How Did My Great-Aunt Frieda’s Death Certificate End Up There?

This is a mystery without a solution—yet. Perhaps one of you can help me solve it.

Many months ago I received a message on Ancestry from a member named Dale who told me that she had a stamped and certified copy of the death certificate for my great-aunt Frieda Brotman.  Frieda was my grandmother’s younger sister, and she had been married to Harry Coopersmith for about a year when she died shortly after giving birth to their son Max.  Max had died as well.

Frieda Brotman Coopersmith death cert


Dale had been going through her parents’ papers and found not only Frieda’s death certificate, but military records for Frieda’s husband Harry Coopersmith and two photographs that Dale thought might be of Harry. She had seen that I had Frieda and Harry on my Ancestry tree and wondered if I was interested in the papers.

Well, of course, I was more than interested. Dale kindly offered to send me the documents and photographs. And since then we have been trying to figure out why these papers would have been among her parents’ belongings.  Since both of Dale’s parents have passed away, she had no one to ask.

Dale believed that these papers had belonged at one time to her great-aunt Anna Yurdin Haas.  Anna was her father’s mother’s sister. She was born in New York City to Russian immigrant parents in about 1895 and had lived in upper Manhattan as a child; in 1920 when she was 25, she was living with several of her younger siblings in the Bronx, working as a clerk in an office.

Anna Yurdin and family 1920 census
Year: 1920; Census Place: Bronx Assembly District 5, Bronx, New York; Roll: T625_1137; Page: 7B; Enumeration District: 286

On the 1930 census, Anna reported that she was married to Burton Haas, and they were living at 7035 Broadway in Queens.  Burton Haas came from a whole different class—he grew up on Central Park West in Manhattan; his parents were American born from German and Austrian backgrounds. He went to Dartmouth. He served overseas during World War I, enlisting on June 14, 1917 and being honorably discharged on May 6, 1919.

According to the 1930 census, Anna and Burton had been married about eight years in 1930, meaning they had married in about 1922.  There were no children living with them. Burton was a real estate broker, Anna a cashier for a theater. In 1940 they were still living in Queens at 35-30 73rd Street and had been in the same place in 1935. There were still no children. Burton was still a real estate broker, and Anna was the assistant treasurer of a theater.

Anna Yurdin and Burton Haas on the 1930 census
Year: 1930; Census Place: Queens, Queens, New York; Roll: 1590; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 0197; FHL microfilm: 2341325

Then things get a little odd. On August 9, 1940, Burton Haas and Anna Yurdin were married in Norfolk, Virginia. At that point they had in fact been living together and holding themselves out as husband and wife for almost twenty years. But perhaps they had never really married until 1940.

Anna Yurdin and Burton Haas marriage record
Virginia Department of Health; Richmond, Virginia; Virginia Marriages, 1936-2014; Roll: 101166979

On his World War II draft card in 1942, Burton reported that he had his own business at 62 West 45th Street in Manhattan; they were still living at the same address in Queens. Burton died a year later on July 21, 1943, in Queens.  Anna died in 1983; they are both buried at Linden Hill Jewish cemetery in Ridgewood, Queens. Anna never remarried.

Comparing this to Harry and Frieda’s timeline, I see no overlap. While Anna grew up in upper Manhattan and then lived in the Bronx and finally Queens and Burton also grew up in upper Manhattan and went to college, Harry and Frieda were both born and raised in the Lower East Side.  Harry had served in the US Army from August 31, 1919, until his honorable discharge on September 6, 1922, so he did not overlap in the service at all with Burton Haas.

Harry married Frieda in 1923. Frieda had worked in a sweatshop as a finisher with feathers until she married Harry. They were still living on the Lower East Side in a tenement when she died on May 10, 1924, just days after giving birth to their son Max.

After Frieda died, Harry quickly married again. He married Nettie Lichtenstein sometime in 1924, presumably outside of New York City as no marriage records were located for them. Nettie was a recent immigrant; according to the 1930 census, she had arrived in 1920.  Their first son David was born on June 16, 1925 in Hoboken, New Jersey. Two more sons followed— Lawrence in 1926 and Samuel in 1928, both born in New York. In 1930 Harry and his family were still living in the Lower East Side. Harry was working as a taxi driver.

Harry Coopersmith and family 1930 census
Year: 1930; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1550; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 0148; FHL microfilm: 2341285

By 1940, Harry’s family was in pieces.  Nettie was institutionalized at Kings Park State Hospital in Smithtown, Long Island, and the three boys were living in Island Park, Hempstead, Long Island, as boarders (I assume as foster children) with the family of Jacob and Pauline Davis and their sons. I have not found any familial connection between the Davis family and Harry or Nettie. Jacob was in the printing business, and he and Pauline had been living in Island Park since at least 1930. Before that, they had lived in the Bronx and upper Manhattan, nowhere near Harry or Nettie. I have no idea how they ended up with the three Coopersmith boys. Neither one ever lived on the Lower East Side.

Coopersmith sons boarding with David family 1940
Year: 1940; Census Place: Hempstead, Nassau, New York; Roll: T627_2685; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 30-82

Harry does not appear anywhere on the 1940 census and does not resurface on any records until 1945 when military records report that he was still living on the Lower East Side and had enlisted in the New York Guard on April 23, 1945 and had been discharged on June 26, 1946.

Harry Coopersmith New York Guard record
New York State Archives; Albany, New York; Collection: New York, New York Guard Service Cards and Enlistment Records, 1906-1918, 1940-1948; Series: B2000; Film Number: 45

The last records I have for Harry are his veteran’s burial records, showing that he died on January 14, 1956 and was buried at Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York. Interestingly, a plot next to Harry was to be reserved for his widow Nettie, who was then residing in Bohemia, New York, also on Long Island. I don’t know if Harry had been living with her at the time of his death.

Given the absence of any overlap in places lived or worked between Harry and Anna Yurdin Haas or Harry and Burton Haas, I have no idea how or why Anna would have come into possession of Harry’s military papers or Frieda’s death certificate.

As for the two photographs, I am not even sure that they are pictures of Harry. I sent them to Harry’s grandson, but he had never met his grandfather and did not have any pictures of him. He sent me a picture of himself, and perhaps there is some slight resemblance, but not enough to determine if the photographs are of Harry Coopersmith.

Harrys grandson

Assuming they are photographs of Harry, they were likely taken in the 1940s, according to Ava Cohn, the expert in photography analysis. That would mean that the person who somehow came to possess these documents knew Harry in the 1940s.  He is in his military uniform in one of the photographs, so that means the photograph was probably taken some time in 1945 to 1946 since that was when Harry was in the New York Guard. At that point Anna Yurdin Haas was a widow, living in Queens, New York. Perhaps she and Harry somehow became friends or lovers.  After all, Harry’s wife Nettie was institutionalized, his sons were in foster care of some kind, and Harry was on his own. That seems like one possible explanation for how these papers ended up in Anna Yurdin’s possession.

The other possibility is that the papers never belonged to Anna Yurdin, but perhaps to Dale’s father Howard Halpern. Dale is not entirely certain that they had belonged to Anna. If they belonged instead to her father, how would he have known Harry?

Howard Halpern was the son of David Halpern and Anna Yurdin’s sister May Yurdin (sometimes identified as Mary). He was born in 1919 in New York and lived in the Bronx in 1920, but by 1925 had moved to Queens, living in the same Jackson Heights neighborhood where his aunt Anna and her husband Burton were living in 1930 and thereafter.  By 1930, however, Howard and his parents and brother had moved to Long Beach, Long Island, and were no longer in Queens. They were still living there in 1940.

Halpern family 1940
Year: 1940; Census Place: Long Beach, Nassau, New York; Roll: T627_2690; Page: 61B; Enumeration District: 30-209

Maybe Howard knew one of Harry’s sons. They were a bit younger than Howard, but Howard lived in Long Beach starting in 1930, and Harry’s sons were in Island Park in Hempstead by 1940. The two towns are about a mile apart, as seen on this map.

Howard had a younger brother Alvin, born in 1925, who would have been the same age as David Coopersmith and only a year older than Lawrence and three years older than Samuel.  According to the current Island Park School District webpage, today students in Island Park have a choice of attending two high schools in the area, one of them being Long Beach High School. That might also have been true in the 1940s when the Coopersmith boys and Howard and Alvin Halpern were in high school.

So my second hunch is that Alvin and his brother Howard knew the Coopersmith sons from Long Beach High School or from Hebrew school or some other community sports or activity.

But that doesn’t solve the mystery of why Howard Halpern had Frieda Brotman Coopersmith’s death certificate or Harry’s discharge papers. That the Coopersmith boys had their father’s military discharge papers is somewhat understandable—but why would they have had the death certificate for their father’s first wife, a woman with whom they had no connection at all? And why would Dale’s father Howard have ended up with those papers?

I don’t know. But David Coopersmith named his son Lee Howard Coopersmith—perhaps for his childhood friend Howard Halpern? If he was such a close friend, wouldn’t Dale have heard of him?

As I mentioned above, I have been in touch with one of Harry’s grandsons, but he had no information that shed light on this mystery. I am now trying to contact Harry’s great-granddaughter, who has a tree on Ancestry. Perhaps she will know. At the very least, she might be able to tell me if the photographs are indeed of Harry Coopersmith. But it’s been almost two months, and she has not responded to me.

Let me know your thoughts.


Meeting New Cousins

There is one more sibling of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein to research and write about—his half-brother Jakob.

But before I move on to the next step in the Katzenstein research, I have several other topics to discuss—updates and items of interest that have accumulated over the months but that were put on the back burner. So the next few posts will be about these varied topics including some interesting discoveries and meetings with cousins. Today I want to talk about two recent meetings with “new” cousins.

On August 4, my cousin Jan and her husband Richard made a trip to Provincetown to meet Harvey and me and spend the day together. We met them at the wharf where the ferry from Boston arrives, walked around Provincetown, and had a wonderful lunch overlooking Cape Cod Bay and Provincetown Harbor. We had a great time together—the conversation flowed naturally, and we all hit it off very easily.

