Before You Visit A Cemetery, Read This Post

There’s a lesson in here for anyone planning to visit a cemetery to find where their ancestors are buried.  I wish I’d had this lesson before traveling to Germany.

May 10 was our last day in the Kassel region, and we were going to see the village of Jesberg, home of the Katz and Katzenstein families.  As the Katzenstein/Katz family has been the one I have been researching most recently, these names and stories were freshest in my mind, and I was very interested in seeing what we could find and learn. Hans-Peter Klein was again going to be our guide along with Mrs. Ochs, who lives in Jesberg. We followed Hans-Peter from Kassel to Borken, where he picked up the key to the cemetery in Haarhausen where the Katzenstein and Katz family members from Jesberg were buried before the Jesberg cemetery itself was established.

As with the Obervonschutzen cemetery near Gudensberg the night before, I had no idea what to expect in Haarhausen.  I did like the horses who were grazing nearby.

This was another very big cemetery with close to 400 stones dating back to 1705. Once again, Hans-Peter came equipped with a map and pages from the LAGIS website showing the headstones and information about many members of the Katz and Katzenstein families who were buried at this cemetery.  So we were off on another treasure hunt—but with better lighting and more rested eyes than the evening before.

Haarhausen cemetery

And what treasure we found.  I have to admit that I should have been better prepared for this visit.  I should have searched the LAGIS website myself before leaving home and written down all the Katzensteins who were buried there, where they were buried, and how they were related to me.  But I failed to do that.  I am not sure I even knew about that part of the LAGIS website, or I’d forgotten about it.  It would have made my search both easier and more meaningful if I’d been better prepared.

For example, these two headstones:

I thought that these were the headstones of my three-times great-grandparents Scholum Katzenstein and Breine Blumenfeld because, looking quickly, they matched the pages for a Schalum and a Brendelchen.  I placed stones and even took a picture with both stones, believing these were the parents of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein.

But I was wrong.

In fact, having now had the chance to sit and check my tree and the LAGIS pages and the photos, I know that these were the stones of my FIVE-times great-grandparents, Schalum, son of Pinchas ha-Cohen, and his wife Brendelchen (father’s name unknown) who died in 1774 and 1776, respectively.  They were the grandparents of Scholum Katzenstein, great-grandparents of Gerson. Wow. Do I wish I had known? Yes. Does it really matter? Probably not.  I paid tribute, I visited. I just thought they were different people.

I am, however, really sorry I could not find the stone for Meir, the son of Schalum ha Cohen and Brendelchen, who is buried at Haarhausen.  He was my four-times great-grandfather, the father of Scholum Katzenstein.  There were many stones that were similar to this one depicted on the LAGIS website.  But I could not find Meir’s stone.

I did, however, find the stone for his wife, Henchen, who was my four-times great-grandmother.  But I did not realize this was who she was at the time, only when I got home and checked my resources.

Henchen, wife of Meier Katz. My 4th great-grandmother

I assume that Meir’s stone was nearby.  Henchen died in 1793, Meir in 1803.

And this stone, which I photographed but could not read clearly at the site, is in fact the stone for my three-times great-grandfather, Scholum Katzenstein.  It is labeled on the LAGIS website as the stone for Abraham Schalum, son of Meir ha-Kohen, so I didn’t realize it at the time, but again, after checking with my resources at home, I now know that that was the Hebrew name used by Scholum Katzenstein and that that was in fact his stone. Perhaps the stone for his wife was nearby, but  Hans-Peter had no sheet for a Breine Blumenfeld Katzenstein, and I couldn’t find one either at the LAGIS site.

Scholem Katzenstein, my 3x great-grandfather

I did find the stone for Schalum Abraham Katzenstein, son of Jacob Katzenstein, grandson of Scholum Katzenstein.  He was my first-cousin, three times removed.  His brother Meier is also buried at Haarhausen, but we did not find his stone. (You can see why I was overwhelmed with all the similar names!)

Jacob Katzenstein’s son, Schalum Katzenstein

So I learned an important lesson: be really well prepared for cemetery visits.  I feel extremely fortunate that I found the stones of my 5x great-grandparents, my 4x-great-grandmother, and my three-times great-grandfather. But I sure wish I’d known more about who was buried at Haarhausen and where they were buried before I even got to the cemetery.  Am I kicking myself? Yes. I missed some important stones because I had not done a careful enough job of preparation. It’s too late now, and I am annoyed with myself, but I also learned a very important lesson.  Do the hard work of preparation ahead of time because cemeteries are overwhelming, stones are hard to read, and time is limited.

We left the cemetery and proceeded on to Jesberg, where the Katz and Katzenstein families lived from at least the early 19th century. Today there are about 2500 people living in Jesberg, making it about four times the size of Sielen but smaller than Breuna. A castle was built in Jesberg in the 13th century, and there was a Jewish community dating from the 17th century. In 1905, the Jewish community of about 90 people made up over ten percent of the overall population of Jesberg; during the 19th century when my great-great-grandfather was born and raised, the Jewish population ranged from 55 people to 73 people, according to Alemannia-Judaica.  A synagogue was built in 1832, and there was a mikveh, a Jewish school, and eventually a cemetery.

Jesberg synagogue before World War I

In 1933 when many members of my Katz family were still living there, there were still more than fifty Jews in Jesberg.  Today there are no Jews in Jesberg.

Helping us in touring Jesberg along with Hans-Peter was Mrs. Ochs, who is another volunteer in the research of the Jewish history of the area and who works with Barbara Greve, who was out of town. Mrs. Ochs lives in Jesberg and was, like all the others, very warm, friendly, and helpful. We first drove out to the Jesberg cemetery, which did not open until about 1900 and which only has about twenty stones.

View of Jesberg from the cemetery

Jesberg cemetery

These are all the stones at the Jesberg cemetery

I knew that Meir Katz and his wife Sprinzchen Jungenheim were buried there, the parents of Jake, Aron, Ike, Regina, and Karl Katz, all of whom came to the US and settled in Oklahoma, some in the 19th century, others in the 1930s to escape the Nazis. I had spoken to Karl Katz’s son Fred before we left for Germany, and he had asked me to look for his grandparents’ graves and told me how to find them in the cemetery.

Back of the stones for Sprinzchen and Meier Katz in German

Front of stones for Sprinzchen and Meier Katz in Hebrew

There were three children of Jacob Katzenstein, brother of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein, buried in the cemetery.  These were my great-grandmother Hilda’s first cousins:

Levi Katzenstein, son of Jacob Katzenstein, and his wife Jeanette

Levi  Katzenstein, son of Jacob Katzenstein, and his wife Jeanette

Pauline Katzenstein, daughter of Jacob Katzenstein:

Pauline Katzenstein, daughter of Jacob Katzenstein

Baruch Katzenstein, son of Jacob Katzenstein:

Baruch Katzenstein, son of Jacob Katzenstein

There were also a few stones where half of the stone was left blank, obviously reserved for a spouse.  What had happened to their spouses? Had they left Germany and escaped safely or had they been killed in the Holocaust? I decided I would check.

Markus Katz: He was the son of Moses Katz, as I wrote about here.  His grandmother Rahel Katzenstein was the sister of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein.

Markus Katz, son of Moses Katz, grandson of Rahel Katzenstein

Markus was married to Minna Wallach, also known as Nanny according to other records.  As I had feared, she was murdered in the Holocaust, explaining the blank side of this headstone.

Another stone with a blank half was for Josef Katz.  He was quite distantly related to me, a third cousin, three times removed.  According to David Baron’s research, Josef was married to Bertha Lowenstein, daughter of Simon Lowenstein and Esther Stern, and she was born in Fronhausen, Germany in 1870.  I have not yet found any information about Bertha’s death so cannot say why the other half of Josef’s gravestone is blank. Perhaps she escaped the Holocaust, though her son Siegfried did not survive, so I doubt she did either. I will keep looking.

Josef Katz, third cousin, three times removed

The third stone with a blank half was for someone named Moses Schloss.  As far as I know, he was not a relative of mine, but I still wanted to know what had happened to his wife.  According to Yad Vashem, his wife was Lisette Gans Schloss, and she died at Theriesenstadt on October 14, 1942. So it appears my hunch was right.  At least two of the three blank stones were for victims of the Holocaust.

After visiting the cemetery, we returned to Jesberg, where Mrs. Ochs showed us the former synagogue and pointed out the brook that ran behind it, feeding what was probably once a mikveh.

Former synagogue in Jesberg

Brook running behind the synagogue

Back of former synagogue

I could imagine the carefree life that my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein and his many cousins had in Jesberg, running through the quiet streets and playing in the brook.  The town is probably not that much different today in appearances, other than the cars and paved roads.

We also walked down Bahnhofstrasse, the street where Fred Katz had lived as a young boy before escaping with his parents to Oklahoma in December 1938.  Fred had told me the house number, so I was able to find the house where he had lived with his parents, Karl Katz and Jettchen Oppenheimer, his brothers Walter and Max, his uncle Aron and his wife Sarah, and their sons Jack and Julius.  More on Fred and his life in Jesberg in a later post.

Marktplatz and church in Jesberg

Bahnhofstrasse in Jesberg

House where the Katz family lived in Jesberg in the 1930s

The brook that runs through Jesberg

We then all went to lunch in a nearby town (there was no place to eat—not even a bakery—in Jesberg), and then Harvey and I said another difficult goodbye to Hans-Peter and Mrs. Ochs and to the Kassel region.

Our days in the Kassel region far exceeded my expectations.  The friends we made and the places we saw will stay with me forever.  Yes, I wish I had better prepared for the cemetery visits, but overall I have no regrets and am so thankful that I got to visit the homes of my Hamberg, Goldschmidt, Schoenthal, and Katzenstein ancestors.  I am particularly thankful to Ernst Klein, Julia Drinnenberg, Hans-Peter Klein, Barbara Greve, and Mrs. Ochs for all their hard work and dedication, and, of course, especially to Harvey for being a willing and helpful participant in the hunt for stones in so many cemeteries.

