A Brickwall: Where Were Sam and Katie Born? Help Wanted!

You know how I’ve always belittled DNA results as a genealogy tool for people like me—an Ashkenazi Jew whose results show literally thousands of matches, most of whom are not possibly traceable as an actual relative? Well, I am eating my words, though just a little, because recently I found an actual Brotman match on Ancestry. And since my Brotman line presents the biggest brick walls, any new Brotman connection is exciting.

My new cousin is the great-grandson of Moses Brotman’s daughter Kate. Moses Brotman was my great-grandfather Joseph Brotman’s brother, making my new cousin my third cousin, once removed. He connected me to his brother, and we have been working together to research more about the family.

Moses Brotman, courtesy of the Brotman family

Kate’s great-grandsons were interested in knowing when and where Kate was born, and that led us down a very convoluted and confusing path. To state it very briefly and then to delve into the details, every US record for Kate indicated she was born in the US—either New York or New Jersey or Pennsylvania. The earliest three census records for her all say New York with later ones reporting her birthplace as New Jersey and then the 1940 census reporting it as Pennsylvania. That’s confusing enough, but that’s not the big mystery.

What really is puzzling is that Kate’s younger brother Samuel (consistently recorded as a year or two younger than Kate) is generally reported in US records to have been born in Europe—sometimes listed as Austria, sometimes as Russia—but is occasionally reported to have been born in the US—New Jersey twice and once in Pennsylvania. That raised an interesting question: how could Moses have had a child in New York (Kate) and then a later-born child (Samuel) back in Europe? Had Moses returned to Europe after Kate was born? Did Kate and Samuel have different mothers? Different fathers?

That sent me back to search again for anything that might help answer these questions. I also want to acknowledge all the kind people at Tracing the Tribe who tried to sort all this out for me.

First, I looked at any ship manifests I could find for Moses Brotman. I found one barely legible one indexed as Maritz Breidmann, 34 years old, coming from Austria in 1882. He would have been roughly the right age (I have no reliable birth information for Moses—every record differs, but generally show he was born sometime between 1840 and 1860.). He was sailing without any other family member. Could this be Moses? I can’t be sure.

Maritz Breidmann ship manifest, Year: 1882; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 456; Line: 1; List Number: 1220
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957

Moses’ naturalization papers state that he immigrated to the US in 1885. But note that Moses could not sign his name. Was he able to read the form in English? Could it really have been 1882? Did he even remember exactly what year it was when he immigrated?

Moses Brotman, naturalization papers, New Jersey, County Naturalization Records, 1749-1986,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-29863-26750-98?cc=2057433&wc=M73R-4NL:351145001,351187001 : accessed 30 April 2015), Salem Petitions for naturalization 1888-1895

On the 1900 census, Moses reported that he arrived in the US in 1886. The 1920 census states he came in 1887. The 1930 census says 1898! But he was naturalized in 1894, so it had to be earlier than 1898 for certain. All this points to Moses’ inability to report dates consistently.

The only other ship manifests I could locate for someone with a name close to Moses Brotman were these two. First, a manifest for the ship leaving from Rotterdam on July 20, 1891:

Moses Brodman and family, 1891 ship manifest, Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Volume: 373-7 I, VIII B 1 Band 091; Page: 1626; Microfilm No.: S_13162, Staatsarchiv Hamburg. Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934

On this manifest, Moses Brodman of Grembow is sailing with five family members: Chane (48?), Mosche (28), Chane (10), Gitel (8), and Abraham (half a year old). There is something puzzling here—would a mother and daughter have had the same name?

One factor supporting that this Moses Brodman was my great-grandfather’s brother is that Grembow is a small town in what is today Poland (at that time part of Austria-Hungary known as Galicia) neighboring Tarnobrzeg where Joseph Brotman lived; it is also the town that two of my grandmother’s brothers, Abraham and David, listed as their home on the ship manifests when they immigrated (see the last two entries on the manifest below, above Goldfarb). So I feel fairly certain that this probably is the right Moses Brotman.

