The Cohen Family Photograph: Who Are These People?

Ordinarily finding a large collection of photographs would be cause for much celebration, but when almost none of those photographs is labeled, it can be cause for much frustration.

That is the case with the collection of photographs my cousin Ken inherited from his great-grandparents, Lilian Katz and Isaac S. Cohen. Isaac S. Cohen was my grandfather’s first cousin. Isaac’s father Joseph Cohen was my great-grandfather Emanuel Cohen’s older brother. Thus, Ken and I are third cousins, once removed, both descended from Jacob Cohen and Sarah Jacobs, my great-great-grandparents. (All photos in this post are courtesy of my cousin Ken except where noted.)

Fortunately, some of the photographs in Ken’s collection were labeled. Most important to me was this photograph labeled “Cohen Family.” Ken and I assumed that the couple sitting second and third from the left  in the front row are Joseph Cohen and his wife Caroline Snellenburg Cohen, parents of Isaac S. Cohen, and that Isaac was one of the other men in the photograph.

Joseph Cohen and Family c. 1915-1917

“Cohen Family” Courtesy of Ken Newbury

To help us identify the people in the photograph, I once again retained the services of Ava Cohn a/k/a Sherlock Cohn, the Photogenealogist. She concluded that the Cohen Family photograph was likely taken around 1915-1916 based on the clothing. Joseph Cohen would have been 67 in 1915, and the man who is sitting second from the left in the front row could be in that age range.

The other three men in the Cohen Family photograph all resemble each other, but who are they? Here are closeups of those three. You can see that they all have similar hairlines, long noses, and similar mouths and ears. To me, they look like brothers, although the third looks much younger than the first two, who have graying hair.

My hunch was that these three men were three of Joseph Cohen’s five sons who were still living in 1915. In 1915 the five living sons were Jacob, who would have been 43, Isaac, who would have been 41, Nathan, who would have been 39, and Samuel and Morris (the twins), who would have been 28.

I found a passport photograph of Jacob Cohen taken in 1922 when he was 51, and I do not see a resemblance to the men in the photograph. He has more hair and a different shaped head. Ava agreed that Jacob is not in the Cohen Family photograph.

So that leaves Isaac, Nathan, and the two twins Samuel and Morris. Since the photograph was in Isaac’s possession, Ken and I assumed that Isaac was in the photograph, and we knew what Isaac looked like from other photographs in Ken’s collection.

For example, this photograph is of Isaac S. Cohen and Lilian Katz and their son Jac, Ken’s grandfather, who was born in April 1907. Ava estimated that this photograph was taken in about 1908, when Isaac would have been about 34.

Isaac, Jack, and Lillian Cohen, c. 1908

Isaac, Jac, and Lillian Cohen, c. 1908

Ava opined that Jac was about nine years old in this photograph of Isaac, Lillian and Jac, meaning it was taken in about 1916.

Isaac S., Jac, and Lillian Katz Cohen. c. 1917

Jac is also in this photograph, sitting at the piano, and Ava thought he  was about six or seven when it was taken, meaning it dates to about 1913. A closeup of Isaac from this photograph appears below it.

Isaac S Cohen, c. 1913

These two profile shots were snipped from two other photographs also taken around the same time. One was from a large photograph of men promoting the sale of war bonds for World War I; the other from a photograph that Ava dated as about 1915  of Isaac with Lillian and Jac and Lillian’s father Leo Katz.

Here’s a lineup of three of the photographs of Isaac and the closeup of the man on the left in the second row in the Cohen Family photograph. Based on all the above photographs, Ava concluded that the man on the left in the second row of the Cohen Family photograph was Isaac S. Cohen, Ken’s great-grandfather.

But who are the other two men in the family photo? Ava did not have enough information to reach a conclusion on that question. I have no photographs of Joseph’s son Nathan, so we have no way to identify him in the photograph. And I have no photographs of Morris, one of the twins, so cannot identify him either.

I was able to obtain two photographs of Samuel Cohen from his grandson Sam, but they were taken when Samuel was older. Even so, Ava and I both concluded that Samuel Cohen had ears that were closer to his head than any of the men in the Cohen Family photograph as well as a different shaped nose and thus was not in this photograph.

So without photographs of Joseph’s other sons, it’s impossible to make any identifcation of the other two men in the Cohen Family photograph.

And what about the women in the photograph? Assuming that Caroline Snellenburg Cohen is sitting next to Joseph, who are the other four women? They certainly appear to be much younger than Caroline. Joseph and Caroline Cohen had four daughters, and Ava thought it was likely that the four women are their daughters. In 1915 Bertha would have been 42, Sallye 38, Fannie 33, and Julia 31. The woman seated on the far right is the spitting image of Caroline. I’d be shocked if she was not her daughter.  So this could be a photograph of Joseph and Caroline, their four daughters, and three of their five sons. But we can’t be certain.

The other mystery is….who was cut out of the photograph?  Ava focused on the sleeves and the size of the hands and concluded that it was a woman. But who could she have been?

One possibility is that it was Lillian Katz, Isaac S. Cohen’s wife. Why, you ask, would she have been cut out of the picture?

Well, it appears that sometime between 1915, when they were living together in Atlantic City, and 1919, Isaac and Lillian separated and then filed for divorce in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, in April 1919. They were divorced on February 20, 1920, on grounds of desertion. In 1920 Lillian was living with her parents in Pittsburgh with her son Jac (incorrectly listed here as John) and listed as divorced, and Isaac was living in Philadelphia with his sister Julia and her husband.1

Lillian Katz Cohen, 1920 US census, Census Place: Pittsburgh Ward 14, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1522; Page: 20B; Enumeration District: 550
Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census

Isaac Cohen 1920 US census, Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 38, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1635; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 1328
Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census

Ken told me that  when his grandfather Jac was a boy, he was run over by a trolley car while sledding; as a result, he lost an arm. We have the hospital record from Jac’s accident, and it’s dated January 6, 1917.  Ken wondered whether the injury to their son caused a rift between Isaac and Lillian, as sadly often happens when a child is seriously sick or injured and upset parents find it difficult to deal with the tragedy.

