Boy, Is My Face Red. The Real Story of Milton Josephs’ Death and a Few Important Research Lessons

In my earlier post this morning, I wrote about little Milton Josephs, not yet two years old, whose cause of death was listed as marasmus on the Federal Census Mortality Schedule for 1880.  I was horrified that a child living in Philadelphia in a middle class home in 1880 could have died from starvation.

My medical consultant, whose expertise is in pediatrics and anesthesia (and who is also my brother, for those of you who haven’t figured it out), also thought that it seemed strange that a child would have died from severe malnutrition without there being some other underlying cause such as cancer or some syndrome that prevented him from being able to absorb nutrients.

His questions made me go back to see if I could find the actual death certificate for Milton on line.  My initial searches on both ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org had failed to pick up Milton’s death certificate no matter how I tried searching or spelling his name.  But this time I realized there was another way to search.  Ancestry.com had a record for Milton in the index of Philadelphia death certificates, but no image of that actual certificate.  But the record included the FHL film number, that is, the catalog number for the microfilm in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

For some reason, I’d never before tried searching by the FHL number on FamilySearch.   I know to those out there who are experienced genealogists this must seem like a terrible rookie mistake, and I am quite embarrassed that I’d never thought to do that before.

But it worked. Plugging the film number into the FamilySearch search engine resulted in the retrieval of this document:

Milton Joseph's death certificate  "Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-266-11063-42231-79?cc=1320976 : accessed 14 December 2014), 004058647 > image 406 of 969; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Milton Joseph’s death certificate
“Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-266-11063-42231-79?cc=1320976 : accessed 14 December 2014), 004058647 > image 406 of 969; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

It is a bit hard to read, but if you look carefully you can see that on the certificate it says Milton died from bronchial pneumonia, not marasmus.  My brother agreed that this was a much more likely cause of death for a boy living at home with his family in Philadelphia than starvation, and he thought it was unlikely that somehow marasmus led to pneumonia or vice versa.

Then why would the 1880 Federal Census Mortality Schedule have said the cause of death was marasmus? Well, once again I am embarrassed.  I looked more closely at the mortality schedule, and sure, it says M. Josephs, and sure, ancestry.com retrieved it as relating to Milton Josephs, but I should have looked more closely.  Because now that I have looked again, I realize that the schedule says that M. Josephs was 5/12, that is, five months old.

Milton Joseph on the Federal Mortality Schedule 1880

Milton Joseph on the Federal Mortality Schedule 1880

And a little more research uncovered the death of a child name Mike Josephs who died of marasmus in December 1879 at five months of age.  So stupid mistake number two:  I too quickly assumed that M. Josephs was Milton without reading the document carefully and without even stopping to think that Milton had died in November, 1880, too late to have been listed on the Federal Census Mortality Schedule for 1880, which was dated May 31, 1880.

So I apologize for my carelesness and for maligning the reputation of my ancestors whose son died from pneumonia, not starvation.

Do I feel any better about Milton, knowing that he did not die from starvation?  I suppose that I better understand how a toddler can die from pneumonia than starvation, especially in the era before antibiotics.  But no, I don’t feel better.  A little boy died what still must have been a painful death, and his family still lost a beloved child.

And another family, that of Mike Josephs, did lose a five month old baby to starvation.

There is no good news here, but I did learn a few important lessons.  Thanks to my brother, I was able to find my mistakes and set the record straight.

A Distributed Denial of Service Attack on Ancestry.com and other Genealogy Sites

 

Ancestry.com

There was an attack on ancestry.com by hackers yesterday, taking down the entire site and all of its associated sites including FindAGrave, newspapers.com, 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 ancestry.com 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.

Ancestry.com

Ancestry.com (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ancestry.com 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.

 

 

 

Hannah Cohen 1858-1927: A Life to Remember

The further I delve into the story of my ancestors, the more aware I am of how much the lives of women have changed in the last 100 years—actually, more like the last 50 years, but since I am focusing on the women born between 1850 and 1900 right now, the 100 year line seems more appropriate.  I’ve said numerous times that women are harder to research because they changed their names when they married.  If you cannot figure out who they married, then they just disappear and their stories are never completed.

