The two Josephs

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.

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.


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