My maternal grandmother, Hinda Zelinsky, died in 1957, when I was 14 years old and before she died she related to me a number of pieces of information about her ancestors.
She told me that her maternal grandmother Sarah had died after the second Pesach Seder had finished and each year they would light a Yahrzeit candle for her. She also informed me that Sarah’s mother was called Perel.
She also related to me stories about her father Mordechai’s father, who she told me died when Mordechai was eight years old. He would regularly fast and there was an occasion each year when he fasted for four days in a row (daytime fasts!). These 4 days were erev Rosh Hashanah, the two days of Rosh Hashanah (there are opinions who allow one to fast during the daytime of Rosh Hashanah), and Tzom Gedaliah, He would also fast on every Yom Kippur Katan, which occurs at the end of all but 4 months during the year. On one Yom Kippur Katan he was ill and he was told not to fast.
I also received the following information from my mother, her sister Betty, and especially from a family history written by her brother Monty for his children:
My grandmother came over to England when she was aged 18, with her cousin Surah-Leah in 1898 and they settled in an apartment in Parfet Street off the Commercial Road in the East End of London. My aunt Betty once told me that that the purpose of my grandmother coming over with her cousin, was to get her cousin settled in England, and she was then going to return to Poland. However, as my aunt related to me, whilst my grandmother was in England, half of her town in Poland, Golina, burned down and since the fire was on a Sunday, the Christians in Golina would not put out the fire. (The “Pinkas Hakehilot” however states that the big fire in Golina was in 1895, which was three years before my grandmother and her cousin came to England, thus putting in serious question what my aunt related to me, or alternatively they came to England in 1895.) My grandmother therefore remained in England and during the course of the following years her family arrived in England, although not all at the same time. The members of my grandmother’s family who arrived in England were her father Mordechai, her mother Soie, her brothers Nechemiah (Hyman) and Jacob, and her sisters Zlata (Celia) and Mirel.
After all the family had arrived in England, the house in Parfet Street was too small for them to live in and they moved to a house in Fenton Street, which was just a short distance away. It was whilst living at Fenton Street that my mother and her two sisters were born. About the end of 1913, the family moved to a better house in the East End, which, unusual for that area, had a large garden. Its address was 21 West Arbour Street. It was in this house that dry rot developed, and as a result, all the floorboards had to be pulled up and also earth had to be dug up in order to remove this dry rot. Fortunately, my family did not own the house and so the expenses for the repair did not fall on them. Some months after moving in this house my mother’s only brother was born.
I understand that just five months after her father Mordechai (whose occupation was a tailor) arrived in England, he died. The date of his death was 7 September 1903 and he was aged 61. He is buried in Edmonton Cemetery in London (plot B-2), a cemetery belonging to the Federation Synagogues of London. In order to pay for the tombstone, which then cost five pounds (quite a sum in those days), the family saved up their pennies. (When I visited that area of the cemetery, I saw a number of graves without tombstones – the families could obviously not afford to pay for them.) On the tombstone was a poem with each line beginning with the letters of his name. This poem had been written by his son Jacob, who in the 1920s went on Aliyah with his family. His name in English appears on his tombstone as “Marks Richards” – someone had “anglicised” his name.
Today, one usually has the name put also on the back of a tombstone so that a person looking for the tombstone from the opposite direction can easily find it. This was not the case when Mordechai died. However, when I visited his grave in about the 1960s, I saw that his name had been painted on the back of the tombstone. My uncle who accompanied me to the grave told me that he had painted on the name before the Second World War. When he did so, someone had to look out that no-one was in sight, since obviously it was strictly forbidden for anyone to just go and paint on tombstones!
My grandmother was a seamstress and when she arrived in England, she worked in one of the many “sweatshops” in the area. There people were expected to work on Shabbat as well, and sadly many succumbed. But not my grandmother. On Friday afternoon she would get up and leave and not return until the beginning of the following week. She was very soon fired for doing this. So she bought her own Singer sewing machine – (I even remember this machine about fifty years later and it was still working) – and she did better financially working independently. The reward for observing Shabbat.
I should also mention that the name of my maternal grandmother at birth was Hinda Reichert. When she arrived in England from Golina in (about) 1898, it would seem the immigration clerk “made” her first name Annie and her surname was anglicized to Richards (and later Richardson). Her official English name remained as Annie all her life. I understand that the cemetery insisted that the name Annie appear on her tombstone.
My grandmother was never naturalised as a British citizen – (neither was her husband which would have made her a British citizen automatically) - and thus she could never vote in British elections. Also, all her life she spoke only Yiddish.
