Thank you, Alex from Root to Tip: A Mystery Solved and A Question about

In my last post, I commented that I had had no luck finding information about the parents of the Adrian Kramer who married my cousin Ruth Sondheim in 1924. I wrote:

Adrian’s background is a mystery.   According to his military record from World War I and his World War II registration card, he was born in New York City on December 14, 1896. But despite searching in numerous places for all Kramers and all Adrians within two years of that date, and all boys born on that date, I have not found his birth record. Perhaps he was born with a different name.

Military record of Adrian Kramer, World War I New York, Abstracts of World War I Military Service, 1917-1919 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013.
Original data: New York State Abstracts of World War I Military Service, 1917–1919. Adjutant General’s Office. Series B0808. New York State Archives, Albany, New York.

Little did I know that that was in fact the case. But it took the help of the wonderful researcher, Alex of the Root to Tip genealogy blog, to find that out.

Alex left a comment on my prior post that said in part, “I noticed there was an obituary for Adrian Kramer in 1950 and it says he was the son of “Della Kramer.” Could this be Sandilla?”

Death notice for Adrian Kramer, The New York Times, July 1, 1950, p. 10

The first record I had found for an Adrian Kramer that fit anywhere close to a birth year of 1896 was the 1905 New York State census. On that document, Adrian Kramer, eight years old, was living on West 88th Street in the household of Maier Kramer. Also living in the household were six of Maier’s siblings: Sandilla, Joseph, Leo, Eva, David, and Minnie. None of them was married, but Sandilla was divorced.  She was listed with the surname Kramer, however, not a married name.

Adrian Kramer 1905 NYS census
New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1905; Election District: A.D. 21 E.D. 03; City: Manhattan; County: New York; Page: 12
Election District: A·D· 21 E·D· 03
Source Information New York, State Census, 1905

I had wondered whether Sandilla might have been Adrian’s mother when I saw the 1905 census since she was the only Kramer sibling who had been married, but I was misled by the fact that the 1905 census identified Adrian as the son of the head of household, and the head of household was not Sandilla but Maier.   As I wrote last time, I was able to find the siblings also living together on the 1910 census, where Adrian was this time identified as the brother of the head of household, again being Maier.

The death notice Alex found seemed to suggest that Sandilla might have been Adrian’s mother, not his aunt or his sister. Alex then went the next step and located a marriage record for a woman she thought might be Sandilla; she was listed as Sundilla Kramer on the FindMyPast index.  That record showed that “Sundilla” had married a man named Jacob Baruch on June 26, 1895, in New York City, and that her parents’ names were Abraham Kramer and Miriam Rosenfeld.  Here is a comparable record from FamilySearch.

Marriage record of Sandilla Kramer and Jacob Baruch
New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940,” database, FamilySearch ( : 10 February 2018), Jacob Baruch and Sundilla Kramer, 26 Jun 1895; citing Marriage, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York City Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,493,183.

I was blown away by Alex’s discoveries and her generous efforts on my behalf. Armed now with these clues, I checked the 18701 and 18802 census records for the Kramer siblings and saw that their parents were in fact named Abraham and Miriam; that confirmed that the “Sundilla Kramer” who had married Jacob Baruch in 1895 was the same woman who was living with Adrian Kramer and the other Kramer siblings in 1905 and 1910.

And Alex hadn’t stopped with the death notice and the marriage record; she also found on Ancestry an index listing for a child born in New York City in December 1896 named Abraham Baruch. Alex said in her comment that she wondered if that was possibly the name given to Adrian Kramer at birth.

So I went to find some evidence confirming that the baby born in December 1896 named Abraham Baruch was the son of Sandilla Kramer and Jacob Baruch. And I found an index listing from the New York, New York City Births, 1846-1909, database on FamilySearch that revealed more than the Ancestry listing located by Alex. It showed that Abraham Baruch, born in December 1896, was the son of Jacob Baruch and “Sandilla Kroper.” That seemed close enough to confirm that Abraham Baruch was Sandilla Kramer’s son with Jacob Baruch.3

But I still wasn’t sure that Abraham Baruch was the boy later known as Adrian Kramer. Fortunately, with the information Alex had provided, I was able to locate the Kramer family on the 1900 census, a census that had eluded me in my prior search:

Sandia and Abraham Baruch, 1900 US census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Page: 7; Enumeration District: 0255 1900 United States Federal Census

Notice that Sandilla’s name is given as “Sandia K. Baruch” and that she is listed as the sister of “Myer Cramer.” Under her listing is Myer’s nephew (and obviously “Sandia’s” son) Abraham Baruch, born December 1887 and two years old.

No wonder I couldn’t find this census initially. Look at all those errors. Sandilla is spelled wrong. Maier and Kramer are spelled wrong. And a boy allegedly born in 1887 was listed as two years old in 1900! Even my math isn’t that bad…..

But reading between the lines and ignoring the mistakes on the census record convinced me that Abraham Baruch was  the son of Jacob Baruch and Sandilla Kramer. By 1900, Sandilla and her son had moved in with her Kramer siblings. By 1905, Abraham Baruch was using the name Adrian Kramer, and his mother was divorced.

Now I knew who were the parents of Adrian Kramer and where he was between 1896 and 1905.

Thank you, Alex! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your efforts!

And now the question:

I was puzzled by the fact that I had not found the death notice for Adrian Kramer that Alex found on Ancestry. What had I done differently in my search logic that caused me to miss this critical piece of evidence?

I asked Alex where and how she’d found the death notice for Adrian Kramer, and she told me that she had simply searched for “Adrian Kramer” in “New York, USA,” on Ancestry, and the death notice had popped up as a result in the Historical Newspapers database.

How had I missed that, I wondered?  I duplicated Alex’s search terms, and still I did not get her results.  And I have the All Access subscription from Ancestry—their most expensive level. I get no results at all from the Historical Newspapers database from those search parameters.

But when I went to the Ancestry Card Catalog, pulled up the Historical Newspapers database, and did a search within the database itself, I was able to locate the obituary. So why didn’t it come up on an overall search for me like it had for Alex? I don’t know. But it sure has me doubting the reliability of Ancestry’s search engine.

If anyone has any explanation for why Alex and I would not get the same search results with the same search terms, please let me know.

UPDATE: Thanks to Lisa in the Ancestry Facebook group, I think I have the answer to why Alex got better results than I did.  Get this—searching with a UK subscription brings up BETTER results even in US databases than searching with a US subscription.  HOW CAN THAT BE FAIR? I will be calling Ancestry back next week (no time today) to address this.

Thank you once again to Alex for her extraordinary research and for taking the time to solve this mystery for me. Once again, I am in awe of the generosity of the genealogy village.

  1. Kramer Family, 1870 US Census, Year: 1870; Census Place: New York Ward 20 District 18, New York, New York; Roll: M593_1008; Page: 572B; Family History Library Film: 552507, 1870 United States Federal Census 
  2. Kramer Family, 1880 US Census, Year: 1880; Census Place: New York City, New York, New York; Roll: 886; Page: 506C; Enumeration District: 401, Source Information and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census 
  3.  New York, New York City Births, 1846-1909,” database, FamilySearch( : 11 February 2018), Jacob Baruch in entry for Abraham Baruch, Dec 1896; citing Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, reference cn 54590 New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,322,346. I am hoping to obtain a copy of the actual certificate. 

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

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

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

Frieda Brotman Coopersmith death cert


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harrys grandson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me know your thoughts.


My Double/Triple? Cousins: The Children of Pauline Ruelf and Hirsch Abraham

The youngest child of Gelle Katzenstein and Moses Ruelf to live to adulthood was Pauline Ruelf. Part of Pauline’s story has already been told, as she was the mother of Julius Abraham, who married Senta Katz, the great-granddaughter of Rahel Katzenstein. That is, as I described here, Pauline’s son Julius and his wife Senta Katz were half-third cousins. Julius and Senta were the parents of Fred Abrahams, whose memoirs of his family’s life and departure from Germany were also posted here.

But I am getting a bit ahead of myself, so let me back up and start with Pauline’s birth. She was born on September 25, 1869, in Rauischholzhausen:

Pauline Ruelf birth record,
Geburtsregister der Juden von (Rauisch)Holzhausen (Ebsdorfergrund) 1824-1874 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 452)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p.15

On December 26, 1891, when she was 22 years old, she married Hirsch Abraham. Hirsch was born on December 4, 1858, in Niederurff, and was the son of Jakob Abraham and Roschen Frank.

Pauline Ruelf marriage to Hirsh Abraham
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 7960

Hirsch was a widower when he married Pauline; his first wife was Pauline’s older sister Johanna Ruelf, who had died on August 12, 1890, eleven days after giving birth to a daughter, whose name was originally Rosa but was changed to Johanna (or Hannah) after her mother died.

Birth record of Rosa later Johanna Abraham
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 6175

So Pauline took on the responsibility for raising her niece Johanna. She and Hirsch also had six children together: Ricchen Rosa (1892), Julius (1894), Meta (1894), Sarah (1896), Siegfried (1897), and Recha (1900).  Although Julius and Meta were both born in 1894, they were not twins; Julius was born January 2, 1894, and his sister Meta was born almost twelve months later on December 26, 1894, meaning Julius was only three months old when Meta was conceived.

Birth record of Julius Abraham Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 6179


Birth record of Meta Abraham
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 6179

Pauline and Hirsch lost two of their children at young ages. Their daughter Sarah died on June 25, 1910; she was only fourteen.

Death Record for Sarah Abraham
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 6261

Their son Siegfried was killed fighting for Germany in World War I. He was only nineteen when he was shot in the line of duty on April 13, 1917. According to his death record, he was a musketeer in the Germany infantry and was shot twice, once in the left forearm and once in the chest, and died from his injuries; he was buried in a common grave.

Siegfried Abraham death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 6268

The fact that twenty years later Siegfried’s family would be forced to leave Germany to survive makes his death even more tragic. My cousin Fred Abrahams was named for his uncle Siegfried.

Siegfried’s brother Julius also served in World War I. Here is a photograph of three of Siegfried’s siblings at some gathering in Germany in 1915; first, the overall photograph and then a snip focusing on the three Abraham siblings, Meta, Julius, and Recha. You can see that Julius is in uniform:

Courtesy of Fred and Martin Abrahams

Courtesy of Fred and Martin Abrahams

On September 25, 1921, Johanna Abraham, Pauline’s niece whom she raised after her sister Johanna died, married Jakob Hirschberg of Zwesten, Germany. Jakob was born on April 15, 1893. He and Johanna had one child, a son Martin.

Marriage of Johanna Abraham and Jakob Hirschberg
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 6226

Although I have very little information at all about Hirsch and Pauline’s oldest daughter Ricchen Rosa Abraham, one passenger manifest lists her with the married name Zechermann; I don’t know her husband’s first name or when or where she married, nor do I know whether they ever had children.

Ricchen Rosa Abraham passenger card
The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Series Title: Passenger and Crew Manifests of Airplanes Arriving at Miami, Florida.; NAI Number: 2788541; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787 – 2004; Record Group Number: 85

The other surviving daughters of Pauline Ruelf and Hirsh Abraham both immigrated to the United States in the 1920s. Recha, the youngest child, was only 25 when she first left Germany on October 6, 1925, to travel to the US. According to the passenger manifest, she had been last living in Frankfurt and working as a housekeeper and was now traveling to her uncle, Max Abraham, who resided in Davenport, Iowa. Recha stated that she expected to stay for nine months.

