My Grandmother’s First Cousin Morris Goldfarb: A Life Filled with Challenges

My grandmother’s first cousin Morris Goldfarb, Sam and Sarah (Brod) Goldfarb’s second child, was born in Grebow in what is now Poland on August 15, 1886,1 and was almost ten years old when he came to America with his mother and siblings. He lived in Pittsgrove, New Jersey, and then on the Lower East Side with his parents until he married Anna Grinbaum (later spelled Greenbaum) in 1919. At that time he was working as a cloakmaker in a sweatshop in New York.

By 1925, Morris and Anna had two sons, Martin, born in 1920, and Irvin, born in 1922.  They were living in the same apartment building at 526 Williams Avenue in Brooklyn as Sam and Sarah and Morris’ sister Rose. Morris was no longer working in a sweatshop as a tailor but now had his own grocery store.

Goldfarbs 1925 NYS census, New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1925; Election District: 49; Assembly District: 02; City: Brooklyn; County: Kings; Page: 45 Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State Census, 1925

Here is a baby picture of little Martin Goldfarb shared with me by his daughter Ann.

Martin Goldfarb, c. 1920. Courtesy of Ann Lee.

I asked the amazing people in the Free Photo Restoration group on Facebook if they could edit this photo, and here is one of the results:

Martin Goldfarb. Photo edited 4 29 21 by Kim Prevost

This is the building in Brooklyn where the Goldfarbs were living in 1925:

Five years later in 1930, Morris and his family were living at 542 Williams Avenue, and Morris was still the proprietor of a grocery store. His father Sam had died in 1926, and his mother Sarah and  two of his younger siblings Leo and Rose were living across the street at 526 Williams Avenue.  Morris’ wife Anna must have been pregnant when the 1930 census was enumerated because she gave birth to their third son Saul on June 10, 1930.2

Morris Goldfarb and family, 1930 US census, Census Place: Brooklyn, Kings, New York; Page: 10A; Enumeration District: 1218; FHL microfilm: 2341227
Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census

I love this sweet photograph of Morris Goldfarb holding Saul in 1932, shared with me by Saul’s widow Kay and their children Becky and Jim:

Morris and Saul Goldfarb, c. 1932 Courtesy of the family

Sometime during this period, Martin Goldfarb was hit by a car in Brooklyn and seriously injured, leaving him with a lifetime of circulation problems following surgery to repair his injured legs.3

According to a family history compiled by Saul Goldfarb’s wife Kay,4 Morris’ grocery store was not terribly lucrative, but was successful enough to support his growing family. The Depression years, however, were hard for the family, and Morris had to pay “protection money” to gangsters to keep the store going. The boys went to a Brooklyn public school with many other children of immigrants, including Danny Kaye, a classmate of Martin Goldfarb.

The family shared this wonderful photograph of Morris in his grocery store:

Morris Goldfarb courtesy of the family

Tragedy again struck the family on October 6, 1938, when Anna died from a ruptured appendix.5 She was only 41 when she died and left behind her three sons. Martin was eighteen, Irvin was sixteen, and Saul was only eight when they lost their mother.

This is a beautiful photograph of Anna, shared with me by her granddaughter Ann, Martin Goldfarb’s daughter and Anna’s namesake.

Anna Greenbaum Goldfarb. Courtesy of Ann Lee.

On the 1940 census Morris was listed as a widower living with his three sons; his sister Rose was living with them also. Perhaps Rose moved in with Morris to help with the three sons.

Morris Goldfarb and family, 1940 US census, Census Place: New York, Kings, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02618; Page: 16A; Enumeration District: 24-2709, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census

This census record has several errors. First, it lists Rose as 25 when she was in fact 38; she was working as an operator in a curtain business, presumably a sweatshop. The second error is that it lists nine-year-old Saul as a bookkeeper in the grocery business; that must have been Irvin’s occupation as there is no occupation listed for him, and he was now 18 years old. It make more sense that Morris and his two oldest sons would be working together in his grocery store and that Saul would have been in school.

Morris’ sister Rose married in early 1941,6 and it was around this time that a rabbi arranged a second marriage for Morris to help him and his sons. According to the family history written by Saul’s wife Kay, Morris was briefly married to a woman named Lena Weiss, a widow with two children of her own, but the marriage was over by sometime around 1942-1943.7 In 1945, Morris married for a third time. His third wife was Mollie Kaminsky Rosen, a widow with one son.8

Morris Goldfarb was 64 when he died on January 29, 1951.9 He is buried at Mount Hebron cemetery in New York where his first wife Anna is also buried.10 He had lived a full but challenging life.  Born in Grebow, Poland, Morris came to the US as a young boy, having to learn a new language and a new culture. He lived and worked in Brooklyn for his entire adult life, making a living in his own grocery store. He faced personal obstacles when his son Martin was badly injured in a car accident, and then when his first wife Anna died a sudden death in 1938. Morris raised his sons on his own after her death until he married again. He must have been a strong and resilient man.

His sons also faced challenges in their adult lives, as we will see in the next post.


