I was recently interviewed by Bernadette Duncan on Pioneer Valley Radio about my novel Pacific Street and about genealogy research in general. I hope you find it interesting.
You can find it here.
You can buy my book here.
Before I return to the other children of my three-times great-uncle Abraham Goldsmith, one more post inspired indirectly by his son Milton.
My final post about Milton referred to the comment in his 1957 obituary in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent that Milton remembered when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. I noted that Milton was only four years old at that time. One of my readers commented that he also could remember a traumatic event from when he was four, and another reader shared her first memory from when she was two and a half. That made me think about the first specific event that I can remember in my own life. I have earlier vague memories, but this is the first clear memory of an event.
I was almost three years old at the time, and my family was spending the summer near Mahopac, New York, on a pond called Long Pond. My aunt and uncle were also there, as were my grandparents. We went to Long Pond for three summers when I was very young. My father and my uncle would return to New York City during the week for work and then come back to Long Pond on weekends. I learned to swim at Long Pond, and I mostly have very vague sense-memories of the place, reinforced by photographs and my uncle’s old home movies.
But the one specific event that I remember very clearly from that third summer at Long Pond was the evening I followed my cousin Jeffrey into the woods. Jeff, who was nine that summer, was my childhood idol. He was six years older than I was and the oldest of the first cousins, all of whom adored him. I have written about Jeff before, here and here, for example. He was smart and funny and lovable; he could always make us all laugh. My entire family was heartbroken when Jeff died from cancer fourteen years ago.
That summer at Long Pond, Jeff was friendly with another boy his age whose family was also staying at Long Pond. I can’t remember that boy’s name, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s call him Joe. Joe had a younger brother who was about six. Let’s call him Sam. One evening after dinner, Jeff and Joe decided to take a walk in the woods near our cabins. I wanted to go with them. I remember Jeff very pointedly telling me that I was too little and that I could not come with them. I was hurt and sad and probably made a stink, but Jeff and Joe wandered off, leaving me behind with Sam, Joe’s six year old little brother.
Then Sam said that we could follow Jeff and Joe, and so off I went, just three years old, following a six year old after two nine year olds. (This was in the days before helicopter parenting.) Before too long, I tripped over a log and fell on a sharp piece of glass, cutting my wrist very close to the vein.
I have no real memory of what happened next. Did Jeff coming running back and rescue me? Did my parents hear my screams and coming running to see what happened? All I know is that someone took me to a doctor nearby, who put butterfly clamps on my wound. To this day, I still have a very nasty two-inch scar on my right wrist.
I was never really bothered by the scar, In fact, at times when I was growing up, it helped me differentiate right from left. My mother used to tell me that someday my husband would buy me a wide gold bracelet to cover the scar. But I almost never thought about it as a child, and now I rarely notice it; nor does anyone else.
When I do look at it these days, I feel very fortunate that I avoided what could have been a much more serious injury. But mostly I look at it and remember with love my cousin Jeff. He may only have been nine at the time, but he was right. I was too little to go walking in the woods in the dusky light of summer that evening.
What is your earliest memory? How old were you?
I am very honored and flattered that Luanne Castle, who writes the wonderful genealogy blog The Family Kalamazoo and is a published poet as well, has chosen to blog about my novel Pacific Street. I hope you will read her review and consider purchasing a copy of the book. Thank you, Luanne!
Here is a small excerpt from the review:
The story of Cohen’s grandparents, Isadore and Gussie, is an inspiring coming-to-America tale with all the resonance of actual experience. Cohen has painstakingly documented the early part of her relatives’ lives through historical research using official documents and has incorporated information shared through family stories.
She has researched the settings and cultures described and added her own imagination to infuse the book with appropriate details and descriptions. This is no dry historical telling, but a well-structured adventure full of tragedies and triumphs like a novel, although more accurately, it is creative nonfiction in the historical subgenre.
