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.

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Cohen’s Descendants: The Story Continued

In an earlier post, I detailed the difficult search for the story of Elizabeth Cohen and the lucky break I had in finding one little newspaper mention of a charitable donation that opened the door to the rest of her story: that she had first married Benjamin Heyman and had two children, Florence and Herbert, that Benjamin had died before Herbert was two years old, and that Elizabeth later married Bernard Sluizer with whom she had another child, Mervyn Sluizer.  That was where the post ended.

I have been very lucky again in finding one of Bernard and Elizabeth Sluizer’s great-granddaughters, Janet Elizabeth Sluizer (named for her great-grandmother, Elizabeth Cohen Sluizer).  I now know more about Bernard and about their descendants including some photographs that bring these names to life.  Bernard was the first born child of Meyer and Margaret (nee Lince) Sluizer, who were both born in Holland in the early 1830s.  The records conflict as to when they arrived in the US, but by 1860 they were certainly living in Philadelphia as Meyer filed a Declaration of Intent to become a citizen that year and Bernard was also born in Philadelphia in 1860.  Meyer was first a tobacconist and later became a china dealer, according to several Philadelphia directories.  He and Margaret had six more children, the last born in 1877.  Meyer died in 1880, leaving Margaret with many young children still at home.  Margaret lived to be 88, dying on August 20, 1921.

Bernard, who was twenty when his father died, was employed as a salesman in 1880, but no specific business was given on the 1880 census.  He remained a salesman of some kind at least until he married my great-grandaunt Elizabeth Cohen in 1892, when not surprisingly he became a pawnbroker.  As I’ve already written, Bernard took in Elizabeth’s two children from her prior marriage to Benjamin Heyman, and then in 1893, Bernard and Elizabeth had a child of their own, Mervyn.

Mervyn married Irma Wise in 1916 when he was 23 years old and she was 21.

Mervyn Sluizer, Sr.

Mervyn Sluizer, Sr.

Irma Wise Sluizer

Irma Wise Sluizer

Mervyn also became a pawnbroker, working in his father’s store. Here is a wonderful photograph of Bernard (far left) and his son Mervyn (far right), working in his pawnshop.  This is the first photograph I have seen of one of the many family pawnshops.  I love the musical instruments in the background, the huge trunks in the foreground, and all the other signs and details that help convey a sense of what these stores were like.

Bernard Sluizer's pawnshop Bernard, far left; his son, Mervyn, Sr., far right

Bernard Sluizer’s pawnshop
Bernard, far left; his son, Mervyn, Sr., far right

Mervyn and Irma had two children, Mervyn, Jr., born in 1920, and Margaret, born in 1924.  Margaret must have been named for Mervyn’s grandmother, Bernard’s mother, Margaret.  It is a little surprising that Mervyn did not name his daughter for his mother, Elizabeth, who had died in 1923, instead of his grandmother, but perhaps it was just too close to the time she had died.  In 1930, Bernard, now a widower, was living with Mervyn, Irma, and their children.

Sometime between 1932 and 1935, Mervyn and Irma divorced, according to their granddaughter Jan Sluizer.  On the 1940 census, Irma was living with her two children, Mervyn, Jr. and Margaret.  Mervyn, Sr., had remarried by 1940 and was living with his new wife, Anne, and her two children from a prior marriage, Bernard and Sidney Riskin.  Mervyn Sr.’s father Bernard was also living with him and his new family.  Mervyn, Sr., and Anne moved to Atlantic City sometime after the census and were living there for several years.

Mervyn Sluizer, Sr., third from right

Mervyn Sluizer, Sr., third from right

Anne and Mervyn Sluizer, Sr., far left

Anne and Mervyn Sluizer, Sr., far left

In 1941, Merv, Jr., graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was an engineering student and a member of Sigma Tau, the engineering honor society.

1940 University of Pennsylvania Yearbook

1940 University of Pennsylvania Yearbook

Merv Penn 2

(Ancestry.com. U.S. School Yearbooks [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data: Various school yearbooks from across the United States.)

