Hannah and Henry Goldsmith, My Double Cousins: An Update

I have been working on the family of Jacob Meier Goldschmidt, the oldest son of Meyer Goldschmidt, my four-times great-uncle, for months. We have already discussed four of Jacob’s five children: Helene, Regina, Julius, and Mayer/Marcel, and there is one more child to discuss. Then I can move on to Jacob’s sister Malchen and his two younger brothers, Selig and Falk. As you can see, there are still a lot of Goldschmidts to discuss. Given that I started writing about the Goldschmidts almost two and a half years ago, it looks like I will still be writing about them at least until the end of 2020 if not into 2021. That’s more time than I’ve spent on any of my other family lines. Wow.

But before I go on to Jacob Meier Goldschmidt’s youngest child, I need to do some catching up. It seems that the COVID19 pandemic has led many people stuck at home to research their family history. And I’ve heard from quite a few new Goldschmidt/Goldsmith cousins who Googled an ancestor’s name and found my blog. I’ve gotten new photographs, new stories, and new names to add to the family tree. So for the next few weeks, I am going to post this new information and update the posts where I first wrote about the relevant family.

Today’s post is about the families of two of Simon Goldschmidt’s children, the two born in the US, Hannah Goldsmith Benedict and Henry Goldsmith, who were my double cousins as their mother was my three-times great-aunt  Fradchen Schoenthal, my great-great-grandfather Levi Schoenthal’s sister.

First, I want to share some photographs and documents and a story about the family of Hannah Goldsmith Benedict, my first cousin, three times removed.  She was born in Baltimore in 1848 and had three sons who survived to adulthood, Jake, Herschel, and Centennial Harry Benedict.

In April, 2020, I heard from Hannah’s great-great-grandson Bruce Velzy, who is also the great-grandson of Jake Benedict; he had found my blog posts about his ancestors and wanted to share some photographs, including this one of Hannah Goldsmith Benedict that I posted earlier and had restored by the Free Photo Restoration group on Facebook.

Hannah Goldsmith Benedict, restored photo. Courtesy of her family

This is Hannah’s husband, Joseph Benedict:

Joseph Benedict, courtesy of Bruce Velzy

Bruce also shared a photograph of Hannah’s three sons. We weren’t completely sure who was who, but since Harry was the youngest, six years younger than Jake, five years younger than Hershel, I think he is the boy in the center.

Sons of Hannah Goldsmith and Joseph Benedict, c. 1890. Courtesy of the family

Bruce also had some very interesting documents, including this application for a Civil War pension filed by Joseph Benedict:

I learned several things from this document—that Joseph and Hannah were married by Rabbi Naumberg on April 17, 1867, in Pittsburgh. Even more important is the fact that Joseph and Hannah had two children who died as infants whom I’d not discovered. Their first child Emily, born October 19, 1868, died just three months later in December, and their fifth child Sydney was born on March 29, 1889, and died two months later in May, 1889. I am so glad I can add them to the family tree and preserve their memory for I am sure they were loved and mourned by their family.

I looked for birth and death certificates for Emily and Sydney, but did not find any. I did, however, find their gravestones on FindAGrave and also a death notice for Sydney on his FindAGrave memorial.

Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 06 June 2020), memorial page for Emilie Benedict (Oct 1868–Dec 1868), Find a Grave Memorial no. 109102550, citing Troy Hill Jewish Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Corey & Douglas Marshall-Steele (contributor 47477063) .

Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 06 June 2020), memorial page for Sidney G. Benedict (29 Mar 1889–17 May 1889), Find a Grave Memorial no. 90777547, citing Troy Hill Jewish Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by DGG (contributor 47020054) .

 

Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 06 June 2020), memorial page for Sidney G. Benedict (29 Mar 1889–17 May 1889), Find a Grave Memorial no. 90777547, citing Troy Hill Jewish Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by DGG (contributor 47020054) .

Death: Benedict—on May 17 at 10 in the evening, Sidney G., youngest son of Joseph and Hannah Benedict. Funeral to be held at the parents’ home, [address], on Sunday, May 19, at 2 in the afternoon. Please no flowers.

(Note that the spelling of their first names on the gravestones and in the death notice is different from that used on the pension application written years later.)

In order for Hannah to receive the Civil War pension benefits as a widow after Joseph died, she had to prove her marriage. The pension application asked for a marriage record, and Joseph had written there was none as no records were kept at the time.

So in 1918 after Joseph died, Hannah applied for widow’s benefits and submitted this affidavit to prove her marriage:

Notice that Julius J. Streng, the witness, was 63 in 1918, meaning that at the time of the wedding in 1867 he would have been only twelve years old. So who was he and why was he at Hannah and Joseph’s wedding?

Well, I found his death certificate, and his mother’s birth name was Jenetta Benedict. I haven’t yet found evidence to prove it, but my hunch is that Jenetta was Joseph Benedict’s sister and that young Julius was his nephew.

UPDATE: My hunch was confirmed when I found Jeanette/Jenetta’s obituary in 1913 and it described Joseph Benedict as her brother.

Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1967; Certificate Number Range: 066001-069000
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1967

Bruce also had a copy of Hannah’s death certificate:

Hannah Goldsmith Benedict death certificate

Of course, I love this because it is evidence of my double connection to Hannah as a Goldschmidt and as a Schoenthal.

Bruce shared with me that Joseph and Hannah’s two older sons, his great-grandfather Jake and great-great-uncle Herschel, dropped out of school in ninth grade in order to earn money so that their youngest brother Harry, who was an excellent student, would be able to attend college. Harry, as I wrote about here, ended up graduating from Cornell University as did his two sons Manson and William, and all three became highly successful and brilliant engineers.

In addition, Bruce’s sister Suzanne Midford left this comment on my blog post about her grandmother Helen Benedict Booher, Jake Benedict’s daughter:

My “Grandmommy Booher” was what’s now known as a social worker, one of the professions that grew out of the Jane Addams Hull House movement and the professionalization of women workers who helped to socialize new American immigrants in the 1920s and 30s. One aspect of this was the desire by members of the earlier (and more prosperous) German Jewish immigrant waves to give a leg up to, and help “Americanize” the (mostly poorer) Jewish immigrants from the later eastern European waves. To that end, the new immigrants were taught hygiene, cooking, language, ‘manners’ (American ones anyhow), and comportment. One of my dearest possessions is my grandmother’s bound copy of The Settlement Cookbook, which was a German-Jewish cookbook meant to teach a new immigrant Jewish housewife all the ways she should “be American”, from translating her old world dishes to new world methods and ingredients, to introducing her to “modern” culinary ideas, how to use unfamiliar kitchen implements, how to keep a clean house (by American standards), and a million little details about “life in America”. As a historian, I find it an invaluable window through which to understand my grandmother’s generation and the immigrant assimilations that characterized that period in our national history.

I am so happy that my cousins Suzanne and Bruce, my fourth cousins, once removed, found my blog and so generously shared with me these photographs, documents, and family stories that add new and important dimensions to their personalities and their lives.

One final addition, this one about Hannah Goldsmith Benedict’s sister-in-law, Sarah Jaffa Goldsmith, wife of Henry Goldsmith, Hannah’s brother. This photograph of Sarah was sent to me by my cousin Christian, Sarah and Henry’s great-great-grandson.

The story behind this photograph is that Christian received it in the mail from someone who found it in an antique shop in Portland, Oregon. Given that Sarah lived in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, her entire married life and that, as far as I know, none of her children or grandchildren or other descendants ended up near Oregon, it’s a mystery as to how this photograph traveled all the way to the Pacific Northwest and landed in an antique shop in Portland.

These little windfalls, these gifts, have brightened my days during the dark and scary time we’re living in.

