Kim began by repeating the details on Henry and Linda’s marriage certificate and then wrote: “It should be easy, you said, to find his birth certificate, but despite your most determined efforts, you could not find it. Regrettably, you spent quite a lot of time and money chasing the wrong Henry Millers, but I am sorry to say, it was all wasted. You were never going to find it, because every one of the details concerning Henry given on that marriage certificate was false.
“In answer to your enquiry [regarding the possibility of there being any family papers which would throw light on Henry] I started to search the cupboard of Miller family archives kept in a steel cupboard in our garage.
“Within a few hours I found a leather trinket box that had belonged to Linda, containing a copy of Henry’s obituary (published in the local newspaper Wairarapa Times-Age the day after his death, 7 Jan 1946) and a handwritten note compiled by, I assume Linda, and clearly dated 1946, listing and numbering the names of Henry’s father and 9 siblings, “7 born in Russia (6 boys and 1 girl) and 3 in Wales”, as follows.
Father: Allan Paul Miller*
|1.||Barney||1875-1942||wife, 3 sons, 1 daughter|
|2.||Jack||1876-1923||wife, 4 sons, 2 daughters|
|3.||Lewis||living in US||wife, 3 sons|
|5.||Brother||un-named||[not mentioned in the note but required by the arithmetic]|
|6.||Brother||un-named||[not mentioned in the note but required by the arithmetic]|
|7.||Henry||birth date not given||wife, 1 son|
|8.||Florrie||born 24/7/1887||living in US, 1 daughter|
|10.||Ada||living in US||2 sons, 1 daughter|
*At least the father’s initials are the same as on Henry’s marriage certificate.
“This means that Harry was very far from being an only child – he was the last of his parents’ 7 children born in Russia, and he had a further 3 sisters born in UK. It also implies that the family must have moved there some time between 1881 and 1887. The two un-named boys perhaps died in infancy because they are never mentioned again. By 1946 only three of the 10 children (Lewis, Florrie and Ada) were still living.
“This information must have come as a very considerable shock to Linda, who until after Henry’s death had been told or assumed that he had been an only child. It meant that (1) Henry had given false information about his parents’ names, his father’s profession, and his own place of birth on his marriage certificate, and (2) Linda had numerous in-laws she had never heard of, living in US. How did she find out about what she did not know she did not know?
“Henry still corresponded occasionally with his US family, but, for some unknown reason, he had not only never told Linda the truth about his family background, he had never told his family that he was married. Their letters were presumably delivered to his school address, and the most obvious way that she must have found out about them was that the first letter to arrive after his death was forwarded to her. Naturally, she wrote to the address given and asked what the story was. That precipitated a string of letters from Lewis and Florrie expressing their astonishment to discover that their brother Henry had been in fact married and had a son of his own, their despair that he had never shared his happiness with them, and their delight at suddenly being able to write to Linda with all the affection that they would have loved to give her had they known of her existence sooner.
“Linda, naturally enough, wrote to ask if they had a copy of Harry’s birth certificate. Lewis replied that they had never had one, or they would be glad to send it. This is odd, because among Linda’s archives I found a legal-type envelope marked “Harry’s testimonials and birth certificate”.
“It is an undoubted certified original [of an English birth certificate] complete with stamp and superimposed registrar’s signature, but it seems to relate to a different person. The details are:
District of Sculcoates, Hull, Book 42 page 4, Births in the District of East Sculcoates, county of York
Born 24 September 1881 at 5 Regent Square, Sykes St
Name Hyman, boy
Father Jacob Miller, house painter; mother Rachel Miller, formerly Horwich
Informant Rachel Miller, identified by her mark [ie, she was not literate], at same address
Date registered 7 November 1881 by John Clapham, registrar
Copy certified on 16 January 1902 by James Dixon, Deputy Superintendent Registrar.
