Where Did Harry Go?

In my last post, I described the challenges I faced in trying to learn the whereabouts between 1889 and 1900 of my cousin Harry Goldsmith, son of my three-times great-uncle Jacob Goldsmith. I finally concluded that Harry had married a woman named Florence Loeb sometime around 1884 and had had two children with her, Stanton, born in 1885, and Janet, born in 1892. He and his family were living on North 63rd Street in Philadelphia in 1900, and Harry was in the tobacco business.

Emanuel Dreifus on the 1900 census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 34, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Page: 3; Enumeration District: 0904

Thank you to the many readers who gave me feedback on my conclusion that my Harry Goldsmith married Florence Loeb.  That conclusion was then further supported by an article found by Renee Stern Steinig, who many of you may recall was my mentor and my inspiration when I first started doing family history research about six years ago.  Renee saw my blog post on Facebook and found the article below that somehow, despite all my searching, I had missed, probably because Harry is called Henry here.  Now I know for sure that the Harry Goldsmith who was married to Florence Loeb was in fact my cousin.  The big clue—Rena Rice was one of the maids of honor at their wedding on December 4, 1883!

The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 5, 1883, p. 4

But Harry’s life soon changed, as Florence divorced him in 1901 and married their boarder Emanuel Dreifus, who also seemingly adopted Harry’s children.

So what happened to Harry after the divorce from Florence in 1901? Finding the answer to that question led me down several more rabbit holes. Once again, I confronted the problem of a multiplicity of Harry Goldsmiths.

In 1901 there were four Harry Goldsmiths in the Philadelphia directory, but none was in the tobacco business (there was a printer, a paperhanger, a salesman, and a tailor). 1 In 1905 there were two Harry Goldsmiths in the cigar business plus a tailor.2 And in 1908 there were four Harry Goldsmiths: one in the cigar business, a reverend, a printer, and one, a Harry N. Goldsmith, in a business called Goldsmith & Arndt.3

Further research into that last one revealed that Arndt was Max Arndt and that he was a tobacconist. Thus, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that Goldsmith & Arndt was also a tobacco business. The Harry N. Goldsmith in Goldsmith & Arndt was living at 1747 North 15th Street. One of the Harrys in the 1905 directory who listed cigars as his occupation was living at 1711 North 15th Street—presumably the one in business with Max Arndt three years later.4

But was Harry N. Goldsmith my Harry? Well, in 1911, Harry N. Goldsmith was living 1914 Berks Road and in business as H.N. Goldsmith & Co. 5 Searching the 1910 census for a Harry Goldsmith at 1914 Berks Road, I found this one:

Harry Goldsmith 1910 US census
Year: 1910; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 32, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1403; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0759; FHL microfilm: 1375416
Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census

Is this my Harry? Well, at first, I thought not. For one thing, this Harry was only 34, meaning he was born in about 1876, whereas my Harry was born in 1858. This Harry was single, not divorced. And strangest of all, this Harry claimed to be an electrical engineer for the railroad—an occupation no Harry Goldsmith had claimed on any Philadelphia directory going back over thirty years.

But looking more carefully at this 1910 census report, something else rang a bell.  The head of the household in which this Harry Goldsmith was living was a woman named Eva G. Anathan. Searching my tree, I saw that I have cousin named Eva Goldsmith who was married to a man named Nathan Anathan. 6 Eva was the daughter of Jacob Goldsmith’s brother, Levi, making her Harry Goldsmith’s first cousin. And Eva Anathan was one of the guests at Rena’s wedding in 1898.

I was now feeling pretty certain that this had to be my Harry Goldsmith living at 1914 Berks Road in 1910 with his first cousin Eva Goldsmith Anathan. I didn’t know why the census report on both his age and occupation were so off, but I was convinced that this had to be the Harry Goldsmith who was the son of my three-times great-uncle Jacob Goldsmith. He was still listed at that same address—1914 Berks Road—in Philadelphia directories from 1912 through 1917,7 and his business was reported as cigars in all of them (not electrical engineering). I thought I had found my Harry.

