Back to the Blogosphere

It’s been over a month since I last posted on the blog—the longest break I’ve ever taken. But I really needed it.

But in the month I’ve been away from blogging (and pretty much away from the laptop), I’ve nevertheless learned a great deal related to my extended family tree. In these five weeks, I have heard from numerous new cousins who found me through the blog. So even while I was taking a break from new research, the blog has been doing its work, helping me find new cousins and new information.

So in the weeks to come I will introduce these new cousins and share the stories and photos and new information they’ve shared with me about their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents.  I have been moved by all of them and am so grateful that they’ve all reached out to me and made these connections.

Two sad notes. My cousin Henry Rosenberg died earlier this month at the age of 94. I had had a lovely conversation with Henry back in the fall, and he was engaged and warm and friendly and so willing to share his life story with me. I was shocked and saddened to learn that he had passed away. I wrote about Henry and my conversation with him here, here, and here. He was related to me through our mutual ancestors Abraham and Geitel Katz Blumenfeld, Henry through their son Moses and me through their daughter Breine.

Also, on November 27, 2022, my cousin Joan Lorch Staple passed away after living a remarkable life for more than 99 years. Joan was related to me through our mutual ancestors, Jacob Seligmann and Martha Mayer, she through their daughter Martha and me through their son Moritz, my three-times great-grandfather. I will share more about Joan’s remarkable life in my next post.

Losing these two wonderful cousins—both of whom were born in Germany in the 1920s and escaped from the Nazis with their families as young people, both of whom went on to live very long and productive lives—reminded me once again of the urgency of the task of finding cousins and learning their history before it is too late.

And so I return to blogging with a renewed commitment to tell the stories of those in my extended family tree.

See you next week!

Meeting New Cousins

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

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

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

Jan and me and a new friend in Provincetown

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Best, Rainer

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

Carl Laemmle
From Wikimedia Commons, public domain

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

Motion Picture Weekly, January 1917

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

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

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

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


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

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

Harvey, me, Mike, and Wendy

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

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


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

Sliding Doors

Back in April, I wrote about the family of Rosalie Schoenthal, my great-grandfather’s sister, the one who stayed in Germany to marry Willy Heymann.  Most of what I knew of their fate I learned from the memoir written by Ernest Lion, the man who married Rosalie and Willy’s granddaughter, Liesel Mosbach.  Liesel, her sister, her parents, and her aunt, were all victims of the Holocaust. Ernest Lion memorialized them all in his heartbreaking memoir, The Fountain at the Crossroad.

As I mentioned in a subsequent post written for Yom Hashoah in May, I was so moved by Ernest’s story that I tracked down his son Tom to ask about getting it published so that it could be more widely read.  Since then, I have been working with Tom to edit and format the memoir for publication.  (We’ve run into a few obstacles, but that’s a story for another day.)  I am hoping that sometime soon the book will be available for distribution. When it is, I will post the relevant information on the blog.

But none of this would be possible without the help of another of my cousins by marriage, Sharon.  Sharon is married to the great-grandson of Simon Schoenthal, who was also my great-grandfather’s brother as well as Rosalie Schoenthal Heymann’s brother.  And Sharon, who writes the blog The Heart and Craft of Life Writing, has a great deal of knowledge not only about writing, but also about getting your writing published.  Sharon and her husband were the ones who shared with me the remarkable memoir written by Hettie Schoenthal Stein.  So when I decided to try and get Ernest Lion’s book into a publishable format, I turned to Sharon for help.

Sharon spent hours through email and Skype instructing me on how to turn a typed manuscript into a format that is not only more readable, but also professional looking.  She has been incredibly patient with me, as all this was new to me, and the old brain isn’t quite as flexible as it once was.  I cannot possibly express how grateful I am to her for her help.

One of the last things we worked on was inserting photographs into the memoir, and as she was doing this, Sharon was struck by the resemblance she saw between Liesel Mosbach Lion, Ernest’s first wife and our mutual cousin, and Sharon’s mother-in-law, Blanche Stein Lippincott.  She sent me a photograph of Blanche and her family that I had not previously seen.


Blanche Stein Lippincott and her family 1940 Courtesy of the Lippincott family

And here is a photograph of Liesel Mosbach and Ernest Lion that I obtained from Ernest’s son to put into his book:


Liesel Mosbach and Ernest Lion Courtesy of the Lion Family


The resemblance is striking.  Blanche and Liesel were second cousins, but from these two photographs, they could have been sisters.



