How Newspaper Articles Helped Solve the Mysteries of Howard Sigmund’s Sons-in-Law

When my cousin Howard Sigmund and his wife Leslie had a second child, Nancy Lee Sigmund, on February 12, 1922,1 he was the first of the children of William and Adelaide Sigmund to have more than one child.  Nancy Sigmund was born over ten years after the birth of her older sister, Audrey, who was born in 1910.

In 1930 Howard was still in the women’s clothing business in DC, like his brother’s Abe and Goldsmith.2 His daughter Audrey Sigmund married Leonard Casillo sometime between August and October, 1938. Oddly, despite numerous social news items posted about Audrey in the Washington DC newspapers, I could not find a wedding article, just a story referring to her as “Audrey Sigmund” in August 1938 and then a story referring to her as “Mrs. Leonard Casillo, formerly Audrey Sigmund,” in October 1938.

Washington DC Evening Star, October 23, 1938, p. 54

Leonard was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut on December 10, 1910,3 to Pasquale and Jennie Casillo, who were born in Italy and immigrated to the US in 1898. In 1930 Leonard was living with his parents, sister, and uncle in Bridgeport where his father was working as the manager of a grocery store.4

I wondered how Audrey, a Jewish girl from Washington, DC, had met an Italian boy from Bridgeport, Connecticut, until I found an article about Georgetown University’s 1938 graduation ceremonies that included this list of dental school graduates:

Washington DC Evening Star, June 14, 1938, p. 5

Leonard, the son of two Italian immigrants, had graduated from dental school  at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, in June 1938.

After marrying, Audrey and Leonard settled in Bridgeport and had a child. I was a bit perplexed by the 1940 census, which shows Leonard living with his parents, sister, and uncle in Bridgeport, but not with Audrey or their child.

Leonard Casillo 1940 US census, Census Place: Bridgeport, Fairfield, Connecticut; Roll: m-t0627-00531; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 9-61, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census

But Leonard’s World War II draft registration, which is dated October 16, 1940, six months after the census enumeration, lists Audrey as his wife at the same address and as the person who will always know Leonard’s address. So perhaps Audrey had taken the baby to visit her family when the enumeration was done.

Leonard Casillo, World War II draft registration, Page 1 – Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Multiple Registrations 16 Oct 1940, Draft Registration Cards for Connecticut, 1940 – 1947, Roll: 44002_05_00009

Meanwhile, back in DC in the 1940s, Howard Sigmund was still the owner of a women’s clothing store and was living with his wife Leslie and younger daughter Nancy.5

Nancy married Julian Savage on May 31, 1948, in Washington.

Washington DC Evening Star, June 1, 1948, p. 24

Learning about Julian led me down quite a rabbit hole. Julian was born in Washington, DC, on February 25, 1919;6 his parents appeared from the census records and other documents to be Samuel and Lena Savage, immigrants from either Lithuania, Russia, Germany, or Poland, depending on the record.7 But were Samuel and Lena Julian’s birth parents?

Although Julian was born in 1919 according to his military records, he did not appear on the 1920 census with Samuel, Lena, and their much older children, Rosa (born in 1900) and Benjamin (born in 1905). Since Lena would have been 43 in 1919 when Julian was born, I started to wonder whether Julian was adopted or just a later-in-life (for those days) baby.8

I found this legal notice from 1943 that also made me wonder:

Washington DC Evening Star, January 27, 1943, p. 35

Was Julian Savage born Julian Margolius? If so, who were his biological parents? I figured I’d never know. But in searching for information about Julian Savage in newspapers, I noticed that the best man at his wedding was Bernard Margolius. In addition, Bernard’s obituary listed Julian Savage as his brother.9 Searching for Bernard’s parents, I learned of Wolf Margolius and Jennie Cohen, Russian immigrants, who had five children: Edna, Emanuel, Albert, Bernard, and finally Julian.

Wolf Margolius and family, 1920 US census, Census Place: Washington, Washington, District of Columbia; Roll: T625_209; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 142
Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census

And where were they living in 1920? In Washington, DC, at 501 Massachusetts Avenue. And who lived at 503 Massachusetts Avenue in 1920? Samuel and Lena Savage and their two children, Rosa and Benjamin.10

So how did Julian end up living with the Savages in 1930? His birth mother Jennie Cohen Margolius died on July 31, 1922, when Julian was only three.11 The other Margolius children were older when their mother died; Bernard, the second youngest, was nine and in school, and the other children were teenagers or beyond. My guess is that Wolf Margolius could not care for the youngest boy and so entrusted him with his friends and neighbors, the Savages. And so Julian Margolius became Julian Savage, the son of Samuel and Lena. But obviously he remained very close to his biological brother, Bernard Margolius, naming him as the best man at his wedding.

In 1940, Julian was the only child left in the Savage household.12 He graduated from Benjamin Franklin University with a degree in accounting and was a CPA by 1940 when he was 21, the youngest CPA in the country at that time. He enlisted in the US Army on March 6, 1941, and achieved the rank of major, serving four years overseas during World War II. When he came home, he attended George Washington University in 1948, hoping to become a lawyer, but he could not afford to continue at school so he “read for the law” by working in an attorney’s office and then passed the Virginia bar. Julian and Nancy had two children.13

Julian became an early investor and developer of Holiday Inn hotels in the Washington, DC, area, and beyond, starting in 1959 and eventually building fifty different hotels, as detailed in a 1968 article from the Washington Evening Star14 and in his obituary.

Howard Sigmund lived to see his daughters living comfortably with their respective husbands. He died at the age of 92 in Washington, DC, in July, 1982.15 He was survived by his daughters, their husbands, and grandchildren. His wife Lesley had predeceased him in April 1977 when she was 89.16

Audrey and Leonard Casillo remained in Bridgeport for the rest of their lives. Audrey died on June 5, 1983,17 when she was 73, just a year after her father Howard died; her husband Leonard outlived her by ten years. He was 83 when he died in Newtown, Connecticut, on November 19, 1983.18 They were survived by their children and grandchildren.

Julian Savage died at the age of 92 on February 17, 2012.19 His wife Nancy Sigmund Savage died almost seven years later on December 15, 2018. They were survived by their children and grandchildren.20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


  1.  Name: Nancy L Savage, Birth Date: 12 Feb 1922, Ancestry.com. U.S. Public Records Index, 1950-1993, Volume 1 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Voter Registration Lists, Public Record Filings, Historical Residential Records, and Other Household Database Listings. 
  2. Howard Sigmund 1930 US census, Census Place: Washington, District of Columbia; Page: 24A; Enumeration District: 0191; FHL microfilm: 2340032, Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 
  3. SSN: 040326854, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  4. Peter (Pasquale) Casillo and family, 1930 US census, Census Place: Bridgeport, Fairfield, Connecticut; Page: 5B; Enumeration District: 0035; FHL microfilm: 2339990,
    Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 
  5. Howard Sigmund, 1940 US census, Census Place: Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia; Roll: m-t0627-00571; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 1-533, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  6. Julian Savage, World War II draft registration, The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for District of Columbia, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 201, Ancestry.com. U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 
  7. See, e.g., Julian Savage, 1940 US census, Census Place: Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia; Roll: m-t0627-00567; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 1-413, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  8. Samuel Savage and family, 1920 US census, Census Place: Washington, Washington, District of Columbia; Roll: T625_209; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 142, Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  9. See wedding article above. See obituary at https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/washingtonpost/obituary.aspx?n=bernard-margolius&pid=144450864 
  10. Samuel Savage and family, 1920 US census, Census Place: Washington, Washington, District of Columbia; Roll: T625_209; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 142, Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  11. District of Columbia Deaths, 1874-1961,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F7BW-QCZ : accessed 13 November 2019), Wolf Margolius in entry for Jennie Margolius, 31 Jul 1922, District of Columbia, United States; citing reference ID 767, District Records Center, Washington D.C.; FHL microfilm 2,115,943. 
  12. Samuel Savage and family, 1940 US census, Census Place: Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia; Roll: m-t0627-00567; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 1-413, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  13. “Man Behind the Sign at 30 Holiday Inns,” Washington DC Evening Star, October 5, 1972, p. 68 
  14. “Man Behind the Sign at 30 Holiday Inns,” Washington DC Evening Star, October 5, 1972, p. 68 
  15. Social Security Number: 579-05-1276, Death Date: Jul 1982, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  16. Social Security Number: 577-30-6420, Death Date: Apr 1977,
    Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  17. State File #: 13133, Connecticut Department of Health. Connecticut Death Index, 1949-2012. 
  18. SSN: 040326854, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  19. https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/washingtonpost/obituary.aspx?fhid=2167&n=julian-savage&pid=156038507 
  20. https://www.lastingtributesfuneralcare.com/obituaries/Nancy-Savage/#!/Obituary 

