(Re)-introducing the Goldfarbs

Although I wrote a great deal several years ago about how I discovered my great-grandmother’s sister Sarah Brod Goldfarb, and although I told much of their story, I told it in piecemeal as I was trying to put together the pieces of a mystery. How was Sarah Goldfarb related to me? I solved that mystery and know now that she was my great-grandmother Bessie Brod Brotman’s sister, but I never fully told the stories of those Goldfarb cousins.

Now that I have discovered through DNA testing several more of my Goldfarb cousins, confirming by science that my research was correct, I am returning to Sarah Brod and Sam Goldfarb and their children to tell the fuller story of their lives.

What do I know about the life of my great-grandmother’s sister Sarah Brod Goldfarb before she came to the US? Not very much. Because I have no European records for Sarah Brod and Sam Goldfarb, I need to rely on information from US records to tell the little I can report about their lives before arriving in the US.

According to the 1900 US census, Sam  (going by Solomon at that time) was born in April 1860, and Sarah was born in May 1866. They were thus reported as being forty and thirty-six at that time. The census indicated both were born in “Austria,” but in fact they were born in or near Tarnobrzeg in what is today Poland in what was then part of the Austria-Hungary Empire.1 That is the same town where my great-grandparents Joseph and Bessie (Brod) Brotman lived.

But Sam and Sarah’s ages on the 1900 census appear to be debatable. Sam’s death certificate says he was born on August 2, 1856,2 not in 1860. In 1910, he reported his age as 56, meaning he was born in 1864.3 In 1920, he said he was 64, giving him a birth year of 1856, same as that on his death certificate.4

Sarah’s age also jumps around, though not as wildly as Sam’s. In 1910, she is reported as 45, meaning she was born in 1865.5 In 1920, she is listed as 54, meaning she was born in 1866,6 but in 1930 her age is given as 60, meaning she was born in 1870.7 And her 1937 death certificate indicates she was 70 when she died, meaning a birth year of 1867.8 Overall, Sarah seems likely to have been born in 1866 or so, and Sam was likely born in about 1860 or maybe earlier.

One date that is consistent across several census records is the date of Sam’s immigration—1892. He reported that year not only on the 1900 census, but also on the 1910 and 1920 census records.9 Yet I could not find him on any ship manifest for 1892 or even within several years of 1892. There were some names that were close, and I found one Samuel Goldfarb who arrived in Philadelphia in 1891, born 1865, but I’ve no way to verify if that was the right person, though it seems possible.10

I did, however, find Sarah Brod Goldfarb’s ship manifest. She arrived with four of her children—Joel (later Julius), Moische (later Morris), Gitel (later Gussie), and Pesie (later Bessie)—on July 13, 1896, in Philadelphia. She reported her age as 32 (meaning born in 1864). Joel was 10, Moische 8, Gitel was 4, and Pesie was 2. Can you imagine traveling with four young children for weeks on a ship overseas?

The manifest indicated that they were headed to Philadelphia, that their prior residence was Grembow, “Austria” (now Poland), and that her husband Schmuel Goldfarb had paid their fare.

Sarah Goldfarb and her four children, The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Series Title: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Record Group Number: 85; Series: T840, Roll Number: 25, Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists, 1800-1962

Thank you to Frank of Tracing the Tribe for locating this record showing that Sam (Solomon) Goldfarb purchased the tickets in Philadelphia for Sarah and his four children to sail to the US from Grembow via Tarnobrzeg to Philadelphia on the Am(erican?) Line for $75. Note also that Sam was living in Alliance, New Jersey. More on that in my next post.

Steamship ticket registry, Rosenbaum Volume 04, Date 1895, Steamship Agent
M. Rosenbaum and Co., Volume 4, Order Number Range, 1-32451, Number of Pages
171, Alphabetical index of passenger names at beginning of volume; Page 1-135, order #1-1736. Page 136, order #17856-17860, 32439. Page 137, order #18557, 32445-32451. Pages 138-141 are blank. Page 142, order #17321-17322, Manuscripts, Ledgers (account books),  Repository:
Temple University Libraries, Special Collections Research Center, Repository Collection
HIAS Pennsylvania, Collection ID, SCRC 94, Digital Collection, Steamship Ticket Purchase Ledgers, Digital Publisher Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Libraries, found at https://digital.library.temple.edu/digital/collection/p16002coll16/id/5045/rec/4

The manifest indicated that Sarah and her children were detained. There are no records to explain why they were detained, but members of Tracing the Tribe explained that it likely only meant that they were being held until someone, presumably Sam, met them at the port of entry in Philadelphia.

Thus, we know that by July, 1896, my great-grandmother’s sister Sarah and four of her children had arrived in America. In the posts to follow I will talk about their lives in the US.


  1. Solomon Goldfarb and family, Year: 1900; Census Place: Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey; Page: 17; Enumeration District: 0179; FHL microfilm: 1240993, Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census. According to his death certificate, Sam was born in Tarnobrzeg in what is now Poland, and Sarah was born in Dzikow (now part of Tarnobrzeg), according to family records provided by my cousin Sue Wartur. New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949, database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2W5B-2M4 : 3 June 2020), Samuel Goldfarb, 1926. 
  2. New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949″, database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2W5B-2M4 : 3 June 2020), Samuel Goldfarb, 1926. 
  3. Samuel Goldfarb and family, Year: 1910; Census Place: Manhattan Ward 11, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1012; Page: 17A; Enumeration District: 0259; FHL microfilm: 1375025, Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census 
  4. Sam Goldfarb and family, Year: 1920; Census Place: Brooklyn Assembly District 2, Kings, New York; Roll: T625_1146; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 82, Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  5. See note 3. 
  6. See note 4. 
  7. Sarah Goldfarb, Year: 1930; Census Place: Brooklyn, Kings, New York; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 1220; FHL microfilm: 2341228, Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 
  8. New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949″, database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2WT7-T1D : 3 June 2020), Sarah Goldfarb, 1937. 
  9. See notes 1, 3, and 4 above. 
  10. Samuel Goldfarb, age 26, Place: New York, New York; Year: 1891; Page Number: 250, Ancestry.com. U.S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s 

Who was Tillie Hecht? Another Brotman Mystery

If you had asked me three years ago when I started this blog whether I’d still be finding new Brotman relatives three years later, I’d have laughed. I had so little information about even my great-grandparents.  And yet here I am in 2016 having found a whole new Brotman/Brod family of relatives based on a name in a baby book from 1917.

The discovery of Julius Goldfarb and his family, in particular his mother Sarah Brotman/Brod, was a true blessing.  Now I have corroboration of where my great-grandparents lived in Poland, and I have a better picture of my grandmother’s extended family and the people who were part of her life when she was a child and an adult.  I also have several newly discovered living cousins who have already enriched my life.

Even more amazing to me is the most recent discovery of Taube Hecht because that discovery was even more far-fetched.  Remember that in my aunt’s baby book the last name on the list of visitors was Mrs. Taube Hecht.  At first I’d had no idea who she was.

Aunt Elaine baby book 5

Then while researching Julius Goldfarb to figure out how he was related to my grandmother, I obtained a copy of his marriage certificate.  Julius Goldfarb had married Ida Hecht, and on their marriage certificate it said her father was Jacob Hecht and her mother’s name was originally Taube Brotman, now Taube Hecht.  I had wondered whether Ida’s mother was also somehow related to my grandmother’s family.


In researching Taube Brotman Hecht, I learned that she was also known as Tillie and that she’d had eight children with Jacob Hecht: Harry (1892); Ida (1894); David (1896); Gussie (1899?); Etta (1900); Sadie (1903); Rose (1906); and Eva (1908).

On the 1915 New York State census, the Hecht family was living in the same building on Avenue C in New York City as Sam and Sarah Brotman/Brod Goldfarb and as Hyman Brotman, my great-uncle, and his family.  It certainly seemed possible that Taube was related to my Brotman great-grandparents and to Sarah Brotman/Brod Goldfarb.


1915 NYS census with the Hecht family, the Goldfarb family, and the family of Hyman Brotman

So I jumped for joy—perhaps another relative, another set of clues about my Brod/Brotman relatives.  And then I jumped back into the research, hoping that Taube Brotman Hecht would provide more clues about my elusive relatives from Galicia.  I figured that with eight Hecht children to research, I would undoubtedly find more clues from birth, marriage, and death certificates.  But alas, the Hechts proved to be far more elusive than I’d hoped.

I started by searching for birth certificates.  Since I knew from the Goldfarb family records provided to me by my cousin Sue that Ida Hecht Goldfarb was born in New York City on October 19, 1894, and that the Hechts were still living in New York City in 1910 when the US census was taken, it seemed quite likely that all eight children, born between 1892 and 1908, were also born in New York City.  I searched the New York City birth records databases on Ancestry, FamilySearch, and Steve Morse’s website, and I could only find birth records listed for two of those eight children: the firstborn, Harry, and the last born child, Eva.  The other six children are just not there at all, no matter how I spelled their names, no matter how many wildcards I used.  Jacob and Taube must not have filed a birth certificate at all for those other six children.

In addition, when I asked my regular researcher at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City to find Harry’s birth certificate, she was unable to do so because it was a certificate marked “S,” meaning a later filed certificate.  Those are not on the microfilms at the FHL.  Instead I had to ask someone in NYC to go to the archives there to dig up Harry’s birth certificate.  It hadn’t been filed until 1906 when Harry was already fourteen years old.  I wonder what would have prompted the family to file it at that point in time.


