Assessment time

It’s time for my periodic review of what I have learned and where I am going in my research.  I keep a Word document with lists of things I need to do, but sometimes I need to step back and see the whole picture, then step forward and see the details.

English: Forest trees Part of the forest which...

English: Forest trees Part of the forest which is a bit more mature than some of the other parts along the path here. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the Brotman side, I think I am in fairly good shape.  I have found descendants of all but one of Joseph and Bessie Brotman’s children, although I am not in touch with all of the descendants.  The only missing link is Sophie Brotman; I’ve had absolutely no luck finding any records for her.  I don’t know when she arrived, whether she married and, if so, who she married, where she lived, where she died.  And sadly, I don’t think I ever will.  There is no one left alive to ask about Sophie; none of the descendants I’ve spoken with know anything about her.  Perhaps one of Abraham’s descendants might know something, so I will contact Paula, the one Abraham descendant I’ve been in touch with, and see if she has ever heard of an aunt named Sophie.



The big research area remaining for me on the Brotman side is finding out whether we are related to any other Brotmans, in particular the Brotmans who settled in Brotmanville.  I am in touch with a few of Moses Brotman’s descendants, and one is a genealogist, so we plan to collaborate and see whether we can find the connection between our families.  If we can, that may also lead me to other clues about where in Galicia Joseph and Bessie lived and to clues about other family members.

Moses Brotman

Moses Brotman—Joseph’s brother?

On the Goldschlager branch, I think I am also in fairly good shape.  I have found the descendants of Moritz, my great-grandfather, and of Betty and David Goldschlager, my grandfather’s siblings, and I know about the lives of Betty and David and their children.  I’d love to go back and research Moritz Goldschlager’s family, but since his parents died when he was a young child, there does not seem to be too much more I can learn.  My Romanian researcher did not find anything more related to my Goldschlager relatives, so I may have reached the brick wall with respect to that line.

Moritz Goldschlager

Moritz Goldschlager

On the other hand, the Rosenzweig branch, my great-grandmother Ghitla’s family, still has a number of unanswered questions.  I have been able to learn a great deal about most of the children of David and Esther Rosenzweig, my great-great-grandparents, but Zusi Rosenzweig remains a mystery.  Her descendants were not responsive to my inquiries, so I may have to find another way to get closure on Zusi and her son Nathan and her husband Harry Mintz.  I’ve had better luck with Tillie Rosenzweig Strolowitz Adler and her children and grandchildren and have been in touch with two of her great-grandchildren.  There are still some loose ends there, but for the most part I have been able to find a fair amount about the children of Tillie and Jankel and even about their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Ghitla Rosenzweig Goldschlager

Ghitla Rosenzweig Goldschlager

As for the family of Gustave and Gussie Rosenzweig, I still have some open questions, mostly about the daughters Lillie, Lizzie and Ray.  This week I spoke with one of Sarah’s granddaughters, and I am hoping that she will also be able to help me find out more about her grandmother’s sisters, but as of right now, I have not been able to find any of the descendants of Lillie, Lizzie or Ray.

So that’s where I am in this journey to find my mother’s family.  I feel as though I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, though there is still plenty of tunnel to get through.


What do I do now besides continue to search for answers to the remaining questions?  I have a number of thoughts.

For one, I want to continue to build the relationships I’ve made with all my new cousins on both sides of my mother’s family—the Brotmans and the Goldschlager/Rosenzweigs.  Having found them, I don’t want to lose them again.  Facebook and email make this so much easier, but it will still take effort.  I also want to see if I can organize a meeting for the Rosenzweig/Goldschlager cousins like we had for the Brotmans earlier this month.

I also want to pull all my research together into a format that will make it more easily accessible.  I’d like to tell the story of the Brotmans, Goldschlagers and Rosenzweigs as a chronological story so that someone can pick it up and get the whole story without having to jump from blog post to blog post, searching for the next discovery.  That is a larger project, and I don’t even know how to start it, but that is what I see as my ultimate goal—to write the book that tells the stories so that our descendants will have it and know who their ancestors were.

And then there is the next huge research task: my father’s side.  That will be a very different research experience.  His family has been in this country for about fifty years longer than my mother’s family.  They came from Germany and from England.  They settled and lived in other places: Philadelphia, western Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New Mexico, among other places.  There will be a lot more American and European records available, which will make the task both easier and harder.  I’ve already traced one of my father’s lines back to the 1750s or so in Amsterdam, a full century earlier than I’ve been able to trace any of my mother’s relatives.  I look forward to this research with some trepidation because of the size of the task ahead.  But I am also excited by the idea that I have more discoveries, more stories, more understanding of my family and of myself ahead of me.


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Turn, Turn, Turn: A New Brotman-Goldschlager-Rosenzweig Has Arrived!