But what different lives and fates they had, and the expressions on their faces in these two photographs reflect those differences. While Blanche looks healthy and happy, Liesel looks drawn and sad, even on her wedding day.

Blanche was born in 1912 in Tucson, Arizona, and grew up living on the American frontier in the 1910s and 1920s.  Her mother Hattie and her aunt Gertrude had ventured out west after growing up in Philadelphia and Atlantic City.  They did later return to the East, as I’ve written, and Blanche spent the rest of her life living in New Jersey.  She married in 1937 and raised two children with her husband Ezra.  Blanche lived a long and happy life, making it to almost 101 years old before dying in 2013.  Her mother Hettie had made it to 103.

Blanche Stein Lippincott with her great-granddaughter 1996

Blanche Stein Lippincott with her great-granddaughter 1996

In contrast, Liesel lived a short and tragic life.  She was born in 1921 in Germany, where her father Julius Mosbach owned a fruit and vegetable stand. The family was probably living a comfortable enough life until Hitler came to power.  When Liesel married Ernest Lion on December 18, 1939, conditions for Jews were terrible in Germany, and the young couple had no idea what the future would bring.

There would, in fact, be no future. As a result of the Nazi oppression and the loss of his business, Julius Mosbach suffered a nervous breakdown; in 1941, he was sent to an institution where instead of being treated, he was murdered by the Nazis. In 1942, Liesel’s mother, sister, and aunt, and Ernest’s father were all deported and eventually killed in a Nazi concentration camp.  In 1943, Liesel and Ernest were deported to Auschwitz, where Liesel was killed.  Ernest survived and eventually escaped; he became the voice for the whole family.

Thus, Blanche and Liesel, second cousins who looked like sisters, had far different lives and fates.  I can’t help but think, what if Rosalie and Willie had come to the US like almost all of Rosalie’s siblings? What if Liesel and her sister Grete had grown up in Pennsylvania or anywhere else in the United States?

As the president of our synagogue reminded us on Rosh Hashanah, we cannot control where we are born, when we are born, or to whom we are born.  Some of us are blessed with good luck in all of those things while others are not.  We should never take that for granted.

Double Cousins…Everywhere!

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


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


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

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


Ida Hecht Goldfarb and granddaughter Sue

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


Julius, Evelyn, and Ida (Hecht) Goldfarb

Julius, Evelyn, and Ida (Hecht) Goldfarb

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Max Brotman

Max Brotman, courtesy of the family

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

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

Hyman Brotman

Hyman Brotman

Tilly Brotman

Tilly Brotman Ressler

Sam Brotman

Sam Brotman

Gussie Brotman

Gussie Brotman Goldschlager

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

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


Goldfarb Hecht family gathering for Chanukah

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

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

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


Two More Generations Back! The Amazing Seligmanns

Get ready for a real brain twister here.

As I mentioned in my last post, my cousin Wolfgang sent me several new documents relating to our mutual Seligmann ancestors.  Wolfgang and his mother received these from Beate Goetz, who had also sent me several important documents over a year ago.  I continue to be amazed by how much information is available about my Seligmann forebears.

The first document is a death certificate for Jakob Seligmann, my four-times great-grandfather, father of Moritz Seligmann and grandfather of Bernard Seligman.  Until now Jakob was the earliest relative I had found in the Seligmann line; he was born in Gaulsheim, Germany in 1773 and died there in 1851.  His wife, my four-times great-grandmother, was Martha Mayer.

Jakob Seligmann death record

Jakob Seligmann death record


With help from Wolfgang, his mother, and my friend Matthias Steinke, I learned that this document says that Jakob Seligmann died on December 21, 1851, when he was 78 years old.  He was born in Gaulsheim, the son of Seligmann Hirsch, deceased, a merchant in Gaulsheim, and Mina nee Mayer.  The informants were his son Leopold Seligmann and Konrad Vollmer, not related.   What was most exciting about this document was that it revealed the names of Jakob’s parents: Seligmann Hirsch and Mina Mayer.

