Sometimes genealogy research moves along smoothly, and all seems to fall right into place. Then other times people disappear and other strange things happen. In my prior post I wrote about the two older children of Julius Schoenthal and Minnie Dahl, Leo and Rose. Their stories were easy to trace. This post catches up with the two younger children and their families from 1920 forward. They proved more elusive.
Although it was not hard to follow the life of Sylvester Schoenthal, the third child of Julius Schoenthal and Minnie Dahl, tracing the lives of his two daughters has proven to be quite challenging.
In 1920, Sylvester and Bessie (nee Rose) Schoenthal were living at 24 Randolph Place in DC with their two young daughters, Margaret and Helen, and five lodgers. Sylvester was still working for the railroad, now identified as a carpenter. In 1930, the family was still at 24 Randolph Place; now Sylvester’s occupation was reported as mill foreman for the railroad. His wife Bessie and his daughter Margaret (15) were living with him, as well as his sister-in-law Annie (more on that below), but there is no listing of his daughter Helen. Helen would only have been twelve years old in 1930, so where could she have been? I cannot find her anywhere else on the 1930 census, so perhaps the enumerator just somehow forgot to record her in the household.
Sylvester Schoenthal and family 1930 US census
Year: 1930; Census Place: Washington, Washington, District of Columbia; Roll: 293; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 0049; Image: 431.0; FHL microfilm: 2340028
In 1932, Sylvester was listed in the directory for Alexandria, Virginia, as a car repairman for the “RF&PRRR,” (the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad) , but also as residing in Washington, DC.
The Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad – train starting out from Richmond, Virginia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
On February 28, 1933, Sylvester and Bessie’s daughter Margaret married John I. Wivel. Margaret was only 18, and John just 21. In 1930 John had been listed on the census as a clerk in “Landsburg’s” [sic] department store and was living with his parents and siblings in the household of a cousin. John was born in New Jersey, and his parents were natives of Maryland. They were living on Randolph Place, the same street where the Schoenthals were living in 1930, so I assumed that was how Margaret and John met, but it was a different enumeration district so perhaps it was just coincidence.
In 1935 John and Margaret were living at 24 Randolph Place, and John was now a salesman at Hecht’s department store.
John Wivel and Margaret Schoenthal 1935 DC directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
Sylvester and Bessie had moved to Alexandria by then, so Margaret and her husband had taken over the home where she had grown up. They were still living there in 1936, but in 1937, John is listed (without Margaret’s name attached) as residing in Takoma Park, Maryland
, and working as an investigator for a retail credit company. He has a similar listing in the 1938 and 1939 directories for DC, and I cannot find him or Margaret at all on the 1940 census. John joined the military in 1942, but I have no record for Margaret at all after the 1936 directory listing.
By 1940, Sylvester and Bessie had returned to 24 Randolph Place in DC, and Sylvester was working as a foreman for the Pennsylvania Railroad. Neither Margaret nor Helen was listed as living with them on the 1940 census. (Note the butchered spelling of Schoenthal; this was a challenge to find. I had to do it by the address, not the name.)
Year: 1940; Census Place: Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia; Roll: T627_553; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 1-28
On May 21, 1941, Bessie Rose Schoenthal died; she was 59 years old and was buried at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Suitland, Maryland.
Washington Evening Star, May 21, 1944, p. 14
Four years later, Sylvester died on June 14, 1945. He also was buried at Cedar Hill Cemetery. He was 67 years old when he died. Like his brother Leo and other family members, his death was described as sudden.
Washington Evening Star, June 15, 1945, p. 8
As for their daughters, that remains a mystery. As I noted above, I could not find any record for Margaret after the 1936 directory that listed her as married to John Wivel and living at 24 Randolph Place in DC. On her father’s death notice in 1945, she is listed as Margaret Ricks, not Margaret Wivel, and since she was not listed with John in the 1937 directory or those in 1938 or 1939, it would seem that that marriage had not lasted. In a 1945 memorial for her mother, her name was given as Margaret Rose Rick. But who was Ricks or Rick? Although I have found many women named Margaret Ricks in the 1940 census, none seems to fit with Margaret Schoenthal. So the search continues.
