Levi Goldsmith: The Last Brother to Arrive from Oberlistingen

Before the break, I finished the story of my three-times great-uncle Meyer Goldsmith and his family. Today I turn to his brother, my three-times great-uncle Levi Goldsmith.

A year after the arrival of his younger brother Meyer and three years after his other younger brother Abraham’s arrival and at least four years after his older brother Jacob’s arrival, Levi Goldschmidt, the second-oldest and remaining son of Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hincka Alexander, immigrated to the United States. Levi (sometimes spelled Levy) was born November 10, 1824, in Oberlistingen,1 and he came to the US on September 20, 1853, and settled where his brothers had settled—in Philadelphia. For his family, life in America brought more than a fair share of tragedy.

Levy Goldschmidt passenger manifest, Year: 1853; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 132; Line: 44; List Number: 991 Source Information Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

On March 21, 1855, Levi married Henrietta (sometimes Henryette) Lebenbach,2 who was born April 11, 1835, in Willebedassen, Germany.3 I’ve been unable to find anything else yet about Henrietta’s background, but I did determine that Willebedassen is only seventeen miles from Oberlistingen. Maybe Levi and Henrietta knew each other in Germany.  I could not find anyone else with the name Lebenbach in Philadelphia or elsewhere who might have been her parents or siblings, so perhaps she came alone. One of her children’s death records show her birth name as Lowenberg; one shows it as Lobenberg.4  None of the other children’s certificates had any birth name for Henrietta, so I am inclined to take her marriage record with her name as Lebenbach as the most reliable. Is it possible that this is Henrietta on this ship manifest? I don’t know.

Does this say H Lowenberg? Could it be Henrietta? Year: 1849; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 081; Line: 1; List Number: 866
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

By 1860, Levi and Henrietta had two children, Eva (yes, yet another Eva Goldsmith), born February 11, 1856,5 in Philadelphia, and Estella (yes, another Estella Goldsmith) born May 15, 18596 in Philadelphia. Another unnamed child was born in between Eva and Estella, but he died from smallpox on December 26, 1857, when he was only eight weeks old. This was only the first of many childhood deaths the extended family experienced.

Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JFV5-BY6 : 8 March 2018), Henrietta Goldsmith in entry for Goldsmith, 26 Dec 1857; citing , Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 1,976,713.

Like his brothers, Levi changed his name from Goldschmidt to Goldsmith, and in 1860 he owned $7500 worth of real estate and was working in a clothing store. As noted in my post about his brother Abraham, Levi and Abraham were in the clothing business together by 1861, doing business as Goldsmith Brothers.

Levi Goldsmith, 1860 US Census, Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 13, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1163; Page: 856; Family History Library Film: 805163
Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census

By 1870, Levi and Henrietta had eight children. In addition to Eva and Estella, there was George (1861), Felix (1862), Isadore (1864), Helen (1865), Blanche (1868), and Sylvester (1869). Levi (spelled Levy here) claimed to have $25,000 worth of real estate and $50,000 worth of personal property. During the 1870s Levi continued to be in the clothing business with his brother Abraham. Obviously they were doing very well.

Levi Goldsmith, 1870 US census, Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 20 District 64, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1406; Page: 293B; Family History Library Film: 552905
Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census

On September 22, 1875, Levi and Henrietta’s oldest child Eva married Nathan Anathan (I know—interesting name).7  Nathan was a native Philadelphian, born on May 25, 1849, to Marum Anathan and Fanny Teller,8 who were both German-born immigrants. Nathan’s father was a wholesale tobacconist, and in 1870 Nathan was working as a clerk in a store.9

Nathan and Eva’s first child was born prematurely on June 24, 1876 and did not survive.10 A second child, Morton Goldsmith Anathan, was born June 18, 1877; sadly that child also did not live very long. He died before his first birthday on March 12, 1878, from diptheria.11 Fortunately, Nathan and Eva’s third child lived to adulthood. Helen Esther Anathan was born on March 7, 1879.12 In 1880, Nathan, Eva, and Helen were living in Philadelphia, and Nathan’s occupation was, like his father, in the tobacco business. Another daughter was born on February 23, 1883, named Bessie Goldsmith Anathan.13

Nathan Anathan and family, 1880 US census, Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1188; Page: 101A; Enumeration District: 618
Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census

As for Levi and Henrietta, in 1880 they were living with their remaining seven children, and Levi continued to work in the clothing business.

Levy Goldsmith and family, 1880 US census, Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1179; Page: 93B; Enumeration District: 389
Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census

In 1883, Levi and Henrietta’s second daughter Estella married Solomon Rothschild, who proved to be a real mystery man. I could not find one record for him before the 1900 census when he was already married to Estella.14 I do not have a real marriage record for them, nor can I find him on any earlier census record. I didn’t know the names of his parents or where they were from. According to the 1900 census record and those that follow, Solomon was born in Pennsylvania, but his death certificate says he was born in Germany on August 3, 1851.15  In fact, the only reason I knew that Estella married Solomon Rothschild is from some of the death records of their children.16

And then I hit some good luck. From various Philadelphia directories,17 I determined that Solomon was in a millinery business called J. Rothschild & Co. and that J. Rothschild was Jacob Rothschild, who was living in New York. Searching for Jacob Rothschild, I found this obituary and learned that Jacob had married a cousin named Regina Rothschild. (Since Jacob is not really a relative, I’ve only snipped the headline here, but Jacob’ story is quite a rags to riches saga—a fatherless boy who came alone to the US at 13, started a millinery business in New York that expanded to several other cities, and became a very wealthy real estate mogul and hotel owner; you can find the whole obituary here):

The New York Times, April 5, 1911, p. 9

And from there, I found a tree on Ancestry that identified one of Regina’s siblings as the Solomon Rothschild who married Estella Goldsmith. I contacted the owner of that tree, who generously shared with me several records, including this one, Solomon’s birth record showing that his parents were Hirsch Rothschild and Jette Wachtel and that Solomon was born on August 3, 1851, in Oberaula, Germany.

Birth record of Salomon Rothschild, Geburtsregister der Juden von Oberaula 1824-1871 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 648)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden

I still have no records for Solomon in the US prior to the 1900 census, except for those directory listings, but I am willing to assume from the 1900 census that he married Estella in 1883. Estella and Solomon’s first child, Jerome Joseph Rothschild, was born on January 6, 1884.18 A second child, Stanley, was born on January 29, 1886,19 and died from gastroenteritis on March 30, 1887; he was only fourteen months old.

