The People of Pancho

At Play In The Archive

What I’ve Learned So Far

As promised, here’s a progress report on what I know so far about Hermann and Fanny Spielmann’s marriage record from the Records Office of the Jewish Community in Vienna. I can’t publish an image of the record itself, because I signed a legal agreement with the archive that prevents me from doing so, but I can describe what I’ve learned. I want to give a warm shoutout to the Genealogy Translations and German Genealogy groups on Facebook, where several kind folks helped me with translations of the column headings in the record.

This the Spielmann family, 1917. One son--possibly Erwin--is missing from this picture. Leonor peeks out from behind Fanny. Photographer unknown.

Taken in New York or New Jersey in 1917. Fanny is in white on the left, Hermann is in the center.

First, a caveat: I could be very wrong about all of this. Spielmann is a very common name, and it’s possible that the record has nothing to do with my great-great-grandparents. That said, there are a number of clues that suggest these are the correct Spielmanns, and that I have finally succeeded in locating The Hidden Branch first discovered when my mom and I did 23andMe.

In the plus column:

In the 1900 US Census, the family reported marrying in Vienna in 1891, which matches the record. The same database also includes birth records for Margarethe, Ernst, and Hilda, the three children who emigrated with Hermann and Fanny in 1897. The birthdates of the children match the ages of the children later reported in the 1900 US Census.

In the minus column:

The birthdate for Fanny in the marriage record does not match what was later reported in the 1900 US Census. In the record, it’s 29 December 1869, but in the census it’s December 1871. Maybe she was just fudging her age, as people sometimes do, at either wedding time or census time. We’ll never know.

So, legal niceties out of the way, here’s what the record revealed. Column headings from the record are in bold, and translations are approximate. Reading some of the handwriting was very difficult, but I did my best.

Wedding Book of the Israelic Community in Vienna, entry 130

Date of the wedding: 12 April, 1891

Where the wedding took place: II Temple G. Community Temple

Name, profession, birth-town, and responsible town of the groom: Hermann Spielmann, Clerk, Brünn (another helper suggested Brno), Koskowitz.

Name, profession, and residence of the groom’s parents, with the maiden name of the mother: Moritz Spielmann, Katharina Pisko

Residence and house number of the groom: II Horawag 15 (another helper thought it was II Steinweg 15)

Age of the groom: 24 years, born 20 June 1866

Is groom unmarried, a widower, or divorced (since when), duration of former marriage: Unmarried

Name, profession, birth-town, and responsible town of the bride: Franziska Spielmann, dressmaker, Wedrowitz in Moravia (another helper thought it was Vedrovice)

Name, profession, and residence of the bride’s parents, with the maiden name of the mother:  Salomon Spielmann, merchant, Marie Stekler (hard to read, could be Shekler)

Residence and house number of the bride: II Lessinggasse 23

Age of the bride: 22 years, born 29 December 1869

Is bride unmarried, a widow, or divorced (since when), duration of former marriage: Unmarried

The next section showed the signatures of the bride and groom, as well as of the witnesses. Hermann signed for himself, and possibly Fanny did as well, but her signature is much harder to read. It looks for all the world like the first name could be “Jenni” but it’s hard to say for sure (maybe it’s “Fanni”). The two witnesses who signed were Salomon Spielmann (Fanny’s father, presumably), and Josef Goldstein.

So there you have it. There is much to ponder and study here, but at least the translating is done.

Here is one final clue.

Look at the cup in this undated photograph of my great-grandpa Leo.

Look at the cup in this undated photo of my great-grandpa Leo. Here’s an enlargement of that area, with some contrast applied.


We have ample evidence that Leo was born and raised in the German Evangelical Lutheran church, but all these other clues point to Margaret’s Jewish roots. And, here he sits with a cup bearing a Star of David surrounded by something in Hebrew. If I’m correct, then I can’t help but think how very thrilled my Jewish mother-in-law Beatrice would be if she were alive–somewhere, she is laughing and saying, “I knew it!”

We’re having one heck of a “Pineapple Express” storm here in the Bay Area, but luckily our neighborhood still has power. Until next time, stay warm and dry, People.

13 comments on “What I’ve Learned So Far

  1. Amy
    December 11, 2014

    I am convinced. The birth dates on the census reports, especially early ones like 1900, are notoriously inaccurate. They very often do not jive with birth certificates or marriage records or earlier census reports. I put very little weight on them, and the evidence you cite in favor of this being your Hermann and Fanny is much more persuasive.

    I wish I could read the Hebrew on that glass. Any way to enhance or enlarge just that portion of the photo? It’s interesting that they were so open about putting the glass on the table yet did not discuss the family’s Jewish roots.

    Really fascinating! And great research. That German script can make you crazy, can’t it?

    Be safe during the storm.


    • Pancho
      December 11, 2014

      So far, so good on the storm. I will try to enlarge the glass, apply some contrast, and see where we get. Thanks for the info about the birthdates–it’s really the only thing that doesn’t fit. I agree on the German script–tough going!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Pancho
      December 11, 2014

      Amy, I just added an enlargement of the cup. It’s still not very readable, I’m afraid. It’s possible that it didn’t belong to the family at all, that Leo was just a guest somewhere else. Who knows.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Amy
        December 12, 2014

        Yeah, I can’t make it out, but it does look like Hebrew. There is a woman who is an expert at photo interpretation, etc., who might be able to help you. I sent her a photo months ago though, and she has still not had a chance to get to mine. If you are interested, I will look up her contact information.


      • Pancho
        December 14, 2014

        Sure, send it along. I’d be curious to know what the cup says, but given the quality of the photo, my hopes are rather low. Thanks, Amy.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Amy
        December 14, 2014

        Here’s her website Good luck!


      • Pancho
        December 14, 2014

        Thanks, Amy!


  2. Jana Last
    December 11, 2014

    Yes! Ancestors signatures on documents. Such a fun thing to have.

    Oh ya. Those ages on the census records can be frustrating, and inaccurate. Plus, who knows who supplied the information when the census taker came around.


    • Pancho
      December 14, 2014

      Yes, I need to pull out images of the signatures–learning the names of my great-great-great grandparents felt almost miraculous!


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This entry was posted on December 11, 2014 by in Lessiack People, Spielmann People and tagged , , .
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