But the story has a happy ending. On August 12, 1921, Isaac and Lillian applied for a marriage license in Philadelphia and were remarried:

And records suggest that they remained married for the rest of their lives.

But maybe someone cut Lillian out of the family picture during the brief period when she and Isaac were divorced. It would seem odd that Lillian saved a photograph from which she had been removed, but stranger things have happened. But as Ava said, we really have no idea who was cut out or why. It’s just speculation.

In the end, we still have many questions but at least a few answers about the Cohen Family photograph. It’s a good reminder that I really should do my descendants a favor and go label all those photos from my own life.

Thank you to my cousin Ken for sharing the photographs and to Ava Cohn, aka Sherlock Cohn the Photogenealogist for her invaluable insights and her determination to get this right!

 


  1. Isaac listed his marital status as married; the divorce didn’t take effect until February 20, 1920, and the census was enumerated on January 17, 1920. Obviously Lillian was already considering herself divorced. 

The “Disappearance” of Arthur Cohen, My Grandfather’s First Cousin

Way back in July, 2014, I wrote about my great-grandfather Emanuel Cohen’s youngest sibling, his brother Abraham, the thirteenth child of my great-great-grandparents Jacob Cohen and Sarah Jacobs. What I reported was that Abraham, born in Philadelphia on March 29, 1866, had married Sallie McGonigal in 1886, and they had five children, but three of those children died in childhood. Only two children survived—their son Leslie, their second child, and their son Arthur, their fifth and youngest child. There were almost twenty years between the two boys: Leslie was born in 1889, Arthur in 1907.  They lost their mother Sallie to the dreadful flu epidemic on March 14, 1919.

Gravestone for Sallie and Abraham Cohen, courtesy of Michael DeVane

Abraham Cohen remarried in 1920, and I was able to trace Abraham and his son Leslie up through their deaths, as described here.

But Arthur’s story was unfinished. The last record I had for him was the 1930 census when he was living with his father Abraham and stepmother Elizabeth in Philadelphia and working in a gas station. He was 23 at the time. After that, he disappeared. I could find other Arthur Cohens who matched in some ways, but not in others. Thus, I was unable to find anything after 1930 that was definitely about my Arthur Cohen.

Abe Cohen and family, 1930 US census, Year: 1930; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 0505; FHL microfilm: 2341874
Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Censu

Until, that is, about a month ago when I received a comment on the blog from someone named Michael DeVane, who wrote, “I came across your blog while searching for information on Abraham Cohen, my grandfather. My father was Arthur Cohen. You really helped me fill in some of the missing information on my family. If you want to reach out to me, I will gladly help fill in some missing information to our family tree.” I immediately wrote back to Michael, and we arranged to chat by telephone a few days later.

To prepare for the conversation, I went back to all the research I’d done about Abraham and his family. One thing puzzled me. If Michael’s father was Arthur Cohen, why was his surname DeVane? Well, that clue led me to find more information, and then my conversation with Michael confirmed what I’d uncovered and added more insights. There was a very good reason that I’d not been able to find Arthur Cohen after 1930. By 1931, he’d changed his name to Arthur DeVane.

Once I knew that Arthur had in fact changed his name to DeVane, I located a marriage in the Philadelphia marriage index for Arthur DeVane and Ruth Bussard dated 1931. 1 Michael found in his family records the following document that confirmed that this marriage record was indeed for his father, born Arthur Cohen. It is his father’s baptismal certificate under the name Arthur Cohen with his parents identified.

On the reverse, it notes that Arthur changed his name to DeVane and that he married Ruth Bussard on September 30, 1931, at St. Agnes Church in Philadelphia. Michael thought he might contact the church authorities to see if the record for the name change can be located.

Michael had understood that his father changed his name from Cohen to avoid anti-Semitism, but now we both wonder whether it also had to do with the marriage to Ruth Bussard. Perhaps she didn’t want to take on such an obviously Jewish name. As you can see from the headstone above, both of Arthur’s parents identified as Catholic and are buried in a Catholic cemetery, so Arthur was neither raised Jewish nor identified himself as Jewish.

In any event, the marriage to Ruth did not last. In September 1939, Ruth filed for divorce, and in February 1940, divorce was granted.2 Ruth remarried later that year.3

On the 1940 census, Arthur was living as a lodger with a family, listing his marital status as single and his occupation as a signal man for the railroad.4

On January 8, 1942, Arthur DeVane enlisted in the US armed services and served during World War II until September 5, 1945, including almost two and a half years serving overseas.5 During that time, while stationed in England , he met his second wife, Nellie Keep. Nellie was born April 1, 1917, in Oxford, England to Edward Keep and Nellie Massey. She and Arthur were married in New Hampshire on December 18, 1947. Like Arthur, Nellie had been previously married and divorced.

Marriage record of Arthur Devane and Nellie Keep, New England Historical Genealogical Society; New Hampshire Bureau of Vital Records, Concord, New Hampshire, Ancestry,com. New Hampshire, Marriage and Divorce Records, 1659-1947

The record for their marriage is interesting. Arthur reported that his father’s name was Leslie DeVane, not Abraham Cohen, the true name of his father. He also reported that his father had been a jeweler, when in truth, like so many of my Cohen relatives, Abraham had been a pawnbroker. Michael wasn’t sure whether Arthur did this to hide his background from his new wife or for some other reason, but Nellie did at some point know the truth of Arthur’s family background because she revealed it to Michael.

Part of the family lore is that Arthur had hoped to take over his father’s pawnbroker business, but that his father Abraham lost the business when his second wife Elizabeth died in 1939 and her family acquired it and apparently pushed Abraham out. That is why, as noted in my earlier post, Abraham’s death certificate in 1944 listed his occupation as elevator operator—a job he’d had to take after losing his business.