Censuses were taken every ten years in England from 1801 onwards. They are strictly confidential for 100 years. Thus, the results of the 1911 census have only recently been made public and they have been put on the Internet. My grandmother Annie (Hinda), her husband Hyman (Chaim), and their eldest two children, Sarah (Sallie) then aged 2, and Rebecca (Betty) then aged 1 appear on it. Annie’s age is given as 28, Hyman’s as 29, and their place of residence as St. George in the East, London.
The census prior to 1911 was taken in 1901. My grandmother was not yet married and her name on the British records was probably Annie Richards. I made a search, not only using the name Annie Richards, but also using all the possible combinations of her name – Reichart, Richards (as per her father’s tombstone), Richardson, Hinda, Annie. All I found was an Annie Richards. She was listed as being born in Poland in about 1876, was a foreign subject (not naturalised), and she lived as a boarder in a house in New Castle Place in Whitechapel in the East End of London and her occupation was (as written on the census form) a tailoress. However, there are a few details which differ from the account of Monty Zielin. He writes that she lived in Parfet Street, which is about 4 kilometres from New Castle Place, and he gives her date of birth as about 1880. One therefore cannot say with certainty that this census record is that of my grandmother. Another possibility is that she didn’t fill up a census form – (the form was in English and not Yiddish!). I believe she can be fined for that – with compound interest it would be astronomical today!
My grandmother’s mother whose name was Soie died on 31 July 1913, aged 71, and is also buried in Edmonton Federation Cemetery, (plot L-12) In those days one did not reserve graves and so she is not buried adjacent to her husband. For some reason, the English name written on her tombstone is “Sarah” and not “Soie” and as I shall now show that at a much later date we discovered that this error also appeared in the cemetery records.
It was about the summer of 2005 that it became important to know how to spell the name “Soie” in Hebrew letters. Her granddaughter Sylvia Richardson, whose Hebrew name was Soie had just died and the family needed to know how this unusual name was spelled. I had remembered when I had visited her grave in Edmonton cemetery in the early 1960s that this name as written on her tombstone had “alephs” or “ayins” or both but I could not remember exactly. I also recollected that in English the tombstone gave her name as “Sarah Richardson.” The name Sarah was incorrect, since I knew that her mother’s name was Sarah.
I telephoned Edmonton cemetery and asked what Hebrew spelling was in their records. The person who answered that he could not read Hebrew – he was probably a non-Jewish caretaker – but said I should telephone a little later on. When I did this they immediately answered that according to their records it was “Sarah bat Avraham.” I immediately told them that it was not “Sarah” and that the name Soie appeared in Hebrew on the tombstone. They were extremely obliging and straight away went to look at the tombstone. When I telephoned again they told me it was סאיע (samech – aleph – yud – ayin.). I informed Monty Richardson, Sylvia’s brother, who said he would inform the tombstone people. (At a later date, I saw that after I had pointed out the mistake in their records, they corrected it by crossing out the Hebrew word “Sarah” and writing above it the Hebrew word “Soie”)
The family of my maternal grandmother lived for at least several generations in Golina, which is situated about 12 kilometres north-west of Konin in Poland. Golina achieved town status in 1330. About one hundred years later there were Jews living there, but it was in the second half of the 18th century that the Jewish population began to grow. It is reported that in 1900 out of a total population of 4,909, there were 2,177 Jews. The Jewish community in Golina came to a tragic end with the Holocaust.
In 2005 I decided to look on the Internet which 19th century records for Golina still survive. The Polish State Archives have put on the Internet the basic indices of records in their various archives throughout Poland. There are extant vital records for Golina ranging from 1826 to about 1870 in the Pozan archives. All (or at least many) of these records have been microfilmed by the Mormons. The “Jewish Records Indexing – Poland” (JRI) has gone through these records name by name and put on the Internet details for each entry, which include surname, first name, father’s name, mother’s name and the number of the Mormon film on which they are to be found.
Fortunately, Bet Hatefutzot in Tel-Aviv has made copies of many of these Mormon microfilms, and photocopies. For just 5 shekels, a page can be ordered from them, instead of paying a much higher price to JRI.
