I realise that the genealogy journey comes with a peculiar set of hurdles, roadblocks, box canyons and blind alleys. On the road to greater enlightenment, I am happy enough to receive the occasional nugget. Of course, a Cullinan Diamond would be splendid. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

Due to where I live and that my chosen ancestor never set foot in my country of residence, I have had to rely on the services of people abroad for both guidance and retrieval of information. The list of helpers runs to pages and I am grateful to these wonderful folk for having given so generously of their expertise and network of contacts, as well as having turned around requests so quickly and cost-effectively.

I try to control my impatience, an inherited trait, while I wait for ‘things to unfold’. I know that some information is only ever destined to show itself after another discovery has been made. This follows that, in the manner of a logical framework. Timing plays a large part in family history research, I have learned.

I am going to do something now that is unusual for me: I am going to whinge.

It goes against my nature to complain. I’m the type who sees silver linings, half-full cups and pots of gold at the end of rainbows. I am generally a happy sort. But I am human and subject to frustrations like anyone else. Right now I feel in need of a little vent. If you wish, you can stop reading.

Let me share with you a few facts of genealogical research.

Fact number one: if your ancestor lived in another country, or more than one country in the case of my ancestor, then there is only so much information you can glean without having to leave your desk. That seems obvious enough, so what’s new? If, however, your ancestor spent time in South Africa, you can apply a discount factor to what might otherwise be regarded as accessible information. The size of this factor will vary according to what you are looking for and, sometimes, it will be as high as 100%.  It is not necessarily the fault of people who are trying to find the information on your behalf.

Fact number two: promised delivery dates can blow out by weeks and months.

Some researchers like to be paid before handing over information. I understand and am sympathetic towards their reasons for doing so. My brain has some difficulty, however, in understanding the logic of withholding an invoice. Why would anyone not want to be paid for services rendered? ‘Could you please invoice me for the information you retrieved last month and on which I have been impatiently waiting. I shall pay you immediately because I want to see the information. This will make us both happy. Guaranteed.’

Fact number three: you may not always get what you pay for.

Some researchers will tell you up front that they cannot guarantee their investigations will produce useful output. This is a fair and reasonable thing to disclose to a prospective client. These people graduated from the School of Under-promising and Over-delivering. I attended this school and graduated summa cum laude. I try to operate according to its code.

There are many instances, however, where the availability of information is a known quantity. A ‘dead cert’, as Julia Roberts’ hooker said to Richard Gere’s wealthy businessman in Pretty Woman. All one has to do is go and get it.

I keep a record of every request for information I’ve issued. I take it for granted that where someone accepts my ‘brief’, then they will deliver according to its terms. If information is missing, then I would like to know why. And this is where one may meet graduates of another school, the Talk your Way out of the Problem school.  ‘If I said that I don’t have the files you can assume that I meant it. They are not in my inbox. If they were, we would not be having this conversation. But that we are having it means that I would still like the information.’

Fact number four: be ready to have your questions thrown back at you.

‘I am approaching you on the recommendation of X who said that you may be able to help me establish where and when my ancestors were married. The only information I can give you is their names.’ (A few days later…) ‘Do I understand you to say that without a date and location for my ancestors’ marriage, you can’t help me further? Please reread my email: I said that I don’t have those details. That’s why I’ve approached you. Thanks for your help and have a nice day.’

Fact number five: silence is not golden.

Many referrals have paved the way for me to find priceless gems of information. I have also been referred to potential sources of help, people, I am told, who not only can, but want to bat for me. On approach, I discover that some of them have a phobia. This phobia kicks in when a response to email is required. It is particularly vexing when I have no other way of contacting them. ‘If you receive an email from me and are not in a position to assist, please do me the courtesy of letting me know. I can take rejection. I’ve had years of practice. ‘No’ is helpful because it allows me to move on to the next line of inquiry. Silence leaves me in limbo.’

Fact number six: some organisations are content to languish in the last millennium.

My eyes prick with moisture as I recall the hard copy of my early student days: shiny foolscap photocopier paper, metres of unintelligible output from the 1.8m square Univac computer (‘Mr Univac’, we used to call it), carbon paper for typed copies of documents.

