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.


Ernest Lion’s The Fountain at the Crossroad: An Unforgettable Book

I am very excited to announce that Ernest Lion’s memoir, The Fountain at the Crossroad, has now been published and is available on both as a paperback ($10.50) and an ebook ($2.99). [UPDATE: the Kindle version is now available!] It has been my honor and privilege to bring this book to the public with the permission and assistance of Ernest’s son Tom.  I did this because I found the book unforgettable and because I don’t want Ernest or his life to be forgotten.  Tom and I are not deriving any financial gain from sales of the book. All net proceeds received from sales of the book will be donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in memory of Ernest Lion.

I have written about some aspects of Ernest’s life on the blog as he was married to my cousin, Liesel Mosbach, granddaughter of Rosalie Schoenthal, my grandfather’s sister.  Ernest and Liesel were deported from Germany to Auschwitz in early 1943; Liesel was murdered there, but Ernest survived.

The story of what he endured and how he survived is moving and horrifying.  His determination and courage in the face of unimaginable suffering is a story of what it means to be human when you are surrounded by inhumanity. And Ernest’s escape from the Nazis kept me on the edge of my seat even though I knew that he would survive.

But the book is not only about Ernest’s experience during the Holocaust.  It also tells the story of his childhood growing up with his parents in Germany and of his early adulthood when he dreamed of being an actor.  In addition, Ernest wrote about his life after the war—how he rebuilt his life in the US, starting all over, scarred by his experiences, but nevertheless determined to have a full and meaningful life.

Ernest only started talking about his Holocaust experiences late in his life, and then he was persuaded to write his memoirs.  In doing so, he relived much of the pain, but also reached a very poignant conclusion about the value of his own life.

If you have an interest in history, in World War II, in the Holocaust, in fact, if you have an interest in human beings and what they are made of, you should read this book. You can find it here.

Sliding Doors

Back in April, I wrote about the family of Rosalie Schoenthal, my great-grandfather’s sister, the one who stayed in Germany to marry Willy Heymann.  Most of what I knew of their fate I learned from the memoir written by Ernest Lion, the man who married Rosalie and Willy’s granddaughter, Liesel Mosbach.  Liesel, her sister, her parents, and her aunt, were all victims of the Holocaust. Ernest Lion memorialized them all in his heartbreaking memoir, The Fountain at the Crossroad.

As I mentioned in a subsequent post written for Yom Hashoah in May, I was so moved by Ernest’s story that I tracked down his son Tom to ask about getting it published so that it could be more widely read.  Since then, I have been working with Tom to edit and format the memoir for publication.  (We’ve run into a few obstacles, but that’s a story for another day.)  I am hoping that sometime soon the book will be available for distribution. When it is, I will post the relevant information on the blog.

But none of this would be possible without the help of another of my cousins by marriage, Sharon.  Sharon is married to the great-grandson of Simon Schoenthal, who was also my great-grandfather’s brother as well as Rosalie Schoenthal Heymann’s brother.  And Sharon, who writes the blog The Heart and Craft of Life Writing, has a great deal of knowledge not only about writing, but also about getting your writing published.  Sharon and her husband were the ones who shared with me the remarkable memoir written by Hettie Schoenthal Stein.  So when I decided to try and get Ernest Lion’s book into a publishable format, I turned to Sharon for help.

Sharon spent hours through email and Skype instructing me on how to turn a typed manuscript into a format that is not only more readable, but also professional looking.  She has been incredibly patient with me, as all this was new to me, and the old brain isn’t quite as flexible as it once was.  I cannot possibly express how grateful I am to her for her help.

One of the last things we worked on was inserting photographs into the memoir, and as she was doing this, Sharon was struck by the resemblance she saw between Liesel Mosbach Lion, Ernest’s first wife and our mutual cousin, and Sharon’s mother-in-law, Blanche Stein Lippincott.  She sent me a photograph of Blanche and her family that I had not previously seen.


Blanche Stein Lippincott and her family 1940 Courtesy of the Lippincott family

And here is a photograph of Liesel Mosbach and Ernest Lion that I obtained from Ernest’s son to put into his book:


Liesel Mosbach and Ernest Lion Courtesy of the Lion Family


The resemblance is striking.  Blanche and Liesel were second cousins, but from these two photographs, they could have been sisters.



But what different lives and fates they had, and the expressions on their faces in these two photographs reflect those differences. While Blanche looks healthy and happy, Liesel looks drawn and sad, even on her wedding day.

Blanche was born in 1912 in Tucson, Arizona, and grew up living on the American frontier in the 1910s and 1920s.  Her mother Hattie and her aunt Gertrude had ventured out west after growing up in Philadelphia and Atlantic City.  They did later return to the East, as I’ve written, and Blanche spent the rest of her life living in New Jersey.  She married in 1937 and raised two children with her husband Ezra.  Blanche lived a long and happy life, making it to almost 101 years old before dying in 2013.  Her mother Hettie had made it to 103.

