Jacob/James Otto Rothschild, 3 February 1825 – 12 January 1893

Home for Aged and Infirm Hebrews

Jacob Otto Rothschild was born in Vöhl 3 February 1825, the 5th child and 4th son of Ascher Rothschild and Sprinza Sternberg, and the grandson of Salomon Abraham Rothschild.

Jacob was 8 years old when his mother, Sprinza Sternberg Rothschild, passed away on 5 September 1833. He most certainly was placed in guardianship with the family of Ruben Rothschild and Helene Sternberg Rothschild. Ruben was his 1st cousin, and Helene was his mother’s sister.

The List of Military Service of 1845, for those born in or around 1825, states that Jacob was a merchant, that he was rich, and that he could pay for someone to serve in his place. We know the family was very well off, and that Ascher had given each of his children 3,000 guilders during his lifetime.

On 2 July 1851, Jacob submitted a Naturalization Declaration with the State of New York, listed his name as James Otto Rothschild, and his occupation as merchant. Six years later, on 19 December 1857, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America. He wasted no time making travel arrangements; he applied for a passport the same day he became a naturalized citizen. His application was approved 19 January 1858. It lists his description as: Age – 32 years; Stature – 5’3″; Forehead – high; Eyes – Blue; Nose – Medium; Mouth – Small; Chin – Sharp; Hair – Dark Brown; Complexion – Fair; Face – Oval. While this is a general description, we can see that he wasn’t very tall. Except for his height, this description could almost be applied to my brother Thomas.

Both the 1860 and 1870 US Census records show “Otto Rothschild” living with Max and Bertha Ballin in Hoboken, New Jersey. The New Jersey City Directory of 1871 shows Rothschild, James O., a clerk, living at 136 Garden St., Hoboken, New Jersey. This is the address of Max and Bertha Ballin.

On 10 August 1871, Jacob applied for and was granted a passport. On this application, he listed his date of birth as 3 February 1828, his place of birth as Voehl, Prussia, and his age as 43. When I look at a document, I typically take a few moments to look at the pages before and after the one for my ancestor, just in case something catches my eye. And in this case, something did! The passport application immediately following his was for Bertha Ballin, listing her date of birth as 9 November 1824, and her place of birth as Voehl, Prussia. It was at that point that I realized there had to be a connection between the two of them, more than just tenant and landlady. A little more digging on my end, and a surprise email from Karl-Heinz with her marriage information stating she was the daughter of Ascher and Sprinza, and we made the connection they were siblings.

Documentation doesn’t always show up in chronological order. In fact, it often comes all out of order, and one leads to another, and another, and another, until you have a jumble that needs to be organized. The next document I found for him was the 1880 census which showed James O. Rothschild living in St. Louis, Missouri. His occupation was listed as bookkeeper, and his birthplace, and that of his parents, was Voehl. It shows his relationship as widowed, and that he was no relation to the head of household. His profession as bookkeeper allowed me to find him in the St. Louis City Directories as far back as 1875.

My gg-grandfather, Adolph Rothschild, was Jacob’s brother, and I had wondered what had taken him and his family from Illinois, where they had initially settled, to St. Louis. It occurred to me that having a brother there, one who possibly talked about good financial prospects, would be good incentive.

A few years ago, my cousin, friend, and research partner Camille Calman found Andy Selig on Family Tree DNA. Camille is a whiz at understanding centimorgans, which is an absolute blessing. Andy told us he was descended from Siegmund Salomon Rothschild, through Siegmund’s daughter Sophie. Daughter? Daughter?!? What daughter? Andy provided SO much information, and many, many fabulous photographs. And told us Sophie had married William Einstein and settled in St. Louis. I got goosebumps, hopped on ancestry, and went back to that 1880 census for Jacob. Sure enough, he was living at 2707 Morgan Street, the home of William and Sophie Einstein. Love it when the dots connect!

Jacob’s sister Bertha passed away in Hoboken on 15 January 1882. I don’t know if Jacob was already living back in New Jersey at that time or not, but I do know legal issues — the resolution of Bertha’s estate — kept him there.

Bertha’s will is a gloriously detailed document which lists out all of her beneficiaries. She made it clear her estate was to be divided evenly between her siblings, or, in the case they were deceased, her nieces and nephews. Unfortunately, the Seidenberg brothers who had administered the estate of Bertha’s husband Max, took it upon themselves to seize the property, under the pretense of being executors, and Jacob along with his brother Isaac, spearheaded a court case that went on for months. Eventually, thanks in no small part to Jacob’s tenacity, the courts agreed the Seidenbergs had no business being involved, and allowed Jacob and Isaac to sell the disputed property and distribute the proceeds evenly among the beneficiaries, as was outlined in Bertha’s will.

Jacob’s sister Rebecca passed away in 1883, and his half-sister Auguste passed away in 1890. I’ve often wondered what it would be like, living so far away from where you were born, to receive notification that a loved one had passed. By the time you found out, it would be too late to do anything more than send condolences to the family, and mourn their loss. Even if notification came by telegram, there would be no feasible way to get there in time for the funeral. Would there be any form of resolution, or just resignation and acceptance? Living that far apart, I’m sure every time they said goodbye, they wondered if it would be the last time.

Jacob spent his final days at the Home for Aged and Infirm Hebrews in New York City (see the picture above), and passed away there on 12 January 1893. The president of the facility at the time was a Julius Ballin. While I haven’t, as yet, been able to find a connection between him and Jacob’s brother-in-law Max, I have a hard time believing it’s a mere conicidence.

Jacob’s death certificate listed his name as James Otto Rotheschild, a 69 year old single white male, who was buried 15 January 1893 at Mount Neboh Cemetery. It lists his occupation as merchant, his country of origin as Germany, and his parents as Ascher and Sophia Rotteschild.

Next, we’ll learn what we can about Jacob’s sister Friedericke and her husband, Pastor Eberwein.

Wherever you are in the world, I wish you well, and pray that your days are filled with joy.

Published by Elizabeth Foote

I am a wife, step-mother, auntie, daughter, sister, friend. I love family history, restoration projects, counted cross-stitch, quilting, and photography. I am grateful for the blessings that abound in my life.

5 thoughts on “Jacob/James Otto Rothschild, 3 February 1825 – 12 January 1893

  1. It is always so exciting when those familial relationships become clear. Great post! I could feel your excitement with each new connection.


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