Goldfarbs 1916-1920: Years of Growth but One Tragic Loss

Sarah Brod Goldfarb’s first twenty years in the United States from 1896 to 1916 were years of change and growth. She arrived with four children and settled in Pittsgrove, New Jersey. She and her husband Sam had three more children, moved from New Jersey to New York City, and saw three of their seven children marry—Julius, Gussie, and Bessie. In addition, Sarah and Sam became grandparents during those years; Bessie and her husband Meyer Malzberg had their first child Norman, and Julius and his wife Ida had their first child Sylvia.

The next five years also saw much growth, but one tragic loss.

When the US entered World War I in 1917, Sarah’s adult sons had to register for the draft. Julius registered in Jersey City, New Jersey, where he was working as a saloon keeper in his own establishment.

Julius Goldfarb World War I draft registration, Registration State: New Jersey; Registration County: Hudson; Roll: 1712213; Draft Board: 10, Registration State: New Jersey; Registration County: Hudson Source Information Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918

Morris’ World War I draft registration shows that in 1917 he was still living at 131 Avenue C with his parents and working as an operator for the B&R Cloak and Shirt Company.

Morris Goldfarb, World War I draft registration, egistration State: New York; Registration County: New York, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918

By the time Joe Goldfarb registered in December, 1918 (after the war had ended), Sam and Sarah had moved to 526 Williams Avenue in Brooklyn. Joe was working as a claims adjuster for the American Railway Express Company.

Joseph Goldfarb World War I draft registration, Registration State: New York; Registration County: Kings, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918

And Leo, the youngest son, also was working for the American Railway Express Company and living at 526 Williams Avenue with his parents.

Leo Goldfarb World War I draft registration, Registration State: New York; Registration County: Kings, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918

As far as I can tell, none of the brothers ended up serving in the war, and Sam and Sarah were among the fortunate parents who did not lose a son in World War I.

But the year after the war ended, the family did suffer a tragic loss. Sarah and Sam’s daughter Gussie Goldfarb Katz died on May 13, 1919. She was about 31 years old (records vary). Her death certificate reports that her cause of death was acute lobar pneumonia. According to family lore, she was one of the millions of victims of the 1918-1919 pandemic.

New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949,” database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2WN5-B6V : 3 June 2020), Gussie Katz, 13 May 1919; citing Death, Brooklyn, Kings, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,324,337.

Gussie was survived by her husband Max; they had no children. Max remarried within a few years and had children with his second wife.

There was also good news, however, during those years during and after World War I. Julius and Ida Goldfarb had a second daughter, Gertrude, who was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, on June 28, 1917.1 And Bessie and Meyer Malzberg’s son Gustave was born in New York on June 4, 1919, less than a month after Bessie lost her sister Gussie.2 Gustave was perhaps named for his recently deceased aunt.

There was also another family wedding during this time. Morris Goldfarb, Sarah’s second oldest child, married Anna Grinbaum in Brooklyn on February 2, 1919. Anna, according to the marriage certificate, was born to Samuel Grinbaum and Molly Goldman in Austria/Galicia and was 21 when she married Morris. I could not find any records for Anna earlier than the marriage record, but later records indicate she immigrated to the US in about 1914 and was born in 1897.

Marriage record of Morris Goldfarb and Anna Grinbaum, Morris Goldfarb
Gender: Male, Marriage Date: 2 Feb 1919, Marriage Place: Kings, New York, USA
Certificate Number: 1346, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Extracted Marriage Index, 1866-1937

On May 26, 1920, Anna gave birth to their first child, Martin Goldfarb, in New York, New York, giving Sarah and Sam their fifth grandchild.3

The 1920 US census shows Sam and Sarah living at 526 Williams Street in Brooklyn with Joe and Leo, both working for the express company, and Rose, a dressmaker for a factory in New York. Sam was not employed and was now 64 years old, according to the census, and Sarah was 54.

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

Julius and Ida and their two daughters Sylvia and Evelyn were living in Jersey City as of the 1920 census, which listed Julius’ occupation as “liquor business.”

