Another Small World Story, Another Twist in the Family Tree

In my last post I described my discovery that Rose Mansbach Schoenthal was not only related to me by her marriage to Simon Schoenthal, the brother of my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal, but that she was also related by marriage to my other great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein through her Mansbach cousins.   This post is about another discovery of a strange twist in my family tree, but this one involving two living cousins.

Last week I received a comment on an old blog post about Elizabeth Cohen, who was the sister of my other great-grandfather, Emanuel Cohen.  The man who left the comment on my blog, Joel Goldwein, is the great-grandson, through his mother’s side, of Elizabeth Cohen.  He is thus my third cousin.  I was, of course, delighted to make this connection, and I emailed Joel to learn more about him and our mutual family.

In the course of the exchange of emails, Joel shared information not only about his mother’s family, but also about his father, Manfred (Fred) Goldwein, who had escaped from Nazi Germany on the Kindertransport to England.  His father’s parents and other family members, however, were murdered by the Nazis.  Joel sent me a link to a website about his son’s bar mitzvah in Korbach, Germany, the town where his father was born and had lived until he left Germany.  I was very moved by the idea that Joel’s family had returned to this town to honor the memory of his father’s family.

I mentioned that I was going to be in Germany, not far from Korbach, because I had Hamberg ancestors from Breuna.  Joel then mentioned that his paternal great-grandparents are buried in Breuna and that he had visited the cemetery there.  He sent me a link to his photographs of the cemetery, and I looked through them in search of anyone named Hamberg.

Imagine my surprise to find this photograph:

Courtesy of Joel Goldwein

Baruch Hamberg was the second cousin of my great-great-grandmother, Henrietta Hamberg Schoenthal.  More importantly, he was the great-grandfather of my fifth cousin, Rob Meyer.

Some of you may remember the story of Rob.  He and I connected through JewishGen’s Family Finder tool about a year and a half ago, and we learned that not only did Rob live about a mile from where I had once lived in Arlington, Massachusetts, we also had very good mutual friends.  It was one of those true goosebump moments in my genealogy research, standing in a cemetery in Longmeadow and talking to Rob as we realized that we both had the same close friends.

Rob’s mother had, like Joel’s father, escaped from Nazi Germany, and she also, like Joel’s father, had lost most of the rest of her family in the Holocaust. I sent the headstone photograph to Rob, and I asked whether he might be related to Joel.  Rob answered, suggesting that perhaps he was related to Joel not through Baruch Hamberg, but through Baruch’s mother, Breinchen Goldwein.  A little more digging around revealed that in fact Joel was related to Breinchen: her brother Marcus Goldwein was Joel’s paternal great-grandfather.

Thus, Joel and Rob are third cousins, once removed, through Rob’s mother’s side and Joel’s father side. And although they did not know of each other at all, Joel also had a photograph of the street in Breuna named in memory of Rob’s aunt:

Courtesy of Joel Goldwein


It gave me great pleasure to introduce Rob and Joel to each other, who soon discovered that not only are they third cousins through their Goldwein family line, they are also both doctors and both graduates of the same medical school.

And they are both my cousins, Rob through his mother’s Hamberg side and Joel through his mother’s Cohen side.

There truly are only six degrees of separation.

Fallen Leaves

I admit that I have been putting off this blog post.  Because it makes me sad.  One of the great gifts I’ve experienced in doing genealogy is learning about and sometimes having conversations with older people whose memories and lives can teach us so much.  The downside of that is that I am catching them in the final chapter in the lives.

In the past year or so, four of my parents’ first cousins have passed away.  I already wrote about my mother’s first cousin, Murray Leonard, born Goldschlager, son of my grandfather’s brother David Goldschlager.  You can see my tribute to Murray here, in case you missed it.

Murray Leonard older

Murray Leonard

Murray Leonard

David and Murray Goldschlager

David and Murray Goldschlager

Two of my mother’s other Goldschlager-side first cousins also died in the last year: Frieda Feuerstein Albert and Estelle Feuerstein Kenner, who were sisters and the daughters of Betty Goldschlager, my grandfather’s sister, and her husband Isidor Feuerstein.

Frieda died on July 30, 2015; she was 93. Frieda was born in New York on April 21, 1922. She married Abram Albert in 1943, and in 1957, they moved with their children to Arizona, where Abram opened a bedspread and drapery store in Phoenix. He died in 1991, and Frieda continued to live in Phoenix until her death last summer.

Frieda and Abe

Frieda and Abe

Frieda and Abe Albert at their wedding in 1943

Frieda and Abe Albert at their wedding in 1943


Her younger sister Estelle died almost three months ago on May 16, 2016.  She was 86 years old and had been living in Florida for many years.  She was born May 15, 1929.


courtesy of Barry Kenner

courtesy of Barry Kenner



Estelle Feuerstein, Betty's daughter

Estelle Feuerstein, Betty’s daughter

Estelle and Frieda each had three children who survive them—six second cousins I’d never known about until I started doing genealogy research.

I never had a chance to speak to either Frieda or Estelle, but have been in touch with some of their children.  My mother recalls Frieda and Estelle very well, although she had not seen them for many, many years.  She remembers them as beautiful young girls coming to visit her family in Brooklyn when they were living out on Long Island.

The other cousin who died in the past year was my father’s first cousin, Marjorie Cohen.  I wrote about my wonderful conversations with Marjorie here.  She died on July 6, 2015, but I did not learn about it until quite recently.  She was just a few months shy of 90 when she died, and she was living in Ventnor, New Jersey, near Atlantic City, where she had lived for almost all of her adult life after growing up in Philadelphia.  She was born on October 15, 1925, the daughter of Bessie Craig and Stanley Cohen, my grandfather’s brother.