Stanley Rothschild death certificate, “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-67W7-L8N?cc=1320976&wc=9F5B-BZ9%3A1073304502 : 16 May 2014), 004010199 > image 414 of 1305; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Felix Goldsmith also married in the 1880s. On September 15, 1886, he married Bertha Umstadter in Virginia.20 Bertha was the daughter of Jacob Umstadter and Fannie Sarlouis, both born in Germany.  Bertha was born on November 4, 1860, in Peterburg, Virginia.21

Meanwhile, as I’ve written about before, Levi and Abraham ran into business problems in the 1880s. According to the 1881 Philadelphia directory, their business, Goldsmith Brothers, was in liquidation at that time. In 1883, Abraham and Levi were joined by their brother Meyer in the business.

Whether the Goldsmith Brothers business would have survived with all three brothers involved is not clear, but on December 29, 1886, Levi Goldsmith died from meningitis; he was 62 years old.

Levy Goldsmith death certificate, “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6913-HH9?cc=1320976&wc=9FRJ-K68%3A1073335202 : 16 May 2014), 004058561 > image 459 of 1239; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

And as I’ve written before, Goldsmith Brothers soon dissolved.  Abraham continued in the clothing business for some time with his sons, and Meyer soon moved to New York City with his family where he continued to be in the clothing business.

The Philadelphia Times ran this obituary of Levi on December 30, 1886:

Philadelphia Times, December 30,1886, p. 2

Two of Levi’s children honored his memory by naming their next born children in his honor. Estella and Solomon named their second child, who was born on February 14, 1888, Leonard Levi Rothschild.22 Felix and Bertha named their first child, born on February 24, 1889, Frances Lee Goldsmith.23 I assume that the middles names were for their recently deceased grandfather Levi.

The 1890s would bring more marriages, more babies, and sadly, more deaths. In fact, the overall story of Levi Goldsmith’s family is filled with tragic deaths like those of Levi and Henrietta’s unnamed son who died of smallpox, of Eva’s first two babies who died before their first birthdays, and of Estella’s son Stanley who died from gastroenteritis as a toddler.


  1. I am relying for this date on the work of others, as I have no online access to the original records. For the most part, I am relying on the amazing research of Jozef Jacobs, my fifth cousin, another descendant of Jakob Falcke Goldschmidt, as well as my third cousin, once removed Julian Reinheimer, and, as always, David Baron. 
  2. Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 792. Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1669-2013 
  3. See Footnote 1. 
  4. Blanche Goldsmith Greenbaum death certificate, Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1966; Certificate Number Range: 054451-056880. Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966. Certificate 55235. Isadore Goldsmith death certificate, “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-68DJ-WR?cc=1320976&wc=9FRT-N38%3A1073183102 : 16 May 2014), 004008905 > image 483 of 536; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. 
  5. See Footnote 1. 
  6. See Footnote 1. 
  7. Pennsylvania Marriages, 1709-1940,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V26B-T32 : 11 February 2018), Nathen Anathan and Eva Goldsmith, 22 Sep 1875; citing Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; FHL microfilm 1,769,061. 
  8.  Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 1112. Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1669-2013 
  9. Anathan family, 1870 US census, Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 12 District 35, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1396; Page: 171A; Family History Library Film: 552895. Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census 
  10. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JFXK-F8L : 9 March 2018), Anathan, 24 Jun 1876; citing , Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 2,027,459. 
  11. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JNJP-25K : 9 March 2018), Moreton Anathan, 12 Mar 1878; citing , Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 2,030,361 
  12. Number: 187-36-8712; Issue State: Pennsylvania; Issue Date: 1962.
    Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  13. Bessie Simon death certificate, Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1966; Certificate Number Range: 076001-079000. Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966 
  14. Rothschild family, 1900 US Census, Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 29, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Page: 6; Enumeration District: 0711; FHL microfilm: 1241471. Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census 
  15. Solomon Rothschild death certificate, Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1966; Certificate Number Range: 120341-123308. Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966 
  16. E.g., Jerome Rothschild death certificate, Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1966; Box Number: 2396; Certificate Number Range: 065951-068800. Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966 
  17. Philadelphia City directories, 1889, 1890, 1894, 1899, 1901, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. 
  18. Jerome Rothschild death certificate, Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1966; Box Number: 2396; Certificate Number Range: 065951-068800. Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966. Certificate 068602-64. 
  19. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V1M3-5CC : 10 March 2018), Sol Rothschild in entry for Stanley S. Rothschild, 29 Jan 1886; citing bk 1886 p 24, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 1,289,325. 
  20. Ancestry.com. Virginia, Select Marriages, 1785-1940. FHL Film Number: 32982. 
  21.  Virginia Births and Christenings, 1584-1917,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X5VN-QG4 : 10 March 2018), Jacob Umstadter, 04 Nov 1860; citing Norfolk, Virginia, reference p 44; FHL microfilm 2,048,450. Michael Umstadter death certificate, Virginia Department of Health; Richmond, Virginia; Virginia Deaths, 1912-2014. Certificate Range: 27285-27850. Ancestry.com. Virginia, Death Records, 1912-2014 
  22. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-63B7-4Z1?cc=1320976&wc=9F5C-L2S%3A1073221501 : 16 May 2014), 004009533 > image 376 of 1778; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. 
  23. Frances Lee Goldsmith, passport application, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 1700; Volume #: Roll 1700 – Certificates: 69000-69375, 26 Jul 1921-26 Jul 1921. Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 

My Uncle, The Criminal? If The Shoe Fits….

Before I turn to my three-times great-uncle Meyer and his family, I want to write about another uncle—my four-times great-uncle Simon Goldchmidt, brother of my three-times great-grandfather Seligmann Goldschmidt.

Back in January, I wrote about Simon Goldschmidt, including the fact that he had been in legal trouble in Germany before immigrating to the US. David Baron had located a record that indicated that in 1826 Simon was charged with burglary and attempted robbery. (HStAM Fonds 261 Kriminalakten 1822-1836 No G 40.) I then wrote in that post:

I requested a copy of the file from the Marburg archives and learned that the file covers Simon’s appeal of a ten year sentence for his criminal activity. The listing online indicates that the date of appellate decision was December 24, 1830.

