Catching up with the Sturmwalds

Years ago I struggled with conflicting information about second great grandmother, Eliza Sturmwald Lustig, and the name of her mother.

On Eliza’s death certificate, her mother is listed as Charlotte Newmann. On her marriage certificate, the name of Eliza’s mother appears to be Janetta Shyck. After some time thinking about it, with no other information to confirm, I moved onto other areas of research. Here’s what I did know. Continue reading “Catching up with the Sturmwalds”

Ancestry.com adds 14 million New York records to database

Ancestry.com New York Records
Ancestry.com New York Records

The New York City Department of Records and the New York State Archives have released 14 million records to Ancestry.com. This includes birth, marriage, and death records for New York City, which were and are still indexed by the Italian Genealogical Group and the German Genealogy Group. Previously, these records were searchable by visiting the websites of these two groups or through one of my favorite genealogy websites, stevemorse.org.

The 14 million records also include the index to the 1855 and 1875 New York state census populations, which have been available at FamilySearch.org.

I’ve already found many records for my ancestors and relatives within these indexes outside of Ancestry.com, and I’ve ordered many record certifications of vital statistics from the Department of Records, but having these records completely incorporated into the family tree might provide some new hints towards details that I haven’t yet noticed.

Here’s the entry for the family of my second great grandfather, David Sturmwald. The Sturmwalds are likely my only ancestors to be living in the United States as early as 1875. David Sturmwald arrived in the United States from Bayern (Bavaria) in 1849, but I haven’t found him in the earlier 1855 New York state census.

David Sturmwald and family in the 1875 New York Census
David Sturmwald and family in the 1875 New York Census

View the family tree without paying a membership fee

Over the past year, I’ve found Ancestry.com to be an excellent tool for organizing and researching my family’s history. Unfortunately, sharing the information isn’t quite as easy. I’d like to be able to share the family tree with family members while allowing the rest of the world to see public examples I write about here.

I’ve invited family members to my tree on Ancestry.com, and they can view some of the information, but they can’t view everything I’ve discovered without paying a fee. And if they don’t pay the fee, they are bombarded with advertisements and other annoyances in order to convince them to sign up for a paid membership.

I have no interest in seeing my family part with their money, so I’ve been looking for a better solution. I’ll continue to use services and software like Ancestry.com, Family Tree Maker, and MyHeritage for my own management and research pertaining to my family history, but I will also host a public, free-to-access, version of the tree here on landesfamilytree.com. The interface is not as polished as it is on Ancestry.com or any other commercial tool, but it provides access to the information to visitors and members, free of charge.

You can access the family tree website here. Currently, it contains almost 5,000 individuals, focusing mainly on my ancestors and their descendants, but I’ve also researched somewhat distant branches of the family and added them to the tree if I felt there was a good enough reason to do so.

In order to see details about living persons and other information like sources and certain media, you must log in after requesting a new account. Because of the nature of private information available, I’ll approve new accounts for only family members. Otherwise, only certain basic information will be visible.

There have been a few notable updates since my last posting:

After writing about piecing together more details about the Lepianski branch, I was contacted by a cousin who provided more details. I knew that several of Anna (Khiene Liba) Lepianski Kerstman’s brothers and sisters found their way from Yanowa, Poland (now Lithuania) to the United States, but I hadn’t discovered their whereabouts. The cousin was closer to this family and provided more information on Moisei Isaak Lepianski, who became known in the United States as Morris Lopinsky. I’m still on the look-out for Anna’s sister Esther (Ester Leia).

I most recently wrote about my relatives who perished in the Holocaust. Sophie Heimbach, my second cousin three times removed and a Sturmwald descendant, and her father both perished. Sophie’s two sisters, Frieda and Ida, both left Europe for the United States during the first decade of the twentieth century. I’ve been able to find more information about Frieda Heimbach, who married Christian Schaefer.

While reviewing my DNA matches using FamilyTreeDNA and Gedmatch, I’ve encountered several matches who are related to the Oppenheimer family, a prominent Jewish family from Germany. The Oppenheimers have many living descendants, and more than just a few are interested in tracking their family history. One branch of the Oppenheimers (Feygele, daughter of Samson Oppenheimer) consists of ancestors of a Royal Dutch family. I’ve known of my own connection to the Oppenheimers as one several marriages away from my own lineage, but I’m wondering if DNA evidence is pointing to a closer connection.

There’s no definitive conclusion as a result of DNA analysis yet, but I’m continuing to try to make sense of what is known.