But the certificate is quite interesting.  It shows that in 1892, Jacob and Taube (“Toba” here, the Hebrew name) were living at 33 East Houston Street in New York City, that they were both born in Austria, and that Jacob (like Sam Goldfarb) was a cloaks operator.  Jacob was 25 when Harry was born, Toba only twenty, meaning they were born in about 1867 and 1872, respectively.

And most importantly, Harry’s birth certificate records Toba’s name before marriage as Toba Brotman.  Brotman! I was right that Ida’s marriage certificate said “Brotman,” not Braitmer as it had been indexed.  And, of course, this meant that there was a real chance that Toba, like Sarah Goldfarb, was related to my great-grandparents in some way.

And then I looked at the certificate I’d ordered for Eva Hecht.


She was born on January 30, 1908, at 38 Montrose Avenue in Brooklyn.  On the 1910 census, the Hecht family was living at 48 Boerum Street in Brooklyn, which is right around the block from 38 Montrose Avenue.  So far, so good.  But then I looked at her parents’ names: JOSEPH Hecht and Tillie ROTHMAN.  Was this in fact the same Eva Hecht? The father was 40 years old, meaning born in about 1868; the mother was 37, so born about 1871. Those years were very close to the ages Jacob and Taube would have been in 1908.  Both parents were born in Austria, as were Jacob and Taube.  And the father “Joseph” was a tailor, as was Jacob Hecht.

Given all these similarities and the fact that by that time Taube was using Tillie on the census records, I have to believe that this is in fact a birth certificate for Eva Hecht, daughter of Jacob and Tillie/Taube/Toba Hecht.  And if it has Jacob’s first name wrong, it could very well have Tillie’s birth surname wrong.  Rothman does sound like Brotman, and many family members spelled Brotman as Brothman.  Perhaps the person filing the birth certificate, Mrs. Ida Goldman, just had bad hearing or the family’s accents were hard for her to understand.

So I had one new solid piece of evidence that Taube Hecht was born Toba Brotman and one rather shaky document that was at least somewhat supportive of that assumption. And, of course, I had Ida’s marriage certificate as well.  What else might I find? If there were no more birth certificates, could I find other marriage certificates or death certificates? Would the census records provide any more clues? So I decided to start from the beginning and search for records about the Hecht family.

The earliest census on which they appear is the 1900 US census.  The family was then living at 64 Broome Street on the Lower East Side.  The information for Jacob Hecht (spelled “Hect” here and indexed by Ancestry as “Hast,” making this a tough one to find) has some inconsistencies.   His birth year is 1870, so a year or two later than the other records indicated.  His birth place is Russia, not Austria.  But he is working as a tailor.  His wife’s name is listed as Mitilda, which certainly could be Tillie, and she also is listed as born in Russia, not Austria.  Her birth year is given as 1875, also several years later than her children’s birth records indicated.

Hecht family 1900 US census Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1094; Page: 14A; Enumeration District: 0290; FHL microfilm: 1241094

Hecht family 1900 US census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1094; Page: 14A; Enumeration District: 0290; FHL microfilm: 1241094

The names of their children also have some consistencies, some differences.  The first born, Harry, was born in 1892; that was consistent with Harry Hecht’s birth record.  The second child, however, is listed as Annie, born in 1893.  That should be Ida, the second child, who, according to the Goldfarb family papers, was born in 1894.  The third child, David, was reported to be four years old (the birth year is not very legible); that is consistent with David’s name and birth year on later census reports.  The fourth child is Yetta, who is listed on later reports as Etta; she is reported to have been seven months old when the census was enumerated in June 9, 1900, meaning she would have been born in October, 1899, not October 1889, as the census record has it recorded.  A birth year of 1899 is consistent with later census reports for Etta.

What this census record also revealed was that Jacob and “Miltilda” had been married for nine years, or in 1891.  It also said that Jacob had been in the US for only twelve years and arrived in 1887 (though it looks like 1777).  “Mitilda” had arrived earlier and had been in the country for fifteen years or since 1885 (though it looks like 1875 was written over it).  With this additional information, I searched for both a marriage record for Jacob and Taube/Tillie/Mitilda and for immigration records.

I had no luck finding a marriage record in the New York City marriage databases on Ancestry, FamilySearch, or Steve Morse’s website.  I guess it’s not surprising that a couple who failed to file birth certificates for their children also had failed to file a marriage record.  I am still hoping that some record will show up.

As for immigration records, I am fairly certain that I found the ship manifests for Taube.  I found two manifests, first a German manifest for the ship Moravia, dated July 9, 1887, sailing to New York from Hamburg.  On that manifest is a passenger named Taube Brodt, an eleven year old girl, and her name is bracketed with two other passengers, Eva Singer, a 38 year old woman, and an eleven month old baby named Ascher Singer, presumably the son of Eva.  And all three are listed as last residing in “Tarnobchek.”  That is, Tarnobrzeg—the home of my great-grandparents Joseph Brotman and Bessie Brod.

Taube Brodt ship manifest 1887 Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Microfilm No.: K_1736 Description Month : Direkt Band 059 (3 Jul 1887 - 29 Dez 1887)

Taube Brodt ship manifest 1887
Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Microfilm No.: K_1736
Month : Direkt Band 059 (3 Jul 1887 – 29 Dez 1887)

The second manifest is also for the Moravia, but is the American manifest, written in English, and dated July 21, 1887, the arrival date in New York; it also lists Taube Brodt and the Singers as coming from Tarnobchek.

Taube Brodt 1887 NY ship manifest Year: 1887; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 509; Line: 1; List Number: 911

Taube Brodt 1887 NY ship manifest
Year: 1887; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 509; Line: 1; List Number: 911

But who were Eva and Ascher Singer? And why was this eleven year old child traveling with them? My great-grandfather arrived in 1889, my great-grandmother 1891; Sarah Brod/Brotman Goldfarb didn’t arrive until 1896.  So if Taube Brodt was their relative, who was she going to and why was she leaving home at such a young age? And where did Taube Brodt and Eva and Ascher Singer end up after they disembarked in New York City in July 1887?

Although I can find many women named Eva Singer, there is only one born in Austria who arrived in 1887 and who had a son who would have been born in 1886.  But that Eva’s son’s name is Herman, and that Eva was older than the one who sailed on the Moravia with Taube.  Maybe that is the right Eva, and Ascher became Herman.  That Eva’s birth name was Goldman, according to the listings in the SSCAI for two of her children.

And I had little luck finding an Ascher Singer.  The only record I could find that might fit was a marriage record dated 1910 for an Ascher Singer marrying Lena Laufer.  I ordered that marriage record, and it shows that Ascher’s parents were Seide Singer and Taube Druckman.


When I saw the name Taube, I wondered—could Ascher have been Taube Brodt’s baby, not Eva’s? Maybe Taube wasn’t only eleven.  Taube’s age on the census records and her children’s birth certificates suggest she was born in 1871 or 1872, not 1876, as the ship manifest would suggest.  So maybe she was really fifteen, not eleven, when she emigrated.

But that is the only record I can find for Ascher Singer, and there is no way to know for sure whether it is the same person who sailed with Taube on the Moravia in 1887 or whether Taube Druckman was really Taube Brodt.

Plus even if this is the right Eva or the right Ascher, I’ve no idea how they are connected to Taube Brodt or anyone else in my family. And maybe they weren’t.  Maybe Taube just happened to be traveling with them.  But then where was she going and to whom? And was this even the same person who married Jacob Hecht in about 1891? If so, she would have been only 15 in 1891 if she was eleven in 1887.  Maybe Taube Brodt isn’t even Toba/Taube/Tillie Brotman Hecht?

Now what could I do?  Besides pull my hair out.  I kept on looking.

And then the most amazing thing happened. One of my toughest brick walls came tumbling down and when I least expected it.



Walking in the Shadows of My Brotman Great-Grandparents

My third day in Poland was undoubtedly the highlight of the trip for me.  Visiting the town where my great-grandparents lived was the initial motivation for going to Central Europe in the first place.  The stops in Prague, Budapest, and Vienna were the icing on the cake, but the cake was Poland and, more specifically, Tarnobrzeg.  (I finally learned how to pronounce it, thanks to our guide Tomasz: TarNOBjeg.)  I had high and emotional expectations; they were exceeded by the reality.

First, some background.  When I first started doing genealogy research, I had no idea where my maternal grandmother’s family had lived in Europe other than they were Galitzianers—from Galicia.  My mother had no idea what town in Galicia had been their home, and for a long time the only location given on the records I could find was Austria, which made sense since Galicia was part of the Austria-Hungary Empire when the Brotmans lived there.

Then a few pieces came together—first, I obtained my great-uncle Hyman Brotman’s naturalization application giving his home town as Jeekief, which is a decent phonetic spelling of Dzikow, once a separate village but later incorporated into Tarnobrzeg, a much larger town.  Then I found a ship manifest for Yossel Brod, most likely my great-grandfather, from Tarnobchiek, another phonetic spelling, this time of Tarnobrzeg.  The ship manifests for my great-uncles Abraham and David Brotman gave their home town at Grebow, a small village less than ten miles from Tarnobrzeg.  It seemed clear to me that Tarnobrzeg was the area where my Brotman ancestors had lived in Galicia.  And I had to go there.


Hyman Brotman’s Naturalization Application (Click twice to zoom in.)


