The Children of Abraham and Amelia (Nahm) Katz: 1920-1944

In my last two posts, I wrote about Abraham Katz and the decision he made in 1910 to move his family from Louisville, Kentucky to Sapulpa, Oklahoma, where business opportunities seemed more promising for him and his children. By 1920, Abraham Katz and his large family were well-established in Oklahoma.  Four of the ten children were married, one, Bertha, had died at a tragically young age, and five of the ten children were still living at home.

During the 1920s, four of the other Katz children married. Florence, who had been living at home in 1920, had married by 1921.  Her husband was Solomon Frisch, who was born in Springfield, Illinois, but grew up in Athens, Illinois, the same town where Lester Katz’s wife Mayme had grown up.   Solomon was the son of Isaac and Sophia Frisch, who were immigrants from Hungary and Germany, respectively; Isaac was a bookkeeper. In 1917 when he registered for the World War I draft, Solomon had his own store in Athens.

Solomon Frisch World War I draft registration; United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-G14V-J6P?cc=1968530&wc=9FCN-RM9%3A928312901%2C928928301 : 14 May 2014), Illinois > image 785 of 2475; citing NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Florence and Sol must have married not long after the 1920 census, as their daughter Sarah Jean was born on November 18, 1921. In 1930, they were living in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and Sol was working as a dry goods merchant.  Stillwater was, as mentioned in an earlier post, the town where Abraham Katz’s nephew (and Florence’s first cousin) Jake was also a dry goods merchant, and Sol was working with Jake in Stillwater in the Katz Department Store.

Benjamin Katz also married in the 1920s.  His wife, Sadie Bardine, was the daughter of two Russian immigrants, Isaac and Molly Bardine; Sadie was born in Kansas City, Missouri, where she grew up.  In 1920, she was working as a stenographer in a law office.  Sadie and Ben were married on June 12, 1924, in Kansas City.

Marriage record of Benjamin Katz and Sadie Bardine
Ancestry.com. Missouri, Jackson County Marriage Records, 1840-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.
Original data: Marriage Records. Jackson County Clerk, Kansas City, Missouri.

According to the Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Life published by the Goldring Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life,  “Sadie came from an Orthodox family and found it very daunting to adapt to her husband’s classical Reform Judaism and the difficulty of finding kosher meat in Sapulpa. She lived with Ben in Sapulpa from 1924 until 1926, when Ben decided that a life as a shoe clerk was not enough.”

It was at that point that Ben and Sadie moved to Ada, Oklahoma where in 1926, Ben and his brother Sidney purchased a long-established department store together in Ada, as reported in the April 15, 1926, issue of the Ada Weekly News (p. 4):

A deal will be closed today in which one of Ada’s oldest department stores changes hands and tomorrow morning, unless present plans go amiss, Simpson’s will open its doors under the banner of Katz Department Store.

Sidney and Ben Katz will be in charge of the store here, having arrived here several days ago from Bristow, where they made their home for six years. …

Although the new owners of the store establish this store here as another link to the chain of stores they operate in the Southwest, their desire is to impress the public with their public spirit in the interest and advancement of the town.  …

An extensive and commendable news article in a Bristow paper deplored the loss of Sidney Katz from its business fraternity. “Sidney Katz has been in Bristow for the past six years coming here to open the Bristow store.  During the time he has been a resident of this city, he has been one of the liveliest workers the city has had.  He has had a part in every worth while [sic] move that Bristow civic organizations have made, and members of the organizations say that his loss as a citizen will be felt.

Ben and Sidney ran the store together in Ada for many years. More on that to come.

Abraham and Amelia’s youngest daughter Henrietta also married in the 1920s.  She married her sister Bertha’s widower, Ben Levine, on June 28, 1925. In 1930, they were living with their first two children in Chickasha, Oklahoma, where Ben was (guess) a dry goods merchant.

Marriage record of Henrietta Katz and Ben Levine
Ancestry.com. Oklahoma, County Marriages, 1890-1995 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
Original data: Marriage Records. Oklahoma Marriages. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, UT.

Chickasha is 134 miles from Sapulpa. According to the Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities published by the Goldring Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, in 1919, Chickasha had a Jewish population of about 125 people.  The Encyclopedia reports that, “By far the most prominent and long lasting Jewish business in Chickasha was the Dixie Store, owned by friends and distant cousins Charles I. Miller and Ben Levine. Charles and Ben had opened the store in 1919, and “Charles and Ben became icons in the Chickasha community, running a newspaper ad for their department store every day for over 50 years.”

When Sigmund Katz married Elizabeth Pattison on September 23, 1926, he was the fourth child of Abraham and Amelia to marry since 1920. His wife Elizabeth was the daughter of William Pattison and Ersula Wade.  Her father was born in Ohio, and her mother in Tennessee, where Elizabeth was also born. In 1900, when Elizabeth was four, the family was living in Florence, Alabama, where William was a lumber dealer. By 1920, however, Elizabeth’s father had died, and she and her mother were living with her grandparents in Allen, Oklahoma, where Elizabeth was working as a public school teacher.  Allen is only 19 miles from Ada, where Sigmund’s brothers Ben and Sidney were living.

Marriage record of Sigmund Katz and Elizabeth Pattison
Ancestry.com. Oklahoma, County Marriages, 1890-1995 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
Original data: Marriage Records. Oklahoma Marriages. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, UT.

In 1930, Sigmund and Elizabeth were living with their first two children in Bristow, Oklahoma, where Sigmund’s sister Rachel was also living.  And yes, Sigmund was also a dry goods merchant.

Rachel and her husband Morris Kohlmann were still living in Bristow in 1930, where Morris continued to work as a dry goods merchant; they had no children.  Lester and his wife Mayme and their children were living in Sapulpa, and Lester was also a dry goods merchant, working in the family store.  Sidney and his wife Eulalia were living in Ada, Oklahoma, where Sidney was the manager of a dry goods store with his brother Ben, as noted above; Sidney and Eulalia did not have children.

By 1930 then, Abraham and his wife (listed as Millie here) were living with only two of their nine surviving children, Blanche and Milton, their youngest child, who was then 28. Abraham, who was now 79 years old, was still working as a merchant, and Milton was working as a clerk in the family store with his father and brother Lester.. Blanche was not employed outside the home, nor was her mother.

Abraham Katz and family 1930 US census
Year: 1930; Census Place: Sapulpa, Creek, Oklahoma; Roll: 1900; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 0040; Image: 842.0; FHL microfilm: 2341634

Thus, by 1930, Abraham and his sons and sons-in-law had established quite a number of dry goods stores in various towns in Oklahoma.

Abraham J. Katz died on July 29, 1936, at age 85. According to the records of the funeral home, he died of uremic poisoning and heat prostration.

Funeral record of Abraham Katz

The Sapulpa Herald of July 30, 1936, reported his death on its first page:

According to the obituary, Abraham died at home in Sapulpa after being critically ill for two weeks. The obituary also reported that Abraham had lived in Sapulpa since August, 1910, the first time I’ve seen the date so specifically pinpointed.  The obituary also commented that “Mr. Katz has always been one of the communities [sic] most generous donors to charity.  He is well known for his philanthropies here throughout the years.  He has been a member of the Chamber of Commerce for years as well as other local booster organizations.”

Abraham was survived by his wife Amelia, nine of their ten children, and eleven grandchildren.

In 1940, Amelia, who was then 80, was living in Sapulpa with two of her children: Blanche, who was 56 and not employed, and Milton, who was 38 and working as a clerk in Katz Department Store.

Amelia died in Sapulpa on June 16, 1944; she was 84 years old. The Sapulpa Herald of June 17, 1944, reported her death on its first page, describing her as a “well known local woman.”  She and Abraham were buried together at Fairlawn Cemetery in Oklahoma City.

Photo by FindAGrave member P Black Avitts
(#46910889)

Abraham Katz, who came to the US as a teenager shortly after the Civil War and started as a dry goods merchant in a small town in Kentucky, left behind quite a legacy for his children and their descendants.  He and his family had established a series of department stores spread over a number of cities and towns in Oklahoma that would continue to support the family long after Abraham was gone, as we will see in the next post.

Abraham Katz and Family in Oklahoma: The Growing Family Business

As we saw in my last post, sometime around 1910, Abraham and Amelia moved with their ten children from Kentucky to Sapulpa, Oklahoma, where Abraham had been encouraged to move by his nephew Jake Katz to expand the Katz dry goods business. Between 1910 and 1920, four of Abraham and Amelia’s children married and left home and several others went to college or served in the military during those years.

Here is a photograph of Abraham and Amelia and their children taken about ten years after the one I posted in my last post.  Using Milton, the youngest child, as my clue, I think he looks about thirteen in this photograph, meaning it was taken around 1914.  I know it was taken before 1919, for reasons revealed below.