The contact person at the Marburg archives did not reveal the outcome of the appeal, so I am now hoping to find someone who might be able to go to Marburg and provide me with a summary (in English) of the judgment. (I could order a copy, but it would be costly and in German. My German has improved, but 130 pages of a legal decision would be too great a challenge!)

Well, with the help of three wonderful women in Germany, I’ve been able to obtain a copy of the report, have it transcribed, and then have it translated.  First, Floriane Pfeiffer-Ditschler from the German Genealogy group on Facebook volunteered to go to the archives in Marburg and scan the entire 130 pages of the documents in the file.1 She sent it to me as a PDF, and it’s too long to post on the blog, but I will post just a few pages in this post so that you can see how difficult it is to read. If you’re interested in seeing the entire document, let me know.

Cover page of file, HStAM 261 Kriminalakten 1822-1836 No. G 40

Neither Floriane nor I could decipher the text, so I turned to my friend Julia Drinnenberg, who had been one of my wonderful guides during my visit to Germany last year. Julia also found the handwriting difficult to read, so she recruited her friend Gabriele Hafermaas to help. Gabriele transcribed the text, which Julia then translated it into English. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to these three women for their help.  It took many, many hours of work for them to produce a document that I can read.

The file contained three documents: the original trial court opinion finding Simon guilty, Simon’s application for appellate review, and the appellate court’s opinion. Because the documents are quite lengthy and at times repetitive, I thought it best to write up a summary.

The alleged crime took place on the night of May 16, 1826. The trial, however, did not take place until four years later.  At this time we do not have any information to explain the long delay between the crime and the trial, but Julia is consulting with a judge and legal historian in Germany, so perhaps he will have some answers.

The trial court reached its decision on May 14, 1830.

Simon Goldschmidt, first page of trial court opinion
HStAM 261 Kriminalakten 1822-1836 No. G 40

According to the trial court’s opinion, on the evening of May 16, 1826, someone broke into the home of eighty-year-old Georg Wolf, a resident of Oberlistingen.  There was a hole in the wall of his home and a ladder lying on the ground in front of his sitting room. The court found that someone used violent force to break into the sitting room, using the ladder to push the door open and even breaking an iron bar that served as a lock on that door. There was a struggle between Wolf and the burglar, during which Wolf claimed he had bitten the hands of the assailant and scratched and pinched his face and neck.

When neighbors heard Wolf’s cries for help, the assailant ran away.  According to Wolf and several witnesses, a pair of shoes was left behind, which Wolf claimed had belonged to the assailant. Wolf described the assailant as a small and flexible man with frizzy hair, wearing a long black cape and speaking with a Yiddish accent.

Based on this description, Simon Goldschmidt, a 32-year-old tailor, was thought to be the assailant, and local authorities went the next morning to his home to investigate. Witnesses testified that Simon had injuries on his face and hands that were consistent with Wolf’s testimony and that he fit the physical description provided by Wolf. Simon denied the charges and claimed that he had injured himself when he fell on a stack of logs in the corridor while going to the toilet in the middle of the night.

The trial court did not find Simon’s assertion that his injuries came from such a fall credible for several reasons.  The court did not find it believable that Simon had used the toilet in the corridor because he had a “night stool” in his room for bathroom use. Simon claimed he could not use the night stool because Jewish law prohibited sharing of the night stool while his wife was menstruating, but the court cited the testimony of a rabbi stating that there was no such prohibition under Jewish law. There also was no evidence that Simon’s wife was in fact menstruating at the time of the crime. Furthermore, the court found that Simon’s injuries were not consistent with falling on logs, citing the testimony of a doctor that Simon appeared to have bite marks on his hands and bruising on his face.

In addition, in a page torn from Cinderella or the OJ Simpson trial, the trial court found that the shoes left behind by the assailant fit Simon as well as his wife. A shoemaker testified that he had made the shoes for Simon’s wife and repaired them. He was able to identify them by the way the heels were worn down on one side. Simon denied that the shoes were his or his wife’s, saying that her shoes had been stolen. The trial court did not find this assertion credible because the theft of the shoes had never been reported to the police.

By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

The fact that Simon was wearing dirty socks covered with thick straw and half-dry black mud when the authorities came to investigate was also relied on by the trial court in its analysis. Simon claimed his socks were dirty from walking inside his house and from walking outside to his well. The trial court was not persuaded, finding evidence that Simon was ordinarily a tidy man, that his floors did not have dirt like that found on his socks, and that the walkway to the well had a stone path. Witnesses also testified that the dirty socks were like those of someone who walked through the village without shoes.

There was also some discussion in the trial court opinion about the fact that Simon had plans to go to the estate of the aristocratic von Malsburg family the morning of the investigation.  Julia and I were not sure what this all meant, but as best I can tell, Simon was wearing boots when the authorities arrived and claimed it was because he was planning to go to the Malsburg estate. The court seems to have concluded that this was not the case, but that Simon had put on boots to hide his dirty socks, which were only revealed when the investigator asked him to remove his boots.

Based on its evaluation of the evidence, the trial court concluded that Simon was guilty of attempted theft with burglary and attempted robbery with murder and sentenced him to ten years in prison with his legs shackled. The court considered as an aggravating factor in determining its sentence that Simon had not voluntarily called off his attempted crime, but only left because he was afraid of being caught when Wolf called for help.

End of trial court opinoin
HStAM 261 Kriminalakten 1822-1836 No. G 40

Although the court observed that the usual penalty for a crime of this nature would be twelve to fifteen years in prison, it noted that the case had been delayed for two years due to an overload of pending cases and therefore reduced the usual penalty and sentenced Simon to ten years in prison. The court’s mention of a two-year delay is confusing since the crime was in 1826 and the trial decision in 1830. Simon had been incarcerated for four years while awaiting trial.

On July 22, 1830, Simon appealed the trial court’s verdict, making many of the same arguments that he made at trial, but with some additional details. For one thing, he claimed that he had not reported the theft of his wife’s shoes because of their low value. As to the fact that he was wearing boots the morning after the crime, he asserted that it was insulting to claim that a tailor would not ordinarily be wearing shoes.

Simon Goldschmidt’s application for appearl, first page
HStAM 261 Kriminalakten 1822-1836 No. G 40

With respect to his dirty socks, Simon asserted that the stones on the walkway to the well were quite distant from each other and that the humid weather had made the ground very muddy. And as for his claim that he injured himself from a fall when he went to the toilet in the corridor, he asserted that he left the bedroom because he did not want to make a stench inside and that he believed, even if incorrectly, that under Jewish law he and his wife could not share a night stool while she was menstruating.