Seligmann Hirsch and Mina Mayer were thus my five-times great-grandparents.  I now had another generation back to add to my family tree.  And then something occurred to me.  When I saw that Mina’s birth name had been Mayer, I was puzzled.  Was she related to her daughter-in-law Martha Mayer? Of course, it could be.  But when I thought about it a bit more, I realized that when Mina was born in the mid-18th century, Jews were not using surnames.  Instead, they were using patronymics—Mina was probably the daughter of a man whose first name was Mayer, not whose surname was Mayer. She was Mina bat (daughter of) Mayer.

So if Jakob Seligmann’s father was Seligmann Hirsch, it meant that he was probably Seligmann ben (son of) Hirsch.  That meant that the Seligmann surname really came from Jakob’s father’s first name.  When Jakob had to adopt a surname in Napoleonic times, he must have taken his patronymic of Jakob ben (son of) Seligmann and compressed it into a first name and surname, creating Jakob Seligmann.  Seligmann ben Hirsch was thus the original source for the Seligmann surname that survives to this day in my family with Wolfgang himself.

And that meant that Seligmann ben Hirsch was the son of  a man named Hirsch, who was my six-times great-grandfather.

That hunch was corroborated by another bit of evidence that Wolfgang brought to my attention.  Back in July 2015, I posted about Moritz Seligmann’s sister, Martha Seligmann, who had married a man named Benjamin Seligmann, son of Isaac Seligmann and Felicitas Goetzel.  Martha and Benjamin’s son Siegfried had married Moritz and Eva Seligmann’s daughter Caroline.  Caroline and Siegfried were the parents of Emil Seligmann, who created that very long and detailed family tree I wrote about here.  That is, Emil was the grandson of both Moritz Seligmann AND his sister Martha Seligmann.  He was his own second cousin.

Here’s the chart I posted last time.  I know this is all confusing, but if I don’t write it down, I will never remember my own thought processes.

Pedigree Chart for Emil Seligmann

Pedigree Chart for Emil Seligmann


Or as I wrote then, “Emil’s father Siegfried was the son of Martha Seligmann; his mother Karoline was the daughter of Moritz Seligmann.  Moritz and Martha were siblings, so Siegfried and Karoline were first cousins.  Thus, Emil’s paternal grandmother Martha and his maternal grandfather Moritz were sister and brother.  Now if in fact Benjamin Seligmann, Martha’s husband, was also a cousin, there is truly a remarkable amount of inbreeding there.”

And I think that’s in fact the case: Benjamin and Martha were also first cousins.  Back in July I had thought that perhaps Benjamin Seligmann and his wife Martha Seligmann were cousins since both had the surname Seligmann.  I thought that their fathers, Isaac and Jakob, respectively, could have been brothers, but I had no way of proving it.  But now I know from Jakob’s death certificate that his father’s name was Seligmann ben Hirsch. Was that also the name of Isaac’s father?

A look at Isaac’s gravestone from the Steinheim Institute website revealed this, one of the most beautiful grave inscriptions I’ve ever seen:


האיש החשוב משכיל וטהור Here lies  the respected man wise and pure,
החבר ר’הירש בן כ”ה זעליגמאן the Torah Scholar Mr. Hirsch, son of the honored Mr. Seligmann of
גוילסהיים: למלאכתו מלאכת Gaulsheim. For his work was Heaven’s work.  As swift as 
שמים כצבי מהיר אור תורתו 5 a deer was the light of his Torah.  Like a sapphire. 
כספיר תאיר צדק קדמו פעמיו:  righteousness was before him.  A wholly righteous man, great in deeds, doing 
איש תמים ורב פעלי’ גומל חסדים many acts of lovingkindness  for the
רבים: לרעבים וצמאים hungry and thirsty.  
אורו נגנז יום וי”ו ך”ה ובא He died on six, 25 Iyar, and he came
למנוחתו כבוד יו’ א’ך”ו אייר 10 to his honored resting place Day 1, 27 Iyar.
לפרט יקר בעיני ד’המות’ לחסידי’ Especially dear in the eyes of the Lord is the death of the pious.
תנצב”ה May his soul be bound up in the bonds of eternal life.


(Thank you to Neil, Bracha, and Gerald from Tracing the Tribe on Facebook for help in translating the Hebrew; the original German translation on the Steinheim site did not translate well into English using Google Translate, so I decided it would be better to  get a translation of the Hebrew directly rather than getting a translation of the translation. If the lines of the translation do not line up exactly with the Hebrew text, that is my error, not that of my translators.)