In my research, I found this diagram of the Oppenheimer family tree courtesy of the Loeb Family Tree website. According to the author of the site, this tree was drawn by Samuel Dokow of Hemsbach in 1900.

Oppenheimer Family Tree c 1900

Thanks to Google Books, I’ve discovered relatives in the Holocaust

Until yesterday, I hadn’t been aware of any relatives who experienced the Holocaust in person, whether they ultimately survived the horror or not. My first discovery came yesterday, and it’s due to Google Books.

If Google did not make the effort to digitize rare books from around the world, it would have taken me a lifetime to discover references to my relatives, and that’s assuming I would discover it at all. Because Google has made the text of these books fully searchable, even if the full book isn’t available for viewing online, it can point researchers in the right direction, towards information that would be buried otherwise.

It also makes sense for researchers to continue searching. I’ve searched Google Books for references to Sturmwald before, but yesterday’s new result provided new information about my relatives in Germany.

Stadtführer zu Orten ehemaligen jüdischen Lebens in Rheine
Stadtführer zu Orten ehemaligen jüdischen Lebens in Rheine

The first result new was several pages from the book, Stadtführer zu Orten ehemaligen jüdischen Lebens in Rheine [City Guide to Former Places of Jewish Life in Rheine]. The pages referred to Babette Sturmwald, born in 1856 in Laer, which is near Steifurt and Münster in Germany. The book contains a record of her family: her husband, Sigmund-Samuel Heinbach, and their four daughters, Ida, Frieda, Sophie, and Bertha. The book notes that the first two daughters, Ida and Frieda, emigrated to the United States, and even offers the dates they departed.

According to the book, Sigmund-Samuel Heimbach died at the Theresienstadt ghetto in 1942 a few years before Sophie, who had also been moved initially to the Theresienstadt ghetto, perished at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

After discovering this, I turned to Yad Vashem to see if there were any additional records or documentation of Sigmund’s and Sophie’s experiences in Theresienstadt or Auschwitz. Their names appear in the Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names had more information that helped with the research, both sourced from a book called Victims of the Persecution of Jews under the National Socialist Tyranny in Germany 1933 – 1945. Sigmund’s entry also included a Nazi death certificate, included here.

Sigmund Heimbach Todefallanzeige
Sigmund Heimbach Todefallanzeige

Until this point, I knew that Sigmund and Sophie, as well as Babette’s other children, were descendants of a Sturmwald, but I wasn’t sure about how they fit into the family tree. By tracing Ida Heimbach’s journey to the United States, I found exactly what I needed.

In the ship manifest, Ida indicated her destination was her aunt in the United States, Bertha Freitag. I took this at face value. I had already understood that Bertha Sturmwald Freitag had two siblings who remained in Germany. This information places Babette Stumrwald Heimbach, Ida’s mother, as Bertha Sturmwald Freitag’s sister. As a result, Ida and Sophie are both second cousins, three times removed.

Now Babette and her family, some of whom perished in the Holocaust, have their places in my family tree. It’s distant, but considering I still expect some of my closer ancestors to have siblings, who I’m not aware of, and who remained in Europe.

I’ll just keep searching, and maybe an obscure book somewhere, newly scanned by Google Books, will reveal new details. Typically, the only way to discover detail like these is to visit libraries around the world and read thousands of books. That’s certainly not a guaranteed method of research; I could read tens of thousands of books and never find anything pertaining to my family — or I could read something unrelated and not know until later that some of the information did in fact pertain to my family.

Grand efforts to digitize and index historical libraries is the only hope most people have for discovering information that would ordinarily be lost to history.

Babette Sturmwald Family Tree
Babette Sturmwald Family Tree

My fourth great grandfather, Israel Loew Sturmwald, and his descendants

Not long ago, a distant potential cousin who has been researching his own family history contacted me. This has been my intent from the beginning. By having my family tree information on as many different genealogy and family tree websites as possible, as well as this website, I’m increasing the visibility of my family names with the hope that other researches may either gain some help from the research I’ve performed so far or will be able to help me break through some brick walls.

I haven’t verified how I’m related to this potential cousin, but we may share my fourth great grandfather or my fifth great grandfather. My fourth great grandfather is Israel Sturmwald from Bayern (Bavaria). I’ve been able to trace my history to this individual through mostly census records and vital statistics. Although we haven’t bridged the gap between his Sturmwald ancestors and mine, there’s a great chance his progenitor, Raphael Sturmwald, was a son or nephew of Israel.

The Sturmwalds who traveled to the United States settled in Manhattan, and later Brooklyn and New Jersey. With many brothers and cousins, some owned or co-owned a family business making paper boxes, while others worked as tailors, bar tenders, and salespeople.

