Two More Generations Back! The Amazing Seligmanns

Get ready for a real brain twister here.

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

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

Jakob Seligmann death record

Jakob Seligmann death record


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

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

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

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

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

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

Pedigree Chart for Emil Seligmann

Pedigree Chart for Emil Seligmann


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

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

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


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


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

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

Hirsch "Isaac" ben Seligmann headstone Found at

Hirsch “Isaac” ben Seligmann headstone
Found at

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

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

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

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

Extended Pedigree Chart for Emil Seligmann

Extended Pedigree Chart for Emil Seligmann


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

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

Martha Seligmann nee Mayer death record

Martha Seligmann nee Mayer death record

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

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

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


Another Twisted Family Tree Story: The Goldsmiths/Goldschmidts

One thing that has amazed me before in my research is how often various lines in my family interconnect, like the Hano, Nusbaums, and Cohens in Philadelphia.  In researching the Schoenthals, I’ve once again encountered one of those twists in my family tree.

In my September 25 post I shared the numerous records I was able to find, with the help of several others, for my Schoenthal ancestors, including the marriage record of my great-great-grandparents, Levi Schoenthal and Jhette (or Henrietta) Hamberg in 1839.  That record revealed that Levi’s father was Heinemann Schoenthal and his mother Hendel (or Handel) Beerenstein.  For the moment that is as far back as I’ve been able to go with my Schoenthal line, though I hope to be able to find more about the earlier history of both the Schoenthal line and the Beerenstein line.

Marriage record for Levi Schoenthal and Jhette Hamberg HHStAW, 365, 386

Marriage record for Levi Schoenthal and Jhette Hamberg
HHStAW, 365, 386

Thanks to the research done by David Baron and my third cousin Roger Cibella, I now know that Heinemann and Hendel had at least one other child, a daughter named Fradchen or Fanny, who was born in 1800 in Sielen, making her twelve years older than her brother Levi. (Hans-Peter Klein has uncovered another sibling, Minna, but that’s a story for another day.)

Unfortunately I’ve not yet found a birth record for Fanny, but there is a marriage record to support that conclusion.  David and Roger sent me a copy of this marriage record dated September 10, 1844 from Oberlistingen, a town very close to Breuna (and now one of the districts of the town Breuna).

Marriage of Simon Goldschmidt and Fradchen Schoenthal HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 669, S. 11

Marriage of Simon Goldschmidt and Fradchen Schoenthal
HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 669, S. 11

As translated for me by Matthais Steinke, the record records the marriage of Fradchen Schoenthal, daughter of Heinemann Schoenthal and Hendel Beerentstein, to Simon Goldschmidt, son of Jacob Goldschmidt and Hewa Seligmann.  (No, I do not think Hewa Seligmann was related to my Seligmanns, but who knows? But that’s not the twist here.)  The record lists Fanny as 37 years old in 1844, thus born in 1807.  Simon is listed as 42 on the marriage record and is described as a master tailor.

According to David and Roger’s research, Simon had been married once before to Edeline or Ella Katzenstein. (I also don’t know if Simon’s first wife was related to my Katzensteins, but I am looking into that.  But that also is not the twist here.)  Simon and Ella had five children before Ella died in 1840. Their children ranged from Jacob, who was 16 when his mother died, down to Josias, who was only a year old when Ella died. There were also two daughters, Lena and Hewa (Eva), and another son, Joseph.  Four years after Ella died, Simon married Fanny.

Almost exactly a year after their wedding, Simon, Fanny, and Simon’s nine year old daughter Eva (Hewa) from his first marriage emigrated from Germany to the United States, arriving in Baltimore on the ship Marianne on September 20, 1845. Simon listed his occupation as a tailor on the ship manifest.

