I am once again at a crossroads in my genealogy research. I have, for now, found as much as I can find about the children of Levi Schoenthal and Henriette Hamberg. And I have also exhausted, for now, the resources available for learning about the family of Amalia Hamberg. There are more Hambergs and Schoenthals to research, however. Levi Schoenthal had (at least) two sisters—Mina who married Marcus Rosenberg and Fradchen (Fanny), who married Simon Goldschmidt. Both sisters immigrated to the US and settled at least for some time in western Pennsylvania. I have written about them some, but there is much more to do.
There is also a lot more to do with the family of Henriette Hamberg, my great-great-grandmother. Although I have written about some of the other Hambergs—Amalia, Charles/Baruch, Abraham, and Moses—who came to the US in the 19th century, there were many more who stayed in Germany, and their family story is one I need to research more deeply and write about. It won’t be an easy one to research or to share.
And then there is also some additional information about my Seligmann relatives that has more recently come to light.
On my mother’s side, I have done a fair amount of work on the Goldfarb family, but have yet had a chance to write about them. They were the cousins I discovered when my cousin shared with me my aunt’s baby book and my grandfather’s notebook. I have been hoping to get to their story for quite a while, but wanted some closure on the Schoenthal family first.
And then there are my remaining two great-great-grandparents on my father’s side—Gerson Katzenstein and Eva Goldschmidt, parents of my great-grandmother Hilda Katzenstein, who married Isidore Schoenthal.
First, I have a few sad notices to post about recent losses in the family. And then? Where do I go next?
Do I finish the Schoenthals by focusing on Fanny and Mina? Do I complete the Hamberg line?
Do I turn back temporarily to the Seligmanns and fill in a few gaps?
Or should I move on to my next two paternal lines, the Katzensteins and Goldschmidts?
Or do I turn to something on my mother’s side—-the Goldfarbs?
This is why people say you are never finished with your family history. As for where I turn next, I am going to give it some thought and see where I land. The compulsive side of me says stick with the Schoenthals until I am done. The less compulsive side (there is no non-compulsive side) says break free, don’t be so logical, jump to something else. Let’s see which side wins.
Of course, doing genealogy means every day is a day of family time. But this week and next will be time with the current members of the family—starting this week with my dear grandson Nate.
He’s been with us all week, and it’s been such a pleasure to be with this wonderful boy. He was my initial inspiration for researching my family’s history. When he was born six years ago, it made me think about the links back in a long chain that didn’t start with his parents, his grandparents, or his great-grandparents. It started long before that, but I knew nothing, or almost nothing, about those earlier generations. I wanted to be able to share their stories with him, but first I had to learn those stories myself.
So here I am, six years later, still working at it and planning to do so until I am done. And as genealogists often say, we are never done. Maybe my grandchildren won’t care about any of this—at least until they have grandchildren. But just in case, I am sticking to it.
The blog may be relatively quiet in the next week or so, though I do have a few things that I am almost ready to post. (And I may also fall behind in reading other blogs, but I will catch up.) My mission is far from complete, so for all those generations to come, I will return to tell the stories of the generations who came before them.
I will be absent from the blogosphere for a bit as I travel to see my college friends and then do some traveling with my husband. I might post a photo or two if the mood hits, but no real posts until June. I will try and keep up with comments and emails.
For those who are curious as to my destinations, here’s a genealogy quiz: I will be visiting a place where one of my grandmothers spent most of her childhood and then a place where one of my great-grandmothers was born and raised.
No cheating by my family and friends who know my destinations—this quiz is only for those to whom I’ve not revealed my plans.
Hope to catch up with my fellow bloggers when I return. And when I do, I will finish the story of the Hambergs, tie up a few other loose ends, and then move on to the next major project, my great-grandmother Hilda Katzenstein’s family.
See you in a bit!
You may have noticed a new look when you clicked on the blog. I have changed the “theme” to a new one for a few technical reasons. I think this is a little easier to read, but if not, let me know. The links should be more visible now. The font is a little larger.
But the main reason I changed it was that my old theme did not have a feature I wanted—the ability to select a particular image to use as the thumbnail when I post the link to another site such as Facebook. I am hoping this will now work. This one is a test so I am inserting some random images and then selecting one to be the
“featured” image so I can see if it works when I post the link to the blog.
Please let me know what you think of the new look.
