Come see me!


Next Tuesday I will be giving a presentation at the Springfield JCC about my genealogy research and about my novel, Pacific Street. I will be talking about why I started researching my family’s history, providing some tips and suggestions for others who might want to do the same, describing two of the mysteries I solved through genealogy research, and talking about why I decided to write a novel about my grandparents’ lives.

If you live near Springfield, Massachusetts, I hope you will consider coming.  The presentation is free, and there will be refreshments provided. The program begins at 7 pm and will be over by 8 pm. Please join me if you can. I would love to see any and all of my blog readers and cousins!


Some Questions Answered and More Raised: Which Manus Katzenstein Killed the Pig?

This is an update on my prior post today about Manus Katzenstein and his wife Fanny Bickhardt. A huge thank you to Aaron Knappstein and Jennifer Sanders Stern who both sent me this website about the Vohl Synagogue, a website I had not found while researching the Frankenau Katzenstein family. The website includes a detailed report on the Jews of Frankenau. Not only does it provide more information about Manus Katzenstein, but it also shed new light on his father, Wolf Katzenstein.

First, with respect to Wolf Katzenstein, husband of my cousin Mina Katzenstein, I learned that he was one of the leaders of the Jewish community in Frankenau who helped plan the construction of the synagogue there in 1862.  In 1869, the teacher at the Jewish school had moved away, and eighteen Jewish children began to attend the Protestant school where the teachers were charging seven Silbergroschen per child. Wolf, as a community leader, protested this, pointing out that the teachers were already being paid by the state, not by the families. By June 1870, a new Jewish teacher had moved to Frankenau. The Vohl synagogue site goes on to describe Wolf’s continuing actions advocating on behalf of the education of the students both in the Jewish school and in the Protestant school which some of the Jewish girls attended in the 1870s. One author described Wolf as a very stubborn man.

Wolf was considered a wealthy man; in 1870 he owned a factory and a grocery store as well as a house and barn on seven acres of land. The site reports that in 1870 there were seven people in his family, including three school age children. That is consistent with my research; in 1870 Mina and Wolf had five children, three of whom were old enough to be attending school.[1]

Regarding Wolf’s son Manus, the Vohl synagogue website also is very informative, but more confusing. First, it’s important to point out that there were two men (first cousins) of almost the same age named Manus Katzenstein in Frankenau; my Manus, son of Wolf, was born in 1863, the other Manus, son of Heinemann, was born in 1864. One or the other of the men named Manus Katzenstein got in trouble for “illegally slaughtering a pig on a Sunday.” This entry appears on the page of both men named Manus Katzenstein with the note that it is not clear which Manus Katzenstein was so charged. Some might ask why was Jewish man killing a pig? For a Christian neighbor, perhaps? At any rate, apparently Manus (whichever one it was) had the mayor’s permission, and even after the prosecutor warned the mayor against doing so in the future, it appears nothing happened to Manus.

By Adriaen van Ostade (Holland, Haarlem, 1610-1685) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The other area of confusion regarding these two men named Manus is more important.  The website reports that Manus Katzenstein (1863, my Manus) applied for tax relief in 1896 because his son Manus was “nervous” and required expensive care. A footnote to this comment notes that it is not clear whether this child was the son of my Manus Katzenstein (1863) or the other Manus Katzenstein (1864). In any event, it does seem odd that either one would have a son with the same first name as his own father.

The page for the other Manus Katzenstein (1864) reports that he was married to Jeanette Mueller with whom he had four or five children born between 1900 and 1905, but none named Manus. However, Manus Katzenstein (1864) married Jeanette Mueller on October 5, 1892, and they had a son named Heinemann (for Manus’s father), born on October 16, 1894, and a daughter named Johanna who died when she was three months old on December 23, 1898. These two children are not listed on the Vohl Synagogue website page for Manus (1864).

