Alfred Goldsmith: Star-Crossed Lover?

Before my break, I wrote about the six children that my three-times great-uncle Abraham Goldsmith had with his first wife, Cecelia Adler, before she died from a stroke at age 35 in 1874: Milton, Hilda, Edwin, Rose, Emily, and Estelle. Two years after Cecelia’s death, Abraham married Frances Spanier, with whom he had another four children: Alfred (1877), Bertha (1878), Alice (1880), and Louis (1882). The age span from Abraham’s oldest child Milton, born in 1861, to his youngest child Louis was 21 years. The next set of posts will focus on the four children of Abraham and Frances. This first post tells the sad story of Alfred’s first marriage.

Abraham and Frances’ first child, Alfred Francis Goldsmith, was born on August 11, 1877, in Philadelphia.1 According to his obituary, he attended the University of Pennsylvania.2 In 1900, he was living with his parents in Philadelphia and working as a salesman.3

Five years later he married Beatrice R. Miller, who was also a Philadelphia native, born there to William Miller and Fannie Stein on March 29, 1882. Her parents were born in Pennsylvania, and her father was in the clothing business. 4 Alfred and Beatrice obtained their marriage license in Delaware on September 16, 1905, and Alfred’s occupation on the marriage register was listed as “wholesale.”5 Delaware, Marriage Records, 1806-1933


I then had trouble locating Alfred and Beatrice together on any subsequent record. I found an Alfred F. Goldsmith listed in the 1906 Camden, New Jersey, directory, but no occupation was given. Then in 1908, Alfred F. Goldsmith is listed in the Philadelphia directory, residing at 1437 Edgewood; again, no occupation was given. In 1911 there is an Alfred F. Goldsmith listed as a jeweler, living at 1521 N. 28th Street in Philadelphia. Despite having these two Philadelphia addresses, I could not find Alfred on the 1910 census. The first address was not on the census records at all, and the second did not have anyone named Goldsmith listed at that address. Alfred was not listed in the Philadelphia or Camden directories for 1907, 1909, or 1910.6

I was more than a bit perplexed, so I turned to to search for more information about Alfred and Beatrice, and what I found was a story of star-crossed lovers—or so it would appear.  Judge for yourself:

Wilmington, Delaware Evening Journal, November 22, 1905 p. 1


Love’s Sweet Dream Ended

Young Philadelphia Couple Married Here Recently

Now Wife Wants Divorce

Was A Romantic Elopement


Divorce is the sequel of the romantic elopement of Miss Beatrice R. Miller and Alfred F. Goldsmith of Philadelphia, to this city about nine weeks ago, when they were quietly wedded by the Rev. W.N. Sherwood at the residence of the Rev. G.L. Wolfe. After the couple were married they made the officiating minister promise them he would not divulge their marriage, and he refused at the time to talk about the elopement.

Coerced Into Marriage

In her petition for a divorce Mrs. Goldsmith alleges that she was coerced and intimidated into marrying her husband. She is 23 years of age and a daughter of William Miller, one of the lessees of the Girard Avenue and Forepaugh Theatres, and resides with her parents at No. 1712 North Eighteenth street, in Philadelphia.

Goldsmith is a tobacco and cigar dealer and resides at No. 3326 North Fifteenth street. He denies his wife’s allegations and contends that parental influence is keeping her from him. The full nature of her charges have not been disclosed.

The young couple’s elopement to Wilmington followed an alleged secret engagement of three years, during which time Goldsmith was not allowed to call at the Miller home. They corresponded regularly, however, and frequently met at the homes of mutual friends. In the meantime Miss Miller became engaged to another suitor, a friend of her father, but meeting Goldsmith at a friend’s house on September 16, they came to this city that afternoon, and were married by the Rev. Sherwood. They returned to Philadelphia immediately after the ceremony had been performed, and then went to Haddonfield, N.J., where they remained until the following Tuesday. They then went to the Miller home, but Goldsmith said he was ordered out by Mr. Miller, although the bride was permitted to remain. He has since had a short interview with his bride, but she would not leave her home and accompany him.

What do you think? Was Beatrice coerced into marrying Alfred, or were her parents just opposed to the marriage and determined to end it?

Here’s my read of the situation, taking into consideration that I am a romantic and also that Alfred was my cousin, so I might be somewhat biased. I think Beatrice was intimidated by her parents into ending the marriage. After all, she was not a child; she was 23, not a particularly young age for women to marry at that time. They had been engaged for three years before the elopement. Obviously Alfred waited patiently and was not rushing her into marriage. And she continued to see him even after her parents had prohibited him from coming to their house. On September 16, she crossed a state line with him to get secretly married. There does not appear to be any claim that he forcibly took her to Wilmington, Delaware. After all, she agreed to meet him at a friend’s house, presumably for that purpose.

Of course, I don’t have all the facts, but that is my take on this story. And I can’t help but wonder why Beatrice’s parents were so vehemently opposed to her relationship with Alfred. This was not a case of an interfaith marriage; the Millers were Jewish as were the Goldsmiths. Alfred certainly came from a well-established family; his father had been a successful business owner in Philadelphia. So what was the problem? Did Beatrice’s family not approve of his livelihood?

I wondered whether the Millers were just overprotective and did not want their daughter leaving home at age 23. But their second daughter, Fay, was a year younger than Beatrice and married when she was 23 in 1906.7 Somehow that marriage survived—although I did notice that Fay and her husband moved to New York not too long after getting married.

I am also amazed that a personal story like this made the front page of the Wilmington newspaper in 1905. We complain today about our lack of privacy, but at least we can control some of what appears about us on social media. What was newsworthy about this sad story of a broken marriage? Sure, it’s a juicy story for selling newspapers, but these were private citizens, not celebrities or public figures.

What is even more peculiar about this story is that Beatrice and Alfred were not in fact divorced for another eight years. In June 1913, the Philadelphia newspapers ran this legal notice over the course of several weeks:

The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 6, 1913, p. 13.


And then finally on December 16, 1913, their divorce was finalized.8 What was going on in those eight years? Had Beatrice ultimately defied her parents and stayed with Alfred? Or had her parents eventually relented and allowed her to reunite with her husband? Or had there just been a very long separation?

I can’t find either Alfred or Beatrice on the 1910 census or in any directories between 1905 and 1913 aside from those mentioned above (where Alfred is not listed with Beatrice, though that itself is not necessarily an indication that she was not living with him). They are not listed living with their parents or siblings either. They do not appear in any other newspaper articles that I can find. Had they run off and changed their names? Had they left the country? I don’t know, and I don’t know where else to look for clues. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Beatrice did eventually remarry, though not for quite a long time. I could not find her on the 1920 census, but in 1922 she was listed as Beatrice Miller in the Ocean City, New Jersey directory.9 By April 23, 1923, she was married to Harry F. Stanton, according to this ship manifest:

Beatrice Miller Stanton ship manifest

Ship manifest for Beatrice and Harry Stanton, lines 23 and 24, Year: 1923; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 3276; Line: 1; Page Number: 29 Source Information New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

Harry had also been listed in the 1922 Ocean City, New Jersey directory.10 In 1910, he’d been living in Ocean City, working in the real estate business,11 and I located numerous real estate advertisements under Harry F. Stanton’s name in the Philadelphia newspapers. Harry was fourteen years older than Beatrice and had been married before; he does not appear to have been Jewish.  I wonder if Beatrice’s family was happier with this match. If Beatrice married Harry in about 1922-1923, she was about 40 and he was about 54 at the time. They remained married until Harry’s death in 1945.12

And what happened to Alfred after the divorce from Beatrice in 1913? His story will continue in my next post.




