Some Perspective on my Nusbaum and Dreyfuss Ancestors

Right now I am pretty absorbed in following up on the Seligmann trail in Germany and the US and in preparing for my trip, both in terms of travel details and in terms of trying to find as much information as I can about the Brotmans.  I’ve been spending time going back over the Brotmanville Brotmans, hoping to find some clues I missed before the DNA results corroborated the family story that Joseph and Moses Brotman were brothers.

But before too much time goes by, I want to reflect a bit on my Dreyfuss and Nusbaum ancestors.  In many ways they typify the German Jewish immigrants who arrived in America in the 1840s and 1850s.  They started as peddlers, they eventually became the owners of small dry goods stores in small towns, and for many of them, they remained dry goods or clothing merchants.  Unlike my Cohen relatives, who were pawnbrokers for the most part, or my Seligman relatives, who started as merchants, but became active in politics and civic and military matters in Santa Fe and elsewhere, my Dreyfuss and Nusbaum ancestors began and stayed Pennsylvania merchants, even into the 20th century.

Harrisburg Market Square with Leo Nusbaum store

Harrisburg Market Square with Leo Nusbaum store

In addition, the Dreyfuss and Nusbaum families almost all stayed in Pennsylvania where they started.  There were some who went to Peoria, though most returned to Pennsylvania, and a few who went to Baltimore, but overall the Dreyfuss and Nusbaum families started in small towns in Pennsylvania and in Harrisburg and eventually moved to Philadelphia.  As far as I’ve been able to find them, many if not most of their descendants also stayed in the Philadelphia area.

But beneath what might appear to be a very consistent and predictable pattern of living was a lot of turmoil.  These were families who endured terrible tragedies—many children who died young from disease or from accidents, and many children who lost a parent at a very young age.  Tuberculosis ravaged the family, as did heart disease and kidney disease.  One member of the family died in the Great Fire of San Francisco.  There were also a tragic number of family members who took their own lives.

In addition, this was a family that went from poverty to comfort and then suffered financially when the 1870 Depression struck, causing many of the stores to close and forcing family members into bankruptcy.  Yet the family in general rebounded, started over, and once again became merchants with successful businesses in most cases.

The other pattern I’ve noticed in the Nusbaum and Dreyfuss lines is assimilation.  Although there were certainly examples of intermarriage and conversion among the Cohen and certainly the New Mexican Seligman lines, that tendency to assimilate and move away from Judaism seemed even more widespread among the Dreyfuss and Nusbaum descendants.  There were fewer people buried at places like Mt Sinai in Philadelphia, fewer indications of synagogue membership or other participation in the Jewish community.  Perhaps those early years in the small towns where they were likely the only Jews in town took a toll on the role that Judaism would play in their lives and their identities.

Overall, these two lines were very hard to research and write about.  Not because they were hard to locate, although the Fanny Wiler mystery kept me going for quite a long time.  But because there was just so much unhappiness, so much suffering.  When I think back to their roots, coming from two small towns in Germany, Schopfloch and Hechingen, I wonder whether those early immigrants ever questioned their decision to leave Germany.  I assume they left for economic opportunities and freedom from the discrimination they faced as Jews in Germany.  Presumably they believed they had found both when they arrived and as they settled into life in Pennsylvania.  And in many ways they had.  They were free to worship, or not worship, as they saw fit.  They were able to make a living, own property, even own businesses.  They survived.



But all the tragedy and loss they endured had to wear on them in many ways.  Many of the family lines ended without any descendants.  I have had more trouble finding current descendants than I’ve had with the other lines I’ve researched.  I don’t have one relative with the name Nusbaum, aside from my father, whose middle name is Nusbaum.   The family seems to have disappeared, blended into other names, other families, other traditions.

For that reason, as hard as it was, I am happy that I was able to document and tell their story: where it began in Germany, how it continued in Pennsylvania, and what happened between their arrival in the 1840s and in the century that followed.

The Mystery of Fanny Wiler: Post-script

Two days ago, I posted what I called my final chapter of the mystery of Fanny Wiler.  I had finally learned where and when and why Fanny had died after receiving her death certificate from the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh.  But I ended that post with the remaining questions that still lingered.  Was the child Bertha born to a Fanny Wieler and Joseph Levi in New York City the daughter of my Fanny?  If so, what happened to her?  Since I could not find the family on either the 1870 or the 1880 census and since the 1890 does not exist, I didn’t know whether Bertha had died, married, or moved away between 1866 and 1900, and I could not find her in 1900 or afterwards either.

But first I had to determine whether this was in fact the child of Fanny Wiler Levy.  There was no point in chasing her down if she wasn’t my cousin.  I’d already spent far too many hours chasing the wrong Fanny Wiler.  So I ordered the birth certificate for the Bertha Levi born in New York in 1866.  It arrived hours after I posted about Fanny.  And I was both excited and a bit exasperated to see that Bertha was in fact the daughter of my Fanny.

Levi, Bertha Birth

Why exasperated?  Because I had no idea what had happened to Bertha.  I half-wanted that baby not to have been my cousin so I could finally really put closure on Fanny Wiler.  I also feared that that baby had died and would thus just be one more sad story to add to the life of Fanny WIler.  But there she was—definitely their child, daughter of Fanny Wieler born in Harrisburg.  It had to be the same Fanny and the same Joseph, despite the misspellings and despite the birth in New York, not Philadelphia.

So back to the books I went, now even more determined to find Bertha.  It took many searches and many different wildcards, databases, and spellings, and I still could not find the family on either the 1870 or 1880 census, but I did find this: Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

How had this not turned up before? Because Joseph Levy was indexed as “Lery.”  It was only when I searched for the name as “?e?y” that I finally got a hit.  At first I wasn’t certain this was the right person, given that there was no mother’s name and that it said the mother was born in Germany.  But the informant was “A.J. Levy,” and Fanny and Joseph’s oldest son was Alfred J. Levy, so I felt that there was enough here to pursue this Bertha, indexed on as “Bertha Gellect.”

Well, there was no Bertha Gellect, and I decided that the name Gellert was a more likely option, even though it does look more like a “c” than an “r” on the death certificate. I also knew that in 1917 Bertha Gellert was living in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Fortunately, my hunch was right, and I soon found Bertha and Jacob Gellert on the 1900 census living in Pottsville.  Jacob was a tailor, born in New York, and he and Bertha had been married for three years or in 1897.  This time the birth places of Bertha’s parents were correct: mother born in Pennsylvania, father in Germany.  And the final clue that I had found the correct Bertha?  Their two year old daughter was named Fanny.

Year: 1900; Census Place: Pottsville, Schuylkill, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1485; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 0186; FHL microfilm: 1241485

Year: 1900; Census Place: Pottsville, Schuylkill, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1485; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 0186; FHL microfilm: 1241485

I laughed, smiled, even cried a bit.  My poor Fanny Wiler not only had been found; she had a namesake.  Her daughter Bertha had named her first born child for her mother.  Bertha had only been eleven when her mother died from tuberculosis, and it must have been an awful time for a young girl, watching her mother waste away from this dreadful disease.  Bertha had honored her mother by naming her own daughter Fanny.

In 1910, Jacob, Bertha and Fanny were still living in Pottsville, but Jacob was now an insurance salesman, not a tailor.  Sadly, as seen above, Bertha died seven years later from diabetes.  She was only 51 years old.  A few months after Bertha’s death, Jacob and Fanny both applied for passports in order to take a trip to Cuba—for “pleasure and rest,” as Jacob wrote on his passport application.  Attached to Fanny’s application was a letter from a doctor, attesting to the health reasons for this trip to Cuba: U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2007.

Here is Fanny’s photograph from her passport application: U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2007. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2007.

By the 1920 census, however, Jacob and Fanny were back in Pottsville. Jacob was now a widower, and his daughter Fanny was living with him.  Jacob had his own business selling fire insurance.  The following year, Fanny married Lester Guttman Block.  Lester was born in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1895, the son of German immigrants, Daniel and Bertha.  (Yes, his mother’s name was the same as that of his wife’s mother.)  His father was a clothing merchant.  In 1920, Lester was living with his widowed mother and his sister Alice in Trenton, where he worked as a clothing salesman in a retail store.

Fanny Gellert and Lester Block had two daughters born in the 1920s.  Fanny’s father Jacob died from a brain tumor on July 23, 1927; he was 55 years old.  His second wife Reba H. Gellert is named on the death certificate; he had married her by 1922, as they are listed together in the Pottsville directory of that year.  Max Gellert of Pottsville, Jacob’s brother, was named as the informant.  Notice also that Jacob’s mother’s name is given as Fanny Cohen.  Like his daughter, Jacob had married someone whose mother had the same name as his mother.  Could Fanny have been named for both of her grandmothers? Probably not since Jacob’s mother Fanny was still alive long after Jacob and Bertha’s daughter Fanny was born, and ordinarily Jews do not name their children for living grandparents. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.

In 1930 Lester and Fanny were living with their daughters as well as Lester’s mother Bertha.  One of the daughters had a name starting with B, and since Lester’s mother was still alive, I assume that the daughter was named for Bertha Levy Gellert, Fanny’s mother.  Lester was in the real estate and insurance business.  In 1940, the members of the household were the same, and Lester was still an insurance agent, like his father-in-law Jacob.

Lester died on December 18, 1953, and is buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Trenton.  Fanny Gellert Block, the granddaughter of Fanny Wiler Levy,the great-granddaughter of Caroline Dreyfuss Wiler, and my third cousin, twice removed, died on July 9, 1977, when she was 78 years old.  She is buried at Greenwood Cemetery with her husband Lester.

Trenton Evening Times, July 30, 1977, p. 31

Trenton Evening Times, July 30, 1977, p. 31

I am currently trying to contact the descendants of Fanny and Lester.  I am hoping that they also will find meaning in the lives of our mutual ancestors and cousins.


View of Pottsville, Pennsylvania.