Jan and me and a new friend in Provincetown

Jan is my second cousin, once removed. Her great-grandmother Toba/Tillie/Taube Brotman Hecht was the half-sister of my grandmother Gussie Brotman Goldschlager. I had “discovered” Jan after the amazing breakthrough I had finding my grandmother’s long missing half-sister Toba through the pure serendipity of a list of names in my aunt’s baby book from 1917.

Aunt Elaine’s baby book. Note the last name in the list on the left—Mrs. Taube Hecht; that is my grandmother’s half-sister Toba/Tillie/Taube Brotman Hecht and Jan’s great-grandmother.


While we were together, Jan completed a DNA testing kit, which I mailed the next day.  I am hoping that her DNA results will help me with my Brotman research since Jan is descended  from Joseph Brotman and his first wife and not from Bessie, my great-grandmother. Perhaps her results will help me identify which genes came from Joseph and not Bessie as I search for more answers to the many questions that remain about the Brotmans, for example, about the relationship between Joseph and Bessie.

Then on Tuesday, August 8, we had dinner with another “new” cousin, Mike and his wife Wendy. Mike is my fourth cousin through my Hamberg line. We are both the three-times great-grandchildren of Moses Hamberg of Breuna. Mike’s great-grandmother was Malchen Hamberg, who married Jacob Baer; Mike’s grandmother was Tilda Baer, who married Samuel Einstein/Stone, the co-founder with Maurice Baer (Tilda’s brother, Mike’s great-uncle) of Attleboro Manufacturing Company, the jewelry company now known as Swank.

Samuel Einstein/Stone, Sr., Samuel Stone, Jr. standing Sitting: Harriet, Stephanie (Mike’s mother), Tilda, and Babette (Betty) Stone Courtesy of the family


Mike and I found each other back in March, 2017, as a result of a comment left on my blog by a man named Dr. Rainer Schimpf. Dr. Schimpf wrote then:

I am so excited to read your blog! We are doing research on Samuel Einstein, born in Laupheim, Wuerttemberg. He was connected to Carl Laemmle, founder and president of Universal Pictures, who was also born in Laupheim. Could you please get in contact with me? Thank you so much!

Best, Rainer

I contacted Rainer immediately, excited by this connection to Hollywood since I’ve always been a movie fan and trivia nut. Rainer told me that he was curating an exhibit about Carl Laemmle for the Haus der Geschichte Baden-Wuerttemberg, which is the state museum in Stuttgart for the history of southwest Germany. Laemmle was born in Laupheim, Germany, and had immigrated to the United States in 1884. The story of his career in the United States is quite fascinating (though beyond the scope of my blog). You can read it about it here and here.

Carl Laemmle
From Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Rainer said that in the course of his research about Laemmle, he had found a newspaper article describing a party celebrating Laemmle’s fiftieth birthday in 1917; one of the guests mentioned in the article was Samuel Einstein from Attleboro, Massachusetts. (Einstein had not yet changed his surname to Stone.)

Motion Picture Weekly, January 1917

Rainer had been trying to learn more about Samuel Einstein and had learned quite a bit, including that Einstein was one of the founders of Attleboro Manufacturing, now known as Swank.  He also had learned that Samuel Einstein was “one of four Jewish boys of Laupheim, who made unique careers in the US. All four were meeting at the birthday party of Laemmle in 1917 (Leo Hirschfeld [inventor of the Tootsie Roll] and Isidor Landauer [of International Handkerchief Manufacturing] are the other two boys).” (email from Dr. Rainer Schimpf, March, 2017)

Rainer wanted to learn more about Einstein, his family, and his connection to Laupheim, Germany, and to Laemmle. I shared with Rainer what I knew, and then I searched for and contacted as many of the Baer/Stone family members as I could, and one of them, Faith, a great-granddaughter of Tilda and Samuel Stone, responded with great interest and then connected me to her cousin, Mike. Thanks to that one comment by Rainer on the blog, I now not only know more about Samuel Einstein/Stone, I also am connected to many more of my Hamberg cousins.

Together Rainer, Mike, and I were able to pull together a fuller picture of Samuel Einstein, his family of origin, and his life in Germany and in the United States.  Although I won’t go into complete detail here about the Einstein family, I will point out one interesting bit of information we learned that answered a question I’d had while researching the Baer family: how did Maurice Baer and Samuel Einstein end up as business partners?[1]

The Baers lived in Pittsburgh, and Samuel Einstein lived in Attleboro, Massachusetts. How could they have met each other? Even today, it would take almost ten hours to drive the more than 500 miles between the two cities. It would have taken days to get from one to the other back then.


Well, Rainer discovered that Samuel Einstein had three uncles who lived in Pittsburgh who had been in the US since the mid-19th century. Perhaps Samuel met Maurice Baer when he visited his relatives in Pittsburgh; maybe the Baers and Pittsburgh Einsteins were well-acquainted. If and when I have time, these are questions I’d like to pursue.

When Mike learned that I spend the summer on the Cape where he would be visiting this summer, we arranged to have dinner together. It was a lovely evening with Mike and Wendy with lots of stories and laughs and good food.  We felt an immediate connection to these warm and friendly people. Mike shared some old photographs and even showed me Maurice Baer’s walking stick. It was a lot of fun.

Harvey, me, Mike, and Wendy

It is always such a pleasure to meet new cousins—whether they are as distant as fourth or fifth cousins or as close as a second cousin.  It reinforces the idea that we are all connected in some ways to everyone else, and it inspires me to keep looking and researching and writing.

There are so many more cousins I’d like to meet in person—or as Jan said, IRL FTF. Some live nearby, and I hope to get to see them within the next several months. Others live much further away, making it harder to get together. But I’ve gone as far as Germany to meet a cousin, so eventually I hope I can meet many of those who live in the United States.


[1] Since Samuel is only related to me by his marriage to Tilda Baer, I had not previously researched his background too deeply. For the same reason, I won’t go into detail here on all that we discovered about his family.

A Review of My Novel, Pacific Street

I am very honored and flattered that Luanne Castle, who writes the wonderful genealogy blog The Family Kalamazoo and is a published poet as well, has chosen to blog about my novel Pacific Street.  I hope you will read her review and consider purchasing a copy of the book.  Thank you, Luanne!



Here is a small excerpt from the review:

The story of Cohen’s grandparents, Isadore and Gussie, is an inspiring coming-to-America tale with all the resonance of actual experience. Cohen has painstakingly documented the early part of her relatives’ lives through historical research using official documents and has incorporated information shared through family stories.

She has researched the settings and cultures described and added her own imagination to infuse the book with appropriate details and descriptions. This is no dry historical telling, but a well-structured adventure full of tragedies and triumphs like a novel, although more accurately, it is creative nonfiction in the historical subgenre. 

As Cohen alternates the narratives of Isadore and Gussie (until their stories merge together near the end), the reader becomes one with the characters. The loneliness of both characters is excruciating, especially since family is so important to both of them.


You can read the rest of Luanne’s review here.  Check out the rest of her blog while you are there; she is a wonderful storyteller and an expert genealogist.

Thank you, Luanne! Your words mean a lot!

Pacific Street: Inspired by Facts and Love

Some of you know that since I retired two and a half years ago, I’ve been working on a novel inspired by my grandparents’ lives and the discoveries I’ve made about them and their extended families through my genealogy research.  Well, I finally put my “pen” down and decided to call it done.

Amy Gussie and Isadore

My grandparents, Gussie Brotman and Isadore Goldschlager, and me

It’s been an exciting process for me because ever since I learned to read, I’ve wanted to write a novel.  All through my career when I was writing long, boring articles for law journals, I wished that instead I was writing a novel. Novels have been my refuge all my life. I love being transported to different times and places and seeing into the hearts and minds of all kinds of characters.  I just wanted a chance to try to create some characters of my own.  When I retired, I promised myself that I would give it a try.

One friend reprimanded me when I said I was trying to write a novel.  She said, “Don’t say that.  Say you are writing a novel.”  I was and am insecure about the whole thing.  I never took a fiction writing course, participated in a writing workshop, or wrote any fiction at all, not since I wrote stories as a young child. What did I know?

My only sources of information about writing a novel were all the novels I’d read starting when I read Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White when I was eight years old.  That book transported me in ways that changed the way I felt about reading.  I cried so hard (spoiler alert) when Charlotte died.  And she was just a spider! A fictional spider! How had the author made her so real and moved me to care so much?

Charlotte's Web

Charlotte’s Web (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now that I’ve written my own novel, I am even more in awe of the many great authors whose books have moved me so deeply. I am humbled by what those authors were able to do with words, and thus I feel presumptuous trying to promote my own book, despite my friend’s reprimand.

But it was a labor of love—love for family and love for the magic of the written word.  I wrote this book for my children and grandchildren so that they would have a taste of what their ancestors’ lives were like. I had lots of help and inspiration from my family and friends, as I acknowledge at the end of the book.  And so despite this aching feeling of insecurity, I do want to share and promote my book so that others will also know the story I’ve created about my grandparents—grounded in fact, but expanded upon by my imagination.

I hope that you will be tempted to read it.  You can find it on Amazon both as a paperback ($6.99) and as a Kindle ebook ($2.99) at

If you do read it, I’d love your feedback.  Thank you!

Double Cousins…Everywhere!

The best part of my discoveries of the Goldfarb and Hecht families is that I have found more new cousins, three of whom are my double cousins—Sue, Debrah, and Lisa. They are descendants of Julius Goldfarb and Ida Hecht. Sue’s daughter Lisa shared this wonderful wedding photograph of Julius and Ida.


Wedding photograph of Julius Goldfarb, my grandmother’s first cousin, and Ida Hecht, my grandmother’s niece. Courtesy of the Goldfarb/Hecht family


Julius was the son of Sarah Goldfarb, my great-grandmother’s sister; Ida was the daughter of Tillie Hecht, my grandmother’s half-sister.   So I am related to both of them.