Passenger manifest for Simon Goldschmidt, Fanny Schoenthal and Eva Goldschmidt Baltimore, Passenger Lists, 1820-1964 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006. Original data: Selected Passenger and Crew Lists and Manifests. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Passenger manifest for Simon Goldschmidt, Fanny Schoenthal and Eva Goldschmidt Baltimore, Passenger Lists, 1820-1964 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006.
Original data: Selected Passenger and Crew Lists and Manifests. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

On January 10, 1847, Fanny gave birth to a son, Henry.  One year later Fanny and Simon had another child, a daughter named Hannah, born on June 5, 1848.  Both Henry and Hannah were born in Baltimore, Maryland.[1]  In 1850, the family was living in Pittsburgh along with Simon’s two daughters from his first marriage, Eva and Lena.  (The census record has many errors, but it is clear that this is Simon and Fanny’s family even though the record has the names mixed up and the ages inaccurate.)

Simon Goldsmith 1850 US census

Simon Goldsmith and family 1950 US Census Year: 1850; Census Place: Pittsburgh Ward 3, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: M432_745; Page: 135A; Image: 274

Tragically for the family, just two years after giving birth to Hannah, Fanny died in 1850.  She was buried at Troy Hill Jewish Cemetery in Pittsburgh.   Some readers might remember that that is also where the elusive Fanny Wiler is buried, another mother who left young children behind after an untimely death.

Fanny Schoenthal Goldsmith Troy Hill Pittsburgh

By 1860, Simon Goldsmith had moved with his two young children to Washington, Pennsylvania, a town about 28 miles to the southwest of Pittsburgh.    Simon, Henry, and Hannah were living with Simon’s son from his first marriage, Jacob, who was now 35 years old, according to the 1860 census, and working as a merchant.  Jacob and his wife had six young daughters of their own by 1860, so it must have been quite a crowded household.[2]

Simon Goldsmith and family 1860 US census Year: 1860; Census Place: Washington, Washington, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1192; Page: 1188; Image: 627; Family History Library Film: 805192

Simon Goldsmith and family 1860 US census
Year: 1860; Census Place: Washington, Washington, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1192; Page: 1188; Image: 627; Family History Library Film: 805192


Washington, Pennsylvania (called “Little Washington” by some locals) was then a town of 3,587 people, according to the 1860 census reports, and had grown by 34% since the prior census in 1850. There was not yet a railroad line to the town at that time.  What drew all those people to this town?  The town’s website does not provide many clues in its history section:

With immigrants from the west of Scotland and the north of Ireland, and with many transferring their homes from the eastern and central parts of Virginia, the vicinity of Washington was settled in 1768. The Pennsylvania legislature passed an act on March 28, 1781, erecting the County of Washington and naming Catfish Camp as the place for holding the first election. This was the first county in the U.S. to bear the name of Washington.

David Hoge laid out a plan of lots immediately after the action of the legislature. His original plot bears the name “Bassett, alias Dandridge Town,” but before the plot was recorded, lines were drawn through “Bassett, alias Dandridge Town” with ink, and the word “Washington” was written above.

The town started with every evidence of progressive tendencies, as the original plot dedicated a tract of ground to the people for recreational purposes. A lot was given for a courthouse where the current building now stands, and Lots 43 and 102, according to the plan, were presented by Mr. Hoge to “His Excellency, General Washington, and Mrs. Washington.” Part of the townsite had been the camp of Tingoocqua, who was a chief in the Kuskuskee tribe of Indians.

The town was incorporated as a borough on February 13, 1810, and became a city of the third class in 1924.

Map of Washington County, Pennsylvania, United...

Map of Washington County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is a very detailed history[3] of Washington, Pennsylvania, available online through the University of Pittsburgh Historic Pittsburgh websiteOne tidbit I picked up from this history was that Jacob Goldsmith served on the town council in 1858.

Unfortunately, most of this text is devoted to describing the political history of the area and the individuals who were political leaders, and I could not get a sense of what drew people to the area initially.  Was it the proximity to Pittsburgh? Was it a good location for trade? Was agriculture the primary source of income? Whatever the reason that drew people there initially, the town had existed for many years by the time my relatives arrived.   From the 1860 census, I know that Jacob was a merchant, and I assume that with a town of over 3,500 people, there would have been a large enough population to support many merchants.