David and Abe Brodmann on the Portia 1889

David and Abe Brodmann on the Portia 1889


Joseph Brotman ship manifest

Joseph Brotman ship manifest

I had originally hoped that there might be some records left in Tarnobrzeg that had not yet been digitized and put on line by JewishGen, Gesher Galicia, or JRI Poland, but our guide Tomasz warned me that he believed that whatever records still existed had in fact been found already and that we would not find any more in the town.  I adjusted my expectations accordingly, and I decided to enjoy the trip for the experience of being there rather than as a research opportunity.

Tomasz picked us up at our hotel at 9 am that morning, and we got to meet my recently found cousin Phyllis for the first time.  Phyllis and I had connected through DNA testing, which showed us as third cousins and showed her aunt Frieda and my mother as second cousins.  By comparing our family trees we had reached the conclusion that the likely connection was through my great-grandmother Bessie Brot Brotman and her grandmother Sabina Brot, whose father we believe was my great-grandmother’s brother.  Sabina’s home town in Galicia was Radomysl nad Sanem, another town about ten miles from Tarnobrzeg, which we would also visit that day.  The common surname and the proximity of residences seemed to support our hypothesis.  We quickly connected in person, chatting excitedly about our research, our travels, and our hopes for that day.

IMG_2705 cousins

As we drove from Krakow to Tarnobrzeg, Tomasz spoke about the history of Jews in Poland. By the 19th century Jews made up 10% of the population of Poland, and they lived all over the country—in the cities and in small towns and in villages.  The land we drove through was mostly rural even today, and Tomasz said that Jews were often invited by the kings or the aristocracy to live in the towns to support the local economy; Jews had the education and the skills to provide bookkeeping, trade, banking, and other economic necessities to the farmers who lived in these regions.  In Tarnobrzeg it was the Tarnowski family that owned the land and invited the Jews to come live there.


Castle of the Tarnowski family in Tarnobrzeg

Castle of the Tarnowski family in Tarnobrzeg



When I asked him about the level of religious observance of the Jewish residents who lived in places like Tarnobrzeg, Tomasz said that there was a diverse range of religious observance—-from Hasidim to more traditional Orthodox to more liberal Jews and to secular Jews. Other sources point out that Tarnobrzeg was an important Hasidic center with well-regarded Hasidic leaders and rabbis.

Tomasz also spoke about the fact that Tarnobrzeg was one of the leading Jewish population and industrial centers in Galicia outside of Krakow.  The main industry aside from agriculture was the production of sulfur, a product that it still important to the local economy of the region.  Tarnobrzeg is located where two rivers meet—the Vistula (which also runs through Krakow) and the San, and thus was an important trade location.  It also is very close to what was once the border with the Russian Empire, and when Russia obtained that land, families were often separated, some living in Austria-Hungary, some in the Russian Empire.  In the 19th century when my great-grandparents lived there, the population of Tarnobrzeg was more than 75% Jewish.  There were about 2800 Jews living there in the 1880s when my great-grandparents decided to leave.

I asked Tomasz why people like my great-grandparents would ever have left a place like Tarnobrzeg, where Jews were doing well and treated well and were more than a majority of the town’s residents.  He said that in the late 19th century, there was both an economic crisis in Poland and a significant increase in the population. (There was also a great deal of anti-Semitism in Poland, as other sources describe.)  Jews and non-Jews left for greater economic opportunities.  When I pondered how a family would be able to tear themselves away from their home, both emotionally and financially, Tomasz explained that there were emigration agents facilitating these departures.  They would circulate brochures touting the advantages of going to America, and the fact that many others were leaving made it easier for a family like mine to make a similar choice.  I asked how they would actually leave, and Tomasz said there was a train that came to Tarnobrzeg that would take them to one of the port cities, like Gdansk or Hamburg, where they would catch a ship for America.  It would be costly, but the potential benefits made it all seem worth the risk.

Finally we arrived in Tarnobrzeg itself.  It was not exactly what I expected, as it is a large town, not a little shtetl, and it is a thriving town—lots of people, lots of stores, lots of cars.  Not a quiet little romantic village out of Fiddler on the Roof at all.  There was even a Lego store right on the main square.


Lego store on main square in Tarnobrzeg

Lego store on main square in Tarnobrzeg

But once we got out of the car and started to walk around, I felt some almost eerie connection—that this was a place where my great-grandparents had walked, had shopped, had worked.  Many of the buildings that surround the square were there back in the 1870s and 1880s when my great-grandparents and their children lived there.  Maybe one of those buildings contained a shop where my great-grandfather worked (on that ship manifest his occupation was given as “kaufmann” or merchant).  Maybe my family lived in one of them.


Main square in Tarnobrzeg

Main square in Tarnobrzeg


IMG_2657 old buildings on square in Tarnobrzeg


I stood in that square, imagining it 150 years ago as a place filled with families like my own, Jewish families of all sorts, living in a safe and comfortable way in a safe and comfortable place. I could imagine my great-uncle Chaim who became Hyman and then Herman and my great-aunt Tema who became Tillie, just small children, holding their mother’s hands as they walked through that square.   I could block out the Lego store and the ugly modern supermarket and see just the old buildings as they might have looked in the 1880s.


IMG_2663 Tomasz our guide in Tarnobrzeg

Our guide Tomasz Cebulski leading the way in Tarnobrzeg


IMG_2658 square in Tarnobrzeg IMG_2662 street in Tarnobrzeg IMG_2664 my ancestral town

Tomasz took us to the building which was once the synagogue. According to the official Tarnobrzeg website, it was heavily damaged by the Nazis and used to store grain.  It was renovated in the 1970s into a public library, and there is almost no sign today that it was ever a synagogue building.  The windows were changed, and inside where there was once a prayer hall and aron kodesh are now stacks filled with books.  When we asked in the library whether they had any photographs or books or records about the synagogue or the former Jewish community, all they could find was one copy of a brochure that had only been created a few years ago.

IMG_2659 where the prayer hall stood, now a library

Space where the prayer hall once was in the Tarnobrzeg synagogue

IMG_2661 former synagogue building

Exterior of building where the synagogue entrance had been


Tarnobrzeg Synagogue

Tarnobrzeg Synagogue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here are some photographs of the building when it was a synagogue:

The only visible sign that the building was built as a synagogue is a small plaque on the exterior of the building in a location that almost no one could ever see or read if they were not looking for it.  We had to walk around the building through the lawn to get this photograph. The only small comfort was that the building was being used for books and education, not for commerce or worse.

IMG_2660 marker on library marking it as location of synagogue

Memorial plaque on the former synagogue building


Tomasz also pointed out that the first Jewish cemetery was located just a block away, but was now a parking lot for the shopping area that now exists there.  According to this video prepared in 2008, the Nazis destroyed the synagogue and used the headstones to pave a road. (I suggest downloading the hi-def version and watching it; it will give you a better sense of the town and its history.)

We then drove to the other Jewish cemetery in Tarnobrzeg, which was opened in the 20th century and  where there is still an ohel with a Star of David.  Sadly, the cemetery is not maintained at all, and there are just a handful of headstones still standing, most covered with weeds and snails.  I took photographs of as many as I could and now hope to get these translated.

IMG_2665 ohel for cemetery Tarnobrzeg IMG_2666 cemetery in Tarnobrzeg cemetery IMG_2668 IMG_2669 IMG_2670 IMG_2671 IMG_2672 IMG_2673 birdhouse in the cemetery IMG_2674 cemetery

After visiting the cemetery, we went to a small museum Tomasz knew about, where we met with an incredibly helpful woman who did not speak any English, but when Tomasz explained why I was there, she was very excited and anxious to help.  She provided us with some books with drawings and  photographs of Tarnobrzeg before World War II.

IMG_2677 images from books at the museum in Dzykow IMG_2678 IMG_2679 IMG_2685

The woman at the museum also explained where Dzikow had been located before it merged into Tarnobrzeg, so we drove there and saw some very old homes, built almost like log cabins.  I was enchanted and wondered whether one of these buildings had once been my great-grandparents’ home.

IMG_2690 IMG_2692 IMG_2693

As we left Tarnobrzeg, Tomasz told us what had happened to the Jews there during the Holocaust. Many were shot and killed just outside of town and buried there.  Many others were taken to the San River and shot, their bodies falling into the water.  The rest were eventually transported to a concentration camp or a death camp.  If any survived, they have not returned to Tarnobrzeg.  There are no known Jews living there today.  What would my great-grandparents, both of whom died before the Holocaust, have thought if they returned to their hometown today? It would no longer be the place they knew in almost any way, except for the old buildings that survive.

Nazis rounding up the Jews of Tarnobrzeg 1939

Nazis rounding up the Jews of Tarnobrzeg near the San River 1939


I could have stayed and wandered around Tarnobrzeg for hours, but we had two more stops to make: Radomysl nad Sanem and Grebow.  We headed first to Radomysl nad Sanem, where Phyllis’ grandmother had lived. It is on the other side of the San River and is a very small little town with a small town square and municipal building and perhaps fifty homes, if that many.  Its Jewish population before World War II was less than 400 people, and the village was mostly Jewish.  We drove from one end of the town to the other, and it took only a few minutes.  Even more so than in Tarnobrzeg, there is no sign that there were ever Jews there.  Phyllis was able to obtain some brochures about the town from the library there, but nothing that discussed the former Jewish community.

