My Cousins Rosa, Sophie, and Hugo Blumenfeld: What Drew Them to America?

Three of the nine children of Meier Blumenfeld and Sarah Strauss—Rosa, Sophie, and Hugo—left Germany as young adults and immigrated to the United States. Why did they leave when their siblings stayed behind?

Rosa was born on September 5, 1872, in Marburg.

Rosa Blumenfeld birth record, Arcinsys Archives Hessen, HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 584, S. 37

Her younger sister Sophie was born on May 30, 1874, in Marburg.

Sophie Blumenfeld birth record, Arcinsys Archives Hessen, HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 584, S. 39

Finally, Hugo, the only son of Meier and Sarah, was born on September 25, 1882, in Marburg.

Hugo Blumenfeld birth record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 5561, Year Range: 1882, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901

On June 26, 1893, when Rosa was almost 21 and Sophie was nineteen, they arrived in New York on the SS Ems, heading for Kokomo, Indiana, according to the ship manifest. Why did they leave home? And why Kokomo? Kokomo in the 1890s had a very small Jewish population; in fact, there were not enough Jews in Kokomo to establish and support a synagogue until 1942. Why would two young German Jewish women have immigrated to such a place?

Rosa and Sophie Blumenfeld, ship manifest, Year: 1893; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Line: 1, Ship or Roll Number: Ems, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957

I cannot find any records for either Rosa or Sophie in Kokomo, but in 1900 Rosa was living in Chicago as a boarder with David and Helen Strauss, both of whom had immigrated from Germany. When I saw the surname “Strauss,” I wondered if David Strauss was related to Sarah Strauss, Rosa’s mother.

Rosa Blumenfeld 1900 US census, Year: 1900; Census Place: Chicago Ward 32, Cook, Illinois; Page: 19; Enumeration District: 1025; FHL microfilm: 1240286
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census

And so down the rabbit hole I went. And what did I find? David Strauss married Helen Heldman in 1892, and their son Herbert was born in Kokomo, Indiana, in March, 1893, just three months before Rosa and Sophie arrived in the US. Were they coming to care for the baby and help David and Helen? Was David related to their mother?1

I went back to the German records for Sarah Strauss’s parents Hirsch Strauss and Betty Loewenstein and found that indeed Sarah had a younger brother named David, born in 1852 so the right age to be the David Strauss living in Chicago with Sarah’s daughter Rosa in 1900.2 So Rosa was living with her uncle and his family in 1900, and he was obviously the reason she and Sophie had been heading to Kokomo in 1893.

But where was Sophie in 1900? I can’t be certain, but I believe she may have returned to Germany because I found her on another ship manifest coming to the US from Germany on November 2, 1905. Also, her naturalization papers indicate that she had been in the US continuously starting in 1905, not 1893.3

National Archives at Chicago; Chicago, Illinois; ARC Title: Declarations of Intention for Citizenship, 1903-1981; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: RG 21, Declarations V· 25-30 P 161 1917-1918
Ancestry.com. Illinois, U.S., Federal Naturalization Records, 1856-1991

Meanwhile, Sophie and Rosa’s little brother Hugo arrived on April 27, 1904. His ship manifest indicates that he was coming to his sister Rosa in Chicago and that he was a clerk.

Hugo Blumenfeld ship manifest, Year: 1904; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 1; Page Number: 102, Ship or Roll Number: Kronprinz Wilhelm
Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 (last entry)

Thus, by 1905, three of Meier and Sarah’s children had settled in Chicago.

Rosa married Ignaz Herzka on January 4, 1905.4 Ignaz was born in Szerat, Hungary, on November 29, 1863, and had immigrated to the US in 1889. In 1900, he and his brother Nathan were living as boarders in Chicago and had their own tailor shop there.5

Rosa and Ignaz had an adopted daughter, Elsa, who, according to the 1910 census, was born in Hungary in 1903.6 This is consistent with what is reported on the 1920 census: that Elsa was born in Budapest, Hungary, and was adopted.7  However, Rosa’s 1924 passport application says that Elsa was born in Chicago on March 22, 1905. It also, however, says that Rosa and Ignaz married on January 4, 1904, when the Chicago marriage index says January 4, 1905.8 Later records including the 1940 US census also say that Elsa was born in Chicago, not Hungary.9  I am not sure which records are accurate with respect to either the date or place of Elsa’s birth.

In any event, in 1910, Ignaz continued to work as a tailor. Sophie was also living with Rosa, Ignaz, and their daughter Elsa in 1910; she was a saleswoman in a delicatessen.

Ignaz Herzka and family, 1920 US census, Year: 1910; Census Place: Chicago Ward 7, Cook, Illinois; Roll: T624_247; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 0387; FHL microfilm: 1374260
Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census

I could not find Hugo on the 1910 census, and perhaps he had returned to Germany for a visit as he had in 1909.10 But in 1911 Hugo became a naturalized United States citizen.11 And on March 24, 1912, he married Bertha Wolf,12 who was also a German immigrant. She was born in Langenbruck, Germany, on March 19, 1884, to Rudolph Wolf and Rosa Stein.13 Hugo and Bertha had two daughters, Sylvia and Marjorie, both born in Chicago.

