The first Schaffner Family Genealogy was published in 1992. The following letter by Bertram Schaffner describes how it came to be.
Click here to read the letter
Dear Family Members,The heavy volume you are holding in your hands is the result of conviction that is truly important to one’s life, present and future, to remember the past and to understand the human beings who produced us.
As a young boy… I regretted that I could never know the grandmother after whom I was named, whose praises everyone sung, and who I childishly hoped was somehow still watching over me and guiding my life. As I tried to learn more about her, I realized how quickly people forget the details of a person’s life and are unable to describe the human qualities that defined the individual. How quickly the memories become only impersonal statistics, or “bare skeletons” in a “family tree”, to mix a metaphor!
Certain unusual circumstances conspired to lead me in the direction of assembling a family tree. From early on, I had to keep track of my relatives on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. My paternal grandparents, the Morris Schaffners, lived in Erie, PA. My maternal grandparents, the Salomon Herzogs, lived in Worms, Germany. Both grandfathers also happen to have been born in Hessloch! They were on opposite sides during World War I. From 1920 on, our family went frequently to Germany to visit Worms and Hessloch, which at the time had changed very little since the 19th century.
I visited homes, schools and farms in which the earlier Schaffners had lived, and spent interesting leisure hours in the then well-kept cemeteries reading the names of ancestors. German-Jewish families in those days usually had anywhere from five to ten children, and I used to list them all, prior to visiting my cousins. So I developed a life-long interest and habit that “naturally” led me into wanting to record a Schaffner family tree. Besides, my mother had collaborated in the 1960’s in the compilation of the Herzog-Lambert family tree, published by the ABC-Clio Press, and there had been a number of intermarriages between the Schaffners and the Herzogs.
An additional factor also helped me to do the necessary research work. During the early visits to Germany, I came to speak and read German fluently. And as my very first few months of school were in Germany in 1920 when the old German script was still being taught, I remained able to decipher many of the 18th century documents such as court records, applications to marry, dowry agreements, which were written in the difficult older script.
My unspoken plan to compile a family tree, with flesh and bones, began to become a reality in 1936, when I started assembling data more systematically. My mother and I were traveling throughout Germany, trying to rescue all of our relatives from the Nazi threat (my father and mother helped 70 family members to escape). When World War II ended in 1945, I was fortunately assigned to Nuremberg for one month (to determine Krupp’s fitness to stand trial, and to treat Kaltenbrunner’s cerebral hemorrhage so that he could survive to be tried) and then to Bad Homburg near Frankfurt for five months (the Screening Center of the Information Control Division, American Military Government).
Luckily, both places made it easy for me to visit Hessloch, the village of origin for the Schaffners listed in this genealogy. There, I had the good luck to meet the Deputy Mayor, Wilfried Menger, who opened the doors to all official records still available for the entire province of Rheinhessen, including both the villages of Hessloch and Eppelsheim. We are very fortunate that Hessloch and Eppelsheim lie West of the Rhine River, where French officials during the Napoleonic occupation kept vital statistics about Jews. They were not kept east of the Rhine! Without Wilfred Menger’s interested help, the completion of this project would never have been possible. I made at least 20 trips to Hessloch; he drove me everywhere, got cemeteries unlocked, ad introduced me to relatives I didn’t even know we had.
Prior to 1809, Jews did not have legal surnames. The first Jews to be named Schaffner were three brothers, sons of Nathan (son of) Salomon: Lazarus and Leopold by his first wife, Acheba, and Abraham, his son by his second wife, Rachel. Abraham was therefore a half-brother of the older two sons. Lazarus ad Leopold remained in Hessloch and their descendents migrated chiefly to Cleveland, Erie, Youngstown, and Cincinnati in the 1860’s. Abraham moved to nearby Eppelsheim and his descendents migrated mostly to Chicago, or briefly to Cleveland.
