Monday, October 25, 2021

Missing One Baby in My Mahler Family Tree

My paternal great-grandparents, Meyer Elias Mahler (1855?-1910) and Tillie Jacobs Mahler (1852?-1952) had 7 children who survived into adulthood. Henrietta (hi paternal grandma!) and David were the two oldest, born in or near Riga, Latvia. 

Meyer arrived in New York City in 1885, and Tillie followed, with the children, in 1886. Later children were all born in New York City, or so I originally thought. 

Yet there is a significant gap of time between David's birth in 1882 in Latvia and the next child's birth in 1888 in the Big Apple. Maybe my original assumption wasn't correct after all.

Two small sons died in Manhattan

In the past few years, thanks to Family Search, I've learned the names of two Mahler babies who died in New York City. 

Wolf Mahler died in 1894, before his fourth birthday, of Bright's disease. 

Sundel Mahler died in 1901, about a month after his birth.

When I asked my Mahler cousins, no one remembered hearing about these baby boys who died so young. I've added their names to my family tree and will keep their memory alive for future generations. 

I'm still looking for one more child who died young. Here's how I know I'm missing one baby in my Mahler family tree.

Clues in 1900 and 1910 Census 

The 1900 US Census indicates that Tillie had 9 children in all, with only 7 living at the time. 

The 1910 US Census, shown at top, indicates that Tillie had 10 children in all, with 7 living at the time.

My reasoning: Wolf died before 1900, so he accounts for one of the babies no longer living in that Census. Sundel died before 1910, so he and Wolf together account for two of the babies no longer living by the time of that Census.

What of the missing child who died before 1900? 

Do the math

Summing up, the birth years of all Mahler children currently on my tree are: 1881, 1882, 1888, 1889, 1890, 1892, 1894, 1896, 1901. That's a total of 9 children, out of 10 born to great-grandma Tillie.

One possibility is that the missing baby was born in Latvia between 1883 and 1886. Unlikely the child was born before 1883 because David Mahler was born in March of 1882. Meyer left Latvia in early May of 1885, so there is a very slim chance his wife Tillie gave birth in early 1886, the year she left Latvia.

Another possibility is that the missing baby was born in New York City in early 1887. No later, however, because the next child was born in February of 1888. That's a mighty small window of opportunity for the missing baby. 

There are fairly small gaps in the years between the children's births in the 1890s, when the family was in New York. And I've found no other New York City births or deaths of children seemingly connected to Meyer and Tillie Mahler, so far.

My hypothesis now is that the missing baby was born and died in Latvia. He or she would have been no more than 3 years old, if this hypothesis is correct.

During Family History Month, I'll keep doing the research with the goal of memorializing this missing son or daughter on my tree.


  1. Those census questions about number of children born and living can be heartbreaking-like an unrelated woman with 14 children, 5 living-but have helped me avoid mistakes or given me clues a few times.

  2. You can find some sad and surprising things in the 1900 census. I have an ancestor who could never bring herself to admit her only child had passed, telling the census taker she was the mother of one living child.

  3. Yes, reading those numbers of children born/living can be quite sad. TY for sharing your thoughts on my blog!

  4. Those children who lived and died between census records can be a challenge to find. I knew of my grandfather's baby sister who died, probably because her picture was always on the mantle. But I NEVER ever heard of two other brothers who died until I started doing family genealogy. Nobody talked about them. Sad, really.