Helen’s Father: Robert Minze

Helen's Father, Robert Minze

Helen’s Father, Robert Minze

I’ve been scanning a lot of old family photos lately to post historical Haddad and Tahan background to my Dad’s website HenryHaddad.com.  Along the way, I became obsessed with knowing more about the ancestry of both sides of my family.  I think my Mom’s website is a good place to share her family’s history and photos.  Let’s start with her father, Robert Minze, a fascinating fellow indeed!

My mom always talked lovingly about her father.  She said they didn’t have much money when she was a child (she grew up in Brooklyn, New York during the depression), but her father always found ways to entertain Helen, Bob and Bill with wonderful (free) adventures.  I think she said they took tours of ships and firehouses, but I may be embellishing with my own imagination here.  My mom said she never felt poor when she was out with her Dad.

Some of the background I’ll add here are stories my Mom has told me, others are bits of information I’ve discovered on Ancestry.com.  I’ll probably keep adding to this post over time.

Herman was the first president of...

Herman was the first president of…

My grandfather was born with the name Mortimer Minzesheimer in July, 29,1902 in Manhattan, NY to Hermann and Dora Minzesheimer.  His father, Herman (a dentist and business owner) was born in Baden Germany and came to the US in 1891.   I’ll add more about Mortimer’s family in the future, but I want to share this a few tid-bits for now:  The Minzesheimers were a German Jewish family of very accomplished men: lawyers, business owners, community leaders, hospital administrators and firemen. Their family was called Münzesheimer in Stebbach, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

I always imagined that Mortimer changed his name when he came to America, in order to assimilate with American society. But that is not the case!  The truth is: he fell in love with a Catholic beauty named Mable Callahan and in order to marry her, he changed his name to Robert Minze and converted to Catholicism!  Also, there was a dramatic divide in the family around 1915 that may have made it easier for Mortimer make a break with his family name.  Not sure if I will go into that story… I need to check with the wishes of the Minze family.  Nothing too shocking, but a bit scandalous for the time!

Robert’s (Mortimer’s) profession at age 17, was listed in the census as “office boy” at his father’s company, Royal Rubber Works.  Eventually he began working in the electronics industry and in later censuses his occupation was listed as Radio Service Man and Radio Engineer.  Not sure if this is my own childhood imagination (or my Mom’s), but I think she said that her Dad helped invent the television!  Now there’s bragging rights, hey? Whether or not it was true, my mom said her family was the first family on her block to have a television in their home.  That part, I believe!


1910 Census, 111th St #452

Mortimer had three sisters:  Marjorie (Saltzer, NJ), 4yrs older, Dorothy (Urbach, Alaska) was 2 years older  and Clarice who was four years younger than he.  Clarice died at just six years old; I haven’t yet discovered the cause of her death.  I imagine that my grandfather (only 10 years old at the time) must have been close to her, because twenty years later, he named his first child: Helen Clarice Minze.  I never knew the origin of my Mom’s middle name until I began researching my genealogy a few months ago.  I wish I had asked my Mom where her unusual middle name came from.  I have no idea if Helen herself ever knew the sad story of her aunt, little Clarice Minzesheimer.  I wish I could ask her now.

I’ve also found one reference to my Mom’s full name as Helen Clarice Cecile Minze.  I’m not sure who Cecile was, but my mom has an unfinished novel titled “Cecile.”  It’s a historical fiction, based on my paternal grandmother’s (Henry’s mother, Angele)  life in Cairo, Egypt.  So, now I am determined to get to the bottom of this mystery: who was the real Cecile?  Maybe my mom was playfully leaving us with another mystery to unravel?

I never was aware of my Jewish ancestry, but it was not a secret either.  My mom used to mention that some of her father’s family was Jewish.  This was actually a relief to me, when she did mention it, because I had secretly wondered if Mortimer Minzesheimer had changed his name when the rise of German facism became recognized in America?  I wondered if anti-German sentiment made whoever Mortimer was (I thought it was my great grandfather), no longer wanted to be associated with the country of Germany?  I only recently learned that Mortimer was my grandfather, and he changed his name for love!  The entire story makes me wonder what happened to the Minzesheimers back in Baden, Germany? Did they all escape Nazi Germany eventually? I haven’t not yet gotten that far in my research, but my brother Matt recently had an DNA Ancestry workup that confirmed that my mother was 50% German Jewish and 50% Irish, with a little bit of British mixed in there!


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