One Mystery Laid to Rest: Baby Rose Schoenthal

One of the most frustrating brick walls I’ve encountered is the mystery of Baby Rose Schoenthal.  I have written several blog posts about Baby Rose, and I have never had any success in finding this child. I stopped looking because I was troubled by the possibility that if I did find her or a descendant, I might be stirring up trouble for some unknowing person.

Some background for those who may not remember the story. On the 1930 census, my grandmother’s first cousin Jacob Schoenthal and his wife Florence are listed with a 15 month old daughter named Rose, living in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Jacob Schoenthal and family 1930 US census Year: 1930; Census Place: Atlantic City, Atlantic, New Jersey; Roll: 1308; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 0003; Image: 129.0; FHL microfilm: 2341043

But that there is not one whit of evidence to support the existence of that child aside from that census entry. I have searched for birth records, death records, marriage records. Nothing. I found Jacob’s will—no mention of a daughter. There was no daughter buried with Jacob and Florence. She would have been only eleven in 1940, but she does not appear on the 1940 census.

I had decided that either (1) she never existed or (2) she’d been given up for adoption or (3) she had been a foster child returned to her own parents.

Then in March 2017,  a Schoenthal cousin found me through the blog.  Barbara wrote that she was the granddaughter of Estella Schoenthal, who was my grandmother Eva Schoenthal’s first cousin and Jacob Schoenthal’s sister. Barbara and I are third cousins.

We exchanged information, and she filled me in on the names and dates of the descendants of Estella Schoenthal and Leon Klein. But perhaps most importantly, she gave me closure on that nagging question: Did Estella’s brother Jacob Schoenthal and his wife Florence Truempy have a daughter named Rose born in 1928 or 1929?

Barbara asked her mother, who said without hesitation that Jacob and Florence never had children. Could she be wrong? Of course.  Barbara’s mother might not have been born in 1930 and she definitely was not yet married to Barbara’s father in 1930, and so it’s entirely possible that IF Jacob and Florence had a child who was given up for adoption or only lived with them for a brief period, Barbara’s mother would never have known.

But I have chosen to believe that Barbara’s mother is right. I have chosen to believe that Baby Rose never existed. It never made sense to me that she’d been given up for adoption because she was already 15 months old (if she existed) in 1930, and there’s no reason to think her parents would have given her up at that point: they were mature adults and married, living comfortably, and had plenty of family around for support.

Also, the child’s name was Rose Maxine or Maime (it’s hard to read). Jacob’s mother’s name was Rose Mansbach Schoenthal. She had died in May, 1929, four months after the supposed birth of the child Rose in February, 1929. It seemed very unlikely that Jacob would have named a child for his mother before she died.

Rose Mansbach Schoenthal
courtesy of the family of Hettie Schoenthal Stein

I also didn’t buy that “Rose” had been a foster child. It seems quite an unlikely coincidence that a foster child would have the same name and middle initial as the mother of the man acting as her foster father.

So with the statement by Barbara’s mother that Jacob and Florence never had children, I am willing to close the door on the mystery of Baby Rose M Schoenthal. I think the census enumerator made a mistake. My working theory? That the enumerator was told that a Rose M had lived in the household until fifteen months before, and somehow the enumerator recorded that as meaning a fifteen month old child named Rose M was currently living in the household.

In addition to helping me with that mystery, Barbara also provided me with this handsome photograph of Sidney Schoenthal, her great-uncle and my grandmother’s first cousin.

Sidney Schoenthal

I see a resemblance to my grandmother (first photo below) and to my father (second photo below)—what do you think?

Eva Schoenthal and John Cohen, Sr. 1923

Florence and John Cohen, Jr., 1951

I am very grateful to Barbara for helping me get closure on Baby Rose. And for sharing this photograph of my cousin Sidney Schoenthal.

Another Mikveh, A Castle, A Museum, and A Search for Stones: Trendelburg, Hofgeismar, and Gudensberg

After our eventful morning in Sielen with Julia and Hans-Peter, we all headed to Trendelburg.  At one time the cemetery there had been used by the Jewish residents of Sielen, so I hoped that perhaps I’d find a Schoenthal ancestor buried there.  But that one had even fewer stones as it had been desecrated by the Nazis.  There were no Schoenthals there.

Marker describing destruction of the cemetery by the Nazis.

All that’s left of the Trendelburg cemetery

But Trendelburg itself was an interesting place to visit.  It was here that my great-great-uncle Henry Schoenthal had taught in the Jewish school after attending the seminary in Kassel.

First, Julia showed us another old mikveh that had been discovered in a basement like the one Ernst Klein had found in Volksmarsen.  This one was discovered in 2001 when an abandoned house was undergoing renovation. The mikveh is believed to have been closed sometime in the 19th century and perhaps replaced with another.  There had been a fire in the building at some point, but the basement and the mikveh had survived.

Trendelburg mikveh

Julia explained that it was believed that the mikveh dated to the late 18th century because there are documents dated 1782-1783 in which a man named Joseph Levi asked for permission to build a pipe to his cellar from the town well.  Although a mikveh is supposed to be fed by natural water—spring, groundwater, or rain—in this case it appeared that a conduit was necessary to supply the water for the ritual bath.

The other interesting landmark in Trendelburg is the castle believed to be the inspiration for the story of Rapunzel by the Brothers Grimm. I wrote more about the castle’s history here.

Rapunzel’s tower

OK, so I am no Rapunzel

In the castle’s restaurant with Hans-Peter

Now the castle is used as a hotel and a restaurant, and Julia, Hans-Peter, Harvey, and I went into the restaurant for coffee, and then after Hans-Peter left to teach a seminar in Kassel, Julia, Harvey, and I had lunch there.  It was lovely, and it gave us a chance to talk to Julia about her life (she is an artist) and her reasons for volunteering her time to preserve the Jewish history of these towns. Like the others, she also felt compelled to learn what had happened and to educate others about German Jewish history and the Holocaust.

While at lunch, Julia also presented me with wedding documents for a Rosa Hamberg from Breuna who married a man named Benjamin Cohn.  I did not know who she was or how she fit into my family tree, but after further help and research, Julia, Hans-Peter, and I figured it out.  More on that in a later post.

After lunch, we went with Julia to the town where she lives, Hofgeismar, to see the museum she and her colleagues have created in that town to educate others about its Jewish history.  We were really impressed by the museum.  Not only are there wonderful materials to teach about Judaism and the Holocaust, Julia and her colleagues have developed an extremely creative curriculum for high school students that has them engage in interactive ways to learn about the Jewish history of their region. For example, the students created a replica of the ark that once existed in the synagogue by using data about its measurements from old documents.  They also created a mural that depicts in detail what the Hofgeismar synagogue had looked like—again, using old plans and documents to be as accurate as possible.

Former synagogue in Hofgesmar

Mural created by students to depict the former synagogue of Hofgeismar

It was a curriculum so creative and thoughtful that we both felt that it was something that educators in the US could use effectively to teach students about Jewish history.  This is another project that deserves the support of anyone who is interested in preventing the ignorance and hatred that led to the Holocaust.  You can learn more at their website here.

After saying a grateful and emotional goodbye to Julia, we headed back to Kassel.  But our day was not over.  After a short break back in Kassel, Hans-Peter picked us up  at 5;30 for a trip to Gudensberg. I am not sure how Hans-Peter had the energy.  We were already exhausted and had had a break; he’d been in Sielen and Trendelburg with us and then had taught a class in Kassel and was now ready to drive us back out to Gudensberg, which is 25 kilometers south and another half hour drive away.

And I wasn’t even sure why we were going to Gudensberg.  As far as I knew, the only family connection I had to that village was through my great-grandfather’s brothers, Henry and Jakob Schoenthal, who had married Charlotte and Helen Lilienfeld, two sisters from Gudensberg.

So we piled into Hans-Peter’s car off for another adventure.  First we went to the cemetery in Obervorschuetz, just a few miles from Gudensberg. This is a huge cemetery—with close to 400 stones dating as far back as 1727. Hans-Peter had collected information about possible relatives of mine who were buried in this cemetery; he had photocopied the photographs of the relevant stones from the LAGIS website of Jewish gravestones. They were all members of the Mansbach family from Maden: Liebmann (1813-1874), Schoene (d. 1879), Chaja Mansbach (geb. Speier)(1787-1861), and Hannchen Mansbach (geb. Katzenstein) (1799-1840).  As I looked at the names, only the last was familiar.

But when I got home, I researched a few of the others and realized that Liebmann Mansbach was the father of Rose Mansbach, who married Simon Schoenthal, my great-grandfather’s brother. Schoene Mansbach was Liebmann’s daughter and Rose’s sister.  Chaja Speier Mansbach was Liebmann’s mother, Rose’s grandmother.  So they were all related to me, albeit only through marriage, but nevertheless all were in my family tree. Hans-Peter had noted the connections, but I guess my addled brain did not absorb it all at the time.

But Hannchen Mansbach geb. Katzenstein was in fact my blood relative.  She was the half-sister of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein and the daughter of Scholem Katzenstein, my three-times great-grandfather.  As I wrote about here, she had married Marum Mansbach of Maden, with whom she’d had six children, including three who came to the US: Henrietta, Abraham, and H.H (Harry), about whom I’ve written extensively.  Hannchen had died after giving birth to Harry in 1840.  It was her stone I was most interested in seeing.

So we started on a treasure hunt, trying to find these stones.  It was a real challenge—almost 400 stones, and all we had were small photographs of the stones to use to locate the actual stone and a map filled with hundreds of square that Hans-Peter had highlighted, but that was not that easy to follow.

I believe that this is the stone for Chaja Speier Mansbach:

Chaja Mansbach geb Speier (maybe)

But the others we could not find for sure.  The stones were eroded, making it very difficult to read the Hebrew inscriptions and compare them to the sheets that Hans-Peter had printed. The sun was getting lower in the sky, creating a glare on the stones and making them even harder to read. And there were so many stones (and we had all had a long day already) that I was ready to give up.

And then I spotted this stone where the name was written in German on the reverse:

Hanchen Katzenstein Mansbach headstone

And this was on the Hebrew side:

Hanchen Katzenstein Mansbach headstone Hebrew side

It took some doing, but I was able to discern that this was in fact the stone for Hannchen Katzenstein Mansbach, whose sons had served on opposite sides of the US Civil War and who had both gone on to considerable success in America as had their sister Henrietta, who married Gabriel Gump.  Hannchen was my three-times great-aunt.  The Hebrew inscription on her stones is translated as:

A virtuous woman, she was like Abigail.

