My Grandmother’s First Cousin Morris Goldfarb: A Life Filled with Challenges

My grandmother’s first cousin Morris Goldfarb, Sam and Sarah (Brod) Goldfarb’s second child, was born in Grebow in what is now Poland on August 15, 1886,1 and was almost ten years old when he came to America with his mother and siblings. He lived in Pittsgrove, New Jersey, and then on the Lower East Side with his parents until he married Anna Grinbaum (later spelled Greenbaum) in 1919. At that time he was working as a cloakmaker in a sweatshop in New York.

By 1925, Morris and Anna had two sons, Martin, born in 1920, and Irvin, born in 1922.  They were living in the same apartment building at 526 Williams Avenue in Brooklyn as Sam and Sarah and Morris’ sister Rose. Morris was no longer working in a sweatshop as a tailor but now had his own grocery store.

Goldfarbs 1925 NYS census, New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1925; Election District: 49; Assembly District: 02; City: Brooklyn; County: Kings; Page: 45 New York, U.S., State Census, 1925

Here is a baby picture of little Martin Goldfarb shared with me by his daughter Ann.

Martin Goldfarb, c. 1920. Courtesy of Ann Lee.

I asked the amazing people in the Free Photo Restoration group on Facebook if they could edit this photo, and here is one of the results:

Martin Goldfarb. Photo edited 4 29 21 by Kim Prevost

This is the building in Brooklyn where the Goldfarbs were living in 1925:

Five years later in 1930, Morris and his family were living at 542 Williams Avenue, and Morris was still the proprietor of a grocery store. His father Sam had died in 1926, and his mother Sarah and  two of his younger siblings Leo and Rose were living across the street at 526 Williams Avenue.  Morris’ wife Anna must have been pregnant when the 1930 census was enumerated because she gave birth to their third son Saul on June 10, 1930.2

Morris Goldfarb and family, 1930 US census, Census Place: Brooklyn, Kings, New York; Page: 10A; Enumeration District: 1218; FHL microfilm: 2341227 1930 United States Federal Census

I love this sweet photograph of Morris Goldfarb holding Saul in 1932, shared with me by Saul’s widow Kay and their children Becky and Jim:

Morris and Saul Goldfarb, c. 1932 Courtesy of the family

Sometime during this period, Martin Goldfarb was hit by a car in Brooklyn and seriously injured, leaving him with a lifetime of circulation problems following surgery to repair his injured legs.3

According to a family history compiled by Saul Goldfarb’s wife Kay,4 Morris’ grocery store was not terribly lucrative, but was successful enough to support his growing family. The Depression years, however, were hard for the family, and Morris had to pay “protection money” to gangsters to keep the store going. The boys went to a Brooklyn public school with many other children of immigrants, including Danny Kaye, a classmate of Martin Goldfarb.

The family shared this wonderful photograph of Morris in his grocery store:

Morris Goldfarb courtesy of the family

Tragedy again struck the family on October 6, 1938, when Anna died from a ruptured appendix.5 She was only 41 when she died and left behind her three sons. Martin was eighteen, Irvin was sixteen, and Saul was only eight when they lost their mother.

This is a beautiful photograph of Anna, shared with me by her granddaughter Ann, Martin Goldfarb’s daughter and Anna’s namesake.

Anna Greenbaum Goldfarb. Courtesy of Ann Lee.

On the 1940 census Morris was listed as a widower living with his three sons; his sister Rose was living with them also. Perhaps Rose moved in with Morris to help with the three sons.

Morris Goldfarb and family, 1940 US census, Census Place: New York, Kings, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02618; Page: 16A; Enumeration District: 24-2709, 1940 United States Federal Census

This census record has several errors. First, it lists Rose as 25 when she was in fact 38; she was working as an operator in a curtain business, presumably a sweatshop. The second error is that it lists nine-year-old Saul as a bookkeeper in the grocery business; that must have been Irvin’s occupation as there is no occupation listed for him, and he was now 18 years old. It make more sense that Morris and his two oldest sons would be working together in his grocery store and that Saul would have been in school.

Morris’ sister Rose married in early 1941,6 and it was around this time that a rabbi arranged a second marriage for Morris to help him and his sons. According to the family history written by Saul’s wife Kay, Morris was briefly married to a woman named Lena Weiss, a widow with two children of her own, but the marriage was over by sometime around 1942-1943.7 In 1945, Morris married for a third time. His third wife was Mollie Kaminsky Rosen, a widow with one son.8

Morris Goldfarb was 64 when he died on January 29, 1951.9 He is buried at Mount Hebron cemetery in New York where his first wife Anna is also buried.10 He had lived a full but challenging life.  Born in Grebow, Poland, Morris came to the US as a young boy, having to learn a new language and a new culture. He lived and worked in Brooklyn for his entire adult life, making a living in his own grocery store. He faced personal obstacles when his son Martin was badly injured in a car accident, and then when his first wife Anna died a sudden death in 1938. Morris raised his sons on his own after her death until he married again. He must have been a strong and resilient man.

His sons also faced challenges in their adult lives, as we will see in the next post.

  1.  Morris Goldfarb, Marital status: Single, Birth Date: 15 Aug 1886, Birth Place: Galicia, Austria, Residence Date: 1917-1918, Registration State: New York; Registration County: New York, U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 
  2. Saul Goldfarb, Birth Date: 10 Jun 1930, Birth Place: Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA, Certificate Number: 234??, New York, New York, U.S., Birth Index, 1910-1965 
  3. Email from Ann Lee, April 20, 2021. 
  4. Unpublished family history written by Kay Lergessner Goldfarb (hereinafter referred to as KLG history.”) 
  5. Anna Goldfarb, Age: 41, Birth Year: abt 1897, Death Date: 6 Oct 1938
    Death Place: Kings, New York, USA, Certificate Number: 19378, New York, New York, U.S., Extracted Death Index, 1862-1948. KLG history. 
  6. Rose Goldfarb. Marriage License Date: 29 Jan 1941
    Marriage License Place: Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA
    Spouse: Max Levine, License Number: 1699, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Brooklyn, New York, New York, U.S., Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018 
  7. KLG history 
  8. Mollie Kaminsky, Maiden Name: Kaminsky, Marriage Date: 1945, Marriage Place: New Jersey, USA, Spouse: Morris Goldfarb, New Jersey State Archives; Trenton, New Jersey; Marriage Indexes; Index Type: Bride; Year Range: 1945; Surname Range: A – Z, New Jersey, U.S., Marriage Index, 1901-2016 
  9. Morris Goldfarb, Death Date: 29 Jan 1951, Death Place: Brooklyn, New York, New York, USA, Certificate Number: 2007, New York, New York, U.S., Death Index, 1949-1965 
  10. Find a Grave, database and images, ( : accessed 25 April 2021), memorial page for Morris Goldfarb (unknown–29 Jan 1951), Find a Grave Memorial ID 77764408, citing Mount Hebron Cemetery, Flushing, Queens County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Athanatos (contributor 46907585); Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed 25 April 2021), memorial page for Anna Goldfarb (unknown–6 Oct 1938), Find a Grave Memorial ID 77764294, citing Mount Hebron Cemetery, Flushing, Queens County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Athanatos (contributor 46907585). 

Who was Tillie Hecht? Another Brotman Mystery

If you had asked me three years ago when I started this blog whether I’d still be finding new Brotman relatives three years later, I’d have laughed. I had so little information about even my great-grandparents.  And yet here I am in 2016 having found a whole new Brotman/Brod family of relatives based on a name in a baby book from 1917.

The discovery of Julius Goldfarb and his family, in particular his mother Sarah Brotman/Brod, was a true blessing.  Now I have corroboration of where my great-grandparents lived in Poland, and I have a better picture of my grandmother’s extended family and the people who were part of her life when she was a child and an adult.  I also have several newly discovered living cousins who have already enriched my life.

Even more amazing to me is the most recent discovery of Taube Hecht because that discovery was even more far-fetched.  Remember that in my aunt’s baby book the last name on the list of visitors was Mrs. Taube Hecht.  At first I’d had no idea who she was.

Aunt Elaine baby book 5

Then while researching Julius Goldfarb to figure out how he was related to my grandmother, I obtained a copy of his marriage certificate.  Julius Goldfarb had married Ida Hecht, and on their marriage certificate it said her father was Jacob Hecht and her mother’s name was originally Taube Brotman, now Taube Hecht.  I had wondered whether Ida’s mother was also somehow related to my grandmother’s family.


In researching Taube Brotman Hecht, I learned that she was also known as Tillie and that she’d had eight children with Jacob Hecht: Harry (1892); Ida (1894); David (1896); Gussie (1899?); Etta (1900); Sadie (1903); Rose (1906); and Eva (1908).

On the 1915 New York State census, the Hecht family was living in the same building on Avenue C in New York City as Sam and Sarah Brotman/Brod Goldfarb and as Hyman Brotman, my great-uncle, and his family.  It certainly seemed possible that Taube was related to my Brotman great-grandparents and to Sarah Brotman/Brod Goldfarb.


1915 NYS census with the Hecht family, the Goldfarb family, and the family of Hyman Brotman

So I jumped for joy—perhaps another relative, another set of clues about my Brod/Brotman relatives.  And then I jumped back into the research, hoping that Taube Brotman Hecht would provide more clues about my elusive relatives from Galicia.  I figured that with eight Hecht children to research, I would undoubtedly find more clues from birth, marriage, and death certificates.  But alas, the Hechts proved to be far more elusive than I’d hoped.

I started by searching for birth certificates.  Since I knew from the Goldfarb family records provided to me by my cousin Sue that Ida Hecht Goldfarb was born in New York City on October 19, 1894, and that the Hechts were still living in New York City in 1910 when the US census was taken, it seemed quite likely that all eight children, born between 1892 and 1908, were also born in New York City.  I searched the New York City birth records databases on Ancestry, FamilySearch, and Steve Morse’s website, and I could only find birth records listed for two of those eight children: the firstborn, Harry, and the last born child, Eva.  The other six children are just not there at all, no matter how I spelled their names, no matter how many wildcards I used.  Jacob and Taube must not have filed a birth certificate at all for those other six children.

In addition, when I asked my regular researcher at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City to find Harry’s birth certificate, she was unable to do so because it was a certificate marked “S,” meaning a later filed certificate.  Those are not on the microfilms at the FHL.  Instead I had to ask someone in NYC to go to the archives there to dig up Harry’s birth certificate.  It hadn’t been filed until 1906 when Harry was already fourteen years old.  I wonder what would have prompted the family to file it at that point in time.


But the certificate is quite interesting.  It shows that in 1892, Jacob and Taube (“Toba” here, the Hebrew name) were living at 33 East Houston Street in New York City, that they were both born in Austria, and that Jacob (like Sam Goldfarb) was a cloaks operator.  Jacob was 25 when Harry was born, Toba only twenty, meaning they were born in about 1867 and 1872, respectively.

And most importantly, Harry’s birth certificate records Toba’s name before marriage as Toba Brotman.  Brotman! I was right that Ida’s marriage certificate said “Brotman,” not Braitmer as it had been indexed.  And, of course, this meant that there was a real chance that Toba, like Sarah Goldfarb, was related to my great-grandparents in some way.

And then I looked at the certificate I’d ordered for Eva Hecht.