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

Unfortunately, despite searching anyway and anywhere I could, I could not locate either the family of Morris and Anna Goldfarb or Meyer and Bessie (Goldfarb) Malzberg on the 1920 census.

So as of 1920, the Goldfarb family had experienced much growth and one terribly tragic loss.

 


  1.  Gertrude Goldfarb Levy, Birth Date: 28 Jun 1917, Birth Place: Jersey City, New Jersey, Death Date: Feb 1979, Father: Julius Goldfarb, Mother: Ida Hecht, SSN: 140449263, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. 
  2. Gustav Malzberg, Birth Date: 4 Jun 1919, Birth Place: Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA, Certificate Number: 21712, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Birth Index, 1910-1965 
  3. Martin Goldfarb, Birth Date: 26 May 1920, Birth Place: Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA, Certificate Number: 25007, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Birth Index, 1910-1965 

The Goldfarbs 1910-1915: A Growing Family

We saw in the last post that Sarah Brotman and Sam Goldfarb and were living in Pittsgrove, New Jersey with six children in 1900. By 1905, however, they had moved to the Lower East Side of New York City and were living across the street from my great-grandmother Bessie and her three youngest children including my grandmother. Their seventh and last child Rosie was born in 1902. By 1910, my Goldfarb relatives had moved to Avenue C in New York.

In 1915, Sam and Sarah were still living at 131 Avenue C with five of their seven children: Morris (25), Bessie (23), Joseph (17), Leo (15), and Rosie (13)(top of next page, see below). Sam and his son Morris were still working as tailors, and Joseph was an office clerk.

Sam Goldfarb and family, 1915 NYS 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, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State Census, 1915

But this census revealed other important information. Living in the same building as Sam and Sarah Goldfarb in 1915 were two other families of great importance to the family history. First, listed almost immediately below the Goldfarbs on the 1915 New York State census was the family of Hyman Brotman, my grandmother’s brother, and thus Sarah’s nephew. He was a first cousin of Sarah’s children.

Second, right below Hyman’s family was the family of Jacob Hecht. As I wrote about in a post a few years back, Jacob Hecht was married to Taube/Toba/Tillie Brotman, my grandmother’s half-sister. Like Sam Goldfarb and Hyman Brotman, Jacob Hecht was a tailor.

Rosie Goldfarb, Hyman Brotman and family, and Jacob Hecht, 1915 NYS 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, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State Census, 1915

The Hecht family also has great significance to the story of the Goldfarb family because Jacob and Taube (Brotman) Hecht’s daughter Ida married Sam and Sarah (Brod) Goldfarb’s son Julius on November 20, 1913, in New York. In other words, my great-grandmother Bessie’s stepgranddaughter Ida Hecht married Bessie’s nephew Julius Goldfarb.

Marriage certificate of Julius Goldfarb and Ida Hecht, New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:243Y-5QW : 10 February 2018), Julius Goldfarb and Ida Hecht, 20 Nov 1913; citing Marriage, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York City Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,613,807.

Julius and Ida’s great-granddaughter Lisa shared this photograph of Julius and Ida on their wedding day:

Julius and Ida (Hecht) Goldfarb on the wedding day in 1913. Courtesy of the family.

Despite the fact—or maybe because of the fact—that Julius’ parents and Ida’s parents were living in New York in the same building in 1915, Julius and Ida were living in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1915. Julius described his occupation as a liquor dealer. Ida and Julius had one daughter at that point, Sylvia, who was born on May 7, 1915, less than a month before the enumeration of the 1915 New Jersey census on June 1, 1915.1

Also living with Ida and Julius was Joseph Goldfarb, Julius’ brother, who was then 17 and working as a bartender. I guess Joseph also was ready to get out of New York and perhaps thought living with his brother and working as a bartender would be more fun than being an office clerk. Julius and Ida also had a servant living with them, an eighteen-year-old named Annie, who was born in Hungary.

