Yet Another Small World Story

You know by now that I believe we are all somehow connected—that there truly are only six degrees of separation between any two people. I’ve encountered it many times while doing family history research—my cousins who end up being close friends with either my own friends or with my husband’s cousins, a cousin who once worked at the same JCC where I’ve belonged for over 30 years, cousins with children or grandchildren living in the same town where I now live, and so on.

So here’s another small world story, and although this one does not involve any of my own ancestors or cousins, it nevertheless is more evidence of our interconnectedness.

Back in the fall of 2013, I ordered from a third-party seller on Amazon a book entitled Streets: A Memoir of the Lower East Side by Bella Cohen Spewack (Feminist Press at CUNY, 1995). I purchased the book to learn more about life on the Lower East Side in the first two decades of the 20th century when my grandmother, Gussie Brotman, was growing up there. The memoir gave a detailed and, in many ways, harrowing portrayal of Bella Spewack’s life as a child in the Lower East Side.  Despite her poverty-stricken and difficult start in life, she grew up to become a successful journalist and writer, best known for the play and Broadway hit, Kiss Me Kate, which she wrote with her husband Sam Spewack. I devoted three blog posts to summarizing and commenting on what I had learned about the Lower East Side from reading Bella Spewack’s book.

In a footnote to my last post about Spewack’s book, I wrote about the mysterious handwritten note that had been tucked inside the book when I received it.  The note was written to people named Sheila and Alan and read,

At last we have received copies of Bella’s memoirs. We thought they would never come.  This one is for you.  I hope you enjoy it.  I’ll talk to you this weekend.  On to Turkey! Love, Arthur and Lois.

When I found the note in the book, I had wondered whether Sheila and Alan, the addressees, had ever seen it and whether they had meant to leave it in the book when they gave away or sold the book. I also wondered who Arthur and Lois and Sheila and Alan were. I thought about trying to return the note, but without last names I had no way to do that.

I had one clue: there was an afterward to Bella Spewack’s book by a woman named Lois Raeder Elias, who wrote that she had been a longtime friend of Bella Spewack. I wondered whether the note was written by Lois Raeder Elias since it certainly seemed from the content of the note that the person sending it had participated in some way in the publication of Spewack’s book.

So I mentioned the note in my last blog post about Spewack’s book, hoping that Lois Raeder Elias or someone who knew her might somehow find my post and contact me. That was in December of 2013, almost four and half years ago.

Fast forward about two years later to November of 2015. I was now in the process of researching my Schoenthal ancestors and their lives in Washington, Pennsylvania. While researching the history of Jewish life in so-called “Little Washington,” I connected with Marilyn A. Posner, a past president of Beth Israel synagogue in Little Washington as well as the author of the centennial history of the synagogue, The House of Israel, A Home in Washington: 100 Years of Beth Israel Congregation, 1891-1991 / 5652-5752 (1991, Congregation Beth Israel, Washington, Pennsylvania). Marilyn was extremely helpful to me in my research, and I relied on her research and her book extensively in writing about Little Washington’s Jewish history on my blog. We also developed an email friendship and found other areas of common interest.

House of Nathan Samuels in Washiington PA where Beth Israel congregants first met
Photo courtesy of Marilyn Posner from her book, “The House of Israel, A Home in Washington: 100 Years of Beth Israel Congregation, 1891-1991 / 5652-5752

So how do these two things relate? How does a note in a book by Bella Spewack about the Lower East Side of New York City connect to a woman who lives in Washington, Pennsylvania?

Well, fast forward another two and half years to April 2018, about a week ago. Out of the blue I received an email from Marilyn that I had to read several times to absorb and understand completely.  But here’s the essence: Marilyn’s first cousin, once removed, a man named Arthur Elias, had died on April 12, 2018, at age 92.  Marilyn’s son, in Googling his cousin Arthur’s name for information about his life, somehow fell upon the footnote to my blog post from December 15, 2013, and sent it along to his mother, Marilyn.

Marilyn with her great-aunt Bertha Elias, mother of Arthur Elias, 1948

Marilyn immediately recognized my blog and contacted me to share this small world story: Lois Raeder Elias, who had written the afterward to Bella Spewack’s memoirs, was the wife of Marilyn’s recently deceased cousin Arthur Elias. Arthur and Lois were very close friends of Bella Spewack and in fact had inherited the rights to her works when she died, including the rights to Kiss Me Kate, which had been revived and brought back to Broadway in 1999 with the support of Arthur and Lois Raeder Elias.


Marilyn also solved the mystery of the handwritten note I’d found inside the book. She assumed it must have been written by her cousin Arthur and his wife Lois to Arthur’s sister Sheila and her husband Alan.

Marilyn then connected me to her cousin Sheila, who was very excited to hear that I had the note and the book. The next day I mailed the book and the note to Sheila, and she received it last Friday. She was thrilled and so grateful, and I was more than delighted that I could reunite Sheila and Alan with the book and the note that Arthur and Lois had sent to them over twenty years before.

Siblings Sheila and Arthur


I had long ago forgotten about the footnote that I’d left on my blog and never expected at this point to hear from anyone about that handwritten note. And then the forces of six degrees of separation came through, and someone with whom I’d connected almost two years after writing that blog footnote and over two and a half years ago turned out to be the cousin of the author and of the recipient of the note.

How is that for a small world story?!


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

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

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

Frieda Brotman Coopersmith death cert


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harrys grandson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me know your thoughts.


Pacific Street: Inspired by Facts and Love

Some of you know that since I retired two and a half years ago, I’ve been working on a novel inspired by my grandparents’ lives and the discoveries I’ve made about them and their extended families through my genealogy research.  Well, I finally put my “pen” down and decided to call it done.

Amy Gussie and Isadore

My grandparents, Gussie Brotman and Isadore Goldschlager, and me

It’s been an exciting process for me because ever since I learned to read, I’ve wanted to write a novel.  All through my career when I was writing long, boring articles for law journals, I wished that instead I was writing a novel. Novels have been my refuge all my life. I love being transported to different times and places and seeing into the hearts and minds of all kinds of characters.  I just wanted a chance to try to create some characters of my own.  When I retired, I promised myself that I would give it a try.

One friend reprimanded me when I said I was trying to write a novel.  She said, “Don’t say that.  Say you are writing a novel.”  I was and am insecure about the whole thing.  I never took a fiction writing course, participated in a writing workshop, or wrote any fiction at all, not since I wrote stories as a young child. What did I know?

My only sources of information about writing a novel were all the novels I’d read starting when I read Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White when I was eight years old.  That book transported me in ways that changed the way I felt about reading.  I cried so hard (spoiler alert) when Charlotte died.  And she was just a spider! A fictional spider! How had the author made her so real and moved me to care so much?