Henry Katz, Abraham and Amelia’s grandson, identified the family members in this photograph.  They are, in the front row from left to right, Henrietta, Amelia, Abraham, Milton, and Bertha.  In the back row from left to right are Ben, Florence, Lester, Blanche, Sidney, Rachel, and Sigmund.

Rachel, the first-born of the ten children, married Morris Kohlmann on June 12, 1912 in Louisville. Morris was born in Germany and had immigrated in 1892, according to the 1900 census.  In 1900 and 1910, Morris had been living in Louisville with his parents. According to this January 1, 1917 article from the Daily Tribune and Daily Mirror of Fort Scott, Kansas, Rachel and Morris had lived in El Dorado Springs, Missouri:

In 1917 when he registered for the World War I draft, Morris reported that he and Rachel were living in Yale, Oklahoma, a small town about 45 miles west of Sapulpa where he owned a store.

Morris Kohlmann World War I draft registration
Registration State: Oklahoma; Registration County: Payne; Roll: 1852069
Description
Draft Card : K
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line].

On the 1920 census, Rachel and Morris were living in Bristol, Oklahoma, which is about 25 miles southwest of Sapulpa.  Morris reported that he was the owner of a department store.

Rachel’s brother Lester Katz married Mayme Salzenstein just two months after Rachel married Morris—on August 12, 1912, in Chicago.  Mayme was the daughter of Wolf Salzenstein, a German immigrant, and his wife Caroline, who was born in Illinois.  Mayme was also an Illinois native, and her father was a livestock dealer in Athens, Illinois, a small town not far from Springfield, Illinois.  Mayme moved with Lester to Sapulpa, where according to his World War I draft registration, he was a self-employed merchant.  I was unable to locate Lester and Mayme on the 1920 census, but I know from other records that by 1920, they had two daughters, Mildred and Bertha Barbara.

Lester Katz, World War I draft registration
Registration State: Oklahoma; Registration County: Creek; Roll: 1851701; Draft Board: 1
Description
Draft Card : K
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]

 When Abraham and Amelia’s second oldest son, Sidney Katz, registered for the World War I draft, he was living in Oilton, Oklahoma, a small town about 34 miles west of Sapulpa.  According to his draft registration, Sidney was working for Katz Department Store.  He was single at that time, but on September 1, 1918, he married Eulalia V Woolsey, who was born in Missouri but had been living with her family in Fort Scott, Kansas, in 1910.  Her father owned a music store there.

Sidney Katz, World War I draft registration
Registration State: Oklahoma; Registration County: Creek; Roll: 1851701; Draft Board: 1
Description
Draft Card : K
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]

Apparently the family had some continuing connection to Fort Scott, Kansas, because I found this article about Bertha Katz, the seventh of Abraham and Amelia’s children, in the Fort Scott newspaper, reporting on her marriage to Ben Levine in Sapulpa in January 1918:

Ben Levine was born in Russia and had lived in Dayton, Ohio, after immigrating with his parents in 1890, but in 1910 he was living in Mountain View, Oklahoma, with his mother and his siblings and working as the manager of a dry goods store.  In 1917 he reported on his World War I draft registration that he had his own store in Cordell, Oklahoma.

Ben Levine, World War I draft registration
Registration State: Oklahoma; Registration County: Washita; Roll: 1852244
Description
Draft Card : L
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]

Tragically, Ben’s marriage ended rather soon as Bertha Katz died in December 1918, according to her headstone and the family.  She was only 28 years old.  According to the family, Bertha went to meet Ben in New York City when he was being discharged from the military.  While there, she contracted the flu and died in New York, one of the many millions of victims of the flu epidemic of that time.  What a heartbreaking loss that must have been.

Finally, the fifth Katz child who was not living with his family in 1920 was Sigmund, the second youngest son.  According to the family, Sigmund attended what was then Oklahoma A & M in Stillwater and majored in Animal Husbandry. One family legend is that he operated on a duck and mistakenly reattached his leg backwards, causing the duck to swim in circles! (This sounds like more of a family joke than true, but nevertheless part of the family lore.)

On his draft registration card dated June 1918, he reported that he was a student and was living with his family in Sapulpa. (Interestingly, his draft registration reports his birthdate as August 5, 1897, but every other record, including his World War II draft registration says he was born a year earlier—August 5, 1896.)  Sigmund enlisted in the US Army on October 1, 1918, and was discharged on December 16, 1918. He would have been 22 years old. But where was he in 1920?

Sigmund Katz, World War I draft registration
Registration State: Oklahoma; Registration County: Creek; Roll: 1851701; Draft Board: 1
Description
Draft Card : K
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]

Although I could not find any Sigmund Katz on the 1920 census, I did find this record of a Sidney Katz, born in Kentucky in 1896, who was living in Louisville and working in the dry goods business.  Since I already had a correct 1920 census record for Sigmund’s older brother Sidney, I knew this was not for him.  The only thing, aside from the incorrect first name, that is inconsistent with this being Sigmund Katz is that it reports that “Sidney’s” parents were born in Russia.  Perhaps his landlady gave the information to the enumerator and assumed his parents were Russian born? What do you think?

Is this Sigmund Katz?
Year: 1920; Census Place: Louisville Ward 9, Jefferson, Kentucky; Roll: T625_579; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 154; Image: 459

As for the rest of the family, in 1920, Abraham was still working as a dry goods merchant in Sapulpa, and  he and his wife Amelia still had the other five of their ten children living with them: Blanche (27), Florence (25), Ben (23), Henrietta (21), and Milton (18). Henrietta went to Oklahoma A & M like Sigmund where she’d been a member of the Theta sorority. In 1920, she was working as a school teacher.

Ben served in the US Army during World War I, as shown in this photograph:

Ben Katz
Courtesy of the Katz family

In 1920, Ben was working in a shoe store.

Milton, the youngest child, had served as the manager of the high school football team and was known by everyone in Sapulpa.  He attended the University of Illinois. He then came home and worked in the family store in Sapulpa.

Abraham Katz on the 1920 census
Year: 1920; Census Place: Sapulpa, Creek, Oklahoma; Roll: T625_1460; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 42; Image: 140

Thus, as of 1920, Abraham Katz and all his sons and even his sons-in-law were in the dry goods business.  Four of his children had married, but sadly one, their daughter Bertha, had died shortly after her marriage.  Five of the other children were still living at home, and Sigmund may have been living and working in Louisville, where he was born.  But in the next decade, most of those five children would also marry and move out on their own.

To be continued.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abraham Katz Moves to Oklahoma

I’ve learned a lot more information about Abraham Katz and his family since connecting with my fourth cousin Marsha and her father Henry. They also generously shared some family photographs with me.  What a blessing it has been!

According to family history notes written by Abraham’s grandson Henry in September, 1988, when Abraham arrived in the US, he lived in Baltimore with a family named Gump who were cousins of his mother (Rahel Katzenstein).  I knew this had to be the same Gumps who were married to my Mansbach cousins, the children of Hannchen Katzenstein Mansbach, who was a sister of both Rahel Katzenstein Katz, Abraham’s mother, and my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein.

And sure enough, I went back to look at the research I’d done about the Gump family, and there was Abraham, living with Gabriel and Henrietta (Mansbach) Gump in Baltimore on the 1870 census:

Gabriel Gump and family
1870 US census
Year: 1870; Census Place: District 6, Allegany, Maryland

According to the family history notes written by Henry Katz, Abraham lived with the Gumps in Baltimore for about two years and learned English and bookkeeping.  Then he left for New Orleans where there was another family member.  The family does not know the name of that family member (there were no Gumps then living in New Orleans), but family lore is that Abraham was searching for an older brother who had fought in the Civil War and might have gone to New Orleans to look for him.  He never found that brother, and I have no records regarding this brother.  (More on that in a later post.)  While in New Orleans, Abraham chased after a man who was attempting to steal from the family’s business and injured his knee, an injury that affected him for the rest of his life.

After some time in New Orleans, Abraham moved to Horse Cave, Kentucky, married Amelia Nahm, and had ten children, as I’ve described in an earlier post. Here is a photograph of the family home in Horse Cave and one of Amelia:

Katz home in Horse Cave, Kentucky Courtesy of the Katz family

Amelia Nahm Katz, courtesy of the Katz family

The family history notes described Abraham’s business in Horse Cave:

He carried dry goods, hardware, buggies, and Studebaker wagons.  A water well was in the center of his store.  He would barter with the farmers for their products.  He would store eggs and dairy products in a basket in the well.  He later established a second store.

(Henry Katz family history notes, September 30, 1988)

According to the family history notes, when Abraham and Amelia moved their family from Horse Cave to Louisville sometime before 1900, it was to be closer to an established Jewish community. All ten children were living at home in Louisville in 1900, as seen in this census record:

Abraham Kaz and family 1900 US census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Louisville Ward 5, Jefferson, Kentucky; Roll: 530; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0053; FHL microfilm: 1240530

In Louisville, Abraham operated a dry goods store as well as a glove factory, according to the family history notes.

