Mystery Monday: Who was Ethel Broida Pincus?

John Jacob/Zelig Broida and his seven sons. From left- front sitting- Max,standing- Phillip, Joseph J., Morris, Louis, Theodore, Harold. Sitting on right- John J. "Zelig" Broida.
John Jacob/Zelig Broida and his seven sons. From left- front sitting- Max; standing- Phillip, Joseph J., Morris, Louis, Theodore, Harold. Sitting on right- John J. “Zelig” Broida. Taken 25 July 1930 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Click to enlarge.)

Broida Family (Click for Family Tree)

Do you see a daughter in this picture? No? Hmmm…

One of the first Broida artifacts shown to a new married-in is the July 1930 picture of John Jacob “Zelig” Broida with his seven sons. It is a wonderful picture of them all, taken on a visit John made back to the US from Palestine, where he had immigrated in 1920. (Note all the nice suits!)

Gertrude Broida Cooper, John’s granddaughter through his son Phillip Broida, mentioned a couple of times that there was talk of a sister, in addition to the seven sons, but no one knew anything about her. She obviously was not important enough be in the family picture (but sons were the most important in a Jewish family of that time), and the sister is in no other images known to the immediate family, so that was Mystery #1.

We recently found a death notice for an infant named Samuel Broida, and he was listed as a son of John and Gitel Broida. The 1900 US Federal census states that Gitel had borne 10 children, 7 of which were still alive, so could one of the other 2 children who likely died young have been the mystery daughter? (Mystery #2)

Mystery #3 is that searches for the name “Broida” often bring up a woman by the name of Ethel Broida Pincus, but no one in the immediate family knew exactly who she was or how she was related.

Mystery #4: A 1910 US Federal Census entry for 206 Hull Alley in East Pittsburgh (Ward 3), Pennsylvania, listed a ‘Jacob Broida’ as head of household, age 54, and proprietor of a clothing store. As we have seen John listed before with the name Jacob and the occupation is correct, we can assume this is the same man. A wife named Fannie, age 35, to whom he had been married 6 years seemed correct, as John’ s first wife Gitel Frank Broida died in 1901, and we knew Fannie was the name of wife #2. Fanny was 19 years younger than John if the census is correct, and pictures of them together do suggest that she was quite a bit younger. So this is consistent with known facts.The census notes this marriage as John’s second-again, consistent- and Fannie’s first, BUT- it states Fannie had 2 children, both still living in 1910. So was John her first husband, or second? Family oral history states they had no children together since they married later in life. Who are the 2 children she had per the census? New Broida researchers might think that the youngest child on the census list could possibly be Fannie’s- Theodore, at age 17 would have been born when Fannie was 18, which is plausible, but she would have been just 13 when Phillip was born.

These aren’t her children though. Many of us already knew that.

This census also included in the household five of the eight (or more) sons born to John and Gitel Frank Broida: Joseph, age 27; Louis, 25; Max, 24; Philip, 22, and Theodore, 17. Yes, this had to be ‘our’ John Broida. (See notes for the other 2 ‘missing’ surviving sons.)

But wait- here is MYSTERY #5 (capitalized because this is a biggie)- there is an “Ethel Broida” listed as a sister (which would be to John as head of household, theoretically) on this enumeration, age 49, single, and born in Pennsylvania. So if the census is correct, Ethel Broida was John Broida’s sister. Indeed, many online family trees list Ethel Broida as John Broida’s sister, probably because of this census; some instead list her as his daughter. (We’ll explain where that may have come from in a minute.)

1910 US Federal Census excerpt for 'Jacob' (John) Broida and family.
1910 US Federal Census excerpt for ‘Jacob’ (John) Broida and family. (Click to enlarge.)

The 1910 census states that John, Fannie, and Ethel were all born in Pennsylvania. The age listed for Ethel, 49, could work if she was John’s sister, since he was 54. It could also work if she was a sister to Fannie- a 14 year age span did happen with large families, BUT the census suggest Ethel’s surname was Broida, not Fannie’s maiden name (whatever that may be). Ethel, however, could NOT be John’s daughter or even Fannie’s daughter if the listed ages are correct.