She noted that her trade was good. She was modest

In her speech. Her actions were pleasant. Of the king’s daughter

Would be her interior. She was a wise woman.

Her soul rose up into the sky. She changed her whole life

On straight paths. She kept the Lord’s commandments. Henchen,

Daughter of Shelom ha-Kohen, wife of Me’ir, son of

Elieser from Maden. She went into her world

And died on Saturday, the 2nd Tammuz, and was buried on Sunday [5] 600

After the small count. Her soul is bound up in the covenant of life

With all the other just women in the Garden of Eden,

Amen. Her soul was bound in covenant.

As you can see from the photographs, we left stones on her headstone, marking our visit and honoring not only her, but all her descendants.  I was now very glad that we had gone to visit this cemetery.

But our day was not yet over. We next went to the town of Gudensberg, home of Charlotte and Helen Lilienfeld, sisters and the wives of Jakob and Henry Schoenthal, my great-great-uncles. Henry Schoenthal had married Helen in Gudensberg in 1872 after immigrating to the US.  Jakob had married Charlotte in Gudensberg in 1879; they later settled in Cologne, as I wrote about here.

The principal thing that Hans-Peter wanted us to see in Gudensberg was the former synagogue.  He and his wife had been very active in preserving and restoring the synagogue, and it was that project that inspired him to go on to do so much work in preserving the records of the former Jewish communities in the Nordhessen region.  It is quite a beautiful restoration.

Former synagogue in Gudensberg

Memorial plaque outside former synagogue

Interior of former synagogue in Gudensberg; women’s section above

Rearview of synagogue from street in Gudensberg

Today the building is used primarily as a cultural center and music school, although I understand that at times it has been used for Jewish religious celebrations.

We also saw the former Jewish school and the stolpersteine there for the man who was the last head of the school and his family.

And we saw the house of Michael Lilienfeld, brother of Charlotte and Helen, the sisters who married two of my Schoenthal great-great-uncles.

House of Michael Lilienfeld

Hans-Peter then returned us to our hotel in Kassel. It had been a long and fascinating day, and my spirits were lifted after seeing all the incredible work that both Julia Drinnenberg and Hans-Peter Klein have done and are doing to preserve the history of the Jewish communities of the four towns we’d visited that day. It was a lot to process as we ate for a second night in the Italian restaurant across from our hotel.

The next morning we were heading to Jesberg, home of the Katzensteins.





Sielen: The Tiny Ancestral Home of the Schoenthals

After spending the prior day in Volksmarsen and Breuna, home of the Hambergs, I was excited to go to Sielen, the home of the Schoenthals.  We were going to meet two people in Sielen, Julia Drinnenberg, with whom I’d only exchanged a few emails, and Hans-Peter Klein, with whom I’d been in touch for a couple of years.  Hans-Peter and Ernst (not related to each other) created the Juden in Nordhessen website that has provided me with extensive information about my Hessen ancestors.  When I was researching the Schoenthals, Hans-Peter was a tremendous help.  He also knew my friend from home, Amanda, so I was looking forward to meeting him and Julia.

Sielen is about forty minutes from Kassel, the city where we were staying, and the drive was quite scenic.  We went over the mountain (hill?) where the Kassel fortress is, then along a winding and narrow road, and then through beautiful countryside.  As we approached Sielen, there was a flock of sheep grazing in the field on the edge of the village.  I decided to get out and take some photographs of the surrounding area.

Countryside outside of Sielen

As I was doing that, another car pulled up alongside me, and a man got out and asked me if I was Amy.  It was Hans-Peter, and we both laughed at the fact that he knew it had to be me, given how small and isolated Sielen is.  We both drove into the village where Julia soon appeared as well. She was also outgoing and friendly, and we all hit it off right away.

As in the other towns and villages, there was a marketplace and a church. But Sielen is much smaller.  Whereas Gau-Algesheim has a population of about 7000, Volksmarsen about the same, and Breuna almost 4000, Sielen’s population is only about 500 people.  It was the smallest village we visited.

While we were all getting acquainted, a man appeared in the marketplace where we had parked, yelling in German.  Harvey and I were both a bit intimidated, but after some discussion with Hans-Peter and Julia, the man left.  Apparently we had driven up to the marketplace the wrong way.

Sielen church and marktplatz

Julia had some historical information about Sielen to share with us.  According to a 1789 report on Sielen by J. Chr. Martin entitled “Topographical and Statistical News of Nether Hessen, Goettingen (1789, p. 103, as translated), at that time there were 114 homes in Sielen and about 500 residents: “106 men, 112 women, 128 sons and 123 daughters, 14 servants, 14 maidens.” In terms of livelihoods, the report noted that there were forty farmers, 76 peasants, seventeen “cloth-weathers,” one blacksmith, one wainwright, one tailor, and two carpenters.  The report adds, “Also there are two Jewish families who make their living by trading.” I had to wonder whether my Schoenthal ancestors were one of those two families.  Levi Schoenthal, my great-great-grandfather, was born there in 1812, so perhaps his father Heinemann was already living there by 1789.

As I wrote previously, according to the Alemannia-Judaica website, there was a very small Jewish community in Sielen at least from the early 19th century.  There was a synagogue in Sielen as early as 1817, and the village had its own Jewish cemetery starting in 1846.  In 1835, there were 38 Jewish residents; in 1861, there were 48.  By 1905, there were only fourteen Jewish residents, and by 1924, there were just four Jewish residents remaining.  My Schoenthal ancestors had left Sielen by the 1880s.

Julia’s papers also included a later report about Sielen, written in 1932-1934, around the time that Hitler came to power.  This document, written by Superintendent I.R. Brandt and titled “Chronicle of Sielen,” provides some insight into the status of Jews at that time.   There were two Jewish families left, one being an elderly woman named Perle Herzstein, whose house was attached to the old synagogue.

The report goes on (p. 109)(as translated in the document Julia gave me):

Inside it is desolate, there aren’t any church services for a long time. But the old keeper of bygone splendor [Ms. Herzstein] shows us proudly the marvelous tora-rolls, man-high and from thick parchment, lovely as on its first day. And she shows us the colorful embroidered silk ribbons twined around them, and other books and things. She sighs in remembrance of former, for her, better times!

The next few lines are confusing—I am not sure whether it’s the translation or it was as confusing in the original:

Yes, it’s true, the Jew misbehaved in Hesse in former times. He often contributed to his own pauperization by profiteering and Gueterschlaechterei, etc. (?)

Nowhere else the antisemitism of National Socialism is carrying greater justification than in Hesse. But these ordinary harmless people scattered here and there in small villages for many a long year, who still belong to orthodox Judaism and whose integrity and strength of character…cannot be denied—they just belong to the colorful German nationhood.  It would leave a void if it were weeded out completely.

It seems that, on the one hand, the writer is condoning anti-Semitism, but on the other is praising the Jewish residents of the area and admitting that it would be a loss for the community if they were “weeded out completely.” I wish I knew more about this source; perhaps Julia can give me more information about it.

At any rate, today there are no Jews in Sielen. Julia told us that the house depicted below was where the last Jew in Sielen lived until the 1930s when at some point he was dragged from the house and beaten.

House where last Jewish resident of Sielen lived—right across from the church and on the marktplatz

When I asked Julia and Hans-Peter what people did for a living today in these little villages, they said many are employed in Kassel (there is a Volkswagen plant near Kassel) while some are tradespeople.  Not many are farmers any more.

We walked to where the synagogue once was and stood outside what is now a large home. We walked around the corner, looking for some indication of where the entrance had been, and as we stood outside, a man came out.

Section to left was the old synagogue in Sielen. Compare to photo above.

After our experience with the angry man in the marketplace, I was concerned that this man also was going to yell at us for loitering in front of his house. But instead he asked what we were doing, and when Hans-Peter and Julia explained, he became very interested, asking more questions.  He introduced himself to us (his name, Braun Rode, was on the beer sign outside the house—perhaps it is also a tavern).  He and his wife had lived in the house for 40 years.  And he was very happy that we had come to see it.

Then his wife came out and offered us all something to drink.  When we all declined, she returned with a book about the former synagogues in Germany and showed us the picture of their house when it had been the synagogue (see above).

These two people, who did not know us at all, could not have been nicer.  Herr Braun Rode insisted that we take photographs with him in front of the house and send him a copy (which Julia did).  When we said goodbye, he said to us in German to send regards to America. Once again, we were left with a very positive and warm feeling about the people in Germany.

Julia Drinnenberg, Hans-Peter Klein, Herr Braun Rode, and Harvey outside the former synagogue in Sielen

We then drove to the cemetery that lies outside the village up a rather steep hill.  It is hard to imagine how people from Sielen and the other nearby villages managed to get the bodies of the deceased to these cemeteries.

Looking down the hill from the cemetery to the road

There were not a lot of stones in the cemetery, and I looked at each one several times, hoping to find my great-great-grandfather Levi Schoenthal, or any other Schoenthal, but I had no luck. Some of the stones are completely eroded, and others are only in Hebrew and were extremely difficult to read. Julia had a transcription of the stones, and there was this one, which I had previously found in my research:

Transcription from Sielen cemetery, HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 774, p. 4

Thanks to the helpful people in the Tracing the Tribe Facebook group, I know that that translates as “Chaim Schoenthal from Sielen died 7 Nissan 5634,” or March 25, 1874, which is four days before the date I had for Levi’s funeral (the actual date of death was not legible in the death record).

Levi Schoenthal death record March 1874
HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 773, S. 9

The name as transcribed confused me since it was not Levi, but Chaim was probably his father Heinemann’s Hebrew name, so I think the transcriber could not read Levi’s own first name and transcribed only the patronym. It probably said “Levi ben Chaim Schoenthal.”

But even with that transcription, we could not find the actual stone.  The transcriptions were done over 30 years ago, so the stone must have badly eroded since then. I examined each stone, hoping to find an inscription that contained the name of my great-great-grandfather.  But it was not to be.

Sielen cemetery

Sielen cemetery

Sielen cemetery. I now think that the very eroded sign on the left could have been where Levi Schoenthal was buried.

Or maybe this one?

Although I was disappointed not to find the stone for my great-great-grandfather, it had been a great morning, meeting not only Hans-Peter and Julia, but also the friendly couple who live in the house which was once the synagogue.  Sielen is a tiny jewel with a long history, and it might have been a good and comfortable place to be a child growing up.  But  now I better understand why my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal and all his siblings left the village.  There was not much there to support a young adult who wanted to go out on his or her own.