David and Abe Brodmann on the Portia 1889, Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Volume: 373-7 I, VIII B 1 Band 079; Page: 1373; Microfilm No.: S_13156 Description Month: Indirekt Band 079 (1 Jul 1889 – 30 Sep 1889) Source Information Staatsarchiv Hamburg. Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934

The second manifest I found is that of the family’s arrival in New York on August 6, 1891:

Moses Brotman and family, ship manifest 1891, Year: 1891; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 573; Line: 6; List Number: 1171
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957

The manifest lists Moses (45), Chane (28), Morsche (10), Chane (8), Gitil (3), and Abraham (half a year old), coming from Russia. I should point out that Grembow was at one time very close to the Russian border with what is now Poland.

Note the inconsistencies from the first manifest with respect to the ages of the children. Gitel is now reported to be three, not eight, the younger Chane is now eight, not ten, and Morsche has gone from 28 to ten. Only little Abraham has stayed the same age from one manifest to the next. Mosche/Morsche has also changed from male to female on the later manifest. And Chane, the older one, has lost twenty years—from 48 to 28. I think the best explanation is that the clerk in Rotterdam wrote the ages on the wrong line since the age for Moses is crossed out. So Morsche/Mosche was really ten, Chana eight, Gitel three, and Abraham six months old in August 1891.

I believe, based on several documents,  that Gitel was the girl who grew up to become Kate Brotman. First, my new cousins sent me this document, a wedding contract for their great-grandparents Kate Brotman and Abraham Allen. The names on the contract  in Hebrew/Yiddish are Gitel daughter of Moses and Avraham son of Gedaliahu. That means that Kate’s Hebrew/Yiddish name was Gitel, just like the little girl on the ship manifest. (Thanks again to Tracing the Tribe for translating this document.)

In addition, the first record I have for Moses Brotman and his family in the US after his naturalization paper is the 1895 New Jersey census:

Morris Brotman, 1895 New Jersey census, Ancestry.com. New Jersey, State Census, 1895

It shows them living in Pittsgrove, New Jersey, with the following household members: Morris, Clara (presumably Chane), Bennie (a foreign born male in the 5-20 age group; this was Moses’ son Benjamin from his first marriage, as I wrote about here), and then five younger children: daughters Sadie, Katie, and Lillie, and sons Samuel and Abraham. All five children are listed as native born, I assume incorrectly. Lillie, Samuel, and Abraham are all listed in the under five years old age group while Sadie and Katie are in the 5-20 age group.

How do we make sense of this as compared to the ship manifest from 1891? Not too easily. First, can we assume that Sadie is the younger Chane from the ship manifest? I might be able to find an answer to that question from her gravestone, if her Hebrew name remained Chane. Since the older Chane became Clara (at least in 1895) and Gitel became Kate, it seems likely that the younger Chane’s name was also changed in the US. Sadie’s birth year is almost always reported to be 1884 or at latest 1885 and she is always reported to be born in Austria, so she seems to match the younger Chane on the ship manifest fairly well. Maybe her name on the manifest wasn’t correct in the first place.

And what happened to Mosche/Morsche, the son or daughter who was either 28 or 10? I’ve no idea.

Then there is Katie on the 1895 NJ census. She seems to match the Gitel on the ship manifest, being over five by 1895 if three in 1891. Abraham is also a match—under five in 1895.  Lillie is not on the manifest, but that’s not surprising as she was born in New Jersey on February 2, 1892, just six months after the date of the arrival manifest above.

But what about Samuel? Where does he fit in? He is not on the 1891 manifest. How did he become part of the family? Was he born after they arrived?

Let’s look at the next census record we have for Moses and his family, the 1900 US census.

Moses Brotman and family, 1900 US census, Census Place: Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey; Page: 18; Enumeration District: 0179; FHL microfilm: 1240993
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census

It finds Moses in Pittsgrove, age 55, born November 1844, in Austria. His wife Chay is 35, born in Austria in March 1865, and they report that they have been married sixteen years so since about 1884, the year Sadie is generally reported to have been born. In fact, Sadie’s birth date here is given as April 1884, and her birthplace is Austria.

