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.

Abraham Adolph Rothschild and Kathinka Luja: Separating Facts from Family Lore, and a Few Suppositions, Part 1

Adolph Rothschild about 1900, painted by his youngest son, Edward Otto “EO” Roth

Abraham Rothschild was born 28 December 1829 in Vöhl, Hesse, Germany, the 7th child and 4th son of Ascher Rothschild and Sprinza Sternberg. Abraham was not quite 4 when his mother Sprinza passed away in 1833, and he most certainly would have gone to live with his guardians, Ruben Rothschild and Helene Sternberg.

Abraham appeared in the militray records of 1849 with the comment, “Economist, rich, can handle horses.” Whether or not he was able to pay for someone to take his place is unknown. For me, it was interesting to learn he was good with horses, as I’ve loved them all my life. Two years later, in 1851, Abraham purchased a home certificate for the city of Offenbach, which was valid for two years. It is a reasonable assumption that he was living with his oldest brother, Siegmund, who had settled there with his wife, Betti, and their two children, Sophie and Justus. In 1854, he received a home certificate, for an indefinite duration, for the Electorate of Hesse. I believe that means he could live anywhere within the Hessian boundaries. And on 7 May 1858, he received a concession for an Inn. If he had the intentions of opening an Inn, he never followed through.

Abraham’s father, Asher, passed away 13 January 1859. I believe this was a turning point for Abraham, because 18 months later, he converted to Christianity, changed his name with the city registrar in Vöhl, and 2 months after that he married a Gentile. How and why did this happen?

Family Lore on this point is the same in both the EO Roth and the Augusta Rothschild Calman families, even though these two branches of the family didn’t communicate with each other for the better part of 100 years: Abraham the Merchant met Kathinka the Barmaid when he was 24 and she was 14, probably in her hometown of Hanau. Part of me, of course, was initially shocked at the idea of a mere child working in a tavern and serving beer at the age of 14. But then I reminded myself people were considered adults at 16, and expected to earn a living. This story about the tavern continued to be shared and retold within the family — we even included it in our pageant at the last family reunion in July of 2019! But in August of 2019, that story changed.

Business announcement for Christiane Heyl Luja, provided by Frau Rademacher of Stadtarchiv Hanau

I had written to the city archive office in Hanau, asking for information about the marriage of Adolph and Kathinka. Frau Rademacher turned out to be incredibly helpful, and over the course of just a couple of weeks, flooded my email inbox with countless documents and pieces of information. And when I told her how Adolph and Kathinka had met, she did some more digging, and found this great newspaper article from 1852, announcing that Christiane Luja, nee Heyl, had taken over the local Tobacconist shop, and had added other locally sourced items and colonialware. That one newspaper article changes the story. I’m still 100% certain they met in Hanau, and that it’s extremely likely Adolph was there in association with his father’s merchant business. I am now 100% convinced they met at her mother’s shop, where Kathinka was doing her bit to help the family business. We know he smoked, likely cigars, so it makes sense that he would enter the shop. And with a beautiful young woman waiting on him, I’m sure he made it a point to visit every time he was in town.

Regardless of how or where they met, they waited a long time to get married. Once we figured out Kathinka was Lutheran (again, I can’t believe how long it took me to realize that), it made sense that her parents wouldn’t want her to marry a Jewish boy, no matter how nice he was. And after finding his baptismal record, Camille and I came up with a new supposition: following the death of his father in January 1859, Abraham mourned his father for 12 months, as was customary for a good Jewish boy. And following that 12 months, he sought out a parish and a pastor where he could begin his conversion. On a map, the church of Burg Gemünden is about halfway between Vöhl and Hanau. Perhaps he chose it because it was on his way to and from Hanau on family business, and away from his siblings, who must surely disapprove of his conversion.

I know what you’re thinking: why would they disapprove when sister Friedericke had already married a Lutheran minister? Well, they probably wouldn’t. But when we learned about the time and date of his conversion, we hadn’t learned about that family connection. Again, it took awhile to piece everything together. And before my email conversation with Frau Rademacher in Hanau, our theory was this: Abraham was baptized on 1 June 1860 (fact), had traveled to Hanau, married his One True Love, returned to Vöhl, and 2 weeks after his baptism went to the city registrar’s office and changed his legal name from Abraham to Adolph. It’s close, but the amazing Frau Rademacher provided us with enough documentation to give us a definitive timeline on the marriage, and the civic record of Vöhl filled in the rest.

Banns for and marriage record of Adolph Rothschild and Kathika Luja, provided to me by Frau Rademacher, Stadtarchiv Hanau

Abraham Rothschild was, on 1 June 1860, after months of study, and going before the board to prove his understanding of Christianity, and his acceptance of the Lutheran faith, was baptized by his brother-in-law, Pastor Wilhelm Eberwein, and given the Christian name of Adolph. On June 17th, Abraham Rothschild went to the city registrar’s office, changed his given name to Adolph, and the denomination of religion “Mosaic” was crossed and replaced with “Lutherisch”. Less than a month later, on the 10th of July 1860, the banns were read announcing the intended marriage of Adolph Rothschild, a farmer and miller, to Maria Elisabethe Katherine Luja. They were repeated two other times, and the marriage was formalized on 8 August 1860.

Wilhelmina “Minnie” Rothschild Stahl

Like most young couples, they wasted no time starting a family, and their daughter Wilhelmina “Minnie” was born sometime in 1861. I have to wonder if she was named after her uncle, Pastor Wilhelm Eberwein. Given that all of Adolph and Kathinka’s children seem to be named after various family members, this make sense to me. This is the only photo we have of Minnie, and was almost certainly taken in St. Louis, where she lived most of her life.

The civic records of Vöhl are full of interesting snippets of information on all sorts of topics, and 1862 finds our Adolph in their records.

Adolph Rothschild house in Vöhl, with Camille and me in front of it, May 2019.

“On October 22, and 8 o’clock, the Rothschild’s maid, Elisabeth Jekel from Freihagen, complained that her employer had hit her with a stick and scolded her. She demands that he be reported, but has to admit that no one witnessed the incident. On the morning of October 23rd, Rothschild reports the maid because she “during the night secretly removed [herself] from his house and took some pieces with her.” He demands that “the escaped person be brought back to service.” The official handling the matter advised the district office that [several] servants had often complained about Adolph Rothschild, “and didn’t stay long in his services.”

Augusta Matilda Rothschild Calman, about 1890

Given the timing of this, Kathinka must have been quite distressed, and I hope they were able to hire a new maid soon (and that Adolph was nicer to her!) because on 8 November of that year, their daughter Augusta Mathilda was born. I believe she was named for her fathers two half-sisters, Auguste and Mathilda, who both converted to Christianity when they got married.

This is the nicest picture we have of Augusta, but not the only. I promise you’ll see them in a later post. From her grandson we’ve learned she was a force to be reckoned with!

from archion.de

Things were pretty quiet for the next few years. Well, at least there were no more reports of servant abuse! On 1 December 1864, Adolph and Kathinka welcomed their 3rd child and first son. And I think they were trying to cover ALL the family bases, because they named him Georg Reinhardt Heinrich Adolph Rothschild. His baptismal record, dated 4 December, tells us he was named for his maternal grandfather, Georg Carl Christoph Reinhardt Luja, for his paternal uncle, Heinrich Calman (married to Adolph’s half-sister, Auguste Rothschild), and for his father, Adolph. I love that the first witness signature is that of his mother: Maria Rothschild (aka Kathinka), then Adolph, then Kathinka’s brother Friedrich Luja. If anyone can make out that last signature, please let me know!

