Yet Another Small World Story

You know by now that I believe we are all somehow connected—that there truly are only six degrees of separation between any two people. I’ve encountered it many times while doing family history research—my cousins who end up being close friends with either my own friends or with my husband’s cousins, a cousin who once worked at the same JCC where I’ve belonged for over 30 years, cousins with children or grandchildren living in the same town where I now live, and so on.

So here’s another small world story, and although this one does not involve any of my own ancestors or cousins, it nevertheless is more evidence of our interconnectedness.

Back in the fall of 2013, I ordered from a third-party seller on Amazon a book entitled Streets: A Memoir of the Lower East Side by Bella Cohen Spewack (Feminist Press at CUNY, 1995). I purchased the book to learn more about life on the Lower East Side in the first two decades of the 20th century when my grandmother, Gussie Brotman, was growing up there. The memoir gave a detailed and, in many ways, harrowing portrayal of Bella Spewack’s life as a child in the Lower East Side.  Despite her poverty-stricken and difficult start in life, she grew up to become a successful journalist and writer, best known for the play and Broadway hit, Kiss Me Kate, which she wrote with her husband Sam Spewack. I devoted three blog posts to summarizing and commenting on what I had learned about the Lower East Side from reading Bella Spewack’s book.

In a footnote to my last post about Spewack’s book, I wrote about the mysterious handwritten note that had been tucked inside the book when I received it.  The note was written to people named Sheila and Alan and read,

At last we have received copies of Bella’s memoirs. We thought they would never come.  This one is for you.  I hope you enjoy it.  I’ll talk to you this weekend.  On to Turkey! Love, Arthur and Lois.

When I found the note in the book, I had wondered whether Sheila and Alan, the addressees, had ever seen it and whether they had meant to leave it in the book when they gave away or sold the book. I also wondered who Arthur and Lois and Sheila and Alan were. I thought about trying to return the note, but without last names I had no way to do that.

I had one clue: there was an afterward to Bella Spewack’s book by a woman named Lois Raeder Elias, who wrote that she had been a longtime friend of Bella Spewack. I wondered whether the note was written by Lois Raeder Elias since it certainly seemed from the content of the note that the person sending it had participated in some way in the publication of Spewack’s book.

So I mentioned the note in my last blog post about Spewack’s book, hoping that Lois Raeder Elias or someone who knew her might somehow find my post and contact me. That was in December of 2013, almost four and half years ago.

Fast forward about two years later to November of 2015. I was now in the process of researching my Schoenthal ancestors and their lives in Washington, Pennsylvania. While researching the history of Jewish life in so-called “Little Washington,” I connected with Marilyn A. Posner, a past president of Beth Israel synagogue in Little Washington as well as the author of the centennial history of the synagogue, The House of Israel, A Home in Washington: 100 Years of Beth Israel Congregation, 1891-1991 / 5652-5752 (1991, Congregation Beth Israel, Washington, Pennsylvania). Marilyn was extremely helpful to me in my research, and I relied on her research and her book extensively in writing about Little Washington’s Jewish history on my blog. We also developed an email friendship and found other areas of common interest.

House of Nathan Samuels in Washiington PA where Beth Israel congregants first met
Photo courtesy of Marilyn Posner from her book, “The House of Israel, A Home in Washington: 100 Years of Beth Israel Congregation, 1891-1991 / 5652-5752

So how do these two things relate? How does a note in a book by Bella Spewack about the Lower East Side of New York City connect to a woman who lives in Washington, Pennsylvania?

Well, fast forward another two and half years to April 2018, about a week ago. Out of the blue I received an email from Marilyn that I had to read several times to absorb and understand completely.  But here’s the essence: Marilyn’s first cousin, once removed, a man named Arthur Elias, had died on April 12, 2018, at age 92.  Marilyn’s son, in Googling his cousin Arthur’s name for information about his life, somehow fell upon the footnote to my blog post from December 15, 2013, and sent it along to his mother, Marilyn.

Marilyn with her great-aunt Bertha Elias, mother of Arthur Elias, 1948

Marilyn immediately recognized my blog and contacted me to share this small world story: Lois Raeder Elias, who had written the afterward to Bella Spewack’s memoirs, was the wife of Marilyn’s recently deceased cousin Arthur Elias. Arthur and Lois were very close friends of Bella Spewack and in fact had inherited the rights to her works when she died, including the rights to Kiss Me Kate, which had been revived and brought back to Broadway in 1999 with the support of Arthur and Lois Raeder Elias.


Marilyn also solved the mystery of the handwritten note I’d found inside the book. She assumed it must have been written by her cousin Arthur and his wife Lois to Arthur’s sister Sheila and her husband Alan.

Marilyn then connected me to her cousin Sheila, who was very excited to hear that I had the note and the book. The next day I mailed the book and the note to Sheila, and she received it last Friday. She was thrilled and so grateful, and I was more than delighted that I could reunite Sheila and Alan with the book and the note that Arthur and Lois had sent to them over twenty years before.

Siblings Sheila and Arthur


I had long ago forgotten about the footnote that I’d left on my blog and never expected at this point to hear from anyone about that handwritten note. And then the forces of six degrees of separation came through, and someone with whom I’d connected almost two years after writing that blog footnote and over two and a half years ago turned out to be the cousin of the author and of the recipient of the note.

How is that for a small world story?!


How Did My Great-Aunt Frieda’s Death Certificate End Up There?

This is a mystery without a solution—yet. Perhaps one of you can help me solve it.

Many months ago I received a message on Ancestry from a member named Dale who told me that she had a stamped and certified copy of the death certificate for my great-aunt Frieda Brotman.  Frieda was my grandmother’s younger sister, and she had been married to Harry Coopersmith for about a year when she died shortly after giving birth to their son Max.  Max had died as well.

Frieda Brotman Coopersmith death cert


Dale had been going through her parents’ papers and found not only Frieda’s death certificate, but military records for Frieda’s husband Harry Coopersmith and two photographs that Dale thought might be of Harry. She had seen that I had Frieda and Harry on my Ancestry tree and wondered if I was interested in the papers.

Well, of course, I was more than interested. Dale kindly offered to send me the documents and photographs. And since then we have been trying to figure out why these papers would have been among her parents’ belongings.  Since both of Dale’s parents have passed away, she had no one to ask.

Dale believed that these papers had belonged at one time to her great-aunt Anna Yurdin Haas.  Anna was her father’s mother’s sister. She was born in New York City to Russian immigrant parents in about 1895 and had lived in upper Manhattan as a child; in 1920 when she was 25, she was living with several of her younger siblings in the Bronx, working as a clerk in an office.

Anna Yurdin and family 1920 census
Year: 1920; Census Place: Bronx Assembly District 5, Bronx, New York; Roll: T625_1137; Page: 7B; Enumeration District: 286

On the 1930 census, Anna reported that she was married to Burton Haas, and they were living at 7035 Broadway in Queens.  Burton Haas came from a whole different class—he grew up on Central Park West in Manhattan; his parents were American born from German and Austrian backgrounds. He went to Dartmouth. He served overseas during World War I, enlisting on June 14, 1917 and being honorably discharged on May 6, 1919.

According to the 1930 census, Anna and Burton had been married about eight years in 1930, meaning they had married in about 1922.  There were no children living with them. Burton was a real estate broker, Anna a cashier for a theater. In 1940 they were still living in Queens at 35-30 73rd Street and had been in the same place in 1935. There were still no children. Burton was still a real estate broker, and Anna was the assistant treasurer of a theater.

Anna Yurdin and Burton Haas on the 1930 census
Year: 1930; Census Place: Queens, Queens, New York; Roll: 1590; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 0197; FHL microfilm: 2341325

Then things get a little odd. On August 9, 1940, Burton Haas and Anna Yurdin were married in Norfolk, Virginia. At that point they had in fact been living together and holding themselves out as husband and wife for almost twenty years. But perhaps they had never really married until 1940.

Anna Yurdin and Burton Haas marriage record
Virginia Department of Health; Richmond, Virginia; Virginia Marriages, 1936-2014; Roll: 101166979

On his World War II draft card in 1942, Burton reported that he had his own business at 62 West 45th Street in Manhattan; they were still living at the same address in Queens. Burton died a year later on July 21, 1943, in Queens.  Anna died in 1983; they are both buried at Linden Hill Jewish cemetery in Ridgewood, Queens. Anna never remarried.

Comparing this to Harry and Frieda’s timeline, I see no overlap. While Anna grew up in upper Manhattan and then lived in the Bronx and finally Queens and Burton also grew up in upper Manhattan and went to college, Harry and Frieda were both born and raised in the Lower East Side.  Harry had served in the US Army from August 31, 1919, until his honorable discharge on September 6, 1922, so he did not overlap in the service at all with Burton Haas.

Harry married Frieda in 1923. Frieda had worked in a sweatshop as a finisher with feathers until she married Harry. They were still living on the Lower East Side in a tenement when she died on May 10, 1924, just days after giving birth to their son Max.

After Frieda died, Harry quickly married again. He married Nettie Lichtenstein sometime in 1924, presumably outside of New York City as no marriage records were located for them. Nettie was a recent immigrant; according to the 1930 census, she had arrived in 1920.  Their first son David was born on June 16, 1925 in Hoboken, New Jersey. Two more sons followed— Lawrence in 1926 and Samuel in 1928, both born in New York. In 1930 Harry and his family were still living in the Lower East Side. Harry was working as a taxi driver.

Harry Coopersmith and family 1930 census
Year: 1930; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1550; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 0148; FHL microfilm: 2341285

By 1940, Harry’s family was in pieces.  Nettie was institutionalized at Kings Park State Hospital in Smithtown, Long Island, and the three boys were living in Island Park, Hempstead, Long Island, as boarders (I assume as foster children) with the family of Jacob and Pauline Davis and their sons. I have not found any familial connection between the Davis family and Harry or Nettie. Jacob was in the printing business, and he and Pauline had been living in Island Park since at least 1930. Before that, they had lived in the Bronx and upper Manhattan, nowhere near Harry or Nettie. I have no idea how they ended up with the three Coopersmith boys. Neither one ever lived on the Lower East Side.

