Rosa Abraham and Isidor Zechermann: A Final Update

The process of finding the story of Rosa Abraham has been a challenging one. At first all I had was her birth record and one passenger manifest for a Rosa Zechermann with the same birth date and birth place.

Ricchen Rosa Abraham birth record Nov 20 1892 Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 6177

Rosa Abraham passenger card
The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Series Title: Passenger and Crew Manifests of Airplanes Arriving at Miami, Florida.; NAI Number: 2788541; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787 – 2004; Record Group Number: 85

Then with the incredible help of members of the Jekkes Facebook group, I learned that Rosa had married Isidor Zechermann and immigrated to Chile to escape Hitler. I had not found a marriage record, but several bits of circumstantial evidence supported that conclusion.

Most recently I’d received Rosa and Isidor’s request for repatriation as German citizens and Rosa’s application for reparations from the German government for the loss of her occupation. I also was able to deduce from various documents and directories that Rosa and Isidor must have married sometime between 1930 and 1932. But I still didn’t have a marriage record that proved when they were married and, perhaps most importantly, that the Rosa who married Isidor was in fact my cousin Rosa Abraham.  All the evidence pointed in that direction, but I had no official record, just secondary sources and circumstantial evidence.

I wrote to the city of Frankfurt to request a marriage record, and Sigrid Kaempfer of the Institut fuer Stadtgeschichte responded not only with Isidor and Rosa’s long sought marriage record, but with three other interesting documents as well. First, that much hoped-for marriage record:

Marriage record of Rosa Abraham and Isidor Zechermann

It states that Isidor Zechermann, merchant, born on February 25, 1878, in Frankfurt and living in Frankfurt, married Ricchen Rosa Abraham, business owner, born on November 20, 1892, in Niederurff, on September 17, 1930, in Frankfurt. Finally, I had the proof I needed to get closure. My cousin Ricchen Rosa Abraham, daughter of Hirsch Abraham and Pauline Ruelf, born on November 20, 1892, was the wife of Isidor Zechermann and had married him in the time period I had determined in my last post about Rosa.

Also of interest—the two witnesses to the marriage were Adele Trier, geb. Abraham, Rosa’s sister, and Alfred Trier, Adele’s husband. Adele and Alfred were the couple Rosa and Isidor went to visit in Queens in 1952, as I wrote about here.

Ms. Kaempfer also sent me a link to Isidor’s birth record, confirming that he was born on February 25, 1878, in Frankfurt. With the help of the German Genealogy group, I learned that Isidor was the son of Schaye Zechermann, a shoemaker, and Fanny Benedikt. (Special thanks to Heike Keohane and Carolina Meyer for their extraordinary help in decoding Schaye’s first name!)

Isidor Zechermann birth record
HStAMR Best. 903 Nr. 8916 Standesamt Mitte (Frankfurt) Geburtsnebenregister 1878, S. 61

And Ms. Kaempfer sent me two documents relating to the businesses operated by Rosa and Isidor. For Rosa, she sent me this record of her tax payments from 1924 through 1932 for her “Damenkonfektion” or ladies’ clothing business. The form also notes the change to her married name Zechermann. And it indicates that Rosa’s business was shut down on August 31, 1938, and deregistered on September 8, 1938, presumably by the Nazis.

Rosa Abraham business record 1924-1938

For Isidor, Ms. Kaempfer sent me the record of his registration as a haberdasher in Frankfurt. He first registered on September 6, 1933.

Isidor Zechermann business registration and deregistration

I am not sure how to interpret the various entries on the first line below the solid line on the right side of this card, which asks about the location and personnel of the management of the business, but the last two notes there—-“isr./isr” —-are quite obviously a reference to the fact that the owner of the business was Jewish (“Israeltisch”). And the red stamped entries on this card—indicating that the business was shut down on August 31, 1938 and deregistered on September 3, 1938—are clearly a reflection of Nazi persecution as presumably was the case with Rosa’s business.

With these final records, I now have closure on the life of Rosa Abraham and Isidor Zechermann.  I know when and where they were born, when and where they married, where they lived and worked in Frankfurt, when they emigrated from Germany and moved to Chile, and when they died. But it truly took a village to get here.

This search has proven once again that this work cannot be done alone and depends on the generosity of many people.  Thank you all! As this year draws to a close, I am mindful of and grateful for all the help I have received in 2017.

Let me take this opportunity to wish all my friends, family, and readers who celebrate Christmas a joyful and loving holiday.  I will be taking a short break from blogging, but will return in 2018 to start the saga of my Goldschmidt family.

Merry Christmas and  Happy New Year! Have a safe and happy holiday, everyone!


