Volkmarsen and Breuna: A Remarkable Day

On Monday morning, May 8, we picked up our rental car (a cute little Nissan Juke) and started our drive northeast from Cologne to the Kassel region where we would spend the next three days.  I must admit I had some trepidation about driving in Germany (well, about Harvey driving in Germany; I certainly wasn’t going to drive).  I’d heard about the absence of speed limits on the Autobahn, and being a nervous passenger under any circumstances, I had visions of a combination of bumper cars and roller coasters.  Add to that the fact that the signs would be in German and distances in kilometers, and I figured this would not be a relaxing experience.

But I was wrong.  Our GPS was excellent (with a delightful British accent), the signs were clear, the roads were smooth, and we somehow managed to keep up (to some extent) with the pace of the German drivers.  The only part I didn’t like was the fact that the vehicles in the right lane were going about 30 mph slower than those in the left lane, making changing lanes at times nerve-wracking (for me, not for Harvey).

We made one visit to a rest stop along the way where I ran from the car to try and get ahead of the three busloads of teenagers going on a school trip.  I was only partly successful and had to wait amid a bunch of chatty teens before paying 70 cents to use the facilities.  When I received a voucher back for 50 cents, I had to ask one of the girls what it was for.  I learned we could redeem it for items in the rest stop store, so we bought a pretzel for the road and re-entered the Autobahn.

Our destination was Volkmarsen where we were to meet Ernst Klein, who would be our guide for the towns we were visiting that day. We arrived on time, and Ernst promptly met us in front of the rathaus (town hall) in the pretty center of the village. I had only emailed a few times with Ernst beforehand, and he had told me that his English was not great, but he was wrong.  His English was excellent, and I immediately warmed to this friendly and modest man.

Ernst Klein and me

First, he showed us around Volkmarsen. I was at first not sure why I would be interested in Volkmarsen since, as far as I knew, I had no family from that town.  But Ernst pointed to a building right across from the rathaus and told us, showing us a photograph, that it had once been the store of Salomon Hamberg. I had to look him up to figure out the connection.  His father Juda Hamberg was a first cousin to my great-great-grandmother, Henrietta Hamberg, the mother of my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal. So Salomon was Isidore’s second cousin.

Salomon Hamberg’s store in Volkmarsen


Building where Salomon Hamberg once had a store

Ernst showed us the church in Volkmarsen and pointed out that several former Jewish homes were right nearby; he commented that before the Third Reich, Jews and Christians had lived and worked together peacefully as neighbors and friends. We then walked to one of the older homes in town where Ernst wanted to show us something special that he had discovered.

Rathaus in Volkmarsen

Church in Volkmarsen

Street in Volkmarsen where some Jewish families once lived

We went into the backyard of the home and entered a door into the basement at the back of the house.  It was dark inside, and I had no idea what we were going to see.  But Ernst turned on a spotlight that lit up a corner of the basement where we could see stone steps leading down into a rectangular opening—a mikveh!  A mikveh is a ritual bathing place where  traditional Jews go for a ritual purification at particular times in their lives—e.g., for women, before marriage and after each menstrual period. Ernst said he had had the stones dated by an expert and that it was believed that this mikveh was 500 years old, meaning Jews had been in this little town as early as 1500.  There is even visible water at the bottom, showing that natural waters could fill the mikveh.

Volkmarsen mikveh

He then told us how he had discovered the mikveh.  He had been looking for some evidence of an early Jewish community in Volkmarsen in the older buildings and homes in the village, and when he saw this decorative pillar in the basement of this home, he had a hunch that the basement had once been used for something special.

Pillar in basement where mikveh was found in Volkmarsen

He asked the owner for permission to remove the brick flooring to see what was underneath, and the owner agreed, as long as Ernst promised to restore the flooring if there was nothing below it.  But there was, and further investigation indicates the possibility that the front part of the basement was used for prayer services.  There are marks on the walls that look like hand prints and Hebrew letters as well as an opening in the wall that might have housed the Torah scrolls.

Handprints on wall in Volkmarsen

Hebrew lettering ?

Possible location of ark holding Torah scrolls

We were very excited to see this space and wondered what would happen to it since the home is privately owned. Ernst described his hope that his organization could raise the funds to buy the house and convert it into a Jewish museum. I am hoping to help them accomplish this goal, and if you are interested in learning more about this fascinating project, here is more information from their website. I believe that this museum will serve a very important purpose in education and preservation of the Jewish history of the region, and I hope some of you will consider making a donation.

After a quick lunch at yet another great German bakery, we went to see the Volkmarsen cemetery.  The cemetery had been damaged by the Nazis during the war, the headstones smashed to pieces.  A memorial has been established by assembling pieces of the stones together along with a large stone commemorating those who had been buried there.

Broken stones at the Volkmarsen cemetery

Memorial made of broken stones at the Volkmarsen cemetery

In addition, Ernst saw that a memorial wall was created to include the names of Volkmarsen residents who had been killed during the Holocaust.  The empty spaces in the wall are meant to represent the holes now missing from the community, a brilliant and very powerful visual statement.

Memorial to those killed in the Holocaust from Volkmarsen

Ernst then took us to the current Jewish museum in the town, and I could see why he needs more space. He and his colleagues have created an incredible little museum packed with information and Judaica and photographs and records of Jewish history in the area.  The museum is visited by children and adults from the region and also from all parts of the world. There are copies of photographs and letters of members of the Hamberg family, including some of Rob Meyers’ mother and her family. (Rob is my fifth cousin, the one with whom we have very good mutual friends as well as mutual cousins from my father’s Cohen side, the Goldweins.)

Irmgaard Hamberg

Then we left for Breuna, the village where my great-great-grandmother Henriette Hamberg was born. Henriette was the daughter of Moses Hamberg and Guetchen Rotenberg, both of whom had died in Breuna in the 1860s. Henriette was one of ten siblings and at least some of her siblings had stayed in Breuna and died there.   Although I have yet to delve too deeply into the Hamberg genealogy and story, I wanted to see where they’d lived and where they are buried.

On the way to Breuna, Ernst had us pull over to the side of the road so we could see the small mountain that was the inspiration for the family name.  In the early 1800s when the government ordered Jews to adopt surnames for tax-collecting purposes, many Jews picked names based on locations or places that they knew.  Moses Hamberg’s family chose the small mountain outside of Breuna that was and is known as Hamberg.

Hamberg mountain

Breuna is a small village not dissimilar from Volkmarsen or Gau-Algesheim.  There is a church, a small open square, a town hall, and then many individual houses surrounding those public buildings. Ernst showed us the former synagogue, noting its proximity to the church, and two houses that were once the homes of Hamberg family members.

Plaque on former synagogue in Breuna

Former synagogue in Breuna

Former synagogue, left, and church, right, in Breuna

Hamberg home

The weather that day was the coldest and wettest of our days in Germany, and unfortunately we were too uncomfortable to spend much time walking around.  So we headed to the cemetery.  Along the way we passed the street named for Susanne Hamberg, Rob Meyer’s aunt who was, along with her parents, killed in the Holocaust. Susanne was only thirteen years old; she was my fourth cousin, once removed.

Outside the cemetery was a sign telling the history of Breuna’s Jewish community. It includes the Hamberg family as one of the families that made up that community.

