Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone!

I am still on my blogging break for the next week or so, but wanted to reach out and thank all of you for reading my stories this year and especially to all of you who helped me by providing researching suggestions, translating documents, and commenting on my posts.  The support I’ve received is very much appreciated and makes this project so much more enjoyable and fulfilling than if I had to do it all alone without feedback and support.

As I look back on 2017, it wasn’t my favorite year in many ways, but in terms of family history, it was a wonderful year. Visiting Germany and getting to see where my ancestors once lived was an incredible experience; what made it particularly special was getting to spend time with my cousin Wolfgang and his family and with my cousin Ulrike and meeting in person some of the many people who have helped me with my research—Dorothee, Beate, Hans-Peter, Ernst, Julia, and Aaron.

In terms of research, 2017 was the year of the Katzensteins, and what a fascinating family they were and are. Visiting Jesberg made all that research come to life as I imagined my great-great-grandfather Gerson walking those streets along with his siblings and cousins.  And connecting with so many of my Katzenstein cousins made this research particularly rewarding and exciting. I have newly-found cousins from all over the US—Oklahoma, Texas, California, Massachusetts (!), Delaware, and so on. I cherish each and every one of the new leaves I’ve been able to add to the family tree.

As I venture into 2018, I look forward to learning the stories of my Goldschmidt ancestors and relatives.  Every family line I research brings me new insights into Jewish history and into my own story. Every new line teaches me how interconnected we human beings truly are—how we have unique personal stories but also share universal stories of love and hate, success and loss, courage and cowardice, creativity and inventiveness, peace and war, sickness and health.

Let us all hope that in 2018 our leaders and our world also recognize our interconnectedness, our need for each other, and our need to help each other. We cannot exist without each other. We are all part of one big family tree.

How Did My Great-Aunt Frieda’s Death Certificate End Up There?

This is a mystery without a solution—yet. Perhaps one of you can help me solve it.

Many months ago I received a message on Ancestry from a member named Dale who told me that she had a stamped and certified copy of the death certificate for my great-aunt Frieda Brotman.  Frieda was my grandmother’s younger sister, and she had been married to Harry Coopersmith for about a year when she died shortly after giving birth to their son Max.  Max had died as well.

Frieda Brotman Coopersmith death cert


Dale had been going through her parents’ papers and found not only Frieda’s death certificate, but military records for Frieda’s husband Harry Coopersmith and two photographs that Dale thought might be of Harry. She had seen that I had Frieda and Harry on my Ancestry tree and wondered if I was interested in the papers.

Well, of course, I was more than interested. Dale kindly offered to send me the documents and photographs. And since then we have been trying to figure out why these papers would have been among her parents’ belongings.  Since both of Dale’s parents have passed away, she had no one to ask.

Dale believed that these papers had belonged at one time to her great-aunt Anna Yurdin Haas.  Anna was her father’s mother’s sister. She was born in New York City to Russian immigrant parents in about 1895 and had lived in upper Manhattan as a child; in 1920 when she was 25, she was living with several of her younger siblings in the Bronx, working as a clerk in an office.

Anna Yurdin and family 1920 census
Year: 1920; Census Place: Bronx Assembly District 5, Bronx, New York; Roll: T625_1137; Page: 7B; Enumeration District: 286

On the 1930 census, Anna reported that she was married to Burton Haas, and they were living at 7035 Broadway in Queens.  Burton Haas came from a whole different class—he grew up on Central Park West in Manhattan; his parents were American born from German and Austrian backgrounds. He went to Dartmouth. He served overseas during World War I, enlisting on June 14, 1917 and being honorably discharged on May 6, 1919.

According to the 1930 census, Anna and Burton had been married about eight years in 1930, meaning they had married in about 1922.  There were no children living with them. Burton was a real estate broker, Anna a cashier for a theater. In 1940 they were still living in Queens at 35-30 73rd Street and had been in the same place in 1935. There were still no children. Burton was still a real estate broker, and Anna was the assistant treasurer of a theater.

Anna Yurdin and Burton Haas on the 1930 census
Year: 1930; Census Place: Queens, Queens, New York; Roll: 1590; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 0197; FHL microfilm: 2341325

Then things get a little odd. On August 9, 1940, Burton Haas and Anna Yurdin were married in Norfolk, Virginia. At that point they had in fact been living together and holding themselves out as husband and wife for almost twenty years. But perhaps they had never really married until 1940.

