Shlomo (Solomon) Gross from Kalisz, Poland

One 5x great-grandfather of Ari’s was Solomon Gross. All I know about him for certain is that his daughter Milly’s marriage certificate from 13 August 1889 describes him as:

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So we know he had died by that date. The synagogue marriage authorisation gives his Hebrew name as Shlomo Zalman Halevy.

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(Levy is a male Hebrew biblical personal name, as well as a title, indicating priestly lineage. The Hebrew prefix “Ha-” means “the”. The Levites are descendants of Levi, the third son of Jacob and Leah (Genesis 29.34) – see

Milly’s grave also tells us in Hebrew that she is Mindel, daughter of Shlomo:

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We can assume that he lived in Kalisz, Poland, where Milly was born, but I have been told that she was orphaned at the age of four, which would be 1872.

Searching the JewishGen database for records from Kalisz does not offer any matches for him or Milly.

It’s possible that Milly’s son Solomon (born in 1897) was named after him. (He later changed his name to Sidney.)

The address where Milly was living before her marriage gives us the best clue to follow:

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This led me to an incredible newspaper article in the London Daily News of 22 March 1897 (, which is worth reading in full (it reads across and then down).

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It is also very probable that Milly was there when this terrible fire occurred almost next door in January 1888, reported in the London Evening Standard of 21 Jan (also from

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But none of this gets us any closer to finding him!

Ari, this is how you are related to Solomon:

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Jacob Cohen of Kalisz

Jacob Cohen was born in Kalisz, Poland, in 1850. He was Ari’s 4x great-grandfather. From his marriage certificate, we know that his father was called Moses. We don’t know the name of his mother. Jacob was a widower when he married Milly Gross on13 August 1889 at the Great Synagogue in London. His residence was given as 8 East Mount Street, and his occupation was tailor. We do not know any details of his first wife, or if he had any children with her. The marriage authorisation from the synagogue states that he has no brothers. His Hebrew name is given as Yehuda ben Moshe HaCohen.

The 1891 census shows Jacob with his wife and daughter Rachel living at 24 Green Dragon Yard in Whitechapel. Included in the census record are a married lodger, Fanny Michaels (a tailoress from Poland), and her two daughters, Rebecca (6) and Rachel (4), as well as Jacob and Millie’s two-week-old son, Morris.

They were at the same address in 1901. By this time, three more children had been born. Annie Rosa (born in 1893) died as a baby but Jacob (16) and Solomon (14) are listed and are at school. At the same address are two other families.

Jacob died at 24 Green Dragon Yard on 30 January 1907, at the age of 57. His occupation was given as master tailor, and cause of death was exhaustion and pulmonary tuberculosis.

He was buried at Edmonton Cemetery.

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The Hebrew reads: Here lies Yehuda son of Moshe HaCohen
Died 15 Shevat 5667
May his soul be bound up in the bond of (everlasting) life.

Ari, this is how you are related to Jacob:

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Mindel (Millie) Gross from Kalisz

One of Ari’s 4x great-grandmothers was Mindel or Millie Gross, the mother of Grandma Raye. Her Hebrew name was Mindel Bat [daughter of] Shlomo Zalma Halevy.

I don’t have a photo of her.

Mindel was born in about 1868 in Kalisz, Poland, which had a big Jewish community going back to the twelfth century. The city was famous for its lace and other textiles. In 1827 a Jewish quarter was established. In 1881 the Russian authorities expelled the Jewish residents of Kalisz who lacked Russian citizenship, but I think Millie had already left by then.

“The Jewish neighborhood of Kalisz was in the northwest area of the central city, along the main boulevard – Nowa Street. Nowa and adjacent streets were the site of the Great Synagogue and the House of Study. Along its expanse were the offices of Jewish organizations and clubs, as well as many Jewish shops ranging from large stores to small shops to tiny holes in the wall: bookstores, taverns, shops selling Hebrew and Yiddish newspapers, butchers, fish stores, and boutiques.”