Inside the cemetery are many stones in about six or seven different rows.  It is quite a nice cemetery and very well maintained.  Many of the stones are only in Hebrew and somewhat eroded, so reading them was extremely difficult, but fortunately many stones also have German on the reverse side, revealing the secular name of the person buried in that spot. I looked at each stone, often seeing nothing that seemed relevant, and occasionally seeing a name that seemed a possible relative—a Goldschmidt or a Hamberg.

But my search was rewarded when I located these two stones:

Hebrew side of stone for Guetchen Rotenberg Hamberg

Hebrew side Moses Hamberg’s stone

On the reverse were their German names:

Guetchen Rotenberg, reverse side

Moses Hamberg stone reverse side

These were the stones for my three-times great-grandparents, Moses Hamberg and Guetchen Rotenberg, the parents of Henriette Hamberg, the grandparents of Isidore Schoenthal.  Seeing them took my breath away.  I had not expected to find stones for my own direct ancestors.  Because of my experience in Gau-Algesheim, I had kept my expectations low. Yet here were the stones for my ancestors, the grandparents of my father’s maternal grandfather.

I never knew these people and in fact knew almost nothing about them beyond their names, birth dates, and death dates.  The birth record of their daughter Hannchen revealed that Moses was a cattle merchant.  Despite this thin amount of personal information, somehow I felt a connection to these people who died almost a hundred years before I was born.

In the cemetery there were also a number of stones for other people on my Hamberg family tree:

Jettchen Gans Hamberg, wife of Seligmann Hamberg, brother of my great-great-grandmother Henriette Hamberg.  Jettchen and Seligmann were the parents of Malchen/Amalia Hamberg who married Jacob Baer and had the children who founded and worked for the Attleboro Manufacturing Company, the large jewelry business in Attleboro Massachusetts.


Levi Mollerich, husband of Miriam Hamberg, sister of my great-great-grandmother Henriette Hamberg.

Baruch Hamberg and his wife Sara Herzfeld.  Baruch was my second cousin, three times removed; more importantly, he and Sara were my cousin Rob Meyer’s great-grandparents.  Baruch was also related to Joel Goldwein as Baruch’s mother Breine Goldwein was the sister of Joel’s great-grandfather Markus Goldwein.

Rosa Hamberg Braunsberg.  She was Baruch Hamberg’s sister, so another second cousin, three times removed.

Fanny Herzfeld Goldwein and Markus Goldwein.  Great-grandparents of Joel Goldwein, who is my cousin through my Cohen line and Rob’s cousin through the Goldwein line.

In addition there were some stones with names that might be a part of my family and then others that I need to have translated.  But overall, visiting that cemetery on that very cold and very dreary day left me feeling uplifted and strangely happy.  My ancestors were there, and I had been there to pay tribute and to remember them.  It was a very moving experience.

We drove through Oberlistingen, the home of my Goldschmidt ancestors, and then we said goodbye to our new friend Ernst—he and I both with tears in our eyes—and drove to our hotel in Kassel.  It had been a remarkable day, beginning with a 500 year old mikveh and ending with the discovery of my 3x-great-grandparents’ gravestones.  The next day we would go to Sielen, the home of my Schoenthal ancestors.


Another Small World Story, Another Twist in the Family Tree

In my last post I described my discovery that Rose Mansbach Schoenthal was not only related to me by her marriage to Simon Schoenthal, the brother of my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal, but that she was also related by marriage to my other great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein through her Mansbach cousins.   This post is about another discovery of a strange twist in my family tree, but this one involving two living cousins.

Last week I received a comment on an old blog post about Elizabeth Cohen, who was the sister of my other great-grandfather, Emanuel Cohen.  The man who left the comment on my blog, Joel Goldwein, is the great-grandson, through his mother’s side, of Elizabeth Cohen.  He is thus my third cousin.  I was, of course, delighted to make this connection, and I emailed Joel to learn more about him and our mutual family.

In the course of the exchange of emails, Joel shared information not only about his mother’s family, but also about his father, Manfred (Fred) Goldwein, who had escaped from Nazi Germany on the Kindertransport to England.  His father’s parents and other family members, however, were murdered by the Nazis.  Joel sent me a link to a website about his son’s bar mitzvah in Korbach, Germany, the town where his father was born and had lived until he left Germany.  I was very moved by the idea that Joel’s family had returned to this town to honor the memory of his father’s family.

I mentioned that I was going to be in Germany, not far from Korbach, because I had Hamberg ancestors from Breuna.  Joel then mentioned that his paternal great-grandparents are buried in Breuna and that he had visited the cemetery there.  He sent me a link to his photographs of the cemetery, and I looked through them in search of anyone named Hamberg.

Imagine my surprise to find this photograph:

Courtesy of Joel Goldwein

Baruch Hamberg was the second cousin of my great-great-grandmother, Henrietta Hamberg Schoenthal.  More importantly, he was the great-grandfather of my fifth cousin, Rob Meyer.

Some of you may remember the story of Rob.  He and I connected through JewishGen’s Family Finder tool about a year and a half ago, and we learned that not only did Rob live about a mile from where I had once lived in Arlington, Massachusetts, we also had very good mutual friends.  It was one of those true goosebump moments in my genealogy research, standing in a cemetery in Longmeadow and talking to Rob as we realized that we both had the same close friends.

Rob’s mother had, like Joel’s father, escaped from Nazi Germany, and she also, like Joel’s father, had lost most of the rest of her family in the Holocaust. I sent the headstone photograph to Rob, and I asked whether he might be related to Joel.  Rob answered, suggesting that perhaps he was related to Joel not through Baruch Hamberg, but through Baruch’s mother, Breinchen Goldwein.  A little more digging around revealed that in fact Joel was related to Breinchen: her brother Marcus Goldwein was Joel’s paternal great-grandfather.

Thus, Joel and Rob are third cousins, once removed, through Rob’s mother’s side and Joel’s father side. And although they did not know of each other at all, Joel also had a photograph of the street in Breuna named in memory of Rob’s aunt:

Courtesy of Joel Goldwein


It gave me great pleasure to introduce Rob and Joel to each other, who soon discovered that not only are they third cousins through their Goldwein family line, they are also both doctors and both graduates of the same medical school.

And they are both my cousins, Rob through his mother’s Hamberg side and Joel through his mother’s Cohen side.

There truly are only six degrees of separation.

Are These Two Photographs of the Same Woman?

Sharon, one of my readers and a fellow genealogy blogger, asked in response to my last post whether I thought the woman in this photograph of Lawrence Baer and his son John Degen Baer could be John’s grandmother. Certainly the way his hand rests on her shoulder suggests that she was someone he knew well and felt comfortable with:

Lawrence Baer, John Degen Baer, unknown person, 1924

Lawrence Baer, John Degen Baer, unknown person, 1924

John’s paternal grandmother was Amalia Hamberg, the woman in the photo I’d posted in an earlier post. People thought that photo was taken in the 1880s or about 40 years before the one above:


Amalia Hamberg and Jacob Baer


Could the woman in the top photo also be Amalia? In 1924, Amalia would have been 73 years old. Her face is obviously much thinner in the later photograph, but are the mouth, nose, and eyes similar? Do you think this is the same woman in both photographs?