Helen Schoenthal is even more mysterious. As noted above, she is not even listed with the family on the 1930 census. On her mother’s memorial notices dated 1944 and 1945, she is identified as simply Jackie. Or is Jackie someone else? “Daughter” in the 1945 notice is singular so could just refer to Margaret. Then who is Jackie? On Sylvester’s death notice dated a month after Bessie’s 1945 memorial notice, his daughters are identified as Margaret Ricks and Minnie Fox. So did Helen become Jackie and then Minnie? I have tried searching with all different name combinations, but so far have not found anyone who I am certain was the younger daughter of Sylvester and Bessie (Rose) Schoenthal. So that search continues as well. If anyone has any tips, please pass them on.
Thus, for now I do not know if there are any living descendants of Sylvester Schoenthal.
Moretta Schoenthal also proved to be a bit of a challenge. You would think that someone with that name would be easy to find. I have no idea where that name came from. It’s not a first name I’ve run across at all in my research, although I’ve seen it as a surname. On the 1880 census when he was just an infant, his name was listed as Maurice, but by 1900 when he was twenty, his name is spelled Moretto, and he was working as a cabinet maker, according to the census record. (It was also spelled that way on both the 1896 and 1897 DC directory listings.) On the marriage index in 1901, his name is spelled Moretta. On the 1910 census he is listed simply as M A Schoenthal; he was still a cabinet maker. He was Moretta on his World War draft registration and working an insurance agent for the Life Insurance Company of Virginia.
Moretta Schoenthal draft registration for World War I
Registration State: District of Columbia; Registration County: Washington; Roll: 1556835; Draft Board: 05
That brings me to 1920 when Moretta was living with his wife Annie and son Arthur as well as Annie’s brother William Heath. Moretta was working as an assistant superintendent of an insurance company. His son Arthur was 17 years old and working at the Navy Yard as a machinist, as was his uncle William Heath.
Moretta Schoenthal and family 1920 US census
Year: 1920; Census Place: Washington, Washington, District of Columbia; Roll: T625_207; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 113; Image: 979
After that things got a little foggier. Although Moretta was listed an insurance agent or salesman in every DC directory from 1922 through 1928, he is not listed in 1929, and I could not find Moretta on the 1930 census. Annie was still listed as his wife in the 1928 directory, but as noted above, his wife Annie was recorded on the 1930 census as living with Moretta’s brother Sylvester and his family; she was working as a child’s nurse. She is also listed in the 1931 DC directory as a nurse, living at 24 Randolph Place, the same address given for Sylvester, but not Moretta, for that year.
As for Moretta and Annie’s son Arthur, he married Mazie Marie Connor on October 16, 1924.
Washington Evening Star, October 19, 1924, p. 58
Aside from the mention of the fact that Arthur was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Schoenthal and a description of his mother’s dress, I could not find one member of the family listed in the description of the wedding. His best man was not a cousin; the ushers were the bride’s brothers. The bridesmaids also do not appear to have been Arthur’s relatives. The wedding was in a church; had the other Schoenthals disapproved? That seems unlikely since Sylvester had married someone who wasn’t Jewish, as had his daughter Margaret, as far as I can tell. Arthur was an only child, but he did have first cousins and other relatives who might have participated.
Although I cannot find Arthur and Mazie on the 1930 census, they are listed as living at 323 Quackenbos Road in the 1929, 1931, and 1934 DC directories. Arthur’s occupation shifted from a stone contractor to an engineer to a business agent in those three directories.
So where was Moretta in 1930? If his wife was living with his brother and listing her status as married, had Moretta died? It does not seem that that was the case as I found two records reporting that he died on March 21, 1940: a FindAGrave record for his grave at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Suitland, Maryland (where his brother Sylvester and sister-in-law Bessie would later be buried; they are, however, the only other Schoenthals buried there) and a listing in the Social Security Applications and Claims index. If Moretta therefore was still living in 1930, where was he? Both his wife and his son were still living in DC, so where could he have gone if he was still alive?
Then I found a death notice for Moretta:
Washington Evening Star, March 23, 1940, p. 13
Two things struck me when I read this. First, he died in Hagerstown, Maryland. Second, neither his wife nor his son was listed as a survivor, only his brother Sylvester and sister Rose (Mrs. Joseph Pach). A year later Sylvester and Rose published a memorial notice in remembrance of Moretta, and again there was no mention of his wife or son.
