Wurzburg: Our Brief but Wonderful Visit to this Beautiful City

On May 10, after visiting Jesberg and saying goodbye to the Kassel region, we drove south towards Wurzburg.  Wurzburg was actually not originally on our itinerary.  In planning our trip, I had initially confused the Schopfloch in Baden with the Schopfloch in Bavaria and made plans to stay in Stuttgart to be closer to the Baden Schopfloch (that is, the wrong one).  Fortunately I discovered this mistake in time, cancelled the Stuttgart reservation (but still had to pay….grrr), and made a new reservation in Wurzburg.  I knew nothing about Wurzburg except that in studying the map, it was the closest bigger city I could find to the Schopfloch in Bavaria where my Nussbaum ancestors had lived.  It was meant to be simply a one night stopover before we headed to Schopfloch.

As we drove south and entered Bavaria, the landscape changed from the open fields and hills we’d been seeing throughout the Rhine-Palatinate region and the Hessen region.  Now we saw forests of tall trees on either side of the Autobahn.  It was a dramatic change in scenery.  We arrived in Wurzburg around 4 pm and checked into our hotel, the Hotel Wurzburger Hof, having no idea what to expect of the hotel or the city.

Well, this quickly became our favorite hotel of the entire trip.  The young woman at reception checked us in and then offered us a free glass of wine.  On top of that she told us that they had given us a room with a private roof deck overlooking the city. We have no idea how we managed to get that room, but we didn’t ask questions.  We took our bags and our wine up to our room, dropped our bags, and took the wine out to the roof deck. It was big enough to host a party for twenty people, and there was plenty of patio furniture out there.  The room itself was also very comfortable, clean, and beautifully furnished.  We sat and relaxed, perhaps the first time in our trip that we had no appointments or sites to see or cemeteries to visit.

Our roof deck at the Hotel Wurzburger Hof

When it was time to eat, we asked the receptionist for dinner suggestions, and she recommended two restaurants on the river. “There’s a river?” I asked.  She smiled and told us how to get to the restaurants on the Main River.  We picked the Italian one (of course) and had a table overlooking the river; the food was as good as the view.

Locanda restaurant

The Main River

One of the many good Hefeweizen beers I had in Germany

After dinner we strolled around a bit and noticed that, as in the restaurant, the streets were filled with young people. When we returned to the hotel, we asked the evening clerk why there were so many young people.  “For the university,” he responded.  “There’s a university?” I said.

Our hotel

Obviously I needed to do some research about this city.

We were glad that we did not have to rush out the next morning for Schopfloch, as our appointment with Jutta Breittinger, our Schopfloch guide, was not until 2 pm.  We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the hotel, and then, with a walking tour map in hand, we set off to see this city that we’d so quickly fallen in love with the night before.

The first place on our tour was right across from our hotel: the Juliusspital, a hospital and retirement home founded in 1576 by Julius Echter, the bishop of Wurzburg.  The expansive Baroque building was designed by Italian architect, Antonio Petrini. It was built to take care of the poor and sick people of the area and still functions as a hospital today.  From the outside and from the grounds inside its courtyards, however, you would think this was a palace.


Garden in the Juliusspital courtyard

We then followed our map, strolling past a shopping district (notice that T J Maxx is called T Z Maxx) towards the market place where the Marien Chapel is located.

Dunkin Donuts! A Massachusetts business in Germany

Click to enlarge to see T Z Maxx

As we turned the corner to enter the market square, we immediately noticed this stunning church and the beautiful architecture that surrounds the square.  The Marien Chapel was built in the 14th century on grounds that were once a synagogue, according to Wikipedia.  Although Wurzburg, like Mainz, Bingen, and Cologne, suffered a lot of damage from Allied bombing during World War II, the chapel and many other places were reconstructed after the war and restored to their original appearance.  It is quite remarkable, inside and out.

Marien Chapel

Interior of Marien Chapel

From there we walked to the Wurzburg Dom, the fourth largest Romanesque church in Germany. It is also a gorgeous building.  At this point we were both quite dazzled by all the beauty in this small city (the population is under 200,000, as compared to two million in Cologne).  The Dom was built in the 11th century and remodeled and extended numerous times over the centuries.  It also suffered severe damage during World War II, and renovations were not completed until 1967.  According to this site, when they remodeled the building, they chose to restore the interior to its Romanesque origins and did not include some of the Baroque elements that had been added in the 17th century.  The interior is white and surprisingly bright unlike most cathedrals I’ve seen.

Wurzburg Dom

Interior of Wurzburg Dom

Perhaps the best known attraction in Wurzburg is the Residenz, where we went next. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Residenz was built in the eighteenth century as a palace for the “bishop-princes” of Wurzburg; it was designed by Balthasar Neumann.  It reminded me of the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna—-long halls of room after room after room, huge common spaces, elaborate adornments on the walls and ceilings, and a wide and gracious red-carpeted staircase. Frescoes by Tielpolo cover the ceiling over the wide open space above the staircase.  Behind the palace are beautiful gardens filled with flowers and green spaces with benches. (We weren’t allowed to take photos inside.)

Das Residenz

Gardens at the Residenz

The Residenz was also severely damaged during the war and was, like the Dom and the Marien Chapel and much of Wurzburg, rebuilt after the war.

After touring the Residenz, we decided to stroll back across the city through the streets where the university is located to the Main River. We walked along the river to the Alte Mainbrucke (Old Main Bridge), which spans the river.  We walked across the river, looking back to see the towers of the Dom lined up with the bridge.

View across the Main River from Wurzburg

Crossing the Old Bridge

The Old Bridge

The towers of the Dom from the Old Bridge

After a lunch from a bakery on the market square we reluctantly left this beautiful city behind.  We had been there less than 24 hours, and we both wished we had another day to spend in Wurzburg.