“It is not obvious whether Linda had ever seen this document before she presumably found it among Henry’s papers. If she had, she might not have queried the different name because, after all, she and everyone always called him Harry even though his name was supposed to be Henry. She also might not have had much difficulty understanding why he didn’t want to be known as Hyman. But surely she would have noticed the difference in other significant details between her own marriage certificate and this document. It seems to show that she did not in fact marry Henry Miller son of Arthur Philip Miller and Rose Martin of Glamorgan, but someone else entirely. So my guess is that she found it only after it was too late to ask him for an explanation. The implications could have been frightening for her.
“Fortunately, Lewis was able to explain all in his letter of 6 October 1946.”
“No doubt you will be surprised to receive this letter from someone you don’t even know, and probably until lately never heard of before. …..I am your late lamented Husband’s brother, his senior by 2½ years of age and the only one left of 5 brothers.
Our family emigrated from Russia to England when I was 5 years old and Harry whom we always called Hyman was a baby about 2½ years of age. We arrived in Hull in England and were received by an uncle of ours where we stayed 2 weeks, from there we went to Porth, South Wales, where our father had prepared a home for us and where your husband and I got our schooling, although younger than myself he was a much better scholar than I was, I suppose it was due to the fact that when I started school I could talk no English whilst my brother had the advantage of being able to talk as well as to learn something from me. …we were very close as children and…I often wished it had stayed that way
…..my father went to bed one night and never woke. It was during our Passover holidays and to top all our misfortunes the day he was carried out of the house to be laid to rest my youngest sister was born leaving my poor mother with a family of 7, 4 boys and 3 girls, the oldest my brother Barnett at that time was only about 16. So Mother took me out of school and Barnett and I tried to carry on, but believe me it was tough going. So some of my Mother’s friends insisted that she ought to put either Harry or me into a school for orphaned children.
So Harry suggested that Mother should send him instead of me, as I was the oldest [of the two of us] and could better help raise the rest of the family. So after a good bit of thought Harry was sent to this school outside London it was strictly a school for Hebrew children taught along the lines of present day needs and he seemed to be happy in his new surroundings.
In the meantime my mother’s brothers who were in America commenced writing to my mother to send the two oldest boys to them in America. So my two brothers left England about 1891 or thereabouts, which left my mother, 3 sisters and myself to take care of them. So we left South Wales and went to live in London where my sister and I got work and managed to get along.
Then in 1893 we received a letter and money for passages for all of us to come to America. Mother was for taking Harry out of school at once so both Mother and I went up to the school and talked to the Schoolmaster. He in turn told my mother that she was making a big mistake by taking him [Harry] out of school where he claimed he [Harry] was doing so good and his suggestion was that we leave him there and in a few years he [Harry] would be through school and he could then join us in America.
So when we put it squarely up to my brother to come with us he not only refused but claimed that Mother would ruin his life. So ….what could my poor mother do? So we came away without him.
We corresponded regularly fully expecting that upon graduation he would join us in America. But as the years passed we heard less and less of him, when lo and behold one day we received a letter from him from New Zealand telling us that he had taken a teacher’s post and so it went on. I used to write to him but it used to be months and months before I would receive a reply and in that reply you could readily tell that he didn’t want to be bothered with me or my letters…that sort of correspondence couldn’t keep up so we dropped it.”
[Ed: The letter was written without paragraphs but I have inserted paragraphs to make it easier to read.]
Kim continued her account:
“If Lewis is correct that Henry was already “a baby about 2½ years of age [when] we arrived in Hull in England” where his mother registered him in 1881 as having been born only six weeks previously in Hull, then he may actually have been born in about 1879. That would leave his extraordinarily fertile and hard-working mother enough time after Jack (b. 1876) to produce Lewis and the un-named sister before popping Henry in 1879. So the one fact we all thought was secure, his birth year, may not be. It is possible that, if UK law then (as Australian law now does) allowed the registration of a birth without the infant being present, it may be that no-one noticed what ought to have been a rather startling discrepancy. Sigh. Henry may have been glad of the underestimate of his age perpetuated by his mother, and unwilling to correct it if he was afraid that Linda would think him too old for her. The legal copy of his birth certificate issued in 1902 was presumably obtained by Henry before leaving UK for good, or by post afterwards, as he would need it to certify himself as a British citizen but otherwise kept it hidden.
