Abram Schlaume Feinstein

Abram was Ari’s 5x great-grandfather, born in 1808 in Palanga, on the Baltic Sea, in north-west Lithuania. At the time, Palanga was in Courland, and part of the Russian Empire. A description by Yudel Mark can be found in a yizkor [memorial] book about Lithuania:

“The name comes from the Lithuanian po langa, meaning “up to the windows,” that is, the sea reached as far as the windows.” People came to Palanga in the summer to bathe, and it was not a particularly pious place because the men were working with amber, rather than studying religious texts.

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“Amber established the entire way of life in the shtetl. … People lived according to the clock. All of Palanga awakened at the same hour and ate the main meal at the same time. The midday meal was exactly at 12 noon. There was an “afternoon snack” exactly at 4. The time of work, eating and rest was not haphazard, as was characteristic of a shtetl where trade was the main source of income. And as long as the amber workers lived well, the storekeepers who had a “stall” (a shop), the butcher, the baker, the wagon driver and so forth, earned, too. The one-story wooden houses in which we lived were very spacious with good floors of painted boards. The houses often had a small garden near them. Jews also had large gardens with vegetables and there were several who had potato fields. A few rich Jews had large orchards with assorted fruits. I remember the surprise of the Jews who came from Drobian (Darbenai): “The Palanga Jews eat meat every day!” In truth, however, we also ate much fish, particularly during the summer months. Mencas [fish found in Latvia], flekshnes (flounders) and small herring dried on long strings on every Palanga farm.”

I recommend the full account, which can be read here.

I have no information about Abram apart from this: From the military records of 1845, we know that he was born in 1808, and that he was the father of Isaac Abram and the son of Schlaume Levin Feinstein. We also know that he had an older brother called Hirsch and a younger brother, Schmuel. I’m not sure if this Hirsch is the same one who was arrested on the evening of 30 August 1832, with twelve other men from Palanga. The thirteen Jews had hatched a plot against a meat tax and were sentenced to fourteen days in prison. They also had to pay 40 Roubles in silver coins to cover the arrears. The meat or slaughter tax was paid for each animal that was slaughtered. See the full story, with the original documents, on this page.

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It’s not all about long-ago ancestors: writing about Rose

Ari’s great-great-grandmother Rose Hurwitz was a very special person in my life.

Rose was the daughter of Louis Koppel (LK) Hurwitz and Rahle Mendelsohn, and she was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 10 November 1907.

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Rose (centre) with her sisters Anne and Lottie

Rose was the youngest of the family. Her brother Charles had been born in Memel (Klaipeda), Lithuania, before the family emigrated. John, Anne, Lottie and Rose were all born in Johannesburg. Rose attended the Convent of Mercy in Braamfontein, the German School (Hospital Hill) in Twist St, and Commercial High School. She worked as a book-keeper for her father between 1925 and 1930.

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Wedding photo

Rose told me that she met Louis Feinstein at a party in 1926, and used to watch him walking past her house in O’Reilly Road, in Berea, Johannesburg. He had a room at No. 11 and his sister Mary lived at No. 32. The Hurwitzes lived at No. 20. They decided to get married in 1927, but her parents objected, saying that she must wait for her older brothers and sisters to get married first. In the end, they married on Louis’s birthday, 28 October 1930, and spent their honeymoon in Muizenberg.

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rlinv Rose’s son Charles was born in 1932, and daughter Barbara in 1938.

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Rose with Charles and his cousin Myrna, 1932

In 1939 Rose helped to found a branch of the Jewish Benevolent Fund, of which she was the treasurer and then chair. In 1949 she was approached to start a play centre in Soweto, which led to the creation of four schools with over 800 children. Rose ran the committee for 20 years.

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As children, we used to stay with Rose and Louis in Johannesburg for our Christmas holidays, and I remember going to one of these schools to give out prizes. We also learned Afrikaans songs, put on plays and concerts for visitors, ate toasted cheese sandwiches at the OK Bazaar, had freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast (and learned to eat cereal without making any noise), did lots of sums, read banned Enid Blyton books, tasted delicious peppery green pasta and tinned lychees (I wasn’t a fan) for the first time, learned to swim, and generally got very spoilt.

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I have lots of these letters!