View of Pottsville, Pennsylvania. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Mystery of Fanny Wiler: Final Chapter (I think)

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that one of my most challenging mysteries involves my cousin Fanny Wiler, the daughter of Caroline Dreyfuss and Moses Wiler and first cousin of my great-great-grandmother Frances Nusbaum.  Caroline was my three-times great-grandaunt, the sister of Jeanette Dreyfuss, my three-times great-grandmother.  Her daughter Fanny had simply vanished after the 1860 census, and I was determined to find her.  As I wrote here and here and here, it was a long and twisting path involving a different Fanny who married a man who killed himself and a daughter in a fire, a mishandled estate of Fanny’s mother Caroline and ensuing litigation, and finally the discovery of Fanny and her three sons with her husband Joseph Levy.

I know now that Fanny had married Joseph in 1866 and had had three sons with him.  I know that Joseph had remarried sometime before 1879 because he had a daughter Miriam with his second wife Bella Strouse.  And there was a NYC birth record for a Bertha Levi, daughter of Joseph Levi and Fanny Wieler, dated November 30, 1866, but I had not been able to trace her to my Fanny.

I assumed that Fanny had died, but when and where? I had no death record for her, no burial record, no obituary.  Once again she had disappeared. All I could find was an entry on FindAGrave for a Fannie Levy with the dates 1846-1877, buried at Troy Hill  Jewish cemetery in Pittsburgh.  There was no photo or any other information on the FindAGrave page, but something told me that this could be my Fanny.  The dates and the name seemed right, and Miriam Levy, the child of Joseph and Bella, was born in Pittsburgh in November, 1879.  Thus, at some point Joseph had lived in Pittsburgh, so it was not out of the question to think that Fanny had also lived and then died there.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Albanese

Troy Hill Jewish Cemetery Photo courtesy of Lisa Albanese

But how could I prove that the Fanny buried at Troy Hill was my Fanny?  There was no statewide requirement for the filing of death certificates before 1906 in Pennsylvania, and unlike Philadelphia, there is no readily accessible database for all deaths in Pittsburgh.  I searched directories for a Joseph Levy in Pittsburgh, and although there were one or two, there was no way to tell from the directory whether those were the correct men.

I decided first to look where Fanny’s sons and her husband were buried, and almost all were buried at Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia.  The remains of those buried at Rodeph Shalom had been moved to Roosevelt Cemetery after Rodeph Shalom closed, and I emailed that cemetery, but they had no remains for a Fanny Levy. I also emailed the Special Collections Research Center at Temple University in Philadelphia, where the archives of Rodeph Shalom synagogue are now kept, to ask if they had any records for Fanny Wiler Levy, and an archivist there did a search but did not find anything. I also concluded after much searching that Fanny was not buried at Mt. Sinai cemetery in Philadelphia, where her parents and many of her relatives were buried.  At that point I began to think that Fanny was not buried in Philadelphia at all if she was neither where her children nor where her parents were buried.

Rodeph Shalom Synagogue on the NRHP since Augu...

Rodeph Shalom Synagogue on the NRHP since August 7, 2007. At 607–615 North Broad St., in the Poplar neighborhood of Philadelphia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pittsburgh thus became a realistic alternative location for her burial.  I searched online for sources about Jewish records in Pittsburgh and found a link to Martha Berg, who is the archivist for Rodeph Shalom synagogue in Pittsburgh (I do not believe there is an affiliation between the two synagogues). Martha did an exhaustive search for me of records, newspapers, and cemeteries, and did not turn up any identifying information that would help me establish whether the Fannie Levy buried at Troy Hill was my Fanny Wiler Levy.  She did, however, find the precise burial date for the Fannie Levy buried at Troy Hill—April 17, 1877.  That proved to be very helpful.

By Nyttend (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Nyttend (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons Rodeph Shalom Synagogue in Pittsburgh

From there, I got advice from the Pennsylvania genealogy group on Facebook, suggesting I contact the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh where they have death records for Pittsburgh dating back to 1875. I called the Carnegie Library and requested a search for a death record for Fanny Levy who died around April 17, 1877.  I then sat and waited to see if they could uncover something.

Finally, a package arrived in the mail the other day, and this was inside:

Fanny Wiler Levy death cert

This has to be my elusive cousin Fanny.  She was born in Harrisburg in 1846, so would have been 31 in 1877.  Her prior residence had been in Philadelphia.  She was married. I am quite certain I have finally found Fanny.

So now I know that Fanny Wiler Levy died on April 16, 1877, in Pittsburgh, from phythisis pulmonalis, or the wasting form of tuberculosis.  I also know now that she had only lived in Pittsburgh for a year at the time of her death, which explains why all three of her sons were born in Philadelphia. Fanny was 31 years old and left at least three very young children behind and her husband.  She was one more member of my family killed by tuberculosis.  It is very sad that she lies buried so far from all of her family, all of whom are buried in Philadelphia.

Finally, I have some closure on Fanny Wiler. The remaining questions?  Was Bertha Levi, the child born to a Joseph Levi and a Fanny Wieler in 1866 in NYC, my Fanny’s daughter? And what happened to her?  Why can’t I find Joseph and his family on either the 1870 or the 1880 census?

There are always more questions.


The First Chapter: The Dreyfuss Family

Yeah, I know.  My last post said it was the FINAL chapter of the Dreyfuss family.  How could this one be the first?

Way back on November 18, 2014, I wrote, “More on the Dreyfuss family in a later post.”  Then I proceeded to write about the Nusbaum family and the Dreyfuss family together.  Since two Dreyfuss sisters (Jeanette and Mathilde) had married two Nusbaum brothers (John and Maxwell), it just made sense to follow the stories of the three Dreyfuss sisters (Jeanette, Mathilde and Caroline) along with the stories of the Nusbaum siblings.  But what I never got back to doing was what I had promised back on November 18.  I never got back to the beginning of the Dreyfuss story as I moved forward from the 1840s in America through to the 20th century.  So although my last post was called the “Final Chapter” of the Dreyfuss family, I need to go back and write the first chapter before I can complete the story (as far as I currently know it).

So I need to step backwards in time—both in my time and in the times of the Dreyfuss family before 1840.  Back in the fall when I was researching the family of John Nusbaum, I had a wonderful resource in the family bible owned by my father.  My father had photocopied several pages of handwritten entries for births, deaths, and marriages from the bible , and most of those entries related to the Nusbaum family.  From studying the page for marriages, I learned that John Nusbaum, my three-times great-grandfather, had married Jeanette Dreyfus (as it was spelled there).  And that was the first time I knew the birth name of my three-times great-grandmother.  On the page for births, the second entry after the one for John Nusbaum was one for Jeanette Nusbaum, giving her birth date and her place of birth.  It took me a while to figure out what it said because of the handwriting, but eventually I was able to decipher it and learned that Jeanette was born in “Hechingen in Wurttemberg, Prussia,” as it is inscribed in the bible.

But there was no other Dreyfus(s) on any of the pages in the bible, and I was at that point in time focused on the Nusbaum line.  It wasn’t until weeks later that I realized that the bible’s death entry for Mathilde Pollock was not an entry for a sister of John Nusbaum, but an entry for a sister of Jeanette Dreyfuss (who happened to marry a brother of John Nusbaum) and that the entry for Caroline Wiler was also not a sister of John Nusbaum but another Dreyfuss sister. The big clue was finding 65 year old Mary Dreyfuss  on the 1850 census living with Caroline and Moses Wiler: a head-slapping moment when it occurred to me that it was Jeanette who was keeping the family bible and that, of course, she would record her sisters as well as her husband’s siblings in the family bible.

And then in mid-November I went on JewishGen’s Family Finder page and found Ralph Baer, who was also researching the Dreyfuss family from Hechingen.  I have mentioned Ralph before in the context of the Nusbaum/Dreyfuss family and his generous help with research and translation, but what I had forgotten to write about in my telling of the story of the Nusbaum/Dreyfuss family in the US was what Ralph had helped me learn about my Dreyfuss roots in Hechingen, Germany.

Hechingen, Germany

Hechingen, Germany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First, a little about Hechingen.  Today it is in the German state of Baden-Wurttemburg, located about 56 miles north of the Swiss border in southern Germany.  It is about 40 miles from Stuttgart, the state capital.  Although inhabited long before, the city was founded as the capital city of the Counts of Hohenzollern in 1255.  It remained during the Middle Ages a provincial and agricultural community.  During the 16th century, it became a center for art, architecture and music.  Even after the Reformation, it remained a largely Catholic community.  Throughout its pre-19th century history, Hechingen was subjected to many sieges and attacks by other German states as well as by Sweden.

de: Burg Hohenzollern bei Hechingen, Baden-Wür...

de: Burg Hohenzollern bei Hechingen, Baden-Württemberg, Deutschland en:Castle Hohenzollern near Hechingen, Germany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, “There was a small Jewish settlement in Hechingen in the early 16th century, and a house was bought for use as a synagogue by the community of 10 families in 1546. In 1592 the burghers refused to conduct any commercial or financial transactions with Jews, who therefore left the town. There is no trace of Jewish settlement in the town during the next century. In 1701 Prince Frederick William I gave letters of protection lasting 10 years to six Jewish families in the neighboring villages; soon there were Jews living in the city as well. By 1737 there were 30 households, and a synagogue was built in 1761 which existed until 1870.”

The Jewish community blossomed in Hechingen in the late 18th and early 19th century through the efforts of a woman named Chaile Raphael Kaulla.  Her father was a successful entrepreneur and banker, and he provided Chaile with a good education.   She even learned German, not something girls were usually taught in those times.   When her father died, Chaile, being much older than her oldest brother, took over her father’s business; she managed the business very successfully while also raising six children.  Her husband, a Talmudic scholar, did not work.  Chaile and her brother Jacob developed a very good relationship with the authorities in Hechingen and became the leaders of the Jewish community there.  Here is more about Chaile from the Jewish Women’s Archive:

Chaile developed an aristocratic lifestyle, owning an elegant house and a horse-drawn carriage, but she continued to live according to Jewish law. She never forgot the mitzvot and cared for the Jewish community together with her brother, using her connections to the prince. The Kaulla family had their own private synagogue and rabbi. Both sister and brother gave generously to the Jewish as well as to the Christian poor and founded a hostel for needy and migrating Jews in Hechingen. In 1803, they donated a Bet Midrash, a Talmud school, with three rabbinical scholars whom they supported, together with their students and an important library.