I obviously have a personal perspective on the question of taking on a new name when you marry.  When I married back in 1976, most women still took their husband’s names when they married, but some women were starting to resist and keeping their birth names.  Some women argued that keeping your father’s name was just as much a concession to male dominance as taking your husband’s name.  I struggled with this issue; I was never a radical or a pioneer.  But in the end, I wanted to keep my name.  My reasons were varied; some of it was definitely based on the values of the women’s movement that was exploding around me during my years in college.  Mostly, however, it was just about holding on to my identity, the one I had had for over twenty years.  How could I not be Amy Cohen?  It just felt wrong.

So I kept my name.  And despite the occasional strange looks I got (and sometimes still get) from people who think it odd and despite the awkwardness of making calls on behalf of my children and having to use two different surnames to identify who they were and who I was, I am very glad that I did.  Especially now when I see how many women disappeared into thin air historically when they changed their names, I realize how much it can matter to have your own identity, including your own name.

In the case of Jacob and Sarah Cohen’s daughters, I was actually able to figure out their married names, and so they did not disappear into thin air.  Sometimes it was really easy to find them because there was an entry in the online marriage records that revealed both the groom’s and bride’s names.  Other times it was rather serendipitous.

For example, in the case of Hannah Cohen, Jacob and Sarah’s eighth child, it was a tiny little death notice for Hannah’s troubled brother Hart that caught my eye.  I wasn’t even researching Hannah at the time, but the death notice made reference to calling hours for Hart being at the home of Mrs. Martin Wolf.  I thought that Mrs. Martin Wolf might very well be one of Hart’s many sisters.  I searched for Martin Wolf on ancestry.com and FamilySearch, and I found one in Philadelphia on the 1900 census with a wife named Hannah.

Hannah and Martin Wolf and family 1900 census

Hannah and Martin Wolf and family 1900 census

 

According to the 1900 census, Martin and Hannah had been married for 20 years.   Hannah’s birth year on the 1900 census was consistent with earlier census reports.  Martin and Hannah had three children living with them in 1900: Laura (1882), Edgar (1885), and Martin A. (1889). Martin was in the wholesale liquor business, apparently his family’s business as the city directories list him as working for S. Wolf and Sons, and Martin’s father’s name was Solomon Wolf.  It appears that he worked for this business for all or almost all of his adult life.

As I was researching Hannah and Martin’s life, at first it seemed that their life would be like Hannah’s sister Rachel’s life—fairly uneventful.  But as I researched more deeply, unfortunately it seemed her life had plenty of unhappy events, though not as overwhelmingly sad as that of her sister Maria.

First, I saw on burial records at Mt Sinai that there was an entry for a fifteen day old infant “Ray Wolf” who died in 1887 located in the same lot as Hart Cohen (Hannah’s brother) and other members of the Wolf family.  I found a death certificate for a Rachel Wolff who died on May 10, 1887, at six weeks, daughter of M.L. Wolf and Sarah Wolf, living at 855 North 6th Street, the same address in the city directory for Martin L. Wolf of S. Wolf and Son in that year.  Despite the error in the mother’s name and the inconsistent age at death, this is obviously the child of Martin and Hannah.  Little Rachel died of inflammation of the bowels.

Rachel Wolf death certificate 1887

Rachel Wolf death certificate 1887

Those same burial records also included an entry for a Carrie Wolf, aged three years, who died in 1894.  Once again, further research revealed another terrible loss for Hannah and Martin.  Their daughter Caroline died from typhoid fever, the disease that had also killed two of her first cousins, a child of Fanny and Ansel Hamberg and a child of Joseph and Caroline Cohen.  If little Caroline was named in honor of her aunt Caroline, that must have been an awful irony to see her niece die from the same disease that had killed their son Hart.

Caroline Wolf death certificate 1894

Caroline Wolf death certificate 1894

So between 1887 and 1894, Hannah and Martin had lost two young children.  Somehow they continued on, Martin continuing to work in his family’s liquor business and Hannah home with the remaining children, who by 1900 ranged in age from 11 to 17.  In 1901 and 1902, the family was living in Atlantic City, where Martin was still involved in the liquor business.  Perhaps his family business was expanding, or perhaps the family just needed a change of scenery.  Laura, their oldest daughter,married Albert Hochstadter in 1901 when she was nineteen years old.  Albert was a hotel proprietor in Atlantic City, so perhaps she had met him while her family was living there.  Albert and Laura had a son, Martin Hochstadter, born in 1904.

It might have seemed that life had settled down and that the worst was over, but then there were more changes and losses ahead.  On the 1910 census, Laura, married only nine years before, was living at home with her parents (who had returned to Philadelphia by 1903) and, according to the census report, widowed.

