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.


And The Suitcase Just Keeps on Giving!

As I mentioned briefly in my last post, as I was finishing up my write-up about the handwritten family tree we are calling Emil’s tree, Wolfgang’s mother discovered another handwritten tree. It appears to be written by someone else, but I don’t know who. It covers only the ten children of Jacob Seligmann and Marta/Martha Mayer and their grandchildren so is not as wide or deep in scope as the first one, but it contains some useful extra tidbits that have helped me locate more family members.  (Each page has a letter “b” written in the upper right hand corner.  I have no idea what that means, unless to show these page were about one particular line in the family.)

tree 2 cover and page 1

tree 2 pages 2 and 3

tree 2 page 5


The cover page lists the children of Jacob and Mart(h)a and also the children of Isaac Seeligmann and Felicia Goetzel, that is, the two sets of Emil’s great-grandparents.  Page 1 simply has Simon Seligmann’s name and that he was from Bingen, and Page 2 just has Isaac Seligmann (son of Jacob and Marta) and that he lived in Gensingen, a town near Bingen.  Martha Seligmann and her children with her husband Benjamin Seeligmann are listed on Page 3. Page 4 (to be posted) covers the family of Moritz Seligmann, my three-times great-grandfather, and the family of Leopold Seligmann is on Page 5.   So far all this information is consistent with what was on Emil’s tree and does not add anything very important.

On Page 6, however, there is some new information about the family of Mina Seligmann.  The first tree reported, as in this one, that she married Leopold Mayer of Oberursel and had a son Adolf Eduard.  Here it is clear that there were two sons, Adolf and Eduard, and also two daughters: Helene, who married Jakob or Jak (or maybe Isak?) Wolf, and an unnamed daughter who died and was not married.

tree 2 page 6

Page 7 also contains some new information.  This page is devoted to Caroline Seligmann, who married Moses Moreau from Worrstadt, another town not very far from Bingen.  Underneath are four names that the creator of this tree originally labeled as the children of Caroline and Moses, but then crossed out and wrote “grandchildren.”  The names are the same as those on the earlier tree—Markus, Albert, Bertha, and Alice.  Next to Markus it says “England,” and next to Albert it says “Amerika.”  I searched for both with the surname Moreau, but so far have had no luck.  Perhaps, however, they were the sons of a daughter of Caroline and Moses Moreau and had their father’s surname and not Moreau.  For Bertha, the notation says that she was the wife of Aschaffenburg (which Wolfgang told me is also a town in Bavaria), and for Alice it says that she was the wife of D. Mastbaum.  But why are the grandchildren listed and not the children? And what are the two names at the very bottom?

tree 2 page 7

The page that has provided me with the most new information is Page 8.  In my last post I talked about the confusing passage at the end of the tree’s notes on Marx Seligmann.  Someone had gone to America later—but who? Was it the children, the ex-wife, or Marx himself?  Well, this new tree provides more clues and led me to more answers.

tree 2 page 8

The first part of Page 8 repeats the information about Marx’s marriage and divorce from Rosina Loeser, and then on the bottom of the page, according to my wonderful helpers in the German Genealogy group on Facebook, it says that Marx (or Max) remarried in New York and that his son married someone named Coppel, and that they had a daughter who married a film agent, but when I went to search for Marx Seligmann in New York, I found this marriage record:

Charlotte Seligmann marriage record

“New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940,” database, FamilySearch ( : accessed 8 July 2015), Max Schlesinger and Charlotte Seligmann, 17 Jun 1874; citing Marriage, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York City Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm .


Although this record indicates that Marx Seligmann himself was married Sara Koppel, not a son of Marx, it can’t be just coincidence that someone named Marx Seligmann had a wife named Koppel.  Also, Marx and Sara did have a daughter, Charlotte, and she married someone named Max Schlesinger.  I don’t think, however, that he was a film agent.

If this second family tree is accurate and I am making correct assumptions that this is in fact the same Marx Seligmann who was a son of Jacob Seligmann and Marta Mayer and thus my four-times great-uncle, then this new tree just opened up a huge door to learn about more Seligmann cousins living in the United States.  In my next post, I will write about what I’ve learned about Marx and his descendants.

For now, to finish the second family tree, Pages 9 and 10 add no information about Salomon Seligmann and Babette Seligmann that was not already included on Emil’s tree.  The only thing I can’t decipher here are the faintly written words at the bottom of page 9.

tree 2 pages 9 and 10


Thus, once again I have been blessed with a treasure from that suitcase in Germany.  What if Wolfgang had not found my blog and contacted me? I would know nothing about all these people.  Sometimes you just have to be thankful for good luck.





