The Family of Isaac & Maile GASSENHEIMER

Bibra from hot-air balloon 2016. Photo: Nesslinger-it

20 September 2023: Please note – this page is under revision

See as well:
The Family of Samuel (b. 1802) & Blümchen (Seckel) & Pauline (Schwab) Gassenheimer
The Family of Leopold & Fannie (née Lulley) Gassenheimer
The Family of Samuel (b. 1837) & Lotte (née Stein) Gassenheimer
The Family of Emma (née Gassenheimer) & Simon Marcus
The Family of Bernhardt & Ella (née Holland) Gassenheimer
The Family of Siegmund & Amelie (née Lewy) Gassenheimer
The Family of Salomon (b. 1840) & Babette (née Wolfermann) Gassenheimer
The Family of Gustave & Minnie (née Strauss) Gassenheimer
Who was ‘cousin: Leo Gassenheimer’?

Descendants Lists:
Isaac & Maile (née Gassenheimer) Gassenheimer
Samuel & Lotte (née Stein) Gassenheimer
Bernhardt & Ella (née Holland) Gassenheimer
Salomon & Babette (née Wolfermann) Gassenheimer
Samuel Gassenheimer (1802-1854)
Joseph & Betti (née NN) & Lotte (née Salomon) Gassenheimec

The Gassenheimer family was a strong and successful family in southwest Thüringen in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The initial seat of their settlement in Thüringen — or Sachsen-Meiningen, as it was known then — was Bibra, a small village north-west of Themar. Where they lived before this time is unknown, although genealogical databases locate numerous Gassenheimers in Romania.

The map below shows the village of Bibra. The layout of the village is more or less identical in 2023 and, if you go to the Google.map with Earth view, you will find a set of pictures. The arrow points to the property which may have belonged to the Gassenheimers.

Jews settled in Bibra as early as 1658 when “Jews Mayer, Salomon and Susman were granted the right to settle in the village.” The number of families increased steadily: In 1673, five Jewish families were identified, in 1720, 12 families. By 1833, the number of Jewish families had more than doubled to 27 families with about 104 people, about one-fifth of a total number of residents of 518. In 1885, the Jewish population in Bibra peaked: 134 Jews lived in Bibra, 20.2% of the villages’s total population of 663 people. From then on, however, the number of Jews in Bibra declined steadily as Jews were allowed to settle in urban centres throughout Thüringen and other German states.

The First Jews in Bibra. 1811: Jews have surnames.

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Identifying the traces of the Isaac and Maile Gassenheimer family in the story of Jewish settlement in Bibra is challenging, but four entries in the Bibra Registry/Matrikel of Births, Deaths, and Marriages provide help, although they also raise questions. Birth records tell us that both Isaac, b. 1761, and Maile, b. 1756, were Gassenheimers, both born in Bibra. They were probably first or second cousins: Isaac’s father was “Samuel.” it is unclear who Maile’s parents were: one source suggests that her father was Löb Meier and her mother Chivet.1Monika Tatzkow; Hartmut Henicke; Marina Blumberg, Arthur Müller Leben, Werk, Vermächtnis ; ein jüdisches Familienschicksal ; Fragmente, p. 20,

Birth Registry entry, Maile Gassenheimer, 02 Sept 1756 Bibra
Birth Registry entry, birth of Isaac Gassenheimer, 20 February 1761 Bibra

The entry for the death of “Maile Gassenheimer, wife of Isaac Gassenheimer of this place,” tells us she “died of old age on 17 September 1837 and was buried on 18th of this month. She was 81 years old. She was born on 12 September 1756 in Bibra. Her father is unknown. Her mother is unknown. She begat 4 children in this order:
1. Joseph Gassenheimer, b. 10 November 1798
2. Samuel Gassenheimer, b. 27 February 1802
3. Selig Gassenheimer, b. 18 October 1804
4. Klara Gassenheimer, b. 10 November 1807”

The quite astonishing information this data tells us is that Maile was 42 years old when she gave birth to Joseph, and 51 when Klara was born!!

Entry for death of Maile Gassenheimer. List of the Diseased. Bibra Jewish Register/Matrikel.

The final record is the entry for Isaac’s death between 1855 and 1857 (the records says he was between 94 and 96 years old). At the time of his death, sons Joseph and Samuel were living in Bibra, and daughter Klara was living in America. No mention is made of Selig.

