In the beginning, what we knew about Rebecka might have filled a paragraph. Daughter of Ascher and Sprinza, born in Vöhl in 1831, was reportedly given 10,000 guilders by her father before she left home to make her way in the world, never to be heard from again. Really, that was it. And then 2019 happened.
2019 was a BUSY year for Camille and me, both travel-wise and genealogy-wise. In May, we went to Vöhl. Two months later, we were together again, this time at a family reunion in California. And in the weeks in between, we were making one crazy family history discovery after another. Camille had written an interactive pageant for the family reunion, and finally told me, “You’re not allowed to find anymore family members between now and the reunion. I can’t keep rewriting the pageant!” We were literally making discoveries – and doing rewrites – until about 5 days before the reunion.
At that reunion, we told our family about Ascher and Sprinza’s daughter Rebecka, who had married a Lutheran minister, and changed her name to Friedericke. And we really thought we were right! Until…
While we were in Vöhl, Camille took pictures of all the legible headstones in the Jewish cemetery, and created a virtual cemetery on findagrave.com. A few weeks after the reunion, Camille was contacted by a nice man named Bill. Bill was researching his family tree, knew he was descended from the Jews of Vöhl, and was surprised to find pictures of a relative’s headstone on findagrave, compliments of Camille. Soon, the three of us were emailing back and forth. Bill, a true genealogist, excited to share what he finds and to help his fellow genealogists where possible, started looking to see if he could find anything to help our research. He found newspaper notices listing out the beneficiaries of Bertha Rothschild Ballin’s estate. Camille and I read through the names, recognizing all of them: James Otto Rothschild; Isaac Rothschild; Moses Rothschild; Adolphus Rothschild; Sophie Einstein; Friedericke and Wilhelm Eberwein; Sophie Flatau; Fannie Hirschhorn. Rudolph, Viktor, Richard, and Otto Emanuel. Wait, who? Emanuel? Who is that?!? We didn’t recognize any of those names. So we contacted the county courthouse for Hoboken, New Jersey, and ordered a copy of all the court records. What we found floored us. Dear, great-great Aunt Bertha had left an incredibly detailed will, listing all of her beneficiaries, and how they were related to her. They were either her siblings and their spouses, or, if deceased, her nieces and nephews. And that was the beginning of how we learned the true story about Rebecka.
The first thing we realized was that Rebecka had NOT changed her name to Friedericke, which meant she and Friedericke were two different individuals. Did her father really give Rebecka 10,000 guilders? Maybe. According to Ascher’s biography on the Synagogue Vöhl website, he reportedly gave each of his children 3000 talers (or guilders) during his lifetime. It’s possible he played favorites, or that the amount given to Rebecka was misreported. Regardless, instead of marrying a Lutheran minister, Rebecka married Dr. Rudolph Emanuel, a nice Jewish boy. He was born in Kassel, Hesse, Germany about 1823, the son of Joseph and Jette. While we don’t know when they married, we know it was prior to the birth of their oldest son, Otto Emanuel, who was born 7 November 1859. The couple had two other sons: Viktor Emanuel was born 24 June 1861, and their youngest son, Richard Emanuel, was born 2 October 1866.
The Emanuel family lived in Rodenberg, located in the Schaumberg region of Lower Saxony, and about a 30 minute drive southwest of Hanover. I have written to the district library of Schaumberg to see if they have any information about the Emanuel family, but I haven’t yet heard back from them. I’ll be sure to write an addendum to this if/when I do!
Bertha Rothschild Ballin died 15 January 1882, and at the time of her passing, her sister Rebecka was still alive. The reason she wasn’t listed in the court documents is that she passed before brothers Jacob/James Otto and Isaac took the case to court. She passed away in Rodenberg in June 1883. Her death information comes from the New Jersey court records. In fact, The only official record I’ve found that mentions her is her husband Rudolph’s death record. He died 7 January 1885 in Rodenberg. They both died fairly young – she was 52 and he was 62 – but old enough to see their children grown.
So far, that’s all we know about Rebecka. I’m glad there’s so much more to put here instead “her dad gave her money and she disappeared.” Thank you, Great-Great Aunt Bertha, for leaving such a detailed will, and Great-Great Uncles James Otto and Isaac for pursuing legal action to gain control of her estate. A pain for them, I’m sure, but a genealogical goldmine for us!
Today is December 20, 2022. We’re a few days into Chanukah, and Christmas is right around the corner, with New Year’s right behind. Wishing all of you a joyous holiday season filled with family and loved ones, and may the New Year bring you all that is good.