As Cohen alternates the narratives of Isadore and Gussie (until their stories merge together near the end), the reader becomes one with the characters. The loneliness of both characters is excruciating, especially since family is so important to both of them.
You can read the rest of Luanne’s review here. Check out the rest of her blog while you are there; she is a wonderful storyteller and an expert genealogist.
Thank you, Luanne! Your words mean a lot!
Some of you know that since I retired two and a half years ago, I’ve been working on a novel inspired by my grandparents’ lives and the discoveries I’ve made about them and their extended families through my genealogy research. Well, I finally put my “pen” down and decided to call it done.
It’s been an exciting process for me because ever since I learned to read, I’ve wanted to write a novel. All through my career when I was writing long, boring articles for law journals, I wished that instead I was writing a novel. Novels have been my refuge all my life. I love being transported to different times and places and seeing into the hearts and minds of all kinds of characters. I just wanted a chance to try to create some characters of my own. When I retired, I promised myself that I would give it a try.
One friend reprimanded me when I said I was trying to write a novel. She said, “Don’t say that. Say you are writing a novel.” I was and am insecure about the whole thing. I never took a fiction writing course, participated in a writing workshop, or wrote any fiction at all, not since I wrote stories as a young child. What did I know?
My only sources of information about writing a novel were all the novels I’d read starting when I read Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White when I was eight years old. That book transported me in ways that changed the way I felt about reading. I cried so hard (spoiler alert) when Charlotte died. And she was just a spider! A fictional spider! How had the author made her so real and moved me to care so much?
Now that I’ve written my own novel, I am even more in awe of the many great authors whose books have moved me so deeply. I am humbled by what those authors were able to do with words, and thus I feel presumptuous trying to promote my own book, despite my friend’s reprimand.
But it was a labor of love—love for family and love for the magic of the written word. I wrote this book for my children and grandchildren so that they would have a taste of what their ancestors’ lives were like. I had lots of help and inspiration from my family and friends, as I acknowledge at the end of the book. And so despite this aching feeling of insecurity, I do want to share and promote my book so that others will also know the story I’ve created about my grandparents—grounded in fact, but expanded upon by my imagination.
If you do read it, I’d love your feedback. Thank you!
I admit that I have been putting off this blog post. Because it makes me sad. One of the great gifts I’ve experienced in doing genealogy is learning about and sometimes having conversations with older people whose memories and lives can teach us so much. The downside of that is that I am catching them in the final chapter in the lives.
In the past year or so, four of my parents’ first cousins have passed away. I already wrote about my mother’s first cousin, Murray Leonard, born Goldschlager, son of my grandfather’s brother David Goldschlager. You can see my tribute to Murray here, in case you missed it.
Two of my mother’s other Goldschlager-side first cousins also died in the last year: Frieda Feuerstein Albert and Estelle Feuerstein Kenner, who were sisters and the daughters of Betty Goldschlager, my grandfather’s sister, and her husband Isidor Feuerstein.
Frieda died on July 30, 2015; she was 93. Frieda was born in New York on April 21, 1922. She married Abram Albert in 1943, and in 1957, they moved with their children to Arizona, where Abram opened a bedspread and drapery store in Phoenix. He died in 1991, and Frieda continued to live in Phoenix until her death last summer.
Her younger sister Estelle died almost three months ago on May 16, 2016. She was 86 years old and had been living in Florida for many years. She was born May 15, 1929.
Estelle and Frieda each had three children who survive them—six second cousins I’d never known about until I started doing genealogy research.
I never had a chance to speak to either Frieda or Estelle, but have been in touch with some of their children. My mother recalls Frieda and Estelle very well, although she had not seen them for many, many years. She remembers them as beautiful young girls coming to visit her family in Brooklyn when they were living out on Long Island.