And if any of Amalia’s descendants can help, please let me know.

(I tried to use the pictriev tool that Cathy Meder-Dempsey blogged about, but the photo of Amalia and Jacob was too small for pictriev to detect the faces.)

More Gifts of Photographs

In my last post, I shared the wonderful photograph I received of Amalia Hamberg and Jacob Baer from one of their descendants.  Before posting it here, I shared it with other descendants of Amalia and Jacob, and that prompted some of those descendants to share some other photographs. Thank you to the extended Baer family for allowing me to publish these photos.

First is a photograph of Lawrence Baer, Amalia and Jacob’s youngest child, born in 1891 in PIttsburgh.  Lawrence became one of the principal innovators and executives at the family-owned jewelry business, Attleboro Manufacturing.  This photograph was taken in 1924.  The little boy in the center is John Degen Baer, Lawrence’s son.  He would have been three years old in this photograph. The individual on the right is not known.

Lawrence Baer, John Degen Baer, unknown person, 1924

Lawrence Baer, John Degen Baer, unknown person, 1924

Here is a photograph of Lawrence Baer’s first wife and John Degen Baer’s mother, Donna Degen.  This photograph was not dated, but it looks like the 1920s to me.

Donna Degen

Donna Degen

This is another picture of their son John, dated 1924:

John Baer, summer of 1924

John Baer, summer of 1924

How adorable is he!

Finally, here is a photograph of Olivia Ganong Baer, Lawrence Baer’s second wife, and Minette Brigham Baer, John Degen Baer’s first wife, with Lawrence in the background.

Olivia Ganong Baer, Minette Brigham Baer, and Lawrence Baer

Olivia Ganong Baer, Minette Brigham Baer, and Lawrence Baer

John Degen Baer grew up to be a very accomplished business leader like his father.  He died just a little over a year ago on November 3, 2015.

According to his obituary,

Baer attended both Yale and Brown Universities, graduating from the latter in 1943. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, having been attached to the Second Marine Division in the Pacific theater and int he Occupation of Japan. He resigned his commission in 1950. He was the owner and C.E.O. of the Bishop Company, an Ophthalmic Manufacturing Company, which he merged with the Univis Lens Company of Dayton, Ohio in 1960. The merged company, Univis, Inc., was headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, with branch manufacturing plants in Puerto Rico, Tennessee, New York and Massachusetts. Univis was sold to Itek, Inc. in 1970. Mr. Baer established a consulting company in Atlanta, Georgia, and in 1970 joined the Edwards Baking Company as Executive Vice President. He retired from Edwards in 1978. While residing on Sea Island, Georgia, he participated in the construction and management of the Island Retreat and the Island Square apartments.

Baer and his family moved to Blairsville in 1985 where he and his wife founded and managed the Truck & Gas Market. The business closed in March 1992. Baer then retired from all activity. While residing in Massachusetts, Baer served as a member of the Attleboro Zoning Board of Appeal for 12 years. He was also a Director of a local Bank and the Chamber of Commerce. For several years he served as a director of the Optical Manufacturers Association, located in New York City. While living in Oxford, Georgia, Baer was elected and served on the town Council.

Thank you again to his children for sharing these photos and allowing me to see the faces behind the names of these cousins of mine. Here’s a chart showing how we are related.


A Special Photograph

While taking a short break from research, I want to share a few photographs and records I’ve received recently, but did not have a chance to post on the blog.

You may recall the series of blog posts I did about Amalia Hamberg and her family.  Amalia, born Malchen, was my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal’s first cousin:

corrected relationship isidore schoenthal to malchen hamberg


She acted as the administratrix of the estate of Charles Hamberg, the cousin who lived in South Carolina whose first wife had been murdered and whose son Samuel Hamberg ended up living with Henry Schoenthal in Washington, Pennsylvania after his father died as well.  Amalia had married Jacob Baer, with whom she had nine children, many of whom ended up working for the family jewelry business founded by the oldest brother, Maurice, in Attleboro, Massachusetts.

Well, one of the descendants of Amalia and Jacob Baer found my blog and connected me with his siblings, one of whom graciously shared with me this wonderful photograph of Amalia Hamberg and Jacob Baer. Both Amalia and Jacob lived long lives.  Amalia lived from 1851 until 1931; Jacob from 1847 to 1932. Imagine all the changes they saw—starting in Germany in the middle of the 19th century and living through the Industrial Revolution, the first World War, and the Roaring Twenties.  They raised nine children in western Pennsylvania and must have seen Pittsburgh grow from a small fairly rural area to the home of steel manufacturing.  They lived to see the invention and development of cars and telephones, even airplanes.


I don’t know when this photograph was taken.  Although Amalia and Jacob may look old because of their attire and Jacob’s seemingly gray hair, their faces have no wrinkles, and the style of dress does not look 20th century to me.  I would guess that they were in their 40s, so perhaps the picture was taken in the 1890s.  What do you think?

I am so excited to have this photograph. Thank you so much to the Adler siblings who shared this with me.

The Last Chapter of the Story of Amalia Hamberg

Finally, I come to the two youngest children of Amalia Hamberg and Jacob Baer to survive to adulthood[1]: Elsie Baer Grant and Lawrence Baer.   With this post, I close the chapter on Amalia Hamberg, first cousin of my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal, or my first cousin, three times removed.  Her children were my second cousins, twice removed (or my grandmother Eva Schoenthal’s second cousins).

corrected relationship isidore schoenthal to malchen hamberg

Elsie Baer was born in Pittsburgh in 1886 and married Jerome Grant in 1913.  For almost their entire married lives they lived in New York City, where Jerome worked for Baer & Wilde, one of the family jewelry businesses based in Attleboro, Massachusetts.  Elsie and Jerome had two daughters, Marjorie and Elinor.  As of 1930, they were still living in New York City, and Jerome was still working for the family jewelry business.  The same was true in 1940; both daughters were still at home.

In the next decade both daughters married. Marjorie married Richard E. Weinreich, whose family was also in the jewelry business.  Richard’s father, Sol Weinreich, had founded Marvella Pearls, a jewelry wholesale business with his brother in Philadelphia, where Richard was born in 1915.  By 1930, the family and the business had relocated to New York, and by 1940, both Richard and his father were working in the business.

Marvella pearls

I assume that Richard and Marjorie met as a result of the fact that both families were in the jewelry business in New York.  Richard and Marjorie would have one child.  Richard eventually became president of Marvella.  According to this antiques website, “Marvella was purchased by Trifari in the early 1980s and eventually became part of the Liz Claiborne group. As of 2010, jewelry is still being distributed in department stores and other retail outlets on cards bearing the Marvella name.”

Marjorie’s sister Elinor served for over a year with the Red Cross in India in the early 1940s. On December 19, 1946, she married Alan Fredrick Kline of Chicago.

Elinor Grant wedding to Alan Kline 1946 NYTimes-page-001

Alan was a graduate of Dartmouth College and had served in the US Naval Reserves during World War II.  His father Jacob was one of the founders of Kline Brothers, a department store chain that started in Lorain, Ohio, and eventually had a large number of stores in the Midwest.