“Linda [had] asked if Lewis had any theory why Henry did not tell her about his family. Lewis replied that he could understand it if Henry had been hurt by anti-Semitism and so was afraid to admit his Jewish roots, and saw a chance to start a totally new life in the southern hemisphere. But one thing led to another, and once starting with a minor deception, he found himself stuck with it. She also asked where the name Miller came from, and Lewis replied that it was simply his father’s trade. Lewis did not know that his mother had given his father’s trade on Henry’s birth certificate as “House painter”. So Henry’s listing of his father as a colliery engineer was either a late change in career (unlikely, if he died within a few years, when Ada was born in, let’s say, maybe 1890) or another fabrication that might have the effect of promoting Henry’s origins into a professional class appropriate to South Wales.
“Since the American relatives had no knowledge of Henry’s life after he left London at 19 (Florrie sent Linda some nice photos of him at that age and younger), that is, in 1900, they could not help fill in the details of his career before he settled in NZ. Luckily the unknown writer of the obituary did that. It says
After completing his education and training for the teaching profession, he went to South Africa where he taught for five years. In 1906 he visited New Zealand for a short period before going to Australia where he continued with his teaching profession for about three years [1906-1909]. On his return to New Zealand he accepted a position on the staff at Masterton District High School where he remained for several years”.
“Henry duly appears on the Masterton Electoral Roll in 1911, and the rest you know.
“The archive includes sheaves of testimonials as to his teaching skills, including several from Australia and (I have not read them) I think one from Cape Town, and plenty of evidence of the great respect in which his pupils and other staff held him. He was a pillar of the community, Master Mason, Chief Savage, good husband and father (lots of lovely family snaps in Linda’s photo albums), so he certainly seems to have made up for his youthful embarrassment, if you want to call it that. I don’t know when it emerged that he was Jewish, but it was clearly no longer a family secret when Joe told me in 1974. It was then, for me and for anyone I know, a complete non-issue, but then, we live in a more tolerant society than Henry did. I’m certainly not inclined to criticise him, only to regret that prejudice — mostly by Christians — caused him so much anxiety.
“I don’t want to steal all your excitement over this story so I’ve given you only the bare bones – you will glean lots more from the letters. Among other things David might want to follow up in due course is the fact that he must have a lot of Miller relatives in Pennsylvania. I am also wondering if it is merely co-incidence that one of David’s early interests was in learning Russian.”
Susan takes up the story:
Kim planned to hand over the letters when she next visited the UK but evidently she was still intrigued by the mystery surrounding Henry and decided to keep going through the archives over Christmas. On the 26th December she sent another email with summaries and extracts of another twenty letters written by Lewis and his sister Florrie to Linda between 7 June 1946 and 9 January 1952.
In her letters Linda had evidently referred to her husband as Harry, the informal name by which Henry was known by her, her family and his friends. Lewis and Florrie used the name Harry in their letters in reply to Linda although Lewis wrote that they had always called him Hyman.
Using Kim’s work, I began to construct the life of Hyman and his family. I’ve extracted the information from Lewis’ letter above and added all the information from all the other letters.
The family emigrated from Russia to England when Lewis was five years old and Hyman was about two and a half. Lewis wrote “As for knowing what part of Russia I was born in, from my mother’s remarks it was a place called Reshain in the province of Kovna Guberna”. [This is likely to be present day Raseiniai in Kovno, Lithuania.]
They arrived in Hull, which is on the north east coast of England and was the main port for those arriving from northern Europe, the Russian Empire and the Baltic States.
“….as to where we got the name of Miller….people mostly are called by the name of the trade they follow and my father happened to work as a miller….and I’ve never known any other”.