Michael Paul Lammlin

Michael Paul Lammlin

Life does in fact turn, turn, turn.  One day you are sad about someone who passed away, and the next you are rejoicing in the birth of a new baby.  I am delighted to announce the birth of Michael Paul Lammlin, brother of Joshua Lammlin, son of David and Marissa Lammlin. Michael is the grandson of Beth and Steven Robin. Beth is my first cousin.

Michael was born on March 13, 2014, at 5:34 pm, weighing 8 lbs., 1 oz., 19 1/2 inches long.  And he carries on the Brotman tradition of red hair!  (His father David also has red hair, so we cannot take all the credit.)

Michael was named for his great-grandfather, Maurice Goldschlager, my uncle, my mother’s brother.  He joins a number of other cousins named for my uncle, who was adored by us all.

On his maternal side, Michael is the great-grandson of Maurice and Lynn Goldschlager and the great-great-grandson of Isadore Goldschlager and Gussie Brotman.  Going even further back, Michael is the great-great-great grandson of Moritz Goldschlager and Ghitla Rosenzweig Goldschlager and the great- great-great-grandson of Joseph and Bessie Brotman.  He is thus related to all my cousins who are the descendants of David and Esther Rosenzweig, Ira and Beila Goldschlager, Abraham and Yetta Brotman, or Joseph and Gittel Broat Brotman, his great- great-great-great grandparents.

Mazel tov to Marissa, David and Josh, to Beth and Steven, and to all of us! The family continues to grow.

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Looking back on the first six months: Seven lessons learned by doing genealogy

As my semester has drawn to an end, as the year draws to an end, I want to take some time to reflect on what I have learned in the last six months or so since I began this project in earnest and what I still want to learn and to accomplish as we start a new year.

So first, what have I learned?

1.  I’ve learned that I had two great-uncles whom I’d never known about.  For at least two months of my research, I was sure that Joseph and Bessie had only had five children: Hyman, Tillie, Gussie, Frieda and Sam.  When I kept running into a Max Brotman married to Sophie with children named Rosalie and Renee, I just figured Hyman had changed his name to Max.  My mother didn’t know about her cousins Joseph, Saul and Manny, but she had met Rosalie and Renee, and I was sure they were Hyman’s daughters.  My mother knew that Hyman’s wife’s name was Sophie.  So instead of looking harder, I just assumed Max was Hyman and that the other Hyman Brotman married to a Sophie was not my relative.  Only when I was able to find Max’s granddaughter Judy and Hyman’s grandson Bruce did I learn that Max and Hyman were BOTH my great-uncles, that both had married women named Sophie, and that Rosalie and Renee were the daughters of Max, not Hyman.  That was a HUGE turning point for me and a big lesson.  Lesson learned? Don’t trust memory alone, and don’t assume that documents are wrong just because family memories conflict with those documents.

Herman and Sophie with sons 1920

Herman and Sophie with sons 1920

2. The second new great-uncle was Abraham, and finding him was also somewhat of a lucky break.  I ran across many Brotmans in my research, but most I assumed were not our relatives because I could not find any document linking them to our relatives and because no one in our family had ever heard of them.  I can’t even remember all the details, but I recall that it was my brother Ira who found Abraham’s naturalization papers—I think (I am sure he will remember and correct me if I am wrong) it was in the course of looking into the Brotmanville Brotmans.  When I saw Max’s name on those papers, I did not assume it was the same Max.  (There were many Max Brotmans living in NYC at that time.)  Once I checked the address for the Max on Abraham’s card against the address I had for Max on the census form from that same time period, I knew it was in fact “our” Max.  That led me on the search that brought me to Abraham’s headstone and death certificate, indicating that his father was also Joseph Jacob Brotman.  Lesson learned? Don’t dismiss any clue.  You never know where one document may lead you, even if in a direction you never expected.

Naturalization of Abraham Brotman Max as Witness

Naturalization of Abraham Brotman
Max as Witness

3.  Contrary to Lesson #1 and Lesson #2, I have also learned that often you cannot trust documents.  Documents lie.  People lie.  People give bad information, and bureaucrats transcribe information inaccurately.  People who transcribe handwritten documents for indexing purposes make errors.  In particular, our relatives were entirely inconsistent when it came to birth dates and birth places.  I now know why one relative found it so easy to lie about her age.  It was family tradition.  So lesson #3: Don’t assume that because it is written on some “official document” that it is reliable in any way.

Sam's Birth Certificate Joseph was NOT 42!

Sam’s Birth Certificate
Joseph was NOT 46!

4. One of my most rewarding accomplishments was finding out what happened to Frieda Brotman. Now we know who she married and how she died and even the name of her infant son Max, who only lived one day.    We even know what happened to her husband Harry Coopersmith after she died.  I never thought I’d be able to track down her story.  That experience is what will keep me going as I continue to look for the answers to more questions.  Lesson #4: Do not give up.  Do not give up. Do NOT give up!

