The Homestead Restaurant in Northampton: Another Small World Story

Once again the genealogy gods are playing with my mind and convincing me that I must somehow be related to everyone I know.

This past weekend I was texting my friend Marlene to make plans to get together for dinner. We were going back and forth, trying to find a restaurant that has outdoor seating and that will take a reservation. Then Marlene texted, “I have a cousin who owns a restaurant in Northampton. I’ve never been there though.”

I texted back, “That’s funny. I have a cousin who owns a restaurant in Northampton, but I’ve never been there or met him.” I couldn’t remember his name or the name of his restaurant at that moment, so I went to my Ancestry app, knowing that he was a nephew of my cousin Roger. Roger and his husband David have been tremendously helpful to me in my genealogy research, as readers of my blog know. Roger is my third cousin, once removed, on my Katzenstein-Goldschmidt line. We are both descended from Gerson Katzenstein and Eva Goldschmidt.

After checking my tree and finding the right name and the name of his restaurant, I texted Marlene, “My cousin is Jeremy Werther. He owns the Homestead restaurant.”

Much to my amazement, she responded, “He’s my cousin also!”

It seems Jeremy is Marlene’s second cousin, once removed, on his father’s side, and he is my third cousin, twice removed, on his mother’s side. We were just blown away. I’ve known Marlene and her husband Jim since 1982, and certainly as far as we knew, we had no relatives in common. How could it be that after almost forty years we had just discovered that she was the second cousin of the father of my third cousin, twice removed? We both just had to laugh and marvel at what a small world it is.

And, of course, that sealed the deal—we were going to Jeremy’s restaurant for dinner. We made a reservation at The Homestead, and I prepared various family tree charts to share with Marlene and with Jeremy.

It was a fabulous meal. Everything was so fresh and beautifully prepared and presented. We had two different salads, a roasted carrot dish, a bluefish dish, and two pasta dishes among the four of us. We shared most of the dishes as they are served as small plates to be shared, and it made for a very relaxed and enjoyable meal—each dish better than the last. And the service was stellar—friendly, efficient, and attentive without being intrusive.

Although I forgot to take photos of our meal, Jeremy gave me permission to include a few photos from their Facebook page. This is just a small sample of Jeremy’s artistry.

No photo description available.

But the best part was meeting Jeremy, who seemed amazed by the fact that two of his cousins had shown up at his restaurant without any warning—two women he’d never met before.  He sat with us as we explained all the connections and shared the charts with him.  He was as gracious as one could imagine—all of us sharing in the crazy joy that comes with discovering the magic of family history.

Restaurant —Homestead

My cousin Jeremy, chef and owner of the Homestead

Outside dining at the Homestead

If you live in the Pioneer Valley, or even if you don’t, be sure to visit The Homestead at 7 Strong Avenue in Northampton, Massachusetts. You won’t be disappointed.


Blogging in a Pandemic, Part IV: It’s Getting Too Real

I’ve written a series of posts over the last five or six weeks to record the experience of living through the pandemic, trying to find some good news among all the darkness. Writing them has been therapeutic for me, and from the responses I’ve gotten, I know that they’ve resonated for others. I am, however, finding it harder and harder to find the light in the darkness. But I am trying.

The last two weeks have made it harder because the virus has come to my community with a vengeance. Many people have died, including the mother of one of my dear friends and the sister of another friend. Our local nursing homes have been ravaged, including 21 deaths in the Jewish Nursing Home near us. Other friends have had loved ones become ill with the virus. I live in dread of hearing that my mother or someone in her memory care facility is infected. My anxiety level has increased to the point that most of the things I was finding helpful—long walks, yoga, Zoom sessions—are becoming less effective.

And the rush of some to resume “normal life” even though it means risking more lives, including their own, is infuriating, as are the actions of those who are putting political ambition and money above the health and well-being of people.

But I know we are among the very fortunate ones. We have a safe home, resources to pay for what we need, food in the house and delivery services bringing more as needed, and, so far, our health. We have the support network of our children, our relatives, our friends, and our community. We have each other. I am always mindful of that.

My three cats are a real source of comfort; they are oblivious to what’s going on outside, and they only care that we are here to feed them and to pet them. They cuddle up next to me day and night and give me some peace.

And little things make me smile. Our neighbors drawing hearts on all the driveways and leaving painted stones on all the doorsteps and paper flowers taped to our windows.

The discovery of more places to walk where we can avoid close contact with people and enjoy the quiet of nature continues to be soothing.

The weekly Shabbat Shalom zooms with family are a needed break from the constant talk of COVID19. Who cannot smile when a five-year-old wants to play Twenty Questions by Zoom?

This week my younger daughter was celebrated by her friends on what would have been Marathon Monday with cards and posters and a bottle of champagne. I can’t tell you how much that meant to her and to us.

There is so much love out there, and the best of human nature can outshine the darkness of illness, death, and the suffering of so many.

One small example from my genealogical activities. While all this has been going on, I’ve connected with a few more cousins who found me through my blog. I think people stuck at home are turning to family history for consolation and also are uncovering photographs and letters that were buried in boxes or trunks in their attics and basements.

One of these cousins sent me scans of some photographs of my Benedict cousins, including this terribly torn photograph of Hannah Goldsmith Benedict, the first cousin of my great-grandfather Isadore Schoenthal:

I was thrilled to receive this photograph—a definite moment of joy. But heartbroken that Hannah’s photo was so damaged. Could it be repaired, I wondered?

I posted it in the Free Photo Restoration group on Facebook, and when I woke up the next morning, three group members had posted repaired versions. Aren’t they amazing?

These people obviously spent a great deal of time fixing this photograph and asked for nothing in return. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. It made me smile, and it reminded me once again that most people are kind and good and generous and loving.

I need to keep all these reminders in front of me as things outside get scarier and scarier.

Blogging in a Pandemic, Part II

As we enter our third or really our fourth week of social distancing, self-quarantine, or whatever else you want to call it (no closer than six feet from anyone but each other, washing our hands religiously, no restaurants, no stores except when we can’t get delivery of groceries, and so on), I have to say that this week things suddenly seem much harder and much sadder. But we are still fortunately feeling fine despite having flown twice in March, and we feel very, very relieved, and are so grateful to be home.

And we also feel very grateful that so far our families are also okay and our friends. I almost am afraid to write that for fear of tempting the corona gods. But I know that magical thinking is just superstition. We all just have to keep staying apart, staying safe, and staying home. The anxiety sometimes feels unbearable, but my mantra has always been and continues to be—one day at a time.

We’ve taken some wonderful walks in places nearby, a few of which we’d never been to before. And we’ve taken many walks in our neighborhood, chatting with neighbors from at least six feet apart, and feeling a sense of community and warmth that can be overlooked when we all just drive in and out of our garages.

I’ve cleared out a drawer filled with expired medicines and other products, organized our “junk” drawer, and discovered dust in places you cannot imagine. Every day I try to think of at least one small project to accomplish, even if it is simply remembering to mail a check.

I’ve also started to accept that I will never do some of the things the internet keeps throwing at us: free courses online, free tours of museums and national parks, free videos of exercise classes, and so on. I just can’t focus long enough to do those things. Fortunately, doing genealogy in shorter spurts than usual and writing my blog still provide me with a way to escape from the pandemic pandemonium.