Having stayed with an uncle in Hull for two weeks, they moved to Porth, [in the coal and steel valleys] in south Wales, where their father had prepared a home and where Lewis and Hyman went to school. [No mention was made of why the family went to that area.]
Hyman was a much better scholar than Lewis, who couldn’t speak English when they started school whereas Hyman, being under three when they moved to Wales, could speak English by the time he was of school age. Lewis remembered them going to school together and playing together and said that they were close.
Their [unnamed] father was aged 44 when he died unexpectedly during Passover and their [unnamed] mother was aged 35 when he died. She was left with a family of 4 boys and 3 girls, the oldest being Barnett aged 16. [Unfortunately, Lewis did not say which year his father died.]
By October 1946, Lewis was the last surviving brother of five, indicating that one of the sons had died before their father’s death. In order of birth, the five brothers were: Berney, Jack, Lewis, Hyman and one unnamed.
The three sisters were: one unnamed, Florrie and Ada. Her mother had always told Florrie that she was seven years younger than Harry. The youngest sister, Ada, was born the day her father was carried out of the house to be buried.
Lewis referred to his father, grandfather and baby brother being buried in Merther [Merthyr Tydfil], south Wales.
When their father died, Lewis was taken out of school and he and Barnett tried to carry on “but believe me, it was tough going”. [He didn’t say what his second oldest brother was doing at this time.]
To ease the family’s circumstances it was decided that Lewis or Hyman should be put into a school for orphaned children in London. Harry suggested that he should be the one to go to school as Lewis was older and could better help raise the rest of the family and indeed he pleaded to be allowed to do so, near his father’s relatives (some unnamed and unquantified brothers and sisters who lived in London).
“After a good bit of thought” it was agreed and Harry was sent to a school for Hebrew children outside London; “he seemed happy in his new surroundings”. The photo shows him aged 11 when he went to the school.
Following their father’s death, their mother’s brothers had written that the two older brothers should be sent to them in America and they left, said Lewis, in 1891. And so their mother was left to look after the three daughters and Lewis. They moved to London where his [presumably eldest] sister and he got work and they managed to get along. In 1893 they received a letter from America and money for passages for all of them to travel there.
Evidently they wanted to take Harry as well so Lewis and his mother went to the school but the Schoolmaster dissuaded her from taking Harry out of school, claiming that Harry was doing well and that he could join them after he’d finished school in a few years. But, when appealed to directly, Harry refused to go and claimed that “Mother would ruin his life. So I ask you my dear, what could my poor mother do? So we came away without him.”
His Mother often wrote to Harry, asking him to come home but he ignored her. [Of course, Philadelphia may have become their home but it wasn’t his.]
There was regular correspondence whilst they expected him to join them after graduation but as the years passed, they heard less and less of him. The family had no knowledge of Henry’s life after he left London aged 19, although they had the photo of him taken at about 11 and one taken at his graduation when he was 18.
Harry’s mother died 29 October 1922, still grieving over the split from him and holding herself responsible for abandoning him.
According to the obituary, Harry had completed his education and training for the teaching profession, presumably in Britain, and had then taught in South Africa for five years and in Australia for about three years. Then he moved to New Zealand, accepting a position on the staff at Masterton District High School where he remained for several years.
It seems that Harry had told Linda that he had gone to South Africa with a cousin. On 14 March 1947, Lewis wrote “As for your husband going to South Africa with a cousin, I couldn’t say. I recall the time he got through school and my mother wrote him to join us in the USA, that he wrote and said that the doctor told him the climate here would be bad for him”.
Lewis’ account of the family receiving a letter from New Zealand saying that he had taken a teacher’s post implies that they didn’t know where he was before then but Florrie said she had been writing to him since she was 14, which would have been about 1902. She said that her mother’s letter to him, after he graduated, had reached him when he was already on his way to South Africa. [Did Harry write to them from South Africa and then Australia?]
After receiving the letter from New Zealand, Lewis used to write to him but it would be months before Harry replied and he could tell that Harry didn’t want to be bothered with him or his letters, and the correspondence stopped.
