The Kornmehl-Schmerling Connection, Past & Present

The Kornmehl-Schmerling Connection, Past & Present

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

Elias Kornmehl,  1846-1902

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.

Doba Schmerling

Doba Schmerling, 1850-1916

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

Me & Elaine Schmerling -- today's Kornmehl & Schmerling kin

Me & Elaine Schmerling — two contemporary Kornmehl & Schmerling descendants

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.

Bryant the guide dog-001

Shira, Ros, Elaine, back row; Bryant, front row

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.

Brilliant, Elaine!

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.

8 Responses to The Kornmehl-Schmerling Connection, Past & Present

  1. How fun that you’ve met new relatives! And Frankie also got to meet Bryant!

    I like that idea of choosing an important sounding name! I think I’ll do that!

    Meanwhile, I wonder in what ways one learns more about ‘why you are who you are’ as one learns more about their ancestors and living relatives. For example, if you, Edie, had grown up with a mysterious longing to be a butcher, now you would know why. . . perhaps other mysteries will be revealed . . .
    Diane J. Schmidt recently posted..Rendon aka Redfeather con man disappears with $20,000 of Old Town Merchants (Photos)My Profile

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Frankie was terrified of Bryant but I had a great time.

      Yes, it’s funny that we think the idea of re-creating ourselves is a modern phenomenon when, in fact, people did it all the time in the past under various guises. And I agree: I thought (know) that my personality is already formed, but now I continue to discover possible contributing factors. I like that~

      • I understand that when some of my Polish relatives landed in England, they decided to change their name, because, though spelled slightly differently, it sounded too much like the Irish Rogan, so they changed it to Rosenstein.

        By the way, I’ve been doing further research on a con man and would like to know of a genealogy site that I wouldn’t have to pay a lot to join that might be useful – I suppose is it for Hispanic-Native American heritage?
        Diane J. Schmidt recently posted..Rendon aka Redfeather con man disappears with $20,000 of Old Town Merchants (Photos)My Profile

        • Edie Jarolim says:

          Now that’s different — people changing their names to sound more Jewish!

 is free and you can start with their vast resources to see if there’s anything you have to pay for. But — warning — it is the Mormon church site, and I know how you feel about that.

  2. Jill Kornmehl says:

    First let me admit I am a bit jealous at not being the first relative to meet Edie. It has been a great journey together working on the family history and I had hoped our paths would cross sooner than later. And no short visit would that be–lots of research and family stories to still be shared…

    It is wonderful that the blog has allowed you to find new family members. Cousin to cousin Kornmehl marriages seems to be common in our Vienna family and you have uncovered another one! I am sure there are more genealogical mysteries to be solved and I hope that you will continue to pursue them as you focus on other interests in your writing.

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Well, we had a near miss. One of these days I’ll be back east again. And of course if you’re ever anywhere in this neck of the desert, I’ll make the drive!

      Oh, I’m hooked — there’s no question that I’ll continue to pursue the genealogical mysteries and — who knows — having a compressed time frame may help focus my energies. Plus there are all the wonderful mystery guests who turn up, unbidden, including Manfred Wolf and the town of Tarnow!

  3. Anna Redsand says:

    Very exciting that you’ve been tapped to help with the Protection of Monuments of Jewish Culture in Tarnow! Freud’s Butcher gets results of many different sorts.
    Anna Redsand recently posted..Move #65My Profile

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