That was in the 1970’s. It was the known environment and we accepted it. Happily, the times have changed but not everyone has been swept up in the tide of improvements.

There are still many organisations whose records cannot be searched online. To them I say ‘It would save much of everyone’s time – particularly yours – if you would progressively make your records searchable online. Throw me a morsel. And while you’re at it, please get rid of the card indexes.’

Fact number seven: not all organisations offer email contacts.

What, no email addresses? Perhaps some organisations prefer to conduct their business over the phone. Ah, but then there is voicemail, the inquirer’s nemesis. Should I make an international call only to risk hearing a recorded message say, ‘”X is busy taking another call now (yeah, right), but if you leave your name and number I shall get back to you straight away.” Are you kidding me? I know that the chances of your returning an international call are zero.’ And lest anyone think that this practice is confined to the African subcontinent, let me reassure you that it is alive and well in Australia.

Fact number seven: just because Britain has kept great records doesn’t mean that its former colonies have done likewise.

I marvel that a country could destroy decades of original, precious Census records. To the officials who annihilated these documents on the instructions of their masters, ‘What were you thinking? Or did you have something to hide? And while we’re on the subject of obtaining copies of birth, marriage and death certificates….’ No, let’s not go there.

Please understand that most of these ‘facts’ are country-insensitive.  They can apply to anyone, anywhere.  Yes, even in Australia.

OK, so you have probably figured out that this post is a ‘filler’ to buy time. It is, but I am still on the case. It may just take a little longer to figure out what next to say.

Humour me a little.

I have always found the concept of latitude easier to approach than longitude.  Perhaps this is because Cape Town – where I grew up – has a latitude of 34 degrees south.  Sydney’s latitude – where I live now – is the same.  There has been a certain reinforcing familiarity in that coincidence.

A map of the world shows a far smaller land mass in the Southern Hemisphere compared to its northern equivalent.  The land mass south of the Equator includes Australia, most of South America, most of Indonesia, the southern third of Africa, Antarctica, and a host of island nations and colonial outposts in the South Pacific, Indian, Atlantic and Southern Oceans.  Some of this land mass is almost uninhabitable, such as Antarctica and the centre of Australia.

The Northern Hemisphere’s greater land mass – estimates put it at double that of the Southern Hemisphere – comes with a disproportionately greater population.  Around 90% of the world’s population lives north of the Equator, helped along by countries such as China and India, whose populations of 1.36 billion and 1.24 billion respectively account for 36% of the world’s total numbers.

It should come as no surprise, then, that only two summer Olympic Games have been held in the Southern Hemisphere, both of them in Australia.  The first was in Melbourne in 1956 and the second in Sydney in 2000.  The Southern Hemisphere will pull off a hat trick of Summer Games when Rio de Janeiro holds the event in 2016.  There is no such luck for the Winter Games; none has ever been held in the Southern Hemisphere and none is on the horizon.

Given my parents’ interest in travel and my father’s fondness for London, it was not a matter of “if”, but “when” I would point north.

My first crossing of the Equator was in June 1964.  The route of our South African Airways Boeing 707 flight took us from Johannesburg to Lisbon[1], with stops at Luanda – where I tasted my first Fanta drink – and Las Palmas.  The flight lasted about 14 hours including stops.  I don’t recall our cruising altitude, but it was sufficiently high above the clouds for them – to my 11-year-old eyes anyway – to look like lumps of snow dumped on the Atlantic.

Two factors dictated the number and location of landing stops.  The first was the shorter range of the Boeing 707 compared to modern-day jets.  The second was South Africa’s apartheid policies.  Most African countries north of the Limpopo River – the border between South Africa and Rhodesia – had refused landing rights to South African Airways which meant that its planes had to fly around the bulge of Africa.

Due to the timing of my birth and the introduction of international jet transport, I had been spared the ignominy of a ”line crossing ceremony”.

Linecrossingceremony

My mother[2] and siblings – or at least my sister – had not been so fortunate.

StateLibQld_1_202839_Winchester_Castle_(ship)

State Library of Queensland

On their trip to England and Europe in 1954, my parents, sister and brother had travelled on the Winchester Castle – tonnage 20,109 – between Cape Town and Southampton.  The journey took 14 days and their first class tickets had cost 419 pounds and 10 shillings for all four of them.