Charlotte's Web

Charlotte’s Web (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now that I’ve written my own novel, I am even more in awe of the many great authors whose books have moved me so deeply. I am humbled by what those authors were able to do with words, and thus I feel presumptuous trying to promote my own book, despite my friend’s reprimand.

But it was a labor of love—love for family and love for the magic of the written word.  I wrote this book for my children and grandchildren so that they would have a taste of what their ancestors’ lives were like. I had lots of help and inspiration from my family and friends, as I acknowledge at the end of the book.  And so despite this aching feeling of insecurity, I do want to share and promote my book so that others will also know the story I’ve created about my grandparents—grounded in fact, but expanded upon by my imagination.

I hope that you will be tempted to read it.  You can find it on Amazon both as a paperback ($6.99) and as a Kindle ebook ($2.99) at

If you do read it, I’d love your feedback.  Thank you!

Marx Seligmann, My Four-Times Great-Uncle: His American Family

Genealogy research is like peeling an onion.  You peel back a layer, study that layer, and feel a good degree of sweet satisfaction, but there are always more layers, and if you are as lucky as I have been with my Seligmann family, you can keep peeling back more and more layers.  Sometimes a new layer brings new tears, sometimes it brings more joy.  The two handwritten family trees that Wolfgang and his mother found in their suitcase revealed several new layers of the Seligmann and Schoenfeld families, including the names of all the siblings of my three-times great-grandparents Moritz Seligmann and Babetta Schoenfeld.

One of those siblings was a younger brother of Moritz named Marx Seligmann.  From the handwritten trees I knew that Marx had married Rosina Loeser and had two daughters with her, Mathilde and Sophie.  I also knew that Marx and Rosina had divorced about ten years after they married or in 1849.  I don’t believe I had seen any evidence of a divorce that far back in time in my family, and I assume that divorce was probably pretty unusual back then, or at least not as common as it is now.

tree 2 page 8

The first tree had a confusing comment about someone coming later to America, but it wasn’t clear whether that was Marx or his ex-wife or his daughters.  The second handwritten tree was more explicit: Marx had remarried and had gone to New York .  The tree seemed to suggest that he’d had a son who married a woman with the birth name Coppel, and that they’d had a daughter who married a film agent.  I searched for Marx based on those assumptions and found the record I posted last time.

Charlotte Seligmann marriage record

Assuming that this is the same Marx Seligmann, he had himself married a woman named Sara Koppel, and they had had a daughter named Charlotte.  Charlotte had married someone named Max Schlesinger.  From that one record, I was able to research further and put together a more complete picture of Marx Seligmann and his descendants.

It appears that Marx and Sara had married not long after Marx’s divorce from Rosina and before leaving Germany because they sailed together as Marx and Sara Seligmann and arrived in New York on August 18, 1849. Marx was 39, Sara 27, and Marx listed his occupation as a merchant. (They are the third and fourth entries from the bottom on the document shown here.)

Marx and Sara Seligmann passenger manifest

Source: Year: 1849; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 082; Line: 49; List Number: 1146


A year later according to the census taken on August 26, 1850, they were living in New York City and had a four month old son Siegmund (later Sigmund), so Sara must have been just pregnant when they arrived in New York.  Marx was working as a cigar maker.  They were living in the 13th Ward or the Lower East Side, which then had a large population of German immigrants.

Marx and Sara Seligman 1855 US census

Marx and Sara Seligman 1855 US censusSource Citation Year: 1850; Census Place: New York Ward 13, New York, New York; Roll: M432_550; Page: 200A; Image: 148


Marx filed a declaration of intent to become a US citizen on November 25, 1850.

Marx Seeligman petition for naturalization

By 1860, Marx and Sara had three more children: Jacob, born in 1852; Charlotte, born in 1855; and Mary, born in 1856.  The family was still living in the 13th Ward, and Marx was still employed as a cigar maker.  The only thing that disturbs me about this census record is that it reports that both Marx and Sara were born in Darmstadt.  I assume that Marx, like his siblings, was born in Gaulsheim.  However, given how unreliable census records can be, I am willing to put that aside.

Marx Seligmann 1860 census

Year: 1860; Census Place: New York Ward 13 District 2, New York, New York; Roll: M653_803; Page: 418; Image: 422; Family History Library Film: 803803


By 1870, it appears that Marx had died.  He is not listed with his family on the 1870 census, and in the 1872 NYC directory, Sara is listed as a widow.  I contacted the cemetery where Sara was later buried, but they had no listing for a Marx or Max Seligmann.

According to the 1870 census, Sarah (now spelled with the H) was the head of household.  Sigmund, now 20, was working as a clerk.  Jacob, 17, was working in a cigar store, perhaps following in his father’s footsteps.  Charlotte was 16 and at home, and Mary was 14 and a dressmaker.  They were now living in the 17th Ward, also in the Lower East Side in a neighborhood inhabited by mostly German immigrants.

Sarah Seligmann and family 1870 census

Year: 1870; Census Place: New York Ward 17 District 20, New York, New York; Roll: M593_999; Page: 188A; Image: 377; Family History Library Film: 552498


The first of the children of Marx and Sarah to marry was their youngest child, Mary.  She married Oscar Kornfeld on September 11, 1873, when she was only seventeen years old.  Oscar was only twenty.  Oscar was the son of Charles and Julia Kornfeld, who were born in Austria, according to the 1860 and 1880 census, or Baden, according to the 1870 census.  Oscar’s father was a cigar maker like Mary’s father had been, so I wonder if they had met through their fathers.  Oscar also followed his father into the cigar business.

By 1880, Mary and Oscar had three children.  Their first child, born in 1874, was named Marx, presumably for his grandfather.  In 1877, Rose was born, and then Carrie was born in 1879.  In addition, Mary’s mother Sarah and her brother Sigmund were living with them at 239 East 51st Street in New York.  Both Sigmund and Oscar were working as cigar packers.

Mary and Oscar Kornfeld 1880 census

Mary and Oscar Kornfeld 1880 census Year: 1880; Census Place: New York City, New York, New York; Roll: 893; Family History Film: 1254893; Page: 358B; Enumeration District: 557; Image: 0720

Mary and Oscar had another daughter, Lillian, in 1882.  According to the 1892 New York State census, Mary and Oscar and their family were living in Long Island City in Queens, where Oscar continued to work in the cigar business.