Now we are preparing for a Zoom seder. The planning has given me an opportunity to work with my nine-year-old grandson on that project. In fact, we’ve had more contact with our kids and grandsons during these weeks than we usually do, though not in person. I am reading the wonderful book Hatchet by Gary Paulsen with the older grandson and playing chess online with the younger one. And we’ve had Zoom cocktail hours with friends and with family. So it’s not all bad.

What really prompted me to write this particular post was one of those little benefits I’ve gotten from people spending all this time at home. My brother, who also has been spending more time at home than usual (but who is still working since he is a doctor), was going through a box of papers and photographs that had been my father’s and discovered this photograph.

I know this is not great quality (and my brother’s scan of it does not help). But I am so excited by this photograph. Let me explain why.

This is a photograph of my father as a baby being held by his father with my aunt sitting on her father’s left. My father had written the ages in the margins, and although he had not written the names, it was easy to deduce the identities from the relative ages and the facial characteristics using other photographs of my grandfather, of my aunt as a young child, and even of my father as a baby.

Eva Schoenthal and John Cohen, Sr. 1923

My aunt Eva Hilda Cohen and my grandmother Eva Schoenthal Cohen, c. 1925

My grandmother and my father, c. 1927

But what made this so special is that I had never seen a photograph of my grandfather with his children. All the photographs I had of him were either of him alone or with my grandmother. So seeing this photograph was really touching. Look at how he is looking at his son. There is such joy and love on his face.

It was especially touching because I knew that my father had had very few years living with his father before my grandfather became disabled from multiple sclerosis and was ultimately institutionalized for the rest of his life.  He died long before I was born, and for most of my life I knew almost nothing about him. I didn’t ask when I was young because my father seemed to be reluctant to talk about him. I didn’t know if that was out of sadness or anger or indifference. But I didn’t want to upset him either way.

One of the gifts of doing genealogy and talking to my father in the five or six years before he died in February 2019 was that he finally did talk a bit about his father. And in doing so, I realized that even though he had not spent many years living with his father, my father had loved him. His reluctance to talk about him was due to pain and sadness, not anger or indifference.

The fact that my father saved this photograph and hid it away in a box we never saw before is telling. This must have been a photograph he cherished, something special that he didn’t want mixed in with the hundreds of other photographs he had taken over the years of vacations and friends and family. I am so glad that my brother discovered it and that he shared it with me. It gave me new insights into my father and his father.

Have you discovered any wonderful photographs or other treasures while staying at home? Have you always planned to label and/or scan your family photographs? Maybe now is a good time.

My Father

With much love and sadness, I share that my father passed away this weekend after 92 years of a life well lived. He was a man of great intellect, incredible curiosity, a passion for art, architecture, and music, and a lifelong commitment to progressive values—peace, justice, and human rights. He loved cats and dogs and the beaches of Cape Cod. But above all else, he was a man who passionately loved his family, especially my mother, whom he adored for 67 years of marriage.

Those of you who follow my blog may have seen the occasional comments my dad left on the blog. He was a devoted reader of the blog and supportive of and fascinated in the family history I was uncovering. He also was a constant source of information about his family and, most importantly, the inspiration for all the research I have done about all my paternal lines (which is probably 80-90% of what I’ve done since I have had much more luck finding information about my father’s side than my mother’s side). I will miss him deeply and will undoubtedly share more about him as time goes on.

For now I am taking a short break from blogging, but I will return soon because I know he would have wanted me to continue telling the stories of his many relatives.

Here are just a few photos.

My father at 9 months old

John Nusbaum Cohen, Jr.

In the Navy

Florence and John Cohen 1951

My father with Nate June 2010


My Grandfather’s Notebook: More than Names, Dates, and Addresses

Notebook cover

Among the other treasures that turned up in the shoebox of “old papers” that had belonged to my Aunt Elaine was a Martinson Coffee pocket calendar for the year 1930.  My aunt would have been twelve going on thirteen, my Uncle Maurice ten going on eleven, and my mother not yet born when 1930 began. Here’s a photograph of my grandmother and her three children taken in 1931 when that pocket calendar was still relatively new:


Goldschlagers 1931

Goldschlagers 1931

This calendar, however, had to be around for many years as a place where members of the family scribbled notes of all kinds because even my mother eventually made contributions to it. In fact, the most recent entries seem to have been made by my grandmother in 1965 long after my grandfather had died and all her children had married.

Grandpa notebook 1964 notes by Grandma

I don’t know for sure what “Johen” meant, but I wonder if my grandmother was referring to my father, whose name is John Cohen.

It amazes me that my grandparents kept this little book for so long, and I wonder why it became the repository of so many family notes. I can’t imagine how it stayed around and was used by so many members of the family beginning in 1930 up to 1965.  Today that notebook probably would not have lasted a year (well, it wouldn’t exist since we’d use our smartphones and computer calendars instead.)

For example, my grandparents used it not only as a calendar but as an address book.  I already posted two of the pages of addresses in an earlier post:

Grandpa Notebook page 1 addresses Joe Goldfarb Grandpa notebook 13 more addresses Joe Goldfarb

Here are a few more:

Grandpa Notebook 4 more addresses Ressler

Leo Ressler was my mother’s first cousin, son of Tillie Brotman Ressler, my grandmother’s sister.  His wife was Mildred Phillips, and the notebook page records both their wedding anniversary and Mildred’s birthday.  Unfortunately there is no year given for the marriage, but Mildred was still single and living with her mother and stepfather in New Haven, Connecticut, on the 1930 census.  She and Leo lived in Hartford during the late 1930s, and so this entry of an address for Bridgeport must have been long after the 1930 date on this calendar. (They were living in Bridgeport as of the 1940 US census.)  Leo and Mildred owned a dress shop in Connecticut for many years before retiring to Florida.  My mother recalls that Mildred was considered high class by my grandparents and that my aunt was invited to come visit them so she could learn some of Mildred’s sophisticated ways.

Leo Ressler

Leo Ressler

(I don’t know who Francis Coen would be— another name to research.)

The next two pages had three addresses for my mother’s uncle, Sam Brotman—my grandmother’s brother.  Apparently he moved around a bit, given all the crossed out addresses the notebook includes for him. (There are two more on the first page, above.) I don’t know very much about Uncle Sam except that he was a cab driver and lived alone all his adult life. Yet all these addresses include a “in care of” reference so perhaps he was living with someone named Weinstein for some period of time and someone named Enzer at other times.

Grandpa Notebook 5 more addresses

Sam Brotman

Sam Brotman

Joe Brotman, the other name on this page, was another of my mother’s first cousins, the son of Hyman Brotman, my grandmother’s brother. I have six different Joseph Brotmans in my family tree, including my great-grandfather, but Hyman’s son is the only one who lived in Queens, where he was living when this address was recorded.

Hyman (second from left) and Joe (far right) and two unknown men

Hyman (second from left) and Joe (far right) and two unknown men

My grandfather also used the calendar to record birthdays for family members.  There are notes on the dates for his birthday as well as that of my grandmother, my aunt, and my mother.  (The pages for June were torn out, so there is none for my uncle.) My mother was born during 1930, and on the appropriate date my grandfather simply wrote, “My daughter’s birthday, Florence, born—-.”

One of my favorite pages (although very hard to read) is the one where my grandfather apparently listed all his favorite pieces of music.  I know that music was one of his passions, one of the few things he remembered fondly about his childhood in Iasi, Romania:

Grandpa notebook music

I can’t make out the names of most of the pieces, but he has works by Beethoven (whose name he wrote with such a flourish on the opposite page), Brahms, Bizet, and Grieg as well as several others.