Blog Update: Cohen Family Trees

English: Leaves of Utah mountain trees changin...

English: Leaves of Utah mountain trees changing color during autumn. Deutsch: Die Farbe der Blätter ändert während des Herbstes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have added a new page to the blog.  If you look at the top where all the fixed pages are listed, you will see that the last entry is one that says “Cohen Family Trees.”   If you click on it, you will see a page that has a list of links.  Each of those links will lead to a PDF version of a family tree.  You can download and/or print these.

As I explain on the page itself, the first three trees are very large.  There is one for Hart Levy and Rachel Cohen, one of Jacob and Sarah Cohen, and one for Moses and Adeline Cohen, each going to several generations, but not including any living descendants.  To see these, you will probably need to print out the pages and line them up to see the overall family.

The other trees are for each individual child or grandchild of Hart and Rachel so that you can see each “branch” more clearly.  The bigger trees are rather difficult to use, so I made these smaller trees.  I hope this is helpful.

The Cohen family is very large, and there are so many people with similar or identical names.  I’ve lost track myself of how many Jacob Cohens there are, how many Isaac Cohens, Joseph Cohens, Rachel Cohens, etc.  I hope the trees will help keep these straight.


A Distributed Denial of Service Attack on and other Genealogy Sites

There was an attack on by hackers yesterday, taking down the entire site and all of its associated sites including FindAGrave,, and many of the databases shared by JewishGen.  That means I could not access my tree or do more research except on the FamilySearch website.  Although I have my tree backed up on my computer, I had not backed it up in the last week or so (stupidity on my part), so it was not up to date.

What have I learned from this?  I am too dependent on for storing my family history information.  Yes, I do download copies of all the photographs and most of the documents to my computer, and they are also accessible through FamilyTreeMaker, the family tree software I have on my computer.  All my blog posts are also stored in Word format on my computer as well as on WordPress, the host of this blog.  But what if my hard drive is destroyed? What if WordPress is attacked?  How do we protect our photographs and documents as safely as possible?  I can’t imagine losing everything that I have worked so hard to find and collect, so if others out there have suggestions, please let me know. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) was up very briefly this morning, so I was able to update my hard drive version of my tree with Family Tree Maker.  But it is down again now, and I am just wondering how much at risk my saved files and research are and will be in the future.




Crowd Sourced Genealogy

In yesterday’s New York Times, A.J. Jacobs wrote a mostly facetious article about the phenomenon of crowd sourced genealogy, “Are You My Cousin?”  Crowd sourced genealogy refers to the practice used by some people doing family research where on websites like Geni a researcher can link his or her tree with other trees once a

Image representing Geni as depicted in CrunchBase

Image by None via CrunchBase

common relative is found.  As Jacobs points out, many experienced genealogists have expressed concern about this practice because the trees that are being connected may not be well-researched or accurate.  As a result, people end up incorporating those mistakes into their own trees, and then those mistakes can be repeated over and over again as new people begin linking to these inaccurate trees.

Although is not set up like Geni to promote the idea of one World Family Tree, their site also allows researchers to view other family trees which list people with the same names and dates as those on their own tree.  When I first started using, I relied on this tool to add names to my family tree on my father’s side.  I soon, however, realized that it was a dangerous practice.  I thought I had found some English cousins because we shared a relative named Boomer Cohen.  I contacted them and was very excited—only to be very disappointed and embarrassed when I learned that their Boomer Cohen was not the same as my Boomer Cohen.  Who would have thought there were two women with that name?

I’ve run into other problems with relying on the family trees I find on  Often trees were created without any documentation, so I can’t double-check to be sure they are accurate.  When I was researching Harry Coopersmith, my great-aunt Frieda’s husband, I found Harry on a tree with parents who did not match the parents I had found after research and with documentation.  It had Harry’s children correctly and his birth and death dates, but the wrong parents.  I contacted the tree owner, Harry’s grandson, and asked him about it because I assumed he was right and I was wrong.  But it turned out he had linked to someone else’s tree with a different Harry Coopersmith and assumed it was his grandfather.  He was very happy (and probably embarrassed) when I was able to provide him with the correct information and the documents to back it up.

As a result, I am very skeptical of sites like Geni and the whole notion of crowd sourced genealogy.  Not that I have stopped looking at those other trees on ancestry—I always do, and I have found many helpful people by doing so.  For example, I found Becky Schwartz Goldschlager’s nephew Jon by finding his family tree on ancestry.  But I have learned to use these trees very carefully.  In fact, when I return to researching my father’s family lines, I will need to go back and pare some limbs from those trees unless and until I can find documentation to back them up.