The other cousin who died in the past year was my father’s first cousin, Marjorie Cohen. I wrote about my wonderful conversations with Marjorie here. She died on July 6, 2015, but I did not learn about it until quite recently. She was just a few months shy of 90 when she died, and she was living in Ventnor, New Jersey, near Atlantic City, where she had lived for almost all of her adult life after growing up in Philadelphia. She was born on October 15, 1925, the daughter of Bessie Craig and Stanley Cohen, my grandfather’s brother.
According to her obituary,
She was a graduate of the Sacred Heart School in Philadelphia and Trinity College in Washington, DC. For 33 years she served as the Director of the AAA Mid-Atlantic Travel Agency in Northfield. During her time with AAA she escorted both cruises and tours throughout the world. In 1978, she was the recipient of the Contemporary Woman of the Year Award for outstanding community involvement by McDonald’s Restaurant and radio station WAYV. Upon retirement she became actively involved in volunteer work with the Atlantic City Medical Center, RNS Cancer and Heart Organization, the LPGA Annual Golf Tournament and served as a Hostess with the Miss America Pageant for a number of years. Throughout her life, she had a deep and abiding love for all animals and was a generous supporter of the Humane Society. (Press of Atlantic City, July 9, 2015.)
I am so grateful that I had the chance to talk to Marjorie, and I am filled with regret that I never was able to get to Atlantic City to meet with her as I had hoped.
These losses remind me once again how important it is to find my extended family members, especially those whose memories run back the longest. I wish I had had the chance to meet all of these cousins, and now it is too late.
My second cousin Richard Leonard contacted me to let me know that his father, Murray Leonard (born Murray Leonard Goldschlager) had passed away on March 27, 2016, in Tucson, Arizona. Murray was my mother’s first cousin. He was the son of David Goldschlager, my grandfather’s younger brother, and Rebecca Schwarz. He was named for his grandfather, my great-grandfather Moritz Lieb Goldschlager, and shared the same Hebrew name with his first cousin, my uncle Maurice Goldschlager.
I never had the chance to meet Murray, but I know from Richard how well loved he was. With Richard’s permission, I am quoting from Murray’s obituary and Richard’s own personal tribute:
Murray Leonard, 93, of Tucson, Arizona, passed away peacefully on March 27th 2016. He was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania on May 4th 1922.
Murray grew up in The Bronx, following all the NY Yankee greats.
When World War Two broke out he answered his country’s call to duty as a PFC in the US Army (83rd Reconnaissance Troup, 83rd Division), participating in the Battle of the Bulge, sustaining injuries and was awarded a Purple Heart.
After getting married to the love of his life Edna in 1958, he moved to Tucson, Arizona to pursue a career in the mail-order and retail women’s clothing business with his wife at Old Pueblo Traders and the Vicki Wayne retail stores, retiring at the age of 78.
He was a keen golfer and enjoyed playing with his buddies as part of the ‘Grumpy Old Men” golfing group, playing until he was 87. He also enjoyed playing the US stock market/investing mostly on his own, including reading the Wall Street Journal every day.
He is survived by a son, Richard (Stephanie) and loving wife of 57 years, Edna Leonard. He was preceded in death by his brother Sidney Goldschlager (Nora) of Rumson, New Jersey and parents, David and Rebecca Goldschlager, who immigrated to the US [from] Iași, Romania. He is also lovingly remembered by all his nieces and nephews as fun-loving “Uncle Mursh”, who would do anything for a laugh.
He was a fantastic father, patriotic American and overall great guy. He heeded his country’s call to duty fighting in WWII, seeing combat action in the Battle of the Bulge (getting wounded and was awarded a Purple Heart). A successful businessman retiring at the age of 78, he also was a keen golfer, playing until he was 87. He will be certainly missed but the great memories will always remain! Time to toast him with a Tanqueray & Tonic, his favorite drink!
I will be sure to have that Tanqueray & Tonic in his memory and will think of my cousin Murray, the son of Romanian immigrants who grew up to live the life his parents must have dreamed for him: a long and happy marriage and a loving son, a successful business, and dedicated service to the country that his parents had adopted as their own when coming here as young adults in the early 20th century.
