Thank you, Alex from Root to Tip: A Mystery Solved and A Question about

In my last post, I commented that I had had no luck finding information about the parents of the Adrian Kramer who married my cousin Ruth Sondheim in 1924. I wrote:

Adrian’s background is a mystery.   According to his military record from World War I and his World War II registration card, he was born in New York City on December 14, 1896. But despite searching in numerous places for all Kramers and all Adrians within two years of that date, and all boys born on that date, I have not found his birth record. Perhaps he was born with a different name.

Military record of Adrian Kramer, World War I New York, Abstracts of World War I Military Service, 1917-1919 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013.
Original data: New York State Abstracts of World War I Military Service, 1917–1919. Adjutant General’s Office. Series B0808. New York State Archives, Albany, New York.

Little did I know that that was in fact the case. But it took the help of the wonderful researcher, Alex of the Root to Tip genealogy blog, to find that out.

Alex left a comment on my prior post that said in part, “I noticed there was an obituary for Adrian Kramer in 1950 and it says he was the son of “Della Kramer.” Could this be Sandilla?”

Death notice for Adrian Kramer, The New York Times, July 1, 1950, p. 10

The first record I had found for an Adrian Kramer that fit anywhere close to a birth year of 1896 was the 1905 New York State census. On that document, Adrian Kramer, eight years old, was living on West 88th Street in the household of Maier Kramer. Also living in the household were six of Maier’s siblings: Sandilla, Joseph, Leo, Eva, David, and Minnie. None of them was married, but Sandilla was divorced.  She was listed with the surname Kramer, however, not a married name.

Adrian Kramer 1905 NYS census
New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1905; Election District: A.D. 21 E.D. 03; City: Manhattan; County: New York; Page: 12
Election District: A·D· 21 E·D· 03
Source Information New York, State Census, 1905

I had wondered whether Sandilla might have been Adrian’s mother when I saw the 1905 census since she was the only Kramer sibling who had been married, but I was misled by the fact that the 1905 census identified Adrian as the son of the head of household, and the head of household was not Sandilla but Maier.   As I wrote last time, I was able to find the siblings also living together on the 1910 census, where Adrian was this time identified as the brother of the head of household, again being Maier.

The death notice Alex found seemed to suggest that Sandilla might have been Adrian’s mother, not his aunt or his sister. Alex then went the next step and located a marriage record for a woman she thought might be Sandilla; she was listed as Sundilla Kramer on the FindMyPast index.  That record showed that “Sundilla” had married a man named Jacob Baruch on June 26, 1895, in New York City, and that her parents’ names were Abraham Kramer and Miriam Rosenfeld.  Here is a comparable record from FamilySearch.

Marriage record of Sandilla Kramer and Jacob Baruch
New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940,” database, FamilySearch ( : 10 February 2018), Jacob Baruch and Sundilla Kramer, 26 Jun 1895; citing Marriage, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York City Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,493,183.

I was blown away by Alex’s discoveries and her generous efforts on my behalf. Armed now with these clues, I checked the 18701 and 18802 census records for the Kramer siblings and saw that their parents were in fact named Abraham and Miriam; that confirmed that the “Sundilla Kramer” who had married Jacob Baruch in 1895 was the same woman who was living with Adrian Kramer and the other Kramer siblings in 1905 and 1910.

And Alex hadn’t stopped with the death notice and the marriage record; she also found on Ancestry an index listing for a child born in New York City in December 1896 named Abraham Baruch. Alex said in her comment that she wondered if that was possibly the name given to Adrian Kramer at birth.

So I went to find some evidence confirming that the baby born in December 1896 named Abraham Baruch was the son of Sandilla Kramer and Jacob Baruch. And I found an index listing from the New York, New York City Births, 1846-1909, database on FamilySearch that revealed more than the Ancestry listing located by Alex. It showed that Abraham Baruch, born in December 1896, was the son of Jacob Baruch and “Sandilla Kroper.” That seemed close enough to confirm that Abraham Baruch was Sandilla Kramer’s son with Jacob Baruch.3

But I still wasn’t sure that Abraham Baruch was the boy later known as Adrian Kramer. Fortunately, with the information Alex had provided, I was able to locate the Kramer family on the 1900 census, a census that had eluded me in my prior search:

Sandia and Abraham Baruch, 1900 US census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Page: 7; Enumeration District: 0255 1900 United States Federal Census

Notice that Sandilla’s name is given as “Sandia K. Baruch” and that she is listed as the sister of “Myer Cramer.” Under her listing is Myer’s nephew (and obviously “Sandia’s” son) Abraham Baruch, born December 1887 and two years old.

No wonder I couldn’t find this census initially. Look at all those errors. Sandilla is spelled wrong. Maier and Kramer are spelled wrong. And a boy allegedly born in 1887 was listed as two years old in 1900! Even my math isn’t that bad…..

But reading between the lines and ignoring the mistakes on the census record convinced me that Abraham Baruch was  the son of Jacob Baruch and Sandilla Kramer. By 1900, Sandilla and her son had moved in with her Kramer siblings. By 1905, Abraham Baruch was using the name Adrian Kramer, and his mother was divorced.

Now I knew who were the parents of Adrian Kramer and where he was between 1896 and 1905.

Thank you, Alex! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your efforts!

And now the question:

I was puzzled by the fact that I had not found the death notice for Adrian Kramer that Alex found on Ancestry. What had I done differently in my search logic that caused me to miss this critical piece of evidence?

I asked Alex where and how she’d found the death notice for Adrian Kramer, and she told me that she had simply searched for “Adrian Kramer” in “New York, USA,” on Ancestry, and the death notice had popped up as a result in the Historical Newspapers database.

How had I missed that, I wondered?  I duplicated Alex’s search terms, and still I did not get her results.  And I have the All Access subscription from Ancestry—their most expensive level. I get no results at all from the Historical Newspapers database from those search parameters.

But when I went to the Ancestry Card Catalog, pulled up the Historical Newspapers database, and did a search within the database itself, I was able to locate the obituary. So why didn’t it come up on an overall search for me like it had for Alex? I don’t know. But it sure has me doubting the reliability of Ancestry’s search engine.

If anyone has any explanation for why Alex and I would not get the same search results with the same search terms, please let me know.

UPDATE: Thanks to Lisa in the Ancestry Facebook group, I think I have the answer to why Alex got better results than I did.  Get this—searching with a UK subscription brings up BETTER results even in US databases than searching with a US subscription.  HOW CAN THAT BE FAIR? I will be calling Ancestry back next week (no time today) to address this.

Thank you once again to Alex for her extraordinary research and for taking the time to solve this mystery for me. Once again, I am in awe of the generosity of the genealogy village.

  1. Kramer Family, 1870 US Census, Year: 1870; Census Place: New York Ward 20 District 18, New York, New York; Roll: M593_1008; Page: 572B; Family History Library Film: 552507, 1870 United States Federal Census 
  2. Kramer Family, 1880 US Census, Year: 1880; Census Place: New York City, New York, New York; Roll: 886; Page: 506C; Enumeration District: 401, Source Information and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census 
  3.  New York, New York City Births, 1846-1909,” database, FamilySearch( : 11 February 2018), Jacob Baruch in entry for Abraham Baruch, Dec 1896; citing Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, reference cn 54590 New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,322,346. I am hoping to obtain a copy of the actual certificate. 

One New Database, A Whole Lot of Answers: The Social Security Applications and Claims Index


Back in January when I was researching my Nusbaum relatives, I ran into a dead end.  My great-great-grandmother Frances Nusbaum had a sister Miriam.  Miriam married Gustavus Josephs and had a daughter named Florence born in Philadelphia in 1880.  Florence had married Louis Siegel in 1903; Louis was also from Philadelphia and was working as a traveling salesman.  I found Louis and Florence on the 1910 US census, but after that, things got fuzzy.

