Encyclopedia Titanica

Nella Carlynne Goldenberg

First Class Passenger

Nella Goldenberg

Mrs Samuel Levi Goldenberg (Nella Carlynne Wiggins) was born in Florence, Italy on 2 February 1866.1

She was the daughter of an American father from New Jersey, Alexander Mather Wiggins (1826-1913), and an Italian mother, Nella Carlynne DeSilva. It is believed that her mother died whilst she was still very young and it is understood that Nella did not come to America until 1885, as per her 1917 passport. The same passport states that she had a sister.2 Other details about her early life remain obscure.

In America she began a relationship with Samuel Sondheim (b. 19 April 1851), a married New York cotton broker. Sondheim, the son of Jewish German parents Louis Sondheim and Rosa Brill, had been married in 1879 to Elizabeth "Lillie" Blackstone, née Whitacker (b. 1856 in Nova Scotia) but had no known children.

Nella and Samuel had two children: Viola Marie (later Mrs George Crossman) was born in Manhattan on 25 May 1886, followed by a son named Albert Cecil on 27 November 1887. The couple were eventually married in Manhattan on 19 June 1895, Sondheim declaring that he was a divorcee. When the family appeared on the 1900 census they were residing at 81st Street, Manhattan but Nella was to become a young widow later that year when Sondheim died from a heart ailment on 28 August 1900.

She was remarried in Manhattan on 3 September 1901 to Samuel Levi Goldenberg (b. 1864), a Lace merchant and realtor. The couple settled in Manhattan, appearing on the 1905 census as residents of West 72nd Street, but for the sake of Mr Goldenberg's health they relocated to France in 1907, the milder climate being beneficial to Samuel's wellbeing; they made several trips back to the USA, seemingly annually and usually aboard German ships. Her 1915 passport describes her as standing at 5' 6½", of fair complexion with blue-grey eyes and a small mouth and chin set in an oval face, topped with chestnut hair.

Well-known dog fanciers, the Goldenberg's kennel name was "Nellcote" and they would often judge in shows and reared English Toy Spaniels and French Bulldogs. They boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg on 10 April 1912 as first class passengers (ticket number 17453 which cost £89, 2s, 1d) and they occupied cabin C92. They were en route to attend the French Bull Dog of America show to be held at the Waldorf Astoria on 20 April.

Nella with Dogs
Nella Goldenberg with four of her dogs

Mr and Mrs Goldenberg were rescued in lifeboat 5. The New York Herald (21 April 1912) later reported:

Mrs. Goldenberg ran out on deck. Mrs. Goldenberg, who had not waited to dress, but had only pulled a skirt over her nightdress, was helped into one of the first boats by Mr. Goldenberg, Mr. Ismay and one of the Titanic's officers. She begged her husband to follow her, but he refused. The boat was unfilled when the crew started to lower it, according to Mrs. Goldenberg, and she urged her husband to take a place, as other men had done. "When I saw that he was not coming," said Mrs. Goldenberg, "I called, 'For God's sake say goodbye to me then,' and suddenly Mr. Ismay and one of the crew seized Mr. Goldenberg and threw him over the side. He managed to catch the boat ropes and I and others pulled him in..."

Met by friends and colleagues at the New York pier after their arrival aboard Carpathia, the Goldenbergs refused to discuss their ordeal with newspaper reporters. They went on to take part in the French Bull Dog show. Following the disaster, the couple shortly returned to France and also spent time in Switzerland for recuperation.

Nella lost her father close to the first anniversary of the sinking when he died on 8 April 1913. By 1917 Nella and Samuel were still living in Villefranche-sur-Mer near Nice, France and spent time residing in Monaco. By 1921 they had apparently resettled permanently in the USA, living at 109 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan but continued to travel despite Samuel's ill health in later years.

Nella Goldenberg in 1916    Nella Goldenberg 1922 

Nella Goldenberg 1922    Nella Goldenberg 

Nella in 1916, 1922 and 1925 and undated passport photographs (Left to right from top left)

Nella and Samuel were later divorced, perhaps because of the latter's infidelity; Samuel was remarried to a lady of Polish nobility, Edwiga Grabówska (d. 1935) and resettled in France where he died in 1936.

Nella herself was never remarried and started going by her mother's maiden name, DeSilva. She remained living in New York but continued to travel frequently; the last known voyage she made was aboard President Monroe in 1941 when she gave her destination address as the Hotel Sheraton on Lexington Avenue, New York City.

Nella spent her last days living in Berkeley, California close to her daughter Viola and she died there on 9 October 1947.

Nella in 1943

Her daughter Viola was married in 1913 to George W. Crossman (b. 1884), a native of Bath, Steuben, New York and had a daughter, Viola Mary (b. 27 April 1915). She died in Alameda, California on 22 May 1961.

Nella's son Albert later served during WWI in the American Field Service and American Army Sanitary Corps, serving from June 1916 until his discharge in May 1919. From 1920 he worked for a Paris-based bank, Banque Nationale Immobiliere. Living for many years in Paris, marrying but having no children and travelling extensively, Albert died in November 1986 aged 99.

Daughter and Granddaughter Albert Sondime

Nella's daughter Viola and her granddaughter Viola Mary, and her son Albert


  1. True age not certain as census, marriage and immigration records are conflicting. At the time of her first marriage in 1895 it was stated that she was 28 years old, suggesting that she had been born in or around 1866/1867 but she would give different ages throughout her life. Her death record gives the date as 7 February 1856 (perhaps a mistaken transcription of 2 February 1866) and birthplace as Pennsylvania.
  2. Mrs Goldenberg's 1917 passport declared that she had a sister, Mrs E. S. Whitman of 246 Warren Street, Brooklyn. This individual has not yet been identified.