May his memory be for a blessing, and may his family be comforted by their memories.
Among the other treasures that turned up in the shoebox of “old papers” that had belonged to my Aunt Elaine was a Martinson Coffee pocket calendar for the year 1930. My aunt would have been twelve going on thirteen, my Uncle Maurice ten going on eleven, and my mother not yet born when 1930 began. Here’s a photograph of my grandmother and her three children taken in 1931 when that pocket calendar was still relatively new:
This calendar, however, had to be around for many years as a place where members of the family scribbled notes of all kinds because even my mother eventually made contributions to it. In fact, the most recent entries seem to have been made by my grandmother in 1965 long after my grandfather had died and all her children had married.
I don’t know for sure what “Johen” meant, but I wonder if my grandmother was referring to my father, whose name is John Cohen.
It amazes me that my grandparents kept this little book for so long, and I wonder why it became the repository of so many family notes. I can’t imagine how it stayed around and was used by so many members of the family beginning in 1930 up to 1965. Today that notebook probably would not have lasted a year (well, it wouldn’t exist since we’d use our smartphones and computer calendars instead.)
For example, my grandparents used it not only as a calendar but as an address book. I already posted two of the pages of addresses in an earlier post:
Here are a few more:
Leo Ressler was my mother’s first cousin, son of Tillie Brotman Ressler, my grandmother’s sister. His wife was Mildred Phillips, and the notebook page records both their wedding anniversary and Mildred’s birthday. Unfortunately there is no year given for the marriage, but Mildred was still single and living with her mother and stepfather in New Haven, Connecticut, on the 1930 census. She and Leo lived in Hartford during the late 1930s, and so this entry of an address for Bridgeport must have been long after the 1930 date on this calendar. (They were living in Bridgeport as of the 1940 US census.) Leo and Mildred owned a dress shop in Connecticut for many years before retiring to Florida. My mother recalls that Mildred was considered high class by my grandparents and that my aunt was invited to come visit them so she could learn some of Mildred’s sophisticated ways.
(I don’t know who Francis Coen would be— another name to research.)
The next two pages had three addresses for my mother’s uncle, Sam Brotman—my grandmother’s brother. Apparently he moved around a bit, given all the crossed out addresses the notebook includes for him. (There are two more on the first page, above.) I don’t know very much about Uncle Sam except that he was a cab driver and lived alone all his adult life. Yet all these addresses include a “in care of” reference so perhaps he was living with someone named Weinstein for some period of time and someone named Enzer at other times.
Joe Brotman, the other name on this page, was another of my mother’s first cousins, the son of Hyman Brotman, my grandmother’s brother. I have six different Joseph Brotmans in my family tree, including my great-grandfather, but Hyman’s son is the only one who lived in Queens, where he was living when this address was recorded.
My grandfather also used the calendar to record birthdays for family members. There are notes on the dates for his birthday as well as that of my grandmother, my aunt, and my mother. (The pages for June were torn out, so there is none for my uncle.) My mother was born during 1930, and on the appropriate date my grandfather simply wrote, “My daughter’s birthday, Florence, born—-.”
One of my favorite pages (although very hard to read) is the one where my grandfather apparently listed all his favorite pieces of music. I know that music was one of his passions, one of the few things he remembered fondly about his childhood in Iasi, Romania:
I can’t make out the names of most of the pieces, but he has works by Beethoven (whose name he wrote with such a flourish on the opposite page), Brahms, Bizet, and Grieg as well as several others.
He also used the notebook as an account book, and there are many pages where he records his paychecks, his Social Security benefits, and Welfare Fund payments. My grandfather was active in his union, and I assume that the Welfare Fund was administered by the union. In addition, he kept a record of people they visited or who visited them and other events.