I wrote then:

Sometime thereafter, Louis must have become ill.  He died on September 30, 1915, at the State Hospital for the Insane in Norristown, Pennsylvania.  According to his death certificate, he had been ill for three years and had been hospitalized since November 19, 1913.  His cause of death was general paralysis of the insane or paresis.  He was only 43 years old.

Although I only have one document to support this, it appears that in 1913, Florence and Louis had had a child, a daughter Marion.  On the 1920 census, Florence Siegel was living with her father Gustavus Josephs and her brother Jean Josephs, both of whom were working at a mill as manufacturers, presumably of fabrics, as discussed in an earlier post.  Included in the household was a seven year old girl named Marion Siegel.  Although she is described as the daughter of the head of household, it seems apparent that Marion was Florence’s daughter, given her age and her surname.

Gustavus Josephs 1920 census

When her father Gustavus died in May 1924, Florence continued to live in the home at 2020 North Park Avenue; she is listed as a dressmaker in the 1925 Philadelphia directory residing at that address.  Unfortunately, that is the last document I have for Florence.  I cannot find a marriage record or a death record for her, nor can I find any definitive document for her daughter Marion.

Despite searching for every Marion with a mother named Florence, I could not find either of them on any document after that 1920 census and the 1925 directory.

And then just about a month ago, added a new database to its collection—the U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 (“SSACI”).  Ancestry describes the new database this way: “This database picks up where the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) leaves off by providing more details than those included in the SSDI. It includes information filed with the Social Security Administration through the application or claims process, including valuable details such as birth date, birth place, and parents’ names. While you will not find everybody who is listed in the SSDI in this database, data has been extracted for more than 49 million people.”

I was a bit overwhelmed.  This could be an incredibly helpful tool, but it meant going back and searching through it for any and all ancestors who were alive in the 1930s when Social Security was enacted and who might have applied for its benefits.  That’s a lot of ancestors!  But I slowly plodded through, and for the most part, I found either confirmation of what I already knew or a tidbit of information that was interesting on its own, but not terribly helpful in terms of further research.

But with Marion Siegel, the daughter of Florence Josephs, I hit the jackpot.  Here is Marion’s record in the SSACI: U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: Social Security Applications and Claims, 1936-2007. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015.
Original data: Social Security Applications and Claims, 1936-2007.

What did I learn from this? Well, it confirmed that Florence Josephs and Louis Siegel did have a daughter, as the 1920 census record suggested.  It also gave me her birth date, birth place, her date of death, and, most importantly, her married name—Kane.  I then was able to search for a marriage record and found this one from the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Marriage Index on Ancestry:

Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Marriage Index, 1885–1951." Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009. Philadelphia County Pennsylvania Clerk of the Orphans' Court. "Pennsylvania, Philadelphia marriage license index, 1885-1951." Clerk of the Orphans’ Court, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Marriage Index, 1885–1951.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009. Philadelphia County Pennsylvania Clerk of the Orphans’ Court. “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia marriage license index, 1885-1951.” Clerk of the Orphans’ Court, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

So now I knew that Marion Siegel had married Louis Kane in 1932. [See UPDATE below; they were actually married on January 1, 1933.]  Since they were married in Philadelphia, I assumed that they were living there after getting married, but I could not find them at all on the 1940 census in Philadelphia.  But then I found a 1952 ship manifest for a cruise from the West Indies to New York with three passengers with the last name Kane: Louis Kane, Marion Kane, and Lois Kane.  The ages for Louis and Marion were correct, and Marion’s birthplace in New Jersey was also correct.  And they were living at 573 Washington Street in Brookline, Massachusetts—a neighborhood I know well since my daughter once lived right near there as does a close friend from college.

Year: 1952; Arrival: New York, New York via West Indies; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 8085; Line: 1; Page Number: 237

Year: 1952; Arrival: New York, New York via West Indies; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 8085; Line: 1; Page Number: 237

Knowing now that Louis was born in Connecticut and that the family was living in the Boston area, I was able to find a number of additional records for Louis and Marion Kane and their daughter Lois. In 1930, Louis was living with his parents in Newton, Massachusetts, according to the census of that year.  Louis was the son of Harry and Jessie Kane, both of whom were born in Connecticut and were the children of Russian immigrants.  Harry Kane was the owner of a furniture business, Kane Furniture, which further research revealed later belonged to Louis.  It was apparently quite successful, as this article  from the April 18, 1954 Boston Herald indicates.

Kane photo

Kane furniture text

By then finding Louis and Marion Kane in several directories and passenger manifests, I learned Louis’ precise birth date, which then led me to the SSDI, where I learned that he had died in October 1963.  Unfortunately, I could not find an obituary for him.  He was only 53 when he died, and Marion was just 51.  What happened to her between 1963 and 1994 when she died?  I did not yet know.

UPDATE: On July 2, 2020, many years after writing this blog post, I received a message from Jackie at Temple Beth El of Hollywood, Florida, who told me that Louis and Marion had joined that synagogue in July 1961 and that she had further information. From Jackie I learned that Louis and Marion had been members from July 1961 until December 7, 1984, when Marion resigned from the synagogue. According to their application for membership, Marion and Louis were married on January 1, 1933, not in 1932 as the Ancestry record indicated.  Most importantly, Jackie had a letter in the file sending condolences to Marion on the death of her mother Florence. The letter was dated June 28, 1968, and with that additional information I was finally able to find an obituary for Florence Josephs Siegel Hageman in The Philadelphia Inquirer stating that she died on June 18, 1968. Thank you, Jackie!

While searching for information about Louis and Marion, I also found an article revealing that their daughter Lois Kane had played an important part in the prosecution of a murder case in Boston in 1954 when she was just a teenager.  As described in many newspaper articles, eighteen year old Ronald Blumenthal had committed a brutal murder of 53 year old Ora Schornath in July, 1954; he had beaten, stabbed, and strangled her in her home.  Blumenthal had then described the murder to Lois Kane and another friend, suggesting that he had committed it.  When the victim’s body was discovered and the crime was described in the newspapers, Lois realized that Blumenthal’s story could in fact be true.  She informed the police, and Blumenthal was arrested.  He ultimately confessed and pled guilty to second degree murder on October 1, 1954.  He was sentenced to life in prison, but was paroled in 1967, over the objections of Schornath’s brother.

Lois Kane part 1

Lois Kane part 2

Lois Kane part 3Lois Kane part 4

Boston Herald, July 31, 1954, p. 4.  (For more information on this case, see also “Boy Tells Thrill Killing,” Boston Daily Record, July 30, 1954, pp. 3, 6; “Ronnie Pleads 2d Degree Murder Guilt, Gets Life,” Boston American, October 1, 1954 (p. 3); “Killer’s Parole Opposed,” Boston Record American, October 6, 1966, p. 5; “Brookline ‘Thrill Killer’ Wins Parole,” Boston Record American, February 2, 1967.)

I then searched for more information about Lois Kane.  I wanted to know what had happened to this courageous young woman. Once again, the SSCAI was a valuable resource.  I found this entry. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015.

I now had her birth and death dates and locations, and I had two married names, suggesting that she had married twice, once to someone named Sisson and once to someone named Brooner.  In the Florida Marriage index, I found a listing for a Lois F. Kane who married H. Michael Sisson in November 1960 in Dade County.  Unfortunately I have had no luck yet finding out anything about Michael Sisson; I cannot find him on any documents that predate or postdate their marriage in 1960.   But I will keep looking.