Suburbanite_Economist_Sun__Oct_28__1973_ article about Kline Bros

Elinor and Alan had two children before Alan died at only 37 years old on October 1, 1950, leaving Elinor with two very young sons.  Elinor would eventually remarry.

Elsie Baer’s husband Jerome Grant died on July 29, 1964; he was 75.  According to the death notices in The New York Times, he was a Mason, a member of The Golden Circle, and a member of the Maiden Lane Outing Club.

Like her sisters Josephine, Tilda, and Amanda, Elsie Baer Grant lived a long life, dying many years after her husband in May 1983 at age 96.

Unfortunately, the daughters of Elsie and Jerome were not blessed with their mother’s longevity.  Marjorie predeceased her mother, dying in May, 1978; she was only 59.  Her sister Elinor died at age 72 on November 2, 1993.

As for Elsie’s younger brother Lawrence, the youngest of the children of Amalia Hamberg and Jacob Baer, he played, as I’ve written here, a critical part in the success of the family jewelry business in Attleboro.  He not only invented the Kum-A-Part cufflinks that made the company highly successful in the 1920s; he also invented and received patents for several other jewelry products.  For example, in 1922, Lawrence received a patent (No.  US 1420232 A) for a jewelry contained, described as “a container which can be carried in the pocket or in a traveling bag or the like or placed in an article of furniture in the home, for holding buckles, brooches, buttons, and any article of jewelry.”  He also received during the 1920s and 1930s patents for a number of other inventions: necktie holders, a belt fastener, a bill holder, a shirt holder, and a display device.

Jewelry holder invented by Lawrence Baer


As noted in my earlier post, Lawrence had married Donna Degen in 1919, and they had one child, a son named John Degen Baer, born in 1921.  As of 1942 when Lawrence registered for the draft, they were still living in Attleboro and Lawrence was still working for the family jewelry business, now known as Swank, Inc.  But by 1946, Lawrence was listed with his second wife, Olivia Ganong, in the West Palm Beach, Florida, city directory.  He and Olivia lived in Florida for the rest of his life.  Lawrence died in May, 1969, in Lake Worth, Florida. He was 77 years old.

His son John remained in Attleboro even after Lawrence remarried and moved to Florida. According to his obituary, John attended Yale and Brown, graduating from Brown in 1943. During World War II, he served in the United States Marine Corps in the Pacific theater and in the occupation of Japan.

In 1946, the Attleboro city directory lists John as serving in the United States Marine Corps and married to a woman named Minette. In 1953, he was the executive vice-president of The Bishop Company in Attleboro.  According to his obituary, John “was the owner and C.E.O. of the Bishop Company, an Ophthalmic Manufacturing Company, which he merged with the Univis Lens Company of Dayton, Ohio in 1960. The merged company, Univis, Inc., was headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, with branch manufacturing plants in Puerto Rico, Tennessee, New York and Massachusetts. Univis was sold to Itek, Inc. in 1970.“

In 1963, John was still listed with Minette in the Attleboro, directory, but that is the last listing I can find for him there.  Sometime in the 1960s, John relocated to Florida, living not far from where his father was also living at that time.  He also appears to have married his second wife, Jane Rollins, during this time period.

After he sold Univis in 1970 (a year after his father died), John moved again, this time to Atlanta, Georgia, where he was executive vice-president of Edwards Baking Company until 1978.  In 1985, he relocated yet again, moving to Blairsville, Georgia, where he started and managed the Truck and Gas Market until 1992, when he retired.  John Baer died on November 3, 2015.  He was 94 years old. (All this information comes from his obituary, which also includes a number of photographs of John.)


Thus ends the recounting of the lives of all of the children (and the children of the children) of Amalia Hamberg and Jacob Baer: Maurice, Hattie, Josephine, Amanda, Flora, Tilda, Elsie, Alfred, and Lawrence.  I am once again amazed by the fact that two immigrants who came to the United States in the 19th century raised children who achieved such remarkable success both in business and in the arts.

Perhaps it is a lesson to us all about the contributions that immigrants have made and will continue to make this country.  We should be very wary of anyone who seeks to exclude immigrants from this country.  After all, most of us living in the US today are descended from immigrants.




[1] Alfred Baer, the second youngest child, had died years before.

The Legacy of Flora Baer Adler

I am back after two weeks with family members—first, a wonderful week with our grandson Nate and then a week with the extended family.  We had gorgeous weather, lots of laughs, and too much good food.  But now things are quiet, and I am returning to finish the story of the children of Amalia Hamberg.

It’s been a long break since I last posted, so I thought it would be helpful to clarify where I was when I left off. I had been discussing the many children of Amalia/Mlalchen Hamberg, who was a first cousin of my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal through his mother Henriette Hamberg.

corrected relationship isidore schoenthal to malchen hamberg

I have already discussed six of Amalia’s nine children, including Maurice, Hattie, Josephine, Amanda, Alfred and Tilda.  That leaves three more: Elsie, Lawrence, and the subject of this post, Flora.

Although Hattie Baer died at a young age as did her brother Alfred, most of the other siblings lived long lives.  As we saw in the earlier posts, Amanda lived late into her 90th year, and Josephine lived to 97. Their sister Elsie also lived to 97, and Tilda was within a few months of her 90th birthday.

Unfortunately, their sister Flora did not live as long a life.  As I wrote here, Flora  married Julius Adler, an engineer who had worked for the Philadelphia highway department, supervising the construction of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.  They had three children between 1917 and 1920, Stanley, Jerrold, and Amy.  Thanks to one of the grandchildren of Flora and Julius, I now have some photographs of the family.

Wedding photograph of Flora Baer and Julius Adler, March 15, 1915 Courtesy of the Adler family

Wedding photograph of Flora Baer and Julius Adler, March 15, 1915
Courtesy of the Adler family

Flora Baer Adler and one of her children

Flora Baer Adler and one of her children


In 1940, all three children were still living at home with their parents in Philadelphia.  Julius listed his occupation as an independent civil engineer.  Their son Stanley was working as a chemical engineer for a chemical company, and their daughter Amy was a social services worker at a hospital.  Jerrold had no occupation listed; perhaps he was still in school.

Flora Baer Adler 1943

Flora Baer Adler 1943, courtesy of the Adler family


Jerrold Adler, Flora Baer Adler, and Julius Adler 1943 Courtesy of the Adler family

Jerrold Adler, Flora Baer Adler, and Julius Adler
Courtesy of the Adler family

Then tragedy struck.  On August 27, 1945, my cousin Flora died from fluoride poisoning; her death was ruled a suicide by the coroner.

FLora Baer death certificate preliminary

FLora Baer death certificate with coroner result

Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Julius and the three children somehow recovered from this tragedy.  Julius married his second wife Katinka Dannenburg Olsho in 1971 when he was 84 years old.

Julius Adler, 1977 Courtesy of the Adler family

Julius Adler, 1977
Courtesy of the Adler family

When he died in 1993 at the age of 106, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a wonderful tribute to him:

… [Julius Adler] was an erudite man who could quote long passages from Kipling, recite Latin and Greek verse, and speak authoritatively on any of his varied interests, which included growing roses and playing bridge, according to his family.