The 19th century was a time of economic and industrial growth for the town of Hechingen and for its Jewish residents.  Wikipedia states that “By 1850, Hechingen had started to industrialize, primarily with Jewish enterprises. By 1871 the city had become one of the most important economic centres in the region, with textiles and machine shops among the major industries.”  According to the Jewish Virtual Library, the Jewish community in Hechingen was “prosperous and owned most of the local industries.” The Jewish population reached 809 people in 1842, which was about a quarter of the total population of the town.  This was also around the time that my three-times great-grandmother Jeanette and her sisters and mother would have left, which might seem strange, given how favorable the conditions there seemed to have been.

The Alemannia-Judaica, however, reports that there were some anti-Semitic “disturbances” in the 1840s, and the Dreyfuss sisters were not the only ones to leave.  By 1880, the Jewish population had dropped to 340; by the 1930s it had dropped to only 101.  Like so many other Europeans, Jews and non-Jews, the lure of opportunities elsewhere must have been irresistible.  The Dreyfuss sisters were wise to leave Hechingen because it was no more immune to the destruction and genocide of the Nazis than any other place during the Holocaust.  The synagogue was heavily damaged on Kristallnacht in November, 1938, and most of the Jewish men were sent to Dachau.  In the aftermath, 53 Jews emigrated successfully; the remaining 32 Jewish residents of Hechingen were sent to concentration camps where all but one were murdered by the Nazis.

According to another source, “In 1991, the synagogue building was rebuilt as a cultural center, housing an exhibition on Hechingen’s Jewish history. A new Jewish community was founded in Hechingen in 2003.”  More pictures can be found here.


Where did my ancestors fit into this story of Hechingen? I was very, very lucky to find Ralph Baer on the JewishGen Family Finder because Ralph had already done extensive research on all the Hechingen Dreyfuss families years before I stumbled onto the name in the old family bible.  Even though he had not been able to find a connection between his Dreyfuss ancestors and mine, he had included my line in his tree when he’d done his research years ago.  Thus, my first email from Ralph in response to my inquiry as to his Hechingen Dreyfuss family included the following names:

A)3. Samuel (Sanwil) DREYFUß (ZELLER) 25 May 1776 Hechingen – 3 July 1859
Hechingen, married about 1805 to Miriam (Marianna) Samson BERNHEIM 17 May
1787 – 1841

A)31. Jeanette DREYFUß 20 May 1817 Hechingen, married to … NUßBAUM

A)32. Moses DREYFUß 10 February 1819 Hechingen

A)33. Goldel (Golde, Auguste) DREYFUß 16 October 1822 Hechingen,
married to … WEILER

A)34. Mathilde (Magdalena) DREYFUß 30 March 1825 Hechingen, married

A)35. Samson DREYFUß about 1827 Hechingen

A)36. Auguste DREYFUß about 1829 Hechingen[1]

There were my 3x-great-grandparents right at line 31, and there at line 33 was Caroline (born Golde) “Weiler” and at line 34 Mathilde “Pollak.”  I knew immediately that Ralph had found the three Dreyfuss sisters listed in my family bible.  Not only did the names line up, but so did the birth dates.  Thus, I now also knew that Jeanette, Caroline, and Mathilde were the daughters of Samuel Dreyfuss Zeller (later documents, as I found, indicated he had changed his surname to Zeller) and Miriam (Marianna) Samson Bernheim, that is, the Mary Dreyfuss I had found on the 1850 census living with her daughter Caroline in Pennsylvania.  (The death date of 1841 given for Miriam Ralph and I later discovered was not correct. I have not, however, found a death record for Miriam, though with two grandchildren named Miriam, one (Miriam Nusbaum, daughter of John Nusbaum and Jeanette Dreyfuss) in 1858, and one in 1859 (Miriam Pollock, daughter of Mathilde Dreyfuss and Moses Pollock, it would appear that Miriam died before 1858.)  In addition, I now had evidence of three other siblings: Moses, Samson, and Auguste.

But, of course, I wanted to see the actual records where Ralph had long ago found my relatives while researching his own.  With his patient assistance, I was able to locate a number of records relating to my Dreyfuss ancestors.  Fortunately, many of the Jewish vital records from the Baden-Wurttemburg region are digitized and available on line, and Ralph walked me step by step through the process of researching those archives and then helped me translate what I had found.  Once again, I struggled with the German script, but with Ralph’s help, I was able to find a number of relevant records.

I am now including the links to them here with a transcription of what is on each record so that I have a record later when I once again have trouble reading the script.  If you are interested in seeing the underlying documents, just click on the links.  The JPG versions were too blurry to read, so I am only posting links to the PDF versions, with two exceptions that were more legible.

Dreyfuss births (1)  Birth Registry for Hechingen 1800-1905

Line 132 Moses Dreyfuss                             Father Samuel                  Mother Miriam geb Bernheim

Line 186 Golde (Augusta) Dreyfuss           Father Samuel                 Mother Miriam geb Bernheim

Line 223 Mathilde Dreyfuss                                                 SAME


Dreyfuss Family on Archives film 240 bild 31  (Census 1831)

Dreyfuss family on archives film 240 film 31

#192 Samuel Dreyfuss 56 and Marianna 44. Six children: Jeanette 14, Magdalena 6, Golde 10, Moses 12, Samson 4, and Auguste 2.


Golde Auguste Caroline Dreyfuss birth record

First line:    October 16, 1822      Golde (Augusta)         Samuel Dreyfuss               Miriam geb Bernheim


Mathilde Dreyfuss birth record

Sixth line:  March 30 1825          Mathilde                       Samuel Dreyfuss                  Miriam geb Bernheim


Meier Dreyfuss brother of Samuel  Death Record

Parents               Samson Dreyfuss and Jeanette


Moses Dreyfuss birth record

Seventh line:  February 10, 1819    Moses Dreyfuss          Samuel Dreyfuss               Miriam geb Bernheim


Moses Zeller ne Dreyfuss death record Hechingen

Son of Samuel Zeller and Marie geb Bernheimer


Samuel Dreyfuss and family on Hechingen Family Records

Ralph helped me decipher this; otherwise, it would have meant nothing to me:  The name DREYFUSS is underlined with Samuel next to it. Below Samuel is written Zeller.  Below that it says Eltern (parents) Samson, and below that Jeanette(Scheile). To the right is geb. (born) and below that get. (married). The birth date for Samuel is on the right 1776 25 Mai. Between that is written “63 alt geworden” (became 63 years old, his age at the time of the compilation). For marriage it says angebl. (apparently) 1805 with also something in Hebrew. Samuel’s wife is on the right: Miriam, daughter of Samson Bern…and Golde. It also mentions a sister name Sussen right below that. The birth date for Miriam is listed as 17 Merz (March) 1787.  On the bottom are the children. The first one on the left is r Jeanette. In parentheses after her name is NUSSBAUM and below that 20 years old. To the left it states ca. 1817 20 Mai. Also listed are Moses, Mathilde Madel (Pollak), and Auguste (Golde) Weiler with birthdates.  (This was obviously compiled after 1851 since all three sisters are married and Mathilde is already married to Moses Pollock, whom she did not marry until after Maxwell Nusbaum died in 1851.)

Samuel Dreyfuss death record bild 143  (second on page)


Samuel Zeller death p 1 Samuel Zeller death p 2

Bottom of both pages: Samuel Zeller  Hechingen      Samson Dreyfuss and Jeanette    Alterschwaeche (old age)


There are some missing records.  I do not have a separate birth record for Jeanette.  Nor can I find a death record for her mother, my 4x-great-grandmother Miriam Bernheim.  I cannot find any records for the two youngest of the siblings, Samson and Auguste.  I also do not understand why there are two children with the name Auguste.  Perhaps one was a child of a family member who died? There is also a huge gap between the recorded marriage date for Samuel Dreyfuss and Miriam Bernheim of 1806 and the birth date of their oldest child, Jeanette, in 1817.  Did Samuel and Miriam have other children who died, or is their marriage date incorrect?  Samuel would have been 41 in 1817, Miriam would have been 30.  Both Samuel and Miriam had fathers named Samson.  Were both alive in 1819 when Moses was born? If not, it seems odd that their first son would not have been named Samson, unless there had been an earlier born son named Samson who had died.

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I have answers to so many more questions than I ever expected, thanks to Ralph.  I know the names of my 4x-great-grandparents, Samuel Dreyfuss Zeller and Miriam Bernheim, and the names of my 5x-great-grandparents, Samson and Jeanette Dreyfuss and Samson and Golde Bernheim.  I have the names of the three other siblings of my 3-x great-grandmother Jeanette: Moses, Samson, and Auguste.  And I am not yet done looking for more about my Dreyfuss ancestors and now, my Bernheim ancestors as well.

Once again, I am deeply grateful to Ralph Baer.  Without him, none of this would have been possible.






[1] Together Ralph and I filled in many of the blanks here, enabling both of us to have a more complete record.

Life’s Injustices

The last two posts and the research surrounding them have really been draining.  The sad stories of Minnie Simon and Daniel Meyers in particular were hard to read about and to write about.  And sadly the next decade for the descendants of Caroline Dreyfuss and Moses Wiler is no more uplifting.  In fact, in some ways it’s even worse than the first decade of the 20th century.  But rather than put it off, I want to get it done. Today I will post about the children of Eliza Wiler and Moses Simon; next I will post about the children of Fanny Wiler and Joseph Levy and the children of Clara Wiler and Daniel Meyers. Then maybe I can post some cartoons or funny pictures or pictures of kittens.  Anything but death, disease, and despair.

The four surviving children of Eliza Wiler and Leman Simon continued to have far more than their fair share of tragedy in the 1910s.  First, on April 20, 1915, the youngest child Leon died from tuberculosis.  He had been at the Mont Alto Sanitarium in Quincy, Pennsylvania for over a year.  He was only 36 years old.  Having just watched the PBS program about tuberculosis, “The Forgotten Plague,” on February 10, I have a whole new appreciation for the suffering this disease caused.  People could live for years with the disease, coughing, wasting away, and being sent to live in a sanitarium surrounded by others also suffering from these symptoms.  I now better understand how many people were affected by TB and how lucky we all are that medical science eventually figured out not only how to treat it, but also how to prevent it.

Title: Mont Alto State Sanatorium, high in the mountains of Mont Alto State Forest Park, located in Franklin County, Pa., on Route 997, between Chambersburg and Waynesboro   Created/Published: John Myerly Company, Hagerstown, Md.

