Saturday, June 27, 2020

My 4th Great Uncle and the California Gold Rush

I have lived in California most of my life. I understand from living here that there was some sort of gold rush here in 1849 that was a big deal. I couldn't escape learning about it as the California school system is very proud of this era -- apparently it lead to California becoming a state or something? Gold was found at Sutter's Mill on 24 Jan 1848 and California became a state on 9 Sept 1850.  Fun fact with suspicious timing.  "Oh, you have gold now? Well, come on in...!"

In any case, the California Gold Rush was completely hypothetical and historic to me as zero of my ancestors were anywhere near California in 1849.  I just don't have a personal connection to the gold rush. Period. End of story.

Until yesterday. 

The GOLDSCHMIDT Family of Thorn, West Prussia

A long time ago I found my 4th great grandfather on the 1845 surname adoption list of West Prussia, which listed my 3rd great grandmother Mathilde and her siblings in the town of Thorn (the birthplace of Copernicus, no relation... yet...). 

1845 Surname Adoption for Julius GOLDSCHMIDT in Thorn, West Prussia

This was what was on the tree... Julius Goldschmidt, his wife Bertha, and all those children: Ida, Jakob, Mathilde, Adolph, Leopold, Lanny, Laura, Nathalie, Ida, Manna, Heda.  No dates, not marriages, nothing... just names. Not even sure what gender "Manna" is...

I have filled in Mathilde's tree over the years, you know, the one I care about. Mathilde GOLDSCHMIDT married Isaac LACHMANN and was the mother of my 2nd great grandmother Henriette Maass geb LACHMANN. And for some reason just left all her brothers and sisters hanging out there all by themselves.  For years. Well, certainly some of them must have been married and had children right? Children who would be Henriette's first cousins and all that... 

And that's been my task for about the last week... filling out the Goldschmidt tree. I even was able to better understand my direct line, proving that Julius' wife Bertha was the younger sister of my 4th great grandmother Johanna LÖBENHEIM. 

Top level of GOLDSCHMIDT family tree

And I've made great progress, adding a ton of information to the tree.  Which brings me to my Gold Rush discovery. 

I was researching Mathilde's sister, Laura GOLDSCHMIDT and found her death certificate in 1914 Berlin, with a surname of LÖWINSOHN. I confirmed it was her based on her nephew Felix GOLDSCHMIDT signing the death certificate, and oh yeah, her parents and birthplace match the tree perfectly -- so there's that. 
1914 death of Laura Loewinsohn geb GOLDSCHMIDT in Berlin

However, if you can read old German script then it is clear that her husband is not listed.  Obviously. Why make this easy on me. So, I searched for anyone with the last name of Loewinsohn married to anyone named Laura Goldschmidt, and I got a hit. A very weird hit.  Not German or Prussia records... nope. California Early Pioneer records from Sacramento.  Uh... what?

Jacob H. LOEWINSOHN, California Gold 49er
Jacob Herman Loewinsohn pioneer record in California

How does that work? I also found that the card has been filled out by a daughter, Anna who died in San Francisco, California in 1957.  Well, I dug into Anna and found her immigration records where she was born in Danzig and a ship manifest of her traveling from Berlin, Germany in May 1914 to California.  That all makes sense, as her mother died in Berlin in March 1914, so just after that, she left and went to California!  

So, here's what happened.  

Jakob Hermann LÖWINSOHN was born in Prussia sometime around 1826 to Heymann Löwinsohn and his wife Henriette OSCHER. His place of birth might be Danzig or otherwise nearby Posen province; his sister Minna was born in Danzig about 1825. In any case, around 1850 at the age of 25 Jakob high-tailed it to the get-rich-quick gold fields of California.  While in California he did a bit of gold mining and then turned to selling cigars in San Francisco. He was known as Jacob Herman Loewinsohn while in California -- the slightly anglicized version of his name.  
Jacob's Activities in California

Upon his return to Prussia with his newly won fortune, he married my 4th great aunt, Laura GOLDSCHMIDT in Danzig in November 1861. In Danzig, they had three children, Hermann, Anna, and Margot.  Sadly Margot died at age 12 in 1885, and Jakob died a few years later at the age of 65 in Aug 1891. 

Anna Loewinsohn moved to Berlin with her mother after that to join other family that was already there.  Laura died in 1914, and Anna made her way to California shortly after her death -- probably to see for herself all the great stuff that her father had her stories about her entire life. Hermann Loewinsohn, the last of the Loewinsohn 1st cousins of my 2nd great grandmother Henrietta ended up in Manila, Philippines, where he married and had at least 8 children -- all 2nd cousins of my great grandmother Rosi. And, yes, Hermann has a ton of grandchildren in the Philippines who are all 3rd cousins of my grandfather Edgar. Yes, yet another place that I need to visit now!  The Philippines. In fact, one of Jacob's descendants wrote a book about it called, Three Continents by Ana Mari S Calero.  Make up that guest room cousins!

And finally I found a photo of Jacob Herman Loewinsohn, my newly confirmed 4th great uncle!

Jakob Hermann LÖWINSOHN
Jakob Hermann LÖWINSOHN (1826-1891)

And I'll leave you with just this one last little tidbit:

How on earth am I going to find a copy of Jacob's manuscript, "Reminiscences"?  I would really love to learn about California history now that I'm directly connected to it! And, what better way to learn than to read my 4th great uncle's gold rush reminiscences. Any thoughts on how to find a copy? 

Update: I have located a copy of his manuscript thanks to the amazing librarians at the California State History Library. The original 1861 manuscript of Reminiszenzen aus Californien is 62 pages and is in German. It was published in Posen and covers the years 1850-1861, and is Dedicated to Fräulein Laura Goldschmidt -- who would become his wife in 1862. Thankfully, there is also a 35-page English translation of Reminiscences of California located in the same collection!

1 comment :

  1. Wow, this is such a wonderful story! So glad you could piece it all together. You don't see many German immigrants returning to Germany like this. Very cool!