Now we were heading south to Wurzburg and then to Schopfloch, the home of the Nussbaums

 

 

 

 

The Blessings and Curses of Old Family Stories

Family stories can often lead you astray, but perhaps more often they can give you clues or corroborate evidence you’ve already uncovered.  In the case of the descendants of Rahel Katzenstein and Jacob Katz, there has been a little of all three.

What I know from the research done by Barbara Greve and David Baron is that Rahel and Jacob had six children: Blumchen, Moses, Meier, Abraham, Sanchen, and Samuel. Abraham and Samuel came to the United States in the years following the Civil War, as I’ve written.  But what about the other four siblings? What could I learn about them?

Fortunately, my cousin Marsha interviewed our mutual cousin Theo Goldenberg in January, 1993, about the family history.  Theo Goldenberg was born and raised in Jesberg; he was the grandson of Meier Katz and came to the US in the 1930s as a young man escaping Nazi Germany. Having grown up in Jesberg with his Katz and Katzenstein relatives, Theo had first-hand knowledge of the family stories and may have been one of the the best people to ask about the siblings of his grandfather Meier.

In his interview with Marsha, Theo named five of the children of Rahel and Jacob: Blumchen, Moses, Meier, Abraham, and Samuel.  He also told Marsha that there had been another daughter who drowned as a small child—presumably that would have been Sanchen, the only other daughter found by Barbara Greve or David Baron. Thus, Theo’s recollection is quite consistent with the list of names I had learned from Barbara Greve and David Baron.

Family lore, however, is that there was another son who came to the United States before Abraham and Samuel and who fought in the Civil War.  The family story is that when Abraham came to the US, he went to New Orleans to look for this brother, but never found him. He was presumed to have been killed in the Civil War.

Theo Goldenberg told Marsha that he was not aware of any other son, and although I have spent a fair amount of time searching, I have found no records that support the existence of this fifth brother (nor did Barbara Greve or David Baron, both of whom have done extensive research on the family).

At first I thought perhaps Moses was this missing brother because I found a Moses Katz who came from the Hesse region and who fought in the Civil War.  He survived the war and settled in Baltimore.  But I could find no tie to the family of Rahel Katzenstein and Jacob Katz, and Marsha’s father Henry pointed out persuasively that if Moses had been in Baltimore, Abraham would have known and easily found him without traveling to New Orleans, especially since Abraham lived in Baltimore when he first came to the US.

Theo Goldenberg, moreover, told Marsha that Moses never left Germany. Although Marsha commented in her notes that this part of her interview with Theo was somewhat confusing, it appears that Theo told her that Moses had died as a young man after being kicked by a cow in the stomach.  He had, however, been married and had had several children.

David Baron also had information about Moses Katz that indicated that Moses had married Amalia Malchen Wetterhahn in Jesberg, Germany on July 3, 1869, and had had six children born in Jesberg.  I owe David a huge thank you for sending me many of the Katz records from Jesberg and also for teaching me how to find others myself.  Here is one he shared with me, a death record for Moses Katz:

Moses Katz death record, Jesberg Hessisches Staatsarchiv Marburg: Standesamt Jesberg Sterbenebenregister 1898 (HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 3896) Jesberg 1898, p.32

My FB friend Matthias Steinke once again helped me out and translated the document, and it says nothing about the cause of death, so the “kicked in the stomach” story will have to remain family lore.  Also, Moses Katz died when he was almost sixty—so hardly a “young man.”  Maybe Theo was referring to someone else in the family.

Jesberg, the 9th July 1898
To the below signing registrar came the personally known merchant Markus Katz, residing in Jesberg, house-nr 32/2, and reported, that the merchant Moses Katz, 58 years, 6 month, 11 days, mosaic religion, residing in Jesberg, housenr. 32/2, born in Jesberg, been married to Amalie nee Wetterhan of Jesberg, son of the deceased merchant Jakob Katz and his deceased wife Rael nee Katzenstein of Jesberg, in Jesberg at the 8th July 1898 past midday at 6 o’clock is deceased. The Markus Katz declared, that he knows about the death by his own knowledge. Readed, confirmed and signed Markus Katz – the registrar (signature)

I suppose it’s possible that Moses went to the US, fought in the Civil War, returned to Jesberg after the war and married Amalia in 1869. But that seems unlikely, and wouldn’t Abraham have known that his brother had returned to Jesberg?

Perhaps it was not a brother but a cousin who fought and died in the Civil War? I don’t know.  But at this point I think the evidence does not support the story of this missing brother. However, the story has been passed down through the generations, and I’ve learned that in every family story there is usually some kernel of truth.  I just haven’t found it yet in this story.

Nor can I verify the story about Sanchen’s drowning. If Sanchen died as a young girl, that would have been more than fifty years before Theo’s birth and so perhaps not reliable as a piece of family history (and unfortunately before the earliest Jesberg records that are kept online.)  Yet such a traumatic event might very well have been reliably reported from generation to generation.

As for Blumchen, Theo told Marsha that she had stayed in Germany, married, and had not had any children.  According to David Baron, Blumchen married Heskel Grunenklee of Meimbressen, Germany, and she died on March 9, 1909.  Theo’s story is thus consistent with the research done by David Baron.

Theo had, not surprisingly, the most information about the children of Meier Katz, his grandfather, who died on October 29, 1925, when Theo was eleven.  Unfortunately, there were no insights about Meier in the interview notes.

Meier Katz death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 920; Laufendenummer: 3916
Description
Year Range : 1925
Source Information
Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1955 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
Original data: Sterberegister und Namensverzeichnisse. Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, Deutschland.

Theo’s grandmother Sprinzchen Jungheim Katz died on June 15, 1917, so Theo would have been only three years old when his grandmother died.

Death record of Sprinz Jungheim Katz 1917
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 920; Laufendenummer: 3915

Meier and Sprinzchen had six children: Jacob, Aron, Seligmann, Regina, Karl, and Sol, according to Theo. I have not seen Sol listed anywhere else, and Theo had nothing more to say about him besides his name. However, there was a Salli Katz born to Meier and Sprinzchen on June 14, 1888, who died on January 10, 1892, so I assume that this is the “Sol” referred to by Theo Goldenberg.

Salli Katz birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3819
Description
Year Range : 1888
Source Information
Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
Original data: Geburtenregister und Namensverzeichnisse. Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, Deutschland.

Salli Katz death record, Hessisches Staatsarchiv Marburg: Standesamt Jesberg Sterbenebenregister 1892 (HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 3890)
Jesberg 1892, p.2

As translated by Matthias Steinke:

Jesberg at the 10th January 1892 – To the below signing registrar came today the personally known merchant Moses Katz, residing in Jesberg, House nr. 32 1/2 and reported, that Salli Katz, 2 years 6 month 25 days old, mosaic religion, residing in Jesberg, house nr. 28, born in Jesberg, son of the merchant Meier Katz II and his wife Sprinzchen nee Jungheim of Jesberg, in Jesberg at the ninth January of the year 1892, past midday at four o’clock is deceased. The Moses Katz declared, to know about the death by his own knowledge. Readed, confirmed and signed Moses Katz The registrar Appell

[The death record reports that Salli was two and a half years old, but based on the birth record, he was really three and a half years old.]

The other five children of Meier and Sprinzchen—Jacob, Aron, Isaac, Regina, and Karl—all survived to adulthood and all came to the United States, some as early as the 1880s, others as late as the 1930s.  But fortunately they all survived. More on that in the posts to come.  For now, here is a photograph of Meier and Sprinzchen and those five children:

Meier and Sprinzchen (Jungheim) Katz and children

What I learned from all this is that we all should be doing what Marsha did back in 1993; we should be interviewing the older generations in our family, asking questions and taking notes.  Even if some of the information leads us on a few wild goose chases, the stories we will hear will disappear if they are not recorded.  I am so grateful that Marsha had the wisdom to meet with her cousin Theo and ask him to answer her questions about the family back in 1993.  If only I had done the same with my own older relatives 24 years ago…

 

 

 

The Children of Abraham and Amelia (Nahm) Katz 1944-1989

After Abraham and Amelia Katz died, their children almost all continued to live and work in the same places in Oklahoma for most of the rest of their lives.   They were all in some way connected with the dry goods business.

Katz Department Store logo designed by Sidney Pepper, husband of Ann Levine Pepper, daughter of Henrietta Katz Levine

Rachel and Morris Kohlmann continued to live in Bristow, Oklahoma, until at least 1935, but by 1940, they were living in Oklahoma City where Morris owned a shoe store.  By April, 1942, however, when Morris registered for the World War II draft, he and Rachel were living back in Louisville, Kentucky, where they had met and where Morris now owned a business called Jewel Cleaning and Dyers. [Thank you to Janice Webster Brown of Cow Hampshire Blog for pointing out that it says Dyers, not Dryers!]

Morris Kohlmann World War II draft registration
The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; Draft Registration Cards for Fourth Registration for Kentucky, 04/27/1942 – 04/27/1942; NAI Number: 7644732; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System; Record Group Number: 147

Morris died in Louisville five years later on April 10, 1947; he was 67 years old.  His death certificate states that he was a shoe salesman at the time of his death.

Morris Kohlmann death certificate
Ancestry.com. Kentucky, Death Records, 1852-1964 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007.
Original data: Kentucky. Kentucky Birth, Marriage and Death Records – Microfilm (1852-1910). Microfilm rolls #994027-994058. Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort, Kentucky.Kentucky. Birth and Death Records: Covington, Lexington, Louisville, and Newport – Microfilm (before 1911). Microfilm rolls #7007125-7007131, 7011804-7011813, 7012974-7013570, 7015456-7015462. Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort, Kentucky.Kentucky. Vital Statistics Original Death Certificates – Microfilm (1911-1964). Microfilm rolls #7016130-7041803. Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort, Kentucky.