Birth record of Heinemann Katzenstein, son of Manus Katzenstein (1864) and Jeannette Mueller
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Standesamt Frankenau Geburtsnebenregister 1894 (Hstamr Best. 922 Nr. 3200); Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 922

My theory? Heinemann, born in 1894, was the child who needed medical care for nervousness in 1896. Or perhaps there was another son born before 1896 who needed that care. At any rate, I believe that the child who needed medical care was a child of the other Manus (1864), not my Manus (1863). Heinemann Katzenstein is the only child with the Katzenstein surname born in Frankenau between 1890 and 1900 listed in the Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901 database on Ancestry. I believe this was the child named “Manus” referred to on the Vohl Synagogue website.

One other reason for my conclusion? This page from the Alemannia-Judaica about Frankenau reports on the Jewish families left in Frankenau in 1933; it lists my Manus Katzenstein and his wife Fanny without children. The other Manus is not listed at all, but he had died in 1931, and his children might have left the community by the time this report was made on the Jews in Frankenau. (Thank you to Eran Elijahu of the German Genealogy group for sending me the link to this page.)

At any rate, despite this confusion, which led me down the research rabbit hole today, the Vohl Synagogue page for my Manus Katzenstein (1863) did answer some of the questions that had been left unanswered in my prior post. According to the Vohl Synagogue website, Manus and Fanny moved to Momberg on July 29, 1933, where they lived until January 1, 1940, when they moved to a “retirement home” in Frankfurt. I still don’t know whether that last move was voluntary or required by the Nazis as a preparation for the later deportation of elderly Jews. As stated in my earlier post, Manus died in the Jewish community hospital in Frankfurt on October 15, 1941, and his wife Fanny was deported to Theriesenstadt on September 1, 1942, and died or was killed there on April 15, 1943.

UPDATE: I just received this morning from Barbara Greve these photographs of Manus Katzenstein and Fanny Birkhardt Katzenstein from Barbara Händler-Lachmann’s book, “unbekannt verzogen” oder “weggemacht”.Hitzeroth, Marburg 1992, p 131:


Manus and Fanny Katzenstei

Barbara Greve also filled me in a bit about why Manus and Fanny might have left Momberg for Frankfurt in 1940.  She said that Manny and Fanny might have wanted to emigrate, but it would have been very difficult for them to get visas at that point in time, especially given their ages and more so if they lacked funds or were in poor health.  Barbara said that the Jewish home for the elderly in Frankfurt was run at first by the Jewish community as a place for older people leaving the smaller villages in Hesse, many of whom hoped to emigrate and follow their children out of the country. Those who ran the home tried to make it a comfortable place for those living there, but it was overcrowded. Eventually, however, it became a place where the Nazis ordered elderly Jews to go as they forced them out of their homes in other places. (Email from Barbara Greve, October 23, 2017)



[1] The source for much of the information about Wolf Katzenstein came from a book by Heinz Brandt, Die Judengemeinde Frankenau zwischen 1660 und 1940. Aus dem Leben jüdischer Landmenschen. Frankenberger Hefte Nr. 1, 1992.  I have just ordered the book; it should be quite a challenge to read with my elementary level of German.

The Brick Wall Surrounding Rosa Katzenstein: Help Wanted!

The story of Rosa Katzenstein is largely unrevealed, and I sure could use some help. Rosa was the oldest child of Mina and Wolf Katzenstein, born on June 19, 1859, in Frankenau, Germany, and as I wrote last time, she married her third cousin, once removed, Salomon Feist Katz, son of Joseph Feist Katz and Brendel Katz of Jesberg. Rosa and Salomon were married on June 28, 1881, in Jesberg.

Marriage record of Rosa Katzenstein and Salomon Feist Katz
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3836

Rosa and Salomon had four daughters. The first, Zilli, was born on May 22, 1882, and died just two and a half months later on August 4, 1882.

Zilli Katz birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3813

Zilli Katz death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3880

The second daughter, Sarah, was born a year later in Jesberg on July 14, 1883.

Sarah Katz birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3814

She married Otto Loew on October 28, 1904, in Jesberg. Otto was the son of Leopold Loew and Johanna Bickhardt of Selters, Germany.