And thank you to my friend Dorothee who told me about the link to the photograph of the headstone.

Hirsch "Isaac" ben Seligmann headstone Found at

Hirsch “Isaac” ben Seligmann headstone
Found at

“Isaac’s” Hebrew name was Hirsch, son of Seligmann. His father was thus named Seligmann, as was Jakob’s father.  Furthermore, Jewish naming patterns suggest that Isaac’s father could have been Seligmann son of Hirsch, the man who was also Jakob’s father. Hirsch/”Isaac” was older than Jakob; when Seligmann son of Hirsch had his first son, he named him for his own deceased father, Hirsch.  Jakob and Hirsch/“Isaac” were most likely brothers, both sons of Seligmann ben Hirsch.

Why then is Isaac referred to as Isaac, not Hirsch as his gravestone indicates? I don’t know.  The Steinheim Institute site notes that “Hirsch from Gaulsheim called Isaac Seligmann. He was a schoolteacher in Bingen,” without further explanation.  On the page for Hirsch/Isaac’s son Benjamin, the Steinheim site comments that “Benjamin Seligmann was in Gaulsheim (today district of Bingen), the son of school teacher Hirsch (later: Isaac) 1798 Seligmann and his wife Felicity born.” [Translation by Google Translate] Hirsch must have changed his name to Isaac.

So that means that Benjamin Seligmann, son of Hirsch/Isaac, and Martha Seligmann, daughter of Jakob, were first cousins.  Their son Siegfried was thus not only their son but also a first cousin removed from each of his parents.  Oy vey.  Siegfried then married his first cousin Caroline, daughter of his mother’s brother Moritz.  ENDOGAMY, anyone??  No wonder Emil’s tree was so convoluted!

Here is an updated pedigree chart for Emil Seligmann.  Notice that Seligmann ben Hirsch and Mina Mayer appear as his great-grandparents in three different places:

Extended Pedigree Chart for Emil Seligmann

Extended Pedigree Chart for Emil Seligmann


Where am I? Oh, right.  I now know that my six-times great-grandfather was named Hirsch and that he had a son named Seligmann, who had at least two children, Hirsch (who became Isaac) and Jakob.

But what about Jakob Seligmann’s wife Martha, daughter of Mayer, my four-times great-grandmother? The second document Wolfgang sent to me was her death certificate.  Martha died on December 17, 1849 in Gaulsheim when she was 76 years old.  She was born in Oberingelheim and was the daughter of Jakob Mayer, deceased, a merchant in Oberingelheim, and Odilia, nee Simon.  The informants were her husband, Jakob Seligmann, and Konrad Vollmer, who was not related to her.

Martha Seligmann nee Mayer death record

Martha Seligmann nee Mayer death record

Thus, I now know another set of five-times great-grandparents, Martha’s parents: Jakob Mayer (probably Jakob ben Mayer) and Odilia Simon (probably Odilia daughter of Simon).  And I know where to search for them: Oberlingelheim.  And if I am right about the patronymics, then I know two more of my sixth-great-grandfathers, Mayer, father of Jakob, and Simon, father of Odilia.

All that from two pieces of paper dating from the mid-nineteenth century.

Thank you, Beate Goetz, Wolfgang Seligmann and his mother Annlis, Matthias Steinke, and the members of Tracing the Tribe, for all your help.


This is NOT a test even if it looks and sounds like one!

As promised, here is a chart to illustrate one possible way that my mother Florence, Elaine and Frieda are all connected.

New PDF Chart showing relationships of Moses Joseph Bessie et al-page-001


There are a LOT of unknowns and assumptions here.

First, we are assuming that Joseph Brotman and Bessie Brot were first cousins, as family lore says.  If so, then one of Joseph’s parents was a sibling to one of Bessie’s parents.  On this chart, I am assuming that Joseph’s father Abraham was a sibling to Bessie’s mother Gittel Brot because I don’t think Abraham would have named a son Joseph if he had a living brother named Joseph.

Second, we are assuming based on DNA results that Joseph Brotman and Moses Brotman were brothers, making their children first cousins and their grandchildren, here Florence and Elaine, second cousins.  The DNA results seem to support that assumption.