 

Blogging in a Pandemic, Part IV: It’s Getting Too Real

I’ve written a series of posts over the last five or six weeks to record the experience of living through the pandemic, trying to find some good news among all the darkness. Writing them has been therapeutic for me, and from the responses I’ve gotten, I know that they’ve resonated for others. I am, however, finding it harder and harder to find the light in the darkness. But I am trying.

The last two weeks have made it harder because the virus has come to my community with a vengeance. Many people have died, including the mother of one of my dear friends and the sister of another friend. Our local nursing homes have been ravaged, including 21 deaths in the Jewish Nursing Home near us. Other friends have had loved ones become ill with the virus. I live in dread of hearing that my mother or someone in her memory care facility is infected. My anxiety level has increased to the point that most of the things I was finding helpful—long walks, yoga, Zoom sessions—are becoming less effective.

And the rush of some to resume “normal life” even though it means risking more lives, including their own, is infuriating, as are the actions of those who are putting political ambition and money above the health and well-being of people.

But I know we are among the very fortunate ones. We have a safe home, resources to pay for what we need, food in the house and delivery services bringing more as needed, and, so far, our health. We have the support network of our children, our relatives, our friends, and our community. We have each other. I am always mindful of that.

My three cats are a real source of comfort; they are oblivious to what’s going on outside, and they only care that we are here to feed them and to pet them. They cuddle up next to me day and night and give me some peace.

And little things make me smile. Our neighbors drawing hearts on all the driveways and leaving painted stones on all the doorsteps and paper flowers taped to our windows.

The discovery of more places to walk where we can avoid close contact with people and enjoy the quiet of nature continues to be soothing.

The weekly Shabbat Shalom zooms with family are a needed break from the constant talk of COVID19. Who cannot smile when a five-year-old wants to play Twenty Questions by Zoom?

This week my younger daughter was celebrated by her friends on what would have been Marathon Monday with cards and posters and a bottle of champagne. I can’t tell you how much that meant to her and to us.

There is so much love out there, and the best of human nature can outshine the darkness of illness, death, and the suffering of so many.

One small example from my genealogical activities. While all this has been going on, I’ve connected with a few more cousins who found me through my blog. I think people stuck at home are turning to family history for consolation and also are uncovering photographs and letters that were buried in boxes or trunks in their attics and basements.

One of these cousins sent me scans of some photographs of my Benedict cousins, including this terribly torn photograph of Hannah Goldsmith Benedict, the first cousin of my great-grandfather Isadore Schoenthal:

I was thrilled to receive this photograph—a definite moment of joy. But heartbroken that Hannah’s photo was so damaged. Could it be repaired, I wondered?

I posted it in the Free Photo Restoration group on Facebook, and when I woke up the next morning, three group members had posted repaired versions. Aren’t they amazing?

These people obviously spent a great deal of time fixing this photograph and asked for nothing in return. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. It made me smile, and it reminded me once again that most people are kind and good and generous and loving.

I need to keep all these reminders in front of me as things outside get scarier and scarier.

The Man with the Mustache: Are You My Grandfather?

For Thanksgiving week, I am only posting once, so let me wish all of you a wonderful holiday (for those in the US, anyway). May we all be thankful for all the good we have in our lives—those ancestors and parents who paved the way for us, those we now share our lives and love with, be they spouses, relatives, or friends, and those who will come after us—our children, grandchildren and all our descendants.


For today, I want to update an earlier post where I reported on Ava aka Sherlock Cohn’s analysis of this photograph, taken in 1923, probably in Atlantic City. I am curious about your reactions to our thoughts on the man with the mustache. Is he my grandfather John Nusbaum Cohen?

Based on earlier research and photographs along with Ava’s report, I am now fairly certain of the identities of most of those in the photograph, as I discussed here.  In the front row are Bessie Craig Cohen, probably her mother Sarah Tadley Craig, and Maurice Cohen, Jr. In the middle is Bessie’s niece Margaret Craig and behind Maurice Cohen Jr is his mother, Edna Mayer Cohen. Kneeling behind Edna is her husband, Maurice Cohen, Sr., my great-uncle. I also assume that the photograph was taken by my great-uncle Stanley Cohen based on the fact that he appears in a separate photograph quite obviously taken at the same time and place.

But who is the man kneeling on the left in the top photo, the man with the mustache? How does he connect to the rest of this group? It could not be Bessie Craig Cohen’s brother James because he died in 1918.1 It also could not be her brother Christopher if the photograph was taken in 1923 because he died in 1922.2 Edna Mayer Cohen had a brother Eugene born in 1893 who is the right age to be the man with the mustache. He was living in the Philadelphia area in the 1920s,3 so he is one possibility, but I have no photographs of Eugene.

Ava at first had a much more intriguing conjecture with respect to the man with the mustache. She saw “a resemblance also to the young man holding a hat in the Cohen & Co. Money Loan Office photograph from ten years earlier. If we are to assume that the young man in that photograph is John Nusbaum Cohen, born 1895, then we can assume that the man on the beach is also John Nusbaum Cohen who I estimated to be born circa 1893-1895.” Ava had done a previous report for me on the Cohen & Company photograph and had tentatively identified the young man holding the hat as my grandfather John Nusbaum Cohen, Sr.

Cohen & Company photograph

That is, Ava speculated that the man with the mustache could also be my grandfather because he resembled that boy holding the hat. I can definitely see the resemblance. Look at the chin and lips, the deep set eyes, the angles of the ears, and the high forehead:

It would make sense for my grandfather to be in the 1923 beach photograph.  He was the right age (born in 1895 so 28 in 1923), and he would have been with his two brothers and their wives.

But my grandfather did not have a mustache in any of the photographs I have of him. Also, my grandfather definitely had attached earlobes. It’s hard to see in the beach photograph, but that man does not appear to have attached earlobes.

And where is my grandmother? They married in January, 1923, so if the beach photo is correctly dated as 1923, my grandparents were already married by then. My grandmother would have been pregnant in the summer of 1923 as my aunt was born in January, 1924. Why wouldn’t she have been at the beach with her husband and brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law?

So I was not convinced that the man with the mustache in the photograph was my grandfather, but I also wasn’t willing to dismiss the possibility.

Then I received a whole box of photographs and other papers and books from my cousin Marjorie Cohen’s cousin Lou. Inside that box was this treasure, my grandfather’s 1921 passport including this stunningly clear version of his passport photograph:

The beach photograph was taken two years later in 1923. I definitely see similiarities—in the shape of the face, the lips, the forehead and eyebrows, the chin, and the nose. The eyes are so hard to see in the beach photograph, but they are definitely deep-set. But that mustache threw me off, and I could also see differences. My grandfather’s ears looked smaller and seemed lower set on his face, the top of his ears set below his eyes rather than at the same level.

Later, while doing a search on my computer for pictures of my father, I tripped on this photograph. I have no idea where I got this photograph. And I had no memory of seeing it before. But it had been saved to my computer three years ago. Hmmm. Why didn’t I label it when I got it?

Anyway, it’s another photograph of my paternal grandparents, Eva Schoenthal and John Nusbaum Cohen, Sr., taken some years later than the other two I have of them together. My grandfather was wearing glasses, so I wonder whether he was already having some of the early symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Eva Schoenthal and John Cohen, Sr.

Does this help to identify the man with the mustache on the beach?

I sent these two additional photographs to Ava to see what she thought, and interestingly, she concluded that although she now believed that the young man holding the hat in the Cohen & Company photograph was my grandfather John Nusbam Cohen, Sr., she did not think that the man with the mustache on the beach was my grandfather. Ava wrote:

He does look similar and, as you know, I initially said that the man with the hat in Cohen & Co. is the same man with the mustache in the beach photo. But as I said, the man in the beach photo is about the same age as John in the [recently added] photo taken with Eva and the two look different. I’m figuring the John and Eva photo is circa 1928-1931. So John would be in his early 30s. I’m quite certain John is in Cohen & Co. and the fact that his hair was parted in the center in 1921 for his passport picture and again in about 1928 would make the 1923 beach photo an anomaly if he had grown a mustache and changed his hairstyle two years after his passport photo and then changed it back by the end of the twenties.