Jacob Goldsmith, The final chapter: What happened to his son Frank?

As of 1930, only six of Jacob Goldsmith’s fourteen children were still living: Annie, Celia, Frank, Rebecca, Florence, and Gertrude. As seen in my prior posts, Eva died in 1928. In addition, I have written about the deaths of Gertrude in 1937 and Rebecca in 1940. There remain therefore just four siblings to discuss, and by 1945, they were all deceased.

Annie and Celia, the two oldest remaining siblings, both died in 1933. Celia, who’d been living with her sister Florence and her family in 1930, died on January 15, 1933, in Denver, and was buried in Philadelphia on January 18, 1933. She was 73 years old.  Celia never married and has no living descendants.1

Her sister Annie died four months later, on May 29, 1933, in San Francisco.2 She was 77 and was survived by her three children, Josephine, Harry, and Fanny. Sadly, Harry did not outlive his mother by much more than a year. He died at 53 on August 4, 1934, in San Francisco.3 He was survived by his wife Rose, who died in 1969, and his two sisters, Josephine and Fanny. But Josephine also was not destined for a long life. She died less than three years after her brother Harry on April 23, 1937; she was 59. Like their father Augustus who’d died when he was fifty, Josephine and Harry were not blessed with longevity.

Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 05 March 2019), memorial page for Fannie Mendelsohn Frank (unknown–1 Sep 1974), Find A Grave Memorial no. 100371723, citing Home of Peace Cemetery and Emanu-El Mausoleum, Colma, San Mateo County, California, USA ; Maintained by Diane Reich (contributor 40197331) .

Of Augustus and Annie’s children, only Fanny lived a good long life. She was 93 when she died on September 1, 1974.4 According to her death notice in the San Francisco Chronicle, she had been a dealer in Oriental art objects.5 Like Josephine, Fanny had never married and had no children, nor did their brother Harry. Thus, there are no living descendants of Annie Goldsmith Frank.

Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 05 March 2019), memorial page for Fannie Mendelsohn Frank (unknown–1 Sep 1974), Find A Grave Memorial no. 100371723, citing Home of Peace Cemetery and Emanu-El Mausoleum, Colma, San Mateo County, California, USA ; Maintained by Diane Reich (contributor 40197331) .

The third remaining child of Jacob Goldsmith was Florence Goldsmith Emanuel. In 1930, Florence was living with her husband Jerry Emanuel in Denver as well as their nephew Bernard, the son of Gertrude Goldsmith and Jacob Emanuel, and Florence’s sister Celia. Jerry was working as a clerk in a wholesale tobacco business. In 1940, they were still living in Denver, now with Jerry’s sister Grace in their home, and Jerry was working as a salesman for a wholesale liquor business.6

Emanuel family, 1930 US census, Census Place: Denver, Denver, Colorado; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 0137; FHL microfilm: 2339973
Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census

Florence Goldsmith Emanuel died on August 4, 1942, at the age of 73. Her husband Jerry survived her by another seventeen years. He died on June 16, 1959, and is buried with Florence in Denver. He was 89. Florence and Jerry did not have children, so like so many of Florence’s siblings, there are no living descendants.7

That brings me to the last remaining child of Jacob Goldsmith and Fannie Silverman, their son Frank. In 1930, Frank and his wife Barbara were living in Atlantic City, and Frank was retired.8 On July 25, 1937, Barbara died in Philadelphia; she was 67. Like Frank’s parents and many of his siblings, she was buried at Mt Sinai cemetery in Philadelphia; in fact, she was buried in the same lot as Celia and Rachel Goldsmith and one lot over from her in-laws Jacob and Fannie Goldsmith.9

I mention this because for the longest time I was having no luck finding out when or where Frank Goldsmith died or was buried. In 1940, he was living as a widower in the Albemarle Hotel in Atlantic City, and the 1941 Atlantic City directory lists Frank as a resident.9 But after that he disappeared. I couldn’t find any obituaries or death records, but what really mystified me was that there was no record of his burial with his wife Barbara and his other family members at Mt Sinai cemetery.

I contacted Mt Sinai and learned that the plot that had been reserved for Frank is still unused. Barbara is buried with Frank’s sisters Celia and Rachel and one lot over from Frank’s parents. But Frank is not there. Here are two of the Mt Sinai burial records showing that Barbara and Celia are buried right near each other in lots owned by Frank.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records,  Mt· Sinai Cemetery, Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1669-2013

I also hired a researcher to search the New Jersey death certificates in Trenton (since they are not available online). She came up empty. So what had happened to Frank?

Well, once again Tracing the Tribe, the Jewish genealogy Facebook group, came to the rescue. I posted a question there and received many responses, most of them suggestions for things I’d already done. But one member,  Katherine Dailey Block, found a 1920 newspaper article that mentioned Frank that I had never seen:

“To Leave for Florida,” Harrisburg Telegraph, December 30, 1920, p. 4.

That raised the possibility that Frank might have spent time in Florida more than this one time. I had made the mistake of assuming that, having lived his whole life in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, he must have died in one of those two states. Now I broadened the search to Florida. (Doing a fifty-state search was not helpful since the name Frank Goldsmith is quite common, and I had no way to figure out whether any of them was my Frank.) And this result came up:

Florida Death Index, 1877-1998,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VV91-P84 : 25 December 2014), Frank F. Goldsmith, 1945; from “Florida Death Index, 1877-1998,” index, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : 2004); citing vol. 1148, certificate number 9912, Florida Department of Health, Office of Vital Records, Jacksonville.

A Frank F. Goldsmith had died in Tampa, Florida in 1945. Could this be my Frank? Tampa is on the opposite coast from Jacksonville as well as much further south. That made me doubt whether this was the same Frank F. Goldsmith. But then I found this record from the 1945 Florida census; notice the second to last entry on the page:

Census Year: 1945, Locality: Precinct 2, County: Hillsborough, Page: 43, Line: 32
Archive Series #: S1371, Roll 20, Frank F. Goldsmith 65
Ancestry.com. Florida, State Census, 1867-1945

There was Frank F. Goldsmith, and when I saw that he was born in Pennsylvania, I was delighted, figuring that this could be my Frank. On the other hand, the census reported that this Frank was 65 years old in 1945 whereas my Frank would have been 82. But it seemed worth ordering a copy of the death certificate from the Florida vital records office to see if it contained information that would either confirm or disprove my hope that this was my cousin Frank.

