Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Rosh Hashanah Mitzvah

I recently joined the "Find a Grave" website to add some photos of family members that I took on my trip to Maine this summer.  I believe it is a good thing that we have a place to share these gravestones and I whole heartedly support the missions of "Find a Grave" and "Billiongraves".  

Wouldn't it be great if all tombstones were available online?  

I received a photo request through Find a Grave a few weeks ago for two graves at a local Jewish cemetery.   I had been so busy, I had totally forgotten about the request.  The cemetery is the Menorah Gardens Cemetery and it was only a few miles from where I work.  Menorah Gardens is a secluded cemetery which is right on the edge of the Everglades.

Since it was so close to me and the new year's holiday of Rosh Hashanah, it seemed like a good idea to head over there on my lunch hour and see if I could find those headstones.  

Have you ever tried to go to a cemetery and just "find" a tombstone?

Not an easy thing to do.  I am sure there are hundreds of graves, so to just happen upon the one you are looking for is not very likely.  This was the case with me.  

The cemetery is laid out nicely.  It is broken out into section which are named for biblical figures.  So your relatives could be buried in the "Noah" or "Moses" section of the cemetery.  Which knowing that would make them easier to find.  After spending about 10 minutes looking on my own, I headed over to the office.  

While I was a little surprised at the roaming peacock which was guarding the office entrance, the people in the office were very nice and directed me to the mausoleum where Milton and his wife were entombed.  

I have decided not to share too much information about the people's graves I was asked to take pictures of, just because I didn't ask permission to share this information on my blog.

I found Milton's right away, but there was no sign of his wife.  It is possible that they are buried together without a separate marker.

While I am not Jewish, I thought I would share my Rosh Hashanah Mitzvah (good deed).  I am sure they appreciated the help of a stranger, just as I have benefited from the assistance of many strangers on my pilgrimage to uncover my own family history.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday's Obituary - Minnie Kurtz Ratofsky/Retkofsky

Minnie and August Kurtz are the first members of the Kurtz family to come to the US from Germany.  They were married in Germany in approx 1874.  It isn't clear if they made the trip across the Atlantic together of if August came first and Minnie came a year or two later.  According to naturalization records, August Kurtz arrived in 1882.

Minnie and August had 10 children born in the US***updated****According to the 1910 Census, Minnie gave birth to 15 children, only 10 of which were living in 1910.  It is surprising that the first 8 years of their marriage didn't result in any children.  It is possible they did have a child or several when living in Germany, but for some reason the children either didn't come to the US or they fell victim to some diseases.  ***updated***August and Minnie did have two children born in Germany prior to their arrival to the US that survived and accompanied them to Pennsylvania - Mary and Julius Henry Kurtz.   This may have been a contributing factor to why Minnie and August deciding to leave Germany.

Minnie and August's life together in the US was fairly short.  August died in some sort of accident while working on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in ***updated***April 1903.  August was only 55 when he died.

You can imagine the situation that Minnie found herself.  10 or more children, no husband and no visible way to support herself.  It is no wonder that she remarried.  She married Carl Ratofsky/Retkofsky in 1905.  Carl had recently become a widower himself when his wife died in 1902.  Carl had 6 kids of his own.

Carl Ratofsky/Retkofsky and his wife Elenore were married in Germany.  There is some family history that suggests that Elenore and Minnie may have been sisters and that the families knew each other in Germany.  There have been no documents that support this and I haven't been able to track the Kurtz family back to where in Germany that they lived.

Here is Minnie's obituary from her death March 3, 1917.

If you have any information on the Kurtz family from western Pennsylvania or have any suggestion on how to track down their German origins, please feel free to share any information or ideas you might have.***updated**** I have uncovered the German origins of August and Minnie Kurtz.  She this post for how I uncovered their origins.

Some interesting leads which I haven't been able to find any additional information are relating to Minnie's sister, Mrs. Mary Combs of Phillips (a coal patch town in Fayette County, PA) and her unnamed brother living in Wisconsin.  ***Updated*** I have not seen the records, but I have been told that the Lutheran Church in Connellsville, PA show that Minnie's maiden name was Salefski.