Dora Blumenfeld Livingston and Her Family in the 1920s: Years of Loss

After Meyer Livingston died in 1915, his widow Dora and many of his children continued to live in Bloomington, Illinois, although some relocated to Chicago. And the family continued to grow.

Rosalie, the first-born child of Meyer and Dora, was living in Bloomington with her husband Albert Livingston and their son Morton in 1920; Albert was a dry goods merchant.1 Her brother Maurice and his wife Bertha and their two daughters Ruth and Betty May were also living in Bloomington, and Maurice listed his occupation as the proprietor of a department store.2

The second oldest son, Sigmund, married Hilda Freiler in Chicago on December 18, 1918. She was the daughter of Philip Freiler and Lizzie Ehrlich and was born on April 25, 1891, in Elgin, Illinois.3

Sigmund Livingston marriage, found at https://genealogy.zemon.name/gramps/ppl/0/d/b21ea1d3dd971e202d0.html Courtesy of Art Zemon

Here is a photograph of Sigmund and Hilda taken on their honeymoon.

Sigmund Livingston and Hilda Freilder on their honeymoon 1918. Courtesy of Art Zemon, found at https://genealogy.zemon.name/gramps/index.html

Sigmund and Hilda settled in Bloomington, where in 1920 Sigmund continued to practice law.4 Their son Richard was born on March 8, 1920, in Bloomington.5 There will be more on Sigmund and his career in a separate post.

Herman, the next oldest sibling, and his youngest brother Harold were still single and living at home with their mother Dora in 1920. Both Herman and Harold listed department store owner on the 1920 census as well as on their World War I draft registrations.6 Harold served in the Finances and Supplies Detachment of the Surgeon General’s Office of the US Army during World War I.7

Herman Livingston, World War I draft registration, Registration State: Illinois; Registration County: McLean County, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918

Harold Livingston, World War I draft registration, Registration State: Illinois; Registration County: McLean County, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918

Gussie, who had moved to Virginia, Illinois, with her husband Solomon Salzenstein after marrying him in 1906, had returned to Bloomington with her husband and their son James. In 1920 Solomon was working as a corn farmer.8

So in 1920 six of the eight Livingston children were still living in Bloomington. The other two, Alfred and Irvin, were in Chicago. On his 1918 registration for the draft, Alfred reported that he was the sales manager for a piano manufacturer; in 1920, he was living with his wife Eva and their daughter Miriam/Marion in Chicago, and now he described his occupation as “piano manufacturer.”9

Alfred Livingston, World War I draft registration, Registration State: Illinois; Registration County: Cook, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918

Irvin was practicing law in Chicago and living with his wife Helen and their two older children in 1920.10 Their youngest child, Irvin, Jr., was born the following year.11

The 1920s brought many changes for the family, including some very sad losses. First, Maurice Livingston died on November 19, 1923, in Bloomington. He was only 52 years old, and making it even sadder, his two daughters Ruth and Betty were only ten and seven, respectively. His wife Bertha was only 37.12 The Pantagraph, the local Bloomington newspaper, published this obituary, which reported that Maurice had been in poor health for a few years, but died suddenly of a heart attack after a night at the theater with his family.

“M. Livingston Is Suddenly Taken,” The Pantagraph, November 20, 1923, p. 5

Just a year later, Gussie Livingston lost her husband Solomon Salzenstein on September 9, 1924, in Bloomington. He was only 55, and his only child James was just eleven when he lost his father. Gussie was 43.13

There was some good news in the 1920s when the two remaining single brothers married. Herman Livingston married Dorothy Ensel in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 14, 1922. Dorothy, the daughter of Gustave Ensel and Sophie Lieber, was born in Somerset, Kentucky, on November 4, 1882.14 Herman and Dorothy settled in Bloomington.

“Ensel-Livingston,” The Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal, March 12, 1922, p. 8

Harold, the youngest child of Dora and Meyer Livingston, married Marion Kunstadter, the daughter of Samuel Kunstadter and Theodora Hess, in May 1926 in Chicago. Marion was born on October 6, 1905, in Chicago. Harold and Marion also settled in Bloomington.15

But those two happy events were bookended by two more losses in the 1920s. On January 15, 1927, the family lost its matriarch, Dora Blumenfeld Livingston; she was 79 years old.16 She was survived by seven of her eight children and her grandchildren. Dora had successfully given birth to and raised eight children and left her homeland in Germany to settle in the middle of America with her husband Meyer and his many Livingston relatives in Bloomington, Illinois. That fateful decision meant that her children and their children were spared the horrors that many of her relatives who stayed in Germany had to endure.

Dora’s death was followed by another loss a year later. Dora’s oldest child, her daughter Rosalie, lost her husband Albert Livingston on January 7, 1928.17 He was 65 years old and was survived by Rosalie and their son Morton, who was 28.