Arthur Seligman, Marjorie, and Eva May Cohen, 1932 Atlantic City

Arthur Seligman, Marjorie, and Eva May Cohen, 1932 Atlantic City

Marjorie Cohen with Pete-page-001 Marjorie model 2-page-001

According to her obituary,

She was a graduate of the Sacred Heart School in Philadelphia and Trinity College in Washington, DC. For 33 years she served as the Director of the AAA Mid-Atlantic Travel Agency in Northfield. During her time with AAA she escorted both cruises and tours throughout the world. In 1978, she was the recipient of the Contemporary Woman of the Year Award for outstanding community involvement by McDonald’s Restaurant and radio station WAYV. Upon retirement she became actively involved in volunteer work with the Atlantic City Medical Center, RNS Cancer and Heart Organization, the LPGA Annual Golf Tournament and served as a Hostess with the Miss America Pageant for a number of years. Throughout her life, she had a deep and abiding love for all animals and was a generous supporter of the Humane Society.  (Press of Atlantic City, July 9, 2015.)

I am so grateful that I had the chance to talk to Marjorie, and I am filled with regret that I never was able to get to Atlantic City to meet with her as I had hoped.

These losses remind me once again how important it is to find my extended family members, especially those whose memories run back the longest.  I wish I had had the chance to meet all of these cousins, and now it is too late.



Why I Love the Internet: The World Wide Web


Internet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Internet continues to provide me with so much more than access to information.  Through my blog, Ancestry, Facebook, Google, and ordinary old email, I continue to find and be found by cousins all over the world.  In the last two weeks, I have seen my network of cousins expand and greatly enrich my knowledge and understanding of my family history.  So a few updates.

First, I heard from a relative of Margaret Swem, the wife of Felix Schoenthal, my Boston relative, and she filled me in on the background and family of Margaret.  Quite interesting information that I will add to the post about Felix and his family.  Once again, having a blog proved useful because Margaret’s relative found my blog by Googling Margaret Swem’s name.

Second, an Israeli second cousin, once removed, of my husband found me through my tree on Ancestry.  I haven’t even done very much yet on my husband’s family, but through this new cousin we’ve learned a great deal about the Shrage family in Zabarazh, a town once in Galicia but now part of Ukraine.  It’s been very exciting learning from our new Israeli cousin.

Third, I’ve heard from a descendant of Hettie Schoenthal, one of Simon Schoenthal’s younger children about whom I’ve yet to blog.  This new cousin has shared some of Hettie’s own remembrances of her life as well as other stories.  I am looking forward to incorporating some of those into the blog as well as some photographs.

Fourth, I’ve been in touch with two British relatives of the UK Selinger cousins, relatives of Julius, Alfred, and Frederick Selinger, all of whom married my Cohen relatives.  I then put the two of them in touch as they had not previously known each other despite being cousins.  That gave me great satisfaction, and now all three of us are hunting for answers about the connections among some of the Selingers.

Fifth, I am in touch with a Goldfarb cousin and hoping to learn more about this recently discovered branch of my Brotman family line.  I just received a huge package of information that I need to go through, enter into my tree, and research.

Sixth, another Hamberg cousin just contacted me this morning.

And last but definitely not least, my cousin Wolfgang in Germany sent me new information about our Seligmann family line.  He and his mother received four new documents about our ancestors.  The first reveals two more generations back in the line of Jacob Seligmann, my four-times great-grandfather from Gaulsheim, Germany.  I will be blogging separately about these documents and what they revealed in the next few days before I return again to the children of Simon Schoenthal.

English: internet Español: internet

English: internet Español: internet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Turning on my computer in the morning has become a real treat, waiting to see who has found me, who has responded to my inquiries, and which cousin has new information to share.  Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by my good fortune.  Sure, there are still many people who don’t reply to my emails or Facebook messages, but for every person I have found or who has found me, I am so deeply grateful.  The family tree keeps growing, and with it so does the world-wide web of fascinating and generous people whom  I can call my cousins.

Going Back East: My Schoenthal Great-grandparents and their Family 1924-1942

Happy New Year! I am still on vacation, but had this post 90% ready before we left, so with a cloudy morning I was able to get it finished.  Here is the remainder of the story of my Schoenthal great-grandparents; I have one more post almost done which will wrap up the story of my grandmother and her brothers.


By the mid-1920s, my grandmother Eva Schoenthal and her brother Harold had left Denver and moved east.  My grandmother had married my grandfather John Nusbaum Cohen and moved to Philadelphia in 1923. She had two children by the end of 1926.

My aunt Eva Hilda Cohen and my grandmother Eva Schoenthal Cohen, c. 1925

My aunt Eva Hilda Cohen and my grandmother Eva Schoenthal Cohen, c. 1925


My father and his mother, Eva Schoenthal Cohen, c. 1927

My father and his mother, Eva Schoenthal Cohen, c. 1927


My great-uncle Harold was in college at Columbia University, studying architecture; he would graduate in 1927.

The rest of the Schoenthal family was still in Denver, where as seen in the 1924 and in 1925 Denver directories, they were still in the same occupations in which they’d been employed earlier in the decade: my great-grandfather Isidore was still working for Carson Crockery; Lester was still a traveling salesman, and Gerson was a salesman for the Sunland Sales Cooperative Association. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. 1925 Denver directory

In 1926, however, my great-grandparents and their son Gerson and his wife Gratice were the only family members listed in the Denver directory.  Lester is not listed in the Denver directory and does not reappear in a directory in the Ancestry database again until 1929, when he is listed in the Richmond, Indiana directory as a manufacturer’s agent; his wife is now listed as Grace. By that time Lester and Juliet Grace had moved back and forth between Denver and Indiana twice.  It’s hard to know whether Lester kept moving for jobs or because he and his wife couldn’t decide whether to be closer to her family or his.