But then I found a marriage record for a Harry Goldsmith, born in Pennsylvania, whose parents were named Jacob and Fanny. The marriage took place in Detroit, Michigan, on December 16, 1913. The groom was 45 years old, meaning born around 1868, ten years after my Harry Goldsmith was born. He was a tobacco dealer. His bride was Henrietta Robinson, who was 37 years old and born in Michigan. It was a second marriage for Harry, a first for Henrietta.

Marriage record of Harry Goldsmith and Henrietta Robinson
Michigan Department of Community Health, Division of Vital Records and Health Statistics; Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952; Film: 117; Film Description: 1913 Wayne – 1914 Branch

All the facts seemed to fit my Harry, except his age: his name, parents’ names, birth place, occupation, and the fact that he’d had a prior marriage all matched my Harry. I was certain that this had to be my Harry.

Searching for Harry Goldsmith in Detroit directories, I found one in 1915 living in a hotel, and in 1916, there were four Harry Goldsmiths in Detroit, one of whom was living on Sprout Avenue.8 That Harry Goldsmith, the one living on Sprout Avenue, died on October 5, 1917.

Harry Goldsmith death certificate
Ancestry.com. Michigan, Death Records, 1867-1950 , 251: Detroit, 1917

He was born in Pennsylvania on July 17, 1863, according to his death certificate, and had been a tobacco broker. He was married at the time of his death. His parents were born in Germany. His mother’s name was unknown, and his father was listed as H. Goldsmith by an informant named Mrs. S. Rose of Detroit. According to the death certificate, Harry had suffered from heart disease—chronic myocarditis—for over a year before his death. Was this my Harry?

It seemed more than likely. My Harry Goldsmith had been listed as born in July 1858 on the 1900 census, this Harry was born in July of 1863; perhaps he shaved off five years to appear younger to his second wife Henrietta (and earlier had shaved off ten years on the marriage record). My Harry was born in Pennsylvania; so was this Harry. My Harry had been in the tobacco business in Philadelphia; this Harry was also in the tobacco business. The informant did not know his mother’s name so the H. Goldsmith was probably just a guess as to his father’s name. I thought I had found the end of the Harry Goldsmith mystery.

But then something did not add up. The Harry N. Goldsmith who had been living with my Harry’s first cousin Eva Goldsmith Anathan in 1910 was still apparently alive and living in Philadelphia long after the marriage and even death of the Harry who had married Henrietta and moved to Detroit. As noted above, Harry N. Goldsmith is listed in directories in Philadelphia living at 1914 Berks Road until 1917.

In the 1918 directory, Harry N. Goldsmith was living on Regent Street and is listed as president of two companies:  H.N. Goldsmith & Company and Golco Sanitary System. The 1918 directory had a separate listing for Golco and described the business as “toilet paper and holders.” 9 On the 1920 census, there is a Harry N. Goldsmith living on Regent Street in Philadelphia, 44 years old so born around 1876, and married to a woman named Madge.10 This Harry was in the paper business, as was the Harry N. Goldsmith listed in the 1918 directory as president of Golco.

So who was this Harry N. Goldsmith, and what, if any, connection did he have to my Harry Goldsmith? Was he a son or a cousin? If not, why was he living with my Harry Goldsmith’s first cousin Eva Goldsmith Anathan in 1910?

I was able to find a birth record for a Harry N. Goldsmith born in Philadelphia on May 27, 1875, son of Raphael and Emma (Ettinger) Goldsmith,11 so the right age for the Harry living with Eva Goldsmith Anathan in 1910. That Harry’s father Raphael was born on May 8, 1849, in Philadelphia to Napoleon and Zerlina Goldsmith. I have no relatives with those names, and thus, I don’t think that the Harry Goldsmith who was living with Eva Goldsmith Anathan in 1910 was my relative or, for that matter, Eva Anathan’s relative.

Birth certificate of Raphael Goldsmith
Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 644
Organization Name: Mikveh Israel Jewish Congregation
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1669-2013

But then what was he doing living with Eva Goldsmith Anathan in 1910? Was it just coincidence that another Harry Goldsmith, who also happened to be in the tobacco business, was living with a relative of my Harry Goldsmith?

