Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Aunt Rose on Paper


If "start with what you know" is one of the cardinal rules of genealogy, our quest to learn more about the mysterious Aunt Rose of my family's old photographs needs to start with a recounting of what I've already discovered.

I've been on Aunt Rose's trail for years, something I catalogued earlier this week in listing various posts I've added to this blog. Behind the scenes, I've scoured New York documents for signs of her whereabouts, especially where the documents detail the people in her family. This was not an easy task, for I've yet to find either Rose or her brother—presumably my paternal grandfather—living in the same household after their arrival in New York from their native Poland. What I list today are details which form a sort of connect-the-dots sequence which may—or may not—fit into the puzzle of the truth about my paternal grandfather.

The first research problem was that I couldn't identify Aunt Rose by a maiden name. Not in New York. The only saving grace was that Aunt Rose almost always lived with a woman named Anna, presumably my great-grandmother. But even trying to trace Rose's mother was a challenge because, like Rose, Anna was married at least twice, possibly three times. I never could be sure I had the right person for either Rose or Anna.

My first sighting was of a woman named Rose Miller. This was in an entry in the 1915 New York State census. Rose, thirty nine at the time, was living at 675 Knickerbocker Avenue in Brooklyn with her sixty seven year old mother, Anna Krausse. Both were recorded as having been born in Germany, and arriving in the United States thirty years prior to the enumeration. Although Anna was entered as an alien, Rose, presumably on account of her marriage to the unnamed—and absent—Mr. Miller, was listed as a U. S. citizen.

At the time, despite the surnames, I considered this to be a possible entry for Rose only because I had seen other family records mentioning Anna by that name, Krausse, albeit in various spelling permutations. Further searches brought up a November 17, 1915, marriage record for a Rose Miller who married a New York City post office employee named George Washington Kober. Indeed, a check of the 1920 census brought up a household including George Kober, his wife Rose, and his mother-in-law, Anna "Krouse." 

That 1920 census brought me the gift of an enumerator error in that Rose's place of birth was listed as the name of a town—"Schwartzwald"—rather than the required name of a foreign country. Of course, that error was lined out and corrected by the equally erroneous—but politically correct—entry of "Germany," but it was enough for me to discover just where the family's origin might have been.

Shortly after that census, Aunt Rose faced the tragedy of her mother's suicide, which led me to another puzzling family detail. Searching for death reports on the date of Anna's suicide, the only name listed in the New York City records was for a woman with a surname listed as Kusharvska. If this was our Anna—and it was the only Anna listed in death records for the city on that date and address—it proposed yet another surname to be added to the family history. But how?

The only indication of anything remotely like that surname for Rose's mother was when I found the two of them, again living together, back in the 1910 census. There, Rose Miller was entered in the record with her mother, whose mangled surname was listed as "Kusfkr." I can only imagine the enumerator's befuddled face upon having a Polish immigrant tell him how to spell in English what must have sounded almost unpronounceable.

The trail for Rose went nearly dark after the 1930 census, the last point at which she was enumerated alongside her husband, George Kober. George died in 1932, and was buried at the beautiful Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, presumably near where his unfortunate mother-in-law, Anna, had been laid to rest. After that point, I found a newspaper entry announcing the marriage of Rose Kober to a post office employee named Julius Hassinger—but after that report, I found no sign of the couple. 

Worse, I could locate no further record of Rose—except for a typed-in entry on George Kober's Find A Grave memorial that he was "husband of Rose."

Finding a mention of an ancestry every ten years may be a satisfactory result for some researchers, but somehow, this relative is too close to my own generation for that to suffice. I want to know when, of all the dates of immigration offered in census records, Aunt Rose actually made it to New York. Finding a passenger record for a specific ship would be a nice touch. Beyond that, though, finding something as simple as a death record—whether under her name as Rose Hassinger, as her most recent marriage would lead us to suspect, or by her former name, Rose Kober—is important.

Aunt Rose, though beaming in family photos as the doting aunt to my young father and his sister, had no children of her own, thus no one to remember her or add her name to their lineage. Yet, she likely was present at many family functions—everything from holiday gatherings to special occasions like weddings or graduations. Such are the "little" details I'm hoping to discover this month, along with the weightier details of landmark experiences in her own life. Above all, though she became no one's ancestor, I want Aunt Rose to be remembered as if she were.


  1. Well put. I really like your wish to remember and document those who do not have direct descendants. I have that wish also, especially for women who helped raise others' children, and also for young men who died in battle.

  2. Here's a heavy hint. What I love about Family Search besides the fact that it is free, is that the search engine can be so flexible. You can tighten and loosen a search as needed. Sometimes I like to throw a search wide open when narrow filters are not working. For example, I might search for a woman by her married name and add just her spouse's first name and the state I know they were in. If that does not work, I reverse the process and search by his name with just her first name and the state. I can't tell you why one version might pull up results when the other doesn't - but it does. Try it. The fun, of course, is in the search and discovery.


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