Entry for Isaac Gassenheimer’s death. Bibra Register.

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Gassenheimers lived in Bibra for over one hundred years, but their strategy to achieve socio-economic success was simple: leave Bibra! With the families of sons Joseph, b. 1798, and Samuel, b. 1802, we can trace the two-pronged strategy: moving elsewhere in Germany and/or leaving Germany altogether. Both brothers, Joseph (1798-1876) and Samuel (1802-1854), lived and died in Bibra but, starting in the late 1840s, their children started to leave. Four of Joseph’s children — Leopold, Sophia, Bernhardt, and Pauline — headed to the northern United States; five of Samuel’s children — Amelia, Gustav, Joseph, Selig, and Simon — headed to southern states such as Alabama.

Those who remained moved to towns and cities throughout Thüringen, dipping into Bavaria in the south, Saxony-Anhalt in the north, and Hesse in the west. We know the stories of three of these Gassenheimers — Samuel, b. 1837, and Salomon, b. 1840, and Therese, b. 1840.

The strategy for the men was to leave Bibra for larger towns and or/cities within Germany. The first step was to establish a business in a nearby town: in 1853, a “Gassenheimer & Son” company was registered in Themar. On 31 December 1862, Joseph and his 25-year-old son, Samuel, were registered in the Regierungsblatt für das Herzogthum Sachsen Meiningen as owners of the Gassenheimer Eisenhändler/iron monger business in Themar.

Regierungsblatt das Herzogtum Sachsen Meiningen. Staatsarchiv Meiningen.

Translation:
“I. Company name: 31 December 1862, Gassenheimer and Son in Themar
established in 1853
II. Company Owners: Joseph Gassenheimer of Bibra and Samuel Gassenheimer from there, both ironmongers, are company owners”

In the mid-1860s, Joseph’s son, Samuel, and his wife, Lotte, moved to Themar; whether or not they moved with two children, Esther Emma, b. 1863, and Bernhardt, b. 1865, is not clear in the Jewish Registers of Births for Bibra and Themar. The children may have been born in Themar. Eight children were definitely born in Themar. Samuel’s younger brother, Salomon, b. 1840, became part of the Gassenheimer business in 1868, replacing his father as one of the owners of “Gassenheimer & Son.” Salomon remained in Bibra until 1892, when he moved with his wife, Babette (née Wolfermann), and their nine children to Hildburghausen to establish a Gassenheimer agricultural machinery business. He lived the rest of his life in Hildburghausen.

Therese (b. 1844), the daughter of Samuel Gassenheimer, married Louis Benari in the early 1870s. Benari was a widower living in Hildburghusen with two young children, Salomon, b. 1861, and Therese Rosa, b. 1862, after the death of his first wife, Gretchen “Gele” (née Oppenheim), in 1865. Therese and Louis lived in Coburg where their one child, a daughter named Thekla, was born in 1873. Louis Benari died about 18 months after Thekla’s birth, leaving Therese a widow with three children under 15 years old. Therese’s stepmother, Pauline Gassenheimer, née Schwab, who was widowed in 1854, moved to Coburg sometime in the 1870s.

Gassenheimer families on both sides of the Atlantic achieved both social and economic success. The emigrants never forgot Bibra, and the lives of those in America and those in Germany intersected through the years. Some Gassenheimers returned regularly to Europe — one example is Simon Gassenheimer, b. 1853 in Bibra, who travelled frequently to Europe in the 1920s.

But the threats of the twentieth century deeply affected the family: starting in 1914, Gassenheimers registered in the German army; in 1917, their American cousins registered in the American army to fight against them. With the beginning of the Nazi Regime in 1933 and the increasing persecution of Jews in Kristallnacht 1938, the Gassenheimers turned to their relatives in America for assistance in finding safety by immigrating into the States. Some succeeded, others were able to find refuge in South America, England, and South Africa. Once again, American Gassenheimers signed up to fight in World War II, this time to free their relatives from tyranny.

A few of those Gassenheimers trapped in Germany when the deportations of the Holocaust began in October 1941 survived the concentration camps or in hiding. But by the end of the Holocaust, the Gassenheimer family had been almost completely extinguished in Germany. Its post-war strength lay elsewhere with the families of the ten family members who had emigrated from Germany in the mid-1800s.

