My Uncle, The Criminal? If The Shoe Fits….

Before I turn to my three-times great-uncle Meyer and his family, I want to write about another uncle—my four-times great-uncle Simon Goldchmidt, brother of my three-times great-grandfather Seligmann Goldschmidt.

Back in January, I wrote about Simon Goldschmidt, including the fact that he had been in legal trouble in Germany before immigrating to the US. David Baron had located a record that indicated that in 1826 Simon was charged with burglary and attempted robbery. (HStAM Fonds 261 Kriminalakten 1822-1836 No G 40.) I then wrote in that post:

I requested a copy of the file from the Marburg archives and learned that the file covers Simon’s appeal of a ten year sentence for his criminal activity. The listing online indicates that the date of appellate decision was December 24, 1830.

The contact person at the Marburg archives did not reveal the outcome of the appeal, so I am now hoping to find someone who might be able to go to Marburg and provide me with a summary (in English) of the judgment. (I could order a copy, but it would be costly and in German. My German has improved, but 130 pages of a legal decision would be too great a challenge!)

Well, with the help of three wonderful women in Germany, I’ve been able to obtain a copy of the report, have it transcribed, and then have it translated.  First, Floriane Pfeiffer-Ditschler from the German Genealogy group on Facebook volunteered to go to the archives in Marburg and scan the entire 130 pages of the documents in the file.1 She sent it to me as a PDF, and it’s too long to post on the blog, but I will post just a few pages in this post so that you can see how difficult it is to read. If you’re interested in seeing the entire document, let me know.

Cover page of file, HStAM 261 Kriminalakten 1822-1836 No. G 40

Neither Floriane nor I could decipher the text, so I turned to my friend Julia Drinnenberg, who had been one of my wonderful guides during my visit to Germany last year. Julia also found the handwriting difficult to read, so she recruited her friend Gabriele Hafermaas to help. Gabriele transcribed the text, which Julia then translated it into English. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to these three women for their help.  It took many, many hours of work for them to produce a document that I can read.

The file contained three documents: the original trial court opinion finding Simon guilty, Simon’s application for appellate review, and the appellate court’s opinion. Because the documents are quite lengthy and at times repetitive, I thought it best to write up a summary.

The alleged crime took place on the night of May 16, 1826. The trial, however, did not take place until four years later.  At this time we do not have any information to explain the long delay between the crime and the trial, but Julia is consulting with a judge and legal historian in Germany, so perhaps he will have some answers.

The trial court reached its decision on May 14, 1830.

Simon Goldschmidt, first page of trial court opinion
HStAM 261 Kriminalakten 1822-1836 No. G 40

According to the trial court’s opinion, on the evening of May 16, 1826, someone broke into the home of eighty-year-old Georg Wolf, a resident of Oberlistingen.  There was a hole in the wall of his home and a ladder lying on the ground in front of his sitting room. The court found that someone used violent force to break into the sitting room, using the ladder to push the door open and even breaking an iron bar that served as a lock on that door. There was a struggle between Wolf and the burglar, during which Wolf claimed he had bitten the hands of the assailant and scratched and pinched his face and neck.

When neighbors heard Wolf’s cries for help, the assailant ran away.  According to Wolf and several witnesses, a pair of shoes was left behind, which Wolf claimed had belonged to the assailant. Wolf described the assailant as a small and flexible man with frizzy hair, wearing a long black cape and speaking with a Yiddish accent.

Based on this description, Simon Goldschmidt, a 32-year-old tailor, was thought to be the assailant, and local authorities went the next morning to his home to investigate. Witnesses testified that Simon had injuries on his face and hands that were consistent with Wolf’s testimony and that he fit the physical description provided by Wolf. Simon denied the charges and claimed that he had injured himself when he fell on a stack of logs in the corridor while going to the toilet in the middle of the night.

The trial court did not find Simon’s assertion that his injuries came from such a fall credible for several reasons.  The court did not find it believable that Simon had used the toilet in the corridor because he had a “night stool” in his room for bathroom use. Simon claimed he could not use the night stool because Jewish law prohibited sharing of the night stool while his wife was menstruating, but the court cited the testimony of a rabbi stating that there was no such prohibition under Jewish law. There also was no evidence that Simon’s wife was in fact menstruating at the time of the crime. Furthermore, the court found that Simon’s injuries were not consistent with falling on logs, citing the testimony of a doctor that Simon appeared to have bite marks on his hands and bruising on his face.

In addition, in a page torn from Cinderella or the OJ Simpson trial, the trial court found that the shoes left behind by the assailant fit Simon as well as his wife. A shoemaker testified that he had made the shoes for Simon’s wife and repaired them. He was able to identify them by the way the heels were worn down on one side. Simon denied that the shoes were his or his wife’s, saying that her shoes had been stolen. The trial court did not find this assertion credible because the theft of the shoes had never been reported to the police.

Cinderella
By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

The fact that Simon was wearing dirty socks covered with thick straw and half-dry black mud when the authorities came to investigate was also relied on by the trial court in its analysis. Simon claimed his socks were dirty from walking inside his house and from walking outside to his well. The trial court was not persuaded, finding evidence that Simon was ordinarily a tidy man, that his floors did not have dirt like that found on his socks, and that the walkway to the well had a stone path. Witnesses also testified that the dirty socks were like those of someone who walked through the village without shoes.

There was also some discussion in the trial court opinion about the fact that Simon had plans to go to the estate of the aristocratic von Malsburg family the morning of the investigation.  Julia and I were not sure what this all meant, but as best I can tell, Simon was wearing boots when the authorities arrived and claimed it was because he was planning to go to the Malsburg estate. The court seems to have concluded that this was not the case, but that Simon had put on boots to hide his dirty socks, which were only revealed when the investigator asked him to remove his boots.

Based on its evaluation of the evidence, the trial court concluded that Simon was guilty of attempted theft with burglary and attempted robbery with murder and sentenced him to ten years in prison with his legs shackled. The court considered as an aggravating factor in determining its sentence that Simon had not voluntarily called off his attempted crime, but only left because he was afraid of being caught when Wolf called for help.

End of trial court opinoin
HStAM 261 Kriminalakten 1822-1836 No. G 40

Although the court observed that the usual penalty for a crime of this nature would be twelve to fifteen years in prison, it noted that the case had been delayed for two years due to an overload of pending cases and therefore reduced the usual penalty and sentenced Simon to ten years in prison. The court’s mention of a two-year delay is confusing since the crime was in 1826 and the trial decision in 1830. Simon had been incarcerated for four years while awaiting trial.

On July 22, 1830, Simon appealed the trial court’s verdict, making many of the same arguments that he made at trial, but with some additional details. For one thing, he claimed that he had not reported the theft of his wife’s shoes because of their low value. As to the fact that he was wearing boots the morning after the crime, he asserted that it was insulting to claim that a tailor would not ordinarily be wearing shoes.

Simon Goldschmidt’s application for appearl, first page
HStAM 261 Kriminalakten 1822-1836 No. G 40

With respect to his dirty socks, Simon asserted that the stones on the walkway to the well were quite distant from each other and that the humid weather had made the ground very muddy. And as for his claim that he injured himself from a fall when he went to the toilet in the corridor, he asserted that he left the bedroom because he did not want to make a stench inside and that he believed, even if incorrectly, that under Jewish law he and his wife could not share a night stool while she was menstruating.

Simon also pointed out that Wolf had not specifically identified him, but had only given a general description of the person who attacked him. In addition, Simon asserted his overall good reputation as a factor mitigating against his guilt.

The appellate court issued its decision on December 24, 1830. Its opinion is far more detailed and thorough than the trial court opinion and raises some additional issues. For example, the appellate court pointed out that Simon had been having financial problems and thus had a motive for stealing from Wolf. The court also mentioned that Simon knew that Wolf had money because he and his brothers had at one time borrowed money from Wolf.

