This is the first in a series of posts I plan to do, writing the stories of my ancestors as I’ve learned about them from various sources.  Some people I have more information about than others, so I’ll be adding to each biography as I learn more.  First is Israel Cowen, my great-great grandfather.

Israel Cowen was born in Houston, Texas on December 12, 1861, the oldest child of Bennett Cowen and Bertha Semmel, both of whom were immigrants to the United States.  From a young age, Israel was exposed to the world as he was educated in California, Texas, New York, and Germany before landing in Chicago in late 1878 or 1879.  He studied at Union College of Law at Northwestern University, graduating in 1881, and he began practicing law in Chicago in 1883.  In 1888, Israel traveled to Europe, where he visited Holland, Belgium, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, England, and other places.

Though his parents were reform Jews, Israel became more religious and was a practicing Orthodox Jew, at least during his time in Chicago.  In conjunction with his religious beliefs, he was involved in a number of philanthropic organizations, many of which promoted the interests of Jews, but all of which served humanitarian efforts.  He was a member of the Big Brother and Big Sister Federation, for which he acted as a Big Brother; he was a leader within B’nai B’rith, including acting as a president of the early Hillel Foundation; and he was a member of the executive committee of the Russian Aid Society, acting as chairman of the committee on auxiliary associations, during the 1890 immigration wave.  Perhaps his longest-lasting humanitarian legacy, however, was his involvement with the Orthodox Home for Aged Jews (later named the Orthodox Jewish Home for the Aged).  On October 1, 1900, Israel delivered a short speech at the laying of the foundation of this building.  This institution, located at the corner of Albany and Ogden Avenues, was the premier home for elderly Orthodox Jews in Chicago.  These are just a sampling of the charities Israel was involved with.  He was very giving of his time and abilities.

On two passport applications- filled out in May 1888 and July 1893- Israel was 5’9″ tall, with gray eyes and dark/black hair.  He described himself as having a medium forehead and chin, a long face, a large nose, and a dark complexion.  Israel married Alma Desemberg on March 15, 1897, in Kalmazoo, MI, where Alma was from.  They resided in Chicago and had two children, Bayard D (1901) and Elizabeth (1907).  Israel died on April 3, 1922, after a brief illness of about two months.

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Alright, now that I’ve been home from Chicago for a few days, it’s time to write about the fun genealogy things I was able to do on my trip!  There were really two things, since I did spend most of my time there doing touristy stuff and hanging out with the friend I was staying with

1) Visited the research center at the Chicago Historical Society.  Since a lot of my family is from Chicago, and were prominent members of the society there, I figured I would be able to find information about them at the Historical Society.  I was mainly focused on the Cowens, but some descendants of the Cohn family lived there too, including my great-grandma Helen (Schwartzmann) Weinstein and her siblings (who I was able to find information about- more in a sec).

I looked through Chicago City Directories and found Israel Cowen and his father, Bennett Cowen, in directories from a few different years.  Interestingly, Israel was mentioned in the 1879 directory, even though every other record I have of him doesn’t place him in Chicago until 1882, I believe.  I’ll have to look into that further!  I did learn earlier in the week from a cousin I met (again- more later!) that Israel was probably involved with the Jewish Home for the Aged in Chicago, and while I was at the Historical Center, I came across a box of pictures from the (Orthodox) Jewish Home for the Aged (“Orthodox” in parentheses because the name changed to include and exclude that word at different points).  The pictures were from after his death- the 1950s and 60s- but still, it was cool to find out about this aspect of his life and see these pictures all in the span of less than a day!

I tried to find Bayard Cowen in his college yearbooks, but was unsuccessful at that.  I either had the incorrect year or school, and since the research center was only open for 3 1/2 hours, I didn’t end up with enough time to check my information and get my hands on the correct yearbooks.  Something for another trip!  I also had been hoping that a photo of Bayard that I’d found on line a while back, that had been taken by a newspaper photographer, was published in the newspaper, but it turns out that it wasn’t.  It was just taken as a potential photograph for a story, but it was never used.