“This man was unique, just an extraordinary human being,” said Mr. Adler’s son-in-law, Leonard Malamut. “In everything he did, he was top-notch. And he was a man of great dignity. He grew up at a time when decency and ethics and morality were the guiding principles of how one lived.”

Mr. Adler was born in Memphis, Tenn., and moved to Philadelphia as a child. He was a graduate of Central High School’s 109th class in 1904 and a 1908 graduate of the School of Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, which he attended on an academic scholarship. His family believes he was the oldest living graduate from Central and Penn.

Mr. Adler’s supervision of the Ben Franklin Bridge paving took place when he was deputy chief of the city’s highway department, his son-in-law said. The bridge, when it was built, was called the Delaware River Bridge.  He also supervised the repaving of Broad Street after the construction of the Broad Street Subway.

Mr. Adler taught at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Washington. He was a member of the Engineers Club of Philadelphia, the American Society of Civil Engineering and the American Society for Testing Materials.

For 70 years, he was a member of Congregation Rodeph Shalom.

Mr. Adler was, as well, a devoted fan of the Phillies. “He could tell you players’ ERAs and batting averages with great accuracy until he was 100,” Malamut said. “I regret that he died in the season the Phillies are having such a great season – that he had to die before the season was over.”

Stanley, Amy, Julius, and Jerrold Adler 1960 Courtesy of the Adler family

Stanley, Amy, Julius, and Jerrold Adler 1960
Courtesy of the Adler family

Julius and Flora’s three children also all lived productive lives.  Their daughter Amy died in 2003 of a heart attack; she was 83.  According to her obituary:

She served as a hospital volunteer when she was a teenager and later studied X-ray technology and electrocardiography.  In 1942, she met Dr. Leonard Malamut when she was working at Jewish Hospital, now Albert Einstein Medical Center. The couple married in 1944.

Dr. Malamut opened a practice near Albert Einstein Medical Center in Olney after serving several years in the Army during World War II. Mrs. Malamut joined him in the office. She managed the practice, keeping the books and helping with electrocardiograms, blood work and other tests.  She enjoyed attending concerts and the theater with Dr. Malamut.

Amy’s older brother Stanley died on April 21, 2006; he was 89 years old.  According to his obituary, like his father, he was an engineer who had graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.  The obituary reported:

During World War II, Stan was an aircraft inspector for the United States Navy. …. He was active in Reform Judaism, scouting, and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. He wrote many technical papers. His interests included amateur radio, bridge, calculus, gardening, classical music, and a more cooperative world.

Stanley Baer Adler Fold3_Page_1_Selective_Service_Registration_Cards_World_War_II_Multiple_Registrations

Stanley Baer Adler

The last surviving child of Flora Baer and Julius Adler was Jerrold, who died on March 5, 2008, when he was, like his brother Stanley, 89 years old.   He had attended the University of Pennsylvania and had served in the army during World War II.

Jerrold Adler draft registration Fold3_Page_1_Selective_Service_Registration_Cards_World_War_II_Multiple_Registrations

Jerrold Adler draft registration

Jerrold Adler, courtesy of the Adler family

Jerrold Adler, courtesy of the Adler family

He had married Doris Elaine Getz on October 6, 1946.

Wedding of Jerrold Adler and Doris Getz, October 6, 1946

Wedding of Jerrold Adler and Doris Getz, October 6, 1946

Although Flora’s life ended tragically, she left behind the legacy of three successful children.  Their lives enriched the country that Flora’s mother Amalia had moved to as a young woman back in the 19th century.  They served in our armed forces during World War II and contributed to society through their chosen careers.  Like so many of us, the grandchildren of immigrants, they justified the risks their grandparents took when immigrating to the United States.






Tilda Baer Stone and Her Children: Massachusetts Cousins

Like Amanda and Josephine, her two older sisters, Tilda Baer lived a long life (a few months shy of ninety) and outlived her husband by close to twenty years.  But she didn’t live in a big city like Philadelphia or New York; she spent her entire adult life in Attleboro, Massachusetts, where she raised her four children.

As written about here, Tilda married Samuel Einstein in about 1907, according to the 1910 census, and their first child, Stephanie, was born in June 1908 in Attleboro.  They had three additional children, Samuel, Jr. (1910), Harriet (1913), and Babette (known as Betty, 1919).  By 1927, the family name had been changed to Stone, which was the name used by all family members thereafter (until the daughters married and adopted their husbands’ surnames, that is).  Samuel was by 1930 the President of Attleboro Manufacturing, and he and Tilda remained in Attleboro for the rest of the lives, living almost all those years at 224 County Street in that town.

Samuel and TIlda Baer Einstein/Stone and children from 1923 passport application National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 - March 31, 1925; Roll #: 2295; Volume #: Roll 2295 - Certificates: 304850-305349, 08 Jun 1923-08 Jun 1923

Samuel and TIlda Baer Einstein/Stone and children from 1923 passport application
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 – March 31, 1925; Roll #: 2295; Volume #: Roll 2295 – Certificates: 304850-305349, 08 Jun 1923-08 Jun 1923

Their daughter Stephanie graduated from the National Park Seminary in Washington and the Garland School of Homemaking.  She married “the boy next door” on November 14, 1936—or at least the boy down the street. Her husband was Royal Packer Baker, who was a native of Attleboro like Stephanie and whose family also had lived on County Street (#148) as of 1920.  Royal was four years older than Stephanie, and he came from a family with a long history in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Boston Herald, November 15, 1936. p. 61

Boston Herald, November 15, 1936. p. 61


Royal’s father, Harold Baker, was the owner and co-founder of Attleboro Refining Company, a gold, silver, and copper refining business.  According to the website for the Attleboro Area Industrial Museum, which is housed in what was once the Attleboro Refinery Company building:

In 1899, Harold D. Baker and his brother George W. Baker, both of Providence, Rhode Island, formed a partnership to establish the Attleboro Refining Company in Attleboro, Massachusetts. It specialized in the refining of gold, silver and copper byproducts. The refinery followed established refining methods used at that time known as a stripping process. The process dated back to the late 18th Century. Base metals such as copper and zinc were eaten by a compound-acid solution. The precious metals underwent succeeding operations where they were reduced to a certain degree of fineness.

By 1907, however, the Bakers were convinced that better methods were available that would involve lower costs. They experimented with the then-existent electrochemical equipment available and finally succeeded in adapting the ELECTROLYTIC process to jewelers’ scrap. Theirs was the first refinery in New England to do so. The process underwent continuous improvement and development where gold was finally purified to .9991/2 fine and every trace of silver or other precious metal was re-claimed in the chlorination and succeeding copperas processes.[1]

Although his older brother Harold Jr. worked at the family business from the start of his career, Royal started his career taking a different path.  He was a graduate of Dartmouth as well as the University of Virginia, according to the wedding announcement.   By 1935 he was a lawyer practicing in Attleboro.

According to the 1940 census and their wedding announcement above, like their parents Stephanie and Royal also lived on County Street in Attleboro (#170), and Royal was working as an attorney in private practice.  In 1941, their son was born.  In 1946, Royal was listed along with his father and older brother Harold Jr. as an owner of Attleboro Refining, but was still practicing law.  By 1949, however, he was the treasurer of Attleboro Refining and no longer listed himself as a lawyer in the Attleboro directory. (His brother was now the president of the company; their father had died in 1947.)

