Saturday, 26 January 2013

Surname Saturday- Lefridge

Henry and Sidney Lefridge as teenagers., c.1917
When my grandmother was born in North London in 1932, she automatically joined an exclusive club: the Lefridge family. Only her parents, grandparents, and her uncle and his family shared her surname, in the entire country. But where did this unusual name come from? Her father, as his before him, had been born Henry Lefcovitch on the 26th May 1900, but his father Nathan may already have started to go by Nathan Lefridge. Henry's younger siblings, Sidney and Gladys, known as Galla, had been registered at birth as Lefridge, despite it not being their father's legal name. This was legal in the United Kingdom, where your name is what people called you, not what was written on a document! However, in First World War, xenophobic, and especially anti-German, feeling led many Jewish families to change their names officially by deed poll: Nathan (and Henry) did this in 1915. 

Nat Lefridge and his wife Elsie, on holiday in 1932.

However, the name of Lefridge was destined not to last. Henry and Sidney both had daughters, all of whom married and changed their names. Consequently, when Henry's wife Millie died in 1987, the family name died out, having officially existed only sixty two years. Though they were a small family, my grandmother still remembers her maiden name fondly: owing to its rarity, it is very useful for making dinner reservations!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Tombstone Tuesday- Amelia Lefcovitch

Taken in the Jewish Cemetery, Lambeth, South London , 2009

Amelia Lefcovitch (1840-1924) was born Machla Krajsman in Kolo, Poland. She married Myer Lefcovitch there in 1869, and they emigrated to England in 1874. Although she died some years before my grandmother, her great-granddaughter, was born, I like to think she was quite a character. There are happily several photos of her in our family's collection; I've included what I think is probably the best.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Tombstone Tuesday- New Leads Galore!

The larger grave (no. 48), is Shmuel's!
Much excitement today: for today I have found my first ever Eastern European tombstone! I can hardly contain my joy- I've been jumping up and down shouting at my much confused non-genealogist friends, and ringing or emailing just about everyone I'm related to! A few hours I discovered not just the details, but even an image of my great-great-great-grandfather Shmuel Stern's matzevah.

      I have known of the existence both of this ancestor (grandfather of Clara Saffer, my great-grandmother) and the cemetery for some time. Samuel (as he was called in England) was named on the marriage certificates of his children, and on his wife's death certificate in Manchester in 1923. My grandfather visited Brody in the early 1990s, just after the collapse of the Soviet Union, though the cemetery back then was in no condition to be visited- it was overlooked by an austere Soviet barracks! I am very grateful to all those involved in the Brody Cemetery Project for the massive effort it must have taken to record all the data; without them I could never have confirmed Shmuel's existence. Also without them, I would never have been able to see the beautiful detail, illustrated below, of my ancestor's fine grave.
Fine craftsmanship (see below for close-ups), not uncommon in the Brody cemetery,

Ritual Handwashing

Symbolic animals, possibly bird and lion.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Tombstone Tuesday: Louis and Hannah Rubinstein

Louis and Hannah Rubinstein were my great-great-grandparents, and are buried in Failsworth Jewish Cemetery,  in Greater Manchester. 

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Surname Saturday- Altman

S. L. Altman in the early 1920s.
I'm grateful, once more to Geneabloggers for giving me something to write about! I find their blogging prompts very inspiring, and with luck I'll be able to take them up more in the coming months. Today I wanted to focus on the first name my genealogical adventures brought me to, almost five years ago now: Altman!
S. L.  Altman, approx. 1890s.

 When I was a little boy, my grandmother brought us back from her trip to Australia a thin A4 booklet entitled simply "The Altmans: A Family Story". It contained stories in it about her mother (who was born Amelia Altman in 1894) and her parents and siblings, and their children, as well as family trees for each of the branches. Unsurprisingly, this was my first port of call when I embarked upon family history research myself. The patriarch of the family was Samuel Louis Altman. Whilst the compilers of the book had not access to the resources, I was able to take the Altman name back to Poland, and find records of Samuel, who had been born Szlama Laib. I was also able to find records of his father, Aron (Aaron) who died in Kalisz in 1867, having been born in the town of Zdunska Wola approximately 65 years earlier. His three sons, all born in Poland, too had sons, though they were born either in New York or in London. Many of them, interestingly enough, went on to become barbers or hairdressers, just as their grandfather in Poland had been. With a slightly different spelling, I found him in a medical directory of 1839! It's the oldest record I've found of a member of the Altman family in Poland (followed by the record of Aaron's mother's death in 1848) .

Despite having researched the Altman family for some years now, with branches in Australia, England, and New York (although we are not related to the Altman, of department store fame in New York!) I've never actually met anyone of that surname! The relations I've met on that side, from my grandmother onwards, were either women who long since married or, as in my grandmother's case, children of Altman girls. One day I hope to meet a member of the family who carries the name still, if only to tell them of its history!