By Don Taylor
We all have surprise discoveries. Events that you had no idea occurred. That family secret that was never, never, spoken of. One of the most significant surprise discoveries I’ve had in my genealogical research was learning that my grandmother was married before she married Sammy Amsterdam. I was flabbergasted after discovering that Donna (Madonna) married Chester Fenyvessy in 1911. I talked with my mother; she had no idea about the marriage. She thought Donna’s marriage to Sammy was her only marriage. Likewise, I spoke with my Uncle Russ. He had never heard of Donna’s first marriage, either. He believed that Donna’s marriage to Sammy was her only marriage. However, Madonna Montran Holdsworth[i], whose mother was Ida Mae Barber and was from Detroit, Michigan, married Chester Fenyvessy on 1 October 1911.
This marriage fit with the oral history I knew about Donna’s life. I remember she attended the Royal Conservatory (of Music) in Toronto. After Toronto, she went to Rochester, New York. There she found a music store and played piano in their window (for free) to encourage potential piano buyers to see what could be done with the piano. The music store liked the draw, and Donna was able to practice her piano—a win-win for both. She was offered a job working at a nearby movie theater playing the piano for silent films from the exposure she received there. That’s as much as the family oral history went.
Enter Chester Fenyvessy.
Donna was 18 when she married 24-year-old Chester. Chester was the manager of Colonial Theatre in Rochester, NY. In any event, the marriage was short-lived. By 1914 Donna was in California as a Mack Sennett Bathing Beauty and appearing as a dancer in Birth of a Nation. By 1915, Donna had crossed the country again and was in the Boston area.
By 1912, Chester had relocated to West Hoboken, New Jersey, and by 1915, had returned to Troy, New York.
Roberts/Brown – Ancestor #6B
List of Grandparents
My 1st step-grandfather: Chester Fenyvessy
Donna’s 1st father-in-law: Albert A. Fenyvessy
Chester Fenyvessy (1888-1973)
1888 – Chester was born on 9 August 1888 in Binghamton, New York. He was the second of six children of Albert A and Hermine (Overbauer) Fenyvessy.
Children of Albert and Hermine Fenyvessy (Siblings)
16 Dec 1886
Bessie Weber (1917)
26 Dec 1972
9 Aug 1888
Madonna Montran (1911)
18 Feb 1892
Benjamin Belinson (1924)
7 Oct 1893
Jane Peck (1931)
26 Mar 1981
Carol M. J.
9 Apr 1899
26 Aug 1990
19 Feb 1909
25 Apr 2008
1910 – Chester is reported living with his parents at 1010 Elmwood Ave in Buffalo and lodging at 10 First in Troy, New York. In the Buffalo City Directory, he was listed as the manager of Novelty Amusement Co.; in the Troy City Directory, he was identified as a theatrical manager at 324 River.
1911 – Chester is managing the Colonial Theatre in Rochester, NY. On 1 October 1911, he married Madonna Montran Holdsworth.
1912 – The 1912 Rochester City Directory indicates Chester “removed to West Hoboken, New Jersey.”
1948 – Chester married Ruth R Hosking in Rochester, New York.
1973 – Chester Died on 26 November 1973 in Monroe County, New York. His ashes were buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, Rochester, Monroe County, NY, on 24 January 1974.
1910 Census (FS), Family Search, 1910 – New York, Rensselaer, Troy, ED 46, Sheet 21A, Line 17 – Chester Fenyvessy. “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M5H5-TFG: accessed 9 May 2022), Chester Feenynessy in the household of John Russell, Troy Ward 3, Rensselaer, New York, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 46, sheet 21A, family 34, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1070; FHL microfilm 1,375,083.
1920 Census, 1920 – New York, Monroe, Rochester, ED 254, Sheet 16A – Lines 42-48 – Albert A Fenyvessy, Head. “United States Census, 1920”, database with images, FamilySearch (2 February 2021), Albert A Finyvessy, 1920. – Accessed 8 May 2022. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MJG7-YK5.