Simon also pointed out that Wolf had not specifically identified him, but had only given a general description of the person who attacked him. In addition, Simon asserted his overall good reputation as a factor mitigating against his guilt.

The appellate court issued its decision on December 24, 1830. Its opinion is far more detailed and thorough than the trial court opinion and raises some additional issues. For example, the appellate court pointed out that Simon had been having financial problems and thus had a motive for stealing from Wolf. The court also mentioned that Simon knew that Wolf had money because he and his brothers had at one time borrowed money from Wolf.

Appellate decision, first page
HStAM 261 Kriminalakten 1822-1836 No. G 40

Simon’s response was that his financial problems were only temporary and that everyone in the village knew that Wolf had money and might have stolen from him. Simon also argued that since Wolf had loaned money to him and his brothers, it would not make sense for him to steal from him. The court concluded that the evidence of Simon’s financial problems supported the trial court’s guilty verdict, although only circumstantially.

(If I were representing Simon, I might also have argued that since Wolf knew Simon, he should have been able to identify him as the assailant rather than merely providing a general description.)

The appellate court also considered Wolf’s description of his assailant and whether it clearly identified Simon. Despite some inconsistencies in the evidence regarding the description of the assailant’s “singing voice” and hair, the court found that this evidence nevertheless pointed towards Simon’s guilt.

With respect to the fact that Simon was wearing boots when the authorities came to investigate early on the morning after the crime, the court found that it was not Simon’s usual practice to wear boots and that his story that he was planning to walk to the Malsburg estate was not supported by any witnesses. But the court considered this only relevant to the claim that Simon was trying to hide the dirt on his socks.

The evidence that the appellate court seemed to consider most persuasive of Simon’s guilt was the evidence relating to the shoes left at Wolf’s house and the dirt on Simon’s socks. In the court’s weighing of the evidence, it concluded that the shoes belonged to Simon and his wife and that he got his socks dirty when he ran home through the town without his shoes.

The appellate court also considered very persuasive the evidence of Simon’s injuries and concluded that Simon’s story about falling on logs was not credible. In response to the assertion that Simon did not use the night stool because his wife was menstruating, the prosecution argued that Simon’s wife could not have been menstruating because she was breastfeeding [presumably Jakob, their first child born in 1825]. I was impressed by the court’s response to this assertion—that women can menstruate even while breastfeeding—because that is a fact that I would not have thought was commonly known in 1830.

But the court nevertheless found that it was not likely that Simon’s injuries were sustained in a fall, given the doctor’s testimony that there were bite marks and the fact that the injuries were in multiple locations on Simon’s body, not on one side as one would expect from a fall. Also, Simon couldn’t give a convincing description of the fall and refused to show his injuries. Thus, the court dismissed Simon’s assertion that he was injured in a fall.

After weighing all the evidence, the appellate court thus upheld the verdict. However, it reduced the sentence from ten years to four years because Wolf’s injuries were not dangerous or life-threatening and because Simon had not used any lethal weapons.  It thus reduced the original charges against Simon to attempted robbery. The court also observed that the delay in trial was not Simon’s fault and took that into consideration in reducing his sentence. Simon was released from prison after the appellate court’s decision.

Last page of appellate decision, HStAM 261 Kriminalakten 1822-1836 No. G 40

As noted in my earlier post, Simon’s first wife Eveline died in 1840, and in 1844 my four-times great-uncle Simon Goldschmidt married Fradchen Schoenthal, the sister of my great-great-grandfather Levi Schoenthal and thus my three-times great-aunt. Fradchen and Simon left for the United States not long after. Simon was the second member of the Goldschmidt family to immigrate to the US, following his oldest son Jakob, and Fradchen was the first Schoenthal to immigrate.

Passenger manifest for Simon Goldschmidt, Fradchen Schoenthal and Eva
Ancestry.com. Baltimore, Passenger Lists, 1820-1964. Original data: Selected Passenger and Crew Lists and Manifests. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

I can’t help but wonder whether their decision to leave Germany was in some part motivated by a desire to leave behind Simon’s criminal past and start over in a new country. If so, well, then I have to say that I am awfully glad that Simon was convicted of this crime because in many ways it was that event that led ultimately to the emigration of my great-great-grandmother Eva Goldschmidt Katzenstein (Simon’s niece) and my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal (Fradchen’s nephew), who later married Eva Goldschmidt’s daughter, Hilda Katzenstein.

Thus, in some ways Simon’s crime may have led to the merging of three of my paternal family lines—Goldschmidt, Schoenthal, and Katzenstein—in America.  How very strange.






  1.  HStAM 261 Kriminalakten 1822-1836 No. G 40. 

More Goldschmidts Become Goldsmiths in Philadelphia

In my last post we saw how my three-times great-uncle Jacob Goldsmith came to the United States and settled in Philadelphia by 1850, then married and had seven children in the 1850s and 1860s.  He also established a retail clothing business on Market Street.

But Jacob was not the only child of Seligmann and Hincka to come to the US as early as the 1850s. His younger brother Abraham was the second of Seligmann and Hincka’s children to come to the US. Abraham was born in March 13, 1832:

Birth record of Abraham Goldschmidt
Geburtsregister der Juden von Oberlistingen (Breuna) 1826-1852 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 668)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 4

Abraham arrived in the US on August 21, 1850, listing his occupation as a merchant:

Abraham Goldschmidt passenger manifest 1850
Year: 1850; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 091; Line: 1; List Number: 951


On January 17, 1858, he married Cecelia Adler in Philadelphia.  Cecelia was the daughter of Samuel Adler and Sarah Kargau, and she was born on November 26, 1838, in Würzberg, Germany. She and her parents had immigrated to the US by 1850 and settled in Philadelphia where her father was a merchant.

Marriage record of Abraham Goldschmidt and Cecelia Adler
Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 792
Organization Name: Congregation Rodeph Shalom
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1669-2013

In 1860, Abraham and Cecelia were living in Philadelphia, where Abraham was a clothier with $15,000 worth of personal property. That he amassed that much money so quickly indicates to me that he must have been either a very successful business person, or either his parents or his in-laws provided a substantial financial cushion. Note that Abraham, like his brother Jacob, had Americanized his name from Goldschmidt to Goldsmith.

