The Man with the Mustache: Are You My Grandfather?

For Thanksgiving week, I am only posting once, so let me wish all of you a wonderful holiday (for those in the US, anyway). May we all be thankful for all the good we have in our lives—those ancestors and parents who paved the way for us, those we now share our lives and love with, be they spouses, relatives, or friends, and those who will come after us—our children, grandchildren and all our descendants.


For today, I want to update an earlier post where I reported on Ava aka Sherlock Cohn’s analysis of this photograph, taken in 1923, probably in Atlantic City. I am curious about your reactions to our thoughts on the man with the mustache. Is he my grandfather John Nusbaum Cohen?

Based on earlier research and photographs along with Ava’s report, I am now fairly certain of the identities of most of those in the photograph, as I discussed here.  In the front row are Bessie Craig Cohen, probably her mother Sarah Tadley Craig, and Maurice Cohen, Jr. In the middle is Bessie’s niece Margaret Craig and behind Maurice Cohen Jr is his mother, Edna Mayer Cohen. Kneeling behind Edna is her husband, Maurice Cohen, Sr., my great-uncle. I also assume that the photograph was taken by my great-uncle Stanley Cohen based on the fact that he appears in a separate photograph quite obviously taken at the same time and place.

But who is the man kneeling on the left in the top photo, the man with the mustache? How does he connect to the rest of this group? It could not be Bessie Craig Cohen’s brother James because he died in 1918.1 It also could not be her brother Christopher if the photograph was taken in 1923 because he died in 1922.2 Edna Mayer Cohen had a brother Eugene born in 1893 who is the right age to be the man with the mustache. He was living in the Philadelphia area in the 1920s,3 so he is one possibility, but I have no photographs of Eugene.

Ava at first had a much more intriguing conjecture with respect to the man with the mustache. She saw “a resemblance also to the young man holding a hat in the Cohen & Co. Money Loan Office photograph from ten years earlier. If we are to assume that the young man in that photograph is John Nusbaum Cohen, born 1895, then we can assume that the man on the beach is also John Nusbaum Cohen who I estimated to be born circa 1893-1895.” Ava had done a previous report for me on the Cohen & Company photograph and had tentatively identified the young man holding the hat as my grandfather John Nusbaum Cohen, Sr.

Cohen & Company photograph

That is, Ava speculated that the man with the mustache could also be my grandfather because he resembled that boy holding the hat. I can definitely see the resemblance. Look at the chin and lips, the deep set eyes, the angles of the ears, and the high forehead:

It would make sense for my grandfather to be in the 1923 beach photograph.  He was the right age (born in 1895 so 28 in 1923), and he would have been with his two brothers and their wives.

But my grandfather did not have a mustache in any of the photographs I have of him. Also, my grandfather definitely had attached earlobes. It’s hard to see in the beach photograph, but that man does not appear to have attached earlobes.

And where is my grandmother? They married in January, 1923, so if the beach photo is correctly dated as 1923, my grandparents were already married by then. My grandmother would have been pregnant in the summer of 1923 as my aunt was born in January, 1924. Why wouldn’t she have been at the beach with her husband and brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law?

So I was not convinced that the man with the mustache in the photograph was my grandfather, but I also wasn’t willing to dismiss the possibility.

Then I received a whole box of photographs and other papers and books from my cousin Marjorie Cohen’s cousin Lou. Inside that box was this treasure, my grandfather’s 1921 passport including this stunningly clear version of his passport photograph:

The beach photograph was taken two years later in 1923. I definitely see similiarities—in the shape of the face, the lips, the forehead and eyebrows, the chin, and the nose. The eyes are so hard to see in the beach photograph, but they are definitely deep-set. But that mustache threw me off, and I could also see differences. My grandfather’s ears looked smaller and seemed lower set on his face, the top of his ears set below his eyes rather than at the same level.

Later, while doing a search on my computer for pictures of my father, I tripped on this photograph. I have no idea where I got this photograph. And I had no memory of seeing it before. But it had been saved to my computer three years ago. Hmmm. Why didn’t I label it when I got it?

Anyway, it’s another photograph of my paternal grandparents, Eva Schoenthal and John Nusbaum Cohen, Sr., taken some years later than the other two I have of them together. My grandfather was wearing glasses, so I wonder whether he was already having some of the early symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Eva Schoenthal and John Cohen, Sr.

Does this help to identify the man with the mustache on the beach?

I sent these two additional photographs to Ava to see what she thought, and interestingly, she concluded that although she now believed that the young man holding the hat in the Cohen & Company photograph was my grandfather John Nusbam Cohen, Sr., she did not think that the man with the mustache on the beach was my grandfather. Ava wrote:

He does look similar and, as you know, I initially said that the man with the hat in Cohen & Co. is the same man with the mustache in the beach photo. But as I said, the man in the beach photo is about the same age as John in the [recently added] photo taken with Eva and the two look different. I’m figuring the John and Eva photo is circa 1928-1931. So John would be in his early 30s. I’m quite certain John is in Cohen & Co. and the fact that his hair was parted in the center in 1921 for his passport picture and again in about 1928 would make the 1923 beach photo an anomaly if he had grown a mustache and changed his hairstyle two years after his passport photo and then changed it back by the end of the twenties.