New York, U.S., State Census, 1905, Ancestry, NY, Erie, Buffalo, Ward 24, ED 3, Page 11, Lines 11-17 – Albert A Fenyoessy [Fenyvessy] Head. New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1905; Election District: E.D. 03; City: Buffalo Ward 24; County: Erie; Page: 11. https://www.ancestry.com/sharing/28467926?h=94c15d.
New York, U.S., State Census, 1915, Ancestry, NY, Rensselaer, Troy, Ward 3, AD 01, Page 6, Line 16 – Chester Fenyvessy. New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 03; Assembly District: 01; City: Troy Ward 02; County: Rensselaer; Page: 06. https://www.ancestry.com/sharing/28468068?h=5757a0.
Ontario, Canada Marriages, 1801-1928, Ancestry, Fort Erie, Welland County, Ontario, Canada – Marriages – Chester Fenyvessey & Madonna Montran Holdsworth – 1 Oct 1911. Archives of Ontario MS932_155.
[i] Joseph A Holdsworth was Ida’s 2nd (or 3rd) husband. She married him on 16 August 1904 in Essex, Ontario, Canada.
“Donna in the News” is my reporting of newly found newspapers articles and advertisements regarding my grandmother, Madonna Montran (aka Donna Montran and aka Donna Darling). I am always excited when I find a new venue for my grandmother’s exciting show business career of the 1910s and 1920s.
This week I found an article from the Press and Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, NY) newspaper dated 17 November 1922 via Newspapers.com.
The other acts on the bill the last half of the week include Donna Darling and company, with Murray Walker, assisted by Jack Finney and Nellye Du Barry, in “Apple Blossoms,” a super song reuse and dazzling dance fantasy….
I know of no photos, paintings, or drawings of Deborah Buel ROWLEY. If you have an image of Deborah or know more about her life, I would love to hear from you. If she is your ancestor, I would love to share information with you. Please let me know how we are related using the form below.
“Donna in the News” is my reporting of newly found newspapers articles and advertisements regarding my grandmother, Madonna Montran (aka Donna Montran and Donna Darling). I am always excited when I find a new venue for my grandmother’s exciting show business career of the 1910s and 1920s. I received a newsletter from New York State (NYS) Historic Newspapers that they had several new papers digitized and others updated. So, I thought I’d check it out.
First, I found that she was mentioned in several ads in the Dziennik Dla Wszystkich = Polish Everybody’s Daily. The ads reminded me that Donna played at the Layfayette Square Theater in Buffalo, NY, between September 15th and 20th, 1923, which I had known about before.
Second, I learned from the Advertiser Journal (Auburn, NY) dated 6 January 1923, that she played at the Jefferson Theater.
The headliner will be presented by Donna Darling and Company, with Jack Finney and Mary [sic] Walker happily cast, presenting a song and dance revue of the better sort. They call the revue “A Song and Dance Romance” and one descriptive phrase is that it is a “dazzling dance phantasy.” Donna Darling and her partners have dressed the act sumptuously and introduce a number of novelty dances that have been winning success for the offering over the Keith Circuit. It is the kind of an act that vaudeville goers particularly enjoy, and will make a headline number of the most attractive sort.
Subsequent articles show she played at the Jefferson Theater in Auburn, New York, from January 8th through the 10th.
Because of those newly discovered articles, I was able to add another venue for Donna Darling & Company:
January 8-10, 1923 – Auburn, New York – Jefferson Theater – Donna Darling and Company in “A Song and Dance Romance”
[Growing up, I knew I had an Uncle Russ and that he was the child of Donna and her husband, Sammy Clark Amsterdam. I never knew that Sammy was my grandmother’s third husband. My mom and her brother, Russell, never knew Donna was married before Sammy until I discovered that in my genealogy work. It was a surprise to both of them when I found evidence of the two previous marriages. This week I’m looking at Sammy Amsterdam. He was the father of Russell and the “father of record” of my mother. My grandmother and Sammy stayed married after my grandmother was pregnant (by Dick Brown) to “give the child a name” and then quietly divorced. Such was the way of show-business marriages in the 1930s. Sammy is one of the few people I know of who served in both World Wars.]