Title: Mont Alto State Sanatorium, high in the mountains of Mont Alto State Forest Park, located in Franklin County, Pa., on Route 997, between Chambersburg and Waynesboro
Created/Published: John Myerly Company, Hagerstown, Md.

There are a number of strange things about Leon’s death certificate.  First, notice that it says Leon was widowed.  I have no record that he ever married, and since as I pointed out in my last post, I can’t find Leon on the 1910 census, I don’t know whether he married before or after the 1910 census.  In addition, if he was widowed, it means his wife also died very young.

Leon Simon death cert Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.

 The second strange thing is the name of the informant: Leon Simon.  Certainly Leon could not have signed his own death certificate.  I checked to see if there was another Leon Simon in the extended family who might have signed, and there was Leon (Dinkelspiel) Simon, the son of Moses Simon and Paulina Dinkelspiel, who was after all Leon (Wiler) Simon’s first cousin.  But that Leon was fifteen years older and lived in Baltimore.  I found it strange that he would be signing the death certificate when Leon the deceased had so many closer relatives living right in Philadelphia.

Leon Simon informant

Then I looked more closely and realized that the handwriting on the signature of the informant matched the handwriting of the local registrar, Wilson Reynolds.  The rest of the handwriting on the certificate matches that of the doctor, William McKelvey, who provided the cause of death.  I am not sure what to make of this except that perhaps Leon had provided all the information about his family to the sanitarium at some earlier point and that the doctor had then filled it out and the registrar just “rubber stamped” it by signing both Leon’s name and his own.

The final interesting piece of information on this certificate is the address provided as Leon’s last address before entering the sanitarium: 2513 South 18th Street.  You may remember that I also had trouble locating Leon’s brother Joseph on the 1910 census because there were so many men with that name in Philadelphia.   Using this address I found Joseph L. Simon living at that same address both on the 1910 and in the 1920 census reports as well as in the 1918 Philadelphia directory.  It is also the address that Joseph gave on the funeral bill for his brother Leon’s funeral in 1915.

Leon Simon funeral bill

On the two census reports, Joseph was married and living with his wife, Mary, who was nineteen years younger than he was.  The 1910 census reports that Joseph and Mary had been married for eight years, meaning they married in 1902. I’ve yet to find a marriage certificate.  Joseph was working as an accountant for a trust company (Providence Life & Trust Co, according to the funeral bill).

Provident Building, 401-09 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA (1888-90, demolished 1945) in 1910. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, PA,51-PHILA,256A-1

Provident Building, 401-09 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA (1888-90, demolished 1945) in 1910. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, PA,51-PHILA,256A-1


Mary was born in Virginia, as were both of her parents.  The only part of the 1910 census report that bothers me is that it says that Joseph’s father (Leman) was born in Pennsylvania; he was born in Germany.  It says that Joseph’s mother (Eliza) was born in Virginia; she was born in Pennsylvania.  But overall, it seems that this is definitely my Joseph Simon.  The address on Leon’s death certificate and funeral bill seem quite persuasive evidence of that conclusion.

The 1920 census did not help matters though.  On that census, Joseph’s parents are both listed as born in Virginia.  Very strange.  Could Mary have thought he was a Virginian like she was?  If he married her in 1902 as indicated on the 1910 census, Leman Simon was still alive.  I can’t imagine that a German immigrant sounded like a Virginian even after being in Pennsylvania for almost fifty years. Nevertheless, because they were still living at 2513 South 18th Street, I still believe that this is the right Joseph and Mary Simon.

And then Joseph and Mary disappear.  There are many, many Joseph and Mary Simons listed in directories in many, many places during this time period, yet the 1930 census does not have one  couple that fits my Joseph Simon even as closely as the 1910 and 1920 census reports.  This was the closest fit I could find for Joseph.

JOseph Simon 1930 census

Year: 1930; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 2102; Page: 20A; Enumeration District: 0572; Image: 389.0; FHL microfilm: 2341836

On this census the birth places of Joseph’s parents are correct: Germany and Pennsylvania.  The age is correct.  But the middle initial looks more like an H than an L.  There is no occupation, so that is no help.  Joseph’s marital status is given as single, and he is living at a lodger at what seems to be a very large boarding house.  I think this is Joseph.  If so, what happened to Mary?  Did she die? Did she leave him? I don’t know.  The trail has run dry.  It also ran dry on Joseph.  I cannot find him on the 1940 census nor have I found a record of his death.  He remains an elusive subject.

As for Flora Simon, she had been widowed back in 1901 when Nathan Strouse died, and she had remarried in 1903.  But that marriage did not last.  Although Flora was living with her second husband Albert Heulings in 1910, by 1917 he was married to another woman, Evelyn Cotton, according to both the Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index and his draft registration for World War I.

On the 1920 census, Flora was listed as divorced and living with her son Lester, now 31 years old.  Flora was working as the “keeper of an apartment house,” and Lester was in the advertising business.  There were also three lodgers plus Flora’s sister Nellie. Why was Nellie living with her sister? What had happened to her husband Louis? That’s when I looked and found the death certificate for Florrie Loux, a child I had not known about until I saw the 1920 census and looked for where Louis Loux might have been.

And that’s where the story really turns tragic.

I mentioned in my last post that I couldn’t find Nellie and Louis on the 1910 census and would not have known about their daughter if I had not found her death certificate. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Florrie had died on September 21, 1918 from burns accidentally caused by matches.  A seven year old child.  There is nothing I can say to describe the horror I felt when I saw that death certificate.

Three months later her father Louis B. Loux died from broncho pneumonia on December 15, 1918.

Philadelphia Inquirer December 17, 1918, p. 19

Philadelphia Inquirer December 17, 1918, p. 19

From his World War I draft registration, I know that in 1917 Louis had been working in Philadelphia doing advertising sales for the German Daily Gazette.  The home address he had provided for his 1917 draft registration, however,  was 311 Linden Street, Haddonfield, New Jersey.  The death notice for Louis indicated that that was his parents’ residential address in 1918.  But Florrie’s death certificate indicated that she and Louis both had been living at 128 North 10th Street in Philadelphia when she died.  I was able to obtain the information contained in the death certificate for Louis (I am still waiting the actual document), and it reports that he was divorced at the time of his death.  I cannot tell from these records whether Louis and Nellie had divorced before or after the death of their daughter.

UPDATE:  Here is the death certificate for Louis Loux.

Death certificates_0003_NEW

Think about it: between 1910 and 1920, Leon Simon had died from tuberculosis; Flora Simon, already widowed once, saw another marriage end; Joseph Simon was married, but sometime after 1920, his marriage seems also to have ended either by death or divorce; and Nellie Simon lost both her young daughter and her ex-husband in the space of a few months in 1918.  All this followed a decade where Leon, Flora, Joseph and Nellie had lost both of their parents and their sister Minnie.

Now you can see why I need something to lift my spirits.  Fortunately, as I will cover in my next post,  things were not as bad for the children of Fanny Wiler Levy or the children of Clara Wiler Meyers.  Not as bad.




A Decade of Heartache for Caroline’s Family

The 19th century ended badly for the extended family of Caroline Dreyfuss and Moses Wiler.  Their daughter Eliza Wiler Simon died in August 1897, and their son-in-law Daniel Meyers, Clara’s husband, died in 1902, following several years of financial distress and legal problems.   Unfortunately, it only got worse as the 20th century began.

First, on April 23, 1901, Flora Simon’s husband Nathan Strouse died from myasthenia gravis.  He was 24 years older than Flora, but only 58 years old when he died.  Their son Lester was only thirteen years old when he lost his father.  I found it rather interesting that Nathan’s occupation on the death certificate was given as “gentleman.”

Nathan Strouse death certificate

“Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 11 February 2015), Nathan Strouse, 23 Apr 1901; citing cn 22852, Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 1,845,290.


Two years later Flora married Alfred C. Heulings, a New Jersey lawyer who, in contrast to her first husband, was almost twelve years younger than Flora.

Then in 1904, there was another disaster for the family.  Minnie Simon, the younger daughter of Eliza Wiler and Leman Simon, committed suicide.  Her death certificate stated that she took her life “by inhaling gas while temporarily insane.”

minnie simon death cert 1904

“Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 11 February 2015), Minnie Simon, 05 Aug 1904; citing cn 19898, Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 1,004,045.


Apparently her death created some controversy based on this news article from the Philadelphia Inquirer, August 9, 1904,  covering the coroner’s inquest:

minnie suicide 1


minnie suicide 2


minnie suicide 3

minnie suicide 4

Paper: Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA) Volume: 151 Issue: 40 Page: 5 August 9, 1904

From Joseph’s description of his sister’s personality, today she might have been diagnosed and treated for bipolar disease or depression.  But in 1904 that was not possible, and so Minnie succumbed to mental illness and took her own life.  She was only 26 years old.

Two years after losing his daughter Minnie and nine years after losing his wife Eliza, Leman Simon passed away on October 13, 1906, from a cerebral hemorrhage.  He was 72 years old.

Leman Simon death cert

“Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 11 February 2015), Leman Simon, 13 Oct 1906; citing cn 25343, Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 1,319,469.


Thus, in the ten years between 1897 and 1906, the family lost five members:  Eliza Wiler Simon, Nathan Strouse, Daniel Meyers, Minnie Simon, and Leman Simon.  The Simon family in particular must have been quite devastated.

Not all was sad, however, in the first ten years of the 20th century.  Nellie Simon married Louis Boughen Loux on April 30, 1908.  They were married in the Eleventh Street Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.  Louis was 21, and Nellie was 33.  Like her sister Flora’s second marriage, this was a marriage between a man and a significantly older woman, which must have been quite unusual in those days.

Thus, by 1910, the family had changed quite a bit.  Leman and Eliza Simon were both gone, as was their daughter Minnie.  Flora was living with her second husband Albert Heulings and her son Lester Strouse at 913 North 16th Street.  Albert was practicing law.  Lester, who had graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1909, was now 21 and working in the advertising business for the Quaker City Publicity Company.  There were also two servants in the household.