1929 Directory, RIchmond, Indiana U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

1929 Directory, Richmond, Indiana U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

On June 15, 1928, my great-uncle Gerson  was divorced from Gratice. Colorado, Divorce Index, 1851-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015. Colorado, Divorce Index, 1851-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015.

Also around this time, my great-grandparents left Denver and followed their two youngest children back to the east.  They settled in Montclair, New Jersey, where their son Harold was working as a designer after completing his undergraduate degree at Columbia.  They were all living together at 16 Forest Street in Montclair in 1929, 1930, and 1931, according to the city directories for those years, yet they are not listed in the 1930 US census at that address or elsewhere.  The enumerator did include other people who were living at that address (presumably an apartment building), but not my relatives.  According to those directories, Isidore was working at The China Shop and Harold was a designer.  A later news article about Harold indicated that in 1931 he was working at the interior design firm Schulz and Behrle.

Hilda (Katzenstein) Schoenthal, Eva Schoenthal Cohen, Eva Hilda Cohen, and Harold Schoenthal

Hilda (Katzenstein) Schoenthal, Eva Schoenthal Cohen, Eva Hilda Cohen, and Harold Schoenthal


My grandparents, Eva (Schoenthal) and John Cohen, and their two children were living at 6625 17th Street in Philadelphia, according to the 1930 US census; my aunt was six, my father three and a half.  My grandfather was a clothing and jewelry merchant. But not long after the 1930 census, my grandparents’ lives changed dramatically.   My grandfather was diagnosed with MS, and in the aftermath of that diagnosis, my grandmother suffered a breakdown and was unable to care for her children. My grandmother ended up living with her parents and brother Harold in Montclair, New Jersey.  Her children were living with their ailing father and his mother, my great-grandmother Eva Mae Seligman Cohen, in Philadelphia, as I wrote about here and here.

As for Lester, he and his wife  were living in Richmond, Indiana, in 1930.  Lester was a traveling salesman and Juliet (listed on the 1930 census as Grace) an office manager for an insurance company, according to the 1930 census.  A year later, they had moved again.  In 1931, Lester and his wife (listed here as Julia G.) were living in Dayton, Ohio.  Lester was still a salesman. They are not, however, in the 1932 Dayton directory.  I do not know where they were until in 1935, when, according to the 1940 US census, they were living in Montclair, NJ, where my great-grandparents and great-uncle Harold were also living.

Thus, by 1930, Gerson was the only Schoenthal left in Denver. Gerson must have visited his family back East around 1930. That is my father in the photograph, and he appears to be about three or four years old in that picture.

Dad Uncle Gerson Eva

My father, his uncle Gerson Schoenthal, and his sister Eva Hilda Cohen


Although Gerson is listed in the 1930, 1931 , and 1932 Denver directories, like his parents and brother Harold in Montclair, NJ, he seems to have been missed by the census enumerator. Gerson is also missing from the Denver directories in 1934 and 1935, and when he reappears in the 1936 directory for Denver, he is listed with a wife named Maude.

Maude Sheridan was born in May 11, 1883, in Salt Creek Township, Kansas.  Her father died when she was just a young child, and she and her mother lived in Kansas until at least 1905.  By 1910, she and her mother had moved to Colorado Springs, where they were living with Maude’s father’s brother, Patrick Sheridan, a leather retailer.  Maude was working as a public school teacher.  She became a school principal in Colorado Springs, Colorado, around 1912, and had great success there.  In 1916, she signed a long term contract with Colorado Agricultural College, and she and her mother were living in Fort Collins, Colorado, in 1920.  Maude was working as a college instructor.

Maude Sheridan principal



By 1930 Maude had left her education career and was the owner of a restaurant in Alamosa, Colorado.  She was still single and no longer living with her mother.  Then sometime between 1930 and 1936, Maude married my great-uncle Gerson Schoenthal.  In 1936, she would have been 53, he would have been 44.

Meanwhile, back in Montclair, New Jersey, in 1935, my great-grandfather was continuing to work for The China Shop, and his son Harold continued to work as a designer, living with his parents at 16 Forest Street in Montclair and working in Newark. My grandmother was also living with her parents in Montclair. Lester and Grace also continued to live in Montclair where Lester worked as a salesman.  All of them were still in Montclair for the rest of the 1930s, although my great-grandparents and Harold moved to 97 North Fullerton Avenue by 1937.

Upper Montclair NJ

Upper Montclair NJ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1939, my grandmother moved back to Philadelphia to live with her children, who were then sixteen and thirteen.  Their father was in a long term care facility by that time, and their paternal grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen had died on   October 31,  1939.  According to the 1940 census, my grandmother was working as a saleswoman in the wholesale china business at that time.

Her parents and brother Harold were still living in Montclair where in 1940 my great-grandfather was retired and Harold was working as a designer in the interior decorating business.  Lester and Juliet had moved once again, this time to Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, where according to the 1940 census, Lester was working as a refrigeration engineer for a wholesale refrigeration business.

As for Gerson, for a long time I could not find him on the 1940 census.  Then when Ancestry added the Social Security Applications and Claims Index to its database collection, the mystery was solved.  This is what I saw: U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: Social Security Applications and Claims, 1936-2007. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015.
Original data: Social Security Applications and Claims, 1936-2007.

