Mea Culpa and more

I owe my readers an apology.  In my earlier post I had written that Jay Katz, the only child of Samuel Katz and Lorena Rothschild, had written on his World War I draft registration that he was born on October 23, 1882, in Omaha, Nebraska, which conflicted with the information on the census records. The census records from 1900, 1910, and 1920 all say that he was born in Kentucky, and that is consistent with the evidence suggesting that his family did not move to Nebraska until 1885.

On looking at the draft registration card more carefully, I now realize that it doesn’t list his birth place at all, only his birth date.  I misread the entry for his permanent residence (which was Omaha) as his birth place.  So Jay never wrote that he was born in Omaha. (I have now corrected my earlier post.)

Jay Katz World War I draft registration
Registration State: Nebraska; Registration County: Douglas; Roll: 1711763; Draft Board: 5
Draft Card : K
Source Information U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line].

However, the Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index on Ancestry lists his birthplace as Omaha. So, in my lame defense, I think that’s what made me jump to the hasty conclusion that the draft registration said that as well.  Mea culpa. Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.
Original data:
“Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916–1947.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2010. Index entries derived from digital copies of original records.

The good news is that in searching further to try and learn where Jay was born, I found a fairly detailed biography of him in Arthur Cooper Wakeley’s book, Omaha: The Gate City, and Douglas County, Nebraska, Volume 2 (S.J. Clarke publishing Company, 1917), pp. 979-980.  According to Wakeley’s biography of Jay Katz, he was “born in Taylor county, Kentucky, on the 23d of October, 1882, a son of Samuel and Lorena (Rothschild) Katz, who were natives of Germany and Kentucky, respectively.” That would seem to confirm the fact that Jay was born in Kentucky and that the Illinois death record is incorrect.

But the biography filled in other details about Jay and his family:

Jay B. Katz… attended public school, mastering the branches taught in the graded and high schools. Later he entered the Wentworth Military Academy at Lexington, Missouri, and following his return to Omaha spent four years in the employ of ME Smith & Company.

While employed there, Jay suffered a painful injury:

Wakeley’s biography continues:

After leaving that company, he engaged in the contracting business with his father, Samuel Katz, and George W. Craig, in the Katz Craig Contracting Company, where he took up municipal contracting and the building of public works.

The biography also reported that Jay married Ruth Rubel on June 11, 1912.  That would have been just six weeks after his father Samuel died on March 27, 1912.  What a bittersweet occasion that must have been. Ruth Rubel was the daughter of Isaac and Hattie C. Rubel of Omaha.  Ruth and Jay had two children born in the first few years after they married.

The Wakely biography praised Jay’s business skills quite enthusiastically:

Samuel Katz and Mr. Craig retired from the business in 1911, and Jay B. Katz took over the business and is still operating and has built waterworks and sewerage systems throughout the western country. His patronage has grown to extensive proportions and is well merited by reason of his ability his sound judgment and his enterprise. He fully merits the prosperity that has come to him as it is the just reward of his diligence and keen sagacity. He has many men in his employ, and every completed contract is an advertisement of the excellence of the work.

Mr. Katz is a thirty-second degree Mason and is also connected with the Benevolent Protective order of Elks. He likewise belongs to the Commercial Club and to the Omaha Athletic Club, and he has many friends in these organizations. Step by step, he has advanced since starting out in the business world in his youthful days, and his orderly progress has brought him into prominent relations.

Jay and his family stayed in Omaha where he continued to operate the construction business, but then Jay and Ruth are listed in 1926 in the West Frankfort, Illinois, directory; Jay’s occupation is reported as a sewer contractor, which seems consistent with his business in Omaha. West Frankfort is 542 miles from Omaha, and I have no idea why Jay would have decided to leave Omaha at that time.

This article from the March 8, 1928, Omaha World-Herald states that Jay and Ruth had left Omaha two years before and were living now in Chicago.  But West Frankfort is more than 300 miles from Chicago.  Although I could not find Jay listed in a Chicago directory for 1927 or 1928, he is listed in the 1930 Chicago phonebook, so the newspaper appears to have correctly reported that he was then residing in Chicago.