Abraham and Cecelia (Adler) Goldsmith 1860 census
Year: 1860; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 13, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1163; Page: 914; Family History Library Film: 805163

Abraham and Cecelia had six children between 1861 and 1870: Milton (1861), Hildegard (1862), Edwin (1864), Rose (1866), Emily (1868), and Estelle (1870).  In 1870, Abraham now claimed he had $25,000 worth of real estate and $20,000 worth of personal property.  He continued to be in the clothing business. Cecelia’s parents were also living with Abraham and Cecelia and their six children in 1870, as well as three domestic servants [shown on the next page of the census].

Abraham Goldsmith and family 1870 census
Year: 1870; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 12 District 35, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1396; Page: 133B; Family History Library Film: 552895

Thus, like his older brother Jacob, Abraham was quite well-settled in Philadelphia by 1870.

The youngest son of Seligmann and Hincka, Meyer, was the third brother to immigrate. He was born October 25, 1834, apparently registered with the name Rafael. I still believe that this was the same child later known as Meyer, based on his age on several US records and the fact that the 1900 census says that he was born in October 1834, and there is no other birth registered to Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hincka Alexander for that month and year.

Birth record of Rafael/Meyer Goldschmidt 1834
Geburtsregister der Juden von Oberlistingen (Breuna) 1826-1852 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 668)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 5

Meyer arrived in the US on July 8, 1852. He was seventeen years old.

Meier Goldschmidt passenger manifest
Year: 1852; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 116; Line: 1; List Number: 895

According to the 1900 census, in 1859, Meyer married Helene Hohenfels, daughter of Jordan and Adelaide Hohenfels, all of whom had emigrated from Germany to the US by 1850. Meyer and Helene’s first child Eugene was born on October 6, 1859, in Newton, New Jersey, which is about 100 miles north of Philadelphia and sixty miles west of New York City.

In 1860 Meyer, Helene, and Eugene were living in Newton; Meyer was working as a “merchant tailor” and had $4000 worth of personal property. Also living with them were a servant and a thirteen year old boy named George Stone from the Hesse region, whose relationship to the family I’ve not determined. Like Jacob and Abraham, Meyer had changed the spelling of his surname to Goldsmith.

Meyer Goldsmith and Helene Hohenfels 1860 census
Year: 1860; Census Place: Newton, Sussex, New Jersey; Roll: M653_709; Page: 605; Family History Library Film: 803709


By 1863 or so, Meyer and his family had relocated to Philadelphia where his siblings were living. On the 1870 census, you can see that while his first two children were born in New Jersey, the third, who was seven in 1870, was born in Pennsylvania.  By 1870 Meyer and Helene had five children: Eugene (1859), Heloise (1860), Maurice (1863), Samuel (1867), and Rosa (1869). Meyer was working as a wholesale clothier and claimed $2000 in personal property. (I guess all those children ate into the $4000 worth of savings they’d had in 1860!) A sixth child, Florence, would be born in 1872.

Meyer Goldsmith 1870 census
Year: 1870; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 13 District 39, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1397; Page: 465A; Family History Library Film: 552896


Levy, the second oldest son of Seligmann and Hincka, was the next to come to the US. He was born November 10, 1824. He arrived in the US on September 20, 1853, and also settled in Philadelphia.

Levy Goldschmidt passenger manifest
Year: 1853; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 132; Line: 1; List Number: 991

Two years after arriving he married Henryetta Lebenbach in Philadelphia on March 21, 1855.

Marriage record of Levy Goldschmidt and Henryette Lebenbach
Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 792

In 1860, they were living in Philadelphia with two daughters, Eva (1856) and Estella (1859). He claimed $7,000 worth of personal property, and like his brothers, was now using the surname Goldsmith. Interestingly, he also seems to have changed the spelling of his first name from Levy to Levi. It looks like Henryette had also adopted a new spelling of her name—Henrietta.

Levi Goldsmith and family 1860 census

Levi was, like his three brothers, in the clothing business. A search of the Philadelphia directories for these years revealed that at least Abraham and Levi were in business together.

Title: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1862
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995

Goldsmiths in the 1866 Philadelphia directory
Title: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1866
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995

I say “at least” Abraham and Levi were in business together because I think it’s possible that Jacob was also in the same business.  If you compare these two directory listings, one in 1862, one on 1866, you can see that whereas in 1862 Jacob was at 335 Market Street and Levi and Abraham at 532 Market Street, in 1866 they’d reversed—Jacob was at 532 and Levi and Abraham at 335.

By 1870, Levi (here spelled Levy) and Henrietta had seven children. After Eva and Estella came George (1861), Felix (1862), Helen (1865), Blanche (1868), and Sylvester (1869). Levy reported that he was in the wholesale clothing business and that he had $25,000 in real estate and $50,000 in personal property. He obviously was doing quite well.

Levy Goldsmith and family 1870 census
Year: 1870; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 20 District 64, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1406; Page: 293B; Family History Library Film: 552905


Although by 1853, all four sons of Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hincka Alexander had thus left Germany for the United States, their four sisters—Sarah, Bette, Eva, and Rose—were still in Germany at that point. But soon enough two of them also would come to the US.

In 1856 my great-great-grandmother Eva Goldschmidt arrived with her husband Gerson Katzenstein, and they, too, settled in Philadelphia, as I’ve written about previously. They came with their three oldest children: Scholum (1848), Jacob (1851), and Brendina (1853). And as noted before, traveling with them were some of the children of Gerson’s sister Hannchen Katzenstein Mansbach, who were also cousins to the children of Eva Goldschmidt’s sister Sarah Goldschmidt Mansbach. As already described, Eva and Gerson would have three more children in the US: Perry (1856), Hannah (1859), and my great-grandmother Hilda (1863).

Seligmann and Hincka’s youngest child, Roschen or Rosa, was born on October 27, 1837.

