Another Year Gone By, Another Year Ahead

Tonight at sunset Rosh Hashanah begins, bringing hopes for a sweet and happy new year. We will dip apples in honey and taste that sweetness, inviting in good thoughts and wishes for all our family and friends.

By Gilabrand (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

In many ways this has been a wonderful year, but in other ways it has been a troubling year.  The world is filled with so much danger, hatred, and division. Hurricanes and floods have reminded us how fragile the planet is and how much we human beings have used and abused it. We’ve lost trust in so many of our institutions, and the meanings of “truth,” “justice,” and “honor” have become more and more elusive. Even basic principles of civility seem to be disappearing.  Often I can barely read a newspaper or watch the news because of the sadness and anxiety it causes.

Part of that anxiety comes from studying the past. I’ve spent this year focused on my Katzenstein relatives. Their stories have at times left me devastated. Too many suffered because of the Holocaust, too many were killed. I have a better understanding of what hate can do, and so watching politicians play on hate and fear against “the other” has angered and frightened me over and over. Hearing hateful chants and seeing hateful symbols from the marchers in Charlottesville was terrifying.

But studying the Katzenstein family has also given me some of my most uplifting and joyous times this year. Beginning in the 1850s when my great-great-grandfather Gerson arrived in Philadelphia up through the 1930s when many of the Katzenstein cousins arrived from Jesberg, Germany, my Katzenstein relatives have made many contributions to our adopted country: fighting in the Civil War (on both sides), establishing successful businesses in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and many other locations throughout the country, fighting in World War I and World War II for the US, and taking on community and charitable projects wherever they’ve lived.

I’ve talked to many of my Katzenstein cousins on the phone and met (so far) three of them; in addition, I’ve had email contacts with many others. All have been so generous with their time and their stories; all are so proud of the long and interesting history of their family. It has made me so proud to be a part of this large, growing extended family. Today my Katzenstein cousins are doing many interesting things—some are cattle ranchers as their ancestors had been in Jesberg, some are merchants just like their ancestors, and others are in businesses and professions that their ancestors probably never could have imagined.

This was also the year that I finally went to Germany and saw the many towns where my direct paternal ancestors once lived—the Seligmanns from Gau-Algesheim, the Schoenthals from Sielen, the Hambergs from Breuna, the Katzensteins from Jesberg, the Goldschmidts from Oberlistingen, and the Nussbaums from Schopfloch. I didn’t get to every ancestral town; I didn’t get to Erbes-Budesheim where the Schoenfelds lived or to Hechingen where my Dreyfuss ancestors once lived. But I walked in so many of the places where my ancestors once lived and on the sacred ground where so many of them are buried.

Standing at the graves of my 3x-great-grandparents, Scholum Katzenstein and Breine Blumenfeld in Haarhausen cemetery

And I met many, many wonderful people in Germany—including Dorothee, Beate, Hans-Peter, Ernst, Julia, Ulrike—and most especially my cousin Wolfgang Seligmann and his wife Bärbel and daughter Milena.  That was a dream come true.

So despite the ugliness that colored much of this past year, I will look back on 5777 as a very meaningful and enriching year. My hope for 5778 is that it will be a year where people all over will pull together, work together, to prevent war, to stop hatred, and to take care of our planet and all its people who are in need. As it says in Pirke Avot (The Ethics of the Fathers), “”It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.”

May you all, whether you celebrate this holiday or not, have a sweet, happy, healthy, productive, and peaceful New Year! Shana tova!

 

Transitioning back to the Katzensteins

I am now returning to the story of my Katzenstein family. I’ve spent the better part of the last year researching and writing about my Katzenstein family: first, the family of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein, who came to the US from Jesberg in 1857; then the family of Gerson’s half-sister Hannchen who married Marum Mansbach; their children came to the US around the same time; and then the family of Gerson’s full sister Rahel Katzenstein, who married Jacob Katz and whose children also for the most part came to the US and settled primarily in Oklahoma.

I needed a short break to recover from the overwhelming sadness I felt as I discovered how many members of the family had died or suffered at the hands of the Nazis.  Now I am ready to tell the story of the remaining sibling of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein, his half-brother Jakob. Unfortunately much of the story of Jakob’s family also is devastatingly sad. But I need to tell it because these people need to be remembered and their memories need to be honored.

According to Barbara Greve’s research, Jakob was born on August 20, 1802, in Jesberg to Scholum ha Kohen Katzenstein and Gelle Katz (or Katten.  He married Sarchen Lion on February 24, 1829; Sarchen was born on March 5, 1805, in Mardorf, Germany, to Baruch Loew/Lion and Michel Erhlich. [1] Jakob was a merchant in Jesberg.

Barbara Greve concluded that Jakob and Sarchen had nine children, all born in Jesberg: Gelle (1829), Michaela (1832), Schalum Abraham (1834), Rebecca (1836), Johanna (1838), Pauline (1841), Baruch (1844), Meier (1849), and Levi (1851).

Jakob died in 1876, and Sarchen four years later in 1880.

Jakob Katzenstein death record
Standesamt Jesberg Sterbenebenregister 1876 (HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 3874)AutorHessisches Staatsarchiv MarburgErscheinungsortJesberg, p. 76

Sarchen Lion Katzenstein death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Standesamt Jesberg Sterbenebenregister 1880; Bestand: 920; Laufendenummer: 3878

It will take quite a while to cover all nine of Jakob and Sarchen’s children. In this and the next several posts, I will focus on their oldest child, Gelle, and her family.

Gelle was born December 3, 1829, in Jesberg, according to the research done by Barbara Greve. She married Moses Ruelf on January 21, 1855. Moses was born October 17, 1828, in Rauischholzhausen, Germany, the son of Juda Ruelf and Rachel Schlesinger.

Although I do not have actual records for these facts, I do have another secondary source for them. David Baron kindly sent me a link to a genealogy report compiled in Germany by a man named Alfred Schneider called Die Juedischen Familien im ehemaligen Kreise Kirchain (2006) [The Jewish Families in the Former Districts of Kirchain], which appears to be well-researched and has a bibliography indicating the archives he visited to obtain his information. I will refer to it hereafter as “the Schneider book,” and all the information about Moses and Gelle appears on p. 345. (You can find a link to the Schneider book here.)

Moses Ruelf and Gelle Katzenstein had ten children, all born in Rauischholzhausen. The first child was stillborn on June 1, 1856; many trees on Ancestry have this child with the name Simon, but the record I found has no name given, nor does the Schneider book (p. 345).

Birth record for unnamed child of Moses Ruelf and Gelle Katzenstein, Todt Geboren (born dead)
Geburtsregister der Juden von (Rauisch)Holzhausen (Ebsdorfergrund) 1824-1874 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 452)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 9

The second child was Esther, born May 26, 1857. Her birth entry is on the same page as the stillborn child, above.

Minna, the third child, was born on February 16, 1859:

Minna Ruelf birth record
Geburtsregister der Juden von (Rauisch)Holzhausen (Ebsdorfergrund) 1824-1874 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 452)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 10

Bette was born December 3, 1860:

Bette Ruelf birth record
Geburtsregister der Juden von (Rauisch)Holzhausen (Ebsdorfergrund) 1824-1874 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 452)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p.12

Gelle then gave birth a fourth daughter, Johanna, on November 21, 1862:

Johanna (Hannah) Ruelf birth record
Geburtsregister der Juden von (Rauisch)Holzhausen (Ebsdorfergrund) 1824-1874 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 452)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p.13

As I wrote in an earlier post, Johanna was the first wife of Hirsch Abraham. Johanna died on August 12, 1890, eleven days after giving birth to her first child, who was apparently renamed Johanna in her memory.

A fifth daughter, Roschen, was born to Gelle and Moses Ruelf on April 25, 1864:

Roschen Ruelf birth record,
Geburtsregister der Juden von (Rauisch)Holzhausen (Ebsdorfergrund) 1824-1874 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 452)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p 13

Although I’ve been unable to find a death record for Roschen, the Schneider book (p. 345) reports that Roschen died before her first birthday on March 3, 1865.

