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.


Two Tragedies in 1894 for the Family of Ernst Nusbaum

If the 1880s were years of general growth and prosperity for Ernst Nusbaum and his family, the 1890s were years of loss.  Once again, the Nusbaum/Dreyfuss family lost a young member of the family to suicide.

On January 18, 1894, Myer Nusbaum, 41 years old and the father of two young teenagers, took his own life.

myer nusbaum suicide  jan 19 1894 phil inquirer page 1

myer suicide part 2

myer suice part 3

myer suicide part 4

myer suicide part 5

Philadelphia Inquirer, January 19, 1894, p. 1

The Philadelphia Times also reported on this tragic death here: Myer_Nusbaum_Suicide_Philadelphia_Times_p_4_1_19_1894

Here was a man of a steady and upstanding reputation, a bookkeeper for a clothing company who had been employed in one place for over twenty years, a man who was well-liked and active in his community, a man with a wife and two teenaged children.  What was this “grip” that caused him so much pain that he felt he had no alternative but to end his life?

From what I can gather from various sources on line, the grip was a term for what we would today call influenza or the flu.  I’ve had the flu.  Probably all of you have had the flu at some time or another.  It’s awful.  You feel terrible.  Your head hurts, your body aches, you have respiratory symptoms, sometimes stomach symptoms.  It can last for many days.  But most people don’t become suicidal.

Although the headline on the Philadelphia Times story about Myer says, “Another Grip Tragedy,” I would imagine that even back in the 1890s, most people did not intentionally end their lives while suffering from the flu. Somehow I have to believe that Myer’s illness was something more than influenza, but it just was not diagnosed. The Inquirer story says he had been suffering for seven weeks; I have never heard of the flu lasting that long, but maybe it did back then.  He must have been suffering terribly to have been driven to such an extreme.  Imagine his poor fifteen year old son Jacob, watching his father die in his arms, and his wife Rosalie and sixteen year old daughter Corinne having to identify his body at the hospital.

UPDATE:  My cousin Jessica, an expert in disease and disaster control, sent me a link to an article about the flu pandemic of the 1890s, the so-called Russian flu.  It included this quote:  “Influenza was also considered to be a major cause of nervous and psychological disorders by acting as a “devitalizing agent.” Descriptions of influenza sequelae included “depression,” “shattered nerves,” “neurasthenia,” and “despondency.” During 1890, for example, an unprecedented 140 melancholics afflicted with influenza “poison” were admitted to Scotland’s Royal Edinburgh Asylum. Coroners also cited influenza as a reason for “temporary insanity” in cases of suicide. Across Europe, rates of suicide (mostly male) and attempted suicide (mostly female) rose during the 1890s. In England and Wales, there was a 25 percent increase in suicides between 1889 and 1893. Paris witnessed a 23 percent rise during 1889–1890 compared with the average, and there were also increased rates in Germany and Switzerland.”  Thus, Myer Nusbaum was not alone in suffering severe depression as a result of the flu.  You can read more about the Russian flu here.

Myer Nusbaum death cert suicide

“Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 11 March 2015), Myer Nusbaum, 18 Jan 1894; citing 15562, Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 1,871,367.


1894 ended as tragically as it began.  Almost eleven months to the day after Myer died, on December 16, 1894, his father Ernst died from injuries sustained in a fall.  Ernst was 78 years old; the last of the Nusbaum siblings in America was gone.  And not from disease or old age, but from an accidental fall.  Somehow that just seems unfair; he had been able to adjust to life in America, had been a successful businessperson, had bounced back from bankruptcy and the Depression of the 1870s, and had raised six children with his wife Clarissa, and his life had ended because of a fall.

Ernst Nusbaum death cert

Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 11 March 2015), Ernst Nusbaum, 16 Dec 1894; citing page 284 certificate # 11892, Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 1,011,822.


As for the rest of the family, Arthur Nusbaum and his wife Henrietta had two more children in the 1890s: Clare, born in 1894, and Helen, born in 1895.  There were now six children in the family, and they were living at 2559 North 16th Street.  Arthur was involved in clothing sales in the 1890s and as reported on the 1900 census.  Their son Sidney, now 21, was also a clothing salesman, and Horace, who was 15, was working as an upholsterer.

