Jennie, Janie or Gesa from Silale

The mother of Missing Minna was called Jennie, Janie or Gesa. How do we know this?

On 29 May 1858 she appears in a Lithuanian Revision List as Gesa, wife of Shaya Hatskelzon (Chaskelson). Her age is given as 31, so we can put her date of birth at about 1827. She is living in Silale, which is in Kovno, Lithuania (see https://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/pinkas_lita/lit_00683b.html). In the Comments field, the family are described as “petit bourgeois”. The other information about her comes from various records of her children.

In 1844 the first son, Jacob (Yankel) was born in Silale, followed by two daughters, Ryvka Golda and Feyga Leah. Then Minna (Ari’s 4x great-grandmother), another son, Zusman (Simon), a daughter, Beyla, and finally Benhard in 1860.

It seems that the sons emigrated to South Africa, but Feyga Leah stayed in Silale and died in 1923. I don’t know what happened to Ryvka Golda or Beyla.

The youngest son, Benhard Chaim Benyamin Chaskelson, at first went to the USA when he left Lithuania in 1888.

Benhard Chaskelson


In his US passport application in 1902, he states that he sailed from Hamburg to the US on 10 March 1882, and lived in Philadelphia until 1887. He became an American citizen. He then went to South Africa but says in his application that he intends to return within two years to live in the US. He gives his occupation as Jewish teacher.

In South Africa, he set up a mattress factory and also had a dairy farm.

In 1903 he made a compensation claim for damage to his property (totalling £181) during the Boer War.

Part of his inventory of stock


He was awarded £100.

The South African Archives also hold records of a claim that he made in 1912 against Johannesburg Council, after being knocked down by a tram (there are 96 pages, including financial details of his mattress company,  all of the evidence and witness statements, and a map of the junction where the accident happened). The case went to court on 5 September 1913, and he lost. “At the time of the accident the said tramcar was proceeding at a slow rate … and the gong of the said tramcar was being rung in time to warn the Plaintiff of the tramcar’s approach.”

Entry in the South African Jewish Year Book


Getting back to Jennie or Gesa, on Benhard’s 1937 death notice no name is given for his mother:

Minna’s 1930 death notice calls her Jennie:

(The informant was one of her sons.)

And Zusman or Simon’s 1931 death notice calls her Janie Gessa (the informant was one of his sons):

So all we know is that she lived until at least 1860 in Silale, but no records of her after that date have been found (yet!).

Ari, this is how you are related to Gesa:

#Hatskelzon #Johannesburg #TransvaalMattressCompany #Chaskelson #SouthAfricanarchives #Lithuania #Compensationclaim #Silale

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