Marriage of Sarah Katz and Otto Loew
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3859

Unfortunately, that is all I know about Sara and Otto. I don’t know if they had children. I don’t know if they emigrated from Germany. I don’t know where or when they died. They are not in the Yad Vashem database. They just seem to have disappeared. I searched for hypothetical children, but could find none. The names Sara, Katz, Otto, and Loew are so common that there was no way to determine whether any of the people with those names were my relatives, but I found nothing that would lead me to believe that they were.

I did not have much better luck with Sara’s younger sister Sophie. She was born in Jesberg on July 10, 1885.

Sophie Katz birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3816

On June 9, 1909, she married Isaak Vogel in Marburg, Germany. He was born in Borken, Germany, on November 7, 1878, to Hermann Ephraim Vogel and Betti Trier.

Sophie Katz marriage to Isaak Vogel
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 5624

Barbara Greve told me that Sophie and Isaak had two sons, Karl, born in 1910, and Heinz, born in 1912, but I have no records for them, nor do I know what happened to Sophie, Isaak, Karl or Heinz. Once again, the names were so common that there are many people with those names, but none that matched my relatives.

I had a little bit more luck with Rosa and Salomon’s youngest daughter, Recha. She was born on September 25, 1889, in Jesberg.

Recha Katz birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3820

She married Julius Goldschmidt on November 20, 1911. He was the son of David Goldschmidt and Jettchen Rosenblatt of Hebel, Germany, born on November 11, 1886.

Marriage of Recha Katz and Julius Goldschmidt
HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 3866 Standesamt Jesberg Heiratsnebenregister 1911, S. 29

Thank you once again to the members of the German Genealogy group on Facebook for help in translating this record and to Doris Strohmenger for finding several articles about David Goldschmidt, Julius’ father. David was apparently a leader in the Jewish community, a very knowledgeable and committed Jew:

David Goldschmidt father of Julius Goldschmidt (Jesberg, 3 November David Goldschmidt celebrated 81th birthday  fresh in mind and body.He got the title of Chower by Rabbi Dr. Walter). Courtesy of Doris Strohmenger

Recha Katz and Julius Goldschmidt had a daughter named Lotte born in Jesberg on December 13, 1913. Although I could not find Lotte’s birth record, I know that Lotte was their daughter because Recha and Julius are identified as her parents on her entry in the US Social Security Applications and Claims Index.  David Baron, who was in touch with Lotte’s descendants, informed me that Lotte married Julius Gans in Johannesburg, South Africa, on October 19, 1940.  Eventually Lotte settled in the US where in 1974 she became a naturalized citizen.

Lotte Gans naturalization petition
National Archives at Riverside; Riverside, California; NAI Number: 594890; Record Group Title: 21; Record Group Number: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009

David Baron also learned from family members that Lotte’s parents both died in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Julius Goldschmidt on August 4, 1961, and Recha Katz on January 14, 1964.

What had happened to the rest of the family? I know that Salomon Feist Katz died in Jesberg on February 16, 1924.

Salomon Feist Katz death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3915

But what had happened to Rosa and her two other daughters Sara and Sophie and their husbands? I just don’t know, and I have looked everywhere I can imagine searching. David Baron and Barbara Greve also had no information about the fates of Rosa, Sara or Sophie. If they did not find anything, perhaps there just is nothing to find.

If anyone has any suggestions as to where else I might look, please let me know.

UPDATE! Please see my next post for important updates to this one.

The Increasingly Twisted Family Tree: Mina and Wolf Katzenstein

I still have some work to do on two of the previously-mentioned descendants of Jakob Katzenstein’s oldest daughter Gelle and her husband Moses Ruelf, and I am working on some leads right now and should have updates soon on both Rosa Abraham Zecherman and Hugo David. But for now I am moving on to Gelle’s younger sister Mina and her descendants.

Once again, my family tree looks more like the roots of a mangrove than the usual image of a tree with outstretched and separate branches.