Mary Seligmann and Oscar Kornfeld 1892 NY census

Mary Seligmann and Oscar Kornfeld 1892 NY census New York, State Census, 1892 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012. Original data: New York State Education Department, Office of Cultural Education. 1892 New York State Census. Albany, NY: New York State Library.

By 1900 they were living at 1883 Madison Avenue, and Oscar was still working in the cigar business.  Their three daughters were still living with them, Rose doing housework, Carrie doing office work, and Lillian working as a cashier.  Their son Marx (later Max) married Emma Pisko on April 1, 1900.  I cannot locate them on the 1900 census—perhaps they were away on their honeymoon?

Oscar and Mary Kornfeld 1900 US census Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1119; Enumeration District: 0849; FHL microfilm: 1241119

Oscar and Mary Kornfeld 1900 US census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1119; Enumeration District: 0849; FHL microfilm: 1241119


As seen in the first record above, Charlotte Seligmann was the second child of Marx and Sarah Seligmann to marry; she married Max Schlesinger in 1874.  According to the 1880 census, Max Schleslinger was born in Berlin and was working in 1880 as a supervisor in a tie factory, and by 1880 he and Charlotte had three children:  Hattie (or Harriet), born in 1875; Arthur, born in 1876; and Lena, born in 1877.

Max Schlesinger and Charlotte Seligman 1880 US census

Max Schlesinger and Charlotte Seligman 1880 US census Year: 1880; Census Place: New York City, New York, New York; Roll: 894; Family History Film: 1254894; Page: 52C; Enumeration District: 564; Image: 0096

I found a card for Max in the database for U.S. Naturalization Record Indexes indicating that he became a citizen on October 5, 1877, and was living at 315 East 56th Street, not too far from where Charlotte’s mother and siblings were living at that time.  In 1884, they had a fourth child, Louis.

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Soundex Index to Petitions for Naturalizations Filed in Federal, State, and Local Courts in New York City, 1792-1906 (M1674); Microfilm Serial: M1674; Microfilm Roll: 251

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Soundex Index to Petitions for Naturalizations Filed in Federal, State, and Local Courts in New York City, 1792-1906 (M1674); Microfilm Serial: M1674; Microfilm Roll: 251


In 1900, Charlotte and Max were living at 202 East 123rd Street with just their two youngest children, Lena (listed here as Lillie) and Louis.  Max was still employed in tie manufacturing. Their daughter Hattie (or Harriet) had married George Cain in 1897.  George was a banker, and in 1900, they had a daughter Edith, just born that year. They also were living with George’s sister Lucie.

Max Schlesinger and Charlotte Seligman 1900 census

Max Schlesinger and Charlotte Seligman 1900 census Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1119; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 0854; FHL microfilm: 1241119

I unfortunately have had no luck locating Max and Charlotte’s son Arthur on the 1900 census or elsewhere.  The name Arthur Schlesinger is more common than you’d think (and that doesn’t include the famous historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. or his father, with whom there is no apparent tie), so I’ve not been able to figure out (yet) whether any of the men with that name in New York is the correct one.

Jacob was the next child of Marx and Sarah Seligmann to marry. He married Mathilde Kerbs on April 3, 1881, in New York City.[1]  Mathilde was a German immigrant, and at the time of the 1880 census she was living with her siblings in New York City.  Both of her brothers were in the cigar business as was Jacob, and so once again I think this was a connection made through the family ties to the cigar industry.  Between 1882 and 1888, Jacob and Mathilde had four sons. The first, Max (presumably for his grandfather Marx), was born in 1882, then came Harry (1883), Louis (1885), and Samuel (1888).  In 1900, Jacob was still a cigar packer, and the family was living at 303 East 69th Street.  They would have one more child, Beatrice, in 1902.

Jacob Seligman and Mathilde Kerbs 1900 census

Jacob Seligman and Mathilde Kerbs 1900 census Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1112; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 0700; FHL microfilm: 1241112

Sigmund, the oldest child of Marx and Sarah Seligmann, was the last to marry.  According to the 1900 census, he married his wife Charlotte in 1882.  From a death notice I found for Sigmund in the New York Times, I learned that Charlotte’s birth name was Koppel.

Sigmund Seligman death notice NYT June 1924 Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006. Original data: The New York Times. New York, NY, USA: The New York Times, 1851-2001.

Thus, the story posted about Marx on the second handwritten tree—that one of his sons had married someone whose birth name was Koppel (or Coppel, as spelled there) —was in fact true.  Both Marx and his son Sigmund married women with that surname.  My guess is that Charlotte Koppel was a relative of Sarah Koppel, Sigmund’s mother.  That guess is supported by two clues: one, Sarah’s mother’s first name was also Charlotte, according to Sarah’s death record, and two, Sigmund’s grandson posted a story on saying that Sigmund had gone back to Germany to marry Charlotte and suggesting that it had been an arranged marriage.

Death Certificate for Sarah Koppel Seligman, wife of Sigmund

Death Certificate for Sarah Koppel Seligman, wife of Marx

Sigmund and Charlotte had five children between 1883 and 1896: Mary (1883), Max (1884) (another namesake for Marx or perhaps for Sarah’s father Max Koppel?), Leo (1891), Theresa (1894), and Albert (1896).  Sigmund was employed in the insurance industry.  In 1900, they were living at 304 East 117th Street.

Sigmund and Sarah Seligman 1900 US census  Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1123; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0933; FHL microfilm: 1241123

Sigmund and Charlotte Seligman 1900 US census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1123; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0933; FHL microfilm: 1241123


Thus, by 1900, Marx Seligmann had not only four grown children surviving him in the United States (plus the two daughters born of his first marriage); there were also eighteen grandchildren and one great-grandchild to follow him in the United States, including several named Max or Marx in his honor.  Sometimes it amazes me to see just how many descendants one person can have.  As I follow the descendants of Marx Seligmann into the 20th century in my next post, I cannot help but think about all the potential lives that were lost for every person whose life was cut short.





[1] I cannot find Jacob on the 1880 US census.

Hyman and Sophie Brotman’s Sons: A Family Album


Sophie and Hyman Brotman

Sophie and Hyman Brotman

One of the benefits of getting to meet six of my Brotman second cousins was that I was able to obtain a lot more photographs of my Brotman relatives.  All six of the living grandchildren of Sophie and Hyman Brotman, my grandmother’s older brother, were able to attend our “reunion”—the three children of Saul and Vicky Brotman and the three children of Manny and Freda Brotman.  Sadly, the two daughters of Joseph Brotman, Hyman and Sophie’s oldest son, have passed away.  But I now have a good collection of pictures of Hyman, Sophie, their three sons, and their grandchildren.

