Adolph Rothschild and Kathinka Luja: Separating Facts from Family Lore, and Some More Suppositions, Part 2

Kathinka Luja Rothschild, about 1900, painted by her son, Edward Otto Roth

Before we go too much further, I want to take some time to talk about Kathinka (kuh-TINK-uh). I have always loved this painting of her, loved the idea of her working as a barmaid (or in a tobacconists shop), and loved the thought that Adolph loved her enough to change his entire life to be with her. The ship’s manifest, all census records, and her death certificate showed her name as Kathinka, Cathinka, Catherine, or Katherine. It wasn’t until I was communicating with Frau Rademacher in Hanau that I learned her full name: Maria Elisabethe Katherine Luja. (For those of you new to German pronuciation, the “e” and the end of a word is pronounced the same way we would an “a” at the end of Maria.) She was born on 18 April 1839 in Hanau, Hesse, Germany to Georg Carl Christoph Reinhardt Luja (24 August 1803 – 27 May 1882) and Maria Christiana Heil (or Heyl) (20 December 1810 – 15 December 1886). To date, we know of two siblings: Friedrich Luja and Sophie Luja.

Katherina Karoline Luja, self portrait

Kathinka comes from a LONG line of Lutherans. The wonderful Frau Rademacher put me in touch with the church in Umstadt, where Kathinka’s mother was from, and they were able to provide me with 8 generations of direct line parent/child relations! I’m still working my way through it. On the Luja side, Kathinka’s father was a Geometer (a person skilled in geometry), and her grandfather, Carl Friedrich Luja, was a composer and choir master, and composed, among other things, a sonata for 3 cellos. Her grandfather’s sister, Katherina Karolina Luja, was a respected artist, whose exquisite portraits are still in museums and private collections. This self-portrait is a perfect example of her work. I can see the resemblance between Kathinka and her great-aunt.

From the Probate Records for the Estate of Max Ballin of Hoboken, New Jersey

And now, back to the story of Adolph and Kathinka in America. There’s only one reference of Adolph between their arrival in 1866 and the 1870 census, and that is in the probate information for his brother-in-law, Max Ballin, who died 29 October 1869 in Hoboken, NJ. Attached to the will is a list of companies and individuals who owed money to Max, and the amounts were put into three different columns: Good, Doubtful, Bad. There is an entry for “Ad. Rothschild”, with an amount owing of $87.86 in the Doubtful column. It’s interesting to note that brothers Isaac and James Otto were also on the list, also in the Doubtful column, and that the executors of the estate, Seidenberg & Company, are in the Good column.

With so many family members in and around New York City, it would make sense for Adolph and Kathinka to stay there. So, of course, they moved to Petersburg, Illinois. According to the 1870 census, Adolph was a farmer, Catherine was keeping house, and the children were named as Almina (or Almara), August, and Richard. Close enough, I guess. Census records are a GREAT source of information, but the accuracy of the information gathered is subject to the person providing the information as well as the hearing and comprehension of the census taker.

It was because of this move that, for a very long time, I continued in my belief that Adolph had been disowned for converting to Christianity and marrying a Gentile. It wasn’t until I started learning about things like Max’s will, and some other things that we’ll learn about shortly, that I realized that simply wasn’t the case. The interesting thing about genealogical research is that it’s NOT linear! Pieces of the puzzle, some you didn’t even realize were missing, fall into place all out of sequence, and it’s only later that one starts to see the whole picture.

Edward Otto Roth

The 1870s were event-filled for Adolph and his family. On 13 June 1872, Adolph and Kathinka’s 4th child was born, and was named Edward Otto Rothschild, probably getting his middle name from his uncle Jacob James Otto Rothschild. Edward Otto is my great-grandfather. On 6 November 1875, Adolph’s brother Dr. Selig “Saly” Rothschild passed away in Mainz. How long did it take before he was notified? And how sorrowful to receive the news so late that there’s nothing you can do, and knowing you can’t even attend the funeral! Another, similar letter would have arrived following the death of his brother Siegmund Salomon Rothschild, who passed 7 September 1877 in Offenbach. Happy, positive news interspersed the sad. In 1876, Adolph submitted his intent to become a US Citizen, and that citizenship was granted on 22 October 1878.