Blanche Stein Lippincott with her great-granddaughter 1996

Blanche Stein Lippincott with her great-granddaughter 1996

In contrast, Liesel lived a short and tragic life.  She was born in 1921 in Germany, where her father Julius Mosbach owned a fruit and vegetable stand. The family was probably living a comfortable enough life until Hitler came to power.  When Liesel married Ernest Lion on December 18, 1939, conditions for Jews were terrible in Germany, and the young couple had no idea what the future would bring.

There would, in fact, be no future. As a result of the Nazi oppression and the loss of his business, Julius Mosbach suffered a nervous breakdown; in 1941, he was sent to an institution where instead of being treated, he was murdered by the Nazis. In 1942, Liesel’s mother, sister, and aunt, and Ernest’s father were all deported and eventually killed in a Nazi concentration camp.  In 1943, Liesel and Ernest were deported to Auschwitz, where Liesel was killed.  Ernest survived and eventually escaped; he became the voice for the whole family.

Thus, Blanche and Liesel, second cousins who looked like sisters, had far different lives and fates.  I can’t help but think, what if Rosalie and Willie had come to the US like almost all of Rosalie’s siblings? What if Liesel and her sister Grete had grown up in Pennsylvania or anywhere else in the United States?

As the president of our synagogue reminded us on Rosh Hashanah, we cannot control where we are born, when we are born, or to whom we are born.  Some of us are blessed with good luck in all of those things while others are not.  We should never take that for granted.

Letters from Frank: A Soldier in World War I

In my last post I posted and transcribed three letters written to Francis Oestreicher aka Frank Striker by various relatives between 1907 and 1939.  In this post I want to share the letters that Frank wrote home while he was serving in World War I.  These letters were all written in the fall of 1918, beginning before Frank was sent overseas and ending with one in December, 1918, a month or so after the war had ended.

Frank Striker WW1

Francis Oestreicher in World War I

As with the last post, I have tried to keep the transcriptions true to the text of the letters, only making some punctuation changes and some spelling changes and adding paragraphing to make them more easily read.

The first letter was written from Camp Meritt, New Jersey, on September 20, 1918.

IMG_1847 IMG_1848


Camp Meritt, NJ September 20, 1918

Dear Mother, Father & Sister,

As you can see by the heading, I am now located at Camp Merrit. This accounts for my not having written yesterday. We left Camp Holabird yesterday morning and arrived here to[o] late last night to write.  We are located about 15 miles from New York and the camp is more like a park than anything else. It is layed out beautifully and is made to accomidate 70,000 men, all of whom sleep in barracks. There are no tents here.

Am going to try to get a pass to go to New York Sunday, but I doubt it if they will give me one, as they are very anxious to keep us together.

I suppose it will not come as a surprise when I tell you that we are prepairing to go across, we do not know just what day, but it may be to-morrow and it may not be for 2 weeks or more, so please do not worry if you do not hear from me for 3 or 4 weeks.  It often takes this long or longer for mail to come across. Our trucks are already in France.

Please do not let this worry you as I know I will be safe. It is not worrying me in the least and I am feeling fine and getting along nicely.

We will go through a good bit of schooling when we get to the other side so that we will not be assigned to our regular duty for 2 months or more. We will have to learn to understand French road signs and a great many other things.

Will close now as I want this letter to go out in the next mail.

I remain, with love to you all,

Your son & brother,


I love the tone of this letter—a young man trying to reassure his parents that he is and will be fine.  How can he possibly say he knows he will be safe? I had to laugh at the idea that his parents would not worry when their child was going off to fight in a war that had already seen a tremendous number of fatalities. But so far Frank hadn’t seen anything but American army camps.

The second letter was written while Frank was sailing to Europe with the army:



Aboard ship October 6, 1918

Dear Mother, Father, & Sister,

We expect to land in [place name torn off] tomorrow so I am writing aboard ship in order that my mail will lose no time.  I trust that you have received the postal mailed from New York advising you of my safe arrival.

Our trip has been delightful in every respect and although some of our company suffered some from sea-sickness, I came through feeling fine all the way. We saw no submarines and everything went along nicely.  Of course we were protected, but the censor would not permit my writing anything on this subject.  The trip took us considerably longer than they do in peace times, but since we had plenty of entertainment the time passed quickly and pleasantly.  You know I’ve traveled considerably around the U.S.A. but this has it beat, we are in sight of shore.

[Letter ends there; not sure if there was more as there is no signature.]

Once again, Frank is being reassuring.  He writes as if he’s on a cruise, traveling to Europe, except for the hints about censorship and submarines.  Was he really feeling as calm as his letter claims?

There are no letters between this one and the end of the war on November 11, 1918.  I don’t know whether that means Frank didn’t write any letters during that time or just that they have not been preserved or located.