Rose spent a lot of time travelling to see her children and grandchildren in various places, and when we were together she helped me with my first family trees. Although I have plenty of her photos, there are not very many that she is actually in.

After Louis died, Rose went to live in Long Beach, next to Barbara and her family.

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Long Beach, 1993

I learned so much from Rose. We laughed a lot and talked about many things. I still miss her.

Ari, this is how you are related to Rose:

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Hinda Hirshfeld

Hinda Hirshfeld was Ari’s 3x great-grandmother from Liepaja (Libau), Latvia. She must have been born in about 1865 (based on her age at death). I don’t know her mother’s name. She is variously called Hinda-Brina and Hinda-Etta. On 25 Dec 1887 she married Khatzkiel Feinstein (one witness was an H Hirshfeld and the dowry was 2000 rubles – see this website), and they had nine children, all born in Liepaja. The first two were twin boys, Osher and Abram, born on 22 Oct 1888. Both babies died before they were three months old, from ‘stomach disease’.

The next baby was a girl, Rokha, born on 5 Oct 1889, who died at the age of three, from scarlatina and diphtheria.

Next was Shlioma (Sam), in 1891, who grew up to own a barber shop in what was then Salisbury, Rhodesia. Sam is the man on the left of this photo, standing with his wife Becky.

Sam Feinstein

After Sam came Bessie (in 1894), another baby who died of meningitis (Rokha, 1895–1896), Mary (born on their wedding anniversary in 1897), Sarah (in 1899) and lastly Ari’s great-great-grandfather Louis in 1900 (standing on the right in this photo, with his wife Rose). Shortly after Louis’ birth, Hinda died of tuberculosis on 6 Dec 1901.

The photo above includes Sarah on the left, Bessie in the dark dress and pearls, and Mary on the right.

This photo of Sarah and Mary was taken in 1918 after they had emigrated to South Africa, and maybe gives us an idea of what Hinda looked like.

Sarah and Mary Feinstein

Hinda had a sister called Devorah who married Azriel Fishel Idelsohn. One of their sons was the musicologist and composer Abraham Zvi Idelsohn.

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Ari, this shows how you are related to Hinda:

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Family stories: Louis Feinstein from Libau

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Ari’s great-great grandfather Louis (pronounced in the French way rather than the English) was born Ludwig Feinshtein on 28 Oct 1900 in Libau (Liepaja) in Latvia, and died on 15 Sep 1972 in Johannesburg, South Africa. His birth is recorded in the Latvia Births Database on JewishGen:

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The story told by his wife Rose was that Louis’ mother Hinda died in 1901 and the children (Louis and three older sisters – Bessie, Mary and Sara) were sent to stay with relatives (I don’t know who these relatives would have been). His father Charles (see Family stories: murdered for a wedding suit) and older brother Sam went to South Africa to join his brother (probably this was Charles’s brother Aron who had emigrated in 1889). In 1907 the uncle sent money for the children to  come to South Africa.

So in 1908 Bessie, who was twelve, boarded a ship to London with Sarah, Mary and Louis. The journey took several days, and the passengers were told that the ship might capsize or take extra days to reach London. Bessie panicked and hid a couple of loaves of bread. She was caught and reprimanded, and asked where her parents were. She told them that she was in charge of the children and was forgiven. They then went by another ship from London to Cape Town (looking at a map, it is possible that they went by sea from Libau to Hamburg rather than overland, and then from Hamburg to Hull). It is very hard to imagine how they managed this journey on their own but presumably people helped them. The Jewish Heritage Trail in Hull includes this stop:

13. Anlaby Road – Emigrants’ Waiting Room

In 1871 the North Eastern Railway Company built a waiting room for transmigrants on Anlaby Road, close to Hull Paragon Station. This helped to reduce a possible threat to the health of local inhabitants and offered a shelter where passengers could make contact with reputable ticket agents. The building was enlarged in 1881 to provide separate rooms and washing facilities for men and women. Trains with as many as seventeen carriages set off from a long platform at the back of the waiting room, many of them on their way to Liverpool via Leeds. The number of migrants using the waiting room began to fall in 1907 when a dockside rail terminus was built, and the decline continued after the First World War as immigration quotas were imposed by the United States. It closed in 1999 but was reopened in 2003 as a club for Hull City supporters.