Abraham Cohen death certificate.

That meant Arthur also lost the business. Instead, Arthur ended up rejoining the military and spent most of his career serving his country in the US Air Force, as has his son Michael. Arthur was stationed over the years in England, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. He retired as a master sergeant in the Air Force after twenty years of service.

Arthur DeVane, born Arthur Cohen, died on April 16, 1976, in Burlington, New Jersey. He was sixty-eight years old.6  He was survived by his wife Nellie, who died in 2005, 7 and their three children and their grandchildren.

Michael kindly shared with me the following photograph of his father as a boy.

Arthur Cohen (later DeVane). Courtesy of Michael DeVane

I saw some similarity between young Arthur and his first cousin, once removed, my grandfather John Nusbaum Cohen, Sr., as a little boy, but it could just be the haircut.

John Cohen Sr as a baby

Michael also shared the following photograph of his father Arthur in 1948:

Arthur DeVane, 1948. Courtesy of Michael DeVane

I don’t see many resemblances here to either my father or my grandfather, except perhaps around the mouth and the large forehead.

John N. Cohen, Sr., 1921

John N. Cohen, Jr. c. 1945

I am so grateful to my cousin Michael, my father’s second cousin, for finding me and sharing his father’s story and photographs with me.

 

 


  1. Arthur J DeVane, Gender: Male, Spouse: Ruth H Bussard, Spouse Gender: Female
    Marriage Place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, Marriage Year: 1931
    Marriage License Number: 606549, Digital GSU Number: 4141671, Ancestry.com. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951 
  2. The Philadelphia Inquirer – 27 Feb 1940 – Page 11, found at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/59928918/divorce-granted/?xid=637&_ga=2.20757178.305149426.1602707833-2106877110.1599576721 
  3. Ruth Devane, Gender: Female, Spouse: Marturano, Spouse Gender: Male
    Marriage Place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, Marriage Year: 1940
    Marriage License Number: 716706, Digital GSU Number: 4141873, Ancestry.com. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951 
  4.  Year: 1940; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: m-t0627-03723; Page: 61B; Enumeration District: 51-1118, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  5. Arthur J DeVane, Birth Date: 9 Dec 1907, Birth Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, Gender: Male, Residence Date: 2 May 1950, Residence Place: Upper Darby, Delaware, Pennsylvania, USA, Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, World War II Veteran Compensation Application Files, 1950-1966 
  6. Arthur Devane, Social Security Number: 182-10-8245, Birth Date: 9 Dec 1907
    Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: Pennsylvania, Last Residence: 08016, Burlington, Burlington, New Jersey, USA, Death Date: Apr 1976, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  7.  Nellie A Devane, Social Security Number: 144-38-3406, Birth Date: 1 Apr 1917
    Issue Year: 1963, Issue State: New Jersey, Death Date: 26 Jun 2005, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 

Henriette Werner Cohen and Her Children: Escaping from Germany

Helene Katzenstein Werner died in 1912, and her husband Max died seven years later in 1919. Their son Carl was killed fighting for Germany in World War I. Helene and Max were survived by four of their five children—Henriette, Elsa, Rosa, and Moritz—and many grandchildren. What happened to those children and grandchildren when Hitler came to power in 1933?

We know that Elsa and her husband Julius Loewenthal survived and immigrated eventually to the US, as did two of their four children, but their daughter Ruth and her husband were killed in a terrible car accident in Switzerland in 1937, and Ruth’s orphaned daughter Margot was later murdered by the Nazis at Sobibor. Their son Herbert spent the war years in a sanitorium in Zurich and lived the rest of his life in Switzerland.

What about Elsa Werner Loewenthal’s three siblings? What happened to them? As we will see, they all survived, but ended up spread throughout the world. Today’s post is about her sister Henriette Werner Cohen.

Henriette and her family ended up in the United States, as had Elsa. But Henriette first endured the tragedy of losing her husband Julius Cohen. He died on June 7, 1933, in Hamburg, just two months after Hitler’s rise to power; he was 64.

Julius Cohen death record, Year Range and Volume: 1933 Band 01, Ancestry.com. Hamburg, Germany, Deaths, 1874-1950

Julius was survived by Henriette and their three children, Mary, Manfred, and Willy, who all left Germany for the US in the 1930s. Manfred left first; he arrived in the US on December 24, 1936, but the ship manifest indicated that he was only planning to stay for three months. The person he listed as his contact in the US was a cousin, Max Stern. I assume this referred to Hilda Loewenthal’s husband Max Stern, the founder of Hartz Mountain Corporation. Manfred listed his mother as his contact back in Germany; she was still living in Hamburg, but Manfred listed his last residence as Eschwege, his mother’s birthplace. I wonder whether he was working for his uncle/cousin Julius Loewenthal.1

Manfred returned home to Germany, but then came again to the US two years later on April 4, 1938, this time intending to stay permanently. By that time he was married to Caecilie Gundersheimer. Caecilie was born on February 10, 1915,2 the daughter of Samuel Gundersheimer and Bertha Schwarzschild.3  According to the ship manifest, she was born in “Kleinheubad,” Germany, which I assume is a misspelling of Kleinheubach, as I cannot find any place (in Germany or elsewhere) named Kleinheubad. When Caecilie’s parents immigrated to the US the following year, they were going to Reading, Pennsylvania, where Manfred and Caecilie had settled.4

Manfred Cohen, ship manifest, Year: 1938; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 1; Page Number: 46, Ship or Roll Number: Queen Mary,
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957

Manfred’s brother Willy Wolf Cohen also immigrated permanently to the US in 1938. He arrived on August 19 of that year, listing his mother Henriette in Hamburg as the person left behind and his brother Manfred of Reading, Pennsylvania as the contact person in the US.5  He filed his declaration of intention to become a US citizen on October 12, 1938, at which time he was living in Reading, presumably with his brother Manfred.