Thanks to the generosity of Abraham’s great-granddaughter Marsha, I now have a photograph of Abraham and Amelia and nine their ten children. As best I can tell from the ages and birth order of the children, either Lester or Sidney is missing from this photograph.  Since the youngest child, Milton, was born in 1901 and appears to be about five years old in the photo, I am guessing that this photograph was taken in about 1906—before the family left Kentucky.

My guess is that the back row standing are the two oldest sisters, Rachel and Blanche, with either Lester or Sidney between them.  In the front row from left to right would be Henrietta, Abraham, Ben, Bertha, Florence, Milton, Sigmund, and Amelia:

UPDATE! Thank you so much to Ava Cohn, aka Sherlock Cohn, the Photo Genealogist, upon whose expertise I have relied before. Ava advised me that the clothing styles date this photograph as more like 1900-1901.  Thus, the “missing” child would have been Milton, who wasn’t yet born.  I now think that I was wrong in my identification of the children in the photograph. Looking at the ages of the children again, I now think that in fact they should be identified as follows:

Back row: Rachel, Lester, Blanche. Front row: Henrietta, Abraham, Sidney, Bertha, Florence, Sigmund, Benjamin, and Amelia.  Thank you, Ava!

Abraham Katz and family c. 1906
courtesy of the Katz family

When a recession hit the region around 1908, Abraham’s business was affected, and he faced labor problems in his glove factory. The family history notes go on to describe how Abraham decided to leave Louisville:

During this time his nephews Jake and Ike Katz [to be discussed in a later post] … were enjoying good business in their store in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  Oklahoma had become a state in 1907, and things were booming.  … Abe sent Lester [his oldest son] to Oklahoma to visit his cousins in Stillwater to survey the situation to see if the family would not be better off in a new state.

(Henry Katz family history notes, September 30, 1988)

Lester reported back favorably, but as of 1910, Abraham, Amelia, and eight of their ten children were still living in Louisville, and Abraham was still a merchant in the dry goods business.  The children at home ranged in age from 27 down to eight.

Abraham Katz and family on 1910 census
Year: 1910; Census Place: Louisville Ward 5, Jefferson, Kentucky; Roll: T624_485; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0107; FHL microfilm: 1374498

As for the two sons who were not living at home, Sidney, as noted in an earlier post, was living with his uncle Samuel in Omaha (mislabeled as his son):

Katz family on 1910 census
Year: 1910; Census Place: Omaha Ward 11, Douglas, Nebraska; Roll: T624_844; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 0082; FHL microfilm: 1374857

And Lester was living in Stillwater, Oklahoma, working as a salesman in a dry goods store.  Also boarding with Lester in Stillwater was Lafayette Rothschild, who was Samuel Katz’s brother-in-law and also working as a salesman in a dry goods store.  Both Lester and Lafayette were probably working in the Katz Department Store belonging to Jake Katz.

Lester Katz on 1910 census
Year: 1910; Census Place: Stillwater Ward 3, Payne, Oklahoma; Roll: T624_1269; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 0200; FHL microfilm: 1375282

Not long after the 1910 census, Abraham Katz and his family moved to Oklahoma, settling in Sapulpa, a town about 15 miles from Tulsa.

Why Sapulpa? Between 1900 and 1910, the population of Sapulpa had exploded, going from 891 people to 8,283 people; by 1920, it was up to 11,634 people.  During that time, industry had begun to develop in Sapulpa, including brick and glass manufacturing. Presumably, Abraham and his nephew Jake saw this as a growing community in need of a dry goods store.

There was no established Jewish community in Sapulpa, but Tulsa was only 15 miles away and had an overall population of 72,075 in 1920 and two synagogues; a Reform synagogue was formed in Tulsa in 1914 and an Orthodox one in 1916.  There were also synagogues during that time in other cities in Oklahoma. Nevertheless, it must have been somewhat of an adjustment for the Katz family after living in Louisville, which had an overall population of 234,891 in 1920 and a big enough Jewish community to support eight synagogues.

The move was a successful one, and Oklahoma continues to be home for many of Abraham and Amelia’s descendants. Here is a photograph of the Katz family home in Sapulpa:

Katz home in Sapulpa
Courtesy of the Katz family

Between 1910 and 1920, many of the Katz children married and moved out of the family home. More in the next post.

 

 

A Happy Post for Passover

Passover starts tonight, and the holiday always makes me reflect on history: Jewish history and my own family history.  When I first started on this path about five years ago, I never anticipated how much there was to learn.  I didn’t have an appreciation for what my own ancestors had experienced or how integrated my own family’s history has been with Jewish history—in Europe and in the US.  Nor did I understand how interconnected we all are in so many ways and what a truly small world it is.

One of the great benefits of family history research is finding cousins you never knew about and making connections.  I have been so fortunate in that regard.  I have connected with cousins as close as second cousins and as distant as fifth cousins, cousins who live close by to where I live and cousins who live all over the world, cousins who are in their nineties and cousins who are in their twenties.  Some of these cousins found me, some I found through my research.

It’s always a bit of a shot in the dark when you reach out to a stranger and tell them you are somehow related to him or her.  Sometimes you get no response, sometimes a skeptical response, and sometimes a truly enthusiastic response.  This post is about several truly warm and enthusiastic responses, and they relate to my Katz cousins from Oklahoma.

So a bit of background.  My Katz cousins are all descended as I am from Scholem Katzenstein and Breine Blumenfeld from Jesberg, Germany, my 3x-great-grandparents.  While I am descended from their son Gerson Katzenstein, my Katz cousins are descended from their daughter Rahel Katzenstein and her husband Jacob Katz.  As I wrote previously, Rahel and Jacob had six children.  Thus far, I have written about Samuel and a little bit about Abraham, both of whom came to the US in the 19th century as young men.

I had no information about the other four siblings except for a death date for Meier Katz, whose death record is included in the Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1955, database on Ancestry:

Meier Katz death record, Jesberg, Germany
Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1955 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
Original data: Sterberegister und Namensverzeichnisse. Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, Deutschland.

I knew from the Ancestry transcription of the record that Meier had died on October 30, 1925, in Jesberg, but I could not decipher the script to read any of the other details.  I posted the death record on the German Genealogy group on Facebook, and the kind people there provided me with a translation that included the information that the informant was a man named Karl Katz who had been residing at the same address as Meier.

Jesberg, 30. October 1925

Before the undersigning registrar appeared today the personally known merchant [Handelsmann] Karl Katz, residing at Jesberg Haus No. 28, and declared that the retired farmer [Auszüger] and widower [Witwer] Meier Katz I., 83 years 6 months 16 days old, residing at Jesberg with the delaring person, born at Jesberg, has been married to the deceased Sprinzchen née Jungheim lastly residing at Jesberg, died at Jesberg at his domicile on 29. October 1925 8:30 p.m.

The declaring assured that he had direct knowledge of the death. Read out, approved and signed Karl Katz

I thought that Karl might be Meier’s son and decided to search for a Karl Katz born in Jesberg, expecting not to find anything or perhaps at most a record from Germany.  But instead I found U.S. naturalization papers for a Karl Katz who had arrived in the US in 1938 and settled in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  I immediately thought this could not be a coincidence—that somehow this Karl Katz had to be related to my other Katz relatives in Oklahoma.  If this Karl Katz was the son of Meier Katz, he was the nephew of Abraham and Samuel Katz.  It made sense that in 1938, escaping from Nazi Germany, he would have come to the place where his father’s brothers were living.

Karl Katz naturalization papers
National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, D.C.; ARC Title: Declarations of Intention for Citizenship , compiled 1908 – 1932; ARC Number: 731206; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States; Record Group Number: 21

As I did more research, I found the ship manifest for Karl along with his wife and a son.  When I checked the second page, expecting to see that he was going to his uncle Abraham Katz in Oklahoma, I was surprised to see that instead it said he was going to his brother, Jacob Katz, in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  It seemed I had found another son of Meier Katz!

Karl Katz passenger manifest
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897. Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls. NAI: 6256867. Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36. National Archives at Washington, D.C. Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1897-1957. Microfilm Publication T715, 8892 rolls. NAI: 300346. Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; National Archives at Washington, D.C.

I was quite excited and then started researching Jacob Katz, only to learn that he had been in the US since about 1886 and had been in Stillwater, Oklahoma, since at least 1899 when he’d applied for naturalization.  So he had in fact been in Stillwater long before his uncle Abraham Katz had moved from Kentucky in about 1910. And Jacob was also a merchant, according to the 1900 census.  (More on Jacob and the other children of Meier Katz in posts to come.) And I kept seeing newspaper article references to Katz Department Store.