Volkmarsen and Breuna: A Remarkable Day

On Monday morning, May 8, we picked up our rental car (a cute little Nissan Juke) and started our drive northeast from Cologne to the Kassel region where we would spend the next three days.  I must admit I had some trepidation about driving in Germany (well, about Harvey driving in Germany; I certainly wasn’t going to drive).  I’d heard about the absence of speed limits on the Autobahn, and being a nervous passenger under any circumstances, I had visions of a combination of bumper cars and roller coasters.  Add to that the fact that the signs would be in German and distances in kilometers, and I figured this would not be a relaxing experience.

But I was wrong.  Our GPS was excellent (with a delightful British accent), the signs were clear, the roads were smooth, and we somehow managed to keep up (to some extent) with the pace of the German drivers.  The only part I didn’t like was the fact that the vehicles in the right lane were going about 30 mph slower than those in the left lane, making changing lanes at times nerve-wracking (for me, not for Harvey).

We made one visit to a rest stop along the way where I ran from the car to try and get ahead of the three busloads of teenagers going on a school trip.  I was only partly successful and had to wait amid a bunch of chatty teens before paying 70 cents to use the facilities.  When I received a voucher back for 50 cents, I had to ask one of the girls what it was for.  I learned we could redeem it for items in the rest stop store, so we bought a pretzel for the road and re-entered the Autobahn.

Our destination was Volkmarsen where we were to meet Ernst Klein, who would be our guide for the towns we were visiting that day. We arrived on time, and Ernst promptly met us in front of the rathaus (town hall) in the pretty center of the village. I had only emailed a few times with Ernst beforehand, and he had told me that his English was not great, but he was wrong.  His English was excellent, and I immediately warmed to this friendly and modest man.

Ernst Klein and me

First, he showed us around Volkmarsen. I was at first not sure why I would be interested in Volkmarsen since, as far as I knew, I had no family from that town.  But Ernst pointed to a building right across from the rathaus and told us, showing us a photograph, that it had once been the store of Salomon Hamberg. I had to look him up to figure out the connection.  His father Juda Hamberg was a first cousin to my great-great-grandmother, Henrietta Hamberg, the mother of my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal. So Salomon was Isidore’s second cousin.

Salomon Hamberg’s store in Volkmarsen


Building where Salomon Hamberg once had a store

Ernst showed us the church in Volkmarsen and pointed out that several former Jewish homes were right nearby; he commented that before the Third Reich, Jews and Christians had lived and worked together peacefully as neighbors and friends. We then walked to one of the older homes in town where Ernst wanted to show us something special that he had discovered.

Rathaus in Volkmarsen

Church in Volkmarsen

Street in Volkmarsen where some Jewish families once lived

We went into the backyard of the home and entered a door into the basement at the back of the house.  It was dark inside, and I had no idea what we were going to see.  But Ernst turned on a spotlight that lit up a corner of the basement where we could see stone steps leading down into a rectangular opening—a mikveh!  A mikveh is a ritual bathing place where  traditional Jews go for a ritual purification at particular times in their lives—e.g., for women, before marriage and after each menstrual period. Ernst said he had had the stones dated by an expert and that it was believed that this mikveh was 500 years old, meaning Jews had been in this little town as early as 1500.  There is even visible water at the bottom, showing that natural waters could fill the mikveh.

Volkmarsen mikveh

He then told us how he had discovered the mikveh.  He had been looking for some evidence of an early Jewish community in Volkmarsen in the older buildings and homes in the village, and when he saw this decorative pillar in the basement of this home, he had a hunch that the basement had once been used for something special.

Pillar in basement where mikveh was found in Volkmarsen

He asked the owner for permission to remove the brick flooring to see what was underneath, and the owner agreed, as long as Ernst promised to restore the flooring if there was nothing below it.  But there was, and further investigation indicates the possibility that the front part of the basement was used for prayer services.  There are marks on the walls that look like hand prints and Hebrew letters as well as an opening in the wall that might have housed the Torah scrolls.

Handprints on wall in Volkmarsen

Hebrew lettering ?

Possible location of ark holding Torah scrolls

We were very excited to see this space and wondered what would happen to it since the home is privately owned. Ernst described his hope that his organization could raise the funds to buy the house and convert it into a Jewish museum. I am hoping to help them accomplish this goal, and if you are interested in learning more about this fascinating project, here is more information from their website. I believe that this museum will serve a very important purpose in education and preservation of the Jewish history of the region, and I hope some of you will consider making a donation.

After a quick lunch at yet another great German bakery, we went to see the Volkmarsen cemetery.  The cemetery had been damaged by the Nazis during the war, the headstones smashed to pieces.  A memorial has been established by assembling pieces of the stones together along with a large stone commemorating those who had been buried there.

Broken stones at the Volkmarsen cemetery

Memorial made of broken stones at the Volkmarsen cemetery

In addition, Ernst saw that a memorial wall was created to include the names of Volkmarsen residents who had been killed during the Holocaust.  The empty spaces in the wall are meant to represent the holes now missing from the community, a brilliant and very powerful visual statement.

Memorial to those killed in the Holocaust from Volkmarsen

Ernst then took us to the current Jewish museum in the town, and I could see why he needs more space. He and his colleagues have created an incredible little museum packed with information and Judaica and photographs and records of Jewish history in the area.  The museum is visited by children and adults from the region and also from all parts of the world. There are copies of photographs and letters of members of the Hamberg family, including some of Rob Meyers’ mother and her family. (Rob is my fifth cousin, the one with whom we have very good mutual friends as well as mutual cousins from my father’s Cohen side, the Goldweins.)

Irmgaard Hamberg

Then we left for Breuna, the village where my great-great-grandmother Henriette Hamberg was born. Henriette was the daughter of Moses Hamberg and Guetchen Rotenberg, both of whom had died in Breuna in the 1860s. Henriette was one of ten siblings and at least some of her siblings had stayed in Breuna and died there.   Although I have yet to delve too deeply into the Hamberg genealogy and story, I wanted to see where they’d lived and where they are buried.

On the way to Breuna, Ernst had us pull over to the side of the road so we could see the small mountain that was the inspiration for the family name.  In the early 1800s when the government ordered Jews to adopt surnames for tax-collecting purposes, many Jews picked names based on locations or places that they knew.  Moses Hamberg’s family chose the small mountain outside of Breuna that was and is known as Hamberg.

Hamberg mountain

Breuna is a small village not dissimilar from Volkmarsen or Gau-Algesheim.  There is a church, a small open square, a town hall, and then many individual houses surrounding those public buildings. Ernst showed us the former synagogue, noting its proximity to the church, and two houses that were once the homes of Hamberg family members.

Plaque on former synagogue in Breuna

Former synagogue in Breuna

Former synagogue, left, and church, right, in Breuna

Hamberg home

The weather that day was the coldest and wettest of our days in Germany, and unfortunately we were too uncomfortable to spend much time walking around.  So we headed to the cemetery.  Along the way we passed the street named for Susanne Hamberg, Rob Meyer’s aunt who was, along with her parents, killed in the Holocaust. Susanne was only thirteen years old; she was my fourth cousin, once removed.

Outside the cemetery was a sign telling the history of Breuna’s Jewish community. It includes the Hamberg family as one of the families that made up that community.

Inside the cemetery are many stones in about six or seven different rows.  It is quite a nice cemetery and very well maintained.  Many of the stones are only in Hebrew and somewhat eroded, so reading them was extremely difficult, but fortunately many stones also have German on the reverse side, revealing the secular name of the person buried in that spot. I looked at each stone, often seeing nothing that seemed relevant, and occasionally seeing a name that seemed a possible relative—a Goldschmidt or a Hamberg.

But my search was rewarded when I located these two stones:

Hebrew side of stone for Guetchen Rotenberg Hamberg

Hebrew side Moses Hamberg’s stone

On the reverse were their German names:

Guetchen Rotenberg, reverse side

Moses Hamberg stone reverse side

These were the stones for my three-times great-grandparents, Moses Hamberg and Guetchen Rotenberg, the parents of Henriette Hamberg, the grandparents of Isidore Schoenthal.  Seeing them took my breath away.  I had not expected to find stones for my own direct ancestors.  Because of my experience in Gau-Algesheim, I had kept my expectations low. Yet here were the stones for my ancestors, the grandparents of my father’s maternal grandfather.

I never knew these people and in fact knew almost nothing about them beyond their names, birth dates, and death dates.  The birth record of their daughter Hannchen revealed that Moses was a cattle merchant.  Despite this thin amount of personal information, somehow I felt a connection to these people who died almost a hundred years before I was born.

In the cemetery there were also a number of stones for other people on my Hamberg family tree:

Jettchen Gans Hamberg, wife of Seligmann Hamberg, brother of my great-great-grandmother Henriette Hamberg.  Jettchen and Seligmann were the parents of Malchen/Amalia Hamberg who married Jacob Baer and had the children who founded and worked for the Attleboro Manufacturing Company, the large jewelry business in Attleboro Massachusetts.


Levi Mollerich, husband of Miriam Hamberg, sister of my great-great-grandmother Henriette Hamberg.

Baruch Hamberg and his wife Sara Herzfeld.  Baruch was my second cousin, three times removed; more importantly, he and Sara were my cousin Rob Meyer’s great-grandparents.  Baruch was also related to Joel Goldwein as Baruch’s mother Breine Goldwein was the sister of Joel’s great-grandfather Markus Goldwein.

Rosa Hamberg Braunsberg.  She was Baruch Hamberg’s sister, so another second cousin, three times removed.

Fanny Herzfeld Goldwein and Markus Goldwein.  Great-grandparents of Joel Goldwein, who is my cousin through my Cohen line and Rob’s cousin through the Goldwein line.

In addition there were some stones with names that might be a part of my family and then others that I need to have translated.  But overall, visiting that cemetery on that very cold and very dreary day left me feeling uplifted and strangely happy.  My ancestors were there, and I had been there to pay tribute and to remember them.  It was a very moving experience.

We drove through Oberlistingen, the home of my Goldschmidt ancestors, and then we said goodbye to our new friend Ernst—he and I both with tears in our eyes—and drove to our hotel in Kassel.  It had been a remarkable day, beginning with a 500 year old mikveh and ending with the discovery of my 3x-great-grandparents’ gravestones.  The next day we would go to Sielen, the home of my Schoenthal ancestors.