  1.  Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 10 March 2018), Alfred Goldsmith, 11 Aug 1877; citing bk 1877 p 157, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 1,289,318. 
  2. “A.F. Goldsmith, 66, Book Dealer, Dies,” The New York Times, July 30, 1947, p. 17. 
  3. Goldsmith family, 1940 US Census, Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 12, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Enumeration District: 0208. 1900 United States Federal Census. 
  4. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. SSN 198367783. 
  5. Delaware, Marriage Records, 1806-1933; Collection and Roll: Register of Marriages – 3. 
  6. Philadelphia City Directories, 1907-1911; Camden City Directory, 1906; U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. 
  7. Marriage of Fay Miller and Irving Wolf, 1906, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951; Marriage License Number: 205685. 
  8. Philadelphia Inquirer, December 16, 1913, p. 11. 
  9. Ocean City, New Jersey City Directory, 1922, U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. 
  10. Ocean City, New Jersey City Directory, 1922, U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. 
  11. Harry Stanton, 1910 US Census, Census Place: Ocean City Ward 2, Cape May, New Jersey; Roll: T624_870; Page: 17A; Enumeration District: 0093; FHL microfilm: 1374883. 1910 United States Federal Census 
  12. Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 054601-057000. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966. Certificate Number: 56258. 

A Legitimate Part of the Family


In my last post about the Schoenthals, I mentioned that Hannah Schoenthal, my great-grandfather Isidore’s oldest sibling, had had a child out of wedlock in 1865, a daughter she named Sara (later spelled Sarah).

Sara Schoenthal birth record HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 772, S. 12

Sara Schoenthal birth record
HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 772, S. 12

I wondered how such a child would be treated under Jewish law and by society at that time.  According to Jewish law, a child born to an unmarried couple is not treated any differently for religious or marital purposes than one born to a married couple, unless  the mother was married to someone else or there was an incestuous relationship between the parents.   Even if the father was not Jewish, the child would still be considered a legitimate member of the Jewish community.  Although some sources indicated that there was disapproval by the Jewish community of unwed mothers, other sources said that there was no stigma attached to a child born to a single woman.  Sarah’s story indicates that she was fully accepted as part of her mother’s extended family and that there was no stigma.

In 1874, nine years after Sarah was born,  her mother Hannah married a man named Solomon Stern with whom she had three children, Jennie, Edith, and Louis, all born between 1875 and 1879.

Marriage record for Hannah Schoenthal and Solomon Stern HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 839, S. 22

Marriage record for Hannah Schoenthal and Solomon Stern
HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 839, S. 22

Solomon died in February, 1888, and Hannah emigrated from Germany that year, settling in Pittsburgh where several other Schoenthal relatives were living.  Although I could not find with any certainty a ship manifest for Hannah, at the time of the 1900 census she was living with two of her children, Edith and Louis, in Pittsburgh.  Also living with them was Hannah’s 44 year old stepson, Morris Stern. All four said they had arrived in 1888.

Hannah Stern and children 1900 US census Year: 1900; Census Place: Allegheny Ward 6, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1356; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 0058; FHL microfilm: 1241356

Hannah Stern and children 1900 US census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Allegheny Ward 6, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1356; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 0058; FHL microfilm: 1241356

As for Jennie, I did find a possible ship manifest dated December 10, 1888, for a sixteen year old named Jenny Stern from Germany; the index on Ancestry said her destination was Pittsburgh, but to be honest, I think that the manifest says that she was destined for New York.  Hannah’s daughter would have been only thirteen, not sixteen like the Jenny Stern on the manifest.  So I am not convinced this was my Jennie Stern. See the last entry below and the column on the far right indicating the destination.

Ship manifest for the Italy with Jenny Stern Year: 1888; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 528; Line: 1; List Number: 1643

Ship manifest for the Italy with Jenny Stern
Year: 1888; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 528; Line: 1; List Number: 1643

Thus, when I didn’t see Jennie on the 1900 census with Hannah, Edith, and Louis, I wasn’t sure that she had immigrated with her family, but then I found Jennie’s death certificate: Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90

This was obviously the right Jennie, given her parents’ names, and now I knew that her husband’s name had been Max Arnold and that she also had been living in Pittsburgh.  I then found Jennie and Max and their family on the 1900 census:

Jennie and Max Arnold 1900 census Year: 1900; Census Place: Allegheny Ward 2, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1354; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 0009; FHL microfilm: 1241354

Jennie and Max Arnold 1900 census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Allegheny Ward 2, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1354; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 0009; FHL microfilm: 1241354

But what about Hannah’s first child, Sarah? Had she left her illegitimate daughter behind? Had she put her up for adoption after she was born? Or had Sarah died? I had no idea, and I could not find Sarah in any records.

Until I saw that social announcement in the paper about Henry Floersheim’s party for the Schoenthal and Katzenstein families:

The Daily Republican (Monongahela, Pennsylvania) 11 Aug 1887, Thu • Page 4

The Daily Republican
(Monongahela, Pennsylvania)
11 Aug 1887, Thu • Page 4

Who was Sarah Stern, and what was she doing at this party? The dim lightbulb in my head slowly lit up:  Sarah Stern had to be Hannah’s first child, the one she had before marrying Solomon Stern, who must have given her his name when he married Hannah.

But was I right?

The document that helped to answer that question was, surprisingly enough, an entry in the California Death index on for a Sarah Oestreicher, who died on February 5, 1940, in Los Angeles.  How did I know that this was Hannah’s Schoenthal’s daughter Sarah?  Because the index said her father’s surname was Stern, her mother’s Schoenthal, and that she had been born January 8, 1867, in a foreign country.  Although the birth record I had for Hannah’s daughter Sara recorded her birth date as January 8, 1865, the other facts certainly made it clear to me that Sarah Oestreicher was in fact the daughter of Hannah Schoenthal and that she had just made herself two years younger than she actually was.

Now that I had Sarah’s married name, it was not hard to find other records for her.  I found a Sarah Oestreicher living in Pittsburgh on the 1900 census with her husband Gustav Oestreicher and their three children, Sidney (9), Francis (6), and Helen (4).   Sarah reported her birthdate as January 1865, her birthplace as Germany, and her arrival date as 1884.

Oestreicher family 1900 census Year: 1900; Census Place: Pittsburgh Ward 21, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1362; Page: 10A; Enumeration District: 0254; FHL microfilm: 1241362

Oestreicher family 1900 census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Pittsburgh Ward 21, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1362; Page: 10A; Enumeration District: 0254; FHL microfilm: 1241362

The 1910 and 1930 census reports also gave an 1884 arrival date for Sarah.  (The 1920 census said she arrived in 1895, but that is obviously not correct, especially since it says she was naturalized in 1894.)  Thus, Sarah had arrived before her stepfather Solomon Stern had died and before her mother Hannah and her half-siblings immigrated in 1888.  It thus makes sense that she, a young woman living without her immediate family, would have been invited along with her two uncles, Henry and Isidore Schoenthal, to the party given by Henry Floersheim in 1887.  Perhaps she was even living with her uncle Henry at that time in Washington, Pennsylvania, or maybe she was living in Pittsburgh with another relative.

According to the 1900 census record, she and Gustav had been married for ten years, meaning they had married in 1890 or 1889.  According to his passport application filed in 1911, Gustav was born in Austria on September 17, 1867, and had arrived in the United States in September, 1884.  He had lived in New York and Cincinnati before settling in Pittsburgh.  In 1900, he was working as an artist, doing painting and photography, according to the census record for that year.

Gustav Oestreicher passport application National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 - March 31, 1925; Roll #: 141; Volume #: Roll 0141 - Certificates: 55972-56871, 23 Jun 1911-05 Jul 1911

Gustav Oestreicher passport application
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 – March 31, 1925; Roll #: 141; Volume #: Roll 0141 – Certificates: 55972-56871, 23 Jun 1911-05 Jul 1911

Sarah and Gustav appear to have been connected to the Pittsburgh Jewish community.  In 1907, both Sidney and Helen participated in the Purim festivities held by the sisterhood of the Rodeph Shalom synagogue.