And if the Harry Goldsmith on the 1910 census was not my Harry, then where was my Harry all those years between 1900 and 1913? There was a second Harry Goldsmith selling cigars in those years in Philadelphia, but when I found him on the 1910 census, it was clearly not my Harry—he was born in 1840, married to a woman named Mary, and from England, as were his parents.

Had my Harry already moved to Detroit? There are Harry Goldsmiths listed in Detroit directories for those years. But are they my Harry?

I don’t know.

I am out of ideas. Maybe Harry was already in Detroit in 1910 or even before. Maybe he just wasn’t listed on the census or in any directories after 1900. Maybe he was in prison or hospitalized. I don’t know where else to look.

What I do know (I think) is that my Harry married Henrietta Robinson in Detroit in 1913 and died just four years later in Detroit. He is buried at Woodmere Cemetery in Detroit, where Henrietta was buried as well when she died four years after Harry from breast cancer at age 49. 11

If I am right about this being my Harry, I am glad to know that he may have found some peace with Henrietta before he died. His life seems to have had some serious challenges. He may have been charged with fraud in 1889. His father Jacob died in 1895, and then his brother Philip was killed in a train accident in 1896. He may have had to declare bankruptcy in 1900, and in 1901 his wife Florence divorced him, taking his children from him as well. Then his daughter Janet died at age ten in 1902.

Harry seems to have disappeared for several years after 1901, or at least he does not appear on any records that I can locate. There are no newspaper stories about him during those years either. He only resurfaces in 1913 with his marriage to Henrietta and then his death from heart disease at age 59 in 1917. I hope those last four years were happy ones.

I welcome any suggestions or theories on the whereabouts of Harry Goldsmith between 1901 and 1913.

 

 

 

 

 

 


  1. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1901; Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  2. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1905; Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  3. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1908; Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  4. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1905, 1908; Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  5. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1911; Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  6. Pennsylvania Marriages, 1709-1940,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V26B-T32 : 11 February 2018), Nathen Anathan and Eva Goldsmith, 22 Sep 1875; citing Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; FHL microfilm 1,769,061. 
  7. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1912-1917; Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  8. Detroit, Michigan, City Directory, 1915, 1916, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  9.  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1917-1919; Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  10. Harry N. Goldsmith, 1920 US census; Philadelphia Ward 40, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1642; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 1506; Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  11.  Ancestry.com. Michigan, Death Records, 1867-1950. Original data: Death Records. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics, Lansing, Michigan. 

The Fate of the Children of Moses Katz, Part II

This was a painful post to research and write. It was made even more painful by the events in Charlottesville this past weekend. How can we still be seeing swastikas and Nazis in 2017? How do people learn to hate those who differ from them? When will we ever conquer racism and prejudice of all kinds?

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In my last post, I wrote about the family of Markus Katz, the oldest son of Moses Katz and Malchen Wetterhahn. Markus died before the Holocaust, and his wife Nanny was murdered by the Nazis. Fortunately, however, their three children—Maurice, Mali, and Senta—escaped in time.

Tragically, not all of Moses and Malchen’s descendants were able to escape. My thanks to David Baron and Barbara Greve for their research and help in uncovering some of the records and facts included in this post.

Rickchen Katz, the oldest child of Moses and Amalia Katz, died of cancer in Frielendorf on September 15, 1933. Given the ultimate fate of her husband and children, that might very well have been a blessing.

Death record of Rickchen Katz Moses, HHStAW Fonds 365 No 166,p. 54

I don’t know the details of what happened to the family in the 1930s, but according to the research done by Barbara Greve and reported on the Juden in Nordhessen website, Rickchen’s husband Abraham Moses committed suicide on June 13, 1940. He had moved to Frankfurt with his three daughters, Rosa/Rebecca, Amalie, and Recha. Imagine how intolerable his life must have become under Nazi rule for him to take such drastic action.