Coopersmith sons boarding with David family 1940
Year: 1940; Census Place: Hempstead, Nassau, New York; Roll: T627_2685; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 30-82

Harry does not appear anywhere on the 1940 census and does not resurface on any records until 1945 when military records report that he was still living on the Lower East Side and had enlisted in the New York Guard on April 23, 1945 and had been discharged on June 26, 1946.

Harry Coopersmith New York Guard record
New York State Archives; Albany, New York; Collection: New York, New York Guard Service Cards and Enlistment Records, 1906-1918, 1940-1948; Series: B2000; Film Number: 45

The last records I have for Harry are his veteran’s burial records, showing that he died on January 14, 1956 and was buried at Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York. Interestingly, a plot next to Harry was to be reserved for his widow Nettie, who was then residing in Bohemia, New York, also on Long Island. I don’t know if Harry had been living with her at the time of his death.

Given the absence of any overlap in places lived or worked between Harry and Anna Yurdin Haas or Harry and Burton Haas, I have no idea how or why Anna would have come into possession of Harry’s military papers or Frieda’s death certificate.

As for the two photographs, I am not even sure that they are pictures of Harry. I sent them to Harry’s grandson, but he had never met his grandfather and did not have any pictures of him. He sent me a picture of himself, and perhaps there is some slight resemblance, but not enough to determine if the photographs are of Harry Coopersmith.

Harrys grandson

Assuming they are photographs of Harry, they were likely taken in the 1940s, according to Ava Cohn, the expert in photography analysis. That would mean that the person who somehow came to possess these documents knew Harry in the 1940s.  He is in his military uniform in one of the photographs, so that means the photograph was probably taken some time in 1945 to 1946 since that was when Harry was in the New York Guard. At that point Anna Yurdin Haas was a widow, living in Queens, New York. Perhaps she and Harry somehow became friends or lovers.  After all, Harry’s wife Nettie was institutionalized, his sons were in foster care of some kind, and Harry was on his own. That seems like one possible explanation for how these papers ended up in Anna Yurdin’s possession.

The other possibility is that the papers never belonged to Anna Yurdin, but perhaps to Dale’s father Howard Halpern. Dale is not entirely certain that they had belonged to Anna. If they belonged instead to her father, how would he have known Harry?

Howard Halpern was the son of David Halpern and Anna Yurdin’s sister May Yurdin (sometimes identified as Mary). He was born in 1919 in New York and lived in the Bronx in 1920, but by 1925 had moved to Queens, living in the same Jackson Heights neighborhood where his aunt Anna and her husband Burton were living in 1930 and thereafter.  By 1930, however, Howard and his parents and brother had moved to Long Beach, Long Island, and were no longer in Queens. They were still living there in 1940.

Halpern family 1940
Year: 1940; Census Place: Long Beach, Nassau, New York; Roll: T627_2690; Page: 61B; Enumeration District: 30-209

Maybe Howard knew one of Harry’s sons. They were a bit younger than Howard, but Howard lived in Long Beach starting in 1930, and Harry’s sons were in Island Park in Hempstead by 1940. The two towns are about a mile apart, as seen on this map.

Howard had a younger brother Alvin, born in 1925, who would have been the same age as David Coopersmith and only a year older than Lawrence and three years older than Samuel.  According to the current Island Park School District webpage, today students in Island Park have a choice of attending two high schools in the area, one of them being Long Beach High School. That might also have been true in the 1940s when the Coopersmith boys and Howard and Alvin Halpern were in high school.

So my second hunch is that Alvin and his brother Howard knew the Coopersmith sons from Long Beach High School or from Hebrew school or some other community sports or activity.

But that doesn’t solve the mystery of why Howard Halpern had Frieda Brotman Coopersmith’s death certificate or Harry’s discharge papers. That the Coopersmith boys had their father’s military discharge papers is somewhat understandable—but why would they have had the death certificate for their father’s first wife, a woman with whom they had no connection at all? And why would Dale’s father Howard have ended up with those papers?

I don’t know. But David Coopersmith named his son Lee Howard Coopersmith—perhaps for his childhood friend Howard Halpern? If he was such a close friend, wouldn’t Dale have heard of him?

As I mentioned above, I have been in touch with one of Harry’s grandsons, but he had no information that shed light on this mystery. I am now trying to contact Harry’s great-granddaughter, who has a tree on Ancestry. Perhaps she will know. At the very least, she might be able to tell me if the photographs are indeed of Harry Coopersmith. But it’s been almost two months, and she has not responded to me.

Let me know your thoughts.


Pacific Street: Inspired by Facts and Love

Some of you know that since I retired two and a half years ago, I’ve been working on a novel inspired by my grandparents’ lives and the discoveries I’ve made about them and their extended families through my genealogy research.  Well, I finally put my “pen” down and decided to call it done.

Amy Gussie and Isadore

My grandparents, Gussie Brotman and Isadore Goldschlager, and me

It’s been an exciting process for me because ever since I learned to read, I’ve wanted to write a novel.  All through my career when I was writing long, boring articles for law journals, I wished that instead I was writing a novel. Novels have been my refuge all my life. I love being transported to different times and places and seeing into the hearts and minds of all kinds of characters.  I just wanted a chance to try to create some characters of my own.  When I retired, I promised myself that I would give it a try.

One friend reprimanded me when I said I was trying to write a novel.  She said, “Don’t say that.  Say you are writing a novel.”  I was and am insecure about the whole thing.  I never took a fiction writing course, participated in a writing workshop, or wrote any fiction at all, not since I wrote stories as a young child. What did I know?

My only sources of information about writing a novel were all the novels I’d read starting when I read Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White when I was eight years old.  That book transported me in ways that changed the way I felt about reading.  I cried so hard (spoiler alert) when Charlotte died.  And she was just a spider! A fictional spider! How had the author made her so real and moved me to care so much?

Charlotte's Web

Charlotte’s Web (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now that I’ve written my own novel, I am even more in awe of the many great authors whose books have moved me so deeply. I am humbled by what those authors were able to do with words, and thus I feel presumptuous trying to promote my own book, despite my friend’s reprimand.

But it was a labor of love—love for family and love for the magic of the written word.  I wrote this book for my children and grandchildren so that they would have a taste of what their ancestors’ lives were like. I had lots of help and inspiration from my family and friends, as I acknowledge at the end of the book.  And so despite this aching feeling of insecurity, I do want to share and promote my book so that others will also know the story I’ve created about my grandparents—grounded in fact, but expanded upon by my imagination.

I hope that you will be tempted to read it.  You can find it on Amazon both as a paperback ($6.99) and as a Kindle ebook ($2.99) at

If you do read it, I’d love your feedback.  Thank you!

Who was Tillie Hecht? Another Brotman Mystery

If you had asked me three years ago when I started this blog whether I’d still be finding new Brotman relatives three years later, I’d have laughed. I had so little information about even my great-grandparents.  And yet here I am in 2016 having found a whole new Brotman/Brod family of relatives based on a name in a baby book from 1917.

The discovery of Julius Goldfarb and his family, in particular his mother Sarah Brotman/Brod, was a true blessing.  Now I have corroboration of where my great-grandparents lived in Poland, and I have a better picture of my grandmother’s extended family and the people who were part of her life when she was a child and an adult.  I also have several newly discovered living cousins who have already enriched my life.

Even more amazing to me is the most recent discovery of Taube Hecht because that discovery was even more far-fetched.  Remember that in my aunt’s baby book the last name on the list of visitors was Mrs. Taube Hecht.  At first I’d had no idea who she was.

Aunt Elaine baby book 5

Then while researching Julius Goldfarb to figure out how he was related to my grandmother, I obtained a copy of his marriage certificate.  Julius Goldfarb had married Ida Hecht, and on their marriage certificate it said her father was Jacob Hecht and her mother’s name was originally Taube Brotman, now Taube Hecht.  I had wondered whether Ida’s mother was also somehow related to my grandmother’s family.


In researching Taube Brotman Hecht, I learned that she was also known as Tillie and that she’d had eight children with Jacob Hecht: Harry (1892); Ida (1894); David (1896); Gussie (1899?); Etta (1900); Sadie (1903); Rose (1906); and Eva (1908).

On the 1915 New York State census, the Hecht family was living in the same building on Avenue C in New York City as Sam and Sarah Brotman/Brod Goldfarb and as Hyman Brotman, my great-uncle, and his family.  It certainly seemed possible that Taube was related to my Brotman great-grandparents and to Sarah Brotman/Brod Goldfarb.


1915 NYS census with the Hecht family, the Goldfarb family, and the family of Hyman Brotman

So I jumped for joy—perhaps another relative, another set of clues about my Brod/Brotman relatives.  And then I jumped back into the research, hoping that Taube Brotman Hecht would provide more clues about my elusive relatives from Galicia.  I figured that with eight Hecht children to research, I would undoubtedly find more clues from birth, marriage, and death certificates.  But alas, the Hechts proved to be far more elusive than I’d hoped.

I started by searching for birth certificates.  Since I knew from the Goldfarb family records provided to me by my cousin Sue that Ida Hecht Goldfarb was born in New York City on October 19, 1894, and that the Hechts were still living in New York City in 1910 when the US census was taken, it seemed quite likely that all eight children, born between 1892 and 1908, were also born in New York City.  I searched the New York City birth records databases on Ancestry, FamilySearch, and Steve Morse’s website, and I could only find birth records listed for two of those eight children: the firstborn, Harry, and the last born child, Eva.  The other six children are just not there at all, no matter how I spelled their names, no matter how many wildcards I used.  Jacob and Taube must not have filed a birth certificate at all for those other six children.

