Two More Generations Back! The Amazing Seligmanns

Get ready for a real brain twister here.

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

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

Jakob Seligmann death record

Jakob Seligmann death record


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

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

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

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

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

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

Pedigree Chart for Emil Seligmann

Pedigree Chart for Emil Seligmann


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

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

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


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


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

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

Hirsch "Isaac" ben Seligmann headstone Found at

Hirsch “Isaac” ben Seligmann headstone
Found at

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

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

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

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

Extended Pedigree Chart for Emil Seligmann

Extended Pedigree Chart for Emil Seligmann


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

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

Martha Seligmann nee Mayer death record

Martha Seligmann nee Mayer death record

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

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

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


More Hidden Treasure from Wolfgang’s Magic Suitcase Per the licen... Per the license: These images are public domain. License . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have had many exciting finds through the course of my search for my family history: wonderful photographs and letters, newspaper articles, government documents, birth and marriage and death certificates, and so on.  But for me some of the most special finds have been the family trees prepared by other members of my extended family, like the family tree prepared by my Aunt Elaine.  These trees are special not only for the information they convey, but also because they tie me to someone else who cared about the family history and wanted it preserved for posterity.

So you can imagine how excited I was when my cousin Wolfgang sent me a four page family tree prepared at least 75 years ago by one of our Seligmann cousins in Germany.  We know that this tree was prepared by a child of Karoline Seligmann, the daughter of my three-times great-grandfather Moritz Seligmann and his first wife, Eva Schoenfeld because the tree refers to Karoline Seligmann and her husband Siegfried Seligmann as “our parents.” Karoline (sometimes spelled Caroline or Carolina) and Siegfried had five sons and two daughters: Heinrich, Eva, Wilhelm, Emil, Eugen, Rosa, and Carl.  Two of the sons died in infancy, Wilhelm and Carl, , and one I cannot account for beyond his birth, Heinrich. Emil, Eugen, and Eva all died during the Holocaust.  Only one child survived the Holocaust, their daughter Rosa, who immigrated to the US in 1940.  I discussed Karoline’s children here.  I don’t know which child created this tree.

Wolfgang thought Emil was the most likely author of the tree, so for simplicity purposes I will refer to it as Emil’s tree and to its author as Emil.  (The last date given on the tree is 1909, and unfortunately it stops with the generation of Karoline and Siegfried and does not include their children.)  Although I cannot be sure which of the surviving children—Emil, Eva, Eugen, or Rosa—was my fellow genealogist, I am extremely grateful to whoever created this tree because it provides me with one more generation of my Seligmann and Schoenfeld relatives—the siblings of my three-times great-grandfather, Moritz Seligmann, and the siblings of my three-times great-grandmother, Babetta Schoenfeld (Eva’s sister).  It, of course, also raises new questions and new pathways for research.

Starting with page 1 of the tree:

Page 1 of Emil's tree

Page 1 of Emil’s tree

It says at the top, “Our great-grandparents in Gaulsheim: a) fathers side: Jacob Seeligmann, his wife: (Merle) Marta nee Mayer (Gaulsheim).”  I found it interesting that the early spelling of the family name was Seeligmann.  Marta (Martha) Mayer’s name is consistent with the record I obtained for the marriage of their son Moritz to Eva Schoenfeld.  Jacob and Marta were my four-times great-grandparents.  According to prior records I’d obtained, they were both born around 1773.

According to Emil’s tree, Jacob and Marta had ten children. Until seeing this tree, I had only found three: my three-times great-grandfather Moritz and two other sons, Leopold and Isaac.  I had found Leopold and Isaac on the Steinheim Institute website, but not the other seven children.  According to the Emil tree, they were Simon, Martha, Mina, Caroline, Marx, Salomon, and Babette.

The next section of the first page and the second page provide information for the ten children of Jacob and Marta.  For Simon and Isaac, it seemed that Emil had no information, except that Simon was living in Bingen. The entry for Leopold simply says “in Gaulsheim.”    But then on the second page of the tree (see below), Emil returned to Simon, Isaac, and Leopold and listed what appears to be the names of their children.  It looks like he thought Simon had two sons, Louis and Richard, and Isaac had a son named Hermann.  Leopold’s children were Malchen, Sigmund, Sophie, August, and Roschen.