At that point I decided it was time to learn more about the history of the Katz Department Stores in Oklahoma, so I did a Google search of “Katz Department Store” + Oklahoma. One of the search results was from a blog in which the blog author described herself as a member of the family that had owned the Katz Department Store in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

So, of course, I wrote a comment on the blog, asking the blog owner to contact me and explaining that I thought we might be related.  I knew nothing about how this woman was related to the Katz family, but I figured I had nothing to lose.  Not too long after, my newly found fourth cousin, once removed,  Abbi Goldenberg, responded.  We exchanged a few emails and then a lovely phone conversation that covered not only family history matters, but also what it was like to grow up in the Southwest, cattle ranching, food labeling, politics, and life in general. From Abbi I learned that not only had Meier’s sons Jake and Karl come to the US, but so had all of Meier’s children, whom I will discuss in subsequent posts.

Katz Department Store sign as you enter Stillwater, OK
Courtesy of the Katz family

As if that connection wasn’t exciting enough, I then made another cousin discovery just a few days after finding Abbi. Once again it was indirectly through a Google search.  I had Googled “Abraham Katz + Oklahoma,” looking for an obituary, and one of the search results was a page from Geni.com.  I am generally skeptical of Geni because no sources are cited for the trees there, but the page for Abraham had a wonderfully detailed biography that had been told to the writer by her father, who was Abraham’s grandson.  I sent a message to the writer, Marsha Katz Rothplan, who was the manager of the profile on Geni, and again, within a few hours I received a response.

And this is where the small world story comes into play.  The response was an email I received just as I was about to go to sleep (yes, I check my phone before I go to sleep; bad, I know). Marsha was excited to be in touch, but not only because we happened to be fourth cousins.  She had looked me up on Facebook and realized that I live in the area where she had once lived back in 1988. Although she had grown up in Oklahoma, she had ended up in New England after college and worked at the JCC that my family has belonged to for over thirty years.  Although my eyes were drooping closed, I immediately sent her back a quick email (in fact, I was so excited that I hit “Send” too soon and sent her a three word email the first time).  Chances are very good that at some time while she lived here, we met each other without ever knowing that we were related.  And we know a number of people in common.

To top it off, Marsha was coming to my area that very weekend from across the country, and we arranged to meet for dinner.  We had a wonderful time, and she has provided me with many interesting facts, photographs, and stories about the Oklahoma Katz family.  She’s also connected me to her father and to other family members who have also shared stories and information.  As I now turn to the rest of story of Marsha’s great-grandfather Abraham Katz in my next few posts, I will have the benefit of the insights and photographs shared by Marsha and her family.

My fourth cousin, Marsha, and me April 4 2017

Then just this week, I connected with yet more of my Katz cousins, descendants of Samuel Katz—more wonderful people who responded warmly and with great interest in learning about their ancestors. And one of them is close friends with the nephew of one of our close friends.

With the help of my newly-found cousins, I’ve learned not only more about my Katz relatives, but about a way of life I previously knew nothing about and once again about the reality of how interconnected we all are.  I’ve also added some smart, funny, interesting, and warm women into my life.

Happy Passover to all who celebrate! Remember—everyone you see or speak to may end up being connected to you in more ways than you can imagine!

 

One Busy Man

My initial research into Samuel Katz, a son of my 3x-great-aunt Rahel Katzenstein, left me with several unanswered questions. Samuel and his wife Lorena and their son Jay had relocated from Kentucky to Omaha, Nebraska, in the 1880s.

One mystery involved Samuel’s occupation.  Omaha directories listed more than one Samuel Katz for most of the years between 1885 and 1900, one of whom was a tailor living on 12th Street for some of the years while the other was first a grocer, then a clothing manufacturer, then a real estate agent, and then again a clothing manufacturer.[1]   Then in the 1890s, Samuel Katz living at 2111 Douglas Street appeared to be in both the clothing business and the grading contracting business.

How had that evolved? I turned to my favorite research tool—old newspapers. Fortunately, newspapers.com has issues of the Omaha Bee from 1872 to 1916, and genealogybank.com has issues of the Omaha Daily Herald and the Omaha World-Herald ranging from 1878 through 1983 as well as as well as other Nebraska newspapers.  I searched for “Katz” and was thrilled to find many relevant results from the search. Through those articles, I learned a great deal about my cousin Samuel Katz, the man, his family, and his businesses.

The earliest items I found that related to Samuel were many ads like this one for his grocery business:

I knew that had to be my Samuel Katz because the address matched what the 1885 Omaha directory listed as his business address:

Title : Omaha, Nebraska, City Directory, 1885 Source Information Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Original sources vary according to directory.

In November, 1885, Katz was a victim of a burglary at the home he shared with his father-in-law and family on Farnam  Street:

“Will Tell for Money,” Omaha World-Herald, November 12, 1885, p. 4

I will transcribe just the beginning of the article:

A short, dark-complexioned, black-haired and black-eyed young fellow named Alfred S. Hill was for some time employed by S. Katz as a driver of the delivery wagon. He was discharged recently, and on last Sunday night someone well acquainted with the premises entered the house where Mr Katz lives and stole a quantity of clothing, some money and two watches. Hill was arrested Tuesday evening on suspicion and locked up.  He said he was not connected with the theft, but know who did the work.

“Will Tell for Money,” Omaha World-Herald, November 12, 1885, p. 4

[Hill identified another man, who was arrested.  The story does not reveal what ultimately happened, and I did not find any follow-up. I was quite disturbed by the article’s physical description of Mr. Hill—why was that relevant?]

The fact that Mr. Hill drove a delivery truck for Samuel Katz seems consistent with the fact that Samuel was then in the grocery business.

But by July, 1886, Samuel was engaged in the grading business:

 

From thereon forward, there are numerous articles mentioning contracts he was awarded for doing road grading in the name of Katz & Callahan.

And beginning as early as 1887, there were also numerous ads like this one:

I knew this was also my Samuel Katz because it matched the Farnam Street address from the 1887 directory:

1887 Omaha directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

And not only was Samuel grading streets and lending money—he was selling real estate in 1887:

So as early as that Samuel had diversified and was in three different lines of work: money lending, real estate, and grading.  In addition, he was teaching in the Hebrew school:

When did he sleep? Money lender, real estate sales, grading contractor, and Hebrew school teacher!

Then in 1889, Samuel was in the clothing business, working for Polack Clothing Company:

1889 Omaha directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

That endeavor ended fairly soon, however, as the store was destroyed by a fire in May, 1889:

“Big Insurance Suit,” Daily Nebraska State Journal, September 17, 1889, p. 5:

“Big Insurance Suit,” Daily Nebraska State Journal, September 17, 1889, p. 5:

“The store of the Polack Clothing company was destroyed by fire on May 31, 1889….”

Samuel then went into the clothing manufacturing business for some time with new partners, Charles Nevens and Lawrence Enewold, in September, 1889:

This news item describes their business, known as Katz-Nevens, as manufacturing “common and medium grades of clothing.”

But Samuel nevertheless also remained engaged in the grading business:

On top of that he was president of Temple Israel, his synagogue:

Once again I ask: When did he sleep?

I won’t bother to catalog all the articles from the 1890s describing Samuel’s activities both in the grading business and the clothing business as well as his synagogue activities, but suffice it to say that he continued to be active in all three endeavors throughout the decade.  I did, however, find this article in which Samuel endorsed the re-election of the mayor of Omaha in 1893 very revealing:

I was impressed that Samuel could see beyond his own business interests and recognize that the mayor was acting in the best interests of the city even when turning down Samuel’s bids for grading contracts. That’s a sign of real integrity. (Or a cynic might say, a way of ingratiating himself in hopes of getting future contracts.)

And just to verify that this Samuel Katz was in fact the one who had moved from Kentucky, there is this news item:

Notice that Samuel was also a delegate to the I.O.B.B, the International Order of B’nai Brith.  Another item to add to his already overloaded resume.

By the end of the decade, however, two things changed in Samuel’s life.  First, Katz-Nevens, the clothing manufacturing business, was dissolved:

Then, Samuel retired as president of his congregation:

Omaha Bee, September, 6, 1899, p. 7

Thus, by 1900, when he responded to the enumerator’s question about his occupation, he was in fact only in the grading business.

Samuel Katz’s occupation on 1900 US census

But that would not stay the same for long. By 1905, Samuel was the treasurer of a new venture, Raapke & Katz Company, where his son Jay was also employed.  What was Raapke & Katz? A grocery business—Samuel had come full circle:

Omaha World-Herald, March 14, 1905, p. 8

One news item that has me quite intrigued is this small mention in April, 1905:

Who was the niece whose wedding Samuel attended back in Germany? I am now researching that question.

In 1906, although Jay is listed as a salesman for Raapke & Katz, Samuel only listed his grading business—Callahan Brothers & Katz— in the directory:

Omaha 1906 directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
Original data: Original sources vary according to directory.

And in 1909, he and Jay were both listed with yet another new business: Katz, Craig Contracting Company.  Samuel was the president and Jay the secretary.