The age of 49 in 1910 would place Ethel’s birth in 1861. Does the woman below look like she could have been born in 1861? Does the photo look of that era? (approx. 1900s) Doesn’t seem to be, to me.

Ethel Broida Pincus (Click to enlarge.)
Ethel Broida Pincus (Click to enlarge.)

Mystery #6- John Broida’s obituary after his death on 12 November 1938 lists his seven sons as surviving him, 2 brothers, and one sister, Mrs. Rachael (Broida) Goldstein (wife of Morris I. Goldstein) of Pittsburgh. No Ethel Broida is listed as a sister or a daughter, but Ethel was still alive in 1938.

Mystery #7- The obituary for John Broida’s son Joseph J. Broida on 26 Dec 1958 lists his brothers Theodore and Morris as surviving him, and along with those siblings, “Mrs. Ethel Pincus of Miami.” So this is why some researchers list Ethel as a daughter of John Broida, instead of a sister.


Confused yet? (Yep.) Maybe a bit crazy? (Definitely.)

So what is the solution to these mysteries? Is there another sister to John Broida, or a daughter?

Research over the years has only found a few pieces of information about who we believe is this same Ethel Broida. She does have an entry on the MyHeritage website, and it and other research indicates she married a Jacob Mordechai Pincus (1880-1956).

1920_0200_PINCUS_Jacob M_passport picture
February 1920 passport picture of Jacob M. Pincus. via

It is highly unlikely that Jacob would have married a woman born in 1861- she would have been 19 years older- and that they would have had three sons, beginning when she was age 51. Again, the age on the 1910 census has to be wrong if they are the same person.

Jacob and Ethel Pincus had three sons:

Irwin Jacob Pincus, 1912-2000, married Lena L. Magaziner; he was a physician in Beverly Hills, California;

Bernard B. (or E.) Pincus, 1914-2001, born Pennsylvania, died in Southfield, Michigan;

Max J. Pincus- possibly born as Jacob M. Pincus Jr.? Born about 1923, died 1987 in Detroit, Michigan. May have married Lois Padover per members.

In his obituary, Jacob Pincus is noted as having married “the former Ethel Broida.”

11 Apr 1956 Obituary of Jacob M. Pincus, Philadelphia Inquirer, page 23, columns 1-2. Posted with kind permission of
11 Apr 1956 Obituary of Jacob M. Pincus, Philadelphia Inquirer, page 23, columns 1-2. Posted with kind permission of (Click to enlarge.)

The Social Security Death Index listed Ethel Pincus as being born 26 December 1892 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She died 13 Sep 1973 in Beverly Hills, California, per the SSDI.

The naturalization papers of Ethel’s husband Jacob Pincus state that she was born in Ostrow, Russia but other records, such as census, state Pennsylvania; Jacob Pincus was also born in Russia. If this is the same Ethel Broida as in the 1910 census with John Broida’s family, she would have actually been 18 at the 1910 census, using the SSDI birth date. She could still be Fannie Broida’s sister, but questionable as to John’s since he was 54, unless Ethel was from a second marriage of his father to a much younger woman. (Such a marriage is not known for John’s father, Joseph Broida.) Additionally, for Ethel to bear two children that were still living in 1910 when Ethel was just 18 does not seem likely, though it was possible, so again, most probably some of the 1910 census information is in error.

The obituary for Mrs. Jacob Pincus, of Beverly Hills, California (where her son Dr. Irwin J. Pincus lived) stated that she was the “former Ethel Broida,” and listed their three sons by name.


So more data was needed. A marriage license has not been found for John and Fannie Broida, and we still do not know her maiden name, nor very much about her at all. We now think they were in Pittsburgh when they decided to marry, rather than when they lived in Florida; neither place has a marriage record that we have been able to find online. Dead end there after a lot of searching over the years- for now, anyway.