Willy Wolf Cohen, declaration of intention, The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; ARC Title: Naturalization Petition and Record Books for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, Cleveland, 1907–1946; NAI: M1995; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States; Record Group Number: 21
Petition Number: 104154 – 104657, Ancestry.com. Ohio, Naturalization Petition and Record Books, 1888-1946

Their mother Henriette and sister Mary finally arrived the following year, January 26, 1939, also listing Manfred as the person they were going to in the United States.6 On the 1940 census, Henriette was living with her son Manfred in Reading, along with his wife and his in-laws.  Manfred was the owner of a mushroom plant there, and his wife Caecilie worked there as well, as did her father Samuel Gundersheimer.

Manfred Cohen, 1940 US census, Census Place: Reading, Berks, Pennsylvania; Roll: m-t0627-03679; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 70-53, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census

But when he registered for the World War II draft in 1942, Manfred listed his employer as the American Photocopy Equipment Company.

Manfred Cohen, World War II draft registration, The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for Pennsylvania, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 439, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947

Manfred’s siblings Mary and Willy do not appear on that 1940 census with him and his mother although Mary’s declaration of intention filed on June 26, 1939, shows she was still residing in Reading at that time.

Mary Cohen, declaration of intention, The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; ARC Title: Naturalization Petition and Record Books for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, Cleveland, 1907–1946; NAI: M1995; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States; Record Group Number: 21
Petition Number: 104154 – 104657, Ancestry.com. Ohio, Naturalization Petition and Record Books, 1888-1946

I am not certain, but I think I located both Mary and William living in New York at the time of the 1940 census. There is a Mary Cohen, age 35, working as a maid in Brooklyn, who could be Mary as her residence in 1935 was Hamburg, Germany. But Mary would have been 37 in 1940, so I can’t be positive this is the same Mary Cohen, although this is the only Mary Cohen who comes close to matching my Mary.7

There was a Willy Cohen living in Queens, New York, in 1940, married to a woman named Hilda who had last been living in Strasbourg, France.8  But I don’t think this is my Willy; according to my Willy Cohen’s petition for naturalization, filed in June 1944, he didn’t marry his wife, Hildegarde Goldbach, until March 15, 1942, at which time he was living in Cleveland. Hildegarde, who was born on May 13, 1920, in Eschwege, immigrated in August 1940; she was the daughter of Abraham Goldbach and Luise Muller.9

Willy Wolf Cohen, naturalization petition, The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; ARC Title: Naturalization Petition and Record Books for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, Cleveland, 1907–1946; NAI: M1995; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States; Record Group Number: 21
Petition Number: 104154 – 104657, Ancestry.com. Ohio, Naturalization Petition and Record Books, 1888-1946

So where was Willy Wolf Cohen in 1940? There is a William H. Cohen living in Manhattan as a lodger on the 1940 census, single, 34 years old, born in Germany, with no occupation listed. Again, I can’t be certain this is the right person, but he is the only other William Cohen on the 1940 census who matches the age and birthplace of my Willy, and as noted on his petition for naturalization, Willy had adopted the name William Henry Cohen in the US, matching “William H. Cohen.”

William H. Cohen, 1940 US census, Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02641; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 31-736, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census

But not long after the enumeration of the 1940 census, Henriette, Mary, and William all moved to Cleveland, Ohio. As seen above, William’s 1944 petition for naturalization indicates that he’d moved to Cleveland by June 1, 1940; the petition also lists his occupation as a service engineer.

Henriette moved to Cleveland by November 1940, according to her petition for naturalization filed in 1944.10 Mary moved to Cleveland in March 1941, according to her petition for naturalization filed in 1944; she was working as a nurse at that time.11

Comparing all three petitions, it appears that Henriette, Mary and William were all living at the same address, 1040 Parkwood Drive in Cleveland, when they petitioned for naturalization. Henriette’s petition is also interesting in that it reports that by 1944, Manfred had moved to Philadelphia from Reading, Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately, I could not find any information for Henriette or any of her children after the 1940s except for information about their deaths. Henriette died in March 1951 in Cleveland, as seen in this death notice from the Cleveland Plain Dealer of March 21, 1951; she was 69 years old.

Henriette Cohen, obituary, Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 21, 1951, p. 30.

Aside from a 1950 telephone directory listing, I cannot find any other record of Manfred in Philadelphia except for this obituary from the November 30, 1973 Philadelphia Jewish Exponent:

Manfred Cohen, obituary, The Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, November 30, 1973, p. 67

He died on November 18, 1973, in Philadelphia; he was 69, the same age his mother had been when she died and just five years older than his father had been at his death in 1933.

But Henriette’s other two children both lived longer lives. Mary died on February 10, 1993, in Beachwood, Ohio; she was 90.11 William died at 89 on April 9, 1995. 12 Unfortunately I was unable to find an obituary or a death notice for either of them.

Henriette and her children were survived by the children of Manfred and William; Mary has no direct descendants. There are many other descendants living today because Henriette and her children were able to get out of Germany in time.

 