A sixth daughter, Rebekka, was born on November 7, 1865:

Rebekkah Ruelf birth record
Geburtsregister der Juden von (Rauisch)Holzhausen (Ebsdorfergrund) 1824-1874 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 452)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 14

After having six daughters in a row, Moses and Gelle had a son, Juda, born October 30, 1867:

Juda Ruelf birth record,
Geburtsregister der Juden von (Rauisch)Holzhausen (Ebsdorfergrund) 1824-1874 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 452)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 14

Then their ninth child was another girl, Pauline, born September 25, 1869:

Pauline Ruelf birth record,
Geburtsregister der Juden von (Rauisch)Holzhausen (Ebsdorfergrund) 1824-1874 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 452)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p.15

As I wrote in an earlier post, Pauline married Hirsch Abraham after her sister Johanna died. Pauline was the grandmother of my cousin Fred Abrahams, who wrote the memoir I posted here.

Finally, Gelle gave birth to her tenth and last child, Gutmann, on November 15, 1871, in Rauischholzhausen:

Gutmann Ruelf birth record
Geburtsregister der Juden von (Rauisch)Holzhausen (Ebsdorfergrund) 1824-1874 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 452)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 15

The Schneider book (p. 345) reports that Gutmann died on July 10, 1873, when he was not quite twenty months old. I did not find any other record of Gutmann’s death.

Thus, of the ten children to whom Gelle Katzenstein Ruelf gave birth, one was stillborn and two appear to have died as young children. Of the other seven, one (Johanna) died in the aftermath of childbirth.

As for the other six—Esther, Minna, Bette, Rebecca, Juda, and Pauline—I have learned more about their lives and their descendants and will report on my research in the posts that follow. First, I will discuss Esther and Bette.

 

 

 

[1][1] Although all the family trees I’ve seen refer to Sarchen as Sarchen Lion, it appears that the family name was originally Loew, German for lion. At some point, however, even the German records started using the name “Lion,” not Loew.

Kin Types by Luanne Castle: A Review

Most of us who engage in family history research probably try in some way to put ourselves in the shoes of our ancestors. We try to imagine—what were they really like? How did they cope with the failures and successes, the heartbreak and the joys that colored their lives? We want to get beyond the surface details of birth, marriage, and death, and understand who these people were.

Luanne Castle, the author of the wonderful genealogy blog The Family Kalamazoo, has done just that in her new remarkable collection of prose-poems, Kin Types (Finishing Line Press, 2017). In these clear and beautifully written poems, she has brought to life the people she has researched and studied for many years.  Collectively, her poems evoke the hard and often bitter lives of her ancestors while also piercing beneath the surfaces of those hard lives to uncover the love and the beauty that each one of these people experienced.

For example, in “An Account of a Poor Oil Stove Bought Off Dutch Pete,” a poem that describes in horrifying detail how a fire envelops a home and the woman living in it, Castle creates this image:

Under the smoke, she can make out the sliced strawberries centered on the oilcloth nailed to the tabletop

In these few simple words, Castle uses the image of strawberries sliced by a caring wife and mother to remind the reader that this is a loving family woman who is threatened by a deadly fire. It evokes birth and life amidst the threat of death and destruction.

And when Castle wonders about the history of an old house that is in serious disrepair in “The Fat Little House,” she creates a story about the man who built the house and his family. Her words convey the love between the husband and wife through the man’s response to his wife’s description of the house as “short and fat:”

He laughed, I like my houses like apples.

And swaddled inside the crisp

sugary walls she nurtured and nestled

babies, slippery as fruit flesh…

From these few words and the images created, you can imagine the sweetness between these two people. Once again, fruit becomes a metaphor for love, for life, for birth.

In other poems Castle describes the fears of a dying mother that her children will be separated and sent to orphanages where “Teachers like scavengers pick at the remains of my family,” the anxiety of a mother as her teenage daughter gives birth on the kitchen table, the joy and sadness of a mother seeing in the face of her young son the face of her now deceased brother, and the guilt and love shared by another family whose lives are torn apart because of a fire in the family home. These are just a few of the stories Castle tells in this book of poetry. Each poem made my heart ache for the lives of these people—people I never knew, people Castle herself never knew, but whom she has given new life through her words.

If you also have ever imagined what life was like for your ancestors, you will enjoy this wonderful collection. In fact, anyone—whether interested in family history or not—should read this book for the beauty of its language and for the light it sheds on our shared humanity.

You can find Kin Types here or here.

Meeting New Cousins

There is one more sibling of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein to research and write about—his half-brother Jakob.

But before I move on to the next step in the Katzenstein research, I have several other topics to discuss—updates and items of interest that have accumulated over the months but that were put on the back burner. So the next few posts will be about these varied topics including some interesting discoveries and meetings with cousins. Today I want to talk about two recent meetings with “new” cousins.

On August 4, my cousin Jan and her husband Richard made a trip to Provincetown to meet Harvey and me and spend the day together. We met them at the wharf where the ferry from Boston arrives, walked around Provincetown, and had a wonderful lunch overlooking Cape Cod Bay and Provincetown Harbor. We had a great time together—the conversation flowed naturally, and we all hit it off very easily.

Jan and me and a new friend in Provincetown

Jan is my second cousin, once removed. Her great-grandmother Toba/Tillie/Taube Brotman Hecht was the half-sister of my grandmother Gussie Brotman Goldschlager. I had “discovered” Jan after the amazing breakthrough I had finding my grandmother’s long missing half-sister Toba through the pure serendipity of a list of names in my aunt’s baby book from 1917.

Aunt Elaine’s baby book. Note the last name in the list on the left—Mrs. Taube Hecht; that is my grandmother’s half-sister Toba/Tillie/Taube Brotman Hecht and Jan’s great-grandmother.

 

While we were together, Jan completed a DNA testing kit, which I mailed the next day.  I am hoping that her DNA results will help me with my Brotman research since Jan is descended  from Joseph Brotman and his first wife and not from Bessie, my great-grandmother. Perhaps her results will help me identify which genes came from Joseph and not Bessie as I search for more answers to the many questions that remain about the Brotmans, for example, about the relationship between Joseph and Bessie.

Then on Tuesday, August 8, we had dinner with another “new” cousin, Mike and his wife Wendy. Mike is my fourth cousin through my Hamberg line. We are both the three-times great-grandchildren of Moses Hamberg of Breuna. Mike’s great-grandmother was Malchen Hamberg, who married Jacob Baer; Mike’s grandmother was Tilda Baer, who married Samuel Einstein/Stone, the co-founder with Maurice Baer (Tilda’s brother, Mike’s great-uncle) of Attleboro Manufacturing Company, the jewelry company now known as Swank.

Samuel Einstein/Stone, Sr., Samuel Stone, Jr. standing Sitting: Harriet, Stephanie (Mike’s mother), Tilda, and Babette (Betty) Stone Courtesy of the family

 

Mike and I found each other back in March, 2017, as a result of a comment left on my blog by a man named Dr. Rainer Schimpf. Dr. Schimpf wrote then:

I am so excited to read your blog! We are doing research on Samuel Einstein, born in Laupheim, Wuerttemberg. He was connected to Carl Laemmle, founder and president of Universal Pictures, who was also born in Laupheim. Could you please get in contact with me? Thank you so much!

Best, Rainer

I contacted Rainer immediately, excited by this connection to Hollywood since I’ve always been a movie fan and trivia nut. Rainer told me that he was curating an exhibit about Carl Laemmle for the Haus der Geschichte Baden-Wuerttemberg, which is the state museum in Stuttgart for the history of southwest Germany. Laemmle was born in Laupheim, Germany, and had immigrated to the United States in 1884. The story of his career in the United States is quite fascinating (though beyond the scope of my blog). You can read it about it here and here.

Carl Laemmle
From Wikimedia Commons, public domain
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CarlLaemmle.jpg#file

Rainer said that in the course of his research about Laemmle, he had found a newspaper article describing a party celebrating Laemmle’s fiftieth birthday in 1917; one of the guests mentioned in the article was Samuel Einstein from Attleboro, Massachusetts. (Einstein had not yet changed his surname to Stone.)

Motion Picture Weekly, January 1917

Rainer had been trying to learn more about Samuel Einstein and had learned quite a bit, including that Einstein was one of the founders of Attleboro Manufacturing, now known as Swank.  He also had learned that Samuel Einstein was “one of four Jewish boys of Laupheim, who made unique careers in the US. All four were meeting at the birthday party of Laemmle in 1917 (Leo Hirschfeld [inventor of the Tootsie Roll] and Isidor Landauer [of International Handkerchief Manufacturing] are the other two boys).” (email from Dr. Rainer Schimpf, March, 2017)

Rainer wanted to learn more about Einstein, his family, and his connection to Laupheim, Germany, and to Laemmle. I shared with Rainer what I knew, and then I searched for and contacted as many of the Baer/Stone family members as I could, and one of them, Faith, a great-granddaughter of Tilda and Samuel Stone, responded with great interest and then connected me to her cousin, Mike. Thanks to that one comment by Rainer on the blog, I now not only know more about Samuel Einstein/Stone, I also am connected to many more of my Hamberg cousins.