The notebook also contains a number of notes my grandfather made about his health and various other matters. For example, on these pages he not only recorded financial information; he interspersed notes about the times my uncle came home to visit during his military service in World War II with notes about his own operations and hospitalizations.
Again, all of these were obviously written long after 1930 and as late as 1951 when he had surgery for polyps. He died just six years later on May 3, 1957.
But perhaps the most interesting and entertaining parts of the notebook are those contributed by my aunt, my uncle, and my mother. There are many pages like this one with a list of names and then what looks like grades. My mother believes that my aunt used the notebook to play school, listing her classmates and even her brother and herself as the students and then “grading” them in different subjects.
My aunt also liked to practice writing her name and doodling all over the pages (the top one might have been written by my mother or someone else; I am not sure):
These pages were obviously written after my aunt was married as she used her married name (Lehrbaum) and included her husband, my Uncle Phil. The second page also includes my uncle’s wife, my Aunt Lynn, and they weren’t married until 1945, several years after Aunt Elaine had married. I find it fascinating that even after she was married and out of the house, my aunt still somehow found this notebook a place to scribble.
I found the pages my uncle wrote in 1934 about his adventures shooting at chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits with his friend Blackie both amusing and disturbing. First, the idea that my uncle was carrying around a real gun at age fifteen is rather horrifying. Secondly, I always knew my uncle as an animal lover. He always had a dog (a schnauzer named Schnopsie is the one I remember best), and later on he had several dogs and cats as well as various other animals. How could he shoot harmless chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits? But when I asked my cousin Beth about this, she said he always liked to shoot, so she was not surprised.
But it’s amusing also because I can imagine my uncle as a fifteen year old boy having a wild time with his friend Blackie and competing to see who would shoot the most animals that summer. Below is a photo of my uncle, my aunt, and my mother as well as my grandmother about a year after the summer that my uncle was writing about his hunting adventures.
I found the note he wrote four and a half years later on February 24, 1939, when he was almost twenty years old particularly touching and revealing:
As I recall it now I have recorded on these last nine pages possibly one of the happiest phases of my life. As I sit here and look back four and a half years it seems incredible that time could fly by so quickly on the wings of joy and sorrow, (yes, we’ve had our share of sorrows).
What were those sorrows? I don’t know what my uncle was referring to specifically or whether he only meant between 1934 and 1939, but in his lifetime, in 1924 his aunt Frieda had died after childbirth as had her baby; his aunt Tillie had lost her husband Aaron, and his grandmother Bessie had died in May 1934, shortly before he wrote about his hunting adventures. I also imagine that those Depression years were challenging for my grandparents like they were for so many people.
My uncle also must have liked baseball because he kept a box score from a game in the notebook. Being a baseball fan, I was determined to figure out not only what teams these were, but what game it was:
After studying the names on team listed on top I realized that it was the Detroit Tigers, probably around 1935. As soon as I saw Greenberg, I knew it had to be Hank Greenberg and thus the Tigers. After all, how many baseball players have there been named Greenberg?
The team at the bottom took some more digging because my uncle’s spelling was, shall we say creative? But the Deroch was a big clue—I assumed it was Leo Durocher, and once I looked up his career and saw that in 1935 he was playing on the St. Louis Cardinals with a catcher named Bill Delancey, an infielder named Collins and another named Frisch, I knew I had found the right team.
But the National League Cardinals wouldn’t have been playing the American League Tigers in 1935 unless they were in the World Series (oh, for the days before endless post-season playoffs and in-season interleague play!). So this couldn’t be 1935 because the Tigers played the Cubs in the 1935 World Series. After a bit more research, I concluded that this was a game from the 1934 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers.