Former building of Attleboro Refining Company https://c2.staticflickr.com/4/3500/4561405595_a2f6c67d9f_b.jpg

Stephanie’s younger brother Samuel Stone, Jr., graduated from Michigan State University and Babson Institute. In the 1935 Attleboro directory, he is listed as married to “Ruth M” and working as the treasurer of Quaker Silver Company, a company in North Attleboro that manufactured silver products such as flatware, bowls, and salt and pepper shakers.

Ruth M was Ruth Mills, born in Massachusetts on February 5, 1913.  Samuel, Jr. and Ruth had two daughters born in the 1930s, according to the 1940 census, which lists Samuel’s occupation as a jewelry manufacturer.  On the 1939 Attleboro directory, he is listed as the president of C H Eden Co., another jewelry company originally created by his father in 1901 that was acquired in substantial part by Charles Eden in 1903.  (Apparently, Samuel Stone, Sr. and Maurice Baer established a number of separate companies in Attleboro, all engaged in some aspect of jewelry manufacturing.)

By 1946, however, Samuel Jr’s marriage to Ruth had ended as he married his second wife, Marie Eames, on May 1, 1946.  Unfortunately, that marriage did not last either as they were divorced in 1952.

Samuel Stone Jr wedding to Marie Eames

By 1956, Samuel, Jr was listed in the Attleboro directory as the president of Swank, Inc., the successor to Attleboro Manufacturing Company, the company his father first founded with his uncle Maurice Jay Baer back in the late 1890s.

As for the two younger daughters of Tilda Baer and Samuel Stone, Sr., Harriet attended the Northampton School for Girls, then Wheaton College, and received a degree from Simmons College. (Cape Cod Times, September 6, 2002, GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com/doc/obituaries/obit/100B3AE9F09E0868-100B3AE9F09E0868 : accessed 13 July 2016))

In 1941 she married Lionel O’Keeffe.  He was the youngest son of Irish immigrants and was born and raised in Boston.  His father had worked in the grocery business, and in 1930 two of his brothers had been working as purchasing agents for First National Stores, a supermarket chain (later known as Finast).  Lionel was a graduate of Boston Latin High School and Dartmouth College. (Boston Herald, December 22, 1987, p. 53.)

On the 1940 census, he was living as the head of household in the house at 61 Pond Street in Jamaica Plain, the same house where he and his family had lived when he was a child.  But in 1940 he was living there without any other family members, but with a maid.  He listed his occupation as an executive of a chain store, which according to his obituary, was First National Stores.  The following year he married Harriet.

Lionel enlisted in the military on May 8, 1942, and he and Harriet had their first child five months later in September, 1942.  Lionel was discharged from the military on January 3, 1946, having served for the duration of World War II.  He and Harriet would have two more children during the 1940s.  In 1948 they were still living at 61 Pond Road in the Jamaica Pond section of Boston, the same house where Lionel’s family had lived, and Lionel was working as a buyer, according to the Boston directory for that year.  He continued to work for First National Stores for the rest of his career.

The youngest child of Tilda Baer and Samuel Stone was their daughter Babette, also known as Betty.  She graduated from the Northampton School for Girls in 1937 and then graduated from Smith College, later getting a Masters in Social Work from Simmons College.  In 1944, she married John Saunders Parker, known as Jack.  He became a doctor.  They would have two children. (Boston Globe, February 21, 2013.)

Samuel Stone, Sr., the father of Stephanie, Samuel, Harriet, and Babette, died on February 4, 1957, when he was 84 years old.

Samuel Stone Sr obit February 5, 1957 Boston Traveler p 58-page-001

Boston Traveler, February 5, 1957, p. 58

samuel stone obit His wife, my cousin Tilda Baer Stone, daughter of Amalia Hamberg and Jacob Baer, died on August 2, 1974.  She and her husband Samuel are both buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Attleboro, Massachusetts, the place they called home for their entire married life and where they raised their four children, two of whom also spent almost all of  their lives in Attleboro.

As for the children of Tilda and Samuel, Stephanie’s husband Royal Baker continued to work as the treasurer of Attleboro Refining for the rest of his career.  Then on April 3, 1967, Royal died suddenly at age 62.  A year later Attleboro Refining was sold to another company.  According to the Attleboro Area Industrial Museum website, “on June 26, 1968, Handy & Harman Refining Group, Inc. purchased the Attleboro Refining Company. In November 1973, Handy & Harman left 42 Union Street for a new facility located on Townsend Road in the “new” Attleboro Industrial Park.”   Handy & Harman is still in business today engaged in the recycling of metals.

Royal P Baker death notice April 1967

Stephanie Stone Baker died on March 1, 1993; she was 84.

Her brother Samuel Stone, Jr., died at age 70 on December 28, 1980.

Samuel Stone Jr obit 12 31 1980

The third child, Harriet Stone O’Keeffe, lost her husband Lionel on December 20, 1987.  He was 76 years old.  She lived another fifteen years, dying on September 5, 2002, when she was 88.  According to her obituary, “Mrs. O’Keeffe lived in Brookline for many years and was active in volunteer work. She spent summers in Hyannisport and moved there year-round in 1973. She enjoyed gardening and bridge. She was a member of the Hyannisport Club, the Oyster Harbors Club and the Mid Ocean Club in Bermuda.” (Cape Cod Times, September 6, 2002, GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com/doc/obituaries/obit/100B3AE9F09E0868-100B3AE9F09E0868 : accessed 13 July 2016))

The youngest sibling, Babette, died just three years ago on February 19, 2013, at age 93.  Her obituary reported that:

She loved people and was a frequent volunteer in the activities of her children and an outgoing devoted friend to so many. She was an active volunteer in the Wellesley Community including the Service League of Wellesley, the Garden Club of Wellesley and was a past president of the Smith Club of Wellesley. She devoted many hours to the support of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and loved her Investment Club and Bridge Club, as well as her activities at the Wellesley Country Club, Wianno Club, The Country Club and The Moorings and Riomar Clubs of Vero Beach, Florida. She cherished all the interactions with the people that were brought into her life by these varied interests.  (Boston Globe, February 21, 2013, located at http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/bostonglobe/obituary.aspx?pid=163199572)

I’ve not yet connected with any of the descendants of Tilda Baer and Samuel Stone, but hope to be able to connect with these cousins whose roots are here in Massachusetts where I now live.  They are descendants of two people who seemed to have achieved the American dream—Samuel, a German Jewish immigrant who came to the US as a young teenager and became a highly successful jewelry manufacturer, and my cousin Tilda, the daughter of two German Jewish [2] immigrants who grew up in Pennsylvania; she raised four children, all of whom received a higher education and lived their lives in Massachusetts.








[1] There was a bitter dispute between the Baker brothers in 1918, which apparently ended in with Harold as the sole owner of the company. See “Attleboro Receivership Granted for Attleboro Refining Co. Decree Handed down by Superior Court, Wednesday,” Pawtucket Times, April 11, 1918, p. 12.

[2] It seems that at some point Tilda and Samuel and their children became members of the Universalist Church and no longer identified as Jewish.