[It is possible that Lewis was being a little unfair. Perhaps he didn’t understand how long letters would take to travel by sea from the USA to New Zealand at that time, the early part of the 20th Century. Even if Harry had replied immediately, depending on the frequency of the ships sailing, it may have been at least three months from Lewis posting his letter to him receiving a reply.]
Unnamed father, who was 44 when he died during Passover and was buried in Merthyr Tydfil, south Wales. In Russia he had been a miller but his occupation in south Wales was not mentioned. [I would be surprised if he was a miller there as the very steep sides of the valleys would not be conducive to growing cereal crops.]
Unnamed mother who was 35 when her husband died, who then moved her family to London and from there to Philadelphia. She grieved for the rest of her life over leaving Harry behind, even though it was his wish to remain in London to complete his education. She died in 1922.
There was a wealth of information in the letters, about Harry’s siblings, their families and their lives but, of course, there were also times when the information was frustratingly lacking in crucial points. I have to remind myself that they were written for Linda’s benefit, not that of the family historian nearly sixty five years later.
The letters were written between 1946 and 1952. It is possible that the youngest of Harry’s nephews and nieces, though elderly, are still alive today and quite likely that their children are alive. Therefore, according to genealogy convention, although I have recorded the names in my records for research purposes, I have not named any of Harry’s nephews or nieces or their children, except for Florrie’s daughter Helen (who was married in 1938 and is unlikely to be alive now). Where known, I have indicated that the person was named.
Lewis, Florrie and Ada lived in Philadelphia and all met together once a week. Whilst Lewis generally spelt his name as Lewis, Florrie referred to him as Louis. Lewis’ second name was Walter.
On 7 June 1946, Florrie, by then Mrs Florrie Kahn, wrote from 5413 Pine Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her marriage had not been happy and had ended. By September 1946 she was living with her sister Ada.
Florrie had a daughter Helen, married 23 Dec 1938, who had an adopted [named] boy, born in 1946. Helen protested that her mother spoilt the boy but Florrie said “that’s what God made grandmothers for”. On 24 January 1951, Florrie wrote that Helen had produced a [named] new baby sister for the boy, who was then nearly five.
In February 1947, Florrie was working in Atlantic City, 60 miles away and stayed there during the week but by 26 April 1947 she was working as a clerk in one of her son in-law’s clothes cleaning stores [presumably in Philadelphia] and staying with Helen. She had sent Linda a set of scenes from Atlantic City.
Florrie continued to live with Helen and her family, moving with her to 7014 McCallum St, Philadelphia 19 and then to 2162 Warwick [unclear writing] Avenue, Philadelphia but she then found herself more than an hour’s travel from her work.
Florrie belonged to her local synagogue, attended meetings, and during the war did a lot for Red Cross. She sent Linda a photo of herself.
She wrote that Mother always told her that she was 7 years younger than Harry, “perhaps my mother was mistaken may be I am only 58….Mother didn’t have Harry’s birth certificate”. By September 1947 Florrie was 60 but never taken for more than 45. [Thus indicating that she was born in 1887]
On 7 June 1946, Florrie wrote: “You state in your letter that you knew that Harry received letters from me, would you mind telling me how you knew”.
[It seems pretty clear that Linda didn’t know of Harry’s family before he died, so perhaps she was confusing the correspondence. Had Harry corresponded with his cousin, the one with whom he’d travelled to South Africa?]
On 26 April 1947 Florrie wrote: “You asked me about a photo that Harry had of a chubby baby, I really can’t place it, perhaps if I were to see it I could tell you”.
[Was the baby the child of the cousin with whom he’d travelled to South Africa? I’d initially assumed that he would have travelled with a male cousin but, of course, there is no reason why he might not have escorted a female cousin there.]
Florrie was pleased to know that Harry and Linda’s marriage was a happy one, although short. [They were married 22 years.]