Either Michael Sisson died before January 1, 1982, or he and Lois had divorced by then, because on that date Lois Florence Sisson married James C. Brooner in Broward County, Florida.  Seeing that Lois’ middle name was Florence confirmed for me that I had the right person, based on the SSACI.  I knew from the SSACI that Lois died in 2006, but as with her father Louis, I’ve had no luck finding an obituary.  I don’t know what she did after the Blumenthal case or how she ended up in Florida or whether she had children.

One thing that bothered me about the entry for Lois on the SSACI was the listing for her mother’s name: Marion Hageman. Even though I was reasonably confident that I had the correct Louis, Marion, and Lois Kane, I had to find out why the SSACI listing had Marion’s name as Hageman, not Siegel, which was her birth name.

Searching for Marion Hageman answered a number of the unresolved questions.  In particular, it told me more about what had happened to Florence Josephs after her first husband Louis Siegel died in 1915.  On the 1930 census I found a Marion Hageman listed as the daughter of Ely and Florence Hageman, who were living in Philadelphia, Florence Joseph’s hometown.  I was pretty sure that this was Marion and Florence (Josephs) Siegel, given the birth places listed for them and their parents and the ages.  It seemed that Florence had married someone named Ely Hageman.

Year: 1930; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 2136; Page: 26B; Enumeration District: 1075; Image: 53.0; FHL microfilm: 2341870

Year: 1930; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 2136; Page: 26B; Enumeration District: 1075; Image: 53.0; FHL microfilm: 2341870

Ely Hageman is listed on the 1930 census as born in Florida, but later documents indicate he was born in Virginia.  He was working as a salesman for a furniture company in 1930.  (Looking back at what I already knew about Marion’s then future husband Louis Kane, I wondered whether her stepfather Ely introduced her to Louis, who after all was living in the Boston area, quite far from Philadelphia where Marion had been living.)

I was able to locate a marriage record on the Philadelphia marriage index indicating that Ely Hageman and Florence Siegel had married in 1929.  In 1940, Ely and Florence were still living in Philadelphia, where Ely was still working in the furniture business.  Sadly, four years later Ely died from a coronary occlusion brought on hepatitis and diabetes, according to his death certificate.  He was 67 years old. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

I do not know what happened to Florence after Ely died.  She did take a trip with her granddaughter, daughter, and son-in-law in 1953, as this passenger manifest indicates. Massachusetts, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1949-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Massachusetts, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1949-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.

But I have not found any record after that indicates what happened to Florence after that.  Did she move to Boston to be closer to Marion, her only child, and Lois, her only grandchild? Or did she move to Florida, where her granddaughter Lois had married by 1960 and lived thereafter? I don’t know.  Yet.  [See UPDATE above. I know now that Florence died on June 18, 1968, in Philadelphia.]

But isn’t it amazing how one new database entry led to so much more information?  Thank you, Ancestry, for adding the SSCAI.




The Long Depression:  The Family of Mathilde Dreyfuss Nusbaum Pollock

If the 1860s were mostly a decade of good things—weddings, babies, prosperity, and little impact from the Civil War, the 1870s were in contrast a more difficult decade for the extended Nusbaum-Dreyfuss-Dinkelspiel-Simon clan, both personally and economically.  This post will focus on the family of Mathilde Dreyfuss Nusbaum Pollock, and the next will focus on the family of Caroline Dreyfuss Wiler, my two three-times great grand aunts, sisters of Jeanette Dreyfuss.  The posts that follow will focus on the family of my three times great-grandparents John and Jeanette (Dreyfuss) Nusbaum and the families of John’s siblings Ernst Nusbaum, Leopold Nusbaum, and Mathilde (Nusbaum) Dinkelspiel during the 1870s.

First, the Pollocks. Mathilde (Dreyfuss Nusbaum) and Moses Pollock had relocated from Harrisburg to Philadelphia in the mid-1860s. Moses was engaged in the retail dry goods business. In June 1870 when the census was taken, the Pollocks had a very full house.  Mathilde’s daughter Flora and her new husband Samuel were living with them along with their new baby Meyer. Samuel was working on the wholesale side of clothing sales. In addition, Mathilde’s son Albert Nusbaum, now 19 and working as a clerk in a dry goods store (presumably his stepfather’s business), was living with them as well as Mathilde and Moses’ children, Emanuel (14) and Miriam (11), who were both in school.  In addition, there were three domestic servants living with them.  Moses must have been doing quite well.

It’s a good thing they had those servants because there were also three young children living with them, Annie (5), Alice (4), and Wilhelmina Jastrow (seven months old) plus another young woman, Augusta Wolfsohn, who was 22 years old.  Annie and Alice were born in Hesse-Darmstadt, but their baby sister Wilhelmina had been born in Pennsylvania in September, 1869.  Who were they? Where were their parents? Augusta was born in Prussia and does not appear to be the mother of the three young girls.  Who was she?  None of these girls was living with the Pollocks as of the 1880 census.

Fortunately, this was a mystery that did not take long to solve.  A little research on, and I was able to find a happy ending to the story.  The Jastrow girls had parents, Marcus and Bertha (Wolfsohn) Jastrow.  By the second enumeration of the 1870 census in Philadelphia, they and their aunt Augusta Wolfsohn were all under the same roof as their parents and other siblings.  I don’t know why they were with the Pollocks during the earlier enumeration, but I assume that they were very recent immigrants who did not have enough room to accommodate everyone, and Moses and Mathilde were kind enough to take in the three youngest children and their aunt.

But fate was not kind to Moses and Mathilde despite their kindness to the Jastrows.  In September 1870, they had a third child together (a fifth for Mathilde), Rosia, but Rosia did not live long.  On February 26, 1871, she died, only five months old, from diarrhea.  Mathilde was 45 years old when Rosia was born, making me doubt my skepticism about the parentage of Lottie Nusbaum. Perhaps women just kept having babies into the mid to late 40s back then with more frequency than I would have thought.

Rosia Pollock death certificate 1871

Rosia Pollock death certificate 1871

What makes this late birth seem even stranger is that Mathilde had become a grandmother just nine months before Rosia was born when her grandson Meyer was born in January, 1870. Meyer and his parents Flora and Samuel Simon were living with the Pollocks in June of 1870 when Mathilde was pregnant with Rosia.  It is hard to imagine being pregnant and a grandmother, but times were different then.

Flora (Nusbaum) and Samuel Simon were still living with Flora’s family at 911 Franklin Street in 1871, but seem to have moved to their own place in 1872, and I say “seemed to” because their address was 909 Franklin Street, so right next door to Mathilde and Moses Pollock. Then in 1873, they are back at 911 Franklin.   Samuel was in business with his brother Leman in 1871, but seems to be on his own after that. He has no occupation listed in 1873 in the directory. Perhaps Flora and Simon could no longer afford to have their own place and returned to the Pollock residence.

According to the 1871 and 1872 Philadelphia directories, Moses Pollock had gone into business with his brother-in-law Moses Wiler, husband of Caroline Dreyfuss, Mathilde’s sister.  By 1873 it also appears that Moses Pollock and Moses Wiler were no longer in business together.  Moses Wiler is listed in the directories for 1873 and 1875 without an occupation, and Moses Pollock is listed in one as a salesman and another as a clerk.

What was going on around them? Why had these two family business partnerships ended?  It’s always important to keep the historical and socioeconomic context in mind when doing family research, and perhaps the most important development both in the US and worldwide in the 1870s was the so-called “Long Depression.”  The period after the Civil War brought widespread economic growth with railroad construction, technological developments, and expansion of exports to European markets.  However, in a way not dissimilar to more recent economic crashes, the economy tumbled in 1873 when banks and investment firms did not realize the profits they had expected from investing in the railroads and could no longer cover the loans they had made in the frenzy of the post-Civil War boom.[1]  In addition, an economic crisis abroad resulted in decreased demand for American exports.