Marktplatz in Wurzburg (notice the style of the buildings some historic restoration, others in modern utilitarian style


Something I Never Expected to See

I want to share two documents that I thought I’d never see.  In preparing for our upcoming trip to Germany, I’ve been trying to find guides who can help me in the various places we plan to visit.  One of those guides is a man named Aaron.  Although Aaron is based in Cologne and will be our guide while we are there, he also asked where else we were visiting and whether we needed any help finding records.

I mentioned to him that probably the one place I had had the worst luck finding any records—online or elsewhere—was Schopfloch, the small town in Bavaria where my Nussbaum ancestors once lived.  Some of you may recall that all I had were the notes left behind by a researcher named Angelika Brosig, who died in 2013.  Angelika had a lot of information about the birthdates of the children of Amson Nussbaum and Voegele Welsch, my four-times great-grandparents, including a name and birthdate for my three-times great-grandfather, Josua Nussbaum, who became John Nusbaum in the United States.  I knew these facts were accurate because they were consistent with the information in the Nussbaum family bible kept first by my three-times great-grandmother Jeanette Dreyfuss Nusbaum and later by my great-grandmother Eva May Seligman Cohen.  But I had no images or transcriptions of original records

Even after contacting several people who knew Angelika Brosig and had worked with her, I had no luck figuring out where she’d gotten this information.  But Aaron had better luck—he found the death records for my four-times great-grandparents, Amson and Voegele.  This gives me hope that perhaps other records exist and that someday I may find them.

Death record of Voegelein Nussbaum

Death record of Voegelein Welsch Nussbaum, October 2, 1842

As transcribed and translated by Leon and Cathy from the German Genealogy group on Facebook, this says:

Vogelein Nussbaum, Wittwe des Amson Nussbaum, geb. Welsch, stirbt in einem Alter von 60 Jahren und 7 Monaten plötzlich am Schleimschlag Sonntag Abends am zweiten /2/ Oktober 1/2 5 Uhr 1842, und wird beerdigt Tags drauf am 3. dess. Abends 5 Uhr. Arzt wird nicht gebraucht. No. 132.

Vögelein Nussbaum, widow of Amson Nussbaum, born Welsch, dies at the age of 60 years and 7 months suddenly due to mucoid impaction on Sunday evening on 2nd October, half before 5 o’clock, 1842, and is buried on the next day in the evening 5 o’clock. Doctor is not needed.


Death record of Amson Meier Nussbaum, 1837

Death record of Amson Meier Nussbaum, June 7, 1836

Leon and Cathy translated Amson’s death record to say:

Amson (Meier) Nussbaum, merchant, here no. 132, married, consumption, 8th this evening at 8 o’clock, 58 years old.

Thank you to Aaron for his persistence and hard work in locating these records. And thank you also to Leon and Cathy from the Facebook German Genealogy group!  Danke!!

The Benefits of Teamwork: Part I

In my recent post, I mentioned that I had been working with two other researchers on the mystery of the three Selinger men who married my Cohen cousins.  Frederick Selinger had married my cousin Rachel Cohen in 1880 in Washington, DC.  Rachel was the daughter of Moses Cohen, my three times great-uncle (brother of my great-great-grandfather Jacob).  Julius Selinger had married Augusta Cohen in 1884 in Washington, DC; Augusta was the daughter of Moses Cohen, Jr. and niece of Rachel Cohen.  Finally, Alfred Selinger had married Fannie Cohen in Washington, DC, in 1893.  Fannie was also a daughter of Moses Cohen, Jr., also a niece of Rachel Cohen, and a sister of Augusta Cohen.

Julius and Augusta Cohen Selinger passport photos 1922

Julius and Augusta Cohen Selinger passport photos 1922


Way back on July 22, 2014, when I first posted about the three Selinger men, I had speculated that they all had to be related.  Both Julius and Frederick had documents indicating that they had been born in Hurben, Germany.  Alfred and Julius had lived together in DC before they’d married, and Alfred had traveled with Julius and Augusta to Europe before he married Augusta’s sister Fannie.  But I had nothing to support that speculation besides that circumstantial evidence.

Then a month later on August 5, 2014, I wrote about the marriage of Eleanor Selinger to Henry Abbot.  Eleanor was the daughter of Julius Selinger and Augusta Cohen; Henry was the son of Hyams Auerbach (Abbot) and Helena Selinger (some records say Ellen or Helen).  I was curious as to whether Helena Selinger was somehow related to Julius and the other Selinger men, Alfred and Frederick.  I thought that she might be since how else would an American woman have met an Englishman? And the shared name seemed too uncommon to be pure coincidence.


Eleanor Selinger Abbot and Abbot family-page-001

Eleanor Selinger Abbot (center) with the Abbot family Courtesy of Val Collinson


As I wrote then, I had contacted the owner of an Ancestry family tree who turned out to be Eleanor Selinger and Henry Abbot’s great-niece: Val Collinson.  Val and I exchanged a lot of information, but we could not at that time find any definitive evidence linking Helena Selinger, her great-grandmother, to Frederick or Julius or Alfred.  All were born in Germany, but it seemed from the records in different locations.  Helena’s marriage record indicated that her father’s name was Abraham Selinger, whereas Julius had indicated on his passport application that his father was Sigmund Selinger.  We were stumped.  And that was that.  Or so I thought.