Hyman Brotman was born in Galicia and arrived with  his mother, my great-grandmother Bessie,  and his sister Tillie in 1891 when he was about eight years old.  He lived on Ridge Street with his family until he married Sophie Weiss on March 12, 1904.  Hyman and Sophie had three sons.  Joseph Jacob was born on February 4, 1905, and was named for Hyman’s father, my great-grandfather Joseph Jacob Brotman.  Their second son, Saul, was born on April 27, 1907, and their third son Emanuel or Manny was born on May 9, 1910.

Hyman worked at various occupations, including as a chauffeur and in the sweatshops of NYC, but in the early 1920s he and his family moved to Hoboken, NJ, where he opened a liquor store.  My mother has childhood memories of visiting her uncle and aunt in Hoboken, though by that time the three boys were all grown, and sadly she has no memories of her cousins.

Hyman, Bruce and Sophie in the Hoboken liquor store

Bruce, Hyman and Sophie in the Hoboken liquor store


As their children reported, all three Brotman brothers were very close and very athletic.  They were all excellent swimmers and loved competing against each other, always arguing over who was the fastest.

Saul Sophie Joe and Manny

Saul Sophie Joe and Manny

Joe married Perle Gorlin on May 1, 1935, and they lived in Queens where Joe was employed as a salesman for Abbott Laboratories, according to the 1940 census. Joe was a pharmacist in New York, but later moved to Florida where he became involved in commercial real estate.

Joe and Perle Brotman 1940 census

Joe and Perle Brotman 1940 census

Joe and Perle had two daughters, Barbara, born in 1939 and probably named for Bessie, who had died just five years earlier, and Merle or Miki, born in 1941.  Here are some photos of Joe and Perle and other family members:

Perle, Joe and Sophie Brotman

Perle, Joe and Sophie Brotman


Hyman (second from left) and Joe (far right) and two unknown men

Hyman (second from left) and Joe (far right) and two unknown men

Joe and Saul Brotman

Joe and Saul Brotman

From Front Center, Clockwise: Joel, Herman, Sophie, Joe, Perle, Manny, Freda, Denny, Saul , and Vicky Brotman

From Front Center, Clockwise: Joel, Herman, Sophie, Joe, Perle, Manny, Freda, Denny, Saul , and Vicky Brotman

Saul Brotman was an excellent athlete, especially in swimming and handball.  He graduated from Hoboken High School and started college at the New Jersey College of Pharmacy in 1926; he then transferred to and graduated from Panzer College, which has since merged with Montclair State University in New Jersey.  He later got a master’s from Rutgers University.

1932 Panzer College yearbook

1932 Panzer College yearbook

Saul at Panzer College

Saul at Panzer College





In a comment posted in response to an earlier blog post, Bruce wrote the following about how his parents Saul and Vicky met:

In Manhattan Beach (Brooklyn) there was a beach club, Manhatten Private. It had pools, handball courts, tennis and other sports. My parents were playing handball, my parents were both fine athletes, but not with each other. The ball from my mom’s court was accidently hit toward my dad’s court some distance away. My mom called to my dad saying “ball please”. Dad picked it up and threw it to mom. He then turned to his cousin, with whom he was playing and said “I’m going to marry that girl”. That was about 1940 or 41 I guess. He asked her out several times but she refused. On December 7 1941 my cousin Mel was born. Somehow my father found out and went to the hospital. (Mel was mom’s older brother Al’s first child). Mom asked dad what he was doing there – he said that he thought she might need some help, noting that Pearl Harbor had just been attacked. She apparently knew at that moment that she loved him. The rest is history.”

Vicky Horowitz Brotman

Vicky Horowitz Brotman

Saul and Vicky were married in 1942.

Saul served in the US Army during World War II and won a handball championship while serving in the army. After the war, he became a teacher in New Jersey, where he coached many state championship teams.  After 32 years as a teacher,  he left teaching after being assaulted by the parent of one of his students.  Saul then became the pension director for a union.

Saul in the army

Saul in the army

Saul and Vicky 1940s

Saul and Vicky 1940s

Saul and Vicky had three sons, Bruce, Ronald and Lester.

les bruce ron

Les, Bruce and Ron

Bruce, Ron and Les Brotman

Bruce, Ron and Les Brotman

Saul, Bruce and Vicky at Bruce's bar mtizvah

Saul, Bruce and Vicky at Bruce’s bar mtizvah

Saul remained a great athlete all his life.  In fact, Bruce told me that when Saul was in his seventies, Bruce challenged him to a game of handball, thinking that he could easily beat his father. Instead, Saul soundly defeated his much younger son;  he won four straight games, with Bruce unable to score a single point in any of the four games.

Saul and Bruce

Saul and Bruce

Saul and Vicky

Saul and Vicky

Manny, the youngest of Hyman and Sophie’s sons, was also an excellent athlete like his older brothers.

Manny (far left) at camp in 1925

Manny (far left) at camp in 1925

manny 1926

Manny November 1928

Manny November 1928


Like his brother Saul, he began college at the New Jersey College of Pharmacy, but he transferred to the University of Iowa, from which he graduated.

Manny with his fraternity brothers at U Iowa

Manny with his fraternity brothers at U Iowa

He also graduated from John Marshall Law School (New Jersey), which was later taken over by Seton Hall University. Manny became a member of the New Jersey bar in 1938.

Letter informing Manny that he has passed the New Jersey bar exam

Letter informing Manny that he has passed the New Jersey bar exam

Manny married Freda Feinman on December 22,  1940.

Freda and Manny's wedding invitation 194?

Freda and Manny’s wedding invitation 1940

Manny and Freda 1940s

Manny and Freda 1940s

Manny enlisted in the US Army in 1944 during World War II.

Manny Brotman

Manny Brotman

Manny practiced law for some time, but then joined J.I. Kislak Mortgage Corporation, a subsidiary of J.I. Kislak, Inc.  J.I.Kislak, Inc. was a residential and commercial Realtor, originally based in Hoboken and then in Jersey City, and Kislak Mortgage was primarily a residential mortgage banking company, one of the largest in NJ at the time, based in Newark.  He was president and then chairman of Kislak Mortgage for many years, was president of the Mortgage Bankers Association of NJ, and a long-time board member and two-term Treasurer of the Mortgage Bankers Association of America, where he received the Distinguished Service award. Kislak Realty, a commercial mortgage firm, where he became the president.  He was often quoted as an expert on veteran’s housing and housing in general in various newspaper articles.  Here is one example of an article that ran in several newspapers across the country:  Lebanon_Daily_News_July_10__1971_Lebanon__PA_Manny_Brotman

Manny and Freda had three children: Joel, Denny and Bonnie.  Here are some pictures of Manny and his family:

Manny, Joel and Freda

Manny, Joel and Freda

Denny, Bonnie and Freda

Denny, Bonnie and Freda

The Feinman and Brotman families June 16, 1932

The Feinman and Brotman families June 16, 1937

From left to right: Aron Feinman, Hyman Brotman, Mary Feinman, Sophie Brotman, Manny Brotman, Sam Feinman, Freda Feinman, Saul Brotman (according to the back of this photograph)


I did not know Hyman or Sophie or any of their sons, but I was very fortunate to meet six members of the next generation, my second cousins Bruce, Ron, Les, Joel, Denny, and Bonnie.  They all made the effort to come to New York City, some from as far away as Florida and Ohio.  I really enjoyed meeting and talking to each one of them and getting a chance to meet some of their children, four of whom also showed up during the course of the weekend.