In addition, when I asked my regular researcher at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City to find Harry’s birth certificate, she was unable to do so because it was a certificate marked “S,” meaning a later filed certificate.  Those are not on the microfilms at the FHL.  Instead I had to ask someone in NYC to go to the archives there to dig up Harry’s birth certificate.  It hadn’t been filed until 1906 when Harry was already fourteen years old.  I wonder what would have prompted the family to file it at that point in time.


But the certificate is quite interesting.  It shows that in 1892, Jacob and Taube (“Toba” here, the Hebrew name) were living at 33 East Houston Street in New York City, that they were both born in Austria, and that Jacob (like Sam Goldfarb) was a cloaks operator.  Jacob was 25 when Harry was born, Toba only twenty, meaning they were born in about 1867 and 1872, respectively.

And most importantly, Harry’s birth certificate records Toba’s name before marriage as Toba Brotman.  Brotman! I was right that Ida’s marriage certificate said “Brotman,” not Braitmer as it had been indexed.  And, of course, this meant that there was a real chance that Toba, like Sarah Goldfarb, was related to my great-grandparents in some way.

And then I looked at the certificate I’d ordered for Eva Hecht.


She was born on January 30, 1908, at 38 Montrose Avenue in Brooklyn.  On the 1910 census, the Hecht family was living at 48 Boerum Street in Brooklyn, which is right around the block from 38 Montrose Avenue.  So far, so good.  But then I looked at her parents’ names: JOSEPH Hecht and Tillie ROTHMAN.  Was this in fact the same Eva Hecht? The father was 40 years old, meaning born in about 1868; the mother was 37, so born about 1871. Those years were very close to the ages Jacob and Taube would have been in 1908.  Both parents were born in Austria, as were Jacob and Taube.  And the father “Joseph” was a tailor, as was Jacob Hecht.

Given all these similarities and the fact that by that time Taube was using Tillie on the census records, I have to believe that this is in fact a birth certificate for Eva Hecht, daughter of Jacob and Tillie/Taube/Toba Hecht.  And if it has Jacob’s first name wrong, it could very well have Tillie’s birth surname wrong.  Rothman does sound like Brotman, and many family members spelled Brotman as Brothman.  Perhaps the person filing the birth certificate, Mrs. Ida Goldman, just had bad hearing or the family’s accents were hard for her to understand.

So I had one new solid piece of evidence that Taube Hecht was born Toba Brotman and one rather shaky document that was at least somewhat supportive of that assumption. And, of course, I had Ida’s marriage certificate as well.  What else might I find? If there were no more birth certificates, could I find other marriage certificates or death certificates? Would the census records provide any more clues? So I decided to start from the beginning and search for records about the Hecht family.

The earliest census on which they appear is the 1900 US census.  The family was then living at 64 Broome Street on the Lower East Side.  The information for Jacob Hecht (spelled “Hect” here and indexed by Ancestry as “Hast,” making this a tough one to find) has some inconsistencies.   His birth year is 1870, so a year or two later than the other records indicated.  His birth place is Russia, not Austria.  But he is working as a tailor.  His wife’s name is listed as Mitilda, which certainly could be Tillie, and she also is listed as born in Russia, not Austria.  Her birth year is given as 1875, also several years later than her children’s birth records indicated.

Hecht family 1900 US census Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1094; Page: 14A; Enumeration District: 0290; FHL microfilm: 1241094

Hecht family 1900 US census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1094; Page: 14A; Enumeration District: 0290; FHL microfilm: 1241094

The names of their children also have some consistencies, some differences.  The first born, Harry, was born in 1892; that was consistent with Harry Hecht’s birth record.  The second child, however, is listed as Annie, born in 1893.  That should be Ida, the second child, who, according to the Goldfarb family papers, was born in 1894.  The third child, David, was reported to be four years old (the birth year is not very legible); that is consistent with David’s name and birth year on later census reports.  The fourth child is Yetta, who is listed on later reports as Etta; she is reported to have been seven months old when the census was enumerated in June 9, 1900, meaning she would have been born in October, 1899, not October 1889, as the census record has it recorded.  A birth year of 1899 is consistent with later census reports for Etta.

What this census record also revealed was that Jacob and “Miltilda” had been married for nine years, or in 1891.  It also said that Jacob had been in the US for only twelve years and arrived in 1887 (though it looks like 1777).  “Mitilda” had arrived earlier and had been in the country for fifteen years or since 1885 (though it looks like 1875 was written over it).  With this additional information, I searched for both a marriage record for Jacob and Taube/Tillie/Mitilda and for immigration records.

I had no luck finding a marriage record in the New York City marriage databases on Ancestry, FamilySearch, or Steve Morse’s website.  I guess it’s not surprising that a couple who failed to file birth certificates for their children also had failed to file a marriage record.  I am still hoping that some record will show up.

As for immigration records, I am fairly certain that I found the ship manifests for Taube.  I found two manifests, first a German manifest for the ship Moravia, dated July 9, 1887, sailing to New York from Hamburg.  On that manifest is a passenger named Taube Brodt, an eleven year old girl, and her name is bracketed with two other passengers, Eva Singer, a 38 year old woman, and an eleven month old baby named Ascher Singer, presumably the son of Eva.  And all three are listed as last residing in “Tarnobchek.”  That is, Tarnobrzeg—the home of my great-grandparents Joseph Brotman and Bessie Brod.

Taube Brodt ship manifest 1887 Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Microfilm No.: K_1736 Description Month : Direkt Band 059 (3 Jul 1887 - 29 Dez 1887)

Taube Brodt ship manifest 1887
Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Microfilm No.: K_1736
Month : Direkt Band 059 (3 Jul 1887 – 29 Dez 1887)

The second manifest is also for the Moravia, but is the American manifest, written in English, and dated July 21, 1887, the arrival date in New York; it also lists Taube Brodt and the Singers as coming from Tarnobchek.

Taube Brodt 1887 NY ship manifest Year: 1887; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 509; Line: 1; List Number: 911

Taube Brodt 1887 NY ship manifest
Year: 1887; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 509; Line: 1; List Number: 911

But who were Eva and Ascher Singer? And why was this eleven year old child traveling with them? My great-grandfather arrived in 1889, my great-grandmother 1891; Sarah Brod/Brotman Goldfarb didn’t arrive until 1896.  So if Taube Brodt was their relative, who was she going to and why was she leaving home at such a young age? And where did Taube Brodt and Eva and Ascher Singer end up after they disembarked in New York City in July 1887?

Although I can find many women named Eva Singer, there is only one born in Austria who arrived in 1887 and who had a son who would have been born in 1886.  But that Eva’s son’s name is Herman, and that Eva was older than the one who sailed on the Moravia with Taube.  Maybe that is the right Eva, and Ascher became Herman.  That Eva’s birth name was Goldman, according to the listings in the SSCAI for two of her children.

And I had little luck finding an Ascher Singer.  The only record I could find that might fit was a marriage record dated 1910 for an Ascher Singer marrying Lena Laufer.  I ordered that marriage record, and it shows that Ascher’s parents were Seide Singer and Taube Druckman.


When I saw the name Taube, I wondered—could Ascher have been Taube Brodt’s baby, not Eva’s? Maybe Taube wasn’t only eleven.  Taube’s age on the census records and her children’s birth certificates suggest she was born in 1871 or 1872, not 1876, as the ship manifest would suggest.  So maybe she was really fifteen, not eleven, when she emigrated.

But that is the only record I can find for Ascher Singer, and there is no way to know for sure whether it is the same person who sailed with Taube on the Moravia in 1887 or whether Taube Druckman was really Taube Brodt.

Plus even if this is the right Eva or the right Ascher, I’ve no idea how they are connected to Taube Brodt or anyone else in my family. And maybe they weren’t.  Maybe Taube just happened to be traveling with them.  But then where was she going and to whom? And was this even the same person who married Jacob Hecht in about 1891? If so, she would have been only 15 in 1891 if she was eleven in 1887.  Maybe Taube Brodt isn’t even Toba/Taube/Tillie Brotman Hecht?

Now what could I do?  Besides pull my hair out.  I kept on looking.

And then the most amazing thing happened. One of my toughest brick walls came tumbling down and when I least expected it.



Who was Sarah Goldfarb? The Plot Thickens

My search for answers as to how Sarah Goldfarb was related to my grandmother’s family had thus far led me to conflicting evidence.  Three of her children had listed her birth name as a version of Brotman on their marriage records, and the death record of her daughter Gussie also listed Sarah’s birth name as Brotman. Brotman, of course, was my great-grandfather Joseph’s surname.


Two records, however, indicated that her birth name might have been Brod.  The birth record of her daughter Rosie in 1902 indicated that her birth name was something different—Braud, which appeared to be a phonetic equivalent to Brod. Brod or Brot was what I believed was the birth name of my great-grandmother Bessie.  And the marriage record of Sarah’s son Morris in 1919 reported Sarah’s birth name to have been Brod.


So was Sarah a sister of Joseph or a sister of Bessie? Since she had named one child Bessie and one Joseph, the naming patterns weren’t helpful and were in fact bewildering.  Was neither Joseph nor Bessie her sibling?

And their residences in the US also presented confusing evidence.  Sarah first had lived near the Brotmans, who settled in Pittsgrove, New Jersey; then she and Sam had moved across the street from my great-grandmother Bessie after Joseph Brotman died in 1901.  Had Sarah moved to help her sister? Or her sister-in-law? Nothing was definitive.

As I indicated in my last post, a great-grandchild of Sam and Sarah Goldfarb, my cousin Sue, sent me extensive family history notes that someone in her extended family had compiled back in the 1980s.  I will refer to these materials as the “Goldfarb family research.” There were no original documents in these papers, but rather handwritten charts and notes that someone had recorded based on the research he or she had done.