Hannah and Martin Wolf and family 1910 census

Hannah and Martin Wolf and family 1910 census

At first I thought, “How awful.  Her husband died before they were married ten years,” but I said she was widowed “according to the census report” because I found a death certificate for Albert Hochstadter, dated June 5, 1912. Albert was still alive at the time of the 1910 census when Laura claimed to be a widow.  Moreover, his death certificate says that he was divorced.  Did Laura lie to the census taker, embarrassed to be divorced, or did the census taker just get it wrong? At any rate, it’s a bit eerie that Albert did in fact die just two years later when he was only 46 years old.  His cause of death was reported to be uremia.

Albert Hochstadter death certificate 1912

Albert Hochstadter death certificate 1912

Laura had quickly moved on and was already remarried by the time her first husband Albert had died.  On the 1910 census, when Laura was living with her parents in Philadelphia, there was a boarder living there named William K. Goldenberg who was a treasurer for a theater.  Within a year, Laura had married William, and by 1920, Laura, William, and Laura’s son Martin Hochstadter were living together.  William had advanced to become the manager of the theater, an occupation he continued to hold for many years.

Laura and William Goldenberg 1920 census

Laura and William Goldenberg 1920 census

Both of Martin’s sons registered with the draft, and both were employed at the Central Market Street Company at the time of their registration, as was their brother-in-law William Goldenberg.  I assume that that was the company that owned the theater where William was the manager.  It seems he took good care of his brothers-in-law by providing them with employment.

martin a ww1 edgar ww1 William ww1

But in 1918 the family suffered another loss.  Hannah’s husband Martin died from acute myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, while in Eddystone, Pennsylvania, which is about 16 miles south of Philadelphia (and once the hometown of Jennifer Aniston, for you trivia fans). The certificate is definitely for the same Martin L. Wolf; it indicates that Martin’s former or usual residence was 1737 North 15th Street in Philadelphia, the same address listed for Martin L. Wolf in the 1918 city directory and in the 1912 directory that also provided his business address for the liquor business.

Screenshot (7) Screenshot (8)

But the certificate raises some questions.  It says that Martin’s occupation was as a laborer for Remmington Arms in Eddystone.  According to Wikipedia, Remmington Arms, the rifle manufacturer, had opened a plant there during World War I, and “a large portion of the rifles used by American soldiers in France during World War I were made at Eddystone.”  What was Martin doing there?  He was 63 years old, too old to be drafted and serve in the war.  Was this his way of making a contribution to the war effort?  Or perhaps more likely the social forces that eventually succeeded in leading to the 18th Amendment and nationwide prohibition of liquor sales had already led to a decline in Martin’s liquor sales, thus causing him to get a job in the munitions industry during the war.  It’s total speculation, but it does seem very strange that after a career in the liquor business Martin would have taken up work in Eddystone making rifles.

Nine years later in 1927, Hannah also died from myocarditis, arteriosclerosis, and diabetes.  She was sixty-nine years old.

Hannah Cohen Wolf death certificate 1927

Hannah Cohen Wolf death certificate 1927

She and Martin were both buried at Mt Sinai with their two daughters Caroline and Rachel.

Mt Sinai burial records

Mt Sinai burial records

In some ways the timing of  Hannah’s death may have been a blessing because three years later her daughter Laura died at age 47 from complications of diabetes on February 10, 1930, leaving her husband and her 26 year old son, Martin, who had already lost his father when he was only eight years old.

Laura Wolf Goldenberg death certificate 1930

Laura Wolf Goldenberg death certificate 1930

On the 1930 census Martin was listed as William’s son and had adopted his surname Goldenberg as well.  He was also employed as a theater manager, another member of the family finding employment through William Goldenberg. Martin married later that year, and in 1940 he was continuing to work as a theater manager.

William and Martin Goldenberg 1930 census

William and Martin Goldenberg 1930 census

Two years after Laura died, her brother Martin A. Wolf died from chronic ulcerative colitis on September 20, 1932, at age 43.  He also left behind a wife and a nine-year old son.  Martin A. also had continued to work as a theater manager.  His wife Marie died seven years later in 1939, leaving their son Martin without parents at age sixteen. On the 1940 census he was living as a lodger with a couple named Magee and working as an usher, following in the footsteps of his father and other relatives.