Thus, in the span of just five years from 1923 to 1928, the family suffered four losses—Maurice, Solomon, Dora, and Albert. Fortunately, the decade ended with a birth. Harold Livingston’s wife Marion gave birth to Ralph Hirsch Livingston on November 17, 1928, in Bloomington.18 Ralph was the tenth grandchild of Dora and Meyer and the last to be born.

I found it interesting that although Dora and Meyer’s children grew up with so many siblings, one of those eight children had no children (Herman) and five had just one child (Rosalie, Sigmund, Alfred, Gussie, and Harold). Only Maurice (2) and Irvin (3) had multiple children. If not for the fact that these siblings appeared to stay connected to each other geographically and presumably otherwise, I might have thought their choices to have small families were a negative response to their own childhood experiences. And if not for the fact that the family was prosperous, I might have thought that it was an economic choice.

But perhaps it was just other forces—fertility issues, the desires of their spouses, or the demands of time. And of the times themselves.


  1. Albert Livingston and family, 1920 US census, Year: 1920; Census Place: Bloomington Precinct 18, McLean, Illinois; Roll: T625_387; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 108, Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  2. Maurice Livingston and family, 1920 US census, Year: 1920; Census Place: Bloomington Precinct 11, McLean, Illinois; Roll: T625_386; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 101, Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  3. Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/9198509/hilda-v-livingston : accessed 02 November 2021), memorial page for Hilda V Freiler Livingston (25 Apr 1891–20 Feb 1962), Find a Grave Memorial ID 9198509, citing Jewish Cemetery, Bloomington, McLean County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Robin Farley Dixson Coon (contributor 46558224). Phillip Feilen [sic], Gender: Male, Marriage Date: 8 Jul 1883, Marriage Place: Kane, Illinois, USA, Spouse Name: Lizzie Ehrlich, Spouse Gender: Female
    Ancestry.com. Illinois, U.S., Marriage Index, 1860-1920. Freiler family, 1900 US census, Year: 1900; Census Place: Elgin Ward 1, Kane, Illinois; Page: 3; Enumeration District: 0092; FHL microfilm: 1240311, Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census 
  4. Sigmund and Hilda Livingston, 1920 US census, Year: 1920; Census Place: Bloomington Precinct 19, McLean, Illinois; Roll: T625_387; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 109,Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  5. Richard Mayor Livingston, Gender: Male, Race: White, Birth Date: 8 Mar 1920
    Birth Place: Bloomington, Illinois, Death Date: 5 Oct 1994, Father: Livingston, Mother:
    Hilda V Feild, SSN: 322148741, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  6. Dora, Herman, and Harold Livingston, 1920 US census, Year: 1920; Census Place: Bloomington Precinct 11, McLean, Illinois; Roll: T625_386; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 101, Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  7.  The National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland; Record Group Title: Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774-1985; Record Group Number: 92; Roll or Box Number: 437, Description Date Range: 14 Mar 1918-26 Jul 1918, Ancestry.com. U.S., Army Transport Service Arriving and Departing Passenger Lists, 1910-1939 
  8. Sol Salzenstein and family, 1920 US census, Year: 1920; Census Place: Bloomington Precinct 1, McLean, Illinois; Roll: T625_386; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 91, Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  9. Alfred Livingston and family, 1920 US census, Year: 1920; Census Place: Chicago Ward 6, Cook (Chicago), Illinois; Roll: T625_309; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 306,
    Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  10. Irvin Livingston and family, 1920 US census, Year: 1920; Census Place: Chicago Ward 6, Cook (Chicago), Illinois; Roll: T625_309; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 305,
    Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  11. Irvin P Livingston, Birth Date: 2 Apr 1921, Birth Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois
    Gender: Male, Father: Irvin L Livingston, Mother: Helen Baer, FHL Film Number: 1309494, Ancestry.com. Cook County, Illinois, U.S., Birth Certificates Index, 1871-1922 
  12. Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/9198500/maurice-livingston : accessed 02 November 2021), memorial page for Maurice Livingston (14 Jan 1871–19 Nov 1923), Find a Grave Memorial ID 9198500, citing Jewish Cemetery, Bloomington, McLean County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Robin Farley Dixson Coon (contributor 46558224) . 
  13. Sol. Salzenstein, Birth Date: 3 Dec 1868, Birth Place: Pleasant Plains, Ill
    Death Date: 9 Sep 1924, Death Place: Bloomington, McLean, Illinois, Burial Date: Sep 1924, Cemetery Name: Jewish, Death Age: 55, Occupation: Real Estate, Race: White
    Marital status: M, Gender: Male, Residence: Bloomington, McLean, Illinois, Father Name: Jacob Salzenstein, Father Birth Place: Germany, Mother Birth Place: Germany
    Spouse Name: Lussie [sic] Salzenstein, FHL Film Number: 1493146, Ancestry.com. Illinois, U.S., Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947 
  14. Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/9199180/dorothy-livingston : accessed 02 November 2021), memorial page for Dorothy Ensel Livingston (4 Nov 1882–17 Nov 1953), Find a Grave Memorial ID 9199180, citing Jewish Cemetery, Bloomington, McLean County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Robin Farley Dixson Coon (contributor 46558224). Ensel family, 1880 US census, Year: 1880; Census Place: Somerset, Pulaski, Kentucky; Roll: 440; Page: 94C; Enumeration District: 086, Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census. Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives; Frankfort, Kentucky.
    Description: Film 7017487: All Counties, Ancestry.com. Kentucky, U.S., Death Records, 1852-1965 
  15. Marion Kunstadter, Gender: Female, Marriage Date: 1926, Marriage Place: Champaign, Illinois, USA, Spouse: Harold Livingston, Various Illinois County Courthouses; Marriage Records; Collection Title: Marriage Records, Ancestry.com. Illinois, U.S., County Marriage Records, 1800-1940. Marian Kunstadter Livingston
    Gender: Female, Race: White, Birth Date: 6 Oct 1905, Birth Place: Chicago, Illinois
    Death Date: 29 Aug 1987, Father: Samuel Kunstadter, Mother: Theodora Hess
    SSN: 341206539, Death Certificate Number: 125588, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. Marriage announcement, Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, 23 May 1926, Sun • Page 91 
  16. Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/9198506/dora-livingston : accessed 02 November 2021), memorial page for Dora Blumenfeld Livingston (27 Jun 1848–15 Jan 1927), Find a Grave Memorial ID 9198506, citing Jewish Cemetery, Bloomington, McLean County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Robin Farley Dixson Coon (contributor 46558224) . 
  17. Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/9198010/albert-livingston : accessed 02 November 2021), memorial page for Albert Livingston (31 Jan 1862–7 Jan 1928), Find a Grave Memorial ID 9198010, citing Jewish Cemetery, Bloomington, McLean County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Robin Farley Dixson Coon (contributor 46558224) . 
  18.  Ralph H. Livingston, Social Security Number: 351-20-2225, Birth Date: 17 Nov 1928, Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: Illinois, Last Residence: 94941, Mill Valley, Marin, California, USA, Death Date: 23 Feb 2008, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 