I scoured those notes looking for additional clues.  Most of the information about Sam and Sarah Goldfarb confirmed what I’d already found.  There was also a lot of information about Sam Goldfarb’s siblings and their families and descendants.  Although these were not my genetic relatives, I nevertheless added them to my family tree and looked at the notes carefully, thinking that this information might also lead me to clues about my own relatives. Most importantly, the genealogist who compiled the Goldfarb family research agreed with my conclusion that the Sam and Sarah had come from Grebow, Poland, the same town I had visited in 2015 and the town that my great-uncles David and Abraham Brotman had listed as their home on their ship manifest in 1889.  That was reassuring.

David and Abe Brodmann on the Portia 1889

David and Abe Brodmann on the Portia 1889 Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Microfilm No.: S_13156

Perhaps the most useful part of the Goldfarb family research were the notes that reflected more recent marriages and births and deaths than I had yet located and the names of descendants and their spouses. For example, although I had been able to find information that indicated that Joseph Goldfarb, Sam and Sarah’s fifth child, had married a woman named Rebecca “Betty” Amer, I did not know when or where they had married. According to the Goldfarb family research, Joe and Betty had married on September 17, 1922, in Brooklyn.  But I cannot find any entry in the NYC marriage index on either Ancestry or FamilySearch or through Steve Morse’s website to confirm that.

Since their first child Marvin was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1923, I thought that perhaps Joe and Betty had married in New Jersey, not Brooklyn.  I asked my researcher in New Jersey whether she could find a marriage record for them in New Jersey, but after a diligent search, she was unable to find a marriage record there either. Perhaps Joe and Betty never filed a marriage certificate?

Meanwhile, I continued searching for the Goldfarbs going forward from 1920 where I’d left off.  In 1925, Sam and Sarah were still living on Williams Avenue in Brooklyn with their daughter Rose, who was now 22.  Sam (listed here as Solomon) was no longer working.  Living at the same address were Sam and Sarah’s son Morris and his family; Morris was a grocery store owner.

Sam and Sarah Goldfarb 1920 US census Year: 1920; Census Place: Brooklyn Assembly District 2, Kings, New York; Roll: T625_1146; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 82; Image: 21

Sam and Sarah Goldfarb 1920 US census
Year: 1920; Census Place: Brooklyn Assembly District 2, Kings, New York; Roll: T625_1146; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 82; Image: 21

In 1925, Julius and Ida Goldfarb were living in Jersey City, according to the Jersey City directory for that year.  Listed right above Julius is a Joseph Goldfarb, and listed right below him is a Leo Goldfarb.  Although I could not be sure, I assumed that these were Julius’ brothers Joe and Leo (especially since Leo was not living with his parents in Brooklyn according to the 1925 NY census).

Jersey City directory 1925 U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Original sources vary according to directory

Jersey City directory 1925 U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.
Original data: Original sources vary according to directory

That was then confirmed when I searched for their sister Bessie (Goldfarb) and her husband Meyer Malzberg.  I had not been able to find them on the 1920 US census nor on the 1925 NY census, but when I saw that their child Burton was born in 1923 in Jersey City, I decided to check that 1925 Jersey City directory for the Malzberg family.  Sure enough, there they were living at 247 Montgomery Street in Jersey City, the same address listed for Leo Goldfarb.  So in 1925, four of Sam and Sarah’s six surviving children were living in Jersey City; only Rose and Morris were still living in Brooklyn.

1925 Jersey City directory U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Original sources vary according to directory.

1925 Jersey City directory U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.
Original data: Original sources vary according to directory.

Then on October 4, 1926, Sam (Solomon) Goldfarb died at age seventy.  I ordered a copy of his death certificate:


Sam had died from heart disease.  His father’s name was Julius; obviously, Sam and Sarah had named their firstborn son for Sam’s father.

But the one item that made me stop when I obtained this record was Sam’s birthplace: “Tarnobjek, Austria.”  I knew this must have been Tarnobrzeg—the very town I had visited in 2015, the place also known as Dzikow, the place I had long assumed was the home of my great-grandparents, Bessie Brod and Joseph Brotman, and that is only a few miles from Grebow.  Here was one more piece of the puzzle helping me corroborate that Tarnobrzeg and its immediate environs was where my great-grandparents had lived before emigrating from Galicia.

After Sam died, Sarah continued to live on Williams Avenue with her daughter Rose, and by 1930 her son Leo had moved back there as well.  He was working as real estate salesman. Morris was also still living on Williams Avenue, though now in a different building down the block; he was still the owner of a grocery store.

Sarah Goldfarb 1930 US census

Sarah Goldfarb 1930 US census Year: 1930; Census Place: Brooklyn, Kings, New York; Roll: 1493; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 1220; Image: 15.0; FHL microfilm: 2341228

Julius and Joe Goldfarb and their families were still living in Jersey City in 1930; Julius was the owner of a real estate business, and Joe was working as a salesman for a biscuit company.  Bessie was also living in New Jersey in North Bergen where her husband Meyer Malzberg owned a delicatessen.

Julius Goldfarb and family 1930 US census, lines 40-45 Year: 1930; Census Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: 1352; Page: 29A; Enumeration District: 0075; Image: 209.0; FHL microfilm: 2341087

Julius Goldfarb and family 1930 US census, lines 40-45
Year: 1930; Census Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: 1352; Page: 29A; Enumeration District: 0075; Image: 209.0; FHL microfilm: 2341087

Bessie Goldfarb and Meyer Malzberg 1930 US census

Bessie Goldfarb and Meyer Malzberg 1930 US census Year: 1930; Census Place: North Bergen, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: 1358; Page: 20A; Enumeration District: 0351; Image: 859.0; FHL microfilm: 2341093

Joseph Goldfarb and family 1930 US census

Joseph Goldfarb and family 1930 US census Year: 1930; Census Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: 1355; Page: 24A; Enumeration District: 0152; Image: 753.0; FHL microfilm: 2341090

Sarah Goldfarb, like her husband Sam, died when she was seventy years old; she died on July 2, 1937.  Her death certificate was the most important and the most revealing of all the vital records I ordered for the Goldfarb family:

goldfarb-sarah-death-page-1 goldfarb-sarah-death-page-2-resized

Her son Joseph, the informant on the death certificate, reported that Sarah, who died from hypertension complicated by diabetes, was the daughter of Joseph Brod and Gittel Schwartz. I stared at this record for many minutes.  This was a huge revelation.

Joseph is the same name listed on my great-grandmother Bessie’s death certificate as the name of her father.  That certificate had named her mother as Bessie Broat, but I was and remain convinced that the informant, Bessie’s bereaved second husband Philip Moskowitz, was confused and thought he’d been asked for Bessie’s maiden name, not her mother’s maiden name.  Notice also that Bessie, like Sarah, suffered from diabetes.

Bessie was Joseph's second wife and mother of five children

Bessie Brotman Moskowitz

In addition, on Bessie’s marriage certificate from her marriage to Philip, she had given her father’s name as Josef Brotman and her mother’s as Gitel Brotman.

bessie philip marriage certificate

Things were starting to make more sense—to some degree.  It was starting to look like Sarah Goldfarb was my great-grandmother’s sister, not my great-grandfather’s sister.  Sarah and Bessie both had parents named Joseph and Gittel.  They both had suffered from diabetes. They both had daughters named Gussie or Gittel.

The naming patterns are fascinating.  In Eastern Europe, Ashkenazi Jews followed certain traditions in naming their children.  First, a child was to be named for a deceased relative, not a living relative.  Second, although there were no strict rules, generally children were named for the closest deceased relative—a parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, and so on.

Sam and Sarah named their first son Julius for Sam’s father; their second son Morris was not named for Sarah’s father Joseph, suggesting that Joseph Brod was still alive when Morris was born.  But when her third son was born in 1897, she did name him Joseph, presumably for her father, who must have by that time died. That would mean that my presumed great-great-grandfather Joseph Brod died between 1886 and 1897.

The same rules would generally apply to the naming of daughters. Sam and Sarah named their first daughter Gittel, presumably for Sarah and Bessie’s mother Gittel Schwartz Brod.  Gittel (Gussie) Goldfarb was born in 1890, suggesting that Sarah and Bessie’s mother was deceased by then. My great-grandmother Bessie named her first daughter Tillie in 1884, which might indicate that her mother Gittel was still alive.  But when she had my grandmother in 1895, her second daughter, she named her Gittel, presumably for her mother. Thus, Gittel Schwartz, my presumed great-great-grandmother, must have died between 1884 when Tillie was born and 1890 when Gittel Goldfarb was born.

So at first I thought I had solved the mystery and thought that Sarah had to have been Bessie’s sister.  But then things started getting murky again.  Why did some records refer to Sarah’s birth name as Brotman, some as Brod? Why did records sometimes refer to Bessie’s birth name as Brot or Brod, sometimes as Brotman? What the heck did this all mean? Were these really two versions of the same name?

And then I recalled that the ship manifest that I had assumed was possibly the one listing my great-grandfather used the name Yossel Brod.  I wasn’t sure this was in fact my great-grandfather, but if it was, why was he using the name Brod, not Brotman?

Joseph Brotman ship manifest

Yossel Brod on ship manifest Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Microfilm No.: S_13155

I know that family lore says that my great-grandparents, Joseph Brotman and Bessie Brod, were cousins.  I know also that sometimes children in Eastern Europe used their mother’s names as surnames, not their father’s names.  Could Joseph Brotman, my great-grandfather, have been the son of a woman named Brod who was a sibling of the Joseph Brod who fathered Sarah and Bessie? Or was it the other way around? I have no record for Joseph Brotman’s mother’s name aside from the reference on his death certificate to “Yetta.” Moses Brotman’s death certificate lists his mother as Sadie Burstein.  Neither helps me here at all. And I’ve no idea how accurate either is anyway.

