Sielen: The Tiny Ancestral Home of the Schoenthals

After spending the prior day in Volksmarsen and Breuna, home of the Hambergs, I was excited to go to Sielen, the home of the Schoenthals.  We were going to meet two people in Sielen, Julia Drinnenberg, with whom I’d only exchanged a few emails, and Hans-Peter Klein, with whom I’d been in touch for a couple of years.  Hans-Peter and Ernst (not related to each other) created the Juden in Nordhessen website that has provided me with extensive information about my Hessen ancestors.  When I was researching the Schoenthals, Hans-Peter was a tremendous help.  He also knew my friend from home, Amanda, so I was looking forward to meeting him and Julia.

Sielen is about forty minutes from Kassel, the city where we were staying, and the drive was quite scenic.  We went over the mountain (hill?) where the Kassel fortress is, then along a winding and narrow road, and then through beautiful countryside.  As we approached Sielen, there was a flock of sheep grazing in the field on the edge of the village.  I decided to get out and take some photographs of the surrounding area.

Countryside outside of Sielen

As I was doing that, another car pulled up alongside me, and a man got out and asked me if I was Amy.  It was Hans-Peter, and we both laughed at the fact that he knew it had to be me, given how small and isolated Sielen is.  We both drove into the village where Julia soon appeared as well. She was also outgoing and friendly, and we all hit it off right away.

As in the other towns and villages, there was a marketplace and a church. But Sielen is much smaller.  Whereas Gau-Algesheim has a population of about 7000, Volksmarsen about the same, and Breuna almost 4000, Sielen’s population is only about 500 people.  It was the smallest village we visited.

While we were all getting acquainted, a man appeared in the marketplace where we had parked, yelling in German.  Harvey and I were both a bit intimidated, but after some discussion with Hans-Peter and Julia, the man left.  Apparently we had driven up to the marketplace the wrong way.

Sielen church and marktplatz

Julia had some historical information about Sielen to share with us.  According to a 1789 report on Sielen by J. Chr. Martin entitled “Topographical and Statistical News of Nether Hessen, Goettingen (1789, p. 103, as translated), at that time there were 114 homes in Sielen and about 500 residents: “106 men, 112 women, 128 sons and 123 daughters, 14 servants, 14 maidens.” In terms of livelihoods, the report noted that there were forty farmers, 76 peasants, seventeen “cloth-weathers,” one blacksmith, one wainwright, one tailor, and two carpenters.  The report adds, “Also there are two Jewish families who make their living by trading.” I had to wonder whether my Schoenthal ancestors were one of those two families.  Levi Schoenthal, my great-great-grandfather, was born there in 1812, so perhaps his father Heinemann was already living there by 1789.

As I wrote previously, according to the Alemannia-Judaica website, there was a very small Jewish community in Sielen at least from the early 19th century.  There was a synagogue in Sielen as early as 1817, and the village had its own Jewish cemetery starting in 1846.  In 1835, there were 38 Jewish residents; in 1861, there were 48.  By 1905, there were only fourteen Jewish residents, and by 1924, there were just four Jewish residents remaining.  My Schoenthal ancestors had left Sielen by the 1880s.

Julia’s papers also included a later report about Sielen, written in 1932-1934, around the time that Hitler came to power.  This document, written by Superintendent I.R. Brandt and titled “Chronicle of Sielen,” provides some insight into the status of Jews at that time.   There were two Jewish families left, one being an elderly woman named Perle Herzstein, whose house was attached to the old synagogue.

The report goes on (p. 109)(as translated in the document Julia gave me):

Inside it is desolate, there aren’t any church services for a long time. But the old keeper of bygone splendor [Ms. Herzstein] shows us proudly the marvelous tora-rolls, man-high and from thick parchment, lovely as on its first day. And she shows us the colorful embroidered silk ribbons twined around them, and other books and things. She sighs in remembrance of former, for her, better times!

The next few lines are confusing—I am not sure whether it’s the translation or it was as confusing in the original:

Yes, it’s true, the Jew misbehaved in Hesse in former times. He often contributed to his own pauperization by profiteering and Gueterschlaechterei, etc. (?) Nowhere else the antisemitism of National Socialism is carrying greater justification than in Hesse. But these ordinary harmless people scattered here and there in small villages for many a long year, who still belong to orthodox Judaism and whose integrity and strength of character…cannot be denied—they just belong to the colorful German nationhood.  It would leave a void if it were weeded out completely.

It seems that, on the one hand, the writer is condoning anti-Semitism, but on the other is praising the Jewish residents of the area and admitting that it would be a loss for the community if they were “weeded out completely.” I wish I knew more about this source; perhaps Julia can give me more information about it.

At any rate, today there are no Jews in Sielen. Julia told us that the house depicted below was where the last Jew in Sielen lived until the 1930s when at some point he was dragged from the house and beaten.

House where last Jewish resident of Sielen lived—right across from the church and on the marktplatz

When I asked Julia and Hans-Peter what people did for a living today in these little villages, they said many are employed in Kassel (there is a Volkswagen plant near Kassel) while some are tradespeople.  Not many are farmers any more.

We walked to where the synagogue once was and stood outside what is now a large home. We walked around the corner, looking for some indication of where the entrance had been, and as we stood outside, a man came out.

Section to left was the old synagogue in Sielen. Compare to photo above.

After our experience with the angry man in the marketplace, I was concerned that this man also was going to yell at us for loitering in front of his house. But instead he asked what we were doing, and when Hans-Peter and Julia explained, he became very interested, asking more questions.  He introduced himself to us (his name, Braun Rode, was on the beer sign outside the house—perhaps it is also a tavern).  He and his wife had lived in the house for 40 years.  And he was very happy that we had come to see it.

Then his wife came out and offered us all something to drink.  When we all declined, she returned with a book about the former synagogues in Germany and showed us the picture of their house when it had been the synagogue (see above).

These two people, who did not know us at all, could not have been nicer.  Herr Braun Rode insisted that we take photographs with him in front of the house and send him a copy (which Julia did).  When we said goodbye, he said to us in German to send regards to America. Once again, we were left with a very positive and warm feeling about the people in Germany.

Julia Drinnenberg, Hans-Peter Klein, Herr Braun Rode, and Harvey outside the former synagogue in Sielen

We then drove to the cemetery that lies outside the village up a rather steep hill.  It is hard to imagine how people from Sielen and the other nearby villages managed to get the bodies of the deceased to these cemeteries.

Looking down the hill from the cemetery to the road

There were not a lot of stones in the cemetery, and I looked at each one several times, hoping to find my great-great-grandfather Levi Schoenthal, or any other Schoenthal, but I had no luck. Some of the stones are completely eroded, and others are only in Hebrew and were extremely difficult to read. Julia had a transcription of the stones, and there was this one, which I had previously found in my research:

Transcription from Sielen cemetery, HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 774, p. 4

Thanks to the helpful people in the Tracing the Tribe Facebook group, I know that that translates as “Chaim Schoenthal from Sielen died 7 Nissan 5634,” or March 25, 1874, which is four days before the date I had for Levi’s funeral (the actual date of death was not legible in the death record).

Levi Schoenthal death record March 1874
HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 773, S. 9

The name as transcribed confused me since it was not Levi, but Chaim was probably his father Heinemann’s Hebrew name, so I think the transcriber could not read Levi’s own first name and transcribed only the patronym. It probably said “Levi ben Chaim Schoenthal.”

But even with that transcription, we could not find the actual stone.  The transcriptions were done over 30 years ago, so the stone must have badly eroded since then. I examined each stone, hoping to find an inscription that contained the name of my great-great-grandfather.  But it was not to be.

Sielen cemetery

Sielen cemetery

Sielen cemetery. I now think that the very eroded sign on the left could have been where Levi Schoenthal was buried.

Or maybe this one?

Although I was disappointed not to find the stone for my great-great-grandfather, it had been a great morning, meeting not only Hans-Peter and Julia, but also the friendly couple who live in the house which was once the synagogue.  Sielen is a tiny jewel with a long history, and it might have been a good and comfortable place to be a child growing up.  But  now I better understand why my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal and all his siblings left the village.  There was not much there to support a young adult who wanted to go out on his or her own.

Passover 2016: The Exodus

In many ways Jewish history is about one exodus after another.  The Jewish story begins when God tells Abra(ha)m, “Lech Lecha,”  or “Go, Go out.”  He instructs him to leave his father’s land and go to a new land where his children would be as numerous as the stars.

There are many journeys throughout the Bible—Noah’s journey, Jacob’s journey, Joseph’s journey, and, of course, the exodus from Egypt led by Moses, which is recalled and re-enacted every year on Passover.

This Friday evening we will once again remember and re-enact that journey.  We will read the story of the Exodus.  We will drink wine, recline like free people, and eat matza to remember that our ancestors had no time to wait for the dough to rise before exiting from Egypt.  We will eat the bitter herbs to remember the bitterness of slavery, and we will eat the charoset—a mixture of apples, nuts, and wine—to embrace the sweetness of freedom from slavery.

English: Passover Seder Table, Jewish holidays...

English: Passover Seder Table, Jewish holidays עברית: שולחן הסדר, Original Image Name:סדר פסח, Location:חיפה (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


But that exodus was not the last journey our people took to freedom.  Over the centuries Jews kept moving from one land to another, either having been expelled or deciding on their own to seek freedom from oppression, violence, and hatred.  They moved to Babylonia, to Spain, to eastern Europe, to Germany, to places all over the globe, including eventually to the Americas.

I have spent much of the year since last Passover studying the journeys of my paternal relatives from Sielen, Germany—my father’s maternal grandfather’s family, the Schoenthals.  Although I still have a few more stories to share about my Schoenthal cousins, now that I have written about all the children of Levi Schoenthal and Henriette Hamberg, I want to spend this Passover looking back over the story of this particular family.

Levi and Henriette Schoenthal had ten children who survived to adulthood, all born in Sielen, Germany.  Of those ten, eight settled permanently in the US, and all but one of those eight started their lives in America in western Pennsylvania—either in Pittsburgh or the town thirty miles away, known as Little Washington.  Henry, the oldest son, arrived first in 1866, and by 1881, eight of the siblings were living in the US.  Henry over the years was a book seller and a china dealer, but underneath was a deeply religious and well-educated man.

His youngest brother was my great-grandfather Isidore, who arrived in 1881, also settled in Washington, and also worked as a china dealer.

Isidore Schoenthal

Isidore Schoenthal

In between Henry and Isidore were four other brothers in the US plus two sisters.  Over the years almost all of them prospered.  Some moved away from western Pennsylvania.  Simon ended up in Atlantic City, where he and his wife raised nine children, many of whom ended up in the hotel business there; Felix and his wife and two daughters ended up in Boston, where he became successful in the typewriter repair business. Julius lived in Washington, DC, worked as a shoemaker and had four children.  Nathan lived in many different places.  And even Isidore and Henry eventually left Pennsylvania, Isidore for Colorado and Henry for New York.  The two sisters, Hannah and Amalie, stayed in Pittsburgh for most of their lives.  Both were married and had children.

Felix and Margaret Schoenthal from 1919 passport application, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 - March 31, 1925; Roll #: 728; Volume #: Roll 0728 - Certificates: 70500-70749, 19 Mar 1919-20 Mar 1919

Felix and Margaret Schoenthal from 1919 passport application,
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 – March 31, 1925; Roll #: 728; Volume #: Roll 0728 – Certificates: 70500-70749, 19 Mar 1919-20 Mar 1919

 

Simon Schoenthal, my great-great-uncle

Simon Schoenthal, my great-great-uncle

 

The next generations wandered even further afield, although many ended up not too far from where their parents had originally settled.  My grandmother, who was born in Washington, PA, and grew up in Denver, spent her whole adult life in Philadelphia and New Jersey.

My Grandma Eva

My Grandmother Eva Schoenthal Cohen

Martin Schoenthal, Gertrude Sch., Hettie Sch Blanche Walter

Walter Schoenthal, Gertrude Schoenthal, Hettie Schoenthal, Blanche Stein and Walter Stein in Arizona

 

Arthur Schoenthal promoted 1942-page-003

 

Washington Evening Star, September 14, 1928, p. 9

Washington Evening Star, September 14, 1928, p. 9

 

 

Washington Star, December 2, 1928 p. 64

Washington Star, December 2, 1928 p. 64

Washington Evening Star, February 18, 1963, p. 24

Washington Evening Star, February 18, 1963, p. 24

 

Overall, the Schoenthals in the US prospered; most were successful business owners.  Most of these people appeared to have full and happy lives, although there were some who struggled.  Today there are numerous living descendants of those eight siblings, myself included.

On the other hand, the two siblings who stayed in Germany did not have as happy a legacy.  Jakob died young, and his daughter Henriette was killed in the Holocaust.  His four other children survived and, like their aunts and uncles, ended up in western Pennsylvania. Lee, Meyer, and Erna came before the war.  But Johanna was deported to a camp in Gurs, France, during the war and did not come until 1947.   From these five children, there were just two grandchildren: Helmut Levi, son of Henriette and Julius Levi, and Werner Haas, Erna’s son.  Both grandsons made it to the US before World War II.  Neither had children, however, so there are no living descendants of Jakob Schoenthal and his wife Charlotte Lilienthal.

Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh, June 14, 1984, p. 23 ewish+Chronicle+Vol.+23+No.+18 Formed+by+the+union+of:+Jewish+criterion+;++and:+American+Jewish+outlook. http://doi.library.cmu.edu/10.1184/pmc/CHR/CHR_1984_023_018_06141984

Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh, June 14, 1984, p. 23
ewish+Chronicle+Vol.+23+No.+18
Formed+by+the+union+of:+Jewish+criterion+;++and:+American+Jewish+outlook.
http://doi.library.cmu.edu/10.1184/pmc/CHR/CHR_1984_023_018_06141984

 

And finally Rosalie, the youngest child of Levi and Henriette, after living in the US for a few years made the fateful decision to return to Germany to marry Willy Heymann.  They had six children.  Four survived the Holocaust.  The three sons, Lionel, Max, and Walter, settled in Chicago before the war, where Lionel became a well-regarded photographer.   One daughter, Johanna, who was widowed at a young age, followed her stepdaughter Else Mosbach to Sao Paulo, Brazil, to escape the Nazis.

The other two daughters, Helene and Hilda, were murdered in the Holocaust as were Helene’s two daughters, Liesel and Grete.  From Rosalie’s six children, only one grandchild survived, the son of Max Heymann.  I am still hoping to find him.

Stolperstein for Julius Mosbach and family

The Schoenthal story illustrates how one fateful decision can alter the future irrevocably. One decision to take a chance and leave what you know—to listen to the call of Lech Lecha, to venture out to a new land—can make all the difference.  By taking a chance that the sweet charoset of that new land would outweigh the bitterness of leaving a land they knew, my great-grandfather and seven of his siblings changed their own fates and those of their descendants.

What if Jakob and Rosalie had left Germany when their siblings did?

And what if the other eight siblings had never left at all?  This story would have a very different ending.

In fact, it never would have been written.

 

The Brother Who Stayed Behind: Adventures in Genealogy Research

Born just one year after Simon, the next sibling was Jakob Schoenthal. (I am using the German spelling for two reasons.  First, Jakob stayed in Germany and thus that is how he spelled his name.  Second, it helps to distinguish him from his nephew, Simon’s son Jacob.) Finding Jakob’s story was quite a lesson in genealogy research.  It took some lucky breaks and the help of others, and in the end it led to a story of both tragedy and triumph.

 

Centro de la ciudad de Koln, Alemania Deutsch:...

Köln Germany, where Jakob Schoenthal lived as an adult (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

First, some background. I’ve already written about eight of the ten children of Levi Schoenthal and Henriette Hamberg, my great-great-grandparents.  They were the eight children who came to America between 1866 and 1881 and settled here permanently, including my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal.  All of them lived relatively long and seemingly satisfying lives.  They started in western Pennsylvania, but eventually they and/or their children moved far afield across the United States—to California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and elsewhere.  They thrived in America, and they have many descendants still living in this country.

But there were two siblings who did not end up in America.  One, the youngest child, Rosalie, had in fact immigrated to the US in 1881 with her mother Henriette and her brother Isidore, my great-grandfather.  But Rosalie returned to Germany to marry Willy Heymann in 1884, and that decision was in the end one with devastating consequences for her family.  I will write more about Rosalie in a subsequent post.

The only sibling who never left Germany was the sixth child of Levi and Henriette, Jakob, who was born in Sielen in 1850.  I will always wonder why Jakob stayed when almost all of his siblings had emigrated from Germany by 1874.  Jakob was 24 by then, only a year younger than Simon, who had left in 1867. Why did he stay? I don’t know, but my theory is that Jakob stayed to take care of his mother and youngest siblings. By 1874 when his father Levi died, Jakob was the oldest son still in Germany, and there were still some younger siblings at home, including my great-grandfather.  So perhaps Jakob stayed out of a sense of family obligation. As with his sister Rosalie, that decision to stay had tragic consequences.

On September 1, 1879, Jakob married Charlotte Lilienfeld, the younger half-sister of Helen Lilienfeld, who had married Jakob’s brother Henry in 1872 and moved with him to Washington, Pennsylvania.  Charlotte and Helen were both the daughters of Meyer Lilienfeld of Gudensberg, where Henry Schoenthal had once been a teacher before immigrating to the US.

Marriage record of Jakob Schoenthal and Charlotte Lilienfeld Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden: Trauregister der Juden von Gudensberg 1825-1900 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 386) 1825-1900

Marriage record of Jakob Schoenthal and Charlotte Lilienfeld
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden: Trauregister der Juden von Gudensberg 1825-1900 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 386, p.42) 1825-1900

 

For a long time I could not find much more information about Jakob.  I knew from the 1893 Beers biography of Henry Schoenthal that Jakob had then been living in Cologne, Germany in 1893, but I didn’t know if he and Charlotte had had children or if they had ever left Germany or when they had died.

Then while I was researching Henry Schoenthal and his family, I kept coming across two men living in Washingon, Pennsylvania, with the same names as two of Henry’s sons: Meyer and Lee Schoenthal.  At first I thought they were Henry’s sons, but soon it became clear that there were in fact two Meyers and two Lees.  When I found the death certificates for the Meyer and the Lee who were not the sons of Henry Schoenthal, I saw that their parents were Jakob Schoenthal and Charlotte Lilienfeld.

 

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

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

I knew then that Jakob and Charlotte had had at least two sons, both of whom had lived in Washington, Pennsylvania, where their Schoenthal uncles Henry and Isidore as well as their aunt Helen Lilienfeld Schoenthal were living.  And, of course, the identical names made sense.  Both Meyers were named for their maternal grandfather, Meyer Lilienfeld, and both Lees were named for their paternal grandfather, Levi Schoenthal.

And then I was stuck.   What else could I learn about Jakob and Charlotte? I asked in the German Genealogy group on Facebook whether there were records available online for Cologne, or Köln, as it is spelled in German, and I learned that there were in fact archives online with birth, marriage, and death records.  Unfortunately, the archives are divided into geographic areas in and around Köln, and I had no idea where in the city Jakob had lived.  In addition, I had no idea what years to search for births or deaths for his family, and the number of records was too overwhelming to search without some parameters.

But then another member of the Genealogy Group suggested I look in city directories to see if I could narrow down where in Köln Jakob and his family had lived.  I learned that there were city directories online that dated as early as 1797 all the way through to the 1960s.  I started searching year by year, and I eventually found many listings for him, starting with one in 1901 and going as late as 1935, and then he disappeared.  Here are a few examples:

 

Greven's address book for Cologne subtitle:and environment especially Mühlheim am Rhein and lime Author / Edit .: Ant. Carl Greven Publishing company: Greven's Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven Vintage: 51 Year: 1905

Greven’s address book for Cologne
Author / Edit .: Ant. Carl Greven
Publishing company: Greven’s Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven
Vintage: 51
Year: 1905

 

Grevens Adreßbuch 1915 Cologne and environs

Grevens Adreßbuch 1915 Cologne and environs

 

Greven's address book for Cologne subtitle:and neighborhood and business directory the circles Cologne-Mülheim country and a. Rh. Publishing company: Greven's Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven Vintage: 67 Year: 1925

Greven’s address book for Cologne
Publishing company: Greven’s Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven
Vintage: 67
Year: 1925

 

So I thought Jakob must have died or moved or emigrated around 1935, but not knowing German had once again proven to be a problem.  I posted the 1935 listing on the German Genealogy Facebook page, and my friend Matthias translated it and pointed out that the listing was not for Jakob, but rather for his widow.  He explained that the abbreviation Ww meant “widow,” and when I went back to look at the earlier directories, I saw that the Ww was included in almost all of the listings I had thought were for Jakob Schoenthal.

 

Greven's address book of Cologne subtitle:and its environs, as well as the address book of the circles Cologne-country Bensberg, Bergisch Gladbach u. Porz, Volume (→ Second volume ) Publishing company: Greven's Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven Year: 1935

Greven’s address book of Cologne
Gladbach u. Porz, Volume (→ Second volume )
Publishing company: Greven’s Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven
Year: 1935

 

I worked all the way back to 1905, seeing that Ww.  There were no directories on the website for 1902-1904, but in 1901, there was no Ww, so I assumed that meant that Jakob was still alive in 1900.  Thus, it seemed likely that Jakob had died sometime between 1901 and 1905.

 

Greven's address book for the borough Cologne subtitle:and for the environment especially: Mühlheim am Rhein and lime Author / Edit .: Ant. Carl Greven Publishing company: Greven's Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven Vintage: 47 Year: 1901

Greven’s address book for the borough Cologne
Author / Edit .: Ant. Carl Greven
Publishing company: Greven’s Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven
Vintage: 47
Year: 1901

 

From the address on Breite Strasse in the directories, my friends in the Germany Genealogy group thought that Jakob had lived in the central part of Köln.  Having narrowed down the years and the section of the city where he lived, I now combed through the relevant records until I found a death record for Jakob.  He had died on November 19, 1903.  He was only 53 years old when he died.  He was the first of his siblings to die.

 

Jakob Schoenthal death certificate Das Digitale Historiche Archiv Koln, Civil registry, civil registry Cologne I, deaths, 1903 1903 Vol 03 p.320

Jakob Schoenthal death certificate
Das Digitale Historiche Archiv Koln, Civil registry, civil registry Cologne I, deaths, 1903 1903 Vol 03 p.320

 

Since 1935 was the last year Jakob’s widow Charlotte was listed, I assumed that she must have died around 1935.  I wrote to the synagogue in Köln to see if they had information about Jakob and Charlotte, and the secretary there informed me that Jakob and Charlotte were both buried in their cemetery and that Charlotte had died on June 17, 1935.  She also confirmed Jakob’s date of death.  So I now knew when both Jakob and Charlotte had died and where they were buried.

But the 1935 Köln directory listing, along with a number of others, also revealed something else.  Notice that right above Jakob’s widow’s listing it says, “Schonthal & Co, Jul. Levi and Frau Jul. Levi,” and some additional text following, including the same address as that listed for Jakob’s widow.

Greven's address book of Cologne subtitle:and its environs, as well as the address book of the circles Cologne-country Bensberg, Bergisch Gladbach u. Porz, Volume (→ Second volume ) Publishing company: Greven's Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven Year: 1935

Greven’s address book of Cologne
subtitle: and its environs, as well as the address book of the circles Cologne-country Bensberg, Bergisch Gladbach u. Porz, Volume (→ Second volume )
Publishing company: Greven’s Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven
Year: 1935

My friends in the German Genealogy group explained that the first listing was for a Julius Levi and his wife, Henny nee Schoenthal.  Obviously Henny was Jakob and Charlotte’s daughter, living at the same address as her parents with her husband Julius Levi.

Julius Levi and Henny nee Schoenthal were listed again in 1936 (without a listing for Charlotte), but after that they disappeared.  By then, of course, Jewish-owned businesses were being restricted or closed by the Nazis.  What had happened to Julius and Henny? Had they left Germany, I hoped? Or had they been killed in the Holocaust?

Greven's address book of the Hanseatic City of Cologne subtitle:the circles Cologne-country, the county town of Bergisch Gladbach and Bensberg communities and Porz, Volume (→ Second volume ) Publishing company: Greven's Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven Vintage: 78 Year: 1936

Greven’s address book of the Hanseatic City of Cologne
Publishing company: Greven’s Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven
Vintage: 78
Year: 1936

Unfortunately, a search on Yad Vashem revealed that they were both victims of the Nazi atrocities.

Yad Vashem page of testimony for Henriette Schoenthal Levi Yad Vashem page of testimony for Julius Levi

I learned more details from a researcher in Köln named Barbara Becker, who informed me that Julius and Henriette Levi had been first moved to the ghetto in Köln in 1940 and then were deported to Lodz, Poland, on October 30, 1941.  From there they were sent to the death camp in Chelmno on September 10, 1942, where they were murdered by the Nazis.

Lodz Ghetto Bundesarchiv, Bild 137-051639A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Lodz Ghetto
Bundesarchiv, Bild 137-051639A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Chelmno death camp 1942 By SS Unknown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Chelmno death camp 1942
By SS Unknown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Two more names to add to the growing list of my relatives who were killed during the Holocaust:  Henriette Schoenthal and her husband Julius Levi.  Henriette was probably named for her grandmother, Jakob’s mother Henriette Hamberg, my great-great-grandmother.   Henriette Schoenthal Levi was my first cousin, twice removed.  She was my grandmother Eva Schoenthal Cohen’s first cousin.

When I looked at the Pages of Testimony filed on behalf of Henriette (Schoenthal) and Julius Levi more closely, I saw that they were filed in 1977 by their son, Henry Lyons.  There was even an address for Henry: 99-30 59th Avenue, Rego Park, New York.  My next step had to be locating Henry Lyons, my father’s second cousin.

To be continued….

 

An Adventurous Spirit: Amalie Schoenthal and Her Children

When I read my great-great-uncle Henry Schoenthal’s diary and learned that his little sister Malchen (later, Amalie, then Amelia, but I will call her Amalie throughout) was the first of his siblings to express an interest in following him from Germany to the US, I was intrigued.  She was only twenty years old and not yet married.  Who was this adventurous young woman?

Amalie Schoenthal arrived in Pennsylvania in September, 1867, and in 1870, she was living in Pittsburgh with her aunt Fanny Schoenthal Goldmith and her family and working as a domestic.  In 1872, she married Elias Wolfe, the cattle drover, with whom she had six children between 1873 and 1885: Maurice, Florence (usually referred to as Flora), Lee (named for Amalie’s father Levi), Ira, Henrietta (or Etta, named for Amalie’s mother Henriette), and Herbert.  Although Amalie’s life was likely very traditional for a married woman with six children, some of her children seemed to have inherited her adventurous spirit.  Unlike most of the children and grandchildren of her older sister Hannah who stayed in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area for generations, most of the children of Amalie and Elias Wolfe ventured to places quite distant from Pittsburgh.