Page 2 of Emil's tree

Page 2 of Emil’s tree

This, however, is not consistent with what I found on the Steinheim website.   According to the Steinheim website, Isaac was born in 1795 and died in 1860.  He seems to have lived in Gaulsheim all his life.  The Steinheim site states that Isaac married Rosine Blad and that they had five children: Pauline, Magdalena, Henriette, Ludwig (Louis), and Richard. My best guess is that Ludwig and Richard are the same people who Emil listed as Louis and Richard.  I don’t know whether Emil is correct or the Steinheim site is correct as to whether they were Simon’s sons or Isaac’s sons.  I also don’t know where Hermann fits into the family.  Was he really Simon’s son and Emil had it backwards?  I don’t know.

There is also some inconsistency between Emil’s facts for Leopold and the information on the Steinheim website.  The Steinheim site lists Leopold’s wife as Caroline Marum, and I found a marriage record for them dated December 17, 1849.

Marriage Record of Leopold Seligmann and Caroline Marum

Marriage Record of Leopold Seligmann and Caroline Marum

Leopold Seligmann marriage record

According to the Steinheim site, they had five children: Amalie, Rosalie (Roschen?), Sophia, August, and Therese.  Emil did not have Therese or Amalie, but had instead Malchen and Sigmund. I don’t know which information is more accurate.

For Jacob and Marta’s daughter Martha, Emil wrote that she married Benjamin Seeligmann. To the right of Martha’s name is a box that says, “Our grandparents in Bingen.” Then next, for our mutual ancestor Moritz, Emil wrote “our grandfather in Gau-Algesheim.”  There is a date underneath that looks like 13-2-1877; I believe that must be his date of death.  But how could Martha and Moritz, sister and brother, both be Emil’s grandparents? Well, that will become clear later on.

For Mina, it says that she was the wife of Leopold Mayer of Oberursel and that they had one child, Adolf Eduard, who died and was never married. I wonder if this Mayer was a relative of Mina’s mother Marta Mayer.  The next child of Jacob and Marta, Caroline, married Moses Moreau (?) of Worrstadt, and they had four children whose names are written underneath; the first I cannot decipher (maybe Markus?), but the other three are Albert, Bertha, and Alice.

The last entry on the first page is a long one for Marx Seligmann.  With the help of the kind people in the German Genealogy group on Facebook, I was able to get a sense of what happened to Marx.  He married Rosina Loeser on June 11, 1838.  They were legally separated in June 1848, and he agreed to pay support for the children.  They were divorced in February, 1849.

On page 2 of the Emil tree, Emil continued with the facts about Marx Seligmann.

Page 2 of Emil's tree

Page 2 of Emil’s tree

This is the hardest part of the document for me to understand, despite help from Wolfgang and the German Genealogy group.  At the top are listed the names of the two daughters of Marx and Rosina: Mathilde and Sophie. But what does it say underneath?  All my German helpers agreed that is says, “Underage ??? in Amerika.”  One thought it said “Wife in Amerika,” another thought it said “Later in Amerika.”  Who went to America?  And when did they go? I have started looking, but so far have not had any luck.

(As I was finishing this post, Wolfgang sent me another handwritten version of this tree with more information about Marx and a few others.  I need to finish deciphering that one and then will update with more information.)

Emil wrote that Salomon had a wife named Anna Chailly of Mainz and a son and daughter, whose names are not listed here.  I found an entry in the Mainz Family Register database on for Salomon and his family, and his children were named Emilie, Mathilde, Siegmund, and Jacob.  Jacob married Dora Rosenberg in 1887, and they had a daughter named Anna Dora, born in 1890.  I have not yet found any further information for the other three children of Salomon and Anna.

Finally, for Babette, the tree recorded that she had died unmarried and had lived in Gaulsheim.

That completed Emil’s entries for the children of Jacob Seeligmann and Marta Mayer.  He then drew a horizontal line across the page as if to start a new section.  Under that line he wrote, “Isaac Seeligmann and his wife Felicitas nee Goetzel of Bingen.”   I was totally confused when I saw this; was this the same Isaac Seligmann, the son of Jacob and Marta, about whom Emil had written already?  Underneath the names of this Isaac and Felicitas was a list of their children, and they were not the same names that I had found on the Steinheim site, discussed above, for Jacob and Marta’s son Isaac.  Instead, the following names were listed: Benjamin, Theodor, and Martha.  Who were these people?