Mangrove roots
By Steve Hillebrand, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

At first I thought Mina was going to be a tough brick wall because I was researching her under the name Michaela.  The starting point of my research into the family of Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion was a handwritten document sent to me by Barbara Greve that had been prepared by a Reverend William Bach sometime after 1824; it listed the names of the children of Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion as follows:

As you can see, Reverend Bach had listed their second child as Michaela with a birthdate of May 29, 1832. But I could not find a birth record or any record for a person with the name Michaela Katzenstein.  And none of the other secondary sources for Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion listed a daughter named Michaela.

But as I was searching for Michaela on, I noticed a listing of a death record for a Mina Katzenstein and decided to take a look. My gut instinct proved to be correct: Mina Katzenstein was the daughter of the merchant Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen geb Lion. She was 64 when she died on September 5, 1896, meaning she was born in 1832, just as “Michaela” supposedly had been. I knew this had to be the same person and that her real name was Mina, not Michaela.

Mina Katzenstein death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 922; Signatur: 3290

The death record also revealed that Mina was the wife of Wolf Katzenstein and that she had been living in Frankenau, Germany, at the time of her death.

Now that I knew Mina’s actual first name, I was able to uncover several other important documents, including a marriage record for her marriage to Wolf Katzenstein:

HHStAW Fonds 365 No 175, p.4

They were married in Frankenau on July 27, 1858.  Wolf was not, as far as I can tell, a cousin. His father was Manus Katzenstein, born in Frankenau, and I’ve yet to find a familial connection between the Frankenau Katzensteins and the Jesberg Katzensteins. Wolf’s mother was Roeschen Mannheimer.

When I initially only found two children born to Mina and Wolf, I thought that this part of the family would be much easier to research than that of Mina’s older sister Gelle Katzenstein Ruelf. But the more I looked, the more I found, and things became more and more complex.

Mina and Wolf in fact had five children, all born in Frankenau: Rosa (1859), Karoline (1861), Manus (1863), Rebecca (1865), and Regina (1867). I located them by searching page by page through the birth register for Frankenau starting the year after Mina and Wolf’s marriage up through 1875. If there were others born later or elsewhere, I’ve not yet found them.

All five of those children lived to adulthood and were married, and four had children. And sometimes they married cousins within the Katzenstein family, making the research and the story even more convoluted. So from what I thought would be a simple one-post story of Mina and Wolf Katzenstein, I now have several posts to write about the large, extended family.

This post will outline the growth of the family from 1859 through 1915. Subsequent posts will focus on each of Mina and Wolf’s children and their respective offspring.

Rosa, the oldest child, was born on June 19, 1859, in Frankenau, eleven months after her parents’ marriage.

Rosa Katzenstein birth record arcinsys
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 174, p. 7

She married Salomon Feist Katz on June 18, 1881, when she was 21 years old. Salomon was born on September 29, 1852, to Joseph Feist Katz and Brendel Katz, both of whom were born in Jesberg, as was their son Salomon.

Marriage of Rose Katzenstein and Salomon Feist Katz
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3836

As you might have guessed, Salomon Feist Katz was also related to me and to his wife Rosa. We are all descendants of my 6-times great-grandfather Pinchas (Bonum) Katz.  Rosa was my second cousin, twice removed, and Salomon my third cousin, three times removed.

The numerous familial relationships between Rosa and her husband Salomon Feist were, for some reason, beyond the ability of my Family Tree Maker software to calculate, so I substituted Rosa’s sister Regina for Rosa and compared her to Salomon’s father Joseph Feist, and they came up as second cousins, twice removed, meaning that Regina and Salomon were third cousins, once removed, and thus so were Rosa and Salomon.

Rosa and Salomon would have four children, all born in Jesberg: Zilli (1882), Sara (1883), Sophie (1885), and Recha (1889).

Mina and Wolf’s second child was Karoline. She was born on March 30, 1861, in Frankenau:

Caroline Katzenstein birth record from Arcinsys for Hessen
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 174, p. 8

On October 10, 1884, she married Heinemann Blumenfeld, who, thank goodness, was not her cousin (as far as I can tell). He was born on October 8, 1854, in Momberg, Germany.