She was born on January 30, 1908, at 38 Montrose Avenue in Brooklyn.  On the 1910 census, the Hecht family was living at 48 Boerum Street in Brooklyn, which is right around the block from 38 Montrose Avenue.  So far, so good.  But then I looked at her parents’ names: JOSEPH Hecht and Tillie ROTHMAN.  Was this in fact the same Eva Hecht? The father was 40 years old, meaning born in about 1868; the mother was 37, so born about 1871. Those years were very close to the ages Jacob and Taube would have been in 1908.  Both parents were born in Austria, as were Jacob and Taube.  And the father “Joseph” was a tailor, as was Jacob Hecht.

Given all these similarities and the fact that by that time Taube was using Tillie on the census records, I have to believe that this is in fact a birth certificate for Eva Hecht, daughter of Jacob and Tillie/Taube/Toba Hecht.  And if it has Jacob’s first name wrong, it could very well have Tillie’s birth surname wrong.  Rothman does sound like Brotman, and many family members spelled Brotman as Brothman.  Perhaps the person filing the birth certificate, Mrs. Ida Goldman, just had bad hearing or the family’s accents were hard for her to understand.

So I had one new solid piece of evidence that Taube Hecht was born Toba Brotman and one rather shaky document that was at least somewhat supportive of that assumption. And, of course, I had Ida’s marriage certificate as well.  What else might I find? If there were no more birth certificates, could I find other marriage certificates or death certificates? Would the census records provide any more clues? So I decided to start from the beginning and search for records about the Hecht family.

The earliest census on which they appear is the 1900 US census.  The family was then living at 64 Broome Street on the Lower East Side.  The information for Jacob Hecht (spelled “Hect” here and indexed by Ancestry as “Hast,” making this a tough one to find) has some inconsistencies.   His birth year is 1870, so a year or two later than the other records indicated.  His birth place is Russia, not Austria.  But he is working as a tailor.  His wife’s name is listed as Mitilda, which certainly could be Tillie, and she also is listed as born in Russia, not Austria.  Her birth year is given as 1875, also several years later than her children’s birth records indicated.

Hecht family 1900 US census Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1094; Page: 14A; Enumeration District: 0290; FHL microfilm: 1241094

Hecht family 1900 US census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1094; Page: 14A; Enumeration District: 0290; FHL microfilm: 1241094

The names of their children also have some consistencies, some differences.  The first born, Harry, was born in 1892; that was consistent with Harry Hecht’s birth record.  The second child, however, is listed as Annie, born in 1893.  That should be Ida, the second child, who, according to the Goldfarb family papers, was born in 1894.  The third child, David, was reported to be four years old (the birth year is not very legible); that is consistent with David’s name and birth year on later census reports.  The fourth child is Yetta, who is listed on later reports as Etta; she is reported to have been seven months old when the census was enumerated in June 9, 1900, meaning she would have been born in October, 1899, not October 1889, as the census record has it recorded.  A birth year of 1899 is consistent with later census reports for Etta.

What this census record also revealed was that Jacob and “Miltilda” had been married for nine years, or in 1891.  It also said that Jacob had been in the US for only twelve years and arrived in 1887 (though it looks like 1777).  “Mitilda” had arrived earlier and had been in the country for fifteen years or since 1885 (though it looks like 1875 was written over it).  With this additional information, I searched for both a marriage record for Jacob and Taube/Tillie/Mitilda and for immigration records.

I had no luck finding a marriage record in the New York City marriage databases on Ancestry, FamilySearch, or Steve Morse’s website.  I guess it’s not surprising that a couple who failed to file birth certificates for their children also had failed to file a marriage record.  I am still hoping that some record will show up.

As for immigration records, I am fairly certain that I found the ship manifests for Taube.  I found two manifests, first a German manifest for the ship Moravia, dated July 9, 1887, sailing to New York from Hamburg.  On that manifest is a passenger named Taube Brodt, an eleven year old girl, and her name is bracketed with two other passengers, Eva Singer, a 38 year old woman, and an eleven month old baby named Ascher Singer, presumably the son of Eva.  And all three are listed as last residing in “Tarnobchek.”  That is, Tarnobrzeg—the home of my great-grandparents Joseph Brotman and Bessie Brod.

Taube Brodt ship manifest 1887 Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Microfilm No.: K_1736 Description Month : Direkt Band 059 (3 Jul 1887 - 29 Dez 1887)

Taube Brodt ship manifest 1887
Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Microfilm No.: K_1736
Month : Direkt Band 059 (3 Jul 1887 – 29 Dez 1887)

The second manifest is also for the Moravia, but is the American manifest, written in English, and dated July 21, 1887, the arrival date in New York; it also lists Taube Brodt and the Singers as coming from Tarnobchek.

Taube Brodt 1887 NY ship manifest Year: 1887; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 509; Line: 1; List Number: 911

Taube Brodt 1887 NY ship manifest
Year: 1887; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 509; Line: 1; List Number: 911

But who were Eva and Ascher Singer? And why was this eleven year old child traveling with them? My great-grandfather arrived in 1889, my great-grandmother 1891; Sarah Brod/Brotman Goldfarb didn’t arrive until 1896.  So if Taube Brodt was their relative, who was she going to and why was she leaving home at such a young age? And where did Taube Brodt and Eva and Ascher Singer end up after they disembarked in New York City in July 1887?

Although I can find many women named Eva Singer, there is only one born in Austria who arrived in 1887 and who had a son who would have been born in 1886.  But that Eva’s son’s name is Herman, and that Eva was older than the one who sailed on the Moravia with Taube.  Maybe that is the right Eva, and Ascher became Herman.  That Eva’s birth name was Goldman, according to the listings in the SSCAI for two of her children.

And I had little luck finding an Ascher Singer.  The only record I could find that might fit was a marriage record dated 1910 for an Ascher Singer marrying Lena Laufer.  I ordered that marriage record, and it shows that Ascher’s parents were Seide Singer and Taube Druckman.


When I saw the name Taube, I wondered—could Ascher have been Taube Brodt’s baby, not Eva’s? Maybe Taube wasn’t only eleven.  Taube’s age on the census records and her children’s birth certificates suggest she was born in 1871 or 1872, not 1876, as the ship manifest would suggest.  So maybe she was really fifteen, not eleven, when she emigrated.

But that is the only record I can find for Ascher Singer, and there is no way to know for sure whether it is the same person who sailed with Taube on the Moravia in 1887 or whether Taube Druckman was really Taube Brodt.

Plus even if this is the right Eva or the right Ascher, I’ve no idea how they are connected to Taube Brodt or anyone else in my family. And maybe they weren’t.  Maybe Taube just happened to be traveling with them.  But then where was she going and to whom? And was this even the same person who married Jacob Hecht in about 1891? If so, she would have been only 15 in 1891 if she was eleven in 1887.  Maybe Taube Brodt isn’t even Toba/Taube/Tillie Brotman Hecht?

Now what could I do?  Besides pull my hair out.  I kept on looking.

And then the most amazing thing happened. One of my toughest brick walls came tumbling down and when I least expected it.



Who was Sarah Goldfarb? Searching for Answers

In my last post, I described the research path I followed to determine whether and how Julius and Joe Goldfarb were related to my grandmother Gussie Brotman. After much searching, I had established the following with some degree of certainty:

Julius and Joseph Goldfarb were both sons of Sam and Sarah Goldfarb.  Sarah and Sam had lived in Grombow/Grebow, Poland, before immigrating to the United States, which was the same town my great-uncles Abraham Brotman and David Brotman had listed as their home on the ship manifest when they immigrated in 1889.  Sam Goldfarb had arrived in 1892, Sarah in 1896.  Sarah came with four children, Julius (Joel), Morris (Moische), Gussie (Gitel), and Bessie (Pesie).  They had sailed to Philadelphia, and in 1900, they were living in Pittsgrove, New Jersey, where my great-grandfather’s brother Moses Brotman was also residing.  By that time, Sarah and Sam (called Solomon on the 1900 census) had had two more children: Joseph and Leo (or Lewis).  Sam was working as a tailor, perhaps even in my grandmother’s first cousin Abraham Brotman’s factory in Pittsgrove, New Jersey.

Sam Goldfarb and family 1900 US census Year: 1900; Census Place: Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey; Roll: 993; Page: 17B; Enumeration District: 0179; FHL microfilm: 1240993

Sam Goldfarb and family 1900 US census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey; Roll: 993; Page: 17B; Enumeration District: 0179; FHL microfilm: 1240993

By 1902, Sam and Sarah had moved to the Lower East Side of New York City where their seventh child, Rosie, was born on February 9, 1902.  They were living across the street from my grandmother and her family on Ridge Street; my great-grandmother Bessie (Brod) Brotman was then a widow, as my great-grandfather Joseph Brotman had died in 1901.  According to the 1905 census, Sam Goldfarb was working as a cloak maker.

Sam Goldfarb and family 1905 NY census New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1905; Election District: A.D. 12 E.D. 06; City: Manhattan; County: New York; Page: 32

Sam Goldfarb and family 1905 NY census
New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1905; Election District: A.D. 12 E.D. 06; City: Manhattan; County: New York; Page: 32

In 1910, the Goldfarbs were living on Avenue C in New York, and Sam was still working as a tailor in a cloak factory.  Their son Julius was working as a conductor on a street car, and Morris as a cutter in a neckwear factory.

Sam Goldfarb and family 1910 US census, lines 8-17 Year: 1910; Census Place: Manhattan Ward 11, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1012; Page: 17A; Enumeration District: 0259; FHL microfilm: 1375025

Sam Goldfarb and family 1910 US census, lines 8-17
Year: 1910; Census Place: Manhattan Ward 11, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1012; Page: 17A; Enumeration District: 0259; FHL microfilm: 1375025

In April 1910, Sam and Sarah’s daughter Gussie married Max Katz, a window decorator who was born in Russia; on the 1910 census, Gussie and Max are listed as living with Max’s parents in Brooklyn. According to the marriage index on FamilySearch, Gussie Goldfarb’s mother’s birth name was “Brohmen,” one of the clues that made me think that Sarah was a relative of my great-grandfather, Joseph Brotman.

In 1915, Gussie and Max had moved out on their own and were living on Malta Street in Brooklyn.  Max was working in the men’s clothing business.

Gussie Goldfarb and Max Katz 1915 NY census New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 51; Assembly District: 22; City: New York; County: Kings; Page: 148

Gussie Goldfarb and Max Katz 1915 NY census
New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 51; Assembly District: 22; City: New York; County: Kings; Page: 148

I found another clue for Sarah’s birth name on her son Julius’ marriage license, as indexed on FamilySearch: Sarah Brothman.  Julius married Ida Hecht in November, 1913. In 1915, Sam and Sarah and the remaining five unmarried children (Morris, Bessie, Joe, Leo, and Rose) were still living on Avenue C in the same building as my great-uncle Hyman Brotman and his family.  Sam was still working as a tailor, as was his son Morris.

Based on these two New York City marriage index listings, one for the marriage of Gussie Goldfarb and one for the marriage of Julius Goldfarb, it looked like their mother Sarah’s birth name was Brothman or Brohmen.  To find out more, I would need to order the actual records plus any other vital records that might reveal Sarah’s parentage and family.  So I ordered these two marriage records; I also ordered the birth record for Sarah and Sam’s last child, Rosie.

