Happy New Year, Shana Tova, and Happy Blogiversary!


A shofar made from a ram's horn is traditional...

A shofar made from a ram’s horn is traditionally blown in observance of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish civic year. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I will post tomorrow morning about the town in Germany where my Seligman ancestors were born and what I learned about my family by researching that small town called Gau-Algesheim.  But for now—I have three events to recognize.


First, it was a year ago today that my cousin Judy set up the blog and I made my first blog post.  It had no text—just a posting of my great-grandmother’s death certificate.  I was learning how to use WordPress, and I don’t even know if anyone saw that post other than Judy and me.  I didn’t actually post anything substantive until October 4 when I wrote my first post about what to expect from the blog.  But I will always celebrate September 23 as my “blogiversary” for another very good reason.  September 23 was my grandmother Gussie Brotman Goldschlager’s birthday.  She would have been 119 this year.

So happy birthday, Grandma, and happy blogiversary to me!  Thank you all for being with me on this journey.  I can’t believe in a year that I have made so much progress in learning about my mother’s family and my father’s family, although I am humbled by how much more I have to learn.

And there is another reason for posting today.  Tomorrow night is the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.  So it is not only the beginning of a new year for me with my blogging and genealogy adventures, it is a time for being thankful for all our blessings and for being reflective about the year that has gone by and the year to come.  So let me reflect for a moment on this past year.


First and foremost, this year has brought the miracle of more children into the family.  I am particularly grateful for the birth of my grandson Remy, now over three months old, a happy, smiling baby with a sweet and calm disposition.  Two of my cousins also had new grandchildren this year, and perhaps there were others I don’t even know about yet who have enlarged our family tree.




Second, I am grateful for the continuing presence in my life of my family—both my immediate family and my extended family—and for all my friends who are like family to me.   I wish for you all a new year of good health, peace of mind, gratitude for all you have, and joyfulness.

Third, I want to thank and recognize all my genealogy friends—fellow bloggers, Facebook genealogy group members, the people at JewishGen.org and JRI Poland and Gesher Galicia, and, of course, Renee Steinig, my mentor who has inspired me and taught me so much.  May we all continue to work together to break down brick walls, to find our roots, and to honor our ancestors as best we can.

Shana Tova to you all!  May you all be inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year, and may it be a sweet year for everyone.



English: Symbols of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish N...

English: Symbols of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year: Shofar, apples, honey in glass honey dish, pomegranates, wine, silver kiddush cup (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Max Brotman: When was he born?

Here’s another example of the inconsistency of records when it comes to birthdays.  On the 1900 US Census, Max gave his birthday as April, 1878.[1]  [Edited: On his naturalization application in 1900, he listed his birthdate as April 1877.] On the 1910 Census, he reported being thirty years old, meaning he was born around 1880.  On his draft registration in 1918, he gave his birthday as July 7, 1878.  On the 1920 Census, he said he was 45, making his birth year 1875.  In 1930, he said he was 50, meaning he was born in 1880.  In 1940, he claimed to be 60, again meaning he was born in 1880.  On his draft registration in 1942, he put his birthday as March 26, 1880. [2]

Today I received his death certificate.[3]  It has his birthdate as July 27, 1882!  He just kept getting younger (like we all wish we could, I suppose).  Since Hyman was born in either 1882 or 1883 and had a different mother than Max, it seems unlikely that Max was born in 1882.  I am going to assume that the earliest documents are more reliable (when he had less incentive to make himself younger) so that 1878 is the mostly likely year of birth.  As to the month? Who knows? Could be March, April, or July.  As I said in an earlier post, birthdays were not a big deal to Jews in Europe, so maybe he never knew the month, but wouldn’t people know what year they were born? We know Joseph’s age is equally mysterious—he could have been born any time between 1825 and 1855, depending on which document you read.  And Hyman also had two different birth years on his records.

The other inconsistency in these records is the year of immigration for Max.  The 1900 Census says he came in 1888; the 1910 and 1920 say it was 1890.  Finally, the 1930 Census says it was 1893.  I have applied for a copy of his naturalization records (which take 90 days to process, so it will be at least another two months before I get it), so perhaps those will be more accurate. [Edited: The naturalization application said 1882, when Max was at most five years old.]

Sometimes I wonder whether there was a certain level of paranoia among immigrants—people who had faced such hostility and oppression at the hand of the governments of the countries where they were born.  Maybe they just didn’t want to give the US government too much personal information.   Or maybe census takers just weren’t very careful note takers or very good listeners. Or maybe our relatives just liked to lie about their ages.

[1] All the documents are consistent with respect to his place of birth being Austria, though none specifies the town or city. [Edited: The naturalization application said Germany.]

[2] These documents are available on ancestry.com.  If anyone is interested, I can download them and post them on the blog.

[3] More on his death certificate tomorrow.  I want to scan it and won’t get a chance tonight.