The next letter was written two days after the armistice:

Frank November 13 letter 1

Frank November 13 1918 letter 2



France  November 13, 1918

Dear Mother, Father & Sister,

The official notice of an armistice came to-day and of course I was more than happy to hear the good news.  We had been expecting it for sometime as the Allies have been having things their own way for some time. Now that the firing is over and there is no more need of your worring, I might as well tell you that I have been to the front a number of times and that our position here has been shelled every night since we came, with the exception of the last 4 nights.  The Germans are now retreating and not a single shot is being fired.

The only subject the boys talk about now is coming home and I do hope that it will not be long until we are homeward bound.

We are using some English trucks and our routine is the same every day.  I believe I have the softest snap on this side of the pond. The hardest job I have is to entertain myself.  I believe I told you in my last letter that I was in charge of the detail located here and I live a gentleman’s life.

Trusting you are all enjoying the best of health, I am


Your son and brother


PS I am going to send you a camouflaged German helmet as a souvenir.

The tone of this letter is markedly different from the first two.  One would expect a soldier to be excited and upbeat that the war had ended.  But this letter seems more somber.  Although Frank says he now living a gentleman’s life and just waiting to come home, his brief allusions to the war—being shelled every night—make it clear that he has seen more than he is mentioning.  Somehow he seems to have changed from that young man excited to be traveling overseas to a young man eager to get home and away from the war.

The next letter came four days later.

Frank November 13 1918 letter 1 Frank November 18 letter 2

November 17, 1918

Dear Mother, Father, and Sister,

Was very much surprised to-day to receive a letter addressed to Camp Lee and dated July 28th.  Although a bit stale I was very glad to receive it.

There is not much new to write.  Our duties are the same as they have been and we are getting along nicely.  Instead of war talk now the principal discussion these days are when are we going home.  There are many rumors as to what our company will do.  Some say we are to go to Germany, others say we will soon be homeward bound, but the truth is yet to be learned.

The cold weather is beginning to set in, but you never need worry as I have clothing gelore.  I have a heavy overcoat, sweater and gum boots that I have never worn also heavy wollen socks.

Yesterday I saw the first lot of prisoners to be returned from Germany.  They were a lot of Italians who had been in Germany 2 years.  Believe me they were glad to have there freedom

I can imagine the celebrations that took place in the states when peace was signed, but at the front all was silent.  In the night some bright lights flashed.

I trust that it will not be long now until I will be siting around the table with you as we used too.

Please give my love to dear Aunt Jennie and family, Uncle Morris, and Mr Lebenwalter.

Must close now with love to you all,

I remain


Francis B. Oestreicher

Frank obviously was longing to be home.  And again the tone is more somber.  His line contrasting what he expects the celebrations were like back home to the silence at the front is telling.  There was no celebrating by those who had fought in the war.  They just wanted to go home.

Eleven days later he wrote this letter:

Frank November 28 1918 letter 1

Frank November 28 letter 1918 2

Frank November 28 1918 letter 3


France, November 28, 1918

Dear Mother, Father & Sister,

These last few days we have not had a thing to do so I spent most of my time roaming around the country.  The YMCA gave me several hundred Christmas cards and I distributed some of them among the members of our Co. and I sent more than 50 to my customers.

Last week I was called back and joined the rest of my company.  I believe I wrote to you shortly after my arrival in France that was away from the Co. on detached service.

The part of France which I am in was full of soldiers and the roads were jammed with traffic a few weeks ago, but now there are very few soldiers around here and the only trucks we see are our own water tanks.  A few civilians are now coming back.  I was speaking to an old Frenchman this morning.  He is about 60 years old.  He pointed to a few standing walls and said it was his home.  His fields are turn [torn?] up with shell holes and trenches.

There are some German prisoners around here. One of them told me they have not had soap in Germany for 2 years and that they could not even buy a handkerchief without a note from a city official.

The censorship regulations are the same as they have been, but I think that within a short time the censorship will be lifted and I will be able to tell you where I am located.  At present I can only state that I am in the most notable line of defence the Germans ever built. Am also within 20 miles of the strongest fortified city in France, a city which the Germans have tried to take since the beginning of the war but never succeeded.

We are living in barracks which the Germans built and our meals are very good.  There is a YMCA located a very short distance from here and we can buy candy and chocolate.  We can also get newspapers and writing paper.

So far the weather has been fine.  It has been warm and fairly dry.

Have not received mail from you since I wrote to you last, but the mail comes in bunches, and I am expecting mail from you within a few days.

Knowing of nothing else that would interest you, will close, hoping you are all enjoying the best of health, I remain,


Your son and brother


Two images stand out for me here: the Frenchman surveying his destroyed home and fields and the German soldier revealing the desperate economic situation in Germany. How interesting that Frank conversed with someone who just weeks before had been the enemy.  And he sounds somewhat sympathetic to the conditions endured by that enemy.

It’s also interesting that Frank was now allowed to reveal more details about his location. That location was made much more clear in the letter that follows.