In 1899, Flora Wolfe, then 24 years old, was the first of the children of Amalie and Elias to marry.  She married Lehman Goldman on June 1, 1899, as described here:

Flora Wolfe wedding pt 1 Jewish Criterion 6 2 1899

FLora Wolfe wedding pt 2

Flora Wolfe wedding pt 3

Jewish Criterion, June 2, 1899, pp.8-9

 

From the description of the wedding, it would seem that Elias Wolfe must have been doing quite well in his business as a cattle drover.  A fancy wedding attended by over a hundred people would probably have been considered quite large in those times.  Flora’s maid of honor was her first cousin, Edith Stern, daughter of Hannah Schoenthal Stern.  Among the many guests, the last paragraph lists my great-grandparents, Isidore and Hilda (Katzenstein) Schoenthal, and their sons, my great-uncles Lester and Gerson, who would have been ten and seven years old at the time, respectively.

Flora’s groom, Lehman (sometimes spelled Leman) Goldman, was born in Baltimore in 1876, as was his father, Samuel Goldman, who was working as an insurance agent in 1900, according to the census.  After marrying, Flora and Lehman were living with Lehman’s family in Pittsburgh, and Lehman was working as a traveling salesman in the “furnishing goods” business.  I assume that that is another term for dry goods or clothing.

Flora and Lehman had four children in the first nine years of their marriage: Kenneth LeRoy (1901), Helen (1903), Donald (1905), and Marjorie (1907).

Flora’s sister and four brothers were still living at home with their parents Amalie (now called Amelia) and Elias Wolfe in 1900.  Elias was still a drover.  Maurice, now 27, and Lee, now 22, were clerks in a furnishings store. Ira was nineteen and working as a stenographer.  The two youngest children, Henrietta, seventeen, and Herbert, twelve, were still in school.

Elias Wolfe and family, 1900 census Year: 1900; Census Place: Allegheny Ward 2, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1355; Page: 14B; Enumeration District: 0018; FHL microfilm: 1241355

Elias Wolfe and family, 1900 census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Allegheny Ward 2, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1355; Page: 14B; Enumeration District: 0018; FHL microfilm: 1241355

Lee must have married shortly after 1900 (although I cannot find any record or news story to confirm it) because he and his wife Wilhelmina (Minnie) Heisch had a son named Lloyd on February 25, 1902, and a daughter named Ruth in 1905.  Minnie’s parents, John Heisch and Christine Kress, were born in Germany, and John was a carpenter.  Although I found newspaper announcements of engagements and marriages for Minnie’s siblings, I did not find one for Minnie and Lee nor did I find any mention of the marriage in the Jewish Criterion.  According to the entry in the 1908 Pittsburgh city directory, Lee was in the paper bag business.

His brother Maurice, the oldest son, was living with his parents in 1908 and working as a salesman.  Their sister Etta was working as a bookkeeper and also living at home.

Etta Wolfe 1908 directory

Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

By 1910 and perhaps even earlier, Ira Wolfe had left Pennsylvania and moved to San Francisco.  He was 28 years old, working as a cashier for a lamp company, and lodging in someone’s home, according to the 1910 census. Herbert, the youngest child of Amalie and Elias Wolfe had also moved away by 1910; Herbert was 25 and had moved to Detroit where in 1910 he was working as a machinist and in 1911 as a sign writer. Thus, by 1910, the two youngest sons of Amalie and Elias had left for far off places.  I can’t help but wonder what drove them to move away from the place where their extended family was living.  Did they inherit their mother’s adventurous spirit? Or was it something else?

All the other Wolfes were still in Pittsburgh in 1910.  Etta was living with her parents at the time of the census in April, but she married Maximillian Joseph Wise on June 2, 1910.  Max was a German immigrant; although I cannot find him on the 1900 census, there was a Max Wise listed on the 1910 census who was living in Pittsburgh on Mellon Street, the same address given in the marriage announcement in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Etta Wolfe wedding notice

 

Max Wise was a traveling salesman residing as a lodger in the residence of others at the time of the 1910 census.

I cannot find Maurice Wolfe on the 1910 census, but he is listed as living in Canonsburg in both the 1909 and 1911 directories for Washington, Pennsylvania, selling men’s furnishings.  His brother Lee was still living in Pittsburgh with his wife Minnie and their two children, Lloyd and Ruth; Lee was then a wrapping paper salesman.

As for Flora (Florence, here), at the time of the 1910 census she and her husband Lehman Goldman were also still living in Pittsburgh where Lehman was a clothing merchant.  Their four children were eight, six, four, and just about two years old when the census was taken on April 15, 1910.

Year: 1910; Census Place: Pittsburgh Ward 11, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1302; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 0416; FHL microfilm: 1375315

Year: 1910; Census Place: Pittsburgh Ward 11, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1302; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 0416; FHL microfilm: 1375315

Just five months later the Wolfe/Goldman families suffered a terrible loss.  Flora Wolfe Goldman, only 35 years old, died on September 30, 1910, from puerperal fever, also known as childbed fever.

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

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

Pittsburgh Daily Post, October 3, 1910, p. 2

Pittsburgh Daily Post, October 3, 1910, p. 2

According to Medicinenet.com, puerperal fever is:

Fever due to an infection after childbirth, usually of the placental site within the uterus. If the infection involves the bloodstream, it constitutes puerperal sepsis. Childbed fever was once a common cause of death for women of childbearing age, but it is now comparatively rare in the developed world due to improved sanitary practices in midwifery and obstetrics. Also known as childbirth fever and puerperal fever.

Since there is no record of another child born to Flora and Lehman, I assume that either the baby was stillborn or died shortly thereafter or that Flora had miscarried.  Flora left behind her 34 year old husband and four very young children.  Lehman remarried three years later on March 8, 1913; his second wife was Helene Hoffa, and they would have four more children together between 1914 and 1923.

Six months after Flora died, on March 3, 1911, Etta and Max Wise had their first child, a daughter whom they named Florence Emily, undoubtedly for Etta’s sister.  A second child, a boy named Irving, was born the following year on October 12, 1912.  In 1913, Etta and Max Wise relocated to Middletown, Ohio, where he opened a clothing store, as evidenced by the obituary written years later when Max Wise died,  seen below.

I was curious about Middletown, Ohio and what drew Max and Etta to relocate there.  Middletown is located roughly halfway between Cinncinati, Ohio, and Dayton, Ohio, and is about 280 miles west of Pittsburgh.  According to the Middletown Historical Society website, the town, which started as an agricultural community, experienced tremendous growth in the 19th and early 20th century due to industrialization:

During the 1800’s and early 1900s Middletown became this bustling municipality due to the growth of industry.  Many entrepreneurs developed their businesses and with the addition of ARMCO (now AK Steel) founded by George M. Verity, and Sorg Paper Company founded by Paul J. Sorg.

As reported on Wikipedia, the population of Middletown surged in these years, going from about 3,000 people in 1870 to over 9,000 by 1900 and to more than 23,000 by 1920.  Max Wise must have seen it as a place of great opportunity; as they say on the old commercial for Barney’s clothing store in New York City, everyone needs clothes.

But were there Jews there? From the American Jewish Archives website, I found this information about the Jewish community in Middletown when Max and Etta Wise moved there:

In 1903, ten Orthodox Jewish families rented a small room on Clinton Street in which to hold services.  Under the leadership of new Russian immigrant, Mr. Schomer, they rented a single Torah and created a makeshift Ark.  As the Orthodox community grew, the rented shul on Clinton Street became too small for weekly Shabbat services, and in 1915, the community bought a structure on First Avenue, across from the public library.  Rabbi Gilsey assumed the pulpit, and a regular religious school was formed. Three years later, in 1918, the shul was incorporated under the laws of the State of Ohio under the name “Anshe Sholom Yehudah Congregation.”  By 1920 there were approximately thirty-five families in the congregation, all of whom spoke mainly Yiddish.

The tragic death of Flora Wolfe Goldman in 1910 was not the only loss that the Wolfe family would suffer during the decade of the 1910s. On December 27, 1913, Elias Wolfe died at age 74 from heart disease.

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

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

Sometime after Elias died, Amalie Schoenthal Wolfe moved to Middletown, Ohio, as she is listed in the Middletown city directory for 1917.  Amalie obviously wanted to be closer to her only surviving daughter and her Ohio grandchildren.

Etta and Max Wise had four more sons after moving to Ohio: Richard Elias (1915), Max, Jr. (1917), Robert (1919), and Warren Harding Wise, born on September 19, 1920.  I guess we know who Max and Etta (if she voted since the 19th amendment had just been ratified on August 19, 1920) voted for in the 1920 Presidential election—the native son candidate from Ohio, Warren Harding.  I wonder how little Warren Harding Wise felt when he learned that his namesake was involved in the Teapot Dome scandal as well as other scandals, which were revealed in the years after Harding’s untimely death in office in 1923.

English: Warren G. Harding, by Harris & Ewing.

English: Warren G. Harding, by Harris & Ewing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Meanwhile, out in California, Ira Wolfe was having his own troubles.  On June 29, 1911, he married Ada Piver in San Francisco. Just over six months later in January, 1912, Ada sued him for divorce, claiming “extreme cruelty,” as detailed in these two news articles.

San Francisco Chronicle, January 18, 1912, p. 16

San Francisco Chronicle, January 18, 1912, p. 16

 

Ira Wolfe divorce 2

Ira Wolfe broken toys

San Francisco Chronicle, May 15, 1913, p. 10

And if we think that social media and tabloids today have undermined all attempts at maintaining some privacy and dignity, this news article indicates that the public’s taste for gossip has always been a way of selling newspapers:

Ira and Ada Wolfe dine together

Ira Wolfe and Ada dine together

There’s no way of knowing the truth of Ada’s allegations (and I could find no follow-up story describing the court’s ruling in the case).  Assuming there was some truth to her descriptions of Ira’s temper, drinking, and violent nature, perhaps it is not surprising that he had moved so far from his home in Pittsburgh.

Ira’s younger brother Herbert, still living in Detroit, married Elsa Repp on June 24, 1916.  Elsa was a Detroit native, the daughter of John and Amelia Repp, who were also both American-born.  In 1910, John Repp was working as a metal polisher, and Elsa was working as a box maker in a laboratory.

Back in the Pittsburgh area, only two of Amalie and Elias Wolfe’s children remained.  Maurice Wolfe had married by 1917 according to his World War I draft registration.  I’ve not been able to find anything about his wife’s background; all I know is that her first name was May and that she was born around 1880 in New York, according to the 1920 census record.  In 1917, Maurice and May were living in Pittsburgh, and Maurice, who was lame in one leg, was working as an inspector for Westinghouse. As far as I can tell, they did not have any children.

Maurice Wolfe World War I draft registration Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Allegheny; Roll: 1909278; Draft Board: 18

Maurice Wolfe World War I draft registration
Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Allegheny; Roll: 1909278; Draft Board: 18

By 1917, Lee Wolfe and his wife Minnie had moved to Dormont, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh about four miles south.  Lee was the local manager of the Interstate Folding Box Company.  On the 1920 census, Lee, Minnie, and their two children, now teenagers, were still living in Dormont, and Lee was still working for a paper company as a commercial salesman.

Lee Wolfe and family, 1920 census Year: 1920; Census Place: Dormont, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1511; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 882; Image: 267

Lee Wolfe and family, 1920 census
Year: 1920; Census Place: Dormont, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1511; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 882; Image: 267

Lee’s brother Maurice was also still in Pittsburgh in 1920, working as a government clerk, but by 1923 he had relocated to Middletown, Ohio, where his mother and his sister Etta were living.  I cannot find Maurice on the 1930 census, but he was listed in the Middletown directory for that year.  On the 1940 census, he was still in Middletown, working as a salesman, and divorced.  Although I can’t be certain, I assume his marriage ended before he left Pittsburgh, but since I have no records for his wife May other than Maurice’s draft registration and the 1920 census, I can’t be sure.

In 1920, Max and Etta and their children continued to live in Middletown where Max was the proprietor of a clothing store.  Herbert Wolfe and his wife Elsa were still living in Detroit where Herbert was now working as an installer for the telephone company according to the 1920 census.

Although Ira Wolfe was listed as a salesman in the 1917 San Francisco directory, I cannot find a World War I draft registration for him nor can I find him on the 1920 census.  The last possible record I have for him is a listing on the Chicago, Illinois marriage index showing an Ira J. Wolfe marrying a woman named Agnes Resa on July 17, 1920.  I did find Agnes on the 1920 census, taken before she married.  She was thirty years old, born in Illinois, and living with her mother and brother in Chicago.  Agnes was working as a comptometer for the railroad.  What is a comptometer, I wondered? Apparently it was not itself an occupation, but a machine—a very early form of what today we would call an adding machine or a calculator.  I assume that Agnes operated a comptometer for the railroad.

English: Comptometer - model E Français : Comp...