Appellate decision, first page
HStAM 261 Kriminalakten 1822-1836 No. G 40

Simon’s response was that his financial problems were only temporary and that everyone in the village knew that Wolf had money and might have stolen from him. Simon also argued that since Wolf had loaned money to him and his brothers, it would not make sense for him to steal from him. The court concluded that the evidence of Simon’s financial problems supported the trial court’s guilty verdict, although only circumstantially.

(If I were representing Simon, I might also have argued that since Wolf knew Simon, he should have been able to identify him as the assailant rather than merely providing a general description.)

The appellate court also considered Wolf’s description of his assailant and whether it clearly identified Simon. Despite some inconsistencies in the evidence regarding the description of the assailant’s “singing voice” and hair, the court found that this evidence nevertheless pointed towards Simon’s guilt.

With respect to the fact that Simon was wearing boots when the authorities came to investigate early on the morning after the crime, the court found that it was not Simon’s usual practice to wear boots and that his story that he was planning to walk to the Malsburg estate was not supported by any witnesses. But the court considered this only relevant to the claim that Simon was trying to hide the dirt on his socks.

The evidence that the appellate court seemed to consider most persuasive of Simon’s guilt was the evidence relating to the shoes left at Wolf’s house and the dirt on Simon’s socks. In the court’s weighing of the evidence, it concluded that the shoes belonged to Simon and his wife and that he got his socks dirty when he ran home through the town without his shoes.

The appellate court also considered very persuasive the evidence of Simon’s injuries and concluded that Simon’s story about falling on logs was not credible. In response to the assertion that Simon did not use the night stool because his wife was menstruating, the prosecution argued that Simon’s wife could not have been menstruating because she was breastfeeding [presumably Jakob, their first child born in 1825]. I was impressed by the court’s response to this assertion—that women can menstruate even while breastfeeding—because that is a fact that I would not have thought was commonly known in 1830.

But the court nevertheless found that it was not likely that Simon’s injuries were sustained in a fall, given the doctor’s testimony that there were bite marks and the fact that the injuries were in multiple locations on Simon’s body, not on one side as one would expect from a fall. Also, Simon couldn’t give a convincing description of the fall and refused to show his injuries. Thus, the court dismissed Simon’s assertion that he was injured in a fall.

After weighing all the evidence, the appellate court thus upheld the verdict. However, it reduced the sentence from ten years to four years because Wolf’s injuries were not dangerous or life-threatening and because Simon had not used any lethal weapons.  It thus reduced the original charges against Simon to attempted robbery. The court also observed that the delay in trial was not Simon’s fault and took that into consideration in reducing his sentence. Simon was released from prison after the appellate court’s decision.

Last page of appellate decision, HStAM 261 Kriminalakten 1822-1836 No. G 40

As noted in my earlier post, Simon’s first wife Eveline died in 1840, and in 1844 my four-times great-uncle Simon Goldschmidt married Fradchen Schoenthal, the sister of my great-great-grandfather Levi Schoenthal and thus my three-times great-aunt. Fradchen and Simon left for the United States not long after. Simon was the second member of the Goldschmidt family to immigrate to the US, following his oldest son Jakob, and Fradchen was the first Schoenthal to immigrate.

Passenger manifest for Simon Goldschmidt, Fradchen Schoenthal and Eva
Ancestry.com. Baltimore, Passenger Lists, 1820-1964. Original data: Selected Passenger and Crew Lists and Manifests. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

I can’t help but wonder whether their decision to leave Germany was in some part motivated by a desire to leave behind Simon’s criminal past and start over in a new country. If so, well, then I have to say that I am awfully glad that Simon was convicted of this crime because in many ways it was that event that led ultimately to the emigration of my great-great-grandmother Eva Goldschmidt Katzenstein (Simon’s niece) and my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal (Fradchen’s nephew), who later married Eva Goldschmidt’s daughter, Hilda Katzenstein.

Thus, in some ways Simon’s crime may have led to the merging of three of my paternal family lines—Goldschmidt, Schoenthal, and Katzenstein—in America.  How very strange.

 

.

 

 

 


  1.  HStAM 261 Kriminalakten 1822-1836 No. G 40. 

Milton Goldsmith: A Victim of Conscience

In my last post we saw what my cousin Milton Goldsmith predicted for the 21st century; in this post, we will start to look at his life in the 20th century.

In 1900, Milton was recently married to Sophie Hyman of New York City, and the newlywed couple were living in Philadelphia where Milton continued to make a living as a clothing merchant. Their first child, Rosalind, was born on February 1, 1901, in Philadelphia,1 and a second daughter, Madeleine, followed on May 20, 1904, also in Philadelphia.2

By this time Milton had published his first novel, Rabbi and Priest (1891), as discussed here, as well as a second novel, A Victim of Conscience (1903).3

A Victim of Conscience takes place in the 1850s in a city that is unnamed but (based on the street names) is most likely Philadelphia. The main character is a recent German Jewish immigrant named Isaac Schwartz.  He has been in America for four years at the beginning of the novel and is living in dire poverty, desperate for a way to earn enough money to support his family. He finally decides to go to California to join the gold rush. There he encounters anti-Semitism and abuse and ultimately commits the crime that makes him a “victim of conscience.”

The principal theme of the book is atonement. Isaac seeks advice from a rabbi about how to atone for his crime and is discouraged by some of the rigidity of Jewish law. He then considers converting to Catholicism and studies with a priest, but ultimately decides that he can’t accept the notion that mere faith in Christ as his savior will provide salvation. In the end he learns that Judaism can provide a path to forgiveness and expiation for his sins.

The book’s focus is thus on Isaac’s struggle with his conscience and how religion affects that struggle. But the book is of more interest to me in the way that it reflects the way my cousin Milton understood his own family’s story—their life in Germany, their reasons for leaving Germany, and the life they found when they first settled in the US fifty years before he wrote this book. A few excerpts will illustrate what I mean.

Although I have no reason to assume that Milton was being at all autobiographical in describing the lives of some of his characters, I did wonder whether this description of Isaac’s life in Germany was based on his father Abraham’s life in Oberlistingen before emigrating:4

Isaac’s father, old Meyer Schwartz, was a power in his native village of D. He was in fair circumstances, and educated as far as education went in those days; for the Jews, rich and poor alike, were denied the privileges of the village schools, and were limited in their instruction to the teachings of their “Cheders ” and the scraps of information which they could impart one to the other. Old Schwartz was a profound Talmud scholar, and was deemed as wise as he was devout, which was no equivocal compliment, for he was pious indeed. … It was [his] ambition to make a Rabbi of [Isaac], but in spite of his earnest and painstaking instruction, Isaac never got beyond the general outlines of the law and the Talmud. Buying and selling afforded him more pleasure than poring over parchments, and, after a vain effort to keep him to his studies, old Schwartz reluctantly allowed him to follow his own inclinations.

Milton also provided some background for the reasons so many German Jews emigrated:5

In those days the Jews in Germany had few rights and many grievances. Harsh measures were devised, stringent laws enacted to drive them out of the country, or at least to restrict their increase. The possession and cultivation of land, the study of a profession, the following of the fine arts, were all interdicted. Buying and selling, borrowing and lending, were the only channels in which the Israelites were allowed to exercise their ingenuity, and grievous was their condition in consequence. Worse still, a Jew was not allowed to marry until some co-religionist in the community had died or had moved away.

His main character Isaac decides to emigrate because he wants to marry the woman he loves, Lena, and cannot stay in his home community and do so.

