Why did Hannah decide to leave Latvia?

Our paternal great-grandparents were Hannah Wolfson and Aron Bliden.  Below is a little bit about each of them.


Aron was the son of Ber and was born in Zagare, Lithuania.  He grew up in a section of Zagare called Siauliai, Kaunas.  We know he had at least one brothers, named Judel Reuven.  To learn more about him, check out the Aron’s Siblings’ page. (Note: this is what we know as of August 2022 and is a change from what we previously thought. In Zagare, there was more than one Ber who had a son named Aron.) We do not yet know what his mother’s name was.

We also know that he married Anna Shockot, aka Hannah Wolfson. At some point in time, we know Aron and Hannah moved outside of Riga, Latvia, probably to an area called Wenden.  There they ran a mill that produced flour for the city of Riga. That ws what the family story was. However, in looking at the photo, one can see that is was a sawmill. The flour mill could have been on the other side of the building. This was not uncommon for a mill to serve 2 different purposes.

On one side of the structure was the house, on the other side was the mill. There was a stream on the property and their children loved to go log rolling down it.  There was a caretaker and even after all of Aron’s children moved away, he stayed on the property with his family taking care of the house and mill through the 1930’s.

The Blieden Mill
In 1930, Lily Rose(second on the left), daughter of Aron and Hannah,   returned to her childhood home.  The caretaker and his family were still there.  You can see the stone house on the left side and the mill in the front.

Hannah and Aaron had 9 children with 7 surviving past infancy.  The names of the surviving children were Rose Lily, Harvey, Herman, Abe, Meyer, and Reve, and Anna. Harvey was my grandfather. You can learn a little more about him and his siblings below in the Hannah section, and a lot more about them in the Harvey’s Siblings section under the Blieden Menu above.

Aron died Februay 21, 1893.

His orignal tombstone had been toppled over and destroyed. On a trip to her childhood home in the 1930’s, his daughter, Rose LIly, had a new one erected. However, where did she have it erected? That remains a mystery.

The inscription on this tombstone reads: ” Here lies our dear father, our teacher, the master, Ahron Yitschak, son of Dober (Dov Ber) Blieden, died with a good name, died 4 Adar 5653, May his soul be bound in the bond of life”

Translation from various people on the Facebook group “Tracing the Tribe”.

tombstone of Aron Blieden, 1893


Hannah was born about 1852 to Yechezkel Wolfson and Mishla Qait (Chait, Kwait) Wolfson. She had at least one older brother, Julius, born around 1851. From Julius’ tombstone (see picture on Julius’ page under Hannah’s siblings) we learn that his father was considered a martyr which means he was killed for being Jewish. Based on the birth dates of Mishla’s children, Yechezkel was murdered after 1852 and before 1860.

After Yechezkel’s death, Mishla remarried and had at least 2 more daughters: Yetta and Lena. To learn more about Hannah’s siblings and half-siblings, visit the Hannah’s Siblings page under the Blieden menu above. Mishla’s second husband was Samuel Schocket.

Hannah loved to tell her children, how, as a little girl, she would watch her father work.  He was a goldsmith, or maybe a silversmith. At the end of each day, he would sweep up the gold or silver dust, and Hannah loved to blow it away.  When Hannah referred to her father, was she talking about Yechezkel or Samuel?

A little side story: my Aunt Mildred Blieden Rich told me that when she was a little girl, she went to a friend’s house.  The friend’s family was also from the Riga, Latvia, area.  When her friend’s mother found out she was a Blieden, the mother exclaimed, “Oh, everyone in Riga knew the Blidens!”

Hannah and Aaron had 9 children with 6 surviving past infancy.  The names of the surviving children were Rose Lily, Harvey, Herman, Abe, Meyer, and Reve.

  • Rose Lily graduated from the gymnasium (high school) near their home in Riga.  Hannah and Aron gave her a special gift for her accomplishments.  She would be allowed to visit the United States for one year.  She would travel with her mother’s 2 sisters, her Aunt Yetta Wolfson Blumberg and her Aunt Lena Wolfson Shapiro and their families.  However, she stayed in the States after meeting her husband, Barnett Handler, in New York.