Birth record of Roschen Goldschmidt
Geburtsregister der Juden von Oberlistingen (Breuna) 1826-1852 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 668)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 9

She arrived in the US on July 9, 1860:

Roschen Goldschmidt passenger manifest
Year: 1860; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 202; Line: 1; List Number: 597


On January 20, 1864 she married Bernhardt Metz, another German immigrant. They would have four children between 1865 and 1870: Hattie (1865), Paul (1867), Emily (1869), and Bertha (1870). In 1870, they were living in Philadelphia where Bernhardt was a cloak manufacturer. He claimed $10,000 of real estate and $2000 of personal property:

Bernhardt and Rosa (Goldschmidt) Metz 1870 census
Year: 1870; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 20 District 66, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1407; Page: 438B; Family History Library Film: 552906

Thus, by 1860, all but two of  Seligmann and Hincka’s children had emigrated to the US, and by 1870, those in the US were all living in Philadelphia and married with children; all the sons were working in the clothing industry.

Only two siblings were still in Germany: Sarah, the oldest daughter, and Bette/Biele.  After 1870,  the children of Sarah Goldschmidt and her husband Abraham Mansbach II would also begin to emigrate, followed by Sarah and Abraham themselves in 1882, as discussed in my next post.

Yet Another Abraham Mansbach: More Twists in the Tree

As I mentioned in my last post, my three-times great-grandparents Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hincka Alexander had seven children.

Their oldest child was Sarah, born December 1, 1818, in Oberlistingen. Sarah married Abraham Mansbach on October 31, 1843. Abraham Mansbach was a name I’d encountered before when researching my Katzenstein relatives, so I knew I had to dig deeper to see if there was a connection.

Marriage record of Sarah (Sarchen) Goldschmidt and Abraham Mansbach
Trauregister der Juden von Gudensberg 1825-1900 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 386)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 14

Back in November, 2016, I wrote a post entitled “Will the Real Abraham Mansbach Please Stand Up?,” in which I described my attempts to distinguish five different men (all related to each other) named Abraham Mansbach.  The first Abraham Mansbach (Abraham I) died around 1808; the other four included one of his grandsons and three of his great-grandsons.

Abraham I had three sons: Isaac, Leiser, and Marum I.  Leiser in turn had two sons, Abraham II and Marum II, both of whom married into my family. Abraham II married my three-times great-aunt Sarah Goldschmidt, as seen above.

Leiser’s other son, Marum II, married one of my other three-times-great-aunts, Hannchen Katzenstein. Thus, the Mansbachs are related to me both on the Katzenstein side and the Goldschmidt side. (And the Goldschmidts and Katzenstein lines also merged with the marriage of Gerson Katzenstein and Eva Goldschmidt, my great-great-grandparents.)

Marum Mansbach II and Hanchen Katzenstein also had a son named Abraham, whom I labeled Abraham Mansbach III.[1] The fourth and fifth Abraham Mansbachs were other great-grandsons of Abraham I not directly entangled with my relatives.



Anyway……all you need to know for this post is that Sarah Goldschmidt married Abraham Mansbach II, who was born January 12, 1809, in Maden, Germany.  Sarah and Abraham had ten children: Breine (1844), Hewa “Hedwig (1846), Leiser “Louis” (1849), Jacob (1851), Merla “Amelia” (1853), Berthold (1856), Hannah (1858), Meyer (1860), Kathinka (1862), and Julius (1865). In other words, Sarah gave birth to ten children over a 21 year period. All the children were born in Maden.

Thanks to my recently-found cousin Art Mansbach, a great-grandson of Abraham and Sarah, I have a number of photographs of Abraham and Sarah and their children. This one is of Abraham, Sarah, and their youngest child, Julius, Art’s grandfather. Julius appears to be about five years old in this photograph, so this would have been taken in around 1870:

Abraham Mansbach, Julius Mansbach, and Sarah Goldschmidt Mansbach c. 1870
Courtesy of the Mansbach family

Here is one of Sarah with her two youngest sons, Meyer and Juilus. From the ages of the boys, I would estimate that this was taken in the mid-1870s:

Julius Mansbach, Sarah Goldschmidt Mansbach, and Meyer Mansbach c. 1874
Courtesy of the Mansbach family

This was the Mansbach home in Maden, Germany:

Home of Abraham and Sarah Goldschmidt Mansbach, Maden, Germany
Courtesy of the Mansbach family

Remarkably, only one of those children did not grow to adulthood.  Jacob, the fourth child, who was born on June 23, 1851, died on September 13, 1853. He was just two years old.

Jacob Mansbach death record
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 387, p. 47


Two other children of Sarah and Abraham II predeceased one or both of their parents, but did live to adulthood: Hedwig and Kathinka.  Kathinka died in the US, so her story will come in a later post. But Hedwig died in Germany.

Hedwig was born on November 20, 1846.

Hedwig/Hewa Mansbach birth record HHStAW Fonds 365 No 384, p.43


On February 16, 1875, she married David Rothschild of Zierenberg, Germany.

Hewa Mansbach and David Rothschild marriage record
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 386, p. 40

Sadly, Hedwig died nine months to the day later on November 16, 1875. Had she died in childbirth? I don’t know. She was only 28 years old when she died. If there was a child, I have not found any record of him or her, and I checked all the births and deaths in Zierenberg in 1875.

Death record for Hedwig Mansbach Rothschild
Description: Geburten, Heiraten Tote 1874-1875
Source Information
Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1730-1875


Not long after Hedwig’s death, many of her siblings began to leave Germany for the United States. In fact, all but one of the remaining siblings and their parents Sarah and Abraham themselves eventually emigrated. I will continue their stories in subsequent posts.

The only surviving child of Sarah and Abraham who did not emigrate was their first-born child, Breine.

Breine was born on September 27, 1844:

Breine Mansbach birth record
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 384, p. 39


She married Jacob Bensew on February 3, 1870; Jacob was born on January 15, 1840, in Malsfeld, Germany, the son of Heinemann Bensew and Roschen Goldberg.

marriage record for Breine Mansbach and Jacob Bensew
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 386, p. 35


Breine and Jacob had six children—five sons and one daughter: William (1872), Julius (1875), Siegmund (1877), Heinemann (1879), Max (1882), and Frieda (1886). All six of their children would eventually immigrate to the United States, but Breine and Jacob stayed behind and lived the rest of their lives in Germany.

Breine died in Melsungen, Germany, on May 31, 1922, and her husband Jacob in Kassel, Germany, on April 25, 1925.

Death record for Breine Mansbach Bensew
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 4684

Because so much of the rest of the story of the the family of Sarah Goldschmidt and Abraham Mansbach II took place in the US, I will stop here and address the history of the Goldschmidt family’s migration to the US in my next post.