Unfortunately, here is the death certificate:

As you can see, it has no information about this Frank F. Goldsmith’s wife, parents, birth place, occupation, or much of anything that would help me tie him to my Frank F. Goldsmith. In fact, the age and birth date on the certificate are inconsistent with my Frank Goldsmith, who was born in June 1863, according to the 1900 census, not June of 1878.

Despite these blanks and inconsistencies, my hunch is that this is my Frank. Why? Both Franks have a birth date in June. And on later census records, Frank’s estimated birth year based on his reported age moved later than 1863—1868 in 1910, 1876 in 1920, and 1870 in 1930 and 1940. He seemed to be getting younger as time went on. Maybe by 1945, he was giving a birth year of 1878. And by 1945 there was no one left to inform the hospital of his family’s names or his birth date or age so perhaps whoever completed the death certificate (looks like someone from the funeral home) was just guessing at his age and birth date.

In addition, there is no other Frank F. Goldsmith who fits the parameters of the Frank on the death certificate. Finally, this Frank was to be buried in the “Jew cemetery,” so we know that he was Jewish.

So what do you think? Is this enough to tie the Frank F. Goldsmith who died in Florida to my Frank F. Goldsmith? I know these are thin reeds upon which to make a case, but I think they may have to be enough.

In any event, like his sisters Rachel, Celia, Annie, Emma, Eva and Florence, and his brother Felix, Frank Goldsmith has no living descendants. In fact, it is quite remarkable how few living descendants Jacob Goldsmith and Fannie Silverman have, considering that they had had fourteen children. Five of those fourteen children did not have children of their own: Emma, Rachel, Celia, Frank, and Florence. Four of Jacob and Fannie’s children had no grandchildren: Annie had three children, but none of them had children. Eva had one son, Sidney, who did not have any children, and the same was true of Gertrude’s son Bernard and Felix’s two children Ethel and Clarence. From fourteen children, Jacob and Fannie had twenty grandchildren and only twelve great-grandchildren, and a number of those great-grandchildren also did not have children. From my count, there were only ten great-great-grandchildren. With each generation, instead of growing, the family became smaller.

But that is not the legacy of Jacob and Fannie Goldsmith. Rather, theirs is the remarkable story of two young German immigrants settling in western Pennsylvania and then Philadelphia, raising fourteen children who eventually spanned the continent. From all appearances, many of those fourteen children stayed close, both geographically and presumably emotionally. Many of them lived together, especially the daughters who spent years in Denver together. Like so many first-generation Americans, these fourteen children provided evidence to their parents that the risks they took leaving their home country behind and crossing the ocean were worthwhile. Yes, there was plenty of heartbreak along the way, but overall Jacob, Fannie, and their fourteen children lived comfortably and free from oppression.

 


  1. Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records, Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1669-2013 
  2. Ancestry.com. California, Death Index, 1905-1939 
  3. Ancestry.com. California, Death Index, 1905-1939 
  4.  Number: 562-66-4663; Issue State: California; Issue Date: 1962, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  5. San Francisco Chronicle, September 4, 1974, p. 35 
  6. Florence Emanuel, 1940 US census, Census Place: Denver, Denver, Colorado; Roll: m-t0627-00490; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 16-221B, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  7. JewishGen, comp. JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) 
  8. Frank Goldsmith, 1930 US census, Census Place: Atlantic City, Atlantic, New Jersey; Page: 19B; Enumeration District: 0011; FHL microfilm: 2341043, Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 
  9. Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records,  Mt· Sinai Cemetery, Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1669-2013 

Season’s Greetings!

With my last post I completed the stories I’ve been able to find about all the children and descendants of my three-times great-grandparents Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hinka Alexander as well as those of Seligmann’s brother Lehmann Goldschmidt and his wife Ranchen Frank. It has been a full year since I started blogging about the Goldschmidts, and I am not nearly done. Now I need to sort out what to write about next regarding  the remaining Goldschmidt relatives.

In the meantime, I will be taking a break from blogging for the next couple of weeks. So for now, I wish all who celebrate Christmas a joyous and happy holiday, and my hope for everyone is that 2019 will bring good health, happiness, and a world that is less filled with hate and corruption and more filled with love and justice.

Before I go for 2018, here are three short updates about other family history matters that happened this fall while I was focusing on my Goldschmidt/Goldsmith relatives.

Last month I had lunch with two of my Katzenstein cousins, my fourth cousins Marsha and Carl. Marsha and Carl are third cousins to each other and are descendants of Rahel Katzenstein and Jacob Katz. Rahel was the sister of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein. We are all three-times great-grandchildren of Scholem Katzenstein and Breine Blumenfeld.  We spent three hours, along with Carl’s wife and my husband, eating and mostly talking and laughing and sharing our stories—past and present. Even though I did not know Carl or Marsha growing up nor did they know each other growing up, we definitely have bonded and are more than just cousins.  We are friends.

My cousins Carl and Marsha

Three descendants of Scholem Katzenstein and Breine Blumenfeld

I also recently heard from my cousin Jean. Jean is my third cousin. We are both great-great-granddaughters of David Rosenzweig and Esther Gelberman. Jean is descended from their daughter Tillie Rosenzweig and her husband Yankel Srulovici (later Strolowitz, then Adler), and I am descended from their daughter Ghitla Rosenzweig and her husband Moritz Goldschlager. Jean sent me this beautiful photograph of her great-aunt and my grandfather’s first cousin, Bertha Adler. I wrote about Bertha here and here. Bertha had been married to Benjamin Bloom, but the marriage did not last, and Bertha did not have any children. I am so delighted that I now know what she looked like. I love how simply elegant she looks. She was 71 years old when this picture was taken and died just four years later.

Bertha Adler Bloom, 1956. Courtesy of Jean Cohen

This is my great-grandmother Ghitla Rosenzweig Goldschlager, Bertha’s aunt. I definitely see a slight family resemblance. Do you?

Ghitla Rosenzweig Goldschlager

Finally, another amazing small world story. I recently posted about my cousin Arthur Mansbach Dannnenberg, the son of Hannah Mansbach Dannenberg and grandson of Sarah Goldschmidt Mansbach, my great-great-grandmother Eva Goldschmidt Katzenstein’s sister. He was a pediatrician in Philadelphia, and his obituary described in detail what a dedicated doctor he had been.

I received a comment on that post from my fourth cousin Meg, who is a descendant of Abraham Goldschmidt/Goldsmith, who was also a sibling of Eva Goldschmidt and Sarah Goldschmidt. Meg commented that  Dr. Arthur Dannenberg  was the pediatrician who saved her sister’s life in 1946 when she was 10 months old and had meningitis.

What we don’t know is whether Meg’s mother Jean realized that their pediatrician was also her second cousin, once removed. Meg certainly did not know that.

Once again, merry Christmas to all who celebrate and happy New Year! Thank you all for continuing to follow me on my journey!

 

 

 

Pittsburgh

Where do I start to express how I feel about what happened in Pittsburgh? Do I tell you how my heart didn’t stop racing all day on Saturday from when I first heard the news?  That I am just too sad and scared to be angry? That I feel like an outsider in my own country?

I didn’t know any of the individuals killed or injured in Pittsburgh, but I knew every single one of them. They are my friends and neighbors, my fellow congregants, my family, my ancestors. Yes, I have some actual ties to Pittsburgh—relatives from long ago who lived there including my great-grandfather, friends who grew up there, a brother who once lived there, and so on. But even if I didn’t, I knew these people. Because they were like me, a Jewish person living in America taking for granted all too often that we are safe. That it can never happen here. That people are basically good, that evil will not prevail.