We’ll never know what prompted Adolph to move his family from Germany to America, but in June 1866, the family traveled to Bremen and boarded the SS Bremen. The traveled as First Cabin Passengers of the Lower Salon. So, not quite the very best the ship had to offer, but it’s safe to say they traveled in style. They arrived in New York on 3 July 1866, processing through Castle Garden (the predecessor of Ellis Island). For decades, the family believed Adolph and Kathinka were all alone. But we now know his brother Isaac was living in New York, while brother James Otto and sister Bertha were living just across the river in New Jersey. Was there a big party to welcome the weary travelers? Were they put up for a few days – or weeks – until Adolph could establish himself and find some work? I honestly don’t know. I’d like to think so, because I believe family was important to him. I know that leaving home must have been bittersweet. On the one hand, the horizon was filled with adventure and limitless possibilities. On the other, they almost certainly wouldn’t ever see again the loved ones they were leaving behind. My mom talked to me once about our English ancestors, standing by the rail, waving, long after they could no longer see the faces of their loved ones, no longer see the buildings, until finally even that last slip of land had vanished from view.

Coming to America was definitely a turning point for Adolph, Kathinka, and their children. But this entry in a ship’s manifest was a turning point for mom’s research. Finding it, and then talking with her father, was the realization that the family name wasn’t Roth, as mom had been raised and always been told, but Rothschild.

My next blog post will be about their life in America, and should conclude the posts about Adolph. Let’s hope I don’t wait as long for that post as I did to write this one. Until then, stay safe, let your loved ones know how you feel about them, and enjoy life!

Adolph Roth 28 December 1829 – 22 March 1921: Family Lore

Adolph Rothschild, painting by his son, E. O. Roth

In 1977, my mom, Jeannette Elizabeth Roth Price Woolf, decided she wanted to learn more about her paternal line, so started researching. She took a genealogy class at BYU and learned out to use research logs, organize files, take notes, write letters, keep track of whatever she was working on, etc. Mom was meticulous in everything she did, and this was no different. Her files on Adolph went so far as to include copies of news articles she read about the best places to do specific forms of research, copies of letters she’d written, responses she’d received, vital records, certified copies of census record extracts, as well as photographs of the paintings: one of Adolph, and one of his wife Kathinka.

Kathinka Luja Rothschild, painted by her son, E. O. Roth

What she knew about Adolph would have filled a paragraph, maybe two. He and his wife Kathinka came to America from Germany in 1866 with their three children — Wilhelmina, Augusta, and Reinhardt — moved to Illinois where their youngest son, Edward Otto was born, and eventually settled in St. Louis. Ok, there was a little more than that.

Adolph Roth met Kathinka Luja when he was 24 and she was 14, working as a barmaid. They courted for 10 years before getting married. And family lore suggested her family had been courtiers in the courts of Spain!

After she’d been researching for about 3 years, she came across a copy a ship’s manifest that had her perplexed, so she called her father, Bill Roth. I was sitting at the table with her when she called, and the conversation went something like this:

Mom:  Daddy, I just found a ship’s manifest that shows a family arriving July 3, 1866 on the SS Bremen.  The parents are Adolph and Kathinka, with children Wilhelmina, Augusta, and Reinhardt.  All of their information matches what I have, except their last name is Rothschild, not Roth.  Do you think they could be the same people?

Granddaddy:  Oh, I know they are.  That was the family name.

Mom:  What?!?  When did the name change?  And why?

Granddaddy:  My father changed it when he left home because he was antisemitic.

Mom:  Why didn’t you tell me this sooner?  You knew I was researching this!

Granddaddy:  I didn’t think it mattered.

So, Adolph Roth became Adolph Rothschild, and that’s when mom was able to find his death certificate, and to request census record extracts (which would only show him and his wife and members of the household if he was listed as the head of household). And with the last name of Rothschild, mom assumed the family was Jewish, so she began writing to synagogues in St. Petersburg, IL and St. Louis, MO, to see if he’d been a member of the congregation, but none of them had any record of him.

One of the family stories that baffled us for years – decades! – was the one about their youngest son. At the age of 19, Edward and Adolph had a discussion about Edward’s future. Edward, a gifted artist, wanted to be a painter. His father wanted him to be a Lutheran minister. The debate ended in a stalemate, and Edward, dog in tow, retreated to the basement. He sketched a lovely drawing of his dog, later turning it into a painting, and in the morning, he left, disappeared for 9 years, without a word to anyone. Why on earth would a nice Jewish man want his son to be a Lutheran minister?

When I took over the Rothschild research from mom sometime around 2003, the family tree was pretty small. Reunions still consisted of mom and her 3 kids, her brother Billy, their cousin Sandra, Sandra’s son Frank, and his children, and their cousin Betty who had 6 children, all married, with lots of grandchildren. I think we numbered around 30.

Family Lore is a fabulous place to start a genealogical journey, but as new pieces of information become available, our perceptions about what might have been change, and we form new ideas. Adolph is the perfect example of this. At one of our family reunions, we all pitched in to pay for a DNA test taken by my Uncle Bill, as he was the last direct male line descendant in the family. The test came back and definitively proved we were of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. Which, to our way of thinking, meant Adolph had married a nice Jewish girl. In fact, going back to family lore for the Luja family, we believed those courtiers in the Royal Court of Spain were Jews.

One of our perceptions was that Adolph was estranged from his family. This was particularly true when we realized Kathinka couldn’t have been a nice Jewish girl. This one, I’m embarrassed to say, took me far too long to figure out. In fact, it wasn’t until after Camille and I had each taken our own DNA test that we began to realize we were really off base where Kathinka was concerned. First off, while I have some DNA from the Iberian Peninsuala, Camille doesn’t have any. Instead, she has Danish genes. I do as well, but figured they came from my paternal line. This discovery prompted an email with silly lyrics set to a tune from the musical “My Fair Lady”. “Our genes from Spain came mainly from the Danes!” Told you they were silly. Then, we finally, really took a look at Kathinka’s parents, and realized there was absolutely no way they were Jewish.

Kathinka Luja, whose full name we recently discovered was Maria Elisabethe Katherine Luja, was born 18 April 1839 in Hanau, Hesse, Germany. Her parents were Christoph Luja and Christiana Heil. No, I cannot tell you why it took me nearly 20 years to look at those names and realize Jews weren’t prone to using Christ-based names, but it did. So, Kathinka wasn’t a Jew. Ok, well, that explained why Adolph was estranged from his family. And why did we think this? Because, at the time, we had found zero evidence supporting any connection between him and his family, even those living in the States.