Together Rainer, Mike, and I were able to pull together a fuller picture of Samuel Einstein, his family of origin, and his life in Germany and in the United States.  Although I won’t go into complete detail here about the Einstein family, I will point out one interesting bit of information we learned that answered a question I’d had while researching the Baer family: how did Maurice Baer and Samuel Einstein end up as business partners?[1]

The Baers lived in Pittsburgh, and Samuel Einstein lived in Attleboro, Massachusetts. How could they have met each other? Even today, it would take almost ten hours to drive the more than 500 miles between the two cities. It would have taken days to get from one to the other back then.

 

Well, Rainer discovered that Samuel Einstein had three uncles who lived in Pittsburgh who had been in the US since the mid-19th century. Perhaps Samuel met Maurice Baer when he visited his relatives in Pittsburgh; maybe the Baers and Pittsburgh Einsteins were well-acquainted. If and when I have time, these are questions I’d like to pursue.

When Mike learned that I spend the summer on the Cape where he would be visiting this summer, we arranged to have dinner together. It was a lovely evening with Mike and Wendy with lots of stories and laughs and good food.  We felt an immediate connection to these warm and friendly people. Mike shared some old photographs and even showed me Maurice Baer’s walking stick. It was a lot of fun.

Harvey, me, Mike, and Wendy

It is always such a pleasure to meet new cousins—whether they are as distant as fourth or fifth cousins or as close as a second cousin.  It reinforces the idea that we are all connected in some ways to everyone else, and it inspires me to keep looking and researching and writing.

There are so many more cousins I’d like to meet in person—or as Jan said, IRL FTF. Some live nearby, and I hope to get to see them within the next several months. Others live much further away, making it harder to get together. But I’ve gone as far as Germany to meet a cousin, so eventually I hope I can meet many of those who live in the United States.

 

[1] Since Samuel is only related to me by his marriage to Tilda Baer, I had not previously researched his background too deeply. For the same reason, I won’t go into detail here on all that we discovered about his family.

Before You Visit A Cemetery, Read This Post

There’s a lesson in here for anyone planning to visit a cemetery to find where their ancestors are buried.  I wish I’d had this lesson before traveling to Germany.

May 10 was our last day in the Kassel region, and we were going to see the village of Jesberg, home of the Katz and Katzenstein families.  As the Katzenstein/Katz family has been the one I have been researching most recently, these names and stories were freshest in my mind, and I was very interested in seeing what we could find and learn. Hans-Peter Klein was again going to be our guide along with Mrs. Ochs, who lives in Jesberg. We followed Hans-Peter from Kassel to Borken, where he picked up the key to the cemetery in Haarhausen where the Katzenstein and Katz family members from Jesberg were buried before the Jesberg cemetery itself was established.

As with the Obervonschutzen cemetery near Gudensberg the night before, I had no idea what to expect in Haarhausen.  I did like the horses who were grazing nearby.

This was another very big cemetery with close to 400 stones dating back to 1705. Once again, Hans-Peter came equipped with a map and pages from the LAGIS website showing the headstones and information about many members of the Katz and Katzenstein families who were buried at this cemetery.  So we were off on another treasure hunt—but with better lighting and more rested eyes than the evening before.

Haarhausen cemetery

And what treasure we found.  I have to admit that I should have been better prepared for this visit.  I should have searched the LAGIS website myself before leaving home and written down all the Katzensteins who were buried there, where they were buried, and how they were related to me.  But I failed to do that.  I am not sure I even knew about that part of the LAGIS website, or I’d forgotten about it.  It would have made my search both easier and more meaningful if I’d been better prepared.

For example, these two headstones:

I thought that these were the headstones of my three-times great-grandparents Scholum Katzenstein and Breine Blumenfeld because, looking quickly, they matched the pages for a Schalum and a Brendelchen.  I placed stones and even took a picture with both stones, believing these were the parents of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein.

But I was wrong.

In fact, having now had the chance to sit and check my tree and the LAGIS pages and the photos, I know that these were the stones of my FIVE-times great-grandparents, Schalum, son of Pinchas ha-Cohen, and his wife Brendelchen (father’s name unknown) who died in 1774 and 1776, respectively.  They were the grandparents of Scholum Katzenstein, great-grandparents of Gerson. Wow. Do I wish I had known? Yes. Does it really matter? Probably not.  I paid tribute, I visited. I just thought they were different people.

I am, however, really sorry I could not find the stone for Meir, the son of Schalum ha Cohen and Brendelchen, who is buried at Haarhausen.  He was my four-times great-grandfather, the father of Scholum Katzenstein.  There were many stones that were similar to this one depicted on the LAGIS website.  But I could not find Meir’s stone.

I did, however, find the stone for his wife, Henchen, who was my four-times great-grandmother.  But I did not realize this was who she was at the time, only when I got home and checked my resources.

Henchen, wife of Meier Katz. My 4th great-grandmother

I assume that Meir’s stone was nearby.  Henchen died in 1793, Meir in 1803.

And this stone, which I photographed but could not read clearly at the site, is in fact the stone for my three-times great-grandfather, Scholum Katzenstein.  It is labeled on the LAGIS website as the stone for Abraham Schalum, son of Meir ha-Kohen, so I didn’t realize it at the time, but again, after checking with my resources at home, I now know that that was the Hebrew name used by Scholum Katzenstein and that that was in fact his stone. Perhaps the stone for his wife was nearby, but  Hans-Peter had no sheet for a Breine Blumenfeld Katzenstein, and I couldn’t find one either at the LAGIS site.

Scholem Katzenstein, my 3x great-grandfather

I did find the stone for Schalum Abraham Katzenstein, son of Jacob Katzenstein, grandson of Scholum Katzenstein.  He was my first-cousin, three times removed.  His brother Meier is also buried at Haarhausen, but we did not find his stone. (You can see why I was overwhelmed with all the similar names!)

Jacob Katzenstein’s son, Schalum Katzenstein

So I learned an important lesson: be really well prepared for cemetery visits.  I feel extremely fortunate that I found the stones of my 5x great-grandparents, my 4x-great-grandmother, and my three-times great-grandfather. But I sure wish I’d known more about who was buried at Haarhausen and where they were buried before I even got to the cemetery.  Am I kicking myself? Yes. I missed some important stones because I had not done a careful enough job of preparation. It’s too late now, and I am annoyed with myself, but I also learned a very important lesson.  Do the hard work of preparation ahead of time because cemeteries are overwhelming, stones are hard to read, and time is limited.

We left the cemetery and proceeded on to Jesberg, where the Katz and Katzenstein families lived from at least the early 19th century. Today there are about 2500 people living in Jesberg, making it about four times the size of Sielen but smaller than Breuna. A castle was built in Jesberg in the 13th century, and there was a Jewish community dating from the 17th century. In 1905, the Jewish community of about 90 people made up over ten percent of the overall population of Jesberg; during the 19th century when my great-great-grandfather was born and raised, the Jewish population ranged from 55 people to 73 people, according to Alemannia-Judaica.  A synagogue was built in 1832, and there was a mikveh, a Jewish school, and eventually a cemetery.

Jesberg synagogue before World War I

In 1933 when many members of my Katz family were still living there, there were still more than fifty Jews in Jesberg.  Today there are no Jews in Jesberg.

Helping us in touring Jesberg along with Hans-Peter was Mrs. Ochs, who is another volunteer in the research of the Jewish history of the area and who works with Barbara Greve, who was out of town. Mrs. Ochs lives in Jesberg and was, like all the others, very warm, friendly, and helpful. We first drove out to the Jesberg cemetery, which did not open until about 1900 and which only has about twenty stones.

View of Jesberg from the cemetery

Jesberg cemetery

These are all the stones at the Jesberg cemetery

I knew that Meir Katz and his wife Sprinzchen Jungenheim were buried there, the parents of Jake, Aron, Ike, Regina, and Karl Katz, all of whom came to the US and settled in Oklahoma, some in the 19th century, others in the 1930s to escape the Nazis. I had spoken to Karl Katz’s son Fred before we left for Germany, and he had asked me to look for his grandparents’ graves and told me how to find them in the cemetery.

