Who Was Bessie Goldfarb Named For? A Study in Naming Patterns

Before I write about Bessie Goldfarb Malzberg and her family, I want to explore a question that bothered me since I first learned her name.

It struck me as odd that Sarah Brod Goldfarb named a daughter Bessie since that was her sister’s name—my great-grandmother Bessie Brod Brotman. Even their Yiddish names were the same. On the ship manifest for Sarah and her four children, Sarah’s second daughter is listed as Pesie, and my great-grandmother Bessie was listed as Pessel on her ship manifest. I assume Pesie was a nickname for Pessel. Incidentally, Pessel is also my Yiddish name—in honor of my great-grandmother Bessie.

The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Series Title: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Record Group Number: 85; Series: T840
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists, 1800-1962

Year: 1891; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Line: 29; List Number: 73, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957

Since Eastern European Ashkenazi Jews did not name children for living relatives, I assumed that Sarah’s Bessie was named for either the same person her sister Bessie had been named for or for a relative on Sam’s side of the family. But who was that person?

I decided to explore the naming patterns in the Goldfarb and Brod families a bit further to see if they provided any clues. Sam and Sarah’s first son was Julius (Joel was his Hebrew name), and it appears obvious that he was named for Sam’s father who was also named Julius Goldfarb.1 I will refer to Sam’s father as Julius I and Sam’s son as Julius II.

Sam and Sarah’s second son Morris (Moische), born in 1886, could have been named for a relative on Sarah’s side, and that’s possible here, but since four of Sam’s siblings—his brother Louis and his half-brothers Max, Meier, and Julius 2—all had sons named Morris Goldfarb,3 I think it’s more likely that Morris was also named for an ancestor on Sam’s side though I don’t know who that would be. Perhaps an uncle or a great-grandfather.

Then came Gussie (Gittel) Goldfarb, born in 1888. My grandmother Gussie Brotman was born in 1895, and she was a first cousin to Gussie Goldfarb. Sarah’s death certificate states that her mother was named Gittel, and her sister Bessie’s second marriage certificate says her mother was Gittel, so both Gussies—Gussie Goldfarb and my grandmother Gussie—were named for their maternal grandmother Gittel, my great-great-grandmother. (My daughter carries on the naming pattern as her Hebrew name is Rivka Gittel for my grandmother.)

New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949″, database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2WT7-T1D : 3 June 2020), Sarah Goldfarb, 1937.

Certificate Number: 22138, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Extracted Marriage Index, 1866-1937

That brings me to Bessie. She was born in 1890, and I don’t know who she was named for. Sam’s mother was Dora Kleinman. Dora died not long after Sam’s brother Louis (Lazar) was born in 1859. Louis Goldfarb named his first daughter Dora in 1889 for his mother. It seems odd that Sam didn’t have a daughter named for his mother.4 It makes me think Sam and Sarah may have had another daughter named for Dora who died before they left Europe—unless Dora Kleinman had a double name and Bessie was named for her other name.

Julius I’s second wife was named Rebecca Kirschenbaum,5 so did Sam name Bessie for his stepmother Rebecca? Or was Bessie named for a Brod, possibly the same unknown ancestor for whom my great-grandmother Bessie was named? I don’t know.

After Bessie came Joseph. I don’t see any Josephs on the Goldfarb side, and Sarah Brod and Bessie Brod’s father was named Joseph Brod according to the two records depicted above. So I think it’s very likely that Joseph Goldfarb was named for his maternal grandfather, Joseph Brod.

Leo was the next son, born in 1899. I don’t have any clues as to his namesake. On the  1900 census, Leo  was listed as Lewis, and on the 1905 NYS census he was Louis. Only in 1910 did his name appear as Leo. Sam’s brother Louis was still living when Leo was born, but maybe Leo was named for the same ancestor for whom his uncle Louis was named.  Sam’s half-brother Max had a son named Lewis born in 1901, so perhaps he also was named for the same ancestor.6  I don’t see anyone else with an L name in the Brod family so I think Leo was named for a Goldfarb, not a Brod.