That mustache is the real problem for me. The change in hair style is less concerning—he was at the beach. Maybe he went swimming? But that mustache. Facial hair often makes a man look older, so maybe that’s why he looks more like he’s in his early 30s and not 28, as my grandfather would have been in 1923.

But as Ava said, none of the other photos I have of my grandfather show him with a mustache—not the passport photo from 1921, not the one taken with my grandmother in 1923, and not the two later photographs. In fact, the 1923 photograph of my grandparents is dated July 1923 on its reverse, as I discovered when Lou sent me Marjorie’s collection:

Eva Schoenthal and John Cohen, Jr. July 15, 1923

Did my grandfather grow a mustache sometime that summer after the July 1923 photograph was taken, or maybe before and then quickly shaved it off? Neither of his brothers ever had mustaches. Were they even in style then?

Ava and I decided we both needed to get some distance from the photograph and come back with fresh eyes.  So for over a month, I put this all aside as did Ava. Then we both returned to it.

I asked the Photo Restoration Free Service group on Facebook to help by adding some clarity to the photograph and removing the mustache. Here was the result:

We then studied all the photographs again, adding this new one to the mix.

As I looked over every adult photo of I have of my grandfather, I began to see that he looked different in every single one of them. I was totally befuddled, but now thought that the man on the beach wasn’t my grandfather.

Ava was also convinced that the man with the mustache was not my grandfather. She wrote:

I took a long look at John’s passport photo and compared it to the man on the beach. I still don’t believe the two are the same person. Besides the obvious clues like hairstyle and mustache, it appears that John’s ears and the ears of the man in the beach photo are not the same shape and even though they both seem to have attached earlobes, the pattern of the “shell” is different. … I looked at all the identified pictures of John that I have from you, including his baby picture. I don’t think the man on the beach is your grandfather. I also don’t think that the man on the beach is the person holding his hat in the storefront photo.

I responded that I agreed with her and wrote:

So here’s the $64,000 question—do you think the boy holding the hat in the Cohen & Company photo is my grandfather? 

Ava responded that she thinks it is likely that the boy holding his hat in the Cohen & Company photograph is my grandfather, but without more photographs, it’s impossible to be certain, especially given the blurriness of that photograph and the fact that the boy is squinting, making it difficult to see his eyes.

As I looked over the photographs yet another time, I made a new observation. My grandfather’s hairline, even as it receded, always seemed a bit further back along the temples, a bit more forward in the center. The man with the mustache seems to have a hairline that did not curve backwards in this way.

So in the end, Ava and I both concluded that the man with the mustache was not John Nusbaum Cohen, Sr., but that the boy holding the hat likely is.

What do you all think? Here for your final review are all the photographs that I know are of my grandfather, John Nusbaum Cohen, Sr. as well as the beach photo.

 


  1. James Craig, death certificate, Certificate Number: 140783, Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1967; Certificate Number Range: 140251-143500, Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1967 
  2. Christopher Craig, death certificate, Certificate Number: 23826, Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1967; Certificate Number Range: 023001-026000, Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1967 
  3. Eugene Mayer, 1930 US census, Census Place: Cheltenham, Montgomery, Pennsylvania; Page: 12B; Enumeration District: 0024; FHL microfilm: 2341815, Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 

Helen Goldsmith and Edwin Meyer and Their Family

My last post shared photographs of Helen Goldsmith as a child and as a young woman. In this post I will share photos of Helen and her family from the time of Helen’s marriage to Edwin Meyer in 1914 through her adulthood. Once again, I am grateful to my cousin Marilyn, Helen’s granddaughter, for sharing these wonderful photographs with me. Most of the identifications of the people in these photograph came from Marilyn based on information she had.

To start, here is a photograph of the place cards that were used at Helen and Edwin’s wedding:

Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

As Helen noted, the wedding was on January 18, 1914 (the date is cut off on the photograph so it may look like it says 1912 or 1917, but it was definitely 1914). Helen was 24, and Edwin was 23. I wrote about Edwin and his background here.

Helen Goldsmith marriage record, Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Marriages, 1852-1968 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
Original data: Marriage Records. Pennsylvania Marriages. Various County Register of Wills Offices, Pennsylvania

A little over a year later, Helen gave birth to Edgar on February 27, 1915;1 a second son Malcolm was born three years later on January 17, 1918.2 This photograph of the two little boys must have been taken some time in 1918 as Malcolm looks about six to nine months old:

Edgar and Malcolm Meyer, c. 1918. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

“Uncle Art,” to whom this photo must have been sent, was Edwin Meyer’s younger brother.

UPDATE: Peter Klopp kindly edited this photo to fix poor Edgar’s face:

edgar-and-malcolom-meyer-Edited by Peter Klopp

Here is Edwin Meyer with his two young sons about a year later, I’d guess.

Edwin, Malcolm, and Edgar Meyer, c. 1919. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

This one skips ahead to about 1923; Edgar looks about eight, Malcolm five.

Malcolm and Edgar Meyer, c. 1924. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

In the next one Malcolm is a teenager so taken perhaps around 1935. This was a family golf outing, but not all the people in the photograph could be identified by Marilyn. Standing in the back from left to right are Helen Goldsmith Meyer, then two unidentified people, then Helen’s brother Walter Goldsmith, Edwin Meyer, and an unknown man on the far right. Kneeling in front are Edison Goldsmith (Walter’s son) and Malcolm Meyer.

Meyer family and others, c. 1935. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

I don’t know when this next photograph was taken, but I’d guess it was taken around the same time as the golf photograph based on a comparison of Helen’s face in the two photographs. This is a photograph of Helen (right) with her sister Florence. I love Helen’s comment: “Just sisterly affection brought out in the sunshine.”

Florence and Helen Goldsmith. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

We skip ahead now to the 1940s and this sweet photograph of Helen hugging her son Malcolm, who was in uniform. Malcolm served in the US Army from May 4, 1942 until March 2, 1946, including serving overseas from August 20, 1943 until January 24, 1946.3

Helen Goldsmith Meyer and Malcolm Meyer, c. 1942. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

In 1948, Helen and Edwin became grandparents when both of their sons had daughters. Here is a picture of the whole family showing off the two granddaughters. From left to right, standing: Esther Orringer Meyer (Edgar’s wife), Helen Goldsmith Meyer, Carolyn Schnurer Meyer (Malcolm’s wife). Front, Edgar Meyer holding his daughter, Edwin Meyer, and Malcolm Meyer holding his daughter.

Meyer family, 1948. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

Finally, Marilyn shared these three photographs from the 1950s. In the first, we once again see the family playing golf. Dated October 19, 1952, from left to right are Milton Goldsmith, Helen Goldsmith’s brother, about whom I wrote here, here, and here; Milton’s second wife and cousin Fanny Goldsmith Goldsmith, about whom I wrote here; Helen Goldsmith Meyer; and Edwin Meyer’s sister Leah:

Milton Goldsmith, Fanny Goldsmith, Helen Goldsmith Meyer, and Leah Meyer. 1952. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

I was excited to see a photograph of Milton and Fanny. And here is another one, taken in June 1958:

Fanny and Milton Goldsmith, June 1958. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

And finally, this is a photograph of Florence and Oliver, the same two siblings depicted on either side of Helen in the earliest photograph I have of her, so I am posting them together.  Despite the changes that aging carved in their faces, you can still see the same expressions sixty plus years later:

 

 

Thank you again to my cousin Marilyn for sharing this wonderful collection of photographs.


To all who celebrate, I wish you an easy and meaningful fast. May you be sealed in the Book of Life for another year. G’mar tov!

