Death Certificates: Answering Some Unanswered Questions

Over the last few weeks I have received a number of death certificates, most for people about whom I have written, so I will also post them as updates to the relevant posts.  But I also wanted to post about them separately for those who might never go back to those original posts.

Three of these were for relatively young men whose deaths puzzled me.  Why had they died so young?  E.g., Simon L.B. Cohen.  He was only 36 when he died on October 24, 1934, after serving valiantly in World War I.  He was my first cousin, twice removed, the first cousin of my grandfather John Nusbaum Cohen.  Simon had faced the horrors of war, been awarded a Distinguished Service Cross by General Pershing for his service, and had been reported killed in action when he was in fact still alive.  He came home and married, but then died only five years after he married.  I had wondered what might have caused such a young man to die after surviving everything he did during the war.

His death certificate reported that his cause of death was glomerulonephritis, chronic myocarditis, and arterial hypertension.  Glomerulonephritis is a form of kidney disease, sometimes triggered by an infection like strep or some other underlying disease.  Overall, it would appear that Simon was just not a healthy 36 year old.  But that’s not the whole story.  The death certificate also described Simon as an “unemployed disabled veteran.”  Although I do not know in what way he was disabled, obviously Simon paid a huge price for what he endured while serving in the military.

Death certificates_0004_NEW

The second young man whose death puzzled me was Louis Loux.  Louis was the husband of Nellie Simon, daughter of Eliza Wiler and Leman Simon.  Louis was thirteen years younger than Nellie.  They had a daughter Florrie, born in 1910, who died from burns caused by matches.  She was only eight years old when she died in September, 1918.  Then her father Louis died just three months later on December 15, 1918.  He was only 36 years old.  I had wondered whether there was some connection between these two terrible deaths.  I knew from the 1920 census that Nellie and Louis had divorced, but I did not and still do not know whether that was before or after their daughter died.  From the death certificate for Louis, I learned that he died from broncho pneumonia. So it would seem that it was perhaps just a terrible sequence of events and that Louis’ death was not in any directly related to the death of his daughter.

Death certificates_0003_NEW

The next death I had wondered about was that of Mervin Simon, the great-grandson of Mathilde Nusbaum and Isaac Dinkelspiel.  He was only 42 years old when he died on August 27, 1942.  He was the son of Leon Simon, who was the son of Moses Simon and Paulina Dinkelspiel.  Mervin died almost a year to do the day after his father Leon.  According to his death certificate, he also died from broncho pneumonia.  Like Simon Cohen, he had no occupation listed on his death certificate.  Even on the 1940 census, neither Mervin nor his brother William had an occupation listed.

Mervyn Simon death certificate

The last death certificate I received in the last few weeks was for Dorothy Gattman Rosenstein.  Dorothy was the daughter of Cora Frank from her first marriage to Jacques Gattman.  Cora was the daughter of Francis Nusbaum and Henry Frank and the granddaughter of Leopold Nusbaum.  Cora’s husband Jacques had died when Dorothy was just a young child, and Cora had remarried and moved to Dayton, Ohio, with her new husband Joseph Lehman and her daughter Dorothy.  I had had a very hard time tracking down what happened to both Cora and Dorothy, and only with the help from a number of kind people had I learned that Dorothy had married Albert Rosenstein from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  But I wanted the death certificate to corroborate all the other less official evidence I had that this was in fact the same Dorothy Gattman, daughter of Jacques Gattman and Cora Frank.  Her death certificate confirmed that.

Death certificates_0001

Thus, all of these certificates helped put closure on some lingering questions that had bothered me.

John Nusbaum 1814-1889: The Family Patriarch

By 1880, my three-times great-grandparents, Jeanette (Dreyfuss) and John Nusbaum, and their extended families had not only grown in size but spread across a wider swath of the northeastern United States.  Some were still in Harrisburg or Philadelphia, but others were in Peoria, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh.  Although many were still dry goods merchants, the younger generations were also involved in various aspects of the liquor trade.  The family had endured the economic crisis of the 1870s, seeing some bankruptcies and the closings of several stores and businesses.  A number of young children had died, and by 1880, of the siblings of John and Jeanette Dreyfuss, only Ernst and John were still alive on the Nusbaum side, while Jeanette’s two sisters Caroline and Mathilde were both still living.

The next two decades brought with it more changes, more weddings, more new children, and sadly more deaths.  In my next series of Nusbaum/Dreyfuss posts I will try to bring the various branches up to the 20th century, focusing first on my direct ancestors, John and Jeanette and their children and grandchildren.

As I’ve written, in 1880 John and Jeanette were listed on the census in two different locations, living thousands of miles apart.  John was living with their daughter Frances and her husband Bernard Seligman (my great-great-grandparents) in Santa Fe along with his son Simon.  Jeanette, on the other hand, was living in Philadelphia with their daughter Miriam and her husband Gustavus Josephs along with Lottie Nusbaum, the youngest child of John and Jeanette, and Milton Josephs, the young son of Miriam and Gustavus who would die from bronchial pneumonia just a few months after the 1880 census was taken.  These must have been very hard times for my ancestors, and I will never know whether John moved to Santa Fe for financial reasons or because of marital problems.  I will never know whether he was there for a month or a year.