Frank December 8 1918 letter 1 Frank December 8 1918 letter 2 Frank December 8 1918 letter 3


France December 8, 1918

Dear Mother, Father, & Sister,

The censor is partly lifted now and I am able to write things that would not have passed a week ago.  We are now permitted to relate our experiences and to mention the names of the towns and cities.   We arrived in Liverpool, England on October 8th and traveled through England by rail to South-hampton.  From there we took a boat to Cherbourg, France, where we arrived on October 11th.  On October 13th we boarded a train on which we remained 4 days and finally we landed at Clermont which is located about 15 miles west of Verdun. At the time of our arrival here the front was 15 miles north.  On October 25 was sent on detatched service with some others in our Co. and we located at Montfucon which is about 22 miles north of Clairmont.  At the time of our arrival at Montfucon the trenches were a very short distance and we were able to get a fair idea of what modern war really is.

The day before yesterday we came back to Clairmont where the battalion headquarters are located and from all appearances I will remain with the Co. until we land in America.

Have not received any mail from you for about 2 weeks, but I know it is because of poor mail service.  I am not worried about you and you need not worry about me.  I also will ask you not to send me anything, either money, eatables or clothes, as I have everything I need.

Our chief thought these days is the thought of going home, but we receive very little information on this subject.  We are not doing any work and we have a good chance of being in the U.S.A. in Feb or possibly even in January.  However I cannot kick as we have it very good here.  There is an excellent band occupying an adjurning building so we have lots of music.  We also can buy candy and cakes at the Salvation Army.

Regarding the weather must say it is just like spring. We have not had one cold day yet.

Trusting you are all enjoying the best of health and wishing you dear father a very prosperous Chrismas business, I remain


Your son and brother,


PS Dear Mother, It seems a bit early to congratulate you for your birthday, but considering the slowness of the mail this letter may reach you after your birthday.  I wish to extend my heartiest wishes for a very happy birthday and trust that you will enjoy many more birthdays in good health and happiness. [Sarah’s birthday was January 8.]


I looked on a map to try and determine where Frank was located based on this letter.  I knew he had been involved in the Meuse Argonne offensive, so that also helped.  I believe “Clairmont” is Clermont-en-Argonne and “Montfuscon” is Montfaucon-d’Argonne.  On this map you can see Verdun, the “most fortified city in France,” as Frank described it in his earlier letter, and the cemetery at Meuse-Argonne where those killed in that offensive are buried.


Even though the censorship was reduced and Frank could reveal where he had been, he still does not discuss what he saw during the fighting or how he felt.  He makes reference to “getting a fair idea of what modern war is,” but he doesn’t share what that was like.  I wonder if he ever did. But it is clear that he is anxious to get home and hopes to be there by January or February, at the latest.

Frank’s military dates as revealed on this postcard, however, indicate that he did not in fact get back to the US until July.  I wonder what they had him doing for the next six months.

Frank postcard with military service dates

That is the last of the letters written by Frank that I received from Steve. I don’t know whether Frank wrote more.  I imagine he did.   Perhaps more letters will show up.  But even these six letters written over a short period of time reveal in subtle ways the experiences Frank lived through between September 20, 1918, and December 8, 1918.

Frank Striker WW1 medal




Letters to Frank: A Close Family Revealed

As I mentioned here, included with all the photographs that my cousin Steve scanned and sent to me were a number of letters.  I posted the letter written by Gerald Oestreicher to his family during World War II, and I mentioned that there were also letters written by Gerald’s uncle, Francis Oestreicher, when he was serving during World War I.  Frank was my father’s second cousin, both being the great-grandchildren of Levi Schoenthal and Henriette Hamberg. Thus, he was my second cousin, once removed:

Frank Striker to me relationship chart


There were also some letters written to Frank, as he was known after the war.  In this post I will share the letters written to Frank. The next post will contain the letters written by Frank during World War I.  I’ve transcribed all the letters as close to their original spelling and punctuation as I could, but made some changes just for purposes of readability.  No words were deleted or changed; nothing was added, except where I’ve put my own comments in brackets.

What struck me as meaningful about these letters is what they reveal about the close connections among the Schoenthal siblings—the ten children of my great-great-grandparents Levi Schoenthal and Henriette Hamberg.  These three letters date from 1907 to 1939, and each one shows that this large and extended family knew and cared about each other.

The oldest letter was a letter written by Frank’s great-aunt Helen Lilienfeld Schoenthal, the wife of my great-great-uncle, Henry Schoenthal.  Helen wrote this letter from Washington, Pennsylvania in 1907, to Frank, grandson of her sister-in-law Hannah Schoenthal.

Letter from Helen Lilienfeld Schoenthal dated December 12, 1907 from Washington, PA


My dear Francis,

Years roll by, and children grow up to man and womenhood before we know it. And so it is with you my dear boy.  I can hardly realize that you have reached your 14th birthday, and it seems to me only a little while that dear Hilda was our representative at your Bris mihle.  With a hearty birthday kiss accompanied by the best wishes I send you many congratulations.  May our heavenly Father always protect and bless you, so that with every birthday your young life may be brighter and happier.  May the best of health and a long life free of care and worry be yours that your dear parents will have a great deal of pleasure on you.  Again I send you a little gift which help a little to swell your Bank account and which I hope will bring you the best luck in business.