Anna Yurdin and Burton Haas marriage record
Virginia Department of Health; Richmond, Virginia; Virginia Marriages, 1936-2014; Roll: 101166979

On his World War II draft card in 1942, Burton reported that he had his own business at 62 West 45th Street in Manhattan; they were still living at the same address in Queens. Burton died a year later on July 21, 1943, in Queens.  Anna died in 1983; they are both buried at Linden Hill Jewish cemetery in Ridgewood, Queens. Anna never remarried.

Comparing this to Harry and Frieda’s timeline, I see no overlap. While Anna grew up in upper Manhattan and then lived in the Bronx and finally Queens and Burton also grew up in upper Manhattan and went to college, Harry and Frieda were both born and raised in the Lower East Side.  Harry had served in the US Army from August 31, 1919, until his honorable discharge on September 6, 1922, so he did not overlap in the service at all with Burton Haas.

Harry married Frieda in 1923. Frieda had worked in a sweatshop as a finisher with feathers until she married Harry. They were still living on the Lower East Side in a tenement when she died on May 10, 1924, just days after giving birth to their son Max.

After Frieda died, Harry quickly married again. He married Nettie Lichtenstein sometime in 1924, presumably outside of New York City as no marriage records were located for them. Nettie was a recent immigrant; according to the 1930 census, she had arrived in 1920.  Their first son David was born on June 16, 1925 in Hoboken, New Jersey. Two more sons followed— Lawrence in 1926 and Samuel in 1928, both born in New York. In 1930 Harry and his family were still living in the Lower East Side. Harry was working as a taxi driver.

Harry Coopersmith and family 1930 census
Year: 1930; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1550; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 0148; FHL microfilm: 2341285

By 1940, Harry’s family was in pieces.  Nettie was institutionalized at Kings Park State Hospital in Smithtown, Long Island, and the three boys were living in Island Park, Hempstead, Long Island, as boarders (I assume as foster children) with the family of Jacob and Pauline Davis and their sons. I have not found any familial connection between the Davis family and Harry or Nettie. Jacob was in the printing business, and he and Pauline had been living in Island Park since at least 1930. Before that, they had lived in the Bronx and upper Manhattan, nowhere near Harry or Nettie. I have no idea how they ended up with the three Coopersmith boys. Neither one ever lived on the Lower East Side.

Coopersmith sons boarding with David family 1940
Year: 1940; Census Place: Hempstead, Nassau, New York; Roll: T627_2685; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 30-82

Harry does not appear anywhere on the 1940 census and does not resurface on any records until 1945 when military records report that he was still living on the Lower East Side and had enlisted in the New York Guard on April 23, 1945 and had been discharged on June 26, 1946.

Harry Coopersmith New York Guard record
New York State Archives; Albany, New York; Collection: New York, New York Guard Service Cards and Enlistment Records, 1906-1918, 1940-1948; Series: B2000; Film Number: 45

The last records I have for Harry are his veteran’s burial records, showing that he died on January 14, 1956 and was buried at Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York. Interestingly, a plot next to Harry was to be reserved for his widow Nettie, who was then residing in Bohemia, New York, also on Long Island. I don’t know if Harry had been living with her at the time of his death.

Given the absence of any overlap in places lived or worked between Harry and Anna Yurdin Haas or Harry and Burton Haas, I have no idea how or why Anna would have come into possession of Harry’s military papers or Frieda’s death certificate.

As for the two photographs, I am not even sure that they are pictures of Harry. I sent them to Harry’s grandson, but he had never met his grandfather and did not have any pictures of him. He sent me a picture of himself, and perhaps there is some slight resemblance, but not enough to determine if the photographs are of Harry Coopersmith.

Harrys grandson

Assuming they are photographs of Harry, they were likely taken in the 1940s, according to Ava Cohn, the expert in photography analysis. That would mean that the person who somehow came to possess these documents knew Harry in the 1940s.  He is in his military uniform in one of the photographs, so that means the photograph was probably taken some time in 1945 to 1946 since that was when Harry was in the New York Guard. At that point Anna Yurdin Haas was a widow, living in Queens, New York. Perhaps she and Harry somehow became friends or lovers.  After all, Harry’s wife Nettie was institutionalized, his sons were in foster care of some kind, and Harry was on his own. That seems like one possible explanation for how these papers ended up in Anna Yurdin’s possession.