English: Comptometer – model E Français : Comptomètre – modèle E (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Thus, as of 1923, of the five surviving children of Amalie Schoenthal Wolfe, only Lee Wolfe was still living in Pittsburgh.  Maurice and Etta were in Middletown, Ohio; Herbert was in Detroit; Ira was in Chicago.  And Flora Wolfe Goldman’s children were living in Atlantic City, where Lehman and his family had moved by 1920.

Their mother Amalie/Amelia Schoenthal Wolfe was living in Middletown when she died on February 10, 1924.

Amelia Wolfe death notice

Hamilton (Ohio) Evening Journal. February 12, 1924, p. 2

Hamilton (Ohio) Evening Journal. February 12, 1924, p. 2

Just ten days later, her will was filed for probate:

Amelia Wolfe will

I found this very interesting.  I am not surprised that Amalie (or Amelia) left her personal property to her only surviving daughter Etta; after all, she had been living with her for many years.  But I did find it surprising that she named her daughter Etta, not one of her sons, as the one to execute her will, in an era where men primarily took on such roles.

In addition, Amalie left $25 to each of her Goldman granddaughters—including Fay and Celeste, who were not even her blood relatives, but born to Lehman Goldman and his second wife Helen.  Why not any of her grandsons? I understand why she only left the money to the Goldman grandchildren; since she was leaving the remainder of her estate to her surviving children, Flora’s children needed to be taken care of separately.  But why not the boys? I’d like to think that Amalie was protecting the women in the family—making her daughter the executrix and only leaving money to her granddaughters.  Perhaps she thought that the boys would be more able to take care of themselves in a world where women were still very dependent on men for support. I would like to think that Amalie, that adventurous young woman who had been eager to move to America , was somewhat of a feminist, treating her daughter and granddaughters favorably in her will to encourage their own independence.

I also noticed that she did not include her son Ira as one of her five surviving children in her will.  When I saw that, I assumed that Ira had been disowned or had died by the time of Amalie’s death.  Then I found this news article on page 14 of the Daily Register-Gazette of Rockford, Illinois, dated July 24, 1924, five months after Amalie died:

Ira Wolfe death highlights

 

This is clearly the same Ira J. Wolfe who married Agnes Resa on July 20, 1917, in Chicago.  Can I be certain that this was Ira J. Wolfe, the son of Amalie and Elias Wolfe? According to the 1900 census, their son Ira J. Wolfe was born in June 1880, so he would have been 44, not 42, in July, 1924.  Close enough?  According to this article, he had been a general sales manager for a fuse company in Detroit; my Ira J. Wolfe had been a salesman for Pittsburgh Electric Company in San Francisco, so in the same field of electrical products.  My Ira had a brother, Herbert, living in Detroit and then working for the phone company.  Is this enough circumstantial evidence to support my assumption that the Ira J. Wolfe who married Agnes Resa and died in July, 1924, was the son of Amalie Schoenthal Wolfe?  If so, he was still living when his mother Amalie died and thus was intentionally excluded from her will.

The 1930 census records for the surviving Wolfe siblings show that not much changed between 1920 and 1930.  Lee was still in the paper business in Pittsburgh; his two children were now in their 20s.  Lloyd, 28, was still living at home and working as a gas station attendant.  His sister Ruth, 25, was also living at home and not employed.

Max and Etta were still in Middletown, Ohio, living with all of their children, who now ranged in age from nine to nineteen; Max still owned a clothing store.   Etta’s brother Maurice was also still living in Middletown, as noted above.  Herbert and Elsa continued to live in Detroit, where Herbert was a car salesman now.  They had had a child in 1925.

As for the children of Flora Wolfe Goldman, by 1930 they were adults. Kenneth LeRoy (known as LeRoy K.) Goldman, Flora’s oldest child, was still living with his father and stepmother and half-siblings in 1930, working as a men’s clothing salesman. His sister Helen Goldman had married Bertie Kenneth Paget in 1926 and was living with him and their two year old daughter in Queens, New York, in 1930.  Bertie was in the publishing business.  Donald Goldman was living in Atlantic City in 1930 and was married to Marguerite Simpson; their daughter was born in 1931.  Marjorie Goldman married John Lynn in 1929, and in 1930 they were living in Philadelphia where John was an insurance salesman.  They would have two children in the 1930s.

On November 19, 1934, Max Wise died at age 60:

Obituary for Max J. Wise, The Journal News (Hamilton, Ohio) , November 20, 1934 p 2.

Obituary for Max J. Wise,
The Journal News (Hamilton, Ohio) , November 20, 1934 p 2.

According to the obituary, Max had been in poor health, but died rather suddenly.  He was survived by Etta, who was 50 years old, and his six children, who ranged from fourteen to 23 when they lost their father.

The 1940 census found all the remaining Wolfe siblings in the same locations as 1930: Maurice was in Middletown working as a salesman. Etta was also in Middletown with five of her six children still living with her; they all were now in their 20s, except Warren, who was 19.  Only Irving had moved out; he was married and living in Miamisburg, Ohio, less than fifteen miles from Middletown.  Lee Wolfe was still in Pittsburgh, still selling paper, and living with his wife and his two children, who were now in their 30s. Herbert continued to live with his wife and child in Detroit where he was the sales manager for the Detroit Auto Club.  Thus, although the Wolfe siblings other than Lee had spread quite far from Pittsburgh, once they settled elsewhere, they stayed put.

Maurice Wolfe died in Middletown, Ohio, in 1941.  His brother Herbert died in Detroit in 1951.  Etta Wolfe Wise died in Middletown in 1957.  Lee Wolfe lived to be almost 100 years old, dying in 1975 in the Pittsburgh area where he had lived his entire life.

Today we take for granted that our children will move away from the town where they were raised and that we will have to travel to see them.  I sometimes wish for the “olden days” when children and grandchildren grew up in the same place where they were raised and multiple generations lived close by—whether it was a shtetl in Poland, a small town in Germany, or the Lower East Side of New York.  I am sure I have romanticized the notion far beyond the reality.  Nevertheless, it certainly was the general rule at least until after World War II that in many families, family members tended to stay put.  My Cohen and Nussbaum relatives stayed for the most part in Philadelphia; my Brotman and Goldschlager relatives stayed in the greater NYC area.

The children of Amalie Schoenthal Wolfe seemed to be ahead of their times, moving far from home and from each other.  I don’t know what motivated them all to move apart, but I’d like to think that it was the same spirit of adventure that led their mother Amalie, when she was still Malchen Schoenthal, to be the first sibling to express a desire to leave Sielen, Germany, and move to the United States to join her big brother Henry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Great-grandfather Comes to America: The Schoenthals in Western Pennsylvania 1880-1890

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Allegheny County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Allegheny County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Or how my great-grandfather met my great-grandmother.  I love finding stories about how couples met each other.  From a little tiny news item in a small local paper in 1887, I may have found a clue as to how my Schoenthal/Katzenstein grandparents met each other.

Isidore Schoenthal

Isidore Schoenthal

By 1880, many of the members of the family of Heinemann Schoenthal and Hendel Beerenstein had moved from Sielen, Germany, to the United States.  Their two daughters had arrived first: Fanny and her husband Simon Goldsmith and Mina and her husband Marcus Rosenberg.  They were followed by six of the children of Levi Schoenthal (Fanny and Mina’s brother) and Henrietta Hamberg: Henry, Julius, Amalie, Simon, Nathan, and Felix.

Their father Levi died in 1874; their mother Henrietta was still living in Germany in 1880. Four of the children of Levi and Henrietta were also still in Germany in 1880: Hannah, Jacob, Rosalie, and my great-grandfather Isidore.  All but Jacob would soon be in the United States.

Jacob had married Charlotte Lilienfeld in 1879 and was a merchant living in Cologne (or Koln), Germany.  Charlotte was the daughter of Meyer Lilienfeld and Hannchen Meiberg of Gudensberg, another small town in the Kassel district of Hessen, not far from Sielen.   Charlotte was the half-sister of Helen Lilienfeld, who had married Jacob’s brother Henry in 1872.   Although Jacob and Charlotte never emigrated from Germany, they had two sons who did: Lee, born in 1881, and Meyer, born in 1883. More on them in a later post.

HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 2610 Standesamt Gudensberg Heiratsnebenregister 1879, S. 10

HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 2610 Standesamt Gudensberg Heiratsnebenregister 1879, S. 10

Eine Vervielfältigung oder Verwendung dieser Seite in anderen elektronischen oder gedruckten Publikationen und deren Veröffentlichung (auch im Internet) ist nur nach vorheriger Genehmigung durch das Hessische Staatsarchivs Marburg, Friedrichsplatz 15, D-35037 Marburg, Germany gestattet.

HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 2610 Standesamt Gudensberg Heiratsnebenregister 1879, S. 10

As for the many Schoenthal family members already in the United States, as of 1880 only Henry and his wife Helen (Lilienfeld) and their two young children, Hilda (six) and Lionel (three), were still living in Washington, Pennsylvania, where Henry owned a retail variety store.  Living with them and described as their adopted son was a twelve year old boy named Samuel Hamberg, who was born in South Carolina.  I have to believe that Samuel Hamberg was somehow related to Henry’s mother’s family, the Hambergs of Breuna, but I cannot find the connection.[1]  Henry and Helen would have one more child in the 1880s, a son born in 1883 named Meyer Lilienfeld Schoenthal, named for Helen’s father.

Henry Schoenthal and family 1880 census Year: 1880; Census Place: Washington, Washington, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1202; Family History Film: 1255202; Page: 596A; Enumeration District: 271

Henry Schoenthal and family 1880 census
Year: 1880; Census Place: Washington, Washington, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1202; Family History Film: 1255202; Page: 596A; Enumeration District: 271

 

Although Henry was the only Schoenthal sibling still in Washington, Pennsylvania in 1880, others were not too far away.  Amalie and her husband Elias Wolfe were now living in Allegheny (today part of Pittsburgh so from hereon I will refer to both Allegheny and Pittsburgh as Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania.  According to the entry in the census record, Elias was a “drover.”  I’d never heard this term before, but according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary online, a drover is “a person who moves groups of animals (such as cattle or sheep) from one place to another.”     Amalie and Elias had three children at the time of the census: Morris was 7, Florence was 5, and Lionel was 2.  A fourth child was born in June, 1880, shortly after the census, a son named Ira.   Two more were born in the 1880s: Henrietta (1883) and Herbert (1885).

Amalie Schoenthal Wolfe and family 1880 census Year: 1880; Census Place: Allegheny, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1086; Family History Film: 1255086; Page: 153C; Enumeration District: 006; Image: 0310

Amalie Schoenthal Wolfe and family 1880 census
Year: 1880; Census Place: Allegheny, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1086; Family History Film: 1255086; Page: 153C; Enumeration District: 006; Image: 0310

 

As noted in my earlier post, Felix Schoenthal was also still relatively close to Washington, Pennsylvania, living with his wife  Maggie in West Newton, about 25 miles away, where Felix was working as a clerk at the paper mill.  Felix and Maggie also had two children during the 1880s: Rachel (1881) and Yetta (1884).

The other siblings had moved further east.  Julius was in Washington, DC, working as a shoemaker, as described in my last post.  His brother Nathan was also now in DC, working as a clerk in a “fancy store.”  Simon Schoenthal had also moved further east by 1880.  Although he and his family were living in Pittsburgh in 1879, by 1880 he and Rose and their five children had moved to Philadelphia.  Simon was still working as a bookbinder. In the 1880s they would have four more children: Martin (1881), Jacob (1883), Hettie (1886), and Estelle (1889).  In 1891, one more child was added to the family, Sidney.

Simon Schoenthal and family 1880 census Year: 1880; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1179; Family History Film: 1255179; Page: 12D; Enumeration District: 382; Image: 0218

Simon Schoenthal and family 1880 census
Year: 1880; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1179; Family History Film: 1255179; Page: 12D; Enumeration District: 382; Image: 0218

 

But other members of the extended Schoenthal clan still lived in western Pennsylvania.  Fanny Schoenthal Goldsmith’s widower Simon Goldsmith was living in Pittsburgh with their daughter Hannah and her family.  Hannah’s husband Joseph Benedict was a rag dealer, and in 1880 they had three sons: Jacob (10), Hershel (9), and Harry (3).[2]

Simon Goldsmith and Joseph Benedict families on 1880 census Year: 1880; Census Place: Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1092; Family History Film: 1255092; Page: 508D; Enumeration District: 122; Image: 0683

Simon Goldsmith and Joseph Benedict families on 1880 census
Year: 1880; Census Place: Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1092; Family History Film: 1255092; Page: 508D; Enumeration District: 122; Image: 0683

As described in an earlier post, Mina Schoenthal Rosenberg and her husband Marcus Rosenberg and their daughter Julia were living in Elk City, Pennsylvania, in 1880.  Their daughter Hannah and her husband Herman Hirsh were living in Pittsburgh with their five children in 1880.  Their daughter Mary and her husband Joseph Podolsky and children were living in Ohio.  Mina’s other two children, Rachel and Harry, are missing from the 1880 census.

Thus, by 1880, there were still a large number of family members in western Pennsylvania; it was still home to most of the extended Schoenthal clan.  It is not surprising that when my great-grandfather Isidore arrived with his mother and sister Rosalie, they ended up in western Pennsylvania as well.

My great-grandfather Isidore, his mother Henrietta Hamberg Schoenthal, and his younger sister Rosalie arrived in New York on September 3, 1881, upon the ship Rhein, which had sailed from Bremen.  Isidore was 22, Rosalie was seventeen, and Henrietta was 64 years old.  They settled in Washington, Pennsylvania, where Henry was living. Isidore worked as a clerk in Henry’s variety store.