 

 

 

 


  1. Edgar Meyer, World War II draft registration, The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 1695, Ancestry.com. U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 
  2. Malcolm Meyer, World War II draft registration, The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 1695, Ancestry.com. U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 
  3. Malcolm Meyer, Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Veteran Compensation Application Files, WWII, 1950-1966 

A Jaffa Family Postcard

I’ve been posting some of the family photographs that my cousin Marilyn, the granddaughter of Helen Goldsmith and great-granddaughter of Henry Goldsmith and Sarah Jaffa, shared with me. In the last post we saw a number of photographs of Helen as a young woman. She also appears in this photograph, sitting at the bottom left of the photograph. Marilyn could not identify the other people in this picture.

But the inscription on the back of the photograph left plenty of clues as to the identities of the other people in the photograph, and I was able to identify almost all of them after some research and analysis.

Ronie Jaffa, who signed and labeled the photo, was the son of Henry Jaffa, who was Sarah Jaffa Goldsmith’s brother.1 Most of the people in the photo are Jaffas, some of whom are also related to me through their marriages to Goldsmith relatives. Fortunately, that meant that many of the Jaffas were already on my family tree, making the task of identification easier than it otherwise would have been.

Ronie refers to the man second from the left in the top row as “Papa,” so I thought this must be his father, Henry Naphtali Jaffa. Henry died in January 1901,2 so that would have meant that the photo was taken before that time. But as you will see below, I later revised my thinking on the identity of “Papa” and the date of the photograph.

The first person in the top row is labeled Helen J. I assume the J stands for Jaffa, so that must be Solomon Jaffa’s daughter, Helen. Solomon is sitting right in front of her in the photo. He was Henry Jaffa and Sarah Jaffa’s brother. Solomon was also married to a Goldsmith—Leonora.  Leonora was the daughter of Simon Goldsmith’s son Jacob—i.e., Henry Goldsmith’s brother. Leonora lived to 1911, but she does not appear to be in the photo.

Next to Sol in the middle row is Ida Jaffa Mansbach. She was Samuel Jaffa’s daughter. Samuel was also a brother to Henry, Sarah, and Sol.  Ida also married someone from the Goldschmidt/Goldsmith family. Her husband was Meyer Mansbach, son of Abraham Mansbach and Sarah Goldschmidt.  Sarah was my 3x-great-aunt. She was the daughter of Seligmann Goldschmidt, my 3x-great-grandfather.

Two of Ida and Meyer’s children are in the photo. In the top row next to Solomon, Ronie labeled the young boy as “Ida’s boy.”  That must be Arthur Mansbach, who was born in 1896. Skipping to the bottom row, Ronie labeled the little girl on his lap as “Ida’s girl,” so that has to be Edith Mansbach. but she wasn’t born until December 1901. That means the photo must have been taken more like 1908 because Edith looks around six or seven to me and Arthur looks about ten or eleven.  Also, Helen Goldsmith at bottom left looks older than she did in the 1904 photo seen in the last post. So 1908 seems a likely guesstimate for the date of the photograph or perhaps a year or so earlier.

That means that the photo had to have been taken after Henry Jaffa died in 1901 and thus “Papa” could not be Henry. So who was “Papa” to Ronie Jaffa if not his father Henry? My best guess is it’s Samuel Jaffa, who died in 1909.3 Perhaps Ronie was labeling the photograph for Ida and her two children, who may have called their grandfather Samuel “Papa.”

Returning to the top row, Aunt Malchia was probably Samuel Jaffa’s wife Amelia.  Malchia or Malchen was a German name that often was changed to Amalia or Amelia in the US.  She would have been Ronie’s aunt, so that makes sense. That also bolsters the conclusion that “Papa” was Samuel Jaffa since Malchia is sitting right near him with her grandson in between.

The person next to Aunt Malchia is labeled Bertha, and I have no idea who that could be.

Now down to the middle row. Next to Ida is a man Ronie labeled as Hirsch Katz. He’s also labeled “Lena’s brother.”  So I looked for a Lena Katz in my family tree and found a Lena Katz who was the daughter of Juetel Jaffa, the oldest of the Jaffa siblings—sister to Henry, Solomon, Samuel, and Sarah. Juetel never left Germany. She married Mendel Katz. Their daughter Lena came to the US in the 1880s and lived with Henry Goldsmith and Sarah Jaffa and their children. After more research I was able to confirm that Hirsch Katz was also a son of Juetel and Mendel and also therefore a Jaffa cousin.4

That leaves us just the bottom row. We have Helen Goldsmith, then Ronie Jaffa himself, and then Florence Goldsmith. As for the man with his arm around Florence’s neck, I’ve no idea. Florence wasn’t yet married, so perhaps this was some beau. Since Ronie didn’t label him, maybe he wasn’t really a part of the family.

Thus, to recap, here is a key to the people in the photograph based on my analysis:

Top row: Florence Jaffa (daughter of Solomon Jaffa), Samuel Jaffa, Arthur Mansbach (Ida Jaffa Mansbach’s son), Amelia Sommers Jaffa (Samuel’s wife), “Bertha”

Middle row: Solomon Jaffa, Ida Jaffa Mansbach (Samuel’s daughter), Hirsch Katz (son of Jutel Jaffa)

Bottom row: Helen Goldsmith (Sarah Jaffa Goldsmith’s daughter), Ronie Jaffa (Henry Jaffa’s son), Florence Goldsmith (Sarah Jaffa Goldsmith’s daughter), and unknown man

Sadly, Ronie Jaffa, who left behind this wonderful key to the people in this photograph, died as a young man.  He was one of the milions of people who died from the flu epidemic. He died on January 28, 1919, at the age of 34.

Albuquerque Journal, January 30, 1919. p. 2


  1. Henry Jaffa and family, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Schedules of the New Mexico Territory Census of 1885; Series: M846; Roll: 1, Ancestry.com. New Mexico, Territorial Census, 1885 
  2. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/160599822 
  3. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/79951582 
  4. Hirsch Katz birth record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 907; Laufende Nummer: 442, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901; Hirsch Jaffa Katz, World War I draft registration, Registration State: Colorado; Registration County: Denver; Roll: 1561842; Draft Board: 6, Description
    Draft Card: K, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. 

Photographs of Helen Goldsmith: From Toddler to Young Woman

In this post I will share some more of the photographs that I received from my cousin Marilyn of Helen Goldsmith and her family. This post will focus on Helen herself—her childhood and early adulthood.

Marilyn believes that the little girl in the center of this photo is Helen. Helen was born in December 1889 and looks about two in this photograph, at most three, so this photo was taken somewhere around 1892. Comparing this photographs to later photographs that we know are of Helen, I agree with Marilyn that this is Helen in the center here.

Florence Goldsmith, Helen Goldsmith, and Oliver Goldsmith, c. 1892. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

Thank you to Peter Klopp of The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Family Project for editing this photo to correct the flaw that marred Florence’s hair!

possibly-helen-goldsmith-in-the-middle-Edited

She is surrounded by two children who are most likely her siblings.  I believe that the little boy on the right is her brother Oliver, who was born April 17, 1887, so he would have been about five in 1892. Oliver became a lawyer, as we saw here. On the left would likely be Helen’s sister Florence, born May 19, 1883, and thus about nine when this photograph was taken. Florence became a musician, music teacher, and composer, as we saw here.

One other reason I think this photograph was taken in 1892 is that it does not include Helen’s brother Albert Goldsmith, who died from spinal meningitis on June 4, 1891, at the age of six.

The next photograph chronologically is this one of Helen Goldsmith and her older brother Walter, as labeled by Helen herself as seen on the reverse.

Helen Goldsmith and Walter Goldsmith, c. 1904. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

Helen’s note on the reverse was written on October 28, 1972, stating she was at that time 82 years old. But then she wrote she would be 83 on December 17, 1973; in fact, she would have turned 83 on December 17, 1972, just two months after labeling the photograph. Helen believed she was 14 or 15 when the photograph was taken, dating it around 1904. Walter, who was born in December 7, 1881, and thus was eight years older than Helen, would have been about 22 in this photograph. Walter would become a dentist, as we saw here and here.