Now I am not so sure. More and more we see the evil prevailing, the anger fanned, the hatred accepted and even condoned. Whether it is directed against someone because of their religion—be it Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, or Christianity—or their skin color or their sexual orientation or their gender or their age or their nationality, the hatred is not only there, it is being acted upon. And it is not being condemned by our federal government in strong enough terms to be credible. In fact, it is encouraged.

I am beginning to lose faith in people. I no longer feel safe, I no longer believe it could never happen here. I have learned from studying my family history and Jewish history in general how much hatred and oppression and discrimination and violence have shaped my own history. Many of my ancestors came to this country in order to escape anti-Semitism and the oppression and lack of opportunity they faced in Europe. When I learned how many of my not-so-distant relatives died in the Holocaust or survived it against all odds or escaped just in time, I felt so grateful for America. America was supposed to be different. But is it really so different now?

Of course, in some ways it is. In Pittsburgh, the police took bullets to protect Jews. The mayor condemned what happened. The government there was not afraid to help the victims or condemn the murderer. On Facebook I am heartened when I see non-Jews standing up and making any kind of statement condemning what happened. We attended a gathering at our synagogue, and I was touched to see representatives there from other faiths and government officials pledging to stand by us. The service ended with the singing of The Star Spangled Banner and Hatikvah. As the rabbi said, we sing The Star Spangled Banner, the American national anthem, because this is our home.  And we sing Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem which means “the hope,” because we are Jews and to remind us that that we must never abandon hope.

And as I write this, I realize that I am not afraid to publish these thoughts. Because somewhere deep inside I must still trust that I will be safe here. But not as much as I once did.

Tomorrow I will return to telling my family’s story—with even more urgency than before. Because people—not just my people, not just my family—need to know what we as Jews have endured and what we have learned, what we have suffered and what we have contributed. And people need to understand the dreams that brought our ancestors here. We must not let those dreams die.

Bertha, Alice and Louis: Eluding the Census

The three youngest children of my three-times great-uncle Abraham Goldsmith and his second wife Frances Spanier were Bertha, Alice, and Louis. I was going to write a separate post for each of them, but as their stories started to unfold, I realized that their lives were so intertwined that it made more sense to combine their three stories into two posts.  These three siblings were all close in age, and all three ended up in New York City, as had their oldest (half) brother Milton and older (full) brother Alfred.

Bertha was born on August 16, 1878,1 Alice on August 29, 1880,2 and Louis on November 4, 1882, all in Philadelphia.3 In 1900, they were all still living with their parents and older half-sister Estelle in Philadelphia.  Bertha was working as a “saleslady,” Alice as a milliner, and Louis was still in school. Their father Abraham died two years later on January 27, 1902, as we have seen.

Abraham Goldsmith and family 1900 census
Philadelphia Ward 12, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Enumeration District: 0208
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census

In 1906, Bertha married Sampson Herbert Weinhandler, the son of Solomon Weinhandler and Hattie Loewenthal.4

Marriage license of Bertha Goldsmith and Sampson Weinhandler, FamilySearch database of Philadelphia marriage licenses

Sampson was born in New York on April 17, 1873,5 and grew up in New York City where his father, a Russian born immigrant, was the owner of a millinery store. Sampson’s mother Hattie was an immigrant from Germany.6  In 1905, Sampson was boarding in the household of others and was a practicing lawyer. He had graduated from City College of New York in 1893 and had received a law degree from Columbia University in 1896.7 A year after marrying Sampson, Bertha gave birth to their first child, Arthur, on May 22, 1907.8

Alfred, Bertha, Alice, and Louis Goldsmith lost their mother Frances the following year. She died on January 18, 1908, from a cerebral hemorrhage and apoplexy, i.e., a stroke.  She was only 52 years old.

Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1966; Certificate Number Range: 006001-010000
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966

The 1910 census found Bertha and Sampson Weinhandler living at 531 West 112th Street in Manhattan with their son Arthur. Sampson was practicing law.9 On July 3, 1911, Bertha and Sampson’s second child was born; she was named Frances, presumably for Bertha’s recently deceased mother.10

Meanwhile, Bertha’s two younger siblings Alice and Louis were probably still in Philadelphia although I cannot find either Alice or Louis on the 1910 US census.  As we will see, these siblings had a way of eluding the census. There are three men named Louis Goldsmith in the 1911 Philadelphia directory, but I’ve no idea which one is my Louis or if any of them are. 11 According to his obituary, Louis was still in Philadelphia during this time period, working as sales and advertising director for the Snellenburg Clothing Company. 12

In February, 1914, Louis traveled from Naples, Italy, to New York, and listed his address as 1934 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia (an address I could not locate on the 1910 census);13 according to a passport application he filed in 1920, Louis spent several months living in France and Italy in 1913.14  In 1914 he founded his own advertising agency in Philadelphia, L.S. Goldsmith Advertising Agency.15

Louis Goldsmith 1920 passport application, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 1313; Volume #: Roll 1313 – Certificates: 73626-73999, 29 Jul 1920-29 Jul 1920. Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925

 

For Alice, I have no records at all between 1900 and 1914. In August of 1914, she traveled to Europe to join her brother Louis, according to the passenger manifest, so Louis must have returned to Europe, but I cannot find him on a passenger manifest later that year.16 I have no address or occupation for Alice from 1900 until 1918 (see below).

Meanwhile, Bertha, apparently more census-compliant than her younger siblings (perhaps because Sampson was a lawyer), showed up on the 1915 New York State census.  She and her family were now living at 235 West 103rd Street in New York City, and Sampson continued to practice law.17

Louis moved to New York City in 1915, according to his obituary. 18 His draft registration for World War I dated September 12, 1918, states that he was then living at 140 West 69th Street in New York City and working in his own advertising business. He listed his sister Alice Goldsmith as his contact person and gave her address as 2131 Green Street, Philadelphia. I could not find Alice living at that address on the 1910 census, but her sister Emily and her family were living there, so perhaps Alice had moved in at some point after 1910. But by 1920, neither Alice nor Emily’s family (Emily having passed away in 1917) was living at that address.

Louis Goldsmith, World War I draft registration
Registration State: New York; Registration County: New York; Roll: 1766147; Draft Board: 124
Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918

By 1920, Bertha’s husband Sampson Weinhandler had changed his name to Sampson Wayne, presumably to make it look either less Jewish or less German or perhaps both. In 1920 he and his family (also using the surname Wayne) were living at 235 West 103rd in Manhattan, and he was still practicing law.19

Once again, I had trouble finding either Alice or Louis on the 1920 census. But both applied for passports that year, and both listed their residential address as 140 West 69th Street, New York, New York, on their applications, which was the same address that Louis had listed as his address on his 1918 draft registration.20 (See Louis’ application above.) Alice was a witness for Louis on his application as to his birth (giving her address as 140 West 69th Street), and Bertha was a witness for Alice on her application as to her birth.

Louis Goldsmith, 1920 passport photo, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 1313; Volume #: Roll 1313 – Certificates: 73626-73999, 29 Jul 1920-29 Jul 1920. Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925.

 

Alice Goldsmith passport application and photo,
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 1270; Volume #: Roll 1270 – Certificates: 57750-58125, 23 Jun 1920-24 Jun 1920
Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925

Both Alice and Louis also applied for passports again in 1923. Again, both gave 140 West 69th Street as their residential address. Both indicated that they were planning to visit several countries in Europe, staying for many months.21

So I had an address for both Alice and Louis to use to find them on the 1920 census, and I turned to stevemorse.org to do a reverse census lookup.  But I had no luck. I found 140 West 69th Street on the 1920 census, but neither Louis nor Alice was listed as residing there. Nor can I find them elsewhere on the 1920 census.