The credit crisis led to panic with many investors withdrawing their money from the banks, thus worsening the precarious position of the banks.  Although the government intervened to try and stop the crisis, the overall confidence in the economy was gone, jobs dried up, people stopped buying, and railroad construction came to a halt.  There was also evidence of a great deal of corruption that was uncovered during this time.  The effects of this crisis were felt across the United States for at least five years with widespread unemployment, poverty, and social unrest.


It could very well have been this economic downturn that caused Moses Pollock and Moses Wiler to end this business partnership and also caused Leman and Samuel Simon to end their business partnership.

Moses Pollock continued to have some inconsistency in his occupation for the rest of the decade. In 1876 Mathilde and Moses Pollock are listed in business together selling “gentlemen’s furnishings” at 107 North 9th Street and were still living at 911 Franklin Street.  By 1878, they had moved to 934 North 8th Street, where they remained for many years.  Moses is listed as a salesman in the 1878, 1879, and 1880 Philadelphia directories, and according to the 1880 census he was working in a cloak store.  In 1880 he and Mathilde still had Albert Nusbaum, now 28, as well as Emanuel (24) and Miriam (21) living with them at home as well as one servant.  Albert had been working as a liquor salesman since 1873 when he was 21.  Emanuel had been in dry goods sales since 1877 when he was 21. Miriam and her mother Mathilde were “keeping house.”

Mathilde’s other daughter, Flora (Nusbaum) Simon and her husband Samuel meanwhile had had a second child.  Their daughter Minnie was born in 1873 or 1874 (documents vary).  Flora and Samuel seem to have moved out of the Pollock household sometime shortly thereafter and out of Philadelphia altogether by the end of the decade and perhaps even earlier.  It’s hard to know for sure because Samuel Simon was not an uncommon name.

There are three Samuel Simons listed in the 1874 Philadelphia directory: one was a laborer, one a restaurant worker, and a third was working in the ladies’ furnishings business.  None of the addresses line up with other members of the family, so I cannot tell which, if any of these Samuel Simons were married to Flora.  The ladies’ furnishings Samuel seems like the most likely, given the family’s pre-existing businesses, but I cannot be sure.  In 1875, there are two Samuel Simons, a laborer and a gardener.  Neither one seems likely to be Flora’s Samuel.

In 1876, there is only one Samuel Simon listed, a superintendent, and in 1877 again only one, a furrier.  In 1878 there was only Samuel the laborer, but in 1879 there were three Samuels: the laborer, the gardener, and a third selling produce.  My best hunch is that Samuel and Flora (Nusbaum) Simon had left Philadelphia by 1875.  According to the 1880 census, they were then living in Elkton, Maryland, about 50 miles from Philadelphia and 60 miles from Baltimore.  Samuel was working at a hotel there.  Again, my assumption is that the economic slowdown had contributed to this move away from their families in Philadelphia.

As will be evident as I examine each of the families, the Pollock line was not the only one that felt the impact of the Long Depression of the 1870s.



[1] I am greatly oversimplifying the causes and the effects of the Long Depression that began in 1873.  For more information, see

How Genealogy Research Works:  Solomon Monroe Cohen as A Sample Case

English: City seal of Detroit, Michigan.

English: City seal of Detroit, Michigan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve had remarkable luck tracking most of the descendants of Moses Cohen, Jr., even with the women who are usually so much harder to track because of the change in their names when they marry.   But when it came to the youngest son of Moses, Jr., and Henrietta Cohen, Solomon Monroe Cohen, I hit a few obstacles.  There are a few things that remain unresolved, but I’ve made a lot of progress.  I thought this would be a good example of just how much luck, persistence, and serendipity it takes to find records about a family member.

As reported in an earlier post, as of 1910, Solomon had married Estelle Spater of Detroit and settled in that city, working as the manager of a mail order business.  They had had two sons, Ralph born in 1907 and Theodore born in 1910.  Theodore had died in 1912 of complications from cerebral palsy.

In 1911 according to a Detroit city directory, Solomon was the general manager of Peoples Outfitting Company, where he was still employed in 1917 according to his World War I draft registration; he described his position as manager of the advertising staff and married to “Stella S. Cohen.”

Sol M Cohen World War I draft registration

Sol M Cohen World War I draft registration

The 1920 census has him living with Estelle and Ralph, working at a furniture business.  So far my research was moving along easily, just using to find the census report and the Detroit directories.

Solomon Cohen and family 1920 census

Solomon Cohen and family 1920 census

Then things got more complicated.  I could not (and still cannot find) Solomon or Estelle or Ralph on the 1930 census despite using wildcard search techniques, different databases, with and without date restrictions for births, with and without geographic restrictions.

I decided to focus my search on Ralph, figuring that there might be more recent records. I lucked out and found a marriage license application on  for a Ralph Cole to marry Lois Hollander in 1938, and it was indexed with Ralph’s parents’ names, Sol M. Cole and Estelle Spater.

Ralph Cole and Lois Hollander marriage license

Ralph Cole and Lois Hollander marriage license

It also indicated that Ralph was born in Detroit in 1907 and that he was in the furniture business, so I knew I had the correct Ralph.  From that application I learned that Sol had changed his name from Cohen to Cole, as had Ralph.  I also learned that Estelle had already died by the time of the application, January 3, 1938.  Finally, I learned that Sol was then living in New York City, not Detroit.  By finding just that one document, I’d gained a lot more information about the family.

Armed with all this new information, I went back and searched again for Solomon and Estelle and Ralph in 1930, but again I could not find any of them.  But as I was searching, I decided to broaden the search beyond the US on the long shot that perhaps they had left the country in 1930.  I did not find them, but on I found a Robert Cole, born in Detroit, Michigan in 1917, whose parents were Solomon Monroe Cole and Estelle Spater.   I actually found four documents for him, all Brazilian immigration documents for different years for his business travel.  Here are two:

Robert Cole Brazilian immigration documents

Robert Cole Brazilian immigration documents

Robert Cole second immigration

I went back to the 1920 census again to see if I had missed a child named Robert in the household of Solomon and Estelle, but he was not there.  Just Ralph.  I checked the next page; no Robert Cole.  If he was born in 1917, where was he? I could not find him with or without his family in 1930 nor could I find him on the 1940 census, again using many different possible locations and variations on his name.  I even searched for all Roberts born in Detroit in 1917, but came up empty.

Then two days ago I went back once again to the 1920 census and decided to look at each page in the enumeration district where Sol, Estelle and Ralph Cohen were listed.  They were listed at the very bottom of page 4; Robert was not on page 5.  But this time I went on to page 6, and there he was at the top of that page, listed as part of the Newcombe household, but the name and age were Robert Cohen, three years old.  Obviously the census reporter had skipped a page and put Robert two pages after the rest of his family and then the indexer had treated him as the son of the family at the bottom of page 5, instead of the Cohen family on page 4.   I can’t tell you how much time I spent on that wild goose chase caused by one simple mistake in the census.

By using the city directory database on, I found all four members of the now-Cole family living in Columbus, Ohio, at the same address in a 1935 directory for that city. I’d been searching for them in Detroit and was surprised when they turned up in Columbus instead. I never would have thought to look at Columbus, Ohio, without some reason to think they had moved there.  Ralph was listed as a salesman; he would have been 28; Robert was listed as a student; he would have been eighteen.  Sol was listed as a manager, his spouse listed as Stella.

