Sunday, September 9, 2012

Aunt Minnie - Little Woman, Big Secret

When I was a kid my favorite Aunt, on my mother’s side, was Minnie Marcus. She was a tiny woman, as you can see in the photo above. At the age of eleven I was already just about as tall as she was. But this little woman held a big secret, which was never revealed until she told the story to her daughters on her deathbed several years ago.

The story came to me through my second cousin, Jana, with whom I share a grandfather. He was married to my grandmother and after a bitter divorce, remarried and had kids with his second wife as well. Jana is one of those grandkids, and has been kind enough to share the family story, from her side, on several occasions, each time shedding more light on a family history that was in many ways vague.

Dear Marcus Clan,

Greetings all.  It has been a long time since we connected.  I hope everyone Is doing well and had a great summer. Boy, do I have a story for you!!

Back in 2007, Marion and Ginny shared a story with me:

When William Marcus's daughter, Minnie Marcus Newman, was on her death bed she was living with her daughter-in-law, Marion Newman and grandchildren, and told them that when she was a young girl she heard that her father William was facing a court trial in Boston, and she traveled on her own, to see what it was all about. Supposedly she sat in the back, and when a woman came before the judge and claimed William was the father of her child, Minnie ran from the courthouse crying, and never spoke of it again (and never heard the rest of the paternity suit either). Stanley Rothstein recalled being told there were cousins in Boston, when William first came to America.  Additionally, several years ago Alan and I found William's death certificate and it states his parents’ names: Louis Marcus and Hester Schonfeld.
Last night I found an historic archive of Boston newspapers online and decided to investigate. Wow---front page news in 1913!!
Here is the truth behind the remarkable story that Minnie Marcus told on her death bed about a Marcus paternity suit in Boston.
Seems as though William Marcus went to Boston in 1913 in search of his father, who had been missing for many years.  At the same time William discovers a half-sister, Rosie Marcus Burnstein, who is also looking for her father, Louis Marcus.  Rose's mother, Jennie (or Bessie) Marcus identifies a Boston Jeweler named Victor Schonfeld as really being Louis Marcus, whom shesays she married in Russia 45 years earlier, and he had abandoned his family.
Victor Schonfeld denies that he is Louis Marcus, and sues Rosie Marcus Burnstein, and her husband Joseph Burnstein, for slanderous bigamy charges. The case goes to court, and our William is there and testifies that Schonfeld is indeed his father, Louis Marcus.
Schonfeld brings witnesses to the trial that testify he is not Louis Marcus, and ultimately the case is closed and Schonfeld is awarded 1 cent in damages from the Burnstein's.
Obviously the Burnstein's are the Boston cousins that we had heard about. The four articles from the Boston Journal are attached.  Here's where the story gets really curious:
1. Schonfeld was Louis Marcus's first wife's maiden name.  Is it a coincidence that Victor Schonfeld would use his first wife's maiden name as an alias?
2. How did William know about this case?  He must have tracked down his father or something, because according to the newspaper article he did not know Rose Marcus Burnstein, his half-sister, until they met in court.
3.  If Schonfeld was really Louis Marcus, his traits of abandoning his children were definitely repeated in Max Marcus's behavior.
Any thoughts on this?  Write back...this is fascinating
Love to all,
Cousin Jana

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