Back of the stones for Sprinzchen and Meier Katz in German

Front of stones for Sprinzchen and Meier Katz in Hebrew

There were three children of Jacob Katzenstein, brother of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein, buried in the cemetery.  These were my great-grandmother Hilda’s first cousins:

Levi Katzenstein, son of Jacob Katzenstein, and his wife Jeanette

Levi  Katzenstein, son of Jacob Katzenstein, and his wife Jeanette

Pauline Katzenstein, daughter of Jacob Katzenstein:

Pauline Katzenstein, daughter of Jacob Katzenstein

Baruch Katzenstein, son of Jacob Katzenstein:

Baruch Katzenstein, son of Jacob Katzenstein

There were also a few stones where half of the stone was left blank, obviously reserved for a spouse.  What had happened to their spouses? Had they left Germany and escaped safely or had they been killed in the Holocaust? I decided I would check.

Markus Katz: He was the son of Moses Katz, as I wrote about here.  His grandmother Rahel Katzenstein was the sister of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein.

Markus Katz, son of Moses Katz, grandson of Rahel Katzenstein

Markus was married to Minna Wallach, also known as Nanny according to other records.  As I had feared, she was murdered in the Holocaust, explaining the blank side of this headstone.

Another stone with a blank half was for Josef Katz.  He was quite distantly related to me, a third cousin, three times removed.  According to David Baron’s research, Josef was married to Bertha Lowenstein, daughter of Simon Lowenstein and Esther Stern, and she was born in Fronhausen, Germany in 1870.  I have not yet found any information about Bertha’s death so cannot say why the other half of Josef’s gravestone is blank. Perhaps she escaped the Holocaust, though her son Siegfried did not survive, so I doubt she did either. I will keep looking.

Josef Katz, third cousin, three times removed

The third stone with a blank half was for someone named Moses Schloss.  As far as I know, he was not a relative of mine, but I still wanted to know what had happened to his wife.  According to Yad Vashem, his wife was Lisette Gans Schloss, and she died at Theriesenstadt on October 14, 1942. So it appears my hunch was right.  At least two of the three blank stones were for victims of the Holocaust.

After visiting the cemetery, we returned to Jesberg, where Mrs. Ochs showed us the former synagogue and pointed out the brook that ran behind it, feeding what was probably once a mikveh.

Former synagogue in Jesberg

Brook running behind the synagogue

Back of former synagogue

I could imagine the carefree life that my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein and his many cousins had in Jesberg, running through the quiet streets and playing in the brook.  The town is probably not that much different today in appearances, other than the cars and paved roads.

We also walked down Bahnhofstrasse, the street where Fred Katz had lived as a young boy before escaping with his parents to Oklahoma in December 1938.  Fred had told me the house number, so I was able to find the house where he had lived with his parents, Karl Katz and Jettchen Oppenheimer, his brothers Walter and Max, his uncle Aron and his wife Sarah, and their sons Jack and Julius.  More on Fred and his life in Jesberg in a later post.

Marktplatz and church in Jesberg

Bahnhofstrasse in Jesberg

House where the Katz family lived in Jesberg in the 1930s

The brook that runs through Jesberg

We then all went to lunch in a nearby town (there was no place to eat—not even a bakery—in Jesberg), and then Harvey and I said another difficult goodbye to Hans-Peter and Mrs. Ochs and to the Kassel region.

Our days in the Kassel region far exceeded my expectations.  The friends we made and the places we saw will stay with me forever.  Yes, I wish I had better prepared for the cemetery visits, but overall I have no regrets and am so thankful that I got to visit the homes of my Hamberg, Goldschmidt, Schoenthal, and Katzenstein ancestors.  I am particularly thankful to Ernst Klein, Julia Drinnenberg, Hans-Peter Klein, Barbara Greve, and Mrs. Ochs for all their hard work and dedication, and, of course, especially to Harvey for being a willing and helpful participant in the hunt for stones in so many cemeteries.

Now we were heading south to Wurzburg and then to Schopfloch, the home of the Nussbaums

 

 

 

 

The Blessings and Curses of Old Family Stories

Family stories can often lead you astray, but perhaps more often they can give you clues or corroborate evidence you’ve already uncovered.  In the case of the descendants of Rahel Katzenstein and Jacob Katz, there has been a little of all three.

What I know from the research done by Barbara Greve and David Baron is that Rahel and Jacob had six children: Blumchen, Moses, Meier, Abraham, Sanchen, and Samuel. Abraham and Samuel came to the United States in the years following the Civil War, as I’ve written.  But what about the other four siblings? What could I learn about them?

Fortunately, my cousin Marsha interviewed our mutual cousin Theo Goldenberg in January, 1993, about the family history.  Theo Goldenberg was born and raised in Jesberg; he was the grandson of Meier Katz and came to the US in the 1930s as a young man escaping Nazi Germany. Having grown up in Jesberg with his Katz and Katzenstein relatives, Theo had first-hand knowledge of the family stories and may have been one of the the best people to ask about the siblings of his grandfather Meier.

In his interview with Marsha, Theo named five of the children of Rahel and Jacob: Blumchen, Moses, Meier, Abraham, and Samuel.  He also told Marsha that there had been another daughter who drowned as a small child—presumably that would have been Sanchen, the only other daughter found by Barbara Greve or David Baron. Thus, Theo’s recollection is quite consistent with the list of names I had learned from Barbara Greve and David Baron.

Family lore, however, is that there was another son who came to the United States before Abraham and Samuel and who fought in the Civil War.  The family story is that when Abraham came to the US, he went to New Orleans to look for this brother, but never found him. He was presumed to have been killed in the Civil War.

Theo Goldenberg told Marsha that he was not aware of any other son, and although I have spent a fair amount of time searching, I have found no records that support the existence of this fifth brother (nor did Barbara Greve or David Baron, both of whom have done extensive research on the family).

At first I thought perhaps Moses was this missing brother because I found a Moses Katz who came from the Hesse region and who fought in the Civil War.  He survived the war and settled in Baltimore.  But I could find no tie to the family of Rahel Katzenstein and Jacob Katz, and Marsha’s father Henry pointed out persuasively that if Moses had been in Baltimore, Abraham would have known and easily found him without traveling to New Orleans, especially since Abraham lived in Baltimore when he first came to the US.

Theo Goldenberg, moreover, told Marsha that Moses never left Germany. Although Marsha commented in her notes that this part of her interview with Theo was somewhat confusing, it appears that Theo told her that Moses had died as a young man after being kicked by a cow in the stomach.  He had, however, been married and had had several children.

David Baron also had information about Moses Katz that indicated that Moses had married Amalia Malchen Wetterhahn in Jesberg, Germany on July 3, 1869, and had had six children born in Jesberg.  I owe David a huge thank you for sending me many of the Katz records from Jesberg and also for teaching me how to find others myself.  Here is one he shared with me, a death record for Moses Katz:

Moses Katz death record, Jesberg Hessisches Staatsarchiv Marburg: Standesamt Jesberg Sterbenebenregister 1898 (HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 3896) Jesberg 1898, p.32

My FB friend Matthias Steinke once again helped me out and translated the document, and it says nothing about the cause of death, so the “kicked in the stomach” story will have to remain family lore.  Also, Moses Katz died when he was almost sixty—so hardly a “young man.”  Maybe Theo was referring to someone else in the family.

Jesberg, the 9th July 1898
To the below signing registrar came the personally known merchant Markus Katz, residing in Jesberg, house-nr 32/2, and reported, that the merchant Moses Katz, 58 years, 6 month, 11 days, mosaic religion, residing in Jesberg, housenr. 32/2, born in Jesberg, been married to Amalie nee Wetterhan of Jesberg, son of the deceased merchant Jakob Katz and his deceased wife Rael nee Katzenstein of Jesberg, in Jesberg at the 8th July 1898 past midday at 6 o’clock is deceased. The Markus Katz declared, that he knows about the death by his own knowledge. Readed, confirmed and signed Markus Katz – the registrar (signature)

I suppose it’s possible that Moses went to the US, fought in the Civil War, returned to Jesberg after the war and married Amalia in 1869. But that seems unlikely, and wouldn’t Abraham have known that his brother had returned to Jesberg?

Perhaps it was not a brother but a cousin who fought and died in the Civil War? I don’t know.  But at this point I think the evidence does not support the story of this missing brother. However, the story has been passed down through the generations, and I’ve learned that in every family story there is usually some kernel of truth.  I just haven’t found it yet in this story.