That mustache is the real problem for me. The change in hair style is less concerning—he was at the beach. Maybe he went swimming? But that mustache. Facial hair often makes a man look older, so maybe that’s why he looks more like he’s in his early 30s and not 28, as my grandfather would have been in 1923.

But as Ava said, none of the other photos I have of my grandfather show him with a mustache—not the passport photo from 1921, not the one taken with my grandmother in 1923, and not the two later photographs. In fact, the 1923 photograph of my grandparents is dated July 1923 on its reverse, as I discovered when Lou sent me Marjorie’s collection:

Eva Schoenthal and John Cohen, Jr. July 15, 1923

Did my grandfather grow a mustache sometime that summer after the July 1923 photograph was taken, or maybe before and then quickly shaved it off? Neither of his brothers ever had mustaches. Were they even in style then?

Ava and I decided we both needed to get some distance from the photograph and come back with fresh eyes.  So for over a month, I put this all aside as did Ava. Then we both returned to it.

I asked the Photo Restoration Free Service group on Facebook to help by adding some clarity to the photograph and removing the mustache. Here was the result:

We then studied all the photographs again, adding this new one to the mix.

As I looked over every adult photo of I have of my grandfather, I began to see that he looked different in every single one of them. I was totally befuddled, but now thought that the man on the beach wasn’t my grandfather.

Ava was also convinced that the man with the mustache was not my grandfather. She wrote:

I took a long look at John’s passport photo and compared it to the man on the beach. I still don’t believe the two are the same person. Besides the obvious clues like hairstyle and mustache, it appears that John’s ears and the ears of the man in the beach photo are not the same shape and even though they both seem to have attached earlobes, the pattern of the “shell” is different. … I looked at all the identified pictures of John that I have from you, including his baby picture. I don’t think the man on the beach is your grandfather. I also don’t think that the man on the beach is the person holding his hat in the storefront photo.

I responded that I agreed with her and wrote:

So here’s the $64,000 question—do you think the boy holding the hat in the Cohen & Company photo is my grandfather? 

Ava responded that she thinks it is likely that the boy holding his hat in the Cohen & Company photograph is my grandfather, but without more photographs, it’s impossible to be certain, especially given the blurriness of that photograph and the fact that the boy is squinting, making it difficult to see his eyes.

As I looked over the photographs yet another time, I made a new observation. My grandfather’s hairline, even as it receded, always seemed a bit further back along the temples, a bit more forward in the center. The man with the mustache seems to have a hairline that did not curve backwards in this way.

So in the end, Ava and I both concluded that the man with the mustache was not John Nusbaum Cohen, Sr., but that the boy holding the hat likely is.

What do you all think? Here for your final review are all the photographs that I know are of my grandfather, John Nusbaum Cohen, Sr. as well as the beach photo.

 


  1. James Craig, death certificate, Certificate Number: 140783, Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1967; Certificate Number Range: 140251-143500, Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1967 
  2. Christopher Craig, death certificate, Certificate Number: 23826, Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1967; Certificate Number Range: 023001-026000, Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1967 
  3. Eugene Mayer, 1930 US census, Census Place: Cheltenham, Montgomery, Pennsylvania; Page: 12B; Enumeration District: 0024; FHL microfilm: 2341815, Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 

An Update on My Dannenberg Cousins

I now have blogged about Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hincka Alexander, my three-times great-grandparents, and all their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I also have blogged about two of Seligmann’s brothers, Lehmann and Simon, and their families. Seligmann had one other full brother, Meyer, a full sister, Jette, and two half-siblings, Elieser and Jude. I will turn to Meyer next. I have not yet found any primary or even secondary sources for Jette, Elieser and Jude and their families—just the family trees of others—so I may not blog about them. Time will tell. Maybe I will find more to add to those trees.

But before I turn to Meyer Goldschmidt and his family, I have some other things to write about. In the many months that I’ve been working on my Goldschmidt/Goldsmith family, I’ve also been in touch with a number of cousins who have provided me with additional photographs of and documents about other relatives. Being the somewhat-compulsive person that I am, I didn’t want to break the chronology of the Goldschmidt story, so I kept folders and notes for all those new items and decided I’d return to them once I found a place to take a break in the Goldschmidt/Goldsmith story. So the next couple of weeks will be devoted to these new materials. Then I will return to Meyer Goldschmidt.

To start, I want to share some photographs I received back in March and April from my fourth cousin Arlene, who is also a great-great-great-granddaughter of Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hincka Alexander. Arlene is descended from their daughter Sarah Goldschmidt Mansbach, sister of my great-great-grandmother Eva Goldschmidt Katzenstein. (For more background on the individuals named in this post, please follow the links from their names.)

Arlene’s great-grandmother was Hannah Mansbach, who was my great-grandmother Hilda Katzenstein’s first cousin. Hannah married Gerson Dannenberg. I wrote about the Dannenberg family here. Arlene is the granddaughter of Hannah’s son Arthur M. Dannenberg, Sr., and she is the daughter of his son, Arthur M. Dannenberg, Jr.

Arlene shared these images of two wonderful photographs of her great-grandparents Hannah Mansbach and Gerson Dannenberg:

Gerson Dannenberg. Courtesy of Arlene Dannenberg Bowes

Hannah Mansbach Dannenberg. Courtesy of Arlene Dannenberg Bowes

Both are signed at the bottom by Elias Goldensky 39 (which I assume is the year the photographs were taken when Hannah would have been 81 and Gerson 77; Hannah died in 1940, Gerson in 1943). Elias Goldensky was a very well-known professional portrait photographer in Philadelphia whose works were exhibited world-wide and who even photographed Franklin Roosevelt in the White House in 1932.1

I think I even see a slight resemblance between Hannah and my great-grandmother Hilda, her first cousin, especially around the mouth and nose.  What do you think?

Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal

In addition, Arlene sent me this image of a photograph of a Passover gathering of the extended Dannenberg-Loeb family in 1937. Most of those depicted are not my blood relatives, but are the family of Arthur M. Dannenberg, Sr.’s wife, Marion Loeb. But Arthur M. Dannenberg, Sr,, and his two sons, Arthur M. Dannenberg, Jr., and James Dannenberg, are included in this photograph, as labeled at the bottom. James stands to the far left in the top row, Arthur Jr. to the far right in the top row, and their father, the much-beloved pediatrician whom I wrote about here, Dr. Arthur M. Dannenberg, Sr., is the tall gentleman standing third from the left in the top row.

Passover, 1937. The Dannenberg-Loeb family. Courtesy of Arlene Dannenberg Bowes

Arlene commented on my blog back in March 2019 that her father, Arthur, Jr., had also become a physician and that he had devoted his career to researching tuberculosis, a cause that was important to him because his mother Marion’s first husband, Milton Stein, had died from TB while Milton and Marion were on their honeymoon in 1915, as I wrote about here. In fact, Arthur was not a true “junior” as his middle name was Milton (for Milton Stein), not Mansbach, his father’s middle name.

Arthur M. Dannenberg, Jr. 1965. Photograph by Julian Hart Fisher. Courtesy of Arlene Dannenberg Bowes.

Arthur M. Dannenberg, Jr., died on June 15, 2018. The American Association of Immunologists published a lovely tribute written by Ellen J. Mackenzie, Dean of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, where Arthur has spent much of his career as a professor and researcher. The entire tribute can be found here. I will post just a few excerpts from Dr. Mackenzie’s tribute to Arthur Milton Dannenberg, Jr.:

Art’s research explored cellular pathways to preventing and treating tuberculosis, and he was passionate about finding new vaccines against the disease. He was affiliated with the Johns Hopkins Vaccine Initiative as well as the Johns Hopkins Center for Tuberculosis Research, which established a student achievement award in his honor.

His work made a lasting contribution to our understanding of a disease that still, despite significant progress in saving lives through diagnosis and treatment, remains one of the top 10 leading causes of death worldwide.

A graduate of Swarthmore College, Art obtained his medical degree from Harvard in 1947. He continued his studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where, in 1952, he received a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in experimental pathology.

….

All of us who worked with Art over the years were impressed by his tireless pursuit and devotion to unraveling the mysteries of one of the most important infections plaguing humans throughout history – tuberculosis. We will sorely miss his enthusiasm and devotion to medical research and to educating the next generation of scientists.

My deep gratitude to my cousin Arlene for sharing these photographs and stories with me. It is always wonderful to see the faces of my cousins and learn more about them.


  1. “Elias Goldensky, Photographer, Dies,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 11, 1943, p. 11. 

Milton’s Family Album, Part XIV: Teasing His Little Brother

Having created pages about his grandparents, his parents, and himself, Milton Goldsmith turned to his siblings, starting with his brother Edwin.

Here is Edwin with his wife Jennie Friedberger:

And here is the biography that Milton wrote about Edwin:

A couple of observations about this biography:

First, I had to look up “caul” as I’d never heard of this before or the superstition associated with it, but this website confirmed what Milton said. A baby born with the amniotic sac on its head or even its whole body is said to have been born with a caul. Here’s a video showing such an occurrence:

 

As for Milton’s remarks about Edwin being registered as a girl at birth, I recalled that when I was researching Edwin, I saw on the Philadelphia birth index that he was identified as a girl. I assumed that that was just an indexing error, but apparently as Milton notes, Edwin was in fact registered as a girl at birth. Unfortunately, I cannot access the image of the actual birth record through FamilySearch; they are only viewable at a Family History Center, and I do not have easy access to one. If anyone lives near one and can retrieve it, please let me know.

I found Milton’s tone here that of the teasing older sibling as opposed to the serious, almost reverential tone of his other biographies. It is clear that Milton found it humorous that his little brother was registered as a girl.

But the remainder of this biography is obviously written with respect and admiration for his brother and all his accomplishments. This biography must have been written sometime after 1935 when Edwin retired, as mentioned in the essay, and before Edwin’s death on November 15, 1944, because Milton added that fact by the handwritten note above the biography. I think this also is a clue as to when Milton compiled the album—sometime between 1935 and 1944.

The only other article on this page is the obituary for Edwin’s wife Jennie Friedberger Goldsmith:

I won’t quote the entire obituary, but just this excerpt:

The death of Jennie Friedberger Goldsmith … after an illness of six weeks, brought sorrow to the family’s large circle of friends throughout the community. Mrs. Goldsmith, who was 67 years of age, was stricken with a heart ailment on June 5, while attending to some business matters at the offices of the Pennsylvania Company, and her condition became so serious that she was removed to the Jefferson Hospital.

…She was active in social and charitable work in Philadelphia and in Atlantic City….She possessed a wide circle of friends and was esteemed and beloved for her sterling qualities of heart and mind. Her abilities and energies were of an unusually high order. At her summer home in Longport as well as in her beautiful home in Philadelphia, she was a gracious hostess to her numerous friends for many years. Her passing is widely mourned….

