Closing the gap

I’d managed to shave seven years off a 21 year gap in my grandfather’s movements thanks to the 1881 British Census and a record of attendance at the South African College in Cape Town in 1895.

Somewhere during this reduced period, my grandfather had migrated to South Africa.  But when?

It seemed reasonable to assume that Sarah and her two sons had followed Harris Edleman to South Africa soon after 1881.  After all, according to my father, Sarah and Harris “…(went to Edinburgh and) had at least four sons’.  Hopefully they hadn’t endured a 14 year separation before adding to their family.

With this assumption in mind, I began to dismiss previously held notions about my grandfather’s movements.

If Harris Saltman had not appeared in the 1891 British Census, then it was most likely because he was not in Britain at the time.  And the widowed stocking-maker, Sarah Marks, living alone in Liverpool at that time, was unlikely to have been my great-grandmother.

Outbound passenger lists from Britain between 1890 and 1960 are available on Find My Past.  There is no record of a Harris Saltman having travelled from Britain to South Africa after 1890.   Unfortunately, passenger departure lists before 1890 are rare, so I cannot confirm that he travelled before 1890 either.

A passport application for an H Saltman in 1896 had previously aroused my curiosity – see third last entry at bottom right.


This date lined up neatly with my father’s view that my grandfather had emigrated to South Africa in 1897.  However, I realised that the H Saltman who applied for this passport could as easily have been Avrom Saltman’s grandfather.  To add to the confusion he, coincidentally, was also named Harris.  I could not therefore claim this person as my grandfather without further verification.

As I systematically eliminated these options, I fancied I was becoming something of a professional genealogist.

In reality, I was still a rank amateur.

It took Saul Marks’ professional eye to point out what I’d missed.  The information was in the 1911 Scotland Census, if only I’d taken the trouble to look.

1911 - Harris & Sarah Edleman & family (Edinburgh)

Living in Edinburgh at the time were Sarah and Harris Edleman, and three of their sons, Reuben, Isadore and Maximilian, aged 22, 16 and 14 respectively.

Sarah and Harris had produced nine children, of whom seven were still alive in 1911.  I shall never know if my grandfather had been counted among them, but my father had been correct about their moving to Edinburgh and the addition of four more sons, if one includes Joseph Edleman.  The only difference was in the sequence of these events.

While these findings cleared up a number of information gaps I’d had, the real breakthrough came in the details of Reuben’s, Isidore’s and Maximilian’s place of birth.

All three had been born in the Cape Colony, South Africa.

Reuben’s estimated date of birth is circa 1889.  My grandfather, by then a boy of 13, would almost certainly have lived in the Cape at this time.

I had reduced my 14 year gap to eight years.

But could I improve upon this?


9 thoughts on “Closing the gap

  1. I really like the systematic way that you are researching this. I also often fail to find names when looking at a long hand-written list–so can understand how you could have easily missed noticing the name that you were looking for.

  2. Pingback: Picking my way through Rootsbank | In search of Harris

  3. Pingback: The missing years fall away | In search of Harris

  4. Pingback: Reuben | In search of Harris

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