Julius Goldfarb and family, 1915 NJ census, New Jersey State Archive; Trenton, NJ, USA; State Census of New Jersey, 1915; Reference Number: L-13; Film Number: 32, Jersey City Ward 3 – Jersey City Ward 5, Ancestry.com. New Jersey, U.S., State Census, 1915

Although Bessie Goldfarb was listed as living with her parents on the 1915 New York State census, she was already married by that point. On August 9, 1914, Bessie married Meyer Malzberg in Detroit, Michigan. According to the marriage register, both were then residing in Detroit. How did Bessie end up in Detroit, I wondered? And how did she meet Meyer? I wrote about this back in 2016 as well, and I still don’t know the answers.

Meyer Malzberg and Bessie Goldfarb marriage record 1914
Ancestry.com. Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952. Original data: Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867–1952. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics.

But I can tell a little more now about Bessie’s husband Meyer Malzberg. Meyer, the son of Herman Malzberg and Sarah or Selma Kaplan (records vary), was born on September 8, 1890 in Bialystok in what was then part of the Russian Empire and now is in Poland. He immigrated to the US in November 1900, according to his July 12, 1910 Declaration of Intention, but on the 1910 US census, it says that he came in 1902 as did his sisters Dora and Ida and that his father came in 1900.2  I found a ship manifest for his father, and in fact he arrived on February 27, 1903, and I found a ship manifest for the two sisters, and they arrived on September 30, 1903.3 But no matter how I looked or where I looked I couldn’t find a manifest for Meyer’s arrival.

Meyer Malzberg declaration of intention, National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, DC; NAI Title: Index to Petitions for Naturalizations Filed in Federal, State, and Local Courts in New York City, 1792-1906; NAI Number: 5700802; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: RG 21
Vol 084-086 12 July-17 Aug 1910 (No 41487-42986), Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943

In any event, by 1905 fifteen year old Meyer was living with his widowed father and sisters on East 98th Street in New York; Meyer was in school, and his father was working as a cigar maker.4 In 1910, Meyer was working as a stock clerk for a department store and was still living with his father and sisters on 98th Street.5 For those unfamiliar with New York City, 98th Street is not anywhere near Avenue C where the Goldfarbs were living at that time. So I don’t know how Bessie Goldfarb met Meyer Malzberg.

I also don’t know how or why they ended up in Detroit. At first I thought perhaps Meyer had relatives there, but the Malzbergs I found in Detroit arrived there after Bessie and Meyer wed in 1914.

And why was Bessie back in New York with her parents when the 1915 New York State census was enumerated? As I speculated before, here’s my best guess. Bessie gave birth to her first child, Norman Malzberg, on May 2, 1915.6 The census record’s date is preprinted as June 1, but my guess is that it was actually enumerated earlier. Or alternatively, somehow little newborn Norman wasn’t included in the census. In any event, my hunch is that Bessie came home to her parents to give birth rather than be all alone without family in Detroit.

But where was her husband Meyer? I don’t know where he was when Norman was born, but two years later on June 5, 1917, he was still in Detroit when he registered for the World War I draft. He was supporting his wife, child, and his father, and he was working as a driver for the Detroit Creamery Company.

Meyer Malzberg World War I draft registration
Registration State: Michigan; Registration County: Wayne; Roll: 2024027; Draft Board: 06, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918

Thus, by 1915, three of Sam and Sarah Goldfarb’s children were married: Gussie, Bessie, and Julius. They had two grandchildren: Bessie’s son Norman and Julius’ daughter Sylvia. Gussie was living in Brooklyn with her husband, Max, who worked in the men’s clothing business. They did not have children. Julius was in Jersey City with his family and with his brother Joseph. The other Goldfarb children were still living at home on Avenue C, as was Bessie–at least temporarily.

More changes came in the next decade or so.