Fast forward a full year to August, 2015, when I received a comment on my earlier blog post about Eleanor Selinger and Henry Abbot from someone named Shirley Allen, whose grandparents were Jacob Rosenthal and Fanny Selinger:

Fanny Selinger Rosenthal and her husband Jacob Rosenthal and children Gladys, Daniel, and Alfred Courtesy of Shirley Allen

Fanny Selinger Rosenthal and her husband Jacob Rosenthal and their children Gladys, Daniel, and Alfred
Courtesy of Shirley Allen

I’ve been delving into my paternal (Rosenthal) family history. I’ve found that my grandfather Jacob Rosenthal was married to Fanny Selinger. Unfortunately I haven’t found anything further about Fanny other than she was born in Germany, probably in 1857. However, I’ve recently come upon a wonderful paper lace invitation to the 1873 wedding of Hyams Auerbach and Helena Selinger that you referred to. What I don’t know is why Fanny would have been invited. Clearly she and Helena were related – but how ?

Needless to say, I was intrigued.  Maybe Fanny Selinger was related to Helena and/or maybe she was related to Julius, Frederick, and Alfred.  Shirley and I communicated by email, and we both started digging.

Invitation to the wedding of Helena Selinger and Hyms Auerbach Courtesy of Shirley Allen

Invitation to the wedding of Helena Selinger and Hyms Auerbach
Courtesy of Shirley Allen


I found a website called Jewish Genealogy of Bavarian Swabia (JGBS) that had records for Hurben and located 25 Selingers in their database, including those for Alfred and for Julius, who were the sons of Seligman Selinger and Breinle Hofstadter and thus were brothers, as I had suspected. Shirley and I both thought that Seligman Selinger had been Americanized to Sigmund by Julius on his passport application and that the birth records for Julius and Alfred confirmed that they were in fact brothers.

I also found a birth record for Helena Selinger, whose father was Abraham Selinger, not Seligman Selinger.  Abraham and his wife Rosalia Wilhelmsdoerfer had six children listed: Seligman (1842), Raphael (1843), Pauline (1845), Karolina (1847), Heinrich (1848), and Helena (1849). Pauline, Karolina, and Heinrich had all died as young children, leaving Seligman, Raphael, and Helena as the surviving children of Abraham.  Here is Helena’s birth record from Hurben in August 1849.

Helena Selinger birth record from Hurben http://jgbs.org/SuperSearch.php?Sp=3&Book=birth&Com=11

Helena Selinger birth record from Hurben (third from bottom)


But what about Frederick?  And Fanny? And was there a connection between Helena’s father Abraham and the father of Julius and Alfred, Seligman Selinger?

A little more digging on the JGBS site revealed that both Abraham Selinger and Seligman Selinger were the sons of Joachim Selinger, thus confirming that they were brothers and thus that Helena was a first cousin to Julius and Alfred.

Marriage record from Hurben for Abraham Selinger, son of Joachim, and Rosalia Wilhelmsdoerfer http://jgbs.org/detail.php?book=marriage&id=%206671&mode=

Marriage record from Hurben for Abraham Selinger, son of Joachim, and Rosalia Wilhelmsdoerfer (second in page)


Seligmann Selinger, son of Joachim, marriage to Breinle Hoftsadter

Seligmann Selinger, son of Joachim, marriage to Breinle Hoftsadter (second from bottom) 1848 http://jgbs.org/detail.php?book=marriage&id=%206695&mode=


That meant that Eleanor Selinger, daughter of Julius Selinger, had married her second cousin, Henry Abbot, son of Helena Selinger.


But that still left us wondering about Frederick Selinger and Shirley’s great-grandmother Fanny Selinger.  How did they fit into this picture?

I contacted Ralph Bloch, the webmaster for the JGBS website, and he was extremely helpful.  More helpful than I realized at the time, but more on that later.  Ralph also could not find any evidence that Fanny was born in Hurben, and he reassured me that the birth records for Hurben were quite complete.  He even searched through the original pages to be sure that Fanny hadn’t somehow been missed when the records were indexed. (There was a Fany Selinger born in the 1830s, but that would have been far too early for Shirley’s ancestor.) Ralph also sent a photograph of Seligman Selinger’s headstone, which confirmed that his father’s name was Joachim or Chaim, his Hebrew name.

Seligman Selinger gravestone


So once again we hit the brick wall.  We still had not found either Frederick or Fanny.  Shirley said she would pursue it on her end, and I turned back to the other research I’d been doing when I received Shirley’s comment.

Not much happened again until late November when I heard again from Shirley, telling me that she had received a copy of Fanny Selinger’s marriage certificate, which revealed that Fanny was the daughter of Abraham Selinger.  Now we could link Fanny to Helena, also the daughter of Abraham, as well as to Julius and Alfred, Abraham’s nephews. But we didn’t know if Fanny and Helena were both the daughters of Rosalia Wilhelmsdoerfer.

Shirley’s research of UK records showed that by 1871 Abraham was married to a woman named Gali, and we assumed that Abraham had left Hurben at some point, that his first wife Rosalia had died, and that he had had several children with Gali.  That is what the UK census records from 1871 seemed to reflect. Abraham and Gali were living with Sigfried (28), Helena (20), Cornelia (18), and Oskar (4).  But there was neither a Fanny nor a Frederick.


Abraham Selinger and family 1881 UK census Class: RG10; Piece: 555; Folio: 86; Page: 3; GSU roll: 823397 Description Enumeration District : 10 Source Information Ancestry.com. 1871 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004. Original data: Census Returns of England and Wales, 1871. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO), 1871.

Abraham Selinger and family 1881 UK census
Class: RG10; Piece: 555; Folio: 86; Page: 3; GSU roll: 823397
Enumeration District : 10
Source Information
Ancestry.com. 1871 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004.
Original data: Census Returns of England and Wales, 1871. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO), 1871.

Abraham died in 1880, and in 1881, Gali was living with four children, but aside from Oskar (13), they were all different from those on the 1871 census: Morris (28), Flora (surname Wallach) (25), and Sidney (23).  Now I was really confused.  Who were these people, and where had they been in 1871?  Flora was presumably married to someone named Wallach and now a widow, but Morris would have been eighteen in 1871 and Sidney only thirteen. Where were they living?  Who were they? None of those children were listed on the Hurben birth register on the JGBS site; in fact, there were no children listed for Abraham Selinger and any wife in Hurben after Helena’s birth in 1849.