According to my German Genealogy helpers, under Benjamin’s name it says, “Our grandfather from Bingen.” Suddenly something clicked.  This was the Benjamin Seeligmann who married Martha Seligmann, the daughter of Jacob and Marta and the sister of Moritz.  Remember that Martha and Benjamin had also been named as Emil’s grandparents.  This section of the tree is reporting on Emil’s other great-grandparents, the other Isaac Seligmann and his wife Felicitas Goetzel, and their children.

Was this Isaac Seeligmann related to Jacob Seeligmann, my four-times-great-grandfather?  They all lived in the Bingen-Gaulsheim area.  I’ve yet to find any documentation linking the two different Seligmann families, but my hunch is that they were in fact cousins if not brothers, meaning that Benjamin Seeligmann might have married a cousin, Martha Seligmann.

Emil then reported on his grandfather Benjamin’s siblings.  Theodor was living in Nancy (in France, presumably), and he had a son August who lived in Paris.  Martha married Isaac Cahn of Mainz, and they had a son Adolf Cahn.

That brings me to the third page of Emil’s tree.

Page 3 of Emil's tree

Page 3 of Emil’s tree

This page is primarily devoted to Emil’s grandparents Benjamin Seeligmann and Martha Seligmann.  He provides their birth and death dates and then the names of their seven children: Siegfried, Emilie, Hermann, Karoline, Ferdinand, Lambert, and Bertha.  Under their names, Emil reported on who some of them married, including his father Siegfried, who married Karoline Seligmann.  Suddenly the rest of the tree made sense to me.

Emil’s father Siegfried was the son of Martha Seligmann; his mother Karoline was the daughter of Moritz Seligmann.  Moritz and Martha were siblings, so Siegfried and Karoline were first cousins.  Thus, Emil’s paternal grandmother Martha and his maternal grandfather Moritz were sister and brother.  Now if in fact Benjamin Seeligmann, Martha’s husband, was also a cousin, there is truly a remarkable amount of inbreeding there.  Here is a family chart that will (I hope) help to visualize these relationships:

Pedigree Chart for Emil Seligmann

Pedigree Chart for Emil Seligmann


The last entry on the third page provided me with the death dates for Moritz Seligmann and Eva Schoenfeld, information I had not had before.

Finally on page four Emil discusses his maternal great-grandparents, a) the family of Jacob Seligmann of Bingen, already discussed under his paternal great-grandparents; and b) the family of his grandmother Eva Schoenfeld, sister of my three-times great-grandmother Babetta Schoenfeld, the sister who married Moritz Seligmann after Eva died in 1835.

Page 4 of Emil's tree

Page 4 of Emil’s tree

As I already knew, Eva and Babetta were the daughters of Bernard Schoenfeld and Rosa Goldmann of Erbes-Budesheim.  I also had records of the names and births of most of their children.  Emil’s list confirmed these and added one more for whom I did not have a record, Alexander.  The children as listed on Emil’s tree are Alexander, Eva and Babetta (described as the first and second wives of Moritz Seligmann of Gau-Algesheim), Maria Anna (wife of Alexander Levi of Kirchheimbolanden), Sara (wife of Leokov (?) Kahn of Bubenheim), Zibora (wife of Karl Levi of Alzey and mother of Albert, Bernhard, and Berta), and Rebecca (wife of Salomon Goldmann of Kirchheimbolanden).  Then at the bottom Emil listed the children of Maria Anna and Alexander Levi: Fridolin, Leonhard, Judith, Lina, Hedwig, Elise, and Ottmar.

I was recently contacted through Wolfgang by one of the grandchildren of Zibora Schoenfeld Levi and am hoping to learn even more about my Schoenfeld ancestors.

What a treasure trove this tree is!  Such a gift from one of my predecessors as a family historian—someone who died during the Holocaust and who left behind evidence not only of his ancestors’ lives, but of his own.  Now it is my job to try and fill in the details and continue the story.




The Faces of My Past: The Magic of Photography

I received some remarkable photographs from my cousin Suzanne, the daughter of Fred and Ilse Michel.  Fred, as I wrote about here, was the grandson of August Seligmann, who was my great-great-grandfather Bernard Seligman’s brother.  Fred would have been my grandfather John Nusbaum Cohen’s second cousin, making him my second cousin, twice removed.  Suzanne is thus my third cousin, once removed.