Then we get to Katie and Samuel. Katie’s birth date is March 1887, which is somewhat consistent with Gitel’s age of three on the second manifest in 1891. But her birthplace is New York, not Austria. And that seems consistent with this birth record for a Gitel Brotman born to Morris Brotman in New York City on March 24, 1888.

But if Kate was born in New York in 1888, why was she on a ship coming to America in 1891? And who is Annie Lebel, the woman listed as her mother?

And what about Samuel? The 1900 census reports that he was born October 1889 in Austria. So he wasn’t born after the family arrived in 1891, but in Europe in 1889. Why isn’t he on that ship manifest?

On that note, notice that the census record shows that Moses, Chay, and Sadie immigrated in 1886, but that Samuel immigrated in 1891. How do we make any sense out of that?

And where is Abraham? He would have been about nine in 1900, but he is missing from the census. I cannot find Abraham at all after the 1895 census. There does not appear to be a death record for him or any other record. He just disappeared. Like Morsche/Mosche.

It doesn’t get better with the 1905 NJ census.

Moses Brotman and family, 1905 New Jersey census, New Jersey State Archive; Trenton, NJ, USA; State Census of New Jersey, 1905; Reference Number: L-14; Film Number: 38
Ancestry.com. New Jersey, State Census, 1905

First of all, Kate isn’t listed at all nor is Sadie. Sadie had married in 1901 and moved to New York, but Kate didn’t marry Abraham Allen until 1907, so she is just missing and doesn’t appear elsewhere on the NJ census. Perhaps she’d gone to live somewhere out of state.  Samuel’s birth date is now August 1890, and his birthplace is still Austria. Moses and Clara’s birth dates have also changed since the 1895 NJ census.

Things continue in this inconsistent way with the 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940 US census records as well as with Samuel’s draft records for both World War I and World War II and his 1919 marriage license. Rather than describe each of these documents, I prepared this chart that shows the birthplaces and dates (or ages) for Kate and Samuel on these records. You may have to click on the image to zoom in and read it.

You can see that Kate never reports a European birth and that Samuel sometimes does, sometimes does not.  You also can see that Kate’s birth date jumps around as does Samuel’s birth date, but that Kate is always older than Samuel. Kate is always reported to have been born in the US, though the last two census records report New Jersey and Pennsylvania, not New York. Samuel’s birthplace is even less consistent—Austria, Austria, Russia, New Jersey, Austria, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, Russia, New Jersey. Yikes!

What are we to make of all this? I have a couple of theories.

  1. Moses and Chane/Clara/Chay (later Ida) came to the US before 1888, had Katie, and returned to Europe with her, had Samuel and Abraham in Europe, and then returned to the US in 1891. Supporting this theory is this birth certificate for a Gitel Brotman. Problems with this theory: There is no manifest showing Chane or Sadie arriving in the US before 1888. The mother’s name on the NYC birth certificate doesn’t match Chane, though Annie is pretty close. But later records show that Chane/Clara/Ida’s birth surname was Reis, not Lebel.  Could this be a different mother? If so, what happened to her? I cannot find any other records for her. Did Annie Lebel die, leading Moses to return to Europe with Gitel/Kate and bring Chane back with the other children? Also, if Samuel was born in Europe before 1891, why isn’t he on the manifest with his family in 1891?
  2. Kate was born in Europe but for some reason was told and always believed that she was born in the US. Problems with this theory: Why would her parents have done this from 1895 on? And how does that explain the birth certificate seen above? And why lie about Kate’s birthplace, but then have Samuel’s birth taking place in Europe?
  3. Samuel was not the biological child of Moses and Chane Brotman, but a child they adopted into their family after arriving in the US. This would explain why Samuel was not with the family on the 1891 ship manifest. It’s also supported by the fact that the 1900 census records a different date of immigration for Moses, Chay, and Sadie (1885) than for Samuel (1891), even though those dates are not consistent with the ship manifests I found for Moses, Chay, and Sadie. But then when did Samuel immigrate? Or was he actually born in the US?