Gali Selinger and family 1881 UK census Class: RG11; Piece: 472; Folio: 118; Page: 55; GSU roll: 1341103 Description Enumeration District : 9 Original data: Census Returns of England and Wales, 1881. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO), 1881

Gali Selinger and family 1881 UK census
Class: RG11; Piece: 472; Folio: 118; Page: 55; GSU roll: 1341103
Enumeration District : 9 Original data: Census Returns of England and Wales, 1881. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO), 1881

I assumed that Morris, Flora, Sidney, and Oscar, all born after 1850, were born in a different place and perhaps to a different mother.  Certainly Oskar had to be Gali’s child since he was so much younger than all the rest and only four on the 1871 census.

Searching again on Ancestry, I found a new record:  an entry for Abraham, Rosalia, Seligman, and Raphael Selinger on the Mannheim, Germany, family register dated November 26, 1848.  What were they doing in Mannheim? By that time the three younger children, Pauline, Karolina, and Heinrich, had died.  Perhaps they needed a change of scenery.  But what about Helena? She was born in Hurben in 1849.

Then I found a second Mannheim family register that included Helena, the final entry on the page:


Abraham Selinger and family, Mannheim register Ancestry.com. Mannheim, Germany, Family Registers, 1760-1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Polizeipräsidium Mannheim Familienbögen, 1800-1900. Digital images. Stadtarchiv Mannheim — Institut für Stadtgeschichte, Mannheim, Germany.

Abraham Selinger and family, Mannheim register
Ancestry.com. Mannheim, Germany, Family Registers, 1760-1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Polizeipräsidium Mannheim Familienbögen, 1800-1900. Digital images. Stadtarchiv Mannheim — Institut für Stadtgeschichte, Mannheim, Germany.

My friends in the German Genealogy group,  Heike Keohane, Matthias Steinke, and Bradley Hernlem, came to my rescue and translated it to read, “Helene, his daughter, here born the 22 August 1849.”  So Helena’s birth is entered on the Hurben birth records (on the same date) and on the Mannheim records.  I’ve no idea which is the correct birthplace; maybe Rosalia went home to Hurben to give birth and returned to Mannheim afterwards where the family was living.

But perhaps now I could find out where Frederick was born, not to mention Morris, Flora, Sidney, and Oscar. Maybe they were born in Mannheim.  I checked the Mannheim birth records from 1853 through 1866 and found not one person named Selinger.  I checked over and over, looking at each page until my eyes were blurry.  There were no Selingers born in Mannheim during that period that I could find.

Then I discovered that Oskar Selinger had listed Ansbach as his birth place on his UK naturalization papers and thought that perhaps the family had moved from Mannheim to Ansbach.

Oscar Selinger UK naturalization papers The National Archives; Kew, Surrey, England; Duplicate Certificates of Naturalisation, Declarations of British Nationality, and Declarations of Alienage; Class: HO 334; Piece: 54 Description Description : Piece 054: Certificate Numbers A20701 - A21000

Oscar Selinger UK naturalization papers
The National Archives; Kew, Surrey, England; Duplicate Certificates of Naturalisation, Declarations of British Nationality, and Declarations of Alienage; Class: HO 334; Piece: 54
Description : Piece 054: Certificate Numbers A20701 – A21000

I had no luck locating Ansbach birth records for that period, and by then it was Thanksgiving, and other matters distracted me, and I put the Selinger mystery on the back burner.

To be continued…..

A Town with A Secret Language: Schopfloch and the Nusbaums

I thought I should outline my connection to the Nusbaums before I began writing about them.   The chain between Amson Nusbaum  and me is as follows, with the Nusbaum descendants all on the left side of each couple:

Amson Nusbaum—Voegele Welsch  (my 4x-great-grandparents)

John (Josua) Nusbaum—Jeannette (Shamet) Dreyfuss  (my 3x-great-grandparents)

Frances Nusbaum—-Bernard Seligman  (my great-great-grandparents)

Eva May Seligman—-Emanuel Cohen (my great-grandparents)

John Nusbaum Cohen, Sr. — Eva Schoenthal  (my grandparents)

John Nusbaum Cohen, Jr. —-  Florence Goldschlager  (my parents)

Amy Cohen (me)

(Although the Nusbaums spelled their name with two S’s in Germany as in NUSSBAUM, the family dropped the second S once they got to the US, just as the Seligmanns dropped the second N when they immigrated.)

So where do I start telling this Nusbaum story? I have already talked about my grandfather John Nusbaum Cohen’s life and his mother Eva Seligman Cohen’s life in telling the stories of the Cohens and the Seligmans.  So I could start with my great-great-grandmother, Frances Nusbaum, who married Bernard Seligman.  I’ve also written a little about her.  But I prefer to start at the earliest point and move forward in time.   Right now the earliest Nusbaum ancestors I have found date back to the 18th century with Amson Nusbaum and Voegele Welsch.

This is the first branch that I have been able to take back as far as my 4x-great-grandparents.  Although I know very little about Amson Nusbaum and Voegele Welsch, I am hoping that I can learn more if I can obtain more records from Schopfloch.  But for now, here is what I know.

Amson Meier Nusbaum was born around 1777 possibly in Schopfloch, a small town in the Ansbach region of Bavaria.  He married Voegele Welsch, who was born March 7, 1782, somewhere in Germany.  They were married around 1804, and they had eight children born between 1805 and 1819, all born in Schopfloch.  Amson was a peddler.