English: A Areal map of Santa Fe, New Mexico d...

English: A Areal map of Santa Fe, New Mexico during the Railroad era in 1882. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But I do know that John is listed in the 1881 Philadelphia directory as residing at 1129 Master Street, the same address where the Josephs family and Jeanette and Lottie were living on the 1880 census.  Whether John was actually back or not is hard to say for sure, but he does not appear again on any Philadelphia directory until 1886, when he is listed as being in the “segar” business and living at 524 North 11th Street, the same address given for his daughter Lottie.  Although Gustavus and his family are not listed in the 1881 directory, they show up in the 1884 directory still living on Master Street, so it would seem that sometime between 1881 and 1886, John and Lottie and presumably Jeanette had moved to their own home on North 11th Street.

I found it puzzling that John, after over forty years in the dry goods business, had entered the cigar business.  But his store had gone bankrupt, and perhaps this seemed to be a good way to make a fresh start in the 1880s.  John was already in his 70s by 1886, so it is even more surprising that he was starting in a new trade instead of just retiring.  I did some reading about the tobacco industry and learned that the John Bonsack invented the cigarette rolling machine in 1881, leading to a widespread increase in cigarette smoking (previously, tobacco was either chewed, smoked in a pipe, or hand rolled into a cigar or cigarette).   I don’t know whether this technological development had any effect on John’s decision to sell cigars, and I don’t know whether he sold only cigars or also cigarettes, but the timing does seem to be enough for me to think this was not just coincidental.  In 1887, John again is listed at the same residence and as being in the “segar” business.

English: Trade card of a cigar dealer after a ...

English: Trade card of a cigar dealer after a photograph of Napoleon Sarony, using Oscar Wilde’s popularity during his American trip of 1882 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Meanwhile, the children of John and Jeanette were also finding their way in the 1880s.  Adolphus and Julius were still in Peoria, working in the dry goods business, now called Nusbaum Bros.  Since Julius had been one of his father’s creditors in the bankruptcy proceedings, perhaps the business was now owned by the brothers instead of their father.  Julius was living with his brother Adolphus and sister-in-law Fannie, who had no children.

Simon, meanwhile, had remained in Santa Fe and was still unmarried and living with his sister, my great-great-grandmother Frances Nusbaum Seligman, and her family in 1885 according to the New Mexico Territorial Census of that year.   In 1887 Simon was appointed to be a clerk in the US post office in Santa Fe, a position he continued to hold for many years, being promoted to assistant postmaster by 1889 and ultimately to postmaster in 1898.

Miriam and Lottie, the remaining two children of John and Jeanette, were living in Philadelphia.  Miriam and her husband Gustavus had a third child in 1882, Gertrude, after losing Milton in 1880.  Their second child Florence was then two years old.  On November 28, 1888, Gertrude died from diphtheria (croupus form, according to the death certificate). She had just celebrated her sixth birthday less than a month before.  Eight year old Florence was once again an only child.  The family had lost yet another young child.  For Miriam and Gustavus to lose two young children in the space of eight years must have been completely devastating.

gertrude josephs death certificate

As for Lottie, John and Jeanette’s youngest child, she was just seventeen in 1880 and still living at home, as she did throughout the decade.

The decade drew near a close on another sad note for the family when my three-times great-grandfather John Nusbaum died on January 24, 1889.  He was 74 years old.  According to his death certificate, he died from lobular heart disease, chronic cystitis, and diabetes.  Notice also that the residential address on both Gertrude Josephs’ and John Nusbaum’s death certificates is the same: 1617 North 13th Street.

John Nusbaum death certificate

John Nusbaum was born in Schopfloch, Germany, in 1814, the sixth child of Amson Nusbaum and Voegele Welsch.  He had been one of the pioneers in the family, coming to Pennsylvania in the 1840s, probably starting as a peddler and then establishing himself as a merchant first in Harrisburg and then in Philadelphia.  He had seen much success and some failure in his business; he had helped out his siblings and their widows when his brothers Maxwell and Leopold died.  He and Jeanette had been the common link that brought together many connections between the Nusbaum, Dreyfuss, Dinkelspiel, Wiler, and Simon families.  I imagine that it must have been very hard for the family to lose him.  Sadly, I cannot find one obituary or death notice for him.

John Nusbaum’s name lived on in other ways, however. Four years after he died, his daughter Miriam and her husband Gustavus had one last child on July 26, 1893, five years after they had lost Gertrude and eleven years since Miriam had last given birth.  They named their son Jean, I assume in honor of Miriam’s father.