Rachel must have returned to Oklahoma after the death of her husband. She died in Sapulpa on January 8, 1953; she was seventy years old.

Rachel Kohlmann headstone
JewishGen, comp. JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.

Lester Katz, the oldest brother, had remained in Sapulpa where he was the owner and manager of the family department store there.

Lester Katz World War II draft registration
The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; Draft Registration Cards for Fourth Registration for Oklahoma, 04/27/1942 – 04/27/1942; NAI Number: 576250; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System; Record Group Number: 14

This wonderful photograph shows the five sons of Abraham and Amelia (Nahm) Katz probably sometime in the 1950s:

Ben, Sidney, Mickey, Sigmund and Lester Katz
courtesy of the Katz family

Lester died in Sapulpa on January 17, 1959; he was 73 years old.  The Sapulpa Historical Society sent me a copy of his obituary, but it does not identify the paper in which it appeared.  According to the obituary, Lester had had heart issues prior to his death.  It reported that he had died from a heart attack and had been found by his brother M.J. (Milton) lying on the floor in the family’s store.  The obituary also stated that Lester had been active in several civic organizations and that “he was perhaps as well known in this section as any local merchant.”

Lester Katz headstone
JewishGen, comp. JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.

Lester’s wife Mayme died almost seven years later on December 2, 1965.  They were survived by their daughters.

Sidney and his brother Ben continued to run the Katz Department Store in Ada, Oklahoma, where they both lived.

Sidney Katz World War II draft registration
The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; Draft Registration Cards for Fourth Registration for Oklahoma, 04/27/1942 – 04/27/1942; NAI Number: 576250; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System; Record Group Number: 147

Notice that Sidney listed Ben as the person who would always know his address, and Ben did the same on his draft registration:

Ben Katz World War II draf registration
The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; Draft Registration Cards for Fourth Registration for Oklahoma, 04/27/1942 – 04/27/1942; NAI Number: 576250; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System; Record Group Number: 147

The family described to me the special relationship between Ben and Sidney.  They worried about each other and always looked out for each other’s best interests.  When Sidney decided to retire, he tried to reduce the inventory in the store so it would cost Ben less to buy him out; Ben, worried that Sidney would not have enough to live on after selling his share, arranged for the inventory to be rebuilt so that he would have to pay Sidney more.  That is a remarkable partnership and relationship—to put family before business and before your own interests.

Here is a photograph of Ben and his wife Sadie and their three children, Henry, Bryna, and Alfred, taken in about 1933:

Sadie, Ben, Henry, Bryna, and Alfred Katz c. 1933

The Katz Department Store in Ada during the 1940s on Rodeo Day:

Ada, Oklahoma 1940s
Courtesy of the Katz family

Sidney and Ben and other unidentified people in the Ada Katz Department Store:

Katz Department Store in Ada, OK with Sidney and Ben Katz
Courtesy of the Katz Family

An advertisement for the Ada store published in the Ada Evening News on March 15, 1953:

Ada Evening News, March 15, 1953

Sidney Katz died in 1961. In another unlabeled obituary I received from the Sapulpa Historical Society, Sidney was described as “universally loved and respected on Main Street by his fellow businessmen and by the hundreds of people he knew in his long career here. He was a man of great energy.  He liked people and gave constantly and unselfishly of his time to a host of civic and community projects.”  The obituary also noted that he enjoyed golf.  Sidney was survived by his wife Eulalia, who died in 1972.

Sidney Katz, photograph from 1961 obituary

Courtesy of FindAGrave member Linda Abelli (#48304482)

Ben died just five years after his brother Sidney on March 25, 1966. He was 73 years old and was survived by his wife Sadie and their three children. His obituary appeared on the first page of the Ada Weekly News of March 25, 1966:

Courtesy of FindAGrave member Jackie (#46788388)

His wife Sadie died in 1983; she was 86. Here is a photograph of Ben and Sadie with their granddaughter Marsha.

After Ben died, his two sons Alfred and Henry took over the Ada store, which they ran until 2004 when they retired.  Following are photographs of the store in Ada:

The family lost two siblings in 1972.  In July, Blanche died in a nursing home in Sapulpa; she was 89 years old and, as far as I can tell, had never worked outside the home or married.  Six months later on December 27, 1972, Florence Katz Frisch died in Sapulpa.  Her husband Sol Frisch had died in 1943; they had been living in Stillwater, Oklahoma at that time, but sometime after Sol’s death, Florence returned to Sapulpa.  Florence had also been predeceased by her only child, Sara Jean Frisch Looney, who died on August 19, 1966, at age 44 from a brain tumor.

JewishGen, comp. JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.

Milton Katz, who was known as Mickey, had returned to Sapulpa in 1944 after spending some time in the east in the construction business, according to a 1973 profile of him in the Sapulpa newspaper.  When he returned, he joined his brother Lester in the Sapulpa store.  Milton married Ruth Billingslea on February 24, 1951, in Benton, Arkansas. Ruth was a widow when she married Milton; she was 48, and he was 49.  Ruth was born in Oklahoma and had been living in Chickasha, the town where Milton’s sister Henrietta lived. Milton and Ruth lived in Sapulpa where, according to Ruth’s obituary in the Sapulpa Herald of Friday, July 9, 2004, she assisted Milton in the Katz Department Store

According to the 1973 article (for which I unfortunately do not have a full citation), Mickey was quite a character, especially in his youth. The article described how he had purchased rain insurance for a Sapulpa high school football game and collected when it rained .3 inches; then he had managed to get the game played anyway by having the field burnt and purchasing cleats for the players.

Milton “Mickey” Katz died in Sapulpa in April 1983 when he was 81 years old; according to his obituary (another unlabeled one I received from the Sapulpa Historical Society), he had served as president of the Chamber of Commerce, the Jaycees, and the Kiwanis Club and as chairman of the Sapulpa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission and of Sapulpa Flood Control.  His wife Ruth survived him by 21 years.  She died in 2004 when she was 101 years old.

Photo of Mickey Katz from 1973 article in Sapulpa newspaper

The last two surviving siblings, Henrietta and Sigmund, both lived long lives.  Henrietta and her husband Ben Levine had remained in Chickasha, Oklahoma.  Ben died in Chickasha on January 2, 1960 at age 71.  Henrietta remained in Chickasha, where she died 28 years later in June, 1988, at age 93; she was survived by her three children.  Ben is buried between Henrietta, his second wife, and her older sister Bertha, his first wife.

Photo by P Black-Avitts (#46910889) of FindAGrave

Sigmund was then the last living child of Abraham and Amelia Katz, but he only survived Henrietta by eight months. He died on February 24, 1989.  Sigmund and his wife Elizabeth had remained in Bristow, Oklahoma, until at least 1942.  In 1940, Sigmund was still working as a merchant, but on his World War II draft registration in 1942, he reported that he was not employed.

Sigmund Katz World War II draft registration
The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; Draft Registration Cards for Fourth Registration for Oklahoma, 04/27/1942 – 04/27/1942; NAI Number: 576250; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System; Record Group Number: 147

According to his obituary in the Sapulpa Herald of February 26, 1989, “Mr. Katz worked at the Bristow store from 1922-1941 then associated with the Oklahoma State Employment Service. He resided in Sapulpa from 1952 until 1985, when he moved to Tulsa.”   Sigmund died in Tulsa on February 24, 1989; he was 92 years old.  Elizabeth lived another three years, dying in Tulsa on April 8, 1992; she was 93.  They were survived by their two daughters.

Together, Abraham and Amelia Katz had ten children, eleven grandchildren, and a large number of great and great-great-grandchildren, a number of whom still live in Oklahoma while others are spread throughout the United States.  And I am so fortunate to have been able to find and connect with a number of them.  I am particularly grateful to my cousins Marsha and Henry for generously sharing the photographs and allowing me to share them with you.

The Children of Abraham and Amelia (Nahm) Katz: 1920-1944

In my last two posts, I wrote about Abraham Katz and the decision he made in 1910 to move his family from Louisville, Kentucky to Sapulpa, Oklahoma, where business opportunities seemed more promising for him and his children. By 1920, Abraham Katz and his large family were well-established in Oklahoma.  Four of the ten children were married, one, Bertha, had died at a tragically young age, and five of the ten children were still living at home.

During the 1920s, four of the other Katz children married. Florence, who had been living at home in 1920, had married by 1921.  Her husband was Solomon Frisch, who was born in Springfield, Illinois, but grew up in Athens, Illinois, the same town where Lester Katz’s wife Mayme had grown up.   Solomon was the son of Isaac and Sophia Frisch, who were immigrants from Hungary and Germany, respectively; Isaac was a bookkeeper. In 1917 when he registered for the World War I draft, Solomon had his own store in Athens.

Solomon Frisch World War I draft registration; United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-G14V-J6P?cc=1968530&wc=9FCN-RM9%3A928312901%2C928928301 : 14 May 2014), Illinois > image 785 of 2475; citing NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Florence and Sol must have married not long after the 1920 census, as their daughter Sarah Jean was born on November 18, 1921. In 1930, they were living in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and Sol was working as a dry goods merchant.  Stillwater was, as mentioned in an earlier post, the town where Abraham Katz’s nephew (and Florence’s first cousin) Jake was also a dry goods merchant, and Sol was working with Jake in Stillwater in the Katz Department Store.

Benjamin Katz also married in the 1920s.  His wife, Sadie Bardine, was the daughter of two Russian immigrants, Isaac and Molly Bardine; Sadie was born in Kansas City, Missouri, where she grew up.  In 1920, she was working as a stenographer in a law office.  Sadie and Ben were married on June 12, 1924, in Kansas City.