Those passport applications thus did not help me find Alice or Louis on the 1920 census. But they did help me figure out something else. That is a story for my next post.

 


  1.  Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VBT5-5R2 : 8 December 2014), Goldsmith, 16 Aug 1878; citing bk 1878 p 23, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 1,289,319. 
  2. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VBR5-HSD : 8 December 2014), Goldsmith, 29 Aug 1880; citing bk 1880 p 26, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 1,289,320. 
  3. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V1MW-53K : 8 December 2014), Louis Goldsmith, 04 Nov 1882; citing bk 1882 p 134, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 1,289,322. 
  4. Ancestry.com. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Marriage Index, 1885–1951.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009. Philadelphia County Pennsylvania Clerk of the Orphans’ Court. “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia marriage license index, 1885-1951.” Clerk of the Orphans’ Court, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 
  5.  Registration State: New York; Registration County: New York; Roll: 1766376; Draft Board: 134; Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 
  6. Weinhandler family, 1880 US Census, 1880; Census Place: New York City, New York, New York; Roll: 873; Page: 228A; Enumeration District: 148; Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census. Weinhandler family, 1910 US Census, Census Place: Manhattan Ward 12, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1027; Page: 20B; Enumeration District: 0726; FHL microfilm: 1375040. Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census. Also, Ancestry.com. New York City, Compiled Marriage Index, 1600s-1800s [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005. Original data: Genealogical Research Library, comp. New York City, Marriages, 1600s-1800s. 
  7. Media posted on Ancestry Family Tree (“Our Harris Family Tree”); New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1905; Election District: A.D. 19 E.D. 23; City: Manhattan; County: New York; Page: 28.
    Ancestry.com. New York, State Census, 1905. 
  8. Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. 
  9. Bertha and Sampson Weinhandler, 1910 US Census, Census Place: Manhattan Ward 12, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1027; Page: 22B; Enumeration District: 0726; FHL microfilm: 1375040. Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census 
  10.  Number: 090-32-7264; Issue State: New York; Issue Date: 1957-1958. Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  11. 1911 Philadelphia City Directory, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. 
  12.   “Louis S. Goldsmith, Advertising Man, 75,” The New York Times, August 1, 1958. Another twist in my family tree: The Snellenburg Clothing Company was owned by the family of Caroline Snellenburg, who was married to my great-great-uncle Joseph Cohen. 
  13. Year: 1914; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 2266; Line: 6; Page Number: 23. Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 
  14.  National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 1313; Volume #: Roll 1313 – Certificates: 73626-73999, 29 Jul 1920-29 Jul 1920. Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 
  15. “Louis S. Goldsmith, Advertising Man, 75,” The New York Times, August 1, 1958. 
  16.  Year: 1914; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 2364; Line: 1; Page Number: 145; Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 
  17. Weinhandler family, 1915 NYS Census, New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 03; Assembly District: 19; City: New York; County: New York; Page: 06. Ancestry.com. New York, State Census, 1915 
  18.   “Louis S. Goldsmith, Advertising Man, 75,” The New York Times, August 1, 1958. 
  19.   Wayne family, 1920 US Census, Census Place: Manhattan Assembly District 11, New York, New York; Roll: T625_1204; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 810.
    Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  20. Louis Goldsmith 1920 passport application, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 1313; Volume #: Roll 1313 – Certificates: 73626-73999, 29 Jul 1920-29 Jul 1920. Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925. 
  21. Alice Goldsmith 1923 passport application, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 2273; Volume #: Roll 2273 – Certificates: 293850-294349, 23 May 1923-23 May 1923. Louis Goldsmith 1923 passport application, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 2185; Volume #: Roll 2185 – Certificates: 250726-251099, 21 Feb 1923-23 Feb 1923. Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 

Interview on Pioneer Valley Radio

I was recently interviewed by Bernadette Duncan on Pioneer Valley Radio about my novel Pacific Street and about genealogy research in general. I hope you find it interesting.

You can find it here.

pacific street

You can buy my book here.

Yet Another Small World Story

You know by now that I believe we are all somehow connected—that there truly are only six degrees of separation between any two people. I’ve encountered it many times while doing family history research—my cousins who end up being close friends with either my own friends or with my husband’s cousins, a cousin who once worked at the same JCC where I’ve belonged for over 30 years, cousins with children or grandchildren living in the same town where I now live, and so on.

So here’s another small world story, and although this one does not involve any of my own ancestors or cousins, it nevertheless is more evidence of our interconnectedness.

Back in the fall of 2013, I ordered from a third-party seller on Amazon a book entitled Streets: A Memoir of the Lower East Side by Bella Cohen Spewack (Feminist Press at CUNY, 1995). I purchased the book to learn more about life on the Lower East Side in the first two decades of the 20th century when my grandmother, Gussie Brotman, was growing up there. The memoir gave a detailed and, in many ways, harrowing portrayal of Bella Spewack’s life as a child in the Lower East Side.  Despite her poverty-stricken and difficult start in life, she grew up to become a successful journalist and writer, best known for the play and Broadway hit, Kiss Me Kate, which she wrote with her husband Sam Spewack. I devoted three blog posts to summarizing and commenting on what I had learned about the Lower East Side from reading Bella Spewack’s book.

In a footnote to my last post about Spewack’s book, I wrote about the mysterious handwritten note that had been tucked inside the book when I received it.  The note was written to people named Sheila and Alan and read,

At last we have received copies of Bella’s memoirs. We thought they would never come.  This one is for you.  I hope you enjoy it.  I’ll talk to you this weekend.  On to Turkey! Love, Arthur and Lois.

When I found the note in the book, I had wondered whether Sheila and Alan, the addressees, had ever seen it and whether they had meant to leave it in the book when they gave away or sold the book. I also wondered who Arthur and Lois and Sheila and Alan were. I thought about trying to return the note, but without last names I had no way to do that.

I had one clue: there was an afterward to Bella Spewack’s book by a woman named Lois Raeder Elias, who wrote that she had been a longtime friend of Bella Spewack. I wondered whether the note was written by Lois Raeder Elias since it certainly seemed from the content of the note that the person sending it had participated in some way in the publication of Spewack’s book.

So I mentioned the note in my last blog post about Spewack’s book, hoping that Lois Raeder Elias or someone who knew her might somehow find my post and contact me. That was in December of 2013, almost four and half years ago.

Fast forward about two years later to November of 2015. I was now in the process of researching my Schoenthal ancestors and their lives in Washington, Pennsylvania. While researching the history of Jewish life in so-called “Little Washington,” I connected with Marilyn A. Posner, a past president of Beth Israel synagogue in Little Washington as well as the author of the centennial history of the synagogue, The House of Israel, A Home in Washington: 100 Years of Beth Israel Congregation, 1891-1991 / 5652-5752 (1991, Congregation Beth Israel, Washington, Pennsylvania). Marilyn was extremely helpful to me in my research, and I relied on her research and her book extensively in writing about Little Washington’s Jewish history on my blog. We also developed an email friendship and found other areas of common interest.

House of Nathan Samuels in Washiington PA where Beth Israel congregants first met
Photo courtesy of Marilyn Posner from her book, “The House of Israel, A Home in Washington: 100 Years of Beth Israel Congregation, 1891-1991 / 5652-5752

So how do these two things relate? How does a note in a book by Bella Spewack about the Lower East Side of New York City connect to a woman who lives in Washington, Pennsylvania?