Henrietta died just a year later in December, 1882; she was buried at Troy Hill cemetery in Pittsburgh.  Washington did not yet have a Jewish cemetery.  Although I could not find an American death certificate, Henrietta’s death was recorded back in Sielen even though she had died in the US.

Henrietta Hamberg Schoenthal death record from Sielen HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 773, S. 10

Henrietta Hamberg Schoenthal death record from Sielen
HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 773, S. 10

Henrietta’s brother-in-law Simon Goldsmith died a few months later on March 17, 1883.  He also was buried at Troy Hill.

Rosalie Schoenthal, the youngest child of Levi and Henrietta, returned to Germany where she married William or Willie Heymann in Geldern, Germany, on December 8, 1884.  She and Willie would have four children born in Geldern: Lionel (1887, for Rosalie’s father Levi, presumably), Helen (1890), Max (1893), and Hilda (1898).  I assume that either Helen or Hilda was named for Rosalie’s mother Henrietta.  The two sons ended up immigrating to the United States; the two daughters and their families perished in the Holocaust.  But more on that in a later post.

There would be one more Schoenthal sibling who would immigrate to the US: the oldest child, Hannah.  Hannah had had a child out of wedlock in 1865, a daughter named Sarah whose father is unknown.

birth of Sarah Schoenthal, daughter of Hannah HHStAW fonds 365 No 772 p12

birth of Sarah Schoenthal, daughter of Hannah Schoenthal, in Sielen, 1865
HHStAW fonds 365 No 772 p12

[Translation: “Hannchen Schönthal (Tochter des Schuhmacher=Meister Levi Schönthal zu Sielen) uneheliche Mutter.”…..Hannchen Schönthal (daughter of the master shoemaker (cobbler) Levi Schönthal of Sielen) unmarried mother.]

Hannah later married Solomon Simon Stern in Sielen, Germany, on August 19, 1874, five months after her father Levi died.  She was 29 years old at that time.  Solomon was 57.

Marriage of Solomon Stern to Hannah Schoenthal HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 839, S. 22

Marriage of Solomon Stern to Hannah Schoenthal in Sielen
HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 839, S. 22

Together they would have three children: Jennie, born June 20, 1875; Edith, born September 7, 1877; and Louis, born May 17, 1879.  Solomon Stern died February 20, 1888, and Hannah and their three children emigrated from Germany shortly thereafter.  According to later census records, Hannah and the three children all emigrated in 1888.

Solomon Stern gravestone inscription HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 842, S. 11

Solomon Stern gravestone inscription
HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 842, S. 11

Hannah and her children settled in Pittsburgh, where her sister Amalie and her husband Elias Wolfe and their six children, named above, were still living.  Elias continued to work as a drover.  Hannah and Amalie’s brother Felix also was in Pittsburgh by that time, having relocated there from West Newton by 1882.  He was working as a bookkeeper.  In 1889 he opened his own store:

 Pittsburgh Daily Post, 9 Apr 1889, Tue, Page 3

Pittsburgh Daily Post, 9 Apr 1889, Tue, Page 3

Also living in Pittsburgh in the 1880s was their Schoenthal cousin, Hannah Goldsmith Benedict, and her husband Joseph and three children, Jacob, Herschel, and Harry; Joseph was selling rags and paper stock.  Joseph became entangled in a rather gruesome lawsuit involving the sale of rags to a paper mill.  The purchaser had failed to pay the purchase price, and Joseph had sued for payment.  The purchaser alleged that they were not liable for the purchase price because the rags had been infected with the smallpox virus, and several of the purchaser’s employees had taken ill, causing the shutdown of the purchaser’s mills.  Thus, the purchaser claimed it had been damaged by loss of business in an amount exceeding what it allegedly owed Joseph Benedict.

 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 5 Sep 1882, Tue, Page 1

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 5 Sep 1882, Tue, Page 1

This would have been a fun case for me to teach in my days as a law professor teaching Contracts.  It is similar to a famous case taught in most Contracts courses called Hadley v. Baxendale.  Was the shutdown of the paper mill a foreseeable consequence of the seller’s defective product? Here there are also issues of negligence, breach of warranty, damages, and so on.  It would have been a great exam question. Fortunately for Joseph Benedict, the court refused to set aside the judgment in his favor, and the paper mill was held liable for the purchase price of the rags.

Another Schoenthal cousin, Hannah Rosenberg Hirsh, and her husband Herman and their five children, Morris, Nathan, Carrie, Harry, and Sidney, were also living in Pittsburgh; Herman was in the varnish business, at first for the Michigan Furniture Company and then in his own business manufacturing varnish.

Hannah thus had many family members close by in Pittsburgh to provide support as she raised her three children alone in the new country.

My great-grandfather Isidore lived in Pittsburgh for some time also around 1887 through 1889, working as a floor walker in a retail store, at least according to the listings in the Pittsburgh city directories for those years.  But sometime in early 1888 he married my great-grandmother Hilda Katzenstein in Philadelphia.  Hilda was the daughter of Eva Goldschmidt and granddaughter of Seligmann Goldschmidt.  As discussed in an earlier post, Seligmann Goldschmidt was the brother of Simon Goldschmidt, who became Simon Goldsmith and who had married Isidore’s aunt, Fanny Schoenthal. Thus, Hilda and Isidore were already related to each by marriage. In addition, Hilda’s brother S.J. Katzenstein was a merchant, living in Washington, Pennsylvania.  I don’t know whether my great-grandparents met through S.J. in Washington, Pennsylvania, or through their mutual cousins, the Goldsmiths, or perhaps even through Isidore’s brother Simon, who lived in Philadelphia, where Hilda had been born and raised.

But I did find this important clue:

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

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

Was this when Isidore and Hilda met—at a gathering at the house of a man named Henry Florsheim who lived in Finleyville? And who was he?  A little research revealed that Henry Florsheim was born in 1842 in Gudensberg, Germany, the same town where Helen and Charlotte Lilienfeld were born, the wives of Henry Schoenthal and Jacob Schoenthal, respectively.

Henry (Hienemann) Florsheim birth record HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 384, S. 35

Henry (Heinemann) Florsheim birth record from Gudensberg
HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 384, S. 35

In fact, according to research done by Hans-Peter Klein as reflected on his incredibly helpful website found here, Henry Florsheim’s sister married Helen Lilienfeld’s brother in Gudensberg in 1872, the same year that Helen Lilienfeld married Henry Schoenthal.  According to the 1910 census, Henry Florsheim came to the US in 1876, so the two families were already related by marriage when he arrived.  In 1880 Henry Florsheim was a merchant, living in Union Township in Washington County, Pennsylvania, about 20 miles from the city of Washington, PA.  An article in the January 31, 1887, Pittsburgh Daily Post (p.4) , reported that he was the proprietor of the Union Valley coal mines and had been presented with a gold watch by the citizens of Finleyville, a town about 16 miles from Washington and two miles from Union Township. Thus, in just a decade, Henry Florsheim had made quite a mark on his community.  Was this successful businessman the one who was responsible for bringing my great-grandparents together?  If so, thank you, Mr. Florsheim![3]

Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal

Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal

That was not the end of Henry Florsheim’s role in my great-grandparents’ lives.  In 1889, he hired my great-grandfather to work in his store in Finleyville; this news article suggests that they were still living in Pittsburgh before that opportunity arose.

The Daily Republican (Monongahela, Pennsylvania) 8 Nov 1889, Fri • Page 1

The Daily Republican
(Monongahela, Pennsylvania)
8 Nov 1889, Fri • Page 1

Isidore and Hilda’s first child, my great-uncle Lester Henry Schoenthal, was born on December 3, 1888.  I assume that, like all the Lionels and Leo and Lee, he was named for Isidore’s father Levi.  About three years later on January 20, 1892, Isidore and Hilda had a second son, Gerson Katzenstein Schoenthal, named for Hilda’s father.  Their third child, Harold, and their fourth and youngest child, my grandmother Eva, would not arrive until after the 20th century had begun.

Thus, by 1890, the Schoenthal family had deep and wide connections to western Pennsylvania.  My next post will catch up with those family members who were living elsewhere in the 1880s: Washington DC, Ohio, and Philadelphia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] All I can find about Samuel’s background is that he appears to have been the son of Charles Hamberg, who was born in Germany and emigrated before 1850; in 1853, Charles married Mary E. Hanchey in New Hanover, North Carolina.  She, however, was not Samuel’s mother because she was murdered on November 18, 1866.  On the 1870 census, Charles was living with a 21 year old woman named Tenah Hamberg and two year old Samuel. Since the 1870 census did not report information about the relationships among those in a household, I don’t know for sure whether Tenah was Charles’ wife or Samuel’s mother. Charles died in 1879, and the administrix of his intestate estate was a woman named Amalia Hamberg.  I don’t know who Amalia was or how she was related to Charles.  But by 1880, twelve year old Samuel had moved to Washington, Pennsylvania, to live with Henry.

[2] There were also two young boys, Jacob and Benjamin Goldsmith, living with them and a 21 years old named Jacob Basch.  They were labeled “grandsons,” but they had to be Simon’s grandsons, not Joseph and Hannah’s grandsons.  Jacob Basch was the son of Simon’s daughter Lena from his first marriage, who had married Gustav Basch.  I don’t know who the parents of Jacob and Benjamin Goldsmith were.

[3] That little article about Henry Florsheim’s party also led me to another question: who was the woman named Sarah Stern who also attended this gathering? I assumed she must have been a relative since everyone else at the Floersheim event was part of the Schoenthal or Katzenstein families, and I only knew of one Stern in the family—Solomon Stern who had married Hannah Schoenthal, the older sister of Henry, Isidore, and the other children of Levi Schoenthal.  Hannah’s first child, born before she married Solomon Stern, was named Sarah.  Was this Sarah Stern the same person, taking on her stepfather’s surname? Further investigation would support that conclusion, as I will describe in a later post.

The Schoenthals Come to America: 1866-1880

One of the things that I have found touching in researching many of the lines in my family is the way that families stayed together even after settling in the United States.  Although family members would sometimes move away as their children grew up and the job opportunities changed, brothers and sisters and cousins and others tended to all end up near each other when they first migrated.  In the case of the Schoenthal family, it’s even more striking since almost all of them ended up in a relatively small city, Washington, Pennsylvania.

Washington, PA 1897 By Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler & James B. Moyer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Washington, PA 1897
By Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler & James B. Moyer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As I mentioned in my last post, my great-great-uncle Henry Schoenthal was the first sibling of my great-grandfather Isidore to emigrate from Germany to the United States. His aunt Fanny Schoenthal Goldsmith had preceded him with her husband Simon in 1845.  Henry was the second oldest child and the oldest son of Levi Schoenthal and Henrietta Hamberg, born on May 20, 1843, in Sielen.  His German name was Hienemann, named for Levi’s father, Hienemann Schoenthal, but he changed it to Henry after settling in the United States.

According to the Beers biography referred to here, “Henry Schoenthal attended the school of his native village up to his fourteenth year, at the same time learning his father’s trade [shoemaking], beginning when only ten and one-half years old, and working at the same until he was fifteen years old. For two years after this he took private literary instruction, and in the year 1859 was admitted into the Jewish Seminary in Cassel, Germany, an institution where young men were educated to become teachers in Jewish schools, and leaders of the service in the synagogue. At the end of the third year he passed an examination, and then taught school for three years in one place [Trendelburg].”[1]    His role as a teacher is also mentioned on the Alemannia-Judaica page for Trendelburg.

Despite being quite educated and having what would appear to be a good position, Henry must have decided that there were greater opportunities in America where his uncle Simon Goldsmith and his family had moved in 1845. Henry, still using the name Hienemann, sailed on the S.S. Hansa from Bremen, Germany, arriving in New York City on June 18, 1866.

Henry Schoenthal 1866 ship manifest, line 85 Year: 1866; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 267; Line: 1; List Number: 679

Henry Schoenthal 1866 ship manifest, line 85
Year: 1866; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 267; Line: 1; List Number: 679

As the Beers biography reports, Henry settled in Washington, Pennsylvania. “Selecting as his abiding place in the land of his adoption the thriving town of Washington, this county, he clerked for three years in the clothing store of [his first cousin] Jacob Goldsmith, at the sign of the “Golden Eagle,” in the room now occupied by C. A. House as a music store.”  Henry’s cousin had been well-established in Washington since at least 1854 as this August 23, 1854 article from the Washington Reporter (p. 2) reports:

Jacob Goldsmith ad 1854

On September 23, 1867, Henry’s younger brother Simon, born February 14, 1849, arrived in New York City on the S.S. D.H. Wagen, listing his occupation as a bookbinder and his destination as Pennsylvania.  Sailing with Simon was their sister Amalie, born Malchen on January 1, 1847, in Sielen. She also was headed to Pennsylvania.

Simon Schoenthal and Amalie Schoenthal 1867 ship manifest, lines 230 and 231 Year: 1867; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 286; Line: 1; List Number: 1004

Simon Schoenthal and Amalie Schoenthal 1867 ship manifest, lines 230 and 231
Year: 1867; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 286; Line: 1; List Number: 1004

The Beers biography continues, “Then in 1869, Mr. Schoenthal bought out the stationery business of Rev. James McFarland, at the “Green Tree Corner,” and has ever since conducted a prosperous and lucrative trade in books, stationery, notions, etc., at the same stand.”