Two years later in 1895, John Nusbaum’s granddaughter Eva Seligman Cohen had a fourth son whom she and her husband Emanuel Cohen named John Nusbaum Cohen.  He was my grandfather, named for his great-grandfather.  Eva must have known her grandfather John Nusbaum very well, not only when she was a young child living in Philadelphia and not only when he had lived with her family for some period of time in Santa Fe, but also because she had moved to Philadelphia for college and then settled there after marrying my great-grandfather in 1886.  She must have seen a great deal of him in those last few years of his life.

John Nusbaum Cohen c. 1894

John Nusbaum Cohen c. 1895

When Simon Nusbaum married at a late age, he and his wife also named a son for Simon’s father.  John Bernard Nusbaum was born on May 15, 1904, in Santa Fe. (I assume that the Bernard was for Simon’s brother-in-law Bernard Seligman, who had died the year before.)

And, of course, John Nusbaum’s name lives on today through my father, John Nusbaum Cohen, Jr.  It’s a legacy that my three-times great-grandfather well deserved.  We may not have a photograph to remember his face, but we will always remember his name.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who is the little boy?

For my first 2015 post, I have some wonderful new photos from my cousin Lou.  These are photos he scanned from our mutual cousin Marjorie’s photo collection, but we don’t yet know who some of the people are in these photos.  We are hoping Marjorie will be able to tell us.  Some of these are quite intriguing as I am hoping that they will be photographs of family members I’ve never seen before.

For example, here is a photograph of my great-grandmother, Eva Seligman Cohen, wife of Emanuel Cohen, daughter of Bernard Seligman and Frances Nusbaum.  But who is the man to her right? And who is the little boy to her left? Or is the little boy a little girl? Possibly Marjorie?

I showed my father the photograph, and he could not identify either person.  Could the man be Emanuel Cohen, my great-grandfather?  That would be the first photograph I’ve ever seen of him.  The little boy might be one of my father’s first cousins, Maurice Cohen, Junior, or Emanuel “Buddy” Cohen. If the older man is Emanuel, the photograph had to be taken in 1926 or before, as he died in February, 1927, and this is a photograph taken in the summertime.  Junior was born in 1917, Buddy in 1922, so it is possible that this is my great-grandparents standing with one of their grandsons.  I hope Marjorie can help us.

Eva Seligman Cohen with unknown man and boy

Here is another photograph of that little boy.  The man to his left is Stanley Cohen, my great-uncle, Marjorie’s father.   Marjorie album 58

 

But who is the man to his right?  Could it be my other great-uncle, Maurice Cohen, Senior?  I’ve never seen a picture of him nor have I seen a picture of either of his two sons, Junior and Buddy.  Maurice died in 1931; if this was taken in 1926 or so, this certainly could be him.  Maurice would have been 38 in 1926, Stanley would have been 37.

Finally, there is this photograph of the little boy.  Marjorie album 19

Who is that man?  It’s not the same man standing with my great-uncle Stanley in the prior photograph.  He seems to be a fair amount younger than both that other man and Stanley.

All those photographs seem to have been taken on the same day in Atlantic City, maybe around the same time as this photograph taken in 1932:

Eva M. Cohen, center, 1932 (Arthur Seligman, right)

Eva M. Cohen, center, 1932 (Arthur Seligman, right)

It looks like my great-grandmother was wearing the same or a similar hat and outfit to those she was wearing in the first photograph.

I am anxious to hear what Lou learns from Marjorie when he sees her.

Thanksgiving: More Gifts, More Gratitude

cemetery sign for Mikveh Israel

It’s been a week or so of amazing gifts.  First there was the package from Gau-Algesheim with the records and book relating to my Seligmann ancestors and the amazing help I received from Ralph Baer and Matthias Steinke with translation of these items.

Then a day or so after the Gau-Algesheim package arrived, I received a gift from my third cousin once removed Todd Graham.  Todd is the great-great-great-grandson of Jacob Cohen, my great-great-grandfather.  Todd wrote to tell me that he had been to the Federal Street cemetery in Philadelphia where many of our mutual Cohen ancestors are buried and that he had taken photographs.  He asked if I wanted to see the photos, and I said of course.  So here are the photographs I received from Todd.

First is a photograph of where our ancestor Hart Levy Cohen is buried.  There is no stone visible, and the rabbi at the cemetery explained to Todd that they believed that the stone had sunk beneath the surface and was buried underground.  I have written to the rabbi and asked whether there is anything we can do to uncover the stone or to mark the gravesite in some other way.

Burial Site of Hart Levy Cohen

Burial Site of Hart Levy Cohen

This photo shows where Hart’s children Lewis and Elizabeth are buried.  Again, the stones are not visible, but this is the location of their graves.

 

Burial sites for Elizabeth Cohen and Lewis Cohen (Hart's children)

Burial sites for Elizabeth Cohen and Lewis Cohen (Hart’s children)

Todd also took photographs of the stone for Jacob and Sarah Cohen.  Although I had a photo of this stone before from Rabbi Albert Gabbai, I am hoping that these will be easier to read so that I can learn what the Hebrew inscription says.

