Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Lose

I have had some incredible luck  following my hunches when ordering vital records about people who I think are my family members—finding Frieda Brotman’s death certificate and marriage certificates, for example, or finding Susie Mintz and Gustave Rosenzweig and Tillie Strolowitz and their relatives.  But lest anyone think that all my hunches have worked out, I want to give you three recent examples where I just guessed wrong.

The first example involves Gussie Rosenzweig, Gustave’s wife.  Recently I was able to obtain her death certificate and saw that her son Jack had listed her as a widow with a husband named Ben.  I was very puzzled by this as Gussie had not been listed as living with any man in the most recent census reports before she died.  Had she married sometime in the 1920s or 1930s and been widowed in between census reports?  I did a search and found only one Gussie Rosenzweig who had married a man named Benjamin.  I ordered that certificate, and this is what I received:

Rosenzweig - Rosenberg Marriage page 1

Clearly, this is not the right Gussie.  This Gussie was only 27 in 1934, whereas our Gussie would have been in her 70s; this Gussie had different parents who had come from Hungary.  So I still have no idea whether there ever was a Ben who married Gussie after she and Gustave split up.  Strike one.

The next bad guess involved a search for the other children of Gussie and Gustave who did not survive infancy.  I had seen on Rebecca’s birth certificate in 1893 that Gussie and Gustave had had five children, four living at Rebecca’s birth.  Somehow I miscounted and thought there was a missing child, although now when I go back and re-read my blog post, it seems pretty obvious that I had found all four living children (Lillie, Sarah, Abraham, and Rebecca) and the one deceased child (David).  But I thought I had found another—Samuel Rosenzweig—and sent for that death certificate.  Not surprisingly, he was not the child of Gustave and Gussie, as you can see below.  Strike two.

Rosenzweig, Samuel Death

The last example of my bad hunches involved a man named Paskel Rosenzweig who came from Iasi in 1900.  I thought that he might be another Rosenzweig sibling and decided to research his life in the US.  I was able to determine that he had changed his name to Charles and ordered a death certificate, hoping it would show that he was the sibling of Gustave, Tillie, Ghitla and Zusi, but as you can see below, he was not.  Strike three.

Rosenzweig, Charles Death page 1

Perhaps he was a cousin, but it would require some further digging into Romanian documents to see if Charles’ father was related to my great-great grandfather David Rosenzweig.  For now I will accept that my hunch is unproven, if not yet proven wrong.

There are other examples of times I made a bad guess.  Fortunately for the most part these bad guesses are not costly, as the documents usually came for free from the Family History Library.  But even so, every time I open a document, either electronically or in hard copy, my heart is beating, hoping it will provide an important clue or confirm a hunch.  When it does not, it is very disappointing.  Inevitable—what are the odds I will always find the right person?—but nevertheless, disappointing.

 

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More Mysteries: Can you help with handwriting analysis?

When I order a death certificate, I am hoping it will help me put some matters to rest (OK, pun intended), give me some closure, provide some answers.  More often than not, however, these so-called vital records raise more ghosts and mysteries than answers.

Two cases in point: the death certificates of Gustave Rosenzweig and his first wife Gussie Rosenzweig, the parents of my grandfather’s first cousins Abraham, Jack, Joe, Lillie, Sarah, Rebecca, Lizzie, and Rachel, among others.

First, let’s look at Gustave’s death certificate.  It confirms a number of things that make me certain that this is the right Gustave. He was born in Romania.  At the time of his death, he was married to Selma and living at 49 Wadsworth Avenue in Manhattan.  He died on October 16, 1944; his birth date is given as October 7, 1859, which is not exactly the date provided by his Romanian birth record of June 10, 1856, but close enough.  He was a retired painter, which is consistent with his occupation both in Romania and in New York.  The only clear mistake here is that although it has his father’s name correct (David), it has his mother’s name as Leah, instead of Esther.  Again, I’ve seen worse mistakes on death certificates, so I am comfortable dismissing that error.  Overall, this is a fairly reliable record of Gustave’s life and death.