In the beginning, based on the 1880 census, we believed that Adolph Roth/Rothschild had been born in Vöhl. Because of that, we believed he was related to the Rothschild family of Vöhl. (Thank you, Förderkreis Synagoge in Vöhl, e.V. for making SO MUCH information about that family available on your website!) We believed he and Kathinka met when she was working as a barmaid at the age of 14 and he was 24. We believed they courted for 10 years because her family didn’t approve of him. We believed he was estranged from his family, probably because of that marriage. We knew they had 4 children. We knew they had arrived in New York City on the SS Bremen on 2 July 1866. We knew they had lived in St. Petersburg, Illinois for a while before finally settling in St. Louis. We knew that they were buried there at the Valhalla Cemetery.

So, how much of what we believed was true? How much wasn’t? How and where did all the pieces fit together? And how on earth were we ever going to connect Adolph to the Rothschild family of Vöhl? Well, it’s been a process, that’s for sure. And it started with the letters mom received from her two paternal aunts, Edna Roth Bock and Eugenia Josephine “Jean” Roth Burr.

In the letters from Aunt Edna, dated in 1969 and 1970, she insisted the family name had been Rothschild, which she had learned when she was a girl corresponding via mail with her Calman cousins. But no one in the family believed her, and even her father, Edward Otto Roth/Rothschild told her she was wrong. Letters from Aunt Jean from the 1970s and 1980s would periodically refer to Aunt Edna’s belief about the family name, but it really wasn’t anything more than speculation, which is why mom was searching for Adolph Roth.

Intriguing hint from Ancestry.com

In the summer of 2016, Camille received a hint on Ancestry.com. We both felt like this was right, like this was our Adolph, but I wanted a copy of the document. So we tracked down an email address for Burg Gemünden, wrote to them, and waited. Eventually we got a reply letting us know we’d reached the church at Nieder Gemünden, but we needed the church at Burg Gemünden, and provided us with an email address. So we wrote them. And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

In December of 2016, I wrote a letter and mailed it. More waiting. We were both getting frustrated.

On a cold Monday in January 2017, I felt prompted to look through mom’s files, and I stumbled across a newspaper article mom had cut out of the Salt Lake Tribune dated Sunday, May 1, 1977, entitled “The Search for Jewish Roots”. Part of the article is torn away, but it was the very last article that caught my attention: “The best place? ‘Painful though it may be to admit,’ writes Mr. Rottenberg, ‘the best records for Jewish ancestor hunters are not to be found in Jewish institutions, but in the Mormons’ genealogical library in Salt Lake City.'”

I just stared at that. And a light went on. I knew that the library closed at 5 on Mondays, and I got off work at 3:30. That gave me just enough time to drive up there, see if I could find the record. I raced downtown after work, walked into the library, went to the help desk, and asked for baptismal records for Burg Gemünden in 1860. A very nice man was there, and he helped me find the correct reel of microfilm, reminded me how to use the microfilm reader, and left me to my own devices. It didn’t take long to realize I had a problem: while I may once have been fluent in reading, speaking, and understanding German, I no longer was. Especially not with the alte schrift, the old-style handwriting. But I can still read numbers, so I ploughed ahead, figuring I could get to the general area and then ask for help. As I was getting closer, I gave the handle one last crank, and the microfilm stopped scrolling. Perfectly centered on the screen was a document, in terrible handwriting, with the name Adolph Rothschild written in the left-hand margin. I got goosebumps. I hurried back to the help desk, explained my situation, and the man who had helped me earlier came over, skimmed the document, and then exclaimed, “He was Jewish?!?” I started sobbing. I knew, I KNEW that whatever else he told me, this was MY Adolph Rothschild. The helper sat down and started reading. In brief it says, “On 1 June 1860, after much study, and going before the board to prove his understanding of Christianity, and his acceptance of the Lutheran faith, Abraham Rothschild, a Jew, born 28 December 1829 in Vöhl, son of the deceased merchant Ascher Rothschild, and his first wife Sprinza nee Sternberg, was baptized, and was, by the priest, given the Christian name of Adolph.”

Baptismal Record of Abraham Adolph Rothschild

There, in one document, was the information that linked my gg-grandfather to the Rothschild family of Vöhl. The names Ascher Rothschild and Sprinza Sternberg I recognized from the Synagogue Vöhl website. I couldn’t stop crying. The helper left, I thought because of my tears, but he simply returned to hand me some tissues.

Finding this document, this missing link, was so bittersweet for me. I wanted, more than anything, to call my mom and tell her all about it. Tell her that our combined 40 years of wandering in the genealogical wilderness was over, and that Adolph had siblings — so many of them! And parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, all of it! But mom had had a stroke a number of years before, and couldn’t comprehend the information. Still, I like to think part of her understood.

I told Camille. I told my “Aunt” Betty (mom’s first cousin). I emailed the extended family. I told my husband, over and over and over. And I continue to tell it, because it’s just such an amazing story. And an absolute turning point in our research into this family.

Armed with this new information, Camille and I dove into the deep end of the genealogy pool and have been busy ever since. All the blog posts before this one, and all the rest of the blog posts for this generation, and a number of the blog posts for subsequent generations, are a direct result of this one document.

Thanks, Camille, for sharing that hint with me, and for feeling like I did that it was “our guy.”

Next up, we’ll learn more about Adolph, and separate fact from family lore.

Friedericke Rothschild and Wilhelm Eberwein: Addendum

Since my last post, I’ve been working away on the next blog post, presumably about Abraham Adolph Rothschild. I mean, that was the plan. And then this morning, I received an email response to an inquiry I’d sent to the Kirchengemeinde in Mörfelden, Hesse, Germany. Mörfelden is where Wilhelm Eberwein served the Lutheran community from 1878 until he retired in 1895, and continued to live until he died in 1899. The information I received was wonderful, and I am extremely grateful to Pastor Andrea Schätzler-Weber for getting back to me.

She provided me with a copy of Wilhelm and Friedericke’s youngest daughter’s marriage record, along with a transcription, which is great because the handwriting is a mess!

Marriage record for Louise Friedericke Franziska Fanny Eberwein and Friedrich Ludwig Konrad Georg Theodor Herman Siebert Bindewald.

What’s great about this record is that all of that writing in the margin is about their 4 children. Hilmar Ernst Wilhelm Friedrick Bindewald was born 23 August 1885, died 2 September 1893, just a week or two after his 8th birthday. Otto Hans Friedrich Bindewald was born 18 August 1886, and then disappears. I’m hoping he grew up, married, and had a bunch of kids. Unnamed Daughter Bindewald was born 19 January 1890 and lived just 2 1/2 minutes. Those three I knew about, but I was surprised to learn about Karl Gustav Hilmar Bindewald, born 26 February 1893, and died 1 August 1909, at the age of 16.

50th Jubilee of Pastor Ernst August Wilhelm Eberwein

This is the document I got really excited about because it provides a timeline of his postings as a pastor, and provided me, finally, with an answer to a question that’s been pestering me for awhile now: How did a Lutheran Pastor from Sellnrod meet a nice Jewish girl from Vöhl? Because he was in Vöhl!

