Jews in Iowa? Cohens on the Prairie 1880-1900

“Sioux Falls panorama 1908 1″ by G.W. Fox – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID pan.6a09880. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sioux_Falls_panorama_1908_1.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Sioux_Falls_panorama_1908_1.jpg

Although the descendants of Moses and Adeline Cohen stayed close to Washington until 1880, in the next two decades many of them ventured further away.  I’ve already written about the children of Moses, Jr., four of whom left DC, three for NYC, and one for Baltimore.  But his siblings and their children ventured even further away, although for some it was just a temporary move.

The real adventurer seems to have been Jacob M. Cohen, apparently known as JM.  JM married a woman from Cuyahoga, Ohio, named Belle Lehman, on August 19, 1877.  Their first daughter, Fannie Sybil, was born in Washington, DC, in 1879, but sometime after 1880, JM and his wife and young daughter left town and moved west to the Dakota Territory where the second child, Seba Maude, was born in 1882.  I wish I knew what drew JM away from Washington and off to the prairie and how he met a woman from Ohio in the first place.  Was it a desire to be a pioneer or a desire to strike out on his own away from his family?  I don’t know, but I was certainly surprised to see “Dakota” as the birthplace of his second child.

Not long after Seba’s birth, the family must have moved again because a third daughter, Ruth Josephine, was born on June 8, 1883, in Sioux City, Iowa.  Sioux City seems to be where JM and Belle established deeper roots. They lived there until at least 1905, and their fourth child and only son Arthur was born there in 1885.  According to the 1885 Iowa state census, JM was working as a pawnbroker; in the 1888 directory for Sioux City, he is listed as being in real estate, but in 1900 his occupation on the census is a ticket broker.  Perhaps the census taker heard that incorrectly; perhaps he was still a pawnbroker.  Or maybe a real estate broker.

JM Cohen and family 1885 Iowa census

JM Cohen and family 1885 Iowa census

JM Cohen and family 1900 US census

JM Cohen and family 1900 US census

JM and Belle suffered a terrible loss when their daughter Seba died on January 2, 1886; she was not even four years old.

Seba Maude Cohen headstone

I fear that their son Arthur, born in 1885, also died young.   He does not appear on the 1895 census or the 1900 census when one would assume he would have been only ten and then fifteen years old and presumably living with his family.  On the other hand, I cannot find a death record for him in Iowa or elsewhere, nor is he buried where Seba and his parents were buried in Sioux City.

I wondered whether there were any other Jews in Sioux City at that time and was able to locate a book by Simon Glazer entitled The Jews in Iowa: A Complete History and Accurate Account of Their Religious, Social, Economical and Educational Progress in this State; a History of the Jews of Europe, North and South America in Modern Times, and a Brief History of Iowa, published in 1904 by Koch Brothers Printing Company and now available as a free e-book on Google.  According to Glazer, there were only 25 Jews in Sioux City in 1869, but by 1904 there were over two thousand, including my relatives. In fact, when the Jewish community decided to form a cemetery association, the Mt Sinai Cemetery Association, in 1884, JM Cohen, my cousin, was one of the founding members.  (Glazer, p. 295)  Moreover, that same year JM’s wife Belle was the leader of a movement among the Jewish women to create a fund-raising organization to help the poor and to raise money to build a house of worship. (Glazer, p. 296)  Despite this burst of energy in 1884, there was no formal congregation until 1898.  As described by Glazer:

“The Jewish spirit which kept them together was a mere ghost of little more consequence than a shadow. Everything they had gained during their childhood, everything their parents had imbued within them vanished form [sic] their memories, and nothing new could come and knock at their gates since no effort was endeavored prior to 1898, to form a congregation and engage the services of a minister.” (p. 297)

According to Glazer, “Their temple was built largely through the efforts of the ladies, and the man [sic] frankly admit that had it not been for the heroic efforts of the Jewish women no such place for Judaism in Sioux City would as yet have been made a matter of fact. Their first services were conducted at the Masonic Temple, which is, indeed, very complimentary to both, the Masons and the Jews.” (p. 300)

JM Cohen was listed by Glazer as one of the ten officers and leaders of Mt Sinai Congregation in those early days.

Mt Sinai Synagogue, Sioux CIty, Iowa From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

Glazer then described the influx of Russian and Eastern European Jews in the late 1880s and thereafter and the divisions between the older assimilated population which had established Mt Sinai, the Reform congregation, and the newcomers who were more Orthodox.  He concluded his chapter on Sioux City by saying, “The Jewry of Sioux City is as yet in its infancy, but it has plenty of mettle to make itself a stronghold of both Orthodox and Reform Judaism in the northwest.” (p. 302)

So my cousin Jacob M. Cohen was a pioneer.  He left the comforts of a well-established Jewish community in Washington, DC, where his older brother Moses, Jr., was a leader in the Washington Hebrew Congregation, a well-established synagogue, and went out to the prairie lands of the Midwest (the northwest in 1904 when Glazer was writing) to become a Jewish leader there.

JM also succeeded in getting two of his siblings and his mother Adeline to move to Iowa, if for only a short time. Adeline, who was born in Baden, Germany, had immigrated to Baltimore, raised four children on her own when her husband Moses died in 1860, and supported them herself in Washington, DC.  Adeline again uprooted herself and left a safe, settled urban world to live in Iowa.   In 1888 she was living with JM in Sioux City, according to the city directory.  I don’t know how long she lived there, but she did return to Washington, DC, by 1894.