Wishing you a very happy birthday with lots of fun.  I am


Your affectionate Aunt Helen

Uncle Henry, Hilda and Therese send their congratulations and love to everybody.

There is also a message written by Helen in German along the margin that I could not read, but with the help of my friend Matthias Steinke in transcribing and translating the old German script, I now know what it says:

My dear all! I am sending you this time only the heartiest greetings and kisses because my eyes close already automatically, because this evening I wrote already a couple of letters. In Love, your aunt, Helen 

Isn’t it interesting that in 1907 after being in the US for 35 years and clearly fluent in English,  Helen reverted to German (and German script) to write to Frank’s parents, Gustav and Sarah Stern Oestreicher? Both Sarah and Gustav were native German speakers, but both also had been in the US for a very long time. I wonder if Frank could read German or was as puzzled as I was by the German script scrawled on the margin of his birthday letter.

Aunt Helen--maybe Lilienfeld Schoenthal

The second letter was written a little over ten years later in July, 1918 when Frank had joined the army, but before he was shipped overseas.  It is also from his great-aunt Helen, with a short addendum by his great-uncle Henry Schoenthal.

Once again, it is evident that Helen and Henry were closely connected to Frank, a child of their niece Sarah Stern, grandson of Henry’s sister Hannah.  I was touched by how much affection there was for this young man, their great-grandnephew.  The letter is also interesting because it talks about Henry and Helen’s own children, their daughter Hilda, their son Lee (born Lionel) and his wife Irma, and Henry and Helen’s granddaughter Florence, who was only thirteen when this letter was written.  Helen did not use any paragraph breaks, but I’ve added some to make the text more easily read.

Letter from Helen Lilienfeld Schoenthal and Henry Schoenthal dated July 30 1918 written from NYC

IMG_1816 IMG_1817 IMG_1818 IMG_1819



My dear Francis,

I was just thinking to write to your dear parents and ask for your address, when we were agreeably surprised on last Sunday, when your dear brother Sidney came to see us, stayed for supper and until late in the evening.  And so we are able to write to you, as Sidney was glad to give us your ad: for every soldier likes to get letters from some one, and if it is not from a sweetheart, this letter comes from your old Uncle and Aunt, who always loved you. 

I suppose your ears were ringing last Sunday, for Sidney and we talked about you a great deal, and we were glad to hear that you liked soldiers life and also the camp.  Are any boys with you from Pittsburg who you know? And how is the weather in your section?

We have terrible hot spell here since over a week, and I feel the heat very much.  But I am so thankful that we live on such nice open place near the Hudson and get all the fresh air that is going.  There is a good deal of suffering on the East side I know. 

Uncle and I are alone since the 19th of July. Irma & Lee went to the Adirondex Mountains to stay two weeks, as Lee had not been feeling well and needed a rest badly.  They choose this place so that they could be near Florence who is at a girls camp named camp Woodmere.  It is owned by Misses Goldsmith and Kuhn from Philadelphia.  They have 54 girls there and it an ideal place.  Florence is crazy about and Irma & Lee are also very much taken with the place and how beautiful it is managed.  They have all sorts of sports there.  Florence is a good swimmer and also can now [?] and take long hikes. 

We expect Irma and Lee back next Saturday and the following Saturday Hilda will arrive here and spend her vacation with us. I am looking forward to her coming with great joy, and we will try and make her stay very pleasant.  She can take many nice boat trips which she likes so much.  Sidney will come up again next week when Irma & Lee is here. 

I am making a nice lunch cloth for Helen’s engagement present, but I am taking my time making it as I have to be very careful with my eyes. [I assume Helen was Frank’s sister Helen, who married in 1920.] We also had a long letter from dear Meyer [their younger son] last week. 

Now dear Francis, be bright and cheerful and take good care of yourself.  Our good God will be with you wherever you are, and He will bring peace to every heart and all the countrys before long. 

With loads of love and a hearty and write soon to your affectionate Aunt Helen.

 My dear Francis

Your aunt has left me a little space and I gladly add a few words to tell you that we often think and speak of you.  I have no doubt that you like the life in the camp, as most of the boys do and that you will make such a fine soldier that all your friends will be proud of you.  Should the time come when you have to be on your way for “Over There” we may have a chance to bid you God’s speed in person. God be with you and bless you.

Affectionately yours,

Uncle Henry

I read this letter as an attempt by his aunt and uncle to give him their blessing before he went off to war without making him too nervous about what he was about to face.  Frank’s own letters, as we will see, reflect a similar impulse, only he is reassuring those at home that he is and will be okay.