Recha Abraham 1925 ship manifest
Year: 1925; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 3741; Line: 1; Page Number: 135 New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

Max Abraham was Hirsch Abraham’s older brother; he had come to the US from Germany in the 1870s when he was just a teenager. In 1880, he was living in Louisville, Kentucky, and working as a dry goods merchant. He remained in Kentucky for a number of years and after marrying in 1988, he moved to Campbellsburg, Indiana, where he became president of the local bank. After 25 years in Indiana, Max and his family moved to Davenport, Iowa in 1916, where he and his sons started what became a very successful clothing business, Abrahams Brothers. “Max Abrahams, Treasurer of Ready to Wear Store in Davenport, Dies at 82,” Quad-City Times (Davenport, Iowa), 24 Apr 1938, p. 1

I don’t know how long Recha ended up staying with her uncle Max in Iowa on this trip, but on October 15, 1926, she again sailed from Hamburg to New York listing her destination as her uncle Max Abraham’s home in Davenport, Iowa. She listed her last address as Frankfurt. She provided no occupation nor did she indicate this time the length of her stay.

Recha Abraham 1926 ship manifest
Year: 1926; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 3947; Line: 1; Page Number: 182 New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

On September 23, 1927, her older sister Meta also arrived in the US and also indicated that she was going to her uncle Max Abraham of Davenport, Iowa. Meta stated that she planned to stay in the US permanently. She stated that her occupation was a clerk.

Meta Abraham 1927 passenger manifest
Year: 1927; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 4135; Line: 1; Page Number: 94 New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

In the fall of 1930, both Meta and Recha must have visited their family in Germany because a passenger manifest for a ship sailing from Hamburg and arriving in New York City on October 8, 1930, lists both sisters as residents of New York City where they were both living at 42 West 89th Street. Recha was working as a cashier and Meta as a dressmaker. Neither had yet become a US citizen. Both reported that they had been in the US since 1927, although Recha obviously had arrived earlier than that.

Meta and Recha Abraham 1930 passenger manifest
Year: 1930; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 4854; Line: 1; Page Number: 90 New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

Meta and Recha did not show up on the 1930 census when I searched for them on Ancestry and FamilySearch, which puzzled me. I turned to, using his enumeration district finder tool and the address from the 1930 passenger manifest—42 West 89th Street. There they were, clear as could be.

Meta and Recha Abraham 1930 US census
Year: 1930; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1556; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 0450; FHL microfilm: 2341291

So why hadn’t they shown up when I searched? For one thing, both had reported themselves as much younger than they were; Meta, who apparently gave the information to the enumerator, said that she was 24 and her sister 22 when in fact Meta was 34 and Recha was 30. That obviously threw off my search even though I thought I’d given fairly wide ranges in my search parameters for their ages. Also, Recha was listed as Rebecca. But this household is clearly that of the Abraham sisters. Meta was working as a cashier for a butcher and Recha was a seamstress at Macy’s. Both are listed with the surname Abrahams, a change that had also been made by their uncle Max in Iowa.

Meanwhile, back in Niederurff, Germany, Pauline and Hirsh’s only surviving son, Julius Abraham, had by 1932 married his half-third cousin Senta Katz of Jesberg, and they had two sons in the 1930s, Martin and Siegfried/Fred. (Julius and Senta were married either on January 10, 1931, or January 10, 1932; their sons were not sure of the year, and I’ve not been able to find an official record.)

It was not too much longer before Julius and Senta recognized the need to escape from Nazi Germany. As Fred described in his memoir excerpted here and as I wrote about in that same post, Julius and Senta and their two sons left Germany and arrived in New York City on June 24, 1937 . They were going to Julius’ sisters, Meta and Recha, who were then living at 252 West 85th Street. Julius reported his occupation to be a tailor.

Family of Julius and Senta Katz Abraham, passenger manifest, Year: 1937; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6003; Line: 1; Page Number: 18
Ship or Roll Number : Roll 6003
Source Information New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

The next family member to arrive from Germany was Johanna Abraham Hirschberg, the half-sister of Meta, Julius, and Recha, daughter of Johanna Ruelf and Hirsch Abraham. Johanna came with her husband Jakob and son Martin on May 4, 1938; they also were going to Meta and Recha’s home at 252 West 85th Street in New York City. Jakob was a merchant. They had been living in Zwesten, Germany, before immigrating to the US.

Johanna Abraham Hirschberg and family on 1938 passenger manifest
Year: 1938; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6152; Line: 1; Page Number: 168 New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

Sadly, Pauline Ruelf Abraham died on March 22, 1938, in Niederurff, and thus did not get to join her children in the United States. She was 68 years old when she died.

Pauline Ruelf death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 6280

Pauline Ruelf Abraham gravestone

Her husband Hirsch Abraham left Germany a year later, arriving in New York on March 25, 1939. He also was joining his daughters at 252 West 85th Street. He was eighty years old when he left Niederurff, Germany and sailed alone to New York City, leaving behind the only home he’d ever known. He lived only a year in the US, dying on March 9, 1940 at age 81. (New York, New York, Death Index, 1862-1948, on

Thus, by March 1939, all but one of the children of Pauline Ruelf and Johanna Ruelf and Hirsch Abraham were living safely in New York City.  On the 1940 census, Meta and Recha were still living at 252 West 85th Street; Meta was a bookkeeper for a women’s clothing manufacturing company, and Recha had no occupation listed. Meta died in New York City on May 18, 1977, and her sister Recha died almost a year to the day later on May 24, 1978. Meta was 83 when she died, and Recha was 78. It appears the two sisters had lived together their entire adult lives once coming to the US in the 1920s.

Meta and Recha Abraham on 1940 census
Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: T627_2643; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 31-809

Their half-sister/first cousin Johanna and her husband Jakob (listed as Jack) and son were also still living in New York in 1940; Johanna and Jack were both working as cooks, Jack for the city and Johanna in a private home. By 1955, the family had moved to Davenport, Iowa, where Jack and his son Martin were both working in Max Abrahams’ store. Johanna died August 15, 1955, and Jack died in 1960. They are buried in Davenport.

Johanna Abraham Hirschberg and family on 1940 census
Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: T627_2636; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 31-547

Julius Abraham and his wife Senta Katz and their sons were also living in New York City in 1940. As I wrote earlier, the family was living at 325 West 93rd Street, and Julius was working in the family business, Abrahams Brothers, the clothing business started by Max Abrahams and his sons in Davenport, Iowa. The business had grown to about a dozen stores throughout the Midwest. In 1940, Julius was working in the fur department of the New York office, where the administration and buying for the many stores was handled. He continued to work for the business for the rest of his life. Julius died on December 22, 1959; his wife Senta lived to 93, dying on October 15, 2000, in Stamford, Connecticut.

Senta Katz Abrahams and family, 1940 census
Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: T627_2642; Page: 16A; Enumeration District: 31-777

The only child of Pauline Ruelf Abraham who is unaccounted for is Ricchen Rosa Abraham, Pauline’s first child. I have no records for her aside from her birth record and the 1961 passenger list card depicted above.  I am also only inferring that this is in fact Ricchen in the passenger list card based on the birth date and place of birth and the fact that her nephews Martin and Fred knew that she had ended up in Chile. The family story is that she was unable to gain entry to the US and so went to Chile instead.

I have no records for her in Chile so do not know when she got there, whom she married, whether she had children, or when she died. I have tried finding information about her from sources in Chile, but so far have had no luck. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know.

But what I do know is that all of the children and grandchildren of both Pauline Ruelf and her sister Johanna Ruelf survived the Holocaust. That in and of itself gives me a happy ending to this last chapter in the story of Gelle Katzensten and Moses Ruelf.



The Indomitable Human Spirit: The Descendants of Minna Ruelf Spier

Although the story of Minna Ruelf Spier is, like that of her sisters Esther and Bette, a story that includes much tragedy and suffering, in its way it is also uplifting for what it reveals about the human spirit and the will to survive. As we move closer to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, I find Minna’s story appropriate for these days and inspiring.

I have been in touch with one of Minna’s direct descendants, my fourth cousin- once removed Jennifer Spier-Stern, and she has shared with me what she knows about the family history as well as some family photographs. I am so very grateful to Jennifer for her help and her generosity.

Minna Ruelf was born on February 16, 1859, in Rauischholzhausen, Germany:

Minna Ruelf birth record
Geburtsregister der Juden von (Rauisch)Holzhausen (Ebsdorfergrund) 1824-1874 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 452)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 10

Three days after her 21st birthday, on February 19, 1880, she married Isaak Spier. Isaak was born June 12, 1850, in Leidenhofen, Germany, another town in the Hesse region, the son of Abraham Spier and Esther Schaumberg. Isaak was a merchant.  Minna and Isaak settled in Ebsdorf, a small village a mile from Leidenhofen, where they had the first of their three sons, Abraham, who was born on January 18, 1881.

Minna Ruelf and Isaak Spier marriage record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 2524

Their two younger sons, Julius (July 26, 1883), and Siegfried (November 29, 1886), were born in Rauischholzhausen.

Isaak Spier died on June 17, 1910, in Rauischholzhausen. He was sixty years old. At that time none of his sons had married.

Isaak Spier
Courtesy of  Jennifer Spier-Stern

Isaak Spier death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 8036

Abraham, the oldest son, married nine years later on November 3, 1919; he was 38 years old. He married Jenny Wertheim, who was born on June 4, 1890, in Hatzbach, Germany, to Wolf Wertheim and Sanchen Edelmuth.

Marriage of Abraham Spier and Jenny Wertheim
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 5047


Abraham Spier, c. 1914
Courtesy of Jennifer Spier-Stern

Jenny Wertheim  Spier Courtesy of Jennifer Spier-Stern

Abraham and Jenny had five children, one daughter and four sons: Edith (1920), Julius (1922),[1] Alfred (1924), Martin (1925), and Walter (1927); they were all born in Rauischholzhausen.

Edith, Julius, and Alfred Spier , c. 1926 Courtesy of Jennifer Spier-Stern

Family of Abraham and Jenny Spier, Courtesy of Jennifer Spier-Stern

Just three weeks after Walter’s birth, his grandmother Minna Ruelf Spier died at age 68 on November 5, 1927.

Minna Ruelf
Courtesy of her great-granddaughter Jennifer Spier-Stern

Minna Ruelf Spier death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 8053

The youngest son of Isaak Spier and Minna Ruelf, Siegfried, died when he was 48 years old in Rauischholzhausen on February 21, 1935, just seven months before the Nuremberg Laws were adopted by the Nazis in Germany. Siegfried was unmarried.

Siegfried Spier death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 8061

Not long after Siegfried’s death, Julius Spier (Abraham’s brother, not his son) left Rauischholzhausen. According to Alfred Schneider’s book, Die Juedischen Familien im ehemaligen Kreise Kirchain (p. 350), Julius was still in Rauischholzhausen in 1935, but as of 1936, his location was unknown. One source says that he went to Frankfurt where he had a seat on the stock exchange.  That same source said that he immigrated to England by 1945, perhaps as early as 1938.  (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Pedigree Resource File,” database, FamilySearch( : accessed 2017-09-06), entry for Julius /Spier).