While I worked in Bad Homburg, I also had the good fortune to become a close fried of Perugina Adler, the step-daughter of Joseph Halle Schaffer, and thus to begin to know the Abraham Schaffner descendents for the first time. I met “Joe” Schaffner in 1946; he was also interested in “family” and helped me enormously with the Solomon Schaffner Branch (a son of the original Abraham Schaffner). More recently Jill Cowan and Prue Mortimer have helped through all its intricacies.
The next breakthrough came as a result of an accidental meeting between Clara Schaffner Fellinger of Cleveland and the well-known Herbert T. Schaffner of Chicago, when they were both wintering in Sarasota (about 1965). Clara was aware of the Chicago connection, and Herbert helped us to explore it. He sent her an outline in his possession, which she shared with me. Then I went to visit him in his Chicago office in about 1978 and he told me that his chart was really only a portion of a larger chart belonging to Hortense Becker, whom I next had the great pleasure of meeting. This chart, handwritten, unusually complete and almost entirely accurate, had been meticulously pieced together with scotch tape. Hortense graciously allowed me to take it home to photograph; without it, the present genealogy might have taken years longer!
From 1978 on, I made many trips to Chicago, under the loving hospitality of Phyllis Einstein Schaffner, who drove me (often in the intense heat of a Chicago summer) to Rose Hill and other cemeteries to copy names and data from tombstones.
I am also grateful for the fortuitous help that came my way at times when we felt completely stumped, e.g. Professor Charles Goodman found an entry in an older family tree that he had made, which provided the definitive clues to the connection to what I refer to as the Cincinnati branch. I do so only because they first settled there. Today their descendents, Robert T. Schaffner, lives in New York City and his sister Nancy S. Daus in California.
David and Marie Dickson made a trip from Naperville, IL to Hessloch and Kirchheim-Bolanden to look into the Leo Schaffner and Decker Families. Wilfried Menger assisted them too. Although the Dicksons spoke no German and he no English, they seem to have communicated perfectly. Marie then occupied herself during the long hours of her first pregnancy by searching thorough American governmental offices for immigration, naturalization and other hard-to-obtain official data.
A previously unidentified branch of the Schaffner family was “discovered” right in Cleveland when Robert N. Weil, husband of Jean Schaffner Weil, learned that his volunteer colleague at Mt. Sinai Hospital, Mrs. Babette Weiss, was also a Schaffner descendent, the great-granddaughter of Michael Schaffner, who was born in Eppelsheim.
My first cousin, Jean Schaffner Weil and my brother Morris, both of Cleveland have been most interested and helpful in doing research at The Western Reserve Historical Society.
About 1988, I had the pleasure of talking by phone (we have not yet met in person) with James N. Schaffner of Colorado Springs, the cordial, helpful son of Herbert T. Schaffner, who supplied another valuable set of links for the family tree, a letter written January 1, 1901, in German by his grandfather Schaffner Schaffner to a family friend in Eppelsheim describing in detail the names, news, and whereabouts of all the descendents of Nathan Schaffner, his great grandfather. In addition to information, this letter contains many telling details of the times. It will be presented, translated in full in the family story which I hope to mail to all of you in 1993.
By now I had so much data that I began to drown in the overwhelming amount of it and the confusing similarity of names. I became so bogged down that I might even have given up (after all, this was only a beloved “hobby”, while the majority of my time was taken up with a busy psychiatric practice) when a benevolent fate again rescued me. In 1996, Judy Weil (wife of S. Douglas Weil, great-grandson of Morris Schaffner of the Erie branch), who was familiar with organizing masses of genealogical material on a computer from doing two family trees on her own, let it be known that she was willing to help me out. I accepted!
No one can imagine how much she has contributed. She is a marvel of overall perception of what needs to be done, the technical and mechanical know-how to accomplish it, enthusiasm and energy, and a personal charm that wins everyone’s cooperation. She has made hundreds of initial telephone calls to many of you in this country and around the world, and has been both my encourager and my prodder.