  1. Manfred Cohen, ship manifest, Year: 1936; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 1; Page Number: 203, Ship or Roll Number: Manhattan, Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  2. Caecilie Cohen, Social Security Number: 179-14-7310, Birth Date: 10 Feb 1915, Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: Pennsylvania, Last Residence: 21215, Baltimore, Baltimore City, Maryland, Death Date: 21 Jan 2010, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  3. Obituary of Bertha Gundersheimer, The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 16, 1968, p. 32; Berta Gundersheimer, Maiden Name: Schwarzschild, Birth Date: 6 Sep 1887, Birth Place: Schluchtern, Last Residence: Frankfurt/M., Departure: Emigrated, Date of Departure: 2 Apr 1939, Destination: North America, German Special Interest Group of JewishGen, comp. Germany, Data on 7,400 North Bavarian Jews 
  4. Samuel and Bertha Gundersheimer, ship manifest, Year: 1939; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 29; Page Number: 46; Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  5. Willy Wolf Cohen, ship manifest, Year: 1938; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 3; Page Number: 93, Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  6. Henriette Cohen and Mary Cohen, ship manifest, Year: 1939; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 10; Page Number: 47, Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  7. “United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G9MY-RH6G?cc=2000219&wc=QZXR-H21%3A790105101%2C795835101%2C804245901%2C804301301 : accessed 27 August 2020), New York > Kings > New York City, Brooklyn, Assembly District 18 > 24-2048B New York City, Brooklyn Borough Assembly District 18 (Tract 343 – part) > image 1 of 16; citing Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 – 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012. 
  8. “United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9MB-GJSV?cc=2000219&wc=QZXT-HLF%3A790105101%2C805603701%2C805654201%2C805688901 : accessed 14 August 2020), New York > Queens > New York City, Queens, Assembly District 3 > 41-679B [from 41-679]: New York City, Queens Borough Assembly District 3 (Tract 271 – part) > image 18 of 30; citing Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 – 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012. 
  9. Hildegarde Goldbach, petition for naturalization, The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; ARC Title: Naturalization Petition and Record Books for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, Cleveland, 1907–1946; NAI: M1995; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States; Record Group Number: 21, Petition Number: 106651 – 107164, Ancestry.com. Ohio, Naturalization Petition and Record Books, 1888-1946. Hildegard Doris Cohen, [Hildegard Doris Goldbach] , Birth Date: 13 May 1920, Birth Place: Eschwege, Federal Republic of Germany, Death Date: Mar 1993, Father: Abraham Goldbach, Mother: Luise Mueller, SSN: 285420684, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  10. Henriette Cohen, Naturalization petition, The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; ARC Title: Naturalization Petition and Record Books for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, Cleveland, 1907–1946; NAI: M1995; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States; Record Group Number: 21, Petition Number: 104154 – 104657, Ancestry.com. Ohio, Naturalization Petition and Record Books, 1888-1946 
  11. Mary Cohen, Age: 90, Birth Date: 21 Sep 1902, Death Date: 10 Feb 1993, Death Hospital: Other/Nursing Home, Death Place: Beachwood, Cuyahoga, USA, Father: Cohen, Occupation: Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants, Ohio Department of Health; Columbus, Ohio; Ohio Deaths, 1908-1932, 1938-1944, and 1958-2007, Ancestry.com and Ohio Department of Health. Ohio, Death Records, 1908-1932, 1938-2018 
  12. William H Cohen, Birth Date: 29 Mar 1906, Death Date: 9 Apr 1995, Claim Date: 14 Dec 1970, SSN: 063144546, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 

A Lost Art: Milton Goldsmith’s Family Remembered by their Letters

The second family album compiled by Milton Goldsmith has some pages devoted to his parents and siblings including photographs and letters and news clippings. I’ve already incorporated the photographs into earlier posts. In this post I will share some of the letters included in this second family album. They made me nostalgic for the days when people wrote actual letters.

First, this is a letter written by Milton’s mother Cecelia Adler to her future husband, Abraham Goldsmith in 1857:

Phil 19th 1857
Dear Ab,
You deserve a scolding for writing in German, knowing that I cannot read it as well as English, being of a very inquisitive nature, I spelt it out, although it took me at least an hour. I am delighted to hear you passed such a pleasant night, which I assure you was the same case with me. I am very sorry you cannot come early this evening, try to make your stay at the meeting as short as possible. Excuse my bad writing it being wash day we are very busy.
I remain yours forever,
Cecilia

This second letter from Cecelia, which was also written in 1857 on October 28, sounds a little less patient with her beloved!

Phil Oct 28th 1857
Beloved of my heart,
I do wish you would write me some thing new, you always tell me that you are captivated, no wonder, I being so charming. We shall be ready this evening at the appointed times. You just write as if you were doing me a favor, in going to your sister’s house. It is the contrary I oblige you. Ma thinks my only fault is good nature. Do not stay long at the meeting. I must close. Mr. and Mrs. Bachman have just come.
Yours forever,
Cecilia

Cecelia and Abraham were married just a few months later on January 27, 1858, as seen in their wedding invitation:

Ten years later, Cecelia seems quite content with her life with Abraham and their children. On July 20, 1867, she wrote to her mother from Cape May, New Jersey, where presumably she and her family were vacationing, though it appears that her daughter Emily was not well and was home in Philadelphia with Cecelia’s mother.  I love the long list of clothing and other items that Cecelia wanted her mother to bring her when she brought Emily to Cape May. It reminds me of certain emails or phone calls I received from my own daughters when they were away at college.

Cape May, July 20th 1867
Dear Mother,
I suppose Ab informed you that I like it here, I enjoy myself very much. I am writting (sic) in the hall, and all the ladies around me. The children are all well, and send their love. I hope you are well and Emily will be well enough by Monday to come down. Please bring all the wash, with Hanah’s trunk, and if she has room bring my grey dress & over skirt from last year, and my white silk parasol. It is in the 2nd drawer of the front bedroom bureau & my striped Balmoral skirt & a black cloth sack in Maggies closet. Hoping [to] see you soon. Your’s Cely Love to Father, Emily & all

And in this letter we get to hear Abraham’s voice. This is a letter written on February 16, 1870, by Abraham to his wife Cecelia while he was on the road in Ohio. It is such a sweet and loving letter.

Salem, Ohio Feb 16 1870
Dear Cely!
I arrived here this evening well and hearty, and before retiring I know of no better recreation than to write to you a few lines. I was to day at New Brighton and Beaver falls, waded through the mud ankle deep, and sold a few goods. From here I shall go to morrow to Canton and spend my night at Masillow. On Saturday morning I expect to be at Pittsburgh again and stay there over Sunday.
I can hardly contend (sic) myself until I get there to hear from you and the children but hope to receive the glad news that you are all well.
If I knew of any news I would write them to you but unfortunately I know of nothing to interest you. Meyer and me get along very well, the only objection I have to him, he snores too much at night. I don’t like his company half as well at night as I would like a certain Ladies.
I hope when I come home to hear good reports of Milly, Hilda, Edy, Rose, Emily & Estella, if either of them expect me to bring them anything they must conduct themselves accordingly.
With kindest regards to mother, father, and all friends,
I remain yours forever,
Ab
I have written to you now three letters hope you have received them.