Gustave Rosenzweig death certificate 1944

Gustave Rosenzweig death certificate 1944

Gustav Rosenzweig death cert 1

But here’s where it opens a new door and a mystery.  Here’s where I need some help.  At the bottom of the certificate is the signature of Gustave’s daughter as the informant, and I cannot read the last name.  The first initial appears to be an L, meaning this could be either Lillie or Lizzie.  But what is the surname?  Dorsie? Dorne? Dorme? Dorsue?  If I could decipher this, it might help me find either Lillie or Lizzie, both of whom I’ve had trouble tracking down.  If anyone can help me read this writing, I’d much appreciate it.  Remember you can click on the image below to enlarge it.

mystery signature

Now to Gussie Rosenzweig’s death certificate.  Again, the information here makes me certain that this is the correct Gussie, the mother of my grandfather’s first cousins and Gustave’s first wife.  Gussie was born in Romania to Isadore Sachs (Itzic Zacu) and Muriel Klein (Mirel), which is consistent with her birth record and marriage record from Romania.  She was residing at 2112 Dean Street in Brooklyn at the time of her death on December 23, 1935.  She was reported to be 75 years old at her death, giving her a birth year of 1860, close to the 1864 given on her Romanian birth record.  It looks like Gussie must have died a fairly gruesome death, having been hospitalized since November 5, 1935, suffering from gangrene of her foot, caused by diabetes.  Her son John hired the undertaker, as indicated on the reverse of the death certificate.

Gussie Rosenzweig Death certificate 1935

Gussie Rosenzweig Death certificate 1935

Rosenzweig, Gussie Death page 1

So what is the mystery here? Gussie is identified as widowed, and her husband’s name is…Benjamin? Who could Benjamin be? Had Gussie had remarried after she and Gustave divorced? (They are not living together on any census after 1910.)  In 1915 the children were living with Gussie.  (I have yet to find Gustave on the 1915 NYS census.)

Rosenzweigs 1915

Rosenzweigs 1915

The 1920 census is confusing; I have two pages for Gustave—one as a painter living in Manhattan as a boarder in East Harlem, one in Brooklyn with the Rosenzweig children.  I have to believe that the Brooklyn Gustave is really Gussie, as she is listed as unemployed and divorced.

Gustave Rosenzweig in Manhattan 1920

Gustave Rosenzweig in Manhattan 1920

Rosenzweigs 1920 census

Rosenzweigs 1920 census

 

The 1925 census shows her living with “Rose,” who I assume by the age (22) is Ray/Rachel.  The NYS census does not indicate her marital status, but there is no Benjamin living with them.

Gussie Rosenzweig 1925 NYS census

Gussie Rosenzweig 1925 NYS census

The 1930 census has her again living with Ray, but lists her marital status as married.  Again, there is no husband, no Benjamin living with her.

Gussie Rosenzweig 1930 census

Gussie Rosenzweig 1930 census

I checked the NYC marriage index for any brides named Gussie Rosenzweig who married between 1915 and 1935 and found three.  One did marry a man named Ben Rosenberg on January 27, 1935, less than a year before our Gussie died.  Could she have gotten married at that point? If so, why wouldn’t she have changed her name to Rosenberg?  Or did John, her son, not want her listed as divorced so he made up a husband who predeceased her?  I will order the marriage certificate for Ben Rosenberg and Gussie Rosenzweig, but somehow I doubt that that is the same Gussie Rosenzweig.  Stranger things have happened, of course.

And here’s the final mystery.  Both Gustave and Gussie are buried at Mt Zion Cemetery, not in the same section, but nevertheless in the same cemetery.  Neither Selma, Gustave’s widow at the time of his death, nor Benjamin, the alleged widower of Gussie at the time of her death, is buried there.  Gustave and Gussie’s son Harry who died as a teenager in 1913 is buried there, however, so perhaps in death Harry brought his parents back together.

 

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