Mea Culpa and more

I owe my readers an apology.  In my earlier post I had written that Jay Katz, the only child of Samuel Katz and Lorena Rothschild, had written on his World War I draft registration that he was born on October 23, 1882, in Omaha, Nebraska, which conflicted with the information on the census records. The census records from 1900, 1910, and 1920 all say that he was born in Kentucky, and that is consistent with the evidence suggesting that his family did not move to Nebraska until 1885.

On looking at the draft registration card more carefully, I now realize that it doesn’t list his birth place at all, only his birth date.  I misread the entry for his permanent residence (which was Omaha) as his birth place.  So Jay never wrote that he was born in Omaha. (I have now corrected my earlier post.)

Jay Katz World War I draft registration
Registration State: Nebraska; Registration County: Douglas; Roll: 1711763; Draft Board: 5
Draft Card : K
Source Information U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line].

However, the Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index on Ancestry lists his birthplace as Omaha. So, in my lame defense, I think that’s what made me jump to the hasty conclusion that the draft registration said that as well.  Mea culpa. Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.
Original data:
“Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916–1947.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2010. Index entries derived from digital copies of original records.

The good news is that in searching further to try and learn where Jay was born, I found a fairly detailed biography of him in Arthur Cooper Wakeley’s book, Omaha: The Gate City, and Douglas County, Nebraska, Volume 2 (S.J. Clarke publishing Company, 1917), pp. 979-980.  According to Wakeley’s biography of Jay Katz, he was “born in Taylor county, Kentucky, on the 23d of October, 1882, a son of Samuel and Lorena (Rothschild) Katz, who were natives of Germany and Kentucky, respectively.” That would seem to confirm the fact that Jay was born in Kentucky and that the Illinois death record is incorrect.

But the biography filled in other details about Jay and his family:

Jay B. Katz… attended public school, mastering the branches taught in the graded and high schools. Later he entered the Wentworth Military Academy at Lexington, Missouri, and following his return to Omaha spent four years in the employ of ME Smith & Company.

While employed there, Jay suffered a painful injury:

Wakeley’s biography continues:

After leaving that company, he engaged in the contracting business with his father, Samuel Katz, and George W. Craig, in the Katz Craig Contracting Company, where he took up municipal contracting and the building of public works.

The biography also reported that Jay married Ruth Rubel on June 11, 1912.  That would have been just six weeks after his father Samuel died on March 27, 1912.  What a bittersweet occasion that must have been. Ruth Rubel was the daughter of Isaac and Hattie C. Rubel of Omaha.  Ruth and Jay had two children born in the first few years after they married.

The Wakely biography praised Jay’s business skills quite enthusiastically:

Samuel Katz and Mr. Craig retired from the business in 1911, and Jay B. Katz took over the business and is still operating and has built waterworks and sewerage systems throughout the western country. His patronage has grown to extensive proportions and is well merited by reason of his ability his sound judgment and his enterprise. He fully merits the prosperity that has come to him as it is the just reward of his diligence and keen sagacity. He has many men in his employ, and every completed contract is an advertisement of the excellence of the work.

Mr. Katz is a thirty-second degree Mason and is also connected with the Benevolent Protective order of Elks. He likewise belongs to the Commercial Club and to the Omaha Athletic Club, and he has many friends in these organizations. Step by step, he has advanced since starting out in the business world in his youthful days, and his orderly progress has brought him into prominent relations.

Jay and his family stayed in Omaha where he continued to operate the construction business, but then Jay and Ruth are listed in 1926 in the West Frankfort, Illinois, directory; Jay’s occupation is reported as a sewer contractor, which seems consistent with his business in Omaha. West Frankfort is 542 miles from Omaha, and I have no idea why Jay would have decided to leave Omaha at that time.

This article from the March 8, 1928, Omaha World-Herald states that Jay and Ruth had left Omaha two years before and were living now in Chicago.  But West Frankfort is more than 300 miles from Chicago.  Although I could not find Jay listed in a Chicago directory for 1927 or 1928, he is listed in the 1930 Chicago phonebook, so the newspaper appears to have correctly reported that he was then residing in Chicago.

Why did Jay leave Omaha? Why did he then move to Chicago? Was business bad? Or was he seeking to expand by moving to West Frankfort and then Chicago? I don’t know.  But at some point things did go poorly for Jay, as a March 18, 1930 article from the Council Bluffs, Iowa Daily Nonpareil, p.12, as well as an article from March 18, 1930 edition of the Omaha World-Herald (p.2)  reported that Jay had committed suicide.  Both articles suggested that it was because of financial problems.  The stock market crash that led to the Great Depression had occurred just five months before, undoubtedly causing Jay, like so many others, to suffer devastating losses.

Some stories just break your heart.

One Busy Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will transcribe just the beginning of the article:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Samuel nevertheless also remained engaged in the grading business:

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

Once again I ask: When did he sleep?

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

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

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

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

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

Then, Samuel retired as president of his congregation:

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

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

Samuel Katz’s occupation on 1900 US census

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More on his family in the next post.






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

My Kentucky Cousins

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

More in my next post.


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

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