Abraham was working as a wholesale clothier in 1870, according to the 1870 census, and it sounds like he was traveling from place to place, promoting his wares. He speaks of traveling with Meyer (who snored), presumably his younger brother with whom he was in business. I did chuckle at Abraham’s comment that he did not like his brother’s company at night “half as well as a certain ladies.”

I also love the list of the children and the references to his two sons Milton and Edwin by their nicknames—Milly, Hilda, Edy, Rose, Emily, and Estella. I can imagine how excited the family was when Abraham returned and they were all reunited.

Finally, one more letter. This one was written, according to Milton’s caption at the top, by his sister Hilda to their parents on November 15, 1872, when she was ten years old:

Phil Nov 15th 1872
Dear Papa and Mama,
I have now taking the opportunity to write you a few lines asking you if you arrived safe and I hope you enjoy your selves very much by eating fried oysters and going to theatres every night and I hope you are well and we are all well and I hope you Papa and Mama will not forget my buttons and to bring me a big box of glass buttons and I have good news to tell you that I got a Disinguish note on Friday and I am on the first form and spracters [? Practice?] 1 hour every night.

What makes this letter so poignant is that Hilda died just three and half years later at the age of thirteen. Just a few years earlier she was a happy little girl dreaming of getting glass buttons and excited about her success in school. I have no pictures of Hilda, so seeing this letter written in her own hand was quite touching. It is the one personal object of hers that still exists.

 

 

Milton Goldsmith’s Poetry

There are only two more pages from Milton Goldsmith’s family album to share. Each has only one item on it. But there is still much more to share from his other two albums.

Milton included this article about the celebration in Larchmont, New York, of his 90th birthday. It provides a detailed summary of Milton’s life.

The last page includes this poem Milton wrote on the occasion of his 95th birthday. As you can see, Milton was still very sharp at the age of 95; the poem is funny, touching, and erudite:

Although the poem says “more” at the bottom, I do not see the second page of this poem in the album. I love Milton’s humor and his continuing love of life as expressed in this poem.

Milton Goldsmith died a year later on September 21, 1957, at the age of 96. He left behind not only his family and this family album, but a body of work—books for children and for adults, poetry, and plays—and a huge collection of letters, photographs, poems, and other memorabilia.

Sue shared two other albums with me. I have scanned what I can from the other albums and will now share some of what I’ve scanned. One of these albums contained many of Milton’s poems and other writings. Most of these were love poems written at various stages of Milton’s life before he was married. Others commemorate special occasions. I have selected just a few to share.

I particularly like this one, a self-portrait in words. If you compare it to the poem Milton wrote when he was 95, you can see that neither his style nor his joie de vivre had changed much over the seventy or so years that passed between writing this poem and writing the one above.

Another poem from this era, written in 1883 when Milton was twenty-two and his father Abraham was 51, was dedicated to his father. It’s another poem that I found very touching.

The final poem that I selected to share is this one, written in 1898 by Milton  to Sophie, whom he would marry the following year:

The love and longing expressed in this poem is initially disguised by a long description of Christmas, but eventually Milton’s true feelings came out. I do wonder what he was doing in Fort Wayne!

I wish I could scan and share more of Milton’s poetry, but the number of poems is overwhelming. The best I can do is help Sue work on having all of these albums preserved in the Jewish archives in Philadelphia where Milton was born and raised and where so many of his poems were written.

In my next two posts, the final ones for Milton, I will share some of the photographs and other materials that I found in the third album Sue shared with me.

 

The Things You Can’t Learn from Genealogy Records Alone: Milton Goldsmith’s Family Album, Part XVIII

A few years after Milton Goldsmith’s mother died in 1874, his father Abraham remarried, as I have written about here. With his second wife Frances Spanier, Abraham had four more children, Milton’s half-siblings. Milton dedicated four more pages in his family album to these siblings. From Milton’s biographies I learned a great deal more about each of these siblings than I’d been able to learn from traditional research.

Alfred was the oldest, and he became a well-known rare book dealer in New York City, as discussed here. What I didn’t know until reading Milton’s biography of his brother was that Alfred had at first enrolled in dental school. In addition to the biography Milton wrote about his brother Alfred, this page includes a photograph presumably of Alfred and two women who are not identified and a brief news story about Alfred.

Alfred Goldsmith and two women

The article below reveals a bit about Alfred’s personality. Apparently he was quite a literary snob and refused to stock books in his store that he considered “trash.” Good for him for having standards!

Bertha was the next child born to Abraham and Frances. Milton focused on her two marriages in his biography of Bertha. As I wrote about here, Bertha first married Sampson Weinhandler and then married his first cousin Frederick Newman. Milton’s insights into both men added an additional dimension to what I had learned through my research:

Imagine Bertha traveling all the way to Reno to divorce Sampson for incompatibility. Milton described him as “spoiled.” I sure wish Milton had described how Sampson and his family responded to Bertha’s marriage to his cousin Frederick the following year. Milton obviously much preferred Frederick to Sampson, describing the former as “a genial, well-informed man with a host of friends.”

I am not sure whether this photograph is of Bertha and Sampson or Bertha and Frederick, but given Milton’s description of Sampson, I am going to assume this is Sampson.

Bertha Goldsmith and one of her husbands, probably Sampson Weinhandler/Wayne.

The third child born to Abraham and Frances was their daughter Alice. Milton’s biography of Alice is quite fascinating and revealed far more about Alice than I’d been able to learn through my research. In fact, Alice had been a very elusive subject, rarely appearing on census records or elsewhere.