The last, really cool thing that I found was the obituary of Adeline Horwitch, sister of my great-grandma Helen, who passed in 2002.  I already had the text of her obituary, but I wanted to see it in its original context in the newspaper.  They had that day’s paper on microfilm, and so I printed out the page her obituary was on- so cool!  I think it makes so much more sense to have things like that in context.  I wish I could share the pictures I took of the documents I found but unfortunately I had to sign away my life to be able to use my camera, so, I can’t  😦

2) met Dorr and her daughter Kaitlyn.  I’ve been emailing Dorr for a little while; she does the genealogy for her entire family and has shared the information she has related to the Cowen, Herzog, and Schwartz families.  (To be honest, I’m kind of envious of all the primary information she has access to, pictures especially.  I don’t have any that go back past my own grandparents, to my knowledge; a lot of stuff has gotten thrown away over the years when it most certainly should not have been!)  Anyway, since I was going to be in Chicago anyway, I thought it would be nice if we could meet up- and it was!!  I met Dorr and her daughter, Kaitlyn, who is exactly my age.  They were super nice and we chatted for almost 2 hours.  We all shared genealogy information with each other and I came back with some new leads about the Cowens to research- most notably, the lead on Israel Cowen’s involvement with the Jewish Home for the Aged, which I mentioned earlier.  I shared a journal entry I came across that was written by Elmer Eppstein (grandson-in-law of Michael Cowen- so, more closely related to Dorr’s family than mine).  I plan on posting that on here soon, too.  Anyway, it was really cool to actually meet them in person!

Next time I make it back to Chicago, these are the things I’d like to do:

  • visit the addresses that my ancestors used to live at
  • spend more time at the Historical Society research center, and look up more about the Cowens, as well as research the Cohns and any other relations that spent time in Chicago
  • visit the Jewish Home for the Aged and other organizations that my ancestors were involved with; find out if they have any documents or information there; and take pictures!
  • meet up with more of the cousins I have out there
  • make it out to the graveyards I have ancestors buried at and take pictures and/or rubbings of their graves

Anyway, that’s a quick overview of what I did in Chicago; I’ll elaborate more on some of the interesting information at a later date.

Edit 7-11-13:  Got a clearer print of the news article; updated my transcript.

I will post about some of the cool genealogy things I found on my Chicago trip later on… it’s really too late to be writing now but I’ve found something quite exciting that I just don’t wait to wait to share!

I’ve been searching for Bayard Desenberg Cowen, the mysterious brother to my great-grandma Liz, who, until about 15 minutes ago, I was only able to trace until 1922.  After then, he seems to just disappear.

Well, not any more!

I’ve found a newspaper article from Iowa that depicts his arrest there in 1929 for forgery.

To be honest, I expected that I would find something along those lines once it became apparent to me how difficult he was to trace compared to every other relative I’m researching.  What probably threw me off from finding this sooner, aside from the fact that this article seems to be in just one place online, is that based on the known family history, I’ve never had a reason to be researching Iowa!  Just shows what searching on a whim can turn up…

Below I’ve pasted a transcript of the article, followed by the link to the site I found it on.

Mason City Globe-Gazette “North Iowa’s Daily Paper Edited for the Home”

Vol. XXXVI, No. 10

Mason City, Iowa

Monday, October 21, 1929

Cowan Pleads Guilty at C.R.

Bayard Cowan to Be Sentenced on Forgery Charge.

CEDAR RAPIDS, Oct. 21 (AP) – Bayard D. Cowan, 29, bond salesman arrested here on Oct. 12 charged with defrauding bankers in this section of the state, today pleaded guilty to three counts for uttering forged instruments before Judge John T. Moffitt in district court.  He will be sentenced tomorrow.

Cowan may be sentenced to 15 years in each count.

It was charged he organized fake companies under the laws of Delaware, and disposed of their bonds to banks in this section, including two in Cedar Rapids.  He sold the bonds only to bankers whose friendship he had gained when he was a salesman for a bond company.