In November, 1941, Rickchen and Abraham’s daughter Rosa/Rebecca and her husband, Julius Katz, and their teenage son Guenther, were deported from Frankfurt to Minsk, where it is presumed that all three were killed. Amalie, Rosa’s sister, also was deported to Minsk at that time and is also presumed to have been killed there. I have no further record for Amalie’s twin Recha. I assume she also was a victim of the Holocaust. (All the links here are to the Yad Vashem entries for those individuals.) Thus, all of the children of Rickchen Katz and Abraham Moses were murdered by the Nazis.

Jacob M Katz, the second oldest son of Moses and Malchen Katzhad been in the US for many years by 1930, having arrived in 1908, as I wrote about here.  He had settled in Oklahoma, where in 1930 he was married to Julia Meyer and had a teenage son, Julian. They were living in Wolf, Oklahoma, where Jacob was working in a dry goods store.  According to the 1940 census, by 1935 Jacob and Julia had moved to Pawnee, Oklahoma, and in 1940 Jacob was a men’s clothing merchant there. Julia’s sister Rose was also living with them.

Jacob M Katz and family, 1940 census, Year: 1940; Census Place: Pawnee, Pawnee, Oklahoma; Roll: T627_3322; Page: 16A; Enumeration District: 59-21

But by 1942 when he registered for the World War II draft, Jacob and Julia had moved to Vallejo, California, where Jacob was working for the Kirby Shoe Company.  I do not know what took them to California; their son Julian had married by then, but was still living in Oklahoma. Jacob died in San Francisco in 1956; Julia died the following year, also in San Francisco.

Jacob M Katz, World War II draft registration, The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System, 1926-1975; Record Group Number: 147

Lena Katz, one of the three children of Moses and Malchen still in Germany in the 1930s and their third oldest child, survived the Holocaust. Her husband Hermann Katz had died on November 2, 1929, in Marburg, Germany, but Lena and their three children—Bertha, Moritz, and Amalie—all left Germany before 1940.

Her son Moritz left first, arriving in the US on November 14, 1936.  He listed his occupation as a butcher and listed Maurice Mink, his aunt Julias husband, as the person he knew in the United States.  His final destination was listed as Cleveland, Oklahoma, where Julia Katz Mink (the youngest daughter of Moses and Malchen) and her husband Maurice Mink were then living.  Perhaps not coincidentally, his cousin Julius Katz, son of Aron Katz, was on the same ship, as noted in an earlier post.

Moritz Katz manifest, line 19, Year: 1936; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 5900; Line: 1; Page Number: 146
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,

Lena and her daughter Amalie were the next to arrive; they sailed together along with Amalie’s husband Max Blum and their daughter and arrived in New York on April 1, 1938.  They all listed Jacob M. Katz in Pawnee, Oklahoma, Lena’s brother, as the person they were going to in the United States. Max listed his occupation as a cattle trader. (Lena, spelled Lina here, is listed on a separate page of the manifest from the Blum family.)

Lina Katz on manifest, Year: 1938; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6134; Line: 1; Page Number: 98

Max and Amalie (Katz) Blum and family, lines 3-5, Year: 1938; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6134; Line: 1; Page Number: 88
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

The next family members to arrive were the three young children of Lena’s daughter Bertha and her husband Siegmund Sieferheld; they were only twelve and eight years old (the younger two were twins) and sailed on a ship that seemed to have many children; it arrived in New York on February 6, 1940.  The ship manifest listed the German Jewish Children’s Aid Society as the entity responsible for receiving these children.

Children of Bertha Katz Sieferheld, passenger manifest, lines 5-7. Year: 1940; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6443; Line: 1; Page Number: 40
Description
Ship or Roll Number : Roll 6443
Source Information
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

According to the Leo Baeck Institute, “The German-Jewish Children’s Aid Society was formed in New York in 1934 by a coalition consisting of the New York Foundation, the Baron de Hirsch Fund, B’nai B’rith, the Hofmeimer Foundation, the American Jewish Committee and the Women’s Committee of the American Jewish Congress. These organizations contributed the funds for the German-Jewish Children’s Aid to operate. The purpose of the German-Jewish Children’s Aid was to act as the receiving organization for unaccompanied or orphaned children emigrating from Europe to the United States. It acted as financial sponsor for the children (to avoid their “becoming a public charge”) and attempted to secure housing or foster home placement. ”

A more extensive description of the organization can be found here.  It describes the incredible work done by Americans, Jews and non-Jews, to rescue over a thousand children from the Nazis—certainly a small drop in the bucket considering the number of children who were murdered, but without organizations like the German-Jewish Children’s Aid Society, many more, perhaps including the three children of Bertha Katz and Siegmund Sieferheld, would also have been killed.