Julius and Ida had four daughters, Sylvia, Gertrude, Ethel and Evelyn. Sue, Sylvia’s daughter, shared with me this precious photograph of her grandmother Ida holding her as a baby:


Ida Hecht Goldfarb and granddaughter Sue

And Debrah shared this photograph of her grandparents, Julius and Ida, with her mother Evelyn:


Julius, Evelyn, and Ida (Hecht) Goldfarb

Julius, Evelyn, and Ida (Hecht) Goldfarb

One thing I wanted to define is how, if at all, Julius and Ida were related to each other, aside from being husband and wife.  Hecht/Goldfarb family lore says Julius and Ida were “distant cousins.”

Julius was the son of Sarah Goldfarb.  Sarah’s sister Bessie Brotman was the stepmother of Ida’s mother, Toba, as Bessie married Toba’s father Joseph after his Toba’s mother died.  Although that makes things complicated, it does not alone create any genetic connection between Julius and Ida since Bessie (and thus Sarah) had no blood relationship with Toba.


But if Brotman family lore is correct and Bessie and her husband Joseph Brotman were first cousins, then Joseph Brotman and Bessie’s sister Sarah were also first cousins. Sarah’s son Julius married Ida, who was the granddaughter of Sarah’s first cousin Joseph, making Julius and Ida second cousins, once removed.


That is, assuming that Joseph and Sarah were first cousins as Brotman family lore reports, Ida and Julius were in fact “distant cousins,” as Hecht/Goldfarb family lore indicates.  So maybe together the Brotman family lore and the Hecht/Goldfarb family lore validate each other.

Sue and Debrah, who are granddaughters of Julius Goldfarb and Ida Hecht, thus are both the great-granddaughters of Sarah Brotman Goldfarb, making them my third cousins on my great-grandmother Bessie’s side, and the great-great-granddaughters of Joseph Brotman, making them also my second cousins, once removed, on my great-grandfather Joseph’s side. (Lisa is one more step removed on both sides.) Renee is my second cousin; her mother Jean Hecht was my mother’s first cousin; her grandmother Toba was my grandmother Gussie’s half-sister. And then I’ve also found a cousin Jan, whose grandfather was Harry Hecht, Toba’s son, and my mother’s first cousin.


Harry Hecht and his wife and children 1945 Courtesy of the family

And, of course, if my great-grandparents Joseph and Bessie Brotman were in fact first cousins, the relationships get even more convoluted. But I think I will skip that calculation.  At least for now.  Maybe some brave soul out there wants to try and figure it out?

With all this shared DNA, I was very curious to see if there were any family resemblances among the various members of the Goldfarb, Hecht, and Brotman families.  My newly found double cousins Debrah, Sue, and Lisa shared some family photos with me, including this one of Toba/ Taube/Tillie Brotman Hecht:


Toba/Taube/Tillie Brotman Hecht Courtesy of the Goldfarb/Hecht family

Here is a photograph of her brother Max Brotman that I’d earlier received from his family:

Max Brotman

Max Brotman, courtesy of the family

Do you see a resemblance? Unfortunately I don’t have any photographs of Toba’s other full siblings, Abraham and David, to help with the comparison.

But here are photographs of Toba’s half-siblings, Hyman, Tillie (Ressler), Sam, and my grandmother Gussie:

Hyman Brotman

Hyman Brotman

Tilly Brotman

Tilly Brotman Ressler

Sam Brotman

Sam Brotman

Gussie Brotman

Gussie Brotman Goldschlager

I can see some similarities—in particular in the shape of the noses.  But it appears that Max and Toba do not have faces that are as round as those of their half-siblings.  Perhaps the shape of their faces was a genetic trait they inherited from their mother Chaye, not their father Joseph Brotman.

Here is one other photograph of the extended Goldfarb and Hecht family.


Goldfarb Hecht family gathering for Chanukah

Standing on the far left is Julius Goldfarb.  Seated at the head of the table is Ida Hecht Goldfarb.  On the right side of the table starting at the front are two of Ida’s sister, Etta and Jean Hecht.  Also in the photograph are Julius and Ida’s four daughters as well as their spouses and a few of the grandchildren and other cousins.

It’s sad to think that in 1917 Julius and Ida were close enough to my grandmother that they came to visit when my aunt was born, as did Ida’s mother, my grandmother’s sister Toba Hecht, but somehow the families all lost touch, and my mother only has a few  memories of some of the Goldfarbs from her childhood.

On the other hand, I feel very fortunate that now, almost a century after my aunt was born, I know who the Goldfarbs and Hechts were and I am in touch with a number of these “new”  cousins of mine.


The Goldfarbs and the Hechts: Some Lingering Questions and Some Answers

Finding the woman I believe to have been my grandmother’s long missing sister was definitely one of those high points in my research that I will always remember.  I had spent hours and hours searching for the elusive Sophie years before. I had completely given up on ever finding her.  I even wondered whether she’d been a figment of my aunt’s very creative imagination. But she wasn’t.  My aunt just had the wrong name.

That she ended up being named Toba or Taube or Tillie and not Sophie certainly is a lesson in not relying too heavily on family lore, and it is also one of the many perplexing things about this discovery and how it fits with family stories.

max mason

Hecht family lore said that Taube had two brothers who had arrived in the US before she did, but I have no evidence that there were two Brotman brothers here before 1887 when Taube arrived.  Joseph Brotman had three sons in Galicia with his first wife Chaye and one with his second wife, my great-grandmother, Bessie.  His oldest sons, Abraham and David, came to the US in 1889, the same year that Joseph immigrated; Max came in 1890. His next son, Hyman, was born in 1883 and came to the US with my great-grandmother Bessie in 1891.  None of these European born sons was here in 1887 when Taube arrived, at least as far as I can tell.

Of course, it is possible that I have missed a child or missed an earlier manifest.  Or it is possible that the Hecht family lore is not correct, just as my aunt’s document naming the missing sister as Sophie is seemingly not correct.  I don’t know which is more likely.

There’s also the mystery of Eva Singer and Ascher Singer, the two people who sailed from Tarnobrzeg on the Moravia apparently with Taube Brodt.  Were they really sailing with her or just bracketed on the manifest to show they were all from the same town? And what happened to the Singers after they got to the United States?

Taube Brodt ship manifest 1887 Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Microfilm No.: K_1736 Description Month : Direkt Band 059 (3 Jul 1887 - 29 Dez 1887)

Taube Brodt ship manifest 1887
Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Microfilm No.: K_1736
Month : Direkt Band 059 (3 Jul 1887 – 29 Dez 1887)

More importantly, what happened to Taube after she arrived if, in fact, she did not have two brothers living here already? Did she really go to St. Louis, as Hecht family lore indicates?

How I wish we had the 1890 census.  Perhaps if it still existed, I would have found that my great-grandfather Joseph Brotman was living in 1890 with his four children from his first marriage: Abraham, David, Max, and Taube.  But the 1890 census was destroyed in a fire, taking the answers with it.

I searched the 1890 New York City police census and the 1892 New York census on Ancestry, but alas, none of the Brotmans appears on those either.  I’ve searched in city directories for both New York and St. Louis, but again with no luck. There is a J. Brodman in the 1891 NYC directory, a “pedlar” living on Ridge Street; that could be my great-grandfather, but I certainly can’t tell for sure; plus it doesn’t help me find Taube as there is no listing for her nor, for that matter, for Abraham, David, or Max.

I thus don’t know where Taube was from the time she arrived in the US in 1887 until she gave birth to her first son, Harry, in 1892.  But from there on, I have been able to find her story—up to her sad death in 1944.


As her death certificate reported. she died from osteomyelitis after a fall on the sidewalk. The Mayo Clinic defined osteomyelitis as follows: “Osteomyelitis is an infection in a bone. Infections can reach a bone by traveling through the bloodstream or spreading from nearby tissue. Infections can also begin in the bone itself if an injury exposes the bone to germs.”  According to my medical consultant, today osteomyelitis rarely results in death, but back in 1944, antibiotic treatment was not as effective.

I also have an answer to the question I posed in my last post; I had asked for help in deciphering Ida Hecht’s occupation on the 1910 census:

Ida Hecht occupation on 1910 census

Ida Hecht occupation on 1910 census

Several readers, here and on Facebook, responded to my question with “button holer.” I wasn’t sure what that was, but another commenter did.  Bob Brotman (no relationship yet found to my Brotmans) wrote that it meant buttonhole maker, and explained, “In 1910 it was a specialized skill in the sweat shops and worth higher pay than most of the piece work. Women who sewed their own clothing at home would take the almost finished garments to a buttonhole maker for this final touch. Special buttonhole making machines were used commercially in the late 1800’s. Home sewing machines could not make decent buttonholes until the 1950’s.” Live and learn—always something new!

But other questions remain unanswered. There is the question of whether Brod, Brodman, Brotman, etc., are different names or different versions of the same name.  Were my great-grandparents both really named Brod or Brotman? Or was one a Brod, the other a Brotman?

I posted a question on the JewishGen listserv about whether Brod and Brotman were the same or different names, and I received conflicting responses.  One person, referring to Alexander Beider’s Dictionary of Surnames for the Russian Empire, wrote that Brotman is just another form of the surname Brot, meaning bread or bread man. Another person suggested that Brotman was an Americanization of Brod and that people often forgot the original name once they immigrated.

But another person said that they are two different names; this person said Brotman means “bread man” whereas Brot is a toponym for the place where people “ford” rivers, Brodt being a Slavic word for “ford.”  And then Stanley Diamond of JRI Poland wrote that both names existed in the Tarnobrzeg region and seemed to come from different families. So I am just as confused as I was before I asked the question.

Also, I still don’t know how, if at all, my great-grandparents Joseph and Bessie were related to each other. If they were first cousins, through what relationship? Were their fathers brothers? Or was it that one’s mother and the other’s father were siblings? Or were their mother’s sisters? I don’t know.