Now that I’ve read Milton’s story about her, I understand better why I had so much difficulty learning about her. She traveled extensively and was stranded in Italy at the start of World War I. She helped the American Consul in Genoa deal with other stranded travelers and was rewarded with a free trip back to the US.

Alice was an educated and scholarly woman who took courses at the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, and Harvard and had a career with two different doctors, one in Philadelphia and one in New York. I searched for a Dr. Tinley, but had no luck locating him. I also learned how Alice had met her husband playing bridge with mutual friends. She was 43 when she married Louis Margulies, whom Milton described as “a fine, outstanding, genial man” whose business was real estate and who had immigrated from Romania at the age of 14. I love this photograph of them—they look so happy.

Alice Goldsmith and Louis Margulies

Finally, Milton included a page for his youngest sibling, Louis Goldsmith. Like his sister Alice, Louis traveled extensively and married later in life (he was 53). He was very successful in the advertising business, handling the Palm Beach Cloth account.

What I had not already learned about Louis was that he had worked at Friedberger Mills and almost died after an operation for an injury to his hand. He then worked with his brothers Milton and Edwin at the Snellenburg Company in Philadelphia where he learned the art of advertising before he moved to New York to become “a very capable advertising man.” Milton described his youngest sibling Louis as “very much a recluse in his habits, living at the Plaza Hotel, and is very generous.” He also was a very snazzy dresser, as my father would have said.

Louis Goldsmith

Louis Goldsmith

It’s wonderful to have photographs of nine of the ten children of my three-times great-uncle Abraham Goldsmith1 and more details about their lives from someone who knew and loved them well, their brother Milton.

This is Part XVIII 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 Part XIII , Part XIV , Part XV, Part XVI,  and Part XVII at the links.


  1. Only Hilda is missing; she died as a teenager. 

Milton Goldsmith’s Album, Part XVII: The Contrasting Lives of His Sisters Rose and Estella

In his family album, Milton devoted several pages to his sisters Rose and Estella. Their life stories show a contrast between the more traditional path of wife and mother taken by Rose and the untraditional path chosen by Estella and give us insights into how women lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Rose was five years younger than Milton, born in 1866. She married Sidney Morris Stern in 1892 and had three sons. Here is the page Milton dedicated to his sister Rose and her husband Sidney.

It includes a biography of Sidney written by Milton that fills in some background to Sidney’s life that I had not previously known.

There is also an obituary for Rose, who died in 1931 at the age of 64.

Here is a closer view of the biographical information in her obituary:

The Beth Israel Association of the Deaf honored Rose for her volunteer efforts on behalf of the deaf and presented a portrait to hang in her honor at their meeting place. It’s a shame that we don’t have a photograph of the portrait.

But my favorite part of this page is the photograph of Rose and Sidney, which I edited a bit to enhance the clarity of the photograph, as I have with several of the photographs below:

 

In one of the other albums, I found this lovely photograph of Rose on her graduation day:

Rose lived a comfortable and meaningful life, raising three sons and making a difference in the lives of many through her various volunteer activities.

As noted above, whereas Rose lived a fairly traditional life for a woman of her times, her younger sister Estella chose a road less traveled. Milton created two pages for his youngest full sister Estella (also known as Estelle and Stella). Here is the first:

Milton wrote a sweet biography of Stella that mentions not only her work as a teacher but also the camp she created for girls in the Adirondacks.

The page includes several photographs of the camp as well as two photographs of Stella, who does not look at all fat, despite Milton’s description in the biography.

 

 

The second page dedicated to Stella has a childhood photograph of her, a handwritten description of her 80th birthday celebration as well as a photograph of that celebration, and her obituary.

 

Here is the note describing the 80th birthday party and the photograph. I assume that is Milton reading a poem he wrote for his little sister and that sitting to his right is “Stella” herself.

Stella, Celebrated her 80th birthday, Jan’y 20, 1950. A large gathering (41) of relations, cousins, nieces, &c assembled at the Hotel Warwick in Phila to honor her. Speeches, toasts were given. At 80, Stella is well preserved and still active. Her hearing is bad, and she has difficulty in walking. She has a host of devoted friends. Milton, Rosalind & Mickey attended the festivities. She lives at the Majestic Hotel, Phila, and has a companion to look afer her.

Although Milton focused on Estelle’s career and volunteer activity, there was much, much more to tell about her life. I located an additional photograph of Estelle in one of the other albums and these clippings from a news article about her. You have to read that article. It belies the old myth that a single woman is an “old maid” to be pitied.

 

What an incredibly exciting and interesting life Estelle lived! She traveled all over the world, including to China, India, Egypt, and what was then Palestine, now Israel. She met the Pope, climbed mountains, rode an elephant and a camel, and observed Yom Kippur at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. She was a woman of many interests and with many friends. Hers was no ordinary life.

And finally, here is Stella’s obituary.

What is intriguing about the inclusion of this obituary is that Stella did not die until 1968, eleven years after Milton’s death in 1957. Who added this to the album? It had to be one of her many nieces and nephews and probably one of Milton’s daughters. But it is, as far as I can tell, the only thing added to the album after Milton’s death.

I am so grateful to my cousin Milton for preserving for posterity so much of the Goldsmith family history so that the stories of Rose and Estelle and the different choices they made can live on forever.

This is Part XVII 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 Part XIII , Part XIV , Part XV  and Part XVI at the links.

 

 

Milton Goldsmith’s Album, Part XVI: His Beloved Sister and Fellow Author, Emily

Most of the remaining pages of the Milton Goldsmith’s album are devoted to his many siblings and their spouses. For example, this page includes photographs of and news clippings about Milton’s sister Emily, who was also a writer, and her husband Felix Gerson, who was a writer and one of the founders of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.

I want to highlight the photographs of Emily and Felix, as seeing the faces of those about whom I have written is always a thrill for me:

Emily Goldsmith as a child

Emily Goldsmith Gerson

Emily and Felix Gerson

I will also quote a bit from the news article about Emily. Unfortunately I don’t know when or where it was published.