Title : Sioux City, Iowa, City Directory, 1888 Source Information Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989

Title : Sioux City, Iowa, City Directory, 1888
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989

In that same 1888 Sioux City directory is a listing for Hart Cohen as well, JM’s older brother.  The first half of the 1880s for Hart and his wife Henrietta brought two more children to their family, Isadore Baer, born in 1883, and Jacob M. II, born in 1885, in addition to Frances, who was born in 1878, and Munroe, born in 1880.  Hart, like his brother JM, was a pawnbroker, and like his first cousin Hart in Philadelphia, he was charged in 1885 with receipt of stolen goods in the course of his business; he was acquitted of the charges in 1886.

 

Hart DC Cohen arrested 1885 snip

(“A Pawnbroker Arrested,” Wednesday, March 25, 1885, Critic-Record (Washington (DC), DC),Issue: 5,187, Page: 3)

Letter from Washington. A Pawnbroker Acquitted - Measures to Avert a Flood in the Potomac Date: Friday, February 12, 1886  Paper: Sun (Baltimore, MD)   Volume: XCVIII   Issue: 76   Page: 4

Letter from Washington. A Pawnbroker Acquitted – Measures to Avert a Flood in the Potomac
Date: Friday, February 12, 1886 Paper: Sun (Baltimore, MD) Volume: XCVIII Issue: 76 Page: 4

It might have been in the aftermath of these criminal proceedings that Hart decided to join his brother JM in Sioux City.  He was there at least until 1895, as on the 1895 Iowa census he and his entire family are included.  His occupation at that time was described as a jeweler.

Hart Cohen and family 1895 Iowa census

Hart Cohen and family 1895 Iowa census

By 1900, however, Hart and his family had returned to Washington, DC, where he was still working as a jeweler.  His children were now all at least teenagers, ranging in age from 14 (Jacob) to Frances (21), and perhaps he felt like he had gotten his life in order and could return to his hometown.  They were living at 1424 Seventh Street, NW, in 1900.

Hart Cohen and family 1900 census

Hart Cohen and family 1900 census

JM even lured his sister Rachel to come to Iowa for some time.  Rachel had been newly married to Frederick Selinger in 1880, and in 1882 they had their first child, Fannie Selinger, in Washington, DC.  Their second child, Monroe, was born in 1888 in Washington as well, but in 1891 when Frederick applied for a passport, they were living in Sioux City, Iowa.  (Interestingly, the witness on the application was Myer Cohen of Washington, DC, his wife’s nephew, son of her brother Moses, Jr.)

Frederick Selinger passport application 1891

Frederick Selinger passport application 1891

Frederick is also listed in directories for Sioux City from 1890 through 1892.  Like Hart and Adeline, however, Rachel and Frederick returned to Washington, DC, where in 1900 the family was living at 1502 Seventh Street, NW.

Frederick and Rachel Selinger and family 1900 census

Frederick and Rachel Selinger and family 1900 census

Thus, by 1900, the great experiment of living out in Sioux City had ended for all of the DC Cohens except for JM and his family, who would never return to Washington, DC.  All the rest of the Moses Cohen family—from Adeline (until her death in 1895) to Moses, Jr., to Hart, to Rachel– were living within five or six blocks of each other in the Northwest section of Washington, DC, in 1900.

The twentieth century was about to begin, and with it came new challenges and new family members.  The story will continue…

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Have Been Quiet about Israel

I have never been afraid to express my opinion.  I welcome reasonable discussions and debate about almost anything—food, movies, books, baseball, politics, world affairs, religion, you name it.  I have strong feelings about almost anything and everything, and I usually am not at all hesitant to say what I am thinking.  I like to think that I listen to what others have to say and that I try and be informed about as much as I can before formulating my own opinion.  My values have not changed much at all in the course of my life, so I know my starting point based on those values, but my mind has been changed many times on many issues by listening and reading what others have to say.

But this time I am lost.  I am Jewish, I am proud to be Jewish, and I feel a strong emotional tie to Israel and Jewish people everywhere.  I’ve only visited Israel once, back in 1997, and it left an indelible mark upon me.  I felt a connection historically and spiritually to the place.  I cried when we left in a way that was far different from the sadness I always feel when a trip or vacation ends.  Israel felt like home to me in a way I never expected.  From my research I now know I have family in Israel.  I have friends in Israel. I know how important Israel is to the past, the present, and the future of the Jewish people.

I am also a lifelong progressive liberal (and not ashamed at all of that word) who argued and protested against every US war during my lifetime—from Vietnam starting in 1965 when I was a teenager up through Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2002.  I know that some wars were so-called just wars; defeating Hitler and others who have tried to commit genocide is justified and necessary.  Dropping an atomic bomb on Japan, however, is not something I would have agreed with, if I’d been born at the time.  I don’t agree with capital punishment, even when the convicted person has committed a heinous crime.  I just don’t see killing as a way of accomplishing anything unless and until there is no choice in the name of self-defense or defense of others.

So I have read the news these last few weeks with my stomach churning, my heart breaking, and my brain torn from one side to the other.  Almost everything I have read is filled with one-sided rhetoric. There is no reason for me to recap the arguments; you’ve heard them all before.  People who are defending Israel point me to pro-Israel sources; people who are anti-Israel point me to anti-Israel sources.  I read the New York Times every day, hoping it is more objective than other sources.  People who are pro-Israel say that the Times is biased against Israel; people who are anti-Israel say the Times is biased in favor of Israel.

There are only a few actual facts: Hamas wants to destroy Israel—it says so in its charter; there is a blockade around Gaza that makes escape for those who live there almost impossible and life there absolutely miserable; Hamas is building tunnels and accumulating weapons and shooting rockets to reach its goal of destroying Israel; Israel is fighting back with stronger and bigger weapons and with a defense system that has resulted in many more Palestinian deaths than Hamas has been able to inflict on Israel; Hamas refuses to agree to a ceasefire; Israel refuses to stop building new settlements; Hamas continues to shoot rockets, knowing that its own people will be killed in greater numbers; Israel knows that it cannot avoid killing them when it shoots its rockets at Gaza.  Neither side can win unless it obliterates the other side, in which case neither side has won.

