strike out on her own and left Germany for the US, where she married Albert Sigmund and had ten children. Although Albert was a successful businessperson in Baltimore, Ella suffered far too many losses—five of her children predeceased her as well as her husband Albert. One has to wonder whether her dreams of a better life in the US were fulfilled, given how much she had endured as an adult.

But five of her children survived her as well as over twenty grandchildren, so her legacy did not end with her life, as we will see.

 


  1. Simon Sigmund and family, 1900 US census, Census Place: Baltimore Ward 16, Baltimore City (Independent City), Maryland; Page: 1; Enumeration District: 0208; FHL microfilm: 1240615, Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census 
  2. Leo Sigmund and family, 1900 US census, Census Place: Baltimore Ward 16, Baltimore City (Independent City), Maryland; Page: 15; Enumeration District: 0209; FHL microfilm: 1240615, Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census 
  3. New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2W23-G4M : 10 February 2018), Claudia Hirsch in entry for Albert Lloyd Sigmund, 24 Oct 1938; citing Death, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 2,108,250. 
  4. Harry Goldman and family, 1900 US census, Census Place: Baltimore Ward 16, Baltimore City (Independent City), Maryland; Page: 15; Enumeration District: 0209; FHL microfilm: 1240615, Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census 
  5. See, e.g., “The New Ball Club,” The Baltimore Sun, January 27, 1900, p. 6; “More Baseball War,” The Baltimore Sun, July 29, 1902, p. 6; Fred Lieb, The Baltimore Orioles: The History of a Colorful Team in Baltimore and St. Louis (SIU Press, 2005), pp. 91-95,111, 116, 147 
  6. I did find a Sol Sigmund of the same age and born in Germany on the 1900 census, living in St. Louis and married to Emma Lorber with two children, but I have no way to know if that man was the same man. If it was the same Solomon Sigmund, he never reappears with that family either. Sol Sigmund and family, 1900 US census, Census Place: St Louis Ward 12, St Louis (Independent City), Missouri; Page: 5; Enumeration District: 0185; FHL microfilm: 1240894, Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census. By 1910 Emma was living with her sons and still listed as married, but Sol is not in the household. By 1920 Emma identified her marital status as divorced. Could this be the same Solomon Sigmund? And if so, where did he now disappear to? 

30 thoughts on “Ella Goldschmidt Sigmund Did Not Have A Baby in Her Fifties: Mystery Solved

  1. Kudos for ordering May’s death so you could solve the question of Ella having a child so late in life. I find it strange that in Lena’s death notice (I went back to the 1870s post) did not mention she had a child. A true heroine…daughter of…wife of…but not the mother of May. It is sad that May died so young like her mother Lena.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, so glad you discovered the answer! But I am really worrying about May and Gerson. Really a coincidence. I feel that it’s possible there was an underlying and perhaps unknown cause behind their deaths. I mean it’s possible that it truly is a coincidence, but they were SO young. Very strange IMO.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Amy, great detective work regarding Ella, what a surprise regarding the parentage. The family had true grit and were self contained, but a tragedy losing both Lena and Ella.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Ella Goldschmidt Sigmund’s Grandchildren: Eight Weddings between 1901 and 1910 | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  5. Ella had great strength of character and persistence. I find running through your family. Ella was very brave to come to America so young and as a single woman.

    I had a smile come to me when I read about Harry Goldman and the Orioles. I am so happy you discovered this. Maybe you share the same DNA with Harry that gives you that interest in baseball. I do think certain pursuits we are drawn to and able to follow are part of our DNA as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ella really did suffer and lose quite a bit. I wonder how she was able to cope. I often think about how we happen upon our ancestors’ hardships, which would be devastating to us in our own lives, and wonder how they reconciled the tragedies. Context is important, I suppose. Child mortality rates were higher, so it wasn’t unexpected or unknown to lose children. I’m sure it didn’t make it easier to deal with, but did our ancestors’ expect seemingly unbearable tragedy because they regularly saw it in the lives of their immediate ancestors, friends and neighbors? If the hardship is more common is it more bearable to endure? From my perspective rooted in my modern day context, no, but our ancestors were the products of their times. Maybe endemic hardship influenced how they saw and coped with tragedy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I also have wondered about this same idea many times. Did people get over losing children more easily? Did having so many children without birth control make them value children differently from the way we do today? But then reading literature from those days about women mourning babues reminds me that some things are just human and are not really special to a particular time or culture. Even animals mourn their lost babies.

      Like

  7. Interesting about Harry helping to form a baseball team. I just learned yesterday that my great grandfather was one of the founders of the first Temple in Fresno. I’m so glad the mystery of Ella having a baby in her 50’s has been solved.

    Liked by 1 person

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