Jacob and Sarah Cohen monument Jacob Cohen headstone by Todd Jacob Cohen monument by Todd jacob headstone edit 1

 

Todd also found the stones for three of Jacob’s children.  First, a new photograph of the headstone for my great-grandparents Emanuel and Eva (Seligman) Cohen and my grandfather John Nusbaum Cohen, Sr.

Headstone for Emanuel, Eva and John Cohen

Headstone for Emanuel, Eva and John Cohen

Side of Emanuel Eva and John by Todd

Next are photographs of the headstones for Emanuel’s brother Reuben and his wife Sallie Livingston Cohen and of their son Jacob Livingston Cohen.

Reuben and Sallie Livingston Cohen

Reuben and Sallie Livingston Cohen

Jacob Livingston Cohen

Jacob Livingston Cohen

 

And finally, this is a photograph of the headstone for Todd’s great-great-grandparents Lewis and Carrie (Dannenbaum) Cohen and his grandparents William and Helen (Cohen) Bacharach.  Lewis Cohen was also the brother of my great-grandfather Emanuel Cohen.

Bacharach and Cohen headstone

Bacharach and Cohen headstone

Thank you so much, Todd, for these photographs, and I hope that we can do something to honor the graves of Hart, Lewis, and Elizabeth Cohen.

There is one more gift I want to acknowledge, and it came totally unsolicited and from a total stranger.  About two weeks ago I received a comment on the blog from someone who had found a set of matches on a website selling vintage items.  The matches were for a business called Selinger Associates at an address in Washington, DC.  Kimberly Crosson, the woman who commented on the blog, had purchased these matches and was now asking me whether this business was connected to the Selingers on my blog.  I was skeptical at first, I must admit.  I thought it was some kind of scam or spam.  But I emailed Kim and found out that not only was she not looking to make money, she was incredibly kind-hearted and generous and just wanted to get the matches to someone in the family—for no charge.

I checked the address and found that this was Eliot Selinger’s business.  Then I tracked down a descendant of Eliot Selinger and asked him if he was interested in the matches, and he was, so I put him in touch with Kim so that she could send him the matches.  I asked only for some pictures of the matches, so here is what Kim sent to me.  You can tell these are from a different era once you see the picture on the matches.

Selinger matches cover Selinger matches reverse

 

So once again, let me express my thanks to all these generous people, especially Todd and Kim for these photos, but to all who have helped and continue to help me with my research. I could never have done all this on my own.

And now I will be taking a short break from blogging for Thanksgiving.  May you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and thank you all for supporting me and providing me with so much help as I continue to learn about the lives of my ancestors.

 

 

 

 

I Am My Own Grandma, or It’s A Small World After All

No, it’s not quite that incestuous or circular, but it’s pretty confusing.

Here’s the story, and I will try to keep this simple.  Or as simple as I can.

Almost two years ago I received a message out of the blue from a fellow ancestry.com member named Nancy Hano.  Attached to her message was a photograph of my grandfather and great-grandparents’ headstone, i.e., John Nusbaum Cohen, Sr., and Emanuel and Eva Cohen.

headstone for emanuel, eva and john n cohen

Courtesy of Nancy Hano

Nancy had seen my tree on ancestry.com and  wanted to know whether these were my relatives, and if so, she thought we might be related because her grandparents, Samuel and Louise Lydia Cohen, were buried nearby.  After some back and forth and some looking at each other’s trees, we concluded that her Cohens and my Cohens were not genetically related.

However, we did find a different connection.  With the help of Nancy’s cousin, Gil Weeder, we found that Samuel Cohen and Louise Lydia Hano had a daughter named Flora.  Flora had married a man named Jacob Weil.  Jacob Weil was the son of Lewis Weil and Rachel Cohen.  Rachel Cohen was the sister of my great-grandfather Emanuel Cohen.  So in fact, Nancy and Gil were related to be my marriage—their relative Flora had married my relative Jacob Weil.

Lydia and Samuel Cohen and granddaughter Helen

Louise Lydia Hano and Samuel Cohen with their granddaughter Helen c. 1913 Courtesy of Gil Weeder

We exchanged pictures and information, and we all continued to do our own research.

Fast forward to this past week, almost two years later.  I am now researching my Nusbaum relatives.  As I was putting together lists of the descendants of my Nusbaum ancestors, I saw the name Jacob Hano appear as the husband of one of my relatives, Fanny Nusbaum, the daughter of Ernst Nusbaum, who is my 4x great-uncle, brother of John Nusbaum.

Since the Hanos, like the Cohens and the Nusbaums, were Pennsylvania Jews, I wondered whether there was a connection.  So I did some research on Jacob Hano, and I soon found out that he was the brother of the Louise Lydia Hano who had married Samuel Cohen, Nancy and Gil’s ancestors.  That is, Jacob Hano was Flora Cohen’s uncle, the same Flora Cohen who married Jacob Weil,the son of Rachel Cohen.