Fanny Nusbaum and her husband Jacob Hano continued to live in New York City in the 1890s.  Fanny and Jacob had five sons (Samuel having died in 1884), all still at home during that decade and in 1900.  In 1891, they were living at 119 East 111th Street in East Harlem, and Jacob was a printer and book manufacturer.  In 1892 they were living at 948 Fleetwood Avenue, which I cannot locate in New York City today, but by 1898 they were living at 803 Edgecombe Avenue, even further uptown, near 171st Street on what is now Amsterdam Avenue.  On the 1900 census, the family is living at 203 West 134th Street, and the oldest son, Louis, now 22, was employed as a salesman.  The other four were still at home.  There was also a servant living in the home.

Edgar Nusbaum and his wife Viola continued to live 2029 North 11th Street in Philadelphia in the early 1890s, and Edgar was working as a clerk.  By 1897, however, the family had moved to 1520 North 12th Street, and Edgar was working as a publisher like his brother-in-law Jacob Hano.  On the 1900 census, however, Edgar listed his occupation as clerk once again.  Their daughter Selena, now 19, was working as a dressmaker.  Viola’s sister and a boarder were also living with them.

Henrietta Nusbaum and her husband Frank Newhouse had been living with Ernst and Clarissa, her parents, in 1890 at 2028 Mt. Vernon Street, and Frank was working as a tailor.  They were still living at that address as of the 1900 census with Clarissa, now a widow, and Frank’s occupation was a traveling salesman.  Neither Clarissa nor Henrietta were working outside the home, and there were two domestic servants living with them.

Frank Nusbaum and his wife Dolly and their daughter Loraine were living at 811 Windsor Square in 1891.  By 1896, Frank was selling insurance, and they were living at 637 North 33rd Street; a year later they were living at 3223 Wallace Street.  In 1900, the family was living at yet another location, 3206 Manton Avenue, and Frank was still an insurance broker.

As for the widow of Myer Nusbaum, Rosalie Aub Nusbaum, she and their children Corinne and Jacob (called Jack on the 1900 census) were living at 5020 Cedar Street in 1900.  Jack was working as a salesman, now almost 21 years old, and his mother and sister were at home.  There was also a boarder living with them as well as one domestic servant.

Thus, somehow the family survived the two tragedies of 1894 and entered the 20th century, all but Fanny still living in Philadelphia, all still working and living their lives.





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.

Another day, another death certificate, and more confusion

Sometimes I wonder why we have death certificates.  Just about every single one I have seen has raised more questions than it has provided answers.  I’ve been told by an expert genealogist that death certificates are notoriously unreliable because usually the person providing the information is a close relative still in shock and mourning the death of a loved one.  No wonder Hyman’s said he was born in Philadelphia and Bessie’s said her mother’s name was Bessie.  And so on.

All that leads me to today’s mysterious death certificate, that of Abraham Brotman of Brooklyn.  You may recall that Abraham’s headstone revealed that his Hebrew name was Abraham ben Yosef Yaakov, just as Joseph’s revealed that his was Yosef Yaakov ben Abraham, providing me with the additional clues that helped me conclude that Abraham was Joseph’s son and Max’s brother.Image

(You may also recall that Max was the witness on Abraham’s naturalization application.)

Naturalization of Abraham Brotman Max as Witness

Naturalization of Abraham Brotman
Max as Witness

I had ordered Abraham’s death certificate in order to obtain more confirmation of those relationships as well as to get some information about the place where they were all from in Galicia.

Unfortunately, Abraham’s death certificate confirmed nothing and just added to the confusion.  His birth place is listed as Russia, despite the fact that every census report and his naturalization papers list his birth place as Austria.  His parents’ names are listed as Harry and Anna.


I emailed Abraham’s grandchildren, Paula Newman and Morty Grossman (whose mother Ethel provided the information on the certificate), but neither of them knows anything about Abraham’s parents.  So now what? Do I assume that it’s just another mistake on the death certificate? Is it more likely that the headstone is right than the death certificate? Since the place of birth is wrong, why should I trust any of the information on the death certificate? Perhaps Ethel Grossman was thinking of her mother’s parents, not her father’s parents?   Abraham’s wife Bessie Brotman was born in Russia, so maybe her parents were Harry and Anna? Grrrr…now I am ordering another death certificate to see who HER parents were.  But why would I trust that one either?

Very frustrating! So no new information and just more confusion.

I can’t wait to see what misinformation Max’s death certificate provides.  That should be arriving in a day or so.