According to Jennifer, Julius Spier married Lucie Henrietta Cohn. According to this website located by Jennifer, Lucie was the daughter of Hugo Cohn and Selma Marcuse of Halberstadt; she was born on October 28, 1897. The website also states that she’d gone to Frankfurt and married (no date or place was given, nor the name of her husband). If futher states that after getting divorced in 1938, Lucie had immigrated to England and worked in the fashion industry.  Although I have no marriage record or other document showing her marriage or divorce, Lucie appears on many passenger manifests between 1947 and 1960—first residing in London, later in the US, listed at various times as a commercial traveler, a housewife, and a nurse.

Julius died in London on February 25, 1959. (England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007, on

UPDATE: Thank you to Anne Callanan of the German Genealogy for sending me some records she found on FindMyPast, a genealogy service to which I do not (yet) subscribe. Anne found Enemy Alien registration cards for several family members including Julius Spier and Lucie Henrietta Spier. From those records, I now know that Julius was in England by November 1939, working as an agent. He was at first granted an exemption from being detained as an enemy alien, but that decision was reversed and he was interned on June 21, 1940, but was released two months later on August 23, 1940.

Lucie also had to register as an enemy alien. She registered on December 8, 1939, when she was living in Manchester, England (thus not with Julius) and working as a house servant for a Mr. M. I. Marks in his home. She was granted an exemption and was not interned. The card does not reveal any information about her marital status.

Julius Spier (son of Minna Ruelf and Isaak Spier)
Courtesy of Jennifer Spier-Stern

Abraham and Jenny Spier and their children were still in Germany during the Nazi era, but they were eventually able to get some of their children to England. According to my cousin Jennifer, Edith Spier left Germany on one of the early Kindertransports to England where she worked as au pair; according to the Schneider book (p. 351), Edith left on October 20, 1937, when she was seventeen. She eventually went to New York, where in 1943 she married Alfred Baumann, who was born in Adelsberg, Germany, in 1913, and had immigrated to the US in 1938.

Julius Spier (Abraham and Jenny’s son) was arrested along with ten thousand other Jewish men  in the aftermath of Kristallnacht on November 9, 1938, and sent to Buchenwald. His daughter Jennifer wrote this about his experiences:

My father, John Sanders (nee Julius Spier) was born in Rauischholtzhausen, Germany on June 17, 1922. At the age of 16, on November 9, 1938 he was arrested in his home by the Gestapo. It should have been my grandfather, but he was in a few towns over at his mother’s home. Rumors around the towns were that the Gestapo were going from house to house to arrest the eldest male.

My father was taken to Buchenwald concentration camp where he remained for 10 weeks. During this time, his mother heard about the organized efforts of the Jewish Agency of Bloomsbury, London to get as many Jewish children, between the ages of four to 17, out of Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. She went to the Jewish Agency and the police, where she was told to get all the documents ready, as well as a visa to leave Germany.

Upon release from Buchenwald, my father had only two weeks to leave Germany. His father took him to the Frankfurt train station, where he was to meet the Kindertransport train that would take him to England. At the train station there were other families with children. The parents and their young ones had to say their good-byes inside the train station. The children, regardless of age, had to go onto the platform and then onto the train by themselves. Families with infants gave the infants to the older children. It is difficult to comprehend all sides. How does a parent give up a baby and how does a young adult care for one. My father said goodbye to his father, not realizing that this was the last time he would ever see him.  …

After his tenure in Dover Court, my father was taken into the home of an Orthodox family in Westgate, London. He was there until June of 1939 when his brother [Alfred] came over from Germany. Together, they went to a hostel in London. Shortly thereafter they were taken to a farm in Aberdeen, Scotland. An aristocrat owned the farm by the name of Sir Robert Grant. He treated my father and his brother with the utmost of respect and kindness. One memorable time for my father was when the chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce took him and his brother to Harrod’s department store in London and they were able to pick out all that they needed. Sir Robert Grant applied for visas to get my father’s parents and brothers out of Germany. Unfortunately war broke out a few days later and all visas were denied. 

Julius Spier, son of Abraham and Jenny (Wertheim) Spier, c. 1935
Courtesy of Jennifer Spier-Stern

That left Abraham and Jenny and their two youngest children, Martin and Walter, stranded in Germany. On September 7, 1942, all four were deported to Theriesenstadt. Then on May 18, 1944, all four were transported to Auschwitz, where Abraham and Jenny were murdered. Martin and Walter survived. Walter Spier talked movingly about his experience in this video. I implore you all to watch it. It’s less then fifteen minutes long, and when you considered what he suffered for years, you know you can spare fifteen minutes to hear him talk.


When I think of the two young men being reunited in Rauischholzhausen in 1945, it moves me to tears.

Meanwhile, their older siblings were for a time in the United Kingdom. But like many other Jews who were sent to England for safety from the Nazis, Julius and Alfred were sent to the Isle of Man as possible “enemies of the state” after England declared war on Germany in September, 1939.

According to this article from B’nai Brith Magazine, the first inmates arrived on the Isle of Man in May, 1940, and by August, 1940, there were over 14,000 men, women, and children imprisoned on the Isle of Man, some being Nazi sympathizers, many others being Jews who’d been born in Germany and thus were considered enemy aliens, ironically.  Because of overcrowding, in July, 1940, England decided to send some of the inmates to Canada or to Australia. (Cheryl Klemper, “Imprisoned On The Isle Of Man: Jewish Refugees Classified As “Enemy Aliens”, ” B’nai Brith Magazine, September 19, 2016)

Julius and Alfred Spier were among those sent to Australia. According to Jennifer, they both were on the ship known as the HMT (Hired Military Transport) Dunera. According to the Australian website for the Migration Heritage Centre:

On board the HMT Dunera were about 2,000 male German Jewish refugees aged between 16 and 45, who had escaped from Nazi occupied territories. Also on board were 200 Italian POWs and 250 Nazis. The voyage lasted 57 days. The conditions were appalling. Apart from overcrowding on the ship with the attendant problems of hygiene and harsh treatment by crew members, the journey was also made unpleasant by the fear of torpedo attacks, the uncertainty of the destination, and by tensions between Jewish refugees and Nazi passengers.

After arriving in Australia, Julius and Alfred spent two years interned at camps in Hay and Tatura in Australia. The Migration Heritage Centre website reported this about the Hay camp:

The Hay POW camp was constructed in 1940. The first arrivals were 2036 German and Austrian Jewish refugees who fled the Nazis. They were mostly professionals who had simply fled for their lives. They were placed along side 451 German and Italian POWs many of whom were pro Nazi and fascist.

While awaiting release, the Dunera Boys developed a rich cultural and intellectual programme at their camp, giving concerts and establishing an unofficial university. The small group of strictly Orthodox Jews also managed to organise a kosher kitchen. After a period of time the injustice of their situation was realised and they were permitted to return to Britain.

Here is a record identifying Julius Spier as a POW in Australia during the war:

Courtesy of Jennifer Spier-Stern

According to Jennifer, when Julius and Alfred were finally released, they were given a choice  either to return to Germany or join the British Army, so they both joined the British Army, where they served for the duration of the war and then returned to England.

UPDATE: Thanks again to Anne Callanan, I now have enemy alien registration cards for both Edith and Julius Spier.  Edith registered on December 12, 1939, and was granted an exemption; she was working as a domestic. Her brother Julius registered as an enemy alien on November 28, 1939, when he was working on Sir Robert Grant’s farm in Scotland. But as we know he was denied an exemption and interned until June 21, 1942, when he was returned to the UK from Australia.

In the years immediately after the war Edith was in New York City, Julius and Alfred were in England, and Martin and Walter were in Germany. Martin and Walter both stayed in Rauischholzhausen for a year after their liberation from the camps in 1945, and then both immigrated to New York City where both of them later married.

In England, Alfred married Hannelore Reimers, who was from Bielefeld, Germany. Hannelore wanted to return to Bielefeld where her family still lived[2], so Alfred and Hannelore ended up back in Germany.

Julius married Helene Trunec in England in 1952; Julius and Helene stayed in England until 1963 when they immigrated to the United States and were reunited with Edith, Martin, and Walter in New York City. Julius and Helene had two children, Jennifer and Mark.

The five children of Abraham Spier and Jenny Wertheim thus all survived the Holocaust, although their parents did not. The five siblings not only suffered the loss of their parents and of their home; two were tortured and suffered terribly in the Nazi concentration camps, and two were imprisoned like criminals by England, the country where they had sought sanctuary. It’s hard to imagine how any of them coped with what they had endured.

But listening to Walter Spier on that video reveals that somehow the human spirit can endure unimaginable suffering and still have faith, hope, and love. All five of the Spier siblings went on to have children after the war, one sign of the incredible power of faith, hope, and love.


[1] I find it interesting that Abraham named a son Julius since his brother Julius was still alive. I assume the son was named for another family member, not his uncle.

[2] Hannelore was not born Jewish, but converted when she married Alfred.

Pacific Street: Inspired by Facts and Love

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

Amy Gussie and Isadore

My grandparents, Gussie Brotman and Isadore Goldschlager, and me

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

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

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

Charlotte's Web

Charlotte’s Web (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

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

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

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

Double Cousins…Everywhere!

The best part of my discoveries of the Goldfarb and Hecht families is that I have found more new cousins, three of whom are my double cousins—Sue, Debrah, and Lisa. They are descendants of Julius Goldfarb and Ida Hecht. Sue’s daughter Lisa shared this wonderful wedding photograph of Julius and Ida.


Wedding photograph of Julius Goldfarb, my grandmother’s first cousin, and Ida Hecht, my grandmother’s niece. Courtesy of the Goldfarb/Hecht family


Julius was the son of Sarah Goldfarb, my great-grandmother’s sister; Ida was the daughter of Tillie Hecht, my grandmother’s half-sister.   So I am related to both of them.

Julius and Ida had four daughters, Sylvia, Gertrude, Ethel and Evelyn. Sue, Sylvia’s daughter, shared with me this precious photograph of her grandmother Ida holding her as a baby:


Ida Hecht Goldfarb and granddaughter Sue

And Debrah shared this photograph of her grandparents, Julius and Ida, with her mother Evelyn:


Julius, Evelyn, and Ida (Hecht) Goldfarb

Julius, Evelyn, and Ida (Hecht) Goldfarb

One thing I wanted to define is how, if at all, Julius and Ida were related to each other, aside from being husband and wife.  Hecht/Goldfarb family lore says Julius and Ida were “distant cousins.”

Julius was the son of Sarah Goldfarb.  Sarah’s sister Bessie Brotman was the stepmother of Ida’s mother, Toba, as Bessie married Toba’s father Joseph after his Toba’s mother died.  Although that makes things complicated, it does not alone create any genetic connection between Julius and Ida since Bessie (and thus Sarah) had no blood relationship with Toba.


But if Brotman family lore is correct and Bessie and her husband Joseph Brotman were first cousins, then Joseph Brotman and Bessie’s sister Sarah were also first cousins. Sarah’s son Julius married Ida, who was the granddaughter of Sarah’s first cousin Joseph, making Julius and Ida second cousins, once removed.