Martinskirche, Vöhl, Hesse, Germany. Photo by Elizabeth Foote

Pastor Eberwein graduated from the Universitätbibliothek Gießen on 25 May 1840. His first posting was to Vöhl. From 1840 – 1849, he was the pastor, or assistant pastor (still sorting that out) of Martinskirche. Friedericke’s father, Ascher financed the construction of the building. Following the death of his first wife, Sprinza, Ascher’s younger children were sent to live with Ascher’s nephew, Ruben Rothschild, and Ruben’s wife, Helene Sternberg, who was Sprinza’s sister. While the first mention of this arrangement is in 1840, I believe the children went to live there shortly after Sprinza’s death, and probably just stayed there, even after Ascher married his second wife, Blümchen Sternberg. In late 1847, Ruben officially resigned from the Jewish Community Board, and in January of 1848, he wrote to the Grand Duke Hesse asking that his name be permanently revoked from the Jewish Community. This request was granted toward the end of the year, and in 1849, he was named guardian of a young Christian child named Andreas Kalbfleisch. This implies Ruben was Christian.

With Christianity in the home, I’m certain Pastor Eberwein visited the family often, so there was plenty of opportunity for Friedericke and Wilhelm to get to know each other, fall in love, and get married. I’m currently working on tracking down a marriage record for them, and am curious to know if they got married in Vöhl before he left to his next posting or after.

From 1849 – 1860, he was the pastor of Ulrichstein. Located in the Vogelsberg Mountains, Ulrichstein is the highest town in Hesse, Germany. It’s interesting to note that the River Ohm originates just northwest of town. Downstream is the town of Homberg/Ohm, where the Sternberg sisters — Sprinza, Helene, and Blümchen –were from.

Katharinengemeinde, Burg Gemünden, photo by Elizabeth Foote

From 1860 – 1867, Wilhelm was in Burg Gemünden. On 1 June 1860, in his official capacity as Pastor, he baptized Friedericke’s brother Abraham, and gave him the Christian name of Adolph. Camille and I were lucky to be able to spend about 3 minutes here. Had we known, we’d have taken the time to walk around to the back where there is reported to be a gorgeous rose window. Next time.

From 1867 – 1878, he was the pastor in Ober-Ramstadt. I haven’t yet been able to find out any information about this church. Ober-Ramstadt is located south and a little east of Frankfurt.

Finally, in 1878, he was appointed pastor in Mörfelden, where he served the Lutheran community until he retired in 1895, and where he and Friedericke stayed until he died in 1899. You can read more about his posting in Mörfelden in the last blog post.

And now, back to work on my first post for Adolph Rothschild. Stay safe and stay happy!

Friedericke Rothschild Eberwein, 1827 – 10 May 1911

Let me start off by saying it wasn’t until July of 2019 that we even knew about Friedericke. She wasn’t listed on the Synagogue Vöhl website, and we hadn’t seen any mention of her anywhere else. And even when we did find out about her, we gave her the wrong name. Sort of. So let me tell you how we got from not knowing about her at all, to thinking we knew who she was, to REALLY knowing who she was.

From the Synagogue Vöhl website, we knew that Ascher and his first wife Sprinza had several sons and one daughter: Rebekka. According to Synagogue Vöhl website, Rebekka left home in 1858 at the age of 26, without a trade or profession, and immigrated to Kurhessen with assets equaling 10,000 guilders. Later, through our research, we learned about Bertha Rothschild Ballin.

In June of 2019, Camille and I were still absorbing everything we’d experienced during and learned from our trip to Vöhl the previous May, as well as getting ready for our extended family reunion in July. Camille had written a fabulous interactive pageant that everyone was going to take part in. It was, without a doubt, the highlight of our reunion!

Just a side note about the reunion. The descendants of Edward Otto Roth (my great-grandfather, grandson of Ascher Rothschild and Sprinza Sternberg) have gotten together for reunions every few years (give or take) since 1980. It’s been a small group, consisting of my mom and her kids, her brother, and their two cousins, Betty and Sandra, with their families. The first year we had the reunion we had all but about 3 people there. There were 17 of us. We’re not a big group, and there are zero first cousins on my generational plane, just 10 second cousins. We had a reunion in 2017, with just a handful of the EO Roth crowd and Camille. The reunion of 2019, though, had so many new faces that we needed nametags!

Rothschild Family Reunion, July 2019

So that summer, Camille was writing the pageant, and I was on this crazy research binge, and I kept finding more information. Finally, about a week or two before the reunion, Camille told me I wasn’t allowed to find any new relatives until after the reunion, because she couldn’t keep re-writing the pageant! And what prompted this proclamation? The death certificate of Siegmund Salomon Rothschild. This wasn’t a new-to-us document. This was one we’d had for awhile, but we’d relied on the bare-bones basic translation provided by ancestry.com, which provided his name, age, year of birth, date and place of death, and his parents’ names. I’d been slowly, slowing re-learning how to read German, and I went back to review that document to see if I could make out any other details. And that’s when something caught my eye. At the very top of the document, it listed the name of the informant: Pfarrer Wilhelm Eberwein.

Excerpt from death record of Siegmund Salomon Rothschild

I skimmed through the document, got down to where it listed Siegmund’s religion. Yep, it said “israelischer”. So why would a Pfarrer — Pastor — be the informant? The next line after the good pastor’s name talked about where he lived (Offenbach), and the line after that read, “und zeigte an, dass sein Schwager, der Rentiner Siegmund Rothschild…” (Translation: “and states that the “Schwager” of the retiree, Siegmund Rothschild…”) Now, part of this document is written in what I would consider standard longhand for pretty much anywhere, but part of it, like the word “Schwager” was written in old German, and it’s a bear to figure out sometimes. Because of that, it took me a crazy amount of time to figure out what that word was, because for the longest time it looked like”Vifeaayor”, and I knew that was wrong! Once I remembered that first letter was a capital S, I found a website (that I haven’t been able to find since) that listed out words for different familial relationships. I went to the S section, and found “Schwager”. Brother-in-law. Wait, what?

It was about that time that I started thinking this pastor sounded familiar, and went to the only other document I knew of that had a pastor on it: the baptism record for Adolph Rothschild. And it was signed by pastor Wilhelm Eberwein. Who was this guy? And did he realize he was completely re-writing what I thought had happened in my family? Needless to say, I got to work researching the good pastor, and I found out quite a bit.

Pastor Eberwein,

Ernst August Wilhelm Eberwein was born 8 May 1821 in Sellnrod Germany, son of Ernst Gottlieb Wilhelm Eberwein and Karoline Christiane Betz. He was baptized in Sellnrod on 24 May 1821. He studied theology at the Universitätsbibliothek Giessen, and graduated from there 25 May 1840.

We don’t as yet know how he met Friedericke, or when exactly they were married, but we’re guessing it was around 1850. This is based solely on the fact that their first child was born in 1851. Friedericke and Wilhelm had 4 daughters together. Caroline Amone Sophie Eberwein (14 June 1851 – 24 July 1916), Mathilde Eberwein (17 December 1852 – 10 Janurary 1914), Auguste Eberwein (17 June 1855 – 25 December 1940), and Louise Friedericke Franziska Fanny Eberwein Bindewald (22 December 1859 – 3 August 1908). Of the four daughters, only Louise married, and she had three children. Given how close together the births of Caroline and Mathilde are, it’s possible there was another pregnancy and/or birth between Mathilde and Auguste, as well as between Auguste and Louise. But if that kind of information exists, I haven’t found it yet.