IMG_2698 Radomysl nad Sanem where Sabina Brot lived IMG_2699 IMG_2700 IMG_2701 IMG_2703


Our last stop was a quick one in Grebow, a town even smaller than Radomysl nad Sanem where there was not even a library we could visit.  I don’t know whether this was where Abraham and David Brotman were born or simply where they were living at the time they emigrated.  Perhaps they had moved here for greater opportunities than they could find in Tarnobrzeg.  I don’t know.  It’s such a tiny village that all I can do is imagine them living there and then wonder what they must have thought when they landed in a place as large and crowded and dirty as late 19th century New York City’s Lower East Side.

IMG_2706 tiny town of Grebow IMG_2707 Grebow IMG_2709 public building Grebow IMG_2710


We then headed back to Krakow.  I was exhausted and emotionally drained and filled with thoughts and feelings.  We were taking another night train that night, this time to Budapest.  As we ate a quick dinner at our hotel, I found myself overwhelmed with emotion in a way that surprised me.  My eyes filled with tears—tears for the people who had been killed, tears for my great-grandparents who had left this country for better things, tears of gratitude that they had done that, and tears of sadness that I was leaving a place that part of me truly felt was my homeland.










Home Sweet Home

We are back from our trip, and I have so much to say that I don’t even know where or how to start.  Traveling to a different place can change your whole view of the world, of your place in the world, and of yourself.  This trip did that in so many different ways.  I have hundreds of photographs to sort and label, a lot of notes to transcribe and ponder, and so many thoughts and memories floating through my head that I need to write them all down before I forget them.  So I can’t just start blogging in detail about the trip right away.  I will certainly report about the parts of the trip that related directly to my own family—the trip to Poland in particular—once I have it all digested.

For now I have these overall thoughts and a few photographs to share.  First, standing in the former Jewish quarters in Prague, Krakow, Budapest, and Vienna, some of which still have several synagogues (a few even still in operation), is a chilling and horrifying experience.  For me, these places that once bustled with Jewish grandparents, mothers, fathers, and children, going to work and going to school and going to shul, were a graphic and vivid reminder of what the world lost in the Holocaust.  Had it not been for the Nazis, these Jewish communities could and likely would still exist, adding to the culture and economy of these places and of the world just as they did for hundreds of years before their Jewish citizens were murdered.

A street in the former Jewish Quarter of Krakow

A street in the former Jewish Quarter of Krakow

Nothing made this more painfully vivid for me than standing in Tarnobrzeg, the town where my Brotman great-grandparents lived, a town that was once 75% Jewish and where not one Jew lives today.  The only signs that there were once Jews there were a small plaque on the library, a building that had once been the synagogue, and a Star of David near the gate to the neglected Jewish cemetery, where only a handful of headstones remain.

gravestone on the ground in the Jewish cemetery in Tarnobrzeg

gravestone on the ground in the Jewish cemetery in Tarnobrzeg

Second, every person, Jewish or not, should visit Terezin and Auschwitz.  I cannot say more.  The places say it all.  You cannot go to these places and not be changed.  No matter what you may have read or seen or heard about the Holocaust, you cannot be prepared for what you experience walking in those places of terror and death.  I have only two photographs of Terezin and no photographs of Auschwitz.  I could not bear to think about taking a photograph while standing where so many were slaughtered.



Third, I had little idea what life was like under Soviet domination in the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary until we met several people who had lived during that era.  We were lucky to have guides in Prague, Poland, and Budapest who had witnessed the changes and were able to describe to us how different life was before and after the Soviets left in the late 1980s, early 1990s.  Today all these places are clearly capitalist, for better in many ways, for worse in others.  Seeing Starbucks and McDonalds and KFC everywhere amidst the old buildings in these gorgeous cities is jolting, but much better than seeing empty store windows and children forced to march at rallies to support the “state.”

Despite all the sadness that we felt as we learned about the past in these places, overall we experienced these cities as places of joyfulness, liveliness, and overall comfort.  Yes, there were beggars and homeless people, especially in Budapest, and I am sure that outside the areas where tourists congregate there is plenty of poverty and misery.  But each of the cities we visited were beautiful places filled with incredible and fascinating architecture, a huge number of cafes and restaurants and bars, museums teeming with people, cobblestone streets crowded with tourists and tour groups, and the sounds of happy, excited people.  There was music everywhere—in the streets, in the churches, and in the concert halls.

Dohany Synagogue in Budapest

Dohany Synagogue in Budapest

We had an incredible time.  Our tears and sadness were well-balanced with times of pure joy—climbing the tower to see all of Prague, clapping to Klezmer music in Krakow, walking along the river in Budapest, and eating unbelievable pastries in Vienna.  We heard music in every city, we stood in awe in Gothic cathedrals, we watched people laughing and drinking and eating in the cafes, and we walked and walked and walked until our feet were numb.  We had an incredible time.

Musikverein in Vienna

Musikverein in Vienna



My Brotmanville Cousins: Searching for Answers

One thing I have been trying to do as part of my preparations for our visit to Tarnobrzeg and the surrounding towns is a last ditch effort to find some other clues as to where my Brotman ancestors lived.  I have gone back through the research I’ve done on my great-grandparents and their Galician born children, Abraham, Max, David, Hyman, and Tillie, and have found no new clues.  Then I realized that now that I have some DNA confirmation that my great-grandfather Joseph was the brother of Moses Brotman of Brotmanville, I needed to go through their records as well to see if I could find some new clues.  I had done an initial search a few years ago, but had not yet gone back and checked it more thoroughly.

Moses Brotman

Moses Brotman courtesy of his granddaughter Elaine

What I already knew was that Moses Brotman had had many children, some born in Europe, some born in the US.  His oldest (known) child was his son Abraham, who was born in Europe.  Abraham Brotman had originally settled in New York City and established a cloak factory there, but was invited by those who created the Alliance Colony in Pittsgrove Township, New Jersey, to start a factory there to employ the residents when the farming season ended.  Eventually, a section of Pittsgrove was named Brotmanville in his honor.[1]

At this point I will not tell the full story of the Brotmanville family in America; that will have to wait. My immediate objective in reviewing my research of the Brotmanville Brotmans was to see if I could find any records that revealed where Moses and his family had lived before arriving in the US.  So I had to focus first on those who had been born in Europe, not those who were born in the US, although that meant also looking for records for the children born here to see if those records revealed the birthplaces of their European born parents

What I knew from the descendants and from my earlier research was that Moses had been married twice and Abraham had been the child of his first marriage.  Although the census records for Abraham are in conflict about his birthdate, the earliest to include his age, the 1900 census, reported his birthdate to be November 1863, long before Moses married Ida, the woman with whom he immigrated to America.

1900 US Census for Abraham Brotman

1900 US Census for Abraham Brotman Year: 1900; Census Place: Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey; Roll: 993; Page: 17A; Enumeration District: 0179; FHL microfilm: 1240993

Looking at the 1900 census report for Abraham, by 1900 he and his wife, Minnie Hollender, had been married for 13 years and had had six children, five of whom were still alive.  All six children were born in the US.  Abraham reported that he had arrived in the US in 1884, three years before marrying Minnie.  Their children as of 1900 were Joseph (10), Samuel (7), Gilbert (6), Nephtaly (later Herman) (4), and Leah (2).  They were living in Pittsgrove, New Jersey, and Abraham was working as a manufacturer.[2]

The 1910 census for Abraham and his family is only somewhat consistent with that of the 1900:  his age is 47, still giving him a birth year of 1863, but now his birthplace is reported as Russia. He and Minnie now reported that they had had eleven children, nine of whom were still alive.  In addition to the five listed above, there were three more daughters and one more son.

Abraham Brotman 1910 US census

Abraham Brotman 1910 US census Year: 1910; Census Place: Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey; Roll: T624_908; Page: 15B; Enumeration District: 0154; FHL microfilm: 1374921

The 1920 census reported one more child and once again had Abraham’s birthplace as Austria.  However, he now claimed to be 48, thus born in 1872, not 1863 as previously reported.  Later records also made him ten years younger than had been reported on the 1900 and 1910 census reports.  Genealogists generally assume that the records closest in time are more likely to be accurate than those later in time (and people are more likely to make themselves younger as they get older), so I am inclined to assume that Abraham was born in 1863.  It also makes more sense that he was 21 when he immigrated, not 11.  But where was he born? Austria? Russia? And in what city or town?

Since both the 1930 and the 1940 census reported his birthplace as Austria, I am inclined to discount the 1910 and assume that the 1900, 1920, 1930 and 1940 census reports indicating his birthplace as Austria are more accurate.  And, of course, “Austria” meant within the Austria-Hungary Empire, just as it did for my great-grandparents and many other immigrants from that region, including Galicia.

But then where more specifically was he born? Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to find a death record for Abraham, and the death records I have for his children are no more specific.  For example, the death certificate for his oldest child, Joseph, only reports that his father’s birthplace was Austria.

Joseph Brotman death certificate Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Joseph Brotman death certificate
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Samuel’s death certificate says that his father’s birthplace was Russia.

Samuel Brotman death certificate Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Samuel Brotman death certificate
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Abraham’s youngest child, Aaron, who was born in 1911, died as a young man in 1939 from heart disease.  His death certificate indicates that his father was born in Austria.