Unfortunately, the Goldfarb family research papers did not shed any further light on this question either, but merely contained the same information I’d found on the actual records about Sam and Sarah.

What am I to make of this? I have asked one of the Goldfarb descendants to take a DNA test, but given my experiences with DNA testing, I don’t hold out hope for much clarity from the results. But it’s worth a try.  If anyone else has any ideas or reactions, please let me know your thoughts.

The big question remains: was Sarah Brot(man) Goldfarb a sibling of my great-grandmother Bessie? Or a sibling of my great-grandfather Joseph? What do you think?

And perhaps even more importantly, are Brod/Brot/Brodman/Brothman/Brotman all really the same surname?

But the story continues when I turned to the question of … who was Taube Hecht? And it gets even better.




Searching for Gold….farbs: A Brotman Genealogy Adventure

Today is my grandmother Gussie Brotman Goldschlager’s birthday; she was born on this day in 1895.  And so it is very appropriate that on this day, which also is the third anniversary of this blog, I return to my Brotman family story.  This is the story of the mystery cousins I discovered last fall—the Goldfarbs.

Back on December 7, 2015, I wrote about my aunt’s baby book from 1917, and I mentioned that on the list of those who came to see my aunt as a newborn were a couple named Mr. and Mrs. Julius Goldfarb.  When I asked my mother if she knew who they were, she vaguely recalled that they were somehow cousins of my grandmother, but she wasn’t sure whether the actual cousin was Julius or his wife, whose name she thought might have been Ida.

Aunt Elaine baby book 5

I also wrote back in December about my grandfather’s pocket calendar and notebook and all the wonderful information and insights I found there.  Among those bits of information were addresses for two other people named Goldfarb: S. Goldfarb, who lived at 577 Williams Avenue, and two entries for Joe Goldfarb, one at 464 East 93rd Street and one at 191 Amboy Street.  I assumed these were relatives connected to Julius, but had no idea how.

Grandpa notebook 13 more addresses Joe Goldfarb

Grandpa Notebook page 1 addresses Joe Goldfarb

With those limited hints, I started researching, and I found quite a bit.  In fact, I connected with two of the descendants of Julius and Ida Goldfarb, and I fully intended to write about the Goldfarbs sooner, but somehow the Schoenthals took over my blog, and poor cousin Julius was shelved for over ten months.  Now it’s time to return to this story and reveal what I learned from these tidbits of information.

First, I searched for Julius and Ida Goldfarb because I had two names to work with and because Julius Goldfarb seemed like it would be less common than Joe Goldfarb.  I easily found Julius and Ida and their children on the 1940, 1930, and 1920 census reports; all three reports had them living in Jersey City, New Jersey.  In 1920, Julius was working in a liquor business; in 1930 he was the proprietor of a real estate business, but in 1940 he was again in the liquor business, now working on his own account.

Julius Goldfarb and family 1920 US census lines 70-73 Year: 1920; Census Place: Jersey City Ward 3, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: T625_1043; Page: 17B; Enumeration District: 135; Image: 1104

Julius Goldfarb and family 1920 US census
lines 70-73
Year: 1920; Census Place: Jersey City Ward 3, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: T625_1043; Page: 17B; Enumeration District: 135; Image: 1104

The 1920 census said that Julius was born in Austria and was 33 (so born in about 1887); the 1930 census reports his age as 42 and birthplace as Poland.

Julius Goldfarb and family 1930 US census, lines 40-45 Year: 1930; Census Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: 1352; Page: 29A; Enumeration District: 0075; Image: 209.0; FHL microfilm: 2341087

Julius Goldfarb and family 1930 US census, lines 40-45
Year: 1930; Census Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: 1352; Page: 29A; Enumeration District: 0075; Image: 209.0; FHL microfilm: 2341087

On the 1940 census he is 52 and reports his birthplace as Austria.  Julius and Ida had four daughters: Sylvia (1915), Gertrude (1917), Ethel (1923), and Evelyn (1925).

Julius Goldfarb and family 1940 census lines 13-17 Year: 1940; Census Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: T627_2406; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 24-197

Julius Goldfarb and family 1940 census lines 13-17
Year: 1940; Census Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: T627_2406; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 24-197

All of this was very interesting, but it didn’t help me figure out if this was the right Julius Goldfarb or how he was related to my grandmother. Or was it Ida who was the relative? So I continued searching.

Julius’ World War I draft registration contained no new information, except the fact that his liquor business in 1917 was a saloon and that he and his family lived at the same address as the saloon: 27 Cole Street.  The draft registration also provided me with a more precise birthdate for Julius, March 18, 1885.

Julius Goldfarb World War I draft registration Registration State: New Jersey; Registration County: Hudson; Roll: 1712213; Draft Board: 10

Julius Goldfarb World War I draft registration
Registration State: New Jersey; Registration County: Hudson; Roll: 1712213; Draft Board: 10

Then things started to get more interesting. I located the World War II draft registration for Julius, and although it had a different birthday, March 12, 1885, instead of March 18, I knew this was the right person, given that the address was the same as the address on the 1940 census for Julius as was the occupation (liquor store) and his wife’s name (Ida).  But the big revelation here was Julius’ birthplace—Grebow, Poland, the same place that my great-uncles Abraham and David Brotman had listed as their residence on the ship manifest when then immigrated to the US.  My heart skipped a beat.  It definitely looked more and more possible that Julius was a cousin.

Julius Goldfarb World War II draft registration The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; Draft Registration Cards for Fourth Registration for New Jersey, 04/27/1942 - 04/27/1942; NAI Number: 2555983; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System; Record Group Number: 147

Julius Goldfarb World War II draft registration
The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; Draft Registration Cards for Fourth Registration for New Jersey, 04/27/1942 – 04/27/1942; NAI Number: 2555983; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System; Record Group Number: 147

So I searched then for a marriage record for Julius and Ida, and on FamilySearch I found the index listing for it, and now I was truly excited.  According to the index on FamilySearch, Julius Goldfarb’s mother was named Sarah Brothman.  I’d seen my great-grandfather’s name spelled that way instead of Brotman (and sometimes Brodman), and it seemed more and more likely that Julius Goldfarb was my relative, probably through my great-grandfather’s side of the family.

The index listing also included Ida’s birth name—Hecht.  I recalled from my aunt’s baby book that there was a visitor named Mrs. Taube Hecht (see the last name listed on the image above).  Now I knew that that was Ida’s mother.

But more importantly, I now knew the names of Julius Goldfarb’s parents, Sam and Sarah, and that enabled me to search for them and find additional records.

On the 1910 census, Sam and Sarah Goldfarb were living on Avenue C in New York City with six children, including Julius, who was then 25.  The others were Morris (23), Bessie (18), Joseph (12), Leo (11), and Rosie (9).  Joe and Leo were born in New Jersey and Rosie in New York, but the rest of the family were listed as born in Austria.  Sam was working as a tailor in a coat factory, Julius as a conductor for a car company (I assume a streetcar company), and Morris as a cutter in a neckwear factory.

From this census record, I now knew that Joe Goldfarb, who was listed twice in my grandfather’s list of addresses, was a brother of Julius and that he was born in about 1898. The 1910 census also revealed when Sam and Sarah had immigrated.  Sam had arrived in 1892, Sarah and the European born children in 1896.

Sam Goldfarb and family 1910 US census, lines 8-17 Year: 1910; Census Place: Manhattan Ward 11, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1012; Page: 17A; Enumeration District: 0259; FHL microfilm: 1375025

Sam Goldfarb and family 1910 US census, lines 8-17
Year: 1910; Census Place: Manhattan Ward 11, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1012; Page: 17A; Enumeration District: 0259; FHL microfilm: 1375025

Knowing the names of the other children of Sam and Sarah Goldfarb helped me locate them on other census records.  The 1915 New York census record proved quite revealing.  Sam and Sarah were still living at 131 Avenue C in New York City with Morris, Bessie, Joseph, Leo, and Rose (Julius was now married), and Sam was still working as a tailor, as was Morris.  When I looked down the page from where Rose Goldfarb is listed at the top of the right hand side of the page, I saw a very familiar name—Hyman Brotman, my grandmother’s brother Hymie.  Hyman and his wife Sophie (spelled Soffie here) and their three sons were living at the same address, in the same building, as the Goldfarbs.

Sam Goldfarb and family 1915 NY census New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 18; Assembly District: 06; City: New York; County: New York; Page: 84

Sam Goldfarb and family 1915 NY census
New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 18; Assembly District: 06; City: New York; County: New York; Page: 84

And then right below the Brotman family was the Hecht family—Jacob and Tillie Hecht and their children.  I assume these were the parents of Ida Hecht Goldfarb, Sam Goldfarb’s wife. (Tillie is often an alternative name for Taube.)  They also were living at 131 Avenue C in the same building as Hyman Brotman and his family and Sarah and Sam Goldfarb.  The coincidences were clearly not just coincidences.

And it only got better.  I found Sam and Sarah Goldfarb on the 1905 New York census, living with seven children—Julius, Morris, Bessie, Joseph, Leo, and Rose, plus another daughter, Gussie, who was seventeen, two years younger than Morris and two years older than Bessie.

Sam Goldfarb and family 1905 NY census New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1905; Election District: A.D. 12 E.D. 06; City: Manhattan; County: New York; Page: 32

Sam Goldfarb and family 1905 NY census
New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1905; Election District: A.D. 12 E.D. 06; City: Manhattan; County: New York; Page: 32

I assumed that this newly discovered daughter named Gussie had married between the 1905 NY census and the 1910 US census since she was not living with the family in 1910, and my search revealed that she had married Max Katz on April 12, 1910.  I found her marriage on FamilySearch indexed as Josi Gossi Goldfarb, daughter of Sam Goldfarb and “Sarah Brohmen.”  Another piece of the puzzle tying Sarah Goldfarb to my great-grandfather.