17 years earlier, my father had returned to South Africa from England on the Athlone Castle – tonnage 25,564 -  travelling in ‘cabin class’, an intermediate form of accommodation.  The journey had taken the same length of time.

Both ships were part of the Union Castle fleet.  This company arose from the merger of the Union Line and the Castle Mail Packet Company 1899, both of which had benefitted from mail contracts issued by the Colonial Government over many years.

If the Union Castle fleet was famous for carrying large of volumes of passengers between South Africa and England during the twentieth century, then these ships were as well-known also as the ‘mail boats’.

Between 3 April and 11 September, 1881, Harris Saltman, his mother, Sarah, and half-brother, Joseph, would have boarded a steamship in England bound for Cape Town, South Africa.   Their port of embarkation may have been Plymouth or Southampton and the journey would have taken anything up to 42 days.

If they had travelled on either of the Union or Castle Lines, they could have boarded one of several vessels.  Unfortunately, few records survive of ships that made the crossing during this period and where they do, only three ships – the Duart Castle, Kinfauns Castle and the RMS Durban – would have been capable of having transported my ancestors to Cape Town.  Their names are not on the manifests of these ships.

I shall have to imagine what their voyage must have been like.


[1]               London was the final stop on this route although we got off in Lisbon.

[2]             My father made the crossing in the 1930′s.

It is very likely that John Albert, the third son of Harris and Sarah Edelman, was also born in Oudtshoorn.  The entry for Aaron Edelman in the Cape Town Hebrew Congregation (Great Synagogue) birth register lines up closely enough with his date of birth, circa 1882.  This may also be borne out by the fact that, in the absence of formal congregations in country towns, many immigrant Jews became ‘country members’ of the Great Synagogue in Cape Town.[1]

The Scotland Census of 1911 shows Harris and Sarah Edelman living in Edinburgh with three of their sons, all of whom were born in the Cape Colony.  One of them was Reuben, 22 at the time and a medical student.

In October and November of 1911, Reuben was scheduled to sail from Glasgow to New York.  The October listing places him with John Albert’s wife, Anna, and her two children.  On both occasions, Reuben’s listing is crossed out.

A search on Reuben in Find My Past brings up two important key milestones.

The first is an entry of marriage in Egypt sometime between 1916 and 1920.

IMG_6783

Source: FindMyPast

The transcript shows that the marriage took place in Cairo and that Reuben’s wife’s maiden name was Feldstein.

The second relates to a journey from London to Port Said, Egypt, in 1932.

Source: FindMyPast

Source: FindMyPast

Reuben’s address is given as 19 Dean Park Street, Edinburgh, and he is destined for Port Said – and ultimately Palestine – in the company of a nine-year old child, Doris.  This is presumably his daughter.  Reuben’s age is 43 which implies a date of birth circa 1889.  His occupation is stated as ‘Pal. A (or H) Off.’, which I am guessing may be short for Palestinian Army Officer.  It is possible that he was a doctor serving in that army.

I checked the South African National Archives database for an estate file for Reuben.

Having resolved the conundrum of the two Josephs, I was now confronted with the prospect of another pair of identically named Edelmans.  For there are estate files for two Reuben Edelmans in the Archives.  Both had died in the former Transvaal Province of South Africa, one in 1932 and the other in 1954.

Which one was my man?

IMG_5922

The file for the Reuben who had died in 1954 lists some key facts in his favour:

  • He was born in January, 1889, in Kimberley in the Cape Colony;
  • His wife’s maiden name was Feldstein and they were married in Cairo;
  • His older daughter’s name was Doris.

The only discordant note is his occupation.  Storeman is about as far removed from what I was expecting to see i.e. doctor, as one can get.

REUBEN_EDELMAN_(1932)_0

The death notice for the Reuben who died in 1932 firmly eliminated him from consideration:

  • He was born in Russia, to Solomon and Rose Edelman
  • His age at death was 65 years.  Thus his year of birth must have been 1867.