The next photograph is of Helen alone:

Helen Goldsmith. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

It also had a note on the reverse:

There is unfortunately no date nor is there any information revealing the name of the person to whom Helen wrote the note. It appears to be an exchange between two young women discussing some young men they were interested in. Helen asked the recipient for the address of an “Aunt Lena,” so presumably she was writing to a relative, perhaps even her sister Florence or one of her many cousins.

I first assumed that “Aunt Lena” was Lena Katz, Sarah Jaffa’s niece, the daughter of her sister Jutel Jaffa. But by 1900 Lena Katz was living with Henry Goldsmith and Sarah Jaffa, so why would Helen need her address unless Lena had taken a trip somewhere? Another possibility was Lena Goldsmith Basch, Henry’s sister and thus truly Helen’s aunt. She died in 1906 in Columbus, Ohio, so that would mean the photograph was taken before that time. Helen would have been 17 or younger, and that seems possible from this photograph.

The next two photographs of Helen have no note on the back nor are they dated. This one appears to have been taken about the same time as the one above:

Helen Goldsmith and unidentified man. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

In this one Helen is posing with an unidentified man, and Marilyn did not know who he might be. Helen appears to be about the same age in this photograph as she was in the one above—same hairstyle, same style of dress.  So who is the man with her? It’s not her husband Edwin, but it could be one of her many older brothers or even her father Henry.

This next photograph of Helen appears to have been taken when she was somewhat older, although Helen’s hair and clothing are still similar to that in the prior two photographs. It’s just something in her expression that makes me think it was a few years later. What do you think?

Helen Goldsmith. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

There is one more photograph of Helen taken in the years before she married in 1914. But that one requires some extended discussion so I will save it for the next post.

A Mystery Photo

In August, I received a wonderful collection of photographs from my cousin Marilyn, the great-granddaughter of Henry Goldsmith and the granddaughter of Helen Goldsmith; I’ve written about Henry and about Helen in several places, including here, here, here, and here. Marilyn and I are both the four-times great-granddaughters of Fradchen Schoenthal. We are also both descendants of Jacob Falke Goldschmidt, the father of my three-times great-grandfather, Seligmann Goldschmidt and Marilyn’s great-great-grandfather Simon Goldsmith.

The next set of posts will feature the photographs Marilyn sent, most of which are of her grandmother Helen and some of Helen’s siblings and of Helen’s sons Edgar and Malcolm and their children. Some of these photographs were labeled, some were not. And even where labeled, sometimes those labels left more questions. All of these photographs are posted courtesy of my cousin Marilyn.

For example, this photograph, which is the oldest photograph in the collection.

On the reverse of this photograph was the following label:

But the more I studied this photograph, the more I became convinced that that label was incorrect. The photograph was taken in Philadelphia by a photographer named Brooks located at 600 or 724 Arch Street. I searched Philadelphia directories on Ancestry and was able to find a photographer named Thomas Brooks located at 630 Arch Street in several directories from the 1870s.1 Portrait photography as an art and business did not really even start until the 1850s.

Simon Goldsmith was born in 1795 and came to the US in 1845 when he was already fifty years old. By the 1870s, he was in his seventies. The man in the photograph does not look like he is in his fifties, let alone his seventies. His skin is smooth with no wrinkles or age lines. He appears to be at most in his forties, but probably even younger.

So who is that man? My first guess, given the source of the photograph and the collection in which it appears, was that it was Henry Goldsmith, Simon’s son. Henry was born in 1847, and in the 1870s when Thomas Brooks was operating a photography business on Arch Street in Philadelphia, Henry would have been somewhere between 23 and 33, and the man in that photograph could be in that age range.

Henry, however, was living in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, in the 1870s, not in Philadelphia. In fact, Henry never lived in Philadelphia. I thought perhaps when he married Sarah Jaffa in 1871, they married in Philadelphia, but the 1870 census shows Sarah living with her brother Samuel Jaffa in Pittsburgh,2 so she wasn’t in Philadelphia either.

Moreover, I am quite certain that it was Henry’s daughter Helen who wrote the words on the back of this photograph. There are several other photographs labeled in the same handwriting in the collection that are quite obviously labeled by Helen. For example, look at these two examples:

If Helen labeled the photograph of the man she assumed was her grandfather Simon, wouldn’t she have known if it were instead a photograph of her father Henry? I’d think so. So the more I study these photographs, the more I doubt this was a photograph of either Simon Goldsmith or his son Henry.

So who was he? I see a slight resemblance to Sol Jaffa, Helen’s uncle, as seen in this photograph to be analyzed in a later post. But wouldn’t Helen have known that it was Sol when she labeled the photograph? He and Helen are holding hands in this photograph, so she obviously knew him well. Did her uncle look so much different as an older man that she couldn’t see the resemblance?

 

The mystery lingers…

More of the collection from Marilyn to come.

 

 


  1. E.g., Gopsill´s Philadelphia Business Directory, 1870, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1874, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  2. Sarah Jaffa, 1870 US census, Year: 1870; Census Place: Pittsburgh Ward 2, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1295; Page: 441A; Family History Library Film: 552794, Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census 

An Update on My Dannenberg Cousins

I now have blogged about Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hincka Alexander, my three-times great-grandparents, and all their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I also have blogged about two of Seligmann’s brothers, Lehmann and Simon, and their families. Seligmann had one other full brother, Meyer, a full sister, Jette, and two half-siblings, Elieser and Jude. I will turn to Meyer next. I have not yet found any primary or even secondary sources for Jette, Elieser and Jude and their families—just the family trees of others—so I may not blog about them. Time will tell. Maybe I will find more to add to those trees.

But before I turn to Meyer Goldschmidt and his family, I have some other things to write about. In the many months that I’ve been working on my Goldschmidt/Goldsmith family, I’ve also been in touch with a number of cousins who have provided me with additional photographs of and documents about other relatives. Being the somewhat-compulsive person that I am, I didn’t want to break the chronology of the Goldschmidt story, so I kept folders and notes for all those new items and decided I’d return to them once I found a place to take a break in the Goldschmidt/Goldsmith story. So the next couple of weeks will be devoted to these new materials. Then I will return to Meyer Goldschmidt.

To start, I want to share some photographs I received back in March and April from my fourth cousin Arlene, who is also a great-great-great-granddaughter of Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hincka Alexander. Arlene is descended from their daughter Sarah Goldschmidt Mansbach, sister of my great-great-grandmother Eva Goldschmidt Katzenstein. (For more background on the individuals named in this post, please follow the links from their names.)

Arlene’s great-grandmother was Hannah Mansbach, who was my great-grandmother Hilda Katzenstein’s first cousin. Hannah married Gerson Dannenberg. I wrote about the Dannenberg family here. Arlene is the granddaughter of Hannah’s son Arthur M. Dannenberg, Sr., and she is the daughter of his son, Arthur M. Dannenberg, Jr.

Arlene shared these images of two wonderful photographs of her great-grandparents Hannah Mansbach and Gerson Dannenberg:

Gerson Dannenberg. Courtesy of Arlene Dannenberg Bowes

Hannah Mansbach Dannenberg. Courtesy of Arlene Dannenberg Bowes

Both are signed at the bottom by Elias Goldensky 39 (which I assume is the year the photographs were taken when Hannah would have been 81 and Gerson 77; Hannah died in 1940, Gerson in 1943). Elias Goldensky was a very well-known professional portrait photographer in Philadelphia whose works were exhibited world-wide and who even photographed Franklin Roosevelt in the White House in 1932.1

I think I even see a slight resemblance between Hannah and my great-grandmother Hilda, her first cousin, especially around the mouth and nose.  What do you think?

Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal

In addition, Arlene sent me this image of a photograph of a Passover gathering of the extended Dannenberg-Loeb family in 1937. Most of those depicted are not my blood relatives, but are the family of Arthur M. Dannenberg, Sr.’s wife, Marion Loeb. But Arthur M. Dannenberg, Sr,, and his two sons, Arthur M. Dannenberg, Jr., and James Dannenberg, are included in this photograph, as labeled at the bottom. James stands to the far left in the top row, Arthur Jr. to the far right in the top row, and their father, the much-beloved pediatrician whom I wrote about here, Dr. Arthur M. Dannenberg, Sr., is the tall gentleman standing third from the left in the top row.

Passover, 1937. The Dannenberg-Loeb family. Courtesy of Arlene Dannenberg Bowes

Arlene commented on my blog back in March 2019 that her father, Arthur, Jr., had also become a physician and that he had devoted his career to researching tuberculosis, a cause that was important to him because his mother Marion’s first husband, Milton Stein, had died from TB while Milton and Marion were on their honeymoon in 1915, as I wrote about here. In fact, Arthur was not a true “junior” as his middle name was Milton (for Milton Stein), not Mansbach, his father’s middle name.

Arthur M. Dannenberg, Jr. 1965. Photograph by Julian Hart Fisher. Courtesy of Arlene Dannenberg Bowes.

Arthur M. Dannenberg, Jr., died on June 15, 2018. The American Association of Immunologists published a lovely tribute written by Ellen J. Mackenzie, Dean of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, where Arthur has spent much of his career as a professor and researcher. The entire tribute can be found here. I will post just a few excerpts from Dr. Mackenzie’s tribute to Arthur Milton Dannenberg, Jr.:

Art’s research explored cellular pathways to preventing and treating tuberculosis, and he was passionate about finding new vaccines against the disease. He was affiliated with the Johns Hopkins Vaccine Initiative as well as the Johns Hopkins Center for Tuberculosis Research, which established a student achievement award in his honor.

His work made a lasting contribution to our understanding of a disease that still, despite significant progress in saving lives through diagnosis and treatment, remains one of the top 10 leading causes of death worldwide.

A graduate of Swarthmore College, Art obtained his medical degree from Harvard in 1947. He continued his studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where, in 1952, he received a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in experimental pathology.

….

All of us who worked with Art over the years were impressed by his tireless pursuit and devotion to unraveling the mysteries of one of the most important infections plaguing humans throughout history – tuberculosis. We will sorely miss his enthusiasm and devotion to medical research and to educating the next generation of scientists.

My deep gratitude to my cousin Arlene for sharing these photographs and stories with me. It is always wonderful to see the faces of my cousins and learn more about them.


  1. “Elias Goldensky, Photographer, Dies,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 11, 1943, p. 11. 

Cohen and Company Photograph: Is That My Grandfather?

Hello, everyone! I have returned from my break and am ready to dive back into my exploration of my Goldschmidt/Goldsmith relatives. But before I do, I want to share my second experience working with “Sherlock Cohn, the Photo Genealogist” aka Ava Cohn.

In the course of my genealogy research, many cousins have shared photographs with me, and fortunately almost all the time they can identify the people in the photographs. But occasionally I have received photographs with unidentified people in them, and sometimes those photographs just stay in my head and bother me. Who are those people? How can I figure out who they are?

This is one of those photographs, a photograph that belonged to my late cousin Marjorie Cohen, my father’s first cousin, the daughter of Stanley Cohen, my grandfather’s brother. The only person I was fairly confident I could identify in the photograph was Marjorie’s father Stanley, the man on the far left in the photograph.

Cohen & Company photograph

Here is a photograph on Stanley taken just a few years later when he was serving in World War I. You can see the resemblance to the man on the left.

Stanley Cohen World War I

The group photograph was taken in Philadelphia in front of the Cohen & Company Money Loan store, which was part of the pawnshop business started by my great-great-grandfather Jacob Cohen in Philadelphia in the 1850s and then carried on by many of his sons, including my great-grandfather Emanuel Cohen, who ran this particular store. I wondered whether these five men were also grandsons of Jacob Cohen. I was particularly curious about whether my grandfather John Cohen was one of the men standing in front of the store.

When I connected this summer with my second cousin Marcy, the granddaughter of my grandfather’s other brother, Maurice Cohen, she sent me some photographs of Maurice and of Maurice’s sons, Buddy and Maurice, Jr.

Emanuel (Buddy), Maurice Sr., and Maurice, Jr.

My great-uncle Maurice Cohen, Sr.

I also had photographs of my great-grandfather Emanuel Cohen, my great-uncle Stanley, and my grandfather John. Having had fabulous success with Ava Cohn, aka Sherlock Cohn, the Photo Genealogist, in the past, I decided to have Ava analyze these photographs to see if she could identify the people in the Cohen & Company photograph.

Emanuel Cohen, my great-grandfather

Eva Schoenthal and John Cohen, 1923

John and Eva Cohen
c. 1930

John Nusbaum Cohen c. 1894

Ava’s work is remarkable. Her attention to detail and the research she did to try and answer my questions is incredibly professional and thorough. Although she could not definitively identify all the people in the photograph, she certainly narrowed down the possibilities and made some very helpful and persuasive comments and suggestions. With her permission, I am going to summarize and excerpt from her report.

First, Ava analyzed whether the date that I’d been told was on the back of the photograph—April 1913—was accurate.  She based her analysis in part on the type and content of the photograph:

…the scan appears to me to be a brown color, indicating a platinum print (sepia color) used generally from 1880-1930. Platinum prints often fade and there is some fading of this photograph. However, after 1920 most photographs were gelatin silver prints that had crisper black and whites than the platinum prints, another indication that this photograph was taken before 1920. … The photograph was taken outside. Since one of the men is wearing a sweater, it is appropriate to say that the photograph was taken in a cooler month, but obviously not winter. This is consistent with the presumed date of April, 1913. 

Ava then analyzed the clothing worn by the people in the photograph, labeling them A through E from left to right:

  1. Person A is wearing a coat sweater with V-neckline, knit cuffs, two patch pockets and six buttons. This dates from the 1911-1912 period.
  2. All the men are wearing shirts with detached collars from around 1908 and skinny ties that were popular in 1912.
  3. Person B is wearing a high cut vest also with 6 buttons, a style found in ads from 1912.
  4. Persons C and E are wearing jackets that are slightly fitted at the waistline. Person D is wearing an older jacket that is less fitted.  The slightly fitted waist style of men’s jackets was popular from 1912-1915. Also in that time period men’s jackets had 1, 2 or 3 buttons as can be seen on the men’s jackets in the photograph.
  5. Person D is holding a soft felt Optimo shape Panama hat from about 1912.
  6. Persons A, B, D and E have their hair combed back in a pompadour style with no part. Men wore their hair in this manner in the 1912-1913 period. Person C has a variation of this style with a side part.

From these observations, Ava concluded that the date of April 1913 on the photograph was likely accurate.

Then using that date and her estimation of the age of the five individuals in the photograph, Ava deduced the likely birth year of each of the five:

A: 24 years old. Born circa 1889.

B: 15 years old. Born circa 1898.

C: 24-26 years old. Born circa 1887-1889.

D: 18-19 years old. Born circa 1894-1895

E: 25 years old. Born circa 1888.

As noted above, I was already reasonably certain based on other photographs that Person A was my great-uncle Stanley Cohen, Marjorie’s father, who was in fact born in 1889. Ava’s analysis further confirmed that conclusion by relying on the physical descriptions of Stanley in his draft registrations for World War I and World War II. The World War II registration indicated that Stanley was 5’9” tall, and from that fact Ava was able to compare him to the other men in the photograph to reach some conclusions about their heights.