That is, assuming that Joseph and Sarah were first cousins as Brotman family lore reports, Ida and Julius were in fact “distant cousins,” as Hecht/Goldfarb family lore indicates.  So maybe together the Brotman family lore and the Hecht/Goldfarb family lore validate each other.

Sue and Debrah, who are granddaughters of Julius Goldfarb and Ida Hecht, thus are both the great-granddaughters of Sarah Brotman Goldfarb, making them my third cousins on my great-grandmother Bessie’s side, and the great-great-granddaughters of Joseph Brotman, making them also my second cousins, once removed, on my great-grandfather Joseph’s side. (Lisa is one more step removed on both sides.) Renee is my second cousin; her mother Jean Hecht was my mother’s first cousin; her grandmother Toba was my grandmother Gussie’s half-sister. And then I’ve also found a cousin Jan, whose grandfather was Harry Hecht, Toba’s son, and my mother’s first cousin.


Harry Hecht and his wife and children 1945 Courtesy of the family

And, of course, if my great-grandparents Joseph and Bessie Brotman were in fact first cousins, the relationships get even more convoluted. But I think I will skip that calculation.  At least for now.  Maybe some brave soul out there wants to try and figure it out?

With all this shared DNA, I was very curious to see if there were any family resemblances among the various members of the Goldfarb, Hecht, and Brotman families.  My newly found double cousins Debrah, Sue, and Lisa shared some family photos with me, including this one of Toba/ Taube/Tillie Brotman Hecht:


Toba/Taube/Tillie Brotman Hecht Courtesy of the Goldfarb/Hecht family

Here is a photograph of her brother Max Brotman that I’d earlier received from his family:

Max Brotman

Max Brotman, courtesy of the family

Do you see a resemblance? Unfortunately I don’t have any photographs of Toba’s other full siblings, Abraham and David, to help with the comparison.

But here are photographs of Toba’s half-siblings, Hyman, Tillie (Ressler), Sam, and my grandmother Gussie:

Hyman Brotman

Hyman Brotman

Tilly Brotman

Tilly Brotman Ressler

Sam Brotman

Sam Brotman

Gussie Brotman

Gussie Brotman Goldschlager

I can see some similarities—in particular in the shape of the noses.  But it appears that Max and Toba do not have faces that are as round as those of their half-siblings.  Perhaps the shape of their faces was a genetic trait they inherited from their mother Chaye, not their father Joseph Brotman.

Here is one other photograph of the extended Goldfarb and Hecht family.


Goldfarb Hecht family gathering for Chanukah

Standing on the far left is Julius Goldfarb.  Seated at the head of the table is Ida Hecht Goldfarb.  On the right side of the table starting at the front are two of Ida’s sister, Etta and Jean Hecht.  Also in the photograph are Julius and Ida’s four daughters as well as their spouses and a few of the grandchildren and other cousins.

It’s sad to think that in 1917 Julius and Ida were close enough to my grandmother that they came to visit when my aunt was born, as did Ida’s mother, my grandmother’s sister Toba Hecht, but somehow the families all lost touch, and my mother only has a few  memories of some of the Goldfarbs from her childhood.

On the other hand, I feel very fortunate that now, almost a century after my aunt was born, I know who the Goldfarbs and Hechts were and I am in touch with a number of these “new”  cousins of mine.


Who was Sarah Goldfarb? Searching for Answers

In my last post, I described the research path I followed to determine whether and how Julius and Joe Goldfarb were related to my grandmother Gussie Brotman. After much searching, I had established the following with some degree of certainty:

Julius and Joseph Goldfarb were both sons of Sam and Sarah Goldfarb.  Sarah and Sam had lived in Grombow/Grebow, Poland, before immigrating to the United States, which was the same town my great-uncles Abraham Brotman and David Brotman had listed as their home on the ship manifest when they immigrated in 1889.  Sam Goldfarb had arrived in 1892, Sarah in 1896.  Sarah came with four children, Julius (Joel), Morris (Moische), Gussie (Gitel), and Bessie (Pesie).  They had sailed to Philadelphia, and in 1900, they were living in Pittsgrove, New Jersey, where my great-grandfather’s brother Moses Brotman was also residing.  By that time, Sarah and Sam (called Solomon on the 1900 census) had had two more children: Joseph and Leo (or Lewis).  Sam was working as a tailor, perhaps even in my grandmother’s first cousin Abraham Brotman’s factory in Pittsgrove, New Jersey.

Sam Goldfarb and family 1900 US census Year: 1900; Census Place: Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey; Roll: 993; Page: 17B; Enumeration District: 0179; FHL microfilm: 1240993

Sam Goldfarb and family 1900 US census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey; Roll: 993; Page: 17B; Enumeration District: 0179; FHL microfilm: 1240993

By 1902, Sam and Sarah had moved to the Lower East Side of New York City where their seventh child, Rosie, was born on February 9, 1902.  They were living across the street from my grandmother and her family on Ridge Street; my great-grandmother Bessie (Brod) Brotman was then a widow, as my great-grandfather Joseph Brotman had died in 1901.  According to the 1905 census, Sam Goldfarb was working as a cloak maker.

Sam Goldfarb and family 1905 NY census New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1905; Election District: A.D. 12 E.D. 06; City: Manhattan; County: New York; Page: 32

Sam Goldfarb and family 1905 NY census
New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1905; Election District: A.D. 12 E.D. 06; City: Manhattan; County: New York; Page: 32

In 1910, the Goldfarbs were living on Avenue C in New York, and Sam was still working as a tailor in a cloak factory.  Their son Julius was working as a conductor on a street car, and Morris as a cutter in a neckwear factory.

Sam Goldfarb and family 1910 US census, lines 8-17 Year: 1910; Census Place: Manhattan Ward 11, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1012; Page: 17A; Enumeration District: 0259; FHL microfilm: 1375025

Sam Goldfarb and family 1910 US census, lines 8-17
Year: 1910; Census Place: Manhattan Ward 11, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1012; Page: 17A; Enumeration District: 0259; FHL microfilm: 1375025

In April 1910, Sam and Sarah’s daughter Gussie married Max Katz, a window decorator who was born in Russia; on the 1910 census, Gussie and Max are listed as living with Max’s parents in Brooklyn. According to the marriage index on FamilySearch, Gussie Goldfarb’s mother’s birth name was “Brohmen,” one of the clues that made me think that Sarah was a relative of my great-grandfather, Joseph Brotman.

In 1915, Gussie and Max had moved out on their own and were living on Malta Street in Brooklyn.  Max was working in the men’s clothing business.

Gussie Goldfarb and Max Katz 1915 NY census New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 51; Assembly District: 22; City: New York; County: Kings; Page: 148

Gussie Goldfarb and Max Katz 1915 NY census
New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 51; Assembly District: 22; City: New York; County: Kings; Page: 148

I found another clue for Sarah’s birth name on her son Julius’ marriage license, as indexed on FamilySearch: Sarah Brothman.  Julius married Ida Hecht in November, 1913. In 1915, Sam and Sarah and the remaining five unmarried children (Morris, Bessie, Joe, Leo, and Rose) were still living on Avenue C in the same building as my great-uncle Hyman Brotman and his family.  Sam was still working as a tailor, as was his son Morris.

Based on these two New York City marriage index listings, one for the marriage of Gussie Goldfarb and one for the marriage of Julius Goldfarb, it looked like their mother Sarah’s birth name was Brothman or Brohmen.  To find out more, I would need to order the actual records plus any other vital records that might reveal Sarah’s parentage and family.  So I ordered these two marriage records; I also ordered the birth record for Sarah and Sam’s last child, Rosie.

The marriage record for Gussie was consistent with the information on the NYC marriage index, except that it was evident that Gussie’s mother’s name was not spelled Brohmen, but Brotmen, on the actual certificate.

katz-goldfarb-marriage-page-1 katz-goldfarb-marriage-page-2

The actual marriage record for Julius Brotman and Ida Hecht was also consistent with what I’d seen on the index in terms of Sarah’s birth name—Brothman.  But the record revealed a new mystery.

goldfarb-hecht-marriage-page-3 goldfarb-hecht-marriage-page-4

Ida’s mother’s birth name certainly looks like it was Taube Brotman, doesn’t it? (The index said Braitmer.) Who was this? Perhaps Taube Hecht had come to see my aunt as a baby not simply because her daughter Ida was married to my grandmother’s cousin Julius; maybe she came because she herself was a Brotman relative.  I decided to put that mystery aside for the time being and focus on Sarah Goldfarb.

And Rosie Goldfarb’s birth record made me really scratch my head. It gave Sarah Goldfarb’s name before marriage as S. Braud or maybe Brand.  Not Brotman or Brothman or Brotmen.  I was confused.  Was it Brod? Was Sarah actually my great-grandmother Bessie Brod’s sister, and not the sister of my great-grandfather Joseph Brotman.  Obviously I needed to do more digging.


Having first worked backward in time, I now worked from 1915 forward to see what else I might find to help me determine if Sarah Goldfarb was a Brod or a Brotman.  Both Julius and his brother Morris registered for the draft in World War I.  I’d already seen the draft registration card for Julius, but had not seen the card for Morris.  It added no new information, but confirmed that he was born in “Grombow Galicia Austria.”[1]


Morris Goldfarb World War I draft registration Registration State: New York; Registration County: New York; Roll: 1765780; Draft Board: 104

On February 2, 1919, Morris married Anna Grinbaum in Brooklyn, according to the NYC marriage index.  I ordered a copy of his marriage record, and his record listed his mother’s birth name as Sarah Brod.  Now I had two records that indicated Sarah’s birth name was not Brotman, like my great-grandfather, but Brod, like my great-grandmother.  I wanted to hit my head against the wall!



Tragedy struck the Goldfarb family when Sarah and Sam’s oldest daughter, Gussie, died on May 13, 1919 at age 29 from acute lobar pneumonia.  As far as I can tell, Gussie and her husband Max Katz had not had any children.  On Gussie’s death certificate, her parents’ names are listed as Solomon Goldfarb and Sarah Brotman.  Another point for Brotman.


In 1920, Sam and Sarah only had three children still living with them: Joe (22), Leo (20), and Rose (18).  Joe and Leo were both working as clerks for an express company, and Rose was working as a dressmaker.  Sam was no longer working; he was now 64 years old. They were living on Williams Avenue in Brooklyn; I now knew that the “S. Goldfarb” on Williams Avenue listed in my grandfather’s notebook had to be either Sam or Sarah Goldfarb.

Sam and Sarah Goldfarb 1920 US census Year: 1920; Census Place: Brooklyn Assembly District 2, Kings, New York; Roll: T625_1146; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 82; Image: 21

Sam and Sarah Goldfarb 1920 US census
Year: 1920; Census Place: Brooklyn Assembly District 2, Kings, New York; Roll: T625_1146; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 82; Image: 21

Grandpa notebook 13 more addresses Joe Goldfarb

But where was their daughter Bessie? She had been living with the family in 1915, so I assumed she had married sometime between 1915 and 1920.  I searched for her in the NYC marriage index, but there was no listing for a Bessie Goldfarb.  Instead I found this record from the Michigan marriage database on Ancestry:


Meyer Malzberg and Bessie Goldfarb marriage record 1914 Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867–1952. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics.

