Chapter 2


The branch of my family which I originally knew least about was that of my paternal grandmother, Ethel Nagli. She died when I was just 6 years old and I never met anyone from her family. I recollect my father telling me that her mother died when she was just 2 years old and her father remarried.

In a book on the early history of Mount Scopus College in Melbourne Australia is a photograph which includes Harold Nagley, who was its vice-principal. His name also appears in an Old Carmeli book as a vice-President of the Association. I had once heard that he was some relative, but did not know how. Towards the end of 2005, I looked up in the Internet if there was a Nagley living in Melbourne and I indeed found one, Professor P. Nagli.

I then telephoned him and asked whether it was the family of Harold Nagley and received the answer that he was his late father. He informed me that the family had come from Riga in the 1890s. I then asked whether he knew the relationship between Harold and my family. He did not know the answer but told me to contact his relation Philippa Bloom in Leeds who had made a study of the family genealogy. I did this but she was not able to give me an answer.

I did not do any further research on the Naglis until the end of 2010. At that period I looked up on the internet the death record of my grandmother who had died in 1949 on “FreeBMD” and learned she was aged 70 at her death. This would make the year of her birth 1878/79. However, from her marriage registration she was 20 when she married in 1901, thus making her year of birth 1880/81.

Also, at the same period, I discovered that Latvia had put its vital records – Raduraksti - up to about the year 1905 on the Internet. They came under the headings of “Census 1897”, “Church Books” and “Revision Lists”. At first looking at these headings, I thought there would be no Jewish records amongst them. However I soon discovered that “Church Books” was not just Christian records but covered the various religion separately, with one of them being “Jews” and this was then subdivided into cities. There were records for births, marriages, divorces and deaths. On one side of each page was the entry in the national language and on the other side of each page the translation into Hebrew.

Unfortunately, for Riga, the city I then understood my grandmother to have been born in, the birth records for 1879 were missing. One can communicate via the Internet with the authorities in Latvia and tell them of any errors. I did this and they replied “Thank you. We will check it and amend”. Since after about a month, nothing had moved in this matter, I sent them a further communication and they replied “it takes time”. Up to now nothing seems to have been done in this matter.

Meanwhile I looked through the Jewish birth registers for 1878, 1880 and 1881 – (and there were indeed a lot of births!) - but did not find any record of my grandmother’s birth.

At the same period I contacted the United Synagogue Burial Society to get a photograph of my grandmother’s tombstone. Due the snowy weather and the end of the year (2010) holidays – (even many Jewish organisations on on holiday then!), it took a few weeks until I received the photograph. From it I could confirm my grandmother’s Hebrew name, that of her father’s, and the age of her death which was given as 70.

My grandmother had an elder brother called Solomon Nagli. From the “Jewish Chronicle” archives I had learned of the date of his death and the age he died. From this information, I tried to find his birth registration in the Latvian records, but without success.

The internet also gives the Naturalisation Records of the British authorities and from it, I learned that Solomon Nagli had taken out British citizenship in 1905 and the number of his naturalisation file. Via the Internet I put in an order for a photocopy of the file. The postage was about twice as much as the actual photocopying!

The file comprised 10 pages and I got most of the information I was looking for from just one of these pages. It stated that he was a subject of Russia and had been born in Razitsia which is in the district of Vitopsk on an unspecified day in May 1873. The names of his parents were given as Hyman Nagli and Freidy Nagli and both of them were subjects of Russia. From another page in this file it can be seen that the date of his first address in England is listed as July 1898.

The first question is how much of this information is relevant to my grandmother, who was Solomon’s younger sister. My grandmother’s father’s Hebrew name was Chaim Dov, which would correspond with Hyman, and Freidy was almost certainly her mother. (As stated earlier, when my grandmother was two years old her mother died and her father remarried.) It is possible that the Nagli family had moved to a different city in Latvia between the time Solomon and my grandmother were born. Although Solomon presumably arrived in England in 1898, it does not necessarily mean that the whole family arrived together. One of her brothers obviously remained in Eastern Europe since I heard that he had been shot by the Bolshevists. Whether or not the father and stepmother came came to England, I have no information. A sister called Alice did come.