Meanwhile, people are dying on both sides, no one feels safe, and there is hate being spewed by both sides.  And across the world, there are people protesting, saying things that I’ve not heard said so publicly and proudly in my lifetime: “Death to the Jews, Kill the Jews.”  In one town in France, shop windows were smashed.  Immediately I thought of Kristallnacht.

So why have I remained quiet?   Being quiet did not help the Jews in the 1930s. But why express my feelings when they only provoke more rhetoric?  Why be accused of being either a self-hating Jew for having sympathy for the people in Gaza or of being a Jewish imperialist/Zionist for understanding why Israel feels a need to use force to stop Hamas from trying to kill the Israeli people and their country? The dialogue is pointless.  No one really listens.  They just argue.  They just throw around words of hate.  They just make me feel sick and sad and confused.

I have also remained quiet because I am confused and upset and heart-sick.  I see no hope for any improvement in the situation; I only see things getting worse.  I only see a terrible ending to all this anger and killing and hate, and it makes me despair for my children and my grandchildren, for Jews and for non-Jews, for our world, our planet, our lives.  There is no right, no wrong.  There is just ugliness, blood, violence, and hatred.  There are no words.  I have no words.  I am speechless.  I am silenced.

Please don’t tell me what you think.  Please don’t fill my heart with more hate, with more anger. I’ve heard all the arguments. The rhetoric is all noise to me. Endless Facebook postings prove nothing; people only read what supports their point of view. There is nothing to celebrate. Everyone is wrong; everyone is right. Everyone needs to be quiet, to stop talking, and to start listening to their hearts, hoping with their souls, and thinking with their brains.  If those of us who do not live where the bombs are flying cannot talk to each other with respect and understanding, how is there any hope that there will ever be peace over there or, for that matter, anywhere?

So my silence does not signify indifference or apathy; it signifies confusion and a willingness to listen and think and hope. You cannot listen when you are talking.  You cannot think when you are just spewing rhetoric.  You cannot hope when you are angry.  I am listening.  I am thinking.  I am trying as hard as I can to hope.

A Brick Wall Tumbles, Thanks Once Again to the Genealogy Village

When I learned that my brother’s Y-DNA did not match the Y-DNA of a descendant of Moses Cohen of Washington, DC, I was sorely disappointed.  I was sure that all the circumstantial and documentary evidence I had found supported my hunch that Moses was the brother of my great-great-grandfather Jacob Cohen and son of my three-times great-grandfather, Hart Levy Cohen.  But DNA does not lie, and I was very surprised by the results.

I had one small glimmer of hope when I learned about a family story that indicated that Moses Cohen, Sr., was not the biological father of Moses Cohen, Jr., who was in fact the biological great-great-grandfather of the living descendant whose DNA had been compared to that of my brother.  But how would I ever prove that?  It seemed hopeless.

Nevertheless, I decided to see what I could find that might help answer some of my questions.  Where and when was Moses, Jr., born? When and where did Moses, Sr., marry his mother Adeline Himmel? I could not find any American records showing a marriage or an immigration record for Adeline and her son Moses, Jr.  All I had were census records from 1850 and 1860 showing that Moses, Sr. and Adeline were already married by 1850 and that in 1850, Moses, Jr., was eleven years old.  Later census records indicated that both Moses, Jr., and Adeline were born in Germany and that Moses, Sr., was born in England (though a few later census reports filed after Moses, Sr.’s death by his children said he was also born in Germany).  Some of Moses, Jr.’s and Adeline’s records were even more specific, several naming Baden as her place of birth.

Several months ago when I first discovered the DC branch of the Cohen family, I had tried without success to find where in Baden Adeline had lived.  I sent a message on the GerSIG listserv (German Special Interest Group) of JewishGen.org asking for help.  I received many suggestions, but the most helpful one was from a man named Rodney.  First, he looked up the surname Himmel in Lars Menk’s “Dictionary of German-Jewish Surnames” and found that there was only one Jewish community in Germany where the name Himmel appeared, in  the Eberbach region of Baden.  Then he pointed me to a website that compiled various birth, death and marriage records from various towns in Germany, the Landesarchiv, and specifically to a book of the Jewish records for a town in Eberbach called Strumpfelbrunn where Rodney found a birth record for Jacob Himmel that he translated for me.  The record said, “On the 24th December 1815 was born Jakob Himmel, legitimate son of Moses Himmel and his wife Bromit nee Jakobin(?). Witnesses are Jakob Goez and Abraham Mond.”

(Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe 390 Nr. 1137, Bild 8
Permalink: http://www.landesarchiv-bw.de/plink/?f=4-1121353-8
Standesbücher / (1691-) 1775-1875 (-1958)
Kernlaufzeit 1810-1870 > Amtsgerichtsbezirk Eberbach >
Strümpfelbrunn, israelitische Gemeinde: Standesbuch 1810-1866 / 1810-1866)

Jacob Himmel birth record

Jacob Himmel birth record

I immediately wondered whether this Jakob Himmel could be the same as the one living next door to Moses, Adeline, and Moses, Jr., in Baltimore in 1850, the one I suspected was the brother of Adeline.

Moses Cohen and family 1850 census

Moses Cohen and family and Jacob Himmel and family  1850 census

Rodney suggested that I look for other records in the Strumpfelbrunn book, but it was written in old German script that looks like what you see above.  I wouldn’t even recognize my own name written in that script.  I tried my best, but after a few pages, I gave up and said that there had to be an easier way.  But there was not.  These records are not digitized or translated anywhere yet.  So I returned to American records and moved on, figuring I’d either never find Moses, Jr.’s records or I’d find them some other way.