Purim part 1

Pittsburgh Daily Post (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) 24 Feb 1907, Sun • Page 7

Pittsburgh Daily Post
(Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
24 Feb 1907, Sun • Page 7

In 1910 Sarah and Gustav and their three children were still living in Pittsburgh, where Gustav was now working as a merchant, apparently having abandoned artistic pursuits. Their two sons, Sidney and Francis, now 18 and 16, respectively, were working as clerks, perhaps in their father’s store.

The oldest Oestreicher child, Sidney, married Esther Siff in 1915. Esther was the daughter of Isaac and Rosa Siff, who were immigrants either from Germany and Austria or from Russia, depending on the census record. Isaac had been a coppersmith, but was working as a traveling salesman in 1920.  Esther was born and raised in Chicago. When Sidney registered for the draft in 1918, they were living in Chicago, and he was working as a traveling salesman for a New York based company.

Sidney Oestreicher WW I draft registration Registration State: Illinois; Registration County: Cook; Roll: 1439758; Draft Board: 13

Sidney Oestreicher WW I draft registration
Registration State: Illinois; Registration County: Cook; Roll: 1439758; Draft Board: 13

Perhaps Sidney had met Esther’s father during their traveling as salesmen?  In 1920 Sidney and Esther were living in Chicago where Sidney was still working as a traveling salesman, selling women’s undergarments.  They had two children by then, Gerald (1916) and Florence Betty (1919).

In 1920, Sarah and Gustav were still living in Pittsburgh with their other two children, Francis and Helen, and Gustav was still a retail merchant. Francis was now a salesman; he had served in the US Army during World War I and had participated in the Meuse Argonne offensive in that war, fighting against the country where his mother had been born.  As described here, it was the major offensive of US troops during World War I:

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was the greatest American battle of the First World War. In six weeks the AEF lost 26,277 killed and 95,786 wounded. It was a very complex operation involving a majority of the AEF ground forces fighting through rough, hilly terrain the German Army had spent four years fortifying. Its objective was the capture of the railroad hub at Sedan which would break the rail net supporting the German Army in France and Flanders and force the enemy’s withdrawal from the occupied territories.

English: Ruined church at Montfaucon-d'Argonne...

English: Ruined church at Montfaucon-d’Argonne just behind the American Monument. The blocky structure on the left is a German WWI observation post. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s hard to know what impact this had on Francis, though it’s hard to believe it did not have some major effect on him.

On March 3, 1920, Helen Oestreicher married Robert Steel Kann, the son of Myer Kann and Bertha Friendlander of Pittsburgh.  Myer was a Pittsburgh native, the son of a German immigrant father and a Pennsylvania born mother; he had been a steel manufacturer (hence, his son’s middle name) and had died from gall bladder cancer just three months before the wedding.  Robert was also working in the steel industry in 1920.  Tragically, Robert’s life was cut short less than two years after he married Helen.  He died from acute lobar pneumonia when he just 26 years old.

Robert Steel Kann death certificate Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90

Robert Steel Kann death certificate Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90

Helen remarried sometime between 1925 and 1929.  Her second husband was named Aaron Mitchel Siegel. He was born in Barre, Vermont, in 1895, the son of Russian (or Polish, depending on the census) immigrants, Harry and Gertrude Siegel.  Harry was a clothing dealer in Vermont in 1900, and the family was still living there in 1910.  Sometime thereafter, the family to Brooklyn, where Aaron was living when he registered for the draft for World War I.  In 1920 Aaron was selling cotton goods and living with his parents, as he was in 1925 as well.  But sometime after that he must have met and married Helen Oestreicher Kann because their daughter Betty was born in about 1929 in New York.  I wish I knew the story of how Helen, a young widow from Pittsburgh, met Aaron, a Vermont-born young man living in Brooklyn.

By 1930 Gustav Oestreicher had retired, and he and Sarah had moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey.  Their son Sidney and his family had returned to Pittsburgh by 1930, for Sidney to take over the store once operated by his father.  Sidney and Esther’s two children, Gerald and Florence Betty (known as Betty) would both graduate from high school in Pittsburgh during the 1930s.  In 1931, Sidney and Esther had another child, Elaine.

The 1930s and the Great Depression were not kind to the Oestreicher’s longstanding Pittsburgh retail store.  In the spring of 1933, Sidney Oestreicher filed for bankruptcy on behalf of himself, his brother, and their store, The People’s Store.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 28, 1933 p. 18

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
March 28, 1933 p. 18

During the 1930s, most of the family relocated to Los Angeles.  Gustav and Sarah were living there by 1935, according to the 1940 census.   Helen and Aaron Siegel also relocated there by 1935, and Aaron was working as salesman for a textile company. Francis Oestreicher also moved to LA by 1942, according to his draft registration for World War II.  It appears that Francis was not married, as he listed his sister Helen as his contact person and also indicated that he was living with Helen at that time.

World War II Draft Cards (4th Registration) for the State of California; State Headquarters: California; Microfilm Roll: 603155

World War II Draft Cards (4th Registration) for the State of California; State Headquarters: California; Microfilm Roll: 603155

By this time Francis had changed his surname from Oestreicher to Striker; I am not sure whether that was a change done to make it easier to say and spell or to avoid sounding German or Austrian during World War II or to make it seem less Jewish, but it was a change made by his brother Sidney as well.

In  1940, Sidney was still using Oestreicher, and he and his family were still living in Pittsburgh; Sidney was selling ladies’ lingerie.  But by 1942, Sidney’s draft registration showed some recent changes.  Oestreicher was crossed out and replaced with Striker, the same name being used by his brother Francis.  And the Pittsburgh address was crossed out and replaced with an address in the Bronx, though his mailing address and the address for his wife Esther remained the address in Pittsburgh.  Perhaps Sidney was working out of New York when he registered for the draft.

The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; World War II draft cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Pennsylvania; State Headquarters: Pennsylvania; Microfilm Series: M1951; Microfilm Roll: 308

The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; World War II draft cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Pennsylvania; State Headquarters: Pennsylvania; Microfilm Series: M1951; Microfilm Roll: 308

Sarah Stern Ostreicher died on February 5, 1940.  She was seventy-five years old.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 7, 1940 p. 24

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 7, 1940 p. 24

Her husband Gustav died ten years later on December 22, 1950.  He was 83.  They are both buried in Los Angeles at Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

All three of their children lived very long lives.  Sidney died in 1985; he was 94.  Francis died at 97 in 1990.  Their sister Helen died in 1989; she was 94.  As far as I can tell, Sarah and Gustav’s three granddaughters are all still living, and their grandson Gerald lived to 97.  Those are some fairly amazing genes for longevity.

Sarah may have started life off with the potential disadvantage of being born out of wedlock, but it certainly appears that her mother, siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents fully embraced her as did her stepfather Solomon Stern, whose name she took.  She traveled alone to the US as young woman, settled in Pittsburgh near her extended family, and married a fellow immigrant with whom she raised three children, each of whom lived over 90 years.  She appears to have had a good life surrounded by lots of loving family.

Sarah and Gustav lived many years in Pittsburgh, where Sarah’s mother Hannah and many of her other family members were living, but she and Gustav ended their lives together in Los Angeles.   There is almost something Hollywood-like about their story, so Los Angeles seems quite an appropriate final destination for my cousin Sarah and her husband Gustav.

English: The Hollywood Sign, shot from an airc...

English: The Hollywood Sign, shot from an aircraft at about 1,500′ MSL. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Elizabeth Cohen 1859-1923: Twists and Turns in Life and in Genealogy

In my post about Hannah Cohen, I wrote about how difficult it can be to research a woman’s life once her name was changed at marriage.  Some women, like some of the Rosenzweig women, I have not yet found at all.  Sometimes, as when marriage records are searchable by a bride’s name, it is relatively easy.  And sometimes it just takes a little luck and some good hunches to find her married name. In the case of Elizabeth Cohen, the ninth child and youngest daughter of my great-great-grandparents, it took both some good hunches and a lot of luck.  It also involved some misdirection and some confusion.