Since my uncle recorded the final score of the game he was following (presumably on the radio) as 10-4, it wasn’t hard to find out which game this was from the 1934 World Series: Game 4 on October 6, 1934, at Sportsmen’s Park in St. Louis. Here is a link to the box score of that game as recorded by the Baseball-Reference website. The Tigers evened the series 2-2 by winning that game and then won Game 5 to go up 3-2 in the Series, but badly lost Games 6 and 7 to lose the Series. I wonder which team my uncle, a boy from Brooklyn, was rooting for. Perhaps the one with the first Jewish player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame?
Finally, there are a few short notes from my mother, the baby in the family. Here she wrote about her big brother teasing her:
My brother is such a pest he calls me all sorts [?] of names for instance fatso, horse, baby and so many and I call him names to.” I guess my uncle was always a tease—he certainly was as an adult also!
I wonder how much later she wrote the comment that follows: “When I look at this now I think it silly. It is childish.”
When she was eleven, she wrote about a favorite teacher, Mrs. Alice Handelsman, who was “just like a mother” to her class, and her boyfriend Myron. On his birthday in the calendar, she listed a favorite cousin, Sanford (or Sandy), Leo and Mildred Ressler’s son; my mother to this day talks about what a beautiful little boy he was and how kind he was to my grandmother.
What a gift this little book from 1930 has turned out to be. It gives me a snapshot into the childhood of my mother and her siblings and some insights into my grandfather as well. He was obviously a very careful man when it came to money, recording so painstakingly his income and his expenses. These were the Depression years, and my grandfather worked as a driver for a milk company. My grandparents were not poverty stricken, but they lived from paycheck to paycheck and for many years lived in a small apartment in Brooklyn and then a one bedroom apartment in Parkchester when my mother was a teenager and her siblings were married and out of the house. My grandfather worked the night shift for the milk company, and my mother would share the bed with my grandmother until my grandfather got home in the morning and she got up for school. But my mother says she never thought of herself as poor because she always had food and clothing and a roof over her head.
We take so much for granted today with our cars and houses and televisions and computers and smartphones. We throw everything away and litter our landfills with our junk. Our children and grandchildren have iPads and scooters and bikes and more toys and books than all the children in one tenement building in Brooklyn combined had back in the 1930s. But my mother and her siblings had their imaginations and their friends and their teachers and their families. And this one little notebook gives us a peak into how they entertained themselves and how they lived together as a family. It, like my aunt’s baby book, is a real treasure.
As you know if you’ve been following this blog for a while, my Aunt Elaine preceded me as the family historian for my maternal side. Several times notes she made or information she gave to others has led me to more information. Her information has almost without exception proven to be accurate. For example, she provided me—indirectly—with the names of my grandmother Gussie Brotman’s half-siblings, Abraham, David, Sophie, and Max. She provided me with the clue that the Brotmanville Brotmans were our close relatives. She told me how my grandparents met each other in Brooklyn.
Well, she has done it again. This time, however, it was not information or notes that she provided, but rather her baby book, which my cousin found in a shoebox of old papers. It was partially filled out when my aunt was born on October 14, 1917. Although most of it is blank, the few pages that were filled provide not only further confirmation of relationships about which I was previously aware, but hints at some new ones.
Here are the pages of the book that have been filled in:
This is my grandfather’s beautifully florid handwriting. His daughter, my aunt, also had fancy handwriting like this.
My grandmother was never called Grace, always Gussie. But family lore is that my grandfather’s family thought Grace was more American.
My two maternal great-grandmothers!
Who are these people?
Tillie Ressler—my grandmother’s older sister
Mr. and Mrs. H. Brotman—my grandmother’s brother Hymie and his wife Sophie
Rebecca Rosenzweig—my grandfather’s cousin, daughter of his mother’s brother Gustav Rosenzweig
Mr. and Mrs. D. Goldschlager—my grandfather’s brother David and his wife Rebecca
Mrs. and Miss G. Goldschlager—my great-grandmother Ghitla Rosenzweig Goldschlager and her daughter Betty
Mrs. and Miss B. Moskowitz—my great-grandmother Bessie Brotman Moskowitz and her daughter Frieda
The next two are not familiar, but provide new paths to research. Can anyone help me decipher the names?