Marriage record of Benjamin Katz and Sadie Bardine
Ancestry.com. Missouri, Jackson County Marriage Records, 1840-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.
Original data: Marriage Records. Jackson County Clerk, Kansas City, Missouri.

According to the Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Life published by the Goldring Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life,  “Sadie came from an Orthodox family and found it very daunting to adapt to her husband’s classical Reform Judaism and the difficulty of finding kosher meat in Sapulpa. She lived with Ben in Sapulpa from 1924 until 1926, when Ben decided that a life as a shoe clerk was not enough.”

It was at that point that Ben and Sadie moved to Ada, Oklahoma where in 1926, Ben and his brother Sidney purchased a long-established department store together in Ada, as reported in the April 15, 1926, issue of the Ada Weekly News (p. 4):

A deal will be closed today in which one of Ada’s oldest department stores changes hands and tomorrow morning, unless present plans go amiss, Simpson’s will open its doors under the banner of Katz Department Store.

Sidney and Ben Katz will be in charge of the store here, having arrived here several days ago from Bristow, where they made their home for six years. …

Although the new owners of the store establish this store here as another link to the chain of stores they operate in the Southwest, their desire is to impress the public with their public spirit in the interest and advancement of the town.  …

An extensive and commendable news article in a Bristow paper deplored the loss of Sidney Katz from its business fraternity. “Sidney Katz has been in Bristow for the past six years coming here to open the Bristow store.  During the time he has been a resident of this city, he has been one of the liveliest workers the city has had.  He has had a part in every worth while [sic] move that Bristow civic organizations have made, and members of the organizations say that his loss as a citizen will be felt.

Ben and Sidney ran the store together in Ada for many years. More on that to come.

Abraham and Amelia’s youngest daughter Henrietta also married in the 1920s.  She married her sister Bertha’s widower, Ben Levine, on June 28, 1925. In 1930, they were living with their first two children in Chickasha, Oklahoma, where Ben was (guess) a dry goods merchant.

Marriage record of Henrietta Katz and Ben Levine
Ancestry.com. Oklahoma, County Marriages, 1890-1995 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
Original data: Marriage Records. Oklahoma Marriages. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, UT.

Chickasha is 134 miles from Sapulpa. According to the Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities published by the Goldring Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, in 1919, Chickasha had a Jewish population of about 125 people.  The Encyclopedia reports that, “By far the most prominent and long lasting Jewish business in Chickasha was the Dixie Store, owned by friends and distant cousins Charles I. Miller and Ben Levine. Charles and Ben had opened the store in 1919, and “Charles and Ben became icons in the Chickasha community, running a newspaper ad for their department store every day for over 50 years.”

When Sigmund Katz married Elizabeth Pattison on September 23, 1926, he was the fourth child of Abraham and Amelia to marry since 1920. His wife Elizabeth was the daughter of William Pattison and Ersula Wade.  Her father was born in Ohio, and her mother in Tennessee, where Elizabeth was also born. In 1900, when Elizabeth was four, the family was living in Florence, Alabama, where William was a lumber dealer. By 1920, however, Elizabeth’s father had died, and she and her mother were living with her grandparents in Allen, Oklahoma, where Elizabeth was working as a public school teacher.  Allen is only 19 miles from Ada, where Sigmund’s brothers Ben and Sidney were living.

Marriage record of Sigmund Katz and Elizabeth Pattison
Ancestry.com. Oklahoma, County Marriages, 1890-1995 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
Original data: Marriage Records. Oklahoma Marriages. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, UT.

In 1930, Sigmund and Elizabeth were living with their first two children in Bristow, Oklahoma, where Sigmund’s sister Rachel was also living.  And yes, Sigmund was also a dry goods merchant.

Rachel and her husband Morris Kohlmann were still living in Bristow in 1930, where Morris continued to work as a dry goods merchant; they had no children.  Lester and his wife Mayme and their children were living in Sapulpa, and Lester was also a dry goods merchant, working in the family store.  Sidney and his wife Eulalia were living in Ada, Oklahoma, where Sidney was the manager of a dry goods store with his brother Ben, as noted above; Sidney and Eulalia did not have children.

By 1930 then, Abraham and his wife (listed as Millie here) were living with only two of their nine surviving children, Blanche and Milton, their youngest child, who was then 28. Abraham, who was now 79 years old, was still working as a merchant, and Milton was working as a clerk in the family store with his father and brother Lester.. Blanche was not employed outside the home, nor was her mother.

Abraham Katz and family 1930 US census
Year: 1930; Census Place: Sapulpa, Creek, Oklahoma; Roll: 1900; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 0040; Image: 842.0; FHL microfilm: 2341634

Thus, by 1930, Abraham and his sons and sons-in-law had established quite a number of dry goods stores in various towns in Oklahoma.

Abraham J. Katz died on July 29, 1936, at age 85. According to the records of the funeral home, he died of uremic poisoning and heat prostration.

Funeral record of Abraham Katz

The Sapulpa Herald of July 30, 1936, reported his death on its first page:

According to the obituary, Abraham died at home in Sapulpa after being critically ill for two weeks. The obituary also reported that Abraham had lived in Sapulpa since August, 1910, the first time I’ve seen the date so specifically pinpointed.  The obituary also commented that “Mr. Katz has always been one of the communities [sic] most generous donors to charity.  He is well known for his philanthropies here throughout the years.  He has been a member of the Chamber of Commerce for years as well as other local booster organizations.”

Abraham was survived by his wife Amelia, nine of their ten children, and eleven grandchildren.

In 1940, Amelia, who was then 80, was living in Sapulpa with two of her children: Blanche, who was 56 and not employed, and Milton, who was 38 and working as a clerk in Katz Department Store.

Amelia died in Sapulpa on June 16, 1944; she was 84 years old. The Sapulpa Herald of June 17, 1944, reported her death on its first page, describing her as a “well known local woman.”  She and Abraham were buried together at Fairlawn Cemetery in Oklahoma City.

Photo by FindAGrave member P Black Avitts
(#46910889)

Abraham Katz, who came to the US as a teenager shortly after the Civil War and started as a dry goods merchant in a small town in Kentucky, left behind quite a legacy for his children and their descendants.  He and his family had established a series of department stores spread over a number of cities and towns in Oklahoma that would continue to support the family long after Abraham was gone, as we will see in the next post.

Abraham Katz and Family in Oklahoma: The Growing Family Business

As we saw in my last post, sometime around 1910, Abraham and Amelia moved with their ten children from Kentucky to Sapulpa, Oklahoma, where Abraham had been encouraged to move by his nephew Jake Katz to expand the Katz dry goods business. Between 1910 and 1920, four of Abraham and Amelia’s children married and left home and several others went to college or served in the military during those years.

Here is a photograph of Abraham and Amelia and their children taken about ten years after the one I posted in my last post.  Using Milton, the youngest child, as my clue, I think he looks about thirteen in this photograph, meaning it was taken around 1914.  I know it was taken before 1919, for reasons revealed below.

Henry Katz, Abraham and Amelia’s grandson, identified the family members in this photograph.  They are, in the front row from left to right, Henrietta, Amelia, Abraham, Milton, and Bertha.  In the back row from left to right are Ben, Florence, Lester, Blanche, Sidney, Rachel, and Sigmund.

Rachel, the first-born of the ten children, married Morris Kohlmann on June 12, 1912 in Louisville. Morris was born in Germany and had immigrated in 1892, according to the 1900 census.  In 1900 and 1910, Morris had been living in Louisville with his parents. According to this January 1, 1917 article from the Daily Tribune and Daily Mirror of Fort Scott, Kansas, Rachel and Morris had lived in El Dorado Springs, Missouri:

In 1917 when he registered for the World War I draft, Morris reported that he and Rachel were living in Yale, Oklahoma, a small town about 45 miles west of Sapulpa where he owned a store.

Morris Kohlmann World War I draft registration
Registration State: Oklahoma; Registration County: Payne; Roll: 1852069
Description
Draft Card : K
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line].

On the 1920 census, Rachel and Morris were living in Bristol, Oklahoma, which is about 25 miles southwest of Sapulpa.  Morris reported that he was the owner of a department store.

Rachel’s brother Lester Katz married Mayme Salzenstein just two months after Rachel married Morris—on August 12, 1912, in Chicago.  Mayme was the daughter of Wolf Salzenstein, a German immigrant, and his wife Caroline, who was born in Illinois.  Mayme was also an Illinois native, and her father was a livestock dealer in Athens, Illinois, a small town not far from Springfield, Illinois.  Mayme moved with Lester to Sapulpa, where according to his World War I draft registration, he was a self-employed merchant.  I was unable to locate Lester and Mayme on the 1920 census, but I know from other records that by 1920, they had two daughters, Mildred and Bertha Barbara.

Lester Katz, World War I draft registration
Registration State: Oklahoma; Registration County: Creek; Roll: 1851701; Draft Board: 1
Description
Draft Card : K
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]

 When Abraham and Amelia’s second oldest son, Sidney Katz, registered for the World War I draft, he was living in Oilton, Oklahoma, a small town about 34 miles west of Sapulpa.  According to his draft registration, Sidney was working for Katz Department Store.  He was single at that time, but on September 1, 1918, he married Eulalia V Woolsey, who was born in Missouri but had been living with her family in Fort Scott, Kansas, in 1910.  Her father owned a music store there.

Sidney Katz, World War I draft registration
Registration State: Oklahoma; Registration County: Creek; Roll: 1851701; Draft Board: 1
Description
Draft Card : K
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]

Apparently the family had some continuing connection to Fort Scott, Kansas, because I found this article about Bertha Katz, the seventh of Abraham and Amelia’s children, in the Fort Scott newspaper, reporting on her marriage to Ben Levine in Sapulpa in January 1918:

Ben Levine was born in Russia and had lived in Dayton, Ohio, after immigrating with his parents in 1890, but in 1910 he was living in Mountain View, Oklahoma, with his mother and his siblings and working as the manager of a dry goods store.  In 1917 he reported on his World War I draft registration that he had his own store in Cordell, Oklahoma.

