Amy B. Cohen, blog author from the website Brotmanblog: A Family Journey, has shared this blog as part of our ongoing “How I Solved It Series”.
Her blog reminds us to revisit ancestors we haven’t researched in a while and to contact people working on similar projects and communicate with them.
It still amazes me that people find my blog, leave a comment, and then lead me to answers to questions about my family’s history. Just a month ago someone named Shyanne left a comment that led me to answers to another question I had been unable to resolve several years ago.
First, some background: Back in November 2014, I posted about a book I had received from Bernie Brettschneider of Gau-Algesheim, Die Geschichte der Gau-Algesheimer Juden by Ludwig Hellriegel (1986, revised 2008)[The History of the Jews of Gau-Algesheim]. It was my first source of detailed information about my Seligmann relatives, and I had struggled to translate as much as I can.
One of the entries in the book mentioned a woman named Leonara Morreau, as I wrote back then:
There is also an entry for Elizabeth nee Seligman Arnfeld, who was born March 17, 1875. She had moved to Mulheim on the Ruhr in 1938 and wanted to emigrate to the United States. A woman named Leonara Morreau had vouched for them, but for unknown reasons they were never able to emigrate. Elizabeth died on January 23, 1943 at Theresienstadt. Her son Heinz survived the war.
Eventually, once my cousin Wolfgang Seligmann found me, I learned more about “Elizabeth” Bettina Seligmann Arnfeld and her family, as I wrote about here and here. But back in November, 2014, I had not yet found Wolfgang nor had I yet found Beate Goetz, and my knowledge of my Seligmann relatives in Germany was very, very limited.
But I had been curious about this woman “Leonara Morreau,” and had tried to figure out her connection to the Seligmanns. Why had she vouched for them? Why hadn’t she been able to save them? As I wrote back then:
I found Leonara Morreau’s obituary and researched her a bit, but know of no reason that she would have had a connection to the Seligmanns in Germany. She was born, married, and lived in Cleveland. Her husband died in 1933, and she died in 1947. As far as I can tell, they never traveled to Germany. Leonara’s brother was Isaac Heller, who was also born in Cleveland, as was their father, Charles Heller. Although their grandfather was born in Germany, it was not even in the same region as the Seligmanns. Perhaps Leonara was active in trying to bring German Jews to the United States during Hitler’s reign, but I can find no evidence of that. Her obituary only states that she was active in charitable and religious causes.
And that was as far as I got. I put it aside and continued to work on my Seligmann family. Beate connected with me a few weeks after that post in November, 2014, and Wolfgang found me in February, 2015, and I was then on an amazing and exciting run of good luck with their help and the help of Wolfgang’s mother Annlis. Many if not most of the holes in the Seligmann family tree were filled with our collective efforts. But I never returned to the question of Leonara Morreau.
Until last month when Shyanne commented on my blog:
Leonara Morreau. Now, I’m unsure if there are multiples in the same family, but in my ancestry, my great great grandfather Albert Morreau was married to a Lea Nora Morreau, multiple docuuments spell it differently, though. But she too, was born an Heller. Here in the states. However, Albert was born in Germany, which is where the connection from Germany could be.
When I read Shyanne’s comment, I could barely remember the whole question of “Leonara” Morreau (whose name is generally spelled Leanora but sometimes Lenora or Lea Nora). After all it had been almost three years before and just a passing question in the overall search for information about my Seligmann family. But I was intrigued and emailed Shyanne right away.
After a flurry of emails, exchanges of information, and a review of the Seligmann family tree, Shyanne and I had the answer. And it was right before my eyes. In all my initial research about Leanora back in the fall of 2014, I’d never thought to search for information about her husband, only about Leanora herself. The answer lay with her husband.
As Shyanne had said, Leanora was married to a man named Albert Morreau. And although there’d been no Morreaus in my tree in November 2014 when I wrote that blog post that mentioned Leanora, there was now an Albert Morreau in my Seligmann family tree. I had entered him back in July 2015, just eight months after I’d written the post about Leonara Morreau, but I’d never made the connection.