Third, we are assuming that Florence and Frieda are also second cousins based on the DNA results, meaning that Gussie Brotman and Sabina Brod were first cousins, meaning that one of Gussie’s parents and one of Sabina’s parents were siblings.  Here, I am making the assumption that Bessie Brot, Gussie’s mother, was the sister of Sabina’s mother, but it could be that Bessie was Sabina’s father’s sister.  I don’t know whether Brod was a name Sabina got from her mother or her father because in Galicia in those times, the state often treated Jewish children as illegitimate if their parents had only a Jewish marriage ceremony and thus assigned the mother’s name to the children instead of the father’s.  So either is possible here.

So what does this all mean? Well, hold on because this is where it gets a bit slippery. Taking the above chart as true (which is still very speculative), it means that Elaine, Florence, and Frieda are all third cousins since they all have the same great-great-grandparents, i.e., whoever were the parents of Abraham Brotman and Gittel Brot.  (I don’t know whether Brotman and Brot were two versions of the same name or two completely different names in the family; both exist as surnames so they could be as unrelated as someone named Rosen is to someone named Rosenberg, for example.)

BUT Elaine and Florence are also second cousins (as well as third cousins) since they are the children of first cousins (Louis and Gussie) and the grandchildren of siblings (Moses and Joseph Brotman).  AND the same is true for Florence and Frieda: they are second cousins because they are the children of first cousins (Gussie and Sabina) and the grandchildren of siblings (Bessie and the parent of Sabina).


So my mother is a second cousin to both Elaine and Frieda (since her grandparents were first cousins), BUT Elaine and Frieda are not second cousins, only third cousins.  Their grandparents (Moses Brotman and Sabina’s parent) were not first cousins, just second cousins.

That is consistent with the DNA results which showed my mother as a second cousin to Elaine and also to Frieda but showed Elaine and Frieda as likely third to fifth cousins.

I have no idea whether that is a help or not.  In fact, I think I am more confused now than before.  Please tell me if that makes no sense.  Ask me questions.  Test my thinking.  Please.

And a big THANK YOU to my new cousin Phyllis for helping me sort through all of this!

An Important Clue Buried in A Wedding Announcement

As I was finishing up my research on Sallie R. Cohen and her life, I found this article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about her wedding:

Sallie R. Cohen and Ellis Abrams wedding story

Sallie R. Cohen and Ellis Abrams wedding story

(“Matrimony Notice,”  Tuesday, May 22, 1900,Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA) Volume: 142 Issue: 142 Page: 2)

Not only does this provide further evidence of the social and economic success of Reuben and Sallie Cohen, it also provides a very important clue to one of my biggest questions about the Cohen clan.  Remember the two Hart Cohens that had me confused a few weeks ago—one in Philadelphia and one in Washington, DC? After much searching and thinking I had developed a strong hunch that they were first cousins and that Jacob Cohen of Philadelphia and Moses Cohen, Sr., of Washington were brothers, both sons of my great-great-great grandparents Hart Levy Cohen and Rachel Jacobs.  I am in touch with Moses Cohen’s descendant Scott, and we are awaiting DNA test results to see whether he and my brother share enough DNA to conclude that we are all in fact descended from Hart Levy Cohen.

But now I have another fairly persuasive bit of evidence linking the Moses Cohen family in DC to my Philadelphia Cohens.  If you can read the announcement, you will see that one of the bridesmaids is Grace Cohen of Washington, DC.  Grace Cohen was the daughter of Moses Cohen, Jr., and his wife Henrietta.  She was born in 1877, two years before Sallie R. Cohen, daughter of Reuben Cohen, and was  thus her second cousin, assuming that Jacob and Moses were brothers and thus their respective sons, Reuben and Moses, Jr., were first cousins.

This is the kind of almost accidental discovery that just makes my day.  It’s the kind of thing that I could easily have missed or read and not thought about carefully.  Although the DNA test results may provide more scientific evidence that DC Moses and my great-great grandfather Jacob were brothers, this little tidbit in a wedding announcement is certainly fairly persuasive evidence on its own.