Frieda Brotman Coopersmith death certificate

5. There are more helpful and supportive people in the world than there are mean or evil people.  I know we hear all the time about all the evil in the world, and there is far too much of it.  And even if not evil, there are also many people who are rude, incompetent and unhelpful.  We all know that.  But we often forget that there are also many, many more people who are kind, helpful and competent.  In my six months of doing this research, I have gotten help from many strangers—government employees who patiently helped me find a document, FHL volunteers who helped me track down a document request I had made, JewishGen and GesherGalicia members and other genealogists who have gone far out of their way to teach me how to find documents and how to connect with other researchers, who have photographed gravestones and given me directions to gravestones, who have translated documents for me, who have helped me find a clue when I was sure I had hit a brick wall.  I cannot tell you how much these people have touched me and changed my views on human nature.

I want to express special thanks and deep appreciation to Renee Steinig, who contacted me many months ago in response to my cry for help on GesherGalicia and who has truly been my teacher and is now my friend as I have gone from being a total newbie to a fairly competent novice with her guidance. She is the one who found the obituary of Renee that led to me finding Judy.  She is the one who suggested I post an inquiry on a bulletin board that led me to Bruce.  When I look back, in fact, I know it was Renee who got me to where I am today.  Thank you, Renee, for everything.

Lesson #5: If you ask for help, there will be generous and kind people who will reach out and help you.  Don’t do this alone.

6. I have also learned that I have many second cousins and second cousins once and twice removed—people I would never have discovered if I had not started down this path.  This has been probably the biggest gift of all from doing this research.  What a wonderful and interesting group of people I have gotten to know—by email, by phone, by pictures and stories.  When I look at the pictures and see the distinctive Brotman cheekbones shared by so many of you and your parents and your children, it gives me such a great sense of connection.  This may be the best lesson I’ve learned: everyone is looking for connections, everyone is looking to find their place in time and in the world.  I am so glad to have made these connections with so many of you, people who never even knew my name until this fall but whom I now consider not just cousins, but friends.

7. Finally, and in some ways the point of this whole adventure, I have really learned more than I ever could have hoped about my great-grandparents and their children and how they lived in the United States.  Joseph and Bessie were nothing but names to me six months ago; now they are flesh and blood people, my flesh and blood.  Their drive and courage is an inspiration to me, as it must have been to their own children.  After all, Abraham, Hyman and Tillie all named a son for their father Joseph, and perhaps some of the great-grandchildren were named for him as well.  I was so blessed to have been named for Bessie, as were some of you.  Bessie and Joseph—they are the real heroes of this story.  That’s the real lesson.

Joseph's headstone

Joseph’s headstone

Bessie Brotman

Bessie Brotman

Next post: Looking forward to the next six months

Tillie’s Death Certificate

I received Tillie’s death certificate yesterday, and as I expected, it did not contain any new information about where our family lived in Galicia.  It does, however, confirm that she was the daughter of Joseph and Bessie Brotman (not that I had any doubts) and was born in Austria. Of course, it has a different birthdate from other documents; some documents say she was born in 1884, some 1887, and this one says 1882. The ship manifest which lists her as a passenger in 1891 has her age as six years old, giving her a birth year of 1884 or 1885.  The month of her birth is also inconsistent. The 1900 census said her birthday was in February; the death certificate says August.

Tillie Ressler's death certificate

Tillie Ressler’s death certificate

Interestingly, the death certificate itself has two different ages listed for Tillie at her death.  On the left side (filled out by her son Joseph, as far as I can tell), it says she was born in 1882 and was 73 years old at the time of her death, i.e., February 1956, which would be consistent with a birthday of August 23, 1882.  It also says she was a resident of NYC for 71 of those years, however, meaning she arrived when she was two years old, i.e, in 1884.  Well, we know she came in 1891, so that can’t be correct. On the right side, typed in by the hospital, it says her approximate age was 70 years old at the time of her death, meaning she would have been born in 1886.  So…let’s compromise and say she was born in February, 1884, which is what her own parents told the census taker in 1900.

What the certificate really confirmed for me, however, is what an excellent memory my mother has.  She had just told me over Thanksgiving that Tillie had lived on the Grand Concourse with her sons Joe and Harry and that she had died at a hospital on Welfare Island.  I have to say that when I saw both those facts confirmed in the death certificate, I was very impressed (though not surprised) that my mother had remembered such specific details, especially since I often can’t remember things that happened much more recently.

I was curious about Bird S. Coler Hospital where Tillie died because my mother had very sad memories of visiting her aunt there.  It had opened in 1952 as a public hospital on Welfare Island (now called Roosevelt Island) as a rehabilitation and long-term nursing facility, so it was a relatively new hospital at the time Tillie was there.  It still exists today, now called Coler-Goldwater Specialty Hospital and Nursing Facility, and still functions as a public chronic care facility.

I am now just waiting for Hyman and Sophie’s marriage certificate, and I think I will have all the American “vital records” that exist for Joseph and Bessie and their seven children.