UPDATE: The last two must have been friends. Mr. and Mrs. Leon and Ray Kiok and her mother Mrs. Frances Azeraad. I found them all living together in Brooklyn, but not near my grandparents. I am not sure where they would have met. Leon was born in Poland in 1886, and Ray’s parents were born in Spain.
Finally, Mr. and Mrs. M. Brotman: my grandmother’s half-brother Max Brotman and his wife Sophie
On the following page were more names.
Miss E. Shapiro and fiancé—not known yet
Sam Brotman—my grandmother’s younger brother
Mrs. A. Peter and son—I do not know
Mr. and Mrs. A. Brotman—-my grandmother’s half-brother Abraham Brotman and his wife Bessie
Mrs. D. Brotman—Annie nee Salpeter, wife of David Brotman, my grandmother’s half-brother
Mr. and Mrs. Julius Goldfarb—more on them below
The next three are not familiar—Mrs. Louis (?) Yassky, Miss Rose Botomick (?), and Mrs. Tsulie (?) Hecht. As far as I can tell, these were not relatives, but friends.
I just loved seeing all these names. Names that I have researched and know are my family, but names I’d not seen in something like this, something that makes it clear that these people were all really connected to my grandparents in a personal way. I know that sounds odd. These were the siblings, mothers, and cousins. But since I grew up without hearing many of these names, it still was wonderful to see them all listed as the first visitors to see my aunt as a newborn in 1917.
I also found the list of gifts fascinating. My grandparents did not have money for silver and silk, but someone was very generous in giving these items to them for their first-born child.
One final page—the inside of the back cover:
A. Rosenzweig—-my grandfather’s cousin, Abraham Rosenzweig, Rebecca’s brother. I have speculated, based again on a story conveyed by notes from my Aunt Elaine, that it was either Abraham or Rebecca or Sarah who was accompanying my grandfather Isadore on Pacific Street in Brooklyn when he first laid eyes on my grandmother and declared he was going to marry her.
Back to Mr. and Mrs. Julius Goldfarb. I asked my mother who they were because in a second old item—a notebook my grandfather used for various purposes that was also used by all three of his children at one time or another—the name Joe Goldfarb appeared twice. Who were these Goldfarbs?
(There’s more great stuff on this page—Sam Brotman is my great-uncle Sam, Feuerstein B. is my great-aunt Betty Goldschlager Feuerstein, Leo Ressler is my mother’s first cousin, her Aunt Tillie’s son; Rae Rosenzweig and Lizzie Horowitz are my grandfather’s first cousins, sisters of Abraham and Rebecca. And there is an S. Goldfarb in addition to Joe.)
My mother said all she could remember was that either Julius or his wife was my grandmother Gussie’s first cousin. I’d never heard the name Goldfarb before, so what did I do? What all genealogy addicts would do. I immediately started searching. And the results of that search will be discussed in a later post once I have filled in more gaps in that story.
But for now, I once again can hear my aunt cheering me on, telling me to keep digging and finding the family stories.
 I will share more of that notebook in later posts also.
When I started doing genealogy research about four years ago, I only had seen pictures of two of my eight great-grandparents: Isidore Schoenthal and Hilda Katzenstein, parents of my paternal grandmother Eva Schoenthal Cohen.
I had no idea what any of my other six great-grandparents looked like. Over time I have been very fortunate to find cousins who had pictures of four of those other six. For example, I now have pictures of Moritz Goldschlager and Ghitla Rosenzweig, parents of my maternal grandfather Isadore Goldschlager.
Another cousin had pictures of my great-grandmother Eva Seligman, but I did not have a photograph of my great-grandfather, Emanuel Cohen. Until now. One of the photos in my Aunt Eva’s suitcase was a photograph of Emanuel Cohen. I was so excited to be able to see his face. It’s amazing how a photograph can bring to life someone you’ve never seen.