His grandfather Bernard died in 1944, and six years later his father Mervyn, Sr., died also.  Mervyn, Sr., was only 57 years old.  Meanwhile, in 1942 Mervyn, Jr., had married Shirley Harkaway, whom he had met at the University of Pennsylvania. They had two children, including Jan, the cousin who has supplied me with the wonderful photos posted here.

Mervyn Sluizer, Jr.

Mervyn Sluizer, Jr.

Mervyn, Jr.’s sister Margaret also married and had three children.  Her husband, Dr. Manfred Goldwein, had been one of the children who had been taken out of Europe to England on the Kinder Transport to escape the Nazis; the rest of his family was killed in the Holocaust.  He became a medical doctor and one of the top rated doctors in Philadelphia.

Jan also provided me with two newspaper articles about her father, Mervyn, Jr., including his obituary.  Both portray a man who was a lifelong volunteer in his community and one who had a special passion for the Boy Scouts. The first article, published by the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent in August, 1962, when Mervyn, Jr., was 42, described his history of service to his community.  According to this article, Mervyn, Jr., was active in the Allied Jewish Appeal in Philadelphia and had recently been named Chairman of its Metropolitan Division after serving as Vice Chairman and also playing an active role in the organization since 1948.  He also was active in B’Nai Brith and on the national board of trustees of his college fraternity.   He had been actively involved in scouting since he was a boy and was at that time the scoutmaster of Troop 185, which was affiliated with Adath Jeshurun synagogue.  Mervyn Jr.’s grandfather, August Wise, his mother’s father, had been one of the founding members of Adath Jeshurun.  Mervyn was himself a member of Beth Tikvah synagogue and served at one time as its president.

Mervyn Sluizer, Jr.

Mervyn Sluizer, Jr.

Philadelphia Jewish Exponent August 1962

Philadelphia Jewish Exponent August 1962

Irma Wise Sluizer (1895-1969)

Irma Wise Sluizer
(1895-1969)

Mervyn Sluizer, Jr., died on October 12, 2000.  He was eighty years old.  The obituary below, which appeared in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, also portrays a man who lived a full life, dedicated to service and to his profession as well as to his family.  There is a scholarship in his name created by alumni of his troop, Philadelphia Troop 185, to honor his memory and to provide financial support for Philadelphia area Boy Scouts pursuing higher education. It is specifically provided to Eagle Scouts, as Mervyn spent a great deal of time helping scouts achieve that difficult level of scouting.   There is also a second scholarship in his name sponsored by his fraternity at the University of Pennsylvania, Pi Lambda Phi.

Mervyn Sluizer, Jr. obituary

Mervyn Sluizer, Jr. obituary

My great-grandaunt Elizabeth Cohen, who died when her grandson Mervyn, Jr., was only three years old, would undoubtedly have been very proud that he grew up to be such a generous and decent man, a college educated professional, one of the first in the family, and a man who gave so much to his community.  He would have turned 94 just this past weekend on July 12.

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing the Forest: In Memory of Jacob and Sarah Cohen and All their Children

 

 

When doing genealogy research, I often find I get very focused on one person or one couple or sometimes one nuclear family and forget to think about the bigger picture, the extended family and their history.  This has been particularly true in researching my great-great grandparents Jacob and Sarah Cohen and their thirteen children.  Each one of those children was a story unto itself; each of their nuclear units told a complete story.  Doing the research for each of them brought me into their individual lives—their relationships, their careers, their children, their achievements, and their tragedies.

Leaf lamina. The leaf architecture probably ar...

Leaf lamina. The leaf architecture probably arose multiple times in the plant lineage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was only when I got to child number eleven, my great-grandfather Emanuel, that I realized I had lost the bigger picture.  His life was not only about his adulthood—his wife and his children and grandchildren, but was also shaped by and always affected by what was happening with his extended family—his parents, his siblings, his nieces and nephews. It was then that I looked at the overall timeline to see what was happening outside his nuclear family as well as within it.