 

 


  1. Sylvia Goldfarb Leyner, [Sylvia Goldfarb Horowitz], Birth Date: 7 May 1915
    Birth Place: Jersey City, New Jersey, Death Date: 3 Jul 1999, Father: Juluis Goldfarb
    Mother: Ida Hecht, SSN: 147188949, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  2. Herman Malzberg and family, 1910 US census, Year: 1910; Census Place: Manhattan Ward 12, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1016; Page: 30A; Enumeration District: 0354; FHL microfilm: 1375029, Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census 
  3. Chaim Malzberg ship manifest, Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Volume: 373-7 I, VIII A 1 Band 068 A; Page: 780; Microfilm No.: K_1742, Staatsarchiv Hamburg. Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934. Dora and Ida Malzberg (Dvaire and Ita) manifest, Year: 1903; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 19; Page Number: 79, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957. 
  4. Herman Malzberg and family, 1905 NYS census, New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1905; Election District: A.D. 32 E.D. 05; City: Manhattan; County: New York; Page: 90, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State Census, 1905 
  5. Herman Malzberg and family, Year: 1910; Census Place: Manhattan Ward 12, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1016; Page: 30A; Enumeration District: 0354; FHL microfilm: 1375029, Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census 
  6. Norman Malzberg, Birth Date: 2 May 1915, Birth Place: New York City, New York,
    Death Date: 10 Jul 1999, Father: Meyer Malzberg Mother: Bessie Goldfarb
    SSN: 140039073, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 

The Goldfarbs in America 1892-1910

As seen in my last post, from US records we know that Sam/Solomon Goldfarb likely arrived in the US in about 1892 and was about 32 years old at that time. Four years later his wife Sarah Brod Goldfarb and their four oldest children—Joel (Julius), Moische (Morris), Gitel (Gussie), and Pesie (Bessie)— arrived in Philadelphia on September 13, 1896. Sarah was about thirty years old, Joel was ten, Moische eight, Gitel four, and Pesie only two.

In 1900, they were living in Pittsgrove, New Jersey. According to that census record, Sarah and Sam had been married eighteen years in 1900, meaning they were  married in 1882. Sarah had given birth to six children by that time, and all six were living with them. As listed on the 1900 census record, they were Joseph (actually Joel and later Julius, born in 1884), Moses (later Morris, 1885), Kate (really Gussie,1888; although the record says 1880, it also says she was 12), Bessie (1890), Joseph (1897), and Lewis (later, Leo, 1899). The errors in the names likely were due to the enumerator not understanding what he was told. The first four children were born in Europe, and Joseph and Lewis/Leo were born in New Jersey.

Here is a photograph of young Joe and Leo Goldfarb shared with me by Joe’s granddaughter Alyce:

Leo and Joe Goldfarb, c. 1901. Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Sam was working as a tailor. Sam and Sarah’s oldest child, listed here as Joseph, but actually Joel and later known as Julius, was 15 and working as a tailor also. The three other older children were in school, and Joseph and Lewis/Leo were home with Sarah.

Solomon Goldfarb and family, 1900 US census, Census Place: Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey; Page: 17; Enumeration District: 0179; FHL microfilm: 1240993, Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census

One question that intrigued me was why did Sarah and Sam settle in Pittsgrove? I knew that in 1900 Sarah’s sister Bessie and brother-in-law Joseph Brotman were living in New York City.1 And I knew that in 1900 Joseph’s brother Moses Brotman was living in Pittsgrove.2 Why would Sarah and Sam have chosen Pittsgrove over New York? At first I assumed it was because Moses lived there.

But when I looked at Moses Brotman’s record on the 1895 New Jersey census, I noticed that living right next door to him was the family of Lazer (Louis) and Minnie Goldfarb—Sam Goldfarb’s brother and sister-in-law.

Families of Morris Brotman and Lazer Goldfarb, 1895 NJ census, Locality or ImageSet: Pittsgrove
Ancestry.com. New Jersey, U.S., State Census, 1895

This tells me two things: one, that Sam and Sarah probably settled in Pittsgrove because Sam’s brother was there when Sam arrived in 1892 (although I cannot find Sam on the 1895 New Jersey census) and two, that Moses Brotman’s family and the Goldfarbs were connected through blood or marriage or at a minimum by their prior residence in Europe. I think it’s safe to assume that these two families knew each other well from the old country and in the new.