Cologne: Its Jewish History and My Family Ties to the City

On our second day in Cologne we focused on its Jewish history. Back in December 2015, I had contacted Barbara Becker-Jakli to help me find where my great-great-uncle Jakob Schoenthal and his wife Charlotte Lilienfeld were buried in Cologne; Barbara had been extremely helpful, so a year later while planning our trip, I contacted her again, asking if she knew someone who would show us the cemetery and other Jewish sites in Cologne.

She recommended Aaron Knappstein, who worked with her at the National Socialism Documentation Center in Cologne. Aaron and I had been in touch numerous times for almost eight months before the trip, and as I wrote here, he had located documents about my Nussbaum ancestors that I had given up ever finding (and they did not even live in Cologne, but in Schopfloch) as well as birth records for four of the five children of Jakob and Charlotte Schoenthal.  So I was looking forward to meeting him and spending the day with him.

Aaron did not disappoint us.  He is a thoughtful and knowledgeable man whose own background as the son of a Holocaust survivor gives him an interesting perspective on the Jewish history of Cologne.  It was a moving and very informative day.  He first took us to the Dom, which may seem a strange choice, but he wanted us to see the gargoyle of a pig being suckled—an anti-Semitic image once used widely.

He also pointed out a Holocaust memorial that we had passed the day before without knowing what it was.  It is not marked at all.  It is simply a long train rail placed on the ground running to the east with a six-segmented sculpture at its end.  The sculpture is meant to evoke the six million killed by the Nazis and the gate to the camps, and the train rail evokes the trains used to deport the Jews to the concentration camps in the east. It was very powerful.  We just didn’t understand why there was no marker or plaque explaining or identifying what it was.

Dani Karavan Holocaust memorial

After coming home, I searched for more information about this sculpture and found this very detailed description and analysis on a blog called Tapfer im Nirgendwo, which means Brave in Nowhere.  I didn’t read the other posts in the blog as they are in German, but this one was written in English.  Apparently the rail and sculpture we saw are part of a larger installation by an Israeli artist Dani Karavan (I am sure Aaron mentioned the artist’s name, but it slipped my mind).  The description of the overall work is fascinating and very powerful.

We then walked to the location of the old Jewish Quarter where today there are plans to build a Jewish museum in the heart of the center of the city.  Right now it is little more than an excavation site, and many relics of medieval times have been discovered.

The Jews have a very long history in Cologne.  As early as the 4th century, there was a Jewish community in Cologne; as in other places, there were good periods and bad periods for the Jews in medieval times.  Some archbishops protected the Jews, others did not.  The Crusades and the Black Death resulted in the deaths of many of the Jews in Cologne, and synagogues were built, destroyed, and rebuilt. Finally, Jews were expelled in 1424 because of a fight between the civil government and the Church regarding money and the payment of the taxes that were levied on the Jews.  Jews were not allowed to return to the city until Napoleon’s time in 1798.  Even then, they had to live across the Rhine in Deutz, although they were allowed to work on the other side of the river.

We then crossed the river ourselves and went to the cemetery in Deutz where Jakob Schoenthal and his wife Charlotte Lilienfeld are buried. Jakob Schoenthal was my great-grandfather Isidore’s brother.  As I wrote about here, he was one of only two of the ten Schoenthal siblings who did not emigrate from Germany.

At the cemetery we met Herr Gunther, who once was responsible for overseeing the care and condition of this very large cemetery; there are over 6000 stones at the Deutz cemetery.  The original stones for Jakob and Charlotte no longer exist, but the cemetery knew where they were buried, and the Jewish community of Cologne paid to put new markers at the gravesites.  I was touched and very appreciative of what they had done to preserve the memory of my relatives.

Stone for Jakob and Charlotte Schoenthal

Deutz Jewish cemetery


We then visited the one remaining pre-World War II synagogue still standing in Cologne, the Roonstrasse Synagogue. In 1933, there were approximately 20,000 Jews living in Cologne. Before the war there had been seven synagogues (although this source says there were only four), but all were damaged or destroyed on Kristallnacht, and only the one on Roonstrasse remains.  And it is still used as a synagogue; Herr Gunther is a member there and provided us with a tour.

Although the exterior of the building survived more or less intact, the interior of the synagogue was, like the other synagogues, destroyed on Kristallnacht.  During the 1950s, the interior was restored—not to its original style, but with more of a mid-century modern feel.   Whatever the décor, it was very uplifting to know that there is once again a Jewish community in Cologne.  Today there are about 5000 Jews living in the city. One of the stained glass windows installed in the 1950s depicts a dove to represent that the flood was over and that life was to begin again.

Roonstrasse synagogue

I very much wanted to see the place where Jakob Schoenthal and his family had lived and worked—65 Breite Strasse.  Jakob and Charlotte had five children.  Four of those children survived the Holocaust—Johanna, Lee, Meyer, and Erna.  As I wrote here, here, and here, Lee and Meyer had come to Pennsylvania early in the 20th century.  Erna and her son came in the 1930s, and Johanna and her husband came after the war, having been deported to France where they were incarcerated at the Gurs camp.  But the fifth child, Henriette, and her husband Julius Levi, had stayed in Cologne and had been deported to Lodz and then to the death camp at Chelmno, where they were killed.  The location of the Schoenthal’s home and business at 65 Breite Strasse is marked by Stolpersteine for Henriette and Julius.

Sadly, the buildings on the street were all destroyed during the war, but I took a photograph of the building that stands at that address today.  I also took a picture of a block of older buildings nearby that had survived the bombing so I could imagine what the Schoenthal home might have looked like. That’s Aaron, our guide, in that second photo.

65 Breite Strasse today


Our final stop with Aaron was the National Socialism Documentation Center, where Aaron and I first spent some time trying to find records for a woman who was somehow related to my family.  After some research we concluded that she was related to me through Jakob Schoenthal’s marriage to Charlotte Lilienfeld.  More on that at some later time.

Aaron then left us to explore the basement of the National Socialism Documentation Center on our own.  The building that houses this organization had been Gestapo headquarters in Cologne during the war.  The basement was used as a place to imprison and torture prisoners.  Jews were not sent here, but some dissidents or those accused of being dissidents were.  There are hundreds of written messages all over the walls of the cells; they are angry, frightened, passionate, and heart-breaking.  Hundreds of people were shot in the courtyard of the building.  Some people were imprisoned only briefly, others for quite extended times.  The cells have been left untouched—the inscriptions remain to be seen.  It was a dark and depressing place for us to visit, but an important one.

We made a short stop at the Cologne city museum and then walked toward the Dom to return to our hotel.  We decided to skip Italian food that night and had Lebanese food near the Rhine at a restaurant called Beirut.  It was a welcome change and quite good.

The next morning we would leave Cologne to travel east to the Hessen region where my father’s maternal relatives came from—the Schoenthal, Hamberg, Goldschmidt, and Katzenstein families.

Cologne was the only major city we visited during our trip to Germany.  It is a fascinating city with a long and interesting history and a diverse and rich culture.  It is a reminder not only of the destructive forces of war and the human capacity for evil but also of our capacity for good.  People rebuilt Cologne into a city that now provides hope that human beings can be creative, inspirational, reflective, tolerant, and kind.



My Crazy Twisted Tree and My Hessian Cousins

A detour from my Katzenstein relatives this week to discuss two other interesting discoveries.  First, this one for Women’s History Month:

A year ago in March, 2016, during Women’s History Month, I wrote a post about Rose Mansbach Schoenthal, wife of my great-grandfather’s brother, Simon Schoenthal, and the mother of ten children, nine of whom survived to adulthood.  She came to the US from Germany in 1867 when she was sixteen, apparently alone, as far as I can tell from the ship manifest. She married Simon in 1872 and lived in Philadelphia, Atlantic City, and Tucson during her life. Simon died when he was only 54, and Rose was left to raise the three children who were still teenagers on her own.

Rose Mansbach Schoenthal

Rose Mansbach Schoenthal

But what I didn’t know when I first posted about Rose was anything about her life before she came to the US or the first five years she was in the US. I didn’t know her background, where she was born, her parents, anything.  One family tree on Ancestry said she was born in Gudensberg in 1850, but cited no records to support that assertion.

Then a month or so ago when I was reviewing the family of Marum Mansbach and Hannchen Katzenstein, David Baron told me about a report of the extended Mansbach family that appears on Hans-Peter Klein’s website, Juden in Nordhessen.  David said that he believed that Roeschen Mansbach, who was listed in this report as the daughter of Lippmann Mansbach and Frederike Kaufman, was the same woman who married Simon Schoenthal.  I was intrigued and wrote to Hans-Peter to see what else he could tell me about Roeschen.

Hans-Peter wrote that Roeschen had had a brother Isaac who had immigrated to the US and settled in Philadelphia, where he became well-known for his glass and bottles. With that additional bit of information, I decided to see what I could learn about Isaac and whether I could tie him to Rose Mansbach Schoenthal.

First, I should explain how Roeschen Mansbach is related to my family.  Her great-grandfather was Abraham Mansbach I, who was the grandfather of Marum Mansbach, husband of my great-great-grandfather Gerson’s half-sister Hannchen Katzenstein. So Roeschen was a second cousin to the three Mansbach children who were Gerson Katzenstein’s nephews and niece: Henrietta Mansbach Gump, Abraham Mansbach, and H.H. Mansbach.  She was not a blood relative of mine, but related only through marriage.

Here is Roeschen’s birth record.  She was born on May 24, 1851 in Maden:

Roeschen Mansbach birth record

Roeschen Mansbach birth record

I decided to start my research into the question of whether Lippmann’s daughter Roeschen was the same woman as the Rose Mansbach who married Simon Schoenthal by reviewing the documents I’d already found for Rose.  None mentioned her father’s name or place of birth (except the one family tree for which there were no sources), but there was one census record from the 1870 census that I had saved long ago because it listed a Rosa Mansbach.  When I’d saved it, I had not been sure it was the same Rose Mansbach so had not included it in my post about Rose back in March, 2016.

The reason I had not been sure it was for the same Rose in my initial search was that this Rosa Mansbach was living in Chicago in 1870.  Although she was the right age (19) and born in Hesse Kassel, as was my Rose, I couldn’t figure out what she was doing in Chicago and why she was living with a family whose name meant nothing to me.  Then.

But now, in January, 2017, when I re-examined it, the name was very familiar.