Marriage record of Karoline Katzenstein and Heineman Blumenfeld
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Standesamt Frankenau Heiratsnebenregister 1884 (Hstamr Best. 922 Nr. 3219); Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 922

Karoline and Heinemenn had three children born in Momberg: Toni (1885), Moritz (1887), and Bella (1890).

Manus Katzenstein was the middle child and only son of Mina and Wolf. He was born on April 23, 1863, in Frankenau.

Birth record of Manus Katzenstein
Standesamt Höringhausen Heiratsnebenregister 1891 (HStAMR Best. 922 Nr. 5542)AutorHessisches Staatsarchiv MarburgErscheinungsortHöringhausen, p. 19

He married Fanny Bickhardt of Hoeringhausen, Germany, on November 18, 1891.  Fanny was born in Hoeringhausen on June 6, 1868, daughter of Abraham Bickhardt and Esther Lion. Manus and Fanny did not have children as far as I’ve been able to determine.

Marriage record of Manus Katzenstein and Fanny Bickhardt
HStAMR Best. 922 Nr. 5542 Standesamt Höringhausen Heiratsnebenregister 1891, S. 19

Wolf and Mina’s fourth child was Rebecca, born on August 28, 1865, in Frankenau.

Rebekka Katzenstein birth record Arcinsys
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 174

On April 30, 1889, she married Salomon Schalom Kneibel Katz (“Salomon SK Katz”), who was, you guessed it, a cousin. Salomon SK Katz was born in Jesberg on June 28, 1859, to Schneuer Kneibel Katz and Sarchen Rosenblatt. Like his cousin Salomon Feist Katz who married Rebecca’s older sister Rosa, Salomon SK Katz was a grandson of Pinchas Bonum Katz, my six times great-grandfather. Salomon SK Katz and his brother-in-law Salomon Feist Katz were first cousins married to sisters, Rosa and Rebecca Katzenstein. And they were all descended from Pinchas Bonum Katz, as am I.

Marriage of Rebecca Katzenstein and Salomon SK Katz
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3844

Once again, the relationship between Rebecca Katzenstein and Salomon Schalom Kneibel Katz proved too confusing for my software, but when I used Rebecca’s sister Regina again and compared her to Rebecca’s father-in-law, Schneuer Katz, it showed Regina and Schneuer as second cousins, twice removed, meaning that Regina and thus her sister Rebecca were third cousins, once removed, of Salomon SK Katz.

Rebecca Katzenstein and Salomon SK Katz had four children, all born in Jesberg: Berthold (Pinchas) (1890), Theresa (1891), Julius (1893), and Jakob (1895).

Regina Katzenstein was the youngest child of Mina and Wolf Katzenstein; she was born on September 24, 1867, in Frankenau.

Regina Katzenstein birth record arcinsys
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 174, p. 8

She married Selig Alexander, the son of Joseph Alexander and Fradchen Frank of Momberg. Selig (sometimes called Seligmann) was born on September 20, 1861, in Momberg. Regina and Selig were married on November 25, 1891, in Frankenau.

Marriage of Regina Katzenstein to Selig Alexander
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Standesamt Frankenau Heiratsnebenregister 1891 (Hstamr Best. 922 Nr. 3226); Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 922

Regina and Selig Katz had six children: a stillborn child (1893), Bertha (1893), Rosa (1896), Mina (1897), Joseph (1902), and Manus (1903).

As you might have inferred from the names of Regina’s children, her mother Mina had died before the birth of Regina and Selig’s fourth child Mina. Mina Katzenstein died on September 5, 1896, in Frankenau. She was 64 years old.

Mina Katzenstein death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 922; Signatur: 3290

Mina’s husband Wolf Katzenstein survived her by almost twenty years. He died at age 85 on March 18, 1915, in Frankenau.  Mina and Wolf were survived by their five children and their grandchildren, whose stories will be told in posts to follow.

Now if I ever discover that Mina and her husband Wolf were also cousins, well, then I may just suffocate in those mangrove roots!

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 (, 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

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
Year Range : 1925
Source Information Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1955 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: 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
Year Range : 1888
Source Information Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: 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…