Suzanne sent me a number of photographs, including some taken of prints that had hung in her childhood home in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  For example, here are two prints of Bingen, Germany, the town where Fred Michel lived and also where our mutual ancestor Moritz Seligmann lived (in Gaulsheim, now part of Bingen) before moving to Gau-Algesheim.  It is also close to where my cousin Wolfgang now lives, and he identified the location and some of the structures depicted therein.

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Bingen 3

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

These prints show the city of Bingen’s location at the intersection of the Rhine River and the Nahe River.  According to Wolfgang, the tower in the river is called the Mäuseturm or “tower of mice,” and the church on the hill in the top print is the Rochuskapelle or the chapel on Rochus Hill.  Wolfgang said that his grandfather Julius and his family survived the last part of World War II in the Rochus chapel. Wolfgang told me that much of the city of Bingen was destroyed by British bombers in November, 1944.  The bombs destroyed the apartment whereJulius Seligmann and his wife and sons lived, so they moved to the Rochuskappelle, which the monks had opened for those who had lost their homes and their possessions.

On the reverse of the top print is written, “So that you always think of Bingen and your friends: ???-Kathi-Rainer und Christa Güttler. Bingen, Nov,11, 1974.”  The reverse of the second print says, “The loving Ize and his wife to remember Bingen from Gret and Kath Scharer.”   Based on the captions on these photographs from an album that belonged to Fred Michel, these were close friends.

Courtesy of the family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the family of Fred and Ilse Michel

scharers in album

These prints of Bingen before the war and the photographs of Fred’s friends made me think about what was lost during the war.  Not just all the millions of people who died, but also the landscape, the history, and, for the many who were lucky enough to emigrate, their homeland.  Perhaps these old prints and the pictures of his friends helped keep some of those happier memories alive for Fred Michel.

Here is a photograph of Fred Michel and his mother Franziska Seligmann Michel taken when Fred was a young boy, when he likely could never foresee leaving Germany and moving to a place called Scranton:

Fred Michel and Franziska Seligmann Michel  Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Fred Michel and Franziska Seligmann Michel
Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Here is a photograph of Franziska’s headstone.  She died four years before Fred left for America.

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

I believe these are photographs of Fred as a young man, taken in Munich in 1928, according to the caption:

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Although he is not identified in the photographs above, here is a photograph of Fred with Ilse and his children sometime around 1960, and it appears to be the same man many years later:

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

I was quite excited about these two portraits. I know who is in these photographs because of the inscriptions on the reverse:

August Seligmann

August Seligmann Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Rosa Goldmann Seligmann

Rosa Bergmann Seligmann Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

August was my great-great-granduncle, the brother of Bernard Seligman.  Here is a picture of Bernard, my great-great-grandfather.  Can you see any resemblance between the two brothers?

Bernard Seligman

Bernard Seligman

Rosa’s headstone is the one that was terribly defaced in the Gau-Algesheim cemetery.

closeup of Rosa Seligmann headstone

And here are the portraits that intrigue me the most.

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Who are these people?

On the reverse of one of these is the following:

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

By editing and zooming and enlarging the script below the photographer’s information, I was able to see more clearly what was written there:

enhanced snip photo 2

I could decipher Seligmann there as well as von Gau-Algesheim to the right, but I was not able to read the word underneath Seligmann.  I posted the snip of this to the German Genealogy group on Facebook, and two people there confirmed that the word was the German word for “grandfather.”  One of the two also insisted that the name was Schafmann, not Seligmann, but I still am sure that it says Seligmann, and not only because I know that was the family’s name.  What do you think?

So if this man was a Seligmann and a grandfather, who was he?  Since the portrait belonged to Fred Michel, I would have assumed that it was his grandfather, that is, August Seligmann.  But the man in this portrait does not appear to be the same person as the man in the portrait above, which was clearly labeled August Seligmann.  So my thought/hope was that this was the grandfather of Fred’s mother Franzeska, who must have given these old pictures to her only child.  If that is the case, then these two portraits depict my great-great-great-grandparents, Moritz Seligmann and Babetta nee Schonfeld.