Where do I go from here? I have located a descendant of Samuel Brotman. I could ask her to do a DNA test to see if she matches me and Kate’s great-grandsons as closely as the records suggest.  Both Kate and Samuel died too recently for me, as a non-descendant, to obtain their death certificates, but perhaps one of the direct descendants can get access to those. I just am skeptical that those certificates will have any information that is any more reliable than all the other US records.

What do you all think? What would you do next?

 

 

Interview on Pioneer Valley Radio

I was recently interviewed by Bernadette Duncan on Pioneer Valley Radio about my novel Pacific Street and about genealogy research in general. I hope you find it interesting.

You can find it here.

pacific street

You can buy my book here.

Earliest Memories

Before I return to the other children of my three-times great-uncle Abraham Goldsmith, one more post inspired indirectly by his son Milton.

My final post about Milton referred to the comment in his 1957 obituary in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent that Milton remembered when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. I noted that Milton was only four years old at that time. One of my readers commented that he also could remember a traumatic event from when he was four, and another reader shared her first memory from when she was two and a half. That made me think about the first specific event that I can remember in my own life. I have earlier vague memories, but this is the first clear memory of an event.

I was almost three years old at the time, and my family was spending the summer near Mahopac, New York, on a pond called Long Pond. My aunt and uncle were also there, as were my grandparents. We went to Long Pond for three summers when I was very young. My father and my uncle would return to New York City during the week for work and then come back to Long Pond on weekends. I learned to swim at Long Pond, and I mostly have very vague sense-memories of the place, reinforced by photographs and my uncle’s old home movies.

My mother, me and and my aunt summer 1953 at Long Pond

My cousin Jeff, my father, and me, Long Pond 1954

summer 1955 at Long Pond

 

But the one specific event that I remember very clearly from that third summer at Long Pond was the evening I followed my cousin Jeffrey into the woods. Jeff, who was nine that summer, was my childhood idol. He was six years older than I was and the oldest of the first cousins, all of whom adored him. I have written about Jeff before, here and here, for example. He was smart and funny and lovable; he could always make us all laugh.  My entire family was heartbroken when Jeff died from cancer fourteen years ago.

Jeff and me, 1955

That summer at Long Pond, Jeff was friendly with another boy his age whose family was also staying at Long Pond. I can’t remember that boy’s name, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s call him Joe. Joe had a younger brother who was about six. Let’s call him Sam. One evening after dinner, Jeff and Joe decided to take a walk in the woods near our cabins. I wanted to go with them. I remember Jeff very pointedly telling me that I was too little and that I could not come with them. I was hurt and sad and probably made a stink, but Jeff and Joe wandered off, leaving me behind with Sam, Joe’s six year old little brother.

Then Sam said that we could follow Jeff and Joe, and so off I went, just three years old, following a six year old after two nine year olds. (This was in the days before helicopter parenting.) Before too long, I tripped over a log and fell on a sharp piece of glass, cutting my wrist very close to the vein.

I have no real memory of what happened next. Did Jeff coming running back and rescue me? Did my parents hear my screams and coming running to see what happened? All I know is that someone took me to a doctor nearby, who put butterfly clamps on my wound. To this day, I still have a very nasty two-inch scar on my right wrist.

I was never really bothered by the scar, In fact, at times when I was growing up, it helped me differentiate right from left. My mother used to tell me that someday my husband would buy me a wide gold bracelet to cover the scar. But I almost never thought about it as a child, and now I rarely notice it; nor does anyone else.

When I do look at it these days, I feel very fortunate that I avoided what could have been a much more serious injury. But mostly I look at it and remember with love my cousin Jeff. He may only have been nine at the time, but he was right. I was too little to go walking in the woods in the dusky light of summer that evening.

Jeff and me

 

What is your earliest memory? How old were you?

 

The Great Harry Coopersmith Mystery (Almost) Solved!