Florrie C Weil sitting room as a child

Home of Samuel Cohen and Louisa Lydia Hano
Courtesy of Gil Weeder

Are you still with me? There’s a quiz at the end.  (No, not really.)

Thus, Nancy, Gil and I are related both through my Nusbaum family and through my Cohen family.

Did they all know each other? Jacob Hano married my relative Fanny Nusbaum in 1877.   My great-grandparents Emanuel Cohen and Eva May Seligman (a Nusbaum) were married in 1886. Flora Cohen  wasn’t married to my relative Jacob Weil until 1908, over twenty years later.   So…here’s one possible scenario:

Eva May Seligman Cohen’s sister-in-law Rachel Cohen Weil says to Eva, “Do you know a nice Jewish girl for my son Jacob?”

Eva says, “Well, my mother’s first cousin Fanny is married to a man named Jacob Hano.  His sister Louise Lydia is married to Samuel Cohen.  A very nice family, also happened to be named Cohen.  They have a daughter Flora.  Perhaps Jacob would like to meet her?”

Flora Cohen and Jacob Weil with their daughter Maizie and unknown other

Flora Cohen and Jacob Weil with their daughter Maizie and unknown other Courtesy of Nancy Hano/Gil Weeder

And poof!  My Nusbaum and Cohen relatives are married to each other, and Gil and Nancy and I get all excited about a new connection, and my family tree starts twisting around on its own axis so badly that it just might fall down!

To state it most succinctly, my father’s maternal first cousin three times removed, Fanny Nusbaum, was married to Jacob Hano, who was the uncle of the wife (Flora Cohen) of my father’s paternal first cousin once removed, Jacob Weil.

This is a simple family tree that illustrates ...

This is a simple family tree that illustrates the definitions of various types of cousins (e.g. “second cousin twice removed”). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

English: The usual European kinship system wit...

English: The usual European kinship system with English text. Note that “Thrice-removed” on the chart more commonly occurs as “Three times removed”… Deutsch: Das gebräuchliche europäische Verwandschaftssystem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Magic of Photography

As I wrote last time, I did not have any photographs of my great-grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen despite the fact that my father lived with her for many years of his childhood and the fact that she took many pictures of him and his sister.  When I received some photographs from my cousin Marjorie’s cousin Lou Mahlman, in the mix was this photograph of Marjorie with Arthur Seligman and a woman who Lou said was Arthur’s wife Franc.  The photograph was taken in 1932 in Atlantic City.

Arthur Seligman, Marjorie, and Eva May Cohen, 1932 Atlantic City

Arthur Seligman, Marjorie, and Eva May Cohen, 1932 Atlantic City

 

But when I showed the photograph to my father, he said that the woman in the photograph was not Franc, but his grandmother, Eva Seligman Cohen.  I was so excited to hear him say that and to watch his face when he saw her face in the photograph.

There was another photograph, also from Atlantic City in 1932, in which Arthur Seligman is sitting with two women on the beach.  The initial version we saw was overexposed, but Arthur “Pete” Scott, Arthur Seligman’s grandson, was able to enhance the photo, and once my father saw the enhanced version, he said that the woman sitting next to Arthur Seligman is also his grandmother.

Eva M. Cohen, center, 1932 (Arthur Seligman, right)

Eva M. Cohen, center, 1932 (Arthur Seligman, right)

So now we have two photographs of my great-grandmother Eva May Seligman Cohen, or Bebe, as she was known by all her grandchildren.  Thank you, Marjorie, for sharing these with all of us, and thank you, Lou, for scanning and sending them, and thank you, Pete, for enhancing the second photograph.  With these two photographs, we all now have a face to put with the name and the deeds of this wonderful woman who gave so much to others.

The Seligmans: My New Mexican Ancestors—An Introduction

State flag of New Mexico copyright friendly picture

Flag of New Mexico

Although my parents did not talk very much about their ancestors or families when I was a child, one of the claims my father often made with pride was that his great-uncle had been the governor of New Mexico.  I used to find this both amusing and irrelevant.  A seemingly distant relative who died 20 years before I was born?  Why would I care about that? And New Mexico? How could we possibly have a relative—a Jewish relative—who came from New Mexico? We were from New York and Philadelphia—we were not from the Southwest; we were not cowboys.  Who was this relative, and how in the world did he get to be a governor?  It all seemed rather preposterous—like saying we were descended from Napoleon or George Washington.

Not that I doubted that my father was telling the truth. It just seemed unimportant to me—until I started to delve into my family’s history.  As I started to research and read about this side of my family, I realized how remarkable and interesting a story it is and what a uniquely American story it is.  But before I get to that story, I need to begin at the end and explain how the story of the New Mexican Seligmans is part of my family’s story.