As has happened time and again with my Brotman line, I can only move forward in inches, but at least I am moving forward.  I have found a woman I believe to have been my great-grandmother’s sister—Sarah Brod/Brotman Goldfarb.  I have also found a woman I believe to have been my grandmother’s half-sister—Toba/Taube/Tillie Brotman Hecht.  And it all started with the discovery of my aunt’s 1917 baby book and two names that were not familiar to me.[1]  Once again, I am indebted to my Aunt Elaine, who would have been 99 years old tomorrow.

Aunt Elaine baby book 5

Can I say with 100% certainty that I am right about either one? No, but I am probably as right about it as I can get.  Having checked again to see if there were any new records discovered in Tarnobrzeg and learning that there have not been (and will not be, apparently), this may be the best I can do.

In my next post I will share some of the photos of my Hecht and Goldfarb cousins and compare them to my known Brotman relatives to see if there are any family resemblances.


[1] There are still other names in the baby that I will investigate more completely, though nothing has yet turned up that’s been helpful.

Oh, Happy Day! Tillie Hecht Mystery, Part II

I was just about to throw in the towel.  I couldn’t find one additional clue about Taube Brotman Hecht and whether she was related to me.  There were no records online to help.

According to the 1900 and 1905 census records, Jacob Hecht and his wife Tillie lived in the Lower East Side and then by 1910 had moved to Brooklyn.  Jacob was a tailor, and in 1910 their son Harry was working as a bookkeeper in a department store and their daughter Ida was also employed, but I can’t quite make out her job: operator in a button or butter something?


Jacob and Tillie Hecht 1910 US census Year: 1910; Census Place: Brooklyn Ward 16, Kings, New York; Roll: T624_964; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 0329; FHL microfilm: 1374977

Ida Hecht occupation on 1910 census

Ida Hecht occupation on 1910 census

In 1913, Ida married Julius Goldfarb, as noted in an earlier post.  In 1915, Jacob and Tillie Hecht and their other seven children were living in the same building as Sam and Sarah Goldfarb, Ida’s in-laws, and Hyman and Sophie Brotman, my grandmother’s brother and his wife.  Jacob was working as a tailor, and Harry was working as a salesman; the other children were still in school.


Hecht family 1915 NY census;  New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 18; Assembly District: 06; City: New York; County: New York; Page: 85

Jacob and Tillie Hecht still had the seven other children living with them in 1920, now on East 4th Street in New York City; Jacob continued to work as an operator in a cloak factory and Harry as a salesman in a department store.  David Hecht was working as a clerk for the War Department, and Etta, Gussie (listed as Augusta here) and Sadie were all working as stenographers.  The two youngest children, Rose (listed as Rebecca here) and Eva, were not yet employed.


Jacob and Tillie Hecht and family, 1920 US census Year: 1920; Census Place: Manhattan Assembly District 2, New York, New York; Roll: T625_1188; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 226; Image: 1055

Meanwhile, Ida and her husband Julius Goldfarb and their children had by 1920 moved to Jersey City, NJ, where Julius was in the liquor business.  Within five years, almost all of the Hecht family had followed them to Jersey City, including Jacob and Tillie.  As you can see from this segment from the 1925 Jersey City directory, Jacob and Tillie were now living at 306 4th Street, and right above their listing is a listing for their son Harry.  He was working as a clerk for none other than Herman Brotman: my great-uncle, my grandmother’s brother Hymie.  Another piece of the puzzle was fitting together.

Hechts in 1925 Jersey City directory Title : Jersey City, New Jersey, City Directory, 1925 Source Information U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

Hechts in 1925 Jersey City directory
Title : Jersey City, New Jersey, City Directory, 1925
Source Information U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

But there were two other Hechts listed here at the same address as Jacob and Tillie: Jean and Shirley, both working as stenographers.  I wasn’t sure which daughter was now using Jean and which was now using Shirley, but I guessed that Jean was probably Gussie and Shirley was probably Sadie. David, Etta, Rose, and Eva were not listed.  I could not find them elsewhere either.  Was Etta married? Rose and Eva were young enough that they could have still been in school, but where was David, who would have been 29 in 1925?

Fortunately, I was able to find a few of the Hechts on the 1930 census, which answered some of those questions.  In 1930, Jacob and Tillie were still living in Jersey City with David, Rose, and Eva (listed as Evelyn here).  Jacob was no longer working, but David was working as a real estate broker and Rose and Eva were both working as stenographers.

Jacob and Tillie Hecht 1930 US census Year: 1930; Census Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: 1353; Page: 22A; Enumeration District: 0100; Image: 602.0; FHL microfilm: 2341088

Jacob and Tillie Hecht 1930 US census
Year: 1930; Census Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: 1353; Page: 22A; Enumeration District: 0100; Image: 602.0; FHL microfilm: 2341088

Their son Harry Hecht had moved to Brooklyn by 1930 and was now married to a woman named Sophie; they had two children.  Harry was the proprietor of a store.

Harry Hecht and family 1930 US census Year: 1930; Census Place: Brooklyn, Kings, New York; Roll: 1522; Page: 15A; Enumeration District: 1357; Image: 271.0; FHL microfilm: 2341257

Harry Hecht and family 1930 US census
Year: 1930; Census Place: Brooklyn, Kings, New York; Roll: 1522; Page: 15A; Enumeration District: 1357; Image: 271.0; FHL microfilm: 2341257

As for Etta, Gussie, and Sadie, I assumed they were married, but I couldn’t find them.  And at that point I hit a wall. I could not find any of the Hecht daughters on the NYC marriage index.  Because the family had moved to New Jersey, and New Jersey has so far refused to put even an index of its birth, marriage, or death records online, there was no simple way for me to find marriage records for them in New Jersey. I assumed that Gussie/Jean and Sadie/Shirley had married between 1925 and 1930 and that Etta had married between 1920 and 1925, but paying for a search for these certificates did not seem like a wise use of my resources.

I already had two documents that said that Tillie Hecht’s birth name had been Taube or Toba Brotman: her son Harry’s birth certificate and her daughter Ida’s marriage certificate; there was also a ship manifest for a Taube Brodt from Tarnobrzeg.    In addition, I had found this entry on the SSACI for a Jean Gross, giving me not only information about Jean Hecht’s married name, but also another confirmation that Taube’s birth name was Toba Brotman: 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.

The additional marriage certificates for the remaining daughters might have given me further confirmation that their mother’s birth name was Taube/Toba Brotman, but what I really wanted to know was who Taube’s parents were.  And that meant finding either her marriage certificate or her death certificate, not her children’s marriage certificates.  But before I could do that, I wanted some rough idea of when she died so that I could make a reasonable request of my researcher in Trenton.

That meant finding the 1940 census to see if Tillie Hecht was still alive in 1940.  The New Jersey archives allows public access to death certificates up to 1955; I had to hope that Tillie had died in New Jersey before 1955.

I was able to find Tillie Hecht on the 1940 census; she was still living in Jersey City at 306 East 4th Street.

Tillie Hecht and family 1940 US census Year: 1940; Census Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: T627_2401; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 24-50

Tillie Hecht and family 1940 US census
Year: 1940; Census Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: T627_2401; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 24-50

She was now a widow, so Jacob had died since the 1930 census. It also says she was sixty years old whereas Tillie would really have been at least sixty-four.  There were two adult children living with her: Dave, who was listed as 35 and not employed, and Ruth, who was 26 and working as an assistant in a doctor’s office.  David Hecht should have been 45 in 1950, and Rose would have been 36. Had Rose changed her name from Rebecca (1930) to Ruth in 1940?  Had Tillie shaved ten years off the ages of herself and both of her children, or was there possibly another Tillie Hecht living in Jersey City, born in Austria?

I decided to assume for search purposes that this was the right Tillie Hecht and to ask my researcher to see if she could find a death certificate for a Taube or Tillie Hecht between 1940 and 1955.  And then I waited.

But while I was waiting, I also emailed Tillie’s great-granddaughter Sue and asked her what she knew about her Hecht relatives: what were the married names of her grandmother’s sisters? When did Jacob and Tillie and their children die? Did she know anything else that might help me find out how Tillie Brotman Hecht was related to my Brotmans, if at all?

Sue then spoke to her cousin Renee, one of Tillie’s grandchildren (Jean Hecht’s daughter), and filled me in on what Renee had told her.  It was an email filled with a great deal of information, but the part that was most critical to solving my question about Tillie Hecht was this one:

Tillie (Toba) Brotman came to U.S. at 10 years of age she thinks. 2 brothers were already here…redheads …or at least one was. The brothers sent Tillie to a house in St. Louis…to work…learn English, or both. Renee remembers her mother and Aunt Etta (also a Hecht girl) taking the subway to Brooklyn to see “The Uncle” who must have been one of Tillie’s brothers.

I read this paragraph several times, trying to sort out what it meant.  First, the fact that Tillie had come to the US at ten was consistent with the Taube Brodt I’d found on the 1887 ship manifest, listing Taube as eleven at that time.

Second, Renee reported that Taube had had two brothers here already— and that they were redheads.  That stopped me in my tracks—my mother, my aunt, my grandmother, my grandmother’s sisters—all were redheads.  Red hair is recessive and not all that common.  Could this just be coincidence? A Brotman from Tarnobrzeg with red hair had to be related to my family.

My grandmother with her two daughters, my Aunt Elaine and my mother 1933

My grandmother with her two daughters, my Aunt Elaine and my mother 1933.  All redheads.

But who were these two brothers? And why did they send Taube to St. Louis? I had no record of any Brotman from my family arriving before 1887 when Taube Brodt arrived.

I then read Sue’s email again.  This time a different paragraph jumped out at me:

Renee recalls meeting a cousin also named Renee who she thinks was the daughter of one of Tillie’s brothers. As she recalls, they owned a hardware store on Lexington Ave. and 59th in NYC.  Renee thought that both Renees were named for an Aunt Irene.