Milton also described the hard lives of the Jews who made a living as peddlers after coming to the US, as his father Abraham probably did:6

A number of peddlers were among the visitors, stalwart young fellows but lately arrived from Germany, who, with a heavy pack on their shoulders, or, if their means allowed, with horse and wagon, wandered through the State, hawking a varied assortment of merchandise, and seeking to master the American tongue while they accumulated American dollars. It was a hard experience, but a salutary one. For the pious Jews, peddling meant untold privations, a total abstinence of all food except eggs and such “Kosher” dried meats as they could carry with them. It meant a weary trudging through unfamiliar villages, over stony roads, amid hostile surroundings, from Sunday morning until Friday evening, and a short rest on the Sabbath in some synagogue town.

It was a career which might well have daunted the most enterprising youth, and yet thousands of “greenhorns ” adopted it, thrived at it, became wealthy through it. It was not considered degrading in those pioneer days, but eminently proper for a new arrival.

19th century etching of a peddler by Granger found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/1-peddler-19th-century-granger.html

The book also sheds light on the lives of German Jewish families in Philadelphia during that time period—the level of observance of Jewish law, the economic and social conditions, and the relationship between the Jewish and non-Jewish communities. The book is likely more valuable today for what it reveals about its times than for its literary merit, but for me, it was a worthwhile read.

Thus, by 1903, Milton had published two novels and written many essays, short stories, and even a musical. He and his family must have decided that it was time to leave Philadelphia and move to New York City where he might have more opportunities to pursue his literary career.

You can download a free copy of A Victim of Conscience here.


  1. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VBYW-R9L : 9 March 2018), Rosalind Goldsmith, 01 Feb 1901; citing bk 1901 p 107, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 1,289,340. 
  2. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VBBL-N5K : 8 December 2014), Madeline Goldsmith, 29 May 1904; citing cn 22583, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 2,110,933. 
  3. Milton Goldsmith, A Victim of Conscience (Henry T. Coates & Co., 1903). 
  4. Ibid., p.6. 
  5. Ibid., p. 7. 
  6. Ibid., pp. 84-85. 

Schutzjuden

Back on January 12, 2018, I wrote about my four-times great-grandfather Jacob Falcke Goldschmidt who in 1724 was the first Jew to receive a Schutzbrief in the town of Oberlistingen. I received a couple of comments and questions about the practice of obtaining a Schutzbrief, so I decided to do some additional research to get a better understanding.

Unfortunately, there is not much written online about this practice.  I asked in the Jewish genealogy groups on Facebook and received a recommendation for a book by Mordechai Breuer and Michael Graetz entitled German-Jewish History in Modern Times, Volume I: Tradition and Enlightenment 1600-1780 (Michael A. Meyer, ed., William Templer, translator) (Columbia University Press 1996)(hereinafter “Breuer-Graetz”). Another person recommended a different book, Mathilda Wertheim Stein’s The Way It Was: The Jewish World of Rural Hesse (FrederickMax Publications 2000)(hereinafter “Stein”). What follows is based on just these two sources and is not meant to be a comprehensive summary of German Jewish history by any means, but merely a brief overview of the practice of issuing letters of protection or Schutzbriefe.

In 1236, the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II declared that Jews were servi camerae nostril—that is, permanent servants of the emperor.1   Jews were subject to many restrictions; for example, they were not allowed to bear arms; they were required to pay onerous taxes to the empire; and they were prohibited from many areas of trade and from guilds.2 Because of these restrictions, many Jews made their living as moneylenders and pawnbrokers, fields that were were considered un-Christian. As a result, many Jews developed experience in finance and in facilitating trade.3

It was during this era that a class of “protected Jews” or Schutzjuden developed. Frederick II instituted a policy whereby territorial rulers could take over the oversight and taxation of Jewish.4  As explained by Stein, “When the emperor needed funds, he granted his right over the Jews to territorial feudal lords and free cities.  They in turn charged a regular fee for letters of protection to the Jews living within their domain. As a result, Jews became the subjects of the feudal lords, who furnished a letter of protection (Schutzbrief). Letters of protection had to be renewed periodically for a fee set by the sovereign and they generated a good income.”5  According to Stein, “Many a palace in [Hesse] was built with money exacted from Jews who paid excessively for the privilege of living under wretched conditions at the pleasure of the sovereign.” 6 But the payment for protection at least ensured the Schutzjuden some rights as well as some protection against anti-Semitic violence and abuse.7

By the 16th century, there was some liberalization in the treatment of Jewish residents. According to Breuer-Graetz, those in power at this time “gradually came to view the Jews in a different light: not as individuals bereft of all rights, but as human beings with a basic right to toleration, though no more than that.”8

But Jewish security was still very much dependent on the local nobles, and at the same time the nobles often found themselves depending on the Jews for their expertise in commercial and economic matters.9  During the Thirty Years War in the 17th century, many Jews played a critical role in financing and procuring supplies for the nobles’ armies.10  This led to the development of a class of Jews known as Court Jews who were very wealthy and protected by the nobles though still treated as outsiders.  The Court Jews also played an important role within their own Jewish communities, acting as tax collectors for the nobles and as advocates and benefactors for Jewish residents who needed financial help or who were having legal problems.  Court Jews also hired other Jews to work as their servants in their homes.11 Other Jewish residents worked as peddlers and traders, often as cattle and horse traders.12

The practice of Schutzjuden also was somewhat liberalized during this period in some places. In earlier times, a letter of protection (Schutzbrief) was issued to just one individual and for a limited time, usually just a few years.  Now in some localities letters of protection lasted for the lifetime of an individual and were granted to larger numbers of people. To acquire a letter of protection, Jews were required to pay a substantial annual fee.13

“One important feature of these letters of protection was the specification of a precise territorial area in which they were valid. The patron could cancel the privilege at any time, and there was generally a fixed number of authorized protected Jews.“14  The entire household of a protected Jew was also covered by the letter of protection, including servants. Jews who were not covered by a Schutzbrief were part of an underclass known as “unvergleitet” Jews; they had no right to reside in a community and were dependent on manual labor or begging to survive.15

Even those with protection had quite circumscribed rights. They were still prohibited from most areas of trade, and they could own no real estate other than their home. They were subjected to many taxes and fees in addition to their annual fee for protection, and those taxes were substantially higher than the taxes paid by their Christian neighbors. If an individual Jew did not fulfill his or her personal obligations, the entire Jewish community was responsible for the debts of that individual. Breuer-Graetz observed that the non-Jewish peasant community was in some ways worse off financially than the Schutzjuden, but in many ways had more legal rights than their Jewish neighbors.16

There were many regional variations in Schutzbrief practice. According to Stein, “Renewal of a Schutzbrief was customary in the region of Hesse, but each case was handled individually at the discretion of the local feudal lord with whom terms had to be continually renegotiated.”17 Stein cites as one example a Schutzbrief that was valid for only four years and subject to carrying on an approved business and paying the yearly fee in advance.18 In some towns in Hesse the granting of a Schutzbrief was subject to two other requirements: the ability to read and write and the possession of sufficient wealth.19  A couple wishing to marry often had to wait until a place in a town or village was available before they could marry.20

An example of a Schutzbrief from the Hesse region in 1678 Source: HStAM II A 2 Judenachen 1646-1814

The 18th century saw the dawn of the so-called Age of Enlightenment, but for the Jewish residents it was hardly that.  It was during this time that my ancestor Jacob Falcke Goldschmidt became the first protected Jew in the town of Oberlistingen. Jews were still forced to endure both heavier taxation and greater legal restrictions. “Increased difficulties were likewise encountered in connection with the granting of protection. In many places there was a rigorous expulsion of poor, ‘unprotected’ Jews; the children of protected Jews were not accepted for permanent residence unless the parents were wealthy or had proven their worth by the establishment of manufactories.” 21

During the reign of Frederick the Great (1740-1786), treatment of Jews worsened. He considered Jews “the most dangerous of all sects”22, and despite his view that the state’s most important function was to ensure the welfare of all its subjects, he did not extend that view to his Jewish subjects. “Rather, they remained nothing but an instrument for furthering the welfare of the state and its development into a great European power.”23

Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, painting by
Anton Graff [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Revised General Code of 1750 placed Jews in a number classes from most privileged to least privileged. As described by Breuer-Graetz,24 these categories were:

  1. Generalpriviligierte: the smallest and most elite level. They could purchase land and homes without a permit, work as merchants, and pass on their rights to their children.
  2. Ordentliche Schutzjuden: privileged protected Jews; they could not choose their residence without a permit and could only pass on their rights to one of their children.
  3. Ausserodentliche Schuzjuden: unprivileged protected Jews; only permitted to reside in the town if they had a useful profession or trade and could provide one of their children with the right of residence if the child had sufficient assets.
  4. Community employees, including rabbis.
  5. Unprotected Jews: they required the patronage of a protected Jew and could only marry if their spouse was someone from the top two classes. Children of the privileged protected Jews who did not share in the right to inherit were also placed in this class as were children of community employees.
  6. Servants employed by those in the first class.