The family had learned more of Harry from Linda and Joe over the last few months “than we knew all these years from my beloved brother”. She knew little of him but loved him dearly. They were pleased to receive photos of Harry which Joe sent, having previously only had the photos of him when he was 11 and 18 which she sent to Linda.
On hearing that Joe was working during the day and taking part in musical comedy at night Florrie wondered if he was working too hard. She said that singing runs in the Miller family, most of them sang (or used to) very well. She was glad to know that Linda’s Udy family household was also very musical.
It was not long after the end of the war and in September 1947, Florrie offered to send Linda some nylon stockings. One parcel which Florrie sent to Linda was damaged in a fire and she would send another. She hoped Linda would not have to pay duty on the gift.
In February 1950, Florrie offered to send her “any of Max Factor’s product” so long as Linda wouldn’t have to pay a lot of duty on them. In January 1951 Florrie sent an aerogramme, anxious to know whether Linda had received the gift she’d mailed on 7 November.
[Linda had kept the customs declaration label from a parcel of stockings and cosmetics which Florrie had sent to her.]
Florrie had once sent a gift of tie pin, cuff links, silk shirts and ties to Harry and was pleased to know that Linda had the tie pin and cufflinks. He’d said he was pleased to get them but when asked what else they could send, he’d replied that he didn’t need anything. Indeed, she’d once sent him money but he’d returned it saying he had all he needed.
In January 1948 Florrie was glad to know that Linda had gone back to teaching.
[So maybe Henry and Linda had met at the Masterton school where Henry had been teaching when they got married.]
The second anniversary of Harry’s death had been remembered in Florrie’s local synagogue and in January 1949 she was remembering his third anniversary, writing that they always pray for Harry on his anniversary.
In August 1948 she mentioned the upcoming presidential elections and wrote “It looks like we are going to have trouble with Russia, what a world we are living in at present”.
She was sorry that Linda had to give up her cottage by the sea and hoped she found a nice new one.
In January 1951, following a letter from Linda, Florrie wrote that she’d enjoyed Linda’s description of her travels, adding that she herself loved to travel.
Florrie wrote that she weighed 129 lbs and Ada was 158 lbs. By 28 February 1950, Florrie, Ada and Lewis had all recently been ill. And two years later Florrie wrote that she had severe gall bladder trouble and was steadily losing weight. She said that Lewis’ eyes were very bad, preventing him from writing. He was getting old and Ada was the same.
Ada was married to Joe [no surname] with two sons and a daughter [all named].
By December 1948 the eldest [named] son had been married for 12 years and had a boy and a girl. The [named] boy would be three on 27 January 1949. The girl’s birthday was in July.
Ada’s youngest [named] son and [named] daughter had a double wedding on 12 December 1948.
Florrie had explained that Ada had bad eyesight and arthritis and therefore couldn’t write but that she was always anxious to read the letters from Linda.
Lewis was married to Dora. They had three [named] sons, two of them were married and they had two grandchildren.
Initially no details were given for the eldest son but in September 1948, Lewis wrote that they had spent 4 July weekend with their [eldest] [named] son and his family who lived in Camden NJ, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, then they had a week in New Haven, Connecticut with Lewis’ brother in-law and wife.
The middle [unnamed] son had been declared missing in action, his whereabouts not yet found.
The youngest son was a petty officer in the US navy, serving in China but by February 1948 he was on shore duties and was a CPO by September 1948. He was married to a Methodist minister’s [named] daughter and he and Dora thought the world of her. By February 1948 the couple had a [named] daughter.
He had left the navy but re-enlisted and the family were stationed about 20 miles away from Lewis and Dora’s new home. In 1949 their daughter in-law was expecting a new addition any day. And two years later, Lewis’ son was with the US Navy in Korea.
By February 1948 Lewis was approaching 68. [Thus indicating that he was born c1880]
By March 1949 Lewis and Dora had moved from Catherine Street to 1005 N 2nd St, Philadelphia and weren’t seeing so much of Ada.
Florrie wrote that Lewis’s eyes were dark brown but his mother had blue eyes and very little grey hair when she died.