What a wonderful tribute to their grandparents and parents that these cousins and their children cared enough about the extended family, including some second cousins they’d never met,  to make such a united effort to come to New York so that we could all be together.


Saul and Manny's descendants

Six of Hyman and Sophie’s grandchildren and three of their great-grandchildren




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Gifts from Doing Genealogy: My Wonderful Cousins

Ten of Joseph and Bessie's great-grandchildren on the Lower East Side

Ten of Joseph and Bessie’s great-grandchildren on the Lower East Side

Lower East Side tenement

Lower East Side tenement (Photo credit: Salim Virji)

After much planning and anticipation, ten of Joseph and Bessie Brotman’s great-grandchildren, four of their great-great-grandchildren and one great-great-greatgrandchild as well as a number of spouses spent the weekend, talking, eating, laughing and connecting and reconnecting in NYC.  Some of us had known each other all our lives, some had never met at all, and some had not seen each other in many years.  We represented two of Joseph and Bessie’s children, Hyman and Gussie. Although a few people could not make it for various reasons, there were several others who wanted to join us but were unable to do so, including one of Max’s granddaughters and one of hisgreat- granddaughters and one of Abraham’s granddaughters.  We had a wonderful tour of the Tenement Museum and several of us walked along Ridge Street between Rivington and Delancey where our ancestors lived between about 1891 and 1907.

Sign outside Lower East Side Tenement Museum

Sign outside Lower East Side Tenement Museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was everything I had hoped it would be and more so.  We shared stories about our lives and about our grandparents and parents.  We shared photographs.  We got to know and learned about our children and grandchildren.  We came from as far away as Cleveland and Florida and Massachusetts.   Some lived closer by in New Jersey or even in NYC itself.    There were lots of photos taken. Included here are just a representative few to illustrate the excitement and love that was shared.

Saul and Manny's descendants

Saul and Manny’s descendants



photo 4 photo 3

I cannot speak for everyone, but for me it was magical.  A year ago I did not even know I had second cousins.  Through the course of doing family research, I had found all these new wonderful people, people I would have chosen as friends even if they were not my relatives.  We may live far apart, we may have known each other only for a short time, but I know that for me I felt a deep connection.  No, it’s not the same as growing up with a first cousin who shared grandparents and holidays and vacations, but it is nevertheless a real connection.  We all came from the same place, we all are here because Joseph and Bessie decided to leave Galicia and come to America.  We all started somewhere on Ridge Street where our grandparents learned to speak English and the skills that were necessary to rise above the poverty.

Ridge and Broome St

Lower East Side

Lower East Side (Photo credit: InSapphoWeTrust)

I am so grateful for all who were able to make it and all who helped make this dream come true.   I hope that those who were unable to join us will be able to do so another time.  And now I am inspired to starting planning the first Goldschlager-Rosenzweig reunion and then the second Brotman reunion.  These things take time and effort, and I was lucky to have lots of help  with the planning, but I encourage any of my fellow family researchers to reach out and make your family tree more than a two-dimensional document or digital record.  Find a way to meet your cousins and make them a part of your life.


UPDATE: For more photos, click here.

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More Manna from Heaven: Of Bessie, Joseph, Max and the Brotmanville Brotmans

As I wrote yesterday, the notes of the conversation with my Aunt Elaine about the family history are remarkably accurate.  Although much of what was in there I had learned either from my mother or brother or cousins or from my own research, there were a few stories in the notes, a few comments, that revealed something I had not known for sure before.  Keeping in mind the overall accuracy of the information that my aunt gave to Joel, it is very interesting to think about this additional information.

For example, there are some details about Bessie and Joseph that were revealing.  According to the notes, Bessie and Joseph were first cousins.first cousins  Although family lore did say that Joseph and Bessie were cousins, I did not realize that they were first cousins. Since both Joseph and Bessie had the surname Brotman or Brot, it seems that their fathers must have been brothers. What’s odd about this is that it means that Joseph’s father Abraham had a brother who was also apparently named Joseph, if the records are accurate.  It seems unlikely, given Jewish naming patterns, that Abraham would have named his son the same name as his brother, unless the brother had died.  Since Bessie was younger than Joseph (her husband), that is not possible.  The other possibility is that Bessie’s father and Joseph were both named for the same ancestor.  And, of course, the final possibility is that the records that indicated that Bessie’s father’s name was Joseph were incorrect.

Joel’s notes also indicate that after Joseph’s first wife died, leaving him with four children, “they decided” that Bessie should marry Joseph to help with the children.they decided  The notes don’t indicate who made the decision, but it probably was not Bessie. It’s sad to think of my great-grandmother being put in that situation, and it certainly takes the idea of any romance out of the equation.  But Joseph and Bessie went on to have five children of their own, so I’d like to assume that although it may have started as an arranged marriage for the convenience of Joseph, that love grew with time and the shared experiences and children that Joseph and Bessie had.  Call me a romantic.  I know that I am.

After Joseph himself died in 1901, the notes report that Bessie did laundry work to make money to support herself and her children, including Sam, who was just an infant, Frieda, Gussie, Tillie, and Hyman.  Tillie and Hyman were working in sweatshops, so Gussie, my not-yet-seven year old grandmother, stayed home to take care of Frieda and Sam.  Not long after, out of desperation, Bessie married “the shoemaker Moskowitz,” who my aunt reported to be very stingy.  He had five children of his own. moskowitz

I assume that my aunt’s source for these stories was my grandmother, who obviously resented Philip Moskowitz and chose to live with her sister Tillie in Brooklyn instead of staying with her mother and Sam and Frieda when Bessie remarried, so I know I have to consider the source.  My great-grandmother Bessie lived with Philip for many years, more years than she lived with Joseph, and she was buried near him, not Joseph, when she died. Bessie and Philip Moskowitz headstones As with her marriage to Joseph, her relationship with Philip may have started out of need and convenience, but it also must have developed into something more.  Or at least I hope it did.

