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.



The Schwartz Family

As I wrote yesterday, in trying to fill the holes in David Goldschlager’s story, I ended up researching his wife Rebecca’s family and their story.  Although her family is not technically related to mine except through marriage, now that I am in touch with her grandson Richard (and now, her nephew Jon), I feel connected to this story and touched by it as well.

As I wrote in the last post, I was curious as to why David and Rebecca left New York City sometime after 1920, when David’s mother and sister were living with them, and moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania.  Their son, Murray, was born there,[1] and they were living in Scranton as late as 1928 because that is where David was living when he filed his naturalization application.  By 1930, however, they had returned to New York and were living in the Bronx, where they lived until they retired and moved to Arizona to live near Murray and his wife Edna and their grandson Richard.

I hypothesized that Rebecca’s family lived in Scranton because I could not figure out what else would have drawn David away from his family and place of employment.  As I wrote last, I started digging around for Rebecca’s family, and after learning her maiden name was Schwar(t)z from her naturalization form, I was able to locate the ship manifest for Rebecca and her family on the SS Astoria, sailing from Glasgow, Scotland in March, 1903.

Schwarz Family on the SS Astoria 1903

Schwarz Family on the SS Astoria 1903

The family was from Romania, and Rebecca was one of seven children on the manifest, traveling with her mother Louise.  Rebecca was the oldest child, thirteen years old, followed by Etta (11), Annette (9), Rosa (7), Sophie (4), Abram (2), and Henrie (9 months old).  Henrie’s name had a line drawn through it, and in the left margin next to Henrie’s name, it looks like the word “died” followed by some other illegible words were written.  It looked like Henrie, the baby, had died on board.  Imagine being the mother of seven young children, caring for them on this long, uncomfortable voyage, and losing one of your children while at sea.[2]

The manifest also identified who was meeting the family in the United States: their husband and father S. Schwarz of Newark, New Jersey.  By searching the 1910 US census, I was able to locate the Schwartz family in Newark.  Rebecca’s father’s name was Solomon, and he was employed as a hat finisher in a hat factory.  He and Louise (Lizzie, on this census) were living with their six children who had survived the trip from Romania plus two more born in New Jersey, Meyer and Jennie.  Rebecca was now 20 and, like her father, working as a hat finisher in a hat factory.

The Schwartz Family in Newark (Rebecca standing in the rear middle)

The Schwartz Family in Newark (Rebecca standing in the rear middle)

Is this how she met David? As a hat maker? Did the factory where she and her father worked have a connection to the factory where David was working? David had been working as a hatter since at least 1915, as indicated on the 1915 NYS census. On his World War I draft registration dated June 5, 1917 (after he and Rebecca were married), David listed his employment as a hatter for Sam Burk at 419 Lafayette Street, New York.  Who knows? Maybe there was a hatmakers union meeting where Rebecca and/or her father met David.  At any rate, they were married in Newark in 1916, but lived in New York City as of the 1920 census.

Rebecca and Sidney Goldschlager

Rebecca and Sidney Goldschlager

Meanwhile, the Schwartz family had suffered another tragedy.  On the 1920 census, I noticed that although Etta, Annette, Rosie, Sophie, Abram (now Abie), and Jennie were still listed as living at home, there was no entry for Meyer, who had been only six years old in 1910.  I had to assume that something had happened to Meyer, and I learned from Jon Schwartz, one of Solomon’s grandsons, that Meyer had died from a ruptured appendix in 1913 when he was not yet nine years old.  As Jon said, his father Abram (who became Arnold) was the only son of Solomon and Louise to survive to adulthood.

In 1930, most of the Schwartz family was still living under one roof: Solomon, Louise, Annette, Sophie, Arnold (formerly Abram), and Jeanette (formerly Jennie).  I don’t know where Etta and Rosie were, perhaps they were married.  Sadly, Solomon Schwartz died three years later at age 71.  Louise died in 1948.  I have not yet traced what happened to the Schwartz children after their father died, although by 1933, even the youngest child would have been in her twenties.  I am hoping to learn more from Jon, who is Arnold’s son and who I was able to contact by finding his family tree on ancestry.

One other interesting fact that I did learn from Jon is that Solomon Schwartz had lived in Iasi before marrying Louise, who was from Berlad.  He then moved to Berlad where their first seven children were born before they emigrated to the United States.  Maybe that led to the connection between Rebecca and David? Maybe the Schwartz family in Iasi knew the Goldschlager family, and perhaps when Solomon was looking for a match for his oldest daughter Rebecca, he reached out to people from the American Iasi community and found David, a fellow hatter, newly arrived from America and the same age as his daughter. There is likely no one alive who knows how David and Rebecca met, so all we can do is speculate, creating stories to fill the gaps between the data we can find through these documents.

Meanwhile, despite all these discoveries, I still don’t know why David and Rebecca ended up in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  So far all I know is that there were two hat companies in Scranton at the time, the Lackawanna Hat Company and the Keystone Hat Company.  There were also two families named Goldschlager living in Scranton at that time.  So maybe these Scranton Goldschlagers were also our relatives?

Washington Avenue, Scranton, Pennsylvania, Uni...

Washington Avenue, Scranton, Pennsylvania, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The research continues….

[1] It appears that Sidney was born in Newark, NJ, in 1925, according to his mother’s naturalization form and the 1940 US census.  However, on David’s naturalization, it says both sons were born in Pennsylvania.  The 1930 census says both were born in New York, which must be wrong.  So perhaps they were living in Newark when Sidney was born and then returned to Scranton, assuming that Rebecca and the 1930 census are correct as to where Sidney was born.

[2] According to Jonathan Schwartz, one of the grandchildren of Solomon and Louise Schwartz, Henrie never left Europe, but this seems inconsistent with this manifest as well as a separate document listing passengers on the SS Astoria for this voyage.  Henrie’s name appears on both.  Maybe the family could not bear the truth and created a story that Henrie continued to live in Romania.

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