Martin A Wolf death certificate 1932

Martin A Wolf death certificate 1932

That left Edgar as the only surviving child of the five children of Hannah and Martin Wolf.  Edgar had married in 1916 and had had a son in 1921, and like his brother Martin, his brother-in-law William Goldenberg, and his nephews Martin Goldenberg and Martin A. Wolf, he also continued to work as a theater manager in Philadelphia.  Edgar died in 1966.  He was eighty years old and was the only one of his siblings to live a full and long life.  No one else had made it to 50, let alone 80.

When I look back on Hannah’s life, as with the lives of so many of the women I have researched, I realize how completely a woman’s life was defined by her husband and her children in those days.  Whereas I can report on the men’s occupations and their military careers, for the women I seem only to be able to mention where they lived, who they married, and how many children they had.  Unless a woman remained unmarried, she did not work outside the home. These women had hard times and raised their families under often difficult circumstances, losing babies and children to disease and having more pregnancies and childbirths than I can imagine, and probably even more than are reported.  It was the way women lived for most of history: family and home centered and dependent financially on their fathers and then their husbands.  It is a very different life from the one most women I know live today, for better in many ways, but also for worse in other ways.

If women’s lives and their value was based primarily on their children, then losing a child must have been especially awful for these mothers, losing two unimaginable. At least Hannah did not live to see that two more of her children would die prematurely. She had lost two babies and her husband. Nine of her siblings, including some younger than she, had predeceased her.  Those are enough losses for any person to have to endure.

If I had not found that little death notice mentioning a Mrs. Martin Wolf, Hannah Cohen might never have been found.  As you will see, it was an equally serendipitous discovery that allowed me to learn the story of her younger sister Elizabeth. Hannah’s life was a life with plenty of heartbreak.  She did not make any scientific discoveries or make a lot of money or change the world.  It was nevertheless a life that should not disappear simply because she changed her name when she married or because she never worked outside the home.  I am glad that I was able to help to preserve her name and her life for posterity.

A Small Chink in the Wall

Just last week I wrote that I was putting aside for now my attempt to track Lizzie and Ray Rosenzweig, the two youngest children of Gustave and Gussie Rosenzweig.  I had hit a brick wall and figured I’d never find them.  So I moved on, determined not to keep hitting my head against the wall.

And then I got some clues.  First, Joseph’s grandson sent me a photograph of Lizzie, labeled Lizzie Horowitz.

Lizzie Horowitz

Lizzie Horowitzl

 

He said that her married name had just come back to him.  Then in an email exchange with one of Rebecca Rosenzweig’s grandsons, he mentioned that he knew that his father Irwin had reconnected with Lizzie in Florida.  Two clues, and I was off and running, back to ancestry, PeopleFinders, Family Search, etc.

I did not find much, but I did find one 1930 census for a Betty Horowitz whose parents had both been born in Romania.  One of my other cousins had mentioned that Lizzie had also been called Betty.

Horowitz Family 1930

Horowitz Family 1930

She lived in Brooklyn, was married to Julius Horowitz, and had a three year old daughter named Mary Lyn.  I asked my third cousins whether either of those names rang any bells, and one wrote that the names Julius and Marilyn did seem familiar and that she remembered a cousin Marilyn who had moved to Florida.

I located Lizzie, sometimes called Betty, and Julius on the 1925 and 1940 census reports as well.  They had a second daughter born around 1931 named Harriet.

Now I am in the process of trying to find Marilyn and Harriet or their descendants.  I have not yet found a death record for either Lizzie or Julius, but I think I have the birth dates for Marilyn and Harriet from the NYC birth index.  Searching by those birth dates, unfortunately, had not helped much.  There are many women with those first names born on those dates.  I’ve had better luck with Marilyn, and if I limit the search to Florida, I can eliminate a few more.  But now what?

Now it’s a game of trying to contact family members of those Marilyns who remain and hope that one of them is the daughter of Lizzie Rosenzweig and Julius Horowitz.   To be continued…I hope.  Thanks to my newly found third cousins, there is hope.

English: A crack in the wall, Newbridge on Usk...

English: A crack in the wall, Newbridge on Usk This crack is in the east parapet of the road bridge at Newbridge on Usk. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Women are Difficult, Part Two: Rebecca Rosenzweig

I am continuing to search for my grandfather’s first cousins, and I am struggling to find the daughters of Gustave Rosenzweig.  I have tracked Lillian up to 1910 and Sarah up through 1940. My next target was Rebecca, the second oldest daughter.  This is what I have found so far, although I need documentation to confirm some of my conclusions.