Although I do not have much specific information about Amson and Voegele, I was interested in learning more about the town where they lived and raised their children in order to glean something about what their lives might have been like.

First, I read a little bit about Bavaria.  I really know almost nothing about Germany’s history, but I do know that it was not a unified country until 1871.  Before that, there were a number of separate duchys and kingdoms controlled by various aristocrats and noblemen, fighting over their borders for many hundreds of years. From the tenth century until the beginning of the nineteenth century, the land that we know as Germany was part of the Holy Roman Empire.   The Thirty Years War from 1618 to 1648, which started as a conflict between Protestants and Catholics and grew to a much larger regional conflict, was perhaps the most destructive of the wars that occurred during this pre-unification era in the area we now call Germany.

Map of the Imperial Circles of the Holy Roman ...

Map of the Imperial Circles of the Holy Roman Empire (c. 1512) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bavaria was one of those regions within what is now Germany.  It is located in the southeastern part of the country, bordering the Czech Republic and Austria to the east and south.  The official website for what is now the state of Bavaria within the Federated Republic of Germany said this about the history of Bavaria:

Bavaria is one of the oldest states in Europe. Its origins go back to the 6th century AD. In the Middle Ages, Bavaria (until the start of the 19th century Old Bavaria) was a powerful dukedom, first under the Guelphs and then under the Wittelsbachs. … Cities like Regensburg developed into cultural and economic centres of European rank. After the Thirty Years War, the Electorate of Bavaria played an important role in the political deliberations of the major powers. In the 19th century Bavaria became a constitutional monarchy and the scene of a great cultural blossoming and of political and social reforms.

Schopfloch is a small town of three thousand people located near the western boundary of Bavaria.  It is about sixty miles west of Nuremberg, about one hundred miles northwest of Munich, and about eighty miles northeast of Stuttgart.

Schopfloch in AN

Schopfloch in AN (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to the official town website, the earliest mention of the town dates from March 11, 1260, on a land deed witnessed by someone named Ulricis de Schopfloch.  (Schopf loch apparently means “ crested hole” or “tuft hole,” and perhaps this is a reference to the fact that the town is located in a small valley).  During the Thirty Years War, many Protestants moved from Salzburg to Schopfloch.  They were primarily tradesman in the building trades—masons and bricklayers– and the town was known for its many families in the construction business.

The history of the Jews in Bavaria is, like the history of Jews in most countries in Europe, one of oppression, discrimination, unfair taxation, and frequent pogroms with occasional periods of greater tolerance and civil rights.  There is evidence of Jews living in Bavaria as early as the 900s, and numerous towns and cities in Bavaria had Jewish communities by the 12th century.  Jews were limited in their livelihoods in many locations; in many places, they were prohibited from most trades other than moneylending.  Beginning in the 14th century and continuing through the 17th century, the Jews were subjected to widespread orders of expulsion and deportation from many Bavarian communities.  A good summary of the history of Jews in Bavaria can be found here at H. Peter Sinclair’s “Chronology of the History of the Jews in Bavaria 906-1945,” .

As for Schopfloch specifically, the first Jews settled there in the fourteenth century.  According to The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust: K-Sered (Shmuel Spector, Geoffrey Wigoder, eds., 2001, NYU Press), p.1151, Jews moved to Schopfloch after being expelled from the nearby town of Dinkelsbuehl.   Another source suggests that Jews were welcomed to Schopfloch by rival nobles who took in Jews to increase their strength.     Jews were able to do well, engaging in cattle trade in Schopfloch and in several communities near Schopfloch.

A Jewish cemetery was created around 1612 and served not only the Jewish residents of Schopfloch but also those of surrounding towns.

A synagogue was built in 1679, and there was also a ritual bath and a school.   According to the website “Destroyed German Synagogues and Communities” :

The Jews of Schopfloch established a synagogue in 1679 and enlarged it in 1712 and again in 1715. Rabbis served the community during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and the village was home to a regional rabbinate during the years 1841 to 1872. In 1877, a new synagogue was built on the Judengasse, or “Jews’ alley” (later renamed Bahnhofstrasse).

According to the town website, the Jewish residents played an important role in the social history of the town, and the long history of co-existence between the Christians and Jews in Schopfloch made it less susceptible to anti-Semitism even in the Nazi period.  Perhaps there were no pogroms or expulsion orders in Schopfloch.  None were mentioned in H. Peter Sinclair’s “Chronology of the History of the Jews in Bavaria 906-1945,” cited above and found here.

Overall, it would seem that Schopfloch would have been a relatively comfortable place for Jews to live when my ancestors Amson and Voegele Nussbaum were having children between 1805 and 1819 and the years following when their children were growing up.  Amson died June 7, 1836, and Voegele died October 2, 1842.  From what I can find in immigration records, my three-times great grandfather John (Josua) Nusbaum emigrated in 1843, the year after his mother died.  It appears that at least some of his siblings emigrated around the same time.  What would have motivated them to leave once their parents had died if in fact conditions for Jews were relatively good in Schopfloch?

The Nussbaum family was growing up in an era of significant change in Bavaria and in Europe generally.  Napoleon had risen to power in France as the 18th century ended, and the Holy Roman Empire crumbled. His armies invaded the lands in what is now Germany, and eventually he defeated the Austrian army and took over much of German land. His emancipation of the Jews in France in 1806 had an impact on those in Bavaria, and in 1813 Bavaria adopted the Jews Edict of 1813.  Although Napoleon was defeated shortly after, the Jews Edict of 1813 remained the law in Bavaria.