Ben Levine, World War I draft registration
Registration State: Oklahoma; Registration County: Washita; Roll: 1852244
Description
Draft Card : L
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]

Tragically, Ben’s marriage ended rather soon as Bertha Katz died in December 1918, according to her headstone and the family.  She was only 28 years old.  According to the family, Bertha went to meet Ben in New York City when he was being discharged from the military.  While there, she contracted the flu and died in New York, one of the many millions of victims of the flu epidemic of that time.  What a heartbreaking loss that must have been.

Finally, the fifth Katz child who was not living with his family in 1920 was Sigmund, the second youngest son.  According to the family, Sigmund attended what was then Oklahoma A & M in Stillwater and majored in Animal Husbandry. One family legend is that he operated on a duck and mistakenly reattached his leg backwards, causing the duck to swim in circles! (This sounds like more of a family joke than true, but nevertheless part of the family lore.)

On his draft registration card dated June 1918, he reported that he was a student and was living with his family in Sapulpa. (Interestingly, his draft registration reports his birthdate as August 5, 1897, but every other record, including his World War II draft registration says he was born a year earlier—August 5, 1896.)  Sigmund enlisted in the US Army on October 1, 1918, and was discharged on December 16, 1918. He would have been 22 years old. But where was he in 1920?

Sigmund Katz, World War I draft registration
Registration State: Oklahoma; Registration County: Creek; Roll: 1851701; Draft Board: 1
Description
Draft Card : K
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]

Although I could not find any Sigmund Katz on the 1920 census, I did find this record of a Sidney Katz, born in Kentucky in 1896, who was living in Louisville and working in the dry goods business.  Since I already had a correct 1920 census record for Sigmund’s older brother Sidney, I knew this was not for him.  The only thing, aside from the incorrect first name, that is inconsistent with this being Sigmund Katz is that it reports that “Sidney’s” parents were born in Russia.  Perhaps his landlady gave the information to the enumerator and assumed his parents were Russian born? What do you think?

Is this Sigmund Katz?
Year: 1920; Census Place: Louisville Ward 9, Jefferson, Kentucky; Roll: T625_579; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 154; Image: 459

As for the rest of the family, in 1920, Abraham was still working as a dry goods merchant in Sapulpa, and  he and his wife Amelia still had the other five of their ten children living with them: Blanche (27), Florence (25), Ben (23), Henrietta (21), and Milton (18). Henrietta went to Oklahoma A & M like Sigmund where she’d been a member of the Theta sorority. In 1920, she was working as a school teacher.

Ben served in the US Army during World War I, as shown in this photograph:

Ben Katz
Courtesy of the Katz family

In 1920, Ben was working in a shoe store.

Milton, the youngest child, had served as the manager of the high school football team and was known by everyone in Sapulpa.  He attended the University of Illinois. He then came home and worked in the family store in Sapulpa.

Abraham Katz on the 1920 census
Year: 1920; Census Place: Sapulpa, Creek, Oklahoma; Roll: T625_1460; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 42; Image: 140

Thus, as of 1920, Abraham Katz and all his sons and even his sons-in-law were in the dry goods business.  Four of his children had married, but sadly one, their daughter Bertha, had died shortly after her marriage.  Five of the other children were still living at home, and Sigmund may have been living and working in Louisville, where he was born.  But in the next decade, most of those five children would also marry and move out on their own.

To be continued.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abraham Katz Moves to Oklahoma

I’ve learned a lot more information about Abraham Katz and his family since connecting with my fourth cousin Marsha and her father Henry. They also generously shared some family photographs with me.  What a blessing it has been!

According to family history notes written by Abraham’s grandson Henry in September, 1988, when Abraham arrived in the US, he lived in Baltimore with a family named Gump who were cousins of his mother (Rahel Katzenstein).  I knew this had to be the same Gumps who were married to my Mansbach cousins, the children of Hannchen Katzenstein Mansbach, who was a sister of both Rahel Katzenstein Katz, Abraham’s mother, and my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein.

And sure enough, I went back to look at the research I’d done about the Gump family, and there was Abraham, living with Gabriel and Henrietta (Mansbach) Gump in Baltimore on the 1870 census:

Gabriel Gump and family
1870 US census
Year: 1870; Census Place: District 6, Allegany, Maryland

According to the family history notes written by Henry Katz, Abraham lived with the Gumps in Baltimore for about two years and learned English and bookkeeping.  Then he left for New Orleans where there was another family member.  The family does not know the name of that family member (there were no Gumps then living in New Orleans), but family lore is that Abraham was searching for an older brother who had fought in the Civil War and might have gone to New Orleans to look for him.  He never found that brother, and I have no records regarding this brother.  (More on that in a later post.)  While in New Orleans, Abraham chased after a man who was attempting to steal from the family’s business and injured his knee, an injury that affected him for the rest of his life.

After some time in New Orleans, Abraham moved to Horse Cave, Kentucky, married Amelia Nahm, and had ten children, as I’ve described in an earlier post. Here is a photograph of the family home in Horse Cave and one of Amelia:

Katz home in Horse Cave, Kentucky Courtesy of the Katz family

Amelia Nahm Katz, courtesy of the Katz family

The family history notes described Abraham’s business in Horse Cave:

He carried dry goods, hardware, buggies, and Studebaker wagons.  A water well was in the center of his store.  He would barter with the farmers for their products.  He would store eggs and dairy products in a basket in the well.  He later established a second store.

(Henry Katz family history notes, September 30, 1988)

According to the family history notes, when Abraham and Amelia moved their family from Horse Cave to Louisville sometime before 1900, it was to be closer to an established Jewish community. All ten children were living at home in Louisville in 1900, as seen in this census record:

Abraham Kaz and family 1900 US census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Louisville Ward 5, Jefferson, Kentucky; Roll: 530; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0053; FHL microfilm: 1240530

In Louisville, Abraham operated a dry goods store as well as a glove factory, according to the family history notes.

Thanks to the generosity of Abraham’s great-granddaughter Marsha, I now have a photograph of Abraham and Amelia and nine their ten children. As best I can tell from the ages and birth order of the children, either Lester or Sidney is missing from this photograph.  Since the youngest child, Milton, was born in 1901 and appears to be about five years old in the photo, I am guessing that this photograph was taken in about 1906—before the family left Kentucky.

My guess is that the back row standing are the two oldest sisters, Rachel and Blanche, with either Lester or Sidney between them.  In the front row from left to right would be Henrietta, Abraham, Ben, Bertha, Florence, Milton, Sigmund, and Amelia:

UPDATE! Thank you so much to Ava Cohn, aka Sherlock Cohn, the Photo Genealogist, upon whose expertise I have relied before. Ava advised me that the clothing styles date this photograph as more like 1900-1901.  Thus, the “missing” child would have been Milton, who wasn’t yet born.  I now think that I was wrong in my identification of the children in the photograph. Looking at the ages of the children again, I now think that in fact they should be identified as follows:

Back row: Rachel, Lester, Blanche. Front row: Henrietta, Abraham, Sidney, Bertha, Florence, Sigmund, Benjamin, and Amelia.  Thank you, Ava!

Abraham Katz and family c. 1906
courtesy of the Katz family

When a recession hit the region around 1908, Abraham’s business was affected, and he faced labor problems in his glove factory. The family history notes go on to describe how Abraham decided to leave Louisville:

During this time his nephews Jake and Ike Katz [to be discussed in a later post] … were enjoying good business in their store in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  Oklahoma had become a state in 1907, and things were booming.  … Abe sent Lester [his oldest son] to Oklahoma to visit his cousins in Stillwater to survey the situation to see if the family would not be better off in a new state.

(Henry Katz family history notes, September 30, 1988)

Lester reported back favorably, but as of 1910, Abraham, Amelia, and eight of their ten children were still living in Louisville, and Abraham was still a merchant in the dry goods business.  The children at home ranged in age from 27 down to eight.

Abraham Katz and family on 1910 census
Year: 1910; Census Place: Louisville Ward 5, Jefferson, Kentucky; Roll: T624_485; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0107; FHL microfilm: 1374498

As for the two sons who were not living at home, Sidney, as noted in an earlier post, was living with his uncle Samuel in Omaha (mislabeled as his son):

Katz family on 1910 census
Year: 1910; Census Place: Omaha Ward 11, Douglas, Nebraska; Roll: T624_844; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 0082; FHL microfilm: 1374857

And Lester was living in Stillwater, Oklahoma, working as a salesman in a dry goods store.  Also boarding with Lester in Stillwater was Lafayette Rothschild, who was Samuel Katz’s brother-in-law and also working as a salesman in a dry goods store.  Both Lester and Lafayette were probably working in the Katz Department Store belonging to Jake Katz.

Lester Katz on 1910 census
Year: 1910; Census Place: Stillwater Ward 3, Payne, Oklahoma; Roll: T624_1269; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 0200; FHL microfilm: 1375282

Not long after the 1910 census, Abraham Katz and his family moved to Oklahoma, settling in Sapulpa, a town about 15 miles from Tulsa.

Why Sapulpa? Between 1900 and 1910, the population of Sapulpa had exploded, going from 891 people to 8,283 people; by 1920, it was up to 11,634 people.  During that time, industry had begun to develop in Sapulpa, including brick and glass manufacturing. Presumably, Abraham and his nephew Jake saw this as a growing community in need of a dry goods store.