Sam and Sarah’s last child was Rose, and that’s a name that appears four times among Sam’s relatives.  Sam’s brother Louis named his second daughter Rose born in 1891. Sam’s half-brother Max named a daughter Rose in 1901, and Julius Jr. had a daughter named Rose born in 1919. I would assume that Max and Julius, Jr. named their daughters for their mother Rebecca, but who did Sam and Louis name their daughters Rose for? I don’t know. Perhaps their stepmother Rebecca, or perhaps a great-grandmother or other female relative.7

Just to add to the data set here, my great-grandmother Bessie had five children with my great-grandfather Joseph Brotman—Tillie, Chaim (Hyman), my grandmother Gussie, Frieda, and Sam. With his first wife Chaye, Joseph Brotman had four children: Abraham, David, Max, and Taube. Only the name Gussie is repeated among her sister Sarah’s children although Max Brotman, like Morris Goldfarb, was Moische in Europe.

To summarize my assumptions: Sam and Sarah’s son Julius was named for Sam’s father Julius. Their daughter Gussie and son Joseph were named for Sarah’s parents, Gittel and Joseph.  Morris and Rose are names that occur frequently in the Goldfarb family so those two children probably were named for a Goldfarb relative. Leo was originally Louis, a name that appears in the Goldfarb family, so I am inclined to think he was named for a Goldfarb.

But I am without a clue about the ancestor for whom Bessie was named. If my assumptions are correct, it would mean that four of Sarah and Sam’s children were named for a Goldfarb ancestor and only two were named for a Brod ancestor. That makes me think Bessie might have been named for a Brod, and maybe for the same relative for whom her aunt, my great-grandmother Bessie, was named. But I can’t be sure.

And sadly without records for those earlier generations, I probably never will know.

  1. KLG family history and various other sources and records. 
  2. Sam’s father Julius I had a son with his second wife Rebecca who was also named Julius; I will refer to him as Julius, Jr. That seems quite odd—unless Julius I died before Rebecca gave birth to Julius, Jr. Unfortunately I have no records to know for sure. What I do have is a family history compiled by Kay Goldfarb.  Kay’s book says that Julius died 1879-1880 and that Julius, his son, was born in 1880. So it seems probable that in fact Julius I did die before his son Julius Jr. was born. 
  3. KLG family history and various other sources and records. 
  4. Ibid. 
  5. Ibid. 
  6. Ibid. 
  7. Ibid. 

The Many Namesakes of Levi and Henrietta Goldsmith

As I wrote here, when Levi Goldsmith died on December 29, 1886, he was survived by his wife Henrietta and their eight children. Three of those children were already married, as we already saw.

Their oldest child Eva had married Nathan Anathan in 1875, and they had two daughters, Helen (1879) and Bessie (1883) after losing their first two children, who died as babies. Thank you to Sherri Goldberg of Tracing the Tribe for pointing out that Nathan Anathan was a first cousin to Theresa Anathan, whose daughter Nellie Buxbaum was married to Philip Goldsmith, son of Jacob Goldsmith. 

Their second daughter Estella Goldsmith had married Solomon Rothschild in 1883, and by the time of Levi’s death had two children, Jerome (1884) and Stanley, born on January 29, 1886; Stanley died, however, shortly after his grandfather died; he was a little over a year old when he died on March 30, 1887, from gastroenteritis.  Estella then gave birth to a third son, Leonard Levi Rothschild; he was born in 1888 and presumably was named for his grandfather. A fourth child, Herbert Hirsch Rothschild, was born February 3, 1894, in Philadelphia.1