Aaron Brotman death certificate Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Aaron Brotman death certificate
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Those were the only sources I have located so far that reflect anything about where Abraham was born.  I also had no records of what his mother’s name was nor did I have any indication of full siblings for Abraham, only the half-siblings born through his father’s second marriage.  So I then turned to Abraham’s father Moses and his children to see if there was more to learn through their records.

The earliest record I had found for Moses was his petition for naturalization, filed in 1894.  It had his birthplace as Russia.  It also said that he had arrived in the US in 1885.

Moses Brotman petition for Naturalization

Moses Brotman Petition for Naturalization “New Jersey, County Naturalization Records, 1749-1986,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-29863-26750-98?cc=2057433&wc=M73R-4NL:351145001,351187001 : accessed 14 May 2015), Salem > Petitions for naturalization 1888-1895 > image 95 of 96; county courthouses, New Jersey.

The 1900 US census reported his birthplace and date as Austria in November 1844.  It also reported that he had immigrated in 1886 and that he was a farmer.  Like his son Abraham, he was living in Pittsgrove, New Jersey with his wife “Chay”  (probably Chaya), to whom he’d been married for sixteen years.  (Abraham was already 37 in 1900, indicating that Abraham was not Chaya’s son.) Moses and Chaya had had eight children, seven of whom were alive, according to the 1900 census.  The seven were Sadie (16), Katie (13), Samuel (10), Lilly (7), Isaac (5), Bessy (2), and Lewis (three months)[It is spelled “Lewis” on the census, but according to his grandson, his name was actually spelled “Louis.”]  The youngest four were born in New Jersey, Katie in New York, and Sadie and Samuel reportedly in Austria.  Of course, that made no sense to me—if Katie was older than Samuel, how could he have been born in Austria if she was born in New York? Had Moses and Chaya returned to Europe at the time Katie was born? Or was the census just in error?  If they really had immigrated in 1886 and if Samuel was 10 in 1900, he must have been born in the US.

Moses Brotman 1900 census

Moses Brotman 1900 census Year: 1900; Census Place: Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey; Roll: 993; Page: 18A; Enumeration District: 0179; FHL microfilm: 1240993

The other thing that struck me as very strange about this report was the fact that Moses had a son named Samuel as did his son Abraham.  In 1900 Moses’ Samuel was ten; Abraham’s was seven.  So Abraham’s son Samuel had an uncle three years older with the same name.  When I turned to the 1910 census report for Moses and his family, that became even stranger, as now Moses had had another child, a son named Joseph, who was seven as of 1910.  Abraham also had a son named Joseph, who was seventeen in 1910. So Abraham’s son Joseph had an uncle Joseph who was ten years younger than he was.  In addition, both Moses and Abraham had daughters named Lilly or Lillian; Moses’ daughter was born in February 1892; Abraham’s daughter was born September 5, 1898. Why would Moses and Abraham have given their children the same names? Perhaps they were named for the same ancestors, but it must have been awfully confusing in Pittsgrove to have two Samuel Brotmans., two Joseph Brotmans, and two Lilly Brotmans running around that small community.  It sure doesn’t help genealogists either.

The 1910 census report for Moses now had his wife’s name as Ida, which was a common Americanization of Chaya.  Moses was now working as a presser in a clothing factory, presumably the one owned by his son Abraham.  As with the 1900 census for Abraham, Moses’ birthplace is now given as Russia, not Austria.  He and Ida had six of their children living with them: Samuel (20), Lilly (15), Isaac (14), Bessie (12), Lewis/Louis (10), and the above-mentioned Joseph (7).  The birthplace for all the children was New Jersey, except for Samuel, whose birthplace was reported as Russia, same as his parents. Sadie and Katie were no longer living with their parents. Unfortunately, I have not yet found any records for what happened to Sadie or Katie, although their father’s obituary revealed their married names and their residence as of 1935 in Philadelphia.

Moses Brotman 1910 census

Moses Brotman 1910 census Year: 1910; Census Place: Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey; Roll: T624_908; Page: 15A; Enumeration District: 0154; FHL microfilm: 1374921

It took me forever to track down Moses Brotman and his family on the 1920 census, and although I am not 100% certain this is the right family, I am fairly certain that it is.  The head of household is Morris Brotman, wife Clara—another common Americanization of Chaya.  Morris was reported to be 70 years old, so born around 1850, not far off from his birthdate on the 1900 census.  Birthplace is given as Russia for Morris, Austria for Clara, and it reported that immigrated in 1887, close to the 1886 reported in 1900.  The most convincing support for this being the right family are the names and ages of the children: Lillian (21), Louis (20), Bessie (19), and Joseph (17).  Although Lilly would have been 25 and Bessie 22, the sons’ ages are accurate; maybe they lied about the daughters’ ages to make them appear more “marriageable.”  The family was now living in Philadelphia, not New Jersey, which at first I found odd.

Moses Brotman 1920 US census Year: 1920; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 32, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1634; Page: 12B; Enumeration District: 1095; Image: 530

Moses Brotman 1920 US census
Year: 1920; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 32, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1634; Page: 12B; Enumeration District: 1095; Image: 530

But then I checked for the older sons, Samuel and Isaac (now Irving) and found that both had married between 1910 and 1920 and were living in Philadelphia.  Although I still have not located the two older daughters Sadie and Katie, perhaps they also had married by then and moved to Philadelphia.  Maybe Moses and Ida/Clara/Chaya also moved there to be closer to all their children.

Thus, I now had conflicting birthplaces for Moses—one census said Austria, two said Russia.  I looked at the 1930 census, and once again there was a conflict.  Now Moses’ birthplace was reported as Austria-Hungary, then crossed out with “Europe” written above it. His parents’ birthplace, however, was given as Austria-Hungary.  Moses was now 80 years old, and he and his wife (now Ida again) and their youngest son Joseph (28) were living in Vineland, New Jersey, near Pittsgrove. So as with Abraham, the birthplace for Moses fluctuated back and forth between Russia and Austria with no specific town or city mentioned. Perhaps Moses really did not know where in Europe he was actually born.

Moses Brotman 1930 US census

Moses Brotman 1930 US census Year: 1930; Census Place: Vineland, Cumberland, New Jersey; Roll: 1327; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 0060; Image: 434.0; FHL microfilm: 2341062

Moses died on September 23, 1935.  His death certificate said he was born in Austria in 1847 and that his parents were named Abraham Brotman and Sadie Berstein, also born in Austria.  His grandson Aaron Brotman was the informant, Abraham’s youngest son who would die himself just a few years later.  Moses’ wife’s name was given as Rachel Rice.  This has caused considerable confusion for the family.  Was this a third wife? A mistake?

Moses Brotman death certificate_0001_NEW

In the obituary for Moses, it says he was survived by his widow, but did not name her.  It did, however, name all his children (including the married names for Sadie and Katie, as indicated above) and their residences.

Moses Brotman obituary

Moses Brotman obituary Courtesy of his granddaughter Elaine, source unknown

I found the death certificate for his youngest child, Joseph, who died less than a year after his father on July 26, 1936, from bacterial endocarditis.  He was only 34 years old.  On his death certificate, Moses’ birthplace is once again given as Russia, and Joseph’s mother’s name is reported to be Rachael Rice. The informant was Joseph’s half-brother, Abraham Brotman.

Joseph Brotman (Moses' son) death certificate Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Joseph Brotman (Moses’ son) death certificate
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Since Moses’ wife on the 1910 census was Ida and since Joseph was born in 1902, it would seem likely that Ida was Joseph’s mother.  Or could Chaya have been Rachel Rice and then died after Joseph was born? Was Ida a third wife? And was she the same woman as Clara, the wife listed on the 1920 census, or was that a fourth wife? My own personal hunch was that Rachel, Chaya, Ida and Clara are all one and the same person.

Although I was able to find the death certificate for Irving Brotman, it had no information for the name of his mother, had his father’s name as Morris, and had no information for their birthplaces.  I was, however, able to find the following entries in the New Jersey, Births and Christening Index on Ancestry.com for two of Moses’ children:

Name: Liza Brotman
Gender: Female
Birth Date: 2 Feb 1892
Birth Place: Pit, Salem, New Jersey
Father’s name: Moritz Brotman
Mother’s name: Chai Reis
FHL Film Number: 494224
Name: Brotman
Gender: Female
Birth Date: 12 May 1897
Birth Place: Pit , Salem, New Jersey
Father’s name: Moses Brotman
Father’s Age: 45
Father’s Birth Place: Austria
Mother’s name: Clara Rice
Mother’s Age: 30
Mother’s Birth Place: Austria
FHL Film Number: 494236

Notice that the mother’s name was Chai Reis on the first, then the more Americanized Clara Rice on the later one.  These were both created before the 1900 census listing of Moses’ wife as Chaya, the 1910 listing as Ida, the 1920 listing as Clara, or the 1930 listing again as Ida.  Notice that the surname is Reis/Rice, the same surname given for Moses’ wife on his death certificate in 1935 and that of his son Joseph in 1936.  I find this last bit of evidence enough to conclude that Rachel Rice was the same woman who married Moses in 1884 or so, immigrated with him and their first two children, and gave birth to and raised nine children from Sadie, born in 1884, through Joseph, born in 1902.  In 1940 after Moses had died, Ida (aka Chaya-Clara-Rachel) was living with her son Lewis/Louis and his wife Jean and their daughter Elaine in Vineland, New Jersey.  According to Elaine, Ida died about three years later.  Unfortunately I have not yet located a death record or obituary for Ida.