As for Flora’s siblings, I am once again having a terrible time finding them on the census.  Nellie Simon and her husband Louis Loux had a child Florie born on March 3, 1910, in Philadelphia, but I only know this from Florie’s death certificate.  I cannot find a birth record, nor can I find Nellie and Louis on the 1910 census.  I found a Leon Simon listed in the 1908 Philadelphia directory at 541 Fernon Street, working as a bookkeeper, but he is not at that address on the 1910 census.  Joseph Simon’s address in 1904 was 136 Farson Street in West Philadelphia, according to the news article about his sister Minnie’s death.  But he is not at that address on the 1910 census.  I have some possible listings for Joseph, but given how common his name was, I just am not certain.

As for the family of Clara Wiler Meyers, Clara in 1910 was a widow, still living at the long-time family home at 920 Franklin Street, with nine of her children. Her oldest son Leon Meyers (36 in 1910) had by 1902 become an optician and was still living at home as late as 1904.  In 1910 he was living at 1628 North 13th Street, according to the Philadelphia directory, yet he is not listed there on the 1910 census, nor is he listed on the census at 1904 Somerset Street, where he is listed as residing in the 1911 directory.  I think Leon, like his Simon cousins, just eluded the census taker.  His younger brother, Benjamin Franklin Meyers, 25 years old in 1910, was living as a boarder in Trenton, New Jersey, where he was working as a watch maker in a watch factory.

The other nine Meyers children were still living with their mother Clara.  All were unmarried.  Samuel (34) was like his brother Leon an optician.  Harry (33) was a tailor.  Isador (30) was a “commercial traveler” for a men’s clothing business.  Max (28) was a draftsman for a machine works business. Clarence (24) was a cotton yarn salesman. Frank (22) was an optician like his two older brothers Leon and Samuel.  The three youngest children Lottie (20), Miriam (17), and Milton (14) were all at home and not occupied.

Source Citation Year: 1910; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 20, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1394; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 0334; FHL microfilm: 1375407

Source Citation
Year: 1910; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 20, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1394; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 0334; FHL microfilm: 1375407

I cannot imagine what this house looked like that accommodated all of those people.  I’ve tried to locate a photograph, but have had no luck.  Google Street View shows a modern apartment building at that address today.

Fanny Wiler Levy’s three sons were also still single and living with their father Joseph and stepmother Bella at home at 2122 Camac Street in 1910.   Their father Joseph Levy was living on his “own income,” according to the 1910 census.  Alfred, now 41, was a lumber salesman, and Leon (37) and Monroe (35) were clothing salesman.  Their half-sister Miriam (27) was married to Arthur Hanff, a traveling shirt salesman.

Levy family 1910

Year: 1910; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 32, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1403; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 0750; FHL microfilm: 1375416


Levy occupations 1910

Simon Wiler, the only son of Caroline Dreyfuss and Moses Wiler, was living in a large boarding house on Spruce Street in 1910.  He was working as a salesman in a paper warehouse.  Simon died the following year on October 23, 1911.  He died from shock after a prostatectomy, according to the death certificate.  Although the death certificate says he was residing at 1905 Diamond Street prior to his death, he is not listed there on the 1910 census.  The informant on the certificate was A. Freed, the undertaker, who did not know the names of Simon’s parents, but given the name, the age, and the occupation, it seems reasonable to conclude that this was Simon, the son of Caroline and Moses.  Like the other members of his family, he was buried at Mt. Sinai cemetery. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Thus, as of 1911, the only child of Caroline Dreyfuss and Moses Wiler who was still alive was Clara Wiler Meyers. Between 1897 and 1911, there had been many deaths, but only two weddings and only one birth.  There were a number of adult cousins still living at home with their parents.  The next ten years  brought continued heartache and loss.



Why Did Daniel Meyers Fail to Pay the Beneficiaries of Caroline Dreyfuss Wiler’s Estate?

In my last post, I wrote about the fact that Daniel Meyers, husband of Clara Wiler, had failed to honor the terms of the will of his mother-in-law Caroline Dreyfuss Wiler when he failed to pay Caroline’s grandchildren the money they had been promised.  Why hadn’t Daniel paid? What would have led him to breach his duties as executor and trustee of the estate?

And who was Daniel Meyers? Why was he appointed to be the executor and trustee? Caroline’s husband Moses was still alive when Caroline died as was her son Simon. But Caroline may not have wanted to have her husband or son in charge of the estate in order to have a more “objective” person in charge.  I assume that a woman could not be appointed trustee/executor in 1885, but Caroline had two other sons-in-law, Leman Simon and Joseph Levy.  So why Daniel?  Leman Simon was in Pittsburgh until the mid-1880s; he and Eliza did not move back until around the time or after the time Caroline died, so he was not around.  Perhaps Caroline wanted someone closer to home.  As for Joseph Levy, by 1878, his wife Fanny had died, and he had remarried, so Caroline might not have thought he was an appropriate choice.   Daniel Meyers was in Philadelphia, married to Clara, and in 1885 had a stable business.  He must have seemed like the obvious choice.

Daniel Meyers was, like Leman Simon and Joseph Levy, a German Jewish immigrant.  He was born in 1846 in Bavaria, and according to his passport application, immigrated in 1864.  He and his brother Samuel were in the clothing business together in 1867.  By 1872, a year after marrying Clara Wiler, Daniel was listed in the Philadelphia directory doing business under the firm name D. Meyers and Company in business with Isaac Samler.  The family was living at 718 Fairmount Avenue throughout the 1870s and in 1880, but in 1881, Daniel’s home address is 960 North 7th Street, just a few blocks away.  By 1885 they had moved again to 927 Franklin Street, and then in 1891 to 920 Franklin Street, where they stayed for many years.  In 1886, Isaac Samler retired from the business, and Daniel became the sole propietor of the business that carried his name.

Philadelphia Inquirer December 31, 1886, p. 3

Philadelphia Inquirer December 31, 1886, p. 3

Meanwhile, Daniel and Clara had on average a new baby every year and a half between 1872 and 1896.  Daniel and Clara had five children by 1880 and eight more between 1880 and 1900, but one was stillborn and one, Bertha, died from heart disease before she was ten years old. Thus, Daniel was supporting eleven children as well as Clara and himself in the 1880s and 1890s.  By 1895 the oldest son Leon was working out of house, first as a foreman in 1895 and then as a salesman in 1897, but still living at home. But the other ten children were still at home and not yet working.

Maybe it was all too much of a financial strain for Daniel. This article from The Philadelphia Times of October 31, 1897, reported a large number of judgments executed against D. Meyers & Co., including two very large ones for over $18,000.  One of those was in favor of Isaac Samler, Daniel’s former partner.  Keep in mind that $18,000 in 1897 would be equivalent to about $500,000 in today’s dollars.


A fellow family historian descended from a relative of Daniel Meyers shared this news story with me that revealed that on November 1, 1897, D. Meyers and Company was forced to close.

Philadelphia Inquirer, November 1, 1897, p. 9

Philadelphia Inquirer, November 1, 1897, p. 9

The assets of the business were sold at a sheriff’s sale, as this advertisement, also shared by the fellow family historian, in the Philadelphia Inquirer from November 13, 1897, page 16, revealed:

AD november 13 1897 phil inq p 16

The text says, “We Bought at Sheriff’s Sale an Enormous Stock of Cothing By the failure of D. Meyers & Co., 36 North Third Street, this City, who for a great many years conducted a manufacturing and wholesale clothing business at 36 North Third Street, was recently sold out by the Sheriff.”

There were numerous other attachments brought against Daniel Meyers d/b/a D.Meyers & Co. after the business was closed. I also found the article below indicating that there was a sheriff’s sale of property belonging to Daniel Meyers and D. Meyers and Company in September, 1898, for over $16,000.


Perhaps this explains why Daniel did not distribute the principal of Caroline’s estate to her grandchildren as he was legally obligated to do after Eliza Simon died in 1897.   Perhaps that money was gone.

By 1900 six of Daniel and Clara’s sons, Leon, Samuel, Harry, Isadore, Benjamin, and Max, were now working, Samuel as a clothing merchant, Harry as a tailor, Leon, Isadore and Benjamin as salesmen, and Max as a draftsman.  Although this might have alleviated the financial burden carried by Daniel to some extent, it appears not to have been sufficient. The other five younger children were all still at home.  In April, 1902, a judgment was entered against Daniel and Clara in the amount of $5,678, apparently for defaulting on a mortgage loan with a building and loan association.  I can’t help but notice that the amount they owed was almost to the dollar the amount of money that had been the principal in Caroline’s estate.  Had they borrowed this amount to satisfy the attachment obtained by the new trustee of Caroline’s estate and then not had sufficient assets to pay back the lender?


Six months after this judgment was entered, Daniel Meyers died on October 14, 1902, from “organic disease of the heart, embolism, paralysis, and general atheromas.”  He was sixty years old.  I don’t know what if any relationship there was between his financial troubles, the legal problems, and the resulting family problems, on the one hand, and his health on the other, but I tend to think they were not unrelated.

ennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 8 February 2015), Daniel Meyers, 14 Oct 1902; citing cn 7658, Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 1,853,857.

Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 8 February 2015), Daniel Meyers, 14 Oct 1902; citing cn 7658, Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 1,853,857.


Those Wily Wilers: Where were They in 1900?

Remember Fanny Wiler, the daughter of Caroline Dreyfuss and Moses Wiler, the one I could not find and thought might have been married to a man who killed himself and a child in a fire? Well, I still had not had any luck finding the real Fanny Wiler despite several more hours of going back over my research and looking more deeply into the sources.   Although I was doing pretty well with the rest of her family up through 1880, they also proved to be elusive as they approached the 20th century.

In 1880, Caroline and Moses Wiler were living in Philadelphia, and Moses had retired from his career as a merchant.  Their son Simon, then 37, was still living with his parents and working as a salesman.  Their daughter Eliza and her husband Leman Simon had moved to Pittsburgh where Leman was in the liquor business, and they had five children, Joseph, Flora, Nellie, Minnie, and Leon. While going back over my research, I discovered that Eliza and Leman had had one other child, Isadore, born in July, 1871, who died at 28 months on August 16, 1873.  I cannot decipher the cause of death.  Can anyone tell what it says?

UPDATE:  My expert says it says “Inflammation Brain.” Apparently doctors are trained to read each other’s awful handwriting.