Coles on the 1935 Columbus, Ohio directory

Coles on the 1935 Columbus, Ohio directory

But were they still in Detroit in 1930? Or were they already in Columbus by then?  When had they left Detroit? I found Robert Cole on the Social Security Death Index and saw that he had died in Jupiter, Florida, so I searched for and found his obituary.  According to Robert’s obituary, he attended Grosse Point Academy outside Detroit before attending Brown University.  Since he probably graduated from high school in 1934 or 1935, the family probably had not been in Columbus for very long as of the time of that directory.  Also, I had found several yearbook entries for Ralph Cole at the University of Michigan and knew that he had graduated in 1928, so I assumed that the Coles were still residents of Michigan during that time period.

1928 University of Michigan yearbook U.S. School Yearbooks [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.

1928 University of Michigan yearbook U.S. School Yearbooks [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.

Then yesterday I decided once more to try the 1930 census, figuring that if I could find an address where they had lived in Detroit close to 1930, it would turn up.  I had already searched for Sol Cohen and Sol Cole in Detroit directories between 1920 and 1935 and had had no luck.  So this time I figured I’d search for any Cole in Detroit in the city directory database.  I found that there were in fact Detroit directories in the database for the years 1930 and 1931.  Since no Sol Cole or Cohen had come up when I searched those, I searched for any Cole, found the directory pages that included anyone named Cole, downloaded those pages for 1930 and 1931, zoomed in, and sure enough Sol was in both. must have used an optical character reader to create the index of those directories, and looking at the indices for those two reveals the inadequacy of that method.  It’s mostly gibberish.  Obviously the small typeface and blurry image is too much of a challenge for an OCR.

Anyway, I was now very excited because I had evidence that Sol was still in Detroit in 1930 and 1931, and I had his address and his place of employment.  He was the vice president and general manager of Weil and Company.  Further research revealed that Weil and Company was a home furnishing store, selling furniture and home appliances.

Now armed with the home address for Sol, 5440 Cass Avenue in Detroit, I turned to to find the right enumeration district in the 1930 census for that address in Detroit. I found the right district, I even found the right pages with the listing of residents at that address.  It was the Belcrest Hotel, a large residential hotel that catered to wealthy residents,  according to Wikipedia.  There were many residents, but not one was named Sol Cole or Sol Cohen.  The closest were Max and Sadie Cohn.  So where were the Coles?  I’ve concluded that they either moved there after the census was taken in 1930 or that for some reason they just were missed by the census taker.

"BelcrestDetroit" by Andrew Jameson - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“BelcrestDetroit” by Andrew Jameson – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –


So as of 1931 the family was still in Detroit, but by 1935 they were in Columbus.  Perhaps the family moved to Columbus in the 1930s for economic reasons.  It was the Depression, and Sol may have had to move to earn a living.  Maybe Weil and Company went out of business or Sol lost favor with its owner, Mrs. M.C. Weil. Or maybe they sent him to Columbus to expand the business. I noticed that many members of Estelle’s Detroit family—her Spater brothers—also left their home town before 1940.  Maybe things were particularly bad in Detroit.

Knowing that Sol was living in New York City in 1938, as seen on Ralph’s marriage license application, I was able to locate a death record for him in New York City on June 11, 1938, only six months after the date on that application.  I have not found a death record for Estelle, but I know she died between 1935 and January, 1938.  I have ordered Sol’s death certificate so perhaps that will tell me where he, and possibly Estelle, are buried.

I have not found Robert on the 1940 census, but Ralph did show up on the 1940 census, living in Indianapolis with his wife Lois and working as the head buyer in a department store.

Ralph and Lois Cole 1940 US cens

According to his obituary in the July 22, 1998 issue of the Indianapolis Jewish Post, he worked for 32 years for William H. Block and Company and retired in 1971.  He then was active as a volunteer for several organizations in the Indianapolis community as well as assistant business manager of Indianapolis Business Development Board for ten years after retiring.  His wife Lois died in April 14, 1997; according to her obituary in the April 23, 1997 issue of the Indianapolis Jewish Post, she had graduated from Wellesley College and had worked as a journalist for four years and had also been active in many community organizations.  Ralph Cole died the following year on July 17, 1998 at age 91. Ralph and Lois had two children.

Robert Cole died ten years later on February 28, 2008. He also was 91. He had retired to Jupiter, Florida.   His obituary in the Palm Beach Post of March 4, 2008, reported that he had been Executive Vice President at McCann Erickson, the global advertising agency, where he worked for 28 years and been in charge of Latin American operations.  After he retired, he volunteered for the International Executive Services Corp.  Robert also had two children.

I am left with just a few more questions.

  1. Why did the Cole family move to Columbus in the 1930s?
  1. Why was Solomon in New York City in 1938, as stated on Ralph’s marriage application? How long had he lived there?
  1. When did Estelle die, and where are Sol and Estelle buried?

Fortunately, I am in touch with a couple of Sol and Estelle’s descendants and am hoping that perhaps together we can find the answers to those remaining questions.

As you can see, it took a lot of false starts, dead ends, jumps and turns, and a lot of different sources to learn the story of Solomon Monroe Cohen/Cole and his family.  That’s what makes this both so much fun and so challenging.

Skyline along the Detroit International Riverfront

Skyline along the Detroit International Riverfront (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pennsylvania, I love you!

OK, perhaps a bit of an overstatement, but yesterday morning I woke up to read online that the Pennsylvania death certificates up through 1944 were now available on  (Previously, only those up through 1924 were available.)  As soon as I’d had my breakfast, I started searching for all my previously researched Cohen relatives who died between 1925 and 1944 to find their death certificates.  Within a half an hour I had found eleven of them.  Although they did not contain any amazing revelations, I was able to learn when and why several of my relatives had died.

I have updated the relevant blog posts for Hannah Cohen, Lewis Weil, Rachel Cohen, Martin A. Wolf and his wife Marie Morgan, Laura Wolf, Harry Frechie, and Samuel Rosenblatt, Jr.  I also have certificates for Reuben Cohen, Sr., Emanuel Cohen, and Abraham Cohen which will be discussed in later posts.  The only one of these that I was particularly interested in was that of Samuel Rosenblatt, Jr., who had died when he was only twenty and was his parents’ only child; he died of leukemia.  Laura and Martin A. Wolf, siblings and the children of Hannah and Martin Wolf, also died at relatively young ages—in their 40s, Laura of diabetes and Martin A. of ulcerative colitis.

If you are interested in seeing the certificates, I have posted them at the relevant blog posts as linked to above.

It was good to put some closure on some of those lives, although sad to be reminded again of how many of my ancestors died so young.  Thank you to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for opening up your records so that family histories can be told.

A Distributed Denial of Service Attack on and other Genealogy Sites

There was an attack on by hackers yesterday, taking down the entire site and all of its associated sites including FindAGrave,, and many of the databases shared by JewishGen.  That means I could not access my tree or do more research except on the FamilySearch website.  Although I have my tree backed up on my computer, I had not backed it up in the last week or so (stupidity on my part), so it was not up to date.

What have I learned from this?  I am too dependent on for storing my family history information.  Yes, I do download copies of all the photographs and most of the documents to my computer, and they are also accessible through FamilyTreeMaker, the family tree software I have on my computer.  All my blog posts are also stored in Word format on my computer as well as on WordPress, the host of this blog.  But what if my hard drive is destroyed? What if WordPress is attacked?  How do we protect our photographs and documents as safely as possible?  I can’t imagine losing everything that I have worked so hard to find and collect, so if others out there have suggestions, please let me know. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) was up very briefly this morning, so I was able to update my hard drive version of my tree with Family Tree Maker.  But it is down again now, and I am just wondering how much at risk my saved files and research are and will be in the future.