According to Breuer-Graez, the purpose of this system of classification was “to curb the growth of the legitimate Jewish population and to put a halt on the illegal influx of unprotected Jews.” 25 It was also a means of raising revenue since each of those who obtained protection paid hefty amounts for that privilege.

This oppressive government-imposed treatment of Jews as outsiders with limited rights lasted for another century. It was not until the 19th century that various Germanic states began to emancipate their Jewish residents and grant them full legal rights as citizens; unfortunately, that did not end anti-Semitism and the violence and discrimination it engendered, as we saw most tragically in the 20th century.

 

 

 

 

 

 


  1. Breuer-Graetz, pp. 28-29. 
  2. Breuer-Graetz. pp. 29-30. 
  3. Breuer-Graetz, pp. 30-31. 
  4. Breuer-Graetz, pp. 29-30. 
  5. Stein, p 6. 
  6. Stein, p.6. 
  7. Stein, p. 20. 
  8. Breuer-Graetz, p. 65. 
  9. Breuer-Graetz, pp. 75-77. 
  10. Breuer-Graetz, pp. 104-117. 
  11. Breuer-Graetz, pp. 117-122. 
  12. Breuer-Graetz, pp. 123-134. 
  13. Breuer-Graetz, pp. 135-136. 
  14. Breuer-Graetz, p. 136. 
  15. Breuer-Graetz, pp.136-137. 
  16. Breuer-Graetz, pp. 137-143. 
  17. Stein, p. 22. 
  18. Stein, p. 22. 
  19. Stein, p. 20. 
  20. Stein, p. 18. 
  21. Breuer-Graetz, p. 145. 
  22. Breuer-Graetz, p. 147. 
  23. Breuer-Graetz, p. 147. 
  24. Breuer-Graetz, 148-149. 
  25. Breuer-Graetz, p. 149. 

The Goldschmidts Come to America

I was all set to be logical and sequential and report on each of the children of my three-times great-grandparents Seligmann and Hincka (Alexander) Goldschmidt, starting with their oldest child Sarah Goldschmidt and her husband Abraham Mansbach II. I began their story in this post, but then I realized that I could not tell the rest of the story of the children of Sarah and Abraham without some background regarding the other members of the Goldschmidt family.

What triggered this realization was this ship manifest:

Henry Schoenthal and Helene Lilienfeld with Analie Mansbach on 1872 ship manifest lines 95 to 98
Year: 1872; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 359; Line: 1; List Number: 484

Notice that this is the 1872 manifest for Henry Schoenthal, the brother of my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal. Henry had settled in Washington, Pennsylvania, in 1866, but then returned to Germany to marry Helen Lilienfeld. Then on May 24, 1872, Henry and Helen returned to the US, as shown on this manifest.

Why am I talking about a Schoenthal in the context of telling the story of the Goldschmidts?

Because on that manifest (lines 6 and 7, above) were two eighteen-year-old women both named Amalie Mansbach who were apparently sailing with Henry and Helen (lines 5 and 8). I believe that one of those two Amalie Mansbachs was Merla Mansbach, the daughter of Sarah Goldschmidt and Abraham Mansbach II. Merla Mansbach was born on December 10, 1853, meaning she would have been eighteen in May, 1872.

Birth record of Merla Mansbach
HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 384, p. 55

But why would Merla Mansbach be sailing with Henry Schoenthal? He was from Sielen, his wife Helen was from Gudensberg, and Merla was from Maden—all towns within a reasonable distance of each other in the Hesse region of Germany, with Maden and Gudensberg being very near each other. There had to be a connection.

 

And that drove me back to my earlier posts about Henry Schoenthal and how he ended up in Washington, Pennsylvania, a small town in western Pennsylvania about 30 miles from Pittsburgh. And those posts reminded me that Henry was not the first Schoenthal to settle in western Pennsylvania—his father Levi’s sister (my three-times great-aunt) Fradchen Schoenthal had preceded him some twenty years before.

And Fradchen Schoenthal was married to Simon Falcke Goldschmidt, the brother of Seligmann Goldschmidt and great-uncle of Merla/Amalie Mansbach:

 

So I am going to digress a bit from the story of the family of my three-times great-grandfather Seligmann Goldschmidt to tell the story of his younger brother Simon Falcke Goldschmidt because telling the story of the Goldschmidt’s immigration to the United States has to start with Simon, who was the first to arrive.

Simon was the youngest of the four sons of Jacob Falcke Goldschmidt and Eva Reuben Seligmann; according to numerous US records, he was born in 1795. In 1822, he married Eveline Katzenstein of Grebenstein (no known familial connection to my Katzensteins). Together they had five children: Jacob (1825), Lena (1828), Hewa “Eva” (1836), Joseph (1837), and Jesajas (1839), all born in Oberlistingen.

Notice the large gap between Lena, born in 1828, and the next child Hewa born in 1836.[1]

David Baron located a record that perhaps provides a reason for that gap; it seems that in 1826 Simon was charged with burglary and attempted robbery. (HStAM Fonds 261 Kriminalakten 1822-1836 No G 40.) I requested a copy of the file from the Marburg archives and learned that the file covers Simon’s appeal of a ten year sentence for his criminal activity. The listing online indicates that the date of appellate decision was December 24, 1830.

The contact person at the Marburg archives did not reveal the outcome of the appeal, so I am now hoping to find someone who might be able to go to Marburg and provide me with a summary (in English) of the judgment. (I could order a copy, but it would be costly and in German. My German has improved, but 130 pages of a legal decision would be too great a challenge!)

Since Simon and Eveline had three more children beginning in 1836, I suppose it’s possible he served some of that ten year sentence. Sadly, Simon and Eveline’s last two babies did not survive. Both Joseph and Jesajas died in infancy.

Joseph Goldschmidt death record
Sterberegister der Juden von Oberlistingen (Breuna) 1827-1852 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 671), p. 6

Josajas Goldschmidt death record
Sterberegister der Juden von Oberlistingen (Breuna) 1827-1852 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 671), p. 7

And then Simon lost his wife Eveline as well. She died on August 19, 1840, in Oberlistingen:

Eveline Katzenstein Goldschmidt death record
Sterberegister der Juden von Oberlistingen (Breuna) 1827-1852 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 671), p. 8

Simon was left on his own to raise his fifteen year old son Jacob, twelve year old daughter Lena, and four year old Hewa/Eva.

Four years after Eveline’s death he married my three-times great-aunt Fradchen Schoenthal on September 10, 1844. Fradchen, the daughter of my three-times great-grandparents Heinemann Schoenthal and Hendel Berenstein, was 37 years old when she married Simon. Thus, as early as 1844, my Schoenthal and Goldschmidt lines had merged, explaining why Merla/Amalia Mansbach would have been sailing with Henry Schoenthal in 1872.