The Jews Edict was a mixed blessing.  As described by one source, “Jews now could acquire land and participate in trade but they were forced to adopt German surnames and to list the head of the household’s name and occupation as shown in the Matrikellisten (census) of 1817.”   This registry (while a good thing for genealogy research), which may seem benign, had a negative impact on Jews because it forced many Jews to leave their homeland.  Section 12 of the Edict provided that the number of Jewish families in any community could not increase.  That meant that a child in a Jewish family could not establish his or her own family, but had to leave the community.  Section 13 provided some exceptions, but they were quite restrictive.  In addition, Section 14 prohibited the issuance of a marriage permit even if the marriage would not result in an overall increase in Jewish families unless the man could demonstrate that he was going to engage in a legal occupation other than being a peddler.  http://www.rijo.homepage.t-online.de/pdf/EN_BY_JU_edikt_e.pdf

Thus, not all of Amson and Voegele’s children could stay in Schopfloch.   To do so would have created eight new Jewish families in the town.  Moreover, since Amson had been a peddler, chances are at least some of his sons had planned to engage in a similar trade.  So they had to leave Schopfloch, and since the neighboring towns were under the same restrictions, they could not even settle nearby.  They had to emigrate, and I am sure that America, a new country with a democratic form of government, must have been very appealing to these young people who were being denied the right to stay in the town where they were born.

The Jewish population in Schopfloch hit its peak in 1867 with 393 Jewish residents out of a total population of 1,788.  Although a new synagogue was built in 1877, by 1880 the Jewish population had dropped to 147 people.  It continued to drop so that by the early 1930s there were fewer than forty Jews in the town.  Nevertheless, the synagogue was renovated in 1932, and there was a large celebration rededicating the synagogue, attended by many Jews and non-Jews, including members of the Christian clergy, the mayor, and other town officials and residents.  One pastor spoke about the good relations between the Christian and Jewish residents of Schopfloch.

Schopfloch synagogue 1910 Source: Wallersteiner Kalendar, 1983 found at http://www.alemannia-judaica.de/schopfloch_synagoge.htm

Schopfloch synagogue 1910 Source: Wallersteiner Kalendar, 1983 found at http://www.alemannia-judaica.de/schopfloch_synagoge.htm

Tragically, just five years later on November 9, 1938, the Night of Broken Glass, or Kristallnacht, this newly renovated synagogue was destroyed by fire.  As described on the “Destroyed German Synagogues and Communities” website:

In 1938, in the wake of virulent anti-Jewish incitement, Schopfloch’s mayor advised the Jews to leave. All of them did so within months, and the synagogue was eventually sold (its ritual objects were transferred to Munich). Schopfloch’s last Jews left in October 1938. Although the synagogue was set on fire on Pogrom Night, the blaze was extinguished by the fire brigade. The building’s interior was completely destroyed, as were the ritual objects in Munich. Three Schopfloch Jews emigrated; the others relocated within Germany. Forty-eight perished in the Shoah. The synagogue building was demolished in 1939.

The cemetery, however, still exists, and a woman named Angelika Brosig began a project to restore the cemetery and to record all the names of those buried in the cemetery.  Sadly, Ms. Brosig died in 2013, and not all of the headstones have yet been translated and recorded, but the work is supposed to be continuing by others.  Thus far, I have not found any Nussbaums on the list, but I have to believe that my four-times great-grandparents Amson and Voegele are buried there.

Although Schopfloch is and was a small town without any particular historical significance of its own, it has been recognized for an interesting reason.  The Jews of Schopfloch developed a dialect of their own to be used in the course of cattle trade as a way of communicating without being understood.  It was a dialect combining Hebrew terms with German, and eventually it was used not only by the Jewish residents of Schopfloch but also by the non-Jewish residents.  In fact, the dialect, called Lachoudish, a shortened version of Lachon Kodesh, or “holy language” in Hebrew, continued to be used by the residents of Schopfloch long after all the Jews left the town in the 1930s.  The New York Times published an article about this secret language on February 10, 1984, giving some examples of the use of Hebrew terms in the dialect:

Lachoudisch is replete with words that bespeak the Jews’ wary relationship to Christian authority. The word for ”church” in Lachoudisch is ”tum” – from the Hebrew word for ”religiously unclean.” The word ”police” is ”sinem”- from the Hebrew for ”hated.” A priest is a ”gallach” or, in Hebrew, ”one who shaves.”

(James M. Markham, “Dialect of Lost Jews Lingers in a Bavarian Town,” The New York Times (February 10, 1984) found at http://www.nytimes.com/1984/02/10/world/dialect-of-lost-jews-lingers-in-a-bavarian-town.html  The article also provides historical and current information about the town.)

This website provides further examples of Hebrew terms used in Lachoudish.  http://www.medine-schopfloch.de/Lachoudisch/lachoudisch.html   Although Lachoudish is disappearing as there are fewer Schopfloch residents who remember it, there has been some effort to remember and revive the dialect.  This video, which unfortunately for me is in German, is about Lachoudish and also provides some images of Schopfloch today.  If anyone wishes to translate this for me, please let me know.

Coat of arms of Schopfloch

Coat of arms of Schopfloch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)













The Nusbaums: Were They Jewish? Learning from Rookie Mistakes

English: Postcard, dated 2.9.1917. Title: &quo...

English: Postcard, dated 2.9.1917. Title: “Schopfloch” Deutsch: Postkarte, datiert 2.9.1917. Titel: “Schopfloch” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Before I started doing genealogy research, I knew only one thing about the Nusbaum name.  I knew it was my father’s middle name, that it was also his father’s middle name, and that they were named for some ancestor named…John Nusbaum, my great-great-great-grandfather.

I had no idea who John Nusbaum was, although I think I did know he was from Germany.  I didn’t know if he had ever lived in the United States.  And I had no idea how he had gotten the name John.  John is not a Jewish name.  Jonathan, yes, but I do not think I have known more than one or two men named John who were Jewish, except for my father.  In fact, there were some people who had questioned whether my father really was Jewish, given his first name.

