The Hosiassons of Sabile

The photograph above was sent to my great-grandmother, Clara Thal, from her Hosiasson cousins in Riga in 1910. It has always been one of my favorite pictures, and for years was the only evidence I had of Clara’s mother’s family. I knew from what was written on the card that Josef and Sigismund Hosiasson were “cousins.”

Unfortunately, a few words were covered from my haphazard work removing the card from Clara’s scrapbook, but I was able to get the general idea through a translation:

My dear Clara,

            I am sending you mine and Uncle Abraham’s son’s photograph.  How do you find us.  At the [???] Adolf Blumenthal was in Riga at our place for a visit in [???].  Many heartfelt [?] greetings from your [?] [???] cousin Josef

Cousin Sigismund.

Regards from Adolf and Hanna.  [Having?] a dandy time here.

For years, this was all I had. I kept my feelers out for the name Hosiasson/Hoseason/Hosiason, but really didn’t find anything. I wondered what happened to these two young gentlemen.

Eventually, when it became possible to hire a researcher at the Latvian Historical Archives in Riga, I had a chance to find out more. When Lena, my helpful archivist, got to the Hosiasson family, I discovered a huge tree! They were based, for the most part, in the small town of Zabeln, present-day Sabile, Latvia.

Without going into too much detail – you can find more on my website – I’ll present a brief overview of what I know of the Hosiasson family from these archival records.

From Recruits Enlistment registers for nearby Goldingen, I learned that the patriarch of my Hosiasson family was a Salamon Hosiasson, son of Abraham. Salamon and his wife, Chaie, had at least three sons: Markus, Samuel and Abraham. They probably had other children, but only these three sons appear on the recruitment lists. Latvian families were often registered in nearby towns – in this case, Goldingen – where they may or may not have lived. It’s clear from birth, marriage and death records that Salamon’s sons lived in Zabeln, where their children were born.

Markus, the eldest, was born around 1811. He and his wife, Esther, had at least four children: Mnucha, Abraham, Osser, and Hana. Markus worked as a butcher in Sabile, and died there in 1865. Mnucha (Minnie) married Kalman Jacobson, and two of her sons emigrated to Bay City, Michigan in the late 1800s. She and her husband emigrated to South Africa with their four daughters around the same time. Osser’s son, Marcus, probably ran the family hardware store in Sabile with his cousin, Samuel. Other than Mnucha’s children, I believe most of the descendants of Markus and Esther remained in Latvia, several perishing in the Holocaust.

Samuel was born around 1815 and worked as a trader. He married Jette, and had at least eight children: Jacob, Chasse, Dina, Abraham, Taube, Haja-Feiga, Joseph and Hosias. I know a bit more about this branch, as Taube was my great-great-grandmother, the mother of Clara Thal, who received the postcard. Jacob was a merchant with a prominent store in Sabile, and a huge family. He and his wife, Golde, are buried in the Sabile Jewish Cemetery, and he is most likely the “J. Hoziassohn” who appears frequently in the 1892 Kurlandische Verkehr und Adresbuch. Among his many descendants is the artist, Philippe Hosiasson, who was born in Odessa in 1898 and died in Paris, France, in 1978. Chasse married Chaim Blumenthal and had a large family. Several of her descendants emigrated to the United States, some to Michigan, near Bay City, while others settled in Cleveland and Boston. Some of Chasse’s descendants remained in Latvia. Dina married Itzik Hirschson, and their son, Jacob Hirshson, settled in Boston, Massachusetts. Abraham married Eta and had at least three children. Taube married Joseph Gettleson and emigrated to Michigan in the late 1800s. Hosias died in 1858. No more is known of Haja-Feiga and Joseph.

Abraham was born around 1827, and worked as a butcher and milkman in Sabile. He married Rebecca and they had at least five children: Hosias, Beila, Marcus, Jacob (who died as a child), and Chaya. Marcus had at least one son, Abram-Mowscha, born in 1896. Otherwise, little is known of Abraham’s family at this time.

The repetition of given names makes mapping out this family particularly challenging. Those with the names Abraham and Marcus are especially plentiful. There is much more work to do to fill in the gaps. But there are a few particularly outstanding questions in my mind that I would love to have answered:

  • Is there a connection to the family of Oscar Hosiassohn, who died in 1959 at age 74 and is buried in Welkom, South Africa? There are at least three Ossers in the family of Marcus, s/o Salamon, but I have been unable to make the connection. UPDATE: The Oscar Moses Hosiassohn who died in 1959 in South Africa has now been connected via his death record. He was the son of Osser Hosiasson, s/o Marcus, s/o Salamon.
  • Does it make sense that a grandson of Markus – Marcus, s/o Osser – would possibly help manage a family hardware store with a cousin, Samuel, s/o Jacob, s/o Samuel? It was Jacob’s store, managed by his son, Samuel, but there is some evidence that Marcus was involved. It would seem that brothers would make more sense, but the birth records indicate they would have been cousins.
  • There are several records for children of “Abraham Hosiasson” in the Latvian Archives, but since there are so many Abrahams – two being close in age, grandsons of Salamon – and the mother’s name is not given, we can’t link these people into the family as yet. Among these are four babies, Shmuel, Khana, Khaya and Rivka, and a Hana Hosiassohn Funkelstein, born in Zabeln in 1879, who was killed in Riga during the Holocaust.

So what about the gentlemen in the photograph? My current theory is that “Uncle Abraham’s son,” Sigismund, is Schaie Hosiasson, born in 1884 in Sabile to Abraham, s/o Samuel, and his wife, Eta. Nothing further is known of him. Josef is probably not Schaie/Sigismund’s brother, Jossel. My best guess there is that he is Josef Hosiasson, son of Samuel’s son, Jacob. Josef was born in Sabile in 1881 and was living in Riga in 1941. I’m not a photo expert, by any means, but I believe there’s at least a chance the passport photo below is the same person. To my knowledge, Josef was not married and did not have children. According to a Page of Testimony at Yad Vashem, he was killed in the Holocaust.

Passport photo, Josef Hosiasson, 1924. From the Latvian Historical Archive, Riga.

As for Adolf and Hanna Blumenthal, who wrote to Clara in English at the bottom of the card, Adolf was the son of Chasse Hosiasson and Chaim Blumenthal. He emigrated to the United States in 1903, and lived in Standish, near Bay City, Michigan, until he returned to Latvia in 1910 to marry Hanna Bagg. It must have been on this trip that he visited his cousins and wrote back to Clara. He and Hanna returned to the United States the following year and settled in Winthrop, Massachusetts.

There are certainly gaps to fill and questions to answer. After all these years, I am even more impressed that my great-grandmother had this postcard and saved it. To be honest, I wonder how much she knew of these cousins. She was born in Latvia around 1880, and grew up in Jelgava, almost 100 km from Sabile. She had emigrated to Michigan, again, near Bay City, by around 1890, but had moved to Toledo by the time Adolf immigrated in 1903. These men must have been childhood acquaintances. I wish I knew more about them. Regardless, the photo is a treasure.

For more on the Hosiassons, you can download a list of descendants of Salamon Hosiasson or visit my website. If you have any information to add, I would love to hear from you! Please contact me!

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