Why did Jay leave Omaha? Why did he then move to Chicago? Was business bad? Or was he seeking to expand by moving to West Frankfort and then Chicago? I don’t know.  But at some point things did go poorly for Jay, as a March 18, 1930 article from the Council Bluffs, Iowa Daily Nonpareil, p.12, as well as an article from March 18, 1930 edition of the Omaha World-Herald (p.2)  reported that Jay had committed suicide.  Both articles suggested that it was because of financial problems.  The stock market crash that led to the Great Depression had occurred just five months before, undoubtedly causing Jay, like so many others, to suffer devastating losses.

Some stories just break your heart.

One Busy Man

My initial research into Samuel Katz, a son of my 3x-great-aunt Rahel Katzenstein, left me with several unanswered questions. Samuel and his wife Lorena and their son Jay had relocated from Kentucky to Omaha, Nebraska, in the 1880s.

One mystery involved Samuel’s occupation.  Omaha directories listed more than one Samuel Katz for most of the years between 1885 and 1900, one of whom was a tailor living on 12th Street for some of the years while the other was first a grocer, then a clothing manufacturer, then a real estate agent, and then again a clothing manufacturer.[1]   Then in the 1890s, Samuel Katz living at 2111 Douglas Street appeared to be in both the clothing business and the grading contracting business.

How had that evolved? I turned to my favorite research tool—old newspapers. Fortunately, has issues of the Omaha Bee from 1872 to 1916, and has issues of the Omaha Daily Herald and the Omaha World-Herald ranging from 1878 through 1983 as well as as well as other Nebraska newspapers.  I searched for “Katz” and was thrilled to find many relevant results from the search. Through those articles, I learned a great deal about my cousin Samuel Katz, the man, his family, and his businesses.

The earliest items I found that related to Samuel were many ads like this one for his grocery business:

I knew that had to be my Samuel Katz because the address matched what the 1885 Omaha directory listed as his business address:

Title : Omaha, Nebraska, City Directory, 1885 Source Information U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Original sources vary according to directory.

In November, 1885, Katz was a victim of a burglary at the home he shared with his father-in-law and family on Farnam  Street:

“Will Tell for Money,” Omaha World-Herald, November 12, 1885, p. 4

I will transcribe just the beginning of the article:

A short, dark-complexioned, black-haired and black-eyed young fellow named Alfred S. Hill was for some time employed by S. Katz as a driver of the delivery wagon. He was discharged recently, and on last Sunday night someone well acquainted with the premises entered the house where Mr Katz lives and stole a quantity of clothing, some money and two watches. Hill was arrested Tuesday evening on suspicion and locked up.  He said he was not connected with the theft, but know who did the work.

“Will Tell for Money,” Omaha World-Herald, November 12, 1885, p. 4

[Hill identified another man, who was arrested.  The story does not reveal what ultimately happened, and I did not find any follow-up. I was quite disturbed by the article’s physical description of Mr. Hill—why was that relevant?]

The fact that Mr. Hill drove a delivery truck for Samuel Katz seems consistent with the fact that Samuel was then in the grocery business.

But by July, 1886, Samuel was engaged in the grading business:


From thereon forward, there are numerous articles mentioning contracts he was awarded for doing road grading in the name of Katz & Callahan.

And beginning as early as 1887, there were also numerous ads like this one:

I knew this was also my Samuel Katz because it matched the Farnam Street address from the 1887 directory:

1887 Omaha directory U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

And not only was Samuel grading streets and lending money—he was selling real estate in 1887:

So as early as that Samuel had diversified and was in three different lines of work: money lending, real estate, and grading.  In addition, he was teaching in the Hebrew school:

When did he sleep? Money lender, real estate sales, grading contractor, and Hebrew school teacher!

Then in 1889, Samuel was in the clothing business, working for Polack Clothing Company:

1889 Omaha directory U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

That endeavor ended fairly soon, however, as the store was destroyed by a fire in May, 1889:

“Big Insurance Suit,” Daily Nebraska State Journal, September 17, 1889, p. 5:

“Big Insurance Suit,” Daily Nebraska State Journal, September 17, 1889, p. 5:

“The store of the Polack Clothing company was destroyed by fire on May 31, 1889….”

Samuel then went into the clothing manufacturing business for some time with new partners, Charles Nevens and Lawrence Enewold, in September, 1889:

This news item describes their business, known as Katz-Nevens, as manufacturing “common and medium grades of clothing.”

