family history

Ford Mansion in Richmond Hill, Georgia, built in 1936. Originally established in 1747 as Dublin plantation; my 7th great uncle John Harn planted the live oak avenue in the shape of an “H” that same year. It then passed to Thomas Savage Clay in the early 19th century and was renamed Richmond-on-Ogeechee. The Clay family plantation house was burned in December of 1864 during Sherman’s March to the Sea. It was later acquired by Henry Ford, who named his winter residence Richmond Hill.

Look at this picture. What do you see? You might see ordinary people.

I don’t.

These aren’t ordinary people to me. These people are my relatives, my family.

Everyone, let me introduce you to my great-grandparents, Jonas and Eleonore (Rothenstein) Steinhaus, the people in the right and center, respectively. The woman on the left is my great-aunt, Margarethe “Grete” (Steinhaus) Kaiser.

Jonas was born on September 13, 1877 in a city then called Tarnopol, in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. (It is now known as Tarnopil’, in the Ukraine.) Eleonore was born probably sometime in early January 1879, in Tarnow, also in the same Empire. (It is now Tarnow, Poland.) When they were both young, they moved to Vienna, the capital city of the Empire. They got married in the Staadttempel in May 1904. The next April, they had their first child, a girl, named Margarethe, whom my entire family refers to as Grete. They also had a son, named Hans, who was born in January 1913.

From the little bit I do know about him and his family, they lived in District II of Vienna which was known then as the “Jewish District.” He also owned a leather goods store on the first floor (the ground floor for those of you in England) of his apartment building while he and his family lived up on the second (aka first) floor. From what I do know, I think they had a happy life there.

In 1926, Hans had his Bar Mitzvah at their local synagogue, the Leopoldstaadter Temple. And in 1929, Grete was married to Siegfried Kaiser also in the Staadttemple.

In 1938, their world turned to hell.

The Nazis marched into Vienna in March of ‘38, and life began to get worse for them. Siegfried was arrested in June of '38, got taken to one (if not two) concentration camps, which lasted for a year. In August, Hans fled. And in November, Kristallnacht (“The Night of Broken Glass”) occurred. I’m guessing that probably Jonas’ store was broken into. That spring, Siegfried was released, got some help, and fled the country.

This picture was taken in the summer of 1941 and was sent to Hans who was in America by that time.

On September 13, 1942, Jonas celebrated his 65th birthday. The next day, the three of them along with almost 7,000 Viennese Jews were loaded onto cattle cars and taken to Camp Maly Trostinec in Belarus. There, 50 people were selected to work on the farm there. Jonas, Elenore, and Grete were not among them. They were taken with the rest of the people there to a ditch where they were shot.

Jonas was 65, Eleonore was 63, and Grete was 37. They were killed all for the sake of being Jewish.

Never forget.

Please share this. Please reblog this. I want their story to live on the Internet, to know that they have “lived” in some way in at least one person’s mind. Let this be a lesson, to remember what happens when we let hate overcome our world.

Collection of letters, photographs and family items from the correspondence of AJ Micheaux and Lillie Smith Robinson, circa 1890-1899. Photo courtesy of Janice L. Cotton, 2016. 

These letters are my most cherished possessions.  They are well over 100 years old and have survived a massive flood and a house fire.  My great-grandfather was the uncle of the pioneer black author and filmmaker Oscar Micheaux.  My great-grandmother was Oscar’s mother’s first cousin.  These letters document correspondence between AJ Micheaux and Lillie Smith Robinson; and eventually include a proposal of marriage on Valentine’s Day 1898.

Story from Janice L. Cotton 


Hello, my friends! You see before you a page and upon this page, my mother and I are quite sure, is the marriage certification of my great-great-grandparents (on my grandmaternal side). Unfortunately, we cannot read the majority of it as it’s written in Hebrew, and we… well, we don’t know Hebrew!

Eventually, perhaps, some day we will, but until then, we would like to humbly set this out onto the Internets in the hopes that some kind soul who can, in fact, read Hebrew, will translate whatever they can of this precious document. What is particularly important to us is actually one of the most difficult things to read – the names/signatures at the bottom.

Over a hundred years ago, due to persecution of the Jews (surprise, surprise!), my great-great grandparents left their home in Russia to go to Germany. On the way, from Russia to Germany, they changed their name to Silberg (or, at least, we’re pretty certain they changed their name based on family mythology and simply the fact that Silberg is not a particularly Russian name).

As a result, we don’t know their real names! But here they (probably) are, right there in front of us, and we can’t even read them (pfft)! If it helps, it’s been rumored to be something along the lines of Misepilevich (that would make sense in regards to the ‘Sil’ in Silberg), but we don’t know for sure.

It would mean so much to us if someone would take the time to look over this and see what they can find – we will be looking into it as much as we can ourselves, but I know Tumblr is filled with a lot of brilliant individuals and I thought I’d take a chance and see if anyone might respond! So, thank you for reading! If you’re interested (or need close-ups of something or what-have-you), send me a message!

No marriage license? Use a sampler as proof of marriage! 

This 18th-century sampler is one of just six we’ve found in our Revolutionary War pension files. 

The sampler is from the file of soldier John McKenzie. His wife Martha “Patsy” Bonner McKenzie of Georgia made the sampler, which shows she was born in 1775 and married John in 1792.

Widows occasionally used these as proof of marriage to claim a Revolutionary War widow’s pension, just as Martha did.

The sampler is on loan to the The Georgia Museum of Art. See it now in the exhibition “Georgia’s Girlhood Embroidery: ‘Crowned with Glory and Immortality.’”

You can read more about our six samplers here:

Auschwitz was hell on Earth. Bald, skeleton thin men in prison garbs took us off the train, roughly herded us to places, took away all our belongings. Then we stood in line before a German officer (later I found that it was Mengele) who separated people as they came before him. I was holding my little brother’s hand, my grandmother held his other hand. Mengele asked me: “Mutter?” and I answered the truth without having any idea what this will mean: “Nein, Schwester.” They were sent to the left, I was sent to the right and I never saw them again. How many times I wished afterwards that I said Mutter.
—  my grandmother, speaking about her arrival at Auschwitz after being deported from Győr, Hungary