Rose Mansbach on 1870 census Year: 1870; Census Place: Chicago Ward 10, Cook, Illinois

Rosa Mansbach on 1870 census
Year: 1870; Census Place: Chicago Ward 10, Cook, Illinois

This Rosa Mansbach was living with the family of David Gump, a “merchant tailor” born in Germany, 33 years old. His wife Caroline had been born in Hesse Kassel, and their four children—Ida, Martin, Harry, and Mary—were all born in Pennsylvania. Looking at this census report with fresh eyes, I knew immediately that this Gump family had to be related to the family of Gabriel Gump, who married Henrietta Mansbach, and Eliza Gump, who married Abraham Mansbach.  In fact, as I checked further, I learned that David Gump was the brother of Gabriel and Eliza Gump.

I knew then that this could not be coincidence, that the Rosa Mansbach living with David Gump had to be related to Abraham and Henrietta and H.H. Mansbach, the niece and nephews of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein.  Further research revealed that David Gump’s wife’s birth name was Caroline Mansbach.  Although I’ve yet to figure out how she was related to Rose and the other Mansbachs, I have to believe that she also was part of the Mansbach from Maden family.




Thus, it seemed quite likely that the Rose Mansbach living with David Gump in Chicago in 1870 was somehow connected to the Mansbachs who were related to Gerson Katzenstein. But was this Rose Mansbach the same woman who two years later in 1872 married Simon Schoenthal? That remained the big question.

In 1870, Simon Schoenthal was living in Washington, Pennsylvania.  After marrying Rose, he remained in western Pennsylvania for several years and then they relocated to Philadelphia and eventually to Atlantic City.  Was there any way to tie Simon’s wife Rose Mansbach to the Rose Mansbach who’d been living in Chicago with David Gump? I wasn’t sure.

So I decided to take a different approach.  Hans-Peter believed that Roeschen Mansbach’s brother Isaac had also immigrated to the US and settled in Philadelphia.  Perhaps I could find a way to connect him to the Schoenthals and strengthen the inference that his sister Roeschen married my great-grandfather’s brother Simon.

The earliest document I found for Isaac Mansbach was an 1868 passenger ship manifest for an Isac Mansbach, a merchant from Germany, twenty years old.

Isac Mansbach 1868 ship manifest Year: 1868; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 291; Line: 1; List Number: 155

Isac Mansbach 1868 ship manifest
Year: 1868; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 291; Line: 1; List Number: 155

Then, on the 1870 census I found a twenty year-old Isaac Mansbach, a clothing merchant born in “German Prussia,” living in a hotel in Newport, Pennsylvania. Newport is about 25 miles northwest of Harrisburg, about 120 miles west of Philadelphia.


Living with him in the hotel was a 45 year old “Lewis Mansbach,” a peddler born in Prussia.  Could this be Lippmann Mansbach, father of Isaac and Roeschen?  Hans-Peter’s research indicated that Lippmann died in Maden, Germany in 1877.  Could he have come to the US for some years and then returned? According to Hans-Peter’s research, Lippmann was born in 1813, so he would have been closer to 55 than 45 in 1870.  And I’ve found no other US record for a Lewis/Louis Mansbach of that age, so I didn’t know with any certainty who this man was. But the fact that Isaac Mansbach named his first child Louis in 1875 made me think that the 45 year old “Lewis” Mansbach living with him in 1870 was his father Lippmann.

So I wrote to Hans-Peter to see if he had any other information about Lippmann Mansbach and specifically about whether he had ever emigrated from Germany.  I was particularly interested in whether he had a death record for Lippmann.  I was delighted when I received a reply that included that death record.  It in fact showed that Lippman (really Liebmann) had died not in 1877, but on October 5, 1874.  That explained why Isaac named his first son Louis in 1875.  It also left open the possibility that although Liebmann died in Maden, he very well could have been living with his son Isaac in Newport, Pennsylvania, in 1870, and then returned to Germany before he died.


Liebmann Mansbach death record

As for Isaac, he married Bertha Schwartz on March 23, 1873, according to the Pennsylvania Marriages 1709-1940 database on Bertha was born on April 25, 1853, in Germany, but I have not yet been able to find out much more about her background.  However, in 1876, Isaac was in the liquor business with a man named Marks Schwartz; the business was called Schwartz & Mansbach and is listed in several Philadelphia directories. Marks has so far proven to be as elusive as Bertha, but I have to believe they were either father and daughter or brother and sister.


The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 18, 1892, p. 7

The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 18, 1892, p. 7

According to a website devoted to cataloging the names of all pre-Prohibition era liquor dealers in the United States, Isaac Mansbach was in business with Marks Schwartz for about twenty years (1876-1896). At that point Isaac went out on his own with his son Louis.  In 1910, he and his wife Bertha were running the business.


I found the above advertisement for Isaac’s business in the November 14, 1901, Washington (DC) Evening Times; even more exciting was this invoice for a sale his business made on June 11, 1907, to a J.J. Walsh of Springfield, Massachusetts! (FYI—I live just a few miles outside of Springfield, known today primarily as being the birthplace of basketball).  Obviously Isaac had a successful business as he was engaged in transactions far from Philadelphia.

Hans-Peter had mentioned that he thought that Isaac was in the glass and bottle business, and I think I know why. As a distributor of liquor, the business had bottles made that were marked with the distributor’s name, as depicted below.

They also sold shot glasses embossed with the company’s name:

The pre-Prohibition website went on to report that sometime before 1918, Isaac Mansbach dissolved his own business and in 1919 went into business with a new partner.

That new partner was Harry Schoenthal.  Yes, Harry Schoenthal, the son of Simon Schoenthal and Rose Mansbach. I knew this was the same Harry Schoenthal because I knew that Harry had been in the liquor business in Philadelphia.  As I wrote just about a year ago, in 1910 Harry was living in Philadelphia and listed his occupation as the owner of a “retail saloon,” His sister Hettie’s family shared with me this photograph of “Uncle Harry” and his liquor business. I wonder if one of those other men was Isaac Mansbach.

Uncle Harry's Beer Business Courtesy of the family of Hettie Schoenthal Stein

Uncle Harry’s liquor Business
Courtesy of the family of Hettie Schoenthal Stein

So in 1919, my cousin Harry Schoenthal, the son of Rose Mansbach and Simon Schoenthal, went into business with Isaac Mansbach, his mother’s brother.

I had thus found the missing link that tied Roeschen Mansbach, Isaac’s sister and the cousin of Henrietta, Abraham, and H.H. Mansbach (children of Hannchen Katzenstein), to the Rose Mansbach who married my great-grandfather’s brother Simon Schoenthal.  There was yet another connection between the Schoenthals and the Katzensteins in addition, of course, to that between my great-grandparents, Isidore Schoenthal and Hilda Katzenstein.

I was hoping that finding Rose’s family would somehow lead me to more clues about the mystery of her namesake and granddaughter Rose Mansbach Schoenthal, the child who appeared on the 1930 census and then disappeared.  But alas, I’ve not yet found anything new to help me solve that mystery.




My Great-Grandmother Hilda

I have now written about all of the siblings of my great-grandmother, Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal, as well as about her parents and some of her aunts, uncles, and cousins.  I still have more of the Katzenstein extended family to discuss, but first I want to look back at the life of my great-grandmother.  Her story has been covered only in bits and pieces through the stories of her husband and children and through the stories of her parents and siblings.  Isn’t that all too often the case with women—that their stories are seen only through the stories of those who surrounded them? Especially since this is Women’s History Month, I wanted to be sure to give my great-grandmother her own page, her own story.

Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal

Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal, my great-grandmother

Hilda was the third daughter and sixth and youngest child of her parents, Gerson Katzenstein and Eva Goldschmidt.  She was the third of the six to be born in the United States—in Philadelphia on August 17, 1863.

When Hilda was three years old, her sibling closest in age, Hannah, died at age seven from scarlet fever. Hilda was seven years younger than her brother Perry, who was the second closest to her in age, and so there was a big gap between Hilda and her surviving older siblings. Joe was fifteen years older, Jacob thirteen years older, and Brendena was ten years older than Hilda. My great-grandmother was the baby of the family, and I would imagine that after losing their daughter Hannah, her parents must have been very protective of her.


Gerson Katzenstein and family 1870 census, Year: 1870; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 16 Dist 48 (2nd Enum), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1429; Page: 708B; Image: 96949; Family History Library Film: 552928

Her sister Brendena married Jacob Schlesinger in 1871 when Hilda was just eight years old. By the time Hilda was ten years old in 1873, her oldest brother Joe had moved to Washington, Pennsylvania, and within a few years after that her other two brothers, Jacob and Perry, had also moved to western Pennsylvania.  Thus, Hilda was still quite young when her older siblings left home, leaving her to live with just her parents.

Year: 1880; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1173; Family History Film: 1255173; Page: 274B; Enumeration District: 219; Image: 0561

Katzenstein family Year: 1880; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1173; Family History Film: 1255173; Page: 274B; Enumeration District: 219; Image: 0561

But her brother Joe’s move to Washington, Pennsylvania proved fateful for Hilda and for my family as it was there that she met her future husband, my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal, who had only arrived in the US a few years earlier from Sielen, Germany.

The Daily Republican
(Monongahela, Pennsylvania)
11 Aug 1887, Thu • Page 4

Hilda married him in 1888 when she was 25 years old and settled with him in Little Washington where he was a china dealer.  Their first son, Lester, was born that same year.

Isidore Schoenthal

Isidore Schoenthal

Then a series of tragic events hit the Katzenstein family. In the spring 1889, Hilda’s brother Jacob lost his wife Ella and both of his sons, one before the Johnstown flood and two as a result of the flood. The following year, my great-grandfather Gerson died at age 75.  Hilda named her second child for her father; Gerson Katzenstein Schoenthal was born on January 20, 1892. A year later Hilda lost her mother, Eva Goldschmidt Katzenstein, on September 6, 1893; she was 66.

Hilda did not have another child until August, 1901, when my great-uncle Harold was born—more than nine years after Gerson.  Just a few months after Harold’s birth, Hilda’s brother Joe died in December, 1901; just over a year and a half later, her brother Perry died in August, 1903.  Hilda was forty years old and had lost her parents and three of her five siblings.  Only Jacob and Brendena remained.

In March, 1904, my great-grandmother Hilda gave birth to her last child and only daughter, my grandmother Eva Schoenthal, named for Hilda’s mother Eva Goldschmidt Katzenstein.


My grandmother, Eva Schoenthal

When my grandmother was just a small child, her parents decided to leave Washington, Pennsylvania, and move to Denver, Colorado, believing that the mountain air would be better for their son Gerson, who had developed asthma.

Thus, Hilda packed up her children and belongings and moved far away from her two remaining siblings: Brendena, who was living with her husband Jacob and family in Philadelphia, and Jacob, who by that time had remarried and was living with his second wife Bertha and their children in Johnstown.  I don’t believe Hilda or Isidore knew anyone in Denver, but somehow they started their lives over in this city far from their families back east.