The page following this contains a long article about Milton’s brother-in-law Felix Gerson, husband and widower of Emily Goldsmith and editor of The Jewish Exponent newspaper, on the occasion of his retirement. I won’t excerpt this one, but if you click on the image, you can zoom in and read it. I have already written about Felix elsewhere.

This is Part XIV of an ongoing series of posts based on the family album of Milton Goldsmith, generously shared with me by his granddaughter Sue. See Part I, Part II, Part IIIPart IVPart V,  Part VI, Part VII , Part VIII,  Part IX,  Part X, Part XI, Part XII and Part XIII at the links.

I will be taking a break for the next couple of weeks, so see you all in June! 

Milton’s Family Album, Part XIII: The Creative Talent of Milton Goldsmith Himself

Milton Goldsmith devoted the next three pages of his family album to himself and to his wife Sophie. The first page includes photographs and two biographies of Milton.

I wonder how they made this photograph of Milton taken from numerous angles—anyone know how they did this?

UPDATE! According to Ava Cohn, aka Sherlock Cohn the Photo Genealogist, these photographs were done with a folding mirror and were quite common. In fact, Ava shared another one as did another Facebook reader who saw my post.

I don’t know where this biography of Milton was published or when, though it was written no earlier than 1891 as it refers to the publication of his book, Rabbi and Priest, in that year. The biography also appears to have been written while he was still living and working in Philadelphia and before he moved to New York City and married Sophie Hyman in 1899. So it was written some time in the 1890s.

I would think that this photograph of Milton was taken about the same time as the publication of that biography, sometime in the 1890s when he was in his thirties:

This entry about him in Who’s Who was written many years later as it references some of his later publications, including his play, The Little Brother, which was published in 1918.

What I really love about this Who’s Who entry are the insights into Milton’s appearance and personality—that he had blue eyes, a fair complexion, and graying hair, that he was cheerful and optimistic, and that he was a moderate drinker and did not smoke. Most of the other biographical and professional information I had already gleaned from other sources. (There are a fair number of blog posts about Milton’s life and career, e.g., here, and here and here and here and here.)

Speaking of The Little Brother, the next page in Milton’s album is a copy of the program from a performance of that play in 1918:

I had previously written about this play and Tyrone Power’s starring role in it.

Finally, the third page compiled three reviews of a play (undated) in which Milton’s wife Sophie had an important role. The play, The Flight of the Duchess, by Henry Hanby Hay, was an adaptation of a “poetic romance” by Robert Browning and performed by the local Browning Society, a amateur group.

In the article on the left side of the page, the reviewer did not like either the play or the performers, but did praise Sophie’s acting, saying, “Mrs. Goldsmith’s reading of her lines was marked by a distinction and sense that had been welcomed in her associates….”

The second review, at the middle bottom of the page, was overall much kinder and also praised Sophie’s performance as “a striking piece of work.” And the third review, on the right side of the page, was more mixed, but again praised Sophie, saying that “The chief individual honors of performance fell to Mrs. Milton Goldsmith.”

These three pages about Milton and his wife Sophie are appropriate reminders of their many talents. Here is one final photograph of Milton, taken in 1941 when he was eighty years old:

This is Part XIII of an ongoing series of posts based on the family album of Milton Goldsmith, generously shared with me by his granddaughter Sue. See Part I, Part II, Part IIIPart IVPart V,  Part VI, Part VII , Part VIII,  Part IX,  Part X, Part XI and Part XII at the links.

Milton Goldsmith’s Family Album, Part XII: The Mystery of His Stepmother Francis

Will you help me solve a mystery?

The next page in Milton Goldsmith’s family album was devoted to his stepmother, Francis (sometimes spelled Frances) Spanier Goldsmith. But his story about her background and childhood left me with quite a mystery.

Milton was fifteen when his father remarried, and from this tribute to Francis, it is clear that he was extremely fond of and grateful to her.

Francis Spanier Goldsmith, the second wife of Father, Abraham Goldsmith, was born in Germany in 1854. Left an orphan at an early age, she was brought up in the home of Rabbi Krimke of Hanover, Germany. At the age of 20 she came to America, and having an Uncle, Louis Spanier, living in Washington, D.C. she went there for a while but soon settled in Baltimore, and became friends with our cousins, the Siegmunds. It was there that father met her, having been introduced by Mr. S. Father had been a widower for two years with five young children to bring up, and was looking for a wife, a lady with no relatives. He fell in love with Miss Spanier, proposed after two days and married within two months. She was 22 and he past forty. She was an attractive girl, dark-eyed, brunette, speaking a cultivated German but very little English;- of an amiable disposition. Father’s greatest mistake was to keep the parents of his first wife in the house. This naturally led to friction. A brother, Julius Spanier soon came in our home and lived there for a while. Later a sister, Rose, came from Hanover and also lived with us for several years. She eventually married and lived in Birmingham, Ala, where her brother also made his home. Within a year the oldest son, Alfred was born, and within five years there came Bertha, Alice and Louis. The later years of father’s life were embittered by sickness, loss of money and finally a stroke, rendering him helpless. He suffered for 12 years before he passed away in 1902. During that time Francis was an untireing [sic] nurse and faithful companion. She died of a stroke in Philada, 1908.

