Was “Etta” Henrietta Iskowitz or her sister Esther Iskowitz? A Genealogy Adventure

Did Simon Sigmund’s son Harold marry Henrietta or Esther Iskowitz?

As of 1920, only four of Ella Goldschmidt Sigmund’s ten children were still living: Henrietta, Joseph, Simon, and Mollie. And before the decade was over, one more would be gone. Simon Sigmund died on May 6, 1927, in Baltimore.1 He was 74. He was survived by his wife Helen and their son and only child, Harold.

Harold Sigmund married “Etta Iskowitz” in New York City on August 21, 1925.2  Their marriage record on FamilySearch showed Etta’s parents’ names as Abraham Iskowitz and Ray Guernsey. Her record with Social Security reports that she was born on February 25, 1900.3 But tracking Etta through the years on the census records presented some challenges because her parents had two daughters, one named Henrietta and one named Esther. Which one was Etta? The census records were quite confusing.

On the 1905 New York State census, I found Abram Ichkowitz living in the Lower East Side on Forsyth Street with his wife Ray and four children: Etta (8), Esther (4), Issi (2), and Joe (one month). All but Joe were born in Romania; Joe was born in the US. That would mean that the family emigrated after 1903 if Issi (the third child) was born in Romania two years before the 1905 New York census. Abram was a plasterer. I assumed the oldest daughter, Etta, was the one who married Harold.

Ichkowitz family, 1905 NYS census, New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1905; Election District: A.D. 08 E.D. 11; City: Manhattan; County: New York; Page: 68, Ancestry.com. New York, State Census, 1905

Five years later the “Ichkowitz” family appeared on the 1910 US census, living on Orchard Street in the Lower East Side. Abraham and his wife Rachel (presumably Ray) reported that they had immigrated in 1904. Abraham was working in building construction. They had six children now: Henrietta (Etta?) (12), Ettie (Esther?) (10), Isidor (7), Joseph (5), Solomon (3), and Mildred (nine months old). The first three were born in Romania, the younger three in the United States.  Which one was Etta, Henrietta or Ettie?

Ichkowitz family, 1920 US census, Census Place: Manhattan Ward 10, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1010; Page: 10A; Enumeration District: 0213; FHL microfilm: 1375023
Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census

That got even more confusing with the 1920 census. The family, the surname now spelled Iskowitz, had moved to the Bronx and out of the Lower East Side. Abraham was now a janitor. He and Rachel now had five children at home: Etta (19), Isadore (17), George (15), Jacob (13), and Mildred (10). Had Joseph changed his name to George? And Solomon his to Jacob? Obviously the Iskowitz family liked to change their names.

Iskowitz family, 1920 US census, Census Place: Bronx Assembly District 1, Bronx, New York; Roll: T625_1131; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 71, Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census

And was the nineteen year old Etta living at home in 1920 Henrietta or Esther from the 1905 and 1910 census records? The age lines up better with Esther, who was ten in 1910 and four in 1905, but then what had happened to Henrietta?

The 1925 New York State census helped clarify matters. Abraham had died before the census was taken,4 and Ray is listed as a widow. Living with her are Etta (24), Irvin (presumably Isadore) (22), George (presumably once Joseph) (20), Jack (presumably Solomon/Jacob)(18), Mildred (15), and another daughter named Edith Shapiro (26) with her two children. I assume that Edith was formerly known as Henrietta and was the oldest daughter born in 1899 or so and that “Etta” was formerly Esther and was born in about 1901. Later in 1925 Etta/Esther, the second oldest daughter of Abraham and Rachel/Ray, married my cousin Harold Sigmund.

Iskowitz family, 1925 NYS census, New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1925; Election District: 13; Assembly District: 03; City: New York; County: Bronx; Page: 46,  Ancestry.com. New York, State Census, 1925

Well, that was quite the rabbit hole, wasn’t it?

In 1930, Harold and Etta were living in Manhattan with Harold’s mother Helen;5 Harold and Etta had a business manufacturing cleaning fluids called Afta Chemical Corporation.

That company and Harold and Etta themselves were sued by their former employer, Nacto Cleaner Corporation in 1931. According to an affidavit submitted by Laval A. Cowan, the president of Nacto, in support of the complaint filed by Nacto against the Sigmunds and their company Afta:6

The defendant, Harold Sigmund… was formerly the president of plaintiff corporation. The defendant, Etta Sigmund, was formerly a director and employee of the plaintiff corporation and the defendant, Afta Chemical Corporation, is a corporation owned and controlled by Harold Sigmund one of the defendants. 

The plaintifl’ corporation is engaged in the business of manufacturing and selling a cleaning fluid known as Nacto. The defendant, Afta Chemical Corporation, is also manufacturing a cleaning fluid known as Afta. …[P]laintiff is seeking to have certain resolutions of its Board of Directors set aside on the ground that they were not passed at legal meetings. These resolutions, as the complaint alleges, having been illegally concocted by the defendant, Harold Sigmund, to authorize an increase in salary to himself and to bolster illegal expenditures amounting to $34,000.00.

…. The complaint alleges that defendant impoverished the corporation by illegal payments to himself in the guise of salary and in large and wasteful payments to others so that the business of plaintiff would be placed in such a condition that the defendant could obtain control thereof at his own price. …

After defendant, Harold Sigmund, was unsuccessful in wrecking the plaintiff corporation and had been found out and discharged, he started a competitive business dealing in a cleansing fluid known as Afta. That while defendant, Harold Sigmund, had still been president of plaintiff corporation he had hired a chemist named Foster D. Snell to make investigation and report to plaintiff corporation improvements in cleaning fluids in order to strengthen the position of plaintiff corporation in the field in which it was engaged in business.