The other possibility is that the papers never belonged to Anna Yurdin, but perhaps to Dale’s father Howard Halpern. Dale is not entirely certain that they had belonged to Anna. If they belonged instead to her father, how would he have known Harry?

Howard Halpern was the son of David Halpern and Anna Yurdin’s sister May Yurdin (sometimes identified as Mary). He was born in 1919 in New York and lived in the Bronx in 1920, but by 1925 had moved to Queens, living in the same Jackson Heights neighborhood where his aunt Anna and her husband Burton were living in 1930 and thereafter.  By 1930, however, Howard and his parents and brother had moved to Long Beach, Long Island, and were no longer in Queens. They were still living there in 1940.

Halpern family 1940
Year: 1940; Census Place: Long Beach, Nassau, New York; Roll: T627_2690; Page: 61B; Enumeration District: 30-209

Maybe Howard knew one of Harry’s sons. They were a bit younger than Howard, but Howard lived in Long Beach starting in 1930, and Harry’s sons were in Island Park in Hempstead by 1940. The two towns are about a mile apart, as seen on this map.

Howard had a younger brother Alvin, born in 1925, who would have been the same age as David Coopersmith and only a year older than Lawrence and three years older than Samuel.  According to the current Island Park School District webpage, today students in Island Park have a choice of attending two high schools in the area, one of them being Long Beach High School. That might also have been true in the 1940s when the Coopersmith boys and Howard and Alvin Halpern were in high school.

So my second hunch is that Alvin and his brother Howard knew the Coopersmith sons from Long Beach High School or from Hebrew school or some other community sports or activity.

But that doesn’t solve the mystery of why Howard Halpern had Frieda Brotman Coopersmith’s death certificate or Harry’s discharge papers. That the Coopersmith boys had their father’s military discharge papers is somewhat understandable—but why would they have had the death certificate for their father’s first wife, a woman with whom they had no connection at all? And why would Dale’s father Howard have ended up with those papers?

I don’t know. But David Coopersmith named his son Lee Howard Coopersmith—perhaps for his childhood friend Howard Halpern? If he was such a close friend, wouldn’t Dale have heard of him?

As I mentioned above, I have been in touch with one of Harry’s grandsons, but he had no information that shed light on this mystery. I am now trying to contact Harry’s great-granddaughter, who has a tree on Ancestry. Perhaps she will know. At the very least, she might be able to tell me if the photographs are indeed of Harry Coopersmith. But it’s been almost two months, and she has not responded to me.

Let me know your thoughts.


An Amazing Treasure

I hope everyone who celebrates had a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with gratitude.  This post is about a family heirloom.  It doesn’t belong to me, but it is nevertheless something for which I am grateful because it is part of the legacy of my Katzenstein ancestors. I am just about done writing about the Katzenstein line, but before I move on, I want to share this treasure.

I have referred often on the blog to the work of David Baron, who has done an incredible job of researching the Katzenstein family. David is the husband of Roger Cibella, who is the three-times great-grandson of Gerson Katzenstein, my great-great-grandfather. Roger’s great-great-grandfather was Scholem Joseph Katzenstein, who settled in western Pennsylvania and probably was the one who introduced his little sister Hilda, my great-grandmother, to my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal. And Roger is my third cousin, once removed.

Roger owns a siddur (a Jewish prayer book) that belonged to our mutual ancestor, Gerson Katzenstein. The inner pages of the front and back cover of the siddur contain inscriptions by Gerson marking the births of each of his six children beginning with the birth of Roger’s great-great-grandfather Scholem (with the middle name Abraham here, not Joseph, which I found interesting) in 1848 through the birth of my great-grandmother Hilda in 1863.

Roger and David kindly shared with me images of the inscriptions as well as an image of some of the text of the siddur.  They also sent me a translation of the inscriptions and information about the siddur provided by the scholar, Arthur Lagawier.[1] The information below came from Lagawier’s report to Roger and David:

The book is entitled Beit Rachel v’ Sha’ar Hallel-Ya [House of Rachel and Gate of Praise], and it was edited by Rabbi Naftali ben Isaac Ha Cohen. Rabbi Naftali was born in Ostroh, Ukraine, in 1649 and died in 1719. He married Esther Sheindl, the daughter of Rabbi Shmuel Shmelke Zak of Ostroh, and he headed the yeshiva that his father-in-law built for him in that town. After Rabbi Shmuel died, Rabbi Naftali succeeded him as rabbi. Rabbi Naftali and his wife had fourteen children, seven sons and seven daughters.