[handwritten underneath] She was distantly related to Heinrich Heine.]

I found this essay heartwarming, but also sad. Francis was orphaned, married a man  with five children who was more than twenty years older than she was, had to put up with his first wife’s parents, raise five stepchildren plus four of her own, and tend to Abraham when he suffered financial and medical problems. What a hard life! But how much of Milton’s essay was true?

When I first wrote about Francis over a year ago, I noted that I’d been able to find very little about her background, so finding this essay was very exciting because it provided many clues about Francis’ background. I’ve placed in bold above the many hints in Milton’s essay about people and places that I thought might reveal more about Francis.1

For example, who was Rabbi Krimke who allegedly brought up Francis? Was he just some rabbi from Hanover, or did Milton provide such a specific name because he was a well-known rabbi? It turns out that it was the latter. In Die Rabbiner der Emanzipationszeit in den deutschen, böhmischen und großpolnischen Ländern 1781-1871 (Michael Brocke, Julius Carlebach, Carsten Wilke, Walter de Gruyte, eds. 2010)( p. 549), there was this short biography of Rabbi Isaac Jakob Krimke of Hanover:

Here is a partial translation:

Rabbi Isaak Jakob Krimke, born in Hamburg in 24 June 1824, died in Hannover 20 Nov 1886. From orthodox school, 1857 third foundation rabbi at the Michael Davidschen Foundation School in Hannover, at the same time teacher at the Meyer Michael Foundation School and lecturer at the Jewish Teacher seminary, around 1869 first Foundation Rabbi. at the Michael Davidschen Foundation. Married to Rosa Blogg (died 1889), daughter of the Hebrew scholar Salomon Ephraim B.  ….  Was buried in the Jewish cemetery An der Strangriede. The tombstone for the foundation rabbi Isaac Jakob Krimke is preserved; it is adorned with a Magen David and also decorated with strong oak leaves….

I then fell into a very deep rabbit hole when I tried to track down Louis, Julius, and Rose Spanier, Francis’ uncle, brother, and sister, respectively. I was able to find a Joseph Spanier living with his wife and family in Birmingham, Alabama, on the 1910, 1920 and 1930 census reports.2  But Joseph Spanier was born in England, according to all three census records. I was skeptical as to whether this was Julius Spanier, the brother of Francis Spanier Goldsmith living in Birmingham, as mentioned in Milton’s essay.

Jos. Spanier and family, 1910, US census, Census Place: Birmingham Ward 2, Jefferson, Alabama; Roll: T624_18; Page: 14A; Enumeration District: 0047; FHL microfilm: 1374031
Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census

But when I searched further for Julius Spanier, I found this page from the 1861 English census:

Spanier family, 1861 English census, Class: RG 9; Piece: 243; Folio: 61; Page: 28; GSU roll: 542598
Enumeration District: 20, Ancestry.com. 1861 England Census

This certainly appears to be the same man described in Milton’s essay and found on the census records for Birmingham, Alabama, as he was the right age, born in England, and had two sisters, one named Frances, one named Rose. Could it just be coincidence? Also, my Francis was the same age as the Frances on the 1861 English census. This certainly appeared to be the same family as the Spanier family described in Milton’s essay about his stepmother.

What really sealed the deal for me were the names of Joseph Spanier’s children in Birmingham, Alabama. His first child was Adolph; Julius Spanier’s father on the 1861 census was Adolphus. Julius Spanier’s mother was Bertha. Joseph Spanier also had a daughter named Bertha.

And consider the names of the first two children Francis Spanier had with Abraham Goldsmith: a son named Alfred, a daughter named Bertha. It all could not simply be coincidence. I hypothesized that Joseph Spanier was born Julius Spanier in England to Adolphus and Bertha Spanier and that Francis Spanier Goldsmith was his sister.

But then things got murky. Look again at the 1861 English census. It shows that Frances was not born in Germany, but in Boston—in the US. Every American record I had for Francis indicated that she was born in Germany, not the United States. How could I square that with the 1861 English census and the connection to the siblings mentioned in Milton’s essay—Julius and Rose?

And if Frances was born in Boston and living in England in 1861, is it really possible that she did not speak much English when she met Abraham in 1876, as Milton claimed in his essay?

Spanier family, 1861 English census, Class: RG 9; Piece: 243; Folio: 61; Page: 28; GSU roll: 542598
Enumeration District: 20, Ancestry.com. 1861 England Census

Then I found a birth record for Frances Spanier born in Boston to “Radolph” and Bertha Spanier on September 10, 1854. “Radolph” was clearly a misspelling of Adolph, and this had to be the same Frances Spanier who appeared on the 1861 English census.  Francis Spanier Goldsmith had a birth date of September 13, 1855, on her death certificate, so just a year and few days different from this Boston birth record (though the death certificate said she was born in Germany.)

“Massachusetts Births, 1841-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-XHB7-DJH?cc=1536925&wc=M61J-KNL%3A73565601 : 1 March 2016), 004023162 > image 102 of 857; Massachusetts Archives, Boston.

Frances Spanier Goldsmith death certificate
Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 006001-010000, Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966

I also found records showing that Francis Spanier Goldsmith’s uncle Louis was living in Boston in the 1850s.3 It certainly seemed more and more like Francis Spanier Goldsmith was born in Boston, not Germany, as Milton had written and American records reported.