I have written quite a bit about my great-grandparents, Emanuel and Eva M. Cohen, and in particular about my great-grandmother Eva.  You may recall that it was Emanuel and Eva who took in Emanuel’s brother Isaac and his teenage son when Isaac’s wife died.  It was Emanuel and Eva who opened their home for Emanuel’s uncle Jonas’ funeral.  And it was Eva who took care of my father and his sister for almost ten years when my grandparents were both unable to do so.  Both my father and his cousin Marjorie have described Eva as the sweetest, most loving, and kindest woman.

Eva was a Seligman, the daughter of Bernard Seligman and Frances Nusbaum.  She was born in 1866 in Philadelphia, but moved with her parents to Santa Fe, New Mexico when she was a young girl.  She returned east to go to Swarthmore College outside of Philadelphia, and while there, she met Emanuel Cohen and married him in 1886 when she was only twenty years old.

Eva Cohen in the Swarthmore Bulletin

Eva Cohen in the Swarthmore Bulletin 1885-1886

https://archive.org/details/annualcatalogueo1885swar

 

Marriage announcement of Emanuel Cohen and Eva Seligman

Marriage announcement of Emanuel Cohen and Eva Seligman

(Matrimony Notice,  Friday, February 5, 1886, Jewish Messenger (New York, NY)   Volume: 59   Issue: 6   Page: 6)

Together she and Emanuel had four sons, one of whom, Herbert, died as a toddler.  Their son Maurice ended his own life after suffering from cancer, and their son John, my grandfather, was disabled by multiple sclerosis as a young man when my father was just a little boy.  So Eva endured more than her fair share of tragedy, yet somehow she remained a positive and loving person who seemed to have an incredible ability to care for others.

One of my great disappointments was not having a photograph of Eva.  She wrote inscriptions on many of the photographs I have of my father and his sister, but she must have been taking many of the pictures and thus is not in any of those in my family’s collection.  I suppose that is consistent with what I know about her—someone who was focused on others and not on herself.

My father and his cousin Marjorie are the only surviving grandchildren of Eva and Emanuel Cohen, and my siblings and I are the only great-grandchildren.  In the last few weeks, I’ve been very fortunate to receive from Marjorie’s maternal cousin Lou a number of photographs of Marjorie and others, and I was thrilled to be able to see the face of the woman with whom I’d had such wonderful conversations this summer.  Below are several photographs of Marjorie as a child and as a young woman, including some with and of  her parents Stanley and Bess Cohen.

Stanley Cohen World War I

Stanley Cohen World War I

 

Marjorie and her mother Bess Craig Cohen

Marjorie and her mother Bess

 

 

 

Set Marjorie and Stan

Marjorie and her father Stanley

Stanley Cohen 1928

Stanley Cohen 1928

Marjorie 1933

Marjorie 1933

Marjorie and Bess 1933

Marjorie and Bess 1933

Marjorie Cohen

Marjorie Cohen with Pete-page-001

Marjorie with Pete from Our Gang

Marjorie and her parents Stanley and Bess Cohen at her graduation from Trinity (DC), c. 1947

Marjorie and her parents at her graduation from Trinity (DC), c. 1947

Marjorie as a student at NY Dramatic Arts Academy

Marjorie as a student at NY Dramatic Arts Academy

Marjorie model 2-page-001

 

Marjorie and her father Stanley 1981

Marjorie and her father Stanley 1981

Included in that group of photographs was a photograph that Lou had labeled as Bess and Stanley 1923, but when I showed it to my father, he said that it was his parents, John and Eva (Schoenthal) Cohen.  When I compared it to the only other photograph I have of my grandparents together, it was obvious that this was John and Eva, not Stanley and Bess.  I was delighted to have another picture of my grandparents.

Eva Schoenthal and John Cohen, Jr. 1923

Eva (Schoenthal) and John Cohen, Jr. 1923

 

John and Eva Cohen  c. 1930

John and Eva Cohen
c. 1930

Also mixed into the group of photos from Marjorie’s cousin Lou were a few taken in Atlantic City during the summer of 1932 that finally allow me to see the face of my great-grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen.  I will post those in a later post.

Looking back:  The Cohen Family from Amsterdam to England to Philadelphia and Washington and beyond

 

Amsterdam coat of arms

Two months ago I wrote a summary of my perspective on the descendants of Jacob and Sarah Jacobs Cohen and their thirteen children, including my great-grandfather Emanuel Cohen.  I wrote about the way they managed to create a large network of pawnshops that provided support for the generations to come.  Many of the Philadelphia Cohens stayed in the pawnshop business into the 20th century.  The generation that followed, those born in the 20th century, began to move away from the pawn business and from Philadelphia.  Descendants began to go to college and to become professionals.  Today the great-great-grandchildren of Jacob and Sarah live all over the country and are engaged in many, many different fields.  Few of us today can imagine living with twelve siblings over a pawnshop in South Philadelphia.  We can’t fathom the idea of losing child after child to diseases that are now controlled by vaccinations and medicine.  We take for granted the relative luxurious conditions in which we live today.