Kirche Burg Gemünde 20 May 2019, photo by Elizabeth Foote

The family seems to have moved a number of times, based on where Wilhelm was sent for his work. The oldest three daughters were born in Ulrichstein, but Louise was born in Burg Gemünden. And it was there on 1 June 1860, that Pastor Eberwein baptized my gg-grandfather, Adolph Rothschild. According to page 342 of the Hof- und Staats-Handbuch des Großherzogthums Hessen, he was still the pastor of Burg Gemünden in 1862.

We know that Willhem and Friedericke were in Offenbach in 1877, when he was the informant of his brother-in-law Siegmund’s death, and that Wilhelm served as the Parish Administrator in Erlichshausen from 1897 – 1899.

In this undated photo below, we can see Pastor Eberwein in the middle of a group of children from his parish in Mörfelden, where he was a pastor from 1878 to 1898. The caption at the bottom of the photo translates as follows: “A state class of confirmants, in front of the snow behind the vicarage in Langasse, which was destroyed a few years ago. For 90 children, 36 girls and 54 boys, a new phase of life began at that time. We do not know the year the picture was taken or the vintage. But it must have been before 1898, because in the middle is Pastor August-Wilhelm Eberwein, pastor in Mörfelden from 1878 to 1898. The Eberweinstraße was also named after Pastor Eberwein. The almost uniform clothing is interesting. All young men with dark suits, bow ties and hats, or “Hartmann”. The wreath on the head of the young ladies, the hat, and the little bouquet on the lapel of the young men were obligatory at that time.” Given the style of dresses the young women are wearing, I would date the photo to around 1890. I did reach out to the publication DKP where I found this image to ask if they had any additional information, or even the original photograph that could hopefully be scanned, but they said this had been published in issue number 175, dated July 1985, that they did not have the original image, nor a digital copy of said image, and couldn’t tell me any more about it other than what was in the caption. Still, it does give us quite a bit of information about Pastor Eberwein.

“Mörfelden Yesterday”, published by DKP

At the aforementioned reunion, we presented Pastor Eberwein as the husband of Rebekka, who went by Friedericke.

Sometime after the reunion, Camille was contacted by Bill, a fellow Vöhler Jew descendant, who had found his relative on her virtual Vöhler Jewish Cemetery at findagrave.com. Several emails and a few weeks later, Bill shared some vintage newspaper articles with us, which led us to Bertha Rothschild Ballin’s estate dispute, which led us to getting copies of the documents of that dispute, which listed all the members of Bertha’s family. I know this next part is really lengthy, but I believe it’s important to show just how detailed Bertha’s estate documentation was and how many clues we received from it. (And, no, I don’t know why I didn’t think to add this to her blog post.) It lists her beneficiaries as follows:

“… the lawful heirs of the said Bertha Ballin now living are your orator, James Otto Rothschild of Hoboken in the county of Hudson and the State of New Jersey, Isaac Rothschild of the city, county, and State of New York, Moses Rothschild of Voehl in Prussia, Adolphus Rothschild of Petersburg in the State of Illinois, brothers of the full blood of said Bertha Ballin, deceased, Sophie Einstein of St. Louis in the County of St. Louis and State of Missouri, Justus Rothschild of the city of Brooklyn in the County of Kings and State of New York, a son and daughter of Sigmund Rothschild, deceased, a brother of the full blood of said Bertha Ballin, deceased, Richard Emanuel, Otto Emanuel, Victor Emanuel and Rudolph Emanuel of Rodenberg in Hanover, the three children and husband of Rebecca Emanuel, deceased, a sister of the full blood of said Bertha Ballin, deceased, a sister of the full blood of said Bertha Ballin, deceased, Frederika Eberwein of Hamburg in Germany, Sophia Flatau of Hamburg in Germany, and Fannie Hirschhorn of Frankfurt-on-the-Main in Germany, said Frederika Eberwein being a sister of the full blood of said Bertha Ballin, deceased, and said Sophia Flatau and Fannie Hirschhorn being daughters of Dr. Saly Rothschild, deceased, a brother of the full blood of said Bertha Ballin, deceased.” The documents go on to state that James Otto and Isaac are unmarried, that Moses is married to Caroline, that Adolphus is married to Kathinka, that Sophie is married to William Einstein, that Justus is married to Julia, that Richard, Otto, Victor, and Rudolph Emanuel are all unmarried, that Frederika is married to Pastor William Eberwein, that Sophia Flatau is married to Moritz Flatau, and that Fannie Hirschhorn is married to Isaac Hirschhorn. This is a LOT of information, and confirms much of what we knew. Things we didn’t know, however, were that Justus Rothschild had a wife and that her name was Julia; that the Emanuel family was related to us at all; and that Friedericke (Frederika) and Rebekka (Rebecca) were two different people. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m sorry the family had to go through this legal dispute, but I’m so grateful they did so we could have this fantastic wealth of information!

So, to everyone who was at the reunion and took part in the pageant, Friedericke was a heretofore unknown sister, who had NOT started off in life as Rebekka, and Rebekka was not married to Pastor Eberwein, Friedericke was.

I’ll end this post the way I normally begin them. Friedericke Rothschild was the 6th child and 2nd daughter of Ascher Rothschild and his first wife Sprinza Sternberg. She was born in Vöhl in 1827 or 1828. Friedericke passed away 10 May 1911 in Friedberg, Hesse, Germany., where she had been living with her daughter, Mathilde Eberwein. She had outlived her parents, her husband, her daughter Louise, and 9 of her siblings.

Next we’re going to be learning about Adolph Rothschild, my gg-grandfather. Fair warning: his information is going to be spread out over several posts, starting where most genealogical research starts: Family Lore. Until then, be safe, be healthy, be happy.

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.

A Life Well Lived

I had promised the next post would be about Ascher Rothschild’s son, Jacob, but life never quite goes as planned. My mother recently passed away, and while I plan to eventually write a more detailed blog post about her, today, I thought I’d share her obituary.

On 17 March 2022, our brave, beautiful, talented, intrepid wife and mother chose to transition from this life to the next. It seems fitting that this avid gardener and lover of cats chose the feast day of St. Gertrude of Nivelles, the Patron Saint of Cats and Gardeners.

Jeannette Elizabeth Roth Woolf was born in Los Angeles, California 24 May 1936, the oldest child and only daughter of Carroll William Roth and Elizabeth Cleveland Quarles. She was a Campfire Girl as an adolescent, teenager, and young adult, and spent every summer for 13 years at Camp Waswagan, located in the Sierra Nevada mountains. A gifted artist, Jeannette chose to pursue a career as a Medical Illustrator, and attended the Medical College of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. To become a certified Medical Illustrator, one is required to take 3 years of medical school and have an impressive art portfolio. While there, she met fellow medical student Thomas Watson “Emory” Price, Jr. They were married in June 1962. Jeannette graduated from the Medical College of Georgia in June 1963 with a Masters Degree in Medical Arts.

As a Medical Illustrator, surgeons could describe new procedures they were pioneering, such as arthroscopic knee surgery, and new procedures for rotator cuff repair. With those descriptions, she was able to create a series of illustrations accurately depicting the procedure and/or the new instruments that would be needed as well. Jeannette also excelled as a watercolor artist, with her primary subjects being landscapes and old barns. She loved taking watercolor classes, and learning to improve her skills.