Gifts from Doing Genealogy: My Wonderful Cousins

Ten of Joseph and Bessie's great-grandchildren on the Lower East Side

Ten of Joseph and Bessie’s great-grandchildren on the Lower East Side

Lower East Side tenement

Lower East Side tenement (Photo credit: Salim Virji)

After much planning and anticipation, ten of Joseph and Bessie Brotman’s great-grandchildren, four of their great-great-grandchildren and one great-great-greatgrandchild as well as a number of spouses spent the weekend, talking, eating, laughing and connecting and reconnecting in NYC.  Some of us had known each other all our lives, some had never met at all, and some had not seen each other in many years.  We represented two of Joseph and Bessie’s children, Hyman and Gussie. Although a few people could not make it for various reasons, there were several others who wanted to join us but were unable to do so, including one of Max’s granddaughters and one of hisgreat- granddaughters and one of Abraham’s granddaughters.  We had a wonderful tour of the Tenement Museum and several of us walked along Ridge Street between Rivington and Delancey where our ancestors lived between about 1891 and 1907.

Sign outside Lower East Side Tenement Museum

Sign outside Lower East Side Tenement Museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was everything I had hoped it would be and more so.  We shared stories about our lives and about our grandparents and parents.  We shared photographs.  We got to know and learned about our children and grandchildren.  We came from as far away as Cleveland and Florida and Massachusetts.   Some lived closer by in New Jersey or even in NYC itself.    There were lots of photos taken. Included here are just a representative few to illustrate the excitement and love that was shared.

Saul and Manny's descendants

Saul and Manny’s descendants



photo 4 photo 3

I cannot speak for everyone, but for me it was magical.  A year ago I did not even know I had second cousins.  Through the course of doing family research, I had found all these new wonderful people, people I would have chosen as friends even if they were not my relatives.  We may live far apart, we may have known each other only for a short time, but I know that for me I felt a deep connection.  No, it’s not the same as growing up with a first cousin who shared grandparents and holidays and vacations, but it is nevertheless a real connection.  We all came from the same place, we all are here because Joseph and Bessie decided to leave Galicia and come to America.  We all started somewhere on Ridge Street where our grandparents learned to speak English and the skills that were necessary to rise above the poverty.

Ridge and Broome St

Lower East Side

Lower East Side (Photo credit: InSapphoWeTrust)

I am so grateful for all who were able to make it and all who helped make this dream come true.   I hope that those who were unable to join us will be able to do so another time.  And now I am inspired to starting planning the first Goldschlager-Rosenzweig reunion and then the second Brotman reunion.  These things take time and effort, and I was lucky to have lots of help  with the planning, but I encourage any of my fellow family researchers to reach out and make your family tree more than a two-dimensional document or digital record.  Find a way to meet your cousins and make them a part of your life.


UPDATE: For more photos, click here.

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The Family Album continued

For those who love old photographs, here are a few more to enjoy.

First, this is a photograph of my two big cousins, Jeff Lehrbaum and Beth Goldschlager.  They are younger here than I would remember them.  (I was probably younger than two when this was taken.)  I don’t know where this was taken, but I love how young and innocent they both look.  Beth and I used to compete for Jeff’s attention; she would point out that she was closer to him in age, but I would respond that I lived closer by and saw him more often.  Here I see how those extra two years gave her a headstart.

Jeff and Beth c. 1954

Jeff and Beth c. 1954

Here is one of Barry and Karyn Kenner with their father Irving.  According to Barry, this was taken when they were visiting their grandmother, Betty Goldschlager Feuerstein, at her home in Levittown, New York.  I love that I get a sneak peak into her home and its furnishings as well as a picture of my newly-found second cousins as children.

Barry, Irving and Karyn Kenner

Barry, Irving and Karyn Kenner

And here’s one of my aunt and uncle, Elaine and Phil Lehrbaum, canoeing somewhere, perhaps on their honeymoon.  My aunt always would talk about how athletic Phil and his family all were, skating, swimming, biking, and, it seems, canoeing.  She would tell funny stories of her attempts to compete with the Lehrbaums —or more accurately, her inability to compete.  I think this photo captures that—she seems to be holding that paddle as if she had no idea of what to do with it and with no intention of using it.

Phil and Elaine Lehrbaum

Phil and Elaine Lehrbaum

Finally, one that’s of more recent vintage—probably around 1987—of three little cousins, my daughters Maddy and Rebecca surrounding their second cousin, Mark, Jody and Joel’s son.  May they remain connected and always part of each other’s lives.

Maddy, Mark and Rebecca

Maddy, Mark and Rebecca

Thanks to Barry, Jody and Robin for these pictures.

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