Something I Never Expected to See

I want to share two documents that I thought I’d never see.  In preparing for our upcoming trip to Germany, I’ve been trying to find guides who can help me in the various places we plan to visit.  One of those guides is a man named Aaron.  Although Aaron is based in Cologne and will be our guide while we are there, he also asked where else we were visiting and whether we needed any help finding records.

I mentioned to him that probably the one place I had had the worst luck finding any records—online or elsewhere—was Schopfloch, the small town in Bavaria where my Nussbaum ancestors once lived.  Some of you may recall that all I had were the notes left behind by a researcher named Angelika Brosig, who died in 2013.  Angelika had a lot of information about the birthdates of the children of Amson Nussbaum and Voegele Welsch, my four-times great-grandparents, including a name and birthdate for my three-times great-grandfather, Josua Nussbaum, who became John Nusbaum in the United States.  I knew these facts were accurate because they were consistent with the information in the Nussbaum family bible kept first by my three-times great-grandmother Jeanette Dreyfuss Nusbaum and later by my great-grandmother Eva May Seligman Cohen.  But I had no images or transcriptions of original records

Even after contacting several people who knew Angelika Brosig and had worked with her, I had no luck figuring out where she’d gotten this information.  But Aaron had better luck—he found the death records for my four-times great-grandparents, Amson and Voegele.  This gives me hope that perhaps other records exist and that someday I may find them.

Death record of Voegelein Nussbaum

Death record of Voegelein Welsch Nussbaum, October 2, 1842

As transcribed and translated by Leon and Cathy from the German Genealogy group on Facebook, this says:

Vogelein Nussbaum, Wittwe des Amson Nussbaum, geb. Welsch, stirbt in einem Alter von 60 Jahren und 7 Monaten plötzlich am Schleimschlag Sonntag Abends am zweiten /2/ Oktober 1/2 5 Uhr 1842, und wird beerdigt Tags drauf am 3. dess. Abends 5 Uhr. Arzt wird nicht gebraucht. No. 132.

Vögelein Nussbaum, widow of Amson Nussbaum, born Welsch, dies at the age of 60 years and 7 months suddenly due to mucoid impaction on Sunday evening on 2nd October, half before 5 o’clock, 1842, and is buried on the next day in the evening 5 o’clock. Doctor is not needed.


Death record of Amson Meier Nussbaum, 1837

Death record of Amson Meier Nussbaum, June 7, 1836

Leon and Cathy translated Amson’s death record to say:

Amson (Meier) Nussbaum, merchant, here no. 132, married, consumption, 8th this evening at 8 o’clock, 58 years old.

Thank you to Aaron for his persistence and hard work in locating these records. And thank you also to Leon and Cathy from the Facebook German Genealogy group!  Danke!!

Death Certificates: Answering Some Unanswered Questions

Over the last few weeks I have received a number of death certificates, most for people about whom I have written, so I will also post them as updates to the relevant posts.  But I also wanted to post about them separately for those who might never go back to those original posts.

Three of these were for relatively young men whose deaths puzzled me.  Why had they died so young?  E.g., Simon L.B. Cohen.  He was only 36 when he died on October 24, 1934, after serving valiantly in World War I.  He was my first cousin, twice removed, the first cousin of my grandfather John Nusbaum Cohen.  Simon had faced the horrors of war, been awarded a Distinguished Service Cross by General Pershing for his service, and had been reported killed in action when he was in fact still alive.  He came home and married, but then died only five years after he married.  I had wondered what might have caused such a young man to die after surviving everything he did during the war.

His death certificate reported that his cause of death was glomerulonephritis, chronic myocarditis, and arterial hypertension.  Glomerulonephritis is a form of kidney disease, sometimes triggered by an infection like strep or some other underlying disease.  Overall, it would appear that Simon was just not a healthy 36 year old.  But that’s not the whole story.  The death certificate also described Simon as an “unemployed disabled veteran.”  Although I do not know in what way he was disabled, obviously Simon paid a huge price for what he endured while serving in the military.

Death certificates_0004_NEW

The second young man whose death puzzled me was Louis Loux.  Louis was the husband of Nellie Simon, daughter of Eliza Wiler and Leman Simon.  Louis was thirteen years younger than Nellie.  They had a daughter Florrie, born in 1910, who died from burns caused by matches.  She was only eight years old when she died in September, 1918.  Then her father Louis died just three months later on December 15, 1918.  He was only 36 years old.  I had wondered whether there was some connection between these two terrible deaths.  I knew from the 1920 census that Nellie and Louis had divorced, but I did not and still do not know whether that was before or after their daughter died.  From the death certificate for Louis, I learned that he died from broncho pneumonia. So it would seem that it was perhaps just a terrible sequence of events and that Louis’ death was not in any directly related to the death of his daughter.