The marriage record for Gussie was consistent with the information on the NYC marriage index, except that it was evident that Gussie’s mother’s name was not spelled Brohmen, but Brotmen, on the actual certificate.

katz-goldfarb-marriage-page-1 katz-goldfarb-marriage-page-2

The actual marriage record for Julius Brotman and Ida Hecht was also consistent with what I’d seen on the index in terms of Sarah’s birth name—Brothman.  But the record revealed a new mystery.

goldfarb-hecht-marriage-page-3 goldfarb-hecht-marriage-page-4

Ida’s mother’s birth name certainly looks like it was Taube Brotman, doesn’t it? (The index said Braitmer.) Who was this? Perhaps Taube Hecht had come to see my aunt as a baby not simply because her daughter Ida was married to my grandmother’s cousin Julius; maybe she came because she herself was a Brotman relative.  I decided to put that mystery aside for the time being and focus on Sarah Goldfarb.

And Rosie Goldfarb’s birth record made me really scratch my head. It gave Sarah Goldfarb’s name before marriage as S. Braud or maybe Brand.  Not Brotman or Brothman or Brotmen.  I was confused.  Was it Brod? Was Sarah actually my great-grandmother Bessie Brod’s sister, and not the sister of my great-grandfather Joseph Brotman.  Obviously I needed to do more digging.


Having first worked backward in time, I now worked from 1915 forward to see what else I might find to help me determine if Sarah Goldfarb was a Brod or a Brotman.  Both Julius and his brother Morris registered for the draft in World War I.  I’d already seen the draft registration card for Julius, but had not seen the card for Morris.  It added no new information, but confirmed that he was born in “Grombow Galicia Austria.”[1]


Morris Goldfarb World War I draft registration Registration State: New York; Registration County: New York; Roll: 1765780; Draft Board: 104

On February 2, 1919, Morris married Anna Grinbaum in Brooklyn, according to the NYC marriage index.  I ordered a copy of his marriage record, and his record listed his mother’s birth name as Sarah Brod.  Now I had two records that indicated Sarah’s birth name was not Brotman, like my great-grandfather, but Brod, like my great-grandmother.  I wanted to hit my head against the wall!



Tragedy struck the Goldfarb family when Sarah and Sam’s oldest daughter, Gussie, died on May 13, 1919 at age 29 from acute lobar pneumonia.  As far as I can tell, Gussie and her husband Max Katz had not had any children.  On Gussie’s death certificate, her parents’ names are listed as Solomon Goldfarb and Sarah Brotman.  Another point for Brotman.


In 1920, Sam and Sarah only had three children still living with them: Joe (22), Leo (20), and Rose (18).  Joe and Leo were both working as clerks for an express company, and Rose was working as a dressmaker.  Sam was no longer working; he was now 64 years old. They were living on Williams Avenue in Brooklyn; I now knew that the “S. Goldfarb” on Williams Avenue listed in my grandfather’s notebook had to be either Sam or Sarah Goldfarb.

Sam and Sarah Goldfarb 1920 US census Year: 1920; Census Place: Brooklyn Assembly District 2, Kings, New York; Roll: T625_1146; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 82; Image: 21

Sam and Sarah Goldfarb 1920 US census
Year: 1920; Census Place: Brooklyn Assembly District 2, Kings, New York; Roll: T625_1146; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 82; Image: 21

Grandpa notebook 13 more addresses Joe Goldfarb

But where was their daughter Bessie? She had been living with the family in 1915, so I assumed she had married sometime between 1915 and 1920.  I searched for her in the NYC marriage index, but there was no listing for a Bessie Goldfarb.  Instead I found this record from the Michigan marriage database on Ancestry:


Meyer Malzberg and Bessie Goldfarb marriage record 1914 Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867–1952. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics.

Meyer Malzberg and Bessie Goldfarb marriage record 1914 Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015.
Original data: Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867–1952. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics.

The top image shows the bride and groom, Bessie Goldfarb and Meyer Malzberg, their ages, and that they were residing in Detroit.  It also shows their birthplaces, and for Bessie it is Austria.  The lower image shows the father’s first name, Sam for Bessie, and then the mother’s birth names.  Although it is partly hidden by the fold on the page, it definitely looks like “ah Brothman.”

This is most definitely my cousin Bessie Goldfarb: she was born in “Austria,” her father was named Sam, her mother Sarah Brothman.  But why was she a resident of Detroit? And how did she knew Meyer Malzberg?  And most confusing, if she married him on August 9, 1914 as this record reports, was she really living back in Brooklyn when the NY census was taken in 1915?

It got even more bewildering.  In 1910, Meyer Malzberg was living with his father and sister in New York City, working as a stock clerk in a department store.  In fact, although he was born in Russia, he and his family had been living in New York City since their arrival in about 1900 (records conflict).  So what were he and Bessie doing in Detroit in 1914?

In June, 1917, when Meyer registered for the World War I draft, he was still living in Detroit, working as a driver for the Detroit Creamery Company.  He also claimed an exemption from service because he was supporting his father, his wife, and a child.  So by 1917, Meyer and Bessie had had a child.

Meyer Malzberg World War I draft registration Registration State: Michigan; Registration County: Wayne; Roll: 2024027; Draft Board: 06

Meyer Malzberg World War I draft registration
Registration State: Michigan; Registration County: Wayne; Roll: 2024027; Draft Board: 06

But if Meyer and Bessie had had a child between 1914 and 1917, why was Bessie living with her parents in New York in 1915 while Meyer was still apparently living in Detroit? A little more research revealed that that first child, a son named Norman, was born in New York in May, 1915; although the NY census is dated on the form as June 1, 1915, it must have been actually enumerated before then since the baby is not listed.


My best guess is that Bessie had come back to New York to have her baby where her family was living while Meyer stayed in Detroit to earn a living.  Unfortunately, I was unable to find Bessie and Meyer on the 1920 census, but their second child Gustave was born in Brooklyn in 1919 and their two youngest sons Burton and Saul were born in Jersey City in the 1920s.

Obviously, the stay in Detroit was relatively short-lived, and Meyer and Bessie had returned to the New York metropolitan area before 1920.  In fact, when I looked back at my grandfather’s notebook, I noticed that there was an entry for M. Malzberg at 361 2d Street, JC, or Jersey CIty:

Grandpa notebook 13 more addresses Joe Goldfarb

Bessie’s brother Julius and his family were also living in Jersey City in 1920, and Julius was continuing to work in the liquor business; by 1920, they had two young daughters, Sylvia and Gertrude.

Julius Goldfarb and family 1920 US census lines 70-73 Year: 1920; Census Place: Jersey City Ward 3, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: T625_1043; Page: 17B; Enumeration District: 135; Image: 1104

Julius Goldfarb and family 1920 US census
lines 70-73
Year: 1920; Census Place: Jersey City Ward 3, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: T625_1043; Page: 17B; Enumeration District: 135; Image: 1104

To review: as of 1920, Sam and Sarah Goldfarb were living with their children Joe, Leo, and Rose in Brooklyn; Julius and Ida were living in Jersey City; Morris and Anna were probably living in Brooklyn; Gussie was deceased; and Bessie and Meyer were living in either Jersey City or in Brooklyn.

At this point in my research, I started to move beyond 1920 and to look for living descendants to see what I might learn about the family and specifically about Sarah Goldfarb.  I was very fortunate to find two of the descendants of Julius and Ida (Hecht) Goldfarb.  And they provided me with extensive family history notes that a member of the Goldfarb family had researched years before.  More on what I learned from that research in my next post.

But for now, a summary of the clues I’d found so far about Sarah Goldfarb’s connection to my grandmother: three marriage records and one death record for Sarah’s children indicated that Sarah’s birth name had been “Brot(h)man,” but one marriage record for Morris and one birth record for Rose said it was “Brod” or “Braud.”

The evidence seemed to weigh in favor of Sarah being perhaps a sibling of my great-grandfather Joseph Brotman.  Also pointing in that direction was the fact that when they first came to the US, Sam and Sarah had lived in the same town as Moses Brotman, my great-grandfather’s brother.

But then by 1902, Sarah and Sam had moved across the street from my great-grandmother after my great-grandfather had died.  Did that suggest that Sarah was Bessie’s sister and had moved to New York to be closer to her widowed sister? Was Sarah a Brod, not a Brotman, as the wedding certificate for Morris and Rose’s birth certificate indicated?

Plus there were some conflicting clues raised by the naming pattern.  If Sarah had a sister named Bessie (my great-grandmother), would she have named a child Bessie? But Sarah also had a son named Joseph who was born before my great-grandfather Joseph Brotman died.  Would she have given a son the same name as her brother?  Ashkenazi Jews don’t name their children after living relatives, so these name choices certainly confused the matter.

The evidence certainly was not conclusive.  I needed more.






[1] Although the documents I found spelled the town several different ways, Grembow, Grombow, and Grebow, I believe that the last is the correct spelling.  I searched JewishGen, and the only town with a name similar to those names that had had a Jewish community before the Holocaust was Grebow, the town I visited in 2015, the town right near Tarnobrzeg.

Walking in the Shadows of My Brotman Great-Grandparents

My third day in Poland was undoubtedly the highlight of the trip for me.  Visiting the town where my great-grandparents lived was the initial motivation for going to Central Europe in the first place.  The stops in Prague, Budapest, and Vienna were the icing on the cake, but the cake was Poland and, more specifically, Tarnobrzeg.  (I finally learned how to pronounce it, thanks to our guide Tomasz: TarNOBjeg.)  I had high and emotional expectations; they were exceeded by the reality.

First, some background.  When I first started doing genealogy research, I had no idea where my maternal grandmother’s family had lived in Europe other than they were Galitzianers—from Galicia.  My mother had no idea what town in Galicia had been their home, and for a long time the only location given on the records I could find was Austria, which made sense since Galicia was part of the Austria-Hungary Empire when the Brotmans lived there.

Then a few pieces came together—first, I obtained my great-uncle Hyman Brotman’s naturalization application giving his home town as Jeekief, which is a decent phonetic spelling of Dzikow, once a separate village but later incorporated into Tarnobrzeg, a much larger town.  Then I found a ship manifest for Yossel Brod, most likely my great-grandfather, from Tarnobchiek, another phonetic spelling, this time of Tarnobrzeg.  The ship manifests for my great-uncles Abraham and David Brotman gave their home town at Grebow, a small village less than ten miles from Tarnobrzeg.  It seemed clear to me that Tarnobrzeg was the area where my Brotman ancestors had lived in Galicia.  And I had to go there.


Hyman Brotman’s Naturalization Application (Click twice to zoom in.)


David and Abe Brodmann on the Portia 1889

David and Abe Brodmann on the Portia 1889


Joseph Brotman ship manifest

Joseph Brotman ship manifest

I had originally hoped that there might be some records left in Tarnobrzeg that had not yet been digitized and put on line by JewishGen, Gesher Galicia, or JRI Poland, but our guide Tomasz warned me that he believed that whatever records still existed had in fact been found already and that we would not find any more in the town.  I adjusted my expectations accordingly, and I decided to enjoy the trip for the experience of being there rather than as a research opportunity.

Tomasz picked us up at our hotel at 9 am that morning, and we got to meet my recently found cousin Phyllis for the first time.  Phyllis and I had connected through DNA testing, which showed us as third cousins and showed her aunt Frieda and my mother as second cousins.  By comparing our family trees we had reached the conclusion that the likely connection was through my great-grandmother Bessie Brot Brotman and her grandmother Sabina Brot, whose father we believe was my great-grandmother’s brother.  Sabina’s home town in Galicia was Radomysl nad Sanem, another town about ten miles from Tarnobrzeg, which we would also visit that day.  The common surname and the proximity of residences seemed to support our hypothesis.  We quickly connected in person, chatting excitedly about our research, our travels, and our hopes for that day.