He also used the notebook as an account book, and there are many pages where he records his paychecks, his Social Security benefits, and Welfare Fund payments.  My grandfather was active in his union, and I assume that the Welfare Fund was administered by the union.  In addition, he kept a record of people they visited or who visited them and other events.

Grandpa notebook money and visits

The notebook also contains a number of notes my grandfather made about his health and various other matters.  For example, on these pages he not only recorded financial information; he interspersed notes about the times my uncle came home to visit during his military service in World War II  with notes about his own operations and hospitalizations.

Grandpa Notebook 6 notes about Maurice in service

Grandpa notebook page 7 more notes about Maurice and hospital

Again, all of these were obviously written long after 1930 and as late as 1951 when he had surgery for polyps.  He died just six years later on May 3, 1957.

But perhaps the most interesting and entertaining parts of the notebook are those contributed by my aunt, my uncle, and my mother.  There are many pages like this one with a list of names and then what looks like grades.  My mother believes that my aunt used the notebook to play school, listing her classmates and even her brother and herself as the students and then “grading” them in different subjects.

Grandpa Notebook 3 aunt elaine playing school

My aunt also liked to practice writing her name and doodling all over the pages (the top one might have been written by my mother or someone else; I am not sure):

GRandpa notebook Aunt Elaine names earlier

Grandpa notebook Aunt Elaine names 1

These pages were obviously written after my aunt was married as she used her married name (Lehrbaum) and included her husband, my Uncle Phil. The second page also includes my uncle’s wife, my Aunt Lynn, and they weren’t married until 1945, several years after Aunt Elaine had married.  I find it fascinating that even after she was married and out of the house, my aunt still somehow found this notebook a place to scribble.

I found the pages my uncle wrote in 1934 about his adventures shooting at chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits with his friend Blackie both amusing and disturbing.  First, the idea that my uncle was carrying around a real gun at age fifteen is rather horrifying.  Secondly, I always knew my uncle as an animal lover.  He always had a dog (a schnauzer named Schnopsie is the one I remember best), and later on he had several dogs and cats as well as various other animals.  How could he shoot harmless chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits? But when I asked my cousin Beth about this, she said he always liked to shoot, so she was not surprised.

Grandpa notebook 8 maurice hunting notes 1934 Grandpa notebook 9 more hunting Maurice 1934 Grandpa notebook 10 more hunting notes Grandpa notebook 11 hunting notes and final comment in 1939 Grandpa notebook 12 Maurice comment 1939

But it’s amusing also because I can imagine my uncle as a fifteen year old boy having a wild time with his friend Blackie and competing to see who would shoot the most animals that summer.  Below is a photo of my uncle, my aunt, and my mother as well as my grandmother about a year after the summer that my uncle was writing about his hunting adventures.

Goldschlagers 1935

Goldschlagers 1935

I found the note he wrote four and a half years later on February 24, 1939, when he was almost twenty years old particularly touching and revealing:

As I recall it now I have recorded on these last nine pages possibly one of the happiest phases of my life.  As I sit here and look back four and a half years it seems incredible that time could fly by so quickly on the wings of joy and sorrow, (yes, we’ve had our share of sorrows).

What were those sorrows? I don’t know what my uncle was referring to specifically or whether he only meant between 1934 and 1939, but in his lifetime, in 1924 his aunt Frieda had died after childbirth as had her baby; his aunt Tillie had lost her husband Aaron, and his grandmother Bessie had died in May 1934, shortly before he wrote about his hunting adventures.  I also imagine that those Depression years were challenging for my grandparents like they were for so many people.

My uncle also must have liked baseball because he kept a box score from a game in the notebook.  Being a baseball fan, I was determined to figure out not only what teams these were, but what game it was:

Grandpa notebook 15 box score

After studying the names on team listed on top I realized that it was the Detroit Tigers, probably around 1935.  As soon as I saw Greenberg, I knew it had to be Hank Greenberg and thus the Tigers.  After all, how many baseball players have there been named Greenberg?

English: 1934 Goudey baseball card of Henry &q...

English: 1934 Goudey baseball card of Henry “Hank” Greenberg of the Detroit Tigers #62. PD-not-renewed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The team at the bottom took some more digging because my uncle’s spelling was, shall we say creative? But the Deroch was a big clue—I assumed it was Leo Durocher, and once I looked up his career and saw that in 1935 he was playing on the St. Louis Cardinals with a catcher named Bill Delancey, an infielder named Collins and another named Frisch, I knew I had found the right team.

English: 1933 Goudey baseball card of Leo Duro...

English: 1933 Goudey baseball card of Leo Durocher of the Cincinnati Reds #147. PD-not-renewed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


But the National League Cardinals wouldn’t have been playing the American League Tigers in 1935 unless they were in the World Series (oh, for the days before endless post-season playoffs and in-season interleague play!).  So this couldn’t be 1935 because the Tigers played the Cubs in the 1935 World Series.  After a bit more research, I concluded that this was a game from the 1934 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers.

Since my uncle recorded the final score of the game he was following (presumably on the radio) as 10-4, it wasn’t hard to find out which game this was from the 1934 World Series: Game 4 on October 6, 1934, at Sportsmen’s Park in St. Louis.  Here is a link to the box score of that game as recorded by the Baseball-Reference website. The Tigers evened the series 2-2 by winning that game and then won Game 5 to go up 3-2 in the Series, but badly lost Games 6 and 7 to lose the Series.  I wonder which team my uncle, a boy from Brooklyn, was rooting for. Perhaps the one with the first Jewish player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame?

Finally, there are a few short notes from my mother, the baby in the family.  Here she wrote about her big brother teasing her:

My brother is such a pest he calls me all sorts [?] of names for instance fatso, horse, baby and so many and I call him names to.”  I guess my uncle was always a tease—he certainly was as an adult also!

Grandpa notebook 14 Florence comment about Maurice


I wonder how much later she wrote the comment that follows: “When I look at this now I think it silly.  It is childish.”

When she was eleven, she wrote about a favorite teacher, Mrs. Alice Handelsman, who was “just like a mother” to her class, and her boyfriend Myron.  On his birthday in the calendar, she listed a favorite cousin, Sanford (or Sandy), Leo and Mildred Ressler’s son; my mother to this day talks about what a beautiful little boy he was and how kind he was to my grandmother.

Grandpa Notebook 2 Mom note about teacher

Grandpa notebook 16 Florence comment re Sandy Ressler


What a gift this little book from 1930 has turned out to be.  It gives me a snapshot into the childhood of my mother and her siblings and some insights into my grandfather as well.  He was obviously a very careful man when it came to money, recording so painstakingly his income and his expenses. These were the Depression years, and my grandfather worked as a driver for a milk company.   My grandparents were not poverty stricken, but they lived from paycheck to paycheck and for many years lived in a small apartment in Brooklyn and then a one bedroom apartment in Parkchester when my mother was a teenager and her siblings were married and out of the house. My grandfather worked the night shift for the milk company, and my mother would share the bed with my grandmother until my grandfather got home in the morning and she got up for school.  But my mother says she never thought of herself as poor because she always had food and clothing and a roof over her head.

We take so much for granted today with our cars and houses and televisions and computers and smartphones. We throw everything away and litter our landfills with our junk.  Our children and grandchildren have iPads and scooters and bikes and more toys and books than all the children in one tenement building in Brooklyn combined had back in the 1930s.  But my mother and her siblings had their imaginations and their friends and their teachers and their families.  And this one little notebook gives us a peak into how they entertained themselves and how they lived together as a family.  It, like my aunt’s baby book, is a real treasure.







