Monday, March 20, 2006

Search for Descendants or Where Have All the Fleishmans Gone?

Prof. Canter Brown told me in a conversation that historians are always hoping to find one more document. One imagines that a treasure trove of letters is lying in a chest in some attic waiting to be discovered. In my various projects, I've thought that tracing of the descendants of my subjects might lead to such a discovery. So far, nothing of the sort has occurred. I was very fortunate to find Mr. Robert Hamilton, the grandson of Charles Hamilton's brother Alexander. Mr. Hamilton has a great interest in history and wrote a piece about Charles that he submitted to the Lycoming County Historical Society where I found it. I contacted Mr. Hamilton, struck up a correspondence and was thrilled to meet with him last July to visit the Hamilton graves in Jersey Shore, PA. Mr. Hamilton, however, had no primary sources to rely on other than stories he remembered from his childhood. All family papers had disappeared during the 50 years from when he joined the Navy until he retired from the oil business and returned to central PA. Charles Hamilton, though married, had no children.
John Q. Dickinson never married or had children. Accoring to Mrs. Trutor of the Benson (Vt) Historical Society, several Dickinson family members still live around Benson.
My most extensive - and frustrating - family-finding efforts have been with the Fleishman and Purman families. Samuel Fleishman, of course, was murdered in 1869 and his wife (Sophia) and children (William, Benjamin, Albert, Carrie, Etta and Lulu) moved back to New York almost immediately. Sophia did not remarry. The fate of the children is hard to trace. As of the death of their uncle and benefactor, Benjamin Altman, in 1913, only William, (Henri)Etta Fried and Lulu Heymann are still listed as living. William died a bachelor in the 1920s. Etta died in an asylum where she was committed after the death of her only child (a series of NYTimes articles follows the disturbing legal fight surrounding Etta's husband's attempt to free her from the asylum opposed by Lulu and the Altman estate). Lulu and her husband, Charles Heymann seem to have had only one child, Charles M., Jr., born in 1900. Charles Jr. and his wife, Elinor, had a son, William, born in 1927 at their home in the Catskills. Charles Heymann Jr. can be found in databases connected with real estate transactions - and defaults - in the 1920s and early 1930s. At that point, though , he disappears from the public record. Probate records indicate that a Rev. Charles M. Heymann, D.D., husband of Elinor, died in St. Augustine FL in April 1969. I traced Charles and Elinor back to North Carolina where they filed for social security numbers in the 1950s. I found an internet reference to Rev. Charles Heymann in Hendersonville, NC. I called local synagogues and received the information that Rev. Charles Heymann had been a minister and founder of a local church who was known to wear a big hat and drive a cadillac! I spoke to the minister of the church who had known about Charles Heymann (the only surviving heir of the Altman fortune) and said that the story had been that he had made money in real estate in California. The minister said that Rev. Heymann had several children but he had no information about them.
I have not been able to find any information about William or Charles Jr.'s other children. The Altman Foundation claims to not have any contact with any family members. Amazing that Samuel Fleishman had six children, but only one grandchild and that descendant became a Protestant minister!
Next: the elusive Purmans.

UPDATE: Jan./May. 2010: A couple of months ago I was contacted by a g-g-grandson of Samuel Fleishman (a grandson of Rev. Charles Heymann), who found this blog through a web search. This gentleman and his family were very aware of the Altman connection and had a vague sense of Samuel Fleishman, but no idea of his murder. This family is Christian and seemed only slightly aware of their Jewish ancestry. I asked if there were any photographs or records about Samuel and I sent a copy of my SJH history article to the family. At this point the family's interest seemed to wane in the subject.  They indicated they had no information or documents to add to the record.

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