They remained in Denver for at least twenty years, raising my grandmother and my great-uncles. During the many years that Hilda lived in Denver, her brother Jacob died, and her sister Brendena lost her husband as well as both of her daughters.  It must have been hard to live so far away from all of her family during those painful times.

Isidore, Hilda (Katzenstein), and Eva Schoenthal

Isidore, Hilda (Katzenstein), and Eva Schoenthal in Denver

After many years in Denver, Hilda and Isidore moved back east. Their son Harold had gone back east for college, and my grandmother had moved to Philadelphia after she married my grandfather, John Nusbaum Cohen, in 1923.  She had met him when, after graduating from high school, she’d gone to visit relatives in Philadelphia, probably Brendena’s family.

My father and aunt were born in the 1920s, and they were my great-grandparents’ only grandchildren at that time.  I assume that they were part of the reason that by 1930, my great-grandparents returned to the east and settled in Montclair, New Jersey, where their son Harold lived and not far from my grandmother and my aunt and father.

HIlda (Katzenstein) Schoenthal, Eva (Schoenthal) Cohen, Eva HIlda Cohen, and Harold Schoenthal

HIlda (Katzenstein) Schoenthal, Eva (Schoenthal) Cohen, Eva Hilda Cohen, and Harold Schoenthal

Hilda and Isidore lived in Montclair until 1941 when they moved to Philadelphia so that my grandmother could take care of them, both being elderly and in poor health by that time. Hilda died from pneumonia  on August 17, 1941, just seven months after the move to Philadelphia; she died on her 78th birthday. Her husband Isidore died eleven months later on July 10, 1942.  They were buried at Restland Memorial Park in East Hanover, New Jersey.

Looking back over my great-grandmother’s life, I have several thoughts.  Although she was the baby of the family, she was also the only one who ventured far from where her family lived.  Her brothers left Philadelphia, but never left Pennsylvania; her sister lived in Philadelphia for her entire life after arriving as a child from Germany. Hilda moved across the state to marry Isidore Schoenthal, and Hilda was the only Katzenstein sibling to leave the east, moving with her husband and four children all the way to Colorado.

Her life was also marked by many losses, some quite tragic: a sister died as a young child, her parents died before Hilda was thirty years old, and two of her brothers died before Hilda was forty.  Several nieces and nephews also died prematurely.  Her brother Jacob also predeceased her; she was 52 when he died. So many losses must have had an effect on her perspective on life.

On the other hand, she had a long marriage and four children who grew to adulthood.  She lived to see two of her grandchildren, my father and aunt, grow to be teenagers. My father remembers her as a loving, affectionate, and sweet woman; she loved to cook, and when for a period of time he lived near her in Montclair, she would make lunch for him on school days.

Hilda saw more of America than her parents and siblings, and she lived longer than any of them except for her sister Brendena, who survived her. She endured many losses in her life, but the love she received from her family must have outweighed all that sadness, for my father recalls her as a very loving and positive woman.

My Grandmother’s Cologne Cousins: More New Records

Aaron Knappstein, our Cologne guide, really pulled the rabbit out of the hat when he found the Schopfloch death records for my four-times great-grandparents, Amson Nussbaum and Voegele Welsch, but his magic tricks did not end there.  He also was able to locate birth records for a number of the children of Jakob Schoenthal and Charlotte Lilienfeld.

My great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal had two siblings who did not immigrate to America, and his older brother Jakob was one of them.  Jakob married Charlotte Lilienfeld and was a merchant in Cologne.  He and Charlotte had five children: Johanna, Lee, Meyer, Henriette, and Erna. They were my grandmother Eva’s first cousins.

I’ve told their stories in prior posts.  Four of the children survived the Holocaust.  The two sons, Lee and Meyer, immigrated to the US long before Hitler came to power, and Erna escaped with her son Werner during the 1930s.  Johanna and her husband spent time in the Gurs concentration camp and came to the US after the war.  Tragically, Henriette and her husband were murdered by the Nazis.

Thus far Aaron has located birth records for four of the children: Johanna, Lee, Meyer, and Erna.  I hope that he is able to find the record for Henriette as it would indeed be tragic if her record was the only one that did not survive, just as she was the only sibling who did not survive.

Here are the records that Aaron has thus far located:

Birth record of Johanna Schoenthal (Nr. 3030/1880)

father: Jakob Schönthal (tradesman)
mother: Charlotte Lilienfeld
both jewish religion
Köln, Breitestraße 113

June 5, 1880



Birth record of Lee (Leo) Schoenthal (Nr. 5717/1881)

father: Jakob Schönthal (tradesman)
mother: Charlotte Lilienfeld
both jewish religion
Köln, Breitestraße 113

December 6, 1881



Birth record Meier Schönthal (no. 606/1883)

father: Jakob Schönthal (tradesman)
mother: Charlotte Lilienfeld
both jewish religion
Köln, Breitestraße 113
February 7, 1883
05.15 in the morning



Birth Record Erna Schönthal (no. 577/1898)

father: Jakob Schönthal (tradesman)
mother: Charlotte Lilienfeld
both jewish religion
Köln, Breitestraße 85
March 27, 1898
08.15 in the morning


Who Was Ella Bohm Katzenstein? A Genealogy Adventure

This was truly a genealogy adventure. I’d written most of this post before I made two surprising discoveries that required me to rewrite substantial parts of it. The story of Jacob Katzenstein’s first wife Ella is heartbreaking. She was only 27 when she died in the 1889 Johnstown flood, and for a long time I knew almost nothing about her.  I’ve finally made some headway in learning more about her.

Here’s what I now know about her from various sources, more or less in the order I found them. Her first name was Ella, as seen from the birth record indexed on FamilySearch for her son, Milton B. Katzenstein.


Her birth surname was Bohm, as seen in a newspaper report of her death and as implicitly confirmed by the fact that Milton’s middle name was Bohm; that fact I learned from Milton’s burial record at Grandview Cemetery in Johnstown.

Philadelphia Jewish Exponent,, June 7, 1889, p. 3

Philadelphia Jewish Exponent,, June 7, 1889, p. 3

I know that Ella was probably born in February 1862, as indicated on the memorial stone placed at Eastview Cemetery in Cumberland, Maryland.   Her father’s name was apparently Marcus Bohm; that fact I inferred from the fact that Ella’s widower Jacob Katzenstein included Marcus in his household on the 1900 census and described him as his father-in-law (even though by that time Jacob had remarried). Ella presumably married Jacob sometime before or around January, 1886, since their son Milton was born in September, 1886. Milton died on April 18, 1889.  I also know that a second child, Edwin, was born June 5, 1887, and that he and Ella were killed in the Johnstown flood on May 31, 1889.


But where was Ella before marrying Jacob and having these two little boys?

For the longest time, I could not find her on the 1870  census, no matter how many ways I tried to spell her name, with and without wildcards. And then somehow she popped up after I’d just about given up.  I decided to search for any Ella with a surname starting with Bo born anywhere in about 1862 living in Pennsylvania or any state bordering it.  And there she was, listed as Ella Bohn, living in Philadelphia, an eight year old child born in Pennsylvania.  Her father was not living with her, nor was there anyone else in the household named Bohn or Bohm. So who was she living with?

Ella Bohm (Bohn) on the 1870 census Year: 1870; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 12 District 36, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Ella Bohm (Bohn) on the 1870 census
Year: 1870; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 12 District 36, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I took a deep breath when I saw.  She was living with Jacob Goldsmith. Who was he? The son of Simon Goldschmidt and Fradchen Schoenthal.  Simon Goldschmidt was the brother of my three-times great-grandfather Seligmann Goldschmidt, the father of Eva Goldschmidt Katzenstein, whose son Jacob would later marry Ella Bohm.  And Fradchen Schoenthal was the sister of my three-times great-grandfather Levi Schoenthal, father of Isidore Schoenthal who would later marry Hilda Katzenstein, daughter of Eva Goldschmidt Katzenstein and brother of Jacob Katzenstein, who would later marry Ella Bohm.


So little Ella Bohm was for some reason living with the first cousin, once removed, of her future husband Jacob Katzenstein.  And with in-law relatives of her future sister-in-law, Hilda Katzenstein, my great-grandmother. And they were all related to me.  Yikes.

But where was her father? Why wasn’t Ella living with him? Why was she living with Jacob Goldsmith? Unfortunately, the 1870 census did not include information about the relationships among those in a household, so I couldn’t tell.

A search for information about Ella’s father Marcus Bohm turned up nothing explicit connecting him to Ella, though I was able to piece together some information about Marcus. He was born November 9, 1834, in Warsaw, Poland, and immigrated to the United States in 1849, arriving in Baltimore.


Maryland, Baltimore Passenger Lists, 1820-1948,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 25 September 2015), 1820-1891 (NARA M255, M596) > image 404 of 688; citing NARA microfilm publications M255, M596 and T844 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

One document indicates that he was living in Washington, Pennsylvania, in 1853, which, of course, is where many members of my extended family also settled, including Jacob Goldsmith, who was a clothing merchant there as early as 1850, and Jacob Katzenstein’s brother SJ, who arrived around there in about 1871.

It appears that Marcus Bohm owned a clothing store there from at least 1853 from ads I found online in the Washington newspaper.  There was a fire at his store in April, 1860:

Washington Reporter, April 12, 1860, p. 3

Washington Reporter, April 12, 1860, p. 3

I also found an advertisement for Marcus Bohm’s clothing store in the Washington Reporter of August 30, 1860 (p.3):



But by November, 1860, Marcus was closing down his Washington store:


It seems he then left Washington, Pennsylvania, because according to a New Jersey index of the 1860 census, Marcus was living in Hudson Township, New Jersey, in 1860, although I cannot find him on the actual 1860 census records.  He is listed in the 1867 Trenton, New Jersey, directory as working in the clothing business and living at Madison House. On the 1870 census, he is listed as living in a hotel in Trenton and working as a clothier. There is no wife or child living with him.