What about the story that she was an orphan and raised by Rabbi Krimke? Francis’ mother Bertha died in England in 1862,4 when Francis was seven or eight years old, so she was partially orphaned as a child. But her father Adolphus died in England in 1873, so Francis was eighteen or nineteen when he died.5 But when Francis immigrated to the US in 1876, the ship manifest stated that she was a resident of Germany, not England.

Franziska Spanier, Year: 1876; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 403; Line: 1; List Number: 344, Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957

Was Milton’s story just a family myth, or was there some way to reconcile it with these records?

Here is my working hypothesis:

After Bertha Spanier died in 1862, Adolphus was left with five  young children. Francis (then seven or eight) and at least some of her siblings were sent to Hanover, Germany, to live with Rabbi Isaak Jakob Krimke, as the family story goes. By the time Francis immigrated to the US fourteen years later, she might have forgotten most of the English she once knew, so she was speaking only German, and the Goldsmith family only knew that she was an orphan who had come from Germany so assumed she was born there, and the family myth grew and stuck.

How ironic would it be if Francis was, like Milton and his siblings, a child whose mother died, leaving her father with five young children? After all, Francis also ended up marrying a man whose first wife died, leaving him with five young children. Francis may have saved her stepchildren from the fate she might have suffered—being taken away from her father after her mother died and sent to live in a foreign country  with a stranger, who happened to be a well-known rabbi.

What do you think? Am I missing something here? Where else can I look to try and solve this mystery?

This is Part XII of an ongoing series of posts based on the family album of Milton Goldsmith, generously shared with me by his granddaughter Sue. See Part I, Part II, Part IIIPart IVPart V,  Part VI, Part VII , Part VIII,  Part IX,  Part X and Part XI at the links.

 


  1. I also spent far too much time trying to track down the Siegmund family of Washington, DC, whom Milton described as his cousins. I had no luck figuring this one out and finally forced myself to stop looking. I also resisted the temptation to try and track down the distant connection between Francis Spanier and Heinrich Heine, the great nineteenth century German-Jewish poet. 
  2. Jos. Spanier, 1910 US census, Census Place: Birmingham Ward 2, Jefferson, Alabama; Roll: T624_18; Page: 14A; Enumeration District: 0047; FHL microfilm: 1374031, Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census; Joe Spanier, 1920 US census, Census Place: Birmingham, Jefferson, Alabama; Roll: T625_25; Page: 21A; Enumeration District: 99, Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census; Joseph E. Spanier, 1930 US census, Census Place: Birmingham, Jefferson, Alabama; Page: 32B; Enumeration District: 0071; FHL microfilm: 2339762, Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 
  3. Birth record for Clara Spanier, daughter of Louis Spanier, Massachusetts Births, 1841-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FXDT-91R : 11 March 2018), Clara Spanier, 01 Oct 1855, Boston, Massachusetts; citing reference ID #p72 #3222, Massachusetts Archives, Boston; FHL microfilm 1,428,236. 
  4. Bertha Spanier death record, Inferred County: London, Volume: 1c, Page: 147, FreeBMD. England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1837-1915 
  5. Adolphe Spanier death record, Inferred County: London, Volume: 1d, Page: 577, FreeBMD. England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1837-1915 

Milton Goldsmith’s Family Album, Part XI: Tributes to His Father Abraham

This is Part X of an ongoing series of posts based on the family album of Milton Goldsmith, so generously shared with me by his granddaughter Sue. See Part I, Part II, Part IIIPart IVPart V,  Part VI, Part VII , Part VIII,  Part IX and Part X at the links.

The next two pages in Milton Goldsmith’s family album focus on his father Abraham. The first of those two pages consists of newspaper articles about Abraham.

Unfortunately I do not know the actual papers from which these articles were clipped, but this obituary was dated within the week after Abraham’s death on January 27, 1902, in Philadelphia:

Abraham was certainly active in his community.  How he had the time while raising all those children and earning a living is bewildering.

The next article that appears on this page relates to a tribute paid to Abraham by United Hebrew Charities at the time of his death:

The next article must have been published while Abraham was still alive. It relates to a resolution adopted by United Hebrew Charities to honor Abraham at the time he resigned from his position as secretary of that organization. Unfortunately the clipping is not in good condition and some of the words are not legible.

The second page of Milton’s tributes to his father Abraham has some items that are more personal.

This biography appears on that page. Again, Milton did not indicate where or when this was published:

This note written by Abraham when his wife Cecelia died seems almost journalistic in tone except for the opening and the last sentence:

My dear Cecilia died on Nov 8th 1874 after a short illness.

She complained of not feeling well on Monday evening the 2nd [?] but did not get [?] sick until the 5th in the PM. 

She was buried on Thursday the 12th November 11 o’clk am at Mount Sinai Cemetery.

Peace to her asked.

To the left and under Abraham’s note about his wife’s death, there is a poem by Milton written sometime in the 1890s, long after his mother died:

I assume this poem was somehow inspired by Milton’s experience losing his mother when he was just thirteen.

Under the poem he pasted this note written by his father Abraham in 1877:

My son Milton left from New York for Europe on the City of Richmond on Saturday morning Sept [?] 11:25

I do wonder whether there is some connection between the poem and the note. Anyone have any ideas?

The remaining two notes are in German.  I turned to the German Genealogy group for help.