Adolph Rothschild Naturalization Papers

The 1880 census shows the family still in Petersburg, Illinois, but with some changes. Falling back on his merchant roots, Adolph is now a peddler. Catherina is still keeping house. Daughter Augusta is “at home”, son Reinhardt is a printer, and son Eddie is “at home”. But, wait? What happened to Wilhelmina? I haven’t been able to find her in any 1880 census. She would have been 19, so it’s likely she was working outside the home, possibly as a domestic.

The 1880s brought more sad news. His sister Bertha Ballin passed away 15 January 1882 in Hoboken, NJ, and his sister Rebecca Rothschild Emanuel passed in Rodenberg, Hesse, Germany in June of 1883. He would have received a small inheritance from Bertha’s estate, once the legal matters were resolved, though I’m sure it hardly compensated for the loss of a sister. And his half-sister, Auguste Rothschild, passed away 19 October 1890 in Worms, Germany. Even with all the sadness, there was a very bright, and somewhat interesting, spot that appeared in 1885, when their daughter Augusta married her half first cousin Charles Calman. (Stay tuned for when I get to Augusta and Charles’s bio to get all the juicy details, as we know them.)

There is no 1890 census, so I often wondered where Adolph and Kathinka were between the 1880 census and the 1900 census, which finds them in St. Louis. Slowly, slowly through the years pieces of that puzzle fell into place. I knew they were there in 1899, because that’s when and where their son Reinhardt married Bertha Johnson. But what took them there? And when? Well, this is one of those things that took awhile for all the pieces to fit together, but once they did, all sorts of interesting things fell into place. It started when we learned about James Otto Rothschild, and discovered he’d moved to St. Louis about 1875, and eventually learned he was living with his niece, Sophie Rothschild Einstein, and her husband William Einstein. He stayed in St. Louis until at least 1880, and may have stayed until the passing of his sister Bertha. The point is, we think at some point he wrote to his brother Adolph and told him things in St. Louis were all Wine and Roses, and that their nephew-in-law, William Einstein, was a nice guy and might be able to help them out. By September of 1899, they had been there long enough for Reinhardt to become established as a printer, choose to go by his Americanized first name, George, and to fall in love and get married. But it goes back even further than that.

Patent, Self-Lighting Match-Box

On 12 February 1895, Adolph Rothschild received Patent Number 534176 for his invention: a Self-Lighting Match-Box. The design is ingenious, and the explanation of how it works goes on for two full pages of small print. I don’t smoke, and rarely have need of matches, but it would be cool to have one of these. It’s possible this device could have made him quite a bit of money! Except for one thing: He assigned the rights to William Einstein. The only reason I can think of to do such a thing would be to settle a debt.

St. Louis was the last stop on Adolph and Kathinka’s journey, meaning they lived their the rest of their lives in that city. But they didn’t stay in the same place. The census records and city directories between 1900 and 1920 show Adolph and Kathinka lived at 14 different addresses! In 1900, they were living with their daughter Augusta and her husband Charles Calman. In 1910, they were 2 doors down from their daughter Wilhelmina’s parents-in-law, John and Selena Stahl. (Wilhelmina married Leonard John Stahl in 1890.) And in 1920, their son Reinhardt was living with them after separating from his wife. So what happened with Adolph and Kathinka and the family during this time? Well, we know a few things. City directories show that Adolph worked with Cigars, or was a foreman with an unknown business, and in 1913 his profession was listed as “Harness”. Was he making or selling harnesses for horses? We know he was good with them, so maybe. There’s another piece of family lore that took place around 1892.

The Family Dog, painted by Edward Otto Roth

As the story goes, Adolph had a talk with his son Eddie one night when Eddie was about 19. He told his son it was time to step up and get going on his career as a Lutheran minister. Eddie made it clear he had no intention of doing such a thing, claimed he wanted to be an artist! An argument ensued, after which Eddie grabbed his art supplies and the family dog and retreated to the basement. There, next to the coal bin, he sketched his dog. He was gone the next morning, and no one heard from him for 9 years. By the time he returned, he had changed his name to Edward Otto Roth, and had established himself as a painter. And to prove his point, he painted portraits of his parents. He also turned his sketch of the dog into a painting. In 1904, Edward married Theresa Maria Proff, a nice Catholic girl from St. Louis. They and their children moved to Los Angeles sometime between 1906 and 1909.

