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 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 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.
Nella's daughter Viola and her granddaughter Viola Mary, and her son Albert
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
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...
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,...
Mr. Gowan and Mr. Findlay, Many thanks for your prompt responses. I will be eagerly awaiting any further developments in the Goldenberg story! Nathan
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.
Dear Nathan, Oops Sorry for the error. Mike Findlay
Mike, Not a problem at all. Thanks for the clarification! Nathan
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.
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
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
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...
Before the New updated photos of the Goldenbergs on their biographies, were they Nella and Samuel Goldenberg to? Thanks Andrew Maheux Ontario Canada
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
Thanks Phil you got my question right. Andrew