Rebecca was born May 27, 1893, in New York (birth certificate on order, but I am quite certain I have found the correct one based on the report on FamilySearch, which includes her parents’ names), and she was living with her family until at least 1910, according to the 1900, 1905,and 1910 census reports.  That is all that I can be certain about at this point.  She is not living with her family in 1915 or thereafter.

Gustave Rosenzweig and family 1900 census

Gustave Rosenzweig and family 1900 census

Gustave Rosenzweig family on the 1905 NYS census

Gustave Rosenzweig family on the 1905 NYS census

Gustave Rosenzweig and family 1910 census

Gustave Rosenzweig and family 1910 census

When I did a search for a Rebecca Rosenzweig on the NYC marriage index for the years between 1910 and 1915, there was only one potential person, a woman who married a man named Frank R. Elkin on March 22, 1914.  I have not yet received the certificate for this marriage, but I am fairly certain that this is the correct Rebecca.  She and Frank appear on the 1915 census, living at 1985 Pacific Street in Brooklyn.

Frank and Rebecca Elkin 1915 at 1985 Pacific Street

Frank and Rebecca Elkin 1915 at 1985 Pacific Street

On the same census one page earlier are the Rosenzweig family, living 1918 Pacific Street.

Rosenzweigs 1915

Rosenzweigs 1915

In 1915, Frank was employed as a tinsmith.

(Also listed on the same page as Rebecca and Frank Elkin is my grandmother Gussie Brotman, living at 1991 Pacific Street with her sister Tillie Ressler and her family; perhaps Rebecca was the cousin who introduced my grandfather, her cousin, to my grandmother, her neighbor?)

Gussie living with TIllie 1915

Gussie living with TIllie 1915

In 1917 Frank Robert Elkin was employed doing sheet metal and had a wife and child, according to his World War I draft registration form.

Frank Elkin World War I draft registration

Frank Elkin World War I draft registration

(Interestingly, the registrar of his draft board was someone named J. Rosenzweig.)  They were living at 1875 Bergen Street.  Frank gave his birth date as May 4, 1891 and his birth place as New York, New York.  I could not search for a child born after 1914 since the NYC birth index to which I have access only goes up to 1902.

When I searched for Frank and Rebecca Elkin on the 1920 census, a number of things confused me.

Elkin Family 1920 census

Elkin Family 1920 census

First, the birth place for Rebecca’s parents is given as Minsk, Russia, not Romania.  I would not be troubled by this since there are often errors on the census, but this one is so specific in identifying not just the country, but the city, which I had not seen on a census report before.  Could I have the wrong Rebecca? Only the marriage certificate will tell me for sure, but I still think that I have the right one.  Rebecca and Frank were now living at 1892 Bergen Street, and the Rosenzweig family was also now living on Bergen Street at Number 1918.  Could it just be coincidence that both the Elkins and the Rosenzweigs had moved from Pacific Street to Bergen Street?

Rosenzweigs 1920 census

Rosenzweigs 1920 census

Frank was now working as a steam fitter in a shipyard, according to this report.  Perhaps this was his war time employment, working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

The second puzzling thing about the 1920 census report is that although it does list a child living with Frank and Rebecca, a boy named Irving, he was only 8 months old at the time of the census, or born in May, 1919.  (The census was dated January 7, 1920.)  Obviously, Irving was not alive when Frank filled out his draft registration in 1917, so who was the child he referred to on his registration back then?

I searched the death index (which runs to 1948, unlike the birth index) and found an entry for a one year old child named Daniel Elkin who died on December 16, 1917.  I will have to obtain that record to be sure, but I fear that the child Frank referred to on his draft registration in 1917 died later that same year.

After the 1920 census I could not find any record for Rebecca Elkin.  There were two Frank Elkins on the 1930 census—one living in Brooklyn and one in the Bronx.  After some confusion based on the fact that both Franks seemed to have sons named Irving, I was finally able to sort through the facts for both, looking backward to see where each had come from before 1930, and concluded that the Brooklyn Frank Elkin was the same one who had been married to Rebecca.