Isadore A Simon death certificate FHL

“Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 6 February 2015), Isadore A Simon, 16 Aug 1873; citing , Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 2,021,999.


When I last wrote about Eliza and Leman Simon, I was a bit puzzled by the seemingly impossibly close birth dates of Minnie and Leon, their youngest two children.  Two census reports indicated that Minnie was born in 1877, no earlier than August 1877 and possibly as late as December 1877, and Leon’s death certificate said he was born on June 13, 1878.  It just seemed very unlikely that Leon was born ten months (at most) after Minnie, but it was, of course, entirely possible.

But I went back to look again and realized that while Minnie was listed with the family on the 1880 census, Leon was not.  Further research uncovered this bill from his funeral, indicating that his birth date was June 13, 1881, not 1878, which makes a lot more sense.  Thus, the death certificate was most likely inaccurate (and there are other questions about that document, but I will get to that later).

Leon Simon funeral bill

Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records


Caroline and Moses Wiler’s youngest child, Clara, and her husband Daniel Meyers, a clothing merchant, were living in Philadelphia with their five children (as of 1880), Bertha, Leon, Samuel, Harry, and Isadore.

Thus, in 1880, I could account for Caroline Dreyfuss and Moses Wiler and three of their four children (all but Fanny) and their ten grandchildren.  Then things start getting a bit more difficult.  Although I found burial records for Caroline indicating that she had died on December 21, 1885, and was buried at Mt. Sinai cemetery in Philadelphia, I cannot locate a death certificate for her in the Philadelphia City Death Certificates 1803-1915 database on  On the other hand, I was able to locate a death certificate for her husband Moses in that database; he died almost exactly two years later on December 26, 1887, and was also buried at Mt. Sinai.

Moses Wiler death certificate

“Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 6 February 2015), Moses Simon, 27 Jan 1897; citing cn 15654, Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 1,869,753.


Moses Wiler was residing at 1638 Franklin Street at the time of his death in 1887, and that is the same address listed for his son-in-law Leman Simon in the 1887 Philadelphia directory.  I don’t know whether Moses had moved in with Leman, Eliza, and their children, or vice versa.  Since Leman and Eliza had been listed in the 1884 directory for Pittsburgh, it could be that they had moved back to Philadelphia sometime around or after Caroline’s death to be with Moses.  Leman’s occupation is listed as “salesman” in that 1887 Philadelphia directory without any indication of whether he was still selling liquor.

Assuming that Eliza and Leman returned to Philadelphia around 1885 or so, their children would have been still relatively young: Joseph 21, Flora 19, Nellie 11, Minnie 7, and Leon 4.  Certainly the youngest three would still have been living at home.  Joseph appears to have been in Pittsburgh until at least 1886, as there is a Joseph L. Simon listed there, selling cigars and tobacco products, a business line that was being practiced by other members of the family during that time, including Joseph’s great-uncle John Nusbaum.  After that, however, he does not appear in the Pittsburgh directory as far as I can tell.

Eliza and Leman’s daughter Flora married Nathan Strouse in Philadelphia in 1888 when she was 22 and he was 46. Their son Lester Nathan Strouse was born on December 15 of that year.  In the 1890 Philadelphia directory, Nathan was listed as associated with Strouse, Loeb, and Company, clothiers.

Leman and Eliza were still living at 1638 Franklin until 1890 when they are listed at 1821 Franklin Street.  Joseph also is listed in the 1890 directory at that address, so he must have been living with his parents at that time along with the three younger children, Nellie, Minnie, and Leon.  Joseph was working as a clerk.  He may have moved out by 1892 because there are two Joseph Simons listed as salesman in the Philadelphia directory for that year, though I cannot be completely certain either is the correct Joseph Simon.

In 1897, Leman and Eliza (Wiler) Simon were living at 1537 Montgomery Street.  Eliza died of apoplexy on August 18, 1897.  She was 55 years old.  Leman continued to live at 1537 Montgomery Street through 1899, according to the Philadelphia directory of that year, which listed him once again as a salesman.

Eliza Simon death certificate 1897

“Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 6 February 2015), 004009659 > image 190 of 1791; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.


Now things get very sticky.  I had a very hard time locating the family of Eliza and Leman Simon on the 1900 census.  The only one I am certain about is Flora and her husband Nathan Strouse and son Lester Strouse.  On the 1900 census, Flora, Nathan, and Lester were living at 913 North 16th Street, and Nathan was 57 years old and did not provide an occupation for the census.  Living with them was a 30 year old woman named Nettie Dreifuss, born in 1870 in Illinois whose parents were born in Germany and Pennsylvania, as were Flora’s parents.  She is identified as the niece of the head of the household, Nathan.

Flora and Nathan Strouse 1900 census

I first wondered whether this was Nellie, Flora’s sister.  But Nellie was born in 1874 in Pennsylvania, not 1870 in Illinois, and she was Nathan’s sister-in-law, not his niece.  I then spent most of a day trying to find out whether Nathan had a sister who married a Dreifuss.  He did have several sisters: Rebecca, who never married; Gussie, who married Joseph DeYoung and had one daughter Harriet; Henrietta, who married Leopold Lewis and had two daughters, Minnie and Fanny; and Rachel, who married Ed Henrinan (?), but apparently was divorced and had no children.  I thought that perhaps it was one of Henrietta and Leopold Lewis’ daughters, but neither was named Nettie, and I located both elsewhere on the 1900 census.  So the “niece” did not appear to be Nathan’s niece.

If Nettie Dreifus was not Nathan’s niece, was she Flora’s niece? None of Flora’s siblings was married in 1900; none of them had had children.   I still don’t know who Nettie was.  But her name was Dreifuss, Caroline Wiler’s birth name.  Could this be a daughter of a Dreifuss/Dreyfuss brother whom I’ve yet to find?  That’s a research path I will need to pursue further.

But at least I knew where Flora and her family were living in 1900.  Her father and her siblings proved much more elusive.  I had a very hard time locating Leman Simon and his son Leon on the 1900 census, but I believe that this is Leman and Leon living together at 1514 Brown Street as Leon, Sr., and Leon, Jr.

Leman and Leon 1900 census

Why do I think this is Leman? Because he is a 64 year old widow born in Germany who immigrated in 1866 and who was working as a salesman.  Although my records show that Leman would have been 65 and that he immigrated in 1856, the numbers are close enough, given the general unreliability of census data.  In addition, Leon, Jr. fits with my Leon roughly also: born in 1880 in Pennsylvania to parents born in Germany and working as a clerk.  Again, it’s not perfect.  Leon was born in 1881, and his mother Eliza was born in Pennsylvania. So I am not at all positive that this is Leman and Leon, but they are the closest matches I can find on the 1900 census.

Despite using as many resources and wildcard searches as I could imagine, I cannot find Joseph at all on the 1900 census.  I even had assistance from Antoinette from the Facebook Pennsylania Genealogy group, but neither of us could find him.  There is a Joseph L. Simon living at 2137 North 18th Street in the 1901 Philadelphia directory, the same address that is given for Le(h)man Simon for that year, so I assume that is the right Joseph, working as a clerk with his father working as a salesman.  But Joseph is not listed at that address in the 1900 census nor is Leman, so they must have moved there in 1901.

As for Minnie and Nellie, I think I found them on the 1900 census, but cannot be 100% sure.  I found a Minnie Simon and a “Millie” Simon living at 2628 Diamond Street on the 1900 census.  Both are listed as boarders.  Minnie is listed as a single woman born in 1877 in Pennsylvania with a mother born in Pennsylvania and a father born in Germany; that matches Minnie correctly.  No occupation is given.

Year: 1900; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 32, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1473; Enumeration District: 0809; FHL microfilm: 1241473

Year: 1900; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 32, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1473; Enumeration District: 0809; FHL microfilm: 1241473

I was quite certain that this was Minnie, but it took me a while to think that “Millie” was Nellie because although they are both at the same address, Minnie is listed as a boarder in the household of Bertha Lipper, and Millie is listed as the head of household in a boarding house at the exact same address with sixteen boarders.  “Millie” was a single woman born in 1874 in Pennsylvania whose parents are listed as born in Germany, both mother and father.  Although Nellie’s mother was born in Pennsylvania, not Germany, the age and marital status are correct, and the name is quite similar.  Once again, I cannot be completely certain that this is Nellie, but I am pretty sure.  I think it was really one large boarding house where the two sisters were living.  I am not sure why “Millie” was also described as a head of household.

Thus, if my hunches here are all correct about Leman Simon and his children, only Joseph Simon was really missing from the 1900 census.  Leman was living as a boarder with his son Leon; Nellie was living as a boarder with her sister Minnie.  Flora was married and living with her husband Nathan Strouse and son Lester and a mysterious niece.  When I mapped out where they all were living, I realized that Flora was living just a few blocks from where Leman and Leon might have been living, but Minnie and Nellie were about two miles further north.  If Joseph was already living at 2137 North 18th Street sometime during that year, he was less than a mile from Minnie and Nellie.

As for the other children of Caroline Dreyfuss and Moses Wiler, Simon, Fanny, and Clara, Simon was working as a clerk in a hotel where he also resided in 1900 at 152 North 7th Street. He was single and 56 years old.  Clara and her husband Daniel Meyers were now living at 920 North Franklin Street.  Clara and Daniel had had five children as of 1880; between 1880 and 1896 they had had eight more children, including one stillbirth.  But in 1882, they lost their first born child Bertha to heart disease.  She was only nine years old.

"Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 6 February 2015), 004058695 > image 726 of 994; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

“Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 6 February 2015), 004058695 > image 726 of 994; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Thus, as of 1900, Clara Wiler and Daniel Meyers had eleven surviving children, all of them still living at home.

And, of course, Fanny Wiler still remained unaccounted for.  Or was she? Stay tuned…



There Were No Survivors: A Tragic Ending to a Family with Plenty of Tragedy

Some families seem to suffer more misfortune than others.  This is one of those families.  It is the story of the family of Mathilde Dreyfuss, sister of my three-times great-grandmother Jeanette, and her family.  Her first husband was  John Nusbaum’s brother Maxwell Nusbaum, making this particular line related to me both on my Dreyfuss side and my Nusbaum side.  That is, Mathilde and Maxwell’s children are my double first cousins, four times removed.