Obviously, Gerson had changed his name to Gary Sheridan sometime between the 1938 Denver directory and the 1940 US census.  And for some reason he had changed his mother’s birth name (and his middle name) from Katzenstein to Kay.  Why? To sound less Jewish, I’d assume. Or maybe to sound less German as Europe and eventually the US were at war against Germany. Sheridan had been Maude’s birth name, and Gerson kept his initials the same, but otherwise he’d taken on a whole different identity.

Once I knew his new name, I found Gerson a/k/a Gary and his wife Maude on the 1940 census.  He was working as a salesman for the American Automobile Association, and Maude was working a manager of a tea room in Denver.

Year: 1940; Census Place: Denver, Denver, Colorado; Roll: T627_488; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 16-148

Year: 1940; Census Place: Denver, Denver, Colorado; Roll: T627_488; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 16-148

In early 1941, my great-grandparents moved to Philadelphia to help my grandmother with her children and lived next door to them on Venango Street.  My great-grandmother Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal died not long after on August 17, 1941; she had only been living in Philadelphia for seven months when she died, according to her death certificate.  She was 77 years old and died from pneumonia.

Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal death certificate Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal death certificate Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

My great-grandfather Isidore died a year later on July 10, 1942; he was 83 when he died; he also died from pneumonia.

Isidore Schoenthal death certificate 1942 Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Isidore Schoenthal death certificate 1942 Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

When I think about my great-grandfather’s life, I am left with many questions.  He was the second youngest child in a large family and the youngest son.  Of those who emigrated from Germany, he was among the last members of his family to arrive. He watched, one by one, as his older brothers and sisters moved away. Then he finally came to the US himself with his mother and younger sister Rosalie.  He lived in the small town of Washington, Pennsylvania, for the first 25 years of his years in the US, a town where his older brother Henry was a recognized leader both in the business and Jewish community.  Isidore had most of his siblings relatively close by once again.

Then suddenly in his late 40s he moved far away from his entire family, taking his wife and his four children far from everything they knew to start again in order to give his son Gerson a healthier place to live. He started over working in the china business. And then he started over one more time when he returned to the east coast twenty years later to be closer to his two youngest children.  In the end he and his wife Hilda ended up helping to care for his daughter and his grandchildren, including my father.  By the time my great-grandfather died, he had lost every one of his nine siblings as well as his wife and his parents.


Cologne, after bombing of World War II By U.S. Department of Defense. Department of the Army. Office of the Chief Signal Officer. [2] [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons HTML Attribution not legally required

Cologne, after the bombing of World War II
By U.S. Department of Defense. Department of the Army. Office of the Chief Signal Officer. [2] [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

My father recalls him as a very quiet man. He has a vivid memory of his grandfather Isidore crying when he learned of the bombing of Cologne by the Allies in May, 1942, during World War II.  My father had assumed that Isidore had lived in Cologne, and although his brother Jacob had lived in that city, there is nothing to indicate that Isidore had ever lived anywhere but Sielen when he lived in Germany.  Perhaps it was more the notion that his homeland was at war with his adopted country and that the land of his birth and his childhood was being devastated by Allied bombing that made him cry. Perhaps he had visited Jacob in Cologne and remembered what a beautiful city it was. Or maybe he was just crying for the memories of his nine siblings and his parents, living in Germany, when he was a child.

My father said that his grandfather didn’t talk about it, just sat with tears running down his face. He died just two months later. I will always wonder what stirred beneath the surface of this man who had led what seemed to be a quiet life but with so many twists and turns and so many losses.

In Part III, I will follow up with what happened to Lester, Gerson, Harold, and my grandmother Eva after 1942.

My Great-grandparents: Thank You

When I started doing genealogy research about four years ago, I only had seen pictures of two of my eight great-grandparents:  Isidore Schoenthal and Hilda Katzenstein, parents of my paternal grandmother Eva Schoenthal Cohen.

Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal

Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal

Isidore Schoenthal

Isidore Schoenthal



I had no idea what any of my other six great-grandparents looked like.  Over time I have been very fortunate to find cousins who had pictures of four of those other six.  For example, I now have pictures of Moritz Goldschlager and Ghitla Rosenzweig, parents of my maternal grandfather Isadore Goldschlager.

Ghitla Rosenzweig Goldschlager

Ghitla Rosenzweig Goldschlager

Moritz Goldschlager

Moritz Goldschlager



Another cousin had pictures of my great-grandmother Eva Seligman, but I did not have a photograph of my great-grandfather, Emanuel Cohen.  Until now.  One of the photos in my Aunt Eva’s suitcase was a photograph of Emanuel Cohen. I was so excited to be able to see his face.  It’s amazing how a photograph can bring to life someone you’ve never seen.

So I now have pictures of Eva Seligman and Emanuel Cohen, parents of my paternal grandfather, John N. Cohen, Sr.

Eva Seligman Cohen

Eva Seligman Cohen

Emanuel Cohen

Emanuel Cohen

That leaves me missing only one photograph in the collection of photographs of my great-grandparents.  I am fortunate to have a picture of my great-grandmother, Bessie—the person for whom I named.  But I do not have a picture of Joseph Brotman, my great-grandfather.  The Brotmans remain the most elusive of my ancestral families, and they were the ones who started me on this search and to the blog.  How I would love to know what Joseph looked like, but none of my cousins has a photograph, and somehow it seems very unlikely that any will turn up.  But here is my great-grandmother Bessie Brod/Brot/Brotman, the mother of my maternal grandmother Gussie Brotman Goldschlager.