Then in the last few weeks I found the passenger manifest for Jacob Himmel.

Jacob Himmel ship manifest

Jacob Himmel ship manifest

Detail

Detail

I posted it to a Facebook group called Baden Genealogy for help in deciphering the town listed as Jacob’s place of last residence, which looked like Rutlingheim to me and to most others.  But there was no such town in Baden, no town that had a name that looked even close.  I tried searching for the two men who appeared to be traveling with Jacob from “Rutlingheim” and had no luck at all locating them in the US.  Then two days ago, I posted again to the Baden Facebook group, asking whether the town could be Billigheim, a town reasonably close to Strumpfelbrunn where a Jacob Himmel had been born.

Monica, a member of that group, responded, and when I explained why Strumpfelbrunn was my point of reference, she invited me to send her the birth record I had and the source where I had found it and she would translate it for me.  Her translation was consistent with that of Rodney except that she read Jacob’s mother’s name as Fromit, not Bromit.  She, like Rodney, said I should look for other mentions of Himmel in the record.  The book is close to 300 pages long, and I told her that I just could not decipher the old German script.  Then she made a brilliant suggestion; she sent me a link to the font for that old script, had me install it into Word, and then suggested I type out Himmel and any other relevant names in the script and compare it to what I could find on the pages of the records book.

And so I did, and on page 78, I found a record that looked like it had the name Moses Himmel in that old script.

Moses Himmel birth record 1839

Moses Himmel birth record 1839

Moses Himmel birth record 1839 detail

Moses Himmel birth record 1839 detail

I sent it to Monica, who translated it as follows: “In the year 1839 29th Dec at noon an illegitimate son of the spinster Adelheid Himmel was born.  She is the legitimate daughter of the deceased Moses Himmel and of Frommat nee Lagg from Amsterdam.  The boy will be named Moses at his circumcision.”  It then names some witnesses.

When I received that email with the translation, I felt those bricks tumbling down.  Could this be anyone other than Adeline Himmel Cohen and her son Moses? Does this not provide evidence that the family story that Moses, Jr., was not the biological child of Moses Cohen, Sr., is reliable? Doesn’t it explain why Moses, Jr.’s great-great-grandson does not share DNA with my brother, who is a direct descendant of Hart Levy Cohen, who was Moses, Sr.’s father, but not the biological grandfather of Moses, Jr.?

I then found another page, 26, that also seemed to have the name Himmel.  Monica translated that one as well.  “On the 5th of May 1820 in the morning 4 o’clock he died and was buried at noon.  Moses Himmel was married with Fromat Lagg (or Lugg or Legg) from Holland.  Age forty and four years.”  This was the death notice for Moses Himmel, the father of Adelheid or Adeline Himmel.  She named her illegitimate son for her father, not as a junior for Moses Cohen, the man she would later marry, probably in the United States.

Moses Himmel the grandfather of Moses Himmel

Moses Himmel the grandfather of Moses Himmel

Of course, there are many questions remaining.  I still don’t know when Moses, Sr., married Adeline.  Nor can I be 100% certain this is the right Adeline, though it certainly would appear to be so.  These discoveries also open up some new doors for my research.  If Adeline’s mother was named Fromat Lagg or Lugg or Legg and she lived in Holland, perhaps there is a connection to my Dutch ancestors in Amsterdam.  Her name was given as Jakobin on Jacob’s birth record; perhaps she was part of the same family as Rachel and/or Sarah Jacobs, my three-times and two-times great-grandmothers.  Now I need to return to the Dutch research and see what I can find.

In any event, once again the generosity of my fellow genealogy researchers has been demonstrated.  I never could have done this without the help of Rodney and Monica, two people I’ve never met, and the larger GerSIG and Baden Genealogy Facebook group communities.  It is astonishing what can be accomplished when people work together instead of fighting and killing each other.

 

The Family of Moses, Jr. and Henrietta Cohen 1880-1900: Years of Growth and Change

Moses Jr and Henrietta Cohen and children c. 1900

Moses Jr and Henrietta Cohen and children c. 1904 Seated left to right: Myer, Mabel, Henrietta, Moses, Jr., and Augusta; standing left to right: Fannie, Solomon, Grace, Jacob, and Florence. Insert: Ella Photo courtesy of Jane and Scott Cohen

The years from 1880 through 1900 were years of continued growth for the children of Moses and Adeline Cohen, as their children had more children and as their grandchildren grew and had families of their own as well.  It was also a time of change, as some of the family members left the Washington, DC, area for other parts of the country.

I will focus first on the family of Moses, Jr. and Henrietta (Loeb) Cohen since he was the oldest of Moses and Adeline’s children by more than ten years. As I wrote last time, by 1880 he and Henrietta already had a large family of eight children, the oldest being Augusta who was already a teenager and the youngest being Solomon, who was just born in 1879. (There also were apparently two other children who died in infancy, but I have no documentation of their births, names, or deaths.)  They would have one more child, Mabel, who was born in 1883 when Henrietta was already 41 years old.  As reported to me by a direct descendant of Moses, Jr. and Henrietta, Mabel had Down’s syndrome, perhaps not all that surprising given the age of her mother when she was born. Sometime after 1880, Moses had switched from selling clothing to being a sexton for his synagogue and also a collector (a bill collector, I assume), according to city directories for Washington, DC, during that period.

