Linking Up the Blumenthals

Thirty-six years ago, in the winter of 1986, I took my very first genealogy “field trip.” I was a graduate student at the University of Michigan, and I found a wintry day to drive an hour-and-a-half or so north to Bay City. My destination was the Bay City Jewish Cemetery, to find the headstone of my great-great-grandmother, Theresa (Taube) Hosiason Gettleson. I vividly remember trudging around in the snow looking through the cemetery, and my excitement at discovering it was actually there! I seem to have only kept a later, better photo of the stone.

Photo from Bay City Jewish Cemetery, spring 1986, by Betsy Thal Gephart

Since that first trip, I’ve discovered quite a bit about Taube/Theresa and her family. I’ve identified her parents, grandparents and great-grandfather, and have found records for her family in Latvia going back to 1835. I even have a copy of her marriage record to Joseph Gettleson in Sabile, Latvia in 1877. But of her brief life in the United States, I really have nothing.

Marriage record for Joseph Gitelson and Taube Hosiason, 1877, Jewish Community of Zabeln (now Sabile, Latvia). From the Latvian Historical Archives in Riga.

From records in Latvia, I know she was born between 1853 – she was listed as 24 in her marriage record – and the September 1855 listed on her headstone. Chances are she was born in Zabeln, now Sabile, since that is where she was married and a younger brother was born in 1861. Birth records have not survived for years prior to 1859.

Thus began the post I was writing more than a month ago when I got sidetracked by what I’m about to share. I planned to elaborate on the lack of records about Taube and her time in Michigan, which still is completely baffling to me. But in the process of searching for more information, I remembered the Blumenthals.

In 1994, when I was still publishing a family newsletter, The Thal Gazette, I wrote a short blurb about this family that I only had small bits of information about. Here is a portion of what I wrote:

WHO ARE THE BLUMENTHALS? 

While visiting Thalia Fine in Florida in January, I found a postcard written to Millie Hirshberg in Toledo from "Adolf" in Standish, Michigan, ca.1909-1910.  It consists of copies of family photographs from Clara and someone else.  Another postcard I have from Europe in 1910 mentions an Adolph Blumenthal, and a note on it is signed "Adolph and Hanna".  

Information from Thalia and Stuart Gettleson indicates that the Blumenthal's were sponsors of the Gettleson's when they first came to the United States, and that they were probably related to Joseph Gettleson's wife, Taube Hoseason.  This makes sense, as the cards from Europe that mention him are from Hoseason cousins.  

I have searched on and off over the years for the connection to these Blumenthals with no success, but while writing my post a few weeks ago, I decided to try again. This time, thanks to a cousin, Thomas C. Spear, who is very active on FindaGrave.com, I found Chasse Hosiason, Taube’s sister! It’s her picture, preserved by another cousin, Mark Blumenthal, that’s at the top of the post. Though I had culled through the records available in Latvia with the help of a researcher, Chasse had not shown up. Synagogue records don’t survive from the time she was born or married, and the birth records of her children don’t include her maiden name. However, from records for her children in Latvia and the United States, it’s clear that she was Taube’s sister.

Chasse Hosiason, born around 1842, the daughter of Samuel and Jette, married Chaim Shmuel Blumenthal around 1859 in Latvia. The couple had fourteen children, all born in Sabile (then Zabeln), Latvia, at least nine of whom survived to adulthood. It’s not yet clear when either Chasse or Chaim died, though we believe it was between 1890 and 1900. Full details of her descendants are available here. I’ll focus on a few highlights.

The oldest seven children of Jacob Blumenthal, ca. 1905. Photo from Mark Blumenthal. Back row (L to R): Paul (who died in Russia in 1916), Morris, Harry, and Max. Front row: Leo, Mollie, and Irvin, far right.

Their eldest son, Jacob Saul Blumenthal, did not make it to the United States. He died in Russia in 1917 when the Jews were expelled from Latvia. One of his sons died in Russia as well. His widow and younger children emigrated to the US in 1920, joining those children who had already made the trip. Most of this family settled in Cleveland, Ohio.