Elizabeth Cohen 1859-1923: Twists and Turns in Life and in Genealogy

In my post about Hannah Cohen, I wrote about how difficult it can be to research a woman’s life once her name was changed at marriage.  Some women, like some of the Rosenzweig women, I have not yet found at all.  Sometimes, as when marriage records are searchable by a bride’s name, it is relatively easy.  And sometimes it just takes a little luck and some good hunches to find her married name. In the case of Elizabeth Cohen, the ninth child and youngest daughter of my great-great-grandparents, it took both some good hunches and a lot of luck.  It also involved some misdirection and some confusion.

Elizabeth was born on December 25, 1859, in Philadelphia.  When I did a search for records for her on, she appeared with her parents on the census reports of 1860, 1870, and 1880. But then I could not find anything for an Elizabeth Cohen after those reports until I happened upon her death certificate.  It’s odd to find the death certificate first, to see how a life ended before knowing the earlier years, but her death certificate appeared because it had her father’s name on it. had the certificate listed under both her birth name (Elizabeth Cohen) and her married name, “Shirzer.”   At least, that’s how it was spelled on the ancestry index. I was certain that this was the right person based on her father’s name, his birthplace, her birthplace, and her age.  I also thus knew that she had been related, perhaps married, to someone named Bernard Shirzer, the informant on the certificate.

Elizabeth Cohen death certificate 1923

Elizabeth Cohen death certificate 1923


I then started searching for her as Elizabeth Shirzer and also searching for Bernard Shirzer.  I found nothing under either name, but wild card searches led me to the 1900 census where they were indexed as Sluizer and the 1920 where they were indexed as Shezer.  I stared and studied the handwriting on the death certificate and these two census reports, but still wasn’t sure which, if any, of these were their actual names.  I was able, however, to learn the names of their children.  In 1900 they were living with three children: Florence (15), Herbert (10), and Mervyn (3).  In 1920 Bernard and Elizabeth were empty nesters, living alone.  I could not and still have not find them in 1910.

Elizabeth and Bernard Sluizer 1900 census

Elizabeth and Bernard Sluizer 1900 census

Elizabeth and Bernard Sluizer 1920 census

Elizabeth and Bernard Sluizer 1920 census

From the ages of the children, I assumed that Bernard and Elizabeth had to have married sometime before 1885.  I could not locate a marriage record in the online index, but since the index available online starts in 1885, that did not trouble me.

I decided to search for the two sons to see if I could find something that would confirm which name was the actual name, and since Mervyn seemed relatively unusual, I focused on him, and using again various wildcard searching techniques, found several records, including his draft registration forWorld War II with the name spelled Sluizer that also included his father’s name, Bernard Sluizer.  The birth year and place and the first name and Bernard’s name were sufficient clues to confirm that the name was Sluizer.

Mervyn Sluizer World War II draft registration

Mervyn Sluizer World War II draft registration

I then went back to look for Bernard Sluizer to be sure this was the right one and found some early records for him that also seemed to corroborate that this was the correct name and thus Elizabeth Cohen’s married name.  But then I found a record on the marriage index showing that Bernard Sluizer had married Elizabeth Heyman in 1892.  It seemed so unlikely that there were two Bernard Sluizers married to Elizabeths that I was truly confused.  Could the name on the marriage index be wrong?  Of course, it could.  But how could the date also be wrong? Bernard had to have married Elizabeth before 1885 if Florence was born in 1885.

The other problem was that I could not find any record for either Florence Sluizer or Herbert Sluizer after 1900.  Not being able to find Florence was not troubling; I assumed she married and had changed her name.  But where was Herbert? I couldn’t find one trace—not a draft record, not a marriage record, not a death record.  Nothing. I was mystified.

I figured it was worth a search on for newspaper articles that might reveal more about the Sluizers.  And that’s where luck helped me out.  Searching for Bernard Sluizer, I found an article about a charity raising money for the Doylestown Farm School, and listed among the donations was a reference to a donation by Bernard Sluizer in memory of his son, Herbert Heyman. (“$50,000 Donated to Aid Progress of Farm School Donations for Doylestown Institution One Feature of Anniversary,” Monday, June 10, 1907, Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA) Volume: 156 , Issue: 161, Page: 4, 1 )  Herbert Heyman? How could he have a son with a different surname?  Sons don’t change their names.

When I searched for Herbert Heyman, knowing he had died before June 10, 1907 , the date of the newspaper article, I found his death certificate, which identified his mother as Elizabeth Cohen, but his father as Benjamin Heyman.  Who was he??

Herbert Heyman death certificate

Herbert Heyman death certificate

My search then for Benjamin Heyman uncovered a death certificate for someone of that name who had died of uremia on July 23, 1890, at age 30.

Benjamin Heyman death certificate

Benjamin Heyman death certificate

This must have been Elizabeth Cohen’s first husband.  It explained both of the confusing records.  Bernard Sluizer had married Elizabeth Heyman; that was her married name when she married him, but she was born Elizabeth Cohen.  And Bernard Sluizer had been in many ways, even if not legally, the father of Herbert Heyman because he had married Elizabeth in 1892 when Herbert was only three years old.  Herbert’s biologicial father Benjamin had died when he was only a year old.

Having finally found all the little pieces of the puzzle, I think I now have the story of Elizabeth’s life.  She must have married Benjamin Heyman sometime before 1885 and had two children with him: Florence, born in 1885, and Herbert, born in 1889.  Then her first husband died in 1890, leaving her with two very young children.  She married Bernard Sluizer in 1892 and had a third child, Mervyn, with him the following year.  The 1900 census indicates that Bernard was a salesman; the 1920 census is more specific—a salesman for a pawnbroker.  Another relative in the family business.

Having lost her first husband so tragically young, Elizabeth then endured a second terrible loss when her son Herbert died from pneumonia in 1906 when he was sixteen.  What a sad, short life he had lived, losing his father when he was not even two years old and dying before he was seventeen years old.

Elizabeth herself died on September 28, 1923, when she was only 63 years old from “cancer of the womb.” Her husband Bernard continued to work as a pawnbroker and was living with their son Mervyn and his wife and children in 1930.  Bernard had remarried in 1928, but appears not to have been married as of the time of the 1930 census.  He died on September 2, 1944, at age 84.

Elizabeth’s life story, like those of so many other women, would have disappeared, and I might never have been able to figure it out, if not for the fact that her husband Bernard Sluizer made a donation to a charity in memory of his stepson Herbert Heyman.  If there had been no such donation, I might never have been able to figure out that Elizabeth had had a first husband who died at a very young age leaving her with two young children.  I would never have been able to figure out that the Elizabeth Heyman who married Bernard Sluizer was born Elizabeth Cohen but for the fact that her son Herbert Heyman died and her birth name was on his death certificate.  So in a very sad twist of fate, the fact that Herbert died so young enabled me to preserve the story of not only his life but that of his mother, my great-grandaunt Elizabeth Cohen.

Women are Difficult…to Find and Track, Part I: Lillian Rosenzweig

One thing that has been clear to me for a long time is that women are much harder to track in vital records than men, largely because they traditionally changed their names when they married. The Rosenzweig daughters are a case in point.

I have now located and tracked from birth to death the five sons of Gustave and Gussie: Abraham, David, Jacob, Harry and Joe. For those who survived to adulthood, I know who they married, where they lived, and what they did for a living and their military service.  I still need to trace the children of Abraham and Jack, but I wanted to see what I could find about the five daughters of Gustave and Gussie first.  I’ve been looking all along, but kept hitting walls and so decided to focus on one daughter at a time.  Here’s what I know about Lillian.