Mrs. Gerson was most widely recognized as a writer for children. In addition to writing books and editing pages for children, she is the author of a number of playlets, published in pamphlet form, for holiday entertainments in Jewish religious schools. In the last few years adult stories from her pen have appeared frequently in Jewish papers and magazines…

Yet, perhaps in the Young Readers’ Department of the Jewish Exponent, which she originated in 1892, Mrs. Gerson came closest to the hearts of her little readers. The children themselves had a hand in building up this department, and feel that it really belongs to them. They write prize poems and stories, articles and jokes; they give entertainment for charity and send the proceeds to Mrs. Gerson in prettily worded notes; and they contribute about a thousand dollars every year to the Country Week Fund in the department for sending poor Jewish children to the country during the summer.

This page also includes an obituary of Emily’s husband Felix, who died in 1945, almost thirty years after Emily’s death.

The page that follows in Milton’s album includes a biography of Felix Gerson, written presumably by Milton:

Finally, the page below includes several obituaries of Emily, who died in 1917 when she was only 49 years old.

There is also an article about the farm that was named in her honor and used as a summer retreat for poor Jewish children from Philadelphia as well as another photograph of her.

Here are some excerpts from this article and one more photograph of Milton’s beloved sister Emily:

Emily Goldsmith Gereson

In one of the other albums, I found this additional photograph of Felix.

These pages demonstrate how proud Milton was of his sister Emily and how devastated he must have been when she died in 1917.

This is Part XVI 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 Part XIII , Part XIV and Part XV at the links.

Milton Goldsmith’s Family Album, Part XV: Childhood Memories

Last spring I began a series of posts1 that were devoted to a family album created by my first cousin, three times removed (my great-grandmother Hilda Schoenthal Katzenstein’s first cousin), Milton Goldsmith. Milton became a well-known author of both adult and children’s books and is perhaps best known for his novel, Rabbi and Priest, which was adapted into a play, The Little Brother, and produced on Broadway as well as many other places. I wrote extensively about Milton and his works on the blog here, here, and here, for example.

Milton’s granddaughter, my cousin Sue, kindly scanned numerous pages from Milton’s family album and shared them with me. The last page I received from her last spring was about Milton’s brother Edwin. Sue told me that there were many more pages and that instead of scanning them, she thought it would be better to loan me the album so I could select what I wanted to scan.

In October, Sue traveled to Massachusetts to visit other family members (unrelated to me) and came to my house with three or four shopping bags filled with albums that were stuffed with photographs, letters, poems, and other documents about her grandfather Milton and his family. I was overwhelmed, to say the least. Some of the letters were written by Milton’s father Abraham—my three-times great-uncle—in the 1870s and 1880s. These are letters handwritten in the old German script; I cannot read them, but I hope eventually to scan them and to ask someone familiar with that script to help translate them for me. I have to return all these albums to Sue, so I need to find the time to scan. And there is a ton to scan and not much time to do it. But I will do my best.

I have scanned the rest of the family album compiled by Milton Goldsmith and some of the pages in the other albums, and I want to share some of those pages on the blog and continue the project I began last spring. I want to start with some of the pages devoted to Milton’s recollections of his childhood.

As discussed in earlier posts, Milton was the first-born child of Abraham Goldsmith and Cecelia Adler; he was born on May 22, 1861, in Philadelphia, where he lived for his entire childhood until marrying Sophie Hyman in 1899 and then moving to New York City. Milton’s mother Cecelia died when he was thirteen years old, and his father remarried two years later. Altogether, Milton had nine younger siblings—five full siblings and four half siblings.

The page depicted below, labeled “First Experiences—Random Shots,” describes some of Milton’s earliest memories—the cries of the patients of the dentist next door, the move to a new home when he was four years old, and the amusing story of how a veil covering his face as a baby combined with the moisture from his “pacifier” and caused his face to turn green. (You may have to click on the photos or zoom in on your screen to read these entries.)

As I read about using a cake-filled cloth to pacify a baby, I couldn’t help but think about the scary dentist next door who must have benefited from those sugar-filled pacifiers.

The final anecdote on this page requires some explanation. Milton talks about being insulted when he is caught eating cake by the family nurse, Maggie, and called a “Fresser.” In German, the verb “to eat” has two different versions. Human beings “essen,” and animals “fressen.” So Maggie was basically calling Milton an animal because of the way he was eating.

Milton shared several anecdotes involving his younger brother Edwin, who grew up to be a successful inventor, as I wrote about here. Edwin was the third oldest child in the family and three years younger than Milton.  You may recall that Edwin’s birth record indicated that he was a girl, a source of some amusement to his big brother Milton. Here is that record; he is the first entry on the page and yes, he was labeled a girl, obviously by mistake:

Despite the teasing, it appears that Milton and Edwin were quite close. Milton wrote about the theatrical performances he and his brother Edwin put on for the neighborhood children. It seems that even as a young boy, Milton had a creative imagination and a love of stories and theater.

Milton and Edwin were involved in several misadventures, as this page describes:

You can see in these anecdotes that Milton was very fond of his younger brother.

There is, however, evidence of more teasing in Milton’s third story about wanting to be a doctor and using a skeleton to scare his brother.

I found it interesting that Milton had at one time aspired to be a doctor. After all, the “other” Milton Goldsmith, his second cousin, did grow up to be a doctor. Given Milton’s success as an author, I doubt he had any regrets about not pursuing the medical profession. On the other hand, Milton’s interest in magic apparently stayed with him for the rest of his life, as reported in his obituary.

The Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, October 4, 1957, p.43.

These delightful recollections reveal another side to Milton—the fun-loving, innocent little boy who loved his family. Despite losing his mother at a young age, Milton obviously looked back on his childhood as a very happy time.

This is Part XV 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,  Part XIII and Part XIV at the links.

 


  1. See the links at the bottom of this post. 

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