Using this information as well as information from draft registrations, census records, directories, and other sources, Ava reached the following hypotheses about the other four people in the photograph:

B: Simon LB Cohen, born 1898.

C: Samuel S. Cohen, born 1887.

D: John Nusbaum Cohen, born 1895.

E: Morris N. Cohen, born 1887.

For person B, Ava noted that Simon LB Cohen was the only grandson of my great-great-grandfather Jacob Cohen who would have been that young (roughly 15) in 1913. I would love for that to be Simon because I know so much about what happened to him just a few years after this photograph was taken. Simon served valiantly in World War I, was seriously injured and presumed (mistakenly) killed in action, and was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his bravery. He died as a young man in 1934, perhaps as a consequence of his time in the war.

Croix de Guerre awarded to Simon LB Cohen in 1918

But we can’t be sure that this boy was even related to the Cohens (or that anyone in the photograph other than Stanley was). Perhaps they are just a bunch of friends. But if we assume that they are all Cohens and all grandsons of Jacob Cohen, then Simon LB Cohen is a likely candidate to be person B. Since there are no draft registration descriptions of Simon nor any photographs, it is impossible to know for sure whether this is Simon in the photograph.

I was also very intrigued by Ava’s hypothesis that persons C and E  could be the twin brothers, Morris and Samuel Cohen, sons of my great-grandfather’s older brother Joseph Cohen and grandsons of my great-great-grandfather Jacob Cohen. Morris and Samuel were born on August 22, 1887, in Cape May, New Jersey, but in 1910 they were living with their parents in Philadelphia, both working as salesmen in a department store, according to the 1910 census. Ava thought that although they were not identical, they did look like brothers and appeared to be about the same age—24 to 26 years old.

Ava’s analysis seemed very convincing, so I was motivated to search for descendants of Morris Cohen and Samuel Cohen to see if they had any photographs of the twin brothers. With the help of a good friend who knew one of Samuel’s grandchildren, I was able to make a connection. Unfortunately the grandchildren’s memory and photographs of their grandfather Samuel (displayed below) did not confirm that he was either Person C nor Person E in the photograph so I am back to square one in identifying those two men.

Samuel Cohen. Courtesy of his grandchildren

Samuel Cohen, courtesy of his grandchildren

But it was Person D I was most interested in, as I hoped he was my grandfather John Cohen, who would have been almost seventeen and a half in April 1913 and thus close to the age of Ava’s estimated age of Person D. Also, Ava pointed out that on his 1921 passport application, my grandfather’s height was reported to be 5’6” and that his World War I draft registration described him as short; certainly Person D is a shorter man than Persons A, C and E. Those two factors pointed to Person D being my grandfather.

John Cohen Sr. World War I draft registration

John N Cohen passport application page 2

But comparing Person D to the photographs of my grandfather created doubts for Ava (and myself) as to whether Person D was my grandfather. My grandfather had very distinctive eyes—very deep set and slanted down; Person D is squinting, making it hard to see his eyes, so it is hard to tell if they are the same as my grandfather’s eyes. Ava also pointed out that Person D has a widow’s peak whereas there does not appear to be a widow’s peak in the photographs of my grandfather.

Here is a closeup of Person D and then several of my grandfather—in 1921,1923 and 1930. In addition, Ava believes (and I agree) that the man holding a baby in the fifth photograph is probably my grandfather.  I know we see what we want to see, but the more I study these, the more I think Person D might be my grandfather. The loss of the widow’s peak could be from his obviously receding hairline. Look at the difference between 1921 and 1923. In 1930 he is wearing a hat—perhaps to hide his balding?

One other thing I noticed in the photographs of my grandfather—he had attached earlobes. Unfortunately when I zoom into the Cohen & Company photo, it’s hard to tell whether Person D also has attached earlobes.

 

 

John Cohen in 1921

John Cohen in 1923

John Cohen, 1930

Could this be my grandfather John Cohen? And who is the baby?

I now believe that Person D is my grandfather, but I know that that’s what I am hoping for so I don’t trust my judgement. Ava was not certain, but thought it was possible.

What do you think?

Although it was not possible for Ava to identify all of the people in the group photograph, she certainly narrowed the field and provided solid and convincing reasons for her conclusions. Thank you, Ava, for a wonderful job on this extremely difficult project!

 

 

The Life of Frieda Bensew Loewenherz, Part I: 1885-1912

In the last post I published before Thanksgiving, I wrote about the two daughters of Breine Mansbach and Jacob Bensew, Roschen and Frieda. They were my grandmother’s second cousins, my second cousins, twice removed. They were the great-granddaughters of Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hinka Alexander, my three-times great-grandparents.

After publishing that post on November 16, I received a wonderful treasure trove of pictures and documents and information from Frieda Bensew’s great-grandson, Franz Loewenherz, my fourth cousin, once removed. Among those shared items was an almost 60 page memoir written by Frieda in 1970 when she was in her eighties (with an addendum written in 1972).

Reading that memoir moved me to tears—not because Frieda had a hard or sad life. To the contrary. She wrote about a life filled primarily with love and happiness—parents who adored her, a marriage filled with deep love, an adoring son and his family, and an extended family that she cared for and about and who cared for and about her. Of course, there were heartbreaking losses and difficult challenges, but throughout her memoir, Frieda’s love of live and her gratitude for all she was given came shining through.

With the permission of her great-grandson Franz, I want to share some of this memoir and also photographs of Frieda, her husband Emanuel Loewenherz, and their son Walter.  Not only is this a touching life story, it has value not only for what it reveals of family history but for its insights into the times in which Frieda lived.

As noted in my earlier post, Frieda was the youngest child of Breine Mansbach and Jacob Bensew, born February 21, 1886, in Melsungen, Germany.1 Here are two photographs of Frieda as a young child, one with her brothers Max and Heine and one alone:

Heine, Frieda, and Max Bensew, c. 1890. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Frieda Bensew c. 1890. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Her memoir gives a sense of her happy childhood in Melsungen:

[Melsungen] was situated in a valley on the river Fulda, surrounded by beautiful woods. A climb of 15 minutes from my home would take me into the thick of them. Oak, Linden and Pine exuded that spicy fragrance remembered for all time. Of course in the summer when school was out this was my favorite outing. But I had also some duties to perform, not just picnic, and that was berry picking! With my friends I would start out in the morning, provided with sandwiches and a pail. It was blueberry time and our ambition was to come home with a full pail. Sitting under trees in a blueberry patch, with the sun filtering down, bees humming around us, we often had a very extended lunch hour! Our dessert were berries eaten right from the bushes. We had to hurry to finish our work as we had to be home before sundown, picking wild flowers on the way. My mother would be pleased with the crop to be used for cake, preserves and jelly. She was not so pleased with the condition of my white undies, full of squashed blueberry stains!!

Winter’s great recreation was ice skating on the river. The ice was so clear, it looked green and one could see the plant life beneath it, moving according to the current. The surface was like glass and I took many tumbles! In those days there were no snow or skating outfits. I wore woolen petticoats, long knitted black wool stockings, flannel pants. When I got home my petticoats and dress usually would stand out like a ballerina’s lampshade – frozen stiff! My mother would receive me with a warm drink and a piece of black bread after getting into dry clothes and warming myself at the stove. There were many simple pleasures, another sledding down a hill or when my father would take me along in the sleigh drawn by our horse, with hot bricks at our feet. The floor of the sleigh covered thick with straw. When we stopped at a village inn, my father would let me take a sip of his grag!

Frieda Bensew c. 1898
Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Frieda seemed to have a special relationship with her uncle, Julius Mansbach, her mother Breine’s brother who had, like all of Breine’s siblings, immigrated to the United States. But Julius returned to Germany and visited Frieda when she was fourteen years old or in about 1900.