29 thoughts on “Dora Blumenfeld Livingston and Her Family in the 1920s: Years of Loss

  1. Thank you for your extremely interesting blog.

    My wife (Grunfeld) is a descendent of Selig Goldschmidt and i have an immense interest in the history of the Goldschmidt family and Frankfurt in general.

    My family also originates from Frankfurt but its a different Goldschmidt.

    Please find attached a family Tree for my wifes family which you might find interesting.

    >

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Michael—thanks for reaching out. Unfortunately the comment function doesn’t allow for attachments, so I will email you. I also am related to the family of Selig Goldschmidt, although not a direct descendant.

      Like

    • Well, at least for some period of time. As you will see in the posts to come, they did eventually disperse, as do most American families. For better or worse.

      Like

  2. Always enjoy your posts 🙂 I especially loved the honeymoon photo of Sigmund and Hilda. That was some fabulous outfit Hilda was wearing. Did you notice the fox stole she was wearing? I can remember a grandmother had at least two of those fox stoles. I love her purse, could be satin and velvet (I have a small collection of that period piece of purses – mostly the beaded ones) Sigmond looks so dapper too and that overcoat is wonderful.

    Like

  3. Pingback: Dora Blumenfeld Livingston’s Children and Grandchildren: The Departure from Bloomington | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  4. It’s really hard to know. It seems like my grandfather’s family had small families. Seems like it’s just a happenstance of the individuals involved to me.
    Whenever I read about your Livingstons I think of Mary Livingstone. Remember her? Jack Benny’s wife.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: My Cousin Sigmund Livingston, The Founder of the Anti-Defamation League | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  6. It’s a small world if you’re part of the Jewish community in Bloomington. Herman Bachenheimer, a second cousin of my grandfather Emanuel Bachenheimer immigrated to the US in 1887 and settled in Bloomington where he was the proprietor of a men’s clothing store. He married Rosalie Livingston in 1900; the marriage license was witnessed by Albert and Sigmund Livingston.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, I saw Herman Bachenheimer as the husband of Rosalie (the first cousin of the Rosalie who was the daughter of Dora Blumenfeld and Meyer Loewenstein/Livingston) and thought of you, but for some reason I associate you with New York, not Chicago or Bloomington. So somehow we are (again) distantly related. What a crazy small Jewish world it is! Thank you!

      Like

      • You’re right; we have mishpocha everywhere. Though I have many distant cousin in the NY/NJ/CT area, my immediate Bachenheimer family (parents, aunts & uncles, grandparents) all settled in Chicago in the mid- to late ’30s. Most of their descendants still live there, though my brother lives in Sarasota FL, and I’ve lived in Chapel Hill NC since 1975.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Dora Blumenfeld Livingston’s Children Herman, Alfred and Gussie | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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