So what I know so far is: that Samson Schiff was born in Mannheim in 1807, son of Samuel Schiff and his wife Augusta Fuld (known as Gutel or Gitel), and that he had a brother Leopold who was nine years older. Leopold was born in Frankfurt, and it seems likely that Samuel moved to Mannheim for economic reasons, leaving the Frankfurt ghetto, historic home of the Schiff family. Following the Napoleonic wars and invasions of what is Germany many of the restrictions placed hitherto on Jews were removed.
Samson Schiff married Rosina Berneis, also known affectionately as Roesche, in the early 1830s, probably after the marriage of his elder brother Leopold in 1832, and most likely in 1836. Their son Wilhelm was born in Mannheim on 23rd June, 1837, and it seems likely that Wilhelm lost his mother at or soon after his birth. Her name is listed in the Memorbuch of the Jewish community of Mannheim but without a date. [GenAmi, Memorbuch de la communauté israélite de Mannheim: 1245 Schiff. Roesche. Frau des Samson]
Some documents survive in the archives of the city of Mannheim that deal with Samson's infant son Wilhelm.
[Vermögen des Samson Schiff und seiner verstorbenen Ehefrau Rosina, geb. Berneis; Datum 1837-1842; Klassifikation2 .1. Inventur / Erbteilung bei Ehegatten; Bestand: Verlassenschaftsakten Mannheim; Bestellnummer: 32/2001 (Lfd.-Nr. 6142). (Assets of Samson Schiff and his late wife Rosina, born Berneis; Date: 1837-1842; Classification: 2.1. Inventory / inheritance for spouses; Stock: Probate records Mannheim; Order: 32/2001 (614 Lfd.-Nr.]
Despite my attempts on two occasions to contact the archives I have received no reply. If these records list their assets they could be fascinating as a glimpse into their world.
[Assets of Samson Schiff and his late wife Rosina, born Berneis; Date: 1845-1849; Classification: 2.1. Inventory/inheritance for spouses; Contains: Application of Samson Schiff for reduction of amounts owing from lien on his property to his son William Schiff; Stock: Probate records Mannheim; Order: 32/2001 (Serial no 6143)]
An inventory of his possessions could be a wonderful document to obtain and explore.
The date of Samson's second marriage, to Babette Maier (also known as Barbara, and whose surname is sometimes also spelt Maier or Meier) is also unkown. This new wife came from Frankenthal, a small town just to the west of Mannheim. At that time, though, it was in another country and jurisdiction. In 1816, the year of her birth, Frankenthal had just been annexed to the kingdom of Bavaria, from which it was geographically detached. Augusta, who appears to have been their first child, was born in Mannheim in 1839. All of Samson's children were born in Mannheim, and there were many, though until a few months ago I only knew of one, my great great grandfather Friedrich, and then in February of this year I was informed Friedrich had a sister. In the synagogue archives of Milan is a document that completely transforms that impression. [La Rassegna Mensile di Israel, terza serie, vol. 59, no 3, (sett-dic 1993), pp 24-66] This document lists all Samson's children:
Schiff Augusta Mannheim 1839 post 1859x
Schiff Lodovico Mannheim 1840 * post 1859x
Schiff Paolina Mannheim 1841 post 1859x
Schiff Alberto Mannheim 1842 post 1859x
Schiff Federico Mannheim 1843 post 1859x
[A possible daughter who was buried in Trieste could have been born around this period]
Schiff Frida Mannheim 1848 post 1859x
Schiff Ottavia Mannheim 1851 post 1859x
Schiff Guglielmo Mannheim 1836 post 1859x
From this document we can see that Samson had nine children, if we include a possible daughter who had died and was buried in Trieste, and his son Lodovico appears to have died around 1860. I am interested to know the circumstances of his death. I am also surprised to see that Wilhelm, by now known as Guglielmo, is listed with the family, as around this decade he was studying in Venice and then Vienna.
Early in the 1850s, possibly in 1852, Samson brought his wife and children to Trieste and set up as a silversmith there. This period of his life is well documented. [Luisa Crusvar, "Sansone Schiff di Mannheim: Attività e Opere di un Argentiere Ebreo nella Trieste di Metà Ottocento". Atti e Memorie della Società Istriana di Archeologia e Storia Patria, vol. XLI, n. s. (1993), pp.149–168] We know that he had a workshop in 1851 in Via San Sebastiano, and he produced a remarkable number of objects which adorn the synagogue and churches of Trieste. He produced domestic items of silverware for wealthy local families, and for the court of the Archduke Maximilian at the castle of Miramare: there is an invoice from him for 9th November 1860 in the archives of the castle of Miramare.
Although an Austrian city, where German wasthe official language, the language of the people was Italian, more particularly in the form of the Triestine Italian dialect, a variant of the Venetian dialect of this part of Italy. Italian became the language of Samson's children, Italy became their motherland, and there is clear evidence that they became irredentists and italophiles. Friedrich was naturalised in 1895 by royal decree.
At about this time Samson left Trieste with his family and moved to Milan, where he was based in Corso di Porta Venezia 644. In 1861 he opened a silversmith's workshop at Porta Vittoria 36. He was active n Milan until 1870.
He returned to Trieste for the marriage in the synagogue of his son Friedrich in 1873. On 29th June Friedrich was married to Adele Cohen, daughter of Salomon Cohen and Gentile Castelbolgnese of Trieste. At this point there is a sense of historical connection, for my grandfather Giulio Cesare Schiff remembered his grandmother Adele and talked of her to me. By now Friedrich was known as Federico. He was 28 and in fact living in Venice, not in Milan as the records suggest. That record listing Samson's children seems to have been a nominal list and several of the children may have been living elsewhere, but were as yet unmarried.
Samson Schiff's many children have vanished from the record though there are some glimpses. Friedrich/Federico was my ancestor and for that reason is remembered. We are fortunate that we have some record of the life and work of Wilhelm/Guglielmo. This year I have had the revelation of the life and work of Samson's daughter Paolina. There is also a fragmentary glimpse of Ottavia. But what became of Augusta, Ludwig, Albert and Frieda?
Samson appears to have visited his nephews in London towards the end of his life, but unlike his children German remained his first language, and this is reflected in the inscription on his tombstone:'Im 78 lebensjahre der liebe der seinigen entrißen; im schutze des ewigen ruht deine milde rechtschaffene seele' [Torn from the love of his dear ones at the age of 78; under the protection of the eternal rests your gentle honest soul ]
Samson Schiff died on 22nd April, 1885,and is buried in the Jewish section of Milan's Monumental Cemetery [No. 95, Campo II].