Another Writer in the Family: Alan Baer Green

In many ways the life of my cousin Josephine Baer parallels that of her sister Amanda.  As I wrote here, Josephine Baer married Morris Alon Green in January, 1906.  Their son Alan Baer Green was born less than eleven months later.  They were living in Pittsburgh.  In 1918 Morris was an executive with the Crucible Steel Company in Pittsburgh.  In 1925, they were living in New York City, and Morris was working as a manager.  In 1930, they were still living in New York, and Morris listed his occupation as “financial.”  Their son Alan was working in advertising.

In 1931, Alan married Gladys Bun, and they had three sons in the late 1930s.  Although Alan continued to work in the advertising field, like his first cousin Justin Baer Herman, he also became a successful writer.  As reported in his obituary, Alan wrote “Love on the Run,” which became a movie starring Clark Gable and Joan Crawford in 1936.  It is a screwball comedy about two competing newspaper reporters covering the wedding of a socialite.

Love on the Run poster

He also wrote several other books during the 1930s, primarily mysteries, sometimes written under the pseudonym Roger Denbie (co-written with Julian Paul Brodie), sometimes as Glen Burne (co-written with his wife Gladys).

Alan’s parents are listed in the 1938 directory for Los Angeles, so I thought perhaps they had all moved out to Hollywood, but Alan himself is not listed in that directory.  And by 1940, all three were listed as living in New York City in the census.

Josephine Baer and Morris Green 1940 US census Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: T627_2655; Page: 13B; Enumeration District: 31-1349

Josephine Baer and Morris Green 1940 US census
Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: T627_2655; Page: 13B; Enumeration District: 31-1349

On the 1940 census, Morris and Josephine were living on East 77th Street, and Morris was retired.  Alan and Gladys and their three sons, ages 2, 1, and eleven months, were living on East 86th Street. They had two nurses living with them.  Alan listed his occupations as “author” and “advertising.”

Alan Baer Green and family 1940 US census Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: T627_2658; Page: 61B; Enumeration District: 31-1454

Alan Baer Green and family 1940 US census
Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: T627_2658; Page: 61B; Enumeration District: 31-1454

During World War II, Alan served on the War Writers Board, a privately established organization that worked with the government to create propaganda to promote the war effort.  The US Holocaust Museum had this information about the War Writers Board:

Two days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr., proposed organizing the nation’s writers as civilians “under arms” to promote the war effort. A month later, a group of prominent American authors formed the Writers’ War Board, a private association partially supported by government subsidy. The board coordinated more than 2,000 writers in diverse activities including slogans, poster contests, syndicated articles, poems, radio plays, dramatic skits, government publications, books, advertisements, and war propaganda. In May 1942 and 1943, the board sponsored anniversary observances of the Nazi book burnings to keep alive the connection between the destruction of books and the consequences of intolerance.

Alan and Gladys had moved to Westport, Connecticut, by 1943, where they would live for more than thirty years.  After the war Alan was a founder of the Writers Board for World Government, an outgrowth of the War Writers Board formed to promote peace through a “world federation” of all nations.

In 1950, Alan won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his book, What A Body, which was selected as the best first mystery novel of that year. [1] It is a murder mystery involving a police officer who falls for the niece of the murder victim.

What a Body by Alan Baer Green

On December 9, 1954, Morris Green died at age 79 in Atlantic City, where he and Josephine were then living.  A year later Josephine established a scholarship in his name at the University of Pittsburgh; as reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, although Morris himself did not have much formal education, he “was always devoted to the higher ideals of higher education.”

Morris Green scholarship


At some point after Morris’ death, Josephine moved closer to her son Alan in Connecticut.  Alan continued to write.  One of his best known books, Mother of Her Country, was published in 1973. It was subtitled, “A Comic Novel about Pornography and Censorship.” Kirkus Review wrote the following about it:

A clean joke about porn which doesn’t run to more than one line but tells you something about publishing in general (Mr. Green was around in it for quite some time) and censorship and those not too fine distinctions to be made between words whether they appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary or Macbeth. Laura Conroy, a vestal virgin from the Midwest comes to New York to get a job in the book business which she does — with a small press — to the consternation of her mother who is the Carry Amelia Nation of something called the Americans for Clean Entertainment. There’s a court case and a tacked on coda re a rediscovered journal as to where George Washington might really have slept but the story’s not really much more than a stretcher to fill the space between brou and haha — however cheerful and sensible its reprimand.

Mother of Her Country by Alan Green

Two years later, Alan Baer Green died on March 10, 1975.  He was 68 years old.  He was survived not only by his wife and three sons, but also by his mother Josephine, who was almost 97 years old. Alan Baer Green obit NYTimes March 11 1975-page-001


Josephine died in August, 1975, less than six months after the death of her son.

So how did Josephine’s life parallel that of her sister Amanda? No, she didn’t marry her sister’s widower and raise two nephews.  But like Amanda, she raised a son who grew up to be a successful writer.  Like Amanda, she survived her husband by many years, 28 for Amanda, 21 for Josephine.  Like Amanda, she lived a long life.  Amanda was 89 when she died, Josephine was 97.



[1] I am not sure how he qualified for this as it seems he had already written and published several mystery novels by that time, but perhaps those didn’t count for some reason.

The Screenwriter and the Real Estate Mogul

This is the story of two boys who lost their mother before they were even four years old and who, despite that tragedy, grew up to be very successful.

As I wrote here, my cousin Hattie Baer died at age 33 in 1910.  Hattie and her husband Meyer Herman had had two sons, Justin Baer Herman and Richard B. Herman; Justin was three when his mother died, and Richard was just a few months old.  Five years later in 1915, Hattie’s sister Amanda married her brother-in-law Meyer when those boys were still only eight and five years old, respectively.

Meyer was in the clothing business.  In fact, according to one cemetery record, he worked for the Snellenburg Clothing Company, a clothing manufacturing company and a department store in Philadelphia.

Meyer Herman and Hattie and Amanda burial

Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Collection Name: Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records

In one of those “small world moments,” I realized that Meyer Herman was working for a company that was owned by the family of another of my relatives: Carrie Snellenburg, who married my great-great-uncle Joseph Cohen, my great-grandfather Emanuel Cohen’s older brother.  The twisted family tree creaks one more time.

By 1930 both of the sons of Meyer Herman and Hattie Baer (nephews and stepsons of Amanda Baer) were working, Justin as a newspaper editor, Richard as a real estate salesman.  Meyer, Amanda, Justin, and Richard were all still living together in Philadelphia.  Justin was 23, Richard 19 at the time of the 1930 census.

Meyer and Amanda Herman and sons 1930 census Year: 1930; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 2104; Page: 23A; Enumeration District: 0627; Image: 902.0; FHL microfilm: 2341838

Meyer and Amanda Herman and sons 1930 census
Year: 1930; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 2104; Page: 23A; Enumeration District: 0627; Image: 902.0; FHL microfilm: 2341838

Ten years later Meyer and Amanda were still living in Philadelphia, and Meyer was still working as a clothing salesman.  He was 69 years old, Amanda was 58.  Justin and Richard were no longer living with them.  Both had already established themselves in their chosen careers.