English: Map of Washington Pennsylvania from 1897

English: Map of Washington Pennsylvania from 1897 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One thing seems clear, however.  When Simon Goldsmith lived in Washington, Pennsylvania, in 1860, there was no synagogue there.  The first synagogue in all of Washington County, Beth Israel, was not founded until 1891. Although my ancestors had lived in small towns in Germany with very small Jewish communities, they had at least had synagogues and schools and cemeteries for their community.  I am not sure that when Simon arrived, there were any such facilities.

Why, you might wonder, am I dwelling on this town in western Pennsylvania where the widower of my great-great-grandfather’s sister lived with his two children? Because six years later, my great-grandfather’s brother Henry Schoenthal arrived in Washington with his wife and children, and some of his siblings followed in the years after.  Last to come in 1881 was my great-grandfather Isidore, accompanied by his mother Henrietta and his sister Rosalie.  And 23 years later in 1904, my grandmother Eva Schoenthal was born in Washington, Pennsylvania, the youngest child and only daughter of Isidore Schoenthal and Hilda Katzenstein.  It seems to me that Henry did not choose Washington randomly, but rather based on the fact that his first cousin Jacob Goldsmith and his aunt’s widower Simon Goldsmith were living there.

But I promised you a twist, and I still haven’t delivered.  Here it is. Simon Goldsmith was not only my great-great-aunt’s husband; he was also my four-times great-uncle himself.   Simon Goldsmith, husband of Fanny Schoenthal, had a brother named Seligmann Goldschmidt.  Seligmann had a daughter named Eva, just as his brother Simon did (both named for their grandmother, Simon and Seligmann’s mother Hewa).  Seligmann’s daughter Eva Goldschmidt was my great-great-grandmother; she married Gerson Katzenstein, my great-great-grandfather, and they were the parents of Hilda Katzenstein, who married Isidore Schoenthal, nephew of Fanny Schoenthal. Hilda Katzenstein and Isidore Schoenthal were my great-grandparents.

Stated as simply as possible, Simon Goldsmith was my four times great-uncle.  His wife Fanny Schoenthal was my three times great-aunt.   My grandmother Eva Schoenthal was a first cousin once removed from Henry Goldsmith, Simon and Fanny’s son, through her father’s side and his mother’s side:

Relationship_ Henry Goldsmith to Eva Schoenthal

She was also his first cousin twice removed through her mother’s side and his father’s side:

Relationship_ Henry Goldsmith to Eva GoldschmidtRelationship_ Eva Schoenthal to Eva Goldschmidt








They may have all left Germany, but they were still marrying within families they knew from back home.  Just another twist in my increasingly twisted family tree.  And more evidence of the limited gene pool created by endogamy and of the limited value of DNA predictions for Ashkenazi Jews.


[1] Fanny’s headstone says she was born in 1800.  I think it’s unlikely that Fanny had two children at ages 47 and 48, which is what she would have been if born in 1800 as her headstone indicates.  If, as her marriage record and the passenger manifest suggest, she was born in 1807, then she would have been having children at 40 and 41, which seems much more realistic.

[2] One thing that bothers me is that I cannot find out what happened to some of the other children of Simon Goldsmith and Ella Katzenstein.  Lena moved to Columbus, Ohio, after marrying Gustav Basch, and Joseph had died as a baby in Germany even before Ella died.  Eva immigrated with her father and step-mother, but then disappeared after the 1850 census; I assume she married. I’ve no idea what happened to Josias; perhaps he died before Simon left Germany, or maybe Simon left him behind with another family member.  Since they are not directly related to me, I am trying not to get too distracted looking for them, but eventually I will have to try and find out what happened to Josias and Eva.

[3] Title: History of Washington County, Pennsylvania: with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men

Authors: Crumrine, Boyd, 1838-1916, Ellis, Franklin, 1828-1885, Hungerford, Austin N.

Collection: Historic Pittsburgh General Text Collection