When I try to imagine the desperation of these parents—sending their young children off on a ship, not knowing whether they’d ever see them again—and the fear of those children, leaving their parents and the only home they’d ever known, I have to stop and catch my breath. I think of my seven year old grandson, just a year younger than Bertha’s twins. It is just too painful, too unimaginable, to visualize him being torn away from his parents and his parents being torn away from him.

The 1940 census shows Lena and almost all of her children and grandchildren living together in Detroit; Moritz, listed as the head of household on the 1940 census, was working as a sausage maker in a butcher shop.  Lena’s daughter Mali and her husband Max Blum were both working in a packing house. And the three young children of Bertha  and Siegmund Sieferheld, Tillie, Werner, and Henry, were also living with Lena, Moritz, and Mali. Their parents Bertha and Siegmund were still in Germany, separated from the rest of their family.

In addition, Lena’s younger sister Julia Katz Mink (listed as a widow here) was also living with them. Julia had apparently separated from her husband Maurice by 1930, when they were living separately in Cleveland, Oklahoma. Her daughter had married by 1940 and was living elsewhere. Julia died in 1971 in Montclair, New Jersey.

Lena Katz and extended family, 1940 census, Year: 1940; Census Place: Detroit, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: T627_1881; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 84-1383

So as of 1940, all but Lena’s daughter Bertha and her husband Siegmund had escaped from Germany; their three young children, however, were safely with their grandmother Lena and aunt Amalie and uncle Moritz.

And then finally Bertha and Siegmund arrived on April 15, 1940.  They were sailing with two older women also named Sieferheld—perhaps Siegmund’s mother and aunt. They listed Detroit as their destination and M. Katz, Bertha’s brother Moritz, as the person they were going to. Siegmund listed no occupation.

 

Siegmund and Bertha (Katz) Sieferheld manifest, lines 18-21, Year: 1940; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6458; Line: 1; Page Number: 130
Description
Ship or Roll Number : Roll 6458
Source Information
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

How very fortunate Lena and her family were—all of them reunited safely in Detroit by April, 1940. Sadly, Lena died from cancer on December 25, 1941, just twenty months after having her whole family reunited in Detroit.  She was 69 years old.

Thus, almost all of the children of Moses Katz survived the Holocaust—all but the children of Rickchen, who were murdered. Even those who were fortunate enough to survive, however, must have borne some scars from what they had experienced. Words like “fortunate” and “survived” are just not the right words to use in writing about something as horrific as the Holocaust.  I find myself just unable to find any right words. I don’t think there are any.

And to think that there are still people out there, chanting for hate and waving Nazi flags.

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This brings me to the end of the story of the children of Rahel Katzenstein and Jacob Katz. From Abraham Katz and Samuel Katz, who came as young men in the 1860s and settled first in Kentucky before moving to Oklahoma and Nebraska, to Jake and Ike Katz who came thirty years later as young men and started a department store business that grew to be a small empire in Oklahoma, to the many family members  who were killed in the Holocaust and those who were able to escape the Nazis in the 1930s, the Katzenstein/Katz family demonstrated over and over that they were willing to take risks, to help each other, and to work hard for success.  I am so fortunate to have been able to connect with so many of their descendants, who continue to exhibit that strong sense of family and that drive to succeed. To me that seems quite remarkable, but given the spirit of adventure and commitment to family exhibited by all the children of Rahel Katzenstein and Jacob Katz, perhaps it really is not.

 

 

 

Quick Update on Lionel Heymann

In my last post, I discussed how I was puzzled to learn that Lionel Heymann had been a well-regarded photographer, but had listed his occupation as a waiter on the census records for 1930 and 1940.  Well, now I have found an explanation.

