In my genealogy research, my Abramowitz family has been one of my brick walls. My grandmother had told me that her parents’ names were Hirsch Lev Ha Levy Abramowitz and Etel Smarkovitch Abramowitz and that she was from Courland outside of Riga, Latvia.  I later learned that Courland is a region and not a town, so where exactly did they live? I have had no luck tracing Hirsch and Etel, except for one registered child’s birth in Jelgava, Latvia.  On that record, Etel is listed as Jetta. People went by multiple versions of their names, making them harder to trace.

Also, I know that Hirsch and Etel had 10 children, but 2 of Etel’s and Hirsch’s sons, my great-uncles, remain nameless. I want to at least know their names.  These are the 2 that supposedly emigrated to South Africa.

Since Abramowitz is a common name and since I have found several Hirsch’s living around the same time in Latvia, I wanted to figure out which one was my Hirsch.  To help me solve that problem, knowing when they died would help me place them in a specific area.  In Ashkenazi Jewish tradition, children were named after deceased relatives.  If a child was named after someone, but an older sibling was not, we can guess the approximate year the ancestor died.

In our Facebook group, “Descendants of Hirsch and Etel Abramowitz”, I posed a question asking if anyone knew of anyone named for Hirsch or Etel.  I got a few responses speculating who might have been named for Etel.  Then I received an email from my second cousin, Helen Friedman.  Her email absolutely gave me goosebumps.  This is what she said:

Tara, the craziest thing happened: I was looking for my portable phone charger and it wasn’t in the drawer where I always keep it or on the kitchen countertop. Finally in desperation, I pulled out the bottommost drawer of my kitchen cabinets. Sometimes things fall behind it. It wasn’t there, but there were a bunch of stickie pads and some papers. The attached note was one of them! I couldn’t believe it—an answer to the very question you had just posted! I think the line “Elaine from Elaine” is a mistake. It should be Elaine from Etel. I don’t remember who told me this.

So Aunt Edith (Shirley’s mother), Cousin Elaine (Shirley’s late sister), and Cousin Carole (Muriel’s late sister—her middle name was Elaine) were all named after Etel!

Cousins Named After Etel Smarkovitch Abramowitz

As Edith would be the oldest in the group Helen mentioned, we can assume that Etel died between 1915 and early 1918.  Why do I say that?  Edith was the daughter of Sarah Abramowitz Freedman who was the sister of Gussie, my grandmother.  My grandmother’s youngest child was born in 1915 and none of her children were named for Etel.  Sarah had 2 older children born before 1918 and neither one of them was named for Etel.  Sarah and Gussie’s brother, Abe, had 6 children born between 1917 to 1930.  The youngest of his children was named Ethel.  By looking at the names of the children and their dates of birth, I think we can pinpoint the range of time that Etel may have died.

What a wonderfully strange coincidence occurred when Helen lost her phone charger but found that little piece of paper. One mystery is now solved, but lots more questions still remain unanswered.

Post Author: trothman

One Reply to “Was Anyone Named After Etel?”

  1. Tara, I have goosebumps reading this, even though I was the one who found the stickie! Also, Edith and her twin Helen were the youngest of Sarah’s 4 children, so your deductions about timeline make sense (my father Henry was oldest, then my aunt Dorothy, then the twins)!

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