Tom and Jeannette were the parents of three children: Elizabeth, Thomas, and William. During their marriage, they lived in Byromville, GA, Cottage Grove, OR, and Montezuma, GA. Widowed at the age of 39, she moved 3 children, 2 cats, 4 kittens, and three large goldfish across country from Georgia to Utah, bought a house, turned part of the yard into a vegetable garden, and became as fiercely independent and self-sufficient as she could. Despite the challenges and financial hardships she faced, she introduced her children to many cultural events, was able to send each of them to Germany as part of an exchange program, and raised her children to be responsible, adventurous adults.

A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jeannette was actively involved in church activities, and delighted in sharing her love of nature, gardening, music, and genealogy with the members of her ward.

One day, shortly after her children had all left home, John Woolf knocked on her door and commissioned her to cross-stitch a picture for him of a skep beehive. He began stopping by periodically to check the progress, then more and more often until he was stopping in daily. By the time it was completed, they were madly in love. They were sealed for Time and Eternity in the Provo Temple on 28 July 1988. Everyone who knew them could see and feel the love radiating from them. John and Jeannette loved participating with the Pioneer Heritage Company. With her attention to detail – she had been a costume mistress in her high school drama department – Jeannette ensured their costumes and activities were accurate to the period they were portraying. For many years, she was a docent at the BYU Museum of Art, and was particularly fond of the Egyptian exhibits, the blown glass of Dale Chihuly, and the paintings of C. C. A. Christensen. During her tenure with the BYU MOA, she received perhaps her greatest challenge: a thread-by-thread restoration to restore the Minerva Tichert famous “orange scarf” used in so many of Tichert’s early paintings.

Both John and Jeannette were avid gardeners, and took great pride in their yard. With its split-rail fence, large trees, immaculate flower and vegetable beds, and goldfish pond, it was the talk of the town, and they received Provo City citations and District recognition for their yard and garden.

John and Jeannette were dedicated and devoted to community. John was the first president of Habitat for Humanity in Utah County, and both of them were instrumental in helping create the Utah County affiliate for Habitat for Humanity. For years, on the first Sunday of every month, they would travel to downtown Salt Lake City to feed the homeless “under the viaduct” near Pioneer Park. For years, Jeannette also volunteered in the Deseret Industries Humanitarian Center for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, helping create, assemble, and package supplies for worldwide relief operations. With her medical background, Jeannette was a volunteer for the American Red Cross during the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Following her stroke in January 2011, John has been by her side almost constantly, caring for her in every way imaginable, never letting her forget his undying love for her. Her children are so very grateful for his example of unconditional love and compassion.

Jeannette is survived by her husband John; her children Elizabeth Foote (James Foote), Thomas Price (Andie Grace), William Price (Jeni Austin); her stepchildren John Harper, Timberlyn, Sarah, and Kristen Woolf; her granddaughters Maren Christensen, Chloe Tolman, and Jamie Grace; her grandsons Nolan, Nathan, and Jason Foote; and her brother, Bill Roth; as well as her cousins, Betty Thompson and Sandra Asquith.

Jeannette will be interred on Tuesday, 22 March 2022 at 10:30 a.m. at the Mount Olivet Cemetery, 1342 East 500 South, Salt Lake City, Utah. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in her name to the charity of your choice. 

So often when we read an obituary, or when we talk of a loved one’s recent passing, we focus on the aspects that made them almost saint-like. I’ve been remembering mom’s silliness, her love of painting, and her passion for having everything “just so”. Here are some examples:

The first exhibit at the BYU Museum of Art was on the Etruscans, the civilization that preceded Ancient Rome. Mom suggested everyone dress in period appropriate clothing for the first week, and the director agreed. Rather than risk people showing up in poorly draped bed sheets, mom volunteered to make all the costumes. I remember her telling me, with unveiled disgust in her voice, “The men wore the robes over their shirts and ties, with their suit pants sticking out. It looked so DORKY!!!”

She and John were shingling the roof once, and a friend helped them for a few hours. After the friend left, mom, from 20 feet away, said, “John, that shingle, 3rd row up and 5 tabs in, is 1/16th inch off. You need to fix it, or it’s going to throw the whole line off as we proceed.” John tried arguing with her that it wasn’t off, that no one would notice, and that there was no way she could see it from that far away. To prove his point, he measured. It was 1/16th inch off. He fixed it.

When I went to visit Vöhl in 2019, I wanted to take part of mom with me to leave there. After discussing it with my brothers and John, we settled on one of her small paintings. It wasn’t until I was presenting it to the Förderkreis Synagoge in Vöhl, e.V., that I realized she had painted it in 1999, the same year the Förderkreis was founded. If she hadn’t been incapacitated from her stroke, she’d have beat me to the airport to go on that trip. Or at least picked which painting she wanted to send.

Karl-Heinz Stadtler holding mom’s painting in the erstwhile Synagogue in Vöhl. It has since been framed and is hanging on display there.

God-speed, mom. Until we meet again

Bertha Rothschild Ballin — Addendum

Bertha’s date of birth presents a conundrum. While it’s perfectly believable that she and older brother Selig are nearly 2 years apart, the problem is that she could not be born 9 November 1824 and her next sibling, Jacob, be born 3 February 1825.

As I sat down to start working on Jacob’s blog post, I realized I have 10 different sources, ranging from census records, death records, passport applications, ships manifests, and all points in between, in which he consistently puts his date of birth as 3 February 1825. By contrast, documentation for Bertha shows birth years of 1824, 1825, 1826, 1830, and 1838. Which of those is correct? To be honest, I don’t think any of them are.

In looking at the birthdates of the rest of her siblings, the only way Bertha fits into the family is if she was born in 1823. That makes her 11 months younger than Selig, and 15 months older than Jacob.

I do not have a single scrap of documentation suggesting her birthyear is 1823. But I know it can’t be any of the other years that she suggested it was. So, in my records at least, I’m changing her date of birth to 9 November 1823.

Bertha Rothschild Ballin, 9 November 1823 – 15 January 1882

Ancestry.com, National Archives and Records Administration

Bertha Ballin was the fourth child and first daughter born to Ascher Rothschild and Sprinza Sternberg, and the granddaughter of Salomon Abraham Rothschild. Like the rest of her siblings, she was born in Vöhl, Hesse, Germany.

Bertha was an enigma for quite awhile. We found census records of Jacob James Otto Rothschild living with her and her husband, then living with her after her husband’s death. I assumed he was a border. And then I found a US Passport application for him, and one for her on the next page. The Passport application, dated 10 August 1871, gave me a date of birth, 9 November 1824. It also listed her place of birth as Voehl Prussia. That DEFINITELY caught my attention, and had me questioning their relationship. At this point in my research, I had heard that Ascher and Sprinza had a daughter named Rebecca, to whom he had presumably given 10,000 guilders so she could go off and make her way in the world. Could this be the missing sister? Maybe. I already knew that people in this family can be born with one name and end up with a dozen others. Or could it be another sister? Shortly after finding this, I received an email from Karl-Heinz Stadtler in Vöhl telling me he’d found a record of Bertha Rothschild, daughter of Ascher Rothschild and Sprinza Sternberg, married to Max Ballin in Gießen. Ok. Another sister. Cool!