There was no established Jewish community in Sapulpa, but Tulsa was only 15 miles away and had an overall population of 72,075 in 1920 and two synagogues; a Reform synagogue was formed in Tulsa in 1914 and an Orthodox one in 1916.  There were also synagogues during that time in other cities in Oklahoma. Nevertheless, it must have been somewhat of an adjustment for the Katz family after living in Louisville, which had an overall population of 234,891 in 1920 and a big enough Jewish community to support eight synagogues.

The move was a successful one, and Oklahoma continues to be home for many of Abraham and Amelia’s descendants. Here is a photograph of the Katz family home in Sapulpa:

Katz home in Sapulpa
Courtesy of the Katz family

Between 1910 and 1920, many of the Katz children married and moved out of the family home. More in the next post.

 

 

A Happy Post for Passover

Passover starts tonight, and the holiday always makes me reflect on history: Jewish history and my own family history.  When I first started on this path about five years ago, I never anticipated how much there was to learn.  I didn’t have an appreciation for what my own ancestors had experienced or how integrated my own family’s history has been with Jewish history—in Europe and in the US.  Nor did I understand how interconnected we all are in so many ways and what a truly small world it is.

One of the great benefits of family history research is finding cousins you never knew about and making connections.  I have been so fortunate in that regard.  I have connected with cousins as close as second cousins and as distant as fifth cousins, cousins who live close by to where I live and cousins who live all over the world, cousins who are in their nineties and cousins who are in their twenties.  Some of these cousins found me, some I found through my research.

It’s always a bit of a shot in the dark when you reach out to a stranger and tell them you are somehow related to him or her.  Sometimes you get no response, sometimes a skeptical response, and sometimes a truly enthusiastic response.  This post is about several truly warm and enthusiastic responses, and they relate to my Katz cousins from Oklahoma.

So a bit of background.  My Katz cousins are all descended as I am from Scholem Katzenstein and Breine Blumenfeld from Jesberg, Germany, my 3x-great-grandparents.  While I am descended from their son Gerson Katzenstein, my Katz cousins are descended from their daughter Rahel Katzenstein and her husband Jacob Katz.  As I wrote previously, Rahel and Jacob had six children.  Thus far, I have written about Samuel and a little bit about Abraham, both of whom came to the US in the 19th century as young men.

I had no information about the other four siblings except for a death date for Meier Katz, whose death record is included in the Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1955, database on Ancestry:

Meier Katz death record, Jesberg, Germany
Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1955 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
Original data: Sterberegister und Namensverzeichnisse. Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, Deutschland.

I knew from the Ancestry transcription of the record that Meier had died on October 30, 1925, in Jesberg, but I could not decipher the script to read any of the other details.  I posted the death record on the German Genealogy group on Facebook, and the kind people there provided me with a translation that included the information that the informant was a man named Karl Katz who had been residing at the same address as Meier.

Jesberg, 30. October 1925

Before the undersigning registrar appeared today the personally known merchant [Handelsmann] Karl Katz, residing at Jesberg Haus No. 28, and declared that the retired farmer [Auszüger] and widower [Witwer] Meier Katz I., 83 years 6 months 16 days old, residing at Jesberg with the delaring person, born at Jesberg, has been married to the deceased Sprinzchen née Jungheim lastly residing at Jesberg, died at Jesberg at his domicile on 29. October 1925 8:30 p.m.

The declaring assured that he had direct knowledge of the death. Read out, approved and signed Karl Katz

I thought that Karl might be Meier’s son and decided to search for a Karl Katz born in Jesberg, expecting not to find anything or perhaps at most a record from Germany.  But instead I found U.S. naturalization papers for a Karl Katz who had arrived in the US in 1938 and settled in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  I immediately thought this could not be a coincidence—that somehow this Karl Katz had to be related to my other Katz relatives in Oklahoma.  If this Karl Katz was the son of Meier Katz, he was the nephew of Abraham and Samuel Katz.  It made sense that in 1938, escaping from Nazi Germany, he would have come to the place where his father’s brothers were living.

Karl Katz naturalization papers
National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, D.C.; ARC Title: Declarations of Intention for Citizenship , compiled 1908 – 1932; ARC Number: 731206; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States; Record Group Number: 21

As I did more research, I found the ship manifest for Karl along with his wife and a son.  When I checked the second page, expecting to see that he was going to his uncle Abraham Katz in Oklahoma, I was surprised to see that instead it said he was going to his brother, Jacob Katz, in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  It seemed I had found another son of Meier Katz!

Karl Katz passenger manifest
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897. Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls. NAI: 6256867. Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36. National Archives at Washington, D.C. Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1897-1957. Microfilm Publication T715, 8892 rolls. NAI: 300346. Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; National Archives at Washington, D.C.

I was quite excited and then started researching Jacob Katz, only to learn that he had been in the US since about 1886 and had been in Stillwater, Oklahoma, since at least 1899 when he’d applied for naturalization.  So he had in fact been in Stillwater long before his uncle Abraham Katz had moved from Kentucky in about 1910. And Jacob was also a merchant, according to the 1900 census.  (More on Jacob and the other children of Meier Katz in posts to come.) And I kept seeing newspaper article references to Katz Department Store.

At that point I decided it was time to learn more about the history of the Katz Department Stores in Oklahoma, so I did a Google search of “Katz Department Store” + Oklahoma. One of the search results was from a blog in which the blog author described herself as a member of the family that had owned the Katz Department Store in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

So, of course, I wrote a comment on the blog, asking the blog owner to contact me and explaining that I thought we might be related.  I knew nothing about how this woman was related to the Katz family, but I figured I had nothing to lose.  Not too long after, my newly found fourth cousin, once removed,  Abbi Goldenberg, responded.  We exchanged a few emails and then a lovely phone conversation that covered not only family history matters, but also what it was like to grow up in the Southwest, cattle ranching, food labeling, politics, and life in general. From Abbi I learned that not only had Meier’s sons Jake and Karl come to the US, but so had all of Meier’s children, whom I will discuss in subsequent posts.

Katz Department Store sign as you enter Stillwater, OK
Courtesy of the Katz family

As if that connection wasn’t exciting enough, I then made another cousin discovery just a few days after finding Abbi. Once again it was indirectly through a Google search.  I had Googled “Abraham Katz + Oklahoma,” looking for an obituary, and one of the search results was a page from Geni.com.  I am generally skeptical of Geni because no sources are cited for the trees there, but the page for Abraham had a wonderfully detailed biography that had been told to the writer by her father, who was Abraham’s grandson.  I sent a message to the writer, Marsha Katz Rothplan, who was the manager of the profile on Geni, and again, within a few hours I received a response.

And this is where the small world story comes into play.  The response was an email I received just as I was about to go to sleep (yes, I check my phone before I go to sleep; bad, I know). Marsha was excited to be in touch, but not only because we happened to be fourth cousins.  She had looked me up on Facebook and realized that I live in the area where she had once lived back in 1988. Although she had grown up in Oklahoma, she had ended up in New England after college and worked at the JCC that my family has belonged to for over thirty years.  Although my eyes were drooping closed, I immediately sent her back a quick email (in fact, I was so excited that I hit “Send” too soon and sent her a three word email the first time).  Chances are very good that at some time while she lived here, we met each other without ever knowing that we were related.  And we know a number of people in common.

To top it off, Marsha was coming to my area that very weekend from across the country, and we arranged to meet for dinner.  We had a wonderful time, and she has provided me with many interesting facts, photographs, and stories about the Oklahoma Katz family.  She’s also connected me to her father and to other family members who have also shared stories and information.  As I now turn to the rest of story of Marsha’s great-grandfather Abraham Katz in my next few posts, I will have the benefit of the insights and photographs shared by Marsha and her family.

My fourth cousin, Marsha, and me April 4 2017

Then just this week, I connected with yet more of my Katz cousins, descendants of Samuel Katz—more wonderful people who responded warmly and with great interest in learning about their ancestors. And one of them is close friends with the nephew of one of our close friends.

With the help of my newly-found cousins, I’ve learned not only more about my Katz relatives, but about a way of life I previously knew nothing about and once again about the reality of how interconnected we all are.  I’ve also added some smart, funny, interesting, and warm women into my life.

Happy Passover to all who celebrate! Remember—everyone you see or speak to may end up being connected to you in more ways than you can imagine!

 

Mea Culpa and more

I owe my readers an apology.  In my earlier post I had written that Jay Katz, the only child of Samuel Katz and Lorena Rothschild, had written on his World War I draft registration that he was born on October 23, 1882, in Omaha, Nebraska, which conflicted with the information on the census records. The census records from 1900, 1910, and 1920 all say that he was born in Kentucky, and that is consistent with the evidence suggesting that his family did not move to Nebraska until 1885.

On looking at the draft registration card more carefully, I now realize that it doesn’t list his birth place at all, only his birth date.  I misread the entry for his permanent residence (which was Omaha) as his birth place.  So Jay never wrote that he was born in Omaha. (I have now corrected my earlier post.)

Jay Katz World War I draft registration
Registration State: Nebraska; Registration County: Douglas; Roll: 1711763; Draft Board: 5
Description
Draft Card : K
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line].

However, the Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index on Ancestry lists his birthplace as Omaha. So, in my lame defense, I think that’s what made me jump to the hasty conclusion that the draft registration said that as well.  Mea culpa.

Ancestry.com. Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
Original data:
“Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916–1947.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2010. Index entries derived from digital copies of original records.

The good news is that in searching further to try and learn where Jay was born, I found a fairly detailed biography of him in Arthur Cooper Wakeley’s book, Omaha: The Gate City, and Douglas County, Nebraska, Volume 2 (S.J. Clarke publishing Company, 1917), pp. 979-980.  According to Wakeley’s biography of Jay Katz, he was “born in Taylor county, Kentucky, on the 23d of October, 1882, a son of Samuel and Lorena (Rothschild) Katz, who were natives of Germany and Kentucky, respectively.” That would seem to confirm the fact that Jay was born in Kentucky and that the Illinois death record is incorrect.