Things got even more confusing when I first started doing genealogy research a couple of years ago.  I was a real novice, and I did not know enough to know that people often put bad information on their family trees.  I assumed, very naively, that if someone put a tree on ancestry, it had to be right.  Like I said, I was a real novice.  So as I was adding information (much of it from reliable sources like census reports), I found several ancestry trees with my ancestor John Nusbaum appearing on it—with his descendants included.  I was excited—these trees linked my ancestor to a whole line of Nusbaums going back hundreds of years!  I felt like I had hit the jackpot.  I added all these people to my tree, thinking that I could now trace my family back centuries on the Nusbaum side.

I should have been more circumspect.  I should have picked up on a few clues—too many people named Johann, too many people named Maria, Christian, Catherine—no Jewish sounding names.  I began to think that in fact my Nusbaum ancestors had not been Jewish.  But I was new and trusting and just accepted what I saw.  It was the internet, after all. It had to be true. Right?

I had then turned to other things and put those Nusbaums aside.  After all, they were all done, I thought.  Someone else had found them all.

But then about a month ago I started looking again at those Nusbaums, an older and hopefully wiser researcher now.  I went back to all those trees, and I realized they had no sources to support the claim that my John Nusbaum was the same person as the Johann Nusbaum that linked back to all those non-Jewish sounding Nusbaums.  Only one tree had any sources at all for these earlier Nusbaums; the others had just somehow linked to that tree and added my ancestor to it, assuming John was the same as Johann.

I contacted the owner of that one sourced tree, and he and I had a good exchange and a few chuckles about all those other misleading trees.  His ancestors were Christian, and he had no sources indicating a link to a John Nusbaum who settled in Pennsylvania, as my John Nusbaum had done back in the 1840s.  I detached my ancestor from the other trees, sad to lose hundreds of years of ancestors, but happy to know that my Nusbaums could have been Jewish.  (I also wrote to the owners of those other trees, pointing out the error, but not one of them responded nor did they take my Nusbaums off their trees.)

So now my Nusbaum line ended with John Nusbaum.  I was able to find quite a bit in the US records, but had no hints as to his parents, siblings, or home town in Germany.  And then my father provided me with some answers.  He has the Nusbaum family bible, and it has entries for John and his siblings as well as his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  It told me where he was born—Schopfloch, Ansbach, Bavaria, in 1814.  I had names and birth dates for his siblings: Isaac (1812), Ernest (1816), Caroline (1822), Mathilde (1825).[1]  It was a gold mine.  And I was off and running to find the real Nusbaums.

A Map of Schopfloch im Landkreis Ansbach, Baye...

A Map of Schopfloch im Landkreis Ansbach, Bayern, Germany. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now comes the best part.  I contacted the registry in Schopfloch to ask whether there were any records for my ancestors, giving the names of the Nusbaums I knew about.  And this is what I received in return from a man named Rolf Hofmann:



compiled by Rolf Hofmann (HarburgProject@aol.com)    VERSION 01 



peddler in Schopfloch

born ca 1777 (Schopfloch ?), died 07 Jun 1836 Schopfloch

father = Meier ?

married ca 1804 ?



born 07 Mar 1782 (where ?), died 02 Oct 1842 Schopfloch

father = ? 


CHILDREN (all born in Schopfloch): 

(01) GUETEL                10 Feb 1805 – ?


(02) MADEL                 20 Jul 1806 – ?


(03) LOEW                  26 Apr 1808 – ?


(04) ISAK                  28 Mar 1810 – ?  emigrated to USA in 1843


(05) SARA                  08 Jul 1812 – ?


(06) JOSUA                 29 Nov 1814 – ?

(JOHN in USA)          emigrated to Philadelphia, USA around 1840

married ca 1852 [this is not correct]

JEANETTE  NN from Hesse-Darmstadt (Germany)

20 May 1817 – 12 Jan 1908 (died in Philadelphia)  parents = ? 

so far known children = Millen * 1853 + Lottie * 1863


(07) SALOMON               24 Aug 1816 – ?


(08) MEIER                 14 Sep 1819 – ?


I am now in touch with Mr. Hofmann and hope to get the sources for this information, but you can imagine the happy dance I did when I saw this.  I had the names of my FOUR-times great-grandparents, Amson and Voegele.  I had names for all their children, including some I had no records for and some who matched with the names I had from the family bible.  Madel must be Mathilda, Isak is Isaac, and I assume Ernst is Salomon, based on the birth year.  Also, I  found other Nusbaums through research—Meier is Maxwell, Loew is Leopold.

And most importantly?  Well, John, my three-times great-grandfather—his name was originally Josua.  He did in fact have a Jewish name.  He obviously Americanized it to John, just as many of his siblings Americanized their names to names that were less Jewish-sounding.  My father and my grandfather could have been named Joshua Nusbaum Cohen if their namesake had not changed his name to John.

There is still much research to be done and much to learn about the Nusbaums.  But one big mystery is solved.  My Nusbaums were not descended from all those Johanns and Marias, but were from a Jewish family living in Schopfloch, Bavaria, in the early 19th century.


[1] Although Caroline and Mathilde were listed with different surnames, I was able to find US records that verified that they were John’s sisters.  More on that later.

Did Eleanor Selinger Marry an English Cousin? And Did She Remember Her American Roots?

In my post about the children of Julius and Augusta Selinger, I wrote about the marriage of their daughter Eleanor to an Englishman, Henry Abbot.  Henry Abbot was the son of Hyams Auerbach (some members of the family changed the name to Abbot at some point) and Helen (or Ellen or Helena) Selinger.  I had wondered whether there was any familial connection between Helen Selinger and Eleanor’s father, Julius Selinger.  Both were born in Germany, and they were three years apart in age:  Helen was born in 1850, Julius in 1853.