Advertisement Date: Wednesday, June 7, 1871 Paper: Washington Reporter (Washington, Pennsylvania) Volume: LXIII

Advertisement
Date: Wednesday, June 7, 1871 Paper: Washington Reporter (Washington, Pennsylvania) Volume: LXIII

In 1870, Henry (now using Henry) and Simon were living together in Washington in what appears to be a hotel.  Henry was a book merchant, and Simon a bookbinder.

Henry and Simon Schoenthal 1870 census, lines 20 and 21 Year: 1870; Census Place: Washington, Washington, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1463; Page: 150B; Image: 290; Family History Library Film: 552962

Henry and Simon Schoenthal 1870 census, lines 20 and 21
Year: 1870; Census Place: Washington, Washington, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1463; Page: 150B; Image: 290; Family History Library Film: 552962

Simon book bindery 1870

Henry was also actively involved in the cultural life in Washington, bringing music to the people who lived there:

Henry Schoenthal music

 

In 1870, their sister Amalie Schoenthal was living in Pittsburgh with their uncle Simon Goldsmith, who had relocated to Pittsburgh by then.  His daughter Hannah had married Joseph Benedict, and they had a five month old baby Jacob at the time of the 1870 census.  Joseph was in the retail business (no product identified), and his father-in-law Simon was listed as a retired tailor.  Amalie’s occupation was reported as a “domestic.”  I don’t know whether that means she was working as a servant for her cousin or in the household of someone else.  I am curious as to who Eliza Brocksmith and her baby Jacob were, also listed in the household, but I’ve not yet found the connection.  Perhaps she was Joseph’s sister.

Amalie Schoenthal with Simon Goldsmith and the Benedict family 1870 census Year: 1870; Census Place: Pittsburgh Ward 5, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1295; Page: 567A; Image: 439; Family History Library Film: 552794

Amalie Schoenthal with Simon Goldsmith and the Benedict family 1870 census
Year: 1870; Census Place: Pittsburgh Ward 5, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1295; Page: 567A; Image: 439; Family History Library Film: 552794

Meanwhile, another sibling, Nathan arrived not long after the 1870 census.  Nathan, who was born August 6, 1854 in Sielen, was only sixteen years old when he sailed on the Frankfurt from Bremen to New York, arriving July 16, 1870.  He also settled in Washington, Pennsylvania, with his two older brothers.

Nathan Schoenthal 1870 ship manifest line 167 Year: 1870; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 332; Line: 1; List Number: 683

Nathan Schoenthal 1870 ship manifest line 167
Year: 1870; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 332; Line: 1; List Number: 683

In 1872, Henry returned to Germany where on May 8, 1872, he married Hewa (Helen) Lilienfeld of Gudensberg, the daughter of Meyer Lilienfeld and Malchen Engelbert.  Gudensberg is another town in the Kassel district of Hessen located about 55 km from Sielen.  I would love to know how that marriage was arranged.  Henry had been in the US for six years at that point and was 29 years old.  Had his parents made this arrangement for him?

Henry Schoenthal and Hewa Lilienfeld marriage record HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 386, S. 37

Henry Schoenthal and Hewa Lilienfeld marriage record
HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 386, S. 37

Henry and his new bride returned to the United States on May 24, 1872, sailing from Bremen on the Danae.  Strangely, Helen was listed under her birth name, Lilienfeld, not Schoenthal.  There are also two entries for Amalie Mannsbach, an eighteen year old, listed in between Helen(e) and Henry.  (I assume there were not two women with that name, but an error in the manifest.  Or maybe there were two cousins with the same name and of the same age.)  Since Henry’s brother Simon married a woman named Rose Mansbach in 1872, I am wondering whether Amalie became Rose in the US and whether Henry was bringing this young woman back for his younger brother.  But right now that is just speculation.

Henry Schoenthal and Helene Lilienfeld 1872 ship manifest lines 95 to 98 Year: 1872; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 359; Line: 1; List Number: 484

Henry Schoenthal and Helene Lilienfeld 1872 ship manifest lines 95 to 98
Year: 1872; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 359; Line: 1; List Number: 484

Meanwhile, a fifth Schoenthal sibling had arrived in western Pennsylvania while Henry was in Germany, getting married.  Felix, born Seligmann Schoenthal on December 15, 1856, in Sielen, arrived on May 11, 1872, according to the passport application he filed in 1919.  Although I scanned the entire ship manifest for the ship that arrived on that date from Bremen, I could not find his name.  Felix also asserted on his passport application that he was naturalized in the Court of Common Pleas in Pittsburgh on August 17, 1878. In 1880, he was living with his wife of two years, Maggie (or Margaret), in West Newton, Pennsylvania, and working as a clerk in the paper mill.  West Newton is about 32 miles east of Washington and about 25 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, so he was not too far from his siblings.

Felix Schoenthal 1880 US census Year: 1880; Census Place: West Newton, Westmoreland, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1204; Family History Film: 1255204; Page: 8C; Enumeration District: 109

Felix Schoenthal 1880 US census
Year: 1880; Census Place: West Newton, Westmoreland, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1204; Family History Film: 1255204; Page: 8C; Enumeration District: 109

A sixth Schoenthal sibling also had arrived from Germany by 1880—Julius.  He, however, has proven to be more difficult to pin down.  I have been unable to locate a passenger manifest that includes him, and if it weren’t for the fact that the Beers biography mentioned a brother named Julius who lived in Washington, DC, I probably would not have assumed that the Julius Schoenthal that I found in DC was related to my Schoenthal family.  When I found Julius on the 1880 census, the only clue I had to support the conclusion that he was related was the fact that, like Levi Schoenthal, he was a shoemaker.

Julius Schoenthal 1880 US census Year: 1880; Census Place: Georgetown, Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia; Roll: 121; Family History Film: 1254121; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 012; Image: 0498

Julius Schoenthal 1880 US census
Year: 1880; Census Place: Georgetown, Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia; Roll: 121; Family History Film: 1254121; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 012; Image: 0498

I didn’t have a German birth record for Julius so I assumed he was born before 1846 when the Breuna birth records that are available online began. Things got even more confusing when I tried to find information about when Julius arrived in the US and what he was doing in the 1870s.  What a hodge-podge of confusing and conflicting clues.

First, the 1910 census reports that Julius arrived in 1869, but the 1900 census said he arrived in 1875.  According to the District of Columbia, Select Marriages, 1830-1921, database on Ancestry, Julius married Minnie Dahl on March 15, 1874, in DC., so I knew Julius had to have been in the US by 1874 and that the 1900 census could not be right.  Then I found an entry for a Julius Schoenthal in the U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934, on Ancestry that indicated that Julius had filed a claim for a pension in 1897 as an invalid; it also indicated that Julius had served in the Signal Corps, but there were no dates of service indicated on the index card in that database.

Julius Schoenthal pension index card U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934

Julius Schoenthal pension index card
U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934

I was confused.  If Julius arrived in 1869 or 1875, how could he have served in the Civil War, which ended in 1865?

I decided to look for news articles, hoping I’d find something to shed light on when Julius had immigrated, and I found an article dated September 14, 1914, from the Washington Evening Star (p. 12) that added one more fact to the mix, bewildering me even further.

Julius Schoenthal news article re Germany WW I

If Julius had served in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-1871, how could he have served in the US Civil War?  Had he immigrated to the US, enlisted in the US Army, and then returned to Germany to serve in that country’s army against France?  I thought maybe I should order his service file from the National Archives, but  it was fairly expensive, so I decided to hold off and see what else I could find.

I turned once again to the genealogy village and the Ancestry.com Facebook group to see if there was someone who was more expert with the U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934 database.  I was very fortunate to get tremendous help from a member there named Lillian.  First, she informed me that the so-called Civil War Pension Index covers more than just Civil War veterans, a fact that had not been clear to me when I read the database description.  Then Lillian pointed me to a document on Fold3, a genealogy website primarily focused on military records.  That document stated that Julius had enlisted in the US Army in 1873, eight years after the Civil War ended.

I’d seen this document earlier, but had dismissed it for a couple of reasons.  First, it said that Julius was born in Berlin.  That seemed not likely to be the right person since all of my great-grandfather’s other siblings were born in Sielen, not anywhere close to Berlin.  Secondly, it said he enlisted from Chicago.  I couldn’t imagine that my Julius would have enlisted from Chicago since no one else in the family was there, so I had dismissed this record.  Looking a second time at Lillian’s suggestion, I saw that Julius had been discharged in Washington, DC, on June 5, 1874, making it more likely that this could be my Julius.  But I was and am not 100% certain that it is.

It would make more sense, however, for Julius to have enlisted in 1873, not during the Civil War.  Maybe he had arrived in 1869 and had returned home to fight for Germany in the Franco-Prussian War.  Or maybe the 1910 census does not accurately record his arrival date and Julius had arrived after serving in the Franco-Prussian War, perhaps in 1872, and then enlisted in the US Army from Chicago.  He married Minnie Dahl, who was born in Germany, but I don’t know where he met her.  Assuming it was in Washington, that might explain why they settled there once he was discharged from the army in 1874 less than two months after they were married.

English: Pres. U.S. Grant (between 1870 and 18...

English: Pres. U.S. Grant (between 1870 and 1880) Français : Le président américain Ulysses Grant (Photo prise entre 1870 and 1880) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lillian found one more piece of evidence that may provide more answers.  On May 12, 1873, a man named Julius Schoenthal wrote a letter to then US President Ulysses S. Grant, and that letter is in the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Collection at Mississippi State University.  I have ordered a copy of the letter and hope to receive it within a week or so.  I am hoping that perhaps it will be the right Julius Schoenthal and that it will reveal something about his life before being discharged from the army and marrying Minnie Dahl.  Maybe I will find some clue, some evidence that ties him to my Schoenthals and explains some of the confusing and conflicting evidence I’ve found so far. And now I am curious enough about Julius that I broke down and ordered his pension file, but found someone who could retrieve it for me for a more reasonable price.

Assuming that Julius was in fact my great-grandfather’s brother, it would mean that by 1880 five of the seven surviving sons and one of the three daughters of Levi Schoenthal and Jette Hamberg had left Sielen, Germany, and moved to the United States.  All but Julius were living in western Pennsylvania in 1880. As the Beers biography points out, by 1880, Henry and Helen Schoenthal had had three children, “Madaline, born March 16, 1873, died in infancy; Hilda, born June 25, 1874; Lionel, born April 14, 1877.”  Amalie and her husband Elias Wolfe had had three: Maurice (1873), Florence (1875), and Lionel (Lee) (1877).  I assume the two Lionels were named for their grandfather Levi Schoenthal, who had died back in Sielen in 1874. Simon and his wife Rose had had five children in the 1870s: Ida (1873), Harry (1873), Gertrude (1875), Louis (1877—probably also named for Levi), and Maurice (1878).  Julius and his wife Minnie had four children in the 1870s: Leo (1875—also probably for Levi), Rosalia (1876), Sylvester (1878), and Moretto (1879).  Thus, in one decade the Schoenthal siblings had produced fifteen new American born children.

Levi Schoenthal death record March 1874 HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 773, S. 9

Levi Schoenthal death record March 1874
HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 773, S. 9

 

In the next decade, my great-grandfather Isidore would arrive as well as his mother and two other sisters.  There would be only one Schoenthal left in Germany, at least for a while.  Almost all the descendants of Levi and Henrietta (Hamberg) Schoenthal would be born in the United States.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Text taken from page 1057 of:

Beers, J. H. and Co., Commemorative Biographical Record of Washington County, Pennsylvania (Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co., 1893).

Transcribed March 1997 by Neil and Marilyn Morton of Oswego, IL as part of the Beers Project.

Published March 1997 on the Washington County, PA USGenWeb pages at http://www.chartiers.com/.

Another Twisted Family Tree Story: The Goldsmiths/Goldschmidts

One thing that has amazed me before in my research is how often various lines in my family interconnect, like the Hano, Nusbaums, and Cohens in Philadelphia.  In researching the Schoenthals, I’ve once again encountered one of those twists in my family tree.

In my September 25 post I shared the numerous records I was able to find, with the help of several others, for my Schoenthal ancestors, including the marriage record of my great-great-grandparents, Levi Schoenthal and Jhette (or Henrietta) Hamberg in 1839.  That record revealed that Levi’s father was Heinemann Schoenthal and his mother Hendel (or Handel) Beerenstein.  For the moment that is as far back as I’ve been able to go with my Schoenthal line, though I hope to be able to find more about the earlier history of both the Schoenthal line and the Beerenstein line.

Marriage record for Levi Schoenthal and Jhette Hamberg HHStAW, 365, 386

Marriage record for Levi Schoenthal and Jhette Hamberg
HHStAW, 365, 386

Thanks to the research done by David Baron and my third cousin Roger Cibella, I now know that Heinemann and Hendel had at least one other child, a daughter named Fradchen or Fanny, who was born in 1800 in Sielen, making her twelve years older than her brother Levi. (Hans-Peter Klein has uncovered another sibling, Minna, but that’s a story for another day.)

Unfortunately I’ve not yet found a birth record for Fanny, but there is a marriage record to support that conclusion.  David and Roger sent me a copy of this marriage record dated September 10, 1844 from Oberlistingen, a town very close to Breuna (and now one of the districts of the town Breuna).