Bessie Brotman

Bessie Brotman

When I scan through these photographs and think of my eight great-grandparents, I feel somehow comforted and inspired.  It makes me feel good to know that they are remembered and that their stories are being told, at least as well as I can tell them.  Five of the eight were born in Europe and immigrated here to make a better lives for themselves and for their children and those who followed. They came from Sielen, Germany, from Iasi, Romania, and from Tarnobrzeg, Poland.  The other three were the children of immigrants from Gau-Algesheim and Jesberg, Germany and from London, England; they benefited from the risks taken by their parents, my great-great-grandparents, but they each took risks of their own.  In America, my great-grandparents lived in Washington (Pennsylvania), Philadelphia, New York, Denver, and Santa Fe.  Each in his or her own way was a pioneer.  Each one is an inspiration to me.

On this week of Thanksgiving, I am grateful to them for all they did and proud to be their great-granddaughter.


Death Certificates: Answering Some Unanswered Questions

Over the last few weeks I have received a number of death certificates, most for people about whom I have written, so I will also post them as updates to the relevant posts.  But I also wanted to post about them separately for those who might never go back to those original posts.

Three of these were for relatively young men whose deaths puzzled me.  Why had they died so young?  E.g., Simon L.B. Cohen.  He was only 36 when he died on October 24, 1934, after serving valiantly in World War I.  He was my first cousin, twice removed, the first cousin of my grandfather John Nusbaum Cohen.  Simon had faced the horrors of war, been awarded a Distinguished Service Cross by General Pershing for his service, and had been reported killed in action when he was in fact still alive.  He came home and married, but then died only five years after he married.  I had wondered what might have caused such a young man to die after surviving everything he did during the war.

His death certificate reported that his cause of death was glomerulonephritis, chronic myocarditis, and arterial hypertension.  Glomerulonephritis is a form of kidney disease, sometimes triggered by an infection like strep or some other underlying disease.  Overall, it would appear that Simon was just not a healthy 36 year old.  But that’s not the whole story.  The death certificate also described Simon as an “unemployed disabled veteran.”  Although I do not know in what way he was disabled, obviously Simon paid a huge price for what he endured while serving in the military.

Death certificates_0004_NEW

The second young man whose death puzzled me was Louis Loux.  Louis was the husband of Nellie Simon, daughter of Eliza Wiler and Leman Simon.  Louis was thirteen years younger than Nellie.  They had a daughter Florrie, born in 1910, who died from burns caused by matches.  She was only eight years old when she died in September, 1918.  Then her father Louis died just three months later on December 15, 1918.  He was only 36 years old.  I had wondered whether there was some connection between these two terrible deaths.  I knew from the 1920 census that Nellie and Louis had divorced, but I did not and still do not know whether that was before or after their daughter died.  From the death certificate for Louis, I learned that he died from broncho pneumonia. So it would seem that it was perhaps just a terrible sequence of events and that Louis’ death was not in any directly related to the death of his daughter.

Death certificates_0003_NEW

The next death I had wondered about was that of Mervin Simon, the great-grandson of Mathilde Nusbaum and Isaac Dinkelspiel.  He was only 42 years old when he died on August 27, 1942.  He was the son of Leon Simon, who was the son of Moses Simon and Paulina Dinkelspiel.  Mervin died almost a year to do the day after his father Leon.  According to his death certificate, he also died from broncho pneumonia.  Like Simon Cohen, he had no occupation listed on his death certificate.  Even on the 1940 census, neither Mervin nor his brother William had an occupation listed.

Mervyn Simon death certificate

The last death certificate I received in the last few weeks was for Dorothy Gattman Rosenstein.  Dorothy was the daughter of Cora Frank from her first marriage to Jacques Gattman.  Cora was the daughter of Francis Nusbaum and Henry Frank and the granddaughter of Leopold Nusbaum.  Cora’s husband Jacques had died when Dorothy was just a young child, and Cora had remarried and moved to Dayton, Ohio, with her new husband Joseph Lehman and her daughter Dorothy.  I had had a very hard time tracking down what happened to both Cora and Dorothy, and only with the help from a number of kind people had I learned that Dorothy had married Albert Rosenstein from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  But I wanted the death certificate to corroborate all the other less official evidence I had that this was in fact the same Dorothy Gattman, daughter of Jacques Gattman and Cora Frank.  Her death certificate confirmed that.

Death certificates_0001

Thus, all of these certificates helped put closure on some lingering questions that had bothered me.

John Nusbaum 1814-1889: The Family Patriarch

By 1880, my three-times great-grandparents, Jeanette (Dreyfuss) and John Nusbaum, and their extended families had not only grown in size but spread across a wider swath of the northeastern United States.  Some were still in Harrisburg or Philadelphia, but others were in Peoria, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh.  Although many were still dry goods merchants, the younger generations were also involved in various aspects of the liquor trade.  The family had endured the economic crisis of the 1870s, seeing some bankruptcies and the closings of several stores and businesses.  A number of young children had died, and by 1880, of the siblings of John and Jeanette Dreyfuss, only Ernst and John were still alive on the Nusbaum side, while Jeanette’s two sisters Caroline and Mathilde were both still living.

The next two decades brought with it more changes, more weddings, more new children, and sadly more deaths.  In my next series of Nusbaum/Dreyfuss posts I will try to bring the various branches up to the 20th century, focusing first on my direct ancestors, John and Jeanette and their children and grandchildren.