The last letter for this post was written many years later by Frank’s father, Gustav Oestreicher.  It was written in 1939 after Gustav and Sarah had moved to California, as had their daughter Helen.  I am not certain whether Frank was living in Minneapolis or just visiting; the letter is addressed to him at a hotel, and from the content of the letter, I can infer that Frank had recently been to Chicago. I assume he was on the road in his capacity as a traveling salesman.

A little background to help identify the people named in the letter:  First, Gustav mentions the Good family.  He must be referring to Edith Stern and Leo Good and their son Bernard; Edith was Sarah Stern Oestreicher’s younger sister, thus Gustav’s sister-in-law.  In 1939, the Good family was living in Chicago.

Gustav then mentions a Lionel and his brothers and sister and another sister Hilda. At first I thought this referred to the children of Henry and Helen Schoenthal, as they had a son named Lionel, a son Meyer, and a daughter Hilda. But after reading through the letter more carefully, I realized that he was referring to Lionel Heymann, the oldest child of Rosalie Schoenthal and Willy Heymann, about whom I wrote here.  Rosalie was the youngest Schoenthal sibling, sister of Hannah Schoenthal, who was Gustave’s mother-in-law. So Rosalie was Sarah Stern’s aunt.

Here’s why I think Gustav is talking about Lionel Heymann, not Lionel Schoenthal. For one thing, Henry and Helen Schoenthal’s son Lionel was called Lee at this point, not Lionel.  And at the time this letter was written, Lionel Heymann (the photographer) was living in Chicago as were his brothers Walter and Max, so if Frank had seen the Good family, he must have been in Chicago. (I am not sure why Gustav writes that he hoped Frank might see Lionel’s “bros.& sister” since there was no sister at that time living in the US, but perhaps he was referring to Max’s wife Frieda.)

Also, Gustav mentions a sister Hilda who was still in Germany. Henry Schoenthal’s daughter Hilda was not living in Germany, but in Washington, DC, in 1939.  But Lionel Heymann had a sister Hilda who was still in Germany in 1939.  I have written about what happened to Hilda Heymann as well as her sister Helene, who married Julius Mosbach and had two daughters, Liesel and Gretel.  All were killed in the Holocaust.  That fact makes Gustav’s comment even more chilling.  I put those comments in bold below.

I do not know who the Fannie mentioned towards the end of the letter could be.

Letter from Gustav Oestreicher to his son Frank [edited for readability only]

IMG_1990 IMG_1992 IMG_1993

September 16, 1939 from Los Angeles

My dear Francis,

Although late, [I] will begin my letter extending to you my best wishes for a healthy, happy and prosperous new year. [Obviously a reference to Rosh Hashanah, given the September date.] You ought to know you enjoy our good wishes at all times so hope you will pardon the expression of it at a rather late date. As usual we were happy to learn the contents of your recent letter.  It pleased us to learn you enjoyed your visit with the Good family as well as that all of them are getting along nicely.  You evidently misinformed them about our anniversary as we rec’d a very nice letter from them congratulating us for our golden wedding anniversary which will not be until next year. [Gustav and Sara were married in 1940.]

We regretted very much you could not see Lionel and his Bros. & Sister again. [You] May be aware dear Mother is very much interested in his family that are still in Germany particular so his Sister Hilda. [We]  presume the anti-semitism in Germany has somewhat diminished since the war as I noticed in the papers they are eager to get the Jewish Doctors, Engineers and other Professional Man back even promising to restore their property.  Conditions regrett to note are not very encouraging for England and France particular so since the uncertain attitude of Russia but let us hope for the best.

You need not fear about me getting into the market further. Am fairly well satisfied with my holdings. Have absolutely no intention to buy anything nor feel inclined at this time to sell any of my stocks with possible exception of Congoleum-Narin and even should I sell that, may apply it to my loan or in other words will not increase my loan if I do not reduce still more.  Have not decided whether or not I will sell same. 

Fannie is at least a weekly visitor by us.  She still has not secured a position but is hopefull some thing will be available before long.  As for ourselves have nothing of interest to offer so will leave it to dear Mother to inform you pertaining herself so will conclude for to day with love and best wishes. 

Your loving Father

As with the earlier letters from Helen Lilienfeld Schoenthal, this letter reveals the close connections among the many Schoenthal siblings and their children.  I’ve often wondered what the family knew about the two siblings who had stayed in Germany: Jakob Schoenthal and Rosalie Schoenthal.  From Gustav’s letter it is apparent that the family was in touch at least to some extent with those family members who had not immigrated.  They knew that the three Heymann brothers were in Chicago, and they knew that some family members were still in Germany.

Gustav’s hope that anti-Semitism was diminishing in Germany once the war started is so terribly painful to read, knowing what was going to happen not only to Hilda, her sister, and her nieces, but to six million other Jews living in Europe.