Notwithstanding his occupational status, the first Reuben was almost certainly my ‘person of interest’.  This being the case, it is possible that my grandfather was living in Kimberley at the beginning of 1889.

He was a few months short of his 13th birthday.


[1]               Berger, S ‘The prehistory of the Great Synagogue: the Cape Town Hebrew Congregation 1841-1905’ p6

If the younger Joseph Edelman had been born in Oudtshoorn in 1887, then I could now reasonably assume that my grandfather – aged 11 – was  also living there at that time.

I had hoped that the estate file for Barney – bachelor, resident of Pietersburg, hotel employee and brother to Joseph – would at least consolidate evidence of my grandfather’s early connection with South Africa.

IMG_5915

And it did.

Barney’s parents are clearly identified as Harris and Sarah Edelman.  I could now account for seven of their nine children: Barney, John Albert, Reuben, Maximilian, Isidore and, of course, the two Josephs.

The death notice is signed by his brother, Max who, it would seem, had at some point after 1911 returned from Edinburgh to make a life in South Africa.

The death notice also suggests that Barney is the Mr Edelman who lived in the Northern Transvaal town of Soekmekaar.  Why Barney – “the sole Jewish inhabitant of a nearby place (Soekmekaar)” according to a local rabbi – chose to end his days in this undistinguished place, is something one can only wonder about.

Almost twenty years after his death, an attack on the local police station would lift this town out of obscurity.  While no-one was killed, the three men who committed this offence were given the death penalty in 1980.  A sentence that two years later would be commuted to life imprisonment.

Like the younger Joseph, Barney was born in Oudtshoorn.  Having regard to his age – 80 years and six months – he is likely to have been born in September, 1881.

IMG_5919

The abridged death certificate confirms this: Barney, the second son of Harris and Sarah Edelman, was born on 11 September 1881.

Exactly 120 years later, four acts of terrorism in New York City and Washington D.C. would rock the global community to its core.

Barney’s date and place of birth suggest that Harris Edelman may have left England for South Africa later than I’d previously thought, that is, sometime during the first quarter of 1881 rather than two to three years before.

More importantly, this event suggests a very strong likelihood that my grandfather – a boy of five at the time – was living in South Africa as early as September 1881.

Thus sometime between 3 April 1881 – the date of the English Census – and 11 September, 1881, Sarah Edelman and her two older sons, Harris Saltman and Joseph Edelman, would have left Liverpool for a new life in South Africa.

If it had taken me a while to find Barney, then the wait had been worth it.  The circumstances of his life had helped reduce the missing years in my grandfather’s movements between England and South Africa to a matter of months. Or 131 days, to be precise.

It had taken me over 15 years to reach that point.

I felt satisfied.

A chance remark by a fellow blogger has completely overturned an assumption I’d previously regarded as rock solid.

This assumption was that Joseph Edelman, Harris and Sarah’s first son born in England, was the same as the Joe, solicitor and newspaper editor living in a South African country town in the early part of the twentieth century.

The remark that turned this assumption on its head was this:

“… the 1912 South African Who’s Who has the following entry: Edelman, Joseph, solicitor; b. 1887, Oudtshoorn, 3rd son of H.Edelman.”

If it is unlikely enough that parents would give two of their children the same name, then it is even more unlikely that an Ashkenazi family would do this.  This is because protocol dictates that newborns take the name of a deceased relative.

The only logical conclusion to be drawn from the appearance of a second Joseph is that the first must have died sometime after 1882/1883 – the assumed birth date for John Albert – and that the younger Joseph took his name from the deceased child.

In the hope of validating this new assumption, I turned to the younger Joseph’s estate file.

South African estate files are a treasure trove of information for the amateur genealogist.  In addition to the deceased person’s name, they can tell you the birth place and nationality of the deceased, the name of his or her parents, the age of the deceased in years and months, occupation, place of residence at time of death, and much more.

I’d had Joseph’s estate file in my possession for over 12 months.  I’d read it more than once, but had failed to absorb some of its key messages.

A 030

Joseph’s parentage confirms that he is another half-brother to my grandfather.  His occupational status – attorney and journalist – aligns with the person described thus in the SA Rootsbank database which, in turn, established a relationship to another brother, Barney.