Nor can I verify the story about Sanchen’s drowning. If Sanchen died as a young girl, that would have been more than fifty years before Theo’s birth and so perhaps not reliable as a piece of family history (and unfortunately before the earliest Jesberg records that are kept online.)  Yet such a traumatic event might very well have been reliably reported from generation to generation.

As for Blumchen, Theo told Marsha that she had stayed in Germany, married, and had not had any children.  According to David Baron, Blumchen married Heskel Grunenklee of Meimbressen, Germany, and she died on March 9, 1909.  Theo’s story is thus consistent with the research done by David Baron.

Theo had, not surprisingly, the most information about the children of Meier Katz, his grandfather, who died on October 29, 1925, when Theo was eleven.  Unfortunately, there were no insights about Meier in the interview notes.

Meier Katz death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 920; Laufendenummer: 3916
Description
Year Range : 1925
Source Information
Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1955 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
Original data: Sterberegister und Namensverzeichnisse. Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, Deutschland.

Theo’s grandmother Sprinzchen Jungheim Katz died on June 15, 1917, so Theo would have been only three years old when his grandmother died.

Death record of Sprinz Jungheim Katz 1917
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 920; Laufendenummer: 3915

Meier and Sprinzchen had six children: Jacob, Aron, Seligmann, Regina, Karl, and Sol, according to Theo. I have not seen Sol listed anywhere else, and Theo had nothing more to say about him besides his name. However, there was a Salli Katz born to Meier and Sprinzchen on June 14, 1888, who died on January 10, 1892, so I assume that this is the “Sol” referred to by Theo Goldenberg.

Salli Katz birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3819
Description
Year Range : 1888
Source Information
Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
Original data: Geburtenregister und Namensverzeichnisse. Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, Deutschland.

Salli Katz death record, Hessisches Staatsarchiv Marburg: Standesamt Jesberg Sterbenebenregister 1892 (HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 3890)
Jesberg 1892, p.2

As translated by Matthias Steinke:

Jesberg at the 10th January 1892 – To the below signing registrar came today the personally known merchant Moses Katz, residing in Jesberg, House nr. 32 1/2 and reported, that Salli Katz, 2 years 6 month 25 days old, mosaic religion, residing in Jesberg, house nr. 28, born in Jesberg, son of the merchant Meier Katz II and his wife Sprinzchen nee Jungheim of Jesberg, in Jesberg at the ninth January of the year 1892, past midday at four o’clock is deceased. The Moses Katz declared, to know about the death by his own knowledge. Readed, confirmed and signed Moses Katz The registrar Appell

[The death record reports that Salli was two and a half years old, but based on the birth record, he was really three and a half years old.]

The other five children of Meier and Sprinzchen—Jacob, Aron, Isaac, Regina, and Karl—all survived to adulthood and all came to the United States, some as early as the 1880s, others as late as the 1930s.  But fortunately they all survived. More on that in the posts to come.  For now, here is a photograph of Meier and Sprinzchen and those five children:

Meier and Sprinzchen (Jungheim) Katz and children

What I learned from all this is that we all should be doing what Marsha did back in 1993; we should be interviewing the older generations in our family, asking questions and taking notes.  Even if some of the information leads us on a few wild goose chases, the stories we will hear will disappear if they are not recorded.  I am so grateful that Marsha had the wisdom to meet with her cousin Theo and ask him to answer her questions about the family back in 1993.  If only I had done the same with my own older relatives 24 years ago…

 

 

 

Abraham Katz Moves to Oklahoma

I’ve learned a lot more information about Abraham Katz and his family since connecting with my fourth cousin Marsha and her father Henry. They also generously shared some family photographs with me.  What a blessing it has been!

According to family history notes written by Abraham’s grandson Henry in September, 1988, when Abraham arrived in the US, he lived in Baltimore with a family named Gump who were cousins of his mother (Rahel Katzenstein).  I knew this had to be the same Gumps who were married to my Mansbach cousins, the children of Hannchen Katzenstein Mansbach, who was a sister of both Rahel Katzenstein Katz, Abraham’s mother, and my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein.

And sure enough, I went back to look at the research I’d done about the Gump family, and there was Abraham, living with Gabriel and Henrietta (Mansbach) Gump in Baltimore on the 1870 census:

Gabriel Gump and family
1870 US census
Year: 1870; Census Place: District 6, Allegany, Maryland

According to the family history notes written by Henry Katz, Abraham lived with the Gumps in Baltimore for about two years and learned English and bookkeeping.  Then he left for New Orleans where there was another family member.  The family does not know the name of that family member (there were no Gumps then living in New Orleans), but family lore is that Abraham was searching for an older brother who had fought in the Civil War and might have gone to New Orleans to look for him.  He never found that brother, and I have no records regarding this brother.  (More on that in a later post.)  While in New Orleans, Abraham chased after a man who was attempting to steal from the family’s business and injured his knee, an injury that affected him for the rest of his life.

After some time in New Orleans, Abraham moved to Horse Cave, Kentucky, married Amelia Nahm, and had ten children, as I’ve described in an earlier post. Here is a photograph of the family home in Horse Cave and one of Amelia:

Katz home in Horse Cave, Kentucky Courtesy of the Katz family

Amelia Nahm Katz, courtesy of the Katz family

The family history notes described Abraham’s business in Horse Cave:

He carried dry goods, hardware, buggies, and Studebaker wagons.  A water well was in the center of his store.  He would barter with the farmers for their products.  He would store eggs and dairy products in a basket in the well.  He later established a second store.

(Henry Katz family history notes, September 30, 1988)

According to the family history notes, when Abraham and Amelia moved their family from Horse Cave to Louisville sometime before 1900, it was to be closer to an established Jewish community. All ten children were living at home in Louisville in 1900, as seen in this census record:

Abraham Kaz and family 1900 US census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Louisville Ward 5, Jefferson, Kentucky; Roll: 530; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0053; FHL microfilm: 1240530

In Louisville, Abraham operated a dry goods store as well as a glove factory, according to the family history notes.

Thanks to the generosity of Abraham’s great-granddaughter Marsha, I now have a photograph of Abraham and Amelia and nine their ten children. As best I can tell from the ages and birth order of the children, either Lester or Sidney is missing from this photograph.  Since the youngest child, Milton, was born in 1901 and appears to be about five years old in the photo, I am guessing that this photograph was taken in about 1906—before the family left Kentucky.

My guess is that the back row standing are the two oldest sisters, Rachel and Blanche, with either Lester or Sidney between them.  In the front row from left to right would be Henrietta, Abraham, Ben, Bertha, Florence, Milton, Sigmund, and Amelia:

UPDATE! Thank you so much to Ava Cohn, aka Sherlock Cohn, the Photo Genealogist, upon whose expertise I have relied before. Ava advised me that the clothing styles date this photograph as more like 1900-1901.  Thus, the “missing” child would have been Milton, who wasn’t yet born.  I now think that I was wrong in my identification of the children in the photograph. Looking at the ages of the children again, I now think that in fact they should be identified as follows:

Back row: Rachel, Lester, Blanche. Front row: Henrietta, Abraham, Sidney, Bertha, Florence, Sigmund, Benjamin, and Amelia.  Thank you, Ava!

Abraham Katz and family c. 1906
courtesy of the Katz family

When a recession hit the region around 1908, Abraham’s business was affected, and he faced labor problems in his glove factory. The family history notes go on to describe how Abraham decided to leave Louisville:

During this time his nephews Jake and Ike Katz [to be discussed in a later post] … were enjoying good business in their store in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  Oklahoma had become a state in 1907, and things were booming.  … Abe sent Lester [his oldest son] to Oklahoma to visit his cousins in Stillwater to survey the situation to see if the family would not be better off in a new state.

(Henry Katz family history notes, September 30, 1988)

Lester reported back favorably, but as of 1910, Abraham, Amelia, and eight of their ten children were still living in Louisville, and Abraham was still a merchant in the dry goods business.  The children at home ranged in age from 27 down to eight.

Abraham Katz and family on 1910 census
Year: 1910; Census Place: Louisville Ward 5, Jefferson, Kentucky; Roll: T624_485; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0107; FHL microfilm: 1374498

As for the two sons who were not living at home, Sidney, as noted in an earlier post, was living with his uncle Samuel in Omaha (mislabeled as his son):

Katz family on 1910 census
Year: 1910; Census Place: Omaha Ward 11, Douglas, Nebraska; Roll: T624_844; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 0082; FHL microfilm: 1374857

And Lester was living in Stillwater, Oklahoma, working as a salesman in a dry goods store.  Also boarding with Lester in Stillwater was Lafayette Rothschild, who was Samuel Katz’s brother-in-law and also working as a salesman in a dry goods store.  Both Lester and Lafayette were probably working in the Katz Department Store belonging to Jake Katz.