Now looking back and trying to get that bigger picture overall, I can make some fairly general observations about these thirteen children and their extended family.  First, they were all very interconnected in their work as well as their personal lives.  Almost all the men, including many of the brothers-in-law and sons-in-law, were pawnbrokers.  I don’t have a very good sense of how many separate stores there were in the Cohen pawnshop industry, but obviously there were enough to support more than a dozen families, including a family as large as that of Reuben Cohen, Sr., with his many children.  Yes, there were some trouble spots and some disputes undoubtedly, but this was a family that worked together and lived together, often within blocks of each other.  One project I have in mind at some point is creating a map to show where they all were living at a given point in time.  This was a family where almost everyone stayed in Philadelphia or perhaps New Jersey for multiple generations at least until the 1930s or 1940s.

Every tragedy—the deaths of so many young children, the premature deaths of so many young adults, the horrible accidents—must have rippled through the entire family in some way.  This was a family that suffered greatly over and over again—perhaps no more than any other of its time, but nevertheless, more than most of us can imagine today.  Almost every one of them lost at least one young child; some lost several.   Reuben and Sally lost ten children.  Some, like my great-grandparents and Reuben, not only lost a young child, but also lost adult children who died too young.

Yet this was also a family that triumphed.  Most of them lived fairly comfortably, if not luxuriously.  They moved to the northern sections of Philadelphia away from the increasingly poor sections where Jacob and Sarah had settled at 136 South Street.  Many had servants living with them, even when they had only a few or even no children.  These were not college-educated people.  Most did not even finish high school.  But they were savvy business people who, as far as I can tell, for the most part operated their businesses honestly but successfully, as the profile of Reuben Cohen described.  They saw themselves as money lenders, as the banks for those who could not borrow money from a traditional, established bank. Some were more successful than others, but overall this was a family that came to America in the 1840s and made a good life for themselves and their descendants.

Looking back on those times makes me wonder what happened.  How did this large, interconnected family lose touch with each other?  It’s not just my father’s immediate line that was disconnected; every Cohen descendant I’ve been able to locate says the same thing—that they had no idea about all these other cousins and Cohen relatives.  My father said he had no idea that his father had cousins.  I counted sixty-nine grandchildren born to Jacob and Sarah Cohen.  Even if you subtract the many who did not survive childhood, there were probably fifty—meaning that my grandfather had fifty living first cousins, mostly living in Philadelphia, yet my father did not know of any of them.

I suppose that that is how it is as families grow, children marry, grandchildren are born.  You no longer can fit everyone around the table even for special occasions.  Other families also need attention—the in-laws and all their relatives.  Especially back then, before the telephone and the automobile and certainly before the internet, Facebook, Google, email, and cellphones, it was just too hard and too expensive to stay in touch if someone was not in your immediate neighborhood and your day-to-day life.  We all know how hard it is to stay in touch even with all those modern means of communication.

So people moved away, grew apart, and lost touch.  At least now we can all benefit from knowing the bigger picture, from looking at our shared history, and knowing that even if we do not know each other, we are all part of the same tree.

 

Thanks to Rabbi Albert Gabbai of Mikveh Israel Congregation in Philadelphia, I now have photos of the headstones for Jacob and Sarah.

jacob headstone enhanced 2

Headstone for Jacob and Sarah Cohen

Jacob Cohen's headstone enhanced

They are not very legible, but you can clearly see Jacob’s name in English, and with the help of others, I’ve been told that the Hebrew includes Jacob’s name, Yaakov ben Naftali ha Cohen, and his date of death, 13 Iyar 5648, or April 24, 1888.  It also apparently has a reference to London as his birthplace.

Jacob headstone from FB

The side for Sarah (the second one above)  is almost completely eroded, so no one could decipher it.    Rabbi Gabbai also found the stone for Hart Levy Cohen, but he said it was nothing but a plain stone as all the engraving had eroded so he did not take a picture.  I wish that he had, but did not have the heart to ask him to go back to the cemetery.

All that is left is for us to remember them and their children and their grandchildren.