So I now have pictures of Eva Seligman and Emanuel Cohen, parents of my paternal grandfather, John N. Cohen, Sr.
That leaves me missing only one photograph in the collection of photographs of my great-grandparents. I am fortunate to have a picture of my great-grandmother, Bessie—the person for whom I named. But I do not have a picture of Joseph Brotman, my great-grandfather. The Brotmans remain the most elusive of my ancestral families, and they were the ones who started me on this search and to the blog. How I would love to know what Joseph looked like, but none of my cousins has a photograph, and somehow it seems very unlikely that any will turn up. But here is my great-grandmother Bessie Brod/Brot/Brotman, the mother of my maternal grandmother Gussie Brotman Goldschlager.
When I scan through these photographs and think of my eight great-grandparents, I feel somehow comforted and inspired. It makes me feel good to know that they are remembered and that their stories are being told, at least as well as I can tell them. Five of the eight were born in Europe and immigrated here to make a better lives for themselves and for their children and those who followed. They came from Sielen, Germany, from Iasi, Romania, and from Tarnobrzeg, Poland. The other three were the children of immigrants from Gau-Algesheim and Jesberg, Germany and from London, England; they benefited from the risks taken by their parents, my great-great-grandparents, but they each took risks of their own. In America, my great-grandparents lived in Washington (Pennsylvania), Philadelphia, New York, Denver, and Santa Fe. Each in his or her own way was a pioneer. Each one is an inspiration to me.
On this week of Thanksgiving, I am grateful to them for all they did and proud to be their great-granddaughter.
Lately it’s been sort of raining Goldschlagers. First, I received an email from someone named Jeanne who matched me very distantly on the DNA testing website, but who’d spotted that one of my ancestral names was Goldschlager. Jeanne had had an aunt named Anne Goldschlager; although her aunt was an aunt by marriage only, not genetically, Jeanne had loved her greatly and wondered whether we might be related since Anne Goldschlager’s family also had ties to Romania.
According to Jeanne, Anne’s father Max had moved to Dresden in the early 20th century where Anne and her sister Sabina were born. In 1939, Max, his wife, and Sabina left Germany to go to Romania (I assume they thought it would be safer), and they left Anne behind. She was 15 years old. Somehow Anne got to England and survived the war, but her sister was killed in one of the concentration camps. Her parents survived the war and emigrated to Israel. Here is Sabina’s Page of Testimony at Yad Vashem, which includes this photograph:
Unfortunately, Anne has no biological descendants, and Jeanne knew nothing more about her family tree, so I don’t think I can get any further back to determine if her Goldschlagers were related to mine.
Then around the same time that I heard from Jeanne, my cousin Jim and his wife Jodi emailed me to say that their son Michael was in Spain for the Model UN and had met a fellow student named Eva Goldschlager. Michael wanted to know if Eva could be related to our Goldschlagers. After obtaining Eva’s father’s contact information, he and I have emailed several times. His Goldschlager family is also from Romania—from the town of Siret, which is a little more than 100 miles from Iasi where my grandfather was born. We’ve not gotten any further than that so far, but are trying to figure out how to learn more.
And then finally just the other day I received a whole bunch of new photographs from my cousin Richard, who lives in Australia but was in the US visiting his parents. Richard is my second cousin; his father Murray is the son of David Goldschlager, my grandfather’s younger brother. Although Murray changed his surname a long time ago, he is nevertheless a Goldschlager. Here are some of the photographs Richard sent me of his grandparents.
Here are three photographs of David and Becky as young people.
Here they are with their sons Murray and Sidney at Brighton Beach probably in the 1930s:
The others were taken when David and Becky had moved to Arizona where Murray and his wife Edna and their son Richard lived.
Thank you so much to my cousin Richard who so generously shared these photographs with me. I am so happy to have more pictures of my grandfather’s brother David and his family.