Meyer Malzberg and Bessie Goldfarb marriage record 1914 Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015.
Original data: Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867–1952. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics.

The top image shows the bride and groom, Bessie Goldfarb and Meyer Malzberg, their ages, and that they were residing in Detroit.  It also shows their birthplaces, and for Bessie it is Austria.  The lower image shows the father’s first name, Sam for Bessie, and then the mother’s birth names.  Although it is partly hidden by the fold on the page, it definitely looks like “ah Brothman.”

This is most definitely my cousin Bessie Goldfarb: she was born in “Austria,” her father was named Sam, her mother Sarah Brothman.  But why was she a resident of Detroit? And how did she knew Meyer Malzberg?  And most confusing, if she married him on August 9, 1914 as this record reports, was she really living back in Brooklyn when the NY census was taken in 1915?

It got even more bewildering.  In 1910, Meyer Malzberg was living with his father and sister in New York City, working as a stock clerk in a department store.  In fact, although he was born in Russia, he and his family had been living in New York City since their arrival in about 1900 (records conflict).  So what were he and Bessie doing in Detroit in 1914?

In June, 1917, when Meyer registered for the World War I draft, he was still living in Detroit, working as a driver for the Detroit Creamery Company.  He also claimed an exemption from service because he was supporting his father, his wife, and a child.  So by 1917, Meyer and Bessie had had a child.

Meyer Malzberg World War I draft registration Registration State: Michigan; Registration County: Wayne; Roll: 2024027; Draft Board: 06

Meyer Malzberg World War I draft registration
Registration State: Michigan; Registration County: Wayne; Roll: 2024027; Draft Board: 06

But if Meyer and Bessie had had a child between 1914 and 1917, why was Bessie living with her parents in New York in 1915 while Meyer was still apparently living in Detroit? A little more research revealed that that first child, a son named Norman, was born in New York in May, 1915; although the NY census is dated on the form as June 1, 1915, it must have been actually enumerated before then since the baby is not listed.


My best guess is that Bessie had come back to New York to have her baby where her family was living while Meyer stayed in Detroit to earn a living.  Unfortunately, I was unable to find Bessie and Meyer on the 1920 census, but their second child Gustave was born in Brooklyn in 1919 and their two youngest sons Burton and Saul were born in Jersey City in the 1920s.

Obviously, the stay in Detroit was relatively short-lived, and Meyer and Bessie had returned to the New York metropolitan area before 1920.  In fact, when I looked back at my grandfather’s notebook, I noticed that there was an entry for M. Malzberg at 361 2d Street, JC, or Jersey CIty:

Grandpa notebook 13 more addresses Joe Goldfarb

Bessie’s brother Julius and his family were also living in Jersey City in 1920, and Julius was continuing to work in the liquor business; by 1920, they had two young daughters, Sylvia and Gertrude.

Julius Goldfarb and family 1920 US census lines 70-73 Year: 1920; Census Place: Jersey City Ward 3, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: T625_1043; Page: 17B; Enumeration District: 135; Image: 1104

Julius Goldfarb and family 1920 US census
lines 70-73
Year: 1920; Census Place: Jersey City Ward 3, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: T625_1043; Page: 17B; Enumeration District: 135; Image: 1104

To review: as of 1920, Sam and Sarah Goldfarb were living with their children Joe, Leo, and Rose in Brooklyn; Julius and Ida were living in Jersey City; Morris and Anna were probably living in Brooklyn; Gussie was deceased; and Bessie and Meyer were living in either Jersey City or in Brooklyn.

At this point in my research, I started to move beyond 1920 and to look for living descendants to see what I might learn about the family and specifically about Sarah Goldfarb.  I was very fortunate to find two of the descendants of Julius and Ida (Hecht) Goldfarb.  And they provided me with extensive family history notes that a member of the Goldfarb family had researched years before.  More on what I learned from that research in my next post.

But for now, a summary of the clues I’d found so far about Sarah Goldfarb’s connection to my grandmother: three marriage records and one death record for Sarah’s children indicated that Sarah’s birth name had been “Brot(h)man,” but one marriage record for Morris and one birth record for Rose said it was “Brod” or “Braud.”

The evidence seemed to weigh in favor of Sarah being perhaps a sibling of my great-grandfather Joseph Brotman.  Also pointing in that direction was the fact that when they first came to the US, Sam and Sarah had lived in the same town as Moses Brotman, my great-grandfather’s brother.

But then by 1902, Sarah and Sam had moved across the street from my great-grandmother after my great-grandfather had died.  Did that suggest that Sarah was Bessie’s sister and had moved to New York to be closer to her widowed sister? Was Sarah a Brod, not a Brotman, as the wedding certificate for Morris and Rose’s birth certificate indicated?

Plus there were some conflicting clues raised by the naming pattern.  If Sarah had a sister named Bessie (my great-grandmother), would she have named a child Bessie? But Sarah also had a son named Joseph who was born before my great-grandfather Joseph Brotman died.  Would she have given a son the same name as her brother?  Ashkenazi Jews don’t name their children after living relatives, so these name choices certainly confused the matter.

The evidence certainly was not conclusive.  I needed more.






[1] Although the documents I found spelled the town several different ways, Grembow, Grombow, and Grebow, I believe that the last is the correct spelling.  I searched JewishGen, and the only town with a name similar to those names that had had a Jewish community before the Holocaust was Grebow, the town I visited in 2015, the town right near Tarnobrzeg.

Jakob Schoenthal and Charlotte Lilienfeld, Part II: Finding Their Children and Grandchildren

In my last post, I talked about the twisted path I took to find my great-great-uncle Jakob Schoenthal and his wife Charlotte Lilienfeld.  After discovering that their daughter Henriette Schoenthal and her husband Julius Levi had been killed in the Holocaust, I was determined to find out what had happened to Henry Lyons, who was the son of Henriette and Julius Levi and who had filed Pages of Testimony for his parents with Yad Vashem.

I thought that would be easy.  After all, I had a name and a specific address from the Pages of Testimony—99-30 59th Avenue, Rego Park, New York.  And I did almost immediately find a Public Records listing with his name at that address that provided me with his birthdate, October 17, 1919.  But that didn’t tell me much more than what I knew from the Pages of Testimony.

Yad Vashem page of testimony for Henriette Schoenthal Levi


Searching a bit further using the Rego Park address listed on the Pages of Testimony, I found a Pauline Lyons listed at that same address; I assumed that she was Henry’s wife.  Having both names made the search a bit easier since Henry Lyons itself is not exactly a unique name. I was able to use their two names together to find that they are both buried at Calverton National Cemetery and that Henry had died on December 18, 1986, and Pauline on November 30, 2007.  Henry had served in the US military during World War II, beginning his service on November 28, 1942, and thus was entitled to a military burial.  Imagine coming to America as a young man to escape Hitler and then fighting against the country of your birth.

When had he come to the US? Had he and Pauline had children? I wanted to know more.  I assumed Henry had arrived in the US sometime in the mid-to late 1930s.  I also assumed that he had arrived under the surname Levi, not Lyons.  After I wasted a lot of time searching for him under the wrong name, a member of the NYC Genealogy Group found a record for a man named Helmut Levi who had changed his name to Henry Lyons on October 5, 1953, in the city courts in New York.


Helmut Levi change of name to Henry Lyons U.S. Naturalization Record Indexes, 1791-1992 (Indexed in World Archives Project) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA:

Helmut Levi change of name to Henry Lyons U.S. Naturalization Record Indexes, 1791-1992 (Indexed in World Archives Project) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA:

Armed with the information about what was probably his original name, I was able to find Helmut Levi on the 1940 census, living as a lodger at 204 West 87th Street in NYC and working as a watchmaker.  I was pretty certain I had found the right person when I saw on the census record that he had been living in Cologne, Germany, in 1935.

I also then found him on a passenger manifest (see line 26 on each page below):

Helmut Levy ship manifest p 1

Helmut Levi ship manifest Henry Lyons

Year: 1939; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6293; Line: 1; Page Number: 188


Helmut Levi had arrived in NYC on February 25, 1939.  According to the ship manifest, he was a nineteen year old merchant born and last residing in Cologne, leaving behind his father Julius Levi of Breitstrasse in Cologne and going to his uncle Lee Schoenthal of Washington, Pennsylvania.  This was obviously my cousin, the man later known as Henry Lyons.

I also found him on a second passenger manifest dated July 4, 1948, arriving in NYC from Bremerhaven, Germany.  Henry had returned to Germany after the war.  What a devastating trip that must have been.  The photo below shows what his home city of Cologne looked like after Allied bombing during the war.  Henry had not only lost his parents, but the place where he had lived as a child and a teenager.


By U.S. Department of Defense. Department of the Army. Office of the Chief Signal Officer. [2] [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By U.S. Department of Defense. Department of the Army. Office of the Chief Signal Officer. [2] [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

From that 1948 passenger manifest (line 10), I saw that Helmut Levi was then living in Washington, Pennsylvania, where his two uncles, Lee and Meyer, were also living, that is, his mother’s brothers, the two sons of Jakob and Charlotte mentioned in my last post.  Like so many Schoenthal relatives before him, Helmut had spent time living in western Pennsylvania.  The ship manifest also indicated that by 1948, Helmut had married, although Pauline is not listed as traveling with him.


Helmut Levi aka Henry Lyons 1948 ship manifest

Helmut Levi 1948 ship manifest Year: 1948; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 7624; Line: 10; Page Number: 9


But I still didn’t know whether Helmut/Henry and Pauline had had children or whether there were other family members I might have missed.  I called Calverton National Cemetery, but they had no additional information.  I searched in the newspaper databases for articles or obituaries that might reveal more about Henry and Pauline Lyons.  At first I limited myself to New York papers, but then I realized that that was too narrow, given that he had once lived in western Pennsylvania.  I broadened my search and found this obituary from the January 19, 1989, Pittsburgh Press:


Erna Schoenthal Haas obit 1989


Who was Erna Haas? And was she Henry’s aunt or Pauline’s aunt? And who was Yohana Stern? I had more work to do.  I searched for Erna Haas, an unusual enough name, and was very excited to find this ship manifest (see lines 15 and 16):


Erna Haas ship manifest p 1

Year: 1938; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6152; Line: 1; Page Number: 174


Erna and her twelve year old son Werner had sailed from Hamburg, Germany on May 4, 1938; Erna was a beautician coming from Cologne.  I assumed that therefore her connection would be to Henry, a native of Cologne, not to Pauline, who was American-born.  Turning to the second page of the manifest, my hunch was confirmed (again, see lines 15 and 16):


Erna Haas ship manifest p 2

Year: 1938; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6152; Line: 1; Page Number: 174


Who was the person she named as living in the place she had left? Her sister, H. Levy of Breitstrasse in Cologne—that is, Henriette Schoenthal Levi, who had lived on that street as seen in the Köln directories in my last post. And who was she going to be with in the US? Her brother, Lee Schoenthal in Washington, Pennsylvania.  Erna Haas was another child of Jakob Schoenthal and Charlotte Lilienfeld.  She was also my grandmother’s first cousin.  And the aunt of Henry Lyons.  She was born Erna Schoenthal. I had found a fourth child of Jakob and Charlotte Schoenthal.