As I have written, Maxwell Nusbaum and Mathilde Dreyfuss had two children, a daughter Flora born in 1848 and a son Albert born in 1851.  Less than seven months after Albert’s birth, Maxwell died in the 1851 Great Fire in San Francisco.  By 1856 Mathilde had married Moses Pollock, with whom she had three more children, Emanuel, Miriam, and Rosia.  The family lived in Harrisburg for many years, but by 1866 had relocated to Philadelphia.

In the 1870s, the Pollocks were living in Philadelphia where Moses was a dry goods merchant.  Their youngest child Rosia died in 1871 when she was just five months old.

Rosie Pollock daughter of Moses and Mathilde death cert 1871

Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 22 January 2015), Rosie Pollock, 26 Feb 1871; citing 1075, Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 2,020,735.

Mathilde’s daughter Flora had married Samuel Simon, one of the three brothers to marry into the Nusbaum/Dreyfuss clan, and they had two children in the 1870s, Meyer (mostly likely named for his grandfather Maxwell) and Minnie.  By 1880, Flora and Samuel had moved to Elkton, Maryland, where Samuel was running a hotel.  Meanwhile, Moses and Mathilde (Dreyfuss Nusbaum) Pollock were still in Philadelphia, and the other surviving children—Albert Nusbaum and Emanuel and Miriam Pollock—were still living at home with them, according to the 1880 census. Moses was in the cloak business, Albert was in the liquor trade, and Emanuel was in the dry goods business.  Moses’ line of trade seemed to change to trimmings or finishings during the 1880s and 1890s with various directories listing his businesses as plaiting, laces, embroidery, school bags, and accordion pleating.

Mathilde’s family was struck by tragedy again on September 1, 1885, when Miriam Pollock, just 26 years old, died from consumption or tuberculosis.  Mathilde had lost her first husband to a fire, her daughter Rosia at five months, and then her daughter Miriam at 26.  Sometimes life is just not fair.

miriam pollock death cert FHL 2070682

“Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 22 January 2015), Miriam Pollock, 01 Sep 1885; citing , Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 2,070,682.


Then Moses Pollock died on December 5, 1894 of encephalomalacia, defined in Wikipedia as “localized softening of the brain substance, due to hemorrhage or inflammation.”  Like so many other family members, he was buried at Mt. Sinai cemetery in Philadelphia.  He was 69 years old.

Moses Pollock death cert

“Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 22 January 2015), Moses Pollock, 05 Dec 1894; citing cn 11116, Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 1,872,200.

Both Albert Nusbaum and Emanuel Pollock had continued to live with their parents throughout the 1880s and 1890s, and in 1900, they and their mother were still living together at the same address, 934 North Eighth Street.  Mathilde, now widowed twice in addition to losing two children, was working outside the house as a manufacturer of bags—presumably, the school bags listed as one of the items Moses was selling on the last directory entry before his death.  Albert was still a liquor salesman, and Emanuel was selling bicycles.  In addition, Meyer Simon, Flora’s son and Mathilde’s grandson, now 30 years old, was also living with them and was working with his grandmother in the bag manufacturing business as a manager.

Mathilde’s daughter Flora Nusbaum and her husband Samuel Simon, meanwhile, had left Elkton, Maryland, and moved to Baltimore by 1885.  Samuel was in the liquor business, as was his brother Moses, who was married to Paulina Dinkelspiel, Flora’s first cousin.[2]  My hunch is that they were business together.

In 1900, Samuel was still in the liquor business in Baltimore, but his brother Moses had died the year before.  Samuel and Flora still had their daughter Minnie living at home with them, but their son Meyer, as noted above, was living in Philadelphia with his grandmother and uncles Albert and Emanuel and managing the bag manufacturing business.

Although Meyer Simon was listed as single on the 1900 census, the 1910 census reported him as married for 12 years. I figured that this must have been a mistake, especially since he was still living at his grandmother’s address even in the 1901 directory.  It seemed he could not have been married for 12 years in 1910.

But then I found something strange.  After some further research and review, I found in the Pennsylvania, Marriages 1709-1940 data base on a marriage between Meyer Simon and Tillie Perry on September 18, 1897, in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. Meyer’s wife’s name on the 1910 census was Matilda, so I knew this was the correct marriage.  Matilda or Tillie Perry was the daughter of William and Matilda Perry; she was born in Philadelphia in 1876 and baptized in the Episcopal church in 1878. But if Meyer and Matilda were married in 1897, why was Meyer listed as single on the 1900 census, and where was Matilda?[3]

I found Matilda Perry on the 1900 census living with her parents in Philadelphia, and that census report stated that she was married and had been married for three years, which is consistent with the marriage record I found on familysearch. Had Meyer and Matilda married and then lived separately for at least three years?  It seems strange, but perhaps they could not yet afford a place of their own. Or perhaps they were temporarily separated.  Or perhaps the religious differences had made it difficult for those families to support the marriage.    After all, Meyer listed his marital status as single.  I suppose it is also possible that he had kept the marriage a secret from his family.  After all, they were married in Allegheny, not in Philadelphia or in Baltimore where their families lived. Allegheny was a city across the river from Pittsburgh that merged with Pittsburgh in 1907.   It would have been therefore over 300 miles from Philadelphia and about 250 miles from Baltimore.

Thus, as of 1900, Mathilde Dreyfuss Nusbaum Pollock was a widow, living in Philadelphia with her two sons, Albert and Emanuel.  Her daughter Flora was living with her husband Samuel Simon in Baltimore with their daughter Minnie, and their son Meyer was married, but not yet living with his wife Matilda.

The decade that followed must have been a very painful one.  First, on March 21, 1904, Mathilde Pollock died.  She was 79 years old.  The death certificate says she died of old age, which shows you how perspectives on aging and longevity have changed.  It also says that she died from “senile pneumonia,” a term for which I could find no easily understood definition for my non-medical brain to grasp, but which I gather is a form of pneumonia that affects the elderly.  (Feel free to provide a more scientifically accurate definition.)  The death certificate also says that Mathilde had ascites, another term not easily defined but which Wikipedia defines as “gastroenterological term for an accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity.”   Don’t even get me started on trying to understand where the peritoneal cavity is, but from what I read, ascites seems to have something to do with liver disease, often cirrhosis.

Mathilde Pollock death cert

Mathilde’s death was followed three years later by the death of her son Emanuel Pollock on February 16, 1907.  He was only fifty years old and died of tuberculosis.  Three years after that his half-brother Albert Nusbaum died on August 28, 1910 from apoplexy brought on by arteriosclerosis.  He was 59 years old.  Mathilde and both of her sons were buried at Mt. Sinai cemetery.

That left only Flora Nusbaum Simon as the surviving child of Mathilde Dreyfuss Nusbaum Pollock.  She had lost both of her parents and all four of her siblings.  She was also the only child who had children of her own as none of her siblings ever married or had children. Flora and Samuel appear to have relocated from Baltimore to Philadelphia by 1905, the year after her mother died, as Samuel appears in the Philadelphia directory living at 2225 North 13th Street, the same address where the family is listed in the 1910 and 1920 census reports.

Flora’s brother Albert had been living with them at that address in April when the 1910 census was taken, just four months before he died.  Neither Samuel nor Albert nor anyone else in the household was employed at that time, yet they still had a servant living in the home.  Minnie, Flora and Samuel’s daughter, was 27 and single, living with her parents and uncle.  It feels like it must have been a very sad time for the family.

Flora and Samuel’s son Meyer and his wife Matilda were living about two miles away at 2200 Susquehanna Avenue in 1910.  Meyer was a clothing salesman.  There were two boarders living with them, but no children. When Meyer registered for the World War I draft in 1917, he and Matilda were living at 3904 North Marshall Street, two and a half miles north of his parents and his sister.  Meyer was employed as a clothing salesman for Harry C. Kahn and Son, according to his draft registration.

On February 18, 1919, Flora Nusbaum Simon suffered yet another loss when her husband Samuel Simon died from a cerebral hemorrhage at age 79.  She and her daughter Minnie were living together in 1920 at their home at 2225 North 13th Street.  Flora herself died almost four years to the day after her husband Samuel on February 20, 1923.  She was 74 years old and died from chronic interstitial nephritis.  She had outlived all of her siblings by over 13 years.  She, like all the rest of them, was buried at Mt. Sinai cemetery with her husband Samuel. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.

After her mother Flora died, Minnie Simon lived with her brother Meyer and his wife Matilda in the house on North 13th Street where Flora had died, number 2336, across the street from where they had lived for many years at 2225.  Meyer was employed as a clothing salesman, and his niece Matilda (a fifth Matilda in his life) was also living with them.  Meyer lost his sister Minnie six years later when she died from liver cancer on December 14, 1936; she was 63 years old.

Meyer was the only member of his family left.  He had no siblings, no nieces or nephews on his side.  It must have been just too much for him when his wife Matilda then died on April 27, 1940, at age 63 from cerebral thrombosis and chronic nephritis.  Two years later on June 2, 1942, Meyer took his own life.  He was found on the second floor of his home at 2336 North 13th Street with a gunshot wound to his head.  He had no survivors.  Although Meyer was buried with his family at Mt. Sinai, he was not buried with his wife Matilda.  She was buried at a non-denominational cemetery instead (Northwood); because she was not Jewish, she could not be buried at Mt. Sinai.  How sad.

meyer simon death cert pre inquest Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.

Meyer Simon death cert coroner's inquest Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.

This story fills me with such sadness.  How lonely Meyer must have been.  He’d lost his grandparents, his parents, his aunts and uncles, his sister, and his wife.  And there were no children or nieces or nephews left to comfort him. Certainly there were other Nusbaum cousins nearby in Philadelphia, but it must not have been enough.

From the start of the story of the life of Meyer’s grandmother Mathilde Dreyfuss, this family suffered such tragedy: Maxwell’s death in the Great Fire of San Francisco and two daughters who died young.  Of Mathilde’s four children who grew to adulthood, only Flora married and had children, and there were no grandchildren to carry on the family line after Flora and Samuel Simon and their two children Meyer and Minnie died.   There are no living descendants of Mathilde Dreyfuss or Maxwell Nusbaum.  No one likely remembers their names.  Except now they have been found and can be remembered for the tough lives they lived and for the courage and hope they must have had when they arrived in Pennsylvania in the middle of the 1800s.