The year after their last child Mabel was born, Moses and Henrietta saw their first child get married.  Augusta married Julius Selinger on June 10, 1884, when she was only eighteen years old.  Although I do not yet have any record to prove it, my hunch is that Julius was a brother or cousin of Frederick Selinger, the husband of Augusta’s aunt Rachel, her father’s sister.  Like Frederick, Julius was born in Hubern, Germany, according to his passport application. Julius had emigrated only a year or so before marrying Augusta. The two Selinger men were only three years apart in age.    By 1900, Augusta and Julius had five children: Sidney (1885), Harry (1888), Jerome (1889), Maurice (1893), and Eleanor (1894).  Julius was working as a jeweler, and his oldest son Sidney was an apprentice watchmaker.  The family was living in DC at 1157 8th Street, NW. [All addresses in this post are in the NW section of DC.]

Augusta and Julius Selinger 1900 census

Augusta and Julius Selinger 1900 census

During this same time period, Moses and Henrietta’s second child, Myer, was obtaining an education and building his career as well as his family.  Myer might be the very first Cohen to get a law degree (or the first I’ve found so far).  According to a 1917 alumni directory for George Washington University, Myer Cohen received an LL.B. in 1886 as well as an LL. M. in 1887, and was a lawyer in Washington, DC.

Ancestry.com. U.S., College Student Lists, 1763-1924 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. Original data: College Student Lists. Worcester, Massachusetts: American Antiquarian Society.

Ancestry.com. U.S., College Student Lists, 1763-1924 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.
Original data: College Student Lists. Worcester, Massachusetts: American Antiquarian Society.

Myer married Helen Wolf on January 14, 1890.  Helen was also a DC native, and her father Simon Wolf  had been president of Washington Hebrew congregation where Moses Cohen was a member and the shammes for many years.  Helen and Myer must have known each other for years before marrying.

Simon Wolf was a very well-known and well-regarded lawyer known for advocating for Jews and Jewish causes; one source described him as “a friend of Presidents from Abraham Lincoln to Woodrow Wilson.”[1] Myer joined his father-in-law’s practice, which became known as Wolf and Cohen; Simon Wolf had also started an insurance business in 1878, which also became known as Wolf and Cohen.[2]  It was the first insurance brokerage business in the Washington, DC, area.

Between 1890 and 1900, Myer and Helen had four children: Ruth (1891), Edith (1893), Marjorie (1896), and Roger (1898).  Another son, Myer, Jr., would be born in 1907.  The family was living at 1711 S Street in DC in 1900.

Myer Cohen Sr. 1900 census

Myer Cohen Sr. 1900 census

The third child of Moses and Henrietta was Jacob G. Cohen.  He married Ida Slegh in 1894; she was also a DC native. They had a daughter, Aimee, born in 1895, perhaps the first ever “Amy Cohen” in the family (although they spelled it the French way).  In 1900, their son Gerson was born. The family was living at 1 West 115th Street in New York City, and Jacob was employed as a bookkeeper.

Jacob G. Cohen and family 1900 census

Jacob G. Cohen and family 1900 census

A third Selinger joined the family in 1893 when Fannie Cohen, the fourth child, married Alfred Selinger.  Like Julius and Frederick, Alfred was born in Germany.  He immigrated to the US in October, 1888, and in 1891, he and Julius were both living at the same address, 810 I Street, according to a DC directory for that year, certainly an indication that the two were related and probably brothers.  In 1892, Julius and his family traveled abroad along with Alfred, according to a society item in the Washington Evening Star on June 17, 1892.  (Friday, June 17, 1892, Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC)   Page 3)  Fannie Cohen married Alfred a year later on June 10, 1893. Alfred and Fannie had one child, Selma, who was born in March, 1894.  According to the 1900 census, Alfred was a tailor, and the family was living at 711 I Street in DC.

Fannie and Alfred Selinger 1900 census

Fannie and Alfred Selinger 1900 census

Moses, Jr. and Henrietta must have had quite a wedding budget because in 1895 their fifth child, Ella, married Jacob Bernard Greenberg.  Ella and Jacob had a daughter Marjorie Ruth the following year, and in 1900 they were living in New York City at 140 West 100th Street, not too far from Ella’s brother Jacob G. Cohen. Her husband Jacob was employed as a freight clerk.

Ella and Jacob Greenberg 1900 census

Ella and Jacob Greenberg 1900 census

The weddings did not end there.  In 1898, Florence, the sixth child, married Harry Panitz.  Harry was a salesman from Baltimore, where the couple lived in 1898 and thereafter.  I thought that they did not have a child until 1902 when their daughter Aline was born, but when my brother visited Washington Hebrew Cemetery to look for the headstones for Moses Cohen, Sr., and his family, he saw one overturned headstone in the same area as other Cohen graves and picked it up.  It was very hard to read even in person, but he was able to edit the photo below to highlight the dates.

Headstone for Helen Panitz October 2, 1899 to May 12, 1900

Headstone for Helen Panitz October 2, 1899 to May 12, 1900 Photo courtesy of Ira Cohen

From those dates, I was able to search the death indices and found that Helen Panitz, less than one year old, had died in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on May 12, 1900, and was buried in Washington, DC, on May 14, 1900.  I do not know what they were doing in Fayetteville, nor do I know why Helen died so young. They were not living in Fayetteville as of December 27, 1899, because the Washington Evening Star reported on that day that Grace Cohen, Florence’s sister, had just returned from a visit to Baltimore to see Florence and Harry Panitz perhaps to see the ill-fated baby Helen.  (Wednesday, December 27, 1899, Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC), Page 7)

As of the 1900 census, Grace and her sister Mabel were still living with their parents, Moses, Jr. and Henrietta, at 1130 8th Street, just down the street from Augusta and Julius and their five children, some of whom were not much younger than their two aunts.