His place of birth is shown as Oudtshoorn, spelt without a “t” here.  He was 70 at the time of his death in Krugersdorp on 19 April, 1957.  This places his date of birth at 1887 which, together with his place of birth, is consistent with the entry in the 1912 South African Who’s Who.

This Joseph is clearly not the same as the Joseph born in Liverpool, England, in 1879.

I’d like to have closed the case on the younger Joseph there.  But two entries in Rootsbank made me pause.

The first lists a date of death for Joseph Edelman as 19 April 1957, clearly establishing him as the son of Harris and Sarah Edelman.  The second lists a date of death for Joe Edelman as 4 March 1962.  Was there possibly a third Joseph?

Most likely not.

I recalled that Barney Edelman had also died in 1962.

Surname EDELMAN
First Names Barney
Hebrew Names Dov (Barney)
Died Date 1962-03-04
Hebrew Date of Death 29 Adar A
Notes All those who knew him
Region in SA Northern
Listing Pietersburg cemetery

And sure enough, the Rootsbank entry for Barney’s death gives the date as 4 March 1962.

It is too coincidental to regard both brothers as having died on the same day; this has more likely arisen out of a keying error.

Significantly, there is no estate file for a Joseph Edelman who also died in 1962.

But there is one for Barney Edelman.

At the 1911 Census, Harris and Sarah Edelman had seven surviving children.

I had accounted for five sons:

  • Joseph: born in 1879 in Liverpool, England
  • John Albert: assumed to have been born in 1882 or 1883, possibly in Cape Town
  • Reuben: born circa 1889 in the Cape Colony
  • Isidore: born circa 1895 in the Cape Colony
  • Maximilian: born circa 1897 in the Cape Colony

Assuming that my grandfather was included in the surviving number of offspring, then I had only to find one more living son or daughter of the Edelmans at 1911

Someone who might hold the key to the family’s arrival in South Africa.

Asking a researcher to copy more than 80 archival documents for persons bearing the Edelman name would be both onerous and random.

To make the national archives research more focussed, I knew that I had to drill down for information on ethnicity.  And for this, the South African Jewish Database – SA Jewish Rootsbank – of the Centre for Jewish Migration and Genealogy Studies at the University of Cape Town, would be my primary source.

I plugged in the name, Edelman.  76 matches popped up.  But this was not as daunting as it sounds.

Working through Rootsbank’s various databases – there are 12[1] – allowed me to whittle down the number of potentially suitable candidates to a manageable few.  It also reconfirmed a few facts.

Isaac Edelman, the feather buyer from Ladismith, appears under the category ‘naturalisations’, although his country of birth is stated as Russia (not Prussia, Germany).  A bit of sleuthing on his birthplace, Olecko Marggrabowa – as it is now known – established that this town was part of Prussia during the late nineteenth century.  Olecko Marggrabowa is also very close to the Lithuanian border making it likely that Isaac is the same as the person identified in my previous post.

Another entry under this category is for Simon Edelman, general dealer, born in Wilna (Vilnius) and mentioned in my previous post.  This information will become useful in a little while, if only to eliminate Simon from consideration as a surviving child of Harris and Sarah.

The most useful category, however, was ‘communities’.

This category brought up a match for Mr and Mrs John A Edleman, resident of Pietersburg, an auctioneer, estate and manufacturer’s agent.  The comment is made in 1920, so this could be John Albert.  Although it implies that the family may have had a change of mind about settling in Abyssinia en route from Liverpool to Cape Town in 1919.

Surname First name Community Status Occupation Comment

Edelman

Barney

PIETERSBURG

Resident

Hotel employee

Bachelor; brother of Joe Edelman. Worked at the Royal Hotel. [Wiener; Susser]

Edelman

Barney

PIETERSBURG

Cemetery

Edelman

Harry & Sheinie & fam

PIETERSBURG

Resident

Bicycle shop owner

Children: Ian & Jocelyne. [HOD Journal 1962; Wiener]

Edelman

Joe

PIETERSBURG

Personality

Edelman

Joe

PIETERSBURG

Cemetery

Edelman

Mr

SOEKMEKAAR

Resident

Lived in the district. Rabbi Newman said he was the sole Jewish inhabitant of “a nearby place”. [sajbd arch sajbd corres arch 33.3 - messina]