As I’ve written, in 1880 John and Jeanette were listed on the census in two different locations, living thousands of miles apart.  John was living with their daughter Frances and her husband Bernard Seligman (my great-great-grandparents) in Santa Fe along with his son Simon.  Jeanette, on the other hand, was living in Philadelphia with their daughter Miriam and her husband Gustavus Josephs along with Lottie Nusbaum, the youngest child of John and Jeanette, and Milton Josephs, the young son of Miriam and Gustavus who would die from bronchial pneumonia just a few months after the 1880 census was taken.  These must have been very hard times for my ancestors, and I will never know whether John moved to Santa Fe for financial reasons or because of marital problems.  I will never know whether he was there for a month or a year.

English: A Areal map of Santa Fe, New Mexico d...

English: A Areal map of Santa Fe, New Mexico during the Railroad era in 1882. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But I do know that John is listed in the 1881 Philadelphia directory as residing at 1129 Master Street, the same address where the Josephs family and Jeanette and Lottie were living on the 1880 census.  Whether John was actually back or not is hard to say for sure, but he does not appear again on any Philadelphia directory until 1886, when he is listed as being in the “segar” business and living at 524 North 11th Street, the same address given for his daughter Lottie.  Although Gustavus and his family are not listed in the 1881 directory, they show up in the 1884 directory still living on Master Street, so it would seem that sometime between 1881 and 1886, John and Lottie and presumably Jeanette had moved to their own home on North 11th Street.

I found it puzzling that John, after over forty years in the dry goods business, had entered the cigar business.  But his store had gone bankrupt, and perhaps this seemed to be a good way to make a fresh start in the 1880s.  John was already in his 70s by 1886, so it is even more surprising that he was starting in a new trade instead of just retiring.  I did some reading about the tobacco industry and learned that the John Bonsack invented the cigarette rolling machine in 1881, leading to a widespread increase in cigarette smoking (previously, tobacco was either chewed, smoked in a pipe, or hand rolled into a cigar or cigarette).   I don’t know whether this technological development had any effect on John’s decision to sell cigars, and I don’t know whether he sold only cigars or also cigarettes, but the timing does seem to be enough for me to think this was not just coincidental.  In 1887, John again is listed at the same residence and as being in the “segar” business.

English: Trade card of a cigar dealer after a ...

English: Trade card of a cigar dealer after a photograph of Napoleon Sarony, using Oscar Wilde’s popularity during his American trip of 1882 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Meanwhile, the children of John and Jeanette were also finding their way in the 1880s.  Adolphus and Julius were still in Peoria, working in the dry goods business, now called Nusbaum Bros.  Since Julius had been one of his father’s creditors in the bankruptcy proceedings, perhaps the business was now owned by the brothers instead of their father.  Julius was living with his brother Adolphus and sister-in-law Fannie, who had no children.

Simon, meanwhile, had remained in Santa Fe and was still unmarried and living with his sister, my great-great-grandmother Frances Nusbaum Seligman, and her family in 1885 according to the New Mexico Territorial Census of that year.   In 1887 Simon was appointed to be a clerk in the US post office in Santa Fe, a position he continued to hold for many years, being promoted to assistant postmaster by 1889 and ultimately to postmaster in 1898.

Miriam and Lottie, the remaining two children of John and Jeanette, were living in Philadelphia.  Miriam and her husband Gustavus had a third child in 1882, Gertrude, after losing Milton in 1880.  Their second child Florence was then two years old.  On November 28, 1888, Gertrude died from diphtheria (croupus form, according to the death certificate). She had just celebrated her sixth birthday less than a month before.  Eight year old Florence was once again an only child.  The family had lost yet another young child.  For Miriam and Gustavus to lose two young children in the space of eight years must have been completely devastating.

gertrude josephs death certificate

As for Lottie, John and Jeanette’s youngest child, she was just seventeen in 1880 and still living at home, as she did throughout the decade.

The decade drew near a close on another sad note for the family when my three-times great-grandfather John Nusbaum died on January 24, 1889.  He was 74 years old.  According to his death certificate, he died from lobular heart disease, chronic cystitis, and diabetes.  Notice also that the residential address on both Gertrude Josephs’ and John Nusbaum’s death certificates is the same: 1617 North 13th Street.

John Nusbaum death certificate

John Nusbaum was born in Schopfloch, Germany, in 1814, the sixth child of Amson Nusbaum and Voegele Welsch.  He had been one of the pioneers in the family, coming to Pennsylvania in the 1840s, probably starting as a peddler and then establishing himself as a merchant first in Harrisburg and then in Philadelphia.  He had seen much success and some failure in his business; he had helped out his siblings and their widows when his brothers Maxwell and Leopold died.  He and Jeanette had been the common link that brought together many connections between the Nusbaum, Dreyfuss, Dinkelspiel, Wiler, and Simon families.  I imagine that it must have been very hard for the family to lose him.  Sadly, I cannot find one obituary or death notice for him.

John Nusbaum’s name lived on in other ways, however. Four years after he died, his daughter Miriam and her husband Gustavus had one last child on July 26, 1893, five years after they had lost Gertrude and eleven years since Miriam had last given birth.  They named their son Jean, I assume in honor of Miriam’s father.

Two years later in 1895, John Nusbaum’s granddaughter Eva Seligman Cohen had a fourth son whom she and her husband Emanuel Cohen named John Nusbaum Cohen.  He was my grandfather, named for his great-grandfather.  Eva must have known her grandfather John Nusbaum very well, not only when she was a young child living in Philadelphia and not only when he had lived with her family for some period of time in Santa Fe, but also because she had moved to Philadelphia for college and then settled there after marrying my great-grandfather in 1886.  She must have seen a great deal of him in those last few years of his life.

John Nusbaum Cohen c. 1894

John Nusbaum Cohen c. 1895

When Simon Nusbaum married at a late age, he and his wife also named a son for Simon’s father.  John Bernard Nusbaum was born on May 15, 1904, in Santa Fe. (I assume that the Bernard was for Simon’s brother-in-law Bernard Seligman, who had died the year before.)