Marriage of Simon Goldschmidt and Fradchen Schoenthal HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 669, S. 11

Marriage of Simon Goldschmidt and Fradchen Schoenthal
HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 669, S. 11

As translated for me by Matthais Steinke, the record records the marriage of Fradchen Schoenthal, daughter of Heinemann Schoenthal and Hendel Beerentstein, to Simon Goldschmidt, son of Jacob Goldschmidt and Hewa Seligmann.  (No, I do not think Hewa Seligmann was related to my Seligmanns, but who knows? But that’s not the twist here.)  The record lists Fanny as 37 years old in 1844, thus born in 1807.  Simon is listed as 42 on the marriage record and is described as a master tailor.

According to David and Roger’s research, Simon had been married once before to Edeline or Ella Katzenstein. (I also don’t know if Simon’s first wife was related to my Katzensteins, but I am looking into that.  But that also is not the twist here.)  Simon and Ella had five children before Ella died in 1840. Their children ranged from Jacob, who was 16 when his mother died, down to Josias, who was only a year old when Ella died. There were also two daughters, Lena and Hewa (Eva), and another son, Joseph.  Four years after Ella died, Simon married Fanny.

Almost exactly a year after their wedding, Simon, Fanny, and Simon’s nine year old daughter Eva (Hewa) from his first marriage emigrated from Germany to the United States, arriving in Baltimore on the ship Marianne on September 20, 1845. Simon listed his occupation as a tailor on the ship manifest.

Passenger manifest for Simon Goldschmidt, Fanny Schoenthal and Eva Goldschmidt Ancestry.com. Baltimore, Passenger Lists, 1820-1964 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006. Original data: Selected Passenger and Crew Lists and Manifests. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Passenger manifest for Simon Goldschmidt, Fanny Schoenthal and Eva Goldschmidt
Ancestry.com. Baltimore, Passenger Lists, 1820-1964 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006.
Original data: Selected Passenger and Crew Lists and Manifests. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

On January 10, 1847, Fanny gave birth to a son, Henry.  One year later Fanny and Simon had another child, a daughter named Hannah, born on June 5, 1848.  Both Henry and Hannah were born in Baltimore, Maryland.[1]  In 1850, the family was living in Pittsburgh along with Simon’s two daughters from his first marriage, Eva and Lena.  (The census record has many errors, but it is clear that this is Simon and Fanny’s family even though the record has the names mixed up and the ages inaccurate.)

Simon Goldsmith 1850 US census

Simon Goldsmith and family 1950 US Census Year: 1850; Census Place: Pittsburgh Ward 3, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: M432_745; Page: 135A; Image: 274

Tragically for the family, just two years after giving birth to Hannah, Fanny died in 1850.  She was buried at Troy Hill Jewish Cemetery in Pittsburgh.   Some readers might remember that that is also where the elusive Fanny Wiler is buried, another mother who left young children behind after an untimely death.

Fanny Schoenthal Goldsmith Troy Hill Pittsburgh

By 1860, Simon Goldsmith had moved with his two young children to Washington, Pennsylvania, a town about 28 miles to the southwest of Pittsburgh.    Simon, Henry, and Hannah were living with Simon’s son from his first marriage, Jacob, who was now 35 years old, according to the 1860 census, and working as a merchant.  Jacob and his wife had six young daughters of their own by 1860, so it must have been quite a crowded household.[2]

Simon Goldsmith and family 1860 US census Year: 1860; Census Place: Washington, Washington, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1192; Page: 1188; Image: 627; Family History Library Film: 805192

Simon Goldsmith and family 1860 US census
Year: 1860; Census Place: Washington, Washington, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1192; Page: 1188; Image: 627; Family History Library Film: 805192

 

Washington, Pennsylvania (called “Little Washington” by some locals) was then a town of 3,587 people, according to the 1860 census reports, and had grown by 34% since the prior census in 1850. There was not yet a railroad line to the town at that time.  What drew all those people to this town?  The town’s website does not provide many clues in its history section:

With immigrants from the west of Scotland and the north of Ireland, and with many transferring their homes from the eastern and central parts of Virginia, the vicinity of Washington was settled in 1768. The Pennsylvania legislature passed an act on March 28, 1781, erecting the County of Washington and naming Catfish Camp as the place for holding the first election. This was the first county in the U.S. to bear the name of Washington.

David Hoge laid out a plan of lots immediately after the action of the legislature. His original plot bears the name “Bassett, alias Dandridge Town,” but before the plot was recorded, lines were drawn through “Bassett, alias Dandridge Town” with ink, and the word “Washington” was written above.

The town started with every evidence of progressive tendencies, as the original plot dedicated a tract of ground to the people for recreational purposes. A lot was given for a courthouse where the current building now stands, and Lots 43 and 102, according to the plan, were presented by Mr. Hoge to “His Excellency, General Washington, and Mrs. Washington.” Part of the townsite had been the camp of Tingoocqua, who was a chief in the Kuskuskee tribe of Indians.

The town was incorporated as a borough on February 13, 1810, and became a city of the third class in 1924.

Map of Washington County, Pennsylvania, United...

Map of Washington County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is a very detailed history[3] of Washington, Pennsylvania, available online through the University of Pittsburgh Historic Pittsburgh websiteOne tidbit I picked up from this history was that Jacob Goldsmith served on the town council in 1858.

Unfortunately, most of this text is devoted to describing the political history of the area and the individuals who were political leaders, and I could not get a sense of what drew people to the area initially.  Was it the proximity to Pittsburgh? Was it a good location for trade? Was agriculture the primary source of income? Whatever the reason that drew people there initially, the town had existed for many years by the time my relatives arrived.   From the 1860 census, I know that Jacob was a merchant, and I assume that with a town of over 3,500 people, there would have been a large enough population to support many merchants.

English: Map of Washington Pennsylvania from 1897

English: Map of Washington Pennsylvania from 1897 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One thing seems clear, however.  When Simon Goldsmith lived in Washington, Pennsylvania, in 1860, there was no synagogue there.  The first synagogue in all of Washington County, Beth Israel, was not founded until 1891. Although my ancestors had lived in small towns in Germany with very small Jewish communities, they had at least had synagogues and schools and cemeteries for their community.  I am not sure that when Simon arrived, there were any such facilities.

Why, you might wonder, am I dwelling on this town in western Pennsylvania where the widower of my great-great-grandfather’s sister lived with his two children? Because six years later, my great-grandfather’s brother Henry Schoenthal arrived in Washington with his wife and children, and some of his siblings followed in the years after.  Last to come in 1881 was my great-grandfather Isidore, accompanied by his mother Henrietta and his sister Rosalie.  And 23 years later in 1904, my grandmother Eva Schoenthal was born in Washington, Pennsylvania, the youngest child and only daughter of Isidore Schoenthal and Hilda Katzenstein.  It seems to me that Henry did not choose Washington randomly, but rather based on the fact that his first cousin Jacob Goldsmith and his aunt’s widower Simon Goldsmith were living there.

But I promised you a twist, and I still haven’t delivered.  Here it is. Simon Goldsmith was not only my great-great-aunt’s husband; he was also my four-times great-uncle himself.   Simon Goldsmith, husband of Fanny Schoenthal, had a brother named Seligmann Goldschmidt.  Seligmann had a daughter named Eva, just as his brother Simon did (both named for their grandmother, Simon and Seligmann’s mother Hewa).  Seligmann’s daughter Eva Goldschmidt was my great-great-grandmother; she married Gerson Katzenstein, my great-great-grandfather, and they were the parents of Hilda Katzenstein, who married Isidore Schoenthal, nephew of Fanny Schoenthal. Hilda Katzenstein and Isidore Schoenthal were my great-grandparents.

Stated as simply as possible, Simon Goldsmith was my four times great-uncle.  His wife Fanny Schoenthal was my three times great-aunt.   My grandmother Eva Schoenthal was a first cousin once removed from Henry Goldsmith, Simon and Fanny’s son, through her father’s side and his mother’s side:

Relationship_ Henry Goldsmith to Eva Schoenthal

She was also his first cousin twice removed through her mother’s side and his father’s side:

Relationship_ Henry Goldsmith to Eva GoldschmidtRelationship_ Eva Schoenthal to Eva Goldschmidt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They may have all left Germany, but they were still marrying within families they knew from back home.  Just another twist in my increasingly twisted family tree.  And more evidence of the limited gene pool created by endogamy and of the limited value of DNA predictions for Ashkenazi Jews.

 

[1] Fanny’s headstone says she was born in 1800.  I think it’s unlikely that Fanny had two children at ages 47 and 48, which is what she would have been if born in 1800 as her headstone indicates.  If, as her marriage record and the passenger manifest suggest, she was born in 1807, then she would have been having children at 40 and 41, which seems much more realistic.

[2] One thing that bothers me is that I cannot find out what happened to some of the other children of Simon Goldsmith and Ella Katzenstein.  Lena moved to Columbus, Ohio, after marrying Gustav Basch, and Joseph had died as a baby in Germany even before Ella died.  Eva immigrated with her father and step-mother, but then disappeared after the 1850 census; I assume she married. I’ve no idea what happened to Josias; perhaps he died before Simon left Germany, or maybe Simon left him behind with another family member.  Since they are not directly related to me, I am trying not to get too distracted looking for them, but eventually I will have to try and find out what happened to Josias and Eva.

[3] Title: History of Washington County, Pennsylvania: with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men

Authors: Crumrine, Boyd, 1838-1916, Ellis, Franklin, 1828-1885, Hungerford, Austin N.

Collection: Historic Pittsburgh General Text Collection

The Genealogy Village Comes Through Once Again

As I mentioned in my last post, my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal was one of twelve children.  He and his siblings were born in Sielen, Germany, the children of Levi Schoenthal and Henrietta Hamberg.  The first helpful source I found about his family was a biography written about Isidore’s older brother Henry in 1893 as part of a commemorative book[1] celebrating Washington County in Pennsylvania, where Henry and Isidore both had settled after immigrating to the United States (the “Beers biography”).  Given that the Beers biography was written while both Henry and Isidore were still living in Washington, Pennsylvania, I was inclined to give it significant weight as a credible summary of Henry’s life to that point and of the background of his family.  I will refer to it in more depth when I focus on Henry himself, but for now I am referring to its assertions regarding the family of Levi and Henrietta (Hamberg) Schoenthal.

English: City Hall in Washington, Pennsylvania...

English: City Hall in Washington, Pennsylvania (in Washington County). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to the Beers biography, Levi Schoenthal was born in 1813 and worked as a shoemaker.  He and his wife Henrietta had twelve children—nine boys and three girls.  Two of their sons died in infancy, but the other ten children survived to adulthood.  Of those ten, nine immigrated to the United States, and eight stayed here.  (The youngest child, Rosalie, returned to Germany to marry, and one son, Jacob, never left Germany.)  Of those who stayed in the United States permanently, my great-grandfather Isidore was the youngest and arrived last, along with his mother and Rosalie, in 1881.

Despite believing that this biography was probably fairly accurate, given that it was written so close to the time of the events reported, I nevertheless wanted to find some original German sources to verify the information.  Fortunately, I was able to verify quite a bit (but not all of it) by searching through the Hessen Archives as well as US records.  I was very lucky to have help from Dorothee Lottmann-Kaeseler (who correctly reminded me after my last post that she had first mentioned Sielen as my Schoenthal ancestral town), Hans-Peter Klein, Matthias Steinke, JewishGen, and the Hessian Archives.

Based first on a search through JewishGen, I was able to find birth records for almost all of the children of Levi and Henrietta in the Hessian State Archives.  The archived birth records available start in 1846, so I could not find records for the three children born before 1846 (Hannah, 1841; Henry, 1843; Julius, 1845), but using JewishGen and then manually scanning through the records, I was able to find birth records for seven of the other nine, including one for one of the two baby boys who had died in infancy.  So far I had not found any birth record for the other baby who died in infancy according to the Beers biography or for Jacob.

The fact that I was able to locate birth records for seven of the children astounded me.  Here are six of the birth records I found:

Amelia (Malchen) Schoenthal birth record January 2, 1847 Hessen Archives HHStAW 365 No 772

Amelia (Malchen) Schoenthal birth record January 2, 1847
Hessen Archives HHStAW 365 No 772

 

Simon (Sieman) Schoenthal birth record February 14, 1849

Simon (Sieman) Schoenthal birth record February 14, 1849   Hessen Archives HHStAW 365 No 772

 

Marcus Schoenthal birth record January 26, 1853

Marcus Schoenthal birth record January 26, 1853 Hessen Archives HHStAW 365 No 772

Sadly, Marcus died just ten days later:

Marcus Schoenthal death record Febuary 5, 1853 HHStAW fonds 365 No 773

Marcus Schoenthal death record Febuary 5, 1853
HHStAW fonds 365 No 773

 

Nathan Schoenthal birth record August 6, 1854

Nathan Schoenthal birth record August 6, 1854 HHStAW 365 No 772

 

Felix birth for blog

Felix (Seligmann) Schoenthal birth record December 15, 1856 Hessen Archives HHStAW 365 No 772

 

Rosalie Schoenthal birth record August 17, 1863

Rosalie Schoenthal birth record August 17, 1863 Hessen Archives HHStAW 365 No 772

One of the last birth records I found was the one for my great-grandfather Isidore.  I had scanned through the pages several times looking for his birth record, the one that mattered the most to me, of course.  But I hadn’t seen it, and I started wondering whether he’d been born outside of Sielen.  But then, giving it one last chance, I looked at every baby born in 1858, the birth year I had for Isidore, and saw one with the birth date November 22, 1858.  That date seemed familiar (though first I thought only because that was the day of the year JFK was assassinated in 1963), and when I saw that in fact other records had Isidore’s birth as November 22, 1858, I looked more closely at the record.  The entry was written in more traditional German script than many of the others, but I thought I could make out a word that just might be Levi.