But Moritz was born in 1800 and Babetta in 1810.  I wondered whether there would even have been photography portraits like these in their lifetime.  I looked again at the label on the back of the photograph of Moritz and saw that the photographer was Hermann Emden of Frankfort.  I took a chance and googled the name, not expecting anything.  I was quite surprised and happy to get numerous hits for Hermann Emden.  His full name was Hermann Seligmann Emden, and he was a very well-known and successful Jewish photographer and artist.  Here is the entry from the Jewish Encyclopedia for Hermann Seligmann Emden:

German engraver and photographer; born at Frankfort-on-the-Main Oct. 18, 1815; died there Sept. 6, 1875. Early evincing a love for art and unable to afford an academic education, he entered an engraving and lithographic establishment as an apprentice, endeavoring especially to perfect himself in the artistic side of his work. In 1833 he left Frankfort and went to Hersfeld, Darmstadt, and Bonn. His portrait-engraving of Pope Pius IX. and his views of Caub, Bornhofen, and the Maxburg belong to this period. He also turned his attention to photography, then in its infancy, and was one of the first to establish a studio at Frankfort-on-the-Main. He made his reputation as photographer by the work “Der Dom zu Mainz und Seine Denkmäler in 36 Originalphoto-graphien,” to which Lübke refers several times in his “History of Art.” Emden was the first to compose artistic photographic groups (“Die Rastatter Dragoner,” “Die Saarbrücker Ulanen,” etc.), and was also among the first to utilize photography for the study of natural science.

You can see some of his more famous works here.

Once I saw that Emden died in 1875, I was even more certain that these were portraits of Moritz and Babetta Seligmann.  August would have only been 34 when Emden died, and the man in that portrait is quite clearly older than 34.  It has to be his father Moritz. Moritz and Babetta had to be quite comfortable, I would think, having their photographs taken by such a successful photographer.  I also wonder whether Emden was a relative.  Seligmann was a fairly common name, and it was often used as a first name as well as a surname.  But perhaps further research will reveal some familial connection.

But for me what is most important is that I am looking at the faces of my three-times great-grandparents.  I never ever thought that would be possible.

New Seligmann Discoveries: Erbes-Budesheim and the Schoenfelds, Part I

While you all may have thought that for the last several months I was obsessed with Nusbaums and Dreyfusses (and I guess I was), there were several other things happening in my genealogy life (not to mention my actual life) that I haven’t had a chance to blog about yet.  One of the biggest things was the discovery of documents and information about another line of my family, the Schoenfelds, and another ancestral town, Erbes-Budesheim.

Erbes-Büdesheim in January 2006

Erbes-Büdesheim in January 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Who are the Schoenfelds?  Moritz Seligmann, my 3-x great-grandfather from Gau Algesheim, married two Schoenfeld sisters (not at the same time, of course).  First, he married Eva Schoenfeld and had four children with her, and then he married her younger sister, Babetta, my 3-x great-grandmother, the mother of Bernard Seligman, my great-great-grandfather.  Moritz and Babetta had seven children together in addition to the four born to Eva.

Because the birth names of women often disappear, it is all too easy to overlook the family names and lines that end when a woman changes her name to that of her husband.  Although I was always aware of the family names of Goldschlager, Brotman, Cohen, Nusbaum, and Seligman (as well as those from my paternal grandmother’s side, not yet covered on the blog), I had no awareness of a family connection to the names Rosenzweig, Dreyfuss, Jacobs, and Schoenfeld.  Discovering the Schoenfeld name, like discovering those others, was an exciting revelation and addition to my extended family tree.

So how did this happen?  As I wrote back on December 1, Ludwig Hellriegel’s book about the Jews of Gau Algesheim revealed that Moritz Seligmann was born in Gaulsheim and had moved to Gau Algesheim as an adult.  That discovery had led me to the Arbeitskreis Jüdisches Bingen and a woman named Beate Goetz.  Beate sent me the marriage record for Moritz Seligmann and Eva Schoenfeld, which revealed that Eva was the daughter of Bernhard Schoenfeld and Rosina Goldmann from Erbes-Budesheim.  (Now I also know another maternal name—Goldmann.)

Marriage record for Moritz Seligmann and Eva Schoenfeld February 27, 1829 Gaulsheim, Germany

Marriage record for Moritz Seligmann and Eva Schoenfeld February 27, 1829 Gaulsheim, Germany

From there I contacted the registry in Erbes-Budesheim to ask about records for my Schoenfeld ancestors, and within a short period of time, I received several emails from a man named Gerd Braun with an incredible treasure trove of information and records about my Schoenfeld ancestors.

But first, a little about Erbes-Budesheim.  Erbes-Budseheim is a municipality in the Alzey-Worms district of the Rhineland-Palatine state in Germany.  It is located about 25 miles south of Gaulsheim where Moritz Seligmann was born and grew up and about 27 miles south of Gau Algesheim where Moritz and his family eventually settled.  The closest major city is Frankfort, about 46 miles away.

