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.


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?


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.


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


4 thoughts on “Reuben

  1. Do you have a ‘mind-map’ with a thousand tentacles on your study wall keeping track of all these connections? It must be difficult to manage it all! Also, Rose, does your name (the ‘Rose’ part) date back to one of these ancestors? I see it cropping up in 1932.

    • I have a Word file that I dump all my posts into so that I can cross check before I write a new post. I also have (electronic) folders on family members and topics, lots of them! There is a bit of hard copy too, but I try to keep that to a minimum. I am named for my grandmother who died in the mid 1940’s.

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