1909 Omaha directory Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Original sources vary according to directory.

And somehow Samuel found himself re-elected as synagogue president in 1910.

On the 1910 census, Samuel and Jay are both described as in the stone contracting business, so that must have been the business of Katz, Craig Contracting:

Katz family on 1910 census
Year: 1910; Census Place: Omaha Ward 11, Douglas, Nebraska; Roll: T624_844; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 0082; FHL microfilm: 1374857

But notice something strange about this census? It lists a second son of Samuel and Lorena: a 23 year old single man born in Kentucky named Sidney. You can imagine how that threw me for a loop when I first saw it.  Where did HE come from?

Just another enumerator mistake, I concluded.  Remember Samuel’s brother Abraham back in Kentucky with the ten children born in nineteen years? One of them was named Sidney and was the right age as the Sidney living with Samuel Katz in 1910.  I believe that the Sidney listed on the 1910 census in Samuel’s household was his nephew, not his son.

In fact, the next year another of Abraham’s children came to live with Samuel Katz; Florence Katz came to study voice in Omaha.  Lorena Rothschild Katz was herself a musician as was her sister Minnie, and so it probably seemed a good place for Florence to pursue her musical interests.

And remember Bertha Katz who was working as a stenographer for Katz-Nevens in 1899? Well, she also was likely the daughter of Samuel’s brother Abraham.  Obviously, despite the long distance between the two brothers, they stayed in touch throughout the years.  Samuel’s trip back to Germany in 1905 indicates that there also was a continuing connection to his family back in Jesberg.

Samuel Katz impressed me as quite a man: a man who was successful in several different businesses, a man who was committed to his faith and his people, and a man who was devoted to his family.

Sadly, his life was cut suddenly short on March 27, 1912, when he was only 59 years old.

Omaha World-Herald, March 28, 1912, p. 15

Here is the text of his obituary. (How many errors can you find?)

Samuel Katz, aged 51 years and for thirty years a resident of Omaha, died shortly after 9 o’clock last night at his home, 3707 Jones street, of heart failure.  Mr. Katz had not been well for a week or more, but last night was thought better. His death came suddenly and without the slightest warning, while he was preparing for a bath.

He is survived by his widow and one son, Jay B. Katz, of this city.

Samuel Katz was born in March 23, 1861, in Essen-Cassle [sic], Germany.  At an early age he came to this country and located in Harroldsburg, K. After a short period in that place he moved to Omaha and became interested in the manufacturing of overalls and bought a controlling interest in the Katz-Nevins Manufacturing company. The latter was connected with the Raapke wholesale company at Fourteenth and Harney streets.  About ten years ago he took up construction work and organized the Katz-Craig Construction company, he being at the head of this firm at the time of his death.  Mr. Katz was regarded as one of the most able and exacting men in his line of work.  Railroad and government construction work was his specialty and many of the finest buildings in this section of the country were built under his careful eye.

Samuel Katz was prominent in religious and charitable work, he being president of the Temple Israel at his death and also an officer in the local Jewish Associated Charities and the Independent order of B’Nai B’rith.  He was a Mason.

The funeral of Mr. Katz will be held at 2 o’clock Friday afternoon at the residence on Jones street.

There was also a memorial service for Samuel Katz in May, 1912.

Perhaps all that energy devoted to family, faith, and work was just too much for Samuel.

More on his family in the next post.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] I ruled out the tailor since he had a son named Samuel, so I’ve assumed that my Samuel was in the clothing and real estate businesses.

What Was My Cousin Doing in Omaha?

By 1885, Samuel Katz, my first cousin three times removed, had moved to Omaha, Nebraska, from the small town in Kentucky where he’d first settled after immigrating from Jesberg, Germany. What took him to Omaha, and what was he doing there?

First, what took him to Omaha? After all, his brother Abraham was living in Kentucky.  Omaha is almost 800 miles west of Horse Cave, Kentucky, where Abraham was living.

 

Omaha was a booming town.  Between 1880 and 1890, its population grew from just over 30,000 people to over 140,000 people. Wikipedia describes it as the fasting growing city in the United States in the 1880s.

According to Wikipedia:

After Irish-born James E. Boyd founded the first packing operation in Omaha in the 1870s, thousands of immigrants from central and southern Europe came to Omaha to work in the Union Stockyards and slaughterhouses of South Omaha. They created Omaha’s original ethnic neighborhoods… The Near North Side also developed greatly during this period, with high concentrations of Jews and Germans, and the first groups of African Americans. …Omaha’s growth was accelerated in the 1880s by the rapid development of the Union Stockyards and the meat packing industry in South Omaha. …There were several breweries established throughout the city during this period.

Omaha 1889, located at http://www.printsoldandrare.com/nebraska/

Not only was Omaha a booming economic center in the 1880s, it also had an established Jewish community.  Temple Israel, the oldest synagogue in Nebraska, provides this history of the Omaha Jewish community on its website:

The first Jewish settlers, mostly merchants and businessmen, arrived in Omaha in 1856. …During the early 1860s, Jewish religious services in Omaha were conducted by laymen including Max Abrahams, grandfather of Milton R. Abrahams, who would become president of Temple Israel in 1942.

In 1871, the Congregation of Israel was founded …. Recognizing the need for a Jewish burial ground, five acres for a cemetery at 42nd and Redick were purchased and deeded to the congregation. During the summer and fall of 1871, Reverend Alexander Rosenspitz served the congregation and conducted the first Confirmation Service for a class of seven. The next year, a short-lived Sunday School was organized. Articles of incorporation were filed with the Douglas County Clerk in 1873. … Enthusiasm and dedication kept the tiny congregation viable. But all money raised was designated for a building leaving little for a rabbi’s salary. Finally, a lot was purchased at 23rd and Harney for $4,000. Reverend George Harfield was hired as rabbi in 1883 and on September 18, 1884, the 50-member congregation dedicated the first synagogue in Nebraska. It had been built for $4,500.

Temple Israel of Omaha, 1st Building
photo located at http://www.jmaw.org/temple-israel-omaha-nebraska/

 

Thus, Omaha would have been an attractive location for a Jewish merchant like Samuel Katz.  He did not, however, strike out all alone with his wife and son and move to Omaha; his wife Lorena’s sister, Bella Rothschild Pollock, and her husband Alexander Pollock had settled in Omaha as early as 1871; by 1880, Lorena’s brother Lafayette had also settled there. And during the 1880s, Lorena’s parents and her sisters Annie and Minnie moved there as well. So Samuel Katz was led to Omaha by his wife’s family.

Now what did he do there? That proved to be a difficult question to answer. I searched for Samuel in every Omaha directory from 1880 through 1912 to try and find answers to that question.

In 1885 there were two men named Samuel Katz and one named Samuel Kats in the Omaha directory.  One Samuel Katz was a grocer, residing at 2514 Douglas Street; the other was a glazier living 1308 Leavenworth Street. Samuel Kats was a tailor living at 1432 13th Street.

1885 Omaha directory Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

In 1886, the glazier was no longer listed, and the tailor was listed with a son, a Samuel Katz, Jr. Since my Samuel did not have a son named Samuel, the tailor could not have been my Samuel Katz.  The grocer named Samuel Katz was now listed as residing at 2016 Farnam; it seemed this had to be my Samuel Katz.

By 1887 there was only one Samuel Katz listed in the Omaha directory; he was working for a real estate business called Katz & Company and residing at 2106 Farnam Street, the same address where the grocer had been living the year before.   I thought this must have been “my” Samuel and that he had moved to the real estate field.

1887 Omaha directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

But there was a Miss Minnie Katz living at the same address who was a music teacher as well as a Miss Annie Katz.  Samuel did not have a wife or a daughter or a sister named Minnie or Annie, so who could they be? I was mystified.

Then I remembered that Lorena had sisters named Minnie and Annie, and they certainly could have been living with Samuel and Lorena.  Perhaps the directory erred by listing them with the surname Katz instead of Rothschild?

A check of the 1888 Omaha directory answered my question:

1888 Omaha directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

Annie and Minnie Rothschild were listed as living at 2113 Douglas Street, along with their father William and their brother Lafayette; Minnie was a music teacher.  Now I knew that Samuel Katz and his family were all living with Lorena’s parents and siblings in the same home at 2113 Douglas Street in 1887. The 1887 directory had simply assigned the wrong surname to Minnie and Annie.

In 1888 Samuel Katz was listed as a general agent for real estate for Manhattan Life Insurance Company, residing with his in-laws at 2113 Douglas Street.  And in 1889 the Samuel Katz living on Douglas Street (now 2111) was working for Polack Clothing Company, the same company that employed his brother-in-law Lafayette. This was presumably the business of Alex Pollock (as it was later spelled), brother-in-law of both Samuel Katz and Lafayette Rothschild.