Edelman

Mr & Mrs Joseph (Joe)

PIETERSBURG

Resident

Lawyer; newspaper editor

Brother of Barney Edelman. Wife not born Jewish. Originally a lawyer but sold his practice to Max Chaitow and became editor of the Zoutpansberg Review. Died in 1962 and was buried in Pietersburg. [Wiener; joe- 1922 greetings; dennis edwards 1922; 1924 tel dir]

Edelman

Mr S

PIETERSBURG

Resident

General dealer

[1922 dennis edwards]

It appears that, by the early twentieth century, a cluster of Edelmans had settled in the Northern Transvaal town of Pietersburg, now known as Polokwane, a major urban centre and capital of modern-day Limpopo Province in South Africa.

The first listing – for Barney Edelman – establishes a fraternal link to Joe Edelman, lawyer and editor of the local newspaper[2].  If this Joe is my grandfather’s oldest half-brother, then Barney is possibly the seventh surviving child of Harris and Sarah Edelman.  He died in 1962.

Unfortunately, few details are provided for Barney and certainly not enough for me to draw any meaningful conclusions.

There are even fewer details about “Mr Edelman”, resident of the curiously named town of Soekmekaar[3] which, translated from the Afrikaans, means “look for each other”.

The entry for Mr Harry and Sheinie Edelman and their family is too recent to be of interest, but suggests a possible next generation of Edelmans.  Mr S Edelman, general dealer, is potentially the same person as Simon Edelman discussed above, but too old to be a child of Harris and Sarah.

So where did all this research leave me?

It appeared that I had made a potential breakthrough in discovering the existence of Barney Edelman.

But I needed to know more about him to see if this was the case.


[1]   Birth, cemeteries, communities, congregations, deaths and estates, marriages, military records, naturalisations, passenger arrivals, SA General, shipping manifests, SA-Israel (links).

[2]  The Zoutpansberg Review survived at least until 2002 before being renamed the Northern Review: http://uir.unisa.ac.za/bitstream/handle/10500/1721/dissertation.pdf.txt?sequence=2

[3]   This town is 80 kilometres from Pietersburg

Avrom’s words came back to haunt me:

“…(a) recurring theme… is the frequent inaccuracy of all sources of information relied upon by the amateur and professional genealogist – even the evidence of their own eyes!  This inaccuracy is usually the consequence of carelessness and indifference rather than the product of deliberate deception.  These strictures apply to official sources, just as much as, if not more than private records or memories…the more varied the sources, the greater the confusion.”[1]

I had established a few facts about JA Edleman.  I knew that his year of birth was either 1882 or 1883.  I knew that he had not been born in Britain, because there was no record of his birth in the United Kingdom.

My theory that he had most likely been born in South Africa was just that: a theory.

The National Archives of South Africa (NASA) database of all archives repositories and national registers of non-public records holds 79 documents for persons with the surname Edelman and four documents for persons with the surname Edleman.  There are also 49 documents bearing the surname Saltman, some of which relate to my grandfather.

NASA files are held in various archival repositories in major South African cities.  Apart from deciding which files were relevant – at times involving a bit of guesswork – I had to find a researcher to retrieve and copy the information on my behalf.

As it turned out, I have used a couple of South African based researchers.

One of them emailed information she thought might be of interest to me.

Surname

Edelman

Edelman

Edelman

First name

Karel or Carl

Isaac

Simon

Birthplace

Odessa, Russia

Oletzko Margrabovoi, Prussia, Germany

Wilna[2], Russia

Age

30

54

55

Occupation

Cigarette maker

Feather buyer

General dealer

Residence (Town/City)

Port Elizabeth

Ladismith

Cape Town

Length of time in Colony[3]

19 months

24 years

3 years

Date of Application[4]

15 June 1897

21 May 1904

2 December 1903

The cigarette maker and general dealer from Russia didn’t ring any bells for me.  But the German-born feather buyer, Isaac Edelman, certainly did.

Harris Edelman hailed from Germany and his occupation – as stated on his death certificate in 1924 – was “retired feather dealer”.  Ladismith, a small town in the Klein Karoo of the Cape Colony, was known for its feather trade at the end of the nineteenth century.

