How I Found My Cousin Dorna
by Sandra Greenberg, Denver
Sometimes we can find our long lost relatives through roundabout ways.
I had always heard that my grandmother Sarah’s brother Henry was a mayor or well known in the town of Dover, NJ. I had tried without success to track that part of my family for many years.
I live in Denver, Colorado. One day, I heard that the temple here was having a new Rabbi from Dover, NJ. I went to Saturday services at the temple, and during the Oneg Shabbat I asked the new Rabbi, “Rabbi, do you know of anyone in Dover, NJ who has heard of my grandmother Sarah Heiman Cohn’s brother Henry Heiman? Henry Heiman died in l937.” The Rabbi said, “Call me at my office, and I will give you the names of some lifelong Dover residents who might know of him.” I did just that.
The Rabbi gave me the names of two families in Dover. I called the first lady. She told me that she never heard of my grandmother Sarah’s brother but that I should contact this other family who were Dover lifelong residents.
It took me a while to get up the courage in those days to call. However, I eventually did call. The lady who answered the phone questioned me as to how and why I thought I was related to Henry Heiman. After I explained my connection, she apologized and explained that Henry Heiman was a very prominent man in Dover and that someone from Europe had inquired about him in the past. She thought this person was after the money from Henry’s estate. She then proceeded to give me then name of Henry’s grandaughter, Dorna, and her address in Massachusetts. This lady’s husband’s mother was actually good friends with Henry Heiman. I was fortunate that he also drew me a map of the Heiman family plot in Dover; this being a Jewish cemetery that Henry Heiman started.
I wrote a letter to the address the lady gave me, but didn’t receive an answer. I thought Dorna wasn’t interested in finding family. Then months later, I received an email from a fellow who was Dorna’s half brother’s son (her nephew.) He explained that my original letter went to Dorna’s old address. The current owner of her house asked his neighbor if he ever heard of Dorna. The neighbor said that he knew Dorna’s half brother whom then lived in Vermont. He forwarded my letter on.
Dorna’s nephew in Vermont emailed me along with Heiman family photos. He told me that he and his father hadn’t heard from Dorna for years, that she was divorced and they thought that she lived in California. So that was that!
In the meantime, Dorna traveled to the N.E. to visit her son. She was walking down the street there and saw someone who she thought was her nephew from Vermont. He was in a police officer uniform. She approached him. He was indeed Dorna’s nephew. He embraced her and took her home to see his father - who was thrilled to see her after all these years. He gave her my letter which he had kept all this time.
Dorna contacted me by phone on a Saturday morning maybe a year or so after I originally wrote the letter. She was crying. She told me that she was always told by her mother and grandmother and the family that she didn’t have any other relatives except for immediate family. I told her she had a lot of family; well over 100 or more cousins.
She was so thankful.
Dorna and I reunited not long after that. She lives in California and has all of Henry Heiman’s antique furniture in her home. Dorna has supplied me with many photos of the family.
Dorna is the only living grandchild of the Heiman family. She is not alone anymore. She has met some of our other cousins and invited them to her home.
I look forward to going to see her in California when I next visit there.