Lester Katz on 1910 census
Year: 1910; Census Place: Stillwater Ward 3, Payne, Oklahoma; Roll: T624_1269; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 0200; FHL microfilm: 1375282

Not long after the 1910 census, Abraham Katz and his family moved to Oklahoma, settling in Sapulpa, a town about 15 miles from Tulsa.

Why Sapulpa? Between 1900 and 1910, the population of Sapulpa had exploded, going from 891 people to 8,283 people; by 1920, it was up to 11,634 people.  During that time, industry had begun to develop in Sapulpa, including brick and glass manufacturing. Presumably, Abraham and his nephew Jake saw this as a growing community in need of a dry goods store.

There was no established Jewish community in Sapulpa, but Tulsa was only 15 miles away and had an overall population of 72,075 in 1920 and two synagogues; a Reform synagogue was formed in Tulsa in 1914 and an Orthodox one in 1916.  There were also synagogues during that time in other cities in Oklahoma. Nevertheless, it must have been somewhat of an adjustment for the Katz family after living in Louisville, which had an overall population of 234,891 in 1920 and a big enough Jewish community to support eight synagogues.

The move was a successful one, and Oklahoma continues to be home for many of Abraham and Amelia’s descendants. Here is a photograph of the Katz family home in Sapulpa:

Katz home in Sapulpa
Courtesy of the Katz family

Between 1910 and 1920, many of the Katz children married and moved out of the family home. More in the next post.

 

 

One Busy Man

My initial research into Samuel Katz, a son of my 3x-great-aunt Rahel Katzenstein, left me with several unanswered questions. Samuel and his wife Lorena and their son Jay had relocated from Kentucky to Omaha, Nebraska, in the 1880s.

One mystery involved Samuel’s occupation.  Omaha directories listed more than one Samuel Katz for most of the years between 1885 and 1900, one of whom was a tailor living on 12th Street for some of the years while the other was first a grocer, then a clothing manufacturer, then a real estate agent, and then again a clothing manufacturer.[1]   Then in the 1890s, Samuel Katz living at 2111 Douglas Street appeared to be in both the clothing business and the grading contracting business.

How had that evolved? I turned to my favorite research tool—old newspapers. Fortunately, newspapers.com has issues of the Omaha Bee from 1872 to 1916, and genealogybank.com has issues of the Omaha Daily Herald and the Omaha World-Herald ranging from 1878 through 1983 as well as as well as other Nebraska newspapers.  I searched for “Katz” and was thrilled to find many relevant results from the search. Through those articles, I learned a great deal about my cousin Samuel Katz, the man, his family, and his businesses.

The earliest items I found that related to Samuel were many ads like this one for his grocery business:

I knew that had to be my Samuel Katz because the address matched what the 1885 Omaha directory listed as his business address:

Title : Omaha, Nebraska, City Directory, 1885 Source Information Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Original sources vary according to directory.

In November, 1885, Katz was a victim of a burglary at the home he shared with his father-in-law and family on Farnam  Street:

“Will Tell for Money,” Omaha World-Herald, November 12, 1885, p. 4

I will transcribe just the beginning of the article:

A short, dark-complexioned, black-haired and black-eyed young fellow named Alfred S. Hill was for some time employed by S. Katz as a driver of the delivery wagon. He was discharged recently, and on last Sunday night someone well acquainted with the premises entered the house where Mr Katz lives and stole a quantity of clothing, some money and two watches. Hill was arrested Tuesday evening on suspicion and locked up.  He said he was not connected with the theft, but know who did the work.

“Will Tell for Money,” Omaha World-Herald, November 12, 1885, p. 4

[Hill identified another man, who was arrested.  The story does not reveal what ultimately happened, and I did not find any follow-up. I was quite disturbed by the article’s physical description of Mr. Hill—why was that relevant?]

The fact that Mr. Hill drove a delivery truck for Samuel Katz seems consistent with the fact that Samuel was then in the grocery business.

But by July, 1886, Samuel was engaged in the grading business:

 

From thereon forward, there are numerous articles mentioning contracts he was awarded for doing road grading in the name of Katz & Callahan.

And beginning as early as 1887, there were also numerous ads like this one:

I knew this was also my Samuel Katz because it matched the Farnam Street address from the 1887 directory:

1887 Omaha directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

And not only was Samuel grading streets and lending money—he was selling real estate in 1887:

So as early as that Samuel had diversified and was in three different lines of work: money lending, real estate, and grading.  In addition, he was teaching in the Hebrew school:

When did he sleep? Money lender, real estate sales, grading contractor, and Hebrew school teacher!

Then in 1889, Samuel was in the clothing business, working for Polack Clothing Company:

1889 Omaha directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

That endeavor ended fairly soon, however, as the store was destroyed by a fire in May, 1889:

“Big Insurance Suit,” Daily Nebraska State Journal, September 17, 1889, p. 5:

“Big Insurance Suit,” Daily Nebraska State Journal, September 17, 1889, p. 5:

“The store of the Polack Clothing company was destroyed by fire on May 31, 1889….”

Samuel then went into the clothing manufacturing business for some time with new partners, Charles Nevens and Lawrence Enewold, in September, 1889:

This news item describes their business, known as Katz-Nevens, as manufacturing “common and medium grades of clothing.”

But Samuel nevertheless also remained engaged in the grading business:

On top of that he was president of Temple Israel, his synagogue:

Once again I ask: When did he sleep?

I won’t bother to catalog all the articles from the 1890s describing Samuel’s activities both in the grading business and the clothing business as well as his synagogue activities, but suffice it to say that he continued to be active in all three endeavors throughout the decade.  I did, however, find this article in which Samuel endorsed the re-election of the mayor of Omaha in 1893 very revealing:

I was impressed that Samuel could see beyond his own business interests and recognize that the mayor was acting in the best interests of the city even when turning down Samuel’s bids for grading contracts. That’s a sign of real integrity. (Or a cynic might say, a way of ingratiating himself in hopes of getting future contracts.)

And just to verify that this Samuel Katz was in fact the one who had moved from Kentucky, there is this news item:

Notice that Samuel was also a delegate to the I.O.B.B, the International Order of B’nai Brith.  Another item to add to his already overloaded resume.

By the end of the decade, however, two things changed in Samuel’s life.  First, Katz-Nevens, the clothing manufacturing business, was dissolved:

Then, Samuel retired as president of his congregation:

Omaha Bee, September, 6, 1899, p. 7

Thus, by 1900, when he responded to the enumerator’s question about his occupation, he was in fact only in the grading business.

Samuel Katz’s occupation on 1900 US census

But that would not stay the same for long. By 1905, Samuel was the treasurer of a new venture, Raapke & Katz Company, where his son Jay was also employed.  What was Raapke & Katz? A grocery business—Samuel had come full circle:

Omaha World-Herald, March 14, 1905, p. 8

One news item that has me quite intrigued is this small mention in April, 1905:

Who was the niece whose wedding Samuel attended back in Germany? I am now researching that question.

In 1906, although Jay is listed as a salesman for Raapke & Katz, Samuel only listed his grading business—Callahan Brothers & Katz— in the directory:

Omaha 1906 directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
Original data: Original sources vary according to directory.

And in 1909, he and Jay were both listed with yet another new business: Katz, Craig Contracting Company.  Samuel was the president and Jay the secretary.

1909 Omaha directory Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Original sources vary according to directory.

And somehow Samuel found himself re-elected as synagogue president in 1910.

On the 1910 census, Samuel and Jay are both described as in the stone contracting business, so that must have been the business of Katz, Craig Contracting:

Katz family on 1910 census
Year: 1910; Census Place: Omaha Ward 11, Douglas, Nebraska; Roll: T624_844; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 0082; FHL microfilm: 1374857

But notice something strange about this census? It lists a second son of Samuel and Lorena: a 23 year old single man born in Kentucky named Sidney. You can imagine how that threw me for a loop when I first saw it.  Where did HE come from?

Just another enumerator mistake, I concluded.  Remember Samuel’s brother Abraham back in Kentucky with the ten children born in nineteen years? One of them was named Sidney and was the right age as the Sidney living with Samuel Katz in 1910.  I believe that the Sidney listed on the 1910 census in Samuel’s household was his nephew, not his son.