Omaha directory 1888
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

1889 Omaha directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

In 1890 my Samuel Katz was part owner of a clothing manufacturing business with Charles Nevins (later spelled Nevens) and William Rees and was still living at 2111 Douglas Street.  Meanwhile, Samuel Katz the tailor was still living on 12th Street.

1890 Omaha directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

Samuel Katz of 2111 Douglas Street continued to be listed with Katz-Nevens-Rees in the Omaha directories for each year between 1890 and 1895, although in 1895 there was a second listing for a Samuel Katz who was a grading contractor living on 11th Street.  Every directory from 1895 up to 1899 had these two listings for Samuel Katz, but which one was my relative—the clothing manufacturer at 2111 Douglas Street or the grading contractor at 11th Street?

1899 Omaha directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

On the 1900 census my Samuel Katz was living at 2111 Douglas Street—that is, the address of the Samuel Katz who was the clothing manufacturer with Nevens and Rees, according to the Omaha directories.

Samuel Katz and family, 1900 census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Omaha Ward 4, Douglas, Nebraska; Roll: 924; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 0036; FHL microfilm: 1240924

Samuel Katz’s occupation on 1900 US census

But doesn’t it look like the occupation for that Samuel Katz on that 1900 census says “Contr-Grd”? As in grading contractor? Was he both a clothing manufacturer AND a grading contractor? Or did every issue of the Omaha directory for all those years have the two men named Samuel Katz mixed up?

I was so confused….until I looked more carefully at the 1899 directory listing. And I noticed that the Katz-Nevens clothing company was located at 204 South 11th Street, the same address where the grading contracting business, Samuel Katz & Co, was located. Samuel Katz was in fact in both the clothing business and the grading contracting business.

1899 Omaha directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

But there were more mysteries to be solved, such as who was Bertha Katz, residing at 2111 Douglas Street and working as a stenographer for Katz-Nevens? And how did Samuel Katz end up in two very different businesses?

TO BE CONTINUED

My Kentucky Cousins

Thus far in my writing about my Katzenstein relatives, I have written about the descendants of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein and those of his half-sister, Hannchen who married Marum Mansbach.  Now I turn to the descendants of another of his siblings.

As I wrote earlier, according to the research done by Barbara Greve, my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein had three full siblings, the children of my 3x-great-grandparents Scholum Katzenstein and Breine Blumenfeld, and four half-siblings, the children of Scholum and his first wife, Gelle Katz or Katten.  Gerson’s three full siblings were Freudchen, who died as a child, Moses, for whom there does not appear to be further information after his birth, and Rahel, the only other full sibling for whom there is adult information.[1]  The next several posts will focus on the descendants of Rahel Katzenstein, my 3x-great-aunt.

 

Rahel, was born on January 15, 1813, in Jesberg.  She married Jacob Katz, also of Jesberg; he and Rahel may have been cousins, as I wrote about here.  Rahel and Jacob had six children: Blumchen (1838), Moses (1840), Meier (1843), Abraham (1850), Sanchen (1852), and Samuel (1853).  I know for certain that two of those children, Abraham (or Abram) and Samuel, immigrated to the United States; as for the others, I am still researching, but at least Meier had several descendants who came to the US as well, some not until much later.

But for now, I will tell the stories of Abraham and Samuel.

Their mother Rahel died on December 7, 1861, in Jesberg, when Abra(ha)m was eleven and Samuel was eight.  Their father died a little over ten years later on February 13, 1872, in Jesberg.

By that time Abra(ha)m had already left Germany, arriving in the US in 1868 when he was only eighteen. He appears on the 1870 census living in Cumberland, Maryland, with the family of Gabriel Gump,[2] who was married to Henrietta Mansbach, Abra(ha)m’s half-first cousin and daughter of Hannchen Katzenstein.  Gabriel Gump owned a liquor store, and Abra(ha)m was working as a clerk in a liquor store, presumably that of Gabriel Gump, his cousin’s husband.

Gabriel Gump and family with Abram Katz on line 14
1870 US census
Year: 1870; Census Place: District 6, Allegany, Maryland

Abra(ha)m’s younger brother Samuel left Germany in August, 1872, six months after his father’s death.  I believe that he is listed as Samson Katz on this ship manifest, as his passport application indicated that he had arrived on the Weser from Bremen in August, 1872, and this is the manifest for that ship arriving in New York on August 31, 1872. Sam would have been nineteen years old on that date, as is the Samson Katz on the manifest.

Samuel Katz passport application
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, 1795-1905; Roll #: 669; Volume #: Roll 669 – 01 Feb 1905-28 Feb 1905

Samson Katz on Weser ship manifest
Year: 1872; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 364; Line: 1; List Number: 942

By 1880, Samuel had married Lorena Rothschild, and they were living in Campbellsville, Kentucky, where Samuel was a dry goods merchant.  According to the 1900 census, Samuel and Lorena had married in 1880, so they must have been newly married on the 1880 census.

Samuel and Lorena Katz, 1880 US census
Year: 1880; Census Place: Campbellsville, Taylor, Kentucky; Roll: 442; Family History Film: 1254442; Page: 59A; Enumeration District: 223; Image: 0696

Lorena was born in Kentucky in about 1861 and was eighteen years old when she married Samuel.  Her parents were born in Bavaria, and her father was a butcher on the 1870 census.

Lorena Rothschild and family 1870 census
Year: 1870; Census Place: Harrodsburg, Mercer, Kentucky; Roll: M593_488; Page: 593A; Image: 63456; Family History Library Film: 545987

 

Abra(ha)m had also moved to Kentucky by then.  On the 1880 census he was living in Horse Cave, Kentucky, was single, and was working as a dry goods merchant.

Abram Katz, 1880 census
Year: 1880; Census Place: Horse Cave, Hart, Kentucky; Roll: 419; Family History Film: 1254419; Page: 281B; Enumeration District: 080; Image: 0024

Horse Cave is less than forty miles from Campbellsville, and both are about 80 miles south of Louisville.

 

In 1880, the population of Horse Cave was 526 people; the population of Campbellsville was 775.  Both towns had experienced substantial growth between 1870 and 1880.  They must have been good locations for a merchant to set up a dry goods store. Although I can find no evidence of an established Jewish community in either town, Louisville did have a well-established Jewish community by the 1880s and was not terribly distant from either Campbellsville or Horse Cave.

By 1882, Abraham had married Amelia Esther Nahm. She was born in Louisville on January 16, 1860; her father, Joseph Nahm, was, like his son-in-law, a dry goods merchant and had emigrated from Germany. Her mother, Sarah Montag, was also born in Germany.

During the 1880s and 1890s, Abraham and Amelia were busy having children; their first child, Rachael, was born in Horse Cave on April 25, 1882.  A year later on July 20, 1883, Blanche was born, followed by Lester on March 17, 1885, Sidney on August 27, 1886, Florence on June 26, 1888, Bertha in August, 1890, Benjamin on August 22, 1892, Henrietta on October 15, 1894, Sigmund on August 5, 1896, and finally Milton on November 18, 1901.  That makes ten children in nineteen years. Wow.

Although the first eight children were born in Horse Cave, by the time Sigmund was born in 1896, the family must have relocated from Horse Cave to Louisville as Sigmund was born there. (I am not sure where Henrietta was born more specifically than Kentucky.) According to the 1900 census, Abraham continued to work as a merchant in Louisville.

Abraham Kaz and family 1900 US census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Louisville Ward 5, Jefferson, Kentucky; Roll: 530; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0053; FHL microfilm: 1240530

 

Meanwhile, Samuel Katz and his wife Lorena had a son Jay on October 23, 1882.  It is not clear where Jay was born because the records are in conflict.  Every census report from 1900 through 1920 reports that Jay was born in Kentucky.  And my study of the Omaha directories seems to suggest Samuel Katz did not arrive in Omaha until after Jay was born as Samuel is first listed in the directories in 1885 and is not listed in the Nebraska State census of 1885. But the Illinois Death Index says he was born in Omaha, not Kentucky.  Further research suggests that the Illinois Death Index is incorrect and that Jay was in fact born in Kentucky.

[An earlier version of this post stated that Jay’s World War I draft registration indicated that he was born in Omaha; I had misread the registration card.  It does not in fact include any information about where Jay was born.  I will discuss this in a later post.]

Since Jay filled out his draft registration card himself and since I’ve seen so many errors on census records, I was inclined to think that Jay was born in Omaha. What do you think?  Which source(s) would you trust?  Perhaps Jay, who lived his whole life in Omaha, mistakenly assumed he was born there or wished he had been?

At any rate by June 6, 1885, when the Nebraska State Census was taken, Samuel was living in Omaha, Nebraska.  What had taken him there? And what he doing there?

More in my next post.

 

[1] Only two of the half-siblings survived to adulthood. One was Hannchen, who married  Marum Mansbach, whose family I’ve already written about extensively.  The other was Jacob, who was born in Jesberg in 1803, married Sarchen Lion, and had eight children, whom I have yet to research.