Bessie Brotman

Bessie Brotman

Of course, it is also possible that the source of this information was Bessie herself.  Bessie did not die until 1934, when my aunt was seventeen years old.  Knowing my aunt’s interest in the family history, I assume that she must have talked to her grandmother Bessie herself as she grew up, so perhaps the stories are not just my grandmother’s version of the facts, but Bessie’s version as well.

One other comment from these notes is a rather sweet one that I hope Max Brotman‘s grandchildren and great-grandchildren will appreciate:

max mason


Obviously, Max, who was probably the most successful businessman of the Brotman children, was also a very generous man.  He provided food to my mother’s family during the Depression.  Here is a great-uncle I’d never even heard of, someone my mother was too young then to remember, who helped out my grandmother and her family in a time of need.  Thank you, Max.

Max Brotman

Max Brotman


The final tidbit from the notes from Joel’s conversation with my aunt is this one:brotmanville


In case you cannot read that, it says, “Brother came to America landed in NJ started a chicken farm. So successful that they named the town after him.”  The quote points back to Joseph.  This is obviously a reference to Brotmanville.  Although it is not entirely accurate—Brotmanville was named for Abraham Brotman, who started a manufacturing business to employ the residents whose farms were failing, not for Abraham’s father Moses, who had the chicken farm—the note nevertheless provides support for the claim that we are in fact related to the Brotmanville Brotmans.  As you may recall, Moses Brotman also had a father named Abraham, as revealed by his headstone and death certificate.Moses Brotman headstone Moses Brotman death certificate_0001_NEW


He was born in 1847 in Galicia, making him a contemporary of Joseph, my great-grandfather.  I cannot rely on these notes alone to assert with any certainty that Moses and Joseph were brothers, but given the overall accuracy of what my aunt told Joel, it is enough evidence for me to start once again to try and find a connection.  If we can find that connection and also learn where Moses Brotman lived in Galicia, it will help to answer a number of lingering questions.

Moses BrotmanHe certainly has the Brotman cheekbones.  Could this be what Joseph looked like also?



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Finding the Ruby Slippers and Getting Back Home to Where It Started: The Brotmans

[for my aunt, Elaine Goldschlager Lehrbaum, 1917-1995]

Elaine 1933

Elaine 1933

Many of you who are more recent followers of the Brotmanblog may wonder why the blog is called the Brotmanblog.  In the past several months I have barely mentioned the name Brotman because I have been focused on searching for my grandfather’s family, the Goldschlagers and Rosenzweigs.  But if you go back to the beginning of the blog, you will see that my original search focused on my grandmother’s family, the Brotmans.  That’s where I started my genealogy adventures.  It made sense.  My grandmother Gussie Brotman Goldschlager, my mother’s mother, was the grandparent I knew best, the only grandparent I knew as an adult.  She was the only grandparent my husband ever met, though she died a year before we were married.  It was only natural that I would start my journey trying to learn as much as I could about her and her siblings and her parents.  Once I had found as much as I could find about the Brotmans, I then moved on to my grandfather’s family.  The next chapter will be my father’s family.  But it all started with the Brotmans.

Why do I bring that up now? Because this weekend I will finally get to meet a number of the Brotman cousins I only learned about through doing this research.  There will be over thirty of us gathering in NYC to meet and eat and to visit the Lower East Side, where our grandparents and great-grandparents (and for some, great-great grandparents or parents) lived in New York.  We will walk to 81/85 Ridge Street where the Brotmans first lived, now a public school, once a tenement building, and then we will tour the Tenement Museum to learn more about what life was like for all of them.

If you have not read any of my posts about the Brotmans, I have provided links here and below to some that will capture the essence of their lives.  Even if you once did read them, you may want to re-read them if you are joining us this weekend and want to remember some of the details and themes I wrote about months ago.  The Brotman story is the classic Jewish American immigration story, a story of poverty and heartbreak as a family moved from Galicia to NYC in the late 1880s to a story of assimilation and success as the future generations built businesses, moved beyond the Lower East Side, became professionals, and moved to the suburbs after World War II.  My Brotman great-grandparents were hard-working realists who did what they needed to do to survive.

Although I was able to piece together a fair amount about their lives through census reports and other documents and through some stories my mother remembered about her grandparents, aunts, uncles and mother, at first there was no one else besides my mother and my brother to whom I could turn for information.  My cousins shared stories about their grandparents, but they also knew little about the early lives of their grandparents and had no one left to ask either.  So mostly I relied on documentation to learn what I could.  I was able to put together a fairly complete history of the Brotman family in America and decided to move on to my grandfather’s family.

Then, like a gift of manna from heaven, about a month ago my cousin Jody sent me some notes that her husband Joel had taken from a conversation he’d had with my Aunt Elaine years ago about her family.  I’ve referred to one part of those notes before—the story of how my grandmother Gussie met my grandfather Isadore on Pacific Street in Brooklyn, where my grandmother was living and where my grandfather’s cousins the Rosenzweigs were living in 1915.  In the next day or two I’d like to share a few more tidbits from Aunt Elaine, via Joel’s notes.

But before I do, I want to point out that these notes are incredibly accurate.  Although the conversation Joel had with my aunt must have taken place in the early 1980s, my aunt’s memory for details was astonishing.  For example, she refers to the fact that Hyman’s son Emanuel worked for Kislack Realty.  I checked with Manny’s children, and they confirmed that in fact  Manny was President of J.I.Kislak Mortgage Corporation in Newark, NJ., which was a subsidiary of J.I.Kislak, Inc., a large residential and commercial Realtor based in Jersey City.kislack realty Also, my aunt knew that David Brotman worked in the coat industry, that Max was in the cigar business, and that Abraham worked for a deli in Coney Island.

All of these are facts that are backed up by my research.Brotman brothers trades

On the Goldschlager side as well, my aunt’s facts are corroborated by the information I found in my research.  David Goldschlager lived in Scranton, PA, for some time and was in the hat business.  Betty married a man in the dry goods business and moved to Arizona. goldschlager siblings I point out how accurate this information is to demonstrate how remarkable my aunt’s memory was and also so that you will trust the other statements she made and their accuracy when I report on those in upcoming posts.

In some ways finding these notes was frustrating.  If I had found them last summer, much of the time I spent trying to figure out who Max was or whether Abraham was related to us or whether there were any other children would have been unnecessary.  My aunt knew it all, and it is in these notes.