A plaque in Paragon Station commemorates the 2.2 million people who passed through the Emigration Platform, Hull on their way to America, Canada or South Africa. Among them were about half a million European Jews, hoping to find a better life elsewhere.

We went to look at it a couple of years ago but it was full of football supporters and I was too scared to go in 😦

The children stayed for a week at the Poor Jews’ Temporary Shelter in London, which records that they had come to Hull on the ship Omsk. I haven’t found these passenger lists.

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The passenger list for the journey to South Africa on the Avondale Castle.

I think that Louis attended the Jewish Government School in Doornfontein (see some lovely photos here) and then Jeppe High School. I have emailed them to ask if they have any records. (Update 16 Aug: A very prompt reply: “I have checked the admission registers and the school magazines which list the new pupils every year but could not find your grandfather, Louis Feinstein. I even checked the Jeppe Prep admission register to see if I could find him but no luck.”)

The next family story about Louis was that in 1917, at the age of 17, he tried to join the army. His father had him recalled and brought home. In 1918 he again joined up, hiding in a compartment on a train for Potchefstroom. There he had his military training and left by boat for Salisbury, England, with the South African Jewish forces. Armistice was declared in November of that year and Louis volunteered for service in Vladivostock, Russia. He fought for the British against White Russia. Eventually he was repatriated and returned to South Africa.

He looks so young in the photo above. Here are the military records I have for Louis.

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Louis discharge

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These are quite hard to read, but they do show that he lied about his age! One gives his year of birth as 1899 and the other as 1897. They show that he served in the 2nd South African Infantry for 305 days, enlisting at Potchefstroom on 15 April 1918, then being discharged on 17 May 1919 after re-enlisting in the Machine Gun Corps, North Russian Relief Force at Whitehall on 19 May 1919.

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Louis embarkation(back)

To be continued …

Ari, this shows how you are related to Louis:

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Family stories: murdered for a wedding suit

One of the stories told by my grandmother Rose was about her father-in-law, Charles Feinstein, who was born on 25 June 1859 in Libau (Liepaja), Latvia. I wrote this down from what she told me: “He ran a grocery shop in Jeppestown, Johannesburg, after working as a picture framer. After his children had left home, he used to send a servant to his daughter Mary’s house in O’Reilly Road, where she would make food for the servant to take back. In September 1930 the servant came and said that Charles was very ill. The servant disappeared, and Charles was found dead in his room. He had told the servant that he had bought a new suit and saved £50 for Rose and Louis’s wedding. Both had been taken. The servant was later imprisoned.”

It was not until our last visit to Cape Town that I was able to find any evidence for this story. This involved hours of peering at microfilmed issues of the Johannesburg newspapers in the library (I don’t think many South african newspapers have been digitised yet – it would be great if they were!).

Charles Feinstein 1930

Although it was a shock to see this in black and white, it was amazing to finally have confirmation. Unfortunately it took so long that we didn’t read on to find out what happened to the servant.

The newspaper account mentions that a relative, Mr Perlman, had a duplicate key to the property and made the discovery, but I have not been able to find out who he was. I would also like to know what Charles’s middle name was.

This dreadful event happened in September, and Rose and Louis got married the following month. Charles was Ari’s 3x great-grandfather.

Ari, this shows how you are related to Charles:

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The New Jersey connection

Isaac Abram Feinstein was Ari’s 4x great-grandfather. He was born in about 1827 in Polangen (now Palanga), on the Baltic coast of Lithuania, and died on 23 March 1901 in Libau (now Liepaja), which is further north on the same coast, in Latvia.

We don’t know much about him, but some records are available on JewishGen, including one from the All Lithuania Revision List Database from 1845 (below):

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and one in the Latvia Deaths Database:

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Isaac (called Itsik) and his wife Sheva had six children that we know of. Three of these children (Charles, Jacob and Aron Feinstein) went to South Africa, but a daughter (Johanna or Jennie) went to Asbury Park, New Jersey, where she married a man called Louis Solomon, proprietor of an automobile shop.

Having been in touch with her descendants, it was nice that DNA testing told us that she really was from the same Feinstein family.

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Ari, this shows how you are related to Isaac:

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