According to the records from Giessen, she was the wife of Meier Max Ballin, a fabric merchant, and had been accepted as a citizen of Giessen 11 February 1847.  At that time, it indicated that she had been married to Meier at the age of 22, which would have been in 1846.  This corresponds with her birthdate of 1824.

Boston Eagle 7 November 1854

The next mention we have of Bertha’s husband Max is from a news clipping of the Boston Eagle dated 7 November 1854. Apparently Max was involved in a lawsuit where he was accused — and found guilty — of putting fake labels on an inferior product and trying to pass it off as high-quality champagne. I especially like the argument his attorney gives for why he shouldn’t serve time.

Given that both Bertha and James Otto applied for passports on the same day, with the intent of traveling to Germany, I like to think they were going home to visit the family.

The next mention we have of Bertha’s husband, Max, is from a small article in the Boston Eagle, dated 7 November 1854. By this time, Max was a wine merchant, and was involved in a lawsuit where he was charged with putting fake labels on an inferior product and passing them off as high-quality champagne. I love this brief news clipping, especially the reasoning his attorney gives for not sentencing him. So, not the straightest arrow in the quiver, old Max.

The next we hear of Bertha is from a ship’s manifest for the SS Hammonia, which departed Hamburg on 22 February 1862. I’m assuming she was coming back to New York after a visit to family. She traveled first class, listed her age as 36, which puts her birth year at 1826.

Max was born 14 March 1813 in Rotenburg an der Fulda, Hesse, Germany, the son of Nathan Ballin and Betty Wertheim. He declared his intent to become a US Citizen on 29 October 1853, listing his residence as New York and his profession as wine merchant. Max died from Consumption on 29 October. He left a very detailed — and interesting — will. It [1] was filed with the court on 9 November 1869.  In it, he lists Joseph and Samuel Seidenberg as his executors.  He instructed them to invest the sum of $10,000 in whatever manner they saw fit, and that the interest derived was to be given to his wife Bertha.  Additionally, he left her all the furniture, portraits, kitchenware and household goods.  Another $10,000 was to be invested, with the interest to go to his mother, Betty Ballin, living in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.  There were a couple of smaller bequests, but he left the bulk of his estate to be divided equally among his siblings, and/or his nieces and nephews.  Max states that he was 62 at the time he wrote his Will.

The executors, Joseph and Samuel Seidenberg, took their responsibility quite seriously, and I get the feeling they didn’t really like Bertha. On 3 April 1870, they filed a detailed inventory of Max’s estate with the court. To say it was extensive would be an understatement. It listed every article that was in the home from tablecloths to carpets to bedding to furniture. And it was all given a value. A second page lists everyone to whom Max had lent money, with the amount due listed in one of the following three columns: Good, Doubtful, Bad. There were 4 members of the Rothschild family listed:

Isaac Rothschild, New York, $835.96, Doubtful

Justus Rothschild, Wien (Vienna), $39, Good

Jas. O. Rothschild, Hoboken, $330, Doubtful

Ad. Rothschild (no location), $87.86, Doubtful

Justus Rothschild is the son of Bertha’s oldest brother, Siegmund. I believe Ad. Rothschild to be Adolph Rothschild, Bertha’s next youngest brother. That no location is listed for him doesn’t surprise me, as he moved a lot.

On 28 June 1871, Bertha filed a petition with the Chancery Court of New Jersey, contesting her husband’s Will in general, and the accounting practices of the executors in particular. But a ruling dated 21 October 1871 stated the Will would stand, as would the value of the estate as determined by the executors.

The 1880 census shows Bertha living at 127 Garden Street in Hoboken, New Jersey, the same address where she and Max had lived since moving to America. They often had boarders living with them in the large townhouse. While her brother, James Otto, wasn’t living with her in 1880 — at that time he was living with their niece Sophie Rothschild Einstein and her family in St. Louis — she did have Rafael and Lily Palomina of Cuba living with her. Also per the 1880 census, she listed her age as 42. Hey, I get it. We women reach a certain point where we are in denial of how old we really are, and Bertha was no exception.

On 15 January 1882, after 6 days of illness, Bertha passed away from Smallpox, with “disease of the heart” as a contributing factor. She was buried in Hoboken Cemetery in North Bergen, New Jersey. Her death certificate lists her age as 57, which lines up with her 1824 birthdate.

I found the following information about the cemetery at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoboken_Cemetery: The Hoboken Cemetery is located at 5700 Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen, New Jersey, in the New Durham section. It was owned by the City of Hoboken. The Flower Hill Cemetery borders it on two sides. Although one may have the sense of a well-groomed and cared for cemetery when first arriving at Hoboken Cemetery, just a short walk in any direction and you will find a different story. The Secaucus Junction was built on land that was partially the Hudson County Burial Grounds. The exhumed bodies were to be re-interred at the Hoboken Cemetery, but that was canceled when the cemetery was found to have been recycling older full graves that did not have tombstones, and selling them as virgin plots. The cemetery said it has no record of any bodies being buried in those plots.

Ordinarily, if the person and their spouse are both dead, then I call the blog post complete and I move on. But Bertha is a different story. It turns out, she held the key to finding out the names of all of her siblings.

When Camille and I went to Vöhl in 2019, she took pictures of all the legible headstones in the old Jewish cemetery, and created a virtual cemetery at findagrave.com. A few months later, she was contacted by a man named Bill in New Jersey. He’s descended from the Jews of Vöhl, had found his ancestor’s headstone, which he didn’t know existed, and had reached out to Camille. Before long, she looped me in on their emails, and the three of us had some great exchanges. One day, Bill sent us an email, stating he’d done a quick search for Bertha, and had found a notice in the newspaper about her estate, listing a number of different people, namely: Isaac Rothschild, James Otto Rothschild, Adolph Rothschild, Sophie Rothschild Einstein, Justus Rothschild, Selig Rothschild, Friedericke Rothschild and Ernst Wilhelm Eberwein, Adolph Rothschild and Kathinka Luja Rothschild, Moritz Rothschild and Karolina Lieber Rothschild, and Rudolph, Otto, Viktor, and Richard Emmanuel. Camille and I were baffled. We knew all the other names by now, figured Friedericke was the elusive Rebecca. But who was the Emmanuel family? We started digging. And finally found the elusive Rebecka Rothschild, who hadn’t run off to seek her fortune, but who had married Rudolph Emanuel and became the mother of 3 sons.

That newspaper article made me curious, and I reached out the Chancery Court of New Jersey, got a copy of all the court papers related to the newspaper article. Apparently, Bertha left her estate to her siblings and, if they were deceased, to her sibling’s children. She listed spouses names for everyone. It was an absolute treasure trove of information! But remember Joseph and Samuel Seidenberg, the executors of her husband’s estate? Well, somehow they made themselves the trustees of Bertha’s estate and were reluctant to hand things over to the rightful heirs. Her brother James Otto Rothschild was supposed to be the primary executor of her estate. Since the Seidenbergs weren’t cooperating, the family banded together and filed a petition to gain possession of the estate. The battle went on for months before the family finally won. When all was said and done, they divided an estate worth about $3000. After all the court fees, I’m not sure there was much left.