In the course of looking for a print of one of Lionel’s photographs to purchase (which I’ve not yet been able to locate), I found this bit of information about Lionel online, quoting from the catalog of  the Sixteenth Detroit International Salon of Photography, Photographic Society of Detroit, Detroit Institute of Arts, 1947.

“Started photography as a hobby by joining Fort Dearborn Camera Club in Chicago in 1928. Started professionally January 1945, and conducts a portrait studio in Blackstone Hotel. Conducts a weekly photographic class on portrait and paper negative process. Associated professionally with a photographer in Detroit, 1937-38.”

This explains so much.  First, it explains what Lionel was doing in Detroit when his brother Walter arrived from Germany.  Second, it explains why Lionel did not list photography as his occupation on the 1930 or 1940 census or on his World War II draft registration.  He did not become a professional photographer until 1945.

Solomon Monroe Cohen/Cole: Post Script

Yesterday I received a copy of the death certificate of Sol Cole, who died on June 11, 1938.

I learned a number of things from this document.  First, Sol died of heart disease when he was only 58 years old.  He had had hypertension and arteriosclerosis for fifteen years and myocarditis for over a year, and then for a week before he died, he suffered from coronary thrombosis and finally acute cardiac failure.  He had been under the same doctor’s care for close to a year and had been living in New York City for about the same period of time.

sol cole death cert page 1

He had been living at 12 West 72nd Street in what was then a hotel, located less than a block from Central Park.  The certificate indicates that he was working up until a month before he died as a manager in the furniture business, the same industry he had been working in for 35 years, starting in Detroit, then in Columbus, and ultimately in New York City.

sol cole death cert page 2

The certificate also corroborated the fact that Estelle had predeceased him, as he was a widower at the time of his death.  Sol’s remains were cremated by Ferncliff Crematory, and both of his sons, Ralph and Robert, signed a sworn statement to the New York City Department of Health that it had been their father’s wish to be cremated.  I called Ferncliff to see if they had any records for Estelle, but they did not; they only had records for Sol.  Although I cannot be certain, my hunch is that Sol moved to New York after Estelle died since there is no record of her death in New York City nor were her remains handled by the same institution.  I still do not know when or where Estelle died, but I will focus on Ohio as that is where I know she was living as of 1935.

How Genealogy Research Works:  Solomon Monroe Cohen as A Sample Case

English: City seal of Detroit, Michigan.

English: City seal of Detroit, Michigan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve had remarkable luck tracking most of the descendants of Moses Cohen, Jr., even with the women who are usually so much harder to track because of the change in their names when they marry.   But when it came to the youngest son of Moses, Jr., and Henrietta Cohen, Solomon Monroe Cohen, I hit a few obstacles.  There are a few things that remain unresolved, but I’ve made a lot of progress.  I thought this would be a good example of just how much luck, persistence, and serendipity it takes to find records about a family member.

As reported in an earlier post, as of 1910, Solomon had married Estelle Spater of Detroit and settled in that city, working as the manager of a mail order business.  They had had two sons, Ralph born in 1907 and Theodore born in 1910.  Theodore had died in 1912 of complications from cerebral palsy.

In 1911 according to a Detroit city directory, Solomon was the general manager of Peoples Outfitting Company, where he was still employed in 1917 according to his World War I draft registration; he described his position as manager of the advertising staff and married to “Stella S. Cohen.”

Sol M Cohen World War I draft registration

Sol M Cohen World War I draft registration

The 1920 census has him living with Estelle and Ralph, working at a furniture business.  So far my research was moving along easily, just using ancestry.com to find the census report and the Detroit directories.

Solomon Cohen and family 1920 census

Solomon Cohen and family 1920 census

Then things got more complicated.  I could not (and still cannot find) Solomon or Estelle or Ralph on the 1930 census despite using wildcard search techniques, different databases, with and without date restrictions for births, with and without geographic restrictions.

I decided to focus my search on Ralph, figuring that there might be more recent records. I lucked out and found a marriage license application on familysearch.org  for a Ralph Cole to marry Lois Hollander in 1938, and it was indexed with Ralph’s parents’ names, Sol M. Cole and Estelle Spater.