But Samuel nevertheless also remained engaged in the grading business:

On top of that he was president of Temple Israel, his synagogue:

Once again I ask: When did he sleep?

I won’t bother to catalog all the articles from the 1890s describing Samuel’s activities both in the grading business and the clothing business as well as his synagogue activities, but suffice it to say that he continued to be active in all three endeavors throughout the decade.  I did, however, find this article in which Samuel endorsed the re-election of the mayor of Omaha in 1893 very revealing:

I was impressed that Samuel could see beyond his own business interests and recognize that the mayor was acting in the best interests of the city even when turning down Samuel’s bids for grading contracts. That’s a sign of real integrity. (Or a cynic might say, a way of ingratiating himself in hopes of getting future contracts.)

And just to verify that this Samuel Katz was in fact the one who had moved from Kentucky, there is this news item:

Notice that Samuel was also a delegate to the I.O.B.B, the International Order of B’nai Brith.  Another item to add to his already overloaded resume.

By the end of the decade, however, two things changed in Samuel’s life.  First, Katz-Nevens, the clothing manufacturing business, was dissolved:

Then, Samuel retired as president of his congregation:

Omaha Bee, September, 6, 1899, p. 7

Thus, by 1900, when he responded to the enumerator’s question about his occupation, he was in fact only in the grading business.

Samuel Katz’s occupation on 1900 US census

But that would not stay the same for long. By 1905, Samuel was the treasurer of a new venture, Raapke & Katz Company, where his son Jay was also employed.  What was Raapke & Katz? A grocery business—Samuel had come full circle:

Omaha World-Herald, March 14, 1905, p. 8

One news item that has me quite intrigued is this small mention in April, 1905:

Who was the niece whose wedding Samuel attended back in Germany? I am now researching that question.

In 1906, although Jay is listed as a salesman for Raapke & Katz, Samuel only listed his grading business—Callahan Brothers & Katz— in the directory:

Omaha 1906 directory U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.
Original data: Original sources vary according to directory.

And in 1909, he and Jay were both listed with yet another new business: Katz, Craig Contracting Company.  Samuel was the president and Jay the secretary.

1909 Omaha directory U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Original sources vary according to directory.

And somehow Samuel found himself re-elected as synagogue president in 1910.

On the 1910 census, Samuel and Jay are both described as in the stone contracting business, so that must have been the business of Katz, Craig Contracting:

Katz family on 1910 census
Year: 1910; Census Place: Omaha Ward 11, Douglas, Nebraska; Roll: T624_844; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 0082; FHL microfilm: 1374857

But notice something strange about this census? It lists a second son of Samuel and Lorena: a 23 year old single man born in Kentucky named Sidney. You can imagine how that threw me for a loop when I first saw it.  Where did HE come from?

Just another enumerator mistake, I concluded.  Remember Samuel’s brother Abraham back in Kentucky with the ten children born in nineteen years? One of them was named Sidney and was the right age as the Sidney living with Samuel Katz in 1910.  I believe that the Sidney listed on the 1910 census in Samuel’s household was his nephew, not his son.

In fact, the next year another of Abraham’s children came to live with Samuel Katz; Florence Katz came to study voice in Omaha.  Lorena Rothschild Katz was herself a musician as was her sister Minnie, and so it probably seemed a good place for Florence to pursue her musical interests.

And remember Bertha Katz who was working as a stenographer for Katz-Nevens in 1899? Well, she also was likely the daughter of Samuel’s brother Abraham.  Obviously, despite the long distance between the two brothers, they stayed in touch throughout the years.  Samuel’s trip back to Germany in 1905 indicates that there also was a continuing connection to his family back in Jesberg.

Samuel Katz impressed me as quite a man: a man who was successful in several different businesses, a man who was committed to his faith and his people, and a man who was devoted to his family.

Sadly, his life was cut suddenly short on March 27, 1912, when he was only 59 years old.

Omaha World-Herald, March 28, 1912, p. 15

Here is the text of his obituary. (How many errors can you find?)

Samuel Katz, aged 51 years and for thirty years a resident of Omaha, died shortly after 9 o’clock last night at his home, 3707 Jones street, of heart failure.  Mr. Katz had not been well for a week or more, but last night was thought better. His death came suddenly and without the slightest warning, while he was preparing for a bath.