Samson Clark Amsterdam was born on 20 July 1898 in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York, the first child of Saul and Sarah (Gottlieb) Amsterdam. It was during the peak of the Spanish-American war. The United States was mobilizing troops to send to Puerto Rico.
Children of Saul and Sarah (Gottleib) Amsterdam—(Siblings)
20 July 1898
13 April 1979
3 December 1901
8 August 2001
2 August 1905
15 May 1989
12 August 1914
7 June 1996
12 August 1914
28 September 1975
The 1900 Census found two-year-old “Samuel” living with his parents at 263 Division Street in Manhattan. Living with them are his grandparents, Leo & Yetta Amsterdam. Also living with them is Sammy’s uncle Abraham Reuben.
The 1905 New York Census finds the Amsterdam family living at 207 Madison Street. “Sol” works in Real Estate. The household consists of his parents, a younger sister (“Evia”), and 53-year-old “Sarra” (Sarah) Gottlieb. Although listed as a “Boarder,” Gottlieb is Saul’s wife’s maiden name. As such, she must be related. It is unclear if this is Sarah’s mother or an aunt.
The 1910 Census shows that the Amsterdam family moved to 1433 50th in Brooklyn. Saul was still in real estate (a broker now). Besides four-year-old “Eli,” Sarah’s mother, Rebecca Gottlieb, lived with them. Additionally, they had a servant living with them. Sarah’s three children were living, and Rebecca’s seven children were all alive in 1910.
The 1915 New York Census shows the Amsterdam family still at 1433 50th in Brooklyn. It documents the twins Herald and Bernard. Sarah’s mother, Rebecca Gottlieb, is still living with them. A new servant, Sadie Burcheska, is living with them. Samson is attending high school; Evelyn and Elias are also in school.
On 2 May 1917, Samson enlisted in the Regular Army at Fort Slocum, Winchester County, New York. On 18 November 1917, Samson was discharged from the Regular Army to enlist in the ERC—Enlisted Reserve Corps (now the U.S. Army Reserves). Samson was supposed to ship out on 26 November 1917 aboard the USS Aeolus (ID-3005); however, his name was stricken from the ship’s manifest. Instead, he remained stateside with the Medical Detachment of the 503rd Engineers. He was stationed at the Post Hospital, Fort Hamilton, NY, from October 1918 until January 1919, and stationed at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, from 28 January 1919 until his discharge on 5 June 1919.
I have been unsuccessful in finding Sammy in the 1920 Census, but the 1925 New York Census found him back home with his parents and three brothers, now at 86 Halsey Street. His occupation is listed as “Theatrical.” The building at 86 Halsey is still standing.
In March and April of 1926, Donna was doing her “Donna Darling’s Little Jewel Revue” in Michigan, Upstate New York, West Virginia, and Brooklyn. So, it must have been a whirlwind romance because Sammy and Donna married on 19 April 1926 in Manhattan. The two started the Donna Darling Revue with Sammy Clark the first week of May.
Marriage 1 – Madonna Mae Montran (aka Donna Darling)
Children of Samson and Madonna (Montran) Amsterdam
Sammy and Donna took their vaudeville show across the country. They played in New York, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, & Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, with stops in Ontario before returning to ending the show in July 1927, just eight weeks before Russell was born.
It appears that Sammy and Donna took off for several months but restarted the Donna Darling and Sammy Clark show in April 1928.
In 1929 Sammy and Donna went to Panama, where they worked.