Albert was one of three children named on the handwritten family tree Wolfgang had sent me that we believe was written by Emil Seligmann. I had written this on the blog on July 7, 2015, describing Emil’s tree:
The next child of Jacob and Marta, Caroline, married Moses Moreau (?) of Worrstadt, and they had four children whose names are written underneath; the first I cannot decipher (maybe Markus?), but the other three are Albert, Bertha, and Alice.
That is, the Albert Morreau who married Leanora Heller was my cousin—he was a descendant of Jacob Seligmann and Martha Mayer, my four-times great-grandparents, through their daughter Caroline, the sister of my 3x-great-grandfather, Moritz Seligmann. Caroline had married Moses Morreau (it is correctly spelled with two Rs) of Worrstadt. According to this tree, Albert was Caroline’s son.
I shared this information with Shyanne, but then found a biography of Albert from A History of Cleveland, Ohio: Biographical (Samuel Peter Orth, S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1910), that said that Albert’s parents were not Moses and Caroline Morreau, but in fact were named Leopold and Amelia Morreau:
Shyanne found several other sources providing the same information. Shyanne and I were confused—was this the same Albert Morreau? And if so, who were Leopold and Amelia Morreau? Could all these sources be wrong?
Then I found UK naturalization papers for Markus Morreau, the brother of Albert, and those also stated this his parents were Leopold and Emilia Morreau. So why did Emil list Albert and Markus as the sons of Moses and Caroline on his family tree? And who was Leopold Morreau?
When I looked again at the papers I’d received from Wolfgang, I realized that Wolfgang had sent a second handwritten family tree a few days after he’d sent the tree done by Emil. On July 9, I wrote this on the blog:
This page [page seven of the second handwritten tree] is devoted to Caroline Seligmann, who married Moses Moreau from Worrstadt, another town not very far from Bingen. Underneath are four names that the creator of this tree originally labeled as the children of Caroline and Moses, but then crossed out and wrote “grandchildren.” The names are the same as those on the earlier tree—Markus, Albert, Bertha, and Alice. Next to Markus it says “England,” and next to Albert it says “Amerika.”
So Albert and his siblings Markus, Bertha, and Alice were not the children of Caroline Seligmann and Moses Morreau, but their grandchildren.
If the sources naming Albert’s father as Leopold Morreau were correct, that meant that Caroline and Moses Morreau had a son named Leopold. When Shyanne and I re-examined the page from the second handwritten family tree, we both concluded that one of the two names at the very bottom was Leopold Moreau. What do you think (see image directly above)? What do you think the second name at the bottom is?
UPDATE: I just figured out what the second name is! I will reveal it in a later post. 🙂
Meanwhile, Shyanne kept researching and so did I. And we ran into some incredible luck when I contacted Michael S. Phillips, a tree owner on Ancestry who generously shared with us his research on the Morreau family. Then two weeks after Shyanne’s initial comment, I received another comment about the Morreau family from a man named Paul; I emailed Paul and learned that he was related to Otto Mastbaum, who had married Albert Morreau’s sister Alice. Otto Mastbaum was Paul’s great-grandmother’s brother. And Paul filled in more gaps on the Morreau family. And I also learned more about Bertha Morreau and her husband Isidor Aschaffenburg with help from my friend in Cologne, Aaron Knappstein. And then my friend Dorothee connected me with Friedemann Hofmann, a man in Worrstadt who was able to send me the birth, death, and marriage records for the entire Morreau family from Worrstadt.
In subsequent posts, I will follow up and fill in these details and tell the full story of my Morreau cousins. But for now I just want to thank Shyanne (who I now know is my fifth cousin, once removed,), Paul, Aaron, Michael, Dorothee, and Friedemann for all their help in filling in these gaps in the Seligmann family tree.
This whole experience has been a real lesson to me. Even when you think you are “done,” there is always more to learn. And there are always incredibly generous people out there to help you do so.
If you have a story idea or a blog that you’d like to share as part of this series, please let us know about it in the comments.