The next child of Levi and Henrietta who had married before Levi died was Felix Goldsmith. He married Bertha Umstadter in 1886, and their first child, Frances Lee Goldsmith, was born in 1889 and may have been named for Levi. Felix and Bertha had a second child on October 28, 1892, a son named Lee Goldsmith, who was likely named for Levi. 2

The two remaining daughters of Levi and Henrietta were both married in 1893. Helen, the older of the two, married Harry Loeb.3  Harry was born April 28, 1859, in Philadelphia.4 His father, Moses, was born in Germany and was a butcher; his mother Pauline was born in France. In 1880, Harry was working as a clerk in a store in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he was boarding.5 Helen and Harry Loeb had their first child, Armand, on April 25, 1894, in Dubois, Pennsylvania, a town located about 270 miles west of Pennsylvania, where Harry and Helen had settled.6

Helen’s younger sister Blanche also married in 1893. She married Max Greenbaum, who was born in either Germany or Austria in about 1868 and immigrated to the US in about 1871.7 His father Philip Greenbaum was a tailor in 1880, and Max, who later became a dentist, was in school.8

Blanche and Max suffered two terrible losses in the early years of their marriage.  Their first child, Ethel, was born in 1894 and died from pneumonia on December 29, 1898. 9 Their second child, Leah, named presumably for Levi, was born on January 19, 1895.10 I have not been able to locate a death record for Leah, but she is not listed with her family on the 1900 census or afterwards. Although Blanche reported on the 1900 census that she’d only had one child, on the 1910 census she reported that she had had four, only one of whom was still living. I have to believe that Leah died sometime between January 19, 1895, and 1900. Thus, the family of Levi Goldsmith suffered the deaths of two more very young children.

Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-DTVH-TC?cc=1320976&wc=9F5N-RM9%3A1073210101 : 16 May 2014), 004009439 > image 1295 of 1741; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

The next sibling to marry was the youngest child of Levi and Henrietta, their son Sylvester. He married Ida Simms on March 21, 1895 in Allen County, Ohio.11 I could not find any definite records for Ida’s life prior to marrying Sylvester, but according to her death certificate,10 she was born in Michigan to John Simms and Sarah Mott on December 21, 1874. According to Sylvester’s obituary,12 she lived in Lima, Ohio, before marrying him.

Three months after Sylvester’s marriage, his mother Henrietta Lebenbach Goldsmith died on July 3, 1895, in Philadelphia from “congestive apoplexy.” She was 60 years old and was survived by eight of the nine children to whom she had given birth. She was buried at Mt Sinai cemetery in Philadelphia where her husband Levi was buried.

Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JXRJ-MH6 : 8 March 2018), Henrietta Goldsmith, 03 Jul 1895; citing cn 371, Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 1,862,809.

Then three months after Henrietta’s death and six months after Sylvester married Ida, Ida gave birth to their first child, whom they named Henrietta. She was born in September 1895 in Lima, Ohio.13 She was not the only baby presumably named for Henrietta Lebenbach Goldsmith. Helen (Goldsmith) and Harry Loeb had a second child in January 1896 named Henriete Loeb,14 and on June 4, 1897, Felix and Bertha Goldsmith had a third child born in Norfolk, Virginia, whom they named Hortense Lee Goldsmith.15 In addition, Sylvester and Ida had a second child born on November 12, 1898, in Shelbyville, Indiana. They named him Louis Sylvester Goldsmith.16 Could he be yet another child named in memory of his grandfather Levi?