I’m sorry the family had to go through this. But I’m grateful the family went through this, because the 80 plus pages turned out to be a genealogist’s dream! A positive well-spring of information. Here is a list of all the family members who are mentioned:

James Otto Rothschild, brother; Isaac Rothschild, brother; Moses Rothschild, brother, and his wife Caroline Rothschild; Adolphus Rothschild, brother, and his wife Kathinka Rothschild; Sophie Einstein, niece, and her husband William Einstein; Justus Rothschild, nephew, and his wife Julia Rothschild; Richard Emanuel, nephew; Otto Emanuel, nephew; Victor Emanuel, nephew; Rudolph Emanuel, husband of deceased sister Rebecca Emanuel; Friederick Eberwein, sister, and her husband Pastor William Eberwein; Sophie Flatau, niece, and her husband Moritz Flatau; Fannie Hirschhorn, niece, and her husband Isaac Hirschhorn.

And that is the story of Bertha Rothschild Ballin. Bless you, Bertha, for all the information you provided us!

Next up is Jacob James Otto Rothschild. Until then, everyone stay safe!

After careful consideration, I’ve changed her year of birth from 1824 to 1823. Please see the Addendum blog post for the explanation.


[1] Author: New Jersey. Surrogate’s Court (Hudson County); Probate Place: Hudson, New Jersey

Dr. Selig “Sali” Rothschild, 6 December 1822 – 6 November 1875

Selig “Saly” Rothschild was the 3rd child and 3rd son of Ascher Rothschild and his first wife Sprinza Sternberg, and the grandson of Salomon Abraham Rothschild. He was born in Vöhl, like the rest of his siblings, on 6 December 1822.

We know very little of his childhood, only that his mother Sprinza passed away on 5 September 1833, a few months before his 11th birthday. Due to his age, he was likely one of the children placed under the guardianship of his cousin Ruben Rothschild, and Ruben’s wife Helene Sternberg, who was his mother’s sister. He did not stay there long. From 1835 – 1840 he attended the Alte Landesschule in Korbach. Korbach is only about a 15 minute (14 km) away from Vöhl, but in 1835, travel would have been by foot, horse, or wagon, so it stands to reason that he resided in Korbach for the bulk of this time. After 1840, he attended the Gymnasium in Bündigen, where his faith was listed as “Jude”.

Note: within the German education system, a Gymnasium (pronounced with a hard “G”), is a state-maintained secondary school that prepares a student for higher education. (https://www.britannica.com/topic/Gymnasium-German-school)

One of the things I truly appreciate about the information found in the biographies at www.synagoge-voehl.de is the rich detail that has been found about individuals, particularly military records. From my observations, typically a young man became eligible for military service at age 20. The military list of the year 1842 states, “Without occupation; rich.” Rich individuals could usually pay someone else to take their place in military service. And the “Contingent list for the district of Vöhl for Completing the Field Troops of 1843” states, “Rothschild, Selig. Residence: Vöhl. Had not appeared at the muster in 1841. And it has been determined that 1842 was his first march.”

While working on this blog post, I came across this little snippet of information on books.google.com. It’s an excerpt from the book “Großherzoglich-Hessisches Regierungsblatt: auf d. Jahr 1847”, page 185. It states, “Doctorates at the Gr. Landes-Universität Gießen. The doctoral degree in medicine, surgery and obstetrics received: 2) on March 26th (1847) Sali Rothschild from Vöhl.”

“Selig” was a popular name with the Rothschild family, and most of them had the nickname of “Sali” or “Saly”, these being interchangeable. Ruben and Helene, for example, had a son named Selig who became a doctor. Because of that, there are a number of references in the biographies from Vöhl that start with “This or another Selig Rothschild”. Such as the one from 22 October 1852 which states, “He or another Selig Rothschild — there are several — received a housing permit, which allowed him to reside in Darmstadt for 1 year.”

photo from Staadtarchiv Fulda

Selig married Bertha Jacobson on 16 February 1853 in the beautiful and impressive synagogue in Fulda, which is the town where Bertha was born on 29 July 1833 to Jacob Jacobsen and Adelheid Homberger. The couple settled in Vöhl, and their daughters were born there; Sophie on 11 November 1854 and Steffanie (also written as Staffanie, known as Fanny) on 8 June 1856.

Selig’s father, Ascher, passed away 13 January 1859. It is believed he became the guardians of his 3 half-sisters, Auguste, Mathilde, and Adelheid. What is known is that sometime before 1861, Selig and his family, along with his half-sisters, moved to Mainz. In Mainz, his half-sisters soon found husbands and were married. Adelheid was first, marrying Julius Isaac Lenneberg in Mainz on 7 October 1861, and Dr. Sali Rothschild was one of the witnesses, listed his relationship to the bride as half-brother.

On 7 July 1862, Dr. Sali Rothschild attended the birth of his niece, Johanna Magdelena Lenneberg, on 12 May 1863, he attended the birth of his nephew, Alfred Lenneberg, and on 18 February 1866, he attended the birth of his nephew, Paul Wolfgang Lenneberg. It’s interesting to note he did not attend nor announce the birth of his niece, Clara Lenneberg, born 28 October 1864. Nor does he seem to have attended or announced the births of his other nieces and nephews through his sisters Auguste, who married Heinrich Calman, and Mathilde, who married Heinrich Bayerthal. This may be because Auguste and Mathilde converted to Christianity at the time of their respective marriages, though this is purely speculation. To be honest, for years I thought the family as a whole had little to do with those members who had converted, but recently I’ve begun to believe that was not the case at all.

Selig and Bertha’s daughter Sophie (11 November 1854 – 13 December 1922) married Moritz Flatau (3 July 1840 – 9 July 1899) were the parents of Elisabeth Flatau, Carl Stefan Flatau, and Hans Ernst Flatau.

Their daughter Steffanie (8 Jun 1856 – 6 Mar 1891) married Isaak Isidor Hirschhorn (25 March 1851 – 28 March 1925) were the parents of Ernst Sally Hirschhorn.

Dr. Selig “Sali” Rothschild passed away in Mainz on 6 November 1875, just one month shy of his 53rd birthday. One of the informants on his death record is Isfrid Jacobson, his brother-in-law.

Ancestry.com. Mainz, Germany, Births, Marriage and Deaths, 1798-1875

In family history research, one piece of information often leads the researcher in unexpected directions. For example, when my cousin Camille found the death record of Bertha Jacobson Rothschild, and shared it with me, we wondered who the informant was and why Bertha was in Hamburg. The informant was Elisabeth Flatau, a name that was, at that time, unfamiliar to us. It didn’t take much digging to discover Elisabeth was Bertha’s granddaughter. That led us to Elisabeth’s father, paternal grandparents, and siblings. Then another look at Selig’s death record, and recognizing the last name of one of the informants, led to information about Bertha’s parents and siblings. It’s kind of like ripples in a pond. It’s one of the things I love most about genealogical research.

Bertha far outlived her husband, passing away in Hamburg on 4 January 1913.

Ancestry.com. Hamburg, Germany, Deaths, 1874-1950 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.

Our next post will be about the first daughter born to the Ascher Rothschild family: Bertha. She definitely had an interesting life, and led us to finding so many unexpected family things! Until then, stay safe, and hug those you love and hold dear.

Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

Adventures in Genealogy