A Brotman, Goldschlager, and Rosenzweig Update: The Baby Book

As you know if you’ve been following this blog for a while, my Aunt Elaine preceded me as the family historian for my maternal side.  Several times notes she made or information she gave to others has led me to more information.  Her information has almost without exception proven to be accurate.  For example, she provided me—indirectly—with the names of my grandmother Gussie Brotman’s half-siblings, Abraham, David, Sophie, and Max.  She provided me with the clue that the Brotmanville Brotmans were our close relatives.  She told me how my grandparents met each other in Brooklyn.

Well, she has done it again.  This time, however, it was not information or notes that she provided, but rather her baby book, which my cousin found in a shoebox of old papers.  It was partially filled out when my aunt was born on October 14, 1917.  Although most of it is blank, the few pages that were filled provide not only further confirmation of relationships about which I was previously aware, but hints at some new ones.

Elaine 1926

Elaine 1926

Here are the pages of the book that have been filled in:

Aunt Elaine baby book p 1

This is my grandfather’s beautifully florid handwriting.  His daughter, my aunt, also had fancy handwriting like this.


Aunt Elaine baby book p 2

My grandmother was never called Grace, always Gussie.  But family lore is that my grandfather’s family thought Grace was more American.


Aunt Elaine baby book 3

My two maternal great-grandmothers!


Aunt Elaine baby book 4

Who are these people?

Tillie Ressler—my grandmother’s older sister

Mr. and Mrs. H. Brotman—my grandmother’s brother Hymie and his wife Sophie

Rebecca Rosenzweig—my grandfather’s cousin, daughter of his mother’s brother Gustav Rosenzweig

Mr. and Mrs. D. Goldschlager—my grandfather’s brother David and his wife Rebecca

Mrs. and Miss G. Goldschlager—my great-grandmother Ghitla Rosenzweig Goldschlager and her daughter Betty

Mrs. and Miss B. Moskowitz—my great-grandmother Bessie Brotman Moskowitz and her daughter Frieda

The next two are not familiar, but provide new paths to research.  Can anyone help me decipher the names?

UPDATE: The last two must have been friends.  Mr. and Mrs. Leon and Ray Kiok and her mother Mrs. Frances Azeraad.  I found them all living together in Brooklyn, but not near my grandparents. I am not sure where they would have met.  Leon was born in Poland in 1886, and Ray’s parents were born in Spain.

Finally, Mr. and Mrs. M. Brotman: my grandmother’s half-brother Max Brotman and his wife Sophie

On the following page were more names.

Aunt Elaine baby book 5

Miss E. Shapiro and fiancé—not known yet

Sam Brotman—my grandmother’s younger brother

Mrs. A. Peter and son—I do not know

Mr. and Mrs. A. Brotman—-my grandmother’s half-brother Abraham Brotman and his wife Bessie

Mrs. D. Brotman—Annie nee Salpeter, wife of David Brotman, my grandmother’s half-brother

Mr. and Mrs. Julius Goldfarb—more on them below

The next three are not familiar—Mrs. Louis (?) Yassky, Miss Rose Botomick (?), and Mrs. Tsulie (?) Hecht.  As far as I can tell, these were not relatives, but friends.

I just loved seeing all these names.  Names that I have researched and know are my family, but names I’d not seen in something like this, something that makes it clear that these people were all really connected to my grandparents in a personal way.  I know that sounds odd.  These were the siblings, mothers, and cousins.  But since I grew up without hearing many of these names, it still was wonderful to see them all listed as the first visitors to see my aunt as a newborn in 1917.

I also found the list of gifts fascinating.  My grandparents did not have money for silver and silk, but someone was very generous in giving these items to them for their first-born child.

One final page—the inside of the back cover:

Aunt Elaine baby book 6
A. Rosenzweig—-my grandfather’s cousin, Abraham Rosenzweig, Rebecca’s brother.  I have speculated, based again on a story conveyed by notes from my Aunt Elaine, that it was either Abraham or Rebecca or Sarah who was accompanying my grandfather Isadore on Pacific Street in Brooklyn when he first laid eyes on my grandmother and declared he was going to marry her.

Back to Mr. and Mrs. Julius Goldfarb.  I asked my mother who they were because in a second old item—a notebook my grandfather used for various purposes that was also used by all three of his children at one time or another[1]—the name Joe Goldfarb appeared twice.  Who were these Goldfarbs?

Grandpa Notebook page 1 addresses Joe Goldfarb

Grandpa notebook 13 more addresses Joe Goldfarb

(There’s more great stuff on this page—Sam Brotman is my great-uncle Sam, Feuerstein B. is my great-aunt Betty Goldschlager Feuerstein, Leo Ressler is my mother’s first cousin, her Aunt Tillie’s son; Rae Rosenzweig and Lizzie Horowitz are my grandfather’s first cousins, sisters of Abraham and Rebecca. And there is an S. Goldfarb in addition to Joe.)

My mother said all she could remember was that either Julius or his wife was my grandmother Gussie’s first cousin.  I’d never heard the name Goldfarb before, so what did I do? What all genealogy addicts would do.  I immediately started searching.  And the results of that search will be discussed in a later post once I have filled in more gaps in that story.

But for now, I once again can hear my aunt cheering me on, telling me to keep digging and finding the family stories.

elaine and amy 1953

Aunt Elaine and me 1953






[1] I will share more of that notebook in later posts also.

The Mystery of the Philadelphia Lawyer: Part II

In my last post I wrote about the mystery of my cousin Celina Nusbaum, who had been married to Inglis Cameron, with whom she’d had a son Edward James.  Then she became Sally Carnes, married to Donald Carnes, and her son Edward James also took on the surname Carnes. Celina’s granddaughter Tracy had commented on my blog and helped to fill in some details about Celina. But there was more to learn.  Why did Celina change her name and move to Texas? Who was Donald Carnes, and what had happened to Inglis Cameron?

An old friend of the family had shared his memories with Tracy and her brother, and Tracy sent me the notes she had from that conversation.  Since I cannot prove some of the details alleged in those notes, I need to be careful what I write here, but from that conversation, Tracy understood that her grandfather had gotten into some sort of trouble, had changed his name to Donald Carnes, and had moved the family to Texas to start over.  Celina became Sally Carnes, and Edward James became E.J. Carnes. Tracy said that her mother’s maiden name had been Barnes, and she thought that the family combined Cameron with Barnes to create Carnes as their new name.

Why did they choose Texas as a place to move? On Donald Carnes’ death certificate, it says that Donald was born on December 2, 1884, in “Corsicane [sic], Texas.” Texas, Death Certificates, 1903–1982 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013. Original data: Texas Department of State Health Services. Texas Death Certificates, 1903–1982. iArchives, Orem, Utah. Texas, Death Certificates, 1903–1982 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013.
Original data: Texas Department of State Health Services. Texas Death Certificates, 1903–1982. iArchives, Orem, Utah.

I did some more research into the background of Inglis Cameron and learned that his parents had once lived in Corsicana, Navarro County, Texas. The Camerons had first lived in Philadelphia after marrying, but their second child, Charles Cameron, was born in Corsicana, Texas, in Navarro County in 1879, according to his death certificate; that certificate also identified the full names of the Cameron parents—James Cameron and Mary Elizabeth.

Charles Cameron death certificate Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: 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.

