Reading between the lines

Wilson: “You’re forging my name on prescriptions again.”
House: “No. Because what you just said implied I stopped.”

(House, Season 7, Episode 23)

It is evident from my mother’s letters that Avrom initiated contact.  The letters, written in 1996 in her familiar hand, show that she knew as little about my father’s ancestors as did anyone else in my immediate family at that time.

I must have given my mother a lead because I am mentioned as having done so.  This was my school friend who had compiled a family tree which overlapped with ours.  Reference is also made to my paternal aunt, by then close to 90 years old, as a possible source of help.  Whether there was any correspondence between her and Avrom is something I have yet to discover.

The letters contain a précis of children, partners and grandchildren, and their progression and achievements.

I feel honoured to have rated a mention, albeit my occupation is cited as “computer expert”.  This does not entirely surprise me.  To my parents, urban planning was far removed from the family staples of medicine and commerce.  So even if my mother did not know how to use a computer, she at least recognised one when she saw it.


To help draw meaning from my great grandfather’s (Israel) death certificate, I have turned to a tutorial on the interpretation of death certificates in England and Wales.

Column 1 shows where the death occurred and column 7 shows the address of the informant.  There is, however, nothing which shows the specific address of the deceased.

Where a person has died away from home and the death is registered by someone other than a wife or husband of the deceased – in this case, by a cousin (A. Gordon) – then that suggests that the place of death is not the home address of the deceased.

Israel was a “commercial traveller” or “hawker”.  It is quite possible that he could have visited Liverpool on business at the time of his death.  In fact, the family history  (To be buried in Grimsby) suggests that this was indeed the case.

When Israel married on 7 July 1875, his age was given as 20. When he died on 26 November, 1876 – more than 16 months later – his age was shown as 19.

This anomaly could have arisen for various reasons.  The informant – the cousin – might not have known his true age.  It is also possible that Israel may not have known his age as there is no record of his birth in Lithuania.  Or he may have “adjusted” his age at some point during his life to suit a particular purpose.

The death was certified by a doctor.  Such a person would only have been qualified to sign the death certificate if he had attended the deceased in his last illness and had either seen him within 14 days of his death, or after his death.  This was to avoid having to notify the coroner.  The doctor certified that the cause of death – inflammation of the bowels – had lasted for what looks like 13 days so it would seem that he had attended Israel for almost two weeks prior to his death.

After his death, my great-grandfather would have been buried and a tombstone erected to mark his brief life.  Inscribed on the tombstone would have been, among others, reference to his parents, wife and child.

Somewhere there was a grave.


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