In fact, the next year another of Abraham’s children came to live with Samuel Katz; Florence Katz came to study voice in Omaha.  Lorena Rothschild Katz was herself a musician as was her sister Minnie, and so it probably seemed a good place for Florence to pursue her musical interests.

And remember Bertha Katz who was working as a stenographer for Katz-Nevens in 1899? Well, she also was likely the daughter of Samuel’s brother Abraham.  Obviously, despite the long distance between the two brothers, they stayed in touch throughout the years.  Samuel’s trip back to Germany in 1905 indicates that there also was a continuing connection to his family back in Jesberg.

Samuel Katz impressed me as quite a man: a man who was successful in several different businesses, a man who was committed to his faith and his people, and a man who was devoted to his family.

Sadly, his life was cut suddenly short on March 27, 1912, when he was only 59 years old.

Omaha World-Herald, March 28, 1912, p. 15

Here is the text of his obituary. (How many errors can you find?)

Samuel Katz, aged 51 years and for thirty years a resident of Omaha, died shortly after 9 o’clock last night at his home, 3707 Jones street, of heart failure.  Mr. Katz had not been well for a week or more, but last night was thought better. His death came suddenly and without the slightest warning, while he was preparing for a bath.

He is survived by his widow and one son, Jay B. Katz, of this city.

Samuel Katz was born in March 23, 1861, in Essen-Cassle [sic], Germany.  At an early age he came to this country and located in Harroldsburg, K. After a short period in that place he moved to Omaha and became interested in the manufacturing of overalls and bought a controlling interest in the Katz-Nevins Manufacturing company. The latter was connected with the Raapke wholesale company at Fourteenth and Harney streets.  About ten years ago he took up construction work and organized the Katz-Craig Construction company, he being at the head of this firm at the time of his death.  Mr. Katz was regarded as one of the most able and exacting men in his line of work.  Railroad and government construction work was his specialty and many of the finest buildings in this section of the country were built under his careful eye.

Samuel Katz was prominent in religious and charitable work, he being president of the Temple Israel at his death and also an officer in the local Jewish Associated Charities and the Independent order of B’Nai B’rith.  He was a Mason.

The funeral of Mr. Katz will be held at 2 o’clock Friday afternoon at the residence on Jones street.

There was also a memorial service for Samuel Katz in May, 1912.

Perhaps all that energy devoted to family, faith, and work was just too much for Samuel.

More on his family in the next post.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] I ruled out the tailor since he had a son named Samuel, so I’ve assumed that my Samuel was in the clothing and real estate businesses.

What Was My Cousin Doing in Omaha?

By 1885, Samuel Katz, my first cousin three times removed, had moved to Omaha, Nebraska, from the small town in Kentucky where he’d first settled after immigrating from Jesberg, Germany. What took him to Omaha, and what was he doing there?

First, what took him to Omaha? After all, his brother Abraham was living in Kentucky.  Omaha is almost 800 miles west of Horse Cave, Kentucky, where Abraham was living.

 

Omaha was a booming town.  Between 1880 and 1890, its population grew from just over 30,000 people to over 140,000 people. Wikipedia describes it as the fasting growing city in the United States in the 1880s.

According to Wikipedia:

After Irish-born James E. Boyd founded the first packing operation in Omaha in the 1870s, thousands of immigrants from central and southern Europe came to Omaha to work in the Union Stockyards and slaughterhouses of South Omaha. They created Omaha’s original ethnic neighborhoods… The Near North Side also developed greatly during this period, with high concentrations of Jews and Germans, and the first groups of African Americans. …Omaha’s growth was accelerated in the 1880s by the rapid development of the Union Stockyards and the meat packing industry in South Omaha. …There were several breweries established throughout the city during this period.

Omaha 1889, located at http://www.printsoldandrare.com/nebraska/

Not only was Omaha a booming economic center in the 1880s, it also had an established Jewish community.  Temple Israel, the oldest synagogue in Nebraska, provides this history of the Omaha Jewish community on its website:

The first Jewish settlers, mostly merchants and businessmen, arrived in Omaha in 1856. …During the early 1860s, Jewish religious services in Omaha were conducted by laymen including Max Abrahams, grandfather of Milton R. Abrahams, who would become president of Temple Israel in 1942.

In 1871, the Congregation of Israel was founded …. Recognizing the need for a Jewish burial ground, five acres for a cemetery at 42nd and Redick were purchased and deeded to the congregation. During the summer and fall of 1871, Reverend Alexander Rosenspitz served the congregation and conducted the first Confirmation Service for a class of seven. The next year, a short-lived Sunday School was organized. Articles of incorporation were filed with the Douglas County Clerk in 1873. … Enthusiasm and dedication kept the tiny congregation viable. But all money raised was designated for a building leaving little for a rabbi’s salary. Finally, a lot was purchased at 23rd and Harney for $4,000. Reverend George Harfield was hired as rabbi in 1883 and on September 18, 1884, the 50-member congregation dedicated the first synagogue in Nebraska. It had been built for $4,500.

Temple Israel of Omaha, 1st Building
photo located at http://www.jmaw.org/temple-israel-omaha-nebraska/

 

Thus, Omaha would have been an attractive location for a Jewish merchant like Samuel Katz.  He did not, however, strike out all alone with his wife and son and move to Omaha; his wife Lorena’s sister, Bella Rothschild Pollock, and her husband Alexander Pollock had settled in Omaha as early as 1871; by 1880, Lorena’s brother Lafayette had also settled there. And during the 1880s, Lorena’s parents and her sisters Annie and Minnie moved there as well. So Samuel Katz was led to Omaha by his wife’s family.

Now what did he do there? That proved to be a difficult question to answer. I searched for Samuel in every Omaha directory from 1880 through 1912 to try and find answers to that question.

In 1885 there were two men named Samuel Katz and one named Samuel Kats in the Omaha directory.  One Samuel Katz was a grocer, residing at 2514 Douglas Street; the other was a glazier living 1308 Leavenworth Street. Samuel Kats was a tailor living at 1432 13th Street.

1885 Omaha directory Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

In 1886, the glazier was no longer listed, and the tailor was listed with a son, a Samuel Katz, Jr. Since my Samuel did not have a son named Samuel, the tailor could not have been my Samuel Katz.  The grocer named Samuel Katz was now listed as residing at 2016 Farnam; it seemed this had to be my Samuel Katz.

By 1887 there was only one Samuel Katz listed in the Omaha directory; he was working for a real estate business called Katz & Company and residing at 2106 Farnam Street, the same address where the grocer had been living the year before.   I thought this must have been “my” Samuel and that he had moved to the real estate field.

1887 Omaha directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

But there was a Miss Minnie Katz living at the same address who was a music teacher as well as a Miss Annie Katz.  Samuel did not have a wife or a daughter or a sister named Minnie or Annie, so who could they be? I was mystified.

Then I remembered that Lorena had sisters named Minnie and Annie, and they certainly could have been living with Samuel and Lorena.  Perhaps the directory erred by listing them with the surname Katz instead of Rothschild?

A check of the 1888 Omaha directory answered my question:

1888 Omaha directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

Annie and Minnie Rothschild were listed as living at 2113 Douglas Street, along with their father William and their brother Lafayette; Minnie was a music teacher.  Now I knew that Samuel Katz and his family were all living with Lorena’s parents and siblings in the same home at 2113 Douglas Street in 1887. The 1887 directory had simply assigned the wrong surname to Minnie and Annie.

In 1888 Samuel Katz was listed as a general agent for real estate for Manhattan Life Insurance Company, residing with his in-laws at 2113 Douglas Street.  And in 1889 the Samuel Katz living on Douglas Street (now 2111) was working for Polack Clothing Company, the same company that employed his brother-in-law Lafayette. This was presumably the business of Alex Pollock (as it was later spelled), brother-in-law of both Samuel Katz and Lafayette Rothschild.

Omaha directory 1888
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

1889 Omaha directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

In 1890 my Samuel Katz was part owner of a clothing manufacturing business with Charles Nevins (later spelled Nevens) and William Rees and was still living at 2111 Douglas Street.  Meanwhile, Samuel Katz the tailor was still living on 12th Street.

1890 Omaha directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

Samuel Katz of 2111 Douglas Street continued to be listed with Katz-Nevens-Rees in the Omaha directories for each year between 1890 and 1895, although in 1895 there was a second listing for a Samuel Katz who was a grading contractor living on 11th Street.  Every directory from 1895 up to 1899 had these two listings for Samuel Katz, but which one was my relative—the clothing manufacturer at 2111 Douglas Street or the grading contractor at 11th Street?