Erbes-Büdesheim in AZ

Erbes-Büdesheim in AZ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The town has an ancient history, dating back to the Stone Age, according to Wikipedia.  Like many regions in Germany, it was subject to various wars and conquerors throughout much of its history.  During the Napoleonic era in the late 18th, early 19th century, Erbes-Budesheim and the entire Alzey region were annexed as part of France; after 1815 it was under the control of the Grand Duchy of Hesse.

Although originally a Catholic community, after the Reformation Erbes-Budesheim became a predominantly Protestant community.  Some sources say that there was a small Jewish community in Erbes-Budesheim as early as the 16th century, but as of 1701, there were only 15 Jews (two families) living in the town.  A third family lived there in 1733, but even as late as 1824 and throughout the entire 19th century, the population did not exceed 23 people.  The Jews in Erbes-Budesheim for much of that history joined with Jews from neighboring communities for prayer, education, and burial.

By 1849, however, one Jewish resident named Strauss had dedicated the first floor of his home for prayer services, and it was furnished with the essential elements for a synagogue: Torah scrolls, an ark, a yad, and a shofar, for example.  Perhaps this is where my 4-x great-grandfather Bernhard Schoenfeld went to daven [pray] when he and his family lived in Erbes-Budesheim.

Strauss home where the Erbes-Budesheim Synagogue was located

Strauss home where the Erbes-Budesheim Synagogue was located


There is also a Jewish cemetery in Erbes-Budesheim.

On this video you can some headstones with the name Schoenfeld from the Erbes-Budesheim cemetery.

By 1939, there were only eight Jews left in the town, and it would appear from the allemannia-judaica website that none of these survived the Holocaust.

Thus, Erbes-Budesheim was never a place where a substantial Jewish community existed, and it makes me wonder what would have brought my ancestors there.  Why would anyone want to be one of a handful of Jews in a community?  In my next post, I will consider that question and share the documents I received from Erbes-Budesheim.

More Blessings and More Insight into My Seligmann Ancestors

This morning I woke up to another email that made me smile to start my day. But to understand why, I need to backtrack a bit.

One of the passages that was translated by Ralph Baer from Ludwig Hellriegel’s book on the history of the Jews of Gau-Algesheim indicated that Moritz Seligmann had originally come from Gaulsheim, a town that is only five miles from Gau-Algesheim.  In this passage, Hellriegel described Moritz Seligmann’s attempt to get permission to move to Gau-Algesheim in 1828.  He was denied permission the first time because the mayor concluded that there were already too many Jews in the town.  He then appealed, and although the mayor still wanted to deny him permission, Seligmann prevailed because he was legally entitled to move to the town.

This passage gave me a clue as to where Moritz, my three-times great-grandfather, might have been born, and Ralph suggested I contact the archives in Gaulsheim for more information.  I found an organization called Arbeitskreis Judische Bingen, or a study group of Jews in Bingen. (Bingen now includes the town of Gaulsheim.)  I wrote to the organization, asking for any information that they might have on Moritz Seligmann or his family.

And that brings me to my happy morning email.  A woman from the Arbeitskreis named Beate Goetz sent me a copy of the marriage record for Moritz Seligmann and Eva Schoenfeld.  Not only did this email confirm that Moritz was born in Gaulsheim (on January 10, 1800) and that he married Eva Schoenfeld (on February 27, 1829), it told me the names of my four-times great-grandparents, Jacob Seligmann and Martha nee Jacob/Mayer (my guess is that Mayer was the surname adopted by her father Jacob when surnames were required in the early 19th century).

In addition, I know now when Eva Schoenfeld was born (June 2, 1806) and where she was born (in Erbes-Budenheim), and I know her parents’ names: Bernhard Schoenfeld and Rosina Goldmann.  Assuming that Eva and Babetta, Moritz’s second wife, were sisters, Bernhard and Rosina were also my four-times great-grandparents.  Now I need to see what records I can find in Erbes-Budenheim to determine if in fact Eva and Babetta were sisters.  Beate said that she would also continue to look for a birth record for Moritz (who was born Moises) and any other relevant records.