Elizabeth was born on December 25, 1859, in Philadelphia.  When I did a search for records for her on, she appeared with her parents on the census reports of 1860, 1870, and 1880. But then I could not find anything for an Elizabeth Cohen after those reports until I happened upon her death certificate.  It’s odd to find the death certificate first, to see how a life ended before knowing the earlier years, but her death certificate appeared because it had her father’s name on it. had the certificate listed under both her birth name (Elizabeth Cohen) and her married name, “Shirzer.”   At least, that’s how it was spelled on the ancestry index. I was certain that this was the right person based on her father’s name, his birthplace, her birthplace, and her age.  I also thus knew that she had been related, perhaps married, to someone named Bernard Shirzer, the informant on the certificate.

Elizabeth Cohen death certificate 1923

Elizabeth Cohen death certificate 1923


I then started searching for her as Elizabeth Shirzer and also searching for Bernard Shirzer.  I found nothing under either name, but wild card searches led me to the 1900 census where they were indexed as Sluizer and the 1920 where they were indexed as Shezer.  I stared and studied the handwriting on the death certificate and these two census reports, but still wasn’t sure which, if any, of these were their actual names.  I was able, however, to learn the names of their children.  In 1900 they were living with three children: Florence (15), Herbert (10), and Mervyn (3).  In 1920 Bernard and Elizabeth were empty nesters, living alone.  I could not and still have not find them in 1910.

Elizabeth and Bernard Sluizer 1900 census

Elizabeth and Bernard Sluizer 1900 census

Elizabeth and Bernard Sluizer 1920 census

Elizabeth and Bernard Sluizer 1920 census

From the ages of the children, I assumed that Bernard and Elizabeth had to have married sometime before 1885.  I could not locate a marriage record in the online index, but since the index available online starts in 1885, that did not trouble me.

I decided to search for the two sons to see if I could find something that would confirm which name was the actual name, and since Mervyn seemed relatively unusual, I focused on him, and using again various wildcard searching techniques, found several records, including his draft registration forWorld War II with the name spelled Sluizer that also included his father’s name, Bernard Sluizer.  The birth year and place and the first name and Bernard’s name were sufficient clues to confirm that the name was Sluizer.

Mervyn Sluizer World War II draft registration

Mervyn Sluizer World War II draft registration

I then went back to look for Bernard Sluizer to be sure this was the right one and found some early records for him that also seemed to corroborate that this was the correct name and thus Elizabeth Cohen’s married name.  But then I found a record on the marriage index showing that Bernard Sluizer had married Elizabeth Heyman in 1892.  It seemed so unlikely that there were two Bernard Sluizers married to Elizabeths that I was truly confused.  Could the name on the marriage index be wrong?  Of course, it could.  But how could the date also be wrong? Bernard had to have married Elizabeth before 1885 if Florence was born in 1885.

The other problem was that I could not find any record for either Florence Sluizer or Herbert Sluizer after 1900.  Not being able to find Florence was not troubling; I assumed she married and had changed her name.  But where was Herbert? I couldn’t find one trace—not a draft record, not a marriage record, not a death record.  Nothing. I was mystified.

I figured it was worth a search on for newspaper articles that might reveal more about the Sluizers.  And that’s where luck helped me out.  Searching for Bernard Sluizer, I found an article about a charity raising money for the Doylestown Farm School, and listed among the donations was a reference to a donation by Bernard Sluizer in memory of his son, Herbert Heyman. (“$50,000 Donated to Aid Progress of Farm School Donations for Doylestown Institution One Feature of Anniversary,” Monday, June 10, 1907, Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA) Volume: 156 , Issue: 161, Page: 4, 1 )  Herbert Heyman? How could he have a son with a different surname?  Sons don’t change their names.

When I searched for Herbert Heyman, knowing he had died before June 10, 1907 , the date of the newspaper article, I found his death certificate, which identified his mother as Elizabeth Cohen, but his father as Benjamin Heyman.  Who was he??

Herbert Heyman death certificate

Herbert Heyman death certificate

My search then for Benjamin Heyman uncovered a death certificate for someone of that name who had died of uremia on July 23, 1890, at age 30.

Benjamin Heyman death certificate

Benjamin Heyman death certificate

This must have been Elizabeth Cohen’s first husband.  It explained both of the confusing records.  Bernard Sluizer had married Elizabeth Heyman; that was her married name when she married him, but she was born Elizabeth Cohen.  And Bernard Sluizer had been in many ways, even if not legally, the father of Herbert Heyman because he had married Elizabeth in 1892 when Herbert was only three years old.  Herbert’s biologicial father Benjamin had died when he was only a year old.

Having finally found all the little pieces of the puzzle, I think I now have the story of Elizabeth’s life.  She must have married Benjamin Heyman sometime before 1885 and had two children with him: Florence, born in 1885, and Herbert, born in 1889.  Then her first husband died in 1890, leaving her with two very young children.  She married Bernard Sluizer in 1892 and had a third child, Mervyn, with him the following year.  The 1900 census indicates that Bernard was a salesman; the 1920 census is more specific—a salesman for a pawnbroker.  Another relative in the family business.

Having lost her first husband so tragically young, Elizabeth then endured a second terrible loss when her son Herbert died from pneumonia in 1906 when he was sixteen.  What a sad, short life he had lived, losing his father when he was not even two years old and dying before he was seventeen years old.

Elizabeth herself died on September 28, 1923, when she was only 63 years old from “cancer of the womb.” Her husband Bernard continued to work as a pawnbroker and was living with their son Mervyn and his wife and children in 1930.  Bernard had remarried in 1928, but appears not to have been married as of the time of the 1930 census.  He died on September 2, 1944, at age 84.

Elizabeth’s life story, like those of so many other women, would have disappeared, and I might never have been able to figure it out, if not for the fact that her husband Bernard Sluizer made a donation to a charity in memory of his stepson Herbert Heyman.  If there had been no such donation, I might never have been able to figure out that Elizabeth had had a first husband who died at a very young age leaving her with two young children.  I would never have been able to figure out that the Elizabeth Heyman who married Bernard Sluizer was born Elizabeth Cohen but for the fact that her son Herbert Heyman died and her birth name was on his death certificate.  So in a very sad twist of fate, the fact that Herbert died so young enabled me to preserve the story of not only his life but that of his mother, my great-grandaunt Elizabeth Cohen.

My Great-Great-Grandparents’ Marriage Certificate: Small Details Reveal So Much

As I celebrate the newest member of my extended family, I am also thinking about my great-great-grandparents, Jacob and Sarah Cohen.  A while back I had sent for their marriage certificate from the General Register Office in England, and the certificate arrived just a few days before Remy was born.  It confirms a number of facts I already knew—that Sarah’s birth name was Jacobs, that her father’s first name was Reuben, that she and Jacob married on October 24, 1844, that Hart, Jacob’s father, was a dealer as was Reuben Jacobs, Sarah’s father (a glass dealer?) and Jacob himself, and that they all lived in Spitalfields, Christchurch, Middlesex County, in England.  But the marriage certificate also revealed a few other interesting details.

Jacob Cohen and Sarah Jacobs marriage certificate

Jacob Cohen and Sarah Jacobs marriage certificate

For example, according to the certificate, Jacob was still a minor, but Sarah was of “full” age.  All the documents I have for Sarah, both from England and the US, place her at least two years younger than Jacob.  I wondered: Was the age of majority younger for women in England in 1844 than it was for men?  The 1841 census puts Rachel’s age that year as 15, meaning she was 18 when she married Jacob, whereas Jacob was only 20.  (When I think about how young they were and then how many children their marriage produced and how many years they were married, it is astounding.)