1899 Omaha directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

On the 1900 census my Samuel Katz was living at 2111 Douglas Street—that is, the address of the Samuel Katz who was the clothing manufacturer with Nevens and Rees, according to the Omaha directories.

Samuel Katz and family, 1900 census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Omaha Ward 4, Douglas, Nebraska; Roll: 924; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 0036; FHL microfilm: 1240924

Samuel Katz’s occupation on 1900 US census

But doesn’t it look like the occupation for that Samuel Katz on that 1900 census says “Contr-Grd”? As in grading contractor? Was he both a clothing manufacturer AND a grading contractor? Or did every issue of the Omaha directory for all those years have the two men named Samuel Katz mixed up?

I was so confused….until I looked more carefully at the 1899 directory listing. And I noticed that the Katz-Nevens clothing company was located at 204 South 11th Street, the same address where the grading contracting business, Samuel Katz & Co, was located. Samuel Katz was in fact in both the clothing business and the grading contracting business.

1899 Omaha directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

But there were more mysteries to be solved, such as who was Bertha Katz, residing at 2111 Douglas Street and working as a stenographer for Katz-Nevens? And how did Samuel Katz end up in two very different businesses?

TO BE CONTINUED

My Kentucky Cousins

Thus far in my writing about my Katzenstein relatives, I have written about the descendants of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein and those of his half-sister, Hannchen who married Marum Mansbach.  Now I turn to the descendants of another of his siblings.

As I wrote earlier, according to the research done by Barbara Greve, my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein had three full siblings, the children of my 3x-great-grandparents Scholum Katzenstein and Breine Blumenfeld, and four half-siblings, the children of Scholum and his first wife, Gelle Katz or Katten.  Gerson’s three full siblings were Freudchen, who died as a child, Moses, for whom there does not appear to be further information after his birth, and Rahel, the only other full sibling for whom there is adult information.[1]  The next several posts will focus on the descendants of Rahel Katzenstein, my 3x-great-aunt.

 

Rahel, was born on January 15, 1813, in Jesberg.  She married Jacob Katz, also of Jesberg; he and Rahel may have been cousins, as I wrote about here.  Rahel and Jacob had six children: Blumchen (1838), Moses (1840), Meier (1843), Abraham (1850), Sanchen (1852), and Samuel (1853).  I know for certain that two of those children, Abraham (or Abram) and Samuel, immigrated to the United States; as for the others, I am still researching, but at least Meier had several descendants who came to the US as well, some not until much later.

But for now, I will tell the stories of Abraham and Samuel.

Their mother Rahel died on December 7, 1861, in Jesberg, when Abra(ha)m was eleven and Samuel was eight.  Their father died a little over ten years later on February 13, 1872, in Jesberg.

By that time Abra(ha)m had already left Germany, arriving in the US in 1868 when he was only eighteen. He appears on the 1870 census living in Cumberland, Maryland, with the family of Gabriel Gump,[2] who was married to Henrietta Mansbach, Abra(ha)m’s half-first cousin and daughter of Hannchen Katzenstein.  Gabriel Gump owned a liquor store, and Abra(ha)m was working as a clerk in a liquor store, presumably that of Gabriel Gump, his cousin’s husband.

Gabriel Gump and family with Abram Katz on line 14
1870 US census
Year: 1870; Census Place: District 6, Allegany, Maryland

Abra(ha)m’s younger brother Samuel left Germany in August, 1872, six months after his father’s death.  I believe that he is listed as Samson Katz on this ship manifest, as his passport application indicated that he had arrived on the Weser from Bremen in August, 1872, and this is the manifest for that ship arriving in New York on August 31, 1872. Sam would have been nineteen years old on that date, as is the Samson Katz on the manifest.

Samuel Katz passport application
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, 1795-1905; Roll #: 669; Volume #: Roll 669 – 01 Feb 1905-28 Feb 1905

Samson Katz on Weser ship manifest
Year: 1872; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 364; Line: 1; List Number: 942

By 1880, Samuel had married Lorena Rothschild, and they were living in Campbellsville, Kentucky, where Samuel was a dry goods merchant.  According to the 1900 census, Samuel and Lorena had married in 1880, so they must have been newly married on the 1880 census.

Samuel and Lorena Katz, 1880 US census
Year: 1880; Census Place: Campbellsville, Taylor, Kentucky; Roll: 442; Family History Film: 1254442; Page: 59A; Enumeration District: 223; Image: 0696

Lorena was born in Kentucky in about 1861 and was eighteen years old when she married Samuel.  Her parents were born in Bavaria, and her father was a butcher on the 1870 census.

Lorena Rothschild and family 1870 census
Year: 1870; Census Place: Harrodsburg, Mercer, Kentucky; Roll: M593_488; Page: 593A; Image: 63456; Family History Library Film: 545987

 

Abra(ha)m had also moved to Kentucky by then.  On the 1880 census he was living in Horse Cave, Kentucky, was single, and was working as a dry goods merchant.

Abram Katz, 1880 census
Year: 1880; Census Place: Horse Cave, Hart, Kentucky; Roll: 419; Family History Film: 1254419; Page: 281B; Enumeration District: 080; Image: 0024

Horse Cave is less than forty miles from Campbellsville, and both are about 80 miles south of Louisville.

 

In 1880, the population of Horse Cave was 526 people; the population of Campbellsville was 775.  Both towns had experienced substantial growth between 1870 and 1880.  They must have been good locations for a merchant to set up a dry goods store. Although I can find no evidence of an established Jewish community in either town, Louisville did have a well-established Jewish community by the 1880s and was not terribly distant from either Campbellsville or Horse Cave.

By 1882, Abraham had married Amelia Esther Nahm. She was born in Louisville on January 16, 1860; her father, Joseph Nahm, was, like his son-in-law, a dry goods merchant and had emigrated from Germany. Her mother, Sarah Montag, was also born in Germany.

During the 1880s and 1890s, Abraham and Amelia were busy having children; their first child, Rachael, was born in Horse Cave on April 25, 1882.  A year later on July 20, 1883, Blanche was born, followed by Lester on March 17, 1885, Sidney on August 27, 1886, Florence on June 26, 1888, Bertha in August, 1890, Benjamin on August 22, 1892, Henrietta on October 15, 1894, Sigmund on August 5, 1896, and finally Milton on November 18, 1901.  That makes ten children in nineteen years. Wow.

Although the first eight children were born in Horse Cave, by the time Sigmund was born in 1896, the family must have relocated from Horse Cave to Louisville as Sigmund was born there. (I am not sure where Henrietta was born more specifically than Kentucky.) According to the 1900 census, Abraham continued to work as a merchant in Louisville.

Abraham Kaz and family 1900 US census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Louisville Ward 5, Jefferson, Kentucky; Roll: 530; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0053; FHL microfilm: 1240530

 

Meanwhile, Samuel Katz and his wife Lorena had a son Jay on October 23, 1882.  It is not clear where Jay was born because the records are in conflict.  Every census report from 1900 through 1920 reports that Jay was born in Kentucky.  And my study of the Omaha directories seems to suggest Samuel Katz did not arrive in Omaha until after Jay was born as Samuel is first listed in the directories in 1885 and is not listed in the Nebraska State census of 1885. But the Illinois Death Index says he was born in Omaha, not Kentucky.  Further research suggests that the Illinois Death Index is incorrect and that Jay was in fact born in Kentucky.

[An earlier version of this post stated that Jay’s World War I draft registration indicated that he was born in Omaha; I had misread the registration card.  It does not in fact include any information about where Jay was born.  I will discuss this in a later post.]

Since Jay filled out his draft registration card himself and since I’ve seen so many errors on census records, I was inclined to think that Jay was born in Omaha. What do you think?  Which source(s) would you trust?  Perhaps Jay, who lived his whole life in Omaha, mistakenly assumed he was born there or wished he had been?

At any rate by June 6, 1885, when the Nebraska State Census was taken, Samuel was living in Omaha, Nebraska.  What had taken him there? And what he doing there?

More in my next post.

 

[1] Only two of the half-siblings survived to adulthood. One was Hannchen, who married  Marum Mansbach, whose family I’ve already written about extensively.  The other was Jacob, who was born in Jesberg in 1803, married Sarchen Lion, and had eight children, whom I have yet to research.

[2] I wrote about the family of Gabriel Grump in earlier posts. See here, here, and here.