Lewis Brotman 1940 US census Year: 1940; Census Place: Vineland, Cumberland, New Jersey; Roll: T627_2327; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 6-76

Lewis/Louis Brotman 1940 US census
Year: 1940; Census Place: Vineland, Cumberland, New Jersey; Roll: T627_2327; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 6-76

Thus, reviewing all the records I had found had not brought me any closer to learning exactly where Moses Brotman or Abraham Brotman had been born or where they had lived in Europe.  But while searching, I stumbled upon something else.  I will report on that as my last post before I leave for my trip.

[1] Relatives of the Brotmanville Brotmans say family lore is that the family was from Preszyml, a town about 90 miles from Tarnobrzeg, Grebow, and Radomysl nad Sanem, the other ancestral towns where possible family members lived. But I have not found any record supporting that family lore.

[2] A few geographical facts are necessary to understand the locations discussed in this post.  Brotmanville is an unincorporated community within the township of Pittsgrove so Pittsgrove is listed on the census records, not Brotmanville.  The colony where Baron de Hirsch and others created the farming settlement for poor Jewish immigrants was called the Alliance Colony. Vineland is a neighboring community where many of the Brotmans lived over the years.

Where Am I? Where Am I Going? Tarnobrzeg


Polski: Tarnobrzeg, Panorama nocna osiedla Ser...

Polski: Tarnobrzeg, Panorama nocna osiedla Serbinow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s time to take stock and figure out where I am and where I have been and, of course, where I am going next.  I have “finished” my research on the Dreyfuss and Nusbaum families, and when I say “finished,” I know that as with all my family lines, I am never finished.  I always have more to do—whether it is trying to go back further in time or trying to connect with descendants.  There are a number of unanswered questions, as there always are and always will be.  I will write up something to bring some closure to what I know about these two family lines within the next several days.  But for today, I just want to think about where I am more generally.

I have now done many of my father’s paternal lines.  Starting with the Cohens, I’ve also covered the Seligmans, the Schoenfelds, the Nusbaums, and the Dreyfusses (Dreyfi?), and, of course, all the other names that came with later generations: Sluizer, Weil, Selinger, Bacharach,  Wiler, Simon, Meyers, Dinkelspiel, Hano, and so on.   I’ve also missed a few lines.  I haven’t yet focused on the line that starts with Hart Levy Cohen’s wife, Rachel Jacobs, or with Jacob Cohen’s wife, Sara Jacobs.  I haven’t looked at all at the line that begins with Voegele Welsch, wife of Amson Nusbaum.  And I am sure there are other maternal lines I need to explore.  Of course, those are often the hardest because the names have disappeared from the family, and each of those ancestors dates back close to 200 years ago.  But eventually I will get there.

And next I will explore my father’s maternal lines, the Schoenthals and Katzensteins: more German Jews who came to Pennsylvania in the 1840s or so.  Who knows what stories, what adventures, what heartbreaks I will discover along the way.

But before I turn to the Schoenthal and Katzenstein families, I have several other questions to research and address.  The Seligmann family tree continues to grow both backwards in time and horizontally, thanks to my cousin Wolfgang and all the research he has done.  Their stories continue to fascinate and also horrify me.  I am also in touch with the daughter of Fred and Ilse Michel, and she has shared stories and photographs with me.

There are also lingering questions regarding the Goldschlagers, now that I’ve found two other families with that name and roots in Romania.  We are hoping to hire a Romanian researcher to help us learn more.

And finally, there are those ever elusive Brotmans.  Although I am not putting any more hope (or much time) into using DNA as a tool to find my Brotman ancestors, I still have hope that something will turn up.  Just this past week someone contacted me, asking about Chaye Fortgang, Joseph Brotman’s first wife and the mother of the first four Brotman children, Abraham, Sophie, David, and Max.  He has Fortgang family from Grebow, a town less than ten miles from Tarnobrzeg and also the town that David and Abraham Brotman gave as their home on the ship manifest when immigrating to the US.  Perhaps by researching the Fortgang family, I will also learn about Joseph Brotman and his family.  In addition, I am focused on the Brotmanville Brotmans, hoping that that line will lead to more answers.

English: Gmina Grębów COA Polski: Herb gminy G...

English: Gmina Grębów COA Polski: Herb gminy Grębów (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In addition, I will be visiting Tarnobrzeg in person in just about a month.  We will be hiring a guide who also does genealogy research, and we will be joined by my newly-found cousin Phyllis, the niece of Frieda, the woman who matched my mother as a close cousin through DNA testing.  Phyllis and I have chosen to believe that our grandmothers were in fact first cousins, and we are hoping to find some evidence to corroborate it.  So although I am not writing about it on the blog, much of my time right now is spent researching for this trip.  Once I am there, I will share my experiences on the blog, so stay tuned.

Photograph of Tarnobrzeg Main Square.

Photograph of Tarnobrzeg Main Square. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


More in the DNA Wars

Lately I have been drowning in DNA.  I am trying to figure out how to interpret the DNA results I have and make use of them in searching for my ancestors.  Specifically, my Brotman ancestors.  As I look forward to visiting Poland in May and seeing Tarnobrzeg, I more and more want to be able to find something that actually corroborates my conclusion that that was the general area where my great-grandparents Joseph and Bessie Brotman lived.  I was hoping that perhaps with DNA results, I’d find another clue, another cousin, who knew something I didn’t know.

Animation of the structure of a section of DNA...

Animation of the structure of a section of DNA. The bases lie horizontally between the two spiraling strands. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I dove into the DNA.  When I last wrote about the DNA tests, I talked about the fact that the autosomal DNA results supported the story my aunt had told about Joseph Brotman and his brother who had moved to New Jersey where they named the town for him, i.e., Brotmanville.  Moses Brotman’s granddaughter Elaine tested as a likely second cousin to my mother, just as she would be if Moses and Joseph were brothers.  I am still waiting for results of an autosomal DNA test of Larry, who is a great-grandson of Moses Brotman, for further support (I hope) for that conclusion.  But sadly the Brotmanville Brotmans are also not clear on where Moses lived or was born in Galicia.  Family stories suggest Preszyml, which isn’t too far from Tarnobrzeg (about 90 miles), but there is no paper record to support that story either.  They also do not have any records or stories about the parents or siblings of Moses Brotman.

But the DNA results also produced an unknown likely second cousin for my mother named Frieda.  Frieda’s niece and I have been in touch, and we have narrowed down the possibilities of the connection.  We believe that the connection is through Frieda’s mother whose name was Sabina Brot.  We think that Sabina’s father might have been Bessie Brotman’s brother. Here is a chart that helps to visualize the potential relationships:

second revision family chart for blog


Again, there is no paper trail, but this is how we reached that tentative conclusion:

First, not only did my mother test as a second cousin to Frieda, but my brother tested as a second to fourth cousin to Frieda.  But Elaine, the granddaughter of Moses, tested as a third to fifth cousin to Frieda, meaning that Frieda shared more DNA with my mother and my brother than she did with Elaine. Since Elaine would be more closely related to Joseph than she would be to Bessie,[1] I inferred that Frieda was more likely connected to my mother through Bessie, not Joseph.  (Keep in mind that Joseph and Bessie were supposedly first cousins, so even Elaine could share some DNA with Bessie from Bessie and Joseph’s mutual grandparents, Elaine’s great-great-grandparents.)

At the suggestion of Frieda’s niece, I then ordered an mtDNA test on my mother’s kit to see if she and Frieda were in the same haplogroup.  As defined by the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG), “A haplogroup is a genetic population group of people who share a common ancestor on the patrilineal or matrilineal line.”     Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is only passed by mothers to their children.  Although sons inherit mtDNA from their mothers, they do not pass it down to their children.  Thus, mtDNA is a way of testing the maternal line—from mothers to daughters and so on.  If Frieda and my mother were not in the same haplogroup, we would be able to infer that the connection had not come from Frieda’s grandmother as a sister of Bessie, but more likely from Frieda’s grandfather.  As it turned out, my mother was not in the same haplogroup as Frieda, meaning Frieda’s mother (Sabina)’s mother was not the connection to my mother’s mother’s mother.  Thus, we concluded that if my mother and Frieda are second cousins, it was most likely that Bessie, my mother’s grandmother, and Frieda’s grandfather were siblings.

If only Frieda knew the name of her grandfather or the town where he lived, we could make some progress.  But unfortunately, Frieda’s family knows almost nothing about the background of Sabina Brot or her parents, so we are once again at an impasse.  Frieda’s niece believes Sabina lived in Radomysl nad Sanem, a town not far at all from Tarnobrzeg.

I put aside the DNA at that point, figuring I’d done what I could do.  I emailed a few other “matches” on FamilyTreeDNA, and I received a few responses.  But no one had any helpful information or anything that seemed like a possible link to my family.

Then I decided to try and get more out of the results.  I asked a lot of questions in various Facebook genealogy groups, read a lot of blogs and websites, but was still without a clue.  I tried a program called DNAgedcom, which has a tool known as ADSA that allows you to see who else matches your kit on a specific chromosome and who else matches with that person.  It is a great tool, but unfortunately DNAgedcom is not yet equipped to handle the large number of matches that most Ashkenazi Jews will generate through autosomal DNA testing.

