Updated December 2016 upon finding new documentation for Louise Jacobs, Rosa’s sister.

The longer I research family history the more I discover about Rosa Brenne, my dad’s father’s mother’s mother, but she still remains an enigma.


Rosa was born in Basel, Switzerland in 1865; she was the youngest of at least four Jacobs children. I still don’t know why she came to the U.S. (apparently alone). I found no record of her arriving through Ellis Island. I think it’s likely she emigrated from Switzerland through Castle Gardens, and when searching through their database, I found several promising candidates. However, their site is so often down (and apparently not all their records are digitalized) and so I couldn’t be sure that any of those Rosa Jacobs were my Rosa Jacobs.

And then, I found this census from 1900 that indicates that Rosa (Rosie) emigrated in 1884.

Cleveland Ward 25, Cuyahoga County 1900 census
Cleveland Ward 25, Cuyahoga County 1900 census

One of the records from Castle Gardens indicates that Rosa might have emigrated as a “servant/gentleman’s servant.” I’m not sure what that means, who she was a servant for, how long she was employed this way… or even if this was her.

I don’t know how Rosa met her husband, Louis Brenne (a machinist for the railroad), but they were married in 1889 and had one daughter, Nellie Louise, in 1895. I don’t believe Rosa ever became a naturalized citizen.

Marriage License application for Rosa Jacobs and Louis Brenne, August 12, 1889
Marriage License application for Rosa Jacobs and Louis Brenne, August 12, 1889
Marriage License of Louis Brenne and Rosa Jacobs, August 12, 1889.
Marriage License of Louis Brenne and Rosa Jacobs, August 12, 1889.
Nellie Brenne's Return of Birth: January 12, 1895
Nellie Brenne’s Return of Birth: January 12, 1895

At some point Rosa became ill. My grandfather (Rosa’s grandson) said that Rosa, Louis, and Nellie traveled to Europe to find a cure. Unfortunately, there was none to be found.

Louis's passport application for himself, Rosa, and Nellie to return to the United States - dated October 17, 1899.
Louis’s passport application for himself, Rosa, and Nellie to return to the United States – dated October 17, 1899.

About the same time as their travels abroad, Rosa’s siblings emigrated to the United States.

Cleveland Ward 14, Cuyahoga County 1920 census
Cleveland Ward 14, Cuyahoga County 1920 census

Rosa’s oldest brother, John came to American in 1900 and was naturalized in 1905. Her oldest sister, Louise, also arrived in 1900, but was also never naturalized. [Updated] Contrary to what is listed in the above census, her older sister, Louise, arrived in the United States on August 26, 1884. She declared her intent to become a citizen on August 14, 1893. Her other sister, Anna Martin, actually arrived in 1890 and was naturalized in 1901.

Louise Jacobs Declaration of Intent to become a U.S. Citizen: August 14, 1893.
Louise Jacobs Declaration of Intent to become a U.S. Citizen: August 14, 1893.
Anna Martin Declaration of Intent to become a U.S. Citizen: August 14, 1892.
Anna Martin Declaration of Intent to become a U.S. Citizen: August 14, 1892.

Family lore says Anna was married to a merchant in the shipping industry, a Mr. (Joseph?) Martin. They lived in La Havre, France. She kept her money there and was widowed sometime by 1920. It is speculated that her money funded Louis, Rosa, and Nellie’s trip abroad to search for a cure; her savings definitely paid for burial and headstones for her siblings as well as a home for her niece.

Rosa Brenne's Bible, a gift from her sister, Louise Jacobs with Birth and Death pages
Rosa Brenne’s Bible, a gift from her sister, Louise Jacobs with Birth and Death pages

Ginny and I guess that the Jacobs siblings were close. We don’t know if they always were or if this was a later-in-life development. They definitely stuck by each other in the end.

Rosa died September 16, 1905.

Death and funeral notice for Rosa Brenne, 1905
Death and funeral notice for Rosa Brenne, 1905

I don’t know if she died at home or at the hospital. I do know that her daughter was ten years old and that her husband sued her doctor for wrongful death. Two years later, the courts awarded Louis $187.00 plus $13 in court fees. I haven’t been able to determine what happened to the doctor he sued.

Rose Probate 0 Rose Probate 1

Rose Probate 2
Rosa did not have a will and did not leave any property or estate to her husband or daughter.
Rose Probate 3
I don’t understand this and the other handwritten documents; he “appointed and bond fixed at $100” ?? What does that mean?

Rose Probate 4

Rose Probate 5
Court ruled in favor of Louis Brenne, he was awarded $187.00 for the wrongful death of his wife.
Rose Probate 6
Neither party demanded a jury… both parties consented to no further record be made in this case.

The same year Louis won in court, he married his housekeeper, Emma Rosenberger, also an immigrant from Germany. And the rest, as they say, is history.


Note: The only images I have related to Rosa come from my dad’s cousin, Ginny. She acquired Rosa’s portrait from Louis’s extended family in the 1974:

During my summer break from college in 1974, a friend and I decided to to to Europe and travel around all summer on a Eurail pass. One of the places on our itinerary was Berchum, West Germany, where my grandmother’s father (Louis Brenne) was born. Before leaving, my grandmother (Nellie Brenne Frohmberg) gave me an old photo she had of her father, Louis.

The day finally came when we were to venture out to Berchum. We were told that public transportation doesn’t go far, so we’d have to take the train to Hagen, then the bus to a nearby town, and then walk to Berchum. The bus dropped us off in the middle of nowhere and we began to walk in the direction of Berchum. We asked the first person we saw where the Brenne residence was. He couldn’t understand my pronunciation of the name, but when I wrote it out, he knew exactly what I was looking for and directed us to the house.

We knocked on the door, and when the Brennes opened the door, I said “Hi, I’m your relative from America.” I showed them the photo of Louis Brenne and they eagerly invited us in. They brought us into the living room and served us Kaffee and Kuchen.

When they opened up their family album, they had the exact same photo or Louis Brenne! And on the opposite page was a photo of a woman. “Who’s that?” they asked. I didn’t know, but thought it might be Louis’s wife, my grandmother’s mother (Rosa). They gave me the photo and told me to ask my grandmother when I got home. When I showed it to her, she verified that it was indeed her mother, Rosa Brenne.

Ginny received the Bible from Lynn Brenne (son of Louis by second wife, Emma) in the 1990s.

Census records and documents from probate court were found via Ancestry.com; other documents were passed down to me from my grandfather.

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