Was it possible that Isaac and Harris Edelman were related?

It was the researcher’s concluding paragraph, however, that tore me away from this question.  She had found the following information in the Cape Town Hebrew Congregation Birth Register:

Aaron Edelman (Aharon Zelik ben Tzvi) son of Henry Edelman and Sarah Marks.

This was a son of Harris – here calling himself Henry – and my great grandmother, possibly born in Cape Town.  No birth date was given, only that the birth was registered between 29 December 1882 and 14 February 1883.

Was Aharon Zelik, son of (ben Tzvi) Henry Edelman, John Albert Edelman?

Or was I being careless and indifferent to assume so?


[1]               To be buried in Grimsby, page 4

[2]               Vilna or Vilnius, capital of Lithuania

[3]               Cape Colony

[4]               I am not certain what this relates to, possibly application for citizenship or registration to vote

Grace Edelman gradually faded into the recesses of my past.  Any opportunity that I may have had to learn more about her father evaporated as she moved from this world into the next.

If I wanted to know more about JA, I would have to be satisfied with whatever the official records of his life could tell me.

The first clue turns up in 1910. IMG_6628

A Mr and Mrs Edleman, together with a R and J Edleman and a Master Edleman, arrive in London on 17 September on the Otranto, the voyage having started in Brisbane, Australia.  The Edlemans have embarked at Port Said, Egypt.  All but Master Edleman are listed as merchants.  Could this be Harris and Sarah, and their sons Reuben and JA?  It’s tempting to think so, but it’s not certain.

A more definite link comes in 1914. IMG_6626

JA, his wife and two children arrive in London on the Omrah, which has begun its journey in Brisbane.  They embark at Port Said.  JA is cited as an employee of the Egyptian government and the family’s place of residence, for at least a year prior, is Egypt.  JA’s age is given as 37, which puts his date of birth at 1877 or 1878.  This does not seem correct, as Harris and Sarah Edleman did not marry until 1878 and their first child was born in December 1879.

On 27 March, 1915, Anna and the two children are on the move again, travelling on the Persia from London to Bombay.IMG_6552

They disembark at Port Said and their country of intended permanent future residence is stated as Egypt.  Their country of last permanent residence is identified simply as “Foreign countries”.

JA is not listed on the manifest so one assumes that he remained in England, possibly on account of military duties.

Maybe Anna had wanted, during a time of war, to be closer to her family in Egypt.  Whatever her reasons, the family must have returned to live in England either during or after the War.

On 13 February 1919, JA and his family sail on the Kenilworth Castle from Liverpool to Cape Town, South Africa. IMG_6555

JA’s title is given as Lt (lieutenant) implying that he had seen war service.  The family’s country of last permanent residence is stated as England and their intended country of future permanent residence as Abyssinia, an independent country that would later become part of Ethiopia.  Abyssinia is probably best known for Mussolini’s invasion in 1935 that deposed Haile Selassie from the Abyssinian throne and united Abyssinia, Eritrea and Somaliland under the King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel.

JA’s occupation is given as “manager” and his age as 37.  This gives his date of birth as 1882 or 1883, which is a more realistic estimate.

JA was a British citizen, but there is no record of his birth in the United Kingdom.  The only reasonable explanation is that he was born in South Africa.

If this is true then, by association, my grandfather was also living in South Africa circa 1882 as well.  My eight year gap had potentially shrunk to one or two years.

If my distraction with the life of JA had helped me close the gap, then it had also saved me unwanted labour of another sort: I now had no need to delve into American records!

I had now added John Albert – or JA as I shall call him for convenience – to my database of Edleman offspring.

JA’s quarters at the Grand Union Hotel in 1911 do not appear to have been those of a pauper.

This brick hotel with its mansard roof and quoin corner blocks, plus the trademark New York fire escapes to the front facade – a  relatively new feature of fire safety at the time – presents an imposing figure and, dare I say, one that would likely have attracted well-to-do patrons.