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Descendants List of Isaac & Maile Gassenheimer

The Gassenheimer family is very large: one can find a full outline of descendants here. The outline here identifies the first and second generations of descendants of Isaac & Maile (née Gassenheimer) Gassenheimer who were born in Bibra between 1798 and 1853.

See as well,
The Family of Samuel & Lotte (née Stein) Gassenheimer
The Family of Salomon & Babette (née Wolfermann) Gassenheimer
The Family of Emma (née Gassenheimer) & Simon Marcus
The Family of Samuel & Pauline (née Schwab) Gassenheimer
The Family of Gustave & Minnie (née Strauss) Gassenheimer 
Who was ‘cousin: Leo Gassenheimer’?

As with all the material on this website, these pages are works in progress and we welcome contributions, comments and questions.

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Footnote:
We initially focussed on the family of Samuel Gassenheimer, the son of Joseph and his wife Charlotte (née Stein) because of its critical role in establishing the Jewish community of Themar. Samuel and Charlotte came to Themar from Bibra in the early 1860s and raised a total of ten (10) children in the small city. Charlotte died in 1889. Samuel married Betty Frankson, b. 1857 in Marisfeld, in 1891. Samuel died in 1892, leaving Betty a widow with 3 children under age 15 to raise.

Their children spent their childhood years in Themar and one, Ernst, remained in Themar to continue the family agricultural implements business. While the eldest son, Bernhard, b. 1865, left Germany for the United States, all the other children remained in eastern Germany, expanding the Gassenheimer Co. business.

Yet, as we seek to understand the Themar Jewish families within their larger social, economic, and political context, we are broadening the context. Exploring the linkages among various branches of large Jewish families such as the Gassenheimer family offers much reward. We learn more about how German-Jewish families acted in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (even back into the 18th century). What were the family decision-making strategies that led to migration, first within Germany and then from Germany altogether? Were there connections between those that left and those who remained in Germany? How were they maintained? One result of this research can be found in the short article “Who was ‘cousin: Leo Gassenheimer’?

The puzzle of piecing together all the branches of the Gassenheimer family tree is nowhere near complete. But as our quest to fill in the broader context of the Jewish families of Themar continues, so too will our knowledge of the large Gassenheimer family. Experience shows that the more we share our research findings on the website, the more knowledge we receive in return. We have thus added three other branches of the original Bibra Gassenheimers to the website: first, the family of Samuel & his two wives, Blümchen (née Seckel) and Pauline (née Schwab) Gassenheimer, who went to Coburg in the 1840s; and second, the family of Salomon & Babette (née Wolfermann) Gassenheimer, who settled in Hildburghausen in 1892.

Filling in the story of this one family and all its members is an absorbing adventure connecting family members, the residents of Themar, and researchers in Germany and elsewhere. We thank them all!

If you have any information or questions about the Gassenheimer family of Bibra which you would like to share, please contact Sharon Meen @ [email protected] or [email protected]. We would be pleased to hear from you.


Sources:
Gassenheimer Family archives
Alemannia-judaica page re: Bibra
Diner, Hasia R. “German Immigrant Period in the United States,Jewish Women’s Encylopedia
Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, Encylopedia, Opeleika. Accessed 05 June 2015.
Genealogical Research Library, comp. New York City, Marriages, 1600s-1800s [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005.
Haratmann, Pfarrer Heinrich. Der Marktflecken von Bibra,” Schriften des Vereins für Sachsen-Meiningische Geschichte und Landeskunde, Heft 13, 1892.
Trauregister der Juden von Barchfeld/Werra in Thüringen 1824-1904, The Hessen Gütermann Index, Jenischen.
1880; Census Place: Opelika, Lee, Alabama; Roll: 19; Family History Film: 1254019; Page: 42C; Enumeration District: 089; Image: 0086A.
“United States Germans to America Index, 1850-1897.” Index. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2015. Citing NARA NAID 566634. National Archives at College Park, Maryland.
(See the article by Hasia R. Diner for more detail.)

Dr. Armin Human, Geschichte der Juden in Sachsen-Meiningen-Hildburghausen, 1898, pp. 20-21, 53.

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