Death certificates_0003_NEW

The next death I had wondered about was that of Mervin Simon, the great-grandson of Mathilde Nusbaum and Isaac Dinkelspiel.  He was only 42 years old when he died on August 27, 1942.  He was the son of Leon Simon, who was the son of Moses Simon and Paulina Dinkelspiel.  Mervin died almost a year to do the day after his father Leon.  According to his death certificate, he also died from broncho pneumonia.  Like Simon Cohen, he had no occupation listed on his death certificate.  Even on the 1940 census, neither Mervin nor his brother William had an occupation listed.

Mervyn Simon death certificate

The last death certificate I received in the last few weeks was for Dorothy Gattman Rosenstein.  Dorothy was the daughter of Cora Frank from her first marriage to Jacques Gattman.  Cora was the daughter of Francis Nusbaum and Henry Frank and the granddaughter of Leopold Nusbaum.  Cora’s husband Jacques had died when Dorothy was just a young child, and Cora had remarried and moved to Dayton, Ohio, with her new husband Joseph Lehman and her daughter Dorothy.  I had had a very hard time tracking down what happened to both Cora and Dorothy, and only with the help from a number of kind people had I learned that Dorothy had married Albert Rosenstein from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  But I wanted the death certificate to corroborate all the other less official evidence I had that this was in fact the same Dorothy Gattman, daughter of Jacques Gattman and Cora Frank.  Her death certificate confirmed that.

Death certificates_0001

Thus, all of these certificates helped put closure on some lingering questions that had bothered me.

Pennsylvania, I love you!

OK, perhaps a bit of an overstatement, but yesterday morning I woke up to read online that the Pennsylvania death certificates up through 1944 were now available on  (Previously, only those up through 1924 were available.)  As soon as I’d had my breakfast, I started searching for all my previously researched Cohen relatives who died between 1925 and 1944 to find their death certificates.  Within a half an hour I had found eleven of them.  Although they did not contain any amazing revelations, I was able to learn when and why several of my relatives had died.

I have updated the relevant blog posts for Hannah Cohen, Lewis Weil, Rachel Cohen, Martin A. Wolf and his wife Marie Morgan, Laura Wolf, Harry Frechie, and Samuel Rosenblatt, Jr.  I also have certificates for Reuben Cohen, Sr., Emanuel Cohen, and Abraham Cohen which will be discussed in later posts.  The only one of these that I was particularly interested in was that of Samuel Rosenblatt, Jr., who had died when he was only twenty and was his parents’ only child; he died of leukemia.  Laura and Martin A. Wolf, siblings and the children of Hannah and Martin Wolf, also died at relatively young ages—in their 40s, Laura of diabetes and Martin A. of ulcerative colitis.

If you are interested in seeing the certificates, I have posted them at the relevant blog posts as linked to above.

It was good to put some closure on some of those lives, although sad to be reminded again of how many of my ancestors died so young.  Thank you to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for opening up your records so that family histories can be told.

My Great-Great-Grandparents’ Marriage Certificate: Small Details Reveal So Much

As I celebrate the newest member of my extended family, I am also thinking about my great-great-grandparents, Jacob and Sarah Cohen.  A while back I had sent for their marriage certificate from the General Register Office in England, and the certificate arrived just a few days before Remy was born.  It confirms a number of facts I already knew—that Sarah’s birth name was Jacobs, that her father’s first name was Reuben, that she and Jacob married on October 24, 1844, that Hart, Jacob’s father, was a dealer as was Reuben Jacobs, Sarah’s father (a glass dealer?) and Jacob himself, and that they all lived in Spitalfields, Christchurch, Middlesex County, in England.  But the marriage certificate also revealed a few other interesting details.

Jacob Cohen and Sarah Jacobs marriage certificate

Jacob Cohen and Sarah Jacobs marriage certificate

For example, according to the certificate, Jacob was still a minor, but Sarah was of “full” age.  All the documents I have for Sarah, both from England and the US, place her at least two years younger than Jacob.  I wondered: Was the age of majority younger for women in England in 1844 than it was for men?  The 1841 census puts Rachel’s age that year as 15, meaning she was 18 when she married Jacob, whereas Jacob was only 20.  (When I think about how young they were and then how many children their marriage produced and how many years they were married, it is astounding.)

I did a little research and learned that although a girl could marry at 12 and a boy at 14, parental consent was necessary if either was under 21.  Both men and women were considered minors before they were 21; there was not a double standard.[1] That leaves me perplexed. Was Rachel older or younger than Jacob?  Was the marriage certificate right and all the other documents wrong? One would think that a marriage certificate would be more accurate than census reports, but perhaps this was just a mistake.

