The Mystery of Taube Brotman Hecht, My Great-Aunt

My next project is to write about my great-aunt Taube1 Brotman Hecht and her family.  I wrote about the Hecht family back in 2016 when I discovered Taube at the same time I discovered my Goldfarb family in my aunt’s baby book and grandparents’ address book.  It was a long and twisting path to figure out that “Mrs. Taube Hecht” in that baby book was my grandmother’s half-sister, Taube Brotman.

My aunt’s 1917 baby book. Taube Hecht is the last guest listed.

Those earlier posts in 2016 focused on my research methodology and the path I followed to figure out that Taube Hecht was my grandmother’s sister. Now I want to go back and tell her story and the story of her children and grandchildren in a more complete way. If you are interested in learning how I found Taube and how I determined that she was my great-aunt, you can read the earlier posts here, here, and here.

Let me now start with what I do and don’t know about Taube’s early life. As with all my Brod and Brotman relatives, I have no European records, but need to rely on American records.

Taube was born sometime between 1870 and 1875 according to various census records. The 1900 US census says she was born in March 1875.2 The 1905 NYS census says she was born in 1870.3 According to the 1910 US census, she was then 38, giving her a birth year of 1872.4  She reported that she was 40 on the 1915 NYS census, meaning she was born in 1875.5 In 1920 her age was reported as 47,6 and in 1930 she was 58, meaning a birth year of 1872 or 1873.7  In 1940 she shaved some years off her age, reporting that was 60, thus born in 1880.8 And her death record in 1944 says she was “about 71.”9 All in all, I’d say Taube was born sometime in the 1870s.

Her father was my great-grandfather Joseph Brotman, as stated on her death record; her mother was not named, but I know from records from her brothers David and Max that their mother was Chaye Fortgang, Joseph Brotman’s first wife. Taube’s US records all say she was born in Austria or Poland,9 and I have nothing more specific than that. Presumably like the rest of her family she was born in or near Tarnobrzeg in what is now Poland, then Galicia and part of the Austria-Hungary Empire.

According to family lore as discussed here, Taube left for the US when she was ten years old. I found ship manifests listing a young girl named Taube Brodt sailing from Hamburg on the Moravia to New York in July 1887. Both the Hamburg manifest and the New York manifest report that Taube was eleven. According to both manifests, she was coming from “Tarnowschek.” And on the Hamburg manifest she is grouped with a woman named Eva Singer and her baby, Ascher Singer.

Taube Brodt 1887 NY ship manifest
Year: 1887; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 509; Line: 1; List Number: 911

Taube Brodt ship manifest 1887
Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Microfilm No.: K_1736
Month : Direkt Band 059 (3 Jul 1887 – 29 Dez 1887)

I can’t be positive this is my Taube. The spelling of the name Brodt was also used by other family members (along with Brod, Brodmann, Broadman, Brothman, and so on).  The age is close to what the various birth years for Taube would suggest if a bit younger, but also close to family lore. And Tarnowschek certainly sounds like Tarnobrzeg.

But who were Eva and Ascher Singer? And why was Taube with them? I have spent more hours than I care to count trying to find Eva and Ascher after they got to America. I’ve had no luck. I have gone down more rabbit holes, hit more dead ends, and searched in more ways and more places than was probably justified. Especially since I have nothing to show for my efforts. I found an Ascher Singer who was the right age, but he was from Bukovina, Romania. That was as close as I came. And who knows? Even if I found the Singers, it probably wouldn’t reveal anything about Taube.

Why would Taube have left Europe in 1887? By that time her mother had died, and my great-grandfather Joseph Brotman had married his second wife, my great-grandmother Bessie Brod. They’d already had two children together by 1887. But Joseph Brotman and Taube’s full brothers Abraham, David, and Max were still in Europe in 1887. Joseph immigrated to the US  in 188910 as did his oldest sons Abraham and David. Max came in 1890.11

David and Abe Brodmann on the Portia 1889, Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Volume: 373-7 I, VIII B 1 Band 079; Page: 1373; Microfilm No.: S_13156, Staatsarchiv Hamburg. Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934

So if Taube came in 1887, she left her whole family back in Europe. What did she do when she got here especially if she was only eleven? Even if we take a birth year of 1872, she would only have been fifteen when she arrived in 1887.  Where did she go?

Family lore says she stayed with her two older brothers, but then she had to have arrived after 1889 when Abraham and David immigrated, not in 1887. And if she did come after Abraham and David,  she was already a teenager, maybe even seventeen, certainly not ten. And why can’t I find her on another manifest?