Marriage of Simon Goldschmidt and Fradchen Schoenthal
HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 669, S. 11

A year after marrying, Simon and Fradchen left Germany for the United States, arriving in Baltimore with Simon’s youngest daughter Eva on September 20, 1845.

Passenger manifest for Simon Goldschmidt, Fanny Schoenthal and Eva Goldschmidt
Ancestry.com. Baltimore, Passenger Lists, 1820-1964 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006.
Original data: Selected Passenger and Crew Lists and Manifests. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

They must have settled first in Baltimore because Simon and Fradchen had two children who were born there, Henry on January 10, 1847, and Hannah on June 5, 1848. I assume that Henry was named for Heinemann Schoenthal and Hannah for Hendel Berenstein Schoenthal, their maternal grandparents and my three-times great-grandparents.

By 1850, Simon and Fradchen (also known as Fanny) were living in Pittsburgh with Henry and Hannah as well as two of Simon’s children from his first marriage, Lena and Eva. Simon was working as a tailor and had Americanized his surname to Goldsmith.[2]

Simon Goldschmidt and family 1850 census
Year: 1850; Census Place: Pittsburgh Ward 3, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: M432_745; Page: 135A; Image: 274

Simon lost his second wife Fradchen/Fanny soon thereafter; she died on August 11, 1850, at age 43. (The year on the headstone appears to be incorrect; based on the age given on both the marriage record and manifest, Fradchen’s birth year would have been 1807, not 1800. The 1850 census said she was then 39, not 50. Plus it’s unlikely she had children at ages 47 and 48.) She left behind two very young children, Henry and Hannah, as well as her three stepchildren, Jacob, Lena, and Eva, and her husband Simon.

 

Meanwhile, Simon’s son Jacob from his first marriage had settled in Washington, Pennsylvania, by 1850; he was working as a tailor and living with two other men who were tailors. Like his father Simon, Jacob had changed his surname to Goldsmith.

Jacob Goldsmith (Simon’s son) 1850 US census
Year: 1850; Census Place: Washington, Washington, Pennsylvania; Roll: M432_834; Page: 363A; Image: 244

Sometime after 1850 Jacob married Fannie Silverman. (The 1900 census reports that Jacob, who was then widowed, had been married 51 years, but given that he was still single in 1850, that seems unlikely).

Jacob and Fannie had thirteen children between 1853 and 1871—first, six daughters, then three sons, then another four daughters. Wow. I will report on them in more detail in a later post.  For now, I will only name those born between 1853 and 1860: Ellena (1853), Emma (1854), Anna (1855), Rachel (1857), Leonora (1858), and Celia (1860). Six daughters in seven years.

Sometime after Fradchen died, Simon moved to Washington, Pennsylvania, to be with his son Jacob. In 1860, Simon and his two youngest children, Henry and Hannah, were living with Simon’s son Jacob and Jacob’s wife Fannie and their six daughters. Henry and Hannah were only five and six years older than their oldest nieces, Emma and Anna. I assume that Simon needed Fannie and Jacob’s help in raising Henry and Hannah.

Jacob Goldsmith and family 1860 US census
Year: 1860; Census Place: Washington, Washington, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1192; Page: 1188; Image: 627; Family History Library Film: 805192

Simon’s other two children, Lena and Hewa/Eva, were married and on their own by 1860. Lena had married another German immigrant, Gustave Basch in 1856. In 1860, they were living in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, with their first two children, Frank (1858) and Jacob (1859).

Lena Goldschmidt and Gustave Basch and sons 1860 census Year: 1860; Census Place: Connellsville, Fayette, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1110; Page: 422; Family History Library Film: 805110

 

The story of Simon’s other daughter Eva has already been told. She married Marcus Bohm, an immigrant from Warsaw, Poland, and they had a daughter born in 1862 named Ella who married my great-great-uncle Jacob Katzenstein (son of Gerson Katzenstein and Eva Goldschmidt and thus also Ella’s cousin). Ella and one of her sons died in the Johnstown flood in 1889.  With Ella Bohm’s marriage to Jacob Katzenstein, my Goldschmidt and Katzenstein lines had merged.

I won’t repeat the research and story of Eva Goldsmith and Marcus Bohm, but despite further searching, I unfortunately have not yet found any record for either their marriage or Eva’s death. What I have concluded, however, is that Eva had died by 1870 because by then her daughter Ella was living with Eva’s brother Jacob Goldsmith.

Jacob Goldsmith and family on the 1870 census
Year: 1870; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 12 District 36, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Thus, by 1860, all the members of the family of Simon Goldschmidt were living in western Pennsylvania, most of them in Washington, Pennsylvania, where Fradchen’s nephew Henry Schoenthal would arrive six years later, soon followed by his siblings.

By the 1880s, there were thus familial connections between the Goldschmidt family and the Schoenthal family and also between the Goldschmidt family and the Katzenstein family.  These overlapping connections laid the groundwork for the 1888 marriage of my great-grandparents, Isidore Schoenthal and Hilda Katzenstein, whose mother was a Goldschmidt. It’s amazing to see how the many lines in the family came together in the pairing of two of my direct ancestors.

——

[1] I do not have German birth records for Jacob or Lena, only US records. For the last three children, I was able to locate Oberlistingen birth records.

[2] The names on this census are switched around. Simon’s wife was Fanny, not Lena, and his daughter was Eva, not Fanny. Another reminder of how unreliable census records can be.

Yet Another Abraham Mansbach: More Twists in the Tree

As I mentioned in my last post, my three-times great-grandparents Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hincka Alexander had seven children.

Their oldest child was Sarah, born December 1, 1818, in Oberlistingen. Sarah married Abraham Mansbach on October 31, 1843. Abraham Mansbach was a name I’d encountered before when researching my Katzenstein relatives, so I knew I had to dig deeper to see if there was a connection.

Marriage record of Sarah (Sarchen) Goldschmidt and Abraham Mansbach
Trauregister der Juden von Gudensberg 1825-1900 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 386)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 14

Back in November, 2016, I wrote a post entitled “Will the Real Abraham Mansbach Please Stand Up?,” in which I described my attempts to distinguish five different men (all related to each other) named Abraham Mansbach.  The first Abraham Mansbach (Abraham I) died around 1808; the other four included one of his grandsons and three of his great-grandsons.

Abraham I had three sons: Isaac, Leiser, and Marum I.  Leiser in turn had two sons, Abraham II and Marum II, both of whom married into my family. Abraham II married my three-times great-aunt Sarah Goldschmidt, as seen above.

Leiser’s other son, Marum II, married one of my other three-times-great-aunts, Hannchen Katzenstein. Thus, the Mansbachs are related to me both on the Katzenstein side and the Goldschmidt side. (And the Goldschmidts and Katzenstein lines also merged with the marriage of Gerson Katzenstein and Eva Goldschmidt, my great-great-grandparents.)

Marum Mansbach II and Hanchen Katzenstein also had a son named Abraham, whom I labeled Abraham Mansbach III.[1] The fourth and fifth Abraham Mansbachs were other great-grandsons of Abraham I not directly entangled with my relatives.

 

 

Anyway……all you need to know for this post is that Sarah Goldschmidt married Abraham Mansbach II, who was born January 12, 1809, in Maden, Germany.  Sarah and Abraham had ten children: Breine (1844), Hewa “Hedwig (1846), Leiser “Louis” (1849), Jacob (1851), Merla “Amelia” (1853), Berthold (1856), Hannah (1858), Meyer (1860), Kathinka (1862), and Julius (1865). In other words, Sarah gave birth to ten children over a 21 year period. All the children were born in Maden.