In 1903, when she was 52 years old, Hannah no longer wanted to stay at the Mill since none of the children wanted to run it. She took her youngest child, Reve, just a little girl, to the United States and settled in Brooklyn.  She sailed on the ship Kroonland on August 15, 1903, leaving from Antwerp.  Her adult children paid for her passage.  On the ship’s manifest, she listed Wenden. Latvia, as her last address.

She was going to stay with two of her sons, Abe and Meyer who lived, at that time, in Brooklyn. Also, her sister, Yetta Blumberg, had settled in Brooklyn, NY.

When she arrived at Ellis Island, on August 25, 1903, she and Reve were detained and sent for a special inquiry. The inspectors liked to keep the line moving and since neither Hannah nor Reve could speak English, perhaps they couldn’t understand the questions and were slowing the inspection line down. Thank goodness, however, they were approved and let into the country.

You can read more about the Aliens Held for Special Inquiry at the JewishGen.org website.

Hannah and Reve's ship manifest
Hannah and Reve at Special Inquiry at Ellis Island

The Kroonland

  • Herman emigrated to South Africa and became a jeweler
  • Harvey, our grandfather, was studying to be a Rabbi when his father died so also left and travelled to London, then to South Africa and finally decided to join his mother in Brooklyn, NY, as did Abe and Meyer.
  • Rose Lily and Meyer eventually settled in the Harrisburg, PA. area
  • Abe went to Missouri where he was a Jeweler.

In the 1910 US Census, Hannah was living on Stockton Street with her young daughter, Reve.

1910 US Census for HAnnah Blieden

According to the 1930 US Census, Hannah was living with her youngest daughter, Reve, and Reve’s family at E. 10th Street in Brooklyn, New York. Her other children would visit her there.

Hannah Blieden
Hannah Blieden
1930 Census for Hannah Blieden
Hannah Blieden, her daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter

Newspaper article from the Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania), Thursday, March 27, 1930, Page 6. For more information about this photo, see my blog “The 1930’s Photo that Travelled Around the World“.

Hannah Blieden's address in 1933
1933 Brooklyn Directory showing that Hannah was living with her daugther, Reve
Harvey and his mother Hannah
Harvey and his mother Hannah

 (Hannah seated and some of her children:  Harvey, Reve, Abe, Lily Rose)

To learn more about the lives of Hannah and Aron’s children, click here, 

except to learn more about their son, our grandfather, Harvey, click here.

Hannah never learned to speak English, but she did manage to travel around.  She loved going into the Turkish baths in Coney Island.  She would take her grand-daughter, Mildred (Harvey’s daughter), with her.  Mildred would wait on the boardwalk while her grandmother went in to the baths.

Hannah died in May of 1935, which was just 6 months after her beloved son, Harvey, passed away. The family did not want to tell her about her son’s death as can be seen in a letter Harvey’s sister, Reve, wrote to her nephew, Arthur, who was away at medical school. The entire letter can be found on the Arthur page under the Blieden menu and then under the Harvey’s and Gussie’s Children menu.

Dec. 2, 1934

Saturday Evening

Dear Nephew Arthur:

  . . .  Grandma does not know and I may be able to keep it from her until the spring.  From the day – it was raining daily and he can’t go out in bad weather, nor was he out all last winter, she remembers that, so she is prepared for the winter not to see him.  Cheer up, the living must go on living and laughing, that is the way of the world, and we are part of it, nothing we can do any more.  The crying cry alone and it does no one any good.  What God hath so decreed, and I suffice he has, we must accept and smile.

Love from us all.

Aunt Reve

Hannah Blieden death certificate

Hannah is buried in Mt. Zion Cemetery in Queens, New York. Here tombstone translated says “Here lies buried Henna daughter of Mr Yechatzkel. Died 2 Nissan, 5695. May her soul be bound with the bonds of life.” She is buried near her sister Yetta Blumberg.

Hannah Blieden's Gravestone
Closeup of Hannah Blieden's gravestone

Outstanding research questions:

  • When did Aron leave Lithuania for Latvia
  • How did he meet Hannah
  • Where was Hannah from?
  • When did they get married
  • When did he die and where is is buried