Family lore also says her brothers sent her to St Louis to learn English. I can’t find any evidence of that.  There were several people with the surname Brod listed in the 1889 St. Louis directory, but I’ve no idea whether they were relatives. And why would her brothers, who lived in NYC when they immigrated, send their sister all the way to St. Louis? It doesn’t make sense to me. But sadly, without the 1890 census, I cannot find Taube in St. Louis, New York, or anywhere else in the US.

So Taube’s arrival and early years in America remain a mystery. Fortunately from about 1891 on, there is better evidence of her life. And I will start there next time.

Taube Brotman Hecht

  1. Taube was also known as Toba, her name in Hebrew, and Tillie, a later Americanization of her name. Because my grandmother also had a full sister whose Americanized name was Tillie, I will refer to Taube as Taube to prevent confusion. 
  2. Hecht family, 1900 US census, Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Page: 14; Enumeration District: 0290; FHL microfilm: 1241094, 1900 United States Federal Census 
  3. Hecht family, 1905 NYS census, New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1905; Election District: A.D. 12 E.D. 14; City: Manhattan; County: New York; Page: 64, New York, U.S., State Census, 1905 
  4. Hecht family, 1910 US census, Year: 1910; Census Place: Brooklyn Ward 16, Kings, New York; Roll: T624_964; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 0329; FHL microfilm: 1374977, 1910 United States Federal Census 
  5. Hecht family, 1915 NYS census, New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 18; Assembly District: 06; City: New York; County: New York; Page: 85, New York, U.S., State Census, 1915 
  6. Hecht family, 1920 US census, Year: 1920; Census Place: Manhattan Assembly District 2, New York, New York; Roll: T625_1188; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 226, 1920 United States Federal Census 
  7. Hecht family, 1930 US census, Year: 1930; Census Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey; Page: 22A; Enumeration District: 0100; FHL microfilm: 2341088, 1930 United States Federal Census 
  8. Hecht family, 1940 US census, Year: 1940; Census Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: m-t0627-02401; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 24-50, 1940 United States Federal Census 
  9. See census citations above. 
  10. Yossel Brod, ship manifest, Year: 1889; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Line: 36; List Number: 244, Description
    Ship or Roll Number: Aurania, New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  11. Morske Brodmann, Year: 1890; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Line: 25; List Number: 804, Ship or Roll Number: City of Chicago, New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 

17 thoughts on “The Mystery of Taube Brotman Hecht, My Great-Aunt

  1. Could Taube have gone to St. Louis when first arriving in the U.S., before her brothers arrived? Perhaps that destination was where family or friends had settled. If she was 12 or older, she might have wanted to leave home with stepmother and step siblings and went to help/work for the family in St. Louis. Later, when her brothers arrived, she moved east.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It certainly is a possibility, but I have no evidence to support it nor can I find anyone living in St Louis at that time who might be a relative. But without more records, I may never know for sure. Thanks for your thoughts, Linda!


  2. I remember the baby book and that Taube’s brothers or at least one of them was supposed to be a redhead. The family tradition is pretty recent and there must be some truth to it. Taube’s age seems to be quite young when she came to America, especially since she wasn’t traveling with known family. I know how frustrating this must be for you. Looking forward to reading what you do know about Taube.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Cathy. It is frustrating—and yes, I can’t believe you remember the red hair! The fact that she was so young made me think she traveled to help Eva Singer with her infant son Ascher. But then what happened to the Singers??

      Liked by 1 person

      • I remember commenting on the red hair since I’m a redhead. So much could have happened between 1887 and 1900. Have you tried searching for a marriage for Eva? With Ascher being a baby, if she married again he might not be found with the Singer surname.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, right! The red hair connection!

        I have searched for every Eva Singer of that age (there are a number) with a son whose name started with A (since Ascher probably was Americanized to something else), every Eva with a son named Ascher, every person born in Tarnobrzeg around the time Ascher was born, every Eva from Tarnobrzeg, and so on. Unfortunately nothing came up that could be at all definite or even likely. I have run out of ideas for how else to search for them or for Taube between 1887 and 1892 when her first child was born in NYC. Thanks for your thoughts, Cathy.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. My first thought was that she came to America to be a nanny or other household helper. I sure hope that one day you are able to learn more about her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think Renee told you eleven when we first were looking into this. In any event, we have no way to know for sure since we don’t have any date certain of her birth.


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