Sarah and Jacob marriage cropped

The certificate also indicates that, as with Hart Levy Cohen on his wife Rachel’s death certificate, Jacob and Sarah could not sign the document, but only left their marks on it.  Another question is thus raised: how literate was the population of England at this time?

A little quick research revealed that the literacy rate in England in 1840 was somewhere between 67% and 75% for the working class population.[2]  Another source indicated that based on the ability of brides and bridegrooms to sign their marriage certificates, the literacy rate was even lower among women at that time—around 50%, .  That same source, however, suggested that since writing was taught after reading, simply because someone could not sign his or her name did not mean that he or she could not read.[3]

A third interesting detail on the certificate is that it appears that both Jacob and Sarah were residing at 8 Landers Building at the time they were married.  Since it is not likely they were living together before they were married, this would mean that their families were living in the same building.  Were they childhood friends?  Had their parents as neighbors arranged the marriage? Were they all related in some way? It also appears that the marriage had taken place at this same location, not at a synagogue.  But the record from Synagogue Scribes indicated that they were married at the Great Synagogue, as were Hart and Rachel.  I assume that this was this just a civil certificate completed to comply with civil, not religious, law.  I find it interesting that it states that the ceremony was done “according to the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish religion” despite the fact that it is not a religious document.

It is quite amazing to me how much information and how many questions can be mined from one simple document.  Receiving this document was very exciting, as with receiving Rachel’s death certificate from England.  It ties me directly to my ancestors—people who were born almost 200 years ago, but with whom I have a direct and easily established connection.




[1] See the discussion on RootsChat at and also at at

[2]  R.S. Schofield, “Dimensions of Illiteracy in England, 1750-1850) in Literacy and Social Development In the West: A Reader (edited by Harvey J. Graff) (1981), p.201.

[3] “Introduction,” Aspects of the Victorian Book, at

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My Great-Great Grandmother Rachel Jacobs Cohen: Her Death Certificate

I have received a certified copy of my great-great grandmother’s death certificate from the General Register Office in London.  This is my first English vital record, and I was quite excited to receive it.  It amazes me that I can obtain a record that is over 150 years old from a foreign country just by clicking on the keys of a computer.  Below is a scan of the document and also a cropped version to highlight the actual text on the certificate.

Rachel Jacobs Cohen  death certificate

Rachel Jacobs Cohen death certificate

rachel jacobs cohen death cert 1851 cropped

There are a number of things that interest me about the information on this document.  First is Rachel’s date of death, January 9, 1851.  When I had searched through the BMD Index for this certificate, there were a number of Rachel Cohens who might have been the right person.  I guessed that it was this one based on the date.  Although Lewis and Jacob, Rachel’s sons, had left for the US in 1846 and 1848, respectively, Rachel’s husband and other children, Elizabeth and Jonas, did not leave until 1851.  I had a hunch that they did not leave because Rachel was ill and not able to make the journey, so they waited until after she died.

As the certificate shows, Rachel’s cause of death was “scirehus paylonis” and exhaustion, and it seems she had been ill for a year.  As best I can tell, scrirehus paylonis would be translated to schirrous pylonis or cancer of the stomach.  (My medical expert should feel free to correct this.)  I found some English writings on line in which that term was used to refer to what we would call stomach cancer.

The certificate also indicates where the family was living—in Landers Buildings in Christchurch, Spitalfields, in the Registration District of Whitechapel, County of Middlesex.  It also confirms that Hart Levy Cohen was a clothes dealer.

Perhaps most interesting and surprising to me is that Hart signed the certificate with a mark, an X, not with a signature.  Was he not able to sign his name? Was he illiterate? It’s so hard for me to imagine not being able to read and write that I found this shocking and disturbing.


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Hart Cohen and Family Between 1841 and 1851: My Great-Great Grandfather Jacob Cohen

English: Liberty Bell

English: Liberty Bell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As reported previously, in 1841 Hart Cohen and his wife Rachel were living with four of their children, Elizabeth, Moses, Jacob and John, on New Goulston Street in the Whitechapel section of London, presumably part of the Chut community and living fairly comfortably with the two older sons working as china dealers.  There was also at least one other son, an older son Lewis, and possibly another younger son, Jonas, although I am now thinking that John was in fact Jonas, but more on that later.  By 1860, only Moses (and John if there was in fact a son named John) was living in England; all the rest were in Philadelphia. I will try to trace in chronological order the major events and moves made by these family members.