Moses Cohen, Jr. and family 1900 census

Moses Cohen, Jr. and family 1900 census

Moses and Henrietta’s youngest son Solomon was living on his own in New York City in 1900; he was 20 years old and working as a clerk.  He was living at 20 West 115th Street and boarding with a family named Pawel.  Solomon’s brother Jacob was living at 1 West 115th Street, the building across the street, and his sister Ella just a mile away, so Solomon had plenty of family to look after him in New York.

Solomon Cohen 1900 census

Solomon Cohen 1900 census

So by 1900, almost all of Moses, Jr’s nine children had married and/or moved out on their own.  Several had left Washington, DC—three to New York City and one to Baltimore.  There were many births and not too many deaths or other tragedies.  Moses and Henrietta had a son who was a lawyer and many grandchildren and more to come.  From the outside, it looks like life was very good for the entire clan.

There was, however, one major loss suffered by the family during this period. On January 15, 1895, the family matriarch, Adeline Himmel Cohen, died.  She had survived the loss of her husband Moses 35 years earlier and had essentially raised the four younger children on her own and perhaps Moses, Jr., as well before she married Moses, Sr. Adeline had worked outside the home to support her children, selling second hand clothing and carrying on the work that her husband Moses, Sr., had been doing before his death.   She must have been a very strong and determined woman to have weathered so many storms in her life.

Adeline Cohen headstone

Adeline Cohen headstone Photo courtesy of Jane and Scott Cohen

 

[1] Website of the Goethe Institute at http://www.goethe.de/ins/us/lp/kul/mag/deu/ewy/per/en6791595.htm

[2] The insurance business still exists today and was partially acquired by the Meltzer Group. See Related articleshttp://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-meltzer-group-inc-acquires-certain-assets-of-wolf–cohen-life-insurance-inc-55350942.html

Cohens in the Nation’s Capital: 1860-1880

As I continue to work on finding out when and where Moses Cohen, Sr., married Adeline Himmel and where and when Moses, Jr., was born and whether he was the biological son of Moses, Sr., I am operating under the assumption that Moses Cohen, Sr., was the brother of my great-great grandfather Jacob and the son of Hart Levy Cohen and Rachel Jacobs Cohen, my great-great-great grandparents.

Two months ago I wrote about the death of Moses Cohen, Sr., in 1860 and the decade that followed for his widow and children.  To recap, on the 1860 census, Moses, Sr., was listed as a forty year old china peddler, born in England; he was also described as “insane from intemperance.”  Perhaps that alcoholism is what led to his early demise just over two months later on October 2, 1860, at age 32, according to his headstone, or at most age 40, if his age on the 1860 census is more accurate.  He left his widow Adeline with four children under ten: Hart (9), Rachel (8), Jacob (6), and John (2).  In addition, he was survived by Moses Cohen, Jr, who was twenty years old.

Moses Cohen and family 1860 census

Moses Cohen and family 1860 census

 

After Moses, Sr., died, Adeline had gone to work out of the home as a merchant of second hand clothing, and Moses, Jr., was also in the clothing business. Moses married Henrietta Loeb on August 16, 1862, and by 1870, Moses and Henrietta had three children, Augusta (6), Myer (4), and Jacob (4 months). Moses was still a clothier.

Moses, Jr. and family 1870 census

Moses, Jr. and family 1870 census

Adeline in 1870 was still living with the four younger children; Hart was working as a pawnbroker and Jacob as a clerk. The other two children were still at home.  Interestingly, although on both the 1850 and 1860 census, Adeline had indicated she could not read or write (English, I assume), by 1870 that box was no longer checked off.

Adeline Cohen and family 1870 census

Adeline Cohen and family 1870 census

Between 1870 and 1880, there was a lot of growth in the family.  Moses, Jr., and Henrietta had five more children: Fannie (1872), Ella (1874), Florence (1876), Grace (1877), and Solomon (1879), bringing their family to eight children, ranging in age from one year to fifteen years old.  Moses was working at or owned a notions store in 1880.

Moses Cohen, Jr., and family 1880 census

Moses Cohen, Jr., and family 1880 census

Moses, Jr.’s brother Hart married Henrietta Baer in 1878, and they had their first child, Frances, later that year.  Hart was working as a clerk, presumably in a pawnshop.  A son Munroe was born on November 5, 1880, after the 1880 census had been taken.

Hart Cohen and family 1880 census

Hart Cohen and family 1880 census

Jacob M. Cohen, the next child of Moses, Sr., and Adeline, was married to Belle Lehman in 1877 in Cuyahoga, Ohio, where Belle’s family resided.  They had a daughter, Fannie Sybil Cohen, born on November 7, 1879.  As of the 1880 census, Jacob was working in a “loan office.”

Jacob M. Cohen and family 1880 census

Jacob M. Cohen and family 1880 census

Moses, Sr., and Adeline’s only daughter, Rachel, was also married by the end of the decade.  She married Frederick Selinger on January 10, 1880.  Frederick was born in Hurben, Germany, and had emigrated from Germany to the US in 1871, according to his passport application.  According to the 1880 census, Frederick was working as a “clerk in store.”   Adeline Cohen, Moses, Sr.’s widow, was living with her daughter Rachel and son-in-law Frederick Selinger.

Frederick and Rachel Cohen Selinger and Adeline Cohen on 1880 census

Frederick and Rachel Cohen Selinger and Adeline Cohen on 1880 census

The only member of the family I cannot locate between 1870 and 1880 or thereafter is the youngest child, John.  He was twelve as of the 1870 census, but I cannot find him at all on the 1880 census, nor can I find a marriage record or a death record.  He seems to have just disappeared.