The Internet continues to provide me with so much more than access to information. Through my blog, Ancestry, Facebook, Google, and ordinary old email, I continue to find and be found by cousins all over the world. In the last two weeks, I have seen my network of cousins expand and greatly enrich my knowledge and understanding of my family history. So a few updates.
First, I heard from a relative of Margaret Swem, the wife of Felix Schoenthal, my Boston relative, and she filled me in on the background and family of Margaret. Quite interesting information that I will add to the post about Felix and his family. Once again, having a blog proved useful because Margaret’s relative found my blog by Googling Margaret Swem’s name.
Second, an Israeli second cousin, once removed, of my husband found me through my tree on Ancestry. I haven’t even done very much yet on my husband’s family, but through this new cousin we’ve learned a great deal about the Shrage family in Zabarazh, a town once in Galicia but now part of Ukraine. It’s been very exciting learning from our new Israeli cousin.
Third, I’ve heard from a descendant of Hettie Schoenthal, one of Simon Schoenthal’s younger children about whom I’ve yet to blog. This new cousin has shared some of Hettie’s own remembrances of her life as well as other stories. I am looking forward to incorporating some of those into the blog as well as some photographs.
Fourth, I’ve been in touch with two British relatives of the UK Selinger cousins, relatives of Julius, Alfred, and Frederick Selinger, all of whom married my Cohen relatives. I then put the two of them in touch as they had not previously known each other despite being cousins. That gave me great satisfaction, and now all three of us are hunting for answers about the connections among some of the Selingers.
Fifth, I am in touch with a Goldfarb cousin and hoping to learn more about this recently discovered branch of my Brotman family line. I just received a huge package of information that I need to go through, enter into my tree, and research.
Sixth, another Hamberg cousin just contacted me this morning.
And last but definitely not least, my cousin Wolfgang in Germany sent me new information about our Seligmann family line. He and his mother received four new documents about our ancestors. The first reveals two more generations back in the line of Jacob Seligmann, my four-times great-grandfather from Gaulsheim, Germany. I will be blogging separately about these documents and what they revealed in the next few days before I return again to the children of Simon Schoenthal.
Turning on my computer in the morning has become a real treat, waiting to see who has found me, who has responded to my inquiries, and which cousin has new information to share. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by my good fortune. Sure, there are still many people who don’t reply to my emails or Facebook messages, but for every person I have found or who has found me, I am so deeply grateful. The family tree keeps growing, and with it so does the world-wide web of fascinating and generous people whom I can call my cousins.
I am deep into researching both the Schoenthals and the Hambergs, and I am not sure which way to turn first. The resources are so rich, and I keep stepping further into both lines, going backwards, forwards, and sideways! I've been so fascinated with the research that I've not had much time to write about what I am finding, but I will get there. Right now my biggest question is---do I finish researching the Hambergs or spend time writing about the Schoenthals? I am not good at being torn in two different directions. I've got one post ready to go for tomorrow about the Hambergs, but I think after that I will go back to the Schoenthal side.
Anyway, in between digging through German birth, marriage, and death records, I realized that I had neglected to update the family tree pages on the blog. I’ve now updated the Seligmann family tree page and added a family tree page for the Nusbaum and Dreyfuss lines. I have also added a Schoenthal page, subject to more updating (as are they all), and eventually I will also add a Hamberg page. These pages can all be found in the header at the top of the page.
Now back to struggling between more research or some writing….
It was two years ago tomorrow that I posted my first blog post. It is also the 120th anniversary of my grandmother Gussie Brotman Goldschlager’s birth tomorrow. And tonight is the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement and a long fast day for those who observe. That’s a lot to process in one day!
It’s hard to believe I’ve been doing the blog for two years (although I really started doing genealogy about two years before that). In some ways it feels much longer because it has become such a big part of my daily life—-doing the research, thinking about it, pulling my notes together, writing up the posts, editing them, adding photos and documents, responding to comments and questions, and reading the blogs of so many other wonderful people. The blog has provided me with so many more benefits than I had imagined back in September 2013 when my cousin Judy got me started by setting up the template on WordPress. Not only has it helped me organize my thoughts and record my research, it has made me focus on not just collecting names and dates on a family tree but on the larger questions: who were these people and what were their lives like? Where did they live, and what were those places like? What historical and economic conditions affected their lives? What legacy did they pass down to their descendants, and how has that affected the person I am today?
The blog also has been a magnet that has allowed others to find me. Every time I get a comment from someone who just happened to find the blog while searching for their family history, I am amazed by what the internet can do. Imagine if my cousin Wolfgang had not found my blog? I would not know even half of what I now know about the Seligmann family.