Isidore birth for blog

Isidore (Isaak) Schoenthal birth record November 22, 1858 Hessen Archives HHStAW 365 No 772

So I posted a snapshot of the record to the German Genealogy group on Facebook, and sure enough my always helpful friend Matthias Steinke jumped right in and translated it for me.  Matthias said that for the baby, it says, “Male Gender, Isaac,” and for the parents, “Lewie (??) Schonthal shoemaker and Aesther (??) born Hamberg, legitimate parents.”  It was clear to me that this was the birth record for my great-grandfather.  His Hebrew name must have been Isaac—his secular name Isidore.  My guess is that Henrietta’s Hebrew name was Esther or that it actually says Jhette, which was Henrietta’s name in Germany; and I assume that “Lewie” is actually Levi.  I was very excited that I now had my great-grandfather’s birth record as well as those of most of his siblings.

I was still searching for a birth record for Jacob, however.  I had scoured through the Sielen birth records now multiple times without finding it, but according to a genealogy report prepared by Hans-Peter Klein, Jacob was born in December, 1850.  I went back one more time and found this record:

Jacob Schoenthal birth record December 1850

Jacob Schoenthal birth record December 1850

As you can see, although this reports a baby boy named Jacob born in December, 1850, on the left side of the page, the page with the parents’ information on the right is illegible, at least as scanned by the archives.  But I thought that this must be the record that Hans-Peter relied upon to obtain Jacob’s birthdate.  In addition, however, Hans-Peter located a marriage certificate for Jacob Schoenthal and his wife Charlotte (Lottchen) Lilienfeld, and that also included his birth date as December 22, 1850, as translated by my Facebook friend Matthias Steinke:

Eine Vervielfältigung oder Verwendung dieser Seite in anderen elektronischen oder gedruckten Publikationen und deren Veröffentlichung (auch im Internet) ist nur nach vorheriger Genehmigung durch das Hessische Staatsarchivs Marburg, Friedrichsplatz 15, D-35037 Marburg, Germany gestattet.

Marriage record of Jacob Schoenthal and Charlotte (Lottechen) Lilienfeld HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 2610 Standesamt Gudensberg Heiratsnebenregister 1879, S. 11

Marriage record of Jacob Schoenthal and Charlotte (Lottechen) Lilienfeld
HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 2610 Standesamt Gudensberg Heiratsnebenregister 1879, S. 11

5 – Gudensberg the 1st September 1879 – To the below signing registrar came for a marriage 1. the merchant Jacob Schönthal, at the moment shop-assistant in Cologne, identified by the shown certificates and in person by the present Beisen(?) Engelbert, israelic religion, born the 22 December 1850 in Sielen, residing in Cologne, son of the in Sielen deceased shoemaker Levi Schönthal and his wife Jettchen nee Hamberg, residing in Sielen and 2. the Lottchen (called Charlotte) Lilienfeld, known personally, israelic religion, born the 6th April 1855 in Gudensberg in house nr. 215 at her parents. Daughter of the cantor Meyer Lilienfeld I and his wife Hannchen nee Meiberg, residing in Gudensberg. As witnesses were present: 3. the merchant Beisen (?) Engelbert, personally know, 59 years old, residing in Gudensberg in house nr. 218, 4. the shop-assistant Michel Lilienfeld, known personally, 23 years old, residing in Halberstadt. Followed by the sentence whether they intend to marry each other and the signatures.

But it wasn’t over.  Now that I had all these birth records for their children, I wanted to know more about Levi and Henrietta and their parents.  I was very fortunate that Dorothee had recommended that I contact Hans-Peter Klein because he was able to provide me with some of that additional information.  He sent me a copy of the marriage record for Levi Schoenthal and Henrietta Hamberg:

Marriage record for Levi Schoenthal and Jhette Hamberg HHStAW, 365, 386

Marriage record for Levi Schoenthal and Jhette Hamberg
HHStAW, 365, 386

Once again, Matthias came through for me and translated this document:

nr 3, date of marriage 24 July 1839 – groom Levi Schönenthal, shoemaker in Sielen – bride: Jette Hamberg – unmarried in Bräuna(Breuna) age of the groom: 26 years, 9 month and 16 days – age of the bride: 22 years – parents of the groom: Heinemann Schönenthal, merchant in Sielen and Handel nee Beerenstein – parents of the bride: Moses Hamberg, merchant in Bräuna and Gutchen nee Rosenberg. entered in Breuna the 25th July 1839 by Itzig Eichholz

From this record I could now see that Levi (born October 8, 1812)  was the son of Heinemann Schoenthal and Handel Beerenstein, who lived in Sielen, and that Henrietta was the daughter of Moses Hamberg and Guetchen Rosenberg, who lived in Breuna, a town located less than 30 km from Sielen. (More on Breuna and the Hambergs in my next post.)

Now I had another family and three more surnames—Beerenstein, Hamberg, and Rosenberg— to add to my family tree, names I’d never known were those of my ancestors until now.  I now had the names of two more sets of my great-great-great-grandparents.  I now know the names and something about almost half of my great-great-great-grandparents.  I didn’t know any of their names at all when I first started doing genealogy. In fact, I only knew the names of two of my great-great-grandparents.

So thank you from the bottom of my heart to Matthias Steinke, Dorothee Lottmann-Kaeselar, and Hans-Peter Klein for helping me find another generation and another branch of my family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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[1] Beers, J. H. and Co., Commemorative Biographical Record of Washington County, Pennsylvania (Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co., 1893). Transcribed March 1997 by Neil and Marilyn Morton of Oswego, IL as part of the Beers Project. Published March 1997 on the Washington County, PA USGenWeb pages at http://www.chartiers.com/.  See http://www.chartiers.com/beers-project/articles/schoenthal-1057.html

The Schoenthals: Where They Came From

Deutsch: Deutsche Bundesländer Karte.

Deutsch: Deutsche Bundesländer Karte. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) (Note the location of Hessen in blue on this map.)

My great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal came to the United States in 1881; he arrived in New York City on September 3 of that year on the ship Rhein when he was 22 years old.  I had known that he came from Germany, but not exactly where.  His death certificate said he was born in “Celand, Hess, Germany,” and from various other sources about him and his siblings, I concluded that the town where he was born was in fact Sielen, a small town in the Kassel district in the Hesse region of Germany.  Today’s post will focus on what I’ve learned about Sielen, the home town of my Schoenthal ancestors.

Sielen, Germany

Sielen, Germany

It was not that easy to find out very much about Sielen.  The town is so small (510 inhabitants as of 2011[1]) that it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry.  The closest major city is Frankfurt, and it is over 200 kilometers away, as are Dusseldorf and Cologne.  From what I can see on Google Maps, Sielen is surrounded for miles and miles by farmland.  The closest town is Trendelburg, which is about four kilometers away. It merits its own Wikipedia page, though that entry is all of three sentences and tells nothing of the history of the town.

Wikipedia reports that the population of Trendelburg was over 5000 people as of 2011, based on this website.  But according to the town’s official website, that number reflects not just the village of Trendelburg itself but the neighboring towns, including Sielen.  Trendelburg proper has just over 1100 residents.   Sielen has 552. Sielen is now considered a district within the larger town of Trendelburg.

Deutsch: Stadt Trendelburg

Deutsch: Stadt Trendelburg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the Trendelburg official website, I was able to learn some information about the history of the town, though relying on Google Translate makes reading the German always somewhat bewildering.  Assuming I am reading most of the general information correctly, the history of Trendelburg as a separate entity began when a castle was built there in the 13th century by Konrad the III, Schoeneburg .  The location was already an important trade center for that region as it was close to a good fording spot on the Diemel River.   Over the next several centuries, the castle was used for many different purposes: a hunting lodge, the offices of the Prussian Forestry Department, and today as a privately-owned hotel and restaurant.

Die Trendelburg - Gesamtansicht, Hessen, Germany

Die Trendelburg – Gesamtansicht, Hessen, Germany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The hotel’s website includes some more detailed history of the castle:

With many twists and turns, the Diemel River meanders towards the Weser River. Right by Trendelburg Castle, there is a sharp bend around a rocky ridge which the locals called “Trindirberg” many years ago, probably naming the “mountain” after the village Trende, at the time situated to the west of the ridge but now completely vanished.

Sometime before 1300, Konrad the III of Schöneberg constructed a castle on this “mountain” to protect the main road from Kassel to Bremen. The settlement outside the castle also dates from this period.

Around 1305, Landgrave Heinrich I and the Bishop of Paderborn each purchased one half of the castle. The part belonging to Hessen was a Paderborn fief; the town’s official representatives were the Stoghusens, who lived in the castle for four generations.

In 1443 and 1456, the fortifications were renewed following serious fires. After their reconstruction, Trendelburg Castle was also changed, taking on the shape you see today. The fortifications were extended by a 38 metre high keep with four bretèches and a curtain wall in the shape of a pentagon with four small round towers. In the living quarters, which were erected in the 15th and the 17th century respectively, the remains of a late Gothic chapel with ribbed vaults have been preserved; the Trendelburg register office now uses this space for its civil wedding ceremonies. 

In the Thirty Years’ War, the castle was occupied by Tilly’s troops, and in 1637, it was destroyed by the Croats. In the Seven Years’ War, Trendelburg Castle was occupied by the French until they were driven off by Ferdinand V, the Duke of Brunswick, through artillery fire.

In 1901, military man Oberst Adalbert von Stockhausen, in all likelihood a descendant of the Stoghusens of old, bought the castle.

Taken over by the Dr. Lohbeck Group in 1996, the castle’s long-term future was secured by its conversion into a hotel for discerning visitors.

According to the hotel’s website, this is the castle where Rapunzel lived and let down her hair.  There is even a weekly “re-enactment” of this fairy tale at the castle.

The Trendelburg official website also contains some information about the history of Sielen itself. The village is bordered on one side by the Diemel River and surrounded by limestone hills. According to the website, a stone ax found in Sielen dated back to 6000 years ago, and a cemetery back to 1000 B.C.E.  A mill dating from 1243 remains as a ruin.

So what were my ancestors doing in this tiny village back in the 19th century and maybe before?  What kind of Jewish life could there have been? According to the Alemannia-Judaica website, there was a very small Jewish community in Sielen at least from the early 19th century.  In 1835, there were 38 Jewish residents; in 1861, there were 48.  By 1905, there were only fourteen Jewish residents, and by 1924, there were just four Jewish residents remaining. Like my own relatives, the Jewish residents either had emigrated outside of Germany or moved to the bigger cities.  During the Nazi era, those few remaining Jews in Sielen either left the area or were killed during the Holocaust.

Despite the tiny size of the Jewish community, there was a synagogue in Sielen from about 1817.  Originally a home owned by Moses Herzbach was used for prayer services, but in 1817, seven Jewish families sought permission from town officials to build a synagogue as an addition to Herzbach’s home.  Permission was granted, and Herzbach financed the construction of the synagogue.

There was also a Jewish school and a cemetery.  According to Alemannia-Judaica, at first Jews were buried in a cemetery in Trendelburg, but around 1846, a separate cemetery was established in Sielen on the road between Sielen and Trendelburg.  There are 26 graves there, including that of my great-great-grandfather Levi Schoenthal, as I will discuss in a later post.

Down the road in Trendelburg there was also a Jewish community with its own synagogue, cemetery, and school.  That community dates back to 1676, but also was quite small.  In 1731 there were 21 Jewish residents; the Jewish population peaked in 1827 at 31, but was down to just 12 by 1895.  There was a Jewish school in Trendelburg, where my great-grandfather’s brother Henry Schoenthal was a teacher before he immigrated to the United States.  There was also a mikveh, the ruins of which were discovered in 2001 during renovations and which can now be seen as a tourist attraction.  By Hitler’s time, there were only a handful of Jews remaining in Trendelburg, and they died in the Holocaust.

How did these Jews make a living in these small towns where the number of Jewish residents was so small? What were their lives like? I can’t say that I am surprised that my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal and almost all of his siblings left Sielen by the 1880s; my great-grandfather had ten siblings who survived to adulthood.  What kind of opportunities could they find in this small, rural town? Probably very few, and so they left and ended up all over the United States: Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Colorado, Arizona, California, Illinois, Ohio, Florida, and so on.  They learned English, they worked hard and survived, and they became Americans.    Like Joseph and Bessie Brotman, Isadore Goldschlager, Bernard Seligman, John Nusbaum and Jeanette Dreyfuss, and Jacob Cohen and Sarah Jacobs, they took the risk of leaving behind what they knew so that they could make a better life for themselves and their descendants.  How fortunate I am to be one of those descendants.

English: Location of Trendelburg in district K...

English: Location of Trendelburg in district Kassel, Hesse, Germany Deutsch: Lage von Trendelburg im Landkreis Kassel, Hessen, Deutschland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

[1]   http://www.citypopulation.de/php/germany-settlements-hessen.php?cityid=06633025_0B18

[i] http://www.citypopulation.de/php/germany-settlements-hessen.php?cityid=06633025_0B18