Jakob Birnbaum was born on 24 August 1887 in Krakow, Austria (today's Poland) the second of 9 children to Joachim Birnbaum and Theophilia (Cypres) Birnbaum.
His parents were Jeruchim (Joachim; b. 15 August 1856 at Krakow, d. 26 April 1931 in Antwerp, Belgium) and Theophila (Chaja Tuba; nee Cypres, b. 27 September 1863 at Krakow, Austria, d. 25 December 1946 in New York) Birnbaum, who had married 25 December 1883, apparently at Krakow). Jakob's place of birth was Krakow, Austria, which, at the time, was called Krakau.
His known siblings were: Hirsch (Henri) Birnbaum, 1886-1977, Lobel, b. 1886, Adela (1888-1984), Michael (1890-1984), Berta (b. 1892), Samuel Jozef (Sylvain; 1894-1967), Leopold Peretz (1895-1990), Agusta (1897-1943), Bala (1897-1970), and Alexander (b. 1 October 1903, d. May 1986 in San Francisco).
He was the head of the diamond firm of Jacob Birnbaum & Co. of San Francisco. His European address was 11, Rue Membling, Antwerp, according to the White Star Line.
In 1910, he lived as a boarder in the household of Ernest and Sophie Dreyfuss at 47 West 117th Street in Manhattan, New York City, and was registered as a diamonds dealer who had come to the USA in 1909.
In 1912, Mr Birnbaum had been to Antwerp for business and should have been back to the US before April, 1912, but was persuaded by his family to stay for the Jewish holiday Passover.
Jakob had booked passage with another company, but due to the coal strike in England, his passage was transferred to the Titanic which he boarded at Cherbourg (ticket number 13905, £26).
According to his descendants, Jakob's family pleaded with him not to take a ship on its maiden voyage, but Jakob reassured his family that the ship was billed as "unsinkable."
Birnbaum died in the sinking, his body was recovered by the MacKay Bennett (#148).
NO. 148. - MALE. - ESTIMATED AGE, 28. - DARK HAIR.
CLOTHING - Light grey overcoat; blue pajamas.
EFFECTS - Gold glasses; gold ring marked "J. B."; 2 pairs tweezers; 2 bunches keys; 1 gold watch chain; scissors; papers; nail file; 2 memo books; pocket knife; diamond solitaire tie pin; purse.
SAN FRANCISCO, April 22. - Public Administrator Hines applied for letters of administration this morning on the estate of Jakob Birnbaum, head of the firm of Birnbaum & Co., who lost his life in the wreck of the steamship Titanic on April 15. It is believed that diamonds to the amount of $100,000, which he was bringing to this country, were lost. Birnbaum & Co. are located at 704 Market street in this city and the manager received a cable from Birnbaum to the effect that he was taking passage on the Titanic. His name was not among the list of survivors and it is believed that he has been lost. The estate consists of diamonds in the vaults in the local office and securities in the safe deposit box at the Union Trust Company.'' (Oakland Tribune, 22 April 1912, p.
The body was forwarded on 6 May 1912 to Mr Joachim Binbaum, c/o Red Star Line, Pier 60, New York City and repatriated to Belgium on the Vaderland 1 May 1912. He was returned to the Netherlands to receive eternal burial rights (a Jewish requirement).
He was buried at the Jewish Cemetery in Putte, Holland, across the Belgian border. Atop his grave, is a ship - a symbolic reminder of the Titanic disaster. The inscription on his tombstone reads:
Here lies a well-educated young man.
A gold watch was found on Jakob's body. The family had it repaired and engraved "Tytanic [sic] April 1912 Jakob Birnbaum."