IMG_2705 cousins

As we drove from Krakow to Tarnobrzeg, Tomasz spoke about the history of Jews in Poland. By the 19th century Jews made up 10% of the population of Poland, and they lived all over the country—in the cities and in small towns and in villages.  The land we drove through was mostly rural even today, and Tomasz said that Jews were often invited by the kings or the aristocracy to live in the towns to support the local economy; Jews had the education and the skills to provide bookkeeping, trade, banking, and other economic necessities to the farmers who lived in these regions.  In Tarnobrzeg it was the Tarnowski family that owned the land and invited the Jews to come live there.


Castle of the Tarnowski family in Tarnobrzeg

Castle of the Tarnowski family in Tarnobrzeg



When I asked him about the level of religious observance of the Jewish residents who lived in places like Tarnobrzeg, Tomasz said that there was a diverse range of religious observance—-from Hasidim to more traditional Orthodox to more liberal Jews and to secular Jews. Other sources point out that Tarnobrzeg was an important Hasidic center with well-regarded Hasidic leaders and rabbis.

Tomasz also spoke about the fact that Tarnobrzeg was one of the leading Jewish population and industrial centers in Galicia outside of Krakow.  The main industry aside from agriculture was the production of sulfur, a product that it still important to the local economy of the region.  Tarnobrzeg is located where two rivers meet—the Vistula (which also runs through Krakow) and the San, and thus was an important trade location.  It also is very close to what was once the border with the Russian Empire, and when Russia obtained that land, families were often separated, some living in Austria-Hungary, some in the Russian Empire.  In the 19th century when my great-grandparents lived there, the population of Tarnobrzeg was more than 75% Jewish.  There were about 2800 Jews living there in the 1880s when my great-grandparents decided to leave.

I asked Tomasz why people like my great-grandparents would ever have left a place like Tarnobrzeg, where Jews were doing well and treated well and were more than a majority of the town’s residents.  He said that in the late 19th century, there was both an economic crisis in Poland and a significant increase in the population. (There was also a great deal of anti-Semitism in Poland, as other sources describe.)  Jews and non-Jews left for greater economic opportunities.  When I pondered how a family would be able to tear themselves away from their home, both emotionally and financially, Tomasz explained that there were emigration agents facilitating these departures.  They would circulate brochures touting the advantages of going to America, and the fact that many others were leaving made it easier for a family like mine to make a similar choice.  I asked how they would actually leave, and Tomasz said there was a train that came to Tarnobrzeg that would take them to one of the port cities, like Gdansk or Hamburg, where they would catch a ship for America.  It would be costly, but the potential benefits made it all seem worth the risk.

Finally we arrived in Tarnobrzeg itself.  It was not exactly what I expected, as it is a large town, not a little shtetl, and it is a thriving town—lots of people, lots of stores, lots of cars.  Not a quiet little romantic village out of Fiddler on the Roof at all.  There was even a Lego store right on the main square.


Lego store on main square in Tarnobrzeg

Lego store on main square in Tarnobrzeg

But once we got out of the car and started to walk around, I felt some almost eerie connection—that this was a place where my great-grandparents had walked, had shopped, had worked.  Many of the buildings that surround the square were there back in the 1870s and 1880s when my great-grandparents and their children lived there.  Maybe one of those buildings contained a shop where my great-grandfather worked (on that ship manifest his occupation was given as “kaufmann” or merchant).  Maybe my family lived in one of them.


Main square in Tarnobrzeg

Main square in Tarnobrzeg


IMG_2657 old buildings on square in Tarnobrzeg


I stood in that square, imagining it 150 years ago as a place filled with families like my own, Jewish families of all sorts, living in a safe and comfortable way in a safe and comfortable place. I could imagine my great-uncle Chaim who became Hyman and then Herman and my great-aunt Tema who became Tillie, just small children, holding their mother’s hands as they walked through that square.   I could block out the Lego store and the ugly modern supermarket and see just the old buildings as they might have looked in the 1880s.


IMG_2663 Tomasz our guide in Tarnobrzeg

Our guide Tomasz Cebulski leading the way in Tarnobrzeg


IMG_2658 square in Tarnobrzeg IMG_2662 street in Tarnobrzeg IMG_2664 my ancestral town

Tomasz took us to the building which was once the synagogue. According to the official Tarnobrzeg website, it was heavily damaged by the Nazis and used to store grain.  It was renovated in the 1970s into a public library, and there is almost no sign today that it was ever a synagogue building.  The windows were changed, and inside where there was once a prayer hall and aron kodesh are now stacks filled with books.  When we asked in the library whether they had any photographs or books or records about the synagogue or the former Jewish community, all they could find was one copy of a brochure that had only been created a few years ago.

IMG_2659 where the prayer hall stood, now a library

Space where the prayer hall once was in the Tarnobrzeg synagogue

IMG_2661 former synagogue building

Exterior of building where the synagogue entrance had been


Tarnobrzeg Synagogue

Tarnobrzeg Synagogue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here are some photographs of the building when it was a synagogue:

The only visible sign that the building was built as a synagogue is a small plaque on the exterior of the building in a location that almost no one could ever see or read if they were not looking for it.  We had to walk around the building through the lawn to get this photograph. The only small comfort was that the building was being used for books and education, not for commerce or worse.

IMG_2660 marker on library marking it as location of synagogue

Memorial plaque on the former synagogue building


Tomasz also pointed out that the first Jewish cemetery was located just a block away, but was now a parking lot for the shopping area that now exists there.  According to this video prepared in 2008, the Nazis destroyed the synagogue and used the headstones to pave a road. (I suggest downloading the hi-def version and watching it; it will give you a better sense of the town and its history.)

We then drove to the other Jewish cemetery in Tarnobrzeg, which was opened in the 20th century and  where there is still an ohel with a Star of David.  Sadly, the cemetery is not maintained at all, and there are just a handful of headstones still standing, most covered with weeds and snails.  I took photographs of as many as I could and now hope to get these translated.

IMG_2665 ohel for cemetery Tarnobrzeg IMG_2666 cemetery in Tarnobrzeg cemetery IMG_2668 IMG_2669 IMG_2670 IMG_2671 IMG_2672 IMG_2673 birdhouse in the cemetery IMG_2674 cemetery

After visiting the cemetery, we went to a small museum Tomasz knew about, where we met with an incredibly helpful woman who did not speak any English, but when Tomasz explained why I was there, she was very excited and anxious to help.  She provided us with some books with drawings and  photographs of Tarnobrzeg before World War II.

IMG_2677 images from books at the museum in Dzykow IMG_2678 IMG_2679 IMG_2685

The woman at the museum also explained where Dzikow had been located before it merged into Tarnobrzeg, so we drove there and saw some very old homes, built almost like log cabins.  I was enchanted and wondered whether one of these buildings had once been my great-grandparents’ home.

IMG_2690 IMG_2692 IMG_2693

As we left Tarnobrzeg, Tomasz told us what had happened to the Jews there during the Holocaust. Many were shot and killed just outside of town and buried there.  Many others were taken to the San River and shot, their bodies falling into the water.  The rest were eventually transported to a concentration camp or a death camp.  If any survived, they have not returned to Tarnobrzeg.  There are no known Jews living there today.  What would my great-grandparents, both of whom died before the Holocaust, have thought if they returned to their hometown today? It would no longer be the place they knew in almost any way, except for the old buildings that survive.

Nazis rounding up the Jews of Tarnobrzeg 1939

Nazis rounding up the Jews of Tarnobrzeg near the San River 1939


I could have stayed and wandered around Tarnobrzeg for hours, but we had two more stops to make: Radomysl nad Sanem and Grebow.  We headed first to Radomysl nad Sanem, where Phyllis’ grandmother had lived. It is on the other side of the San River and is a very small little town with a small town square and municipal building and perhaps fifty homes, if that many.  Its Jewish population before World War II was less than 400 people, and the village was mostly Jewish.  We drove from one end of the town to the other, and it took only a few minutes.  Even more so than in Tarnobrzeg, there is no sign that there were ever Jews there.  Phyllis was able to obtain some brochures about the town from the library there, but nothing that discussed the former Jewish community.

IMG_2698 Radomysl nad Sanem where Sabina Brot lived IMG_2699 IMG_2700 IMG_2701 IMG_2703


Our last stop was a quick one in Grebow, a town even smaller than Radomysl nad Sanem where there was not even a library we could visit.  I don’t know whether this was where Abraham and David Brotman were born or simply where they were living at the time they emigrated.  Perhaps they had moved here for greater opportunities than they could find in Tarnobrzeg.  I don’t know.  It’s such a tiny village that all I can do is imagine them living there and then wonder what they must have thought when they landed in a place as large and crowded and dirty as late 19th century New York City’s Lower East Side.

IMG_2706 tiny town of Grebow IMG_2707 Grebow IMG_2709 public building Grebow IMG_2710


We then headed back to Krakow.  I was exhausted and emotionally drained and filled with thoughts and feelings.  We were taking another night train that night, this time to Budapest.  As we ate a quick dinner at our hotel, I found myself overwhelmed with emotion in a way that surprised me.  My eyes filled with tears—tears for the people who had been killed, tears for my great-grandparents who had left this country for better things, tears of gratitude that they had done that, and tears of sadness that I was leaving a place that part of me truly felt was my homeland.










My Brotmanville Cousins: Searching for Answers

One thing I have been trying to do as part of my preparations for our visit to Tarnobrzeg and the surrounding towns is a last ditch effort to find some other clues as to where my Brotman ancestors lived.  I have gone back through the research I’ve done on my great-grandparents and their Galician born children, Abraham, Max, David, Hyman, and Tillie, and have found no new clues.  Then I realized that now that I have some DNA confirmation that my great-grandfather Joseph was the brother of Moses Brotman of Brotmanville, I needed to go through their records as well to see if I could find some new clues.  I had done an initial search a few years ago, but had not yet gone back and checked it more thoroughly.

Moses Brotman

Moses Brotman courtesy of his granddaughter Elaine

What I already knew was that Moses Brotman had had many children, some born in Europe, some born in the US.  His oldest (known) child was his son Abraham, who was born in Europe.  Abraham Brotman had originally settled in New York City and established a cloak factory there, but was invited by those who created the Alliance Colony in Pittsgrove Township, New Jersey, to start a factory there to employ the residents when the farming season ended.  Eventually, a section of Pittsgrove was named Brotmanville in his honor.[1]

At this point I will not tell the full story of the Brotmanville family in America; that will have to wait. My immediate objective in reviewing my research of the Brotmanville Brotmans was to see if I could find any records that revealed where Moses and his family had lived before arriving in the US.  So I had to focus first on those who had been born in Europe, not those who were born in the US, although that meant also looking for records for the children born here to see if those records revealed the birthplaces of their European born parents

What I knew from the descendants and from my earlier research was that Moses had been married twice and Abraham had been the child of his first marriage.  Although the census records for Abraham are in conflict about his birthdate, the earliest to include his age, the 1900 census, reported his birthdate to be November 1863, long before Moses married Ida, the woman with whom he immigrated to America.

1900 US Census for Abraham Brotman

1900 US Census for Abraham Brotman Year: 1900; Census Place: Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey; Roll: 993; Page: 17A; Enumeration District: 0179; FHL microfilm: 1240993

Looking at the 1900 census report for Abraham, by 1900 he and his wife, Minnie Hollender, had been married for 13 years and had had six children, five of whom were still alive.  All six children were born in the US.  Abraham reported that he had arrived in the US in 1884, three years before marrying Minnie.  Their children as of 1900 were Joseph (10), Samuel (7), Gilbert (6), Nephtaly (later Herman) (4), and Leah (2).  They were living in Pittsgrove, New Jersey, and Abraham was working as a manufacturer.[2]

The 1910 census for Abraham and his family is only somewhat consistent with that of the 1900:  his age is 47, still giving him a birth year of 1863, but now his birthplace is reported as Russia. He and Minnie now reported that they had had eleven children, nine of whom were still alive.  In addition to the five listed above, there were three more daughters and one more son.