Lewis had arthritic hands which affected how long he could write for. He was sorry to hear about Joe’s bad eyesight, writing that it runs in the family.
He worked in a factory making fluorescent lights and Florrie wrote that Louis was active in politics.
Lewis confirmed Harry’s birthday as 15 December [which was the day and month on the Udy family tree but it is unclear whether the tree was produced whilst Harry was still alive].
Lewis wrote: “….glad to hear Joe is making his presence felt in the community….as for him getting married, that phase in life will also come to him when he meets up with the right girl so good luck to him”
[Joe did eventually meet the right girl but not until 1975. Sadly, Linda wasn’t alive to meet Kim, the woman who was to become the keeper of the family letters.]
Berney died in February 1942 leaving 3 sons and a daughter.
Jack died aged 47 on 29 October 1923, leaving his wife Anna, four sons and two daughters, all married. Anna died in 1948.
Oldest sister: There is no mention of their older sister other than the reference to Lewis and his sister obtaining work when they moved from south Wales to London.
Baby brother buried in Merthyr Tydfil, south Wales, unnamed.
This confirms Lewis’ account of their mother being left with a family of four boys (including Hyman/Harry) and three girls when his father died, plus the baby brother who had died and had been buried in Merthyr Tydfil, a total of eight children. Therefore, it appears that Linda had made a mistake when she drew up the family tree showing ten children.
[I think she had double counted an unnamed sister who had died in 1901, presumably the oldest sister. And she double counted the baby brother who had died.]
Other family members
When Harry had moved to the school in London, there was an unknown and unnamed number of his father’s brothers and sisters living in London.
And when Harry left England and travelled to South Africa, it appears he went with one of his cousins. [Was this one of his father’s nephews or nieces, whom he had met in London?]
In April 1947, Florrie wrote “You mention about Joe receiving a letter from one Joseph Goldberg….I was very surprised ….[he is] a cousin of ours, his mother and my mother were sisters ….he is a physician, a stomach specialist about 63….now to inform you how he got Joe’s address. When Harry passed away and your Joe sent me the letter with the article in the paper, I let one of my cousins read the clipping and she asked me whether I would permit Dr Goldberg to read it so I gave her the letter and that is how he got your address”.
In December 1948, Florrie asked if Joe ever wrote to Dr Joseph Goldberg as her cousin always asked after both of them.
By January 1949, Joseph’s [unnamed] brother, aged 55, had recently died from cancer of the throat, and another [unnamed] cousin had died aged 30 from a heart attack.
Kim’s account concluded: “This is the last of the US correspondence. There are 2 aerogrammes from Australia, from a Joe ?Phtel? [illegible] dated Feb and June 1947. Seems to be news of another family, I can’t see where they fit in or why the letters were kept.”
I don’t think David or I will ever forget Christmas 2012, especially Christmas Eve. We were both up early in eager expectation of the email from Kim containing the letter from Lewis. We read our emails and then were on the phone to each other straightaway.
To learn about Henry Miller in this manner was an incredible experience. There were times when we were rendered practically speechless, able only to utter such exclamations as Gosh! Wow! [me] and more colourful language [David] and other times when we were talking nineteen to the dozen.
As a family historian I knew that some families were lucky enough to have archives containing documents, letters and photographs but I had not experienced it with my own family and only one of my clients had such items to draw on.
We are so very lucky that Joe was, in Kim’s words, a pack rat who never threw anything away and, that when he died, Kim continued to keep all Joe’s papers, ready for the time when they would be of interest to David.
Sure, there did seem to be a few anomalies but Lewis had referred to his older brothers going to America in 1891, that the rest of them had then moved to London and that they had moved to Philadelphia in 1893.
I was sure it was enough to be able to identify the family in Porth, south Wales, in the 1891 census, find the death records of the father and grandfather plus the birth and death records of the baby brother and, perhaps, even the shipping records for their journey to the USA.
Confidently, I reached for the keyboard and logged on to Findmypast…..