Charles Cameron death certificate Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: 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.

The Cameron family is also listed in Navarro County on the 1880 census.

James Cameron and family 1880 census Year: 1880; Census Place: Navarro, Texas; Roll: 1321; Family History Film: 1255321; Page: 314D; Enumeration District: 127

James Cameron and family 1880 census
Year: 1880; Census Place: Navarro, Texas; Roll: 1321; Family History Film: 1255321; Page: 314D; Enumeration District: 127


The Camerons later returned to Pennsylvania, where Inglis was born on December 2, 1883, according to his World War I draft registration and several census records.

Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Philadelphia; Roll: 1907636; Draft Board: 17

Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Philadelphia; Roll: 1907636; Draft Board: 17


So Inglis had family ties to Corsicana, Texas.  It seems clear to me that Inglis Cameron became Donald Carnes and that he changed his birth place to Corsicana where his parents had once lived, perhaps to give himself credible Texas roots.  He also kept his birthday (though not the year) the same.  Although I have no official documentation to prove that he changed his name, the circumstantial evidence certainly points that way.

Donald Carnes’ application for a Social Security number seems to support this conclusion as well.  There is an entry in the Social Security Applications and Claims Index on that indicates that Donald Carnes filed for a Social Security number in October 1940. The SSACI index lists Donald Carnes’ birth place as Corsicana, Texas, and his birth date as December 6, 1884. It lists his parents’ names as James Carnes and Mary Smith. Inglis Cameron’s parents were James and Mary Cameron—coincidence?  I think not.   I have sent for the actual application, but I doubt it will say he was also once known as Inglis Cameron.

Thus, I am convinced that, as the family friend told Tracy, Inglis Cameron became Donald Carnes, that Celina Nusbaum Glessner Cameron became Sally Carnes, and that Edward James Cameron became Edward James Carnes.  But why? What had happened to cause them to change their names and move to Texas?

I was able to find Inglis E.D. Cameron listed as a lawyer in the Philadelphia directory in 1922 and in 1923.  In 1923, he was listed as part of a firm, Cameron & Carey.  In 1925, he was listed in the NYC directory as an attorney, but in the Philadelphia directory, it only listed his residence.  In the 1930 directory, he is not listed at all. (There are no online Philadelphia directories for the years between 1925 and 1930.)

I needed to find a source for news about Philadelphia during the 1920s and 1930s, but the databases to which I subscribe have no Philadelphia papers dated past 1922.  The only online database that has Philadelphia newspapers dated after 1922 is a wonderful free website known as Fulton History or Old Fulton Postcards.  It is run by one man who has scanned and uploaded millions of pages of old newspapers, including the Philadelphia Inquirer.  It is not always an easy site to use because you have to be very persistent and creative in searching, and my first time through I had not found anything too helpful.  But after receiving Tracy’s comment on the blog, I was motivated to spend more time learning how to search the Fulton site.

What did I learn? Inglis E.D. Cameron had been a member of a law firm in Philadelphia called Cameron & Carey, as indicated in the 1923 Philadelphia directory; his partner was James T. Carey.  In 1922 they represented a company called United Auto Stores, a chain that sold auto parts and accessories. The company was founded by Edward B.P. Carrier, a young man who was the son of a doctor in Philadelphia and who had been a student at the University of Pennsylvania when he left to start the company.  By 1922, the company had over fifty stores in many states, and Edward “Bud” Carrier was only 28.

In February, 1922, Carrier and others involved in the business of United Auto Stores were sued by stockholders for conspiracy to commit stock fraud; they were allegedly lying to purchasers about the value of the company in order to induce them to buy stock and also profiting by using a shell company as the selling agent of the stock.

Edward P. B. "Bud" Carrier, head of Auto Stores Philadelphia Inquirer, February 25, 1922, p. 1

Edward P. B. “Bud” Carrier, head of Auto Stores
Philadelphia Inquirer, February 25, 1922, p. 1

The story was covered in detail by The Philadelphia Inquirer, and in some of the articles there are references either to Inglis Cameron, his partner James T. Carey, or their firm Cameron & Carey as the counsel to United Auto Stores.  See, e.g., “Gigantic Swindle Seen in Collapse of Auto Stores Co.,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 24, 1922, p. 1, 3 [names Cameron & Carey as counsel and quotes James T. Carey]; “File Court Actions to Save Creditors of Auto Stores Co.,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 25, 1922, pp. 1, 9; “Gay Parties Marked Spending Orgy of Auto Stores Head,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 26, 1922, p. 1; “Auto Stores Chief Denies All Charges of Wild Spending,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 27, 1922, p. 1, 5 [mentions Cameron & Carey as company counsel and Inglis E.D. Cameron specifically as present during questions by reporter]; “Auto Stores Yields Up But $30,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 28, 1922, p. 2; “Auto Stores Head Called Falsifier,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 1, 1922, p. 2; “Receivers Named for Auto Stores,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 2, 1922, p.2; “Hint of US Action Shock to Carrier,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 4, 1922, p. 2.

By March 7, 1922, United Auto Stores was in permanent receivership, and soon thereafter its assets were sold to Gimbel Brothers.  “Special Referee to Probe Crash of Carrier’s Concerns,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 7, 1922, pp. 1. 13.

Philadelphia Inquirer, May 14, 1922, p. 14

Philadelphia Inquirer, May 14, 1922, p. 14

The timing of this case unfolding raised some red flags for me.  It was in the spring of 1921 that “thieves” struck Inglis Cameron’s company, Cameo Dress Company, at least three times.  And it was on February  22, 1922, that the newspaper reported that Cameo Dress Company had been damaged by fire.  The first story about the United Auto Stores’ charges appeared in the paper on February 24, 1922, two days later. Could this be just coincidence? Or is there a connection?

In 1925, sixty-four individuals and the corporation itself were indicted on grounds of conspiracy to commit fraud.  Carrier was indicted as well as other officers of the company and a number of individuals who had been involved in the sales of United Auto Stores stock.  Absent, however, from the list of indicted individuals were the names of Inglis E.D. Cameron and James T. Carey.

Auto Stores Indictments 2 10 25 p 2 pt 1

indictments pt 2

Philadelphia Inquirer, February 10, 1925, p. 2

Philadelphia Inquirer, February 10, 1925, p. 2

And then the case disappeared from the papers.  I don’t know what happened with the charges.  Was there a trial? A verdict?  It’s very odd, but so far I have not found answers to those questions. But even before the Auto Stores indictment,  Samuel Safir and Samuel Rosenblatt, two of the first three names listed in the article identifying those who were indicted in the Auto Stores matter, had been charged in another case of stock fraud, this one involving the Altoona Glass Casket Company, a story that made the newspapers throughout the country. E.g., “Glass Casket Co. Promoters Jailed,” Boston Herald, February 2, 1924, p. 4.  Safir and Rosenblatt were ultimately convicted in the casket case.

As for Edward B.P. Carrier, as far as I can tell he was not convicted of any charges.  He married in 1924 and was living on Long Island, New York, in 1930 with his wife and family. He was working as a real estate broker.  In 1942 when he registered for the draft, he was living at the YMCA in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, working for a company called Defense Builders in Pottstown.  He died in Brigantine, New Jersey, in 1957.  Maybe he was just manipulated  by people like Safir and Rosenblatt, who may have been the true masterminds behind the conspiracy.  One other source I read suggested that Carrier himself may have been duped. “United Auto Stores Swindle,” United States Investor, vol. 33, issue 1 (April 1922), pp.749-750 (describing Carrier as a “tool” in the scheme of another).