A big, loud bell went off in my slow-witted brain.  I knew who that second Renee was.  She was Renee Brotman, daughter of Max Brotman, my grandmother’s older half-brother.  Renee had married Charles Haber, and they owned a hardware store on Lexington Avenue and 59th Street in New York City.  I emailed Renee’s daughter Judy to confirm that that was in fact the address.

Max, Sophie, Rosalie and Renee

Max, Sophie, Rosalie and Renee Brotman. Max was my grandmother’s half-brother.

Suddenly I knew exactly who Toba Brotman, aka Taube Brodt, aka Tillie Hecht, was.

She was my grandmother’s half-sister, the missing sibling I had long ago, years ago, given up on ever finding.  I had searched and searched and found not one shred of a clue.  I only knew she existed because my Aunt Elaine had listed all of the children of Joseph Brotman, including those with his first wife Chaye, on her family tree.  There had been a daughter named Sophie, according to my aunt.

Family Tree drawn by Elaine Goldschlager Lehbraum

Family Tree drawn by Elaine Goldschlager Lehbraum

max mason

My aunt had all the other names right—could she have been mistaken about Sophie’s name? Was it really Toba or Taube or Tillie?

Plus there was another thing that troubled me: if Tillie Hecht was really my grandmother’s sister, it meant that my grandmother had two sisters using the name Tillie: her full sister Tillie, the one my mother knew well, Tillie Brotman Ressler, and this other half-sister Tillie Brotman Hecht.  How could there be two sisters with the same first name?

Tilly Ressler 1944

Tilly Brotman Ressler 1944.  My grandmother’s sister. And also a redhead.

But then I thought some more.  Tillie Hecht’s original name had been Toba; Tillie Ressler’s original name had been Tema.  They were not given the same name at birth; they both had just adopted the same Americanized nickname in the United States.  Maybe that’s why my aunt thought of Tillie Hecht as Sophie? Maybe some in the family still called her Toba or Taube and that sounded like Sophie to my aunt? (Those of us who knew her well knew how my Aunt Elaine could mangle a name.)

And who was this Aunt Irene that the two Renees were named for? A clue for that came from my cousin Judy; she said her mother Renee had originally been named Ida, but it was changed to Irene soon after she was born.  Irene then evolved into Renee.  When I saw “Ida,” I recalled that Ida was often a secular name for girls named Chaye.  Chaye was the name of Joseph Brotman’s first wife, the mother of Abraham, David, Max, and “Sophie.” Max Brotman had named his daughter Ida (then Irene) for his mother Chaye.  If Tillie Brotman Hecht was in fact “Sophie,” it made sense that she also named her first daughter Ida for her mother Chaye.

It all made sense.  But I knew better than to rely on family lore.  I needed some kind of official record to back up my hypothesis.

And then it arrived.  Tillie Hecht’s death certificate:


Her father was Joseph Brotman, my great-grandfather. Tillie Hecht, born Toba Brotman, was my grandmother’s half-sister.  The Hecht children, all eight of them, were my mother’s first cousins.  I had found the long missing Sophie, only she was really Toba.

There were still questions to address, but for the moment, I just was content to wallow in the joyous mud of discovery.


Who was Tillie Hecht? Another Brotman Mystery

If you had asked me three years ago when I started this blog whether I’d still be finding new Brotman relatives three years later, I’d have laughed. I had so little information about even my great-grandparents.  And yet here I am in 2016 having found a whole new Brotman/Brod family of relatives based on a name in a baby book from 1917.

The discovery of Julius Goldfarb and his family, in particular his mother Sarah Brotman/Brod, was a true blessing.  Now I have corroboration of where my great-grandparents lived in Poland, and I have a better picture of my grandmother’s extended family and the people who were part of her life when she was a child and an adult.  I also have several newly discovered living cousins who have already enriched my life.

Even more amazing to me is the most recent discovery of Taube Hecht because that discovery was even more far-fetched.  Remember that in my aunt’s baby book the last name on the list of visitors was Mrs. Taube Hecht.  At first I’d had no idea who she was.

Aunt Elaine baby book 5

Then while researching Julius Goldfarb to figure out how he was related to my grandmother, I obtained a copy of his marriage certificate.  Julius Goldfarb had married Ida Hecht, and on their marriage certificate it said her father was Jacob Hecht and her mother’s name was originally Taube Brotman, now Taube Hecht.  I had wondered whether Ida’s mother was also somehow related to my grandmother’s family.


In researching Taube Brotman Hecht, I learned that she was also known as Tillie and that she’d had eight children with Jacob Hecht: Harry (1892); Ida (1894); David (1896); Gussie (1899?); Etta (1900); Sadie (1903); Rose (1906); and Eva (1908).

On the 1915 New York State census, the Hecht family was living in the same building on Avenue C in New York City as Sam and Sarah Brotman/Brod Goldfarb and as Hyman Brotman, my great-uncle, and his family.  It certainly seemed possible that Taube was related to my Brotman great-grandparents and to Sarah Brotman/Brod Goldfarb.


1915 NYS census with the Hecht family, the Goldfarb family, and the family of Hyman Brotman

So I jumped for joy—perhaps another relative, another set of clues about my Brod/Brotman relatives.  And then I jumped back into the research, hoping that Taube Brotman Hecht would provide more clues about my elusive relatives from Galicia.  I figured that with eight Hecht children to research, I would undoubtedly find more clues from birth, marriage, and death certificates.  But alas, the Hechts proved to be far more elusive than I’d hoped.

I started by searching for birth certificates.  Since I knew from the Goldfarb family records provided to me by my cousin Sue that Ida Hecht Goldfarb was born in New York City on October 19, 1894, and that the Hechts were still living in New York City in 1910 when the US census was taken, it seemed quite likely that all eight children, born between 1892 and 1908, were also born in New York City.  I searched the New York City birth records databases on Ancestry, FamilySearch, and Steve Morse’s website, and I could only find birth records listed for two of those eight children: the firstborn, Harry, and the last born child, Eva.  The other six children are just not there at all, no matter how I spelled their names, no matter how many wildcards I used.  Jacob and Taube must not have filed a birth certificate at all for those other six children.

In addition, when I asked my regular researcher at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City to find Harry’s birth certificate, she was unable to do so because it was a certificate marked “S,” meaning a later filed certificate.  Those are not on the microfilms at the FHL.  Instead I had to ask someone in NYC to go to the archives there to dig up Harry’s birth certificate.  It hadn’t been filed until 1906 when Harry was already fourteen years old.  I wonder what would have prompted the family to file it at that point in time.


But the certificate is quite interesting.  It shows that in 1892, Jacob and Taube (“Toba” here, the Hebrew name) were living at 33 East Houston Street in New York City, that they were both born in Austria, and that Jacob (like Sam Goldfarb) was a cloaks operator.  Jacob was 25 when Harry was born, Toba only twenty, meaning they were born in about 1867 and 1872, respectively.

And most importantly, Harry’s birth certificate records Toba’s name before marriage as Toba Brotman.  Brotman! I was right that Ida’s marriage certificate said “Brotman,” not Braitmer as it had been indexed.  And, of course, this meant that there was a real chance that Toba, like Sarah Goldfarb, was related to my great-grandparents in some way.

And then I looked at the certificate I’d ordered for Eva Hecht.


She was born on January 30, 1908, at 38 Montrose Avenue in Brooklyn.  On the 1910 census, the Hecht family was living at 48 Boerum Street in Brooklyn, which is right around the block from 38 Montrose Avenue.  So far, so good.  But then I looked at her parents’ names: JOSEPH Hecht and Tillie ROTHMAN.  Was this in fact the same Eva Hecht? The father was 40 years old, meaning born in about 1868; the mother was 37, so born about 1871. Those years were very close to the ages Jacob and Taube would have been in 1908.  Both parents were born in Austria, as were Jacob and Taube.  And the father “Joseph” was a tailor, as was Jacob Hecht.

Given all these similarities and the fact that by that time Taube was using Tillie on the census records, I have to believe that this is in fact a birth certificate for Eva Hecht, daughter of Jacob and Tillie/Taube/Toba Hecht.  And if it has Jacob’s first name wrong, it could very well have Tillie’s birth surname wrong.  Rothman does sound like Brotman, and many family members spelled Brotman as Brothman.  Perhaps the person filing the birth certificate, Mrs. Ida Goldman, just had bad hearing or the family’s accents were hard for her to understand.

So I had one new solid piece of evidence that Taube Hecht was born Toba Brotman and one rather shaky document that was at least somewhat supportive of that assumption. And, of course, I had Ida’s marriage certificate as well.  What else might I find? If there were no more birth certificates, could I find other marriage certificates or death certificates? Would the census records provide any more clues? So I decided to start from the beginning and search for records about the Hecht family.

The earliest census on which they appear is the 1900 US census.  The family was then living at 64 Broome Street on the Lower East Side.  The information for Jacob Hecht (spelled “Hect” here and indexed by Ancestry as “Hast,” making this a tough one to find) has some inconsistencies.   His birth year is 1870, so a year or two later than the other records indicated.  His birth place is Russia, not Austria.  But he is working as a tailor.  His wife’s name is listed as Mitilda, which certainly could be Tillie, and she also is listed as born in Russia, not Austria.  Her birth year is given as 1875, also several years later than her children’s birth records indicated.

Hecht family 1900 US census Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1094; Page: 14A; Enumeration District: 0290; FHL microfilm: 1241094

Hecht family 1900 US census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1094; Page: 14A; Enumeration District: 0290; FHL microfilm: 1241094

The names of their children also have some consistencies, some differences.  The first born, Harry, was born in 1892; that was consistent with Harry Hecht’s birth record.  The second child, however, is listed as Annie, born in 1893.  That should be Ida, the second child, who, according to the Goldfarb family papers, was born in 1894.  The third child, David, was reported to be four years old (the birth year is not very legible); that is consistent with David’s name and birth year on later census reports.  The fourth child is Yetta, who is listed on later reports as Etta; she is reported to have been seven months old when the census was enumerated in June 9, 1900, meaning she would have been born in October, 1899, not October 1889, as the census record has it recorded.  A birth year of 1899 is consistent with later census reports for Etta.