Well, fast forward another two and half years to April 2018, about a week ago. Out of the blue I received an email from Marilyn that I had to read several times to absorb and understand completely.  But here’s the essence: Marilyn’s first cousin, once removed, a man named Arthur Elias, had died on April 12, 2018, at age 92.  Marilyn’s son, in Googling his cousin Arthur’s name for information about his life, somehow fell upon the footnote to my blog post from December 15, 2013, and sent it along to his mother, Marilyn.

Marilyn with her great-aunt Bertha Elias, mother of Arthur Elias, 1948

Marilyn immediately recognized my blog and contacted me to share this small world story: Lois Raeder Elias, who had written the afterward to Bella Spewack’s memoirs, was the wife of Marilyn’s recently deceased cousin Arthur Elias. Arthur and Lois were very close friends of Bella Spewack and in fact had inherited the rights to her works when she died, including the rights to Kiss Me Kate, which had been revived and brought back to Broadway in 1999 with the support of Arthur and Lois Raeder Elias.

 

Marilyn also solved the mystery of the handwritten note I’d found inside the book. She assumed it must have been written by her cousin Arthur and his wife Lois to Arthur’s sister Sheila and her husband Alan.

Marilyn then connected me to her cousin Sheila, who was very excited to hear that I had the note and the book. The next day I mailed the book and the note to Sheila, and she received it last Friday. She was thrilled and so grateful, and I was more than delighted that I could reunite Sheila and Alan with the book and the note that Arthur and Lois had sent to them over twenty years before.

Siblings Sheila and Arthur

 

I had long ago forgotten about the footnote that I’d left on my blog and never expected at this point to hear from anyone about that handwritten note. And then the forces of six degrees of separation came through, and someone with whom I’d connected almost two years after writing that blog footnote and over two and a half years ago turned out to be the cousin of the author and of the recipient of the note.

How is that for a small world story?!

 

Abie’s Irish Rose: One for My Copyright Students

After the very productive first two decades of the 20th century when Milton Goldsmith published at least ten books and had a play produced on Broadway, his output seemed to drop off after 1920. Although he published some puzzle books for children during the 1920s, he did not publish another novel or non-fiction book until 1930.

Milton Goldsmith, The Book of Anagrams, (Whitman Publishing Company, 1930).

The 1925 New York State census record is a bit of a mess so it’s hard to know how reliable it is. I think the enumerator was a bit confused. For example, for Milton he first wrote that he was born in Russia, as was the case for the person in the line above his entry. Then he crossed that out and correctly entered “US.” However, he left the entry that Milton was an alien, not a citizen. So can I trust the listing for Milton’s occupation as a store manager? I don’t think so.

Especially since the line below for Milton’s wife Sophie says she was in advertising and the line below that for Rosalind (spelled “Roseline” here) said “housewife” and was then crossed out and replaced with commercial artist (which she was). So I think that the enumerator had all the occupations off by a line and that Milton was still, as he had been since 1910, in advertising. And I’ve no idea why the enumerator completely crossed out Madeleine (“Madline”) and the servant living in the home.

Milton Goldsmith and family 1925 NYS census
New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1925; Election District: 51; Assembly District: 09; City: New York; County: New York; Page: 30
Ancestry.com. New York, State Census, 1925

Despite these confusing entries on the census, I think it’s safe to assume that Milton was still working in advertising and that his wife and daughters were still living with him at 353 West 85th Street in New York City. Both daughters were now in their twenties. I was not able to learn much else about their lives in the 1920s; there were no news articles of interest or directory listings or other records that shed any light on how they spent that decade.

There was, however, one mention of Milton in a news story that was of particular interest to me as a former teacher of copyright law. One of my favorite cases to teach was Nichols v. Universal Pictures,1 an opinion written in 1930 by the renowned jurist, Learned Hand, of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The case was brought by Anne Nichols, the author and copyright owner of the play, “Abie’s Irish Rose,” which was a hit on Broadway in the 1920s.  She claimed that Universal Pictures had infringed her copyright with its movie, “The Cohens and the Kellys.”

Both works involved a story of an interfaith marriage between a Jew and a Catholic and the conflict it creates for their parents, who don’t approve of the marriage. There were a number of differences between the stories (which my copyright students better remember in detail, but aren’t relevant here), and both the trial court2 and the appellate court3 ruled in favor of the defendant movie studio, concluding that the theme of star-crossed lovers, one Jewish, one Catholic, was something in the public domain and not protected by copyright law.

How did Milton Goldsmith become entangled in this dispute? He was a witness for Universal Pictures at the trial in 1929, giving testimony about his own work, Rabbi and Priest and the play based upon it, The Little Brother. Although his testimony was not described in detail in the New York Times article that covered the trial, I imagine it was used to support the defendant’s argument that conflict between Jews and Catholics is a common theme used in many works, including Rabbi and Priest, and not original to Anne Nichols play, Abie’s Irish Rose.

“Abie” Not Unique, Professor Finds,” The New York Times, January 5, 1929.

It would have been fun to mention this family connection to the case when I was teaching, but alas—I knew nothing about my cousin Milton at the time.

Although Milton released updated versions of some of his earlier books in the 1930s and 1940s, his last new book, first published in 1930, was Old Mother Earth and Her Family, a geography book for young people.4 His daughter Rosalind did the illustrations for this book.

Milton Goldsmith, Old Mother Earth and Her Family (G. Sully & Company, Inc., 1930).

I was unable to find Milton or any of his family on the 1930 census, but I was able to find  Milton, Sophie, Rosalind and Madeleine on several ship manifests in 1930 and 1931 that showed that their home address was still 353 West 85th Street in New York City.5 I used stevemorse.org to search by that address in the 1930 census, but no members of Milton’s family were listed at that address. I wonder whether the whole family was traveling or living abroad when the 1930 census was taken.

The next decade would bring some more changes for Milton and his family.

 


  1. Nichols v. Universal Pictures, 45 F.2d 119 (2d Cir. 1930). 
  2. Nichols v. Universal Pictures, 34 F.2d 145 (S.D.N.Y. 1929) 
  3. Nichols v. Universal Pictures, 45 F.2d 119 (2d Cir. 1930). 
  4. Milton Goldsmith, Old Mother Earth and Her Family (G. Sully & Company, 1930) 
  5.  Year: 1930; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 4663; Line: 1; Page Number: 11; Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957. Ancestry.com. UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960 (Departure from Southampton, England, September 6, 1930, Lancastria).  Also, Year: 1931; Arrival: New York, New York;Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957;Microfilm Roll: Roll 4903; Line: 1; Page Number: 75; Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957. Year: 1930; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 4822; Line: 1; Page Number: 13. Description
    Ship or Roll Number: Roll 4822. Source Information Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957. 

The Last Will and Testament of Abraham Goldsmith

As the 20th century began, the family of Abraham Goldsmith was doing quite well. His first four children with his first wife Cecelia were all married and living in Philadelphia; three of them had had children, giving Abraham seven grandchildren. His five younger children were still living at home with him and his second wife Frances and ranged in age from seventeen to thirty. All but Louis, the youngest, were employed outside the home. On February 1, 1901, Abraham was blessed with an eighth grandchild when his son Milton and his wife Sophie had their first child, a daughter they named Rosalind.1

Abraham, however, had been in poor health ever since suffering a stroke in about 1890, and he died on January 20, 1902, from “chronic softening of the brain.” From what I can gather from various internet sources, the condition is also known as encephalomalacia, and the softening of brain tissue is usually caused by a stroke, hemorrhage, infection, or injury. Abraham was 69 when he died. He left behind his wife Frances, his nine children, and eight grandchildren.