The next son, Marcus Blumenthal, is of interest because he was one of the earlier immigrants and settled first in Michigan. In 1889, he was living in Standish, Michigan, when he married Harriet Baumgart. This family remained connected to the Gettlesons, as Stuart remembered Harriet and her two sons, Harold and Joseph, who moved to California and changed the name Blumenthal to Blue. Marcus himself moved to Detroit by 1900, and then to Cleveland, settling finally in Los Angeles by 1930.

Marcus and Harriet Blumenthal, with two of their daughters, ca. 1894.
Isaac and Rose Mandelstam, 1934.

Daughter, Rose Blumenthal, married Isaac Mandelstam, and emigrated from Latvia to Boston in the 1890s. Her seven children were all born in Boston and the family remained in that area.

William, Wulf, or Bill Blumenthal, another one remembered by Stuart Gettleson, also arrived early in Michigan. By 1895, he was operating a general store in Howell, Michigan, where he remained until he moved to Detroit before 1925. He had no children.

Raisa Blumenthal, and her husband, Meyer Jaffe, remained in Latvia until their deaths prior to World War II. Their five children all left Latvia after World War I. Four of them were in Cleveland by the 1920s, though Irvin likely stayed with his mother until she died in Riga in 1936. The Jaffes generally settled in Cleveland, Ohio.

Harry Blumenthal is another son with a Michigan connection, and is buried in the Bay City Jewish Cemetery along with Taube Hosiason Gettleson. He arrived in Baltimore, Maryland in 1891, headed to Michigan. He remained in Standish, operating a dry goods store, until his death in 1951. He had no children. It is from the settlement of his will that so much is confirmed about the descendants of his siblings.

Raisa Jaffe (Left), with Gita, Feige and Cipora Fain, and Irvin Jaffe, in Riga, early 1930s.

Feige Blumenthal, and her husband, Jankel Fain, remained in Latvia. Jankel may have died before 1941, but it is not completely clear what happened to Feige. Some records indicate she fled to Dagestan during the war. Her daughter, Gita, son-in-law, Mozus Govsovics, and grandson, Leon, were all killed in Riga in 1941. Cipora her younger daughter, married a lawyer, Georgy Joelsohn, and somehow survived. The couple had two sons, and Cipora was living in Riga in 1952.

Julius Blumenthal arrived in New York in 1900, also headed to Standish, Michigan. He married Olga Mark in Bay City in 1903, and seems to have moved around Michigan a bit – Sebewaing, Saginaw and Gaylord, at least – before settling in the Detroit area by 1920, where he remained until his death in 1947. His three children were all born in Michigan.

Julius Blumenthal
Adolf and Hannah (Hantze) Blumenthal, 1941. Photo from Thomas C. Spear.

Finally, Adolf Blumenthal, the one who wrote the postcards, was the youngest surviving son of Chasse and Chaim. He arrived in New York in 1903, headed to Michigan. In 1910, Adolf appeared in the 1910 census in Standish with his brother, Harry. I believe he returned to Latvia in the fall of 1910, when he wrote a postcard to his cousin, Clara Gettleson, my great-grandmother. He probably married Hannah Bagg in Latvia, and returned with her in March of 1911. At that point, they settled in Winthrop, Massachusetts, near Boston and his sister, Rose Mandelstam’s family, where they ran a general store. Also in the Boston area was another Hosiason cousin, Jacob Hirshson. Adolf and Hannah had no children.

There are birth records in Latvia for four other children of Chaim and Chasse. Hana (born and died in 1872), an infant son (born and died in 1873), and Meishe (born and died in 1881), all died as babies. The fate of the fourth, Abram Blumenthal, born in November 1876, is unknown. It’s possible a death record for him does not survive. It’s also remotely possible that Abram might be Julius or Adolf, as birth records for them don’t exist in the Latvian archives, but the dates don’t match. At this time, it’s assumed that Abram did not survive to adulthood.

So after almost thirty years, the Blumenthal mystery is now solved! Though there are no records yet to prove it, it’s likely that Marcus Blumenthal helped Taube and her husband, Joseph Gettleson, settle in Michigan in the late 1880s. It’s exciting to have discovered an entirely new branch of the Hosiason – sometimes spelled Hosiasson or Hosiassohn – family! And it has also increased my interest in the town of Sabile, Latvia, where they lived. Expect to hear more about that in the coming months.

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