But what was even more exciting about the 1905 New York census was what it revealed about where Sam and Sarah Goldfarb and their children were living: 85 Ridge Street in New York City. Why was that exciting? Because my great-grandmother Bessie Brod Brotman was living across the street at 84 Ridge Street in 1905 with my grandmother Gussie and her siblings, Tillie, Frieda, and Sam.  There seemed to be no denying the fact that Sarah Goldfarb was somehow related to my grandmother’s family.


(My great-grandmother’s name is badly butchered here as Pearl Brauchman, but there’s no question that this is Bessie Brotman and her children, Tilly, Gussie, Frieda, and Sam; when Bessie married Philip Moskowitz, her second husband, in 1908, her address was 84 Ridge Street.)

I also now understood why Julius and Joe Goldfarb would have been listed in the baby book and the address list. In 1905 when she was ten years old, my grandmother was living right across the street from Julius and Joe Goldfarb and their siblings. Joe was just a year or two younger, and like my grandmother, he was the first American born child of his parents.  Of course, Joe Goldfarb would be listed in the address book. Twice, in fact. Of course, Julius and Ida would have come to see my grandparents’ new baby in 1917.

There was still one prior census to find: the 1900 US census.  The Goldfarbs were a little harder to find on this one because Sam was listed as Solomon here, and several of the other names don’t quite match.  Although Sarah is listed as Sarah and Bessie as Bessie, there are two sons listed as Joseph; one, I assume, was Julius, given the approximate age. Morris was listed as Moses, Leo is Lewis, and Gussie as … Kate? Despite these discrepancies, I am quite certain that these are the right Goldfarbs. The immigration years are consistent with the 1910 census; Sam (Solomon) is a tailor.  The parents and older children were born in Austria, and the ages are close if not precisely the same.

Sam Goldfarb and family 1900 US census Year: 1900; Census Place: Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey; Roll: 993; Page: 17B; Enumeration District: 0179; FHL microfilm: 1240993

Sam Goldfarb and family 1900 US census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey; Roll: 993; Page: 17B; Enumeration District: 0179; FHL microfilm: 1240993

Again, what is particularly interesting here is where they were living: in Pittsgrove, New Jersey, where Moses Brotman and his extended family were living in 1900.  In fact, Moses Brotman and his family are listed on the very next page of the census report in 1900. And Moses Brotman was the brother of my great-grandfather Joseph Brotman.  One more piece of evidence that Sarah was a Brotman and related to me through my great-grandfather Joseph Brotman.

Moses Brotman 1900 census

Moses Brotman 1900 census Year: 1900; Census Place: Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey; Roll: 993; Page: 18A; Enumeration District: 0179; FHL microfilm: 1240993

I had one more type of document to search for before moving forward and finding more recent records for the Goldfarb family, and those were ship manifests for the Goldfarbs. Although I’ve not yet been able to locate one for Sam Goldfarb, I did find one for Sarah and the children who were born in Europe, Julius, Morris, Gussie, and Bessie.

Sarah Goldfarb and children on ship manifest 1896 The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Series Title: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; NAI Number: 4492386; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Record Group Number: 85; Series: T840; Roll: 25

Sarah Goldfarb and children on ship manifest 1896
The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Series Title: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; NAI Number: 4492386; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Record Group Number: 85; Series: T840; Roll: 25

Once again the names don’t match exactly. Sarah is Surah, a Yiddish version of Sarah.  Julius is Joel— Julius must have been the Americanized version of the Hebrew name Joel.  Morris was Moische—again a Yiddish name they changed in America.  Gussie was originally Gitel—as was the case with my grandmother Gussie.  And Bessie was originally Pesie.  The manifest indicates that they were all detained, and I need to find out more about that. It also says that they were going to Surah’s husband, Shlomo Goldfarb.  Shlomo is a Yiddish version of Solomon.  My guess is that Shlomo became “Sam” as the family Americanized their names.  (I also think the enumerator in 1900 heard Gitel as “Kate.”)

And the icing on the cake is that the manifest lists their last residence as Grembow—or more likely, Grebow as Julius listed it on his draft registration almost fifty years later.

So these were my cousins.  I was sure of it.  But was Sarah Brothman/Brohmen Goldfarb my great-grandfather’s sister? How could I determine the answer to that question?  I needed to order some actual records, search more deeply.  More in my next post.




Marx Seligmann, My Four-Times Great-Uncle: His American Family

Genealogy research is like peeling an onion.  You peel back a layer, study that layer, and feel a good degree of sweet satisfaction, but there are always more layers, and if you are as lucky as I have been with my Seligmann family, you can keep peeling back more and more layers.  Sometimes a new layer brings new tears, sometimes it brings more joy.  The two handwritten family trees that Wolfgang and his mother found in their suitcase revealed several new layers of the Seligmann and Schoenfeld families, including the names of all the siblings of my three-times great-grandparents Moritz Seligmann and Babetta Schoenfeld.

One of those siblings was a younger brother of Moritz named Marx Seligmann.  From the handwritten trees I knew that Marx had married Rosina Loeser and had two daughters with her, Mathilde and Sophie.  I also knew that Marx and Rosina had divorced about ten years after they married or in 1849.  I don’t believe I had seen any evidence of a divorce that far back in time in my family, and I assume that divorce was probably pretty unusual back then, or at least not as common as it is now.

tree 2 page 8

The first tree had a confusing comment about someone coming later to America, but it wasn’t clear whether that was Marx or his ex-wife or his daughters.  The second handwritten tree was more explicit: Marx had remarried and had gone to New York .  The tree seemed to suggest that he’d had a son who married a woman with the birth name Coppel, and that they’d had a daughter who married a film agent.  I searched for Marx based on those assumptions and found the record I posted last time.

Charlotte Seligmann marriage record

Assuming that this is the same Marx Seligmann, he had himself married a woman named Sara Koppel, and they had had a daughter named Charlotte.  Charlotte had married someone named Max Schlesinger.  From that one record, I was able to research further and put together a more complete picture of Marx Seligmann and his descendants.

It appears that Marx and Sara had married not long after Marx’s divorce from Rosina and before leaving Germany because they sailed together as Marx and Sara Seligmann and arrived in New York on August 18, 1849. Marx was 39, Sara 27, and Marx listed his occupation as a merchant. (They are the third and fourth entries from the bottom on the document shown here.)

Marx and Sara Seligmann passenger manifest

Source: Year: 1849; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 082; Line: 49; List Number: 1146


A year later according to the census taken on August 26, 1850, they were living in New York City and had a four month old son Siegmund (later Sigmund), so Sara must have been just pregnant when they arrived in New York.  Marx was working as a cigar maker.  They were living in the 13th Ward or the Lower East Side, which then had a large population of German immigrants.

Marx and Sara Seligman 1855 US census

Marx and Sara Seligman 1855 US censusSource Citation Year: 1850; Census Place: New York Ward 13, New York, New York; Roll: M432_550; Page: 200A; Image: 148


Marx filed a declaration of intent to become a US citizen on November 25, 1850.

Marx Seeligman petition for naturalization

By 1860, Marx and Sara had three more children: Jacob, born in 1852; Charlotte, born in 1855; and Mary, born in 1856.  The family was still living in the 13th Ward, and Marx was still employed as a cigar maker.  The only thing that disturbs me about this census record is that it reports that both Marx and Sara were born in Darmstadt.  I assume that Marx, like his siblings, was born in Gaulsheim.  However, given how unreliable census records can be, I am willing to put that aside.

Marx Seligmann 1860 census

Year: 1860; Census Place: New York Ward 13 District 2, New York, New York; Roll: M653_803; Page: 418; Image: 422; Family History Library Film: 803803


By 1870, it appears that Marx had died.  He is not listed with his family on the 1870 census, and in the 1872 NYC directory, Sara is listed as a widow.  I contacted the cemetery where Sara was later buried, but they had no listing for a Marx or Max Seligmann.

According to the 1870 census, Sarah (now spelled with the H) was the head of household.  Sigmund, now 20, was working as a clerk.  Jacob, 17, was working in a cigar store, perhaps following in his father’s footsteps.  Charlotte was 16 and at home, and Mary was 14 and a dressmaker.  They were now living in the 17th Ward, also in the Lower East Side in a neighborhood inhabited by mostly German immigrants.

Sarah Seligmann and family 1870 census

Year: 1870; Census Place: New York Ward 17 District 20, New York, New York; Roll: M593_999; Page: 188A; Image: 377; Family History Library Film: 552498


The first of the children of Marx and Sarah to marry was their youngest child, Mary.  She married Oscar Kornfeld on September 11, 1873, when she was only seventeen years old.  Oscar was only twenty.  Oscar was the son of Charles and Julia Kornfeld, who were born in Austria, according to the 1860 and 1880 census, or Baden, according to the 1870 census.  Oscar’s father was a cigar maker like Mary’s father had been, so I wonder if they had met through their fathers.  Oscar also followed his father into the cigar business.

By 1880, Mary and Oscar had three children.  Their first child, born in 1874, was named Marx, presumably for his grandfather.  In 1877, Rose was born, and then Carrie was born in 1879.  In addition, Mary’s mother Sarah and her brother Sigmund were living with them at 239 East 51st Street in New York.  Both Sigmund and Oscar were working as cigar packers.

Mary and Oscar Kornfeld 1880 census

Mary and Oscar Kornfeld 1880 census Year: 1880; Census Place: New York City, New York, New York; Roll: 893; Family History Film: 1254893; Page: 358B; Enumeration District: 557; Image: 0720

Mary and Oscar had another daughter, Lillian, in 1882.  According to the 1892 New York State census, Mary and Oscar and their family were living in Long Island City in Queens, where Oscar continued to work in the cigar business.

