The Joseph Family of Leeds

The following has appeared in various issues of the British Jewry Newsletter and are reproduced here with kind permission of Jonny Joseph.


I was always curious about the origin of our surname. It seemed odd that other children had so many relatives with their same surname when my family had so few. The story went that when my grandfather arrived in the United Kingdom, he knew that his brother was known as Mr. JOSEPH, so he took the same name. Their name had been KUTCHINSKY, and grandfather Isaac JOSEPH (d.1945) told his son, my Dad, that people always said, “Bless you!” when they heard the name.

I did not think much about all of this until April 2002. The 1901 census was not available on the Internet at the time, so I looked for any family records my father had. All he had was a copy of the family’s passport showing my grandfather's place and date of birth: Kolo, Russia, on 9 June 1875. It has a picture of my grandfather and a second picture which includes my grandmother and her two sons and daughter. What could I do with this information?

Using the Internet, I began to search for Kolo in Russia but my father insisted that Kolo was in Poland. Sure enough, doing a Google search, I found it in present-day Poland, approximately 100 miles (160Km) west of Warsaw, in the gubernia of Kalisz, Poznan province.

So this was good: I now knew more about where my family originated. Again through Google, I found a wonderful genealogy website, Jewish Records Indexing (JRI) and I located the town of Kolo. Searching for the name KUTCHINSKY, I found numerous variations which could sound the same and, using the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex technique, I found an “Icek” born in 1875. His birth record, Akt # 71, was to be found on a certain microfilm at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Family History Centres (FHCs). Fortunately, I live less than two kilometres from one of the largest FHCs outside Salt Lake City, where I obtained a copy of the birth record.

I had joined the Jewish Polish Genealogy List’s e-mail group and solicited someone to translate the document, which I had scanned into my computer. What a shock! It was written in Russian, not in Polish. I asked my cousin Lee, a Russian major at university, if she could translate our grandfather’s birth record. She was very excited and told me that her late father had corresponded with our grandfather’s brother in New York, and that she would fax me a letter that she had from him. This was a major revelation – we had some information on the brother who had come to the United States! I faxed Lee, the birth record, and I soon received the promised letter. Great-uncle Morris wrote that my Uncle Benje was quite accurate and that he had gone to the United States in 1905, but he made no mention of coming from Leeds. Now I had some really solid information to work with and was able to go back to the Internet to search further.

Ellis Island, the most popular point of entry into the United States at that time, has a wonderful website with many search options and capabilities; one can easily find immigrants and obtain copies of the original ships' manifests which listed all passengers. It includes lots of interesting information such as where passengers were born, where they came from and where and to whom they were going. Other information I found later became useful in identifying the family in the 1891 and 1901 English census records.

Excitedly, I told my father about my latest discoveries. He had vague recollections of his brother making contact with their uncle in New York and he gave me some names and addresses of a few relatives who lived in the United States. Using an address and telephone numbers website I was able to find relatives who, I learned, were descended from Simon JOSEPH. He had never left the United Kingdom but had at some point left Leeds for Scotland. Now my grandfather had not one but two brothers!

I found a Russian-speaking neighbour who translated the birth record but to my disappointment I discovered that it bore the wrong name. I obtained the right record, and my neighbour provided a complete translation.

The records of that time contained two sets of dates: one set tells us the date of the event, the other shows when the event was recorded by the records clerk. One date is according to the “old calendar”, the other is according to the “new calendar.” The next revelation was that my grandfather’s birth date, according to his passport, did not agree with either date on his birth record!
Using the information on the birth record and the JRI website, I was then able to ascertain the following:
• My grandfather’s parents, Lejb and Marya (RAUF), married in 1862,
• Their first son, Szymon, was born in 1862,
• Their second son, Rywen, was born in 1867,
• Their fourth son, Mociek, was born in 1880 (further proof that the letter-writer in New York was part of the family),
But who immigrated to Leeds?

In response to one of my inquiries posted by the JewishGen E-mail List, I was sent an Excel file of all JOSEPHs and GREENBERGs living in Leeds in 1901, which enabled me to identify each of the above people, including my great-grandparents – another surprise for my father! All of the names had been anglicised, and my great-grandparents had become Louis and Mary. Living with them was Morris aged 22, and Alick aged 14. From this I concluded that there was now a fifth brother!

The other surprise was the absence of my grandmother and her family from this 1901 Census file, despite their passport clearly stating that Fanny GREENBERG was born in Leeds in 1901. Once the 1901 Census went online, at the suggestion of one of the British-Jewry E-mail List Administrators I searched for all females named Fanny in Leeds at that time, of my grandmother’s approximate age, and found Fanny GREENBORO. I then did a search for all GREENBOROs in Leeds and found a family of nine. My father was able to confirm most of the names as family members. I wrote to the people at the National Archives about this inaccuracy and I noticed they corrected the online information fairly quickly.

I have also searched the microfiche of the 1891 England Census at the FHC, noting many of the same family members who had been born at that time. Absent is my great-grandfather from the same address as that of my great-grandmother, my grandfather and others. My next step is to obtain his naturalization certificate and application to learn what I can of his entry into the United Kingdom.

As a result of my research thus far I have established the following: In 1891 my grandfather Isaac JOSEPH (KUTCHINSKY) went from Poland to Leeds at 16 years of age. I am not sure of the timing, but by 1901 his parents and four brothers were in Leeds too.

Isaac married Dora LEVENSEN (d.3 June 1913, aged 36) in 1898 in Leeds. They had three children that I know of: Anna/Hanna, Jeremiah and Henry. Anna died aged 3 in 1905, Jeremiah died at 18-hours of age in 1909. Their third child, my Uncle Henry, whom I knew and loved, was born in Leeds in 1899 and died in South Africa at age 69 in 1968, when I was 5 years old. My grandparents immigrated to South Africa in 1921 – between 28 April, the date on their passport, and 21 November, the date of my father’s birth in South Africa.

Isaac became a British citizen in 1912: I have his naturalisation certificate and application. He re-married on 11 January 1914, to the surprise of everyone in my family! His second wife, my grandmother Fanny GREENBERG, was born in Leeds on 25 December 1890.

Most of my grandfather's immediate family and their spouses were buried in Louis Street Cemetery, according to the burial records provided to me by the United Hebrew Congregation of Leeds. Now I need to confirm that the family members are there, to determine their plot locations and to find out if there are any records of their next of kin. I learned that the UHC also has Louis Street marriage records with more information than the death records may contain; I hope to obtain copies of those records shortly.

Of my grandfather's four brothers, I have located descendants of two of them. Of the other two, one is listed in the 1901 census and I have found no other mention of him. The other is buried in Louis Street; I have the names of his children. I have possibly located his children's marriage records on Yorkshire Free BMD.


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RAISMAN   The Raisman Family.
John Raisman writes about his family history, plus a book review by Naomi Barnett.

LANDA   The Landa Family.
Sherry Landa has written numerous pieces about her own family history research which was the precursor of the Leeds Database .

IMMIGRATION   To Leeds from Lithuania & Latvia.
Angie Elfassi shares a momentous trip.

MORE   On Engagements, Betrothals & Forthcoming Marriage Announcements.
How many announcements in the press, were actually followed up with a marriage? Not as many as you might think according to this article by Sherry Landa.

JOSEPH   Jewish Genealogy in Leeds-from Abroad.
The story of Jonny Joseph's research journey.


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