Abraham Goldsmith death certificate
“Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6737-JK6?cc=1320976&wc=9FRP-DP8%3A1073221502 : 16 May 2014), 004009534 > image 785 of 1754; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

In the obituary in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent,2 Abraham’s business was described as “one of the most prominent in its line in the United States.” He served on the boards of several financial institutions and was a member of two lodges. Abraham was not only an important business owner in Philadelphia, he was a leader and “rendered conspicuous service” in several charitable organization including being “president of the Orphans’ Guardians, a trustee of Keneseth Israel Congregation, director and vice president of the Jewish Hospital Association, and secretary of the United Hebrew Charities.”

Abraham’s funeral was “largely attended;” the rabbi “paid high tribute to [his] many virtues, his philanthropic instincts and sterling character, referring feelingly to the many acts of kindness and generosity which had endeared him to those whom he had aided during his lifetime, and to his tireless activity in all good work.”

Abraham Goldsmith obituary, The Philadelphia Exponent, January 24, 1902, p. 3.

The Philadelphia Times also published an obituary, describing Abraham as “one of the pioneer Israelites in this city” and listing his various charitable activities.3 The Philadelphia Inquirer described him as a “prominent business man of this city.”4

I found Abraham’s will quite interesting and transcribe it here in its entirety from the handwritten text:5

I Abraham Goldsmith of Philadelphia merchant do make publish and declare this to be my last will and testament, revoking all former wills ever made.

First: I give and bequeath to my son Milton my library and bookcase and the oil painting of his mother Cecelia Goldsmith.

Second: I give and bequeath to my son Edwin M my gold watch chain, masonic mark and my diamond stud.

Third: All other jewelry, coins, laces, and trinkets of my first wife shall be divided between my daughters Rose, Emily and Estelle as keepsakes by my executors in such manner as they shall think proper.

Fourth: Subject to the above provisions I give bequeath and devise to my executors and trustees all my estate real residual and ? for the purposes and upon the trusts here in [end of page 1] after expenses.

Pennsylvania probate record; Probate Place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Source Information
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Wills and Probate Records, 1683-1993 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.
Original data: Pennsylvania County, District and Probate Courts. Wills, No 277-299, 1902

Fifth: All just debts and funeral expenses to be paid.

Sixth: As much or all of my Real estate as my heirs and executors deem best to be disposed of at public and private sale as soon as convenient after my death and the executors to make good title without being compelled to give security for the proper application of the funds to be received and the money so received to be considered as invested in personal property prior to the sale.

Seventh: My property to be so divided that my wife shall receive her share absolutely and the ballance [sic] to be divided among my children share and share alike so that my children of age shall receive their share at once and those that are minors to receive their share on becoming of age.

Eight: That my wife shall be guardian [end of page 2] for the minor children during their minority, she receiving the income derived from the investments for their support and education until of age and no longer.

Ninth: That the executors and trustees for the minor children have full power to invest and call in and reinvest at their pleasure and at their discretion, the investments not to be confined to what are termed legal investments.

Tenth: That my Life Insurance which was held in trust, and endowments which may be coming to me from different Societies and Lodges, shall be considered as part of my personal property and to be distributed as per direction of my Will.

Eleventh: In case of death of anyone of anyone [sic] of my children during its minority or as long as they are unmarried, all expenses incurred during sickness and burial expenses shall first be paid out of the portion set aside for the minor child and the ballance [sic] remaining to be divided in equal parts between my wife [end of page 3] and the surviving children.

Twelfth: I constitute and appoint my sons Milton Goldsmith, Edwin M Goldsmith, and my friend Morris H. Pulaski my executors, and trustees of my minor children and I direct that no security shall be required of them in either capacity. In case either of them should die, resign or fail to act, then I direct some good friend of the family to be substituted in place of one so dying, resigning or failing to act. I wish the trust always full. The substituted trustee or trustees shall have all the power and discretion conferred [sic] upon the executors and trustees who I have named.

In witness whereof I have this day the fourth day of October One Thousand Eight hundred Eighty Seven set my hand and seal. Philadelphia Oct 4th 1884.

Abraham Goldsmith [witnessed and sealed]

To add some context to these bequests, here is the estate inventory filed with the will:

Note that the largest elements in his estate were the proceeds of his life insurance policies, one being over $10,000, another over $20,000, and that the personal items were worth far less. For example, the books left to Milton were worth $50, the watch, stud, and jewelry totaled $100. To put this in today’s dollars, I turned once again to an inflation calculator.  One hundred dollars in 1902 would be worth over $27,000 today; $20,000 would be worth over $558,000. Abraham’s estate’s total value, $58,422.25, would be equivalent to $1,631,049.62 in today’s dollars.

Abraham had claimed to have $45,000 in personal and real property on the 1880 US census.  He then suffered a serious financial setback in 1886 after his brother Levy died. But at the time of his death, Abraham’s estate was worth over $58,000, or more than $1.6 million dollars in today’s money. Pretty impressive for a man who came to America as an immigrant when he was just eighteen.

Based on those numbers and the inflation calculator, it appears that Abraham had a library worth about $13,500, which he left to his son Milton. That tells me something about both Abraham and Milton—two men who must have greatly valued books. In fact, as we will see, Milton and his brother Louis both had careers that involved books. I also loved that Abraham made sure that those things that had belonged to his first wife, Cecelia, went to her children, including an oil painting of Cecelia. How I wish I knew what had happened to that painting. Maybe one of Milton’s descendants still has it? I hope so.

Abraham wrote the will before he went through the financial crisis in his business in 1886 and before he suffered the debilitating stroke in about 1890. When Abraham wrote this will in 1884, his five youngest children were still quite young—less than ten years old—whereas Milton and Edwin, whom he named as his executors, were 23 and 20, respectively.   When Abraham died in 1902, Louis, his youngest child, was twenty—the same age Edwin had been when Abraham originally wrote the will and named Edwin as an executor. It’s interesting that Abraham never changed his will to reflect the changes in his financial situation, his physical condition, or the changing ages and circumstances of his children, including their marriages and their children. There is no provision for grandchildren in the will.

Sadly, six years after Abraham died, his second wife Frances Spanier Goldsmith died. She was only 52 years old and died after suffering a stroke (apoplexy). Her obituary in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent reported that her death “proved a great shock to the many friends of the Goldsmith family in this city. Mrs. Goldsmith had not been seriously ill and had been out walking the day before her death, which was caused by a stroke of paralysis.”    Abraham also had suffered a stroke, and his first wife Cecelia had died from a stroke when only 35. What was it about their lives that made them all susceptible to strokes?

Frances Spanier Goldsmith death certificate
Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 006001-010000
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966

Frances’ obituary further commented that “Mrs. Goldsmith possessed a host of friends, being widely beloved and esteemed for many loveable qualities.”

The Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, January 24, 1908, p. 11.

The Philadelphia community lost two well-regarded citizens with the deaths of Abraham and Frances (Spanier) Goldsmith, and their children lost beloved parents. But those children, by then all adults, lived interesting lives. The posts to follow will focus on Abraham’s nine surviving children and their lives in the 20th century.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


  1. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VBYW-R9L : 9 March 2018), Rosalind Goldsmith, 01 Feb 1901; citing bk 1901 p 107, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 1,289,340. 
  2. Abraham Goldsmith obituary, The Philadelphia Exponent, January 24, 1902, p. 3. 
  3.  The Philadelphia Times, January 22, 1902, p. 7. 
  4. “Abraham Goldsmith Dead,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 22, 1902, p. 6. 
  5.  Pennsylvania probate record; Probate Place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Source Information: Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Wills and Probate Records, 1683-1993. Wills, No 277-299, 1902. 