But as Glinda the Good Witch tells Dorothy at the end of The Wizard of Oz (the movie) when she reveals to Dorothy that the ruby slippers could take her home and the Scarecrow asks  why Glinda had not told Dorothy that from the beginning:

Glinda : Because she wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.
Tin Man: What have you learned, Dorothy?
Dorothy: Well, I – I think that it – that it wasn’t enough just to want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em. And that it’s that – if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard, because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with. Is that right?
Glinda: That’s all it is!

And then when the Tin Man, Lion and Scarecrow all say that they should have helped Dorothy figure it out, Glinda replies:

She had to find it out for herself.

And so I did as well.  If I had started with Aunt Elaine’s notes, I never would have worked as hard to learn how to research and find these things for myself.  I would never have felt the amazing sense of satisfaction I’ve gotten from putting pieces together and from finding cousins who could help me put those pieces together.

Having my aunt confirm through these notes what I have learned and what I have done is a real gift. She was someone I adored and miss dearly.  It’s like having her here with me again, hearing her say, “You see, Amy Kugel, I always knew you could do anything you wanted.  And I knew some day you would want to know more about your history, your family.”  But, as Glinda told Dorothy, she knew I had to find it out for myself.


Elaine 1926

Elaine 1926

Elaine Gussie Florence 1933

Elaine Gussie Florence 1933

Elaine high school graduation

Elaine high school graduation

Elaine and Phil 1941

Elaine and Phil 1941

Sam with Gussie and Elaine 1945

Sam with Gussie and Elaine 1945

Elaine and Jeff 1949

Elaine and Jeff 1949

Elaine Jeff and Amy 1953

Aunt Elaine with Jeff and me

Phil and Elaine

Phil and Elaine

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Brotman Research: Where I am

Having reached the conclusion last week that I was not going to be able to get any further specific information about where in Galicia my Brotman relatives lived and then realizing that even if Tarnobrzeg was the ancestral home that the records there are very limited and too recent to be of much help, yesterday I went back to look over what I have learned and what is left to be learned about my Brotman relatives.

I have learned an incredible amount.  I know much more about my great-grandparents Joseph and Bessie Brotman and about the life they lived in the Lower East Side.  I have found all five of their children—Hyman, Tillie, Gussie, Frieda and Sam– and know what happened to them: who they married, who their children were, where and when, and in most cases, why they died.  I know what they did for a living and where they lived.  I even have been able to trace what happened to their grandchildren and who they married and the names of their children.  I have seen pictures of almost all these people, except Joseph, Abraham, David, and Frieda.   It’s been an incredible experience, so much more rewarding than I ever expected less than a year ago when I first starting dipping my toe into the waters of genealogy.

I’ve also been able to locate three of Joseph’s four children from his first marriage to a woman likely named Chaye Fortgang.  I have found Abraham, Max and David, but not Sophie.  I have also been able to learn a great deal about their lives, occupations, families, and homes and have located their living descendants.  Although there are a few missing holes in David’s life story and a number of years for which I can find no records, I know that he married a woman named Annie Salpeter and that they did not have children.  I know that he came to America with his older brother Abraham and that he died in 1946 of hypertension.  Only Sophie is missing from the picture, but given that I do not know either what her Yiddish name was in Galicia or her married name in the United States, I am not sure what else I can do to locate her.

There are many unanswered questions, but most of them relate to their life in Galicia—where did they live, what did Joseph do for a living, what happened to his first wife? These questions I cannot answer, and that makes me sad.  Also, when did Joseph arrive in the US?  I cannot find him on a ship manifest, but will keep looking.   I will also try and fill the holes in David’s story and look for Sophie, but overall, I think I have to say that I have reached the end of my search for the Brotman family.[1]

So what does that mean? Obviously, I hope to continue to develop my ties to my new cousins (and my old cousins, of course), and I also hope that they will help to fill out the personal side of the stories of their parents and grandparents.  It will make the family story so much more meaningful and interesting if people contribute stories or profiles or letters or pictures that bring to life their relatives.  I cannot do that on my own.  I didn’t know Abraham, Max, Hyman, or Tillie—but those of you who are their grandchildren certainly did.  I also didn’t know any of Joseph’s grandchildren aside from my mother and her siblings, but my second cousins—their children—must have memories and stories that they want to survive.  Let me know, and I will be happy to interview you or help you write something you’d like to share.

Thank you to all the Brotman cousins who helped me get this far—for answering my emails and my questions, for sending me pictures and telling me stories, for providing me with names and contact information, for sharing whatever you were comfortable sharing.  It’s been an amazing experience to share with you all, my Brotman family.

The rest of my personal journey to find my family will continue with the Goldschlager and Rosenzweig lines and eventually my paternal lines: the Cohens, Schoenthals, Seligmans, Katzensteins, Nusbaums, and so on!

[1] There remains, of course, a possibility of a tie to the Brotmanville Brotmans, but my research has hit a brick wall there as well.  Without being able to trace back to Joseph’s parents and grandparents and Moses Brotman’s parents and grandparents, I will never know whether Joseph and Moses were siblings, cousins, or not related at all.  Brotman is and was a much more common name than I had anticipated, and we could be related distantly to all of them or none of them.  Without better European records, there is just no way of knowing.

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Another new relative: Gustave Rosenzweig

As I wrote yesterday, I was excited in reading the case file of Jankel Srulovici to see that the principal witness who came forward to vouch for him at the hearing to determine his admission into the US was a brother-in-law named Gustave Rosenzweig.  Gustave is the fourth child of my great-grandparents David Rosenzweig and Esther Gelberman whom I have been able to locate.   He was my great-grandmother Ghitla’s older brother and also Tillie and Zusi’s brother.  I had already noted his name on Bertha Strolowitz’s marriage certificate in 1915, but now I have some verification that he was in fact a member of the same family.  Not simply because he testified for Jankel and helped post the bond for his admission, but because he described Jankel and Tillie in his testimony as his brother-in-law and sister.

I have now done research to learn more about this man, my great-great uncle, who had $6000 in assets in 1908 and a painting supply business in Brooklyn and who had already impressed me with his character for helping out his family.  From various records, I have learned that Gustave was born in Romania in September, 1861.  He married his first wife, Gussie, in 1882, according to the 1900 census.