He is survived by his widow and one son, Jay B. Katz, of this city.

Samuel Katz was born in March 23, 1861, in Essen-Cassle [sic], Germany.  At an early age he came to this country and located in Harroldsburg, K. After a short period in that place he moved to Omaha and became interested in the manufacturing of overalls and bought a controlling interest in the Katz-Nevins Manufacturing company. The latter was connected with the Raapke wholesale company at Fourteenth and Harney streets.  About ten years ago he took up construction work and organized the Katz-Craig Construction company, he being at the head of this firm at the time of his death.  Mr. Katz was regarded as one of the most able and exacting men in his line of work.  Railroad and government construction work was his specialty and many of the finest buildings in this section of the country were built under his careful eye.

Samuel Katz was prominent in religious and charitable work, he being president of the Temple Israel at his death and also an officer in the local Jewish Associated Charities and the Independent order of B’Nai B’rith.  He was a Mason.

The funeral of Mr. Katz will be held at 2 o’clock Friday afternoon at the residence on Jones street.

There was also a memorial service for Samuel Katz in May, 1912.

Perhaps all that energy devoted to family, faith, and work was just too much for Samuel.

More on his family in the next post.






[1] I ruled out the tailor since he had a son named Samuel, so I’ve assumed that my Samuel was in the clothing and real estate businesses.

What Was My Cousin Doing in Omaha?

By 1885, Samuel Katz, my first cousin three times removed, had moved to Omaha, Nebraska, from the small town in Kentucky where he’d first settled after immigrating from Jesberg, Germany. What took him to Omaha, and what was he doing there?

First, what took him to Omaha? After all, his brother Abraham was living in Kentucky.  Omaha is almost 800 miles west of Horse Cave, Kentucky, where Abraham was living.


Omaha was a booming town.  Between 1880 and 1890, its population grew from just over 30,000 people to over 140,000 people. Wikipedia describes it as the fasting growing city in the United States in the 1880s.

According to Wikipedia:

After Irish-born James E. Boyd founded the first packing operation in Omaha in the 1870s, thousands of immigrants from central and southern Europe came to Omaha to work in the Union Stockyards and slaughterhouses of South Omaha. They created Omaha’s original ethnic neighborhoods… The Near North Side also developed greatly during this period, with high concentrations of Jews and Germans, and the first groups of African Americans. …Omaha’s growth was accelerated in the 1880s by the rapid development of the Union Stockyards and the meat packing industry in South Omaha. …There were several breweries established throughout the city during this period.

Omaha 1889, located at

Not only was Omaha a booming economic center in the 1880s, it also had an established Jewish community.  Temple Israel, the oldest synagogue in Nebraska, provides this history of the Omaha Jewish community on its website:

The first Jewish settlers, mostly merchants and businessmen, arrived in Omaha in 1856. …During the early 1860s, Jewish religious services in Omaha were conducted by laymen including Max Abrahams, grandfather of Milton R. Abrahams, who would become president of Temple Israel in 1942.

In 1871, the Congregation of Israel was founded …. Recognizing the need for a Jewish burial ground, five acres for a cemetery at 42nd and Redick were purchased and deeded to the congregation. During the summer and fall of 1871, Reverend Alexander Rosenspitz served the congregation and conducted the first Confirmation Service for a class of seven. The next year, a short-lived Sunday School was organized. Articles of incorporation were filed with the Douglas County Clerk in 1873. … Enthusiasm and dedication kept the tiny congregation viable. But all money raised was designated for a building leaving little for a rabbi’s salary. Finally, a lot was purchased at 23rd and Harney for $4,000. Reverend George Harfield was hired as rabbi in 1883 and on September 18, 1884, the 50-member congregation dedicated the first synagogue in Nebraska. It had been built for $4,500.

Temple Israel of Omaha, 1st Building
photo located at


Thus, Omaha would have been an attractive location for a Jewish merchant like Samuel Katz.  He did not, however, strike out all alone with his wife and son and move to Omaha; his wife Lorena’s sister, Bella Rothschild Pollock, and her husband Alexander Pollock had settled in Omaha as early as 1871; by 1880, Lorena’s brother Lafayette had also settled there. And during the 1880s, Lorena’s parents and her sisters Annie and Minnie moved there as well. So Samuel Katz was led to Omaha by his wife’s family.