My happiest recollections are, from the time I was 14 when my Uncle Julius, my mother’s youngest brother, came to visit us from America. He took me along on so many day trips to historical places, one of them the famous Wartburg, where Martin Luther was imprisoned and where he translated the Bible. And, of course, it is the setting of Wagner’s opera “Tannhaeuser.” I learned history on authentic grounds. With my uncle I saw my first American circus! Barnum and Bailey, with Buffalo Bill and his wild-west show were touring Germany then and we saw the performance in Kassel. The clowns told their jokes in English, naturally, and my uncle would translate them to me. The three ring performances left me breathless, as did the riding skill of the Indians. This was an unforgettable summer. I was so grateful to my uncle, not alone for providing so many pleasures of various kinds for me but he also was the one who taught me quite a few English expressions and the first rudiments of the language.

Frieda’s ongoing relationship with Julius as well as her uncle Louis Mansbach and grandmother Sarah Goldschmidt Mansbach as well as her use of English can be seen in the postcard she sent on September 21, 1902. The photograph is of Frieda and, I believe, her uncle Julius, probably taken while he was visiting the family in Melsungen.

Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Some wonderful people in the Jekkes Engaged Worldwide in Social Networking group on Facebook helped me transcribe and translate the German parts of the card:

On the right side: Dated 21-9-02 (September 21, 1902) from Melsungen:

Dearest Grandmama [Sarah Goldschmidt Mansbach] and Uncle Julius [Mansbach],

Unsere Karte von Cassel aus habt Ihr bei dieser Zeit hoffentlich erhalten, morgen ist es wieder ein heisser+ nasser Tag, wo Willi + Heine uns verlassen. Was denkt Ihr vom nebenstehendem Bild? Ist es nicht beautiful? Ende dieser Woche erwarte ich sicher einen grossen Brief von dir, sowie die Ansichtskarte.

(Translated: I hope you have received our card from Cassel by this time. Tomorrow will again be a hot and wet day when Willi + Heine leave us. What do you think of the picture on the other side? Isn’t it beautiful? At the end of the week I expect a long letter from you as well as the picture postcard.)

With best love and kisses, your Fritz

I believe Fritz was Frieda’s nickname.

Underneath Frieda’s message in a different handwriting is this note from her brothers Willi and Heine:

Meine Lieben haltet den Jontef Cholent warm.

Translation: My dears, keep the holiday Cholent warm.

Willi & Heine

I believe that Willi and Heine were sailing to the US, Willi to return having lived in the US since 1885 and Heine coming for the first time: his naturalization card states that he arrived on September 30, 1902.2;I had to smile when I checked and saw that Rosh Hashanah that year started on the next night, October 1. So Willi and Heine must have spent the holidays with the family in Philadelphia. (For those who do not know, cholent is traditional Jewish dish—a stew that usually has meat and vegetables. Here is a typical recipe.)

Along the margin of the right side of the card, Frieda wrote:

Hast du die K. abgeliefert? Wenn nicht, bekommst du keine wieder von mir.

Translation: Did you deliver the K? [card, I assume] If not, you won’t get another from me.

The left side is mostly in English; at the top it says “Best regards to Uncle Louis, Aunt Cora, and Rebecca.” This would be referring to her mother’s brother Louis Mansbach and his family.

Under the picture it says: “Im “Fidelio” war es grossartig [“Fidelio was fabulous]. If you, dear uncle, come again, I will sing the “Arien” [arias] for you. Don’t stay long! Otherwise you are well.” I assume this was directed to her dear uncle Julius Mansbach.

Frieda received a good education at a school in Kassel and had a passion for music and art. And, as she wrote, she wanted to see the world, in particular, America. By the time she was 21 in 1907, all her brothers had immigrated to America, and she also decided to move across the world from her birth place:

It was only natural that I wanted to go to America. Most of our family lived here, from three generations back. My grandparents [Sarah Goldschmidt and Abraham Mansbach] had come to Philadelphia where most of their children lived and some in the west, in Colorado. My mother [Breine] was the only one who remained in Germany as she had a family and my father refused to leave. When the time came for me to investigate, I did so with the promise of my parents that they would follow after I had familiarized myself with my new surroundings. My disappointment was great when my father declared he changed his mind. They did not wish me to return, however, insisting that I had a right to my own life. That is how loving and understanding and unselfish they were.

This paragraph touched me deeply— thinking of Frieda’s courage and determination and her parents’ respect for it. And yet I also could feel how torn both she and they must have been about this separation.

And so, as I wrote before, Frieda left home in 1907 when she was 21 and joined her brothers and other family in the US. First, she settled in Denver where some of her brothers as well other Mansbach cousins were living, and once again she demonstrated her determination and independence:

After a few months of visits with my family in Denver I had acquired quite a vocabulary and felt able to enter an American School of business. There I studied besides English, correspondence, shorthand and light bookkeeping and typing. I knew German shorthand, and the switch was not easy. It required extreme concentration as, in addition, I did not know business language and form either. Well, I made it and kept step with my class, all American born. I finished even ahead of time and got my first job shortly after. And what was the requirement? German shorthand! The irony of it all! 90% of the dictation was in German and 10% in English.

From what I gathered in the memoir and from what I know from the 1910 census, this job was in Chicago, and as we saw, in 1910, Frieda’s brothers Julius, Max, and Heine were also living in Chicago. Frieda wrote about these days as a single young woman in Chicago with great joy—describing activities and trips she took with her friends and also a trip to Philadelphia to see her relatives. This trip probably took place in 1912 because Frieda notes that her cousin Reta Dannenberg was engaged, and Reta was married in December 1912:3

My Aunt Hannah [Mansbach Dannenberg] and Uncle and their three children made our visit of a few days most enjoyable, Rita the oldest was engaged, Arthur a medical student at the U. of Penn. And Katrinka, the youngest, showed us the sights. We had a lot of fun! Then on to New York. My uncle Julius-who was in this country on business from Germany (he had returned there a few years before with his wife, my cousin Frieda on account of her parents’ wishes) entertained us royally.

In this one paragraph I learned three things. First, that Frieda and presumably the other Bensews were very much in touch with their mother’s Mansbach relatives in the US. Secondly, that the Frieda Bensew who married Julius Mansbach was in fact related to this Frieda Bensew and her family (though I still don’t know how). And thirdly, I learned why Julius Mansbach had returned to live in Germany—to satisfy the wishes of his in-laws.

Frieda Bensew as a young woman. Date unknown. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

From New York, Frieda and a friend named Rose sailed to Germany where they spent the summer of 1912. Frieda was delighted to be with her parents and sister Roschen, but the separation at the end of that visit was difficult. Frieda wrote:

And then came the time to say good bye again. It was not easy – My parents were so kind and understanding.They realized that I had outgrown my old environment and that my opportunities for a fuller life were so much better in America, the land which I loved and do to this day. Perhaps, being foreign born, gave me even a deeper appreciation of the freedom and privileges so many seem to take for granted. My parents and I were grateful for the time we spent together and kept up a brave front at parting.

She stopped in Philadelphia on her way home and was invited to stay for her cousin Reta’s wedding that coming December. She had a wonderful long visit there, and then after the wedding she received a letter from her brother Julius about a new job opportunity in Chicago, so she left to start her new job. That decision was life-changing, as we will see in the next post.


All excerpts from Frieda Loewenherz’s memoir and all the photographs in this post are published with the permission of Franz Loewenherz, her great-grandson. My deep gratitude to Franz for his generosity.

 

 


  1.  Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 4574, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901 
  2.  “Illinois, Northern District Naturalization Index, 1840-1950,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939N-FGS7-2?cc=1838804&wc=M6TM-Q6X%3A165129401 : 20 May 2014), B-524 to B-550 Gustov Joseph > image 983 of 6652; citing NARA microfilm publication M1285 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.). 
  3. Ancestry.com. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951, Marriage Year: 1912, Marriage License Number: 289763