The first note is dated around the same time as the note about Milton’s trip to Europe, September 1877:

The members of the German Genealogy group transcribed this as follows, “Gott sei mit dir! Der liebe Gott behüte und beschütze dich und gebe dir seinen Segen. Amen”

And translated it as, “May God be with you! May the good God keep and protect you and give you His blessing. From your father, Abr(aham) Goldsmith.”

Alfred, Abraham’s first child with Francis, his second wife, was born on August 11, 1877, just 20 days before Abraham wrote this note. I assume this was a prayer for his newborn son. I wonder where it had been kept that Milton found it and preserved it for posterity.

And then finally there is this note:

This one was transcribed by a German Genealogy group member as, “Auf Alle deiner Wegen, bleib Tugendhaft und rein; dann wird der himmlische Segen, stets deine Begleiter sein. Dein Papa, Abr. Goldsmith”

That translates to, “In all your ways, remain virtuous and pure, then heavenly blessings will always be your companions. Your papa, Abr. Goldsmith.”

As this one is dated 1880, I think Abraham wrote this blessing for his daughter Alice, who was born on August 29, 1880.

I wonder whether Abraham wrote these notes of blessing for each of his many children and if so, why only these two have survived. And where did he keep them that Milton found them and preserved them so that they could be read on the internet almost 140 years later?

Milton Goldsmith’s Family Album, Part X: A Son’s Loving Tribute to His Mother

This is Part X of an ongoing series of posts based on the family album of Milton Goldsmith, so generously shared with me by his granddaughter Sue. See Part I, Part II, Part IIIPart IVPart VPart VI, Part VII , Part VIII,  and Part IX at the links.

This is by far the sweetest and saddest page in Milton Goldsmith’s album, a page dedicated to his beloved mother, Cecelia Adler Goldsmith, who died in 1874 when Milton was thirteen years old:

It reads:

Our beloved Mother, who alas, passed away too early and whose death brought not only sorrow, but all kinds of misfortune.

She was the only child of Samuel and Sarah Adler, was born in Germany, but arrived in Philadelphia at the age of one year.  She grew to womanhood, a very beautiful girl;- rather short in stature, round in figure, a head of brown ringlets, – a belle among the Jewesses of her day and circle. She had many admirers.  Father proposed to her over a plate of ice-cream on “Simchas Torah”, a Jewish holiday.  It was in every way a “Love-match” which was only terminated at her death.  She died of peritonitis, which to-day would be called Apendicitis [sic]. A perfect wife, – a wonderful mother, – A woman whose children call her blessed.

She died Nov. 8th 1874, at the age of 35 years. I was 13 at the time of her death, the oldest of six children.

It’s interesting to read what Milton thought was the cause of his mother’s death, which conflicts with her death certificate. According to the death certificate, she died from apoplexia nervosa:

“Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-69HW-K75?cc=1320976&wc=9F52-L29%3A1073307201 : 16 May 2014), 004010206 > image 874 of 1214; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

In the upper left corner, Milton inserted a piece of Cecelia’s wedding veil:

In the lower right corner, he inserted a piece of fabric from one of her ball gowns.

What a sweet and sentimental thing for a son to do. How devastated he and his father and siblings must have been when Cecelia died.

 

Milton Goldsmith’s Family Album, Part IX: The Missing Babies

This is Part IX of an ongoing series of posts based on the family album of Milton Goldsmith, so generously shared with me by his granddaughter Sue. See Part I, Part II, Part IIIPart IVPart V,  Part VI, Part VII,  and Part VIII at the links.

After reading last week’s post about the birth records found in her grandfather’s family album and the speculation as to why only five of Abraham Goldsmith’s ten children were listed, my cousin Sue went back to the album and realized that she could remove the page with the birth records. On the back were not only birth records for Abraham’s other five children; there was also a sad entry for the death of his first wife Cecelia:

All of the birth entries again confirmed what I’d found in the official records, and once again Abraham entered not only the dates, but the times the babies were born.

For Estella, who often was referred to in records as Estelle, he introduced her as “our sixth baby.”

Then there is the heartbreaking entry for Cecelia:

My beloved wife Cecelia Goldsmith died on Sunday the 8th day of November 1874 at 6 o’clock PM after an illness of 6 days. Hebrew date [inserted in Hebrew]

May she rest in peace.

Abr.Goldsmith

Abraham’s signature here confirmed my hunch that he was the one who wrote all these entries (except the dates of death that occurred after his own death).

The next entry is for Alfred, who was Abraham’s first child with his second wife, Frances Spanier, But there is no break in the record to reflect that Alfred had a different mother from the first six children. He is introduced as “Our seventh boy” [emphasis added], despite the fact that he is the first child of Frances. You may notice that Alfred is the only one on this page who has a date of death.  That’s because those dates were entered by Milton, and the other four on this page—Estella, Bertha, Alice, and Louis—all outlived Milton.

Similarly Bertha is introduced as “Our Baby Bertha.” Then Abraham records the birth of “Baby Alice,” and finally the last child, Louis Seligman. At the end of the entry for Louis, Abraham wrote, “Louis Spanier his [?].”

Can anyone decipher what that says? From a later page in the album I learned who Louis Spanier was—Frances Spanier’s uncle—so Louis Goldsmith’s great-uncle. But that does not say “great-uncle” or “namesake” as far as I can tell.