Mary Seligmann and Oscar Kornfeld 1892 NY census

Mary Seligmann and Oscar Kornfeld 1892 NY census New York, State Census, 1892 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012. Original data: New York State Education Department, Office of Cultural Education. 1892 New York State Census. Albany, NY: New York State Library.

By 1900 they were living at 1883 Madison Avenue, and Oscar was still working in the cigar business.  Their three daughters were still living with them, Rose doing housework, Carrie doing office work, and Lillian working as a cashier.  Their son Marx (later Max) married Emma Pisko on April 1, 1900.  I cannot locate them on the 1900 census—perhaps they were away on their honeymoon?

Oscar and Mary Kornfeld 1900 US census Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1119; Enumeration District: 0849; FHL microfilm: 1241119

Oscar and Mary Kornfeld 1900 US census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1119; Enumeration District: 0849; FHL microfilm: 1241119


As seen in the first record above, Charlotte Seligmann was the second child of Marx and Sarah Seligmann to marry; she married Max Schlesinger in 1874.  According to the 1880 census, Max Schleslinger was born in Berlin and was working in 1880 as a supervisor in a tie factory, and by 1880 he and Charlotte had three children:  Hattie (or Harriet), born in 1875; Arthur, born in 1876; and Lena, born in 1877.

Max Schlesinger and Charlotte Seligman 1880 US census

Max Schlesinger and Charlotte Seligman 1880 US census Year: 1880; Census Place: New York City, New York, New York; Roll: 894; Family History Film: 1254894; Page: 52C; Enumeration District: 564; Image: 0096

I found a card for Max in the database for U.S. Naturalization Record Indexes indicating that he became a citizen on October 5, 1877, and was living at 315 East 56th Street, not too far from where Charlotte’s mother and siblings were living at that time.  In 1884, they had a fourth child, Louis.

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Soundex Index to Petitions for Naturalizations Filed in Federal, State, and Local Courts in New York City, 1792-1906 (M1674); Microfilm Serial: M1674; Microfilm Roll: 251

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Soundex Index to Petitions for Naturalizations Filed in Federal, State, and Local Courts in New York City, 1792-1906 (M1674); Microfilm Serial: M1674; Microfilm Roll: 251


In 1900, Charlotte and Max were living at 202 East 123rd Street with just their two youngest children, Lena (listed here as Lillie) and Louis.  Max was still employed in tie manufacturing. Their daughter Hattie (or Harriet) had married George Cain in 1897.  George was a banker, and in 1900, they had a daughter Edith, just born that year. They also were living with George’s sister Lucie.

Max Schlesinger and Charlotte Seligman 1900 census

Max Schlesinger and Charlotte Seligman 1900 census Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1119; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 0854; FHL microfilm: 1241119

I unfortunately have had no luck locating Max and Charlotte’s son Arthur on the 1900 census or elsewhere.  The name Arthur Schlesinger is more common than you’d think (and that doesn’t include the famous historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. or his father, with whom there is no apparent tie), so I’ve not been able to figure out (yet) whether any of the men with that name in New York is the correct one.

Jacob was the next child of Marx and Sarah Seligmann to marry. He married Mathilde Kerbs on April 3, 1881, in New York City.[1]  Mathilde was a German immigrant, and at the time of the 1880 census she was living with her siblings in New York City.  Both of her brothers were in the cigar business as was Jacob, and so once again I think this was a connection made through the family ties to the cigar industry.  Between 1882 and 1888, Jacob and Mathilde had four sons. The first, Max (presumably for his grandfather Marx), was born in 1882, then came Harry (1883), Louis (1885), and Samuel (1888).  In 1900, Jacob was still a cigar packer, and the family was living at 303 East 69th Street.  They would have one more child, Beatrice, in 1902.

Jacob Seligman and Mathilde Kerbs 1900 census

Jacob Seligman and Mathilde Kerbs 1900 census Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1112; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 0700; FHL microfilm: 1241112

Sigmund, the oldest child of Marx and Sarah Seligmann, was the last to marry.  According to the 1900 census, he married his wife Charlotte in 1882.  From a death notice I found for Sigmund in the New York Times, I learned that Charlotte’s birth name was Koppel.

Sigmund Seligman death notice NYT June 1924 Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006. Original data: The New York Times. New York, NY, USA: The New York Times, 1851-2001.

Thus, the story posted about Marx on the second handwritten tree—that one of his sons had married someone whose birth name was Koppel (or Coppel, as spelled there) —was in fact true.  Both Marx and his son Sigmund married women with that surname.  My guess is that Charlotte Koppel was a relative of Sarah Koppel, Sigmund’s mother.  That guess is supported by two clues: one, Sarah’s mother’s first name was also Charlotte, according to Sarah’s death record, and two, Sigmund’s grandson posted a story on saying that Sigmund had gone back to Germany to marry Charlotte and suggesting that it had been an arranged marriage.

Death Certificate for Sarah Koppel Seligman, wife of Sigmund

Death Certificate for Sarah Koppel Seligman, wife of Marx

Sigmund and Charlotte had five children between 1883 and 1896: Mary (1883), Max (1884) (another namesake for Marx or perhaps for Sarah’s father Max Koppel?), Leo (1891), Theresa (1894), and Albert (1896).  Sigmund was employed in the insurance industry.  In 1900, they were living at 304 East 117th Street.

Sigmund and Sarah Seligman 1900 US census  Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1123; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0933; FHL microfilm: 1241123

Sigmund and Charlotte Seligman 1900 US census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1123; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0933; FHL microfilm: 1241123


Thus, by 1900, Marx Seligmann had not only four grown children surviving him in the United States (plus the two daughters born of his first marriage); there were also eighteen grandchildren and one great-grandchild to follow him in the United States, including several named Max or Marx in his honor.  Sometimes it amazes me to see just how many descendants one person can have.  As I follow the descendants of Marx Seligmann into the 20th century in my next post, I cannot help but think about all the potential lives that were lost for every person whose life was cut short.





[1] I cannot find Jacob on the 1880 US census.

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


Amsterdam coat of arms

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

File:Flag of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.svg

Philadelphia flag


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

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

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

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

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

flag of Washington, DC

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

Flag of the City of London.svg

The flag of the City of London

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

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

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



Another new relative: Gustave Rosenzweig

As I wrote yesterday, I was excited in reading the case file of Jankel Srulovici to see that the principal witness who came forward to vouch for him at the hearing to determine his admission into the US was a brother-in-law named Gustave Rosenzweig.  Gustave is the fourth child of my great-grandparents David Rosenzweig and Esther Gelberman whom I have been able to locate.   He was my great-grandmother Ghitla’s older brother and also Tillie and Zusi’s brother.  I had already noted his name on Bertha Strolowitz’s marriage certificate in 1915, but now I have some verification that he was in fact a member of the same family.  Not simply because he testified for Jankel and helped post the bond for his admission, but because he described Jankel and Tillie in his testimony as his brother-in-law and sister.

I have now done research to learn more about this man, my great-great uncle, who had $6000 in assets in 1908 and a painting supply business in Brooklyn and who had already impressed me with his character for helping out his family.  From various records, I have learned that Gustave was born in Romania in September, 1861.  He married his first wife, Gussie, in 1882, according to the 1900 census.

Gustave Rosenzweig and family 1900 census

Gustave Rosenzweig and family 1900 census

It is not at all clear exactly when Gustave and Gussie arrived in NYC, and I have not yet found a ship manifest for either of them.  On his naturalization papers in January of 1892, Gustave wrote that he had arrived on April 12, 1887.

naturalization petition gustave rosenzweig

naturalization petition gustave rosenzweig

Some of the census reports indicate that Gussie and Gustave emigrated in 1881, others say 1888. According to the 1900 census, their first child Lilly was born in Romania in 1884, and if Lilly was born in Romania, the later date seems to be more accurate.  On the other hand, the 1905 and 1910 census reports say that Lilly was born in the United States, and, according to the 1905 census, that Gussie and Gustave had been in the US for 22 years, i.e., since 1883.  At any rate, Gustave and Gussie were certainly in the United States by 1888, and thus he was the earliest of the Rosenzweig children to come to America, at least a few years before Zusi, 13 years before his nephew Isidor Strolowitz, 15 years before my grandfather Isadore Goldschlager, and almost 20 years before Tillie, over 20 years before Ghitla.

Gustave Rosenzweig family on the 1905 NYS census

Gustave Rosenzweig family on the 1905 NYS census

The earliest record I have of Gustave in NYC is an 1892 New York City directory listing him as a painter, living on Eldridge Street in the Lower East Side.  His naturalization papers also indicated that he was a painter, as was Jankel Srulovici and his two sons Isidor and David.  It makes me wonder whether Jankel and Gustave had been in business together as painters back in Iasi.  Jankel would have been about ten years older, so perhaps he trained Gustave and brought him into his business.  Gustave might have felt some sense of gratitude to him as well as brotherly love for his sister Tillie, motivating him even more so to help bring Jankel into the country.

1894 NYC directory

1894 NYC directory

Gussie and Gustave moved several times after 1892—uptown on East 74th Street in 1894, downtown to E. 6th Street in 1900, and to Brooklyn by 1905, where they first lived in Fulton Street and then on Franklin Avenue, where they were living in 1908 at the time of Jankel’s hearing.  Throughout this period of time, Gustav was a painter, eventually owning his own paint supply business, and he and Gussie were having many children: after Lilly came Sarah (1888), Abraham (1890), Rebecca (1894), Jacob (1895), Harry (1897), Joseph (1898), Lizzie (1900) and Rachel (1903).  Apparently there were five others who died, as the 1900 census reports that Gussie had had thirteen children, eight of whom were then living.

It’s mind-boggling on many levels.  First, how did the support and feed all those children and where did they fit them?  And secondly, how did they endure the deaths of five children?  I’ve seen this many times.  In fact, on the 1900 census for Bessie Brotman, my great-grandmother, it reports that she had had nine children, only four of whom where then living.  I cannot imagine how these mothers coped with losing these babies.  Did it make them less able to bond with each newborn, fearing they would not survive, or did it make them cherish each new child even more, knowing how fragile life was and how difficult it was for a child to survive?