File:Flag of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.svg

Philadelphia flag

 

The story of the Cohen family in Washington is much the same in some ways, different in other ways.  Jacob’s brother Moses and his wife Adeline also started out as immigrants in the pawnshop business , first in Baltimore and then Washington.  But unlike Jacob who lived to see his children become adults, Moses Cohen died at age 40 when his younger children were still under ten years old.  Adeline was left to raise those young children on her own as she had likely raised her first born son, Moses Himmel Cohen, on her own until she married Moses Cohen, Sr.  When I look at what those children accomplished and what their children then accomplished, I am in awe of what Adeline was able to do.   For me, the story of the DC Cohens is primarily the story of Adeline Himmel Cohen for it was she, not Moses, who raised the five children who thrived here in the US.  She somehow instilled in those children a drive to overcome the loss of their father, to take risks, to get an education, and to make a living.

Her son Moses, Jr., an immigrant himself, had nine children; his son, Myer, became a lawyer.  To me it is quite remarkable that a first generation American, the son of a Jewish immigrant, was able to go to law school in the late 19th century.  Myer himself went on to raise a large family, including two sons who became doctors and one who became a high ranking official at the United Nations in its early years after World War II.  Moses, Jr.’s other children also lived comfortable lives, working in their own businesses and raising families.  These were first generation Americans who truly worked to find the American dream.

Adeline and Moses, Sr.’s other three children who survived to adulthood, Hart, JM, and Rachel Cohen, all took a big risk and moved, for varying periods of time, to Sioux City, Iowa.  Even their mother Adeline lived out on the prairie for some years.  JM stayed out west, eventually moving to Kansas City; he was able to send his two daughters to college, again something that struck me as remarkable for those times.  His grandchildren were very successful professionally.  Hart, who lost a son to an awful accident, had a more challenging life.  His sister Rachel also had some heartbreak—losing one young child and a granddaughter Adelyn, but she had two grandsons who both appear to have been successful.

Three of the DC Cohen women married three Selinger brothers or cousins.  Their children included doctors, a popular singer, and a daughter who returned to England several generations after her ancestors had left.  The family tree gets quite convoluted when I try to sort out how their descendants are related, both as Cohens and as Selingers.

There were a number of heart-breaking stories to tell about the lives of some of these people, but overall like the Philadelphia Cohens, these were people who endured and survived and generally succeeded in having a good life, at least as far as I can tell.  The DC Cohens, like the Philadelphia Cohens, have descendants living all over the United States and elsewhere and are working in many professions and careers of all types.

flag of Washington, DC

Looking back now at the story of all the Cohens,  all the descendants of Hart Levy Cohen and Rachel Jacobs, I feel immense respect for my great-great-great grandparents.  They left Amsterdam for England, presumably for better economic opportunities than Amsterdam offered at that time.  In England Hart established himself as a merchant, but perhaps being a Dutch Jew in London was not easy, and so all five of Hart and Rachel’s children came to the US, Lewis, Moses, Jacob, Elizabeth, and Jonas, again presumably for even better opportunities than London had offered them.  Eventually Hart himself came to the US, uprooting himself for a second time to cross the Atlantic as a man already in his seventies so that he could be with his children and his grandchildren.  Rachel unfortunately did not survive to make that last move.

Flag of the City of London.svg

The flag of the City of London

Arriving in the US by 1850 in that early wave of Jewish immigration gave my Cohen ancestors a leg up over the Jewish immigrants who arrived thirty to sixty years later, like my Brotman, Goldschlager, and Rosenzweig ancestors.  Of course, the Cohens had the advantage of already speaking English, unlike my Yiddish speaking relatives on my mother’s side.  They also had the advantage of arriving at a time when there wre fewer overall immigrants, Jewish immigrants in particular and thus faced less general hostility than the masses of Jewish, Italian, and other immigrants who arrived in the 1890s and early 20th century.  Also, my Cohen relatives may not have been wealthy when they arrived, but Hart and his children already had experience as merchants and were able to establish their own businesses fairly quickly.  Thus, by the time my mother’s ancestors started arriving and settling in the Lower East Side of NYC or in East Harlem, working in sweatshops and struggling to make ends meet, my father’s ancestors were solidly in the middle and upper classes in Philadelphia, Washington, Sioux City, Kansas City, Detroit, and Baltimore.

When I look at these stories together, I see the story of Jewish immigration in America.  I see a first wave of Jews, speaking English, looking American, and living comfortably, facing a second wave who spoke Yiddish, looked old-fashioned, and lived in poverty.  No wonder there was some tension between the two groups.  No wonder they established different synagogues, different communities, different traditions.