In order to get a complete picture of the family and their lives in England, I will need to get copies of the vital records, including their birth certificates and marriage certificates.  I am now trying to learn how to do that.  I have received some extremely helpful tips and information from another of my favorite genealogy bloggers, Alex Cleverley of the blog Root to Tip.  Alex is a very experienced English genealogist, and with the help she has given me, I will now order the records I need.  Unfortunately it appears that there is no fast and easy access to these documents so for now I will have to rely on the 1851 census, a few other secondary sources, and later census reports and infer a number of facts from those documents.  As I receive other documentation, I will report what I find.

I will start with Hart and Rachel’s son Jacob because he is my direct ancestor, my great-great grandfather, and thus the one I have the greatest interest in tracking.  According to the 1841 census, Jacob was 15 that year, giving him a birth year of 1826.

Hart Cohen and family 1841 English census

Hart Cohen and family 1841 English census

This appears, however, to be inaccurate based on later census reports from the United States and from a passenger manifest, all of which indicate a birth year of 1824 or 1825.  That would have made Jacob 16 or 17 in 1841.

This also seems more consistent with the fact that Jacob may have married his wife Rachel Jacobs (possibly a relative of his mother, whose birth name was also Jacobs) on October 24, 1844.  Without an actual marriage certificate I cannot be completely sure, but I found a marriage record on SynagogueScribes for Jacob Cohen, son of Naphtali Hirts HaCohen, to Sarah Jacobs, at the Great Synagogue of London on that date.  The Hebrew name is not identical to what I had earlier found for Hart, Jacob’s father, but it is very close.  I know that Sarah’s maiden name was Jacobs based on the death certificates of two of their children, Isaac and Frances.  Thus, I feel fairly confident that this is in fact their marriage record as transcribed by SynagogueScribes.

Forenames Jacob
Hebrew Name Jacob
Event Marriage
Date 1844 [29 Oct]
Father’s Hebrew Name Naphtali Hirts HaCohen
Mother’s Family Name
Mother’s Forename
Mother’s Hebrew Name
Spouse JACOBS Sarah

Frances, or Fanny, was Jacob and Sarah’s first child, born around 1847, as inferred from later US census reports.   Within a year of Fanny’s birth, Jacob and Sarah left London and moved to Philadelphia.  On July 7, 1848, Jacob, Sarah and Fanny, an infant, arrived in New York aboard the ship New York Packing.  Jacob’s age was given as 24, consistent with a birth year of 1824, and Sarah was 20, giving her a birth year of 1828.  Jacob’s occupation was given as “General dealer,” as were many other men on the manifest.

Jacob and Sarah Cohen ship manifest 1848

Jacob and Sarah Cohen ship manifest 1848

Jacob was the first of Hart and Rachel’s children to leave London and move to the US.  His siblings and eventually his father began arriving several years later.  I found this interesting, given that Jacob was not the oldest son, but the fourth child and third son.  Why did he go first?  What drew him away from his family and to America with his young wife and baby?  I also found it revealing about my direct line that both Hart and Jacob were the sons who left their families behind and moved to a foreign country.  As far as I can tell, Hart arrived alone and without his family when he immigrated to England, just as his son Jacob did fifty years later when he left England and moved to the US.  I can’t say I inherited this willingness to take risks and move far from home, having never lived more than four hours from where I was born, but I like the idea that my ancestors were such risk-takers and so independent.

I don’t know whether Jacob and his family stayed very long in New York after arrival, but by 1850, Jacob and Sarah were living in Philadelphia.  It was not easy finding Jacob and Sarah on the 1850 US census.  I tried searching for all Jacob Cohens, Sarah Cohens, Fanny Cohens, and variations on each name and wild card searches on each name, but came up empty for a family that fit my relatives.  Then I decided to search just by first names for a Jacob with a wife named Sarah and a daughter Fanny and found them listed as “Coyle,” not “Cohen,” another instance of a mistaken name on a census report.  I am quite certain that these are my relatives despite the Irish surname because all the other facts fit closely enough—names, ages, places of birth for Jacob, Sarah and Francis.  Jacob’s occupation is described as “Dealer in 2d HG,” which I interpret to mean a dealer in second hand goods.  The only inconsistency is that Francis is listed as male, not female, but later census reports correct that mistake and list her as female.


Jacob Cohen and family 1850 US census

Jacob Cohen and family 1850 US census

By 1850, Jacob and Sarah had two additional children born in Pennsylvania.  Joseph was two years old, so presumably born shortly after Jacob and Sarah had arrived in the US in 1848, meaning Sarah was pregnant when they left England.  Isaac was six months old, so presumably born in January, 1850, since the 1850 census was dated July 25, 1850.