Probably the most startling surprise came about when we realized that there were many Lautmanns in the family but that our only clue was that some of them had at one time lived in St. Louis. Judy had a brainstorm. She places a notice in The Jewish Press of St. Louis and received a call that eventually led to locating a member of the Lautmann branch in Arizona.
My sincere thanks to all of you who have taken the time to share your precious family pictures, write answers to our questions, and talk with us in person. I have deeply enjoyed meeting a great number of you, and my understanding of human nature and my sense of pleasure and pride in being a member of our family has greatly increased.
It is my sincere with that you will find much that is interesting and informative in the following family tree, in the individual background sketches, and the accompanying pictures, and that you will feel that the effort has indeed been worthwhile.
Judy and I both invite you to call or write us, letting us know what you wish to have added or changed in the family tree, and letting us know about people whom we could not find or locate. (We know that this first edition of the Schaffner genealogy could not possibly be complete or perfect.)
With warm familial good wishes from “everyone’s cousin”,
Virtually no work was done on the Schaffner genealogy between 1992 and 2006. At that time, Bertram asked Jonathan Weil, Jon’s daughter Marni Martens, and Judy Weil to take responsibility for keeping in touch with the Schaffner family and maintaining the genealogy. The following representatives from various branches of the family worked tirelessly to update the 1992 genealogy: Barbie Sadolf, Bob Benton, Patter Beldon, David Zesinger, Bob Schaffner, Maggie Abraham, Marie Dickson, Phil Phillips II, Edie Hirsch, Dick Felber, Ellen Bialis, Ted Daus, Ron Bing, Sally Gabriel, Rick Abeles, Spencer Schaffner, Egon Gross, Cindy Paul, Judy Posner, Carin Saunders, Debra Whitler, Ralph Lautmann, Carin Saunders, Clare Hertel, Sally Gabriel, Pru Mortimer, Meaghan Mallory, Pat Stein, Bea Reynolds, Alan Wertheimer, Marni Martens, Bertram Schaffner, Jon Weil and Judy Weil.
In 2008, Spencer Schaffner, a professor of English at the University of Illinois, who teaches website design, designed and launched the first Schaffner Family website, bigschaffnerfamily.com. In 2010, Andrew Borstein agreed to take over that responsibility. We are extremely grateful to both of them.
Judy Weil continues to update the genealogy data. She solicits updates periodically by email, but always appreciates your notifying her firstname.lastname@example.org about births, marriages, divorces, deaths and any other news.
June, 2012 – The following is a video of Bertram Schaffner, a Rescue/Aid Provider from the Holocaust. To learn more about Bertram, and explore the stories of other Holocaust survivors and witnesses, visit http://vhaonline.usc.edu.
I wanted to let you know about the wonderful exhibition of Indian art, organized at the Brooklyn Museum by Joan Cummins, Lisa and Bernard Selz Curator of Asian Art. Not only are there two impressive objects donated by Bert in the exhibition, but the Museum has very thoughtfully dedicated the exhibition to Bert’s memory. I hope you will pass this along to your friends, family and colleagues who knew Bert, along with Holland Cotter’s review in Friday, July 8th NY Times:
With best wishes,
Following are links to family newsletters and other articles of interest. Each document is in PDF format, which means that you can search within the documents using a PDF viewer. Right click each link and select “Save Target As / Save Link As” to download a report to your computer. If you have difficulty viewing the PDFs on your computer, download Adobe Reader. It’s free.
November 2009: “Beyond the Emotional Turmoil” An article about Bert Schaffner in the Swarthmore College Bulletin.
If you are interested in helping to produce a family newsletter, please contact Jonathan Schaffner Weil at email@example.com.
Schaffner Family Genealogy (1990)
SCHAFFNER FAMILY GENEALOGY (1732-1990). Click here to see a pdf version of the Schaffner Family Genealogy published in 1992, including data, bios and photos.