Abraham Brotman 1910 US census

Abraham Brotman 1910 US census Year: 1910; Census Place: Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey; Roll: T624_908; Page: 15B; Enumeration District: 0154; FHL microfilm: 1374921

The 1920 census reported one more child and once again had Abraham’s birthplace as Austria.  However, he now claimed to be 48, thus born in 1872, not 1863 as previously reported.  Later records also made him ten years younger than had been reported on the 1900 and 1910 census reports.  Genealogists generally assume that the records closest in time are more likely to be accurate than those later in time (and people are more likely to make themselves younger as they get older), so I am inclined to assume that Abraham was born in 1863.  It also makes more sense that he was 21 when he immigrated, not 11.  But where was he born? Austria? Russia? And in what city or town?

Since both the 1930 and the 1940 census reported his birthplace as Austria, I am inclined to discount the 1910 and assume that the 1900, 1920, 1930 and 1940 census reports indicating his birthplace as Austria are more accurate.  And, of course, “Austria” meant within the Austria-Hungary Empire, just as it did for my great-grandparents and many other immigrants from that region, including Galicia.

But then where more specifically was he born? Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to find a death record for Abraham, and the death records I have for his children are no more specific.  For example, the death certificate for his oldest child, Joseph, only reports that his father’s birthplace was Austria.

Joseph Brotman 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.

Joseph Brotman 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.

Samuel’s death certificate says that his father’s birthplace was Russia.

Samuel Brotman 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.

Samuel Brotman 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.

Abraham’s youngest child, Aaron, who was born in 1911, died as a young man in 1939 from heart disease.  His death certificate indicates that his father was born in Austria.

Aaron Brotman 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.

Aaron Brotman 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.

Those were the only sources I have located so far that reflect anything about where Abraham was born.  I also had no records of what his mother’s name was nor did I have any indication of full siblings for Abraham, only the half-siblings born through his father’s second marriage.  So I then turned to Abraham’s father Moses and his children to see if there was more to learn through their records.

The earliest record I had found for Moses was his petition for naturalization, filed in 1894.  It had his birthplace as Russia.  It also said that he had arrived in the US in 1885.

Moses Brotman petition for Naturalization

Moses Brotman Petition for Naturalization “New Jersey, County Naturalization Records, 1749-1986,” images, FamilySearch (,351187001 : accessed 14 May 2015), Salem > Petitions for naturalization 1888-1895 > image 95 of 96; county courthouses, New Jersey.

The 1900 US census reported his birthplace and date as Austria in November 1844.  It also reported that he had immigrated in 1886 and that he was a farmer.  Like his son Abraham, he was living in Pittsgrove, New Jersey with his wife “Chay”  (probably Chaya), to whom he’d been married for sixteen years.  (Abraham was already 37 in 1900, indicating that Abraham was not Chaya’s son.) Moses and Chaya had had eight children, seven of whom were alive, according to the 1900 census.  The seven were Sadie (16), Katie (13), Samuel (10), Lilly (7), Isaac (5), Bessy (2), and Lewis (three months)[It is spelled “Lewis” on the census, but according to his grandson, his name was actually spelled “Louis.”]  The youngest four were born in New Jersey, Katie in New York, and Sadie and Samuel reportedly in Austria.  Of course, that made no sense to me—if Katie was older than Samuel, how could he have been born in Austria if she was born in New York? Had Moses and Chaya returned to Europe at the time Katie was born? Or was the census just in error?  If they really had immigrated in 1886 and if Samuel was 10 in 1900, he must have been born in the US.

Moses Brotman 1900 census

Moses Brotman 1900 census Year: 1900; Census Place: Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey; Roll: 993; Page: 18A; Enumeration District: 0179; FHL microfilm: 1240993

The other thing that struck me as very strange about this report was the fact that Moses had a son named Samuel as did his son Abraham.  In 1900 Moses’ Samuel was ten; Abraham’s was seven.  So Abraham’s son Samuel had an uncle three years older with the same name.  When I turned to the 1910 census report for Moses and his family, that became even stranger, as now Moses had had another child, a son named Joseph, who was seven as of 1910.  Abraham also had a son named Joseph, who was seventeen in 1910. So Abraham’s son Joseph had an uncle Joseph who was ten years younger than he was.  In addition, both Moses and Abraham had daughters named Lilly or Lillian; Moses’ daughter was born in February 1892; Abraham’s daughter was born September 5, 1898. Why would Moses and Abraham have given their children the same names? Perhaps they were named for the same ancestors, but it must have been awfully confusing in Pittsgrove to have two Samuel Brotmans., two Joseph Brotmans, and two Lilly Brotmans running around that small community.  It sure doesn’t help genealogists either.

The 1910 census report for Moses now had his wife’s name as Ida, which was a common Americanization of Chaya.  Moses was now working as a presser in a clothing factory, presumably the one owned by his son Abraham.  As with the 1900 census for Abraham, Moses’ birthplace is now given as Russia, not Austria.  He and Ida had six of their children living with them: Samuel (20), Lilly (15), Isaac (14), Bessie (12), Lewis/Louis (10), and the above-mentioned Joseph (7).  The birthplace for all the children was New Jersey, except for Samuel, whose birthplace was reported as Russia, same as his parents. Sadie and Katie were no longer living with their parents. Unfortunately, I have not yet found any records for what happened to Sadie or Katie, although their father’s obituary revealed their married names and their residence as of 1935 in Philadelphia.

Moses Brotman 1910 census

Moses Brotman 1910 census Year: 1910; Census Place: Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey; Roll: T624_908; Page: 15A; Enumeration District: 0154; FHL microfilm: 1374921

It took me forever to track down Moses Brotman and his family on the 1920 census, and although I am not 100% certain this is the right family, I am fairly certain that it is.  The head of household is Morris Brotman, wife Clara—another common Americanization of Chaya.  Morris was reported to be 70 years old, so born around 1850, not far off from his birthdate on the 1900 census.  Birthplace is given as Russia for Morris, Austria for Clara, and it reported that immigrated in 1887, close to the 1886 reported in 1900.  The most convincing support for this being the right family are the names and ages of the children: Lillian (21), Louis (20), Bessie (19), and Joseph (17).  Although Lilly would have been 25 and Bessie 22, the sons’ ages are accurate; maybe they lied about the daughters’ ages to make them appear more “marriageable.”  The family was now living in Philadelphia, not New Jersey, which at first I found odd.

Moses Brotman 1920 US census Year: 1920; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 32, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1634; Page: 12B; Enumeration District: 1095; Image: 530

Moses Brotman 1920 US census
Year: 1920; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 32, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1634; Page: 12B; Enumeration District: 1095; Image: 530

But then I checked for the older sons, Samuel and Isaac (now Irving) and found that both had married between 1910 and 1920 and were living in Philadelphia.  Although I still have not located the two older daughters Sadie and Katie, perhaps they also had married by then and moved to Philadelphia.  Maybe Moses and Ida/Clara/Chaya also moved there to be closer to all their children.

Thus, I now had conflicting birthplaces for Moses—one census said Austria, two said Russia.  I looked at the 1930 census, and once again there was a conflict.  Now Moses’ birthplace was reported as Austria-Hungary, then crossed out with “Europe” written above it. His parents’ birthplace, however, was given as Austria-Hungary.  Moses was now 80 years old, and he and his wife (now Ida again) and their youngest son Joseph (28) were living in Vineland, New Jersey, near Pittsgrove. So as with Abraham, the birthplace for Moses fluctuated back and forth between Russia and Austria with no specific town or city mentioned. Perhaps Moses really did not know where in Europe he was actually born.

Moses Brotman 1930 US census

Moses Brotman 1930 US census Year: 1930; Census Place: Vineland, Cumberland, New Jersey; Roll: 1327; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 0060; Image: 434.0; FHL microfilm: 2341062

Moses died on September 23, 1935.  His death certificate said he was born in Austria in 1847 and that his parents were named Abraham Brotman and Sadie Berstein, also born in Austria.  His grandson Aaron Brotman was the informant, Abraham’s youngest son who would die himself just a few years later.  Moses’ wife’s name was given as Rachel Rice.  This has caused considerable confusion for the family.  Was this a third wife? A mistake?

Moses Brotman death certificate_0001_NEW

In the obituary for Moses, it says he was survived by his widow, but did not name her.  It did, however, name all his children (including the married names for Sadie and Katie, as indicated above) and their residences.

Moses Brotman obituary

Moses Brotman obituary Courtesy of his granddaughter Elaine, source unknown

I found the death certificate for his youngest child, Joseph, who died less than a year after his father on July 26, 1936, from bacterial endocarditis.  He was only 34 years old.  On his death certificate, Moses’ birthplace is once again given as Russia, and Joseph’s mother’s name is reported to be Rachael Rice. The informant was Joseph’s half-brother, Abraham Brotman.

Joseph Brotman (Moses' son) 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.

Joseph Brotman (Moses’ son) 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.

Since Moses’ wife on the 1910 census was Ida and since Joseph was born in 1902, it would seem likely that Ida was Joseph’s mother.  Or could Chaya have been Rachel Rice and then died after Joseph was born? Was Ida a third wife? And was she the same woman as Clara, the wife listed on the 1920 census, or was that a fourth wife? My own personal hunch was that Rachel, Chaya, Ida and Clara are all one and the same person.

Although I was able to find the death certificate for Irving Brotman, it had no information for the name of his mother, had his father’s name as Morris, and had no information for their birthplaces.  I was, however, able to find the following entries in the New Jersey, Births and Christening Index on for two of Moses’ children:

Name: Liza Brotman
Gender: Female
Birth Date: 2 Feb 1892
Birth Place: Pit, Salem, New Jersey
Father’s name: Moritz Brotman
Mother’s name: Chai Reis
FHL Film Number: 494224
Name: Brotman
Gender: Female
Birth Date: 12 May 1897
Birth Place: Pit , Salem, New Jersey
Father’s name: Moses Brotman
Father’s Age: 45
Father’s Birth Place: Austria
Mother’s name: Clara Rice
Mother’s Age: 30
Mother’s Birth Place: Austria
FHL Film Number: 494236

Notice that the mother’s name was Chai Reis on the first, then the more Americanized Clara Rice on the later one.  These were both created before the 1900 census listing of Moses’ wife as Chaya, the 1910 listing as Ida, the 1920 listing as Clara, or the 1930 listing again as Ida.  Notice that the surname is Reis/Rice, the same surname given for Moses’ wife on his death certificate in 1935 and that of his son Joseph in 1936.  I find this last bit of evidence enough to conclude that Rachel Rice was the same woman who married Moses in 1884 or so, immigrated with him and their first two children, and gave birth to and raised nine children from Sadie, born in 1884, through Joseph, born in 1902.  In 1940 after Moses had died, Ida (aka Chaya-Clara-Rachel) was living with her son Lewis/Louis and his wife Jean and their daughter Elaine in Vineland, New Jersey.  According to Elaine, Ida died about three years later.  Unfortunately I have not yet located a death record or obituary for Ida.