Built in 1872, the Grand Union Hotel was situated at Park Avenue between 41st and 42nd Streets.  The recently completed Grand Central Terminal is partly visible on the left.[1]

The photo of the hotel was taken in 1914, shortly before it was demolished to make way for the Lexington Avenue subway line.[2]  By then, of course, JA and his family would have moved on.

Saul Marks had suggested that I could trace JA’s line in the US further through reference to a range of sources.

Interesting as I imagined this would have been, the Edlemans’ American pathway after 1911 seemed less important to my central aim of giving some context to the missing years of my grandfather’s life, than trying to find out more about JA’s earlier existence and, by association, my grandfather’s circumstances.

A logical starting point was to establish JA’s date and place of birth.

That wasn’t going to be quite as easy as I would have liked.  There is no record of his birth in England nor of any having been registered at a British Consulate abroad.

I was reasonably confident that JA had been born sometime between 1881 and 1889.  He was younger than his brother Joseph who – at the 1881 Census had only my grandfather as a sibling – and most likely older than another brother, Reuben, who was born circa 1889.

Something about the birthplace of Anna, Grace and John Edleman Junior had aroused my curiosity: all three had been born in Cairo, Egypt.  This presupposed that JA had, prior to 1911, spent time in Egypt.

A record of marriage would prove how far back that period might have extended.IMG_6545

Registration of their marriage at the British Consul in Cairo confirmed a link to Egypt back to 1906.[3]

I would soon discover that JA and his family had a far closer relationship with this country than with the US.

And that by pursuing this particular relationship further, it would lead me to what I was looking for.


[3]              Calculated from the age of their daughter, Grace, who was five years old in 1911.

In addition to the 1911 Scotland Census information, Saul Marks had some other important news for me.

Anna Edleman & children to NYC 1911 pg 1

Ancestry.com

It appears that Reuben Edleman had almost sailed from Glasgow for New York in both October and November 1911, according to his listings on the New York Passenger lists on Ancestry’s immigration and travel section.  On both occasions, his entry is crossed out, meaning that he did not sail.

The October listing places him with a woman named Anna Edleman (aged 25) and her children Grace (5) and John (2), all born in Cairo, Egypt.  Their address in Britain is the same as that on the 1911 Census for Sarah and Harris Edleman, with Anna naming H. Edleman of that address as her father-in-law.

Anna Edleman & children to NYC 1911 pg 2

ancestry.com

Anna Edleman and her children are destined to meet her husband, John Albert Edleman, who is cited as living at the Grand Union Hotel in New York.

John Albert is therefore another son of Harris and Sarah Edleman, the fifth child to emerge to date.

Mention of Grace Edelman – she would later spell her surname this way – triggered a particular memory for me.

As their older children matured to an age where a taste for music could be cultivated, my parents acquired a baby grand piano.  If my siblings had spent any time learning how to play this instrument, I was too young to remember.  But I wasn’t going to escape that easily.

I took lessons with three successive teachers over the better part of ten years, sat for exams and was entered in competitions.

During the late 1960’s my then teacher encouraged me to enter the Cape Town eisteddfod.

My early performances met with lukewarm results, no doubt reflecting my deeper interest in swimming.

I was encouraged to try again the following year.  When I mentioned to my parents that the adjudicator was a woman named Grace Edelman, my father announced that we were “related”.  Whether this was intended to make me play better, I shall never know.

When I appeared before Grace Edelman, she was in her early 60’s.  She judged me generously on two of my performances and a little less so – most likely with good reason – on the other two.  The two favourable grades earned me a spot in the annual prize winner’s concert at the City Hall.  I would like to think that “blood” had not entered into the equation when it came to the judging.  Indeed, if Grace had tumbled to the family connection, then she certainly wasn’t acknowledging it.

My career as an apprentice concert pianist, however, was destined to be short-lived.  Tepid grades reappeared the following year and shortly after that I lost interest in both practising and performing.

IMG_6535As for the piano, in 1983 it left Cape Town for Sydney along with my parents.  For the last ten or so years it has occupied a corner of my dining room.

I almost never touch it.

If Grace Edelman were alive today, I’m sure she’d have something to say about that.

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© Rose Saltman and In Search of Harris, 2012 ongoing. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Rose Saltman and In Search of Harris with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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