The notes that Tracy had from the conversation with her father’s old friend suggest that Inglis and his son went to Florida around 1925 to invest in real estate and ended up losing a lot of money, but I have no way of verifying that information.  But Edward James Cameron, Celina’s son and Tracy’s father, would have been only ten years old in 1925.

So what do you think happened between 1925, when Inglis disappeared, and 1940, when he applied for a Social Security card as Donald Carnes?  Was he running from creditors? Was he running from the law?

Or, as I am thinking, was he running from those who were behind the stock fraud conspiracy? Had he been a witness against them, leading to the 1925 indictments?  Had they been trying to intimidate him by subjecting Cameo Dress to theft and fire?  The Federal Witness Protection program did not exist in those days, but perhaps there was some informal way that the government enabled Inglis Cameron and his family to change their names and move from Philadelphia to Houston.

Inglis Cameron, a/k/a Donald Carnes, was killed in a car accident in 1948. He and his wife Sally/Celina were run down by a Houston carpenter named Homer Bertram Poole.  Sally survived.  The driver was indicted for murder by automobile, as described in the following three articles.   I am grateful to Leah, Amanda, and Barb from the Texas Genealogy Network on Facebook for helping to locate these articles about Donald Carnes’ death.

Donald Carnes accident

Sweetwater Reporter, November 7, 1948, p. 3





Houston Post, November 7, 1948

Houston Post, November 7, 1948


Amarillo Daily New, December 14, 1948, p.7

Amarillo Daily New, December 14, 1948, p.7

Was this just a case of drunk driving? Or was it something more intentional? I don’t know.

Celina/Sally Cameron/Carnes died eighteen years later in 1966.   Edward James Cameron/Carnes died in 1984. This mystery remains largely unsolved.

Thanks to Tracy and her sister Ginger, I now have pictures of my cousin Celina Nusbaum, her husband Inglis Cameron, and their son Edward James Cameron—otherwise known as Sally, Donald, and E.J. Carnes.

Sally, Edward James, and Donald Carnes Courtesy of Tracy Carnes

Sally, Edward James, and Donald Carnes
Courtesy of Tracy Carnes and Ginger Carnes

Celina Nusbaum a/k/a Sally Carnes Courtesy of Tracy and Ginger Carnes

Celina Nusbaum a/k/a Sally Carnes
Courtesy of Tracy and Ginger Carnes

I will continue to look for more information.  But for now, I am interested in what you all think.  How would you fit together all these pieces of the puzzle?  Why did the Cameron family leave Philadelphia, change their names, and move to Houston?




My Great-great-uncle Henry: The Real Man Revealed

This was a major find, a discovery that has greatly inspired me and uplifted me.

I’ve been researching the Schoenthals in depth for quite a while now, and I’ve been so fortunate to find as much as I have about the family both in German and American records.    As I was preparing a post about Henry and Isidore, my great-grandfather, I decided to see if I could find a picture of Henry.  After all, he was a prominent man in Washington, Pennsylvania for many years.  There had to be a picture of him in a newspaper or archive somewhere.  So I tried Google.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find a photograph of Henry.  But what I found was amazing and did in fact give me a better picture of Henry.  The Jacob Radosh Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, had four entries for Schoenthal in its collection: three labeled Henry Schoenthal, one Hilda Schoenthal.   They were titled as papers, a biography, a diary, and a sermon.  I saw this the other evening and was excited, but had no idea how I could see these papers without going to Cincinnati.   So the next morning I called the Marcus Center and spoke to an extremely helpful man there named Joe.  Joe explained that they would scan all the pages of the documents for me for 25 cents a page and email them to me.  There were forty pages in total, and so in less than hour and for only ten dollars, I had the four files in my email.

The folder of Henry’s papers, which date from 1863 to 1866, are in German.  I am going to have to find someone to help me translate them.  But here’s one that confirms Henry’s  (then Heinemann) birth date and place and his father’s name; I think it is a certificate of his training to be a Jewish teacher at the seminary in Cassel, Germany:

Israelitische Lehrerbildungs for Henry Schoenthal Available at the Marcus Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

Israelitische Lehrerbildungs for Henry Schoenthal
Available at the Marcus Center, Cincinnati, Ohio


The biography is a one page biography of Henry Schoenthal written by his daughter Hilda in 1952.  Although much of it was information I already knew, it adds another dimension to this man, making him come to life for me.  I want to look first at the first section of that biography because it will provide greater background to the diary and to the sermon, the remaining two files I received.

Hilda Schoenthal, Biography of Henry Schoenthal dated January 16, 1952. Available at the Marcus Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

Hilda Schoenthal, Biography of Henry Schoenthal dated January 16, 1952. Available at the Marcus Center, Cincinnati, Ohio


Again, although I knew most of the facts reported here, it was wonderful to read it in words written by Henry’s own daughter. I didn’t know how he met his wife or that her father, Meyer Lilienfeld, was a cantor.  And I did not know that Henry was a shochet (kosher butcher) and a chazzan (cantor) as well as a teacher back in Germany.  I wish Hilda had expanded on the political and economic conditions that drove her father to emigrate.  And I found it interesting that Washington was considered somewhat of a center of culture and intellectual activity because of the presence of Washington and Jefferson College in the town. It also gave me a sense of Henry as someone interested in the life of the mind—someone who preferred selling books to students than selling clothing.


English: Western side of on the campus of in W...

Western side of McMillan Hall on the campus of Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pa. .. Built in 1793, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (Wikipedia)

The diary, which starts in 1866 when Henry arrived in America, starts out in German, but after the first several pages, Henry began to write in English and to use script which I can read.  Reading those pages was very moving, and I will share some of them below.  Thanks to my friend Matthias Steinke, I was able to get the initial pages translated into English.

The diary begins on July 10, 1866, just a few weeks after Henry had arrived in New York, and says that he had just arrived in Washington, PA, and was working for his cousin Jacob Goldsmith in his clothing store (for some reason “clothing store” is written in English).

Diary of Henry Schoenthal 1866-1868 Available at the Marcus Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

Diary of Henry Schoenthal 1866-1868
Available at the Marcus Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

By the next day he had written to his parents and sent them three gold dollars.  He did not receive his first letter from his parents until August 9th and immediately responded, sending them ten dollars in “greenbacks.”   On August 16th, he described a visit from the Democratic candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, Hiester Clymer, and the fanfare surrounding that.  Then there is a long entry about the some criminal activities going on in the town.  Most of the pages in German report on his correspondence with various people back home.

By January 1867, Henry was writing in fluent English.  Just six months in the US, and he was already comfortable with and even preferring to write in English.  I was impressed.  Much of what he continued to write about was his correspondence— naming those to whom he had written and those who had written to him.   This page, with several entries dated in April, 1867, I found particularly interesting.

Henry Schoenthal diary p 9


On Tuesday, April 12,  1867, Henry mentioned that he was beginning to give German lessons to some residents of the town.   On these pages, he also mentioned writing letters not only to his “dear parents” and sending them money, but also writing to his uncle Juda Hamberg from Breuna, who was his mother’s older brother, and to Helene and Recha Lilienfeld.  Helene would later become his wife, and there are numerous mentions of correspondence between Henry and the two Lilienfeld sisters.  On this page he also mentioned that he sent the Lilienfeld sisters his pictures.  I sure wish I could see a copy of those pictures.