Thanks to my recently-found cousin Art Mansbach, a great-grandson of Abraham and Sarah, I have a number of photographs of Abraham and Sarah and their children. This one is of Abraham, Sarah, and their youngest child, Julius, Art’s grandfather. Julius appears to be about five years old in this photograph, so this would have been taken in around 1870:

Abraham Mansbach, Julius Mansbach, and Sarah Goldschmidt Mansbach c. 1870
Courtesy of the Mansbach family

Here is one of Sarah with her two youngest sons, Meyer and Juilus. From the ages of the boys, I would estimate that this was taken in the mid-1870s:

Julius Mansbach, Sarah Goldschmidt Mansbach, and Meyer Mansbach c. 1874
Courtesy of the Mansbach family

This was the Mansbach home in Maden, Germany:

Home of Abraham and Sarah Goldschmidt Mansbach, Maden, Germany
Courtesy of the Mansbach family

Remarkably, only one of those children did not grow to adulthood.  Jacob, the fourth child, who was born on June 23, 1851, died on September 13, 1853. He was just two years old.

Jacob Mansbach death record
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 387, p. 47

 

Two other children of Sarah and Abraham II predeceased one or both of their parents, but did live to adulthood: Hedwig and Kathinka.  Kathinka died in the US, so her story will come in a later post. But Hedwig died in Germany.

Hedwig was born on November 20, 1846.

Hedwig/Hewa Mansbach birth record HHStAW Fonds 365 No 384, p.43

 

On February 16, 1875, she married David Rothschild of Zierenberg, Germany.

Hewa Mansbach and David Rothschild marriage record
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 386, p. 40

Sadly, Hedwig died nine months to the day later on November 16, 1875. Had she died in childbirth? I don’t know. She was only 28 years old when she died. If there was a child, I have not found any record of him or her, and I checked all the births and deaths in Zierenberg in 1875.

Death record for Hedwig Mansbach Rothschild
Description: Geburten, Heiraten Tote 1874-1875
Source Information
Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1730-1875

 

Not long after Hedwig’s death, many of her siblings began to leave Germany for the United States. In fact, all but one of the remaining siblings and their parents Sarah and Abraham themselves eventually emigrated. I will continue their stories in subsequent posts.

The only surviving child of Sarah and Abraham who did not emigrate was their first-born child, Breine.

Breine was born on September 27, 1844:

Breine Mansbach birth record
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 384, p. 39

 

She married Jacob Bensew on February 3, 1870; Jacob was born on January 15, 1840, in Malsfeld, Germany, the son of Heinemann Bensew and Roschen Goldberg.

marriage record for Breine Mansbach and Jacob Bensew
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 386, p. 35

 

Breine and Jacob had six children—five sons and one daughter: William (1872), Julius (1875), Siegmund (1877), Heinemann (1879), Max (1882), and Frieda (1886). All six of their children would eventually immigrate to the United States, but Breine and Jacob stayed behind and lived the rest of their lives in Germany.

Breine died in Melsungen, Germany, on May 31, 1922, and her husband Jacob in Kassel, Germany, on April 25, 1925.

Death record for Breine Mansbach Bensew
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 4684

Because so much of the rest of the story of the the family of Sarah Goldschmidt and Abraham Mansbach II took place in the US, I will stop here and address the history of the Goldschmidt family’s migration to the US in my next post.

But first one final photograph, this one of Abraham with the four sons who grew to adulthood: Leiser/Louis, Berthold, Meyer, and Julius. I do not know which is which, but all four appear in this photograph with their father. They were all my first cousins, four times removed:

ABraham Mansbach with his four surviving sons: Meyer, Berthold, Louis, and Julius. (Not necessarily in that order.)

 

 

[1] Thus, Abraham II was the uncle of Abraham III, my first cousin-three times removed on my Katzenstein line, and he was the husband of my three-times great-aunt Sarah Goldschmidt.

Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hincka Alexander, My 3x-Great-Grandparents of Oberlistingen

I have once again been truly fortunate as I begin my in-depth research of my Goldschmidt line. Not only do I have the benefit of the research done by Roger Cibella and David Baron, but through Roger and David, I have now connected with another Goldschmidt cousin, Art Mansbach, my third cousin, once removed. And Art, the great-great-grandson of Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hincka Alexander, has a treasure trove of pictures and documents and other items related to the Goldschmidt family. Art discovered a box of photographs in his father’s attic, and fortunately most of them were labeled with the names of those depicted. From Roger, David, and Art, I now have a fair amount of information about our mutual ancestors, Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hincka Alexander, as well as pictures of them.

My three-times great-grandfather Seligmann Goldschmidt was born in about 1783-1784 in Oberlistingen, Germany. (His birth date is inferred from his death record, to be discussed below.) He was the oldest son of my four-times great-grandparents Jacob Falcke Goldschmidt and Eva Reuben Seligmann, though he had two older half-brothers from his father’s prior marriages.

Seligmann Goldschmidt

According to Art and as reported on Roger Cibella and David Baron’s website, Seligmann was by trade a spice merchant. He also fought under General Bluecher against Napoleon at Waterloo and was cited for bravery and given a silver snuff box for his service. Art owns the snuff box and shared these  (unfortunately blurry) photographs of this heirloom:

 

Although I have not found a marriage record, I assume that Seligmann married my three-times great-grandmother Hincka Alexander sometime before December 1, 1818, when their first child was born. According to her death record and gravestone, Hincka was born in Wolfhagen on September 14, 1797. I don’t yet know the names of her parents or whether she had any siblings.

Hincka Alexander Goldschmidt

Seligmann and Hincka had their first child, a daughter named Sarah, on December 1, 1818, according to her death record. Sarah was followed by seven other children: Jacob (1822), Levi (1824), my great-great-grandmother Eva (1827), Beile or Bette (1829 or 1830), Abraham (1832), Meyer (1834), and Rosa (1837).

 

All but Beile/Bette would end up immigrating to the United States, starting with Jacob who arrived before 1850 and ending with Sarah, who arrived in 1882. Thus, I will be able to report a fair amount about each of their lives and their families and will be devoting separate posts (probably multiple) to each one of them.

Seligmann and Hincka, however, did not leave Germany with their children. Hincka died on January 4, 1860, in Oberlistingen; according to her death record, she was 63 years old:

Hincka Alexander Goldschmidt death record
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 502, p.82

 

Although the part of the gravestone that included her name is broken off, it is obvious that this is her stone as it identifies her as the wife of Seligmann Goldschmidt and also because the date of death is consistent with that in the record above. Unfortunately, however, it did not enable me to learn Hincka’s full Hebrew name and thus her father’s name:

UPDATE: Thank you to Lara Diamond for pointing out that Hincka’s name is partially legible at the very top of the stone—it says Hincka Sara! But for some reason her father’s name was not included.  Thank you, Lara!

Goldschmidt, Hinka (1860) – Kassel-Bettenhausen“, in: Jüdische Grabstätten <http://www.lagis-hessen.de/en/subjects/idrec/sn/juf/id/6511&gt; (Stand: 24.3.2015)

 

The inscriptions is translated as follows:

Wife of Seligman Goldschmidt from Oberlistingen.

Born on the 23rd of Elul [5] 557

Died on Thursday, 10th Tewet,

and buried on Friday, the 11th Tewet [5] 620

Jewish era.

Her soul is bound in the bond of life.

Her husband Seligmann died nine years later on April 8, 1869; he was 85 or 86 years old, according to this death record:

Seligmann Goldschmidt death record
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 387, p.70

 

His headstone is in better shape than that of his wife Hincka:

Goldschmidt, Seligmann (1869) – Obervorschütz“, in: Jüdische Grabstätten <http://www.lagis-hessen.de/en/subjects/idrec/sn/juf/id/13188&gt; (Stand: 8.8.2014)

 

The inscription is translated as:

a sincere man among the generous ones.

He walked the path of the good.

He distributed his bread among the hungry.

He was God-fearing throughout his life.