Cowan owned two airplanes, several automobiles, and was known as a liberal spender.

http://newspaperarchive.com/mason-city-globe-gazette/1929-10-21

One really fun part of doing all this genealogy research is getting in touch with distant relatives who have their own information on parts of the family tree. There’s a lot you can find on the Internet, but there’s a lot that’s special about talking to people who can provide information first-hand; people who either are or knew the people you’re researching. This picture is of Sanford J Herzog (who is my first cousin 3x removed-in-law…if you were wondering). I’ve been writing to his granddaughter-in-law, and she sent me this picture. So cool! Even though we’re not related by blood, I always love to see old pictures of people on my family tree- especially since I have so few pictures of the people I’m directly related to. Thanks, Dorr!

Sanford J. Herzog at the Drexel Fountain, Hyde Park (Chicago) Illinois.  May 1917

Sanford J. Herzog at the Drexel Fountain, Hyde Park (Chicago) Illinois. May 1917

I’m putting this up to share the information I have, but this family tree is the one that I am currently looking more in depth into. I will be updating this page as I learn more about this branch of my family. If you know anything about the FRIEDLANDER or SKIBELL surnames, please get in touch!

I. Louis Cohn (b. Russia; d. 1930) – had 2 sisters
m. Rebecca (b. 1863, Russia; d. 1946) – had 1 full brother, 1 full sister, and 3 half-brothers
	A. Sarah (b. 5-12-1885; d. 7-16-1969)
	m. Samuel Schwartzmann (b. 12-24-1885; d. 12-31-1970)
		1. Florence L.
		m. Bernard (Bernie) Berger (11-22-1930)
			a. Valerie Michelle
			m. Lee (Leon) Feldman (3-14-1956)
				i. Suzanne
		2. Adeline
		m. Lou Horwitch
			a. Mel
			m. Sally Schwager
				i. Greg
				ii. Adam
			b. Richard
			m. Rachel
				i. Mark
				m. Wendy
				ii. David
				m. Laura Pekay
					A. Maya
					B. Lacey Bria (d. 2013)
					C. Jenna
		3. Helen (b. 5-12-1907, IL; d. 12-4-1988, Norwalk, CT)
		m. Meyer J Weinstein (6-10-1930) (d. 10-30-1985, Cook County, IL)
			a. Laurence (b. 1933)
			m. Mirrel Davis (6-10-1959) (b. 1935)
				i. Michael Alan (b. 1960)
				m. Robin Paley (b. 1960)
					3 daughters
				ii. Elizabeth (b. 1963)
				m. Richard Ross
					2 daughters
				iii. David Edward (b. 1965)
				m. Donna Katz
	B. Dave (b. 1890, Rock Island, IL)
	m. Molly (since divorced) (b. St. Louis)
		1. Naomi
		2. Merle
		3. Harold
	m. Rose Barth
		1. Shirley Jean (b. 1-24-1927; d. 1-5-2001, Naples, FL)
		m. Sydney Librach (b. 8-29-1926; d. 7-2-2005)
			a. Richard (b. 1955)
			m. Cheryl (b. 1960)
				i. Jennifer
				ii. Sarah (b. 1984)
				iii. Daniel
				iv. Rachael
			b. Jeff
			m. Nan Twin
				i. Jonathan
	C. Milton (b. 1892, Rock Island, IL)
	m. Rose
		1. Raymond (b. 5-30-1915)
		m. Sylvia Zanville (6-26-1938, Cabell County, WV) (b. 2-7-1918; d. 12-14-2011)
			a. Elaine
			m. Gerald Friedlander
				a. Mark
				b. Lauren
				c. Stephen
			m. Irwin Skibell
			b. Helen
			m. John “Johnny” Plous
				1. Amy
				m. Paul Bornstein
					a. Becca
				2. Robin
				m. Lapins
					a. Abby
					b. Rachel
				m. Brian Udany (+ stepson Mason)
		2. Shirley (d.)
		m. Dick Tolpin (d.)
			a. Danny
			m. Darlin
				i. Kati
				m. Mason B. Green (6-10-2006)
					A. Emily Rachel
				ii. Adam
				m. Caitlin Holloway (9-9-2012)
			b. Richard
			m. Sheilah
		3. Marilyn (d.)
		m. Kenny Davidson (d.)
			a. Neil (b. 1952)
			b. Patti (b. 1957)
			c. Cliff (b. 1958)
		4. Lester (b. ~1920)
	D. Meyer (b. 1895, Rock Island, IL; d. 1921)
	m. Harriet (Hattie) Press (1915) (b. ~1892, Sedalia, MO)
		1. George
		m. Fritzi Robinson
	E. Louis G (b. 1896, Rock Island, IL; d. 1962)
	m. Sarah (b. ~1898)
		1. Howard H
		2. Mayer L
		3. Delores
		4. Betty L
		m. Jordan Brown (2-20-1945) (b. 6-13-1924, Providence, RI)
			a. Randee Faye (b. 10-24-1947, New Orleans, LA)
			m. Myron H Jacobs
				i. Kim Lisa (b. 1965)
				ii. Shana Lynn (b. 1970)
				iii. Jennifer Lauren (b. 1973)
			b. Debra Kaye (b. 1951)
			m. Leonard Grossman
			m. husband 2 (8-22-1973)
			c. Janette Sue (b. 1-1-1955, New Orleans, LA)
			m. James Brown, Jr. (6-9-1979)
				i. Rachell Suzanne (b. 1980)
				ii. David Edward (b. 1982)
				iii. Kevin Aaron (b. 1982)
	F. Benjamin F (b. ~1901)
	m. Jeannette Freund (b. ~1909)
		1. Louis (b. 10-6-1930)

