One of the other cousins whose name always stays with me is my third cousin, twice removed, Sigmund Livingston, the founder of the Anti-Defamation League, as I wrote about here as well as about his earlier years and his family here, here, here, here, and here.
Sigmund was related to me through our mutual ancestors Abraham and Geitel (Katz) Blumenfeld, as shown on this chart. He was my father’s third cousin, once removed:
To briefly summarize what I’d learned about Sigmund: he was born in Giessen, Germany, in 1872, to Meyer Loewenstein (later changed to Livingston) and Dora (Dusschen) Blumenfeld. He was only nine years old when his family immigrated to the United States in 1882 and settled in Bloomington, Illinois, where his father’s relatives had already established themselves as successful entrepreneurs. Sigmund ended up going to law school and practicing law in Bloomington. He married Hilda Freiler in 1918, and they had one child, Richard, born in 1920. The family later moved to Chicago where Sigmund continued to practice law.
After experiencing anti-Semitic stereotypes and slurs during a vaudeville show in the early 1900s, Sigmund decided to do something to fight back against anti-Semitism. He founded an organization in Bloomington that eventually grew to become known as the Anti-Defamation League, an international organization that still exists today, fighting against all forms of discrimination, including but not only anti-Semitism. When I learned that I was related, albeit very distantly, to the founder of the ADL, I felt incredibly proud to have that connection. Today the ADL continues to be at the forefront of those fighting against hatred and prejudice.
Recently I was thrilled to hear from two of Sigmund’s grandchildren, Richard and Laurie, who found me through my blog. Richard has done a great deal of genealogical research also and provided me with more information about the Livingston/Loewenstein side of his family tree. Richard and Laurie have also given me some additional new cousins on the Blumenfeld side of our family tree to contact, which I plan to do in the near future. And Richard caught two errors in my tree that I’ve now corrected both on the tree and on my blog; I am so grateful that Richard found those mistakes and told me.
But I was most excited to see additional photographs of Sigmund and his family and to learn a little more about his life and the life of his family. I particularly enjoyed seeing this photograph of Dora Blumenfeld and Meyer Loewenstein/Livingston:
This is the house where Sigmund was born in Giessen, Germany, in December 1872:
Here are several photographs of Sigmund from age 20 up to age 47:
Here is Sigmund’s diploma from law school:
Finally, this photograph shows the family in about 1918-1919: Dora (Meyer had passed away in 1915) and her children and their spouses:
Richard shared what he knew about his grandfather Sigmund’s career after leaving Bloomington and moving to Chicago in 1928:1
When Sigmund left Bloomington in 1928, he gave his share in his local law practice to a young cousin, Herb Livingston; and joined a major Chicago law practice with his brother-in-law Charles Lederer. Charles was married to Hilda’s [Sigmund’s wife Hilda Freiler] older sister Florence. The firm was known as Lederer, Livingston, Kahn, and Adler or similar until approx. 1958; at which time its name became Arnstein and Lehr. Lederer & Livingston were Sears Roebuck & Co.’s legal counsel during its heyday.
Richard also filled me in on how his father Richard, who was known as Dick and who was born in Bloomington and then moved with his parents to Chicago when he was a boy, had ended up living in the suburbs of New York City as an adult:
My father Dick attended Duke University and was supposed to be class of ’42; but joined the US Army Air Corp for 5 years of WWII around his junior year. He was an airplane instruments technician or mechanic and trained pilots to read and understand the gauges and dials in a cockpit; but never was a pilot himself and fortunately never was stationed overseas or faced combat during the war. After the army, he returned to Duke University, graduating in Spring, 1947. Following graduation, he returned to Highland Park, IL, living with his mother Hilda (as best we know) and not sure if he was employed or not.
In February 1948, Hilda and Dick were vacationing at the Hollywood Beach Hotel in Hollywood Beach, Florida. Dick met a recent Wellesley graduate from New York City named Mimi Spector. They fell instantly in love and were soon thereafter married on May 30, 1948. Dick and Mimi moved into Mimi’s parent’s Manhattan apartment for a while before getting their own place. Dick initially worked in sales for his father-in-law’s business.
In the 1950s Dick and Mimi and their family moved to Westchester County in the suburbs of New York City, eventually settling in Scarsdale, less than five miles from where I lived and went to high school. Richard and Laurie and I were tickled to learn that we had all grown up not far from each other and went to neighboring high schools and even knew some of the same people. We likely crossed paths many times without knowing we were distant cousins.
It has taken over 50 years since high school before we finally connected. And I am so grateful that Richard and Laurie found my blog and reached out to me and have shared their stories and photographs.
- The quotes and other information from Richard Livingston were from emails dated from February 11 to February 21, 2023. ↩