I did a little research and learned that although a girl could marry at 12 and a boy at 14, parental consent was necessary if either was under 21.  Both men and women were considered minors before they were 21; there was not a double standard.[1] That leaves me perplexed. Was Rachel older or younger than Jacob?  Was the marriage certificate right and all the other documents wrong? One would think that a marriage certificate would be more accurate than census reports, but perhaps this was just a mistake.

Sarah and Jacob marriage cropped

The certificate also indicates that, as with Hart Levy Cohen on his wife Rachel’s death certificate, Jacob and Sarah could not sign the document, but only left their marks on it.  Another question is thus raised: how literate was the population of England at this time?

A little quick research revealed that the literacy rate in England in 1840 was somewhere between 67% and 75% for the working class population.[2]  Another source indicated that based on the ability of brides and bridegrooms to sign their marriage certificates, the literacy rate was even lower among women at that time—around 50%, .  That same source, however, suggested that since writing was taught after reading, simply because someone could not sign his or her name did not mean that he or she could not read.[3]

A third interesting detail on the certificate is that it appears that both Jacob and Sarah were residing at 8 Landers Building at the time they were married.  Since it is not likely they were living together before they were married, this would mean that their families were living in the same building.  Were they childhood friends?  Had their parents as neighbors arranged the marriage? Were they all related in some way? It also appears that the marriage had taken place at this same location, not at a synagogue.  But the record from Synagogue Scribes indicated that they were married at the Great Synagogue, as were Hart and Rachel.  I assume that this was this just a civil certificate completed to comply with civil, not religious, law.  I find it interesting that it states that the ceremony was done “according to the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish religion” despite the fact that it is not a religious document.

It is quite amazing to me how much information and how many questions can be mined from one simple document.  Receiving this document was very exciting, as with receiving Rachel’s death certificate from England.  It ties me directly to my ancestors—people who were born almost 200 years ago, but with whom I have a direct and easily established connection.




[1] See the discussion on RootsChat at and also at at

[2]  R.S. Schofield, “Dimensions of Illiteracy in England, 1750-1850) in Literacy and Social Development In the West: A Reader (edited by Harvey J. Graff) (1981), p.201.

[3] “Introduction,” Aspects of the Victorian Book, at

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I’m Ba-a-a-ck! With an Update on Lillian Rosenzweig

After a week away in the beautiful Florida Keys where we were able to put the miserable New England winter weather behind us and enjoy the outdoors, kayaking, swimming, walking, and seeing wildlife including dolphins and alligators, I am back in New England with the miserable winter temperatures outside, but happy knowing that spring is at least here on the calendar if not in the weather quite yet.  It has to get above freezing soon, doesn’t it?

While I was away I received a number of documents, mostly confirming the hunches I’d had about Lillian and Rebecca Rosenzweig.  Today I will focus on Lillian.  About ten days ago I posted what I knew and thought I knew about Lillian.  I believed that she had married Toscano Bartolini in July, 1901, had had a son William born in March, 1902, and then lost her husband in 1904.  All of those facts are now confirmed by the marriage certificate, William’s birth certificate, and Toscano’s death certificate, all of which I received late last week.

First, as you can see from the marriage certificate, Lillian and Toscano were married by an alderman, not a rabbi, on July 6, 1901. This is clearly the right Lillian Rosenzweig, as her parents’ names are Gustav and Gussie nee Sagg.  According to the certificate, Lillian was then eighteen years old, which would have made her birth date 1883—a year before her parents married.  Lillian must have lied about her age in order to get married without parental consent.  I have speculated elsewhere that she was likely born in 1885 since her parents were married in June, 1884.  Also, Lillian’s address is given as 320 East 9th Street—not in Brooklyn where her parents were living.  She must have moved out before she married Toscano, who was living on Sullivan Street at that time.  These inferences are consistent with the family story that Lillie’s marriage to someone who was not Jewish led to disapproval and perhaps some estrangement from her family.

Bartolini Rosenzweig marriage certificate

Bartolini Rosenzweig marriage certificate

From William’s birth certificate, another inference seems possible.  William was born on March 9, 1902, just eight months after Lillie and Toscano had married.  Perhaps Lillie was already pregnant at the time of the wedding, although I am not sure she would have known that at the time since she would have been just one month pregnant.  It is, of course, entirely possible that William was a month premature. William was born at home—177 Houston Street in NYC.  Interestingly, Lillie’s age is now reported as seventeen—a year younger than she had reported on her marriage certificate a year earlier.  If she was in fact seventeen in March, 1902, her birth year would have been 1885, as I suspected.  It also means she was only sixteen when she married Toscano.

William Bartolini birth certificate

William Bartolini birth certificate

The other interesting fact gathered from this certificate is that Lillie had already had a child before William’s birth, but that that child was no longer living.  When could she have had that child?  Her marriage certificate reported that her marriage to Toscano was her first marriage.  Had she had a child with him before they married? Had she had an out-of-wedlock child with someone else? Had that child really died or had she given that child up for adoption and simply reported it as if he had died?  I have no idea and no idea how to try and figure that out. (It’s also sad that on the 1910 census when Lillie was back living with her parents, she is listed as single and having no children.)

The third document in this trilogy is Toscano’s death certificate.  Toscano died on April 27, 1904, from chronic nephritis, kidney disease, at age 27.  He’d been working as a bartender and died at 69 Carmine Street in NYC.  He had only been in the US for five years, had been married for less than three years, and left behind his 19 year old wife and 2 year old son.  I don’t know what causes chronic nephritis, although it looks like uremia is given as a contributing cause of death.   But I’ve never heard of someone dying at age 27 from that today.

Toscano Bartolini death certificate

Toscano Bartolini death certificate

The rest of the story, as reported earlier, shows a family in disarray.  Lillie and William moved back to Brooklyn and were living with Gustave and Gussie and the family in 1905, indicating at least a temporary reconnection.  In 1906, however, William was living at the Brooklyn Hebrew Orphanage.  Although it appeared that he was released back to his mother for some time, by 1910 William was living at St. John’s Home in Brooklyn and in 1915 at the NY Catholic Protectory.  Lillian, who was living with her parents in 1910 without William, then disappears from the records.

I still have not found either William or Lillian after that.  I don’t know what happened to either of them.  Joseph’s grandchildren told me that at some point Lillie was back in touch with her siblings, but no one knows anything more specific than that.  I will keep looking for some new clue, but for now I’ve hit the proverbial brick wall with Lillie and William Bartolini.

What I do know is an incredibly sad story of a young woman, emigrating with her family from Romania when she was only a young child, having two children before she was eighteen years old, losing one apparently to death and another to institutional care, losing a young husband after just a few years of marriage, and losing the support of her family as well for at least some period of time.  It’s a story to contrast with the story of Leah Strolowitz Adler, the daughter of Tillie Rosenzweig and Jacob Srulovici, who also came to the US as young girl but found the American dream.

The story of Lillie Rosenzweig raises so many questions: how did she, a young Jewish immigrant living in Brooklyn, meet and get involved with a young Italian immigrant who was living in the Lower East Side, not Brooklyn? Who was the father of her first child, and what happened to that child? What happened to William after he left the Catholic Protectory? Did he have any contact with his mother or her family? And what happened to Lillie after 1910? Did she remarry and regain custody of William? Did she also die at a tragically young age? These loose ends make me crazy—I want some endings to the story, but I may have to accept that I may never know what happened.

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Women are Difficult…to Find and Track, Part I: Lillian Rosenzweig

One thing that has been clear to me for a long time is that women are much harder to track in vital records than men, largely because they traditionally changed their names when they married. The Rosenzweig daughters are a case in point.