Frank Elkin with his parents 1930 census

Frank Elkin with his parents 1930 census

That Frank was living with his parents and siblings on Linden Boulevard in Brooklyn that year, working as a salesman at an electrical supply company.  His father Louis was listed as the head of household, and living with Louis in addition to Frank was Louis’ wife Ida, his two other sons Matthew and Edward and a daughter Celia and a daughter-in-law Fannie as well as two grandsons, Irwin, age 11, and Stanley, age 4.  I cannot tell from the census who was Fannie’s husband—Frank, Matthew or Edward—or who were the parents of Irwin and Stanley.  They could be cousins or brothers; they are only identified as Louis’ grandsons.

My hunch is that Irwin is the same child as Irving, Rebecca and Frank’s son born in 1919.  He would have been eleven in 1920 when the census was taken.  My other hunch is that Rebecca had either died or was institutionalized; I cannot find her on the 1930 census at all, nor can I find a death record for her.  I don’t know whether Stanley was her son or her nephew.  Unfortunately, I also could not find either Frank or Rebecca on the 1925 census, nor can I find Frank or Irving/Irwin on the 1940 census.  There are a number of Irving Elkins born around the right time, but I have not yet had a chance to narrow down those possibilities.

So pending receipt of the marriage certificate for Rebecca and Frank Elkin and the death certificate for Daniel Elkin, I am putting on hold further research about Frank and Irving.  I want to be certain that I have the right Rebecca before I go further into the lives of the men I assume to have been her husband and son.

And on that note, let me leave you all in suspense. I will be out of town for the next week and unable to do much research.  I will, however, try to post some tidbits and photos I’ve been saving up.

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David Rosenzweig and The Reality of Infant Mortality

In the course of researching Abraham Rosenzweig’s life, I discovered a tenth child born to Gustave and Gussie Rosenzweig.  On the 1910 census there were nine children, all but one born in New York City between 1888 and 1904.  (Lillian, the first child, was born in Romania around 1884.) There were four boys, Abraham, Jacob/Jack, Harry and Joseph, and five girls, Lillian, Sarah, Rebecca, Lizzie and Rachel.  The NYC birth index covers those years, so I started my research of Abraham by looking for a birth record.  I had several records indicating that he was born sometime around 1890, but I could not (and still have not) found a record for Abraham’s birth.

Gustave Rosenzweig and family 1900 census

Gustave Rosenzweig and family 1900 census

I expanded my search to look for any Rosenzweig born around 1890-1892, using FamilySearch as my tool as it allows for liberal use of wild card searching and, unlike ancestry.com or other sites, reveals the names of the parents in the search results.  I still did not see any Abrahams or Abes, but in scanning the results, I noticed a child named David who was born to Gadaly and Ghitel Saak Rosentveig.  Before receiving the Romanian records for Gustave and Gussie I might not have recognized that these were their Yiddish names: Ghidale Rosentvaig and Ghitla Zacu on their marriage records from Romania.Ghidale Rosentzveig with Ghitil Zacu_Marriage Record_1884_5  I knew that this could not be a coincidence, that this baby had to be their son, born September 5, 1891.  Since I still have not found Abraham on the birth index, I cannot be sure whether David was born before or after Abraham.  What I did realize was that David must have been named for my great-great-grandfather, David Rosentvaig, who had been alive in 1884 when Gustave married Gussie in Iasi but who must have died sometime before the birth of this new David.

But where was the new David in 1900, only nine years later? Since he was not listed on the 1900 census, I assumed the worst, as I have gotten accustomed to doing, and checked the death index.  Sure enough a one year child named David Rosenzweig had died on December 25, 1892.  Although I have not yet seen the death certificate for this child, I have to assume that this was Gustave and Gussie’s son David.  My great-great-grandfather’s namesake had died before his second birthday.

I have expressed in an earlier post my thoughts and feelings about the impact the deaths of babies and children must have had on their parents and their siblings.  The numbers are staggering.  On the 1900 census Gussie Rosenzweig reported that she had had thirteen children, only eight of whom were then living (Rachel was not yet born).  In 1910, she reported eighteen births and only nine living children.  Had she had five more infants die between 1900 and 1910? My great-grandmother Bessie Brotman reported in 1900 that she had given birth to nine children, only four of whom were living (Sam was not yet born).  We also know that Hyman Mintz died within a month of birth and Max Coopersmith within a day of birth.