In 1940, Erna was listed on the census living with her son Werner in Pittsburgh, Erna working in cosmetics sales, Werner in newspaper sales.  Erna was a widow, so I assume that her husband Arnold had died in Germany, as I have no record of him in the US.  Unfortunately I have not yet found a record for him in Germany either.

But what about Yohana Stern, who had been listed in Erna’s obituary as her sister? I found this obituary for her husband Heinrich while searching for more information about Erna Haas:

Heinrich Stern obit


And then I located a ship manifest for Johanna Stern and Heinrich Stern (lines 3 and 4):


Ship manifest p 1 Johanna Schoenthal and Heinrich Stern


Ship manifest p 2 for Johanna Schoenthal and Heinrich Stern

Year: 1947; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 7389; Line: 4; Page Number: 107


They had not arrived in the US until June 10, 1947, when they were 66 and 70 years old.  Notice that Johanna was born in Cologne, presumably around 1880.  How had she and Heinrich survived the Holocaust?  The manifest lists them as “stateless” and notes that they had last resided in “Lyon, France” and that their visas had been issued in “Marseille, France.”

The second page indicates that the person they were leaving behind at their last residence was a friend named Henry Kahnweiler of Paris (more on him in my next post) and the person they were going to see in the US was Johanna’s brother Lee Schoenthal of Washington, Pennsylvania.  Their final destination was Washington, Pennsylvania.  Yohana or Johanna Stern was born Johanna Schoenthal, a fifth child of Jakob and Charlotte Schoenthal. Another of my grandmother’s first cousins.


Thus, Jakob and Charlotte had had five children.  Their two sons Lee and Meyer had emigrated from Germany long before Hitler came to power; they had both settled near their aunt and uncle in Washington, Pennsylvania.    Jakob and Charlotte’s three daughters had stayed behind.  One, Henriette, was murdered by the Nazis with her husband Julius Levi at the Chelmno death camp in 1942, but their son Helmut Levi, aka Henry Lyons, left Germany in 1939 and survived.  Another daughter, Erna, left Germany with her son Werner in 1938.  And finally a third daughter, Johanna, somehow survived the war by going to France, and she and her husband Heinrich Stern came to the US in 1947.

It was a long and twisty road finding these five children, and it was heartbreaking to read of more cousins killed in the Holocaust.  But four of those five children survived and came to the US as did two of Jakob and Charlotte’s grandsons, Henry Lyons and Werner Haas.  More on the lives of these four children and their descendants in my next post.

Henry Schoenthal: His Final Years and His Legacy

Although I have completed as best I can the stories of five of the children of my great-great-grandparents Levi and Henriette (Hamberg) Schoenthal (Hannah, Amalie, Felix, Julius and Nathan), I still need to complete the stories of Henry, Simon, and, of course, my great-grandfather Isidore.[1]  In addition, there were two siblings living in Germany whose stories I’ve yet to tell, Jakob and Rosalie.  First, I want to return to Henry, the brother who led the way for the others.

As I wrote here, after living for over 40 years in Washington, Pennsylvania, Henry Schoenthal moved with his wife Helen (nee Lilienfeld) to New York City in 1909 to be closer to their son Lionel. Lionel had moved to NYC to work as a china buyer, first working for one enterprise, but eventually working for Gimbels department store.  Lionel was married to Irma (nee Silverman), and they had a daughter Florence, born on March 22, 1905.

In 1910, Henry and Helen’s other son Meyer had married Mary McKinnie, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist from Colorado. Meyer and Mary had met while Mary was a student at a girl’s boarding school, Washington Seminary, in Washington, Pennsylvania.  After marrying, they were living in Los Angeles, and Meyer was working for an investment company.

Hilda Schoenthal, Henry and Helen’s daughter, was working as a stenographer in Washington, DC, in 1911. She was living on the same street as her uncle Julius Schoenthal and cousin Leo Schoenthal, the 900 block of Westminster Avenue.


1911 directory for Washington, DC U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

1911 directory for Washington, DC U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

According to her obituary (see below), Hilda moved to DC to work for a patent attorney.    In 1914, she was working as a bookkeeper for Karl P. McElroy, who appears to have been the patent attorney, as her brother Meyer later worked for him as well, as noted below in his obituary.

1914 directory for Washington, DC U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

1914 directory for Washington, DC U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

In 1915, Henry and Helen were still living with Lionel (called Lee on this census, as he often was in other documents and news articles), Irma, and Florence on Riverside Drive in New York City.  Lee was still working as a buyer, and no one else was employed outside the home.  Lee’s draft registration for World War II shows that in 1918 he was still working for Gimbels, living on Riverside Drive.

Lionel (Lee) Schoenthal World War I draft registration Registration State: New York; Registration County: New York; Roll: 1786675; Draft Board: 141

Lionel (Lee) Schoenthal World War I draft registration
Registration State: New York; Registration County: New York; Roll: 1786675; Draft Board: 141


Thanks to the assistance of the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, I was able to obtain a copy of a letter that Henry Schoenthal wrote to his granddaughter Florence in December, 1918, when she was almost fourteen years old:

Henry letter to Florence 1918 1

Henry letter to Florence 1918 2



My darling Florence, I told you yesterday that I was mad at you, but I aint. Beg pardon, I mean I am not. I love you just as much as ever, but I would have been so happy if you had stayed a few days with us.  Of course I will have to send word to President Wilson that you went home and that you could not come to see him.  Maybe after a while when we have a home of our own here you will come and stay with us for quite a while.  We will show you that Washington, for natural beauty, beats any city you saw in the many foreign countries you have visited. Will you write me a little letter? Lovingly yours, Grandpa.

I love the teasing tone of this sweet letter to his granddaughter; it shows yet another facet of this interesting great-great-uncle of mine.  His diaries from his early years in Washington were all very serious, and the speech he gave on a return trip to Washington, PA, in 1912 revealed his spiritual and sentimental side.  Here we get to see some of his sense of humor and the affection he felt for his only grandchild, Florence, who probably like most teenagers was anxious to get home to her friends rather than spend more time with her grandparents.

I was at first a bit confused as to where Henry was living when he wrote this letter.  He refers to the natural beauty of Washington, but it’s not clear whether he is referring to Washington, PA, or Washington, DC.  I concluded, however, that he meant DC because his daughter Hilda was living there and perhaps he and Helen were planning to relocate there.  Also, the reference to seeing President Wilson makes no sense unless he and Helen were in DC.

Not long after the writing of this letter, the Schoenthal family suffered a sad loss. Henry’s son Meyer was living with his wife Mary in Blythe, California, working as a lumber merchant, when he registered for the draft on September 12, 1918.  Just three months later, Mary died on December 24, 1918.  She was only 31 years old.  They had been married for just eight years.  There were no children.


On the 1920 census, Meyer is listed as a widow, living alone, and still working in the lumber business. He had moved from Blythe to Palo Verde, California.

If Henry and Helen Schoenthal did move to DC for a period of time, by 1920 they had returned to NYC and were again living with their son Lee and his family on Riverside Drive, according to the 1920 census record.  Lee was still working as a buyer.  Hilda Schoenthal, their daughter, was still living in Washington DC, but was now working as a law clerk for the patent attorneys, according to the 1920 census.

On October 19, 1921, Meyer L. Schoenthal married for a second time.  His second wife was Caroline S. Holgate (sometimes spelled Carolyn).  By that time Meyer was considered a “prominent lumber dealer” and was president of the Blythe, California, chamber of commerce; his new bride was also “prominent socially” and had been president of the Sunshine Society in Blythe.

Riverside Daily Press article - Meyer Schoenthal 2d marriage 1921-page-001

Riverside Daily Press, October 20, 1921, p. 8


Caroline was also apparently a talented soprano, as I found numerous articles referring to her performances at various social events.  Here’s just one example.

Riverside Daily Press article -Mrs Meyer Schoenthal soprano-page-002

Riverside Daily Press article -Mrs Meyer Schoenthal soprano-page-003

Riverside Daily Press, January 28, 1924, p. 9


Perhaps she also sang at the celebration of the 50th wedding anniversary  of her new in-laws, Henry and Helen Schoenthal, which took place on May 8, 1922, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, although they were not among the guests listed in this news item.

Henry Helen SChoenthal 50th anniversary celebration 1922

Washington DC Evening Star, May 7, 1922, p.31

For that occasion,  Lionel/Lee Schoenthal wrote these very loving lines of verse in honor of his parents:


Lionel (Lee) Schoenthal 1922

Lionel (Lee) Schoenthal 1922 passport photograph National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 – March 31, 1925; Roll #: 1829; Volume #: Roll 1829 – Certificates: 117226-117599, 09 Feb 1922-10 Feb 1922


(I haven’t transcribed the poem or translated the German lines here, but you can always click and zoom if you want to read it.)

Sadly, three years later, the Schoenthal family lost both Henry and his son Lionel.  Henry died on October 22, 1925, from heart and kidney disease.  He was 82 years old and had lived a good and long life for a man of his generation.  After training as a Jewish teacher and scholar in Germany, he had immigrated from Sielen, Germany, to Washington, Pennsylvania,the first of his siblings to do so .  Later, he had brought his young bride Helen Lilienfeld from Gudensberg, Germany, to Pennsylvania, and they had raised three children together after losing one as a baby.  In Washington, PA, he’d been a successful businessman and respected citizen.  When his son Lionel moved to New York City, Henry and his wife Helen moved there also to be near his son and his only grandchild, Florence.  He had lived there for the last sixteen years of his life, working for some of that time as an insurance salesman, as indicated on his death certificate.  He was buried at Westchester Hills Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson, less than fifteen miles from where my parents are living. Perhaps one day I will pay him a visit.

Schoenthal, Henry death page 1


The family must have been in complete shock when Lee Schoenthal died of pneumonia on December 5, 1925,  just six weeks after his father had died; Lee was only 48 years old, and his daughter Florence was only 20 years old when he died.

Schoenthal, Lee death page 1


Here is part of a long and detailed obituary from the December 10, 1925 issue of The Pottery, Glass, and Brass Salesman (p. 153):


I will transcribe some of the content:

Lee Schoenthal, supervisor of the china, glassware and allied departments of Gimbel Brothers’ associated stores, passed away at his home in New York City early on Saturday morning, December 5, following an acute illness of two weeks.  [There is then a detailed description of Lee’s poor health, referring to his dedication to his job and overwork as contributing factors to his death.] …

Lee Schoenthal was born in Washington, Pa., April 12, 1877.  His father and mother, who were born in Germany, had come to this country some years before and Henry Schoenthal—Lee’s father—had built up a nice retail business in Washington.  Lee attended the schools of his native town and then his parents, themselves highly cultured, made the effort to give their son a collegiate training, sending him to Washington and Jefferson College, located in Washington.  During his college career he stood well in his classes and was particularly noted for his musical accomplishments, being leader of the college orchestra for several years.  As a matter of fact, it is entirely possible that if he had devoted himself wholeheartedly to music instead of to commerce he might have become a musical celebrity.  …

Some twenty years ago Mr. Schoenthal came to New York to “seek his fortune.” [Then follows a detailed description of Lee’s business career, first with the Siegel-Cooper Company and then with Gimbels.]…

Mr. Schoenthal, for a man of his comparative youth, probably developed more men as successful buyers of china and glassware than anyone else in the country.  He had that rare gift of imparting knowledge and that quality of the really big man of business that he never feared to impart all information he could to those who worked with him.  Modest to a degree, he could not help being conscious of his compelling influence and ability, so the thought never entered his mind that he might be jeopardizing his own position by teaching others all they could absorb from his store of knowledge and wisdom.