“In 1939, on the eve of the German invasion, the Jewish population of Kalisz numbered over 20,000. There is no Jewish community in Kalisz today.” (Holocaust Encyclopedia)

More information and photos of Kalisz can be seen here.

According to her grandson Michael Arkus, Millie was orphaned in Poland at the age of 4 and was brought to England by an uncle called Peter who settled in England after being captured when fighting against the British in the Crimean War. I have been unable to find out who this uncle is.

My big breakthrough with Millie came when I was able to order her daughter’s birth certificate, giving me her maiden name of Gross. I could then find her marriage certificate. She married Yehudah (or Jacob) Cohen on 13 August 1889 at the Great Synagogue in London.

The marriage certificate gave me the new information that Jacob was a widower, and that Millie’s father was Solomon Gross (deceased), a general dealer.

I now also have the marriage authorisation for the couple. This mentions her uncle, and gives her address before marriage as 12 Hutchison Avenue, Gravel Lane, Houndsditch.

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I checked the census to see who else was at this address, and found the family of Jonas Barnett, also from Kalisz. I am hoping that this will lead me to other family members.

In the 1891 census they were living at 24 Green Dragon Yard, in Whitechapel, and her name was given as Amelia. In 1901 her name was given as Minnie. By the time of the 1911 census she was a widow, aged 42, living at 10 Fremont Street in Hackney. In addition to four of her children, there were two boarders: Cyril and Leo Krantz, aged 12 and 11, from Australia.

Millie and Jacob had six children: Rachel (Raye); Morris (Maurice), who became a journalist and film producer and married the glamorous German dancer and actor Lore Sello; Annie Rosa who died as a baby; Jacob (Jack), who was killed in action on 5 August 1916 aged 21 and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France; Solomon (Sidney), who owned a rag trade factory; and Esther (Hettie), who married an East End tailor whose family were also from Kalisz, Jack Arkus.

Millie died aged 64 on 20 July 1932 at 12 Anson Rd, Cricklewood. The cause of death was “myocarditis, arteriosclerosis, infarction of the lung”.

Millie’s gravestone at Edmonton Cemetery

Ari, this shows how you are related to Millie:

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Grandma Raye

Ari’s 3x great-grandmother Rachel Cohen was always known to me as Grandma Raye. She was born at 8 East Mount Street in Whitechapel on 5 Feb 1890, the first child of Jacob (or Judah) Cohen and Mindel (Millie) Gross, who had emigrated from Kalisz in Poland.

It took me a long time to get hold of her birth certificate as there were so many Rachel Cohens born in Whitechapel, but the 1939 Register gave me the exact birth date and I could then order it and finally discover her mother’s maiden name.

One very sad discovery I made was that Rachel had a baby sister called Annie Rosa, who was born in the last quarter of 1893 and died in January 1894. Rachel would have been just three years old when this happened.

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In the same year, Rachel started attending Chicksand Street School, as we know from the London, England, School Admissions and Discharges, 1840–1911 collection on Ancestry:

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In the 1901 census the family are living at 24 Green Dragon Yard, just off Brick Lane.

In 1908 she became engaged to Maurice Katz. This was announced in the Jewish Chronicle:

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And the wedding took place on 28 Dec 1909 at the Great Synagogue in London when she was just 19. Their two daughters were born in 1910 and 1914.

The earliest photo I have of Raye is this very formal one taken in Whitechapel. I have no idea who the other women are!


This one was taken in 1930.


And this is a lovely one with Maurice.

Maurice and Raye

Raye died from bronchopneumonia on 21 Jan 1976 at Whittington Hospital in Islington.

Postscript: I now have the birth and death certificates for Annie Rosa. She was born on 27 Aug 1893 at 24 Green Dragon Yard, and died of measles at the same address on 26 Jan 1894.

Ari, this shows how you are related to Raye:

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