Realizing how connected the family was to each other as late as 1939 makes me wonder what happened.  Why didn’t my father even know about all his Schoenthal second cousins like Frank and his siblings? Did my grandmother Eva Schoenthal know any of these people? My guess is that because my great-grandparents moved from western Pennsylvania to Denver when my grandmother was just a small child, not even four years old, she did not grow up with the benefit of knowing all those cousins in western Pennsylvania.  Perhaps if she had, I would not have had to search to find my Oestreicher cousins.  Perhaps we would have always known about each other.

Like Manna from Heaven

Last Monday I posted about my third cousin, Betty Oestreicher Jacob, who passed away on July 19, 2016.  Betty and I were related through our mutual great-great-grandparents, Levi Schoenthal and Henriette Hamberg.  Her great-grandmother Hannah Schoenthal and my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal were sister and brother.  Betty’s grandparents were Sarah Stern, Hannah’s daughter, and Gustav Oestreicher.  Her parents were Sidney (Oestreicher) Striker and Esther Siff

At the time I posted about Betty’s passing, I had only one photograph of Betty and none of her grandparents, parents, or siblings.  But within hours of publishing my post, I received a comment on the blog and then emails from Betty’s nephew, Steve, the son of her brother Gerald.  And Steve generously shared with me numerous photos of all those people and then some. Now I can place faces to the names of the people I have researched and written about.  And what gorgeous photos these are.

In this post, I will share some photographs of Sarah Stern and Gustav Oestreicher and their three children, Sidney, Frank, and Helen.  In a later post, I will share the photos of Sidney’s children, Gerald, Betty, and Elaine.  All are courtesy of Steve Striker, who so generously spent his time scanning and emailing these to me and answering my many questions.

First, here are some photographs of Sarah Stern Oestreicher, my grandmother Eva Schoenthal’s first cousin.  I’ve written about Sarah’s life here.

Sarah Stern as a child edited

Sarah Stern as a young child in Germany, probably before her mother married Solomon Stern in 1874. Sarah was born in 1865, so this picture was probably taken between 1870 and 1872.

The photograph below of Sarah was taken in Pittsburgh.  She emigrated to the US by herself around 1884 when she was nineteen years old.

Sarah Stern

Sarah Stern

I assume the photograph below was taken sometime later than the one above, but I am not sure. Does Sarah look older or younger in this photograph? The hairstyle in the one above seems more “contemporary,” but Sarah’s face seems softer and somewhat younger than in the one immediately below.

Sarah Stern Oestreicher

Sarah Stern Oestreicher


A while back I had posted the next photograph, which I’d received from my cousin Maxine Stein, and she and I had wondered whether the woman on the left was Sarah Stern, her grandmother’s sister.  Now I am quite certain that it is in fact Sarah.  What do you think? Is the woman on the far left of the photograph the same woman as the one in the photo directly above?


Jennie Stern Arnold, center, and perhaps Sarah Stern Ostreicher on the right and Edith Stern Good on the right

Jennie Stern Arnold, center, and perhaps Sarah Stern Ostreicher on the left and Edith Stern Good on the right

Sarah married Gustav Oestreicher, the man she met while he was staying at her mother’s boarding house in Pittsburgh in about 1890. Gustav, an immigrant from Austria, was working as an artist and photographer in 1900.

Gustav Oestreicher

Gustav Oestreicher

What a dashing man he was!

Here are Sarah and Gustav’s three children, Sidney (1891), Francis (Frank) (1893), and Helen (1895).  You can see that the children inherited their father’s piercing light-colored eyes.  I would guess that these were taken in the late 1890s, perhaps 1898 or 1899, from the ages of the children.  They were also probably taken at the same time as the photos above of Gustav and Sarah, as all five photos were mounted together in a frame.  Perhaps Gustav himself took these photos.

Sidney Oestreicher

Sidney Oestreicher

Frank Oestreicher as a boy

Helen Oestreicher

This photo of Gustav and Sarah was taken in 1915, when their children were already grown.  By this time Gustav was no longer working as an artist, but was a merchant in Pittsburgh.
Gustav and Sarah Stern Oestreicher

Here is a photograph of the Oestreicher store in Pittsburgh:

Oestreicher store

Here’s a photo of Gustav and Sarah and their three children in about 1910, I’d guess, given the ages of the children. Unfortunately, Sidney’s head was cut off either in the photo itself or in the scan.

Rear: Frank, Helen, Gerald (with head cut off) Front: Gustav and Sarah Oestreicher

Rear: Frank, Helen, Sidney (with head cut off)
Front: Gustav and Sarah Oestreicher

Sidney Oestreicher (later Striker) married Esther Siff on November 16, 1915, in Chicago. Sidney was working as a traveling salesman, and as his daughter Betty told me, he met Esther at a dance in Chicago while there on business.  Esther’s father was also a traveling salesman. (I have more pictures of Sidney and Esther, but will share them in my next post.)