But first one final photograph, this one of Abraham with the four sons who grew to adulthood: Leiser/Louis, Berthold, Meyer, and Julius. I do not know which is which, but all four appear in this photograph with their father. They were all my first cousins, four times removed:

ABraham Mansbach with his four surviving sons: Meyer, Berthold, Louis, and Julius. (Not necessarily in that order.)



[1] Thus, Abraham II was the uncle of Abraham III, my first cousin-three times removed on my Katzenstein line, and he was the husband of my three-times great-aunt Sarah Goldschmidt.

Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hincka Alexander, My 3x-Great-Grandparents of Oberlistingen

I have once again been truly fortunate as I begin my in-depth research of my Goldschmidt line. Not only do I have the benefit of the research done by Roger Cibella and David Baron, but through Roger and David, I have now connected with another Goldschmidt cousin, Art Mansbach, my third cousin, once removed. And Art, the great-great-grandson of Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hincka Alexander, has a treasure trove of pictures and documents and other items related to the Goldschmidt family. Art discovered a box of photographs in his father’s attic, and fortunately most of them were labeled with the names of those depicted. From Roger, David, and Art, I now have a fair amount of information about our mutual ancestors, Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hincka Alexander, as well as pictures of them.

My three-times great-grandfather Seligmann Goldschmidt was born in about 1783-1784 in Oberlistingen, Germany. (His birth date is inferred from his death record, to be discussed below.) He was the oldest son of my four-times great-grandparents Jacob Falcke Goldschmidt and Eva Reuben Seligmann, though he had two older half-brothers from his father’s prior marriages.

Seligmann Goldschmidt

According to Art and as reported on Roger Cibella and David Baron’s website, Seligmann was by trade a spice merchant. He also fought under General Bluecher against Napoleon at Waterloo and was cited for bravery and given a silver snuff box for his service. Art owns the snuff box and shared these photographs of this heirloom:





Although I have not found a marriage record, I assume that Seligmann married my three-times great-grandmother Hincka Alexander sometime before December 1, 1818, when their first child was born. According to her death record and gravestone, Hincka was born in Wolfhagen on September 14, 1797. I don’t yet know the names of her parents or whether she had any siblings.

Hincka Alexander Goldschmidt

Seligmann and Hincka had their first child, a daughter named Sarah, on December 1, 1818, according to her death record. Sarah was followed by seven other children: Jacob (1822), Levi (1824), my great-great-grandmother Eva (1827), Beile or Bette (1829 or 1830), Abraham (1832), Meyer (1834), and Rosa (1837).


All but Beile/Bette would end up immigrating to the United States, starting with Jacob who arrived before 1850 and ending with Sarah, who arrived in 1882. Thus, I will be able to report a fair amount about each of their lives and their families and will be devoting separate posts (probably multiple) to each one of them.

Seligmann and Hincka, however, did not leave Germany with their children. Hincka died on January 4, 1860, in Oberlistingen; according to her death record, she was 63 years old:

Hincka Alexander Goldschmidt death record
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 502, p.82


Although the part of the gravestone that included her name is broken off, it is obvious that this is her stone as it identifies her as the wife of Seligmann Goldschmidt and also because the date of death is consistent with that in the record above. Unfortunately, however, it did not enable me to learn Hincka’s full Hebrew name and thus her father’s name:

UPDATE: Thank you to Lara Diamond for pointing out that Hincka’s name is partially legible at the very top of the stone—it says Hincka Sara! But for some reason her father’s name was not included.  Thank you, Lara!

Goldschmidt, Hinka (1860) – Kassel-Bettenhausen“, in: Jüdische Grabstätten <http://www.lagis-hessen.de/en/subjects/idrec/sn/juf/id/6511&gt; (Stand: 24.3.2015)


The inscriptions is translated as follows:

Wife of Seligman Goldschmidt from Oberlistingen.

Born on the 23rd of Elul [5] 557

Died on Thursday, 10th Tewet,

and buried on Friday, the 11th Tewet [5] 620

Jewish era.

Her soul is bound in the bond of life.

Her husband Seligmann died nine years later on April 8, 1869; he was 85 or 86 years old, according to this death record:

Seligmann Goldschmidt death record
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 387, p.70


His headstone is in better shape than that of his wife Hincka:

Goldschmidt, Seligmann (1869) – Obervorschütz“, in: Jüdische Grabstätten <http://www.lagis-hessen.de/en/subjects/idrec/sn/juf/id/13188&gt; (Stand: 8.8.2014)


The inscription is translated as:

a sincere man among the generous ones.

He walked the path of the good.

He distributed his bread among the hungry.

He was God-fearing throughout his life.

Aaron, called Seligmann,

Son of Jacob. Died with a good reputation

on Thursday, the 27th Nisan, and buried

on Friday, the 28th of the month in the year

[5] 629 after the small count. His soul is bound in the bond of life.

One interesting insight here is that Seligmann’s Hebrew name was Aaron.

I love how this inscription revealed a bit about Seligmann’s personality and how he was perceived by his family; I wish the same had been done for Hincka. When Seligmann died in 1869, almost all of his children were in the United States, as had been many of them when their mother Hincka died in 1860. I wonder if they came home to Oberlistingen to bury their parents and whether they helped to determine the language that would go on their parents’ gravestones. Why was their mother’s inscription limited to the bare facts whereas their father’s was more descriptive and loving?

In posts to follow, I will explore the lives and families of each of the children of Seligmann and Hincka.

Several people raised questions about the meaning of “schutzbrief” in my prior post. I am researching those questions and will report back soon.


Introducing the Goldschmidts of Oberlistingen

It’s a new year, and it’s time to start the story of a new line in my family. As I was finishing the history of the Katzenstein family, I pondered which line I should work on next. Growing up, I’d only known the surnames of some of my ancestors: Cohen, Seligmann, Nusbaum, Schoenthal, Katzenstein, Brotman,  and Goldschlager, the lines I’ve focused on so far. I did not ever hear the names Jacobs, Schoenfeld, Hamberg, Goldschmidt, Brod, or Rosenzweig. Those names had disappeared when the women took their husbands’ names and gave their children only their husbands’ names. But after researching the husband’s lines, I learned the birth surnames of their wives. 