I have now located and tracked from birth to death the five sons of Gustave and Gussie: Abraham, David, Jacob, Harry and Joe. For those who survived to adulthood, I know who they married, where they lived, and what they did for a living and their military service.  I still need to trace the children of Abraham and Jack, but I wanted to see what I could find about the five daughters of Gustave and Gussie first.  I’ve been looking all along, but kept hitting walls and so decided to focus on one daughter at a time.  Here’s what I know about Lillian.

The oldest child and the only one born in Romania was Lillie or Lillian.  According to the 1900 census, she was born in July, 1884, in Romania, but since that was only a month after Gustave and Gussie’s marriage, it seems likely that this was an error and that Lilly was probably born during 1885. The census also says that Lillie arrived in 1884, but her father’s naturalization papers say that he arrived in 1887.  In 1900 when she was only fifteen years old, Lillie was working as a typist while her younger siblings were all in school.

Gustave Rosenzweig and family 1900 census

Gustave Rosenzweig and family 1900 census

In 1905 the family had moved to Fulton Street in Brooklyn, and Lillian, now 21 according to the census, was doing housework as her employment.  In addition to the siblings listed on the 1900 census, there were now two additions, Rachel, who was four, and William, who was three.  William is described as a son of the head of the household, which led me to believe that he was another child of Gustave and Gussie.  I was unable, however, to locate William on the birth index as William Rosenzweig, nor did he reappear on the 1905 or 1910 census with the family.

Gustave Rosenzweig family on the 1905 NYS census

Gustave Rosenzweig family on the 1905 NYS census

Once again I searched the death index for a child of Gustave and Gussie, but could not find a death record for William Rosenzweig either.  If he was not living with his “parents” and siblings in 1905, where could he be? I searched on for William Rosenzweig and found him living at the Brooklyn Hebrew Orphanage in 1906.  I knew it was the right boy by his age (four years old), the address from where he was taken (1021 Fulton Street, Brooklyn), and his mother’s name—Lillian nee Rosenzweig.

William Rosenzweig at the Brooklyn Hebrew Orphanage in 1906

William Rosenzweig at the Brooklyn Hebrew Orphanage in 1906

Brooklyn Hebrew Orphanage

Brooklyn Hebrew Orphanage

William was not Gustave and Gussie’s son, but Lillian’s son.  His father is only identified as “Frank (dead),” with no surname.  For the other children listed, their father’s first name is also all that is supplied, but that’s because the child presumably has that surname.  For William, his surname is the same as his mother’s—Rosenzweig, and no surname is given for his father.  I could not find any marriage record for a Lillie or Lillian Rosenzweig between 1900 and 1902 to a Frank, so had Lillian had William out of wedlock? Who was Frank? Was he really dead?

I did find a Frank Cramer who died between 1902 and 1906 and a William Cramer born on March 2, 1902, the birth date provided for William on the orphanage records.  I sent for the birth certificate for William Cramer, but unfortunately that William’s parents were not named Frank and Lillian.

Then last night I went back once again to the marriage index and looked again for a marriage record for Lillian Rosenzweig, but this time I did not limit my search to grooms named Frank.  I restricted the dates to 1900 to 1902, based on the fact that Lillie was single in the 1900 census and that William was born in March, 1902.  I found one marriage of a Lillie Rosenzweig in July, 1901, to a Toscano Bartolini.  Could Frank have been his more American nickname?  I turned to the death index and searched for a death record, and there it was—Toscano Bartolini had died on April 27, 1904, at 27 years old.  Finally I looked for a birth record for a William Bartolini and found one—born March 9, 1902, a mere eight months after Lillie’s wedding to Toscano in July, 1901.  It was all starting to come together.  I obviously have to send away for all these records to be sure that Lillie is Gustave’s daughter and that William is Lillie’s son, but it certainly seems likely that the records will back up my hunches here.  In fact, I checked today on FamilySearch for Toscano Bartolini and found a more thorough description of the marriage record, including a reference to the bride’s parents’ names, Gustav and Gussie.  I will still order a copy of the certificate, but I am now certain that Lillie married Toscano, who died just a few years later, leaving her with a two year old son named William.

UPDATE:  All these facts were confirmed by the documents.  See my more recent post with images of the documents.

After finding all this, I remembered something that Joe’s grandson Ron had told me—that one of Gustave’s daughters had married someone who wasn’t Jewish, and Ariela had said she thought one of the sisters had married someone with an Italian name.  Ron had told me that the family was not happy about this, and that for a long time there was some estrangement.  Despite whatever they felt, however, in 1905 after Frank/Toscano died, Gustave and Gussie took both Lillian and her son into their home.

It also occurred to me that perhaps the reason Lillie used the name Rosenzweig for William and not Bartolini was based on the fact that he was being taken to a Jewish institution.  Obviously Rosenzweig would seem more clearly Jewish than Bartolini.

But why he was taken from the home in 1906 is not explained by the records. The orphanage record indicates that William was discharged to his mother on September 3, 1906, and reports that her address was then 307 East 120th Street in Manhattan, so perhaps there was a falling out with the family.   But in 1910, Lillian was living again with her parents and siblings in Brooklyn, and William was not living with her.  Lillian’s occupation was listed as a trained nurse at a hospital, and she was listed as single, not widowed.  But where was William?

Gustave Rosenzweig and family 1910 census

Gustave Rosenzweig and family 1910 census

I had not been able to find him as William Rosenzweig in the 1910 census, but now I searched for William Bartolini and found him, living at a residential facility, St. John’s Home in Brooklyn.

William Bartolini 1910 at St John's Home, Brooklyn

William Bartolini 1910 at St John’s Home, Brooklyn

Maybe Lillie placed him there so that she could get training to be a nurse.  Perhaps she just could not take care of him.  Perhaps I can find some records from St John’s Home.

I also was able to find where William was in 1915: another home for children, this one the New York  Catholic Protectory, in the Bronx. (Interestingly, this facility was located where Parkchester is today; Parkchester is an apartment building complex developed by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in the Bronx and is where my grandparents, my aunt and uncle, and my parents once lived; I lived there also until I was four and half years old.)

William Bartolini 1915 Catholic Protection Bronx

William Bartolini 1915 Catholic Protecory Bronx

It seems that in both 1910 and 1915 William had been placed in Catholic institutions after being at a Jewish orphanage briefly in 1906.  Had Lillie given up her parental rights? Was neither set of grandparents interested or able to take care of the boy? Was William troubled or disabled in some way that made caring for him at home a problem for everyone?  I don’t know the answers, but will try to find out what happened to William after 1915.  Apparently you can order microfilm from the Family History Library and see the actual records for the children who resided there, which I plan to do.

And I cannot find Lillie in 1910 or thereafter.  She was not living with her mother and siblings in 1915 or in 1920.  I cannot find her as Lillie Rosenzweig or as Lillie Bartolini.  Perhaps she remarried and changed her name, but I have not yet found a marriage record.  But now I know that I just have to keep looking.  I almost gave up after Frank Cramer did not pan out.  And then last night I looked a different way and found Toscano Bartolini. I hope I can eventually uncover what happened to Lillie and to William.

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Leah Strolowitz Adler: An American Immigrant Success Story

As I have written before, one of the fascinating aspects of doing this research is what I’ve learned about the experience of Jewish immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  It is remarkable to me how children who arrived without speaking English and living in poverty were able to assimilate successfully into American society and make a good life for themselves and their children in this country.

Leah Strolowitz Adler is a good example of this remarkable transformation from a poor Romanian immigrant to an American success story.  Thanks to her granddaughter Jean, I’ve been able to learn a fair amount about Leah and to obtain several pictures of her.  Leah was born on May 25, 1900, in Iasi, Romania, the seventh and youngest child of Jankel Srulovici and Tillie Rosenzweig.  She was only seven years old when she immigrated with her parents and siblings to New York City, where soon afterwards her father either died or disappeared.  She lived with her mother and siblings and her two cousins, Isadore and Betty Goldschlager, in a tenement in East Harlem.  While her older siblings went to work in sweatshops to support the family, Leah went to Public School 101 in Harlem on 109th Street, where she completed eighth grade in 1915.  Jean recalled that Leah told her that although she was happy to leave Romania, she found the transition to America difficult.  Leah remembered standing on line at the public school in NYC and being teased for speaking Yiddish.  Obviously, however, Leah soon learned English and even went on to Julia Richmond High School.