There were also two other men living in the household, both twenty years old: Mordecia (Mordecai?) Coyle (Cohen?) and Alexander Kelly.  Unfortunately, the1850 census did not identify the relationship of each individual to the head of household as later census reports did, so I do not know who these two men were.  Mordecai might very well have been a relative since he shared the same surname with the family.  But how might he have been related? None of Jacob’s siblings were old enough to have had a twenty year old son, and Jacob did not have a younger brother named Mordecai.  Also, the census indicates that Mordecai was born in Pennsylvania, meaning that his parents would have been in the US in 1830.  Perhaps Hart had a brother who had emigrated from Holland or Amsterdam or England that early? Or was Mordecai not even related to Jacob?  I have done some preliminary searching for other records for Mordecai, but so far have not had any success.

Thus, by 1850 my great-great grandfather was settled in Philadelphia, a young man with a young wife and three little children, working as a dealer in second hand goods.  His parents and his siblings were all still back in London, but between 1850 and 1860, that would change, and Jacob’s family both in his household and in Philadelphia would expandd many times over.

My next post will describe what the rest of Hart’s family was doing between 1841 and 1860, by which time most of the Cohens had arrived in Philadelphia.






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Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Lose

I have had some incredible luck  following my hunches when ordering vital records about people who I think are my family members—finding Frieda Brotman’s death certificate and marriage certificates, for example, or finding Susie Mintz and Gustave Rosenzweig and Tillie Strolowitz and their relatives.  But lest anyone think that all my hunches have worked out, I want to give you three recent examples where I just guessed wrong.

The first example involves Gussie Rosenzweig, Gustave’s wife.  Recently I was able to obtain her death certificate and saw that her son Jack had listed her as a widow with a husband named Ben.  I was very puzzled by this as Gussie had not been listed as living with any man in the most recent census reports before she died.  Had she married sometime in the 1920s or 1930s and been widowed in between census reports?  I did a search and found only one Gussie Rosenzweig who had married a man named Benjamin.  I ordered that certificate, and this is what I received:

Rosenzweig - Rosenberg Marriage page 1

Clearly, this is not the right Gussie.  This Gussie was only 27 in 1934, whereas our Gussie would have been in her 70s; this Gussie had different parents who had come from Hungary.  So I still have no idea whether there ever was a Ben who married Gussie after she and Gustave split up.  Strike one.

The next bad guess involved a search for the other children of Gussie and Gustave who did not survive infancy.  I had seen on Rebecca’s birth certificate in 1893 that Gussie and Gustave had had five children, four living at Rebecca’s birth.  Somehow I miscounted and thought there was a missing child, although now when I go back and re-read my blog post, it seems pretty obvious that I had found all four living children (Lillie, Sarah, Abraham, and Rebecca) and the one deceased child (David).  But I thought I had found another—Samuel Rosenzweig—and sent for that death certificate.  Not surprisingly, he was not the child of Gustave and Gussie, as you can see below.  Strike two.

Rosenzweig, Samuel Death

The last example of my bad hunches involved a man named Paskel Rosenzweig who came from Iasi in 1900.  I thought that he might be another Rosenzweig sibling and decided to research his life in the US.  I was able to determine that he had changed his name to Charles and ordered a death certificate, hoping it would show that he was the sibling of Gustave, Tillie, Ghitla and Zusi, but as you can see below, he was not.  Strike three.

Rosenzweig, Charles Death page 1

Perhaps he was a cousin, but it would require some further digging into Romanian documents to see if Charles’ father was related to my great-great grandfather David Rosenzweig.  For now I will accept that my hunch is unproven, if not yet proven wrong.

There are other examples of times I made a bad guess.  Fortunately for the most part these bad guesses are not costly, as the documents usually came for free from the Family History Library.  But even so, every time I open a document, either electronically or in hard copy, my heart is beating, hoping it will provide an important clue or confirm a hunch.  When it does not, it is very disappointing.  Inevitable—what are the odds I will always find the right person?—but nevertheless, disappointing.


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More Mysteries: Can you help with handwriting analysis?

When I order a death certificate, I am hoping it will help me put some matters to rest (OK, pun intended), give me some closure, provide some answers.  More often than not, however, these so-called vital records raise more ghosts and mysteries than answers.

Two cases in point: the death certificates of Gustave Rosenzweig and his first wife Gussie Rosenzweig, the parents of my grandfather’s first cousins Abraham, Jack, Joe, Lillie, Sarah, Rebecca, Lizzie, and Rachel, among others.

First, let’s look at Gustave’s death certificate.  It confirms a number of things that make me certain that this is the right Gustave. He was born in Romania.  At the time of his death, he was married to Selma and living at 49 Wadsworth Avenue in Manhattan.  He died on October 16, 1944; his birth date is given as October 7, 1859, which is not exactly the date provided by his Romanian birth record of June 10, 1856, but close enough.  He was a retired painter, which is consistent with his occupation both in Romania and in New York.  The only clear mistake here is that although it has his father’s name correct (David), it has his mother’s name as Leah, instead of Esther.  Again, I’ve seen worse mistakes on death certificates, so I am comfortable dismissing that error.  Overall, this is a fairly reliable record of Gustave’s life and death.