I searched the indices of JRI and found the marriage records for my grandmother’s parents, Mordechai Raychert and Soie Sztyller, the birth records for Soie and the marriage record for her parents. [Incidentally, a birth record for Soie’s husband Mordechai was not listed. I understand that often boys were not registered in order to prevent army problems when they grew up.] I then looked up Bet Hatefutzot indices and saw that they had made copies of these records. I accordingly ordered them via their Internet site and a few days later in November 2005, I received them by registered post. I don’t know why by registered post! The 15 shekels I paid for these three records was almost all taken up by the postal charge!
These three documents are written in Polish in the “Napoleonic style” but with some of the signatures in Hebrew. These Hebrew signatures included Mordechai Raychert and his father-in-law Avraham Sztyller. I sent copies of these three documents to various relatives who might have been interested in them.
Incidentally, I should mention that from the indices of the Golina entries, I saw that there were a number of members of the Sztyller family with the name Soie and I also found there the names Hinda and Avraham. Amongst the records for the Raychert family, the names Mortke (Mordechai), Hemia (Nechemiah), Jacub (Jacob) are found.
These three documents added noticeably to my genealogical knowledge of my great grandparents and their ancestors.
With the exception of Mirel, all my grandmother’s brothers and sisters lived until they were in their 70s, which was a good life span in those days. Mirel however died on 15 September 1923, Shabbat Shuva, aged just 36. She is buried in Edmonton Federation Cemetery, (plot P-25). She was already a widow when she died. She had married in the summer of 1920 a widower Coppel (Jacob) Bernstein, and about nine months later on 29 April 1921 Coppel died of consumption, aged 52, and is also buried in Edmonton Federation Cemetery, (plot K-12). I understand that Mirel had contracted consumption from her husband and just over two years later she died.
My grandmother married Hyman Zelinsky (both were spinsters) on 30 July 1907 at Cannon Street Road Synagogue. Her address at the time of marriage was given as 91 Commercial Road, her occupation a dressmaker, the name of her father Marks Richardson (at some time in the past the name was changed from Richards to Richardson). Her age was given as 22, which conflicts with information from almost all other sources of her age – in these other sources her age in 1907 would be about 27-28.
It was in the early 1960s that my mother’s cousin Monty Richardson discovered that a family tree which included the Richardson family had been prepared (I believe by a Justin Richardson). Monty gave me a photocopy of it. I studied it but was unable to link up this family tree with my branch of the Richardson family. I accordingly write to my Uncle Jacob in Israel and asked him if could link it up with our branch. My uncle was very happy that I was researching the genealogy of the family, but he was unable to supply the link.
The photocopy I received was on a different sort of paper than is used today for photocopying. As a result, where the folds in the paper were, the writing crumbled away obliterating some names. However, in April 2011, I received an e-mail from Nicholas Muers-Raby who lived in Hampshire, England, and who was from the Richardson family, (although not from my branch) and he was writing his family history and had received a copy of this family tree. He had seen my website, and he asked whether I had any history of the Reichardt family which he could access. I informed him that all the information which I had was on my website which he had already found. I also took this opportunity to ask him to send me a photocopy of the family tree which he did.
I could see on this family tree document that there was a name which was also in my branch of the family. This name was “Chemya” (which is short for Nechemiah). It also stated that Newman Richardson, the miller of Golina died in about 1850 at the age of 40 from lifting a heavy sack of flour. In fact there were a number of cases of hernia in my branch of the Richardsons and one of them said jokingly when looking at this family tree, “this was the first hernia in the family!”
a) My direct ancestors
Szmul (Shmuel) BOZAK my great great great grandfather) married Perel (my great great great grandmother) maiden name unknown. Dates of their births and marriage unknown.
Their daughter was Sore (Sarah) BOZAK (my great great grandmother). Date of birth 1816. She married Abram (Avraham) SZTYLLER (my great great grandfather) in 1838 in Golina. He was born in 1813.
Abram’s father was Maier (Meir) SZTYLLER (my great great great grandfather). He married Soie (my great great great grandmother) maiden name unknown. Dates of their birth and marriage unknown.
Avram and Sore’s daughter was Soie STZYLLER (my great grandmother, presumably named after her grandmother). She was born in 1842 and died in 1913. She married Mortke (Mordechai) REICHERT (my great grandfather) in 1862 in Golina. He was born in 1842 and died in 1903.
Mortke’s father was Yaacov REICHERT (my great great grandfather). Date of birth and name of wife unknown.
Children of Mortke and Soie Reichert (Richardson)
Nechemia (Hyman) born 1876, died 1955.
Hinda (my grandmother) born 1878, died 1957.
Zlata (Celia) born 1880, died 1959.
Jacob born 1887, died 1962.
Mirel born 1888, died 1923.