Lewis Brotman 1940 US census Year: 1940; Census Place: Vineland, Cumberland, New Jersey; Roll: T627_2327; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 6-76

Lewis/Louis Brotman 1940 US census
Year: 1940; Census Place: Vineland, Cumberland, New Jersey; Roll: T627_2327; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 6-76

Thus, reviewing all the records I had found had not brought me any closer to learning exactly where Moses Brotman or Abraham Brotman had been born or where they had lived in Europe.  But while searching, I stumbled upon something else.  I will report on that as my last post before I leave for my trip.

[1] Relatives of the Brotmanville Brotmans say family lore is that the family was from Preszyml, a town about 90 miles from Tarnobrzeg, Grebow, and Radomysl nad Sanem, the other ancestral towns where possible family members lived. But I have not found any record supporting that family lore.

[2] A few geographical facts are necessary to understand the locations discussed in this post.  Brotmanville is an unincorporated community within the township of Pittsgrove so Pittsgrove is listed on the census records, not Brotmanville.  The colony where Baron de Hirsch and others created the farming settlement for poor Jewish immigrants was called the Alliance Colony. Vineland is a neighboring community where many of the Brotmans lived over the years.

More in the DNA Wars

Lately I have been drowning in DNA.  I am trying to figure out how to interpret the DNA results I have and make use of them in searching for my ancestors.  Specifically, my Brotman ancestors.  As I look forward to visiting Poland in May and seeing Tarnobrzeg, I more and more want to be able to find something that actually corroborates my conclusion that that was the general area where my great-grandparents Joseph and Bessie Brotman lived.  I was hoping that perhaps with DNA results, I’d find another clue, another cousin, who knew something I didn’t know.

Animation of the structure of a section of DNA...

Animation of the structure of a section of DNA. The bases lie horizontally between the two spiraling strands. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I dove into the DNA.  When I last wrote about the DNA tests, I talked about the fact that the autosomal DNA results supported the story my aunt had told about Joseph Brotman and his brother who had moved to New Jersey where they named the town for him, i.e., Brotmanville.  Moses Brotman’s granddaughter Elaine tested as a likely second cousin to my mother, just as she would be if Moses and Joseph were brothers.  I am still waiting for results of an autosomal DNA test of Larry, who is a great-grandson of Moses Brotman, for further support (I hope) for that conclusion.  But sadly the Brotmanville Brotmans are also not clear on where Moses lived or was born in Galicia.  Family stories suggest Preszyml, which isn’t too far from Tarnobrzeg (about 90 miles), but there is no paper record to support that story either.  They also do not have any records or stories about the parents or siblings of Moses Brotman.

But the DNA results also produced an unknown likely second cousin for my mother named Frieda.  Frieda’s niece and I have been in touch, and we have narrowed down the possibilities of the connection.  We believe that the connection is through Frieda’s mother whose name was Sabina Brot.  We think that Sabina’s father might have been Bessie Brotman’s brother. Here is a chart that helps to visualize the potential relationships:

second revision family chart for blog


Again, there is no paper trail, but this is how we reached that tentative conclusion:

First, not only did my mother test as a second cousin to Frieda, but my brother tested as a second to fourth cousin to Frieda.  But Elaine, the granddaughter of Moses, tested as a third to fifth cousin to Frieda, meaning that Frieda shared more DNA with my mother and my brother than she did with Elaine. Since Elaine would be more closely related to Joseph than she would be to Bessie,[1] I inferred that Frieda was more likely connected to my mother through Bessie, not Joseph.  (Keep in mind that Joseph and Bessie were supposedly first cousins, so even Elaine could share some DNA with Bessie from Bessie and Joseph’s mutual grandparents, Elaine’s great-great-grandparents.)

At the suggestion of Frieda’s niece, I then ordered an mtDNA test on my mother’s kit to see if she and Frieda were in the same haplogroup.  As defined by the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG), “A haplogroup is a genetic population group of people who share a common ancestor on the patrilineal or matrilineal line.”     Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is only passed by mothers to their children.  Although sons inherit mtDNA from their mothers, they do not pass it down to their children.  Thus, mtDNA is a way of testing the maternal line—from mothers to daughters and so on.  If Frieda and my mother were not in the same haplogroup, we would be able to infer that the connection had not come from Frieda’s grandmother as a sister of Bessie, but more likely from Frieda’s grandfather.  As it turned out, my mother was not in the same haplogroup as Frieda, meaning Frieda’s mother (Sabina)’s mother was not the connection to my mother’s mother’s mother.  Thus, we concluded that if my mother and Frieda are second cousins, it was most likely that Bessie, my mother’s grandmother, and Frieda’s grandfather were siblings.

If only Frieda knew the name of her grandfather or the town where he lived, we could make some progress.  But unfortunately, Frieda’s family knows almost nothing about the background of Sabina Brot or her parents, so we are once again at an impasse.  Frieda’s niece believes Sabina lived in Radomysl nad Sanem, a town not far at all from Tarnobrzeg.

I put aside the DNA at that point, figuring I’d done what I could do.  I emailed a few other “matches” on FamilyTreeDNA, and I received a few responses.  But no one had any helpful information or anything that seemed like a possible link to my family.

Then I decided to try and get more out of the results.  I asked a lot of questions in various Facebook genealogy groups, read a lot of blogs and websites, but was still without a clue.  I tried a program called DNAgedcom, which has a tool known as ADSA that allows you to see who else matches your kit on a specific chromosome and who else matches with that person.  It is a great tool, but unfortunately DNAgedcom is not yet equipped to handle the large number of matches that most Ashkenazi Jews will generate through autosomal DNA testing.

As I’ve learned, and as I’ve seen in my own family on several lines, Ashkenazi Jews are an endogamous population, meaning that they tended to marry within their own community and even within their own families.  Thus, a typical Ashkenazi Jew will share some bits of DNA with thousands of other Ashkenazi Jews.  My mother had thousands of matches, but most of them are so distantly related as to be irrelevant.  As was recently stated in one report, some researchers believe that all Ashkenazi Jews are descended from several hundred Jews who lived about 600 years ago.  So we are, in fact, all one big tribe.

That’s all well and good until you want to use DNA to find closer relatives.  For DNAgedcom, it was just too much data.  Their website estimates that a typical download will take about 30 minutes.  My mother’s data was still downloading after SIX hours, and it wasn’t nearly done.  In fact, it crashed and never completely downloaded.

Then people told me to try GEDmatch, another website for interpreting DNA results.  I sent the data to GEDmatch for my mother, brother, Bruce, and Elaine, and Frieda’s niece sent Frieda’s data.  Then I had no clue what to do with GEDmatch.  Like DNAgedcom, it’s a free site run by wonderful people who are interested in genealogical uses of DNA.  But free means you can’t complain when things aren’t clear or you can’t figure something out.  I was totally perplexed by GEDmatch.  Lots of numbers, lots of charts.  But what did they all mean?  And how could I use them to interpret the DNA results or find new matches?

Here’s a portion of one page of many showing (with identifying information deleted) some of my mother’s matches on GEDmatch:

GEDmatch sample for blog

Yeah, right? What does all THAT mean?

Back to the Facebook groups I went, and this time I found three incredible women, Julie, Leah, and Lana, who volunteered to help me figure out how to use the DNA results and the various tools available.  Together they have backgrounds in biology and IT and math.  We created our own space on Facebook to work together.  Well, mostly they worked, and I learned.  Am still learning.  They are amazing.  We have spent hours and hours online together despite the fact that we are spread across two continents and many times zones.

What I have learned?  To begin with, I now understand how DNA is affected during the process of meiosis, that is, the creation of gametes, i.e., sperm and egg.  I won’t show off here, though I do wonder what my high school biology was teaching us since I never learned this.  The bottom line is that DNA changes during meiosis when segments of the chromosomes “cross over” and then randomly sort themselves before the cell splits into ultimately four new cells, each with a unique selection of DNA on the chromosomes contained therein.  As a result, two children with the exact same parents will not have identical DNA since the sperm and egg that created the first sibling will have different DNA than the sperm and egg that created the second sibling.  (This may explain why my brother has the science brain and I, quite obviously, do not. I am sure he and others will gladly point out anything that is not correct about this description.)

Here’s a cute video that I found helpful:

Why is any of that relevant to using DNA for genealogy? Because it means that even siblings will share varying amounts of DNA and different DNA.  It’s not only that every generation has new parents mixing into their offspring’s DNA; it’s also that each parent shares different DNA with each child.  And with each generation there are more crossovers, more sortings, and thus more differences.   So when two people share a fairly large amount of overall DNA and also some large segments of DNA, it is quite reliable as an indication of a familial relationship.  Given all the crossovers and mixing and new DNA with every generation, it’s not likely that two people would share a lot of DNA unless they were related.

I won’t go into all the statistics and terminology.  That’s not my goal here.  I just wanted to explain why I’ve found these three women so helpful. I like to understand things, not just accept numbers without an explanation.  And it didn’t stop with the science.  My mentors then helped me figure out how to use GEDmatch to “triangulate.”  No, not like Bill Clinton.  In using DNA in genealogy, it helps to find out who shares DNA with you on a particular location on a particular chromosome. Then you need to figure out who among those people also share with each other.  Thus, if A, B, and C share with me on Chromosome 12 at a given location for a certain segment, but A and B do not share with C, I know that C shares with me from a different parent than A and B.  But I don’t know whether A and B share with the DNA I got from my mother or the DNA I got from my father.

Another thing I learned: I knew that chromosomes came in pairs, one from each parent for each of the 23 pairs of chromosomes.  But I didn’t know that the testing companies don’t really distinguish one side from the other.  They test two strands from each pair of chromosomes (one from each chromosome in that pair), but the two are jumbled together on the companies’ depictions of what is on that Chromosome 12 I mentioned above.  What that means is that when I look at their depiction of a chromosome and see matches, I’ve no idea which parent’s strand that match pairs up with.

Human metaphase chromosomes were subjected to ...

Human metaphase chromosomes were subjected to fluorescence in situ hybridization with a probe to the Alu Sequence (green signals)and counterstained for DNA (red). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For example, if you look at my brother’s chromosomes with my mother’s as a match, it looks like she matches all his DNA. All that orange is where she matches his DNA on his chromosomes.  But in fact, that’s just half of his DNA.  The DNA from my father isn’t reflected.  All we are seeing is that my mother gave my brother half of his DNA.

Mom DNA on Ira's Chromosomes


In this case, we know that this is DNA from his mother because, well, I know she’s his mother.  But when I look at someone else on my brother’s chromosomes, I don’t know if that person is matching the strand from my mother or my father unless I triangulate the three kits.

Here’s a more typical chromosome browser display with various matches:

typical browser results

Each color represents a different person who shares some DNA with my brother, and as you can see, there are some places where two colors overlap, like on the 21st chromosome.  How do I know whether those people share DNA with my brother that comes from my mother or from my father?  How do I know if those two overlapping people are related or just one shares my father’s DNA on the location and the other shares my mother’s DNA at that location?  Triangulation.  We have to figure out if those two people also share DNA with each other at that location and also whether they share with my mother at that particular location.  And that’s what Leah, Lana, and Julie taught me to do.

Where has that gotten me? Well, we found that on Chromosome 21 my mother and Frieda had a large segment overlap with three other people.  I then triangulated and found that all of them also matched Frieda and each other at that location on Chromosome 21.  That means that they are all somehow related: Frieda, my mother, and A, B, and C all share a common ancestor who passed on this rather large segment that they all share.  I don’t know for sure whether my mother got that segment from her mother or father, but since we have reason to believe that my mother and Frieda are connected through my great-grandmother’s Bessie’s family, it would seem that A, B, and C are also somehow related to my mother and Frieda through that family line.