  1.  Morris Goldfarb, Marital status: Single, Birth Date: 15 Aug 1886, Birth Place: Galicia, Austria, Residence Date: 1917-1918, Registration State: New York; Registration County: New York, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 
  2. Saul Goldfarb, Birth Date: 10 Jun 1930, Birth Place: Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA, Certificate Number: 234??, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Birth Index, 1910-1965 
  3. Email from Ann Lee, April 20, 2021. 
  4. Unpublished family history written by Kay Lergessner Goldfarb (hereinafter referred to as KLG history.”) 
  5. Anna Goldfarb, Age: 41, Birth Year: abt 1897, Death Date: 6 Oct 1938
    Death Place: Kings, New York, USA, Certificate Number: 19378, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Extracted Death Index, 1862-1948. KLG history. 
  6. Rose Goldfarb. Marriage License Date: 29 Jan 1941
    Marriage License Place: Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA
    Spouse: Max Levine, License Number: 1699, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Brooklyn, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018 
  7. KLG history 
  8. Mollie Kaminsky, Maiden Name: Kaminsky, Marriage Date: 1945, Marriage Place: New Jersey, USA, Spouse: Morris Goldfarb, New Jersey State Archives; Trenton, New Jersey; Marriage Indexes; Index Type: Bride; Year Range: 1945; Surname Range: A – Z, Ancestry.com. New Jersey, U.S., Marriage Index, 1901-2016 
  9. Morris Goldfarb, Death Date: 29 Jan 1951, Death Place: Brooklyn, New York, New York, USA, Certificate Number: 2007, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Death Index, 1949-1965 
  10. Find a Grave, database and images, (www.findagrave.com/memorial/77764408/morris-goldfarb : accessed 25 April 2021), memorial page for Morris Goldfarb (unknown–29 Jan 1951), Find a Grave Memorial ID 77764408, citing Mount Hebron Cemetery, Flushing, Queens County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Athanatos (contributor 46907585); Find a Grave, database and images (www.findagrave.com/memorial/77764294/anna-goldfarb : accessed 25 April 2021), memorial page for Anna Goldfarb (unknown–6 Oct 1938), Find a Grave Memorial ID 77764294, citing Mount Hebron Cemetery, Flushing, Queens County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Athanatos (contributor 46907585). 

24 thoughts on “My Grandmother’s First Cousin Morris Goldfarb: A Life Filled with Challenges

  1. Hi Amy, I hope all is well.  We are fine, Ben is going to attend the engineering college at Penn state this fall.  I wonder if the the Goldfarbs and Brotmans knew each other on the lower east side?Love Bruce 

    Sent from the all new AOL app for Android

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Bruce! They definitely did. There’s a photo of my grandmother with two of the Goldfarbs and for some years they lived directly across the street in the Lower East Side. Too bad we all lost touch.

      I sent you an email about a month ago. I wonder if you received it… I will send again!
      Love to you all—that’s great about Ben!

      Amy

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  2. You mention in your previous comment about losing touch. I sometimes do wonder why cousins drift out of touch and at what generation. My grandmother knew her second cousins and maybe even some thirds. I only knew my first until I started doing genealogy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Same for me. I knew none of my parents’ first cousins, let alone second cousins. On the other hand, my husband’s family is amazing at staying in touch. When we have family events, everyone is invited including the grandchildren of first cousins. So my grandchildren will know their third cousins.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So thankful for the photo restoration groups – Kim P. did a wonderful job on Martins photo. Wonderful picture shares from the family. I especially Anna G.’s photo – what a treasure since passing so young. Protection money ~ crazy times. Wonderful post Amy

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My iPad just ate my comment. I was saying that the accident and the ruptured appendix were such tragedies. Morris’ smile in the photo with baby Saul is wonderful. What year is the photo of him reading the paper? Interesting about the failed arranged marriage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There was no way to date the photo except to say he looks like he’s at least in his late 40s but could be in his fifties. He was only 64 when he died in 1951. So I’d say the photo was probably taken in the late 1930s through sometime in the 1940s. Too bad we can’t read a date on that newspaper he’s reading!

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  5. Morris certainly did have an interesting, and challenging, life. Do you know if he spoke Polish? Also, was it normal for Rabbis to arrange marriages for widows and widowers? It seems, in this case at least, he wasn’t a good matchmaker…

    The photo of Morris with Saul and the one of Anna are particularly lovely…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think they spoke Polish, certainly not as a child who didn’t have to interact with the non-Jewish world. He spoke Yiddish. In fact, Kay’s history said Morris was the first one to speak English well enough to help his parents adjust. And I do think rabbis often played the role of matchmaker back then, but I guess they weren’t always great at it!

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  6. Hi Amy, beautiful natural photo of Morris and baby Saul. Happy father, happy baby. Sad about the devastation that ensued. Morris would have been an inspiration for his children. My husband has 95 first cousins (of whom he knows two) and I have 5 and know them all. Mine lost touch initially when they relocated to the affluent south – this seems to be the usual way but we reconnected when older.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Amy, no none of my husband’s cousins moved away… because both of his parent’s families were so large and separated by many years there was no inter action. It was a case of coping and hoping everyone would survive. Sad but brave.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Morris Goldfarb’s Adventurous Sons, Martin, Irving, and Saul | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  9. Pingback: Bessie Goldfarb Malzberg and Her Four Sons, Members of the Greatest Generation | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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