Gustave Rosenzweig death certificate 1944

Gustave Rosenzweig death certificate 1944

Gustav Rosenzweig death cert 1

But here’s where it opens a new door and a mystery.  Here’s where I need some help.  At the bottom of the certificate is the signature of Gustave’s daughter as the informant, and I cannot read the last name.  The first initial appears to be an L, meaning this could be either Lillie or Lizzie.  But what is the surname?  Dorsie? Dorne? Dorme? Dorsue?  If I could decipher this, it might help me find either Lillie or Lizzie, both of whom I’ve had trouble tracking down.  If anyone can help me read this writing, I’d much appreciate it.  Remember you can click on the image below to enlarge it.

mystery signature

Now to Gussie Rosenzweig’s death certificate.  Again, the information here makes me certain that this is the correct Gussie, the mother of my grandfather’s first cousins and Gustave’s first wife.  Gussie was born in Romania to Isadore Sachs (Itzic Zacu) and Muriel Klein (Mirel), which is consistent with her birth record and marriage record from Romania.  She was residing at 2112 Dean Street in Brooklyn at the time of her death on December 23, 1935.  She was reported to be 75 years old at her death, giving her a birth year of 1860, close to the 1864 given on her Romanian birth record.  It looks like Gussie must have died a fairly gruesome death, having been hospitalized since November 5, 1935, suffering from gangrene of her foot, caused by diabetes.  Her son John hired the undertaker, as indicated on the reverse of the death certificate.

Gussie Rosenzweig Death certificate 1935

Gussie Rosenzweig Death certificate 1935

Rosenzweig, Gussie Death page 1

So what is the mystery here? Gussie is identified as widowed, and her husband’s name is…Benjamin? Who could Benjamin be? Had Gussie had remarried after she and Gustave divorced? (They are not living together on any census after 1910.)  In 1915 the children were living with Gussie.  (I have yet to find Gustave on the 1915 NYS census.)

Rosenzweigs 1915

Rosenzweigs 1915

The 1920 census is confusing; I have two pages for Gustave—one as a painter living in Manhattan as a boarder in East Harlem, one in Brooklyn with the Rosenzweig children.  I have to believe that the Brooklyn Gustave is really Gussie, as she is listed as unemployed and divorced.

Gustave Rosenzweig in Manhattan 1920

Gustave Rosenzweig in Manhattan 1920

Rosenzweigs 1920 census

Rosenzweigs 1920 census


The 1925 census shows her living with “Rose,” who I assume by the age (22) is Ray/Rachel.  The NYS census does not indicate her marital status, but there is no Benjamin living with them.

Gussie Rosenzweig 1925 NYS census

Gussie Rosenzweig 1925 NYS census

The 1930 census has her again living with Ray, but lists her marital status as married.  Again, there is no husband, no Benjamin living with her.

Gussie Rosenzweig 1930 census

Gussie Rosenzweig 1930 census

I checked the NYC marriage index for any brides named Gussie Rosenzweig who married between 1915 and 1935 and found three.  One did marry a man named Ben Rosenberg on January 27, 1935, less than a year before our Gussie died.  Could she have gotten married at that point? If so, why wouldn’t she have changed her name to Rosenberg?  Or did John, her son, not want her listed as divorced so he made up a husband who predeceased her?  I will order the marriage certificate for Ben Rosenberg and Gussie Rosenzweig, but somehow I doubt that that is the same Gussie Rosenzweig.  Stranger things have happened, of course.

And here’s the final mystery.  Both Gustave and Gussie are buried at Mt Zion Cemetery, not in the same section, but nevertheless in the same cemetery.  Neither Selma, Gustave’s widow at the time of his death, nor Benjamin, the alleged widower of Gussie at the time of her death, is buried there.  Gustave and Gussie’s son Harry who died as a teenager in 1913 is buried there, however, so perhaps in death Harry brought his parents back together.


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I’m Ba-a-a-ck! With an Update on Lillian Rosenzweig

After a week away in the beautiful Florida Keys where we were able to put the miserable New England winter weather behind us and enjoy the outdoors, kayaking, swimming, walking, and seeing wildlife including dolphins and alligators, I am back in New England with the miserable winter temperatures outside, but happy knowing that spring is at least here on the calendar if not in the weather quite yet.  It has to get above freezing soon, doesn’t it?