That when Sigmund was unsuccessful in his attempt to wreck plaintiff corporation he took from the files of plaintiff corporation all the information received from said chemist and which he had not disclosed to any other persons interested in plaintiff corporation, tried to hire salesmen of plaintiff corporation and then started doing business under the trade name of Afta Chemical Corporation and used the formulae belonging to plaintiff to manufacture his cleaning fluid.

That thereafter he caused to be organized the Afta Chemical Corporation which he owns and controls. That after defendant, Harold Sigmund, had placed himself in business through use of plaintiff’s formulae, he immediately started a campaign of unfair busines methods in which he caused to be represented to customers of the plaintiff corporation that said corporation was out of business and that his company was the successor to the plaintiff. That said defendant, Harold Sigmund, also copied the language and form of plaintiff’s labels and containers.

Harold and Etta denied the allegations made against them. Unfortunately I was unable to learn the outcome of the lawsuit as there is no reported decision. But whether or not the Sigmunds were successful in defending themselves against these allegations, they were still in the cleaning fluid business ten years later and still living in Manhattan.7

Harold died in 1987 at the age of 95; Etta died at 94 in 1995. I guess working with cleaning fluids did not affect their lifespan.8

Harold and Etta did not have children, so there are no descendants for them or for Harold’s parents, Simon and Helen (Hirshberg) Sigmund.


  1. The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore, Maryland, 07 May 1927, Sat • Page 18 
  2.  License Number: 21452, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan; Volume Number: 9, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018. New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:247H-5W9 : 10 February 2018), Harold Sigmund and Etta Iskowitz, 21 Aug 1925; citing Marriage, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York City Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,643,402. 
  3. SSN: 109122202, Death Certificate Number: 109882, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  4. Certificate Number: 3708, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Extracted Death Index, 1862-1948 
  5. Harold Sigmund and family, 1930 US census, Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Page: 27B; Enumeration District: 1136; FHL microfilm: 2341316,
    Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 
  6. Affidavit of Laval A. Cowan in connection with Nacto Cleaner Corporation v. Sigmund filed in the Appellate Division, New York Supreme Court, December 30, 1931, found at https://books.google.com/books?id=t-F6gRKk77EC&pg=RA12-PA17&lpg=RA12-PA17&dq=nacto+cleaner+v+afta+chemical+corporation&source=bl&ots=XOaFVU1dOU&sig=ACfU3U1-Epx39uuGvkeOh-dgpeg_6ghflw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiUvLWfk5PmAhXDPn0KHYz2AzgQ6AEwAHoECAcQAQ#v=onepage&q=nacto%20cleaner%20v%20afta%20chemical%20corporation&f=false 
  7. Harold and Etta Sigmund, 1940 US census, Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02646; Page: 61A; Enumeration District: 31-930, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  8.  Name: Harold Sigmund, Social Security Number: 093-12-2485, Death Date: Jun 1987, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014. Etta Sigmund, SSN: 109122202, Death Certificate Number: 109882, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 

35 thoughts on “Was “Etta” Henrietta Iskowitz or her sister Esther Iskowitz? A Genealogy Adventure

  1. wow – that was quite some rabbit hole of names. You did a great job in laying it out for us. That generation as a whole seemed to like to change their names, like trying on hats to see which one fit best.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This was an appeal from an order allowing a motion to consolidate cases in the trial court. While there’s no reported decision, there should be an entry on the clerk’s log in the appellate division that would tell you if the consolidation order was affirmed (or not), and if you obtained the clerk’s logs from the trial court for the underlying case numbers or, more likely, for the number assigned to the cases as consolidated (reflected in the order appealed from), you might see what happened with this litigation … I know I’m curious !!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did find the Appellate Division’s order affirming the consolidation, which, of course, had nothing to do with the merits. But I did not find any other reported decision. Would there be a record of the trial court’s ruling? I have the order appealed from in the trial court’s records, but no clue how to get to the next step.

      Like

  3. What a fascinating story! And yes, the Etta/Ettie Henrietta or Esther conundrum is quite fascinating. And the changes in the surname and given names don’t surprise me – I see it a lot amongst my Ferdinando clan. Some eventually dropped the “o” and became Ferdinands. And they had a habit of naming one daughter Elizabeth and another Eliza!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It is quite a challenge for anyone interested in genealogy research when names are very much alike among siblings and are even changed over the years. Whether the allegations in the lawsuit are true or false, such cases appear to be very modern and are rampant in our 21st century. Like you, Amy, I would be very interested in knowing the outcome of this lawsuit against Harold and Etta and their company.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have a whole new understanding of your frustrations here Amy. I have been trying to find out more about T’s Polish ancestors and the combination of anglicised spellings and name changes is driving me totally nuts.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Ella Goldschmidt Sigmund’s Last Three Children: Henrietta, Joseph, and Mollie | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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

  8. I vacillated between Henrietta and Esther as Etta throughout that post. I am still puzzled by the 1905 state census, which initially committed me to the idea that Henrietta was Etta. Good job working through it! 🙂 It takes patience. For what it’s worth, my grandmother named Henrietta went by “Hattie.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Laura—it was quite a puzzle. My guess is that either they didn’t understand the census taker’s questions or the census taker didn’t understand their answers!

      Like

  9. This post was linked to one of my posts. It freaked me out because Itskowitz was my family surname, though we were from Belarus and before that, Poland, the real form is Ickowicz. It is not that common of a surname. I wonder if we are distantly related.

    Like

    • How did it link to yours? I’ve never heard of that, and I didn’t link it myself.

      Aren’t we all distantly related? 🙂
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Like

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