Marcus continued to be listed in Trenton city directories in the 1870s up through 1876, and he is consistently listed as a clothing merchant and tailor and living in various hotels in Trenton. But in 1878, he declared bankruptcy in Trenton:


Why was his daughter Ella  living with the Goldsmiths in Philadelphia in 1870 and not with her father in Trenton? I decided to dig deeper into the background of Jacob Goldsmith, someone I had not yet really researched as I am (ahem) not yet focused on my Goldschmidt line (yet somehow they keep popping up everywhere).  I searched for him on the 1880 census, and this is what I found:

Jacob Goldsmith's family on 1880 census with Ella "Baum" Year: 1880; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1173; Family History Film: 1255173; Page: 158D; Enumeration District: 210; Image: 0325

Jacob Goldsmith’s family on 1880 census with Ella “Baum”
Year: 1880; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1173; Family History Film: 1255173; Page: 158D; Enumeration District: 210; Image: 0325

Jacob, Fanny, and their many children were living in Philadelphia, and living with them was a niece named Ella Baum, age 17.  This had to be Ella Bohm, who would have been turning 18 in 1880.  She was living with Jacob and Fanny Goldsmith because she was their niece! So her mother had to be either Fanny’s sister or Jacob’s sister. For reasons described below, I believe she was the daughter of Jacob’s sister Eva.

Jacob had several sisters, but for all but one, I’d found married names, and they had not married Marcus Bohm.  But there was one sister for whom I’d been unable to find anything more than her name on the passenger manifest with her father Simon and stepmother Fradchen in 1845 and her listing on the 1850 census with her father Simon and stepmother Fanny and several siblings. Her name was Eva Goldschmidt/Goldsmith.

Simon, Fradchen, and Eva Goldschmidt on 1845 passenger manifest The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Records of the US Customs Service, RG36; NAI Number: 2655153; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Record Group Number: 85

Simon, Fradchen, and Eva Goldschmidt on 1845 passenger manifest
The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Records of the US Customs Service, RG36; NAI Number: 2655153; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Record Group Number: 85

On the 1850 census, the names seem confused. It shows Simon’s wife’s name as Lena. Her name was Fradchen or Fanny in the US. Simon had a daughter Lena, who is also listed on the census.  And then there is a daughter named Fanny.  I think that daughter was really Eva, and the enumerator somehow thought Fanny was the daughter’s name instead of the wife and heard “Lena” instead of “Eva” for the other daughter’s name and thought that was the wife’s name. (Remember these were recent immigrants whose English might not have been very understandable.)

Simon Goldschmidt and family 1850 census Year: 1850; Census Place: Pittsburgh Ward 3, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: M432_745; Page: 135A; Image: 274

Simon Goldschmidt and family 1850 census
Year: 1850; Census Place: Pittsburgh Ward 3, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: M432_745; Page: 135A; Image: 274

But Eva is not listed as living with Simon in 1860 when he and two of her younger half-siblings had moved to Washington, Pennsylvania, to live with her older brother Jacob. So where was she then?  I don’t know, but here’s my theory.

My guess is that Marcus Bohm and Eva Goldsmith, Jacob’s sister, were married sometime around 1860. After their daughter Ella Bohm was born in 1862, Eva either died in childbirth or sometime shortly thereafter and before 1870. Supporting the theory that Eva had died is the fact that her brother Jacob named a child born in 1871 Eva.

I believe that Ella’s widowed father Marcus Bohm moved to New Jersey after losing his wife and his business in Washington, and he left his little daughter to be raised by her uncle, Jacob Goldsmith. That little girl then grew up and married Jacob Katzenstein, who was her second cousin.

I don’t know when she married Jacob. I cannot find Jacob or Ella on the 1880 census, although Jacob was listed in the Pittsburgh directories for 1879 and 1881, the Johnstown directory in 1884, both the Philadelphia and Johnstown directories for 1887, and the Johnstown directory in 1889. When their son Milton was born in 1886, Jacob and Ella must have been living in Philadelphia. And by 1889 they were living in Johnstown.

Where was Ella’s father Marcus in the 1880s? The 1880 census report shows that he was then living in Washington, Pennsylvania, boarding in a hotel there and working in a clothing store.  But by 1884, Marcus had moved to Johnstown, as the 1884 Johnstown directory lists Marcus living at 251 Main Street and working at 272 Main Street in the clothing business. That same directory lists Jacob Katzenstein as a commercial traveler living at 241 Main Street, just a few houses away from Marcus. I assume that Marcus moved to Johnstown because his daughter Ella had by that time married Jacob and was living there, but I don’t know for sure.

After the tragic deaths of his daughter Ella and his two grandsons Milton and Edwin in 1889, Marcus seemed to disappear for some years and does not appear in any city directories. The next record that does include Ella’s father Marcus is the 1900 census where, as noted above, he was living in Johnstown with Jacob Katzenstein and Jacob’s second wife Bertha Miller, their three children, Bertha’s brother Maurice, and a servant.  Marcus is described as Jacob’s father-in-law, widowed, and retired.

Jacob Katzenstein and family 1900 census Year: 1900; Census Place: Johnstown Ward 1, Cambria, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1388; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 0124; FHL microfilm: 1241388

Jacob Katzenstein and family 1900 census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Johnstown Ward 1, Cambria, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1388; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 0124; FHL microfilm: 1241388

I find it rather heartwarming that Bertha Miller took in the father of Jacob’s first wife.

Ten years later Marcus was still living in Johnstown, boarding in the household of Solomon Reineman, according to the 1910 census. I thought perhaps Solomon was a relative or married to a relative, but Solomon was born in Germany, not Poland. In 1880, Solomon had been living in Johnstown, so I assume that Marcus had become friendly with him during the 1880s when both were living in Johnstown.

And then I found a connection to Solomon’s wife, Minnie Leopold, though not directly. While researching Jacob’s second wife, Bertha Miller, I saw that her mother was named Eliza Leopold.  The name jumped out at me, and I thought—could there be a connection to Minnie Leopold? A few more steps of research, and lo and behold, I learned that Eliza and Minnie Leopold were sisters! So somehow Marcus Bohm ended up living with his son-in-law’s second wife’s aunt and her husband.

Two years later, however, Marcus had moved to Philadelphia. The 1912 Philadelphia directory lists Marcus Bohm living at 3333 North Broad Street. Four years later on February 25, 1916, Marcus died in Philadelphia.  He was 81 years old and died of chronic emphysema.

Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 021751-024880

Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 021751-024880

He’d been living at the Masonic Home of Pennsylvania, and the informant was William H. Sivel, the superintendent at 3333 North Broad Street, which I assume is the location of the Masonic Home and where Marcus had been residing.  There is no other personal information on the certificate except for Marcus Bohm’s birth date, birth place (Poland), age, and occupation, which the informant described as “gentleman.”  I was unable to find an obituary or any other document that would reveal family information for Marcus, only this death notice.

Philadelphia Inquirer, February 26, 1916, p. 18

Philadelphia Inquirer, February 26, 1916, p. 18

Thus, I was lucky enough to learn a little more about Ella Bohm Katzenstein and can only speculate that her mother was Eva Goldsmith, that Eva Goldsmith Bohm had died, and that Ella had been left to live with the family of Jacob Goldsmith while her father tried to recover from losing his wife and his store in Washington, Pennsylvania.

If I am right in this speculation, it makes her short life even more tragic. It was heartbreaking enough to know that she’d lost her first son Milton and then was killed along with her other son in the Johnstown flood of 1889 when she was only 27. But adding to that the loss of her mother and in some ways her father as a young child makes her story especially poignant.


Of Rabbit Holes and Twisted Trees and the Curse of Endogamy

Now that I have emerged from the Mansbach rabbit hole I dove into weeks ago, I can return to the story of my direct ancestors, Gerson Katzenstein and Eva Goldschmidt and their children, including my great-grandmother Hilda Katzenstein.  As I wrote previously, Gerson was one of eight children of Scholum Katzenstein, including four full siblings, two of whom died as children, and three half-siblings, one of whom died as a child. As best I can tell Gerson was the only one of the eight to leave Germany and come to the United States.

Gerson and Eva were married in Oberlistingen in June 1847, and then settled in Gerson’s home town of Jesberg, where they had three children: Scholum (1848, named for Gerson’s father), Jacob (1851), and Brendina (1853, named for Gerson’s mother, Breine Blumenfeld).


Marriage record of Gerson Katzenstein and Eva Goldschmidt HHStAW fonds 365 No 673, Arcinsys Hessen

Gerson and Eva immigrated to the US in 1856 with Scholum, Jacob, and Brendina. A fourth child Perry was born a few months after they had settled in Philadelphia. In 1858, they had a fifth child, Hannah, and in 1860 they were all living in Philadelphia where Gerson was working as a salesman.  As noted in an earlier post, there were three others living in the household, Abraham “Anspach,” who I believe was actually Abraham Mansbach (III), David Frank, a bookkeeper, and Marley Mansbach, who I believe was Abraham Mansbach’s cousin and only related to Gerson through his sister Hannchen’s marriage into the Mansbach family.

Gerson Katzenstein in the 1856 Philadelphia directory

Gerson Katzenstein in the 1856 Philadelphia directory

Gerson Katzenstein and family 1860 US census Year: 1860; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 13, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1163; Page: 519; Image: 105; Family History Library Film: 805163

Gerson Katzenstein and family 1860 US census
Year: 1860; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 13, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1163; Page: 519; Image: 105; Family History Library Film: 805163

On August 17, 1863, Gerson and Eva had their sixth and final child, my great-grandmother Hilda.

The family suffered a terrible loss on December 17, 1866, when their eight year old daughter Hannah died from scarlet fever.  She was buried at Adath Jeshurun cemetery in Philadelphia. I have to wonder what impact that had on the family, especially little three year old Hilda, who must have been very frightened and confused.

Hannah Katzenstein death certificate "Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 16 May 2014), > image 316 of 1079; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Hannah Katzenstein death certificate
“Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 16 May 2014), > image 316 of 1079; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

In 1870, Gerson and Eva were living with their five surviving children.  Scholum was listed as Joseph and was 22; Jacob was 18, Brendina 15, Perry 14, and Hilda was seven.  The 1870 census was taken twice because there were felt to be errors in the first enumeration.  For the Katzenstein family, the first enumeration is barely legible and is missing some of the children, but indicates that Gerson was working as a clerk in a store.  The second enumeration is quite clear and includes all the children, but has no information about occupations.


Gerson Katzenstein on 1870 census, first enumeration Year: 1870; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 16 District 48, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Gerson Katzenstein and family 1870 census, second enumeration Year: 1870; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 16 Dist 48 (2nd Enum), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1429; Page: 708B; Image: 258; Family History Library Film: 552928

Brendina Katzenstein, the oldest daughter and third child of Gerson and Eva, was the first to marry.  According to the 1900 census, she married Jacob Schlesinger in 1871 when she was only eighteen years old.  It took some serious digging and the help of the German Genealogy Facebook group to find some background on Jacob.  First, from his death notice, I saw that he was born in “Epplagan” in Germany.