[2] I wrote about the family of Gabriel Grump in earlier posts. See here, here, and here.

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.

My Crazy Twisted Tree and My Hessian Cousins

A detour from my Katzenstein relatives this week to discuss two other interesting discoveries.  First, this one for Women’s History Month:

A year ago in March, 2016, during Women’s History Month, I wrote a post about Rose Mansbach Schoenthal, wife of my great-grandfather’s brother, Simon Schoenthal, and the mother of ten children, nine of whom survived to adulthood.  She came to the US from Germany in 1867 when she was sixteen, apparently alone, as far as I can tell from the ship manifest. She married Simon in 1872 and lived in Philadelphia, Atlantic City, and Tucson during her life. Simon died when he was only 54, and Rose was left to raise the three children who were still teenagers on her own.

Rose Mansbach Schoenthal

Rose Mansbach Schoenthal

But what I didn’t know when I first posted about Rose was anything about her life before she came to the US or the first five years she was in the US. I didn’t know her background, where she was born, her parents, anything.  One family tree on Ancestry said she was born in Gudensberg in 1850, but cited no records to support that assertion.

Then a month or so ago when I was reviewing the family of Marum Mansbach and Hannchen Katzenstein, David Baron told me about a report of the extended Mansbach family that appears on Hans-Peter Klein’s website, Juden in Nordhessen.  David said that he believed that Roeschen Mansbach, who was listed in this report as the daughter of Lippmann Mansbach and Frederike Kaufman, was the same woman who married Simon Schoenthal.  I was intrigued and wrote to Hans-Peter to see what else he could tell me about Roeschen.

Hans-Peter wrote that Roeschen had had a brother Isaac who had immigrated to the US and settled in Philadelphia, where he became well-known for his glass and bottles. With that additional bit of information, I decided to see what I could learn about Isaac and whether I could tie him to Rose Mansbach Schoenthal.

First, I should explain how Roeschen Mansbach is related to my family.  Her great-grandfather was Abraham Mansbach I, who was the grandfather of Marum Mansbach, husband of my great-great-grandfather Gerson’s half-sister Hannchen Katzenstein. So Roeschen was a second cousin to the three Mansbach children who were Gerson Katzenstein’s nephews and niece: Henrietta Mansbach Gump, Abraham Mansbach, and H.H. Mansbach.  She was not a blood relative of mine, but related only through marriage.

Here is Roeschen’s birth record.  She was born on May 24, 1851 in Maden:

Roeschen Mansbach birth record

Roeschen Mansbach birth record

I decided to start my research into the question of whether Lippmann’s daughter Roeschen was the same woman as the Rose Mansbach who married Simon Schoenthal by reviewing the documents I’d already found for Rose.  None mentioned her father’s name or place of birth (except the one family tree for which there were no sources), but there was one census record from the 1870 census that I had saved long ago because it listed a Rosa Mansbach.  When I’d saved it, I had not been sure it was the same Rose Mansbach so had not included it in my post about Rose back in March, 2016.

The reason I had not been sure it was for the same Rose in my initial search was that this Rosa Mansbach was living in Chicago in 1870.  Although she was the right age (19) and born in Hesse Kassel, as was my Rose, I couldn’t figure out what she was doing in Chicago and why she was living with a family whose name meant nothing to me.  Then.

But now, in January, 2017, when I re-examined it, the name was very familiar.

Rose Mansbach on 1870 census Year: 1870; Census Place: Chicago Ward 10, Cook, Illinois

Rosa Mansbach on 1870 census
Year: 1870; Census Place: Chicago Ward 10, Cook, Illinois

This Rosa Mansbach was living with the family of David Gump, a “merchant tailor” born in Germany, 33 years old. His wife Caroline had been born in Hesse Kassel, and their four children—Ida, Martin, Harry, and Mary—were all born in Pennsylvania. Looking at this census report with fresh eyes, I knew immediately that this Gump family had to be related to the family of Gabriel Gump, who married Henrietta Mansbach, and Eliza Gump, who married Abraham Mansbach.  In fact, as I checked further, I learned that David Gump was the brother of Gabriel and Eliza Gump.

I knew then that this could not be coincidence, that the Rosa Mansbach living with David Gump had to be related to Abraham and Henrietta and H.H. Mansbach, the niece and nephews of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein.  Further research revealed that David Gump’s wife’s birth name was Caroline Mansbach.  Although I’ve yet to figure out how she was related to Rose and the other Mansbachs, I have to believe that she also was part of the Mansbach from Maden family.

relationship-rose-to-david-gump-p-1

rose-to-david-p-2

 

Thus, it seemed quite likely that the Rose Mansbach living with David Gump in Chicago in 1870 was somehow connected to the Mansbachs who were related to Gerson Katzenstein. But was this Rose Mansbach the same woman who two years later in 1872 married Simon Schoenthal? That remained the big question.

In 1870, Simon Schoenthal was living in Washington, Pennsylvania.  After marrying Rose, he remained in western Pennsylvania for several years and then they relocated to Philadelphia and eventually to Atlantic City.  Was there any way to tie Simon’s wife Rose Mansbach to the Rose Mansbach who’d been living in Chicago with David Gump? I wasn’t sure.

So I decided to take a different approach.  Hans-Peter believed that Roeschen Mansbach’s brother Isaac had also immigrated to the US and settled in Philadelphia.  Perhaps I could find a way to connect him to the Schoenthals and strengthen the inference that his sister Roeschen married my great-grandfather’s brother Simon.

The earliest document I found for Isaac Mansbach was an 1868 passenger ship manifest for an Isac Mansbach, a merchant from Germany, twenty years old.

Isac Mansbach 1868 ship manifest Year: 1868; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 291; Line: 1; List Number: 155

Isac Mansbach 1868 ship manifest
Year: 1868; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 291; Line: 1; List Number: 155

Then, on the 1870 census I found a twenty year-old Isaac Mansbach, a clothing merchant born in “German Prussia,” living in a hotel in Newport, Pennsylvania. Newport is about 25 miles northwest of Harrisburg, about 120 miles west of Philadelphia.

1870-us-census-isaac-and-lewis-mansbach

Living with him in the hotel was a 45 year old “Lewis Mansbach,” a peddler born in Prussia.  Could this be Lippmann Mansbach, father of Isaac and Roeschen?  Hans-Peter’s research indicated that Lippmann died in Maden, Germany in 1877.  Could he have come to the US for some years and then returned? According to Hans-Peter’s research, Lippmann was born in 1813, so he would have been closer to 55 than 45 in 1870.  And I’ve found no other US record for a Lewis/Louis Mansbach of that age, so I didn’t know with any certainty who this man was. But the fact that Isaac Mansbach named his first child Louis in 1875 made me think that the 45 year old “Lewis” Mansbach living with him in 1870 was his father Lippmann.

So I wrote to Hans-Peter to see if he had any other information about Lippmann Mansbach and specifically about whether he had ever emigrated from Germany.  I was particularly interested in whether he had a death record for Lippmann.  I was delighted when I received a reply that included that death record.  It in fact showed that Lippman (really Liebmann) had died not in 1877, but on October 5, 1874.  That explained why Isaac named his first son Louis in 1875.  It also left open the possibility that although Liebmann died in Maden, he very well could have been living with his son Isaac in Newport, Pennsylvania, in 1870, and then returned to Germany before he died.

liebmann-mansbach-death-1874

Liebmann Mansbach death record

As for Isaac, he married Bertha Schwartz on March 23, 1873, according to the Pennsylvania Marriages 1709-1940 database on familysearch.org. Bertha was born on April 25, 1853, in Germany, but I have not yet been able to find out much more about her background.  However, in 1876, Isaac was in the liquor business with a man named Marks Schwartz; the business was called Schwartz & Mansbach and is listed in several Philadelphia directories. Marks has so far proven to be as elusive as Bertha, but I have to believe they were either father and daughter or brother and sister.

liquor-license-applications-1892-philad

The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 18, 1892, p. 7

The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 18, 1892, p. 7

According to a website devoted to cataloging the names of all pre-Prohibition era liquor dealers in the United States, Isaac Mansbach was in business with Marks Schwartz for about twenty years (1876-1896). At that point Isaac went out on his own with his son Louis.  In 1910, he and his wife Bertha were running the business.

isaac-mansbach-ad-in-dc-paper

I found the above advertisement for Isaac’s business in the November 14, 1901, Washington (DC) Evening Times; even more exciting was this invoice for a sale his business made on June 11, 1907, to a J.J. Walsh of Springfield, Massachusetts! (FYI—I live just a few miles outside of Springfield, known today primarily as being the birthplace of basketball).  Obviously Isaac had a successful business as he was engaged in transactions far from Philadelphia.