Thus, long before Hitler came to power, Rosa, Sophie, and Hugo Blumenfeld had all left Germany and were living in Chicago. Their decision to come to America was a blessing for the legacy of their parents Meier Blumenfeld and Sarah Strauss.

The next post will follow their lives from 1910 on.

 


  1. Dave Strauss, Gender: Male, Marriage Date: 8 Jun 1892, Marriage Place: Hamilton, Ohio, USA, Spouse: Helen Heldman, Film Number: 000344499, Ancestry.com. Ohio, U.S., County Marriage Records, 1774-1993. Herbert Dave Strauss
    Race: White, Marital status: Married, Birth Date: 27 Mar 1893, Birth Place: Indiana, USA
    Residence Date: 1917-1918, Street Address: 5833 Michigan Ave, Residence Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA, Draft Board: 15, Registration State: Illinois; Registration County: Cook, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 
  2. David Strauss birth record, Geburtsregister der Juden von Amöneburg 1814-1896 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 49), p. 6. 
  3. Sophie Blumenfeld, ship manifest, Year: 1905; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 30; Page Number: 12, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957. 
  4. Rose Blumenfeld, Age: 28, Gender: Female, Birth Year: abt 1877
    Marriage Type: Marriage, Marriage Date: 4 Jan 1905, Marriage Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois, Spouse Name: Ignaz Herzka, Spouse Age: 40, Spouse Gender: Male
    FHL Film Number: 1030380, Ancestry.com. Cook County, Illinois, U.S., Marriages Index, 1871-1920 
  5. Ignaz Herzka, 1900 US census, Year: 1900; Census Place: Chicago Ward 32, Cook, Illinois; Page: 12; Enumeration District: 1034; FHL microfilm: 1240287, Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census 
  6. Elsa Herzka, 1910 US census, Year: 1910; Census Place: Chicago Ward 7, Cook, Illinois; Roll: T624_247; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 0387; FHL microfilm: 1374260,
    Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census 
  7. Elsa Herzka, 1920 US census, Year: 1920; Census Place: Chicago Ward 6, Cook (Chicago), Illinois; Roll: T625_310; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 340, Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  8. Rosa Blumenfeld Herzka, 1924 passport application, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 2460; Volume #: Roll 2460 – Certificates: 387350-387849, 03 Apr 1924-04 Apr 1924, Ancestry.com. U.S., Passport Applications, 1795-1925 
  9. Rosa Herzka Blum, 1940 US census, Elsa Blum, Age: 35, Estimated Birth Year: abt 1905, Gender: Female, Race: White, Birthplace: Illinois, Marital Status: Married, Relation to Head of House: Wife, Home in 1940: Chicago, Cook, Illinois, Map of Home in 1940: Chicago, Cook, Illinois, Street: E 53rd Street, Sheet Number: 1B, Year: 1940; Census Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Roll: m-t0627-00929; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 103-271, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  10.  Hugo Blumenfeld, Gender: männlich (Male), Ethnicity/Nationality: Deutschland (German), Marital status: verheiratet (Married), Residence Place: Chicago
    Departure Date: 8 Aug 1909, Departure Place: Hamburg, Deutschland (Germany)
    Arrival Place: Boulogne-sur-Mer; Southampton; New York, Ship Name: Blücher
    Shipping Line: Hamburg-Amerika Linie (Hamburg-Amerikanische Packetfahrt-Actien-Gesellschaft), Ship Type: Dampfschiff, Ship Flag: Deutschland, Emigration: nein
    Accommodation: 2. Klasse, Volume: 373-7 I, VIII A 1 Band 213, Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Volume: 373-7 I, VIII A 1 Band 213; Page: 1691; Microfilm No.: K_1809, Staatsarchiv Hamburg. Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934 
  11.  Hugo Blumenfeld, Naturalization Age: 29, Record Type: Naturalization
    Birth Date: 1882, Birth Place: Germany, Naturalization Date: 1911, Naturalization Place: Illinois, Court: District and Circuit Courts, Northern District, Illinois, National Archives at Chicago; Chicago, Illinois; ARC Title: Petitions for Naturalization for the United States District and Circuit Courts, Northern District of Illinois and Immigration and Naturalization Service District 9, 1840-1950; NAI Number: M1285; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; Record Group Number: RG 85,
    Ancestry.com. Illinois, U.S., Federal Naturalization Records, 1856-1991 
  12. Hugo Blumenfeld, Age: 29, Gender: Male, Birth Year: abt 1883, Marriage Type: Marriage, Marriage Date: 24 Mar 1912, Marriage Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA
    Spouse Name: Bertha Wolf, Spouse Age: 24, Spouse Gender: Female
    FHL Film Number: 1030518, Ancestry.com. Cook County, Illinois, U.S., Marriages Index, 1871-1920 
  13. Bertha Wolf Blumenfeld, Gender: Female, Birth Date: 19 Mar 1884
    Birth Place: Langenbrucke, Federal Republic of Germany, Father: Rudolph Wolf
    Mother: Rosa Stein, SSN: 342408956, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007