Another bit of family lore was that after Eddie moved to St. Louis, he and his parents never communicated with each other. But about 10 years ago, my mom’s cousin Betty showed me a small collection of photograph postcards that Adolph and Kathinka had sent to their youngest son, including one where they also signed their last name as Roth! The pictures, more than anything, show what their declining years were like.

Front of Postcard dated 29 Dec 1915, photo of Adolph and Kathinka Rothschild
Back of Postcard dated 29 December 1915

This is, quite honestly, my favorite photograph of these two. They both look happy, financially comfortable, and both have a glint of mischief in their eyes. I love it! But most of all, reading this for the first time filled me with joy knowing Eddie hadn’t been disowned, as my branch of the family had thought, but was still deeply loved.

Adolph and Kathinka with their Garden in St. Louis, circa 1918

This undated picture is a few years later. They’re looking worn, but determined, and quite proud of their newly planted garden. Given how often they moved, I hope they were able to stay long enough to literally reap what they had sown!

Adolph and Kathinka Rothschild about 1920

This is the last photograph of Adolph and Kathinka, and I think it was taken in late 1919 or early 1920. They both look so old and frail, and almost destitute in this photo. Gone are the fine clothes and the mischievous gleam, replaced with resignation and a hint of regret.

On 2 February 1920, at the age of 80 years, 9 months, and 14 days, Maria Elisabethe Katherine Luja Rothschild passed away, due to arteriosclerosis. The informant was her son, Reinhardt Rothschild.

I can only imagine how devastated and alone Adolph felt. He was the last survivor of his family, the rest of his siblings having passed away before him. His oldest son was living with him, which was probably a mixed blessing, but his beloved Kathinka was gone, and he must have been lost without her.

The next year, on 22 March 1921, Adolph joined Kathinka. He had lived 91 years, 2 months, and 25 days. His death certificate states he was a retired sign painter, that he had moved yet again since the passing of his wife, and that he died from general arteriosclerosis.

Around early 2000, my mom Jeannette and her husband John took a trip and spent a bit of time in St. Louis. They went to Valhalla cemetery where Adolph and Kathinka were buried and were surprised to learn there was no headstone for them! On 30 May 2000, mom placed an order for a headstone and arranged for it to be installed that August.

Adolph’s was a life of challenge and change. He lived on two continents. He lived in a small village and a big city. He grew up a nice Jewish boy, and grew old as an indifferent Lutheran. He was adventurous, intrepid, determined. He was, I believe, a failed businessman. He had a temper (just ask his maid!). He was flawed. He was, like the rest of us, a work in progress. I have spent nearly 20 years discovering the puzzle pieces of his life, and I hope to still find more.

It is bittersweet for me to finish this blog post about Adolph and Kathinka. They have been, and continue to be, the center of my genealogical research. Everything I’ve learned and discovered about the Rothschild family started with Adolph. I am literally sitting here with tears on my cheeks right now because this chapter is at an end. But, there is so much more to share about the Rothschild family, some of it I know, some of it yet to be discovered.

Until next time, stay safe, share smiles, and let the important people in your life know how you feel about them.

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.

4 thoughts on “Adolph Rothschild and Kathinka Luja: Separating Facts from Family Lore, and Some More Suppositions, Part 2

  1. My impression of the picture of Adolph and Kathinka about 1920, are something is wrong with Adolph’s right eye, and Kathinka’s hair is not totally grey. Did women dye their hair in 1920?


  2. Lovely post, Elizabeth. I could feel your emotions throughout. And it’s fascinating that the artistic ability flowed through the generations. Did Adolph’s siblings all remain Jewish?


    1. Amy, Adolph’s siblings were a mixed bag. His sister Friedericke married a Lutheran Pastor, so it’s safe to say she converted, and 2 and possibly all 3 of Adolph’s younger half-sisters converted. For those who stayed in Germany, I’m sorry to say being raised Lutheran wasn’t a guarantee of anything during the Holocaust.

      Liked by 1 person

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