Hans-Peter had mentioned that he thought that Isaac was in the glass and bottle business, and I think I know why. As a distributor of liquor, the business had bottles made that were marked with the distributor’s name, as depicted below.

They also sold shot glasses embossed with the company’s name:

The pre-Prohibition website went on to report that sometime before 1918, Isaac Mansbach dissolved his own business and in 1919 went into business with a new partner.

That new partner was Harry Schoenthal.  Yes, Harry Schoenthal, the son of Simon Schoenthal and Rose Mansbach. I knew this was the same Harry Schoenthal because I knew that Harry had been in the liquor business in Philadelphia.  As I wrote just about a year ago, in 1910 Harry was living in Philadelphia and listed his occupation as the owner of a “retail saloon,” His sister Hettie’s family shared with me this photograph of “Uncle Harry” and his liquor business. I wonder if one of those other men was Isaac Mansbach.

Uncle Harry's Beer Business Courtesy of the family of Hettie Schoenthal Stein

Uncle Harry’s liquor Business
Courtesy of the family of Hettie Schoenthal Stein

So in 1919, my cousin Harry Schoenthal, the son of Rose Mansbach and Simon Schoenthal, went into business with Isaac Mansbach, his mother’s brother.

I had thus found the missing link that tied Roeschen Mansbach, Isaac’s sister and the cousin of Henrietta, Abraham, and H.H. Mansbach (children of Hannchen Katzenstein), to the Rose Mansbach who married my great-grandfather’s brother Simon Schoenthal.  There was yet another connection between the Schoenthals and the Katzensteins in addition, of course, to that between my great-grandparents, Isidore Schoenthal and Hilda Katzenstein.

I was hoping that finding Rose’s family would somehow lead me to more clues about the mystery of her namesake and granddaughter Rose Mansbach Schoenthal, the child who appeared on the 1930 census and then disappeared.  But alas, I’ve not yet found anything new to help me solve that mystery.

 

 

 

My Great-Grandmother Hilda

I have now written about all of the siblings of my great-grandmother, Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal, as well as about her parents and some of her aunts, uncles, and cousins.  I still have more of the Katzenstein extended family to discuss, but first I want to look back at the life of my great-grandmother.  Her story has been covered only in bits and pieces through the stories of her husband and children and through the stories of her parents and siblings.  Isn’t that all too often the case with women—that their stories are seen only through the stories of those who surrounded them? Especially since this is Women’s History Month, I wanted to be sure to give my great-grandmother her own page, her own story.

Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal

Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal, my great-grandmother

Hilda was the third daughter and sixth and youngest child of her parents, Gerson Katzenstein and Eva Goldschmidt.  She was the third of the six to be born in the United States—in Philadelphia on August 17, 1863.

When Hilda was three years old, her sibling closest in age, Hannah, died at age seven from scarlet fever. Hilda was seven years younger than her brother Perry, who was the second closest to her in age, and so there was a big gap between Hilda and her surviving older siblings. Joe was fifteen years older, Jacob thirteen years older, and Brendena was ten years older than Hilda. My great-grandmother was the baby of the family, and I would imagine that after losing their daughter Hannah, her parents must have been very protective of her.

gerson-katzenstein-1870-census-1

Gerson Katzenstein and family 1870 census, Year: 1870; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 16 Dist 48 (2nd Enum), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1429; Page: 708B; Image: 96949; Family History Library Film: 552928

Her sister Brendena married Jacob Schlesinger in 1871 when Hilda was just eight years old. By the time Hilda was ten years old in 1873, her oldest brother Joe had moved to Washington, Pennsylvania, and within a few years after that her other two brothers, Jacob and Perry, had also moved to western Pennsylvania.  Thus, Hilda was still quite young when her older siblings left home, leaving her to live with just her parents.

Year: 1880; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1173; Family History Film: 1255173; Page: 274B; Enumeration District: 219; Image: 0561

Katzenstein family Year: 1880; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1173; Family History Film: 1255173; Page: 274B; Enumeration District: 219; Image: 0561

But her brother Joe’s move to Washington, Pennsylvania proved fateful for Hilda and for my family as it was there that she met her future husband, my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal, who had only arrived in the US a few years earlier from Sielen, Germany.

The Daily Republican
(Monongahela, Pennsylvania)
11 Aug 1887, Thu • Page 4

Hilda married him in 1888 when she was 25 years old and settled with him in Little Washington where he was a china dealer.  Their first son, Lester, was born that same year.

Isidore Schoenthal

Isidore Schoenthal

Then a series of tragic events hit the Katzenstein family. In the spring 1889, Hilda’s brother Jacob lost his wife Ella and both of his sons, one before the Johnstown flood and two as a result of the flood. The following year, my great-grandfather Gerson died at age 75.  Hilda named her second child for her father; Gerson Katzenstein Schoenthal was born on January 20, 1892. A year later Hilda lost her mother, Eva Goldschmidt Katzenstein, on September 6, 1893; she was 66.

Hilda did not have another child until August, 1901, when my great-uncle Harold was born—more than nine years after Gerson.  Just a few months after Harold’s birth, Hilda’s brother Joe died in December, 1901; just over a year and a half later, her brother Perry died in August, 1903.  Hilda was forty years old and had lost her parents and three of her five siblings.  Only Jacob and Brendena remained.

In March, 1904, my great-grandmother Hilda gave birth to her last child and only daughter, my grandmother Eva Schoenthal, named for Hilda’s mother Eva Goldschmidt Katzenstein.

eva-schoenthal-cohen-watermarked

My grandmother, Eva Schoenthal

When my grandmother was just a small child, her parents decided to leave Washington, Pennsylvania, and move to Denver, Colorado, believing that the mountain air would be better for their son Gerson, who had developed asthma.

Thus, Hilda packed up her children and belongings and moved far away from her two remaining siblings: Brendena, who was living with her husband Jacob and family in Philadelphia, and Jacob, who by that time had remarried and was living with his second wife Bertha and their children in Johnstown.  I don’t believe Hilda or Isidore knew anyone in Denver, but somehow they started their lives over in this city far from their families back east.

They remained in Denver for at least twenty years, raising my grandmother and my great-uncles. During the many years that Hilda lived in Denver, her brother Jacob died, and her sister Brendena lost her husband as well as both of her daughters.  It must have been hard to live so far away from all of her family during those painful times.

Isidore, Hilda (Katzenstein), and Eva Schoenthal

Isidore, Hilda (Katzenstein), and Eva Schoenthal in Denver

After many years in Denver, Hilda and Isidore moved back east. Their son Harold had gone back east for college, and my grandmother had moved to Philadelphia after she married my grandfather, John Nusbaum Cohen, in 1923.  She had met him when, after graduating from high school, she’d gone to visit relatives in Philadelphia, probably Brendena’s family.

My father and aunt were born in the 1920s, and they were my great-grandparents’ only grandchildren at that time.  I assume that they were part of the reason that by 1930, my great-grandparents returned to the east and settled in Montclair, New Jersey, where their son Harold lived and not far from my grandmother and my aunt and father.

HIlda (Katzenstein) Schoenthal, Eva (Schoenthal) Cohen, Eva HIlda Cohen, and Harold Schoenthal

HIlda (Katzenstein) Schoenthal, Eva (Schoenthal) Cohen, Eva Hilda Cohen, and Harold Schoenthal

Hilda and Isidore lived in Montclair until 1941 when they moved to Philadelphia so that my grandmother could take care of them, both being elderly and in poor health by that time. Hilda died from pneumonia  on August 17, 1941, just seven months after the move to Philadelphia; she died on her 78th birthday. Her husband Isidore died eleven months later on July 10, 1942.  They were buried at Restland Memorial Park in East Hanover, New Jersey.

Looking back over my great-grandmother’s life, I have several thoughts.  Although she was the baby of the family, she was also the only one who ventured far from where her family lived.  Her brothers left Philadelphia, but never left Pennsylvania; her sister lived in Philadelphia for her entire life after arriving as a child from Germany. Hilda moved across the state to marry Isidore Schoenthal, and Hilda was the only Katzenstein sibling to leave the east, moving with her husband and four children all the way to Colorado.

Her life was also marked by many losses, some quite tragic: a sister died as a young child, her parents died before Hilda was thirty years old, and two of her brothers died before Hilda was forty.  Several nieces and nephews also died prematurely.  Her brother Jacob also predeceased her; she was 52 when he died. So many losses must have had an effect on her perspective on life.

On the other hand, she had a long marriage and four children who grew to adulthood.  She lived to see two of her grandchildren, my father and aunt, grow to be teenagers. My father remembers her as a loving, affectionate, and sweet woman; she loved to cook, and when for a period of time he lived near her in Montclair, she would make lunch for him on school days.

Hilda saw more of America than her parents and siblings, and she lived longer than any of them except for her sister Brendena, who survived her. She endured many losses in her life, but the love she received from her family must have outweighed all that sadness, for my father recalls her as a very loving and positive woman.