So now it’s time to go back and find the stories of these other families. I have decided to start with the Goldschmidt line—the family of my great-great-grandmother Eva Goldschmidt who married Gerson Katzenstein. She was the mother of my great-grandmother Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal and the grandmother and namesake of my grandmother Eva Schoenthal Cohen. It made sense to start with the Goldschmidts because they are entangled in several ways with both my Katzenstein relatives and my Schoenthal relatives, as you will see. Also, I am intrigued by the idea of following the direct female line of my paternal grandmother–from Eva Schoenthal to Hilda Katzenstein to Eva Goldschmidt.

Thanks to the incredible work of David Baron and Roger Cibella, I can trace my Goldschmidt family back to my fifth-great-grandparents, Falcke Jacob, born in about 1697, and his wife Sara (surname unknown), born in about 1704.

My Goldschmidt ancestors came from Oberlistingen in the Hesse region of Germany, just a few miles from the village of Breuna, where my Hamberg ancestors once lived, about fourteen miles from Sielen where my Schoenthal ancestors lived, and about fifty miles north of Jesberg where my Katzenstein relatives lived.  Oberlistingen is in fact a small village within the larger township of Breuna, which also includes Niederlistingen, another small village very close to Oberlistingen. The two villages are sometimes referred together as the two “Listingens.”


Years ago David and Roger put together a website that traced the history of the Goldschmidt family and Oberlistingen and included excerpts from Chapter III of Dieter Carl’s book, Die Juden Geschichte Beider Listingen [The Jewish History of the Two Listingens] (Herausgegeben vom Gemeindevorstand der Gemeinde Breuna, 1999), as translated by Joseph Voss.

According to Dieter Carl, Jews had been expelled from the Hesse region by Duke Phillip the Generous in the mid-16th century in response to pressure from Martin Luther.  Then in 1592 Lord Moritz allowed a few Jews to settle in the region. Eventually more Jews settled in the Hesse region, but restrictions were imposed.

Carl provided this helpful background:

The unique position of the Jews derived from the nature of their religion, on one hand, and, on the other hand, stemmed from the nature of a people who had no citizens rights, who were not fully free, and stood outside of the established Christian society.  Therefore the Jews had gained the special protection of the Feudal lords needed for their security and livelihood for economical activity and housing.  Originally this protection was in the hands of the Kaiser, but in time it transmitted down to local Dukes.  ….  [T]he Dukes of Hessen … gave to certain families a letter “schutzbriefe” of protection–the legal basis for living in these rural areas.  The receiver of the schutzbriefe had to pay a reasonable sum and had to provide other services for the Lord.  The protection letter gave the Jews the legal right to trade and lend money.

For a long time Jews could not become artisans, farmers or civil servants, but only moneylenders or traders.  In order to limit the number of Jews in Hessian towns and villages, the letter could not be inheritable.  In reality though, the letter was passed down from father to eldest son with a small sum paid in order to continue that right.  This was beneficial for the right to do business and who could establish a family; hence the authorities could control the size of the Jewish population.  All the Jews for whatever reason did not possess the Schutzbrief, the youngest sons and unmarried daughters were the so-called “Unvergleitete” or disinherited.  From these large groups were created the Jewish under classes   or “Unterschicht”.  These consisted mainly as the “knechte, or the worker/ servants, the men and women who served the Schutzjuden in their employ.  In part they lived in great poverty and some resorted to begging for their livelihood.

According to Dieter Carl, the first Schutzbrief in Oberlistingen was given in 1724 to someone known as Juden Falcke, as seen in this letter dated October 19, 1724:

I, the undersigned am writing because I am protected by the esteemed sires of Malsburg.  I wish to become a member of the Oberlistingen community with permission to reside there.  I have obtained all of the rights to function in this community as a Jew and who has officially received these rights along with your right to cancel my contract.  Furthermore I am obligated, if the community is in need of money, and if I have the means to provide a loan without interest without damage to myself, I will make an advance to them if the need arises.  All of what is said here and recorded is based on free will and opinion, which my signature authenticates.

Signed 19 October 1724

Juden Falcke

Who was Juden Falcke? Was he related to me?

My fifth-great-grandparents Falcke Jacob and Sara had three children: Jacob Falcke, born in 1729; Joseph Falcke, born in 1734; and Blume Falcke, born in 1740.  Following the March 31, 1808 decree requiring Jews in the region to adopt surnames, Jacob Falcke adopted the surname Goldschmidt. Carl concluded that the “Juden Falcke” who received the first Schutzbrief for Oberlistingen was Jacob Falcke Goldschmidt, my four times great-grandfather. His brother Joseph adopted the surname Neuwahl and eventually also received a Schutzbrief to live in Oberlistingen.

Jacob Falcke Goldschmidt was married three times.  His first wife was named Bela, with whom he had one son; his second wife was Judith Arons, with whom he also had one son. Jacob’s third wife was my four-times great-grandmother, Eva Reuben Seligmann,[1] whom he married on November 24, 1780. [2]

Jacob Falcke Goldschmidt and Eva Reuben Seligmann had four sons:  my three-times great-grandfather Seligmann and his brothers Lehman, Meyer, and Simon. Dieter Carl also listed an unnamed daughter, and David Baron found a reference to this daughter in the Alex Bernstein Collection at the Leo Baeck Institute.  Her name was Jette, and she was born May 4, 1793; she married David Grunewald of Hoexter, Germany—the region that is the focus of Alex Bernstein’s research. According to his research, Jette died on August 4, 1822, and did not have any children.

CORRECTION: David Baron pointed out that I had misread Bernstein’s research. He found that Jette Goldschmidt did have children with David Grunewald before her death. First, a son Jacob Grunewald was born May 5, 1820; a second child was stillborn on July 30, 1822. Jette died five days later, presumably from complications from childbirth. Jacob Grunewald married and had fourteen children. Later I will return to these Goldschmidt cousins and report on them more fully.

Although I am primarily interested in my three-times great-grandfather Seligmann and his descendants, I will also write about his brothers, in part because his brother Simon was married to Fradchen Schoenthal, sister of Levi Schoenthal, my great-great-grandfather from Sielen.  Yes, my family tree continues to twist and bend.


[1] There is no known familial connection between Eva Reuben Seligmann, who was born in Warburg, Germany, and my Seligmann ancestors from Gau-Algesheim.

[2] This information all comes from Dieter Carl’s book as excerpted on the Cibella-Baron website. I will be focusing only on the children of my direct ancestor, Jacob Falcke Goldschmidt.