After she finished school,  Leah lived with her mother and sisters, working in a millinery shop, until she married Ben Schwartz on June 26, 1921.  Jean shared with me the story of how Leah met Ben.  Leah had been friendly with or briefly dated Ben’s brother Emmanuel. While Emmanuel was overseas during World War I, Leah dropped by his optometry office for an eye exam and met Ben. Ben asked Leah out for a cup of coffee.   The family story is that when Leah finished her piece of cake, Ben offered to buy her a second piece, and she knew right then that “he was a keeper.” Ben was American born and also an optometrist, according to his draft registration and various census reports.

Here are some photos of Leah, taken by Ben, during their courtship around 1920. She looks like a genuine American woman of the 1920s.  She certainly seems to have left her poor immigrant beginnings behind her.

Leah c. 1920

Leah c. 1920



This is Leah and Ben around 1920:

1920 Leah with Ben Schwartz

1920 Leah with Ben Schwartz

Here is a photograph of Leah around 1921, reading a Yiddish newspaper, the Jewish Morning Journal.

Leah c. 1921

Leah c. 1921

Leah and Ben moved to the Bronx and had a son Ira (named for Isidor, Leah’s oldest brother), born in 1923, and a daughter Theodora (“Teddy”)(named for Tillie, Leah’s mother) born in 1927.  Here is a photograph of Leah, wearing a fur coat and holding Teddy in February, 1929, when Teddy was two years old.  Notice the price of the baby clothes in the window of the shop behind them:  79 cents.

Leah and Teddy February 1929

Leah and Teddy February 1929

Sometime in the 1930s, Leah’s divorced sister Bertha came to live with the Schwartz family for a number of years (at least until 1940, according to the US census of that year).  Teddy still remembers her mother Leah commenting that it was a good thing that her father Jankel could not see them all working on Shabbos, suggesting that Jankel must have been an observant Jew.

According to Jean, Bertha taught Teddy to sew, but Leah was upset because she wanted her daughter to do more with her life than the sewing work that Leah and her sisters had done.  I found this remarkable, given that women had so few choices back in the 1930s, but Leah clearly had a progressive vision and did not want her daughter to limit herself in anyway.

Teddy and Leah and Ben 1944 after her high school graduation

Teddy and Leah and Ben
1944 after her high school graduation

Teddy did grow up to be independent. After graduating from Taft high school in 1944, she attended NYU and became an occupational therapist, a professional woman long before that was common.  Because she hated the cold, she moved by herself to Atlanta, Georgia, after seeing an advertisement for a job there.  She soon met the man who would become her husband, Abner Cohen, whose family had deep roots in Atlanta. Teddy and Abner stayed in Atlanta where they raised their three children.

Jean recalled that Leah was scared to death to fly and so she and Ben would take the seventeen hour trip by train from NYC to Atlanta once or twice a year. Jean remembered, “At the station, while we waited for the train to arrive, we placed copper pennies on the track and after she disembarked and her train left, we would collect the flattened Abe. Grandma baked wonderful rugelach and some round brown sugar cookies. We made such a to do about her cookies that she would arrive toting the dough already mixed and  formed ready to bake.”

Leah and Ben

Leah and Ben

Leah in 1968 with a cousin Margie

Leah in 1968 with a cousin Margie

Leah and Ben's 50th anniversary 1971Leah and Ben’s 50th anniversary 1971

Eventually Teddy’s parents Leah and Ben moved to Atlanta, where they lived the rest of their lives.

So Leah Strolowitz Adler, who was born in Iasi and moved to America at age 7, not speaking English and living in a Harlem tenement, grew up and lived a comfortable life in New York, raised a daughter who became a health care professional, and retired with Ben to Atlanta, where she was able to get to know her grandchildren, including Jean, my fellow family historian.  To me, it is a remarkable story, another example of the amazing resilience and persistence of the immigrant generation who made life possible for all of us today.


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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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And A New Branch for the Goldschlager Tree: The Third Rosenzweig Sister

These last few days have been very exciting ones for me.  Not only did I find persuasive evidence of another member of the Brotman family, I also have persuasive evidence of a new member of the Goldschlager family, a third Rosenzweig sister, Zusia, also called Sonsa, Celie, Susie and Susan.  I am still piecing together her life and need to obtain more documentation to do that, but this is what I know so far.

Ghitla Rosenzweig Goldschlager

Ghitla Rosenzweig Goldschlager

First, some background: Moritz Goldschlager, my great-grandfather, married Ghitla Rosenzweig, daughter of David and Esther Rosenzweig, according to the records found by my researcher in Iasi, Romania.  Ghitla, who was also called Gittel, Gussie and Gisella, emigrated to the United States in 1910 with her son David, following my grandfather Isadore in 1904, her husband Moritz in 1909, and her daughter Betty in 1910.  As described before, her husband died in April, 1910, and her two children, Isadore and Betty, moved in with Tillie Strolowitz, herself a widow, and her seven children.  According to Tillie’s death certificate, her birth name was Tillie Rosenzweig, and her parents were also David and Esther Rosensweig.  Tillie had emigrated with her husband and her three youngest children in 1907, following her older children who had emigrated over the years 1901 through 1907.  I was quite excited when I figured out that Tillie was my grandfather’s aunt and had taken him and Betty in after their father had died.

Then a few weeks ago, I reviewed my grandfather’s ship manifest from 1904 (under his brother David’s name) and noticed again that he was supposed to meet an uncle, Morsche or Moische Mintz, in New York City.  I had not been able to find this uncle before, and I was stymied again when I searched for him.  Then I located a document indicating that my grandfather had been shortly detained at Ellis Island, apparently because his uncle had not been able to meet him.  Instead he was met by an aunt Zusie Mintz, who lived at 110 East 117th Street.  But who was she?

Record of Detained Aliens Isadore listed as David Goldschlager

Record of Detained Aliens
Isadore listed as David Goldschlager meeting Zusie Mintz

By searching the NYC marriage index, I was able to locate a Zusie Rosenzweig married to a Harry Mintz and wondered whether this could be the aunt who met Isadore and whether she was another sister of Ghitla and Tillie.   I ordered a copy of the marriage certificate and also looked for further documentation of Zusie Mintz.  I found one census reference for a Sonsa Mintz, living with cousins Jacob and Rachel Reitman in 1900 as a widow.  If this was the same person as Zusie Mintz, it explained why the uncle had not been available in 1904; he had died.  But was Sonsa also Zusie, and who were the Reitmans?

I looked for Zusie or Sonsa or Susie on the later census reports, but could not find her on any of them.  Had she remarried and changed her name? Had she died?

I then looked for and found a death certificate for a Susie Mintz dated March 11, 1931, and I ordered that as well.  At that point I decided to wait for these two documents to arrive before going on what might be a wild goose chase.  I received those documents two days ago, the same day I received the documents evidencing that David Brotman was my great-uncle.  Could I have struck gold twice in one day?

Yes, I could, and I did.  The marriage certificate, dated December 6, 1896, confirmed that the Zusi Rosenzweig who married Harry Mintz was the daughter of David Rosenzweig and Esther Gilberman, revealing for the first time Esther’s birth name.  The certificate confirmed also that Zusi was from Romania.  Zusi had been living at 136 Allen Street, and Harry was living at 191 Allen Street, so presumably they had met in the neighborhood.  Harry was 31 years old, born in Austria, and was marrying for the first time. Zusi was 24 years old, but already a widow.