And I got quite a kick out of the last word on this page: Finished. I don’t know whether Abraham wrote that to indicate the records were now completed or to emphasize that he was ready to be done having children after Number 10!

 

Milton Goldsmith’s Family Album, Part VIII: Birth Records

This is Part VIII of an ongoing series of posts based on the family album of Milton Goldsmith, so generously shared with me by his granddaughter Sue. See Part I, Part II, Part IIIPart IVPart VPart VI and Part VII at the links.

This record of the births of five of the children of Abraham Goldsmith and Cecelia Adler touched my heart.

I love the florid old script.  Who wrote these entries? Was it Abraham or Cecelia? I wasn’t sure at first, but I was reassured by this record that all the dates I had for the births (and deaths) of these five children were correct.  I loved that the writer added the time of birth, giving a personal touch to the facts.

For the first two entries, there are also Hebrew inscriptions. Thank you to Tracing the Tribe for helping me with these.  For Milton, it says “Mendel Goldsmith born 12 Sivan  5621.” Milton had mentioned on an earlier page that Mendel was his Hebrew name given to him in memory of his maternal grandfather.

The second entry is for Hildegard or Hilda, as she was called on the records I found. How sweet to see the formal name her parents gave her. Hilda died two months before her fourteenth birthday, as I wrote here and as noted on this record. Looking at this entry more carefully, I noted that whoever wrote the entry for her death had also written the entry for her birth.  It is the same handwriting.  And since her mother Cecelia had died in 1874, two years before Hilda died on June 7, 1876, that means that Abraham wrote this entry and all the other birth entries on this record.

No one on Tracing the Tribe was able to translate the Hebrew inscription for Hildegard except to say that it also states her birth date. Her Hebrew name was not legible. I guess Abraham’s Hebrew writing had deteriorated between Milton’s birth and Hilda’s. And the fact that he did not include any Hebrew for the next three children’s birth records may be a sign of his assimilation into secular American society.

It’s also interesting to see how Abraham introduced these entries.  Milton was “our boy.”  Hildegard was “our daughter.” Edwin has no descriptive introduction, nor does Emily, but Rosalinda is “our fourth baby.” (I also never knew that Rose was formally named Rosalinda—what a beautiful name!) I wonder whether Abraham wrote each of these at the time the baby was born or all at once. Since some of these have introductions and others do not, I think each was done separately when each baby was born.

For the last three entries—for Edwin, Rosalinda, and Emily—someone other than Abraham inscribed the information about their deaths. I assume Milton added this information as he outlived all three of those siblings. And there is no death date added to the entry made for Milton.

What is perhaps most perplexing about this page from Milton’s album is the absence of an entry for Abraham and Cecelia’s sixth child, Estelle. Estelle was born on January 20, 1870. Had Abraham lost interest in recording his children’s births by the time his sixth child was born? Or was there a second page that included Estelle (and perhaps Abraham’s four children with his second wife Frances Spanier) that somehow was lost and thus not included in Milton’s album?

 

Milton Goldsmith’s Family Album, Part VII: Abraham Goldsmith and Cecelia Adler Get Married

This is Part VII of an ongoing series of posts based on the family album of Milton Goldsmith, so generously shared with me by his granddaughter Sue. See Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, and Part VI at the links.

On the page following the photographs of his parents Abraham and Cecelia, Milton included a letter written by his mother on November 5, 1857, which, according to Milton, was shortly before their engagement.

Reading this reminded me of what it was like before cheap phone calls and email made handwritten letters obsolete. When my husband and I were dating the year before our engagement, we also wrote letters back and forth. Of course, we were living several hundred miles apart (but still tried to see each other every weekend) whereas Abraham and Cecelia both were living in Philadelphia. But perhaps letters were the only places they had any ability to communicate privately.

Here is Cecelia’s letter:

Some words were cut off on the right margin and at the bottom, but I have tried to transcribe it as best I can and added some punctuation and capitalization for purposes of clarity. Cecelia was a few weeks short of her nineteenth birthday when she wrote this letter, and Abraham was twenty-five.

 

                                                                                                         Phil. Nov. 5th

Dear Ab,

The few lines you have written to me give me a great deal of pleasure, for informing me of your health & good night’s rest. I passed an excellent night as[?] my cold is a great deal better though I am rather hoarse yet.  My Dear, I forgot to give you Henrietta’s [?] shawl last night, but it will and[?] as well tonight. I would send over the boy with it, but I am afraid he can not find the place. I am obliged for sending me the book & will look through it as soon as possible. Come early this evening, if you can.

I remain yours forever,

                                                                                                         Cely

If you hear of any thing important & have time, write me a note this [?].

 

If anyone can read it any better than I did, please let me know.

Appropriately, Milton placed the invitation to his parents’ wedding on the page that followed:

Note that the invitation is dated January 1, 1858, for a wedding to take place on January 27, 1858—less than four weeks later. Today it seems that wedding invitations arrive at least two months in advance (often preceded by Save the Date cards). Also, the wedding was to take place at Cecelia’s parents’ home at 440 North Second Street in Philadelphia, not in a fancy catering hall or hotel or resort, as many are these days. Life was so much simpler back then.

But life was also so much harder. Cecelia died less than seventeen years later on November 8, 1874, from apoplexia nervosa, or a stroke. She was only 35 and left behind her husband Abraham and six children ranging in age from Estelle, who was four, to Milton, who was thirteen.