As I’ve learned, and as I’ve seen in my own family on several lines, Ashkenazi Jews are an endogamous population, meaning that they tended to marry within their own community and even within their own families.  Thus, a typical Ashkenazi Jew will share some bits of DNA with thousands of other Ashkenazi Jews.  My mother had thousands of matches, but most of them are so distantly related as to be irrelevant.  As was recently stated in one report, some researchers believe that all Ashkenazi Jews are descended from several hundred Jews who lived about 600 years ago.  So we are, in fact, all one big tribe.

That’s all well and good until you want to use DNA to find closer relatives.  For DNAgedcom, it was just too much data.  Their website estimates that a typical download will take about 30 minutes.  My mother’s data was still downloading after SIX hours, and it wasn’t nearly done.  In fact, it crashed and never completely downloaded.

Then people told me to try GEDmatch, another website for interpreting DNA results.  I sent the data to GEDmatch for my mother, brother, Bruce, and Elaine, and Frieda’s niece sent Frieda’s data.  Then I had no clue what to do with GEDmatch.  Like DNAgedcom, it’s a free site run by wonderful people who are interested in genealogical uses of DNA.  But free means you can’t complain when things aren’t clear or you can’t figure something out.  I was totally perplexed by GEDmatch.  Lots of numbers, lots of charts.  But what did they all mean?  And how could I use them to interpret the DNA results or find new matches?

Here’s a portion of one page of many showing (with identifying information deleted) some of my mother’s matches on GEDmatch:

GEDmatch sample for blog

Yeah, right? What does all THAT mean?

Back to the Facebook groups I went, and this time I found three incredible women, Julie, Leah, and Lana, who volunteered to help me figure out how to use the DNA results and the various tools available.  Together they have backgrounds in biology and IT and math.  We created our own space on Facebook to work together.  Well, mostly they worked, and I learned.  Am still learning.  They are amazing.  We have spent hours and hours online together despite the fact that we are spread across two continents and many times zones.

What I have learned?  To begin with, I now understand how DNA is affected during the process of meiosis, that is, the creation of gametes, i.e., sperm and egg.  I won’t show off here, though I do wonder what my high school biology was teaching us since I never learned this.  The bottom line is that DNA changes during meiosis when segments of the chromosomes “cross over” and then randomly sort themselves before the cell splits into ultimately four new cells, each with a unique selection of DNA on the chromosomes contained therein.  As a result, two children with the exact same parents will not have identical DNA since the sperm and egg that created the first sibling will have different DNA than the sperm and egg that created the second sibling.  (This may explain why my brother has the science brain and I, quite obviously, do not. I am sure he and others will gladly point out anything that is not correct about this description.)

Here’s a cute video that I found helpful:

Why is any of that relevant to using DNA for genealogy? Because it means that even siblings will share varying amounts of DNA and different DNA.  It’s not only that every generation has new parents mixing into their offspring’s DNA; it’s also that each parent shares different DNA with each child.  And with each generation there are more crossovers, more sortings, and thus more differences.   So when two people share a fairly large amount of overall DNA and also some large segments of DNA, it is quite reliable as an indication of a familial relationship.  Given all the crossovers and mixing and new DNA with every generation, it’s not likely that two people would share a lot of DNA unless they were related.

I won’t go into all the statistics and terminology.  That’s not my goal here.  I just wanted to explain why I’ve found these three women so helpful. I like to understand things, not just accept numbers without an explanation.  And it didn’t stop with the science.  My mentors then helped me figure out how to use GEDmatch to “triangulate.”  No, not like Bill Clinton.  In using DNA in genealogy, it helps to find out who shares DNA with you on a particular location on a particular chromosome. Then you need to figure out who among those people also share with each other.  Thus, if A, B, and C share with me on Chromosome 12 at a given location for a certain segment, but A and B do not share with C, I know that C shares with me from a different parent than A and B.  But I don’t know whether A and B share with the DNA I got from my mother or the DNA I got from my father.

Another thing I learned: I knew that chromosomes came in pairs, one from each parent for each of the 23 pairs of chromosomes.  But I didn’t know that the testing companies don’t really distinguish one side from the other.  They test two strands from each pair of chromosomes (one from each chromosome in that pair), but the two are jumbled together on the companies’ depictions of what is on that Chromosome 12 I mentioned above.  What that means is that when I look at their depiction of a chromosome and see matches, I’ve no idea which parent’s strand that match pairs up with.

Human metaphase chromosomes were subjected to ...

Human metaphase chromosomes were subjected to fluorescence in situ hybridization with a probe to the Alu Sequence (green signals)and counterstained for DNA (red). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For example, if you look at my brother’s chromosomes with my mother’s as a match, it looks like she matches all his DNA. All that orange is where she matches his DNA on his chromosomes.  But in fact, that’s just half of his DNA.  The DNA from my father isn’t reflected.  All we are seeing is that my mother gave my brother half of his DNA.

Mom DNA on Ira's Chromosomes


In this case, we know that this is DNA from his mother because, well, I know she’s his mother.  But when I look at someone else on my brother’s chromosomes, I don’t know if that person is matching the strand from my mother or my father unless I triangulate the three kits.

Here’s a more typical chromosome browser display with various matches:

typical browser results

Each color represents a different person who shares some DNA with my brother, and as you can see, there are some places where two colors overlap, like on the 21st chromosome.  How do I know whether those people share DNA with my brother that comes from my mother or from my father?  How do I know if those two overlapping people are related or just one shares my father’s DNA on the location and the other shares my mother’s DNA at that location?  Triangulation.  We have to figure out if those two people also share DNA with each other at that location and also whether they share with my mother at that particular location.  And that’s what Leah, Lana, and Julie taught me to do.

Where has that gotten me? Well, we found that on Chromosome 21 my mother and Frieda had a large segment overlap with three other people.  I then triangulated and found that all of them also matched Frieda and each other at that location on Chromosome 21.  That means that they are all somehow related: Frieda, my mother, and A, B, and C all share a common ancestor who passed on this rather large segment that they all share.  I don’t know for sure whether my mother got that segment from her mother or father, but since we have reason to believe that my mother and Frieda are connected through my great-grandmother’s Bessie’s family, it would seem that A, B, and C are also somehow related to my mother and Frieda through that family line.

So I emailed A, B, and C.  I’ve heard back from two of them, but with nothing that’s very helpful.  The little information each had showed nothing to explain this DNA connection.  There are no common surnames and no common geographic locations.  These two didn’t even have roots in Galicia that they knew of.  Huh? Now what?

Good question.  We are still tweaking the numbers, scouring other chromosomes, hoping something will provide a breakthrough.  But at the moment I hold out limited hope that we will find someone who can connect all the pieces.  It’s just too far back in a place where very few records survive and where surnames only started 200 years ago.  Maybe A, B, and C had relatives who adopted different surnames, not Brot or Brotman.  Maybe their great-great-grandfather moved to Ukraine or Lithuania or Latvia or mine moved away from there.  We can speculate all we want, and the DNA doesn’t lie.  But we may never, ever find the answer to how we are related.

So I have no better information today about where my great-grandparents lived or the names of their siblings or the names of earlier generations.  But I know a lot more about DNA and about the tools out there for using it, thanks to Lana, Julie, and Leah.


I will be taking a short break from the laptop—SPRING BREAK!  (Now that I am retired, it’s not really my spring break, but years and years of celebrating it still has its effects.)  See you soon.

For anyone who wants a broader introduction to DNA and chromosomes, Steve Morse (of stevemorse.org) wrote a very clear laymen’s overview of the topic here.







[1] Although Bruce, another great-grandchild of Joseph and Bessie, also tested as a third to fifth to Frieda, he shared more DNA with her than Elaine did, although he shared less than my brother did.  In theory at least, Bruce and Ira should test as the same distance from Frieda, if she is related to us through Bessie. But DNA does not always pass on in equal segments, or so I’ve learned.   Bruce might have more from Joseph’s side through his parents and grandparents than from Bessie’s side and my mother might have more.

More Gifts from Doing Genealogy: The Gau-Algesheim Seligmanns and New Friends in Germany

As I’ve been researching and writing about my American Seligman relatives, I’ve also been busy trying to learn more about my German ancestors.  I wrote to about five different people in Gau-Algesheim, names I found on websites or through contacts from JewishGen or two Facebook groups, Tracing the Tribe and German Genealogy, including Klaus Cook.  I’d been trying since September 7 to find someone to help me learn whether there were any records of Jewish births, marriages and/or deaths from the town where I knew Sigmund, Bernard and Adolph Seligman were born.  I had gotten no responses—not even one saying that they had no such records.

Coat of arms of Gau-Algesheim

Coat of arms of Gau-Algesheim (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I also contacted a woman named Dorothee Lottman-Kaeseler.  I had found her name on the website describing the restoration of the Gau-Algesheim cemetery, and she did write back to me.  She was very helpful and eventually she managed to find someone to pay attention to my emails.  Imagine my delight when the other morning I woke up to this email:

On behalf of our registrar, Frau Hemmkeppler, I am hereby replying to your genealogy request, which we have received on 15. Oct. 2014 via email. 