Marriage record for Moritz Seligmann and Eva Schoenfeld February 27, 1829 Gaulsheim, Germany

Marriage record for Moritz Seligmann and Eva Schoenfeld February 27, 1829 Gaulsheim, Germany

I also know from Ralph’s additional translation of the marriage record that Jacob Seligmann and Bernhard Schoenfeld were both traders as was Moritz.  The record also indicated that the bride’s parents did not attend the wedding; as Ralph explained, this was probably a second ceremony for purposes of civil law and thus not as important as the religious wedding ceremony, which presumably the couple’s parents did attend.

Thus, thanks to Ralph Baer’s translation of a passage in the Hellriegel book, I now have learned the names of four more of my ancestors.

The Hellriegel book just continues to be a treasure chest of information.  Thanks to Matthias Steinke, I also have a translation of another few passages of Ludwig Hellriegel’s book, which shed some additional light on the character of my ancestor Moritz Seligmann.

In one passage, Hellriegel discussed the education of Jewish children in Gau-Algesheim.  He reported that until 1841, Jewish boys were taught Hebrew and other important subjects by their fathers, but in 1841 they were permitted to attend the Christian school in town.  Apparently, this was difficult for the Jewish children, so Moritz Seligmann applied in 1850 to remove his children from the school.  He then hired a private teacher named Benjamin Mayer from Essenheim to come to Gau-Algesheim to teach the children. (Essenheim is about ten miles from Gau-Algesheim.)

Apparently, however, Mayer ran into trouble in Gau-Algesheim for speaking badly about the Catholic Church, saying in front of the children and two other witnesses that those who believe in the Catholic faith are “downright stupid.”  He reportedly left Gau-Algesheim shortly after this incident.

I found this passage interesting in many ways, but mostly for what it told me about my great-great-great-grandfather Moritz.  He was a man who was determined to see that his children received a good education and in a setting where they were comfortable. That is a value that has certainly been passed down the generations in my family.  Moritz also was apparently a man of some means since he had the money to hire a private teacher.

Coat of arms of Gau-Algesheim

Coat of arms of Gau-Algesheim (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Matthias also helped me better understand a passage about Moritz and his knowledge of German.  According to Matthias’ reading of this paragraph, Moritz had some role in the synagogue as an educated man.  He was in charge of writing the lists of Hebrew prayers to be assigned to those who made contributions to the synagogue.  (This is somewhat unclear to me.  Perhaps these were prayers for certain members to lead or perhaps these were prayers for the benefit of certain members, or maybe the book is referring to payment in order to receive the honor of reading Torah in synagogue.)

A man from Mainz, Mr. Landauer, commented that Moritz was able to write German very well in compiling these lists, but that he had trouble with “unpunctured” Hebrew.  I asked Ralph Baer what he thought unpunctured would mean in this context, and he explained that the German word could also be translated as undotted and that the reference to undotted Hebrew most likely meant that Moritz had a hard time reading Hebrew without vowel markings.  So Moritz was more fluent in writing and reading in German than he was in Hebrew.


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


The final passage that Matthias helped me understand involved Julius Seligmann, the grandson of Moritz and son of August Seligmann, discussed previously.  He was the Seligmann who converted to Catholicism upon marrying a Catholic woman.  What I had not been able to understand before were references to Julius closing his business in 1935 in Gau-Algesheim and being the last Jew in Gau-Algesheim when he and his family left in 1939.  He and his family moved to Bingen, and the book states that there the police chief did nothing against him and that his two sons Herbert and Walter were even allowed to enlist in the army, although dismissed shortly afterwards.

With a better idea of what the words say, I now think that I understand the significance of this passage.  It seems that Julius, despite converting, was still seen as a Jew when the Nazis came to power and thus was forced to close his business.  However, once he relocated to Bingen, he was not harassed by the police, perhaps because they did not know he was Jewish.  And perhaps the significance of the sons being able to enlist also relates to this ability to deny their Jewish roots, at least for a short time.

I am obviously still reading between the lines, and without being able to read the entire book and read everything in context, I fear that I may be misreading some of these isolated passages.  It’s a long term project to be able to understand the whole book and the whole story of the Jews of Gau-Algesheim.  But already this little book has enabled me to learn so much more about my Seligmann ancestors.

By the way, Seligmann means “blessed man” in German.  The more I learn about the Seligman(n)s, both German and American, the more it seems to be an appropriate surname for the family to have adopted, especially for those Seligmans who were fortunate enough to have left Germany before the Holocaust.