What this census record also revealed was that Jacob and “Miltilda” had been married for nine years, or in 1891.  It also said that Jacob had been in the US for only twelve years and arrived in 1887 (though it looks like 1777).  “Mitilda” had arrived earlier and had been in the country for fifteen years or since 1885 (though it looks like 1875 was written over it).  With this additional information, I searched for both a marriage record for Jacob and Taube/Tillie/Mitilda and for immigration records.

I had no luck finding a marriage record in the New York City marriage databases on Ancestry, FamilySearch, or Steve Morse’s website.  I guess it’s not surprising that a couple who failed to file birth certificates for their children also had failed to file a marriage record.  I am still hoping that some record will show up.

As for immigration records, I am fairly certain that I found the ship manifests for Taube.  I found two manifests, first a German manifest for the ship Moravia, dated July 9, 1887, sailing to New York from Hamburg.  On that manifest is a passenger named Taube Brodt, an eleven year old girl, and her name is bracketed with two other passengers, Eva Singer, a 38 year old woman, and an eleven month old baby named Ascher Singer, presumably the son of Eva.  And all three are listed as last residing in “Tarnobchek.”  That is, Tarnobrzeg—the home of my great-grandparents Joseph Brotman and Bessie Brod.

Taube Brodt ship manifest 1887 Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Microfilm No.: K_1736 Description Month : Direkt Band 059 (3 Jul 1887 - 29 Dez 1887)

Taube Brodt ship manifest 1887
Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Microfilm No.: K_1736
Month : Direkt Band 059 (3 Jul 1887 – 29 Dez 1887)

The second manifest is also for the Moravia, but is the American manifest, written in English, and dated July 21, 1887, the arrival date in New York; it also lists Taube Brodt and the Singers as coming from Tarnobchek.

Taube Brodt 1887 NY ship manifest Year: 1887; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 509; Line: 1; List Number: 911

Taube Brodt 1887 NY ship manifest
Year: 1887; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 509; Line: 1; List Number: 911

But who were Eva and Ascher Singer? And why was this eleven year old child traveling with them? My great-grandfather arrived in 1889, my great-grandmother 1891; Sarah Brod/Brotman Goldfarb didn’t arrive until 1896.  So if Taube Brodt was their relative, who was she going to and why was she leaving home at such a young age? And where did Taube Brodt and Eva and Ascher Singer end up after they disembarked in New York City in July 1887?

Although I can find many women named Eva Singer, there is only one born in Austria who arrived in 1887 and who had a son who would have been born in 1886.  But that Eva’s son’s name is Herman, and that Eva was older than the one who sailed on the Moravia with Taube.  Maybe that is the right Eva, and Ascher became Herman.  That Eva’s birth name was Goldman, according to the listings in the SSCAI for two of her children.

And I had little luck finding an Ascher Singer.  The only record I could find that might fit was a marriage record dated 1910 for an Ascher Singer marrying Lena Laufer.  I ordered that marriage record, and it shows that Ascher’s parents were Seide Singer and Taube Druckman.


When I saw the name Taube, I wondered—could Ascher have been Taube Brodt’s baby, not Eva’s? Maybe Taube wasn’t only eleven.  Taube’s age on the census records and her children’s birth certificates suggest she was born in 1871 or 1872, not 1876, as the ship manifest would suggest.  So maybe she was really fifteen, not eleven, when she emigrated.

But that is the only record I can find for Ascher Singer, and there is no way to know for sure whether it is the same person who sailed with Taube on the Moravia in 1887 or whether Taube Druckman was really Taube Brodt.

Plus even if this is the right Eva or the right Ascher, I’ve no idea how they are connected to Taube Brodt or anyone else in my family. And maybe they weren’t.  Maybe Taube just happened to be traveling with them.  But then where was she going and to whom? And was this even the same person who married Jacob Hecht in about 1891? If so, she would have been only 15 in 1891 if she was eleven in 1887.  Maybe Taube Brodt isn’t even Toba/Taube/Tillie Brotman Hecht?

Now what could I do?  Besides pull my hair out.  I kept on looking.

And then the most amazing thing happened. One of my toughest brick walls came tumbling down and when I least expected it.



Who was Sarah Goldfarb? The Plot Thickens

My search for answers as to how Sarah Goldfarb was related to my grandmother’s family had thus far led me to conflicting evidence.  Three of her children had listed her birth name as a version of Brotman on their marriage records, and the death record of her daughter Gussie also listed Sarah’s birth name as Brotman. Brotman, of course, was my great-grandfather Joseph’s surname.


Two records, however, indicated that her birth name might have been Brod.  The birth record of her daughter Rosie in 1902 indicated that her birth name was something different—Braud, which appeared to be a phonetic equivalent to Brod. Brod or Brot was what I believed was the birth name of my great-grandmother Bessie.  And the marriage record of Sarah’s son Morris in 1919 reported Sarah’s birth name to have been Brod.


So was Sarah a sister of Joseph or a sister of Bessie? Since she had named one child Bessie and one Joseph, the naming patterns weren’t helpful and were in fact bewildering.  Was neither Joseph nor Bessie her sibling?

And their residences in the US also presented confusing evidence.  Sarah first had lived near the Brotmans, who settled in Pittsgrove, New Jersey; then she and Sam had moved across the street from my great-grandmother Bessie after Joseph Brotman died in 1901.  Had Sarah moved to help her sister? Or her sister-in-law? Nothing was definitive.

As I indicated in my last post, a great-grandchild of Sam and Sarah Goldfarb, my cousin Sue, sent me extensive family history notes that someone in her extended family had compiled back in the 1980s.  I will refer to these materials as the “Goldfarb family research.” There were no original documents in these papers, but rather handwritten charts and notes that someone had recorded based on the research he or she had done.

I scoured those notes looking for additional clues.  Most of the information about Sam and Sarah Goldfarb confirmed what I’d already found.  There was also a lot of information about Sam Goldfarb’s siblings and their families and descendants.  Although these were not my genetic relatives, I nevertheless added them to my family tree and looked at the notes carefully, thinking that this information might also lead me to clues about my own relatives. Most importantly, the genealogist who compiled the Goldfarb family research agreed with my conclusion that the Sam and Sarah had come from Grebow, Poland, the same town I had visited in 2015 and the town that my great-uncles David and Abraham Brotman had listed as their home on their ship manifest in 1889.  That was reassuring.

David and Abe Brodmann on the Portia 1889

David and Abe Brodmann on the Portia 1889 Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Microfilm No.: S_13156

Perhaps the most useful part of the Goldfarb family research were the notes that reflected more recent marriages and births and deaths than I had yet located and the names of descendants and their spouses. For example, although I had been able to find information that indicated that Joseph Goldfarb, Sam and Sarah’s fifth child, had married a woman named Rebecca “Betty” Amer, I did not know when or where they had married. According to the Goldfarb family research, Joe and Betty had married on September 17, 1922, in Brooklyn.  But I cannot find any entry in the NYC marriage index on either Ancestry or FamilySearch or through Steve Morse’s website to confirm that.

Since their first child Marvin was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1923, I thought that perhaps Joe and Betty had married in New Jersey, not Brooklyn.  I asked my researcher in New Jersey whether she could find a marriage record for them in New Jersey, but after a diligent search, she was unable to find a marriage record there either. Perhaps Joe and Betty never filed a marriage certificate?

Meanwhile, I continued searching for the Goldfarbs going forward from 1920 where I’d left off.  In 1925, Sam and Sarah were still living on Williams Avenue in Brooklyn with their daughter Rose, who was now 22.  Sam (listed here as Solomon) was no longer working.  Living at the same address were Sam and Sarah’s son Morris and his family; Morris was a grocery store owner.

Sam and Sarah Goldfarb 1920 US census Year: 1920; Census Place: Brooklyn Assembly District 2, Kings, New York; Roll: T625_1146; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 82; Image: 21

Sam and Sarah Goldfarb 1920 US census
Year: 1920; Census Place: Brooklyn Assembly District 2, Kings, New York; Roll: T625_1146; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 82; Image: 21

In 1925, Julius and Ida Goldfarb were living in Jersey City, according to the Jersey City directory for that year.  Listed right above Julius is a Joseph Goldfarb, and listed right below him is a Leo Goldfarb.  Although I could not be sure, I assumed that these were Julius’ brothers Joe and Leo (especially since Leo was not living with his parents in Brooklyn according to the 1925 NY census).

Jersey City directory 1925 U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Original sources vary according to directory

Jersey City directory 1925 U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.
Original data: Original sources vary according to directory

That was then confirmed when I searched for their sister Bessie (Goldfarb) and her husband Meyer Malzberg.  I had not been able to find them on the 1920 US census nor on the 1925 NY census, but when I saw that their first child Burton was born in 1923 in Jersey City, I decided to check that 1925 Jersey City directory for the Malzberg family.  Sure enough, there they were living at 247 Montgomery Street in Jersey City, the same address listed for Leo Goldfarb.  So in 1925, four of Sam and Sarah’s six surviving children were living in Jersey City; only Rose and Morris were still living in Brooklyn.

1925 Jersey City directory U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Original sources vary according to directory.

1925 Jersey City directory U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.
Original data: Original sources vary according to directory.

Then on October 4, 1926, Sam (Solomon) Goldfarb died at age seventy.  I ordered a copy of his death certificate:


Sam had died from heart disease.  His father’s name was Julius; obviously, Sam and Sarah had named their firstborn son for Sam’s father.

But the one item that made me stop when I obtained this record was Sam’s birthplace: “Tarnobjek, Austria.”  I knew this must have been Tarnobrzeg—the very town I had visited in 2015, the place also known as Dzikow, the place I had long assumed was the home of my great-grandparents, Bessie Brod and Joseph Brotman, and that is only a few miles from Grebow.  Here was one more piece of the puzzle helping me corroborate that Tarnobrzeg and its immediate environs was where my great-grandparents had lived before emigrating from Galicia.