Aaron, called Seligmann,

Son of Jacob. Died with a good reputation

on Thursday, the 27th Nisan, and buried

on Friday, the 28th of the month in the year

[5] 629 after the small count. His soul is bound in the bond of life.

One interesting insight here is that Seligmann’s Hebrew name was Aaron.

I love how this inscription revealed a bit about Seligmann’s personality and how he was perceived by his family; I wish the same had been done for Hincka. When Seligmann died in 1869, almost all of his children were in the United States, as had been many of them when their mother Hincka died in 1860. I wonder if they came home to Oberlistingen to bury their parents and whether they helped to determine the language that would go on their parents’ gravestones. Why was their mother’s inscription limited to the bare facts whereas their father’s was more descriptive and loving?

In posts to follow, I will explore the lives and families of each of the children of Seligmann and Hincka.

******

Several people raised questions about the meaning of “schutzbrief” in my prior post. I am researching those questions and will report back soon.

 

Introducing the Goldschmidts of Oberlistingen

It’s a new year, and it’s time to start the story of a new line in my family. As I was finishing the history of the Katzenstein family, I pondered which line I should work on next. Growing up, I’d only known the surnames of some of my ancestors: Cohen, Seligmann, Nusbaum, Schoenthal, Katzenstein, Brotman,  and Goldschlager, the lines I’ve focused on so far. I did not ever hear the names Jacobs, Schoenfeld, Hamberg, Goldschmidt, Brod, or Rosenzweig. Those names had disappeared when the women took their husbands’ names and gave their children only their husbands’ names. But after researching the husband’s lines, I learned the birth surnames of their wives. 

So now it’s time to go back and find the stories of these other families. I have decided to start with the Goldschmidt line—the family of my great-great-grandmother Eva Goldschmidt who married Gerson Katzenstein. She was the mother of my great-grandmother Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal and the grandmother and namesake of my grandmother Eva Schoenthal Cohen. It made sense to start with the Goldschmidts because they are entangled in several ways with both my Katzenstein relatives and my Schoenthal relatives, as you will see. Also, I am intrigued by the idea of following the direct female line of my paternal grandmother–from Eva Schoenthal to Hilda Katzenstein to Eva Goldschmidt.

Thanks to the incredible work of David Baron and Roger Cibella, I can trace my Goldschmidt family back to my fifth-great-grandparents, Falcke Jacob, born in about 1697, and his wife Sara (surname unknown), born in about 1704.

My Goldschmidt ancestors came from Oberlistingen in the Hesse region of Germany, just a few miles from the village of Breuna, where my Hamberg ancestors once lived, about fourteen miles from Sielen where my Schoenthal ancestors lived, and about fifty miles north of Jesberg where my Katzenstein relatives lived.  Oberlistingen is in fact a small village within the larger township of Breuna, which also includes Niederlistingen, another small village very close to Oberlistingen. The two villages are sometimes referred together as the two “Listingens.”

 

Years ago David and Roger put together a website that traced the history of the Goldschmidt family and Oberlistingen and included excerpts from Chapter III of Dieter Carl’s book, Die Juden Geschichte Beider Listingen [The Jewish History of the Two Listingens] (Herausgegeben vom Gemeindevorstand der Gemeinde Breuna, 1999), as translated by Joseph Voss.

According to Dieter Carl, Jews had been expelled from the Hesse region by Duke Phillip the Generous in the mid-16th century in response to pressure from Martin Luther.  Then in 1592 Lord Moritz allowed a few Jews to settle in the region. Eventually more Jews settled in the Hesse region, but restrictions were imposed.

Carl provided this helpful background:

The unique position of the Jews derived from the nature of their religion, on one hand, and, on the other hand, stemmed from the nature of a people who had no citizens rights, who were not fully free, and stood outside of the established Christian society.  Therefore the Jews had gained the special protection of the Feudal lords needed for their security and livelihood for economical activity and housing.  Originally this protection was in the hands of the Kaiser, but in time it transmitted down to local Dukes.  ….  [T]he Dukes of Hessen … gave to certain families a letter “schutzbriefe” of protection–the legal basis for living in these rural areas.  The receiver of the schutzbriefe had to pay a reasonable sum and had to provide other services for the Lord.  The protection letter gave the Jews the legal right to trade and lend money.

For a long time Jews could not become artisans, farmers or civil servants, but only moneylenders or traders.  In order to limit the number of Jews in Hessian towns and villages, the letter could not be inheritable.  In reality though, the letter was passed down from father to eldest son with a small sum paid in order to continue that right.  This was beneficial for the right to do business and who could establish a family; hence the authorities could control the size of the Jewish population.  All the Jews for whatever reason did not possess the Schutzbrief, the youngest sons and unmarried daughters were the so-called “Unvergleitete” or disinherited.  From these large groups were created the Jewish under classes   or “Unterschicht”.  These consisted mainly as the “knechte, or the worker/ servants, the men and women who served the Schutzjuden in their employ.  In part they lived in great poverty and some resorted to begging for their livelihood.

According to Dieter Carl, the first Schutzbrief in Oberlistingen was given in 1724 to someone known as Juden Falcke, as seen in this letter dated October 19, 1724:

I, the undersigned am writing because I am protected by the esteemed sires of Malsburg.  I wish to become a member of the Oberlistingen community with permission to reside there.  I have obtained all of the rights to function in this community as a Jew and who has officially received these rights along with your right to cancel my contract.  Furthermore I am obligated, if the community is in need of money, and if I have the means to provide a loan without interest without damage to myself, I will make an advance to them if the need arises.  All of what is said here and recorded is based on free will and opinion, which my signature authenticates.

Signed 19 October 1724

Juden Falcke

Who was Juden Falcke? Was he related to me?

My fifth-great-grandparents Falcke Jacob and Sara had three children: Jacob Falcke, born in 1729; Joseph Falcke, born in 1734; and Blume Falcke, born in 1740.  Following the March 31, 1808 decree requiring Jews in the region to adopt surnames, Jacob Falcke adopted the surname Goldschmidt. Carl concluded that the “Juden Falcke” who received the first Schutzbrief for Oberlistingen was Jacob Falcke Goldschmidt, my four times great-grandfather. His brother Joseph adopted the surname Neuwahl and eventually also received a Schutzbrief to live in Oberlistingen.

Jacob Falcke Goldschmidt was married three times.  His first wife was named Bela, with whom he had one son; his second wife was Judith Arons, with whom he also had one son. Jacob’s third wife was my four-times great-grandmother, Eva Reuben Seligmann,[1] whom he married on November 24, 1780. [2]

Jacob Falcke Goldschmidt and Eva Reuben Seligmann had four sons:  my three-times great-grandfather Seligmann and his brothers Lehman, Meyer, and Simon. Dieter Carl also listed an unnamed daughter, and David Baron found a reference to this daughter in the Alex Bernstein Collection at the Leo Baeck Institute.  Her name was Jette, and she was born May 4, 1793; she married David Grunewald of Hoexter, Germany—the region that is the focus of Alex Bernstein’s research. According to his research, Jette died on August 4, 1822, and did not have any children.

CORRECTION: David Baron pointed out that I had misread Bernstein’s research. He found that Jette Goldschmidt did have children with David Grunewald before her death. First, a son Jacob Grunewald was born May 5, 1820; a second child was stillborn on July 30, 1822. Jette died five days later, presumably from complications from childbirth. Jacob Grunewald married and had fourteen children. Later I will return to these Goldschmidt cousins and report on them more fully.

Although I am primarily interested in my three-times great-grandfather Seligmann and his descendants, I will also write about his brothers, in part because his brother Simon was married to Fradchen Schoenthal, sister of Levi Schoenthal, my great-great-grandfather from Sielen.  Yes, my family tree continues to twist and bend.

 

[1] There is no known familial connection between Eva Reuben Seligmann, who was born in Warburg, Germany, and my Seligmann ancestors from Gau-Algesheim.