[The obituary then describes Lee’s interests outside of work, in particular his love of music, but also art and architecture.] Himself a deeply religious Jew of the modernist type, he could talk more familiarly of the history of the Catholic cathedrals and their adornments than many men of the Christian faith.

[Finally, the obituary described his family life: his happy marriage, his talented daughter, and his devotion to his parents, for whom he had provided a home for many years.]

The obituary thus focused not only on Lee’s distinguished business career, but also on his broad intellectual and cultural interests, his musical talents, and his religious and personal life.  It described him as a “deeply religious Jew of the modernist type” and as a man devoted to his family.  His family must have been very proud of him.

Both deaths were noted in Meyer Schoenthal’s home paper in Riverside, California:

Lionel Schoenthal death re Meyer 1925


Two years later on October 19, 1927, Florence Schoenthal, the grandchild of Henry and Helen Schoenthal and daughter of Lee Schoenthal, married Verner Bickart Callomon in New York City.  Verner Callomon was the son of a German Jewish immigrant, Bernhardt Callomon, who had settled in Pittsburgh and worked for Rodef Shalom synagogue there, the same synagogue to which Henry Schoenthal had once belonged.  Verner was a doctor, and his career was described as follows by the Rauh Jewish Archives at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh:

Verner Callomon (1892-1977) graduated with honors from the University of Pennsylvania in 1915 with a degree in medicine. He served as a junior lieutenant in World War I and returned to Pittsburgh to practice internal medicine. He was a pulmonary disease specialist and researcher at Allegheny General Hospital and Montefiore Hospital for nearly 60 years and was the chief of medicine at both institutions at different times during his long career. His research contributed to changes in the treatment of pneumonia. He was known both for his professionalism and for his compassion. In order to visit weather-bound patients, he rowed down Liberty Avenue during the 1936 St. Patrick’s Day flood and secured an Army jeep during the November 1950 snowstorm.

As far as I can tell, Florence and Verner settled in Pittsburgh after they married since that is where Verner is listed in the 1929 directory for Pittsburgh and also were their first child was born in 1929.

(The Rauh website also includes links to several articles about the Callomon family.  Of particular interest to me was the oral history interview with Jane Callomon, one of the children of Florence (Schoenthal) and Verner Callomon, on file at the University of Pittsburgh Library (“Pittsburgh and Beyond: The Experience of the Jewish Community,” National Council of Jewish Women, Pittsburgh Section, Oral History Collection at the University of Pittsburgh).)

In 1927, following her husband’s death, Helen Lilienfeld Schoenthal moved to Washington, DC, from NYC to live with her daughter Hilda.  They were living at 3532 Connecticut Avenue NW in 1927, and Hilda was still working for K.P. McElroy, now as a bookkeeper and notary public.

Meyer Schoenthal continued to prosper in California and was elected a vice-president of the California Association of Commercial Secretaries in 1928 (“Fresno Chosen Next Meeting Place California Commercial Secretaries,” Riverside Daily Press, January 14, 1928, p, 2) ; in 1929 he and his wife Caroline took an eleven-week trip to the East Coast, visiting not only his sister and mother in Washington, DC, but also his birthplace, Washington, PA, and many other locations.

Riverside Daily Press, August 5, 1929, p. 4

Riverside Daily Press, August 5, 1929, p. 4

Riverside Daily Press article - Meyer Schoenthal road trip 1929-page-003

Although Meyer and Caroline were still living in Riverside, California, on April 2, 1930, when the census was taken, by September, 1930, they had moved east permanently:

Riverside Daily Press, September 8, 1930, p. 7

Riverside Daily Press, September 8, 1930, p. 7


Note that Meyer was going to work for the same business that had long employed his sister Hilda, K.P. McElroy.

In 1930, Hilda and her mother were living in the Broadmoor Apartments at 3601 Connecticut Avenue. By 1932, Meyer and his wife had moved in with them, as listed in the 1932 directory for Washington, DC, and he and his wife were still living there with them in 1937.   Both Hilda and Meyer were working for K.P. McElroy, Hilda as his personal secretary, Meyer as the office manager. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

In April 1930, Florence Schoenthal Callomon appeared in a production of C.B. Fernald’s “The Mask and the Face” at the Y Playhouse in New York City; a noted Shakespearean actor led the cast, B. Iden Payne.  Florence was a woman of many talents, it appears.  She also was an artist who had worked as an advertising illustrator for Gimbels before she married. I cannot find Verner or Florence on the 1930 census in either Pittsburgh or NYC, but regardless of where she was living, I am not sure how she pulled off appearing in this production since she had a one year old child at the time.


On October 10, 1937, the family matriarch Helen Lilienfeld Schoenthal died.  She was almost 89 years old (despite the headline on her obituary, she was one month short of her 90th year).  She was buried with her husband at Westchester Hills Cemetery:

Washington Evening Star, October 11, 1937, p. 12

Washington Evening Star, October 11, 1937, p. 12


Riverside Daily Press, October 18, 1937, p. 3

Riverside Daily Press, October 18, 1937, p. 3

From the second obituary in the Riverside Daily Press, it appears that Meyer and Caroline Schoenthal had by October 1937 moved to their own place at 2700 Rodman Road in DC.

By 1940, Meyer and Caroline were living as lodgers in a home with thirteen other residents at 2700 Quebec Street; Meyer, 56 years old, was still working for the patent firm.  His sister Hilda, now 65, was also still working at the patent firm and still living at 3601 Connecticut Avenue.

Florence Schoenthal Callomon and her husband Verner Callomon were living in Pittsburgh in 1940; Verner was a doctor in private practice.  They now had two children.

Hilda Schoenthal died on June 6, 1962.  She was 87 years old.

Washington Evening Star, June 6, 1962, p. 41

Washington Evening Star, June 6, 1962, p. 41


According to her obituary, sometime after 1940 she had left K.P. McElroy, her longtime employer, to work for Gulf Oil in their patent department.  If times had been different, I have a feeling that Hilda would have become a patent lawyer herself. On the personal side, she seems to have had an active social life with many friends and relatives with whom she traveled and socialized, according to several news items from the society pages of the Washington Evening Star.  Hilda was buried at Westchester Hills Cemetery, where her parents were interred.

Less than a year later, on February  16, 1963, the last remaining child of Henry and Helen Schoenthal,  Meyer Lilienfeld Schoenthal, died.  He was 79.

Washington Evening Star, February 18, 1963, p. 24

Washington Evening Star, February 18, 1963, p. 24


He died from a heart attack; unlike his sister Hilda and his parents, he was buried in Massachusetts, where his wife Carolyn/Caroline was born.  She outlived him by 20 years, dying in January, 1983, when she was 84.

The obituary revealed a few things that I otherwise would not have known about Meyer: that he had helped build a “noted nature trail” in the Southwest and that he was a philatelist (stamp collector).  It is interesting that, like his sister Hilda, he had gone to work at Gulf Oil Corporation after working for many years for K.P. McElroy.

The only surviving descendants of Henry Schoenthal after 1963 were his granddaughter Florence Schoenthal Callomon and her children.  Florence died in 1994 when she was 89 years old.  According to the Rauh Archives, she had been “a member and officer of many Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania organizations, including the Western Pennsylvania Women’s Golf Association, the Women’s Committee of The Carnegie Museum of Art, the Pittsburgh Symphony Association and the Rodef Shalom Sisterhood, among others.” From the oral history interview their daughter Jane referenced above, it is clear that both Florence and Verner were involved in many aspects of the Pittsburgh community.

Thus, Henry and Helen Schoenthal left quite a legacy.  Their three children all were successful in their careers and ventured far beyond little Washington, PA, where they’d been born: Hilda to DC, Lionel/Lee to NYC, and Meyer to California and then to DC.  Things came almost full circle when Florence Schoenthal Callomon, their granddaughter, returned to western Pennsylvania where her German immigrant grandparents had settled and where her father and aunt and uncle had been born and raised.  Pittsburgh is where Florence and her husband Verner raised their children and where those children stayed as even as adults.

I’d imagine that my great-great-uncle Henry would have been very proud of his three children and his granddaughter for all that they accomplished.  Even in 1912 he knew how blessed he had been in his life when he addressed his friends in Washington, PA, and told them:

I gratefully acknowledge that God has been very gracious unto me and that he has blessed me beyond my merits.

I feel very blessed to have been able to learn so much about my great-great-uncle Henry and his family, and I hope someday to be able to connect with his descendants.









[1]   Two of twelve children of Levi Schoenthal and Henriette Hamberg did not survive to adulthood.  Of the other ten, eight immigrated to the United States, including my great-grandfather.  One of the siblings remained in Germany, Jakob, and Rosalie returned to Germany to marry after a few years in the US.

Some Broken Brick Walls: Thank you, Cousin Bob!

In my post about the descendants of Mary Seligman, the youngest child of Marx Seligman, I wrote that I was hoping to be in touch with one of Mary’s descendants to learn more about what happened to some members of the family.  Specifically, I was trying to connect with Bob Cohn, who is the son of Harold Cohn and Teddi Kremenko (sometimes called Tillie, sometimes Theodora).  Harold Cohn was the son of Joseph Cohn and Rose Kornfeld.  Rose was Mary Seligman’s daughter with her husband Oscar Kornfeld.  Here’s a chart showing how Bob and my father are related as fourth cousins, making him my fourth cousin once removed.

Dad to Bob

After jumping through a number of hoops, I finally reached Bob after emailing someone at the public relations firm he founded in Atlanta forty-five years ago, Cohn & Wolfe.  Although Bob has retired, the man I contacted at the firm immediately emailed Bob, and within minutes Bob and I had exchanged emails.   It’s a long story as to how I figured out that the Bob Cohn at Cohn & Wolfe was the right Bob Cohn.  I won’t describe all my crazy sleuthing on this one!

Bob Cohn with trophy

My cousin, Bob Cohn All photos in this post are courtesy of Bob Cohn

Anyway, Bob is himself a family historian and has generously shared with me a great deal of information and a wonderful collection of photographs.  He, however, did not know very much about his grandmother Rose or her family, so he was delighted to learn what I had discovered about Rose and her Seligman(n) family roots.  By sharing what we each knew, we each were able to fill in some of the gaps that we each had in our research.

For example, I had been unable to find Rose and Joseph on any record after the 1930 US census.  At that time they were living on West 90th Street in New York, and after years in the printing business, Joseph had become an investor in the securities business.  Obviously that was unfortunate timing because, as Bob told me, Joseph lost a great deal of money in the 1929 stock market crash and the ensuing Depression.

Joseph and Bob Cohn

Joseph Cohn and his grandson Bob.  Note the family resemblance as you can see in the photo of Bob above.

Bob also told me that he had no memory of his grandmother Rose.  Since I knew Bob was born in 1934, I assumed that Rose might have died sometime between 1930 and 1940 if he had no memory of her.  Although a death record had not shown up in my initial search, this time I was able to find it.  Rose had died on June 24, 1930, shortly after the 1930 census.  She was 52 years old and died from a cerebral hemorrhage caused by hypertension.