After Sam died, Sarah continued to live on Williams Avenue with her daughter Rose, and by 1930 her son Leo had moved back there as well.  He was working as real estate salesman. Morris was also still living on Williams Avenue, though now in a different building down the block; he was still the owner of a grocery store.

Sarah Goldfarb 1930 US census

Sarah Goldfarb 1930 US census Year: 1930; Census Place: Brooklyn, Kings, New York; Roll: 1493; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 1220; Image: 15.0; FHL microfilm: 2341228

Julius and Joe Goldfarb and their families were still living in Jersey City in 1930; Julius was the owner of a real estate business, and Joe was working as a salesman for a biscuit company.  Bessie was also living in New Jersey in North Bergen where her husband Meyer Malzberg owned a delicatessen.

Julius Goldfarb and family 1930 US census, lines 40-45 Year: 1930; Census Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: 1352; Page: 29A; Enumeration District: 0075; Image: 209.0; FHL microfilm: 2341087

Julius Goldfarb and family 1930 US census, lines 40-45
Year: 1930; Census Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: 1352; Page: 29A; Enumeration District: 0075; Image: 209.0; FHL microfilm: 2341087

Bessie Goldfarb and Meyer Malzberg 1930 US census

Bessie Goldfarb and Meyer Malzberg 1930 US census Year: 1930; Census Place: North Bergen, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: 1358; Page: 20A; Enumeration District: 0351; Image: 859.0; FHL microfilm: 2341093

Joseph Goldfarb and family 1930 US census

Joseph Goldfarb and family 1930 US census Year: 1930; Census Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: 1355; Page: 24A; Enumeration District: 0152; Image: 753.0; FHL microfilm: 2341090

Sarah Goldfarb, like her husband Sam, died when she was seventy years old; she died on July 2, 1937.  Her death certificate was the most important and the most revealing of all the vital records I ordered for the Goldfarb family:

goldfarb-sarah-death-page-1 goldfarb-sarah-death-page-2-resized

Her son Joseph, the informant on the death certificate, reported that Sarah, who died from hypertension complicated by diabetes, was the daughter of Joseph Brod and Gittel Schwartz. I stared at this record for many minutes.  This was a huge revelation.

Joseph is the same name listed on my great-grandmother Bessie’s death certificate as the name of her father.  That certificate had named her mother as Bessie Broat, but I was and remain convinced that the informant, Bessie’s bereaved second husband Philip Moskowitz, was confused and thought he’d been asked for Bessie’s maiden name, not her mother’s maiden name.  Notice also that Bessie, like Sarah, suffered from diabetes.

Bessie was Joseph's second wife and mother of five children

Bessie Brotman Moskowitz

In addition, on Bessie’s marriage certificate from her marriage to Philip, she had given her father’s name as Josef Brotman and her mother’s as Gitel Brotman.

bessie philip marriage certificate

Things were starting to make more sense—to some degree.  It was starting to look like Sarah Goldfarb was my great-grandmother’s sister, not my great-grandfather’s sister.  Sarah and Bessie both had parents named Joseph and Gittel.  They both had suffered from diabetes. They both had daughters named Gussie or Gittel.

The naming patterns are fascinating.  In Eastern Europe, Ashkenazi Jews followed certain traditions in naming their children.  First, a child was to be named for a deceased relative, not a living relative.  Second, although there were no strict rules, generally children were named for the closest deceased relative—a parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, and so on.

Sam and Sarah named their first son Julius for Sam’s father; their second son Morris was not named for Sarah’s father Joseph, suggesting that Joseph Brod was still alive when Morris was born.  But when her third son was born in 1897, she did name him Joseph, presumably for her father, who must have by that time died. That would mean that my presumed great-great-grandfather Joseph Brod died between 1886 and 1897.

The same rules would generally apply to the naming of daughters. Sam and Sarah named their first daughter Gittel, presumably for Sarah and Bessie’s mother Gittel Schwartz Brod.  Gittel (Gussie) Goldfarb was born in 1890, suggesting that Sarah and Bessie’s mother was deceased by then. My great-grandmother Bessie named her first daughter Tillie in 1884, which might indicate that her mother Gittel was still alive.  But when she had my grandmother in 1895, her second daughter, she named her Gittel, presumably for her mother. Thus, Gittel Schwartz, my presumed great-great-grandmother, must have died between 1884 when Tillie was born and 1890 when Gittel Goldfarb was born.

So at first I thought I had solved the mystery and thought that Sarah had to have been Bessie’s sister.  But then things started getting murky again.  Why did some records refer to Sarah’s birth name as Brotman, some as Brod? Why did records sometimes refer to Bessie’s birth name as Brot or Brod, sometimes as Brotman? What the heck did this all mean? Were these really two versions of the same name?

And then I recalled that the ship manifest that I had assumed was possibly the one listing my great-grandfather used the name Yossel Brod.  I wasn’t sure this was in fact my great-grandfather, but if it was, why was he using the name Brod, not Brotman?

Joseph Brotman ship manifest

Yossel Brod on ship manifest Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Microfilm No.: S_13155

I know that family lore says that my great-grandparents, Joseph Brotman and Bessie Brod, were cousins.  I know also that sometimes children in Eastern Europe used their mother’s names as surnames, not their father’s names.  Could Joseph Brotman, my great-grandfather, have been the son of a woman named Brod who was a sibling of the Joseph Brod who fathered Sarah and Bessie? Or was it the other way around? I have no record for Joseph Brotman’s mother’s name aside from the reference on his death certificate to “Yetta.” Moses Brotman’s death certificate lists his mother as Sadie Burstein.  Neither helps me here at all. And I’ve no idea how accurate either is anyway.

Unfortunately, the Goldfarb family research papers did not shed any further light on this question either, but merely contained the same information I’d found on the actual records about Sam and Sarah.

What am I to make of this? I have asked one of the Goldfarb descendants to take a DNA test, but given my experiences with DNA testing, I don’t hold out hope for much clarity from the results. But it’s worth a try.  If anyone else has any ideas or reactions, please let me know your thoughts.

The big question remains: was Sarah Brot(man) Goldfarb a sibling of my great-grandmother Bessie? Or a sibling of my great-grandfather Joseph? What do you think?

And perhaps even more importantly, are Brod/Brot/Brodman/Brothman/Brotman all really the same surname?

But the story continues when I turned to the question of … who was Taube Hecht? And it gets even better.




Who was Sarah Goldfarb? Searching for Answers

In my last post, I described the research path I followed to determine whether and how Julius and Joe Goldfarb were related to my grandmother Gussie Brotman. After much searching, I had established the following with some degree of certainty:

Julius and Joseph Goldfarb were both sons of Sam and Sarah Goldfarb.  Sarah and Sam had lived in Grombow/Grebow, Poland, before immigrating to the United States, which was the same town my great-uncles Abraham Brotman and David Brotman had listed as their home on the ship manifest when they immigrated in 1889.  Sam Goldfarb had arrived in 1892, Sarah in 1896.  Sarah came with four children, Julius (Joel), Morris (Moische), Gussie (Gitel), and Bessie (Pesie).  They had sailed to Philadelphia, and in 1900, they were living in Pittsgrove, New Jersey, where my great-grandfather’s brother Moses Brotman was also residing.  By that time, Sarah and Sam (called Solomon on the 1900 census) had had two more children: Joseph and Leo (or Lewis).  Sam was working as a tailor, perhaps even in my grandmother’s first cousin Abraham Brotman’s factory in Pittsgrove, New Jersey.

Sam Goldfarb and family 1900 US census Year: 1900; Census Place: Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey; Roll: 993; Page: 17B; Enumeration District: 0179; FHL microfilm: 1240993

Sam Goldfarb and family 1900 US census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey; Roll: 993; Page: 17B; Enumeration District: 0179; FHL microfilm: 1240993

By 1902, Sam and Sarah had moved to the Lower East Side of New York City where their seventh child, Rosie, was born on February 9, 1902.  They were living across the street from my grandmother and her family on Ridge Street; my great-grandmother Bessie (Brod) Brotman was then a widow, as my great-grandfather Joseph Brotman had died in 1901.  According to the 1905 census, Sam Goldfarb was working as a cloak maker.

Sam Goldfarb and family 1905 NY census New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1905; Election District: A.D. 12 E.D. 06; City: Manhattan; County: New York; Page: 32

Sam Goldfarb and family 1905 NY census
New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1905; Election District: A.D. 12 E.D. 06; City: Manhattan; County: New York; Page: 32

In 1910, the Goldfarbs were living on Avenue C in New York, and Sam was still working as a tailor in a cloak factory.  Their son Julius was working as a conductor on a street car, and Morris as a cutter in a neckwear factory.

Sam Goldfarb and family 1910 US census, lines 8-17 Year: 1910; Census Place: Manhattan Ward 11, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1012; Page: 17A; Enumeration District: 0259; FHL microfilm: 1375025

Sam Goldfarb and family 1910 US census, lines 8-17
Year: 1910; Census Place: Manhattan Ward 11, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1012; Page: 17A; Enumeration District: 0259; FHL microfilm: 1375025

In April 1910, Sam and Sarah’s daughter Gussie married Max Katz, a window decorator who was born in Russia; on the 1910 census, Gussie and Max are listed as living with Max’s parents in Brooklyn. According to the marriage index on FamilySearch, Gussie Goldfarb’s mother’s birth name was “Brohmen,” one of the clues that made me think that Sarah was a relative of my great-grandfather, Joseph Brotman.

In 1915, Gussie and Max had moved out on their own and were living on Malta Street in Brooklyn.  Max was working in the men’s clothing business.