My grandmother was born 120 years ago, and she died just over forty years ago. She was the only grandparent I knew very well, and I loved her very much. She had a hard and sad childhood, which scarred her in many ways for life, but with her grandchildren she was loving and funny and affectionate. We probably brought out the best in her. As I continue to write my novel about her life and that of my grandfather, I hope I am doing her justice and honoring her memory while also capturing the sad underside to her life.
And as for Yom Kippur, it’s a day for me to contemplate the year gone by and the mistakes I’ve made along the way. Although I try my best to respect and honor all my relatives, living and dead, when writing the blog, I always worry that someone will be offended or upset by something I have written. If so, please accept my apologies.
Also, I hope I have expressed my appreciation to all those who have helped me with my research, and I hesitate to make a list for fear of forgetting someone who helped me months ago and whose name might slip through my ever-worsening memory (getting older does really stink). But let me try to remember as best I can and thank some of those who have provided me with so much research support in the past year:
my wondeful cousins Lotte Furst, Wolfgang Seligmann, Bob Cohn, Steven Seligman, Suzanne and Stephen Michel, Pete Scott, Phyllis Rosner, and Angelika Oppenheimer, all of whom have provided me with photographs, stories, and insights into our extended family in the past year (as well as all those who helped the year before);
my amazing contacts in Germany who helped me find and understand documents and other resources: Dorothee Lottman-Kaeseler, Matthias Steinke, Helmut Schmahl, Beate Goetz, Gerd Braun, as well as Ralph Baer here in the US;
my DNA tutors, Julie Mulroy, Svetlana Hensmann, and Leah Larkin; the many people in the Tracing the Tribe and the German Genealogy groups on Facebook, and the members of the GerSig listserv on JewishGen. Also, thank you to my friend Rene Reich-Grafe for answering my endless questions about Germany, its history, culture, and geography.
To all of you, if I have not expressed my gratitude before sufficiently, I apologize. You’ve really made this journey so much more meaningful and so much more interesting.
Finally, to my family, friends, fellow bloggers, and other readers, thank you for being there. I would do what I am doing even if no one was paying attention, but it is so much better knowing that others are interested in these stories about people who really were strangers to us all.
For all of you who are observing Yom Kippur, may it be an easy fast and a meaningful and thoughtful day.
I haven’t disappeared. As I said in my last post, it’s a hectic time of year, and I have been busy with non-blog-related matters. Like spending time with these two, the sweetest little boys you will ever meet (and I am not biased):
And with these three:
And with my two September birthday girls (back in the 1980s):
And then there’s the holidays. Lots of eating and catching up with friends, less contemplation and introspection than expected. But that’s okay. Yom Kippur is next week. There’s still time.
But in between all those activities, I have been hard at work researching my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal and his family. I’ve found an incredible amount of information in a fairly short time (though much of the groundwork had been done much earlier). Some of that is due to the fact that others had already researched some of the family lines; some is due to the new databases that have become available since I first started doing family history research. Today I even found online some digitized German records of the births and deaths of some of the Schoenthals.
So I am hoping to start being able to pull together my notes and my thoughts and start blogging about the Schoenthals within the next week. From what I’ve already learned, I think they will prove to be an interesting group to write about and, I hope, to read about.
Be back soon.
Once again I find myself in the midst of the early September craziness after a long, relaxing summer: several family birthdays and anniversaries, school starting (well, not for me anymore, but for my husband), and preparation for the Jewish holidays. In my spare time, I am trying to put together the pieces of my Schoenthal research slowly but surely. But for the next week or so, I won’t have much time to write anything coherent about my research, so I will be taking a short break.
That seems appropriate as this is the time of year when I am supposed to be contemplating the year past and making decisions about the year to come. It’s a time to be thoughtful and thankful. A time of making amends and making resolutions.
So I wish all who celebrate a wonderful holiday with time for your families and your thoughts. And for everyone, I wish a new year filled with gratitude, happiness, good health, and love. And for the world, I will hope for peace and for a way to protect and shelter all those people all over the world who have been uprooted and seen their lives and families destroyed by war, poverty, and hatred. Today is the 14th anniversary of the day that showed us all what hatred can do. May we finally learn from it.
May it be a year when somehow people everywhere find a way to accept differences and respect and honor the humanity of each other.
Shana tova. A good year to all.