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Ohsman-Berg Family Papers

Identifier: IWA1025

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Scope and Contents

The Ohsman Berg Family papers date from 1900 to 2018 and measure 18 linear inches (6 boxes). The papers are arranged in five series: Family Records, Correspondence, Printed works, Audiovisual, and Photographs. The papers are organized by individual family member within series where possible.

The Family Records series (1930-2018) includes papers related to family plots in a Cedar Rapids cemetery, marriage and death certificates, and brokerage business licenses. A Bas Mitzvah service pamphlet and Yahrzeit calendar are present as well as items related to the Order of the Eastern Star.

The Correspondence series (1946-1979) includes postcards from Luxembourg and Miami as well as personal and business letters, both handwritten and typed.

The Printed Works series (1952-1986) contains publications relevant to personal, business, and religious life.

The Audiovisual series (post-1972) consists of one cassette tape recording of a St. Louis radio broadcast.

The Photographs series (c.1900-1993) includes five photo albums as well as loose photographs, the majority of which portray family members. The photo albums and many of the loose photographs were collected by Selma Berg Thea, the unofficial family historian. The extensive photographs provide a rich portrait of this midwestern Jewish family over the course of the 20th century.


  • Creation: 1900-2018


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

However, copyright status for some collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

The Ohsman-Berg family papers branch out from the sisters Rose Ruth Ohsman Berg and Ann Ohsman Katzenstein to Rose Ruth’s children: Serita Ethel Berg, Selma Berg Thea, and Geraldine Berg Schwartz Brooks.

Rose Ruth Ohsman Berg was born in 1889 to Simon and Esther Elfand (or Elford) Ohsman [pronounced “osh-man”]. Rose Ruth Ohsman married Oscar Berg in 1910. They had seven children: Annette Berg, Serita Ethel Berg, Norman Berg, Selma Berg Thea, Charlotte Berg, Marvin Berg, and Geraldine Berg Schwartz Brooks. Rose Ruth Berg died in 1944.

Ann Ohsman Katzenstein was born in 1900 to Simon and Esther Elfand (or Elford) Ohsman in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Ann Ohsman taught piano lessons and worked in a piano store through high school until her graduation in 1917. She then sold insurance in Cedar Rapids and later in St. Louis, servicing home and car insurance policies for three generations of the Yavitz Insurance Agency. She dated Leon Katzenstein, a high school teacher, for 20 years before marrying him in 1957. Leon Katzenstein died in 1962. Though she retired in 1968, Ann Katzenstein continued to sell insurance into her 90s and died in 1994.

Serita Ethel Berg was born in 1913 to Oscar and Rose Ohsman Berg in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Berg worked at the Family Shoe Store for many years until the store closed and then worked as a secretary and bookkeeper for the law offices of Henry Terpstra. Ethel Berg lived in Cedar Rapids throughout her life. She was a member of Temple Judah, Temple Judah Sisterhood, and was a treasurer of Hadassah. Ethel Berg died in 1995.

Selma Berg Thea was born in 1918 to Oscar and Rose Ohsman Berg in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Selma Berg graduated from the Cedar Rapids Business College in 1937. Her career took her from the Iowa Milling Company in Cedar Rapids to Cargill, Inc. in Minneapolis, Minnesota. When she moved to St. Louis in 1949, Berg worked as an administrative assistant and bookkeeper at Reddi-Whip. When the company was sold, Selma Berg continued working for the owner at the new company, Clayton Corporation. Selma Berg married Bernard Thea in 1952. They had one child, Renee Thea Fredman, in 1956. Selma Thea died in 1987.

Geraldine Berg Schwartz Brooks was born in 1926 to Oscar and Rose Ohsman Berg in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. After graduating from Jefferson High School in 1944, she worked as a secretary. Geraldine Berg met Jerry Schwartz after moving to Minneapolis, Minnesota, and married him in Cedar Rapids in 1947. They had three children, Howard, Mark, and Jeffrey. The couple divorced in 1964. Geraldine Schwartz married John Brooks in South Dakota in 1966. She lived in Minnesota and then California. John Brooks died in 2004. Geraldine Berg Schwartz Brooks died in 2006 from chronic lymphocytic leukemia.


18.00 linear inches (Photographs in Boxes 3-6. One audiocassette [AC1858] is shelved in the audiocassette collection. )

Language of Materials



Two generations of career women and homemakers in a Cedar Rapids family.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The bulk of the papers (donor no. 1569) were donated by Renee Fredman in 2018. The papers [re Geraldine Berg Schwartz Brooks] (donor no. 1477) were donated by Howard W. Schwartz in 2016.

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Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)