Back on December 5, 2017, I wrote about the documents I’d received from an Ancestry member named Dale: the death certificate of Frieda Brotman Coopersmith, my grandmother’s sister, and the military discharge papers for her husband Harry Coopersmith.

Thanks to my fellow genealogy bloggers, I re-examined these documents more carefully and observed a few things I’d missed before.

One thing I had not noticed before was that the death certificate was ordered from New York City in 1943, almost twenty years after Frieda’s death. Similarly, the military discharge certificate was recorded in the New York County Clerk’s Office in 1947, something that Cathy Meder-Dempsey of Opening Doors in Brick Walls pointed out to me:

What was happening in the 1940s that would have prompted Harry or one of his sons to order these two documents? As Luanne Castle of The Family Kalamazoo pointed out in her comment on my prior post, there must have been some reason that these documents were ordered and why the military papers were recorded with the city clerk. I’ve yet to figure out the reason, however.

There were also two photographs in Dale’s father’s papers, but neither Dale nor I could identify the men in these two photographs:

In that last post, I went through all the possible theories that Dale and I had discussed about how these papers could have ended up in her father’s possession.  Dale had no idea who Harry or Frieda were; she found me through Ancestry because they are both listed in my tree there.  Dale thought at first the source was her great-aunt Anna Yurdin Haas, but my research and analysis led me to conclude that that was not the likely source as there was no apparent connection or overlap between Harry and Anna and Burton.

Instead, I concluded that it was more likely that the connection was between Dale’s father Howard Halpern and one or more of the sons of Harry Coopersmith from his second marriage: David, Lawrence, and Samuel. Howard grew up in Long Beach, Long Island, New York, just a mile away from Island Park, Long Island, New York, where in 1940 the three Coopersmith brothers were living as boarders in the home of Jacob and Pauline Davis.

After that post was published, I received several suggestions and questions from my readers.  Two, Su Leslie of the blogs Shaking the Tree and Zimmerbitch and Charles Moore of Moore Genealogy, pointed out that sometimes things end up in the hands of complete strangers through random events and that there might have been no relationship between the Halperns and the Coopersmiths.  Others suggested more questions to ask Dale and Harry’s grandson Stan.

I contacted Dale and Stan and asked them some more questions. On the “random distribution” theory Dale told me that her father had been an avid stamp and coin collector and met many people while pursuing those hobbies; he also purchased stamp collections from other collectors. She suggested I ask Stan whether anyone in the family collected stamps. And when I asked Stan, he responded that his father Lawrence had in fact been a stamp collector. Perhaps this was how the papers ended up with Howard? Did he purchase a collection from the Coopersmiths in which these papers had been left inadvertently?

Stan told me that his father had gone to a trade school in Manhattan to become a typesetter and had settled in Seaford, New York, on Long Island after he married.  Stan’s uncles David and Sam owned a printshop in Freeport, New York, and lived with their families in Wantagh, New York, towns that are also on Long Island. Stan also said that his grandfather Harry was living in Bohemia, New York, also on Long Island, at the end of his life.

Learning of these details, Dale pointed out that her father was a reporter for the Long Island newspaper, Newsday, and that her family had lived in Levittown, not far from Wantagh and Freeport. It thus was possible that her father knew the Coopersmiths from work or from stamp collecting.

To see if I could get more answers, I decided to try to contact some of Harry’s other grandchildren, whose names I found in the obituary of one of David Coopersmith’s children. I found two of them on Facebook, and one, David’s daughter, Mindy, was able to provide me with some critical information.

First, she shared this photograph of her father, David Coopersmith:

Comparing this photograph to one of the photographs Dale had sent me, I could see that both photographs were of the same man: Harry’s oldest son David.

Mindy believes that the other photograph—of the man standing behind a Coney Island sign—is her uncle, Larry Coopersmith. Now I knew who the men were in those two photographs—two of Harry Coopersmith’s sons.