Thus, as of 1880, Adeline and Moses, Sr.’s four oldest children were all married, and Adeline already had eleven grandchildren with more to come.  All of the children were living in Washington, DC, and it would seem that life was fairly routine for the four young families and their matriarch, Adeline Cohen.  It seemed that Adeline’s children had thrived despite losing their father at such an early age.

Things would start to change in the 1880s, as members of the extended family faced crises and changes.

 

 

 

A Delightful Conversation: Cousin Marjorie 

There are so many joys that come with doing genealogy work: solving family mysteries, learning about your roots, reliving the lives of those who came before you, working with other researchers and learning and teaching each other, and many other benefits.  But perhaps the greatest joy for me has been finding and meeting new cousins.  My reunion with my Brotman cousins last April was more than I’d ever expected, and the phone conversations, email exchanges, and meetings I’ve had with other cousins have also all been so much fun and so rewarding.

But this cousin connection was particularly special to me.  Cousin Marjorie is my father’s first cousin and close to him in age.  They knew each other as children, but have not been in contact for over sixty years.  In order to contact this cousin, I could not rely on email or Facebook.  I had to do it the old-fashioned way, a handwritten letter.  Fortunately, I was able to find her address on line and took a chance that she would still be able to respond and that she would want to respond.

When I did not hear back for nearly two weeks, I assumed that she either could not or did not want to respond, and I resigned myself to the fact that I would not hear from her.  Then one day last week my cell phone rang, and a number came up that was not familiar.  I answered the phone, and a woman who sounded like someone in her 20s said, “Amy?  You will never guess who this is.”  I said that I had no idea, and she said, “This is your cousin Marjorie.”

What then followed was an hour long conversation, followed up with another hour long conversation the other day.  Marjorie’s memory is remarkable; she was able to confirm a number of dates and addresses and stories that I had found online through public documents, but she had them at her fingertips.  She also had memories of my great-grandmother, my grandfather, my great-uncles and great-aunts, stories I had not known before.  And she had wonderful stories about her own life and her parents’ lives as well.   Our conversations ranged from the particular to the universal, discussing everything from Winston Churchill (from whom she has a signed letter), Queen Elizabeth (to whom she sends a birthday card every year and receives a thank you in return), and how she learned to drive, to current politics and social issues like legalizing drugs and sexual mores and her current day-to-day life with her cat Scarlett and her many friends.

Out of respect for her privacy, I do not want to discuss too many of the details of her own life on the blog, but suffice it to say that she is a very bright, articulate, and opinionated woman.  She told me that she had graduated from Trinity College (D.C.) and that she had traveled the world as part of her career working for the American Automobile Association.  She is still volunteering one day a week for the local historical society in her neighborhood.

As for some of the family memories, Marjorie did not remember her grandfather Emanuel well since she was only about three years old when he died, but she does remember her grandmother, Eva May Seligman Cohen, lovingly and clearly.  She said Bebe, as the grandchildren called her, had been a brilliant woman.  Her brother, Arthur Seligman, was the governor of New Mexico (more on that when I get to the Seligman line), and he had been invited to speak one year at Valley Forge.  When he had to cancel his plans, my great-grandmother Eva May spoke as his replacement.  Marjorie had not been able to attend, but wished that she had been there.  Marjorie said that not only was Bebe brilliant, she was kind and giving and would do anything for her family.  I shared with her the fact that Eva May and Emanuel had opened their home to Emanuel’s brother Isaac and his son when his wife died, and she was not surprised.  Like my father, Marjorie remembers exactly when her beloved grandmother passed away in October, 1939.

I also asked Marjorie what she remembers of my grandfather, her Uncle John, and she said that she has no memory of him before he became disabled, but remembers driving with her parents to Coatesville, Pennsylvania, once a month to visit him at the VA hospital there.  She described him as very good looking, thin, with black hair.

She also remembered going to occasional Sunday dinners at her grandmother’s house when my father and my aunt were living there and going to the movies with her cousins.  She said that somewhere she has a street photograph of the three cousins—my father, my aunt, and Marjorie—walking in Philadelphia.  Marjorie also told me that about 25 years ago she got a call out of the blue from her cousin Buddy, Maurice’s son, saying that he was back east from California and wanted to see her.  He and his wife (whom she remembered as being Norwegian) came to visit, and she said she and Buddy stayed in touch until he died in 1995.

Marjorie also spoke adoringly of her parents, Stanley and Bessie Cohen.  She said that although they were brought up in different faiths—her father a Reform Jew, her mother a High Episcopalian, they were an ideal match and had a wonderful marriage for well over 60 years.  She quoted to me several sayings that her mother used to convey her values to her daughter—as Marjorie described them, common sense statements about the value of an education and the importance of good health.  She said her mother was a sweet and kind person who always saw the good in other people.  Her father, my great-uncle Stanley, she described as a broad-minded man who had a bit of a temper, but who adored his wife and daughter.  He lived to be 98 years old and had good health all the way until the very end.   Marjorie said her parents had a very large circle of friends and were very well-regarded in their community.

At the end of our conversation, I told Marjorie that I would stay in touch.  She said that I had made her day, and I told her that she had made mine as well.  And I meant it from the bottom of my heart.

Two of Marjorie’s heroes:

English: Sir Winston Churchill.

English: Sir Winston Churchill. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

HMTQ Landing Page Burnley

Queen Elizabeth II

Science versus Inference:  Was Moses Cohen the Brother of Jacob Cohen?

The case for concluding that Moses Cohen, Sr., who lived in Baltimore (1850) and Washington, D.C. (1860), was the brother of my great-great-grandfather Jacob Cohen is built almost entirely on inference.  As I’ve described before, I have tentatively concluded that they were brothers based on the following bits of evidence:

  1. The 1841 English census that lists as the children of Hart and Sarah Cohen the following: Elizabeth (20), Moses (20), Jacob (15), and John (14).