After graduating from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, Justin had become a successful writer, cartoonist, and screenwriter. He wrote for The Philadelphia Record as a reporter and also established a magazine, The Town Crier, during the early 1930s.  He then moved to New York by 1935, where he was a contributor of poems, short stories, and cartoons to The New Yorker magazine.  During that decade he also starting writing screenplays for short films.  Between 1934 and 1940, he wrote nineteen screenplays for short films, working for Paramount Pictures.  “Justin B. Herman Dead at 76; Writer and Producer of Films,” The New York Times, December 10, 1983.    As of 1940, he was single and still living in New York City.

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 118-124...

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 118-124 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102, built 1872-75, Frank Furness, architect, William A. Armstrong, builder, National Historic Landmark, 1975. Museum of the Pennsylvania Academy, the oldest art institution in the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Meanwhile, his younger brother Richard was also doing quite well during the 1930s.  According to his obituary, Richard “got an early start in the business. He convinced his family and teachers that he was bright, and in elementary school, he was permitted to skip two grades. He entered high school when he was 12, and at 17 was working in real estate for the Lionel Friedman Co. In 1933, at age 23, he founded his own real estate firm. Concentrating on major properties, he built Richard B. Herman & Co. into one of the largest real estate firms in Philadelphia. His forte was real estate investment and management.”  “RICHARD B. HERMAN, 71, REAL ESTATE, CIVIC LEADER,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 27, 1982, GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com/doc/obituaries/obit/0FBAE8CA0B3A0215-0FBAE8CA0B3A0215 : accessed 5 July 2016).

As of the 1940 census, Richard had married Marion Cohn, and they were living in Philadelphia.  Their son was born later that year.

On August 25, 1941, Meyer Herman died from coronary thrombosis at age 70.  He had survived the loss of his first wife, Hattie Baer, at a very young age and raised two very young sons in the aftermath of her death before marrying Hattie’s sister Amanda five years later.  He must have been very proud of those two sons.

Meyer Herman death certificate Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Meyer Herman death certificate
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

During the 1940s Justin Baer Herman married Alma Baer (as far as I can tell, the fact that her surname was Baer was coincidental; she does not appear to have been related to Jacob Baer’s family).  They would have two daughters.  Justin continued to be a successful screenwriter for Paramount.  Two of the films he wrote were nominated for Academy Awards in the category of Best Short Subject.  According to the Imdb database, he was credited as the writer on 61 films between 1934 and 1955 and as director on 49 of those films, producer on forty.  His obituary claimed even higher numbers: “Mr. Herman produced 118 short subjects in 35 years of film making. Three of them were nominated for Academy Awards – ”Life Line to Hong Kong,” ”Roller Derby” and ”Three Kisses.” “Justin B. Herman Dead at 76; Writer and Producer of Films,” The New York Times, December 10, 1983.

Richard also continued to have success in his career.  His obituary reports that:

One of the original developers of Penn Center, he played a major role in the revitalization of Center City. He helped build, and his firm operated, many of the buildings added to the city’s skyline since 1950. …  Working in Penn Center, he was responsible for much of its growth through such transactions as the sale for Penn Central of the 16th and Market Street sites on which stand such buildings as the Central Penn National Building.   He was also responsible for the sale of the Suburban Station Building to the late Matthew H. McCloskey Jr., and the construction of the IBM Building.  When major buildings were placed on the market, he usually was involved – he handled the sale of the Curtis Building, for example. [As of 1971, his company]  was responsible for the operation and leasing of more than 30 major office buildings containing 4.5 million square feet of space.

In fact, Richard’s real estate development firm was responsible for building the huge apartment building, The Philadelphian, where my aunt Eva Cohen lived for many years.

"Philadelphia to Have Largest Apartment, Camden Courier Post, Saturday, May 6, 1961, p. 2

“Philadelphia to Have Largest Apartment, Camden Courier Post, Saturday, May 6, 1961, p. 2

The Philadelphian

The Philadelphian

Unfortunately, Richard suffered a tragedy in his personal life.  On February 28, 1953, his nine year old daughter Barbara died from acute cardiac dilatation.

Barbara Herman death certificate Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Barbara Herman death certificate
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

 UPDATE: Luanne, a fellow genealogy blogger, asked what I knew about Barbara’s cause of death, so I asked my brother/medical consultant.   He said, “something like viral myocarditis that resulted in cardiogenic shock…would be the most likely diagnosis in a 9 year old.  Acute cardiac dilatation isn’t really a diagnosis, it’s a finding or a descriptive term.[It means an acutely enlarged heart.] Rapid onset cardiogenic shock can also be caused by an MI, valve dysfunction, wall rupture and dysrhythmias, but these would be pretty unusual in a 9 year old. It is also possible she had septic shock which, in the end, caused her heart to dilate (enlarge) and fail.”  For those (like me) who need a definition of cardiogenic shock, MedlinePlus says, “Cardiogenic shock is when the heart has been damaged so much that it is unable to supply enough blood to the organs of the body.”

Justin and Richard’s aunt and stepmother Amanda Baer died on July 28, 1969; she was 89 years old.  She was buried in Mt Sinai cemetery in the same lot as her husband, Meyer Herman, and her sister, Hattie Baer, Meyer’s first wife. Meyer was buried between his two wives, the two Baer sisters.

Meyer Herman and Hattie and Amanda burial

Mt Sinai cemetery record of burials of Amanda Baer Herman, Meyer Herman, and Hattie Baer Herman

Like Meyer, Amanda must have been very proud of her two nephews, Justin and Richard, whom she had helped raise perhaps even before she had married their father in 1915.

Richard Herman died on June 25, 1982.  He was only 72 years old.  I have already quoted extensively from his Philadelphia Inquirer obituary, but want to add these additional insights into who he was beyond a highly successful real estate developer:

He was involved in a wide range of activities. … He was vice president and a member of the board of the Medical College of Pennsylvania, a member of the board of trustees of the Eastern Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute, a former chairman of the Easter Seal drive, and served on the board of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia. 

Mr. Herman was a member of the prestigious Committee of 70, and a director of the Philadelphia Museum School of Art and the Franklin Institute. He was former chairman of the nonsectarian National Jewish Hospital in Denver and of divisions of United Fund and United Way drives.   He was active in the Rittenhouse Astronomical Society, the Pennsylvania Historical Society, and the Philadelphia Art Alliance.

Mr. Herman was the only man to head both the Society of American Magicians and the International Brotherhood of Magicians simultaneously.

He was a member of the Citizens Council on City Planning and the Germantown Historical Society.

He was a man with an endless curiosity and an I.Q. high enough to make him eligible for membership in Mensa, an organization for the very intelligent. He taught himself art, sculpture and music. He learned to play the organ on his own. He had his own observatory.

His art was displayed in his home and his office, accompanying his collections of such things as pipes. He also collected instruments related to astrology and medicine, children’s toys and signs.

Richard B. Herman ad

His brother Justin died just one year later on December 3, 1983.  He was 76 years old and died of emphysema.  “Justin B. Herman Dead at 76; Writer and Producer of Films,” The New York Times, December 10, 1983.

These two men who lost their mother before either was four years old certainly left their mark in their respective fields, one an Oscar nominated screenwriter, the other a highly successful real estate developer and civic leader.