[2] This information all comes from Dieter Carl’s book as excerpted on the Cibella-Baron website. I will be focusing only on the children of my direct ancestor, Jacob Falcke Goldschmidt.

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.

Rosa Abraham and Isidor Zechermann: A Final Update

The process of finding the story of Rosa Abraham has been a challenging one. At first all I had was her birth record and one passenger manifest for a Rosa Zechermann with the same birth date and birth place.

Ricchen Rosa Abraham birth record Nov 20 1892 Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 6177

Rosa Abraham passenger card
The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Series Title: Passenger and Crew Manifests of Airplanes Arriving at Miami, Florida.; NAI Number: 2788541; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787 – 2004; Record Group Number: 85

Then with the incredible help of members of the Jekkes Facebook group, I learned that Rosa had married Isidor Zechermann and immigrated to Chile to escape Hitler. I had not found a marriage record, but several bits of circumstantial evidence supported that conclusion.

Most recently I’d received Rosa and Isidor’s request for repatriation as German citizens and Rosa’s application for reparations from the German government for the loss of her occupation. I also was able to deduce from various documents and directories that Rosa and Isidor must have married sometime between 1930 and 1932. But I still didn’t have a marriage record that proved when they were married and, perhaps most importantly, that the Rosa who married Isidor was in fact my cousin Rosa Abraham.  All the evidence pointed in that direction, but I had no official record, just secondary sources and circumstantial evidence.

I wrote to the city of Frankfurt to request a marriage record, and Sigrid Kaempfer of the Institut fuer Stadtgeschichte responded not only with Isidor and Rosa’s long sought marriage record, but with three other interesting documents as well. First, that much hoped-for marriage record:

Marriage record of Rosa Abraham and Isidor Zechermann

It states that Isidor Zechermann, merchant, born on February 25, 1878, in Frankfurt and living in Frankfurt, married Ricchen Rosa Abraham, business owner, born on November 20, 1892, in Niederurff, on September 17, 1930, in Frankfurt. Finally, I had the proof I needed to get closure. My cousin Ricchen Rosa Abraham, daughter of Hirsch Abraham and Pauline Ruelf, born on November 20, 1892, was the wife of Isidor Zechermann and had married him in the time period I had determined in my last post about Rosa.

Also of interest—the two witnesses to the marriage were Adele Trier, geb. Abraham, Rosa’s sister, and Alfred Trier, Adele’s husband. Adele and Alfred were the couple Rosa and Isidor went to visit in Queens in 1952, as I wrote about here.

Ms. Kaempfer also sent me a link to Isidor’s birth record, confirming that he was born on February 25, 1878, in Frankfurt. With the help of the German Genealogy group, I learned that Isidor was the son of Schaye Zechermann, a shoemaker, and Fanny Benedikt. (Special thanks to Heike Keohane and Carolina Meyer for their extraordinary help in decoding Schaye’s first name!)

Isidor Zechermann birth record
HStAMR Best. 903 Nr. 8916 Standesamt Mitte (Frankfurt) Geburtsnebenregister 1878, S. 61

And Ms. Kaempfer sent me two documents relating to the businesses operated by Rosa and Isidor. For Rosa, she sent me this record of her tax payments from 1924 through 1932 for her “Damenkonfektion” or ladies’ clothing business. The form also notes the change to her married name Zechermann. And it indicates that Rosa’s business was shut down on August 31, 1938, and deregistered on September 8, 1938, presumably by the Nazis.

Rosa Abraham business record 1924-1938

For Isidor, Ms. Kaempfer sent me the record of his registration as a haberdasher in Frankfurt. He first registered on September 6, 1933.

Isidor Zechermann business registration and deregistration

I am not sure how to interpret the various entries on the first line below the solid line on the right side of this card, which asks about the location and personnel of the management of the business, but the last two notes there—-“isr./isr” —-are quite obviously a reference to the fact that the owner of the business was Jewish (“Israeltisch”). And the red stamped entries on this card—indicating that the business was shut down on August 31, 1938 and deregistered on September 3, 1938—are clearly a reflection of Nazi persecution as presumably was the case with Rosa’s business.

With these final records, I now have closure on the life of Rosa Abraham and Isidor Zechermann.  I know when and where they were born, when and where they married, where they lived and worked in Frankfurt, when they emigrated from Germany and moved to Chile, and when they died. But it truly took a village to get here.

This search has proven once again that this work cannot be done alone and depends on the generosity of many people.  Thank you all! As this year draws to a close, I am mindful of and grateful for all the help I have received in 2017.

Let me take this opportunity to wish all my friends, family, and readers who celebrate Christmas a joyful and loving holiday.  I will be taking a short break from blogging, but will return in 2018 to start the saga of my Goldschmidt family.

Merry Christmas and  Happy New Year! Have a safe and happy holiday, everyone!

 

James Seligman: More Items from Wolfgang

When I wrote the recent post about the news articles my cousin Wolfgang had found about our Seligman(n) relatives, I had forgotten that a month earlier Wolfgang had sent me some other items he’d found about our relative, James Seligman—brother of Bernard, my great-great-grandfather, and August, Wolfgang’s great-grandfather. Somehow that earlier email had gotten lost in the mess that is my inbox. My apologies to Wolfgang!

A little more background on James: He was the youngest child of Babette Schoenfeld and Moritz Seligmann, born in about 1853 in Gau-Algesheim. By the time he was 28 in 1881 he had immigrated England where he was a wine merchant in Kilpin, Yorkshire, in conjunction with his brothers August and Hieronymus, who were living in Germany. He took sole control over that business in 1891.

London Gazette, March 20, 1891

In 1887, James married Henrietta Walker Templeton in London. In 1901, they were living in Scotland, but by the 1920s they had returned to England and were living in Birmingham where he remained for the rest of his life.

Henrietta died on October 4, 1928, and a year later in December 1929, James married his second wife Clara Elizabeth Perry. Clara was 45 years younger than James; she was 31 when they married, he was 76. He died just three months after they married on March 11, 1930. Clara remarried two years later and died in 1981. James did not have children with either of his wives.

Wolfgang found an obituary for James in the March 14, 1930 issue of the Birmingham Gazette:

b Birmingham Daily Gazette, March 14, 1930, p. 3

Mr. James Seligman

Death of Birmingham Hotel Expert

The death has occurred at the age of 77 of Mr. James Seligman, of 11 Yately-road, Edgbaston, Birmingham.

Formerly in business in Scotland, where he owned a number of hotels, Mr. Seligman was managing director of the Grand and Midland Hotels, Birmingham, and of the King’s Head Hotel, Sheffield.

He was an expert on all business matters connected with hotel management, and was often consulted by proprietors and managers of hotel establishments in all parts of the country.

He was the sole proprietor of Seligman and Co., wine merchanges, Colmore-row, Birmingham, and although ill in bed, was dealing with business affairs up to within a few hours of his death.

A great lover of music, Mr. Seligman was a regular concert-goer and an enthusiastic supporter of musical societies.

A funeral service will be held at Perry Barr Crematorium on Saturday.

From the obituary, Wolfgang knew where James had lived and captured this photograph of the former residence from Google Maps:

James Seligman residence in Birmingham, England

He also sent me this photograph of the Grand Hotel in Birmingham where James had been the managing director:

Grand Hotel, Colmore Road, Birmingham, England 1894

Interestingly, Wolfgang located an ad for Seligman’s Wine Merchants in the October 30, 1969, Birmingham Daily Post. It was still located on Colmore Row in Birmingham and called Seligman’s almost forty years after James died in 1930.

Birmingham Daily Post, October 30, 1969, p. 3

Thank you again to Wolfgang for sharing these items which shed more light on the personality and life of James Seligman, my three-times great-uncle and Wolfgang’s great-great-uncle.