Sidney and Esther 1915

The second son, Francis, better known as Frank, served his country in World War I. (Sidney was exempt as he had a wife and young child.)  The postcard below shows Frank’s dates of service:

Frank postcard with military service dates

He was gone for just over a year—from June 25, 1918, when he left for camp, until July 17, 1919, when he arrived home.  He had gone overseas on September 24, 1918.  As I wrote about here, Frank served in the Meuse Argonne Offensive, one of the most important if not the most important battle in World War I. He was a member of Company C of the 301 Water Tank Train in the American Expeditionary Forces.

According to Richard Rubin’s book, The Last of the Doughboys:The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013), p.220, a water tank train was actually a caravan of white trucks used to carry water to the front.  According to his honorable discharge papers, Frank served as a private, which Rubin’s book suggests meant he was likely an assistant driver of one of the trucks.

I found this photograph online depicting Company C of the 301 Water Tank Train.  I wonder if Frank is in the photograph:

Company C, 301 Water Tank Train, H. E. Edwards, Capt. M. J. C. U. S. A., Arthur Armstrong Paler papers, Box 1, World War I Photographs

Company C, 301 Water Tank Train,
H. E. Edwards, Capt. M. J. C. U. S. A., Arthur
Armstrong Paler papers, Box 1, World War I

Francis Oestreicher (Frank Striker) discharge papers

Francis Oestreicher (Frank Striker) discharge papers

As you can see below, he was awarded a Victory medal for his service. (Steve has also sent me some of the letters Frank wrote home during World War I; I will post those separately once I have a chance to review and transcribe them.)

Frank Striker WW1

Francis Oestreicher, later known as Frank Striker

Frank Striker WW1 medal

Frank Striker’s Victory Medal for service in World War I

Gustav and Sarah’s third child was their daughter Helen. Here she is in 1917 when she was 22 years old.

Helen Oestreicher 1917

Helen Oestreicher 1917

As I wrote earlier, Helen married Robert Steel Kann in 1920, but he died a year later at age 26.  Sometime before 1929, she married Aaron Mitchell Siegel, known as Mickie, and they had a daughter Betty.

Helen Oestreicher Kann Siegel and her family

Helen Oestreicher Kann Siegel and her family

I was tickled to see this item in Steve’s collection:

invitation to Henry Schoenthal 50th anniv party

As you can see, it is an invitation to the 50th wedding anniversary celebration in 1922 for Henry Schoenthal and Helen Lilienfeld, about whom I’ve written extensively.  Henry Schoenthal, my great-great-uncle, was Sarah Stern Oestreicher’s uncle, brother of her mother Hannah Schoenthal Stern.

Steve sent me this photo labeled Aunt Helen by his uncle Frank, and I wonder whether this is Helen Lilienfeld Schoenthal, who would have been Frank’s great-aunt.  Frank received a long letter from his great-aunt Helen and great-uncle Henry while he was serving in Europe; the tone and content of that letter suggest that Helen and Henry Schoenthal had a very close relationship with the Oestreicher family. (I will post the letter in a separate post.)

Aunt Helen--maybe Lilienfeld Schoenthal

Frank returned to Pittsburgh after the war and worked as a salesman in the family dry goods store. After the family store went bankrupt in 1933, the Oestreicher family began its migration west to California. Although neither Steve nor his cousin Ron was sure of who first went to California or why, the 1940 census indicates that by 1935 at least Helen and her family and Gustav and Sarah had settled there.  I was not able to locate Frank on the 1930 or the 1940 census,nor do I have any address for him between 1920 and 1942, but his World War II draft registration indicates that by then he was definitely living in California along with his parents and his sister Helen.  Sidney and his family did not move west until the 1940s.

Here is a photograph of the Oestreicher family in Los Angeles in 1936.

Oestreicher family edited 1936

I found this letter written by Sarah Stern Oestreicher to her son Frank in 1933 to be very touching in its religious tone and its affection for her son.  Perhaps it was written around the time that family members were planning to move to California.  From the text of the letter, it appears that Frank had just visited, perhaps before he was leaving to move out west or his parents were.



Letter from Sarah Stern Oestreicher to her son Frank, dated January 11, 1933

My dear Francis!

Always remember that The present is under God’s guidance, the future in His keeping. God is guiding, directing, controlling and suplying His children with all good.  His Love and [?] is with you always. Thanking you for all your kindness and the pleasure of having you with us will be the the most pleasant memmories to us.

With my love I remain your devoted Mother. January 11—1933

Here is a photo of Frank in 1940.

Frank Striker 3

One of Steve’s favorite stories about Frank is that he offered to take photographs at Steve’s bar mitzvah, only to discover there was no film left in the camera.  There is only this one photo taken by Frank that day.


Although Steve has many photographs with Frank with women throughout the years, Frank never married. He died in Los Angeles on April 23, 1990, at the age of 96.  His sister Helen died in 1989 when she was 94.

I am so grateful to my cousin Steve for sharing these amazing photographs with me and allowing me to post them on my blog. There is just nothing better than a photograph to help bring to life the people whose lives I’ve researched.

More photos and stories about the Oestreicher family in my next post.