Nick in the German Genealogy group figured out that that was Eppingen.  I then searched the Landesarchiv for Baden Wurttemburg and found Jacob’s birth record, which Nick helped me translate:

Jacob Schlesinger birth record from Eppingen

Jacob Schlesinger birth record from Eppingen,  Landesarchiv Baden-Wurtenberg, 390 Nr. 1320, 1 Band Gliederungssymbol Eppingen, israelitische Gemeinde: Standesbuch 1811-1870 Bild 235

The child was born on March 3rd, 1843 and named Jacob. The father was Jacob (?) Schlesinger, a schützbürger (see note below) and hand[e]lsmann (merchant) and his wife Guste? born Sülzberger.

[UPDATE: Thanks to Dorothee Lottmann-Kaeseler for explaining the word “schutzburger” and providing a cite with this explanation: The “Law on the Situation of the Jews” (“Gesetz über die Verhältnisse der Juden”) from 1809 recognized the Jewish religious community as a church. Constitutionally, Jews were to be treated as free citizens. Their position in the municipalities did not change however, they remained only “protected citizens” (“Schutzbürger”) who did not have the right to be elected to a local council and did not have rights of usage of the common land.]

Nick wasn’t sure whether Jacob’s father’s name was Jacob, and I was skeptical of the fact that his father would also have been a Jacob.  Looking at the record itself, it certainly looks like “Jacob” was crossed out and something else was written over it.  Perhaps the scribe who entered the record confused the child’s name and the father’s name.

Although I could not find Jacob Schlesinger on any US census record before 1880, I was able to locate him in a number of Philadelphia directories where he was living at the same address with men named Abraham, Israel, and Myer Schlesinger, all of whom, like Jacob, were working as butchers.  I assumed these were his relatives, and so I searched for information about them.

I found a passenger manifest that shows an Israel Schlesinger and his family arriving in the US in 1860; along with Israel was his wife Gustel or Gurtel, sons Maier (26) and Abraham (11), and two daughters, Fanny (20) and Malchen (15).  There was no son named Jacob on this manifest.

Family of Israel Schlesinger 1860 ship manifest Year: 1860; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 205; Line: 1; List Number: 918 Description Ship or Roll Number : Roll 205 Source Information New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

Family of Israel Schlesinger 1860 ship manifest
Year: 1860; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 205; Line: 1; List Number: 918
Ship or Roll Number : Roll 205
Source Information New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

Then I found another manifest listing a fourteen year old named Jacob Schlesinger arriving in 1857 with what appears to be an older sibling named Hagar.  Since my Jacob Schlesinger reported on the 1910 census that he’d arrived in 1857 (and in 1855 according to the 1900 census) and he would have been fourteen in 1857, I assumed that this was the right Jacob.  Further research uncovered a Hagar Schlesinger, a woman of the right age, who was living in Philadelphia in 1885, so she was probably his sister.

Jacob and Hagar Schlesinger 1857 ship manifest Year: 1857; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 173; Line: 1; List Number: 497

Jacob and Hagar Schlesinger 1857 ship manifest
Year: 1857; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 173; Line: 1; List Number: 497

But I still had no proof that this Jacob was the son of Israel Schlesinger.  He could have been just a nephew or a cousin.  So I searched for a birth record for one of Israel’s sons and found this one for Myer, as translated by Nick:

Myer Schlesinger birth record landesarchiv_baden-wuerttemberg_generallandesarchiv_karlsruhe_390_nr-_1320_bild_174_4-1128670-174.jpg

Myer Schlesinger birth record

The child was born June 4th, 1834, named Mozes and the parents are Israel Schlesinger and Geitel Si?lzberger.

Myer was also the son of Geitel Sulzberger and Israel (not Jacob) Schlesinger.  Looking back at Jacob’s birth record, it does seem that “Israel” was written over “Jacob” and that thus Jacob’s father was also Israel Schlesinger.  I also found a birth record for Hagar Schlesinger; she also was the daughter of Israel and Geitel.

Thus, I feel fairly comfortable concluding that my Jacob Schlesinger was a son of Israel Schlesinger from Eppingen, especially since he and Israel were living at the same address in 1865, according to the Philadelphia directory for that year. In addition, Jacob, like Israel, Myer, and Abraham, was a butcher in Philadelphia, as seen in numerous entries in the Philadelphia city directories as well as census reports.

Brendina and Jacob Schlesinger had three children listed on the 1880 census: Heloise (5), Solomon (4), and Alfred (1). Jacob was still working as a butcher.  Brendina and Jacob would have a fourth child, Sidney, in 1880, and a fifth, Aimee, born in 1887.

Jacob and Brendina Schlesinger and family 1880 census Year: 1880; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1176; Family History Film: 1255176; Page: 156A; Enumeration District: 301; Image: 0314

Jacob and Brendina Schlesinger and family
1880 census
Year: 1880; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1176; Family History Film: 1255176; Page: 156A; Enumeration District: 301; Image: 0314


The 1870s were also active years for Brendina’s three brothers. The oldest brother, Scholum Joseph, had lived in many places since coming with his family to the US.  An 1896 profile of him reported that he had left his family for Leavenworth, Kansas, when he was fourteen to learn how to be a cigar maker, but since he did not arrive until he was eighteen in 1856, that seems more myth than truth.  The profile goes on to state that after being in Kansas for a number of years, he returned to Philadelphia, but eventually gave up the cigar trade because of health concerns.  The article continues by saying that he then “went to Winchester, VA., and took a clerkship, remaining for five years. Thence he went to Uhrichsville, Ohio, thence to New Castle and on the nineteenth of April 1871, he came to Washington [Pennsylvania].”  “The Saturday Evening Supper Table,” Washington, Pennsylvania, June 27, 1896, found here (my cousin Roger Cibella’s genealogy website).

The U.S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s, database on Ancestry, confirms that by 1873, Scholum, also known as S.J. or Joseph Katzenstein, had moved to Washington, Pennsylvania.  That is, he moved to the small town in western Pennsylvania where his mother’s uncle Simon Goldschmidt and his children were living at that time.  Readers with excellent memories may recall that Simon Goldschmidt was married to Fanny Schoenthal, my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal’s sister. By 1881 Isidore was also living in Washington, Pennsylvania.

S.J.’s move to Washington, Pennsylvania, may have had long lasting repercussions for my family, as I am fairly confident that he was the one who engineered the introduction of his younger sister, my great-grandmother Hilda, to Isidore Schoenthal, my great-grandfather.

The Daily Republican (Monongahela, Pennsylvania) 11 Aug 1887, Thu • Page 4

The Daily Republican
(Monongahela, Pennsylvania)
11 Aug 1887, Thu • Page 4

S.J Katzenstein married Henrietta Sigmund in 1875.  Henrietta was born in 1851 in Baltimore to Ella Goldschmidt and Albert Sigmund. That added yet another twist to my family tree because Ella Goldschmidt was the daughter of Meyer Goldschmidt whose brothers were Seligmann Goldschmidt, father of Eva Goldschmidt Katzenstein, and Simon Goldschmidt, husband of Fanny Schoenthal.  In other words, Eva Goldschmidt Katzenstein was Ella Goldschmidt Sigmund’s first cousin, meaning that S.J. Katzenstein married his maternal second cousin, Henrietta Sigmund.


But let me stay focused on the Katzensteins rather than diving into the Goldschmidt rabbit hole.

S.J. and Henrietta, who was also known as Dot or Dottie, had a daughter Moynelle in 1879.  S.J., who is listed as Joseph on the 1880 census, was working as a clothing merchant in Washington, Pennsylvania. He and Henrietta would have five more children: Milton (1881), Howard (1882), Ivan (1884), Earl (1885), and Vernon (1892).

S. Joseph Katzenstein and family 1880 census Year: 1880; Census Place: Washington, Washington, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1202; Family History Film: 1255202; Page: 577A; Enumeration District: 270

S. Joseph Katzenstein and family 1880 census
Year: 1880; Census Place: Washington, Washington, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1202; Family History Film: 1255202; Page: 577A; Enumeration District: 270

S.J. was not the only child of Gerson and Eva Katzenstein to leave Philadelphia for western Pennsylvania in the 1870s.  In 1878, Perry Katzenstein, the third brother, was listed in the Pittsburgh directory as a clerk; the following year his brother Jacob joined him.  Both were living at 25 Second Avenue and working as salesmen.  Although I cannot find either of them on the 1880 census, both were listed in the 1881 Pittsburgh directory, still working as salesmen and still living together, though now at 188 Wylie Avenue. (Perry also appears in the 1880 directory, but Jacob does not.)

As for their parents and little sister Hilda, they were still living in Philadelphia in 1880.  Gerson continued to work as a clerk in a store.  Living with them, in addition to a number of boarders, was Louis Mansbach, listed as Gerson’s nephew, age 31, and born in “Prussia.” At first I thought this was Louis Mansbach, son of H.H. Mansbach, who would have been Gerson’s great-nephew.  But that Louis Mansbach was far too young and born in the US. So who was this Louis Mansbach?

Year: 1880; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1173; Family History Film: 1255173; Page: 274B; Enumeration District: 219; Image: 0561

Year: 1880; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1173; Family History Film: 1255173; Page: 274B; Enumeration District: 219; Image: 0561

Well, remember that post where I was trying to sort out all the different men named Abraham Mansbach? One of them, whom I called Abraham II, was the son of Leiser Mansbach and grandson of Abraham Mansbach I.  Abraham II was the brother of Marum Mansbach who married Hannchen Katzenstein, Gerson Katzenstein’s half-sister.  And Abraham II had a son in 1849 who was named for his grandfather: Leiser Mansbach II. He was therefore the nephew of Marum Mansbach and Hannchen Katzenstein.  Leiser became Louis, and he was living with Gerson and Eva Katzenstein in 1880, working as a veterinary surgeon.

And so you might be thinking, “Well, he wasn’t Gerson’s nephew.  He was Gerson’s brother-in-law’s nephew.” And you might be thinking, “Perhaps Gerson was just being liberal in using the term ‘nephew.’”

But, alas, it’s not that simple. Once again there is a twist in the tree.  Louis Mansbach’s mother was Sarah Goldschmidt, Eva Goldschmidt’s sister.  So Louis Mansbach was in fact Eva Goldschmidt Katzenstein’s nephew as well as Gerson’s brother-in-law’s nephew.



And on that confusing note, I am going to go get a breath of fresh air and curse the endogamy gods who make using DNA results so utterly pointless in my family research.