Ralph Cole and Lois Hollander marriage license

Ralph Cole and Lois Hollander marriage license

It also indicated that Ralph was born in Detroit in 1907 and that he was in the furniture business, so I knew I had the correct Ralph.  From that application I learned that Sol had changed his name from Cohen to Cole, as had Ralph.  I also learned that Estelle had already died by the time of the application, January 3, 1938.  Finally, I learned that Sol was then living in New York City, not Detroit.  By finding just that one document, I’d gained a lot more information about the family.

Armed with all this new information, I went back and searched again for Solomon and Estelle and Ralph in 1930, but again I could not find any of them.  But as I was searching, I decided to broaden the search beyond the US on the long shot that perhaps they had left the country in 1930.  I did not find them, but on familysearch.org I found a Robert Cole, born in Detroit, Michigan in 1917, whose parents were Solomon Monroe Cole and Estelle Spater.   I actually found four documents for him, all Brazilian immigration documents for different years for his business travel.  Here are two:

Robert Cole Brazilian immigration documents

Robert Cole Brazilian immigration documents

Robert Cole second immigration

I went back to the 1920 census again to see if I had missed a child named Robert in the household of Solomon and Estelle, but he was not there.  Just Ralph.  I checked the next page; no Robert Cole.  If he was born in 1917, where was he? I could not find him with or without his family in 1930 nor could I find him on the 1940 census, again using many different possible locations and variations on his name.  I even searched for all Roberts born in Detroit in 1917, but came up empty.

Then two days ago I went back once again to the 1920 census and decided to look at each page in the enumeration district where Sol, Estelle and Ralph Cohen were listed.  They were listed at the very bottom of page 4; Robert was not on page 5.  But this time I went on to page 6, and there he was at the top of that page, listed as part of the Newcombe household, but the name and age were Robert Cohen, three years old.  Obviously the census reporter had skipped a page and put Robert two pages after the rest of his family and then the indexer had treated him as the son of the family at the bottom of page 5, instead of the Cohen family on page 4.   I can’t tell you how much time I spent on that wild goose chase caused by one simple mistake in the census.

By using the city directory database on ancestry.com, I found all four members of the now-Cole family living in Columbus, Ohio, at the same address in a 1935 directory for that city. I’d been searching for them in Detroit and was surprised when they turned up in Columbus instead. I never would have thought to look at Columbus, Ohio, without some reason to think they had moved there.  Ralph was listed as a salesman; he would have been 28; Robert was listed as a student; he would have been eighteen.  Sol was listed as a manager, his spouse listed as Stella.

Coles on the 1935 Columbus, Ohio directory

Coles on the 1935 Columbus, Ohio directory

But were they still in Detroit in 1930? Or were they already in Columbus by then?  When had they left Detroit? I found Robert Cole on the Social Security Death Index and saw that he had died in Jupiter, Florida, so I searched for and found his obituary.  According to Robert’s obituary, he attended Grosse Point Academy outside Detroit before attending Brown University.  Since he probably graduated from high school in 1934 or 1935, the family probably had not been in Columbus for very long as of the time of that directory.  Also, I had found several yearbook entries for Ralph Cole at the University of Michigan and knew that he had graduated in 1928, so I assumed that the Coles were still residents of Michigan during that time period.

1928 University of Michigan yearbook Ancestry.com. U.S. School Yearbooks [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

1928 University of Michigan yearbook
Ancestry.com. U.S. School Yearbooks [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

Then yesterday I decided once more to try the 1930 census, figuring that if I could find an address where they had lived in Detroit close to 1930, it would turn up.  I had already searched for Sol Cohen and Sol Cole in Detroit directories between 1920 and 1935 and had had no luck.  So this time I figured I’d search for any Cole in Detroit in the city directory database.  I found that there were in fact Detroit directories in the ancestry.com database for the years 1930 and 1931.  Since no Sol Cole or Cohen had come up when I searched those, I searched for any Cole, found the directory pages that included anyone named Cole, downloaded those pages for 1930 and 1931, zoomed in, and sure enough Sol was in both.  Ancestry.com must have used an optical character reader to create the index of those directories, and looking at the indices for those two reveals the inadequacy of that method.  It’s mostly gibberish.  Obviously the small typeface and blurry image is too much of a challenge for an OCR.