 

In 2 weeks, I’m heading off to Chicago!  It’s a city I’ve always wanted to visit and have heard great things about, so I’m super excited for this trip!  I can’t wait to see all the architecture, museums, and sites and- most importantly- taste all the delicious food I’ve heard about ever since I decided that this was a trip I wanted to take.

How does this at all relate to genealogy?  Let me start by saying, this trip did not originate as a research trip.  (If you’re wondering how it did originate, years ago, I decided that I wanted to go to Chicago to try iCream, which I heard about on the Food Network- you make your own ice cream flavor & freeze it with liquid nitrogen!  But I digress…)

It turns out that I have a lot of family history based in Chicago.  My dad’s father’s parents (Meyer J Weinstein & Helen Schwartzmann) and great-grandparents (Samuel Schwartzmann and Sarah Cohn) are buried there, as are my dad’s mother’s grandparents (Israel Cowen & possibly his wife Alma Desenberg) and their siblings (probably Michael and Carlos K Cowen).  Other family members held important roles in Chicago’s history, including two who were influential Rabbis (Samuel Disraeli (SD) Schwartz and Frederick (Fritzie) C Schwartz).  Yet others went to universities in Chicago.

On my trip, I’m hoping to make it to a bunch of places to gather more genealogy-related information.  I’d like to make it out to the cemeteries where people are buried to do some rubbings.  There’s the Jewish Genealogical Society, which might have some historical gravestone information, as well as the library at the Spertus Institute, which has books and old newspapers that I know my ancestors are mentioned in.  Apparently, the Chicago History Museum’s library has books that mention some of my Chicago ancestors.  (Thanks, Dorr!)  And if I can make it to any of the university libraries, then I’ll go through old school records to find people as well.  A daunting task, since I’m also hoping to see the rest of Chicago! 😉

Anyway, I will update again about this trip, either while I’m there (since I put the WordPress app on my phone!) or once I get home to share the information I found.  I just have to find a way to sit tight until May 6!

I can’t believe I just started this blog yesterday!  It’s nice to have one place where I can store all of the genealogy information have, and even more importantly for me, somewhere where I can easily search for names when I’m looking for them, instead of searching through piles of handwritten papers!

  • The “My Family Tree” link at the top of the page links to the family tree I’ve put together on Ancestry.  It has a lot on it now and I am continuing to update it as I have a LOT of names to add.  Names & birth/death dates are coming first; marriage dates are coming later as they are a bit more difficult to input.  But the outline-style family trees that I’m adding here as blog posts do include that information.
  • I added a “Links” page which contains- what else?- links to publicly accessible online information about my ancestors.  This does not include anything you need to pay to access, so, no Ancestry links.  (There’s a lot of cool stuff on here!!)

Those are the two main additions since yesterday.  More is always coming, because there’s always more to learn.  Again, if you’re related to any of the people mentioned on this site, please get in touch!