But the biography filled in other details about Jay and his family:

Jay B. Katz… attended public school, mastering the branches taught in the graded and high schools. Later he entered the Wentworth Military Academy at Lexington, Missouri, and following his return to Omaha spent four years in the employ of ME Smith & Company.

While employed there, Jay suffered a painful injury:

Wakeley’s biography continues:

After leaving that company, he engaged in the contracting business with his father, Samuel Katz, and George W. Craig, in the Katz Craig Contracting Company, where he took up municipal contracting and the building of public works.

The biography also reported that Jay married Ruth Rubel on June 11, 1912.  That would have been just six weeks after his father Samuel died on March 27, 1912.  What a bittersweet occasion that must have been. Ruth Rubel was the daughter of Isaac and Hattie C. Rubel of Omaha.  Ruth and Jay had two children born in the first few years after they married.

The Wakely biography praised Jay’s business skills quite enthusiastically:

Samuel Katz and Mr. Craig retired from the business in 1911, and Jay B. Katz took over the business and is still operating and has built waterworks and sewerage systems throughout the western country. His patronage has grown to extensive proportions and is well merited by reason of his ability his sound judgment and his enterprise. He fully merits the prosperity that has come to him as it is the just reward of his diligence and keen sagacity. He has many men in his employ, and every completed contract is an advertisement of the excellence of the work.

Mr. Katz is a thirty-second degree Mason and is also connected with the Benevolent Protective order of Elks. He likewise belongs to the Commercial Club and to the Omaha Athletic Club, and he has many friends in these organizations. Step by step, he has advanced since starting out in the business world in his youthful days, and his orderly progress has brought him into prominent relations.

Jay and his family stayed in Omaha where he continued to operate the construction business, but then Jay and Ruth are listed in 1926 in the West Frankfort, Illinois, directory; Jay’s occupation is reported as a sewer contractor, which seems consistent with his business in Omaha. West Frankfort is 542 miles from Omaha, and I have no idea why Jay would have decided to leave Omaha at that time.

This article from the March 8, 1928, Omaha World-Herald states that Jay and Ruth had left Omaha two years before and were living now in Chicago.  But West Frankfort is more than 300 miles from Chicago.  Although I could not find Jay listed in a Chicago directory for 1927 or 1928, he is listed in the 1930 Chicago phonebook, so the newspaper appears to have correctly reported that he was then residing in Chicago.

Why did Jay leave Omaha? Why did he then move to Chicago? Was business bad? Or was he seeking to expand by moving to West Frankfort and then Chicago? I don’t know.  But at some point things did go poorly for Jay, as a March 18, 1930 article from the Council Bluffs, Iowa Daily Nonpareil, p.12, as well as an article from March 18, 1930 edition of the Omaha World-Herald (p.2)  reported that Jay had committed suicide.  Both articles suggested that it was because of financial problems.  The stock market crash that led to the Great Depression had occurred just five months before, undoubtedly causing Jay, like so many others, to suffer devastating losses.

Some stories just break your heart.

One Busy Man

My initial research into Samuel Katz, a son of my 3x-great-aunt Rahel Katzenstein, left me with several unanswered questions. Samuel and his wife Lorena and their son Jay had relocated from Kentucky to Omaha, Nebraska, in the 1880s.

One mystery involved Samuel’s occupation.  Omaha directories listed more than one Samuel Katz for most of the years between 1885 and 1900, one of whom was a tailor living on 12th Street for some of the years while the other was first a grocer, then a clothing manufacturer, then a real estate agent, and then again a clothing manufacturer.[1]   Then in the 1890s, Samuel Katz living at 2111 Douglas Street appeared to be in both the clothing business and the grading contracting business.

How had that evolved? I turned to my favorite research tool—old newspapers. Fortunately, newspapers.com has issues of the Omaha Bee from 1872 to 1916, and genealogybank.com has issues of the Omaha Daily Herald and the Omaha World-Herald ranging from 1878 through 1983 as well as as well as other Nebraska newspapers.  I searched for “Katz” and was thrilled to find many relevant results from the search. Through those articles, I learned a great deal about my cousin Samuel Katz, the man, his family, and his businesses.

The earliest items I found that related to Samuel were many ads like this one for his grocery business:

I knew that had to be my Samuel Katz because the address matched what the 1885 Omaha directory listed as his business address:

Title : Omaha, Nebraska, City Directory, 1885 Source Information Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Original sources vary according to directory.

In November, 1885, Katz was a victim of a burglary at the home he shared with his father-in-law and family on Farnam  Street:

“Will Tell for Money,” Omaha World-Herald, November 12, 1885, p. 4

I will transcribe just the beginning of the article:

A short, dark-complexioned, black-haired and black-eyed young fellow named Alfred S. Hill was for some time employed by S. Katz as a driver of the delivery wagon. He was discharged recently, and on last Sunday night someone well acquainted with the premises entered the house where Mr Katz lives and stole a quantity of clothing, some money and two watches. Hill was arrested Tuesday evening on suspicion and locked up.  He said he was not connected with the theft, but know who did the work.

“Will Tell for Money,” Omaha World-Herald, November 12, 1885, p. 4

[Hill identified another man, who was arrested.  The story does not reveal what ultimately happened, and I did not find any follow-up. I was quite disturbed by the article’s physical description of Mr. Hill—why was that relevant?]

The fact that Mr. Hill drove a delivery truck for Samuel Katz seems consistent with the fact that Samuel was then in the grocery business.

But by July, 1886, Samuel was engaged in the grading business:

 

From thereon forward, there are numerous articles mentioning contracts he was awarded for doing road grading in the name of Katz & Callahan.

And beginning as early as 1887, there were also numerous ads like this one:

I knew this was also my Samuel Katz because it matched the Farnam Street address from the 1887 directory:

1887 Omaha directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

And not only was Samuel grading streets and lending money—he was selling real estate in 1887:

So as early as that Samuel had diversified and was in three different lines of work: money lending, real estate, and grading.  In addition, he was teaching in the Hebrew school:

When did he sleep? Money lender, real estate sales, grading contractor, and Hebrew school teacher!

Then in 1889, Samuel was in the clothing business, working for Polack Clothing Company:

1889 Omaha directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

That endeavor ended fairly soon, however, as the store was destroyed by a fire in May, 1889:

“Big Insurance Suit,” Daily Nebraska State Journal, September 17, 1889, p. 5:

“Big Insurance Suit,” Daily Nebraska State Journal, September 17, 1889, p. 5:

“The store of the Polack Clothing company was destroyed by fire on May 31, 1889….”

Samuel then went into the clothing manufacturing business for some time with new partners, Charles Nevens and Lawrence Enewold, in September, 1889:

This news item describes their business, known as Katz-Nevens, as manufacturing “common and medium grades of clothing.”

But Samuel nevertheless also remained engaged in the grading business:

On top of that he was president of Temple Israel, his synagogue:

Once again I ask: When did he sleep?

I won’t bother to catalog all the articles from the 1890s describing Samuel’s activities both in the grading business and the clothing business as well as his synagogue activities, but suffice it to say that he continued to be active in all three endeavors throughout the decade.  I did, however, find this article in which Samuel endorsed the re-election of the mayor of Omaha in 1893 very revealing:

I was impressed that Samuel could see beyond his own business interests and recognize that the mayor was acting in the best interests of the city even when turning down Samuel’s bids for grading contracts. That’s a sign of real integrity. (Or a cynic might say, a way of ingratiating himself in hopes of getting future contracts.)

And just to verify that this Samuel Katz was in fact the one who had moved from Kentucky, there is this news item:

Notice that Samuel was also a delegate to the I.O.B.B, the International Order of B’nai Brith.  Another item to add to his already overloaded resume.

By the end of the decade, however, two things changed in Samuel’s life.  First, Katz-Nevens, the clothing manufacturing business, was dissolved:

Then, Samuel retired as president of his congregation:

Omaha Bee, September, 6, 1899, p. 7

Thus, by 1900, when he responded to the enumerator’s question about his occupation, he was in fact only in the grading business.

Samuel Katz’s occupation on 1900 US census

But that would not stay the same for long. By 1905, Samuel was the treasurer of a new venture, Raapke & Katz Company, where his son Jay was also employed.  What was Raapke & Katz? A grocery business—Samuel had come full circle:

Omaha World-Herald, March 14, 1905, p. 8

One news item that has me quite intrigued is this small mention in April, 1905:

Who was the niece whose wedding Samuel attended back in Germany? I am now researching that question.

In 1906, although Jay is listed as a salesman for Raapke & Katz, Samuel only listed his grading business—Callahan Brothers & Katz— in the directory:

Omaha 1906 directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
Original data: Original sources vary according to directory.

And in 1909, he and Jay were both listed with yet another new business: Katz, Craig Contracting Company.  Samuel was the president and Jay the secretary.

1909 Omaha directory Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Original sources vary according to directory.

And somehow Samuel found himself re-elected as synagogue president in 1910.

On the 1910 census, Samuel and Jay are both described as in the stone contracting business, so that must have been the business of Katz, Craig Contracting:

Katz family on 1910 census
Year: 1910; Census Place: Omaha Ward 11, Douglas, Nebraska; Roll: T624_844; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 0082; FHL microfilm: 1374857

But notice something strange about this census? It lists a second son of Samuel and Lorena: a 23 year old single man born in Kentucky named Sidney. You can imagine how that threw me for a loop when I first saw it.  Where did HE come from?

Just another enumerator mistake, I concluded.  Remember Samuel’s brother Abraham back in Kentucky with the ten children born in nineteen years? One of them was named Sidney and was the right age as the Sidney living with Samuel Katz in 1910.  I believe that the Sidney listed on the 1910 census in Samuel’s household was his nephew, not his son.