Anyway, I was now very excited because I had evidence that Sol was still in Detroit in 1930 and 1931, and I had his address and his place of employment.  He was the vice president and general manager of Weil and Company.  Further research revealed that Weil and Company was a home furnishing store, selling furniture and home appliances.

Now armed with the home address for Sol, 5440 Cass Avenue in Detroit, I turned to stevemorse.org to find the right enumeration district in the 1930 census for that address in Detroit. I found the right district, I even found the right pages with the listing of residents at that address.  It was the Belcrest Hotel, a large residential hotel that catered to wealthy residents,  according to Wikipedia.  There were many residents, but not one was named Sol Cole or Sol Cohen.  The closest were Max and Sadie Cohn.  So where were the Coles?  I’ve concluded that they either moved there after the census was taken in 1930 or that for some reason they just were missed by the census taker.

"BelcrestDetroit" by Andrew Jameson - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BelcrestDetroit.jpg#mediaviewer/File:BelcrestDetroit.jpg

“BelcrestDetroit” by Andrew Jameson – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BelcrestDetroit.jpg#mediaviewer/File:BelcrestDetroit.jpg

 

So as of 1931 the family was still in Detroit, but by 1935 they were in Columbus.  Perhaps the family moved to Columbus in the 1930s for economic reasons.  It was the Depression, and Sol may have had to move to earn a living.  Maybe Weil and Company went out of business or Sol lost favor with its owner, Mrs. M.C. Weil. Or maybe they sent him to Columbus to expand the business. I noticed that many members of Estelle’s Detroit family—her Spater brothers—also left their home town before 1940.  Maybe things were particularly bad in Detroit.

Knowing that Sol was living in New York City in 1938, as seen on Ralph’s marriage license application, I was able to locate a death record for him in New York City on June 11, 1938, only six months after the date on that application.  I have not found a death record for Estelle, but I know she died between 1935 and January, 1938.  I have ordered Sol’s death certificate so perhaps that will tell me where he, and possibly Estelle, are buried.

I have not found Robert on the 1940 census, but Ralph did show up on the 1940 census, living in Indianapolis with his wife Lois and working as the head buyer in a department store.

Ralph and Lois Cole 1940 US cens

According to his obituary in the July 22, 1998 issue of the Indianapolis Jewish Post, he worked for 32 years for William H. Block and Company and retired in 1971.  He then was active as a volunteer for several organizations in the Indianapolis community as well as assistant business manager of Indianapolis Business Development Board for ten years after retiring.  His wife Lois died in April 14, 1997; according to her obituary in the April 23, 1997 issue of the Indianapolis Jewish Post, she had graduated from Wellesley College and had worked as a journalist for four years and had also been active in many community organizations.  Ralph Cole died the following year on July 17, 1998 at age 91. Ralph and Lois had two children.

Robert Cole died ten years later on February 28, 2008. He also was 91. He had retired to Jupiter, Florida.   His obituary in the Palm Beach Post of March 4, 2008, reported that he had been Executive Vice President at McCann Erickson, the global advertising agency, where he worked for 28 years and been in charge of Latin American operations.  After he retired, he volunteered for the International Executive Services Corp.  Robert also had two children.

I am left with just a few more questions.

  1. Why did the Cole family move to Columbus in the 1930s?
  1. Why was Solomon in New York City in 1938, as stated on Ralph’s marriage application? How long had he lived there?
  1. When did Estelle die, and where are Sol and Estelle buried?

Fortunately, I am in touch with a couple of Sol and Estelle’s descendants and am hoping that perhaps together we can find the answers to those remaining questions.

As you can see, it took a lot of false starts, dead ends, jumps and turns, and a lot of different sources to learn the story of Solomon Monroe Cohen/Cole and his family.  That’s what makes this both so much fun and so challenging.

Skyline along the Detroit International Riverfront

Skyline along the Detroit International Riverfront (Photo credit: Wikipedia)