Jacobs also expressed skepticism, but seems to be overall in favor of crowd sourced genealogy.  As I said, his article is mostly facetious, pointing out the ridiculously long and convoluted paths that connected him to Albert Einstein and Gwynneth Paltrow, among others.  Although the idea of finding hundreds of celebrities and famous people to whom I have some very attenuated connection is somewhat intriguing, it’s not what I am after by engaging in genealogy research.  I want to know more about my real ancestors — who they were, where they lived, and how they lived.  I don’t need to know my great-great-uncle’s wife’s brother’s daughter’s husband’s cousin’s mother’s stepfather was Abraham Lincoln.  What good would that do me?

English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth Presid...

English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States. Latviešu: Abrahams Linkolns, sešpadsmitais ASV prezidents. Српски / Srpski: Абрахам Линколн, шеснаести председник Сједињених Америчких Држава. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Can you help?

I know that I have asked for help before, and many of you have responded by sending some pictures and other documents.  Those contributions have really been helpful in learning about our family and the various personalities and relationships.  For example, one wedding picture helped us figure out that Judy and I were both talking about the same Uncle Sam.  One bar mitzvah picture showed that as of 1957,  Gussie’s children and Hyman’s children were still connected.  One hand-written family tree helped to confirm that Abraham’s children and Max’s children had met.

But now I am asking you all to try and find pictures, letters, journals, any documents that may also shed light on our grandparents and great-grandparents as well as our parents and ourselves.  I know that somewhere some of you must have old family pictures like I had.  Maybe you have a wedding album or bar mitzvah album, a box of random old photos or letters.  Maybe someone even has a photo of Frieda or Joseph or another relative, but you had no idea who they were.  Maybe there’s an old newspaper clipping or a birth certificate or draft card or some other document buried in your attic or basement.

I know that you are all busy, and I know that the thought of digging through dusty, musty boxes and albums is not that pleasant.  I just am asking that you perhaps make a resolution for 2014 that you will spend one or two hours seeing if you can find anything.  If you don’t have a scanner, you can mail whatever you have to me, and I will scan it.  I promise to return all the originals once I have scanned them.  If you can scan documents, that would be wonderful also.

No one likes a nag, and I don’t want to be one, but we will all benefit from your efforts.  I hope you will consider spending a little time engaged in a hunt for these things.  From my own experience, I can tell you that I have found great joy and satisfaction in looking at the faces of our relatives in those old pictures.  I hope you will also.

This Made My Day!

Yesterday was one of those winter days where I didn’t leave the house all day.  I read the paper, did the crossword puzzle, and played on the computer.  It was quiet, relaxing, but not exciting.  Then late yesterday afternoon, I received an email from Judy, Max’s granddaughter, that made my day.  Attached to the email was a document that Judy’s sister, Susan, had found while going through some old papers.  It’s a family tree sketched out by hand by Renee Brotman Haber, one of Max Brotman’s daughters and Roz, Susan and Judy’s mother.

Take a look at it:


If you now compare this to the family tree on the blog for Abraham and his descendants, you will immediately realize that Renee had written out the family tree of her father’s brother Abraham.  Judy and Susan don’t know when she did it or where, but this is definitely written by Renee and it is definitely Abraham’s family.

Paula Newman, Abraham’s granddaughter, commented on the blog a couple of months ago that she believed she had met Rosalie and Dick Jones in Florida years ago when she was there with her parents.  Rosalie was Renee’s sister, and Judy said that both families used to go to Florida every year at Christmas time.  Perhaps it was during one of those vacations that Paula’s family met with Renee and Rosalie’s families and provided Renee with the information she sketched out on the family tree.

This is the third piece of evidence that supports the conclusion that Abraham and Max were brothers and that Abraham, like Max, was Joseph’s son from his first marriage.  First, we have the fact that Max was the witness on Abraham’s naturalization papers.  Second, we have the fact that Abraham’s Hebrew name was Avraham ben Yosef Yaakov, named for his grandfather Avraham whose son was Yosef Yaakov.  (Recall that Joseph’s Hebrew name was Yosef Yaakov ben Avraham.  Also, Abraham named his son Yosef Yaakov shortly after Joseph died, as did Hyman and Tillie.) And now we have evidence that Renee met or spoke with Abraham’s daughter or granddaughter to write down this family tree.  I don’t know how they found each other, or , more sadly, how they had all lost each other beforehand and then afterwards.

I guess you can tell how much this all means to me that receiving this document made me so happy.  Who cares about snow and sleet and cold when there is a new discovery linking our families!!

This should also be an inspiration to the rest of you to look for things like this—old letters, cards, postcards, pictures. You never know what you will find. Come on, make my day!