Zusi Rosenzweig and Harry Mintz marriage certificate

Zusi Rosenzweig and Harry Mintz marriage certificate

Had she married before she left Romania, or since arriving in NYC? Why had she gone back to her birth name, Rosenzweig?  These are questions for which I still do not have answers.

The second document I received, the death certificate for Susie Mintz who died on March 11, 1931, also confirmed that Zusi, now Susie, was the daughter of David and Esther Rosenzweig, born in Romania.  Susie was 54 years old at the time of her death, meaning that she was born in 1877, whereas if she had been 24 in 1896, her birth year would have been 1872.  The death certificate also indicated that she was a widow, and it provided her current address: 523 East 108th Street in the Bronx.

Susie Mintz death certificate

Susie Mintz death certificate

The reverse side of her death certificate contained some surprising information. It revealed that the undertaker had been employed by “Mr. Mintz,” Susie’s son.  Susie had a son? If so, where was he in 1900 when Sonsa was living with Jacob Reitman? Or was that really Susie/Zusi? If Susie had a son, perhaps she had other descendants as well.  But what was her son’s name? When was he born?

reverse of death certificate

reverse of death certificate

Using the address on the death certificate, I worked backwards to see if I could find Susie on the 1930 census, since I assumed she had not moved between the 1930 census and the time of her death in March, 1931.  This took some doing, as you have to scan through all the pages within a specific enumeration district to find the address; there is no index by address.  I finally found her address, and then I found her listing: she was living at the same address, listing herself as  Susan Mintz, 42 years old, a dressmaker, and as married.  Married? She was living with a boarder named Hannah Kassel, an older woman who was a widow.  When I looked at the form more closely, I realized that the M for married also could be a W for widowed.  I think the indexers read it incorrectly, and that Susie was in fact still a widow in 1930, as she was in 1900 and at her death.

Susan Mintz 1930 census

Susan Mintz 1930 census

From the 1930 census, I then went to see if she had been at that address ten years earlier for the 1920 census.  After more scanning and searching, I found her once again at the same address, but now using the name Celie, or at least that is how the census taker recorded it.  She was listed as a widow, a dressmaker, and 42 years old (I guess she did not want to admit being any older ten years later in 1930).  Zusi/Susie/Celie was living alone at that time.

Celie Mintz 1920 census

Celie Mintz 1920 census

Next came the 1915 New York State census—could I find her again at that address?  I searched for Celie Mintz this time, and without having to scan the census, I found her on the next block at 522 East 139th Street in the Bronx, working at a cloak and suit factory, and living with her son, Nathan.  Her son!  I had found a record for her son.

Celie and Nathan Mintz 1915 NYS census

Celie and Nathan Mintz 1915 NYS census

I could not find either of them on the 1910 census or the 1905 New York State census, at least not yet, but now I had her son’s name and could search for him.

I checked the New York City birth index for a birth certificate for a baby named Nathan Mintz and found one dated December 6, 1897, exactly a year after Harry Mintz had married Zusi Rosenzweig.  This certainly could be the right Nathan, but I now need to obtain that certificate to be sure.

I did find Nathan’s 1917 draft registration for World War I, listing his mother as Cecile Mintz living at 523 East 138th Street in the Bronx, the same address where she was living from 1920 until her death.  Cecile is closer to Zusi and Susie than Celie, and looking at the 1915 census it does look more like Ceci than Celie.  The fact that Nathan’s address in 1917 was the same as that on Susie Mintz’s death certificate confirms that Susie and Cecile and Celie and Susan were all the same woman.

Nathan Mintz draft registration 1917

Nathan Mintz draft registration 1917

I then found a Nathan Mintz who married Gertrude Friedman in 1930. I need to order that certificate as well, but  I suspect that this is the correct Nathan because on the 1940 census, Nathan and Gertrude have an eight year old daughter, born then in 1932, named Susanne.  If this is the right Nathan, it makes perfect sense that he would name his first born child after his mother Susie one year after her death.

Nathan, Gertrude and Susanne Mintz 1940 census

Nathan, Gertrude and Susanne Mintz 1940 census

But there are obviously many unanswered questions.  I can’t find a death certificate for Harry—did he really die, or did he just disappear? Who are Jacob and Rachel Reitman? How, if it all, were they related to Zusi? And where was Nathan living if that was Zusi living with the Reitmans in 1900?  Zusi was the one who met my grandfather at Ellis Island in 1904, but he was living alone in 1905.  Where was Zusi living in 1905? 1910? She was not living with either of her sisters in 1910, so where did she go?   And where was Nathan in those years and between 1917 when he registered for the draft and 1930 when he married Gertrude?

Yes, there are a lot of holes and a lot of questions, but I remain fairly certain that Zusi Rosenzweig Mintz was my great-grandmother’s sister and thus my great-great aunt and that Nathan Mintz was therefore a first cousin to Isadore, David and Betty Goldschlager and to all the Strolowitz children.  Did they know him? And, of course, if Susanne Mintz was Nathan’s daughter, then she would have been my mother’s second cousin.  And if Susanne had children, then they would be my third cousins.

So stay tuned—more to come once I receive more information.

Hyman and Sophie’s marriage certificate

Finally, after almost two months, the Family History Library is back in service. I’ve received a couple of documents that I will post about. First, I received Hyman and Sophie Brotman’s marriage certificate. Although it provides no new information, it is nevertheless an interesting document. Hyman (who was using Herman by this time on official documents) was only 22 when he was married in 1904; Sophie was only 18. Sometimes I am amazed by the fact that people who married so young were able to have such long marriages. Sophie and Hyman were married 64 years.

Herman and Sophie Brotman

Herman and Sophie Brotman

What I found particularly interesting about this document is that Hyman used his father’s middle name, Jacob, on the certificate. I have never seen Joseph referred to on any document as anything other than Joseph. But, as you may recall, Hyman also referred to his mother as Fanny, her middle name, on his Social Security application, a reference no one else ever used. Here he uses Pesel Broht as his mother’s name, not Fanny. Perhaps he was being somewhat secretive, or perhaps there was some family use of those middle names. After all, Hyman was Herman and Chaim, so he had a flexible attitude towards names. (I’ve also never seen Broht spelled with an H.)

Edit:  I just realized that the front of the form has the groom’s name as Haimy!

The other thing that I find interesting about the marriage certificate is the spelling of “white” as “weit” and the spelling of Manhattan as Manahten. It looks like the rabbi might have filled out the entire form since it seems to match the handwriting of his signature. I also think the rabbi filled out the form because Weiss is spelled with one S on the front of the form, but Sophie spelled it Weiss in her signature. Whoever filled out the form also did not understand the box that asks for number of marriages, as the blank area is filled with an address, not a number. I have no idea what that address refers to, as it is not the address of the bride, the groom or the rabbi. At any rate it does indicate that this was someone who was still learning English.

Also of interest is that we now have a record of Sophie’s father’s name, listed as Moses, later changed to Morris, and her mother’s maiden name. It looks like Linz or Livy Gabler? Does that sound right to any of her grandchildren? Can anyone help decipher the handwriting? Later records have her name as Lena, so Liny or Linz might make sense.

Finally, the one thing I cannot decipher at all is Hyman’s occupation. Can someone please help me read what that says? On the 1900 US Census his occupation was reported to be a button hole maker, but this looks like something different. If you can read it, please leave your response in the comments below.

Edited:  The prize goes to my brother Ira, who deciphered the occupation to be a phonetic spelling of “operator.”  Often those who worked in the sweatshops on the Lower East Side were referred to as operators (i.e., machine operators).  Since Hyman had been working as a button hole maker, it makes sense that this was what he was doing when he married Sophie in 1904.  It also makes sense that someone who spelled white “weit” and Manhattan as Manahten would spell operator phonetically as well.

Hyman and Sophie's marriage certificate 1904

Hyman and Sophie’s marriage certificate 1904



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