Comment and discuss

  1. Nathan Ottosen

    Nathan Ottosen

    Hello all! Just a few quick questions and comments about the (apparently) mysterious Mrs. Goldenberg: one, how did this confusion about her name first come to light? Did Edwiga Grabowska exist? If so, was she Samuel Goldenberg's wife at the time of the sinking? Or who was his wife at the time? The answer is probably right in front of me, but for some reason I'm not making the proper connection... Thanks, Nathan

  2. Phillip Gowan

    Hey Nathan, I'm working on a biography of the Goldenbergs--have been very fortunate to locate descendants of the Mrs. She had previously been married and had two children--her son lived most of his life in France and lived to be 99 years old. I have some of the family photos-really incredible ones that look like Nella and Sam are about to start talking to me. The wife's name on Titanic is "Nella"--will detail the rest in a full article. She and Sam married in 1901. There is a lot of information and misinformation out there on this couple but with the help of family members and legal records... Read full post

  3. Michael Findlay

    Dear Nathan, The mystery of Edwiga and Nella Goldenberg have lingered with us for some time. Thanks to the joint efforts of my friend and fellow researcher, Bob Bracken, it can be said that Edwiga Goldenberg was Sam Goldenberg's second wife, and added to the confusion when Sam died in 1936. Obituaries for Sam Goldenberg claimed that Edwiga Grabowska (his second wife) died in 1935 and was on the Titanic with him. Over the years, every researcher believed that Nella Goldenberg was Edwiga and that the first names were simply garbled. Nella had been married before to a man named Wiggens,... Read full post

  4. Nathan Ottosen

    Nathan Ottosen

    Mr. Gowan and Mr. Findlay, Many thanks for your prompt responses. I will be eagerly awaiting any further developments in the Goldenberg story! Nathan

  5. Simcha Dovid Fetter

    Simcha Dovid Fetter

    I am trying to trace a Hillel Goldenberg and family. They may be related to the Goldenbergs on the Titanic. Hillel married Basia Fetter, one of the two daughters of Shmuel and Shifra Fetter in the Ukraine, Russia. They left for America about 1910 - 1920.

  6. Michael Findlay

    Dear Nathan, Oops Sorry for the error. Mike Findlay

  7. Nathan Ottosen

    Nathan Ottosen

    Mike, Not a problem at all. Thanks for the clarification! Nathan

  8. Simcha Dovid Fetter

    Simcha Dovid Fetter

    Dear Nathan, I am looking for a relative called Hillel Goldenberg, maybe related to the Goldenbergs on the Titanic. Hillel married one of Shmuel Fetter's daughters, either Basia or Malka in the Ukraine, Russia and went to live in America between 1912 and 1920. Any info would be appreciated.

  9. Nathan Ottosen

    Nathan Ottosen

    Simcha, Unfortunately, what little I know about the Goldenbergs was gleaned either from this website or the several Titanic-related books available--no in-depth family history or lineage. It appears that Mr. Gowan and Mr. Findlay are the ones to contact, but I'm sure that their findings will be made public in due time. Sorry I am unable to be of more assistance. Nathan

  10. Randy Bryan Bigham

    All, Just wanted to publicly thank Phil Hind for posting these great passenger photos of late - the Barkworth picture, Roger Bricoux's, and just now the Nella Goldenberg image (from Phil Gowan's incredible collection). The Goldenberg picture is sweet I think. Cute little girl - now a grown up lady I assume! Thanks to Phil G for sharing it and so many others and again kudos to Philip Hind for posting all these great and often never-before-published images for us to enjoy. Randy

  11. Phillip Gowan

    Thanks Randy, The "cute little girl" is in her early 60's now. She has been extremely helpful to me and thanks to her I probably have more photos of the Goldenbergs than I do of any other survivors. She also gave me access to Nella's journal dated April 1912--remarkable mainly for Nella's seeming attitude of it being just another of many ocean going experiences. One of the photos she gave me is of Nella with some of her champion French bulldogs and another is of Sam Goldenberg playing with some little chihuahua type dog on the doorstep. The one with the bulldogs has to be about my favorite... Read full post

  12. Andrew Maheux

    Before the New updated photos of the Goldenbergs on their biographies, were they Nella and Samuel Goldenberg to? Thanks Andrew Maheux Ontario Canada

  13. Phillip Gowan

    Andrew, Am not sure if I understand your question--but the previous photos on the biographies were of Sam and Nella but were originally found in newspapers. The two that now appear are family photos. Edwiga Goldenberg was the second wife and I have never seen a photo of her. Phil

  14. Andrew Maheux

    Thanks Phil you got my question right. Andrew

Reply Watch Thread

Titanic Passenger Summary

Name: Mrs Nella Carlynne Goldenberg (née Wiggins)
Age: 46 years 2 months and 13 days (Female)
Nationality: Italian American
Marital Status: Married to Samuel Levi Goldenberg
Embarked: Cherbourg on Wednesday 10th April 1912
Ticket No. 17453, £89 2s 1d
Cabin No. C92
Rescued (boat 5)  
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912

Linked Biography

Page Options

Watch this page

Improve this Biography

If you have any corrections or something to add please  get in touch