Now what did he do there? That proved to be a difficult question to answer. I searched for Samuel in every Omaha directory from 1880 through 1912 to try and find answers to that question.

In 1885 there were two men named Samuel Katz and one named Samuel Kats in the Omaha directory.  One Samuel Katz was a grocer, residing at 2514 Douglas Street; the other was a glazier living 1308 Leavenworth Street. Samuel Kats was a tailor living at 1432 13th Street.

1885 Omaha directory U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

In 1886, the glazier was no longer listed, and the tailor was listed with a son, a Samuel Katz, Jr. Since my Samuel did not have a son named Samuel, the tailor could not have been my Samuel Katz.  The grocer named Samuel Katz was now listed as residing at 2016 Farnam; it seemed this had to be my Samuel Katz.

By 1887 there was only one Samuel Katz listed in the Omaha directory; he was working for a real estate business called Katz & Company and residing at 2106 Farnam Street, the same address where the grocer had been living the year before.   I thought this must have been “my” Samuel and that he had moved to the real estate field.

1887 Omaha directory U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

But there was a Miss Minnie Katz living at the same address who was a music teacher as well as a Miss Annie Katz.  Samuel did not have a wife or a daughter or a sister named Minnie or Annie, so who could they be? I was mystified.

Then I remembered that Lorena had sisters named Minnie and Annie, and they certainly could have been living with Samuel and Lorena.  Perhaps the directory erred by listing them with the surname Katz instead of Rothschild?

A check of the 1888 Omaha directory answered my question:

1888 Omaha directory U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

Annie and Minnie Rothschild were listed as living at 2113 Douglas Street, along with their father William and their brother Lafayette; Minnie was a music teacher.  Now I knew that Samuel Katz and his family were all living with Lorena’s parents and siblings in the same home at 2113 Douglas Street in 1887. The 1887 directory had simply assigned the wrong surname to Minnie and Annie.

In 1888 Samuel Katz was listed as a general agent for real estate for Manhattan Life Insurance Company, residing with his in-laws at 2113 Douglas Street.  And in 1889 the Samuel Katz living on Douglas Street (now 2111) was working for Polack Clothing Company, the same company that employed his brother-in-law Lafayette. This was presumably the business of Alex Pollock (as it was later spelled), brother-in-law of both Samuel Katz and Lafayette Rothschild.

Omaha directory 1888 U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

1889 Omaha directory U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

In 1890 my Samuel Katz was part owner of a clothing manufacturing business with Charles Nevins (later spelled Nevens) and William Rees and was still living at 2111 Douglas Street.  Meanwhile, Samuel Katz the tailor was still living on 12th Street.

1890 Omaha directory U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

Samuel Katz of 2111 Douglas Street continued to be listed with Katz-Nevens-Rees in the Omaha directories for each year between 1890 and 1895, although in 1895 there was a second listing for a Samuel Katz who was a grading contractor living on 11th Street.  Every directory from 1895 up to 1899 had these two listings for Samuel Katz, but which one was my relative—the clothing manufacturer at 2111 Douglas Street or the grading contractor at 11th Street?

1899 Omaha directory U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

On the 1900 census my Samuel Katz was living at 2111 Douglas Street—that is, the address of the Samuel Katz who was the clothing manufacturer with Nevens and Rees, according to the Omaha directories.

Samuel Katz and family, 1900 census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Omaha Ward 4, Douglas, Nebraska; Roll: 924; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 0036; FHL microfilm: 1240924

Samuel Katz’s occupation on 1900 US census

But doesn’t it look like the occupation for that Samuel Katz on that 1900 census says “Contr-Grd”? As in grading contractor? Was he both a clothing manufacturer AND a grading contractor? Or did every issue of the Omaha directory for all those years have the two men named Samuel Katz mixed up?

I was so confused….until I looked more carefully at the 1899 directory listing. And I noticed that the Katz-Nevens clothing company was located at 204 South 11th Street, the same address where the grading contracting business, Samuel Katz & Co, was located. Samuel Katz was in fact in both the clothing business and the grading contracting business.

1899 Omaha directory U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

But there were more mysteries to be solved, such as who was Bertha Katz, residing at 2111 Douglas Street and working as a stenographer for Katz-Nevens? And how did Samuel Katz end up in two very different businesses?