At first, please note, that due to age, we do not have any electronic archives of our historical records.  However, we have put in extra efforts and were able to manually trace the following information related to the name of Seligmann: 

Siegesmund Seligmann, DOB: 24. Dec.1829 in Gau-Algesheim, Reg-Nr. 67/1829


Salomon Seligmann, DOB: 15. Mar.1832 in Gau-Algesheim, Reg-Nr. 19/1832


Carolina Seligmann, DOB: 18. Mar.1833 in Gau-Algesheim, Reg-Nr. 25/1833


Benjamin Seligmann, DOB: 10. May 1835 in Gau-Algesheim, Reg-Nr. 36/1835


Bernhard Seligmann, DOB: 23. Nov.1837 in Gau-Algesheim, Reg-Nr. 49/1837


Hyronimus Seligmann, DOB: 14. Dec.1839 in Gau-Algesheim, Reg-Nr. 75/1839


August Seligmann, DOB: 10. Dec.1841 in Gau-Algesheim, Reg-Nr. 88/1841


Adolph Seligmann, DOB: 29. Sep. 1843 in Gau-Algesheim, Reg-Nr. 52/1843


Mathilde Seligmann, DOB: 31. Jan. 1845 in Gau-Algesheim, Reg-Nr. 4/1845


Paulina Seligmann, DOB: 29.01.1847 in Gau-Algesheim, Reg-Nr. 5/1847 

All the beforementioned persons are the children of Moritz and Eva Seligmann (born as Eva Schoenfeld). …. 


B. Brettschneider



There was the birth record of my great-great-grandfather Bernard, his brothers Sigmund and Adolph, and seven other siblings, all born in Gau-Algesheim, all the children of Moritz and Eva Schoenfeld Seligmann.  I was so excited.  I now had seven more relatives to learn about and, most importantly, the names of my great-great-great-grandparents, Moritz Seligmann and Eva Schoenfeld.

I have now been in touch again with Bernie Brettschneider and hope to obtain copies of these records and also to learn if there are any other records of these individuals or of others who might be their children, spouses, and so on.

Gau-Algesheim in MZ

Gau-Algesheim in MZ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am deeply grateful to Klaus Cook and the other people in the Facebook groups and JewishGen, to Dorothee Lottmann-Kaeseler and to Bernie Brettschneider for their assistance, and I am excited to see what else I can learn about this part of my family.  I am also in touch with Walter Nathan, who was the man behind the cemetery restoration in Gau-Algesheim.  Walter and I are trying to find what connections there may be between my Seligmanns and his Seligmann family, and I am learning more and more about how Jews lived in Germany in the 19th century.

When I started down this path less than three years ago, I never imagined how much I would learn about the world and its history by simply researching my own little family. I never imagined I would make contact with people in Germany and Romania and Poland, have cousins all over the world and talk to people whose lives have been so interesting.  The gifts I receive from genealogy continue to surprise me and warm my heart.

And I now am thinking that someday in the not too distant future I will visit Gau-Algesheim and see where my Seligmann ancestors lived.  And Iasi to see where my Goldschlager and Rosenzweig ancestors lived.  And Tarnobrzeg, Poland, to see where my Brotman ancestors lived.  In fact, that last one is being planned for this coming spring.  And then there are all the places right here in the US where I can go to walk in the places where my ancestors lived—New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, Santa Fe, Colorado, and who knows where else?  The adventures continue.



Brotman Research: Where I am

Having reached the conclusion last week that I was not going to be able to get any further specific information about where in Galicia my Brotman relatives lived and then realizing that even if Tarnobrzeg was the ancestral home that the records there are very limited and too recent to be of much help, yesterday I went back to look over what I have learned and what is left to be learned about my Brotman relatives.

I have learned an incredible amount.  I know much more about my great-grandparents Joseph and Bessie Brotman and about the life they lived in the Lower East Side.  I have found all five of their children—Hyman, Tillie, Gussie, Frieda and Sam– and know what happened to them: who they married, who their children were, where and when, and in most cases, why they died.  I know what they did for a living and where they lived.  I even have been able to trace what happened to their grandchildren and who they married and the names of their children.  I have seen pictures of almost all these people, except Joseph, Abraham, David, and Frieda.   It’s been an incredible experience, so much more rewarding than I ever expected less than a year ago when I first starting dipping my toe into the waters of genealogy.

I’ve also been able to locate three of Joseph’s four children from his first marriage to a woman likely named Chaye Fortgang.  I have found Abraham, Max and David, but not Sophie.  I have also been able to learn a great deal about their lives, occupations, families, and homes and have located their living descendants.  Although there are a few missing holes in David’s life story and a number of years for which I can find no records, I know that he married a woman named Annie Salpeter and that they did not have children.  I know that he came to America with his older brother Abraham and that he died in 1946 of hypertension.  Only Sophie is missing from the picture, but given that I do not know either what her Yiddish name was in Galicia or her married name in the United States, I am not sure what else I can do to locate her.

There are many unanswered questions, but most of them relate to their life in Galicia—where did they live, what did Joseph do for a living, what happened to his first wife? These questions I cannot answer, and that makes me sad.  Also, when did Joseph arrive in the US?  I cannot find him on a ship manifest, but will keep looking.   I will also try and fill the holes in David’s story and look for Sophie, but overall, I think I have to say that I have reached the end of my search for the Brotman family.[1]

So what does that mean? Obviously, I hope to continue to develop my ties to my new cousins (and my old cousins, of course), and I also hope that they will help to fill out the personal side of the stories of their parents and grandparents.  It will make the family story so much more meaningful and interesting if people contribute stories or profiles or letters or pictures that bring to life their relatives.  I cannot do that on my own.  I didn’t know Abraham, Max, Hyman, or Tillie—but those of you who are their grandchildren certainly did.  I also didn’t know any of Joseph’s grandchildren aside from my mother and her siblings, but my second cousins—their children—must have memories and stories that they want to survive.  Let me know, and I will be happy to interview you or help you write something you’d like to share.

Thank you to all the Brotman cousins who helped me get this far—for answering my emails and my questions, for sending me pictures and telling me stories, for providing me with names and contact information, for sharing whatever you were comfortable sharing.  It’s been an amazing experience to share with you all, my Brotman family.

The rest of my personal journey to find my family will continue with the Goldschlager and Rosenzweig lines and eventually my paternal lines: the Cohens, Schoenthals, Seligmans, Katzensteins, Nusbaums, and so on!

[1] There remains, of course, a possibility of a tie to the Brotmanville Brotmans, but my research has hit a brick wall there as well.  Without being able to trace back to Joseph’s parents and grandparents and Moses Brotman’s parents and grandparents, I will never know whether Joseph and Moses were siblings, cousins, or not related at all.  Brotman is and was a much more common name than I had anticipated, and we could be related distantly to all of them or none of them.  Without better European records, there is just no way of knowing.

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Brotman Ancestral Home: Tarnobrzeg (probably)

While researching my Goldschlager/Rosenzweig relatives, I have also been continuing to work towards an answer to the question

Photograph of Tarnobrzeg Main Square.

Photograph of Tarnobrzeg Main Square. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

of where in Galicia my ancestors Joseph and Bessie Brotman lived.  The discovery of David Brotman, Joseph’s son from his first marriage, provided a new jumpstart to that research because David had listed two different home towns on his documentation: Tarnof on the ship manifest and Grambow on his naturalization papers.  Unfortunately, that information seemed to conflict with what I had from Hyman’s papers—Jeekief and Giga.

After consulting with a few people in the field, my best guess is that the family came from Tarnobrzeg, then called Dzikow.  A town called Grebow or Grybow is close by, and I am wondering whether David was born in Grebow, near Tarnobrzeg, when Joseph was married to Chaye Fortgang, and that Joseph moved to Dzikow/Tarnobrzeg when he married Bessie and when Chaim/Hyman was born.  It’s a guess, but it’s the best I think I will be able to do, given the unreliability of the US records and our ancestors’ memories.

Having decided to make the assumption that Tarnobrzeg was the Brotman ancestral home, I then again researched the available resources online such as JRIPoland, Gesher Galicia, and JewishGen, to see if there were any records that might be relevant, adding the surname Fortgang to my search since that is what David’s death certificate said had been his mother Chaye’s maiden name.  I could not find any, and then I checked to see what records were even available in general for Tarnobrzeg. 

I wrote to Stanley Diamond, the creator of JRI-Poland, and this is what he informed me: “Among all the towns listed [on JRI-Poland], Tarnobrzeg is the one with the fewest surviving records.  They are the 1889-1911 births that are in the Polish State Archive branch in Sandomierz (for which we now have digital images) and the 1912-1937 birth records in the town hall in Tarnobrzeg.”  Obviously, all of those records are too late for our family as the last child born in Galicia was Tillie in 1884. Just our luck—our relatives had to come from the place with the fewest surviving records.

Stanley told me not to give up all hope—that new records are sometimes discovered over time.  And I will certainly keep renewing my search periodically, hoping that something does turn up.  But for now, I think I have to accept the limitations of our ability to learn everything about our past.

So am I content with this? No, of course not.  It’s particularly frustrating because it means I cannot go back any earlier than Joseph, Bessie and Chaye to find our earlier ancestors. I think that I can learn to be comfortable saying that my great-grandparents Joseph and Bessie Brotman probably came from the Tarnobrzeg region of Galicia.  That’s much better than what I could say last summer when I really started digging for answers.  But being even 99% sure is not the same as knowing for certain, and I am not even close to 99% sure.

For those who are interested, here are two websites about Tarnobrzeg, the town where my great-grandparents Joseph and Bessie Brotman probably lived.

Poland, Tarnobrzeg - Museum of City History, p...

Poland, Tarnobrzeg – Museum of City History, placed in old granary (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ShtetlLinks page

Gesher Galicia page

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