Interestingly, in 1900 when Sam and Sarah Goldfarb were living in Pittsgrove, Sam’s brother Lazer/Louis Goldfarb was living on Delancey Street in New York City’s Lower East Side, just a few blocks from where my great-grandparents Joseph and Bessie were living.3 So Sam’s brother moved away from Pittsgrove within a few years of Sarah’s arrival there.

But as seen in 1905 New York State census, Sam and Sarah also soon moved from New Jersey to the Lower East Side, following Sam’s brother Louis. But even more exciting to me was to see where Sam and Sarah were living in 1905—85 Ridge Street—right across the street from my great-grandmother Bessie and my grandmother and her siblings, who were living at 84 Ridge Street. My great-grandfather Joseph Brotman died in 1901, and perhaps Sarah was drawn to New York to help her widowed sister Bessie.

Samuel Goldfarb, 1905 NYS 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, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State Census, 1905

Bessie Brotman and family 1905 NYS 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: 59  Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State Census, 1905 (Terrible errors in names, but this is the right family.)

Sam and his two oldest sons, Julius (20) and Morris (19), were all working as cloakmakers, meaning likely doing piece work at one of the sweatshops in New York. Gussie (17) and Bessie (15) were in school. Joseph, now 8, was at home, and presumably so was Louis/Leo (5). And Sarah had had another child—Rosie, who was three, bringing the total number of children to seven—four boys and three girls. Rosie was born on February 9, 1902.

Rose Goldfarb birth record, New York, New York City Births, 1846-1909,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2WWR-NVT : 11 February 2018), Rosie Goldfarb, 09 Feb 1902; citing Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, reference cn 7347 New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,983,509.

By 1910, the family had moved from Ridge Street to 131 Avenue C in New York. Sam was working as a tailor in a cloak factory, but Julius, now 25, was working as a conductor for a car company, presumably meaning a streetcar, and Morris, now 23, was a cutter for a neckwear company. The other children were all at home except Gussie.

Samuel Goldfarb 1910 US census, Census Place: Manhattan Ward 11, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1012; Page: 17A; Enumeration District: 0259; FHL microfilm: 1375025
Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census

Gussie Goldfarb had married Max Katz on April 11, 1910, in New York. Max, the son of Louis Katz and Becky(?) Shuster, was born in Russia in 1884.

Marriage of Gussie Goldfarb and Max Katz,New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:24ZW-DLF : 10 February 2018), Marx Katz and Josi Gossi Goldfarb, 12 Apr 1910; citing Marriage, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York City Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,503,728.

In 1910 Gussie and Max were living with Max’s parents in Brooklyn, and Max was working as a window dresser, but had been out of work for 25 weeks in the past year. His father owned a candy store.4

Thus, as of 1910, Sam and Sarah Goldfarb still had six of their seven children living at home. The next five years would bring more changes.


  1. Joseph Brotman and family, Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Page: 18; Enumeration District: 0283; FHL microfilm: 1241094, Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census 
  2. Moses Brotman and family, Year: 1900; Census Place: Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey; Page: 18; Enumeration District: 0179; FHL microfilm: 1240993, Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census 
  3. Louis Goldfarb and family, Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Page: 41; Enumeration District: 0291; FHL microfilm: 1241094, Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census 
  4. Louis Katz and family, Year: 1910; Census Place: Brooklyn Ward 26, Kings, New York; Roll: T624_978; Page: 10A; Enumeration District: 0796; FHL microfilm: 1374991,
    Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census 

(Re)-introducing the Goldfarbs

Although I wrote a great deal several years ago about how I discovered my great-grandmother’s sister Sarah Brod Goldfarb, and although I told much of their story, I told it in piecemeal as I was trying to put together the pieces of a mystery. How was Sarah Goldfarb related to me? I solved that mystery and know now that she was my great-grandmother Bessie Brod Brotman’s sister, but I never fully told the stories of those Goldfarb cousins.