Something happened between Sammy and Donna in Panama as they left the country estranged. The passenger list for their return in April 1930 shows them in different cabins and indicates Donna going home to her mother’s address in Detroit and Sammy going home to his mother’s address in New York. I have found no evidence they ever were together again.
In 1939 Sammy traveled to Cuba and returned.
I have not found Sammy in the 1940 Census. However, from May to July 1940, Sammy lived in Chicago, where he was initiated, passed, and raised as a Master Mason in the Henry Horner Lodge #402 in Illinois.
Military Service Again
By February 1942, Sammy had located to Odessa, Ector County, Texas. He lived at 613 W 9th Street and worked at a nightclub, the Village Barn, when he registered for the draft. He enlisted that following October in the Army Air Corps. His marital status was “divorced, without dependents.”
In May 1950, Sammy and his mother Sarah took a month-long trip to Europe. They sailed aboard the RMS Queen Mary to Cherbourg, France, and returned aboard the RMS Caronia in June 1950. Sammy’s address was 540 West Avenue, Miami Beach. Today, that address is a modern (built in 2005), luxury, high-rise condo, known as Bentley Bay North.
Marriage 2 – Elvie (Bolton) Anderson
In 1951 Sammy married Elvie (Bolton) Anderson in Dade County, Florida.
During the 1950s, Sammy had a theatrical booking agency in Miami Beach on Collins Ave. His home address was 6295 SW 116th Street.
Sammy lived in Macon, Bibb County, Georgia, when he died on 13 April 1979. He is buried at Riverside Cemetery in Macon
Events by Location
Florida, Dade Marriage 2 (1951)
Florida, Dade, Miami Beach 1950
Florida, Dade, Miami 1954-1955
Georgia, Bibb, Macon 1979 & Death
Illinois, Cook, Chicago 1940
New York, Brooklyn Birth, 1910-1915, 1925, 1930,
New York, Manhattan 1900-1905, Marriage 1 (1926)
New Jersey, Camp Merritt Military Service – 1917-1919
Texas, Ector, Odessa 1942
Texas, Lubbock, Lubbock Military Service 1942-1945
Do not confuse Samson Clark Amsterdam with Sam Amsterdam, born 26 December 1899 in Manhattan, New York, the son of Gerry Amsterdam, or Sam Amsterdam, born 26 November 1899 in Manhattan, New York.
1900 Census (F.S.), Family Search, 1900 – Saul Amsterdam – Head. “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MSJG-W37 : accessed 19 January 2022), Saul Amsterdam, Borough of Manhattan, Election District 13 New York City Ward 4, New York County, New York, United States; citing enumeration district (E.D.) 80, sheet 20A, family 347, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,241,084.
1910 Census (F.S.), Family Search, 1910 – Saul Amsterdam – Head – Brooklyn, New York.
City Directory (A), Ancestry.Com, Miami, Florida – 1955 – Page 42 – Amsterdam. U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 –Miami, Florida, City Directory, 1955 – Image 23 of 414.
Find a Grave, Find a Grave, Sammy Amsterdam (1898-1979) – No Image. Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/54396367/sammy-amsterdam : accessed 26 January 2022), memorial page for Sammy Amsterdam (20 July 1898–13 April 1979), Find a Grave Memorial ID 54396367, citing Riverside Cemetery, Macon, Bibb County, Georgia, USA; Maintained by David Hutchins Israel (contributor 47406641).
Florida, U.S., Marriage Indexes, 1822-1875 and 1927-2001, Ancestry, Sampson Amsterdam – Elvie Anderson – 1951. Ancestry.com. Florida, U.S., Marriage Indexes, 1822-1875 and 1927-2001 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006.
Masonic Record – Samson Amsterdam – ID 321333.
New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940, Family Search, Marriage: Samson Amsterdam & Madonna Montana – 19 April 1926. “New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:247L-21S : 10 February 2018), Ida Barber in the entry for Samson Amsterdam and Madonna Montran, 19 April 1926; citing Marriage, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York City Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,643,705. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:247L-21S.