Rose Cohn death certificate

Rose Cohn death certificate

Since I had not found Joseph on the 1940 census or elsewhere after the 1930 census, I was hoping Bob would know when he died or where he lived.  Bob believes that Joseph died in a nursing home in New Rochelle sometime in the late 1950s.   Those death records are not publicly available, however, except to close family, so I don’t have any record of Joseph’s death.  But knowing that he was a widow after 1930 led me to search again for him on other records.   I still, however, ran into some trouble.  On the 1940 US census, I found a Joseph Cohen (with the E), a widower of the right age, living in Newark, New Jersey, working as a storekeeper in a restaurant. (You will have to click on the images below to see them more clearly.)

Joseph Cohen and lodger 1930 US census

Joseph Cohn and lodger 1940 US census


Full page: Joseph Cohn 1930 census

Full page: Joseph Cohn 1940 census Year: 1940; Census Place: Newark, Essex, New Jersey; Roll: T627_2414; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 25-132

Bob has no memory of his grandfather living in New Jersey.  The man on this census record was living with a woman, Mary Miller, listed (I think) as “occupant,” working as a laundryman (?) in a hospital.  Although the enumerator wrote that Joseph was living in the same place in 1935, he also wrote that he was living in Matthen (??), New York, in 1935.  Maybe that’s Manhattan?  The same page has lots of other strange entries.  I think perhaps this enumerator was not very careful.

So why would I think that this is Joseph Cohn, Bob’s grandfather? Because I also found a World War II draft registration that shows that Joseph Cohn was living in Newark, New Jersey, in 1942.  This is definitely the right Joseph Cohn; he lists his closest relative as Harold Cohn of East 9th Street in Brooklyn, which is where Bob and his parents and brother Paul were living in 1942.  On the draft registration, Joseph was living on Court Street in Newark. The Joseph Cohen on the 1940 census was living on Bergen Street in Newark, less than two miles away.  Joseph was working for L. Loeb in Newark in 1942 at 317 Mulberry Street in Newark.

Joseoh Cohn World War II draft registration

Joseph Cohn World War II draft registration


I decided to search Newark directories for 317 Mulberry Street to see if I could find out what Joseph was doing in Newark.  I did not find Joseph in the 1942 Newark directory, but at 317 Mulberry Street in 1942 I did find a listing for a butcher named Samuel Cohn.  Bob had told me that his grandfather Joseph had had a brother Samuel, but he had not been able to learn what had happened to his great-uncle.  When I saw the name and the same address that appeared on Joseph’s draft registration, I assumed that this had to be Joseph’s brother Samuel.  I searched further in the Newark directories and found that in 1934 Sam Cohn was located on Bergen Street, where Joseph CohEn was living in 1940, according to the 1940 census.  In 1941, Sam was located at 69 Court Street; Joseph was living at 59 Court Street in 1942.  I was quite certain now that Joseph had moved to Newark after his wife Rose died in order to be closer to his brother Samuel.

That made me curious to know more about Samuel, the great-uncle Bob had not been able to locate.  Knowing now that he was a butcher, I was able to find him living in New York City in 1940 on the US census; he was living with his wife Minerva and adult son Phillip as well as two boarders.  The census indicated that he had been living in Newark in 1935 and that he was a butcher.  Now knowing his wife and son’s names, I found Samuel on the 1910 and 1920 census (but not the 1930), working as a butcher and living with his wife Minerva (or Minnie) and his son Phillip in the Bronx.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any records for Joseph or Samuel Cohn after 1942.  All I know is what Bob told me—that Joseph lived until sometime in the 1950s and was living at a nursing home in New Rochelle when he died.


Harold and Teddi

Harold and Teddy 1926

Harold and Teddi 1926

When I first wrote about Bob’s parents, Harold Cohn and Teddi Kremenko, I knew that Harold and Teddi had married in 1928, but then they disappeared for the next sixteen years.  I couldn’t find them on either the 1930 or the 1940 census.  All I knew was that Harold had died of coronary thrombosis at the age of 39 in 1944.  I didn’t know what he had done for a living, I didn’t know what had happened to his wife Teddi, and I didn’t know whether they had had children.  Fortunately, one of Teddi’s relatives, a granddaughter of one of her sisters, has a tree on, and by connecting with her, I learned more and eventually found our mutual cousin, Bob.

I had been unable to find Harold and Teddi on the 1930 census, but one clue from Bob helped me locate a Harold Cohn who seems likely to be the right one.  I asked Bob what his father had done for a living, and he told me he’d been in the silk importing business.  I’d had no luck looking for a Harold Cohn married to a woman named Teddi, Tillie, or Theodora, but by entering “silk” into the search form, I came up with this Harold Cohn.  (You will need to click and zoom to read it.)

Harold Cohn 1930 census

Harold Cohn 1930 census  See lines 11 and 12.  Year: 1930; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1556; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 0449; Image: 1030.0; FHL microfilm: 2341291


Yes, it says his father was born in Germany, whereas Harold’s father Joseph Cohn was born in New York. But his grandfather Philip was born in Germany.  Harold’s mother Rose was born in New York, as the census reports.  He was a silk distributor, as the census reports.  His age is not exactly right, but it’s close, or at least within the range of accuracy that census records generally report. They were living on West 86th Street, the same neighborhood where Harold’s parents were living in 1930.  All that certainly supports my assumption that this is the correct Harold Cohn.

But then it says his wife was Fay, not Tillie, Teddi, or Theodora.  It says she was born in New York, but Teddi was born in Russia.  It says her mother was born in England, but Teddi’s mother was born in Russia.  How do I explain these inconsistencies?  I can’t.  Did the census enumerator talk to a neighbor who knew more about Harold than he or she knew about Teddi? I don’t know, but I still think this is the right Harold.  But am I certain? No.  What do you think?

The 1940 census is even more problematic. In 1940, Bob turned six, his brother Paul turned three.  Bob said that they were living in Brooklyn when he started school at PS 99.  But I can’t find them in Brooklyn.  Even looking at the census report for everyone living on East 9th Street between Avenues J and K where Bob recalls the family living, I couldn’t find them on the 1940 census.

I only found one possible entry  for Harold and Teddi on the 1940 census, and it is even more of a stretch; I have serious doubts about whether these are the right people. I found a Philip Kohn married to Lillie with a four year old son named Michael, living in Queens.  Why would I even for a second think this was Harold and Teddi Cohn? Because Philip Kohn was in the silk business.  But it says he was born in Russia, not New York.  But it also says Lillie (could be Tillie?) was born in New York, not Russia.  Had the enumerator switched the birthplaces? And gotten all the names wrong?  And forgotten a child? Probably not.  Especially since Bob says they never lived in Queens. So the Cohn family remains missing from the 1940 census as far as I can tell.

Could this be Harold Cohn? See line 74

Could this be Harold Cohn? See line 74  Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, Queens, New York; Roll: T627_2749; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 41-1623B


For the rest of the story, I have the great benefit of Bob’s memories, experiences, and research.  I think it best to let him tell his story mostly in his own words.

First, a few pages that Bob wrote about his mother’s family, the Kremenkos.

Bob's book 1 Bob's book 2 Bob's book 3

As for his father’s family, Bob wrote:

The Cohn family history covers three generations.  Bob’s father, Harold, was born in New York City and was the only child of Joseph and Rose Cohn.  Joseph was also born in New York to Adela and Phillip Cohn in 1876. … Phillip and Adela immigrated to New York in 1866 and married four years later.  Adela was from the Alsace Region of France hat sits on the west bank of the Upper Rhine River next to the German border. It is one of France’s principal wine-growing regions.  Phillip was born in Baden in July, 1842 and later worked as a banker there.

From the collection of family photographs Bob shared with me, it looks like Harold Cohn and Teddi Kremenko and their sons were living happily up until 1944:

Harold and Teddi

Harold and Teddi

Mom and Dad at tennis

Harold and Teddi

Mom and Dad with Robert in the grass

Harold, Bob, and Teddi Cohn

Mom and Robert, 1937

Teddi and Bob, 1937

Mom, Paul and I, 1944 at Bungalow Colony

Paul, Teddi, and Bob Cohn 1944

Robert (Red) Cohn


My Mom and Dad, Uncle Barney

Harold and Teddi Cohn, Barney Kremenko, and others

U 2

Harold and Teddi


And then, as noted earlier, Harold died unexpectedly.  Bob wrote:

When I was 9 years old, I remember my father giving me a nickel on the front porch of our home on East 9th Street between Avenue J and Avenue K.  The money was for a Red Cross Fund Drive.  My Dad died that day, February 1, 1944, at the age of 39 from a heart attack.

As if that wasn’t tragedy enough for two young boys and their mother, less than two years later, Bob and Paul’s mother Teddi died at age 42 from throat cancer.

My mother, Theodora (Teddi) Cohn died on Oct. 13, 1945, barely a month after World War II ended. For my Oct. 12th birthday Uncle Barney (Kremenko) took me to Yankee Stadium’s press box to watch undefeated Army play a highly ranked Michigan team. Army had two Heisman trophy winners in the backfield—Doc Blanchard and Glen Davis—and four consensus All-Americans. At halftime the score was 14-0 when Uncle Barney got a call to rush home because my mother was dying. We got there before she passed away and she gave me an ID bracelet that was popular in those days. Everyone in the family called me Robert, including my Mom, but she knew I preferred the name Bob. So it was the first time she acknowledged my preference and gave me the sterling silver bracelet with Bob Cohn inscribed on the top. On the reverse side she had inscribed “From Mother, Oct. 12, 1945.

ID bracelet

As it turned out Army won 28-7 and it was a historic day in college football.  

(According to Wikipedia, “Outmanned by Army, Michigan’s Coach Fritz Crisler unveiled at halftime the first known use of the so-called “two-platoon” system in which separate groups played offense and defense.” Click the link for more on the game.)

Thus, by the time he was eleven, Bob Cohn had lost both his parents; his brother Paul was only eight years old.  Where would they go?

Bob wrote:

There was a family circle meeting to decide who would take my brother Paul and I in. Aunt Diana and Uncle George said they wanted to have us but the others voted against them because they would not be right for young children because they had no experience, having no children of their own. Then Aunt Rose and Uncle Louie put in their bid but they also were turned down. The decision was made by the family for us to live with Aunt Beatrice and Uncle Sol because they had two young children and could best deal with the situation. Aunt Diana understood but over the years spent a lot of her time with the two of us. Ann [a cousin] said she loved us deeply.

Bob pointed out that his Aunt Beatrice and Uncle Sol had two children—Barbara and Morton—who became like siblings to Bob and Paul. Barbara is three years older than Bob, and Morton is seven years younger.

Barbara Paul Morty and Bob

Aunt Rose with Paul Barton Cohn

Rose Kremenko and Paul Barton Cohn

Kremenko sisters

The five Kremenko sisters and their mother Minnie

What would happen to these two little boys who lost both their parents so young? Not only did they survive; they both thrived, as we will see in Part II of Bob’s story.  That they did is a tribute to the love they had received from Harold and Teddi in their early years and the love they received from the family members who raised them and cared for them after they’d lost their parents.