So I emailed A, B, and C.  I’ve heard back from two of them, but with nothing that’s very helpful.  The little information each had showed nothing to explain this DNA connection.  There are no common surnames and no common geographic locations.  These two didn’t even have roots in Galicia that they knew of.  Huh? Now what?

Good question.  We are still tweaking the numbers, scouring other chromosomes, hoping something will provide a breakthrough.  But at the moment I hold out limited hope that we will find someone who can connect all the pieces.  It’s just too far back in a place where very few records survive and where surnames only started 200 years ago.  Maybe A, B, and C had relatives who adopted different surnames, not Brot or Brotman.  Maybe their great-great-grandfather moved to Ukraine or Lithuania or Latvia or mine moved away from there.  We can speculate all we want, and the DNA doesn’t lie.  But we may never, ever find the answer to how we are related.

So I have no better information today about where my great-grandparents lived or the names of their siblings or the names of earlier generations.  But I know a lot more about DNA and about the tools out there for using it, thanks to Lana, Julie, and Leah.


I will be taking a short break from the laptop—SPRING BREAK!  (Now that I am retired, it’s not really my spring break, but years and years of celebrating it still has its effects.)  See you soon.

For anyone who wants a broader introduction to DNA and chromosomes, Steve Morse (of wrote a very clear laymen’s overview of the topic here.







[1] Although Bruce, another great-grandchild of Joseph and Bessie, also tested as a third to fifth to Frieda, he shared more DNA with her than Elaine did, although he shared less than my brother did.  In theory at least, Bruce and Ira should test as the same distance from Frieda, if she is related to us through Bessie. But DNA does not always pass on in equal segments, or so I’ve learned.   Bruce might have more from Joseph’s side through his parents and grandparents than from Bessie’s side and my mother might have more.

This is NOT a test even if it looks and sounds like one!

As promised, here is a chart to illustrate one possible way that my mother Florence, Elaine and Frieda are all connected.

New PDF Chart showing relationships of Moses Joseph Bessie et al-page-001


There are a LOT of unknowns and assumptions here.

First, we are assuming that Joseph Brotman and Bessie Brot were first cousins, as family lore says.  If so, then one of Joseph’s parents was a sibling to one of Bessie’s parents.  On this chart, I am assuming that Joseph’s father Abraham was a sibling to Bessie’s mother Gittel Brot because I don’t think Abraham would have named a son Joseph if he had a living brother named Joseph.

Second, we are assuming based on DNA results that Joseph Brotman and Moses Brotman were brothers, making their children first cousins and their grandchildren, here Florence and Elaine, second cousins.  The DNA results seem to support that assumption.

Third, we are assuming that Florence and Frieda are also second cousins based on the DNA results, meaning that Gussie Brotman and Sabina Brod were first cousins, meaning that one of Gussie’s parents and one of Sabina’s parents were siblings.  Here, I am making the assumption that Bessie Brot, Gussie’s mother, was the sister of Sabina’s mother, but it could be that Bessie was Sabina’s father’s sister.  I don’t know whether Brod was a name Sabina got from her mother or her father because in Galicia in those times, the state often treated Jewish children as illegitimate if their parents had only a Jewish marriage ceremony and thus assigned the mother’s name to the children instead of the father’s.  So either is possible here.

So what does this all mean? Well, hold on because this is where it gets a bit slippery. Taking the above chart as true (which is still very speculative), it means that Elaine, Florence, and Frieda are all third cousins since they all have the same great-great-grandparents, i.e., whoever were the parents of Abraham Brotman and Gittel Brot.  (I don’t know whether Brotman and Brot were two versions of the same name or two completely different names in the family; both exist as surnames so they could be as unrelated as someone named Rosen is to someone named Rosenberg, for example.)

BUT Elaine and Florence are also second cousins (as well as third cousins) since they are the children of first cousins (Louis and Gussie) and the grandchildren of siblings (Moses and Joseph Brotman).  AND the same is true for Florence and Frieda: they are second cousins because they are the children of first cousins (Gussie and Sabina) and the grandchildren of siblings (Bessie and the parent of Sabina).


So my mother is a second cousin to both Elaine and Frieda (since her grandparents were first cousins), BUT Elaine and Frieda are not second cousins, only third cousins.  Their grandparents (Moses Brotman and Sabina’s parent) were not first cousins, just second cousins.

That is consistent with the DNA results which showed my mother as a second cousin to Elaine and also to Frieda but showed Elaine and Frieda as likely third to fifth cousins.

I have no idea whether that is a help or not.  In fact, I think I am more confused now than before.  Please tell me if that makes no sense.  Ask me questions.  Test my thinking.  Please.

And a big THANK YOU to my new cousin Phyllis for helping me sort through all of this!

Hyman and Sophie Brotman’s Sons: A Family Album


Sophie and Hyman Brotman

Sophie and Hyman Brotman

One of the benefits of getting to meet six of my Brotman second cousins was that I was able to obtain a lot more photographs of my Brotman relatives.  All six of the living grandchildren of Sophie and Hyman Brotman, my grandmother’s older brother, were able to attend our “reunion”—the three children of Saul and Vicky Brotman and the three children of Manny and Freda Brotman.  Sadly, the two daughters of Joseph Brotman, Hyman and Sophie’s oldest son, have passed away.  But I now have a good collection of pictures of Hyman, Sophie, their three sons, and their grandchildren.

Hyman Brotman was born in Galicia and arrived with  his mother, my great-grandmother Bessie,  and his sister Tillie in 1891 when he was about eight years old.  He lived on Ridge Street with his family until he married Sophie Weiss on March 12, 1904.  Hyman and Sophie had three sons.  Joseph Jacob was born on February 4, 1905, and was named for Hyman’s father, my great-grandfather Joseph Jacob Brotman.  Their second son, Saul, was born on April 27, 1907, and their third son Emanuel or Manny was born on May 9, 1910.

Hyman worked at various occupations, including as a chauffeur and in the sweatshops of NYC, but in the early 1920s he and his family moved to Hoboken, NJ, where he opened a liquor store.  My mother has childhood memories of visiting her uncle and aunt in Hoboken, though by that time the three boys were all grown, and sadly she has no memories of her cousins.

Hyman, Bruce and Sophie in the Hoboken liquor store

Bruce, Hyman and Sophie in the Hoboken liquor store


As their children reported, all three Brotman brothers were very close and very athletic.  They were all excellent swimmers and loved competing against each other, always arguing over who was the fastest.

Saul Sophie Joe and Manny

Saul Sophie Joe and Manny

Joe married Perle Gorlin on May 1, 1935, and they lived in Queens where Joe was employed as a salesman for Abbott Laboratories, according to the 1940 census. Joe was a pharmacist in New York, but later moved to Florida where he became involved in commercial real estate.

Joe and Perle Brotman 1940 census

Joe and Perle Brotman 1940 census

Joe and Perle had two daughters, Barbara, born in 1939 and probably named for Bessie, who had died just five years earlier, and Merle or Miki, born in 1941.  Here are some photos of Joe and Perle and other family members:

Perle, Joe and Sophie Brotman

Perle, Joe and Sophie Brotman


Hyman (second from left) and Joe (far right) and two unknown men

Hyman (second from left) and Joe (far right) and two unknown men

Joe and Saul Brotman

Joe and Saul Brotman

From Front Center, Clockwise: Joel, Herman, Sophie, Joe, Perle, Manny, Freda, Denny, Saul , and Vicky Brotman

From Front Center, Clockwise: Joel, Herman, Sophie, Joe, Perle, Manny, Freda, Denny, Saul , and Vicky Brotman

Saul Brotman was an excellent athlete, especially in swimming and handball.  He graduated from Hoboken High School and started college at the New Jersey College of Pharmacy in 1926; he then transferred to and graduated from Panzer College, which has since merged with Montclair State University in New Jersey.  He later got a master’s from Rutgers University.

1932 Panzer College yearbook

1932 Panzer College yearbook

Saul at Panzer College

Saul at Panzer College





In a comment posted in response to an earlier blog post, Bruce wrote the following about how his parents Saul and Vicky met:

In Manhattan Beach (Brooklyn) there was a beach club, Manhatten Private. It had pools, handball courts, tennis and other sports. My parents were playing handball, my parents were both fine athletes, but not with each other. The ball from my mom’s court was accidently hit toward my dad’s court some distance away. My mom called to my dad saying “ball please”. Dad picked it up and threw it to mom. He then turned to his cousin, with whom he was playing and said “I’m going to marry that girl”. That was about 1940 or 41 I guess. He asked her out several times but she refused. On December 7 1941 my cousin Mel was born. Somehow my father found out and went to the hospital. (Mel was mom’s older brother Al’s first child). Mom asked dad what he was doing there – he said that he thought she might need some help, noting that Pearl Harbor had just been attacked. She apparently knew at that moment that she loved him. The rest is history.”

Vicky Horowitz Brotman

Vicky Horowitz Brotman

Saul and Vicky were married in 1942.

Saul served in the US Army during World War II and won a handball championship while serving in the army. After the war, he became a teacher in New Jersey, where he coached many state championship teams.  After 32 years as a teacher,  he left teaching after being assaulted by the parent of one of his students.  Saul then became the pension director for a union.

Saul in the army

Saul in the army

Saul and Vicky 1940s

Saul and Vicky 1940s

Saul and Vicky had three sons, Bruce, Ronald and Lester.

les bruce ron

Les, Bruce and Ron

Bruce, Ron and Les Brotman

Bruce, Ron and Les Brotman

Saul, Bruce and Vicky at Bruce's bar mtizvah

Saul, Bruce and Vicky at Bruce’s bar mtizvah

Saul remained a great athlete all his life.  In fact, Bruce told me that when Saul was in his seventies, Bruce challenged him to a game of handball, thinking that he could easily beat his father. Instead, Saul soundly defeated his much younger son;  he won four straight games, with Bruce unable to score a single point in any of the four games.

Saul and Bruce

Saul and Bruce

Saul and Vicky

Saul and Vicky

Manny, the youngest of Hyman and Sophie’s sons, was also an excellent athlete like his older brothers.

Manny (far left) at camp in 1925

Manny (far left) at camp in 1925

manny 1926

Manny November 1928

Manny November 1928


Like his brother Saul, he began college at the New Jersey College of Pharmacy, but he transferred to the University of Iowa, from which he graduated.

Manny with his fraternity brothers at U Iowa

Manny with his fraternity brothers at U Iowa

He also graduated from John Marshall Law School (New Jersey), which was later taken over by Seton Hall University. Manny became a member of the New Jersey bar in 1938.

Letter informing Manny that he has passed the New Jersey bar exam

Letter informing Manny that he has passed the New Jersey bar exam

Manny married Freda Feinman on December 22,  1940.

Freda and Manny's wedding invitation 194?

Freda and Manny’s wedding invitation 1940

Manny and Freda 1940s

Manny and Freda 1940s

Manny enlisted in the US Army in 1944 during World War II.

