Picking my way through Rootsbank

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





Hotel employee

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






Harry & Sheinie & fam



Bicycle shop owner

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













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]


Mr & Mrs Joseph (Joe)



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]


Mr S



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


8 thoughts on “Picking my way through Rootsbank

  1. Hi Rose

    my copy of the 1912 South African Who’s Who has the following entry
    “EDELMAN, Joseph, Solicitor; b. 1887 Oudtshoorn, 3rd son of H.Edelman. Educ Marist Bros., Johannesburg. Articled to Messrs. Wagner & Klagsbrun, Pretoria. At beginning of 1909 practised on own account as Solicitor in Pretoria. Asst. Sec. Pretoria Orchestral Society. Hobbies: Music and athletics. Add., 233, Proes Street, Pretoria.”

    Hope this helps in some way! 🙂
    Kind regards

  2. Gosh, Rose. I think you could have been a private detective in another life! How do you keep track? I picture a huge, spidery ‘flow chart’ on your study wall… It’s fascinating.

  3. Thanks. I like the forensic aspect to family history. A flow chart would probably be a good idea to tie the relationships together. I tend to put everything in folders, sorted by topic/name on my hard drive. It can get out of hand at times.

  4. Pingback: The two Josephs | In search of Harris

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

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