As a result of my new contact, I looked into the Sturmwald history much more closely. I discovered some new resources that have helped me shape the history of this family.

Fulton History has an index of OCR’d local newspapers in Brooklyn and all around New York State. Searching this site has presented me with many obituaries which were not printed in local newspapers rather than the New York Times. The obituaries contain valuable information about the lives and relatives of the deceased, and this has allowed me to piece together disparate pieces of the Sturmwald family. It helped me determine, for example, that my third great grandfather, David Sturmwald, was the brother of Benjamin Sturmwald, another immigrant from Bayern.

The obituaries also allowed me place two of Benjamin’s children, Benno and Bertha Sturmwald, both immigrants from Bayern.

The Brooklyn Public Library also offers a searchable index of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, another newspaper, also archived on the Fulton History site, that contains not only news items but the social goings-on of the families living in Brooklyn.

A website dedicated to Jewish history in Germany has information about the Synagogue in Forth (Fort), the town in Bayern where Israel lived and whence his sons Daniel, Michael, and Benjamin traveled to the United States, shares a document that describes the Sturmwald family’s status within the community:

Inhaber der Matrikelstellen (1813-1861) waren (mit Zahl der Matrikel und Jahr des Schutzbriefes bzw. der Übernahme der Stelle): 1 Samuel Jacob Brandeis 1812, Jacob Ehrlich 1781; 2 Abraham Hirsch Freitag 1763; 3 Meier Eißig Levi Hirsch Eismann 1804; 4 Abraham Joseph Kümmelstiel 1758, 4 Meier Kümmelstiel; 5 Salomon Arons Wittib Ehrlicher 1774, 5 Henoch Ehrlich 1807; 6 Scholum Hirsch Friedenreich 1762, 6 Israel Joseph Sturmwald 1800, 6 Michael Sturmwald 1830; 7 Meier Joseph Kieselmann 1778, 7 Schmai Freitag 1807; […] 22 Joseph Israel Hirsch Sturmwald 1772 […]

My five years studying German throughout middle school and high school couldn’t help much with the transation, nor could Google Translate, mostly because of the term Matrikelstelle, which has no English counterpart. It appears to be a position in the synagogue or the awarding of something akin to a degree, and this is a powerful social position. As far as I can tell from further research online, being or holding a Matrikelstelle was necessary in order to have financial success. The position was an asset, and one family would arrange a marriage into another in order to share in the benefits of having a Matrikelstelle in the family.

The years in the above passage appear to be years that this position was awarded to each individual, not birth years — but with no knowledge about how these positions were assigned, they could have been awarded at birth. I noted the appearance of the name Freitag in this list; Israel Lowe Sturmwald’s granddaughter Bertha married Karl Freitag, who I’ve identified as originating in Germany. He could be the descendant of someone mentioned in this passage, though I expect Freitag might have been a more common name than Sturmwald.

If the dates in the passage are in fact dates of awarding of some position as an adult, this Israel Joseph Sturmwald would need to be Israel Loeb Sturmwald’s father, and perhaps Joseph Israel Hirsch Sturmwald is his father in turn.

Caroline Mellon suicide
Caroline Mellon suicide
Sturmwalds in Brooklyn seemed to cause occasional trouble. A Henry Sturmwald, which I haven’t confirmed is one of the two Henry Sturmwalds I’ve already identified in my family tree, was arrested and questioned by police in connection to a murder in 1886. His age in the newspaper report doesn’t match the age of the Henry Sturmwalds, but it’s hard to believe there are more than two Henry Sturmwalds in the area. The last name is not very common throughout the world.

In another news report, the apartment where the Sturmwald family lived was on fire. The rescue team from the fire department had to move the family away from danger twice, and they had difficulty evacuating the elder Sturmwald from his bedroom due to his size. The reporters in the nineteenth century were not very subtle.

In yet another story, a young girl poisoned herself, leaving a suicide note pining for the apparent player Daniel Sturmwald, with whom she had some kind of one-night stand and was lost in unrequited love. In a time before reality television and soap operas, gossip in the newspapers played an important role for entertainment; yet, if true, this is a sad story. Again, the only evidence that this story pertains to the Daniel Sturmwald who is the son of my third great grandfather is the proximity of the story to the family’s confirmed address.

I am able to reproduce the story here as it appeared in The Brooklyn Union, a newspaper that ran from 1867 through 1870. To the best of my understanding, the contents of this paper are now public domain.