As I wrote then, I was in touch with one of Henry and Eleanor Abbot’s relatives on the Abbot side, Henry’s great-niece, Valentine Ann Abbot Collinson, and was hoping that she would be able to provide some clues to determine whether the two different Selingers were related.  Over the last several days I received a number of documents about Helen Selinger and her family from Val that could help answer that question, including this photograph. Val believes that the woman seated in the center of the photograph is Eleanor Selinger Abbot with her husband Henry seated to her right.  The others are other members of the Abbot/Auerbach family.

Eleanor Selinger Abbot and Abbot family-page-001

The oldest document is the English marriage certificate of Hyams Auerbach and Ellen Selinger, dated March 19, 1873.  According to the certificate, Hyams was a furrier whose father was deceased, and Ellen was the daughter of Abraham Selinger, a teacher.


Hyams Auerbach and Ellen Selinger marriage certificate

Hyams Auerbach and Ellen Selinger marriage certificate


Since Julius Selinger’s passport application indicated that his father’s name was Sigmund, I knew that Julius and Ellen/Helena did not have the same father.    But could they still be cousins? I do not know Alfred or Frederick Selinger’s fathers’ names, so it still seemed possible that there was some familial connection among the various Selingers.

The next document was the 1881 English census for the Auerbach family.


Hyams Auerbach and family 1881 English census

Hyams Auerbach and family 1881 English census


This is definitely the right family; the page preceding this one includes as its last entry Hyams Auerbach, the furrier.  His wife’s name was given as Lenchen, which is the German equivalent of Helen.  Her place of birth was reported to be Baden.  This was the second clue that there might not be any familial relationship between Helen Selinger and Julius Selinger.  Julius and Frederick Selinger were both from Hurben in the region of Bavaria, not from Baden, an entirely separate region of what became united Germany in the late 19th century, although perhaps no more than a few hours away.  I then checked JewishGen.org and found that Selinger was not an uncommon name for Jews in Germany, especially if other spelling variations were included.  This makes it harder to assume any family connection between the DC Selingers and Helen Selinger.


I do have the names of two other members of Helen’s family; in addition to her father Abraham, her mother’s name was Gali.  She died in 1899, and her son, Helen’s brother, Sidney Selinger, was with her at her death.  If I can find a way to research the family in Baden, I might find a possible link to the Hurben Selingers, though it seems unlikely.

Perhaps the most intriguing document that I received from Val was an account of the distribution of the estate of Eleanor Selinger Abbot.  Eleanor died in 1979, and her will was probated on January 23, 1980.  The executor’s report on the distribution of the estate listed seven named beneficiaries, including two whose names were familiar:  Marjorie Christian and Ellen Kleinfeld.

Who were Marjorie Christian and Ellen Kleinfeld?  They were born Marjorie and Ellen Rosenstock, daughters of Felix Rosenstock and Marjorie Greenberg.  Marjorie Greenberg was the daughter of Jacob Greenberg and Ella Cohen.  Ella Cohen was the daughter of Moses, Jr., and Henrietta Cohen.  She died at age 29, leaving behind her eight year old daughter Marjorie and her husband Jacob.  (Ellen Rosenstock Kleinfield was named in memory of her grandmother Ella.)  I have just received Ella’s death certificate, and it says that she died from an abdominal hemorrhage caused by an “extra uterus pregnancy,” which is what we would now call an ectopic pregnancy.  How tragic it must have been for Marjorie and her father Jacob to lose Ella in such an awful way.


Ella Cohen Greenberg death certificate 1904

Ella Cohen Greenberg death certificate 1904


1904 19 Jan Ella greenberg death cert#2383  pg2  004006272_00860

As I wrote earlier, Jacob remarried a few years after Ella died and had a son Theodore with his new wife Hattie.  Since Jacob lived in New York, I had wondered whether he and Marjorie had maintained much contact with Ella’s family after Ella died. Well, Eleanor’s will would certainly indicate that there was a continuing relationship.  Eleanor, who never had children of her own, left part of her estate to her Aunt Ella’s granddaughters.  Her first cousin Marjorie Greenberg Rosenstock had died in 1964, but obviously despite living in England since 1926, Eleanor had enough of a relationship with her American family and in particular with her cousin Marjorie Greenberg to leave part of her estate to Marjorie’s daughters.

Marjorie Rosenstock Christian died on July 18, 2013.  According to her obituary as published on July 24, 2013 in the Washington Post, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in math and chemistry from Hunter College and then earned her Master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Maryland. (See more at: http://search.ancestry.com/search/obit/viewbody.aspx?db=web-obituary&pid=219473182&kw=Rosenstock+Christian+Marjorie&cpp=2013%5c07%5c26%5ccp_12269788.html&bhr=http%3a%2f%2fwww.legacy.com%2fobituaries%2fwashingtonpost%2fobituary.aspx%3fn%3dmarjorie-christian%26pid%3d166008840#sthash.E4eCxeTg.dpuf .)  She was married to Jack Christian, who died in 2011, and had three children.

I was very fortunate to speak with her sister Ellen Rosenstock Kleinfeld, my fourth cousin, who told me that she remembers Eleanor Selinger Abbot well and that Eleanor had visited with her family many times  over the years, including one trip to Long Island during a hurricane after Ellen was married and had children.   Unfortunately, I did not learn any more about how Eleanor met Henry or whether the various Selingers were related.  Ellen was married to Herman Kleinfeld and had two children.

Thus, from one thread in one family I found a link to another part of the family, tying together the lives of Ella Cohen and her descendants with the life of her niece Eleanor, the daughter of Augusta Cohen Selinger.   Eleanor may not have married a cousin, but she kept her ties to her American cousins.  She also brought the Cohen family back to its prior home in London.