    Hart Cohen and family 1841 English census

    Hart Cohen and family 1841 English census

  2. A passenger manifest for the ship New York Packet, dated July 7, 1848, that lists the following passengers: Jacob Cohen, Sarah Cohen, Fanny Cohen, Moses Cohen, and an infant named John Cohen.  Jacob Cohen and family ship manifestMoses Cohen page on ship manifestSource Citation
    Year: 1848
    Description
    Ship or Roll Number : Roll 073
    Source InformationAncestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
    Original data: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897. Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls. Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36. National Archives at Washington, D.C.Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1897-1957. Microfilm Publication T715, 8892 rolls. Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; National Archives at Washington, D.C.Supplemental Manifests of Alien Passengers and Crew Members Who Arrived on Vessels at New York, New York, Who Were Inspected for Admission, and Related Index, compiled 1887-1952. Microfilm Publication A3461, 21 rolls. ARC ID: 3887372. RG 85, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; National Archives, Washington, D.C. Index to Alien Crewmen Who Were Discharged or Who Deserted at New York, New York, May 1917-Nov. 1957. Microfilm Publication A3417. ARC ID: 4497925. National Archives at Washington, D.C.Passenger Lists, 1962-1972, and Crew Lists, 1943-1972, of Vessels Arriving at Oswego, New York. Microfilm Publication A3426. ARC ID: 4441521. National Archives at Washington, D.C.
  3. Headstones that identify the Hebrew name of the father of both Jacob and Moses Cohen as Naftali Ha Cohen (Hart being the Dutch and English equivalent of a deer, the tribe symbol for the tribe of Naftali)
    Jacob Cohen headstone cropped and enhanced

    Jacob Cohen’s headstone

    Moses Cohen, Sr. headstone

    Moses Cohen, Sr. headstone

  4. The fact that both Jacob and Moses named a son Hart, the same name as Jacob’s, and presumably Moses,’ father, Hart Levy Cohen.
  5. The fact that Moses had a granddaughter named Grace Cohen and that a bridesmaid of one of Jacob’s granddaughters was a Grace Cohen from Washington, DC.

These five bits of evidence were enough for me to reach the tentative conclusion that Jacob and Moses were brothers and that therefore the descendants of Moses Cohen were also my relatives.  There was also additional “evidence” in my failure to find a Moses Cohen other than the DC Moses who fit as well; there were two Moses Cohens of the right age on the 1851 English census, but neither was the right one.  I sent for marriage certificates for both of them, and they were not the sons of Hart and Rachel. I’ve already dug fairly deeply into the history of Moses Cohen and his children and grandchildren based on that hunch and those bits of evidence.

But I wanted something more scientific and definitive.  I was very fortunate to find someone who was a direct descendant of Moses’ son, Moses, Jr.  He had already done a DNA test with FamilyTreeDNA, so I asked my brother to do the same so that we could compare the results.  That was almost two months ago, and I finally received the results late last week.  I was very disappointed to see that my brother was not in the same haplogroup with the descendant of Moses, Jr., meaning that there was no genetic link between the two.  I was bewildered and discouraged.  I looked at all the hours I had spent researching Moses’ family and felt as if I had wasted a tremendous amount of time.

I am in touch with the wife of the Moses, Jr., descendant who was tested, and she also was disappointed, but not as surprised as I was.  She told me that there was a family story suggesting that Moses, Jr., had been adopted and was not in fact the biological child of Moses, Sr.   Suddenly, other bits of evidence started to make more sense.

The earliest document I have for Moses, Jr. is the 1850 US census. It lists Moses, Sr., living in Baltimore with his wife Adeline and eleven year old son Moses, Jr. Moses, Jr., is reported to have been born in Germany, and since he was eleven, born in 1839.

Moses Cohen and family 1850 census

Moses Cohen and family 1850 census

Other documents record his year of birth as 1840.  But Moses, Sr., was living in London in 1841, as seen on the English census of that year.  I had been confused by that before, but had assumed it was some error.

Also, Moses, Sr. is variously reported to have been born in years ranging from 1820 to 1828, depending on the document. His headstone says he was 32 in 1860 when he died, giving him a birth year of 1828.  Even assuming it was 1820, he would only have been twenty when Moses, Jr., was born.  How would he have met a German woman at such a young age, had a child with her in Germany, but then been living without her in London a year or more after the child was born? And where were Adeline and Moses, Jr.,  in 1848 when Moses emigrated from London to the US on the same ship with his brother Jacob?

I decided I needed to find out more about Adeline, the woman who married Moses and the mother of Moses, Jr.  I know that her birth name was Himmel from a birth record for their son Hart.  I cannot find a passenger list for Adeline or Moses, Jr., nor can I find a birth record or a marriage record linking Moses, Sr. and Adeline with Moses, Jr.  The earliest document I have found for Adeline is the 1850 US census above.

That 1850 census, seen above, show that living in the home next door to Adeline and Moses was a family with the surname Himmel: Jacob, Hannah and Moses Himmel.  Jacob, like Adeline, was born in Germany.  Both Jacob and Adeline Himmel had sons named Moses.  I am going to guess that Adeline was Jacob’s sister, though I’ve yet to find anything to corroborate that.

So this is my new challenge: to find records that will indicate where and when Moses, Jr., was born and where and when Moses, Sr., married his mother Adeline.  I am also going to focus on finding a biological descendant of Moses, Sr., so that perhaps I can find some scientific evidence to back up my inferences.  In the meantime, I am going to continue to assume that Moses, Sr., was the older brother of my great-great-grandfather and thus to tell his story as best I can as well as the story of his children and grandchildren, including Moses, Jr.