Thank you, Alex from Root to Tip: A Mystery Solved and A Question about Ancestry.com

In my last post, I commented that I had had no luck finding information about the parents of the Adrian Kramer who married my cousin Ruth Sondheim in 1924. I wrote:

Adrian’s background is a mystery.   According to his military record from World War I and his World War II registration card, he was born in New York City on December 14, 1896. But despite searching in numerous places for all Kramers and all Adrians within two years of that date, and all boys born on that date, I have not found his birth record. Perhaps he was born with a different name.

Military record of Adrian Kramer, World War I
Ancestry.com. New York, Abstracts of World War I Military Service, 1917-1919 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.
Original data: New York State Abstracts of World War I Military Service, 1917–1919. Adjutant General’s Office. Series B0808. New York State Archives, Albany, New York.

Little did I know that that was in fact the case. But it took the help of the wonderful researcher, Alex of the Root to Tip genealogy blog, to find that out.

Alex left a comment on my prior post that said in part, “I noticed there was an obituary for Adrian Kramer in 1950 and it says he was the son of “Della Kramer.” Could this be Sandilla?”

Death notice for Adrian Kramer, The New York Times, July 1, 1950, p. 10

The first record I had found for an Adrian Kramer that fit anywhere close to a birth year of 1896 was the 1905 New York State census. On that document, Adrian Kramer, eight years old, was living on West 88th Street in the household of Maier Kramer. Also living in the household were six of Maier’s siblings: Sandilla, Joseph, Leo, Eva, David, and Minnie. None of them was married, but Sandilla was divorced.  She was listed with the surname Kramer, however, not a married name.

Adrian Kramer 1905 NYS census
New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1905; Election District: A.D. 21 E.D. 03; City: Manhattan; County: New York; Page: 12
Description
Election District: A·D· 21 E·D· 03
Source Information
Ancestry.com. New York, State Census, 1905

I had wondered whether Sandilla might have been Adrian’s mother when I saw the 1905 census since she was the only Kramer sibling who had been married, but I was misled by the fact that the 1905 census identified Adrian as the son of the head of household, and the head of household was not Sandilla but Maier.   As I wrote last time, I was able to find the siblings also living together on the 1910 census, where Adrian was this time identified as the brother of the head of household, again being Maier.

The death notice Alex found seemed to suggest that Sandilla might have been Adrian’s mother, not his aunt or his sister. Alex then went the next step and located a marriage record for a woman she thought might be Sandilla; she was listed as Sundilla Kramer on the FindMyPast index.  That record showed that “Sundilla” had married a man named Jacob Baruch on June 26, 1895, in New York City, and that her parents’ names were Abraham Kramer and Miriam Rosenfeld.  Here is a comparable record from FamilySearch.

Marriage record of Sandilla Kramer and Jacob Baruch
New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:24C6-M81 : 10 February 2018), Jacob Baruch and Sundilla Kramer, 26 Jun 1895; citing Marriage, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York City Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,493,183.

I was blown away by Alex’s discoveries and her generous efforts on my behalf. Armed now with these clues, I checked the 18701 and 18802 census records for the Kramer siblings and saw that their parents were in fact named Abraham and Miriam; that confirmed that the “Sundilla Kramer” who had married Jacob Baruch in 1895 was the same woman who was living with Adrian Kramer and the other Kramer siblings in 1905 and 1910.

And Alex hadn’t stopped with the death notice and the marriage record; she also found on Ancestry an index listing for a child born in New York City in December 1896 named Abraham Baruch. Alex said in her comment that she wondered if that was possibly the name given to Adrian Kramer at birth.

So I went to find some evidence confirming that the baby born in December 1896 named Abraham Baruch was the son of Sandilla Kramer and Jacob Baruch. And I found an index listing from the New York, New York City Births, 1846-1909, database on FamilySearch that revealed more than the Ancestry listing located by Alex. It showed that Abraham Baruch, born in December 1896, was the son of Jacob Baruch and “Sandilla Kroper.” That seemed close enough to confirm that Abraham Baruch was Sandilla Kramer’s son with Jacob Baruch.3

But I still wasn’t sure that Abraham Baruch was the boy later known as Adrian Kramer. Fortunately, with the information Alex had provided, I was able to locate the Kramer family on the 1900 census, a census that had eluded me in my prior search:

Sandia and Abraham Baruch, 1900 US census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Page: 7; Enumeration District: 0255
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census

Notice that Sandilla’s name is given as “Sandia K. Baruch” and that she is listed as the sister of “Myer Cramer.” Under her listing is Myer’s nephew (and obviously “Sandia’s” son) Abraham Baruch, born December 1887 and two years old.

No wonder I couldn’t find this census initially. Look at all those errors. Sandilla is spelled wrong. Maier and Kramer are spelled wrong. And a boy allegedly born in 1887 was listed as two years old in 1900! Even my math isn’t that bad…..

But reading between the lines and ignoring the mistakes on the census record convinced me that Abraham Baruch was  the son of Jacob Baruch and Sandilla Kramer. By 1900, Sandilla and her son had moved in with her Kramer siblings. By 1905, Abraham Baruch was using the name Adrian Kramer, and his mother was divorced.

Now I knew who were the parents of Adrian Kramer and where he was between 1896 and 1905.

Thank you, Alex! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your efforts!

And now the Ancestry.com question:

I was puzzled by the fact that I had not found the death notice for Adrian Kramer that Alex found on Ancestry. What had I done differently in my search logic that caused me to miss this critical piece of evidence?

I asked Alex where and how she’d found the death notice for Adrian Kramer, and she told me that she had simply searched for “Adrian Kramer” in “New York, USA,” on Ancestry, and the death notice had popped up as a result in the Historical Newspapers database.

How had I missed that, I wondered?  I duplicated Alex’s search terms, and still I did not get her results.  And I have the All Access subscription from Ancestry—their most expensive level. I get no results at all from the Historical Newspapers database from those search parameters.

But when I went to the Ancestry Card Catalog, pulled up the Historical Newspapers database, and did a search within the database itself, I was able to locate the obituary. So why didn’t it come up on an overall search for me like it had for Alex? I don’t know. But it sure has me doubting the reliability of Ancestry’s search engine.

If anyone has any explanation for why Alex and I would not get the same search results with the same search terms, please let me know.

UPDATE: Thanks to Lisa in the Ancestry Facebook group, I think I have the answer to why Alex got better results than I did.  Get this—searching with a UK subscription brings up BETTER results even in US databases than searching with a US subscription.  HOW CAN THAT BE FAIR? I will be calling Ancestry back next week (no time today) to address this.

Thank you once again to Alex for her extraordinary research and for taking the time to solve this mystery for me. Once again, I am in awe of the generosity of the genealogy village.


  1. Kramer Family, 1870 US Census, Year: 1870; Census Place: New York Ward 20 District 18, New York, New York; Roll: M593_1008; Page: 572B; Family History Library Film: 552507, Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census 
  2. Kramer Family, 1880 US Census, Year: 1880; Census Place: New York City, New York, New York; Roll: 886; Page: 506C; Enumeration District: 401, Source Information
    Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census 
  3.  New York, New York City Births, 1846-1909,” database, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2WSY-S85 : 11 February 2018), Jacob Baruch in entry for Abraham Baruch, Dec 1896; citing Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, reference cn 54590 New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,322,346. I am hoping to obtain a copy of the actual certificate.