These infant deaths were not at all unusual for that time period.  According to a PBS website for a program called The First Measured Century, “[p]rior to 1900, infant mortality rates of two and three hundred [per one thousand births] obtained throughout the world. The infant mortality rate would fluctuate sharply according to the weather, the harvest, war, and epidemic disease. In severe times, a majority of infants would die within one year. In good times, perhaps two hundred per thousand would die. So great was the pre-modern loss of children’s lives that anthropologists claim to have found groups that [did] not name children until they have survived a year.”

This same source reports that most of these deaths were caused by poor infant nutrition, disease and poor sanitary conditions.  In the early 20th century substantial efforts were made to deal with these causes of infant and other deaths.  “Central heating meant that infants were no longer exposed to icy drafts for hours. Clean drinking water eliminated a common path of infection. More food meant healthier infants and mothers. Better hygiene eliminated another path of infection. Cheaper clothing meant better clothing on infants. More babies were born in hospitals, which were suddenly being cleaned up as the infectious nature of dirt became clear. Later in the century, antibiotics and vaccinations join the battle.”  The infant mortality rate began to decline, and today it is well under ten deaths per thousand within the first year of life in the United States.

Infant mortality

But what impact did this high death rate for babies have on their parents?  There have been many books written by sociologists, social historians and psychologists on the history of society’s view and treatment of children.  According to this research, until the 18th century, children were not valued highly by parents, perhaps in part because of the high infant mortality rate.  The likelihood of losing a child was so great that it made it difficult for parents to become too attached.  In Europe often parents did not even attend the funerals of their children and even wealthy parents had their children buried as paupers. See, e.g., Viviana A. Rotman Zelizer, Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children (1994); Linda A. Pollock, Forgotten Children: Parent-Child Relations from 1500 to 1900 (1984). Both authors also observe that the attitude towards children changed during the 18th and 19th centuries as people began to be more concerned about their children’s growth and development and families started to become more child-oriented and affectionate.  This change in attitudes contributed to the increased efforts to reduce infant mortality.

It’s so difficult for me to imagine that these parents were indifferent or unaffected by the deaths of so many of their babies.  I know I live in another era, an era when parenting has become not just a part of life, but in some ways an obsession. I plead guilty to being a helicopter parent, to being probably too involved in my children’s lives as they were growing up.   We live in a time of thousands of books on parenting, dealing with every issue imaginable.  There are experts to help you before a baby is born and experts to help you deal with every imaginable childrearing issue that can arise after they are born: doulas, lactation consultants, sleep consultants, life coaches, tutors, college admissions consultants, and probably some I don’t even know about.    So many of us center our lives on our children.  Losing a child is often said to be the worst thing anyone can experience.

Could it really have been so different back then? Were children really seen as disposable and replaceable? Is that why people had so many children—in order to ensure that at least some would survive to adulthood?  Or was it simply the absence of effective birth control, not the desire for so many children, that led to these huge families?  Did those huge families make it easier to accept the loss of so many babies? Were even those who survived devalued and distanced as a defense mechanism against their possible death?  It seems unlikely they were as doted upon and cherished as children of today, given both the cultural attitudes and the economic and environmental conditions of the time.

Maybe that made those children stronger and more self-reliant, less indulged and less entitled.  But it also had to have left its scars.  Maybe it is why so many of them did not want to talk about their families, their childhoods, their feelings.

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Research update

I am once again in a holding pattern, waiting for a few more documents to arrive: Max’s naturalization papers (which take 90 days for USCIS to process, so another 75 days to wait for those), Max’s death certificate, Abraham’s death certificate, and a few others from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. My principal research goal right now is to find out where our family came from in Galicia.

I’ve been trying to search for European records, but that is much more complicated than searching for US documents. JewishGen.com offers a course online that provides instruction on how to do that, and I plan to take that course when it is next offered in May, 2014. That’s a long way off for someone who is as impatient a researcher as I am. I am meanwhile making inquiries of other researchers who are researching Galicia and searching several genealogy websites, but so far, I’ve still come up empty.
So I figured that while I was waiting, I would learn what I can about life in Galicia in the 19th century and life on the Lower East Side in the late 19th, early 20th centuries. I’ve ordered some books and will provide whatever information or reviews I find interesting and helpful once I have read them. If anyone has any recommendations on books on either of those topics, please provide them in the comment box below.

Meanwhile, I would still love some pictures (hint, hint!) from other members of the family.

Hope you all are well, and I will report back when I get some new documents or have anything else to report.