In 1704 he became the rabbi of Frankfurt, but in 1711, a fire broke out in his home and spread, burning down several hundred homes. Four people died in the fire, and Rabbi Naftali was accused of setting the fire and was put in jail. After he was released, he went to Prague and then Breslau. Rabbi Naftali wrote several books, prayers, and hymns as well as the siddur once owned by Gerson Katzenstein. The prayer book was first published in Amsterdam in 1741, but the one Roger owns is probably a later reprint.

The book includes the daily prayers and those for Shabbat and holidays as well as other holiday readings and commentary on the prayers and other readings.  It also contains the entire book of psalms.

I asked for help on the Tracing the Tribe site in translating the handwritten inscriptions because the translations by Arthur Lagawier did not always read clearly. Thank you so much to Baruch Miller for his work in translating them. I have also included some of the content of Lagawier’s translations.  The inscriptions in the inside of the front cover translate as follows:

For the son later known as S.J. Katzenstein:

My son Shalom Avraham, born on Tuesday night (third day of the week), the 24th of the month of Av, the week of the Torah portion Re’eh, in the year 5608, corresponding to the 23rd of August, 1848. May the Eternal grant my son to learn the Torah, to be married, and to do good deeds throughout his life, amen.  Signed: Gershon Ben Abraham Shalom Ha Cohen, Morah [teacher].

For the second son, known as Jacob:

My son Yakov Solomon, also called Yerkev, on the fifth night of the week, the 2(?) of the first month of Adar, the week of the Torah portion Ki Sisa, in the year 5611, or 1851. He should grow to Torah, the chuppah, and good deeds. Gershon  

For Brendina, the third child:

My daughter Branche, Briencha (Bertha), Born in the month of Kislev in [5]612, according to the non-jewish calendar the year 1853.  May the Eternal grant to her to grow up….Signed: Gershon

(Some parts of these inscriptions were not legible, but one can assume they all followed the formula asking that the children grow up to Torah, chuppah (marriage), and good deeds.)

On the inside of the back cover of the book are the inscriptions for the last three children born to Gerson Katzenstein and Eva Goldschmidt:

For the third son and fourth child, Perry:

My son Pesachya, born Tuesday, the 25th of Av, 5616. He should grow to Torah, the chuppah, and good deeds. August 1856 in Philadelphia. Gershon, son of Avraham Shalom, the righteous kohen.

This is the inscription for their fifth child, Hannah.  Reading this inscription is very sad because Hannah died a week before her seventh birthday in December 1866:

My daughter Henit/Hencha, born on Friday, 17 days in the month of Tevet in [5]619.  May God she grow up strong and do good deeds, get married, amen. Born on December 24th, 1859 in Philadelphia, Signed by  Gershon, son of Avraham Shalom the kohen.

And finally, my great-grandmother Hilda, named for her maternal grandmother Hincka Alexander, wife of Seligmann Goldschmidt:

My daughter Chinke.  Born Monday, three days in Elul, the 17 of September [August] 1863.  May God grant that she will grow up… Signed Gershon, son of Avraham Shalom, the righteous kohen, in Philadelphia.


Leah Cohen of the TTT group pointed out that Gerson described himself as “the small”  or ha-Koten in several inscriptions. Leah, Baruch and I could not understand why he referred to himself this way, unless it was a form of modesty.

Someday perhaps I will get to meet Roger and David and hold this treasure in my hands, but for now I am delighted to have the photographs and the knowledge that this siddur is in good hands with Roger and David.



[1] According to this website, “[Arthur] Lagawier was a frequent lecturer in Judaism at the University of Washington. He taught religious school at Herzl congregation, served as Director of Jewish Education at the Jewish Community Center, and independently founded the Institute of Jewish Studies, where he taught non-profit classes from 1965 to 1969.”

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 Ancestry.com, 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 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Transitioning back to the Katzensteins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bette was born December 3, 1860:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

Kin Types by Luanne Castle: A Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

He laughed, I like my houses like apples.

And swaddled inside the crisp

sugary walls she nurtured and nestled

babies, slippery as fruit flesh…

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

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

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

You can find Kin Types here or here.