There are many unanswered questions about identities, but the biggest question in my mind pertains to my direct ancestors.

It’s clear my third great grandfather, David Sturmwald, married Rosa Newman. Another Rosa Newman married David’s cousin, Henry Sturmwald. This Henry’s father, Benjamin Sturmwald, also married a Newman (or Neumann), Celia (or Cecilia or Zillie). Eliza Sturmwald’s marriage certificate lists her mother’s name as Janetta Shyck (though I might not be reading the handwriting correctly). Meanwhile, Eliza Sturmwald Lustig’s death certificate gives her mother’s name as Charlotte Newman. There is a death record held by New York City for Charlotte Newman, but she died in 1857, about the same time Eliza was born. Perhaps Charlotte gave birth to Eliza, passed away, and David later married Rosa Newman. Without marriage records for David, all I can do is guess.

I plan to order Charlotte’s death certificate — perhaps that will offer a new clue, though I’m not counting on it.

Below this article is the full Israel Loew Sturmwald tree. The Raphael Sturmwald branch will remain separate until I can find some kind of evidence supporting how Raphael is related to Israel. I don’t think that all public records have been exhausted; there might be more in Bayern that could help, though they’re not available online. Uncovering personal documents like letters to and from family or New York corporation documents might lend some more clues.

Israel Loew Sturmwald's Family Tree [Ancestry.com]
Israel Loew Sturmwald’s Family Tree [Ancestry.com]

Marriage certificate: Joseph Landes and Sadie Lustig

The next marriage certificate arrived recently from the New York City Department of Records. It’s convenient having most of my recent ancestors residing in New York City — but ordering records is not cheap. With some time to spare, I might visit the department in person to discover and copy these items personally, but at the moment, time is at a premium for me. I prefer the convenience of online ordering. At some point, research will not be possible without visiting locations in person, so I’m taking advantage of convenience for as long as possible.

The latest document to arrive is the marriage certificate for my paternal great grandparents, Joseph Landes and Sadie Lustig. Joseph married Sadie when he was 28 and she was 18 according to the document, but other sources put Joseph’s age at 30 at the time of the marriage in 1909. The date of birth I have comes from a World War I draft registration card, and this is the only documentation I have of Joseph’s full birth date. Census records list Joseph’s age inconsistently.

The marriage certificate offers Joseph’s parents’ names: Moses Landes and Bertha Jereslawitz. This is the first indication I’ve had of Bertha’s maiden name. I should also point out that oral family history had previously indicated that Moses’s wife’s name was Brenda, but I’ve found no evidence of the name Brenda so far. All records, and I have a high level of confidence that the records that I’ve found do pertain to my family, list my second great grandmother’s name as Bertha. Incidentally, I have also discovered a related record indicating Moses’s other son Martin married Pauline Jeruslavitz. The last names are close enough, and I suspect that Bertha and Pauline were related somehow before marrying their respective Landeses, but I have no information yet regarding that relationship.

The Landes/Lustig marriage certificate provides names for Sadie’s parents: Rübin Lustig and Lisa Strümwald. My other information, namely Federal Census records, identify Sadie’s father as Joseph Lustig, so there seems to be conflicting information. This is the first time Sadie’s mother’s name is listed as Lisa; in all other records, the name is spelled Eliza, Louisa, or Louesa. I’m relatively confident that Lisa is either another nickname variation or a misspelling. Also, in all other cases, Eliza’s last name is spelled Sturmwald. Oral history indicates the Sturmwalds originated in Germany, and if this the case, Sturmwald — with or without the umlaut — would most likely be the correct spelling. Stürmwald translates to “raging forest,” and that’s a relatively exciting surname.

With every answer, more questions.

Continue reading to see the marriage certificate for Joseph Landes and Sadie Lustig. Perhaps you can help me decipher Sadie’s middle initial. It appears to be a “C.”

Continue reading “Marriage certificate: Joseph Landes and Sadie Lustig”

Marriage certificates received: Berman/Neckameyer, Lustig/Sturmwald, and Klein/Herman

In order to complete the Family Tree I’ve been researching, I’ve ordered a number of birth, marriage, and death records from New York City. Last month, I received my first order, the marriage record for Sam Berman and Anna Neckameyer. Sam is my mother’s father’s father.

The record provided Sam and Anna’s parents’ names, filling in several holes, though Anna’s mother’s maiden name is a little unclear to me. I interpreted the handwriting as “Rochaurtz.” Take a look for yourself.

Continue reading “Marriage certificates received: Berman/Neckameyer, Lustig/Sturmwald, and Klein/Herman”