Now that I have discovered through DNA testing several more of my Goldfarb cousins, confirming by science that my research was correct, I am returning to Sarah Brod and Sam Goldfarb and their children to tell the fuller story of their lives.

What do I know about the life of my great-grandmother’s sister Sarah Brod Goldfarb before she came to the US? Not very much. Because I have no European records for Sarah Brod and Sam Goldfarb, I need to rely on information from US records to tell the little I can report about their lives before arriving in the US.

According to the 1900 US census, Sam  (going by Solomon at that time) was born in April 1860, and Sarah was born in May 1866. They were thus reported as being forty and thirty-six at that time. The census indicated both were born in “Austria,” but in fact they were born in or near Tarnobrzeg in what is today Poland in what was then part of the Austria-Hungary Empire.1 That is the same town where my great-grandparents Joseph and Bessie (Brod) Brotman lived.

But Sam and Sarah’s ages on the 1900 census appear to be debatable. Sam’s death certificate says he was born on August 2, 1856,2 not in 1860. In 1910, he reported his age as 56, meaning he was born in 1864.3 In 1920, he said he was 64, giving him a birth year of 1856, same as that on his death certificate.4

Sarah’s age also jumps around, though not as wildly as Sam’s. In 1910, she is reported as 45, meaning she was born in 1865.5 In 1920, she is listed as 54, meaning she was born in 1866,6 but in 1930 her age is given as 60, meaning she was born in 1870.7 And her 1937 death certificate indicates she was 70 when she died, meaning a birth year of 1867.8 Overall, Sarah seems likely to have been born in 1866 or so, and Sam was likely born in about 1860 or maybe earlier.

One date that is consistent across several census records is the date of Sam’s immigration—1892. He reported that year not only on the 1900 census, but also on the 1910 and 1920 census records.9 Yet I could not find him on any ship manifest for 1892 or even within several years of 1892. There were some names that were close, and I found one Samuel Goldfarb who arrived in Philadelphia in 1891, born 1865, but I’ve no way to verify if that was the right person, though it seems possible.10

I did, however, find Sarah Brod Goldfarb’s ship manifest. She arrived with four of her children—Joel (later Julius), Moische (later Morris), Gitel (later Gussie), and Pesie (later Bessie)—on July 13, 1896, in Philadelphia. She reported her age as 32 (meaning born in 1864). Joel was 10, Moische 8, Gitel was 4, and Pesie was 2. Can you imagine traveling with four young children for weeks on a ship overseas?

The manifest indicated that they were headed to Philadelphia, that their prior residence was Grembow, “Austria” (now Poland), and that her husband Schmuel Goldfarb had paid their fare.

Sarah Goldfarb and her four children, The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Series Title: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Record Group Number: 85; Series: T840, Roll Number: 25, Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists, 1800-1962

Thank you to Frank of Tracing the Tribe for locating this record showing that Sam (Solomon) Goldfarb purchased the tickets in Philadelphia for Sarah and his four children to sail to the US from Grembow via Tarnobrzeg to Philadelphia on the Am(erican?) Line for $75. Note also that Sam was living in Alliance, New Jersey. More on that in my next post.

Steamship ticket registry, Rosenbaum Volume 04, Date 1895, Steamship Agent
M. Rosenbaum and Co., Volume 4, Order Number Range, 1-32451, Number of Pages
171, Alphabetical index of passenger names at beginning of volume; Page 1-135, order #1-1736. Page 136, order #17856-17860, 32439. Page 137, order #18557, 32445-32451. Pages 138-141 are blank. Page 142, order #17321-17322, Manuscripts, Ledgers (account books),  Repository:
Temple University Libraries, Special Collections Research Center, Repository Collection
HIAS Pennsylvania, Collection ID, SCRC 94, Digital Collection, Steamship Ticket Purchase Ledgers, Digital Publisher Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Libraries, found at https://digital.library.temple.edu/digital/collection/p16002coll16/id/5045/rec/4

The manifest indicated that Sarah and her children were detained. There are no records to explain why they were detained, but members of Tracing the Tribe explained that it likely only meant that they were being held until someone, presumably Sam, met them at the port of entry in Philadelphia.

