My mother passed away last June at the age of 93. The family house is up for sale. I drove down from Oregon to do a final sort and bid goodbye to a long chapter of my life. Part of my task has been to go through the family archives such as they are unsorted and unlabeled in boxes and tattered photo albums. I’m most interested in the old pictures from my immigrant roots. The record is best documented on my mother’s side.
Images started to show up in the late 1800s after arrival from the old country, mostly from Vilnius, Lithuania, considered the new Jerusalem after the diaspora. The Jews from that region emigrated to escape Russian oppression. My father’s side of the family had a respite in Scotland and my mother’s in England before they immigrated to the US. Both families were Ashkenazi Jews. It is just by chance that my parents met and married with a similar past.
My mother’s grandfather Nathan Davis was born in Vilnius and that is where my photo record starts. He married Leah Silverman Bernard and they settled in the gold rush country of California where he opened a dry goods store that served the miners. He did quite well there and had one son, Charles, my mother’s father. Unfortunately, Nathan was murdered in Elko, Nevada where they retired. They never found the murderer. I did find a record of his gravestone however on gravestone.com (who knew?).
Charles married Anna Alpert. He opened a curio and Mexican goods shop in Colfax, California, driving down to Mexico occasionally to bring back stock for his store. After the war, where he served in the signal corps, Charles opened an electronics and radio shop in San Francisco. They had two children, Elaine (my mother), and Robert (my uncle). Anna tragically died in her 30’s from cancer. Charles passed at age 54 from leukemia
My grandfather Charles Davis, Charles (right) and friend (at the World’s Fair? Charles in front of his curio shop in Colfax, CA
What times they lived through- religious oppression, immigration, the Depression, World War ll. Despite their hard times, they survived and prospered. I see my face in theirs even though we are strangers in time.