While I was away I received a number of documents, mostly confirming the hunches I’d had about Lillian and Rebecca Rosenzweig.  Today I will focus on Lillian.  About ten days ago I posted what I knew and thought I knew about Lillian.  I believed that she had married Toscano Bartolini in July, 1901, had had a son William born in March, 1902, and then lost her husband in 1904.  All of those facts are now confirmed by the marriage certificate, William’s birth certificate, and Toscano’s death certificate, all of which I received late last week.

First, as you can see from the marriage certificate, Lillian and Toscano were married by an alderman, not a rabbi, on July 6, 1901. This is clearly the right Lillian Rosenzweig, as her parents’ names are Gustav and Gussie nee Sagg.  According to the certificate, Lillian was then eighteen years old, which would have made her birth date 1883—a year before her parents married.  Lillian must have lied about her age in order to get married without parental consent.  I have speculated elsewhere that she was likely born in 1885 since her parents were married in June, 1884.  Also, Lillian’s address is given as 320 East 9th Street—not in Brooklyn where her parents were living.  She must have moved out before she married Toscano, who was living on Sullivan Street at that time.  These inferences are consistent with the family story that Lillie’s marriage to someone who was not Jewish led to disapproval and perhaps some estrangement from her family.

Bartolini Rosenzweig marriage certificate

Bartolini Rosenzweig marriage certificate

From William’s birth certificate, another inference seems possible.  William was born on March 9, 1902, just eight months after Lillie and Toscano had married.  Perhaps Lillie was already pregnant at the time of the wedding, although I am not sure she would have known that at the time since she would have been just one month pregnant.  It is, of course, entirely possible that William was a month premature. William was born at home—177 Houston Street in NYC.  Interestingly, Lillie’s age is now reported as seventeen—a year younger than she had reported on her marriage certificate a year earlier.  If she was in fact seventeen in March, 1902, her birth year would have been 1885, as I suspected.  It also means she was only sixteen when she married Toscano.

William Bartolini birth certificate

William Bartolini birth certificate

The other interesting fact gathered from this certificate is that Lillie had already had a child before William’s birth, but that that child was no longer living.  When could she have had that child?  Her marriage certificate reported that her marriage to Toscano was her first marriage.  Had she had a child with him before they married? Had she had an out-of-wedlock child with someone else? Had that child really died or had she given that child up for adoption and simply reported it as if he had died?  I have no idea and no idea how to try and figure that out. (It’s also sad that on the 1910 census when Lillie was back living with her parents, she is listed as single and having no children.)

The third document in this trilogy is Toscano’s death certificate.  Toscano died on April 27, 1904, from chronic nephritis, kidney disease, at age 27.  He’d been working as a bartender and died at 69 Carmine Street in NYC.  He had only been in the US for five years, had been married for less than three years, and left behind his 19 year old wife and 2 year old son.  I don’t know what causes chronic nephritis, although it looks like uremia is given as a contributing cause of death.   But I’ve never heard of someone dying at age 27 from that today.

Toscano Bartolini death certificate

Toscano Bartolini death certificate

The rest of the story, as reported earlier, shows a family in disarray.  Lillie and William moved back to Brooklyn and were living with Gustave and Gussie and the family in 1905, indicating at least a temporary reconnection.  In 1906, however, William was living at the Brooklyn Hebrew Orphanage.  Although it appeared that he was released back to his mother for some time, by 1910 William was living at St. John’s Home in Brooklyn and in 1915 at the NY Catholic Protectory.  Lillian, who was living with her parents in 1910 without William, then disappears from the records.

I still have not found either William or Lillian after that.  I don’t know what happened to either of them.  Joseph’s grandchildren told me that at some point Lillie was back in touch with her siblings, but no one knows anything more specific than that.  I will keep looking for some new clue, but for now I’ve hit the proverbial brick wall with Lillie and William Bartolini.

What I do know is an incredibly sad story of a young woman, emigrating with her family from Romania when she was only a young child, having two children before she was eighteen years old, losing one apparently to death and another to institutional care, losing a young husband after just a few years of marriage, and losing the support of her family as well for at least some period of time.  It’s a story to contrast with the story of Leah Strolowitz Adler, the daughter of Tillie Rosenzweig and Jacob Srulovici, who also came to the US as young girl but found the American dream.

The story of Lillie Rosenzweig raises so many questions: how did she, a young Jewish immigrant living in Brooklyn, meet and get involved with a young Italian immigrant who was living in the Lower East Side, not Brooklyn? Who was the father of her first child, and what happened to that child? What happened to William after he left the Catholic Protectory? Did he have any contact with his mother or her family? And what happened to Lillie after 1910? Did she remarry and regain custody of William? Did she also die at a tragically young age? These loose ends make me crazy—I want some endings to the story, but I may have to accept that I may never know what happened.

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