New York, New York Passenger and Crew Lists, 1909, 1925-1957, Family Search, Amsterdam, Samson – Amsterdam, Sarah. “New York, New York Passenger and Crew Lists, 1909, 1925-1957,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:24TN-7NP : 2 March 2021), Samson Amsterdam, 1950; citing Immigration, New York City, New York, United States, NARA microfilm publication T715 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
New York, New York, U.S., Extracted Marriage Index, 1866-1937, Ancestry, Samson New York, New York, U.S., Extracted Marriage Index, 1866-1937 – Amsterdam – Madonna Montran – 19 April 1926 – (No Image).
New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957, Ancestry, Samson Amsterdam – Arrival 8 April 1930 to New York 8 April 1930. Year: 1930; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 1; Page Number: 82.
New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957, Ancestry, Year: 1939; Arrival:,; Microfilm serial: T715; Microfilm roll:
New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1905; Election District: A.D. 04 E.D. 11; City: Manhattan; County: New York; Page: 58
New York, U.S., State Census, 1915, Ancestry, Saul Amsterdam, Head. New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 44; Assembly District: 16; City: New York; County: Kings; Page: 21.
New York, U.S., State Census, 1925, Ancestry, Saul Amsterdam, Head. New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1925; Election District: 26; Assembly District: 17; City: Brooklyn; County: Kings; Page: 22.
S., Abstracts of World War I Military Service, 1917-1919, Ancestry, New York – Samson Amsterdam. Original data: New York State Abstracts of World War I Military Service, 1917–1919. Adjutant General’s Office. Series B0808. New York State Archives, Albany, New York.
S., Army Transport Service Arriving and Departing Passenger Lists, 1910-1939,
The National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland; Record Group Title: Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774-1985; Record Group Number: 92; Roll or Box Number: 363.
S., Departing Passenger and Crew Lists, 1914-1966, Ancestry, Samson Amsterdam, Departs New York, 9 May 1950 aboard the Queen Mary. Sarah Amsterdam, Departs New York, 9 May 1950 aboard the Queen Mary. The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Series Title: Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels and Airplanes Departing from New York, New York, 07/01/1948-12/31/1956; NAI Number: 3335533; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Record Group Number: 85; Series Number: A4169; NARA Roll Number: 74.
S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, Ancestry.Com, Probably. Number: 468-09-2273; Issue State: Minnesota; Issue Date: Before 1951.
S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014, Ancestry.Com, Number: 350-09-2088; Issue State: Illinois; Issue Date: Before 1951.
S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946, Ancestry, Samson Amsterdam (No Image). National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland, USA; Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, 1938-1946; NAID: 1263923; Record Group Title: Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, 1789-ca. 2007; Record Group: 64; Box Number: 00241; Reel: 24.
S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 (National Archives), Ancestry.Com, Sam Amsterdam. National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for Texas, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service
United Kingdom, Outgoing Passenger Lists, 1890-1960, Family Search, Samson Amsterdam – Departed England 2 June 1950. Image at Find My Past.Com. “United Kingdom, Outgoing Passenger Lists, 1890-1960”, database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:68PV-B8K1 : 28 October 2021), Samson Amsterdam, 1950.
United States Social Security Death Index, Family Search, Social Security Number: 350-09-2088; Issue State: Illinois; Issue Date: Before 1951.
 My own numbering system. Ancestor #6 would be the biological maternal grandfather. The I use the “S” to indicate a step-father and the “3” to indicate it is the 3rd stepfather.
 Samson is listed as Sampson, Samuel, and Sammy in different documents and are interchangeable in this document. (I try to use the name used in the source document.)
 Born Amsterdam, Russell used the surname Kees through most of his life.
 Sammy was aboard the S.S. Columbia between Panama and New York during the 1930 Census and is not listed there.
 Per Zillow, the home currently at 6295 SW 116th St. was built in 1998.