Thus, we know that by July, 1896, my great-grandmother’s sister Sarah and four of her children had arrived in America. In the posts to follow I will talk about their lives in the US.

 


  1. Solomon Goldfarb and family, Year: 1900; Census Place: Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey; Page: 17; Enumeration District: 0179; FHL microfilm: 1240993, Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census. According to his death certificate, Sam was born in Tarnobrzeg in what is now Poland, and Sarah was born in Dzikow (now part of Tarnobrzeg), according to family records provided by my cousin Sue Wartur. New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949, database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2W5B-2M4 : 3 June 2020), Samuel Goldfarb, 1926. 
  2. New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949″, database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2W5B-2M4 : 3 June 2020), Samuel Goldfarb, 1926. 
  3. Samuel Goldfarb and family, Year: 1910; Census Place: Manhattan Ward 11, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1012; Page: 17A; Enumeration District: 0259; FHL microfilm: 1375025, Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census 
  4. Sam Goldfarb and family, Year: 1920; Census Place: Brooklyn Assembly District 2, Kings, New York; Roll: T625_1146; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 82, Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  5. See note 3. 
  6. See note 4. 
  7. Sarah Goldfarb, Year: 1930; Census Place: Brooklyn, Kings, New York; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 1220; FHL microfilm: 2341228, Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 
  8. New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949″, database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2WT7-T1D : 3 June 2020), Sarah Goldfarb, 1937. 
  9. See notes 1, 3, and 4 above. 
  10. Samuel Goldfarb, age 26, Place: New York, New York; Year: 1891; Page Number: 250, Ancestry.com. U.S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s 

Of DNA Testing and The Magic of Photographs: Who is That Woman?

As many of you know, I have not had much success using DNA as a genealogy research tool. Because I have thousands of matches on each of the major DNA testing sites (Ancestry, 23andme, FamilyTreeDNA, and MyHeritage), finding a true match—not one just based on endogamy—is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Over time I have found some “real” matches, but I usually only know they’re real because I’ve already found those cousins through traditional genealogical research. Finding that the DNA confirms what I already knew is nice, but not really helpful in terms of advancing my research. Even when I look at the matches that cousin shares with me, I am not making progress because our shared matches also number in the hundreds if not thousands.

Nevertheless, I periodically check my matches on each of the sites to see if any truly close matches have appeared. A couple of weeks ago I checked with 23andme and discovered a new third cousin match, Alyce, who also shared a family surname that appears on my tree—Goldfarb. Since the Goldfarbs are related to my Brotman line, I was quite excited. My Brotman line is one of my biggest brickwalls. I cannot get beyond the names of my great-great-grandparents.

Some background: my maternal grandmother’s parents were Joseph Brotman and Bessie Brod. But sometimes Joseph’s surname is listed as Brod, sometimes Bessie’s is listed as Brotman. Family lore is that Bessie, Joseph’s second wife, was his first cousin. Various US records revealed that Joseph’s parents were Abraham Brotman and maybe Yette Sadie Burstein; Bessie’s parents were Joseph Brod and Gittel Schwartz. But I have no records from Poland where they once lived to verify those names, nor can I get any further back to determine if Joseph and Bessie were in fact first cousins.

Then years later I discovered the Goldfarb cousins after seeing the names Joe and Julius Goldfarb and Taube Hecht in my grandfather’s address book and my aunt’s baby book.

After much digging, I learned that my great-grandmother Bessie Brod had a sister Sarah Brod (or Brotman) who married Sam Goldfarb. Joe and Julius Goldfarb were two of their sons, my grandmother’s first cousins. And Taube Hecht was my grandmother’s half-sister Taube Brotman, daughter of Joseph Brotman and his first wife. Taube’s daughter Ida had married Julius Goldfarb.