(Notice also the spelling of his name as Moretto, whereas the death notice had it spelled as Moretta.)
I decided to see if I could find an obituary for Moretta. Since I knew he had died in Hagerstown, I looked to see if either of my newspaper databases included a paper for that town. Newspapers.com did have the Hagerstown Daily Mail for the pertinent years, so I searched for Moretta Schoenthal, and I found nothing. So I decided to search page by page for the issues dated around March 21, 1940, and found this obituary in the March 22, 1940, issue. You can see why my search for Moretta Schoenthal failed; one letter off, and the search engine missed it:
Once again, there is no mention of either a wife or a son. Moretta had lived in Hagerstown for twelve years, which is consistent with his disappearance from the DC directories after 1928. And he also seemed to have left the insurance business by 1940 to work for the Hughes Motor Company.
Knowing now that Moretta had been living in Hagerstown in 1930, I searched the 1930 census, looking for him in that location, and finally found him as M A Shoenthal, working as a carpenter in a door factory. That is, Moretta had returned to his first career, doing carpentry.
M A Shoenthal 1930 US census
Year: 1930; Census Place: Hagerstown, Washington, Maryland; Roll: 880; Page: 25A; Enumeration District: 0024; Image: 1070.0; FHL microfilm: 2340615
I do not know what took him to Hagerstown, or why, if his marriage was over, his wife Annie was living with his brother Sylvester and Bessie in 1930 and 1931, more than two years after he’d moved to Hagerstown. Moretta is listed as single on the 1930 census, but Annie still listed herself as married. I don’t know what happened to Annie Heath Schoenthal after 1931; perhaps she remarried because I cannot find anyone named Annie or Anna Schoenthal who would fit the right person. Maybe she even died before 1940, thus explaining why she isn’t mentioned as a survivor.
But Moretta’s son Arthur was definitely still alive in 1940 when his father died. In the 1940 census, he, his wife Mazie, and their young son were listed as living still at 323 Quackenbos Street. Arthur was the business representative for the stone and marble mason’s union. Now the earlier directory listings made more sense; he was a stone mason who had become a leader in his union. (I still am not sure why one directory listed him as an engineer.)
In 1937, Arthur was appointed to the DC Wage Board as a representative of labor to help draft regulations for minimum wage provisions in the District of Columbia.
Washington Evening Star, June 11, 1937, p.21
He left that position in 1940, garnering much praise for his work:
Washington Evening Star, December 18, 1940, p. 2
The board chairperson, Mrs. William Kittle (despite her position, still named by her husband’s first name), said the following about Arthur:
Loss of Mr. Schoenthal as labor representative on the board will be keenly felt. During his entire service, his attitude was reasonable, sympathetic and steadfast. I can’t speak too highly of the contribution he made in establishing confidence in wage standards set by the board.
As that article described, he had become a field representative in the Apprentice Training Service for the Department of Labor in DC and Virginia. In 1942, he became the regional supervisor of the Apprentice Training Service for the War Manpower Commission:
Washington Evening Star, November 1, 1942, p 21
By May 1944, he was the Deputy Director of the Washington, DC, office of the War Manpower Commission. In 1953, he was the Labor Department’s foreign labor chief.
According to his obituary, Arthur L. Schoenthal worked for the US Labor Department for over twenty years before retiring. He and his wife Mazie relocated to Florida. Arthur died in San Francisco on September 20, 1974. He was 71 years old. He was buried at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Pompano Beach, Florida.
Washington Evening Star, September 24, 1974, p. 19
It is somewhat remarkable to me that the grandson of Julius Schoenthal, who had served in the US Army in the Signal Corps in the 1870s and who had wanted to work for the US government afterwards but had been rejected, had a grandson who worked for many years for that government. More importantly, his grandson Arthur worked to promote the interests of workers—perhaps he knew of his grandfather’s frustrating struggles to have his pension payments increased based on his alleged disabilities. In any event, I imagine that Julius Schoenthal would have been quite proud of his grandson’s accomplishments.