Meanwhile, in 1896, Levi and Henrietta’s son Isadore Goldsmith married Mary R. Wheeler.  Strangely, there are two different marriage records for Isadore and Mary. One, dated October 17, 1896, shows they married in Camden, New Jersey. 17 A second shows they married on November 18, 1896, in Washington, DC.18 That story will be told in a later post. Mary was born on December 23, 1852, in Pennsylvania, making her twelve years older than Isadore and 43 when they married. She was the daughter of John and Caroline Wheeler.19

Thus, by the end of the nineteenth century, both Levi Goldsmith and his wife Henrietta Lebenbach had passed away and were survived by their eight children and many grandchildren, many of whom were named for either Levi or Henrietta. Tragically, two more grandchildren died as babies, Blanche’s daughters Ethel and Leah. As of 1898, there were twelve surviving grandchildren: Eva’s two surviving daughters, Helen and Bessie Anathan; Estella’s three surviving sons, Jerome, Leonard, and Herbert Rothschild; Felix’s three children Frances, Lee, and Hortense Goldsmith; Helen’s two children, Armand and Henriete Loeb; and Sylvester’s two children, Henrietta and Louis. Levi and Henrietta must have been well-loved to have been so well-honored.

The next decade would bring more births, but far too many tragic deaths.

  1. Herbert Rothschild death certificate, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-63B7-4Z1?cc=1320976&wc=9F5C-L2S%3A1073221501 : 16 May 2014), 004009533 > image 376 of 1778; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. The sources for the other facts in this paragraph can be found in my earlier post linked above. 
  2. Lee Goldsmith World War I draft registration, Registration State: Virginia; Registration County: Norfolk (Independent City); Roll: 1984907; Draft Board: 2. Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. See prior post for sources for other facts. 
  3. Ancestry.com. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951. Original data: “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Marriage Index, 1885–1951.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009. Philadelphia County Pennsylvania Clerk of the Orphans’ Court. “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia marriage license index, 1885-1951.” Clerk of the Orphans’ Court, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Certificate 59231. 
  4. Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 1112. Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1669-2013 
  5. Loeb family, 1860 US Census, Census Place: Bellefonte, Centre, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1090; Page: 307; Family History Library Film: 805090. Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census. Harry Loeb, 1880 US Census, Census Place: Scranton, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1139; Page: 243B; Enumeration District: 063. Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census 
  6. Armand Goldsmith Loeb, World War I draft registration, Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Philadelphia; Roll: 1907649; Draft Board: 29.
    Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 
  7. Ancestry.com. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Marriage Index, 1885–1951.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009. Philadelphia County Pennsylvania Clerk of the Orphans’ Court. “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia marriage license index, 1885-1951.” Clerk of the Orphans’ Court, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Certificate 65035. 
  8. Greenbaum family, 1880 US Census, Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1169; Page: 173A; Enumeration District: 084. Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census 
  9.  Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-DTVH-TC?cc=1320976&wc=9F5N-RM9%3A1073210101 : 16 May 2014), 004009439 > image 1295 of 1741; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. 
  10. Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1966; Certificate Number Range: 114001-116700. Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966. Certificate Number: 114311-60 
  11. Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XDW2-5XC : 10 December 2017), Sylvester Goldsmith and Ida J. Simens, 21 Mar 1895; citing Allen, Ohio, United States, reference pg471cn192; county courthouses, Ohio; FHL microfilm 901,416. 
  12. “Sudden Death of Well Known Citizen of DuBois,” DuBois (PA) Daily Express, Friday, October 9, 1914. 
  13. Clearfield County (PA) Death Records, found at http://files.usgwarchives.net/pa/clearfield/vitals/deaths/goldsmith-henrietta.txt 
  14. Henriete Loeb, 1900 US census, Census Place: Dubois Ward 2, Clearfield, Pennsylvania; Page: 5; Enumeration District: 0071; FHL microfilm: 1241396.  Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census 
  15. Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. SSN: 305037627. 
  16. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania Veterans Burial Cards, 1929-1990; Series Number: Series 2.
    Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Veterans Burial Cards, 1777-2012 
  17. Ancestry.com. New Jersey, Marriage Records, 1670-1965. Original data: Marriage RecordsNew Jersey Marriages. New Jersey State Archives, Trenton, New Jersey. 
  18.  Ancestry.com. District of Columbia, Compiled Marriage Index, 1830-1921.Original data: District of Columbia, Marriages, 1830-1921. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013. 
  19. Mary Goldsmith death certificate, Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1966; Certificate Number Range: 038171-041450. Certificate Number Range: 038171-041450. Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966 