Of greatest interest to me on this page, however, is Henry’s comment on Monday, April 22, that he went to Pittsburgh “last Friday and stayed there for the first two days of Passover.”  I was touched that Henry was making an effort to hold on to his traditions and heritage while alone without his parents and siblings nearby.  Of his family members already in the US in 1867, the only one likely to have been in Pittsburgh was Simon Goldsmith, widower of Fanny Schoenthal and thus Henry’s uncle by marriage.

Although Henry may have had his heart set on Helene (also called Helen) Lilienfeld, he was not sitting home.  He mentioned at the bottom of this page that in May 1867 he went to a show with a Miss Emma ? and a Mrs. Flora Conner (?) and did not get home until half past eleven.

One of my favorite diary entries also is dated in May 1867:

Henry SChoenthal diary p 10 A


Why do I like this entry?  Because it mentions my great-grandfather and by his original name, Isaac.  Henry referred to all his siblings by their original names.  Malchen was Amalie, Hannchen was Hannah.  Selig became Felix.  I also liked that Julius was listed, confirming once again that Julius Schoenthal was a sibling.  I imagine Henry writing all those names and looking at the pictures his “dear parents” had sent to him and being somewhat homesick.

But there was some news to alleviate that homesickness.  He mentioned on the next page that Malchen wanted to come to the United States.  He said that she was “anxious to come to this country and I expect to let her come by next fall.”  This seems to suggest that the decision was up to Henry, not his parents or his sister Malchen.  Was this about money?  Henry often mentioned sending money home to his family.

Henry Schoenthal diary p 10 B

But on June 18, Henry wrote that his sister Malchen and brother Simon “intend to come over here next fall,” so perhaps he really did not have control over their decisions to emigrate.

Henry Schoenthal diary p 11


Although Henry was continuing to correspond with “dear Helene” and her sister, he was also exchanging pictures with a Miss Therese Libenfeld in Frankfort and teaching German to several young women in Washington.

On September 9, 1867, Henry reported that he had received a letter from his parents informing him that his brother and sister, Simon and Malchen, had left Bremen on August 17 to sail on the ship SS Watchen.  This is consistent with the ship manifest I found for Simon and Amalie, which has them arriving in New York on September 23, 1867.  The only inconsistency is that the ship manifest record states that the ship was named Wagen, not Watchen.  Close enough.

Henry Schoenthal diary p 13

After that the diary peters out with very few entries between September 1867 and February 1868, the date of the last entry.  My guess is that Henry was busy with his siblings, helping them to adjust to the new country, and perhaps less in need of keeping track of his correspondence.

The very last entry, dated February 24, 1868, records a piece of US history.  Henry wrote: “The House of Representatives just resolved to impeach President Andrew Johnson.”  Unfortunately Henry expressed no opinion or reaction to this occurrence.  Was it upsetting to him? How did he feel about American democracy?  I wish I knew.

Henry Schoenthal diary p 14


I loved reading the diary.  Although it is not terribly intimate or revealing in its content, I can imagine this young man in his early 20s sitting down to keep track of everyone from back home with whom he corresponded.  The fact that the diary ends shortly after the arrival of his sister and brother make me think that the diary’s purpose had at that point been served.  Henry now had some of his family with him and no longer needed the ritual of the diary to help him feel connected.

Returning to Hilda’s biography of her father and her description of his life after 1868:

Hilda bio of Henry Schoenthal p 2

I found Hilda’s final paragraph particularly interesting:

HIlda bio of Henry Schoenthal p 3

This was not the image I had of Henry from the documents I’d found or even the newspaper articles.  Henry wasn’t just a successful businessperson.  He was a committed Jew working hard to create and maintain a Jewish community in this small town in western Pennsylvania.  He was still a teacher many years after leaving Trendelburg, Germany, a man interested in books and students and Jewish traditions.  Now I see a whole new dimension to this man who was my great-great-uncle.

The remaining file that I obtained from the Marcus Center was the so-called sermon. For me, this was the most exciting document of all.  The sermon was written by Henry in 1912, three years after he had moved away from Washington to live near his son Lionel in New York City, as mentioned by Hilda.  Henry was by this time almost 70 years old.  From what I can infer, the sermon or speech was to a fraternal organization in Washington given on the occasion of Henry’s return to Washington for a visit.  I will quote the portions I found most touching and most revealing:

Henry Schoenthal 1912 Sermon p 1

He wrote:

I love to come back to Washington to revisit the scenes of my early manhood. For to this place I had come a stranger and you had taken me in.  Here I have spent the greater portion of my years and Washington has been my real home.  To this place I had brought my bride and here my children were born and educated.  Here I made many, many friends and possibly a few enemies.  Here I have lived many happy days and my full share of the other kind.  The latter I have forgotten long ago, the former are ever present in my memory and help to brighten and to make happy the declining days of my years.

Henry Schoenthal 1912 sermon p 2

I do not know whether I shall pass this way again, for the shades of evening are lengthening and the goal may not be very far off.  I gratefully acknowledge that God has been very gracious unto me and that he has blessed me beyond my merits.  He has guided me with a father’s hand to reach and to pass safely the 3 score and ten of which the Psalmist has spoken, and if it should be his holy will to grant me another short space of years, I may even reach the limit of four scores.

Henry Schoenthal Sermon 1912 p 3

Henry Schoenthal 1912 sermon p 4

But whether this should be the last time it is destined for me to have the happiness to meet with you, you may rest assured that I shall always remember this evening, that I shall never forget the courtesy you have shown, the friendship and the fraternal feelings you have extended to me.  And I shall always pray for your happiness and in parting I shall bless you, bless you not in my own words, but the in the words of the High Priest of old when he stood before the assembled multitudes stretching forth his hand and pronouncing the words:

May the Lord bless you and keep you!

May the Lord cause his light to shine upon you and be gracious unto you!

May the Lord turn his face unto you and grant you peace, now and forever more.  Amen!

I admit that my eyes well up with tears every time I read and re-read these words. I am moved by so much of what he said here: his attachment to Washington, PA, as his home, a place that had welcomed a very young man in 1866 and given him a safe place to settle and work.  He mentioned good times and bad, but overall his memories of this place are filled with love for the people he knew there.  I feel his love for this place and for the people and his joy in being there and the sadness he feels in leaving it and perhaps not being able to return another time.  We all have those feelings about places we have lived–whether it is a childhood home, a college campus, a first apartment.  We move on, but a piece of our heart remains behind.

I am also moved by the beauty of his writing.  It’s hard to believe that English was not his first language, as with my cousin Lotte.  Henry’s writing is so poetic, so evocative.  I read it with wonder.

And then Henry closed with the traditional priestly blessing read even today in Jewish prayer services and used as a blessing on many occasions in Jewish life. A blessing we said to our own daughters on Friday nights when they were children.  A blessing that Jews have said and shared for centuries.  I am moved knowing that my ancestor shared in this tradition as well.

Henry had left the seminary, but that experience had never left him.  He remained, as his daughter said, committed to his heritage and proud of it.  He remained a religious man.

Finding these papers was another one of many highlights in my continuing search for the story of my ancestors.  They inspire me to keep looking for more and to keep telling the stories.  Henry Schoenthal wanted history and traditions to continue, and I want his story to live on as well.