Gustave Rosenzweig and family 1900 census

Gustave Rosenzweig and family 1900 census

It is not at all clear exactly when Gustave and Gussie arrived in NYC, and I have not yet found a ship manifest for either of them.  On his naturalization papers in January of 1892, Gustave wrote that he had arrived on April 12, 1887.

naturalization petition gustave rosenzweig

naturalization petition gustave rosenzweig

Some of the census reports indicate that Gussie and Gustave emigrated in 1881, others say 1888. According to the 1900 census, their first child Lilly was born in Romania in 1884, and if Lilly was born in Romania, the later date seems to be more accurate.  On the other hand, the 1905 and 1910 census reports say that Lilly was born in the United States, and, according to the 1905 census, that Gussie and Gustave had been in the US for 22 years, i.e., since 1883.  At any rate, Gustave and Gussie were certainly in the United States by 1888, and thus he was the earliest of the Rosenzweig children to come to America, at least a few years before Zusi, 13 years before his nephew Isidor Strolowitz, 15 years before my grandfather Isadore Goldschlager, and almost 20 years before Tillie, over 20 years before Ghitla.

Gustave Rosenzweig family on the 1905 NYS census

Gustave Rosenzweig family on the 1905 NYS census

The earliest record I have of Gustave in NYC is an 1892 New York City directory listing him as a painter, living on Eldridge Street in the Lower East Side.  His naturalization papers also indicated that he was a painter, as was Jankel Srulovici and his two sons Isidor and David.  It makes me wonder whether Jankel and Gustave had been in business together as painters back in Iasi.  Jankel would have been about ten years older, so perhaps he trained Gustave and brought him into his business.  Gustave might have felt some sense of gratitude to him as well as brotherly love for his sister Tillie, motivating him even more so to help bring Jankel into the country.

1894 NYC directory

1894 NYC directory

Gussie and Gustave moved several times after 1892—uptown on East 74th Street in 1894, downtown to E. 6th Street in 1900, and to Brooklyn by 1905, where they first lived in Fulton Street and then on Franklin Avenue, where they were living in 1908 at the time of Jankel’s hearing.  Throughout this period of time, Gustav was a painter, eventually owning his own paint supply business, and he and Gussie were having many children: after Lilly came Sarah (1888), Abraham (1890), Rebecca (1894), Jacob (1895), Harry (1897), Joseph (1898), Lizzie (1900) and Rachel (1903).  Apparently there were five others who died, as the 1900 census reports that Gussie had had thirteen children, eight of whom were then living.

It’s mind-boggling on many levels.  First, how did the support and feed all those children and where did they fit them?  And secondly, how did they endure the deaths of five children?  I’ve seen this many times.  In fact, on the 1900 census for Bessie Brotman, my great-grandmother, it reports that she had had nine children, only four of whom where then living.  I cannot imagine how these mothers coped with losing these babies.  Did it make them less able to bond with each newborn, fearing they would not survive, or did it make them cherish each new child even more, knowing how fragile life was and how difficult it was for a child to survive?

In addition, it appears that one of the children who survived infancy, Harry, died as a teenager in 1913.  Perhaps all this did take its toll on the family.  By 1915 it appears that Gustave and Gussie had separated or divorced. Gussie is living alone with the children in 1915; I cannot find Gustav at all on the 1915 census. The census reports for 1920 also had me somewhat confused.  I found Gustave on two reports, one in Brooklyn on Bergen Street, living with the four youngest children, and another in Manhattan on East 110th Street, living as a boarder with another family.  In the Brooklyn census report, Gustave is listed as having no profession; on the Manhattan one it says he was a painter.  And I could not find Gussie anywhere, though the Brooklyn census said that Gustave was divorced.  What I finally concluded was that the Gustave in Brooklyn was really Gussie, despite the fact that it said Gustave and listed him as male.  My guess is that, as was often the case, the census taker was given or heard confusing information and misinterpreted it.   It makes more sense, given the times, that the children would be with their mother and that a woman would not be employed outside the home.  The Manhattan Gustave, the painter, is obviously the actual Gustave Rosenzweig.

Rosenzweigs in Brooklyn 1920

Rosenzweigs in Brooklyn 1920

Gustave Rosenzweig in Manhattan 1920

Gustave Rosenzweig in Manhattan 1920

By 1925 Gustave was remarried to a woman named Selma Nadler.  I was able to find a family tree containing Gustave and Selma which included this photograph, apparently of Selma and Gustave.  Selma had also been previously married and had ten children of her own.

Gustave and Selma Rosenzweig

Gustave and Selma Rosenzweig

Between them, Selma and Gustave had nineteen living children in 1925.  Imagine what that family reunion would look like.  The last record I have for Gustave is the 1930 census.  I have not found him yet on the 1940 census.  I have found two death records for men named Gustave Rosenzweig, one in 1942, the other in 1944.  I have ordered them both to determine whether either one is our Gustave.

Meanwhile, Gussie continued to live with one or more of her children in 1925, 1930 and 1940.  I do not yet have a death record for her either.  I have been able to trace the nine children with varying degrees of success.  Lilly appears to have had a child out of wedlock in 1902 named William who was living with Gustave and Gussie for some time in 1905, but who was placed in an orphanage (father listed as Frank with no surname and deceased) for a short time in 1906. William Rosenzweig at Hebrew Orphanage Then Lilly reappears on the 1910 census living with her parents and without William.  I’ve not yet learned what happened to either Lilly or William.

Similarly, the other four daughters Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Lizzie, all became untraceable after they left home since I have no idea what their married names were.  As for the sons, Abraham married and had two daughters, who for similar reasons I cannot find after 1940.  Jacob/Jack also had two daughters, and Joseph I’ve not yet found past 1920.   So at the moment I have not located any current descendants, but I will continue to look to see if I can somehow find out the married names of some of Gustave’s granddaughters.  The NYC marriage index only contains records up to 1937, and these grandchildren would not yet have been married by then; thus, I have no readily available public source to find their married names.  It may take a trip to NYC to see if those records are available in person.  Or perhaps I can find a wedding announcement.

UPDATE: Much of the information in the preceding paragraph has been updated here, here, here, here, here, here, and other posts on the blog on Joseph, Jack, Rebecca and Sarah.

So that is the story of Gustave Rosenzweig as I know it to date: a Romanian born painter who married twice, had nine children, real estate and a painting business, and who came to the rescue of his sister and her family.  It would be wonderful to know what happened once they all settled in America.  Gustave obviously stayed in touch with Tillie and her children, as he was present at Bertha’s wedding.  Did he help out Zusi, his little sister, when her husband died? I had hoped to find her living with him on one of those census reports, but did not.  Did he help out my grandfather when he arrived as a 16 year old boy in NYC in 1904? Did he help out my great-grandmother when she arrived in 1910, a widow without any means of support aside from her children? I certainly wish there was some way of knowing the answers to these questions.  From his conduct at the hearing for Jankel in 1908, I’d like to think that Gustave was there for them all, but we will never know.

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