However the first thing which I noticed from these naturalisation papers was that the place of birth was not given as Riga as I had been led to believe as the city where the family came from. I looked for Razitsia on the Internet and in an atlas, but without success. I then submitted a question to Wikipedia Reference Disk – Miscellaneous: “According to his British naturalisation papers dated 1905, a relative of mine was born in Razitsia in the district of Vitopsk in May 1873 and was a subject of Russia. Can any user please tell me the location of Razitsia? Thank you.” Two users debated the answer to my question. First it was suggested that Vitopsk was Vitebsk. Two suggestions were made for Razitsia. On was Rositsa which is in Belarus and the second suggestion was Rezekne in Latvia which was called Rezhitsa in Russian and was in the Vitebsk province. Since some members of the Nagli extended family came from Latvia, it would seem that Rezekne, which is in Latvia, is more likely the place of origin of my branch of the Nagli family.

The extant vital records (births, marriages and deaths) of Rezekne are far from complete. Numerous files are missing. From what is still extant, I tried to find members of my immediate family but without success. However I did find some records of a different branch of the Nagli family. In the Hebrew side of these records the name clearly appears as נאגלי.

However, “JewishGen” has studied and catalogued numerous archival Jewish records from Rezekne and have brought out a list of Jewish residents there as at January 1898 entitled “Rezekne Family Lists”. Amongst these lists there are several families with the name Nagli – they are almost certainly different branches of the same Nagli family, which was a very large family.

In this list appears the name Nagla, Haim Berka. This list always writes the name as Nagla and as we can see from above, names which appear in Nagla in this list are in the Hebrew text נאגלי. Also we can see from this list that Berka is the way they spelled Beyr. Beyr is the Yiddish for Dov. We know from my grandmother’s tombstone that her father was Haim Dov. It should be noted that the original Latvian list was written in the Russian Cyrillic script and was transliterated and this could thus cause small changes in the spelling of the names.

There are further strong indications that this Haim Berka Nagli was my great grandfather. This “JewishGen” list give Hana Nagla as Haim’s second wife. We know that his first wife died about two years after my grandmother was born and Haim married again. Furthermore his age is given in this list as 51, which would reasonably correspond with his expected age in about 1896.

The list gives other details of Haim’s family. The name of his second wife was Hana and she was 47 years old in 1896. Haim’s father was called Getzel and was 88 years old in 1896. It also states “died’ – his death registration does not appear in the vital records for Rezekne for 1896 or 1897, those for 1898 are not extant; it is possible that he died in another town and it would thus appear in their vital records. Getzel’s father was called Itzik. Getzel’s wife was called Elka and she was 83 in 1896.

Haim had a brother called Morduch who was 49 years old in 1896 and he was married to Esther, who was 48 years old in 1896. He had another brother called Josel, aged 43 in 1896, who was married to Zipora also aged 43 in 1896. Zipora’s father was called Hirsch.

Only one of Haim’s children is given in this list. He is Itzik Wulf aged 31 in 1896. His age could possibly have been inflated to avoid the Russian army. He was married to Perka, aged 26 in 1896, whose father’s name was Raphal. Haim’s children who were unmarried at the time are not mentioned, but it is stated that the database consists mainly of adult members of the community.

There is a further list compiled by “JewishGen” entitled the “All Russia 1897 Census”. It gives the name Nagla, Haim Behr (this time correctly spelled Behr!). It specifically gives the name of his father as Getzel, a fact not specifically stated in the “Rezekne Family List”, although implied. His age is given as 50, which is in an almost agreement with the “Rezekne Family List”. It adds that his profession was a painter, was born in Rezekne and lived at Pozharnava 16-1.

It then goes on to state that his wife was Esther. This is obviously a mistake since Esther was married to Haim’s brother Morduch.

It cannot be excluded that this Haim Behr Nagla was in fact from a different branch of the family and happened to have the same name. If that were to be the case, where in the list is my great grandfather Haim Behr?! It is possible that by 1896 he had moved elsewhere in Latvia or had already died, but in view of the facts brought earlier, in particular to his age and of having a second wife, it is not very likely.

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