My Aunt Eva’s Magic Suitcases: Another Small World Story

A long time back I mentioned that my father had two suitcases filled with photographs and letters that had belonged to his sister, my aunt, Eva Hilda Cohen.  My aunt had died February 14, 2011, but my father had never gone through the suitcases and wasn’t eager to do so.  Finally this past weekend he agreed to let my brother and me bring the suitcases down from their garage and go through their contents.  I was hoping for some old photographs or letters about my ancestors, and I didn’t find much of that, but there was an amazing small world story that came out of those suitcases. (I will report on the other finds in later posts.)

First, a little bit about my Aunt Eva.  She was born on January 13, 1924, the first child of my paternal grandparents, John Nusbaum Cohen, Sr. and Eva Schoenthal.

Eva Hilda Cohen

Eva Hilda Cohen

My father was born almost three years later.  They were very close as children growing up together.

Eva and John Cohen, Jr.

Eva and John Cohen, Jr.

My father describes his sister as a strong-willed and rebellious child who became a strong-willed and rebellious teenager and adult. She also was a very intelligent woman with many interests. She graduated from Gratz High School in Philadelphia in 1941, where she apparently was known by the nickname “Ave,” and was described as follows in the yearbook: “To Gratz our “Ave” has given services of hours; in almost every field she has displayed her powers.”  From the list of her activities, that inscription seems accurate: drama club, debate club, a cappella choir, and several others.

Aunt Eva yearbook picture

Simon Gratz High School yearbook 1941 U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2012 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.

During World War II, she served in the United States Navy. She served from February 10, 1944 until February 10, 1946, and was stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas, for most of her second year of service.  She wrote a letter to her mother in May, 1945, describing her trip by train from Philadelphia to Texas.  I had to chuckle as I read it because it sounded so much like her, describing and naming every person that she met along the way.    She clearly was a hit with the servicemen, frequently being invited to eat and drink and sit with them on that long train.  That ability to befriend new people wherever she went was a skill she maintained throughout her life.

After the war, she completed her education at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  There she also was active socially and academically.

Aunt Eva college yearbook

University of Colorado at Boulder yearbook 1949 U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2012 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.

After college she became engaged to be married to a man named Karl, but when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Karl broke it off, not wanting to care for someone he thought would be an invalid.

Eva and Karl

Eva and Karl

He sorely underestimated her.  She never married, but her inner strength and her independence held in her good stead for the rest of her life even as her physical challenges became greater.  She worked for the city of Philadelphia until retirement age, and she had a large circle of friends who were devoted to her. She traveled all over the world and was interested in many things and well-informed about current events. She remained devoted to my father, and he to her, her whole life.

Her collected photographs and letters reflected those priorities— the many letters she kept that she had received from my father over the years; lots of photographs of our family, extended and immediate; lots of pictures from her numerous trips and cruises.  And many, many pictures of people who were her friends. The photographs were not at all organized by subject matter or date, so as I went through the photographs with my brother, I sorted them into piles—family, travel, friends.  I wasn’t particularly interested in the last two categories, but I still looked at each photo, hoping to find some of my ancestors or distant cousins mixed in.

Then I found this photograph.  It was a Christmas card with a family photograph, an item for the friends’ pile.  But I looked at it more closely and thought one of the faces looked familiar.  Then I looked at the family’s surname, and I got the chills.  The face was in fact familiar.



The little boy in that photograph looked just like the young man who is now engaged to my daughter’s best friend Anna.  I knew that her fiancé Mark was from Philadelphia, and it certainly was possible that my aunt could have known his family.  But nevertheless—what were the odds?  Mark’s parents are at least a generation younger than my aunt.  How in the world would they have known her? It made no sense.  I continued looking through the photographs, and I found five more pictures of Mark’s family, including his parents’ wedding photograph.  Obviously, my aunt knew his family for a long, long time.

I took snapshots of the pictures of Mark’s family with my phone and sent them to Maddy and Anna, asking them if this was Mark’s family. Anna responded that indeed it was his family.  Anna asked Mark what he knew about my aunt, if anything, and he did remember her and said that his father had been a lifeguard at the pool in her building and had met her there.

That made perfect sense to me.  My aunt was an avid swimmer; being in the water gave her the mobility and comfort that she could not find out of the water because of her MS.  As my father wrote in one of his letters to her, she swam in pools and oceans all over the world; she found it liberating.  When she moved into The Philadelphian, one of the large apartment buildings in Philadelphia, one of the great benefits was that there was a pool in the building.  It was there that she made many friends over the years, including Mark’s father and his family.

Scan0016 (2)

I still get the chills thinking about this.  There I was sitting in my parents’ house, sorting through photographs mostly of strangers, and I found a photograph of someone who will now be marrying Anna.  Anna, whom I’ve known since she was born and who has been my daughter Maddy’s best friend since they sat in the sandbox as one year olds at our child care cooperative in 1985.  Anna, who was Maddy’s roommate in Boston for several years—until she met Mark.  Mark, a delightful young man whom we met the first time a few years back when he was helping Maddy and Anna move from one apartment to another and sitting patiently outside the apartment, watching their stuff while they went to rent a truck.  Mark, whose father befriended my aunt years before Mark was even born and who obviously stayed in touch with her over the years as his children grew to adulthood.

I am sure that my aunt would have been thrilled to know that her friend’s son was marrying her great-niece’s best friend.  I am just sorry she is no longer around to hear the story.  It’s the kind of story she would have loved.



Old Friends: Braided Forever

My mother has often spoken about how sad she was when her family decided to move from Brooklyn to the Bronx when she was about twelve years old.  There were many reasons she was upset.  For one, she had to leave her dog Sparky behind.  That broke her heart, and she still can’t talk about it without getting emotional.

Sparky 1934


But also she had to leave her best friend Beatty behind. Beatty lived in the same four-family house at 1010 Rutland Road in Brooklyn; she lived right down the hall from my mother.  They had been close friends all through childhood, and although they tried to stay in touch after my mother moved, back in the 1940s that was not at all easy.  Phone calls were expensive, and the trip from Brooklyn to Parkchester in the Bronx was a long one, especially for two young girls.  So over time, they lost touch.

Beatty and my mother c. 1940

Beatty and my mother c. 1940

Not too long ago my mother asked me if I could find Beatty.  She knew her first and last name from when she’d last seen her over 70 years earlier, but she had no idea where she was living or whom she might have married.  I tried to find her, but with so little information I had no luck.  If Beatty had married, it was after the last year of the publicly available NYC marriage index (1937).  The only information I could find related to her siblings, who had passed away.

So you can imagine how excited I was to receive a message on the blog last week from Beatty herself.  She was looking for my mother after seeing her pictures and childhood name on the blog.  I contacted Beatty, and I called my mother.  And I gave them each other’s contact information, and now they are reconnected after over 70 years.  I get the chills (and a warm feeling) whenever I think about it.

One of the stories my mother shared with me was about Passover at Beatty’s house.  Her father led the seder in a very serious way, and as many of us know, a traditional seder can get quite long and quite boring, especially for young children.  To keep themselves from misbehaving and talking, my mother and Beatty would braid the fringes on the beautiful tablecloth that adorned the seder table.  When my mother shared this memory with Beatty, she said that she also had shared that story with her children.

The tablecloth still exists, and even more remarkable, the braids made by my mother and her best friend Beatty are still there as well.  Here is the photograph to prove it.

Beatty's tablecloth

Beatty’s tablecloth

tablecloth with braids 2

My mother was once my Girl Scout troop leader, and one of the songs we sang had the lyrics, “Make new friends, but keep the old.  One is silver, and the other gold.”  My mother and Beatty certainly know the truth of that message.