[1] Isaac died without any children in 1870, so unfortunately that was the end of that sibling’s line.

[2] Flora’s father Maxwell Nusbaum was the brother of Paulina Dinkelspiel’s mother, Mathilde Nusbaum Dinkelspiel.

[3] Poor Meyer had at least four Mathilde/Matildas in his life: his mother, his wife, his mother-in-law, and one of his aunts.  And today I don’t know one woman named Mathilde or Matilda or Tillie.

The Mystery of Fanny Wiler: A Two Part Saga

Here’s a mystery for you to ponder while I take a short break.  This is Part I, and I will post Part II within a week.  But meanwhile, see if you can solve the mystery.

As I mentioned a few posts back, I was having trouble filling the holes in the story of Fanny Wiler, the daughter of Moses and Caroline (Dreyfuss) Wiler.  I still am.  Let me tell you what I know and what I think I know, and see if you can add your insights.

What I know for sure:  My cousin Fanny Wiler was born in Pennsylvania, probably Harrisburg, in either 1845 or 1846.  She is listed as four years old on the 1850 census, living with her parents in Harrisburg, and as fourteen on the 1860 census, living with her parents in Philadelphia.

That is all I know for certain.

Fanny does not appear on the 1870 census with the rest of her family.  Her siblings Simon and Clara are listed (Eliza was married by this time), but Fanny is not.  Fanny would have been 24 in 1870 and thus possibly married, but I have yet to find a marriage record for her between 1860 and 1870.

I did find a marriage record for a Fanny WYLER to Max Michaelis, dated 1874.  I was not sure that this was the same Fanny, not only because the name was spelled differently, but also the record says Fanny was born in Switzerland and that her age was 22. My Fanny was born in Pennsylvania.  If Fanny was in fact born in 1846, she would have been 28 in 1874, not 22.   But I thought Fanny might have lied about her age; I have seen that many times on marriage records.  And I thought maybe she put her father’s birthplace, which was Switzerland, by mistake.  So I decided to assume tentatively that this was my Fanny and chase down what I could find about Fanny and Max Michaelis.

Fanny Wyler marriage record

Fanny Wyler marriage to Max Michaelis July 12 1874
Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 792

But I could not find Fanny and Max on the 1880 census anywhere.  What I did find was a census entry for a Fanny Wiler (correct spelling), aged 24, whose parents were born in Switzerland and Germany.  This certainly matches my Fanny except for the age, which is off by ten years.  But this Fanny was working as a servant in someone’s home.   Could this really be my Fanny? I was not sure.

Fanny Wiler 1880 census  Source Citation Year: 1880; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1169; Family History Film: 1255169; Page: 243B; Enumeration District: 090; Image: 0495

Fanny Wiler 1880 census
Source Citation
Year: 1880; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1169; Family History Film: 1255169; Page: 243B; Enumeration District: 090; Image: 0495

So I started to search for Max Michaelis.  The first thing that came up was a second Philadelphia marriage record for a man with that name to a woman named Donice Coyne in 1876.  This was a church record, and it was not at all legible to me.  Could Max and Fanny have divorced already, thus explaining Fanny’s return to her birth name? Did women do that back then? It seemed possible.  But I could not find any other documentation of Max Michaelis with a Donice Coyne or with anyone with a name even close to resembling Donice.  So I put that aside.

When I could not find Max on the 1880, 1900, 1910, etc., census reports in Philadelphia, I started to wonder if he had died. And so I looked for death certificates.  And I found this one:

Max Michael death certificate 1884

Max Michael death certificate 1884

I was horrified.  Could this be the Max who married my cousin? I looked for news articles to learn more and found this one:

A Madman's Act. How Max Michael Killed His Child and Committed Suicide Date: Thursday, May 1, 1884  Paper: Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, NJ)   Volume: II   Issue: 70   Page: 5

A Madman’s Act. How Max Michael Killed His Child and Committed Suicide
Date: Thursday, May 1, 1884 Paper: Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, NJ) Volume: II Issue: 70 Page: 5

Although there were many hits for news articles about this horrific event, they all were essentially the same article.  The story was picked up by Associated Press and published in many papers.  But none gave more than these bare facts: Max Michael was 40 years old, so the same age as the Max who married Fanny Wyler in 1874.  He had been a patient at Norristown State Hospital for the Insane (as it was called then).  His wife and three children were living at 945 Leithgow Street in Philadelphia, and one child, Rose, a sixteen month old girl, was killed in the fire.  But not one of the articles revealed the name of the wife of Max Michaels or the names of the other two children.

How could I find out if this was the Max who married Fanny Wyler in 1874?  I searched for information about the child who died. It did not take long to find the death certificate for the child, Rose.  It was heartbreaking to read this certificate.  And it did not provide me with the information I needed.   There was no indication of the mother’s name, not even her first name, let alone her birth name.

Rose Michael death certificate 1884

Rose Michael death certificate 1884 Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 17 December 2014), Rose Michael, 27 Apr 1884; citing , Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 2,069,561.

I then searched for a birth record for Rose.  I found a Rosa Michaels, born December 21, 1882, in Philadelphia.  This had to be the right child.  Right name or close anyway, right age.  Father’s name: Max Michaels. Mother’s name: Farmer.  Farmer?? I did not have the actual document, just the information listed on FamilySearch.  The image itself is not available online, so I ordered the microfilm.  It meant a long wait.

You see, the Family History Library has discontinued its free photoduplication service.  In fact, there is now no photoduplication service even for a fee.  You have to order the microfilm and have it sent to your closest Family History Center.  The one closest to me is in Bloomfield, Connecticut.  It took me an hour to get there the one time I went (yes, I got lost, and yes, I did not take the highway, but it would still take 45 minutes even if I went the fastest way).  And it is only open limited hours during the week.  So I ordered the microfilm, but then received a notification that another user had it and it was not available.  Arggh. It will get there eventually.  But I am not a patient person.  How long would it take until I knew whether Farmer was really Fanny? Or was it the mother’s birth surname?

My next step was to use the address where the fire occurred, 945 Leithgow Street, and see if I could find out who lived there at the time of the 1880 census.  Although I had had no luck finding Max on that census, maybe if I searched by the address, I would find him with some mangled spelling of his name.  I went to and used his Enumeration District tool, and after many hours of scanning numerous EDs, I finally found 945 Leithgow Street.  No luck.  Someone else was living there in 1880.  Not Max or Fanny or anyone with a name anything like Michael.

Now what? I turned to the Philadelphia city directories.  Perhaps I could track Max through the years by looking at every Philadelphia city directory available online.  Since only a few listings came up by searching under the name “Max Michael” and since I know these directories are indexed by use of an OCR scanner, I knew that the index might not be completely accurate. So I went year by year, looking through the directories for any listing for a name like Max Michael.  Here’s what I found:

1875: Maximilian Michaelis, 140 Noble Street

1876: Maximilian Michaelis, hairworker, on Green Street

1877: no listing found

1878: Max Michaels, laborer, at 2133 East Thompson Street

1879: Same as 1878

1880: Max Michel, peddler, at 1072 Leithgow Stret

1881: Max Michaels, laborer, 2133 East Thompson Street

1882: same

1883: same

1884 through 1889: no listing found

At first I thought that the Max Michel at 1072 Leithgow might be the right Max, but after searching further, I found that there were two different men with similar names, but the Max Michel who lived at 1072 Leithgow was much older and had a wife named Caroline and several children born in the 1860s.  So despite the fact that he was living on Leithgow, I eliminated him from consideration.

That left Max Michaels of 2133 East Thompson Street.  So I started searching for that address through  I searched about ten EDs, but not one of them had house numbers even close to 2133.  I was stuck.

I decided to try another approach.  The 1884 news articles said that Max and his wife had three children.  Who were the other two children? Since I had no census reports that included Max for 1880, I had no idea.  I decided to search for all people named Michaels born in the 1870s and 1880s in Philadelphia. Ancestry revealed that there was an Isabella Michaels who died in 1890, whose father’s name was Max, mother’s name was Fannie.  Bingo! I thought all my problems were solved.  I went to to get the image of that death certificate and was frustrated to see that Fannie’s maiden name was not included.  (I also realized that I was so eager to solve this mystery that I was losing sight of the fact that a sixteen year girl had died.)

Isabella Michael death certificate 1890 Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 10 December 2014), 004009728 > image 968 of 1766; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Isabella Michael death certificate 1890
Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 10 December 2014), 004009728 > image 968 of 1766; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

So was this MY Fanny? It certainly seemed like it was the Max and Fanny who married in 1874, since Isabella was born in 1874.  But was that Fanny Wyler the same as my Fanny Wiler? I still didn’t know.

But now I had another clue.  Isabella’s residence at her time of death was 918 Hutchinson Street in Philadelphia.  But the 1890 US census was destroyed in a fire, so I would not be able to use a census to learn who was living at 918 Hutchinson in 1890 when Isabella died.  My best bet was to use the directory database again.  Max Michaels had disappeared from those directories in 1884 (the year of that terrible fire that killed a man named Max Michaels).  I had been assuming that the Max who had been a laborer and lived as 2133 East Thompson was the one killed in the fire so had stopped searching for him after 1889.

So I started with the 1890 directory this time, and I found a Fannie Michaels, widow of Max, living at 934 Poplar Street (with a separate listing under Max Michaels as a laborer, living at that address, even though he was dead, presumably).  But in 1891 there is a Fannie Michels, widow of Max, living at 918 Hutchinson Street, the address where Isabella Michaels had been living when she died in 1890.  There was the same listing for 1892.  Certainly this was the same Fannie and Max whose daughter Isabella died in 1890.  And Max was dead.  I thought I was getting closer.  Didn’t it all add up? Fannie Michaels had a husband named Max who had died sometime before 1890, and they’d had a daughter Isabella.  That much seemed fairly certain.

But was this MY Fanny? I still wasn’t sure because I had no document that included Fanny’s birth name other than the 1874 marriage record for the Fanny Wyler born in Switzerland.  But I was getting more and more convinced that Fanny Wyler was my Fanny Wiler, despite the discrepancies.  Wouldn’t you have been?

To be continued…

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