In fact, the next year another of Abraham’s children came to live with Samuel Katz; Florence Katz came to study voice in Omaha.  Lorena Rothschild Katz was herself a musician as was her sister Minnie, and so it probably seemed a good place for Florence to pursue her musical interests.

And remember Bertha Katz who was working as a stenographer for Katz-Nevens in 1899? Well, she also was likely the daughter of Samuel’s brother Abraham.  Obviously, despite the long distance between the two brothers, they stayed in touch throughout the years.  Samuel’s trip back to Germany in 1905 indicates that there also was a continuing connection to his family back in Jesberg.

Samuel Katz impressed me as quite a man: a man who was successful in several different businesses, a man who was committed to his faith and his people, and a man who was devoted to his family.

Sadly, his life was cut suddenly short on March 27, 1912, when he was only 59 years old.

Omaha World-Herald, March 28, 1912, p. 15

Here is the text of his obituary. (How many errors can you find?)

Samuel Katz, aged 51 years and for thirty years a resident of Omaha, died shortly after 9 o’clock last night at his home, 3707 Jones street, of heart failure.  Mr. Katz had not been well for a week or more, but last night was thought better. His death came suddenly and without the slightest warning, while he was preparing for a bath.

He is survived by his widow and one son, Jay B. Katz, of this city.

Samuel Katz was born in March 23, 1861, in Essen-Cassle [sic], Germany.  At an early age he came to this country and located in Harroldsburg, K. After a short period in that place he moved to Omaha and became interested in the manufacturing of overalls and bought a controlling interest in the Katz-Nevins Manufacturing company. The latter was connected with the Raapke wholesale company at Fourteenth and Harney streets.  About ten years ago he took up construction work and organized the Katz-Craig Construction company, he being at the head of this firm at the time of his death.  Mr. Katz was regarded as one of the most able and exacting men in his line of work.  Railroad and government construction work was his specialty and many of the finest buildings in this section of the country were built under his careful eye.

Samuel Katz was prominent in religious and charitable work, he being president of the Temple Israel at his death and also an officer in the local Jewish Associated Charities and the Independent order of B’Nai B’rith.  He was a Mason.

The funeral of Mr. Katz will be held at 2 o’clock Friday afternoon at the residence on Jones street.

There was also a memorial service for Samuel Katz in May, 1912.

Perhaps all that energy devoted to family, faith, and work was just too much for Samuel.

More on his family in the next post.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] I ruled out the tailor since he had a son named Samuel, so I’ve assumed that my Samuel was in the clothing and real estate businesses.

What Was My Cousin Doing in Omaha?

By 1885, Samuel Katz, my first cousin three times removed, had moved to Omaha, Nebraska, from the small town in Kentucky where he’d first settled after immigrating from Jesberg, Germany. What took him to Omaha, and what was he doing there?

First, what took him to Omaha? After all, his brother Abraham was living in Kentucky.  Omaha is almost 800 miles west of Horse Cave, Kentucky, where Abraham was living.

 

Omaha was a booming town.  Between 1880 and 1890, its population grew from just over 30,000 people to over 140,000 people. Wikipedia describes it as the fasting growing city in the United States in the 1880s.

According to Wikipedia:

After Irish-born James E. Boyd founded the first packing operation in Omaha in the 1870s, thousands of immigrants from central and southern Europe came to Omaha to work in the Union Stockyards and slaughterhouses of South Omaha. They created Omaha’s original ethnic neighborhoods… The Near North Side also developed greatly during this period, with high concentrations of Jews and Germans, and the first groups of African Americans. …Omaha’s growth was accelerated in the 1880s by the rapid development of the Union Stockyards and the meat packing industry in South Omaha. …There were several breweries established throughout the city during this period.

Omaha 1889, located at http://www.printsoldandrare.com/nebraska/

Not only was Omaha a booming economic center in the 1880s, it also had an established Jewish community.  Temple Israel, the oldest synagogue in Nebraska, provides this history of the Omaha Jewish community on its website:

The first Jewish settlers, mostly merchants and businessmen, arrived in Omaha in 1856. …During the early 1860s, Jewish religious services in Omaha were conducted by laymen including Max Abrahams, grandfather of Milton R. Abrahams, who would become president of Temple Israel in 1942.

In 1871, the Congregation of Israel was founded …. Recognizing the need for a Jewish burial ground, five acres for a cemetery at 42nd and Redick were purchased and deeded to the congregation. During the summer and fall of 1871, Reverend Alexander Rosenspitz served the congregation and conducted the first Confirmation Service for a class of seven. The next year, a short-lived Sunday School was organized. Articles of incorporation were filed with the Douglas County Clerk in 1873. … Enthusiasm and dedication kept the tiny congregation viable. But all money raised was designated for a building leaving little for a rabbi’s salary. Finally, a lot was purchased at 23rd and Harney for $4,000. Reverend George Harfield was hired as rabbi in 1883 and on September 18, 1884, the 50-member congregation dedicated the first synagogue in Nebraska. It had been built for $4,500.

Temple Israel of Omaha, 1st Building
photo located at http://www.jmaw.org/temple-israel-omaha-nebraska/

 

Thus, Omaha would have been an attractive location for a Jewish merchant like Samuel Katz.  He did not, however, strike out all alone with his wife and son and move to Omaha; his wife Lorena’s sister, Bella Rothschild Pollock, and her husband Alexander Pollock had settled in Omaha as early as 1871; by 1880, Lorena’s brother Lafayette had also settled there. And during the 1880s, Lorena’s parents and her sisters Annie and Minnie moved there as well. So Samuel Katz was led to Omaha by his wife’s family.

Now what did he do there? That proved to be a difficult question to answer. I searched for Samuel in every Omaha directory from 1880 through 1912 to try and find answers to that question.

In 1885 there were two men named Samuel Katz and one named Samuel Kats in the Omaha directory.  One Samuel Katz was a grocer, residing at 2514 Douglas Street; the other was a glazier living 1308 Leavenworth Street. Samuel Kats was a tailor living at 1432 13th Street.

1885 Omaha directory Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

In 1886, the glazier was no longer listed, and the tailor was listed with a son, a Samuel Katz, Jr. Since my Samuel did not have a son named Samuel, the tailor could not have been my Samuel Katz.  The grocer named Samuel Katz was now listed as residing at 2016 Farnam; it seemed this had to be my Samuel Katz.

By 1887 there was only one Samuel Katz listed in the Omaha directory; he was working for a real estate business called Katz & Company and residing at 2106 Farnam Street, the same address where the grocer had been living the year before.   I thought this must have been “my” Samuel and that he had moved to the real estate field.

1887 Omaha directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

But there was a Miss Minnie Katz living at the same address who was a music teacher as well as a Miss Annie Katz.  Samuel did not have a wife or a daughter or a sister named Minnie or Annie, so who could they be? I was mystified.

Then I remembered that Lorena had sisters named Minnie and Annie, and they certainly could have been living with Samuel and Lorena.  Perhaps the directory erred by listing them with the surname Katz instead of Rothschild?

A check of the 1888 Omaha directory answered my question:

1888 Omaha directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

Annie and Minnie Rothschild were listed as living at 2113 Douglas Street, along with their father William and their brother Lafayette; Minnie was a music teacher.  Now I knew that Samuel Katz and his family were all living with Lorena’s parents and siblings in the same home at 2113 Douglas Street in 1887. The 1887 directory had simply assigned the wrong surname to Minnie and Annie.

In 1888 Samuel Katz was listed as a general agent for real estate for Manhattan Life Insurance Company, residing with his in-laws at 2113 Douglas Street.  And in 1889 the Samuel Katz living on Douglas Street (now 2111) was working for Polack Clothing Company, the same company that employed his brother-in-law Lafayette. This was presumably the business of Alex Pollock (as it was later spelled), brother-in-law of both Samuel Katz and Lafayette Rothschild.

Omaha directory 1888
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

1889 Omaha directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

In 1890 my Samuel Katz was part owner of a clothing manufacturing business with Charles Nevins (later spelled Nevens) and William Rees and was still living at 2111 Douglas Street.  Meanwhile, Samuel Katz the tailor was still living on 12th Street.

1890 Omaha directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

Samuel Katz of 2111 Douglas Street continued to be listed with Katz-Nevens-Rees in the Omaha directories for each year between 1890 and 1895, although in 1895 there was a second listing for a Samuel Katz who was a grading contractor living on 11th Street.  Every directory from 1895 up to 1899 had these two listings for Samuel Katz, but which one was my relative—the clothing manufacturer at 2111 Douglas Street or the grading contractor at 11th Street?

1899 Omaha directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

On the 1900 census my Samuel Katz was living at 2111 Douglas Street—that is, the address of the Samuel Katz who was the clothing manufacturer with Nevens and Rees, according to the Omaha directories.

Samuel Katz and family, 1900 census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Omaha Ward 4, Douglas, Nebraska; Roll: 924; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 0036; FHL microfilm: 1240924

Samuel Katz’s occupation on 1900 US census

But doesn’t it look like the occupation for that Samuel Katz on that 1900 census says “Contr-Grd”? As in grading contractor? Was he both a clothing manufacturer AND a grading contractor? Or did every issue of the Omaha directory for all those years have the two men named Samuel Katz mixed up?

I was so confused….until I looked more carefully at the 1899 directory listing. And I noticed that the Katz-Nevens clothing company was located at 204 South 11th Street, the same address where the grading contracting business, Samuel Katz & Co, was located. Samuel Katz was in fact in both the clothing business and the grading contracting business.

1899 Omaha directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

But there were more mysteries to be solved, such as who was Bertha Katz, residing at 2111 Douglas Street and working as a stenographer for Katz-Nevens? And how did Samuel Katz end up in two very different businesses?

TO BE CONTINUED