A recent study suggests that all Ashkenazi Jews were descended from a small group of about 350 ancestors.  We all must share some DNA to some extent.  We are really all one family.  But we have always divided ourselves and defined our subgroups differently—Orthodox, Conservative, Reform; Galitizianer or Litvak; Sephardic or Ashkenazi; Israeli or American; so on and so forth.  We really cannot afford to do that in today’s world; we never really could.  Today very few of us make distinctions based on whether our ancestors came in 1850 or 1900 because we are all a mix of both and because we have blurred the economic and cultural distinctions that once were so obvious.  But we still have a long way to go to eradicate the divisions among us and to overcome the prejudices that continue to exist regarding those who are different, whether Jewish or non-Jewish.

 

 

Update: Adelyn Selinger’s Death Certificate

Today I received the death certificate for Adelyn Selinger, the nine year old daughter of Monroe and Estelle Selinger, granddaughter of Frederick Selinger and Rachel Cohen.  I have updated the appropriate post, but will include it here as well.

Adelyn Singer death certificate May 30, 1923

Adelyn Singer death certificate May 30, 1923

Adelyn died of meningitis and mastoiditis, a bacterial infection of the mastoid bone, which is located behind the ear.  According to WebMD, these infections are usually caused by a middle ear infection that has not been successfully treated.  Once again, I am grateful for modern medicine and all that pink amoxycillin my kids took for ear infections.

Notice also that the informant on the death certificate was Aaron Hartstall, Adelyn’s uncle, her father’s brother-in-law.  I assume that her parents. grandparents, and aunt were too distraught to provide the details for the death certificate.

The Cohens: Questions Left to Answer

Now that I have gone through all the lines descending from Hart Levy Cohen and Rachel Jacobs through their children and grandchildren up to current descendants, I have to look back and see what I missed.  What are the big questions and small questions that remain unanswered?  Otherwise, I may leave some things unsolved and accept gaps in my research.  So this blog post is my attempt to outline those unanswered questions as a way to remind myself not to be too self-satisfied with what I have done.

File:Questionmark.svg

 

Overall, I am quite amazed by how much I was able to find.  It really helped that (1) there were generations in the US going back as far as 1848 because US records are much more accessible to me and (2) that most of my Cohen relatives lived in Pennsylvania, a state that has made many of its records available online.  It also helped that both the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Washington Evening Star covered society happenings like parties, engagements, and weddings because it was through those resources that I was able to find a lot of the married names of the Cohen women.

So what is there left to research?  First and foremost, I would love to be able to find the parents and grandparents and other ancestors of Hart Levy Cohen.  I don’t know that I will ever be able to do this, given how little luck I had at the archives in Amsterdam and also given that surnames were not adopted by Jews until the early 1800s.  But new records are uncovered all the time, so I will not give up hope yet.  Related to that, of course, is finding the ancestors for my great-great-great grandmother Rachel Jacobs.

As for the next generation after Hart and Rachel, the big questions left unanswered relate to Hart and Rachel’s son Moses.  Although I do not have DNA proof that the Moses who married Adeline Himmel was their son, I am confident that he was based on the weight of the circumstantial evidence.  Maybe a descendant of Isadore Baer Cohen will come along, but even without that, I am convinced that this was the right Moses.  Rather, the real unanswered question for me is when and where did Moses meet and marry Adeline Himmel?  When did she come to the United States from Baden?  I have no evidence yet relating to either of these questions.

The remaining questions are not as important to me in terms of the overall story of the family.  They almost all relate to the absence of death records.  Among those for whom I have no death records are: Joseph Cohen’s daughter Fannie; Abraham’s son Arthur; Harry Selinger, Augusta and Julius Selinger’s son; Rachel Cohen Selinger; Aaron Hartstall; Monroe Selinger; JM Cohen’s son Arthur; Hart DC’s son Jacob Cohen; Estelle Spater Cole, Sol’s wife; Gary Cole, Jacob G. Cole’s son; and Lewis Cohen, son of Reuben Cohen, Sr.

Then there are a number of people for whom I have a date of death from an index, but no death certificate, like Simon L.B Cohen—why did he die so young?  There are also many for whom I have a marriage record from an index, but no marriage certificate.  I am not sure how important it is to see the actual document where I am otherwise certain of the identity of the individuals who married or died, but eventually if those documents become available, I should obtain them.

And there are also a few cases where I could not determine whether a person had any children—such as Violet Cohen, daughter of Reuben Cohen, Sr.; Jonas Cohen, Jr.; and Morton and Kathryn Selinger. I was unable to find out whether Caroline Hamberg married Robert Daley or anyone else. Finally, there are the two children of Sallie R. Cohen who were orphaned after Sallie and her husband Ellis Abrams died; I do not know what happened to them.

Listing all those names makes me feel like there is so much more to do, but I also have to remind myself of how much I’ve already done.  I realize that this is perhaps not the most exciting blog post for those reading it, but it will serve as an important post for me to return to when I need to remember the questions that I still have to answer.

My next post will be more reflective; I need to step back, look at the story of my Cohen relatives, and think about what I have learned about them and about history and about myself by doing this research.