OK, how about a marriage record for Ethel Broida and Jacob Mordecai Pincus? Not an easy find there, either, but if it listed her parents, it would be a winner. The search continued… was helpful in having the 15 Aug 1911 engagement notice of ” Miss Ethel Broida of East Pittsburgh and Mr. Jacob Pincus of Monessen…” The article continues: “Miss Broida is the daughter of Mrs. J. Broida….The marriage will be an event of the early fall.”

Oh my- this Ethel is the daughter of the wife of a J. Broida, and from East Pittsburgh. There were a number of J. Broidas in Pittsburgh during these years, but could it be our John/Jacob/Zelig Broida? Ethel was living with John & Fannie Broida in East Pittsburgh for the 1910 census one year earlier- could this be our solution?

Then, of course, the great research find happens in the wee hours when there is no one around to proclaim the exhilaration to, and do the happy dance, with, (note second line below):

Marriage record of Ethel Rubinstein to Jacob M. Pincus in Delaware, 06 Sept 1911, part 1, via
Marriage record of Ethel Rubinstein to Jacob M. Pincus in Delaware, 06 Sept 1911, part 1, via (Click to enlarge.)
Marriage record of Ethel Rubinstein to Jacob M. Pincus in Delaware, 06 Sept 1911, part 2, via
Marriage record of Ethel Rubinstein to Jacob M. Pincus in Delaware, 06 Sept 1911, part 2, via (Click to enlarge.)
Marriage record of Ethel Rubinstein to Jacob M. Pincus in Delaware, 06 Sept 1911, part 3, via
Marriage record of Ethel Rubinstein to Jacob M. Pincus in Delaware, 06 Sept 1911, part 3, via (Click to enlarge.)

So Jacob M. Pincus, age 30, born in Russia and a merchant in Monessen, Pennsylvania, married Ethel Rubenstein, age 20, born in Russia but residing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The record gives Jacob’s parents as Isaac Pincus and L. Freeman, and other research verified that. Thus this has to be the Jacob we are seeking, and the wedding date was confirmed by other researchers (though the license has not been shown on any family group records I have seen).

Did you notice the interesting part- the Happy Dance inspiration?

The bride’s name was Ethel Rubenstein.

The bride’s parents were Jacob Cohen and Fanne Robenstein.

Lightbulb moment- Is Fanne Robestein/Rubenstein the second wife of John Broida?

And how did those names work out? Was Fannie first married to Jacob Cohen, and then he died (or they divorced, etc.), and Fannie married a Rubinstein (marriage #2), then Ethel took that name? Or was Mr. Cohen a bad memory and Fannie reverted to her maiden name of Rubinstein, giving that to Ethel as they started a new life?

Is there a sibling somewhere for Ethel, since the 1910 census noted that Fannie had two children who were still living of the two born to her?

And then, when Fannie married John Broida, she became the “Mrs. J. Broida” listed as Ethel’s mother in the engagement announcement. Note that there is no father of the bride listed- his absence is suspicious; even if Fannie had remarried he might have been mentioned if he had taken an active role in his daughter’s life.

So here is a solution hypothesis for your consideration:

Ethel Cohen was born to Jack Cohen and Fannie Rubinstein (maiden name or a second marriage name?) 26 December 1892 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Ethel Cohen’s name was changed at some point to Rubinstein- whether by her mother’s next marriage or if her mother reverted to her maiden name at some point. (There is also the possibility that Jack and Fannie were not married thus the child took the mother’s name, but highly doubtful in that era/ group of people.)

Ethel’s mother Fannie married John Jacob Zelig Broida after his first wife died, and when she assumed his surname, so did her daughter, who became Ethel Broida. She would have been the step-sister to all seven living sons. Because Ethel lived with the family at least in 1910, she was probably treated like a sister in the household.

15 Aug 1911- engagement to Jacob Mordechai Pincus announced; fall ‘event’ planned.

Ethel and Jacob decided to elope and marry in Delaware. (There is no date of registration prior to the marriage, so it may have been a spur-of-the-moment event.)