In addition, it appears that one of the children who survived infancy, Harry, died as a teenager in 1913.  Perhaps all this did take its toll on the family.  By 1915 it appears that Gustave and Gussie had separated or divorced. Gussie is living alone with the children in 1915; I cannot find Gustav at all on the 1915 census. The census reports for 1920 also had me somewhat confused.  I found Gustave on two reports, one in Brooklyn on Bergen Street, living with the four youngest children, and another in Manhattan on East 110th Street, living as a boarder with another family.  In the Brooklyn census report, Gustave is listed as having no profession; on the Manhattan one it says he was a painter.  And I could not find Gussie anywhere, though the Brooklyn census said that Gustave was divorced.  What I finally concluded was that the Gustave in Brooklyn was really Gussie, despite the fact that it said Gustave and listed him as male.  My guess is that, as was often the case, the census taker was given or heard confusing information and misinterpreted it.   It makes more sense, given the times, that the children would be with their mother and that a woman would not be employed outside the home.  The Manhattan Gustave, the painter, is obviously the actual Gustave Rosenzweig.

Rosenzweigs in Brooklyn 1920

Rosenzweigs in Brooklyn 1920

Gustave Rosenzweig in Manhattan 1920

Gustave Rosenzweig in Manhattan 1920

By 1925 Gustave was remarried to a woman named Selma Nadler.  I was able to find a family tree containing Gustave and Selma which included this photograph, apparently of Selma and Gustave.  Selma had also been previously married and had ten children of her own.

Gustave and Selma Rosenzweig

Gustave and Selma Rosenzweig

Between them, Selma and Gustave had nineteen living children in 1925.  Imagine what that family reunion would look like.  The last record I have for Gustave is the 1930 census.  I have not found him yet on the 1940 census.  I have found two death records for men named Gustave Rosenzweig, one in 1942, the other in 1944.  I have ordered them both to determine whether either one is our Gustave.

Meanwhile, Gussie continued to live with one or more of her children in 1925, 1930 and 1940.  I do not yet have a death record for her either.  I have been able to trace the nine children with varying degrees of success.  Lilly appears to have had a child out of wedlock in 1902 named William who was living with Gustave and Gussie for some time in 1905, but who was placed in an orphanage (father listed as Frank with no surname and deceased) for a short time in 1906. William Rosenzweig at Hebrew Orphanage Then Lilly reappears on the 1910 census living with her parents and without William.  I’ve not yet learned what happened to either Lilly or William.

Similarly, the other four daughters Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Lizzie, all became untraceable after they left home since I have no idea what their married names were.  As for the sons, Abraham married and had two daughters, who for similar reasons I cannot find after 1940.  Jacob/Jack also had two daughters, and Joseph I’ve not yet found past 1920.   So at the moment I have not located any current descendants, but I will continue to look to see if I can somehow find out the married names of some of Gustave’s granddaughters.  The NYC marriage index only contains records up to 1937, and these grandchildren would not yet have been married by then; thus, I have no readily available public source to find their married names.  It may take a trip to NYC to see if those records are available in person.  Or perhaps I can find a wedding announcement.

UPDATE: Much of the information in the preceding paragraph has been updated here, here, here, here, here, here, and other posts on the blog on Joseph, Jack, Rebecca and Sarah.

So that is the story of Gustave Rosenzweig as I know it to date: a Romanian born painter who married twice, had nine children, real estate and a painting business, and who came to the rescue of his sister and her family.  It would be wonderful to know what happened once they all settled in America.  Gustave obviously stayed in touch with Tillie and her children, as he was present at Bertha’s wedding.  Did he help out Zusi, his little sister, when her husband died? I had hoped to find her living with him on one of those census reports, but did not.  Did he help out my grandfather when he arrived as a 16 year old boy in NYC in 1904? Did he help out my great-grandmother when she arrived in 1910, a widow without any means of support aside from her children? I certainly wish there was some way of knowing the answers to these questions.  From his conduct at the hearing for Jankel in 1908, I’d like to think that Gustave was there for them all, but we will never know.

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Another Addition to the Brotman Family Tree: David Brotman and his wife Annie

Family Tree drawn by Elaine Goldschlager Lehbraum

Family Tree drawn by Elaine Goldschlager Lehbraum

As you may recall, a couple of weeks ago my cousin Jody made a big discovery: handwritten notes that her mother had made of Joseph Brotman’s children.  It included all the children we already knew about: Bessie’s children Hyman, Tillie, Gussie, Frieda (Florence in her notes) and Sam, as well as the two sons we knew of from Joseph’s first marriage, Abraham and Max.   My brother had recalled that our aunt had said Joseph had had four children from his first marriage, but we did not know the names of the two remaining children, and I had traced every possible Brotman I could find to see if there was a link.  I had hit many dead ends and found nothing that linked these other Brotmans to our family.

My aunt’s notes were a huge discovery because for the first time we had evidence of the names of those two missing children: David and Sophie.  As I wrote when Jody first sent me the tree, I was able to locate a David Brotman from Austria who was a possible match for Joseph’s missing son, but I needed to check further and obtain some documentation in order to be sure.

Well, those documents arrived the other day, and I was so excited to see that on David’s marriage certificate in 1897, he listed his father’s name as Joseph Brotman and his mother’s as Chaye Fortgang.

David Brotman and Annie Salpeter marriage certificate

David Brotman and Annie Salpeter marriage certificate

You may recall that Max had also listed his mother’s name as Chaye on his marriage certificate, so this confirmed that Joseph’s first wife was named Chaye, but now we know her surname as well.

Max Brotman marriage certificate

Max Brotman marriage certificate

In addition, the marriage certificate gave David’s current address as 85 Ridge Street—the same address where Joseph and Bessie were living in 1895 when Gussie was born, according to her birth certificate.

Gussie birth certificate

Gussie birth certificate

This confirmed for me that David was Joseph’s son, Max and Abraham’s full brother, half-brother to Hyman, Tillie, Gussie, Frieda and Sam, and our great-uncle.  I am still in a state of amazement that I was able to find him.  Thank you, Aunt Elaine, for leaving behind this great clue to our family.

Once I had this information confirming the relationship, I located whatever census reports and other records I could find for David and his wife, Annie Salpeter.  I found them on census reports for 1900, 1905, 1910, and 1920.  David was a tailor according to the first three census reports, and he and Annie were living on the Lower East Side until at least 1910. At times Annie’s brother Morris lived with them as well as a cousin Meier, but there were no children listed on any of these census reports.

At the time of his World War I draft registration in 1917, David and Annie had left the Lower East Side and were living at 143 Manhattan Avenue in Brooklyn, which was also their address on the 1920 census report, when David’s occupation was given as a cloak dealer in a “cloak house.”  Annie and David were now 44 years old and still had no children living with them, so I assume that they never had children. So there are no more second cousins to find and probably no pictures of David and Annie.  (But I’ve learned never to say never.)

I’ve yet to find David and Annie on the 1930 or 1940 censuses, but I am still looking.  It seems unlikely that they had left Brooklyn.  I was able to locate a 1946 death certificate for a David Brotman married to Anna living at 10 Sumner Avenue in Brooklyn, and I believe this is the same David, despite the fact that the death certificate has his father’s name as Isaac.  I’ve learned enough to know that death certificates are notoriously unreliable.  I will continue to see if I can find anything about David and Annie after 1920.

I do have David’s petition for naturalization in 1920, and it indicates that he had arrived in NYC on October 14, 1889, on the “Updam” from Tarnof, Austria.

David Brotman petition for naturalization 1920

David Brotman petition for naturalization 1920

Tarnof could be Tarnow, a city about fifty miles north of Tarnobrzeg/Dzikow and even further from Czchow, the two areas that I have been focusing on as the Brotman hometown based on Hyman’s listing of “Jeekief” and “Giga” on his documents.  But Tarnof could also be Tarnobrzeg, the larger town that is near Dzikow.  So did this new information help our search for our hometown in Galicia or did it just make it more confusing?

That led me to search for the ship manifest for David, now that I knew when he arrived and on what ship.  With some help from Renee, I located a September 4, 1889,  German ship manifest for the Portia, sailing to Rotterdam, listing Dawid Brodmann as a passenger.  I was excited to see that David was traveling with his older brother, Abe Brodmann. I had not previously been able to find Abraham on a ship manifest, so this was another exciting discovery.

David and Abe Brodmann on the Portia 1889

David and Abe Brodmann on the Portia 1889

On the Portia ship manifest, Abe and David are listed as coming from “Grambow, Russland,” not Austria at all, let alone Tarnow, Tarnobrzeg, Dzikow or Czchow.  I would have found this an indication that these were not the right boys, but there is a town right near Tarnobrzeg called Grebow, and according to a 1914 map, Tarnobrzeg was very close to the Russian border. So perhaps our family lived in Grebow? Or maybe that is where Joseph lived with Chaye and then moved to Dzikow when he married Bessie?

On the manifest for the Obdam, sailing from Rotterdam to New York arriving on September 19, 1889, David and Abe are listed as coming from Austria, not Russia, which appears to be correct.

David and Abe Brodman on the Obdam to New York 1889

David and Abe Brodman on the Obdam to New York 1889

There is obviously some confusion and conflict here, but it’s another clue and another place to look for the Brotman home in Galicia. I already have contacted several people researching this area to see if I can uncover more clues.

I have a few more leads to follow to fill in the gaps in David’s life story, and maybe they will even lead me to Sophie, the only remaining child of Joseph to locate.  There is also some potential evidence that will link our family to the Brotmanville Brotmans, but again, I need to do more research before it is worth speculating about that connection.

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