And, of course, John Nusbaum’s name lives on today through my father, John Nusbaum Cohen, Jr.  It’s a legacy that my three-times great-grandfather well deserved.  We may not have a photograph to remember his face, but we will always remember his name.









Who is the little boy?

For my first 2015 post, I have some wonderful new photos from my cousin Lou.  These are photos he scanned from our mutual cousin Marjorie’s photo collection, but we don’t yet know who some of the people are in these photos.  We are hoping Marjorie will be able to tell us.  Some of these are quite intriguing as I am hoping that they will be photographs of family members I’ve never seen before.

For example, here is a photograph of my great-grandmother, Eva Seligman Cohen, wife of Emanuel Cohen, daughter of Bernard Seligman and Frances Nusbaum.  But who is the man to her right? And who is the little boy to her left? Or is the little boy a little girl? Possibly Marjorie?

I showed my father the photograph, and he could not identify either person.  Could the man be Emanuel Cohen, my great-grandfather?  That would be the first photograph I’ve ever seen of him.  The little boy might be one of my father’s first cousins, Maurice Cohen, Junior, or Emanuel “Buddy” Cohen. If the older man is Emanuel, the photograph had to be taken in 1926 or before, as he died in February, 1927, and this is a photograph taken in the summertime.  Junior was born in 1917, Buddy in 1922, so it is possible that this is my great-grandparents standing with one of their grandsons.  I hope Marjorie can help us.

Eva Seligman Cohen with unknown man and boy

Here is another photograph of that little boy.  The man to his left is Stanley Cohen, my great-uncle, Marjorie’s father.   Marjorie album 58


But who is the man to his right?  Could it be my other great-uncle, Maurice Cohen, Senior?  I’ve never seen a picture of him nor have I seen a picture of either of his two sons, Junior and Buddy.  Maurice died in 1931; if this was taken in 1926 or so, this certainly could be him.  Maurice would have been 38 in 1926, Stanley would have been 37.

Finally, there is this photograph of the little boy.  Marjorie album 19

Who is that man?  It’s not the same man standing with my great-uncle Stanley in the prior photograph.  He seems to be a fair amount younger than both that other man and Stanley.

All those photographs seem to have been taken on the same day in Atlantic City, maybe around the same time as this photograph taken in 1932:

Eva M. Cohen, center, 1932 (Arthur Seligman, right)

Eva M. Cohen, center, 1932 (Arthur Seligman, right)

It looks like my great-grandmother was wearing the same or a similar hat and outfit to those she was wearing in the first photograph.

I am anxious to hear what Lou learns from Marjorie when he sees her.

Thanksgiving: More Gifts, More Gratitude

cemetery sign for Mikveh Israel

It’s been a week or so of amazing gifts.  First there was the package from Gau-Algesheim with the records and book relating to my Seligmann ancestors and the amazing help I received from Ralph Baer and Matthias Steinke with translation of these items.

Then a day or so after the Gau-Algesheim package arrived, I received a gift from my third cousin once removed Todd Graham.  Todd is the great-great-great-grandson of Jacob Cohen, my great-great-grandfather.  Todd wrote to tell me that he had been to the Federal Street cemetery in Philadelphia where many of our mutual Cohen ancestors are buried and that he had taken photographs.  He asked if I wanted to see the photos, and I said of course.  So here are the photographs I received from Todd.

First is a photograph of where our ancestor Hart Levy Cohen is buried.  There is no stone visible, and the rabbi at the cemetery explained to Todd that they believed that the stone had sunk beneath the surface and was buried underground.  I have written to the rabbi and asked whether there is anything we can do to uncover the stone or to mark the gravesite in some other way.

Burial Site of Hart Levy Cohen

Burial Site of Hart Levy Cohen

This photo shows where Hart’s children Lewis and Elizabeth are buried.  Again, the stones are not visible, but this is the location of their graves.


Burial sites for Elizabeth Cohen and Lewis Cohen (Hart's children)

Burial sites for Elizabeth Cohen and Lewis Cohen (Hart’s children)

Todd also took photographs of the stone for Jacob and Sarah Cohen.  Although I had a photo of this stone before from Rabbi Albert Gabbai, I am hoping that these will be easier to read so that I can learn what the Hebrew inscription says.

Jacob and Sarah Cohen monument Jacob Cohen headstone by Todd Jacob Cohen monument by Todd jacob headstone edit 1


Todd also found the stones for three of Jacob’s children.  First, a new photograph of the headstone for my great-grandparents Emanuel and Eva (Seligman) Cohen and my grandfather John Nusbaum Cohen, Sr.

Headstone for Emanuel, Eva and John Cohen

Headstone for Emanuel, Eva and John Cohen

Side of Emanuel Eva and John by Todd

Next are photographs of the headstones for Emanuel’s brother Reuben and his wife Sallie Livingston Cohen and of their son Jacob Livingston Cohen.

Reuben and Sallie Livingston Cohen

Reuben and Sallie Livingston Cohen

Jacob Livingston Cohen

Jacob Livingston Cohen


And finally, this is a photograph of the headstone for Todd’s great-great-grandparents Lewis and Carrie (Dannenbaum) Cohen and his grandparents William and Helen (Cohen) Bacharach.  Lewis Cohen was also the brother of my great-grandfather Emanuel Cohen.

Bacharach and Cohen headstone

Bacharach and Cohen headstone

Thank you so much, Todd, for these photographs, and I hope that we can do something to honor the graves of Hart, Lewis, and Elizabeth Cohen.