Gussie Goldfarb and Max Katz 1915 NY census New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 51; Assembly District: 22; City: New York; County: Kings; Page: 148

Gussie Goldfarb and Max Katz 1915 NY census
New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 51; Assembly District: 22; City: New York; County: Kings; Page: 148

I found another clue for Sarah’s birth name on her son Julius’ marriage license, as indexed on FamilySearch: Sarah Brothman.  Julius married Ida Hecht in November, 1913. In 1915, Sam and Sarah and the remaining five unmarried children (Morris, Bessie, Joe, Leo, and Rose) were still living on Avenue C in the same building as my great-uncle Hyman Brotman and his family.  Sam was still working as a tailor, as was his son Morris.

Based on these two New York City marriage index listings, one for the marriage of Gussie Goldfarb and one for the marriage of Julius Goldfarb, it looked like their mother Sarah’s birth name was Brothman or Brohmen.  To find out more, I would need to order the actual records plus any other vital records that might reveal Sarah’s parentage and family.  So I ordered these two marriage records; I also ordered the birth record for Sarah and Sam’s last child, Rosie.

The marriage record for Gussie was consistent with the information on the NYC marriage index, except that it was evident that Gussie’s mother’s name was not spelled Brohmen, but Brotmen, on the actual certificate.

katz-goldfarb-marriage-page-1 katz-goldfarb-marriage-page-2

The actual marriage record for Julius Brotman and Ida Hecht was also consistent with what I’d seen on the index in terms of Sarah’s birth name—Brothman.  But the record revealed a new mystery.

goldfarb-hecht-marriage-page-3 goldfarb-hecht-marriage-page-4

Ida’s mother’s birth name certainly looks like it was Taube Brotman, doesn’t it? (The index said Braitmer.) Who was this? Perhaps Taube Hecht had come to see my aunt as a baby not simply because her daughter Ida was married to my grandmother’s cousin Julius; maybe she came because she herself was a Brotman relative.  I decided to put that mystery aside for the time being and focus on Sarah Goldfarb.

And Rosie Goldfarb’s birth record made me really scratch my head. It gave Sarah Goldfarb’s name before marriage as S. Braud or maybe Brand.  Not Brotman or Brothman or Brotmen.  I was confused.  Was it Brod? Was Sarah actually my great-grandmother Bessie Brod’s sister, and not the sister of my great-grandfather Joseph Brotman.  Obviously I needed to do more digging.


Having first worked backward in time, I now worked from 1915 forward to see what else I might find to help me determine if Sarah Goldfarb was a Brod or a Brotman.  Both Julius and his brother Morris registered for the draft in World War I.  I’d already seen the draft registration card for Julius, but had not seen the card for Morris.  It added no new information, but confirmed that he was born in “Grombow Galicia Austria.”[1]


Morris Goldfarb World War I draft registration Registration State: New York; Registration County: New York; Roll: 1765780; Draft Board: 104

On February 2, 1919, Morris married Anna Grinbaum in Brooklyn, according to the NYC marriage index.  I ordered a copy of his marriage record, and his record listed his mother’s birth name as Sarah Brod.  Now I had two records that indicated Sarah’s birth name was not Brotman, like my great-grandfather, but Brod, like my great-grandmother.  I wanted to hit my head against the wall!



Tragedy struck the Goldfarb family when Sarah and Sam’s oldest daughter, Gussie, died on May 13, 1919 at age 29 from acute lobar pneumonia.  As far as I can tell, Gussie and her husband Max Katz had not had any children.  On Gussie’s death certificate, her parents’ names are listed as Solomon Goldfarb and Sarah Brotman.  Another point for Brotman.


In 1920, Sam and Sarah only had three children still living with them: Joe (22), Leo (20), and Rose (18).  Joe and Leo were both working as clerks for an express company, and Rose was working as a dressmaker.  Sam was no longer working; he was now 64 years old. They were living on Williams Avenue in Brooklyn; I now knew that the “S. Goldfarb” on Williams Avenue listed in my grandfather’s notebook had to be either Sam or Sarah Goldfarb.

Sam and Sarah Goldfarb 1920 US census Year: 1920; Census Place: Brooklyn Assembly District 2, Kings, New York; Roll: T625_1146; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 82; Image: 21

Sam and Sarah Goldfarb 1920 US census
Year: 1920; Census Place: Brooklyn Assembly District 2, Kings, New York; Roll: T625_1146; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 82; Image: 21

Grandpa notebook 13 more addresses Joe Goldfarb

But where was their daughter Bessie? She had been living with the family in 1915, so I assumed she had married sometime between 1915 and 1920.  I searched for her in the NYC marriage index, but there was no listing for a Bessie Goldfarb.  Instead I found this record from the Michigan marriage database on Ancestry:


Meyer Malzberg and Bessie Goldfarb marriage record 1914 Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867–1952. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics.

Meyer Malzberg and Bessie Goldfarb marriage record 1914 Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015.
Original data: Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867–1952. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics.

The top image shows the bride and groom, Bessie Goldfarb and Meyer Malzberg, their ages, and that they were residing in Detroit.  It also shows their birthplaces, and for Bessie it is Austria.  The lower image shows the father’s first name, Sam for Bessie, and then the mother’s birth names.  Although it is partly hidden by the fold on the page, it definitely looks like “ah Brothman.”

This is most definitely my cousin Bessie Goldfarb: she was born in “Austria,” her father was named Sam, her mother Sarah Brothman.  But why was she a resident of Detroit? And how did she knew Meyer Malzberg?  And most confusing, if she married him on August 9, 1914 as this record reports, was she really living back in Brooklyn when the NY census was taken in 1915?

It got even more bewildering.  In 1910, Meyer Malzberg was living with his father and sister in New York City, working as a stock clerk in a department store.  In fact, although he was born in Russia, he and his family had been living in New York City since their arrival in about 1900 (records conflict).  So what were he and Bessie doing in Detroit in 1914?

In June, 1917, when Meyer registered for the World War I draft, he was still living in Detroit, working as a driver for the Detroit Creamery Company.  He also claimed an exemption from service because he was supporting his father, his wife, and a child.  So by 1917, Meyer and Bessie had had a child.

Meyer Malzberg World War I draft registration Registration State: Michigan; Registration County: Wayne; Roll: 2024027; Draft Board: 06

Meyer Malzberg World War I draft registration
Registration State: Michigan; Registration County: Wayne; Roll: 2024027; Draft Board: 06

But if Meyer and Bessie had had a child between 1914 and 1917, why was Bessie living with her parents in New York in 1915 while Meyer was still apparently living in Detroit? A little more research revealed that that first child, a son named Norman, was born in New York in May, 1915; although the NY census is dated on the form as June 1, 1915, it must have been actually enumerated before then since the baby is not listed.


My best guess is that Bessie had come back to New York to have her baby where her family was living while Meyer stayed in Detroit to earn a living.  Unfortunately, I was unable to find Bessie and Meyer on the 1920 census, but their second child Gustave was born in Brooklyn in 1919 and their two youngest sons Burton and Saul were born in Jersey City in the 1920s.

Obviously, the stay in Detroit was relatively short-lived, and Meyer and Bessie had returned to the New York metropolitan area before 1920.  In fact, when I looked back at my grandfather’s notebook, I noticed that there was an entry for M. Malzberg at 361 2d Street, JC, or Jersey CIty:

Grandpa notebook 13 more addresses Joe Goldfarb

Bessie’s brother Julius and his family were also living in Jersey City in 1920, and Julius was continuing to work in the liquor business; by 1920, they had two young daughters, Sylvia and Gertrude.

Julius Goldfarb and family 1920 US census lines 70-73 Year: 1920; Census Place: Jersey City Ward 3, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: T625_1043; Page: 17B; Enumeration District: 135; Image: 1104

Julius Goldfarb and family 1920 US census
lines 70-73
Year: 1920; Census Place: Jersey City Ward 3, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: T625_1043; Page: 17B; Enumeration District: 135; Image: 1104

To review: as of 1920, Sam and Sarah Goldfarb were living with their children Joe, Leo, and Rose in Brooklyn; Julius and Ida were living in Jersey City; Morris and Anna were probably living in Brooklyn; Gussie was deceased; and Bessie and Meyer were living in either Jersey City or in Brooklyn.

At this point in my research, I started to move beyond 1920 and to look for living descendants to see what I might learn about the family and specifically about Sarah Goldfarb.  I was very fortunate to find two of the descendants of Julius and Ida (Hecht) Goldfarb.  And they provided me with extensive family history notes that a member of the Goldfarb family had researched years before.  More on what I learned from that research in my next post.

But for now, a summary of the clues I’d found so far about Sarah Goldfarb’s connection to my grandmother: three marriage records and one death record for Sarah’s children indicated that Sarah’s birth name had been “Brot(h)man,” but one marriage record for Morris and one birth record for Rose said it was “Brod” or “Braud.”

The evidence seemed to weigh in favor of Sarah being perhaps a sibling of my great-grandfather Joseph Brotman.  Also pointing in that direction was the fact that when they first came to the US, Sam and Sarah had lived in the same town as Moses Brotman, my great-grandfather’s brother.

But then by 1902, Sarah and Sam had moved across the street from my great-grandmother after my great-grandfather had died.  Did that suggest that Sarah was Bessie’s sister and had moved to New York to be closer to her widowed sister? Was Sarah a Brod, not a Brotman, as the wedding certificate for Morris and Rose’s birth certificate indicated?

Plus there were some conflicting clues raised by the naming pattern.  If Sarah had a sister named Bessie (my great-grandmother), would she have named a child Bessie? But Sarah also had a son named Joseph who was born before my great-grandfather Joseph Brotman died.  Would she have given a son the same name as her brother?  Ashkenazi Jews don’t name their children after living relatives, so these name choices certainly confused the matter.

The evidence certainly was not conclusive.  I needed more.






[1] Although the documents I found spelled the town several different ways, Grembow, Grombow, and Grebow, I believe that the last is the correct spelling.  I searched JewishGen, and the only town with a name similar to those names that had had a Jewish community before the Holocaust was Grebow, the town I visited in 2015, the town right near Tarnobrzeg.