Jewish Naming Patterns

Most people know that in Jewish tradition, a child is often named after a relative who is no longer alive.[1]  It is also Jewish practice to identify a person in Hebrew with his or her father’s first name added to that person’s own first name.  For example, on his headstone Joseph’s name appears in Hebrew as Yosef Yakov ben Avraham, meaning that his father’s name was Abraham.  These naming patterns are a great help to genealogical research since often you can find names recurring through several generations, providing a means of establishing family relationships.

For example, we know that Bessie’s Hebrew name was Pessel and that her mother was named Gittel.  Bessie named her daughter Gussie for her own mother—in Hebrew, Gussie’s name was Hannah Gittel.  Then, in turn, I was named for Gussie’s mother, Bessie—in Hebrew, Pessel.  I then named my older daughter Rebecca Grace for my grandmother; her Hebrew name is Rivka Gittel.  So both Gittel and Pessel are names that recur through the generations and perhaps go back even further and perhaps will stretch further into the future.

Similarly, my brother Ira was named for our grandfather Isadore, whose Hebrew name was Ira.  Isadore’s father was Moritz/Moshe, and Isadore was named for Moshe’s father Ira.  Isadore in turn named his son Maurice for his father, and Maurice named his son James Ian and one of his daughters Robin Inez, the I being for Maurice’s father Isadore.  So the M’s and the I’s keep recurring in our family.  My younger daughter Madeline (Mazal Ahava) was named in part for my uncle Maurice (as well as for my husband’s uncle Murray), and there are several other M’s in the family among the fifth generation.

I am sure each of you can find similar recurring patterns in your own branches of the family.  There certainly are many B/P names and J names that run throughout our family tree.   Some of them undoubtedly are for Bessie/Pessel and Joseph or one of their descendants.

Why do I bring this up now? Well, after receiving Abraham’s death certificate and being bewildered by the fact that it records his parents’ names as Harry and Anna, I consulted with my mentor Renee.  She asked me several questions that reassured me that the death certificate is most likely incorrect.  First, she said look for naming patterns.  That reminded me that Abraham’s oldest son was named Joseph Jacob—Yosef Yakov on his headstone.Image  If Abraham’s father was named Harry, then why would he have named his son Joseph and not Harry? In fact, there are no Harrys or H names among Abraham’s children or grandchildren.

In addition, Renee pointed out that Abraham’s full name on his headstone is Avraham Zvi ben Yosef Yakov.  Zvi is a Hebrew name that means “deer” and in Yiddish was usually translated into Hersh or some Americanized version: Harry, Herbert, or (as in the case of my husband) Harvey.  Renee also pointed out that Abraham’s American name was Abraham H. Brotman.  She said it was extremely unlikely that his father’s name would have been Harry or Hersh/Zvi also (unless, of course, his father had died before Abraham was born, which does not seem likely).  By looking at the naming patterns, I am now convinced that it is unlikely that Abraham’s father’s name was Harry and that the death certificate is not correct and the headstone is.  Perhaps the Zvi/H in his name was for his maternal grandfather. Maybe that’s how it ended up on his death certificate.

So, cousins, do you know who you were named for? Do you know what your Hebrew name is? What your parents’ Hebrew names are? It would be really helpful and interesting to me and perhaps to others to know this information as it may open other doors for more research.  If you are willing to share that information, please let me know by using the comment box below so that we can all share this information.  Thank you!

[1][1] At least that has been the tradition among Ashkenazi East European Jews.  German Jews apparently did not always adhere to this tradition.  For example, my father’s name is the same as his father, John Nusbaum Cohen, and until he was an adult, he used “junior” after his name.  Moreoever, his sister’s name was the same as their mother—Eva.