There is one more gift I want to acknowledge, and it came totally unsolicited and from a total stranger.  About two weeks ago I received a comment on the blog from someone who had found a set of matches on a website selling vintage items.  The matches were for a business called Selinger Associates at an address in Washington, DC.  Kimberly Crosson, the woman who commented on the blog, had purchased these matches and was now asking me whether this business was connected to the Selingers on my blog.  I was skeptical at first, I must admit.  I thought it was some kind of scam or spam.  But I emailed Kim and found out that not only was she not looking to make money, she was incredibly kind-hearted and generous and just wanted to get the matches to someone in the family—for no charge.

I checked the address and found that this was Eliot Selinger’s business.  Then I tracked down a descendant of Eliot Selinger and asked him if he was interested in the matches, and he was, so I put him in touch with Kim so that she could send him the matches.  I asked only for some pictures of the matches, so here is what Kim sent to me.  You can tell these are from a different era once you see the picture on the matches.

Selinger matches cover Selinger matches reverse


So once again, let me express my thanks to all these generous people, especially Todd and Kim for these photos, but to all who have helped and continue to help me with my research. I could never have done all this on my own.

And now I will be taking a short break from blogging for Thanksgiving.  May you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and thank you all for supporting me and providing me with so much help as I continue to learn about the lives of my ancestors.





I Am My Own Grandma, or It’s A Small World After All

No, it’s not quite that incestuous or circular, but it’s pretty confusing.

Here’s the story, and I will try to keep this simple.  Or as simple as I can.

Almost two years ago I received a message out of the blue from a fellow member named Nancy Hano.  Attached to her message was a photograph of my grandfather and great-grandparents’ headstone, i.e., John Nusbaum Cohen, Sr., and Emanuel and Eva Cohen.

headstone for emanuel, eva and john n cohen

Courtesy of Nancy Hano

Nancy had seen my tree on and  wanted to know whether these were my relatives, and if so, she thought we might be related because her grandparents, Samuel and Louise Lydia Cohen, were buried nearby.  After some back and forth and some looking at each other’s trees, we concluded that her Cohens and my Cohens were not genetically related.

However, we did find a different connection.  With the help of Nancy’s cousin, Gil Weeder, we found that Samuel Cohen and Louise Lydia Hano had a daughter named Flora.  Flora had married a man named Jacob Weil.  Jacob Weil was the son of Lewis Weil and Rachel Cohen.  Rachel Cohen was the sister of my great-grandfather Emanuel Cohen.  So in fact, Nancy and Gil were related to be my marriage—their relative Flora had married my relative Jacob Weil.

Lydia and Samuel Cohen and granddaughter Helen

Louise Lydia Hano and Samuel Cohen with their granddaughter Helen c. 1913 Courtesy of Gil Weeder

We exchanged pictures and information, and we all continued to do our own research.

Fast forward to this past week, almost two years later.  I am now researching my Nusbaum relatives.  As I was putting together lists of the descendants of my Nusbaum ancestors, I saw the name Jacob Hano appear as the husband of one of my relatives, Fanny Nusbaum, the daughter of Ernst Nusbaum, who is my 4x great-uncle, brother of John Nusbaum.

Since the Hanos, like the Cohens and the Nusbaums, were Pennsylvania Jews, I wondered whether there was a connection.  So I did some research on Jacob Hano, and I soon found out that he was the brother of the Louise Lydia Hano who had married Samuel Cohen, Nancy and Gil’s ancestors.  That is, Jacob Hano was Flora Cohen’s uncle, the same Flora Cohen who married Jacob Weil,the son of Rachel Cohen.

Florrie C Weil sitting room as a child

Home of Samuel Cohen and Louisa Lydia Hano
Courtesy of Gil Weeder

Are you still with me? There’s a quiz at the end.  (No, not really.)

Thus, Nancy, Gil and I are related both through my Nusbaum family and through my Cohen family.

Did they all know each other? Jacob Hano married my relative Fanny Nusbaum in 1877.   My great-grandparents Emanuel Cohen and Eva May Seligman (a Nusbaum) were married in 1886. Flora Cohen  wasn’t married to my relative Jacob Weil until 1908, over twenty years later.   So…here’s one possible scenario:

Eva May Seligman Cohen’s sister-in-law Rachel Cohen Weil says to Eva, “Do you know a nice Jewish girl for my son Jacob?”

Eva says, “Well, my mother’s first cousin Fanny is married to a man named Jacob Hano.  His sister Louise Lydia is married to Samuel Cohen.  A very nice family, also happened to be named Cohen.  They have a daughter Flora.  Perhaps Jacob would like to meet her?”

Flora Cohen and Jacob Weil with their daughter Maizie and unknown other

Flora Cohen and Jacob Weil with their daughter Maizie and unknown other Courtesy of Nancy Hano/Gil Weeder

And poof!  My Nusbaum and Cohen relatives are married to each other, and Gil and Nancy and I get all excited about a new connection, and my family tree starts twisting around on its own axis so badly that it just might fall down!

To state it most succinctly, my father’s maternal first cousin three times removed, Fanny Nusbaum, was married to Jacob Hano, who was the uncle of the wife (Flora Cohen) of my father’s paternal first cousin once removed, Jacob Weil.

This is a simple family tree that illustrates ...

This is a simple family tree that illustrates the definitions of various types of cousins (e.g. “second cousin twice removed”). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


English: The usual European kinship system wit...

English: The usual European kinship system with English text. Note that “Thrice-removed” on the chart more commonly occurs as “Three times removed”… Deutsch: Das gebräuchliche europäische Verwandschaftssystem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)