07 Sep 1911- Ethel Broida and Jacob Mordechai Pincus marry in Delaware.

For a marriage license, however, Ethel likely needed to use her legal name, Rubenstein. Perhaps that is why they traveled to Delaware to marry- so announcements would not mention her real name or biological father?

Son Irwin J. Pincus born in 1912.

Son Bernard B (or E.) Pincus born in 1914.

Son Jacob M. Pincus, Jr/ Max J. Pincus born about 1923.

He husband Jacob was the founder and President of Pincus Brothers, a clothing manufacturer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Jacob belonged to Temple Beth Shalom in Pittsburgh. (We might be able to gather more information from them about Ethel as she likely was a member as well.)

Jacob M. died 08 Apr 1956 in Miami, where they had a second home.

Ethel moved to Beverly Hills, California to be near her son Irwin.

Ethel Cohen Rubinstein Broida Pincus died 13 Sep 1973 in Beverly Hills, California.

What do you think?



Next time: a most interesting document that more clearly delineates the relationship of Ethel Broida to John Broida. Of course, it has been in my possession for a while… Just have to wait until the genealogical muses sing before one can see the connections, sometimes.



Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) 1910 US Federal Census for John Broida, listed as ‘Jacob Broida’-

Year: 1910; Census Place: East Pittsburgh Ward 3, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1293; Page: 21A; Enumeration District: 0064; FHL microfilm: 1375306

2) Morris Broida, in 1910, at age 14, was still living with his father’s cousin Jacob Broida in St. Louis, where he had gone at age 4 when his mother became ill and moved to Denver, where she died of tuberculosis. Harold, who had gone to Denver as the baby of the family, was 13 in 1910, and apparently was sent to live with their St. Louis relatives after the death of Gitel- he was only 4 when she died in 1901. They are listed as ‘nephews’ to Jacob Broida and his wife Anna, but Jacob was actually a cousin to John Broida. See 1910 US Federal Census- Year: 1910; Census Place: St Louis Ward 4, Saint Louis City, Missouri; Roll: T624_812; Page: 23A; Enumeration District: 0064; FHL microfilm: 1374825.

3) 1910 US Federal Census for Jacob Broida (a cousin of John Broida) in St. Louis, Missouri-

Year: 1910; Census Place: St Louis Ward 4, Saint Louis City, Missouri; Roll: T624_812; Page: 23A; Enumeration District: 0064; FHL microfilm: 1374825

4) 1900 US Federal Census for John Broida and family-

Year: 1900; Census Place: Denver, Arapahoe, Colorado; Roll: 120; Page: 5B; Enumeration District: 0126; FHL microfilm: 1240122

5) “Engagement of Local Man” in the Daily Independent, Monessen, Pennsylvania, 15 Aug 1911, Vol. 10, No. 59, Page 1, Column 6, via

6) Delaware marriage record for Ethel Rubinstein and Jacob M. Pincus- Delaware Marriage Records, 1806-1933 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Delaware. Delaware Vital Records. Microfilm. Delaware Public Archives, Dover.


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5 thoughts on “Mystery Monday: Who was Ethel Broida Pincus?”

  1. Hi, well done. I am off on a trip, but I did not notice this in the piece: her brother Joseph’s obituary also mentions her by name.

    1. Thank you for the compliment!

      Is the ‘brother’ Joseph you are thinking about Joseph J. Broida, John & Gitel’s oldest son, who died on 26 Dec 1958? That is Mystery #7 and it really threw me, as technically, if my hypothesis is correct, he was a step-brother. (My dad called his step-sibs just ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ as well.) There should be a biological brother somewhere for Ethel, if the 1910 census is accurate in that she had 2 children, both surviving childhood. I would love to find him! I have had no success with finding the right Jack Cohen or Fannie Rubinstein yet online. I am really hoping that some of the Pincus family descendants will find this and contact us.

      Thanks for reading Heritage Ramblings!

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