Through more research I was able to locate cousins descended from the Goldfarb line and from the Hecht line—Sue, a granddaughter of Julius Goldfarb and Ida Hecht, and Jan, a descendant of Taube Brotman Hecht line through her son Harry. They tested, but the results didn’t help me advance my research. I still couldn’t determine if my great-grandparents were in fact first cousins, and I still hadn’t found anything to expand the reach of my Brotman/Brod family tree.

Then a few weeks ago I found Alyce, a granddaughter of Joe Goldfarb and his wife Betty Amer and thus a pure Goldfarb (non-Hecht) cousin. She connected me with a few other Goldfarb cousins—descendants of Joe or one of his siblings. That’s a lot more DNA to work with, and I am hoping that I can get someone who’s more expert at parsing these things to help me use the DNA of these new cousins to advance my research. So far all I can do is stare at chromosome browsers and see overlaps, but I have no idea how to parse out the Goldfarb (Brod) DNA from the Hecht (Brotman) DNA to get any answers.

All of this I will return to at some point when I have more to say about what the DNA reveals. For now I want to talk about the photographs that Alyce shared with me of my Goldfarb relatives. Alyce sent me over twenty photographs. She was able to identify the people in many of them, but unfortunately a number are unlabeled. Also the quality of some of the photos is quite poor. I won’t post them all, but I will post a few today and more in a later post.

First, in Alyce’s collection was this photograph she labeled “I think this is Grandpa’s mother Sarah Brothman. I could be wrong.” (Brothman was yet another variation on how Joseph, Bessie, and Sarah spelled their surname.)

“Sarah Brothman” Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

I almost fell off my chair. I had that exact same photograph, but in our collection the photograph was said to be of my great-grandmother Bessie Brod Brotman.

My great-grandmother Bessie Brotman (or so I was told)

I wasn’t sure who had the right label for the photograph, but just the fact that Alyce and I had in our possession copies of the same photograph seemed to confirm what the DNA and all my research had already told me—we were cousins!

Alyce had other photographs of her great-grandmother Sarah, and when I saw those I thought that in fact that first photograph was of Sarah, not Bessie. Here are her other photographs of Sarah, all courtesy of Alyce, and then another photograph I had of my great-grandmother Bessie.

Sarah Brod/Brotman Goldfarb and her son Leo Goldfarb. Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Bessie Brotman

Bessie Brotman

It seems to me that Bessie had a rounder and softer edged face than the woman seated in front of the grocery store, so I think that woman was indeed Sarah, Bessie’s sister.

So somehow my family ended up with a photograph of Bessie’s sister Sarah. And we never would have known if I hadn’t found Alyce and she hadn’t shared her copy of the photograph.

I slowly flipped through the rest of Alyce’s photos, noting the faces of my grandmother’s Goldfarb first cousins Joe and Leo and their wives and children, hoping I could identify some of the unknowns in Alyce’s collection, when I came to this photograph. This time my jaw dropped.

Rose Goldfarb, Joe Goldfarb, Gussie Brotman

Alyce labeled this photograph, “Grandpa Joe. I think that could be Aunt Rose [the youngest child of Sarah Brod and Sam Goldfarb] on the left. Not sure who’s on the right.”

But I knew who was on the right. I had no doubt. That woman was my grandmother, Gussie Brotman Goldschlager, posing with two of her first cousins, Joe and Rose Goldfarb. I was blown away. How could Alyce, who until just a few days earlier was unknown to me, have a photograph of my grandmother—a photograph I’d never seen before?

I sent the photograph to my brother for confirmation, and he agreed. I ran the photograph through Google’s face identification software, and Google agreed. Here are some other photographs of my grandmother.

Gussie Brotman

Goldschlagers 1935

Jeff and Gussie c. 1946

I think you also will agree.  Alyce, my third cousin, had a photograph of her grandfather Joe and my grandmother Gussie together. Wow.

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.