The oldest child and the only one born in Romania was Lillie or Lillian.  According to the 1900 census, she was born in July, 1884, in Romania, but since that was only a month after Gustave and Gussie’s marriage, it seems likely that this was an error and that Lilly was probably born during 1885. The census also says that Lillie arrived in 1884, but her father’s naturalization papers say that he arrived in 1887.  In 1900 when she was only fifteen years old, Lillie was working as a typist while her younger siblings were all in school.

Gustave Rosenzweig and family 1900 census

Gustave Rosenzweig and family 1900 census

In 1905 the family had moved to Fulton Street in Brooklyn, and Lillian, now 21 according to the census, was doing housework as her employment.  In addition to the siblings listed on the 1900 census, there were now two additions, Rachel, who was four, and William, who was three.  William is described as a son of the head of the household, which led me to believe that he was another child of Gustave and Gussie.  I was unable, however, to locate William on the birth index as William Rosenzweig, nor did he reappear on the 1905 or 1910 census with the family.

Gustave Rosenzweig family on the 1905 NYS census

Gustave Rosenzweig family on the 1905 NYS census

Once again I searched the death index for a child of Gustave and Gussie, but could not find a death record for William Rosenzweig either.  If he was not living with his “parents” and siblings in 1905, where could he be? I searched on for William Rosenzweig and found him living at the Brooklyn Hebrew Orphanage in 1906.  I knew it was the right boy by his age (four years old), the address from where he was taken (1021 Fulton Street, Brooklyn), and his mother’s name—Lillian nee Rosenzweig.

William Rosenzweig at the Brooklyn Hebrew Orphanage in 1906

William Rosenzweig at the Brooklyn Hebrew Orphanage in 1906

Brooklyn Hebrew Orphanage

Brooklyn Hebrew Orphanage

William was not Gustave and Gussie’s son, but Lillian’s son.  His father is only identified as “Frank (dead),” with no surname.  For the other children listed, their father’s first name is also all that is supplied, but that’s because the child presumably has that surname.  For William, his surname is the same as his mother’s—Rosenzweig, and no surname is given for his father.  I could not find any marriage record for a Lillie or Lillian Rosenzweig between 1900 and 1902 to a Frank, so had Lillian had William out of wedlock? Who was Frank? Was he really dead?

I did find a Frank Cramer who died between 1902 and 1906 and a William Cramer born on March 2, 1902, the birth date provided for William on the orphanage records.  I sent for the birth certificate for William Cramer, but unfortunately that William’s parents were not named Frank and Lillian.

Then last night I went back once again to the marriage index and looked again for a marriage record for Lillian Rosenzweig, but this time I did not limit my search to grooms named Frank.  I restricted the dates to 1900 to 1902, based on the fact that Lillie was single in the 1900 census and that William was born in March, 1902.  I found one marriage of a Lillie Rosenzweig in July, 1901, to a Toscano Bartolini.  Could Frank have been his more American nickname?  I turned to the death index and searched for a death record, and there it was—Toscano Bartolini had died on April 27, 1904, at 27 years old.  Finally I looked for a birth record for a William Bartolini and found one—born March 9, 1902, a mere eight months after Lillie’s wedding to Toscano in July, 1901.  It was all starting to come together.  I obviously have to send away for all these records to be sure that Lillie is Gustave’s daughter and that William is Lillie’s son, but it certainly seems likely that the records will back up my hunches here.  In fact, I checked today on FamilySearch for Toscano Bartolini and found a more thorough description of the marriage record, including a reference to the bride’s parents’ names, Gustav and Gussie.  I will still order a copy of the certificate, but I am now certain that Lillie married Toscano, who died just a few years later, leaving her with a two year old son named William.

UPDATE:  All these facts were confirmed by the documents.  See my more recent post with images of the documents.

After finding all this, I remembered something that Joe’s grandson Ron had told me—that one of Gustave’s daughters had married someone who wasn’t Jewish, and Ariela had said she thought one of the sisters had married someone with an Italian name.  Ron had told me that the family was not happy about this, and that for a long time there was some estrangement.  Despite whatever they felt, however, in 1905 after Frank/Toscano died, Gustave and Gussie took both Lillian and her son into their home.

It also occurred to me that perhaps the reason Lillie used the name Rosenzweig for William and not Bartolini was based on the fact that he was being taken to a Jewish institution.  Obviously Rosenzweig would seem more clearly Jewish than Bartolini.

But why he was taken from the home in 1906 is not explained by the records. The orphanage record indicates that William was discharged to his mother on September 3, 1906, and reports that her address was then 307 East 120th Street in Manhattan, so perhaps there was a falling out with the family.   But in 1910, Lillian was living again with her parents and siblings in Brooklyn, and William was not living with her.  Lillian’s occupation was listed as a trained nurse at a hospital, and she was listed as single, not widowed.  But where was William?

Gustave Rosenzweig and family 1910 census

Gustave Rosenzweig and family 1910 census

I had not been able to find him as William Rosenzweig in the 1910 census, but now I searched for William Bartolini and found him, living at a residential facility, St. John’s Home in Brooklyn.

William Bartolini 1910 at St John's Home, Brooklyn

William Bartolini 1910 at St John’s Home, Brooklyn

Maybe Lillie placed him there so that she could get training to be a nurse.  Perhaps she just could not take care of him.  Perhaps I can find some records from St John’s Home.

I also was able to find where William was in 1915: another home for children, this one the New York  Catholic Protectory, in the Bronx. (Interestingly, this facility was located where Parkchester is today; Parkchester is an apartment building complex developed by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in the Bronx and is where my grandparents, my aunt and uncle, and my parents once lived; I lived there also until I was four and half years old.)

William Bartolini 1915 Catholic Protection Bronx

William Bartolini 1915 Catholic Protecory Bronx

It seems that in both 1910 and 1915 William had been placed in Catholic institutions after being at a Jewish orphanage briefly in 1906.  Had Lillie given up her parental rights? Was neither set of grandparents interested or able to take care of the boy? Was William troubled or disabled in some way that made caring for him at home a problem for everyone?  I don’t know the answers, but will try to find out what happened to William after 1915.  Apparently you can order microfilm from the Family History Library and see the actual records for the children who resided there, which I plan to do.

And I cannot find Lillie in 1910 or thereafter.  She was not living with her mother and siblings in 1915 or in 1920.  I cannot find her as Lillie Rosenzweig or as Lillie Bartolini.  Perhaps she remarried and changed her name, but I have not yet found a marriage record.  But now I know that I just have to keep looking.  I almost gave up after Frank Cramer did not pan out.  And then last night I looked a different way and found Toscano Bartolini. I hope I can eventually uncover what happened to Lillie and to William.

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Thirteen Abraham Rosenzweigs or How I Almost Threw My Computer through the Window

English: Bromo-Seltzer advertisement for heada...

English: Bromo-Seltzer advertisement for headache medicine. Lottie Collins sings Ta-Ra-Ra Boom-de-ay! after being healed by the medicine and this effect makes her to dance and sing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A couple of weeks ago I started trying to trace Gustave Rosenzweig’s story and the story of his children by searching for census reports and other documents on and familysearch and other websites.  Gustave and Gussie had ten children, and they all had names that were apparently very common back then: Lillian, Sarah, David, Abraham, Rebecca, Jacob, Joseph, Lizzie, Rachel and Harry (not necessarily in that order).  When I came down with the flu around the same time that I started trying to sort all those children out, I decided that I needed to wait until I felt better.  Names, numbers, census reports, and vital records were all floating before my fevered eyes, and I was unable to focus at all.