Then one of those incredible small-world coincidences occurred. The next day I received an email from my friend and fellow genealogy blogger, Sharon Haimovitz-Civitano of the Branches of our Haimowitz Family Tree and Branches on Civitano Tree blogs.  She had been on Facebook and noticed that I had commented on a photograph that Mindy had posted and wanted to know how I knew Mindy because Mindy was her very close childhood friend. My head was spinning! Sharon said that when she’d read my earlier post about Harry Coopersmith and seen the “mystery photos,” she had in fact thought that one of them resembled her friend Mindy’s father, but she had dismissed the idea, thinking it was too far-fetched—-that Coopersmith was probably a common name and that there was likely no connection despite the resemblance and the fact that Sharon and her friend Mindy had both grown up on Long Island.

I asked Sharon to vouch for me—to assure Mindy that I was honorable and only interested in figuring out who was in the photographs and how they’d ended up with Dale’s father. And she did, and just a short while later, Mindy called me, and we had a lovely chat about our overlapping families.

Mindy told me that her father David had been in the Marines during World War II and that the photographs were taken in the 1940s—consistent with the answer I’d received from Ava Cohn, the Photo Genealogist. Mindy had not known about Harry’s first marriage, and she also did not know who Howard Halpern was or how these photographs and other papers could have ended up with Howard.  Mindy suggested that I speak with her mother Vivian for more information.

The next day I spoke to Vivian, and she confirmed what Mindy had told me and also filled in more of the gaps.  After Nettie was hospitalized, Harry could not find anyone to help him care for his sons, who were all under five years old at that time. He eventually decided to place them in the Hebrew Orphanage in New York City, and the orphanage found the Davis family to act as foster parents. David, Lawrence, and Samuel went to live with the Davis family as small boys and lived there until the two older boys were old enough to join the service during World War II.

Vivian also told me that Harry had himself been a stamp collector and that when he died in 1956, his son David had inherited the stamp collection. David, however, was not a collector so he gave the collection to his brother Sam, who was. Perhaps Sam or one of his children sold Harry’s stamp collection without ever knowing that there were papers and photographs inside.

Vivian and Mindy generously shared with me some photographs of Harry and his family, helping me put faces to the names of this family who were not biologically connected to my own, but whose story was nevertheless tied to my own.

This is Harry Coopersmith during his service in the army during World War I; Vivian said he’d served in Siberia and in the Phillipines:

Harry Coopersmith in World War I
Courtesy of the Coopersmith family

This is Nettie Lichtenstein Coopersmith, Harry’s second wife:

Nettie Lichtenstein Coopersmith Courtesy of the Coopersmith family

And here are two photographs of Harry with his sons, taken after they’d been taken into foster care and thus showing that Harry maintained contact with them during their childhood:

Lawrence Coopersmith, unknown man, Samuel Coopersmith, Harry Coopersmith, and David Coopersmith Courtesy of the Coopersmith family

Harry Coopersmith and his family Courtesy of the Coopersmith family

We may never know how Howard Halpern ended up with the photographs of David and Lawrence, Harry’s discharge papers, and Frieda’s death certificate. It might have been a random event—through, for example, a sale of a stamp collection. Or maybe he knew the Coopersmiths from school or from the community or from work. But somehow he came into possession of these items and kept them safe for a long time.

Thus, the mystery is not completely solved, but the most important questions have been answered. We know the identity of the men in the photographs, and now I can return them to their family. I know more about Harry and his life after Frieda died. And best of all, I’ve found some wonderful people who are connected to me through the tragically brief marriage of Harry Coopersmith to my great-aunt Frieda, my grandmother’s little sister who died far too young.

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
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CarlLaemmle.jpg#file

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!

pacific_street_cover_for_kindle

 

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 https://www.amazon.com/dp/1541170369

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.

julius-ida-goldfarb-wedding-from-lisa-wartur

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-her-granddaughter-sue-1938

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.

relationship-bessie-brod-to-tillie-brotman

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.

relationship-of-julius-goldfarb-to-ida-hecht-better

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.

inset-from-harry-hecht-photo

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-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

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
Description
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.

tillie-hecht-death-certificate

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.