Thursday, July 16, 2009

With a little help from my friends.

Genealogists are an extremely generous lot. They love helping newbies like me find their families, and for that I am extremely grateful and extend a very public "thanks".

I joined the Australia Jewish Genealogy Society and, last week, went along to one of their monthly workshops. Now it may have been an advantage that I happen to be related to one of the movers and shakers at AJGS – Reike Nash – a profligate genealogist who has chronicled one branch of my family tree in some depth. She and her husband, Peter, have welcomed me into the AJGS fold and shown me round the reference library.

Reike’s maiden name is Isenberg. My mother’s maiden name is Eizenberg. By a not so strange coincidence they are both descended from the same ancestors - Avraham and Yetta Devora Isenberg (or Ajzenberg as it may have been spelt in the old country, Poland!)

Avraham and Yetta had five children. I am descended from their oldest child, a son, Harris Zvi Yssac Eisenberg, born on April 8, 1853 in Wyszkow, Poland. Reike and her family are descended from their youngest, Morris (Mosche) Isenberg, born 1871. As well as these two sons Avraham and Yetta Devorah had another, Israel (born abt 1864) and two daughters - Feyge (born abt 1858) and Shyfra (born abt 1860).
Reike has traced the family back even further and I hope to continue this search when I travel overseas next year.

So what happened to Harris? Harris traveled from Poland to London around 1876 where he met and married Esther Greenbaum, a native of Plotzk (now Plock) Poland, on Valentines Day, 1877.

Harris had already been married once before, p
rior to coming to London, however the identity and fate of his first wife are unknown.

Not very long after his wedding Harris boarded the Rydelmere in Plymouth and set sail for Australia. Although his name does not appear on the manifest he claims this is the ship he traveled on in his application for a copy of his naturalization papers. He arrived, according to his testimony, on the 18th of August 1877.

Esther stayed in the UK where she gave birth to a son, David on Boxing Day 1877, in Mile End Town, Middlesex.
Esther and David followed Harris to Australia in 1979 aboard the Peterborough. David was barely a year old.

In 1880 they had a second child, Hannah (Annie) in Sydney. These are the only two living children noted for Harris and Esther but there are two deceased children listed on Esther’s death certificate. I have found no records so far to indicate where these children may have been born.

Harris was employed as a Hebrew teacher and a “collector for the Hebrew Benevolent Society”. This occupation is also listed in his request to obtain a copy of his naturalization certificate. In his letter to the Secretary of the Home and Territories Department Harris claims that “the only reason I can account for losing my paper is that my wife can neither read nor write and must have destroyed it in the washing of my coat”. He goes on to add, “I have lost many important papers the same way”… We can only imagine the conversations that went with those incidents!!

Annie married Barnett Lampert in 1900 and David married Ettie Diamond in 1902. That same year Annie’s husband died before the birth of her second child whom she named Barnett Jr.
David and Ettie had three children; the youngest of which was my grandfather Leo.

Esther died January 1920 in Sydney. Harris followed her a year later, in March 1921.

Harris and Esther are two ancestors I have to thank for being an Australian. They took the risk to come here and start a new life. What they left back on Poland are some of the stories I hope to discover as I follow their faded footprints back to Plock and Wyszkow.

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