So yesterday and last night, finally back to full strength, I decided to try again.  No fever, no chills, but nevertheless names, numbers, census reports, and vital records were still circling around and making me dizzy.  I decided to take one child at a time and not get distracted by the other children.  I had previously accumulated a fair amount of information about Abraham and thought I would start there.  I thought I had found a census report for Abraham for almost every year that there was one: 1900, 1905, 1910, 1925, 1930 and 1940.  I was only missing 1920.  I also thought I had found Abraham’s wife and children and ordered his marriage certificate a few weeks back.  But given that I had accumulated a lot of this without yet going through it very thoroughly, I knew I needed to go back and be more careful.

The 1900 and 1905 census reports were easy.  Abraham was living with his parents and his siblings, making it easy to be sure I had the correct reports.  Both indicated that he was born in 1890.  So far so good.  As I turned to the 1910 census, things became a little less clear as there was no census that had Abraham living with Gustave, Gussie and his siblings.  There were two possibilities.  One Abraham was living with his mother Gussie, who had been born in Romania, so that looked promising.  But this Abraham had only two siblings, Joseph and Isaac, and this Abraham was born in 1894 and was younger than his two brothers. His mother owned a candy store in Brooklyn.  It certainly could be that the census had errors; that happens all the time.  But I wasn’t sure. The other Abraham on the 1910 census who was a possibility was the right age and also had Romanian parents, but he was in the Navy, so I had no way of knowing his parents’ names.  I saved both census reports as possibilities.

I turned to 1915.  There were THIRTEEN Abraham Rosenzweigs listed on this New York State census.  I checked every single one of them, listing the facts, dates, occupations, places of birth, relatives’ names, and then narrowed it down to two real possibilities, the same two.  The younger Abraham, born in 1894, was living alone with his mother Gussie and working as a grocery clerk; the older Abraham was living with his mother Gussie and all the correct siblings and was a sailor.  It seemed obvious that the older Abraham, the sailor, was the correct one, meaning the correct Abraham in 1910 had been the one in the Navy, not the one living with Gussie.  Although that was very time-consuming, I felt like I had confirmed that the data I had previously collected was correct.

I moved on to 1920.  Now there were only (!) nine Abraham Rosenzweigs who fit within the appropriate age range and were born in New York City.  Again, I sifted through each census report and started finding some repeating Abrahams—the one working as a naval clerk, married to Lena but of Russian background, the railway mail clerk married to Tessie, but of Austrian background, a few who were too young, one who was in prison but had American born parents, one who was a motion picture operator, and two who lived too far away and were too young.  The one who seemed most likely was born in 1890, of Romanian parentage, and was married to a Rebecca and had two sons, Maxwell (3) and Irving (1).  They lived in Brooklyn, where he worked as a bread salesman.  But I had no way of linking him to Gustave and the right Gussie.  I searched for a certificate for a marriage between an Abraham Rosenzweig and a Rebecca, but could not find one.  I moved on to 1925.

Now there were eleven Abraham Rosenzweigs.  I was starting to get a bit punchy, but labored on, wanting to do this before I lost track of my findings and my thoughts.  Once again I saw some familiar faces—Lena and Abraham the naval clerk, Tessie and Abraham the railway mail clerk—and some new faces that did not fit.  After another long stretch staring at each census report, I narrowed it down again to two: the Abraham living with his mother Gussie and the Abraham married to Rebecca, living in Brooklyn with their two children and employed as a driver. I then did the same thing with the six Abrahams listed in 1930 and in 1940.

In my earlier search I had somehow assumed that the Abraham living with his mother Gussie in 1925, 1930 and 1940 was the right Abraham because I had not seen that there were two Gussie Rosenzweigs with sons named Abraham.  Thus, I had added information to my tree for the wrong Abraham, including what I now believe were the wrong wife and children since this Abraham had married in 1932 a woman named Lee and had two daughters.  I had been confused at the time also by the conflicting World War I draft registration forms I’d found.  I had thought Abraham was still single in 1917 since I’d thought he hadn’t married until 1932, and so I had eliminated any draft registration for a married man.  As a result I had selected an Abraham who also had had no prior military service.  Although I knew that conflicted with the 1910 and 1915 census reports that showed that my Abraham had been in the Navy, I could not then figure out where I had gone wrong.  Yesterday I realized my mistake, found what I think is the correct draft registration, and have to go back and correct my tree and look for records that will reveal if the Abraham who married Rebecca is in fact the right Abraham.

As usual, there remain more questions.  If our Abraham was not living with his mother Gussie in 1925, 1930 and 1940, where was she? Had she died? Where was Gustave in 1915? The children were living only with Gussie, and I cannot find another census that includes Gustave. There also remains the question of why the 1920 census shows the other children living with Gustave, not Gussie, and yet there is another Gustave who is a painter from Romania listed elsewhere living as a boarder in 1920. I can’t find a marriage certificate for Gustave for his second marriage.

And I’ve only done one of the ten children.  There are also multiple Josephs, Jacobs, Sarahs, Rachels, Lillians, and so on.  It will take a while to resolve all this, but in the end, perhaps I will have a fuller picture of Gustave’s family and his life and even more cousins with whom to share the story of our family.

This is not Gustave’s family, but it gives a sense of what ten children in a family looks like.

A family of ten children

A family of ten children

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Is there a Yelp for Genealogy Resources?

The always helpful and amazing Renee did it again.  I asked her for help finding Nathan and Gertrude Mintz and their daughter Susanne, and within hours she had located an obituary for Gertrude, naming her daughter Susan and granddaughters and great-grandchild.  A second obituary for Susan’s husband revealed another great-grandchild.  So now I have some living descendants to track down and contact.  I’ve already reached out to one, but have not yet heard back.  Perhaps we will be able to learn what happened to Harry, Zusi and Nathan after Hyman died and the family seems to have split apart or disappeared.

I would like to be able to find this kind of information myself.  I asked Renee how she had found these materials, and once again it was two resources to which I do not subscribe or have access: and PeopleFinders.  It’s all quite overwhelming.  There are so many different sources and websites. There are an amazing number of free resources:,,, JRI-Poland,,, Google, Facebook, the White Pages, for example. and Gesher Galicia are free, but if you want full access, you need to pay or make a contribution. All of these sites are tremendously helpful, especially for finding people before 1940, but to find people after that date requires access to other resources since the census reports and vital records dated after 1940 are not publicly available.  To find someone after 1940 or so requires access to obituaries, phone books, newspaper articles, marriage announcements, and other more modern databases.

There are also a very large number of paid sites.  Each time I’ve asked Renee how she found a source, usually a wedding announcement or an obituary, I’ve checked out that database or website and subscribed to a few.  For example, and are two sites to which I have subscribed but that have been almost useless to me.  I don’t know whether I am using them incorrectly or just unlucky, but I’ve found almost nothing of value on those sites.   So I’ve become a little reluctant to plop down my credit card for more sites without figuring out whether they are worth the investment.

Some of the sites are not that expensive—$25 a year; others are far more expensive.  For example,, the site Renee used this time, costs $125 a year.  They do offer a free 14-day trial, however, so I might at least try that.  There are also so many other sites—Intelius, PeopleFinders—the list goes on and on.  I am confused and overwhelmed.  Do I really need any of these? Do I need all of them?  Where do I draw the line?

Maybe somewhere there is a source that rates these sources for genealogy research value.  Maybe some of the genealogists who are reading this post can point me to that source or provide me with some guidance.  What are the best sources for locating obituaries, wedding announcements and other information relating to people living after 1940? Why have both and proven to be so useless to me?  Is worth the price?

Let me know what you think.  Thanks!

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