Manny Brotman

Manny Brotman

Manny practiced law for some time, but then joined J.I. Kislak Mortgage Corporation, a subsidiary of J.I. Kislak, Inc.  J.I.Kislak, Inc. was a residential and commercial Realtor, originally based in Hoboken and then in Jersey City, and Kislak Mortgage was primarily a residential mortgage banking company, one of the largest in NJ at the time, based in Newark.  He was president and then chairman of Kislak Mortgage for many years, was president of the Mortgage Bankers Association of NJ, and a long-time board member and two-term Treasurer of the Mortgage Bankers Association of America, where he received the Distinguished Service award. Kislak Realty, a commercial mortgage firm, where he became the president.  He was often quoted as an expert on veteran’s housing and housing in general in various newspaper articles.  Here is one example of an article that ran in several newspapers across the country:  Lebanon_Daily_News_July_10__1971_Lebanon__PA_Manny_Brotman

Manny and Freda had three children: Joel, Denny and Bonnie.  Here are some pictures of Manny and his family:

Manny, Joel and Freda

Manny, Joel and Freda

Denny, Bonnie and Freda

Denny, Bonnie and Freda

The Feinman and Brotman families June 16, 1932

The Feinman and Brotman families June 16, 1937

From left to right: Aron Feinman, Hyman Brotman, Mary Feinman, Sophie Brotman, Manny Brotman, Sam Feinman, Freda Feinman, Saul Brotman (according to the back of this photograph)


I did not know Hyman or Sophie or any of their sons, but I was very fortunate to meet six members of the next generation, my second cousins Bruce, Ron, Les, Joel, Denny, and Bonnie.  They all made the effort to come to New York City, some from as far away as Florida and Ohio.  I really enjoyed meeting and talking to each one of them and getting a chance to meet some of their children, four of whom also showed up during the course of the weekend.

What a wonderful tribute to their grandparents and parents that these cousins and their children cared enough about the extended family, including some second cousins they’d never met,  to make such a united effort to come to New York so that we could all be together.


Saul and Manny's descendants

Six of Hyman and Sophie’s grandchildren and three of their great-grandchildren




Enhanced by Zemanta

Passover wishes and thoughts


Passover Seder Plate

Passover Seder Plate (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


As we approach the first night of Passover on Monday evening, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed, as I usually am this time of year.  There is the cleaning, shopping, cooking, and all the other details that go into preparing the house for Passover and for the seder.  I am also feeling torn because there are so many things I want to do in connection with my research and the blog.  I have lots of photos to scan and post, both from my Brotman relatives and my Rosenzweig relatives, stories that need to be written, documents to request, people to contact.  But I do not have time.  So while the kugel is baking and before I start turning over the dishes and pots and pans for the holiday, I thought I’d take a few minutes to ponder what Passover means to me this year.


Passover was once my favorite holiday of the year.  I loved the seder because as a child, it was my only formal exposure to Jewish history and Jewish rituals.  I grew up in a secular home.  We did not belong to a synagogue, I did not go to Hebrew school, and there were no bar or bat mitzvahs celebrated in our family when we were children.  It was just fine with me, but I was also very curious about what it meant to be Jewish.  Passover gave me a taste of what being Jewish meant and could mean.  My Uncle Phil, my Aunt Elaine’s husband, had grown up in a traditional Jewish home, and although he was not terribly religious either, he wanted to have a seder.


So every year we had a seder, first only at my aunt’s house, and then my mother started doing a second seder at our house.  My uncle, the only one who knew Hebrew, would chant all the blessings and sing all the songs, and the rest we would read in English from the Haggadah for the American Family (not Maxwell House).  I was enchanted—I loved the music, the stories and all the rituals. I looked forward to it every year.



As an adult, I began my own exploration of what it means to be Jewish.  I married a man from a traditional family, and he wanted to keep the traditions and rituals that were part of his childhood.  I also wanted to learn more and do more.  I took classes, I read, I got involved with the synagogue, and over time the Jewish holidays and rituals and prayers and services became second nature to me and provided me with meaning and comfort and joy.

Passover has become just one small part of my Jewish life and identity now, and over time, it has lost its magic.  It no longer is my favorite holiday of the year.  The matzoh gives me indigestion, the chore of changing the dishes and pots and pans has become tiresome, and the seder is so familiar that it no longer feels fresh and new and exciting.


If I look at it through my grandson’s eyes, I can feel some of that old excitement, but he is still too young to ask questions or to understand the stories.  He just likes the songs and looking for the afikomen and being with his family, which is more than enough for now.  This picture, one of my favorite pictures ever, captures some of that feeling.  From generation to generation, traditions are being preserved.

L'dor v'dor  Harvey and Nate

L’dor v’dor Harvey and Nate


But this Passover I will try to take the time to think about things a little differently.  I will think not just about Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea and going from slavery to freedom.  I will think about all my maternal ancestors who made their own Exodus by leaving poverty and oppression and prejudice and war in Romania and Galicia to come to the place where they hoped to find streets lined with gold.


I will think of my grandfather Isadore, the first Goldschlager to come, leading the way for his father, his mother, his sister and his brother.  I will think of how he traveled under his brother David’s name to escape from the army and come to America.


I will think of his aunt, Zusi Rosenzweig, who met him at the boat at Ellis Island.  I will think of his uncle Gustave Rosenzweig, who was the first Rosenzweig to come to the United States back in about 1888, with his wife Gussie and infant daughter Lillie, a man who stood up for his extended family on several occasions. And I will think of his aunt Tillie Rosenzweig Strolowitz, who came to the US with her husband and her children, who lost her husband shortly after they arrived in the US.  I will remember how she took in my grandfather and his sister Betty when their father, Moritz, died, and their own mother and brother David had not yet arrived.


And I will think about my great-grandfather Joseph Brotman, who came here alone in about 1888 from Galicia, whose sons Abraham and David from his first marriage came next, and whose son Max as just a ten year old boy may have traveled to America all alone.  I will think of Bessie, my great-grandmother for whom I am named, who brought two small children, Hyman and Tillie, on that same trip a few years later, and who had three more children with Joseph between 1891 when she arrived and 1901, when Joseph died.  The first of those three children was my grandmother Gussie Brotman, who married my grandfather Isadore Goldschlager after he spotted her on Pacific Street while visiting his Rosenzweig cousins who lived there as well.


All of these brave people, like the Israelites in Egypt before them, pulled up their stakes, left their homes behind, carrying only what they could carry, to seek a better life.  I don’t know how religious any of them were or whether they saw themselves as brave, as crossing a Red Sea of their own.  But when I sit and listen to the blessings and the traditional Passover songs this year, I will focus on my grandson and see in him all the courage and determination his ancestors had to have so that he could be here, free to live as he wants to live and able to ask us, “Ma Nish Ta Na Ha Leila Ha Zeh?” Why is this night different?


Why is this night different from all other nights? It isn’t because we are free; it’s because on Passover we remember what it was like not to be free and to be grateful for the gifts of those who enabled us to be free.

Happy Passover to all, and thank you to all my  Brotman, Goldschlager and Rosenzweig relatives for making this such an exciting journey for me.






Enhanced by Zemanta

More Manna from Heaven: Of Bessie, Joseph, Max and the Brotmanville Brotmans

As I wrote yesterday, the notes of the conversation with my Aunt Elaine about the family history are remarkably accurate.  Although much of what was in there I had learned either from my mother or brother or cousins or from my own research, there were a few stories in the notes, a few comments, that revealed something I had not known for sure before.  Keeping in mind the overall accuracy of the information that my aunt gave to Joel, it is very interesting to think about this additional information.

For example, there are some details about Bessie and Joseph that were revealing.  According to the notes, Bessie and Joseph were first cousins.first cousins  Although family lore did say that Joseph and Bessie were cousins, I did not realize that they were first cousins. Since both Joseph and Bessie had the surname Brotman or Brot, it seems that their fathers must have been brothers. What’s odd about this is that it means that Joseph’s father Abraham had a brother who was also apparently named Joseph, if the records are accurate.  It seems unlikely, given Jewish naming patterns, that Abraham would have named his son the same name as his brother, unless the brother had died.  Since Bessie was younger than Joseph (her husband), that is not possible.  The other possibility is that Bessie’s father and Joseph were both named for the same ancestor.  And, of course, the final possibility is that the records that indicated that Bessie’s father’s name was Joseph were incorrect.

Joel’s notes also indicate that after Joseph’s first wife died, leaving him with four children, “they decided” that Bessie should marry Joseph to help with the children.they decided  The notes don’t indicate who made the decision, but it probably was not Bessie. It’s sad to think of my great-grandmother being put in that situation, and it certainly takes the idea of any romance out of the equation.  But Joseph and Bessie went on to have five children of their own, so I’d like to assume that although it may have started as an arranged marriage for the convenience of Joseph, that love grew with time and the shared experiences and children that Joseph and Bessie had.  Call me a romantic.  I know that I am.

After Joseph himself died in 1901, the notes report that Bessie did laundry work to make money to support herself and her children, including Sam, who was just an infant, Frieda, Gussie, Tillie, and Hyman.  Tillie and Hyman were working in sweatshops, so Gussie, my not-yet-seven year old grandmother, stayed home to take care of Frieda and Sam.  Not long after, out of desperation, Bessie married “the shoemaker Moskowitz,” who my aunt reported to be very stingy.  He had five children of his own. moskowitz

I assume that my aunt’s source for these stories was my grandmother, who obviously resented Philip Moskowitz and chose to live with her sister Tillie in Brooklyn instead of staying with her mother and Sam and Frieda when Bessie remarried, so I know I have to consider the source.  My great-grandmother Bessie lived with Philip for many years, more years than she lived with Joseph, and she was buried near him, not Joseph, when she died. Bessie and Philip Moskowitz headstones As with her marriage to Joseph, her relationship with Philip may have started out of need and convenience, but it also must have developed into something more.  Or at least I hope it did.

Bessie Brotman

Bessie Brotman

Of course, it is also possible that the source of this information was Bessie herself.  Bessie did not die until 1934, when my aunt was seventeen years old.  Knowing my aunt’s interest in the family history, I assume that she must have talked to her grandmother Bessie herself as she grew up, so perhaps the stories are not just my grandmother’s version of the facts, but Bessie’s version as well.

One other comment from these notes is a rather sweet one that I hope Max Brotman‘s grandchildren and great-grandchildren will appreciate:

max mason


Obviously, Max, who was probably the most successful businessman of the Brotman children, was also a very generous man.  He provided food to my mother’s family during the Depression.  Here is a great-uncle I’d never even heard of, someone my mother was too young then to remember, who helped out my grandmother and her family in a time of need.  Thank you, Max.

Max Brotman

Max Brotman


The final tidbit from the notes from Joel’s conversation with my aunt is this one:brotmanville


In case you cannot read that, it says, “Brother came to America landed in NJ started a chicken farm. So successful that they named the town after him.”  The quote points back to Joseph.  This is obviously a reference to Brotmanville.  Although it is not entirely accurate—Brotmanville was named for Abraham Brotman, who started a manufacturing business to employ the residents whose farms were failing, not for Abraham’s father Moses, who had the chicken farm—the note nevertheless provides support for the claim that we are in fact related to the Brotmanville Brotmans.  As you may recall, Moses Brotman also had a father named Abraham, as revealed by his headstone and death certificate.Moses Brotman headstone Moses Brotman death certificate_0001_NEW


He was born in 1847 in Galicia, making him a contemporary of Joseph, my great-grandfather.  I cannot rely on these notes alone to assert with any certainty that Moses and Joseph were brothers, but given the overall accuracy of what my aunt told Joel, it is enough evidence for me to start once again to try and find a connection.  If we can find that connection and also learn where Moses Brotman lived in Galicia, it will help to answer a number of lingering questions.

Moses BrotmanHe certainly has the Brotman cheekbones.  Could this be what Joseph looked like also?



Enhanced by Zemanta