Benjamin Edward Ostermann was my great-grand uncle on my father’s side. He was born on April 28, 1880 in Brooklyn, New York. His parents, both German immigrants, were Edouard Ostermann and the former Hanshon (Hannah) Goldschmidt.
The 1880 US Census finds Bennie living with his parents at 389 Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn, New York. He "just" made it into the census, listed as 1/12 years old.
|1880 US Census|
Checking the 1892 NY Census we can see that Benjamin now has two sisters, Henrietta and Rebecca. I would guess that August and Sali (?) are relatives of Edward who have two little girls of their own. It appears that Edward "americanized" the spelling of his first name. Ostermann appears with two n's for some time, then with only one.
|1892 NY Census|
Eight years later, in 1900, we find the family still on Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn but in a different apartment (#374). Bennie is listed as attending school. I found this interesting as he is 20 years old at the time. There is no school listed for Henrietta who was 16. Was she unemployed? Done with school? Or did the census taker just not write anything down?
Sadly, it looks like sister Rebecca has passed away. However, sister Beatrice has been born in 1889. I also caught an error on the census.The census taker has listed Beatrice's birthdate as 1879 but her age as 12. All other information I have found is consistent with a birthdate of 1889.
|1900 US Census|
By 1910, Bennie is living with his parents and sister, Beatrice at 516 Eleventh Avenue in Brooklyn. According to the census he was a clerk in fish store in Brooklyn NY. From this census I learned that Hanshon had five children, two of whom passed away before adulthood.
Bennie’s mother died in 1913. After her death, Bennie and his father moved to 124 East 4th Street in Brooklyn. The residence was either quite large (which is doubtful) or very crowded. As seen in the 1915 NY census, the household now consisted of three distinct families: Bennie and his father, Henrietta, her husband Barnett Samuel (my paternal great-grandfather) and their two children, Edgar and Regina and finally Beatrice, her husband Arthur Newman and their child Hortense. There was a total of 9 people in the home.
Bennie’s occupation continues to be listed as “store clerk.”
Bennie and Edward continued to live with Beatrice and her family until Edward passed away in 1925. After his father’s passing, Bennie went to live with his sister Henrietta. He lived there for ten years until he moved in with his sister Beatrice in 1935. By that time, Beatrice and her family had moved to Fairfield, Connecticut. Bennie was 55 years old and no longer employed.
Uncle Bennie would never live alone. According to his 1917 WWI Draft Card, Bennie was “mute.” the back of his 1942 WWII Draft Card lists him as being “deaf and dumb.” He was literate and had attended school. One wonders what his life had been like and what caused his disability.
|1918 WWI Draft Card|
|1942 WWII Draft Card|
I remember my father telling me to “keep an eye on my ears” (funny guy…) as hearing problems ran in the family. He was wrong about much of the family lore he passed on to me but quite accurate on this point. My father wore hearing aids in the last few years of his life and I have been medically advised to do the same. Apparently the hearing aids will cancel out the buzzing (tinnitus) that causes my hearing loss. Vanity and money have prevented me from doing so. Besides, the things I “mishear” have provided us with some pretty funny moments in my classroom!
In 2008, my father related the following story: "Uncle Bennie was my father's uncle, and was a deaf mute. I remember him. There is the family story that he took my father (Edgar) to the zoo one day, when my father was about four, and my father started collecting items from the ground. Uncle Bennie couldn't ask my father why he was smelling so bad, and they found when the two got home that my father's items of collection were little pieces of goat turd, which he [had] put in his pocket."
By 1940 the Newmans and Uncle Bennie had moved to Sport Hill Road in Easton (Fairfield County) CT.
Benjamin Edward Osterman died on December 26, 1955 at the age of 75.
Bennie is buried in Plot Number FL 16 at Loyalty Lodge Cemetery on Burrows Street in Fairfield, Connecticut, United States.
|Courtesy of Find-a-Grave.com|