I have a tendency to be a bit long winded. I can’t quite make this a Wordless Wednesday — or even an (Almost) Wordless Wednesday — but I’m going to try to keep my foray into the past and present of the Kornmehl and Schmerling families as brief as possible.
Kornmehls and Schmerlings, Past
I wrote last week about how I was planning to participate in the family histories that the Committee for the Protection of Monuments of Jewish Culture in Tarnow was gathering. Here’s my first contribution.
Elias Kornmehl, who was born in Tarnow, Poland, in 1846 and died there in 1902, is the father of David, Heinrich and Ferdinand Schmerling (along with several mystery siblings, some of whom likely died very young). David is my great uncle by marriage but because his wife, my great aunt Mitzi Kornmehl Schmerling, was his first cousin, he is also related to me through another line.
I got this picture of Elias from his granddaughter, Flora Schmerling Selwyn.
Doba Schmerling (1850-1916) is Elias’s wife; she was also born and died in Tarnow. This picture, a photograph of a painting, was sent to me by Rita Saffer, David and Mitzi Schmerling’s granddaughter. Rita said that the original portrait was displayed in her parents’ bedroom for many years, and that her mother found its presence a bit disturbing. I can see why.
Kornmehls and Schmerlings, Present
In my first year of blogging, I never met any of the many relatives I’ve connected to via Freud’s Butcher, but last week it finally happened: I went to Phoenix/Scottsdale and met Elaine Schmerling, whose in-laws live there. We couldn’t figure out precisely how we are related to each other but finally settled on the fact that Rita Saffer, my second cousin — and the one who provided the picture of Doba Schmerling — is also Elaine’s second cousin.
We had a lovely time. Elaine’s daughter, Shira, her sister-in-law Ros, and Ros’s guide dog, Bryant, were with us, so we didn’t talk all that much about really esoteric family stuff — Bryant is easily bored — but Elaine did share a theory about the Kornmehl-Schmerling name that beautifully melds historical fact with a family tradition.
In the post The Mystery of The Schmerling Name–Solved! it was determined that the Schmerling, rather than the Kornmehl, name appeared on Polish government records because Doba and Elias were married in a Jewish, but not a civil ceremony. Among themselves, however, the family would have used their father’s name, Kornmehl. Family lore has it that when the brothers David, Heinrich and Ferdinand arrived in Vienna in the early 20th century, they saw that Schmerling was an esteemed name — there was even a grand square called Schmerlingplatz in the city — and not a particularly Jewish one, so they decided to adopt it for their fledgling jewelry businesses. Choosing a name solely on the basis of a geographical landmark doesn’t seem very plausible, but reclaiming your mother’s name, once you realize it is more suitable than your father’s, does.
Now if you want to know why Elaine kept the name Schmerling, rather than taking the name of her husband, of whom she is extremely fond, you’ll have to ask her.